"It was an honest mistake...or it was honestly stupid. Either way, I didn't mean anything by it."
Darren cocked an eyebrow at the sharply dressed man who was sitting on his bed. "Then why did you laugh?" Darren asked.
"I was just laughing." The man smiled broadly. "I'm a happy chappy, Darren. Can't help myself. It was nothing personal."
"You were laughing, and you were pointing. At me. It's hard not to take that personally." Darren crossed his hands across his chest, resting his elbows on his legs, which were also crossed. "To be honest with you, Ian, I've lost faith in what you're offering."
"Don't be like that, Dazzer!" Ian pushed his open palms together, as though he was praying. "Please, mate, give ickle Ian a second chance. Go on... please! Pretty please?"
"I'm sorry, Ian, but the trust is gone." Darren shook his head.
"I brought you a pressie," Ian said, pulling a fancy box of chocolates from under his jacket. "They're Belgian. Top notch." He reached the box out to Darren, who was seated at the other side of the bedroom. Darren stared at the box for several seconds. Ian gave it a shake and winked. He turned the box to show each of its sides to Darren. "Look, buddy. D'ya see? No strings attached." Darren unwrapped his limbs, got out of his chair and took the box.
There was a soft rap at the bedroom door. It opened and a middle-aged woman's head appeared. "Darren, would your friend, who you haven't introduced me to yet, like a cup of tea or coffee?
"This is Ian, Mum," Darren said. "He's the one-"
"Oh yes, he's the one who's going to help with your career." Darren's mother had come into his bedroom and was hovering next to Ian. Darren slumped back into his chair. "He needs someone to give him a boot up the backside, Ian. He's a lazy little sod." Darren sank forward in the chair. "I've done what I can for him, but he won't listen to me. Not properly." Darren tapped the box of chocolates against the side of his head, while gazing at his feet. "I hope you can persuade him to make something of himself, Ian. Now then, tea? Coffee?"
"I'd love a cup of coffee. Two sugars and a dash of milk, please." Ian pointed at the box of chocolates in Darren's hand. "We could get them opened up."
"Ooo, Belgians!" Darren's mother snatched the chocolates out of her son's hand, then rapped him on his forehead. "Do sit up straight, dear. You look like you're having cramps." She rubbed her hand over the top of the box of chocolates. "I'll put a few of these out. We have doilies, don't you know." She glanced at Darren. "I expect you'll be wanting your usual. Extra milky with eight spoonfuls." She left the room. Darren listened to her steps retreating down the stairs and sighed morosely. Neither of the men said anything for several minutes.
Finally, Ian spoke. "She's a handful, isn't she?"
Darren sighed heavily once more.
Ian rummaged around in his jacket and pulled out a piece of parchment with one hand and a ball point pen with the other. He clicked the top of the pen several times. "It's got ink in it this time. Go on, Darren, you know you want to."
Darren could hear his mother ascending the stairs, the rattle of cups on a tray. "Does it have to be MY soul?" he asked.