‘It’s hard being Cupid, you know. Sometimes I get a call in the small hours and that’s it, I’m off to a far flung corner of the world. Why is it always a place I need a map to find? Why can’t it just be up the road like, I don’t know, London or Bristol?’
While my brother goes to make a cup of tea I take the chance to look around his house. From the outside it looks like any other two storey brick structure from the end of the last century, drab and uninteresting. Inside it is filled with quivers of arrows, lots of them. They are stacked in piles which reach the ceiling, while smaller piles cover the floor. It was almost a surprise to find he has chairs.
Brown leather armchairs of the full and voluminous sort are like islands in a sea of quivers. One thing strikes me though is the lack of bow.
‘Now then,’ he says on returning and handing me my cup ‘How’s my little brother, any chance of love on the horizon?’
‘No.’ I mutter.
‘No? But what about Elizabeth?’
‘And I was so sure about that one.’ A buzzing noise emanates from his wrist. ‘Excuse me,’ he said ‘Looks like we’ve got a potential match.’ I freeze in my chair until he adds ‘Mark and Emily. Sounds like a lovely couple.’
In a flash he abandons his seat, grabs a fresh quiver and heads for the door. Before he exits he shouts ‘You can have a look around if you like but leave everything where it is.’ The door bangs shut before I can reply.
After finishing my tea I place it on the only flat surface, the floor. Like the living room, the rest of downstairs is full to the brim with quivers. Stacks of them occupy the stairs too. Climbing is a precarious business of squeezing between them, hoping they don’t fall over.
On reaching the top I am rewarded by a peek into a bare room. It’s not strictly bare as a bow takes centre stage, sat on a plinth. A metal plate catches my eye.
‘For showing the way to a lover’s heart.’
I realise then this was his first bow. Looking at it now, I can see where the varnish has rubbed off leaving the bare wood. After a few minutes reflection, I return to the landing and try the next door. Unlike the first, this one takes a little to open. Once inside though, I get a shock.
Plastered across the walls are row upon row of miniature portraits until, close to the floor, they are replaced with photos. Looking closer I see they are of couples. What surprises me is that not all of them are human. In fact some are animals. Lost in a world of discovery, I fail to hear my brother enter until he is almost at my shoulder.
‘They’re mementos of the successful ones.’
‘There are some interesting couples.’
‘Yeah, what’s with that? I thought only humans can fall in love?’
‘That’s a common misconception, all animals fall in love. Those that do stay together for a very long time.’
‘Unlike us humans.’
‘Not all are like that.’
‘You don’t need to tell me, brother.’ I reply, making my way to the door.
He must have detected the sadness in my voice. It would not have been difficult, the emotions are still raw. He places his hand gently on my shoulder, saying ‘I’m so sorry about what happened.’
‘It’s not your fault. When your number’s up, that’s it.’
‘You didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. I could have at least given you the pleasure of that. Brought you two together one last time.’
‘It’s a nice thought, but-‘
‘You’re my brother.’
‘Don’t get teary-eyed on me Cupid, we both know what happens when you do that.’
‘I can’t help it. I just want to see you happy, that’s all. You and Kelly were such a lovely couple. Made for each other, that’s what.’
‘Well it wasn’t meant to be.’ Together we return to the living room in silence where I collect my hat and coat. Looking through the window I can see the rain pelting down outside. A flash of pink passes by in the mid-distance. I catch a glimpse of long hair sticking to wet skin; clearly a woman. We say our goodbyes and then the door slams behind me but not before I hear the buzzing again.
Running to my car, I get in and look up to see a woman in a pink plastic raincoat standing at the bus stop. Pulling up next to her, I shout ‘Need a lift?’
‘Are you sure?’ she answers, bending down.
Then it hits me, my brother has worked his magic again.