This is a story about a gay male and may involve sexual activity
males, so if this is likely to offend you, or is illegal where you live
do not read any further. All the events and characters in this
are fictional and any resemblances to real people are purely
The story is copyright of the author and may not be distributed or
placed on any web sites without written permission from the author.
I would like to thank my editor, Richard Lyon, for his encouragement
moral support while this story was being written and for his hard work
seeking out errors after it was written.
If you enjoy this story or have any comments about it, please feel
free to send me an email .
On the following Tuesday after the dancing lesson, which I grudgingly
admitted to myself that I quite enjoyed, Debbie treated me to pizza,
fries and salad, buying for herself a more healthy baked potato salad.
She, being a very chatty and open person, did most of the talking while
we ate. In contrast I was always very quiet with people I didn't know
well and even with my close friends I was never exactly loquacious.
Therefore, in the space of just a few minutes I learned a lot more
about Debbie than she did about me.
She was an only child, born and brought up on the Sussex coast, her
father was a partner in a firm of accountants and her mother, who
didn't go out to work, spent much of her spare time involved in the
activities of her local church. Her parents were both very loving and
supportive but, at least according to Debbie, they tended to be
oppressively protective. The fact that Linchester was a long way from
Sussex was one of the main reason she had chosen to come here.
After the dance lesson on the following Thursday night, a few members
of the class announced that they were going across the road to the
Augustus, a local pub which still had a very traditional atmosphere
despite being frequented mostly by students. At first I declined the
invitation to join them, saying I had to study, but Debbie pointed out
that I'd used the same excuse on the Tuesday and said that she hadn't
realised I was such a swot. A little stung by her words, I reluctantly
agreed to join them.
Crowds of people have always made me uncomfortable and the larger and
more closely packed the crowd is the more uncomfortable I felt. One
coping mechanism that I'd developed even before I went to Linchester
was to find the person in the crowd that I knew best and with whom I
was most at ease, and stay close to them. When I was in the Outdoor
Club at school that person was Frank and with the group of dance
students at the Augustus that person was Debbie.
As it turned out, I ended up enjoying my night out in the pub,
especially after my third pint of Guinness, by which time I was
beginning to relax. About an hour after we arrived at the pub Gail,
Adam and a few others from the advanced class joined us. However, Gail
and her boyfriends stayed only long enough for one quick drink so their
presence didn't have much impact in the evening.
Debbie was, as usual, a lot more open about herself and her past than I
was so I got to know even more about her that night. By then I already
knew she was intelligent and by helping me out in the chemistry lab
she'd shown she was kind and considerate. However, at the Augustus I
learned that she could also be very witty and that she took animal
welfare very seriously.
The next morning, as I was going into one of the classes I shared with
Debbie, she came over to greet me.
"How's the hangover?" she said with a smile.
"Hangover?" I said, puzzled, "I don't have a hangover."
"That's surprising. You had a lot to drink last night and you seemed
very merry when you left the pub."
"I rarely get hangovers," I said, "probably because after boozing I
drink lots of water before going to bed."
I neglected to add that what I had to drink the previous night was only
a small fraction of the amount of alcohol I used to imbibe during my
nights on Quay Street.
"Well, I'm a bit hungover," she said ruefully, "but I'm sure I'll have
recovered by tomorrow night."
I had the impression that she expected me to understand some
significance in her reference to the Saturday night but I had no idea
what that might be, so I just smiled sympathetically. My face must have
betrayed my lack of comprehension.
"Don't you remember?" she said, "Last night I told you it was Gail's
birthday today and that we're going out to celebrate tomorrow night."
Now she mentioned it I found I had a hazy recollection of some such
"Ah, yes," I said vaguely.
"Anyway," she continued, "when I gave her a birthday card this morning
she asked if I'd invite you to come along to the party."
"Me?" I said, taken so much by surprise that the word came out almost
as a squeak, then taking care to lower my voice a couple of octaves I
added, "Why me? She hardly knows me."
"Well at the moment there are going to be a lot more females than males
at the party and she wants to even up the numbers," she replied, then
after a brief pause she added, "and she said you seemed to be a very
As far as I could remember I had never before been described as a 'very
nice lad', and if I had been then it certainly wouldn't have been by
any female younger than my mother. Both flattered and embarrassed, I
blushed deeply, which brought a smile of amusement to Debbie's face.
Despite the boost to my ego, the prospect of spending a night with a
bunch of strangers, most of whom were female, was not appealing.
"Erm, well, th-that's very good of her," I stuttered, feeling very
flustered, "but I don't think I can make it... I may, erm, probably be
Debbie frowned, probably in disappointment but possibly also a little
hurt by the vagueness of my reason for declining the invitation. For a
moment I wondered if she hadn't engineered that invitation. Perhaps my
apparent lack of a social life made her feel sorry for me and maybe she
was attempting to rescue me, just as she used to rescue stray and
injured animals when she was a child.
"Well," she said, trying to sound as if it were all very unimportant,
"If you can manage it we'll be having a drink in the Augustus around
eight o'clock before going down to the city centre about nine."
With that she went into the lecture theatre. I followed her, but when
she went to sit with her friends I took a seat on the opposite side of
On Saturday afternoon I was incredibly bored. It had been several
months since I'd spoken to either Derek or Frank and several weeks
since I'd been down to Quay Street, and my weekends were now socially
barren. Despite my best intentions, there was only so much studying I
could do before my brain ground to a halt. There was nothing on TV that
I wanted to watch and I'd had a surfeit of computer games and surfing
the web. Therefore I concluded that going to Gail's party might in fact
be my least-worst option for the night. Having made that decision I
managed to get to a local newsagent just before they closed for the day
and bought the least unsuitable birthday card that I could find.
When I arrived at the Augustus there were, as Debbie had predicted,
quite a few more females than males in Gail's group. Around nine
o'clock we meandered down to the city centre and after drinks in two
different bars we ended up in a night club, by which time our group had
somehow gathered in more males so that there was a better gender
balance. Because I was unfamiliar with the venues and had never met
most of the members of the party before, I stayed close to the person I
was most comfortable with and, as on the Thursday evening trip to the
pub, that turned out to be Debbie.
Not only was she a very entertaining person and pleasant to be with but
also she didn't seem to mind the fact that I spent much more time
chatting to her than to any of the others. Overall I had a
reasonably enjoyable time, especially after my first couple of drinks.
However, by around midnight I'd had enough socialising and more than
enough alcohol and so bade farewell to Debbie and Gail specifically,
and then waved a general good-bye to the group.
"But you're the first to leave," Gail said, pouting.
"Someone has to be the first to leave, and it might as well be me," I
In my semi-drunken state my remark seemed to be both logical and witty
so I smiled broadly in self-congratulation. Gail, possibly because she
was even more inebriated than I, failed to appreciate my wit and
"You know," she said drunkenly, looking at Debbie, "He's not very
sociable and doesn't say much. Maybe you should find someone else."
I was so irritated by the way she was talking about me as if I weren't
there that I paid very little attention to what she actually said.
Annoyed, I turned and headed for the exit, where Debbie caught up with
"Thanks for coming," she said, "I'd be leaving now as well but I
promised Gail I'd make sure she'd get home safely."
"S'okay," I responded, not knowing what else to say.
With a smile and a brief wave I went off in search of a taxi.
After the weekend of Gail's party Debbie either came and sat next to me
during our shared classes or waved me over to join her and her friends.
Although that was flattering, sitting with her friends initially made a
little uncomfortable, but without seeming rude I couldn't avoid it..
Our dancing lessons continued, and although I quickly picked up the
basics I realised that I could never aspire to anything better than
competence. More often than not we'd end up going along with the group
of students who went to the Augustus after the dancing lessons.
This routine continued for a couple of weeks, at which point I realised
that somehow, slowly and insidiously, Debbie and I had gone from being
mere acquaintances to being friends. For most people such a situation
wouldn't be such a great surprise, but for me it was quite unexpected.
Although I got on well with many people on a superficial level I'd
never had many people I regarded as friends and rarely had more than
two at the same time. Usually it took a long time or some extraordinary
circumstance for me to form a new friendship. What made the situation
with Debbie even more remarkable was that in my whole life she was the
first female whom I counted as a friend.
Our interactions were made all the more enjoyable for me not by what we
had in common but by our differences. For example, one of Debbie's main
interests was going to the theatre whereas the only plays I'd seen were
those which were compulsory at school. On the other hand, I was
especially fond of classical music whereas she had listened only to a
few pieces by the most famous composers such as Mozart or Beethoven.
This difference possibly reflected our different attitudes to social
activities in that I could be alone in my room and listen to music but
going to the theatre involved being with lots of other people.
One evening Debbie took me to a performance of 'Rosencrantz And
Guildenstern Are Dead' at the city's Arts Theatre. Against all my
expectations I actually enjoyed myself and became completely engaged
with the play. The following week I got some cheap student tickets and
took her to the Philharmonic Hall, where there was a performance of
Rodrigo's 'Concerto d'Aranjuez' followed by Shostakovich's Fifth
Symphony. She'd never heard either piece before but she enjoyed both
and even appeared to shed an occasional tear during the concert.
Although I sometimes found music to be quite emotive it had never made
me tearful. Indeed, it had been many years since anything had made me
cry and the mere idea of crying in a public place made cringe.
Therefore it is perhaps strange that I found Debbie's public show of
emotion quite endearing, even though it also made me feel a little
After the performance we both felt the need to unwind before going home
so as the Students Union was close by we went to the Cellar bar for a
couple of drinks. The place was quite busy but we managed to find a
small empty table and sat down facing one another to chat about the
concert. After a few minutes she suddenly changed the topic.
"I think we're being stared at," she said, smiling and looking over my
I twisted around in my seat to see a group of four male students
sitting at a nearby table and one of them was indeed looking in our
general direction, though I wouldn't really have described it as
staring. I recognised him as Nick, the obnoxious and intimidating guy
from Hall. Just seeing him sent a shiver of apprehension down my spine.
When he saw me turn toward him he grinned wolfishly, gave a brief nod
of greeting and then turned his attention back to his companions. I
turned back toward Debbie and tried to smile reassuringly.
"Oh, that's just a guy from Hall," I said, "Nick I think he's called
but I don't really know him. I think he's an Engineering student."
That last item of information elicited a look of amused understanding
from Debbie, who was well aware of the reputation of Engineering
A few minutes after that incident I went to the bar to get more drinks,
leaving Debbie to guard our table. While I was waiting for the barman
to get my change, Nick also came up to the bar and ordered four pints
of bitter. Then he turned to me and spoke, the slight slurring of his
words indicating his level of inebriation.
"Nice girlfriend you've got there," he said, "Didn't think you'd have a
nice girl like that."
My response was delayed a little because I was trying to work out
whether I should feel flattered or insulted by his remark.
"But she's not..." I began.
At that point I was interrupted by the barman handing me my change and
before I could continue telling Nick that Debbie wasn't my girlfriend
he started saying something to the barman. As Nick was no longer paying
any attention to me I felt rather foolish just standing there with a
glass in each hand, so rather than hang around just to clear up his
misunderstanding I made my way back toward Debbie. Then it occurred to
me that maybe it was a good thing that I'd not corrected Nick because
as long as he thought I had a girlfriend he would never suspect that I
was one of those 'sick queers' he apparently hated so much.
After I returned to Debbie with our drinks we started chatting about
our mutual courses and our plans for the future. She was planning to
concentrate on synthetic chemistry and was interested in synthesising
new drugs for the pharmaceutical industry.
"What are you doing for your Honours course next year?" she asked.
"Physiology, I hope, though I hear it's tough to get into and I don't
know if I'll get good enough grades this year."
"You know," she said, frowning, "The number of jobs in Physiology is
pretty limited. With the courses you're doing this year you could get
into Biochemistry. That would give you much better career prospects."
"But I enjoy Physiology," I pointed out, "and I find it much more
interesting than Biochemistry."
"Still," she persisted, "You should be thinking more of the long-term
future, not just what you enjoy now."
"At the moment I'm more interested in just doing well this year," I
said with a wry grin, "After all, if I don't get good results this year
I won't need to worry about a long-term future."
"Yes," she replied, looking thoughtful, "and you won't need to decide
on your Honours course until you get this year's results. Then maybe
I just shrugged my shoulders, mildly irritated by the fact she was
questioning my course choices, especially as I'd refrained from telling
her that I thought that a career in synthetic chemistry, would be
incredibly boring. I also began to wonder if she took a similar
interest in the career choices of all her friends.
Perhaps it was my imagination, but after that incident in the Cellar
bar Nick and his friends in Hall seemed to treat me with more respect.
Well, maybe that is something of an overstatement in that instead of
more or less ignoring me they now at least seemed to occasionally
acknowledge my existence. At around about that time I also began to
notice that several fellow students in the classes I shared with Debbie
were being friendlier toward me. and it seemed that perhaps some of her
popularity had rubbed off onto me.
In retrospect it should have been obvious to me from they way that some
of our mutual acquaintances behaved that at least a few of them had
started regarding Debbie and myself as a 'couple'. Sometimes I did
indeed wonder if some of her friends imagined that we were more than
just dance partners. However, apart from the visits to the theatre and
the concert, our only meetings were always as part of larger social
gatherings such as dancing, parties and group trips to the pub, so
there was clearly no basis for whatever fanciful ideas they might have
had about us.
On the one occasion I really thought about the matter I quickly put it
out of my mind, telling myself that as long as Debbie and I knew the
real situation it didn't matter what other people might think. My own
feeling was that we had the sort of semi-detached friendship that I
could feel comfortable with, and I assumed that Debbie felt the same
way. Neither of us ever mentioned our friendship and certainly neither
of us ever behaved in any way that might indicate that anything more
than friendship might exist between us.
The dance classes continued to be enjoyable and I was not only doing
reasonably well with the waltz but I'd also picked up the basics of the
quick step and foxtrot. Therefore the prospect of the end of term and
the final lesson made me just a little sad. The big event of the year
for the Ballroom Dancing Club was the Easter Ball, organised to take
place on the penultimate Friday of term, the day after the last dance
class. The occasion was always very formal, with dinner jacket, bow
ties and suchlike, so initially I declined to go, but then allowed
Debbie to talk me into escorting her for the night.
Of course the formal clothes I wore to the Ball were hired, even the
bow tie and shirt, the only items of my own being shoes, socks and
underwear. When Debbie had insisted on going down to the hire shop to
help me pick the outfit I became a little irritated, especially as she
wouldn't even describe to me in advance what she would be wearing.
However, I tried not to show my annoyance even when she justified
herself by saying that as I was a male she couldn't trust my taste in
clothes but I could rely on her good fashion sense.
The venue for the Ball was in one of the large assembly rooms in the
Students Union, and when I arrived there I was pleasantly surprised by
the way the organising committee had transformed that space. The
basically drab institutional room had been transformed by clever
lighting and well-executed wall decorations into a formal ballroom with
a live band at one end and a bar at the other end. The general theme of
the decor was snowdrops and daffodils and there were even stands of
fresh flowers strategically placed around the room. There was also that
visual cliche, the rotating faceted mirrored ball suspended from the
Like all the women there, Debbie wore a long gown and the green colour
she'd chosen went well with her hair colour. Although it appeared to be
rather a tight fit it didn't restrict her movement on the dance floor
and I felt rather proud to be seen dancing with her. Both her
appearance and behaviour were more feminine than I'd seen before and
that in turn seemed to emphasise my feelings of my own masculinity.
Overall, it was a very strange but not unpleasant feeling.
Even counting people like Gail and Adam from the advanced class, those
of us from the dancing classes made up only a small fraction of the
total number of people at the Ball. Indeed, I found it hard to believe
that there were so many people in the whole of the Ballroom Dancing
Society. When I mentioned this to Debbie she told me that although it
was organised by the society the Ball was actually an event for the
Apart from dancing we spent much of our time socialising with Gail,
Adam and others from our dance class, so during the course of the night
we both had quite a few drinks. Although we were never inebriated it
would be fair to say that the standard of our dancing did deteriorate a
little. As we were still beginners we needed to concentrate on our
movements so it was not our habit to speak much while we were dancing,
and that gave me plenty of time to think. Maybe it was the alcohol
combined with the overall atmosphere that made some of those thoughts
disturbingly unusual for me.
There was no doubt in my mind that I was gay and I had long ago ceased
to worry that this might be 'sick' as Simon had said. To me it was a
natural and integral part of me and so I considered it to be normal.
However, I realised that many of the people around me that night might
very well consider me 'abnormal' if they knew I was gay. It also
occurred to me that although I'd not made any conscious effort to do
so, there was no doubt that all that night I'd been playing the role of
a straight man. What disturbed me most was how much I was enjoying that
role play and how much I would like everyone to think of me as 'normal'.
Inevitably the last dance of the night was a slow dance and there was
no reasonable way to avoid having that dance with Debbie, even if I'd
wanted to do so. The way she clung so tightly to me as we swayed
together was certainly not unpleasant but I did get rather a shock when
she placed her lips on mine and began to kiss me. Surrounded by so many
other people there seemed to be no way I could avoid accepting that
kiss, even when her tongue entered my mouth.
I'd never kissed a girl before and this felt very different from
kissing a guy. However, although there was absolutely no sexual
overtones it was not at all distasteful and so I returned her kiss.
Perhaps in retrospect that was a mistake, but even with the benefit of
hindsight it's not easy to see what better course of action I could
have chosen. As it turned out she took my actions as an encouragement
to cling to me more tightly and to kiss me more passionately.
Fortunately the music ended before any response to that might have been
expected from me. With a huge feeling of deliverance I broke off the
kiss and removed my arms from around her waist.
"Looks like it's time to go home," I said, trying to hide my relief.
"Yes, I suppose it is," she said regretfully.
She had stopped clinging to me but as we both moved toward the edge of
the room she grasped my hand and leaned closer, speaking quietly.
"You're a good kisser," she said, smiling coyly, "I bet you've had lots
"Er, no not really," I replied, blushing and avoiding her gaze.
Of course I'd had lots of practice with other guys but I consoled
myself with the thought that my reply wasn't really a lie because she
obviously meant practice with girls. Anyway, I thought that after the
lacklustre way I'd returned her kiss she must also be lying when she'd
said that I was a good kisser.
"That's probably because you're so shy," she commented and smiled
"Shy?!" I said, surprised by her accusation.
I'd never considered myself to be shy, though I knew I was more
self-contained than most people.
"Never mind," she said soothingly, "I knew you just needed someone to
coax you out of your shell."
Before I could think of a response to that, and indeed before I could
even work out the significance of what she'd said, I realised we were
now close to a group of our fellow dancing students. Debbie was still
tightly holding my hand and I was embarrassed by the fact that some
members of the group had obviously noticed this and were bestowing
knowing smiles upon both of us. One lad who often went for drinks with
us after the dancing lessons even winked at me.
Under such scrutiny it was impossible to indulge my growing desire to
disentangle my hand from Debbie's and flee the room. Then just when it
seemed my discomfort and embarrassment couldn't get any worse, Debbie
"Shall we share a taxi?" she asked loudly enough for those nearby to
"Okay," I agreed, conscious of our audience.
As Gail and Debbie were in the same Hall, at first I wondered if there
would be three or even four of us in the taxi. However, that question
was quickly answered when Gail, rather pointedly it seemed to me,
announced that she and Adam were sharing a taxi and going back to
Debbie didn't release my hand until she went to retrieve her wrap from
the cloakroom. While she waited in line there, I decided to go and
empty my bladder and by the time I returned she had her wrap and was
chatting to Gail. Because I was behind them, at first they didn't
notice my approach and I overheard the concluding part of their
"... was good," Gail was saying, "And at last you got a bit of romance
out of him."
Then she looked up and saw me then rapidly changed the subject.
"I'd better go find Adam," she said, sounding a little flustered, "and
see if he's got us a taxi yet."
When we got into our taxi Debbie not only grasped my hand again but she
also rested her head on my shoulder. As her Hall was nearer than mine
we dropped her off first but before she got out of the taxi she kissed
me again and then whispered in my ear.
"Do you want to come in for some coffee?" she asked.
"No thanks," I replied, trying to hide my rapidly rising panic, "I'm
really tired and need to go home and get some sleep."
"I understand," she said and gave me a little smile.
In the dim light it wasn't easy to read her expression but as far as I
could tell it showed more relief than disappointment at my response.
Over the previous few weeks I'd usually looked forward to seeing Debbie
in the classes we shared, because at that time my chats with her were
the nearest thing I had to a social life. However, as I was getting
ready for bed that night I found that I was almost dreading seeing her
at our next class. She was nice to have as a friend but if, as I now
suspected, she was getting romantically attached then life could get
uncomfortably messy and complicated.
Remembering our various interactions and thinking about some of the
things Debbie had said and done, I realised that there were many clues
that I'd either missed or deliberately ignored. For example, it was
hard to believe that Debbie took such a close interest in the career
choices and even clothing of all her friends. There were also little
things said by Gail that hadn't meant much at the time but which in
retrospect might be significant. Occasionally in the past I'd wondered
briefly if Debbie wanted to be more than friends but always I'd just
brushed those idealised, thinking I was just being paranoid.
Despite my concern about Debbie's intentions, I did manage to sleep
well, probably because I really was very tired. In fact I slept so well
that I missed breakfast and was just placating my grumbling stomach
with tea and chocolate biscuits when my phone rang. On picking it up I
saw that it was Debbie and I greeted her with an unintended wariness.
"Hi, Ian," she said cheerily, apparently not detecting anything
negative in my initial greeting, "I was just wondering if you wanted to
meet up sometime today."
"Oh, erm," I replied as I quickly tried to think of an excuse, "I'm a
bit hungover at the moment and so I'm not feeling very sociable.
"I don't think you ever feel very sociable, do you?" she said,
emphasising the word 'very'.
>From the lightly amused tone and the little laugh that followed her
words I deduced that her question was merely rhetorical and so I didn't
"Anyway," she continued, a note of concern entering her voice, "I'm
sorry to hear about your hangover. I didn't think you'd had all that
much to drink last night and I thought you told me you almost never get
"Yes, that's true" I admitted, then rather lamely added, "Maybe I'm
coming down with a cold or something."
"Oh, I hope not," she said, sounding genuinely concerned.
There was a brief silence, during which I couldn't think of anything to
say, then Debbie spoke again.
"You know," she said a little hesitantly, "I just wanted to say what a
gentleman you were last night. Most lads I've been out with would have
taken my invitation for coffee as an invitation to go to bed."
"Oh, right," I said.
I was unable to think of anything more coherent or appropriate to say
because my mind was too busy trying to analyse her words. For example,
did 'other lads I've been with' mean the same as 'other boyfriends',
and if so, did that mean she considered me to be a boyfriend?
"Maybe we can meet up tomorrow then," she said, more as a statement
than as a question, "There's something I want to talk to you about so
I'll phone you in the morning to see if you're okay."
"What did you want to talk about?" I said, beginning to get worried,
"Why can't you just talk now?"
"Well, if you're unwell you may not want to chat and in any case I'd
rather do it in person," she replied.
"But now you've mentioned it I'll be able to rest or sleep because I'll
be wondering what it is."
There was another brief silence before Debbie responded.
"Well, it's really not that important," she said, "Just that... now
that the dancing classes have ended we need to decide what we do with
our Tuesday and Thursday evenings."
"Maybe it would be a good idea to do some studying and catching up on
course work," I said, feeling trapped and beginning to panic.
"Be serious," she said, then gave a little laugh before continuing,
"That doesn't sound like an enjoyable way of spending time together."
This wasn't a conversation I wanted to have. Certainly I didn't want to
discuss it at that particular time and maybe it would be preferable if
we never discussed it. Therefore I decided to buy myself some time.
"You were right," I said, "We really should talk about this when I'm
"Okay," she agreed, "I'll phone you tomorrow."
After Debbie hung up I just sat on my bed, staring into space and
thinking about the situation with Debbie. The more I thought about it
the more convinced I became that she wanted, maybe even thought we
already had, a romantic relationship. Suppressing my feelings of panic,
I tried to think calmly enough to find a solution to the problem.
Unfortunately, every possible scenario I could think of ended with one
or both of us getting hurt.
One of the first things I thought of was to just tell her I was gay and
that I'd like to remain friends but that we could never be more than
friends. Despite the fact that I'd never come out to a heterosexual
before, that initially seemed like the least-worst option and at least
it had the benefit of being truthful. Then I thought of the possible
Although there was a reasonable chance that Debbie's reaction wouldn't
be too bad and that she'd promise to keep my secret, I was concerned
that she might accidentally let it slip out. Gail was her best friend
and obviously knew about Debbie's romantic feelings long before I did.
>From personal experience I knew that Gail was nosy and persistent and
would want to know about any change in Debbie's interactions with me.
Gail was also opinionated and had a big mouth, so if she knew I was gay
then sooner or later half of the students at the university would know.
More importantly, people like Nick would find out, and if he found out
then my life in Hall would become impossible. The mere prospect of that
sent shivers of fear along my spine. No, I decided with an absolute
finality, Debbie must not find out that I was gay.
As I valued Debbie's friendship and enjoyed her company, I considered
just telling her that I wasn't interested in anything romantic.
However, I didn't know how she would react and my gut feeling was that
remaining friends would be too uncomfortable for both of us after I
made such an announcement. Despite that, I didn't totally discard that
possible scenario. Indeed, although I would like to keep her
friendship, maybe it would be a good thing if Debbie refused to have
anything to do with me. At least then there would be a clean break and
we could both move on without months of lingering embarrassment.
With everything running through my mind I realised I'd missed lunch,
but that wasn't a problem because I had no appetite. There was no doubt
in my mind that I was in a messy situation and I couldn't avoid the
conclusion that it was at least partly my own fault. I had blindly
walked into the quagmire, but in retrospect I realised that the
blindness wasn't totally innocent. There are none so blind as those who
don't want to see.
Of course I could think of many reasons to excuse myself and many
factors that might mitigate my fault. For example, if Debbie had been
interested in more than friendship she really should have said so, and
even now she the signals she was giving were not totally unambiguous.
However, I couldn't convince even myself that I was completely
blameless. I had enjoyed socialising with Debbie, not only for the
considerable pleasure of her company but also for the status it gave me
in the eyes of others. Therefore it was easy for me to avoid noticing
any signs that she felt anything more than friendship toward me.
All these things were still going round in my mind when my phone rang.
It was Debbie again.
"Hi," she said, "I'm lost. This old Hall of yours is a bit like a
"Wh-what?" I asked, totally confused, "Where are you?"
"I'm standing at the top of some stairs near some showers, looking for
your room," she said, sounding a little frustrated, "The porter told me
your room number and gave me directions but I got lost. I asked a
couple of people but they didn't know where your room was and one even
told me they didn't know anyone called Ian Kaye!"
"But what are you doing here?" I asked, still in shock.
"I just thought I'd bring you some medicines, see how you are and maybe
keep you company for awhile," she replied as if she were just stating
the obvious, "So anyway, where are you?"
"Okay," I said and sighed, "if you tell me the number on the room
nearest to you I'll come and find you."
After I'd found her and as we approached my room she made several
negative comments about the location, the food smells, and the fact
that the Hall was so old. When she even suggested that I try
transferring to a different Hall the following year I suppressed my
irritation and remained silent. Once inside my room she gave me a small
package of assorted cold medicines and I boiled some water to make her
some tea. To maintain my pretence, I made myself a hot lemon drink from
one of the packs she'd brought.
"Well, I can see that this room has some advantages," she said as she
sat at my desk sipping her tea, "At least it's big... well huge
"I like it," I said defensively as I sat on my bed and drank a little
of the horrible hot lemon concoction.
"Still, it's a bit bare isn't it?" she said critically.
I just frowned so she continued with her theme.
"All those bare walls, all this empty space," she said waving her hand
vaguely around, "It's a bit depressing. You need to brighten the place
up, get some posters on the wall, that sort of thing."
"It's fine for me," I said, suppressing the urge to tell her to mind
her own business, "I like it as it is."
"What you need is a woman's touch," she continued, completely ignoring
what I'd said, "Next time I come I'll bring some nice posters and
In the past I'd occasionally felt that she was trying to take over
aspects of my life, but had decided it was just my paranoia. Now she
had invaded my private space and it was obvious that she wanted to
control that too. My irritation was replaced by panic as I felt a
desperate need to get her out of my room and my half-full mug slipped
from my hand and bounced on the floor. Fortunately the mug didn't break
but the contents spilled on the carpet.
Immediately I stood up, grabbed a handful of paper towels from bedside
the sink, and began mopping up the mess. Debbie crouched next to me and
tried to help but she just got in the way so I waved her away and told
her I could manage on my own. She just stood there, hovering while I
continued dabbing at the carpet. Once the carpet was just damp rather
than soaking I raised my eyes to her face.
"Look, Debbie," I said firmly, "I'm really not feeling well. I've got a
terrible headache, so why don't you leave now so I can lie down for
She gave me a strange look that I couldn't interpret and momentarily
appeared as if she were going to say something. but instead she just
nodded her head. In silence I escorted her to the exit door I thought
of as my private entrance.
"I'll phone in the morning," she said just before she left, "Hopefully
you'll feel better by then."
I nodded my head, returned to my room and lay on my bed, staring at the
After much thought I decided that the best way to avoid any future
complications and possible emotional upsets was to make a quick, clean,
complete break. Maybe the correct way to do that would be to meet her
and tell her in person, but I knew I couldn't deal with any resulting
emotional scene. Therefore I decided to use the opportunity of her
promised phone call. In a way I suppose that was a little cowardly, but
I convinced myself that overall that way would be better for everyone.
I would be sad to lose her friendship but the way she was interfering
in my life it would only be a matter of time before she found out I was
gay. Then if she got upset or angry with me after that there was a
possibility she would, willingly or accidentally, reveal my secret.
That risk was just too great for me to take.
That night I didn't get much sleep as I rehearsed various things I
might say to Debbie when she phoned, so the next morning I was both
tired and nervous as I waited for my phone to ring. As things turned
out, when she did call I never used any of the little speeches I'd
"Hi, Ian!" she greeted me brightly, "Are you feeling better today?"
The cheerfulness of her greeting just made me feel even more miserable,
but I tried not to let it show in my voice. I hate confrontations and
the adrenaline flooding my system made my hands shake and my stomach
"Yes, thanks, I'm much better now," I lied.
"That's good," she said, sounding genuinely pleased."
All the things I'd planned to say disappeared from my head and I
couldn't bring myself to say anything at all, so it was Debbie who
broke the ensuing silence.
"Anyway, do you want to meet later today?" she asked, "we can talk
about what we do with our Tuesday and Thursday evenings."
At last I saw an opportunity to say what needed to be said.
"I was thinking that we shouldn't do anything," I said, probably a
little too bluntly.
"W-what do you mean?" she asked, obviously taken aback by my words.
"Well, I kept my promise and I think that now the debt I owed you has
been repaid," I paused and took a deep breath before continuing, "So
there isn't really any reason now to keep on seeing one another outside
of our classes."
Of course that wasn't my real reason, but after her visit the previous
afternoon I just wanted to find any excuse to make a quick, clean
There was yet another silence, this one being very uncomfortable and
seeming to last forever. As I felt that I'd communicated what I'd
intended there was a temptation just to hang up, but I felt that it was
only fair to wait and give her a chance to express herself.
"But... but, I thought," she said eventually, stuttering in apparent
shock, "But I didn't think you were going out with me just to pay off a
debt... I thought, well..."
Her speech just ground to a halt and as I couldn't just hang up I felt
I had to say something, no matter how banal or stupid, just to get the
whole uncomfortable situation over with.
"What?" I prompted, keeping my voice as neutral as possible, "What did
"I thought... well... don't you love me?"
"Of course not," I replied, more coldly than I intended.
"So you were just using me," she said .
That completely puzzled me because I didn't have any idea what she
thought I might have been using her for.
"Maybe you were using me," I said, adrenaline making me easily annoyed,
"But in any case I'm sure we won't be using one another any more."
"So that's it?" she said, "You're dumping me just like that? After all
I've done for you?"
"You have to be with someone before you can dump them," I said, my
voice breaking with emotion, "We were only ever just friends and you
ruined that by trying to take things too far."
I thought I heard her sob just before she hung up.
After that we never spoke to one another again. In our mutual classes
she completely ignored my existence and her friends did likewise,
except for the occasional glare they directed at me.
If you enjoy this story you might like to take a look at my other
"Not Always Easy"
Road Not Taken"
"Timing" (nifty/gay/college/timing.html) .