Scott sat on the cold stone steps, sobbing gently into his hands. These were tears of frustration and tears of pain. He had sworn to himself that he would be there for Jamie whenever he needed help, that he could hold him in his arms and make everything OK. The naivety of such claims had fallen at the first hurdle and Jamie was now left alone to deal with the disaster that surely awaited him.
But it was also more than that - bitter memories washed over Scott, reminding him of the harsh way that his own parents had reacted to the news of his being "different" to their expectations. As coming out stories went, is wasn't exactly a fairy-tale with a happy ending.
This in itself was all the more reason for him to want to find Jamie, to help prevent him from suffering in the same way that he had. Of course, it was possible that Jamie's parents would be fine with the news that their son was gay and had wanked off his friend on the beach in the middle of the day. But it wasn't exactly likely.
Toby understood perfectly. He sometimes thought that he knew Scott better than he knew himself, and right now he could feel his friend's pain. Toby placed his arm over Scott's sobbing shoulders and drew him close. Words were futile and this action meant more than anything he could have said.
Toby had been there when Scott had been thrown out by his parents. In fact it was Toby's idea that the two of them went off together, leaving their birth town with all its prejudices and vacuous anger. They had since learnt that such things were universal and the only way to ensure a better life was to find somewhere with a smaller percentage of violent bigots! All of this was no comfort to Scott, who was suffering all over again.
Mel came up behind the two guys and bent down low to whisper in Scott's ear.
"Hey sweetness, maybe you should come inside. I have an idea."
Scott lifted his tear-stained face and peered at her through watery eyes. His eyebrows raised in silent questioning but she looked up and down the street, checking for eavesdroppers.
"Not here babe, I don't really like washing my laundry in public and I'm not gonna let you do the same. Come on."
With that, Scott stood and allowed himself to be led inside and back up to Toby's flat, where he slumped down onto the well-used sofa and waited for Mel to speak.
"OK then," she said after draining the rest of her gin, "now it seems like you need to find Jamie and come over all knight-on-a-white-horse, am I right?"
Scott nodded in agreement, hoping that this was leading somewhere positive.
"and from what I can gather, you don't think he'll be OK. So what you need to do is get yourself over to his place sharpish, yes?"
"Well duh! If I knew where he lived, I'd be running there right now, wouldn't I?" spat Scott. Mel let the acid sarcasm wash right over her as she continued.
"I'll allow you that attitude seeing as you're going through the wringer, but that doesn't mean it's a nice thing, especially towards someone who's gonna help you out."
"Sorry Mel, it's just that I'm worried..."
"I know honey, and that's why you should be glad I'm here. Almost as glad as seeing this."
With that she brandished Jamie's phone, which had been forgotten in the earlier panic, dropped onto the sofa by its flustered owner. Scott's eyes widened and a grin split his face. Almost as suddenly, the sunshine left his features and rainclouds settled over him once more.
"But I can't reach him, that would mean phoning his home. Somehow I doubt his parents would be willing to give out their full address to a strange guy, especially when they're probably busy thinking up ways to torture their own son!"
"Well aren't you the cheery one!? You know what pessimism does, Scotty? Blinds you to the possibilities of maybe getting lucky. Or smart. Now Jamie seems like a good kid, bit too naive and cute for his own good but that might just be my jealousy talking!"
Toby chuckled at this and even Scott found his mood lifting slightly.
"So what's the point, Mel?"
"The point is ... the kid's gotta have friends, right? And if I were to check the last-dialled numbers on his phone for example..."
Flicking her flamboyantly manicured fingers over Jamie's phone, Mel accessed the information that she was after.
"Well there we go. Apart from the Dentist and Pizza Hut, there's only two other numbers that crop up. One's his home and the other is a `Sam Deacon'. Would that be a boy or a girl?" she mused.
Scott winced and took a deep breath. He really didn't feel good about sharing Jamie's private secrets but Mel had to know why that option was out of the question.
"Er, a boy actually. And calling him might be a bit difficult. You see ... Sam's the reason he was at the party last night. Well, indirectly anyway. Long story short - Sam was Jamie's friend until they had sort of a thing on the beach and Sam told him to bugger off. Although a lot more harsh than that. So all in all, probably not the best person to ask."
"Actually my sweet boy, that makes him the perfect candidate to ask! As much as I don't like to gossip," smiled Mel with a wink, "tell me all you know about this `thing' on the beach..."
As Jamie rounded the corner and jogged onto his street, fear flooded his head and caused him to shake. It was obvious that he was in trouble - when his mum had phoned, it felt like she was going to explode in his ear! Jamie tried to imagine a worse scenario but that wasn't possible.
It wasn't just that he'd been effectively "outed" by Sam, but there was also the addition of what had happened on the beach. So basically his parents probably thought he was gay AND a pervert! Altogether not the best situation he could have found himself in.
However, Jamie was tired of running away from things. He'd done just that the day before, after what had happened with Sam, and look what had happened then - he'd ended up drugged and almost taken advantage of! Luckily he'd had Scott to help him.
Shit! Scott!! He must be going out of his mind! Jamie was thinking a lot clearer now and the impact of his mum's phone call sank in. Under better circumstances, Jamie should have stayed and tried to work out some sort of plan of action, but he hadn't been rational at the time. So he just ran, abandoning his new friends to the fear of not knowing what to do.
Jamie mentally cursed himself - in fact he'd have given anything to have Scott's steadying influence to hand. It was too late to run back and get Scott and so he had to do this alone. Heart thumping in his chest, Jamie took out his key and opened the front door of his house.
It was a neat, black front door set off to the left of the red-brick building. Smart, functional and modern, his was one of a seemingly endless collection of detached surburban housing. Each one hinted at a moderate amount of wealth - a comfortable and sterile life for the inhabitants.
Jamie's home was much the same. The house was neat and tidy - this was something that Jamie's parents had always impressed on him, the constant disapproval of clutter or mess. Both his parents had typical middle-class jobs - his father was a dentist and his mother worked in the administration department of a firm of accountants. >From this mix came the idea that their entire lives should be planned down to the last detail. Those things that didn't fit could be fixed and remodelled.
Jamie wondered what they'd make of his being gay. He was certain that it wasn't something that was ever in their plans. So what would they do? As long as his dad didn't try to rip out the "gayness" and cap him with a shiny new heterosexual persona. Still, it wouldn't be long before he found out what they'd want to do and with that thought in mind, he stepped into the nicely-decorated living room to face his fate.
Mel turned to Scott, her silky hands clutching Jamie's mobile phone.
"You sure you want to do this?" she asked. Scott merely nodded in reply so she took a deep breath and pressed the call button. It was answered after a few rings and she began to speak.
"Hello, is that Mr Deacon? Mr Sam Deacon?"
"Yes, yes it is. Who is this?" came a trembling voice at the other end of the line.
"Mr Deacon, this is Constable Smith from Brighton Police Station and we'd like to ask you a few questions if we may."
"Look, I just told you guys - I don't know where Jamie is. Can't you just leave me alone?!"
Sam sounded distressed but Mel was determined, especially having heard how he'd behaved towards Jamie. However, this new information threw a spanner in the works. Only a small one, but it would probably be time for Plan B, and this could have more serious repercussions for Jamie. She thought it best to check with Scott first.
"Mr Deacon, could you hold the line please?"
"Er, yeah, ok."
Mel covered the mouthpiece of the phone and turned to Scott.
"OK, slight change of plan. Apparently the police have already been in touch with him, and asked if he knew where Jamie was. I assume that Jamie's parents have filed some sort of missing persons complaint. I can find out what you need but I don't know what will happen the next time Jamie runs into Sam. You sure you wanna do this?"
Scott thought for a moment. "Yeah, go ahead. Right now Jamie needs me - we can always deal with Sam later. Do what you have to."
Mel nodded and returned to the phone conversation.
"Mr Deacon, I'm not entirely sure what you meant by your last statement. My department certainly has not been dealing with a missing person."
"Well somebody called, asking if I knew where he was. How do I know what bloody department it was?"
Sam was getting cocky now so Mel decided it was time to put him in his place.
"Mr Deacon, I would like to remind you who you are talking to, and to curb your offensive language, unless you would like to add offensive behaviour to a charge of indecent exposure?"
"Wha...I...er...I don't understand!" spluttered Sam.
"Just to clarify, Mr Deacon, we have received a complaint about an incident on the beach yesterday morning. It seems that a minor exposed themselves and was engaged in an indecent act with another young male. A passing witness has identified you as one of the two boys and we are very interested in knowing the identity of the other one. Is there any way in which you could help us?"
Sam's mind went into overdrive. If he gave them Jamie's name, then he would effectively be admitting to being a part of what they insinuated. But if he didn't, then maybe he could get away with it. As if reading his thoughts, the "policewoman" continued.
"Before you consider witholding any information, Mr Deacon, let me state your position. Currently you are suspected of indecent exposure and thanks to the wonders of camera-phone technology, we have the proof to back up this claim. However, should you co-operate, then we are prepared to be lenient on you. The other boy is the one we are interested in. From the look of the evidence, it seems that you were an unwilling victim and we are prepared to accept this reasoning in return for the information that we need."
"So what do you want to know?" asked Sam, clinging to the faint hope offered to him.
"Quite simply, the perpetrator's name and address. Then we can begin our investigation and clear you of all charges."
It didn't take Sam long to decide. As far as he was concerned, it was Jamie's neck or his own. Since he'd already shopped Jamie to his parents, what difference would it make if he added the police to the list. Sam certainly wasn't going to take the rap for what had happened, not when he could pass the blame off onto that little fag runt. So he gave out Jamie's name and full address, breathing a sigh of relief.
"Thank you Mr Deacon," said Mel, trying hard to restrain herself as Sam betrayed his former friend. "But remember, this still counts as a public offence so if we're not satisfied by our enquiries, we may have to return to this line of questioning. My suggestion is that you think very carefully about your future conduct."
"But you said..." started Sam but Mel cut him off quickly.
"Goodbye, Mr Deacon. Stay out of trouble."
Mel shut off the phone and sighed heavily. Turning to Scott, she gave him Jamie's address. Luckily, he knew where this was. It was in a reasonably affluent area of town, close to one of his former client's homes.
Scott hugged Mel tightly and she responded in kind. Toby tousled Scott's hair and told him to visit soon, a promise that he readily made. Waving his goodbyes, Scott bounded down the stairs and to his lover's rescue.
The tension in the room was almost tangible, crackling between Jamie and his parents, who were seated side by side on the white leather sofa that faced the widescreen TV. Jamie stood awkwardly, shifting his weight from foot to foot, staring at the ground in front of him. He suddenly felt like a 10-year old again, waiting for his parents to chastise him for another minor misdemeanour.
Sensing his discomfort, his mum told him to sit. Slinking backwards, Jamie dropped into a matching white armchair opposite, never taking his eyes off the deep-pile carpet. Neither party seemed to want to make the first move and the seconds ticked slowly away, piling agonizing weight on Jamie's guilty conscience, until finally his dad spoke.
"James, where have you been?"
This was serious - they only used Jamie's real name when he was in trouble and this was worse than he thought. His father was a fan of legal dramas and thought himself a good interrogator with his own child. Jamie's mum would ask him questions outright, giving Jamie the chance to outrun her with half-truths and deceptions, playing on her affection for his status as her only child.
Jamie's dad, on the other hand, would seal off any escape routes and verbally back Jamie into a corner until he invariably ended up confessing everything. Since this seemed a likely outcome, Jamie's best hope was to skirt the issue for as long as possible, giving him time to judge his parents' mood and hopefully plan some sort of defence.
"Out," he replied quickly, not wishing to give too much away although he knew what would come next.
"James, I'm warning you not to take that tone with me. As far as we're concerned, you have some explaining to do and childish retorts won't do you any good. So I'm going to ask you again - where EXACTLY have you been?"
Jamie looked at his mum - she seemed on the verge of tears and was nervously wringing her hands in her lap. Under any other circumstance, Jamie would have seized on this and tried to turn it to his advantage. However, this would only force his father to strike up a more offensive stance, having to represent both parental views if he felt his wife was crumbling.
But today was different. Jamie thought about Scott and what had happened over the last day. He'd gone from horny teenager to near suicidal and almost everything inbetween. The only thing that had lifted him above the heady whirl of confusion and despair had been Scott. Jamie had never really believed in concepts like love at first sight but he couldn't describe his feelings in any other way.
Scott liked him for who he was, not for what he could do for him, or what he could represent. Scott cared, and Jamie cared back. There was a dignity and tenderness in his new lover that Jamie had never encountered before. Scott looked like he'd been wounded so many times that a brave face was projected to the world, but there was still some spark deep inside, a spark that had been lit for Jamie.
That's all it took. Spurred on by the knowledge that someone truly loved him despite, or even because of, all his flaws Jamie found new resolve and for the first time in his life, he rose to the challenge.
"What are you getting at, dad? Is it what happened with Sam, because you can't possibly hate what happened more than I do. Or is it because I'm gay?"
The silence was deafening. Jamie's parents were shocked, their faces frozen in twin expressions of disbelief. Jamie's heart thudded in his chest. He couldn't believe that he'd said it. A few days ago he could barely admit his homosexuality to himself but now he'd just proudly proclaimed it to his parents as well.
His mum broke the spell first as she broke out into floods of tears, throwing herself forward and weeping into her hands. Jamie's dad looked at her and for a moment, Jamie hoped that he'd feel a rare burst of compassion. That hope didn't last very long.
His dad's face twisted into a mask of rage and colour flooded his straining cheeks. He launched himself from the sofa and Jamie was taken completely unawares. Trying to escape from the fury of his father, Jamie scrambled backwards over the armchair and fell to the floor, smashing his head against the wall. He vaguely heard his mother scream as his vision turned black and he slipped into oblivion.
Everything was dark. He could vaguely hear something, it sounded like sobbing but it was coming from a long way off. A dull throbbing in the ears. No, in the head. Getting louder and more painful. A constant pounding. Bang! Bang! Bang! Pain! Pain! PAIN! He felt like screaming but he knew it would hurt even more. Jamie struggled to free himself from the cloying darkness and suddenly he was catapuled back to reality, his vision swirling and seeking something solid on which to focus.
His mother, looking worried. Jamie blinked a few times as the pain in his head subsided and his watery eyes cleared. He was slumped on the carpet of his parents' lounge and his mother was leaning over him, her tear-stained cheeks flushed with colour.
"Jamie, my baby, can you hear me? Are you OK?"
Stupid question - he felt like a truck had hit him from behind! In the absence of speech, he managed to force out a croak. His mother took that as a sign that he was at least aware again.
"Oh my baby, I'm so sorry, if I'd have known what he'd do...."
With this, she started crying again and Jamie tried to piece together what had happened. He was sure that it had to do with his father but couldn't remember what. His head felt like it was splitting apart - had his dad hit him? Possible, but why? He forced his memory to skip back into his head and tell the story. He remembered being afraid, and of telling them something. Something important. Then suddenly it was all recalled.
"Shit!" shouted Jamie as he tried to sit up quickly. Too quickly since stars threw themselves in front of his eyes and he slumped back again. He rubbed his head and looked with concern at his mother.
"In the study. He ... he said he had to go think about ... well, what you said."
"Mum, I'm so sorry, I should have ... I don't know what ... not said ... kept quiet ..." sobbed Jamie as emotion choked his throat.
His mother held him tight, rocking him gently like she had when he was young. Jamie had forgotten what this was like - since his mother had found the thrill of a career and the unfathomable joy of organising and labelling everything into neat little sections, she'd applied this to all areas of her life. Jamie had gone from her little boy to just another topic on the agenda. Now it seemed that there was still a heart inside her.
"Sssh Jamie," she whispered," I should have guessed. Maybe if I'd done more, spent more time. But you know how important it was for me to prove myself, especially to your father."
"More important than me, mum?"
With this, she started sobbing again and it was Jamie's turn to hug her. This was becoming a very strange and emotional moment for the both of them.
"Mum, look I'm sorry if it came as a shock but I can't change what I am. It's just not an option. I sometimes wish I could - take a pill to stop being gay, so I wouldn't have to go through all this. So you wouldn't either."
Jamie's mum looked up and stared deep into his eyes. Cupping his face in her hands, she spoke with genuine conviction.
"Jamie, you will always be my son and I will always love you. You should never apologise for who you are. If anything, it's me who should be sorry. It's just that I can't help worrying..."
"I know mum. But I'll be OK. I'm not stupid, and I'll always take precautions. As for grandkids, you're too young for that sort of thing right now so let's worry about that later."
She laughed and ruffled his hair.
"You know Jamie, Sometimes I wonder how you got so grown-up so quickly. There's just so many questions, so much to know. I ... I don't really know much about ... about gay things."
"Nor do I mum! For me it's just one step at a time. I'm pretty new to all this myself. Well, I've known since I was small that I was ... different. But I've never normally had anyone to explore it with ..."
Jamie stopped there, not wanting to reveal too much. However, his flushed cheeks gave him away and his mother smiled, raising an eyebrow as she gently probed him further.
"Jamie, is there ... someone special? You know, in that sort of way?"
Images of Scott swam into his mind and Jamie couldn't help raise a grin. He was about to say something when he glanced over his mother's shoulder and saw his father standing in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest and with a face like thunder.
"Go on," his dad boomed, causing Jamie and his mum to jump slightly. "Tell us all about it you disgusting little faggot!"
Swallowing hard, Jamie stumbled to his feet, brushing aside his mother's concern and standing tall in front of his father.
"Dad, I know you're upset but..."
"Don't give me that, you little shit. I didn't raise my son to be a ... a fucking homo!"
"No," yelled Jamie, "you didn't raise me at all. You just left that to mum, didn't you. Until she wanted out too!"
"You ignorant little bastard! I'm the head of this household and I bring in the fucking money that keeps you clothed and fed!! Remember your place or I'll beat it into you!"
Fear flooded Jamie's body but still he stood his ground. If this was to be his last stand then so be it. He knew it was make or break time and he was sure that he was going to go out fighting. Even eviction or violence would be better than having to live as his dad's prisoner for another minute.
"So what are you saying, dad? That you want me to stop being gay? I can't do that so what other option is there? Do you want me to go?"
His dad raised a fist and stepped into the lounge just as the doorbell rang. Angry at the intrusion, he swung a punch at the air and shouted at his wife to answer the door as he closed in on Jamie to settle things once and for all. Jamie's mum scuttled out of the room and his dad sneered in triumph.
"Well here we are then. Now your precious mummy's not here to defend you, what are you going to do, you little poof? How dare you demand anything from me, in my own home! It seems like you need teaching a lesson, one that's long overdue!"
Jamie's resolve crumbled and he cowered away as his father swung his fist back and made to strike. Jamie closed his eyes and waited for the pain but instead he heard the slap of flesh on flesh. But it wasn't his flesh. Opening his eyes, Jamie saw his father squirming with his arm pinned behind his back. Confused, Jamie looked over his dad's shoulder to find his rescuer - Scott!
"Hey Jamie, thought you might need some help!" he grinned as Jamie's face lit up.
"Who the fuck are you!" thundered Jamie's dad, which earned him an extra tug on his straining arm. He yelled in pain and fury before admitting defeat. He thought himself big and strong when dealing with his wife and son but up against another man, his show of power soon faded.
"Listen, I'm gonna let you go," said Scott, "but if you even think about trying anything, I'll put you on your arse. Is that clear?"
Jamie's dad looked at his own son and sneered. "So you must be the girl in the relationship then! Aaarrgh!"
"Don't make me break it," whispered Scott.
"OK, OK, what do you want?"
"I think we all need to talk. Especially you and your son. I'll be here for insurance, alright?"
Jamie's dad relectantly agreed and after being freed, slunk over to the sofa where he sat rubbing his sore arm. Jamie's mum crept past Scott and sat down as far away from her husband as possible. She didn't want to be the one that he took his frustrations out on. Jamie looked at Scott with love pouring from his eyes. Scott winked at him and they sat opposite the adults.
"Right then," said Scott, "shall we?"
That was the beginning of acceptance, a turning point in all of their lives. At first, Jamie's dad had still been reluctant to understand, or even to listen. Once or twice it had seemed that things would get out of hand and Scott would have to step in again. Eventually Scott tired of this and told them all the story of his own "coming out".
This had an effect on them all. Jamie's dad realised the potential consequences of his actions. In Scott's case, the fact that his parents couldn't accept the truth led to his wild drug-taking and near-death experience. This shocked the adults into submission and even Jamie had wept openly when he heard the details of his lover's earlier life.
Towards the end of the conversation, Scott had taken Jamie's hand and they had pledged their love and devotion. Although Jamie's father winced at this, he grudgingly accepted that the two boys cared deeply for each other. He even made Scott promise to look after his "little boy". Explaining that he'd only ever known prejudice, he'd never seen any other way of dealing with issues such as homosexuality. Everyone resolved to learn together, with open minds and open hearts.
Once this truce had been reached, it was time for Scott to go. Jamie needed to spend some time with his family so that they could finish working things out and spend some quality time together, something that had not happened in a long while. After all, there was only one more day until the weekend was over and Jamie was back to school.
What would that bring? Jamie knew that he'd have to face Sam and deal with the fallout from their broken friendship. Judging by his actions, Sam could have told anyone, even the whole school! Still, there was plenty of time to deal with that later. Right now, there was a lot of healing to attend to. No matter what would happen, Jamie knew that he had the backing of his parents and the strength that came from his lover's devotion.
And Scott? Well, he was opening up to the reality of true love, for the first time in his life. It was scary but still an astounding feeling, almost as if a fire had been lit deep inside. It even seemed possible that he could be accepted into Jamie's family, just as soon as Jamie had gained the respect and love that he'd been missing for so long.
Whatever happened, the future looked bright with possibilities. After all, Monday was another day...
******* Well, thanks for reading. I'm gonna take a break for a bit - I'll post full reasons on Nifty if you're interested. But rest assured, I still want to finish this and see what happens! *******