Chapter 9


Slice the loaf, take two slices and butter them up. Now lay the cheese, three slices of chicken, and some tomato. A handful of lettuce, a dash of black pepper, and a squirt of mayonnaise. Seal it up, wrap it up, and you're done.

"Someone's looking like a pro."

Carefully folding the thin sheet of plastic around the sandwich, I finished wrapping it up and then neatly sealed it with a printed, sticky label. Placing it on a tray with the other freshly made sandwiches, I glanced up at the man standing next to me and flashed him a smile. "Thanks."

Scanning his eyes across the tray, Keith nodded his head. "Keep this up and I'll be out of a job."

"I know." I smirked, watching as he wandered across the store's kitchen to the fridge. Opening it up, he grabbed some more slices of cheddar and then placed them on the side for me to use.

Keith first met Dad around ten years ago, shortly before the second Westie's bakery came into existence. At the time, Dad was looking for another person who he could train to manage the new store. Coming from a catering background, Keith applied for the job and succeeded in getting it.

As the business grew over the years, so did their friendship. Dad often used to remark that he could count his closest friends on one hand, with Keith being one of them. It also made him a very good friend of our family. In many ways, he was an adopted uncle to Georgina and me, always offering to take us to the park when we were little and buying us ice creams in the summer. He also began a yearly tradition of taking the two of us, along with Harry and his brother Riley, to the cinema every Christmas Eve. No matter what we did, we always had a great time with him.

Picking up the bread knife, I began to slice through the last of the loaf. "I heard you talking to Dad about Disneyland. Did Alice enjoy it?"

Keith's family usually came over to our house at Christmas, only this year he and his wife took their young daughter, Alice, to Disneyland Paris instead.

"We had a great time." A broad smile spread across his face. "Alice loved it."

My mind flashed back to when I'd visited Disneyland with my family. I was around ten at the time, but could easily recall how much fun I'd had on all the rides and watching the evening parades. "It's a pretty cool place."

"Yes, it is. She already wants to go back next year."

"Then take her," I replied, carefully laying some slices of cheddar across the bread.

Keith laughed. "Are you willing to pay for it?"

I shrugged. "Ask Dad for a raise, I would."

"I heard that, West."

Glancing over my shoulder, I grinned at Dad as he stood leaning against the side of the door that led out to the front of the shop. "Heard what? I didn't say anything."

"Right," he retorted, looking down at his watch. "Weren't you supposed to finish ten-minutes ago?"

"I told him to go," Keith pointed out. "But he wanted to finish first."

"Finish what? Making a mess?" Dad teased, causing Keith to laugh.

I shook my head at them. "You guys really aren't funny."

Ignoring me, Dad walked over and inspected my progress. "Don't make anymore sandwiches after that one. If you want to take them out to the front you can, but then you're really finished. Ok?"

I feigned a sigh of defeat. "Alright."

Leaving me to it, Dad and Keith soon got into a conversation about the new store that was opening early next year, and left the kitchen. Finishing with the last sandwich, I sealed the plastic with a label and then placed it on the tray with the others. Stepping to the side, I picked up the tray and left the kitchen.

Emerging into the front of the store, I made my way towards the large, open fridges that aligned the walls leading to the automatic doors. Stopping beside the one housing the sandwiches, I gently lowered the tray to rest against the floor and began to stock the shelves with the fresh sandwiches.

While I didn't share the same drive for baking that Dad did, I quite liked working in the bakeries. Even so, it wasn't something I got to do a lot of. Dad had made it very clear that he wanted me to focus on school, rather than working during the weekends and evenings trying to make some extra money. Although he limited me to only a few hours on the weekends, he didn't mind me working more during the holidays. And seeing as Harry had left that morning to visit his family up north, I wasn't missing out on anything by working longer.

"Hmm, which one should I buy?" came the sound of a familiar voice above me.

Raising my head, I stared up at the boy surveying the row of sandwiches I was laying out. "Sean? What are you doing here?"

"I've been abandoned." He grinned, his eyes shifting between the sealed packets.

I stood up and frowned at him. "You what?"

His smile widened. "I was with a few of the guys, but they all abandoned me to go home." Reaching out, he picked up one of the sandwiches. "And I skipped lunch."

I watched him for a moment, unable to stop a grin appearing on my face. I had to give it to Sean; he really did have a very alluring quality about him. He was also wearing his cute hat again, the one that forced his blond locks to peek out underneath. It was quite a treat seeing him show up unexpected.

"Didn't know you work here though," he teased, walking over to the counter.

"I do, sometimes," I replied, following him over. "The job's alright, but the boss sucks."

Paying for the sandwich, he faced me. "You should meet his son. He's supposed to be a real bastard."

I folded my arms, ready to reply with a sarcastic retort when I was interrupted.

"West?" came Dad's voice from the right. "What are you still doing here?"

"I was getting ready to go, but then this customer began to harass me," I answered, pointing at Sean.

Sean's expression shot from amusement to alarm as his eyes shifted between my dad and me.

Unable to suppress a laugh, I turned to Dad and shook my head. "I'm just kidding, Dad. This is Sean."

"Maybe I should make you work longer for that, what do you think Sean?" Dad asked, extending a hand out towards him.

Sean nodded and shook back. "I think you should."

I stuck out my bottom lip, forcing him to laugh, and then turned to Dad. "I'll go grab my stuff and then go."

"Good." Dad smiled. "Nice meeting you, Sean."

"You too," Sean replied, watching as Dad turned and headed back behind the counter.

Once he was out of earshot, Sean landed a hand on my shoulder. "See what I mean? His son's a bastard."


"So you're done now?"

I pulled off the thin, rubbery gloves covering my hands. "Yep, all done."

"You wanna come over mine?"

I froze and stared at him, certain I'd misheard what he'd said. "What?"

"Do you want to come over mine?" he slowly repeated, flashing me a toothy smile.

"Uh, sure."

"You don't have to," he added. "I mean, if you're busy."

"No, I'm not." I took a step over towards the counter. "Just give me two minutes, ok?"

"Sure, I'll wait right here."


Stealing another glance in his direction, I focused on his face for a few seconds, and then turned back towards the pavement. Whenever I was alone with Sean it felt like there was an unspoken current flowing between us, a hidden connection. I used to blame it on the complexity of our relationship through Ryan, but the more I began to know Sean myself, the more I began to doubt that theory.

Even if Ryan had warped my vision of him, making me see things that didn't exist, I just couldn't shake the underlying feeling from my system that something was there. Only it wasn't a sensation I could define or quantify.

Walking alongside him to his house, his animated mood reminded me of how elated Harry had been when we'd gone over to Tess's. Was it possible that Sean was going through the same things Harry was? Though instead of feelings towards Tess, they were aimed at me?

"Mum and Dad are home," he began, giving me an anxious glance as we turned onto his street. "Don't worry, they're alright."

"I'm not worried."

"Right, I keep forgetting that you're Action Man."

"Don't call me that." I sighed, feigning annoyance.

"Yeah, I probably shouldn't." He smirked. "Besides, all my Action Men figures were gay."


"They were," he insisted, leading us down the front path to his house.

"Did they tell you that?" I laughed.

"No. But they did live together in the same shoebox under my bed with no Barbies to be with."

I leaned towards his ear and dropped my voice. "So you caught them having sex?"

"I never saw them," he replied, reaching into his jeans for the door key. "I heard them."

I laughed again. "You're bad."

Unlocking the door, he pushed it open and ushered me inside ahead of him. Wiping my shoes on the doormat, I stepped inside and began to unzip my coat.

"Sean?" came a loud, male voice. Glancing about the hall, I couldn't see anyone in the immediate surroundings, but soon heard some movement in a room to the right, which seemed to be the kitchen.

"Yeah, it's me, Dad!" Sean called back, closing the door behind us. After removing his shoes, he walked further into the house and entered the kitchen.

Removing my own shoes, I decided to follow him over and stood in the doorway. Two other people were in there with Sean, a man and a woman, who I assumed to be his parents. Both appeared to be in their early-forties, and were busy preparing dinner.

After talking to Sean for a moment, the man looked up and noticed me standing in the doorway. "Oh, sorry. I thought Sean was alone."

Glancing back over his shoulder, Sean's lips curved up into a wide smile. "This is West."

Turning away from the hob, a look of recognition grew on his Mum's face as she stared at me. "West from the English project?"

"That's me." I smiled.

"Well," she began, her eyes flicking over to Sean's and then back to mine. "It's good to finally meet you."

"You too." I briefly glanced at Sean. I wonder what you've told her about me.

Walking back towards me, Sean indicated towards the stairs. "We'll just be in my room."

"That's fine," his mum answered. "We'll be down here if you need anything."

Giving the two of them a parting smile, I stepped away from the door and moved towards the stairs. Ready to climb up, I stopped when something caught my eye.

"What?" Sean asked, before following my stare over towards a small cage, which was placed on top of a wooden cabinet in the hall.

I gestured towards the cage. "I forgot you had a hamster."

"Forgot?" He gave me an uncertain look. "Did I tell you about Ryan?"

Blood rushed from my face as my heart skipped a beat. "What?"

"The hamster, his name is Ryan," he replied. "He's new, only had him for a few weeks. I didn't think I told you about him."

You didn't, you told Ryan about the hamster. Virtual Ryan. I shrugged and glanced away. "You must've said something. Why, you keeping him a secret?"

"No." A pink hue clouded his cheeks. "It's just that, you know..."

"What?" I frowned.

"It looks a bit, uh..."

"Girly?" I suggested.


I gave a soft snigger. "Then you're crazy. Who cares if you have a hamster?"

He looked at me incredulously. "People."

Walking over towards the cage, I knelt down and peered through the clear plastic covering the top half. "I bet he doesn't care what people think of him."

"Probably not." Sean grinned as he walked to stand behind me. "He sleeps a lot throughout the day."

Not seeing any movement within the cage, I stood up. "That's ok, we'll let him rest." Stepping back to lead the way upstairs, I glanced back at Sean. "I like the name though."


"Yeah. How'd you come up with that?"

"Um, a friend."

"From our school?"

"No." He paused briefly. "My old school."

Nodding my head, I reached the top of the stairs and glanced around the landing. While I didn't get a good look at the outside of the house when we arrived, the inside really had a nice, homely feel to it. Given the low temperature outside, I'm sure the warmth was a big part of that, even so, it did have a very welcoming feeling.

"Just in there." Sean pointed to the closed door on my right.

Turning the handle, I opened the door and stepped inside. His room was bigger than I'd expected, with space for a double bed, a large wardrobe, a desk for his computer, and plenty of room left over to move about. The walls were painted a dark red and the floor was covered in a dark wooden laminate. The ceiling remained white, reflecting enough light to stop the place from being too dark. It was an interesting colour scheme, and worked very well, especially when coupled with his black bed sheets.

Facing back towards him, I instantly felt my cheeks redden when I realised he hadn't moved from the doorway and had just been watching my reaction.

"It's a little more complete than Tess's room." He winked, entering and closing the door.

"Yeah." Sniffing the air, his distinctive scent quickly flooded my senses. "No smell of paint either."

Inhaling deeply, he shook his head. "No, just stinks of me I guess."

"It doesn't stink."

Grinning at me, he looked over at the bed. "Sit wherever you want."

Sweeping my gaze around his room again to look for a seat, I quickly did a double take when I noticed the large, dark object sitting in the corner next to his desk. His piano. I couldn't believe I'd almost missed it.

Although I'd now noticed the large instrument, I was in two minds over whether I should mention it or not. I knew his music was something very personal to him, yet it was clearly there for me to see. I doubted that he would've invited me into his room if he truly wanted to keep it a secret.

"Do you play?"

He stared at me for a moment, a mix of emotions playing out across his face, before he bit his bottom lip and nodded. A flurry of nerves rippled through my stomach, knowing that he was opening up and sharing a very special and private part of his life with me.

"Could you play something for me?" I asked. I wasn't really sure why I added the 'for me' at the end of the question. Maybe to make it sound more genuine. I didn't know.

"Ok." He slowly walked over towards the piano. Pulling out a small stool, he sat down and shifted forwards.

Taking a seat on his bed, my position gave me a great side-view of him and the keys. An image flashed in my mind when I suddenly realised that I was viewing things from the same angle as his online videos. Evidently he balanced his camera on the bed and filmed from there.

Straightening his back, he lowered his head and dropped his eyes down to the keyboard. After remaining motionless for a few seconds, an expression of concentration, married with serenity, fell across his features as his hands hovered out before him. Another silent beat passed and then his fingers lightly kissed the keys, the voice of the piano starting to sing.

I instantly recognised the beautiful piece, yet knew he'd never performed it online. It was special, something that he hadn't shared with anyone else. It was for me.

It moved me beyond words, summoning all of my emotions to the surface. I wanted to smile, laugh, cry and shout, but I was powerless to do anything but sit there wide-eyed and in awe as he continued to play. It was one of the most powerful things I'd ever experienced, as though the sound resonated from deep within his soul and reverberated throughout the room in a grand display.

His movements began to slow, the sound of the notes softening in the air. Finishing the piece with a glissando, he sat there for a second before lowering his hands to his lap and looking over at me.

"Sean, that was..." I slowly shook my head in disbelief when the words failed to come to me. While there were many things I'd kept hidden from him, my true feelings towards his music couldn't have been improvised.

"Did you like it?" he asked hopefully.

"I loved it!" I smiled back. "Jesus, where did you learn to play like that?"

"My nan taught me when I was a little," he replied, standing up from the stool and moving to sit on the bed opposite me. "I've been playing since then."

I shook my head again. "Why don't you play at school?"

His eyes avoided mine. "I dunno, I like keeping it quiet."

"But you're so brilliant at it!"

"It's kinda personal," he replied before beaming at me. "But I'm pleased you liked it."

"I did. You could play for me all the time."

His bright smile widened even more as I stared into his blue eyes and for the briefest moment, he flashed me his intense stare.

I instantly broke the contact and looked away, my mind spinning. "So, uh, did you have a good Christmas?" I knew it was a crappy thing to say but the peak in tension was making me uneasy, I had to change the topic.

We conversed for a while about what we did at Christmas, and then touched on a few other topics, but the only thing on my mind was that stare of his. After having witnessed it in the privacy of his room, there was simply no denying it didn't exist. There was definitely a deeper meaning about it, something that transcended a fleeting glance. While I'd tried to convince myself that Sean wasn't interested in me, his actions over the past hour had certainly challenged that view. First there was the invitation to his home, then his mum's reaction to meeting me, followed up by the look he gave me. Separately they didn't stand out, but together they accumulated into something substantial.

"Sorry about the other day."

I frowned. "What?"

"When I asked you if Tess was your type," he answered. "I didn't know you were dating someone."

"Am I?" I grinned.

"Aren't you with Zoe?"

"Zoe? We broke up months ago. I thought you already..." I trailed off. No, I've definitely mentioned it to you. Why are you bringing it up again now?

"Oh, sorry. I thought you were together."

"It's ok," I replied, keeping my stare locked on him when an idea came to mind. "What about you and Tess? Are you two...?"

He shook his head. "No, no, we're just friends."

"Harry would be pleased to know that."

"Does he think I'm dating her?"


He flashed a half-smile. "She isn't my type." I opened my mouth to question him further, but he continued, "I think Tess is starting to like him too."

Despite my desire to press Sean on the issue, I did want to find out about Tess. "Oh?"

"Yeah, I think she likes him," he replied. "It'd be cool if they get together. Harry seems like a nice guy."

I smiled. "He is."

"You two known each other long?"

"Since we were five."


"Yeah, we've kinda been stuck together."

We soon got talking about how Harry and I met, along with sharing some stories about things we'd gotten up to throughout the years. I initially wanted to return to our conversation about our romantic lives, but the more I thought about it, the more I deemed it necessary to let it rest.

After seeing him playing on his piano that afternoon, I'd come to see a sensitive, almost vulnerable side to him. Although I didn't mean him any harm, there was the aspect of privacy that I knew I'd be intruding upon if I pressed further. If Sean was going to come out to me he'd just do it, rather than have me chase around trying to read between the lines of half-truths.

My affair with Sean over the past few weeks had only been brief, yet throughout it all remained the prevalent question of my feelings towards him. It was a question I still didn't have a solid answer to.

Sean was brilliant, perfect in almost every way; he truly was a dream boy. I'd been attracted to people before, so what was the problem? Like a magnet beside a compass, something was off.

I pondered it over and over, trying to add up all my thoughts and feelings to find a common link. At first I found nothing, but then it came to me like a flash of lightening. I'd finally arrived at the barrier blocking the way.


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Written by Kai Taylor
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Copyright © 2013-2014 Kai Taylor