Chapter 5


The seconds ticked by as I continued to stare up at Neal from my position on the floor. His expression had morphed into a smirk, clearly enjoying the view of me kneeling waist height before him. Sinking my fingernails into the hard fabric of Charlie's lead, I slowly rose to my feet.

Neal swept his eyes over me. "You look good."

"What are you doing here?" I hissed, making no effort to hide my anger.

His smile vanished as he opened his mouth to reply.

"West?" Mum called out from the lounge, cutting him off.

Sighing heavily, I skirted past Neal and entered the lounge. Glancing around the room, I quickly noticed there were a few more people than I'd realised. Mum was sitting on the sofa along with my aunt, Carol, and newlyweds John and Louise, who were seemingly back from their honeymoon, were perched on the love seat in the bay window.

Fantastic. I forced a grin. "Hey guys."

"There's my favourite nephew!" declared Carol. "Been out with your friends?"

"Yeah, just came back from town," I answered, my mind quickly trying to work out an escape plan. "I only popped in for a moment. I need to take Charlie back home."

"Already? It's freezing outside!" Mum exclaimed, her attention shifting to Charlie. "And he seems really comfortable too."

Following her eyes, I gazed over at Charlie lying next to the warm radiator across the room, chewing on one of his toys that we kept at our house. While the last thing I wanted was to be out in the cold myself, I really didn't have much of a choice when Neal would be hovering around.

"I'm sure Harry won't mind if Charlie's a little late," Mum added. "Warm yourself up and head out in a bit."

Knowing that my exit would only make me appear rude, I relented and decided to delay my departure. Besides, it was my house, it didn't seem right that Neal of all people could force me out.

I nodded my head and began to unzip my coat. "Alright, I'll go in a bit."

Walking over to the doorway, I stepped past Neal who stood there staring at me, his mouth drawn into a downward pout. At least you've lost that perverted smirk.


Frowning down at the glass of orange juice in my hand, I tried to filter out the sound of everyone talking. While I certainly didn't mind seeing my family, I greatly preferred knowing in advance that they were coming, rather than them showing up unexpected. Of course, Neal's presence only served to sour things further.

What was he doing there? Even with John and Louise's marriage, his relation to me was still very distant. John was my cousin and Louise was his. Was he there to see me? Maybe he was hoping for a repeat of what happened at the wedding. Good luck with that.

It did however, lead me to wonder about where he lived. Perhaps it was much closer than I'd realised. He did have a slight accent, definitely from somewhere up north, but I couldn't discern where exactly.

"Oh, really?" Mum called out excitedly. "Did you hear that, West?"

I shook my head, pretending to have been preoccupied by Charlie playing in the corner. "Sorry?"

"Neal was just saying that he's been accepted to the local university."

I held my stare on hers, certain that I'd misunderstood. He what?

"I'm actually here viewing a few places to live," Neal began, his focus on Mum. "I won't be starting until the end of September, but I'd like to see what's available."

You've gotta be kidding me.

"Oh? Whereabouts?" Mum asked. "Somewhere near the centre?"

"Someone said that Knightscastle is a nice part of the town."

Knightscastle? Of course that's where you'd live. You and your exuberant lifestyle would fit right in over there. There's even a gay bar nearby for you to prowl.

"Yes, it is," Mum agreed, and then turned to me. "Did you see Neal's car when you came in? It's really nice."

"What car?" I asked, unable to recall seeing anything noteworthy parked outside the front of the house.

She gestured out the window. "His, sorry, what was it Neal?"

"An Audi." He grinned, his eyes on me. "Want to see it?"

Sure. I'd just love to be alone with you again. I began to shake my head. "It's ok, I don't..."

"It's very cool," pipped in my cousin, John. "It's like the Starship Enterprise or something!"

Fishing his keys out of his pocket, Neal got to his feet. "Come on."

Feeling everyone's eyes on me, I realised I was trapped into accepting his offer, at least if I didn't want to draw any unnecessary attention by declining again. Placing my glass of juice on the table, I stood up from the chair and followed Neal out of the room.

Stepping out of the house, I tugged my coat closer against me, instantly feeling the cold nipping at my warm skin. Trailing behind Neal, we emerged onto the street and walked down the pavement towards a white Ford Transit van. As we neared, I could make out the side of a black car parked in front of the van. Given its position, it wasn't surprising that I hadn't noticed it when I'd arrived home with Charlie.

Coming around the van, I got my first sight of Neal's car. I'd pictured a small two-seater sports car but was surprised to see something that dwarfed my expectations.

"It's an S8," Neal commented, unlocking the doors.

I nodded my head as I circled around its side towards the front. I wasn't as fanatical about cars like some guys were, but I knew enough to get by. Neal's Audi truly was a beast of a car, further reinforcing his family's wealth.

He gestured towards the passenger side door. "Jump in."

Opening the handle, I pulled the door open and sat down inside, while Neal did the same on the driver's side. Closing the doors, it felt as though someone had magically muted the outside world. Even the cars driving past were noticeably quieter.

Neal started the engine. The dashboard flickered to life as a small screen folded up out of the centre column, displaying our current position on a map. A gentle whirring of the fans could be heard, blowing warm air into the cabin. Giving it all a brief once over, it appeared to be very impressive.

"It's not really my car," Neal admitted. "It belongs to the business. They were going to buy A8s, but I convinced them to get these instead."

I remained silent. His mention of 'the business' was interesting to me, though I still knew very little about what his family did, beyond something about buying and selling property. Either way, it did help to explain why he had such a grand car.

"Do you want to go for a quick drive?" he suggested. "I don't know the area that well, but-"

"Why are you here, Neal?"

His eyebrows dipped. "What?"

"Why are you here?" I repeated, my eyes locked on him. "Don't tell me it's for uni, you're here to see me, aren't you?"

"And that's bad because?" he countered.

"Maybe I don't want to see you."

He shifted in the seat and stared at me. "I know it was only brief at the wedding, but I did like getting to know you, West."

"I bet you did!" I snapped, unable to hold back my frustration. "I'm sure you told your boyfriend all about it, right?"

He looked straight ahead out of the windscreen. "That's why you're pissed."

"No shit!" I fumed. "I'm not a big fan of cheaters."

"I didn't cheat."

My eyes widened in amazement. "You can't be serious!"

"I am, just let me speak," he began, facing towards me again. "I did have a boyfriend, but we broke up."

"Was that after you told him about our..." I dropped my voice, "What we did in the library?"

"No, we broke up before the wedding."

"What?" I sighed, quickly becoming annoyed.

"I broke up with him a week before the wedding."

I held a steady gaze as my brain fought to process what he'd just said. It simply didn't add up. "Wait a second, you told me it was your boyfriend when you answered the phone in the library. Why would you say that if he was your ex?"

"I don't know. It kinda surprised me that he'd choose that exact moment to call." He shook his head. "I just said the first thing that came to mind."

I continued to watch him, unsure of whether to buy his excuse or not. Ever since I first met him, there was something that didn't seem quite right, something off. His explanation, while plausible, seemed very convenient.

"What about coming here to study?" I asked. "Is that even true?"

Reaching into his jeans he pulled out his phone. After tapping on the screen a few times, he handed it to me. "Here."

I took it in my hands and frowned at him. "What are you showing me now? Guys you met at the Algarve?"

"No. Read it."

Sighing, I cursed under my breath and peered at the display. Reading the text on the screen, my anger slowly began to dissipate. Finally, once I'd finished, I handed the phone back to him. "An acceptance letter."

"Yeah, for the uni that's two miles down the road," he replied. "Check the date."

I glanced back down and scanned the header. October 18th, over two months before he'd even met me.

Taking the phone from my hand, he gave me a pointed look. "Satisfied I'm telling you the truth now?"

I focused out of the window. "I guess."

"Jesus, you make it sound like I'm some sort of pervert who's chasing after you," he retorted. "You were flirting back, remember?"

My eyes jumped on his, ready to respond when I considered his words. Was he right? Did I flirt back to him?

"Ok, maybe I shouldn't have kissed you. I'm sorry if that freaked you out. I just thought you wanted to, you know, enjoy yourself." He offered a small smile. "I'm really not a bad guy, West. How 'bout we start over again, just friends?"

I regarded him closely, debating whether to trust him or not. Everything he said did make sense, yet I couldn't magically forget all the feelings I'd felt following what happened between us in the library. On the other hand, if he was right and it was a misunderstanding, it wasn't fair of me to hold it over his head and presume he was a bad person.

"Alright, just friends." I softened my expression. But I'm gonna be watching you like a hawk.

"Good. Now how about we-" he began, his phone chirping in his hand. Lowering his gaze, he read the text. "It's Louise. She says we're leaving."


After giving a final wave goodbye to our guests, Mum gently closed the front door, sealing in the warmth.

"That was a nice surprise." Mum grinned, rubbing her hands together as she returned to the lounge.

"Yeah... it was nice," I agreed, before giving a sigh once she'd stepped out of sight. One too many surprises for one day.

My stomach give a disapproving growl, reminding me that I'd skipped lunch. Heading into the kitchen, I opened up the fridge to see if anything was available. I settled on some leftovers from a lasagne that Mum had made earlier in the week, along with a small salad.

I'd always had more of a savoury tongue when it came to food. While I enjoyed the odd sweet snack here and there, I generally preferred something more substantial. It was one reason why I collected a lunch from the bakeries on a school day. I simply couldn't fill myself up with crisps and chocolate, or the countless other things I'd seen my peers eat throughout the years. Harry was the same, opting to enjoy our 'real food', as he'd dubbed it, rather than rely on the school cafeteria.

The microwave pinged from across the kitchen, indicating that my lasagne was ready. After collecting my heated food, along with a drink, I perched myself at the dining table and reflected over the past few hours as I ate.

The day hadn't gone how I'd anticipated at all. Meeting Josh was unexpected enough without Neal deciding to make a surprise appearance. Despite the explanation of his ex-boyfriend, and his added reassurance that he was only moving to the area for university, I remained cautious over any ulterior motives.

As far as I knew, he could've made up the story about having broken up with his boyfriend, though faking the whole university deal would've been a lot harder. I wanted to believe that he was a decent person and that my distrust was due to some misunderstandings, but I still felt unnerved whenever I was around him.

A sloshing sound from my left distracted me from my thoughts. Charlie had come into the kitchen and was drinking water from his bowl. Once he'd finished, he turned and looked up at me as though he could sense me staring at him.

Pushing away from the table, I stood up and carried my empty plate over to the sink. Gazing out the front window, I saw Harry walking down the path towards the front door. I glanced at Charlie. "Daddy's back."

Hearing knocks at the door, the yellow labrador gave a bark and scampered off into the hall. Following him out of the kitchen, I instructed him to sit and then proceeded to open the door.

"Hey." Harry beamed, stepping inside.

Charlie rushed past me and quickly greeted him, sniffing around his shoes.

"He's such an attention seeker," I remarked, closing the door.

"I know," Harry replied, petting Charlie on the head. "He loves it."

"You gonna go straight home?"

He shook his head and removed his jacket. "I can stay here for a while. If that's ok?"

"Like you have to ask."

"Just trying to be polite." He winked.

"You wanna...?" I gestured towards the stairs.


After I'd gotten the two of us some drinks, we headed upstairs to my room. Closing the door behind us, I turned around and smiled at him. "So, how'd things go with Miss Saunders?"

"Really well." He grinned, taking a seat on my bed as he watched me closely. "Did you hear about Sean?"

A shiver shot down my spine like a bolt of lightening. "Heard what?"

"He came out."

My eyes widened. "He what?"

"Yeah, he's gay. He came out at school this afternoon," Harry answered. "Tess just told me."

"Uh, wow," I spoke quietly, caught completely off-guard by his revelation. Walking over to the my chair, I gently sat down, trying to comprehend what he'd said. It can't be true, Sean wouldn't just come out. Why would he do it now?

"I know. It's a bit of a surprise."

Surprise? It doesn't make sense! My eyes grazed over my computer. Wait, what if he did it because of me? Did Sean come out at school because of Ryan? Did I push him into a corner, forcing him to make that decision? The taste of bile began to flood my mouth.

"What do you think?" Harry asked.


He nodded. "Yeah, about Sean."

"It doesn't bother me," I replied, shrugging slightly. "You know that."

Harry and I had shared our views on gay people many times, both reaching the same conclusion that it was a complete non-issue. Obviously I came at things from a totally different perspective than he did, with my own sexuality influencing my thoughts, while Harry's stemmed from his open-minded parents, along with his own liberal outlook.

"Yeah, but are you surprised?" He pressed.

"I'm surprised he came out. Not that he's gay." I winced inwardly the instant I'd finished talking, wishing I'd said something else instead.

His eyebrows raised. "You knew?"

Struggling to come up with an explanation, I decided to go with the truth. "No. But I'd always wondered if he was."

He cocked his head. "What made you think that?"

"He never dated any girls. Well, he said he dated that girl from another school, but I never believed it." I paused, knowing I should begin to backtrack. The last thing I needed was for Harry to wonder how I'd managed to figure it all out. "I dunno. I never knew for sure, until you just told me now."

"Yeah," he replied, understanding my reasoning. "I sent him a text earlier, letting him know that it doesn't matter to me. He's still the same person and I'm still his friend."

A warm, tingling rush flowed through my chest when he said that. Coming out to Harry had always been something I'd avoided thinking about. Staying quiet was simply the easier option for me. Unlike Sean, I also liked girls, so I could live that part of my life just fine without it having to be a complete lie. Had I been gay, perhaps I would've already told Harry at some point, but it had never come to that.

I swallowed hard. "I'm sure he appreciates it."

"You know, Tess's brother is gay too."

I feigned ignorance. "Josh?"

He nodded. "Yep."

"Must be National Gay Day or something," I mused.

"That's what I said to Tess."

"I bet you're happy with it though."

"That Sean's gay?"

"Yep. Now you know for certain that he doesn't like Tess." I pointed out. "Not in that way anyway."

"True." He laughed. "I didn't think of that."

Wanting to change the subject off Sean, Josh, or anything else even remotely related to sexuality, I decided to follow through with his day with Tess. "So what about your afternoon? How'd it go?"

"Really, really good!" He beamed. "We hung around town, had some lunch, it was great."

I grinned back, pleased to see him finally being happy after having been so anxious about her over the past couple of months. "Sounds like you had fun."

His lips widened as he flashed me his teeth. "Yeah, we did."

I hung out with Harry for around an hour longer before he announced that he should leave. While I was enjoying his company, part of me wanted to be alone after everything that had happened during the day.

After we made plans to meet up that weekend, I walked him downstairs and wished him and Charlie a goodbye. Returning to my room, I lay face-down on my bed and exhaled deeply, happy to relax, but most of all simply pleased to be alone.


Propping up my pillows against the headboard of my bed, I sat back and made myself comfortable. Reaching to my left, I picked up the novel lying on the bed next to me and began to flick through the pages, searching for the small bookmark.

It was a book that Harry had lent to me a few months earlier. I'd been reading it on and off but never found the time to finish it. After the day I'd had, I wanted to close myself away from the outside world. Using my computer would only lead me back towards the limitless lures of the internet, so reading a book was a safer choice.

Arriving at the page where I left off, I pulled the book closer to my face and began to read. For about ten-minutes I was able to read in peace, allowing my mind to drift away to a fictional world, but the escape was short-lived.

My phone chirped on my desk, indicating that I'd received a new email. I was able to ignore it for a moment, but the temptation piqued inside me and I reluctantly placed the book on the bed. Climbing off the mattress with a groan, I reached over to my desk and grabbed my phone.

Unlocking the screen, I tapped to read the new message:

Hello Ryan,

It's been a while, hasn't it? So I guess you've heard about me at school today. I bet you didn't expect that.

Anyway, I know how much you like to play games with people, so how about we start a new one? It's called: How long can Sean keep West's little secret?

I think you'll like it.


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Written by Kai Taylor
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Copyright © 2013-2014 Kai Taylor