What We Have Now

By Simon Stone

This is a story involving gay males and as such should not be read if the subject matter is likely to cause you offense.  All comments or criticisms are welcome and will be answered.  Many thanks to my editor Kit who's help and enthusiasm has been invaluable.

This story is copyright of the author and may not be distributed or reproduced without the authors consent.

Please send any comments to: simon-stone@excite.com


Chapter 2

I stayed with Kelly while she waited for her dad to drive over and pick her up, using the time with her to catch up on her busy personal life.  At the same time I was dropping not-so-subtle hints that maybe Martin deserved another chance.  She was about to tell me how her parents almost caught her with Joe in their bedroom, just prior to his time with her coming to an end, when we were interrupted by the loud beep of a car horn. 

I declined her offer of a lift home, not just because I was in no hurry to return home, but also because her father scared me.  I don't know how her dates dared face him, but of course most of them probably never had to face that ordeal.  Kelly enjoyed, perhaps out of necessity, keeping her parents in the dark over her life outside their four walls.

With Kelly gone, I faced a dilemma. I wanted to stay away from home for as long as possible, but what with the interruptions in class, hanging around in the Art room was no longer a possibility and now just as I stepped out of the shelter of the college the heavens decided to open, the clouds which had hung over the place all day finally deciding to fulfill their potential.  

There weren't that many places in town where someone with no money could hide out, at least none that provided a roof over your head and the reassurance that you wouldn't be accused of loitering.  In fact , I could think of only one, and so it was that I spent the best part of an hour slowly making my way around the musty-smelling room that passed for our local library. 

Given the look of the place, a sort of mix and match collection of the past three decades of decorative taste, you might justifiably have thought that nothing much of interest was housed there.  You might reasonably have expected that the more interesting books would have been saved for the smarter and much more modern libraries in neighbouring areas.  Surely the best books would not be in a place which people mainly used as  a large umbrella in bad weather,  or as a shortcut because the building stood on the corner of the two main streets in town. 

But no, this library was surprisingly well equipped, I guess because it has none of the extras offered by other branches.  It had no internet access, no videos to rent or CDs to borrow; all it had was books.  So it had become a dumping ground for every spare novel, every space-consuming oversized reference book and every expensive hardback that was thrown at it.

On a good day, I could spend forever there just wandering from shelf to shelf, picking out books that caught my eye and then leaning back in one of the comfortable chairs that were dotted around the place.  Forgetting all about my life as I became caught up in the story in front of me.  I did most of my work for college there as well, finding it easier to concentrate in a place where there wasn't much else to do, as opposed to home where the easy distractions of television, computer games and music called out to me constantly. 

This however was not a good day.  I hadn't had a thing to eat since lunch time, and with no money on me, buying something from the nearby late night store was not an option.  I toughed it out as long as I possibly could, until my stomach's fight back became so audible that every rumble seemed to echo around the otherwise silent room.  I half expected a librarian to appear behind me and tell me to 'Sshh'.

And so it was that I was now back home.  Home sweet home.  That's the theory anyway, but the reality was a little different.  I was already cursing my luck as the showers which had threatened to soak me if I hung around outdoors had seemingly given up and now the sun was even daring to show itself.

I tried sneaking indoors, switching my whole body to stealth mode as I lifted the door upwards while pushing it slowly open.  I hoped that the upwards force I exerted on it would stop it catching the bottom of the door frame and giving out the telltale screech that usually alerted everyone in the house to the arrival of guests. 

It seemed to work, surprisingly, and I entered the house without any of the usual fanfare, for a moment anyway.  I should have realised when I felt the breeze hit my face that somewhere in the place another door or window was wide open but it didn't register quickly enough, and so as I let go of the door the rush of air caught it, slamming it shut.  I jumped at the loud bang and then closed my eyes as my face screwed up into a grimace.  I'd been busted, and any minute now I'd be rushed by some member of my family.

It was my mother who tracked me down first; Mary, housewife, mother, part time charitable events organiser and published author.  That last credit was thanks to the efforts of a neighbour in publishing, who unbeknownst to my dad, had dreams of stealing her from him, or at least borrowing her for a few nights.   The neighbour had taken a half joking idea she came up with, on how to be the perfect woman, and turned it into a minor literary hit.  Mum was now halfway through coming up with a title for her sequel, and was undecided as to how exactly to follow on from the subject of perfection. She was also worried that the saying about everyone having one book in them was in fact true.

There had been quite a stir at college when it was discovered that my mum was the woman giving interviews on daytime talk shows on how to achieve perfection in your life.  I found the whole thing embarrassing, knowing full well that the so-called perfection my mother described was little more than a pipe dream.  There was many a time during the heat of an argument when things weren't going my way that I'd threaten to write my own little expose on life with the perfect parent and how it wasn't all it was cracked up to be.  Imagined tales of daily beatings and mental torture were often recounted in my attempts to blackmail my way into a winning position.

Anyway, as soon as the door slammed, Mum swung out from behind the kitchen door, a glass of wine in one hand and some form of food in the other.  She seemed all dressed up for some reason, which I didn't take to be a good sign.  I prayed we didn't have guests.

"Where have you been?  We've been waiting for you,"  she said, sounding stressed

That was a blatant lie, as they've never waited for me in my life.  The closest they came was probably before I was born, two days overdue, and even then she was threatening to have labour induced, probably spending both the days squeezing her stomach in a bid to force me out on time.

"Come on.  Everyone's in the garden."

"I've got work to do,"  I lied, although I knew it would be in vain. 

My parents didn't believe I did anything educational outside of college, and probably not much while I was there either.  The one disadvantage of doing it all at the library being that nobody actually saw me do any work.

"It can wait.  You haven't said Happy Birthday to your sister yet."

I wanted to say that was because I'd been brought up to not lie, but any negative comment would have gone straight over my mother's head.  Nobody in my family could conceive of anyone not loving Patricia, being as she was perfect.

"Can I get changed first?"  I asked, switching my escape plan to something I should have focused on at the start. 

I decided I should make it look like I wanted to join in, that I would love to celebrate Patricia's birthday, and that I just have a few dozen things I had to do first. 

It didn't work.  I'd left it too late, and her suspicions raised, my mum was not about to take any chances.  After all, a perfect woman needed perfect children to complete the perfect picture.

"No, come on you can get changed later." 

For a moment she sounded quite harassed, and I almost felt a twinge of sympathy.  Knowing her, she'd been preparing for this birthday for weeks, putting more effort into it than any team of caterers or events organisers could muster, and even the slightest deviation from plan would seem like a failure to her.  Plus it was at moments like this that I remembered my favourite thought, that being that the daughter Patricia would bear the brunt of all future wedding plans our parents came up with.

Stepping out of the kitchen, carefully holding her glass and food in one hand my mother took hold of my arm by the elbow and pulled me forwards, pausing only to let me drop my bag to the floor.

"Just say hello to everyone.  It won't take you five minutes."

I wondered just who 'everyone' was as I was pulled towards the kitchen.  I soon found out.

The kitchen led out through a back door into the garden, which on this late summers evening had been turned into a venue for a family and friends get together.  The place was packed with people I recognised, half recognised and didn't have a clue about.  A few waved as they spotted me through the kitchen window.  I'd expected maybe a couple of aunts and uncles, my grandparents of course, maybe even a few cousins, but not this.  How had I missed the preparations for this?  I didn't ignore my parents that much. 

There must have been thirty or forty people out there.  The requisite food to feed them and enough drink to ensure their time here was remembered as a warm, funny blur of drunken laughs, was all housed in a kitchen which until now had always seemed large, but even so, it couldn't comfortably hold this amount of provisions.  Every surface was covered with trays, bottles and glasses.  I didn't dare move with any great speed for fear of sending something crashing to the floor. 

"You said you weren't planning anything big,"  I said.

 My increasingly distracted mother handed me a tray, which she proceeded to load with various snacks and bite-sized treats.

"I wasn't.  It started off very small and just evolved." 

She was like a dervish now, turning this way and that, piling more and more food onto my tray while doing the same to one she had picked up.  She had been a waitress before she met my dad, a fact made evident by the way she could balance a glass on a tray perfectly while she rushed around, never once looking like she would spill a drop. 

"Now take that and that outside, and make sure everyone has something." 

She handed me the other tray, taking her glass from it as I struggled to hold both metal plates without dropping everything.  As I stepped tentatively towards the open door, she swept up another couple of trays, each holding a dozen or so glasses of what I assumed was wine, and walked coolly ahead of me out into the crowded garden.

Maybe it was the sheer fact she had returned that had almost everyone looking at us, although it was more likely to have something to do with the way that she coughed dramatically as she exited the house.  The cough was so loud that I thought a lung might at any minute pop out onto the tray.  In a bid to attract the attention of the few people who hadn't heard her imitation asthma attack, she shouted in a voice that was a few decibels louder than was necessary.

"Look who's here."

She side-stepped, leaving me to face the attention of the crowd.  With a fixed smile, I braced myself to face the onslaught, banal answers to dull questions at the ready.  I was grateful for the occasional interlude when someone I didn't know just wanted to take something to eat and didn't want to ask me about college, or other more personal questions.   I dreaded being asked what I was doing, if I had a girlfriend, and if I remembered some embarrassing incident from childhood that they had obviously committed to memory and which they'd most probably recorded for posterity.

Eventually, the crowds around me subsided, splitting into their own little groups, and I was left with two empty trays, well, two almost empty trays.  For some reason one of the small canapes had proven to be rather unpopular, and so I was left with a small cluster of them on either tray. 

My parents approached me, accompanied by Patricia.  A look of horror swept over my mother's face when she saw the tray.  Scooping up the uneaten appetisers in a napkin, she stuffed them in my dad's jacket pocket.

"What are you doing?"  He asked, moving away before Mum could stuff more food into his pockets.

"I'm not having people thinking my food wasn't a success." 

I backed away as she tried to stuff a couple of the treats into my mouth.

"Just try them, they're nice."

"That's why nobody else will eat them."

"What do they know?  Most of them think pepper is a spice too far,"  Mum said as she turned to Patricia and tried to offer her some, but she too wasn't having any of it.

"Well at least tell people they're your favourite.  If they don't like them they'd better go home thinking somebody else does."

"I'm not pretending anything,"  pouted Patricia, ever the helpful daughter,  "Get Steven to do it, he likes being the odd one out."

In that moment I tried hard to think of a time when having a sister hadn't annoyed me, and I did try, really.  But no matter how hard I tried to think of something, all I could come up with was one possibility.  Once, a very, very long time ago, so long ago that it was just a vaguely dim memory that may even have been imagined, she said something that had seemed nice.  I'm not sure what it was, and to be honest I doubt my own memory.  Maybe she was being so sarcastic I just didn't see it for the insult it was. 

Patricia was a year older than me, and had always seemed built for life as a single child; she just couldn't adapt to being one of two, or maybe that was me being charitable and she really was just psychotic.

"Enough, the pair of you,"  Dad snapped.

"I didn't do anything,"  I protested.

"You would have soon enough," he replied as he took the trays from me and set them down on a nearby garden seat.

"Now smile, everybody smile,"  Mum asked as she placed one hand on Patricia shoulder and one behind my neck and turned us both around.

I struggled to get away from her grip, as I was perfectly able to turn around on my own and I didn't need help.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Patricia doing the same, equally resentful at being treated like a five year old.  But then we faced forward and saw what, or rather who, we had been turned to meet - our grandparents.

Immediately, both Patricia and myself straightened up and smiled, turning into the worlds greatest grandson and granddaughter in an instant.  If there was one thing guaranteed to turn us into the perfect family it was the sight of grandparents.  Not so much out of respect to our elders or a love of our family, although that was a part of it.  No, the main reason was a sense of competition with our cousins and with each other to be named favourite grandchild. That may not be the most saintly of motives, but the results were the same;  perfectly behaved, kind and considerate, we were the modern day version of the Waltons.

Realising how futile it would be to compete with Patricia while she was basking in the glory of being the birthday girl and guest of honour at the party, I decided not to go all out for popularity.  So I merely played nice, smiling at everyone, answering questions politely. 

I agreed that yes, I had grown and that everything was well in my world and in general put my grandparents minds at rest that I wasn't about to end up on the front page of the local newspaper involved in some drug or crime or sex scandal. 

A comment I made that 'I should be so lucky to have something that fun happen to me', didn't go down well and so rather than further put my foot in it, I made my excuses and went to fetch another tray of drinks from the kitchen. 

I breathed a deep sigh of relief as I walked away.  I'd extricated myself from what was rapidly turning into a Patricia love fest with all four grandparents competing over who had bought her the best present.

I entered the kitchen, slipping past a couple I didn't really recognise although who at a push I would have said were friends of my parents.  I grabbed a couple of glasses from the kitchen table.  I gulped down the contents of one, exhaling loudly as the liquid warmed my throat. 

The drink was stronger than I'd expected and my face flushed as the warmth from the alcohol spread, seeming to seep across my chest.  I sipped the second glass, not feeling quite brave enough to down it in one go.  I jumped, almost dropping the glass as a hand squeezed my shoulder.

"Suprise,"  a female voice whispered.

I turned around smiling, taking another glass from the table and holding it out to the owner of the voice I'd recognised in an instant. 

Joanne, my best friend.  I looked her up and down; she'd obviously dressed up for the occasion.   She never needed much of an excuse, her idea of dressing down involved wearing a pair of pressed jeans and a top, which she still managed to make look like the type of thing she could wear to a job interview. 

Joanne was tall and athletic with short ash-blonde hair.  She excelled at pretty much everything she did, and she did a lot.  Her current craze was anything and everything sports related, her height and bulk allowing her to excel at several field sports as well as tennis and basketball. 

The coach at college badly wanted her to focus on one sport rather than spread herself among too many events, but Joanne was always quick to point out that she did it because she enjoyed it rather than through any great desire to compete at anything above a friendly level.  Personally, I think she knew she didn't have the killer instinct necessary to really be the best, and so instead decided to do it for fun rather than risk disappointment.

Anyway, Joanne knew what she wanted out of life and it wasn't an Olympic medal or a Wimbledon title.  For as long as I'd known her, which was approximately four years, she'd had her heart set on being a doctor, and nothing seemed to change her mind.

That was one of the things I loved about her; she was constant, good old Joanne.  You always knew where you were with her, and that comfort zone was reassuring.

I've always believed that everyone should have someone in their life who the mere mention of brings out a smile and a warm feeling inside.  That's what I call a best friend and that's what it's like with Joanne.  In many ways she's like Kelly.   They are both queens of popularity it's just that they are completely different types of popularity.  

Kelly's is based on how good you feel when you do something that meets her approval.  There's just something about her that makes it seem like an honour if she even speaks to you.  It's a completely subconscious thing, she puts no effort into it at all. 

Joanne, on the other hand, seems to make keeping other people happy her calling in life.  Everyone has to love her and so she has to do whatever it takes to make that happen.  I have actually seen days and even weeks go by where Joanne hasn't had a moment to herself.  She spends all her time going from one friend to the next, making sure each one spends some time with her, like an over-anxious parent determined to spend quality time with their children because they are afraid of them growing up to hate them.

"Thank you.  It's a nice party,"  Joanne said as she took the glass from me.  "Where's Patricia?  I've got a card for her."

"You shouldn't have bothered,"  I said while thinking 'she even has to make my family like her'.

"It's her birthday, aren't you going to be nice to her for one day?"

"Not if I can help it.  Do you remember my last birthday?"  I said, my eyebrows raised and an indignant look on my face.  Joanne laughed at the memory.

"She didn't mean anything by it.  It was a joke."

"Sixteen years since Steven escaped from the zoo written across a four foot wide banner.  That's some joke."

"It was hand made.  Think of the effort she put into it, and I mean at least she remembered.  I'll bet you didn't know it was her birthday until your parents reminded you."

"Can you stop defending the girl who claims to be my sister."

"If it makes you feel any better, it's not a nice card." 

She gently tapped the blue-enveloped card against her thigh in time to the music, which someone outside had turned up.  What had been a vaguely audible thump of a drum beat now had a tune, and if you listened hard enough, the occasional snatch of a vocal.

"Don't think I believe that for a second,"  I answered sarcastically.

"Alright, so it's a nice card, but I only ever see her once every how long?  Months maybe.  That's not enough time to work out if she really is the devil or not."

"Don't be so cruel,"  I answered back.

"Sorry,"  Joanne said, suprised that I'd apparently stood up for Patricia.

''I'm sure the devil has feelings too, and he doesn't want to be compared to Patricia."

I waited in the kitchen while Joanne took Patricia's card out to her.  I was promised this was a task which would only take a minute, but it was already taking quite a bit longer than that. 

Joanne seemed to be managing to be talking more to my sister in five minutes than I'd done in a month.  From the looks of things, she was also managing to convince my grandparents that if grandchild adoption were possible they should be first in line. 

My parents, who were already pretty much sold on the idea, were being reminded that they still hadn't called in at the solicitors to see if it was possible to trade in one child for another.  The only consolation I could take from this was that if necessary Patricia would be included in any deal that was made, the two of us for one Joanne.

As I waited for Joanne to return, guests wandered in and out of the house in search of food, drink and the bathroom.  I became official waiter, and if not for the fact that everyone was so polite, I would surely have found myself planning revenge on my parents for turning me into unpaid slave labour. 

I was considering whether or not to risk going out to drag Joanne away from entertaining my family. It wasn't something I wanted to do, as I figured that they wouldn't want her to leave. Also, with me out there, no longer waiting for her, the one reason why she would have to eventually say good-bye to them would be gone.

Just then, into the kitchen stepped a tall, fairly good looking man.  He was well dressed and older than me, probably in his thirties.  The sort of guy who, based on shallow preconceptions, appeared to be some kind of high powered businessman.  He was the sort of man who wouldn't have looked out of place in an advert for long distance phone calls, playing the father who phones home from some overseas business convention to talk to his wife and child.  For all I really knew, he was a plumber who liked wearing expensive suits when not at work, but first impressions told a different story.

He turned and scanned the room, seemingly looking for something which at first glance he hadn't been able to locate.  I considered asking if I could help, but I really couldn't be bothered with being deliberately helpful.  I decided it was bad enough being pleasant to people who came in looking for assistance, without extending the courtesy to those who didn't ask. 

I leaned back against the kitchen counter and took another glass from one of the few trays that hadn't been emptied by thirsty guests.  I was starting to get used to the taste of the wine, and although it was still too bitter to be really enjoyable, I had begun to appreciate the kick it provided. 

I had decided it was easier being nice to people when half drunk and now, thinking about it, maybe it wouldn't kill me to be nice to this guy.  He was, after all, a guest and technically being the only member of the household in the immediate vicinity, I was the host.

"Are you looking for something?"  I asked.

I finished the drink and placed the empty glass on a tray behind me.  As I did this, my hand knocked against one of the other empty glasses on the tray.  The domino effect as it hit the other glasses around it, sent them all crashing down onto the metal tray, creating a crescendo of noise that made me wince. 

Why couldn't people be more careful where they left stuff instead of just piling it all up ready to fall?  I wasn't even safe in my own kitchen now, and I somehow managed to turn this all around and blame Patricia.  After all, it was her party and therefore if not for her I wouldn't be stood here being humiliated in front of smartly dressed guests.

"It's alright.  I'm fine,"  he answered while looking past me at what must have been a disaster site on the bench. 

I hadn't turned around, but the noise had been enough to tell me that it wouldn't be pretty.  Luckily, no-one I knew had seen me cause the damage, so I could blame it all on someone else if it came down to it.

"Another drink?"  I asked.

"No thanks."  

I wondered if he was declining out of sobriety or just a reluctance to allow me near anything breakable again. 

"Are you sure you don't need anything'?" I asked, thinking that having gone this far, I may as well make an extra effort to be helpful.

"No, really, I just came in to get out of the action for a while."

"Why, what's going on?"  I asked as I walked over to the window. 

Standing just outside was my aunt Fiona.  She was chatting to two men, both of whom had the look of deer caught in headlights. 

Aunt Fiona was well known for her views on relationships, and she believed that being single, even for a moment, translated as being condemned to an eternity of spinster hood.  So she went from one man to the next, switching between them at the slightest sign of discord for fear of being caught unawares and dumped without anyone to fall back on.

"She's a bit full on,'"  the guy said from across the room, not daring to venture closer for fear of being spotted by the maneater herself.

"She can be.  Have you tried telling her you're married?  She's normally pretty good around men who are spoken for."

"I tried it but she didn't believe me,"  he said as he held up his hand. "No ring, see?  I even tried telling her I was gay but that didn't seem to have any effect."

"No, she sees that as a challenge," I replied,shaking my head.  "Fiona believes gay men are just waiting to be converted, and that she's the missionary to do it.  You'd be suprised how many she gets as well."


"She confuses them.  Asks them if they've ever gone out with a woman, and if they say no, she says 'how can you know you don't like it then?'  If they say they have, she says they can't possibly be gay.  Either way, she trips them up and pins them down until they say yes."

In the garden, one of the men Fiona was talking to had made a break for it.  I almost felt sorry for him as she chased after him.  She waddled along, her high heels sinking into the soft grass, her drink in one hand and handbag in the other.  She was like a woman possessed.  I turned back to the guy in the kitchen.

"You're safe now, she's off down the garden."

He stepped forward towards the window, moving slowly, as if he wasn't too sure if he should trust me or not.

"I'm sure she's a lovely woman, but I've made it this far without one, and I don't feel like switching sides this late in life,"  he said as he stood beside me. 

I tried not to look suprised by his admission.  He didn't think it was a big deal and so I shouldn't either, although inside I was thinking 'I'm stood next to a gay man'.  Like he was some kind of rare creature, an albino panda or something.

"So you weren't just trying to put her off, you really are...?"

"Yes.  The name's Jeff by the way,"  he said.

 He held out his hand.  I shook it, trying not to look at him directly for fear that he would instinctively know that I was gay as well.  If he was here, he had to have something to do with the family and I wasn't risking them finding out. 

I decided I needed another drink to calm my nerves and refresh the buzz the alcohol charged me with.  I took a half filled bottle of wine from the kitchen table and filled two glasses.  I offered one to Jeff, who refused initially but gave in at the second offer.  I gulped down my drink and refilled my glass, hoping if I was quick enough it would go unnoticed and I wouldn't look like a total drunk.

"So which one is the birthday girl, do you know?" Jeff asked, nodding in the direction of Patricia and Joanne.

Quite a crowd had gathered around them by now.  My parents and grandparents were still there of course, but their numbers had now swelled by quite a few other relatives and unknowns. 

Joanne was as usual the main attraction, arms all over the place as she tried to emphasise whatever story she was telling the crowd around her.  Joanne always could tell a story; stories and jokes were her forte, and were skills I'd never been able to master to any great extent.

"The short blonde one,"  I said without thinking. 

That was Patricia all summed up in two words - short and blonde.  Joanne was big and happy; I was tall and awkward, and Jeff was smart and touching my backside.

He was touching me.  Actually, groping me was probably a more accurate description.  I side-stepped away, more out of shock than anything else.  As I turned to face him, he looked even more embarrassed than I did.

"Sorry, I think I've had a bit too much to drink,"  he said sheepishly. 

'So have I,'  I thought 'But you don't see me going around planting my hands where they shouldn't be.'

"It's alright.  No harm done,"  I said, deciding to be diplomatic about the whole thing. 

I looked him directly in the eyes, something I'd been trying to avoid. 

He was attractive in a James Bondish kind of way.  His eyes were brown, a very dark brown which matched his hair, and he needed a shave, his stubble casting a shadow over his jawline.  He smiled a half smile and I have to admit, for a momentI was kind of taken with him.  Maybe it was the drink affecting my judgement or the fact that I couldn't really afford to decline any kind of offer.  It's not like I was fighting men off.  But I started to wonder if maybe I hadn't made a mistake backing away from his touch. 

'It definitely must be the drink', I thought as I remained where I was.  I wasn't even considering how I could escape this situation.  Having said that, I always had been more comfortable around men who weren't my own age.  I was allowed to be an idiot around someone older, because they were the ones who had to be smart and mature.  I could be an awkward kid because compared to them that's just what I was.  I compared how I felt now with the fear I'd felt in Martin's company.  I couldn't decide how big a part the alcohol was playing in my new-found confidence.

I held my nerve and continued to look him in the eye, neither one of us breaking the stare.  This was about as brave as I got.  I couldn't do anything but wait and wonder how I'd react if he tried anything again.

"I don't want you thinking I'm some kind of dirty old man,"  he said, looking away for a moment and then returning to my gaze.

"You're not that old,"  I said without thinking.  There was all my tact and diplomacy gone as the alcohol loosened my tongue.

"Is that a compliment?" 

He seemed a little hurt that I'd thought he was at all old, but I hadn't meant anything by it so I didn't feel guilty.

"I don't know.  I'm just saying you're not that old."

"Well, I don't normally go around grabbing people."

"I don't normally jump like I did,"  I replied. 

The words were out of my mouth before I realised what I was saying. 

"Really?"  Jeff answered, his eyebrows raised. 

I quite liked the feeling I was getting, the feeling of being with someone who might actually be interested in me.  It all made a nice change from unrequited love and stupid crushes.


I smiled and Jeff smiled back.  In the back of my mind there was a little voice asking what I thought I was playing at.  I was flirting with a man old enough to be my dad.  A man old enough to be my dad standing in my house. Even worse than that, he was a man old enough to be my dad, standing in my house in full view of just about every member of my immediate and distant family.  The only way the whole thing could be any more scary would be if it was televised. 

I had to do something.  'Just walk away,' I thought to myself.  That was the sensible thing to do, so why wasn't I doing it?

It's not even as if I wanted to be with him.  The only real reason why I was doing this was the fact that he seemed interested in me. There was no real attraction on my part, just a feeling that I should grab what I can while it was on offer. 

Jeff stepped closer, and this time I didn't move away even though much of my drink-induced courage had left me.  I felt perfectly sober now, sober and unsure if this was what I really wanted or just one huge mistake.  I told myself I wouldn't know until after whatever was going to happen, happened.  So I remained where I was and prepared myself for whatever Jeff was going to do.  My heart thumped as he took another step towards me.  This must be what it feels like to live dangerously, and I couldn't tell if I liked it or not.

"Maybe we could go somewhere a bit less public, just to talk,"  Jeff said quietly, placing his now empty glass in the sink.

"Maybe,"  I responded coyly. 

For some reason I was keeping up the innocent act, when really all I could think about was what it would feel like to kiss him.  Would I enjoy it or would the nagging doubts that hid at the back of my mind rise to the forefront and spoil it? 

He smiled at me again, and suddenly all the negative thoughts and doubts about what I was doing were beaten into retreat by the prospect of a cheap thrill.  Maybe nothing would happen.  Maybe all he wanted to do was talk, but even if that was the case, I would still have this moment when anything was possible. 

"What would you do if I touched you again?"  Jeff said, his voice barely a whisper.

"That depends."

"On what?"  he asked, moving closer to me.

"On where you're planning to touch me."

"All over."

"In that case I'd have to say.....shit." 

My heart jumped as the door banged against the wall and Joanne came rushing inside.  I stepped back quickly, moving as far from Jeff as I could in the seconds I had between Joanne storming into the kitchen and her first words to me.

"Steven you've got to come quick.  Something bad has happened, something really bad."