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lomax61

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About lomax61

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    Gay
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  1. lomax61

    Intervention

    There’s another gay player on the team? Surely not...
  2. lomax61

    Intervention

    Amazingly, Arlene Killjoy broke the tension by finally returning with a glass of Moet champagne for Clifton. By then Jaymes had released his hold on Nathan but remained fixed at his side, a smile Nathan could only describe as weapon-like plastered on his face. Clifton, his usual unshakeable confidence rattled, had most definitely slipped out of character, and Nathan was still unsure whether to be pissed at Jaymes’ intervention or flattered he’d stood by him. Before Arlene returned, he had been genuinely worried about the two of them engaging in conversation, felt sure Jaymes would once again showcase his love of a fight together with his irritating and childish sense of humour. What Nathan definitely did not want was to be stuck between the two. Fortunately for him, Arlene once again started hogging Clifton’s attention, giving Nathan the perfect opportunity to retreat. Except Jaymes had already begun to move, grabbing him by the elbow, and half hauling him across the room to where Polly tucked into a plate of sushi. On seeing Nathan’s face, she froze mid-chew. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” demanded Nathan, yanking his arm away from Jaymes. “What happened?” asked Polly. “Saving your arse.” Jaymes picked up his pint of dark ale from the table. “And a simple ‘thank you’ will suffice.” “I don’t need saving, asshole. I know exactly what I’m doing. Clifton and I go back a long way.” “What happened?” Polly asked again, this time thrusting a fresh pint of lager at Nathan. “I was right. Mr Scumbag, the wannabe-movie-star over there, was trying to smarm his way into your best friend’s pants by getting him to attend some sleazy sex party. Recreational drugs, too, if his reputation is anything to go by. And all this while his husband’s out of town. Pure class. The man makes me want to vomit fur balls.” Nathan looked aghast. In all this time, Nathan hadn’t taken in Jaymes’s face, which—still handsome in a rugged kind of way—had darkened dangerously. All he’d seen the other night was the playful but irritating joker. This angry side of him came as a revelation and tempered his own anger. “Jaymes, he was not—” “Oh, come on. You’re not a child. Poll and I were standing all the way over here and even we could tell what he was up to. Looking at you the way a lion looks at a baby zebra. Licking his fucking eyebrows. When I got to you, I was surprised to see no saliva on his chin.” After a few deep breaths, Nathan calmed for a moment, before turning to Polly. “You told him? About me and Clifton?” “He asked,” said Polly, a little sheepish now. “And, to be honest, he’s right. You did look as though you needed someone to bail you out. But I told him not to go.” “What the hell does this have to do with either of you?” “Wake up, buddy,” said Jaymes, who had now calmed himself after a good tug on his pint of stout. “You’re my cousin’s friend. And therefore you’re mine. And I look out for my friends. So get used to it.” “I don’t need looking out for.” “The hell you don’t.” “Boys,” said Polly. “Play nicely.” Snatching Nathan’s attention away, the phone in his jacket pocket dinged a couple of times in short succession. Taking the opportunity to move away from Polly and Jaymes, he walked towards the pub window to check the messages. Behind him, he could hear the two of them start a heated exchange, but tuned them out. On checking his phone, he noted the first from Clifton, sent earlier. Before Jaymes had butted in. Unknown: Cute as ever, Nate. Next Saturday 7:30pm. Details to follow. Cliff xx The second came as a surprise, because he hadn’t even set up the message group yet. Bob Morris: Just been chatting with the lads over a pint. I’m in and so is Eric. And I’m sure others will come around, too. It’ll be a laugh. Nathan stared out of the pub window, noticing a light drizzle beginning. He grinned happily to himself. Four members agreeing to the photo shoot already. Would wonders never cease? Right then he spotted Clifton leaving the pub, strolling across the car park behind a larger man in a dark suit while tucking something into his inside jacket pocket. They moved over towards the sparkling Tesla parked up next to Mikey’s estate car, Clifton stopping and waiting for the man to open the back door for him. Every action, every movement, looked so perfect, as though the walk from the pub exit to the car had been choreographed by a film director. Had Jaymes been right? Was Clifton simply hitting on him because he thought he would be a familiar and easy fuck during a dry spell? If anything, Nathan preferred to give people in life the benefit of the doubt instead of making assumptions. As the car reversed out and headed to the main road, Nathan peered down at the final message. Unknown: Sorry about earlier. Please feel free to bring your friend. Still need some time alone with you. Lot of catching up to do, and some explaining, I guess. I’ve missed you. Sending contact address file now. Cliff. xx Nathan bit the inside of his lip. One thing was for sure. He needed some answers from Clifton, about why he and his family had disappeared without a word ten years ago. Memories of his beautiful face especially when he climaxed when Nathan sucked him off, the way his eyes lit up when they were together, even the simple things like how well they worked together on the football field. All the good things came back to Nathan, something he’d naively believed they would use to build into a life together. Until the family disappeared. Customers to the bakery speculated about Clifton’s father, a relatively successful futures trader for a global investment bank. Rumours sprang up saying maybe he had escaped the country before suspicion of fraud could be levied against him. But nothing appeared in the press about any difficulties with the bank, and no police came knocking on anyone’s doors, so the rumours soon fizzled out. Later, people found out the father had quite legitimately given notice to leave his job. And the money angle had been wildly overstated, anyway, because Clifton’s grandfather owned a fortune, money from the sale of commercial warehouses in East London in the early eighties, money which would one day pass on to his son. No, money couldn’t have been the reason. What did come to light was the fact their head teacher had known about Clifton’s removal from the school a month before it happened. That particular piece of news had devastated Nathan. If Clifton knew he would be leaving, he had said nothing, not a word, to his best friend and lover. So yes, Nathan needed answers. When Nathan returned to Polly, he gave her a smile and a nod to let her know he had calmed down. In his short time away, three young women had joined them—or joined Jaymes, by the looks of things—with Jaymes mid-speech, his handsomely rugged face attractive in the way he enthused about his job. “And what people don’t realise is that the threat to trees from pests and diseases has never been greater. Your grandparents may have told you about DED, Dutch Elm Disease. Changed the face of the English countryside back in 1975. Even in our generation we’ve had cases of Oak Processionary Moth—OPM—even though working with the EU, we’ve managed to reduced the number of cases—another reason why Brexit is such a bad idea. But others of our tree species are at risk such as ash and larch. Plant health officers inspect wood imports at ports around the country every day to minimise the risk from invasive pests and diseases. But even then, with those strict regulations in place, sometimes diseases get through. So if any outbreaks do occur, experts like me work with local authorities and landowners to contain and control any spread.” “Your cousin’s a tree-hugger?” Nathan whispered to Polly, making her chuckle. “It may not be the most glamorous job in the world, but someone needs to protect our species of forest plants and animals for future generations. Despite what some world leaders may tell you, climate change is real, and we’re in danger of losing many of our native species, not only in terms of flora, but also forest animals. You only have to look at the news in places like North America or Australia to know that a beautiful forest which has been there for generations, could be gone in a matter of days to wildfire under the wrong conditions. Our own Mosswold Forest doesn’t have a dedicated environmental specialist, so the Forestry Commission sent me here for the year, to carry a kind of stock and health check.” “So you’re, like, Greenpeace for trees, yeah?” said one, which had the other two girls giggling. “Except I get paid a wage. I’m not a volunteer.” “You look like a superhero to me,” said another. Nathan held his tongue, even though a couple of comments began to form. “Hey, do you drive a range rover? And wear a flat cap and green wellies and go fox-hunting?” asked another. Okay, thought Nathan, not the most intelligent of questions. Hat’s off to Jaymes, he took the comments in his stride, kept smiling and answered good-naturedly. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Arlene making a beeline for him. “Actually, I drive an old Land Rover and, yes, I do possess a pair of green wellies, as well as a matching Barbour jacket. But both are only worn when the weather’s bad.” Without even a glance at anyone else around, Arleen pulled Nathan away from the crowd to a quieter spot at the back of the bar. Nathan was getting a little irritated at being dragged around by people. “Clifton O’Keefe left,” she said, a little alarmed. “Yes, I know, I saw him go.” “Oh. He said nothing to me.” “I get the impression he’s quite the busy man right now.” “Of course, of course. I didn’t realise you two were so close once. I don’t suppose you have his contact details? I could ask my husband but he’s already done so much. All I have at the moment is an email address.” For a split second, Nathan considered sharing them with her, but then wondered if Clifton might consider that an invasion of his privacy. “I’m seeing him next Saturday night for dinner. I gave him my details and he’s going to let me know where. If you don’t mind waiting until then, I can either give him your details or ask permission to pass his onto you. How does that sound?” “Marvellous.” “And we’ve already got four agreed to do the calendar.” “Wonderful. Who?” “Mike Shanton, Eric Noble, Bob Morris, and me.” “Oh,’ said Arlene, her disappointment clear and vaguely insulting. “Is that all?” “So far,” said Nathan, a little miffed. “I’ve only just told them. It wasn’t a show of hands, so some will want to talk to their other halves. I’m sure there’ll be a lot more.” “Let’s hope so. And how many of the squad are single?” Nathan made a quick mental calculation, made sure he included those who were single, divorced or separated—and not dating—into the pot. “Nine.” “Including you?” “Of course not. I’m gay, Arlene.” “And single. So it’s ten, then. Excellent. I’m thinking we start the bidding at a hundred pounds a person. What do you think?” As if it even mattered what he thought. He knew exactly what was going through her head. One event and she would already have made almost a half of what the committee came up with last year for the whole day. “Fine.” “It’ll be fun,” she said. Her attention elsewhere now, she wiggled the fingers of one hand at friends and headed away. He waited until she was well out of earshot before murmuring to himself. “It’ll be an embarrassment.” “What’ll be an embarrassment?” came Jaymes’ voice, next to him, startling him. “What the—! Will you stop stalking me?” “I’m not stalking—” Jaymes looked away, his eyebrows scrunched together and pushed out a sigh. “Polly sent me over to see if you wanted a lift home. In case you haven’t noticed, the weather’s none too bright. She says you’re on our way. Or you could come back and share some lunch with us.” “Polly’s cooking?” said Nathan, aghast. Polly only ever opened packets or tins. He wondered if she even knew how to use her microwave. “Of course not.” “Oh, so you’re getting takeaway?” “I’m cooking. Why do people find that so hard to believe?” “Give me a few minutes to come up with a suitably sarcastic response.” “You want a lift or not?” Nathan peered out the window again, where the weather had become noticeably worse. Rain now hammered down from the sky, January rain—ice cold, unrelenting, and able to pierce even the thickest overcoat. His flat stood a forty-five minute brisk walk away, usually giving him refreshing exercise after a beer, but now he would get soaked. A lift home would be very much welcome. “Go on, then. Home please. Thanks.” After finding Polly chatting to an older woman who turned out to the photographer, hiding from Arlene, they stayed for a few more minutes before making their farewells. Trudging across the car park beneath the umbrellas Jaymes and Polly had sensibly brought, they made their way over to a racing green Land Rover, an old style with two doors and a canvass covering over the back of the vehicle. “Series three, single wheel base,” said Jaymes, pulling keys from a jacket pocket. “My pride and joy. Came off the line in 1976, long before I was born. Belonged to granddad. She’s a beauty, alright. Just needs a bit of love and attention from time to time.” “Don’t we all,” said Nathan and Polly in unison, both laughing at their shared response, and high-fiving. After opening the passenger side for Polly, Jaymes walked to the rear of the car and opened up the canvass flap, before looking expectantly at Nathan. When Nathan peered inside, he saw an untidy mess of toolkit, deflated football, plastic tub and buckets, two huge water bottles—the type you find upside down on a water cooler—range of brushes, rubbish sacks, Snickers wrappers, and old bits of flora peppering the floor. “You want me to get in there?” “Either that or the roof,” said Jaymes, that smug smile on his face again. “We’ve only just met, and you already take great pride in humiliating me, don’t you?” “You need no help from me, hotshot. Getting in or not?” Nathan clambered awkwardly into the back and made himself cosy on an old, rolled-up carpet against one side of the car. Seeing Nathan get comfortable, Jaymes still held the canvass flap open. “What now?” asked Nathan. “Are you going to pretty boy’s house next weekend?” “What do you care?” “Nate! Nathan. Are you going?” “I’ve been invited, yes.” “Just you?” “Just me.” “What time Saturday?” “Why? You’re not—” “What time Saturday?” “It’s a dinner party, Jaymes. Nothing more—” “Nathan!” Nathan breathed out a sigh. Maybe he did need some moral support that night. “Seven-thirty.” “I’ll pick you up at seven.” “Fine.” Jaymes reply came in the form of the canvass flap being slapped back into place, and the driver’s door opening and slamming closed. All the way back to the shop, Nathan braced himself against the chassis to stop from being thrown across the car, doing a better job than the poor squashed football.
  3. lomax61

    January

    Good question and my answer would be: Tradition. Duty. Family. Responsibility. Guilt. Pick any or all... But it would also have been a very short story if he had followed his heart 😉
  4. lomax61

    Star

    Hi @mfa607, I’m glad you picked up on that. Good to have a little bit of foretelling to keep the reader hooked. But fair warning that things will get foggier before the wind blows.
  5. lomax61

    Star

    Or Ron Weasley?
  6. lomax61

    Star

    No, ‘fraid not, however... Spoiler alert
  7. lomax61

    Star

    Thank you. Nathan's instincts are pretty good, but Jaymes' are better.
  8. lomax61

    Star

    I thought it fitting that our baker should be caught up in this kind of sandwich... 🤪
  9. lomax61

    Star

    Hi @droughtquake, nice observations. Clifton for Nathan is both a history and a mystery, and clearly the latter needs explaining. Jaymes is not all he appears to be. And Kyle's guest appearance has been and gone, although I do like the idea of a hero redhead.
  10. lomax61

    Star

    Nathan had a dreadful game that Sunday, largely because he wasn’t concentrating, knew his team would slay him once they knew what he needed to ask of them. Overnight frost had made the ground as hard as granite, so when he fell for the third time, instead of being covered in mud, he managed to scrape skin from his shin and upper thigh. Three times during the game, Mikey sidled up and asked him what was wrong. If only he’d been at the meeting, Nathan would already have someone on his side. As it was, what could he say? Sorry, mate, but I’ve promised to get you all naked and on a calendar for the summer fête. When the full time whistle blew, they’d managed a goalless score draw, no thanks to him. In the changing rooms, the usual banter ensued. Funny really, but even with them all knowing Nathan was gay, nobody seemed to have an issue. For Nathan, it had taken a long time for him to feel comfortable around the other men. Straight men had the wrong idea about gay guys in changing rooms. Gay guys would not be the ones wantonly ogling the bodies of other men, making lurid comments and getting a semi in the process. They’d be the ones with their eyes glued to the floor, a towel covering their faces, or staring into their lockers, carefully avoiding eye contact or even a casual glance at another man’s body. They’d be either the first or last to shower—in the shortest time possible, if they even bothered to shower at all. If you wanted to spot the gay guy, look for the most terrified man in the room, the one who refused to give eye contact. More importantly for Nathan, he found none of them sexually attractive. Yes, a few of them looked after themselves, had good bodies, but none had the combination of attraction and intelligence, and none of them were gay, which was non-negotiable. “What was up with you today, Fresher?” asked the full back. “Not on my best form today, sorry chaps,” said Nathan. “We all have our off days.” “Thought maybe one of the opposition had caught his eye,” said Ken, one of the younger and better looking team players, smirking and winking at Nathan. Laughter filled the room at that remark and Nathan joined them. One thing he could confidently say about his team was that none of them cared about his sexuality. “That would be a definite no.” He also enjoyed being a part of the banter, but sat nervously, already changed into his grey crew neck sweater and jeans, waiting until everyone was dressed. When he felt the time was right, he stood up on the bench to get their attention. “Before you all bugger off, I’ve got something I need to run by you. I can’t come and have a beer today, because of a previous engagement, so I need to get this out of the way now.” One thing Nathan could count on was getting the team’s attention when needed. They were a good-hearted bunch, had played a game for charity the previous year against St Joseph’s school for physically disabled kids—which the kids had won. As he went through the proposal for the summer fête, the room grew progressively quiet, and as he came to the end, a deathly silence hovered over the room. “Look, you don’t have tell me right away. Maybe have a chat with your other halves, see what they think,” he said, hands on hips. “To be honest, I’m not over the moon about the idea. It’s a lot to ask and the new chairperson, Arlene Killjoy, doesn’t know you. So if it’s a no, I’ll back you all the way. But I’ll add you all to a WhatsApp group called Summer Fête Initiative—so we keep things inconspicuous—and only if you’re in, do you need message me. But if you are—and we’ll need twelve, one for every month of next year—I’ll need your response before our next committee meeting, so before the end of January. The shoot, if it goes ahead, will be in Feb.” A quick glance around the room, and Nathan could see heads shaking, and the faces of those who did not like the idea. Most of them in the room, by the looks of things. “Would we be showing our cocks?” asked Bob Morris, the goalkeeper. “It’s not Tinder, dick brain,” said Mikey. “Don’t worry, they’ll photoshop yours, Bob. To make it look like a real one.” “Fuck off.” Laughter was always the best medicine in tense situations. Nathan laughed along with them. “No cock shots. Arlene guaranteed there would be no junk on display, just very tasteful and attractive shots of the best bits of our bodies. To make us look as sexy as possible.” "Like I said, Photoshop, Bob." More laughter, but this time Nathan took the murmur of voices to be a good sign. “Are you going to do it, then?” came a voice from the back of the room, after a lull. “If you’re in, then so am I. I’m not going to be a hypocrite here.” However immature he thought the man, he was grateful to have Jaymes’ words come back to him. “I would never ask you to do something I’m not prepared to do myself.” Silence again. He glanced at his watch. Arlene’s function was due to begin in thirty minutes, so he would need to rush. Maybe he needed one last carrot to dangle. “And I’m going to insist that the majority of the proceeds from the sale of the calendars goes to St Joseph’s. Think that’s only fair, because we know them and they know us.” As he jumped down from the bench, he noticed a few of them finally nodding. Yes, he thought, they were a good bunch of blokes, really. Outside the clubhouse in the chill midday air, Mikey called out his name, before dashing to catch up with him, and pulling him to a stop. “What the fuck?” “I know.” Nathan huffed out a sigh, staring at Mikey’s collar. “I’d have give you the head’s up, but I couldn’t find you. You missed an interesting committee meeting this week. Do you think they’ll do it?” “Some might. And if you’re in, I’m in.” Nathan looked up into his friend’s eyes. “Really?” Actually, Mikey had a good body, made up in his physique what he lacked in the looks department. Far more toned than Nathan. Somewhat unkindly, Polly described Mikey’s types as prawns; sculpted body, ugly face. “Reckon my missus will love it. Might even get me a shag or ten.” “Nice. So we only need March to December. Work on a few for me, will you?” “Sure. Benny Osmond might come around. If only we could guarantee that your teacher friend got to see him in the calendar.” “Polly? Why does Benny—?” “He’s not said anything to you, because he knows you two are friends. But the man would give his right arm for a date with her.” “Really?” Nathan had no idea, but he wondered what Polly might say. If anything, Polly tended to go for older men. “I think he might be a bit young for her.” “He’s twenty-five. How old is she?” “Same age as me, twenty-eight,” said Nathan, glancing sidelong at Mikey. “Think she likes them older. But maybe I can put in a good word for him, if he agrees to do the calendar?” “Blackmail? Love it. Are you going to this shindig Arlene’s holding now?” “Of course.” Mikey started moving quickly away. “Come on, then. I’ll give you a lift. The wife’s already there. Her mum’s got the kids.” On the way, Nathan brought Mikey up to speed with the other items on the committee agenda. “As much as I hate to say it, she’s probably right,” said Mikey, turning his car into the pub car park. “The event has got a bit stale. Even my kids say so.” Sunday, and the car park was fuller than usual. Mikey parked up his Volvo estate between a beaten up old Toyota and a sleek Tesla, which just about summed up Crumbington. Families liked to get out of the house and take advantage of the reasonably priced pub lunches. Usually on a Sunday, Nathan would have a pint with the lads after the game and then head home for a sandwich lunch. This was more Mikey’s domain. Nathan trailed Mikey into the private bar, already filled with bodies. A big cluster of people chatted excitedly at one end of the bar, one of those being Arlene. Somebody else clearly held court. After pecking Mikey’s wife on the cheek, Nathan peered around trying to find Polly. Eventually, he offered to get a round of drinks for them and headed to the bar where a flustered barman finally got to him. As he ordered a rum and coke and two pints of Skol, he stared at the lad, thought he recognised him. “Pretty busy today, I see,” said Nathan, stating the obvious. “Bat shit crazy, more like.” “Are you Bob Morris’s son?” “Kyle Morris,” said the lad, ginning wide and looking even more like his father. “Yep, that’s me.” Everybody knew everybody in Crumbington. Kyle was Bob’s eldest, probably just turned eighteen. Kyle still had a full head of unruly red hair, but had the same rosy cheeked complexion as his father. “Your dad played a blinder in goal today. Didn’t let a single one in.” Kyle shook his head but laughed, too. Nathan handed over a twenty pound note. “That game’ll be the death of him.” “But at least he’ll die happy. Hey, have you seen Polly Fischer?” “Miss Fischer? The teacher?” Polly hated being called Miss Fischer outside of school, especially along the high street when one youngster or another would address her as simply; ‘miss’. “Yes, her.” “No, not seen her,” he said, handing over the change, and giving Nathan a small tray. “But I’ll let you know if she turns up. So you’re here with Mrs Killjoy’s mob to meet the celeb, are you?” Nathan chuckled. So they’d labelled her photographer friend a celebrity already, had they? Typical of the village folk to consider anyone who worked in the big smoke a celebrity. “Looks like it,” said Nathan, taking the drinks. Nathan had barely put the drinks down and begun chatting to Mikey’s lovely wife, when Arlene stepped over and grabbed him by the forearm. Her eyes sparkled with excitement, her cheeks reddened. Nathan hadn’t realised how excited she was about the team shoot. Was there a kinky side to Arlene Killjoy? Across from him, unseen by Arlene, Mikey rolled his eyes in sympathy. “Nathan, I need you,” she said, before he could speak. No word of apology to Mikey and his wife for taking him away, no polite explanation or apologetic smile. Polly was right. One day they would come to blows. “Someone is insisting on meeting you.” Without another word, she pulled him away, leading the way through the room of bodies. Of course, he thought, her photographer friend would also be putting the thumb screws on him to get the players to agree to the shoot. They headed for the far corner, where the larger crowd still hemmed in the poor photographer. “Oh. I thought you wanted to know how it went with the team.” “Later,” she said, over her shoulder. “More important things right now.” Without consideration, Arlene shoved people out of their path like a professional bodyguard, until only the front row stood in their way. With a loud cough, she got the attention of the front two women, who parted to let her through, to meet… Oh shit. Clifton O’Keefe. Nathan had no time to check himself and stood there, doing a fantastic impression of a goldfish in a bowl suddenly being gawked at by a roomful of amused onlookers. Clifton looked even better in the flesh, better than Nathan remembered him. Not that he hadn’t always been handsome, but somewhere in the background, someone had taken him in hand, accentuated all his many good points—the sweeping black fringe, those thick, perfect eyebrows and piercing brown eyes, the full lips and immaculate teeth—and given him a particular look. Magnetic, Nathan mused, effortlessly drawing attention to himself wherever he went. Maybe that was something movie stars were taught. Why else would people pay good money to watch them pretending to be other people. Nathan had only seen one of his films—Prince in the Snow—a Christmas story Mikey’s kids had wanted to see at the cinema complex in the nearby town. Knowing nothing about the plot, Nathan had been stunned silent when he recognised the face on the screen, especially the familiar voice coming from the very familiar mouth; one that, once upon a time, he had been allowed to kiss. Clifton—clearly used to being the centre of attention—gave Nathan a sympathetic smile, before coming over and giving him a gentle, but somewhat theatrical, embrace. Nathan froze, let himself be hugged like a farmer positioning a scarecrow, unsure of how to respond. “Nate Fresher, my old friend. How are you?” he said, and then to those gathered. “Nate and I went to school together. All the way from Crumbington Junior to Applegate High. We both played for the school football team.” And occasionally sucked each other’s dicks, thought Nathan. Or jerked each other off while kissing in the groundsman’s shed. Fortunately, the crowd didn’t hear those thoughts and simply cooed at Clifton’s admission. “Still baking bread. Still feeding the masses?” “Bread. Yes.” Nathan’s mouth spouted words like a long distance phone call. “Baker. Um, baking. Yes.” “So I was just telling everyone here that I’ll be around until the end of the year, staying locally, so please treat me as one of you.” For a moment, Nathan wondered at Clifton’s formality, until he noticed the way his eyes swept across the crowd of onlookers, realised he addressed the flock, not just Nathan. “When he arrives, Raul and I will be attending a number of events for the LGBTQI community, especially relating to our personal favourite charity: Out On The Streets, aimed at homeless gay kids. Which is good practise, because we’ll be adding to our family unit later in the year. But in case you’ve not heard yet, the big news is we’re delighted to be hosting the Crumbington Summer Fête in July. Raul will adore this place, it’s so quintessentially English. And, of course, the place where I grew up. Right now, though, Arlene has reminded me that there’s still a whole tableful of food that needs to be eaten, so please go and help yourselves. If you don’t mind, I’d like a few moments alone to catch up with my old friend.” Clifton knew how to work a crowd. Everyone dutifully moved away, even those who clearly wanted to speak more to him. Only Arlene remained by his side, as though she needed to protect her asset. Even then, Clifton managed to get her away, by leaning in and whispering something in her ear. For a moment, Nathan thought she might click her fingers and summon someone over to do her bidding, but eventually, after looking around her, she realised there would be nobody and finally excused herself. “Hey there,” said Clifton, once Arlene was out of earshot. His voice came out natural, honeyed, the warmth of his gaze comfortably familiar. “Sorry, Cliff,” said Nathan, before placing a hand in front of his mouth. “Shit, I mean Clifton. Arlene told us you were coming for the summer fête, but I didn’t realise you’d be here already. Took me by surprise.” “Then it’s me who should apologise. And Cliff’s fine. For you, anyway. Was then, is now. Arlene told me your dad passed away.” “Five years now.” “I’m so sorry. What happened?” “Not sure really. Weak heart, the doctor said. Broken heart, more like. Don’t think he ever really got over my mum disappearing into the night without a word.” Clifton’s professional smile slipped for a moment. Nathan realised why—Clifton had been there at the time his mother skipped town. He had also done the same thing to Nathan. “I saw one of your films. Prince in the Snow,” said Nathan, changing tack. “Oh, God. Hardly my finest work.” “Mike Shanton’s kids loved it. Thought you made a—what was it his six-year-old daughter said—a totally crush-worthy prince. I even think she has a poster of you on her bedroom wall.” When Clifton laughed, it felt like old times, and Nathan sensed himself relaxing. “I’ve done a lot more and had far better roles. I’m even up for a Teen Choice award this year for Tangerine Smile. And my manager reckons I might even be in the running for a Golden Globe nomination.” “I—I never saw that one. Only Prince in the Snow.” Clifton smiled his incredible smile again. “And what did you think?” “Honestly? I had a hard time reconciling you up on the screen. In fact, I’m having a hard time believing it’s you standing here now.” This time, when Clifton’s eyes bored into Nathan, something calculating settled there. Moments passed between them that felt like hours. Reaching into his jacket pocket, Clifton drew out and unlocked his mobile phone before handing the device to Nathan. “Give me your number.” Nathan smiled, and did as asked, using his thumbs to enter the number. Once he had finished, Clifton texted a message and Nathan heard the gentle ping of the message arriving in his jacket pocket. “Look, I’m having some like-minded couples over to my grandparent’s house next Saturday evening for a dinner party—catered, of course—starting around seven-thirty. I’m staying there taking care of the place while they escape to their villa in Barbados for the winter months. I’ve just sent you an invite, if you’d like to come. Raul won’t be over until mid-March, so we’ll have a chance to catch up properly—if you know what I mean? What do you think?” Clifton grinned broadly and winked. At first, Nathan felt bemused but flattered. Something felt a little off about the smile—something his father would have called a salesman’s smile. One thing was for sure. The shy, nervous boy he’d known ten years ago bore no resemblance to the beautiful, confident man standing before him. Nevertheless, he’d been about to accept the invitation, when a heavy arm landed around his shoulders. “We’d love to come, wouldn’t we, Nate?” came a deep, now familiar voice. Jaymes. Nathan had been about to roll his eyes and shove the arm away, when he noticed barely suppressed anger flash across Clifton’s face out of the corner of his eye. What the hell? “And you are?” asked Clifton, his usual pleasant tone slipping. “Jaymes Fischer,” said Jaymes, genially holding out his free hand, bunches of leather bands tied around and dangling from his wrist. For a few short moments, Clifton peered down at the large outstretched hand, giving Nathan a moment of clarity. Clifton probably employed bodyguards who looked like Jaymes. “Nate?” asked Clifton, glaring at Jaymes and ignoring the outstretched hand. “He’s a friend,” said Nathan, finally catching up. “Friend?” said Clifton, his gaze sweeping to Nathan’s face, a mixture of bafflement and disgust in his face. “Boyfriend,” said Jaymes. “Didn’t Nate tell you?”
  11. lomax61

    Naked Calendar

    Thanks to everyone for reading. I'm going to be away for a week and am told that internet connection is troublesome. I'm submitting a chapter today and will aim to do the same every week until the story has completely unfolded. Brian aka Lomax61
  12. lomax61

    Cousin

    Remeber what Jaymes said: “I’ll be working over in Mosswold Forest for six months...” In all likelihood he’ll be gone by the time the fête happens in July, so joining the team for a few months just to be in the calendar might come across as vain.
  13. lomax61

    January

    I like to keep things real....😜
  14. lomax61

    January

    Keep reading and you’ll find out.
  15. lomax61

    Cousin

    One ice cold pint of Skol down, and the shock of their usually sedate meeting had begun to lose its potency for Nathan. Sat on high bar stools in one of the town’s two local pubs—The Crumbington Arms—they’d carefully dissected the events of the evening. Usually Mikey would join them, but apparently, according to Father Mulligan, he and the wife were at some butcher’s function or another that night, which explained Mikey’s absence. “Lady Gaga.” Nathan giggled again, like a school kid. “I nearly fell off my seat. Good job I managed to keep my Poker Face. You certainly know how to wind Arlene up.” “What can I say? I was Born This Way! Seriously though, me and her are going to fall out in a big way before the day comes. She’s so damned competitive.” “Lady Gaga?” “No, smartass. Lady Muck. Arlene.” “Why do you do it, then? Volunteer?” “You know why. Because our Head thinks the school should be involved. And it means I can do things outside the school grounds without other teachers involved, without their petty politics and bickering. And, most importantly of all, I get to hang out with the coolest baker in Crumbington.” Nathan rolled his eyes. In front of people, she often referred to him as the coolest baker in the village, knowing full well he was the only one. “Fair enough. So who are you going to persuade to sit in the ducking stool?” “Off the top of my head? I have a list of favourites, but none of them would agree.” “Then you need to come up with a strategy. Get some of the kids on side. Or the parents. Amazing how a little cajoling from the right, influential, resourceful, school-supporting parent can make things happen. Didn’t you once tell me that?” “Actually that’s not a bad idea.” Right then her phone vibrated and shuffled across the table top. “Oh, shit, hang on a sec, I need to take this.” When she wandered off, Nathan looked around the little local. The place had been built in the seventeenth century and had benefited from a scant few modernisations and paint jobs along the way. The flooring was still uneven in places—not so great if a person had consumed one too many; the toilets stood out the back in a lean-to kind of shed, fine in summer but not in January, when a quick pee could end in frost bite. But apart from that, especially in winter with no tourists around, the place with its threadbare carpets and worn chesterfield sofas felt like a second home. Most of the locals seated at the bar, all retired residents of Crumbington, he knew by name. Having Polly and Nathan in the place brought the average age down by a decade or two. The landlord and his wife had run the pub for over fifteen years, and before that had owned a small cafe on the high street. Nathan noticed Polly frowning down at her phone, before shaking her head gently and heading back to him. “Missed his message. My cousin’s just arrived. Dad’s brother’s kid. Two bloody hours late, true to form. My aunt—his mother—asked if he could sleep on my couch while he sorts himself out a place, hopefully no more than a week or so. Family can be a pain in the bum. Do you mind if he joins? Otherwise, I’ll need to head home and let him in.” Funnily enough, Nathan did mind, but said nothing. He enjoyed having Polly to himself. When Mikey joined them, he tended to monopolise the conversation, either wanting to talk about his kids, football, or gripe about customers, suppliers, prices, or another new hypermarket opening within driving distance of their village and trying to steal his butcher’s shop livelihood. Hopefully the cousin was a listener. “Of course. Didn’t even know you had any cousins. He’s a kid?” “A big kid, yeah. A thirty-one year old child called Jaymes. Whatever you do, don’t call him Jim, he hates that. He’s down from North Wales. And he spends a lot of time out of the country, that’s why I’ve never mentioned him. Always getting me into trouble when we were young.” “I’m sure he was,” said Nathan, not believing a word of the last statement. Polly needed no encouraging where trouble was concerned. “Must be a family trait. So what’s brought him down here?” “Something to do with meeting people in this neck of the woods. I wasn’t really paying attention.” About to take a drink of her gin and tonic, a huge smile blossomed on her face. “So are we going to talk about the elephant in the room? Clifton?” Nathan’s face fell. He put down his fresh pint and licked his lips nervously. “Oh, come on, Nathan. It was like—what—fifteen years ago?” “Ten. We were both eighteen when he fell off the face of the planet.” People disappearing from his life felt like a curse. His mother leaving when he was ten, Clifton when he was eighteen, his father passing away five years ago and effectively chaining him to the family business. And although losing his mother and father had hurt, he had been in love with Clifton, and his desertion had scarred him deeply. “Maybe you’ll finally find out why. You were best mates, weren’t you?” “We were a darn sight more than that.” “Well, you never know. Maybe he still has feelings for you.” “Bullshit. He’s married now. Doubt he’ll even remember me.” “Bit of closure, then.” Nathan had been about to respond, when, over Polly’s shoulder he spotted a man stroll into the bar, someone definitely not local; he could count all of Crumbington’s attractive men on one hand. Ruggedly good looking, he gave off an outdoorsy vibe—tanned face, windswept hair, solid build. Even from where they stood, Nathan could tell he was put together nicely beneath his tan leather pilot’s jacket and jeans, broad-shouldered, trim waist, and big strong thighs to match. Maybe his blond hair needed tidying up, but then again the bed hair suited him. When his gaze swung around to take in Nathan, his eyes—blue, grey?—not only remained on him, but the handsome face creased into a broad smile, causing Nathan’s pulse to quicken, his mouth to hang open, and his face to flush. Polly, noticing this with concern, twisted around just in time for the stranger to stride forward and sweep her off the stool into a hug. “Poll dancer. How have you been?” “Put me down, you bloody oaf,” Polly pushed herself out of his grasp and readjusted her clothes. Her teacher tone only made the man grin wider. “I’m not seven anymore and you’re not ten. Even though, clearly, you’re still happy to act like a child.” “Gonna buy me a drink, or what? As you kept me waiting in the cold.” “You were supposed to be here over two hours ago.” “Yeah, well. M25 got snarled up.” “For two hours. Bullshit. And if so, why didn’t you text?” “I’ll get some drinks in,” said Nathan, hopping off the barstool and stepping away from the table. “Let you two duke it out in peace.” “Hold your horses one minute.” Jaymes reached out and placed his hand on Nathan’s forearm. Even through his thick shirt, Nathan trembled at the firm touch. “Shouldn’t I officially meet my little cousin’s boyfriend? Especially if he’s going to be kind enough to buy me a drink.” “I’m not—” began Nathan, horrified. “We’re not—“ said Polly, at exactly the same time, looking equally mortified. At the same moment, the two swung around to look at each other and burst into giggles, which helped soften the tension. “We’re friends from school,” said Nathan. “And he’s gay,” added Polly. “Polly!” said Nathan, his face aghast. “TMI!” Jaymes tipped his head back and burst into loud laughter. He had a nice laugh, Nathan noted, a little like his personality: loud, masculine, unsubtle, and more than a little infectious. “Yeah, anyway. What do you want to—” “Outed by your best friend. Priceless. I’ll have a Guinness, uh—?” “Nathan. Nathan Fresher. Polly’s ex best friend. Nice to meet you, Jaymes.” “Oh, so she talked about me, did she? As I said, I’ll have a pint of Guinness, Nate. Thanks” Brilliant. Nobody ever abbreviated Nathan’s name, not even his father when he’d been alive. The only person who had ever done so, and had also called him Nate, had been Cliff—Clifton. After ordering and having a chitchat with the landlady, Nathan returned to the table balancing three drinks, relieved to find no blood on the floor. “Good,” said Polly. “You’re back. Babysit the child for me, while I go for a pee. Maybe he can give you some advice on your naked football team calendar.” “Your what?” asked Jaymes, brightening up, as a slyly grinning Polly excused herself. “Oh, heck,” said Nathan, setting the drinks down. “Our chairman on the fête committee wants to up-the-ante for the event this year. Wants our local team to do a naked photo shoot for a calendar. All the proceeds would go to charity. I’ve got to convince the team and get them onside.” After downing a good gulp of his drink, Jaymes lowered the glass from his mouth and appeared to consider this, nodding thoughtfully. “Are you on the team?” “I’m the captain.” “So you’ll be stripping off, then?” “No! Well…” Nathan hadn’t thought about whether he would be in the calendar or not. He’d assumed he wouldn’t. “Hold on a minute.” Jaymes put his glass down on a coaster and folded his arms. “You’re the one from the committee who’s been volunteered to get your team out of their kit, yes? And you’re also the team captain, correct?” “Yes.” “Then of course you’re going to be in the calendar. How can you not be? Captains need to lead by example. Otherwise you’ll be seen as a total hypocrite.” Nathan hadn’t thought that far ahead. “It’s a moot point, anyway. None of the guys are going to agree to get naked in front of a camera.” “How do you know?” “Because I play football with them. I know them.” “Hang on. I bet you all get naked together in the changing rooms. And you might be surprised,” said Jaymes, calmly, knocking back another slug of his Guinness and leaving a white moustache on his upper lip. “Maybe the guys will be a little coy at first, but I bet their other halves will back them all the way. Would your partner have a problem with people seeing you in the buff?” “I don’t have a partner. And even if I did, I bet he’d have issues.” “You’d be surprised.” “Personal experience?” “I’d get my kit off at the drop of a hat for a good cause. Got nothing to be ashamed of.” Nathan eyes appraised Jayme’s body again, as Jaymes placed his empty glass back on the table. “Yeah, well. You’re in better shape than most.” “Are you hitting on me?” asked Jaymes, a grin curling one side of his mouth. “What? No!” said Nathan, reddening, before scanning the bar. “Where the hell is Polly?” He craned his neck to see if she was on her way back, but even though the Friday night pub was packed, she stood out in her shocking pink woolly poncho and was nowhere to be seen. Something about Jaymes made him uncomfortable, self-conscious, maybe his candour, his raw masculinity, maybe his proximity—but he was definitely the kind of person you either loved or hated. Right now the jury was out. “Okay, this has to be my last,” said Nathan, tossing back the rest of his lager. “It’s barely eight.” “I know, but I have an early start tomorrow.” “Oh, yeah? What is it you do?” “I’m a baker. Run the bakery on the high street.” “No seriously, Nate,” said Jaymes, chuckling in a way that irritated Nathan. “What is it you do for a living?” “Like I said, I run the bakery. I’m a baker by profession. Fresher and Son. Family Baker. You have a problem with that?” “No, not at all. I just never—” Whatever he had been about to add, wisely he through better of it. “So is there a lot of dough in that? I only ask, because I hear bakers make a shitload of bread.” Jaymes followed up by laughing aloud at his own joke. And just like that, the jury returned. Guilty as charged. Of being a total and utter prick. “You truly are a child, aren’t you?” “Don’t be a doughnut, I’m a practising Buddhist. Seriously though, come on, Nate—” “Nath-an. It’s Nathan. Two syllables, if you can manage that.” ”Come on, Nathan. Was that what you always wanted to do? Your life ambition. To become a baker?” Joking Jaymes had no idea how much he had hit a nerve with that little interrogation. Nathan felt heat in his neck, his anger rising. “It’s a family business. I joined my father straight from school. Although it’s also a front for my other job as a professional hitman. Someone who quietly takes care of people, the types others don’t particularly like. You know, like irritating relatives with puerile senses of humour.” Most annoying of all, Jaymes also found this diatribe hilarious. Out of the corner of his eye, Nathan spotted pink Polly returning, and breathed out a sigh of relief. “So what do you do for a living that’s brought you to our little shithole of a village? No, let me guess. You’re unemployed and on the dole?” “Forestry Commission,” said Jaymes, wiping his eyes, and bringing his laughter under control. “I’m a Senior Environmental Specialist. Mastered in ecology, forestry or land management at Durham Uni. I’ll be working over in Mosswold Forest for six months, at the very least. So, which bakery college did you attend?” “Have a nice life, Jim.” Ignoring the laughter behind him, Nathan strolled over to the bar and thumped down his empty glass, before catching Polly on his way out. “Just for the record, your cousin’s an asshole.” “Tell me something I don’t know. Will I see you Sunday? After the game?” “Are you bringing the neanderthal?” “I imagine he’d have found other apes to swing with by then.” “I bloody well hope so,” said Nathan, scowling. “Chill, Nathan. He’s actually harmless,” said Polly, sighing, before kissing him on the cheek and looking over Nathan’s shoulder. “Bit of an acquired taste, I grant you, but his heart’s in the right place.” “You mean he has one?” “Ha, ha. I promise I’ll be there Sunday. You?” “Yes, then. Around twelve-thirty. Love you, Polly.” “You too, Nate.” Nathan took a step back and eyed her dangerously. “Sorry, darling. Couldn’t resist. See you Sunday, Nathan darling.”
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