This is a direct follow-on from the previous chapter, it’s the second part of Monday (Afternoon). It starts were the previous chapter stopped.
After the film, which Simon had loved, allowing him to become lost in a completely different world for nearly two hours, his mum had taken him to the American burger style restaurant next to the cinema. She'd ordered them both two large and very messy burgers, and thick fries. As they chomped through the burgers, his mum had said:
“Simon, there’s something I need to tell you.”
Simon swallowed his mouthful of burger and waited to hear what he had done wrong now. His mum always used that tone with him when he’d done something seriously wrong, so he guessed he was in trouble.
“I’ve made a very serious decision and it isn’t your fault, really it isn’t,” his mum said. “When I started working at Abbey Street, I met a lot of different and new people. I especially met Niki, a Social Worker based there too. Niki and I became really good friends, and really quickly. I like Niki a lot and… and…” His mum seemed to run out of words for a moment. She took a deep breath, which seemed to steady herself, before she continued. “Anyway, I’m going to go and live with Niki.”
“You’re leaving us?” Simon quietly said. He'd quickly realised what she was saying.
“I’m not leaving you but I can’t stay living with your dad much longer. He’s not the man I married and… and living back with your grandmother has brought out the worst in him and… I can’t stay living with him anymore. I don’t want to keep coming home from work to fights with him… Niki is so different from your dad. We don’t fight, we talk, and she’s actually supportive of me. I’m not constantly on the defensive with her. It’s what I want, what I need from a relationship. That’s all why I’m going to be leaving and moving into Niki’s house next Saturday morning.”
The emotions in her words were reflected plainly on her face. This wasn’t easy for her to say, not just a glib excuse she was handing down to him. Simon could see and hear how difficult all this was for her.
He couldn’t get past his surprise, his shock at hearing her words. He would be losing her from his life. She would no longer be there in the house. She would no longer be his refuge from his dad and Grandma, especially when they started to pick apart his behaviour, finding fault in everything he did. As he realised that it would be just him, his dad and Grandma left in that big, old house, he felt panic rising within him.
“Take me with you, please?” The words almost shot out of his mouth, with barely any thought behind them, though they expressed the panic that was inside him. He didn’t want to be left alone in that house without his mother.
“I don’t know Simon. Niki’s house isn’t be very big and I’d have to talk to her about it,” his mum quietly said.
“Can you talk to her about it, please?” Simon could hear himself starting to beg, but he didn’t care.
“I’ll speak with her on Monday, at work,” his mum said.
That seemed so far away. And would she even remember by Monday?
“Please can you speak to her now,” his voice was begging now. “I don’t want to stay in that house without you. I don’t want to have to live with dad and Grandma on my own. I hate living in that house.” He could feel tears stinging his eyes but he had to go with her. He had to.
“Oh God Simon, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise how much you hate living there. I’m sorry. I’ll ring Niki now,” his mum said, concern creasing her face.
She took her phone out of her pocket and quietly made a call, which seemed to be answered quickly.
“I’m fine…” his mum spoke into her phone. “I’ve got something to ask you… No, no, I’m still on for Saturday… I’m here with Simon, we went out together this afternoon… I’ve just told him… No, he wants to come with me. He wants to move into your house with me and I need to ask you… It’s your house, Niki, and I can’t just make plans and… Oh thank you Niki, thank you… Of course.” She handed the phone across the table towards Simon. “Niki wants to speak to you,” she said.
Simon took her phone and pressed it to his ear.
“Hi Simon, its Niki,” a bright and almost neutral sounding voice spoke into his ear. If he hadn’t known she was a woman he wouldn’t have been able to tell her gender from her voice.
“Hi,” he replied.
“Rosie says you want to come and live with us too,” Niki said, her voice bright and upbeat.
“Yes, it would be great,” he nervously replied.
“You’re more than welcome to my back bedroom. It’s not very big but then my house isn’t very big either.”
“I’m sure it’ll be great,” Simon said, the relief filling his chest.
“Then I’ll pick you and Rosie up on Saturday morning,” Niki said.
“Thanks,” he replied, and then handed his mum back her phone.
His mum spoke to Niki for another few moments, just quick and short endearments, before she hung up. As she put her phone back into her pocket, she said to Simon:
“Not a word to your dad about any of this. I’ll tell him, it’s my responsibility and I owe that to him.”
Over the following seven days Simon found himself re-examining his mum’s behaviour over the previous months, and found himself quickly realising that she had probably been having an affair with Niki. She had talked a lot about Niki at home, “Niki told me this…” “Niki said that…” His mum had taken to spending a night a week out with her work colleagues. She would tell his dad and his Grandma, a day or so ahead, that she would be going out with her work colleagues. She was always vague about where they would be going, but always afterwards she’d talk about Niki being there. There were even the times when she didn’t come home until the next day, or even until the following evening, having gone straight into work. She would call or text his dad to say she was staying the night with her friend, Niki. His dad and his Grandma seemed to see nothing strange in that behaviour. They certainly didn’t complain about it being strange, and Simon didn’t see anything else to her behaviour beyond that she didn’t like being in the house as much as he didn't. His Grandma certainly did complain about his mum’s behaviour, but she just saw it as selfish. How dare she go out and have fun once a week, when she should have been there in his Grandma’s house, listening to her complain about one thing or another?
Over the next seven days, as he quietly and secretly packed away his belongings, Simon could see that his mum had been having a quiet and equally secret affair with Niki. He didn’t feel angry or betrayed, he actually felt happy. His mum had found herself happiness and had found a way to escape from the cold and oppressive place that was his Grandma’s house. And she was allowing him to share in it.
On the Friday evening, the day before they left, Simon had been sat in the dining room, doing his homework on his laptop. He’d found that if he sat in the dining room he could use his laptop without his Grandma demanding to know what he was doing. If it was homework, she would quickly start to criticise, especially if it was history or science. If he was just surfing the web then she would demand to see every website he clicked on, getting very angry if it contained anything she disapproved of or thought to be unsuitable for him. Sat in the dining room, though the room was usually cold and there was no television in there, Simon had found he would just be left alone to surf away on his laptop. As he began to make a start on his English homework, yet another essay written from the point of view of one of the minor characters in the novel they were reading (it seemed this was the only topic for an essay that his English teacher could think up) when he heard his parents arguing in the kitchen. It was loud and very aggressive. His mum must have finally told his dad what was happening the next day.
“You’re leaving me for a woman! You’re leaving for a woman!” his dad’s voice shouted.
“You knew I’m bisexual before you married me!” his mum’s voice shouted back, matching his dad’s in volume.
“We all go through that phrase growing up! I nearly did!
“I’ve had girlfriends before we met! I told you about them!”
“That was different! I’m your husband!”
“And I’m leaving you for someone who actually cares about me!”
“I care about you!” his dad shouted back.
“Yes I do!”
“You’ve got a funny way of showing it!” his mum’s voice rang out. “You won’t even agree to us moving into a place of our own! What, would that stretch the cord too far away from your bloody mother?”
“I’m saving up for a deposit! You know how hard that is!”
“And you love living with your mother too much! Because I fucking don’t!” His mum’s voice rang out louder than his dad’s now.
Simon sat there nervously, homework forgotten. What would happen if his mum lost this argument? He couldn’t stay living here any longer. He felt his body tensing with nerves.
“Well don’t think you can just turn up here whenever you like to see Simon! You’ll have to make an appointment like a civilised human being!”
“Simon is coming with me!”
“OVER MY DEAD BODY!” his dad almost screamed back.
In rapid succession, there was the sound of a door being thrown open, feet stomping on the hallway’s floorboards, and then the dining room door was snatched open. It happened in only a handful of seconds, barely enough time for Simon to look up from his laptop to see his dad stood in the doorway. His posture was an imposing expression of anger, his body almost puffed up with rage. Simon felt himself wanting to pull away from the anger that was pouring out of his dad’s body.
“What the hell is going on?” his dad shouted at him. Simon flinched back into his chair in response. “You are not leaving with her! This is your home and you’re bloody well staying here! I’m your father and I’m putting my foot down! You’re not going to live in a house of perversion with your mother!”
“Leave him alone!” his mum shouted, as she pushed past his dad, pushing both of them into the dining room, with just the heavy, old wooden dining table between the two of them and Simon.
“This is between you and me!” his mum snapped.
“Not when he wants to move into that house of sin with you!” his dad shouted back, his anger almost making him spit his words out.
“For God’s sake, Matthew, enter the twenty-first century and stop talking crap like that,” his mum replied.
“And talk like that is why he’s staying here with me. I’ll teach him some decency and morals, not your Godless nonsense. If you had swallowed your pride, got off your high horse and come to church with us, you’d have learnt some true Christian values and you won’t be off following your lusts. You’d be the true wife and mother we need!” his dad fired back, the words pouring out of his mouth in a fast and angry stream. Simon just wanted the man to stop, though. All those words didn’t make him want to stay here a moment longer.
“Who the hell are you to speak like that to me?” his mum shot back.
“I’m a man of God and you’re not dragging my son into the immoral life you want to live!” his dad shouted back.
“What’s going on now?” his Grandma asked, pushing her way into the dining room. “I’ll have no shouting in my house. This is a civilised home!”
“She’s going to leave me!” his dad almost shouted.
“And who’s she? The cat’s mother?” his mum shot back.
“She’s the slut who is running off with another woman!” his dad shouted.
“You dirty trollop!” his Grandma snapped at his mum.
“It takes one to know one, Nancy,” his mum replied.
“Don’t you dare speak to me like that, Rosie. Who the hell do you think you are?” “And she wants to take my son with her,” his dad added, staring straight at his mum.
“She is not taking the boy to live in such a sinful environment,” his Grandma stated. “The boy needs to live in a good, Christian house, not some sinful, homosexual parody of one. Everyone knows that the only healthy environment to raise a child is a stable, Christian home. And everyone knows that homosexual relationships are by their nature sinful and unstable and are just pretend copies of real, heterosexual relationships. The boy will stay with Matthew and I, where he’ll be raised properly in a true Christian home. That is what is going to happen and I’ll have none of your lip Rosie, because a good Christian wife would never abandon her family. I never did,” his Grandma said, all her hard edged words directed straight at his mum.
Simon’s nerve broke at that point. All the shouting and arguing may have been about him, but none of them had asked him what he wanted. His dad and Grandma had not even looked at him as they had shouted about what they thought was best for him. Those two had never seemed to listen to him. His nerve broke and the damn of resentment and frustration broke, as the words poured out of him, shouting at the three of them:
“I HATE IT HERE! I HATE LIVING IN THIS HOUSE!”
“Don’t you shout at me, boy!” his Grandma snapped at him, finally turning to look at him. “Speak when you’re spoken to.”
“Leave him alone!” his mum snapped.
“I hate this house and I hate the way you two always treat me.” Simon stared at his dad and Grandma as he spoke. “You’re always telling me what to do, where to go, what I can say. You even want to see what I looking at on my laptop. But you never want to talk to me or hear what I’m doing. You don’t care about what I do at school, only what grades I get. You don’t care about who I am, you just care that I’m doing what you want me to do. You don’t even care that I hate going to church every week.”
“You need church for your spiritual well-being,” his dad snapped back.
“I hate it there. I hate being told, every week, how wrong and sinful I am. Every week they just tell me that I’m doing everything wrong. I hate how guilty they make me feel,” Simon protested, finally letting them know how unhappy being forced to go to church every week had made him feel.
“If you just opened your heart to the Lord then you won’t feel like that at church,” his dad replied, his face taking on an angry and patronising expression, the one he wore when he thought Simon wasn’t listening to him and not doing as he said.
“I HATE CHURCH! You’re not listening to me!” Simon shouted back, trying to blink away the tears of frustration that were threatening to fill up his eyes.
“Don’t waste your breath on him, Matthew,” his Grandma said, her voice now cold and level. “She’s poisoned his mind against the truth.” His Grandma turned to face his mum. “I told Matthew not to marry you. I told him you were headstrong and trouble. I didn’t realise what a slut you are, though.”
She then turned her back on his mum and said to his dad, “Leave them here, both of them have chosen what bed they want to lay in. The Lord will not forget their behaviour.”
She then led his dad out of the room, leaving Simon and his mum alone in the dining room.
Simon had looked up at his mum, he could feel his nerves and the adrenalin still pounding in his chest.
“God that was… horrible,” his mum said.
Simon slowly nodded his agreement.
He slept fitfully that night, his sleep disturbed by dreams where his dad stood over him, like the horror of a stern and unmoving Victorian father, and refused to let him move out with his mum. When he’d awoken he’d still felt the fear and confusion from those dreams washing around in his mind. He’d dressed and crept downstairs. It was only eight-thirty so he’d expected to find the kitchen empty, but when he’d entered the room he’d found his dad and Grandma sitting at the table, fully dressed and finishing off a breakfast of tea and toast. His Grandma looked straight at him as he stumbled into the room and said:
“Typical. The one Saturday he can get himself up early.”
Simon felt his face begin to flush with embarrassment. The old woman’s cutting remark had an element of truth in it, and he couldn’t wait to leave that house. The next moment the embarrassment was replaced with a cold panic. The two of them were there in the kitchen, waiting to prevent him leaving the house. His dream had been right.
“Rosie always gave the boy too much slack. I’d try to discipline him and she’d bite my head off,” his dad replied.
The two of them were behaving as if he wasn’t there. He pushed his back against the door frame, wondering what were they plotting.
“Finish your toast Matthew,” his Grandma told his dad. “You promised me a day of shopping in Manchester, and I don’t want to be late arriving.”
“And I want to get on the motorway before all those Saturday drivers make it a nightmare,” his dad replied, before pushing the last of his slice of toast into his mouth in one quick and large bite.
“And I don’t want to have to come face to face with that friend of your wife. I don’t want to even be seen to be condoning that behaviour,” his Grandma added, straightening her back the way she always did when she was certain she was right, even if she was obviously wrong.
Inside fifteen minutes his dad and Grandma were bundled inside his Grandma’s car, his dad driving as always, and driving away from the house. Neither of them had said goodbye to Simon. Neither of them had even acknowledged his presence as they hurriedly got ready after their breakfast. But Simon had been quietly relieved that they ignored him. He didn’t know what he would have said to them. Even saying thank you and goodbye would have sounded false and untrue.
His mother had come downstairs when his Grandma’s car had roared away down the street. She had stood at the bottom of the stairs and said:
“Have they gone?”
“Good, at least your dad kept his word for once.”
Niki had arrived at the house, a little after ten o’clock, driving her small, bright orange, hatchback car, which she parked right outside the house and quickly jumped out of it. Simon had been surprised at his first sight of her. Part of him had been expecting someone more masculine looking, and part of him hadn’t known what to expect.
She was short, certainly shorter than both him and his mum. But she didn’t look short, her body was neatly in proportion. She wore jeans and a grey snug fitting tee-shirt, and carried herself with poise and careful grace. She also seemed very feminine. Not the gaudily preened and over sexualised femininity of many of the girls at his school. Her femininity was much more gentle and real. She was just feminine and confident about it. Her almost raven black hair was cut into a neat and short style that moulded itself around the smooth contours of her head. The features of her face were in the same proportion as the rest of her body, though her bright eyes and smiling mouth seemed to dominate it. Her body was slim, with small breasts and narrow hips making gentle curves in her figure, though her slim body still held a confident femininity to it.
She bounced up the front path with a ready energy and almost bounded into the house. There she had greeted his mum with an embrace and a kiss on the lips. In reply his mum had beamed her happiness at seeing her. Simon had thought how nice it was to see his mum happy again. Then Niki had turned her attention onto him. Smiling, she’d said:
“And you’re Simon.”
“Yes,” he’d replied. He didn’t know what else to say.
“Come here and give me a hug,” she said.
He felt strange giving her a quick but full embrace. Strange because people in his life before were not great on giving hugs. And also strange because he wasn’t at all attracted to her. But still he’d enjoyed it.
As Niki broke their hug she asked:
“Where’s Matthew? Keeping a low profile?”
“He’s taken his mother for a day’s shopping in Manchester,” his mum replied.
“So I don’t get to meet the lovely Mrs Curran?” Niki asked. It always felt strange to hear his Grandma called Mrs Curran, because Mrs Curran was also his mum’s name, and it was his mum he first thought whenever he heard the name.
“And be grateful for that,” his mum said. “For once Matthew was being tactful.”
It didn’t take them long to load up their belongings into Niki’s car, though they seemed to have packed all of the small amount of belongings they had originally brought to his Grandma’s house. Well Simon certainly had. The problem was that Niki’s car wasn’t very large and they’d had to stuff bags into every space possible. Simon ended up squashed on the backseat next to a pile of bags. Even his mum had to sit with a bag on her lap in the passenger seat.
The drive to Niki’s house had been short, though every bump in the road had pressed the pile of bags closer to him, and he had been relieved when they’d finally reached it. Finally, he was away from his Grandma’s house and all the negativity and stupid rules there.
Niki’s home was a Victorian terraced house, in the middle of a street of identical houses. It was small inside, much smaller than his Grandma’s house, but Simon had felt warm and welcomed there. Niki had decorated the house in bright, light colours, colours designed to reflect and enhance the light. She’d also hung light wooden blinds at the windows, that seemed designed to allow as much light into the house as possible.
Simon’s room was the bedroom at the back of the house. It was a small room, no bigger than the one he’d had at his Grandma’s house. But, with its pale furniture, off-white walls and large window, it was flooded with light and so seemed much bigger. He liked his new room. He was able to do his homework at the small desk, and found he could sleep comfortably on the wooden bed. Just one bag of books had filled the small bookshelf, so he just stacked the rest of them up on the floor.
He also liked living with Niki. She was cool and relaxed. Also she didn’t treat him like she was his parent. Instead she treated him like a friend, and talked to him like he knew things too and wasn’t stupid. She didn’t talk down to him, or constantly tell him what to do. He could even talk to her about his homework. He could discuss it with her, and often she would give him a new angle on a subject. Except for maths, which she simply said she didn’t understand. She didn’t seem to resent his presence in the house, and didn’t treat him like he was some sort of gooseberry between her and his mum.
Living with Niki also seemed good for his mum. She seemed more relaxed, less tense, and had quickly stopped snapping at him. She had also returned to the way she was when they were living with his dad, in their own home, except she seemed even more happier than he remembered.
He wished he could tell people about the happy home life he lived in now. But he was always afraid that they wouldn’t understand or, even worse, start with all that homophobic crap. He couldn’t even tell his two school friends, Harrison and Phil. Harrison had a deep vein of homophobia running through him. He was always blaming queers for anything and everything, with his jokes always seeming to have a nasty strand of homophobia running through them. And often he complained that other lads had looked at his dick in the showers, after sports. He also liked to talk frequently about the girls he fancied and what he’d like to do with them, although his imaginary sexual technique was very limited. Phil had just quietly agreed with whatever Harrison said. He certainly never disagreed with Harrison’s homophobia or poor heterosexual fantasies. Simon couldn’t risk antagonising either of them and losing their friendship and support. School was a jungle already. On his own it would have been impossible to survive. Harrison and Phil mightn’t have been the greatest of friends, but they were the only friends he had at the time. His only barrier against the unforgiving world of school life. A world he couldn’t survive alone. So he had kept quiet about his new home life, instead editing it and hetrosexualising it, turning Niki into just a friend his mum was sharing a house with for economic reasons. He hated himself for doing it, but he had to.
When he’d left school with his poor GCSE results, he’d barely heard from Harrison and Phil again. Both of them were going to the Sixth Form College, and therefore heading to university. But life at the Further Education College had been no better than life at school had been, and it was certainly no safer. So he kept silent about his mum being gay, or even about her living with another woman. People would have singled him out for that. And if he were seen as gay himself, that surely would be even worse.
The bus stopped again, coming to another shuddering stop, even though it had been hardly been moving along the High Street. Simon stared out the window next to him. They were now stopped in front of the old BHS shop that had closed down the previous summer. The metal shutters were firmly locked in front of the main entrance and over the large windows that had once dominated the shop front. The whole place just looked empty and abandoned. It had stood empty since it had closed down, no other trader or chain having taken it over. So it just stood there, slowly rotting away. And it wasn’t the only abandoned shop along the High Street. One in four, even one in three in certain stretches, were closed and boarded up. No new owner had taken over any them when they had closed or gone bust. Simon often thought those old and abandoned shops looked like rotten teeth spoiling a gleaming smile.
The bus was again stopped in the heavy traffic clogging the High Street. At this rate he didn’t know when he’d reach home. He slumped down in his seat. At least this bus was taking him away from college and its threatening straight environment, with streams of homophobia running just beneath the surface.
Well, it was taking him away from it at least for today.
A big thank you to @Marty, who has edited this story. He has done a wonderful job. Please check out his profile and his stories.