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A Different Love - 22. Chapter 22

The village of Dryford was fairly small with quiet, tree lined streets and an abundance of pretty, stone-built cottages. A small church stood at one end of the village green, adjacent to the local primary school and the only shops were a Post Office and General Store. In summer the village was a blaze of colour with countless hanging baskets and flower filled gardens. A more perfect example of the typical picture postcard English village would be hard to find.

Tonight, however, the scene couldn’t have been more different. All but the main road was still covered in a thick blanket of snow and long pointed icicles hung from window ledges and roofs. Christmas decorations had already appeared in some of the houses and their windows were illuminated by a myriad of twinkling coloured lights. We were the only passengers left on the bus and the driver nodded to us cheerfully as we carefully alighted.

“Goodnight lads”

“Goodnight” we both chorused back as the automatic doors swished shut behind us. The bus quickly pulled away and was gone in a sudden swirl of snow and exhaust fumes. I could see thin flakes of snow beginning to fall by the light of the streetlamps and shivering slightly, I hurriedly zipped up my coat. Nathan was looking up and down the street as I turned towards him, clearly impressed by what he saw.

“This is a really nice village”

“Yeah, it’s not too bad” I agreed, realizing that I’d never really thought about it before "Bit nicer in summer though"

“Where do you live, Jason?” he enquired with a smile.

I put my hand on his shoulder, turning him slightly to the left and pointed to a narrow cul-de sac at the far end of the village green.

“See that pair of bungalows, just past the red car”

“Oh yeah”

“Ours is the second one”

He nodded agreeably, silently digesting the information. I could see by the expression on his face that he probably thought we were reasonably well off to be able to live in a place like this and for the moment I didn’t want to enlighten him. In reality our bungalow belonged to the local authority and had been rented to my parents because dad could no longer climb stairs. We were just incredibly lucky to have been offered one in somewhere like Dryford.

“Looks nice” he remarked

“Yeah, it is”

“Wish I could live in a place like this” he added ruefully

He turned back towards me and I realized with a jolt that my hand was still on his shoulder. His cheeks had turned red with the cold and his handsome face was perfectly framed by the shock of unruly blond hair that curled around his face. I imagined his full lips pushing hard against mine but knew it was just a fantasy and more than likely would only ever happen in my dreams. The spell was instantly broken as his words immediately brought me back to reality

“C’mon Jason, let’s get to the pub”

“Yeah, sure. It’s this way” I hastily volunteered.

My answer was completely unnecessary as the pub was clearly visible at the other side of the village green, but it was really just a nervous attempt to ease the slight moment of embarrassment that my earlier thoughts had caused me.

The path across the green was virtually hidden as we trudged through the thick covering of snow that was everywhere around us. There was a stifled laugh behind me and before I knew what was happening a snowball came whizzing through the air, catching me squarely on the back of the neck. I didn’t realize that Nathan had dropped back on purpose, just so he could start a snowball fight. I gave an indignant yelp and quickly bent over to scoop up a handful of my own. Before I could turn around another one came whizzing through the air and shattered against the back of my trousers. By this time melting snow had begun to run down my neck and I squirmed at the discomfort, determined to return the favour. Nathan stood facing me with his arms outstretched, cheekily offering me an easy target.

“Come on Jason, you can’t miss!”

The raucous sound of his laughter was ringing in my ears as I defiantly landed a return shot in the middle of his chest and he took an involuntary step backwards.

“Right, you’ve asked for it now” he shouted back, laughing at the look of resignation on my face as I realized all too late it had been nothing more than a ploy to give him an excuse to continue the fight.

For the next few minutes, we pelted each other relentlessly from every conceivable angle before finally collapsing against each other, breathless and laughing. I could feel his heart thudding in time with my own and the touch and smell of his body so close to mine was completely and overwhelmingly intoxicating. The experience was all too brief though and hastily disentangling ourselves from each other, we began brushingthe snow off our clothes.

“C’mon Jason, we’ll never get to the pub if you keep holding us up like this” he exclaimed, jokingly blaming me for the delay.

He laughed at the look of indignation that instantly appeared on my face and winced in mock pain as I grabbed his arm and pushed him forwards.

“You can walk in front this time Nathan”

Unbeknown to him, I had an ulterior motive of course and as he walked ahead my eyes dropped to study the wet patches that had formed on the back of his jeans. They definitely needed to come off and be dried, I decided, laughing to myself. And guess who the perfect man for the job was!

We reached the other side of the green and waited for a slow-moving car to pass by before crossing the road. The driver raised his hand in acknowledgement and my gaze followed its slow progress along the icy road, as plumes of smoke curled around the back from the twin exhaust pipes.

“A Jag!” I murmured, half to myself

“Nice one too” added Nathan appreciatively

The White Swan public house was an old 17th century coaching inn on the main road through the village. Being the only pub, it was usually busy and despite the poor weather, tonight was no exception. I held the door open for Nathan to enter and the noise of music and conversation drifted out on a rush of warm air.

“That’s better” Nathan remarked, stamping his feet on the carpet to dislodge the snow from his shoes.

“It’s lovely and warm in here anyway” I said gratefully, unzipping my coat.

“Yeah, thank god for that, it’s freezing tonight!” he agreed, rubbing his hands together to warm them.

“Look, why don’t you find us a seat Jason, I’ll get the drinks”

“Yeah ok”

“What would you like?” he asked with a smile, reaching for his wallet.

“Oh, a pint of beer please” I replied, without even having to think about it.

I wasn’t a big drinker by any means,but I always drank beer wherever I went so it wasn’t exactly a difficult decision.

The lounge bar was a bright cheerful room, full of people talking and laughing. A huge inglenook fireplace in the far wall housed a roaring fire and the obligatory horse brasses hung on the smoke blackened brickwork. The reflection of dancing flames shone in the wooden, copper topped tables and large leather covered chairs were set out haphazardly around them. I spotted an empty table by the fire and sank down in one of the comfortable chairs, immediately leaning forwards to allow the warmth of the fire to envelop my body. There were damp patches all over my clothes from our impromptu snowball fight and I inched closer to the fire in an attempt to speed up their drying. Nathan stood watching me from the bar and I made an unnecessary signal to indicate that I’d found a table. A couple of minutes later he came over with two pints of beer in his hands. The deep foaming heads had overflowed and were dripping over his fingers onto the carpet. It reminded me of the first time that Connor had served me in Samson's

“You can tell we’re in the North” he laughed “You never get head like this down South!”

His mischievous glance towards me underlined the obvious innuendo in his statement and I nervously laughed along with him, momentarily unsure how to react. He set the beers down on the table and sat down opposite me, wiping the back of his hands down his legs. His yelp of dismay saved me from having to answer

“Urgh! These jeans are wet through”

My eyes instantly dropped to the front of his jeans, grateful for a legitimate reason to stare in that direction. The denim material was covered in large damp patches and my eyes lingered there for as long as I dared. It was certainly no disappointment and the stirring down below made me marvel again at how easily he turned me on.

“I think they’re worse than mine” I laughed, inviting him to look “Course it just means I’m a better shot than you”

His eyes swept quickly up and down my jeans and with a smile he was quick to respond.

“That sounds like a challenge to me! We’ll soon find out next time, won’t we?”

Before I could respond he nodded his head towards the beer. “I didn’t know which one you liked, so I chose for you. I think it’s a strong one though”

“Its fine” I said, taking a drink of the beer “Thanks Nathan”

He took a large gulp of his own drink and I grinned at the white moustache left by the froth.

“What?” he enquired, catching my look of amusement.

I traced the shape of a moustache on my lip and Nathan quickly wiped it away with the back of his hand.

“Sorry” he remarked.

“No need to apologise, I know you southerners aren’t used to real beer” I teased.

“You think so, do you?” he warned playfully. “We’ll see who’s used to real beer when I drink you under the table”

My face took on a serious expression as I reminded him of my original intention. “I told you Nathan, I can only stay for a couple”

“So you did” he answered and I wasn’t sure if it was the light of the fire that made his eyes twinkle.

Not only was I enjoying Nathan’s company immensely, I was surprised and delighted to find that all he seemed to be really interested in was getting to know me. Up until now no one except Connor had ever shown any realinterest, and I couldn’t help feeling a growing closeness towards him. Until a few days ago I didn’t know that such unbelievably strong feelings for another person could even exist outside my family, let alone actually experience them for myself.

“Anyway Jason, never mind about that now” he continued “Tell me all about yourself”

“There isn’t much to tell really” I said. “I still live at home with my parents”

“Yeah, but you must have a girlfriend, a good-looking guy like you!”

My heart sank like a stone as the inevitable subject raised its ugly head.

“No, I’m afraid not” I answered simply, smiling at him and desperately trying to give nothing away “I’m all alone”

His voice rose in disbelief along with his eyebrows and I felt sure he would realize that my heart was beating like an out of control steam hammer. “I just thought that some gorgeous girl would’ve snapped you up by now” he exclaimed incredulously “that’s all”

I couldn’t stop the brief look of pain that flashed across my face and he immediately realized that he’d touched a raw nerve. “I’m sorry Jason. I didn’t mean to……”

“It’s ok, really” I interrupted, as a band of sweat appeared on my forehead. “It’s just …It’s just there was someone not too long ago, that’s all”

Even though I was making it up as I went along, the words were surprisingly difficult to say and as my face turned a deeper shade of red, I could feel it burning as I struggled to explain. Connor’s naked body and our night of passion suddenly flashed before my eyes and for a split second, I almost revealed the truth.

"We erm...." At the last moment I managed to avoid saying the word ‘he’ and heaved a huge sigh of relief that I hadn’t inadvertently given myself away. In case I was tempted to reveal the truth again, I had to deny him the opportunity to ask any more questions.

“Look, I’d rather not talk about it if you don’t mind Nathan. It’s over now and I’m trying to forget about it”

“Course Jason, that’s fine. I'm sorry, I didn’t mean to pry”

"It's ok" I answered, breathing a sigh of relief "You weren't to know"

He immediately changed the subject, unwittingly moving on to an even more emotionally charged part of my life.

“You said your dad used to work at AWB” he enquired “Where does he work now?”

My voice started to tremble as I began to explain. “He doesn’t work anywhere at all now”

There was a pause before I managed to continue, and Nathan could see that I was becoming upset. Talking about my dad to someone outside the family didn’t normally have this effect on me, but reliving memories of Connor, coupled with the inexplicable feelings of closeness I felt towards Nathan, were obviously having an adverse effect on my emotions.

“He erm can’t you see… well not since his health failed him anyway”

“Oh, I’m really sorry Jason” he said sympathetically, putting his hand on my shoulder and squeezing it slightly.

“I’m not doing very well here am I? All I seem to be doing is upsetting you”

“It’s ok Nathan, it’s not your fault. I’m just not used to being able to talk about it with someone else, that’s all”

“No brothers or sisters then?”

“No, it’s just me. I’m an only child”

“Does your mum work?”

“No, she looks after my dad more or less full time”

“It must be hard on you. As a family I mean”

“It’s hardest on mum, but she never complains. Money’s always tight, but I suppose you just learn to cope after a while, there’s nothing much we can do about it. I help out as much as I can”

He nodded his understanding and smiled at me. “I’ll just have to try and cheer you up then Jason, won’t I?”

“You already have Nathan” I answered, grinning at him “I’m really glad we met”

“Yeah me too”

He raised his glass in front of me and I was surprised to see that it was almost empty. “Here’s to a newand lasting friendship Jason!”

A wonderful warm feeling spread throughout my body as his words washed over me and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt quite so happy. My own beer was only halfway down the glass and I took a large swig in a concerted effort to finish before he did. As I placed my empty glass on the table, he was just draining the last of his beer and immediately reached out for my glass.

“Same again?”

Before he could protest, I stood up and turned towards the bar. “My round this time Nathan! Another beer?”

“Jason! I said I’d buy the beer” he protested vehemently “Come and sit down”

“No, I insist. It’s my round. You can get the next one!”

He shook his head in defeat and I wandered across the room, smiling to myself. A large group of girls were now crowded around the bar laughing and giggling and I waited patiently for a gap to appear between them. After a few seconds one of them turned around and winked at me seductively. Obviously well on her way to being drunk, she beckoned me forwards with what she clearly thought was a sensual look in her eyes.

“You can squeeze in here next to me if you like……….handsome”

Sensing danger, but with no other real choice if I wanted to be served, I reluctantly pushed my way up to the bar and she moved towards me until our faces were almost touching. The scent of her subtle perfume filled my nostrils and I could feel her warm, ample breasts pushing against me. I could tell she’d had an awful lot to drink as she placed her hand on the back of my neck and began stroking her fingers slowly through my hair. Meanwhile her other hand had found its way round the back of my trousers and I gasped as her fingers groped my bottom.

“My name’s Sadie by the way” she whispered in my ear “And I’m single”

Before I could reply the barman arrived to serve me and I quickly disentangled myself from her clutches.

“Yes mate, what can I get you?” he asked, raising his voice against the din

“Two pints of beer please”

He placed his hand on one of the pumps to indicate if the one he’d selected was ok and not knowing which one Nathan had bought, I immediately gave him the thumbs up. By this time my hands had become sweaty with anxiety and the coins I was grasping slid between my fingers and dropped down the front of the bar. I cursed loudly, but there was nothing for it but to bend down and retrieve them as best I could. With one hand on the bar, I knelt down and began feeling around for the lost coins on the floor. A few seconds later Sadie joined me but unfortunately coins were the last thing on her mind. We were surrounded by a sea of legs and before I knew what was happening, she’d pushed her lips hard against mine in a passionate drunken kiss, whilst her hands began fondling the front of my trousers. It was an insane situation and one that I was desperate to hide from Nathan. There was no doubt about it, she was an incredibly attractive girl and had I been straight, I would undoubtedly have thought that all my birthdays had come at once. As it was, I found myself pushed hard against the bar with Sadie’s tongue forcing its way into my mouth and her hand urgently caressing my crotch. I struggled to disengage her and shouted out in alarm.

“SADIE!! FOR GOD'S SAKE. STOP IT! What on earth do you think you’re doing?”

Her face registered shocked surprise as I pushed her away as gently as I could, quickly grabbing the lost coins and rising to my feet to avoid further embarrassment. Feeling slightly guilty, Igently hauled her to her feet, helping her to stand as she held onto the bar, swaying about unsteadily.

“What on earths the matter with you Jason?” she asked incredulously, “Don’t you find me attractive?”

Ignoring her question, I pressed her for an answer to something that puzzled me “How do you know my name?”

“Ah” she said, tapping the side of her nose “We went to the same school”

“I don’t remember you”

“I remember you” she answered dreamily “You were the best-looking guy in our year. I fancied you for ages”

At that moment the barman brought my beer and held out his hand for the money.

“Let me get those” Sadie offered, fiddling with the zip of her handbag.

By the time she’d found her purse I’d already paid for the drinks and had even managed to think up a plausible excuse.

“It’s ok Sadie my mates paying, he owes me one”

She looked across the room to where Nathan was watching us closely and tugged on my arm. “Tell him to join us” she chuckled “I’m sure one of the other girls won’t mind keeping him company!”

“No, no it’s ok” I answered, beginning to panic “I haven’t seen him for six months and anyway our girlfriends are due anytime”

“Spoilsport! she complained, twisting her face into a frown “Why are the good-looking guys always spoken for”

I shrugged helplessly and picked up the beer, turning to go. “Jason…..” she cried imploringly, grasping my waist. “Just one more kiss….for Christmas”

With both hands occupied, I didn’t have much choice and before I could respond either way she quickly leant forward and planted a huge kiss on my lips. Meanwhile her hand had moved around to the back of my trousers again and I almost spilt the beer as she cheekily pinched my bottom.

“Merry Christmas Jason!”

My face had turned a deep shade of red and all I could manage was a muffled ‘You too’ as I hurriedly made my way back to the table.

Nathan had a huge grin plastered across his face as I placed the beer on the table and sank down in my chair.

“Jason!” he protested, in a voice loaded with mock jealousy “We’ve only been in here for five minutes and you’ve already pulled”

“No, it’s ok” I quickly assured him “It's only someone who says she knew me from school that I don’t even remember. She wanted a Christmas kiss but she's completely drunk”

“I'd say she wanted a lot more than that” he exclaimed, raising his eyebrows “Go if you like, I’ll be ok on my own”

“I don’t want to go Nathan!” I protested, a little too forcefully. There was an involuntary silence as I realized my response had been far too passionate and I quickly continued in a quieter voice “I came out to be with you”

He looked slightly surprised at the intensity of my tone, but the expression of gratitude on his face immediately told me I’d made the right decision. He’d obviously not seen what had happened on the floor and I relaxed as he pulled out a packet of cigarettes and offered me one.

“Sorry about your dad and the stuff before” he began, passing me his lighter “I didn’t mean to upset you”

“Don’t worry Nathan, it’s all done with now and like I said, it's only because I'm not used to having someone to talk to”

He smiled at me but there was a slightly worried expression on his face, and I could tell he wasn’t fully convinced.

“Enough about me anyway” I continued, determined to find something out about him for a change.

“What brought you to Hamborough?”

“Well work I suppose, really” he mused, chewing on his top lip “I’ve only been here about a month”

“Why here in particular though?” I enquired, hoping it didn’t sound too intrusive

“Well as you know, I come from down south. Surrey actually”

“Ooh Surrey actually!” I repeated in a ridiculously upper-class voice “Very posh!”

“Not really” he said, grinning broadly. “The thing is, I was born in Hamborough. My family moved to Surrey when I was young”

“Ah I see, so you thought you’d come back”

“Well yeah, it’s as good a place as any” he continued with a smile “And if I hadn’t come back we’d never have met, would we?”

“No that’s true” I said, smiling at him mischievously “How lucky can one person be!”

“Or unlucky” he laughed, gently poking me in the shoulder.

“So why did you leave Surrey? I thought there’d be more job prospects down there”

A fleeting look of pain crossed his face and I wondered if my question had been too intrusive. The inquisitive side of my nature had instinctively taken over and I winced at my own bluntness.

“Sorry Nathan, you don’t have to answer that. Just tell me to mind my own business if I’m being too nosy”

“No, it’s ok, you’re not” he rushed to reassure me “It’s just that I tried to live at home with my parents again. Dad owns his own business down there and he gave me a job working for him”

“Sounds ok”

“It was at first” he cut in bitterly “But the thing is, we just don’t get on anymore. It didn’t work out”

He paused and gazed into space, obviously reliving past events. I could see that his eyes were becoming moist and he was struggling to keep his emotions in check.

“Ah right, that’s not so good then”

“It became really bad” he went on “We had this huge argument and basically he told me to leave. So I decided to make a new start here”

“But he didn’t mean it, surely” I asked him in puzzlement.

His face was set with alook of sadness and as he shook his head slowly, the threat of tears glistened in the firelight. His answer was barely audible, and I had to lean forward to hear it.

“Oh, he meant it all right”

The devastated tone of his reply left me feeling shocked and incredibly sorry for him. It was impossible to imagine falling out with my own father and being asked to leave home as a result. Before I could open my mouth to ask him any more questions, he drained the last of his beer and stood up, holding his hand out for my glass.

“Another one?”

I was shocked at how fast we were drinking and made a pointless attempt to slow things down “Look Nathan, I can’t buy you one back this time”

“I told you Jason, it doesn’t matter”

I reluctantly passed him my glass, hating the fact I had no money left to pay for more drinks. On reflection though, three pints were probably enough. I was already beginning to feel the effect as it was, even after two! My eyes narrowed as they followed Nathan’s retreat across the room, silently admiring the view. The crowd of girls at the bar had thinned out slightly by this time and Nathan seemed to have no trouble whatsoever getting served.

Sitting on my own staring into the roaring fire, I couldn’t help going over our conversation so far. A large piece of half burnt wood suddenly collapsed with a loud crack, sending a shower of sparks up the chimney back and I jumped slightly in the chair. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Nathan was holding several things back and his story raised more questions than it answered. For example, what had the argument with his father been about and why had he been asked to leave home and his job as a consequence. He’d become extremely emotional and upset just discussing it, so it had to be something pretty bad, something the two of them couldn’t resolve. And why did he say that he'd moved back home 'again'. Where had he been since leaving home originally and then moving back home again. I thought again that his story definitely raised more questions than it answered.

He seemed to be taking forever with the drinks and as I turned towards the bar to see what was keeping him, my heart dropped like a lead balloon. Sadie was all over him like a rash and the two of them were locked together in a passionate kiss. Suddenly they broke apart and she urgently scribbled something down on a scrap of paper and slipped it into his back pocket. I hurriedly looked away as he picked up the beer and began making his way back to the table. His face was flushed as he set down the glasses and I knew what the next topic of conversation was sureto be. I didn’t particularly want to discuss Sadie with him, but there was nothing I could do but appear interested. What I really wanted to do was question him further about his reasons for leaving home, but I could see that it was too late, the moment had passed by.

“You’re not the only one who can get a kiss from Sadie!” he exclaimed triumphantly “She’s just given me one too”

I gave him the best smile I could muster, but in reality, I was torn apart with jealousy. Was he about to make some feeble excuse and disappear with her, leaving me hurt and alone?

“I didn’t really notice” was my casual response and I took a large gulp of beer to avoid looking at him.

There was a moment’s silence and by the time I’d finished drinking he’d taken the scrap of paper out of his pocket and was studying it carefully.

“Will you ring her?” I asked as my heartbeat increased.

He shot me a sudden look of amusement and I immediately realized my mistake. “I thought you didn’t notice!”

“Well I didn’t…..I mean, not at first…I j-just wondered what was taking you so long..…and I…” My voice tailed off and he laughed at how flustered I’d become.

“You’re not jealous by any chance are you Jason?”

For several seconds I was absolutely mortified, immediately thinking he meant I was jealous of her. Surely, he couldn’t possibly have guessed that I was gay already! When I eventually managed to master the power of speech again, I stared at him incredulously

“What do you mean, jealous!”

“Well you only got a kiss” he laughed “I got a kiss and her telephone number!”

I heaved an inner sigh of relief as I realized what he meant. It was a tricky moment, but he couldn’t have been more wrong if he’d tried. I didn’t like to mention that getting Sadie’s telephone number was probably about as difficult as buttering hot toast and he was almost certainly the latest on a long list. There was nothing for it but to lie my head off and try to sound as convincing as possible.

“I’ve got plenty of girl’s telephone numbers” I said indignantly, suddenly realizing that he might ask me for some “What about you?”

“None in this area” he sighed regretfully “I’m sure it won’t take me long to put that right though”

“Was there anyone special in Surrey?” I enquired casually, taking the chance to ask whilst we were on the subject.

He shook his head and sighed loudly “No one at all, I’m afraid. But I’m really glad to have met you” he added. “I don’t know anyone else around here, so I hope we can become friends.”

“Yeah, course we can Nathan; I’d love to be friends with you” I answered enthusiastically “I’ve lost touch with most of my old school friend’s ages ago” Not that there were many in the first place, I thought to myself.

“That’s settled then” he exclaimed, grinning happily. “I hope you realize you’re stuck with me now”

There was nothing I wanted more, and my spirits soared to a new high. Nathan was a great guy, always laughing and joking and fun to be with. It wasn’t just that though. I felt there was something more than simple friendship between us, an instant connection that I’d never felt with anyone else before. I wondered if Nathan felt it too, or if it was just my overactive imagination running riot? I felt an overwhelming need to know as much as I could about him, because despite his cheerful and confident exterior, there was a sad vulnerability about him that tugged at my heartstrings and I longed to hold and comfort him in my arms.

“So, neither one of us has found anyone special so far” he observed, shaking his head sadly.

I nodded in agreement and Nathan raised his glass towards me and smiled once again. “Here’s to us then Jason, two lonely souls together!”

I laughed and clinked my glass against his. “To us!”

Nathan drained the rest of his beer and I couldn’t quite believe how fast we were drinking. There was nothing I loved more than a beer, but three pints would normally have lasted me all night. Barely an hour had passed by and it was definitely beginning to tell. I drained the rest of my beer and he gazed at the indecision on my face as I agonised about what to do.

“I’d better go home Nathan?”

“Sure I can’t tempt you to stay for another” he asked in a pleading voice

I knew there was no way I could stop him taking some girl home if he wanted to, but I hated the thought of leaving him on his own so early and I gazed indecisively at the empty glass resting temptingly on the table in front of me. I was fully aware that if I stayed any longer, there was every chance that I’d end up becoming drunk and incapable and I hated to lose control. Too much beer invariably made me feel sick and although I didn’t live very far away, it was anyone’s guess if I would ever actually get there.

I shook my head and stared at him reluctantly “No, I’d better go”

“Ok Jason, if you must” he answered, sighing in disappointment

“Look, will I see you tomorrow?”

“Depends if I ever get out of bed” he answered, winking suggestively

My eyebrows rose sharply before I could stop them “What do you mean?”

He glanced over at the group of girls congregated at the far the end of the bar and raised his eyebrows. “Plenty of choice there Jason, if you know what I mean, and if all else fails, I’m sure Sadie won’t let me down!”

The feeling of bitter disappointment made my heart sink and as I stood up from the table, a slight feeling of dizziness came over me. Before he had a chance to see my look of despondency, I pushed the chair back and quickly turned away.

“Won’t be long Nathan, got to go to the toilet”

Thankfully it was empty when I entered the dingy room and I stood with my back to the door, sighing heavily and leaning my head against the smooth wood.I felt a sudden overwhelming urge to be sick but it quickly passed and I gave a sigh of relief. I’d never felt this way before after drinking only three pints of beer, but then again, I’d never drank them in such a short space of time before. A jumble of conflicting thoughts and emotions began to surge through my head like a train speeding through a dark tunnel. Out of the blackness came a multitude of unanswerable questions, each one stumbling over the next. How could I feel like this about someone I’d only known for a few days? If we continued to see each other how would I ever manage to hide those feelings? What on earth would Nathan think if he knew the truth? It could easily be the end of a friendship barely started and I had to do everything I could to prevent it from happening. Call it outright jealousy or some deep-seated desire to find someone special, but I hated the thought of anyone else being with him if I couldn’t. Eventually I managed to gather my confused thoughts and quickly pulled myself together. Sweat had begun pouring off me and as I doused my face in ice cold water, the toilet door creaked open behind me.

“You ok Jason?”

I stiffened and hesitantly turned around. Nathan stood in the doorway with an expression of concern etched across his face.

“Yeah of course” I answered, trying to reassure him

I could tell that he wasn’t convinced and resting his hand on my shoulder, he squeezed it gently. “You left the table pretty quickly Jason, that’s all. I just wondered if there was anything wrong”

Still haunted by my indecision, I quickly brushed aside his concern, completely overreacting. “LOOK, I WAS JUST DESPERATE FOR THE TOILET NATHAN, THAT'S ALL!!!”

“Ok Jason” he said quietly, clearly taken aback by the forceful nature of my reply “As long as that’s all it is”

As I looked at the anxious expression on his face and realized the genuine concern he felt for my welfare, I instantly regretted my outburst and tentatively rested my hand on top of his.

“Sorry Nathan, I didn’t mean to shout. Everything’s fine. Honest!”

“Come back to the table then, have another drink”

I hated being unable to pay my own way, but I was torn between my principles and a desperate desire to spend more time with him. In the end my principles and all the warning signs about losing control flew straight out of the window.

“The thing is…..” I began haltingly “I feel really bad leaving you on your own when we came out together”

“So don’t then” he urged

“But I don’t have any more money”

“Don’t worry about it Jase. Like I told you, I’ve got plenty!”

“Yeah I know, but I still don’t like to….”

“Look, you can pay next time” he interrupted, gazing at me beseechingly. “C’mon Jase, have another drink. Please!”

I hesitated for a second too long before answering and he smiled and began gently pushing me out of the toilet. My heart soared as my fuddled brain realized the implication of his words. I couldn’t quite believe that he actually wanted us to meet again!

As the evening wore on, we became engrossed in conversation and it soon became increasingly apparent that we had several things in common. Nathan’s taste in music was similar to my own and we both regularly visited the gym to keep fit. One of his favourite pastimes was swimming and I already knew he loved classic cars as much as I did. I couldn’t get an image of his semi naked body in tight swim shorts out of my mind and I resolved to suggest a visit to the local pool as soon as possible. By the time last orders were called my head was spinning, and an overwhelming feeling of drunken euphoria had enveloped me. Connor was the last person to make me feel anything remotely like this and even the time I’d spent with him paled in comparison to being with Nathan. I gazed across the table at him, unable to take the stupid grin off my face.

“How about another drink Nathan?”

Without realizing it, I was slurring my words and a slight tone of guilt crept into his voice as he gently chided me. “I think you’ve had enough to be quite honest Jason. We shouldn’t really have stayed this long”

He was clearly regretting his earlier decision to ask me to stay but by now it was too late.

“Come on!” I pleaded, swirling around the last few drops of beer left in my glass “Just one more”

He hesitated slightly but at that moment the barman came up to the table collecting empty glasses and when he spoke to Nathan, his words seem to come from a long way off.

“I think your friends had far too much to drink son. Best take him home while you still can”

Nathan nodded in agreement and at that point I realized there would be no more beer and that it really was time to go home. Pushing my chair back abruptly, I half stood up to put my coat on and the room immediately began to spin crazily around me. With one hand on the chair and the other on the table, I stood still for several seconds until Nathan’s face slowly came back into focus.

“Whoa! Steady Jason. Here, let me help you”

“I’m ok Nathan” I insisted, trying to appear as sober as possible “Just stood up a bit too quickly, that’s all”

He looked at me doubtfully and hurriedly pushing his own chair back, stood up to help me put my coat on. With a firm grip on my arm and shoulder he guided me away from the table towards the exit door on the far side of the room. My legs felt weak and hardly able to support me and once or twice they almost buckled underneath me. If it hadn’t been for Nathan, I would never have made it out of the pub, but unfortunately it was about to get even worse. I think it must have been a combination of the cold night air and the six or seven pints of beer I’d drunk, but as we stepped outside and I staggered along the path, I seemed to lose all control of my movements. Nathan tried in vain to hold me up, but I suddenly slipped and fell against a wall. As he pulled me to my feet, there was a soft crunch underfoot and he cursed loudly. The next thing I knew, he’d gently sat me down against the wall and for some reason that my fuddled brain refused to comprehend, began searching the ground. I had a vague feeling of something dripping down my arm, but before I could focus, he put my arm over his shoulder and pulled me upwards, grasping me firmly around the waist. Eventually we managed to continue moving slowly along the street but was forced to make an emergency stop in a doorway. The last thing I remember that night was the sting of pain in my wrist and the nauseating taste of sickness that clung to the back of my throat.


Copyright © 2021 Filzmoos; All Rights Reserved.
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Jason has some decisions to make, it is past time to do so!!

I think Nathan was asked to leave because of his sexuality.

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