James woke up and his heart was already pounding nervously in his chest. Fuck. He rolled out of his bed at home and went for a shower. It was a Saturday and he texted Nathan, preparing for a quick getaway. He showered and dressed. He slowly walked down the stairs and into the kitchen where his parents were sat eating breakfast. He filled a bowl up with Rice Crispies and poured sugar over the top before sitting down. They dallied with small chat, James all the while fighting with the nerves that were clawing at him.
‘I’ve got something to tell you.’ He couldn’t look at them and just stared at his spoon.
‘Ok, what is it?’ His Mum asked.
‘I am…’ His throat locked up. He couldn’t finish the sentence. Fuck. He had to do it. ‘…Gay.’
The tension in the room immediately thickened. He still hadn’t looked at them. He felt sick, but carried on slowly spooning the cereal into his mouth.
‘Right.’ His Dad finally spoke. ‘How?’
‘What do you mean how?’ He asked quietly.
‘Well, I don’t understand it. Have you tried dating girls?’
‘Yes, you know I have. I’ve had four girlfriends.’
‘Well, I would have tried dating more than four before I decided.’ His tone wasn’t angry, more concerned, which surprised James a little.
He had been expecting an angry outburst like you heard about so often.
‘It doesn’t really work like that.’
‘Are you doing it to be fashionable?’ Dad asked.
Mum, who had so far not said anything, cut in before James could reply. ‘It’s never been fashionable. It still isn’t today.’
‘Well, I just don’t understand it.’
‘There isn’t much to understand really.’ James lightly pushed the bowl away from him. He suddenly lost his appetite. He looked up at his parents ‘I’m attracted to males and not females.’
‘But I don’t see and haven’t any evidence for this announcement.’
‘What do you mean? What evidence are you expecting to see?’
‘I don’t see it. I can’t see how you are like that.’
‘Like what?’ James was confused. ‘Do you mean you can’t see how I fit the stereotype?’
‘Yes. I don’t see how you can be gay. There isn’t any evidence for it.’
‘I don’t have to act like the stereotype to be gay, Dad. I’ve not changed my personality and I don’t intend to. That wouldn’t be me.’
‘I don’t agree with it.’
‘Agree with what?’ Anger suddenly filled him.
‘What decision? I didn’t choose this, Dad.’ He had to stop himself yelling. ‘Why would I choose this?
‘I don’t know because now you can’t get married and you can’t have children.’
James really had to stop himself saying he could easily get married and that he could adopt children, but he knew that’s not what his Dad meant. He meant from the Catholic viewpoint, he couldn’t and he wasn’t trying to antagonise his Dad.
‘Dad, this isn’t a choice. I didn’t choose to be gay. Why would anyone choose to live a life that is made harder by just being who they are. God made me who I am.’
‘So what you’re saying is that the only thing that is different is that you are attracted to men rather than women?’
‘Yes, that is what the definition of being gay is. There isn’t anything extra that goes with that. I’m not about to start dressing differently or have a higher tone of voice. I’m still me. I’ll just be having a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend.’
‘Ok.’ Dad sort of nodded but didn’t say any more.
‘Who else knows?’ Mum asked.
‘Jules knows. She asked me at Christmas and Nathan knows. I told him first. Most of my friends know.’
His mobile buzzed in his pocket.
Nathan: You all right mate? I’m outside if you need me
‘Nathan is outside.’ He stood up. ‘I’ll see you later.’
He didn’t wait for a reply and quickly exited the house. Nathan was sat in his car on the pavement just outside his house. He opened the door and climbed inside. ‘Fuck!’ He brushed his hands over his face. ‘Lets go.’
‘Where?’ Nathan asked.
‘Anywhere. Just get me away from here.’ He could feel his heart still pounding away. His throat was dry and a cold sweat was clinging his t-shirt to his back.
Nathan accelerated away.
James explained what had just happened on their way to ASDA. He needed a Monster Ripper. He bought a pack of four and a bag of chocolate before they set off again.
‘How do you think they took it then?’ Nathan asked.
‘I don’t know. Honestly, I have no real clue.’ He clicked open the can and took a swig. ‘Mum hardly said anything and Dad just seemed confused.’
‘Just have to wait and see.’
They carried on through the city and headed to the forest of Bowland, where Danny was waiting for them. Nathan manoeuvred the car through the country roads, tossing James around the car at speed. It took his mind off what had just happened. He thought that Nathan had the skills to be one of the best racing drivers if he ever got the chance. He took the corners perfectly at the right speed and geared at the right moments on the straights to take his car to its limit. They raced through the Trough of Bowland, the mixture of greenery and high smiling sun made the views through the open window beautiful. Wind rushed through his hair as Nathan drifted around a particular corner. He’d practiced on it many times and that was the first time he’d drifted perfectly.
They leapt over the final hill and spotted Danny astride his bike next to the breakfast van. The van itself was a large metal trailer pulled by a Jeep Grand Cherokee, which parked up outside the forest every weekend, selling hot food and drinks. Nathan parked up next to Danny and they got out and ordered a bacon and sausage butty each. When they sat down, James repeated what had happened to Danny.
‘You sure that was worth it?’ Danny asked.
‘I don’t know.’
‘You could have kept it quiet. You don’t want to create a rift between you and them.’
James found himself getting angry. ‘If any rift is going to be created, it’s on them.’ He took a swig of his hot chocolate. ‘If they want to let their religion dictate how they feel about me then fine. It’s my religion too.’
‘But you aren’t welcome in it.’ Nathan said.
‘Then I have to make myself welcome don’t I?’
‘How you going to do that?’ Danny finished his butty.
‘Only way to change it is by staying with it and changing it from the inside.’
‘You’re going to become a priest?’ Nathan couldn’t help but grin.
‘Fuck no. But I believe in God and Jesus, so I can try and change it through being a follower and changing the minds of other followers. Starting with my lot.’
The conversation ended there when a Harley-Davidson motorbike rumbled down the hill and parked up. Except for Danny and Nathan, it wasn’t the bike they were looking at, but the rider. A slim woman in a black leather jacket, deep blue jeans and boots slipped off, pulled off her helmet to reveal long blonde hair that slipped down the middle of her shoulders. She walked over to the van and Danny had to stop himself staring. Nathan was a little subtle, but James could spot the signs that he was checking her out when she went passed their table. He dared them to go get her number, but they both made up excuses how and why they wouldn’t. Just as the woman was walking back to her bike, Nathan jumped up and walked over to her. They couldn’t hear what they were saying, but in less than a minute, Nathan had her laughing. She climbed onto the bike and he pulled out his phone and handed it to her. She typed something in, most likely her number, pulled on her helmet, started and the bike and was gone. Nathan swaggered back to the table, trying to hide his grin. Her name was apparently Valisha.