The Journal – Chapter 21: Gone

James lay on Xander’s bed; finishing off a short story he’d written in his journal. The story was about an eighteen-year-old lad getting his first car, a dark blue Ford Fiesta and racing around to see his mates and his girlfriend for the day and taking them on a road trip around Lancashire. But just as he’s about to get home, he’s hit by a Land Rover and totals his car. The kid is fine and despite being distraught that his car has been wrecked, he knows that the day he’s just had with the car was one of the best days of his life.

Xander was on the floor next to the bed, finishing off a comic strip of himself stood next to a 1970 black Dodge Charger (his favourite car) with a long strip of road behind him and the sun shining high in the sky. He’d asked him to draw it for him because it was the vision Xander always talked about wanting if he ever scraped together enough money to get over to America and buy that car. It was this that had inspired the story.

He’d said, ‘Draw it so you can see your vision and that’ll make it one day closer to becoming true.’ It was safe to say that Xander had kissed him and fucked him after he said that.

It had given James the inspired idea of what to do with the remainder of his Gran’s inheritance. He planned on taking himself, Xander, Nathan, and Danny to America for a road trip holiday. He’d only mentioned it to Nathan. He planned on surprising the others with it, once it was all planned out.

He closed his journal and slipped it into his satchel. ‘Time to go.’

Xander looked around at him, sad faced.

‘Don’t give me that look. I’ve got to go pack for my holiday.’ When James had told Nathan about the American idea, Nathan had sprung his own holiday surprise. He had finally found a cheap holiday to Majorca and James and Danny were going with him for a week. It was a lad’s holiday, but Nathan had invited Xander. Xander turned him down because he had three job interviews lined up for that week. It was strange to James that Xander and Nathan liked each other because Nathan usually hated anyone that he dated. Xander has come to Preston and once they had met, they had clicked instantly over their love of America and muscle cars. Xander had been impressed by Nathan’s car upgrade, a Mercedes C220 AMG Sport edition. The lucky guy had bought it second hand for half its original sales price because the dealership had sold it believing it was a standard edition. Safe to say that Nathan had been grinning like a child.

James kissed Xander goodbye and left. They’d been locked away in the apartment all weekend and when he reached the outside, it was dark. He had to get the early morning train back to Preston the next day and he hadn’t even pulled out his suitcase from his wardrobe. It would take him half an hour to get back to his apartment. He texted Amelia saying he’d need her help packing when he got back. She quickly replied that Harris was there and they’d both help. He smiled. Since being in a relationship with Xander, his feeling for Harris had changed from lust to a strong bond of friendship. Even when Harris had announced that he had broken up with his boyfriend, all he had felt was sadness for his friend and offered him support without even thinking about romance. He was with Xander and he wanted it to remain that way.

He passed the Metropolitan Cathedral and into the dark alleyways leading to his flat. He stopped for a moment to watch the changing spectrum of colours on a University of Liverpool building.

It was there that it happened.

First, he heard running footsteps pounding along the pavement behind him, then he felt something hard slam into the back of his legs. Pain shot through his knees and thighs as he went down. He hit the cold ground hard. They didn’t give him time to react. One of them kicked him viciously in the stomach, knocking the air right out of him. He struggled for breath. They continued to kick him. He didn’t know how many of them there were, but he was being kicked from all angles. He tried to cry out, but all that came out was a dry retching sound as he clawed for air.

He tasted blood in his mouth. If he could get up, he could fight back. Every time he tried to rise, they smacked him back down. He was helpless.

He needed Xander.

Where was Nathan?

Why was he alone?

Why was this happening?

‘Fucking faggot!’

‘Boyfriend isn’t here to save your queer ass!’

‘Dirty Homo!’

Pain burned through his body. He couldn’t move. He’d rolled into a tight ball. He just wanted it to end. Then one of them kicked him in the head and he was gone.

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