The train shuddered to a halt in Preston’s station and the platform passengers crowded around the doors before they had even opened. Trying to be as helpful as possible and yet failing at it, they offered James a tiny line through the crowd. James jostled through, jogged up the steps and over the bridge to exit the station. The powdered clouds covered the sky, threatening rain. The bag strap dug into his shoulder. There was no breeze. He spotted the small silver car parked right at the other end of the car park and jogged down to it, opened the boot, dropped the bag inside before slamming the boot closed and slipping through the passenger door into the seat.
Nathan looked up from his mobile, cold grey blue eyes staring at him in mock anger. ‘Do you mind just inviting yourself in?’
‘Oh, I’m sorry. Do you often sit in random car parks for no reason?’
‘Only when trying to avoid dickheads.’
‘Well you failed there then.’ James smiled at his best friend. ‘Might as well drop this dickhead off then so you can be free to search for other random car parks.’
Nathan’s car mumbled awake and he reversed out of the parking space, raced out of the car park and nipped quietly through Preston’s city centre. To say Nathan was a safe, legal driver, James knew was only half true or maybe just a quarter true at times… if truth can even be quantified in such a way. In a twenty mile an hour zone, he’d drive thirty. If he had the chance in the forty-mile an hour zone, Nathan would go sixty. Any chance he got to strive for more speed from his car; Nathan would take it and fuck the risks. If his Dad drives him to the station it takes around fifteen minutes, but with Nathan, it was cut down to between five and ten. They parked up on James’s driveway, which looked sad with two large empty spaces where his parent’s caravan and Land Rover should have been. As soon as he had left for university, they had booked a three-week holiday in France. And no sooner had they booked that holiday had James rung Nathan, organizing a night out for them to pull and get laid in his house.
He dumped his bag in his room before heading back out again. The car speakers were squawking out Nickleback, Nathan’s favourite band. It was once said that Nathan’s music revolved entirely around drinking, driving and sex… Nickleback summed that up perfectly.
Nathan drove to their favourite restaurant, The Phantom Winger and parked up. The place had been refurbished since James had last been in and it was covered in wood. Wood covered every surface and the carpets had been changed to a deep red and fire bright yellow, with each table, booth and the bar well lit, while everything in between was bathed in shadow. They picked a booth in the corner, close to the bar. Nathan’s eyes flitted across the room in searching hunger.
‘Seriously?’ James mocked exasperation. ‘Can you go anywhere without searching for a flirt?’
‘What do you mean?’ Nathan grinned loudly.
‘You know exactly what I mean,’
They ordered food. James ordered fish and chips because they were good at the Phantom Winger and Nathan ordered a mixed grill because he loved the amount of meat they gave him. Nathan also ordered a metal bucket of garlic bread for himself as a starter; it’s meant to be shared but Nathan always ordered one for himself. They chatted about useless things before it got serious. James told Nathan about university and Nathan told James about finally getting rid of his psychotic girlfriend. It sounded as if they hadn’t seen each other in months or maybe years and in fact it had only been two weeks since James had left for Liverpool. Time seemed to have changed so much and yet had moved so little.
James cut into his battered fish and noticed it. The shimmer in his eye and the flirtatious smile that crossed his face when Nathan spotted his prey. With a subtle glance, James saw her; an attractive woman a little older than them with a child sat next to her. Of course Nathan thought she was hot. She had blonde hair that seemed to waterfall down her shoulders, a leather jacket (he loves girls in leather) and a body of thin curves (she got up to go to the bar).
‘What?’ Nathan exclaimed, still grinning when he saw James giving him the look that meant he’d been caught.
‘We seriously cannot go anywhere can we?’
‘Hey, she’s a milf.’ That grin still covered his face. ‘Not often I get a chance like that.’
‘Can’t you wait until tonight?’
‘Could have it now and then tonight.’
James laughed. Nathan was never going to change. Not that he wanted him too. Single Nathan was Lad Nathan. It’s like with everyone; he has multiple sides that represent each part of their personality. James had seen every part of Nathan’s personality except one – he’d never seen Nathan the lover. Not that he ever wanted to. They ate their food and chatted about what to do for the rest of the day until they went out, all the while Nathan continued to eye-flirt with the mother two tables away.
The Warehouse nightclub was dim, air seemed close, choking the fresh air from their lungs and causing heat to rise in them, causing them to sweat. Nathan crackled like lightning confident to strike, sparks glinted in his eyes, hunting the darkness for his first prey of the night. His black shirt clung to his torso, rolled up sleeves squeezing worked biceps, jeans firm at the waist but baggy around his legs, boots giving him a little more height. James was similar in apparel, grey blue shirt hanging open at the neck, with grey jeans and black shoes. He’d organized this so that he could use his empty house to get laid, but now he stood there in the club, he felt lost of desire.
At the bar, they ordered their starting drinks; double vodka and coke and a jager bomb (a shot of Jagermeister dropped into a glass of energy drink). They downed the bomb and sipped the vodka. James followed Nathan through the jostling crowd to the dance floor. It was half-empty with small groups of friends taking up the corners, but the middle remained clear of bodies. It was early and that would soon change. Over the next hours, the alcohol tried to take hold, but they were far from drunk. Nathan had pulled.
James had left him at the bar to go get some air. He must have been gone ten minutes, because out in the smoker’s yard, James had started up a conversation with a random guy, whose hair looked liked a hedgehog had found its true home, an impressively curly beard, and thin-rim spectacles, over a mistaken identity. When he found Nathan again, he was pushed against the door to the DJ box, kissing a random blonde (Yes another one). James rolled his eyes despite finding himself strangely proud of his friend’s talent. Turning around, he caught two pairs of eyes on him. A short guy with messed up bright blonde hair, even brighter blue t-shirt and skinny jeans and a short brunette almost as tall (heel) dressed in a short skirt and tight top, tattoos covered her arms and chest, but not were decipherable. They were looking at him, no staring at him, muttering things to each other. James wanted to look at her, but his eyes were drawn to him. His fringe that sided to the left, piercingly bright blue eyes further illuminated by the club’s darkness, the smile that just touched his lips. Fuck! She approached him, while he remained back.
‘Hey, can I ask you something?’ She asked.
‘Sure.’ He tried to keep the nerves out of his voice.
‘Me and my friend, Sam can’t decide which one of us you want to fuck.’ She looked James dead in the eyes like a lioness spotting her helpless prey. ‘Well?’
She was on top, moaning as she rotated and bucked her hips. But it wasn’t her. She was just the flesh he could feel. She wasn’t what was in his mind. There was no single person in James’s mind at that moment. It flitted between the blonde guy whose name he found out was Sam and Harris. He tried to focus on Isabella, with her firm body and brunette hair, but she was thrown to the side of his mind. Only Sam and Harris, swapping them inside his mind, remained clear.
They left Warehouse, James, Isabella, Nathan, his girl (James never learned her name) and Sam who said bye when they reached the taxi rank. James swore Sam winked at him before sauntering off up the street. They stood at the taxi rank, chatting and joking for twenty minutes. James tried to keep the dread from consuming him because he knew what was going to happen and no matter how much he willed himself to want it, he couldn’t rid himself of the feeling of absolute dread. He was thankful (sort of) to have a distraction. From behind, James heard a loud slap quickly followed by a scream. He spun around to see a girl further up the street, crumpled on the ground, holding her face in her hands, looking up at a skinhead looking over her. Before James had even guessed what had happened, Nathan was gone from his side. He sprinted up the street, jumped high in the air; his arm brought back and slammed his right fist into the guy’s unknowing face. The guy fell to the floor with a agonized cry. Nathan kicked him hard in the stomach before digging his knee into the guy’s chest and continually punching the guy, in his face, his ribs, and his neck. James would have let him carry on, except he spotted two fluorescent jackets walking up the street. He sprinted up and grabbed Nathan from behind and whispered that the police were coming.
They ran back to the taxi rank, where the girls were waiting with an open taxi. They climbed in and James gave his address. The taxi drove passed the guy, who was still crumpled on the floor. The girl who had been hit had vanished. When they arrived at James’s house, everyone climbed out and the taxi driver said the ride was free because of what Nathan did.
That’s how he ended up in his bed, with this girl riding him, but with two men flashing across his consciousness as she moaned louder.
The next morning, Nathan and James dropped the two girls off at their homes, exchanging numbers and goodbye kisses. They drove away from Nathan’s girl’s place (James hadn’t bothered to learn her name) and James thought they were heading to Nathan’s so he could change, but he was wrong. Nathan drove over the roundabout that went passed his house and continued down the road, over another roundabout before turning left on the third one and entered ASDA’s car park. They hadn’t said a word to each other since leaving the girl’s house. Nathan had turned up the music’s volume, which was a sign that he was in no mood to talk. James had no idea what was wrong, but his stomach was churning, his chest burning and sweat caused his t-shirt to cling to his back. What the fuck had he done now?
Nathan parked up, climbed out and pulled on his leather jacket. He flicked his door closed and waited for James to get out, who slowly unbuckled his seat belt and slipped out of the car. As soon as he closed his door, Nathan locked it with the press of his fob and was off, striding across the car park. James followed behind. They entered the supermarket, which like so many others was just a huge warehouse, and Nathan went straight into the McDonalds on the right. It had hit twelve o’clock, so he ordered two large chicken nugget meals and told James to find a seat.
James spotted their usual seat in the corner and occupied it. He understood why they were there. If Nathan ever wanted to talk to (or bollock) James, they ate there. They had done it since they were teenagers in high school. Nathan brought over a tray full of large fries and chicken nuggets and two cokes. He scraped out the chair and sat and just stared at James, who cowered under the look.
Nathan’s hand came up too fast for James to react, slapping hard into the side of his head. He muffled out a growl as pain splintered across his face.
‘What’s going on?’
‘What do you mean?’ James rubbed his burning face.
‘You pull a girl, you shag a girl and you look miserable all the way through.’ Nathan was never one to mince words. ‘So what’s up?’
‘What do you mean I look miserable?’
‘The moment she approached you, you looked like you just wanted her to go away and yet you brought her back with us and let her stay all night. What is up?’
James just stared at the pile of nuggets in the box. ‘The feelings have come back.’
Nathan just gazed at him. ‘So?’
‘What do you mean so?’
‘So what if they’re coming back. What does it matter?’
‘Of course it fucking matters. I shouldn’t be feeling like this.’ James rolled his fingers through his hair. ‘It’s fucking wrong.’
‘Says who? Your Dad?’
‘God. God says its wrong.’ James almost screamed. ‘I’m a Catholic. I can’t feel like this. Like that.’
‘Why not? It’s your life. Why can’t you be attracted to guys?’ Nathan sipped his coke. ‘I told you this last time.’
‘You also said you didn’t understand why a guy would fancy a guy.’
‘Yeah, I don’t, but it isn’t my life. I’ll never want to stick my dick in a guy, but if you do then do it. Don’t let anyone else tell you how to live.’
James stayed silent.
‘You met someone?’
He remained silent.
‘He’s called Harris.’
‘I met him on a night out and he was so…’
At that moment, James hated Nathan for doing this. ‘Fit.’
‘And what happened?’
He could lie. Fuck!
‘We talked… kissed… went back to mine.’
Nathan looked surprised. ‘So you shagged?’
James met Nathan’s look for the first time since sitting down. ‘No. I cowered out. Told him I couldn’t do it.’
‘What did he say?’
‘He said he understood and left.’
Nathan looked suspicious, but he left it alone. They ate in silence, before binning the cardboard, piled the tray with the others and left ASDA. Three minutes later, they pulled up in Nathan’s driveway, (well, of sorts). It wasn’t paved like James’s, but more of a rubbled country road with small pot holes here and there. James kept joking that Nathan and his Dad should get it sorted, but they always said they had other stuff to do on the house before they did the driveway. Nathan’s parents had bought the old farmhouse cheap and had slowly been building, extending and decorating for the past fifteen years and they still hadn’t finished. There was always something new to complete. James wondered if the house would ever be finished.
The house was empty. Nathan went to get a shower leaving James in his room. Nathan’s room was bare. All it had in it was the bed, the comfiest sofa James had ever slept on (his parents didn’t like him going out clubbing so he always stayed at Nathan’s), Television and Xbox and a box of DVDs and a couple of chest of drawers. Nothing like James’s room that was just cluttered with books, DVDs, posters, notebooks and little knick-knacks he found at car boot sales like a brass eagle and a wooden dragon and he had a notice board covered in inspirational quotes about writing and writers hanging above his desk.
James flopped down on his double bed. Fuck!
Thoughts swirled around his head, like snowflakes thrown around a snow shaker. He’d been struggling with these feelings for years, but he usually buried them deep in his mind. Only on a few occasions had they gripped him so firmly that he had acted upon them, leading to his heart being shredded by his relationship with Jacob and now again with Harris… These feelings would only hurt him, which is why those much wiser than him had warned him against them (without knowing he was feeling them). His priest, his teachers, his parents in their own way, his faith, his God. All had warned him that these feelings were sins that would condemn him. But Nathan, his best friend and only voice he really trusted just said he should live his life how he wants and that there is nothing wrong with what he feels, how he feels towards Harris. He covered his face with his hands and let out a deep breath.
‘What you not telling me?’
James hadn’t even heard Nathan come into the room, which was strange because this house creaked like a bad horror film.
‘Well? What is it about this guy?’
That was the thing about Nathan. James could tell him the name of every person he ever considered dating and within five minutes, Nathan would have already forgotten his or her names. It only mattered if it became serious enough for him to care.
‘Harris is on my course. I see him every time I have a lecture.’
Nathan walked over to his wardrobe, pulled off his shirt he must have just put on after getting out of the shower and replaced it with a red-checkered shirt. ‘How do you feel about that?’
Fuck! Nathan was pulling all the tricks James used on him to make him admit something he didn’t want to admit. Or maybe they were Nathan’s tricks that James had stolen from him.
‘I…I like him…I guess.’
‘And there is nothing wrong with that. Stop resisting and just go for it.’ Nathan styled his hair up into a soft spiked quiff that edged shorter the further back it went. ‘Life isn’t for regrets and if you keep thinking this way you’ll have years of them. That’s what happened with Jacob and it will happen again.’
James looked at him skeptically. ‘You hated Jacob.’
‘Yeah, but that’s because you could have done better and he treated you like shit. Doesn’t mean it was wrong for you to have those sorts of feelings.’
Relief consumed James at that moment. He loved these talks with Nathan because he always knew what choice to make and strangely Shakespeare always came to his head after every conversation like this. But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, all losses are restored, and sorrows end.