I wanted to share something for Pride month though before it was over, and this is the little snippet of a story that popped into my head.
This has absolutely nothing to do with the real Airy Nothing story. I just sometimes enjoy writing my characters in different worlds (Viola and Moll who are mentioned here, we are yet to meet in Airy Nothing, but there are no spoilers for anything at all so don't worry).
In this story, I imagined John and Jack as around 18/19, they've known each other for several years living rough, sofa surfing, around London.
If you do have time to read I absolutely live for your comments, so let me know what you think, even if it is to tell me to keep focused on the main story and not waste your time with weird digressions, although really hoping that you do enjoy! :D
Despite the sweltering June heat in the attic, the tall redheaded man draped the edge of a rough blanket over his naked midriff.
The petite blonde man, made a giggling game of kicking and flicking the blanket off him.
‘Hey, Blondie! You’ll wake Moll up with your noise and then she won’t let us stay here anymore. Then who will be laughing?’
‘Moll was on the homebrew last night, if she didn’t wake up earlier with all your noise, she’s not going to wake up now.’ The blonde man expertly mimicked loud grunting noises, then grabbed the blanket and threw it into a mass of wires on the other side of the loft.
‘I used to think you were kind,’ the redhead said with a mock puppy dog expression. ‘But no one takes the michael out of me worse than you.’
‘I just want to see all my man, what’s wrong with that? You get to see all of me.’
In the small space that they were allowed for their sleeping bags amongst the tottering piles of seeming random stuff Moll was an expert at collecting and selling, the blonde man twirled and danced around for his friend.
‘I also used to think you were shy. I am very glad you’re not.’ The redhead grinned widely.
‘You made me unshy. It took a few years, but I’ve got there now…ish…right?’ The blonde settled back down in the redhead’s arms, their bodies immediately sticking together with sweat. ‘Although, you’re the only one I can really be totally free with. You always have been. You know that. So it hurts me you aren’t the same. Why do you always cover up after like?’
‘Ah now, don’t make me say it, John.’
‘Say it, Jack. Say it. Say it.’ John tickled his hands over Jack’s ribs until the redhead gave in.
‘It’s all the stories you’ve told me about your invisible friends. I’m okay in the heat of passion, nothing could distract me then. But afterwards it gives me the willies thinking of them looking at me.’
John rolled around, arms gripping his stomach, laughing. ‘Gives you the willies? Tell me what else gives you the willies?’
Jack wrestled him into a mock neck hold which John expertly writhed out of. They fell into a game of catching hold of each other and then twisting away that they were both well practised in. It got to the moment when Jack was above John, pinning both John’s hands with one of his own. The look in Jack’s eyes was entirely serious now. John gazed up at him with parted lips. Their heads moved together. Then John let out a little screech and jerked his head forward. Instead of a kiss, Jack got a head nutting into his nose and John rolling out from under him, properly this time.
‘What’s the time? We’ve got to get to Viola’s pride event. We can’t be late!’ John hurried about, throwing clothes at Jack and looking for his own outfit.
Jack groaned, a hand covering his nose. ‘I’m in too much pain. I can’t possibly move for at least another… when will Viola’s thing be over?’
‘We are going,’ John said sternly. ‘If you don’t move now, I am going to give you my full on lecture about how what we do together is only legal because of really brave people fighting against the actual police. And how if we were born in a different country, we could get jailed, raped, murdered, just because we fell in love with each other. But even here we have a prime minister who makes jokes about trans people. Homophobic attacks are increasing. You visited Robin in hospital, you know what people can do to us just because we exist and are different to them. And…’
‘Enough. This is why I don’t want to go. You know how much I hate this political stuff, Blondie. It’s well above our pay grade. We just need to focus on us. Having a safe place to kip, some grub on the table, that’s our worries. I don’t want to spend the day thinking about some poor kid being stoned to death in a country I’ve never heard of. I get the world’s a shite place, I really do. But I can’t do nothing about it. And neither can that bunch you call friends. All they do is talk crap and make everyone miserable.’
‘Don’t be so selfish. I know I’m dumb about a lot of things, but I’m right about this. It does matter. We are part of a community. We have to support each other. We need to be there for each other.’
Jack rolled his eyes. ‘Are you deliberately saying things to rub me the wrong way? Just because I love you, doesn’t mean I have to be best buddies with every single other man who prefers bum…’
‘Okay. Just forget it,’ John interrupted.
They remained in silence. John got ready carefully in their small living space so that he didn’t accidentally brush against the other man. Jack lay on his side, eyes closed, a hand still held over his nose.
‘I’m off then.’ John remained beside Jack for a long moment. Then with a small sigh he bent down and kissed each of Jack’s fingers on the hand that was covering his nose. ‘Sorry if I hurt you. I’ll make it up to you later, I promise.’
John moved to leave. Without opening his eyes Jack grabbed his wrist. ‘Forget this Viola thing. Please, just this once, stay with me.’
‘I…I have to go. I promised.’
‘I’ll be in a bad way all day thinking of us arguing if you leave like this. But I can’t come with you. I can’t face a pride event. It’s like I’ve tried to explain so many times before. My mates get why I’m with you. When they’re chill and got a joint in their hand, they all admit that they’d bang you themselves given half a chance. So that works. But if they see me with a ton of big hairy men dressed in leather mincing down the road, it’ll be the end of me. You know I wouldn’t give a pig’s arse what they think, but I have to stay in with them so I can look after us both. Say you understand.’
‘I’m going to ignore all the wrong things you just said. Open your eyes. Look at me.’
‘I don’t want to look at you if you’re ignoring me and leaving me.’ But after only a slight pause, the freckled man obeyed. A glare immediately transformed into wide eyes and raised eyebrows. ‘You look beautiful. Obviously, you’re always beautiful. But how…why…’ He frowned. ‘Why are you rushing around putting all that make up, and so much glitter, and wow that costume is more like underwear than clothes…but the point is why are you dolling yourself up to the nines when you’re going to a party without me?’
The fair man’s blush was visible even through his bright make up. His voice emerged shy and quiet, the opposite of the early anger. ‘I know you hate these things, but I kinda thought you might come anyway. Just because I asked you. I know, don’t say it, I know it’s stupid, thinking like that. I guess I wanted to be able to surprise you for once. Viola’s party isn’t really a party. It’s a play. A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the summer solstice.’
‘I’ll be the first to admit it’s not my scene, but I’m pretty sure people dress in suits and posh dresses for plays. Not their undies.’ Jack tucked his thumb into the waistband of the lacy green shorts John was wearing. ‘Tell me the truth, what’s that Viola talked you into now? I know you’ve been spending a lot of time with them while I’ve been busy, but I didn’t think they’d try anything after…’
‘I’ve got a part!’ John blurted out. ‘I’ve got a part in this play. After all the support you’ve given me, helping me learn lines, cheering me up after the bad auditions and all the rejections and that man who….no, I don’t want to think about that ever, but especially not today. This is a good day. My first play! I wanted you to be really surprised and happy and proud when you saw me on stage with all the real actors. That I can dress like this and appear in fronts of lots of people and understand words that don’t really make sense. All because you believed in me when no one else did.’ His fingers weaved through each other. ‘But, yeah, um, yeah. It was dumb of me. It’s like an old Shakespeare thing so you’d be really bored. And like it’s gender blind casting so, some people hate that and find it really confusing, so no one will probably like it. And it’s an open air thing so people who do watch it will probably just be drinking and paying no attention. And I’m only playing a really really tiny part. A little fairy called Mustardseed. I don’t have to do much. Just a bit of singing and dancing. Not really dancing dancing, just dancing dancing. Viola’s the star. And Ed’s really funny playing a wall. And…yeah. I’m nattering on. You’re saying nothing. And this is really really cringe now. I wish I hadn’t said anything. I am going to leave now and try to forget all about how embarrassing this is.’
Jack kept his grip on John’s wrist. ‘You’re going nowhere, sunshine.’
‘What? I’ve just explained. I have to go.’
‘Idiot. Let me finish. You’re going nowhere without me. I can’t believe you’ve kept this a secret! You’re starring in a play! I am dating a celebrity! Just give me two ticks to get my kegs on and I’ll be with you.’ He gazed at John though without moving. ‘Bloody Nora, you are too beautiful for one man. Will you still want to be with me, babes, when you’ve got your own gang of fanboys fighting to buy your toenail clippings on ebay?’
Jack’s voice was light but John replied seriously. ‘You are the one who taught me it doesn’t matter what other people say. If I learned to ignore them when they say bad things, I can’t suddenly listen when they say good things. It’s only you I want to impress. You’re my heart beat.’
‘Awww. You cannot be saying things like that to me, looking like you look right now, when we are supposed to be going out.’ Jack touched his forehead to John’s for a long moment then he quickly pulled a pair of jeans on, matched with an old T-shirt with the band name long faded into oblivion. ‘I look like rough trade and then some next to you. But can’t be helped. Allons y!’
‘What about all the things about your mates seeing you at a…’
‘Forget that. I talk a lot of shite. Whatever happens, whoever sees us, I don’t care. I am always proud to be seen with you. If people want to be dicks, I’ll just find another way to look after us, even if I have to go straight…obviously not too straight though.’ He winked at John, grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the hole down to the next floor.
They both ignored the half broken loft ladder, Jack lowered himself down first, John jumped after into his arms.
John laughed. ‘I am so happy.’
‘Me too, Blondie. Me too.‘ He couldn’t resist kissing John before putting him down on the ground.
Outside, some kids were kicking a football about on the street. ‘Are you twos gay?’ One of them shouted out, the rest giggled.
‘Nope,’ Jack shouted back. ‘If you want labels, I am probably pansexual, and he’s gender fluid. If you’re curious and want to know more about it, I can explain when I’ve got more time. If you’re little homophobic pricks then…’
John nudged him. ‘They’re only kids,’ he whispered.
Jack gave John an eye roll, but yelled out in a cheery voice to the children, ‘Then I can explain about the incredible importance of holding onto love and not festering hate, if that is, you want any chance of breaking through the individual agony of existing without a serious amount of narcotics in this painful lonely world.’
The two men had to run for the bus so they didn’t hear the kids reply to that.
Despite the heat, on the bus they snuggled together, John ignoring any looks they got, Jack grinning back at any who looked too long. Outside the vehicle’s windows the sun-drenched streets of London passed them by.
‘Thank you for coming,’ John said softly. ‘I hope I don’t disappoint you.’
‘Impossible,’ Jack replied immediately. ‘Thank you for forgiving me for being a dick. Now tell me all about this play. Old Shakespeare must have wrote it looking into his crystal ball and seeing the most beautiful person who ever did live, my Mustardseed!’