THE JACK AND DANNY CHRONICLES
CHAPTERS ONE TO SIX
THE JACK AND DANNY CHRONICLES
Copyright © Cat 2011
Cat/Fabian Black asserts the moral right to be recognised as creator and owner of The Jack And Danny Chronicles.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No part of this work may be copied, reproduced or passed on by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the author
M/M stories with a discipline theme
Cover Design Copyright (C) 2010
by Donna Casey
Dedicated to the friends I made online as a result of penning the madcap misadventures of Danny and his beloved partner Jack, but most especially for Kat whom I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting in real life. Also for Maryann who sadly passed away after a long illness and for Chris whose life was cruelly cut short in November 2008. I think she would have got a kick out of seeing the D/J stories in print.
Bless you, Chris.
Happy days when writing in this strange and kinky genre was all about sharing fun with like-minded people.
The Jack And Danny Chronicles
“Fuck!” Panic powered through me as smoke began pouring from the computer. “Fuck and thrice fuck!” I began wildly pulling at my hair, shrieking aloud like a foul-mouthed soothsayer.
“Fuckity-fucking-fuck! Fuck with an absolutely huge capital F.”
Why couldn’t I think of anything else to say but fuck? Then, as if smoke wasn’t bad enough, sparks began to spray prettily from the wretched machine.
My panic went into hyper drive. Who the hell was the patron saint of idiots who had just emptied a large mug of overly sweet coffee into the gubbings of their beloved’s new computer? None sprang immediately to mind so I decided to bypass lesser saints and appeal directly to the Heavenly Mafia. “Jesus, oh God, oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph, this is bad, this is really bad. God, please, give me a break.” And reprieve was there none.
“Fuck!” I returned to my linguistic starting blocks, but stopped pulling my hair out concentrating on chewing my nails down to my elbows instead, as the smoke thickened, billowing into the room like a malevolent pantomime genie, only it had no intention of granting me three wishes. “Bastard, bollocks, buggeration and shit!” I began hopping from one foot to the other as flames began to shoot from the upended metal tower. Why, why did these disasters always happen to me? I’m basically a nice person, kind to children, animals and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was close to tears when the idea hit me. A public safety film flashed before my eyes. Jack had made me watch it after setting fire to the kitchen for the third time in a month (honestly, it wasn’t my fault) I galloped into the bathroom. Seizing a towel I flung it dramatically into the bath and turned the tap on. It worked for chip pan fires, why not computer fires?
Once the explosion was over, it occurred to me that perhaps chucking a sopping wet towel onto a live electrical gadget hadn’t been the wisest of moves. Perhaps I should have turned off the electricity first?
The fire brigade certainly thought so.
“Fuck!” That wretched word was haunting me. I gazed around the wreck of what had once been Jack’s study and wondered how I was going to get out of this one. Jack would surely kill me. I might as well just go and dig a hole in the garden and bury myself, save him the trouble. His final words before leaving for work came back to torment me: ‘Clean the kitchen, don’t touch my new computer, don’t lounge around drinking coffee all day, don’t touch my new computer, make sure you finish those assignments you’re late with. I mean it, Danny,’ his brown eyes had surveyed me keenly. ‘You’ll fail your exams if you don’t buckle down to some work.’ He pulled his jacket and kissed me goodbye, “by the way,” he said as he opened the front door, ‘don’t touch my new computer.’
I’d done it again, interfered where I had no business interfering. If this situation were a piece of green grocery, it would be in the class one, top of the range, bursting with freshness, I bet you’ve never felt plums like those before, madam, category. Jack would be cross with me. I hated him being cross with me. I looked at my watch. It was four p.m. He would be home by half past five, six at the latest. Nowhere near enough time to renovate the room and replace the computer so he wouldn’t notice. Taking a deep, steadying breath and screwing up all my courage, I picked up the telephone and did the only mature thing I could do in the circumstances. I ordered a taxi and buggered off to my sisters to lay low for a while, say ten years or so, until Jack cooled off.
Ally was, as ever, pleased to see me. “What have you done to push Jack’s button this time,” she asked, kissing me fondly.
“Nothing,” I followed her through to the sitting room. “I just wanted to see you. I miss you.”
“You saw me on Saturday, Danny, I’m hardly elusive. You’ve got that, I’m terrified because I’ve done something I shouldn’t, look about you.” She grinned. “The same look you used to get when Den was after your blood.”
I scowled. She can be a right bitch my sister.
“Uncle Danny! Uncle Danny!”
Two human missiles, in the shape of my two and four year old niece and nephew, launched themselves at me. I gave myself up to the joys of unconditional adoration, obligingly hurling myself to the floor so they could use me as a trampoline. “Where is Dennis by the way?” I emerged momentarily from a heap of toddlers.
“Don’t worry, he’s working,” she smiled. “Come on,” she whacked a Disney into the video, which immediately drew the ankle biters attention. “Come into the kitchen and tell big sis all about it.” She reached for my hand and pulled me to my feet, “I could do with a laugh.”
“Jack doesn’t like me drinking this early in the day,” I said virtuously as she handed me a large glass of wine.
“Den isn’t overly keen, but as the bossy ones are not here to voice their disapproval, we’ll go ahead anyway.” She raised her glass, “this is doctor Alison Crane, and I’m listening.”
“It’s not funny, Al.” I looked at her reproachfully as she wiped tears of laughter from her eyes.
“Sorry, darling. How the hell did you manage to spill coffee inside a computer for God’s sake? That’s something else, even for you.”
“I dunno,” I said sheepishly, “it just sort of happened. The bloody CD wouldn’t work so I put the computer on the floor, by the side of the desk, and tipped it forward to make sure the speakers were plugged in properly. Next thing I know my cup of coffee has done a kamikaze dive off the edge of the desk and all hell let loose when liquid leaked inside.”
“Why didn’t you unplug it straightaway?”
I shrugged. “You know me. I did a Corporal Jones, all but running up and down the room screaming, don’t panic, don’t panic, while doing exactly that.” I put my wine down and leaned my head against my hand. “Jack says I act first and think sometime in the future. He’ll probably disown me over this.”
“Never.” She gave me hug, “He loves you, Danny, God help him, he really does love you. You’ll weather this,” she grinned and winked, “but I wouldn’t plan on sitting comfortably anytime in the near future.”
As I said, she can be a right bitch my sister. I glared at her sourly, “I’m sure you only ply me with drink so I reveal all my deep dark secrets to you.”
“Yep,” she giggled like a schoolgirl. “Jack’s good for you, just like Denny was.”
I blew a raspberry at her, “sometimes I think my arse must have a target painted on it. Why else do people feel compelled to whack it? Are you sure Jack will forgive me?”
“Positive,” she drained her glass and poured us both another. “You were meant for each other. I knew it as soon as I saw the look on his face when Den first introduced you to him, well, once he’d gotten over the shock of being drenched in the contents of that can of Fanta you were opening. You’re a natural pairing. Jack/Daniel, like whisky and soda, get it?” She smirked.
“Very fucking droll I’m sure, you’re a real comedienne, only don’t give up the day job.”
“Tsk, tsk, my boy,” she pointed a stern finger at me. “You know how Jack dislikes you using an excess of profanities.”
The phone rang in the hall and she staggered off to answer it. Drinking wine did nothing to improve Alison’s precarious balance. I resisted the urge to offer to answer the phone for her; knowing from experience that she’d only glare at me and yell, ‘I’m disabled, not incapable.’ She was soon back. I looked at her enquiringly, “Jack?”
She nodded, “he wanted to know if you were here. He’s on his way. Don’t worry, he sounded more irritated than mad.”
It seemed no time at all before the doorbell sounded with a death like knell. I gulped and remained where I was in the kitchen, as Al went to answer it. I heard squeals of, ‘Uncle Jack,’ as the infants did their Cruise missile impression on him and their delighted giggles as he did what he always did, tucking each of them under a strong arm and swinging them round. Those strong arms would be put to a very different use later on if I knew Jack. My bottom cheeks clenched, sensing that they were soon to be toast.
Jack’s brown eyes were like pools of frozen mud as he came into the kitchen and glowered at me. Obviously my disguise as a tea stain on the table hadn’t quite come off. He pointed a loaded finger at me, “the car’s on the drive. Get in it.”
I opened my mouth.
“Just do as you’re told for once, Danny,” he cut me off.
I closed my mouth and my buttocks clenched harder still.
“Don’t be too cross, Jack, remember you love him.” Alison attempted to pour oil, “he doesn’t mean to be...”
“I know what he means, or doesn’t mean, thank you, Alison,” said Jack crisply. “And you shouldn’t be plying him, or yourself with wine at this hour of the day. Dennis wouldn’t like it.”
“Stuff Dennis, he hasn’t been asked to... ouch,” she yelped as he snatched up a tea towel and playfully whacked her jean clad bum with it. “Hey, that hurt.”
I grinned, then gave a yelp of my own as he tea-towelled me and said ominously. “Just wait until I get you home.”
“Target practice night is it, Jack my love?” Alison, despite her problem and the wine, danced nimbly out of his way.
“You’re incorrigible, Alison. I’ll be giving Dennis a few pointers on how to deal with you.”
“Believe me, Jack, he doesn’t need any,” she pulled a face at him and he grinned and kissed her telling her to take care.
I risked a glance at Jack as we drove home. Considering the havoc I’d wreaked, he didn’t look nearly as mad as I thought he’d be. My buttocks relaxed slightly, perhaps this wasn’t going to be too bad after all. I risked an apology. “Sorry, Jack, I really am sorry.” It’s a shame it was dark and he couldn’t see the tears of contrition in my eyes.
“I should think so,” he said mildly, removing a hand from the steering wheel in order to pat my thigh. “How many times have I told you about going out without letting me know where I can reach you if I need to, or at least taking your mobile with you. You know what a worrier I am. I phoned home to remind you that Tris is coming over this evening, and to make sure the place was tidy and to get something out of the freezer. Only you weren’t there, and now we’ll be rushed. I hate being rushed.”
Alarm bells began to ring softly in my head. I slid further down in my seat, as my buttocks attempted to leave my body and jump from the car. “So, you haven’t actually been home yet?”
“No, of course not,” he said, somewhat irascibly. “I phoned Alison after I phoned home and came to get you straight from the office. No point wasting more time by going home if you weren’t there.”
The Jack And Danny Chronicles
2: Silence Of The Lamb
In retrospect I should never have drop kicked the leg of lamb across the dining room. I think it upset Jack a teensy bit. That and I called Tristan a pretentious twat. Never goes down well with Jack that sort of language. He’s a bit prim when it comes to swearing. And I suppose sweeping a tureen of delicately minted new potatoes off the table; sending them bouncing across the recently fitted shag pile, was an error of judgement. As was running out onto the drive as Tristan’s car was pulling away, screeching ‘don’t say you’re leaving before dessert? Here, do take it with you and I hope you choke on it!’ Perhaps it was the sight of his favourite fresh cream, raspberry meringue driving away at sixty miles an hour that really upset Jack? On the other hand, giving the old dear who lives next door the finger, as she looked enquiringly over the hedge, just might have peeved him. He’s shit hot on manners is Jack.
The newspaper rustled as Jack turned the page. “Are we ready to talk calmly yet?”
Great, I shifted my weight from my left leg to my right; he was using the royal we. I was definitely in trouble. Crossing my arms I let out a fuck you sigh.
“Fine,” Jack turned another page. He was obviously speed-reading. “I can wait.”
Sadistic bastard, course he could wait. He was seated comfortably at the kitchen table with a large mug of hot coffee to hand and the newspaper for entertainment. In so far as the Guardian could be considered entertainment. I preferred the Dandy myself.
“Stand up straight, hands by your sides.”
“I am standing up straight,” I broke my hitherto sullen silence. “I couldn’t stand any straighter if I had a brush shank stuffed up my jacksy!”
“You’re in enough trouble, Daniel, do you really think it’s wise to speak to me like that?” Jack’s voice had an edge you could sharpen knives on.
“It’s not my fault, none of this is my fault.” I quelled an urge to punch the wall in front of me. Knowing my luck it would only punch me back.
“Oh, and whose fault is it pray? Did the lamb insist you kick it across the room?”
Great. Sarcasm. I hate sarcasm, especially Jack’s version, delivered in his headmaster talking to naughty schoolboy voice.
He continued. “Were the potatoes possessed by a poltergeist? Did the meringue decide it wished to go for a nice drive out before being consumed, and did our frail octogenarian neighbour really deserve that hand salute you gave her? You could have caused her to suffer a fatal stroke.”
Glancing over my shoulder, I snarled, “she survived Hitler and day trips by the Luftwaffe for Christ’s sake. I’m sure she’ll survive a single raised finger.”
“You’re digging yourself deeper and deeper with that attitude.” Jack went back to turning the pages of the Guardian and I went back to staring silently at the wall, while fantasising about doing a Hannibal Lecter and brutally butchering the odious Tristan. It was his fault I was in trouble with Jack. I gritted my teeth as the scene replayed on the memory tape of my mind…
“Oh, surely you’re not going to attempt to carve that straight from the oven are you, dear boy? It needs to rest for at least fifteen minutes.’
“What?” I glared at him, my hand tightening around the handle of the carving knife, which I seriously considered plunging into his chest instead of into the leg of lamb. He had a knack of making me feel ignorant and gauche.
“The lamb, dear boy, the lamb, surely you know the rule about carving meat straight from the oven? It needs to rest,” he said with a roguish wag of his finger under my nose.
Patronising berk! Being relatively new to the cooking lark I was a bit precious about my efforts, any criticism, implied or otherwise, cut deep. I saw red. “I’m not your dear boy!” I waved the knife dangerously close to the end of his nose, “and why does it need to rest? It’s hardly likely to be exhausted after spending two hours loitering in a hot oven.”
Jack rose to his feet, placing a hand on my shoulder, “Daniel,” his voice was soft, but the hand had a touch of steel in it. “Calm down, Tristan was only trying to help. Cooking is his hobby, he’s just trying to advise you, and besides, that’s no way to speak to our guest.”
“Your guest,” I reminded him, recklessly shrugging his hand away, “not mine. I’d sooner entertain the Grim Reaper than him.”
“You might just get your wish if you don’t moderate your tone,” whispered Jack, while giving me ‘The Look.’
“Please, Jack, do sit down” Tristan’s unctuous voice cut in. “Don’t fall out with your young paramour on my account. I’m sure that given time he’ll learn to cope with his feelings of inferiority where I’m concerned and realise that I’m no threat to him.” He turned to me with a taunting little smile. “I intended no criticism, dear boy. I’m sure that your culinary offering will be quite splendid. You go ahead and do it in your own unique, charming way.”
I hated the smarmy swine. He was everything I wasn’t. Sophisticated, wealthy, upper class, well educated, immaculately attired, totally in control of his emotions. All things considered he was a complete bastard. For Jack’s sake I swallowed my temper and attempted to redeem myself, mumbling a half-hearted apology. He gracefully accepted, his grey eyes gleaming with malicious enjoyment at my discomfort.
He’d got my back up the moment he set foot in the house with his subtle little put downs. I’m sure he thought of me as Jack’s bit of rough. Something he’d picked up as having temporary novelty value. That was the bit that scared me actually. What if that’s all I really was to Jack? I couldn’t bear the thought that one day he’d tire of me, that the novelty would wear off and he’d go back to someone more his own sort, and more his own age. Someone like Tristan, ‘Tristan’ for fuck’s sake! I didn’t realise that anyone outside of Arthurian literature and All Creatures Great and Small was called that for real. Faking a smile, I opened the bottle of red wine that he’d graciously bestowed upon us.
“My dear boy...”
I froze; bottle paused in process of slopping a generous amount into a glass.
“May I suggest you let that breathe a little? I’m sure you noticed that it’s rather a fine vintage. Why don’t we start with that unassuming little supermarket wine you obviously grabbed from the shelf at Safeway’s? Whether or not it breathes will be immaterial to how it tastes I’m sure.”
That was it! I banged the bottle down on the table and the rest, as they say, is history. Tristan beat a hasty retreat as I erupted like a French farmer on a picket line and began booting legs of lamb about, while cussing like a British lorry driver trying to get through a picket line of French farmers.
Jack wasn’t a bit impressed by my actions. I could tell by the way he shoved me briskly into a corner of the kitchen, virtually superimposing me onto the plaster.
“It’s not fair,” I yelled, then yelled even louder as he cut short my protests with a volley of sharp swats to my backside. He left me to brood while he went to apologise, on my behalf, to our bemused and ancient neighbour. As far as I was concerned I had been provoked into losing my temper and I was determined not to accept any blame. Couldn’t Jack see the way Tristan wound me up?
Of course I knew it was more than just me being rude to Tristan. It was a hangover from the computer and fire business, that’s what it was. Jack had, as expected, been seriously de-chuffed with me. I had watched as the blood drained from his face down into his ankles. Like the proverbial weeble, he wobbled, but didn’t fall down. After several decades had passed he closed his mouth, cancelled Tristan’s visit (every cloud etc.) and channelled his energies into attempting to smack my bottom from its original location at the top of my thighs, to somewhere in the vicinity of my diaphragm, while lecturing me about my foolish and dangerous actions.
“Come to Daddy.” There was a multitude of rustlings as Jack folded the newspaper.
I stayed stubbornly where I was.
“If I have to come over there, Daniel I’ll be even less happy than I am now, which means you’ll be even sorrier than you’re already going to be.”
Jeez, he was talking in tongues. With a heave of the shoulders, a roll of the eyes and a sigh worthy of Harry Enfield’s Kevin the teenager, I sloped across to him.
He began to unbuckle the belt on my jeans, speaking quietly all the while, “filthy language, a temper tantrum worthy of a toddler on a tartrazine high, rudeness to neighbours, all in themselves bad enough. However,” he drew my jeans down to my knees, “rudeness to a guest in our home is inexcusable. I gave you the chance of opting out, but you insisted on being present. You may not like Tristan, but you will at least be polite to him.”
Rebellion was still flowing through my veins. From there it found its way to my mouth, which opened of its own volition and snapped, “I’d sooner pour salt on the slimy slug than be polite to him.” I tried to pull away, but he handled my slim, five foot six frame with ease. A cool draught played briefly about my bottom as my underpants were tugged down and he swiftly pulled me across his lap. Cool became a distant memory. The hand that slammed against my buttocks felt like it was made of adamantium, first striking one cheek, then the other followed by a slap to the centre, spanking a pattern of disapproval onto my bottom.
“You will apologise to Tristan,” left, right, centre. “You will apologise to Mrs Greenfield,” left, right, centre. “You will apologise to me,” left, right, centre.
I howled from the outset. Noble suffering and taking it like a man were concepts that I’d rejected early in life. If I were in agony I wanted everyone within a ten-mile radius to be fully aware of it. Plus, I always hoped that if I yelled loud enough it would put Jack off his stroke and safe my bum some suffering. So far it hadn’t worked.
By the time he allowed me to slide from his lap I would have seriously considered apologising to the leg of lamb and every individual potato I had sent bouncing across the floor. He let me cry for a while and then calmly drew me to my feet and helped me pull up my underwear and jeans.
“You’re going to clean up that mess you made in the dining room, Danny.”
I wrapped my arms around him, seeking a reconciliatory cuddle. He sighed and put his arms round me, gently rubbing his chin against my hair. “Why do you always think that a hug makes everything magically all right? It doesn’t. You embarrassed me this evening and so far you’ve not offered one good reason why you behaved as you did. There was no excuse for it. I was ashamed of you to be truthful.”
I was crushed. His words hurt more than the spanking. I also felt he was being dismissive of my feelings. He was taking Tristan’s side. Worse was to come. After I cleaned up the dining room, he sent me to bed saying I’d behaved like an obnoxious child so he was going to treat me like one. He didn’t kiss me goodnight, nor did he come up early to keep me company as I had expected. It could only mean that he was tiring of me.
I got up next morning to find the house still and silent. My stomach lurched, was he so disgusted with me that he didn’t even want to spend Saturday in my company? There was a terse note on the kitchen table: ‘gone to the office to finish some work. Phone Tristan and make your apologies. We’ll discuss things later.’ I crumpled the scrap of paper up and flung it on the floor. Then I got dressed, threw some things into a bag and headed for Alison and Den’s house.
The Jack And Danny Chronicles
3: Drama Queen
Alison was not her usual welcoming self. “For God’s sake Danny! You’re such a drama queen. No wonder Jack loses patience with you. You’re a spoilt jealous brat. He’s entitled to invite his friends over once in a while. Being polite to them for a few hours wouldn’t kill you.”
I was hurt that she’d started yelling about ten seconds after I’d opened my mouth. “Well thank you for those kind words, Claire fucking Rayner. I thought you of all people would be on my side. I’ll take my unwanted over dramatical presence elsewhere, and incidentally, you’re a bit of a RADA graduate yourself when the mood takes you.”
“Danny...come back,” she reached for me, but I was determined to make her feel guilty for not being sympathetic enough, marching huffily towards the hall. My dignified exit didn’t quite come off. I tripped over a pile of Teletubbies, or were they Tweenies, cunningly situated in the sitting room doorway and consequently sprawled face first onto the carpet. “Bloody hell, Ally, don’t you ever tidy up?” I raised myself to my knees and looked up at her. Her mouth twitched as if she was trying not to laugh. I burst into shoe shaking tears.
“I’m sorry.” She helped me up off the floor and onto the couch and sat down beside me. “I’m in a cow of a mood today, a real Friesian. Even Den couldn’t stand to be near me. He’s buggered off out with the kids. Tell me what happened last night to upset you this much.”
I proceeded to give a detailed account of the previous evening, portraying myself as injured and misunderstood hero. “Can I stay with you, Alison, just until I find a place of my own.” Saying the words with all their lonely implications made me cry harder. What can I say; I’ve always been an emotional kind of lad. I’d had one brief experiment of living alone and I’d hated it. I’d only lasted eight days, though admittedly it might have been longer if the landlord hadn’t evicted me.
“Danny love,” she hugged me again. “This has been your home since you were nine years old, of course you can stay here. Where else would you go in a crisis? And that’s all this is, a temporary crisis. This business with Jack will blow over. It’s not as if he hasn’t been mad at you before. You’ve set fire to his kitchen, flooded the bathroom, crashed his car into the front of the house and incinerated his computer. Why should a little thing like being rude, justifiably from the sound of it, to one of his friends make him go off you?”
I sniffed miserably, “it’s the camel thing, you know, the last straw and all that.”
“I didn’t know Jack had a camel, how the hell does it manage to get its humps through the cat flap?”
“S’not funny, Ally.”
“I know, and I’m not trying to make light of things, just to put them in perspective. Who is this Tristan character anyway? You haven’t mentioned him before.”
“He’s an ‘old and valued’ friend of Jack’s, huh, interpret that how you like. He’s just moved into the area, a career change or something and Jack lets him walk all over me, then gets mad when I retaliate. He never once stuck up for me last night. Do you know what he called me, Tristan I mean?” I sat up, wiping away tears with the heel of my hands, allowing indignation to cancel out misery. “He said I was a tiresome mongrel puppy that hadn’t been properly housetrained, and that I would soon lose my appeal.” I failed to mention that he’d just had a hailstorm of minted new potatoes rain around his head at that point.
“The cheeky bugger!” Alison’s blue eyes blazed. “Tell me where he lives, I’ll go round there and punch his lights out, not his car lights either.”
She would too. She was a complete lunatic when roused. I kept Tristan’s address to myself and continued to hook her sympathy and support. “He told Jack I was too young and immature for him and he ought to send me away until I’d grown up and learnt how to behave properly. He’s after Jack for himself, I’m certain of it. He wants me out of the picture.”
“The smarmy shit! I was married to Den when I was your age. Give me his address, Dan. I’ll fix his game.”
“What’s going on?” Dennis seemed to materialise from thin air. For a big man he could move very economically. Neither of us had heard him come in. He dropped his car keys on the coffee table, in among piles of Duplo bricks.
I flung myself at him, bursting into a fresh display of tears. I was enveloped at once in a warm bear hug.
“It can’t be as bad as all that.” He patted my back, joking, “what have you done, played Frisbee with Jack’s favourite CD collection?”
“Nothing, honest.” I knew I had all of Ally’s allegiance and affection. Dennis was a tougher nut to crack. I went straight for an Oscar nomination in the spurned lover’s category. “He’s dumped me, Den! Jack’s dumped me. He doesn’t love me anymore. He puts his friends before me. He was really mean last night, and I’d gone out of my way to make it a nice evening. Can I come home?” Move over, Di-Caprio. I was acting him off the set.
“Aren’t you being a tad Laurence Olivier,” Dennis held me at arms length and surveyed me with a practised eye. “What happened exactly?”
“He’s been a dumped, d-u-m-p-e-d, does he need to spell it out?” Ally burst into my drama in strong supporting actress role. “And it’s all your bloody fault!”
“My fault!” Den’s mouth gaped in astonishment, “and how did you make that reality leap?”
“Jack’s your friend. You introduced them. You must have known that he had a history of leading vulnerable young men on, and then casting them aside when he’d finished toying with them. I despise that type.” She waved her arms in a way Shirley Bassey would have been proud of, “and I bet you knew he had this other man waiting on the sidelines.”
“What history, what other man? What the heck are you on about, woman?”
“Where are the kids?” She suddenly changed tack.”
“I left them with my mother so we...”
“Oh,” she interrupted him, “so, you’re saying I’m a lousy mother. My little brother isn’t good enough for your posh friend and I’m not good enough to be the mother of your children. Chav is that it, you think I’m a chav? Fine!” She began wildly scrabbling amongst the building bricks on the table. I had by then stopped crying. I’d also completely lost the plot. Den had the look of a man who had never had a handle on the plot in the first place. Alison finally located the car keys.
“Put those down, Alison, you’re in no state to drive, especially not my car.” Dennis eyed her sternly. “I mean it, give me the keys.”
She smiled sweetly, “get stuffed.”
Oh God! I’d imposed my crisis on them when they were obviously in the middle of one of their own. Alison stumbled and Den reached out a protective hand to steady her. She slapped it furiously away; “I don’t need you to keep me on my useless feet.”
Dennis ran hands of frustration and despair through his hair. “What is the matter with you lately?”
Alison turned to me. “Know what, Danny? Jack giving you the elbow might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. At least you’ll get to have a little fun in life before you shuffle off this mortal coil. Are you coming for a drive with me?”
I swallowed. Alison’s driving was bad enough when she was relaxed. In her present mood it would be like being a passenger in a hearse with an empty coffin waiting for an occupant in the back.
Dennis interceded. “No. He’s staying here and so are you. Now hand over those keys.”
Alison gave him a look that would have withered a lesser man, “I don’t need your permission to go out. I signed a marriage certificate, not a bond of slavery. I need a break and seeing as my car is in the garage I’m entitled to use yours to take it.” She moved with surprising agility for someone with a disability. The front door slammed. Moments later the sound of a car engine and a screech of tyres indicated that Alison had left the vicinity, big time.
“Shit!” Dennis uttered a rare expletive. He turned to me, “seeing as you’ve left Jack to return home I’ll resume authority. You know where your room is, so go to it.”
“DENNIS!” My jaw dropped faster than an elevator in a disaster movie. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Knowing you, I very much doubt that. There’s more to this business than meets the eye. I’m going to contact Jack and get his version of this little drama. If I discover that you’ve been milking and manipulating Alison’s affection for you and hyping her up over trivia, I’ll wallop you until you can’t sit down. Is Jack at home?”
“No,” I said quickly. “I don’t know where he is. He went off without bothering to tell me. Probably gone to his new boyfriend’s house to shag the day away.”
“Go upstairs, Danny. If you’re back home then you can do as you’re told when you’re told.” Den gave me an old familiar look and I hastily stumped up the stairs feeling all of twelve years old.
I was pleased that my room was much as I’d left it. It meant something that my sister and brother-in-law had not turned it into a games room or computer room the moment I moved out. I lay on the bed, hands behind my head, and stared up at the ceiling wondering what was going on between Alison and Dennis. My stomach turned as for once I contemplated someone else’s troubles instead of my own. Dennis was the closest to a father I’d ever had and Alison, well Alison was Alison. She was my big sister, my friend and confidante, my co-conspirator upon occasion, and my comforter when things went wrong. I loved them both. I couldn’t stand to think of things not being right between them.
There was a brief knock and the door opened. Den’s expression was not encouraging. He shook his head when I asked if Ally had returned and then said in a strangely understated voice. “I managed to track Jack down to his office though. He was surprised that you didn’t know where he was, seeing as he’d left you a note on the kitchen table this morning.”
“Really?” I turned on my side, facing away from him, petulantly glaring at the wall.
“Yes really. Furthermore, he told me exactly what transpired last night and in my opinion you got just what you deserved. You behaved like a bad mannered brat and you were punished accordingly.”
I sat up, “am I the only person in the world who doesn’t have a private life?”
“Apparently Jack fears early onset dementia, as he has no recollection whatsoever of having dumped you. Nor does he remember starting an affair with Tristan, whom, by the way, he said you provoked the moment he set foot in the house.”
“Jack had no fucking right…” my protest was cut short as Den sat down on the bed and swiftly hauled me across his lap, delivering a sharp slap to the seat of my jeans. “Dennis!” I gave a squawk that was half laughter and half panic. “I’m too old to take this from you now.” He slapped again and I flung my hand back in an effort to protect the bottom that was still slightly tender from Jack’s administrations of the night before. Taking hold of my wrist he held it fast against the small of my back.
“I don’t give a damn how old you are. I warned you what I’d do if I discovered you’d wound up your sister with exaggerated tales of the wrongs done to you.”
All desire to laugh vanished as his hand descended on my backside yet again. He was serious about spanking me. Hand and voice worked in perfect synchronisation. “Jack said to tell you that you’re to stay here, and that he’ll collect you when he’s finished at the office. He said he would be discussing your theatrical propensities in some detail. He said while you might be the lead actor, he’s the director, and he’ll decide how the play ends.”
“When it comes down to it,” I yelled, in a sudden burst of defiance, “he’s a bit of a gobshite!”
“One of these days, my lad, you’ll learn when to give in with grace instead of always trying to have the last word.”
He gave my backside a final slap and then told me that there was a sink full of dirty dishes in the kitchen, and I could make myself useful by washing them up.
The Jack And Danny Chronicles
4: The Curtain Falls
“Why?” A perfectly innocuous little word in its own way is why…until you start bunging other words after it that is. Then it’s apt to get complicated and those three little letters become instruments of torture, especially when wielded by a Master like Jack.
“Why?” He calmly repeated the dratted word, but didn’t expand on it. This was a favourite device of his and it drove me barmy. He assumed that I knew exactly what other words he intended to follow on from that tiny verbal starting block. I squirmed uncomfortably and concentrated on tracing the toe of my shoe around a swirl on the carpet. It was the first word that Jack had spoken to me since picking me up from Alison’s house. I suppose I should have been grateful that he was speaking to me at all. I would, however, have preferred it to be any other word but why. Why always led to trouble, for me that is. I remained silent.
Bear in mind that I was tired and stressed. Thus far it had been a dire weekend. I was worried about Ally and now Jack was intent on making me squirm like a maggot on a pin. I’m not good with stress. I’m even worse with guilt and for some obscure reason I did feel guilty. Guilt was a new concept for me. I didn’t care for it much and I was fighting it all the way. Jack obviously wanted some kind of confession from me, possibly even penitence. I, on the other hand, wanted to forget all about everything. I wanted to store the disastrous dinner with Tristan away in the: ‘it never really happened folder,’ and if it did, ‘it was nowt to do with me box.’
In retrospect (as ever) I did the worst thing I could do in the circumstances. I stamped. Yes, dear reader, I actually stamped. “But what are you waiting for?” I yelled, doing a passable impression of Fred Astaire dancing a fandango, “all you’ve said so far is why? Why what? Why’s a word, not a question in itself. You can keep saying why and I can keep saying what and we’ll be here all fucking night!” Alas, the floodgates opened with that one profanity.
I went into Anglo Saxon overload. “Just ask the full fucking question, I’m not a fucking mind reader and I’m fucking sick of being fucking picked on by everyone. Tristan picks on me. You pick on me. Dennis picks on me, even the fucking cat picks on me. I notice he never leaves a hairball on your side of the bed. I bet if I were taller no one would pick on me. SEE! Even God picks on me, it’s his fucking fault I’m only little in the first place.”
Incidentally, the second worst thing I could do in the circumstances, linguistically speaking, was multiple fucking. Before I had chance to utter another expletive I found myself at the kitchen sink foaming at the mouth like a rabid fox, as Jack vigorously brushed my teeth and tongue with a soft toothbrush coated in soap. It was vile, and surely a gross contravention of TTT, the international accord regarding the right to swear profusely without risk of retribution…The Tourettes Treaty.
“I’ve had more than enough of that foul mouth of yours, and more than enough of this childish drama over Tristan.” Jack flung the toothbrush aside. “I’m bringing the curtain down on your little production.” In one fluid movement he unfastened my jeans and pulled them down along with my underpants. Wrapping his left arm around my upper body, effectively pinning my arms against my sides, he pulled me hard against him. Raising his right hand he began to smack my bottom, and smack it hard. I thrust my hips forward in a futile attempt to escape his punishing palm. He alternated spanking my backside with smacking the backs of my thighs, something he’d never done before. It stung like a bitch and I was soon bawling, promising never to swear again.
I tried desperately to twist out of his grip, finally managing to drop to my knees. He simply hauled me back up and increased the tempo. I developed a sudden and fervent affiliation with Joan of Arc. I knew exactly how that poor girl must have felt as the flames of fire licked their way up her legs and lower regions. After several years he stopped the punishment, and I flung both hands behind myself to clutch my smouldering bottom, tears flowing down my face. “It’s not fair,” I whined, “I didn’t deserve that.”
“That’s true, you didn’t. You actually deserved more.” Jack pulled up my underwear and jeans (well it was only fair seeing as he’d taken them down in the first place) “We’ll continue this conversation when we’re both in a better frame of mind. I need some thinking space. I’m going upstairs for a while.”
As soon as he’d gone, I turned the kitchen tap on, putting my mouth around it and letting the water run over my revoltingly soapy tongue. Jack had threatened several times to soap my mouth out if I didn’t make an effort to curb what he considered my gratuitous swearing, but this was the first time he’d actually followed through. It was vile and the taste seemed to linger forever.
Mooching into the living room I curled up on the couch, watching telly in miserable isolation, conscious of my sore bottom. I knew that as far as Jack was concerned I had totally overstepped the mark on this occasion. I also knew that according to the terms of our relationship I had deserved the punishment he had handed out. Knowing didn’t make me like it any the better. I still felt Tris was more to blame than I was, the cooking bar steward (note the cunningly disguised swearing) He was trying to put Jack off me by provoking me into behaving badly.
Jack eventually came back downstairs and into the living room, holding Mistoffelees in his arms. He was nicer to the rotten moggy than he was to me. I scowled at one man and his cat. Setting Misty down he gave me a cool look, “are you ready to talk yet?”
Silence gave him his answer and he shook his head. “It’s about time you at least made an effort to behave as if you were at the adult end of your teen years instead of the baby end.”
I stood up, saying haughtily, “I think I’ll have an early night. I’m tired and there’s nothing of interest to keep me down here.”
“Sulky little brat,” he whacked an exasperated hand across my arse as I walked past him. I glared at him, but the look on his face warned me not to put my lip into action.
I was awoken early on Sunday morning by a call of nature. Afterwards, crawling back into bed, I studied Jack. He was lying on his back, one hand above his head, the other thrown to the side. He was beautiful. My heart gave a little skip at the sight of him. His long dark lashes resting against the rim of his cheekbones, the strong, straight lines of his nose, and the masculine curve of his jaw. I gently traced a finger over his jaw stubble. I loved the shape of his lips and the way they felt when they were pressed to mine. I loved the way his dark hair fell down over his forehead, especially on a morning before he combed it, giving him a boyish look.
My heart quickened with the anxious thought that my outburst might have cost me my relationship with him. He said he’d needed thinking space the night before. What if the thinking had been along the lines of wanting permanent space between us? I had spoilt everything, as usual. Tears brimmed and I brushed them impatiently away, leaning down to kiss him softly on the lips, starting as an arm suddenly came round my waist. A pair of warm brown eyes gazed into mine, and a soft smile lifted the corners of his mouth. “That’s a nice way to say good morning,” he murmured, then he saw my tears, pulling me closer against him, “come here, my silly boy, its all right.”
I snuggled against him as his hand stroked a soothing circle between my shoulder blades. “I’m sorry, Jack.” His hand slid down to my bottom, caressing it through my shorts, then his lips found mine and I felt a familiar surge of pleasure, like little electrical impulses dancing along every nerve in my body. I relaxed into his arms. I was forgiven and in turn I forgave. All was right with my world again.
“Aw, Jack please,” I dropped my toast back onto the plate, my appetite gone. “I thought we’d sorted all this?”
“Afraid not, little darling. What we had was a very pleasant interlude, but it was by no means a conclusion. ”He poured us both a fresh cup of coffee, smiled, and asked, “why?”
I sighed the sigh of a soul in purgatory, slouching down in my chair. “I don’t want to play this game anymore, Jack.”
“Sit up straight, Daniel,” he said crisply, “and it is not a game. This is about you accepting responsibility for yourself and your actions.”
“I said sorry.” I pouted, unwilling to accept responsibility for anything.
“Yes, but sorry is just a word if there’s no sincerity, no understanding behind it. I want you to tell me why you have a reason to be sorry. I don’t want you merely paying lip service to the word. I want you to understand the mechanisms that led you to a situation where you’re obliged to feel sorry.”
God, I groaned inwardly, he was determined to get some mileage out of the philosophy ‘O’ level he’d sat in his youth. It was like being shacked up with Socrates. I wondered if we had any hemlock handy.
“Why?” He pointed a cautionary finger, “and I’m warning you, Danny, even think of a swear word and I’ll spit roast your backside, and not in a fun way.”
My pout reached competition standard. “At least give me a hint as to the content of the question.”
His eyes narrowed. “Why did you choose to behave so badly towards Tristan? You’ve had it in for him since the day you met him. You started making digs the moment he stepped foot in the house last night.”
He put unnecessary emphasis on the word choose to my mind. I defended myself. “He provoked me.”
“Not good enough and not true.”
“He said good evening to you, Danny and asked how you were and you took a huff and accused him of being unpleasant!”
“He looked at me in a snide way as he said it.”
“Well that’s hardly a reason to scream abuse and throw bits of sheep at him.”
Seemed perfectly reasonable to me, but I didn’t dare say so, “I just don’t like him.”
Jack raised an elegant eyebrow. “I’d never have guessed.”
“He’s trying to turn you against me. I’m sure he wants you back,” it came out in a rush.
Jack’s eyebrow raised itself further and was joined by his other one. “What do you mean BACK?”
“Well, he’s obviously an old lover of yours.”
“Ah-ah,” Jack shook his head. “Tristan is a good friend. We were at boarding school together. He was a mentor. He is not, nor has he ever been my lover. I’ve told you all this before, Danny. You just have a selective memory.”
“Bet he wants to be your lover though, slimy swine,” I muttered.
“Do you want to spend the day in bed?”
I looked up hopefully, “with you?”
“With a sore backside.”
I gulped, “okay, I admit I let my dislike and jealousy run away with me. I’m very sorry. I behaved like a yob and I’ll say sorry to him, I promise.”
“You most certainly will.” Jack paused in my interrogation to take a sip of coffee. He put the cup down, and then smiled softly, “why?”
“Jaaack, please, let it go.”
“Why did you take off like that, and why did you feed Alison all that rubbish about my having forsaken you for Tristan? You know how easy it is to hook her. Dennis says she’s been tense for days. She didn’t need you hyping her up even more.”
I’d had enough. As far as I was concerned the subject was dead. I stood up. “I need the loo.”
“No you don’t.”
“Are you Lord of my bowel movements now? Can I only crap by royal command?”
“Did I not spank you hard enough yesterday evening?”
“Yes,” I nodded emphatically, “oh yes.”
“Then watch your cheeky mouth, or I’ll make last night seem like a loving cuddle.” He gave me a warning look, asking firmly. “Why?”
I did a full Gene Kelly routine in my mind, you know that one from Singing in the Rain, where what’s-his-face, Donald someone or other, leaps about the furniture and pounds his feet up the wall.
“Well?” Jack’s voice had an edge of impatience to it.
“It wasn’t my fault.” Drat, my voice had a definite whiny note to it. “I thought you’d decided I was too much trouble and that you were fed up of me after what I did to your computer. Then Tristan made you angry with me, you sent me to bed, on my own, Jack. Then you went to work and left me on my own again – on a Saturday too. I thought you hated me. I wanted Alison and Dennis to sympathise. I wanted them on my side before you chucked me.”
Jack folded his arms and surveyed me coldly. “Complete rubbish. You had absolutely no grounds for supposing I was going to chuck you. You were indulging in a childish fit of pique and spite. Paying me back for punishing you, even though you got what you deserved. Isn’t that the truth?”
“Yes, all right, yes! Happy now, or do you want it written in blood?”
“Sit,” he pointed to the chair, “while you’re still able. Let’s get a few things straight. With regard to Tris, he didn’t make me angry with you. You made me angry with you for behaving the way you did. Yes, I was furious over the computer business. I’d specifically warned you to stay away from it, at least until I’d had chance to look at it properly. You’re a menace around electrical appliances, you knackered the other one by fiddling on with it. You chose to disobey me and almost burnt the house down. It’ll cost a fortune to put that room right.”
“You’re well insured aren’t you...YEOUCH!” I yelped as Jack landed a stinging slap on my thigh.
“Insurance isn’t the issue here,” he wagged an admonishing finger. “Trust and safety is. You blatantly went against my wishes and you risked not only the house, but also yourself in the process. You could have been electrocuted, or burnt to death, you idiot boy.” Jack’s eyes, which had been so warm and loving earlier, were now cooler than a polar bear’s bum, “and of course I sent you to bed on your own. It’s hardly punishment if I accompany you and you have someone to chat to all evening. I’m not going to apologise for it. Sending you to bed is a way of emphasising my disapproval of your behaviour. It’s a tool of power exchange. It emphasises my dominance and it also gives you time to think things over. It had nothing to do with me preparing to cast you off. I think you knew that very well. You were trying to find a means of justifying a continuance of the Tristan tantrum, by making me into the villain of the piece.”
He took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair. “Daniel, I love you. Just how much I love you has been slowly dawning on me, and that means that I can’t let some of the excesses of your personality go unchecked. Yes, if I thought of you as just a temporary fling, a bit of teen fluff, then I might let you get away with murder, pretend that a hug and a trite sorry made everything all right again. Fact is, Danny, it doesn’t. I’m not made that way. I want more from a relationship than just sex. I want to share my life with you. I’m ready to settle down, love. I’m thirty-two years old. What I need to know is whether you’re ready for a committed relationship of the type we have? A discipline relationship isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t easy. You’re only nineteen. If you want sex without accountability then you must go and get it out of your system. I’ll understand.”
I quickly sat astride his knee, wrapping my arms around his neck. “I’m already committed to you. I’ve lived with you, and all your rotten rules, for almost a year, doesn’t that tell you something?”
“Six months, Daniel,” Jack smiled as he brushed my fringe out of my eyes, “you’ve lived with me for barely six months.”
“You’re so domineering and bossy, it just feels like a year,” I kissed the end of his nose to show I was teasing. I liked him being domineering and bossy, though admittedly I liked it slightly less when his hand was clashing with my backside. I felt ridiculously happy at his words. He actually wanted me around, permanently. I cuddled him, “I don’t know what you see in me. I’m hardly Adonis. I’ve got red hair, a temper to match, freckles, and...”
Jack shushed me with a finger to my lips, “…and the prettiest mouth and the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen.”
A blissfully long kiss followed this declaration.
Then the rule making, law laying, strict speaking, fun crushing Jack re-emerged. “I want you to make the best of yourself. I won’t let you mess your life up, Danny. You’ve got to start working harder. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how little college work you’ve been doing lately. By the way, there are still apologies to be made, not to mention addressing the matter of your irrational temper tantrums and appalling bad language. Then there’s your propensity to run away, instead of facing up to the consequences of your actions, and…mmm, that’s nice.”
For once, he let me distract him from cataloguing all my faults.
The Jack And Danny Chronicles
5: Day of Rest
“Come on, lazy bones.” Jack, freshly showered and dressed, whipped back the duvet and playfully patted my naked rump. “You can’t lie there all day.”
“Why not?” I stretched luxuriously. Making love twice in one morning had left me pleasantly relaxed. “It’s Sunday. I’m obeying the Sabbath sex law: and after ye Shaggath ye shall rest.”
“Never mind Sabbath law. Obey mine and get your pretty little backside out of that bed. You’ve got things to do.”
“What things?” I sat up, eyeing him suspiciously.
“Apologising to Mrs Greenfield for a start. I won’t have you fingering the neighbours willy-nilly.”
“Aw, Jack. She’s old. She’s probably senile. She won’t even remember that I fingered her willy-nilly. Hell, even I don’t remember fingering it.” I threw myself out of bed just in time to avoid the downward flight of Jack’s hand. It whacked the mattress instead. “Anyway,” I dodged past him to get to the bathroom, “you apologised for me.”
“It’s a matter of respect,” he called after me. “Towards yourself as well as her. It’s about owning your actions, facing up to your misdeeds.”
Oh God, I turned the shower on. He was still in philosophical mode.
“Are you listening to me, Daniel?”
I ignored him, climbing under the stream of water.
“Yes, oh Master Jedi,” I shouted facetiously. “I hear you. Our mind bond is strong. That and you’ve got a voice like a foghorn.” I reached for the shampoo, and then screamed as the water turned suddenly icy. Bastard! He’d turned the hot tap on downstairs. I stood no chance against bloody Edwardian plumbing and sadistic lovers.
“Jack?” After my shower I wandered into the kitchen, where the object of my desires was sitting at the kitchen table fighting a silent, but deadly battle with the cat for possession of the Sunday Times. From the smug look on Mistoffelees’ face as he sprawled lazily across the paper, it was easy to see who was winning. He knew instinctively what part of the paper Jack was attempting to read, placing his paw, or tail, strategically over the print in question. I lost my original train of thought, quoting, “well I never, was there ever, a cat so clever as magical...”
“Very literary I’m sure,” Jack cut me off mid-quotation. “What were you going to say before T.S. Eliot took possession of you?” He crossly conceded defeat to the cat and looked at me, his expression softening, “come here,” he took the towel from my hands and pulled me down on to his lap, briskly drying my hair. “Comb,” he held out his hand.
I handed it over and allowed him to comb my damp hair. The task done to his satisfaction, I lay back against his chest as he wrapped his arms securely around my waist.
“Jack, what do you think is wrong with Alison?”
“Heck Danny,” he broke off from gently nuzzling my ear lobe. “It would take a whole army of psychiatrists to determine that. She’s your sister, doesn’t that say it all? She’s temperamental, irresponsible, impetuous and just as crazy as you are. I sometimes find it hard to believe that she’s ten years older than you. You’re more like twins.”
“You do like her though, don’t you?”
“Course I do, she infuriates me at times, but I’m fond of her.” He kissed my cheek, “she’s got an air of vulnerability, just like you. I’m a pushover for things that need looking after.”
“Don’t let her hear you say that, she’ll take your kneecaps off.”
Jack chuckled, “Dennis ought to spank her more often.”
I raised my eyebrows at that. “You mean he’s tried it...and survived?”
“Danny, come on, you know what manner of man Den is, surely you’ve guessed by now that he’s her Dom, as well as her husband. For heaven’s sake, why do you think he approves of our lifestyle? If she hadn’t met him, I doubt she’d still be breathing. She was a self destructive time bomb.”
I tried to quell a spark of jealousy over the fact that Jack seemed to know more about my sister’s life than I did. “Tell me how they met. They don’t talk about it to me. Ally hates talking about her past, she says there’s no point, because it’s over and done with.”
“Dennis was her probation officer for two years when she was a young teenager.” He patted my leg, “and that’s as much as I’m going to tell you. It’s their business and therefore not my place to talk to you about it. I’ve already said too much. I apologise. I shouldn’t have whetted your appetite. It was indiscreet of me. Alison is the only one who owns her past, if she wants to give you a window into it, she will.”
Her probation officer! My eyes widened at that little nugget. Of course I knew what Dennis did for a living, but I had no idea my sister had been one of his cases. “Ally was on probation, what for?”
Jack shook his head, refusing to discuss the matter with me any further. He was adamant. If I wanted details I would have to approach Alison or Dennis directly.
No one told me anything. I didn’t even know I had a sister until just days before my mother died. I brought this fact up with Jack again, hoping it would prompt him to share more nuggets with me. It didn’t.
He hugged me sympathetically. “A lot of wrongs were done to both you and Alison. Now, stop worrying, she’s like you, she makes mountains out of molehills. She’s probably back to what passes as normal in your bloodline. Go finish getting dressed, then you can pop next door and make your apologies to Mrs Greenfield.”
I grumbled and groused. Old people made me uncomfortable. I mean, I know Jack’s fairly old, Dennis too, but Mrs Greenfield was ancient. Jack was insistent. He pushed me out of the front door, watching as I walked slowly down the path with all the enthusiasm of a man going to his own execution. I turned to look over my shoulder gazing a plea at him, but he flung out his left arm in the direction of the elderly one’s house, looking like an over zealous nazi. The look on his face made it clear that nonsense would not be brooked. Then, as I reached the garden gate, he dropped a bombshell.
“Don’t take all day over it, Danny. I’ve arranged for us to take Tristan for Sunday Lunch. It’s his birthday today and an ideal opportunity for you to get to know him better.”
I whirled furiously round, only to find myself staring at a blank door. The crafty, rotten sod, he must have phoned Tristan while I was in the shower. I hastened to our neighbours house anxious to get the apology out of the way so I could return to Jack and argue against Sunday lunch with the ghastly Tristan.
Mrs Greenfield opened her front door and I couldn’t help but stare. She was clad in purple leggings, orange trainers and an electric blue leotard. The sight left me momentarily speechless.
“Come in, ducks,” she held the door wide, “I’m in the middle of me Jane Fonda’s, don’t want to seize up.”
I stepped reluctantly inside, closed the door and trotted down the hall after her sprightly and brightly attired figure.
She eyed me speculatively as I stood in the centre of her sitting room nervously twisting my hands. “Sit down, pet. I don’t bite and old age isn’t catching. It comes naturally to those of us who survive the idiocies of our youth. Tell us what you’re after.” She lay on her exercise mat and began doing sit ups with astounding dexterity.
I was rather taken aback by this unexpected approach. Perching myself on the edge of the settee I managed to find my voice, explaining that I wanted to apologise for making a rude gesture at her on Friday evening.
She paused in her sits ups to give me a huge grin. “You mean giving me the finger. Don’t worry about it, ducks. I’d probably have done the same thing in your position. By hell, I had a good laugh watching you having a paddy and chucking stuff after that tall bloke. Got free drinks all night, telling that one down the club on Saturday evening.”
I was conscious of my jaw dropping open. I wondered if Jack had seen this side to Mrs Greenfield. Her next words left me slightly faint.
“Bet your boyfriend made you come and apologise, didn’t he? He’s very conscientious and polite. There’s not many like him around these days, good old fashioned manners he’s got, and good old fashioned methods of dealing with naughty boys, judging from what I’ve heard through these walls.” She threw back her head and snorted with laughter, as I blushed redder than my hair. “Don’t look so stricken, lad, and don’t worry. I didn’t mention that down the club. Some things are deserving of privacy. A young lad like you needs a man with a strong hand and I’m guessing that you and yours live what’s called a consensual lifestyle, am I right?”
I nodded and she smiled. “I thought so. I might be Green by name, but I’m not green by nature. My late cousin Philip was gay and I learned a few things from him.”
“So, it doesn’t it bother you, me and Jack, you know? “ I blushed further.
Her age washed blue eyes gazed at me seriously for a minute, “there’s only a few things that have the power to bother me, wanton cruelty and spiteful intolerance being among them. Two people living and loving together, regardless of gender, well, that’s nowt to be shocked or shamed by.” She turned the video off, “there’s some would say my behaviour is disgraceful. I’m eighty years old. I’m supposed to sit mumbling in corners, while dribbling from both ends. Well, I refuse to comply.” She held a wrinkled hand out. “I’ll not judge you, if you don’t judge me –deal?”
I shook the hand, which had surprising strength in it. She winked at me and I couldn’t help smiling. “I’m sorry anyway, it was rude. I let my temper run away with me sometimes.”
“Aye well, red hair and hot temper go together. I had red hair once, believe it or not. I regularly erupted like a volcano.”
She went across to the sideboard, “I’ll accept your apology if you’ll have a little drink with me. What’s your poison, gin, vodka, whiskey, brandy?” She turned to look at me, “I hope you’re not a sherry drinker, one thing I haven’t got is sherry, can’t stand the stuff. I’ve got beer if you prefer, mebbee even some of that chemical muck they call lager if you want.”
Jack didn’t like me drinking spirits, he claimed they seriously impaired my judgement and it was impaired enough without them. I immediately opted for a vodka and orange, to spite him for arranging Sunday lunch with the enemy.
Mrs Greenfield, or Lily as she insisted I call her, drained her neat brandy in one gulp, asked me to pour another and went off to get changed. I gazed around her sitting room with interest. It was an eclectic blend of traditional and modern styles, though I couldn’t quite work out how the large straw donkey fitted in to the overall design. It stood next to the television and had an incredibly lecherous expression on its face. I was still gazing at it when Lily came back down, dressed in more conservatively coloured trousers and sweater.
“I see you’ve met Pedro,” she nodded towards the donkey. “He’s an ugly bugger, but he has happy associations, first holiday to Spain 1965. He was a gift from a Spanish waiter I met. By heck,” a dreamy expression flitted across her face, “them Latin’s are great lovers, and the donkey proved useful for smuggling booze back into dear old Blighty.”
“Lily,” I shook my finger at her. “I think you’re going to be a corruptive influence on me.”
She raised her glass, saying mischievously, “here’s hoping.”
I laughed and before I knew it we were gossiping away and I was confiding in her about the lunch with Tristan.
“Well, my love,” she settled back comfortably in her chair. “I’m afraid you’re just going to have to accept that your boyfriend has loyalties to people other than you. Friendship ties are important. Show Jack and this Tristan how mature you can be. Grit your teeth and be polite. Don’t allow his jibes to unsettle you and make you look bad in Jack’s eyes.” She took a large swallow of brandy, “and if all else fails, punch the bastard when Jack isn’t looking.”
Our laughter was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell. I knew from the tone of the ring, that it would be Jack wondering where the hell I’d got to. I said so. Lily was unfazed, “finish your drink, love, I’ll get the door.”
I listened as she opened the door and Jack’s voice politely enquired whether I was still there. “Oh dear,” Lily’s voice became at once frail and quivery. “Have I kept him too long with my chatter? He’s so polite; he obviously didn’t like to say he had to go. Daniel dear,” she called. “Your friend is here for you.”
I ventured into the hall, giving Jack a tentative look. He gave me a stony one in return.
“Thank you,” Lily patted my arm, “for listening to an old lady’s dull prattle with such kind attention.” She turned back to Jack, a small tear in her eye. “I’m sorry to have detained him, I hope you’re not cross? I don’t get many visitors these days,” she laid a wrinkled old hand on his sleeve and his face softened.
“Not at all Mrs Greenfield.” He gently patted the hand, “I’m pleased that you’ve enjoyed his company.”
Lily turned away, bestowed the ghost of a wink in my direction and tottered off up the hall. I closed the front door on my way out. “You’re always telling me to respect my elders,” I said self-righteously, as we made our way home. “It would have been rude to shut her up, might have given her a fatal stroke or something.” I danced nimbly out of the way of the swat he aimed at my behind.
“Behave this afternoon, Danny.”
“I mean it.” Jack’s voice was suddenly sharp, “I want you to try and be nice to Tristan, or at the very least, polite.”
“I don’t see why we have to have lunch with him at all. Can’t I just phone my apology, or send an email?”
“Look, Daniel, have some charity. Tristan only moved up here a few weeks ago. He doesn’t have that wide a social circle yet. He’s an old friend, he’s been good to me in the past, very good. He supported me when relations with my father were difficult. The least I can do is try and make him feel at home here and offer him some company, especially on his birthday.”
I refrained from mentioning that the Samaritans offered a good listening service for lonely people. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad. In the event bad didn’t figure at all, but horrendous certainly did.
We picked Tristan up, and Jack made ME sit in the back of the car, like the family dog. His reason was that Tristan’s longer legs needed the space the front passenger seat could offer. Great, not only was I shoved in the back of the car, I was also cruelly reminded of my lack of height.
By the time we reached the little pub restaurant where we were to have lunch, I was, I confess, sulking. Jack gave my arm a little warning shake, and my bottom a discreet tap, as we headed inside following in the footsteps of the high and mighty Tristan who had decided to take the lead. Arrogant pillock.
Once we were seated, I gritted my teeth, and with as much sincerity as I could muster, which wasn’t much, I apologised for the lamb episode. Tristan sipped his wine with a genteel air, his eyes never leaving my face. My skin glowed pink under his cool scrutiny. Finally he deigned to reply. “I accept your apology, dear boy, you were overwrought. It’s water under the bridge. I’m sure we can all be friends.”
A member of the bar staff came across with some menus. Tristan gave her a sweet smile, glanced across at me, and asked if they did a children’s menu. I flushed to the roots of my hair as she, somewhat uncertainly, handed me a brightly coloured clown menu. Only Jack’s hand on my arm prevented me from leaping up and punching Tristan’s mocking face.
“Behave.” Jack’s eyes sent warning messages to back up his words as I took the menu and angrily lobbed it at Tristan who deftly caught it.
“Just my little joke, Daniel, I didn’t mean to upset you.” He turned his attentions to his own menu. “Hmm,” he looked at Jack, “better not order the rack of lamb. Don’t want to alarm the other diners should our young friend’s passions be ignited at the sight of it and he attempt to launch it into orbit.”
“And you can behave as well, Tris, stop teasing Danny. It isn’t fair, he hasn’t got the measure of you yet.” Jack gave his friend a severe look, but I wasn’t fooled. I could hear the amusement in his voice. I was hurt.
They made their choices and gave their order to the waitress. She looked at me expectantly, pencil poised over pad. I shook my head, “nothing for me thank you. I’m not hungry.” I heard Jack draw a sharp breath. Tristan made a small tutting sound with his tongue, murmuring something about sulky children. The cheek of it, me, childish! I wanted to swing my leg under the table and kick his shin. I wanted to stamp on his toes and pull faces at him and stick out my tongue. I wanted to bounce the condiments off his skull.
The waitress turned to go, but Jack halted her. I watched her knees turn to jelly as he bestowed one of his nicest smiles on her and apologised for messing her about. “He’ll have the fillet of salmon please.”
“I don’t want anything!” I glared at him hotly, “especially not fish.”
“The lemon roast chicken then.” Jack ignored me and gave the order to the waitress who hurried away, suddenly aware of the atmosphere at our table.
I was absolutely furious. If looks could kill, both Jack and Tristan would have been shrivelled blobs on the floor. He might have bloody well ordered for me, but he couldn’t force me to eat it. I drained my glass of wine, steam just about coming out of my ears, and reached for the bottle to refresh it. To my mortification Jack moved it out of my reach. “You’ve had enough on an empty stomach, sweetheart, you’ll end up with one of your migraines. Have another one when your meal arrives.”
I was shaking with the effort of keeping my temper in control. My face felt as if it were on fire. How could Jack treat me like this in front of Tristan? It was humiliating. He had let his nasty friend bait me non-stop and to add insult to injury had been amused by it. He had taken away my dignified attempts at protest by ordering lunch against my wishes, and now he was refusing to let me have a drink. He was treating me like a fractious child. It was just too bloody much! I rose to my feet.
“Where are you going?”
“To the toilet,” I snarled, “is that permissible, or should I just sit here and piss into my empty wine glass?”
Brown eyes should not be able to convey looks of such glacial proportions, “fine, don’t take all day about it,” his words dropped like ice cubes from his lips.
Locking myself in a toilet cubicle I gave way to a muttered bout of frenzied swearing, followed by a few tears of self-pity. I stayed long enough to let Jack know I was angry and defying him, but not long enough to risk him coming to get me. Splashing my eyes with cold water, I composed myself as best I could and headed back to the table. The sound of Tristan’s oily voice sent my blood pressure edging up the scale again. I stood frozen to the spot; neither of them had heard me approach the little alcove where they were sitting.
“Jack, my dear fellow, don’t take my words amiss. I’m not saying he’s without his charms. I’m just remarking that your young padawan has rather an attitude on him, to say the very least.”
“He’s just unsure of himself and a bit hot tempered, Tris. He’ll manage it better as he matures. He’s really very, very sweet when you get to know him, and kind and amusing.”
“I admire your fortitude, Jack. Personally speaking, if he were mine, I’d think seriously about investing in a good solid hairbrush, or a sturdy paddle. Young men like him need to know who’s in charge.”
It was un-fucking-believable! Was there a soul in the universe who DIDN’T have a desire to smack my arse? I spotted our waitress making her way over carrying two plates. I approached her, smiling.
“Are they for our table?”
She nodded and I relieved her of them. “I’ll take them for you, save your legs.” She smiled her appreciation.
Both Jack and Tristan looked surprised as I advanced on the table carrying two plates, but not as surprised as they looked when I ‘accidentally’ tripped, depositing a plateful of goulash into Tristan’s immaculate napkin draped lap. He leapt to his feet with a screech of fright and horror, dripping gravy everywhere. The waitress came hurrying over to attend to him.
I was still riding high on a malicious tide of pleasure when we dropped Tristan back home, though I made a show of once again apologising to him for my ‘clumsiness’ as he got out of the car. He didn’t so much as spare me a glance. Jack compensated by freezing me with a glare as he got out to follow Tristan. I took the opportunity to take my rightful place in the front of the car.
When Jack returned he was carrying a long cardboard box. I wondered what it could be, but didn’t dare ask. The atmosphere in the car on the drive home was heavy, to say the least. I tried once to speak, but was told to be quiet in a way that didn’t encourage argument. My buttocks developed the equivalent of a posterior form of St Vitus dance, twitching and clenching nervously as we neared home and the reality of what I’d done began to sink in.
As soon as the car pulled up on the drive I reached for the door. “I think I’ll just pop in and see how Lily is. It’s cold today, she might be hypothermic or something,” my voice sounded like it belonged to a boy chorister, so high had it risen.
“Stay right where you are, Daniel Macintyre. We’ve got things to discuss.” Getting out of the car Jack walked briskly around to my side and sternly held open the door. I gulped and made to climb out, my foot knocking against the box that Jack had been given by Tristan. Seeking to distract him, I snatched it up, “this looks interesting, what is it?” This time my clumsiness was for real. I dropped the box and it fell from my hands clattering onto the drive. My eyes grew big and round and my heart hammered, as they took in the object that spilled out. It was the largest wooden hairbrush I had ever seen in my life.
Jack bent and retrieved the hairbrush, slowly straightening up with it in his hand. We stood silently staring at each other. For a moment it was like the film High Noon. Only, unlike Gary Cooper, aka Marshall Will Kane, this boy wasn’t too proud to run. I’m sure as hell that had Kane been faced with a menacing Lee Van Cleef wielding a hairbrush, he’d have buggered off pretty sharpish too. I shot to Jack’s left, crossing the lawn like an Olympic sprinter on steroids, hurdle jumping the fence and making off down the street.
I kept running, imagining I could hear his footsteps behind me. My arse would be done for if he caught me. A car drew up on the opposite side of the road. The driver attracted my attention with a piercing wolf whistle. I hurled myself across the road. Ally already had the front passenger door open. I barely had time to slam the door closed before she thrust the car into gear and took off.
“Looks like I arrived in the nick of time, Danny my boy.” She grinned, giving a jaunty wave to a furious faced Jack as we drove wildly by.
I took a deep breath, hastily fastening my seatbelt as she took a corner on two wheels. “Where the heck did you spring from?”
“Heaven by the look on your face when you saw me. I was on my way to your house actually. What have you done to upset Jack? He looked livid.” She suddenly blasted the car horn like a woman possessed. “Gerrof the frigging road!”
I had a brief glimpse of two terrified male faces, as they hurled themselves to safety.
“Bloody idiots, standing in the middle of the road like that!”
“Ally,” I wailed, “they were on a pedestrian crossing for God’s sake, and it was on green.”
Suddenly Jack and his huge hairbrush seemed like a soft option. I gripped the seat with one hand and the door handle with the other, offering silent, but impassioned prayers to St. Christopher. I didn’t care whether he was no longer on the ‘A’ list of Saints, he was the only one I knew that catered for travellers, so he’d do for me.”
“Danny,” she crunched the gears in a way that would have brought tears to the eyes of a kwik fit fitter. “You and I are going to have a little bit of fun without our anally retentive partners putting the mockers on things. The night is young, you’re even younger and I’m severely challenged in the maturity stakes. We are going to ROCK!”
She gave me one of her mad smiles and suddenly I was laughing, the tension of the afternoon giving way to a heady mixture of relief and teenage rebellion. I relegated Jack, his large implement and the impending doom of my backside to the back burner of memory, willingly allowing my sister’s euphoria to carry me along.
The Jack And Danny Chronicles
6: The Snake Pit
“Where are we going, Al?” Wherever it was I hoped it was close. My nerves couldn’t take much more of her driving. I closed my eyes as she kangaroo jumped the car through a junction causing other traffic to brake and swerve.
“To a place I used to know called The Snake Pit. Call it a trip down memory lane. A journey of rediscovery, at least it will be for me. You can come along for the ride. You might even enjoy it. Jack’s a grand man, he’ll always be there for you, but don’t forget you’re only a kid. Enjoy yourself while you can, cos one of these days, brother of mine, it all ends and you realise that in the great scheme of things you’re a nobody who’s done nowt with their life except get married to the first man that asked.”
She sounded suddenly bitter and I felt some of my excitement die. “Is everything all right with Den?” I asked, unhappy with this continuing rift in their relationship.
“Yeah, he’s as perfect as ever, at least in his own and his toffee nosed cow of a mother’s estimation. Whereas I, apparently, am a bad influence on my own children.”
I winced as the car engine made another noise of tortured protest. It would never recover from this excursion, I was sure of it. Den would have to have it shot. “Sounds like Sunday lunch was as eventful for you as for me. I’ll tell you about mine, if you’ll tell me about yours.”
She mercifully parked the car in a pub car park and we traded sympathies about humourless, overbearing partners. Al heard me out and agreed that indeed Jack should not have forced another run in with Tristan so soon after the last. I didn’t mention the hairbrush, not wanting to believe it myself. Jack had never used anything but his hand to chastise my bottom, and that stung more than enough, thank you very much. Now thanks to that interfering prat Tristan my chances of being able to sit comfortably for Christmas looked slim. Al told me her grievances…
“.... and I mean, kids love those kind of rhymes don’t they? How was I to know she’d invited the vicar, as well as us for lunch? I didn’t tell Adam to recite the flaming poem at the dinner table. She really upset the poor baby with her carrying on. The vicar wasn’t much better. He looked at Adam as if he were the Anti-Christ. He’s only four and a half for God’s sake; he was just sharing something he thought was fun. It was a silly rhyme about a bogey and that straight-laced old bat acted as if he’d pissed in the gravy boat.”
We had stopped outside a pub called The Talbot. It looked fairly ordinary, if not downright dull. There was little sign of life. “I didn’t know you got off on playing dominoes and darts,” I stared at the pubs dowdy exterior in disappointment, “and I thought you said it was called The Snake Pit?”
“I don’t and it is.” Alison dragged me through the door and thrust me towards a flight of stairs, “we’re heading for the basement.”
I sniffed as we descended the steps, neatly side stepping a pool of vomit that someone had carelessly left lying around, “what’s that smell, Ally, apart from sick?”
She gave me a slightly withering look, “you are such a child, Danny.”
Charming I thought, and that from Madam Maturity. What is it they say, childhood is but a passing phase, but childishness can last forever? We reached the bottom of the stairs and she pushed open the black double doors. An incredible wave of noise rolled out to greet us. The place was heaving. I felt immediately self-conscious as dozens of eyes swivelled in our direction. Jeez, these people were not pretty. I’d never seen so much iron mongery dangling from so many different parts of the human anatomy. I was, I confess, a bit scared and pressed closer to my sister, whispering, “it’s a bit of a dive, Ally?”
“Actually,” she gazed through the blue smoky atmosphere with a practised eye. “They’ve smartened it up since the last time I was here.”
Oh God! I gulped as a biker, a huge specimen, slowly detached itself from the throng and lumbered towards us. Panic surged through my veins. We were obviously trespassing on the local Hells Angels hallowed turf. We were dead! I did my noble and manly duty, stepping in front of Alison to protect her.
“Back off, Danny,” she shoved me roughly aside, her eyes fixed on the leather-clad mountain that was bearing down on us with increased speed.
“Alison? Ally Macintyre? My God!” The giant whooped, plucked her off her feet and swung her round. She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him. Dennis would not have approved. They finally broke for air and he set her on her feet again. He held at her arms length and stared at her hard. “It’s so good to see you. I thought you were dead.”
Alison gave a squeal of laughter, “not dead exactly, just ex-directory. I felt a sudden yen to be listed again.” She grabbed me and dragged me forward. “Georgie, I’d like you to meet my baby brother, Danny. He’s one of your lot.”
I winced and tried not to stumble as a huge paw gave me a friendly slap on the shoulder, wondering what she meant by ‘one-of-your-lot.’ I had never even ridden pillion on a motorbike, let alone owned one. Then I took a proper look round. “Ally, Ally,” I plucked at her sleeve, hissing in her ear, “this is a gay bar.”
She looked at me scathingly, “duoh, nothing escapes your razor sharp intellect does it?”
She can be a right bitch my sister.
The giant was looking me up and down with renewed interest. I blushed.
“Cute, very cute,” he playfully patted my head, and then turned back to Ally. “I’m with someone now though, come and say hello.”
Tucking Alison’s arm through his with a touching courtesy that was slightly at odds with his appearance he escorted her across the packed room. I followed in their wake trying not to stare too hard. The pubs and bars I usually frequented were nothing like this. It was the gayest place I’d ever been to outside of a Pride March. It was a cross between The Rocky Horror Show and the bar scene from Star Wars where Luke meets Han Solo for the first time. There were some odd-looking creatures here, male, female and whatever. How the hell was my straight sister acquainted with it? Dennis definitely wouldn’t approve. I’m not sure I did.
Georgie’s boyfriend turned out to be a quiet willowy blonde called Peter who looked as if he might be more at home in a church than this den of iniquity. He obviously adored the big biker. His eyes barely left the man’s face. Alison seemed perfectly at home. In fact she was like a queen holding court and thriving on it, cheeks flushed, eyes sparkling as she renewed acquaintances from the past.
My curiosity grew and grew. No wonder my announcing (at the age of sixteen) that I suspected I was gay had not fazed her. Actually, I’d been bloody disappointed with her reaction. I’d struggled with the whole thing for over a year (yeah, so I was a late developer) tortured over my inability to be sexually attracted to girls. I’d tried, I’d really tried, buying lad mags full of busty beauties to try and encourage the man downstairs to take an interest, but he just looked with his one eye and then turned away. Danny, you daft bugger, she had said as I wept and agonised, get a grip, you’re gay not terminally ill.
A shattering scream in my left lug almost made me loose bladder control. I was shouldered roughly aside as something in pink leather launched itself at Alison and clamped its mouth to hers. Dennis would have died. I was a bit agog myself.
“Darling,” the apparition released its suction hold on Ally’s tonsils and spoke in a breathy voice, “I knew you’d eventually realise where your true leanings lay.”
Alison recovered her breath, rearranged her clothing and grinned, “Libby, you lunatic, it’s good to see you, and no, I haven’t come out. I was never in to come out. My brother is out thought –Danny-Libby, Libby-Danny.”
The pink apparition looked disappointed. “Bummer, haven’t you got any sisters waiting in the closet?” Then she smiled and held out her hand, “only kidding. Nice to meet you, Danny.” She turned back to Ally, “what brings you back here after all this time? Rumours were...”
Georgie interrupted, “trust you to get straight to the point, Libby. I was hoping to work up to it a little more subtly and we’ve already done the heard you were dead bit.” He turned to his boyfriend, “Peter, why don’t you go and introduce Danny to some of the younger crowd. I’m sure he doesn’t want to sit listening to us oldies all night.”
“Speak for yourself darling,” Libby tossed back her pink and blonde hair, the dozen or so earrings in her left ear tinkling musically, “age is a state of mind.”
“Which makes you about six, Barbie girl,” Georgie smiled at her sweetly.
“Hark at Mr time warp man. Rebel without a clue.”
“Nice to see you two getting along better,” said Ally.
Peter dragged himself from his lover’s side with obvious reluctance. I looked anxiously at Ally. “Go and have some fun, Danny. I know they look a weird crew, but they’re okay when you get to know them. Put a block on the Jack wouldn’t approve thoughts. I’ve got my Dennis shields up.”
She obviously wanted some space of her own so I cleared off.
Peter introduced me to a few of his friends and after a pint or two I began to relax. A wiry, bearded guy with more piercings than a colander requested the pleasure of my company on the dance floor. Actually, he just grabbed my hand and said, ‘we’re dancing.’ I didn’t like to dissuade him of his intentions. Besides, it had been ages since I’d had the opportunity to dance. Jack was not one of life’s natural movers and shakers. He was much too reserved. In fact I suspected that Lily might well put in a better performance than him on the dance floor. He would not approve of this place that was for sure, in fact he’d hate it. He wasn’t a scene kind of man at all. I banished a mental image of a hairbrush contacting milky white buttocks and threw myself enthusiastically into being nineteen and having fun. Play now, pay later had always been my philosophy, hey I’m one of the credit card generation.
In the conversation stakes, Simeon, as my dance partner turned out to be called, was a cross between the naked chef, Jamie Oliver: (awrite mate, yeah, pukker) and Trevor MacDonald without an autocue (umm, err, are we on air?) However, he could dance, boy could he dance. I gave myself up to the moment. I love to dance and even if I do say so myself, I’m good. My smaller stature was an advantage on the dance floor, short people move better, look at Wayne Sleep. It felt good to expel some energy.
After a handful of songs I decided a break was in order, moving back to the table where Alison and her friends were sitting. She looked suspiciously as if she’d been crying. “Are you okay, Al?”
“She’s fine.” Libby and Georgie (slightly impeded by the lover entwined about his person) spoke in unison, moving protectively in towards her.
“Fine,” she smiled weakly, “are you having a good time?”
I nodded. I was having a good time. No deep and serious conversation, plenty of loud music, and not a hairbrush in sight.
Georgie undraped his boyfriend and sent him off to get a round of drinks in. Alison nodded after him. “He’s sweet, Georgie, at ease with himself, entirely the opposite of Michael. I’m glad you found someone else. How long have you been together?”
Libby answered for him, “nearly two years, darling and he’s been a complete bore the whole time, absolutely no fun at all.”
Georgie pulled a face at her, “you’re just jealous because your relationships never last longer than a few weeks.”
Simeon nudged me. “What is it?” I reached out to take one of the small white pills he was offering me. Suddenly a huge paw shot past me, and Simeon gasped with pain as his wrist was viciously gripped.
“He doesn’t,” growled Georgie menacingly. “ You understand me, boy, he doesn’t and while you’re in his company neither do you. Am I making myself clear?”
Simeon quickly nodded. He got up and mumbled something about going to the lavatory. Georgie glared after him, a look of real fury on his face, in fact he made as if to get up and follow, but both Peter and Libby pulled him back down. I hastily tried to diffuse the situation. “I’m not into drugs, I wouldn’t have taken them. I just wondered what they were. Besides, judging from the way he dances I’d say it was harmless; probably only E.”
“That’s besides the point,” snapped Georgie, turning blazing eyes on me, “and for your information, kid, when it comes to drugs there’s no such words as ‘only’ and ‘harmless.’ Drugs, whatever they’re called, are bad news.”
“What about alcohol?” I asked, slightly needled by his tone, “that’s a drug and I don’t notice you being too righteous to refuse that, and half the people in here must be smoking Ma...”
Peter suddenly metamorphosed into a real person instead of an extension of the biker. He grabbed my hand, “let’s dance, I like Travis.” He hauled me towards the dance floor. I was too surprised to protest. He glared at me. “You got a death wish or something? Don’t talk back to Georgie, specially on the subject of drugs, not unless you want an anti drugs message branding onto your person in the form of a boot print on your arse.”
“He doesn’t look much like the keeper of the public morals,” I was still bristling.
“He isn’t.” Peter pulled me to one side and hissed, “he’s an ex junkie, like...” he bit his lip. “Anyway, he knows from experience that drugs fuck you up. His first serious boyfriend, Michael, your sister’s best friend incidentally, died from a heroin overdose. So, go easy on him.” He smiled faintly, adding in a dry voice, “what is it they say? Hell hath no fury like a junkie converted.”
I warmed to Peter properly for the first time, the little quip of humour giving him a personality that had hitherto been hidden under his quiet, biker-besotted demeanour. He was about my own age I guessed, maybe a year or two older. It turned out he was twenty-three and he’d met Georgie in very inauspicious circumstances: unconscious and face down in a pool of his own vomit. Georgie had fished him out of it and taken him under his wing and straightened him out, so to speak.
I plucked up nerve to ask the question that was occupying the back of my mind. “Was my sister a user?”
Peter gave a shrug, “from what Georgie has said about that time in his life, which isn’t much, I would say that the whole group of them were heavily into that scene. They didn’t have much going for them, so they compensated. You’ll have to quiz her. Maybe she doesn’t want to talk about it. I know Georgie would rather pretend it didn’t happen. From what I can glean, she was the youngest in the squat they shared and exceptionally close to Michael. They’d been brought up in the same children’s home, didn’t have an easy time, and turned to each other as well as other stuff for support. Kids like them are easy targets for the pushers.”
We returned to the table and I sat quietly, drinking and only half listening to the conversation, my mind busy dwelling on this unknown portion of Alison’s life. Had she really been a heroin addict? I couldn’t believe it. Suddenly the magic mushroom incident, when I was fourteen, made sense. I read up about them and persuaded a mate to experiment with me. We got stoned out of our heads. It was the weirdest experience and I bragged about it to Alison. She betrayed me to Dennis. I had been devastated. I thought she’d laugh it off, but she didn’t. He was a very strict surrogate parent was Dennis and he expressed his disapproval of my behaviour in a way that left me unwilling to sit down for some while after. I’d been angry with her then and I was angry with her now. Why hadn’t she told me? I was hurt that she saw fit to withhold things like this from me, things that I had a right to know. At least I thought I had a right to know them.
Alison nudged me, saying, “you’ve got a face like an undertaker’s dog. Cheer up for God’s sake.”
I made a non-committal noise. She reached for my hand and squeezed it, “I’ll tell you a story sometime, but not here, not now. It wasn’t a good time, Danny and at the moment I just want to have fun. Let’s both have fun while we’re still able.” She winked, and I smiled. Jack was right, it was her past and it was for her to decide when and how much of it she shared.
Travis once again blared from the loud speakers and she began singing loudly “‘the grass is always greener on the other side, neighbour’s gotta new car that you wanna drive...’”
We all joined in, “‘time is running out you wanna stay alive...’”
I couldn’t help wondering how long I was likely to stay alive after Jack got his hands on me.
Simeon made a fresh appearance and I went off to dance with him. It was fun, and then he spoiled it. “No-Simeon-I’m sorry,” I backed off as he tried to kiss me, while brushing an exploratory hand against my crotch. “I’ve enjoyed dancing with you, but I’m with someone. I didn’t mean to give the impression...”
“I don’t want to marry you, I just want a fuck. We can go in the toilets.” He pulled me harder against his body and I struggled. He was a lot stronger than he looked and I began to panic slightly. Pushing him off was an effort. “I said NO. Fuck off Simeon, I mean it!” Anger suddenly flashed across his face. He snarled some unattractive names at me then lashed out. If I’d drank less my reflexes would have been better, as it was the punch caught me hard in the face and I flew backwards with blood pouring from a split lip.
Georgie quickly stepped in, heaving Simeon off me and shaking him by the scruff of the neck like a rat. I managed to deter the angry biker from turning him inside out. “Partly my fault,” I mumbled tearfully, pressing the back of my hand to my lip to stem the flow of blood. “I probably did give the wrong impression, didn’t mean to.”
“Listen, kid,” Georgie helped me back to the table. “No means no, in any circumstances and that hyped up little shit is just going to have to learn to take disappointment in his stride.”
The night had turned sour, my lip throbbed and I felt suddenly unwell. Drinking pint after pint on an empty stomach had done me no favours. I suddenly felt as drunk as a skunk, absolutely stinking! Alison was as slaughtered as I was, certainly in no state to drive us home. Georgie demanded her car keys and Libby got Den’s number from her and went off to make a telephone call. Peter got me some ice from the bar to put against my lip.
“You’ve been blooded,” he smiled in that dry way of his, “you’re a fully accepted member of The Snake Pit now.”
I tried to smile, but it hurt too much.
Libby returned and informed Ally that she’d contacted Dennis and he was on his way. “I can’t wait to see what manner of man distracted you from my charms, darling.”
“Give it up, Libby, it was never going to happen,” Alison blew her a tipsy kiss.
I slumped against Alison, the conversation floating above my head, or was I floating above my head? She suddenly stiffened. “Jesus,” she slurred, “it’s the Blues Brothers-only they ain’t singing and dancing.”
I managed to persuade my eyes to focus in the direction she was looking. It hadn’t occurred to me that Dennis would contact Jack. The two of them were marching across the bar with the air of men about to invade a small country. Jack’s face, as he took in the scene around him, was a picture of bemusement. It didn’t help that the music playing as they came in was ‘Chop Suey’ by System Of A Down; definitely not a song for the faint hearted or ballad inclined. He winced as if he were being assaulted with a blunt instrument. I mentally echoed the raucous, yet strangely melodic, singer’s sentiments. ‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit.’
“Nice,” Peter gave me a nudge, “which one is yours then?”
“The one with a face like the wrath of God.” I swallowed and intoned solemnly, “if I should die think only this of me, that there’s some corner of a foreign bar that is forever Danny.”
Peter nodded appreciatively, “ah, I too used to fantasise about Rupert Brooke.”
“Who’s this Rupert Brooke then?” Georgie looked indignant, “you’ve never mentioned him before.”
“Don’t worry, sweetheart,” Peter kissed his boyfriend’s cheek, “he’s no competition. He’s been dead since 1915. He’ll be a bit rank by now.”
Georgie looked baffled and we collapsed into giggles.
I had a vague impression of introductions and then the cool air of the outside world as we exited the building. Dennis recovered the keys from Georgie, carried my already sleeping, possibly even unconscious, sister to their car and then I was alone with a tall dark handsome...iceberg. The outside air wasn’t the only thing that was cool. “I lub you Jack,” I tried to reach up to hug his neck, both of them.
“Save it, Daniel,” Jack lightly swatted my bottom, unwrapped my arms, ducked my head into the car and closed the passenger side door with a brisk note.
My bubble burst completely as we headed home and the alcohol I’d consumed stopped romancing my, ‘isn’t everything a lark,’ nerves and starting poking at my, ‘you’ve drank too much, you idiot, and you’re going to be really ill,’ nerves. “Jack. I’m gonna be sick!” I felt obliged to state my position.
“Not in my car, Daniel, not if you want to live to be twenty.” His voice held no trace of sympathy.
I stated the obvious, as drunks are wont to do, “you’re cross with me aren’t you?”
“Aaah dooon’t feeel too good, Jack. Ah’m not well at all.” Once home I embraced the toilet bowl like a lover, mainly to try and stop it spinning around. I then began barphing a symphony into the receptive ear of armitage shanks. Those operatic associates of drunks everywhere, Hughie (soprano) and George (bass tenor) made their appearance. “HUUGGHHIIEEE,” my stomach rose majestically into my throat, “geooorrrge,” I rammed my head down the U-bend as the contents spewed out through my mouth. They performed a few more Arias each before leaving me whimpering miserably on the bathroom floor. “Oh God,” I moaned as Jack patiently wiped my sweating face with a cool cloth. “I’m dying, Jack, I’m dying.”
“Believe me, Daniel, you’re far from dead.” He made me drink copious amounts of water, carefully tended to my lip that due to the antics of my stomach had started oozing blood again, and then began stripping my clothes off. “We’ll discuss, in very close detail, the exact terms of your demise when you’ve sobered up.” He administered an extremely sharp smack to my bare backside, one that even my alcohol-numbed nerves acknowledged as painful. Then he scooped me up into his arms and took me to bed, where I fell at once in to the sleep slept only by the innocent and the totally paralytic.
Copyright Material Cat/Fabian Black 2013
Also available at All Romance Ebooks and Smashwords, as well as Rainbow Ebooks