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Oh shit. This is bad. This is REALLY fucking bad.

“What the fuck, Nick?”

My whole body is going into a panic. Because Alfie is standing in front of me, for some reason dressed as The Incredible Hulk, and he just caught me with Mason the Hot Muscle Daddy. I.e. the guy our coach, Jason Fox, is seeing. In fact, I’m pretty sure he just caught us kissing.

I just stand there, frozen to the spot. Unable to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to say. I knew agreeing to let Mason come around to the flat on my lunch break was a mistake. I had a feeling something bad was going to happen.

“You’re shagging Jason’s boyfriend?”

My insides clench like a vice.

“They’re not boyfriends,” I protest, my voice wobbling.

“Nick - Jason told me literally two hours ago that Andy is his boyfriend.”

My heart drops into my stomach. That can’t be true, can it? Mason told me what they have isn’t serious. That they're both so busy at the moment but are going to review things after the Tiger Classic North West Championships are done. Could things have changed since Mason told me that? Or was Mason just bullshitting me so I’d carry on shagging him?

“They’re just … casual,” I say. But I’m not so sure.

Alfie gives me a look. “And that makes it okay?” 

I swallow, not knowing what to say. Despite what’s going on. Despite the fact I’m internally panicking, I can’t help but think how hot Alfie looks as The Hulk. His painted green abs and pecs begging for the attention of my eyes. His big arse nestled into these hot little cut-off denim shorts.

Alfie's expression suddenly hardens. He makes a scoffing noise and walks into the kitchen. I instinctively follow him.

“Nick - what are you doing?" he says, spinning around to face me again.

I’ve never seen Alfie like this. He seems fucking pissed.

"Jason’s your coach!”

“I know!” I groan, covering up my face with a hand. “I didn’t KNOW they were together. I mean … not until Jason’s birthday meal.”

“Right …”

I explain to Alfie how I met Mason at Utopia the night I came round to view the flat. How I saw him a few times before I found out he and Jason were a thing.

“So … did you not think to put a stop to it when you found out?”

I swallow hard. “I tried.”

Alfie narrows his eyes at me. Like he’s trying to figure something out. “Looks like you tried really hard!”

My stomach clenches.

“Wait - what about Curtis?”

I shake my head. “There’s nothing going on. We were just playing a sort of joke on you. To get you back for setting us up the way you did.”

Something flickers across Alfie’s face. “Oh,” he says, more softly. I can't work out his expression. 

“But, Nick … Jason’s your coach. And you’re … doing this behind his back?”

I knew this was wrong. But now that it’s out in the open. Now that Alfie knows. Now that someone else is actually spelling it out for me, it’s really starting to hit home just how bad this situation is. No matter how good it feels with Mason. No matter how exciting it is when he sends me those texts out of the blue. When I go around to see him. When I’m just being with him. It’s still bad. All of this is still so wrong.

“And you know Jason’s one of my best friends?”

I feel a jolt of panic.

“Are you going to tell him?”

Alfie gives me a look and scoffs. “Is that all you care about?”

I feel like everything’s unravelling before me. My friendship with Alfie. My relationship with Jason. The life I’ve started to build here in Manchester since I moved here. Is it all about to slip through my fingers? 

Alfie suddenly goes more stony-faced than ever. “What if it was me?”

I swallow. “What do you mean?”

“What if the rumours were true? What if I really was bisexual? What if you found out Andy was MY boyfriend? Would you carry on shagging him behind my back?”

I feel my insides are caving in. “No! I mean - I wouldn’t.”

But by the look on Alfie’s face, he doesn't seem convinced.

“Is this just … all an act?” 


“Sweet, naive Nick who’s too embarrassed to flex in front of the Muscle Factory bull and yet he sticks his tongue out on stage? Who won’t wear his pink trunks at the gym but who wears them when he competes?”

I feel like I've been winded. How can Alfie say these things to me?

“Are you just the world’s greatest actor?”

“Alfie. I’m not …” but I stop because I don’t know how to finish that sentence. Alfie huffs and looks down at his green-painted body. 

“I need to wash this shit off,” he says. And then, without another word, he walks out of the room. I don’t know what the fuck just happened. A part of me wants to follow Alfie. To scream at him. To tell him this IS who I really am. That I’m exactly the person he thinks I am. Except … I’m clearly not. I check the time on my phone. I need to get back to the office straight away. 

But when I’m back at work, I struggle to concentrate on anything for the rest of the day. Alfie’s words are echoing in my head on a loop. Should I text him? I hate the thought that he’s now questioning how genuine I am. That our friendship, this awesome thing the two of us have built up since I moved in is being threatened. And I can’t stop thinking about what he said about Mason being Jason's boyfriend. At one point I open up my text app and type the words “Is Jason your boyfriend?” but I chicken out of sending it and delete the words instead.

My stomach is churning when I get home that night. Has Alfie told Danny King what I’ve been doing? Am I about to walk in to find the two of them telling me that not only am I a shit wannabe of a bodybuilder but I’m also an awful fucking person and that neither of them wants me in the flat and they certainly don’t want to be mates with me any more?

But Danny casually says, “All right” to me when I walk into the lounge as the two of them are casually sitting on the sofa. My stomach churns when I see Alfie. He doesn’t say hello. Or make eye contact with me. He WON’T make eye contact with me. And as I head into the kitchen to prep a meal, Alfie stands up and casually walks out of the room without saying a word.

By the time Saturday morning comes, Alfie still hasn’t spoken to me. I feel a sharp panic when I reach for my phone on my bedside table and see a text from Jason Fox waiting for me. But he’s just reminding me that I’ll need to stay with him for longer today as we’re doing some posing practice after our usual Saturday training together and then taking my progress pics (Alfie’s blue trunks haven't left my gym backpack for weeks). So I guess Alfie hasn’t told Jason what he saw the other day. Unless he actually has. Oh God. What if he has? What if Jason knows and he's waiting to see me so he can confront me to my face?

I’m pulled from my thoughts by a knock on my bedroom door. A rush of hope courses through me. That it’s Alfie wanting to make up. Willing to hear me out. I feel a heady rush when my door opens to the image of Danny King looking like an absolute fucking tank (and hotter than he ever has) in a white vest clutching a parcel.

“Parcel for you, mate!” he says waving it about. “From Iron Tiger Trunks?” He smirks and raises an eyebrow. His hair is all ruffled and unstyled and sticking out at the side. He. Looks. SO. Fucking. Cute.

“Oh!” I say, sitting up in bed and feeling mildly embarrassed at Danny King seeing me first thing in the morning under my duvet in the white vest I sleep in.

“Finally ordered them, then?” Danny says, throwing the parcel on my bed. But instead of going back out of my room, he shuts the door and starts walking towards my bed. What. Is. Happening?

“Let’s see ‘em then,” he quips, as he (gently) sits down on my mattress and I scoot my legs over to make room for him. Danny King is on my bed again! Bulging out of a white vest. His massive thick arms and brutal boiler shoulders right there. And I’m still in bed. Wearing nothing but the vest I sleep in and my day-old boxers. Oh - and I’m swelling instantly. I’ve got a full-on stonk on. How the fuck could I not when huge, hot, oh-so-handsome Danny King with his cute messy just-out-of-bed hair is sitting right there on my bed?

I start ripping into the parcel, smiling and excited at what’s happening here. I unpack the black classic trunks which are admittedly shinier than I had imagined they’d be and hold them up. I look at Danny and screw my face up.

Danny laughs. “What?”

I smirk and shrug. He knows what.

“They’re standard classic physique trunks, Nick. What were you expecting?”

I don’t tell him that seeing and holding a new, fresh-out-of-the-packet pair of posing trunks (PROPER bodybuilder’s posing trunks) is normally both exciting AND fucking horny. Two things I’m definitely not feeling with this particular pair.

“They’re not THAT different from regular trunks,” Danny reasons as he picks them up. “Just … with much bigger straps.”

“Mmmm. I would never wear black trunks, though.”

“You'll barely wear your pink trunks either,” he teases. I sheepishly smirk and he knowingly grins back at me. My heart flutters.

“I’m, erm … doing some posing practice today. With Jason.”

Danny’s mouth curls into an excited grin. “Very cool. And now you can wear your new trunks.”

I screw my face up and he laughs again.

“Did you, erm … think any more about what I said? About telling Jason you wanna do the regular junior class as well as classic physique?”

I feel a jolt of excitement at the prospect of doing just that. I shake my head and bite my lip.

“You should. I mean … the worst thing he can do is advise you not to do it. I doubt he’d be offended by the suggestion or anything.”

No - just by the fact that I’m also shagging the guy he’s been seeing. Who he apparently described as his boyfriend the other day.

Danny looks at my bedroom door, and then back to me. His expression turns a little serious. “Is there something going on with you and Alfie?”

Oh God. My stomach tightens.

“No,” I lie. Because what else can I do? “Why?” I ask, feeling a stab of guilt for lying.

“Just … thought I sensed a bit of an atmosphere the other day.”

I swallow hard and don’t reply. “Well, good luck with posing practice. And enjoy your new trunks!” Danny teases with a smirk. I feel a tug of disappointment as he stands up from my bed. He looks back at me with a teasing grin. “World’s most reluctant classic physique competitor!” 

The comment takes me back a bit but I find myself smiling anyway as Danny leaves my bedroom. I hold up my new classic physique trunks that have now been touched by Danny King (surely making them worth something on eBay?). I guess Danny’s right. They’re not THAT different from regular posing trunks.

My stomach is churning when I’m at The Muscle Factory, changed for today’s session and walking up to Jason Fox on the gym floor. (What if he DOES know about me and Mason?) But his mouth curls into his usual, warm, friendly smile when he sees me. There’s absolutely nothing different about Jason’s demeanour or behaviour today. Which leads me to conclude that Alfie hasn’t said anything. Which makes me hopeful that things can be salvaged between me and Alfie. And that Jason doesn’t know. Unless Alfie got it wrong and it’s actually Jason Fox who is the world’s best actor.

It’s only when I’ve stopped worrying about the whole Jason thing and started my training that I have a sudden thought - where exactly is this posing practice taking place? The thought of posing in front of all these massive lads and bodybuilders on the gym floor fills me with dread. I only have the nerve to ask Jason the question after he’s taken my usual weekly progress pics in Alfie’s blue trunks in the changing rooms. 

“Are we, erm … doing the practice posing in the gym?” I ask, my stomach twisting.

“Nope,” Jason says. “For that, we need to go on a little detour. To Bolton.”

“Oh right,” I say, surprised.

“Don’t look so scared, Nick,” Jason says with a kind smile. “We’re going to see my mate, Big Si. He knows what he’s doing in terms of posing. He’s something of an expert.”

“Are we going to another gym then?” I ask Jason when we’re in his car. 

“No. Just to Big Si’s house. I tried to get him out to The Muscle Factory but he’s got stuff on today.”

Thank God for that, I think. He tells me that Big Si (a name I strangely love) is a personal trainer, ex-competitive bodybuilder and co-owns Pitbull Gym in Bolton. From his name alone, I’m imagining Big Si to be some terrifying mountain of man muscle. Probably bald with tattoos on his face.

“Alfie says you’ve been having night sweats?”

“Erm. Yeah. A bit,” I reply, wondering what else Alfie has said about me to Jason.

My coach gives me an ominous grin. “You CAN talk to me about the bad stuff too, Nick. It just means you’re doing it right.”

I feel embarrassed and give him a sheepish grin. God - Jason is SO nice. I feel a sharp stab of guilt. Should I quiz him about Mason? Maybe try and get some clarity on whether they actually are boyfriends? No. I can’t do that. I’m terrified I might say or do something that would give me away. 

As predicted, Jason’s friend, Big S is an absolute tank of a bodybuilder. With a bald head and brute-ish looks. He doesn’t have tattoos on his face but he does have them on his neck. And most other places from what I can see. 

But there’s no time to even feel nervous because, before I know it, I’m standing in Big Si’s conservatory stripped down to my borrowed blue trunks and he’s taking me through my poses. Apparently, he’s coached a bunch of local classic physique lads. A few to winning their shows and classes so he clearly knows his stuff. 

He explains how the posing in classic physique is often more arty and graceful but my ears prick up and I feel a jolt of excitement when Big Si tells me that during the posedown I can do what the fuck I like, let rip and tear up the stage as if I were in a regular bodybuilder class.

“You can belt out those crab most musculars, lad. Really show off those awesome traps you’ve got.”

My chest flutters at the compliment and I look at Jason, who gives me a warm grin. Then Jason’s phone rings and he leaves the conservatory to take the call.

“You know you’ve got one of the best coaches at The Muscle Factory there?” Big Si says.

I feel another stab of guilt. “I know.” Big Si smiles back at me. And then Jason comes back into the room. Straight away I know that something is wrong. Jason got this weird look on his face. He looks kind of spaced out.

“My mum’s been taken to hospital,” he says, his face pale.

My stomach somersaults.

“Oh shit. Mate - is she alright?” Big Si asks.

“She’s had a bad fall,” he tells us, his voice breaking. “Nick - I’m sorry, mate. I’m gonna have to cut this short.”

“No - it’s … yeah,” I mumble. I don't know what the fuck to do or say.

“Don’t be daft, mate,” Big Si says. “Nick’ll go with you to the hospital,” he says, squeezing my shoulder. "Won't you, lad?"

I swallow and nod at Jason, who doesn’t seem to know what to do with himself.

I don’t know what the hell to say to him when we’re in his car driving back to Manchester. He explains to me that his dad died years ago. That his sister lives down in London. And that his mum doesn’t really have any other living relatives. 

“I really am sorry for cutting the session short, Nick. We’ll reschedule again for in the week. And you don’t have to come to the hospital. I’ll drop you off in town.”

I nod, still not knowing what to say. 

“I never thought something like this would happen. Not to my mum. I know no one’s indestructible. But that’s always how I’ve kind of seen my mum. When I was a kid, I always saw her as like a superhero or something.”

Before I can reply, Jason’s phone chimes with a text. “Sorry, Nick. Could you get that for me?”

I pick up Jason Fox’s phone and my insides clench when I see the name “Andy” on the screen, followed by a text.

“Erm … it’s from Andy?” I say, my voice wobbling. I can’t look at Jason as I read the text telling him he’s stuck at work but will try and get to the hospital. And that he tells him to hang in there and that he hopes he’s okay. It’s such a different tone to the texts Andy Mason sends me. Because of course it is. Because Jason and Mason have an actual relationship. Mason isn't just using Jason for quick sex. God - is that what’s happening here? My stomach churns. 

I swallow hard and put Jason’s phone down. He looks disappointed at the news I've just given him. 

“I can come. To the hospital?”

“You don't have to do that, mate. I’m sure you’ve got better things to do on a Saturday afternoon.”

“It’s fine. I want to.”

Jason looks at me and gives me a warm smile. If only you knew, I think. But whatever I'm doing behind Jason's back, this feels like the right thing to do.

When we get to the hospital, we’re ushered to a waiting room. Jason is so anxious. The doctor finally calls him in and I stay in the waiting room by myself. The weight of what’s happening crushing down on me. All of the ways I thought I’d be spending my Saturday afternoon, this wasn’t it.

I get my phone out. I think about texting Alfie. Maybe telling him what’s going on. But it doesn’t feel like my place to do so. Plus - there’s the whole issue of him being pissed off at me and not speaking to me.

Jason comes out and I stand up. He explains to me that she's broken a few bones. And she needs an operation on her back. But, all things considered, it could be a lot worse. He looks a lot more relaxed than he did earlier. “Thanks again, Nick. For doing this.”

I feel like I want to hug him. His eyes suddenly widen and I look behind me and my stomach fucking somersaults. Because walking towards us is Mason the Hot Muscle Daddy. Dressed in a black leather jacket and ultra-tight jeans. Jesus. I hate how hot he looks right now.

“Hey,” he says to Jason. Emotion washes over Jason’s face and then - Mason walks right up to him and wraps his arms around him in a hug. My whole insides tighten. Seeing the two of them together. Wrapped around each other. It suddenly hits me. They really are properly together. 

“How is she doing?” Mason asks.

Jason relays the news to Mason. "Nick’s been a great help,” he adds.

And now the two of them are looking at me. And the guilt keeps coming. Mason gives me a warm little smile and nods. He doesn’t look awkward or nervous around me. At all. Maybe he's just really good at hiding it. 

“Thanks for looking after him, Nick,” Mason says.

My insides tighten. I feel like the world’s biggest hypocrite. This whole thing feels SO fucking wrong.

“Honestly, mate. You can get off now. You’ve wasted enough of your Saturday with me,” Jason says. “Do you need a lift back?”

I tell him I’m fine and I leave them to it. I walk away, my whole body wracked with shame and guilt. My head is spinning. My stomach is churning. And seeing Jason and Mason together. The way they were together. I fucking hated that. And I think I now know what I need to do.  

As soon as I get home and in my room, I get my phone out and text Mason. A simple text. 

Hey. I don't think we should see each other any more. I'm not sure it's fair to Jason. Sorry.

As soon as I hit send this wave of relief washes through me. Because I know this is the right thing to do. For so long I wasn’t doing that. For so long I was doing completely the wrong thing. By continuing to see Mason even after I knew he had a thing with Andy. 

And yeah, it feels shit. Yes, there's a part of me that's sad that whatever me and Mason had is over. That still thinks there's maybe a chance that me and him could be more than just hot sex. And yes, there's a part of me that still wants to carry on going around to Mason's flat whenever he decides to send me urgent texts calling me his "best boy" and demanding I go around there straight away to fuck his stupidly hot brains out. But I can’t do that anymore. Not after what happened today. Not after seeing Jason like that. Not after seeing the two of them together.

Maybe now this whole Mason thing is over, what I need now is some kind of normality. I can concentrate on training for the Tiger Classic North West. Maybe get my friendship with Alfie back on track. 

Maybe right now some normality is exactly what I need.

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Of course, very well-written, MA, especially the way you handled Nick's learning a few things about the value of relationships.  We know it's from Nick's POV, but Mason's guilt hasn't been shown yet!  Does he feel any?  Certainly his part in the shagging is a much greater betrayal of Jason. 

Upcoming chapters will play out just where this wonderful story is going with this and other interesting issues!

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17 hours ago, Ozymandias said:

So when are Nick and Danny having their first kiss?

About ten seconds before Nick wakes up in a sticky wet patch?

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I’m almost entirely convinced that whoever invented the polo shirt was either someone who had a thing for muscle guys or a bodybuilder himself who just wanted to show off how big his arms and pecs are.

I hold up my phone, bring up my right forearm, flex my biceps and take a shot of the muscles bulging around the sleeve of the tight red material of my polo shirt. I think about sticking my tongue but I just give a cheeky smirk into the mirror instead. I head to Instagram and upload the picture with a caption.

It just took me twenty minutes to squeeze into this polo shirt and it’ll probably take me another twenty minutes to get out of it. 😩 #BodybuilderProblems

I think about making a joke that I’ll probably have to get help from my flatmates to get out of the shirt but I’d probably feel like a bit of a fraud considering I haven’t actually spoken to one of those flatmates for over a week now.

A jolt of excitement goes through me as the picture finishes uploading to my page. Is Curtis going to see it straight away? Is he going to leave a fun, cheeky comment on it using his shredded_muscle_lover97 profile, simply give it a like or is he going to go one step further and DM me something awesome and funny like he often does? It’s almost guaranteed that he’ll do one of those things. I’m smiling like mad into my phone as I think about that. 

I put my phone in my pocket, look at myself in the mirror again and smirk at what I see looking back at me. I was tempted to just wear my gym joggers and Muscle Factory hoodie today to piss off my brother, Ross, but in hindsight, my combo of tight red polo shirt and skinny jeans will probably wind him up even more.

It’s funny how much I was dreading today compared to how I’m feeling now. In truth, I’ve been dreading it all week. Today is my dad’s birthday. I presume he’s doing something with Kevin or his mates tonight, but me and Ross are just going around to his house to see him for a couple of hours. Ross is actually swinging by the flat to pick me up in his car. 

I think it’s so I won’t back out and cancel on Dad like I did the other week when we were supposed to go for lunch and I lied and said I had a client then texted Curtis and asked him to meet up. That was the day we went to Tesco and I surprised him by pulling down my joggers in the middle of the pet food aisle to reveal my shiny pink trunks underneath. Then brought him back here to the flat, showed him my collection of shiny posing trunks and then gifted him my best golden posers. (It was completely worth it seeing how excited and flattered and flustered he was and just being generally awesome and adorable and Curtis-like.)

That was a particularly awesome day. If I had to rank my days spent with Curtis it would probably come third. In second place would be the first night we met on that random Monday night in London and went to Five Guys. Followed by me roping him into filming a posing video in Trafalgar Square. And ending the night with that hug. And in first place would be last week when I surprised him by turning up to his school dressed as The Hulk. 

I don’t know what it was about that day. It just felt special. Seeing how surprised and happy Curtis was when I just showed up. Seeing him with all of those students who clearly love and adore him. (How could you NOT adore Curtis though?) It felt like something shifted that day. Like I saw him in a new (even better) light.

But going back to my dad. And the dread I’d been feeling all week about seeing him for the first time since that night in the gay pub. 

So I woke up this morning and started thinking - a month ago I went to lunch with him and everything was normal. And then all of that drama happened. Seeing Dad dressed up as a woman. Cracking jokes about his tits touching his knees and singing that “you think you’re a man but you’re only a boy” song. Me ignoring the text he sent me the next day describing it as a “nice surprise” and asking if I wanted to talk about what happened. My little brother, Ross, coming around and demanding I text Dad back while practically ripping apart my whole personality in the process. And me cancelling on Dad the other weekend. All of that stuff happened because I took Nick and Danny to that gay pub to welcome Nick to the flat.

If I hadn't gone to that pub and if Dad hadn’t just happened to have been performing that night as his drag alter ego, none of that drama would have happened. Everything would be normal now. I’d be getting ready to see my dad on his birthday. I wouldn’t have any idea about the drag queen thing. I’d never have had to endure seeing my dad in a wig on stage pretending to be a woman.

And that’s when it hit me. This genius idea. Even more genius than setting Curtis up with Nick (how was I to know Nick was secretly shagging Jason Fox’s boyfriend). A solution to all of this unnecessary drama. I’m simply going to pretend that I didn’t see what I saw that night in that gay pub. That my dad’s just the same old dad I’ve always had.

I’m going to paint on a smile. Tease and wind up my little brother, Ross, like I normally do. Be the happy-go-lucky Alfie Winters everyone knows and loves. The pixie-eared pocket rocket bodybuilder who’s famous for his shiny trunks and novelty socks and isn’t afraid to flirt with his gay admirers on Instagram. And who has an okay relationship with his dad.

I check Instgram on my phone as I head into the kitchen. The likes and comments are coming in from the post of me flexing my biceps in my polo. But there's nothing from Curtis. Yet! My stomach clenches when I walk in to find Danny and Nick sitting close to each other on the sofa talking and smiling over something on Danny’s phone. Those two seem to be closer and friendlier every time I see them.

Danny says all right to me and I say it back, without looking at them as I grab a glass of water. Nick doesn’t say anything.

“Is it your dad’s thing today?” Danny asks.


“We’re just celebrating. For the first time ever, Nick has striations in his arse.”

Nick blushes and looks at Danny all doe-eyed. I’m pretty sure Nick’s secretly in love with Danny. As well as secretly shagging Jason Fox’s boyfriend.

“Great!” I say, sarcastically.

I make brief eye contact with Nick and his face falls. He looks wounded and I feel a pinch of guilt. And now things feel even more awkward than they normally do. I put my glass down and say bye as I head out of the room.

As I grab my wallet from my chest of drawers, I’m taken aback by the sight of Danny bulging out of a vest coming into my room uninvited and closing the door behind him.

“What’s going on?” he asks, in a hushed voice.

“I’m … going round to my dad’s because it’s his birthday?”

Danny rolls his eyes. “What’s going on with you and Nick?”

I pull an indifferent face. “Dunno. Why?”

Danny groans. “I’m not stupid, Alf. You’ve been funny with each other for about a week now. Although it kinda seems like you’re the one who’s pissed off at HIM.”

“Why don't you ask Nick?” I say looking at my phone to see if Ross has texted. He should be here by now. “You two are bezzie mates now.”

Danny gives me a look like I’m acting like a twat. Or that I’m about twelve years old. Which is completely fair.

“I have asked him. He says everything’s fine. Which is obviously a lie.”

The thing is, I’m pissed off at Nick because of what he’s doing to Jason, but I don’t want to cause an issue with him and Danny. I don’t want Danny to be funny with him as well. 

“Is it because of the trunks you lent him?” Danny asks. “Cause he hasn’t given you them back?”

I swallow. I also don't want to lie to Danny either.

“Well, whatever it is, can’t you just … forget it? I mean … it’s Nick.”

My phone chimes with a text message notification and relief washes through me.

“My brother’s here,” I say, waving my phone about. 

Danny nods. “Well … good luck. You know. With your dad.”

I feel a pinch in my chest. I haven’t said anything to Danny about my dad since that night we went to the gay pub. Or to Nick. But Danny was there. He could tell something was wrong. I suddenly feel a tug of affection towards my flatmate. People think Danny is this arrogant, kinda moody guy who’s a bit self-involved. And yeah - he can be moody. And perhaps a little self-involved sometimes. But there’s so much more to him. Danny notices things. Much more than I probably do.

I feel a sharp tug of nerves as I approach Ross’ car. And that familiar feeling of dread at what I’m walking into today. No - remember the plan. Everything’s normal. Everything’s fine. Dad is just same old dad. Paint on a smile. Be happy-go-lucky Alfie. 

“All right, little bro?” I say, cheerfully as I squeeze into the passenger seat of my little brother’s car.

Ross looks at my clothes and arches an eyebrow. “All right,” he says, dryly. I wonder if he’s going to bring up the whole me ignoring Dad drama. And pull me up on the fact that I didn’t do what he asked me to do and respond to Dad’s text. Or whether he’s just going to brush it aside because it’s Dad’s birthday. Because I’m actually here and seeing Dad for the first time in a month. This time without the big blonde wig and sparkly bloody dress.

“I wore my skinny jeans just for you.”

Ross doesn’t respond or even react.

“Where’s the present?” I ask, looking around at an empty back seat to try and find what I gave Ross half the money for.

“In his card.”

I screw my face up. “What - do you get him, like vouchers or something?”

“Nope. Tickets to the ABBA Voyage concert.” 

My stomach twists sharply. That’s an annoyingly good present. I would never have thought of that. I couldn’t help but notice a slight smugness in Ross’ tone as he told me.

“Coolio,” I say casually, getting out my phone and realising how much of a twat that makes me sound.

“Do you even know they are?” Ross asks.

“Of course I know who ABBA are!” 

They’re Dad’s favourite band. He played them loads when we were kids. Every time me and Ross had our weekends with Dad (and later him and Kevin), Dad would always be playing ABBA in the car. Does Ross not think I’d remember that?

“SOS was always my favourite one,” I say, opening the Instagram app. Ha! Take that, Ross.

“Not Dancing Queen?”

I feel my chest tighten. Is that some kind of joke at my expense? I don’t respond or look at Ross. I can almost feel him smirking. And then I spot something on my phone which makes me feel instantly happier. Curtis has both liked and commented on my polo biceps flexing post!

Sounds like getting you out of that polo would be a two-person job. You should advertise on here for the position. I dunno. You might not get many responses though. 🤷

I laugh at the comment and Ross sharply turns his head to look at me. Jesus. Am I not even allowed to laugh now? Laughing is probably a concept lost on Ross.

“You know it’s not healthy to spend all your time on Instagram, don’t you?”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes.

“Do you even follow me on Instagram?”

“Why would I do that?”

Because I’m your brother, I think. I think back to when Ross came around to the flat a few weeks ago. Having a go at me for not being supportive of Dad. And he doesn’t even follow me on Instagram.

I head to my DM’s and message Curtis, feeling that familiar warm, happy buzz.

Tell you what. You can have the job of helping me get out of the polo IF (and only IF) you send me a picture of yourself wearing my shiny golden posers.

I feel a rush of adrenaline as I send the DM. Fuck. Is that too suggestive? Flirty, even? No. Curtis knows what the score is. He knows I’m straight. He knows this is just me messing around. (Despite what Jason thinks.) I stare at the screen. The message hasn’t been seen. And Curtis isn’t online. As we pull up outside my dad’s house, I put my phone in my pocket.

“There’s something you should know,” Ross says as he parks the car. “A warning - I guess.”

My chest tightens. Ross looks serious.


“Dad’s gonna be in a drag today.”

Fuck. What the fuck? 

“Are you serious?”

“It’s his birthday,” Ross says casually as he unclicks his seat belt.

“He’s never done that before, though.” I can hear the panic in my own voice.

“You didn’t know about it before.”

Ross gets out of the car and I follow suit. I can’t believe this. My stomach is twisting. Dad KNOWS I’m not okay with this. Why would he do this to me? So much for my genius plan of pretending that the events of that night at the gay pub and everything that followed it never happened.

My whole body stiffens as I stand on the doorstep of my dad and Kevin’s terraced house. Is it too late to turn and run? My chest tightens as the door swings open and I breathe a sigh of relief when it reveals my dad wearing jeans and one of his typically loud shirts. And now I feel like a fucking idiot. And a resentment towards my brother. Of course Ross was just winding me up. 

“Ey up, lads,” Dad says. “Come in.”

Ross turns around and gives me a smug smirk before walking into the house. The little bastard.

I feel a weird pull in my stomach as I watch Ross and my dad hugging and Ross giving him a kiss on the cheek. I don’t think I’ve ever hugged my dad. Let alone kissed him on the cheek.

“All right, Alf?” my dad says. I can tell he’s a bit nervous. He doesn’t seem pissed off though. I feel a stab of guilt. I’ve ignored my dad for the past month. And here he is, still being nice to me. Not only that. It’s almost like he’s desperate for my approval.

“Yeah. Happy Birthday.”

“Cheers, Alf.” 

I hear voices coming from inside the house. We’re not the only ones here.

“Sorry. It’s a bit busy in here. I've got a couple of friends here but hopefully, they’ll bugger off soon.”

I follow Ross through the living room and into the kitchen. I feel a weird pinch of nerves when I see two guys with Kevin. A ridiculously tall, Black guy who doesn’t look much older than me is shaking a cocktail shaker and there’s another guy here too. He’s about the same age and a similar body size to my dad. They’re both so camp and loud. I mean, my dad’s not exactly butch but these two are something else.

“Blimey, Alf. That’s a snug shirt!” Kevin exclaims when he sees me. I smirk and notice Ross rolling his eyes. 

“What the hell? Did someone order a stripper?” the young, tall guy exclaims.

I smirk like crazy at that comment

“This is my eldest, Alfie.”

“Was there a mix-up at the hospital?” the larger guy jokes in a thick Scottish accent.

I let out a small laugh. “And this is Ross,” my dad says.

“Hello, Ross,” the young guy says, not taking his eyes off me. HA! “So, when does the shirt come off?”

“Can you not sexually harass my firstborn?”

I find out the young, ridiculously tall and slender guy is called Kenny and the older, large-built, Scottish guy is called Al.

“You poor bastards. Having this old queen for a dad,” Al says.

“I’m guessing you didn’t get those biceps from drinking cocktails but do you want one anyway?” Kenny asks.

I tell him yes and Ross lets out a little groan. On more than one occasion, Ross has told me how much of a twat I apparently become when I drink. Okay - yes, I do become a bit louder and more animated but I personally think it’s just another excuse for him to have a go at me.

“Sorry. It’s not a very butch glass,” Kenny says, handing me the red-coloured drink. It’s even got a little umbrella in it. I take a sip and cough. “That’s REALLY strong!”

“This fat old bitch is alive for another year,” Al jokes, pointing to my dad. “We need all the alcohol we can get.”

I laugh again. I’m kind of taken aback at how different Dad is around his friends. It’s kind of … nice though. Seeing him like this. We all retreat to the living room and Dad starts opening presents. 

I sink into one of my dad’s chairs with my super strong cocktail and sneakily get my phone out. Excitement rises in my chest when I go to the Instagram app to find I have a reply from Curtis.

My eyes widen when I see what he’s sent me. Not a message, but a picture in response to my last DM requesting a pic of him wearing my shiny golden posers. He’s wearing them all right! He just also happens to have his jeans on underneath. Oh - and he’s wearing a certain jumper I kind of love. I type a reply.

HAHA!! LOVE IT! You look better in them than I ever did! (Well … maybe not but close!) 🤪😂 Wait - hold on. Is that … THE yellow woolly jumper??

I look at the picture again as I wait for his reply. Curtis has got this goofy mouth wide open expression like he’s saying “ta-da”. His palms outstretched to the sides of his body. It’s so fucking funny. Ickle Curtis in my shiny golden posers!

“Hmmm. I know that look!” ridiculously tall Kenny exclaims. I look up to see pretty much everyone looking at me. I feel a slight panic. Ross is just glaring at me.

“Texting a girl?” Kenny asks. My chest tightens.

“Lucky cow!” Scottish Al exclaims.

“Leave him alone, you two,” Kevin says, before giving me a look of solidarity. I put my phone away and take a bigger gulp of my drink.

“This is from me, Dad,” Ross says, handing him the envelope. There’s a few seconds' pause. “And Alfie.” Yeah - that pause was definitely deliberate.

Dad loves his present. I feel a weird stab of jealousy seeing him with Ross. How close those two are. I guess it’s always been like that. I was always close to Mum. Ross was always closer to Dad.

“Thanks, Alf,” Dad says, somewhat awkwardly. I take another big gulp of my super-strong cocktail. “Christ, you’ve knocked that back!” Scottish Al says. “Maybe he is your son, after all.”

“Plenty more of that in the kitchen,” ridiculously tall Kenny tells me. I leap up from my chair. Wow. That cocktail’s gone straight to my head.

I retreat to the kitchen and pour myself another drink. I take my phone out and look at the picture of Curtis with my golden trunks over his normal clothes again. He’s sent me another message.

Your obsession with my yellow woolly jumper is starting to look a bit suss, Alf. Are you sure you don’t secretly want one? 🤔 (Also it’s really not that woolly!)

I beam into my phone. I go to type a reply when something sitting on the kitchen counter gets my attention out of the corner of my eye. It’s a flyer advertising a show that’s happening. I pick it up and see pictures of two drag queens called Mariah Fairy and Gladys Cox. Both caked in make-up and wearing wigs. It takes me a second before it dawns on me who I’m looking at. These are Dad’s friends! Ridiculously tall Kenny and Scottish Al. The guys currently sitting in the next room who have been flirting with me and piling me with super strong cocktails. Jesus. Is anyone NOT a bloody drag queen? Is Kevin a drag queen too?

Something hits me as I stare at the flyer though. Seeing my dad’s friends like this. Dressed up like women. It doesn’t bother me. Like, at all. And I’m pretty sure if I went to this show that’s being advertised tonight and saw them dressed like that it wouldn’t bother me either. I have a feeling I might even be entertained by it. So why does it bother me so much that my dad does it?

I’m pulled out of my thoughts by Kevin walking into the kitchen. “Ey up, Alf. You all right?”

“Yep,” I say, putting the flyer down. Kevin’s eyes follow it. “These cocktails are dead strong,” I add.

“I know. I think we’re all gonna be on the floor by five o’clock.”

I smile and Kevin bites his lip. He’s got this look on his face. Oh God. I have a bad feeling about what might be coming next.

“I heard you ran into your dad the other week.”

Yep. There it is. My stomach tightens. It's funny though, because Kevin doesn't seem pissed at me. Or like he’s judging me. Unlike my fucking brother. He’s sort of giving me this soft, knowing, tight-lipped smile.

“Yep,” I say, in a short manner, before burying my head in my glass.

“You know your dad was the first drag queen I ever met.”

I swallow, feeling awkward and not really knowing what to say.

“I mean - obviously, I’d seen them performing in bars and stuff but I’d never actually met anyone who did it. I never really put that much thought into it. But when your dad told me that he did drag …” Kevin pauses and draws a long breath. “I … really struggled with it.”

Oh wow. I wasn’t expecting that. My chest suddenly feels lighter. “How come?” I ask, feeling nervous at his response.

“Honestly? It kind of made me uncomfortable,” Kevin says. “Seeing Colin acting all camp and pretending to be a woman.”

My chest feels weird.

“We had this big argument about it. I think I even said … that if I wanted to be with a woman, then I’d be straight.” He rolls his eyes at the memory.

I swallow hard. “So what happened?”

“Well, I kinda I realised that it was MY issue with thinking men were supposed to be a certain way. Which was probably a lot to do with the family I grew up in and what MY dad was like!" Kevin lets out a little laugh. "My dad. Jesus - he was a right bruiser, Alf. The hardest man on the estate, in fact. I never got the chance to tell him I was gay. I don’t know if I ever would have. Anyway, I eventually realised how important drag was to your dad. And how happy it made him.” 

I bury my face in my glass again and take a big swig of the cocktail.

“I don’t know why it bothers me,” I say, not looking Kevin in the eye. “It just … does.”

Kevin gives me a tight-lipped smile. “Well, it’s probably because he’s your dad! And you’ve got this idea into your head that dads aren’t supposed to get up on stage dressed like women and sing ABBA songs.”

I find myself smiling. Why does Kevin understand it but no one else does?

“It must have been tough. Your mum and dad spitting up when you were so young.”

Where the hell did that come from? 

“I don’t think Ross even remembers Dad living with us,” I say, surprising myself.

Kevin gives me a kind smile. “Those two are pretty close, aren’t they?”

My chest tightens.

“You know I keep saying to your dad we should come and watch one of your shows.”

What the hell?

Kevin shakes his head. “Colin won't have it though. He’s convinced you wouldn’t want us there. He thinks you’d be embarrassed by us.”

I frown at Kevin. “I wouldn’t …” I say, earnestly. 

“I know that,” Kevin says, smiling at me. God, Kevin is so nice. He really didn’t deserve all that crap I put him through when I was younger.

“What are you two gas bags talking about?” ridiculously tall Kenny, aka Mariah Fairy (which I actually think is a pretty awesome name) says, interrupting us as he walks into the kitchen.

“Alfie’s bodybuilding shows.”

“Hmm," he says, pulling a face. "A bunch of men flexing their muscles together in nothing but tiny thongs. Nothing gay about that,” Kenny says, while filling up his cocktail glass.

I let out a little laugh and Kevin smiles and rolls his eyes at me. I kind of love this guy’s confidence.

“Come on, you pair of sexy bastards. The show’s about to start.”

Show? My stomach clenches and I don't know why.

“What show?” Kevin says, suspiciously.

I feel a dread of nerves as I walk back into the living room. My dad and Scottish Al are standing and playing with the TV remote. It looks like they’re on the YouTube app.

“So, Colin, aka, Ms Vera Monsoon …”

I feel Ross look at me.

“We made you an extra little … birthday gift.”

Why do I have this feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach? And within about three seconds of the video playing, my fears are confirmed. I’m watching the image I was trying so hard to forget. My dad in drag. Dressed up and pretending to be a woman called Vera Monsoon. So much for my genius idea.

And the video does not hold up. Pictures and videos of my dad as his drag alter ego. Mariah Fairy and Gladys Cox are on there too. I feel like I’m sinking as I’m forced to sit here watching. I can feel Ross’ eyes on me. Kevin looks over too. But I can’t look at him. It’s only when my dad looks over and makes eye contact with me that I finally have the nerve to look back. His face falls. He looks so wounded. I feel a stab of guilt. But I can’t help the other things I’m feeling too. Uncomfortable. Embarrassed. At seeing my dad like that.

Dad’s friends are laughing and jeering at the video. But there’s this weird atmosphere too. And I know it’s because of me. Without saying anything or looking at anyone, I slip away to the kitchen. All I want to do is get away. From this video. From Dad and Ross. From this house.

I pour myself another cocktail and knock it back again.

“Don't you think you’ve had enough?”

For fuck’s sake. I spin around to find Ross with his typical sour-faced, judgemental, higher than fucking mighty expression. 

“Didn’t know you cared about me so much, little bro.” 

He narrows his eyes at me. “It really bothers you, doesn’t it?”

“What?” I say screwing up my face.

Ross shakes his head. “God. You are SO selfish.”

I feel anger rise up in my chest.

“You know Dad was really looking forward to seeing you the other weekend? He wanted to talk to you about the whole drag thing. And you cancelled on with some made-up bullshit excuse at the last minute.”

“I’m here today, aren’t I?”

Ross barks out a bitter laugh. “Barely! You’ve spent most of the time on your phone. You’re knocking those cocktails back and getting pissed. You’ve hardly said two words to Dad. And now you’ve sulking in the kitchen because you can’t get your beefed-up little head around the fact that our dad does drag.”

“Okay. Fine!” I say, my voice rising. “I CAN’T get my head around it!”

“But WHY?” Ross spits.

“I just … don’t like it! Seeing him like that. Dressed up as a woman. Acting all … girly and over the top. He’s not supposed to be like that. He’s supposed to be our dad!”

“Okay, Alf. That’s enough.”

I spin around to see Kevin and my dad behind me. My heart sinks. Fuck. 

“I AM your dad, Alf.”

He looks like he’s about to cry. 

“Look - this is all very new to Alfie,” Kevin reasons. 

Ross scoffs in response. 

“Oh FUCK OFF, Ross. Don’t pretend you’re not loving this.”

Ross screws his face up. “And why would I be loving this?” 

“Oh come on. You’ve never put a foot wrong. You love being the good son. And you love getting one up on me.”

“Well it’s not exactly hard is it?”

“Okay, lads. That’s enough,” Kevin says, sternly.

“I think we should probably go,” Ross says. “Congratulations on ruining Dad’s birthday.”

My chest tightens. I desperately want to get out of here. I don’t want to be anywhere near Ross.

“I need the bathroom,” I say, practically running out of the kitchen. Those cocktails have really gone to my head. Ross’ words are echoing around my head. And I can’t get that image of Dad’s face out of my mind. I just want to get out of this fucking house. Away from Ross and Dad. When I reach the bottom of the stairs, I pause. I hear voices from back in the kitchen. I know what they’re all thinking, if not saying. That I’ve ruined the afternoon. Even though I haven’t actually done anything wrong!

I can’t face my dad right now. And I can’t sit in the passenger seat of Ross’ car pretending like nothing just happened. I don’t think I can take another second of my little brother's judgement and disdain towards me. I look at the front door. And in a second, I make a snap decision. I gently and quietly open the door and get the hell out of this house.

It hits me how drunk I am the second I leave and I’m out in the fresh air. Ross calls me when I’m at the nearest bus stop I find. I don’t answer my phone. He calls me again as I'm jumping on a bus heading back to town, and then he apparently gives up. No more calls. No texts. Nothing from Kevin or Dad. So I guess that’s that. Today was an absolute disaster. And of course, it was all my fault. Dad's birthday has been ruined and it's all because of me. I lean my head against the bus window and close my eyes. Dad’s hurt expression is burned in my mind.

I open my eyes and look at the view. I really don’t want to go home. I’m too wired from the alcohol and the events of what just happened to go back to the flat and just sit in my bedroom. I want to go somewhere. I want to do something. I have this crazy idea of going to one of those gay pubs on Canal Street. I have no idea why. Probably because I’ve always had so much fun going to those places. And then I have another, much better idea. An idea which causes excitement to course through me.

I head into the Instagram app on my phone and write a message.

Hey. I’m being totally random and spontaneous again. What are you doing right now? (Other than wearing my shiny golden posers and yellow woolly jumper.)

I hold my breath as I wait for a response. Please be free. Please don’t be busy! My heart leaps into my throat when a message from Curtis comes through.

Erm…nothing. I’m just at home BUT the last time you did this to me I almost got banned from Tesco!!

I laugh into my phone. 

I promise I won’t get you banned from anywhere! Where’s home? (Can’t believe I don't even know where you live! Does that make me a bad friend?)

I bite my lip and anticipate his reply.

Very bad! (OMG I’M FRIENDS WITH A BODYBUILDER!) Do you know East Didsbury?

I rest my head against the bus window, bite my lip and grin into my phone. 

I’m on a bus heading for Didsbury! Which weirdly sounds like fate to me? 

Why does DM’ing Curtis make me so happy? His reply comes through in seconds.

Wanna come round?! 

I can’t reply quickly enough. 

Send me the address. Be there in a bit!

So I guess I’m going to see Curtis. Sweet, adorable, yellow woolly jumper-wearing Curtis. Maybe today won't turn out so bad after all.

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Ooooooo. This could be the making of Alfie and Curtis, or a disaster of Hindenburg proportions!!! 💥 Tune next week and see! Same muscular time!!! Same buffed channel!!! 😜

And by way of a prize for predicting Alfie painted up as the Hulk, I humbly request a rendering of same by our favoritest of muscle artists brawnygods!!! 🎉🎉🥰

Oh pleeeeeerese! 🙏


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37 minutes ago, Bjort said:

Ooooooo. This could be the making of Alfie and Curtis, or a disaster of Hindenburg proportions!!! 💥 Tune next week and see! Same muscular time!!! Same buffed channel!!! 😜

And by way if a prize for predicting Alfie painted up as the Hulk I humbly request a rendering of same by our favoritest of muscle artists brawnygods!!! 🎉🎉🥰

Oh pleeeeeerese! 🙏

Haha! And you just know Brawny would absolutely nail those slutty cut-off denim shorts! 😏😅 

Thank you for your lovely feedback as always, mate. I might be able to get the next one out a bit quicker this week! 

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