I have a new story coming out through Torquere Press today! I'm posting about it early because I'm about to vanish offline for the weekend, but at some point during the day, the new e-book and an extract will appear on my author's page.

It's a Single Shot called Staytape. It's about Kit and Dirk, eyeliner and photography, kilts and corsets. It's about love, and trust, and doing the things that scare you because if you never get scared you're not growing.

I don't know yet which extract they'll put up on the site, so I'll hold back on posting one here, and save that for another day. Instead, I have a whole short story for you.

A version of this story - Fair - came out in an anthology called 'Naughty' a few of years back. I was writing Staytape at the time when Fair reverted to me, and it wasn't till I re-read Fair that I realised they could be connected. I still don't know who the narrator of Fair is, although I can see him crystal sharp in my mind's eye, but his friend, Kit? That's the Kit from Staytape, only about ten, years ago, when he was still in his hometown, still a teenager, still figuring out who he might be. The styles of the two stories are quite different, but I hope you can enjoy both.

******

Fair
By Alex Draven

Candy-floss is grainy sweet on your tongue and sweat pricks where the sun hits between your shoulders and Kit grabs your hand and pulls you up short, ducking down the quiet lee between two butcher-striped tents. Power cables roll under your feet and when you look down the grass is trodden flat and bedraggled and Kit's glitter-painted boot still manages to sparkle.

"Look!"

You look, and your shoulders turn in towards Kit, automatically sharing the secret. You look and the dark haired man lounging against the ghost train control panel continues to watch the shuddering cars and doesn't see either of you running hungry eyes over his bare muscled arms and his tightly packed jeans and his bare feet in the dry dirt and cigarette butts.

Kit didn’t have to say 'I want him' because you know. You know because Kit's hand is clenched around yours and he licks his lower lip, a tiny flash of hot red and residual moisture that you used to fantasise about. Kit always wants and you're too good of a friend to cut in and take for yourself.

You're not even sure if anyone – even Kit – knows that you might want that guy, with the scruffy ponytail and hair that's starting to curl around the nape of his neck where the sun dampens it. That you might want him more than any of the pretty girls who twist and flirt in their summer dresses and flip-flops, candy floss lip gloss and laughter You hardly know yourself.

"He won't look back," you tease, thinking of the two of you, skinny and sixteen and outsiders, rags and tatters, shadows of the gloriously dressed and famous.

Kit steals kohl pencils, sometimes, from his mum, and from the chemists’ on Dean Street, where the old lady behind the counter is too short-sighted to see you dancing in and out with your prizes. You stole a nail polish from there once, a silver one that felt small and cold in your hand, and Kit's grin when you showed him was worth the lurch of terror when you opened the door and stepped back onto the street.

Right now the nail polish is chipped on Kit's fingers, but there's kohl smudged dark to make his blue eyes glow. You remember how it felt to have his fingers cool and delicate on your cheekbones, and all his attention right there, every morning this holiday, and that the taunts and the teasing never really hurt after that.

The nail polish is chipped, and Kit's fingertips are white with gripping when he decides "now, now, now!" and the two of you half run, half fall back into the flow of people and the babble of competing music and raised voices and endless peals of laughter. You bend and wriggle, and you duck and dodge, and you end up hand in hand and panting just feet away from the ghost train man, with his cut-down shirt and grease prints on his jeans.

Close enough to see that his nails are bitten short and edged with oil, and there's a gold hoop in his right ear, under the fall of hair that's escaping from the ponytail. Close enough for your stomach to clench and Kit to say something you can't make out, and close enough that this guy – this man – can't help but see you both and halfway turn and smile with brilliant white teeth and wink.

"Alright lads?"

He's got a bottle of pop in one hand, condensation on glass, and he raises it in a toast. Kit's lip is glistening again where his tongue gives him away, but this guy – this man – is holding your eye, not looking at Kit, and your heart jumps and you can hear the blood pumping in your ears and maybe you're as certain as you need to be.

The ghost-cars lurch and squeal, and he looks away, one hand firm on the buttons without even looking, while the other raises his drink so you can't help but notice the scruff of stubble on his jaw, while three girls clutch and screech their way down the stairs and away.

Kit lets go of your hand. He steps forward, looking calm in the way he can't possibly feel, and he's talking again, words you don't want to hear, because Kit always gets what he wants, so you focus on the bent dried grass and the dust and the toe ring shining silver on the guy's middle toe, and the neat row of empty glass bottles that banner their brand name and catch the sun and make you wonder how long he's been stood here in the sun with the crowds and the blare of whirlygigs and pop songs and screaming and laughter. You wonder if any of the girls stumbling on the stairs would grab at his arm and slip him a phone number. If any of them had had the courage to do that. You're not certain you would, if you were a girl.

When you look back at the man, with his frayed edges and his suntan, Kit's still talking, but it's you he's smiling at just for a second. When you blink he's looked away, and he's shouting over to the older guy who takes the tickets, and Kit's towing you by the arm again. You trip, going up the stairs to the train, warm wood under your hand, and then you're sitting in the car with a cartoon ghost rising up behind you and a hard looking girl with a tight blond ponytail locks the bar. Kit kicks you in the ankle with a painted boot and tells you to smile already. The engine catches and you lurch forward and when you look down from the top of the spiral climb, your man with his hair and his earring and his smile that you're never going to forget is watching your car, and you wave a little, low enough that no one will see, and you're laughing for real now, because he saluted you back.

You think to yourself, in the second before the doors shut out the daylight, that you're certain now. You hope that you're brave enough, too, because when the ride finishes Kit will be right there beside you, but you're going to be the one who touches that man's arm and sees what might happen.

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