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Feb. 24th, 2009

Hello all. My name is Vicky, and I'm a 23 year old Masters student studying Early Modern English Literature at Bangor University, UK. I'm married and identify as bi-sexual, with a leaning towards the heterosexual.

I've written homo-centric fiction since I was about fifteen, when my best friend came out and started complaining there was no decent fiction that featured women experiencing what she was experiencing. From there, I discovered fanfiction and slash. There was an article I read a whee while ago talking about why straight women are interested in writing about gay men, which I've since misplaced unfortunately, but it said that women who have been tomboys find gay protagonists interesting because both characters are able to have an equal stake in the adventure without sacrificing sexual tension. I'd say that's about right for me.

So anyway, I have here a favourite short story of mine called My Love is Pure. I hope you enjoy it.

My Love is Pure

I step from the too-crowded train compartment, jammed like school corridors between lessons. The fermented smell of wet hair and coats crammed into a hot, humid space was beginning to make my stomach roll, and the dust filled air of the platform is a relief. Grey-suited people stream past me. They do not notice me. No one notices anyone in London. I hate this city, but that's the reason I came here: anonymity is one of its perks. I stand still in the rush, as a rock in the midst of their river, and draw myself up to my full height, craning my neck to catch a glimpse of the poorly designed map that holds no geographical relevance to anything above ground.

Lagging a little behind the main crowd, I follow to the escalator. A cold draught flows down it. The bitter air stings my eyes, and I pull my long coat tighter about me. Seventeen years in the highlands and a chill still makes me shudder. I consider tugging my hair from its stumpy ponytail, just to warm my neck, but I just hunch my back, sinking further into the collar of my coat.

The station's upper level acts as the perfect wind tunnel for the 'brisk' (meaning frigid) February breeze and I lengthen my stride to the Bakerloo Line platform. When I pass a newspaper stand my pace automatically slows so I may quickly scan the headlines. It's all national papers and tabloids, though. Anything from Inverness will be buried deep within, even if it is a teacher who likes to touch up his students. Filth, indeed, but not on a par with Bush's ineptitudes or Saddam Hussein's execution. I should feel grateful, but all I can muster is bitterness. I've left my home, my job, my life behind me. To be excused the indignity of having it thrown in my face is hardly a blessing. After all, I remember it well enough myself. No tabloid hyperbole could make me feel worse than I do already.

Three teenagers skid in front of me at the ticket gates and I wait impatiently behind them. I long for a watch to look at and tut, or to tap my foot in a practiced manner, but I don't.

The last of them doesn't understand how it works. Sodding country bumpkins. He's trying to put the card in the wrong way up. I look for his friends or someone to show him the right way, but there is no one else. I should step forward, but being helpful has never been my strong suit.

He eventually gets it right on his own and sprints through the gates before they can close again. As he grabs his ticket back on the other side, I see he's older than a teenager. At least, older than the ones I used to teach. There's something familiar in his profile. My eyes narrow and, once I’ve passed through the gate myself, I follow him.

The boy doesn’t notice me. Why should he? London is riddled with goths and emos. Shoulder-length black hair and a sour expression is not so peculiar here as in Scotland, and it's the only thing that made me stand out particularly as a teacher. Well, aside from the obvious. Even so, I make an effort to keep my footsteps quiet, my head bent and shoulders hunched.

It doesn’t take him long to catch up with his friends. They smile and talk with their heads close together, clutching their bags and their pockets as do all tourists. I know them all.

There is a girl whose brown hair is tied away from her face. She was bookish at school, not remarkable, but has become prettier. She's nervous and keeps glancing around. I think she spots me, pauses for a moment. I look her frankly up and down, raise an eyebrow, quirk my lips. She looks quickly away. Blushing, I bet.

It's easy enough to get a pretty girl not to notice you – just act like you're interested. I'm not ancient by any means – I'm the right side of forty, at least – but she's young enough that I'm still an older man, not her thing at all. A good job, I suppose, that it's an act. My tastes fall elsewhere.

A second boy, with messy dark hair and blue eyes, makes up the trio. His face is so familiar and yet so changed. It brings a clear memory of his sullen presence in my classroom that detention. He still smelled of the rugby pitch – all grass stains and sweat, bringing back memories from my own days at school, steamy showers in the locker room.

He wasn't eager to go home that day, though, and I wondered why. "Parents, sir," he mumbled, and I remembered some rumour in the staff room about 'problems at home'. My parents divorced when I was young and I sympathised.

It was only supposed to be a pat on the shoulder, a comfort. That’s what I told myself at the time, when the guilt was still fresh. Stroking his cheek seems so innocent now. I've come a long way since then. Still, he knew, even if he didn't tell anyone. His eyes were always laughing at me after that, when I shouted, when I criticised, because he knew I liked it. Every time he came out with a smart remark, and anger flashed through me hot as lust, he could see that glitter of something extra in my eyes, and silently mocked me for it.

Looking at him, I still remember him as the runtish, insolent boy that first turned up in my classroom. With me it's always the passionate ones, the smart ones – the ones that can't stand me. I make sure they hate me, and their indignant anger's what keeps me going. Kept me going.

His face has matured surprisingly in the two years since he left my care. His cheekbones are high and there is a cut at the corner of his mouth. He's grown since I last saw him - since I could tower over him and yelled at him. He was never a looker at school, never 'popular' as they say now, freshly plucked from vile American slang. But now, I ask myself. What would you think now?

He is handsome, I suppose.

He does not look back and I am pleased I only have to watch that accusing blue gaze graze the walls and floor. We are alone in the great echoing tunnel that leads deeper, deeper underground, the rush hour crowd travelling away from the city centre. Still I cannot hear their conversation. They talk over each other and hiss in whispers. I would need to move closer, too close for comfort. But it doesn't really matter. I'm in no hurry. Our destinations are the same and I have no desire to be recognised.

I reach the soot-stained hole in the ground that has been here, now, for a hundred years. Weak, yellow lights work so badly you can discern their flicker, like a strobe that flashes too quickly. There is a small group of children who have skipped the day off school. They’re not in uniform, but you can always recognise the shifty look and waves of aggression, the blatant hope for a challenge from authority. A homeless man sleeps on one bench, my three ex-students take the other.

The girl and fair-haired boy – Ellen Lewis and Peter Stubbs, I recall – are still arguing in whispers. I can only see her angry face. His is turned from me, but I can imagine it. They used to be a couple, and I wonder if they still are. Hewitt, the boy that I know best, stands and walks away, looking tired of the situation – perhaps tired of life? No. Not old enough for that yet.

He walks towards me. I can tell from his hunched stance that he is trying to tune them out and steal a moment to his own thoughts.

I back against the wall. He is coming closer and closer and I suddenly realise I don't want to be seen here, like this, by him. My hair hasn’t been washed in I dread to think how long, and I’m wearing the jeans I wore to re-decorate the rat-infested flat I had to take on my last month’s salary. He found out long ago the depths to which I had sunk, but I cannot let him see this new low.

He passes by me, close enough that I smell the cheap, sharp after shave that all young men entering their twenties seem to wear. I can see his face clearly for a split second. He has a light dusting of stubble down his jaw line that suits him. A scar splits one eyebrow, and I remember how he came by it one night, over three years ago. I remember splitting up the fight, and snarling at him and instilling his wild fury in my memory. His mouth is determinedly set and that cut on his mouth is recent. The blood is still a vivid red that scores half-way to his chin. His lips are pale, as is his skin, and a little cracked from the dry cold. He has made the most of his hair, styled into something resembling the fashion. It almost covers his eyes, which I think – sharply, painfully – is a pity.

I change my mind about my previous assessment. He is not quite handsome. But he is beautiful, and it hurts.

I use that moment to think how things might have turned out, had I not been his teacher. I weigh up that quandary: would things have been different? Would he – did he – mind my ill-advised caress? Would he reciprocate? My logical mind takes pleasure in sadistically declaring it would all still be the same. We would still be strangers on a platform. He still wouldn't see me.

Then I repeat the thought that comforts me when I lie in the dark at night, alone with my own self-hatred. It was never his age that made me touch him. It was never any boy's age. They were just there, available. My eyes still rake over him greedily as he stands before me: his long lashes and masculine jaw, the wiry frame I’m sure is hidden beneath his thick winter coat, the tantalising sway of his hips as he walks. That proves it, surely. I would if he would.

Something makes his lips quirk, and I crane my neck to see what he sees. He is looking at his hands, which hold a small black mobile phone. Lighting up the screen is a picture of a girl with freckles and red hair. She smiles sweetly off to the left in a very saccharine manner. I sneer and tell myself I am happy with the way things are.

A rush of warm, dry air passes through the tunnel and he looks over his shoulder. His friends are still arguing. He quickly stashes the mobile back in his pocket and is in the process of turning round when those searchlight eyes settle on me. See me.

Before I can panic, my feet take over and I am already moving to the train, slamming a hand on the broad red button, slipping easily into the crowded train as soon as the doors slam open. I do not have to look to see the angry fire in his eyes, the same that burned three years ago when my hand made its wayward slip across his cheek and it suddenly all made sense to him. I am back in the cloistering sweat of the train with the door closing behind me.
I look over my shoulder, out of the window. He is talking with his friends, pointing at me. They make no move to get on the tube. There will be another one, a safer one, in seven minutes.

I smirk knowingly at them – it's the only mask, only weapon I really have left – but my heart isn't in it. I hate myself too much.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Feb. 25th, 2009 06:01 am (UTC)
Ooh, harsh story, but I like.

Anyway, Welcome and thanks for posting!

The article about tomboys seems interesting. Wonder if I could find it... *scuttles off to search the web*
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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