TIGERS DON'T CRY - Chapter Eighteen
In the harsh environment of a British pub kitchen, young Nate will have to come to terms with his growing attraction for one of his male colleagues.
NOTE TO THE READER: Apologies for the late post. I got to a point where I should stop writing and do a deep-dive of editing but I wouldn’t want to let you guys down. I’ll keep up with the story, even though it’s a mess! I added a plot point that hasn’t been established which is that Louis has a problem with alcohol - something I will implement in my edits. Enjoy the read!
TRIGGER WARNING - Strong and sexual language. Explicit sexual content.
For those curious to read from the start:
Cardiff swooped us in with its bright insignias and damp weather. The six of us walked as a disordered bunch, like a moving flock sneaking through a stream of bodies and sounds.
We’d been having pre-drinks at the shared house. Manny and Alice had brought out a massive bottle of Sex on the Beach and one of Piña Colada. They offered everyone some. Even though I had a sweet tooth, when it came to alcoholic drinks I couldn't stand anything fruity. So, really, Manny, Alice, Connor and Dai had chugged most of the bottles while Ethan and I barely tasted the booze.
Laughter. Spilled beer. How long had it been since I’d gone out like this? With friends? Not a clue. My date with Ethan had been intimate but this… this was like taking over the world for secluded me. We were dragged about by Alice and Manny, who sang Light My Fire loudly along the paved road in St Mary street. They hung on each other’s elbows and tramped through as if they led a band of bad musicians.
Behind the drunk singers were Connor and Dai. They walked side by side, with Dai keen to talk about a TV series he was big on. Connor hummed his agreement, listening but not quite, nodding and saying ‘Oh yeah,’ from time to time.
At the back there were Ethan and me, holding hands and quiet. I didn’t hate it. Sometimes observing was what I did best and putting words together, leading a conversation made me break into a sweat. Stepping up, carrying the torch, was for people like Manny and Alice.
Looking at Manny, at his delicate face, big eyes, every day a different colour, at his bright, voluminous hair… well. I could see why Ethan would love someone like that.
Manny’s joy was contagious; like pepper and salt, he gave flavour to people’s plates. I was more like marmite. Acquired taste and that.
Ethan stroked my cheek with a cool finger. ‘You look good.’ His voice caressed me along with the rough skin of his hands.
I was wearing yet a different combination of the clothes I’d bought in Primark. A black hoodie with the print of a city at dawn, the heaviest of my three jackets and grey skinny trousers. My Vans-like shoes had started getting a bit muddy and I could tell they weren’t going to have a long life since I wore them all the time.
‘The other word,’ he smiled.
‘Babes…’ I whispered, and blushed a second later as Connor’s eyes met mine.
The guy was looking mint, straight hair and black trousers with rows of chains, heavy boots, oversized jean coat and a dark sweater with a skull engulfed by blue flames. Really, everyone was at their best and I was blind to nothing, my libido lightly triggered by Alice’s long legs and the nice shape of her butt in her jeans as well as Connor’s lean form, upturned eyes, easy air and slim neck. Only Ethan could really get my heart racing though. He with his eyes like deep water. A slight touch on my arm, a tender brush, was often enough to get me hard and throbbing.
Connor stopped in his tracks, still looking at me.
‘What?’ Dai asked.
Connor approached me and Ethan’s grip tightened on my hand.
‘Sorry,’ Connor said. ‘I can’t stand it, it needs sorting.’ He straightened my hood. ‘That’s better. God, my OCD was itching, like.’
He gave a little nod in Ethan’s way and went back to Dai. ‘Yeah, were you saying?’
Ethan’s gaze was dark with anger.
I chuckled. ‘Jealous much?’
‘He does it on purpose, to piss me off.’
‘Nothing to worry about, though.’ We carried on walking, following the others on a quest to have a good time. ‘You’ve got me and I mean it. I like you a serious lot, mun.’
The guys went on and we stopped to hug and kiss.
‘You are the best,’ Ethan said.
Inside, I suspected I wasn’t the best after all. Ethan had been following Manny with his eyes all day, maybe thought I wasn’t looking. But I saw. Every time he turned his way he had this downcast look on his face, like he wished he could take back something he’d lost. And my heart was kinda heavy but I didn’t say it.
We headed to the Full Moon and it was full for sure, and dark and bright like the night sky. A local band – The Red Ground, Alice had informed us – were covering No One Knows by Queens Of The Stone Age.
‘What do you guys want to drink?’ Manny shouted over the chaos.
I asked for a pint of lager, Ethan went for cider. Connor said he fancied a Heineken and made an escape for the bathroom. The others told Manny what they wanted as well.
The counter was packed so it made sense that only one of us went to get the drinks, but Manny narrowed his eyes. ‘One of you could come with me though, you selfish nits!’
He looked at Ethan and BF sighed. ‘O’aight.’
He turned to me and kissed my lips, a quick brush of warm flesh. ‘Won’t be a minute.’ He left my hand and followed Manny through the wall of people in black.
I watched him go. The Red Ground played a new song, The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret.
‘Love this song,’ Alice said. She and Dai started dancing, moving their chins back and forth and swaying their hips.
I was distracted.
Manny leaned his head on Ethan’s shoulder and Ethan scruffed his hair.
Well, fuck. They’re friends. They’re friends and I know it.
Dai put a hand on my shoulder. ‘Nate, we’re gonna go see the performance a minute. Wanna come along?’
‘Uh, no I… I'm going to stay here.’
Ethan whispered something in Manny’s ear and Manny laughed. Dai and Alice headed to the shifting dance floor and I was left on my own to brew in my fears.
Until Connor was back and came to stand by my side. Then things got worse.
‘Where are the others?’ He asked.
‘Dai and Alice went dancing.’ My eyes were on Ethan’s back, which disappeared and reappeared when people walked by carrying drinks to their friends.
Connor snorted close to my ear and I started. ‘I have this feeling like… Dai and Alice have been flirting a lot recently. I bet they’re going to hook up tonight. There’s so much sexual tension between them, like.’
‘I thought Alice was a lesbian.’
Connor chuckled. ‘Homoflexible. Very fucking flexible.’
The barista was pouring the beers for us and Ethan took hold of the first one.
‘You really can do better, you know.’
My heart jumped. ‘What?’
‘Ethan is kinda all over the place, innit?’ He smelled of booze and strawberry, the fake kind.
‘What do you mean?’
He chuckled. ‘Sorry, I meant all over Manny. He says he’s over it. He tells everyone that. Do you know how many people he’s seen in the past year, and they all leave his ass because he’s all “Manny this, Manny that.” He's in love with the guy, man. He doesn’t get it that it’s over.’
I wanted to puke. ‘That so.’
‘Yeah,’ he huffed fruitily on me. ‘Bet he regrets asking for an open relationship real bad. Or maybe he’d be up for one now?’
I looked at him and he was smirking.
‘I noticed you watching me a lot, you know.’
‘I happen to have eyes and look at things sometimes.’
‘Oh yeah? And that happens to be myself a fair lot, is it?’
‘You have good taste in clothes.’
He laughed. ‘Has Ethan ever told you that your eyes are real fucking beautiful?’
How much of that cheap cocktail shit did he drink?
‘They’re just eyes, mate.’
‘Nah-ah. You look at people like you’re about to bite them, like you don’t give a shit. But sometimes the sweetness pours out of you.’
‘Shut up, you’re drunk.’
He stroked my shoulder in a certain way. ‘Not really.’
I jumped back. ‘Bro, what the fuck! You’re dating Manny, ain’t you?’
His smile dropped and now he was bitter. ‘Nah.’
‘We’re fuck buddies.’
‘Come give us a haaaand!’ Manny waved at us from the counter, smiling wide like it was the best day of his life. I moved forward, stepping away from the conversation. Connor followed and took his drink and Dai’s from Manny’s hands.
Ethan gave me my beer. I pulled at the collar of his shirt and drew him down because fuck, I needed to kiss him. I needed to feel he cared.
I slipped my tongue inside his mouth and tasted apple cider. It was good, with no hints of sweetness. Just a good old beer. It didn’t feel like it was made of lies. The kiss went on, wet and slow and someone whistled.
‘You alright babes?’ Ethan asked softly, stroking my hair.
Manny was holding two drinks, his and Alice’s. ‘Where are those two twats?’
‘Dancing,’ I said.
The song was reaching its end and all of us looked into the crowd, searching for our mates. I saw them close to the wall. Dai danced in the way guys do when they’re pretending they’re moving to the music. Alice did a lot more work with her hips. Against his crotch. His eyes were proper wide.
‘Fucking hell!’ Manny said. ‘Doesn’t she like to confuse people!’
The song was over and Dai swivelled out of the dangerous corner, passing us with a flustered fucking look, clearing his voice and muttering, ‘Bathroom.’
Alice walked towards us, easy as if she won a challenge.
Connor grinned and Manny scowled.
‘You’re playing a dangerous game,’ Manny said, handing Alice her drink.
Alice shrugged. ‘Dunno, I’m pretty sure Dai would be up for some fun. He’s into the same kinks I am.’
They argued a while and I was looking at Ethan sipping his cider. He was watching Manny telling Alice off and I wondered what was going through his head. He was holding my hand but his mind was elsewhere… or was I imagining things? I leaned on him, pressed against him and rubbed my forehead on his arm. And I wasn’t one for leaning on people.
He turned to me and smiled. ‘What’s up with you today?’ He spoke into my ear. ‘You’re making me hard. I’m trying to behave, mind.’
‘Why, don’t behave.’
In his gaze there was a glint of something like desire. I was casting spells again, maybe with my beautiful eyes that didn’t give a shit.
Ethan led me to the dance floor. People were shaking their bodies at the notes of Go With The Flow. The others would know we wanted some space and I felt like I’d succeeded. I had him.
He pushed me against the wall, swigged a big gulp of his cider and kissed the hell out of me, deep and flavourful. His hand found its way over my lower back and roamed under my clothes. Oh damn. He had the gift. Ethan knew all my sensitive spots and gave me goosebumps as nobody else could.
I met his eyes and shit, my heart was going crazy because this buzz was of a different level. And he was stroking my cheek up and down with his fingers like that, pecking my lips.
In the quiet moment between songs, he put his free arm around my neck and sighed. ‘You’re so gorgeous. Bet you don’t know it.’
‘As long as you think so, I don’t care if it’s true.’
‘Baby…’ He sighed again. ‘Fuck, Nate. You’re making me melt, like.’
There was a scream of surprise. We turned to look.
Manny stood with his mouth open and hands up, still and in shock. Also, dripping all over. He’d worn a colourful shirt that was now soaked in Alice’s double Rum and Coke. The transparent fabric stuck to his chest, giving the view of a tight bra underneath. Alice was still there, with a gape and a glass pointing at Manny’s chest like a fuming gun. She stormed out of the pub.
Ethan moved quickly and I followed.
Manny hugged his chest tight and began to shake. The colour on his cheeks drained away. ‘Oh no… Oh no…’
Ethan took off his coat and put it over his shoulders. ‘It’s alright, it’s all good. Nobody saw.’
Manny batted his long lashes that were soppy with tears and repeated, ‘Oh no…’ He clung to Ethan’s arm and sobbed, ‘I want to get out.’
Ethan accompanied Manny out of the pub and Connor and I were right behind them. Dai was nowhere to be seen.
‘That was so out of order!’ Manny said shakily.
Outside, many were standing around for a chat and a cig. They immediately went to look at Manny who now cried and shivered even harder. We found ourselves abandoning our drinks on the table by the smoking area in front of the bar so that Manny could get away from the curious eyes of strangers. Ethan had an arm on Manny’s shoulder and he stroked his back over the coat. My stupid heart ached.
‘Where did fucking Alice go?’ Connor barked.
‘Dunno,’ Ethan said. ‘It doesn’t matter right now, does it?’
Connor’s eyes blazed. ‘Yes, it does matter! She can’t fuckin’ act like that!’
‘It’s my fault, I said something terrible,’ Manny sniffed.
‘Yeah but hers was a massive overreaction!’ Connor insisted.
‘I don’t feel so good… I don’t feel so good…’ Manny mumbled.
Ethan gripped him tighter. ‘Right, I'm taking you home.’
Connor grabbed Manny's arm. ‘I’m here so you don’t need to.’
‘I want to go with Ethan,’ Manny said.
My guts twisted and I looked down at my feet. Fuck, why do I have to be this way?
‘Oh yeah? You’re going with Ethan, is it? Well fuckin’ suit yourself!’ Connor turned around, nostrils flaring like a hog’s, and stomped away.
Ethan shook his head. ‘Why the fuck are you seeing that guy, Mans?’
‘I thought he was the casual type.’
‘He’s not, obviously!’
‘Ohh God…’ Manny stooped, holding his stomach like he was about to be sick.
‘I’ll call a taxi,’ I said, getting my phone out.
‘Cheers babes.’ Ethan smiled gratefully.
We walked to a spot where the cab could easily pick them up and sat on the edge of a concrete planter. Manny rocked back and forth, still hugging his chest, and Ethan’s arm was still on his shoulder, patting and stroking. I pretended to be busy with my phone.
When the taxi arrived and Manny was comfortably seated in, Ethan hung his arms around me and kissed me gently. ‘Sorry that we’re leaving like this. I know it’s been long since you’ve been on a night out.’
He put a hand on each one of my cheeks and warmed me with his palms. ‘Why don’t you come back to mine?’
‘I fancy walking home if that’s alright.’
‘Isn’t it kinda far?’
I shrugged. ‘I fancy it.’
‘How about Dai and Alice?’
Ethan looked at his phone, then put it back in his pocket. ‘Dai said he went looking for her. Who knows what the fuck’s going on between them two.’ He kissed me on the lips and grinned. ‘See you tomorrow for your tattoo session?’
I grinned back at him. ‘Yah.’
I watched the car go, a hushed swoosh into the night and I was alone. Utterly so. On my way home the wind rose, cold and reminding me that winter was coming.
I was lost in thought, or rather a glum stream of images where Ethan kissed and hugged Manny the same way he did with me was filling my head, when my phone buzzed in my pocket.
It was bro.
‘Heeeeey Nate where are you?’ He slurred out.
I froze. ‘You drunk?’
‘You promised you were gonna cut down on booze!’
‘Yeah well,’ He clicked his tongue. ‘Even the best of us fuck up sometimes. Though like…’ He groaned. ‘I think I need to go to the hospital.’
‘To the hospital? What? What happened?’
‘I’m bleeding a bit…’
‘Louis, where are you?’
‘By the stairs.’
‘The stairs where?’ The wind blew harder, colder.
‘I was trying to go up to the apartment, like. I fell down the stairs. I’m just chilling on the floor here, in the foyer.’ He laughed.
‘Where is it you’re bleeding?’
‘From my head.’
‘Shit. Bro, rather than calling me you should call a fuckin’ ambulance!’
‘Oh well. If I die, a fuckin’ nurse is not the last person I want to talk to…’
‘Fuckin’ call 999 now you twat! I’ll be home in five!’ That said I hung up, stuck my phone back inside my pocket and ran all the way home.
What a fuckin’ shit Saturday night!
Finally had the chance to catch up. Proper enjoying this story.