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Come Back

The District Line #3

by C F White

The bigger you become, the harder you fall.

Sebastian Saunders is a rising rock star. Jay Ruttman is a Premier League football player. Their year-long relationship is hot commodity. Hounded by the press and fans alike, the lovers struggle to keep their private lives private.

Flying high in the charts and having Jay by his side, Seb is finally living his dream. But Jay’s new, promising career is threatened when a horrific injury on the pitch has him side lined—not only in the game but also in his relationship with Seb.

Jay’s crippling self-destruction spirals out of control, tearing them apart. To move forward, both men must learn to leave their past behind—not so easy when it keeps coming back to haunt them. Can their hard-fought relationship survive the ultimate test?

This is the concluding part to the District Line series where the full-time whistle could signal an end to their turbulent journey… or is it just the beginning?

Excerpt:

Chapter One

Movers & Shakers

January 2007

 

“Y’know they just make you look more conspicuous down here, dun’t ya?”

Seb curled a finger around the arm of his shades and slipped them to the end of his nose, his chocolate-brown doe eyes focusing on Jay. “Conspicuous?”

Jay raised his eyebrows to the point they were hidden underneath the peak of his baseball cap. He stepped in closer to Seb, avoiding another influx of commuters to the Underground platform. The musty smell of a day’s office work wafted from the nearest suited male, masking the dust and cast-iron scent, and the echoed tap of kitten heels ricocheted off the curved walls.

Tutting, Seb slipped the glasses back up. “That’s four syllables, Champ.” Bashed by another oversized handbag passing him, Seb grimaced. “Careful, you’ll quash the stereotypical notion that footballers are all as thick as shit.”

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Jay snorted and glanced up to the digital timetable display. “Two minutes.”

“Fuck’s sake, why did you have to trade in our tangerine machine? We could have used that car right now.”

“I had to, to get the upgraded motor. Least the BMW will be more subtle. With blacked-out windas, an’ all.”

“Damn right. But we could have taken a cab.”

“And fork out a fuck ton to pay some geezer to sit us in midday traffic? No, ta.”

“Isn’t now a little prudent to be counting the pennies? If that last contract you signed at West Ham for a cool half a mil is anything to go by.” Seb tsked. “New money.”

“I’ll always count my kilkennies,” Jay retaliated. “No matter what I earn now. Just like you’ll always be an entitled rich kid who throws away his mash the moment it touches his sky rocket.”

“I won’t even attempt to decipher what you just said.” Seb twirled a crunchy tip of dark brown hair between his fingers. “And I swear you do it to confuse the fuck out of me.”

“Nah. I just know you like it.”

“Ha.” Seb ran his tongue along his front teeth. “That I do. Say more.”

Jay chuckled. A group of rowdy lads bundled down the underground steps to the platform, each one wearing a replica Tottenham football shirt, and the remnants of their drinking session hit Jay in the face. Jay cursed under his breath. Why he’d agreed to do this on the same day as a London derby was due to kick off, he’d never know. Edging closer to the yellow line, he impatiently awaited the next train hoping to avoid any undue attention.

It had been getting harder to venture out in public, but he couldn’t remain inside with Seb forever. Not that it was a particularly bad thing when they did get to close the doors to their poky flat and shut out the world for a while.

“Ah, bollocks.” Seb shoved Jay on the arm and squirmed through a crowd of commuters. “Who the fuck invented a fucking camera on a fucking phone? How is that ever going to be fucking useful?”

Stumbling to the end of the platform, Jay peered over Seb’s shoulder. The flash of a mobile camera illuminated the tunnel, and all the other passengers scrambled to see who or what had been the target of the non-consensual snap. Him? Seb? Both of them. Together. Bowing his head, Jay gripped the peak of his cap to conceal as much of his face as possible into the shadows.

This was also taking some getting used to—the attention, the random cameras being shoved in his face, the recognition on the street that his status as one of the top goal scorers of last season had brought him. Seb seemed to take the attention in his stride. But he’d always been destined for celebrity status, and revelled in the public’s scrutiny. Like a moth to a flame, Seb was drawn to the bright lights of the media circus they’d inadvertently created for themselves. Jay wouldn’t have him any other way, of course. Well... Maybe sometimes.

“The specs ain’t working.”

“Nor is the cap.” Seb slapped the peak of Jay’s hat and it fell to obscure his vision.

“Piss off.” Ripping it from his head, Jay huffed and slicked back his floppy blond hair. His hooded sweatshirt rose to reveal his stomach, but he slapped it down, double lively, on seeing Seb’s roaming gaze. “And you can put your tongue back in.”

He almost wiped the corner of Seb’s mouth with his thumb. But that would have caused even more of a stir, and they’d made their pact not to fuel the speculation in the press about them. Jay may have outed himself last year, but he refused to speak of his love life—of Seb. Keeping that firmly in the shadows aided his survival on the pitch, the training ground, the changing rooms, even if he claimed it was so Seb could find his own path without the links to him. And he was.

“You show those abs,” Seb licked his lips, “and I’m going to drool. Sue me. I got a lawyer.”

“Speakin’ of cash...”

The tube train shunted into the station and the doors bleeped open, stifling the conversation that Jay had been meaning to have for a while. Well, since this had all got a bit more serious. Steering Seb onto the carriage, Jay pointed toward two vacated seats and Seb grabbed the copy of the Metro newspaper left on the multicoloured cushion.

“Hmm?” Seb sat and flicked through the pages, eyes hidden behind his dark glasses, but Jay knew they’d be darting across the printed words and no longer focused on him. Priorities. Not for the latest news in the capital: probably more for the entertainment section. The hottest in music releases, more specifically.

“We need to get the finances sorted.”

“Like how?”

“The club are setting up a meetin’ with an agent, so I gotta know what we got between us.”

“An agent? Why do you need one of those money-grabbing sleazes?” Seb slapped the paper to his lap. “You have me to swipe your hard-earned cash off your hands.”

“Ain’t that the truth. But the club recommended it. Could be a good move. Getting someone to, y’know, deal with all the shit. Especially with what we’re about to go do right now.”

Seb chewed his lip. “How much?”

“They’ll take ten percent.”

“Of your wages?”

“No, off my boot laces.” Jay tutted.

“That’ll make it hard to kick a ball.”

The train pulled out of the station and Jay rocked against the window pane. The raucous banter from the group of lads all squashed into the vestibule drowned out the squeal of the metal wheels on the track. Jay tensed, wriggling in the seat and adjusted his trackie bottoms down his legs. This train couldn’t go quick enough.

“And what do these people do for the sweat off your back?” Seb returned his interest to the Metro.

“Sort my life out.”

“They’ll tell you to stay in the closet.”

“Bit hard that now, innit?”

Seb smiled. “Whatever you want, Champ.” He trailed his gaze back to the printed text on the newspaper. “But you are aware of my own background in business? I can sort your finances out into various investments that’ll mean you won’t be destitute by the time you’re thirty.”

“You mean, put my hard-earned dough into your band?”

“No sell-by date on rock and roll. Look at Bowie.” Seb grinned.  “No, you don’t need an agent. You just need some sweet talker to answer all those OK! And Hello requests. What about your dad? Surely the man wants to give the decorating stint up at his age? I would pay good money to read John Ruttman’s response to a photo shoot, ‘fuck off sweet’art, my son ain’t no piece of meat to sell your shit rag so you can stop gettin’ your knickers in flap over ’im. And you at the Mail, you homophobic twat with a microphone, you can go fuck yourself. ‘”

Jay glared. Hard. “And that’s the reason, right there, why you ain’t allowed to talk to the press.”

 

COLLAPSE

About the Author

Brought up in the relatively small town in Hertfordshire, I managed to do what most other residents of the town try and fail. Leave.

Going off to study at a West London University, I realised there was a whole city out there just waiting to be discovered, so much like Dick Whittington before, I never made it back home and still endlessly searches for the streets paved with gold; slowly coming to the realisation that it is mostly paved with chewing gum. And the odd bit of graffiti. And those little circles of yellow spray paint where the council point out the pot holes to someone who is supposedly meant to fix them instead of stare at them endlessly whilst holding a polystyrene foam cup of watered down coffee.

Eventually I moved from West to East along that vast District Line, and settled for pie and mash, cockles and winkles, and a bit of Knees Up Mother Brown to live in the East End of London; securing a job, creating a life, a home, a family.

Having worked in Higher Education for the most proportion of my adult life, a life-altering experience brought pen back to paper, having written stories as a child but never having the confidence to show them to the world. Now embarking on this writing malarkey, I cannot stop. So strap in, it’s a bumpy ride from here on in.


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