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The Runaway

by Nephy Hart

The Runaway - Nephy Hart
Editions:ePub: $ 3.99
ISBN: 9781301198573
Pages: 224

After losing his memory in the accident that killed his parents, Jack retires to a remote cabin with his aunt to recuperate. Here he meets Ciarrai, a gender-bending, androgynous beauty who captivates Jack and terrifies him at the same time. Ciarrei turns up on dates wearing a skirt and pretends to be his own twin sister. Ciarrai who likes to be naked and is utterly shameless. Ciarrai who is more damaged than Jack could know. When

When Ciarrai's past catches up with him, a past that drove him to the brink of suicide on more than one occasion, Cierrai disappears without a word, trying to save Jack from his own fate, something for which Jack cannot forgive him.

An accident brings them together, and something which is definitely not an accident almost separates them in the most final of ways. Can their love survive? Can they survive?

Publisher: Independently Published
Cover Artists:
Pairings: M-M
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay, Non Binary, Pansexual, Demisexual, Genderfluid, Genderqueer
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Amnesia, Hurt / Comfort, Opposites Attract, Cultural Differences, Famous / Not Famous, Mind Games, Thrill of the Chase, Tease and Denial, Families/Raising Kids
Word Count: 74000
Setting: Britain and briefly Ireland
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters

It was cold, very cold, and Jack wrapped his coat more tightly around himself. Clearly, at some point there’d been a path linking the cabins along the banks of the lake. In more recent times it must have been abandoned because, when Jack had found it a couple of weeks ago, it had been all but impassable. With Ciarrai’s help he’d managed to clear it and take a good five minutes off the journey.

No doubt, in the spring the forest would reach out its fingers again, trying to regain its domination, but for now there was a clear path about four feet wide, floored with compacted earth, leading around the banks of the lake. There was too much forest between the path and the lake to see the water clearly. By winter, Jack thought, it might be possible to catch glimpses through the naked trees.


Thanks to the clearing of the path and the brightness of the moon, it was possible to make fast progress, even though it was getting late and dark. His feet crunched on the frosted leaves that scattered the path. Autumn was here for sure.

The silence was complete, the kind of silence you only get on cold autumn evenings walking through a wood. Jack had long since stopped being spooked by it, but still, it made him shiver and walk on a little faster.

The first sight of the cabin came suddenly, as it always did. Tonight, there was a warm halo of light surrounding it. Jack smiled. He could never work out why Ciarrai insisted on having every light in the cabin switched on at the first hint of darkness. It was as if he was trying to keep it out at all costs, although it didn’t seem to bother him when he was walking through it, or gathering it around him like a safety blanket. More than once, Jack had wondered what he was really trying to keep out.

Over the past three weeks, Jack had made the trip many times, and he was never quite sure what he would find at the end. Sometimes, Ciarrai would be dancing around the living room singing. Sometimes, he would be sitting down by the lake, staring out over the water, often crying. And sometimes he would be drinking himself into a coma in the kitchen. On each occasion Jack had left the cabin, he’d taken with him a strange sense of familiarity.

Jack was pondering that strange feeling of having met Ciarrai somewhere before as he crunched through the sparkling autumn night. It nagged at him. Sometimes he could almost forget about it, but at other times it almost possessed him. Was it because he wanted to have known him? Wanted to have shared a past with him? He sighed. Maybe he had, and maybe he hadn’t, but if he had, Ciarrai wasn’t saying anything and Jack didn’t remember. Not that there was anything new in that. Jack really didn’t remember very much at all.

He remembered the way to the cabin, though. He remembered the warm, soft smile that waited there. He remembered the shiny hair and confused eyes. He wasn’t sure why they kept drawing him back, but he wasn’t arguing. He liked to sit and listen to Ciarrai talking with passion about literature, and music and art. In fact he liked to sit and listen to Ciarrai talking about anything. He would never admit it, least of all to Ciarrai, but he kind of thought he might be falling in love with him. Except, of course, that was impossible.

For one thing, Ciarrai was way out of his league. Ciarrai came from the city. He was poised and polished and he’d travelled all over the world. Even though he still hadn’t told Jack a thing about his past, Jack felt as if he was getting to know Ciarrai better, more deeply, than anyone he’d ever known…not that it could ever be more than a feeling because, apart from the sudden flash in the taxi, Jack had remembered nothing more of his past.

Sometimes, Jack wondered if the whole falling in love thing was a product of the head injury, part of the not remembering. Maybe he’d forgotten what falling in love was supposed to be like. Maybe he had forgotten what kissing and holding and staring into beautiful eyes should feel like. Maybe it was because there were no girls and Ciarrai was so pretty and soft and… real. Maybe it was a lot of things but whatever it was, he knew it was wrong.

If Ciarrai had been a girl, would it have been so different? Would he have made a move? Said something? He didn’t think so. Ciarrai was so different, so—beyond him. There was something about him that made him…different. Special. Jack was fascinated, captivated, but he knew Ciarrai would never feel the same about someone like him, someone so…frightened and empty and…shut down. He wasn’t sure what love should be but he had a good idea what it couldn’t be.

Yet, still he came. He couldn’t stay away, and Ciarrai was always happy to see him. He was always welcoming, always ready with a smile and a hug and a happy bounce, even when he’d been sad before. Maybe it was just because he was so lonely, anyone would do. Maybe…. Jack sighed. His head was hurting from all the maybes. There were so many of them in his life. Aunt Jane had brought him here to get away from the maybes, from the pressure. He was supposed to just let things happen and not to think too much about it, but how could he think about anything else?

He didn’t remember his parents or the accident. That, at least, was a blessing. He didn’t think he could cope with that, not yet. As much as he wanted to remember, he didn’t want to remember that. It would help if he could remember himself, though.

The bright light grew closer and he heard singing floating from the open window. Ciarrai sang well. Ciarrai did everything well. He was precise and deft and fluid and, seemingly, fearless.

No one answered when he knocked on the door, even when he knocked harder and harder. He knew the door would be open but he was afraid to simply walk in. What if Ciarrai were naked or something? Now that was an image that could burn itself into someone’s mind. Shaking, he turned the handle and allowed the door to swing gently open.

“Ciarrai,” he called softly, “Ciarrai are you there?”

What a stupid thing to say. Of course he was there. Hadn’t he just heard him singing? Actually, he could still hear him, and he could also hear the soft notes of some kind of music player. Ciarrai often did that, turned down the music so he could sing over it. He didn’t like to sing loudly. That beautiful voice wasn’t made for loud sounds.

“Ciarrai?” There was no reply. He hadn’t really expected there to be, because Ciarrai got completely caught up with the music and he wouldn’t have heard if a herd of elephants stampeded through the house. The smell drifting through the hall suggested he was in the kitchen and if he were cooking, he would be doubly absorbed.

Closing the door behind him, Jack allowed himself to be drawn to the kitchen by his nose. When he opened the door the smell hit him full in the face and it was amazing. Ciarrai was a good cook but he didn’t generally spend much time on it, preferring to throw something together from the freezer and the tins in the cupboard. Tonight, it smelled as if he was making something spicy, curry maybe. Curries were one of the few things Ciarrai liked to cook from scratch. They always tasted so good.

However, as soon as he set eyes on Ciarrai he completely forgot about cooking. For a few moments he forgot about breathing.

Usually, Ciarrai dressed casually in jeans and t-shirt, with trainers. Sometimes he wore pyjamas around the house when he wasn’t expecting anyone to come. They were black. What he was wearing today wasn’t black. It wasn’t….

It was a multi-coloured silk kimono. Delicate flowers wound their way along slender branches and cherry blossoms fell like rain. The silk sighed and swayed as he moved, sliding over the curves of his body in a way that made Jack feel tight. He’d caught up part of his hair and secured it with a silver clip at the back of his head, while the rest fell in golden waves, swishing when he turned his head. Jack bit his lip.

Ciarrai seemed taller, somehow, and it took a few minutes for Jack to realise he was wearing feathered, black, high heeled slippers. Fucking shit.

“Ciarrai?” he croaked and Ciarrai turned with a smile. His eyes were smoky dark, outlined with eyeliner, the lashes unnaturally long. But it wasn’t his eyes that drew Jack’s attention. It wasn’t even his flawlessly powdered and rouged cheeks. It was his cherry red lips, curling slightly in a sweet smile, twisting his stomach and begging to be kissed. What the fuck?

“Hey, Jack,” Ciarrai said lightly, as if there was nothing wrong. “I was making curry. Do you want some?”

Jack couldn’t find his voice. Neither could he take his eyes away from those lips, which were smiling broadly now.

“I think maybe you could do with a drink.”

Jack nodded dumbly and Ciarrai drifted over to the wine rack. A bottle was already open on the counter.  He took out another glass and filled it, returning to hand it to Jack. He wasn’t walking but gliding, the silk swaying and whispering sibilantly.

With an effort, Jack raised his eyes from the cherry lips to the smoky eyes and swallowed hard. “What?” he croaked. “What…?”

“What…?” Ciarrai asked with a grin. Jack shook his head, his mouth dropping open at the husky purr in Ciarrai’s voice. Then Ciarrai dropped the blatant flirtation and smiled a more natural smile, handing Jack the wine. As he took it, he noticed the long, red, lacquered nails. “I’m sorry,” Ciarrai said, laughing. “I’m being cruel. I just couldn’t help it. Your face was a picture.”

“But why?”

“Why what? Why am I cooking curry in a silk kimono?” Jack shrugged and Ciarrai continued. “Why not? I didn’t think anyone was going to see me.”

“Do you…? Do you often…?”

“Wear a kimono? No, not often. Only when I’m feeling….” Ciarrai trailed off. A dreamy smile touched his lips as he stared into the distance, with a faraway look in his eyes. “When I want to feel cool silk on my skin.”

“No. I meant…. I um…meant….”

For a moment, Ciarrai looked puzzled, then he grinned. “Oh right,” he said. “You mean dressing like a woman?”

“Yeah, that would be it,” Jack said, recovering a little and taking a large swig out of his glass. He choked and Ciarrai laughed again.



“Why not? Like I said, I like the feel of silk. I like wearing high heels. I like the way I look with makeup on. I like the way I look in short skirts and suspenders. It makes me feel sexy.” For a moment his face fell. “Not that there’s anyone to feel sexy for anymore.” He shrugged. “Not that there ever was. It just makes me feel good, for me.”

“So um…um…. Do you…? Are you…? You’re not…not…?”

“Not what?” He giggled. “A woman?”


“Er…no; no I’m not. I could prove it if you like.” A wicked gleam lit Ciarrai’s sparkling blue eyes and the look on his face made Jack think of a mouse between the paws of a cat. It was almost predatory.

“No…no that’s fine. I…believe you,” Jack said, shrinking back and almost falling off the stool. Ciarrai laughed.

“So, do you like it?” he asked, twirling and making the silken hair and silk kimono float around him. The heels clacked on the tiles.

Jack swallowed, hard. “I…guess….”

Ciarrai stopped and smiled a gentler smile. “You don’t mind do you? I mean, does it make you feel uncomfortable?” He looked uncertain, and Jack’s heart leaped.

“No…well yea, but not in the way you think.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Ciarrai turned back to the stove and Jack drank most of the glass of wine.

“So are you…?” he asked after a long silence, during which Ciarrai had started to hum. “Are you…?”

“Am I what?” Ciarrai asked, ladling curry onto plates, next to the mounds of rice.

“If you…. If you like to…um…um…dress as woman, does that mean…? Does it mean you’re…?”

Ciarrai looked up and shrugged. “I don’t think it means anything, except that I am what I am, and I’m not afraid to show it.”

“I know but….”

Ciarrai tilted his head to one side and gave him a calculating look. Then he shrugged again. “Am I a transvestite? I guess—part time. Am I gay? Absolutely. Am I embarrassed or ashamed? Absolutely not. I guess I’m just,” he paused, “me.” Shrugging again he picked up the plates and set them on the table. “Come on. Let’s eat before it gets cold.”

Jack found it difficult to eat. It wasn’t that the food wasn’t good, it was. It was that he simply couldn’t take his eyes off Ciarrai. His red lips wrapped around the fork and, occasionally, a pink tongue darted out to lick sauce off them. The long white fingers, with their shiny red tips, caressed the cutlery, or wrapped around the stem of the wine glass. The long lashes fluttered, the silky hair swished and a delicate, flowery perfume, switched his hormones into overdrive. He was overwhelmed. He simply had no idea what to think, what to say, what to feel.

This was Ciarrai, his friend, and yet…and yet it wasn’t. This person was some kind of magical creature, some fey witch, come to steal away his senses, his mind. He ached to reach out and touch him. Any part of him. Anything….

Ciarrai had always been androgynous, and there’d been many times when Jack had been confused by it; confused about the way he felt about it. There had been occasions when Ciarrai had worn eyeliner, when his feminine side had been close to the surface, and Jack could almost have believed….  But this…this was….

“Are you alright?”

“Alright?” Jack repeated, numbly.

“You’re not eating much and you look pale.”

“I…. It’s…. It’s just….”

“Oh. I’m sorry. I forget.”

“Forget what?”

“Forget not everyone thinks and feels like I do. I’ve kind of given up trying to work out what everyone else expects so I kind of…. Now that I’m here, alone, I guess I’ve just…let myself be me. I forget there’s anything wrong with it.”

“Wrong? Hell no. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just…. I can’t….” He swallowed hard again and looked up to find Ciarrai smiling, with such a strange look in his eyes.

“Are you in love with me, Jack?” he asked, and Jack all but fainted. Shock shot through him so hard he almost fell off the chair. In love? With him? Why would he ask such a thing? What was he expecting? What should he do? What could he do? He was frozen, so many things going through his head, so many things he could or should do, that he couldn’t do anything. Ciarrai’s smile suddenly appeared predatory.


About the Author

Cheryl/Nephy was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Cheryl/Nephy has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.

Later in life, Cheryl/Nephy became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.

In present times, Cheryl/Nephy lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, bearded dragon and three cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art, with a healthy smattering of magic and mayhem