Hi guys, we have Alexis Hall popping in today with his new release Pansies, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant giveaway so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! <3 ~Pixie~
Alfie Bell is . . . fine. He’s got a six-figure salary, a penthouse in Canary Wharf, the car he swore he’d buy when he was eighteen, and a bunch of fancy London friends.
It’s rough, though, going back to South Shields now that they all know he’s a fully paid-up pansy. It’s the last place he’s expecting to pull. But Fen’s gorgeous, with his pink-tipped hair and hipster glasses, full of the sort of courage Alfie’s never had. It should be a one-night thing, but Alfie hasn’t met anyone like Fen before.
Except he has. At school, when Alfie was everything he was supposed to be, and Fen was the stubborn little gay boy who wouldn’t keep his head down. And now it’s a proper mess: Fen might have slept with Alfie, but he’ll probably never forgive him, and Fen’s got all this other stuff going on anyway, with his mam and her flower shop and the life he left down south.
Alfie just wants to make it right. But how can he, when all they’ve got in common is the nowhere town they both ran away from.
“An’ wharraboot ye, pet?”
“Huh?” Alfie made a valiant attempt to look like he’d been paying attention. “What about me what?”
Great Aunt Sheila jabbed him in the ribs. “When’s it ganna be your turn?”
Oh God. Was that going to be the question now?
“Well, you know . . . it’s just . . . how it is,” he mumbled.
The DJ, who was probably somebody’s uncle or somebody’s neighbour or somebody’s neighbour’s uncle, was playing Erasure’s early nineties classic, “Always.” Which at that moment swept into a passionate crescendo.
Sheila cupped her hand to ear. “Eh?” This was local speak for I’m sorry, could you say that again?
“I’m not really . . .”
Always, da-da-da-dah-di-do . . . “I don’t think I’m the marrying . . .” Harmony, harmony, oh fuck it. “The thing is, I’m sort of gay.”
“Ye wha’, pet?”
“Gay. I’m gay. I like cock.”
Whoa, that was way too loud. It seemed to echo in the silence and— Wait, silence? Of course silence. The song had ended a couple of seconds ago.
Which meant Alfie was standing there. In the middle of his best friend’s wedding. Yelling about cock. While everybody stared at him.
He wasn’t an expert, but he was pretty sure there were better ways to come out.
Great Aunt Sheila rolled her eyes. “Well, we all knaa that, pet. But it’s nae reason not te be settled doon in this day an’ age.”
“Oh right. Right.” He was too dazed to manage anything more coherent. Who was we? And how did they know? When he barely did himself?
“There’s more te life,” Sheila went on with the dogged wisdom of the far too bloody old, “than bums.”
Alfie waited, hopefully, to die. And didn’t. “Thanks. That’s . . . Thanks.”
Uncle DJ had finally remembered he was meant to be providing music, not allowing the room to fill up with awkward revelations of homosexuality, and hastily fired up the “Macarena.” While everybody was distracted, Alfie reeled away to the relative safety of the finger buffet.
The centrepiece of the whole arrangement was a tinfoil hedgehog skewered with cheese and pineapple pieces on cocktail sticks. This was as close as North East England got to a canapé. He ate one out of long habit. The pineapple was dry, the cheese too rich and faintly sweaty. It tasted of home.
He could feel about thirty people trying not to look at him, so he began vigorously helping himself to the potato salad. It was basically a bowl of wobbling mayonnaise with a few unhappy potatoes bobbing in it.
Then came the clicking of dress shoes behind him, and he had no choice but to turn and face his best friend. Kevin was shiny-faced with groomly joy, and stuffed uncomfortably into a morning suit that had clearly been chosen by someone else, presumably the bride. Alfie had known Kevin for nearly his whole life, and he’d never seemed like a heliotrope cravat sort of bloke.
“I divvent knaa ye were a puffter,” he said.
Alfie picked up a sausage roll so big he could barely get his hand round it, and then wished he hadn’t. “Yeah, sorry.”
“Eee, well.” There was a pause. “Are ye sure?”
He nodded. It was one of the few things he was sure about.
“I dunno, man. Doon sooth for five minutes, first you’re talking like a reet ponce and the next thing we knaa you’re an arse bandit.”
Sweat prickled the back of Alfie’s neck, oozing beneath his collar. “You don’t just turn gay the moment you go past Leeds. And believe me, your arse is very, very safe.”
“Oh aye. Like ye haven’t been after it for years.” Kevin slapped himself soundly on the buttocks and grinned.
It was meant to be a joke, so Alfie dutifully tried to find it funny. Nope. “I really haven’t. Sorry if I wrecked your wedding. I didn’t mean to tell you like this.”
“Dan’t be daft, man.” There another pause, somewhat more fraught than the last, and then Kevin went on plaintively: “I just divvent gerrit.”
Alfie ran his hands through his carefully spiked hair. The least he owed his friend was some sort of explanation, but he hardly knew how to start. He’d left South Shields his father’s son. And now he . . . well . . . wasn’t?
“It’s complicated,” he tried. But then the words came tumbling out of him and couldn’t be stopped. “It took me a long time to sort of . . . figure it out. Even longer to get my head round it. I just never thought I was, y’know, that way. But I guess I am? I mean, I must be.”
Kevin blinked. “Wha’ ye gan on aboot?”
The sweat clung cold to Alfie’s body. What was he doing? This wasn’t how they talked to each other. They were mates. They took the mick, they had a laugh, they didn’t emote at each other like southerners.
“I just meant,” Kevin was saying, “I divvent knaa how ye go from, ‘Oh, that’s a bloke ower there,’ to ‘I fancy banging him like.’”
Alfie shrugged. He didn’t know either. “Look, I’m sorry if—”
“Alfie, ye knaa you’re still me best mate. Ye always will be.”
Relief and gratitude rushed over him, but they were followed by a nasty sort of resentment that the words were necessary in the first place. That Kevin had needed to say them and that Alfie had needed to hear them. As if there had ever been the possibility of another answer. Which, of course, there had.
Kevin grinned. “Even if ye are a shirt lifter.”
If his hands hadn’t been full of phallic sausage, Alfie might have put his head in them. “Kev . . .” But there was no point. It had been kindly meant. So maybe this—why couldn’t he even think it sometimes?—would just be something else for Kev to rip the piss out of, like his hair or his tattoo. Comfortably meaningless. “Well, you’re still my best mate too, even if you’re a complete knob.”
Kev laughed and flung an arm across Alfie’s shoulder. “Takes one te know one.”
“And I should know, right?” Oh God. Now he was doing this shit to himself. But he had to say it, to prove it had no power over him. And it worked. Kev spluttered, caught between shock and amusement, and it was close enough to winning that Alfie was able to be generous. “Congratulations, by the way.”
For a moment Kev looked blank. “Blummin’ hell, I’m married.”
“Till death do you part.”
“Or we get divorced.” He gazed proudly across the room at his bride. “What do ye think, though? Didn’t I do well, eh?”
Lisa—he was pretty sure she was called Lisa—seemed nice enough: pretty, friendly, a bit of a glint in her eyes. What Alfie really wanted to say was As long as she makes you happy. But he knew it wasn’t what Kev wanted to hear—that he’d probably think it sounded gay.
Which left Alfie trying to remember who he used to be. “What is she,” he managed, “a mental case?”
“Well, she’s out of your league, mate, so there’s got to be something wrong with her.”
Kevin beamed like this was high praise. “I’d better get ower there or I’ll never hear the end of it. She’s feisty when she’s roused.” He gave Alfie’s shoulder a final, rough squeeze and headed back to his new bride.
Alfie watched him go, smiling a bit, happy and sad and confused all at once. Since he’d picked up the sausage roll, he tried to eat it in the least dodgy way possible, and it settled lumpenly in his stomach.
Now Uncle DJ was playing “The Power of Love,” swaying ecstatically behind the mixing desk, and Great Aunt Sheila’s voice was somehow managing to drown out even Céline Dion. “An’ ye knaa what else?” she was telling her rapt little audience. “I think wor Maureen’s a lesbeen.”
Nobody was looking at Alfie. Except they were not looking at him so very pointedly that he knew the moment he turned his back they’d all start staring at him. Like everyone was playing some kind of weird visual game of Grandmother’s Footsteps.
It was at times like this that he really wished he smoked. Or did coke. Or whatever gave you an excuse to slip out of the room when you needed to. So he did the next best thing. He pulled out his phone, reacted to the blank screen as though he’d received some kind of important message, and hurried outside. The air was blissfully cool for a few seconds, and then just cold. He shivered. His coat was still in his room.
God, he really was a soft southern ponce.
Read more at: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/pansies (just click the excerpt tab)
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret.
He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.
He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car.
He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.
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