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       Time to Upsize (The Indignities Book 1), p.1

           Graeme Aitken
 
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Time to Upsize (The Indignities Book 1)


  Time to Upsize

  The Indignities Book One

  Graeme Aitken

  20Ten Books

  Sydney

  Time to Upsize: The Indignities Book One

  Graeme Aitken

  This book was first published by Clouds of Magellan in 2010.

  This edition published by 20Ten Books in 2012.

  Copyright © Graeme Aitken 2010

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

  This is a work of fiction. The novel’s characters, incidents and dialogue are the product of the author’s imagination and are entirely fictional.

  Aitken, Graeme, 1963–.

  Time to Upsize The Indignities Book 1

  ISBN 9780987329318

  Cover photograph by Shots by Gun

  To José Rincon Castro

  Contents

  A Letter from Graeme Aitken

  1. Prologue

  2. Chapter One

  3. Chapter Two

  4. Chapter Three

  5. Chapter Four

  6. Chapter Five

  7. Chapter Six

  8. Chapter Seven

  9. Chapter Eight

  10. Chapter Nine

  About the Author

  Acknowledgements

  I’d like to thank Gordon Thompson of Clouds of Magellan for first publishing this novel and for his enthusiasm and insights. The manuscript was improved immensely by the editorial work he and Helen Bell contributed. I’d like to thank my agents—Mitchell Waters, Geraldine Cooke, and Fiona Inglis—for their work and feedback at various stages. A very big thank you to my friends Olivier Colette, Graeme Head, Craig Stevens and Peter Whitfeld for their reading of the manuscript and comments. Thank you to my day job employer Les McDonald for his flexibility in allowing me time off to write when I needed it.

  There are a great number of friends who gave me encouragement, support and inspiration when I was working on this book and I’d like to thank them all heartily. They are José Rincon Castro, Megan Heyward, Sarah Breen, Klime Zilevski, Enriqué Torres, Rosanna Arciuli, Dean Baxter, Steven Thurlow, Keith Buss, Felipe Mejia, James George, Helen Ferry, Hebert Perdomo, Jorge Baron, Marcus Mabry, Eduardo Batres, Richard McIntyre, Claudio Back, and Edwin Beltran Jimenez.

  Design and Image Credits

  Cover Design – Tane Cavu

  Original Photography – Shots by Gun

  The Indignities logo design – Gordon Thompson

  The Indignities image – Colin Milligan

  Author photographs – José Rincon Castro

  A Letter from Graeme Aitken

  Dear Reader,

  Thank you for downloading my book. I really hope you like it. Though, word of warning, it is possible you may not! To put it delicately, my main character Stephen is a polarising figure for some readers. Or to be blunt, some readers think he’s ‘an absolute bitch’!

  But as a writer I’m attracted to complex, not necessarily likeable characters. I think this stems from the first novel I encountered in my late teens where the heroine behaved very badly. And I was really confused and surprised by this. I didn’t know what to think. It was so different to everything else I had read and I came away from this novel not really liking it. The novel was Vanity Fair by William Thackeray.

  However, I think my reading taste has changed or evolved as now this is exactly the type of novel and character that I relish. But I’ve never forgotten Vanity Fair as the first novel that startled me by being different. And I guess I like the idea of surprising or startling some readers of my own.

  I’ll be indignant if you don’t want to read more of The Indignities series – LOL, no I won’t – but if you do want more, here are the Amazon links:

  Private Party (The Indignities Book Two) – Download Indignities2

  Me, Myself and Someone Else (The Indignities Book Three) – Download Indignities3

  If anyone wants to keep in touch with me, you can go to my website and write me a note. And I’d absolutely love it if you signed up for my newsletter – that’s the surefire way to hear about what I’m doing. If I ever have any freebies or promotions going on, you’ll be the first to know. Here’s the sign up link:

  http://graemeaitken.com/contact

  But all my social media contacts are on my website too and I also blog about the books I’ve been reading.

  Thanks again for downloading my book. Let me know what you think, or if you want to let the whole world know, write a review on Amazon. Sometimes here in Sydney readers approach me and share their opinions but the Amazon ratings and reviews are another great way for me to get your feedback.

  That’s what I love about ebooks – how accessible they are no matter where you live in the world and how easy it is to connect and share your opinions. I’m discovering that my books are popular in Mexico! Who knew?

  That’s enough from me. I’ll let you get stuck into my book.

  Graeme

  This is me in my loft study where I write. Though I haven’t done a great deal lately… but I have been busy re-editing and formatting new ebook editions of my books.

  11 January 2015

  1

  Prologue

  Turning thirty is tricky. It’s one of those landmark events that triggers enormous amounts of contemplation—and not merely in the mirror. It can make the frivolous thoughtful and those who are single somewhat delusional. It can even cause you to heed the preachings of your parents about settling down and you find yourself embracing burdensome responsibilities such as mortgages and marriage. Heavens, in this susceptible state, you might even give fleeting thought to moderation—or even monogamy.

  If you’re gay, turning thirty heralds the unsavoury fact that your days of classifying yourself as ‘a boy’ are numbered. The harsh reality is you’re ‘a man’, that word you always associated with your father, your teachers, or that sexy, shirtless butch lingering in the shadows at Manacle. It’s utterly incomprehensible. How can you possibly be a man when you’ve had all your chest hair permanently removed by laser?

  I am the youngest in my set of friends and, I daresay, the vainest. ‘It’ll be bad for you Stephen,’ Strauss predicted. ‘Mark my words.’

  But that remark only steeled my resolve to observe and learn as my friends blundered through their birthdays. So that when my turn came, I could rise to the occasion with a little more dignity and a lot more common sense.

  Nevertheless, I was there for them: to discuss avoidance tactics (moisturisers, make-up, or botox?), help evaluate their accomplishments and ambitions or lack thereof and, of course, to plan the party. I saw them through their anguished reassessments and subsequent plans to embark on some ill-advised, impulsive scheme. My cautionary advice went unheeded. We lived in a world of reality television and had absorbed the dubious wisdom of life-changing makeovers as a way to redecorate discontent with our lives. Brimming with the desperate optimism of fast-fading youth, my friends embarked on their ‘fresh starts’.

  2

  Chapter One

  To: [email protected]

  From: [email protected]

  Subject: Happy Birthday

  Dear Ant, Happy Birthday! Sorry that I can’t be with you to celebrate. Remember the first time I went to one of your birthday dinners and all the guests were trade, except me! Have you unwrapped your present yet? Hint: it’s for use in the bedroom and is totally hot! Love Stephen. xxx

  My ex, Ant, was the first to turn thirty and the first to embark on a fres
h start. But after throwing in his ‘fatuous Sydney lifestyle’ and moving back to New Zealand, the only thing he found fresh was the climate. That’s why I sent the electric blanket for his birthday.

  Of course the real agenda behind his relocation, though he tried to play it down, was a boy. Sexually, Ant is absolutely ruled by ‘his type’: they must be blond, blue-eyed, smooth and tanned. But after more than ten years in Sydney, he also yearned for a blond who was unaffected, an innocent without all the attitude. Then, several months before his thirtieth birthday he discovered a boy who not only fulfilled all his physical criteria, but was also only nineteen and presumably unsullied. However, there were a couple of major drawbacks. Ant had ‘met’ this youth on the internet, and there was no immediate prospect of a face-to-face meeting as he lived in Queenstown, New Zealand.

  His name was Iain. Allegedly, he lived and worked on his father’s farm, was completely straight-acting, totally closeted, and immensely curious. Ant showed me his photograph and I gushed obligingly, though, personally, he did nothing for me. He was just a skinny blond boy, badly dressed in rugby shorts and a singlet, and posed against—of all things—a tractor.

  ‘Isn’t he butch,’ cooed Ant gleefully.

  I couldn’t really concur with that. He was too pretty. ‘Yes well, the tractor is a very butch accessory,’ I admitted, ‘but as for Iain …’

  ‘If you’re going to be snide, then I’m not going to talk to you about him,’ said Ant snootily, and he didn’t.

  When I enquired, I was rebuffed. Though occasionally Ant couldn’t contain himself and let things slip. He was so excited when Iain e- mailed photographs without the shorts and singlet—he had to show me. Another time, when I complained that Ant’s landline was always engaged, he confided that he and Iain were constantly on MSN Messenger having cyber sex. I was genuinely curious as to what they did but Ant became prickly about answering any questions. Finally, he admitted that he was the only one with a webcam but that Iain was going to buy one ‘as soon as the wool cheque came in’.

  ‘Then everything will be revealed,’ I remarked archly.

  It was plain to me that the reason Iain didn’t have a webcam was because he bore no resemblance to ‘his photographs’. But when I suggested this, Ant insisted it was impossible. ‘Iain is the most genuine guy I’ve met in ten years.’

  That offended me! After all Ant and I had been boyfriends back in ’96 and ’97 and to be compared unfavourably to an internet phantom was insulting in the extreme. But I held my tongue and merely observed with mounting disapproval as Ant became more and more enthralled by this Iain.

  What really made me comprehend the seriousness of Ant’s intent was when he upgraded his mobile to one that would send overseas text messages. Ant was notoriously stingy, particularly when it came to paying for expensive mobile calls. The fact that he’d outlaid cash for a new phone and was actually using it to make calls, rather than just receive them, was highly uncharacteristic. It couldn’t be love, rather some grand folly brought on by the prospect of turning thirty.

  I wasn’t surprised when Ant announced he was going to New Zealand. But then he floored me by elaborating that he was moving there permanently. He declared that he’d always had this romantic notion of one day moving back there to live, buying a little cottage in the country, and making a home with his ideal guy. I was sceptical. We had after all been boyfriends for some time and this bucolic fantasy had never been outlined to me. ‘It sounds more like a retirement plan,’ I joked, ‘though admittedly, you are turning thirty.’

  ‘Yes,’ Ant declared, ‘exactly, I’m going to be thirty and it’s made me think a lot about what’s important. I’m getting older and then there’s my status. I don’t want to look back with regret that I failed to seize my chance.’

  ‘To do what? Fuck Iain in the shearing shed? I retorted.

  ‘Iain’s not the reason I’m moving. I have no expectations of Iain,’ he insisted.

  I wanted to ask if he’d told Iain about ‘his status’, but I refrained. Ant could be prickly about that subject. But I couldn’t imagine that a closeted country boy would handle such a revelation particularly well. Or that their pie-in-the-sky romance could survive that potentially deflating dose of reality.

  However, a few days later Ant informed me triumphantly that he’d ‘come out’ to Iain as HIV positive and that Iain had proven to be incredibly supportive. ‘He cried,’ Ant informed me in awe.

  ‘He cried on MSN Messenger? Is there an emoticon for that?’

  ‘He told me he was crying,’ said Ant testily. ‘Then he said it didn’t matter. You see, not everyone is so hung up about it.’

  That barb was aimed at me and was a little unfair. There had been other problems in our relationship besides the lurking knowledge of Ant’s HIV status. But it hurt me and I was a little distant during those final weeks as Ant prepared to leave Sydney. Though after he’d gone, I missed him terribly. He was the friend I spoke to and relied on the most. Of course, I was immensely curious as to how things were going with Iain in New Zealand. I sent a text the day after he left, and then an e-mail the next, but received no reply to either. Finally, on the third day I phoned Ant, but he was extremely cagey. I hung up, sensing disaster. A few days later, I phoned again and this time, Ant broke down and confided the full catastrophe. He’d been in Queenstown for a week but still hadn’t met Iain. He had failed to turn up at the airport to meet Ant’s plane. When Ant phoned his mobile to see where he was and when they could meet, Iain hurriedly hung up. His phone was turned off for the rest of that day. Ant sent numerous expensive texts but received no reply. The next day, when Ant went to ring Iain, the number was disconnected. Iain had also disappeared off Gaydar and MSN. Ant had no other way of finding him.

  ‘Something freaked him out. Maybe it was the HIV thing or maybe he was just too closeted to actually meet me? Perhaps he never took me seriously when I said I was coming.’

  ‘But you told him?’

  ‘Yeah, yeah,’ said Ant slowly, ‘but thinking about it, I guess it was always in the context of sexual fantasy. It was like “I’m coming over there to fuck you”.’

  It seemed redundant to suggest that ‘Iain’ was a fraud or a fiction: that someone had swiped those photos from somewhere and made use of them. Ant had to be thinking that already. ‘Did he ever buy that webcam? Did you ever get to see him online?’ I asked.

  ‘No, he had all these excuses. The wool cheque was late, then his computer crashed and he couldn’t afford a new one, and he had to use an internet café.’

  It was plain that Ant had been duped and I consoled him as best I could. I assumed he would retreat back to Sydney, but he insisted he was staying put. ‘This is home now,’ Ant said grimly. ‘I’m going to try and make this work.’

  What choice did he have? He’d given up his job, moved out of his apartment, shipped all his stuff across the Tasman and taken a lease on a cottage in Queenstown for six months.

  I called him every few days for those first weeks, and though he didn’t say it directly, I knew he hadn’t given up on Iain entirely. He still hoped Iain would get over his nerves and resurface. ‘You know, there’s every chance I’ll simply run into him one day,’ he confided. ‘Queenstown’s not a very big place.’

  I didn’t point out that if he did run into Iain, he probably wouldn’t know it: that the person behind ‘Iain’ was probably twice or even thrice his age and weight, and looked nothing like those photographs.

  Ant buckled down and tried to make the best of things. He got work as a personal trainer at a gym and in the process of searching for Iain under a new profile on Gaydar, found himself besieged with messages. He was the hot new guy in town. Everyone within a hundred kilometres wanted to date him, do him, or drive him around various Lord of the Rings film locations. Yet despite its promising name, eligible gay men proved to be somewhat scarce in Queenstown, and guys who fulfilled Ant’s strict criteria were even scarcer. The tourists, especially the North Europe
ans, were the best bets. But more often than not, they travelled as couples. The stunning Nordic youth who Ant got so excited about initially would turn out to be accompanied by a considerably older gent who was paying for the trip. Still, if a threesome was proposed, Ant went along with it—who knew when the next opportunity would present itself? Occasionally, he’d strike a solitary Dutch or German boy and have a passionate three- or four-day affair, in between day trips to Milford Sound and bungy jumping. They would tell him in their endearing accents how lucky he was to live in such an idyllic place. But for all their praise and reputed envy, when Ant encouraged them to extend their trip and stay on with him, they declined or thought he was joking. The boy from Munich was incredulous. ‘I have a schedule,’ he insisted, waving his itinerary in Ant’s face. ‘It is not possible for there to be deviations.’

  And so they left, with a cheerful ‘Wiedersehen’, continuing on to Auckland or Sydney, and Ant understood. They wanted a different type of beauty: shirtless, ecstatic, twirling on a dance floor in Darlinghurst. It wasn’t until he had moved away from it that he discovered he missed it too.

  My best girlfriend Blair was also the victim of a long distance relationship gone wrong; though at least hers had some basis in physical reality. Dwaine was from London but was on holiday in Sydney for two weeks. Once Blair met him, they spent every night together. I was introduced to him and was impressed. He was black, handsome, good company, had aspirations to be a songwriter, and was apparently a sensational lover. Only his career path seemed somewhat murky. Blair, however, didn’t care about that as she had her own tribulations in that department. After their time together ended and he flew out, they maintained their intimacy through phone calls and the internet. He kept encouraging her to follow him to London and after a particularly bad day at work, in one of those mad ‘turning thirty’ moments, Blair bought a plane ticket.

 
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