3: Missed Invitations

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Wednesday morning started off as every Wednesday morning should; with the Sisters Scissor. Maybe one day I'd get bored of hearing about how they didn't feel like dancing, but until then I would bop my head along to it and enjoy the delicious irony.

I picked the crew up as usual and they berated me more enthusiastically than ever about my music taste. Seven times I had to smack Speck's hand away from the blasted thing. The Ford's heater had also packed in and, since a northern English winter was often unbearable on its own, everybody was turning into their own personal ice block. To put it plainly, my nipples were all of a sudden not the only ones protruding through my shirt— although they were still the butt of many cruel jokes. The poor things, they had been through so much in the past two days.

The conversation that morning was primarily concerned with the coming season and everybody's plans. We were all beginning to see the end of things, most of us having left school, leaving us to sit uncomfortably in gap years that didn't leave enough time for much more of a season than we wanted. Speck was staying on to work at the rink as a trainee coach, Cassie was going to a polytechnic, Adam was going to work in his dad's garage, and I was having a midlife crisis far earlier than I had anticipated having one. I was a paycheque away from getting a mullet and buying a Porsche. One seriously big paycheque, anyway.

I didn't know where I wanted to be in a year. I'd had some idea that I might go to uni, but I couldn't think what I would study... I had my A Level and two Btecs, but I had not done well in them, and I couldn't see myself being altogether that studious if I was away from home in a big city with good nightlife. I was already testing the limits of my pitiful mother's patience by staying out all night several nights a week and coming back with awful hangovers to mooch about the house before heading off to work in a record shop one of my friends had skeeved me a job in.

The problem was I saw skating as a hobby and not a career. Like Speck, I had been offered a job as a trainee coach, but it seemed the last thing on earth I wanted to do. Scraping by on a pittance whilst working cold, tiring hours chasing bratty children around on the ice did not sound like my cup of tea. I was better off scrounging from my mum until the latest possible moment, although it made me feel guilty. I guessed that at some point over my 'gap year' I'd find something to fill my time better than working in a pothead hipster's record shop. Seriously, he had branded himself as Pothead Ted.

I turned the Scissor Sisters up— much to the chagrin of my friends— and tried to forget about my existential crisis for the duration of the third repeat of their song. The blind man wasn't the only one so confused... Paolo had told me to get an apprenticeship at his dad's paper firm. First off, I didn't want to be Ricky Gervais managing Wernham bloody Hogg. Second, Paolo's dad hated me. It wasn't only that the one son of his six children happened to be a raging homosexual, it also just so happened that he had chosen a directionless, Jewish-by-birth (the Mendoza clan were orthodox catholics and used this to justify a wealth of easy prejudices), and not all that charming, working class oik.

The first time Paolo had brought me to his house I had been stared down for the length of my visit, which ended up being only half an hour due to my extreme discomfort, and since then I had been only twice. At least my mother loved Paolo. I always wanted to cry when I walked him home from the club or wherever he had been and had to watch him furtively wiping his face and doing up all the buttons of his shirt and removing his beautiful jewellery that his oldest sister covertly pretended belonged to her. Whenever he came over to mine he would wear his prettiest clothes and allow his natural personality to shine through rather than the conventional front he had to uphold the majority of the time. I had never mentioned it, but I had a theory that his interest in older men and his fascination with their adoration for him stemmed directly from his relationship with his father. Several men we had gone home with had even looked like his father— but I would never, ever say that to his face.

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