If it hadn’t been for that bloody bouquet I might never have done it. I watched it whirl through the dry ice, right past the disco ball, and finally get caught up in Cassie’s outstretched talons.
I suppose I should be thanking my sister right now, even though I knew she deliberately threw it to Cassie just to stir things up. I mean, even if I was straight, why would I be interested in her? Besides looking like a pink meringue in that awful bridesmaid’s dress, Cassie’s always been one of those bright girls who turns into a simpering airhead around men. An utter fake. Yeah, I know, pot calling the kettle black and all. Let’s face it, I was the one too bloody terrified to step out of the closet, so I was the biggest fake there was.
But anyway, when I saw Cassie catch Kim’s bouquet then look me over like a cat about to leap on a small, furry creature, I knew I needed to show everyone just what kind of man I was. Okay, I was completely fucking terrified, but at twenty-one, it was probably about time I came out.
I looked over to where Mark leant back against the pillar, a half-smile on his face as he watched our mates get shit-faced at the free bar. He was so fucking sexy in a tux—I’d never have believed it, despite having had a crush on him since forever, but it was possible for him to look even hotter than he always did. He hadn’t quite managed to tame his unruly hair, and he’d downright refused to go clean-shaven, but the mix of rough and smart had short-circuited my brain when I’d first clapped eyes on him in the church. I’d spent half the ceremony staring over at him, then followed him around for the rest of the afternoon, no doubt making a total fool of myself. Mark had definitely given me a few funny looks when he’d turned around and there I was again, practically drooling over him. It was a wonder no one else had noticed. I mean, what did you have to do to get your friends and family to realise you were gay? Was I going to have to spell it out for them?
My stomach churned. Mark’s words from earlier came back to me, bouncing painfully around in my skull.
“Sorry Kev, I really, really like you and all, but I don’t date closet cases.”
I’d followed him outside the hotel for a ciggie, and couldn’t help staring at his full lips as the smoke spilled out of them. Something inside me had snapped and, despite the fact that anyone could walk out of that fire escape at any moment, I’d pulled his head to mine and kissed him. I could still feel the scratching of his stubble and the surprised huff he gave against my lips. But he’d pulled back, his hand firmly on my chest, and asked me what the fuck I thought I was doing.
“Isn’t it obvious?” I asked, my heart pounding faster than the disco beats from inside. “I want you. I’ve always wanted you.” It was true, even though I’d spent the last four years desperately trying to convince myself I could be straight if I just tried hard enough. I’d never had Mark’s courage—his ability to not give a toss what anyone thought of his sexuality.
“Yeah?” he asked, giving me this funny look: kinda sad and hopeful all at the same time. “Are you out then? I hadn’t heard anything.”
I shook my head, and that was when he delivered his bombshell. I was saved from replying by our mates spilling out of the door and grabbing Mark in a headlock, threatening to hold his nose and pour beer down his throat if he didn’t start drinking with the rest of them. I was allowed off on account of the bottle of Carlsberg clutched in my hand. They dragged Mark back in with them and I trailed along behind, wondering whether anyone would notice if I just buggered off and went back to my flat.
And then Cassie caught the bouquet.
A slow song started. One I actually liked for a change. That Paul Weller one from ages ago where it sounded like he was really yearning for someone. I knew how that felt.
When Cassie started advancing across the dance-floor I knew I had to move. The look on her face as I pushed past her was probably priceless, but I only had eyes for Mark. He was watching me draw closer. I stopped in front of him and held out a trembling arm.
He raised an eyebrow.
I had to swallow before I could speak. “W-will you dance with me?”
A slow smile spread over his face and his eyes glowed brighter than the whirling lights. He took my arm and we walked onto the dance-floor together.
My mum and Kim had their mouths hanging open, Cassie was staring daggers, and our mates looked like they’d just discovered their beer had been swapped for water. I decided it might be best to keep my eyes shut after that. I turned to Mark and he pulled me in close. My arms found their way around his waist as we began swaying to the music. My forehead nestled perfectly into the crook of his neck and I rested there, feeling safe, even though I could still feel the stares boring into me. Mark smelled of good things: musky aftershave and something underneath that—a masculine scent that made me giddy.
The song was ending and it felt like it had barely begun. Then one of Mark’s hands moved from the small of my back and I felt my head being lifted, tilted back. I opened my eyes to gaze into Mark’s. There was a question there and I nodded, my throat too dry to speak.
Our lips bumped together.
I shut my ears to the gasps, wolf-whistles and scattered cheers. I opened my mouth to Mark and we met in a slow, lubricious kiss, all tongue and rasping stubble. He tasted of lager and tobacco.
He tasted like mine.
When he finally broke away he pressed his cheek to mine and whispered in my ear.
“What do you say we do a runner and go hide out at my place? I’ve got all sorts of ideas that definitely don’t involve having your family interfering.”
I grinned, daring to drop my hand enough to give his arse a quick squeeze. “Sounds like an excellent plan.”
They caught us at the door, Mum and Kim standing there with their arms crossed.
“And how long has this been going on for?” Mum demanded.
“It’s no use hiding it any more, Mum. I’ve always been this way.” Mark squeezed my hand which made me feel a whole lot braver.
“No, not that. I figured that out years ago. You and Mark, I mean.”
“About . . .” I checked my watch, “Fifteen minutes, give or take.” I didn’t want to look at her face. She’d always loved Mark, but it was different when it was your own kid gone queer, wasn’t it?
She huffed a little, then pulled me into a crushing hug. “So long as I wasn’t the last to know, Kev. That’s all I ask.”
I looked over her shoulder to try and find Mark, but found myself staring into Kim’s face instead. Shit, she was going to be pissed off at me for ruining her big day, wasn’t she?
“Sorry sis,” I mouthed at her, having problems talking with all the air being squashed out of me by Mum.
Kim grinned. I must have looked like a stunned fish, because she threw her head back and laughed. “Don’t worry about it, little bro. People are gonna be talking about my wedding for years now.”
Finally Mark moved into view and Mum let up on trying to squeeze the life out of me.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Jones, but I want to get your son out of here before he gets the third degree from everyone. Would you mind?” He held his hand out and I laced my fingers through his.
I glanced back once on our way out. Kim was already busy texting.
“C’mon Kev,” Mark chided. “We’ve got a whole load of catching up to do, you realise?”
I gulped at the promise in his eyes. Looked like this was gonna be my lucky night after all.
Who needs a bloody bouquet, anyway?