excerpt

Dragon Dance by Josephine Myles

As Archie prepares for Chinese New Year and his A-level exams, he’s tortured by his attraction to his straight best friend, Gan. Chasing Gan while practicing their dragon dance is one thing, but Archie will have to listen to his imaginary luck dragon to find the boldness to come out.

***

Gan’s living room was a riot of colour. Tinsel decorations left over from Christmas still covered the ceiling, and below them the floor and every piece of furniture were strewn with lengths of scarlet parachute silk to make the dragon. The Lee family’s Chinese New Year budget didn’t stretch to more than a recycled parachute bought off eBay. It was red, though, so not only would it look good, but it was a very auspicious colour. So his mum had announced after checking Wikipedia, anyway. She’d become a walking trove of knowledge about Chinese tradition recently, and was often on the phone to Master Zhang, the Dragon parade expert, asking him all sorts of searching questions.

Archie wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone, but he’d been utterly seduced by the dragon myths. These weren’t the fire-breathing, gold-hoarding sorts of dragons he’d learnt about at his Church of England primary school, but creatures of light and air, bringing good luck. He could do with a bit of that himself, not just for the approaching exams, but to survive this next year of living in the closet. He’d begun to picture himself a dragon companion, pearly scaled and invisible to everyone but him. It was stupid, he knew, but he could swear thinking about it flying near him helped him to remember his revision.

It would be damn near perfect as a good luck charm, if only it would stop talking to him.

While Jen frowned over her sewing machine with a mouthful of pins, in the corner Archie’s mum was putting what looked like the finishing touches on the giant papier-mâché dragon head.

“That thing looks proper sick, Mrs Phillips,” Gan said. “Like he’s gonna take a chomp out of my pearl if he catches it.”

“Thank you, Gan.” Archie’s mum beamed at him. “I wish I’d had a daughter, you know. You’d make such a sweet son-in-law.”

“Me too,” Jen butted in. “Then Archie could marry her and we’d all be one big, happy family.”

Both women sighed in unison. That little performance had been acted out so many times during their lives that Archie and Gan were used to it, but lately it had been making Archie flush. What would they think if Archie and Gan became a couple? Not that that would ever happen. Not in a million years. No matter what that damn dragon of his whispered to him in his sleep.

His mum turned from Gan to Archie. “Hope you’ve been working out, son. It’s heavier than I expected.”

Archie had been, not for the dragon head carrying task in particular. More out of a newfound consciousness of how good muscles looked on other men, and therefore how attractive they’d be on him. Being a good six inches taller than all the others in his kung fu class had meant he’d been the only choice to hold the dragon’s head, so now he got to run around chasing after Gan every week. It wasn’t quite as much fun as sparring with him in the lesson beforehand, but he got a certain thrill out of it.

If only he could catch him, tumble him to the ground, and then… and then… He’d need his luck dragon to help him be bold.

“Archie? I asked if you boys were going out to the pub later?” Jen’s shrill tones cut through Archie’s daydreams like a cheesewire, leaving them in pathetic, limp slices.

“Yeah, you’re coming, aren’t you mate? Don’t leave me with the girls.”

Another night of watching Gan’s girlfriend slobber all over him while her best mate did her awkward best to flirt with a tongue-tied Archie? It wasn’t exactly appealing, but then again, if he got to spend more time in Gan’s presence, how could he say no?

“Yeah, I’m coming.”

Even if it did break his pathetic little heart every time Becca touched his man.