Fancy a preview? Here's the first chapter of 'Dividing Issues'.

International

‘This has absolutely ruined me.’

          Scott felt a flutter of concern as he poked his head over the divider. ‘What do you mean?’

          ‘All this.’ Evan waved his hand in an arc, oblivious to the fact he was holding a champagne flute. A spurt of fizzing liquid shot out of the top of the glass and narrowly missed the next seat along. ‘Flying in First-Class. I shall never go back to economy now.’

          Scott agreed it was a completely uncommon experience. He had always wanted to try it, but it was too extravagant for him. The seats in the First-Class cabin were arranged diagonally with a privacy divider between each. Scott found this made communication challenging (which was probably the point). The footstool became part of a bed when the seat fully reclined. A full table emerged at the press of a button, allowing for a restaurant-level food and beverage service. And boredom wasn’t likely, with a personal entertainment system offering a vast selection of movies, music and games.

          Evan stared at his flute, confused about the vanished contents, before quaffing what little remained. He gestured towards their excellent friends and travelling companions, Frankie and Derek. They had reclined for an afternoon nap after downing several G&Ts. ‘It was good of Frankie to upgrade us. I tried asking the TV people for four tickets, but they were adamant they would only pay for two.’

          ‘You can’t blame them. They did only book a Brighton drag queen for their show, not Angelina Jolie.’

          ‘Krystle Klarity is a sensation,’ Evan said through clenched teeth. ‘They are lucky to have her. She is in demand right now, I passed up three other offers to schedule this.’

          Scott nodded in supplication. ‘Yes, yes, you’re quite right.’ Krystle Klarity was Derek’s drag queen alter ego. She became a viral internet celebrity following a couple of misadventures on TV. Evan was now working with Derek to leverage that infamy into commercial success.

          Evan did not appear convinced by the apology. ‘You better not come out with any of that English humility in La La Land. Americans don’t understand false modesty; they believe in celebrating achievement. If you tell a Yank that Krystle is some two-bit DJ in a blonde wig, they will take it as gospel. My whole purpose in life is to convince the world that she is a superstar. She already is in her own mind - that’s one down, seven billion to go.’

          Scott loved seeing Evan this passionate about his new career. Before he quit his PR job to focus full time on talent management, he could best describe his husband’s attitude to work as ‘perfunctory’. Under Evan’s guidance, his growing roster of clients had all seen significant upticks in their careers. The prime example was Krystle Klarity being flown all expenses paid by a major American broadcaster to appear on their network. It was clear he had found his calling.

          The only downside to Evan’s dedication to his business, for Scott anyway, was the severe impact on their quality time. They had only been together for just over a year - albeit an eventful one. Despite the wedding rings, they were still in the discovery stage of their relationship. He was a long way from being able to predict routinely Evan’s many moods or fathom his whims and motivations. Evan reassured him that he would have more breathing space once the Harper-King Talent Agency is more established. Until then, Scott would continue being patient and supportive.

          In any case, Scott had his own fish to fry. He and Evan agreed they would start a family, and with Evan so busy it had fallen to Scott to investigate the potential routes to fatherhood. It was turning out to be more complicated than he’d feared. If they were lesbians, they would at least possess the vital baby-making equipment in-house, as it were. Sperm is easy enough to come by: men are invariably more than generous in sharing their reproductive material.

          To have a genetically connected child, they needed to find a woman willing to carry said infant for nine months and then happily give it away. Added to that, UK law was less than helpful in this area. Any agreement made with a surrogate was not legally enforceable and only ‘reasonable expenses’ allowed as payment. Adoption was an option, but it required careful thought and could be a convoluted process. Evan suggested asking their friend Mel to be their surrogate, but Scott was not exactly keen on that idea. He liked her, most of the time, but a mini-Mel was not the fantasy child he’d been picturing.

          ‘Can I get you gentleman anything?’ Sandra, the highly attentive stewardess, hovered over Scott.

          ‘I don’t suppose you’ve a womb going spare?’

          Sandra went as red as her tunic. ‘Pardon me, sir, I can’t have heard that correctly.’

          Evan rolled his eyes. ‘Ignore him. He’ll have another glass of Cab Sav, more bubbly for me, please.’ He waited for Sandra to totter off. ‘Bloody hell, Scott, you can’t ask complete strangers if their lady parts are available. Especially in First-Class. I’m all for this kid lark, but you’re becoming obsessed.’

          Scott pretended to play with his entertainment station. Evan might be right. He wasn’t overly bothered about children before, but the dream of having his own family grew its hold on him daily. At this point he’d get better odds on Krystle achieving international superstardom than Baby Harper-King appearing in their lives.

 

*****

 

‘What an awful ordeal.’ Evan stomped into the arrival hall, dragging his suitcase behind him. ‘I could tell that immigration officer was gagging to send us straight back, the sneer he gave me and Scott when we got to his desk.’

          ‘But that’s what you’re supposed to do, dear,’ Derek said. ‘Frankie checked. If you’re a family unit, you must go to the desk together.’

          ‘I know.’ Evan came to an abrupt halt, almost causing a pile-up. ‘But just because those are the rules doesn’t mean everybody likes them. He asked us the same questions over and over: how long have you been married, what is your line of business, what is the purpose of your visit? It took all my resolve not to answer, “to make America gay again”. Jumped up little Hitler.’

          Scott came over and put a comforting arm around him. ‘Never mind, we’re here now.’

          ‘Ours couldn’t have been lovelier,’ Frankie said. ‘Turns out she’d seen Derek’s videos and she’s a fan. Derek slipped her a signed photo, thrilled she was.’

          ‘How lovely for you.’ Evan knew he had to calm down, but his rage was spilling over. Nothing got his blood boiling more than blatant discrimination, particularly by those in positions of authority. The worst part was having to suck it up for fear of the repercussions, but one of these days he would get pushed too far. Like Rosa Parks and Marsha Johnson, the day would come when he would not be the compliant victim. He would say ‘enough’.

          Derek let out a squeal of delight. ‘Look over there. Is that my name on that board?’

          A row of dark-suited men held up signs with various names printed on them, ready to ferry the luckier passengers on to their final destination.

          ‘I believe it is, dear,’ Frankie said. He headed off to confirm it, pushing the trolley stacked with cases that had been like a game of Tetris to organise. Derek had commandeered a case or two from each of their ample baggage allowances, allowing him a choice of frocks and wigs for his US TV debut.

          ‘You OK, honey?’ Scott asked Evan.

          ‘I will be. Let’s get the hell out of here.’ Evan strode towards Frankie and Derek who already had their driver chortling.

          ‘Evan, Scott, this is DeAndre. He’s taking us to the Hilton,’ Derek announced. ‘I asked if he could handle four strapping boys and all this luggage, but he assures me he can. I offered to sit on his knee if that would help.’

          DeAndre laughed again, revealing an immaculate set of pearly whites: even the limo drivers had Hollywood smiles.

          ‘Follow me, gentlemen, and we’ll get you to your hotel. You all been to Los Angeles before?’ DeAndre took command of the trolley from Frankie and led the way.

          ‘No, we’re LA virgins,’ Frankie said. ‘You must tell us all about it.’

          ‘That would be my pleasure,’ DeAndre said. ‘What can I help you with?’

          ‘Everything fabulous, dear,’ Derek said, ‘but if you know Cher’s home address that would be a good start.’

          Evan and Scott exchanged smiles.

          ‘This could be an interesting trip,’ Scott said.

          Evan exhaled. ‘Undoubtedly. With those two it always is.’

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