Authors: Amy Yip
Somewhere To Be
By Amy Yip
Jamie Goh’s life took a downturn when he lost his job, and a bad relationship left him disillusioned and afraid to trust again. But his friends and family want to see him happy, even if he’s turned off by the idea of dating. Following a Christmas disaster that proves the UK really can’t handle snow, Jamie discovers not everyone is out to hurt him—and loyalty means something to some people—when a sweet guy goes above and beyond for him.
definitely no accounting for taste. That much Jamie Goh could say with absolute certainty as he dished up another foil tub with toxic-looking orange sweet and sour chicken, sticky and thick with MSG and sugar.
He repressed a shudder and stuck the paper lid in place, folding the foil with an economy of movement that came from his years of working at a Chinese takeaway. His parents’ Chinese takeaway, to be precise. The Gohs were nothing if not a cliché. A fresh-off-the-boat father and an English mum, who met and fell in love and decided to join ranks with the long line of off-the-boat Chinese to cash in on the English love of sticky sweet meats and fried rice. And with Christmas looming it seemed more people were taking a break and ordering takeaway, so business was currently booming.
“One fried rice, one chow mein, one sweet and sour prawn, one crispy beef,” called his sister, Ashley, from the front of the house. Jamie plonked his current order into a paper bag and put it in the window for Will, his little brother, to grab and take for delivery.
This business was without a doubt a family affair.
“Baba,” Jamie called to his dad, pulling off his apron as he deposited his last order. “I’m heading out, okay?”
“Where are you going?” his mum popped her head in the window, passing the bag off to Will.
“Just out, Mum. Said I’d go out to the pub with Pat. He’s been hounding me for a night out before he heads to Louise’s parents for Christmas.”
She scowled at him and pointed at Jamie’s father, who had his back to the kitchen as he bustled about with pans of cold rice to be fried up, cracking eggs on the side of his ladle with practiced ease. “We’re so busy, Jay.”
“We’re always busy at the moment, Mum. No different than usual. I have to go. I’m already late.” Jamie sighed, pulling on his leather coat and swirling a scarf around his neck. He shoved a beanie on his head and leaned through the window to kiss his mum on the cheek. “Lend us a fiver?” he asked with a cheeky grin.
“Sod off, you!” She laughed, swatting him with a halfhearted flap of her hand. “Go on out into the wind and rain, then. If you’re determined to suffer.”
“Aww, you care about me.” He grinned. “And here I just thought you wanted the free labor.” He avoided her swatting hand again and ran to the back door.
Jamie braced himself and ducked out of the shop, hunkering down into his scarf to protect himself from the blustery rain. Definitely winter in England, no doubt about it. They were heading into one of those much maligned freezing, blustery spells where trees are felled and snow falls and the sea looks like a raging gray beast, but Jamie kind of loved this time of year. Living on the coast definitely had its perks come winter, when the beaches were absent of all tourists and the water was fighting the shore.
He jumped on a bus and popped in his earbuds, watching the evening streets and Christmas lights whiz by to the quiet strains of a melancholy acoustic guitar and soft, whispering male vocals, settling against the window and blocking out his fellow passengers. Though, true to form, just about everyone avoided eye contact on the bus.
His stop was a good fifteen minutes away, not so much on the other side of town as a convoluted route of small streets and one-way systems away, and when he finally let himself into his small flat he was chilled to the bone. His flatmate was definitely home, though, as the scent of garlic and tomatoes was wafting about and making his mouth water.
For a half Chinese kid, he really couldn’t stand Chinese food.
“Leftovers on the hob, Jay-Jay,” his flatmate called out from the general direction of the bathroom. Jamie grabbed a fork and attacked the food with gusto, linguine with a tomato and garlic sauce, rounded out with little bursts of vinegar-laced saltiness from capers.
“You’re a god,” Jamie called back, winding his way toward the sofa.
Patrizio appeared in the doorway, buttoning up a white shirt to halfway, tucking it into a pair of washed-out blue jeans. His wavy black hair was slicked back and styled to perfection, and his long fingers were adorned with silver rings. He was a beautiful Italian man and as vain as they come, but it stood him in good stead.
“You’re late,” he said pointedly, raising a groomed eyebrow in Jamie’s general direction.
Jamie grimaced and pulled off his wet beanie, scrubbing a hand across his shorn hair. “I know, I know. Busy night at the shop. I feel bad for ditching out, to be honest.”
“So you’d best get ready and have a good night out, then, no? Don’t let it go to waste.” Pat smirked and waved a hand at him. “But not like that. Like that? No pretty boys will want you to take them home.”
Jamie groaned. “No, Pat. Don’t even start on this again. I’m not doing the pickup thing. Nope, no, nada, no way.”
Patrizio shook his head at Jamie as though he were hopeless and came to perch himself on the arm of the sofa. Jamie groaned again. Pep-talk time.
“James. Jamie. You cannot just stop, you know? It’s no good. Yes, it was a bad time and you were hurt, and yes, you might see him. Don’t let the cheating bastard chase you out of your own city.”
The pity in his eyes was grating, but what bugged Jamie more was the fact Pat had him pegged. He was being a coward. A nasty breakup and Jamie had retreated into the shadows, playing hermit and occasional wallflower, working for his parents again, thankful as hell that he hadn’t taken the leap and introduced them all to his cheating wanker of a boss. Even though he’d lived with Steve for a while there, he hadn’t wanted his family to meet him, and Steve had certainly shown no inclination to meet them.
“I—” Jamie began but was saved by the buzzer from down the short hall. Patrizio narrowed his eyes and pointed at Jamie, letting him know the conversation wasn’t over. Joy.
He tried to beat feet to his room, but before he’d made it across the threshold a hand grabbed the back of his coat and halted his forward momentum.
“Excuse me, mister, but where’d you think you’re running off to?”
Jamie turned around and gave Louise a dazzling smile. “Nowhere, Lou, just need to get changed is all. Can’t go out looking like a drowned rat.”
She eyeballed him briefly and seemed to concur. “Okay, babes, but here. I’ll help.”
Louise wouldn’t take no for an answer, so Jamie didn’t even try. He let himself be ushered into his room, sparing a moment to giggle as Patrizio had the door closed firmly in his face by his own girlfriend.
“Bambina!” he wailed mournfully. Louise pulled the door open, planted a quick kiss on Patrizo’s lips to appease him, and shut the door on him again. She turned those knowing eyes on Jamie and flapped her hands at him. “Go on, then.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jamie replied, peeling himself out of his coat and the dark blue jumper and polo combination he’d had on at the shop. He gingerly sniffed the clothes and dumped them into the wash basket. Eau de takeaway definitely wasn’t a scent he wanted to be rocking.
Louise was rummaging in his wardrobe, dismissing his clothes with huffy little sounds and muttered complaints.
“You know, I always used to buy into the idea of gay men being stylish. Asian gay men at that! When Pat told me about you, I thought ‘Fab! My own Gok!’ but Jesus! Look at this!”
She held out a white T-shirt with a sketched depiction of a cartoon character on it.
“No man over… no. Sorry. No man
should be wearing a cartoon shirt. Not sexy.”
She flung the offending shirt away and grabbed Jamie by the wrist, bringing him closer. “I mean, look. The raw material is hot. But the window dressing…?” She sighed and turned back to his clothes, finally pulling out a plain white T-shirt with a slight V-neck.
“Sorry to disappoint.” Jamie grinned, pulling on the shirt and smoothing it down. “Plus I think you’ll find having one super-stylish metrosexual man in the house is more than enough. If I started giving more of a shit, we’d run out of counter space in the bathroom.” Pat had more products than any gay man Jamie had ever known and totally blew that stereotype out of the water.
“You’re telling me!
he keeps spares at mine. It’s ridiculous,” she exclaimed, throwing a pair of slim-fitting dark gray jeans his way. Jamie shrugged and swapped his jeans out, forgoing modesty in front of Louise. She finished off the outfit with a slim belt and a pair of boots in deference to the rain and breezed out as he was tugging them on.
“Hey, Pat,” he called out. “Where are we even going?”
“All in good time, my friend,” Pat replied, echoed by giggles from Louise.
Jamie definitely didn’t trust that sound. He half tripped out of his room and held the doorframe, watching them canoodle for a moment before Pat unburied his face from Louise’s blonde hair to look at Jamie.
“My bambina,” he cried. “Look at your good work. Our boy looks presentable. Good, even. Perhaps a waistcoat?” he asked, to which Louise laughed and shoved him away.
Jamie’s mind boggled a little. Pat could rock a waistcoat in ways Jamie couldn’t even dream of. “Hell no!” He backed up, hands out.
“Yeah, not really Jamie’s style, baby.” Louise placated a pouty Pat, petting him on the stomach. She pulled on her slim-line camel trench coat and clapped her hands together. “Okay, boys. Let’s go. Nicky is waiting.”
Who the hell was Nicky?
Pat had been obstinately refusing to tell Jamie who they were meeting, and his stomach sank with each step toward the pub. At least it was a pub and not a gay bar. They’d tried that before, and it had definitely been fun but in the most cringeworthy way possible. Pat was a like a magnet for girls
guys, and he’d been groped so many times that he’d resigned himself to sitting in the corner and grumbling as Louise and Jamie danced the night away.
They entered the busy pub, immediately enveloped in warmth from the mass of bodies, and Pat headed off to the bar, wiggling his way through the throngs to await the much-coveted attention of the barman. Jamie, for his part, was guided toward a booth along the far wall. He was thoroughly relieved to see a trio of people leaning in together over their drinks, talking over the din. He’d been spectacularly worried this was a setup.
“Louise!” cried the brunette girl. “Did you see it last night?” she gasped, blue eyes wide and her hands making little grabby motions to draw Louise over.
“Oh my God, yes!” replied Louise, sinking into the booth and proceeding to do a scene by scene analysis of whatever TV show it was they were discussing. Jamie shuffled a little and smiled a small smile as the two accompanying men groaned loudly.
“Han, please,” sighed one of the guys. He had honey-colored skin, dark eyes and hair, and his arms and what was visible of his chest were dusted with the same dark pelt. He put a hand over the brunette’s—Han’s—hand to get her attention. “I already had to sit through it last night!” he proclaimed.
The other guy—broad, with wavy red hair—looked up at Jamie and grinned, rolling his hazel eyes. He held out a hand and gripped Jamie’s firmly in a quick shake.
“Nick,” he said.
Jamie froze for a heartbeat, realization dawning that yes, there were six people present, but that also four of those were coupled up. Nick. Nicky. Jamie
being set up. Damn it.
“Jamie,” he replied with a quick little smile. He grabbed a chair, dragged it over to the table, and settled himself down. He needed a drink, and damn it, why was Pat taking so long?
“So, uh. How’d you know Louise?” he asked. Small talk never used to be such an issue, but nerves and irritation were waging war in his stomach, and he was trying not to let any of it show.
Nick gave a rueful little quirk of his lips and leaned in. “I’m sorry about this, you know?”
Jamie frowned and looked up, blinking dumbly.
“The ambush,” Nick clarified. “This.” He pointed back and forth between them.
It was actually kind of relieving to have it called out, and Jamie sagged a little, feeling like his spine was a spine again and not a metal rod. “Yeah?” he said. “Pesky meddling kids,” he faux grumbled.
Nick gave him another of those grins, and it was so uninhibited that Jamie found himself smiling back. It was kind of nice, actually.
“I work with Hannah. You?” Nick said, taking a sip of his pint. Jamie was once again blinking a little dumbly at the seeming non sequitur before he realized Nick was answering his prior question.
“Oh. Pat’s my flatmate,” he replied, and as if summoned, Patrizio appeared, cradling two pints and a vodka cranberry. He plonked the pint down in front of Jamie, clapped Nick on the shoulder with his free hand, and leaned over to kiss Han on the cheek.