Cass texted Alec on her way out. He called back, he was in Old Compton Street with Jens, and she should join them.
On her way to meet them, for the first time it occurred to her that Alec, Luke and Jens bromance was refreshingly unusual. Two straight guys and a gay guy unconcerned about where they went together so long as they had each other to laugh at and bitch with. They went to the rugby, they went to the gym, they went to galleries and films, they went to real ale pubs, they went to straight and gay clubs. It just did not bother them.
She found them in an old black wood victorian pub. Shaved headed built men wrapped up in aviator jackets, propping their drinks on the ledge outside, defying the cold and the distain of smoking from passersby, smiled at her as she walked into the pub. Normally this would make her feel uncomfortable, but in Old Compton Street these were Muscle Marys, just catching up.
She felt comfortable in Old Compton Street. There was no judgement and rarely any hassle. It had changed greatly since she had moved to London, the acceptance of being gay or bi or whatever had meant that you saw Yummy Mummies feeding their kids in Balans on a Saturday. It was good, in a way, but it also meant it had lost some of its edge. She was no ones prude but it made her feel slightly uncomfortable seeing a pushchair so near to Prowler.
Plonking herself down next to the guys, she did not even say hi. “We have got to stop this.”
“Daniel being a delight again?” Alec quipped.
“Please don’t talk about it,” Jens looked downcast.
“I need a drink, something awful and trashy,” Cass demanded. Alec jumped up gallantly to the bar and brought her a Smirnoff Ice.
“I did not think that sold these things anymore,” Jens looked at it suspiciously.
Cass’ teeth hurt as she sipped it. Her alcoholic masochism trying to wash away the pretentious arse-ery she had just endured.
“When are you off to Nevis?” Cass asked Jens.
“After the wedding,” he said flatly.
“I am going with him to settle him in,” Alec chirped in. “Do you want to come too?”
Cass hated the way that her male friends did this. Just thinking that you can just drop everything and come along. She needed at least six months of planning before doing any holiday. In truth she did not like leaving London, she did not find holidays relaxing, just a break to worry about what was left for her on her desk on her return. She sipped her horrid drink. Wincing at the taste and the realisation that she needed to get out of the City and out of the Law.
“Perhaps Sam has the right idea,” Alec said as if reading Cass’ thoughts. “Sugar Daddy our way out of this mess.”
“I may as well throw myself of London Bridge right now,” Cass said darkly.
“Can we please stop talking about Sam,” Jens whimpered.
“Sorry,” Cass and Alec chorused ashamedly.
“So what are you going to be doing?” Cass asked.
“Insolvency. Boring but I will be making money and might be able to return and have a normal life. I am just fed up of being in my thirties and in a flat share.”
Alec and Cass nodded in understanding. Jens and Luke worked hard, they had done everything which was expected of them and more. They had good jobs, but without Mummy and Daddy backing, there was no hope of saving enough to start establishing themselves. Cass thought darkly that the parents are actually eating their young, with their property wealth.
Alec was from American old money, so he had no worries but he was empathic enough to know that the world was going to shite.
Alec had had the luxury of pursuing the “nobler” side of the law. He had been to Harvard and then decided to convert to the UK, because he did not need to earn the big bucks. He had them already. He then went to work for a human rights NGO in Africa. This changed his perspective. He came back both humble and a cynic.
He was having a nice time. He let a local colleague borrow his phone, which had photos of him at a Pride march on it. Suddenly he was an outcaste. He was shouted at in the street. “We prefer to die than have homo’s here!”
Suddenly he was bundled in to a car at the dead of night and was being flown to South Africa. This clandestine flight was because of a couple of innocent photos on a phone.
The NGO apologised, it was not his fault but he should have been more careful. There were cultural sensibilities. Alec once hissed to Cass,”Cultural Sensibilities which prefer electrodes put to your balls in police custody than a consensual cock up your butt!”
Cass was pretty sure that it was the hypocrisy which upset him the most. The NGO kept apologising, making excuses for the behaviour, patronising the homophobic culture rather than taking a strong stand.
“I always thought the tolerant could not abide intolerance, but I was wrong,” Alec said one night. “It just pats the intolerant on the head and goes “There, there, you just don’t know what you’re doing”. I am well and truly out of there. Ernest self righteous fuckers! ”
On his return he decided that he would leave all the charity stuff and make money instead. He joined an old American firm and the hippy helping thing only happened with his friends.
Alec had even offered to help the guys to get a deposit for a flat of their own, but Luke and Jens did not accept. Their friendship was more important than that. “Look mate, no offence but you are not going to get me into bed that easily,” Luke laughed at the offer.