I’m on a private beach on the Cornish coast, catching up with Luke, the novel’s seventeen-year-old hero, to find out how his holiday’s going so far. He’s huddled on the sand, knees drawn up to his chest, head in his hands. I drop down to sit beside him.
ME: You don’t look much like someone’s who’s supposed to be having the perfect summer.
LUKE: (lifting his shoulder in a shrug)
ME: Cornwall…a private beach…all the surfing you could want. It’s everything a wave junkie like you could ask for. Plus you get to spend some quality time with your gorgeous girlfriend. You should be having the time of your life.
LUKE: (bitterly) Right, yeah.
ME: (waiting for him to elaborate)
LUKE: I mean, everything was great. The surfing was amazing, Zara’s been totally cool, and me and Theo—that’s Zara’s cousin—we just sort of…clicked. It was weird. He’s this rich kid who grew up on some grand estate, while I live in a poky flat on the wrong side of town, but we had something: a spark, a connection, whatever. A couple of nights ago, the two of us stayed up after Zara went to bed, just talking. I told Theo about being brought up without a dad, and he confided in me about how his own dad’s refusing to accept him for being gay. At one point, our eyes kind of locked, and I was sure Theo was going to… I dunno. (fiddling with a hole in his shorts) Doesn’t matter.
ME: You’re talking in the past tense. What happened?
LUKE: Theo’s poncy uni friends turned up, that’s what. One day Theo and me are inseparable, and the next, he completely blanks me, obviously doesn’t want his arsehole of a best mate to see him hanging out with riff-raff. Now he has Giles, he doesn’t need me anymore. Theo just follows him around like the pathetic lapdog he is and pretends our friendship never existed. Accept…
ME: (rasing an eyebrow)
LUKE: Forget it.
ME: No, go on.
LUKE: We were arguing just now. I accused him of being a two-faced prick, and I grabbed him by the shoulders, forcing him to look me in the eyes. Then—I can’t believe I’m saying this—he kissed me.
ME: Wow. What did you do?
LUKE: (burying his face in his hands) I kissed him back. I couldn’t help it. I… It was… I’ve never felt anything like it before, never wanted anyone the way I wanted him. It was incredible, and then it was over. Theo backed off, apologised, closed himself off again, shutting me out. He turned and went inside, and I escaped down here.
ME: So what happens now?
LUKE: Christ knows. My head’s all over the place. I’ve never kissed a guy before, never knew it could be like that. Does that make me gay? Bi? I dunno. All I know is that I want to kiss Theo again more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life. The trouble is, the way he’s been acting these past few days, he clearly wants nothing to do with me.