Release date November 1st
I step back from the bar, pleased to see that the rugby club's fundraiser has attracted quite a turn out. Even through the dim overhead lights of the bar I can see the kaleidoscope of disco lights bouncing off an eclectic mix of costumes. There's signage everywhere advertising the suicide prevention charity that the rugby club has chosen to sponsor this year. It's a cause close to many of the students at Belfast University, given the strain a lot of people find themselves under, whether it's from their own thoughts and expectations or those thrust on them by well-meaning friends and family members.
As Mark saunters by to put our names in to the karaoke MC I'm smacked across the face by the full effect of his costume. As the only bi-sexual member of the university rugby team, people might expect Mark to tone himself down. Not my best friend. He's been this way since we met at 16. What you see is what you get and if you don't like it – don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out. Tonight he looks like a cross between Freddie Mercury and the biker from YMCA. All leather and facial hair, but you have to appreciate the way the leather sculpts his shoulders and shows off the cut of his tight ass.
We're only a couple of drinks into the night when I hear my name being called through the microphone. I've become a regular at these, not because of a Beyoncé-style voice or anything, just because I'll always do what I can to support Mark and the boys, even if it means dressing up and making a fool out of myself.
I hear the familiar opening chords to "Just Like a Pill", my standard karaoke fodder and ready myself with a few breaths. Without looking at the words, I use the music and the lyrics as a catharsis, one of the few times I allow myself to really feel, I know it adds to the sound of my voice but that's not why I do it. It may seem strange, but up on stage I can allow myself to feel. To grieve. To hope and to wallow. Because I know after the song finishes, I step away from the mic and the stage. Everything closes back up again into its neat little box where I can contain, control and ignore its very existence.
Through the coda, I allow myself a moment to scan the room, seeing friendly, supportive and some all too knowing faces. I catch Mark and see him talking to someone who could be God's gift to women if his face is as beautiful as his body. Dressed as Doctor Who, from the long beige trench coat to the blue suit and tatty red converse trainers. If he's wearing the black-rimmed glasses, I may have a small orgasm on stage in front of 300 people.
When he turns away from Mark and locks eyes with me, I'm thankful I know this song the same way I can remember the hymns that were drummed into me in school, because it's not the glasses that freezes the marrow in my bones and causes all the blood to rush from my face. It's his face – a face I haven't seen in over a decade, except in my nightmares.
About the Author
CL Sayers is a debut novelist from the UK. She writes under a pen name for professional reasons. She lives at home with her husband, 2 kids, an asshole cat, an easily confused turtle and an ever-changing rotation of fish.
She is a proud coffee addict, Whovain, Xphile and all round nerd.
You can stalk her and keep up with her shenanigans and new releases here: