Jamie watched Sandra walk away and crossed the room to sit beside Ste, taking Ste's hands in his. Ste slowly raised his head and tried a tentative smile but Jamie saw fear in his eyes.
"It's gonna be okay, Ste. It may not seem like it now but it will.'"
"She's great your mum."
"I know. I'm lucky to have her even if we do row occasionally."
Ste sighed. "Ronnie would kill me if he ever knew."
Jamie quickly tried to reassure him. "She meant what she said, Ste. He won't hear it from her.' Jamie leaned across and gently kissed Ste. 'Thanks for tonight. I know it took courage for you to come to The Gloucester with me."
"It took courage for you to ask. I thought I'd blown it after the party."
"Luckily I thought you were worried and not just being a prick. I know you're only dealing with this now but I'm hardly an expert. I've had time to think about sure but that don't make it easier. In some strange way it kinda makes it more bearable that you're going through it too. Does that seem twisted?"
Ste thought about Jamie's words. "I get what you're saying, Jamie. I didn't mean to make out like you've had it easy."
"Not easy," said Jamie, "just easier than you."
"I know I keep saying it but them next door, this is just beyond their understanding."
"I hate the thoughts of you going back there."
"Not as much as I do."
"But your mum."
"She won't mind, Ste. She knows it's safer here."
"Okay then, that'd be nice."
Jamie went to get a spare duvet and brought it to Ste. He tucked the duvet around him and gently kissed him on the forehead. "We'll talk more tomorrow eh?"
Sandra looked at the clock as she heard Jamie's door close. Fifteen minutes, she supposed they needed to talk. Sandra hadn't been timing them but was unable to sleep. Again and again she chastised herself for not noticing and Jamie for not telling her. It troubled her that he hadn't felt able to come to her. Didn't he know how much she loved him? Couldn't he see that she would continue to love him always? After tossing and turning for what seemed like hours she finally fell asleep.
Jamie was woken the next morning by Sandra's shouts, "breakfast is ready. Are you coming down?" He rushed downstairs quickly and found Ste and Sandra already eating.
"Mum, I'm sorry. I know you said five minutes but..."
"It's okay, love, I don't mind. Last night was a bit of an ordeal for us all."
"Sandra I know I said it last night but thanks again for not saying anything. I wish my lot were half as understanding."
"It's not a problem, Ste. It wasn't the ideal way to find out though. Ste, I know you can't tell anyone but, Jamie, I wish you'd come to me."
"I know, Mum. I'm sorry."
"I hope you find happiness, the both of you. It might be with each other who knows but it won't be easy. You seem to be well aware of that. I'm here if either of you need anything. I know what home is like, Ste, but Ronnie will wonder if you're here all the time. That said if you need it the door is always open."
Jamie was pleasantly surprised to see that Sandra was more upset about not being told than by him being gay and felt she was owed an explanation. "Mum, I'm sorry that I never said but I didn't know how to."
Ste stood up suddenly, "I'll leave you guys to it. I can see you need to talk."
"Fine, Ste, but you might wanna get dressed first," said Sandra smiling.
"I'll loan you something," said Jamie who quickly ran upstairs and grabbed a pair of jeans and trainers for Ste. "Hope they fit. I think the trainers might be a bit big."
"It don't matter," said Ste. "It's hardly a long walk."
Ste and Jamie hovered awkwardly until Sandra said, "you can kiss him goodbye you know. I was young once." Jamie quickly kissed Ste and walked him to the door. He was blushing as he sat back down at the table.
Sandra poured them both a second cup of tea and lit a cigarette. Suppressing the urge to tease him she asked, "where were we?"
"I am sorry for not telling you. I just didn't know what you'd say and like I said I wasn't sure how to tell you. I thought it over so many times what I'd say but nothing ever seemed right."
"I'm sorry if it seemed like I forced it out of you last night love but I had to know. Did I ever say anything to make you think I'd reject you?"
"No never. It was never the right time but I'm glad you know. It wasn't the best way I admit but it couldn't be a secret forever. Last night was crazy."
"You're telling me."
"It was the best and worst night of my life."
"Best?" Sandra asked, puzzled.
"Being with Ste and being able to go out without people staring. It was great."
"I'm glad to see you happy love."
"We had a few arguments you see. Ste wasn't sure but he is now which is why he agreed to go last night. After you went up we talked a bit. It's not perfect but for the first time in a while I'm happy. I think I love him."
Sandra could clearly see that Jamie was lovestruck if not in love. "You're not even sixteen yet, love. I'm not trying to tell you how to feel. Lord knows age doesn't help. It's just that..."
"Mum, I know it's all new but I've liked him for ages. I really care about him and every moment he's not here I think about him. Just being close to him is the best feeling in the world. You were right about me not having any mates but now I have something so much better. I closed myself off before but not now, not any more."
"It won't be easy for him with that lot."
"I know. I'm the lucky one. We both have one parent but at least I got one that loves me."
"You'll make me cry in a minute," joked Sandra. "Jamie, I love you more than anything which is why I was hurt. Don't ever be afraid to come to me. I want you to be happy. Ste might be the love of your life he might not but he's making you smile and for the time being that's all that matters."
"Thanks, Mum." Jamie walked around the table and gave Sandra a hug. "I'm glad there's no more secrets. It feels great."
'It should never have had to be a secret. Everyone just assumes including me.'
"It's okay." Jamie began to clear the table and for the first time noticing the absence of a man in a satin dressing gown asked, "where's Tony? I was a bit rude to him."
"Who knows," replied Sandra in a tone that also implied who cares. She had been listening to Jamie talk about Ste and couldn't help but think that's what love should be. She didn't feel anything near as strong as that for Tony and lately he had been getting on her nerves more than ever. Perhaps she should try the single life for a while.
"As we're talking I need to tell you about my new job."
"Oh," said Jamie his face falling a little.
"It's only Rotherhithe love, not the other side of the world. A pub called The Anchor. I start running it in three weeks time."
"I know it seems like I'm taking you away from Ste but I'll give you the busfare to visit and Ste can come to see you as well."
"If you're not too tired from last night's escapades you can come with me to see it."
"Mum I'm shocked. Ste slept on the couch last night."
"That's not what I..." Sandra trailed off as she realised she was being teased. "Go and get ready, cheeky."
As she watched Jamie leave the room she smiled. Her little, well not so little any more, boy was back. Sandra sipped contentedly at her tea. Suddenly life stopped being a struggle.