I Do Two is out!
Just making it in time for Valentine’s day yesterday, I Do Two is now available in pdf here!
Other formats are in the pipeline and should be coming along very soon, and it has gone to the printers. So it should be available in print in about a fortnight.
All profits from this anthology will be donated to the Lambda Legal Defense to support their fight for marriage equality for all. So if you buy this anthology, you won’t only get a great read, you’ll also be doing a good deed 🙂 (I should make that a tag line – “do a good deed, buy a great read!”)
It’s a good hefty volume. Nearly 100K long, containing 22 stories from authors ranging from the well known – like James Buchanan – to newly discovered rising stars – like D.C Juris. And as part of the team who chose the stories, I can vouch that every single one of them is good 🙂
My contribution is called Inner Truth, which is a glimpse at the happy ending of John and Alfie from False Colors, but told through the eyes of one Joe Malley who has his own problems:
“Malley, you’re bleeding. Report to the doctor.”
“Oh no, sir,” says I, looking down, covering up the seeping blood with my hand while I try to press it back in. Funny how it feels cold, when it comes out so hot. “That’s French blood, sir. None of mine.”
He can see it isn’t. He’s a fine old gent is Captain Cavendish. Must have been a looker in his youth, and still, at sixty whatever it is, spry as a youngster. He don’t miss much, neither, least of all the way I’ve drawn my jacket closed over the tell tale blooming of red.
“You have someone waiting for you?”
“My Jenny, sir.”
He must be thinking, right now, that it makes no sense not to see the ship’s doctor for free, when on land I’ll have to pay. I keep my eyes on my shoes, let go the bite on my bottom lip—don’t want to seem as scared as I am. He gives me a look, like he’s going to say something. But then he don’t. Just nods. “Carry on then.”
Fine old gent, like I say. He knows when to back off from other folk’s secrets.
Meanwhile I’ve got to get this bleeding stopped again. Thought I had—thought I’d tied it up tight. Always keep bandages in my sea chest for that very purpose.
The chest’s by my feet. Maybe it was carrying that up on deck what opened the wound again. Maybe it was waving to Jenny. Over the side and there she is, her hand up high, white against the dockyard cranes. She’s holding her shawl close with the other hand, the ruffles of her cap like white petals around the flower of her face. Bugger me if she ain’t got more beautiful over the months we’ve been out, and she looks like Spring. Spring in a drab bonnet.
First order of the day, I think, take my prize money and buy her something nice to wear. She didn’t ought to have to look like a poor-house girl no more. I lift my sea chest again and the scrape across my ribs opens up like a mouth, screaming. Under my jacket I can feel liquid soaking into the waistband of my breeches. Everything swings about me like I was drunk.
Second order, then. After she’d bound me up again, in private. Tighter.
I make it down the side. Don’t know how—all the muscles in the right hand side of my body shrieking like demons, claws in my skin. And I’m not ever as strong as I think I ought to be. Always reckon I can do more than I can, always get let down.
Pushing and shoving on the quayside, as there is whenever we gets home, the Sparrowhawk being the most successful privateer in Charlestown. Wives and sweethearts and whores and families and chairmen and blokes with strings of horses to sell—for them as want to get home quick—and peddlers selling novelties and beer and pies, come flocking round, thick as fleas. We’re a curiosity at Charlestown, which is mostly built for the export of china clay. We give the place some glamour, as it sorely needs, and they love us for it.
I can feel the flood at my knee as I push my way through the crowd, and there’s floating white sparkles around the edges of my eyes and I feel like I’m flying. Sick, faint, weightless. “Hold me down, love,” I says, throwing my arms around Jenny, “I’m going to float away.”
It’s all worth it, for her, though. She’s brown haired and snub nosed. She’s got a quick, clever mouth and hands almost as rough as mine from scrubbing floors. For all she’s modest, her breasts make smooth mounds under her white fichu, like biteable moons. She smells of soap and lye. Always has. I likes it.
“Joe! Oh Joe! Thank God you’re home!” she’s saying, with her arms tight about me and her face in my shoulder. The bonnet pokes me in the ear, and maybe it’s that that’s making everything roar so loud I can barely hear her talking.
“Listen, love,” I says, “I’m hurt. We’ve got to get somewhere you can bind me up. How about your house?”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, Joe,” she raises her head finally, and her eyes are grey like the fog around me, swimming with tears. “They threw me out. The mistress heard tell we weren’t wed proper in church. Lor, she did tear into me like as a fury. Called me a scarlet woman and a spawn of Satan and more besides. Dismissed me on the spot with no pay, the old besom.”
I’ve got pay, I think. Can’t remember whether I said it or not. Things is fuzzying up around me like as there’s mould growing over my eyeballs. See a lot of that on ship—mould—never did see it from the inside before though. “Get us the chest, love,” I says. There’s a scrimmage of people about the sea-chests, all sitting on the dock, piled haphazard, and I’m sorry to have to tell her to take them on but she’s got knees and elbows like the rest of them. “There’s… money in there. We can… rent a… room.”
I’m on my knees when she gets back. The cobbles have raised themselves up in the air like so many iron crows, flapping about me, and the wind from under their wings is icy cold. I’ve got a hand on the ground, the other’s still trying to keep the blood in. I can feel it well and trickle out between my fingers, and I bite my lip for real this time, chew on it and think I must not faint. I must not faint.
“There ain’t no money in here.” Open lid. Flash of her face, smeared over grey sky like white paint. Jangling noise in my ears as I paw through old linen looking for the bag of coins, but she’s right, it’s gone.
It’s gone and I’m going to fall on my face on the dock. And someone’s going to pick me up and take me to the doctor.
“Malley?” Jangling noise. Snort of horsey hay breath in my hair. There’s a voice I should answer on pain of lashes, and God knows, I don’t want lashes. “What’s the trouble, man?”
I don’t want to cry. I try and fend him off with the red hand. “No doctors! No doctors, please!”
A drop falls from my fingers, crimson as a poppy. It crashes and spatters on the pavement, and so do I. Then there’s unwelcome, all conquering dark.
I Do Two is now available here!