Jamie Hill walks into his local LGBT+ nightclub, Submerge, intending to make friends. He meets comedian Addie Crewe and her girlfriend Gina Wilson - but it's Miles Bradford who really catches his eye. Miles is smart, funny, kind. But though Submerge sparkles on the surface, Jamie knows that the club, just like himself, hides darker secrets - and even Miles might not be as clean-cut as he appears.
Gina Wilson scooped her hair up into a messy bun, tucked it in under a knit cap, and shrugged on her coat before stepping out into the night.
It wasn't cold out, but there was a stiff breeze, and Gina was prone to getting the shivers at the slightest of provocations. Besides, she wanted to look perfect for tonight, since she'd promised to meet some potential clients for her craft business at the club. If she wanted to avoid any accidental damage to her outfit en route, the coat and hat would be vital.READ MORE
Another advantage of wearing the coat was that it had an awful lot of pockets. Gina needed an awful lot of pockets, because most of the time they got full pretty quickly. Gina collected things. A scavenger, her older brother had teased her once. A little magpie, her mother had corrected, more kindly. Her father had said she was a collector, or a Borrower. It didn't really matter to Gina what they called her; all she knew was that she noticed fragments of beauty where others might not, and that she could craft them into things people could appreciate.
By the time she arrived at the club, her pockets were full of discarded treasures – a ring pull, a shiny penny, two substantially less shiny pennies, an acorn … She wasn't quite sure what she was going to do with them all yet, but she knew they were beautiful. Just like the finished jewellery pieces and trinkets she'd tucked into an inner pocket, ready to show her potential clients.
She had a good feeling about tonight.
Miles Bradford stood in front of the mirror and studied himself critically.
Shave? Perfect, with just a hint of five o'clock shadow.
Eyes? Still small and a little on the narrow side, but he'd learned to live with that. Sometimes he even believed the people who told him it was a good feature, rather than the bullies at school who'd called him Squinty. Besides, he'd tried making them look bigger with make-up in the past, and the result had been ridiculous. He'd rather have small eyes.
Face? Well, the bruise on his cheekbone had almost faded, which was about time. Next time things got rowdy at the club, he was going to leave it to the bouncers.
Suit? Sharp. Smooth. He straightened the lapels and nodded decisively. The suit was good. Grey suited him. And more importantly, it matched …
Hat. He reached up and set it on his head, adjusting it to exactly the right angle. It sat perfectly atop the short spikes of his hair. As usual, it perfectly complemented the rest of his look.
Miles stood in front of the mirror and nodded. He was ready to go to work.
The old neon sign needed replacing, really, but no matter how often Adeline Crewe mentioned it, it never seemed to get done. She suspected that whoever was actually responsible for getting it sorted out actually quite liked the slightly run-down look of a dim, flickering light outside the club. Then again, perhaps it was just that all of their effort was expended on the inside of the building. There were, after all, plenty of reasons for Addie to come back time after time the way she did.
Inside, the club was one heaving mass of bodies. The stage area was empty, for now, but potential audience members were milling around with drinks, finding their way to tables. It was impossible to say for sure whether they were gathering for the comedy set or the popular drag-cabaret act later in the evening. Either way, seats were sure to go fast over the next half-hour or so. After that, it tended to be standing room only. Then again, there were other ways to enjoy the club; most people, Addie saw as she headed towards the bar, were getting their groove on all over the dance floor. Groups of friends danced, couples moved up against one another in ways that were barely decent, and a few threesomes straddled the fragile line between the two. Addie took it all in at a glance and then grinned at the bartender. This was her scene, her spiritual home. These were the things she loved about Submerge – the way it looked didn't matter.
"Addie! Ready for your set?" Gina threw her arms around her and kissed her, as if she hadn't seen her for weeks instead of just hours. "Redhead over there's checking you out," she murmured, and Addie laughed.
"Getting possessive, are we?"
"Damn right. I'm keeping you. Listen, I've gotta get back to talk to some people, I think they might buy some jewellery if I find anything worth making it out of – but we'll hang out later, yeah? Love you. Bye." And just like that, she was gone. Addie smiled and ordered a pint of water to keep her going through her set. The company here wasn't bad, either.
Jamie stopped to lean against a lamppost for a moment, gathering his thoughts and enjoying a few seconds of peace and quiet in the cool air of the night. There would be no such tranquillity inside the club; he had learned that during his recent visits. He'd grown used to a quiet life over the last few years, he supposed, and although he was enjoying his increasingly frequent club nights, he still needed a minute or two to mentally prepare himself for the onslaught of noise and company that awaited him inside.
The bouncer didn't even bother to ID him this time, as he finally passed through the door of Submerge. Jamie supposed he'd become something of a familiar face. For once, he couldn't blame his unusual appearance; at Submerge, a masculine shape wearing a sharp trouser suit and glittery eyeshadow that matched his red shirt was not as uncommon a sight as it might be elsewhere. He'd taken time on his make-up tonight, mindful of the way his white suit contrasted with his brown skin, wanting to blend into the crowd in a way that stood out, somehow. He wasn't sure what he was doing, really. All he knew was that tonight, he was going to actually talk to someone, someone important. He just had to figure out who that might be.
He spotted a familiar young woman standing on the stage, telling jokes that had the crowd in stitches even with the competing beat of the dance floor interrupting her every few moments - and he made his decision. With a quick glance at the name on the night's comedy programme, he pulled out his phone and began to type.COLLAPSE
Length: 72,400 words/268 pages