Free copies for review

Copies of The Boy Who Fell to Earth will be given away via the MM Romance group Don’t Buy My Love program. Opens 4.27. I’d love to hear your views.
smoking man


Liam for hire

Liam Murphy has kicked his drug habit and now pays for the high living costs in London as an escort. His life is finally in balance. His only problem is that he obsesses about the minimum number of times he has to bend over to make ends meet. As long as he keeps his emotions under control, it’ll be fine. That’s what he keeps telling himself until he meets the young widower Ali whose emerald eyes remind him of Ireland.

“I… I want us to have sex like we’re making love.” Making love? Jaysis.

I scratched my head, “Okay. You mean more kisses and shit?”

Ali laughed. “And shit.” His face lit up and he looked about ten years younger. “Like cuddles.”

Featuring Liam from The Boy Who Fell to Earth
Cover image @Sean McGrath, 2009
Design @A. Zukowski


Chips, curry and mushy peas

Sample and discount till April 27. $0.99 for the sweetest YA story you’ll read this year:

At dinner, he was more cooperative. I put some pies and chips in the oven and mum cut some up for him. He tried to eat it but he clearly was still in some discomfort and didn’t have much appetite. And he glanced up with his blue eyes. Now that he was better, I could see that they were large and beautiful while one of them was still half shut and puffy with a yellow and black bruise around it.

“Thank you, Maggie.” It was the first normal thing he had said to my mum. She smiled.

“That’s more like it, ah, what’s your name?” She was not going to give up.

His eyes lowered again and he didn’t reply. Mum sighed and went back to her food. Afterwards, she made tea and offered one to him, which he took, his long pale fingers wrapping around the handle of the mug, well, except the broken one that should be setting straight about now.

“You know, I can’t force you, and you don’t need to go for as long as you’re still ill. But I don’t want you to go straight back to what you were doing before.” She made the little speech like a good sensible adult would. I wondered what she knew about what he was doing before all this started. Okay, he was on the street, he took drugs. He got beaten up. But that’s not all. That’s not who he was. I wanted to know everything about him. What happened to him to put him on the street in the first place? What did he really like and dislike? I somehow knew there was an essence of the boy that was hidden beneath the battered body.

She continued, “When you feel a bit better, in a few days, I want to see if a social worker can find you a place to live and a school, you know?”

She was not going to force him. It was only an offer of help. That’s all. His face was expressionless but I knew by instinct he would leave, he wouldn’t want any help from social workers. I wished my mum did not push him too much because he would only go sooner. He seemed passive enough for now and I was quiet. He still took the Codeine tablets that were offered and didn’t speak, watching my mum with his suspicious and guarded eyes.

On Monday I had to go to school but mum was around. I didn’t know how they got on but when I went home, he was sleeping, the blanket drew up high and Ma was on her way out to her late shift. Mum gave me some cash for fish and chips from the chip shop down the road. Then she rushed out. She was always rushing, from work to the flat, to the shops. She used to drive me to football practice and every kind of sport event as well. At least now I could go around by myself. After she left I asked the boy what he’d like me to get for him.

He blinked several times, “Mushy peas.”

I laughed, “Really? That’s all you want to have?”

He shrugged, “I used to like them. But if you’re getting chips, curry sauce would be nice.” So the man had little appetite. He liked Chinese food but only if it was good and authentic. He drank tea and ate toasts and liked mushy peas. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I took off to the chip shop.

He was cute the way he ate his plate of chips, his injured hand holding onto the plate and his right hand with the fork struggling to put one chip at a time into his still swollen mouth.

I smirked, “You want me to feed you?”

He looked up and grimaced, “Fuck off.” Ha. I knew I would see more of the real him come out every day. He’s no victim even if the circumstances were not good for him. I told him more about myself. How my Ma’s a single parent and she worked so bloody hard to raise me but I kept getting into trouble at school. My “brothers” at school kinda looked down on me because I was not quite as black as they’re and I couldn’t really stand the music they liked and the clothes they wore. I played sports with some of them though and they were all right. I smoked dope and didn’t do very well in many of the subjects. I wanted to get into sixth form so I could make Ma proud of me. There will be no job for you if you don’t go to college, she kept telling me.

He finished most of his chips and all his peas. I guess that’s a good start. I raised my left eyebrow and mocked him. “You’re fond of your greens.” He shrugged. I hated vegetables but mum went on at me, so I had to finish them if she was around. She worked nights a lot, so if it was down to me, we mostly had frozen meals and pizzas and more cup noodles.

I made tea and gave him a mug while I drank my glass of coke. He tilted his chin towards the photo on the mantelpiece. There weren’t so many photographs in the house. “Is that your dad?” He asked.

The photo was taken when I was only one- or two-year-old with my parents. One of the very few of him that Ma kept and displayed. “Yeah, the bastard.”

He raised his eyebrows as if to ask why but he understood anyway. I added. “That’s before he left.”

He was gentle, “When?”

“I was five. I just started school.” I replied. I didn’t have much memory of him as a result other than that he was gone one day. Ma rarely spoke of him and somehow I knew not to ask questions. He hurt her and me, and that was all I needed to know. I watched the boy and wondered whether he knew where his mum and dad were and why he was on the street without a parent to look after him. I also understood he wasn’t going to tell me, not now anyway because he was still guarded. I wanted to change that somehow.


Kissing a boy that you find attractive


All at a sudden he was naked in front of me as he shrugged off the sweat pants and boxers I gave him, and he turned to me, as if he could read what I was thinking. He didn’t comment on my obvious interest but merely asked quietly, “Help me get in the bath?” I did and was surprised again by the softness of his skin and the smallness of his waist. I also sensed my physical reaction to him. Please don’t let him feel it, I pleaded to myself. He was not self-conscious being stark naked and full of bruises, and I had to touch him to help him get into the tub, so how come I was such a complete freak for thinking of him sexually the entire time? I could never forget the electricity that I felt when our skins connected. Sure he smelled bad, a mixture of sweat and sourness, not surprising after days of not washing. Fuck knew when he last washed. To hide all these conflicting, confusing thoughts, I stupidly said, “Hmm, let me add some smelly in there for you.”

I found a bottle of mum’s bath foam with a purplish flower on the label that said something about invigorating. I certainly found him invigorating so I didn’t know if he needed any help himself. Finally, I shifted my feet and said, “Well, hmm. I’ll leave you. Will you be okay?”

He looked up and I swear it was the first time I saw anything remotely positive from him when he smirked and his face lit up for a second. I left to give him space to wash himself. Of course, I wanted to stay. Anything to be near him and to see his bare skin would be welcome. I had to run back to my room and jerk off. Don’t think I was some kind of pervert for nursing someone and getting turned on by him. I couldn’t help it but it wasn’t like I took advantage of him, was it?

It was even harder not to let myself get carried away when later I had to help the naked, dripping wet man out of the bath and get dressed. He didn’t like being helped but I still had to dry his legs and feet, which meant, I had his groin right in front of my face. Oh please. I tried to look down at the floor instead. I got his arms up to put the T-shirt on. Even the hair in his arm pits was golden. He had difficulty bending, so I put the boxers and loose cotton trousers on him, and suffered through more closeness to his bottom. My clothes kinda hanged off him. His hip bone literally protruded like some starved third world children. My face was practically pressed against his hip. Well, he didn’t look so good down there right now but I still felt the heat rise up in me with the excitement of being so near him and his musky masculinity. It was hard not to let it show. By the time we got back to the front room he was exhausted from the bath and fell asleep again with more Codeine.

When he refused lunch, I made another cup noodle and watched a comic film adaptation with my headphones on when he suddenly spoke, “Is that all you eat, Jay?”

I turned in surprise that he was up and talked. “Well, it’s not like you are into food, mate.”

He lay still on the couch but half turned to face me, “I eat.”

“So what do you like? Your reaction to the pizza was pretty extreme.” I chuckled.

“The restaurants in Chinatown put leftover food out for us. That’s pretty nice.” He shifted a little to be more comfortable.

I wondered about that, “Wow, like free Chinese takeout? Sounds cool.”

“Not if you have to sleep by the dumpster in the first place.” He said, quite nonchalant about it. I wondered about that, imagined how he slept in doorways and back alleys like other homeless people I had seen. I never paid too much attention to them, perhaps like everyone else. Those dark, shady figures were there to be ignored, right?

“So, you really are homeless?” I was a dumb fuck. I had to ask the question, but he just shrugged like he did so often.

We ended up sharing joints again that afternoon. I carried on my one-sided conversation while he patiently watched me, his newly cleaned hair shone in the sun. He had his back to the door frame, eyes closed to catch the rays like he was on holidays and enjoying himself, trying to get a tan. For the first time since we picked him off the front lawn, he was relaxed. I was absolutely mesmerised by the shape of his face, by the lines of his nose, by the vulnerability of that bruised body. I leaned forward and touched his lips with mine, then immediately realised that I shouldn’t have done that.

His eyes snapped open on impact but he didn’t seem too shocked or upset. Still. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.” I muttered and moved off straightaway, a little awkwardly.

His facial expression didn’t change though when he gazed at me. “It’s okay.”

My eyes went wide, “Okay? Hmm.” I tried to busy myself with a little loose thread of my top. I hadn’t even kissed a boy before and now I had done this to the stranger who didn’t yet have a name. What the fuck was I doing?

He lit and sucked on the joint deeply and breathed out, “Does your mum know you’re gay?”

I stared at him. I guess I hadn’t considered coming out seriously. Hell, I hadn’t come out to myself so why would I have spoken to my Ma about it? “Ahh, no.” I answered. He took another toke and passed it back to me, and he didn’t comment further. All my doubts evaporated as he acted like it was nothing special and like he said, it was okay. It was fine just like that, kissing a boy that you found attractive. I couldn’t believe I just came out for the first time to a total stranger after kissing him. Well, he was an unknown to me even though I had seen more of him than anyone else, including my Ma. I wanted to touch his ass and every other parts of that nice body. Jay, stop being so pervy. I had to keep reminding myself.

The badly withdrawn boy

Blonde Close-up Eyes Mesmerizing Blue Beautiful

I was no weakling though, being almost the tallest in my class. I dislodged his fingers and raised my voice, “No. You’re sick and injured. You can’t get out in this weather now.” He curled up in pain again.

“Fuck you.” He spat without venom but his stare was piercing. Even his bad eye was capable of that. I didn’t know where my strength came from but I went through the drugs and medical kit my mum left again and handed him two more sleeping pills and ordered him to take them. He faced the back of the sofa again and muttered a quiet “fuck” and nothing else.

Later, I started dinner. I wanted to have it ready when mum got back. I wasn’t sure whether the boy would eat and assumed he wouldn’t. Anyway, I just put some chips and a large pizza in the oven. That should be enough. If not, I’d have more toasts and snacks later. My mind drifted back to the sleeping form. The guy was as tall as me but so skinny that he was practically malnourished. I had butterflies in my tummy when I remembered his beige hair and eyelashes, that lazy gaze when he looked at me in the sun. Damn. What was wrong with me? He was ill, and mum was right. There was obviously something really dodgy about him, so how come I couldn’t stop myself focusing on him?

As I waited for dinner and my mum, I sat and watched a stupid game show on the telly. The boy was awake but he didn’t move and didn’t say anything. When I offered him more tea, he shook his head. I could see sweat pour down his forehead, so I tried to pull the blanket away but he grabbed it back and glared at me. He really was very grumpy. That was when mum got back. She’s still in the blue hospital uniform as she shook off her jacket. Cold wind sailed through the front door with her.

“Oh, Jay. Turn the radiator on or something, the flat’s freezing.” She kissed me and ordered, whispering. “How’s he been?”

“Ah, well.” I shifted and looked at him but he closed his eyes again, pretending to sleep; he was awake just before mum got back. “He was hot and cold, so I didn’t know what to do.” That was the truth. I was concerned. Besides, being a growing lad, I had so much energy that I didn’t feel the chill myself.

She shook her head, “That’s got nothing to do with the room temperature. It’s drug withdrawal, the poor boy.” Again, my mum talked as if he was not there but I knew he would have heard her. She went in the kitchen to turn the boiler on. I was so naïve then. That’s right. Withdrawal from heroin. I wondered how long he would be in that condition.

Mum dished three plates up and I took mine to the table and tucked into it straightaway. She carried the smaller portion over to him who had turned his back to us again.

“Hey. Are you going to try eat something?” She asked gently, “We never asked your name. I’m Maggie by the way and my son’s Jay. How old are you, dear?”

When he ignored her, she put the food down and tried to help him sit up but he pushed her away. Hmm, I wasn’t sure how my mum would react to that. She’s a tough girl, my Ma. She said more firmly, “It’s good you’re better today. Try sit up and have some dinner.” It’s probably her nurse mode, some kind of firm but caring routine that she used on her patients.

The boy stared at her for a second. He then tried to get off the sofa too quickly and ended up kneeling on the floor and he was sick. My mum was in shock. I ran to the kitchen and brought out our dish bowl but he didn’t have much to be sick, perhaps just bile and the one slice of toast he ate earlier. And even after that he was doubled up in pain. Ma and I cleaned up the floor the best we could.

My mum was a saint for her patience. I guess she had to be. At the end, the boy looked up and asked for more painkillers and mum gave him some. When he eventually calmed down, my mum sat by him on the couch and asked one more time, “Is there someone I can call for you?”

He scowled and repeated, “No one. Let me go. I’m sorry to bother you.” He did seem genuinely grateful.

“Oh no, you’re in no state to go back out there. But you don’t look eighteen. There has to be someone who can help.” She insisted.

He stared at her but refused to answer. I was worried that my mum would drive him away. Perhaps I was just selfish and didn’t want him to leave yet. But why? I didn’t know my own reason then. My mum sighed once more. That was her default response when it came to the boy on our sofa.

It was much the same on the Sunday. I was secretly glad that mum was working all day again, so I could care for the boy. He was definitely improving. He hadn’t been sick again and the bruises were getting yellowy rather than black and blue, which was a good sign. He drank tea and ate toasts but still refused anything else. In the afternoon, he sat up and asked if he could have a wash. I was such a moron for not thinking that he had not had a shower for three days.

“I think a bath would be better, if it’s okay.” He asked politely, so I ran the bath for him. I let him lean on me while I wound my arm around his waist and helped him to the bathroom, supplied him with a fresh change of clothes, toothbrush and toothpaste. He started to take his clothes off. Oh, I didn’t know whether I should just leave him but he did not seem self-conscious and my feet were glued to the floor. I tried to tell myself that he would need further help getting into the tub and all that. My eyes were drawn to the ugly marks all over him again and his physique. He’s scrawny for sure but his body was also graceful in its own way, with lithe muscles and pale skin that I had the urge to touch. Oh crap.

Let me go

Mum held out two pills. “I don’t know how to deal with withdrawal. Take these sleeping pills. They might just help.” He took them and after more turning and twisting he went back to sleep. Mum glared at me. I didn’t know what for exactly, for spotting the guy out front, for refusing to turn him over to the police? I had no clue. I only knew I wanted him there, I needed to nurse him back to health.

He was restless all night, and since it was the weekend I was free for two days. I should have gone to football practice on Saturday morning but somehow even in my immature mind I feared he’d disappear, so I stayed at home, justified by having to make sure he was all right. My mum went to work for a long shift till seven at night.

He woke numerous times during the morning always shivering, sweating and not eating or speaking. Mum left painkillers and sleeping pills. While not telling me to fuck off any more, he refused to speak, just gazed at me with his good eye. I checked on the Internet about heroin withdrawal but apparently he should have gone to a detox rehab. I had a feeling that he would never agree to that.

In the afternoon, I made a cup noodle and sat and watched some vids on my laptop. I became aware that he was awake and watching me. I started a monologue. I didn’t mind. Perhaps he felt awkward to be here, so he could listen to me like a radio for comfort. He was undoubtedly feeling awfully ill with the beating and the withdrawal. I tried to smile. Do people smile at homeless junkies? Probably not often. It wasn’t surprising that he didn’t smile back.

“Want some?” I held out my cup noodle. He shook his head and tried to sit up with some difficulty. I rushed over to help but that only met with his strong arms pushing me away and another glare. He sat up eventually by himself. Okay, he’s as stubborn as me and my Ma.

“You got a smoke?” He asked, his voice low, less croaky than yesterday and I noticed it had a honeyed quality to it. By his accent, I’d say he’s definitely a Londoner.

I forked up most of the noodles in one go and said with a mouthful of food, “Hmm, have some dope. We have to do it out back though. If mum smells cigarette, she’ll kill me.”

He continued to look at me. I was so mesmerised by those blue eyes, I felt the urge to touch his face and more, but I shook my head, finished my lunch and went to get the gear instead. I came back and helped him stand up. The tension in his body told me he was pissed at having to be supported just to walk to the back door but he had little choice. In fact, I was sure mum would be angry with me for moving him. I helped him ease onto the step by the kitchen door and he sat down with a wince. Oh, yes. I remembered now his ass had to hurt and he didn’t have a jacket. I dashed back to grab a blanket and wrapped him in it, and a cushion for him to sit on. He resisted looking at me at all as I helped him to get comfortable.

I rolled the joint in silence and shared it with him, observing how he held it like an old dope head, pinching the end with his thumb and first digit and inhaling deeply. I started saying shit like telling him my name and I was doing my GCSEs; I liked football and basketball. In fact I was into all different kinds of sport. He listened quietly but was also distracted, his attention on someplace else, in another dimension.

“You’re what then, fifteen?” He asked, the voice, just like the first time, sounding a little older than his age, but the quiet quality of it drew me in.

“Two months short of sixteen.” I said too quickly, appearing to boast and regretting it straightaway. He didn’t tell me how old he was in return, like most people would. He didn’t volunteer any information at all. The sun was out for a change and we sat there smoking with me conversing pretty much one-sided. The boy wasn’t dismissive even though he didn’t say anything. He was just distracted and still in pain, and as I should know later he didn’t talk about himself and his past, certainly not to strangers. I watched in awe the sun on his dirty blond hair. Even with the masses of black and blue, I could tell he was gorgeous. He was the best looking boy I had come across and somehow I felt comfortable with him sharing the silence, joints passing between us. I told him about people at school, my football team and playing computer games. He was patient and his facial expression never changed, and I was in no doubt that he was listening.

After about an hour, he started to shiver again and he clutched his stomach, “Help me back. I need to lie down.” That was all he said. I gave him some more painkillers and let him sleep but he did so badly, twisting and turning. When he woke I forced him to have a cup of tea. He hadn’t eaten for at least a day if not longer. No wonder he felt ill on top of everything else. He didn’t have much of an appetite but he ate a slice of dried toast at my insistence.

Mum told me to lock the doors. I gathered she knew the boy would want to escape if he was up to it. She was right too. I managed to do a bit of my homework project in the afternoon and watched some football on television before he stirred again. He sweated and tremors went through him. When I offered him more Codeine and water, he gripped my wrist, “Get me dressed and let me go.”

smoking man