I Was Born for This
I laugh. It’s kind of funny. We look like we’re a couple, or something. Lister must have taken it as a joke.
I look up at Rowan, expecting him to be laughing too. But he isn’t. His eyes are wide. His hand is gripping the back of my seat.
‘I don’t understand,’ I say.
‘Haven’t you checked Twitter today?’ he says, shaking his head almost manically.
Rowan snatches the iPad back and swipes the screen. The image minimises and the screen returns to Rowan’s Twitter notifications, which seem to be full of people tweeting him the photo. He starts to scroll through them, holding the iPad in front of my face. Everyone is tweeting him about the photo, and the link to where it came from.
I sit upright in my chair, take the iPad from Rowan and click on the nearest link.
It takes me to a big but gossipy news site, the usual sort of place that jumps on any Ark news for easy clicks. And there, in the centre of the page, is the photo of me and Rowan, accompanied by the title,
THE ARK’S JIMMY KAGA-RICCI AND ROWAN OMONDI CAUGHT SLEEPING TOGETHER AT LONDON APARTMENT
‘Well, that’s misleading,’ I say.
‘Quality click bait,’ says Rowan, nodding solemnly.
It’s almost chilling, actually. Where did they get this photo from? How did Lister slip up this time?
‘I can’t believe he did something like this again,’ groans Rowan.
He’s referring, of course, to the fact that Lister is the sole reason I came out publicly as trans when I was sixteen. He tweeted a photo of our open suitcases while we were packing for a tour with a cheerful ‘PACKING FOR TOUR WITH THE BOYS #TheArkEuropeTour’. This included my suitcase, which had my hormone-blocker medication in it, very clearly visible in one of the suitcase compartments. And so the speculation and coming-out pressure began.
I got over it pretty quickly but Rowan barely spoke to Lister for two entire months.
Coming out at sixteen was probably a bit too soon for me – I wasn’t completely sure whether I was ready for everyone in the world to know – but it wasn’t a total disaster. There was hate, obviously, but most of our fans were amazingly supportive and it actually brought in a whole new load of listeners, ones that looked up to me specifically. Which was kind of cool.
Suddenly we weren’t just a teenage boy band playing fun, upbeat tunes. Suddenly we were something a little bit more important than that.
‘Didn’t think he was quite that dumb,’ Rowan continues.
‘Are you talking about me?’
Rowan and I turn to look at Lister, who is leaning over the compartment wall and peering down at us. He has sunglasses on and has his hood up, concealing around eighty per cent of his head.
The smell of alcohol immediately fills the air.
Rowan gives him a look of disdain, and then holds his iPad up in front of Lister’s face. ‘Explain.’
Lister squints at the screen. There’s a pause.
‘Mate, that’s touching,’ he says. ‘Very sweet. Romantic.’ He looks up at the two of us and puts his hand on his heart. ‘I wish you both every happiness.’
Rowan sighs. ‘Come on, man. Why’d you do it?’
‘Send them the picture.’
Lister’s smile drops. ‘I didn’t.’
Rowan groans, throws his hands in the air and turns round. ‘Oh my God, now you’re gonna stand here and deny it for half an hour.’
‘What?’ Lister chuckles nervously, but Rowan just shakes his head and ambles back to his own compartment, which is opposite mine.
Lister takes Rowan’s place and sits down, looking at me. He takes his sunglasses off, revealing eyes with dark circles underneath them. I knew he was drinking too much at the after-party last night and the cocktails he’s had on the plane today probably haven’t been helping.
‘You guys think I took a picture of you two in bed together and then sent it to some gossip blog?’ says Lister. His smile is wobbly.
I stare at him.
‘Jimmy,’ he says. ‘Come on.’
‘Did you, though?’ I ask.
‘No. I swear. I would take a blood oath with one hand on your Bible if you had it with you.’
‘You’re literally the only one who could have taken it.’ I load up the photo on my laptop. ‘Look, we’re in my bedroom. It’s night-time.’
‘It could have been someone at a party—’
‘I wouldn’t be asleep if we had anyone else in our house. Obviously.’
Lister slumps back against the compartment wall. He actually looks a bit annoyed. ‘I can’t believe you think it’s me. I know I’m stupid but I’m not that stupid.’
‘You’ve done stuff like this before. The Twitter suitcases thing.’
I instantly regret mentioning it when Lister looks up at me, hurt.
‘I – that was an accident –’ he stammers. ‘And I’m still really, really, really sorry about that. I swear I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself—’
‘You seriously swear it wasn’t you?’
‘Jimmy, I swear. I think I’d remember sending a photo to a gossip website.’ He shakes his head. ‘That’s such a weird thing to do, why would I do that?’
I think I do believe him.
‘Who else could’ve taken it, then?’ I look down at the photo. Whoever took it was literally standing right next to my bed, staring down at us. Lister leans forward and looks at it with me.
‘What if,’ he says, sitting back up and staring at me with wild eyes, ‘someone broke in?’