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Another One of Those Family Photographs

Graeme Meades resented the man even before he met him. He'd applied for the job of Claims Manager, although a side-ways move, it would have meant a promotion for him and he needed that now he and Sophie were engaged. He'd been nervous at the interview but he still felt it went well; he knew two out of the three people interviewing him, one of them was Terry Sanger, who he'd worked with before Terry got his own promotion. After he left the interview he'd felt so positive about it, his prayers would be answered, the job was his.

 

Days later, they told him he hadn't got the job because they'd given it to an external candidate, someone new to the company. Graeme hadn't just been disappointed, he'd been crushed. He'd needed that promotion, he'd believed that promotion was his, and they had taken it away from him. Again he'd been frustrated and disappointed; life was so unfair to him.

 

As it grew closer to the time when Stephen Cartmel would start as the new Claims Manager, Graeme felt his resentment growing and deepening. Even before he'd met Cartmel he'd taken against him. This man had obviously got the job by deception and lies, otherwise it would surely have been his. Graeme was so frustrated and disappointed that his view of it all soon turned black and white.

 

Stephen Cartmel started work on a bright, Tuesday morning (Graeme thought this was typical, the man couldn't even start work on a Monday like everyone else). Graeme purposefully avoided Cartmel, he made sure he went nowhere near his new office. When Terry Sanger hosted a "Meet our new Claims Manager" at the canteen on Cartmel's second day Graeme conveniently had work that he needed to do.

 

But Stephen Cartmel was the Claims Manager and Graeme couldn't avoid him forever. By Friday of Cartmel's first week Graeme had three files he needed to show the man. Stealing himself, that afternoon, Graeme took the files to his office.

 

Stephen Cartmel was sat behind his desk, working on his computer, and glanced up as Graeme entered the office.

 

"How can I help you?"  Cartmel said, in a rich telephone voice.

 

"Err... I need you to check over these three cases," Graeme replied.

 

"Pass them here and I’ll add them to my list," Cartmel said and actually smiled up at Graeme.

 

Stephen Cartmel was certainly a handsome man. His features were strong though with a smooth and almost sculpted look, certainly not hard. His skin was flawless, almost glowing with health. His pale blonde hair was short but spiky, stylish but not too unconventional for an office, it certainly complemented the features of his face and his bright, vivid blue eyes. Under his carefully fitting white shirt was a compact but still muscular body. Now, Cartmel was smiling at him with a mouth shining full of white and neat teeth.

 

"I’ll look over these as soon as I can but I’m snowed under here," he said as he took the files off Graeme.

 

"There hasn't been a Claims Manager here for some time," Graeme replied.

 

"I’d kind of guessed that."

 

As Stephen Cartmel took the files from him the corner of one of them clipped a picture frame, there on the desk, and caused it to fall over. Graeme glanced down and saw the photograph staring up at him.

 

It was a portrait of three people. Stephen Cartmel was one of them, though he was casually dressed, with a red flush to his checks, and he had his arm around the second man in the picture. The other man was as equally handsome as Cartmel, though his hair was dark and tightly curling and his complexion was richly olive. Between them sat a boy of maybe five or six, staring into the camera with a broad smile upon his face. The three faces seemed to form a triangle in it composition, they were three handsome faces staring out of the photograph.

 

“Who’s that?” Graeme asked, without thinking.

 

“That’s my partner Pip and our son Jaime. We adopted him when he was six months old,” Stephen Cartmel replied.

 

“You’re homosexual,” the words fell out of Graeme’s month before he could check himself.

 

“I’m gay, yes. If you have a problem with that just you deal with it.”

 

“And you and he are raising a child.”

 

“Jaime’s our son,  of course we are,” the smile had fallen off Cartmel’s face to be replaced by a puzzled expression – as if he was dealing with someone very stupid.

 

“That’s disgusting!” Graeme spat out, “children need a stable home of a mother and a father. You homosexuals are not fit to be parents, your lives are bathed in sin. You only want children to recruit them into your sterile, sin-filled lives. You only want a child because it’s fashionable. You’ll get tired of this child, it won’t be fashionable and you’ll have destroyed that child’s life! It’s disgusting!”

 

“You homophobic little shit!” Cartmel shouted back at him as he jumped to his feet, his chair smacking into the cupboards behind it.

 

“No I’m not! I’m a Christian!” Graeme shouted back. “I’m speaking the truth, God’s truth.”

 

“This is prejudiced, homophobic crap!” Stephen Cartmel’s face flushed red with anger.

 

“No it’s not! It’s God’s truth and you’re too selfish to hear it,” Graeme found himself shouting back.

 

“Get out! Get out now!” Cartmel shouted at him.

 

“God’s love and power can set you free from…”

 

“Get out!” Cartmel again shouted, cutting him short.

 

Graeme turned on his heals and almost ran out of there.

 

He ran along the corridor and down the flight of stairs to the floor below. He only stopped running when he reached the Gents’ toilet there and was able to lock himself away in a cubicle. He sat down on the closed toilet seat and wept, bitter and hard tears. It was all so bloody unfair.

 

He’d worked so hard, believed so hard, tired so hard at being a Christian but still he’d failed. Repeatedly at church, he’d been told that if he was faithful God would reward him; well he had been faithful, believed everything demanded of him, done everything required of him and he’d been rewarded with nothing. All that was happening was that his life was getting progressively harder. It was always an up-hill struggle, and every time it got steeper and more difficult.

 

He’d prayed every night for change, kept himself pure from all temptations and even became engaged to Sophie (though all he felt for her was friendship) but nothing had changed; he was still deeply sexually attracted to men. He’d only ever become sexually aroused thinking about men, a close relationship with another man was what he secretly longed for. These feelings and emotions were only getting stronger as time passed. He was dammed for being who he was, no escape.

 

Stephen Cartmel was everything he didn’t dare let himself hope to be. Stephen Cartmel was homosexual but he was happy and healthy with it, he had an attractive lover whom he seemed to care a lot about, they had even adopted a child together. Stephen Cartmel seemed unbelievably happy and he was achingly handsome too.

 

He’d wanted to reach out to Cartmel. Frighteningly, part of him wanted to have what Stephen Cartmel had, but he’d destroyed his chance with his own… He didn’t want to allow that thought.

 

Graeme couldn’t stop weeping, even though cramping pain had seized at his chest and stomach, it seemed to have taken over him…

 

 

Drew Payne

May 2007.