It’s the year 2000 and Kev’s twenty. He’s a proper grown up now. Maybe. He knows what he’s doing. And what he’s doing isn’t what he wants to be doing. He’s working in TK Maxx and instead he wants to be singing and dancing and bantering and laughing on stage. He. Loves. It. And they pay him too!
Kev’s continued search for his Prince Charming leads him to look in all the wrong places for all the wrong men and, inevitably, gets him in something of a pickle: physically, emotionally, and medically too.
But his mum and friend Tony are there to help pick up the pieces when it all falls apart as it so often does with Kev.
Optimism, a plan, and being really good at performing on stage, drive Kev forward. After all, he’s been performing off stage all his life.
Contains gay pride marches, multiple incidents of alcohol-induced idiocy, friends and family who stick with you no matter what you do, a lot of showtunes and camp humour, and a complete absence of smartphones and social media. He’s Kev, fly him.
|Publisher:||NineStar Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.59(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Kieran and Jo were back from uni in London for half term, autumn term, or some term or another, and I met them in Salisbury for a drink and a good gossip. I met them in full Ginger Spice outfit. During the day. Yes. Part of the I am Kev hear me roar approach Tony and I had come up with, I was trying this new fearless, notice the fear and do it anyway thing, on for size. It seemed to suit me actually. It was also two big fingers up at my ex-boyfriend Aaron and his vile comments to me about dressing up, and the whole Arthur or Martha thing. Well, I wanted to dress as both Arthur and Martha, depending on how the mood took me, so Aaron and anyone else who didn't like that could stick it.
Ever since Daddy Do Nothing, as Mum and I referred to him, had come back into my life, then disappeared again, just as quickly, it has spurred me on to dress more. It was a sort of two fingers up to Daddy Do Nothing too. An "I don't need your approval, I know what I'm about, and I am fabulous, so you can disappear to your village and back to your new girlfriend and stepdaughter, and I'll be fabulous over here". All of that. His rejection to my cross-dressing had inadvertently brought out the flag waving slightly military — as in strong, organised, standing up for my rights not as in part of the actual army — drag queen in me.
Some people in my life had been more accepting of it than others. Jo, in particular, was always a bit sniffy about what I wore, and when I wore it, but he wasn't really one of my friends, he just came as a set of two with Kieran. Of course, I wouldn't ever tell Kieran that, I'd never want to upset him, so I simply bit my tongue and ignored Jo's comments, or how he sometimes excluded me from things with his subtle and slimy excuses. It wasn't worth making a fuss, not for Kieran's sake. But today, when I was meeting both Kieran and Jo, I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to dress to both impress and make an impression. If I could stand on stage and sing to a packed pub, I sure as hell could walk into a pub dressed like a real woman and order a few drinks.
I finished my realistic makeup, adjusted my red wig with a bleached stripe, just like Ginger Spice's hair. I checked there was enough padding for my bra to make an impression under the little Union Flag dress I'd run up for myself exactly like Geri Halliwell had, by sewing a tea towel onto the front of a little black strappy dress. I pursed my lips, reapplied red lipstick, added a touch more blue eye shadow in both a homage to the blonde one from Abba, and Geri, obviously, and I was ready to go. I clumped my way downstairs in the black platform boots I'd bought with my staff discount from TK Maxx.
I swept past Mum in the kitchen.
She was drying some crockery at the sink with a spotless tea towel. She put the mug down. "Don't take this the wrong way, love. You look fabulous. Honestly, it's the ginger one from that girl group, isn't it? Where do you think you're going like that, love?"
"I told you. I'm seeing Kieran and Jo, in town."
"Nope. Just them, then I'll be home. It won't be a late one. Promise."
She looked me up and down, trying to take in what she saw before her. She pursed her mouth. "So, what's with the outfit, love? Seems like a lot of effort for a drink with some friends. I worry about you, what people say. Some others are like that Aaron you went out with." She paused, clasping her hands together in front of herself. "Sadly."
I'd already explained to her my I am Kev hear me roar, and she knew how upset Dad's disappearance had made me, so I simply said, "I am not letting people like Dad or Aaron, make me ashamed of who I am. I am who I am and I'm doing it more and more." I put my hands on my hips and thrust my fake bosoms towards her. "All right?"
She nodded slowly. "Just you take care, love. I don't want anyone hurting you. Watch where you park. Walk where it's lit. Don't cut along by the river. That's dark this time of year, and you never know the sort of people who hang around the industrial entrance out the back of Argos. Watch yourself."
She tapped her cheek.
I kissed her cheek then jumped into my car, checking my reflection one last time in my mirror, brushing aside a minor doubt about whether I was doing the right thing, and drove to the nearest car park to the sports pub where I'd asked them to meet me.
THERE WAS NO need for me to worry, I was well used to doing female impersonations by now in public. Kieran and Jo were full of uni talk, as expected, but they seemed to be enjoying it, so I was pleased for them. Jo gave me a few looks and made some comments, as I knew he would, but I easily brushed them aside. And a man mistook me for a real woman, so that made my day. I'd passed, as they say in cross-dressing circles. My first passing.
I only felt slightly scared once as I tottered loudly on my heels back to the car, using the long route through town. I came across a big group of teenagers on the corner by the bank on the way to the market square. I debated crossing the road and then decided they'd know I was scared, so instead, flicked my hair over my shoulder, stuck my fake bosoms up, and clip-clopped through the middle of them with a few words about being sorry and could I squeeze through. A few of them looked up and looked back at me again — I saw them in the reflection of shop windows as I continued tottering to the car — but no more. I held my head high. If anyone had started anything, I was in a busy bit of town, which even that late was full of people, and after a few loud screams, I was sure they'd have run away, most bullies being cowards in disguise really.
So, battle fought and won, now for the next one.CHAPTER 2
I'D BEEN WAITING for what felt like months, but was more like weeks, for Brian, my boss at TK Maxx, to let me know about my change of hours request at work. The next day at work, he'd left me a note in my pigeon hole, could I meet him that afternoon to discuss some issues.
Armed with my usual management friendly blue folder, I met him, hoping with my whole body he'd say yes, it would be simple, and I could get back to the job in hand — which was making room in the stock room to take the Christmas products, and finishing till-training one of the new recruits.
Brian gestured for me to take a seat, folded his hands across his folder, laying on his desk. "I am sorry for the delay. I have had to go through the proper channels, as you can imagine. I have considered your request, which I thank you for putting in writing."
Yes, and get on with it, you bureaucratic fool. I mean, you helpful manager ... I smiled.
He handed me a letter and started talking. "You'll see we have to, unfortunately, decline your request to half your hours and remain at the current position and grade. We felt you would not be able to maintain your standard of seniority in only two days per week. But as you'll see from the letter, there are, I hope you'll agree, a number of other options we've come up with."
I scanned the letter and the list of options swam before my eyes. I blinked away some tears. I wasn't crying, I was overwhelmed by the response, by the options in front of me, by what this really meant:
1) Remain at the current grade and hours;
2) Reduce your hours to two days per week at a sales associate grade (A grade I'd worked hard to move away from with the college and the flattery approach Tony had helped me with.); or,
3) Hand in your notice — four weeks contractually.
There was also some twaddle about how they didn't want to lose my valuable skills and thanked me for my valued contribution, etc. etc., but I skimmed over that bit. I looked up.
Brian was smiling broadly, beaming across the desk at me.
I tried to ask about maintaining my skills, why couldn't it be at the same grade for fewer hours.
"I'm afraid there are no FLMs or deputy heads of department at any fewer than three days per week. And company policy states —"
I tried to argue about the college course, and I could go back to finish it, if it would help, how committed to the whole customer service ethos I was. I kept my fingers crossed on my right hand under the desk.
"I'm afraid it is not a matter of qualifications, it's a matter of seniority in the hours you're doing each week. We may be able to look at something for you working three days per week at your current grade, but it is highly unusual, and I would require further authorisation from the regional director and possibly higher."
"Is this the final decision? Who can I appeal to about this decision?"
"You are of course free to appeal, in writing, to the regional lead for appeals."
"Who's that?" My pen was poised over the letter, ready to write.
"It is myself." He smiled, closing his folder and folding his arms across his chest. This conversation was, as far as he was concerned, over.
I put my pen down, nodded and tried one last time to ask about any compromises and was there any flexibility?
He shook his head, mentioning company policy for the umpteenth time.
I gathered my folder, shook his hand and left with what little dignity I had left from the situation. The only thing swirling round my head was fuck, oh dear, and bollocks.
I went back to what I'd been doing before the meeting, trying to till train a few of the new staff, but it felt like wading through treacle. Every time one of them had a question, I felt myself sighing so loudly I would have fired me had I not been the most senior person in earshot. Each keystroke and bar code scan of the till felt like it passed as quickly as a season. Somehow, I finished the training session and hid myself away in the corner folding jumpers and scarves in the menswear department until five o'clock came, when I downed tools — I actually dropped the jumper onto the floor and ran to the staff room, collected my bag and coat and ran to the door.
Brian caught me as I reached the front of the shop, tantalisingly close to the shopping centre and beyond it the freedom of the outside world. He frowned and tapped his watch. "I believe you are to lock up tonight and tidy the shop floor before joining me to go through the unreturned appraisals for your staff. That is what we'd agreed yesterday, I believe."
And it was. And in normal circumstances, I'd have gone with him, rolled my sleeves up and done a good couple of hours overtime with him, but today, I didn't have the mental or physical energy. And if I'm brutally honest, I didn't give a flying fuck about the appraisals and the shop floor, not after our meeting earlier. I felt like a party balloon, kept for weeks after the big day and is mostly empty and no longer rises to the ceiling as it had before. I no longer felt able to rise to the ceiling of my job. So instead, I lied. Not a white lie, but a proper big, black, ugly lie because I wanted to get him back for what he'd said. Childish, I know, but then, it was what I wanted to do, and was better than telling him to stick his job up his backside. "Mum's not well. She just called. On her way to hospital. I need to be with her." I cocked my head to one side, did the sweetest of sweet smiles I could achieve and stared at Brian.
"Well, of course. In that case, you must go. Leave. Be with her. Look after her. Call me if you can't be in tomorrow." He waved me off.
I continued my frown and the pretence of the big, black, ugly lie I'd told, hoping it wouldn't tempt fate to mean Mum did actually go back to hospital. Once round the corner, through the shopping centre, and out the other side, facing the market square, I took a deep breath of fresh cold air, so much sweeter than the air-conditioned, heated, false air I'd been breathing all day, paused for thought about where to go now, and very quickly knew there was only one possible place.CHAPTER 3
I PUT TWENTY quid on the bar at the Duke, told the barman to get me a double gin and tonic, don't worry about the slice of lime, and to keep them coming.
A few drinks in, the barman had asked what brought me there so early.
I briefly told him about work and said I was there to forget it.
"Fair enough," the barman said, wiping the bar with a cloth. "Did you know they're having upstairs all redone? New bathroom, new kitchen, new everything from what I've seen."
"Another drink, please." I smiled, not quite sure why I'd care about the landlord's decorating activities.
And then, a vision in a white pair of dungarees, one shoulder undone, a stained grey crew neck T-shirt underneath, and paint-spattered workmen's boots appeared next to me at the bar. My stomach filled with butterflies, and the contents of my underwear immediately filled with blood. I shifted my position on the bar stool so I gave everything in my underwear a bit more space to spread as I continued staring at this vision next to me. I'd always been a sucker for a bit of rough, ever since my boyfriend Rocky, the decorator and his van. Oh, that van, the fun we had in the back of that van. I shook away the memory with a dirty smile. I turned to the decorator to my side, taking him all in, in a slightly subtle gaze from head to foot. Nice to look at, but it won't be anything more, he'll be straight, you wait and see.
The barman said, "Talk of the devil. This is the poor bastard who's doing most of it." He looked at the workman next to me. "What can I get you?"
"Gin and tonic please, love." He winked.
Love. Gin and tonic. A wink. I turned to one side to get a proper look at the workman. Just above where his left nipple was under the overalls, there was a little logo of a pink hammer and paintbrush, with GPD underneath, then in smaller letters, Gay Painter and Decorator.
I didn't catch his name, probably because he didn't throw it. A few drinks later and we were going twosies, sharing cigarettes between us, buying one another rounds of gin. He said his mum always used to call it mother's ruin, but he'd never worked out why cos he always liked it so much. I laughed. He laughed at it too. We were having a fabulously marvellous time together.
"I'm here for the week, sleeping on a mate's floor across town. Someone said this landlord wanted gay-friendly decorators as he'd had trouble before. Whatever that means." He shrugged.
I laughed slightly, taking the cigarette from him, grazing his rough hands, the electricity shooting to my groin as I took a drag on the cigarette.
He laughed louder, joining in with me.
We carried on laughing, at nothing in particular, or everything, but it seemed funny at the time. I put my feet on the floor to make my way to the gents' toilets. My feet kept missing the ground and I had to hold onto the bar as I tried to get off the bar stool, swaying side to side all of a sudden, I knew I was now well and truly disastrously pissed. I had no chance of getting home in my car. And then he leant forward and kissed me, a proper big-mouth open-snog, sucking hard, so our mouths made a slight squeaking noise, pulling my face towards him so I couldn't come up for air. It was like he was sucking all of the air from my body into his. It was fabulous. It was all I could do to stop us falling to the floor there and then and starting at it like two sex-starved horny wrestlers. His week of stubble scratched my face and sent another signal to my groin that replied by asking for more space in the underwear and stretching farther against my pants.
A tapping on my shoulder brought me back to the here and now. It was the barman, telling me I'd run out of money I'd given him, and did I want something soft.
"Something soft?" I asked, full of indignance. I turned to painter and decorator man. "Did you hear that? Something soft?"
He laughed loudly, reaching to grab my groin. "Nothing soft about that." He grabbed my hand and put it in the nearest pocket of his overalls. "What about that?"
I shook my head. "Nope." I laughed, turning to the barman. "We have no need of soft things, thank you, kind gentleman."
We both laughed so hard we could hardly breathe.
Painter and decorator man patted me on my back, leant forward to snog me again, and knocked his drink off the bar onto the floor. We laughed together, banging our hands on the bar to emphasise how funny it all was. As I said, I really was very much into the realms of being disastrously pissed by this point.
The next thing, we were outside the pub, the barman telling us to behave and he hoped whatshisface would be back tomorrow to finish the bathroom.
"Gonna show him your shiny taps tomorrow, are you?" I laughed and leered at painter-decorator man.
"Something like that." He leered at me, grabbed his groin with his right hand, shook it up and down, leaving a bulge when he removed his hand. "Come on, it's round the corner."
I licked my lips, lit a cigarette, and followed him. To what, I had no idea, but at the time, based on the bulge in his overall, it seemed like a good idea, so I went with it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Kicking Up My Heels ... in Heels"
Copyright © 2019 Liam Livings.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Kicking Up My Heels ... in Heels,
About the Author,