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At the End of the Rainbow

At the End of the Rainbow

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At the End of the Rainbow

Lunghezza:
291 pagine
4 ore
Pubblicato:
Nov 30, 2020
ISBN:
9781398424159
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Melbourne, Australia, 2017.
Same-sex marriage is not legally recognised in Australia, but with an upcoming postal vote, change is in the air. Amidst the fierce debate, homophobia runs rampant as queer people struggle for recognition.
Thomas is fresh out of university and beginning his career as a scientist. Between his struggles with general anxiety disorder and a developing crush on his devastatingly handsome colleague, Ken, Thomas has a lot to worry about.
As the divisive postal vote draws closer, the pressure from Thomas’s family and co-workers grows stronger. Thomas searches for acceptance and love from those around him, and most importantly, himself. But it seems like things might crumble apart before he finds his happily-ever-after.
Pubblicato:
Nov 30, 2020
ISBN:
9781398424159
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Nia Jacobsen is a queer, mentally ill university student who loves writing, her dog Jedda, and Coco Pops cereal. She enjoys baths and conversations about intersectional feminism and in her spare time likes to contemplate what the world would be like if socks didn’t exist. She grew up in Frankston, Australia, reading books and dreaming of writing one of her own someday.

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At the End of the Rainbow - Nia Jacobsen

Eleven

About the Author

Nia Jacobsen is a queer, mentally ill university student who loves writing, her dog Jedda, and Coco Pops cereal. She enjoys baths and conversations about intersectional feminism and in her spare time likes to contemplate what the world would be like if socks didn’t exist. She grew up in Frankston, Australia, reading books and dreaming of writing one of her own someday.

Dedication

For Natalie, because I promised.

Copyright Information ©

Nia Jacobsen (2020)

The right of Nia Jacobsen to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by the author in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

Any person who commits any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

ISBN 9781528931540 (Paperback)

ISBN 9781398424159 (ePub e-book)

www.austinmacauley.com

First Published (2020)

Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd

25 Canada Square

Canary Wharf

London

E14 5LQ

Acknowledgement

I would like to thank everyone for supporting me throughout this novel’s creation and all my friends who read my manuscript and gave me advice. In particular, I’d like to thank Jessicah for giving me the confidence to submit it to the publishers and for helping me when I needed it, Chris for editing my first draft, J.E.M. Hast for the illustrations on the front cover, and my mother, Judith, for teaching me how to read in the first place. I’d also like to thank the 2,374,362 people who voted ‘yes’ in the same-sex marriage postal vote. You helped in making this world a better place. Thank you.

Chapter One

My reflection looks back at me in the mirror. It looks terrified. I try to validate my feelings like my therapist taught me: deep breath in, deep breath out and sit with the fear. Dr Ng would ask me why I’m afraid. That’s easy—I’m starting a new job today. I still can’t believe I’m not at university anymore. I’ve been there so long, it almost feels wrong to be doing anything else. I know I’m good at university, but I have no idea if I’m good at my new job yet. What if I’m bad at it? What if I’m so awful at it that they can’t believe they ever made the mistake of hiring me? I adjust my tie. I’m afraid today won’t go well. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I take another deep breath and let it out. I’m spiralling. I’m supposed to talk out loud when I’m spiralling.

It’s gonna be fine, I tell my reflection reassuringly. It’s only gonna be your first day once.

Not very convincing. I push my curls back off my forehead but they just spring back into place. For the hundredth time, I regret choosing these glasses frames. Why did I think I could pull off tortoise shell? I consider putting contacts in, and then remember how much I hate them. I already have enough to deal with today without my eyes being uncomfortable. I let out a sigh and check the time.

Shit.

I leg it to my car, forgetting if I locked my door behind me. I am halfway down the staircase but I have to run back up to check. I did lock it. Of course I did. I always do. What a waste of time. I berate myself all the way out of the building and to my car. It’s parked in the street; my apartment block doesn’t have on-site parking, so everyone parks in the streets on either side.

I pull onto High Street and am immediately confronted by a tram. I hate trams. Everything about them. I hate the tram tracks on the road, the ugly lines dangling in the air above them, the fact that all of them seem to purposefully crawl along at a snail’s pace, inevitably in front of me when I have somewhere to be, like now. But trams are part and parcel of living in Melbourne, I suppose.

I turn on the radio to try and distract myself from the anxious feeling swimming around in my head and chest. My heart is beating loudly in my ears and I try to drown it out, but after a moment turn the radio back down because it’s too loud and that’s only making me feel worse. I switch between stations, but they’re all talking instead of playing a damn song I might know. I settle on JOY 94.9, the LGBTI radio station. They’re running some ad from one of their sponsors. The tram stops to let passengers off. My leg starts bouncing.

Keep it together, Thomas. You’re not even at work yet. I make a pact with myself that if I have to fall apart, I’ll do it at the end of the day, when no one can see me and I’ll have time to recover before work tomorrow.

My God, I have work tomorrow, too. All week in fact. How am I going to get through it all?

Nope, Thomas, we’re taking this one day at a time. You just have to make it until 4 pm today. That’s it. You can do this.

The lobby is fancy—all glass and high ceilings. It’s impressive, and I feel like an imposter. I’m convinced any second now someone is going to pop out from behind a piece of furniture, tell me this has all been an elaborate misunderstanding, and throw me out. My mouth feels dry. I eye the receptionist, as if any moment he will pick up his phone and call security to have me thrown out. I’m worried I’ve parked in the wrong spot. What if I’ve taken someone’s usual parking spot? It was too close to the building. I should have parked further away.

Are you Thomas?

I turn.

Yep—ah yes. I clear my throat.

Wonderful. I’m Helena. Dark lipstick, pearl earrings. She looks business-like, but friendly. I wonder if we’ll get along.

Yes, I remember. From the, uh, interview. She asked me the easiest questions. I still can’t believe I got this job. I applied for about 30 jobs before I found this one as a research assistant, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to find it. It’s the jackpot of a well-paying, entry level position in an area I’m actually interested in. My parents and Dr Ng think it will be good for me. When I’m not stressing out of my mind about social interaction, I agree with them.

That’s right. I’m the lab supervisor. I’ll give you the tour.

Sure. Great start. No disasters so far. You can do this.

Helena chatters as we take the lift up to another floor. I immediately forget which one we’re on. She shows me the canteen and several offices of people whose positions I’m afraid I’m mixing up. I should have brought a notebook. No, that would look stupid. Maybe it would look well prepared! Nope, definitely stupid. I am new here, I’m sure she doesn’t expect me to remember everything correctly from my first day. We get back in the lift and go to the third floor.

This is our bit, Helena decrees. She shows me around the lab but doesn’t interrupt the people working there. One of them has green hair. This is your desk. Workwise, if it’s not on here, it means it’s not your problem. My office is just over there. If you need anything, just give us a shout. We all meet in the tea-room at 10:45 for tea and biscuits. It’ll be a good chance to meet your new co-workers. We usually all go down for lunch together, too.

Are there, um, a lot of them? I inquire. What a stupid thing to ask.

Not even enough for a soccer team, disappointingly. We’ve always got to team up with the fourth floor for the company games. Absolutely rubbish at soccer, they are. Do you play?

No.

Oh well. I’ll leave you to get yourself situated. If you just finish this paperwork from HR and then read through these reports here? That’ll get you up to date and then we can go from there after break.

Thanks.

Reading. That’s something safe I can do without fucking up, surely. I imagine somehow setting my table on fire with a Bunsen burner.

You’re catastrophising, Thomas. That isn’t going to happen, I mutter under my breath. I glance around. There isn’t even a Bunsen burner in sight.

It’s definitely the right room. I can hear people chatting inside. And a kettle boiling. I’m struggling to psych myself up enough to actually go inside.

I’ve googled how many players there are on a soccer team: eleven. There have to be fewer than eleven people in there. I could handle eleven people. I take a deep breath and turn the handle.

Here he is! Helena announces. I manage a weak smile, and a small wave. That’s awkward. Don’t do that. I shove my hands in my pockets. Alright, gang, this is Thomas. Be nice to him. He’s just graduated from uni.

Hiya, I’m Rob. Paisley shirt, gold bangles. She has some grey streaks through her hair. I have to pull my hand back out of my pocket to shake hers.

Thomas, I reply.

Lee. Yellow headband, braces. She looks about my age, maybe a couple of years older.

Mish. He’s the one with the green hair. He’s also sporting a silver chain necklace.

My name’s Jo. Deep voice, red boots. From her accent, I can tell she hasn’t grown up in Australia. It’s something Caribbean but I don’t know the region well enough to pick it. I let it go. The last thing I need is to embarrass myself by asking her where she’s from. What if she is Australian? How ignorant will I seem then!

Help yourself to biscuits, Lee urges. Tea and coffee by the sink.

I nod and leave them to their conversation, thrilled to have something to do. The door opens again.

Are there any ANZAC biscuits left or have you lot eaten them all already?

Oi, Thomas, this is Ken, Helena says.

I turn to meet the latecomer, sporting a loose-knitted jumper and rolled-up pants.

Hey, he smiles. I swallow. He holds out his hand for me but I’m holding a biscuit. I shove it in my mouth and shake his hand. Nice to meet you.

Yeah, I say, mouth full. Um, you too.

Nice tie. I smooth it down.

Thanks. I turn back to the coffee, hoping the break only lasts fifteen minutes.

How’d you go with that paperwork, Thomas? Helena asks me. Roz’ll be after it by lunchtime. God knows I don’t need her chasing me up about it.

Yeah, all good. I couldn’t remember which was her office though.

That’s alright. I’ll take you back down after we finish here.

My front door is sticking again and I have to kick it to get it open. I throw my keys on the entry table, drop my bag beside it and face-plant onto the couch. All in all, it wasn’t the worst day. Helena showed me my basic tasks so from tomorrow I should be pretty autonomous. My duties aren’t going to vary that much from day to day, so I shouldn’t have any reason to need to ask for help, which could set me off. I think it’s going to be okay. I head to the bathroom to get changed and look once again into my mirror.

Not bad, Thomas. Survived the day. Only four more until the weekend. My smile is weak and saccharine. I give up and let my face fall how it wants. Everyone’s texted me asking how my day has gone, but I’m not up to answering. I leave the messages on read.

I only have enough energy to make cereal for dinner.

***

How’s the new job? Mum enquires. Her voice sounds far away, as if she’s got me on speakerphone. I hear the familiar sound of a knife thudding against a chopping board.

Are you making dinner? I ask.

Yes. Grace and Kyle are coming over! She says it as if they haven’t been having regular dinners for years, as if they aren’t her and Dad’s best friends.

That’s nice. Tell them I say hi. Thud, thud.

I will. Have you made any friends at work yet?

Mum, I’ve only been there two days.

It wasn’t an accusation, Thomas, I was just asking! Honestly. Between you and your brother, I can’t do anything right.

And you call Will dramatic.

Well, he is.

What’s he done now?

"He’s decided he needs a haircut," she announces triumphantly.

Oh? And? I hear her scrape the knife against the board, dumping whatever vegetable it is into the sizzling pan.

And suddenly he’s too good for a haircut from your father.

He was bound to outgrow them sometime. Dad isn’t exactly a qualified hairdresser.

He can handle a pair of scissors though! He’s done my haircuts ever since we’ve been married, and he did all of yours growing up!

I know, Mum, but Will’s becoming a man. It makes sense that he’d want to try something a little more professional. Especially if he’s trying to impress Holly, which, of course, he is.

Those two are so cute together, aren’t they? She’s a little dynamite!

Can you believe they’ve almost been together two years?

That’s right. Their anniversary is coming up, isn’t it?

Maybe that’s why Will’s after a proper cut, I suggest.

I hadn’t even thought of that…

***

Ken’s wearing yet another oversized jumper, with the sleeves rolled up. It hangs over the edge of his seat. Today it’s yellow. Yesterday it was pale blue. I wonder if he has them in every colour. Helena calls my name, and I jump.

Didn’t mean to scare you!

I glance back over at Ken. The last thing I need is everyone wondering why I was staring at him. He’s still leaning over the microscope. I return my attention to Helena. What’s up?

Hoping you can run a couple of tests for me.

Sure. Does she suspect something is up? How long was she watching me stare at him before she said my name? How long was I staring at him? Ugh, why can’t I just be normal?

I’ve worked out my co-workers all head to the staff cafeteria for lunch, so the tea-room is quiet and empty. I lean against the kitchenette bench as I wait for the kettle to boil. It’s some kind of laminate. I wonder who decided on the colour. Peach is an interesting choice, especially for a workplace. I kind of like it though. The door opens, and I look up from my bench inspection.

Oh, hi! It’s Ken. I didn’t think anyone was in here.

I don’t know what to say to that. Does he mean he wants me to leave? Should I go? I take a step forward. Wait, I have just as much right to be here as he does. Why should I leave? He probably doesn’t even mean it like that. Why did I move? That probably looks so weird. Does he think I’m weird? I look back up at him. There’s a silence I don’t know how to fill, but luckily for the both of us, Ken bails me out.

You haven’t seen my lanyard in here, have you? he asks, scanning the room. I haven’t.

I could help you look for it, I offer. He grins.

Cheers.

We check on all the chairs and under the couches. I find it wedged between two sofa cushions. It has his staff ID card attached.

Nice photo, I say, meaning it. He’s wearing a red jumper in the photo and I add red to the list of jumpers he has. He shakes his head.

It’s rubbish.

Better than mine, I argue.

Is it now? he says cheekily. Let me have a look.

Mine’s in my wallet instead of attached to my lanyard. I pull it out of my pocket and hand it over, unable to think of a reason not to do it.

You’re right, mine’s definitely better than yours, he laughs. My eyes are drawn to his Adam’s apple. He mimics the face I’m making in the photo.

Give it back, I smile.

"Honestly, it’s not that bad. You should see Helena’s. She had to get a new one when they promoted her to manager, and her new one’s shocking. Don’t tell her I told you that though."

I won’t. My smile falters when I think about how that came across. Does Ken think I’m trying to suck up to him? Why do I have to be so awkward? He probably hates me already. I imagine he’s looking for an excuse to go, and I don’t know what to do with myself. Should I say goodbye? No, that’s premature. I wait for him to do something, so that I can react, but he doesn’t move. I look at his face and he’s giving me a look.

Why are you in here anyway? Why not at the canteen with everyone else? I hear they’re serving mac and cheese today. He waits for me to answer, but I’m unsure what to say. There’s always another option, if you’re not a fan of mac and cheese.

I’m not really good with, um, crowds.

Right. So you’ve been eating your lunch in here? he asks, gesturing broadly to the room. I nod. He tilts his head to the side. Do you want some company?

Oh, you don’t have to.

It’s no trouble. Listen, I know this little café down the street, right? It’s tiny, so most people don’t bother with it. They make a really nice focaccia. He just feels sorry for me.

Really, I’m okay.

Let me buy you lunch. A thank you for helping me find my lanyard. Helena wouldn’t have been happy with me if I lost another ID card.

How many have you lost?

Seven. I laugh. Come on. Let’s go. Maybe he does actually want to spend time with me. He seems nice. There are worse ways to spend my break.

Alright.

He’s right about the café: it is tiny. There’s barely enough room for six people to sit inside. It’s one of those hole-in-the-wall places you buy from but don’t eat at, but we manage to snag a couple of seats. Ken pays for us, buying me a roast veggie focaccia. He asks for one without cheese, then tells me he’s lactose intolerant.

Do you want a coffee? he asks.

I’d love one. Long black?

Two coffees as well, mate. A long black and a soy flat white please. I like that he says please. So many people don’t bother being polite to service people.

We sit down.

Ken chats with very little input on my behalf. I like listening to him, actually. He doesn’t expect me to talk much, which suits me just fine. He tells me about his sisters, and how one is a first year at university, and the other two are in high school. The youngest wants to work in forensics; wins the science fair every year. Her name is Hanako. The eldest has some fancy sports scholarship. She runs.

She’s fast, too. Way faster than me.

You like to run? I ask. I picture him in an oversized jumper, sprinting along a race track. It makes me smile.

Love it. Clears my mind. I can’t run like her though. What about you?

What about me? I fiddle with my coffee cup.

Do you run?

I hear myself telling him yes.

I don’t.

We should go for a run sometime. I usually run before work. You could come with me tomorrow!

Sure, I say before I can stop myself. What am I doing? I can’t run! I can barely walk up a flight of stairs without losing my breath! I can’t go for a run, especially not with someone I’m trying to impress.

What have I gotten myself into?

We walk back to the office together, arms brushing as we walk side by side on the sidewalk.

This was really nice, Ken says. Maybe we could do it again?

Yeah, I smile. I’d like that.

***

Against my better judgement, I wake up at 5 am, drag myself to my wardrobe and put on some shorts and a pair of black runners. Both are

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