Not Just Friends begins with one of my main characters—Lewis—moving into his hall of residence (what US readers would call a dorm) at university. He doesn’t know anyone there, all his friends from school are scattered at different unis and colleges around the country. Lewis is starting over.
It was early evening when Lewis’s stuff was finally all unloaded and his parents were ready to leave. Lewis accompanied them down to the car park to say his farewells, a mixture of excitement and anxiety swirling in his belly. He’d barely spent any time away from home before, just the odd few days here and there for school camp or scouting trips. The distance between Bristol and his home in Kent meant he was unlikely to go home to visit very often. It would be several weeks before he saw them again.
Lewis’s mum hugged him hard before finally releasing him. Her hair tickled his nose and smelled of childhood comfort, scraped knees, and bedtime stories. When he stepped back, the sight of her glistening eyes made his own eyelids prickle. He blinked hard as he gave his dad a quick hug too.
“Take care.” His dad’s voice was gruff and he avoided Lewis’s eyes.
“Remember you can always call us if you need to. Anytime. Day or night.” His mum sniffed and wiped her nose with a tissue. “But just keep in touch so we know you’re doing okay.”
“Of course. I promise.” Lewis managed a smile. “And you can always stalk me on Facebook and pester me by e-mail and text if I’m not keeping you up to date.”
There was a finality to the thud of the car doors closing. Lewis’s mum opened her window and waved as they drove away, her hand a pale, fluttering motion in the twilight. Lewis watched as the taillights of his parents’ car disappeared out of the gate, and finally dropped the hand he’d been holding up.
This was it. He was on his own.
I remember very clearly that feeling of being left somewhere new to start afresh, surrounded by strangers. In my case I did it at age eleven for boarding school as well as at eighteen when I went to university. I distinctly remember having that feeling of “huh… well this is it then” when my parents drove away.
Leaving home is scary, but it’s also exciting as periods of transition often are. Your first year at university is a time for forging new friendships, and many of the friends we make then become friends for life. Of course, many people also meet and fall in love with their future partners there too. Lewis just never expected to fall in love with another guy, so his feelings for his flatmate, Max, take him by surprise.
Leaving home to go to university is an exciting phase in anyone’s life. One that’s full of new places, new friends, and new experiences. But Lewis is not prepared for the sudden and intense crush he develops on his out-and-proud flatmate, Max—given that Lewis had always assumed he was straight. Max starts dating another guy, and Lewis’s jealousy at seeing them together forces him to confront his growing attraction.
When Max’s relationship goes awry, Lewis is the one to comfort him and one thing leads to another. But after a night together, Lewis is devastated that Max wants to go back to being just friends. Lewis tries his best to move on and their friendship survives, but the feelings he has for Max don’t go away. He faces other challenges as he deals with coming out to his parents, and needs Max’s support more than ever. But Lewis isn’t the only one who’s conflicted. When Max finally admits he cares for Lewis too, Lewis must decide whether he dares risk his heart again on being more than just friends.
Not Just Friends is available at Dreamspinner Press
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England, with her amazing, occasionally ridiculous husband, two noisy-but-awesome children, and two cats.
She comes from a family of writers, but she always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed her by. She spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content. One day, she decided to try and write a short story–just to see if she could–and found it rather addictive. She hasn’t stopped writing since.
Jay’s books: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_953