I am not sure if I heard it first or if I felt it. The impact was certainly violent as I was thrust forward with so much force it made the restraining seat belt punch my chest with the force of a boxing world champion. My head lurched forward, then whiplashed back against the head restraint. I waited for the airbags to deploy, but they remained secure within their special compartments.
I had seen the red car in my rear view mirror as it weaved its way up the busy motorway using all three lanes to pass whatever and whoever was in front. It's driver arrogantly and impatiently headed towards his destination without any regard for fellow motorists. But then when you can afford a car like that I guess arrogance comes as standard. I flashed my indicator to move into the centre lane and allow him to pass just at the precise same moment he decided to overtake me on the inside. The impact spun me round through ninety degrees and brought the motorway behind us to a complete standstill.
Things moved into slow motion and only when normal timing resumed did I, shaken and bruised, get out to survey the situation. I don't know if I recognised him or not, perhaps I was too much in shock. Of course I knew who he was, but I can't remember if I knew then or if the realization descended later. I should have known who it was, those unique boyish looks and shoulder length blond hair which smile out from newspapers, magazines, television and every marketing tool his team could find to lever more money out of our pockets and into his.
A tirade of anger and abuse ripped my way as I was blamed for the accident. I tried to respond, but he wasn't listening and certainly wasn't interested. Other motorists had left their vehicles but just stood watching the scene. I suppose the fact that neither of us were hurt prevented them rushing forward. Perhaps they were reluctant to get involved in our argument or perhaps they were stunned when they saw who it was standing there in flesh and blood hurling forth his venom at me. Then I remembered nothing, my mid went blank, my eyes closed and I crumpled to the ground. I don't even remember hitting the warm dusty tarmac.
I awoke in the ambulance but did not fully regain my senses until I was in hospital. There I was eventually told that I was alright, nothing broken and no sign of any internal injuries. I had been lucky. The conclusion was that I had passed out in shock and they would keep me in for twenty-four hours observation.
"You are famous," the smiling nurse giggled. "Not everyone gets to be involved in a car smash with Richard Williams ! He asked me - yes, ME - to call him as soon as you can receive visitors. Just think Dickie Williams is coming to our ward ! It makes me quite dizzy !"
"I don't know if I want to see him."
"Don't say that !"
"He's written my car off and nearly killed me."
"Oh please let him come to see you. He gave me his number and asked me to call him. Let me ring him now so he will be here before my shift is over."
How could I refuse her ? I smiled and her heart beat double time with excitement.
He slipped into the ward very quietly and stood by the nurses station where an excited young lady brought him over to the side of my bed. Making every excuse she could find not to leave us she finally drew the screening curtains and left us alone.
"Hello," he said softly.
"I really don't know what to say to you. I was born a prat and have been working hard ever since to perfect it. I guess sorry really isn't enough, but I am sorry. And my outburst is without excuse. So - sorry !"
I didn't know what to say. I just looked at him. I suppose he was just like any other person but how could anyone so famous be ordinary ?
He sat on the edge of my bed. "I really am sorry."
"It's fine," I found myself saying. "I'm not hurt, I'm going home tomorrow. Don't worry."
"But your car ?"
"It doesn't matter."
Was I really talking to the icon Richard Williams ? Football star, fashion guru and a guy who would record the odd number one hit now and then ? It was so surreal.
Then he reached his hand, placed it on top of mine making my flesh tingle and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. "I really am sorry, I really am."
"Consider yourself forgiven," I replied then winked an eye.
"Thank you. Thank you."
I had presumed that ended the second encounter with the celebrated Richard (Dickie) Williams, but I was wrong. Two days later I was at home, chilling out and contemplating a return to work when the front door bell rang. I wasn't expecting anyone and was tempted to ignore it. Probably a double glazing salesman or the Jehovah's Witnesses. It rang again and then again. I stirred myself to see who it was.
"I hope you don't mind me coming round," he said somewhat nervously. "I mean I hope I'm not disturbing you."
"Richard ! No, not at all."
We stood momentarily looking at one another.
"I brought you something. Something to try and show that I am sorry." He half turned and waved a hand towards the car parked on the road.
I looked at the car and must have shown confusion.
"It's yours, I want you to have it - a gift."
How much could it have cost ? A fortune. A Porsche Boxter - god only knows.
"Please don't embarrass me. I wrecked your car so I've replaced it. It's no big deal it's only a day's wages for me. It would make me happy if you would accept it."
He held out the set of keys and I took them. What a gift ! "Thank you."
He smiled and his eyes sparkled the way I had seen them in so many of his promotional pictures on television, on bill hoardings and magazine covers. But this was the real thing, Dickie Williams standing outside my very own front door.
"Would you like to come in ?" I asked. "I mean can I offer you a coffee or something ?"
Shit my little flat wasn't tidy - it never was - and I had just asked a world-famous icon into it.
"That would be nice, Nigel," Richard's smile broadened, "but what I would really like is if you would come out and have a drink with me. Just to let me say I am sorry."
"But you said sorry back in the hospital, have repeated it so many times and the car - !"
"I know but I would like to spend some time with you to show you I am sorry. Please. You drive."
My new car was a dream. I could feel heads turning to look as we drove past. They would have turned again had they seen who was seated inside. I felt warm and was happy to be spending some time with Richard, I had a sense that we were going to become friends. I hoped beyond dare that we would become good friends.
"Where are we going ?" I asked seeking directions.
"Nigel, please don't take this the wrong way but would you mind if we went to a gay pub I know."
I didn't mind but did not have the chance to say so as Richard tried hard to give his explanation.
"I mean if I go to an ordinary pub people will never leave me alone, it isn't easy being who I am, you know. But there is this bar I use where people just leave me alone and accept me. If you don't mind it's quite cool. I hope you will like it."
"Fine by me."
"Oh thanks. I didn't know how to put it. I didn't want you to be offended."
"No, not at all. So are you gay ?" I asked then immediately added, "Sorry I shouldn't have asked that. Forgive me."
"Not a problem, you have a right to know."
I did not see that I had such a right but sensing Richard wanted me to have an answer asked the question again.
"I guess so," he said. "Well I think so. I don't have a boyfriend or anything like that but I suppose in all honesty I am."
I just smiled.
"You don't mind ?"
"You haven't realised have you ?" I said.
"Realised what ?"
"You think you are gay, I know that I am."
Richard blushed then burst into loud and uncontrollable laughter saying, "I told you I was born a prat and have been trying ever since to perfect it.
Richard was right about the way people treated him in the bar, the atmosphere was warn and friendly. Some guys would nod in our direction and others speak briefly saying: Hi Rich how are you today ? or Nice game last week mate. None were intrusive and I felt very comfortable sitting there with my new friend.
"So tell me about yourself Nigel."
"There's not much to tell, I'm not talented or famous like you are. I'm twenty-seven, lived with my mother until two years ago. I now live in a flat I can't afford and have a job I hate."
"What is you job mate ?"
"I'm assistant sales manager in a branch of Woolworth's."
"You wouldn't think so if you had to work there."
"I'll swap places with you."
"No seriously I would. I have a manager who thinks he owns my soul, and fans who know they do. I can't walk down the street without being recognised and live the live of a phony."
"But you are famous, and you make lots of money."
"Money, yeah, but I don't have the privacy to spend it. I am suspicious of everyone who tries to make friends with me and in all honesty, I'm lonely. Nigel, I think you are different, It's a strange way to introduce yourself to anyone but smashing my car into you on the motorway could be destiny. I sense that you are different, and if you will forgive the chat up line, I would like it if we kind of became friends.
I think I blushed before answering, "I'd like that."
We chatted a little and drank a lot, more than we should have done and certainly far too much for me to drive.
"Call a taxi," Richard said. "You do it because they'll never believe me if I give my name. They'll think it's a wind up."
"Perhaps you should start to use an alias." I suggested. "Like that woman did in Notting Hill, you know the film."
"Yeah, what should I call myself ? I wonder. Perhaps I should use your name - Nigel - it's a nice name."
The mini cab pulled up outside the pub and the driver sounded the horn loud and long.
We sat together in the back and I gave the driver my address. "When we get there my friend will tell you where he needs to go."
"OK mate," the driver said looking in his mirror. "Hey, has anyone ever told you that you look just like Dickie Williams ?"
"Only my mother," Richard giggled.
The driver looked again. "You are Dickie Williams aren't you ?"
After that he didn't stop talking all the way:
Wait 'til the guys hear who I had in my car -
What's it like being a star -
Do you ever drink in my local, The Admiral's Head -
What's the best goal you've ever scored -
Is it best being a football star or a pop star -
On and on and on. I couldn't wait to get home.
When we did get there Richard asked the car to wait and walked with me to the door.
"Take this. It's my personal mobile number - very few people have it and I always answer. You can call me any time."
"Don't forget to go back and pick up the car."
"Thank you for today."
"Thank you and thank you for the car."
We were both hesitating, neither wanting to leave the other's company. Eventually Richard threw his arms about me and looked into my eyes. Our mouths met and we kissed very deeply.
We called each other every day and several times a day for the rest of the week. We talked for hours saying nothing and I knew I was falling in love with Richard Williams.
Are you gay ? I had asked him.
I guess so, well I think so, had been his answer.
Then my reaction, telling him I was gay myself. Why had I done that ? I had never been with a guy although the desire was never far away. That had been my fist visit to a gay pub and then the kiss - my first gay kiss. So was I gay ?
I had always been curious and certainly found guys attractive. But I always found it hard to admit this to myself, I mean I never even discussed it in my own mind. No, I knew for certain I was gay, 100% gay. And I wanted Richard, I wanted him with a passion so hard it hurt. I felt sure that he also wanted me.
The next few days were very full for us both. I returned to work and Richard was involved in a long series of meetings negotiating his endorsing a range of sportswear. The advertising agent was trying to tie it all up with Richard releasing a new single which would be used as the music for an intensive TV advertising run.
Richard was a good singer with a voice as golden as his beautiful flowing hair. As a singer he was kind of different to the commercialised manufactured sounds which tend to make up the bulk of the pop music industry. His songs were all covers of hits from decade ago. His latest, a remix of Cliff Richard's On The Beach had only just slipped out of the charts. We had sold hundreds, if not thousands, of CD's in our store alone.
To top that crazy week of activity, just a few days before I knew my friend only as an icon of sport, fashion and music who brought profit to my small part of the retail industry, Richard was playing in the quarter final of the FA Cup. He pleaded with me to come and watch but it was my Saturday as duty manager for the store and there was no way I could possibly get out of it.
"Let's meet up afterwards," I said, "then we can celebrate your victory."
"Or commiserate when we lose."
"Be positive," I laughed. "Come round after and I'll cook us a special meal."
One of the very first things I did that Saturday was to tune every TV in the electrical department to the station that would carry live the vital cup tie.
The store ran like clockwork all morning but just ten minutes into the game the pa system called out its words: Call thirty-three for the Duty Manager. Duty Manager thirty-three !
SHIT ! Call thirty-three meant a shoplifter had been apprehended by security and I would have to be present when the police arrived.
Four minutes before half time I dashed back to the electrical department.
"What's the score ?" I demanded of some poor assistant.
"To who ?"
"Who scored ?"
"Dickie Williams, both of them."
A warm glow invaded my whole body and I wiped away a tear.
"Duty Manager to Customer Services please."
SOD THAT PA !
This time it was a customer with a faulty video tape.
"Just replace it," I snapped.
"But we don't sell this brand," the confused assistant tried to explain. "Tesco had these on offer last week, it must be one of theirs."
"Replace it," I said again.
"Just watch my lips will you. REPLACE it."
I turned on my heels and strode back to a television screen. I arrived just in time to see Richard's picture fill the camera and listen to the voice describing what was happening.
"That's a long ball," the commentator said calmly. Then with an air of mild excitement, "and it finds Williams. He's on his own - watch this - could it be a third for Williams ? He's on his own, yards ahead of anyone marking him, this man is brilliant. He's on a run, could this be his third ? He's in a good position. He's past one defender, a second and he shoots. It's there ! A goal. A third goal for City and a third goal for the truly brilliant Dickie Williams. Is it any wonder he is the king of the Premier League ? A hat trick for Dickie Williams."
The camera cut away to show Sven, the England Coach, sitting in the crowd and smiling contentedly.
I was totally, totally choked with emotion.
"I love you Dickie Williams," I said softly to myself. "I guess millions of your fans love you as well but I know that you also love me."
Richard turned to face the camera as he trotted back to his position for play to restart. He winked an eye to camera and I knew that it was me he was winking at. I cried. I was totally, totally choked with emotion. As play continued nearer and nearer the final whistle my flesh tingled with so much excitement. Then the referee blew and City were through. I watched the scenes of jubilation, the crowd was cheering Dickie's name with enthusiasm and vigour. I was so proud.
From out of nowhere Richard was handed a microphone while loud speakers all round the stadium boomed out the introduction bars of his last hit, that Cliff Richard oldie On The Beach. The atmosphere rose to a new height of celebration as Dickie entertained all with a free concert. He sang all those silly party songs we all knew when we were kids. The like of Agadoo and Simon Says. Tens of thousands of fans delighted in waving their arms to copy actions to the words. A camera cut away to show England Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson partying with everyone else. His face displayed a broad grin and undoubtedly he was having a ball. Dickie was already secure in the England Squad and had played many times for his country and I began to wonder if the captaincy was still safe with Beckham or if my Dickie was not the heir apparent.
A small group of shoppers had gathered round the televisions in the electrical department and were enjoying the show.
"He's good isn't he ?" One said.
"Makes you want to reach out and kiss him."
I had kissed him and would be kissing him again in just a few short hours time.
Dickie was drawing things to a close with that old disco hit Hey Ho Silver Lining. He took a bow and prepared to return to the dressing room but the crowd frantically called for more.
"What's the matter ?" Dickie said. "Don't you have homes to go to ?"
More - more - encore
"OK then just one more time then I really have to go. I've got some special celebrations waiting for me."
Again he sang Hey Ho Silver Lining.
His own celebrations to go to - I could contain myself no longer. I went to my office, closed the door and sat alone.
While I can cook, I am by no extent a chef. All I ever do is to prepare simple meals for myself but this had to be special. I raced home and began the preparation. Things were going well when the door bell rang. My heart beat with the heavy thunder of a giant drum and my body quivered in excited anticipation.
Dickie was dancing on my door step and singing away to himself. He had a large bottle of champagne in each hand and was waving them about before flinging his arms about me allowing the bottles to chink together behind my head.
"Well done," I said. "You were brilliant."
"I know," he giggled. "But not half as brilliant as I intend to be in the next few hours !"
I may not have been an international football star and IO did not have a string of number one hits to my name, neither would any manufacturer ever consider asking me to endorse so much as a patent mouse trap but I loved Dickie Williams with a passion nobody else could ever match.
"Welcome to my home," I said a little embarrassed at its modest composition. "I'm afraid it is not much."
Richard smiled. "Do you know where I live ?"
"As far as the paparazzi and the fans are concerned I have a suite in a city hotel but I seldom ever stay there. In truth I live with my mother. Twenty-four years old and yet to fly the nest ! She looks after me, I still need looking after, and I like her cooking. Talking of cooking there is a delicious smell here."
"It won't be long."
"You got a couple of glasses ?"
I produced two and Richard popped the cork of the first bottle before catching the foaming champagne.
It was truly wonderful, sparkling and sweet.
"Mr. Eriksson gave it to me," Dickie explained. "He brought it down to the dressing room himself."
"The guys wanted me to open the bottles but I told them I had somewhere special to go and someone special to share it with."
I looked into his deep blue eyes and tried to use a sixth sense to tell him how much I cared for him. I am sure it worked for I myself felt a sensation where I knew so very well what was in his heart.
The meal turned out better than I had ever dared to hope. We took our time eating and ranged our conversation over many different topics. It became clear that Dickie was a highly intelligent and clever man. So much talent in one individual.
"Your impromptu concert was great," I said.
Dickie smiled a little cunningly. "Nothing impromptu about it at all. Everything was planned and choreographed to the second, even that encore."
"But -," I said wondering how the concert could have been planned and look so natural.
"The club marketing department's been working on it for a few weeks. Organising the tapes for me to sing along to, even arranging for the police to stand by for the crowd to leave half an hour after the final whistle. Took a lot of organising."
"Believe me it was."
"But what if you had gone to all that trouble then lost the game ? It wouldn't have been the same."
"We took a gamble."
I made some coffee and we relaxed away from the dining table.
"You must let me wash up," Richard suggested.
"It can wait."
"OK, but I insist upon helping later on."
"Leave it until the morning."
Richard smiled wide and his eyes twinkled. "That sounds good to me."
I had never before been with a man, never had gay sex and to this day maintain I never have. What Richard and I experienced together was not sex it was love. Love of the purest, deepest and most wonderful kind.
We lay naked together on crisp new sheets I had bought specially. Our warm bodies contoured and nestled together the perfect way destiny had planned since the start of time. Although we were both virgins there was no uncertainty or fumbling about, now clumsy movement or awkwardness, just sheer poetry of perfect blending. Everything was just to right.
Afterwards we lay in one another's arms and whispered out conversation.
"Why Richard, when you could have anyone did you chose me ? I mean a guy like you could have someone like David Beckham if you wanted."
"I think Victoria would have something to say about that."
"Do you know the Beckhams ?"
"Yes, a bit. I've been to a party at their home."
"What are they like ?"
"Very kind but very quiet. David is not much of a conversationalist."
"Do you know any other famous people ?"
"My grandmother listens to his music," I giggled.
"He's a bit like a father to me," Dickie started to explain. "My own father passed away when I was a child."
"So did mine."
"I got to know him when I covered one of his songs and since then I've used more of his material. I've got to know him quite well and he's been very good to me. I can talk to him."
"Of course his name isn't Cliff Richard at all, his real name is Harry Webb."
"I didn't know that."
"I call him Cliff though. I chatted a while back with him about my sexuality and he was so supportive and understanding."
"He's not gay himself even though he's never married but he does understand me. I phoned him yesterday and we talked for a couple of hours."
"What about ?"
"What did you say ?"
"I told him I thought I had found the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with."
"Is that true ?"
"That I told him or that I want always to be with you ?"
"With you. That is if you want the same."
I did ! I did ! I did !
That second time our making love was even more special than the first, now we were consummating a vow which would see us grow old together.
That second time our making love was even more special than the first, now we were consummating a vow which would see us grow old together.
It was then so easy to forget who Dickie Williams was, to forget everything other than his being my dearest lover and my closest possible friend. God, how I loved him.
As the early spring daylight began to filter through the curtains and into the bedroom, I looked at my lover, at his long wavy blond hair, his muscular chest and shoulders and at the slight golden stubble on his face. I pecked a kiss on his cheek and he smiled before opening his eyes.
"Good morning lover."
"Good morning lover," I replied. "Ready for breakfast ?"
"Let me cook it for you please."
"But I'll need to pop out and pick up a few things from the corner shop, eggs, bread and we're almost out of milk."
He was out of bed and dressing. "Which way is the shop ?"
I told him.
A warm sensation swept over me as I though of old Mrs Patel having Dickie Williams dropping a wire basket of groceries on her counter and asking if she took MasterCard. She and her husband I knew were both great City fans and she would have palpitations at the sight of her customer.
"I got a razor and some soapy stuff," Richard said when he got back. Do these clothes look alright ? I mean I wore them yesterday."
"They look great. How was Mrs. Patel ?"
"She gave me a kiss. Nice old girl."
"Did she? I am jealous!"
I wanted to show my new boyfriend off and wished I had gone with him to the shop. While he was busy in the kitchen, I knew exactly who I would show him off to later in the day, and made a quick phone call.
My big sister Annie and I had always been close, as a kid she always looked out for me and then as I grew up, she was the one who guided me through some quite difficult times. My father had died when I was still fairly small, and Annie as older sister had taken on some of the paternal support he would have given me had he been there. We agreed to meet up later in the day.
Dickie and I drove to a local park and picnic area. He stayed in the car while I went first to meet and chat with Annie.
"So you are finally out," she smiled when I told her I was gay. "As if I hadn't known for years."
"But I now have a boyfriend," I explained. "I want you to meet him."
"Great. What's his name ?"
"Richard. He's waiting in the car. Come and say hello to him."
But Richard wasn't waiting in the car. I knew I would have to explain the Porsche to Annie so had parked it a way off, Richard had left the car and walked to sit at one of the picnic tables. He had a baseball hat on his head and his back to us.
As we approached I said, "Annie this is Richard."
"Hi there Rich
. SHIT !"
I had never before heard my sister swear but the shock of Richard being Dickie Williams overtook her.
Richard stood up and politely offered his hand. "I don't usually have that effect on ladies," he smiled.
"But -," Annie stammered. "Are you two ? I mean is
"Yes," I said proudly. "Yes."
Annie had coped well with my admitting I was gay, was pleased that I had a boyfriend, but could not believe who it was. I tried to explain everything that had happened over the last week all the way from the car crash to our first night together.
"It's all been a bit whirlwind," I said.
"I really care for your brother," Richard added. "Time does not matter when you are in love."
Annie threw a few questions at us and we tried our best to answer them all. Away to our right a group of three lads were kicking a football to one another. A missed kick from one sent it bouncing in our direction. Dickie got up, trapped the ball with his foot, flicked it up into the air bounced it on his knee then headed it back to the boys.
"Wow," I heard one of them say. Then all three stood still as they saw who it was who had returned their ball.
"Can I have your autograph please," another said.
"Of course you can," Dickie said jogging to them, "but first you have to give me a game."
The boys could not believe what was happening to them as Dickie kicked about joining in their game while Annie and I sat talking. I was so, so happy.
On leaving Annie and three lads who would have a story to tell their mates they would never believe, we drove to the other side of the city where Dickie introduced me to his mother. She was lovely and I felt so comfortable in her company. She knew that Dickie preferred men and was so happy he had found someone he wanted to be with.
"Does that mean you will be moving out Dear ?"
Dickie looked at me and I knew exactly what he was thinking. I looked back saying: I would just love it so much if you wanted to move in with me. And then all was decided. We loaded the Porsche up with as much as we could cram in, and my home became our home.
Those next few days were truly, truly wonderful - quite out of this world. Each morning a car would arrive to take Dickie off to his work: training, meetings and everything associated with being a full-time superstar. I would get into the Porsche and head off to the store. The drudgery of every day work lightened knowing he would be home waiting for me in the evening. And how fantastic those evenings were. During the time we were apart our minds constantly thought of the other and built up a special adrenalin for when we were together again. Not since Romeo and Juliet have two people been so much in love.
Everything, yes everything, was so, so perfect. That was until early on the Thursday morning. I was only half awake when I heard the snap of the letter box in the hall, the postman was early. I glanced bleary-eyed at the alarm clock on Dickie's side of the bed. It was early - very early ! A long, loud and shrill ring on the door bell fully aroused me from the last pretences of sleep. Again it called demanding and urgent.
Putting on a white bath robe I headed for the door picking up the newspaper from where it had fallen face down on the floor. We didn't have a newspaper delivered and if we did neither of us would have selected this particular tabloid.
The ringing of the door bell stopped me from looking at the paper, instead I folded in along its length and held it in my left hand as I flipped the latch with my right. Who could it be outside ? I was met with a million flashes and the deafening sound of motorized cameras winding film and shuttering their lenses.
I slammed the door shut and tried to think. What ever was going on ? The press must have found out Dickie's new address but why would the world's paparazzi be camped outside ? What was the story ? What were they after? And then I saw the front page of that newspaper.
DICKIE WILLAM'S SECRET GAY LOVER so ran the headline.
"Dickie !" I screamed racing into the bedroom. "Dickie wake up !" I thrust the paper at him. "Look at that. There are hundreds of reporters outside."
Dickie looked at the paper and then to me. "Sorry," he said. "I knew the story would break but didn't expect it to be like this. I am so sorry."
I snatched the paper and flicked through the six page feature exposing our love to the world. Not only was the paper telling the story but it was doing it in a sordid and dirty way, making something so pure and lovely into a grubby, dirty tale. There were pictures of us together, one of us kissing. There was an interview with that taxi driver who had taken us home from our first date at the gay club, however had they found him? There was a note from Sven-Goran Eriksson saying that players' sexuality made no difference to their inclusion in the England Squad. Our entire private life was set out for every grubby news stand in the land to vend during the day.
"What are we going to do ?" I asked, frightened and worried.
Dickie was already on the phone.
"Get dressed," he said as soon as he had finished. "Paul's on his way over, he'll know how to handle this."
"Who's Paul ?"
"My agent. He'll know what to do. Trust him."
Paul did know what to do. He was brilliant. He arrived with a mini-'bus load of police and spoke to the growing crowd of journalists and curious bystanders through a megaphone.
"Ladies and gentlemen Dickie and Nigel will shortly appear, and you can take all the photographs you want. They will NOT answer any questions at this time, but if you submit to me anything you wish to have answered, you will receive full and frank answers by the end of the day. Nigel and Dickie have nothing to hide and are not ashamed of their love for one another. You can write any stories you like based on the answers they will give you, but print one lie, state one false fact and we will sue you through every court in the land ! I trust I make myself clear on that point."
He was clever and handled that baying pack of paparazzi with a skill beyond measure. The ordeal of having my photograph taken was not nearly as bad as I had imagined, to tell you the truth I quite enjoyed it - after all I had earlier wanted people to know about Dickie and I, now everyone would know! Paul gave the journalists an e-mail address to which they could submit questions and assured them they would receive answers by the end of the day. The police then cleared the area and it was all over.
"What now ?" I asked.
"You go to work as normal," Paul said. "I've arranged for a body guard to be here and go with you. Dickie, I'll come with you and we'll answer the e-mails."
It was as easy as that.
The store was definitely busier that day than normal with everyone hoping to catch a glimpse of the guy who was shagging Dickie Williams. The staff was good and tried to hide their curiosity, pretending I was the same guy they had been to work with the day before, but that wasn't at all easy. I could see their smiles and read so much from their eyes. But it gave me a warm feeling inside. I loved Dickie so much and I didn't care who knew it.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" The store's general manager asked. "You are a valued member of my team and I'll support you all I can. I don't want to lose you and besides listen to the rattle of the tills, you are the best advertising campaign we could have ever had!"
"Could I have the day off on Saturday ? I'd like to go to the game and watch Dickie play, I think he's going to need me there."
I travelled to the game with Dickie in the team coach. The other players were tremendous and made me feel very welcome. Clearly Dickie was a loved member of the team and if I was his boyfriend, then they wanted to get to know me. These were faces I knew only from the television and from newspapers, but there they were, nattering away ten to a dozen of them with me and making jokes as would any group of guys on a bus. But this wasn't any normal bus load of people - we were on our way to a premier league fixture with the team pushing for the top position in the table and with a cup run now giving a place in the semi-final. Only the manager was a bit stand offish,
"Don't worry about him," one player tried to explain. "He's always like this on the way to a game. If we win he is king of the party on the way back."
"Yeah," said another. "And when we lose he's like Attila The Hun !"
"I don't like him," Dickie whispered. "And he doesn't like me. He rules this team like a Stalinist dictator. Sven runs the national team like a loving, kind but very firm father. I can work much better with him. Both get the results which I suppose is all that matters but I like Sven's way best."
The ground was packed and I took my place in the midst of the capacity crowd. Dickie had wanted me to watch from the directors' box but I didn't want to be with millionaire owners and the like. I wore a baseball cap pulled well down over my face and raised the collar on my jacket, I doubted anyone would recognise me. Nobody did. But the talk among the supporters round me was all of Dickie.
"Who'd have thought he was queer ?"
"Don't matter to me which way he takes it, providing he scores the goals."
"Wonder what the other players think being naked in the bath with him after."
When the teams ran out onto the pitch the crowd cheered but I sensed a slightly chilled atmosphere towards Dickie.
Things started badly and Dickie was not in control of his game. "Come on Dickie," I shouted inside my own head.
The crowd shouted something quite different. "Oh dear - oh dear - Dickie Williams is a queer !"
I wanted to scream that he wasn't queer - our love was natural. I'd have fought every one of them in defence of my boyfriend.
"Oh dear - oh dear - Dickie Williams is a queer !"
How fickle, these were the very same supporters who were elevating him to the rank of a god just seven days earlier.
"Oh dear - oh dear - Dickie Williams is a queer !"
Dickie just could not get things together and it appeared to me that this affected the whole team. At half time they were two nil down, and an air of gloom surrounded the City supporters.
Ten minutes into the second half Dickie missed an open goal and this time the crowd to a man began to chant: "POOF! POOF! POOF !" I choked back the tears and tried to send my heart across the ground to my lover. I know he knew I was hurting for him.
"POOF! POOF! POOF !"
Mercifully Dickie was taken off and a substitute sent out to play but City still lost four nil.
The manager did not travel back on the team coach and an air of sad gloom filled every seat. Dickie sat with his face turned towards the window and tried to sleep. I held his hand, and did all I could to comfort him.
His phone rang and he whispered into it. His talking was monosyllabic, but at the end of the call I could see he was feeling a little better.
"Who was that ?" I asked.
"Harry Webb, Cliff Richard."
"He saw the game on television and has seen all the press reports. I told you he's like a father to me. He's asked us round to his place tonight, I said we'd go. Is that alright ?"
"I'd like to see him and I want him to meet you."
"I don't want to play football any more."
I squeezed his hand and tried to comfort him.
Cliff Richard, or Harry as Dickie liked to call him, lived in a huge mansion somewhere in Hertfordshire. It took us a few hours to drive there and was quite late as the tyres of the Porsche cracked their way up the long gravel drive. And there he was, the man who had his first number one hit when my grandparents were young and who could still sell a million copies of any single he cared to release.
"Harry," Dickie said. "I am so glad to see you. This is Nigel."
"Hi Nigel." That voice! The tone and inflection so familiar, I couldn't believe I was actually there with him.
"Come here, the both of you," he said and hugged us close to himself.
"Fancy a jam session ?" he asked. "Always good to lift the spirits."
"Do you play anything Nigel ?" Cliff - I mean Harry - asked.
"I used to bash out on the drums but hardly to a standard for the likes of you two."
This man had genuine kindness pervading from every pore of his body. I could see why Dickie trusted and respected him so much. He took us to his music room, a vast studio with microphones, recording equipment and lots of different instruments. Dickie went straight to a large electric keyboard, flicked some switches and hammered the keys. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor thundered out as if it was being played on a convert grand. I didn't know that Dickie could play a piano, clearly his musical talents were much greater than singing.
Cliff pointed to a set of drums. "Have a go."
"Can I ?"
"Hey, go for it."
There was something about the atmosphere, something about being in the home of the oldest teenager in pop, something about Dickie hitting the keys like Sparky's Magic Piano that pumped adrenalin into my playing. I hadn't drummed for years but as I crashed about that magnificent set up, I beat a rhythm better than I had ever done before.
"You didn't tell me Nigel was a brilliant drummer Dickie," Cliff chided. He picked up an electric guitar, tuned it slightly then called out, "Let's go !"
The three of us jammed away, playing all kinds of things for hours. My spirits lifted and Dickie was smiling again, smiling so wide.
"Can you sing ?" Cliff asked.
I used to think I could but would never have admitted it in front of such august company. I shook my head.
"Come here," Cliff said placing an arm about my shoulder. "Sing one of my songs with me. We'll do it together. Which one would you like ?"
What could I say ? I mean Cliff Richard was hardly my era of music and I only knew a few of his hits by name. My mind fumbled then blurted out the first thing that came into my head. "Summer Holiday." I'd seen the film as a kid on television one Christmas.
Cliff sorted out a CD and placed it into a karaoke machine, music started to play and the words came up on a television screen in front of us. I sang softly at first but sensing Cliff next to me And my beloved Dickie watching I changed and threw my heart and soul into it. I felt I wasn't doing at all bad, At the end Cliff and Dickie applauded, "Well done you! Well done."
It was two in the morning when the tree of us collapsed exhausted into deep armchairs and Cliff served us coffee and micro-waved pizzas. "Sorry about the food," he said, "but it's a bit late to wake the housekeeper."
"Won't the noise of the music have woken her ?" I said concerned that we may have disturbed her.
"She lives in a cottage on the grounds," Cliff explained.
Thank goodness for that.
"Feeling better now ?" Cliff asked Dickie.
"Much thanks. Harry ?"
"I think I want to give up football."
"Do you ?"
"My contract is up to be renewed at the end of the season and I think I want to quit. I need to talk it over with Nigel of course but I don't want to play any more."
"You are a better musician than you are a footballer," Cliff said. "Brilliant at both of course but music is your number one."
"Do you think I could make a living at it ?"
Cliff laughed. "Boy, you make a fortune every time you release a song !"
"Do you think Nigel and I could make a duo ? Say like the Everly Brothers from your time ?"
"Phil and Don Everly were even before my time," he giggled. "But hey, you may have something there. What do you think Nigel ?"
Me a pop singer ? This was going too far, perhaps everything that had happened over the last two weeks had been but a dream that I would wake up from soon.
"I'd back you with my production company," Cliff said. "I think you could do it."
This wasn't a dream was it ? No it wasn't.
"Can I ask you something else Harry ?"
"Do you believe in gay marriage ? I mean you are a Christian so what do you think about it ?"
His answer came quickly, he did not have to think about it. "Love is given by God and it isn't up to man to debate who he gives it to, and why he gives it."
Dickie looked at me and his eyes silently asked the question.
With tears of joy in my own, I gave him my answer.
"You can use my home in Barbados," Cliff said. "Take a holiday there and have a special ceremony to mark your love.
This man was fantastic, so easy to see why Dickie respected him so much.
We ate and chatted. Dickie would retire from football at the end of the season. Cliff would start a programme of coaching for me and turn us into a pop duo. His promotion company would assure our success. We would get married that summer in Cliff's Caribbean home and life was going to be so, so wonderful.
"Let's go for a walk," Dickie suggested.
"You two go," Cliff said, "and come back when you are ready."
© Nigel Nationwide Authors
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