Second Chance

Second Chance by Jay Northcote


Everyone deserves a second chance.

Nate and his teenage daughter need a fresh start, so they move back to the village where he grew up. Nate’s transgender, and not used to disclosing his history, so it’s hard living where people knew him before. When Nate reconnects with Jack—his best friend from school and unrequited crush—his feelings return as strong as ever.

Jack’s returned home to get his life in order after an addiction to alcohol caused him to lose everything: his job, his driver’s licence, and nearly his life. He’s living with his parents, which is less than ideal, but rekindling his friendship with Nate—or Nat as Jack once knew him—is an unexpected benefit of being back home. Jack is amazed by Nate’s transformation, and can’t deny his attraction. Trying for more than friendship might ruin what they already have, but the chemistry between them is undeniable.

Doubting his feelings are reciprocated, Nate fears he’s risking heartbreak. Jack’s reluctance to tell his parents about their relationship only reinforces Nate’s misgivings. With both their hearts on the line and their happiness at stake, Jack needs to make things right, and Nate has to be prepared to give him a second chance.


January 2018

The chill seeped into Nate’s bones as he stood motionless in the churchyard. Hands in his pockets, he braced his shoulders against the bitter wind that swept unchecked from the Severn Estuary.

He shivered as he stared at the inscription on his father’s headstone:

Jonathan Harris


His name and the years showing his lifespan, cut short due to alcoholism. The pancreatitis had been sudden and taken him quickly. Nobody had realised how serious it was till it was too late. Nate hadn’t got home in time to say goodbye, only to hold his mother together in the aftermath.

Emotion swirled and tightened in a steel band around his lungs.

He didn’t miss his dad. They’d never been close, not since Nate was a child. Back then their relationship had been easy. Nate remembered the laughter, running in the sunshine, kicking a football around the park, being thrown into the air and shrieking with joy and excitement over and over until his dad was too tired to continue. But as Nate grew older he saw the darker side of his dad. Black moods; a vicious temper; the way he treated Nate’s mum when he’d been drinking; the way he treated Nate when Nate started to push back; the way he’d reacted when Nate came out.

Nate took a deep breath, recognising and owning his feelings. Anger, sadness, regret, loss—not for the man his father had been, but for who he could have been if things had been different. Therapy had helped Nate come to terms with his reality, but when he let the memories in, they still had the power to hurt.

They probably always would.

Turning away from his father’s grave, Nate walked around the edge of the old stone church.

St Martin’s—Hedbury village church—was situated on a hill that rose abruptly from the flat land around it. The views were spectacular, but it was bleak in cold weather like today.

It had been very different on the day they’d buried his father. Warm sunshine, spring flowers, and birdsong in the trees; the bright beauty of the April day had been a stark contrast to the solemnity of the occasion.

Wrapped in the self-consciousness of early transition, Nate had been so focused on worrying about what people were thinking about him, he’d had no space left to feel any sadness. He’d saved his complicated grief to deal with alone, once all the stress of the funeral was past and he’d escaped back to London to get on with his life.

As he rounded the corner of the church, Nate paused to look out at the grey expanse of water in the distance and the two bridges spanning it. The water had the flat sheen of pewter under the overcast sky. Mist muted the green of the fields and hedgerows, the dull colours matching Nate’s mood.

A hint of cigarette smoke carried on the wind caught Nate’s attention, and he realised he wasn’t alone. A hunched figure sat on a bench by the church. Wearing a heavy coat with the hood up, their head hung low staring at the grass between their feet rather than at the landscape stretched out before them. A cigarette hung from bony fingers that protruded from black fingerless gloves. As Nate watched, the man—because Nate could see his face now—raised his head to take a long drag before stubbing the cigarette out on the bench.

A shock of recognition made Nate’s heart jump, thudding erratically.


Torn between conflicting urges to approach and flee, Nate stared at him, powerless to move.

How many years had it been since Nate had seen him? At forty-five Nate found each year passed faster than the one before. It must have been twenty years at least since he’d seen Jack, maybe more, and longer still since they’d spoken properly. Their last meeting had been nothing more than an awkward exchange of greetings when they ran into each other in the village pub one Christmas. The distance between them had cut Nate like a knife, so different to their teenage years when they’d been best friends, and almost inseparable.

Jack slumped forward again, letting the cigarette butt fall from his fingers. He put his hands over his face and Nate recognised despair and hopelessness, because they’d been his companions in the past. Acting on instinct, he approached.

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