Ian's Story

factor X contestant and boy band member

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8. Live TV

Chapter 8 Live TV.

   Wow! I thought, when I saw the row upon row of clothes, Robert from the ‘Factor X’ production team had shown us.  He suggested we go for skinny jeans and to top it off with a sleeveless t-shirt. Apparently, this look would appeal to both the young girls as dream boyfriends and the older women’s maternal instincts.  “Oh, fuck,” I swore when I saw Mike come out of the dressing room wearing a pair of skinny jeans. Trust him to choose a pair one size too small. I guessed he must have laid on the floor and somehow shoehorned himself into them. 

    Now, all suitably dressed we took our places on the stage in this vast arena. Looking around, I suddenly realised in a few days’ time we in the band would be standing here performing surrounded by a few hundred or more people. Yet what was even more scary was knowing that we would be judged by television millions.

   OMG!  No way! I could feel Mikes body up close. He’d wrapped his arms around me and I had responded by doing the same. For a brief moment we held each other and I began to cry. We had done it.  I had never thought it would be like this. I felt both relieved and drained at the same time. The waiting had been unbearable.  Suddenly we were engulfed by the rest of the band. The public love us. We were through to the next round.

                                                *****

    When Ian’s band, ‘T Five’ had got through to the next round   I jumped up from my seat and cheered with everybody else. That was until I watched in horror Mike and Ian embracing, my dad seeing the look on my face asked, “Are you alright, Josh?”

                             *****

   Later, after the excitement of getting through to the next round had died down, I noticed Josh hadn’t come up and congratulated me yet. Looking around, I saw him, together with his mum and dad, just leaving. 

   In the morning at school it was manic, everybody had watched me on the TV. Suddenly I had become the most popular person in school. At lunchtime everyone wanted me to sit with them.  Instead I sat down in the chair next to Josh and asked, “Why did you leave the studio without speaking to me?” “Oh so you noticed then,” Josh, sounding peeved, answered back. “Well of course I did. I was worried something was wrong.”   “But not worried enough that you wanted to contact me,” Josh said accusingly. Fuck, I thought, this was getting us nowhere fast. I would give it one last try before I moved to another table, so I asked, “Come on Josh, tell me why you’re so pissed off with me then?” With tears in his eyes, Josh said in a quiet voice, “You hugged Mike back.”

   “Fuck it!” I swore. I wasn’t really in the mood to dance. I didn’t know what to do about Josh.  How could they expect me to learn the steps in less than a week.  The song was good it was just the steps, I kept on making simple mistakes.  The choreographer annoyed me by saying not to worry because it would be alright on the day.  That night in bed I couldn’t sleep, I kept on worrying about Josh and his liking me in that special way. At last I had a plan and fell asleep smiling.

   At lunchtime instead of sitting next to Josh as I usually did, I sat down on the other side of the table so we were facing each other. I could see he looked miserable.  “You’ve got it bad haven’t you?” I tried to sound sympatric. He looked up and just nodded.  “Maybe, if you want to, you can sleep over at my house tonight and we’ll cuddle like brothers. Is that alright?”   Josh just gave me a small smile and nodded. Before we could talk more, a couple of girls came up to our table, wanting my autograph, which would have been neat if it hadn’t been on a copy of that blasted photograph. The one Josh had taken showing me with more than a smile on my face. Apparently, it had come back to haunt me because it was now posted on the net under the heading of Factor X, fan club, for everyone to see.

   At the ‘Factor X’ rehearsals that afternoon after school Larry, who was still in charge of mentoring the group contestants, had a copy of that blasted photo.  Apparently Steven Wards creator of ‘Factor X’ when he had seen the photo had remarked it was a pity that it couldn’t be used in the show’s official publicity.

   Josh was already waiting for me when I got home after the rehearsals. That photo on the net had found its way to my embarrassment into the local newspaper and mum had seen it. Thankfully, Josh had already explained to her the circumstances as to how it got published in the first place.  Mum’s only comment was that maybe it would be best if I stayed with Josh at least for tonight as she didn’t know how my dad would take it.

                                                *****

   Soon after Ian arrived at my house he got a call from his mum. She told him he’d better stay put for a while. In the background we could hear his dad having a blue fit. My parents knew how much I liked Ian so they were please for me that he was staying the night.  First off, when we got into my room, to my surprise Ian pulled me into his arms giving me a bear hug which took my breath away. Smiling he release me saying, “That’s a thank you for saving my ass.”  “You mean your dad actually hits you.” I said looking appalled at the thought of such a thing.  “Yeah, well let’s say he has a temper and leave it at that.”  Ian then changed the subject by announcing, “Wow! I see you’ve got a poster of the band on your wall.” Over the next few hours, which including supper, Ian’s dad was never mentioned again, but I sensed he was always there in Ian’s thoughts.

                                                *****

   My mum’s phone call worried me. I could hear my dad in the background. She had sent me away so Josh shouldn’t witness my dad’s bad temper.  Not wishing to show how upset I was feeling as soon as we were alone in Josh’s room I grabbed his arm and pulled him into a bear hug. Even though Josh and I messed around as usual my thoughts were back home.  Supper was good, and afterwards, I entertained everyone by singing a ballad that I sometimes sing when I feel sad and need to cheer myself up.   At bed time according to my plan I put on pyjamas.  Josh and I chatted for a while until he fell asleep, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I found I could not sleep because I was worried about what might be happening at home. Josh’s bed unlike mine was only a double and with all my moving around, it was inevitable that an arm or leg would touch. In truth it was nice to know I wasn’t alone, especially now.

                                                *****   

   The next morning, I phoned my mum after my dad had left for work. She told me my dad was more than upset. Apparently that photo of me had caused him a great deal of embarrassment at work and as far as he was concerned I was in the dog house. I should come home and apologise then take my punishment like a man. Fuck that I thought no way was I going home. Not until I’d got through to the next round as a sort of trade off against any punishment. Thankfully Josh’s parents let me stay, otherwise it would have meant sleeping in the YMCA hostel again. To be honest, I wasn’t too keen on going back there because last time it had been a bit scary especially when the man in the next bed had offered me money to have sex.

                                                *****

   OMG! Ian is staying for several days and he knows I like him in that special way and doesn’t mind. He’d even declined the offer of using my sleeping bag on the floor. He says he preferred the bed better than sleeping on the hard floor and that sharing with me was no big deal.  I had awoken in the middle of the night to find him snuggled up close to me. Ian laying there, like that was part of my dream. Although I knew Ian was straight, I couldn’t but help myself pretend he was mine.

                                                *****

   I stayed the whole week with Josh and we became better friends than before, if that was possible.  Knowing his sexual preference was no big issue, in fact, that secret brought us closer together. He could be more open about himself and I learnt how being gay was really tough.   And as for my parents I didn’t see them until I was about to go on stage.  At first my dad gave me that look which I knew so well. Then suddenly realising that others could see, he immediately switched to all smiles and wished me and the boys in the band the best of luck.

   For some unknown reason the audience went wild even before we started singing and as for the public, we broke all records, and got the most votes ever. The reason soon became clear as when I came out the studio door I was confronted by a group screaming girls all wanting me to autograph their copy of that photograph published on the internet.  It had gone viral with over five million hits so far.

                                                *****

   To say things were good at home would be stretching it some. My dad and I had come to an understanding as far as the photo was concerned. But regarding anything else, we were barely talking to each other. The one good thing to come out of all this was the bond I had with Josh. I still laugh at our parting a couple of days after the Factor X show. I was saying my thanks to Josh’s parents for letting me stay when he came down stairs and whispered in my ear that I’d left my pyjamas behind.  I whispered right back that he could keep them with the pair of underpants he’d stolen when staying over at my house.  The red blush of embarrassment that spread over his face and neck is something I will always remember.

    Conner had called for a meeting at lunchtime today in Terry’s garage studio, where he had told us he was quitting the band. The reason was he couldn’t afford to carry on. Apparently, ‘Factor X’ only paid for his time at the standard minimum wage rate which wasn’t enough to live on.  This really surprised me.  I even offered to give him the fifty pounds I got from them a week as pocket money.  Conner had thanked me but said no. He felt bitter because by performing he was making ‘Factor X’ lots of money from the voters’ phone calls yet he was skint most of the time.  He had asked them for more money, but they had told him no way would they pay him above the rate he would have got from when working.  Later that afternoon I received a texted message from Larry. The rehearsals for that day only had been cancelled.  Oh Fuck! I thought can we still compete as a band called ‘T Five’ with only four of us?

   At rehearsals the following afternoon I couldn’t believe it, Conner had only just gone and ‘Factor X’ had already brought in his replacement. Naturally he was only a singer. The next few days we worked hard, but with only a few days to the show all we could do was our best.

   On the Saturday night’s live show before we performed it was announced that a new member named Justin had joined the band to replaced Conner, who due to ill health couldn’t be with us. It really amazed me, even without Conner we still pulled it off and held our public vote, so getting through to the next round.

    Everyone congratulated us including Conner who watching the show on TV had sent us all a texted messaged of congratulations.  He also asked if we would be interested in doing a band gig with him which of course didn’t include Justin.

   A few days later after Boy band rehearsal we the original ‘T five’ musicians got together and played at this posh club in town.   I must admit it felt really strange and rather nice to be playing without the cameras being there to worry about. Also getting paid cash in hand wasn’t bad either.  Unwinding afterwards in a general discussion Mike of all people voiced his dissatisfaction with all the work we were doing for so little monetary return. Also that Terry had envisaged when entering the competition, that it would promote us as a band, not just us joining a stable of boys, who were being groomed like performing animals. I wasn’t surprised after voicing this opinion that by the next rehearsal Mike had left, and another singer had taken his place in the band.

   Once again we had to work extra hard to get the new boy Tony up to speed.  I wasn’t happy Larry was expecting me to babysit him, which was not right. Tony had to up his game not the other way around. The problem with Tony was he could sing and could dance but not both at the same time.  I had decided to take the afternoon off from school and have it out with Larry privately. They say the early bird catches the worm, which in my case was true. At the stage door, someone had propped it open with a box, which to my horror contained a whole load of laser printed copies of the internet photo of me. Worse still, they all had my autograph. “What the fuck?” I thought and grabbing, a handful of them, made my way to the back of the arena where the rehearsal rooms were. I must admit that Larry was not too pleased when I barged in to his office demanding to know what was going on. He merely told me it was cost effective to hand out my signed internet photo rather than employ extra security guards to contain screaming fans. As far as Tony was concerned I was right about his inability to coordinate singing and dancing and not to worry because he had already been replaced.   

   I found Billy was good, nothing like Tony. He was already up to speed having watched the previous day’s rehearsal videos.  During a break Billy told us he wasn’t just a failed runner up solo singer chosen by the judges, but had been a member of a boyband that had broken up after the auditions. This made me feel a lot happier about our chances of getting through this weekend’s TV show.

   After the rehearsal I found Josh waiting for me by the gates. He looked really scared and upset. “What wrong?” I asked, wanting to give him a comforting hug. but knew there were to many people around who would see me do this. “Fuck, I did something stupid today,” Josh declared obviously angry at himself, then carried on. “You know I’m on the swimming team?” I just nodded, “Well there was this cute boy in the showers after the session and Peter caught us you know doing something and now it’ll be all over school tomorrow.” By then we had walked some distance from the gates. I pulled Josh into an alleyway where we couldn’t be seen I then gave him a comforting hug which mad him cry.      

   At lunchtime the next day I had a problem. All morning I had heard talk about Josh. Maybe I should miss going into the canteen all together.  But Josh was my best friend, and he needed me but, at the same time by association, they might think I’m gay. Fuck, I thought and marched into the canteen, collected a tray full of food and took it over to where Josh was siting all alone at our usual table. Plonking my tray down, I sat in the chair next to him and bumped his arm as normal and said in a loud voice, “What up?” Under the circumstances it was not the most appropriate thing to say.  Josh just turned and looked at me and we both burst out laughing.  

   Sandy, the girl I was seeing on the quiet came over with her friend Tish to our table.  Tish, without a preamble, asked in a loud voice, “Josh are you gay?”  Everyone on the tables around us became silent. Fuck, I thought, what a question. To ask someone to virtually out themselves in front of everyone.  Josh replied after a long pregnant pause, “What’s it to you, if I was?”  “Well, my brother is gay and I thought if you were and maybe if you’re interested I could arrange a meeting,” Tina replied smiling.  But before Josh could say anything, Sandy jumped in with both feet, “Maybe Ian would object to that.” She said looking in my direction. Her implied suggestion obvious. This   pissed me off, so without thinking I hit back by saying, “Let’s get it, straight when we did it, you didn’t complain then, so why now? I can assure you that I don’t swing both ways.”  “Slap.” My face hurt where Sandy’s hand had hit me. Maybe, outing her, I had gone a bit too far.

   Tina rushed off after Sandy who had left the canteen crying.  Josh looked relieved not having to confirm that he was gay. The other tables were already talking about what had just happened and some who had recorded the slap, had already posted it on the internet. By the end of the day it had gone viral.

   On Friday after the last rehearsals before the show.  I dropped off two tickets to the weekend’s two-day live TV ‘Factor X’ show, together a note saying I was sorry, into Sandy’s house letter box.

   OMG, when our band came on stage there was some actual booing. We did our best to ignore it but it was quite off putting. Yet by the end of our performance, it seemed to me that everybody was applauding. We even had the judges giving us a standing ovation. So still on a high with the adrenaline pumping I left the arena building. At the gate I said good night to the security guard. The usual crowd of screaming girls were standing outside.  I noted that Sandy and Tina were also waiting there, but before I could acknowledge them.

A girl started sing.

  “Do you know what we’d do if we caught that bastard boy Ian,”

The group of girls around her chanted.

      “Yeah we’d kick him in the balls,”

A girl started sing.  

    “Do you know what we’d do if we caught that bastard boy Ian,”

The group of girls around her chanted.

    “Yeah we’d slap his face.”

A girl started sing. 

   “Do you know what we’d do if we caught that bastard boy Ian,”

The group of girls around her chanted.

      “Yeah we’d kick him in the balls and slap his face,”

It would have been funny except for the aggressive way it was performed

    Worse still was yet to come. The next day when the public votes were all in our band just about scraped through in last place. And that’s when the other members of the band suggested I leave. 

   The following week I watched the show with Sandy, Conner, Mike and Josh. It still amazes me that my popularity rose up to the top by a photo of me going viral, and then dropped back down to the very bottom with a video of me being slapped going viral.

                                             End of part one  

 

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