Change of View
Mandal has provided The Independent Gay writer with another short
story, titled "A Change of View"...
Jay Mandal is from Southern England. After grammar school, he joined a
City bank and worked in Europe. He’s written eighty short stories,
fifty of which have been published, and two novels. ‘Slubberdegullion’
and ‘A Different Kind of Love’ are collections of short works, while
‘The Dandelion Clock’ is a novel. Speakout magazine have published at
least one Mandal story in each issue, and his short stories have been
featured in popular publications such as Passport and Lookout.
Jay’s latest collection, The
Loss of Innocence, is available from BeWrite
Books and from the usual outlets
Change of View
by Jay Mandal
Gradually his anger abated, and he was left wondering why
they were both sniping at each other like this. Surely holidays were a
time to put your differences behind you, a time to relax and enjoy
unfamiliar food and surroundings.
And the surroundings were beautiful: a quiet village
of white-washed houses with terracotta roofs against a backdrop of a
bright blue sky and trees he couldn’t put a name to. At the foot of the
street was the tiny beach where a handful of small boats, mostly red or
blue, lay abandoned in the heat of the day. To the left of the boats
were palm trees and a fuchsia with deep red petals.
As Robin walked, he could see that the shutters of
most of the houses were closed. It felt deserted, yet he knew that the
villagers were simply having a siesta.
He wished he’d brought his camera. Lawrence would
love to paint the village, somnolent in the shimmering heat. Robin
couldn’t draw. Lawrence, on the other hand, could capture a face or a
scene in a few deft strokes. That’s how they’d met.
Art classes. It seemed a long time ago now. Robin
had gone along with the vague idea that it was never too late to learn,
but when he saw the work produced by the others on the course he’d
After a few sessions, he’d thought about calling it a day, but Lawrence
had encouraged him, saying that Robin hadn’t failed merely because he
couldn’t faithfully reproduce the subject. The important thing was to
show the character of the person or scene, and the emotions felt by the
artist. He’d sounded so enthusiastic that Robin had smiled, and for a
minute they forgot the other people in the pub, conscious only of their
So Robin had continued going to the classes even
though he was convinced he’d never be anything more than an indifferent
painter. And the more he went, the closer he and Lawrence became.
They’d been happy times.
He sat on the wall by the little boats. The
heat eventually drove him to look for some shelter. He slipped off the
wall and walked up the wide steps towards the village. Once past the
boats, it became steeper, but at least he was out of the sun. His
footsteps echoed along the cobbled street. He half-expected the
shutters to be thrown open and curious villagers to peer out.
A church stood at the top of the hill, far too big
for the size of the village. There was a bench in the shade, and Robin
sat down with gratitude. Beneath lay deserted fields. The walk and the
heat had exhausted him, and he found it difficult to keep his eyes
open. At last, his body succumbed to sleep.
An hour passed before he woke. Sounds could be heard
from nearby: children shouting, a dog that barked a couple of times,
shutters opening. His body felt rested; his mind clear.
He heard again their arguments.
“Why can’t you sacrifice your principles just this
once?” Lawrence had said angrily. “After all, heterosexuals seem able
to square it with their consciences.”
“And why must you have evidence of my commitment?
We’ve lived together for four years – don’t you trust me by now?”
“I don’t see what the difficulty is, that’s all.
It’s only a piece of paper.”
“Exactly – it’s only a piece of paper when all’s
said and done. It doesn’t change anything. It’s not as though it even
gives us legal recognition, at least not yet.”
“But it probably soon will do. If no one had stood
up for what they believed in, our whole relationship would still be
“That’s rich, coming from someone who’s never even
been on a Gay Pride march. I’m beginning to wish the partnership
register had never been introduced in the first place.”
“I certainly didn’t appreciate the trouble it would
cause. I thought some sort of ceremony would be nice for our friends.
Your attitude makes me wonder if you really love me.”
“Don’t be stupid, Lawrence, of course I love you. I
just don’t see why we should fall into the same trap as heterosexuals.”
“It’s not a trap, Robin. It’s an expression of
people’s love for each other.”
“I thought I expressed that by everything I do. By
being faithful, by being considerate, by sharing the household chores.
Each time we make love.”
“So why won’t you do this one thing for me?”
“I don’t see what difference it makes.”
“It makes a difference to me.”
Round and round the argument went; the more Lawrence
pushed, the more Robin had dug his heels in.
He wondered why he and Lawrence had spent so much time arguing over
whether to sign the partnership register when the answer was so
obvious. He knew he had been intractable, inflexible. After all, he
loved Lawrence. Why shouldn’t they make their relationship official?
He stood up, ready to go back to the villa
they were renting. As he neared the end of the street, he saw someone
sitting on the wall, staring out at the green-blue sea. When he drew
level with the sea wall, Robin stopped and leant his forearms on the
“I brought your camera,” said Lawrence quietly.
“I was going to take a photo of the harbour and
village,” Robin said. “I thought you’d enjoy painting it.”
“We make a good team.” Lawrence smiled at him.
“I’m sorry I’ve been pig-headed.”
“I’m the one who should apologize. I shouldn’t have
asked you to compromise your principles.”
“It’s better to sacrifice a principle than lose
someone you love,” said Robin. “I should have tried to see things from
your point of view. It must have looked as if I didn’t care.”
“You said it would be selling out.”
“I was forgetting that love is about compromise. I
was arguing from the head, but you were arguing from the heart.”
Lawrence swung his legs round and slid off the wall
so that he was facing Robin. “We don’t need a piece of paper to prove
to the world that we’re serious.”
“Maybe we need it for ourselves, though,” Robin
said. He held out his hand and Lawrence took it, then they slowly made
their way back to the villa.