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"What?" My brain wasn't on the best mode to absorb information.
"You heard. Quick!"
"Quick? Quick what?" I was still breathing hard, still leaning on him. And we were still on the breakfast bar. And we were still, well, joined.
"For God's sake, Chris, get a grip!" The doorbell rang again. "Get off me you idiot!" My brain clicked into life, and I got off, well out. There was a slurp. "Ow!"
"Now get over here to the sink, by the window!"
"Ye gods, Chris, the closer we are to the window, the less he can see."
"I'll explain later. Just get here."
So I did
"Now," he said, pull my trousers up, and hide while you do it."
Just in time. As I ducked down out of sight behind the sink unit, Nigel told me later, as I ducked down, the milkman's face came into view. I heard him through the window. "Afternoon," he called cheerily, "Milk bill!" Suddenly I didn't need him to explain why we were at the window!
"Hold on," Nigel yelled back. I can't find the back door key. I'll see you at the front, OK?"
"Right you are!" At which point he must have gone, coz Nigel started furiously fastening his trousers.
"Money," he babbled. "Where's Mum put the money? Where is it."
"I don't know!"
"Of course you don't. I wouldn't expect you to know. I'm talking to myse... there it is." And he grabbed a handful of cash and raced to the front door. "Get cleaning up," he called back to me, just before he opened the door to the milkman.
I heard "That'll be five pounds and four pence, please?"
"I've only got a fiver. Can we owe you the four pence?"
"OK. Parents out?"
"Ah well. Don't do anything I wouldn't do! See you next week."
And the front door closed. And Nigel came back. "Phew!"
"Yeah. That was close"
"Er, Chris, I hurt a bit."
"Do you want me to look?"
"Why do I feel embarrassed? Yes, please." And he dropped his trouser and underpants, and bent over. "It's sore. Anything to see?"
"Well, you're a bit red. What type of hurt is it?"
"Stings a bit."
"Shit, I'm sorry."
"Not your fault. It was awesome. I mean awesome. But I'm hurting."
"You OK if we clean up here and then check you out in the bathroom?"
"Yeah. Oh. What a mess!" There were rivulets of cum all down the side of the breakfast bar. Well a whole Niagara's worth. "Kitchen roll. Over there. On the spike."
I got it, and wiped. All it did was smear. "It isn't working!"
"Oh yes." And it worked.
"Not in the bin! Down the loo!"
"Oh." And I got the wad of kitchen roll back out of the bin. "We'll take it upstairs. Now, get to the bathroom."
I stopped and flushed the kitchen roll on the way, and joined him. He had his trousers and underpants off, and was holding a mirror between his legs trying to look at his bum. "Here, let me," I told him. "Bend over the bath."
I looked carefully. "Nothing much to see. Wait a moment, I need something." I found it in the bathroom cabinet. Antiseptic ointment. "Hold still, this may smart a bit."
"What are you going to do?"
"Well, I've found some ointment, antiseptic stuff, and I'm going to put some inside you, just in case something's torn, or split or something."
"Be gentle, Chris."
"Idiot, I'm not going to hurt you. I love you, OK?" and I put a good dollop of ointment on my finger, and eased it towards him. He flinched as I touched him. "Sorry."
"It wasn't you. It's cold."
"Ah." I nearly giggled. "Still sorry." And I eased my finger round his pucker, round where he was winking at me, and then slowly and gently inside.
He tensed a little. "That's better. Much better."
"You're enjoying this!"
"A little. You keep pressing that spot! But look, it does sting, so stop, OK?"
"OK." I pulled my finger out slowly. There was a little blood on it. "Nigel, you're bleeding. Not much, but a little bit."
"I mean it looks OK, but we need to be careful."
"What, like not fucking me in the kitchen when the milkman's coming?"
"Did he cum as well?"
"If you didn't still have half your arm up my bum I'd smack you for that lousy joke!" He was giggling at me.
"It was awesome, though." I was remembering. "I was watching your face in then mirror! You look beautiful when you're being screwed rigid!"
"I had my eyes shut"
"I saw. And I was watching me sliding into you. I haven't looked before. Wow!"
"I reckon we'll not use butter again, though."
"Reckon you're right."
"We'd better check downstairs. They'll be back in a bit"
He was right. "Just a minute, you're a bit ointment covered. Butter, too, come to that. You need to wash a bit. Here, let me." And I filled the basin with water, warm water, and soaped my hands really well. And lathered his bum. And rinsed it with the flannel he passed me. And dried him. Patted him dry with his towel. Then the merest smear of ointment again. "All done."
He turned. "That was weird, Chris. I was really embarrassed asking you to do that. It was very personal and private, somehow. I mean we've made love, but this was different."
"I felt that, too. I was caring for you. But I was almost too shy to look. And I'd just been burying my cock in you. It was really strange." I kissed him on the cheek. "If you hadn't hurt it would have been nice, but I didn't want to make it worse. Is it all right now?"
"Much better. Thank you, Chris. You make a great mother!"
"Idiot. I love you. I don't think I'll ever get tired of saying it. Now let's get downstairs."
When we opened the kitchen door, it looked fine. But it smelt of boy! Well boy being fucked. Musky, sweaty, unique. "Open the back door, let's get some air in here," he said. "And then let's wash up the plates and glasses."
We heard the key in the front door as we were about to finish the tidying. "Heck, I hope this isn't 'round 2'," I sighed to him.
"Yeah. But? Well I mean surely they've got it sorted out? Surely?"
"Hope so. I can't take another fight."
"I'll do it this time."
"We'll see." Damn, Mum always said that when she meant 'no'. What a habit to pick up. "Sorry, I mean... Well you know what I mean."
Claire came into the kitchen. I looked at her face. Nothing to see. A smile. "Claire? Is Mum, er, well, oh. Is she?"
"Always nice to met a coherent child!" She grinned at me. "Do you mean, 'has my mother started to understand?', or something like that?"
"Something a lot like that, yes."
"Well, yes and no."
"Sorry, Chris. I'm being unfair. You don't need teasing." I didn't. "What I mean is, she and we all talked about it a lot."
"In the pub?" My heart sank. I was pub talk, now.
"It's OK. We were in the garden, and no-one was near, and we were very quiet and careful. No-one heard a thing."
"Sorry. I should have known."
"Anyway, your mother was sure about the most important things. She wants you to be happy is one, and that she loves you is another."
"She's in the living room with your father, Chris. Go and talk to her."
"Oh. Er, right." I paused. "I don't want to."
"I can understand that," she said. "But she's promised your father that she will try really hard."
"She's a nice person, Chris. But she was brought up very strictly, I think. Boys loving other boys is outside her experience. Mine too, really."
"It was outside mine a couple of weeks ago."
"Well, Chris, I wonder. You knew about the subject, didn't you?"
"As something really strange, yes. But as a sex thing. Nothing to do with love."
"I suppose so, yes. I hadn't thought of it that way. Not until you said it. Yes. Sex but not love." She was looking pensive. "You boys are going to teach me a lot, I think."
"I'd better go and see Mum, I suppose."
"Want me to come too, Chris?" Nigel didn't look as though he wanted to.
"Yes. But no. I think I have to do this alone." I moved slowly to the door.
"Good luck," he said. "Don't lose your cool, OK?"
I smiled and went into the living room. I was so nervous. I refused to look nervous as I went in. Just Mum and Dad. Well and me. I was going over what had happened only an hour or so earlier. The tough job I'd had. I really felt as though I'd fought for Nigel. And for me. But mainly for Nigel. For the right to be with him. Almost for the right to love him. Well to express my love for him. Now I was not going to attack. Unless I was attacked. What I wanted most of all was to be their little boy again. I wasn't thinking of it quite like that. I wanted a cuddle with my Mum. A real one. And a hug with Dad. And to see them look happy.
All of this stuff was cascading through my thoughts as I went in. And I was walking tall and proud. Or trying to.
But I didn't know how to start talking to them.
And by the looks of them, neither did they.
Dad stood up. I'd never seen him smile sort of shyly before. "I need a hug, Chris," he said.
Oh so did I. I needed a hug so badly. To feel his strong arms around me, to feel safe again. I was wondering if I dared, though. And while I was wondering, I went over. Fell into his arms. "I've missed you, Dad."
"Yeah, me too," he said. "Me too."
Over his shoulder I could see Mum. She had her eyes on the floor. "Mum?"
She looked up.
"Come and join us, Mum. Please?"
"I, er, oh yes. Yes. Yes please." And she did.
It was all clumsy, and arms and things all in the way, but it was safe and warm. And felt like home, somehow. "Mum, I love you. And you, Dad."
"I didn't think I'd be welcome, Chris. I haven't been very nice to you."
"You are, Mum." I managed somehow to pull her closer in. "Welcome, I mean. I don't want anything to go wrong between us, I need you."
We kind of broke the hug up a bit after that. It wasn't comfy. But I felt a huge amount better. But there was still a subject I needed to talk about. Without bringing the wrath of the gods down on my head.
"Chris, Mum and I have been talking about everything."
Oh. Ominous. Even if it was Dad speaking. 'Get on with it!' My brain was screaming at him 'Get on with it! Tell me! Now!' But I kept quiet.
"And we hope you'll like what we've decided."
'Decided.' An ominous word, that. So final. 'Decided.' Something done to you by others. 'De-fucking-cided'. "Go on?"
"Don't look so worried. It's OK."
"Dad, can you get on with this, please?"
"Sorry. Nigel is welcome in our home." He smiled
"With you, too, Mum?"
"Yes, Chris. He's welcome." She managed a smile. I could see it was difficult for her. "I promise to make him welcome and you feel good about it."
I wondered if I dared. To go for the gold. I dared. "And to stay the night, Mum?"
She flinched. "And to stay the night, Chris, yes."
One more press. One more. "In the same room, Mum?"
"I know what you mean, Chris."
"And?" I hated putting her under this pressure. I seemed to be good at it. But I hated it.
"I don't want to know, or hear a thing."
"Does that mean 'yes', Mum?"
She looked at me. "Well, Chris, Yes, he and you may." She sighed. "I know I can't stop you. I know you love him. I can see that he loves you. And I know that you're going to, er, be together if I say no, so I'd rather you were safe when you, er. Oh."
"Oh Mum... "
"Yes, well. I have a lot to get used to. I'll make a bargain with you."
"If you don't make it hard for me, I'll learn to cope, and it'll be easier for me to... I'm not putting this very well."
"I know what you mean, Mum. I think." I wasn't going to push any more. "Can Nigel come in?"
"I suppose so, yes. I mean of course he can."
I went out into the kitchen. All three Croppers were there. "It's OK," I said, rather too loudly. "It's OK! Nigel, come and join me, us!"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I'm sure. I think." And I led him back to his living room. I didn't quite know anything. Except, "Mum, I think Nigel needs a hug, too." Was I pushing my luck, I wondered,? Trying to get her to accept him too quickly? But if I was, there was no better time to do it. I was still in control. I knew it wouldn't last, couldn't last.
"Are you sure, Chris," Nigel looked at me, warily.
"I don't think he's sure," Dad said. "But he's right. Nigel, may I hug you? And may Jean hug you? Please? Son?"
'Son'. He said 'Son'. Dad had said 'Nigel' and 'Son'. And with a capital letter. Oh. Wow. We were going to make it. At home at least. Both homes.
"If you'll let me, I'd like to hug you first," Nigel said, walking over to Mum. "This is all my fault. All the pain that Chris has been through. All the pain that you've gone through. It's all been my fault."
She looked hesitant. I suppose anyone would. Nigel Cropper, at 14, had almost taken me away from her. She must have been thinking that. Had perverted me. She must have been thinking that. Did dirty things with me. She must have been thinking that. And yes, was queer. As, it seems, was I. She was certainly thinking that. It took but a moment, but time was frozen for me. She looked heavy and tired. Hair astray. Makeup overdone and smudged. Poor Mum. Had we done all that? "We've a lot of getting to know each other to do, haven't we. Yes, Nigel. Please." She looked at him. No longer with distaste, but neutral.
It was still awkward as they hugged. I was squeezing Dad's hand. I hadn't even realised that I was holding it. I heard Nigel's voice, "I'm sorry for hurting you. I didn't mean to hurt you. I just think he's wonderful, and I love him so much. I'm sorry. I had to tell him.." He was quiet for a little. She had her arms round him. "I would have been happy to know he didn't, couldn't love me. Well, not happy, but resigned. I'd have known, you see. Mrs Jenkins, I've been holding this feeling inside me for more than two years. For ever. I didn't know it would hurt you. I thought it would hurt me, if anyone." Her hands were clasping him, and holding him tight. "He's wonderful. And I love him." He was tense. And I sensed he was in the middle of losing control, and I started towards him.
Dad held me back. "Let Mum," he was whispering.
"What? But.. "
"Let her hold him. She needs to be needed."
"Try and trust me?"
It was hard. I saw his shoulders shaking, heard him saying "I'm sorry, so sorry," over and over again. "So sorry. So sorry." And heard him struggling and sobbing on her shoulder. My boy was sobbing his heart out and I was standing and watching.
Wanting him to stop.
I was not going to cry too. I was not. Not. But it was hard not to.
And I saw.
I saw Mum.
I saw her stroking his hair, and kissing his cheek.
I saw her stroking his hair, kissing his cheek, and wiping away his tears with a tissue which had appeared as if by miracle in her other hand.
And she held him and stroked him until he had relaxed.. "Let's join them," Dad said. And we did.
And after we'd been there for an age two other people joined us. Claire and James had come in. And we were another age, then.
It took a crying boy, Nigel, to win Mum over. Mothers instinct I supposed. The need to comfort. You can't hate someone whose tears you've wiped. Well, not easily.
There was so much I didn't understand, didn't realise. Not then. But I began to.
As we broke apart, Claire said "The kettle must be boiling. I'll make some tea. I think we need some time to, well, meet each other, er, if you see what I mean. A little peace and quiet."
"I'll give you a hand," Mum said. And slipped out of the room behind her.
It was a warm day, no a hot day. But I felt shivery. Suddenly shivery. And my eyes felt as though I'd been crying. I didn't remember crying. Not that day. I think just about everyone else, yeah, both dads, too, had wept a little that day. But not me.
And then it came, all at once.
The whole morning unwound in my mind. The battle of wills. The look on Mum's face. Nigel saying to Mum how much he loved me. Nigel in tears on Mum's shoulder
It was silent when it hit me.
I was sitting in an armchair, and a tight feeling came into my throat.
And my eyes started stinging.
And silent tears ran down my cheeks.
No-one noticed. Dad and James were facing Nigel. Nigel was talking to them, or listening to them, or something. I didn't know. I couldn't hear them or see them. I was insulated, isolated.
I seemed to sit for ages. Alone.
I think I did sit for ages.
I couldn't move.
I was sitting in the chair, my head resting against the back, looking straight ahead., eyes wide open.
Sitting, with my hands by my sides.
Sitting, looking calm, silent. With tears coursing down my cheeks, soaking my shirt.
Feeling... I don't know what I was feeling... A huge battle with Mum. I didn't feel good about that. Not even about, winning. If that had been winning. I had permission to be with Nigel. I wanted to be with Nigel. But I was crying hot silent tears.
I watched the door open. I watched the tray come in. I watched Mum follow it in. I watched her put it down on the table. I watched her pass a mug to Dad, to James, to Nigel and I watched her start to pass one to me, and then put it on the table again.
And I watched her walk over to me, and kneel down in front of me. And I saw her mouth moving. And I almost heard her voice.
And I felt her hand on my knee.
I could see her mouthing my name. I could nearly hear her.
Only someone was making a huge sobbing noise, and it was deafening. And it was shaking the chair. And I couldn't see anymore.
I hadn't wanted a battle. I wanted the result, but I hated the fight. Hated it. I'd hurt Mum. I'd never hurt her before. Been naughty? Yes. But hurt her? Never.
And I wanted it all better. By magic.
It couldn't be better.
I was moving forward. Moving forward in the chair.
I opened my eyes, and I was in Mum's arms. Tight arms, safe arms.
And I realised I was doing the sobbing.
"It's all right, Chris," I heard her voice. "It's all right. Or it's going to be all right." She was holding me so close. Familiar scents. Safe. "It'll be all right, Chris. I promise it'll be all right." And she held me, and rocked me like I was a baby. And I clung to her. Not fourteen anymore.
I heard Nigel's voice. "Oh Chris... " And a pause. And I felt a hand on my hair. "You don't mind?"
"I don't mind," Mum said. "Not any more. Minding doesn't matter. Chris matters. So do you."
I couldn't stop, I wanted to. But it had got me. I was stuck. The tears had dried. The gasping, heaving, that hadn't, wouldn't stop, couldn't be stopped.
"I-I-I-I... " It was impossible. "I'm" I waited for a gap. Breathed out. A little in. "Sor-Sor... " Waited again. Tried again. "Sorry." Made it. All in a rush.
"Don't talk yet, Chris." Nigel's voice.
"Just breathe gently." Mum's voice.
"Here's a glass of water." Claire's voice.
I didn't want a glass of water. I wanted to speak. To tell them all that I hadn't wanted the row. But I sipped the water. It helped.
I decided not to speak. Not until I could cope. Especially since they were all looking at me.
"Can we have a little time together, please," Nigel asked no-one in particular. No-one moved. "Like NOW, please?" And a chorus of mumbles of 'sorry' and 'of course' led the way out of the room.
When we were alone he took my hands. On in each of his. And looked at me, right in the eyes. "Chris? I love you, Chris. You're so brave." I couldn't speak yet. "Chris, my love, it doesn't matter, the tears and stuff."
It sounded good. The 'my love' bit. But dead soppy. Sort of unreal. If it hadn't been Nigel I'd have felt stupid, would have thought he was stupid.
"When you've settled down a bit. No, no talking yet. When you've settled down, I've an idea. If you feel like some air, that is.?" he had a wicked smile on his face. "We need to get out of here."
I nodded. Breathing was still heavy.
"Now, I'm going to kiss you." And he reached up with his left hand and brushed my hair out of my eyes, and held the back of my head and touched my lips with his. And pulled me close to him. And kissed me. Softly, slowly, luxuriously, deeply, for ever.. And so gently stroked me with his right hand, all up my back. And then he pulled gently back. "Fresh air?"
"Yeah." I sighed. "That was lovely."
"Wait there. Don't move a muscle."
"You'll see. I hope."
And he slipped out of the room.
But I did move a muscle.
I looked out of the window
And he came back in. "We're going for a walk."
"Just us. Together."
"To your house."
"Yes. About three miles. Should take us a couple of hours if we dawdle."
"And then we're sleeping at your place."
"Your Mum says it's OK."
"You're doing very good goldfish impressions!" He giggled at me.
"All this 'oh', and 'ah' stuff. Makes you look like a goldfish. Come on. Let's go, little goldfish!" And he led me to the front door. "See you later!" he yelled it through the closing door. And we were free.
"Oh Nigel. It's over. And I've got you." And all unthinking I slipped my hand into his. Free. Alive. Happy. "I think you're wonderful."
And we set off down the road. Relaxed at last. Blessed by his parents. By my Dad. Not sure about my Mum. And I had my boyfriend by my side. And I was holding his hand. And I loved him.
"I don't know the way! When I came here before I was with Carol. I was somewhere else"
"Idiot. I know the way."
"How do you think I got home from your place?""
"It seems so different now."
We walked, quietly, hand in hand. It was the middle of the afternoon, and it was more than warm. Sunshine, cloudless sky, walking beside garden walls. Out of Nigel's tree lined road to a hotter road, baking sun reflected of the pavement. And by my side a beautiful boy, silver bond hair shot with gold. Blue eyes. Soft wicked smile. It felt good.
Suddenly I remembered, "Are you still sore?"
"Just OK?" I was a little worried.
"There's no more blood, I don't think. But it's still odd. I don't really know how to describe it. Yeah. Odd."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."
"Of course you didn't! It isn't your fault."
"It was fun, though!"
I'd never been just comfortable in someone's company before. Walking, not talking much. Stealing glances at him. Catching his smile every so often. I noticed that the route was different from the one that Carol and I had taken. We were walking down an unfamiliar road. Not that the other one was familiar, but I'd walked down that once, and this one never.
"Where are we?"
"You didn't come this way, then? With Carol?"
"I suppose both ways are about the same length," he said. "This is probably the quickest."
"I thought we were going to dawdle."
"We are dawdling, idiot!"
We rounded a corner, and saw a row of old iron railings, painted black over years of rust. They were smack against the edge of the pavement. The edge away from the road. Behind the railings was a thin, scrubby hedge, and behind that some familiar buildings. "That's school!" I was really surprised. I suppose I knew we would be close to it, but I hadn't actually realised how close.
"Yep. You live one side of it, I live the other side."
"I didn't realise."
"No reason why you should," he laughed. "I mean it isn't as though it's important. Hey, look there's a cricket coaching course or something going on."
There was. Mr Jackson, the games teacher, was surrounded by a group of boys. I didn't recognise many. A few were from our school. One, John Simpson, I recognised from our year. "Shit!"
"We're holding hands, Nigel."
"Oh." He let go as fast as I did. "I hadn't noticed. Oh."
"Let's hope they didn't notice either!" My heart was pounding. I felt suddenly guilty.
"They can't have. I mean the fence is there, so's the hedge. And they're a long way away." Nigel was looking a little perturbed, though.
"Yeah. I don't think I need any more excitement. Not after today. Not for ages."
"I've something in mind for later," he grinned.
"You know what I mean. Controversial stuff, that's what I don't need."
"Yeah. I'm not ready for anyone else to know yet, either. Oh heck. Look."
"John's waving at us."
"I don't know him very well."
"I know him pretty well," Nigel said. "We used to hang out quite a bit. Well we do, er did? Oh heck he's a mate. A good one. Why do I feel I need to explain?"
"It's OK. I know what you mean. He's coming over."
"I'll have to say hello," Nigel said. "Heck I'm doing it again. I want to say hello! I like him."
"Jeez, Nigel, it's OK. We each need mates, you know!"
"Sorry," he said softly. The louder, "Hi John!"
"Hiya Nigel. Thought you were on the French trip!" John was still about twenty yards away.
"We got back a couple of days ago," Nigel called back, getting quieter as the distance closed.
"You might have phoned me. I've got that CD you wanted to hear."
"Sorry. I was tired. And Chris and I had some stuff to finish from it."
I wasn't part of this conversation. Well I didn't think I was part of it. "Hi Chris."
"John." I nodded to him. I mean we'd never done more than know each other existed.
"I didn't know you knew each other?"
"We shared in France," Nigel said. And as he said it I nearly giggled, and blushed as I did. I knew what we'd shared! John didn't.
"Yeah," I said. "I guess we got on well." This was odd. I found I was getting bristly. That would just not do. "And we had a bit of work to finish. Diaries and stuff. We're going to finish it now."
On the other side of the sports field Mt Jackson was calling and waving. "I think he wants you back, John," Nigel laughed.
"He can wait, He's always nagging," John said to him. "So, do you want to come round later, Nigel?"
"Not today. I can't."
"I'll give you a call later?"
"Stopping at Chris's place tonight. Tomorrow, maybe?"
"OK. Seeya." And John turned and sauntered back, then broke into a trot as Mr Jackson waved furiously at him. Then sprinted.
"Oh Nigel, how are we going to cope with things like that?" I was still tired. But I'd seen that it wasn't going to be as easy as just being his secret lover.
"I hadn't thought," he said. "I reckon we'll have to work out of we can tell a few special people, but I'm not ready. And I don't know who's special enough."
"I can't think about that just now. I'm still wondering if he suspected anything."
"I don't think so. Now lets get on. Before anyone does."
Of course, with logic applied, two boys walking together were less noteworthy than a boy and a girl. But I wasn't using logic. "We'll find out soon enough, I suppose."
"Oh come on, Chris. He can't have. I mean he'd have said something!"
I smiled. "Yeah." And we walked on. Only not holding hands. After a bit, "Nigel?"
"Friends are going to be a bit awkward, aren't they?"
"I don't mind," he said. "If I have you, I don't mind."
"You're not thinking straight."
"What do you mean?" He looked at me and gave me his amazing smile. And I melted inside.
"We have to go to school. For, what three, four more years?"
"And we have to live with who we are."
"Wrong words. Be able to be who we are. Yeah, that's better. Be us. And have other friends, too." I was making a speech, I thought, suddenly. "And not be beaten to a pulp for being a pair of queers."
"Ah. Yes. I get your point," he looked at me again, and smiled. "But not today, Chris. Not today. It's been a sod of a day. Well, more for you than me."
"Sorry. I panicked."
"You? Panic? Not a chance. I've seen you today. Not you, not panic."
"I did in the shower." I looked at the paving stones we were walking along. And at the laid concrete where the driveways cut across.
"That was then."
"Yeah." But I sighed.
"If you don't start smiling, I'm going to make you run!"
"No! You wouldn't!" He broke step and grabbed my hand. "You would! No! I'm smiling. Look! I'm smiling! I am!" I was!
"OK, you win," he giggled at me.
The road was totally familiar as we walked. We were only half a mile from home. And suddenly I needed to be there. In a familiar place, with all my things around me. And I needed to see Mum smiling at home again. "Can we, er, speed up a bit?"
"You'll think I'm daft."
"I just want to get home."
"Come one then. We'll speed up a bit. Heck, why is it that girls can hold hands and boys can't?"
"We were, earlier!"
"Yeah. And I never noticed!" I was smiling at him. "I love your smile," he said. And melted me again.
Half a mile doesn't take long when you have a spring in your step. We were giggling at non-jokes all the rest of the way, and we soon saw my house. Our house, I thought, quietly. And the Volvo was on the drive, so Mum and Dad were home already. I hadn't noticed them go past us, they must have gone another way.
I was leaden footed for the last few yards. A bit scared again. In case, well, in case Mum was, the same as the previous night.
As it happened I didn't need my key. I was just putting it to the lock when she opened the door. A real smile. "Welcome home, Chris. Hello Nigel. Listen, you are welcome, Nigel. I'm going to make it right. For you both."
And she was rewarded by two tall fourteen year olds hugging the life out of her.
"Oh Mum!" I was home. We were home.
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