This story contains explicit descriptions of sexual acts between the characters in it. Although the characters are teenagers who may be below the age of consent in the country or state where this is read, nothing written here should be taken as approval of, or encouragement for, sexual liaisons between people where such liaisons are either illegal, or objectionable for moral reasons. Although this story does not include safe sex practices, it is everyone's own responsibility to themselves and to each other to engage only in PROTECTED SEX. It is a story. Any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental. Nothing represented here is based on any fact known to the author.
The story is copyright 2000 by "It's Only Me from Across the Sea". If you copy the story, please leave the credits, and the web address of http://www.iomfats.org present, and also the email address of email@example.com. I'd love to receive feedback.
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This is the second book of the story of Chris and Nigel. I have been almost overwhelmed with emotion from the response to the first twenty chapters which make the first book. Please feel free, if you wish, to overwhelm me some more! It took almost a year to write the first book. It will probably take the same to write the second one. Book One was started in February 1999, and was completed just before Christmas. Chris and Nigel are my friends. They started as formless characters while I was on a business trip to Cannes. A little detective work will show that the location of the school trip could well have been Cannes!
As with the first book, as with all that I have written and will write, I dedicate it simply to all those boys who have loved other boys, and who have gloried in that love, whether returned or not.
I spent some time during my physics homework that first day of the school term running back over how it had begun. How only a few days before I had been Carol's boyfriend. How I'd shared a room in France with a boy I hardly knew. How he had seduced me so simply, so deftly. How I had wanted, almost wanted, to be seduced. How I had fallen in love with him. How I adored Nigel Cropper.
Would our love be enough to get us through the new school term? The first day had been tough. I'd had my first Nigel free day. It had been great to meet everyone else again. I had some new friends, too. I hadn't realised, not really realised, that I was popular. That people wanted to be with me. I'd been pretty wrapped up in Carol for the previous couple of years, and I hadn't noticed. Well, not really noticed.
Somehow I didn't even mind the delay that the work caused. Didn't mind that I hadn't even talked to Nigel that day. It was only half an hour's worth of physics to do. As usual it took longer. Mum brought me a cup of tea about halfway through.
"Was school OK?"
I guessed what she meant. "It was!" I smiled as I said it. She looked happy to hear it.
"I'd been a bit, not worried exactly, but concerned that it should all be all right," she said, putting her hand on my shoulder as I sat at my desk.
"I think it's going to be fine, Mum. I really do."
"I have some new friends." And I told her about the new group who had invited me to hang out with them at lunch. And a bit about how they'd been in awe of me a bit because I'd been with Carol for so long. I even told her how Celia had made a bee line for Nigel and was trying her hardest to chat him up over lunch.
The really nice thing was, approve or disapprove of us, Mum was somehow really close to me, more so now than ever before. It wasn't that she was somehow trying to get me back to being her little boy. We both knew I wasn't that anymore. Though I wasn't really sure what I was.
At last I finished the homework. Well the final few minutes made it seem like it was 'at last', because I just couldn't get the problem to work out right. It was one of those electrical ones. I had to work out where two telephone lines had shorted together by doing some calculations on resistances. The only trouble was that the fault was half a mile further away by my calculations than the length of the wires. It had to be about the telephone. The problem, I mean. It just had to be. Because the telephone was what I'd promised myself I was going to use the moment I'd finished the homework.
"Mum, can I use the phone?"
"'May', Chris. 'May I use the phone?'" I hated that. Being corrected.
"Whatever. Mum? May I?"
"Don't be too long then." She smiled at me, "I suppose you didn't talk to Nigel enough today?"
"I didn't manage to talk to him at all. It was as though we'd not met, except it wasn't."
"Probably safer that way for the moment."
I sighed. "I suppose." A brief pause. "I love him, Mum. It felt hard not talking to him."
"You'd better phone him, then. Not too long, though."
I dialled Nigel's number. I knew it now. Not like when Carol had found out his number for me because I hadn't got it that awful day. Well that wonderful day, too. It rang once. 'Answer the phone, Nigel!' I was willing him to the instrument. It rang a second time. 'Pick the phone up.' I needed to hear his voice. A third time. "Hello?" Nigel's voice, breathless.
And now I was speaking to him I didn't know what to say. "I missed you today."
"I'm sorry about Celia."
"It's OK. I reckon it made good camouflage. She's a bit persistent!"
"I saw your face while I was about to introduce you. You thought she was with me, didn't you?"
"Not really. But I wanted to be with you today. And I couldn't." He paused. "Chris, Andy... "
"Needed you. Needed someone. I could see. It's OK."
"He's said I can talk to you about it, if I want."
"Do you want?"
"Not just yet. Well a little, maybe. Unless you need to know, that is. The thing is, Chris, I think I was wrong about him."
"You know I said I wasn't sure that he was in love with Mike? That I reckoned he was just, well, trying it out, kind of... "
"Are you sure you want to tell me?" Here he was, telling me and he'd said he wasn't really going to.
"I'm not sure the phone's the right place to. It's just, well, a bit difficult. Sort of. Too big to handle alone. And I can't actually help him. I mean he's go to do that. And I'm half afraid his seeing us together has told him that it's all right to do something stupid.
"What's he going to do?"
"That's just it. I don't know. I'm a bit afraid that he's going to tell Mike he loves him. I'm still not sure that he does actually love him, but he says he does. I suppose he must know. If anyone does."
"I suppose." I could see this heading towards us, too. Like an Exocet. Skimming low over the waves. To fast to be shot down. Invisible except for its rocket trail. Ultimately destructive. And like the Atlantic Conveyor those years ago in the Falklands, we had no defences at all anyway. A couple of guard ships, our parents. I didn't know what might happen. But I was scared of it. My tone of voice must have got through. Just in those two words.
"Are you OK, Chris?"
I swallowed my fears. If Nigel wanted to help Andy, to be his big brother. And if Andy wanted him to be his big brother, then I wasn't going to argue. "Just worried in case, well, if it all goes, er, I don't want to." I stopped suddenly. Then "You have to do this, don't you." Not a question. A statement.
"I think so, yes. If I can."
"Then I'm with you. Only... "
"Only 'be careful'?"
"That's about it, yes. Nigel, I love you. Make sure helping Andy doesn't hurt us, OK?"
We lapsed into silence. Not morose. Comfortable silence. But the type of phone call that parents don't understand. The idea of paying BT to say nothing to each other wasn't really a thing that Mum could agree with. After we'd been silent for a little, there can a voice from the kitchen. "If you've finished talking to Nigel, Chris, can you come and help me get supper ready?"
"Haven't finished, Mum. You aren't listening are you?"
"Not listening, no. Just wondering who's going to pay the bill for the call if you aren't speaking."
"Sorry, Mum." Then down the phone, "Nigel I have to see you tomorrow. To talk to, I mean."
"Me, too. I couldn't stop thinking about you all day. And when I got home it was so strong... "
"Yeah. Pretending isn't the same as the real thing, though. Could you hear me thinking at you?"
"I reckon. You must have been able to hear me. I was screaming your name in my head."
"I love you."
"Love you more."
"Love you more."
"Love you more."
We were silent again. Mum called again from the kitchen. I didn't answer her, but "Nigel, I don't want to be the first to hang up."
"Nor do I."
"On three, then."
"On three." So we counted together, "one, two, three."
"You're still there," he said.
"I love you, Christopher Jenkins. I'm going to dream about you tonight."
"I'm already dreaming about you, Nigel. I can see your face as clearly as if you were standing in front of me. I want to touch you so badly, that's all."
"At least it's Thursday."
"Well, just Friday to go and it's the weekend. And maybe, just maybe, you can sleep over on Friday night? Here I mean."
I caught my breath. Maybe I could. "Does your Mum agree?" Claire had been so supportive. My Mum was, too, come to that, though she'd taken it really hard finding out that Nigel and I were in love.
"I'll make her agree. You check it out with your parents and tell me at school tomorrow."
"I'll make sure I can come. Plan for it. And Nigel?"
"Yes, my love?" Ooh that still sounded soppy, but lovely, too.
"I asked Dad that question."
"He laughed like a drain about the condoms! He doesn't know if they come in different sizes either! But he came up trumps over the lubricant."
"I like your Dad. What is it."
"I'll show you tomorrow."
"I hope you're all mended?"
"I think so."
"Damn I can't get off this phone. Plus I've gone hard!"
"I suppose you're not somewhere private?"
"I'm in the hall!"
"Tell you tomorrow, lover!" Not as soppy as 'my love', and still good.
"Nigel, my beautiful boy, I love you, but I have to hang up."
"Really this time?"
Again together, "one, two, three."
There wasn't a click from the other end. "You're still there," I said.
"Damn. Look, I love you, but I have to go."
"I do as well."
"Then let's hang up?"
"Well you haven't."
"Nor have you."
It had to happen. We'd have been on that phone all evening if it hadn't. "Look Nigel, I have to hang up. I'm going to do it. Now. I love you." I nearly did it. Only I didn't. "I'll see you tomorrow. Properly? Please?"
"Of course. Now let's try and hang up. I love you. Now?
At least I hung up! I wondered if he did. I picked up the phone again to listen. Dial tone. But I suppose it would have been. I'd made the call. I'd hung up.
I missed him already. But there was an evening to have.
And permission to get to sleep over. I wondered if I could do that. Get the permission.
Normally it would have been easy enough. But this was asking permission to sleep with my boyfriend, and somehow it seemed different. After supper I thought. After supper I'd ask. Dad would want to know how school had gone. I'd told Mum, but he wasn't home yet. I reckoned he'd have been thinking about us, me anyway, all day while he was at work.
"Are you going to come and help me with supper?" Mum was calling from the kitchen.
It wasn't special. Dinner. It was a nice enough evening. And Dad had been worrying. Well, thinking about me, anyway. The 'can I sleep at Nigel's tomorrow' bit went well. I was surprised. Mum didn't even manage to look tense about it. Or managed not to look tense about it. She just got me to pack a bag of everything I needed, and told me not to outstay my welcome with the Croppers on the Saturday. I was amazed. Pleased too. But I had no idea whether I should go overboard in thanking her, or just treat it as normal.
I treated it as normal. Then I hugged her. "Can I call Nigel and tell him?"
"Go on," Dad said. "Five minutes, no more.
"Hello?" Nigel picked the phone up before I heard it ring.
"I can come. And how did you answer so quickly?"
"I've been sitting by the phone, idiot"
"Why? I was going to tell you tomorrow!"
"I've been trying not to call you to ask if you were allowed to come." I could hear him smiling stupidly. I loved that silly smile.
I had one myself. "I couldn't wait. I mean I was going to, but I couldn't. So I called."
"Get off the phone!" Dad, from the living room.
"Not five minutes yet, Dad!"
"Make sure then!"
"I heard that," Nigel said down the phone. "We'll have all the time we want tomorrow."
"I don't suppose your parents have friends to go and see?"
"I don't suppose they do, no. This is real life, Chris, not a soppy story. Get a grip!"
"Just what I had in mind."
"Awful boy! Me, too."
"Listen, I really do have to go before I get shouted at again. You know what Dad's like over money."
"I've an idea. We aren't much different. Nothing much to spare."
"I do want to see you in school too."
"Yeah, as long as you don't kiss me! Well not at school, anyway!"
"Hmm. Well. Tomorrow night then. Only I want to do more than that!"
"Yes Dad. I know." Five minutes seemed to go in a flash. "Nigel... "
"I heard. Love you." And he'd gone without waiting for an answer. I stared at the phone open mouthed. You know on the TV when someone hangs the phone up, and you always hear dial tone? Nothing. Silence. But I didn't rattle the phone and yell 'hello, hello', down it.
I went back to watch television. Well to look at though I was watching television. Soap opera. Eastenders. All human misery was there. Mum liked it.
"Everything OK?" Dad asked.
"Yes, thanks." It felt really odd arranging to meet my lover. I just had to try to think of it as going round to a mate's house for a lark. Not, well, not to spend the night in his arms. I tried to dive into the evening's programmes. Bedtime couldn't come soon enough. Well I didn't have bedtimes any more. An actual bedtime hadn't existed since I was about eleven. But I thought that the sooner I went to bed, the sooner it would be morning.
The evening dragged. Thursday nights have always dragged. There's always been something very odd about Thursdays. This Thursday was especially tough. Well, not tough so much as tedious. I don't remember how long it took to get to sleep.
I had a bath and got into bed at around ten, maybe a quarter past.
I looked at my clock at eleven. Again at midnight.
I was lying there, trying to clear my mind. Trying so hard to clear my mind of all thoughts. Failing. Every time I managed a clear picture of Nigel's face I got a picture fading to Andy. Something about that kid was getting at me in the back of my mind. I knew I could do nothing about it. I knew it wasn't Nigel I was worried about. Just niggling worries.
They'd gone by morning. The worries. The alarm went off at about seven fifteen. I was up, washed and dressed by twenty past, and down for breakfast. Then I came back upstairs. I took inordinate trouble with my hair. Stupid. It wasn't my hair he loved.
I got to school ages early, too. I cycled. It was easier than lugging the bag of clothes and schoolwork on foot, and it gave me some transport when I was at Nigel's. It doesn't take long to cycle a mile and a half. Especially of you're pedalling like the wind, even if you've got great knobbly mountain bike tyres. Almost no-one was around. I was half an hour too early.
I put my bike in the racks, and locked it to them. No-one ever trusted anyone else. Then I went a put the clothes bag into my locker, and set off to do some serious hanging around the gate, waiting for Nigel. Of course I didn't see him before some others arrived. Pete Spencer, one of John's mates I'd had lunch with, came and chatted to me, then we were joined by John.
"You two coming to assembly?"
"Gonna hang about for Nigel, John," I answered.
"Yeah?" He sounded surprised
I got my brain into gear. "I wanted to find out how he got along with Celia yesterday!"
"Oh yeah! See you later!" And he and Pete went off.
I felt a bit of a prat after that. Standing near the gate. Waiting. But he turned up at last. Just in time. "I feel dead stupid." Damn I so wanted to take him into my arms and kiss him. My heart started to beat weirdly and I was getting breathless. He had that effect on me, sometimes even when I just thought about him!
"Why?" Oh that smile.
"I've been standing here like a great girl waiting to see you. I nearly made a fool of myself."
"Well John and Pete came and chatted, and I said I was waiting for you."
"So?" He sounded so happy, so confident.
"Well I got nervous. Inside that is."
"Well I said I wanted to find out how you got on with Celia!"
"Idiot! If you must know I got on very well with her."
"Yep, she's very sweet."
"Assembly!" I wasn't going to be teased. Not any more. "I'm not going to be teased by you today!"
"Come on, then. We'll be late." He had a major spring in his step as we headed through the warm autumn morning to the buildings, across the tarmac of the school yard. It felt so good just to be with him. The sun rose when he came into sight. My sun rose. I hoped his sun rose when he saw me, too.
We ended up in the end of a row in assembly. No-one special around. Nothing special going on. Just sitting, standing up for the hymn, sitting again to listen to the announcements. A match, on Saturday. Rugby.
"Are you in that?" I whispered to him.
"I think so. I'll need to check."
"I'm coming to watch."
"You don't like rugby."
"I do now, OK?"
Silent for the rest of the few minutes, then we dispersed to our lessons. Nigel one way and me another. We weren't in the same sets for much, though we were in the same year. The lessons weren't important, which ones, I mean, though we went through our Physics homework. I found where I'd gone wrong. Stupid detail. Unlike me. I usually got stuff like that perfectly right. I hated to be beaten by simple problems.
I was still being given the cold shoulder by Carol, though. Not nasty so much as cold. Just cold. We still sat next to each other in Mrs Marchmont's French class. It was difficult but not impossible to be next to her. But she looked steadfastly at the board, or at her work. Still, I simply did the same, and got on with my own work. I wished it were Nigel I sat next to. Wished he were in the sets I was in for things. Idly I doodled on my pad while Mrs Marchmont was going round the class with conversation. I found I'd doodled little hearts and stars all round the edge of the pad. All entwined with the initials 'NC'.
"Very sweet." Carol. She was talking to me. Well whispering at least. "The doodle."
"Yeah, well." I felt all shy suddenly. "I wish we were talking again."
"Sorry, Chris. I didn't mean to shut you out."
"Les petits enfants la!" Damn. Mrs Marchmont. We shut up before she shouted at us. I did pass Carol a note. 'Please can we talk soon?' She read it and nodded.
Mind you, I wasn't sure quite what to talk about. I just knew I needed to talk to her. I was much happier as I sat through the rest of the lesson, though. I spent some of the rest of the time looking at the doodles on the desk itself. There were a few new ones. I was tempted to add my initials in a heart with Nigel's! Tempted, but not enough to succumb. It wouldn't have been, well, sensible. Saw a new one though. A new doodle with a set of initials in a heart. It didn't strike me at the time who it was. Not then. But my brain absorbed it as information. Me and my ability to concentrate on seemingly useless details.
It became break at last. At long last. The bell went. And as usual Mrs Marchmont seemed totally oblivious to it. It seemed like forever before she let us go. Carol waited for me this time. Didn't rush off. "I... " We both began at once. "Sorry... " We did it again. I got in first. "You speak."
"I don't know what to say, Carol."
"Yeah, well, me too, I suppose." It was a watery smile.
"I think I need to say a huge 'thank you', but it doesn't seem adequate. I mean you, er, you're, you were, are, well, wonderful." It was lame. I knew it was lame. There was nothing I could say that would be adequate.
"You look happy, Chris."
"I think I am. I really think I am. Oh, that sounds bad. I was happy before as well. Just different." We were walking slowly along the corridor, going nowhere really. Lockers and a change of books and files for the next lessons were the ultimate target.
"How will you cope with, oh, what's the word? Logistics?"
"Of course. You couldn't know."
"Well we've told our parents."
"Wow!" She looked as amazed as I'd imagined she would. "What did they say?"
"Dad was fine. Nigel's parents were amazing. But Mum was horrified. Horrible for a while."
"For a while?"
So I told her all that had gone on, only the five minute version. It brought parts of it back to life for me. "Poor you, Chris."
"I was more worried about Nigel. How he was taking Mum going ballistic. She said some horrible things."
"So did I, I seem to remember."
"Yeah, well you had a right to. Still do."
"That's just it, Chris. I don't. I mean I don't understand why two boys want to make love to each other, but I can see how much you are both in love, and I can see how that leads to making love. But it's still not something I understand. I can accept it, probably because it's you. And because Nigel is truly awesome, too, come to that. But I can't get my head round the physical stuff."
"You were there, though."
"Don't remind me! I felt so bad about that. Er... "
"Well, I was so pleased to be there, too, kind of. Made me see that it is real between you. You were so complete with each other. I felt something then. Something I can't give you, not if I try for my whole life."
I gave her a hug. Stopped her in the corridor and gave her a huge, all enveloping hug. "I'll always love you, Carol. Always."
"I'll never stop loving you either. Never. It just took me a few days to stop being in love with you. But, Christopher Jenkins, I will always, always love you."
"Means a lot to me. I was afraid I'd lost you as a friend."
"I just couldn't talk. That was all."
We carried on towards the lockers. I still hadn't had a chance to talk to Nigel properly, except for bumping into him before assembly. I had a thought. "I have to check the match team lists."
"You? In a match?"
"No. Nigel. He may be playing tomorrow. And I'm staying with him tonight. So I may be coming to watch him play. Listen, I'll see you later?"
"Oh there are people asking about you and me already!"
"I know. I'm just telling them that we aren't going out any more."
"Perfect. Me too." And we parted. Me to the match noticeboards, and I suppose she to the lockers.
I checked all the match lists. There he was. Playing wing. I never knew what position he played, just that he was good. Winger. The chance for glory. And to get broken. Just then I wished he played somewhere safe, like second row.
I didn't get to see him that break. Just two lessons to go before lunch. Geography was the first. I'd traded my books at my locker and got to the Geography room just in time. I always seemed to be in the same lessons as Carol. She was just that bit brighter than me in every subject. But I gave her a run for her money. Except the spark had sort of gone out of it a bit. It didn't seem so much fun trying to beat her now we weren't going out together. Not so exciting watching her face if I did. Not that it was a frequent thing, beating her. We sat apart in Geography. Alphabetical order.
School routine and ritual was already well settled in my brain. It was already automatic on the second day of term to go from place to place almost mindlessly. Laughing with the people on the way. Making mindless jokes about teachers. Whatever the next lesson was, I saw that heart again with its initials. Newly inked in on the desk. It reminded me of something. One of those 'It's on the tip of my tongue' somethings. Only it wasn't.
I very nearly added that heart with NC inscribed in it! I wanted to declare my love for Nigel. Only it was a dangerous thing to do. Even to think of doing. There was a great tradition of homophobia at school. I'd almost been openly homophobic myself. It was corny, I suppose, but looking back I think now that I was always ready to meet Nigel. Only any earlier and I might not have been able to accept it, and any later I might have felt the same.
It had been the right timing. And the right circumstances. And, well, I had to admit it, I'd been curious. Not the 'checking other boys out in the showers' curious. More an 'I wonder what it's like' curious.
As the bell rang for lunch I made my way to the cafeteria. Nigel was sitting with John Simpson, and I went over to join them. They were talking about Celia. Celia and her swoop on Nigel yesterday. Nigel wasn't protesting. 'not my type. Very pretty but not my type' were the words that drifted softly from his end of the table down to mine.
"Hi, Chris" John looked up, pleased to see me, I thought.
"Mind if I join you?"
"Hoping you would. Oh are you back with Carol again?"
"Well, we're friends, always will be. Why do you ask?"
"That rather long hug you gave her in break," John said.
"Well, we split up, but, oh it's hard to explain... "
"Leave him alone, John," Nigel teased, "anyone would think you were after Carol!"
"What if I am?"
"You mean you are?" Nigel was getting ready for a full blown tease. I could sense it.
"It's fine by me," I added. "We're cool about the way we are."
"She'd never look at me, though." John looked wistful.
"I'll introduce you, if you like! Heck I introduced Celia to Nigel, I can introduce you to Carol!"
And the conversation moved to the match on Saturday. It was going to be a tough game. First of the season, and the ground was still really too hard for rugger. Being tackled wasn't going to be much fun. Nor was tackling. John played scrum half, and he and Nigel had some pretty sneaky blind side tactics all worked out. Tactics I could discuss with them until the cows came home. Theory was fine. Doing it wasn't
"You coming to watch?" John looked up from the sketches he was drawing on the tabletop with the salt.
"Yeah, I thought I would. I'm going to Nigel's place tonight, so I reckoned I'd come over with him."
"Don't suppose you'd ask Carol to come and watch?"
"You suppose right. You ask her!"
The agony. Sitting chatting with Nigel, his friend - my new friends now - but not talking to him. That was the way it had to be, I thought. Nothing obvious. Nothing to show a single thing about how I felt for him. Damn he was good at hiding what he felt for me. So good I could hardly stand it. But he'd had two years of concealing it already. He'd already practised not acknowledging me. It was actually dead cool to be with his group.
"Hey, if you're going over to Nigel's tonight, maybe we could all get together and watch a video?"
That was the last thing I wanted. Or needed. And if I was to watch a video with Nigel then I wanted to have my arms round him, and his round me.
"Can we make that another evening, John?" Heck, that was a simple question. I wondered why I hadn't thought of it myself.
"Sure, next weekend maybe?"
"Sounds good," Nigel said. "It'll be a return for the night at your place!"
"I ought to ask Mum if that could be at my place I reckon," I added.
"That'd be good. OK," John got up to go. "I guess I'll see you guys later."
A couple of others followed him. It left me alone and Nigel alone. I mean he was at one end of the table and I was at the other. When I looked at him I knew he was just a boy. Special to me, sure, but just a boy. And I knew I loved him. But I couldn't work out how to be with him. We kind of sat in silence for ages. I found I was starting to stare. He smiled. "Coming?"
"Yeah." Not that I knew where we were going. Didn't matter. Except that I couldn't hold his hand, or kiss him, or just stare stupidly into those bright blue eyes, or run my fingers through his beautiful hair. Oh I wanted to do all that.
I wished that loving boys was, well, acceptable. I knew it wasn't seen as normal. I wondered how anything that felt so right could be anything other than normal, but I knew it wasn't. But walking with him I wanted to show the world how much he meant to me. And have him show how much I meant to him.
We didn't go anywhere special. Just far enough away from people. "I thought I'd never get you on your own, my love." Oh that still sounded soppy and wonderful. I wanted to kiss him.
"I couldn't see how either. And when John wanted to come round this evening I could have died."
"Sometimes we'll need to have friends round too, you know."
"Yeah, I'm glad it's not tonight, though."
"Oh yes. I have plans for you tonight."
Only there wasn't time to do any guessing, because people were moving across the yard to be nearer to us, and it was pretty nearly time to go in anyway. As we headed for the lockers to get the books for the afternoon, Andy came running up. "Can I talk to you? After school? Please?"
He looked concerned. Urgent. There was an urgency in his voice.
"Sure. Walk with us a little?"
"Chris is coming with me tonight. Does that matter, Andy?"
"Look, he's part of it, OK? Him and me together."
"Well, OK, only, well, yeah. OK. I remember."
"Listen, meet us at the gate after lessons, and we'll walk and talk."
"OK, thanks." He didn't sound less urgent, but he sounded happier.
Lessons dragged. History, then maths. Nothing special. Same sets as Carol as usual. Not the same set as Nigel. As usual. The only lesson he and I had together was PSE. Odd subject. Just becoming fashionable I suppose. We were learning about sexuality, or all things And that was on Tuesdays.
We got to the end of the afternoon, and I picked up all I needed from the locker, and the bag of overnight things, too, and got my bike from the racks. It was always a pain coiling the locking cable back up. I pushed it towards the gate, and found Nigel and Andy. Waiting for me.
"Hey, good idea to bring your bike," Nigel said. "Come on, lets walk with Andy for a while."
"I feel embarrassed," Andy said.
"No need. You found me with my arms round Chris, remember?"
"Look, would it help if I weren't here?"
"Stay with us, Chris. Andy needs more than one big brother, you know."
"Nigel, you know you said you were in love with Chris when you were my age?"
"What did it feel like?"
"At first it was weird."
"What do you mean?"
"At first I found I was looking out to see him. Looking across the school grounds to see him. Oddly drawn to him but not knowing why. I don't know what I would have done if he'd spoken to me, Andy. I'd probably have run away, scared."
"Because it felt scary. It was like that for ages. I got all tingly inside when I saw him. When he walked towards me I hid from him."
"Yes. Especially as he didn't know I existed. He was always with Carol. Anyway, I found I was thinking about him every moment of the day. I'd never really spoken to him. Wasn't possible. We weren't; in the same sets for anything, and we didn't hang out together. But I felt I knew him. Wished I knew him, too. My heart started to pound when he was near me. Made me breathless. I started doing daft things, too."
"Well, we had new desks a while ago. But some of the old ones are still around. I used to put my initials and his all twined together, just hoping somehow that he'd see, that he'd realise, that he'd come to talk to me about it. Even if he came over and hit me, that would have been OK. Yeah. Even if he'd hit me."
"I feel like that, too."
"Are you sure?" I asked because Nigel had said he doubted that Andy was in love. He'd said he thought he was just experimenting. I caught the look on Andy's face. "Sorry. Stupid thing to ask. Of course you're sure."
"Yes." He looked at the floor. "I do." His eyes met mine, met them fiercely. "It was seeing how happy you are that made realise it, I think. I do. I love him. I love Mike."
"But there's a problem?" Nigel was looking very serious.
"Yes. There is."
"Well, now I'm sure I love him, I don't know what to do next."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. I didn't either."
"So what do I do?"
"There isn't an answer, Andy. Not one single answer."
"I want to tell, him. Oh Nigel I want to tell him so much... "
Nigel was silent for a while. Quite a long while. Then, "I think I'd keep it to myself for a while."
"But I want to tell him!"
"Andy, think. Wait and think. If he loves you back, then fine, but what's the probability of that?"
"You did. You told Chris!"
"Oh shit. It was different, somehow."
"I don't now how to explain it. I need to think."
"I have to tell him, Nigel."
"Will you wait a while?"
"I have to tell him. I do!" and Andy ran off. "I do!" I could hear his voice breaking into sobs.
"Go after him!"
"You have a bike. Go after him!"
But it was too late. He'd gone like the wind and turned into a house. There was no way to follow him there.
I got back to Nigel. "Couldn't"
"Well, I suppose we just have to hope he's OK. I mean I can't turn up on his doorstep and say 'Hi Mrs Giles, I'm here to advise your son how to tell Mike that he loves him' exactly, can I."
"Was that really how you felt?"
"Yeah. I did hide from you."
There were too many people about. I needed to kiss him. Too many people. I gave him what I fondly imagined to be a warm, loving look.
"Have you got something in your eye?" He was looking at me quizzically.
"No! I was trying to look lovingly at you! I want to kiss you and there are too many people about. Heck even one is too many."
"You look a bit like a lost sheep!"
"Oh great!" I was laughing, nearly embarrassed, but happy. "My na-a-a-a-a-ame is Chri-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-is," I bleated to him. My mind wandered back to Andy. "Will he be all right? Andy?"
"I hope so. I still think he's copying us a bit."
"Can't say exactly. Something's too sort of easy about it. No, not easy. Oh I don't know. I wonder if it's just that I was so scared and he seems so determined?"
"If you'd found two boys in bed when you were his age, would that have made you braver?"
"And made me come and tell you? Maybe. But what would you have done?" We were nearing his house, about to turn into his road.
"I think I'd have been scared."
"Yes, but what would you have done?"
I thought back over the past couple of years. All I could see was Carol and me. "I think I'd have laughed at you."
"Not hit me?"
"Me? Hit you?" I was astounded. He was so much stronger than I was. Always had been. "No. Not that."
"But you'd have told other people?"
"Oh yes. And laughed at you in public. And made your life hell. Yes, all of that."
"I know. I couldn't risk that then. I didn't even know exactly what it was I was feeling for you. I couldn't get ridiculed, worse maybe, for being wrong."
"But in France?"
"You were worth risking everything for, Chris. I had to know. Even if you did something to destroy me, I had to know."
"I'd been wondering, in my head, you know, about what it would be like with a boy. I mean I didn't know what it was like with a girl, not exactly. But I'd been, well, ready to listen, I suppose. Lucky!"
"I knew the moment I felt you soften as you showed me how to kiss. And then tense again. You felt so strong just then. So strong. I wondered how far we could go that night."
We were at his gateway. We hadn't been walking fast, nor talking fast either. There'd been gaps when neither of us had spoken at all. Only the time had raced past. Or maybe we said more than I remember. Or walked faster.
"Is your Mum home?"
"Soon find out." And he unlocked the front door.
"Where shall I put the bike?"
"Oh yeah, round the back. Look I'll go through, you go round. Give me the bag, though."
I met him at the back door. "Mum's not in," he said. And then he was overwhelmed. "Mmmphhhh". No-one can talk when someone else's tongue is reaching for their tonsils. No-one.
We broke apart.
"I was trying to say 'but Dad is' when you assaulted me just then!" Nigel was half laughing, half blushing.
"Ah. Er, yes. Er hello James." I was bright crimson. Hot. Flustered. "Sorry."
"Don't be," he said softly. "It doesn't upset me. It seems a little strange, because Nigel was my little boy in my mind still until a few days ago. But I don't mind. Truly."
"Yeah, well I'm still sorry." I was still flushed with confusion.
"Never mind. You'll have to get used to it. Not being sorry, I mean." James was smiling.
"Dad, what are you doing home so early?"
"Skiving off," James answered him. "listen do you two have any homework? If so get it done before supper, OK?"
"OK. Oh, I'm in the match tomorrow."
"Knew you would be. We'll come and watch if you like?"
"Chris is coming to watch too. He might be glad of the company." Then to me, "come on. You can show me how to do my maths." And led me up to the desk crushed into the corner of his room. Where the wasn't any room for anything at all. It was all taken up with is computer.
"Wish I had a PC."
"It's not so grand."
"What do you mean 'not so grand'? We can't even think of having one."
"Well, Dad got it in 1991 when he was out of work. I suppose it was a bit special then."
"Bought a computer when he was out of work? That's mad!"
"Not when you see the number of letters he was writing, and the number of rejection letters he got. It all made sense. It got him his job."
"Well, put like that... Anyway it's cool. Can we look at the internet?"
"Not until tomorrow, if we get time. Dad doesn't like me using the phone line when it's not weekend cheap rates."
I was a bit disappointed. He'd told me a little about the chap he'd talked to on the, what was it, 'chat site' to learn a bit more about his sexual orientation. I wondered if I needed to do it as well. But then I remembered what he'd said the bloke had said. Something like 'Most people aren't adult enough to admit that they are attracted to people of both sexes. Very few are only attracted to one sex. And your preferences may change.' It was something like that, anyway. And, 'you should never take a label to yourself. Gay, straight, bisexual, these are all society's labels. And society expects you to behave in a certain way. Straight men shout at football matches, Gay men dress in pink angora sweaters and tight PVC trousers and walk with a mince. Instead be yourself. And realise that it is the person that you love, not the gender. Gender is just an accessory. Apparatus. And boys and girls have very similar apparatus. Girls wear theirs inside, boys on the outside. That's all.' It had almost been engraved into my brain.
"You're miles away, Chris."
"Sorry. I was just remembering what you said about internet advice. The guy you, er, is 'met' the right word?"
"It'll do! He may be online tomorrow. If we get time, OK."
"He made sense, at least the stuff you told me made sense. Makes sense."
"What, 'gender is an accessory'? That stuff?"
"Well, I've never been at all attracted to a girl," he said slowly. "Only to you, come to that. Not to any other boy."
"Well in passing I've found boys cute, you know. But that's all. What I mean is, you'd know more than I do about gender and apparatus. With Carol I mean," he added lamely.
"It's getting too deep for me. This philosophy stuff."
"Yeah. Look, let's get the homework out of the way. What have you got?"
So we worked our way through his maths, my maths and we each had some French to do as well. Poor Nigel. He wasn't hugely good at maths. With different teaching, with someone who could explain it, then maybe. He just didn't grasp the simple stuff. So I tried to help. Only I wasn't a good teacher either.
It took a while to finish. Especially as there wasn't room for two boys at one desk, and since we were sitting to close together that it was exciting. At last we were done. It wasn't the best homework I'd ever done. It wasn't too bad either. But it was done.
"Just," he said.
"Come and kiss me."
By which time I was flat on my back on the bed being pinned down by a blond god. And my blond god was trying to take my shirt off while he was lying on top of me. I was just gripping him to me, running my hands up and down his strong back, fighting his tongue, sucking it into my mouth, pulling him to crush me. My adorable boy. "Chris," he whispered, pulling back form me, "I want you so badly. So badly... "
"Have we time?"
"Not for what I have in mind. I reckon we have ten minutes before supper."
"Just hold me, Chris. I need to touch you, kiss you. I need to believe you're real... "
"I'm real enough. I'm the fella who's shown you how to do that maths!"
"You know what I mean."
I did. I pulled him back down onto my chest, looked him in his beautiful blue eyes, "Nigel Cropper, I love you so much I feel like crying when I'm near you."
"Crying. You make me feel weak all over. Strong, too." And I kissed the tip of his nose. And he relaxed onto me, completely flattening me onto the bed. Flatter if possible than before. 'Good' doesn't do how it felt justice. Glorious. The scent of Nigel, a scent I'd missed so much, even for the short time we'd been in school. The feel of his body against mine. The taste of his breath as I breathed in as he breathed out
"I adore you," I heard him whisper as he raised himself on his hands. "Adore you."
I was about to reply when a call from downstairs announced supper. Nothing formal. A nice meal on laps in front of the TV. And Coronation Street to watch later. Better than Eastenders! Mum was an addict for both programmes. Claire just watched Coronation Street.
The phone rang about halfway through, just after the adverts. "I'll get it," James said, and he went into the hall. Then "Nigel! It's John, for you!"
I didn't pay it much heed. Nigel went out to the phone, James came back in. Only I didn't expect Nigel to be still talking to John when the programme ended. Nor to be still on the phone at the next advert break.
"Go out and nudge him, Chris," Claire suggested. So I did.
In the hall Chris was sitting, looking very thoughtful. Not saying much. Listening. Occasionally grunting and acknowledgement. He put his finger to his lips. Whatever I was going to say died unspoken. He made pencil and paper movements. I nodded, slipped past him on the stairs, and came back down. He held out his hand.
He crooked the receiver against his left shoulder and wrote jerkily "Andy phoned Mike and told him."
I took the pen and wrote back, "So why is John on the phone?"
Nigel was writing again. "Andy told Mike I'd told him not to tell him." It needed a full stop somewhere, that sentence.
I pointed to my question again.
He wrote, "John wants to know where I fit in."
He held up his hand, a signal to wait. "Yeah, OK, John. I will. Tomorrow. Listen, I'm not going to say anything to anyone, OK. Don't you yet, either." And he hung up.
"What? What's happened?" I needed to know.
"Andy phoned Mike and told him he loved him."
"Yes, you said."
"Mike was shocked and told John."
"Well Andy said quite a lot." My blood ran cold.
"What did he say?"
"I don't know, but my name came up, so John called me to ask what I knew."
"More to the point, what does John know? And what did he say about Andy?"
"John was quite easy going about it. But he always protects Mike. And Mike was shocked."
"But Andy and Mike have been mucking about together, kind of trying sex out?"
"Maybe Mike's scared that will all come out. I don't know."
"So what's going to happen tomorrow?"
"John wants to talk to me. Find out what I said, I think."
"It won't get out, will it? About us I mean?"
"I don't know, Chris."
I was worried. "I'm not ready to tell people." Then I saw his face. Tired, suddenly. "You aren't either, are you?"
"No, Chris. No. I'm not."
I sat down on the stair beside him and put my arm round his shoulders. "We'll be fine. Even if we have to go public"
"I think the phrase is 'come out'."
"Whatever the phrase is, I love you. And nothing will ever change it. Nothing. Do you understand?"
"I know. I'm just scared suddenly." Then he looked at me twisting round to look me in the yes. "Andy! What must Andy be feeling?"
"Not tonight, Nigel. You can't do anything anyway."
"I know, but... "
I didn't answer. I kissed him on the cheek.
"Oh Christopher. I feel responsible for it all somehow. For Andy... "
"But if I hadn't crept into bed with you, fallen asleep with my arms around you... "
"Something else would have happened. Andy would have told Mike something some day. He just chose tonight."
"You're right, of course. But it doesn't feel any easier."
"Can we go to your room?"
"I should think so."
"Come on, then. I need to hold you tight."
"Yeah." My lovely boy looked scared.
"Upstairs. The morning will take care of itself."
We'd made it to his room. And I held him tight. Just held him. He felt so tense, so taut. I wasn't any less scared of the next day myself. Only I had Nigel to look after. And for once I was going to take my turn doing it.
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