Intense interest focused on the World Cup Rugby--the upcoming match between the South African Springboks and the Aussies. The winner would play France in the final. It would be no fun for Brett to watch the game at home alone, so I invited him to share the excitement with my folks, Graham and me at my place. We made so much noise barracking for the Wallabies the entire neighborhood could easily have heard us. It sure didn't help the `Boks, though. We creamed them. The match was telecast from England quite late our time and by mid morning Graham had expired; depleted of his last drop of energy. As I gathered the little guy in my arms before taking him home, he opened his eyes and nodded approvingly before falling fast asleep again. Tender moments like that really brought home just how much my little bro meant to me.
Swim training next day had already been cancelled in anticipation of the late night football, and students were allowed to wear civvies instead of the school uniform. I rocked up in my Billabong boardies, a loose t-shirt and Biotribe sandals.
At recess, Brett invited me to chill after school in his room for a while. I eagerly accepted as I did any and all opportunities to spend time with my best mate.
While I sat on his bed the door opened unexpectedly and there stood the infamous boyfriend about whom I'd yet to hear anything complimentary. "So, Kyle, are you also a wanker like Brett?" he sneered. I was at a loss to know which way to look or how to respond to his insult. Then Brett told the guy: "Fuck off out of my room, dickhead".
"Who do you think you're talking to?" the boyfriend demanded with a snarl; eyes ablaze.
"You, you prick. Now get out."
Actually, I was the one to get out and head home. The boyfriend was madder than a hornet. Thick veins popped from his strong neck and arms. For a moment, I expected an all-in brawl. Brett suggested I leave and promised to call around to my house later.
"What was all that about?" I asked as he followed me down the hall to my room.
"He's a fuckwit."
"So what's the story about me being a wanker?"
"Okay, so you're no brain surgeon, Kyle, but I don't need to elaborate. I hate that bastard."
"He ever beat up on you?"
"Let's drop it. I could've stayed home if I wanted to talk about him."
Next time Brett visited, he brought his school books along. Exams were due soon and study was our major priority. Conversation was minimal except for our quizzing each other about the science text. I suggested he was a real brainbox but he insisted his knowledge was the result of hard study. In any event, I discovered a different side to my mate: serious but without the aggro mood. I also found his handwriting impressive; unusually neat, with little side notes made at the edges of each page.
I walked Brett home that day, babbling on about how grateful I was for his friendship and that I should compliment him more often. But his mind was elsewhere. He remained pretty much incommunicado and elusive. He thanked me for the night, then disappeared through his front door, leaving me to try and unravel the mystery of the secretive and moody teen.
He and Susan joined my dad, Graham, Stuart and me at the beach next day. The surf was up big time; six-foot swells battled a stiff offshore wind as the mountains of blue/green struggled determinedly forward, peaking to perfection. Stuart disappeared into green rooms with incredible regularity while Graham rode anything and everything that came his way. One big wave unceremoniously dumped the grommet. We held our breath as his board soared into the air then threatened to clobber his head on its wild downward spiral. Luckily, he ducked just in time. Unfazed, the fearless little guy paddled out for more merciless punishment.
Happy to leave the risk-taking to us younger guys, my dad chose his rides carefully. Melanie, by contrast, styled impressively. Sometimes she acted more like a boy than a girl. Maybe it was an equality of the sexes thing with her. But she was one helluva surfer chick, and always made me proud to be her guy.
Studying with Brett in my room became routine as the exams drew closer. One evening, my dad gave Brett a friendly punch on the arm as he arrived, making it clear that he had great affection for my friend. Brett also had great respect for my dad; a man's man. "Kyle has good taste in friends, Brett. You're welcome here anytime."
Study wasn't limited to reading and taking notes, though. Brett and I quizzed each other and discussed the whys and wherefores of what we learned. It helped us not only to understand the material but also why it was part of the syllabus. And there was another bonus: we enjoyed each other's company immensely.
On the weekend, I organized a barbecue to which I invited the guys on the swim team. Guests included Brett and Susan, Jolly Jim (the only black guy), Stuart and his girl, Maurice and a bud from his school, Melanie, Frank and his girl, and, of course, the precocious star of the show, Graham. The grommet brought a cute little blonde beach groupie, one of his many admirers. His black hair was spiked with gel and he wore tight black jeans, a white open-neck shirt which hung loose, and sneakers. He timed his arrival with the precision of a Hollywood star so we'd all notice, and he gave us that "shuddup" look before we got a chance to fire a million questions. But we all happily ensured that he and his girl felt welcome and at one with the older crowd.
My folks went out for the night, trusting us teens to do our thing without adult supervision. They were not disappointed. My respect for them would never allow me to provoke their disapproval.
The new millennium was just six weeks away. Two triple zero had a special magic about it as though it had the potential to instantly transform the world into a better place. "Everyone is focusing on it," I said to Brett. "It might be a good time for people to discard their old baggage and take a whole new look at things, and start fresh. I know that's supposed to happen every New Year but maybe people might think more about it this time round."
"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, Kyle. Right now, we got a technology paper to worry about."
Our attention was also on plans we had for summer vacation. Hiking Wollumbin and Nightcap National Parks was one. Another was a swim meet organized by the school's "old boys".
The meet took place after our English Lit exam on a Friday afternoon. Mitch Match and his goons were present to watch me swim like a stone. "Hey, Brett," Mitch yelled after seeing my bud thrash two of the old boys in the butterfly, "great swim, dude. Well done for beating Kyle!" Brett was red faced. So was I but bit my tongue and tried to ignore the blimp's sarcasm.
Frank won the freestyle by a split second ahead of Brett. I arrived fourth behind Jim. It just wasn't my day. Constant smartass comments from Mitch and his brain surgeons made me increasingly furious. So too was Frank, who strode up to the gang of dimwits in the stand to deliver his angry ultimatum. "Hey, you guys, swim or shut the fuck up." When Frank was mad, nobody argued. One of Mitch's arrogant morons piped up: "Hey, I can beat Kyle."
Frank put the guy in the breast-stroke. I preferred backstroke but Frank declined my request. I lost by two lengths. That embarrassment inspired Mitch and his goon squad to launch into another barrage of puerile abuse while the cocky swimmer paraded around like he'd won a gold medal.
"Hey, what happened," Brett asked. "Did you feel sorry for that dude or something? You should've creamed that race, Kyle."
"Maybe, maybe not."
"Those guys are really getting to you, huh?"
"Nope. I'm just swimming like a jerk."
"Thanks. I needed that."
"Whoa! You said it, not me."
"Yeah, well, whatever."
"Don't get mad at me," Brett snapped. "I'm on your side."
"You're mad at me. I can tell."
"No, I'm mad at myself for thinking for one second I might get some support from a best mate."
"I don't believe what you're saying, Kyle. You're being a jerk."
"Yep, a real little jerkoff."
"Shit, Kyle, you need to cool off before we say things to each other we don't mean."
Instead of clubbing that night, we all gathered at the Mall pizza restaurant. I'd calmed down by then and was once more my normal happy self. Melanie's company helped a stack--she was almost always cheerful and an inspiration to be likewise, and so did the thought of sleeping over at Brett's. He escorted Susan home early because of an argument between them.
As we undressed down to our boxers for bed, Brett asked if Melanie and I had intercourse yet.
"You know what I think?"
"I'm gonna hear it anyway."
"I think you're scared you won't live up to her expectations. It's all in your head, mate."
"What was the argument with Susan about?"
"Don't change the subject, Kyle. Besides, I don't talk about the fights I have with Susan."
"You're pissed off. I guess you were looking forward to a night of lovemaking."
"Well, at least you called it `lovemaking'."
We got under the covers, laid on our backs, and began talking about girls for a while. "Listen up, Kyle, sex with a girl doesn't require a degree. You don't need to be Einstein. Even dickheads like Mitch can do it. Hmmm, maybe that was a bad example."
"That's not the point," I argued. "I know that heaps of guys fuck themselves stupid but I'm talking about Melanie."
"So? She's a girl and she likes you. She thinks you're a hunk."
"That's the problem; I've never done it before. Well, except for one time when the girl said I was fucking like a damn ferret."
Brett exploded into raucous laughter. "Okay," he said after catching his breath. "That was your first time. That's understandable."
"You don't get it, Brett. You used to go with Melanie."
"So?" he said. Then my meaning dawned on him. "Oh, I see. You're worried she might compare you with me. Is that it?"
"Kinda," I admitted.
"Listen, mate, it's not like some damn contest. It's not like the swim meet today. It's not like I win and you lose. Anyway, you're forgetting something. I don't go with Melanie any more. You're the bloke she wants."
"It's a lot to live up to, though. You're...well, you know."
"A total hunk."
"Hey, Kyle, you're pretty okay too. Don't underestimate yourself. Melanie doesn't waste her time with losers, if you know what I mean."
Two prominent bulges under the covers indicated without doubt that we each had a serious erection. The other thing I couldn't help noticing was Brett's unique and special odor, which filled my nostrils with spicy warmth and an attraction that intensified the pleasure of being close to him. However, I thought better of saying so. During the conversation, I stared at the ceiling, but Brett's face often turned towards mine; studying it for clues, maybe. "Has Melanie commented on your hazel eyes?" he asked.
"Yeah, she said they're dreamy."