Graham's nose worked overtime. The moment Brett and I arrive at my house, my little bro jumped the fence, eager to know if we were mates again. The grommet didn't stay long, though. He sensed Brett and I needed time together to heal our friendship.
Brett stayed for dinner, at my folks' invitation. It was just like old times, albeit only a week ago. But for a while there it seemed those "old times" would resist resurrection.
After the meal, we relaxed in my room, listening to music and making the occasional comment. But neither of us mentioned Stuart or Melanie. That topic was taboo for the time being.
At swim training next day, Brett and I sat in the stands to watch the juniors practice, and check for mistakes. Graham, resembling a pint-size Adonis, exited the pool and approached us. "So you guys are mates again?"
"We never stopped being mates," I asserted. "We had a fight, that's all. And that's a lot different to not being mates."
Graham, hands on hips, assumed a mock pissed-off pose. "Oh? So are you two are gonna make me your target now? Huh? You need someone to screw around and it's gonna be me? Just `cause you're not giving each other a hard time anymore? Is that it?"
Brett grabbed the cheeky grommet, tossed him with ease over his shoulder, and headed for the pool. Still carrying the protesting kid, he jumped in. A moment later, Brett exited the water holding aloft his trophy.
"Bring my Speedos back here," Graham demanded, shaking his fist, which cracked up the whole team. I was surprised he refused to leave the pool until one of his mates fetched a towel. Graham wasn't exactly under-endowed. "You better watch your back, Conan," he threatened. "Or super-glue your Speedos to your ass."
Brett phoned that night. "Hey, listen, I'm at Susan's house. Melanie's here. You wanna speak to her? She didn't phone `cause she thought you might hang up. Hey, if you're not up to it, I can tell her you're not home or something."
Melanie apologized and said she'd like us to be friends again; at least speak to each other and maybe go out sometime. I told her it would be like starting over and that I was only prepared to take it one step at a time. I asked her about Stuart: "He keeps phoning, wanting to know if we can go steady now that... But I'm not interested. You know Stuart; rejection doesn't stop his persistence."
"I thought I knew Stuart, but obviously I didn't. Anyway, babe, let's take things slowly and see how we go."
Next time Brett and I spoke was at swim training. He hadn't realized he damaged my face to that extent. "I didn't mean to give you stitches, mate, but I like the new shape."
"You didn't. Stuart did."
"You're kidding! I didn't know he hit you?"
"Is the bruise on your ribs a lucky punch too?"
"What can I say?" I shrugged. "In my vengeful rage I forgot all the boxing skills you taught me."
"I honestly didn't think that blond himbo had it in him to hit you."
"Neither did I. I thought he'd just stand there and let me demolish him. Ha!"
"He never said a word about hitting you when he phoned me."
Now that was a revelation. "Oh?"
"Yeah, he phones just to check how it's going with me. He wants to go out Friday or Saturday night. Wanna come along?"
Part of our swim training was an hour of cardio-vascular work in the school gym. It was called "the circuit", designed to improve stamina and endurance. Brett and I usually worked together on the circuit with the idea we each pushed the performance level of the other. My mate had the advantage, though. His constant skipping and boxing training placed him in the `super fit' league. The only guy capable of out-pacing Brett was Jolly Jim. He used heavier weights as well. But, bloody hell, a giant like him was expected to out-perform the rest of us anyway.
The circuit rules allowed us a minute on each piece of equipment, followed by a 30-second break. We began with the running machines which, because of our standard of fitness, were set at a steep angle and a hectic speed. Next, the lat machine that uses a weighted pulley system with a bar above our heads. We pull the bar down behind our shoulders, then again in front of our chests. That was followed by the step machine. We climb as many "floors" as possible within one minute, as if it were an endless staircase. Next, we lift weights in a curl fashion on the bicep machine. We then compete with the rowing machine itself over a one kilometer distance. That was my favorite `cause I won every time. Next, the pec machine. Brett particularly enjoyed that one. He was justly proud of his pecs.
Next, a separate circuit of sit-ups with five different sections of the abs routine. When finished, most of the guys were so sore they could hardly walk.
Despite the punishment, we also did leg-curl exercises; first for hamstrings, then quads. After that, we used the calf machine. The final exercise was cycling; pedaling for five minutes. It was supposed to be a "cool-down" drill but Brett loved to race that thing and pushed me to do the same. The guys called it the "circuit from hell". That particular week, it was more hell than usual. The school swim tour was scheduled for the following week, and all of us focused on being psyched to win.
Free weights and pull-down weights for shoulder strengthening followed the cycling, then bench and leg presses. Brett also elected to use dumbells for bicep-curls and shoulder presses.
"Okay, guys," the coach yelled, "shower time! "I don't want your sweaty slime in the pool."
Later that day, Graham was poised to put Brett's prefect responsibilities to the test. Brett and I were chatting during recess when we noticed a bunch of lighties running across the cricket field. "Better check to see what's happening," I suggested.
We arrived to see Graham on the ground wrestling another kid, fisting each other. Brett stepped in and separated them. The grommet's face was bleeding and covered in dirt. His shirt was torn at the buttons. The other bloke had a fat lip, and his shirt was torn at the sleeve. "What's going on here?" Brett demanded.
After listening to the tirade of abuse between the two juniors Brett asked: "Is that what you're arguing over? Who bats first?"
"When he tried to take the bat," Graham protested, "he hit me with it. So I flattened him."
"Fuck off!" the other bloke barked. "Who flattened who?"
"Okay, I'm putting both you guys on detention."
"Oh, c'mon, Brett," Graham pleaded. "It's no biggie. Not detention!"
"You're written up, matey. Detention Friday."
"Surf's gonna be up."
"Any more crap outta you and I'll put you on detention for a whole bloody week. Now go clean yourselves up."
The boys, still abusing each other, shouldered their way through the gathering of amused onlookers. "See what you did?" "Me? You started it." "I should flatten you again." "Piss off. You couldn't flatten horseshit."
On the walk home from school, Graham, miffed, trailed Brett and me. "Hey, Kyle. Did you get detention when you fought the other day?"
"Oh, like teacher's pet, huh? Or is that the prefect's pet?"
"You got a choice here," Brett warned without turning around. "Let me beat the shit outta you and I'll let you off. That's the offer I made to Kyle."
"Cool. Am I allowed to hit back like Kyle did? `Cause I feel like giving you a fat lip!"
"You're getting pretty cocky, Graham. I could have put you on report for that fight and you'd have faced suspension."
"Cool. More surfing time."
Brett spun around, grabbed Graham's collar with one hand and lifted the kid off the ground. "Listen up. Detention is not such a big fucking deal. I'd look a right prick if I let you off while I booked other guys. There's always a fight on the grounds. We'd end up with a free-for-all. So shut up before I shut you up."
"Whoa!" the wide-eyed dangling grommet squeaked. "Down boy! Hey, I'm sorry. I was just pissing on your battery."
An hour or two later, Graham phoned Brett to tender a formal apology, no doubt inspired by a major lecture from his dad about the cost of school clothing.
Meanwhile, Byron Bay was in the grip of a heat wave so we made the most of the surf. Graham and I rode our boards while Brett body surfed. Stuart was there. He spoke to Brett and Graham at one stage, but ignored me. He snubbed me again later at the pizza restaurant. The rest of the guys hit the clubs that weekend but I stayed home with Melanie to save my money for the upcoming swim tour.
The night prior to leaving on tour, the home phone rang. It was Stuart asking if he could visit. He arrived in boardies and a loose T, and looked fantastic. My dad immediately chirped him for being so scarce lately.
In my room, as we sat on the bed, the atmosphere was tense and awkward. After a bunch of small talk, Stuart got around to explaining the reason for his visit. "Brett told me you guys were going on tour, so I wanted to check with you first. He said you might be wondering what Mel and I were getting up to while you were away."
"So how's it been going?"
"Up the shit. I screwed up badly. I'm not sure I can mend the damage I did, Kyle. And I'm not just talking about the stitches. If I say I'm sorry will that be enough cut it?"
"You said some mean shit, like fucking Melanie `cause she needed a real man. That hurt, bro."
"My original intention was to make you mad."
"You succeeded big time."
"The thing with Mel was just being me, a male whore. She gave into me. But even while we were `doing it' I knew she was thinking about you. I was mad jealous that you had her. I knew even then I'd never be able to take her from you. She told me she hoped you would never find out what happened."
"Brett told me, albeit under pressure."
Stuart wrung his fidgeting hands and studied them. "So what about us, you and me? I've missed you. You got no idea how I went on a downer after you walked out my door that day."
"Staggered out. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss you. I watched you in the pizza restaurant and in the surf, and wondered if we would ever be mates again." Then I added, "Hey, I need to know something; that guy at your house."
"I was scared shitless. Brett told me you were on the rampage. I'd seen you beat the crap out of guys, Kyle, and figured you planned the same for me. The other guy was back-up. I didn't think I could damage you. My punch was a `scared' punch. I got lucky. Or maybe unlucky--depends on your point of view."
I walked Stuart half way home, neither of us said much until we stopped at a tree. "Remember this?"
About a year ago after surfing all day, we acted kinda crazy, walking home with our boners protruding from our board shorts. It was dark, so we stopped at that particular tree and juiced it. I returned next morning to see if our juice was still there. It was.
"How could I ever forget?"
I thanked Stuart for his fantastic "going away" gift -- apologizing and making up before the swim tour -- then hugged him. I walked back home feeling on top of the world--on a total trip.
The team assembled outside school where a bus waited to take us up the coast to Surfer's Paradise. Everyone's folks were in attendance to wish us well, even Brett's mom, which I thought was neat. But he surprised me when he gave his mom a big, warm hug. I'd never seen him hug her before, not even at home.
Graham wasn't so keen to be hugged by his mom, though, which made me laugh. He was at that age where a mom's hug was uncool. Mine gave me the usual bear hug, but my dad was more diplomatic. He gave me a quickie then shook my hand.
The parents seemed more excited about the tour than the team. Hmmm. I figured the oldies were looking forward to a week of bedroom shenanigans without fear of unexpected intruders.
Our digs were a block of six holiday flats overlooking the beach, which made me feel right at home. I was billeted with Brett, Frank, Jolly Jim, Maurice and Carlos. The other seniors occupied two other apartments, while the juniors bunked in the remaining three.
The first day of the tour was a `relax' day to settle in. We spent part of the morning at the beach watching the locals surf. I itched to borrow a board but our stay was too short. Graham remained with the juniors, who (I guessed) were all worried sick about the upcoming and mandatory initiation. The initiation committee included Brett, Frank and Maurice whose job was to strike terror into the hearts of the juniors. I rejected that role due to my association with Graham but, like all previously initiated seniors, was permitted to watch proceedings.
During the afternoon, we attended Sea World to watch the dolphin show, which was mind-blowing and a lot of fun. Those creatures were so damn beautiful, with their shiny, smooth and exquisitely muscled bodies performing stunning acrobatics. Later, we rocked down to McDonalds (a franchise rejected by Byron Bay council) for burgers and fries. There we met a team from another school, our arch enemies.
One bloke, Brandon, who won everything in his age group for the past three years, thought the sun shone outta his smartass butt. He shoved one of our juniors from the head of the restaurant queue and took his place. Graham was also in the queue. He didn't know Brandon, but told him nonetheless to "fuck off".
"Fuck off? I'll fuck you up, lighty. Go back to your cave."
Frank Wisdom, who saw the incident, moved Graham aside and stepped in. "G'day, Brandon."
"G'day, Frank. What's with the lip from your lighties? You need to keep them under control, mate."
"I will. Meantime, watch your own lip. They were first in line."
"Says me. Now move, or should I move you?"
I saw that Frank was amped for a fight. Brandon saw it too. He stepped aside and allowed the juniors to resume their positions, but was the type to insist on the last word. "Kiss my ass, Frank, when you're behind me at the meet tomorrow."