The night before Father's Day Brett slept over. We were in deep trouble with the girls after the previous night's binge at the club. We reckoned we had good reason to let off a bit of steam. Mid-year exams were being held and our brains were fried. However, the girls were adamantly unsympathetic. "You've ruined our night," they complained as Brett and I staggered home, arm in arm, trailing the girls by some yards.
"Melanie okay now?" Brett asked as we sat side by side on my bed.
"I phoned this morning and apologized. How's Susan?"
"You promised her a serious night of loving. Did you get it up?"
"Nope. The bloody thing hung like a deflated balloon. You get your dad something for Father's Day?"
"Yep." I went to my dresser and produced a pair of satin PJ shorts. "I haven't wrapped them yet. Cool, huh? I also made him this card..."
"Hang on a sec," Brett interrupted. "These shorts have "Eat me" printed on them! What the hell's your dad gonna say when he sees that?"
"I dunno. I guess he'll wear them to bed and...well...you know. Anyway, I made this totally cool card using the pic of Endless Summer. Wicked, huh?" Then I noticed Brett's eyes watering. Naturally, I asked him what was wrong but he told me to forget it.
It was 2am before I asked Brett if he wanted to sleep in my bed rather than on the spare mattress on the floor.
"Do I have a choice?"
"You always have a choice but I'd like it if you slept in my bed. I like to feel you up close."
"I'm not Melanie."
Sunlight streamed through the bedroom window when I opened my eyes. One leg and an arm were draped over my mate. "Hey, Kyle," he smiled, "time to rise and shine, you lazy slob."
"Five more minutes."
After Brett showered, and wished my dad happy Father's Day, he returned to my room. "Kyle?"
"You wanna come back to bed, right?"
"Wrong. I want you to ask your folks something for me."
"Ask if I can use the phone. I'll pay for the call."
"It'll be cool. Go for it."
"Ask your folks first. I wanna call long distance."
"Hang. I'll take a quick shower."
I left the room to allow Brett privacy, but...well...I didn't go very far up the hall.
"G'day, dad ... Yeah, it's me ... Just wanted to wish you happy Father's Day ... It's going okay, school's fine, mom's fine ... No, she doesn't know I'm phoning ... I'm calling from a friend's house ... It's okay, dad, I got money. Stop stressing ... I'll see. When? ... Maybe. ... Love you too, dad."
I was back into my room in a flash. "And now?"
"You were listening."
"I accidentally overheard."
"Yeah, right. So, now what?"
"What made you call your dad? I thought you were never gonna speak to him again."
"I dunno. Seeing you with your folks. Anyway, things change. I can't go through my whole life being a jerk." He paused a while, doubtless trying to untangle his jumbled thoughts. "I dunno, man, it's kinda crazy. I want to see him again. We haven't spoken face-to-face for years. He says he's coming to Byron Bay on business soon and wants us to meet somewhere."
"Yeah, right. You?"
Boxing returned to the agenda during winter, and I was more than willing to be Brett's sparring partner. In the showers after a pretty strenuous session he complimented me. "It's a good thing we wear headgear, Kyle, otherwise some of your punches would knock me cold."
"Any more news about the pizza job," I asked, making no attempt to hide my erection.
"I trained at the restaurant last night; in the kitchen where they make all the toppings."
"Like extra mozzarella?"
"Is that supposed to be a joke? Anyway, you got no idea, bro. You just sit at a table and eat the shit. But I gotta know each and every pizza, what goes on it and what it's supposed to look like when it's taken outta the wood oven."
"You get paid for training?"
"No. I will when I start waiting on tables."
"If you give me a shit pizza can I send it back?"
"You're dead meat if you embarrass me in front of anyone."
One afternoon I invited myself into Brett's townhouse on the walk home after school, and watched him change into his civvies. "I gotta do the laundry and the breakfast dishes," he explained while stepping into a fresh pair of boxers.
"That's cool. I'll hang around."
"I'll make coffee after I do the dishes."
During coffee, we talked about school, the upcoming winter holidays, exam results and whatever, when he asked why I wasn't surfing.
"It's crapped out."
"Otherwise you would be?"
"So that's why you're here?"
"Not the only reason. You're my mate."
"And you like the way I wash my clothes and do the dishes?"
"You're crazy, Kyle. You know that?"
"Why? `Cause I like to be with you? Hey, you punched the shit outta me in the ring this morning, and you threw me around like a rag doll yesterday when we wrestled. Doesn't that kinda give you a teensie weensie clue?"
"That you're crazy? Yeah, it does."
"So you want me to leave?"
Brett pursed his lips and took a sip of coffee. "It's easy for you to express your feelings, Kyle. You just open your bloody mouth and out it comes. It's not so easy for me. You had to be there."
"Where I come from. You come from the `House of Hugs'. It's like you and your folks spend half the damn day hugging. That kinda thing never happens here...it never has...'cept for mom."
"You and Susan hug, though."
"Susan's not family, Kyle. It's different with her."
"I'm not family either."
"Maybe not. But who else would wanna hang around to watch me in the laundry or doing the dishes?"
"Or watch you change outta your school uniform into a fresh pair of boxers..."
"You're so fulla shit, Kyle. So why are you still here?"
"Why did you visit me almost every day when I was sick with bronchitis, and keep me up to date with schoolwork?"
"We're in the same classes."
"Was that the only reason?"
"Listen, Brett, I know there are some things you don't wanna talk about--or can't--stuff you find difficult to express. But you don't need words, mate. You say it all by the way you act. And you know what they say about actions and words. Right?"
"Like when I punch the crap outta you in the ring?"
"When we were sitting on the rocks at the beach in that strong wind--the night after what happened between Melanie and Stuart--and you came down and sat next to me, and you said that I was the one who taught you the real meaning of friendship. You think it's all been a one-way street? You think you haven't taught me stuff?"
"Like how many times you and I have argued and fought; like how many times we've blown our short fuses; like how many times we could have ended our friendship right there and then; but we didn't. Brett, making friends is easy, keeping them ain't so easy."
"For you, making friends is easy. For you, it's like falling off a bloody log. And that's the thing that puzzles me about you. Why me? And don't give me that lamo shit about my bod. Why me?"
"I hated you at first. I thought you were a fucking jerk. Then you chilled and invited me to punch the bag with you. Even then you were still aggro and fulla crap. But I guess I got kinda curious. It was like I had some kinda notion that there was a nice guy in there trying to get out."
"I've given you a million reasons to piss off, but you never did."
"How do you know they weren't a million reasons to hang around?"
"Nobody else would have."
"So they lose and I win."
"You really don't see it, do you?"
"My bod? Sure I see it. And you keep making a big bloody deal about it. So that's it, huh?"
"It helps," I grinned. "But it's not just your bod. You make great coffee--and macaroni and cheese."
"I really don't get it, Kyle. You act like I'm Mr fucking Perfect or whatever. So why don't I have a stack of friends like you do?"
"You don't allow people to be close. You wouldn't let me get close either, at first, but I wouldn't take no for an answer."
"You can bloodywell say that again," he smiled.
"Are you glad?"
"Yeah, I suppose I am," he shrugged. "Okay, okay, yes I am. But I still don't understand it. To tell you the truth, Kyle, if I were someone else I wouldn't want me as a friend."
"How can you say that? You're not someone else. You know what I think? I think you're scared of people liking you in case they discover the `real' you ... the `you' you're afraid of ... the `you' you imagine is hidden deep down somewhere ... the disappointing `you' that will surface all of a sudden ... the `you' your dad beat up on ... the `you'..."
"Stop it, Kyle. Drop it."
"Brett, why can't you just accept my friendship without all this analytical bullshit? I'm here `cause I wanna be here. Being with you is totally cool, whether you're doing laundry or sitting at my desk at home or sparring in the gym or just having lunch together at school or whatever. Why can't you just accept that?"
"I dunno, mate. There's a lotta stuff you don't understand."
"Maybe there's a lotta stuff you don't understand."
Later in the week we were back in the courtyard drinking coffee when Brett told me about his job at the pizzeria. He said the pay was lousy but the tips were good--and a few customers had asked for his phone number. "And don't you dare mention that to Susan!" On the down side, at least as far as his homophobic streak was concerned, there was an Aboriginal gay guy in the kitchen who took a fancy to rubbing Brett's butt. "I told him to take his hand away or I'd break his neck. And to make matters worse, the manager stresses everytime we get busy and craps on everyone."
"This Aboriginal guy a young guy?"
"What difference would that make? Yes, he is."
"Just asking. How many shifts do you do?"
"One tonight, another tomorrow night, then day shifts on the weekend."
"So you're free Friday night?"
"I'm not going to any club. I told Susan I'd take her somewhere special. Just the two of us. A celebration. Maybe a restaurant with something other than pizza. That'll give you and Melanie a chance to be alone as well."
"What time do you finish on Saturday?"
"But you are coming to the party, right?"
"What party?" My heart plummeted. It was my eighteenth birthday party on Saturday night and I desperately wanted Brett to attend. Fortunately, the teasing bastard was joking. "Bloody hell, Kyle! I'm kidding! Of course we'll be there."
Friday night I took Melanie to the pizzeria. It wasn't easy but we managed to manipulate the situation in order that Brett waited our table. "Hey!" He looked awesome in his jeans and green top with its `Brett' nametag.
"You're not supposed to say `Hey!'," I reprimanded. "You're supposed to say, `Hi, I'm Brett and I'll be your waiter. Can I get you anything to drink?'"
"Shuddup, Kyle. What do you want?"
"Okay, no tip for you."
Brett couldn't stay to chat. The restaurant was hectically busy. Occasionally, I gawked at his cute butt when he attended another table, and wondered if Melanie was aware of my admiration for Brett. If she were, she didn't mention it. By the same token, I also wondered if other patrons noticed the fact that Melanie's right hand was almost always under the table massaging my vulnerability.