By Petros firstname.lastname@example.org
I looked up to see who had opened my door. It was my mother. Panic swept over me. I tried to pull Derek in closer to me, as if to provide some form of comfort, but I found only thin air and bed covers. "Good Morning boys," my mother said, looking directly at me.
"Morning!" Derek's cheery reply came from the floor to the side of my bed. I muttered praise towards God that he'd woken before me.
"Are you boys going to get up and come to Church with us? It's a lovely day, you shouldn't waste it lying in bed."
"No, thanks mum. We've got stuff to do this morning," I lied, "And Derek doesn't go to Church anyway."
"Thanks for asking though," Derek quickly added; always a gentleman.
Having politely made our excuses my mother left us to surface in peace. I'm not a big fan of Church. It's not that I don't believe in God or anything, I'm quite undecided on that one - it's just the whole Church thing; it's so dull. Luckily, I suppose, no attempts (involving large groups of larger women swinging and clapping) to modernise the affair had made it to my sleepy suburban town. Actually, it's not a town at all - there's no town hall. That makes my home part of the largest village in Scotland.
We were up and dressed, and had been for half an hour or so, when the telephone rang. It was Steven, wanting to come round and see me. We hadn't made any other plans, so I told him to come on over. The twenty minutes it took Steven to walk round were put to good use, making out with Derek. I couldn't get enough of him! Each time we kissed, I could hardly believe it wasn't some dream. I expected him to vanish at any moment and to wake up in a cold sweat, but so far the illusion was holding out. I constantly prayed that it was real.
The doorbell disturbed our kiss and embrace. I went to answer, but as I approached it the door opened and my brother came through, followed by Steven. My brother had been out the previous night and must had crashed over at a friends. He had then, it would appear, found Steven upon his return and let him in. I welcomed Steven, and bid him to come up to my room. Seeing Derek, he seemed surprised, but greeted him, "Hi Derek. Have you moved in here or something?"
"Nah, I just stayed over last night," Derek responded, grinning broadly.
"Wow! Your Parents must be cool, Petros. Mine'd freak if I asked to have a bird stay over."
"Yeah, mine would too," I said, smiling.
"Oh, right. 'Course they don't know about you too, do they?"
"No, they just think I'm sleeping over, as a friend," Derek said.
"Yeah, we are," I said moving closer to Derek and putting my arm round him, "So, what brings you round at this hour on the Sabbath?" I asked with a strong hint of sarcasm in my voice. I noticed Steven was looking a little uncomfortable, so I removed my arm from Derek.
"Ahhh." Derek and I said in unison.
"Thought I should tell you about yesterday. We found him after a bit of hunting, he'd gone up to the school hockey pitches. We found him sitting on the side of the hill staring out into space."
"It's a good place for thinking," Derek said as Steven paused.
"Yeah, fab view too. You can see right across the city on a good day."
"Anyway," Steven continued, "we found him and had a chat with him. He opened up a bit about it, I don't think he's too sure of himself. He's never known anyone who's, well, you know. He doesn't know what to expect, or how it'll affect him. I don't think he really believes what he said. I think his parents are quite, um, homophobic I guess, so he just thinks what they tell him. It confused him when he found out you were gay. He'd been told to hate gays, but he doesn't hate you. I don't think he knows what to think now. I reckon he'll probably come round after a while - Jenni thinks so anyway."
"Ah well, if Jenni says he will then we're safe!" Derek's remark earned him a displeased look from both myself and Steven. "What? I mean it; she knows everything! I'm not taking the piss out of her or anything."
"Cool. I hope he'll be Ok," I said.
"Yeah, me too. It's been bad enough not having you around for so long. Now you're back and Gary fucks off. It's worse than Neighbours, having you as friends." Steven said jokingly.
"So, what are you up to today?" I asked Steven, steering the conversation towards something a bit less awkward.
"Dunno. Nothing planned. You two?"
I looked at Derek; he looked back blankly. "Nothin' much I guess. You wanna do something?" I asked, directing the question at both of them.
"It's Sunday, what can we do? What's open?" Steven asked.
"Cinema?" I suggested. Steven and Derek agreed happily. Phone calls went out to Neil and Jenni. The afternoon was spent at the cinema after getting some lunch at Burger King. Derek and I spent the evening alone together, but he had to go home that night. His parents still wanted to see him now and then. Besides, it'd been a tiring weekend and I wanted an early night before school.
The last week of term flew past at a phenomenal rate. Derek and I spent as much time as we could together. I hung out with him and our footballing friends at school, letting my other friends stay with Gary. It wasn't that I was avoiding him; more like giving him space. I hoped that when he was ready, he'd let me know. Derek was still receiving unwanted attention from Denise. He tried to make it obvious that he wasn't interested but she wasn't giving up easily. Emma hadn't lost interest in me either; I managed to keep myself out of her reach as best as I could, without being too obvious. In the evenings I tried to get Derek to myself but Steven - having just 'won me back' - was eager to spend time with us too. Neil and Jenni, I should say, seemed to get the message that we wanted quality time and gave us some space.
Before I knew it, it was time for Derek to go. It was Sunday; his parents were working. I met him at the station and we rode into town together, to Central station where he would get the train to Manchester. It pained me more than I can find words to describe that he was leaving. He must have thought me heartless, and I couldn't blame him if he thought I'd stopped loving him, for I did not let it show. I was too afraid that he might change his mind, and miss this opportunity on my account. While I wanted that it was wrong to and I knew it wasn't something I could ask of him. No sooner, I knew, than he would stay would I be overwhelmed with guilt. We said our goodbyes and embraced tightly - right there on the platform of Glasgow's busiest station. He took with him my address and phone number, promising to call and write. I knew he would, but it was of little comfort; though I adored his voice and longed to read his words of love they were no substitute for his warm embrace and gentle touch. How, I wondered, had I survived so long without him?
All too soon his train was gliding effortlessly out of the station, leaving me standing alone as my lover began his long journey away for the summer. I turned and began to make my way slowly back up the platform to the main concourse. As I approached I saw someone staring at me. He stood perfectly still at the foot of the platform, his gaze seemingly transfixed upon me. I had no idea how long he might have been watching me, but if he'd seen my farewell to Derek he had every right to be gawking. As I neared him, the boy who must have been around my age, turned and began to head off through the crowd. I watched his blond head weave its way down the concourse and out the main entrance. I shrugged it off and patiently waited for the huge electronic display, which dominated the station, to display a platform number for my train home. Eventually it appeared and I walked to, and then boarded the train. As the train wound it's way round the suburbs of the south side I sat staring out of the window, gazing blankly at the rows of tenements, houses, flats, playing fields and occasional parks that we passed; thinking, all the while, about just how I was going to pass the summer alone. The same way as I passed every other summer, I told myself. Deep down, not even that deep really, I knew that it wasn't going to be as easy as that. As all things must, the journey came to an end. The train screeched to a halt and I disembarked, stepping out into the warm summer sun. I didn't go home though; I went to visit Jenni. Jenni would - as she always did - have all the answers.
Jenni didn't though. Well, she may have had them but she certainly wasn't at home to share them. She was, her mother informed me, at Steven's house. So to Steven's house I went. Taking the shortcut through the park proved to be a bad idea. The crowd of teenagers playing football there served only to remind me of the lover I was missing already. I did my best to push such thoughts from my mind and continued on my way. Shortly I arrived at Steven's home; a humble ex-council house, which his parents had bought from them, set in a large estate of similar housing. It wasn't a bad place, it was just one of the poorer estates in the area. That didn't reflect in its inhabitants though; those whom I knew were perfectly decent folk. Some of the other, deprived, estates had degenerated into really rough, almost slum like areas - best avoided by all those not wishing to be involved in the gang warfare which waged within. I think I'm painting a worse picture of the situation than is necessary. Any trouble there was contained itself within the estates home to its perpetrators. Besides, it wasn't really gang warfare as such, just large groups of teenagers with nothing better to do than engage in fist fights with similar groups from rival areas.
Steven answered the door, and bid me to enter. He looked pleased to see me, but his expression quickly changed as he warned me that Gary was due to arrive before too long. "Oh, right. I should go then, I'll come round some other time."
"Ok, I won't come back then!" I said feigning hurt.
"No, dickhead. That's not what I mean - don't run away from him. Come on in, Jenni's here too. We can trust her to keep the peace, eh?"
I agreed with him and continued inside and upstairs to his small, but comfortable, bedroom. "Hi Petros!" Jenni exclaimed as I walked in.
"Hey Jenni! Fancy meeting you here," I said smiling to myself.
"So, Derek get away alright?" she asked.
"Yeah," I said quietly, looking at the floor so as not to show how upset I really was.
"Hey, don't worry man," Steven began, "I'm no gonna offer you everythin' he could, but we'll do our best to keep you busy. It's the holidays! No more school until August, remember? Derek or no Derek, I'm still here. Come round anytime."
"Yeah," Jenni said, "you've still got us. Soon you won't even notice he's gone."
"Notice who's gone?" I quipped, humouring them. I knew fine well that I'd know he was gone. Steven did have a point though; I decided I'd try to make the most of it.
We sat and chattered about our plans for the holidays. Jenni was going to Germany for two weeks, but not until mid July, in about three weeks. Steven wasn't going away; they'd been abroad at Christmas and couldn't really afford another holiday. My parents had opted to stay at home this summer; they'd been away at Easter and would go away again in October, at half term; they didn't really like going away in the peak season. I'd just finished explaining this when Gary arrived. Steven's parents let him in and sent him up to Steven's room. A look of surprise appeared on his face as he walked in. "Alright Gary?" I greeted him. His look of surprise was slowly replaced by contempt.
"You didn't tell me he was coming too," Gary snarled at Steven.
"I didn't know, Petros just came round," Steven calmly explained.
"Yeah, well. I'm not staying," Gary said as he turned to leave again.
"Gary, wait!" I called out. He turned on the spot and glowered at me, "Stay. I'll go, I'm sorry." I said and without hesitating got up and walked past him, down the stairs and out of the door. I picked up my pace and started walking hurriedly homewards. I could hear footsteps on the footpath behind me. Hurried footsteps. Trying to catch me. Without looking round to see who was following me, I slowed down so that they might catch me.
"Petros, slow down!" It was Jenni. As if I hadn't known that? "Hey, where are you going?" She demanded when she reached my side. I shrugged and kept walking. She grabbed my shoulder and forcefully stopped me. The anger faded from her expression as she saw the tears running down my face. "Oh, Petros, honey," she said as she took me in her arms and hugged me tightly.
"I'm Ok, it's just, you know, with Derek going and everything, well, Gary just upset me. It's not his fault, I'm just a bit, well, fragile just now. You know?"
"Yeah, I know. Don't worry, it's alright," she said soothingly as she rubbed my back. "Let's go," she said.
"Where?" I asked after allowing her to lead me off.
"It's a clear day. We're going to watch the city."
We sat by the hockey pitch for hours, just talking, thinking and watching. She promised she'd get me through the summer. I didn't doubt it. That night, she told me, I was going round to her house to watch videos. On Monday, Steven was taking me out cycling. On Tuesday Steven, Neil and her were taking me swimming. On Wednesday, she was taking me into the city, window- shopping. Thursday night, we were all going to play Laser Quest. Friday, her parents were out all night so we were all to go round to her house and get drunk. She'd got everything all planned out. Every little detail taken care of; including Gary who, it transpired, was leaving for Spain the next day thus getting him out of my way for two weeks.
I was surprised how quickly those four weeks passed. Steven and Jenni were great, Steven especially so. We hung out together almost exclusively; he was such a great friend. The more time we spent together, the more I realised that and the more I regretted loosing him for so long. Derek phoned every day for the first few days, I told him to cut it down to save money. After that he stayed in contact regularly. He wrote twice, two beautiful, heartfelt letters, which I still keep and treasure to this day. I missed him all the time, especially when I was alone at night but Steven's company through the days really helped get me through it.
Half way through Derek's absence Gary returned from his holidays. I expected Steven to share himself out between us both, but he didn't. Perhaps he though starving Gary of his attention might help him realise what a twat he was being. I had tried hard to forget about Gary; it wasn't worth worrying about. I suppose that made his visit even more unexpected. It was just over a week after he'd got back that he showed up at my door.
"Petros, I'm sorry for all the things I said to you," he told me once we were inside and sat down, "I understand that you're mad at me, and I can't expect you to forgive me. I haven't thought about anything else for the whole holidays. My parents hate gay people, they're always slagging them off when they're on TV and making jokes about them. I just accepted what they'd been saying, I never really thought about it. Then you tell me you're gay and it's like I'm supposed to hate you, but I don't and I can't. I can't say I know anything about poofs, sorry, about being gay, it all just seems, well, um, kinda 'sick'. It's not you, you know? I'm not doing a very good job here."
"No, you're doing fine. I think I know what you mean."
"Good, I hope you do. You know, I've always admired you, and then I found out, and I'm like all confused. I freaked out and said some really nasty stuff. I hope you can forgive me."
"Of course I can," I told him and moved over to give him a hug. Gary backed off as I approached him.
"Um, sorry. I don't think I'm ready for that yet..."
"Oh, yeah - sorry."
So that was it. We were all back together, more or less anyway. The old friends were as one at last. I knew things wouldn't be easy, Gary was obviously still finding this tough going, but he was making progress towards accepting me. I was just glad to have him back; as much of a dick he could be at times, I couldn't help liking him.
Derek was due back and I could hardly wait.
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