By Petros firstname.lastname@example.org
I didn't meet Derek at the station when he returned; his parents were picking him up and driving him home. While I could have gone along with them, it would have seemed strange to them and, as they didn't know anything about our relationship, it was best not to arouse their suspicions. It was late on a Saturday afternoon that he returned. His train got in just after five o'clock and he was round at my door before seven. I was delighted to see him after so long. Without pausing, I rushed him upstairs to the privacy of my bedroom and threw my arms around him and started kissing him fervently. He looked fantastic; his skin had been deeply tanned from the days spent out in the burning sun, his hair had grown longer and was slightly tousled; the sun had left it lighter than I remembered it being. He also seemed much fitter than he had before leaving, they must have been working him hard. I spent the evening listening to Derek incessantly reliving every details of his four-week vacation for me. I can't say that I was that interested, but it was making him happy and that, in turn, made me happy too. He'd obviously had a great time; I can barely remember him being so worked up over anything else the whole time that I knew him. It was great that he was so enthusiastic about it; although I couldn't help wondering, if not worrying, about how it might affect our future together.
I savoured every moment of the last three weeks of summer. I'd missed Derek so much that I wasn't going to let anything keep us apart for the rest of our holiday. We were together every waking moment, and a fair few nights were spent in each other's company. We still saw our friends now and then. I did make an effort not to ignore Steven and company, not wanting to risk alienating them again having only just made up. The weather was good so we spent a lot of time playing football. It was great practice for Derek and gave us time together, but with his friends from the team. I didn't enjoy the games as much as Derek did, I was no-where near his standard, but all the boys in football shorts made it bearable.
The new school year was drawing close. I was dreading it. I'd become so used to being with Derek at every moment of the day that the prospect of being stuck in classes and not getting to see him dismayed me. At least he was mine now, and the little time I'd get to be with him throughout the day - interval, lunchtime and the few classes we were in together - would be so much better than before when I'd had to content myself with watching him from a distance. He was mine now! It still startled me to think that, even after weeks together I could scarcely believe it.
"Pedro, I'm worried," Derek told me the night before we started back at school. "At school, it's not going to be easy. We'll hardly get to see each other and when we do, it's going to be hard to just act like friends." He was right, of course, I'd been thinking the same things. I was relieved in a way; relieved that he shared the same anxieties. It showed me that his feelings for me really ran as deeply as mine for him. I smiled, pleased at his inadvertent revelation. I couldn't help but chuckle to myself either. "What?" he demanded.
"Oh, love, nothing. It's just that I've been thinking the same thing, and worrying about it for weeks but I didn't want to say anything. I was kinda scared that you wouldn't care - and things might just go back to the way they were," I told him. Now it was his turn to laugh at me.
"You twat. How could things ever go back to the way they were? I couldn't leave you!"
"Aye right, you have once already!" I said, purely in jest. Derek took it to heart though, and sadness and dejection reigned over his face. I stood up from his bedroom floor, where I'd been sitting, and sat beside him on his bed. Wrapping my arm around him, I looked deeply into his eyes. They were filled with sorrow.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he sobbed into my shoulder, where he'd now placed his head, "can you ever forgive me for that?"
"Shhh," I comforted him, stroking his hair, "don't be sorry. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought that up. I was just joking with you. Honey, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. I love you and nothing's going to change that." He looked up at me, tears were still in his eyes, but they'd stopped flowing.
"Are you sure? I mean I understand, I know how much I hurt you, and I'm sorry. I really am." He began to cry again. I hated seeing him like this, especially when it was my fault. I pulled him backwards so he was lying on the bed and held him there, with both my arms around him.
"Yeah baby, I'm sure. It's Ok, I'm really sorry. I shouldn't have said anything. Honestly, I'm fine. I can't not be fine when you're around," I said to him looking into his eyes. I could see the hurt begin to leave as my comforting words began to permeate through his suffering. As he slowly returned to normal, we both sat upright again. I kept hold of his hand, and went back to our original conversation. "It's gonna be rough at school, but we'll be cool. There's still evenings and weekends. And toilets, if you get that desperate," I said with a conspiratorial wink, "We will have to be careful though, I mean, I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I'm ready to be found out just yet!"
"Fuck, no! Fuck knows what I'd do if everyone found out!" I admired, in a funny sort of way, the way he resorted to expletives when his vocabulary couldn't keep up.
"Don't worry about it, I think we're safe," I said.
"Yeah, I think so. No-one who knows would say anything, would they?" I shook my head. "And I don't think the guys on the team suspect anything..."
"Are you sure?" I said half seriously. "I mean, we do spend a lot of time alone together, don't you think they might start wondering?"
"I doubt it." He said, not looking very certain. "Well, they might, but they've not said anything. It's not the kind of thing they'd be looking out for though is it? I mean, having sex with guys isn't what most football players think about is it?"
I couldn't help laughing, even though he'd been quite serious. "No, I don't think so. I think we're being paranoid."
"Yeah, worried about nothing." He did know what paranoid meant, didn't he?
"Oh." No, apparently not. "Yeah, I hope we are."
I think that was one thing that did concern me slightly about Derek, now don't get me wrong - I don't think that dumb people are lesser humans in any way, he seemed so stupid sometimes. I don't think he was; he was a smart guy, especially when he had to be, and he obviously had a good brain on him. It just seemed that he was reluctant to use it unless he had to. I know I'm no genius, but if there really was such an intellectual gulf between us I couldn't help but wonder how it might affect us long term. I hated myself for thinking anything of the sort; I mean - I did love him. Hell, I loved him more than anything else; anything I'd ever loved. I told myself, and I was right, that it wasn't anything to worry about. True love conquers all, right? And why am I so sure that I was right? Well, because it's just another one of those prejudices that my parents drummed into me; you're clever so you shouldn't associate with idiots: they never actually said that but the message they sent out was clear.
My parents were both smart people. Both had been through university and had good jobs; my father was a principal teacher and my mother a biologist. That didn't make them good people though. They were very self-important, and thought themselves to be very upper class - which to be honest, they weren't and it didn't suit them. They held a great many prejudices, against poor people, black people, less intelligent people, and gay people. I didn't share any of these prejudices though, I'm happy to say. I disagreed with an awful lot of what my parents said which helped me more than you might think. If they believed something, then I knew with a fair degree of certainty that I should believe the opposite.
We both slept easier that night, easier than we might have had we not voiced our fears and talked our concerns over, in our separate beds. I would have liked to have spent my last night of 'freedom' with him, but my parents, I knew without asking, would have had none of it. So alone we slept, content that we weren't alone in our worries about the hardship the new year would present.
I woke early the next morning. Far too early in fact, the way you do when you're really nervous about sleeping in. It gave me plenty of time to make sure that I was looking my best. I'm not sure why I felt the need to look good; it wasn't like I was trying to impress anyone anymore. Apparently, I had impressed someone for quite a while without ever realising it; I probably didn't even need to try. Well, I suppose I should still make an effort to look nice for him. Besides, I didn't have anything better to do with the spare hour I'd given myself. I had woken even earlier but had tried to get back to sleep. By seven though I'd given up trying and simply got up. I left the house in plenty of time and consequently arrived at school quite early. Steven and Gary were already there, waiting in their usual spot; I still felt odd about calling it 'our' spot since it hadn't been mine for so long.
"Alright guys?" I asked them as I approached.
"Alright Petros? Where's lover boy this morning?" Gary joked.
"Yeah, funny Gary. Not. But seriously guys, watch what you're saying, Ok? You never know who might be listening."
"Hey, you don't need to tell us twice!" Steven said. "Anyway, how was your summer? Meet any nice chicks on holiday?"
"Oh, for fucks sake!" I said, hiding my face in my hands in mock despair. "Will there be no peace?" Steven and Gary laughed, probably more at me than with me. "Have you two been to check the register class lists?"
"No, we've not. We thought we'd get here early, then stand about until it gets busy, then fight through the crowds to check them," Gary replied. It annoys me how good Gary is at being sarcastic without changing his tone in any way.
"Ok, Steven; can I get a sensible answer from you?"
"Yeah, Mr Murphy again, same room."
"Could be worse..." I said.
"Yeah, Murphy's alright most of the time," Gary agreed.
The day went smoothly, there were a few timetable changes since last year, but nothing significant. I was still in the same classes with Derek. I didn't see much of him that day, I think he was busy catching up with some of his friends that he hadn't seen all summer. And, of course, everyone wanted to know all about Manchester. So he'd played at Old Trafford; big deal? I was just jealous of the attention he was getting. Still, he made it up to me after school - giving me more attention than he'd got all day. We didn't have the house to ourselves for long. That was the big disadvantage of my dad being a teacher - he worked school hours (more or less) so he was always home around the same time as me; not a big problem, I know, but it'd be nice to have some quiet time every now and then. He almost caught us making out in the living room in front of the TV, but we withdrew quickly enough (I think).
The next day went smoothly too. Derek came home with me for lunch. He hadn't the day before, and I knew he wouldn't every day; I didn't every day. We still had other friends we didn't want to ignore and we had appearances to keep. I enjoyed every moment I spent in Derek's company. Even when we were just sitting together, eating lunch or whatever, he still had me absolutely captivated. It wasn't easy being around him at school, trying to act like just his friend. Sure, we had been best friends and everybody knew that, but that wouldn't excuse the kind of affection I fought not to display.
"I've got more bad news," Derek told me between mouthfuls of the enormous salad sandwiches I'd made for us both. "I'm going away again."
"Away, where? When? How long? How come?" I asked. I couldn't tell how serious he was being, but I didn't feel much like bad news right now.
"Germany. The bad bit is it's in the October week holiday," our half term break, " but it is only for one week. Football team again, we're playing in some tournament against other school teams from across Europe."
"Hey, that sounds cool. Too bad it's in the holidays though," I said. I was actually quite excited for him; I knew I wouldn't get to see him when I'd been looking forward to spending a whole week with him but it did sound like fun and I wasn't going to stand in the way of his dreams. It was still the middle of August just now so there was ages until he left again. I knew that I'd feel worse about it nearer the time. At least I'd been given a bit of notice this time!
"Yeah, it should be good. You Ok about me going away again? You don't sound bothered, don't you care anymore?" he said using a ridiculous 'puppy dog' look. I laughed at him.
"Course I don't care. When have I ever cared about you? But seriously, it'll be good for you. I'll be fine without you; I lasted four weeks remember?"
"Yeah, but that was England. I got to speak to you from there,"
"True, you've got a point there. I'm fucked if I'm paying international rate to talk to you," I said, smiling. "Or maybe you could teach me to play better, then I can join the team and come with you!" Derek ducked forward and covered his head as I said that. "What? What's that for?"
"Oh, sorry. I thought I saw a flying pig!"
"I'm not that bad," I said punching him lightly on the shoulder.
"Anyway, there's something else I need to talk to you about," Derek said.
"Uh-Oh. Am I gonna like this?"
He grinned wickedly before answering, "Yeah, I think you will. It's your birthday soon. What are we going to do? You want a party? Or are you parents doing anything?"
"Oh, is that all. I hadn't really thought about it. Whatever you want to do is fine by me," I told him honestly. He looked a little disappointed. "But if you've got anything in mind, then we'll do that. I'm just no good at planning stuff," I lied trying to cheer him up a bit.
"Cool. I kinda hoped you might want to have a party. We should be able to get my house to ourselves again, if you want to that is."
"Yeah, that sounds great," I told him. I suppose it would probably be Ok, I'd have preferred a quiet night in with just the two of us; but I was sure that the night might provide such an opportunity.
"Can I get Steven and Jenni's numbers from you? I want to talk to them about your party too."
"Yeah, sure," I said getting up to fetch some paper, "just don't go over the top, Ok? I know what Steve can be like!"
That afternoon, once school was over for the day Derek and I went to his house. His parents were home, but it still gave us more privacy for intimacy than we got at school. We sat in his room, listening to music - his music; I hated it but didn't complain because I knew he enjoyed it - and talking.
"I was talking to Fraser and Richard this afternoon, in French. They were asking about you and me, I think they might be getting suspicious, well maybe not suspicious, but they seemed to think that there was something a bit odd about us spending so much time together. Maybe they're a bit jealous that I'm not hanging out with them as much; I don't know," Derek said. "So, I was thinking, to make sure that everything stays cool, we should probably try to keep our distance a bit more; only in public I mean like at school. Maybe we shouldn't do lunch together, and we could go home separately, and then meet up without people seeing..."
I could see his point, and I thought it was really sweet that he was doing this to protect us - sacrificing time together so that we could stay together and stay safe. I didn't for a moment think that it would look even more suspicious when we stopped being seen together in public. Derek thought it was for the best so I blindly agreed.
After thinking about what he had said for a few moments, I answered, "Yeah, you're right I guess. It's best that no one suspects anything - it'll be easier in the long run. Though I will miss not hanging out with you as much."
"I know, it'll be rough but I think we've got to," he said. I thought I could see tears forming in his eyes, but he turned away before I could be sure.
The rest of the week passed by slowly. It was like living in a nightmare, knowing that Derek was out there and so close, but not being able to go to him. It was cutting me up more than words could describe. Jenni, wouldn't you know, guessed that something was wrong; probably down to the amount of time I was spending with her.
On Thursday I ate lunch at school. I walked into the canteen and saw Derek sitting with all his friends at a table; they (Derek excepted) waved at me and signalled for me to join them. Shaking my head and nodding towards Steven's table, with whom I'd arranged to eat, hurt more than I could have imagined. Intervals were the same; meeting guys from the football team on the stairs and then fobbing them off with some excuse as to why I wasn't going to hang out with them just now. There are only so many reasons for not spending time with your friends, and I think I'd been through most of them. After school that day Derek was standing at the gates with his friends, as I approached them he started walking away and said something to them to make them follow; I knew he wasn't doing it to hurt me but I think that made it worse - if he was avoiding me because we'd fallen out then I could understand it, this just seemed so pointless. I could have fallen to the ground and broken down completely had Gary not arrived to catch me. He walked me home with Jenni in tow. I think he knew something was wrong too, but feeling how he did about me and Derek, I can't blame him for not pushing the matter; in fact I was quite glad really. I didn't know how much more I could stand of this: avoiding each other for show. I hoped Derek wasn't taking it as lightly as he outwardly seemed to be. If he felt as I did about spending time apart then soon we'd be back together; we'd have to be. I couldn't stop myself wondering if it was all for show; was it perhaps too hard for Derek to keep his hands off me in public; or worse still, was he growing tired of me and our relationship and trying to let me down gently?
Jenni came into my house on Friday afternoon having walked me home as she had every day. "So," she enquired, "what's with you and Derek?"
"Nothing. Why?" I said, trying to play it down; not wanting to talk about it.
"Oh, just because you're avoiding each other - quite obviously I should add - and you've been in a hell of a mood for the last few days. Nothing really," she replied sarcastically.
"Really, we're fine. I'm still seeing him we're just trying to keep it cool in public, so no one suspects anything."
"Ah, I see. Not your idea I take it?"
"No", I told her.
"Thought not. Didn't think you'd be so stupid."
"Stupid? What do you mean?" I demanded.
"Well, think about it! The two of you are spending less time together than you did when you weren't going out. Isn't that going to look more suspicious than the two of you still hanging out as friends? Unless he's planning to stage some huge fallout as well, just to make it even more convincing?"
"No..." I began before she cut me off.
"Good. Can't he see what this is doing to you? Look at the state you're in, I've barely seen you more miserable, ever. And give it a few days and I can see you being back at the bottle!"
"Hey, give me a break!"
"Not yet," she smiled, "what about Derek, how's he handling this time apart?"
"Not really sure. Haven't seen that much of him, y'know? He seems fine though..."
"That doesn't sound much like the Derek I know. I think you should talk to him 'cos I think that he's going to be just as fucked up over this as you are."
I hesitated for a while before agreeing. I gave Derek a call and asked him to come round. He sounded delighted to hear from me, and told me he'd be over as soon as he could. About ten minutes later Derek arrived at the door. Jenni disappeared upstairs as I answered the door. We sat in the living room, facing each other.
"Babe, we need to talk," I started.
"Ok, love, what's up?"
"It's this plan, not spending time together, I'm sorry babe, but I don't know if I can handle it. It's killing me! You can't be enjoying this, can you?"
"No, I know. It's hard for me too, but we've got to, it'll be worth it."
"Will it? I don't know anymore, won't people think it's strange that we're not seeing each other at all? Everyone knows we're friends."
"Yeah, you're right. Maybe we should come up with some reason for falling out, then no one will ask questions. We could fake a fight over something..."
His last words sent my mind spinning, I was close to crying out with despair when Jenni burst through the door.
"No! No, no and no again. That would be plain stupid!"
"Jenni!" Derek exclaimed, surprised by her sudden appearance. She must have been hovering by the door listening, ready to step in and save me. "Stupid? How?"
"Because, if you two are supposed to have fallen out, and anyone sees you with Petros after school, and at the weekends and stuff then that will look really bad! Why do you think people are going to be suspicious anyway? It's not like there's any reason to worry about you, you're two of the most unlikely guys at school to be gay. No one said anything about you hanging out together when you were friends, did they? Well?"
"No," Derek said sheepishly.
"Well then. Are you enjoying spending time away from him?" She asked.
"No," Derek said again with tears welling in his eyes.
"Then take a look at Petros, see what this is doing to him! He can't bear not being near you..."
"Really?" Derek sobbed. I nodded. "I had no idea it was that bad," Derek said, shuffling across, on his knees, towards me. "I'm sorry," he said as he hugged me, "I've been stupid, I thought I was doing the right thing."
"Hey, don't worry babe," I said as I held him close to me, "I thought we were too," I told him honestly, for at first I hadn't seen the problems it would cause. My love for him shrouded my perspective and I had done, and would do, anything that I thought would help our relationship. I was thankful that Jenni was there to keep us right.
Derek continued to apologise as he dried his eyes, and regained his composure. He then told me that he and some of his friends were going out that night, to the cinema, "Yeah, I know. Richard invited me this afternoon. I said I'd think about it but I meant no", and asked if I would like to come. "Yes, of course I would. I've got to do some home work now though, or my parents might not let me out tonight, and I don't want to waste any of tomorrow," I replied grinning.
"Ok, I'll call you later with the arrangements," Derek said and then turning to Jenni, "are you going now too? We've got stuff to talk about," he said giving me a wry smile.
I knew, that is I think, that is I hope they were talking about my birthday. I didn't know what they might be planning, but I hoped it would good. My suspicious mind had, I must confess, pondered the possibility that there may be something un-pure going on between my lover and best friend. I tried to dismiss the thought, even though they did seem to be spending a considerable amount of time together. Derek hadn't known Jenni before we became friends, and on the surface they didn't seem to have much in common. We still weren't having sex and I know teenage hormones can be quite hard to control; Jenni was my best friend though and I was sure that even if Derek were tempted she wouldn't be. Jenni was one girl who always seemed content just to look at boys and she always appeared to keep her hormones and desires in check. I was confident that she'd never betray my trust; if she really wanted a boyfriend then she could easily find one who wasn't seeing someone.
There couldn't be something going on, could there?
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