Michael Gouda

If Andrew Stanton hadn't been killed in the car crash, I wouldn't be writing this tale now. You see I didn't even know him, and the night he died was the first time I had ever even met him.

Let me go back to the beginning - or at least as far as 'the beginning' affects the whole story.

My name is Graham Howarth and I'm gay. Yes, I know one of those two statements shouldn't really be deemed all that important - after all sexual orientation is a private matter and shouldn't, at least at the start, be considered one of the two most important facts in a story. However, as you'll see, it is important and we might as well get the facts known right from the start.

OK. I'm Graham Howarth and I'm gay - oh and I'm twenty five years old. Again, is that important? Well, I guess it is. Readers like to picture the characters in the story they're reading, so giving my age means that they won't see me as an inconsiderate juvenile of preteen age, nor yet cynical and middle aged, and not elderly and crouched with silver hair.

As far as the rest of me is concerned, well, I've got mid-brown hair, at the moment cut short, though at the time I think it was long enough to cover part of my ears and sort of drift over my collar - when I was wearing a shirt, that is. My eyes are my best feature, or so I've been told, being brown and very much 'come to bed'. I certainly encourage this, often slightly closing them so that I look sexy and mysterious. On the other hand it could make me look a bit simple but I hope for the best. A nose is a nose is a nose, as Gertrude Stein never said - nothing special there. At least it isn't broad, or broken or hooked. Unfortunately it isn't snub either. That's always been a bit of a regret.

My lips are a little thinner than I'd really like, but my teeth are good. Body, well, you'll have to wait as that does in fact come up later in the story (both senses of course - I intended the double entendre). I suppose that shows that I've got a sort of juvenile sense of humour.

Anyway that evening I'd been taken along to a party by a straight guy I know who deserted me as soon as we got there and went 'birding'. It wasn't even a gay party, well, not predominantly though several of us that were that way inclined found each other soon, through gaydar or because we were shrieking together in a corner over a punchbowl of an excruciatingly nasty mixture. Each one of us turned up with something cheap and emptied it into the bowl and the result was indescribably vile - though potent.

There's something sadly familiar about gay guys having fun. They often have a desperate look about their eyes, always glancing towards the door to see whether someone better, more hunky, with shinier hair or a bigger cock in tighter trousers will suddenly appear. At the same time they're being as bright and animated and, yes, well, gay as they can.

The only guy with them who didn't seem to belong was, I assumed, straight who either had lost his taste buds or was so naive that he didn't recognise a proclamation of queens when they flapped their wrists at him. This was Andrew Stanton - as someone introduced him to me, a serious-looking twenty-year old with blond hair and dark eyebrows that were the wrong colour to his hair. Perhaps he'd dyed hair or eyebrows, I don't know and never found out but it made his face look interesting and his smile was beautiful. He was quietly sipping a plastic cup of poison and as he tasted the foul brew and his lips twisted in a grimace of horror, his eyes met mine and I grinned sympathetically.

"I could try to get you something better," I said.

He shook his head. "I'm driving," he said, "so it'll be better if I don't drink at all."

So that was it. He was a straight friend of one of these who'd been dragged along to drive them around.

"Can't be much fun for you," I said.

"Oh you never know," he said. "I might meet someone." He looked at me closely and then said, "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

Wow! I must be wrong. This was a pickup line if ever I heard one. I led him along a bit. "The Guardsman?" I suggested, "Pretty Boys? Kismet Hardy?" reeling off the names of a few of the gay clubs in the neighbourhood. I didn't add 'Crossland Road Men's Public Convenience' as I hardly ever go there.

We chatted for a while; he was very easy to talk to, though we didn't exactly identify where, if anywhere, we'd met before. I'm sure I would have remembered anyway. He worked as a sales person in a local branch of a men's clothes shop. Plenty of chances to feel guys up, I immediately thought, and then realised that the times were long past when salesmen measured inside leg measurements and asked which side 'sir' dressed.

We were, indeed, getting on fine and I was just about to make a move onto him - which of course meant getting close and stroking parts of him which seemed appropriate, when there was news of another party - better than this of course, with more guys and completely gay - and everyone in our little group wanted to go. Andy, driver, of course was essential and though I'd have been quite happy to remain where I was - as long as he stayed too, it was obvious that he was too nice a guy to upset the others. We exited loudly, thanking anyone who looked remotely as if they could be hosts for the fun and regretting the necessity to move on. There were six of us.

Andy's car was a Vauxhall Corsa and I could see immediately that it was going to be a bit of a squeeze getting everyone in. Andy drove, of course, with a guy called Doug sitting in the passenger seat. I'd wanted to sit there figuring that from that position I could have fun with Andy's leg - and crotch - while he was doing things with clutch, brake and accelerator. Unfortunately Doug explained very loudly and positively that he always got sick unless he sat in the front and so he obviously got his way. Three of us (me included) got into the back seat leaving one other hovering outside, hoping he wouldn't be left behind.

"You'll have to sit on someone's lap," said the guy in the middle.

"OK," agreed the outsider and sat himself firmly on me, being the one nearest his side. He was quite a small, slim guy so wasn't really uncomfortable. Once the car started though he decided that he'd make himself really at home, so he wiggled his backside into my groin so that, despite myself, I felt the urge and began to get excited. Not wishing to appear ungrateful, I folded my arms around his waist and into his crotch where I found, investigated and gently stroked his erection, first through the material of his jeans, then, as he slid open his zip, in the flesh.

The boy sighed. I wondered what his name was but it didn't seem to matter. He turned his head round and his lips sought mine, finding, his tongue probing. His cock throbbed in my hand and I stopped wanking him, but obviously he wanted to come. His hips jerked so that, even though my hand was still, he was still frotting. I heard him gasping, his mouth against mine. I looked across and caught the reflection of Andy's eyes in the mirror, his face lit by the street lamps as we passed underneath.

I couldn't tell his expression from the eyes alone but I thought he knew what was going on. What I couldn't tell was what he thought of it. He stared at me and suddenly I thought. He's not looking at the road. I disengaged the leech on my lips. "Andy," I said, and then there was a screech of tyres, a bang. Everything turned upside down. I felt a blow to my head and everything disappeared.

I came round a couple of times. Once, when someone in day-glow uniform kept asking me what my name was. For a moment I couldn't remember but I knew Andrew was in need of help. "Andy," I said.

"Hold on, Andy," said the guy. "Keep hold of everything," but everything swirled out of my grasp and I blacked out again.

Next time I was on a trolley and above my head were strip lights. So many that it seemed that they were joined in one long stream. "Andy," said someone. "We'll soon have you . . ."

"Where's Andy?" I asked as I passed out.

Someone was calling a name, a woman's voice. "Andy," she said. "Wake up, Andy."

I opened my eyes. A nurse was sitting beside my bed. A drip from a bottle was going into the back of my hand. My head felt tight and throbbed a bit. Other parts of me hurt as well especially my arm.

"Ah. You're awake at last, Andy," she said.

"My name isn't Andy," I said, or tried to say though the words came out slurred and even I could hardly understand them.

The nurse picked up a sort of bottle with a spout and held it to my lips. The water was cool though tasted slightly of chemicals. But it was good and it felt marvellous on my tongue and going down my throat. She wouldn't let me have much though. "Not at the moment, Andy," she said.

"Why do you keep calling me Andy?" I asked.

"Can't you remember your name?" she said.

"Of course I can," I said. "It's Graham. Graham Howarth."

"You gave your name as Andy," she said, "when you came into hospital. Do you remember the accident?"

"Of course I do," I said and was about to tell her how I was wanking off this boy on my lap, while looking into Andy's eyes in the mirror. I stopped myself though. Perhaps that was too much information, more than she really wanted to know.

"The driver wasn't looking at the road," I said, which sounded a bit disloyal though it was true enough.

"Who was driving?" she asked.

"Andy," I said. "And Doug was sitting next to him because he gets sick if he sits in the back. Then there were the four of us in the back. Don't know what their names were, We were going to a party - from a party." That didn't sound very clear but I couldn't be arsed to explain.

Suddenly I felt very tired. "I want to sleep," I said.

The nurse though was looking puzzled. "Four in the back," she said, "and two in the front. That isn't right."

I know," I said," even though it was all becoming much too much trouble. "There were too many in the car, against the law, I suppose, but . . ." I closed my eyes.

I heard her voice. "Have a good sleep," she said. "We'll talk about this more when you're rested."

Morning came and I wasn't in an intensive care unit, just in a general ward though at the nurses' end which is where the more sick patients are. I looked around for any of my companions of last night, especially Andy but they weren't in the beds round me.

My nurse - I remembered she had reddish hair - wasn't on duty and had been replaced by a brisk, rather short dumpling of a woman who was efficient but kind.

"I'm thirsty," I said.

"Of course you are, dear," she said "but you'll have to wait until the doctor's been round before we give you anything other than water." She gave me a drink from the jug with the spout, this time rather more than the previous night and I swallowed thankfully.

She propped me up gently against the pillows. I realised that my head was bandaged so that it felt like I was wearing a turban. "I ain't a Sikh," I said, trying to make a joke.

Perhaps racial pleasantries are frowned on because she didn't smile.

Some time later a doctor came round. He was wearing a white coat and didn't look much older than me. Short cropped hair to make up for a receding hairline and glasses, but he was pleasant and he smiled when he arrived at my bed.

He looked at the chart hanging from the end of the bed. "Andy," he said.

"No, No," I said. "I'm not Andy. I'm Graham Howarth."

He looked closer at the chart. "Ah yes, there's a note from the night nurse," he said. "Who is Andy then?"

"Andrew Stanton," I said. "It was his car. He was driving. Is he all right?"

He didn't answer. "I see you say there were six people in the car," he said.

I started getting worried. Was I about to get charged by the police for overloading a vehicle?

"The thing is," said the doctor. "There were only four bodies - and you - in the car when the paramedics got there. And it wasn't as if the doors had burst open and anyone been thrown out."

"Bodies," I said, fastening on the only word that made some sort of sense. "You mean everyone else was killed?" I couldn't believe it. The thin guy sitting on my lap, killed before he'd had the chance to come, just working up to it when - splat, finish! I wasn't being callous or cynical but that was all I could think of. And Andy? Andy dead. I had scarcely known him but I'd fancied him rotten and now he was dead too. And Doug, would never vomit in the back seat of a car again, and the other two who had been with me in the back. I hadn't known their names and they'd never giggle and scream at a party again, or drink rotten punch, or come on to guys, and fuck, and come. Suddenly I was crying, big tears rolling down my face. "Oh, shit! Shit! Shit!" I said, crying not because I'd lost friends but that young people wouldn't have a chance to grow old.

The doctor looked aghast and it was the little nurse who sat next to me and held me, dabbing up my tears with a paper tissue.

Later it became even more nightmarish. They gave me something to calm me down and in the afternoon a plain clothes policeman with a moustache sat beside my bed and made notes.

He gave me his name, D.C. Something. It didn't register. "How are you feeling?" he asked.

"Fucking awful," I said, not caring.

"Do you feel up to answering a few questions?" he asked.

I nodded and then wished I hadn't. It hurt.

"There were five guys in the car, including you," he said.

"Six," I said. "Andy, Doug, me, a thin guy sitting on my lap and two others in the back with me."

"We can't tell where they were sitting," he said. "The car rolled over and over, three or four times. Everyone, including you, got tossed around inside. Before it ended up on its roof."

"The doors burst open," I suggested.

"Closed. And five young men inside."

"Six," I said.

"Can you describe them?" he asked. "Anything about what they looked like, what they were wearing."

I struggled to remember. Andrew Stanton, he was the driver, has blond hair and dark eyebrows. Doug is pasty faced with some zits around his nose. There was a thin guy, smaller than the others. He was sitting on my lap. In the back with me was a red-haired guy and a tall thin one with bony elbows. I remembered those because they stuck into me.

The DC made notes. "Anything else?" he asked. His voice made it sound routine. I guess it probably was to him. I felt I wanted to shock him out of his complacency.

"The little guy may have had his zip open. And his cock out. I was wanking him when the accident happened."

My attempt to shock him had no effect. "There were two guys with their flies open," he said. "What was going on in that car?"

I wondered too. Perhaps my two companions were also having their jollies in the back. Or perhaps Doug had been playing with Andy in the front. I hoped not but it was after all what I had planned myself. Suddenly it was all too much. I didn't want to think about the whole thing any more. The policeman's moustache annoyed me. "I'm sorry," I said. "There's nothing more I can tell you."

But he wasn't deterred so easily. "We can investigate the young men. We'll find out who they are. But there's just the one thing that worries us and that is because you say there were six people in the car, whereas we only found five. You and four others."

It wasn't my problem but I asked, "Couldn't one have got out and shut the door behind him?"

The doors were jammed shut," he said. "The paramedics had to get firemen to force them open. No one could have got out on their own."

I shrugged and then wished I hadn't. My grimace of pain must have had some effect even on DC Plonk for he closed his notebook and got up. "Just one thing. We'd like to take your fingerprints, just for the records. We'll destroy them of course if they're nothing to do with the case."

I was too pissed off to object so he rolled my fingers on a pad and then imprinted the traces onto paper. The whorls and lines didn't seem to have anything to do with me. "Thank you, Graham. But I'll have to come back later if we can't solve the problem on our own."

He left me to the tender mercies of the little nurse who had a heart of gold and really looked after me. And the red-haired night nurse was also nice and gave me pills when I couldn't sleep. Gradually I started to feel better - physically at least, though the ache which was the idea of the deaths still lingered. I found I was almost looking forward to the return of DC Plonk to see what he (and the combined efforts of the police force) had discovered.

It was a week before he came back and by then I was classed as 'ambulatory' which means I was allowed up, and my Sikh turban had been replaced bu a strip of Band-Aid over the scar on my head. Even my hair was beginning to grow back.

On this second occasion, I got his name. It was Field, D.C. Lawrence Field but his moustache was still as revolting. After we got the preliminaries over, like. how was I feeling - OK - had I thought anymore about the people in the car - not really, he produced a piece of paper on which were written five names. I recognised only my own, though Douglas Peterson was presumably, spotty Doug. The three others were completely unknown - I wondered which was my little guy who had sat on my lap. Then it struck me; Andrew Stanton's name wasn't there.

"Where's Andy?" I asked.

"That's all there were," he said.

"Tall guy, blond hair, dark eyebrows," I said, remembering his eyes looking at me in the mirror.

"There was no one of that description in the car," said Field. "The others were as you said. One with red hair, another tall and thin, the third a small guy" - he pointed to a name, Gary Mills, so that was the one who had nearly come in my hand.

"Where's the driver?" I asked. "Where's Andy?"

"That's the problem," said Field. "But for a few things we might have assumed that the bang you got on your head made you confused, got you mixed up with someone else, someone you knew who you thought was in the car - " He paused. " - except."


"Except that the finger prints on the driving wheel, on other parts of the car, weren't of any of the people found there. Except that the car is registered in the name of Andrew Stanton. Except that the same fingerprints are all over Andrew Stanton's flat."

"Did you find Andy at his flat?" I asked.

"Hasn't been back since the night of the accident."

"What about work?" I asked. "He was a salesman at 'Chic For Men' in the High Street."

Field shook his head. "Hasn't turned up there either." He looked at me for a while. "You seem to know a bit about him, for someone who you say you'd never met before."

"We chatted at the party," I said.

"And then you were - er - with this other guy in the back," he did sound a little embarrassed so I helped him out.

"Wanking with Gary Mills," I said. "It didn't mean anything. I was just helping him out. I'd have done it with anyone." Then I thought of the large moustache. "Well, nearly anyone."

Field sighed.

I would have thought his line of work had prepared him for this sort of thing. "Just out of interest," I asked, "who was the other guy with his flies open?"

He pointed to the name. Ah, I thought so skinny elbows and red hair were also pleasantly occupied at the crucial moment. Perhaps that made things a bit easier.

So that was the story of how I met Andy Stanton and lost him all in one night

* * * * * *

So I went back to work, clerk in a Bank, went back to living with my parents. I know - twenty-five and still living at home. Sad isn't it? I haven't actually mentioned my parents, not because they didn't visit me in hospital - which they did. And of course worry about me from time to time - which they do. And ask me why I'm not going to settle down with a nice young man - yes they know and are very understanding. But just because up to now they haven't really had much to do with the story.

Andy, though, I couldn't forget. I remembered our chat at the party and how we'd got on so well, and how I'd fancied him, yet hadn't done anything about it - well, it was supposed to be a straight party.

And then, I remembered his eyes looking at me in that last moment when I'd been about to release Gary's juices and he'd paused in that last kiss. I wondered whether I'd distracted Andy from his driving so that it was my fault that we'd veered off the road and down the embankment, turning over and over again, tossing the guys round in the car. killing them all, except for me - and Andy.

After I'd been discharged from hospital, I'd gone back to the 'scene of the 'accident'' and looked at the scarred side of the bank where the grass was still torn away, though rapidly recovering, and down to the bottom where the bushes had eventually stopped the car. Did I hope to find traces of Andy? I don't know - but I certainly didn't. There was nothing there - the car had obviously been towed away and all that was left were some broken branches, a tree truck with bark scraped from the side.

I went to 'Chic for Men'. They'd replaced Andy of course but I asked about him, pretending that I didn't know anything but that there'd been a pleasant salesman last time I'd been and was he still there. The young guy knew nothing, had never heard of Andy Stanton. There was nothing anywhere of him, except those eyes in my memory and a lost opportunity.

Then I did something that you may think odd. I moved into Andy's flat. It wasn't of course as easy as that. To the police, Andy was just a 'missing person'. Apart from my insistence that he'd been driving, and the curious fact that his finger prints were on the driving wheel - and no others, Andy Stanton was just one of those statistics of people who had disappeared, for whatever reason, into another identity. I assume some efforts had been made to find him but his flat was a rented one and, when the rent didn't appear at the end of the month, the landlord wasn't going to keep it available for someone who might never come back.

I'd found out where it was through the simple expediency of looking up his name in the phone book. I went round there soon after I was released from hospital and found the landlord actually in the process of packing up Andy's possessions presumably so that he could have at least some remuneration for the unpaid following months rent. It was then that the idea occurred to me.

"He was my friend," I told the landlord, a harassed looking middle-aged man with early grey hair and the sort of expression that told me that letting property was not quite the fortune maker it was made out to be. His name, he told me, was Thornton.

"Do you know where he is?" he asked. "I really would prefer him to pay a month's rent and take all this rubbish away."

"I don't know, I'm afraid, but I'd like to take over the flat if that's possible."

Mr Thornton considered. He obviously wasn't sure whether I was one of those Andy Stantons who would up and away without notice.

"I work at the bank," I told him, "and they'll give me a reference."

That obviously weighed in my favour. "I'll still have to clear out all this stuff," he said.

"No need," I said. "I'll look after it for him. If he comes back I'll make sure he gets it."

"If he comes back," said Mr Thornton, rallying, "he owes me a month's rent." But I could see that the idea pleased him. "You don't want it all cleared out and cleaned up?"

"No. I'll take it just as it is. I'd prefer that."

He obviously though I was a bit peculiar but he was equally obviously in favour. "I'll need to get the references," he said, "and a month's rent in advance."

I agreed. He agreed. I moved in the following Monday, my parents worrying whether I knew what I was doing and if I'd be able to cope on my own.

"You won't come back every week," said my father, "with your washing for your mother to do?"

I assured him I wouldn't.

"You won't just lose touch," said my mother. "You bring any stuff you want washing. I'll just pop it into the machine. No trouble."

I assured her I would.

So there I was. In Andy's flat. Surrounded by Andy's things. Apart from the few bits and pieces Thornton had started to gather together, exactly as Andy had left it on the evening of the fateful party.

Now does that sound weird or not? I guess it does and if I were asked to justify it, I doubt I'd be able to. So I have no real intention of trying. I just knew that was what I wanted to do. A guy, I had known for a couple of hours, whose death I had possibly caused (and possibly is the word) had driven me out of my comfortable parental home and into this small, though not unattractive, first floor flat.

The flat was all on one floor so all the rooms led off a central corridor. The first on the left was a small kitchen with a couple of mugs upturned on the draining board. Tidy! There was another door on the other side leading to a lounge/dining room. That sounds rather grand but it was one of those rooms which did for both. A table on one side with four upright chairs around it, a comfortable-looking sofa on the other faced a TV/entertainment centre. On the walls some pictures, bright, Mediterranean colours, sort of abstract landscapes. Windows looked out onto the central courtyard with the windows of the flats opposite looking straight at me.

The other two rooms were bathroom and bedroom. I had all the time in the world to investigate but I hurried into the bedroom almost as if I expected Andy to be waiting there for me. Of course he wasn't. The bed clothes had been stripped but I found the old ones, still unwashed, in the laundry basket. OK. I should have looked for some clean ones but I didn't. Bit gross eh? There was a slight smell to them, not unpleasant, and I kidded myself it was Andy's smell. Later, when I went into the bathroom and saw the bottles still lined up on the shelf, I found, and recognised the sweet-smelling scent of Homme Massif - an expensive after shave.

And then I remembered how he'd smelled of that while we were talking at the party. And I felt sad all over again.

So, over the days that followed, I sort of discovered Andy. I nearly wrote rediscovered Andy because I remembered that almost first thing he said to me 'Haven't we met somewhere before?' which I thought was a stupid pickup line and now I think was true - though I still don't know how or where. The things I found in that flat were things that I'd have wanted to share with him. The books on his shelves were ones I'd read and enjoyed - not best-sellers that might have been on everyone's book shelves but queer, quirky ones which in combination I thought only I'd have liked. The Diary of Samuel Pepys (unexpurgated), Homer's Odessey, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, the Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake - and many others

There was even one which must have come from his childhood. Inside the front cover was the odd inscription 'To Grandy from Graham'. Who 'Grandy' was of course I'd no idea but my own name, even though it couldn't have been me, gave me a shock.

So gradually I came to know him, sleeping in his bed - yes, I changed the sheets after a short while - eating and drinking from the utensils he'd used, sitting in his chair, watching his TV, listening to his records. OK, I brought my own things over but it was odd how much duplication there was. Elgar, Rimsky-Korsakov, the Mamas and Papas, Bruch's Violin Concerto and Scott Joplin.

One weekend I went to my parents. To be honest the clothes washing had got a bit out of hand and I thought I'd take advantage of her offer. I hadn't done it regularly and I figured Dad wouldn't get really pissed off.

Mum surveyed the bag of clothes. "I see you've got some new clothes," she said. Always an eye for detail has my mum. Then she looked closer. "No, they're not new," she said and looked at me. "Have you got a boyfriend?"

She'd asked that before. As I mentioned she was quite easy with my gayness, looked forward I think to the day when I would bring a partner back and she could see, or at least think she saw me settled in some sort of domestic bliss. I wasn't as cool as she was but I suppose it was better than a mother who continually asked when a girlfriend would appear.

I assured her that I hadn't got anyone and she sighed. Unfortunately it started her off on a string of reminiscences about me and my childhood and growing up. "You're not bad-looking," she said. "I don't know why you can't get someone. You were a lovely child," she said. "So beautiful people used to want to pat you when I took you out in the pram. And so bright, and easy to deal with. No tempers or tantrums."

Dad came in and looked at the clothes being loaded into the washing machine. "Huh," he said, which was criticism enough. "Son arrives home with washing."

"He doesn't do it often," said Mum. "I was just thinking what a sweet kid he was when he was young."

"You mean as compared to how he is now?" asked Dad.

"Excuse me," I said. "I am in the room you know."

"Of course you are, darling," said Mum. "Do you remember how he had that invisible friend, and how we had to put a special plate out for him at the table."

"I don't remember that," I said.

"Oh yes," said Mum. "You must have been about seven - and Grandy went with you everywhere."

It didn't register for a moment and before it did, Dad came in with, "You were a right pain with that 'friend' of yours." Dad likes to appear an old grouch but it's mostly put on. I think he thinks it's funny.

"Grandy," I said, seeing in front of me that inscription in the book 'To Grandy from Graham'.

"That's what you called him," said Mum. "I don't know where the name came from but you wouldn't go anywhere or do anything without 'Grandy'."

"What happened to him?" I asked.

Dad said, "What do you mean 'what happened to him' for God's sake. He was a figment of your imagination. What do you think we did? Flushed him down the lav like a dead goldfish?"

Mum said, "You just came down one day and said, 'Grandy's gone'. You were really upset. You must have been eight by then. 'He was with us for a long time. We quite missed him."

"I didn't," said Dad.

"I don't remember any of this," I said.

"That's right," said Mum. "I remember now; he left you on your eighth birthday, and never came back."

I wondered about that - all the way home in the car. Back at the flat I took out the book to reassure me that I'd remembered right. There were the words in a childish hand. Had I written them when I was a kid. How could that be? It was a young child's book - the adventures of a bear wearing wellington boots and a hat - published in 1987, I noticed. I would have been seven then. Would I have enjoyed that sort of book? Then I remembered that Andy Stanton was younger than me, two years, so he'd have been five. Just right for the book.

I pulled myself up short. What was I doing? What was I thinking? That my 'invisible friend' and Andy Stanton were the same 'thing', 'being', individual? That he'd left me on my eighth birthday only to return when I was twenty five? Only to disappear that same night. For a moment I wondered about my sanity. But I was holding down my job with no real effort. No one, as far as I knew, gave me sidelong, wondering glances. I functioned. It must be some stupid coincidence.

I went to bed and that night Andy/Grandy came to me. It could of course have been a dream but I swear I was awakened by the soft touch of lips on mine. Still, as I thought, half asleep, I murmured the name 'Andy' and felt the covers drawn back, the touch of a naked body as it slid in beside me. The touch of skin, of flesh of muscle, the scent of maleness, the arms that held me, the lips, now pressed hard against mine, a tongue forcing in, a hard prick against mine.

I can remember everything we did. How I slid down that unseen body, kissing under the chin, down the smooth sides of throat, the hardness of clavicle and the smooth silkiness of hairless chest. Hard nipples and the muscles of stomach, then the hair, curled and fragrant, his legs opening encouraging me into that tangled forest from which the hard prick stood out and which I clasped in my mouth, holding his balls in one hand while I explored the warmth of perineum and arse with the other.

All my offerings were returned in full as we grappled and kissed and licked and not one part of either of us, as they say, was unknown to us. Finally we coupled, cocks pushing into warmth and smoothness and silkiness until with cries that surely must have been heard in the neighbouring flats, we came, and came, and came.

What evidence of this debauch was there in the morning. Well, there was no figure lying there, soft and compliant waiting to be roused by a kiss yet the bedclothes were tangled and stained. Was it all mine? Surely such a bounteous flow couldn't have been bestowed by just one. And his smell was there, or had I just put on Homme Massif before going to bed? I did not remember ever having done so, yet the scent was there as well as the even more arousing scent of another man.

And the following night he came again. And this time in the midst of our passion, he whispered in my ear, 'Graham, I love you' and I told him I loved him too. His lips were right against my ear and his body was touching me all the way down. It was almost as if he was a part of me. "Why did you let me leave that party?" he asked. "I would have stayed with you." And I had no answer. Then he asked, "Why were you having it off with that arch-trollop, Gary, in the back of the car?" And I had no answer to that either.

"I was watching you, when I should have been looking at the road." And I saw again those eyes in the mirror, alternately lit and shadowed by the street lights as we passed underneath.

"Can I see your eyes again?" I asked. "If I put on the light, will you be there?" For all I could see was a shadow, but I could feel and hear and smell and taste him. "Are you real?" I asked.

"Is this real?" he asked and he put his tongue into my ear and passed one hand over my body and my skin shivered at the touch. "Is this real?" he asked again as he clasped my cock and squeezed its hardness and gently rubbed the soft outer skin over the core. "Is this real?" he asked the third time, and I felt his prick pushing against my hole, piercing the sphincter, entering, filling me.

"I can't live without you," I gasped. "Andy, will you be with me always? Andy? Andy. Andy."

"Andy," said a voice

Someone was calling a name, a woman's voice. "Andy," she said. "Wake up, Andy."

I opened my eyes. A nurse was sitting beside my bed. A drip from a bottle was going into the back of my hand. My head felt tight and throbbed a bit. Other parts of me hurt as well.

"Ah. You're awake at last, Andy," she said.

"My name isn't Andy," I said, or tried to say though the words came out slurred and even I could hardly understand them.

The nurse picked up a sort of bottle with a spout and held it to my lips. The water was cool though tasted slightly of chemicals. But it was good and it felt marvellous on my tongue and going down my throat. She wouldn't let me have much though. "Not at the moment, Andy," she said.

"Why do you keep calling me Andy?" I asked.

"Can't you remember your name?" she said.

"Of course I can," I said. "It's Graham. Graham Howarth."

"You gave your name as Andy," she said, "when you came into hospital. Do you remember the accident?"

"Andy's dead," I said.

"There was another Andy in the accident," she said. "Andy Stanton."

"He's dead," I said.

"No he isn't," she said "Just a concussion. Go to sleep now. You can talk to him in the morning."

I couldn't sort it out, but then I couldn't really think straight, so I closed my eyes for a moment and then must have drifted off to sleep.

I awoke to the noises of people talking, bustle in the ward, and a nurse came to see me, blue uniform, starched cap pinned precariously to a jumble of blonde hair, and a face which looked care-worn and job-harassed. For a moment I feared it might have been the dumpy little one who had held me after the doctor had told me that all the guys were dead but I had never seen this one before.

"Andy," I said to her.

"Now lets get this straight," she said. "You're not Andy. You're Graham Howarth."

"Where's Andy?"

She pointed to the next bed. "Andy Stanton," she said. "He's there. Lazy boy. He should be up and about."

A figure was asleep in the next bed lying on his back, the chest rising and falling steadily. Clearly alive. His face was in profile and I recognised the straight nose (God, it's even got a slight tip tilt to it - I love it) and the long eyelashes and the dark eyebrows and the blond hair which must be dyed - surely. He is so beautiful - and I've got this turban thing on which must make me look a freak.

On the other side of me someone sits up. I recognise my wank buddy, Gary. Does he want me to finish what I just didn't quite complete. Well, I won't because I am in love with Andy. Wake up, Andy. Open those eyes so that I can see them, like you were looking at me last night in the mirror.

Over the way are the other three, Spotty Doug, looking paler than ever. Hope he isn't going to vomit, and ginger hair and tall, boney guy. Well, those two can finish off what they started in the car.

I am suddenly pervaded with a feeling of great joy. Though my head still hurts and my arm (the right one, fuck it) is in plaster and aches, I am so glad to be alive and next (in bed terms) to Andy. Soon, I hope we will be much closer.

"Graham." He is sitting up and looking at me. Eyes so brown (like mine) but so different.

"Andy," I said and my voice cracked as I said it, almost as if I was going to cry. "Man."

"I'm OK," he said. "It looks as if you're the worst off. Christ! I'm sorry I made such a fuck-up."

"I'm so glad you're OK," I said and I could feel the tears starting.

"Hey, Graham," he said and got out of bed. He wobbled slightly.

"Get back," I said. "You'll have the nurse in a fit."

But he crossed the space between our beds and sat down on mine. He took hold of my hand, the one that didn't have the drip in it. His palm was soft and dry. It was the first time that he had really touched me - in the flesh that is - and the cool feel of his skin against mine made me tingle. Our fingers linked and I laughed shakily. "A real Mills and Boon moment," I said trying to sound cynical or I'd have burst into tears.

Then the nurse arrived and chased him back to bed.

So that's the story. How did it end? Well, does a story ever have an ending - except in death but then it still goes on for the others. Andy and I live together. We have our rows of course but there's something between us which holds us together even through the rough times. He couldn't understand how I knew so much about him and his tastes - and indeed belongings. Neither could I really because what had happened seemingly over a period of weeks in my view, had occurred in just a night while I was more or less unconscious.

I don't know how to explain it. Some time later for example I met Mr Thornton, Andy's and my landlord and he was just how I remembered him but he didn't know me. And my parents couldn't remember the talk we'd had about when I was young and had an 'invisible friend' though they confirmed that that was what had happened.

The young guy in Chic for Men got a job there later, because I saw him one time when I called for Andy. I love Andy very much and he's just as good in bed as he was in his 'invisible' state or whatever it was. Actually much much better.

And no, I never finished off Gary though I've no doubt someone else did.


Date started: Saturday, January 8, 2005 8:12 pm
Date Finished: Thursday, January 13, 2005
Words: 7,564

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