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Even a soft word, spoken quietly on a warm late summer evening can have an echo. And this wasn't a loud word. It wasn't even a harsh word. Easy to mistake it for a non-event. Just Nigel. Just Nigel teasing. Just Nigel teasing John.
Only he wasn't.
It hit the clocktower, and echoed.
In my brain.
Nigel was making a declaration, there by the clocktower in the high street, in front of me, in front of Carol. He was declaring to John that he, Nigel Cropper, was gay. Declaring it to John. To the boy who had been his best friend for almost all his life. They'd known each other since they started primary school. A lifetime.
And if Nigel was declaring that he was gay, then he was also declaring that I was gay. I wasn't ready. Wasn't ready.
"You're doing it again." John looked slightly taken aback, yet confident at the same time. "Just to wind me up."
"Don't be silly, Nigel. How long have we been friends? I mean I'd know if you were gay!" But John was looking less confident.
"Chris," Nigel turned to me. "Chris, I have to do this. Will you help me?"
Oh he knew I'd help him. If he'd asked me to strip naked and roll in stinging nettles I'd have done it, if he'd told me why he needed me to do it. "You know I will. But I'm scared." I was trembling.
"I am too. But John won't let us down. You won't, will you, John?"
"What are you talking about?" John still had the smile on his face. "You're teasing me. You are. They are, aren't they, Carol?"
"I think it's their business," she said. I noticed she was holding his hand.
No-one had any chance to say more. Except Nigel.
He turned to me. "Do you mind showing John that we're a couple, Chris? And trusting him?"
"I don't mind. I'm scared. But if you say he won't let us down, then I'm going to trust him. Nigel I only know one way to show him." And I took him by the hands and leaned forward and touched his lips with mine. And the fear melted away as I touched them, and I locked lips with him, and kissed him deeply, softly, tenderly, moving my hands to his back, my arms round him, enfolding him. A long kiss, not an erotic one, but such a tender one. And in public. Even more public that the day Nigel had kissed me in France. This kiss was a statement of our love. On purpose. With a huge risk, and yet worth every bit. As we broke I murmured to him, just loud enough for all to hear, "I love you, Nigel. I just love you." And I locked my eyes on his as we eased apart, hands rejoining as we parted.
We turned towards John and Carol. "Carol knows, John," Nigel said to him. "She knows that we're a couple. I just love him, John. I couldn't help loving him. It just happened."
"Oh." John's mouth was hanging open. "Then you aren't teasing? I mean you are gay? Oh."
"I don't really know about being gay. I mean I don't know anything about gay stuff. He's my boyfriend, John. Chris is my boyfriend. And we love each other. And I needed you to know, somehow. Partly for me. Only it was Andy and Mike that made me need to tell you now. I'm the same Nigel, John. Chris is the same Chris. So is Andy. If that's being gay, then I'm gay. We're gay. Only I don't feel gay. I'm just me."
"Andy?" Carol asked suddenly.
"Can you forget about Andy, Carol, for the moment? As though you weren't listening to this bit? Please?" She nodded. "John, do you believe me now?"
"Yes. Yes, I think I do."
"What will you do, now you know?"
Carol beat him to the punch. "Promise you won't tell anyone, John. You have to promise. They could get beaten up, or taken away from their parents by social services, or something dreadful. Promise them, John. Please?"
"I don't need to." John was looking serious, but pretty normal.
"Don't need to?" She was looking hard at him. A Paddington Bear stare, I thought later.
"Nigel's my best friend. He's a mate. It takes some getting used to, but he's a mate. It's OK, Nigel. I'll promise if you need me to. It's a hell of a surprise." He was looking bewildered. A bit embarrassed, too.
I was, too. Embarrassed. I was wondering if anyone else had seen. Because two boys kissing in the middle of the high street was at best unusual. And two boys in love kissing in the middle of the high street was more unusual still. "John?"
He turned to me.
Suddenly I didn't know what to say. Heck I hadn't known what to say the whole time. I'd meant to say something really sensible. Deep. Meaningful. Time suddenly passed agonisingly slowly. "You aren't winding me up," he said slowly. He'd finally got it.
"No, John. No. We aren't winding you up." I was looking straight into his eyes. Just long enough. I looked down to give him some space. In truth I couldn't have held eye contact with him any longer. "I can see how you felt we might be."
"It's OK, Chris. It's just, well, bewildering. I mean I thought I knew Nigel so well... "
"He hasn't changed. He's still Nigel Cropper. He still scored a blinding try this morning. He's just the same. Only he isn't interested in girls."
"Hey," Nigel interrupted me. "I'm not interested in boys either! Just you, Chris. Just you."
"I don't understand. Actually just at the moment I don't care. We came out to go to the cinema, right?" We all nodded and grunted in agreement. "And this is the first time Carol's said she'd go out with me, and I'm going to enjoy it. If you are, Carol?" She nodded "Right. Cinema. At least no-one's going to play gooseberry!"
Sudden anticlimax. Relief. Not denial anymore. Possibly not wholehearted acceptance either. But it was obvious we didn't have an enemy. It was a little too much like a soppy novel for my liking. Too easy. Only, well, I'd never had to think about this stuff before. Maybe that's what was going to happen all the time? But I doubted it. We'd just been lucky. Very lucky.
We followed in their wake, Nigel and I. "I think I like John quite a lot!" And I took Nigel's hand. Just briefly. "I'll risk it!"
"What?" He'd turned his face to look at me.
"Holding hands in public! Heck I kissed you by the clocktower."
"Yeah! Well, not all at once, eh?"
"Maybe not. But for a moment. This one. Now."
He gripped my hand tight. "I need you, Chris. And I love you. I think we can make it. Against anything!"
I don't remember what we saw in the cinema. It was loud. And we were about halfway down the auditorium, so the only thing possible was a little quiet hand holding in the dark. Even for John and Carol. Nigel and I sat by the wall, sharing a huge bucket of popcorn. Carol was next to Nigel, and John next to her. The only reason they weren't sharing popcorn is that Carol liked salty and John sweet. It was just dark enough to hold hands. Only we kept jumping apart when we even half thought anyone was looking. Stupid. But anyone might have been there.
The same anyone who might have seen us at the clocktower.
Who might have seen me, first hesitantly, then wholly absorbed, take my boyfriend into my arms and kiss him long, and gently, and tenderly.
It was odd, not remembering the film. But my mind was full of all that had happened. I was running video sequences of it all inside my head. And they were all good. I was sitting there, holding hands, a little furtively perhaps, with the person I loved most in the whole world. And two other people were accepting us as a couple. One with more to resent than most, Carol. The other, who might have made trouble for us. Nigel's best friend, John. And the very best thing was that Carol and John seemed to get on well.
When we got out of the film it was dark. I was in two minds. Going home and having Nigel to myself seemed like a good idea, but hanging out with John and Carol for a while was attractive, too. It wasn't hugely late. Mum had put a ten thirty curfew on us, and it was only half past nine. So we had probably half an hour left.
"Anyone got any money for a McSomething?" John wanted to know.
"I have," Carol replied.
"What about you two?" John was looking at us, each in turn.
"I've no cash left, but we'll come along and watch you fill your faces! Well, maybe a shake!" I looked at Nigel for confirmation, and saw him nod and smile happily. And we fell in beside them, four abreast, taking up the whole pavement. Me, Nigel, John and Carol. Four teenagers on a warm summer evening, smiling, happy. Friends. We did the McTransaction as quickly as possible, and left clutching McStuff. Went and sat on some benches back by the clocktower.
"I'm sorry, Nigel."
Nigel looked at John. "What for?"
"Well, it feels odd. Not believing you I suppose."
"I don't think I'd have believed you either, you know." Nigel smiled. "If you'd told me the same thing, I mean. Doesn't matter, John."
"Yeah. Well I feel a bit bad about it. I mean we've been friends for ages. And the first time you tell me something big I go and make a mess of believing you. So I'm sorry." He looked as though he wanted to hug Nigel, almost.
"It is OK, John. I mean really OK." Nigel paused. "Er... "
"Well, I'm not sure. I mean I don't want you to misunderstand, but... "
"Well, I reckon you deserve a hug, but I don't want to... Oh shit. I'm making a mess of this. I mean. Oh damn. What I mean is, if I hug you, I just mean a hug. Nothing else. As a friend... "
I watched John put his bag of McStuff down, stand up, walk over to Nigel, pull him to his feet, and put his arms round him. "I reckon friends can do that," he said. "And I kind of needed to as well. Not very British, is it?" He paused long enough to squeeze the breath from Nigel and then released him. "I may not understand, OK, but I won't let you down. Neither of you. While it's a secret, no-one will hear to from me."
"You're a good friend. Thanks John."
"Yeah. Well. You wouldn't let me down either."
And they both looked awkward, standing there in front of the benches. They went from almost men to kids in no time flat. It was an odd moment. I could see what Claire had meant. About friendship and love. That they were very similar. It was a lazy look that passed between them. Lazy instead of the intense fire that seemed to flash between Nigel and me. But it burned across the short distance between them nonetheless. That was the moment I was sure. I don't think John knew, nor Nigel. Knew what passed between them then. There weren't words to describe it. A bond. Different from ours, yet as strong as ours. As fierce in its way, yet softer, less urgent. And timeless.
"Hey, the time!" Carol pulled their attention back, my attention back, to reality. To the reality of getting home without parents getting upset about any of us being late.
"I'll call my Dad," John said. "He said he'd give us a lift home."
"We're getting the bus," Nigel said.
"But you live in different directions?" He was nearly there, was John. Nearly.
"Nigel's staying at my place tonight, John."
"Oh. Er, yes. Er. Sorry."
"No need. Look, I need to say this once, so please... "
"I know he's special, John. I know you'll always be his friend. Always. I just need to tell you. I won't let him down, John. Not ever. I feel dead weird talking about loving Nigel, telling you how I feel for him, but I can see how important, special he is to you, too. As a friend."
I'd never known what the phrase 'covered with confusion' meant before. I saw then. Even in the darkness and the light from the street lamps, John was blushing. I mean blushing furiously. "Yeah, well... " And he ground to a halt.
"I wish you'd get to that phone box and phone your father," Carol added. I daren't be late tonight.
"I wish you'd stop talking about me as though I wasn't here," Nigel told us, a little embarrassed too, I thought. "Come on, Chris, we've got a bus to catch." He paused, turned to John, "Thanks, John. I, we, owe you."
"You don't," he said. "Not a thing. Chris is right. You are. Important to me. I mean it's not like you and Chris, but I think it's a bit like love. As a friend, I mean. Damn I feel stupid saying that."
Now they both looked heartily embarrassed. "Thanks, John," Nigel said quietly to him. "Me too. And it is. Like love. Only it took loving Chris to let me understand it, in a way."
"Phone box." Carol was smiling, but definite. "Look, it's all beautiful and everything, but I have to get home on time!"
There was a chorus of 'see you Monday' as John headed for the phone box, and we went to find the bus stop, round by the railway station. "How did you know?"
"Obvious. The way you looked at each other."
"It's not like me and you, you know."
"Yeah. I do. That was obvious, too. I like John."
"It was a bit unreal, though, wasn't it?"
"All of it. I liked kissing you by the clocktower!"
"Not what I meant. This bus?"
"Yep. And I know it wasn't. Like us, I mean."
We got our tickets, and mucked about on the way home. On the top deck, and we got the front seat and were big kids pretending to be the driver. We had about three quarters of a mile to walk to get home after our stop. I don't think we talked much during the walk. But it was dark, scattered street lamps, the old sort, the ones with a lightbulb and a sort of hood with little mirrors to try to direct the light downwards. They made little pools of light with great dark patches between. I grabbed Nigel's hand in the first dark patch. And I refused to let it go, even when we got to the bright pool. Not that he struggled to get away. I got the feeling he held mine tighter.
We made it. Just before the curfew.
Mum and Dad were still up. No surprises there. But they left us to our own devices. Dunno if it was tactful, or of they were embarrassed, not Dad of course, Mum would have been a little, well a lot really. We turned down hot chocolate, but each said a hearty 'yes, please' to the idea of a bath.
"You'll need to share the bathwater," Dad said. "But... "
"But not the bath, Dad. It's OK."
"I know. But I had to say it, OK?"
I gave him a withering glance. Not hugely effective, coz it just made him smile. "You want the bath first?" I'd turned to Nigel.
And we turned to the domestic trivia of getting ready for bed. My bed and the camp bed. I didn't expect Mum would ever come round to the idea of our sharing the same bed. She'd be making two beds for us even when we were long past being teenagers, I was sure of that. Hard to admit to herself that her son had another boy as his lover. It would have been out of order to share the bathroom with Nigel that night, too, so I waited on the bed, a mixture of sleepy and elated. About to have Nigel to myself, and for a whole night.
I was dead sleepy, though. Must have been. I drifted off several times listening to the sloshing from the bathroom. It was a comfortable noise. Sort of timeless. Me at fourteen thinking of timelessness. Odd thoughts. Our own home, our own bath, our own bed. Daydreams? Maybe. Predictions? Maybe. I wasn't thinking that far ahead. Just dreaming.
A kiss, just on my forehead.
"Wha..? Oh. I dozed off."
"Bath's nice and hot still, sleepyhead. You tired?"
"Mmm. Happy too."
"Me too. D'you want a bath?"
"Better have one. Mum's expecting it."
"I like clean Chrises. Go and get in."
"Yeah. Listen you take the real bed."
"Prat!" He snuggled down on top of the duvet as I went to the bathroom. He was right about the bath. Nice. Still hot. Smelling of shampoo. Restful.
I nearly did it again. Dozed off. Only just managed not to.
Only when I got back to my room, our room, I found a sleeping Nigel. He hadn't moved from where he'd snuggled down. A slim dent in the duvet, hair a wet, spiky halo, bare chest so smooth.
To wake him?
Or to snuggle down with him?
I desperately wanted to ask him something, too.
Questions could wait. We'd a lifetime for questions.
I breathed in his scent. He was bound to smell clean, his wet hair of shampoo. Even so that smell of Nigel crept through. Special. I lay there as the house began to go quiet for the night. Heard the silence as the television was switched off, heard my parents go to bed, saw the landing light stop oozing into the room round the edges of the door, listened to my beautiful Nigel's steady, soft breathing, drank in his scent through my nostrils, felt him stir and roll towards me, surrendered to sleep as he enfolded me in his arms, nose to nose.
It was either dreamless or I didn't remember my dreams. I don't think we moved all night. As the daylight started to struggle through the crack in the curtains I came back to the surface. Gently, slowly, luxuriously. I noticed the warmth in my face first, his breath, and then the weight of his arm over my ribs. His eyes were still shut as mine fluttered open. I could just make his face out in the half light.
I didn't want to disturb him. But I was bursting for a pee. And I mean bursting. I was torn. Torn between looking at his beautiful face and relieving the huge pressure, well not just on my bladder. Didn't see a way of moving, not without waking him. Just looking at his face, feeling his breath on my face. Soft lashes pressed gently to. Eyebrows. Lips. His cheek, the one not on the pillow, all silky, just the barest down on it. Strokable.
But I didn't. What I did was eased myself out, just gently. Nor did he stir. Well except to snuggle down and make a gorgeous little grunt. I reckon he was waking though, he was on his back when I got back and kissed his lips as I tried to work out how to get in beside him.
"Morning gorgeous!" My turn to be daft! "Not later than six. Very early."
"I need a very large pee."
"So I see." I was looking down. It was obvious.
"Mmm. I've something I want to do with that in a minute," he whispered.
"Yeah, well I had something in mind last night. Don't start without me."
"Might!" I loved flirting with him. I'd just discovered flirting.
"You'd better not. There's something I owe you."
I couldn't imagine what it might be. But I was game. For anything. I snuggled under the duvet and waited and wondered. He slipped back in, shutting the door carefully so as not to wake anyone. "I love you."
"Me, too," he whispered back. And I want you. And I want to do something special for you."
"It's always special, you idiot. It's you."
"Shh. This is going to be very special."
"What are you going to do."
"Wait and see." He pulled the duvet gently to one side. I shivered. Anticipation, not cold. He moved to the foot of the bed. I saw him kneel down, and felt him kiss my toes. And move up my legs, kissing.
No, licking. Licking my legs, making me feel squirmy inside, making me want to wriggle my legs, making me want to make him move up quicker. Feeling his tongue working up the inside of my thighs, feeling him creeping gently up the bed, forcing my thighs apart, nuzzling my balls with his nose. Licking, always licking.
I felt his tongue dart lower as he inched himself towards me. Lower, back between my legs, back till the tip touched the ridges, back, pushing my legs up and apart, his tongue surrounded me, licked round the ridges, lapping like a dog, and not just licking but probing, teasing me. Oh I remembered France, when he goaded me into kissing his! Now I knew why. Oh so personal, so private, so exquisite. "Ohhh."
"Shh," through the licking. And I swear he pursed his lips on me and forced his tongue inside. I swear he did. I felt speared by soft yet hard tongue. I hadn't dared do that for him. Not dared. And he was putting his tongue there, into my soul, it felt. And I was pushing back onto it, wanting more. Needing it. Puzzled at the same time. Everything was screaming 'dirty', and my mind was saying 'yes' as well. Needing him there. So loving. So private.
I felt him withdraw, and replace his mouth with his fingers. "Where's the stuff?" he whispered the question.
I'd put it under the pillow, and I passed it to him. "That's awesome," I breathed to him. "Amazing. But... "
"Shh. I have something I want to do. For me. You too."
I felt his fingers, slick with lube, tease and then invade me. Not one, but two. One from each hand. I could feel them inside me, working in opposite directions, twisting, probing, pulling me apart. Hot. Almost stinging. Pulling hard at the ring. Now hitting my prostate, now teasingly close to it. Sometimes pulling out and plunging inside. Tighter. Were there more fingers? No idea. Tight. Thrusting. Sliding inside me. Two hands, back to back. I could see that. Feel the fingers working. Feel him teasing me. Feel the huge pressure building inside me.
Then he withdrew completely. "Ready?"
Suddenly his cock was at the door, pushing hard to get in, and then inside. Inside and filling me. Now Nigel was face to face with me, yet raised on his hands, too. I was straining to be silent. My mouth was open. No sound, but a huge gasp of air inwards. And I was jack-knifed under him, impaled on his cock, seeming suddenly huge inside me with the speed of his thrust, almost rearranging my insides with its force. "Oh yessss. Oh yes please. Oh Nigel, yes. Hard. For you. Do it for you."
"I owe you this. And me." And he started. Unbelievable power, hard thrusts. Sometimes long, sometimes short. Unflagging. I looked up at him. At his face. Watching his eyes, closed, open, squinting through half open lids. His mouth. All the time feeling my very core being ploughed by his cock, so hot, so huge seeming, so hard, powerful. I felt his balls hitting me, watched the muscles in his arms tense, and all the time this unbelievable pressure was building inside me, precum almost squirting onto my chest. I could almost have kissed my own cock he was bending me and pressing so tight. Legs just anywhere, back pressed into the bed. For ever he pounded, keeping his rhythm, sweat starting to make his chest shine in the increasing light, pounding me inside, reaching some sort of limit inside me at the depth of his thrust, making me wince as he first hit and then pulled away from the prostate. Oh wow, as he pulled right out and forced his way back in. Emptying me and filling me. The utter concentration on his face. The feel of his cock impaling me again, hard, deep. Watching his face, seeing it tense suddenly, seeing him, feeling him start to shudder, face contorted, mouth open seeing his back arch as he drove harder still inside me, feeling somehow him cum inside me. Feeling him all tense relax suddenly and fall down onto me, sweaty, panting, trembling, knowing he needed to scream out loud. And I grabbed his head and pulled his mouth onto mine and kissed him, breathless or not, while his cock was still hard inside me, feeling filled with his need, with his love.
I held him there until his breathing eased, letting his panting spill out between our lips. And finally "Wow!"
"There's one thing I want to do now," he whispered.
"I want you to stay with me inside you, and I want to watch you wank."
"You want to watch me wank?"
"Yes. It sounds silly, but I've always wanted to watch you. Wanted to see you cum, wanted to see your hand on your own cock."
"I'm shy!" Weird, but I felt shy
Those eyes. I didn't take much persuading. And I needed the release. Somehow we made it so that he was underneath, and I was sitting, legs held firmly by his arms, facing him, feet under his shoulders. And I took hold of my cock. "Like this?" And slowly unveiled the head, luxuriating in the feeling of freedom as the foreskin slid back. I was slippery with precum, and full of Nigel, still rock hard, filling me, pressing my insides, pressing forward. I couldn't resist any longer. My fingers went into autopilot mode, and I sat harder onto his cock, supported my weight for balance with my left hand, and concentrated on the job in hand. As I worked I raised and lowered myself, adjusting his cock inside me, making it press on where I needed it. Eyes closed, getting to the point, sliding the foreskin up and down, feeling it so slippery that I almost couldn't keep hold anymore, feeling the surge form deep inside, feeling my hole contract and grip him tight as it came from deep within, eyes open now, onwards, past his cockhead, forcing its way past, along and up to the very tip, and so hot it almost seared me, out jetting though the tip, arcing up, then down onto his chest. Still impaled on my lover. Now breathless myself, fighting for balance, muscles gone to jelly. Couldn't fall forwards to kiss him, Legs were in the way, so I collapsed backwards. Oh! Still impaled, his cock pressed so hard against me inside that I felt I'd died and gone to heaven. Oh yes. Yes. Oh yesss. "Oh yes." I found I was talking as well as thinking.
"That looked awesome," said a quiet voice from the other end of the bed.
"Pervert!" Only I was giggling helplessly.
"I need a wash."
"I'll do it." And I extracted various bits from various other bits. Then wriggled round and looked at his chest. "Where'd that all come from?" He was covered, near enough. "I never knew I had so much inside me." Then I had an idea. And started to lick him clean. It didn't taste like his. And I'd only tasted mine from his mouth before. Odd feeling. Good feeling.
"I love you, Chris."
"I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing that. I love you too."
"I love you more!"
"I love you more!"
"Loved you first!"
"Yes, you did." And I kissed the tip of his nose. "I'm glad you got brave enough to tell me."
We kind of subsided into a doze.
Can't have been long. It seemed like almost at once there was a knock on the door. Dad's voice outside. "Breakfast in ten minutes!" Much too cheery.
"What time is it?"
"Gone nine, Chris," he replied. "Time to get up."
"OK, coming." Then to Nigel, "Shall I tell him you have been?"
"Not wise. I reckon he can guess."
"I meant to ask you something last night," I sad as we were forcing our way into your clothes."
"Well, you know when you were on the phone to John that night and you sort of went out of it for a while?"
"Yeah. I was scared."
"I know. But what I don't understand is, how come you were able to tell him about us so easily. Show him about us last night. Without worrying again, I mean?"
"It just seemed right. I really don't know."
"So what were you scared of before with him?"
"Shit, Chris, I don't know."
I could sense it was a difficult subject, so I dropped it. I sort of understood. And didn't. But it didn't matter. John knew. Knew properly I mean. And I knew Nigel could trust him. Which meant I could, too. "Sorry."
"No, I am. I didn't mean to snap at you. I just truly don't know."
"S'OK. You going to wash your tongue for breakfast?"
"Well, we know where it's been! You don't want to get germs!"
"You, Christopher Jenkins, are a complete idiot!"
"Takes one to know one!"
And we went down to breakfast, still sniping at each other gently. Mum did pretty well. I could tell that she liked Nigel, but I could also see that it was difficult for her. I mean really difficult. I wondered if we'd woken her up. Didn't bear thinking about. I wished we were old enough to be able to be alone in our own home, somehow. Just a small flat, one bedroom. Nothing special.
Too far off.
The present was more important. "I have to be home for lunch, Chris."
Deflated. Sudden deflation. "I thought, hoped you could stay all day."
"Can't. We have to go out this afternoon. Aged aunt stuff."
"I didn't tell you, did I? I meant to. I'm sorry."
"It's OK." It wasn't, but it had to be. I just wanted to exist in the same air that he existed in. Be close to him. Not even talking, maybe not touching. Just knowing he was there. "When do you have to go?"
He looked at the wall clock. "About an hour, I suppose."
"Want me to ride over with you?"
"Go on, then!"
"That's daft, Chris," Mum broke in. "Six miles just to keep Nigel company!"
"Mum!" My hackles rose, suddenly. It wasn't any of her business.
"Well, it's exercise, I suppose," she said, backing down as gracefully as possible. "Don't let's fight over it. Please."
It took a supreme effort not to start a fight. From both of us, her and me. I was already fed up because Nigel had to go. Mum should have been able to see that. To understand.
The time flew until we got the bikes out
However much we dawdled on the way, the journey was over in a flash. And we'd forgotten to say goodbye properly at my house. And it didn't feel right at his. So we parted like mates, not lovers.
I couldn't wait for Monday.
Even if school was very limiting in the contact we could have. I still couldn't wait for it.
It made the rest of the day drag, though. I tried to be around mum a lot. Trying to let her know I was still Chris, I suppose. The only thing I succeeded in was in getting under her feet and getting snapped at. I'd only been trying to help. And tell her it was OK and that I loved her.
I didn't do too much better with Dad. I cut the grass for him. And he got cross when I didn't trim the edges. And when I did trim the edges and didn't clear up the clippings he got cross again.
I didn't lose my cool. Nothing was going to spoil my mood. I was absolutely determined that nothing was. Instead of blowing up I went and made a pot of tea, and took them a mug out each. Then I had an idea. "Can I phone Carol, please?"
"'May', Chris. 'May I phone Carol'"
"Oh Mum. Please stop doing that."
"I'll stop when you stop."
I sighed. "All right, may I phone Carol, please?"
"Don't be too long."
"I won't." She was used to calls to Carol of an hour or more. I doubted this would be long. But I needed someone friendly to talk to.
Pity. The number was engaged. I tried on and off for half an hour. No luck. Always the engaged tone.
The day dragged.
The evening dragged.
My bed was empty.
But, if I tried, tried really hard, I thought I could just catch Nigel's scent on the pillow. Briefly. Even if I was imagining it, I went to sleep breathing in Nigel's scent.
It had gone by the morning.
Monday morning. Uniform to get into, school to go to. People to meet. I was wondering if John would be true to his word. Pretty sure he would be. I was scared for Andy. I knew he'd need to grab Nigel. Well, I guessed he would. I was wondering about Mike, too. How much he knew. Whether it mattered. I was fairly sure that John was OK about Andy. I mean that he wouldn't kill the kid for hitting on his baby brother or anything.
I got through assembly and half the morning without noticing it. Another odd mark on a desk though. Not a heart this time. The words 'I love' instead. Same initials.
At break Andy had monopolised Nigel. I didn't mind. I just hoped Nigel could manage to help him somehow. I didn't even try to join in. I'd never felt what Nigel had felt and had hidden for all that time. I didn't think I had anything o offer. Nothing of value to add. Didn't really hang with anyone.
At lunch I felt weird about joining John and the others. But I did. We compared notes on the various teacher we had that year. A lot of them were new to us since we were in a new year. And we were just starting out on the serious work leading to GCSEs. Not too difficult, but not easy either.
As we finished, and the others drifted away, John took me aside. "Can I ask you something, Chris?"
"Well, yes, I think so."
"I might not answer, then."
"Oh go on. I'll tell you if it's too personal."
He looked hesitant. Then, after a breath in, "what's it like, Chris?"
"What's what like?"
"Well, er, you know... "
I didn't. "I will if you tell me."
"Well, er, having, oh. Having something up your arse?"
"Are you winding me up?"
"Calm down. I just want to know. It's not like I want to do it, or anything, but I can't imagine it."
"And you're not winding me up?"
"You could ask Nigel?"
"We'ell... " I hesitated. "If you really want to know... "
"I do." He didn't look as though he was teasing me. Nor did he look embarrassed. I remembered I'd wondered myself, once. I suppose all kids do.
"Heck, you have to do better than that. 'Awesome'. OK, but what does it feel like?"
"Like nothing you ever felt before. Amazing."
"I kind of thought it'd be like taking a shit, but sort of in reverse."
"Nothing like it. Shit just happens." I giggled. I'd seen a poster 'Shit happens'. A cartoon. "Sorry. I mean it sort of fills you, tight, hot. And there's a spot that's amazing when you cum if you press on it." Why was I telling him this, I wondered.
"Wow. I thought it'd hurt and stuff."
"A bit at first. That doesn't matter. It's just an awesome feeling. I really can't describe it. I mean I've never felt anything like it in my life before. You remember your first real wank, John?
"Well it's like finding that out all over again."
"I'm curious, though. Why do you want to know?"
"There's got to be something in it. Stands to reason. I thought it must feel good, and I didn't have anyone else to ask. I mean no-one would want a cock up there if it wasn't good, right?"
I had to agree. I'd never wanted one there until Nigel showed me how it felt. "It's mind blowing. But John?"
"Er, well if you want to find out, there are things you can use, I guess. By yourself I mean." I certainly didn't want him to get any idea that I might be about to help him.
Now he looked embarrassed. "I tried. But... "
"I couldn't. It wouldn't."
"You need some lube."
"Why didn't I think of that? There's some K-Y in the bathroom cabinet at home. Yeah. You're a mate, Chris!"
'K-Y'. And we'd been calling it 'Kye' Now I thought of it, that's what was on the tube. Idiots, both. "It feels weird talking about this stuff."
"No it doesn't. Not to an expert!" Oh no. Now I was an expert! And I couldn't even read a tube of lube right. Well, pronounce one, anyway. "Chris, can I ask something really personal?"
"Is one of you the boy and the other the girl?"
"My mother asked us that." I wondered if everyone was going to. "Is it important?"
"Just nosy I suppose."
"Doesn't matter. No. We're just, well, normal. I mean there's no boy-girl stuff."
"Then who does what to whom?"
"You want to know what we do?"
"Well, if you put it like that, it's rude. Sorry. I, er, I didn't mean to be. Not to pry."
"Look, I don't know how to explain it properly. We just, er, well, do what feels right at the time." I was a little shy. Heck no, I was very shy suddenly. Only something told me that this was important. "I mean, we both love each other. And I don't think there's anything I've done for Nigel that he hasn't done for me. We're both boys. Just in love with each other. That's all I know."
"That's a relief."
That was the last thing I expected to hear. "What do you mean?"
"Well, the only gay people I've seen have been on the telly, right?"
"They always seem so camp, as though one's a girl and stuff. That seems so weird to me."
"Well I couldn't see it with Nigel, and I couldn't see it with you!"
"Still not with you." I wasn't. There was a message here all right, but I wasn't getting it.
"I mean you're what you just said. Normal. Like me. Only you're shagging each other. That's OK, somehow. Now I understand. Now I know you're not, what's the word?"
"Effeminate? No that's not really it. Anyway you aren't. It just seemed important, somehow. You're all right, Chris."
I felt I'd just passed an obscure test. I felt strangely pleased by it. Relieved. I'd just been approved of by Nigel's best friend. The other? That was just normal stuff. I'd have asked the same myself. I'd always wanted to know, too. "So are you, John. Thanks."
I found Nigel, and tried to tell him all about it. He was only half listening. Preoccupied with Andy. "I don't know how to help him, Chris."
I reckoned I could tell him about John later. "What do you mean?"
"Well, he's using us as a sort of role model. Only he's twelve years old."
"You were twelve when you fell in love with me, you said."
"I was. But I didn't dare tell you. Not for ages." He looked worried.
"Well, now that Mike's told him it isn't on, Andy's trying to prove something. I don't know what. And it's not what I mean exactly. I've just got this feeling that he's going to do something stupid somehow."
"You don't mean kill himself?" I'd heard of that, kids killing themselves because they were different.
"No, not that. He's not like that, I don't think. I don't know what I mean. Chris, is it my fault?"
"How can it be?"
"Telling him all that stuff? Being in bed with you? Showing him that boys can love other boys? That it's all right to love a boy?" Nigel looked helpless. Crushed.
"Is there someone we can ask for help?"
"A teacher?" I'd no idea either.
"You have to be joking! Even if we found a sympathetic one they can't help."
"Something to do with the law. Promoting homosexuality in schools. We'd be for it, Andy'd be for it. Social workers, maybe worse. Section something or other of some act."
"How'd you know?" It wasn't that I didn't believe him. I just couldn't see how a good teacher could be breaking the law if he helped any id who needed it.
"I did some checking. I, er, well. I wanted to tell someone myself. Before. It's too risky."
"OK, so what can we do?"
"Be his friend, I suppose. Treat him as a kid brother. Look out for him."
"I think he prefers you to me for that."
"Doesn't matter. Either of us will do fine."
"What if helping Andy hurts you, or hurts me? What then?" I had visions running through my mind. Scenarios of Andy in trouble and me or Nigel with our arms round him, trying to help him somehow. And all the kids gathered round yelling 'Queer, Queer, Queer'. And all of us getting messed up just because a kid had made a mess of something. Yeah, vague enough, but frightening enough, too.
"I need to do this Chris. I just need to. I can't let someone else suffer. I couldn't even if they weren't nice like Andy. You have to understand. It's for me as much as for him."
I caught the look on his face. It wasn't to be argued with. His jaw was set, eyes flashing. I was worried, scared, but I wasn't going to argue. "You know I'll help. I'm just not sure how. Or what to do. And I'm worried about the others, too. If they find out."
"Then we'll have to not let them find out."
We ground to a halt. Then tried to work out how we could meet after school in the week. There didn't seem a hope of sleeping over on a weekday, and we weren't allowed to go into town, not either of us, except at the weekend and in an organised group. 'Too young' were the words we'd each heard at home.
There didn't seem to be much to do except to survive the week and to get together at weekends. It meant relying a whole lot on our parents, too.
Lessons broke us apart. Not one in common on Mondays. And the drag of a long evening ahead. One with no Nigel in it. And so it turned out. Boring.
Dad wasn't too keen on the idea of me on the phone to Nigel every night. It was fair, I suppose. He hadn't let me phone Carol all the time either. All I could do was my homework, have supper, watch television and go to bed. Probably Nigel had the same problem, because the phone was silent all evening.
The morning was wet. Soaking wet. Raining cats and dogs. The forecast said it was going to be like it all day. Didn't bode too well for the morning or lunchtime breaks. I got soaked on the way to school.
Well the outer layer anyway. The coat. At least it kept the rest of me dry. Except the shoes, which squelched.
The locker area was crowded with everyone pushing for room. Horrid wet smell everywhere, almost as bad as wet dog. I saw it again. The heart with initials in it. On a locker this time. A junior's locker.
My brain clicked and I worked it out at last. I looked for Nigel. I had to tell him what I'd kept on seeing, on desks, and now in a locker. I spotted is head, but too far away. And there was no hope of talking to him in assembly, either.
It would have to wait until break. Or maybe until PSE, just before lunch. So I settled into the rut of lessons, and waited for break. It wasn't nice weather at all outside. The rain was lashing down. Break was going to be indoors. It was lucky we had all our lessons in the main block, not n the portacabins across the year. We'd have got totally soaked just going from room to room if we had.
As we went to our last lesson before break, we crossed with a group of juniors. Andy and Mike's group of juniors. They were as laden with books and folders as we were. Wet as it was outside everyone was larking about inside. There was a jam of bodies, and an armful of ring binders got knocked to the ground. One did as ring binders do. Fell open and spewed its contents on the ground.
"Hey, I want that back," a shrill voice called, as hands grabbed for the papers. "It's mine. I need it. Please."
There was something about the voice. Not it's owner. About the voice. I knew its owner. It was something scared, desperate. I looked and saw the owner grabbing desperately for a piece of paper. Trying to get it from the hands of another kid in his year. A taller kid. A taller kid who'd heard the fright, the desperation. A kid who was just teasing, but didn't know what with.
Nor did I
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