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I couldn't actually do anything. Several reasons. The most pressing was just that. Pressure. There was no way I could go against the pressure of bodies and turn round and go and help. And even if I had been able to, how could I have done anything? I had no authority. Older kids didn't have any. It just didn't happen.
I wish I had.
I really wish I had.
I could have. I could have gone and helped him. Could have got his piece of paper back. If only I'd realised.
Instead I went with the crowd to my lesson, knowing I'd missed out on the chance to help, but not knowing how important it had been. I didn't suppose it was anything more than larking about. I mean I knew who it had been who needed his piece of paper back. But that was all. I'd forgotten it by the time we got to the classrooms. French. Mrs Marchmont. Sitting next to Carol. I'd forgotten why I'd wanted to ring her on Sunday afternoon. We'd met and chatted since then anyway
I was itching to find out if she and John were going to be an item. I didn't dare ask her. Didn't seem right to, somehow. I still loved her. It's just that I wasn't in love with her. I wanted her to be happy. Especially since I wasn't the one who could do it. Not anymore.
No chance to talk, though. Not in French.
It was still pouring with rain when we got out. The corridors were as crowded as before. No-one was allowed outside, and the kids in the portacabins were crowding in, adding to the crush. The plan on a wet day was that we headed for our next lesson and waited there. Good plan.
The reality was that we had to swap our books and stuff over at our lockers, and then head out again to the classroom. Crowded again.
And that heart on the locker was nagging at me.
And it all reminded me of that wail of 'please' before the last lesson. Only I didn't see what I could do about it. If I found Andy, if I found the kid who'd grabbed his piece of paper, if I waded in with both feet, then what?
What if it turned out to be his maths task to be handed in, and I'd gone steaming in and come to his defence? That would just mean I was confirming there was something to find out. So that was no good. It'd probably keep until lunchtime. If there was going to be an explosion, we'd have heard something. Surely?
I was in the middle of the group as we got back to our lockers. Chatting with a few of them. General stuff. You know, school stuff. Not a huge amount. I couldn't see who, but someone asked me if I had a new girlfriend yet. I had no idea how to reply. "Not yet."
"Seems odd to see you without Carol on your arm all the time." It was Terry Smith talking. Terry and I had never been mates exactly, but if it wasn't me or Carol at the top of the class it was Terry. The three of us were rivals, kind of.
Carol wasn't in the group. I'd seen her hanging out with Natalie and Celia. Just as well, coz I got a little defensive about her. Well almost very defensive. Inside at least. Outwardly I wore my super-cool mask. Or tried to. "I suppose you want to go out with her now, since I'm out of the way, Terry?"
Wrong thing to say. Terry always blushed easily. A shock of dark hair and a beetroot face. "No!" And his eyes went down to the floor. I was sorry at once. Too late for that. I mean I couldn't say I was sorry. That would make it worse.
One of the others started it. A chant. "Te-rry fan-cies Ca-rol! Te-rry fan-cies Ca-rol!" Repetitive. Meaningless. Horrible. Babyish. Rhythmic. Like the tune of Ring-a Ring o-Roses, only less tuneful. "Te-rry fan-cies Ca-rol! Te-rry fan-cies Ca-rol!"
Terry looked sick. "Stop it. And I don't."
I hadn't joined in. I cringed. If this was what they could do if a boy fancied a girl, what could they do if they found out about me and Nigel? I nearly panicked. I did apologise, then. "Sorry, Terry. Shut up guys, leave him alone."
They did! Amazing! Terry had some part in that, though. He'd learnt to ride with the blows over the time we'd known each other. He always laughed at himself when he blushed. Almost as though he enjoyed the joke, but not quite.
Odd. He didn't thank me or anything for asking them to stop. "I can look after myself," and turned his back on me, and headed for his own locker.
My turn to be covered in confusion. I'd caused something, then tried to help, and been almost turned on. I felt a prat. No point in going over to apologise, Terry was Terry. So I got on with sorting out the books and folders for the lessons left after break. At least I'd see Nigel at the second one. PSE. Couldn't see him in the crush by the lockers, so I started to head off to the next lesson. Alone this time. I was sort of not in a mood for the group after pissing Terry off like that.
It's always when you have an armful of books that you find you need a pee. And there's nowhere useful to put them in the toilets. No-one would want them on the floor!
I managed to wedge them on a washbasin, and stood blissfully by the trough. Behind me a cubicle flushed. I didn't turn to see who it was. Not a thing that was 'done', but when I went to get my pile of books I saw Andy. Only the two of us in the toilets just then. And he didn't look happy.
Downright unhappy. No that wasn't it. Just no spark. "You OK, Andy?" His eyes were red, I noticed.
"What d'you mean?"
"Saw you having a bit if trouble earlier."
"It was nothing." Only his face and his eyes told a different story. Weary. Not frightened exactly, but not carefree either.
I didn't know what to say next. I knew it wasn't the nothing that he said it was. "What did they do, steal your homework?"
"No. Just something I wanted back."
"Need any help?"
"It'll just make it worse," he turned to go. "Thanks, though."
"I'm meant to be a big brother you know... " I was speaking to the back of the door as it swung shut behind him. He was right, really. It would. Make it worse. Whatever 'it' was. Didn't mean I felt good about not helping him. It wasn't a false offer, but I was relieved, too, because I just didn't see what I could have done to help him.
There wasn't a lot I could do. Well nothing I could do. Except head off to the classroom. I looked for Nigel on the way. No luck. He'd have been in his own next classroom by that time. And I needed to see him.
It still had very mixed feelings about the stuff Nigel was doing to help Andy. Not jealous or anything. Nigel had made it pretty clear to Andy that he wasn't interested in him. And Andy was pretty young, too, so it would have been unusual, to say the least. Well I was jealous of the time Andy was taking up, sure, but not of Andy himself. I liked him. I was just worried about us. About me and about Nigel. Getting involved in something stupid that would hurt one of us.
Even so, I couldn't just leave the kid in the lurch. I could understand Nigel, too. Why he was doing it. Why he'd told John so clearly about us. I couldn't put it into words, but I could understand it. Something to do with needing to prove himself. I just wasn't sure who he needed to prove himself to.
And I hadn't got any further with the thought when I reached the classroom, and joined into the crowd inside. Just in time before Mr Hampton arrived and sat us down to learn the intricacies of the political geography leading to the first world war. Wonderfully interesting stuff.
Well it should have been, could have been, if Mr Hampton had been a good teacher. Only he was dry as dust. It took ages for the lesson to pass. Ages. Only PSE to go before lunch. Something like 'Personal and Social Education'. Last term was drugs. We'd done drugs to death. This term it was sex.
We were old enough to hear about sex and relationships, and marriage and stuff. And the bell went for the end of the First World War. And we headed down the corridor towards PSE. And I was heading towards Nigel.
I saw him, coming the opposite way. In a stupid film we'd have run in slow motion and met at the door of room 456, where we were headed. But he turned in first, and I followed about ten people behind him.
To sit next to him? Decisions. Would it mean anything if I sat next to him? Would he be upset if I didn't? Being not straight in school is awful, I was discovering. Having to seem straight. No clues to be given to anyone. Act a part all the time. Suddenly I wasn't too sure I could act.
"Saved you a place, Chris."
I was still losing the debate with myself. "Eh?"
"Over here? If you want it."
I turned to face the voice. Lost the debate completely, and went and sat down beside Nigel. "Sorry, I was miles away."
"I noticed. Penny for them?"
Sometimes my brain surprises me. I'm meant to be bright. I just was distracted. "Well, sure. I was kind of concerned about Andy. Among other stuff."
"Andy? What?" Nigel's eyes looked urgent.
"Well, I hope it's nothing, but someone nicked a piece of paper from him earlier. And he looked as though he'd been kicked in the stomach by a mule." We were talking quietly. "And he looks like he's been crying."
"Not good. I need... " and the door opened and Miss Campbell came into the room, which kind of halted us all in mid sentence. "Later," he finished in a whisper. He was lucky. Miss Campbell had taken us last term, too. She seemed to be able to hear and see everything that went on in the class. This time she either missed it, or ignored it.
"Right. New subject this term," she said, "Last term was drugs. Today it's sex."
I tried. I did. We all did. We'd planned it. We were not going to do it.
We really tried.
For all of five seconds we tried.
It was Terry that broke the effect. "Are we having sex today, Miss Campbell?"
That did it. We collapsed into them. The giggles.
She'd been expecting it. Of course she had. You don't teach PSE without expecting it. And I suppose we had to get it out of our systems. And she knew it. She let us giggle on. And on.
"Right. Enough, I think," she said after what must have been five whole minutes of bad jokes. "I can see why it's funny. I've seen why it was funny every time I've taken this class. Sex is pretty funny." She paused. Not a titter. "We aren't dealing with the facts about sex. We're going to look at relationships. How they work. Important stuff."
And she went through the foundation of what we were going to cover. She wrote the term's syllabus on the board for us all. There was a lot there. Marriage. She was very clear on marriage as the corner stone of everything. Those were the words she used. Corner stone. There was a section on under age sex, too. There wasn't a section on us, though.
Not on me and Nigel.
Not on, well, gay relationships, I supposed
I looked towards him. I couldn't tell if he'd seen it wasn't there, too. I don't know if it really mattered, but it mattered to me. It mattered then. Mattered a lot. Enough to set my heart pounding. With anger. And with a sort of fear.
I wanted to ask. I wanted to ask her why it wasn't there. Why two boys, two girls come to that, couldn't be included in a discussion about relationships, about marriage even. I knew it would come out angry if I did.
Just at that moment I so wanted Nigel's arms round me. Alone in the middle of the classroom, feeling uncontrollable anger about something I couldn't understand. And the one person who could help me? Couldn't.
A few hands went up to ask questions. Miss Campbell went round and answered them all. Not with direct answers, but by telling us which lesson we'd cover the material in. She was going round the class row by row. "Yes Nigel?"
"Miss, all this is pretty useful stuff, " he said. "But isn't there something missing?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Miss, not everyone is heterosexual, are they?"
"No, Nigel. No, they aren't." Sniggers filled the room. "But I'm not allowed to deal with that in this class. I wish I could."
"Why not?" Terry was asking, now.
"I'd love to talk about it. Properly I mean. There are so many boys and girls who need to know about being gay, being lesbian. Need the information desperately because they have nowhere to turn. But I'm not allowed to. By law. We can discuss that. The law, I mean. But we aren't allowed to discuss the topic."
A voice from the left hand side, I forget who, "I don't want to hear about queers, Miss." He got a laugh. A huge laugh.
"Enough of that," Miss Campbell said sharply to him. Shot him down with her voice. Then, quietly, "Want to or not, we can't do it anyway. Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 says simply that schools may not promote homosexuality. And our local authority has interpreted that to mean that we may not discuss it; not whether it is a good, nor a bad thing, but not discuss it at all."
"Why does talking about it mean promoting it, Miss," Terry asked again. "I mean we're here to learn stuff, right?"
"Now that's a subject we can talk about," Miss Campbell said. "But, if we start discussing homosexual relationships themselves I have to stop that line of discussion. Have to. I'm not allowed to go there." She paused. "It's more of an ethics discussion, really, the one we can have."
It was. We discussed it until the end of the lesson. It was pretty obvious that Miss Campbell thought the whole Section 28 thing was stupid. She said so. Often. She said it made it impossible to give us any useful information. Impossible really to offer any help to a pupil who came to a staff member for help.
"I know a teacher may not be someone's first choice," she said, "but if, just if, one of you needed help because you even thought you might be gay, the law means that any teacher would find it very difficult to give you the help you need without risking breaking the law. And that isn't fair. Not on you and not on us."
Since the bell was sounding, that was the end of it. Oh, except Terry. "Do we have any sex homework, Miss?"
"Do you really expect an answer to that, Terence Smith? Lunch. And go quietly, please."
Well, we went as quietly as possible, I suppose. It was one of the best lessons we'd had for ages. Not because the topic was close to home, but because Miss Campbell had a passion about her subject. She'd been good at drugs, too. But this looked like she was ready to fight against something that she felt was ridiculous. I wondered, half, if, law or no law, we might have a friend in Miss Campbell, if we ever needed it.
"That was brave."
"It wasn't. Not really," Nigel replied to me.
"What do you mean? I thought it was dead brave."
"Well," he said, "I half knew what Miss Campbell thought anyway."
"Well, I overheard some of the year above us talking last year about her PSE class."
"And she'd been pretty strong about Section 28 to them, too. So I reckoned it would be interesting."
"Well, it was. I half think she might be a friend? If we need one I mean? She was pretty impressive! I wouldn't like to be on her wrong side over that one!" We'd reached the lockers to dump our books and folders while we were talking.
"I'm not sure, Chris. I mean Miss Campbell is all right, yes. But that stuff she said about the law not really letting a teacher help anyone. I'm not sure. Anyway we've got our parents."
"Yeah. True." There was something still telling me that she might be a good ally. But I wasn't sure why we'd need one. "Come on. Lunch!"
We ended up sitting with John and Terry and a few others. Terry was all full of himself over the 'sex homework' gag. John had to hear all about it. He was in a different class for PSE. We spent a bit of time giggling about it.
"Hey Nigel, what was that bit about queers and stuff?" Terry asked.
"Not a lot, " came a very easy answer. "I'd caught on that she felt strongly about this law thing from some of last year's class, so I reckoned it would set her off for a while."
"Certainly did that. Bloody odd law."
"Oh, I forgot you weren't there, John," Terry was holding court a bit. "Section something or other of some Act of Parliament says something about promoting homosexuality in schools."
"You mean they have to tell us how to be gay?" John looked more than surprised.
"Idiot, no!" Terry was having fun. "It means they mustn't tell us about it. Not at all. Can't even help kids who need help."
"Glad about that, Tel."
"What, Glad the teachers can't help kids who need it?"
"God, Terry, why do you twist stuff?" John asked. "No. I wish they could help people properly. No, I'm glad we don't have to have it shoved down our throats. Oh shit. That wasn't what I meant at all!" And he collapsed into giggles.
He wasn't the only one. We all did. Even Terry, who was trying hard to look all superior.
Then we got onto the topic of blow jobs. Natural progression I suppose. "I wonder what it's like to get a blow job." It just had to be Terry. "You'd know, Chris. What's it like?"
Shit. I was blushing. Deep crimson. Oh shit. He knew. He must know. "What?" I was playing for time.
"Well you must know. How long were you going out with Carol?"
Oh relief. He didn't know. I mean there was no way that he could have known, but my mind was playing tricks on me. "Look, I told John last week, Terry. If I have or if I haven't done stuff with Carol I'm not saying, OK?"
"So you have, then."
"Not saying, OK? Think what you like. It's private. My business and her business. Ask her. See what she says."
"Yeah, OK." He backed down. "Hey if you were a girl, would you swallow it?"
"Don't see why not," said John. "I mean it doesn't taste of much."
"Who have you been sucking?" Terry was in a weird mood, that was for sure.
John's turn to look embarrassed. "Well, if you must know, I tasted mine."
"Doesn't that hurt your back, John?" Nigel couldn't resist it.
"God, you lot! No. I mean afterwards. Anyway I can't reach!"
"Eww! You tasted your own cum after a wank. Eww." Terry was persistent. And I'd thought I'd needed to come to his rescue earlier. My mistake, obviously.
"Well, I wasn't going to taste anyone else's. Shit Terry, haven't you ever tasted yours? I mean aren't you even a little curious?"
"Not a lot," he said. "I mean I suppose it must be salty, like piss."
"Ah, so we won't taste cum, but we'll taste piss! Gotcha!"
"Oh Jeez, John, give it a rest," Terry said. "Heck I thought we were talking about spitting or swallowing." The he turned to me. "You're quiet, Chris. What would you do, spit or swallow?"
"Why does it matter?" I was playing for time.
"Doesn't, I suppose. I was just wondering."
"Well," I said, "I think it depends on the person being blown."
"What d'you mean?"
"Well, if I didn't much care for the boy, if I were a girl, I mean, If I didn't much care for him, I wouldn't give it any thought. I reckon spit and be done with it. But if I did care for him, then I don't reckon it takes any thought either. I reckon it wouldn't matter if I spat or swallowed. Not to me and not to him. If I were a girl."
"Seems to make sense. Specially if it doesn't taste of much. I bet it feels good, being given one," Terry added. "Must be awesome."
"D'you reckon it's different if a boy does it to you or if a girl does it?" John slipped the question in quietly.
"Eww! I don't want a boy doing it. That's gay, that is." Terry was looking slightly disgusted, slightly, well, interested.
"Well, what if you had your eyes shut all the time, I mean. Could you tell if it was a boy or a girl?"
Nigel and I were watching this. Well, I was watching, certainly. It felt risky. John knew Nigel and I were a couple. Terry didn't. The ground seemed a little soft where we were sitting suddenly.
"Without touching them with my hands?"
"Mouth and cock only, Terry. No hands, no talking. Nothing. Just their mouth on your cock."
"Hmm. OK, I'm going to use logic. That OK?"
"Well I don't know how to prove it one way or the other, unless we set up a controlled experiment, you idiot!"
"Well if there's no difference, I reckon I'm up for it," Terry was smiling. "Unless you're gonna take a video of it, I mean. Heck where'd you get a group of girls to do it? And if you could, where'd you get the same number of boys?" He paused. "Ok, now let me think. Oh, you mean people our age, right, John?"
"Ok, nothing much in physical differences. No telltale stubble, similar heights, so that doesn't make a difference. So if there's going to be a difference, it has to be in technique. Make sense so far?"
"Seems to make sense. What do you guys think?"
He got a pair of shrugs, and words like 'no idea' from me and Nigel.
"Right. It has to be technique. I don't reckon a girl knows how to work a dick. I mean I've no real idea how to work a girl's bits, and I reckon girls are the same about ours! I think, no I know, that a boy knows how to work a dick. He's got one of his own, always available, knows his way around it, how to make it feel good. Yeah, I reckon a boy would do a better job. Technically, I mean. Only... Well only I'm not that sure I want to find out!"
"Makes sense. Yeah, makes perfect sense. I mean you're right. We aren't exactly going to check it out, are we?"
Now that was something I thought I could agree with safely. I wasn't going to get a girl to compare with Nigel. Before I spoke Nigel answered, well, asked, "But how would a boy know which bits to lick? Or do you suck? And if it's called a blow job, why don't you blow?"
"Oh shut up, Nigel! I mean heck, what would you know about it anyway? You're so wrapped up in sport, you haven't even got a girlfriend!"
"Yeah, well, maybe I'm a late starter, Terry."
At least I was seeing how Nigel had managed to conceal things. Half teasing himself, half asking stupid questions. Mind you I couldn't see how it could last much longer. Maybe a year at the most. And I was wondering how I could get by without being seen with a girl on my arm. I was still running these things round my head as we cleared away. The other three were nattering on about blow jobs. The rain had stopped, and we headed outside.
The I heard it. That chant. Ring-a Ring o-Roses. Tuneless. Monotonous. Like with Terry earlier.
Only this time it had different words. And this time it was hurting someone. Not like with Terry, who seemed immune. This time there was a ring of kids round someone I suddenly felt so sorry for.
"Andy loves Mike Simp-son, Andy loves Mike Simp-son, Andy loves Mike Simp-son, Andy loves Mike Simp-son, Andy loves Mike Simp-son, Andy loves Mike Simp-son, Andy loves Mike Simp-son." It was going on and on and on. " Andy loves Mike Simp-son, Andy loves Mike Simp-son, Andy loves Mike Simp-son, Andy loves Mike Simp-son, Andy loves Mike Simp-son, Andy loves Mike Simp-son, Andy loves Mike Simp-son!" On and on relentlessly.
Then it changed. "Andy is a que-er, Andy is a que-er, Andy is a que-er, Andy is a que-er, Andy is a que-er, Andy is a que-er, Andy is a que-er, Andy is a que-er, Andy is a que-er, Andy is a que-er," on and on again.
I didn't know which was more cruel. And both cut me to my heart. I felt I was in the circle instead of Andy Giles.
Instead of Andy Giles.
He was only a kid for God's sake. Only twelve years old. And this crowd was pulling his soul out.
What to do?
Only my body started working before my brain had a chance to stop it.
I reached the middle of the circle. Pushed my way through the crowd. Reached the middle and heard "Let's show Andy what we do to queers here."
And a chorus of "Yeah, let's get him!" followed me in there.
I'm glad my brain wasn't working. Completely in neutral, I stood beside him. There was no way to shield him from them. They were all round us both. I looked at the circle. Boys, girls, all around Andy's age. All excited. Blood was up, almost baying for blood. "What's going on?" I asked it calmly. Standing up to my full height, which was not impressive. Then I saw the kid who'd grabbed Andy's piece of paper. Saw his mouth moving, heard his voice.
"This sheet of paper fell out of his folder. It's got 'I love Mike Simpson' written all over it. And hearts with AG and MS in them. He's a fucking queer, and we're gonna show him what we think of queers!" Another type of situation it would have been funny. A piping treble voice, trying to be stern, trying to seem grown up. "It's his all right. He's been trying to get it back from me all morning. We've changed for games beside each other. Yuck!"
I reckoned it wasn't the time to debate the 'if you're gay you must fancy me and I hate you for it' stuff. I hadn't even realised it until then. That boys think all gay boys must fancy them, I mean. "Andy, we have to get you out of here, " I said to him quietly, almost out of the side of my mouth. Then, to the mob, "Why don't you just leave him alone?"
The treble voice again. I was going to need to find out his name if he kept this up. "Because he's a fucking queer. What business is it of yours anyway?"
"I don't like bullies. For any reason. And even if he is queer, that's no reason to hurt him. What does Mike Simpson say? He was the person on the paper? Does he want this?"
There was a murmur. I thought I'd won.
They pressed closer. And then it started. Not just Andy, on me, too. I tried to protect him, but when you're a dork at fighting for yourself it's pretty hard to protect someone else. It was a rain of fists and pulling hair, no room for kicks it seemed. The a sickening thud onto my nose. And hands grabbing me as I tried to keep hold of Andy. Pulling me hard, deeper into the crowd. God it hurt. My nose hurt. Blood was pouring from it, and I was being dragged away. And with the blood from my nose and hot tears from my eyes - wasn't crying, the nose just does that - I couldn't control what was going on. Couldn't see.
And I lost my grip on Andy.
And started hitting out blindly at the person, the people, dragging me. Yelling something at them all. Still hearing the racket in my head. Scared I was going to fall over. Fighting to stay upright. Not hearing, and yet hearing the words being screamed into my ear. Terrified for me, and yes still for Andy. And wanting to call Nigel's name, to get him to help me. Yet scared he'd be beaten up if he dared to.
I don't like gratuitous violence. But this is real life. People DO get hurt. No-one will die. Well, they do eventually, and of natural causes, if the story goes on long enough!
After such a long gap of several months between chapters, it seems mean to leave you with a cliff-hanger. Well, yes, it is mean. So yell at me! Believe me, there was no way to write a 'kiss and make up' section at the end of this chapter.
And Section 28 of the United Kingdom Local Government Act 1988 MUST go. Those who want it kept say that it stops our kids being taught to be homosexual. Well I have a son, a teenage son. If you read my life story on the website you'll see and understand. My son knows I am gay. It hasn't made him want to try being gay out. You don't try it out, however well informed you are, you just don't. Being unstr8 is one thing; choosing to be unstr8 is quite another. Of course it must happen, but it is so rare as to be statistically irrelevant. Section 28 is about scaring good teachers away from helping the kids who need their help. This is a bad UK law.
If you liked this chapter, If you like the story, find more at my website http://www.iomfats.org, and from there also link to the Teenage Gay Boy Love Stories Webring where we have gathered authors who write fact and fiction about teenage male romance. And if you are an author yourself, please don't hesitate to go to the Webring Signup page at http:/members.xoom.com/storyshelf/ringmaster.htm and submit your own website for consideration for membership. Our Webring gets in excess of 3,000 hits a week. We must be doing something right! Click here for the list of TGBL Webring Sites [if your browser does not show this link, simply visit my website's links page].