I'd like to thank TalonRider for his hard and perceptive work
throughout editing this chapter. Thank you!
I'd also like to thank Dargon and Librent for their exceptional skill and sound suggestions when beta reading this chapter. Thanks guys!
And finally I'd like to thank Jamie de Valen. His kind words and wise advice really makes this story shine. Thanks!
I like girls.
I like guys too, I’m just not bisexual. It took me a while to figure that one out, and came away with the conclusion that I hate labels, yet I call myself gay. I decided that it was better to be something rather than nothing.
“Hey, I asked you a question!” The angelic voice echoed throughout the darkness of the school hall, bringing me back to reality.
“I heard what you said, and I… I don’t know.” The corners of my mouth twitched at the smoothness of my ad lib. I’d heard what he said. He asked me if I loved him. Then a hint of panic had flashed in his eyes when I hadn’t responded, thinking I’d forgotten my line. And I had, for a brief moment, but it made for a nice ad lib.
“It’s because of her, isn’t it?” He spoke, putting us back on the script.
“There is no ‘her’, there never was.”
He clenched his teeth, defining his young, boyish jaw line. He shook his head, “Then why can’t you talk to me?”
“We’re talking now.”
“You know what I mean! You don’t answer your phone, reply to my emails…”
The old, worn floorboards of the stage groaned as I turned and started to walk away, but froze when his hand came to rest on my shoulder.
Responding to my character’s name, I replied in a lower voice, “I don’t know what you want me to say. You won’t listen-”
Skirting around, he stood before me. His blue eyes shimmered in the amber beam from the spotlights overhead as he stared at me, “I’m listening.”
I let my eyes drop to the floor, or more specifically, to his trainers. They were a brilliant pearly white, the kind of white you only get on the first wear. They were a cool design too, but nothing overtly intense. Rising my eyes upwards, I let them linger on his black faded jeans, marveling at how they hugged his slim hips as he stood there full of confidence. Finally I swept my gaze over his light pink t-shirt. While it was loose fitting it clung to his form just enough in all the right places to hint at a toned body underneath.
“Rachel is a friend. I wasn’t dating her. I never have.”
“Then what do you want?” His eyes narrowed at me in annoyance, “Who do you want?”
Placing a hand on his warm shoulder, I slowly let it slide up to cup his gentle face, “I want you. You’re all I’ve ever wanted.”
“Do you love me?”
A smile broke out on my face, “Yeah, I love you.”
The scene made for us to kiss, but with an artistic touch, we changed it to an embrace. Acting or not, kissing the boy was out of the question. Stepping towards him, I extended my arms and pulled him into me. His soft black hair caressed my cheek as I rested my chin on his shoulder. The moment I’d adored countless times during rehearsals was happening for real, and for what I believed was the last time. I inhaled gently at his neck, smelling the perfect scent. Jordan’s scent.
A few seconds passed, and then they began to applaud. But there was one in particular who we had to win over, the one who determined our grades. Pulling apart, we faced our small audience and took a bow, before walking over to the steps and climbing down. As my eyes adapted to the darker surroundings, I glanced over at the examiner, noticing that she too was standing and clapping. A grin broke out on my face. We’d done it.
“Excellent work, boys.” Clapped our drama teacher, Miss Scott. The tall, wiry, thirty-something woman stepped away from the examiner and headed towards us. Even in the dim lighting, I could still make out her frizzy auburn hair, and her thick, black rimmed glasses. Anyone commenting on her eccentric appearance always got the same reply: ‘Miss Scott is making a fashion statement’ she’d cry, before twirling around on the spot.
Jordan’s smile was enough to light up the room, “Thank you Miss.”
“And you…” She began, eyeing me through the glasses perched at the end of her nose, “I thought I was going to have to prompt you there, Mister!”
I laughed, “I couldn’t help it. Too good an opportunity to pass up!”
Jordan punched my arm lightly, shooting me a playful glance, “Yeah, thanks for that by the way.”
I winked at him, “I knew you could handle yourself.”
Scott spoke again, “Well I think it worked boys. And while I can’t say what mark you got. I don’t think your targets were that far off.” Our targets were solid A’s. It thrilled me to think that we’d reached the high grades.
I gave a hi-five to Jordan, “Great work, Mate.”
His eyes glowed in the darkness, “Yeah, you too.”
“Awww, you were fabulous, Jord!” Came that incessant voice belonging to no one other than Stephen Blanchard. I hesitantly watched as he skipped over to Jordan and flung his arms around him, “I am sooo proud of you! You were amazing!”
I rolled my eyes at his antics, before someone came and hugged me from the side. I recognised the gentle touch and smiled at her voice, “You were so good, baby!”
I turned and focused on Torri. At five foot six, she was a few inches shorter than me, making me eye level with her long, dirty blonde hair. Her eyes were a light brown, which contrasted beautifully with her creamy, lightly tanned skin. Torri was a goddess. Not only was she clearly the hottest girl the school, she was one of the nicest too. She’d been my best friend since we were like five-years-old or something, but better yet, she’d been my girlfriend for the past two years.
“Thanks.” I replied, giving her a kiss on her cheek, “I think we both did a great job.”
Torri pulled back, beaming at Jordan and me, “Yeah, you were both excellent.”
I flashed a toothy grin at Jordan, but it quickly faded when I saw the way Stephen was wrapped around him like a vine of ivy. The guy couldn’t act normal for one bloody second.
“Yeah!” Came his high pitched whine as he looked at me “I thought you’d forgotten your lines!”
I stared down at the shorter, black haired boy. At fifteen-years-old, Stephen was one of the youngest guys in our year, with his birthday being late in the summer holidays. His eyes were a light green, and while he wasn’t the hottest guy who walked the Earth, he wasn’t that bad looking. But that’s where the compliments ended. There were two openly gay students in our school and Stephen was one of them. But unlike any normal person, he opted to spend every single passing minute of his day reminding the whole world of how he liked boys.
I smirked, “No, I was just testing Jordan’s acting ability.”
He let out this shriek of a laugh and I tightened on Torri’s hand.
“Hey guys, I don’t mind you four staying here, but we still have some more students to go so you’ll have to be quiet…” Began Miss Scott.
“I think we’re gonna go…” The others slowly began for the doors, making our intentions clear.
Stephen waved a hand in front of his face, “I hate it in here. It’s sooo stuffy.”
Wanting to ignore him, I found my body betraying me as I inhaled deeply and grimaced. It really did stink. Through all the rehearsals I’d seemingly become accustomed to the retched smell. But inhaling it again rapidly changed that. I quickened my pace to the exit.
Pushing open the old, wooden framed doors, we were instantly blinded by the brightness as we stepped outside into the school’s foyer. Blinking a few times to adjust to the normal lighting, I glanced around the large open space. White was the dominant colour, coating the large walls and doors leading off the vast entrance hall. To the left was the main reception, which housed the visitor’s entrance. Next to that was another double set of doors that led to the main dining hall, and finally, directly in front of us, was the large main staircase.
Looking around at the others, the sight of Torri reminded me of the conversation we’d had the day before, “Hey, don’t you have an assessment for your law class today?”
She reached up and pushed a few blonde strands out of her eyes, “Yeah, I have to be there for two o’clock.”
“What’s the time now?”
She glanced at her phone, “One-forty. I should be heading off.”
“How long is it for?” Jordan’s brow knitted.
“Two hours.” She sighed.
I frowned, “Damn, uhh, I’ll see you later then?”
“Yep. I might go into town later if you’re interested.”
“Sure.” I gave her a hug. She always felt so small in my arms, “Good luck in your assessment. Not that you’ll need it.”
She giggled, “Thanks. Bye guys!”
“Turrah!” Called out Stephen, who seemed to be having trouble standing still.
Torri turned and ascended the stairs, before moving out of sight.
“If you’ll excuse me, I need to go to the toilet.” Stephen danced on the spot, his hands in front of his crotch.
“Okay, I’ll be here.” Jordan watched Stephen’s back as he headed down the corridor.
After feeling grateful for the temporary respite, I quickly realised that I was alone in the foyer with Jordan. I turned to him and focused on his face. He was, in a word, beautiful. Standing at five-foot-nine, he was the same height as me. He had quite a nice build too, while being ever so slightly slimmer than I was, but in a sexy way. His eyes were that gorgeous light-blue colour, and I just loved his hair. It was ebony black and cut in a very cute style. It was kinda long, with just his earlobes poking through underneath the layers. It always looked so soft, like you could sit there and run your fingers through it for hours and hours.
I quickly averted my gaze as my heart hammered in my chest, fearful that Jordan would have noticed me staring at him. But I couldn’t help it. It was a strange feeling to be openly checking out the boy. And while I had obviously looked at him before, I couldn’t decide whether it was a good or bad kind of strange. Nevertheless, while part of me chewed over that dilemma, my eyes once again rose upwards and settled on his form.
Jordan was also half-Belgian, on his mother’s side. From his appearance it was clear that he wasn’t fully English. His adorable little nose and his thin, pink lips belayed his mixed heritage. He seemed to have garnered all the best parts of both his parents.
Finally, he was the second openly gay student in the school. I guess that one part alone made sense that he was best friends with Stephen, as they shared that fact in common, but he was nothing like the other boy. He wasn’t camp, or overtly gay, he was just himself. Add that to his outgoing and confident personality and you had yourself a dream boy.
I blinked, “Yeah?”
He beamed at me, “Thanks.”
He flicked his head towards the hall, making his black hair bounce slightly with the movement, “Everything. You know how important this is to me.” His voice was solemn and sincere, but with a hint of need.
Eager to pursue a career in acting, he undoubtedly wanted the best possible grade out of his drama class. When it came to our main assignment, the one we’d just performed, he instantly headed over to me and wanted to be my partner, knowing that I wasn’t there to mess about.
A smile grew on my face, “It’s important for me too,” I began, noticing him open his mouth to interrupt, but I continued, “Because I know what it means for you.”
He flashed me his super smile in return. He had the most perfect teeth. “You’re too good to me.”
I laughed, “I know…But now that the exam’s over, I can stop being so nice to you.”
He let his mouth drop dramatically, “You couldn’t do that, you’re too lovely to be anything but nice.”
I grinned back, but my mind was elsewhere, ‘Did he just call me lovely?’
“Jordan! We’re going to miss that bus!” Wailed Stephen from further down the hall, as he flicked out his wrist and checked the time.
“I’m coming!” Jordan shouted back, before his light-blues came to rest on me, “Anyway, I’ll catch you later sometime?”
“Sure. You better not keep his highness waiting.”
“Awww, he’s not that bad.” He smiled, knowing all too well what I thought of his flamboyant best friend.
“I know, I’m just playing. I’ll see you later.”
He nodded, “See ya!”
The black haired beauty spun on his heels and walked down the corridor. I stood watching his exit until he passed through the double doors at the end of the hall and vanished. The strange feelings that accompanied his intoxicating aura evaporated in that instant, leaving me suddenly alone and causing an emptiness inside that I couldn’t even begin to describe.
A second passed before I turned and walked in the opposite direction. I went past the reception and pushed through the large double doors that led outside. The warm, fresh air of the afternoon met my face with a rush as I stepped out. I inhaled deeply and quickened my pace as I headed out of the school grounds and onto the street. There was a small amount of traffic on the road adjacent to me, providing a dull soundtrack for the ten minute journey. But I wasn’t paying it any attention, I was too entwined in my own thoughts to even care.
I couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment when I realised that I’d fallen for Jordan Lewis. I think it was sometime during the year before, when we were in Year Ten. While I had always been a good friend of the boy, ever since we first started high school, it was only during our drama class did I really get to know him on a closer level. But even then, we weren’t the closest of friends. He had his mates, and I had mine. I never worked to bring us closer, and simply enjoyed the amount of contact we had.
Looking down at the ground as I crossed the zebra crossing that led to the park, the uniform pattern of black and white seemed to set me in a trance, taking me from the hectic street to that of the chaos in my mind. I chose to walk through the park on my way to my house, deciding to wait at home until Torri gave me a call to say that she’d finished with her assessment. I didn’t bother to call any of the guys as I was fine with my own company. I preferred to be alone that afternoon. The same turbulent thoughts that had coursed through my mind for the past year were more rampant than ever. I needed time alone to think them through.
I let out a sigh and focused on my surroundings. It was quite a warm day, with the sun high in the cloudless sky. Unfortunately there was also little breeze, which prompted me to remove the jumper I was wearing and sling it over my shoulder. I cast my eyes about the lush greenery as I continued through the park. To my left was the vast, blue lake that dominated that section of the park. On its surface were a few rowing boats, which were gliding through the smooth, blue water. On my right was the large children’s play area, with a host of multi-coloured climbing frames and slides that stood up high from the ground. The path I was walking on trailed right through the centre of the park. It wasn’t the shortest route home, but I preferred it to the alternative of walking next to a congested road.
A cry from above had me looking upwards. Raising my head, my eyes took in the sight of a lone swan flying over me. Its large wingspan and sleek form obscured my vision of the sky above. But it was the sheen of its coat that captivated me. It was the kind of white you’d associate with the wings of an angel. The colour you’d get on something new and untouched by everyday life. The same white of Jordan’s new trainers. With another cry, the bird disappeared behind the trees and I looked back down at the path, my mind once again occupied by the blue-eyed boy.
Jordan came out when we were in Year Eight, and I started dating Torri the year after. In some respects, I didn’t know how to react to his coming out. In many ways it never affected me. I’d always been in conflict over my sexuality. I grew up liking both sexes, but my preference seemed to sway from side to side every couple of months. So I never saw myself as gay, straight or bisexual. I was something, only none of the above.
But over the past year something changed. I started to develop deeper feelings towards boys. And while I still had the odd thought about girls, which were primarily of a physical nature, they still weren’t as potent as what I felt towards boys. This all led to the decision to label myself as gay.
Jordan was on the receiving end of the new feelings I felt towards boys. In a way I had always liked him, but I was never in a good position to act upon it… that is, until we finished our drama examination. Seeing his beautiful grin on those pink lips, feeling his toned form in my arms, the way his soft hair tickled my cheek, it was as though someone had flipped on a switch and allowed me to experience those raw emotions for the first time. It was exhilarating and pretty wild. I wanted to experience them again. I wanted to be with Jordan.
Shaking my head to rid my mind of those thoughts, my hand searched my pocket for my key as I approached my home. The two-storey, semi-detached house was located down somewhat of a quiet road, which was something my parents adored, but I didn’t really care for it. There was nothing really spectacular about the house itself, it was just your usual 1960’s-70’s home. The outside of the lower level had the finish of the brick used in the construction, while the second level had these white horizontal beams of wood covering the outside. All the windows were double glazed, something we’d had done many years before, and were glistening in the sun of the early-afternoon.
Walking up my garden path, I was greeted by a small, well kept garden. A myriad of colour from the various assortment of flowers and roses was found about its perimeter, while a neat dark green lawn covered the centre. Again, it was nothing overtly special, but my parents wanted something that looked nice and was easy to maintain. Our little front garden provided both.
After unlocking the door, I stepped into the well-lit and generously sized hall. I casually glanced about the open planned nature of the downstairs of my home as I closed the door behind me. To my left was the kitchen. The walls of which were a very light colour, with just a hint of peach coming through. The symmetrical array of overhead spotlighting was pivoted to let the light bounce off the stainless steel cabinets, before radiating through the rest of the room in a metallic gleam. The dark, marble-esc work surfaces provided a welcome rest for the over exposed room. Further back from the kitchen, but still within clear view of the front door, was our large, beech coloured wooden dining table. Six seats lined the sides, although only three of them were subjected to daily use, four, in that current month.
“Kieran?” Came a young female voice.
I looked straight ahead down the hall and peered into the living room, the place where the voice originated from.
“Yeah, it’s me, Em.”
Emily, or Em, was my twenty-one year old sister. My only sibling. She exited the living room and entered the hall as I slipped off my shoes and placed them on the side, under the rack we had for our coats. I stood up and faced her, watching as her medium length, wavy dark brown hair trailed behind as she moved towards me.
“So? How did it go?!” The excitement in her voice leaked through her words and her green eyes were shining at me in captivated interest.
“Really good. Miss Scott said we should get A’s.”
Emily rushed forwards and hugged me, “Oh wow! I knew you’d do great!”
I smiled, “Thanks.” We’d always been very close as brother and sister. In some ways we were quite similar, but also retained enough individuality to keep us out of each other’s hair. Sure we had our odd disagreement every now and then, although they were pretty non-existent when she left for university three years before, save for the various holidays when she’d returned.
Pulling back from the embrace she grinned, “How was Jordan? I bet he was really pleased!”
The mention of his name once again put him on the centre stage of my spotless mind, “He was good too.”
Perhaps she was expecting more of an answer, for she cocked her head and frowned slightly, “Are you ok? You seem a little ‘out’.”
I nodded and then smiled, “Quite a warm day. I just walked through the park.”
Her raised eyebrow questioned my claim before her expression softened, “Well don’t overdo it if you’re going out later.”
“I won’t, Mum.”
“Don’t say that! I’ve only been back two-weeks.” She spoke, “I don’t want her traits rubbing off onto me already.”
I managed a laugh as I moved to the stairs, “I think you’re safe. For the moment.”
She flashed me a small smile of her own, a hint of relief apparent on her face, “You have any plans later?”
“I think Torri wants to go into town…” I began, my foot hovering above the first step, “Unless you want to hang out or something?”
She waved her hand, dismissing my suggestion, “No, you go and have fun. I’m meeting up with a few people later anyway.” Her voice seemed to perk up at the end of her sentence, hinting at something worthy of a few queries. I’d have questioned her about it, but instead I let it drop and shrugged.
“Sure. I’ll just be upstairs.” I replied, making my way towards my room.
“Ok. Mum’s making dinner at six, so eat something soon if you’re hungry.”
“I will, thanks!” I called back, before I closed my bedroom door, locking myself away in my area of seclusion, and my mind.
I didn’t want to go into town with Torri. In fact, after that morning, I didn’t want to be anywhere alone with her. But sure enough, not an hour and a half after I’d laid down on my bed, trying to stop my brain from doing cartwheels in my head, my phone started to ring. Her assessment had finished.
With our brief conversation over, I hung up the phone and let it fall against the soft cushion of my quilt. Letting out a sigh, I rolled over on my bed and lay on my side, my eyes open as I studied my room. My desk sat immediately opposite me, partially obscured by the black, swivel chair that stood there. Beside the desk was my bin, filled to the brim of rolled up scraps of paper, empty cans of Pepsi, and countless other pieces of rubbish. I groaned inwardly, knowing all too well what Mum would’ve said had she seen it in that state. But aside from that, my room was relatively tidy. Letting my eyes drift further, it came to rest upon the faces of the Chelsea football team. I’d bought the poster a few weeks ago. I was going to get an England one, but then we were out of the World Cup, so out went that idea.
Swinging my legs out of the bed, I brought myself to a sitting position as I perched on the edge of the mattress. I looked to my left and glanced through my wooden blinds. I must have stared for a good minute before a red car drove passed, confirming that the road was far too quiet for what I’d have liked. Shifting my weight to my feet, I stood up and padded across the blue, thick carpet in my socks until I reached my wardrobe. Pulling open the sandy-coloured wooden door, I peered inside and grabbed a few things off the hangers.
Taking the warm weather into account, I settled on a pair of white, three-quarter length shorts, and a light blue long-sleeved shirt. The shorts were plain and simple, but the shirt had the ‘creased and wrinkled’ effect, which gave me the casual look that I’d decided on. I placed them on the bed, before heading over to my large chest of draws and retrieving a pair of ankle socks. While there was nothing inherently wrong with the pair I was wearing, their long length and their dark colour was a big no-no when I wanted to match them with the shorts. The white pair of ankle socks did the job just fine.
A few minutes later and I found myself in the bathroom, staring at my reflection in the mirror, checking my clothing. I’d buttoned up the shirt, but decided to omit buttoning up the top one. I was too young to have any unsightly chest hair hanging out, so instead I let a bit of my tanned skin peek through the gap. I pulled up the sleeves until they were bunched up just before my elbows and fastened them.
My hair was next. I went for my usual ‘spiked’ up look by simply running my hand covered in gel backwards through my hair. It wasn’t an exact science, but I had it nailed down pretty good. A minute after that and I was satisfied enough with my appearance to declare myself ready.
Giving myself a final look in the mirror, I almost smiled at the sight of the boy looking back at me. Almost. But one look in my eyes brought it all back. It was as though I could see the conflict raging in myself. I leant closer over the basin and stared intently into the mirror. Behind his eyes I could see the struggle, the fight occurring inside of him. I stepped back from the mirror, squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head.
“I’m Kieran and I’m gay.” I whispered, as if to reassure myself. I hovered there for a few seconds, the floor creaking slightly under my feet as I swayed. My mind was completely blank, devoid of any rational thought. I was a mess, mentally and emotionally. It was like someone went into my head and rearranged everything, hiding the parts that were important, but making me concentrate on the useless parts, the waste.
My eyes opened and I kept them glued to the floor as I walked out onto the upstairs landing. I patted my pockets, ensuring that I had my phone, some money, and my door key. I made my way down the stairs, forgetting to avoid steps seven and three, but they made their presence known with a loud ‘creak’ as I pressed my weight on them. I winced at the sound.
“See you later, Kieran!” Came Emily’s voice through the house.
“Bye, Em!” I called back, before heading over to the door and stepping out. I closed it behind me, trapping my thoughts on the other side as I walked away from the house.
My journey through the park offered me some solace from my mind. Watching the ducks paddling in the clear water or hearing the excited children playing in the play area, everything seemed to be simple again. No longer was my head the venue for the ‘battle of the sexes’.
But try as I might, I just couldn’t ignore how impossible a situation I was in. Whatever way I turned I’d have ended up hurting someone. If I went with Jordan then Torri would’ve been the one who got hurt. But if I went with Torri, then it would have been me in the firing line, unable to be myself.
As I approached the play area, with the cries of the kids becoming louder, I had come to some sort of conclusion. It all depended on one question, the same question Jordan had asked me that morning during the performance, “What do you want?” What did I want, and how was I going to get it?
“Kieran!” Called out that angelic voice, bringing me from my stupor. I looked to my left, across a stretch of grass and over to where Jordan was bounding over. His black hair was flopping about in the wind and a grin was plastered to his delicate face as he shortened the void between us. All of my previous thoughts evaporated from me in that instant, being replaced by a smile on my lips and a warm thudding in my chest.
He slowed as he came to stop before me. My eyes quickly checked his attire finding that he was dressed differently than before. His pink t-shirt was replaced with a plain white one with a printed logo on the front that had begun to fade with age. On his legs were some dark joggers, an older pair, if the rips and tears were any indication. Glancing at his feet, gone were the pearly trainers, instead they were replaced by a scruffy, grey looking pair that had definitely seen better days.
Focusing on his face again, seeing how his hair was all messy from the run, I wondered to myself if he’d even so much as combed it since the morning. It was unlikely, but if anything, it added to his whole cute and messy appearance, which only made him even more adorable.
My lips were straining to contain my grin, “Hey, Jordan.”
“Hey.” His chest rose and fell steadily as he caught his breath.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, my eyes looking about, seeing if I could spot anyone familiar.
“Oh, I’m here with Mum and Jen.” He gestured his hand towards the park, indicating the location of his mum and younger sister, Jenny. He turned back to me, “Where are you off to? Torri’s house?”
“Yeah, she wants to go to town.” I added, my brow frowning at the mention of her.
“Lucky you.” He laughed, standing with his hands on hips, “Hey, are you busy tomorrow?”
“Good, then you can come over to my house.” He stated matter-of-factly.
I gave him a sideways glance, “Okaaay…”
He folded his arms across his chest dramatically, “Unless you were serious about not being nice to me now that the exam’s over.”
I laughed, “No, it’s not that at all… I was just wondering why you want me.”
He shrugged, “Just to hang out, nothing special. We could get some pizza and stuff.”
My heart fluttered, “Sure, it sounds good. What time should I head over?”
“Uhh, how about two o’clock? That’s not too late is it?”
“No, that would be fine.” I didn’t care when he wanted me to come over, even if he had said two in the morning, I’d still have gone.
“Great!” He exclaimed, flashing me another smile before glancing back at the park, “I should head back. Jen’s playing with these kids and they’re a few years older.”
I laughed, “You’re such a good older brother.”
He flexed his bicep, giving me a clear view at the smooth and creamy skin of his upper arm, “I have to keep her safe from the boys.”
“Give it a few years and she’ll be keeping you safe from the boys.”
“That’s true.” He giggled, “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
He gave me this small wave, “Bye.”
Jordan turned and jogged back over to the park as I stood there and watched him. He moved with such grace and confidence, like he was so sure of his place in the world and the role he played. He truly was beautiful. Stealing another glance at his slender form, I spun on my heels and continued on my journey, my stomach already aching from his absence.
Walking down the small alley, narrowly avoiding the overgrowth of vines and swarms of insects that inhabited the confined space, I started to hear the sound of a football being bounced. I grinned, knowing that he was ready and waiting for me outside. As I exited the alley I emerged onto a street aligned with houses.
Jimiyu, as usual, was doing kick ups with a football as I approached the third house terraced on the left. It was a running joke amongst us that you heard Jim before you saw him. And sure enough, as I stepped closer, coming to a stop at the end of his garden path, he was standing outside his front porch kicking up a football, probably much to his mum’s chagrin.
He dropped the ball to the floor and rested a foot on top of it as he lifted his head to better face me. The muscles of his smooth, distinctive face were tight, and his dark, almost black eyes were flashing at me full of dare. I cocked my head to the right and swept my eyes over him.
Always wanting to appear physically dominant, Jim was dressed in a loose fitting plain white vest, which worked wonders for emphasising his body underneath, but more so for his muscular bare arms that hung at his sides. A pair of dark jeans accented the vest nicely and blended perfectly with the black pair of Air Maxes on his feet.
Jim was Kenyan, but had moved to the UK when he was three-years-old. We both started at the same school since Nursery, when we were four. Neither of us spoke a lot at that age, so he wasn’t really far behind in terms of speaking English. Fast forward twelve years, and you’d have been hard pressed to have told that he wasn’t born here. Looks wise he was okay, maybe on the better side of average. Personality wise, he sure could be a bit of a bitch at times. Although in his defence, I was probably equally as bitchy at times too.
His expression softened, “Hollywood on the phone yet, Clooney?”
I gave him the finger.
He flicked up the ball, balancing it on top of his foot, “So it went good, your exam?”
“Yeah, it was good.”
We pretty much grew up with each other and shared many of the same interests, including our adoration for football. We played for both our High School team and a team outside of school. Jim played up front as a striker and team Captain, and I had the right wing - a midfielder and was Vice-Captain. Together on the pitch we played pretty good, maybe even excellent. We didn’t score every game, but we always played our best, and neither of us could have been faulted for that. It all accumulated in Jim being my best male friend, as Torri had taken the best friend spot.
“And Jordan? Was he behaving himself?”
If there was a bittersweet part of our friendship, it was when we were on the subject of ‘gays’, specifically Jordan and Stephen. Like me, Jim had little tolerance for Stephen’s excessive flamboyance, and following my own example, he had to be commended that he managed to keep his feelings to himself, save for how he became visibly uncomfortable when the boy was near.
But while Jim did realise that Jordan was ‘normal’, even going as far to say he was one of the ‘guys’, he did have some reservations. Notably it included getting caught in any state of undress when around the boy, or finding himself alone in the toilets with him. I found it all hilarious, as did the rest of the guys who, for the most part, had no problem with Jordan at all. Torri didn’t see his antics funny at all, always giving him an earful whenever Jordan wasn’t around to hear. Jordan himself knew what Jim thought of him, and even joked about it openly a few times, but he never let it bother him.
“Jordan’s a good boy.” I replied, my foot extended as I tried to steal the ball away from him, “He behaves around me.”
“Wha-ching!” He called out, mimicking a whip.
I laughed, “No whips needed.” I paused, “Are you good to go now? I know Torri will-”
“Chill, Kier, I’m coming.” He flicked the white ball into the air, before making it bounce off the black cornrows of his head and into his outstretched hands. “Is Brandon coming too?”
“Yeah. I phoned him after I called you. We’ll get him and then go to Torri’s.” I replied, watching as he placed the ball inside his porch before closing the door.
Heading over to me, he threw a heavy arm around my shoulders, making me jump slightly, “Geez, what’s wrong?” He spoke, removing his arm, “You’re all jumpy and crap.”
I frowned, I was usually ok with his being heavy handed, “Nothing. Just stop using me as an armrest!”
“Easy boy! Maybe I should tell Torri about how you’re treating me.” His lips curled up at the side.
“Uh huh, tell her whatever you want. Whose side do you think she’ll take?”
“Mine. I’m friendlier.”
“Friendlier? You sure about that big guy?”
Responding to my words, he flexed both his arms. His muscle definition was quite a contrast to that of Jordan’s, who while having a nice tone to his body, didn’t have the muscular nature of Jim. “Yeah. I’m sure.”
Walking through a maze of streets and crossing several quiet roads, we neared the home of Brandon Spencer. Jim had already called ahead, wanting to have him ready to go as soon as we were outside his door. If Jim had one fatal flaw, it was his impatience. He couldn’t stand or sit still for five seconds without having to occupy his mind with something, hence him playing with the ball before I arrived. In Brandon’s case, he wanted the boy to be standing outside waiting for him, not vice-versa.
Sure enough, we weren’t ten paces from his home, when Brandon stepped out of the house. He strolled down his path in that usual strut, with his shoulders high and a bounce in his step. Widely regarded as a class clown, Brandon was always quick to crack a joke or do something spontaneous, regardless of who was watching. But with all his craziness aside, he was one clever boy. We all teased that he hid his intellect through his sense of humour, however he was always quick to reply, ‘I can’t be serious all the time.’
He lifted a hand and flicked his mop of short light-brown hair to the left as he greeted us, “Afternoon, Gents.”
I tore my eyes away from the dazzling pattern on his blue Henley Shirt and settled on his light-brown eyes, “Hi, Brandon.”
Jim stepped forward and briefly knocked his fist against Brandon’s, “Hey.”
“Sooo…” Brandon began, rubbing his hands together, “Let’s go shopping!”
I placed my palm on his shoulder and led him down the pavement, “We just need to pick up someone else first.”
He let out this little growling noise, “Torri…”
I laughed, “Yes, Torri. You could have brought Hannah.”
“No!” Interrupted Jim, his deep voice passing through us, “I want to go to town today. We have to book a week in advance with Hannah.”
“Yeah. She does take a while to get ready.” Brandon replied nonchalantly, “But it’s worth it, no?”
I rolled my eyes, wanting to end the current subject before he started to gush about his girlfriend, “Whatever you say.”
Brandon lived down the same street as Torri, just at opposite ends, so we didn’t have a great distance to walk before arriving outside of her home. I strolled up to the front of the house and knocked my fist against the white, double-glazed door. Waiting for the door to be answered, I glanced up at the house, and almost shivered in the presence of the large building, as though it was questioning me being there. I’d been inside many times, and had knocked on that door on countless occasions, yet it wasn’t as welcoming as before. It was as though it was assessing me as I stood on the doormat.
Just when I was about to become completely paranoid about the house’s motives, Torri appeared on the other side of the door looking pretty easy on the eyes. She wasn’t dressed up or anything excessive, but she really didn’t have to try hard to look great anyway.
She stepped through the door, “Hey, Kieran.”
Her eyes twinkled at me, “How do I look?” She asked, twirling around on her doorstep.
“Your bum looks fine.”
She came to a stop, her hair cascading over her face from the side, before she reached up with a smooth hand and brushed it away, “Thanks.”
It was a long-running joke between Torri and I that whenever she’d ask me if she looked good, I’d make that comment if I liked it. My mum almost had a heart attack when I first said that to Torri when we were both eleven, but we managed to assure her that I wasn’t commenting on Torri’s bottom, but her overall appearance. Mum probably didn’t understand, but we fluffed our way through some uncomfortable explanation.
Holding out my hand, she reached out and interlaced her soft fingers with mine, “Come on.” I spoke, as I led her back down the path and onto the street.
Who was I kidding? Walking around town was a drag. Torri didn’t really have anything to buy, and I certainly didn’t want to be there. On the flip side, Jim and Brandon made the whole thing tolerable. Brandon’s untamed antics in particular were exactly what I needed. A flash of his irresistible grin or one of his one-liners instantly had me in laughter. He always used to say that I was his biggest fan and that afternoon was no exception.
We split up for a while after arriving, with Jim and Brandon heading off in some sports shops, while Torri and I wandered about. I think she just wanted to get out, to get away from the idea of having to sit more exams. If that was the case, I’d have preferred to have gone to the park and kicked a ball about or something, but it was Torri who wanted to go out, not me.
Inhaling deeply, my nose caught the scent of something sweet and sugary. It was the type of smell you could almost taste it was so potent. Looking to my right, I found myself staring into a small bakers. I watched as the thin middle-aged woman behind the counter placed a tray of freshly-baked icing covered doughnuts into the racks under the counter, right next to some other delicious looking treats. With my mouth beginning to moisten, my mind was quickly debating whether or not to buy some, that was until Torri disrupted my thoughts by latching onto my arm and dragged me hastily into a nearby jewellery store.
“What?” The frustration of was clear in my voice.
Her eyes darted over to the entrance, focusing there for a moment, before looking back at me. She held the stare for several seconds, long enough for my heart to drum madly, and all thoughts of doughnuts to be whisked from my mind. It felt like she was jumping into my head, ready to raid it for something.
“The Bastard and Josie are outside.”
She’d lost me. “Huh?”
“Chris and Josie. They’re over there.” She lifted her arm and pointed angrily in the direction behind me. I turned around and surveyed the parade of shops opposite. Sure enough, amongst the sparse crowd, there walked Chris and Josie hand-in-hand. My fist tightened as I watched the tall and obnoxious boy walk through my line of sight. It was no secret that Chris was the most hated boy in our year, and it was famously known that I was his biggest nemesis, a fact established after I knocked him on his ass a few years before for insulting Torri. To make things worse, he happened to be quite talented with a football, talented enough to earn himself a place on our football team.
While I usually felt anger when looking at the boy, a feeling of pure relief flooded my system instead upon realising I wasn’t the one in Torri’s firing line, and a small smile flashed briefly on my lips, before her deep frown made me reassess the situation, “Oh.”
“What is she doing with that creep?” Her voice was a stern whisper.
I shrugged, turning to look into the jewellery store’s large windows, “Beats me.”
“How many times have I told that girl that he’s not worth it? Huh? It must have been about five times. I’m not trying to run her life for her bu-”
The world around me seemed to mute when I noticed it.
There, hanging on the display opposite me, was a stunning silver necklace. At first I didn’t see it, a mistake I’m sure many others made too, as it was partially obscured behind a small mount displaying some rings. But it was beautiful.
I eyed the thin piece of metal with intrigue, the thick pane of glass that separated us steaming up at my closeness. The small and intricate designs of the links fascinated me. They looked so delicate, so fragile, yet you could tell that it would stand the test of time. It would’ve looked so nice on Jordan. I imagined him standing on the stage, the smooth, reflective surface of the necklace glistening from the spotlights as it hung from his neck…
“She’s a pretty girl too. She doesn’t need all th-”
“Torri!” I shot out, seemingly a bit louder than I’d intended, for it garnered a few stares from the people surrounding us.
Torri’s eyebrows were high on her forehead, before they all but merged with her eyes menacingly as she frowned, “What’s up with you?” Her accusing tone warned me that I’d stepped over the line, but I really wasn’t pressed for an apology. Letting my eyes graze over the necklace again, I turned to face her.
“I don’t see why you care about her. She knows what he’s like…” Torri’s intentions were good, she was always like that, but she had to let Josie live her own life.
“But she can’t want him. Who would want him?”
I faced her, “Look, you have to let this go. You’ve told her that he’s bad, but she doesn’t want to listen. It’s her choice and there’s nothing more you can do.” Cringing inwardly, I was hoping that she wasn’t going to lecture me on what was wrong with what I had just said. Instead, and much to my surprise, she gripped onto my arm and moved closer, leading us out of the store.
“You’re right.” She let out a sigh, “There’s nothing I can do.”
It was around eight o’clock, just after dinner, and I was at home with Torri. We were laying there on my bed, my back against the headboard, and Torri’s back against me as we focused on the TV in my room. My mind was once again chewing over the events of that morning, the part where Jordan’s gentle body was wrapped in my embrace.
I moved my face closer to Torri’s shoulder, feeling her hair brush against my cheek. But it wasn’t the same. She didn’t feel the same and she didn’t smell the same. Jordan’s soft yet masculine scent had me tingling all over, but Torri’s…
Holding her in my arms, I wondered what Jordan was doing at that very instant. Was he in bed, watching TV? Was he playing on his Wii? Or was he having a relaxing bath? I closed my eyes and imagined what he was like. How he’d sit when he was in the bath. The way his long, wet hair would stick to the sides of his face, capturing his beauty. The way his head would be tilted back, his eyes closed as he surrendered to the feeling of the warm water against his soft skin. I then began to picture some bubbles in the bath. Knowing Jordan, he’d have had tonnes of bubbles in there. And then he’d lay back with a real smile on his face. I let out a small giggle.
Torri’s voice brought me back to my bedroom, and the realisation of my situation set in once again. Did I feel bad thinking about another guy while being with her? Maybe. But there was nothing I could do to change that. She wasn’t Jordan. Even if she had the body of a boy, she still wouldn’t match up to him. No one could match up to him. He was unique, special.
I stared down into her light brown eyes and smiled, “Nothing. Just thinking.”
She nodded her head, satisfied with my answer, before she leant closer towards my face. I closed my eyes and craned my neck closer.
Jordan’s voice echoed throughout my head as our lips touched, “Who do you want?”
And in that precise moment, with my mind frozen in the turmoil of the kiss, I had no idea at all.
you for reading the first chapter of Kieran.
I hope you enjoyed it.
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