It had been really scary meeting Nick's mum like that. I mean, it was great to see Nick again, but with his mum! And the things she said to us! But after what she had said, any chance of seeing Nick again had been screwed up - even our Thursdays in the holidays had been ruled out. The last thing I needed was for her to ring up Mum and tell her what we had been up to.
It had been my idea - about running away like this, that is. We'd talked before term had ended about how we might get somewhere together, but we'd run out of ideas. It seemed impossible now that Nick's mum had put her foot down. Then I suddenly remembered - the boat!
We had a yacht which we kept in Southampton. It was quite big, and each year we go on holiday in the summer over to the Channel Islands and to France. Because we had sailed since I was little, I was in the school sailing team too. It was plenty big enough for us to spend a fortnight each year as a family on board, and would be ideal for Nick and me. I told him about it one night when we were chatting on our phones.
"A boat? What sort of boat?" he asked.
"A yacht. You remember - when we were away last summer."
"Oh." It obviously didn't mean much to him. "Is it big?"
"Big enough. We spent a fortnight on it. It's got three cabins and six berths."
"We'd need only one," he said with a giggle.
"Well, some of them are even double berths."
"Better and better. Have you got the keys for it?"
"I can get them. I know where they're kept. And Southampton's an easy train journey."
"Yeah." He began to become more enthusiastic. "Sounds an idea."
"We could leave a note for our parents. Just saying we were going away for a few days, and not to worry."
"And we'd be completely by ourselves?"
"Yeah - it's like a second home."
The more I thought about it, the better an idea it seemed. Down on the boat we would be completely by ourselves, with no worries about being caught or anything. We worked out what we going to do. We'd head off one week after term ended, leaving notes for the parents, saying we'd be away for a couple of days. There were plenty of trains to Southampton, and we could meet at the station.
A few days before, though, I began to get worried. I'd never told Mum and Dad about Nick, and it would be difficult to disappear for a few days like that without causing a lot of fuss and them asking a lot of questions. I'd thought about asking casually if I could spend a few days on the boat by myself, but I couldn't think of any plausible excuses or reasons. They'd want to know why. And if I said that I was going to be with someone else, they'd want to know who. And if I said that I wanted to go with Nick - or with anyone else - they'd probably want to talk to his parents. And then the cat would really be out of the bag.
I thought of trying to get Giles to cover for us. Perhaps if I said that I going to stay with him for a few days? But he lived so close that they'd want to know why I just didn't pop over for the day. And they might try and get in touch, and if I wasn't there, then there'd be trouble again.
And anyway, I still couldn't think of any good excuse why I would want to go down to Southampton with Giles either. I could imagine the questions: "Well, Ashley, what are you going to be doing?" "Oh, just hanging about." "On the boat, in Southampton, in December?" Yeah - sounds a likely story, doesn't it?
And there never really seemed to be an opportunity to mention to them. So I found myself the day before we said we'd go, still not having mentioned it to them at all. And by that time, of course, it was too late. So I just left the note.
In a way, it was easier for Nick. His parents already knew about us, so they'd guess what we'd done. But I just wrote the note, and picked up my bag, and went out and caught the train.
Nick was waiting for me at the station. It was really difficult for me not to reach out and grab him, and I could tell it was the same with him. But we grinned at each other, and said hi, and started walking down to the marina.
When we got to the boat, I still wanted to grab him, but first I showed him round, and got the line connected to the shore power, so we could put the heaters on. As the boat began to warm up, I closed the hatches and turned to him.
"OK, then - what now?" I asked teasingly.
He made that long delayed grab for me. We only just made it to the bunk before all our clothes were on the floor.
A lot later, we were up in the forward cabin dozing, half asleep, wrapped up in each other, when I felt the boat suddenly rock sharply to one side. It didn't roll back again. I sat up.
"What's that?" asked Nick, sleepily.
"It's someone climbing on board."
Neither of us had any clothes on, of course. Whoever it was, they couldn't find us like this! I climbed out from under the duvet and grabbed my T shirt. Then I heard the hatch sliding back.
"Shit!" It was Mum. Nick started diving for his clothes too.
"Ashley!" Even louder this time.
"Coming," I yelled, struggling into my briefs. I could hear her making her way down the boat. I panicked, and shot out of the cabin, zipping up my jeans on the way. She was standing there, looking horrified, with Mrs Thompson behind her.
"Is Nick there?" his mum asked.
She looked relieved. Nick followed me out, and then Mum started on at me. She was really worked up. But Mrs Thompson grabbed her arm - I'd never seen anyone do anything like that to Mum before - and sat her down. We sat down too.
It was really difficult to talk to them. Particularly since I'd told Mum nothing at all about Nick before - although Nick's mother had obviously told her a lot about us. Mrs Thompson got quite stroppy with us both. Then Mrs Thompson hauled Nick outside, leaving me alone with Mum. She was staring at me.
"Is what she told me true? About you and that boy?" she asked in a whisper.
All I could do was nod.
"Ashley - why didn't you tell us?"
I was ashamed, and all I could do was stare at the table. I think I said something incoherent.
"And all that she was telling me about the Thursdays in the holidays, and phones, and so on - was that all true?"
I nodded again.
"When did this all start?"
"At school - the end of the summer term."
"What did he do to you?"
"It isn't like that, Mum."
"Well, what is it like?"
How do you tell your mother about it? Describe what happened?
"Well - it was both of us. Well, me, in a way. I suppose I started it."
She looked at me even more horrified. "And because of what you were doing, Nick was expelled from school?"
"That's terrible. And how did you start - all this - in the first place?"
I felt very small and very tired. How could I explain it to her? "It was sex, Mum. You know?"
"I don't, to be honest. But if you say so."
I struggled for the words. "We didn't plan it, we didn't mean it to happen. It just did. And once we'd ... started, well, we couldn't stop."
"I don't know what to say, Ashley. About this - Nick, and you running off like that."
I shifted awkwardly in the seat. "I really was going to tell you, but somehow - there never seemed to be a moment when I could. And I suppose if I had really told you what we were going to do, you'd have found some way of trying to stop us."
"I certainly would! I still can't take it in. I would never have guessed you were - like that."
I felt myself going really red, and almost getting angry. "Mum, I don't really know yet what I'm like. But whatever I'm like, that's me. And I can't alter it."
She sat back, and I felt really sorry for her - the way she looked. Suddenly my mother looked older ...
We were sitting in silence when Nick and Mrs Thompson came back in a blast of cold air. Nick came and sat by me. Then Mum insisted I came home there and then. I didn't say anything, but they must have seen the look on my face. Anyway, Mrs Thompson took Mum away for a while to leave Nick and I to talk.
But we didn't. Not to begin with, at any rate. Then eventually Nick said in a small voice: "So what do we do now?"
"I don't know. What do you want to do?"
"Do we go back?"
I shrugged. "We've gone this far now. What can they do to us?"
"I dunno. But it doesn't seem right."
"Was it right when we ran off?"
"No, not really."
"So does this make any difference?"
"I suppose not."
"Then why don't we stick it out? I mean, do you want to stay?"
"Of course I do!"
I shrugged. "They can't make us come back with them."
"Suppose they - I don't know - come back with our dads or something. Or the police?"
"We're both over sixteen. The police can't do anything."
"Suppose they won't take us back home again afterwards?"
"Can you see your mum throwing you out?"
But my dad might. I didn't know what he'd think of all this. But Mum now knew about it already, so I didn't see it made much difference.
"So what do we do then? " asked Nick again.
"It's up to you - if you want to stay, then let's tell them that we're staying."
"OK. I can't get into much more trouble than I'm in already."
"Right. We'll tell them we're not going home."
That wasn't so easy to do though. I think it only worked because we just dug our heels in, we didn't really argue, we just said no. Then Mrs Thompson came up with the idea of the phones and so on, and they just seemed to cave in. It was odd, really. I expected much more of a fight.
But Nick was very subdued about it all. We stayed up late talking, and we didn't seem to get very far. Eventually we went to bed, but we were so wiped out that we just both fell asleep.
Next day I had to face Mum and Dad, and that was really difficult. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but still, it wasn't easy. And introducing Nick. That was difficult too. They took it all a lot better than they might have done. Part of it was the shock, but I think part of it was because they didn't know what else to do. Our running away like that had had one benefit - it had thrown them completely off balance.
When we got back to the boat, it was really great. Running away was one thing, but I had always had the fear of what would happen when I went home again at the back of my mind. It was as if a cloud had lifted, and I think Nick felt the same way. Although this was our second night together, it was so wonderful that it felt like our first ever time in bed.
The trouble came in the morning. I woke up and was feeling really randy. We all warm and comfy under the duvet, and I started cuddling up with Nick. Then I did something I'd never done before, and started snogging with him. Then suddenly he broke off and pulled away from me.
"Nick? What is it?"
"You learned that from Giles!" he accused.
I started to say something, then stopped. "What do you mean?" I said, rather feebly.
He stared at me, horrified. "The way you kissed me just then - Giles taught you that, didn't he?" I couldn't say anything, but I felt my face go red. He must have guessed just from that.
He sat up. "Have you been with Giles?" I started stuttering, but before I could say anything coherent, he said: "It's true. You have, haven't you?"
I couldn't say anything, only hang my head. The next moment he was out of the bed, pulling on a T shirt.
He ignored me, and carried on dressing. He shot out of the cabin. I cursed, and started dressing too.
When I got into the main cabin, he had the kettle on, with his back to me. I went up to him, and put a hand on his shoulder. He shook it off.
He ignored me again, and, making his coffee, took it outside. He sat there in the sunshine. I made one too and took it out, sitting opposite. He stared away from me.
What could I try and say? I tried to justify myself, which was probably a bad idea. "Look, Nick, you remember you went to Giles' room and ... did things. I mean, how else would you have known about that?"
He looked at me - and it wasn't a friendly look. "Yes - but it was after you ran out on me at the end of term."
"Come on, Nick, it wasn't like that, and you know it."
"And if I did, it was because I thought you didn't want anything more to do with me. When did you go to Giles?"
I could feel myself go red again.
"Well?" he persisted.
"Last summer hols," I said quietly.
"Oh really? Was that on Tuesdays then, since you were busy on Thursdays?"
"No, Nick. It was when you away on holiday. And it wasn't like that, anyway. You know Giles lives in the same place as me ..."
"I don't want to know the details," he said.
"It wasn't planned or anything like that. He picked me up, one day when I was in town," I said.
"Hmm," he replied, "and he obviously taught you a lot at the same time. Or was it more than once?"
"No, Nick, only the once."
"Once too often."
There was no answer to that, nothing that I could say in reply. We sat in the sunshine, drinking our coffee, neither of us saying anything, then Nick went back down below.
I didn't know what to do next. After a quarter of an hour or so of staring aimlessly across at the other boats, I went back down. Nick was up in the front cabin, reading a book. He didn't turn his head as I looked in.
I thought the best thing to do was to get out of the boat and out of his way. I went for a walk along the waterside, kicking stones, watching them splash into the water. What a stupid thing to have done! And Giles had even warned me about it! I was stuck with it now, unless I could talk Nick round again. And judging by his mood, that wouldn't be easy. We both needed time to cool down.
Eventually I walked back to the boat and went back down below once again. Nick was nowhere to be seen. I had a moment of real panic then. I thought he might have packed up and gone back home. Then I saw his bag, and the relief was such that I collapsed in a heap on the bunk. He must have gone for a walk too. But then I looked more closely. He packed all his things.
Oh God! Well, at least he hadn't gone yet. He would still have to come back for his bag before he went home. Perhaps I might have a chance to talk to him then. I lay back, putting one arm across his bag, but was so exhausted that I fell asleep almost straight away. How long I slept for I don't know. It felt like for ages. But when I woke, I looked up, and saw Nick sitting on the other side of the cabin looking at me. I didn't say anything.
Then, slowly, quietly, he said, "I'm sorry."
A lump came up in my throat. I still couldn't say anything. Then, eventually, "I'm sorry too."
I swung my feet off the berth and he came and sat next to me.
"I shouldn't have done that," he said, staring down at his hands.
"No, it was my fault."
"But still, I didn't have to sulk like that."
"When I came back, and you weren't here - I thought you'd gone."
"I nearly did," he said quietly. "I was going to come back and collect my bag and catch a train. Then I saw you sleeping, and sat down, and watched you, and ... I couldn't go."
"Nick." I put my arm around him tentatively, and he moved a little closer. "Can I tell you about it?"
"If you have to," he said stiffly.
Then he turned and buried his head in my chest. I held him. We stayed like that for what felt like ages, then he moved his head up to my shoulder. I could feel his breath on my ear. He was shaking. So was I - thinking how close I'd been to losing him. He stood up and took my hand. "Let's go back through into the front cabin."
Being in bed together after an argument like that is different. This time I think we were both gentler, more considerate. And later, lying back, Nick said: "OK, you can tell me about it now."
"Do you want me to?"
"Not really. But you had better."
I didn't know where to start. Or how best to put it. I didn't want to make it seem cheap and nasty, and I didn't want to upset Nick any more. In the end, I just told it much as it happened. He didn't interrupt me at all; just listened. Then he sighed.
"In lots of ways, Giles can be a bastard. Irresistible, but still a bastard."
"I know. But I did feel guilty afterwards."
"Then maybe you're forgiven."
"But never again."
"After what happened, I don't think Giles would want to bother with me again anyway."
"Maybe not. And look, I shouldn't have behaved like that. I don't own you or anything."
I smiled at him. But it got me thinking. I mean, how serious was all this? An afternoon with Giles. A week away with Nick. But then I remembered that it was because of me that Nick was expelled from school.
"Nick?" I said cautiously.
"You know, your being expelled from school. It was all my fault really."
He sat up and looked at me. "Yes. And no."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I was thrown out for what we did. But I could have stopped it too if I'd really wanted to."
"I suppose. But you did tell me not to come to your room any more. And I didn't take any notice."
"But the Scout Hut was my idea."
"Yeah. If only we'd locked the door."
"I was in too much of a hurry."
"Do you regret it - being thrown out from school?"
He lay back, staring at the deck above him. Then: "The worst part was being collected by Mum, and her finding out. Then being found in the garden when I was talking to you on the phone. But school? Well, the Sixth Form College is pretty good. Yes, I miss some things -- but not a lot."
I was relieved. "Even so, it must have been a wrench."
He looked at me. "Because of you. That's why I was so jealous about Giles."
"Giles - well, I've known him since I was nine. With him it just seemed - well, don't get me wrong if I say it was an afternoon's entertainment. But with you - well, I'm spending a week here with you, aren't I? And all that fuss with Mum and Dad. God knows what it will be like when I get home."
He was silent for a minute or two. "Yeah. You were good with them yesterday."
"It was bloody difficult."
He looked at me, and reached out an arm, pulling me on top of him. I lay there sprawled across him. He held my head, and brought it down to his, and kissed me very softly on the lips, then lifted me away a few inches. We stared at each other.
"Ashley," he said softly, then put both his arms round my neck and pulled my head down next to his. We lay there, holding each other.
The next day we were able to relax properly for the first time. No hassles, just a leisurely day. We went into the city and just mooched about doing nothing special. Did some shopping. Got food and things. Then we headed back to the boat.
We had just sorted out the shopping when my phone beeped. I looked at it, and there was a text message for me. I wasn't expecting one.
"What is it?" asked Nick.
"It's from Giles!"
"Oh? What does it say?"
WASSUP? HEARD FROM YR MUM ABOUT U RUNNING AWAY WITH NICK! CALL. G.
I looked at Nick. "I wonder who else knows?" He shrugged. "Should I call him back?"
There was a moment of uncertainty, then he nodded, and said: "Why not?"
I dialled his number.
"Hey, Ashley. What's all this about?" I was trying to hold the phone so that Nick could hear too.
"What did Mum tell you?"
"Not much. But something about you going away with Nick. Have you really run away?"
"Yeah, sort of."
"You were the cause of a quarrel."
"Nick guessed. About you and me."
"Here - talk to him." I thrust the phone over to Nick.
"Giles? ... yeah ... no, I've forgiven him ... and you too ... what?"
Nick put his hand over the mouthpiece. "He wants to come down here. To come and see us."
I didn't know what to say. Then: "It's up to you."
He shrugged, and went back to the phone. "Yeah, OK ... tomorrow? ... we'll meet you at the station - twelve o'clock?"
He handed the phone back to me. "Giles?"
"Ashley. It'll be good to see you both. And look, I'm sorry about ... well, you know - OK?"
I remembered what Nick had said to me once. "Never say sorry."
"OK - well - tomorrow then?"
"Right. See you tomorrow."
I switched the phone off and put it down. "Are you sure you don't mind, Nick?"
He shrugged again. "He can be good company. As long as he doesn't mind playing gooseberry."
"Yeah." I grinned.
We met him off the train the next morning. He grinned at both of us: "What's all this about then?"
I told him: "Well, we didn't have any other way of meeting up - so we ran away."
"You were found out quickly enough."
"Yeah, well, we weren't as clever as we thought we were."
"So you're staying on the boat?"
"That's right. Come on."
When he had climbed on board, and looked around, he gave a soft whistle. "Hey, this is nice. Cosy, too, I bet."
When he grinned at the two of us like that, even Nick had to grin in a slightly shamefaced sort of way. "Yeah, well."
We sat down, Giles the other side of table, and for once even he looked slightly embarrassed.
"Look," he said, and reached across the table and touched each of us, "what happened before, with each of you, I'm sorry, OK? I'm not often ashamed of what I've done, but maybe this time is one time when I am."
Nick held on to his hand. "Your trouble is, Giles, that you're such a sexy bastard, and that you try it on with everyone in sight."
Giles laughed. "Guilty. But you two are safe from me now. Never let it be said that I got in the way of true love."
"Yeah, right," said Nick, releasing his hand.
"God, you don't know how dull it is at home. Mother's discovered some new orchids, and spending even more hours in the greenhouse pampering them."
"Nice that we can provide some entertainment," said Nick.
"Hey, don't get all sarky on me. It's nice to have some friends."
"Come on, Nick, you did invite me down."
"Well, I remember you asking yourself."
"You could have said no. Don't be such a grouch."
"As long as you don't have any ideas in the middle of the night about a cosy threesome."
Giles laughed again. There was no keeping him down. "I might be without shame, but even I wouldn't go that far. I'll sleep alone in my celibate cabin. So, what are we going to do this evening? Why don't we take in a film or something."
"Sounds a good idea," I said.
"Ok. And after that, I know somewhere we might go."
Things were just beginning to warm up. Saturday night at the club could be, well, interesting. Sometimes, it would be dull, dull. Sometimes there could be big bother. It was a pretty rough sort of place. Not surprising in this area of the city. And gay clubs can be, well, odd places at the best of times. Mind you, people know me well enough not to try it on with me. And I steer clear of the real rough houses. Not my scene. And sometimes, but not very often, I get lucky. But not very often. It was too early yet to tell what sort of night this would be, though.
I saw the three of them come in and look round. Fucking unbelievable. Couldn't have been more than sixteen, seventeen and looking as if butter wouldn't melt. The one in the front - floppy fair hair, real poncy looking. Then a nice bit of meat. Looked as if he could be a hunk. Then a skinny kid, who looked younger than the hunk. The kid and the hunk were obviously an item. That was a pity - I could have gone for the hunk. They stood there looking a bit frightened, and I could see that they had their little fingers wrapped round each other. Love's fucking young dream. Perhaps this would be a night where I got lucky.
I could sense all the other heads swivelling as well, eyeballs popping, gaydar on full alert. The poncy one led the others to the bar next to where I was leaning, and they ordered three Budwars. Budwar, for Christ's sake. The barman looked them over carefully, then shrugged, gave them their drinks, and took their money. They stood in a huddle next to me, looking round. Their eyes were popping too. They'd obviously never been in a gay club before. Not one like this one, that was for sure.
I swigged my bottle, waiting for the entertainment to begin. The poncy one nodded to the dance floor, and gave the other two a push. They huddled together again, obviously not wanting to, then I heard the ponce say to them: "Go on." They walked on to the dance floor - well, calling a dance floor was pushing it anyway - as if they'd pokers up their arses. The skinny kid just stood there, blinking, but the hunk decided to give it a go. He was quite a mover too, and dead sexy.
I reckoned I'd better say something. I leaned over to the ponce.
"Your mates are dead meat."
He jumped. "What do you mean?" Dead poncy voice too.
I nodded at the dance floor. "As soon as this record's over, those two are gonna be like honey to the bees."
I sighed. "Look, mate, that hunk there, the drop dead gorgeous one, if he so much as blinks, there'll be twenty blokes ready to take him outside and give him what for."
He put his bottle down and stared at me. Hmm, nice blue eyes. "Are you serious?"
He looked at me. Yum. "You really mean that? You think there'll be trouble?"
"I do, mate. I certainly do."
He looked right out of his depth. "What should I do?"
I shrugged. "Dunno, mate. Want me to rescue them?"
He looked at me. Very deep blue eyes. Yum, yum. "Yes, please."
Jesus. 'Yes, please.' In that accent.
"Come on." I took his arm. And the record then stopped. I could see them all circling round the kids.
We pushed our way through the crowd. Enough people round here know me well enough to make way. Then I saw someone behind the hunk, whispering something into his ear. Shit! It was Dave.
Of all the people to be around at a time like this, it has to be Dave. Dave was mean and Dave was nasty. I'd known Dave since he was a little kid. He was mean and nasty then. There was something else about Dave. If he wanted something, he just took it. He'd done that to me when I was about nine, and I fought him for it. Neither of us won, and a lot of blood had been spilled. But since then neither of us had tried to push the other. Now I was going to have to. Dave was rough with his boys, very rough. If he got that boy outside - well, I could see trouble. And hunky though the boy was, he wouldn't fight dirty like Dave did.
"Whoa," I said. Dave turned and sneered at me.
"What's with you?" he said. "Piss off, Wayne."
"These kids ..." I waved my hand at the hunk and the kid - "they're mates of mine. So hands off."
"Yeah? Says who?"
"Yeah. Says me. Now fuck off."
Dave stared at me. He took the hunk's wrist and slowly began to twist it. The kid moved forward, but Dave knocked him aside without even looking at him. Everything grew still around us. The kid looked as though he was going to shit himself. The hunk looked terrified. Don't fight back, I thought - Dave would love that. Then I could see the bouncers moving in. I relaxed a fraction.
"Problem here, gentlemen?"
It was Jerry - one of the straight bouncers. And no one, but no one, messed with Jerry. He didn't speak - he rumbled.
"No problem, Jerry. It's just my mate here - he's receiving some unwelcome attention."
"Yeah?" And he looked at the hunk. He looked at Dave. Dave slowly released the boy's wrist. "Don't want any trouble now, do we, gents?"
Dave looked at me hard. "You're meat, Wayne."
"No trouble, Dave. Not in here," rumbled Jerry.
Dave looked at him, and then back at me, then let go of the hunk's wrist.
"Later, Wayne, later."
Yeah, well, I'd have to deal with that if Dave ever remembered about it. If I was lucky, he would get his rocks off somewhere else and forget about me. I looked at the hunk and the kid and jerked my head. "Come on. Here."
They followed me back to the bar. Things started moving again. Another record came on. People started moving back onto the dance floor.
"Now swig down the bottles and follow me." The kid looked too terrified to take even a sip. "OK, then, now. Move it. We're out of here. Having you around with Dave here is like dangling steak in front of a Doberman."
We pushed our way to the door. Jerry was back at his post.
"Thanks, Jerry. Owe you one. Could have been nasty just then."
"Yeah, no worries mate." And then he looked at the kids with me. "Where'd you got those from?" he asked with genuine curiosity.
"Dunno. But now I've got 'em ..."
"Best of luck. Watch that Dave. Nasty one. You don't want him harbouring grudges. Best keep clear of him for a while."
"I know. Thanks again."
He shrugged. "Yeah, well. Don't want no trouble. Got our reputation to think of. Gotta keep the bluebottles at bay."
"See ya, Jerry."
We got out into the street, and I looked up and down. All quiet. No Dave. No fuzz. Just us. I turned back to the kids.
"So what the fuck were three sweet young kids like you doing here?"
The ponce shuffled his feet. "Er, well, it was my idea."
I grinned. "Yeah? Go on." I liked the voice.
"We were on a night out - and someone had told me of this place."
"Not a friend of yours was he?"
"Sort of - well, yeah. But don't take any more tips from that mate of yours. Nice place if you know what you're doing - and you three haven't a fucking clue."
The hunk spoke. Another classy voice. "Thanks for helping out like that."
"Yeah. What's your name?"
I looked at the kid and raised my eyebrows. "Nick," he said.
The ponce. "Giles."
Ashley - Nick - Giles. What a fucking mouthful.
"So what was Dave whispering in your ear then, Ashley?"
Even in the street lights I could see him go red. Jesus, nice and sweet.
"Um - I'd rather not say."
That cracked me up. "Rather not say! Fuck me! Come on, out with it."
He shuffled his feet. Then, straightfaced, he said: "Something like - 'I'm going to put my big hot dick all the way up your arse until it comes out of your mouth.' Among other things. Satisfied?"
No one said a word. The other two looked stunned.
"Yeah, well, Dave has a way with words - and something of a reputation when it comes to kids like you." I looked at them again. "Well, say thank you."
The ponce - Giles - said: "We're very grateful to you. It would have been - messy - without you."
That cracked me up again.
"Messy - right." I looked at them again. "I'm Wayne, by the way. Thanks for asking."
"Sorry," said the kid. "It's just that ... well, it's all been rather a shock."
"Rather a shock - right. So, are we going to stand here all night?"
They looked at each other, then at me. I looked back. Giles looked at Ashley, then back to me. There was a lot of looking going on between us. I could tell that they didn't know what to make of me, but were too polite to say.
"Do you want to come back with us?" Giles asked.
Mmm. What sort of invitation was this? "Back where?"
"To the boat," looking at me with those blue, blue eyes.
"We've got a yacht in the marina," said Ashley.
Jesus, they cracked me up yet again. "Daddie's yacht?"
"Yeah, well, something like that."
I grinned. "I'll try anything once." I turned to Giles. "Particularly if they've got deep blue eyes." Here was I thinking it was going to be another dull Saturday night. I might yet get lucky.
Give him his due, he looked straight back at me. "Sometimes I'm into rough trade."
I didn't expect that. "I pull you out of there unharmed, and that's what you call me?"
He grinned. "Yeah." Then fuck me if he didn't lean forward, grab my head, and smooch. He was good, give him that. I could have more of that - a lot more. It looked as if I was going to get lucky - really lucky.
"Hey, not in the fucking street. Jerry sees you do that out here, you'll be banned from here."
"That'd worry us?"
"I see what you mean. Well, I'd be banned then. And I don't need that. So where's Daddie's yacht?"
"This way," and he jerked his head. The other two fell in behind us.
"So, where're you from then? Not from round here, that's for sure."
"Well - up in Surrey."
"Surrey? Got a fucking Labrador, have you? Take it for walks with Mummy and Daddy? Throw sticks for it, do you?"
"Well, actually," and he put on that posh accent of his even more, "Mummy's not into dogs. She has a greenhouse instead." He grinned.
"Really," he said, in his normal - well, fairly normal - voice again.
As we went round the corner, there was a telly lying splattered on the pavement in front of us. I looked up at the windows of the flats. "Saturday night," I said, and shook my head. "Where's this fucking boat then?"
"Three minutes more," said the hunk, from behind us.
"Yeah? Fucking long three minutes."
He was right though - it was just round the corner. I looked at all these boats. Me, I live in Southampton, and I haven't a fucking clue about boats. The hunk reached for a swipe card, and we walked down this wooden platform. They stopped by this boat and hauled themselves on. I followed them.
Down inside it was quite cosy. The hunk turned to me.
"We've got some cans on board. Fosters. That OK?"
"Anything mate. Long as it's got alcohol in it."
He got some cans, and we sat at this table, the hunk and the kid one side, me and the ponce the other, clutching the beers.
"So," I said, "after rough trade were you?"
"Not really," said the ponce - Giles. "It's a long story."
"Yeah? Well, we've got all night ... haven't we?"
He looked at me amused. "I suppose. By the way, I'm not into anything really rough. My arse is still my own."
The hunk choked on his beer. The kid looked - well, I couldn't describe it if I tried.
"Yeah, well. You look if you could still be fun."
"Oh, I'm that all right."
The hunk choked again.
"So. You're on a night out, and you just happen to find one of the roughest gay clubs in Southampton. That's going it a bit."
He looked at the table. "Perhaps it wasn't a good idea. I got told about it by ... someone I knew."
"Another bit of rough trade?"
He was drawing circles in some beer he'd spilt.
"Something like that."
The kid was looking at him horrified.
"So what's the story then? How come Mummy and Daddy have let you off the leash?"
"Woof, woof," he said. Then he looked up and leered across the table. "These two love birds have run away together."
"Yeah, really?" I looked at them with interest. They seemed to find the circles in the beer fascinating.
"And they knew how bored I got at home, so they rang me up, and said, how about joining us for a night on the town? So we took in a movie, then had a Macdonald's, then I said - why don't we go to this club I know about?"
"Fuck me. Got a surprise there, then."
"Yeah well, Ashley's good at rescuing me from boredom," and again he leered across the table. The hunk looked uncomfortable, and the kid looked at him sharply.
"It's more than boredom I rescued you from," I said. "You don't know my mate Dave."
"And I don't think I want to."
"Me, I was scared silly," said the kid, frankly.
"Don't blame you mate. They don't have clubs like that in Surrey. You were meat from moment you walked in. Particularly him," waving my can at Ashley.
He looked at me. "When that guy got my wrist, and started saying things, I nearly shat myself."
"Can be a nasty one, that Dave. If he had half a chance, you'd've been down an alley, pants down your ankles, and his dick up your arse."
"That's about what he said to me. And I didn't really fancy that."
I finished the can. "Yeah. I can imagine - not with Dave. Rough, he is."
The kid looked at Ashley. "Rung home yet?"
"Rung home?" I asked. "What are you, E.T.? I thought you two had run away together."
"Well," he looked real embarrassed now, "our mothers tracked us down. We said we'd ring every evening."
"They tracked you down? And left you here?"
"We said we weren't coming back," said the kid.
"Christ Almighty. And they left you to it?"
He nodded. "Provided we call them each day. We'd better go and ring them now."
I didn't believe it, but then the two of them stood up and went up front somewhere, fumbling with their mobiles. I turned and looked at Giles and raised my eyebrows.
"There's a cabin in the stern," he said with a faint smile. "Come on."
Cabin in the fucking stern. You learn something new every day.
And though Giles might be keeping his arse to himself, he was good, I'll say that. That cabin was a bit cramped, but his style wasn't.
The next morning he stretched, and looked at me, and grinned.
"Had a good time, then, rough trade?"
"Fuck that rough trade stuff."
"I did my best."
"Yeah, well, you weren't bad. For a ponce, that is."
"Thank you for those few words, kind sir." Was he taking the mickey, or what? "I need a pee."
He threw the blanket aside and walked out. I needed a pee too. Pulled on my jeans and T shirt and looked out. Fuck me if the two kids weren't making breakfast, as domestic as you like, with only their T shirts on, dicks swaying in the breeze.
"Heads are up there," said Giles, coming back, starkers, pushing past the other two.
"Heads? What the fuck are they?"
"Loo. Toilet. Pee in the bowl and pump the handle."
I walked past the two kids and did what I was told. I had to push past them again to get back. Ashley was busy making tea, for Chrissake. I reached down.
"Nice plonker you've got there." It was too.
"Hey." He knocked my hand aside.
"Here, boy," said Giles, sitting down at the table, still starkers.
"What am I in, some kind of nudist colony then?"
"School," said Giles.
"What?" I didn't get him at all.
"School," he said again. "We're all from a boarding school. I've seen them starkers more often than I can count."
"We were all at the same school," said the kid, sharply.
"Yeah, sorry, Nick." I raised an eyebrow. "Nick was ... asked to leave."
"Expelled," he said.
"Sex with me," said Ashley.
"Let me get this straight," I said. "At this poncy school of yours, you all walk around starkers, but Nick here gets thrown out because he pulls Ashley's plonker?"
"Well, something like that," said Giles.
I shook my head. "How the upper classes live," trying to do a Giles accent.
"Keep working on it," he said. "But don't give up the day job."
I grinned. I liked these kids. They had a sense of humour. Probably needed it in that fancy school of theirs.
"So they ran away together?"
"That's right. They're still trying to find out if they're gay or not. That's why I took them to the club."
"What? If they're not gay, what've they been doing up there in bed for the past eight hours?"
"Playing tiddlywinks," said Ashley with a straight face.
"Yeah, right. And I'm the Queen of fucking Sheba."
"I knew there was something familiar about you," said Giles.
"And I suppose you're going to tell me you're not gay either."
"Me? No, I'm bi."
The kid looked at him. "You've had girls as well?"
Giles nodded. "Yes, Nick."
"And if you want to ask what it's like you can."
The kid went red. "Not if you don't want to tell us."
"Well, the geometry's different."
"You can say that all right," I said.
The kid looked at me. "You've had girls too?"
"Yeah - two or three. Three, actually."
There. I was saying it now. 'Actually.' I'd never said actually in my fucking life before.
"But you prefer boys?"
I shrugged. "Usually. More often than not. Depends on the boy, mind you. This one's not bad," I said, nudging Giles. Fucking nude and sitting next to me drinking tea. I looked across the table. "Could fancy yours, too."
"Dave did," said Giles.
"God," said Ashley. "Never ever has anything like that ever happened to me before."
"You upper class kids - you live sheltered lives." I looked at the two of them. "So you've never had a girl?"
They looked at each other but not at me. Eventually:
"No," said Ashley.
I shrugged. "I can fix that."
They looked at me again as though I was a fucking alien.
"You think you can get these two laid?" said Giles, amusement in his voice. "There's a challenge for you. Do that, and you can go on to solve the mysteries of the universe for an encore."
I thought about it. "Give me twenty four hours."
I didn't like that. Snotty kids. See if I couldn't.
"Too much bed and not enough sleep, that's your problem, Nick." said Giles. The kid gave him a sheepish grin. "Finish your tea," he said to me.
"Well, Nick there needs to go back to bed. So do we."
I gave him my best lazy smile. "Yeah?"
I reached down and grabbed his plonker. He jumped. "I think this is telling me something." It was, too. "Come on then."
Afterwards, when we were lying in that little cabin under the blanket, I said to him: "You didn't believe me, did you?"
"Getting those two laid."
He rolled over, and propped himself on one elbow, looking down on me. "You think you could?"
"Yeah, no worries."
"There is one snag."
"They really might be gay."
I shrugged. "Only one way to find that out."
"You really could do it?"
"Yeah, course I could."
He grinned at me. "Bet you couldn't."
He was getting to me now. I sat up and almost banged my head. "Look, ponce, if I say I could, then you better fucking believe me."
"Hey, temper, temper. Calm down." He looked at me again. "Would you do it?"
"OK then." He lay back.
That put me on the spot. I ran through the possibilities in my mind.
"It'd take me a bit of time to set up."
He rolled back onto his side. "You mean that?"
"Yeah. Fucking schoolboy's honour. Right?"
He grinned an evil grin, and slowly leant over me. The kiss I got must have lasted five minutes. He didn't stop there, either.
It was about six that evening when I slipped out of the bed. Giles was fast asleep. I tiptoed out and made my way back to dry land. I used the dog and bone to give Mel a ring. She was at home.
"Hi, Mel, it's Wayne. You going to be in for a while?"
"For you, Wayne, maybe."
"Be five minutes."
She let me in, and I gave her a peck on the cheek. She looked at me.
"You're after something." I gave her my most boyish grin and nodded. "When you smile like that I get worried," she said, going through to the front room.
"So - out with it. What do you want?"
So I started telling her about last night.
"I was down at the club ..."
"I wish you wouldn't go there."
"Yeah well, something to do, innit? Anyway, I was at the bar, having a drink, minding me own business, when these three kids walk in." I paused. "Well, I call them kids, but I'm not sure if they're not older than me. There're times though, when I feel a hundred years older than them."
She watched me, saying nothing.
"Real innocent; lambs to the slaughter. There's a kid, a ponce, and a drop dead gorgeous hunk. The kid and the hunk are an item, and they go off to the dance floor together. Then Dave takes it into his head to proposition the hunk."
"Don't like that Dave," she said with a shudder.
"Nor do I."
"So what happened next?"
"So, I do my knight in shining armour bit, and rescue the hunk before Dave has a chance to screw his arse off."
"You must've enjoyed that."
"Yeah well, and Jerry helped out too."
"Is Dave after you then?"
"He'll forget about it after twenty four hours. Particularly if he got his rocks off somewhere else."
"You want to watch him. You know what he's like."
"Yeah, well. Anyway, these kids, they're staying on Daddie's yacht in one of those marinas." She raised her eyebrows. "They all go to one of those posh schools. It's like living in a fucking nudist camp with them. They all walk round with their dicks hanging out."
"You must have enjoyed that."
"!'ll say. Well, anyway, the hunk and the kid - they got in trouble at this school for pulling each other's plonkers. And now they think they're gay. Thing is, they've never even been within sniffing distance of a girl. Wouldn't know how if you pointed their dicks at - well, you know."
"Are you asking what I think you're asking?"
Sweetest smile again. "Well, sis, someone's got to show them the facts of life."
"And I'm nominated?"
"Only if you're up for it."
She looked at me steadily. "Anything in it for me?"
"Well," I shrugged. "I can bung you a bit. Not much. But you could always do it out of the goodness of your own heart or out of love for your little bro."
"Two of them? All three of them?"
"Well, two anyway. Any other girls you know of?"
She thought. "Yeah. I can give a couple of them a ring, see if they'll help out. I'll tell them it's for my little bro."
"That'll bring 'em round. And you can have the hunk."
"Good looking, is he?"
"Drop dead gorgeous."
"So why aren't you in there?"
"As I said, he and the kid are an item. They think they're in love. I've got the poncey one. Knows a few tricks, that kid. Gave me quite a surprise."
"So what's the hunk's name?"
"Will he be any good?"
"Dunno. Depends if he can perform. But he's got a lovely dick." She threw her head back and hooted with laughter. "And they're nice kids. They crack me up."
So, Mel lined up, I go back. Wait until I saw a couple coming out, and sneak in the security gate behind them. They were having supper when I got there. A fucking casserole, would you believe, made by the kid. Good too. I gave Giles a nod and a wink after we'd sat down to eat.
"We thought we'd lost you," he said.
"Nah. I'm not as easy to get rid of as that."
So we have this casserole and take in a movie. Giles paid for us all with a card. His own too. No clubbing afterwards, though. Then back to the boat for a good night's sleep. Well, sort of. I said he knew quite a few tricks. He showed me some more.
So the next afternoon I take them along to Melanie's. They don't know what they're in for, except Giles. I tipped him off in bed. The other two just think we're visiting a friend.
Wayne said we wanted to take us to me some people he knew - he was a bit mysterious about it all, but we followed along with him. It was one of those damp days where the pavements are all wet, and feel slimy as you walk along. He took us through all these back streets to a block of flats, and up the stairs to the second floor. They ponged a bit, those stairs. He walked up to the front door of one of the flats. I'd never been in somewhere like that before, and hadn't a clue what to expect. He said we were going to visit his sister - Melanie. He rang the bell, and this girl opened the door. She couldn't have been much older than Wayne - and I wasn't quite sure how old Wayne was. The hall was neat, well decorated. It was nice.
Then she took us in to their sitting room, and there were two other girls there as well. They smiled up at us. I wasn't quite sure what this was all about.
"This is Katie, and this is Janet," Melanie said. "They're friends of mine - they just called round."
We smiled and nodded. "I'm Ashley."
"Come on in, then," Melanie said. She went and sat on a sofa, and looked at me, patted the seat next to me, smiled. I sat down. Giles started talking to Katie. Nick just stood in the middle of the room, looking awkward. Janet was sitting on the floor, and reached up a hand, grabbing Nick's, and pulled him down. Wayne disappeared. Things seemed to be happening rather quickly.
"So," she said, "you're Ashley." I nodded. I could see the resemblance to Wayne. She smiled, dimpled. "Wayne told me all about what happened in the club the night before last."
"Oh, God," I said, "that - I was shitting myself something rotten. I mean, I'd never been into a place like that before, and then something like that happens."
"Yeah - I know Dave - known him for years. He's a nasty scumbag."
"You can say that again. And then Wayne came to the rescue."
"Wayne doesn't do things unless he knows he's going to get something out of it." I raised my eyebrows, and she coloured slightly. "Well, that's not quite true. Sometimes he does."
"Wayne's been OK."
"Yeah. But he did get a cosy billet for a night or two?"
"Don't worry - Giles can look after himself ... well, much better than I can, anyway."
"So you and Nick ran away together."
I laughed, embarrassed at having a girl say something like that to me.
"Something like that. And I was responsible for getting Nick expelled from school. And then I had to tell my parents I'm spending a dirty weekend with him. How about that?"
"Sounds though you've had a rough time of it."
I shrugged. "Yeah, well. Suppose. Still, these things happen."
"Yeah." There was an awkward silence for a minute, then she said: "Wayne told me you live in Surrey. Is that right?"
"That's right. And no, I don't have a fucking Labrador which I take for fucking walks with Mummy and Daddy and throw fucking sticks for."
Now that really did make her laugh. "I can just hear Wayne saying that."
"Yeah. But we were really grateful to Wayne for helping us out the other night. We really walked right into it when Giles took us into that club." I looked round. "Where is Giles anyway?"
"Dunno," she said innocently.
I looked at her. There was something going on.
He was really sweet. And I could see why Wayne called him a hunk. In fact, he was more than sweet: he was yummy. And he was beginning to suspect something.
"So, what happens when you go back home?" I asked him
He shrugged. "Dunno."
He looked round again. Janet was finding it hard work with Nick, and Ashley was beginning to notice. Time for action.
I stood up. "Wayne said there was something I was to show you."
"Oh?" he said, standing up too.
"Through here," I said, taking his hand. He didn't know what to do about that, so I made sure I had a tight hold on him. I almost had to tug him out of the room.
Talking to Janet was a bit difficult. I was never very good talking to girls at the best of times, and we really didn't have a lot in common. But I tried, and got the feeling that she was having to make an effort too. Our conversation limped on until the moment when I saw Melinda taking Ashley out of the room.
"Where are they going?" I blurted.
"Dunno," she said. "Does it matter?"
Then several things hit me at once. First, that we'd been set up by Wayne. Second, that Melanie and Ashley had gone off to find a room together to ... at this point I did a mental gulp. Third, that I'd been left with Janet, and was going to be expected to perform. One corner of my mind told me that here was my chance finally to have proper sex; another corner told me that I was scared stiff in case I couldn't do it.
I looked at Janet helplessly.
"Come on," she said, reading my face, "it's not as difficult as all that."
"Maybe not. It's just rather - a surprise, that's all."
She smiled. "It was intended as a surprise."
"You certainly succeeded then." This time she laughed out loud. I remembered James once telling me that the secret of success with girls was to make them laugh. "Ok, then - let's give it a go." I leaned forward and kissed her.
It was all a lot easier than I thought it would be. Mind you, it was she seducing me rather than the other way round. It was getting dark outside, which suited me. She was quicker taking her clothes off too, and was stretched out on the sofa before I was ready. I didn't quite close my eyes, but just carefully climbed on top.
"There we are," she said, and reached down and guided me in. I'd been scared that I wouldn't be able to keep it up, but it all happened so quickly. Then I thought - well, I'm not going to have much of a chance of doing this for a while again, so I might as well take it slowly and enjoy it. I did.
I followed her through to what was obviously her bedroom. I stopped at the doorway. It was different from any bedroom I'd been in before - even Mum and Dad's. It was very neat and tidy, but all the surfaces - windowsills and so on - were filled with fluffy toys. Wombles and gonks and whatever. It smelled different too. A much sweeter smell than boys' rooms. Some boys' rooms smelled really rank - I remembered Tom's at school.
"Come on in," she said.
I went in behind her. There was a bed in the middle of the room, nice and neatly made up with a bedspread over it. She sat down on the bedspread, and pulled me down after her. We sat next to each other: she was looking at me with amusement. Then she leaned forward and kissed me very, very gently on the lips. She drew back.
"Wayne was right," she said.
"What do you mean?" The last time I had been taken by surprise like that was with Giles, and the way he kissed was - well, rather different.
"You are a hunk," still amused.
I could feel myself going red again. When would I ever stop doing that? "Yeah, well," I cleared my throat and looked down again.
"Go on," she said.
"Kiss me back then."
Kissing girls seemed gentler somehow. She smelled different too. And her skin was indefinably different. She started unbuttoning my shirt.
"This is a set up," I said.
Her hands were inside my shirt now.
"OK, you started it first," I said, and started unbuttoning her blouse.
Suddenly we were without shirt and blouse. Now there was another problem. I sat looking at her bra.
"Never had to deal with one of these before?"
I did, and it took a lot of fumbling before it slid free. She slipped it from her arms, then turned back to me.
Hm. The view was certainly very different. The nipples - far bigger than any boy's. And the breasts - yes, they were like those in the porn mags, but now they were attached to a real person.
"See these before?"
"You can touch if you like," she said, still amused.
I did better than that. I leaned forward and ran my tongue over them, then closed my lips on the nipples. Odd. She gave a gasp. I looked up - her lips were parted, and I kissed them again. Then down to the other one.
I leaned back. There were stirrings - down there. Actually, more than stirrings. It was beginning to get awkward.
"Now the embarrassing part."
"Getting the rest of your kit off."
"Easy enough," and she began unfastening her skirt.
Things went with a rush after that.
I had to give him some help, then he was away. The excitement must have been too much for him though, and he came after a few gasps. "Oh God!" and he buried his head in my shoulder. I held him and let him get over it. Then he looked up. He looked really forlorn.
"Sorry. That sort of thing's happened to me before."
"It's OK. There's time to try again." I held his head and smiled at him, and he relaxed a bit.
And soon he did start again, this time going really slowly. When they're nice and young like that, they have plenty of stamina. Slowly and steadily and considerately - this boy would be good in bed with a little more practice ... well, quite a bit more practice. And as he came he stretched out over me in triumph and satisfaction.
I think we both dozed off afterward. It was pitch black outside, and a wiggled myself from under him to draw the curtains, put on a lamp, and light a cigarette. I looked at him as he slept. I could see why Wayne would fancy him too.
After a while he stirred, and looked round for me. There was something a little smug about him now. There always is after their first time. It's a birthday, Christmas and New Year all wrapped up into one. Then he looked worried.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
Awkwardly: "I was wondering about Nick. I mean, is he ...?"
"Yeah. He'll be all right." First fuck, and he's worried about his boyfriend still?
"Well, we ought to ..."
We crept through to the front room. Wayne was right - he walked around with no clothes on as if he were in his own bedroom at home.
Nick and Janet were on the settee. Nick had his head turned away from us, but Janet was awake, and as she caught my eye, she gave a small thumbs up.
"You needn't worry about him - he's lost his cherry too."
I wasn't quite sure how he felt about that. Then he turned back to me. "Can we try again?" It was like a small boy with a new toy.
I hadn't taken Wayne very seriously at first, but when I saw the girls waiting I took my hat off to him. I found myself with Katie, and we made ourselves scarce pretty sharpish. I didn't want to cramp the others' style. She was good, too.
What a weekend! Ashley had this knack of making things happen around him. I certainly couldn't claim to be bored now.
After we had lain back and relaxed, I slipped out of bed.
"Back in a minute," I whispered.
I peeked into the other bedroom, and there was Ashley and Melanie wrapped up in each other. That one seemed to have been a success. Then the sitting room. It was almost dark, with only one tiny lamp on, but I could see Nick and Janet on the sofa, and Nick was in full flight. I backed out and went back to Katie. Mission accomplished. Well, almost. I reckoned I still had some time left with Katie.
None of us had much to say as we made our way back to the marina late that evening. Much of that was due to mutual embarrassment. But when we got on board, I delved down into one of the lockers.
"We got some wine when we were in Lezardrieux last year. I think we deserve some."
I poured out three glasses and sat down. I raised my glass.
"Here's to us, come what may."
The others muttered something similar. We sipped the wine thoughtfully. Finally, I turned to Nick.
"Was it what you thought it would be like?"
He swirled his wine in the glass. "I don't know. To be honest, I didn't have any idea as to what it would be like."
"And?" said Giles.
"What was it like?"
There was a slight smile as he looked into his wine. "Dunno really. Well, yes, it was good. It was different." He looked up to me. "Will this make any difference to us?"
"I don't know, Nick, I don't know," I told him as honestly as I could.
Giles came in: "It never lasts for ever, you know, Nick."
"That's what one corner of my mind tells me. Another corner says, surely this will never end."
"All good things must come to an end. A cliché, I know, but."
Nick said: "It was good. And I did enjoy it. But I can't imagine being without Ashley."
I put my arm round him. "Whatever, whenever. But this last six months has been heaven and hell."
He gave me a twisted smile. "How much of each?"
"Heaven with you, hell without you."
"For Christ's sake, Ashley, you're going to start quoting poetry next," said Giles.
"Ah, Giles, that's always been your problem. All dick and no heart."
He looked taken aback. "Hey, come on."
"Giles, when have you felt anything for anyone?"
He looked from me to Nick. "I don't know. But when I've seen you two at times, I've wondered whether it was worth it. The two of you were close to a break down at times."
"Maybe," said Nick quietly. "But Ashley's been worth it. Most of the time."
"And I love you too."
He gave me a smile. But both of us knew that things would never be the same again. Not just this afternoon, but the last half dozen days had burned an experience into us that had made us grow up faster than we had ever done before.
I was wondering when the call would eventually come. Then when Nick came on for his evening call, he sounded a bit subdued.
"Can you collect us the day after tomorrow, Mum? Or shall we catch a train?"
"Collecting you is no problem. Be nice to have you back for Christmas. When and where?"
"The yacht club, midday?"
"Fine. Are you OK?"
"Sure." Then something of the old Nick crept in. "It's been an eventful few days. I'll tell you ..." he hesitated ... "some of it when I get back."
"OK. Sorted out your future?" I knew it was dangerous to ask, but I couldn't help it.
"Yes. And no."
"Just confused and uncertain."
"OK. See you the day after tomorrow."
"Fine. Love you. Bye Mum."
What that was all about, I had no idea, but I'd no doubt be finding out. At least, as much as he was prepared to tell us.
"It'll be nice to have you back home at last, Ashley."
"Yes, Mum. And I know I've a lot of explaining to do to you and Dad."
"Well, a bit of background would be nice."
"Yes." He hesitated. "Look ..."
"Don't go thinking it's all Nick's fault. In a way, it's me that started the whole thing off."
And then I got the impression that he thought he'd said too much. "Well," he equivocated, "when I get home, I'll tell you as much as I can."
"OK. So Mrs. Thompson's picking the two of you up the day after tomorrow?"
"Three of us, actually. Giles came down."
"Oh." I was slightly thrown. "Giles?"
"Yes, don't worry - the twosome hasn't become a threesome. Remember I said this was more like a holiday or an adventure? Well, we thought he'd be bored at home, and like to join us. So he did."
"Oh, That's nice," I said, meaninglessly.
There was amusement in his voice. "In a way."
"What do you mean?"
"Sorry - a sort of injoke."
Children grow away from you. "Ashley, a few months ago you were such a simple uncomplicated child."
"And now I'm a lout of a teenager with behavioural problems."
"No, darling, I didn't mean that."
"I did, though."
"Save it until you're home. OK?"
"OK. Bye Mum."
Things didn't end there. We'd decided we'd go back home the day after tomorrow, but there was something we thought we ought to do first, which meant a visit to one of the big city jewellers. We each picked out something for our particular girl. A bracelet. A necklace. A brooch. And another fluffy toy for Melanie. Something for Wayne. We wanted them inscribed too.
Giles said he would pay: I think he was still smarting a little from what I'd said to him last night. And we hadn't any money: the twenty pounds each that our mothers had given us was long gone. Giles had a card, and as he put it to us: "Mother signs the cheques each month, and I think if I bought an executive jet with it, she'd just say 'That's nice, dear.'."
The salesman balked a bit at putting all that on Giles' card. It came to quite a bit. He turned the card over and over in his hands and looked at us not quite believing what he saw. I guessed he thought the card might be stolen.
"G.E.C. Lawson-Baxter. That's your name?"
"It is, even if it's a bit of a mouthful."
"Do you have any other proof of identity on you?"
"Not really - except ..." and he leaned across the counter with a winning smile "... it's on the name tape sown into my boxer shorts."
Which really ended that one. The salesman shut up after that.
The engraving would take an hour or two. For an exorbitant fee they had agreed to do it as a rush job. We'd contacted Wayne on his mobile, and asked to him if he could get the girls to the flat for five o'clock - not, we hastened to add, for a repeat performance. We just said we wanted to say thank you. When we got there, we rang the bell, our presents clutched in our hands, nicely wrapped up. We were all fairly nervous, too, if the truth be told. But Wayne ushered us in, chirpy as ever.
The girls were sitting there looking demure. What did throw us - me certainly - was Melanie. She was clutching a baby, bouncing it up and down on her shoulder.
"Don't mind Charlie do you? I got someone to look after him yesterday, but I couldn't find anyone for today."
I swallowed hard. Sex - well, that was one thing. Babies - that was something else altogether. But I put on a smile.
"We've come to say thank you, and we've got something for you."
We handed over our presents, and I think the girls were genuinely touched. They weren't used to that. Then I turned to Wayne: "And this is for setting us all up like that." We'd got him a watch.
"You shouldn't have done that. A fucking watch and all!"
"It's got your name on the back."
"What? Fuck me!"
I knew we had to make this short and sweet, or it would start becoming awkward. I leaned down and kissed Melanie, then the baby for good measure.
"Thanks very much. Once again. We'll be off. Bye."
A chorus of goodbyes. We filed out again, followed by Wayne.
"You didn't have to do that, you know."
"I know. But I thought we ought to."
"Fucking Surrey ponces." Then he looked at us. "You lot going back to the boat then?" I nodded.
He looked at Giles. "Mind if I come along too?"
I could see Giles' face: part amusement, part pleasure.
Wayne gave him a shove. "Watch it, ponce."
I remembered what Melanie had said about him. But he needn't have fixed us up with the girls. He had nothing to gain there.
When we go back, I broke into more of the wine stock, and we sat round the table again.
"Funny," I said. "A fortnight ago, Nick and I hatched up this plot to run away and hide and have endless hours and hours of sex together."
"You've done that all right," said Wayne.
"Well, we certainly had the sex, but we didn't hide very well. Then we got our families descending on us, and for the first time since June, I was honest with people. All this started because I'd got a bloody great hard on one night, and took it out on Nick." He made a noise of protest there. "And because I let myself be ruled by my hard on for the next few months, Nick got expelled. And I've never said sorry to him. So I'm saying it now. I'm sorry."
Nick started to say something, but I put my arms round him and hugged him.
"Shut up," I told him. "It was my fault. And I'm sorry for it. It happened because I was too selfish, and wouldn't stop. Then I worried the hell out of your parents and out of my parents. And they're probably still sitting at home thinking what they did wrong when they brought us up. Well, we've got to go back tomorrow and tell them they didn't do anything wrong. We did. I did.
"And Nick and I have been worrying about whether we're gay, and what all that means. And Wayne and Giles have shown us that there's more to it. You've taught us that gays can be as good as anyone else. And," thinking of Dave, "as nasty too. You taught us that girls can be worthwhile as well. And now Nick and I have fucked someone else apart from Giles and each other."
That produced a giggle from Wayne.
We've got a lot to thank Wayne for, too." He did his best to look modest. "And Melanie, and Kate, and Janet. Say thank you to them again, will you Wayne?"
"Yeah, sure, no problem. And these pressies - they weren't expecting those. Thanks. And I like the watch."
"It's the least we could do. And it gave me a bit of a surprise to find out you were an uncle."
"Gave me a surprise at the time, and all."
"But I still love Nick, and I hope he still loves me. But I know that we'll also learn to love other people too, and not to be too selfish about it. And if I sound bloody sentimental, then you're right. It's our last night together, and I've had two glasses of wine, so I can feel bloody sentimental if I want to."
Giles was looked amused, though. There's no way I was going to impress that cynic. "No," he said, "you're not sounding sentimental, you're sounding grown up."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I remember that mixed up little boy I seduced last summer, and that's not what I see now. You've grown a long way since then."
"I remember sitting and crying on your bed, after you'd stripped me naked." Wayne looked interested at that point. Nick stared down at the table. "And you asked me whether I was really in love, and I said yes. And you warned me about being in love. And because I was a soft shelled innocent, I didn't know what you meant. But I do now. And perhaps that's what's meant by growing up."
"You're not so soft shelled now, Ashley."
"Perhaps not. Maybe you do need to grow a shell as you grow older."
Nick looked up, and said wistfully, "I said to James once, about growing up - is it worth it when you get there? He didn't understand what I meant. But you don't have a choice, do you? It happens whether you like it or not."
And Wayne said: "Do you lot never stop talking?"
Part of this episode (Wayne) rather turned into a commentary on the UK class system. Our protagonists to date have been middle class public schoolboys. The final section contrasts this with another stratum of society.
Comments, criticisms etc: email The Composer.