The last chapter ended with Jeremy's revelation getting a totally unexpected reaction from Tony. Can the situation be rescued, or has their friendship been damaged beyond repair? Cue plenty of strong emotion... and to balance it, we'll be popping back to Miguel's school to see how he's getting on with his new friend James...
Tony stumbled away from the garage, grabbed his bike and used it to batter his way through the overgrown part of the drive to the lane. Only when he was out of sight of the garage did he stop and finish getting dressed, though he could barely see what he was doing through his tears.
Bilal! Who could ever have guessed that Jeremy would have fallen for someone with a disfiguring splotch on his face? What did Bilal, of all people, have to offer that he didn’t? Five minutes earlier he had been convinced that his dream was going to come true, and that Jeremy had finally found the courage to admit that his feelings went beyond mere friendship. He’d been ready to admit that he had felt the same way for absolutely ages, but had never dared say anything in case his feelings were not reciprocated…
He uttered a harsh snort of disgust. Jeremy felt the same way, all right, just not about him. How could he have been so stupid as to let himself believe this was going to work out for him?
He got onto his bike and wobbled away up the lane, blinking several times in an attempt to clear his vision. He was absolutely furious with himself for letting himself believe in a happy ending, but he was also livid with Jeremy for letting him think, no matter how fleetingly, that they had a future together. Okay, maybe it wasn’t Jeremy’s fault that he was too thick to see what was right under his nose, but that didn’t make Tony feel any better.
And what about Bilal? He couldn’t believe that Bilal had ever given Jeremy the remotest hint that he was interested in a physical relationship, so probably Bilal was in no way to blame for all this… but he was there, wasn’t he? Maybe if Jeremy had never met Bilal he might have fallen for Tony instead. For a fleeting, horrible moment Tony found himself thinking like Adolf and dreaming of Bilal being put on a cargo ship and forcibly repatriated to Pakistan, but he caught himself with the thought and was disgusted with himself for entertaining it, even for an instant. After all, Bilal was his friend, too, and (he repeated to himself) not remotely to blame for Jeremy’s infatuation with him.
For ten minutes he rode on, riding like a lunatic with his thoughts in a whirl, before he started to calm down a little. He was already more than halfway to school, even though it was ridiculously early, so he rode on more carefully and sensibly until he reached Poundford Spa common, and there he pulled over, walked his bike to one of the benches overlooking the town centre and sat down to think.
Now he had cooled down a little he was beginning to feel less angry with Jeremy, and in fact he was starting to think that he’d acted like a complete bastard instead of like a friend: Jeremy had confided his darkest secret to him, something that must have taken immense reserves of courage, and how had he reacted? By storming out and slamming the door. What must Jeremy be thinking now? That one of his oldest friends hated him and was disgusted with him? That it would be all round the school by lunchtime? That Bilal would hear about it and be similarly revolted by the notion of Jeremy wanting to go to bed with him?
And now Tony really did feel appalled at his own behaviour. You’re supposed to love him, he told himself: is this how you show it? If you really loved him you’d want him to be happy, even with Bilal, not angry and jealous that he’d chosen someone else… You’ve left him feeling like total shit – and you even gave him a bloody great knife for his birthday, for God’s sake: how are you going to feel if he uses it on himself?
Obviously even at his angriest he had never intended telling anyone at school about this, least of all Bilal, but now he was starting to be afraid that even without doing anything else, what he’d already done might lead to Jeremy doing something drastic. I’m going to have to go back, and quickly, he decided, and he grabbed his bike and swung it round – and dropped the back wheel straight onto a broken beer bottle that was lying beside the bench. A jagged shard went straight into the tyre.
He swore violently: he didn’t have a puncture kit, or a spare tube, and that meant his bike was useless. He briefly contemplated running all the way, or hiking into the town centre to look for a bus going that way, but either would take too long. He would have to get hold of someone else, but the only person he knew that lived close enough was Sim, and he didn’t have Sim’s number. Bilal might have it – in fact, he was pretty sure he did, and he might have Owen’s number as well, which would give him a second option. So he chained his bike to the bench and ran off towards the Regency pub, where he was pretty sure there was a phone box.
He got there, out of breath, and then found he didn’t have any change. He swore again and then called the operator and asked her to call Bilal’s number for him and ask if they would accept a reverse charge call. And at that point his luck changed, because Bilal answered the phone himself and accepted the charges without bothering to consult his parents.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“I need Sim’s number, or Owen’s,” said Tony. “Now, Bilal, it’s urgent.”
“I haven’t got Owen’s, but Sim’s is here somewhere… hang on…”
Tony tried to control his runaway imagination, having horrible visions of Jeremy lying on the mattress with his knife protruding from his chest. He thought he’d never be able to live with himself if he was responsible for Jeremy hurting himself – or worse… He’d probably have to try to get hold of the knife and use it on himself…
“It’s 96 43758,” said Bilal’s voice in his ear. “Look, what’s happening, Tony? Is Jeremy okay?”
“I don’t know. I’ll tell you about it later… oh, shit, I still haven’t got any money, and I bet Sim’s parents wouldn’t accept a reverse charge from someone they’ve never met… you’ll have to call him, Bilal. Get him to go round to the garage and make sure Jeremy’s okay – now, before school. Tell him it’s really important, okay? He’s to tell Jeremy that I’m really, really sorry and that I haven’t said anything to anyone, okay?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just do it, Bilal, now. I’ll speak to you at school.” And Tony hung up, hoping that he’d impressed on Bilal how vital this was.
“I’ve no idea, Sim,” Bilal said. “Tony just rang me up and said someone has to go round to the garage and tell Jeremy everything’s okay and that Tony’s really sorry. I don’t know what it’s about. Can you get round there before school?”
“I don’t think tho – I’m thu… suppothed to be at school in twenty minutes. Maybe I can get Timmy to go round after a… assembly: the older boys have a bit of free time now their ecthams are all done.”
“Tony said it was really important,” insisted Bilal. “See what you can do, Sim, okay?”
“Okay. If Timmy or Graham can’t go I’ll thneak off mythelf and do it – we’ve only got PE after ath… assembly, and I hate that.”
“Okay, thanks, Sim.” Bilal put the phone down, wondering what had happened and why it was such a big emergency all of a sudden. Probably it was just Tony over-reacting again, he told himself.
Sim did his best, but his mother wouldn’t let him out of the house until she was satisfied that he’d packed all the books he was supposed to have, and by the time he got away there was simply not enough time to get to the garage. So as soon as he got to school he went to the senior classroom and told Timmy what Bilal had asked him to do.
“Well, I’m supposed to have maths after assembly,” said Timmy, “but we’re really just playing mathematical games now, so I can probably disappear without anyone taking too much notice. Did Bilal tell you what it’s all about?”
“He didn’t really tell me anything, only that he wanted one of usss to go and check up on Jeremy,” Sim told him.
“Okay, I’ll go and make sure he’s okay. I don’t suppose it’s serious, though.”
In fact, Tony’s imagined version of Jeremy’s reaction was fairly accurate: once the garage door had slammed shut Jeremy collapsed back onto the mattress and pulled the sleeping bag round him. He felt sick: his worst fears had been fulfilled. He realised he shouldn’t have allowed himself to be influenced by Timmy and his friends – after all, what did it matter what they said or thought? They knew they weren’t likely to see him again. It was his real friends whose opinion mattered, and now he knew what that opinion was: Tony couldn’t even stand to be in the same room as him. And no doubt Bilal would be exactly the same as soon as he heard about it, which was likely to be the moment Tony got to school.
For a long time he couldn’t raise the energy to do anything: instead he just lay in the sleeping bag feeling numb. But eventually he started thinking what he should do next – not that it mattered, really, because any choice now would be equally meaningless. First he considered just getting on his bike and riding, in any direction except towards home – but then he decided that this would be pointless, because no matter how far he rode he would be unable to escape from himself, and it was his own personality that was the problem here.
Next he considered simply going home, taking whatever punishment Adolf had to offer and trying to get on with his life – but that was no good, either: how could he go back to a school where everyone knew what a pervert he was? And how could he live so close to Bilal without ever being able to speak to him again? The idea of seeing the disgust written on the faces of boys who had been his friends was too much to contemplate.
So what did that leave? He couldn’t run away and he couldn’t go back, and there was no point in staying where he was, because he couldn’t expect Tony to keep his whereabouts a secret any longer: sooner or later he could expect the police to turn up to take him home. Which meant that the only remaining option was to put himself where he wouldn’t be an embarrassment to his friends or family any longer, and where he would finally not have to worry about what anyone thought of him.
He thought briefly about using the knife, but he wasn't sure he'd be able to bring himself to actually do it – and it would leave a dreadful mess for someone to find, too. No, he thought, there's a better way, one which would be much less messy and much easier to carry out.
The south coast was probably too far for him to cycle, but he knew that there were a couple of buses that ran from Poundford Spa to towns on the coast. The bus fare would be no problem, because he still had plenty of money left over from the collection his friends had made for him, so all he had to do was to ride back into Poundford Spa, catch a bus to the coast and then walk up to Beachy Head, where plenty of other unhappy people before him had taken the long plunge from the top of the cliff into oblivion.
He thought about it for a while longer, but there really didn’t seem to be any other option: he’d sooner be dead than to have to live knowing that everyone – and especially the boy he loved - despised him. So eventually he got out of the sleeping bag, wiped the tears from his face and got dressed. He wasn’t remotely hungry, but he drank what was left of the milk and then tidied the place up a little: probably Sim or one of the others would be sent round to put the place in order, and he thought it would make it easier for them if everything was tidily packed away before he left.
He put the not-quite-finished model of the Lancaster onto the shelf at the back of the garage – probably they’d smash it up when they found it, but he didn’t see any reason to deny them that pleasure – packed everything else away in his bag, separated the sleeping bags and folded them up ready to be reclaimed by their owners, slung his bag on his back, wheeled his bike through the door – and ran into Timmy, who was halfway down the drive. His heart sank – he’d hoped to be able to slip away unnoticed.
“Hello,” said Timmy. “Where are you going?”
“Well, I… I thought I’d head back to Poundford Spa.”
“Oh. Okay… Are you all right? You look pretty awful.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing! Look, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in school?”
“Sim got a phone call from Bilal, apparently. He said he was worried about you, or something, and wanted one of us to check up on you, to make sure you’re okay.”
“Well, I am! Now leave me alone!” shouted Jeremy, who simply couldn’t face this: the idea that Bilal should have been worried about him today of all days, when he was just about to find out how disgusting Jeremy really was, was too much to cope with. But Timmy could see that something was seriously wrong here and he wasn’t going to let Jeremy go without finding out what it was.
“Jeremy, please let me talk to you,” said Timmy.
“I don’t want to talk to anyone.”
“Okay, then let me just stay with you for a bit.”
“Why? You hardly know me – what’s it got to do with you?”
“Because… because your friends are worried about you, and they asked me to make sure you’re all right. And because I’m worried about you, too. People care about you, you know.”
“They won’t for much longer. I bet if you could call Bilal now he’d tell you to shove me under a bus instead.”
“I don’t think he would. Look, let’s get inside, and then you can tell me the whole story.”
Jeremy just wanted to go, but the concept of one more chance to talk to someone who didn’t immediately despise him did have its attractions, so he allowed himself to be shepherded back into the garage. After all, what difference would it make if he waited another few minutes before leaving? Beachy Head would still be there when he needed it, which he was certain he would: nothing Timmy could say was going to make him feel any differently about himself…
Once he’d left the phone box by the Regency Tony walked back to the common to collect his bike and started pushing it to school. He still wanted to get back to Jeremy, but he didn’t have the money for the bus fare and he couldn’t go home to try to find some without his mother asking him endless questions. He couldn’t go home to repair his puncture for the same reason. So school seemed the only place he could go to find help.
He was still quite a long way from the school and pushing his bike slowed him down, too, and so he only got into their form room five seconds ahead of their teacher. He slid into the space next to Bilal.
“Did you manage to call someone?” he asked in a low voice as the teacher started calling the register.
“Yes, I talked to Sim. He’s going to go and make sure everything’s okay. Look, what’s going on, Tony?”
“I need to borrow your bike. Mine’s got a puncture.”
“Because I’ve got to get back to Shortham. Look, I messed up, Bilal, okay? Jeremy told me something and I… well, I reacted badly. I need to go back and patch things up.”
“It can’t be that urgent, surely? Can’t you wait until after school?”
“It is that urgent, and after school might be too late.”
“Why, what did he tell you?”
“That doesn’t matter at the moment. Getting there to make sure he’s okay is what’s important. Please, Bilal, lend me your bike.”
“Okay. Here’s the key – but I want to hear all about it this evening, all right?”
He passed Tony the key to his bike lock, and Tony exchanged it for his own, asking Bilal to wheel his bike home for him if he hadn’t made it back to school by the end of the day. And as soon as registration was over Tony made a bolt for the bike sheds, collected Bilal’s bike and, making sure there were no members of staff about to ask him awkward questions, pushed it out of the gate, got aboard and headed for Shortham as fast as he could pedal.
Somehow he got there without having an accident. He carried Bilal’s bike past the overgrown part of the driveway, dumped it behind the nearest bush and charged into the garage, where he found Jeremy slumped at the table with his head in his hands and a pretty young boy with blond hair, whom Tony had never seen before, sitting beside him. Jeremy jumped to his feet when Tony came in and backed away, apparently expecting to be attacked, and Tony’s heart lurched… but at least he was still alive.
“Thanks,” he said to the blond kid. “I can take it from here.”
“Are you sure? I mean, is that okay with you, Jeremy?”
Jeremy looked at Tony and realised from the expression on his face that his first reaction had been unnecessary.
“Yes, I think so,” he said. “Thanks, Timmy.”
“Okay… if you’re sure…” Timmy slowly walked to the door, looking at Tony distrustfully, which made Tony wonder exactly what Jeremy had said to him; but when nobody called him back he went out and left them to it.
“Oh, shit, Jeremy… I’m really, really sorry,” said Tony. “I was such a bastard to leave you like that… please can you forgive me?”
“Well… why did you run off like that, Tony? One moment I thought it was okay, and then suddenly you changed. I thought you must have been so disgusted with me that you just had to get away… but that can’t be right, or you wouldn’t have come back…”
“I was never disgusted with you. It was just… well, when you said you fancied Bilal, it just seemed so… well, weird, that’s all. I mean, we’ve known him for years, and now suddenly you want to go to bed with him?”
“I don’t want to go to bed with him…. Well, okay, maybe I would like to – but that’s not really what I meant… Have you told him, Tony? Does he know what I said?”
“No, of course not…”
And at that Jeremy almost collapsed with relief, and Tony caught him and held him, and Jeremy hugged him back…
“I was terrified you’d go and tell him and that he’d react the same way,” Jeremy said, struggling to keep his voice under control. “I thought neither of you would ever want to talk to me again…”
“He doesn’t know anything,” Tony reassured him. “I mean, he knows I was worried about you, but he doesn’t know why. And as far as I’m concerned you’re still my best friend, and you always will be, okay? Even if you do want to have it off with Bilal…”
“I don’t! Well… no, all I really want is to be allowed to love him without it freaking him out.”
“As far as I’m concerned you can love him as much as you like, but he’s the only one who can tell you whether it freaks him out or not. If you decide to tell him, that is. If you don’t, he’ll never hear about it from me.”
“Do you think I should tell him?”
“I don’t know – I mean, that’s really up to you, isn’t it? I think you might have to in the end, though, or it’ll just nag away at you and mess you up inside – but maybe you should tell Kam first and ask what he thinks. I mean, I don’t want to sound like Adolf here, but they might not think quite the same way about it as you do – like you said, there’s the religious bit to think about. I reckon Kam would be the best person to ask, or maybe Uzzy… but Kam’s older… try him first, and if he reckons it’d be safe, then you should talk to Bilal.”
“You don’t think Kam might tell Bilal about it if I admit it to him?”
“No. I mean, I didn’t, and I’ve known Bilal since forever. I reckon Kam’s sound.”
“Okay, maybe I’ll try that… look, Tony, I think I’m going to go home today: I don’t reckon I’m going to achieve anything by staying away any longer. Either Adolf’s got the message by now or he never will. And it’s not fair on my mum to keep her not knowing where I am. And I don’t want to be on my own any more, either…”
“You’ll never have to be on your own. I’ll always be around if you need me.”
“I know. Thanks, Tony.” Jeremy hugged him, and Tony, who had been biting his tongue like mad to stop himself blurting out his own feelings – which he didn’t think would help right now – simply hugged him back and resisted the urge to kiss him.
Tony packed his sleeping bag and pillow away into his bag, glad that he had not decided to leave it at school with Bilal, and had a quick look round to make sure that he had not forgotten anything.
“What are you going to do about that?” he asked, pointing at the Lancaster on the shelf.
“I’ll have to come back on the bus to pick it up later. It’ll get broken if I try taking it on my bike. Or maybe Uzzy can bring it back for me – he catches the bus every day, after all.”
They closed the garage and rode up the lane and back towards Poundford Spa.
“Do you want me to come in with you?” offered Tony as they reached the end of Jeremy’s road.
“No. If you did they’d probably blame you for talking me into running, or something.”
“I don’t mind – in fact, if it means Adolf will hit you less I think it’s a really good idea.”
“No, it isn’t. A, he probably won’t hit me any less, and B, they might forbid me from ever seeing you again, and I couldn’t stand that.”
“Do you mean that, even after… you know?” mumbled Tony, trying to fight a sudden blurriness to his vision.
“Of course I do, stupid. You’re my friend. Now you’d better get back to school before you get into serious trouble for bunking off. Come round after school if you like, and if I’m in the spare room you can come round the back and I’ll tell you how it went.”
“Okay,” said Tony, wondering how much of the sign language he could remember. “I’ll bring Bilal, too, ‘cos I know he’s really worried about you after my performance this morning.”
“Thanks. I’ll see you later, then.”
“Right. Good luck.” And Tony turned and cycled on towards school, while Jeremy squared his shoulders and rode the last fifty yards or so to his front gate.
Most of the Collection, of course, were blissfully unaware of what had been happening to Jeremy since the weekend and so were just carrying on with their normal activities. Miguel, for example, was just getting on with his life as before, though he had made one change to his daily routine: now he made a point of sitting next to James whenever they were on the same bus, and he had also taken to spending a lot of his breaks sitting under the trees with him and keeping him company, for which James, who was unused to having anyone to talk to, was almost pathetically grateful.
They were in the usual place under the trees on Wednesday lunchtime when Andy came looking for Miguel.
“Oh, there you are,” he said. “I think I’ve got Davenport lined up for a game of cards… Can you come round to my house after school tomorrow?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Good. I’m looking forward to finding out if his mouth is the biggest thing about him… who’s this?” Andy had just realised that the boy next to Miguel was sitting up and taking an interest in the conversation.
“This is James,” said Miguel. “He is my friend. We catch the bus together.”
“Okay. He’s the one the other kids all call…” Andy realised that it might not be polite to finish the sentence, but James finished it for him.
“The leper,” he supplied. “But I’m not, you know.”
“Well, obviously not,” said Andy, sitting down next to him, on the opposite side to Miguel. “They wouldn’t let you in the school if you had something like that, would they? So what is wrong with you?”
“There is nothing wrong with him,” answered Miguel, before James could reply. “He is like us.”
“Well, thanks, but that’s not quite true,” said James. “I’m an albino, so I have sensitive skin, that’s all.”
“What, you mean it starts bleeding whenever you touch it, or something?” asked Andy.
“No, nothing like that. It's only really the sun that I have to be careful of, because there's something missing in my skin and it burns really easily. Otherwise it's just normal skin.”
Andy looked at him. He'd seen James around the school – he was hard to miss, after all – and it was obvious that he didn't have any friends, except, apparently, for Miguel. And maybe that gave rise to certain possibilities...
“Really?” he said, a mischievous glint in his eye. “I really think we ought to check that. I mean, maybe it's not just the sun – maybe it's really sensitive in other ways and you just don't want us to know about it. Like, maybe you're really ticklish... I think we should find out. Come on, Mig, tickle test needed…”
He dropped down onto James’s left arm, pinning it beneath his body, and began to drill his fingers into the older boy’s ribs. Miguel hesitated just long enough to be sure that James didn’t mind and then immobilised the other arm in the same way and started tickling the opposite flank. James wriggled and squealed and writhed about, but with both his arms trapped he couldn’t do very much about it.
“It is sensitive, isn’t it?” commented Andy, grinning. “I bet it’s even worse without the shirt getting in the way.”
He untucked James’s shirt and burrowed his hand up underneath it so that his fingers were in direct contact with the older boy’s ribs and then really got to work, making James gasp and beg for mercy and wriggle about like crazy. Miguel did the same thing on the other side, and only stopped when James started getting red in the face: he didn’t want his friend to be actually tickled to death. Andy stopped, too, and they let their victim get his breath back for a few seconds.
“You wait,” gasped James. “I bet you two are ticklish, too: next time I’ll get you back.”
“You can try,” said Andy. “But me and Mig are a good team: nobody beats us. Well, unless they know martial arts, that is. You don’t, do you?”
James shook his head.
“Then you’d do better not to try, or next time we’ll tickle you till you pee your pants.”
“I like to see you smile and laugh,” said Miguel, looking at James. “You look good like that. You should do it more often.”
“I’ll just look at your friend’s face, then,” said James. “That would crack anyone up.”
Andy promptly tickled him some more until James apologised. Then he looked at Miguel and raised his eyebrows. Miguel didn’t get it straight away, but he did as soon as Andy said, “So, James – can you play cards?”
“Well, a bit. Why?”
“Oh, nothing. I just thought it’s about the only way you’ll ever be able to get us back for tickling you, because we’ll always be too strong for you otherwise.”
“What, so if I beat you at cards you’ll let me tickle you?”
“That’s right – in fact, we’ll let you tie us up and tickle us, just to make sure we don’t try to gang up on you again.”
“And what if I lose?”
“Then we’ll get to find out how ticklish you really are. What do you think?”
“Okay. Get your cards out, then.”
“We haven’t got time now, but if you can come back to my house after school we’ll do it then.”
“Where do you live?”
“It’s only just up the road. We can walk it in about five minutes.”
“Okay, then, I agree.”
“Great! Mig, can you manage to come round two nights running? If not I’ll put Davenport off till next week.”
“No, I think that I can come both times.”
“Good. Boy, is your big friend going to suffer tonight…”
“I’m not sure about this,” said Miguel, once he and Andy were on their own. “He is really nice. I do not think that we should be too nasty to him.”
“Oh, we won’t be nasty – we’ll just tickle him till he squeaks. And obviously we’ll have to strip him off, too – I mean, how many times are we going to get a chance to make a senior undress?”
“Okay, but if he really does not want it, we must stop,” insisted Miguel.
“Okay,” agreed Andy, though he had his fingers crossed behind his back as he said it.
So after school they met James outside their classroom and led him back to Andy’s house. They sat down around the table in Andy’s bedroom and he explained the rules, which were a little different today, though Miguel didn’t comment on the fact.
“We play until one of us has lost ten hands,” said Andy. “Whoever loses has to strip to his pants and be tied to the bed, and then the other two can tickle him. If one of us two loses and you're not sure you can trust us you can tie the other one up to make sure he doesn’t interfere. Fair?”
“Yes, I should think so. What game are we playing?”
“Can you play poker?”
“Yes, but I’m not very good.”
“Nor are we,” lied Andy, shuffling the cards and starting to deal.
The game followed the usual well-worn path, with Andy and Miguel signalling each other and making sure that neither lost too many hands too quickly, but in fact they needn’t have bothered, because James really wasn’t any good at the game – in fact Miguel thought he might have agreed just for the fun of being able to play cards with some friends for once in his life.
Instead of losing clothes he simply ended up with a mark against his name on Andy’s score sheet each time he lost, but of course the end result was the same: he lost ten hands before either of the other two had lost five.
“Okay, then,” he said as he lost for the tenth time. “But remember I’m going to be lying on your bed, so if you overdo it and really make me pee my pants it’ll be you who has to sleep in the puddle.”
Without any argument he took off all his clothes except for his pants and positioned himself on his back with his hands above his head. Andy tied his wrists to the headboard and his ankles to the legs at the foot of the bed and then he and Miguel sat down on either side of their helpless prisoner and started to tickle him.
They tickled his ribs and his stomach and his armpits, and then they tickled the soles of his feet (which seemed particularly effective) and behind his knees.
“Which do you think works best?” asked Andy, idly running a finger round the older boy’s left nipple. “I reckon it’s probably the ribs.” And he started digging his fingers into the ribcage once more.
“I think the feet are good,” said Miguel, proving it.
“Hmm. Of course, there’s one place we haven’t tried yet,” Andy pointed out.
“Really? Where is that?” asked Miguel.
“Here,” said Andy, moving a finger to James’s underpants and running it over the bulge that concealed his testicles.
“Do you think that we should?” asked Miguel, watching James’s face out of the corner of his eye.
“I don’t see why not. I mean, if we’re trying to find out where he’s most ticklish, we should try everywhere, don’t you think?”
“Perhaps that is true,” agreed Miguel; still James had raised no objection. But when Andy took hold of the elastic of his pants he became a bit more vocal.
“No, come on, Andy, that’s not fair!” he protested, tugging at the cords round his wrists in a half-hearted way. “You can’t do that!”
“What, this?” said Andy, pulling the underpants down as far as the base of the penis and then working the back down over James’s buttocks. The older boy still wasn’t doing too much to try to prevent this from happening.
“Now let’s see how sensitive your sensitive places are,” said Andy, hesitating briefly in case there was a serious objection. But James simply made form noises like ‘aaahh!’ and ‘that’s not fair!’ and ‘nooooo!”, so Andy wrenched the garment down, revealing everything that James had.
This turned out to be quite a lot: James had large, floppy balls and quite a big, equally floppy, uncut penis, though there was absolutely no trace of hair. James was two years older than they were, and it was the first time either of them had seen a thirteen-year-old boy uncovered.
“It’s quite big, isn’t it?” commented Andy. “Let’s see if it’s ticklish.”
James made more form noises, though he was trying to suppress a smile at the same time, so Miguel had no hesitation in starting to stroke the big soft balls while Andy caressed the penis, and of course very quickly this attention had the inevitable result.
“Bloody hell, that really is big,” said Andy, once it reached full throbbing size. “Get the ruler, Mig.”
Miguel got the ruler and checked their prisoner out.
“It is five inches, Andy,” he reported.
“Wow! Are all thirteen-year-olds as big as that, James?”
“I don’t know. I don’t do games, so I’ve never seen the rest of my year getting changed – but none of the doctors who have seen me have ever suggested there was anything wrong with it.”
“Gosh, Mig, me and you will look like that in a couple of years… bet mine stays bigger than yours, though.”
“I bet it does not.”
“Let me see, and I’ll judge,” suggested James.
Andy looked at Miguel. “Shall we?” he asked.
“Okay.” This was different to stripping the boys in their own year: that was intended only to be a one-way exercise, the aim of which was to embarrass the boys who had called Miguel ‘Manuel’. But James was in a different year, and had never insulted Miguel, either.
The two younger boys grinned at each other and stripped off as far as their pants.
“Untie me, then,” said James.
“Not yet,” said Andy, doing a mock striptease in front of the older boy, lowering his waistband not quite far enough for his important parts to be visible. Miguel got the idea and joined in the teasing, and James wriggled and complained while his own erection twitched and throbbed.
Finally they took pity on him, removed their pants completely and stood side by side so that he could compare them.
“I think you both look nice,” said James. “Andy looks a little bigger, though.”
“That is just because his balls are big,” Miguel pointed out.
“Perhaps. If you untie me I can see which one feels harder.”
“Okay,” said Andy, confident he would win that contest. He untied James’s wrists while Miguel untied his ankles, and then James stood up, kicked his underpants right off and took hold of them, one in each hand.
“They’re both good and hard,” he said. “I don’t know which is harder, though.”
“That’d be mine, unless you want me to crush this,” said Andy, seizing James’s erection and squeezing.
“I think it must be mine, else these balls will be pulled off,” argued Miguel, grabbing them and tugging. James retaliated by twisting what was in his hands, and the younger boys fought back, and soon they were rolling round the floor in a three-way wrestling match. Of course, eventually they just ganged up on him, pinned him down and twisted his erection until he submitted.
“Okay, you are both equally hard,” he declared, in an attempt to get them to stop giving him Chinese burns on his penis.
“I think I can accept that,” said Andy.
“I, too,” said Miguel, standing up. “Look, it is late, Andy, and I must go, else I cannot stay again tomorrow.”
He dressed quickly, and James got up and pulled his own clothes on.
“I’d better go, too,” he said. “But next time, Andy, it’ll be you that gets it twisted half off.”
“You wish.” Andy got dressed more slowly, and was still doing his trousers up when the other two said goodbye and left. They walked back towards the bus stop.
“James…” said Miguel, tentatively, “you are not angry that we see… saw you undressed?”
“No, it was fun. I was a bit nervous at first – I thought you might laugh at me. But when you didn’t it got really good fun. I’d like to do that again sometime.”
“Really? Even after we hurt your thing?”
“Really. I’ve never done anything like that before, but it felt nice. Strange, but definitely nice. So if you would like to do it again, so would I.”
“Great!” said Miguel, his face lighting up. He definitely wanted to do it again – and, of course, James lived not far from where he did, so maybe they could get together out of school as well… and the following evening they’d get to strip and tease another of the boys who had made fun of his accent, too. Surely things couldn’t get better than this?
Lucky Miguel – life's treating him pretty well at the moment. This is not the case with Jeremy, and in the next chapter we'll find out what sort of a reception he gets from Adolf and discover where he goes next as he attempts to work out what to do about his feelings for Bilal.
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