The story is being written by several authors, each writing a different chapter. It is copyright 1999 by "Its Only Me from Across the Sea" [Chris and Nigel and other stories], and by "Comicality" [New Kid in School and other stories]. If you copy the story, please leave the credits, and the web addresses of http://www.iomfats.org, http://www.studflower.com/comicality present, and also the email addresses of firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. We'd all love to receive feedback.
This chapter was written by It's Only me From Across the Sea
It's really odd. I mean, I was sitting on the floor in the school hall, waiting for the principal to finish the morning ritual. You know, the bit where she bores us all witless with the 'Sit down on the school bus' stuff, when I saw someone I hadn't spotted ever before, just six or eight people away from me, and in the row in front. You know when something catches your eye, and you just can't get it out of your mind. It was the hair. It wasn't fashionable, or anything, but it was eye catching. That soft blond colour you only ever see in shampoo adverts, and just real, oh I dunno, real neat. I mean neat-groomed, not neat-nice. Well it was neat-nice too, but that isn't what I mean. It was fascinating.
From the back, and that was most of what I could see, from the back, it was soft and sleek, combed down from the crown to a club cut line overlapping the collar. From the side, it curved gently from the neck, near to the top of the ears, but below, and then into the most delightful swept fringe, from right to left, you know, with a right hand parting. It kind of looked sun-blond, but too pure for that. Not a single hair out of place. Since he kept his head downcast, slightly, sort of Princess Di, and he looked out from under the sweep of blond hair, you couldn't see his eyes, nor his face. Not properly, anyway. But I was almost certain that he'd seen me looking at him, and I looked away real fast. When you are pretty sure you're attracted to guys and you don't want to get flattened, you look away real fast.
I mean, I didn't even get a proper look, but I knew I wanted one. Just to check, you know, whether he was as beautiful as his hair.
You know I said I though I was attracted to guys? I'm having real trouble with that part. I mean, I'm fourteen, going on fifteen, and I can't get turned on by girls. Yeah, I've been hanging with the girls in my class, and made out with a couple, but it just seemed like another way to get a wet face, you know? And tongues. Yukk! Gross! Definitely gross. And nothing ever seemed to happen, well downstairs, and I didn't get an urge to take anyone's clothes off, least of all mine. And there wasn't anyone I could talk to. No big sister, no brothers, just a kid sister, five years younger than me. No help at all.
I guess you need to know some more about me, too. Joseph. But I hate that, so I like to be called Joey. Look, don't interrupt me, I just prefer 'Joey'. Joseph may be a fine name, but Joey is cool. Josephs do homework, Joey goes skating. Josephs have tidy rooms, Joey has a real mess. Yeah, I'm Joey.
Five foot nine inches of almost fifteen year old junior swim team captain, who doesn't think much of girls, who is OK at schoolwork, and who thinks he's gay, and doesn't know anything much for sure. What, you want to know why I think I'm gay? OK, if you'll stop asking questions for a bit, I'll tell you. I guess it's easy. I like being with boys. I understand boys. I know I get excited when I see a cute boy smile at me, and I never saw a cute girl yet. Satisfied?
Yeah, OK, I'm sorry, but it gets to me sometimes. And you're the only person I ever told about it, so I get a bit edgy about it.
Anyway, I couldn't get this kid's hair out of my mind all day. He wasn't in my class, he didn't hang out with my crowd at lunch, he just kind of vanished, as though he'd never been there. I guess he must have been in the year below. Or above. Or in my imagination.
That's where he was all right. In my imagination. I couldn't stop imagining his hair, the way it fell across his eyes, the way it was so sleek, and hung so softly down to his neck. I could see everything except his face, hidden, shadowed by his swept fringe. See it in my imagination. But nowhere else. I couldn't even see him waiting for the bus on the way home. Finally I got him out of my mind when I got home, and got to grips with the chores I had to do and the homework.
Next morning, he was back, though. In my mind, I mean. And then...
Then I saw him just ahead of me, slipping into the hall for the morning bore. He was talking to Amy, and they looked deep in conversation.
"Who's Amy talking to?" I asked no-one in particular. And no-one in particular replied with silence. 'Silly sod,' I thought. 'Ask Amy when you can talk to her'. But I didn't get the chance. Yeah, they sat nearby all right, and carried on talking, right up until the time when the Principal told us to be silent. Then she went through the usual stuff.
But this morning there was an announcement. I kind of caught the middle part onwards while the principal was droning on. "...have come to join us. They will both be here for the rest of the school year while their parents are posted here to the USA. I know I don't usually make announcements about people joining the school, but that's because there are usually too great a number. Jack and Robin have arrived in the middle of everything, and I want you to make them feel at home."
I wondered, well guessed, if he could be Jack. Or Robin. I reckoned he was one of the two of them because, whoever he was, I could see that he'd coloured up and was looking a bit flustered. I guess it is embarrassing when you have your name mentioned by the Principal. 'Take the bull by the horns,' I thought to myself. No, I know you can't think to anyone else. Whose story is this, mine or yours? Yeah, OK, I know, you'll try not to interrupt. Look, I don't mind interruptions, just no wisecracks, eh? I feel strange enough telling you all this anyway. I mean, ask questions if you want, just don't make me feel stupid.
Now, where was I. Oh yeah. Bull and horns. I went up to him as soon as we were free. And so did about twenty other kids, too. He looked flattered and panicky about all the attention, then just looked at the floor, his hair falling forwards. Jeez, if he only knew what that hair did for me. Bright, soft, sparkling, floppy. But I couldn't get to talk to him, nor to see his face properly. As the bell rang for lessons to start, I moved away, a bit reluctant to go, but not wanting to get a conduct mark for being late.
History. We're in a set for history, instead of the class. You know, a group of kids from several classes who are all of the same standard. Frankly it isn't a good standard. I hate history. First it's dead dull. Second it's about dead people. Third it's a load of dates and facts and stuff to learn. Fourth, it means a whole load of writing about one, two and three. I guess there's a fifth, sixth and seventh and more too. OK, so you like history. Well I like cheese and peanut butter sandwiches. Exactly.
There's one other big thing wrong with history. We sit in alphabet order of surnames. A is at the front. Z would be at the back if she existed, but we get to a W. I'm Joey Andersson. Yeah, from Scandinavia sometime back, I guess, but it means I sit at the front, right up by the teacher, away from the door.
"Good morning, class." Mr Johnson, the history teacher. "What I want you to do this period is to write an essay on the effect of the Irish potato crisis on US immigration."
Major groans. I mean, who cares?
"Oh!" he added. "Who are you? Yes, the boy at the back?"
Of course, we all turned round to look. I couldn't see, not without moving, so I moved. A flash of bright hair. Him?
"Robin, sir, Robin Williamson." I couldn't place the accent. But what a lovely voice. Just kind of husky, but sweet, like a river running over pebbles, just rippling.
"Where are you from, Robin?" Mr Johnson asked him.
"Excuse me?" Mr Johnson looked as though he'd been insulted.
"Western Australia, sir, it's called Cowaramup," Robin said, "We call it 'Cow Town' for short. It's a small town on the west coast."
"Cower em up?"
"Cowaramup, sir, Cow-ah-ram-up."
"Have you studied this area of history, Robin?"
"Not really, sir."
"Oh, by the way, just call me 'Mr Johnson', we don't go much in for 'sirring' here. I'm not too sure what you should do this period. Would you mind just doing your best while I get something sorted out?"
I was sitting there waiting for a 'traditional' Australian response, like you see on the soaps, like 'fair go' or something
"OK, I'll try," he said in that voice. Yeah I know he wouldn't say it in someone else's voice. I thought you'd stopped the wisecracks.
"Right, all of you settle down and start to write."
So we did. At least we tried. Well they all wrote. I tried. But nothing came. I was rerunning my mental tape of Robin, and that beautiful voice, and the picture of his hair. I found I'd doodled all over the paper, and hadn't written a thing. And I didn't care, even if I get in trouble for it. And the end of the period came.
"I don't expect anyone to have finished," Mr Johnson said to us. "I think you'll need until this time next week to make a good job of it. Robin, can you stop behind for a moment, and we'll work something out."
And, as I left, Robin was walking up to Mr Johnson's desk. Even though he'd seemed easy in his conversation with the teacher, his eyes were still downcast. I couldn't see his face. And I wouldn't see him until the next period when we were setted together. And that mightn't be until the next history period, four days away, on Friday. Or in assembly, or maybe at lunch.
Maybe at lunch. Over three hours away. Better than four days away. And I had no idea why I was so besotted with seeing his face.
Lunch. I rushed into the dining hall, grabbed a tray, got something from the cafeteria, and looked for him, all over the hall.
I sat at a table near the entrance, so that I could spot him. And he didn't come in. He. Didn't. Come. In.
And I had to go to swim practice. I mean like, NOW! And he hadn't come in for lunch. And I hadn't seen him since first period this morning. And I was going to be late if I didn't rush.
So I rushed. And got changed, and to the poolside last. Major sin for the Captain. Yeah, since you ask, I was fed up that I hadn't seen him. I mean, I just wanted to see him. To see his face. Well, to hear his voice, too.
"Sorry I'm late, coach," I panted as I kind of skidded to a halt.
"Ah, Joey, there you are," he said, "I need you to look after the team while a new guy tries out for times."
"Sure, coach." And I started sorting the team into order for warmups and lengths. And out of the corner of my eye I saw the new guy.
Stop looking so excited. It wasn't Robin. That would have been too good to be true. Athletic looking guy, though. About thirteen years old. Not Robin.
So we finished the swim programme, and got showered, dried and changed. And as we left the pool complex, I saw him. Walking towards the new guy. "Hi, Jack, did you make the team?"
"Yeah, Robin, no worries. Backstroke," said the guy who had turned into Jack
"That's my bro. Backstroke champ back home, and backstroke champ here, eh?" Robin looked really pleased, and I could see his face. Just briefly. Just a flash, smiling, with his eyes , too. I had never seen eyes like them. Not brown, not even blue. Green.
'Now or never,' I thought. I wasn't shy or anything. Have you ever tried to speak when your heart is pounding? When you can't even work out what to say? When you feel stupid for just existing? "Hi, Robin. We're in the same history set." That wasn't so bad, I thought.
"Umm, Hi, he said, eyes downcast straightaway. This wasn't a good omen.
"How's Mr Johnson sorting you out?" It was the only thing I could think of.
"All right, I guess."
Jeez, that husky voice. I was melting and sweating. I'd never felt like this before. It felt crazy. "You need any help? With the history?"
Eh? No, never. This is getting tense and you want to know if I've ever had a boyfriend before? No. I hadn't had one, and didn't look like having one. I mean, my heart was pounding, and I couldn't even get him to look at me when he was talking, well grunting, to me.
"Er, well I'm 'OK' at history, and I guess it's all different in Cow's Rump."
"Whatever. What I mean is, I don't mind giving you a hand."
And he met my eyes. He met my eyes. His eyes, green, intense, met mine. Looking out from under that swept fringe of hair. And almost smiled. Almost. "OK," he said. "I'd like that."
"Where do you live?" Heck, we were almost talking. Almost.
"A couple of miles south," Robin said. "My folks a renting a house there."
"We're down that way, too. A bit farther out," I said, "You got a bike?"
"Wanna come round tonight and work on the history?"
"I need to ask my folks first."
"Look, I'll tell you how to get to my place, and you can call me if you can make it?" And I gave him my phone number on a scrap of paper.
And we parted. 'I've talked to him. I've met him!' And I walked off with a skip in my stride.
The rest of the day was kind of hazy. When I got home, I kicked myself. What do you mean 'Why?'. Stupid question, that. Who had whose phone number? And who didn't have whose phone number. Yes 'Ahh!'. Yeah, OK, I know. Sorry. I'm just a bit snappy today. Nervous I guess. I mean, I don't really know you and I'm telling you all about myself. Yeah, I'll try to lighten up a bit. Sorry.
Anyway, I waited. Some fool phoned selling life insurance. Not Robin. Not at all. Not at five. Not at six. Not at seven, eight or nine. And yes, I tried the directory information service, but they needed more than a surname. They needed a street address, too. I knew it was too good to be true, but I was still hoping. I spent ages not getting to sleep that night. Just lying there, willing Robin to ring, even at three in the morning. But he didn't. I'd just made sleep at waking up time. Rough? I hadn't felt this way since I don't remember when. Rough wasn't the half of it.
And I had to get to school, and get through a school day. But Robin was at assembly. "Hi," I said.
"Hi, er, Joey? Yes Joey. Hi Joey." He seemed awkward. "Listen, my folks got home too late to ask. And, er?"
"Er, I wasn't sure you'd meant it. Coming round, I mean. People..."
"Nothing, doesn't matter," he answered, quickly.
"I meant it. Mean it," I told him. "I was kinda looking forward to it."
"Heck, I should've phoned you. Sorry, eh?" Oh wow, he was cute. And that rise of inflection and the 'eh?' at the end of a, well not question exactly, but not statement either, was different.
"What was it you said yesterday, 'No worries'?" I asked him, trying to catch his gaze.
"Yeah, its an Aussie thing, right. 'No worries'. Means, well, what it says, I guess." And he smiled at me. A quick flash of a smile, a grin, almost, and eye contact, green under the blond, sun blond, groomed, soft hair. And the stars came out to play, and blinked out as I watched his eyes. And I nearly fainted from holding my breath.
"Listen, why not come round today, on your way home?" I was hoping so hard that he'd say yes. "You can call your folks from my place, and if it's not OK, then you can go on from there?" I mean it was out of his way, but he'd still be on his way home. If you floow me.
"Certain. We can do history, or just hang out. 'no worries'!"
"What about Jack, though? We go home together."
"He know the way home?"
"Then give him some space. He needs to find some friends, too." I said it with conviction, hoping it was right.
"I guess. I'll tell him. I guess he'll be OK about it. He's a cool kid brother."
So we settled on it. Robin and I would go back to my home after school, and Jack would get himself home.
And we did. Took the school bus together, and got home. Now home is nothing special. Both my folks work, so no-one is home when I get back. My kid sister stops with a friend until my dad collects her on his way home, so it is empty. Lonely, a bit, though I haven't told them. It's just an ordinary house in an ordinary street. I guess comfortable for money, but careful with it. Not short of anything, but spending means a decision, you know?
"History, TV or playstation?" I asked him.
"Playstation. Mine's back in Cow town. Wouldn't work over here either, I guess."
"I just got one of those Soccer games."
"Hey, great, yeah. I left a great one back home." Robin was smiling, and I was having a hard job concentrating. It was the first time I'd seen him looking, well happy. The almost first time I'd seen his face.
Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Get the controls out, touch his hands trying to "show" him which buttons to press, and force your attentions on him, right?
First, I hadn't a clue how to find out if he had any feelings for me. Second, there was something almost sacred about the thought of defiling him in any way. Third, I am just not like that, and I am certain I never will be. Fourth, I was most of the way from attraction to love, even if I wasn't sure what it was.
We plugged the station into the TV, not even in my room, but in the living room, and settled down to play. You know, I'd never ever been beaten before. Not at this game. Soccer is my thing, well as well as swimming, but you can't swim on a playstation.
Robin whipped me. I mean, we played at full difficulty, same standard teams, all rules used, no cheats, and he whipped me. And it made me want to kiss him. And I didn't dare. Didn't dare even touch him. Had no idea how to, or anything. But you know, it made me feel almost twelve again, not almost fifteen. All giggly, a great feeling. We were yelling at each other, stupid things aimed at the players. He started it. "No, evil, evil, die, die, die" as I tackled him, crazy stuff, almost falling about on the floor. And did I respond? You betcha!
"Another game?" Robin asked me after what must have been the twelfth. "I haven't had so much fun for ages." And our eyes met.
For just too long. Only a brief second too long, but too long. And his face changed. Almost imperceptibly, but it changed as he locked onto my eyes, as I felt I was being drawn in to those green eyes. And his gaze fell to the floor.
"What's up?" I asked him.
"Nothing, I was just, er, you reminded me, er. Look, forget it. Can we get a coke?"
"Sure." I was scared now. I hadn't meant to frighten him, but he was all closed up again. Just from a look. But there was something, just something.
When I came back with a couple of cans, he seemed OK again, so I didn't mention it.
"I, er think I'd better go."
"I just think I had."
"What's up? Haven't we been having fun?"
"Er, yeah, but..."
And he was on his feet, heading for the door, with a kind of urgency about him. "Robin?"
"Because I need to, eh?"
"I'll walk with you."
"NO!" He shouted at me, urgently.
"I like you, Robin. Don't get mad at me"
"Jeez, Joey, I like you too. A whole lot, but..."
"I like you a lot, Joey. I just want to keep it that way."
I was wondering what he was talking about. I was wondering, when he said "I really like you Joey. Really like you."
And his eyes met mine again, but with a glistening at each corner. Robin was about to cry. Now or never. Instinct, I guess, but I reached out the back of my index finger, and gently wiped the corner of his left eye. "It's OK," I was almost whispering. "It's OK. Whatever it is, it's OK."
"You know, don't you You've heard something, somehow?" He was beginning to weep openly, now, and I felt helpless. I wanted to hug him, to hold him, to help him to stop, but all I could do was stand there, helpless.
"I don't know anything."
"You do. About why we had to leave, and, and... I'm not a queer. I'm not. I just.."
"Like being with guys?"
"Wonder whether you might be?"
And I did take him into my arms, risking losing him, risking, well I don't know what I was risking. "Robin? I'm your friend. And I have those feelings, too."
"You (sob) do?"
"And I'm scared as well." I was nearly crying now. "But I really like you, too."
"Really like you"
And I just brushed his face with my lips. Just a hint. Nothing more. And then brushed his lips with my lips. I had never, ever done anything like this before. Never.
And before I could draw breath, he'd grabbed me and kissed me hard, hungrily on the mouth, and I was responding. And it wasn't wet, except for the tears. And the feel of his tongue? Oh wow!! And I still didn't know what to do.
And as he broke our lip-lock, I heard, just faintly as we held each other, well felt, rather than heard the words "I think I love you, Joey, I think I love you" breathed into my ear, warm and sweet, and so quietly it was as though an angel had touched me.
"You're safe now," I breathed back. "Safe now."
And we were. At least for the moment, in my front room, just holding each other, and daring to look at each other for the first time. "I think you're real pretty" he said.
I wasn't sure I was pretty, but I took it as a compliment. Anything from Robin's mouth was a compliment. "I think you're beautiful," I told him, and looked right deep into his eyes. "I think I'm in love with you, too. I'm kind of scared about it, but I think I love you, Robin. No, I know I love you Robin." And I held him so tight.
Eh? Jeez, you but in at awkward moments, don't you? No, I had absolutely no idea what to do next. None. What do you do next when your not yet fifteen and suddenly in love and in the arms of a beautiful boy, and you're a boy too? Yeah, well of course I know now. This was then.
I guess we spent the next hour or so just holding each other and talking. Sex? Well I think we were both as aroused as hell, but sex didn't seem to enter our heads. Not then, anyway. I was too busy finding out about Robin. About my boyfriend Robin. My boyfriend. And about Australia, and why he and his parents had moved here. We just sat on the sofa, holding hands, looking at each other, and talking, talking, talking...