In this chapter Martin and Luke finally have a conversation with each other and discover that they have certain things in common. And Miles and his friends get the cribbage league under way, and what happens as the league progresses is going to have a profound effect on a lot of people...
Ten minutes after Miles had brought his friend in to be introduced Martin turned off his sound system, put on his jacket and set off to keep his rendezvous in the dip. He was very nervous: he just hoped the other boy would give him a chance to explain and to demonstrate that he was no threat to him. A couple of times he almost stopped and went home, but he forced himself to keep going, and when he reached the dip he found the other boy already there, leaning on the branch and waiting for him. He was fully dressed, and his spear was leaning against the branch next to him, which didn’t exactly reassure Martin: after all, there would be nothing to stop the boy from killing him and then going back through the portal.
“So you decided to come,” Luke said, as Martin stopped a couple of yards in front of him. “I wasn’t sure if you would.”
“I wanted to get my bag back. And I wanted to talk to you, too. What happened to your face?”
Luke gaped at him: nobody ever talked about his scars – in fact, nobody ever looked him in the face for more than a second or two: his appearance seemed to embarrass them. But this boy was looking at him quite openly and didn’t seem in the least bit embarrassed.
“I had an accident,” he said. “Nearly two years ago now. I fell through a plate glass window. I nearly cut my left arm off, too. Nobody ever talks about it, though.”
“I think they feel embarrassed, and they don’t want to remind me I’ve got an ugly scar running right down the left side of my face.”
“I wouldn’t have thought you’d forget, so I can’t see why they would be worried about reminding you.”
Luke stared at him. “Has anyone ever told you you’re a bit… well, strange?” he asked.
“Loads of times. My brother says I’m an alien. And maybe he’s right: sometimes I do feel I don’t really belong here.”
“I think he’s right. So, anyway, why were you spying on me yesterday – especially after I told you to stay away?”
“Well… look, first can you please tell me where you live?”
“Because I want to know how you get there.”
Luke stared at him. “You climb up out of the dip and walk that way for about five minutes,” he said, pointing over his shoulder. “My house is one of the ones on the main road.”
“Oh. I mean… is that really true?”
“Of course it’s true. Why would I lie?”
Martin’s shoulders slumped. “I was sure…”
“I thought you came from another dimension. I was convinced there was some sort of a portal into another world here somewhere, and that you had come through it.”
“Why would you think that, for God’s sake? Don’t I look human? It’s only a scar, after all.”
“It’s not the scar. It’s the radio thing behind your ear, too – and of course what you were doing here. I thought you were trying to escape from a boring life somewhere else, just being free to run about naked and do whatever you wanted to. It seemed to make sense somehow.”
“Well, it’s true, in a way. It’s not a radio, though, it’s a hearing aid: I’m deaf. Or ‘hearing impaired’, if you want to use the politically correct term, though the word ‘deaf’ doesn’t actually bother me, so why other people think they have to pussyfoot around it is beyond me. Anyway, there’s one in the other ear, too. I’m not completely deaf without them, but I’d have trouble understanding you unless you spoke very clearly and quite loud. The rest of it… well, it is nice to be able to come here and pretend I’m the only person in the world. Once or twice I’ve taken the hearing aids off, too, and just sat here quietly. But I haven’t dared to do that since I first saw you: I needed to be able to hear if anyone was coming.”
“Sorry. So that’s why you don’t wear any clothes, so you can pretend to be a wild boy living alone in the jungle?”
“Sort of. It’d be interesting. That’s why I practice with my spear, so that if I really was on my own I could hunt for meat.”
“There isn’t much round here that would be worth eating, unless you were to kill one of the farmer’s cows, and I don’t think he’d like that.”
“He probably wouldn’t,” agreed Luke. “So you weren’t really trying to spy on me, you just wanted to see whether I disappeared through a hole into another world?”
“That’s right. I wasn’t trying to look at you undressed or anything.”
“No, you wouldn’t have known I did that, I suppose. Still, I like being naked outdoors. It feels interesting. And if I really was a wild boy I wouldn’t have any clothes, would I?”
“No. Have you read the Jungle Book?”
“No, but I’ve seen the film.”
“The film’s just silly. In the book Mowgli can’t speak a human language at all until he spends time in the human village when he is about twelve. Before that he lives like an animal – he’s naked, his hair has never been cut, he’s dirty – he swims when he feels particularly dirty, but that’s all. He eats raw meat, and sometimes wild honey and berries. I don’t think you could really live like that in this country: it’s too cold to run about naked in the winter, and there isn’t any decent meat available – in the book Mowgli is actually forbidden by the wolves to eat cattle, so you couldn’t really kill a cow even if the farmer wasn’t around. And there aren’t any wolves here to help you hunt. If you were really wild I think you’d probably die fairly quickly.”
“I suppose that’s true… still, it would be interesting to try to live that way for a while. It wouldn’t be too cold at this time of year. And I could cheat and bring some food from home. I was thinking about doing it at half-term for a couple of days. And since you know so much about it, how about if you came and did it, too?”
Martin thought about it for a moment. It wouldn’t exactly be like finding another world, but it would mean living a bit differently. And now he knew that the other boy wasn’t really angry with him, maybe it would be interesting to get to know him a bit…
“Scared?” said Luke, when Martin didn’t answer. “Or is it just that you don’t trust me? Perhaps you think I’ll kill and eat you.”
“I’m not scared. I think it would be interesting. But it’s true that if we were both living wild miles from anywhere we’d probably fight when we first met. We’d be in competition for limited food resources.”
“You sound like a BBC documentary,” said Luke, grinning at him. “Do you always talk like that?”
“You know,” (and he did an exaggerated version of Martin’s voice), “’We’d be in competition for limited food resources’.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Well, it just sounds a bit… well, poncey. Maybe it’s just because you’re strange, like I said. But I’d still like to play jungle boys with you.”
“I think I’d like that, too. But I’m not sure about sleeping outdoors with nothing on: even in late May I don’t think it would be very warm.”
“I was actually going to cheat and use a tent.”
“That would certainly be cheating. In the book it says Mowgli could weave wood together to make a shelter… but I don’t think there’s a lot of suitable wood here. And a tent would definitely be warmer, especially if you cheat some more and use a sleeping bag.”
“I was going to try just using a blanket… but I admit I’d thought about bringing a sleeping-bag along, just in case.”
“Well, okay, if you don’t mind cheating a bit I would like to play. I expect I can get permission.”
“Great! Then I suppose we ought to get to know each other a bit first. My name’s Luke.”
“I’m Martin. But you already know that, of course. Have you got my bag?”
“Oh, yes, I’d forgotten. It’s here – hold on a moment.”
He ran up to the top of the bank and retrieved Martin’s bag from behind one of the larger tree-trunks, bringing it back and handing it over.
“Interesting music,” he said. “I’ve never heard of any of those bands, but I played a couple of the CDs last night and I really liked them – I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not really. If you want to borrow the CDs you didn’t have time to listen to, you can.”
“Really? Thanks, I will. And the book looks interesting, too – I like books about invented worlds. It’s a pity there isn’t really a door to another world here, like you thought, because I’d definitely want to explore it if there was. So, what other books have you read?”
Sunday May 4th
It turned out that the angry boy wasn’t really angry after all – actually he turned out to be quite nice. But he doesn’t come from another dimension, so it looks as if I was wrong about there being a portal in the dip, which is a pity. Still, we had a nice afternoon talking about books and music, and he seems to like a lot of the same things as I do: he says he really liked the Edenbridge CD, and the Within Temptation one. And he had a quick look at the Stephen Donaldson book I was reading, and I’ve offered to lend him the first book in the series so that he can read them all himself in the right order.
He’s asked me to play with him during half-term. We’re going to pretend to be feral boys living wild in the jungle. We talked about it quite a lot and we agreed that we’re going to try to do it as realistically as we can, except that we’re going to use a tent because it’s too cold in this country to sleep outdoors naked. We’re going to pretend it’s a cave, and that the blankets we’re going to use are really animal skins. We decided that we’ll probably have to start as enemies, because that’s what would happen in real life, and then learn to work together later.
I’m not really worried about being undressed in front of him, because I’ve already seen that we’re not very different, but I’m going to have to try to cut the hair off the day before we start the game, because I don’t want him to know I’ve got Monkey Disease… if I really have, of course. It’s difficult, not knowing whether Miles is just teasing me or if it’s real. But I’m going to cut the hair off anyway, just in case, because I don’t want Luke to think there’s something wrong with me.
That’s his name – Luke Sinclair. He lives not far from the dip in one of the houses on the main road, the ones I saw when I walked down the lane just after we moved here. And he’s deaf, though I wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t told me, because he wears two hearing aids that work really well. And he’s got a weak left arm, because he had an accident and cut himself really badly a couple of years ago. He took off his shirt and showed me the scars, and they’re quite bad – they go round his shoulder and down his arm. He said it took months of physiotherapy to get his arm working again afterwards, and it’s still not perfect now. He’s got a scar on his face, too, which he seems a bit sensitive about but which I think just makes him look interesting. And he thinks I’m weird, of course, but he still seems to like me. So maybe I’ve found a friend at last. I’m going to visit his house next weekend, and he’s going to show me his books and CDs. I’m looking forward to it.
On Monday at lunchtime Graham sat down with Miles to sort out their cribbage league.
“Tom’s in,” he reported. “Not sure about Kevin, though – he wasn’t there yesterday. Tom’s going to try to talk him into it, but he thinks he might bottle out when he finds out Robyn’s playing. And Jack already knows how to play, and he’s keen to join in, too. So we’ve got eight players if Kevin plays, or seven if he doesn’t, which will be a problem, ‘cos we’ll have to recruit someone else. And there’s another problem, too: Rob doesn’t want to partner his sister. He said he’d prefer to be my partner, because we sit together, but… well…”
“That’s okay,” said Miles. “It would be nice if we could be partners, but I don’t mind too much if I have to go with Tom. Or I might find someone else who wants to play, just in case Kevin does decide to join in.”
“Really? You’re not going to be mad if I partner Rob instead of you?”
“Of course not. But it does mean you’re going to end up naked more often than if we played together.”
“Depends who you end up with. Maybe it’ll be a complete idiot like Jamie.”
“I’ll tell him you said that.”
“No, you won’t, because you wouldn’t drop a mate in it like that. Anyway, I’ve told everyone they have to sort out teams by the end of the week, and then we can start playing at the weekend.”
On the Wednesday Graham told him that Kevin had decided he did want to play after all – “He thinks he’s too classy to lose to Robyn,” Graham explained. “Except I haven’t told him yet that Robyn’s going to be partnering Jack, and Jack has been playing crib for ages. And we’ve got another player who wants to join in, too: turns out Toby knows how to play and thinks he’s good enough to beat everyone.”
Toby was the class swot, with teacher’s pet tendencies like sitting at the front of the class and thrusting his hand into the air every time a question was asked. He wore glasses and was useless at football, and so wasn’t exactly top of the class popularity league.
“Who’s got landed with partnering him?” Miles asked.
“Jamie. Actually he volunteered – he seemed to think that Toby’s brain would help him to beat everyone. So now I definitely want to beat them – I want to see Good Boy Toby running about starkers. That’ll be funny. So what about you? Have you found a partner yet?”
“I think so,” said Miles. “I’ll tell you for definite later.”
“It’s not your brother, is it? I mean, that would be really funny, but we’d have to let everyone else in on the Monkey Disease thing so they don’t give the game away. And if Kevin loses when Mars is there he’ll know we’re winding him up.”
“It won’t be Mars unless I get really desperate,” Miles confirmed. “As far as I’m concerned, teasing Mars is just for you and me to do.”
“You want me to be your partner in a proper cribbage tournament?” asked Twitch. “Do you think I’m good enough?”
“I think you’re better than most of the others. I don’t know about Jack or Toby because I’ve never played them, but the others are all beginners, the same as you. I think we could beat them. But… we’re playing for forfeits, so if we lose we’ll have to strip. Are you okay with that?”
Twitch thought about it for a moment. “Sure,” he said, eventually. “As long as it’s both of us. And they’re not likely to laugh at me any more than they do now whatever happens.”
“Then we’re a team,” said Miles, and Twitch gave him a big smile.
“Twitch?!” exclaimed Graham in disbelief.
“Sure, why not? I’ve shown him how to play, and he’s got to be better than Jamie at least. He’s okay, Graham. Once you get past the face and the illness he’s a nice kid, and I like him. And if we’re letting Saint Toby play, we really have to let Twitch in, too. At least he’s not obnoxious.”
“True. Okay, he’s in. So now all we have to do is to draw up a fixture list. Are we going to play one game at a time or two?”
“It’d be funnier if we played two – that way there’d be more people there to laugh at the losers. As long as I don’t lose, of course.”
“Well, you’re going to lose at least one game, because you’re going to have to play me and Rob sooner or later. So, let’s see: there are five teams, so that means…if everyone plays everyone else once, er… how many games is that altogether?”
“Ten,” Miles told him. “If we’re only going to play each other once, that is. If we’re going to play home and away it’ll be twenty games altogether, which might be a better way of finding out which really is the best team.”
“Then we could get a couple of games played this weekend, a couple next weekend, and then the rest during half-term….”
They sat down at Graham’s desk and drew up a fixture list along the lines of ‘Team One will play Team Two on Saturday May 10th’, and when the list was complete they did a random draw to decide which would be Team One, and so on.
“We’re playing our first game on Saturday,” Miles told Twitch. “You will be allowed out, won’t you?”
“If it’s with you, I’m pretty sure I will. Where are we playing?”
“At Tom’s house… I don’t suppose you know Tom, because he doesn’t go to this school. He lives next door to Jamie. We’re supposed to be there at three o’clock, but if you can get a lift round to mine earlier we can go on to Tom’s together.”
“I’m sure that’ll be okay. Who are we playing?”
“Jamie and Toby, so we’d better win. We can’t get shown up by a four-eyed swot like Toby.”
“We won’t be. If they get ahead of us I’ll stare at him until his brain turns to stone. I’m part-Medusa, you know.”
Miles hadn’t heard of the Medusa, so Twitch told him the Greek legend of the hideous monster who was so ugly that anyone who looked at her was immediately turned to stone.
“I don’t think you’re quite that bad. Maybe if I pushed your face through a couple of walls it would help, though – shall we try?”
“Not unless you want me to pull you through after me. So we’re really going to play the version where the losers have to strip?”
“I think so. It might be worse than just having to strip, too – there might be forfeits involved.”
“Well, we’re not going to lose, so that won’t matter, will it?”
“I hope not. And at least if we do lose Robyn won’t be there on Saturday, because her first game isn’t until next week.”
“It might be quite interesting to make a girl undress… though I think I like making you undress more. When it’s you and me we can make each other feel nice.”
“Well, Robyn could make us feel nice, too.”
“Yes, but… I don’t think I’d want a girl touching me there. Maybe when I get a bit older I will, but not yet.”
“Me neither, to be honest. Let’s just stick with each other, at least until we get to secondary school.”
“I’d like that.” And Twitch gave him a big, toothy smile.
On Friday the eight players (minus Tom and Kevin, of course) sat down to agree on exactly how the tournament was going to work.
“The losers of each game have to strip and then get a forfeit,” Graham explained. “It can be whatever the winners say. But there are rules: you can’t do anything that will get us into trouble with grown-ups, and you can’t hurt anyone really seriously – like so they need to see a doctor or something. We’re friends, after all. Of course, whichever team comes last in the league is going to be in big trouble, because the rest of us will all be able to suggest forfeits, and they’ll be pretty bad.”
“I think there should be more forfeits for each game you lose,” said Toby. “If you lose the second game you get two; the third game and you get four; the fourth game and you get eight. And the more forfeits you get, the more serious they become. That’ll punish the really useless players.”
“Anyone object to that?” asked Graham.
Quite a few of them looked uncertain, but nobody was prepared to admit that they didn’t expect to win all their games.
“Okay, then, maybe we’ll do it the way Toby says. But… whatever happens stays between us, okay? Nobody tells the rest of the class, and nobody makes fun of anyone in front of the rest of the class. We’re friends… well, maybe Toby and Twitch aren’t really friends with the rest of us, but that doesn’t make any difference. This is our game, and it stays private. Okay?”
Everyone nodded or otherwise indicated their agreement.
“Right, then the first two games are at Tom’s house on Saturday afternoon at three. Tom’s parents are going out and Kevin’s in charge, so we won’t have to worry about grown-ups getting in the way. Jack and Robyn, you don’t play this week, but I don’t see why you shouldn’t come and watch if you want.”
So much for Robyn not being there, thought Miles. Still, we’re not going to lose, are we?
Saturday May 10th
I went round to Luke’s house this morning and stayed for lunch. We listened to some music – he has a computer, so he was able to show me something called You Tube, where there are thousands of music tracks by a huge number of bands from all over the world. He played me some stuff that he likes, and I told him about some of the bands I like and he was able to find some of their music on the site. I think I could have happily sat there all week investigating new music, but I expect I’ll be going to visit him again. At least, I hope so.
He’s got quite a lot of books, too. I already knew that he likes fantasy and science fiction, like I do, and he has some of the same books as me, but he’s also got quite a lot I didn’t know about. If we stay friends maybe we can swap books sometimes.
He goes to school in the town that’s about five miles from where we live, but he doesn’t like it much. I think it’s because people call him names because he’s deaf and because of his scar. That seems stupid to me – after all, there’s nothing he can do to change either condition, so what’s the point in talking about it? If he smoked or something I could understand people telling him he should stop, but talking about his ears seems completely pointless.
I told him I don’t go to school and he was jealous – he said it must be wonderful not to have to try to learn stuff that’s never going to be any use, and not to have loads of idiots around you all day long. And I said that I like it, although sometimes I find it difficult not meeting people, because even if I’m not completely human I still sometimes wish I had someone to talk to. Of course I’ve got Miles, but he’s younger than me and not quite on my level, so it isn’t quite the same as having a proper friend.
Then we talked about our project for half term. We’re going to try to stay out for at least two nights, and maybe three, though the problem is going to be food: as I pointed out last weekend, there’s not really going to be much meat we could catch – maybe a rabbit if we were very lucky, but that wouldn’t really go far. We can take some food with us, but it probably wouldn’t keep very well. We might have to cheat and go home for meals, but it would be much better if we didn’t have to do that.
We’re going to try to behave as we really would if we’d been raised by wild animals. I’m going to be like Mowgli, raised by wolves, and he’s going to be like Tarzan, raised by apes, because he likes climbing trees. Of course, it means we probably won’t understand each other at all. I know in the book Baloo teaches Mowgli to understand all the creatures in the jungle, but it’ll be more interesting if we can’t communicate properly at first. We’ll have to learn to communicate using grunts and gestures and so on.
We want to do it as realistically as we can, so we’re going to start out as enemies – or at least, as distrustful of each other – and then see what happens. I’m looking forward to it, because I think it’ll be a really interesting experiment. I just hope it doesn’t rain. If it does we’ll still do it, I think, but if the weather is nice it’ll be a lot more comfortable.
Next weekend he’s going to come here. I’ve warned him that I haven’t got a computer, but I expect we’ll find something to do. Perhaps we can just go out for a walk together – and maybe we should check the dip really carefully, just in case there actually is a portal there somewhere…
Twitch came over to Miles’s house early on Saturday afternoon. He was disappointed to find that Martin had gone out as he’d have liked to find out a bit more about Miles’s alien brother, but it did mean that they had a little longer to practice playing crib. Miles showed him what to do that was different when playing with a partner, though that didn’t take long. They thought about playing a strip game but decided that they didn’t really have time, so they just played a few more practice hands and then got Miles’s mother to drive them over to Tom’s house.
Most of the others were already there, and Jamie greeted Twitch’s arrival with a cry of, “Oh no, it’s Twitch!” whilst making a warding-off, sign-of-the-cross gesture with his forefingers. Twitch responded by hooking his hands into claws and snarling at him theatrically in the style of a thwarted vampire.
Once everyone was there – and Jack and Robyn both turned up, which meant that someone was going to have to strip in front of a girl – the first game, between Graham and Rob and Tom and Kevin, got under way. The game fluctuated for a while but eventually Tom and Kevin drew ahead, finally winning by fourteen points.
“Come on, then,” said Graham to his partner, “let’s get it over with.”
They stripped off and the audience looked at them with interest. Both were embarrassed to be naked in front of a girl (even if it was Rob’s sister), and so neither had an erection.
“What’s the forfeit, then?” asked Graham.
“You have to tickle each other’s balls until you both get hard,” said Tom, grinning at them.
That was really embarrassing in front of an audience, but it was within the rules and so they had to do it, while the audience jeered and called them names. Eventually both got erections, and after everyone had had a good look Tom said that the forfeit was over and they could get dressed.
And then it was Miles and Twitch against Jamie and Toby. And the cards were just plain unfriendly, and although neither of them did anything wrong Miles and Twitch lost by thirty-eight points.
“Now that’s a real thumping,” said Graham, grinning at Miles. “And I thought you were good at this game. Come on, then, let’s see.”
So reluctantly Miles and Twitch had to strip, and again the circumstances meant that neither was erect when their underwear came off.
“Shall we make them play with each other, like Graham and Rob?” Jamie asked Toby.
“Well, they lost so badly I think we should make them do something far more embarrassing,” said Toby, grinning nastily. “So, yes, you’ve got to make each other stick up, but while you’re doing it you have to kiss each other.”
That brought a chorus of ‘yeurchhhh!’ sounds, and Twitch said, “You do realise you’re condemning Miles to death? Nobody who kissed me could possibly survive!”
That got an appreciative laugh, but Toby refused to change his mind, and so they stood facing each other, took hold of each other’s genitals and, very reluctantly, brought their lips together.
“You have to do it properly or it doesn’t count,” said Toby. “Pretend you really fancy each other!”
Miles moved a little closer to his partner and put his left arm around him, and Twitch did the same, and gradually they managed to relax a bit. They did their best to block out the chorus of abuse and just concentrate on each other, and soon Miles did that so successfully that he began to get an erection. And once it happened to him it happened to Twitch, too, and soon they were both fully erect.
“Satisfied?” asked Miles, stepping back so that Toby could see their condition.
“Look at the lover-boys!” was Toby’s reaction, but Jamie added that as far as he was concerned they had done their forfeit and could get dressed. They didn’t need telling twice.
The gang stayed at Tom’s for a while longer, playing some friendly games of cards or playing computer games on Kevin’s PlayStation, and then gradually drifted away. It wasn’t too far from here to Twitch’s house, so he and Miles decided to walk, rather than waiting for a lift.
“I’m really sorry they made you kiss me,” said Twitch, once they were alone.
“I’m not. It felt sort of nice, to be honest.”
“You don’t mean that - you’re just trying to make me feel better, aren’t you? Because I don’t see how you could actually enjoy kissing me. I’d have thought you’d be more likely to throw up.”
“No, I’m not trying to make you feel better, and yes, I did sort of enjoy it. Obviously I’ve never kissed a boy before – or a girl, come to that – and at first it felt strange, but once I managed to relax a bit it felt nice. If that lot hadn’t all been there laughing at us I think I’d have enjoyed it.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“No? Come here.”
There was an alleyway just ahead of them and Miles towed Twitch into it, so that they were out of sight of the road, and then pulled him into his arms and kissed him. And this time he was able to relax straight away, and Twitch put his arms round him and held him gently, so Miles put his arms round Twitch’s shoulders…
A couple of minutes later he stepped back. “Okay, that’s what it’s like to do it in private,” he said. “How did that feel?”
Twitch stared at him. He didn’t seem able to speak at first, but then he said, “We… we’re not supposed to do that. We’re both boys. Boys shouldn’t kiss.”
“They just shouldn’t, that’s all. It’s weird.” He looked troubled, and Miles realised he might have spoiled their friendship.
“I’m sorry, Twitch,” he said. “I won’t do that again. It’s just… I thought you liked it when we did it at Tom’s.”
Twitch was silent. He walked back to the road and started walking towards his house once more, though he did wait for Miles to catch up with him. For five minutes or more neither of them spoke, and then Twitch said, really quietly, “I did.”
“I said I did like it. But it still seems weird, like you’re treating me like a girl or something.”
“You’re not a girl. You’re a boy, and you’re my friend, and I don’t see why we can’t do something if we both like doing it. I mean, we’re not supposed to rub each other’s thingies, either, but we both enjoyed doing that.”
“Yes, but that’s different: obviously doing that is something only boys can do together. But kissing just seems a bit too girly, and I don’t want to be treated like a girl.”
“Maybe it’s me that’s the girl – after all, I’m much prettier than you.”
Twitch managed to smile at that. “But I don’t want to treat you like a girl, either,” he said. “I like us both being boys.”
“So do I. It just seems silly not to do something we like just because people would call us names if they knew. If they knew we undress and rub each other they’d call us names, too, but I don’t want to stop doing that.”
“That’s true… Still…“ And he fell silent again, and this time he stayed quiet until they reached his house.
Miles said hello to Twitch’s parents and followed him up to his room.
“I’d better go,” he said, “or I’ll be late for tea. I’ll see you on Monday.”
“Wait,” said Twitch. He stepped in front of Miles and put his arms round him. “I don’t mind hugging,” he said. “Boys are allowed to do that – even footballers do it, in front of thousands of people. And I did like us having our arms round each other. Is it okay for us to hug, do you think?”
“It might be better not to do it in class, but when we’re on our own I’m sure it’ll be okay. And I think it feels nice, too.”
“Good. So let’s just do that for now. And maybe I’ll feel better about kissing when we’ve been friends a bit longer.”
“Okay. Of course, we don’t have to kiss on the lips: I could kiss you on the cheek. Mars kisses me like that sometimes, usually to say thank you for letting him stay with me when there’s a thunderstorm. He hates those. Anyway, kissing like that isn’t really girly. What do you think?”
“We can try, if you like.”
“Okay.” And Miles gave him a quick peck on the cheek, and Twitch replied with one that was a little slower and gentler.
“I think that’s okay,” he said.
“Good. In that case, thanks for being my crib partner, Twitch. I know we lost today, but that was just really rubbish cards. We’ll win next time.” And he kissed him on the cheek once more, though a little more lingeringly. And Twitch kissed him back in the same way and smiled at him.
“Yes, I think that feels okay,” he said. “We can definitely keep doing that if you want.”
“I want. But right now I want my tea. See you at school.”
In fact Miles didn’t have to walk home as he had expected because Twitch’s father offered him a lift, which he accepted gratefully. But he did wonder why it had felt so nice kissing Twitch – after all, Twitch was right when he said it was a bit girly. He was starting to think that perhaps Mars wasn’t the only weird person in the family…
The relationship between Martin and Luke is developing nicely, and the one between Miles and Twitch is evolving into something quite serious. And we'll find out more about both partnerships in the next chapter.
When I add the words firstname.lastname@example.org at the end of each chapter it's basically because I'd like people to use the link to tell me what they think. Need I say more?
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