Green Room II
Chapter 28

Upon my return to Byron, I stepped into a pressure cooker. School was full on, I had homework up to my ears, and relations with my dad remained icy. He approached me in the garden one night and busted me smoking a joint. He sat beside me and proceeded to lecture me about my `habit' and my rock-bottom grades at school. I just managed a passing grade in Math and English. The remaining subjects I plugged. The drill from my dad was to achieve decent grades by mid year or find a job.

He found my stash in my closet, and showed it to me. I lost my cool totally, and resented his scratching around in my room, invading my privacy. That triggered the ultimatum; better grades or find a job.

But that wasn't the worst of it, no way. My dad insisted I attend rehab for at least a month. Rehab? Yeah, right. Like prison, where fucked-up things happened to the guys in there: bashings, rapes, whatever. My life would be school every day, then back to the locked-gate confines of rehab. Incarceration. I'd rather shoot myself. So my options were: improved grades and rehab. "I'll think about it."

"Think about it when you're not smoking a joint, son. How do you expect your brain to make sensible decisions while it's swimming around in that lunatic stuff?"

Where had he been for the last five years, I thought, when my grades were up there with the best? Huh, dad? Where were you then? Anyway, what choice did I have? I was forced to up my grade performance and decide which subjects to dump. I'd been living like a monk since I arrived back from Fremantle.

Graham was cool. We spoke a few times but that was about the extent of it. It wasn't like a big `Welcome Home Stuart' party. Maybe my stress communicated the wrong vibes or whatever. My brain was fried. The possibility of rehab played tricks on my mind, and I didn't need that kinda stress on top of everything else that bothered me.

A week later I wrote G. Guess he was pissed off about my procrastination. I told him I didn't even have time to check the incoming mail. My life was a whirlwind, spinning my mind around like a blurred top.

Meanwhile, I tried to avoid Graham. Hell, I tried to avoid everyone to give myself time and solitude to think. My mind was still a stew. By the same token, I put a lot of time into schoolwork in order to impress my dad.

The other reason for my avoidance of Graham was that I believed I couldn't trust myself around him, especially if he sent a consensual signal.

It wasn't all bad news on the social scene. I connected with my ex-girlfriend a few times. She was in between boyfriends which gave us an opportunity to become good friends. One Saturday night, I was convinced I could score. Woohoo! But she made it clear that she had no intention of being my slut, despite wanting to make love to me. That was so cruel! However, our friendship was on track, and a big improvement on our previous relationship when we were simply sex partners.

I also visited Kyle's folks to deliver a card and letter from Brett. The Ts invited me to stay for supper. We sat at the table and chatted about Fremantle and, of course, Brett. They loved him like a second son, and were pleased that he was doing well. They had to laugh, though, when I told them we were up at sparrow's each morning, jogging for miles, then sparring in the garage before swimming several laps of the pool. "They don't come any fitter than Brett," I smiled. "But I can also feel the difference in myself after all that hard work."

The Ts seem to be fairing much better these days, involved in various activities together. Not that they were never close, but lately they were on some kinda mission to spend more time together, like weekend trips away. I figured Kyle's death acted as a wake-up call. Things you treasure most in life can disappear in the blink of an eye.

I'm reminded of Kyle a lot; a song on the radio, a movie, something that happens in the surf, things that trigger vivid images of his smiling face, his laugh, his temper: he could look mad as hell sometimes.

I cry a lot. Sounds wussy, I know, but there's something in my life that vanished, something I took for granted, and now gone forever. Fate gave me the opportunity to have the best mate in the whole world, but I stuffed it. Lots of lessons to be learned which I probably won't truly appreciate until I'm an old fart like you, G. And then it will be too late.

Don't go looking for Kyle, G, because you won't find him. What you will find are the things he loved so madly: blue skies, oceans with rolling surf, mountains that beg to be climbed, and views to admire. The silences and the mad noises of Nature.

I'll never forget the time we hitched to the Gold Coast for a surf comp. On the way home, as we walked along the road with our thumbs out, he stopped and asked me to listen.
Okay, so I listened and heard fuck all. He got mad and said, "Just listen, you dumb fuck!"

Then I realized I could hear a loud noise, the chirping of beetles. It was so weird! I'd never heard them at all until Kyle told me to stop and listen.

We moved on, and I heard the beetles all the time, which made the night so much more special. It's like the crashing of the waves at night. I hear them every night now, and didn't before. I just took it all for granted.

Graham visited my house regularly during the past week. Nothing special, just calling in to say g'day. But it was nonetheless wonderful to see his face; his awesome face. One day, we actually took a swim together in the pool. For some reason, his friendliness toward me was less inhibited.

Yesterday, he visited again. He laid on my bed and read a surf mag. His T was folded at the base, and I could see his stomach, and invitation impossible to resist. I sat beside him and slid my hand under his shirt. To touch Graham's smooth tanned skin was to touch electricity. He pretended not to notice, and carried on reading the mag. Yeah, right. "Cool mag, huh?"

"Yeah," he shrugged without taking his eyes off the page. And then: "Sometimes I think you wanna be like Kyle. You know that's not gonna happen. I wish you'd be like the guy you were when Kyle was here. You and me had such rad times together, wrestling and stuff without... Hey, it's cool how you touch me. I'm not complaining. But I miss the rough stuff we used to do."

"You do?"

"Yeah, I miss the old Stuart."

We spoke for a while, massaging each other's egos, then, all too soon, he had to leave. His absence turned my room into a vacuum. It was empty again. How I missed his face, his warmth, and his company. Falling in love with Graham was just too damn easy.

I spent the weekend away with my folks at a family wedding. When I returned, I couldn't wait to tell G all about it.

We drove to a small inland town, then to a farm on the outskirts. Everyone we knew, and their dogs, were there. My little cousin was amped to meet me again. Hey, not so little any more. He was a hunk. It ran in the family--blond hair and all that good stuff. Hahahaha! My older cousin, with whom I didn't get along, had turned into a hunk as well. When he arrived at the farm, he ignored me. Fine by me. However, my younger cousin and I were chatting when older bro called him away--probably worried I'd lead him astray or something. Hey, if I didn't, there were a hundred other people at the wedding who gave him the eye. Yep, my little cousin was now a major hottie.

The wedding was neat, held under a huge acacia tree. The seating was bales of hay. I dressed in smart pants and button-up shirt. My blond locks were gelled into place. Pretty damn spiffing if you ask me.

Following the ceremony, we got stuck into champagne. THE REAL STUFF! I drank about 4 glasses and felt pretty damn wicked. I mean like, REALLY wicked! I was one of the few dudes there without a chick. My cousin's girl gave me the eye, and we chatted at the reception. That's where button-up shirts come in handy. She fingered one of the buttons and asked to feel my abs. Hey, G, I promise I had no intention of humping this chick. I mean, how could she leave her boyfriend and hunt me down like that? Okay, so I know the answer to that question. Hahahaha! Meanwhile, we fed each other drinks. She tried hard to get me drunk. I enjoyed her company, though. She was a hot looker and made me laugh a lot. Or was that the booze?

"Want to share this with me?" she asked as she produced a joint from her cleavage. My eyes followed the joint as it returned to the narrow gap between her breasts. That's when the shit started with the boyfriend, who (I discovered later) had followed the girl and me as we disappeared behind the stables.

"If you want to share it with me," she purred, "you'll have to get it."

The moment my fingers entered her cleavage, I felt two hands on my shoulders. A second later, I was flat on my ass in the hay. THANK YOU, HAY! Then I saw my cousin. "So you're not into boys any more?" he snarled. His eyes were hot coals, and his fists were readied for battle.

"I never was," I snapped as I stood. "But you led the way."

He threw a right, but I managed to duck despite the booze. My left fist connected with his gut, but clashed with steel-hard abs. Oops! The force of my punch rocked him back on his heels, nonetheless. Then his elbow collided with my face, and it hurt like hell. I turned to face him again and thought, `fuck it!' My fist slammed into his ribs. He tried to deflect the punch and, in so doing, lost his cover and I slammed him right in the breadbox. THANK YOU, BRETT! I LOVE YOU, BRO!

The dude's legs buckled and he dropped to the ground, coughing. That's when I figured I had the upper hand. Wrong! He pulled my legs from under me and dove on top. We wrestled and tore each other's shirts to shreds. Hey, G, I couldn't help but notice how hot his bod was but, given the circumstances, I wasn't in a position to admire it other than momentarily.

Brett had warned me about dropping my guard when I had the upper hand, but I totally forgot. In a split second, my cousin got to his feet and put his boot into my stomach. If he'd connected with my ribs, he would surely have cracked a few. Then the chick rushed to the rescue and grabbed her boyfriend's arm. "Leave him alone!" she shrieked.

A whole bunch of shouting and shrieking ensued but I didn't absorb much of it, except his warning to stay away from his girl. It all turned out okay for me, though, else she would have tugged at my arm in an attempt to pull me off of him.

"Back off," she yelled. "I'm a big girl now and I can do what I like!"

Hahahaha! I can still see the look on that bloke's face as she bent over me, cooing. She unbuttoned what was left of my shirt to inspect the damage. Then she ran a flat hand over my chest and abs. "You work out or something?" she asked as she examined my tanned lumps and bumps. "You have a model's build."

"I try."

"Seems like he didn't damage anything."

"You sure? Not even the other stuff?"

What followed was one of the wildest and most passionate lovemaking experiences of my life. She was hungry for me, and I her.

Later, we rejoined the wedding party. I wore a T that I'd previously collected from my folks' cabin. Meanwhile, my cousin became increasingly slaughtered at the bar. And me? I still wallowed in seventh heaven, thinking of the incredible sex I had with his girlfriend.
She didn't hang around after that. Instead, she got involved in an argument with her boyfriend, then the two disappeared--probably for some more wild sex, provided he was capable.

Lucky bitch, I thought. When I got an eyeful of his bod while we tore each other's shirts off, I wanted him! Hahahaha! He was so slaughtered, I probably could have had my way with him. Pity his girl didn't leave him alone just a little while longer.

Now that big bro was absent, the younger cousin hovered around, and we got into a serious chat about surfing. >From what I gathered, he was a rocking surfer dude, familiar with most of the hot spots along the east coast. By the same token, he gave the impression he could turn any hot spot into a hotter spot just by being there.