Down in the basement, Luke and Simon started a new game and waited for the disk to load.
"Thanks for staying in this afternoon, Si." Luke meant it. Even without Toby, Simon had plenty of other friends to hang out with and stuff he could do with a Saturday afternoon. He, on the other hand, was housebound. Showing off his new hardware was probably a small price to pay for Si to keep him company that day.
Simon shrugged. "That’s alright; Toby's away anyway. His Nan and Grandpa are visiting and they all went to Stone Mountain for the day. I’ve got nowhere else to go."
Luke doubted that sociable Si was completely at a loose end, but was grateful anyway.
Their home, like most in their cul-de-sac, had been built into the side of slight hill. That resulted in a house that, from the front, looked like a two-story build, but from the side revealed all three floors. The back deck was raised to accommodate the levels, with steps down to the backyard.
He had always thought it was a great house, and like many similar homes in the area, the basement level had been done up to create various extra rooms...including, for them, a home cinema! The soundproofed, windowless space had been there when they moved in, and rather than take the trouble to rip it all out, the previous owners had even sold them the projector and sound system at a good price. Keeping it had been their mum and dad's attempt to try to wean them off England.
More recently they had plugged a Nintendo Wii into the system. It was hard to beat playing action games on a huge screen with surround sound. They fired up everything again to play Star Wars. With the lights down low, they sprawled on bean bags operating the consoles and watched the screen—as usual, making their own colorful commentary as they drove down through the levels of the complex multiplayer saga.
“So, what did Stacey want?” Simon's unblinking gaze remained focused on the game as he probed.
“Nothing much,” Luke replied, though he doubted it would satisfy his brother.
“She rang you, and then you rang back, just to say nothing?” Simon tone carried patent disbelief as he stepped out from behind a wall to dispatch an Empire underling. "Yeah...right..."
Luke shrugged. Whatever...
Thirty seconds later. "So, what did she really want?"
Luke wasn't really surprised. This was how Simon worked; patiently digging until he got what he wanted. He sighed. He was in a good mood, so he might as well save them both some time.
“If it bothers you, she just called because she wanted to tell me something.”
“What? That she wants your babies?” Simon sniggered again, and received a cushion on his head as payment.
"No, asshole. If you want to know…”
Luke rolled his eyes. “As I was saying—if you want to know, she was just inviting me to a party next week.”
That got Simon's attention. “There's a party? What kind of party? When? Who's invited?” Simon liked details.
"Not you, for a start!"
His brother pulled a face.
“If you have to know, it's her birthday party and it’s next Friday. And, before you assume anything, I’m only going to take Owen Kear.”
“You’re taking Owen out to a party?” Simon's eyebrows flicked up and he sniggered.
Luke ignored the jibe and they continued to the next level as he explained what he was actually trying to do.
“But Stacey still rang you to invite you to her birthday!” Simon reminded Luke once he'd finished.
"So?" Luke shrugged, though he had an uncomfortable feeling that Simon’s impeccable logic was right.
Simon got right to the point. "So why are you so cagey about her?”
“I’m not cagey!”
“Really?" Simon cackled with goading laughter. "I bet she has guys begging at her door, yet she nearly dribbles on you every time we go to Longhorn! Come on—how obvious can it be?”
“She does not dribble! Don't be a gross git! We’re just friends...actually hardly that, even. I don't really know her!”
The disbelief hung there as Simon watched him for a few moments before he shook his head and returned his attention to the game. Star Wars was their current favorite, and they usually played in cooperative mode—and a good job too, as Luke fell off a roof, right on top of Darth Vader. Rushing to help, as the sounds of light sabres and blasters increased, Simon distracted the Dark Jedi, while Luke limped off to find an energy booster.
“Does it hurt?”
Luke glanced at his life points. He'd been badly mauled. "I'm gonna need the next health stash we find."
"No, I mean your dick..."
“Oh...that!" Luke shrugged. He'd replenished on Tylenol just after lunch; not that he really needed them. "Not really. I took a few pills, but it's fine."
Luke studied his brother curiously. "So—you never said. What did you think of it?"
"Your dick?" Simon smirked. "Actually, I was surprised you even showed me."
"I'm the gay freak remember." He grinned as if to take the sting out of his self-deprecation.
"You’re a bloody idiot!" Luke didn't return the grin and went back to the game. He didn't like this kind of stuff from his brother.
"Okay, okay—I was just kidding."
"Jeez—sorrreee!" Simon shook his head. There was silence for a while, interspersed with the sounds of war.
"Anyway," Simon added. "If you want to know, my light sabre works quite well as it is!"
Luke could hear the cheeky undertone, and started snickering. "Does it make a noise?"
Simon howled. "It freaking lights up!"
They lost it for a bit and had to put the game on hold. Finally, Luke got a hold of himself. He was curious. "Doesn't it bother you, then?"
"What? Being gay?"
"No." Luke shook his head. "Having a bunch of skin hanging off your dick?"
Simon didn't seem bothered to answer, but restarted the game.
He pressed. "I mean surely all the guys in your class are cut?"
"Wouldn't know...never looked..." The reply was too wooden to be true, and anyway Simon's shoulder started to shake with laughter.
Simon smirked and said nothing. He flicked a grin in Luke’s direction. "So is that why you got it done?"
Luke squirmed as they went to the next level. THAT was a loaded question, and the real answer wasn’t one he’d felt that comfortable sharing—even with his own brother. He glanced towards Simon. "Honestly?"
Simon didn't reply and Luke took that as a yes. He paused a beat, though they still kept playing. It seemed easier that way.
"Well, I guess at first it was because I didn't really want to keep being any different from any of the other guys. It looks like we’ll be living here for quite a while, and you get teased a bit for having a chunk of skin hanging off your junk. I was just fed up with it."
Simon nodded and Luke suspected his brother had probably got much the same himself as he'd got older. "I think that how it is now—or will be—looks a lot better on a guy.” He thought Simon would jump on it, suggesting that he had a thing for guys’ dicks, but Simon seemed content to change the subject.
“So, Stacey knows Owen then?” Simon murmured.
“Yes, that’s what I said. They go to the same school.”
“Creek?" Simon remained glued to the screen.
“Yes.” Luke studied his brother carefully. Si knew all this, so where was he heading?
“Where they have that GSA group, you mean….” Simon didn’t need to look up for Luke to feel the huge import of those words.
“Oh…yes, I guess so." Uncomfortably, he remembered the events of several weeks. Now it was back to bite him in the backside! He glanced over as his brother expertly flicked the control pad, causing death and destruction in his wake "Si…?"
"Aha..." Simon didn’t take his eyes from the on-screen action.
"How did you know you liked Toby Skerrit...more than just a friend, I mean?"
Simon played for a moment more, and then dropped the game into pause to consider Luke curiously. After a moment he restarted the game. They continued playing, until, "Why do you wanna know?"
Luke shrugged, not willing to say. "No reason..."
They continued playing, and Luke assumed there would be nothing more forthcoming. Then, dropping into pause again, Simon opened his mouth; and then closed it as if unsure of the words.
"Actually, I don't know," he finally admitted. "It kind of snuck up on me, unexpectedly. I didn't really do anything...." He trailed off, as if there were blame to be apportioned for the attraction. Staring at nothing, he seemed to see something Luke couldn't.
After a moment, he continued. "I just began to like being around him. He's fun—I mean you know what he's like. He can be as daft as a clown one moment and serious the next."
He paused, and then went on with remarkable honesty. "But I like him too—I mean how he looks and the way he is...and....I kind of...well, I just think about him a lot." He seemed as surprised as Luke by the honest and quite revealing appraisal, and flushed. While he hadn’t totally spelt it out, Luke got the picture.
"I can't help it…sorry if it sounds weird to you." Simon hung his head, unable to look at his brother, as though ashamed by the things he’d admitted.
That hadn’t been Luke’s intention at all! “No it doesn’t sound weird at all—not if you like him,” he said hurriedly, but he could see that Simon still felt disturbed by his feelings.
Simon hung his head. "Sorry... I…well, I’ve never felt like this with anyone before. It's still really freaking me out. Sometimes I wish it would just go away and I would be like normal people…you know…"
To Luke, it sounded so familiar. "Have you thought about telling him how you feel?” he asked. He stared at nothing and knew he was thinking more about someone else.
"Are you kidding?!” Simon’s retort was angry. “Risk getting marked as a homo? Be known as 'the queer’ in class for the rest of school?"
"Hey!" Luke came back at him harshly—angry at the indictment of them both. "Don't call yourself that!"
Frustrated, Simon threw down the controller and Luke watched, mesmerized, as Simon’s on-screen character became helpless to defend itself against the multiple hits that piled up. Life began to ebb away under the onslaught.
"Crap!" Simon muttered as, too late, he realized his danger. He tried to reach again for the controls to save himself. Luke saw the danger too, but was much too far away to help. Moments later, the damage broke Simon’s character and he slumped onto the floor, his life force ebbing to zero.
Simon’s face darkened becoming morose and frustrated…and angry. "But that's what they would call me wouldn’t they?" he said. "Nobody likes fucked-up gay kids."
It wasn’t the fear of being overheard from upstairs—they both knew that the room was well soundproofed. From someone who hardly ever swore, it was the painful outburst that really shocked Luke.
* * *
Extract from Luke’s notes:
There's that old phrase 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words...'. Well, you know the rest. It's total crap and whoever came up with that stupid little ditty knows nothing about how pain can be inflicted; how words can kill as effectively as a light saber!
Si was right, of course. And however much I wanted to protect and encourage him, the honest truth was—is—it's much easier to be straight. In a different sense, I knew I had to be straight with Simon, too.
* * *
Luke studied his brother, wondering how—and where—to start.
"Si..." he began. His voice was tentative. Was there ever going to be an easy way of doing this?
"What!" His brother's anger still brimmed as he began to reset the level.
“Just because we like guys—whatever crappy stuff people might say about us—that stuff isn’t who or what we are…"
You can never plan life, and there would have been no way earlier that day that Luke would have thought he'd be outing himself to his brother within a few hours. Perhaps it was best that way? No chance to make things up or figure out ways of bottling out.
Luke knew he wasn't saying it very well. In fact, he was hardly saying it at all! He held his breath, wondering if Si would get it, even then. In front of them, the screen blinked, awaiting further instructions, but he could see his brother's brow furrow as he worked it over, his mathematical brain trying to figure through the logic of what he’d just heard.
Simon stared. His surprise became quizzical; searching and hopeful, checking for wind-up or deceit. Luke twitched into a wan, lopsided smile and shrugged. Saying anything more was unnecessary. It was enough and Simon's face took on a wide grin as the change happened.
It was worth it all, just for that moment! Sure, they could fight like cat and dog sometimes, but when it came down to it, Simon was his little brother and he'd kill anyone who tried to fuck with him. Through all the years they had grown up together, Luke had always felt he could read Si like a book, and that day was no exception as he watched the sense of relief blossom. It was like the flick of a switch as he watched the weeks, probably months of uncertainty brushed away by the knowledge that they were alike. So who cared what anyone else thought!
"NO SHIT!" The grin dropped and Simon's face hardened. "Why the hell didn't you tell me this before?"
Luke flinched, knowing that the swearing was an indication of his brother’s renewed strong feeling. He shrugged, staying away from most of the answer. "Because I haven't known myself for long."
"I dunno. A couple of weeks...maybe a bit more..." Simon still looked affronted and Luke pulled a face. "Come on, how long did you know yourself before you eventually told me!"
Simon's face softened as he accepted the truth of it, and he got hold of himself. "Okay, sorry. You're right—forget all that! I knew you would be—well I hoped, anyway…" His grin became wistful
Luke rolled his eyes. How the hell could Si know anything? However, it was a relief just to be able to talk about it all at last, and he didn't challenge it.
Simon's delight was honest and infectious. "But how? How did you know? I thought you fancied Stacey? Do you like guys AND girls?" Questions came thick and fast.
"No I don't fancy Stacey! That really is only to help Owen."
"Oh...oops!" Simon giggled. "I think I got the wrong idea!" His eyes went wide and his mouth dropped. “NO…so…so you like Owen then?”
“NO, I DO NOT!” Luke glared at his brother at the mere idea of it.
"Okay, forget I said that!" Simon’s words stumbling out and tripping him up in their haste. "Tell me the rest of it! Tell me everything!"
The game was pushed to one side as they continued to talk quietly and privately, down in the basement.
"So what do you think Mum and Dad will think?” Simon asked eventually. “You think they'll be mad or something?"
That had to be the million-dollar question, and one that had been on Luke’s mind a lot, too.
“Do you think we should we tell them…about being gay?” Simon added.
“I’m not ready for that yet,” Luke replied quickly. Was there ever going to be a right time for that? “Telling you is enough for now. Is that okay?”
"They’ll need to know eventually, though, don’t you think?”
Luke knew Simon was right. It was also very like his little brother to be uncomfortable keeping more secrets. “Soon,” he said. They should talk to their parents—just not quite yet.
Simon nodded and then grinned again. “So…” He now seemed to get to what he saw as the juicy part, "if it’s not Owen, is there someone you really fancy?"
Luke wasn't quite ready to go this far yet and start spilling names—even with his brother! "Nah...not really at the moment." Maybe Simon guessed he was holding out, but he let it go.
"You'll tell me though when there is?" Simon pressed.
"You'll be the first to know!" Luke said.
"You mean the second!" Simon sniggered, and that set them off giggling again for a while!
Then, unexpectedly, an 'out of the box' idea came to Luke. He considered his brother thoughtfully. “You know this thing with phimosis and being circumcised?”
“What about it.” Simon looked wary.
"Well…why don't you ask Toby?"
That got his brother's attention!
"Yeeewww! Ask him about my DICK?" Simon pulled a face. "Don't be an asshole! I can't do that...that would be...weird."
"Why would it?" Luke countered, more sure now. With a smirk, he challenged his brother. "Is he circumcised? Or is he one of that long list of guys you've never checked out?"
"Okay, yes, I've looked." Simon rolled his eyes grudgingly and then grinned. "And yes...of course he is."
"So...then tell him that you're thinking about getting it done, too. Ask his advice about what it's like. You never know, maybe it will open up something new between you?"
Simon brightened at that. "Hey, that's actually not a bad idea. Is that what you did?"
"Mmmmm…kind of..." Luke said, a little uncomfortably. If talking to a guy from New York on Facebook counted!
Fortunately, Simon didn’t seem bothered to press the point and Luke stood at last and stretched. He grunted, taking a moment to adjust the Klamp so that it hung more comfortably. Then he left Simon with Toby and Darth while he went up to the kitchen to down a couple more Tylenol.
* * *
The next day, they were just at the end of the traditional Sunday roast when it happened.
They rarely used the formal dining room, as most day-to-day meals were eaten at the kitchen table. Of all the rooms in their house, Luke considered the dining room to be his least favorite. He wondered why that was? Was it because they hardly ever went in there, or did they hardly eat there because no one else liked the formal setting, either?
Of course, there were times when it felt right—like Thanksgiving, or Christmas. There were also times, like with the Kears that day, when there were so many people to seat, there was no other sensible option.
Around the admittedly quiet beautiful table, the eight of them sat on the upholstered, high-backed chairs. For once, it actually felt nice to eat there. The table was stuffed with food, and everyone was in a good mood. It had been one of his mum’s best—a full roast beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puds, veg and all the trimmings.
“I won’t say no!” Steven Kear’s slightly glistening forehead bobbed up and down as Geoff opened another bottle of red and proffered it. “And where on earth did you find English mustard here?” He scooped another massive dollop onto his plate to join the second helping of roast beef and roast potatoes, already there.
“Dad’ll need a snooze after all that!” Owen chuckled.
Luke had to smile, too. And why was it that the Welsh still called it English Mustard? Didn’t they have Welsh Mustard?
“Luce gets it at the Farmers Market,” Geoff said. “You can get quite a lot of British stuff. Even Brown Sauce!”
“I’ll have to take you, Anne,” Lucy put in. “It’s not far.”
Geoff waved the bottle in Anne’s direction, and she nodded. “Yes, a little more, thanks.”
As Luke shovelled in another forkfull of roast beef, he studied Steven Kear. He was definitely well into middle age spread, he decided. Owen’s parents seemed quite a bit older than Luke’s own mum and dad. Maybe they’d married late?
Laying his own knife and fork on the plate, he stood. “More wine, Becks?” He lifted up the juice jug and offered it. She giggled, and even her plate was empty after the sumptuous main course, he noticed. For someone who usually pecked at her food, THAT was a minor miracle!
They all watched Becky pick up Simon's glass as well. Unsurprisingly, and to everyone's amusement, it had been the precocious little girl who had arranged the seating around the table that lunchtime, placing herself center stage, next to Simon.
"Simon's having more, too," she said, pulling Simon’s glass close. As Luke gallantly poured, Simon took it well.
"That, Lucy, was stunning!" Steven Kear declared ten minutes later in his strong, musical, Welsh accent. He pushed back his plate and manoeuvred his rather portly belly to a more comfortable position. Lucy beamed with pleasure, and Geoff lifted the recently opened bottle of the red Cote du Rhone invitingly. Stephen eyed it longingly enough, that Anne seemed to take pity.
"Okay," Anne sighed. "I'll drive..."
“Dad, you’re going to be snoring so bad tonight!” Owen complained, shaking his head.
Everyone laughed. It was a relief, thought Luke, that Owen seemed to be in a good mood for a change. He’d certainly cleared his plate with as much enthusiasm as his dad!
“It was a superb dinner, Luce,” Geoff agreed. “Thank you! Now, anyone got room for desert?”
A stupid question really.
“Let’s just clear the debris first,” Geoff suggested, “then apple pie and custard it is!” Empty plates were passed up to one end to be stacked, ready to carried out to the kitchen. “It just shows,” Geoff added, “you don’t have to live in the UK to know how to eat properly!”
And THAT was when it happened.
Luke knew his dad had only meant it as a passing remark; not one that was supposed to actually mean anything, but the Kear family went icily quiet and he saw their faces darken. Steven, recently warm and jovial after eating so well, became cold and stony. Owen stared at his empty plate.
“We’re...not sure...” Anne began.
She seemed dismayed as their family tensions spilled out onto their hosts dinner table. “We’ve been talking about it. We’re probably going back home again… beginning to look at flights and costs and things. Maybe it’s for the best." She shrugged helplessly, and Steven took a long swig of his wine, either unable or unwilling to offer her any support.
Becky looked horrified. “Who said we’re leaving?" Her head snapped around the table. "I don’t want to go…Mum, I won’t.”
“Becky love, we haven’t decided," Anne muttered hurriedly. "We’re just thinking about it, that’s all."
“Yes, you have!” Becky cried. “That’s why you keep arguing all the time! Just because of Owen!”
“Becky love—not here.” Steven remained darkly angry.
“WHY? Why is it only what HE wants that counts? What about me? What about what I want?” The little girl was incensed, refusing to be silenced. “I won’t leave all my friends again. You can’t make me!”
Across the difficult scene, the soft background music of popular ballads continued to play. Luke studied his knees.
Becky rounded on her brother. “I HATE YOU. You always ruin EVERYTHING!” With that she pushed up from her chair and ran out of the room. Eyes watched, none willing to stop her go, and then returned to stare at Owen.
Slowly, uncomfortably, he got to his feet too. His face said it all. “I’m not really hungry anymore. May I be excused?” Painfully, he looked to Lucy for permission to escape the hell the meal table had rapidly become.
“Of course, Owen.”
Stiffly, he too left the room.
As he left, Luke’s mum caught his eye. A subtle message passed between them. He tried to sound more upbeat as he said, “May I be excused, too, Mum? I’m stuffed!” She nodded and he stood as well, exiting to find Owen.
On his way out, Simon chirped up. “Me, too, Mum. Becky and I were going to get our roller blades on.” Becky had some new ones and had brought them specifically to show to Simon, no doubt to get him to play with her.
In the hall, Luke and Simon exchanged silent shrugs. They would both do what they could.
Luke finally found the burly Welsh teen out in the backyard, sitting on the bottom step of the deck, shuffling his pack of Yugioh cards and laying them on the treated wood. Luke had never been into game cards himself. What self-respecting sixteen-year-old plays Yugioh, he wondered?
A geek, or one with no friends?
Owen looked bleak, and not the geeky type, as Luke settled on the top step next to him.
“They fucking hate me—all of them.” Listening to him, Luke couldn’t help but wonder how much truth there might be in how Owen saw it.
Just then, Becky came around the corner of the house, followed by Simon, both carrying their roller blades. She saw Owen and glared. “I HATE YOU!” she screamed, eyes burning as she turned and stalked off.
Simon shrugged, and Owen and Luke just stared at the bushes. There was nothing to be said.
“Come on—why not at least come with me to the party on Friday?” Earlier in the day, Luke had put this to Owen and tried to convince him, but with little luck.
“I hate parties!” Owen muttered. “Anyway, what’s the bloody point if we’re going home anyway?”
“Well, exactly,” Luke countered. “So, you might be going home—or you might not—but at least show everyone you can still enjoy a night out."
Owen continued to glower, and Luke waited. It had been a last ditch effort—no doubt doomed to failure. "Do it for your mum, if nothing else.”
At that, Owen's face twisted—maybe at the thought that she was suffering almost as much as he felt he was. Luke pounced. “I’ll give you a game of Yugioh...” he pleaded, playing his last card.
“Okay, okay, you made your point. I’ll go.” Owen took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. He picked up his card deck. “I’ll still take you up on the game though...and I’ve got a spare deck!”
So they played cards for the next hour—a game that seemed to Luke to have overly complex rules that constantly changed. He didn’t mind that he lost all the time, though. It was escapism—and that was Owen all over! Who cared really? What mattered was that Owen was coming to the party on Friday.
He just hoped to God that it would somehow help!
* * *
The next day was a typical Monday morning and the Summers’ household was in overdrive to get the boys out of the door and off to school. They were running a bit late that morning, and Luke felt his mum was fussing.
“Now are you really sure, sweetheart?” she pressed as he crammed toast into his mouth. “I know you’re trying to act as if everything is normal, but you have just had surgery. Shouldn’t you stay off school for a few more days?” She turned to his dad for support. “What do you think, Hon?”
Geoff emerged from behind his laptop which had joined them at the breakfast table and from where he was already firing off a flurry of emails to start the day. He shrugged. “If he feels up to it, why not? What’s he going to do at home all day?”
Anyone could tell that it wasn’t what she was looking for. “Rest?” she replied, dryly.
“Mum, I’m fine, honestly,” Luke said again. He saw a look in her eyes that he needed to sidestep. “Look, if I need to, I can always call you to come and pick me up early if I’m flagging.”
"Well...maybe..." No doubt looking for somewhere to vent a little steam, she turned her attention to Simon as he stacked his cereal bowl by the sink. “Simon, you need to hurry up! Go and brush your teeth.”
After watching Simon scurry out, she checked her watch and seemed to come to a decision. “Very well then, but you have to promise me that you won’t do anything stupid.”
Relieved, Luke topped up his coffee and sat back down.
Then she turned her attention to their dad. “Hon, you HAVE remembered you’re dropping them off this morning, haven’t you?”
His dad's eyes flicked to the wall clock and he looked surprised. “Oh, sure. We need to go soon, then." Luke would have laid odds he’d completely forgotten!
There was a bang on the front door, heralding Toby letting himself in. His mum had dropped him off before heading in the other direction to Creek High, where she worked.
“Come on then, you lot. Move it!” Lucy was sounding naggy. “Toby’s here already!”
All in all, it was the start of a fairly typical school day, Luke mused as he downed the coffee fast and hurried out to the hall. Nodding amiably in the direction of Toby who was waiting patiently by the door, he made best speed up the stairs. Simon was already brushing his teeth in his usual methodical manner. After he’d finished, Luke took his place. While brushing, he took a moment to study his profile where the SmarKlamp was positioned.
The black school uniform trousers weren’t as bad as he thought they might be, and his least-baggy pair of boxers were doing a good job of keeping the plastic mechanism tightly restricted. In the mirror, he studied himself. If he stood normally, he was fine, but if he thrust out his groin, then you could definitely see the rather weird shape. He’d done his best to arrange it so that it didn’t look like he was on Viagra, and prayed it was only obvious to him and no one else. It would have to do—and anyway, the odds that he’d be invited to do any groin-thrusting with friends at school on any day, let alone that one, were pretty slim.
“LUKE…I’m walking out the door!” His dad’s tone wasn’t good. Time to go!
Luke hurried out to his dad’s leather-upholstered car. The last to get in, he took the front seat. As usual Simon and Toby had gone together into the back. They usually shared the school run like this with Toby's mum—their parents did the drop off, and Grace did the pickup. Or vice-versa, depending on the day.
Sometimes they would bring Ryan back, too, if he’d been stranded. His mother wasn’t that reliable.
The traffic wasn’t good that day, and by the time their dad dropped them at the school parking lot and raced away, they were already verging on late. Simon and Toby hurried off in one direction and he hurried—aka waddled—the other, making it into class only just in time for registration.
Uncomfortably eyeballed by the whole bunch as he entered the room, he slipped down into his seat as the roll call started. From further forward and several rows across in the alphabetical arrangement, Ryan flicked him a bemused glance.
He rolled his eyes humourlessly in return. Don’t ask!
Staying where they were, they went straight into the first period…Math.
Math was hardly the best start to any day, let alone a Monday morning. Worse still, if you hadn’t done the homework, there were no breaks offering you a chance to crash through it during the day, to make amends. However, that lesson he was consumed with a more pressing need than the solving of quadrilateral equations. The coffee had gone straight through and he needed a piss, big time! He gritted his teeth and watched the minute hand taunt him as it ground slowly by.
Finally, the bell went, and he shot out of his seat at the first indication they could leave, stuffing his books into his backpack as he hustled.
“What’s up with you?” Ryan frowned as Luke pushed by him.
“Too much coffee!” Luke smirked despite his hurry. “I need a piss so bad, I’m about to wet myself. See you in English.” He made for the door.
As the herd meandered forward, he pushed ahead and ducked into the first restroom on the way. Thankfully, it was empty and he hurried over to a urinal to begin to attempt to get the SmartKlamp out of this boxers.
It wasn’t that easy, and the weekend had taught him that the plastic frame of the mechanism had a tendency to get caught between his boxers and zip whilst trying to negotiate it out and back for a wizz. And now, unlike with his baggy cargo shorts, there was even less manoeuvring room.
Other than dropping his trousers completely, he could also have gone into one of the stalls for a bit of privacy, but he was in a hurry and there was nobody else there, and it would only take a moment....
…maybe that was a mistake.
The need to pee was becoming overwhelming and he swore at the device that remained stuck in the wrong place. Finally, it broke free. He held the tube of plastic lightly in his fingers and pointed it into the bowl with relief. Delivered from torment at last, he shut his eyes and stood there waiting for the delayed flow to begin.
"So, how were the injections?" The familiar and friendly voice came from just to his left.
It was one of those moments that computed SO wrongly. He got totally stuck in a loop trying to figure it out: how the hell did Ryan know anything about the needles the doc had stuck into his dick?
“At the dentist,” added Ryan, probably wondering why he was acting so dense. This was followed swiftly by, "HOLY CRAP, Luke, what the fuck is that?"
Luke had been so focused on the zip problem, followed by the delirious moment of release, that he hadn't even heard anyone come in the door, let alone remembered he was holding what could only look like some bizarre sex toy! Dragged back to reality, his head jerked round to come face-to-face with his friend. Spraying into the bowl right next to him, Ryan was now staring, wide-eyed, at the piece of hardware that was fixed to Luke’s penis which he was happily waving at the bowl!
Saying nothing, he tried to cover it with his hand, and squeezed desperately in an attempt to end the flow. The spurts subsided, but Ryan continued to stare as Luke fumbled frantically with the SmartKlamp, which despite his best efforts, wasn't going past his zip easily.
Exposed, he felt like some spotty kid caught by an aunt with his hand down his trousers playing snooker. It had become a nightmare that refused to end.
Shit, shit, SHIT!!! Why hadn’t he listened to his mum and stayed home?
Finally, he exploded in pure frustration. "FUCK THIS THING!"
He wrenched at his belt, then managed to break the button on his school trousers in an attempt to make more room to get it away. The button went spinning off across the floor, but he ignored it.
He guessed that Ryan could tell he was—to say the least—a little unhappy, though his friend remained silent and watchful. Finally, Luke got the SmarKlamp back in. He zipped up, tightened his belt to stop his pants falling down, and wheeled away to the sinks.
Ryan finished at the urinals, too, and a few moments later, crossed to the sinks to wash his hands a couple of places down. His eyes flicked over questioningly, but he seemed willing to keep his thoughts to himself.
Luke knew it wouldn’t last.
"Just DON'T, okay!" He was burning with anger at himself, but also boiling mad at his friend. This was NOT how it was meant it to be. Now he was going to become the butt-end of a whole pile of sex jokes about penis surgery.
SHIT! Why did Alexis have to fucking follow him in there, anyway?
In the silence, he flicked his eyes along the row of sinks as he scrubbed his hands roughly under the tap. What he saw slowed him up a bit. Instead of the leering look he was expecting, Ryan looked worried.
"Are you okay, bud?" Ryan asked.
"Just fucking leave me alone." Luke still couldn't stop himself lashing out. "And if you think it's funny just...just..." Words failed him. "Just piss off!"
There’s something really important about a tone of voice. Often it reveals more than the words. It’s not what people say, it’s how they say it that can speak volumes. Belatedly, he wondered if he had it wrong. Was Ryan really about to have a go at him?
"What the hell's wrong with you?" Ryan's tone got harder, and who could blame him?
"Fuck...sorry." Wearied by the effort of keeping secrets, Luke scrubbed his eyes roughly to resist the heat that was gathering there. "You didn't deserve that...but just don't laugh, okay."
He turned his head, but Ryan was hard to read. He didn’t actually seem steaming. He didn’t seem a lot of things that Luke might have expected, but the narrowed dark eyes were considering him carefully; weighing him up.
“Why would I laugh at you? I don't...well, I just wouldn't …" Ryan tailed off. He became more determined. "For fuck’s sake, just tell me what's wrong? Are you hurt?"
"Listen, I really am sorry...about flying off at you.” To cover his emotion, Luke ran the cold tap, splashed water over his face, and dried it on a towel.
“What are you girls doing? Just discovered wanking?"
Both he and a Ryan turned to spot Cody Mitchell, who’d taken that moment to walk in the restroom door too. Luke eyed him with distaste as the asshole ambled up to the urinals to take a piss, and then ignored him as he and Ryan left to join the flow of traffic in the wide hallway.
“Okay, out with it.” Ryan seemed quite determined as they followed behind the crowd moving towards their next lesson. In a tone meant just for them, he tackled the elephant in the room. "What the hell was that…thing?”
Luke checked around and hefted his backpack higher on his shoulder before angling off into a window alcove and setting it down. Classmates drifted past and he reached into his pack as if searching for something whilst speaking in a low voice. “Well, you remember I said I was thinking about getting circumcised?" His ears reddened as he confessed and he studied the inside of his bag. "Well..."
“No!" Ryan interrupted with a gasp of surprise. "Really? You actually went ahead and had it done!" Luke finally looked up to discover his friend’s face was a picture. You could tell he knew he was right and a broad grin developed.
“I lied about the dentist…sorry…”
"You dog! That's where you were on Friday!"
Luke shrugged. It wasn't hard to fathom out, and he pulled a face as his little white lie unravelled. "Yep—I had it done that afternoon by some urology specialist."
"Shit! Really?" Ryan was wide-eyed. "No wonder you didn’t come round over the weekend. What happened—and what the hell are you doing in school? I mean, doesn't it hurt?"
"Hurt? No, not particularly. That thing you saw was some special device called a SmartKlamp; something they can use for guys our age.” Luke left it at that, less comfortable with trying to explain the difference between hurt and the bolts of painful, yet quite unusual sensations he kept getting through his newly-revealed glans.
"So why the hell didn't you want to tell me?"
Again, Luke shrugged. "Look, if you really want to know, I will." His eyes flicked to where the rest of the class were disappearing up the corridor. "Just not here. We should get moving."
"It's okay." Ryan smirked and seemed to take pity on him. "I get it that it's a bit personal." He glanced down the emptying hallway. The noise was ebbing away. "Come on, you're right. We'd better go, or we'll be late."
They hurried along and caught the back end of the line into the class.
"Oh, by the way..." Ryan murmured Just before they passed into the classroom.
Ryan pulled a knowing grin. "Congratulations!"
It took Luke most of the lesson to recuperate, and if asked afterwards, would have had little idea of what was covered.
The rest of that day, in fact the rest of the week at school was without incident. He stayed out of trouble and got used to having either his bag or his jacket hanging strategically in front of his groin to disguise a lump that he felt was huge, even though it wasn’t. A note from his parents kept him out of the locker rooms, and Ryan didn’t let him down, either. Ry could keep secrets, and there were no knowing glances or risqué jokes amongst their friends.
In fact, Ryan never mentioned it again and Luke got the impression that he really didn’t care one way or another. A part of him was a little disappointed by the lack of interest. However, it appeared Simon had been right all along—when it came to Ryan, Luke had got overly worked-up about his circumcision for nothing.