Luke grinned as Ryan flew by on the riding mower whooping like a ridiculous kid. Out in the backyard, he’d opted for the gas weed-wacker instead and was methodically going around the trees and under the shrubs, levelling anything that looked like it wasn’t a flower. Memories of his disturbingly weird nightmare had passed; it was a new day and he was up for whatever it had to offer!
A few minutes later, Ryan ran up and they both cut the revs until the engines ticked over quietly enough to be heard.
"I’m done here, so I'm going round the front,” Ryan said, reaching for the throttle again. “It shouldn't take long.”
He was off...and then back again fifteen minutes later. By this time, both of them were covered in grass.
"Okay, now what?" Ryan parked and got off the mower to stretch.
Luke offered him the weed-whacker. "I'll let you go whack around the front if you want. I’d start behind the bushes—it’s a bit more private." He smirked wickedly.
Ryan rolled his eyes and they glinted in amusement. "Does your mom know that you’re such a crude, fucked-up retard?"
"I dunno, Ry." He flicked his attention over Ryan's shoulder and frowned. "You could ask her...."
Ryan was already turning in alarm before he realized he'd been had and swung back to pull a face, muttering, "Did you know you were a dickhead?"
Luke snickered. It was the small victories that were the best.
Thirty minutes later, they'd both had enough. Downing the tools in favour of a ball, they messed around the basketball hoop. Luke hadn’t had a good work out like this for ages, and he was soon sweating profusely. Ryan wasn’t faring much better.
Luke feinted to the right, hoping to slip by, but Ry was right on it and blocked him with ease “You think I was born yesterday? Is that the best you’ve got?”
Luke grinned and wheeled around. “In case you forgot, asshole, you were born sixteen years ago this coming Thursday!” He launched the ball high and it swished sweetly through the hoop.
Ryan scooped it up. “Not bad for an old guy!”
Luke ignored the jibe and went on guard. “So are they getting you a Porsche?” Once he hit sixteen, Ry would no doubt do what most did and try to get his licence within the first week. And there was no way he wouldn’t be getting a car. Not Ryan.
“Are you mad?” Ryan passed him and slipped in a layup off the backboard. “Who the hell would want a Porsche? Some asshole is just going to back into it in the parking lot!”
“But you’re getting something?” Luke couldn’t hide the tinge of jealousy. He wasn’t allowed a car until the start of the new school year, and there was no changing his mum and dad’s minds on that one.
Ryan gave him an undisguised grin of relish. “You bet I am!”
They were interrupted as Lucy came out and gave Luke 'the look'. Of course, his mother’s 'looks' could mean any number of things depending on the day and time, though he reckoned this one was balanced finely between 'If you've finished the yard work, I thought you had study,' and 'I believe the doctor said no contact sports!'
She was right of course, and Luke tried for a final long shot—a three pointer had it not bounced off the rim. "Come on, we'd better go in and get on with it." Having long since discarded their shirts, they glistened with sweat. His shorts were covered in grass. Ryan was no better.
Luke sniffed his armpits. "And I stink—I gotta get a shower first!" Luke picked up his tee and used it to wipe sweat from his face; still finding grass there, too.
With the back of his hand, Ryan wiped his forehead. "I didn't bring anything." He used his own tee to wipe his face. "I'm fine. I could do with borrowing a shirt, though."
Seeing the glistening perspiration and guessing Ryan probably smelled similar to himself, Luke grimaced.
"The hell you are! You're not making a mess of my bed in that state!" There was only one chair in his room, and he knew Ryan usually hogged the bed when they hung out there. "Take a shower, for God's sake. I've got plenty of stuff you can borrow."
They went in, stopping by the kitchen first where Luke pulled open the fridge looking for something cold. His mum was there, in the middle of some baking. For her benefit, he found some tall glasses from the cupboard to fill with Coke for him and Ryan.
"Thanks for helping out with the garden, Ryan," Lucy said while at the same time slapping Luke's fingers as he tried to sample the icing mix.
"You’re welcome, Lucy!" Ryan took a deep pull from his glass before continuing. "Let's be honest—someone has to keep him from demolishing your flower beds!"
Luke emptied his glass and refused to be drawn into their conversation. The two of them usually ganged up on him. "We're just going upstairs to shower, Mum. Then we’re going to get some study done."
"Luke—" As they left, his mum called him back. Ryan continued up the stairs with his backpack while Luke paused. She continued more softly. "If you want to get changed," her eyes flicked meaningfully to where the SmartKlamp still remained, “Ryan can always use our room."
"It's fine Mum, it's no big deal." What planet was she on?
‘Well, there you go. I told you your friends wouldn’t mind if you explained it to them."
He sighed silently. Whatever. Turning, he bounded up the stairs.
Her voice followed after him as he made his escape. “Tell Ryan he can use Simon’s towel. It’s fresh. And maybe you can lend him—”
He closed the door to shut her out without feeling the need to lock it. She wouldn't just walk in now she knew showers were on the schedule. Simon was out, and anyway, locking the door of a room in which you were about to take off your clothes with another guy felt totally gay!
Inside, Ryan had dropped his backpack by the desk and was fiddling with the CD player. The Jazz CD Luke had left in burst into life. Luke kicked open the bathroom door with a foot. Someone needed to make a decision, and it was his room.
"You go first."
Ryan hesitated. "Sure you don't mind?"
“You know—I’ve just decided what to get you for your birthday.”
“What?” Ryan frowned at the apparent turn of conversation.
“One of those car air fresheners!” He burst out laughing as Ryan pulled a face. “Go! I'll dig out some clean clothes and stuff for you. Just use any towel in there."
Ryan acquiesced and walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind himself and leaving Luke to sort out some clothing.
As he heard the water running in the bathroom, Luke began making two piles of clothing on the bed. Two sets of everything; loose fitting cargo shorts, tee shirts, boxers and sports socks. He chose the underwear with care, making sure it was two of the best pairs he had; one black and one white. It wasn’t often that someone else might get to wear them—particularly a guy he had an interest in—and Ry took his clothes seriously, so Luke did his best to make a pile that he thought might work for Ryan. It was mostly dark colors.
A few minutes later, he heard the water stop in the bathroom, and Ryan emerged looking refreshed and with a towel wrapped around his waist. In his hand he carried a tight bundle of sweaty clothes. These he stuffed directly into his backpack.
Luke did his best not to stare, trying to recall the last time Ryan was dressed so scantily in this room. A long time ago, he realized. To cover his weird behaviour, he quickly pointed to the two piles on his bed. "Pick one. If you don’t like the tee, there’s more in the second drawer down."
“Thanks.” As Ryan moved further into the room, they crossed paths, then Luke closed the door of the bathroom behind himself.
As he stood under a cooling spray he wondered what it was about Ryan that seemed to press all his buttons—the ones that made a mess out of his emotions? At times he felt like an elevator being operated by a little kid who liked to see all the buttons lit up at once!
A familiar friend now, the SmartKlamp swayed at his groin, but Luke was too irritated by his inability to control his stupid crushes to dwell on it. Instead, he began to prioritize the revision schedule in his head, deciding which subjects needed the most attention. He finished off and scrubbed himself dry, and it was then he realized the weakness in the plan of giving Ryan the option of two piles of clothing.
Both piles were now on the other side of the door! Frowning, he tucked a towel around his waist and returned to his room to pick up what remained.
Dressed now, Ryan was lounging on the bed, reading the chemistry text book he'd got from the shelf. Luke smirked to himself. Of the piles of clothing near Ryan's feet, only the white version remained. The other—the one he was sure Ry would go for, with the dark grey tee and black boxers—had been taken. It had been a no-brainer!
Ryan's eyes lifted up over the top of the book, studied him briefly, then went back to the page.
Luke paused long enough for Ryan to raise his eyes again. He seemed to figure out that something was amiss. “Oh…I forgot about that. You had that operation didn’t you.” He made to get up. “If you want, I can give you a bit of space.”
Luke had caught Ryan's eyes straying south, and perhaps his cautious approach wasn’t surprising considering the way Luke fired off at him earlier in the week. Luke hesitated only briefly. There were only three options.
Option One: he could ask Ryan to leave; make him stand out on the landing while he changed. He ruled that out straight away.
Option Two: he could take his clothes into the bathroom to change in privacy. That had been his original plan, but now that Ryan had made an issue of it, that seemed equally petty.
He took Option Three.
Option three was—"Honestly, it’s fine. I don't care." He shrugged, trying to sound casual. "You've seen it all before."
Strictly it was true, Ryan had seen it all before; seen it hundreds of times over the years in fact. For heaven's sake, they stood together under the showerheads at school several times a week!
All this was true, and it shouldn’t have really mattered. However, as much as Luke tried to believe otherwise, now was a little different. He was acutely aware of two things: the first, that he’d been recently circumcised and had hardware mechanically bonded to his body. The second? Quite frankly, these days, Ry frequently gave him boners!
After getting that straightened out—in his head, but thankfully not anywhere else just then—Luke stepped up to the bed and picked through the pile of clothing to start dressing. Except, now he had another problem…or maybe he was only creating a problem inside his own twisted mind?
The problem was, after he had already brazenly declared that he didn't care a toss if Ryan hung around while he changed, it was going to look suspicious if he acted as if it really did matter by turning around and trying to hide his nuts. SmartKlamp or not, he felt he had to remain indifferent and not look too jittery!
He decided to play it cool. First he unwrapped the towel from around his waist, used it to dry his legs and then dropped it on the floor to reach for his boxers, reminding himself that Ryan had seen it all before, even the Klamp. The best approach had to be to stay calm and get his boxers on as quickly as possible.
He wasn't quick enough, not by a mile!
“My God! You weren’t kidding!”
“What?” Luke looked up to catch Ryan grinning widely.
“When you said earlier that you were going to cut back the bushes." Ryan snickered as his eyes locked onto the dusty remains of Luke’s pubic hair. He put down the chemistry textbook and pointed. "Holy cow! You weren’t kidding!”
Luke was caught off guard with his boxers no further than his knees. Shit! He'd actually forgotten about the results of that little ‘kneeling over the sink’ activity and hadn't realized how quickly he'd got used to seeing himself like that. And with him having been excused from the locker rooms all week, Ryan was just catching up.
“Oh that!" Luke cringed, but doggedly stuck to the script he'd used with Simon. "Leave off. I had to trim it for the operation.”
Ryan smirked and returned a surprisingly determined glint. “Well for God’s sake, at least show some respect for yourself and keep it trimmed back, now!”
Luke studied himself. It seemed an odd thing for Ryan to say. "We'll see. Maybe...” He kept his tone offhand, knowing he'd already decided he'd let it grow a bit, but not much.
Before he had chance to get his underwear in place, Ryan interrupted again and pointed. "So that’s the Klamp thing you were talking about the other day?"
Luke wavered. He hadn't expected an examination, but there was no point in pretending that it wasn't there. He felt awkward, though it was clear from Ryan’s expression that his friend didn’t feel that way in the slightest. At the time, the only thing Luke felt he could do was brazen it out.
"Yep…it's called a SmartKlamp.” Remaining impassive, he picked it up in his fingers, studying it again, too. Affecting a shrug of indifference, he let it be, dropping it and finally getting his boxers into place. The lump remained remarkably obvious.
"I only saw it briefly when you got it stuck in the restroom last week,” Ryan continued, not at all deterred as he continued to stare. “Come on then, let's have a look. I mean you did promise me you were going to tell me about it!"
* * *
Extract from Luke’s notes:
You know, I honestly wondered if Ry could hear my teeth grinding!
Since the incident in the restrooms the previous Monday, I’d waited patiently all week for him to show the teeniest, weeniest bit of interest in the fact that I’d just done something huge... But there had been nothing. Not a whisper of a question or any show of moral support!
And suddenly NOW he wanted to see? Now, when I’m standing in my room with almost no clothes on?
* * *
"Bloody hell! I'm not some bloody zoological specimen!" Luke struggled to bite back a rankling irritation. From the flinch on Ryan’s face, he immediately knew he'd been a bit sharp—as sharp as when he'd acted like a crap bastard the previous Monday. Regretting his tone, he softened quickly.
“Alright, come on then, if you need a gawp!" If that was what was called for, why not? In some ways, Ry was like Simon. He wasn't just anyone.
"A gawp!” Ryan seemed to easily shake off the reprimand and laughed out loud. “What the hell is a gawp? You Brits have such weird words!"
“We have weird words?” Luke shook his head. That was ripe! “Don't you dare start on that! A nation that's wrecked the Queen's English?“
Ry just ignored him; it was a war that was older than the two of them!
"Come on then." He perched on the edge of the bed and smirked. "Let's have a gawp!"
"For heaven's sake!" Drawing closer to where Ryan was waiting, Luke pushed down his button fly boxers and tried to make it look that he didn't have a gay bone in his body, and he stared down and tried to be patient as Ryan's head bobbed around his groin. But it didn’t take many moments before the potent image of him standing with his well-trimmed pubes so close to Ryan's face was a bit much, so he sat down and leaned back on his elbows, hoping it would be over soon.
"You didn't tell the others about this?" Ryan asked without looking up. “Even Todd?”
"Are you kidding!" Todd was a rock, but they both knew there were some things that you wouldn’t want him to get hold of! "Other than you, none of them know, and I want to keep it that way, if you don't mind."
“Christ…that’s not going to last long, is it,” Ryan said. ‘They’re going to see it soon enough, aren’t they?”
“I guess.” Luke still hadn’t figured out how to handle the return to the locker rooms.
"Does it still hurt?" Ryan didn’t seem in any hurry to end the examination.
"Now, you mean?” Luke tried to remain patient as Ryan studied him. For God's sake, couldn't questions like that be saved for when he had clothes on? “No, not anymore. I’m not sure what it will be like when the thing comes off, though."
"Which is when?"
"Mmmm..." Ryan murmured. "I think I can see how the mechanism works. Can I...?" He glanced up, asking for permission to touch. With as much nonchalance as he could muster, Luke shrugged.
How the hell had he got himself into this situation?
He chewed his lip and finally nodded, though the whole proximity thing was not the most helpful. But what else could he do? Tell Ryan to piss off and get one of his own?
“Wow—it’s amazing!” Ryan seemed in his own little world.
Lying back, Luke commanded himself to just try to think of Nan Hibbert. Trying to control his growing discomfort, he watched as Ryan picked up the SmartKlamp in his fingers and began to gently manipulate the device.
"It's so simple when you actually see how it works," Ryan murmured, twisting the device, to see it from all angles. "There’s an inner and an outer part. The levers lock together and—"
"Yes, thank you. I did know," Luke interrupted. "Have you finished yet?" He scrunched up his face, but it was no good. However much he tried to pretend that Ry was actually his grandmother, it wasn't working. A real problem, more than just discomfort, was growing.
He tried to stop breathing. He tried to stop everything in an attempt to keep as still as he could, knowing that any tensing of those particular muscles was likely to result in something spectacularly disastrous!
Ryan clearly had no idea what Luke was struggling with as he continued to inspect the SmartKlamp. The uncomfortably awkward feeling was magnified by the impact of lying on his bed with his boxers at his knees. Luke could easily have been beating off, except it was Ry holding his dick in his hand this time. Even with the help of Nan Hibbard, it was impossible to ignore. Before it even became obvious, he could feel that the inevitable climb had begun, and knew he had about ten more seconds before it would become noticeable.
"Ry…what the hell are you doing?" There was an edge to his tone, but Ryan didn’t seem to notice.
"Shush!” Ryan continued to fiddle. “I'm gawping!" He used such a ridiculous, posh English accent—one that even Simon would crack up to—that Luke couldn’t help it, and coughed out a belly laugh.
It was the worse thing that could possibly have happened. The result of that little outburst was immediate and Luke felt himself start to fill. But, before he could jump up from the bed with any sense of decorum, Ryan said, “What happens if I do this?” He sniggered, but not in a way that sounded good.
"What?" As Luke made to stand, he was totally unprepared for what happened next.
"This!" Ryan looked up, and the grin he flashed was distinctly evil. Luke had no time to react before his friend reached his finger through the end of SmartKlamp tube and scraped the tip of the exceedingly sensitive glans.
Luke screeched. Literally. An ear-stopping squeal of sharp agony erupted and he launched himself off the bed. Gritting his teeth against the eye-watering pain, he could hear Ryan screeching, too—with laughter. Wheeling around he was rolling over on the mattress holding his stomach.
However, all the screeching wasn't the biggest thing going on for Luke.
His dick didn't seem to know it hadn't been invited to the party. Everything came together and it began to rapidly rotate upwards. With the device now pointing way past horizontal and fast extending, he yanked up his boxers. Even that wasn't enough and he grabbed his shorts and held them discreetly.
"SHIT!" Outraged, he glared at his friend, fully aware of what had now developed into a fully-fledged boner. "What the fuck did you do that for?"
Ryan was unable to answer, and was still curled up laughing.
"Luke? Are you okay? I heard a shout?" The voice came from the landing. It was followed by a tap at the door.
OH SHIT! GREAT FUCKING TIMING! How the hell was he going to explain why he was partially naked and sporting a major erection in his bedroom alongside his best friend, to his mother?
Could it get any fucking worse?
Trying to not think about the fact that he was now as hard as a rock in front of Ryan, he rapidly shovelled up the rest of his clothing and fled to the bathroom. Just in time, he closed the bathroom door as his bedroom door opened. He heard Ryan cover for him in a remarkably cool voice.
"Oh, he's just in the bathroom getting dressed after his shower, Lucy. I'm sure he'll be out in a minute."
From behind the bathroom door, Luke caught her reply.
"I've cut a bit of cake for the two of you,” she said. “It's just downstairs for when you want it." With that, she padded away.
Even though the coast was clear, he made sure he was dressed before he came out again. On the bed, Ryan was still grinning. If he was trying to appear contrite, it wasn’t working.
Luke laid straight into him. “What the fuck did you do that for?” It seemed to do the trick and Ryan became more apologetic.
“I’m really sorry. That was mean. It just reminded me of something, and I had to know.” Ryan broke out into a grin again.
That was sorry? “Had to know what!” Unbelievable! Ryan didn't seem to get how pissed he was.
“Mom’s sister—well actually her kid, Justin. Not that he’s a kid anymore—”
Interrupting him, Luke lashed out harshly. “And just who the FUCK is Justin?”
Ryan’s face fell and, from Luke’s outburst, he seemed to at last realize just how far he’d overstepped the mark.
“Bud…I’m sorry.” Ryan sobered up and went quiet. "I guess I shouldn't have done that..."
“NO, YOU FUCKING SHOULDN’T!” It was hard to let go of both the anger and the sense of humiliation at inadvertently boning up. Ryan was immediately dismayed and his face was one that showed he knew he’d screwed up. Guiltily, his eyes dropped.
“Shit, I’m really sorry.”
That was the thing about Ryan. When he really said sorry, then he really meant it—and Luke found it hard to stay mad with him. He rolled his eyes, hit him with a cushion and let it go.
“Forgiven." He'd chalk it away to experience, Luke decided. It was not every day he got to show off his woody to Ry and get away with it—if his friend even saw that at all. He pulled a face and asked, "Now, who’s Justin?”
“Dad’s sister’s…” Ryan paused, his face still shadowed by self-reproach.
“Yes, you said…your cousin. I’m not that thick!” Luke grinned, hoping that Ry would get over their spat rather than let it spoil the day. “You’re still an asshole, but I’ll beat the crap out of you don’t finish telling me the story!”
A more restrained grin returned to Ryan’s face, too, and he continued. “Okay…well this was years ago—before you came here. They live down near Macon. We were visiting, and I heard them talking about Justin. The poor kid was waddling around looking like a constipated duck! Someone let on—his sister I think it was—that he’d just been circumcised, and that it was really sensitive. I think he was done in a hospital, stiches and all. He must have been about six.”
Luke grunted. Some of it sounded familiar. “How the hell do you put up with it?”
"Put up with what?" Ryan looked puzzled.
"You know. The sensitivity—with it cut, I mean. It's fucking unbearable!"
"Oh?" Ryan seemed to consider the question and stretched out comfortably on the bed once more. "The end of mine isn't sensitive at all—at least not like yours seems to be. But then I was done when I was a baby. I guess it's all I've ever known. Maybe it wears off after a while?"
Luke nodded. "Actually, that's what the doctor said, too." Delicately, he pulled at the front of his shorts and adjusted the package. "Christ, I hope it doesn’t take long!" It was one thing to be a little more sensitive for a while, but something else never to be able to touch the damn thing again!
Luke cleared up the towels and took them back to hang in the bathroom. On his return, he noticed Ryan had picked up the small booklet that Luke had forgotten was still on the bedside table.
"What's this?" Ryan started leafing through the pages, and Luke saw his eyes go a little wider as his friend took in the images of penises that formed the main content of the circumcision booklet Tiberius had given him. Successfully, he stayed calm enough to keep his tone even.
"Oh, just something the doc gave me to explain the whole circumcision deal. Styles and that kind of thing…and…you know—" He shrugged and hoped his ears weren't going pink.
"Styles? Like a haircut, you mean?” Ryan’s surprise became a smirk. “So, you’re telling me that you were given a special style for that trim you’re sporting down there! What do they call it? The ‘Crop and Cut’?”
“Crop and Cut?” Luke rolled his eyes. “Asshole! Is that the best you can come up with? There’s a bit more to it than that!” He laughed and felt on safer ground. This was something he knew a whole lot about—and didn't mind sharing his wisdom.
Ryan frowned. “You should have told me, you know.” He seemed genuinely put-out that he’d apparently missed something important.
“Maybe…probably.” Luke shrugged. It was complicated.
“Well then, you need to tell me about it now. And about the op, too. But first, your mom said there was cake.”
Cake? It was the last thing on Luke’s mind, but he trotted downstairs with Ryan.
"Hello, you two." In the kitchen, his mum already had two slices cut. "How's the study going?"
"We're just about to start." Ryan smiled broadly as he gathered up the two plates on their behalf, and Luke tried not to snicker. He hoped the subject wasn’t going to be chemistry!
"Thanks for the cake, Mum." Adding a Coke bottle and two glasses to their haul, he followed Ryan back up the stairs feeling skittish, wondering how this was going to play out. He wondered whether, like he had done previously, Ryan would just drop it and move straight into something else, so he was happily surprised when Ryan slid back onto the bed with his plate and immediately picked up the booklet once more.
Looking for the best place to park himself, Luke settled down on the floor with his back to the bed. "I thought we were supposed to be revising?" he said, feigning nonchalance. Ignoring the glasses, he took a swig from the bottle before passing it up.
"We will." Ryan chugged briefly, replaced the cap, and got back to where they had left off. His eyes gleamed challengingly. “So…for starters…why did you want to get cut in the first place?”
It might not have been the first question Luke was expecting, but it was still one that he was quite ready for. He took the booklet from Ryan, turned a few pages and gave it back.
“Phimosis?” Surprise was written across Ryan's face as his eyes scanned the page. He turned it to see the section on paraphimosis. “Oooohhh, shit, look at that! That’s not good!” Luke guessed what image he'd spotted and didn’t blame him!
“You have…had that?” Ryan looked thoughtful, and added, "You couldn’t retract?"
It was unexpectedly direct, but Luke nodded. “Phimosis…not the other one.”
“Shit, I would hope not. Poor bastard!” Ryan grinned as he turned back a page again. "So, come on—what was it like? How long did it take to have it done?"
"Only about an hour altogether…about forty minutes in the theatre."
"And they knocked you out for it?"
Luke shook his head. "Injections…locals, like at the dentist."
“Fucking hell…you’re kidding? They stuck needles in your dick?”
Luke turned and chuckled as he caught Ryan grimacing. But his friend also seemed ready to keep listening, so he explained most of the operation. It was the one thing he'd been waiting all week to do, and he began to enjoy letting it all out. Ryan asked questions now and again, laughing at the funny bits, grimacing when the knife started slicing!
The more they talked, the more Luke relaxed and his confidence grew. If anything, it was Ryan that made sure they stayed on topic, clearly feeling he had the right to know everything.
Once Luke had got started, he was quite talkative, and stuff he would never have dared to reveal just slipped out naturally. He even confessed to the part about having a huge boner during the night after the procedure, and having to pee in the bath. Back then, it had seemed quite worrying. Now, it felt totally hilarious, and they both nearly wet themselves!
Ever so often, he would refer to something in the booklet that he held. Resting on the bed, Ryan looked over his shoulder, reading along, and they went on to talk quite animatedly about circs and the differences between being cut and uncut.
There were even more moments of frank honesty as they touched on how dicks looked both soft and hard, and what difference it all made for the cut and uncut. If there had happened to be an exam on circumcision that coming week, they would have both pulled straight A's.
Or in Luke’s case, not so straight...!
It was so much easier than he thought it would be. In fact, now it was quite hard to know why the hell he hadn't just told Ry about it weeks earlier!
It was going great until there was a tap and his mum poked her head around the door. Luke dropped the booklet out of sight alongside his bed. His mum was holding the cordless phone in her hand, and Luke assumed it had to be for him.
"Who is it?" Standing, he stepped to the door to take it.
She mouthed softly, "It's Josh Wyeman." Appearing to mistake his look of horror for something that looked like he had no idea who Josh Wyeman might be, she added, "Stacey's father?"
Luke swallowed. From the look on her face, he had the impression she had already spoken to the guy.
Oh fucking hell…now what?
She held out the phone and he gripped it. There was a long, rather uncomfortable moment where she didn't let go as her beady eyes drilled him. It was impossible to read her, or to know how much trouble he was in. He took the phone and turned away, walking slowly towards the bathroom to try to put some distance between himself and her and Ryan.
He recognized the voice of the tall man, last seen glaring at him in the marquee. It was definitely Stacey's father.
"Yes....good morning, sir..." His tone was formal and tight, painfully resigned to the idea that he was going to get dragged across the coals because of how he’d treated Wyeman’s daughter. The guy had probably already given it all to his mum anyway, and there would be another toasting from her once Wyeman had finished.
"Good morning to you, too, Luke." The easy-going nature of Wyeman's reply surprised him. "I was just speaking to your mom."
Luke stiffened. "Yes, sir..."
From plenty of experience, he knew it was usually better to 'fess up' first when he'd done something wrong. His mum was usually a little easier on him if he told the truth up front, rather than waiting until she got it out of him. He was still trying to work out how best to apologize for what he hadn't done to Stacey, when Wyeman really surprised him.
"Luke, I called for a couple of reasons. I was looking for a contact number for your friend, Owen. My son, Oliver, was trying to track him down."
"Oh…yes, sir. I think I have that."
"It’s fine, Lucy had it, too."
Lucy? Wyeman was calling Luke’s mum by her first name? It sounded...hell, Luke didn't really know how it sounded.
"But, I needed to speak to you, too…"
Luke cringed. Here it comes.
"Apologize?" Luke’s mouth flapped. It sounded completely the wrong way round. "I...I don't understand, sir—"
His eyes flicked to where Ryan was lying on his bed, watching him with bemused interest. Thankfully, his mum had already left. Wyeman’s voice came in his ear again.
"Luke, it seems I was wrong about you, and I felt the need to put it right."
"I have to confess, when Stacey ran out of the tent last night at the party, I'm afraid I thought the worst. She'd been with you on the dance floor, and then...well, it was only from talking to her afterwards that I discovered I'd misjudged you. And for that, I apologize."
Luke felt really uncomfortable. "Mr. Wyeman, honestly, there's no need."
Wyeman rode over the top, but not unpleasantly. "For me there is. Stacey explained that it had been her that had put you in a difficult situation."
Luke cringed wondering exactly what it was that she had told her father about what had literally stood between her and Luke on the dance floor the previous night.
"Let me just say that your respect for your parents' wishes says a lot."
"Yes sir," Luke muttered, feeling a complete fraud as what he suspected was the story about not dating at his age came to bite him on the backside.
"Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for coming to Stacey’s and Oliver’s big night, and I hope it won't be too long before we see you again."
"Yes sir. Thank you." Shell-shocked, he said goodbye and disconnected the call.
Ryan pounced on him. "What the hell was all that about?"
"Your mom said it was Josh Wyeman. I'm guessing Stacey Wyeman's father? You were at her party last night." Ryan was all over it.
Luke frowned. "How did you know?" He may have said he was going out, but he knew for certain he'd never mentioned to Ryan that it had been anything to do with Stacey. It was a petty thing, but it perplexed him.
Ryan seemed unconcerned. Picking up the bottle, he took another swig. “No, you’re right, you did try to hide that dirty little secret! I think Todd mentioned it.”
Luke sat back down on the floor with his back to the bed and took the bottle. It kind of made sense.
"So…come on," Ryan pressed. "What happened?"
“You really don’t want to know!”
“I really do! I can always ask Todd, you know—”
Luke pulled a face, suspecting Todd already knew most of it by now. “If you want to know, I think she fancies me, that’s all.”
“You told me that before.” Ryan grinned. “The girl from Longhorn, right? And you like her?’
“But you did something—why else would her father be on the phone!" Ryan looked evilly gleeful. "Shit, Luke, have you been a bad boy?”
“It was nothing like that. He rang to apologize.”
“He rang...to apologize? To you? Man, this gets better! What the hell happened?”
Luke held his head in his hands. In the cold light of day, it seemed totally bizarre. Maybe there had been something in the Coke, but he couldn't help it. He started sniggering.
Ryan looked over his shoulder, and sounded completely bemused. "What?"
Luke was shaking now. "Nothing..."
"So help me God, do I have to beat it out of you?"
“She got the wrong idea. That’s all.”
“She thought I had the hots for her.” Luke was beginning to giggle uncontrollably.
“What’s so funny?” Ryan had started laughing too. “Come on, I don’t get it?”
Luke was totally losing it now. It all just seemed so stupidly hilarious. “My Smarklamp—”
“The plastic thing you have for your circumcision? What about it?”
“She wanted me to dance with her. I think...well…I think she felt it.” He heaved in giddy breaths.
Ryan’s mouth dropped open. “Oh my God… no…”
Luke was almost crying. “Yes…I’m sure of it…”
“She thought you’d popped a chub on her?” Ryan squealed as the penny dropped.
“Oh God…it was awful!”
"You're such a..." Ryan stopped, creased. "Shit, I can't say that can I..."
"Dickhead!" Ryan fell off the bed and rolled onto the floor, completely wasted.
It took some time to recover, but eventually they got back to the circumcision booklet.
"So, you asked for a high and tight...like this one" Ryan indicated one of the images, and then chuckled. "Stacey'll be happy. If you want, I can cut it out and mail it to her!"
"Piss off. I do not fancy Stacey Wyeman!"
"Better still," Ryan said. "Send her that and a picture of the SmartKlamp side by side, with a note, 'spot the difference'"
"Asshole!" Luke stood his ground and remained smug. "You're just jealous! If you've got it, flaunt it!"
"If you’re meaning the pitiful thing you were sporting earlier," Ryan smirked, "then in your dreams!"
Luke winced ever so slightly. It sounded like Ryan really had seen his unfortunate woody after all! He watched as his friend finished the last of the Coke and tossed the bottle at the waste bin.
It missed and Ryan seemed to sober up at last.
"Okay—we need to get down to some work. But—final vote—here's my opinion." Ryan started pointing to the various styles that were laid out on one spread, discarding them one at a time. "No....no....definitely not....possibly....no...."
Luke's unease passed as it seemed Ryan didn't care about his earlier display. Finally Ryan stopped on high and tight.
"That one. That's hot! That's what I would chose. That's what mine's like."
Luke nodded appreciatively, carried away again by the frank conversation. "I know. Yours is pretty sexy—I like it…" It was what he had chosen anyway.
A potent silence descended. Rewinding the conversation, Luke bit his lip, realizing what he'd let slip out. The disquiet continued. A vacuum of nothing filled the room.
Fuck, just start speaking, he commanded himself, as he thought of all the better things he could have said if it were possible to turn the clock back.
Something like ‘Yours is nice…’? No, that didn’t sound right either. What about ‘Yours is done well…’? No, that sounded like a barbequed sausage! What about just saying nothing, and going on with life normally. Yep, that would have been best. Certainly better than ‘Yours is really SEXY. I LIKE it!’
SHIT! What the hell was that? Why didn’t he just come out with it, with something less obvious like, ‘I’d like to touch your dick, Ry!’
Luke studied the empty Coke bottle that had rolled away from the bin and the seconds extended. The bottle offered no answers, so he stared at the booklet, willing for some conversation, desperate for something from Ryan that would indicate that what he had said had meant nothing. Or maybe something!
Finally he could bear it no more. He tried to sound brash, though to him it sounded false.
“Okay, that came out wrong. Fuck…it was even a bit weird…” Luke risked a backwards glance. Ryan was watching him, silent and unreadable. In the background, the plaintive saxophone did nothing to diminish Luke’s sense of disquiet. Ryan reached out his hand and touched his shoulder. It felt tender.
“Luke,” he whispered.
There was something about the voice that felt strange to Luke. As Ryan touched his shoulder, it felt as if time stood still. He was frozen by indecision, and yet the room felt overly warm, even claustrophobic. Resting on the bed just by his shoulder, he could feel Ryan’s presence and hear his breathing.
His mouth went dry, and it was all he could do not to tremble. He swallowed and the fear of making the biggest mistake tore at him. This was horrible.
But what if they really were both the same? Just two ordinary guys who happened to be gay but didn't dare to say, or know the right way to tell each other?
On the other hand, he knew what Simon meant now. It had to be all a stupid daydream, and he was just about to ruin a friendship and become a pariah with everyone that mattered.
But the hand resting gently on his shoulder couldn't be ignored. He was just about to reach up and touch Ryan’s tenuous gesture in recognition of his own feelings, when Ryan whispered again, deep and husky this time.
“Oh babe..." Ryan gasped, though it didn't sound the least bit sexy. "I love it when you talk dirty!” He burst into paroxysms of laughter as Luke turned back and glared at him in shock!
He was caught between outrage, nausea, and huge relief that, by the narrowest of margins, he'd only just avoided total-life disaster. With his heart hammering in his chest, he played out the game, just to make sure he was on the safe side.
“Oh God, Ry—” He squealed in a high falsetto. “I want your babies! Let’s do it…now…right on my bed!” The stupid voice covered his breathless panic. Then he stood up, grabbed a pillow and started beating the crap out of Ryan, who curled up on the bed, almost crying with laughter.
At that moment, there was a shout from the bottom of the stairs. "Luke....are you in?"
Simon was back home.