An English Teen,
Circumcised in the USA

by Riley Jericho

An Eye on the Ball

"I'm fine!" Simon muttered, though he looked rattled as he quickly pulled up his tennis shorts.

Luke pressed. "Did he—"

"I'm alright for God's sake...just leave it" Simon interrupted, though it wasn't hard to see that he was anything but! Guessing that part of Simon’s discomfort came the remaining wide-eyed sixth graders who were still hanging around, Luke glared at them until they turned and scampered.

He tried again. “What happened?” He just needed to know that nothing had. Just then, the door flew open and in raced Toby, followed by Jacko.

Toby’s eyes were wide. "What happened? Are you alright?" He was breathing hard.

Luke tried to keep his voice calm. "It's okay. We got here in time."

Toby still looked worried. "But they said he’d been..." He seemed unable to refer to the thing that had had Luke completely climbing the wall, either.

“Toby, they didn’t do anything,” Simon muttered. “Landon was just being a stupid prick!” He perched himself on one of the benches nearby his stuff.

“Thank God for that!” Jacko said, looking relieved, too.

Simon's eyes flashed angrily in Jacko’s direction. “What the fuck happened to you?”

Jacko flinched, and Luke quickly laid a warning hand on Simon's arm. "It was Jacko who came to get me, Si. I’d only just got back from the doctors when he found me."

"Oh." Simon blinked and pulled a face. "That was crap of me. Sorry." He hung his head and looked close to crying.

Jacko seemed uncomfortable too, and shrugged. "It's okay. You'd have done the same for me."

More were arriving from Simon’s class: Gabe Larsson, with Mason right behind them.

"Todd—what happened?" Mason demanded. "We just saw Landon."

Not anywhere near as out of shape as Toby, you could still tell Mase had been running. "His face is quite a mess," he added as he stared wide-eyed at his brother. "Was that you?"

Todd grinned and shook his head. "Wish it had been, but not this time, unfortunately." He nodded towards where Ryan was standing off to one side. "Ry caught Landon a real beaut!"

Mason's eyes widened. "You're not kidding!” However, although his voice had a tone of approval, he looked worried.

Luke stood rapidly, darkly angry. "Was Mitchell with him?" Nobody could mistake what was on his mind as he looked towards the door making ready to move that way. He would catch them and beat the crap out them!

Simon grabbed hold of his arm, halting him. "You have to promise me you won't do anything."

"What the heck are you talking about?" Luke eyed the door again.

"Yes, you do!" Simon glared at his brother, holding on to him firmly. "Don't you dare go out there to start a fight. You'll only cause trouble. Promise!"

"Fuck the trouble!" Luke snarled. He tried to pull his arm loose, but Simon wouldn’t let him go.

"And if you and Ryan get suspended? Then what?" Simon shook his head. "Look, for the last time, nothing happened. They were just arsing around. It wasn't even them that pantsed me—it was some middle school kid. I don't even know who."

Luke took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Si was right, though Ryan might still be in the shithouse after breaking Landon's face. He changed tack. "There must of been something that kicked it off. What were they doing in here anyway?"

"They wanted to know where you were, that's all and—" Simon stopped.

"And what?"

Simon looked tense. "They said they were planning another hang..." His face screwed into worry. He didn’t need to spell out who the recipient of that hang was to be. He rushed on, looked panicky now. "For God’s sake Luke, can't they be stopped?"

A hang? On him? The bastards wouldn't dare...would they?

"Not fucking likely!" Luke ground his teeth.

He'd have to watch his step with them though. He and his friends needed to stick together.

Todd was obviously on the same track and grunted. "Let's hope Landon's learned a lesson, but we should still watch each other's backs."

It was then that Luke realized that Ryan was still there. Having dropped into the background, he'd been tight-lipped. Luke caught his eyes as they flared in resentment. Watch each other's backs? Luke felt a stab of guilt knowing how badly that had worked the previous day.

Without a word, Ryan spun on his feet and stalked out, pushing past a sudden influx of Simon's classmates. Luke wanted to rush after him, but he also felt the need to stay with Simon just then.

"Is it true that Alexis just punched out Scott Landon?" demanded Danny Gillespie as he pushed into the locker room, an excitable grin on his face. "Awww—did I miss it?"

"I saw him on the field," Marco grinned, arriving just behind Danny. "His face was a bloody mess! Is it true that Alexis punched him out?"

As more flooded in, Luke could see the relief in Simon as the focus switched away from him and back onto the ongoing war between Ryan and Landon.

"You guys had better go," Simon murmured to the older set. All around them there was energetic chatter as Simon's friends started to change. "The bell's about to go.”

Todd turned to leave. "Are you coming?" He raised an eyebrow in Luke’s direction.

Luke shook his head. "In a bit. I'll see you there." Turning back to his brother, he pulled a face. "So who cares if I'm a bit late. I can stay a bit longer if you want."

"Are we still playing, then?" Mason waited with his racket in hand, appearing to feel it was all over.

"You bet!" Simon stood and looked more upbeat now. He lifted his own racket from his bag and murmured to Luke, "Go…I'm fine. Anyway, you should really go and talk to Ryan."

Relieved that his brother was back on track, Luke nodded. He made his way out of the sports block to find that Todd had already legged it and was motoring towards the next class. He, on the other hand, had to go and recover his backpack from where he'd dropped it. He checked his watch as the bell went, and then realized he didn't actually have to put his foot down. Officially, he'd only just got into school from a doctor's appointment, and had a hall pass to cover him for a while yet.

Surreptitiously he adjusted the lay of his unhooded wanger. All that running to the sports block had been an excruciating torture, and with the kicks to the nuts too, it was a relief to find he could still walk! As he ambled across the field, he tried to take stock.

So what would that shithead Landon do? There was one thing he knew for certain, Luke decided as he passed back inside the main building. If Landon tried to cause trouble, he was going to get a shit-storm of it back!

Thankfully his backpack was lying against the wall exactly where he'd dropped it. He slung it over his shoulder and made his way via the lockers towards class. Almost mowing him down as he turned a corner, he ran into Ryan.

He pulled up quick, immediately catching the tight face and unsettled demeanor. Ryan broke step, too, and lowered his eyes. Trying to sound assured Luke motioned in the direction of their class.

"We’d better get going,” he said. “We're going to be late."

Refusing to make eye contact, Ryan didn't respond. In fact, he did nothing other than look like he hadn't even heard!

Luke tried again with a different tack as his friend remained simmering and surly. "That must have felt good?” he asked, hoping it would be taken in the right way. “I hope you didn't hurt you hand on the bastard!"

Ryan's face flickered briefly, but then he side-stepped and made to move past Luke. Luke reached out his hand to stop him.

"Look, Ry—" He was more pleading this time, but Ryan cut into it.

"What?" Ryan’s tone was hard, and there was no forgiveness there as his eyes flicked up.

"I...well…” Luke struggled to find the right words. “I just wanted to say thanks for saving my ass. I think Landon was about to kick the shit out of me!"

"You actually think I did it for you?"

"No, of course not," Luke added hurriedly. "All the same, I was glad you were there."

Glaring hostility spilled from Ryan's frame. "Because friends watch each other's backs, you mean?"

"No...I…I didn’t mean it like that…" Luke stalled and hung his head. Nothing had changed. Even though Ryan had just got some revenge, there was no forgiveness or coming back from what Luke had destroyed.

"Then just fucking well leave me alone," Ryan ground out. The resentful anger in his tight voice was crushing, and Luke found it impossible to look him in the eye as Ryan pushed by and strode up the corridor, in the opposite direction to their classroom. Watching him hurry away, Luke felt like total crap. Where Ryan was going was anybody's guess.

The hall pass got Luke safely to his desk, and it didn't take anytime at all to see that Ryan wasn't the only one missing. With a busted tooth and bent nose, he hadn't really expected Landon to show his ugly face.

As they moved into the next period of the morning, Mitchell was just as ugly, quietly stirring up trouble in a fifty-minute French class which had been unusually tense, but not of the language type! By the next break, it was astounding how many had somehow got the idea that Ryan had unaccountably—and in a completely unprovoked manner—beaten a poor, helpless Scott Landon to a pulp with his fists!

Luke ignored them. He had more on his mind than to worry about than those boneheads. If they wanted to be suckered in by it, that was their loss. It was all going to come out in the end…and if no one else, he would see to it!

However, heading towards the last lesson of the morning, more than a few were ready to make an issue of it, and, right in the middle of them, Mitchell blocked the corridor.

It was an angry Matt Young who waded in first. "Where the hell is Alexis, Luke?" he demanded.

"No idea." Luke made to walk around them, though Todd was less diplomatic.

"What's your problem, Matt?" Todd scowled as he pushed back at the solidly built threat. "Just back off!"

There were murmurs of surprise. Todd was a keystone in their class, and they didn't often see him ill-tempered.

Mitchell took to the floor.

"The problem, Todd," he said, pronouncing his words slowly as if talking to a child, "is that Alexis just fucking well put Scott in hospital!" He paused to leave space for the mutters of disquiet. "And I don't know about you, but we," he cast his glance around his impromptu posse, "would very much like to know where he's skulking." The threat was undisguised.

Luke deliberately kept quiet. He doubted even Todd had seen the worst of it.

That's right Mitchell, you fuck, walk straight into it.

“So, Summers.” Mitchell rounded on Luke now. “Where is the bastard?”

Luke burst out laughing. “Oh my God! You’re completely unbelievable!” It was unexpected and maybe they felt he should somehow be more guarded as he saw the frowns crossing faces. “You know I really don’t care a shit what you want, Mitchell. I just wish it had been me smashing Landon’s face in!”

Mitchell’s eyes bulged, and he spat vehemently. “Then you’re as much of a motherfucker as him! You both should be thrown out of school!” Others glared, too. Even Kieran looked angry

Luke could see Todd balling up for a fight, and he quickly changed his tone. There would be no need for fists. Not more than had already flown. Not today. “You’re right, you’re right—I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful in the future when you three try to stamp on my balls.”

“That was your own fault!” JJ burst out. “You fucking shouldn’t have kicked out at me! It wasn’t may fault! And look at this!" He pointed to an angry weal on his face. "Bastard!"

“Yes, I know. Like I said, I’m sorry.” Even then, Luke could see the frowns of confusion in the likes of Kieran, Matt and Chris. “I just have one question though, Johnstone. What were the three of you thinking back then when you had your hands down inside my brother’s underwear? Huh? Want to explain that, ‘cos I’m right here listening!”

Suck on that you fucking bastard!

If they hadn’t been surrounded by the noisy hum of school life, they might have heard a pin drop.

“What the hell are you talking about?” demanded Kieran. “What’s Simon got to do with this?”

“Don’t be any more of an asshole than you already are, Luke.” Matt still sounded angry. “I don’t know what you’re trying to prove, but this is crap!”

“Really?” Luke stood his ground. “Maybe you should ask your brother about that, Matt. He was there.” He’d spotted Alex Young easily enough, who, like his older brother, was half a head above his peers.

“So what’s Simon got to do with it?” Chris asked again. He sounded more careful now.

Luke was heartless as he never took his eyes off JJ. “You really think it wouldn’t bother me that you guys had my brother stuck under Landon’s crotch?”

JJ paled and licked his lips. He left it far too long before he finally muttered, “That’s got nothing to do with it.”

“So you think you can just beat the crap out of my brother, torturing him by smacking his backside until he told you what you wanted to know?”

 “For God’s sake, that wasn’t my fault!” Mitchell almost fell over himself as he backpedaled. “We were only messing. You’re blowing it out of proportion. It wasn’t anything like that!”

“You never told us that Simon was there,” Matt said. “You never said you were hitting him.” Standing close to Mitchell, his frown changed to suspicion. “You had your hands down his boxers, too?”

“Oh, for fucks sake!” Mitchell threw up his hands. “Of course I didn’t, you stupid prick!”

“So what, then?” Kieran demanded. “You’d better tell us what this is actually all about!”

 “Come on guys, this is a crock of shit…it wasn’t like you think.” JJ stuttered as eyes turned towards him. “Maybe Scott shouldn’t have grabbed Simon’s head like that, but he never meant anything by it, and he didn’t really hurt him.  We were only looking for you, Luke. It was some other kid that pansted him!”

A little more of a civil ‘Luke’ now, was it?

“So why were you looking for me?” Luke already knew the answer. “According to Simon—and plenty who were there—you’re out to put me up into a hang!”

“A hang?” Kieran’s tone was immediately angry. “What the fuck are you guys even thinking?”

“Come on, Luke.” Mitchell’s eyes flicked around, and he looked uncomfortable. “Scott just got a bit carried away. I’m sorry if your brother was upset. Honestly, we were just messing.”

 “More fool him, I say,” Todd observed, breaking into the conversation. He had an easy lopsided grin—the one that everyone tended to warm to. “Sounds to me like the asshole was being his usual idiot self; fooling around with the wrong thing and getting himself run into the wrong fist!”

If it was crafted to break the discord, it worked a treat and several of the previously irate group broke out laughing. “Come on, guys,” Todd added. “Scott’ll just have to find an icepack and get over it.”

“Well, thank God for that!” Kieran snickered as, just like that, the tension melted away. “Come on, guys, we need to move it or we’re going to be late!” He wheeled around and the herd turned to follow.

Luke didn’t miss the black looks that Mitchell sent his direction, but he didn’t care.  More important, the question for which he was still looking for an answer was—where the hell was Ryan?

* * *

Simon hefted the racket in his hand as they finished changing. The thing he really wanted to do was talk to Toby. The opportunity presented itself when Gabe finally bombed out on them, having decided he wanted to play basketball. It wasn't a surprise. If there was no field hockey, Gabe was something of a hoops freak.

"What about it, Toby?" Simon glanced at his boyfriend, meaningfully. "Do you want to play?" Despite everything, he tried to kept his voice light.

Toby seemed to read him well enough. "You know I'm totally crap at tennis!" He began to rummage through his sports bag, then looked up. "But if anyone has a spare racquet, I'll give it a shot."

"I've got a spare,” Mason offered, though he didn’t sound too excited at having Toby on the court. “Perhaps we should just play singles?”

Toby rolled his eyes, but didn't object as the four of them made their way outside and around the sports block towards the tennis courts. The Academy took its tennis seriously and, like for many areas of the curriculum, had money to invest; in this case, it could be seen in the half dozen top-notch clay courts it strutted in the school's marketing machine.

Simon and Toby drifted off to a more distant court and Simon soon had Toby lobbing balls into the air and trying to hit them. Few even made it over the net let alone into the opposing side!  Standing together just in front of the base line, they were surrounded by a dozen green tennis balls that were scattered around their side of the net.

"I'm a stupid fucking bastard! I should have been there!" Toby was still angry with himself and didn’t seem to be concentrating on the tennis at all. "And I'm really sorry about before," he added quietly and for the umpteenth time.

“Forget it. It doesn’t matter," Simon replied, relieved they were back on track.

"I don't know what came over me." Toby kicked at a ball which, like many, had totally missed his racquet and bounced on the ground. "I was just being a prick."

Simon picked up a couple of tennis balls, and tried to get Toby thinking about something else. “Don’t worry about trying to get it in the box. Just get it over the net.” Patiently, he demonstrated it again, lobbing one ball high in the air, and waiting his moment before striking it soundly. It flew over the net and dipped perfectly into the opposing service court.

"Nice serve, Summers!"

Simon and Toby turned to see Carlton watching them, both wondering how long he'd been there.

"I'm impressed! We'll make a coach out of you yet!" Carlton grinned in good humor, apparently happy at how the pair were using the lesson time. "Keep at it, Toby! You can only get better."

"Yes, Coach," both boys chimed in unison, though Toby's was a tad more sullen. The man walked on and they got back to business.

Simon retrieved a few balls from the ground and pushed them into various pockets. He handed one to Toby. “Come on, try it again—and try to relax.”

Toby stared at the ball in his hand, as if he were measuring himself against it. As he studied him, Simon knew he had questions. Toby might be sorry, but he was still frustrated by him. Despite trying to change the subject earlier, he said, "So why didn't you just tell me what was wrong, rather than blowing up at me?"

“What do you mean?”

"You never tell me anything!"

"That's not fair, I tell you lots of things!" Toby threw up the ball and surprised them both by actually hitting it.

“See, you CAN do it!" Simon grinned and stepped back. "Now try again."

He passed Toby another ball and watched him get ready as he mulled another question.

"So why don't you tell me about your other boyfriend?" he said quietly. The question had been bothering him for days. Toby threw up the ball, but didn't even attempt to hit it.

"What other boyfriend?" Toby’s eyes flicked around and seemed genuinely confused.

Simon shook his head, though he too checked around about, just to be sure they weren't getting any undue attention. "I don’t mean now, I mean before. You said that I wasn't the first..." He watched Toby's face, searching for a reaction.

That face darkened slightly. "Why does THAT matter?" Toby appeared uncomfortable, and he took his time picking up the loose tennis balls before staring away over the net.

"I dunno." Simon pursued him. "Why is it so bad that you won't you tell me?"

"I did tell you. It was a long time ago—before we came up here."


“And nothing. That’s it.”

“Toby…” Simon’s soft growl held a warning.

Toby looked across several courts to where Mason and Jacko were at it hammer and tongs. They were both good players, and neither was giving ground. Beyond them, a basketball thudded against the backboard. Toby wandered towards the net and began kicking stray balls into it so they could be more easily gathered. He continued to look uncomfortable. "Can we talk about it some other time?" he eventually muttered.

Simon's eyes narrowed. "No." There was something that wasn't right and he meant to get to the bottom of it.

"Please." Toby sounded a little desperate and, even though there was nobody nearby, he seemed daunted. "Tonight. I promise."

Simon was baffled, but knew Toby well enough to see he was really spooked by something.  And maybe Toby was right, this might not be the time or place. If it was that important, he could wait.

"Tonight then.” Simon took a deep breath and let it go—for now.

“Now," he continued, taking a stance behind Toby to guide his serving arm, "let me show you that again."

Turned away from any audience, Simon let his left hand drift across Toby's soft belly again—except this time he let it wander down over Toby’s shorts, rubbing him gently through the soft cotton. He just wanted to tell him it was okay…that they were okay. His touch was only grazing, but Toby was immediately distracted and Simon smirked as he felt his boyfriend flinch.

"Throw the ball up!" Simon instructed. This was fun!

"What the hell are you doing?"

"Nothing," Simon snickered, though he didn’t stop. "Now throw the ball in the air!"

"Si," Toby hissed. He sounded scandalized. "That's not fair!"

Simon snickered again. What a tart he'd become! A week ago, there would have been NO WAY he'd do anything like this. The thing was, he'd quickly discovered that Toby could be quite steamy, and it was JUST the kind of stunt he might pull on HIM, given the chance! He could feel Toby getting hard, but didn't continue long and finally pushed him away towards the net.

"Put that thing away! You'll have to wait till later!” Simon giggled heartlessly as Toby pulled a face. “Now, stop messing around and get over on the other side of the net and start knocking a few back!"

* * *

As Luke and his friends went into lunch after the final lesson of the morning, there was more time to catch up properly with Todd, and to find out what he’d missed first thing.

“I did try to call him last night,” Todd said as they took lunch to an empty table. He shrugged. “There was no answer.”

Luke grimaced as he remembered the previous afternoon. “I went round to see him.”

“Really? You went round there?” Todd’s eyes widened. “And…?”

“It wasn’t good.” And that wasn’t even including his broken SmartKlamp which Luke had no intention of mentioning. “I didn’t stay long.”

“He was that pissed off, then?”

Luke nodded. Remembering the smashed glass, that hardly did it justice. “What was he like this morning?”

“I dunno. He wouldn’t talk. I tried to make them put a lid on it, but you know what they’re like—the assholes were still having a go at him.” Todd took a swig of his drink. “I don’t think we can do anything but just wait for him to cool off a bit.” He started tucking into his food. “He’ll be all right. He’s not the first to be pulled up and he won’t be the last.”

Luke wasn’t so sure. What he’d seen didn’t look like ‘getting over it’. He did wonder if Ryan would turn up for lunch, but it looked like he’d skipped out again. Maybe Todd was right, and Ry just need more time—though whether the guy that used to be Luke’s best friend would ever speak to him again was another thing.

“So where’s he buggered off to, then?” demanded Ethan Parker as he and Chris pulled up chairs next to them.

“Who knows,” returned Todd, chewing stolidly and eyeing them with coolness. “It might help if you dickheads stopped being so fucking mean!”

“Aww—come on.” Ethan smirked, lifting a drink. “We’re just having a bit of fun.”

“Yeah, we’ll be finished soon,” agreed Chris, snapping the pull on a can and starting to laugh. “Just not as quickly as him!”

Ethan was in the middle of a swallow and started coughing as it went down the wrong way. “Shit!” he snorted, coughing up fizz. “You gotta admit, though, that was one almighty fucking squirt!”

Luke glared at him darkly, and would have let rip other than Simon turned up with a bunch of his friends.

“So where’s Ryan?” Gabe asked. “Did he get into trouble.”

Todd answered. “Not sure, bud. Perhaps he broke his hand on that dickhead’s face. We haven’t seen him since.”

Luke could see that Simon seemed in good spirits. At least that was a relief. It also didn’t take long before it seemed everyone knew that the ‘Avenging Alexis’ had floored Landon, as the jungle drums beat with more than usual enthusiasm.

Later that afternoon, Luke was relieved when the end of school bell finally rang out. He and Simon along with Toby waited to pick up their normal afternoon lift. Not long after they got out to the parking lot, Luke spotted their van pull in the long line of cars pulling in for pickups. The parking lot was a mass of young people waiting for lifts or heading for their own cars, and all of them keener to get out than they had been to get in.

It was one of the many things that had felt strange when they first arrived in the country. Back in the UK, when the last bell went, he either ran for the No. 15c bus, or walked home.

Hardly anyone walked anywhere here—other than from the parking lot to the door. It was just how it was. There were few bus services, and nobody wanted to walk ten miles. So, like themselves, most their age were waiting, watching the stream of vehicles coming and going, and staring at their watches hoping it would be their turn soon.

It was hot, and Simon and Toby sat themselves down on the curbside. Glancing at the pair, Luke could see they were sitting close, but not too close. Hands resting on the curb, he suspected that they were close enough that their little fingers were just touching. They were talking quietly. They seemed sorted.

But him…?

What was he going to do?

He assumed Ryan was at home. On a sweltering day like today, it would have been a no-brainer to go around and throw himself into the Alexis pool.

But look at how well THAT had gone yesterday!

Luke watched as his mum pulled into a nearby parking bay. He waved to her as she got out to slide open the side door for them. Simon and Toby heaved themselves up from the sidewalk and lumbered across the tarmac with their backpacks. As they got in, Simon appeared to be asking their mum something, and she nodded her head.

Luke picked up his own backpack and followed. He swished the side door door closed for the other two and pulled himself into the front alongside his mum.

"Have a good day, boys?" It was the normal patter, but Lucy added, “Are we giving Ryan a ride today?” It came with the kind of look that indicated she knew things were not right.

Luke shook his head. “No, I think he's sorted." Lie or not, he didn't want to get into any of it.

She nodded and seemed satisfied.

“Fair enough," she said as they pulled off, "but I’m baking a fish pie and it looks like Simon has wangled going up to Toby’s for supper tonight. Why don't you give Ryan a call and see if you can tempt him into coming to help us eat it?”

He could have hugged her. It was his mum at her best, doing good things to help people and try to make things better for them. He even suspected that the idea of inviting Ryan around had been the reason she'd let Simon out of supper so easily.  Pie or not, she knew something fishy was up!

He sighed quietly. If only it was going to be that easy. As it was, the likelihood that Ryan would accept such an offer right now was zero to none. Still, in the van, the mood seemed a lot better than it had been the previous afternoon.

"Ryan's coming round to supper, then?" Simon's voice was inquisitive as it drifted from the back.

"Maybe." Luke tried to sound positive, but he doubted it. He’d have to come up with something plausible to tell their mum when it got thrown back in his face.

"Don't forget I'm taking you clothes shopping later, Luke," Lucy said, glancing towards him. "We can go after supper if you want. Ryan will probably have to get off then, anyway."

Simon seemed satisfyingly nettled. "You're taking Luke shopping? What for?"

Luke couldn't help gleefully rubbing it in, and twisted around. "Didn't she tell you? She’s buying me a whole bunch of stuff. I think you're getting all my cast-offs."

His mum interrupted before Simon could get wound up. "Don't listen to him sweetheart. He's just buying some underwear, and he needs some more tees, that's all."

MUM! Luke cringed as it got turned back on him.

Now it was Simon's turn leer, and Luke shifted uncomfortably as, through the mirror, Simon and Toby looked bemused at the revelation. Luke saw Simon whisper something to Toby, and then Simon said. "I could do with some stuff too, Mum."

"What kind of stuff," she asked.

"I dunno. Clothes kind of stuff..." Simon became evasive.

She could see Simon in the rearview mirror. "Well, tell me what you need," she said, rolling her eyes patiently, "and I'll get it for you."

Simon was quiet for a moment, and then, "Why can't I buy my own things? Toby does."

The expression on her face said it all. Teenage boys!

"Well if you're that keen, Luke and I are going to the mall straight after dinner."


"No, next week...of course tonight!"

Luke grinned, wondering what Simon was up to.

Simon pulled a face. "But I'm out tonight."

"Then you'll have to do without then, won't you!" she returned testily and with impeccable logic. She changed the subject. “Boys, I just need to swing by the bank after we’ve dropped Toby.”

“Awww, Mum…you’ll be ages!” Simon immediately made his feelings known. “Can’t you drop us off first?”

She rolled her eyes, but didn’t push.

After they deposited Toby at his place, she made the slightly longer detour to their house and let them out. In the front door, Simon rushed upstairs to go get changed. Luke suspected he would be on his bike in a flash!

Simon and Toby. Boyfriends.

It was still something Luke hadn’t had time to totally come to terms with, especially when there was so much else going on. He made a note to himself that he should sit down with Si soon to talk. In the meantime, filling a glass of Coke from the bottle in the fridge, he took it outside with him onto the back porch to try to figure out the best approach to get Ryan to come for supper.

Should he call? Would it be better to go and try to talk to him face to face again? Then Luke froze, and none of it seemed relevant when, passing out onto the deck, he found Ryan sitting in one of the seats.

The only thing he could think to say as his mouth dropped open was to hold up his glass and ask, "Do you want a drink?"

Waiting on the long sofa, Ryan appeared tense, though he took a deep breath, and very slowly let it out. "I thought you'd never ask," he murmured. A defeated smile stole across his face.