As Simon freewheeled down the hill, he hurt. He felt every bump that passed through the painfully narrow bike seat up into his backside where Toby had...
It had hurt bad. He hadn't been ready, and he tried not to think about it, burying it under a furious anger. His groin hurt, too—an unrelenting, aching throb where his foreskin had been wrenched back. Yet those discomforts were nothing compared to what was going on inside his head; a maelstrom of confusion and conflict, pain and paralysis, all wrapped in an overwhelming sense of outrage.
Gritting his teeth, he got home. By the lack of their dad’s car on the drive, and after a cursory search of downstairs, he guessed he was the only one in the house. He shuffled up the stairs to his room and closed the door, then shut himself in the bathroom.
Having stopped moving and trying to put a distance between himself and the thing he'd run from, an uneasy feeling crept over him. He felt hot, and as if having tasted something bitter, his stomach turned uneasily on a mixture of pot roast and Yorkshire pudding. It was only when he was in the shower, trying to scrub away the sense of wretchedness that was creeping up on him, that he knew something was wrong...really wrong. And it had nothing to do with the fact that Toby had forced his way into him.
The hot water sprayed onto his now soft penis, yet hurt with a burning discomfort to the point that he could hardly bare it. He stared at it in dismay as he dried off. As he had in those immediate minutes following the biting sting when Toby had stripped him back, he continued to look somewhat similar to the many friends he knew who were unhooded.
He'd been so cautious, so fucking painstakingly careful over the last couple of months to do exactly as the doctor had explained. No more and no less; stretching his foreskin to the point of feeling the tightness and no further, retracting as far as it would go without risking stripping it back in the wrong way and at the wrong time. All that work stolen away by fucking Toby Skeritt!
Not only had that tight band of connective tissue been snapped back over the wide ridge of his glans, but it had contracted in place, leaving a sensitive head that he'd never seen before, uncovered. Worse, some swelling had begun, raising a painful band of inflammation in the skin around his shaft. It was really painful to touch. He pushed at it as firmly as he could to try to get it to snap back over his head, but it wasn’t moving.
He tried to pad himself dry with the towel, but it was way too sore.
Maybe it just needed to rest?
It joined a whole host of crises and, as he’d done with the rest, he tried to bury his head in the sand and hoped they would go away. Instead, he burst into tears, overcome by a shuddering sense of failure and self-pity that no amount of water would wash off.
Changing into less tainted clothes, he hobbled downstairs, and put the old ones in the wash basket. Then, hiding in his bedroom, he tried to sleep with the hope that when he awoke, he would discover it was just a bad dream. But, however much he tried, sleep remained far off. Instead, he tried to read a book, even look at schoolwork; anything to ignore the developing pain. The pain he was so ashamed of; the sex that shouldn't have happened; the mess he had no idea how to tell anyone about.
How he got through the next three hours curled up on his bed with books, he had no idea. Towards the end, each heartbeat became a waking agony and he knew he was in trouble.
* * *
Luke was having a pretty good day with just him and his mum and dad.
The three of them had gone out to Longhorn for lunch. He was glad Stacey was serving, and she too seemed to have got over the awkwardness that had challenged Sunday lunch restaurant options for months. They'd talked on and off, and she'd joined in as he'd given his mum and dad a brief summary of the previous day's outing at the Quinces.
With Simon out to lunch at the Skeritts—and presumably there most of the afternoon—and with Ryan on his way to the tennis camp, they'd gone from the restaurant for a mooch around a few used car lots. They seemed to have nothing better to do, and Luke had dropped enough hints! He needed a car!
He’d done plenty of research. He was good at that, and had a fair idea of what his parents could be talked into, and he doubted it would be a Jag! Over the months, he’d also studied the variety of student cars that filled the school parking lot each day. Not that many sported high-end trucks or top of the range sports cars. Not even Ryan had anything like that; the well-worn F150 his parents had given him for his birthday was five years old.
In fact, most teen first-time drivers tended to be given second hand cars. There was no shame in it, and there were plenty of those older—and safely practical—Volvos, Subarus and VW Golfs in the used car lots that afternoon.
His mum and dad were being surprisingly pragmatic about it. Maybe they had lived long enough in this country to know that buying your kid a car was a choice that had to be made. You either spent the rest of your life ferrying your teenagers miles every day in a country where buses hardly existed, or you bought them a set of safe, reliable wheels and let them take themselves.
As an added bonus, Luke would be able to take Simon to school every day, and in a couple of months, he could even take one non-family member, like Toby, as well. It would make it easier on everyone, he’d said, piling on the not-so-subtle justifications.
Well, something had stuck, as here they were, actually in a real life car lot, and not just browsing online. Rows of cars were lined up, many of them gleaming and screaming 'buy me!' Surely there had to be something he would like and that they'd let him have. The second part was the real question.
“What about this?” his dad suggested, peering through the window of a solid looking, but rather old BMW.
Luke shook his head. BMW was a great name, but that one looked like a tank that had seen far too many battles.
“I preferred the Volvo,” he said again. That car had seen a few years, too, though nowhere near as many as the battered BMW. The metallic grey paintwork had been great and it was only just over budget...and a still lot cheaper than the sporty Mazda from the last car lot.
A pity, 'cos he quite fancied the Mazda.
It was just Luke and his dad as they wandered around. Lucy had walked the first couple of lots trying to be helpful, but it wasn't really her thing, so they'd left her at the Starbucks across the street with a latte. Leaving the BMW, they went back to the Volvo. The more he saw it, the more he liked it. The door was unlocked, so he sat in the driver’s seat, feeling the comfort and appreciating the neat trim.
"Hi, fellas!" One of the salesmen was hovering not far off, and he drew in, slipping easily into his sales patter. "Lots of interest in that one!"
Luke covered a smirk. He'd heard this enough times that he'd discovered there was lots of interest in almost any car you looked at!
The salesman studied him up with a practiced eye. "First set of wheels?"
Luke nodded and the guy brightened. "Well, bud, you can't go wrong with a Volvo!" He went on to try to convince them, talking about the car's history, its safety record and technical specs. He knew his stuff and Luke was relieved he was professional enough not to start going on about it being some kind of babe magnet!
A Volvo was not a babe magnet!
On the other hand, Luke didn't particularly care how many mpg it got. It was wheels. And with paintwork like that, he could do a lot worse! Even his dad had appeared impressed.
The salesman angled in for the kill. "If you've got your license on you, why don't y'all take it out for a spin?"
Oh hell yes!
"Wish we could, but..." His dad stepped in quickly. "I think your mum's had her fill for one day, Luke. Why don't you and I come back tomorrow after I'm back from work?"
Luke pulled a face. What if it wasn’t here tomorrow? There was a lot of interest in it after all!
The salesman took it in his stride. It was a big lot and they obviously sold a lot of cars, so maybe he could afford to play a waiting game. On the other hand it didn't appear that he thought it was over quite yet.
“Tell you what,” he said, handing Geoff his card. “Why not take it home and see if you like it. Just put a deposit down, and if you like it, we'll apply it to the final payment.”
Luke was already to bite the guy’s hand off, but before he could get a word in, his dad shook his head and said. “No, that’s not going to work, I’m afraid.”
The salesman seemed unperturbed, and probed, “Okay…so what would work?”
“The thing is, we’ve been around half a dozen lots, and there’ve been plenty of cars we could have taken on trial.” Geoff shrugged. “They’re all good, and I’m sure one is, too, but that’s not really enough to go through all the paperwork, just for a test drive.”
Luke sensibly kept his mouth shut and the expression of disbelief off his face. What half dozen car lots?
The sales guy looked a little more wary, and said, “So, assuming you like this one, what would work with y'all?” He seemed to appreciate who it was that he was really bargaining with.
“Straight up? Take four hundred bucks off, and we can make a deal.”
Four hundred bucks? Luke groaned inwardly. Was his dad completely nuts? That was never going to happen, even if it did bring them under budget. He would have asked for a hundred and accepted fifty.
The salesman appeared unsympathetic at first, but seemed to be pondering it. “I can go up to two hundred, but that’s as high as my boss will let me go on this one. It’s a take it or leave it, I’m afraid.”
We’ll take it, Luke screamed, silently.
Maybe the salesman could hear him as he turned his attention back to Luke and said, “Fancy taking her for a spin?”
“Tell you what,” said Geoff, interrupting again before Luke even had time to start drooling. “Two hundred’s not really going to be enough on this one. Why don’t you go check inside again?”
Before the salesman could respond, Geoff added, “Luke, why don’t you run over to Mum and tell her we’ll not be too long. It might be worth just taking it out for ten minutes to see how she runs.” To the salesman, he said. “If we like it and you can sweeten the deal, then we’ll buy. If not, then—” Geoff shrugged and left it hanging there.
YES! Holy crap! Luke already knew he was going to buy a car! Or at least he hoped he was. The salesman seemed happy enough with that, too. After sorting out some details, they walked out of the office with the keys.
“How do you do that?” Luke muttered as he got behind the wheel.
His dad chuckled. “You don’t think we just sit there all day at the bank and count money do you? Try doing this every day with millions!”
After a test drive that took considerably longer than ten minutes, and felt like a dream to Luke, they made it back to the car lot. The salesman was waiting. “The boss said we can go up to two-fifty,” he offered as they handed back the keys.
Geoff didn’t even blink. “Make it three-fifty,” he said, “And you have yourself a deal.”
Oh my God – not again! Luke tried not to blink either.
“I don’t think—”
“Go ask him. It’s still a great sale, and my son wants the car.” The keys dangled between them, indicating it could still go either way. The salesman hurried away. It took longer this time, but he came back with a grin plastered on his face.
“You must’a caught the boss in a good mood today. He’d never usually go more than two hundred off a car like this one, but I told him it was a guy's first set of wheels, and he's over from England! You should have seen his face! He just loves y'all's castles, so he said he’ll meet you half way and take off three hundred!” He chuckled and his good mood hadn’t abated. “Now why don’t we seal the deal on this puppy—I’m getting too old for all this running back and to!”
Geoff smiled, and from his dad’s satisfied expression, Luke could tell that he was ready to do a deal, too. His dad cast him a glance and asked, “You’re sure this is the one you want?”
Luke nodded hungrily. The boss could have the hots for the Queen for all he cared if it meant he was getting this car!
Geoff reached out his hand to shake on it. “Okay, then we’ve got a deal.”
It took almost an hour to fill in the paperwork. Seeing Luke’s excitement, his mum took it well and seemed happy to wait it out, though he balked at her suggestion that perhaps his dad should drive it home!
“Come on, Luce, let’s leave him to it,” Geoff said, as enthusiastically determined as Luke was. “He’s going to be the one driving it, after all. We might as well let him get started.”
So Luke followed them off the lot with a belly full of butterflies, scared shitless that he was going to mess it up. Still, by the time they got home, the butterflies were gone. His dad pulled his own car alongside the minivan on their double drive, and Luke pulled up behind him with the confidence of a veteran.
The first thing he really wanted to do was take it out again for a real long spin and find out what it could do, and anyway, he need to fuel it up and check the tires and oil. After that, he’d bring it back and give it a good wash and wax.
Did they have any car wax in the garage, or should he swing by Walmart?
Before heading away, he decided to pop inside to have a pee and get something to drink. He grinned to himself. He doubted Simon was home, but if he was, maybe he’d go have a quick gloat, too. Christ, Si was going to be so jealous!
Surprisingly, his brother was already back from Toby’s. He found Simon in his room, lying on his bed, immersed in a book. Nonchalant, Luke leaned against the doorframe of his brother’s bedroom and smirked.
“Wanna see my new car?” He fully expected Si to jump off the bed and be picking up his jaw from the floor. There was no answer and Luke was fairly convinced he was talking to thin air. Simon remained faced away towards the wall. An open book lay in front on him.
"Hey! Deaf lugs!" Luke raised his voice. "Didn't you hear me? I said I just got a car!"
At that, Simon turned, and Luke was immediately shocked by the pale, chalk-white face. Beads of perspiration covered the knotted brow.
"Si?" Luke frowned. "Are you all right?" Even while asking, he knew he wasn't.
Simon's face trembled and then collapsed. The most terrible wail broke from deep inside him; it was a sound that cut right to Luke’s core. Simon had his hands covering his groin as he cried. “It hurts...IT HURTS..." It seemed all the words he could manage as the wail quickly developed into a terrible scream. Within moments, there was thudding on the stairs and their mum broke in through the door.
"Luke! What have you done?" The tension in her voice was high, but Luke was too panicked by the harrowing sight in front of him to worry that she was being unjust.
"Nothing! I just asked him if he wanted to see my new car and he—" his mind was garbled "—he said it hurts and started screaming!"
"Simon, what's wrong?" Reducing the distance between herself and her son, Lucy lowered herself onto the bed alongside where Simon was now sitting up and holding his middle. It was quite hard to understand or interpret anything that erupted out of the disjointed, incoherent stream of words, other than pain.
"Sorry...a mistake..." Simon rocked in some personal anguish, shouting now. "IT HURTS. MAKE IT STOP—"
"Make what stop, sweetheart." The tone in his mum's voice was becoming as charged as Simon's, her face confused, becoming fearful. She raised her voice. "Luke...get Dad! NOW!"
He didn't need any second demand, and was already turning for the door when his dad burst in.
"What's wrong?" Geoff demanded, his eyes flicking around the room for clues.
"I don't know," Lucy replied. Her voice was tightly clipped, and she stared at Simon, lifting his head as she moved position and knelt in front of him.
"Simon. Look at me! You have to tell me what's wrong! What's hurting? I can't help you until you tell me!" Her voice was rising in volume, and Luke could tell she was scared, too. That frightened him almost as much as Simon did.
"IT HURTS..." Simon's hands were wrapped around his middle.
"Appendix?" Geoff muttered, pushing by Luke to get closer.
"Where, Simon?" That his mum barked was probably more a reflection of her increasing worry than of any anger. "Point to where!"
Simon wailed. "I'm sorry...I didn't mean to..."
"You have to say!" This time, her voice carried frustration mixed with anger that came out of fear. "WHERE!"
Simon took his hands away from his middle, sobbed, and pointed right to his groin, and sobbed, "Here."
"No!" For whatever reason, Simon shook his head. "I can't..."
Luke didn't expect that his mum would accept that, and he wasn't wrong. Her voice was hard. "Show me. Now."
She stood and forced Simon to stand, too, and Luke flinched at the renewed pain on his brother's face at the abrupt movement. Lucy started to try to undo the button of his jeans, but Simon pushed her hands away. "Geoff...hold his hands," she barked, unwilling to be denied.
Luke's dad didn't hesitate, either. He stood behind Simon, quickly grasping his wrists and holding them out of the way against his chest—and probably stopping him from collapsing. As the sound of wailing grew to an agonized scream, Lucy peeled down Simon's jeans and boxers.
Luke said it for them all. "Oh, fucking hell!"
It was one thing to see such a picture in a manicured booklet, completely another to see the grotesquely inflamed mess that masked what should have been a healthy penis. Angry and swollen, it had to be an agony of fire!
The 'how did this happen' and 'why didn't you tell us' seemed completely irrelevant. Luke even knew exactly what it was—paraphimosis—but none of that mattered to his mum as she snapped. "Geoff, we need to get him to hospital. NOW!"
Their dad didn’t need any further persuasion and moved swiftly. With Simon's jeans and boxers still at his knees, he scooped him up in his arms and bundled him towards the door. Good in a crisis, he took charge, and his voice remained calm and focused as he passed by Luke.
"Luke, go and get a towel," Geoff said, adding, "Luce, you get the keys. We'll take the van. You take him in the back."
It moved fast. By the time Luke got to the bottom of the stairs, having grabbed a towel from their bathroom, his mum appeared from the kitchen. She stopped and threw the keys towards him.
"Help Dad get him into the back of the van," she said quickly as the keys landed on the carpet. "I'm just getting my phone."
Luke scooped the keys off the floor and hurried out to the drive. His dad was already waiting by the van with Simon still crying in his arms. Luke worked the lock and slid open the rear door. Between them, they eased Simon onto the back seat where he lay, bawling. Luke covered him with the towel as his mum came flying out the door gripping her handbag. She went straight in the back. He took the front, and his dad backed them out of the drive. They didn't even stop to lock up!
They cleared the subdivision and the questions started.
"What happened?" Lucy demanded. She directed the question towards the front of the van, not really expecting anything from Simon.
"I think it's paraphimosis, Mum." Luke twisted his head in time to catch a small cry from his brother as the van bumped over a pothole. "It looked like that, anyway." His brother was sprawled on his side on the long seat, his head resting on her knees, whimpering.
"Careful, hon!" Lucy muttered as she stroked Simon to soothe him. Luke didn't think his dad could really help it, but everyone was tense.
"Paraphimosis?" Geoff shot a look over his shoulder as he pulled onto the main highway. He put his foot down. "That's what Tiberius warned us about, wasn't it?"
"You knew? He told you about this?" The implicit accusation in Lucy’s voice was unmistakable.
Geoff didn't rise to it. "We don't really know what happened yet, hon."
Or why Simon kept it hidden like he did, Luke thought to himself.
Why would he do that?
Reaching over Simon to the floor in front of her, Lucy lifted her bag, extracting both her mobile and her diary. The former she rested on the seat, the latter she started going through, examining various pieces of paper and contact cards that were stuffed between the pages. Still twisted around in the front seat so he could keep an eye on his brother, Luke saw her eyes light up.
"Here it is," she said.
"Here's what, hon?" Geoff glanced up at the rearview mirror.
"Jonathan Tiberius' card." She looked satisfied. "I knew there was an emergency contact number for the clinic on it."
Geoff frowned. "On a Sunday night?"
She ignored him and started punching numbers. Even though it was near her ear, Luke could hear the ring tone chime three times. Then, by the look on her face, he could tell it had gone to answerphone. She appeared frustrated as she listened.
"In an emergency, go to the hospital?" She was repeating what she’d just heard. "What the bloody use is that?" she added, swearing angrily.
Luke grimaced. Hearing his mum swear wasn't that nice.
"There's his mobile here, too," she said, turning over the card. She sounded determined. "I'm going to try that." She tapped in the numbers and waited until it was answered.
Luke half expected that his mum would be greeted by another answerphone message, but her eyes narrowed.
"Hello?" She put her finger in her other ear. "Dr. Tiberius?" There was a pause as he saw the relief touch her face. "Jonathan. It's Lucy Summers here."
The conversation from Luke’s perspective was a little one sided, but he tried to fill in the gaps as his mum made her best effort to describe the crisis they were facing.
"Tell him it's paraphimosis," he whispered, frustrated with her lack of knowledge as she stumbled around the problem.
Or give the fucking phone to me!
Lucy waved him off, but then said, "Luke thinks it's something to do with paraphimosis." She listened. "Yes, he's here in the van." She listened some more, and then stretched out her hand. "He wants to talk to you."
Christ! Suddenly Luke felt tongue-tied.
"Hello...Luke?" The voice in his ear was calmly professional, but sharply direct. It got straight to the point. "What makes you think it's paraphimosis?"
Luke described the symptoms as carefully and fully as he could.
"Do you know how long since he did it?"
"I've no idea, sir. He was fine this morning, so sometime during the day."
"Mmmm..." There was silence, then, "May I speak with your mother again?"
"He wants you," Luke said, passing the phone back to his mum.
She listened and then said, "Geoff, where are we heading?"
"North Fulton," Geoff replied as, yet again, they pulled up into a line of almost-stationary traffic. The flow of cars was frustratingly slow. He’d tried to pass where he could, but yet again came up short on a light as it turned red on them.
Lucy relayed the message. "We’re heading for North Fulton.”
She listened to his reply, then said, “Geoff....how far to Northside? He thinks we’d be better there.”
“Northside?” Geoff appeared to do some quick calculations. “Actually, at this rate, not much further. Why?”
Lucy ignored the question. “Yes Jonathan…we can cut over to Northside.” The tone of here voice made it clear it was already a done deal.
“Then we need to do a U-turn,” Geoff muttered. It was probably totally illegal, but he spun round in the middle of the road and started heading back the other direction. Immediately they made better speed as the traffic was lighter. "At this time of day on a Sunday, it’s probably quicker once we’re on the 400. Tell him we'll be there in twenty!" He put his foot down as they sped down the highway.
Lucy spoke a few more words and then disconnected the call. "He's coming up from the south side, Newnan way, so it might take him a while to get there," she said. "But he's going to call ahead and make sure they're waiting for us. He said go straight to the ER. They'll know what to do."
"Can't ask for more than that," Geoff muttered, driving a hell of a lot faster than they had when they’d motored back from the car lot. They reached the 400 and cut down onto the southbound on-ramp, building up speed immediately.
The traffic wasn't heavy that Sunday evening heading into the city, but it still took them the best part of twenty-five minutes before they finally pulled into the Northside Hospital parking lot. The journey had been horrendous. Feeling totally helpless, every cry that Simon uttered made Luke want to burst into tears. Other than that, they made the journey in silence, though the tight look on his mum's face was just as painful.
Pulling up right outside the main entrance to the Emergency Center, it was harder to get Simon out of the car than it had been slotting him in. Even in half an hour, he seemed to have deteriorated badly. Pale and sweaty he seemed in agony. Still covered by a towel, they lifted him out.
“Go!” Luke muttered. He held out his hand for the keys. “I’ll park.”
In fact, an opportune space opened up quite close. Slamming the van door, he hurried inside. He spotted them immediately. His dad, still carrying Simon, hung in the background, and his mum was at the desk.
"But we were told to meet Dr. Tiberius here," Luke heard her say. "My son needs help! Now!" She sounded frustrated, as the receptionist didn’t seem to get it, and Lucy opened her mouth to continue, when she was abruptly interrupted. A doctor appeared at her side.
She nodded and it went fast. A trolley appeared, and Simon was bundled onto it. Moving swiftly but with practiced care, they took him to one of the lifts, leaving the three of them alone. Luke felt desperate, and his mum began to cry, but there was nothing else they could do but go back to the desk and complete the paperwork.