An English Teen,
Circumcised in the USA

by Riley Jericho

Going Nowhere

It was only with the tapping on his bedroom door that Luke woke from a heavy slumber. With so much buzzing through his head the night before, it had taken a while to get to sleep, but once he had, that was it; dead to the world. Even when his dad popped his head around the door, he could have happily stayed a lot longer.


Luke sat up and yawned. "What time is it?" He stretched and tried to get his brain into gear.

"Seven forty-five. I was planning to get off at eight," his dad said. In his hand he carried a mug of what smelled like coffee.  "Do you still want to come?"

"Of course I'm coming!" Luke stifled another yawn. "Can I just get a quick shower—and is that for me?"

His dad took a provocative sip. "Nope...but there's fresh in the pot if you get a move on. I'm just going to pack some things for Simon." With that, he pulled the door too.

Luke lay there for a moment, collecting his thoughts, then burst into action. There were places to be and—he admitted to himself with an enthusiastic grin—people to see! The shower was quick, but the dressing took longer as he tried to convince himself he didn't want to look 'uncool' if Elliott Carter happened to turn up that day. The guy wasn't the only one who could dress well!

He opted for a simple tee and jeans, with a pair or boxers that he knew looked cool, even if nobody else but him would see them. By the time he got downstairs, his dad was already champing at the bit, so Luke poured the coffee into a travel mug, and grabbed a couple of iced Cinnabons from a tray in the fridge. They were nicer warmed, but it was already ten past eight. He'd done his best!

He held a set of keys in his hand. “Can we take my car?” Even with Simon at the hospital, he was keen to get behind the wheel of his new Volvo. If his dad said no, he contemplated driving himself there, just for the hell of it.

His dad rolled his eyes, but got it. "Sure. I don't see why not. I've got to have someone to ferry me around when I'm old and past it."

"Now that you're old and past it, you mean?" Luke smirked and headed for the door.

It was bright but a little cool out on the driveway, and he was glad he'd opted for jeans as he slipped into the driver’s seat. His dad tossed a large sports bag onto the back seat and they set off. Right into Monday morning traffic!

"Dad?" Luke took a quick bite of his second Cinnabon while they waited at another set of lights.


The lights changed, and he slipped neatly from out behind an old van, speeding ahead of the block of traffic. The turn onto the 400 wasn't far now. "What do you think happened? With Si?"

"Beats me." His dad didn't need to ask what he was referring to. "I got the impression that he seemed to be on top of the whole stretching thing."

"Me too. Hopefully he'll tell us." Perhaps it was a bit cheeky, but he pushed his way into a space a long way up into the line of traffic that was slowly merging down into the freeway. There were a few hard looks, but he ignored them.

"You shouldn't really do that."

"You do!" His tone was testy. "You really want to waste time in a line?" His car, his rules! There was no come back, so he guessed he'd made his point. There was a pause in the conversation while he pulled out onto the freeway.

"He knew about the dangers as well as we did!" his dad returned to the prior topic, sounding frustrated. "Maybe it was a mistake. Perhaps mum was right and we should have just got it sorted, there and then at the clinic?"

Moving at what he felt was far too low a speed in a lane chock-full of Monday traffic, Luke took a sip of coffee and shook his head. "Come on. You know that was never going to happen."

"Maybe." His dad grimaced and through the hardening tone, Luke could hear the self-recrimination. "But you can bet that if we knew that it would end up like yesterday, I wouldn't have given in so easily."

"Nobody could know that." Luke offered the beaker to his dad. "Want some?"

The hot drink seemed to settle his dad and he shrugged. "Well it's done now anyway," he said as Luke switched lanes, making better speed at last. "I can tell you—I don't want to have to go through that again!"

Go through that again? It struck Luke that, when it came to foreskin problems, his dad was the only one left in the family even remotely in the frame, but it was probably the wrong time for that kind of humor. But, his dad was right: done it was. And whose fault was it? Certainly not his dad's. Maybe Si's, maybe nobody's. Maybe it was just one of those things?

As the 400 approached the 285 perimeter, traffic snarled up again. His dad's mobile chirped and Geoff studied the screen as he answered. "It's Mum again....hello, Hun..."

"Tell her we're stuck in traffic near the perimeter."

"Did you sleep okay? Hang on, I'll put you on speaker." Geoff located the speaker button on the screen of the clever little iPhone, tapped it, and held up the device between them. "Are you there?"

"Yep, I'm here." His mum sounded a little tinny, but Luke warmed as he heard her voice.

"Hi, Mum! How's Simon?"

"Still asleep. I came over at seven."

"We're just coming up to the 285 and should be there soon," said Geoff, taking over again. "Have you eaten? Anything we can get you?"

"I could kill for a coffee right now," came the reply. "Do you have some things for him?"

"Yep, all here," said Geoff. The outside lane began to shift and Luke gunned into it. "I've got some fresh clothes for you too."

"Oh, you are a saint!" She didn't hide the relief in her voice.

"We should be there in ten, tops."

"Okay, Hon. See you soon. Love you." She broke the connection.

Luke studied the fuel gauge, which had drifted closer to the empty line. "I'm gonna need some gas soon. I'll drop you off first if you want?" Might as well do it now, and he'd noticed a station not far from the hospital the previous evening.

"You've got enough on you?"

Luke nodded. "A bit." Fifteen bucks—most of which was his dad's change from the previous day—would have to do for now, and he decided he should have listened more closely to the 'miles per gallon' patter that the salesman had gone through. Fuel prices had soared the last couple of months, and they were now over four dollars a gallon!

Christ - fifteen bucks wasn't going to go far!

 He couldn't really complain, though, as his mum and dad were being quite generous. They were paying the insurance, oil and repairs if needed, and were upping his allowance to cover fuel for what they would have had to spend driving him and Simon around.

Ten minutes later they arrived at the hospital, and he pulled into the parking lot to let his dad out. Leaning back through the passenger door, his dad reached into his wallet and pulled out three twenties. "Here you go. This should get you started.” He rolled his eyes. “Just don’t tell your mum I’ve become a softy!”

“Thanks, Dad!” Surprised, but grateful, Luke stuffed the notes into his pocket and drove away.

It wasn’t far to the gas station, which was busy that time of the morning, and he had to wait for a pump to become free. He got out, hoping he'd remembered correctly which side the cap was, to be greeted by the heady smell of gas as he went to prepay. Returning, he jammed in the nozzle to fill his very first tank.

He was watching the counter climb rapidly past fifteen bucks, when he was distracted by a, "Hey there!"

There were plenty of Chevy trucks on the road, so he'd thought nothing of the one that had parked alongside a nearby pump on the busy forecourt. That was until the passenger side window slid down and a familiar voice got his attention. Luke's eyes flicked over the roof of his Volvo across the lane and he grinned, getting a boost that beat multiple cups of strong coffee!

“Nice wheels!” Elliott looked bright and breezy that morning, and cracked a wide smile as he jumped down from the Carter's Tahoe.

“Hey, Elliott!” The nozzle in Luke's tank continued to pump gas as Elliott threaded through the waiting cars, and Luke smirked. "Are you stalking me?"

Behind him as he crossed the adjacent island, the Chevy’s back window slid down with a hum and the face of a young girl peered out, and she demanded, “Who’s that!”

“Just a friend, Natty," called back Elliott as he strolled across the lane. He reached the Volvo. “I saw this on your drive last night. I guess it’s yours then?”

Past Elliott’s sister, Luke could see Rose, and he smiled and waved. “It gets me around,” he said, playing down on the fact that he’d only got the car the day before. Nonchalant, he leaned against the paintwork, hoping to make it look like he’d negotiated a gas station a gazillion times before.

Elliott scanned the vehicle. “Can you take anyone yet?”

“Afraid not. I only got my license in March,” Luke replied, subtly adding to the idea that he’d had the car for months. “My six months isn’t up until late September.”

He watched the dial spin round, quickly chewing up the sixty bucks his dad had given him. How many gallons did this thing take! “How about you?”

“Actually I’ve been driving for a year already,” said Elliott. “I turned seventeen a couple of weeks back. “I got a little Mazda.”

Luke frowned. A year? How could that be? “But I thought you said you were just starting as a junior this year?”

“I am.” Elliott chuckled and seemed at ease with the dilemma. He leaned against the car too, happy to stand and chat. “It’s complicated!”

Luke shook his head in bemusement. “Everything’s complicated with you!” The auto cut-off kicked in, and he glanced at the counter to check the damage. At least there would be some change!

 Elliott went on to explain. “Like I said, I was home schooled most of my life. We came back to the States three years or so ago, but I was having a few problems and lost quite a lot of schooling. Mom and Dad talked it through with the school and everyone agreed it would be better to drop me back a year.” He shrugged. “I didn’t really care. I didn’t know anyone anyway.”

Luke sat on the temptation to ask ‘what problems’, and instead, clunked the nozzle back into its holster. At the same time, Benedict Carter surfaced from behind the Chevy from where Luke assumed he’d been fueling too. He waved. “Morning, Mr. Carter."

“Hey there, Luke! Long time no see!” Benedict’s eyes flicked into the car. “By yourself today?”

“I dropped Dad off at the hospital. He’s already there.”

“Excellent. I brought a Gunners DVD he might like to see.” Carter pulled himself into the Chevy and peered though the open passenger window. “Are you coming, Elli?”

Elliott nodded, and headed back to their Tahoe. He jumped back into the passenger seat and called through the open window as they pulled away. “See you there!”

Luke watched the big car go, wondering how much it took to fill that beast!

* * *>

Light was pouring into the ward by the time Simon surfaced; he was dry mouthed and had that disjointed feeling of not knowing where he was, or why he was there.

It didn't last long.

"Hello, sleepy head..."

The gentle familiarity of his mum's voice brought everything back with a rush—the memories supported by a renewed throbbing in his groin. More localized this time, he grimaced to the feel of a tight stinging sensation around his shaft.

For the briefest of moments, he was unbelievably relieved she was there. He wanted to reach out for a hug, even tell her how he felt, but paused. The curtain was gone, and a head peered from behind where she was sitting—with a face that grinned and declared, "Hi, I'm Sam!"

"Sweetheart, this is Sam," said his mum, sitting back so that he could get a proper look. "His brother, Elliott, is a friend of Luke's."

Simon rubbed his eyes. As an explanation, none of it really made any sense and he'd certainly never heard of either of those names before. He retreated from the hug. "What time is it?" His voice still sounded dry and raspy.

"Nearly nine. You slept long, but not to worry, you're still in time for a little breakfast!" She sounded fresh, a lot less forced than the previous night, as if she was sure everything would be all right now.

He shook his head. He didn't want breakfast. The momentary relief that he wasn’t alone had passed. He didn't want anything.

"Are you going home today, too?" It was Sam again, pushing around Simon's mum. "Becks said you might be..."

"Just give us a moment Sam." Even at less than a hundred percent, Simon could hear the testiness in her voice.

"Oh...sure..." Sam didn't seem to be put out, and grinned as he went back to his Sony PSP.

With a mouth that felt like sawdust, Simon tried to sit up, but only succeeded in bringing on a coughing fit. Once he'd cleared the phlegm, he croaked, "Where's Dad?"

What the hell was that last tablet the nurse had given him? A knockout pill?

"Dad and Luke are on their way in. I stayed nearby last night."

He briefly wondered what she meant by nearby. She certainly hadn’t been at his bedside all night. Then her voice became solicitously low. "So how are you feeling this morning? You gave us quite of a scare, yesterday!"

Quite a scare...? He knew she meant well, but, typical for his mum, the tone of her voice indicated she was also looking for answers. Stuff he couldn't and wouldn't give. He shrugged, hoping she understood it to mean he felt crap. She waited, maybe wondering if he would spout more, but when he didn’t, she seemed willing, if only reluctantly, to put it to one side. At least for now.

"Why don't you have some breakfast?" she suggested next, and pointed to a bowl of fruit and yogurt and a glass of orange that had been left on the table at the end of his bed. "It'll help you get your strength back."

He shook his head.

"Can I have it?" In the next bed, Sam lowered his PSP and sounded hopeful.

“Are you sure you don’t want just a few mouthfuls?” She ignored their neighbor and seemed disappointed. "I kept it for you specially."

He shook his head then watched as, clearly against her better judgment, she passed it to Sam, who tucked into it with gusto. Meanwhile, the throbbing at his groin reminded him he had other needs. "Can you ask for some Tylenol or something?"

"Of course I can." She jumped into action, all at once looking happy with the idea that she could do something meaningful. Before she'd even stood all the way up she quickly added, "Are you in pain?'

He shrugged. "Just a bit sore..." The less she knew about how he felt the better. He didn’t usually like hiding stuff, but a lot had changed in a short time.

Fully on her feet, her  'mum on a mission to make everything right' face emerged. "I'll be right back." With that she paced out of the ward."

I like your mum," said Sam, declaring it through a mouthful of fruit and yogurt. "Not like my girlfriend—but you know what I mean…"

Simon closed his eyes to try and tune Sam out. But too many things clamored to take his place: Phimosis, operations, agonizing pain, circumcision, catheters, Toby. At the last one, his anger flared. None of it was anything he wanted to think about just then, so after a while, he went back to the distraction of this kid in the next bed.

"So how come my brother knows yours?" It just seemed so unlikely.

"I dunno." Sam seemed focused in shoveling down a second breakfast before anyone could stop him. "I think he likes him."

Still stuffing it in, he paused and his tone became more guarded. "Not besties though...I think they just met...just know..." He emptied the bowl and seemed satisfied.

"Have you ever had one before?" he added.

Simon frowned. What the hell was he on about now. "Had what?” A girlfriend? A 'bestie'? It was none of this kid's business!

Sam pulled a face at him, as if Simon was mentally impaired. He pointed at the yellow bag. "I mean one of those. It's called a catheter. I've had one!" He smirked knowingly.

He pronounced it like it was a badge of honor, and leaned over and whispered as though what he had to say couldn't be mentioned publicly, on pain of death. "It's not too bad. It hurts a bit when they take it out, but it stings like fucking hell when you pee afterwards!"

Simon blinked. And he called that not too bad? It wasn't really what he wanted to hear, and tried to think of something different to think about—anything that didn’t involve hospitals.

Just then his mum returned, and she wasn't alone. His dad was with her, the latter carrying a bag that probably held his things. He hoped it meant he could go home.

And then? Then seemed like a blank unknown.

"It's all sorted." She looked briskly determined. "They'll bring you some meds right away."

He nodded, though remembering the nighttime call, wondered whether her understanding of 'right away' would be the same as the nursing staff.

"Morning, sunshine!" His dad pulled up a chair, his face radiating a cheerful grin. "Feeling better today?"

Better? No, he didn't feel better. Again, he shrugged, hating even the sound of his own voice.

His mum and dad drew their chairs closer and talked about this and that, though he said as little as he could, happy just to take more of the painkillers that the nurse brought.  More people came in—they seemed to be the family of the annoying kid in the bed next to him. His mum and dad talked with them, too.

Shortly after that, Luke turned up, and all of them jabbered on. The volume crept up, and suddenly it was all too much. There were too many people, too much noise. Everybody seemed to want him be okay; they wanted him to be the same as he always was. But he wasn't; he could never be again. Too much had been taken away, leaving him as stunted as an over-pruned plant that had already started to shrivel.

Across the room there were scenes of life and laughter. Kids chatting. Parents looking refreshed. Hope for a new day.

Just not him.

They could never know why he wasn't able to just bounce back. He shrunk into the sheets as they talked over the top of him, and a heaviness overcame him. "I'm tired," he mumbled. At least it was true.

Voice still raspy, he added, "Can you pull the curtain across?" He turned on his side and shut it all out.

* * *>

Extract from Luke's Notes:

When I arrived not long after the Carters, the curtains were drawn back from around Simon’s bed. A good sign, maybe?

I thought he looked better. Not yet sitting up, but with more color than the previous night, for sure. It looked like breakfast had already been, though mum said Si hadn't eaten anything. Apart from the odd word, he was hardly talkative and the only thing he seemed pleased about was the prospect of leaving. His eyes were open, but to me, the rest of him seemed closed off.

It was really unsettling to see him like this. For sure I could understand that having to have emergency surgery was a shock—who wouldn't be affected that way—but he seemed really low. All I could think was that he was just upset with himself for making such a mess out of everything.

Maybe it was early days, but even at this time of the morning, my brother looked like he'd already run out of steam as he turned over to go to sleep again. It really seemed that the operation had knocked him for six, and all his usual 'get up and go' had got up and gone!

Despite it, I hoped he'd be able to see it as a temporary glitch that would pass once we got him home. He’d be better soon, and hopefully life would settle down again.

The good news was, the nurses confirmed that he would be able to be discharged after being seen by a doctor. A consultant would be doing a ward round mid morning, they said; some senior doctor that would check everyone over, before those that were being discharged could go.

It seemed that Sam was being discharged that day, too, and the kid was really pumped—annoyingly so! The Carters took pity and they took him out of the ward to give Si a bit of peace and quiet while we all waited.

* * *>

So they waited...and waited. It must have been more like eleven when, yet again, Luke checked his watch. How long was this going to take?

"He's taking his time," he grunted. “How long do you think he’ll be?”

Some mid-morning this was! What time did doctors wake up?

Squashed into another of the orange beanbags across from him at the low table as they played chess, Elliott was dressed that morning in jeans and a trendy, baggy, Indian cotton shirt. He was non-committal as he moved one of his pieces. "Who knows? Bishop to king's rook six."

Luke's nose twitched, but he refused to let any appearance of resignation touch his face. It was what he'd feared; it wasn't check, but with that move, the end wasn't far off. Maybe there would be a way to squirm out of it if Elliott made a mistake—then again, there was a feeling of inevitability about it. 

He pulled a face. Perhaps it was just revenge for the game of pool? "I'm about to lose, aren't I?" His heart wasn't really in it anyway.

Elliott failed to suppress a cheeky smirk. "Afraid so."

Luke studied the board and tilted his king over to concede gracefully. "Okay, I give up. Tell you what, we should play tennis sometime." The odds had to be in his favor.

"Why not?" Elliott visibly brightened at the suggestion of a match. He began to clear up the chessboard, returning the pieces to their box. "It's not really my sport, but I'll give it a go."

Luke returned a wary grunt, nodding towards the now empty board. "Yep, well you said that about this, too, didn't you?"

He glanced in the direction of their parents, where both sets were sitting on an L-shaped sofa, apparently deep in conversation. Over the last hour he'd been keeping an eye on them. Just adjacent, Sam and his little sister, Natty, were watching Sesame Street on a big TV screen.

The two couples seemed to find something amusing, though they we're a little too far off to make out what. Even his mum grinned! Having freshened up, and with the clean clothes his dad had brought, she looked a whole lot better now. The only person that wasn't, it seemed, was Simon.

"They seem to be getting on well." Elliott nodded in the direction of their parents. "I wonder what they're talking about?"

Luke shrugged. Swapping hospital war stories at a guess. A flurry of white caught his eye as a bespectacled, dark-skinned doctor strode down the corridor that passed alongside the family area where they were camped out.

Thank God! That had to be the consultant, but Luke frowned as he caught a glimpse of the man who was shadowed by what appeared to be the ward's senior staff nurse, as well as a posse of nurses and what Luke guessed were interns. As he followed their progress, the flurry passed into the furthest ward, the one for the younger girls.

He stood and walked across to where their parents were seated. His own surprise matched the quizzical expression in both his mum and dad’s faces, and he knew he wasn't wrong. "I didn't know Jacko's dad worked here?"

"Me neither," returned his dad. "You, Luce?" She looked as surprised as he did, and shook her head.

"You know Dr. Jackson?" asked Benedict Carter. "The consultant?" His head turned in curiosity in the direction the group had passed, and then back. Luke caught the calculations going on behind his eyes.

"Well...hardly," Lucy admitted, and Luke was relieved she wasn't interested in being a poser. "We've met them a few times, mainly at parents evenings, haven't we, Hon.? We know their son, Adam, quite well. He’s good friends with Simon, and attends the same school as the boys. He’s been up to the lake with us a few times."

"Jacko...?" Rose Carter's mouth played with the nickname Luke had used, and her dark eyes twinkled with teasing fun aimed his direction. He grinned, pleased that she seemed able to razz him like a friend. She was like her kids, he decided—easy to get on with.

"You know how it is." His grin widened. "It's just what everyone calls him. Like Mum said, he's in Simon's class."

"Jacko?" At his shoulder, Elliott feigned confusion. "How did you manage to get to that?"

Luke wasn't to be so easily baited. All kinds of quips about phoning home sprang to mind, but with Elliott's parents present, that might not go down so well. "Funny guy," he retorted, to be rewarded by a grin that he liked better every time he saw it.

"I guess Jacko's dad'll be seeing Simon too?" Luke hazarded.

"I'm up for it," Geoff beamed. "Hey there, Jacko's dad, howz'it?"

Lucy smacked his leg. "Behave," she admonished as the others laughed. "You're a bad influence."

"Admit it. You missed me last night, Hon!" he said, wagging his finger at her and affecting a churlish pout. "Told you we should have sent Luke back to the Carter's place."

The rather priceless knowing look he offered her gained him another slap and further laughter.

Luke smiled too. He was lucky, he knew. Having parents like his, ones who stayed together, loved each other, and were easy to be around, wasn't something you could just buy at Wal-Mart. He felt proud of them.

His mum looked about to stand. "Well, perhaps we'd better get in there," she suggested.

Benedict shook his head and remained seated. "Trust me, there's no rush." He twisted his head to glance down the corridor. "It's gonna take a while before he gets to the boys."

Luke quickly figured out the system too. In ward 52—the children's section—there were four main sub-wards. There were also a number of smaller private rooms, but the four multi-bedded wards carried the majority and were colorfully named after exotic foreign places. Simon's ward—Madagascar—held all the older boys from middle school age and up. If Jackson did them in order as he walked back up the corridor, then Madagascar would be the end of the line.


Still, at least they were on the move now.

He swiveled to check where Elliott was and found him tracking back from where they'd been playing chess, dragging the two orange beanbags behind him. He dumped the bags side by side, not too far away from their parents, and the two of them dropped their backsides into them.

From this vantage point, Luke studied their surroundings. The ward had taken on fresh life during the morning. Maybe it helped that all the blinds were open and sunlight was streaming in, but the colors were brighter and even more cheery than the night before. Cartoons danced across the walls, and kids were more energetic, playing and running like kids do, rather than sitting quietly and cuddling. At first glance, you’d hardly guess it was even a hospital!

Even to him it felt different. All down the long ward, children were making use of the spaces and playing with toys or watching TV. Even his parents seemed brighter and more upbeat that morning. It was funny how quickly a place could become familiar and feel more like home—unlike yesterday when he'd thought the worst when he'd seen his parents talking to Choudry and Tiberius.

God, what a dork he could be! His problem, he knew, was that he tended to overthink things. He was too cautious, at least in some things. It probably came from his having the same English genes as his mum!

There were still things that caught his eye that reminded him that this was still a hospital and not some kindergarten play zone. Not far away, a little girl cuddled in her mum's arms. There was no cheeky smile on her face, and anyone could see she wasn't well. The mum was alone with her, and she looked sad too.  It reminded him there was reason that all of them—kids and parents—were here.

"It's sad," he murmured. It was to no one in particular.

Elliott frowned. "What’s sad?"

"A place like this, I mean." Luke gestured to the surroundings, though he was studying the little girl.

Elliott shifted in his beanbag, his proximity bringing back that tang of cologne. Looking thoughtful, he let his eyes track around the ward.  "No, I don't think it's sad," he said at last. "I don't see it that way."

He bunched up the bag and sat cross-legged in it. "They're here for a good reason aren't they? Most of these kids are going to get through what they're facing. They're going to get better. That's not sad."

Luke considered that. "Maybe," he admitted. Again, it was surprising how easy it was to get into fairly deep subjects with his new friend.

"Like we were saying yesterday," continued Elliott, an inscrutable expression on his face. "When crap happens, you can still get over it....I'm a firm believer in that."


Elliott shrugged, but didn't add anything further. To Luke, it felt as if there was more, as if there were pieces of the puzzle he wasn't being offered.

He stowed that thought away and returned to considering the people around them. "It still has to be a tough job, working in a place like this, though, don’t you think?" he said at last.

Elliott rested his chin on his knees and looked thoughtful. "I want to do something like this...Pediatrics, I mean."

Luke was surprised. "Medicine?" It was the last thing he expected.

"Sure. I'm afraid I'm what you might call in England, 'a bit of a swot'!” Elliott took Luke’s astonishment with ease, and the ‘cheeky’ version of his personality reappeared. “You?"

"A swot?" Luke chuckled. It wasn't a term he’d heard much around here.

"No, dufus. College."

"Oh..." He wasn't really ready for the question. "I...err...I haven't really decided what I'm doing yet." He fumbled with the words. Suddenly coming out with, 'Oh, well I want to be a Doctor too!' sounded a bit childish! He also felt like a priceless jerk. He would never have said he was elitist...but the truth, he realized a little belatedly, was that he kind of was!

It wasn't particularly overt at the Academy—or perhaps it was, and he'd just bought into it like everyone else—but they did kind of drum it into them: guys from their school were known for their high achievement. They were destined for Yale, MIT, Harvard, Princeton. Theit school was a top private school! Other schools—public ones—were…well...

He frowned as the values he’d taken for granted flowed embarrassingly easily; especially the thought that kids from those places had less about them...and—well the rest just followed on from that.

He stared into the distance. Was he really like that?

Aspire. That was at word they were fed all the time at the Academy. And he had to admit, the place had been good for him. He often wondered where he would be if he were still at his old secondary school back in the UK? Probably looking forward to some dead-end job stacking shelves in Sainsburys, still convinced he was doing the best he could!

No, there was no doubt that the Academy had pushed him hard and got results, but the elitist crap could still be bullshit. He only had to look at Elliott to realize that. On the other hand, the guy had been home schooled. Luke wondered about that, and asked, "What was it like—home schooling, I mean?"

Elliott chuckled, and wagged his finger. "No, no—what you really mean is how do you put up with your mom controlling every bit of your life!"

"I heard that, young man!" Rose Carter apparently had the type of hearing all mums were genetically endowed with.

Elliott shook as he giggled. "And that, my friend, is the awful problem! She hears EVERYTHING!"

Luke wasn't alone when he started laughing too.

"Well, you have my respect Rose," chuckled Lucy. "Home schooling has never been something I would care to risk!"

Luke pulled a face. "Me neither!" he groaned. All he knew was that, if it had been him being home schooled, either he would have killed his mum, or vice-versa.

He looked past them and spotted the consultant as Dr. 'Jacko's dad' Jackson made it out of the first bedded ward. He was still surrounded by his posse and, giving instructions as he walked, trundled at speed into the second. That one took even longer and it wasn't until he made it into Zanzibar, the third ward, that they agreed it was time to move.