When we skipped down the stairs beside the stage and burst out into the auditorium, laughing and giggling and carrying on, we had expected everyone to have left already. We were soon stopped in our tracks, however, when we found all of our parents waiting there in a group; mine and Ben’s and Samantha’s, along with Guy’s mother, all chatting away as if they had been long lost friends.
When they spotted us they stopped chatting and turned towards us, all beaming at us as if we had just been awarded medals or something, and then advanced toward us almost as one. Each parent singled out their own offspring, no doubt intent on causing as much embarrassment as they could.
‘We’re so proud of you,’ my mother said to me, as she smothered me in a bear hug. She was still holding the flowers that I had thrown to her from the stage.
‘Mum,’ I protested in vain.
‘Oh, darling,’ Samantha’s mother said to her, quickly embracing her.
Guy simply gave his mother a hug, while Ben’s parents both slapped him on the back and said something like, ‘Way to go son,’ after which Ben then took Samantha by the hand and officially introduced her to his parents.
My father, who had barely taken any real interest in anything that I had ever done from the time I was eleven or twelve, about the time when I changed from a cute primary school kid to an obnoxious high schooler, reached out his hand for me to shake. He was obviously still clinging to the old standards that he lived by and had been brought up on, that men shouldn’t hug or show any emotion whatsoever; however, I could see his resolve wavering, and eventually he surrendered to the emotions of the moment and pulled me to him.
‘I never knew that you could sing like that,’ my father managed to say to me.
‘Well, you’ve never really asked what I like to do though, have you?’ I answered, immediately putting him on the spot without even realizing it.
My father let go of me and looked at his feet, then said, ‘No, I don’t suppose I have Tim. I’m sorry for that.’
‘It’s OK dad,’ I answered, then hugged him again.
I looked around at my friends and saw them all grinning at me. Ben was looking especially pleased with himself, and Guy was pretty happy too.
‘Hey, did you tell them that it was me who talked you into this?’ Ben said to me, loud enough for all to hear.
I just glared at him and said, ‘Don’t you dare,’ through gritted teeth.
‘What’s that?’ my mother asked.
‘Nothing Mum, he’s just being a clown again,’ I answered. She threw us both a quizzical look, then returned her attention to my father, although she kept looking at Ben as if she wasn’t too sure of him for some reason.
Jason was also there, not being let go by my parents, and at one time, when I was standing out on my own he came over and thumped me in the arm and said, ‘Good job, Tim.’
I grabbed him around the neck in a headlock and wrestled with him briefly before finally letting him go.
‘Is that him?’ he whispered to me, then tried to run away from me.
I chased him and grabbed him again then whispered into his ear, ‘Fuck off you little shit,’ to which he just laughed. I watched him as he then went and sat himself up on the edge of the stage, eyeing us suspiciously, but still grinning.
‘So, what are you kids going to do tonight?’ Guy’s mother asked us all.
Guy just shrugged, but Ben said, ‘We thought about going out someplace. Having a party or something.’
‘That’s a great idea,’ my father added. ‘It’ll do you all the world of good to go and have some fun.’
We all looked at him as if he were a total stranger.
‘Excuse me?’ Samantha’s mother said.
‘Mum,’ Samantha pleaded.
‘Well, I just think that after everything that these kids have done tonight, I reckon they deserve the chance to let their hair down, don’t you? This whole production was pretty much all their doing, wasn’t it? So let them go and enjoy their success.’
‘I agree,’ said Ben’s father.
The ladies all looked at the two of them as if they were both crazy, but nothing more was said.
As we all made our way out of the hall and headed toward the car park a consensus was soon reached and a little while later the four of us piled into Guy’s car and drove out of the car park. We may have left our parents standing beside the gate, with some looking worried, and some looking pleased with themselves, but all we cared about was a night of freedom.
* * *
‘So, now that we’ve escaped from the evil clutches of the parents, what does everyone actually want to do?’ I asked, when we were safely on the road and out of our parents sight.
‘Well, they won’t let us into the any of the pubs,’ Ben replied. ‘We’re all still too young.’
‘Speak for yourself,’ Samantha said, and we all suddenly turned and looked at her.
‘Keep your eyes on the road, lover boy,’ she said to Guy. I looked across at him from where I sat in the front passenger seat and noticed him grinning.
‘Yeah, you might be able to get in,’ Ben said. ‘But what about us?’
‘You ever heard of a bottle shop?’ she said to him. ‘I’m eighteen aren’t I? I’ll go get us something to drink and then we can go find someplace quiet to park.’
‘Are any of you guys hungry?’ Guy asked.
‘Starving,’ Ben answered.
‘Well, the shopping centre is just up ahead. There’s a pizza joint and a bottle shop almost side by side.’
‘Now we’re talking,’ Ben answered.
‘Beer and pizza?’ I asked.
‘Why not?’ Guy said, grinning at me.
I shrugged and said, ‘Yeah, why not.’
Guy pulled the car into a parking spot between the two stores and while Samantha and Ben headed off toward the bottle shop, Guy and I headed toward the pizza parlour, which was one of several shops built in a semi-circle around a garden.
‘Where do you think we should go?’ I asked Guy as we entered the store.
‘I don’t know. You’re the one who has lived here all your life. Just don’t suggest we go home to one of our own places.’
‘No way,’ I answered. ‘We could go to the lookout, maybe? Or out to The Big Hole, out on George’s Creek. It’s not a bad place to hang out, and I don’t think there would be many people there at this time of night.’
‘As good a place as any, I suppose,’ he replied, with a grin.
After looking at the menu on a blackboard on the wall, we ordered two family sized pizzas and then went outside and sat at one of several picnic tables in the garden. Samantha and Ben came over and joined us a little while later, carrying an assortment of liquid refreshments that I knew I legally wasn’t allowed to drink, but had no intentions of passing up on tonight.
‘What did you get?’ Guy asked them.
‘Just some beer and some of these cans of Rum and Coke,’ Samantha said, patting a carton she had sat on the table.
‘Cool,’ I said.
‘Come on, let’s open them now,’ Ben said.
‘Only one then,’ Samantha replied. ‘I don’t want you boys getting into any trouble tonight.’
‘Us? Trouble?’ Ben pleaded.
‘Yeah, especially you,’ she answered, then leant across and kissed him.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Guy gave me a furtive look, but I just winked at him and said, ‘Down boy.’
‘Awwwww,’ he complained.
Guy and I were sitting beside each other at the table, while Ben and Samantha were opposite us, locked in a passionate embrace, their lips grinding together, while all we could do was sit there and feel the tension rising within us. He stealthily reached under the table and placed his hand on my leg, gently running his fingers along the inside of my thigh.
‘Don’t,’ I whispered. ‘We’ve got to go in and pick up the pizzas in a minute. How would it look if I’ve got a hard on?’
He just looked at me with a devilish glint in his eyes and said, ‘Fine by me.’
‘I’m serious,’ I said.
‘So am I,’ he answered.
‘What are you pair babbling about?’ Ben asked us, breaking away from Samantha for a moment.
‘Nothing,’ I said, feeling the heat stinging my cheeks, certain that I was blushing.
It was starting to get a bit late, well it was well after ten o’clock anyhow, and thankfully there weren’t too many people around. A group of around six or eight kids, younger than us, came strolling past, casting suspicious glances our way.
We heard them muttering amongst themselves, but couldn’t hear what it was they were saying.
‘What do you think those punks are up to?’ Guy asked.
‘Who knows,’ Ben said, ‘but you can be sure it’s no good.’
We all watched them as they walked away, looking back at us every now and then. They went to the far end of the car park where they sat under some trees, and every now and then we could hear some shrill laughter floating our way.
‘I don’t like the look of them,’ Samantha said to us.
‘Don’t worry about them. They’re only kids,’ Ben answered, trying to reassure Samantha, and the rest of us, but somehow failing to succeed.
A few minutes later we heard a tapping on the window nearest to us and we looked to see one of the young guys in the pizza shop beckoning us over, holding up two pizza boxes for us to see.
‘I’ll go,’ Guy said. ‘Tim will be too embarrassed.’
Ben and Samantha both looked at me with quizzical expressions on their faces.
As Guy left us I just shook my head and said, ‘Trust me, you don’t want to know.’
While he was gone I noticed Samantha staring at me from across the table, with a grin upon her lovely face.
‘What?’ I asked her.
‘How long have you two been . . . ummm . . .’
‘Not long,’ I chuckled.
‘I had wondered a couple of times, you know. I’ve been watching you together and there were times I couldn’t help but think you were almost acting like a couple . . .’
‘Oh, puh-lease . . .’ I groaned.
‘I’m serious, Tim. You look good together. And I’m happy for you both. I truly am.’
Thankfully Guy returned a few moments later, carrying the pizzas and a couple of bottles of Coca Cola and saving me any further embarrassment, we all got up and headed for the car, taking with us the makings of our feast.
‘Tim and I thought that George’s Creek might be a good place to head to,’ Guy said as we walked across the car park. ‘What do you guys think?’
‘Great idea,’ Ben answered, while placing his arm around Samantha’s shoulders. ‘At least it should be nice and quiet.’
‘Yeah, that’s what I thought you would say.’
When we reached the car Guy unlocked it and we all climbed in, then he handed the pizza boxes to me. As I was about to shut the door however I heard someone say, ‘Can you give us a lift?’
We all turned and looked in the direction from where the voice had come and saw the same group of kids that we had seen earlier, now approaching the car.
‘Shut the doors,’ Samantha said quickly, which we managed to do, but they quickly surrounded the car.
‘Let’s get out of here,’ Ben said.
‘I’m working on it,’ Guy answered, while fumbling with the keys for the ignition.
From outside we could hear the kids starting to taunt us.
‘You got some money for us?’ we heard one say.
‘I want some pizza,’ another one said, while the biggest kid in the group, who was no more than about thirteen, said, ‘I want the woman,’ to which the rest of them just laughed.
‘Guy, just get us out of here,’ Samantha pleaded, and just as she said that Guy turned the key and the engine started.
Some of the kids grabbed the car and started rocking it, while all of them were peering in through the windows at us.
We heard the roof get thumped a couple of times, but we didn’t hang around for any longer than we had to, as Guy slammed the car into gear and backed out of the parking space, with kids running after us.
Guy backed the car up quickly, and for much further than we needed to, then he thrust it into first gear and floored it, as we made for the nearest exit.
‘Fuck, that was close,’ Ben said once we were out on the main road.
‘Ain’t that the truth,’ Guy exclaimed. ‘Mum’ll kill me if there’s any damage to the car.’
‘I don’t think they could have done much to it,’ Samantha said.
‘Well, we’ll have to pull up somewhere and have a look,’ Guy said.
Just then I spotted a petrol station up ahead, so I pointed it out to Guy. Without any hesitation he put his indicator on and crossed the road, pulling up directly under a light in the car park.
* * *
We made it out to the picnic area at George’s Creek a little while later, without any further mishaps or adventures, although Samantha and Guy were still a little shaken.
After we checked the vehicle at the petrol station and found nothing amiss, Guy ended up handing the car keys to Ben and it was he who ended up driving us out there. I sat on the back seat with Guy, who seemed very quiet.
‘Are you all right?’ I tried asking him a couple of times, but each time he just looked at me with those big puppy dog eyes and said nothing. I reached over and took hold of his hand and that was how we stayed until we pulled up in the deserted parking area, facing a large swimming hole which shimmered before us in the moonlight.
‘Are you guys getting out?’ Ben asked us after he had turned off the engine and the lights.
‘I think we might just sit here for a while,’ I answered. ‘You two go and have something to eat, we’ll be there in a little while. Just save us some pizza.’
‘Suit yourselves,’ Ben answered, then he and Samantha got out of the car and we watched them as they headed towards a picnic table.
When they were gone I said, ‘Now, I’ll ask again . . . are you all right. babe?’
As we were still in the car I couldn’t see his face, but I reached up and gently touched his cheek.
‘I’m okay,’ he finally answered. ‘Just a bit shaken I suppose.’
‘Well, it was a bit scary. There’s no telling what the punks may have done.’
‘Hmmm . . .’
‘Let’s go and have something to eat and a drink. I’m sure we’ll both feel better afterwards.’
‘And after that?’ he asked.
‘Well, I kind of hoped that we would go someplace quiet . . .’
‘Or come back and just sit in the car for a while?’
‘If that’s what you want, sure.’
‘Thanks,’ he said, then brought my hand up to his lips and kissed it.
‘Come on, let’s go get some pizza,’ I said to him. ‘I’m fucking starved.’
I opened the door and climbed out and Guy followed, then the two of us walked over to where Samantha and Ben were sitting, feeding each other pizza.
‘You’re just in time,’ Ben said in between mouthfuls. ‘Samantha’s nearly eaten it all.’
‘Liar,’ she said, pushing him backwards.
We sat down at the table and Samantha pushed a pizza box across the table towards us and we each picked up a slice.
‘So, are you guys all right?’ Samantha asked. ‘You’re both a bit quiet.’
‘Yeah, we’re fine,’ I answered.
‘You’re sure?’ Ben asked.
‘Positive,’ Guy answered, in a voice that wasn’t quite his own. ‘Now give me a beer.’
Ben pushed the carton towards us and we both picked up a can and opened it.
‘Well, here’s to us,’ Guy said, raising his can between us all.
‘Here’s to us,’ we all said back to him, mimicking his actions, then we all took a mouthful.
Now most teenagers at some stage of their growing up have raided their parents stash of alcohol, or been given a taste of the amber fluid at any number of functions, such as parties or weddings or whatever, but for me, this was a first.
I had never admitted that to anyone and I certainly couldn’t do so now, so I had to just go with the flow, so when that first taste of beer hit my tongue it was all I could do not to spit it back out. How the hell I thought I was going to manage to drink a whole can of the stuff, I wasn’t quite sure.
As quickly as I could I just gulped down the mouthful I had already taken, then reached for some pizza, desperate for something to take the vile taste from my mouth.
I watched as Ben and Guy both drank some more, before they too reached for some pizza. I managed a wry smile for myself, which went unnoticed in the darkness.
A short time later, when we had all finished eating, I picked up their empty beer cans, and my almost full one, along with the empty pizza boxes and headed for the nearest garbage can, then returned to my friends.
I found that Ben and Samantha were already locked in a passionate kiss, leaving Guy sitting there alone, not quite sure of what to do with himself. I stood behind him and began to massage his shoulders, which felt extremely tense, but after a little while he seemed to relax a little and started to lean back towards me.
I leant over and whispered into his ear, ‘Let’s go back to the car.’
He turned his head around to look at me and despite the darkness, I could see him smiling.
Without saying a word, or making any other sound, he stood up and took my hand in his, then we left Ben and Samantha where they were, without them even noticing that we had gone.