Ours was a future as yet unwritten.
There was no pre-ordained path for us to follow now, and such plans that our families once had for their beloved offspring were now banished to the past, with a new future and new plans to be all of our own choosing.
As we wound our way along a snaking mountain road, through forests so green, beneath skies so blue, I couldn’t help but feel liberated, despite what it was that I was leaving behind… well, actually, what we were both leaving behind.
I looked across at Luke, who was leaning against the door, resting his head on a pillow and sleeping. The corners of his mouth were turned up in the slightest of smiles as he dreamt of things only he could know. I couldn’t feel anything but grateful for the fact that he was here with me now. And me with him.
When we came to a point on the mountain where the road dropped down over the edge and then clung to the wall of the valley as it descended I pulled into a picnic area, coming to a stop with the nose of the Commodore pointing toward the distant ocean, which was still quite far off, yet at the same time still tantalizingly close.
‘W-w-where are we?’ Luke asked as I cut the engine, waking him from his dream.
‘Pit stop,’ I said to him.
He yawned and stretched, with his hand finally coming to rest behind my head, his fingers gently caressing the base of my neck, while gently teasing my hair.
‘How long have we been driving?’ he asked.
‘Just a little over two hours. We’ve still got another couple to go yet, mate. I thought I’d just get out and stretch my legs a bit before we head down there,’ I answered, pointing at the valley ahead, which stretched all the way to the sparkling blue ocean.
‘Good idea,’ he said, before unbuckling his seat belt and opening the door.
The instant the door was open we could smell it. A cool sea breeze that was blowing all the way up the valley, carrying with it a fragrance so fresh and so sweet that it was intoxicating.
‘Hmmm, smell that,’ I said to him, as we walked hand in hand over to the viewing platform on the edge of the cliff and gazed down towards the sea, breathing in all that we could.
‘Fantastic, isn’t it?’
‘It sure is.’
He put his hands on the railing and I stood behind him, wrapping my arms around his body and resting my chin on his shoulder.
‘Matt. Just tell me this is real, will you please?’ he whispered.
As gently as I could, I reached up and just pinched the bare skin of his arm.
‘Ouch! What was that for?’
‘Did you feel that?’ I whispered.
‘Too right I did!’
‘Then it must be real,’ I replied.
He turned his head and kissed me on the cheek.
‘Thank you,’ he said to me.
‘For being you. For being here. Right now.’
‘I’ll always be here. You know that.’
‘Yeah, I do. And I won’t ever forget it.’
‘And I won’t let you.’
We stayed like that for a few minutes more, just breathing in the air and taking in the view, neither wanting to move, both content to just hold each other.
‘Do you know what’s out there waiting for us?’ he said to me.
‘Does that scare you at all?’
‘Just a little. But I’m not too worried about it.’
‘Why is that?’
‘Because no matter what happens in the future, I already have the things that I want most in life.’
‘You do?’ he asked, almost laughing. ‘What’s that?’
‘You,’ I answered. ‘And the car!’
‘So? I have some competition, do I?’ he joked.
‘No, mate. You win hands down. Every time!’ I answered, pulling him close to me and nuzzling into the base of his neck.
‘I’m pleased to hear that then.’
‘Come on, we’d best get moving again, if we’re to meet Tim and Guy at the University.’
‘All right,’ he answered, breaking free of my hug and dragging me by the hand back towards the car.
‘Geez, you’re keen all of a sudden,’ I said to him.
‘You know me. No point in hanging around.’
‘No, I don’t suppose there is, is there? The sooner we’re there, the sooner our new lives begin.’
‘Begin? Hadn’t you noticed, Matt? They’ve already begun. The adventure has begun. We’re already there. Can’t you smell it?’
‘Yeah, Luke. I can smell it. And it smells fantastic.’
* * *
We found our friends exactly where they said they would be, waiting patiently in the car park nearest to the university administration centre.
Somehow Luke remembered exactly where to go, even though we had only been here the once. It was like he had memorised the entire map of Macquarie Harbour and the university campus.
‘Are you sure this is the right road?’ I kept asking him, having not recognised any of the landmarks or buildings from our last visit.
‘Just shut up and drive, will you,’ he kept saying to me. So I would ask him again, just to tease him a little.
It seemed like forever since we had seen Tim and Guy, although in reality it had actually only been a couple of months, but going by the greeting we received when we pulled up beside them (hugs all round and slaps on the back) they must have thought it had been a while too.
‘We were starting to worry about you blokes,’ Guy said to us as we stepped from the car. ‘We weren’t sure if that old heap of shit car of yours would make it!’
‘Matt tried to get us lost,’ Luke said.
‘Me?’ I replied, while glaring at Luke, then turning and looking down at the old Toyota that Tim was leaning up against and saying, ‘And whose car are you calling a heap of shit?’
‘Hey. At least it got us here,’ Tim replied, while patting the bonnet of the vehicle and grinning at me.
‘Yeah. But by the look of it, only just, I’d say.’
‘Okay you pair. Knock it off,’ Luke said. ‘You can save all that for later.’
‘Can we?’ Tim and I both answered simultaneously, to which Luke just threw his hands in the air and said, ‘Oh, god! Someone save me. Please!’
I was standing behind Luke, so I reached out and grabbed hold of him, wrapping my arms around his chest and holding him close to me, while planting a quick kiss on his cheek.
‘Like this?’ I whispered into his ear. He wriggled a bit and spun around in my arms until he was facing me.
‘It’ll do,’ he whispered back to me, while glancing around nervously to see if anyone was watching us, then quickly giving me a kiss in return.
I looked over at Tim and Guy and noticed them glance at each other and then smile.
‘What’s with you pair?’ I asked them.
‘Nothing at all, mate,’ Guy answered. ‘In fact, we think it’s just perfect. I can see everything working out just fine… for all of us.’
‘Let’s hope so,’ Luke answered, as he tore himself away from me. ‘But first, I’ve got to go and finish getting myself enrolled.’
‘Come on. We’ll show you where,’ Tim said, then led us all across the road and up the steps into the administration building.
* * *
An hour later Luke had finally filled out the last form and we managed to escape from the clutches of the registrar, who was a rather formidable looking woman in her forties, but only by the skin of our teeth, I think.
‘Where to next, then?’ I asked as we headed back down toward the car park.
‘Are you guys hungry?’ Tim asked. ‘There are some great little places down by the jetty on the harbour, all sorts of sea food, and pretty cheap too. We can have some lunch there and then head out to the house if you like.’
Luke looked at me and said, ‘Works for me. How about you, Matt?’
‘I’m easy,’ I answered.
‘We already know that,’ chimed in Guy. ‘But we wanted to know if you were hungry?’
‘Yup. That would be me! Although some people usually say it’s Ben who’s the wise ass around here.’
‘How about we follow you down to the jetty, guys,’ Luke said, answering for us both. ‘And who the fuck is Ben?’
‘Sure,’ Guy answered. ‘And we’ll tell you about Ben over lunch.’
They got into their car and started it up, then waited for us to get into ours.
‘They haven’t changed at all,’ Luke said to me as I started the car.
‘No, they haven’t. I wonder what this house is like that they’ve lined up?’
‘Christ only knows,’ he answered. ‘Just so long as it’s a roof over our heads, huh?’
‘Yeah. That’s all that matters, mate. For now anyway!’
We followed them out of the car park and back into the centre of town, then onto the road which would take us down toward the jetty.
‘I think I’m going to like living near here,’ Luke said to me, as he looked about at the shopping centre and all the activity.
‘Yeah, mate, me too,’ I answered. ‘I’m going to miss home, but this place is going to offer us just so much more.’
‘I know what you mean.’
We noticed Tim and Guy slow down and then eventually pull off onto the side of the road up ahead of us, driving far enough ahead for me to pull in behind them. We were directly opposite the jetty now, and we could see boats rocking gently at their moorings, and people enjoying themselves on the harbour foreshores, which stretched for miles in either direction.
‘Yep, I think I’m definitely going to like living near here,’ I said to Luke as I got out of the car and then locked it.
‘Fantastic, isn’t it?’ he said, as he came around to my side of the car. I couldn’t argue with him on that one.
Tim and Guy soon joined us and then we crossed the road and headed towards a sign that said ‘Trawlers’, which I assumed was where we were going for lunch, and what turned out to be an open air restaurant of about twenty tables, most of which were thankfully empty.
We ordered at the main counter, while Guy went and found us an empty table, then we all sat down and started to catch up on what we had all been doing over the past few months while we waited for our meal and admired the views.
‘We’re so glad to hear that everything worked out all right in court. For both of you guys,’ Tim said to us both.
‘Thanks,’ I replied. Just then Luke reached across and placed his hand on mine and I looked across at him and saw him smiling. ‘They were pretty tough times, for us all actually. But we were lucky to have a lot of support, especially from our families, not to mention our friends, like you guys. So thanks for that.’
‘You’re welcome,’ Guy said. ‘We were certainly praying for you all.’
‘Well, we appreciated it all the same,’ Luke said.
A waitress brought over a tray of drinks just then and set them down in front of us.
‘So, who’s this Ben dude you mentioned earlier?’ I asked them after the waitress had left.
‘A mate of ours from home. He and his girlfriend are going to be sharing the house with us.’
‘Oh. All right then,’ I replied, while at the same time glancing across at Luke and seeing a puzzled expression on his face.
It hadn’t really occurred to me that there might possibly be others living in the house as well, not that it really bothered me all that much. Still, it would have been nice to have actually known about it, all the same.
I looked back across at Luke and wondered what he might have been thinking about it all.
Sitting in the sunshine, eating fish and chips and catching up with friends was a great way to be spending the day, but we knew that we wouldn’t be able to stay there all day. When we were finished Guy got up and gathered up our rubbish and dropped it all in a nearby garbage bin, while we got to our feet and started back toward the cars.
‘Do you guys want to follow us, then?’ Tim said as he unlocked their car.
‘Yeah, we will,’ I answered. ‘But if we end up going a bit slower than you do, because of the trailer, just wait for us on the edge of town, will you? Just so we don’t get lost.’
We got into our cars and all soon pulled out onto the road, with Tim and Guy leading the way, and before long we were soon back out on the highway and heading north, toward our new home.
‘Did you know anything about anyone else being in the house?’ I asked Luke as we drove.
‘Not a thing, mate. Does it bother you?’
‘I… I’m not really sure. I guess with it being just Tim and Guy, well, we know them, don’t we, and we’re all fairly comfortable with each other. Now I guess there’s going to be two more strangers… and a straight couple living with two gay couples? Man, this could get interesting!’
Luke just laughed, but then said, ‘Well, if it doesn’t work out, we can always find someplace else. It’s not like we have to stay with these guys.’
‘Let’s just see how things pan out, and then take it from there, eh?’
‘Of course, mate. We can only try it.’
We followed Tim and Guy and their little red Toyota for about twenty kilometres out of Macquarie Harbour, eventually turning off the Pacific Highway for the remainder of the drive into Thompsonville. They took it pretty steady for the whole journey and so didn’t get too far ahead of us, and as we drew closer to the town itself, things started to feel familiar.
It was a comforting feeling.
Before we reached the town, however, we were surprised when the Toyota ahead of us slowed and the left indicator came on, before Tim and Guy turned off onto a narrow lane.
‘Looks like we’re nearly there,’ Luke said to me as I turned off the main road into town and followed their car.
‘Yup. It sure does,’ I replied, as I reached across and gently squeezed his hand.
The laneway was one that was lined by trees, some of which hung out over the road, letting sunlight fall through only in scattered patterns, like lace, onto the gravel below. We drove for quite a distance, then followed again as Tim and Guy turned off the road and in through an open gateway, presenting us with a view of a shabby looking old homestead, complete with faded paint-work and a rust coloured roof.
I looked at Luke. And he looked at me.
I knew we were both thinking the same thing.
Just what have we let ourselves in for?
Tim and Guy drove around the back of the house, and so we followed, getting a good look at our new home as we did so.
It had been painted grey once, we thought, but any paintwork was now so badly faded, or missing altogether, that it was a bit hard to tell. There was a half-fallen down fence around the overgrown garden, and there was a huge old Jacaranda tree beside the house, its lilac coloured flowers providing the only splash of colour to be seen.
The two cars pulled to a stop near the rear gate and we all got out and looked at the place.
‘I know it doesn’t look like much, and there’s a lot of work we’ll need to do outside,’ Guy offered, sensing our apprehension. ‘But it really is quite comfortable inside.’
‘I’m sure it is,’ I replied.
‘Forget about the house though, boys. We’ve got to show you the best feature before you get too disappointed.’
‘We’re not…’ Luke started to say, but Tim’s grin quickly said he didn’t buy that, so Luke shut up.
‘Come on, follow us,’ Tim said, then took Guy by the hand and started walking away from us, off toward the scrub which came within a couple of hundred metres of the house.
Not being sure of what to do, Luke and I didn’t move at first. We just stood there looking at each other.
‘Come on, you guys,’ Tim said, calling back to us. ‘Just trust us, will you?’
Luke and I exchanged glances and then we both shrugged. I reached out my hand for him, which he took, and we followed our friends.
‘How far is it?’ Luke called out and asked them after a few minutes. We were on a narrow path, which led through bush so thick that we could no longer see the house behind us.
They pulled up and waited for us to catch up with them.
‘It’s less than a ten minute walk from the house,’ Guy said. ‘Don’t worry, you’ll love it. I promise.’
‘We better,’ I jokingly replied. They just grinned at us.
Before long we could hear something which sounded familiar, with the sound growing louder as we got closer.
‘Do you hear that?’ Luke asked me.
‘Yeah. It sounds like…’ I started to answer, but when I looked ahead I noticed that Tim and Guy had stopped in a small clearing. When I looked straight past them, however, all I could see was the blue of the ocean.
‘Holy shit,’ Luke said as we emerged from the scrub and out onto a beach. We were looking at a small bay, protected by headlands on either side of us, with a lighthouse sitting upon the southern one, and with acres of white sandy beaches between them.
‘Pretty cool, huh?’ Guy said, while standing back and just grinning at the pair of us.
‘Awesome, more like it,’ I said. ‘It’s like having our very own beach.’
‘Yeah. It’s one of the main reasons why we were so keen on this old wreck of a house,’ Tim replied. ‘They call this Hidden Beach.’
I walked down onto the water’s edge, with the three of them following me, and looking like they had won the lottery.
‘Anyone for a swim?’ Luke asked
‘Now?’ I replied.
‘Yeah, why not?’ Guy answered, already pulling off his t-shirt.
‘What if someone comes around?’ I asked, suddenly all nervous.
‘We haven’t seen anyone else here since we’ve been here. I reckon it’ll be pretty safe,’ Guy answered, and so without any further prompting we all stripped off and started running naked into the surf, where we swam and played and washed away the aches of spending the morning on the road.
By mid-afternoon Luke and I had had enough and were about ready to get out and head back to the house to start unpacking, but when we started to head back toward the beach we were suddenly startled to see someone standing there over our clothes.
I stopped, which made Luke run into me, having not really been watching where he was going and for a long moment we both just stood there, staring at the stranger. And with him staring back at us.
He was about our age, I reckoned, and was wearing shorts, a singlet and no shoes. He wasn’t particularly handsome, I didn’t think, but what did strike me about him though was his build. Man, he was built!
A footballer, if I’d had to take a guess. And a pretty nice looking one all the same.
‘So, just what the fuck do we have here then?’ he said to us, standing there with his arms folded across his chest.
Neither Luke nor I answered him but thankfully, just at that moment, we were joined by Tim and Guy.
‘Don’t tell me these are the newbies?’ the stranger said to them.
‘C’mon, Ben, haven’t you introduced yourself yet?’ Tim said to him. ‘Matt, Luke, this is Ben. Ben, this is Matt and Luke.’
The three of us said ‘Hi’ and nodded to each other, but none of us made a move to go and shake hands or anything. It was sort of an awkward introduction, no doubt made worse by the fact that Luke and I were both standing there naked, while the three of us looked each other up and down.
Each of us seemed to be doing our own appraisal of the other, then after a moment or two of this I noticed his roaming eyes settle on my groin, which for some reason I instinctively covered, causing him to chuckle.
‘Water must be cold today, is it boys?’ he said, but with it sounding more like a statement than a question, and with a grin on his face that I didn’t like very much.
‘Fuck off,’ I said to him.
Tim and Guy both laughed, then picked up our clothes and threw them at us.
‘Okay then, guys, the formalities are over. Let’s get dressed and head back to the house so we can help unpack the trailer for you.’
‘That would be great,’ I said, as I pulled on my shorts, all the while watching Ben out of the corner of my eye.
* * *
We made it back to the house a short while later, with Ben leading the procession through the scrub, giving Luke and me plenty of opportunity to check him out. We were shown inside and into the kitchen, which was near the back of the house, where Ben proceeded to pour us all some cold drinks.
I was a little disappointed at that, as it only served to diminish slightly the rather unpleasant opinion that I had started to form of our new house-mate. But time would tell, I thought to myself. I figured I’d just have to see what I thought of him in another few weeks.
‘So, where’s Sam?’ Tim asked, as we sat down around the table.
‘Still in town, working,’ Ben answered. ‘I have to go back in and pick her up later.’
As they spoke I started to look around the kitchen. It wasn’t anything spectacular. Someone had given it a fresh coat of paint, the smell of which still lingered in the air. The linoleum on the floor had seen better days, and most of the stuff in it looked fairly old, but by all accounts it looked okay, I suppose. It was liveable, at least.
‘So, do you guys want the grand tour?’ I heard Tim ask, snapping my attention back to the present.
‘We may as well,’ Luke answered. We downed the last of our drinks and then got up and followed Tim from the kitchen and into the hallway, which led toward the front of the house.
The house proved to be quite large, more than enough room for us all, I reckoned, with four good sized bedrooms (only one of which was empty – which we took as being reserved for us), a closed in verandah along one side wall and a large living room.
The carpets were worn in a few places, but there was new paint everywhere, and it looked quite comfortable.
‘See, we told you it wasn’t as bad as it looked,’ Guy said to us, noticing our surprise.
‘No, it’s great,’ I answered honestly.
‘Tim and I have claimed one bed room,’ he said to us. ‘And I’ve also claimed the room across the hall from ours as an office. Ben and Samantha have the bedroom next to that, and you guys can have the bedroom next to us. Is that okay with you?’
‘It’s fine,’ Luke answered.
‘If you need some more room, for an office or anything, you can set it up in the verandah if you like. It’s fully closed in, and we’ve only got boxes and stuff in there at the moment, which we can soon get rid of.’
‘Okay, we’ll see how we go first.’
We took another look at our new bedroom, and I could see Luke nodding his approval, which was something of a relief to me.
‘Well, do you guys want a hand bringing everything in?’ Ben asked us. ‘I have to head back into town soon, so I can help before I go if you like.’
‘Yeah, that would be great. Thanks,’ I answered, then led the way back down the hallway toward the kitchen and then outside.
‘Nice car,’ Ben said as we reached them.
‘Thanks,’ I replied.
‘Bet it cost you a packet?’
‘Nah, not really. It was nearly a wreck when I got it, and I did most of the work myself… with a little help from family and friends.’
‘Really? Well, you’ve done a good job on it.’
It took us about an hour and it was just on dark by the time we had finished, but we eventually got everything inside, or onto the verandah at least. By the time he left to go and pick up Samantha, I had started to change my initial opinion of Ben. He didn’t seem like a bad guy after all, but I thought I would reserve judgement on that until I had known him for a while longer.
Shortly after Ben excused himself, Guy said he was heading into town to pick up a takeaway for dinner (their treat he said), which left Tim and Luke and me to finish moving things about.
‘What about a bed?’ Tim asked, when he realised that we hadn’t brought ours with us.
‘We’ve brought a blow up mattress, which will do for starters. We just weren’t sure how much room we’d have. We might take a trip home next weekend or something to get that and anything else we think we might need.
‘Fair enough,’ Tim answered.
‘I think we’ll like it here,’ Luke said to Tim and me, as he brought the last box of stuff in and dropped it on the verandah.
‘I think you will too,’ Tim answered. ‘We’ve only been here a few days really, but it’s already feeling like home.’
‘Yeah. That’s what it felt like to us, just driving into the town.’
‘You felt it too, huh?’
‘Yep,’ Luke answered.
Guy arrived back shortly after that, weighed down with Chinese take away, and so as darkness closed right in around us, the four of us sat down and enjoyed our feast. We spoke until the wee small hours of the following morning of what we had all been up to, and of what we thought our futures may hold, of our fears and our dreams and aspirations.
Ben and Samantha didn’t return that night, which was something of a disappointment to me, but it was a great evening all the same. The first of what we hoped would be many.
At around one a.m. we switched out the lights in the kitchen and I dragged Luke down the hall towards our new bedroom, where we already had our inflatable mattress ready for us.
We said goodnight to Tim and Guy and closed our door, got undressed in the dark, then collapsed onto our mattress.
For a long time we just lay there, holding each other and whispering to each other in the darkness, slowly winding down from our big day, with neither of us sure if we wanted to go to sleep just yet.
After one particularly lengthy silence between us, during which I thought that Luke had drifted off to sleep and I had resigned myself to also doing, I copped an elbow in the ribs, which brought me back to total consciousness.
‘Ouch! What’s wrong?’ I asked him.
‘Can you hear that?’ Luke whispered into my ear as we lay there in the darkness, holding onto each other and listening to the sounds of the night.
‘That squeaking sound.’
I listened hard for whatever it was that Luke had heard, and to be honest, I couldn’t hear a thing at first, but then I started to become aware of something other than the sound of Luke breathing, or the crickets outside the house.
It was a familiar sound, yet at first I couldn’t quite place what it was.
‘Do you know what it is?’ I asked him, grinning to myself in the darkness when it had finally dawned on me.
‘I thought it was a mouse at first.’
‘Yeah, so did I, but it’s not that.’
‘It’s bed springs,’ I answered.
‘Wha…’ he started to say, then I quite literally heard his jaw snap shut.
We both listened for a few moments longer, each of us becoming more and more certain of what the sound was with each passing second, as the sound gradually grew louder and louder.
Eventually it was Luke who couldn’t contain himself any longer though, and he started giggling, at about the same time that it sounded like the bed head started thumping up against the wall.
‘The bastards are in there shagging each other silly, aren’t they?’ he said, in between fits of giggles.
‘It sure sounds like it to me,’ I replied. I would have thought that the idea of that wouldn’t have had any effect on me at all, but strangely I felt a stirring in my loins that was all too familiar.
At about the same time Luke snuggled in a little closer to me, and I felt his firmness brush against my hip.
‘You too, huh?’ I asked him.
‘Apparently so,’ he whispered, while slowly sliding the hand that had been resting on my chest down my abdomen.
‘Geez, mate. I hope we won’t have to put up with this noise every bloody night?’ I said to him.
‘Oh, I don’t know. It could be kind of fun,’ he whispered, as I felt his hand wrap around my shaft.
He gave me a couple of strokes, then disengaged himself from me and started sliding his whole body down our mattress. I felt his warm lips kiss me endlessly from the base of my neck, to the base of my cock, before wrapping themselves firmly around me.
‘You may be right there, mate,’ I whispered back to him, as I allowed myself to be carried away on the wave of excitement that surged through me.