‘Well, they certainly missed out on a good night out,’ I heard Ben say from the back seat of the Guy’s car, as we cruised along the main street of town. We were heading home after enjoying ourselves at our favourite Chinese restaurant.
He was referring, of course, to Matt and Luke, who had earlier left us a message on the kitchen table saying where they would be; the local pub.
It was a glorious summer night, just right as far as I was concerned. The stars were out at the moment and it was quite warm. I’d just had a great time with Guy and Ben and Samantha, and, to me at least, it was just like old times. Just like when we used to hang out back home, which seemed so long ago now.
‘How do you know they didn’t have a good night out too?’ Samantha asked, who just happened to be sitting beside him, cuddled up close to her lover, with his bearlike arm wrapped protectively around her.
I was driving, seeing as Guy had had a few drinks, and as I glanced up at the rear view mirror I caught Ben rolling his eyes at his girlfriend, in the intermittent light that emanated from passing car lights or street lights that we passed beneath.
I couldn’t help but allow myself a wry smile in the darkness, and when I also glanced across at Guy, who was sitting in the passenger seat, I noticed that he was grinning as well.
‘Well, I don’t know where they would have gone, then? I mean, we couldn’t find them there at the pub when we called in there looking for them, could we?’ Ben added, referring to our brief visit to the local watering-hole earlier that evening to see if we could find our friends, before eventually deciding on a night out at the Chinese place instead.
‘Maybe they’re off some place dreaming up how they can have a little fun of their own then?’ Guy offered, with a giggle.
‘Maybe!’ I replied.
‘Yeah well, we all have to do that sometimes, don’t you know?’ Samantha said from the back seat. ‘And since they’ve been here in town I reckoned they’ve managed to do pretty well on that front, wouldn’t you think?’
‘Yeah Sam, I reckon they have,’ I replied.
Ben remained rather silent during all of this, which I really wasn’t quite sure what I should make of, but I said nothing… and neither did anyone else.
Looking ahead of us I could see a few people milling around outside the pub and idly wondered if Matt and Luke may be amongst them. I slowed down, hoping to catch a glimpse of them, only to be disappointed.
‘Should we go in to the pub again and see if we can find them?’ Guy asked.
‘They might like a lift home if they’re still there,’ Samantha added, just as we passed the corner.
‘Turn in there,’ Guy said quickly, pointing at the driveway into the video store. At this late hour it had already closed, but at least I would be able to turn around in there or park close to the street so that we would only have to cross the road to go back into the pub.
Obeying Guy’s orders I slowed and turned into the car park, then immediately I had to slam my foot down hard on the brakes, to stop myself from hitting a group of people who just appeared from out of nowhere.
‘Jesus!’ I yelled. ‘Where the hell did they come from?’
‘From out of the shadows, boys, and this is where we get out, I reckon,’ I heard Ben say from behind me, opening the car door before I had even stopped, then adding, ‘Just stay here, will you, Sam!’
There was a note of urgency in his voice that set alarm bells off inside my head, and in Guy’s head as well it seemed. In an instant the three of us were out of the car and standing in front of it, although for a fleeting moment at least two of us were still not exactly sure why.
It was the voice that did it for me, when I heard someone say, ‘And we don’t like redneck drunks.’
I would have recognised the voice anywhere.
It was Matt.
He and Luke were standing on the other side of these people, who it seemed still hadn’t noticed us pull in behind them. I counted four of them, and the one in the middle, a skinny red-haired guy, appeared to be the one calling the shots. He was the one doing all the talking.
‘You don’t listen real good, do ya?’ he said to Matt and Luke.
‘Maybe you’re the one who don’t listen real good,’ Ben said suddenly, in a menacing tone, then stepping forward until he was standing just behind the four of them, his arms folded across his chest and no doubt looking quite threatening.
The four tough guys spun around and saw us standing there and you could almost see the blood drain from their faces.
‘Jesus! Just how many faggots are there in this town?’ red-hair said.
‘Enough to kick your sorry ass all the way into the sea if needs be,’ Matt added. ‘So why don’t you do what Scott suggested earlier, and just piss off home?’
They looked from us, back to Matt and Luke, then back to us again.
Guy looked at me quizzically, and I could tell he was wondering the same thing I was. Who was Scott?
‘You poofters might not be so lucky next time,’ red-hair spat.
‘Maybe it’ll be you who won’t be so lucky,’ Ben offered. ‘Maybe we might really kick your ass next time, instead of just talking about it! Why don’t you think about that for a moment?’
With one long last look of disgust in our direction the four of them started backing away slowly, then eventually turned on their heels, crossed the street and disappeared into the night.
We stood there for a few moments just facing each other and listening to them vent their fury at the night as they headed off down the street some place, their cursing and swearing being carried back to us on the still summer air.
‘Well, it seems like we arrived just in time then?’ Guy said after a few awkward moments of silence.
‘What?’ Matt exclaimed. ‘We had ‘em covered.’
‘Yeah sure!’ Ben chided. ‘You and which army?’
‘This army, actually,’ we suddenly heard a voice say, from somewhere within the shadows off to our right, which caused us all to jump.
All except Matt and Luke, for some strange reason.
Two figures emerged from the darkness and started toward us. As they came closer we could see that one guy was about the same age as all of us, while the other guy looked to be in his mid-twenties. Both were rather good looking guys I thought. And I reckoned that both of them knew how to handle themselves.
‘Jesus! What the hell are you two doing back here? I thought you guys went home ages ago!’ I heard Matt say to the two strangers, who obviously weren’t strangers to him and Luke.
‘We noticed our friends loitering about outside when we came out. Thought we’d best keep an eye on them for a bit,’ the older one said.
‘Well, thanks guys,’ Matt answered.
‘It didn’t look like you needed our help though,’ the young guy added. ‘It looks like your cavalry showed up just in time.’
‘Yeah, you could say that,’ Luke answered, grinning at us.
‘So, are these your house mates?’ the older guy asked them. ‘You better introduce us all.’
As I studied them I realised that he looked kind of familiar, but I still couldn’t quite place him.
One by one Luke introduced us to Scott (the older guy) and Justin (the younger guy), who both apparently lived at the caravan park, which was finally when the penny dropped and I knew where I had seen him before.
They had all met earlier that evening apparently, inside the pub, and from all accounts had hit it off quite well, after Scott had apparently stepped in and saved Matt from getting in an earlier fight with red-hair over a spilt glass of beer.
‘Sooo…’ Ben cooed, a wicked grin adorning his face from ear to ear. ‘Your precious little ass needed saving twice tonight huh? Man, don’t ya just love that?’
‘You wish!’ Matt replied. ‘Just wait ‘til it’s yours that’s on the line!’
‘Ain’t nobody getting their hands on my ass, mate. Haven’t you figured that one out already?’
‘Mate, you just haven’t had the right offer yet, that’s all!’
A ripple of laughter quickly spread throughout our little group, and I could have sworn that I saw Ben start to blush. I could have been mistaken of course, given the light and all, but he did seem to go quiet all of a sudden.
‘So, are this pair at each other like this all the time?’ Scott asked us.
‘Yeah, pretty much,’ I answered. ‘You kind of get used to them after a while though, but I always try to look on the upside… at least there’s never a dull moment around our place.’
‘No. I don’t suppose there would be,’ he replied with a chuckle.
It was just then that Samantha decided to join us, tucking herself under Ben’s arm after extricating herself from the car, now that the imminent danger had subsided and she could actually hear us all laughing. We introduced her to our new friends and we all chatted for a few minutes more, before Scott finally yawned and said that he thought perhaps that it was time that they got home.
That seemed to start a chain reaction, with Samantha and Luke and Justin all starting to yawn at about the same time. Isn’t it funny how that always happens?
I looked at my watch and saw that it was well after midnight. Late enough I suppose, but in any other town I knew that the partying would now only just be starting.
We weren’t in any other town though. We were in a quiet country town where everyone went to bed early. Or so it seemed.
A few minutes later we said good night to Scott and Justin and watched as they wandered off, before eventually climbing into an old Ford pick-up truck and driving off into the night.
‘They certainly seem like nice guys,’ Samantha said after they had left.
‘Yeah, they are,’ Luke replied.
‘And are they… ?’ Ben added, without even trying to hide the note of curiosity in his voice.
‘Yup. They are,’ Matt replied.
Ben said nothing, instead letting out a long slow whistle and staring straight at me, his eyes telling me more than his mouth could even dream of saying.
‘What’s wrong?’ Guy asked him.
‘Nothing mate. Nothing at all,’ he replied, still staring straight at me as he said it.
I knew instantly that ‘nothing’ was exactly not what he was thinking about at that moment. I had seen him like this before, and now I suddenly found myself wishing desperately that I could tell what he was thinking right now, instead of wondering if history was going to repeat itself all over again.
I glanced at Samantha and could see her looking up at him with a puzzled expression on her face, but I didn’t think much else of that. I was too busy thinking other thoughts.
It was the way he looked right at me. It was almost as if he were actually wanting to tell me something. After a few seconds though, pretty much as soon as he noticed me staring back at him, with my face no doubt etched with curiosity, he glanced away.
If there’s one thing that could always be said for dear old Ben, it was that he always kept you guessing. And that’s exactly what he was making me do right now.
I hated it when he did that!
* * *
It was certainly a cosy trip home for some of us that night.
Once again, I climbed into the driver’s seat, with Guy in the passenger seat, and the other four squeezed into the back. Samantha helped out, by sitting on Ben’s lap, and I don’t think he minded that at all.
‘Home, James,’ I heard Matt say, so that’s where I took them, while listening to their endless childish antics.
When we reached the house a few minutes later we piled out of the car and headed inside, each of us hand in hand or arm in arm with our respective partners. Once inside we chatted briefly but afterwards wasted no time at all in saying goodnight, before heading off in our own separate directions.
Being a warm and humid night, the warmest we’d had seen since we had moved here, we soon found the house to be a bit hot and stuffy when we had arrived home. The first thing I did after closing our bedroom door behind us was to open the windows up as wide as they could go, then switch on our rather feeble electric fan, which sat on top of a cupboard. It didn’t prove to be all that effective, but at least it provided some relief as it swept a light breeze back and forth.
‘Man, we’re going to have to get something better than that fan,’ Guy said to me as he turned out the lights and then started to strip for bed.
When he had taken off his t-shirt I could see his body shining in the darkness, with the moonlight that was coming in through the open window being reflected off his sweat soaked skin. As strange as it may seem, he looked so beautiful, and sleep was suddenly the last thing on my mind.
I quickly crossed the floor to where he was standing, noticing that he had just undone the zipper on his pants.
‘You not sleepy?’ he asked softly.
I didn’t answer him. Instead I just placed one hand on the side of his head, gently caressing his cheek with my thumb, while pulling him to me. The other was placed on his bare chest, before sliding slid down his abdomen, until I reached the soft bristles, which formed a trail down to that most sacred area of his body.
When our lips touched, I shivered. I wanted more. I didn’t want to let go.
‘Hmmmm… I take it that’s a no, then?’ he moaned, as I ran my fingers through his thick tussock of pubic hair, which seemed matted and damp with sweat.
‘You want to get all hot and sticky?’ I whispered to him.
He chuckled softly in the darkness, and then said, ‘You know that I always like getting hot and sticky with you.’
‘What would you say to doing this under the moon and the stars then? At least there’s a little bit of a breeze outside. Maybe we could go down to the beach? Let’s make love on the sand. With the palm tress swaying and nothing but the sound of the surf rolling in to keep us company.’
He didn’t answer me. Instead he just kissed me once more.
When I moved my hand I could tell he was excited by the idea though.
He was very excited!
* * *
I had been awake for a few minutes, just watching the colours dance across the waters, and the morning sky awash with brilliant shades of gold and crimson, when I felt Guy stir in my arms for the first time.
I had gone to sleep at some stage, propped up against a tree, my knees drawn up and legs slightly apart, with Guy propped up against me and my arms wrapped tightly around him.
Breathing in deeply I could feel my senses tingle with the smell of the salt air, and the manly smell of my lover, while we were being blasted by a fresh easterly breeze coming from a clear sky. It was like we were the only two people left on this earth. We had each other. We had what was around us. I didn’t care about anything apart from that.
Guy stirred once more, only this time he cocked his head back and to one side, trying to look up at me.
‘You are awake!’ he said to me.
‘Yeah beautiful, I am. And a good morning to you too!’ I replied, leaning down and planting a kiss firmly on his lips.
‘Good morning, Tim,’ he said. ‘You have a good night?’
‘The best, mate,’ I answered. ‘It was simply the best.’
I let go of him and he sat up, then got to his feet and started straightening his clothes, and doing up the zipper and stud of his cargo pants, grinning madly at me as he did so.
‘Looks like someone had a busy night?’ I offered.
‘Well, I wasn’t the only one it seems,’ he replied, looking down at me and seeing my bare chest, with my t-shirt on the ground a few feet away, right next to his, and my pants undone, just as his had been.
I just laughed.
‘Hand me my t-shirt will you?’ he said. ‘We’d best get dressed I suppose.’
‘Or… we could finish getting undressed,’ I suggested, ‘and go have a morning swim?’
He looked from me, to the rolling ocean, and back again, then without saying another word he started to undo his pants once more.
‘I take it that’s a yes, then?’ I asked.
‘Yeah, near enough to one,’ he answered, as he slid his pants down around his ankles and started stepping out of them.
I looked up at him and grinned, as I got myself to my feet and let my own pants fall around my ankles.
I just stood there grinning at him for a moment, feeling myself growing in stature as I stood there.
‘What’s wrong with you now?’ he asked.
‘Well, here we are. Alone on a beach. Both practically naked. No one else around. We could always swim later?’
I didn’t need to say anything more. Guy walked straight over to me and took me in his arms, planting his lips firmly across mine and sliding his hands down my back, before finally coming to rest over the cheeks of my arse.
‘Wow,’ I managed to stammer, when finally we came up for air. ‘You don’t need to be told twice, do you?’
* * *
When we walked into the kitchen about an hour later, we found Ben sitting there, alone and staring into a cup of coffee.
‘Good morning, mate. How’re things?’ I asked him. ‘Sam not up yet?’
He just shook his head then swallowed another mouthful of coffee, with his eyes fixed on me the whole time, looking tired, and confused, and perhaps a little scared.
It wasn’t hard to tell that there was something going on inside that head of his, but given his past history I knew that it would take a bit of prompting to get him to let it out of him. Given the right circumstances though he always gave up whatever it was he was stewing over, so I knew that all I had to do was give him some time… and perhaps prod him just a little.
‘Is everything all right?’ I asked him.
Slowly he shifted his gaze from me to Guy and then back to me again, but still he said nothing.
Sensing that something was up, Guy saved the day by saying, ‘Well lads, I’m gonna hit the shower, if it’s all right with you pair,’ before waltzing off down the hall, without even waiting for a reply, leaving me standing at the doorway watching his disappearing backside.
After a lengthy silence, during which Ben studied us both carefully, he finally said, ‘He certainly seems chirpy? You guys must have had a good night.’
‘Yeah, we did,’ I answered. ‘We ended up going down to the beach and sleeping under a palm tree. It was nice.’
The faintest of smiles came across Ben’s lips, but then just as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone.
‘I’m glad, mate,’ he replied, as I crossed the floor and then poured myself a cup of coffee, before sitting down opposite him at the kitchen table.
‘How about you, then?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘How about afterwards? You know, after we got home?’
He offered a wry grin, but only said, ‘Oh, no you don’t.’
‘What?’ I replied, trying in vain to sound totally outraged.
‘I’ve told you before that a gentleman never tells.’
‘Yeah, but you ain’t no gentleman! And I seem to recall having told you that before as well.’
‘You know me too well, Tim. You know me too well.’
We were both silent for a few moments, contemplating the cups that we held in our hands, and the thoughts that both of us had buzzing around inside our heads. I had this feeling that Ben was on the verge of saying something, and hoped desperately that he would.
Eventually he said, ‘They seemed like nice guys that we met last night.’
‘Which ones?’ I joked. ‘The ones who wanted to smash our heads in, or the other two?’
‘Errr… the other two, of course,’ he replied, with a laugh. ‘The ones from the ‘van park.’
‘Yeah, they did seem nice. I hope we can all get to know them a little better.’
Ben simply nodded.
‘So, you reckon that they are gay then?’ he asked after a little while.
‘Yeah, well Matt and Luke said they were. So I suppose they’d know,’ I answered. ‘Why? Does that bother you?’
‘What? No, of course not,’ he answered, sounding just a little peeved.
‘Sorry. It’s just that…’ I started to say, then stopped.
He looked up at me with one eyebrow arched skyward, almost daring me to continue, but I was struggling to come up with the right words.
‘Look, Ben,’ I eventually said. ‘We’ve been friends for a bloody long time. I’ve known you for longer than anyone else in this place, probably known you longer than anyone else anywhere at all, with the exception of maybe your family, so I reckon I can usually tell when something is bothering you.’
He remained silent.
‘I know that something is eating away at you right now. I could see it last night, and it’s still there on your face this morning. You need to let it out mate, don’t keep it bottled up inside you like this.’
‘It’s nothing mate. Really.’
‘Yeah, sure! And pigs really do fly!’
‘Don’t you start! Sam’s already had a go at me, trying to get me to open up. But like I said, it’s nothing really.’
‘That’s bull shit, and you know it!’
He let out a deep sigh and picked up his coffee cup and downed the last of the murky liquid in one gulp, then placed the cup back on the table and looked up at me, his face giving away the confusion and turmoil that reigned in his mind.
‘Maybe you’re right, mate. I probably do need to let it out, but I just don’t think you would understand if I told you.’
‘Come on mate, give me just a little credit will you?’
‘Don’t get me wrong, it’s just…’
Once more there was a lengthy silence, as Ben mulled over in his mind how he could say whatever it was that he needed to say.
‘It’s just…’ he eventually started to say, before pausing again.
I didn’t say anything. I just waited for him to let it out.
‘It’s just something that those guys said last night. It sort of got to me a bit.’
‘What was that?’
‘What they said about us all…’
‘When they said, “How many faggots are there in this town?”’
‘Yeah… and? I thought that you didn’t have any hang-ups about us, or anything? I mean you’ve always said…’
‘It’s not that,’ he says, butting in before I could finish.
‘Don’t you get it, Tim? They thought that I was…’
Finally it dawned on me, slapping me in the forehead like a lump of four by two!
‘Oh, sweet Jesus, mate. Is that what’s worrying you?’
He nodded. ‘Yeah mate, it’s the fact that they think I’m gay! I mean, here I am living with all you guys and all, but…’
Suddenly it all made sense.
Ben, the one that could always be depended upon, was feeling vulnerable and hurt and confused. Without giving it a second thought I reached out and placed one hand over his.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I did that. Hell, I wasn’t even sure why I did that.
The surprising thing was that he didn’t flinch, or pull his hand away, or do anything that I would have expected him to do. Instead he simply rolled his hand over, with his palm was facing upwards, opened his hand, and allowed my fingers to become interlaced with his.
We both closed our hands at the same time and looked up at each other.
And that was when Samantha and Guy both walked into the room.