‘So, what’s going on in there, then?’ Matt asked as he and Luke joined Tim and me where we were standing guard in the hallway, outside the closed door of the kitchen.
‘Nothing much, Matt. Ben and Sam are just having a little heart to heart, that’s all,’ I answered.
‘Oh! Trouble in Paradise?’ asked Luke.
‘No… nothing they can’t handle. Ben’s just having a little identity crisis, that’s all… and don’t you guys go saying anything about it being me you heard it from!’
‘Wouldn’t dream of it,’ Matt replied, but the smirk on his face had me a little worried.
‘I mean it, Matt! Not a word,’ I scolded. ‘Just let them sort things out for themselves, all right? They don’t need anyone else sticking their nose in where it isn’t wanted.’
He must have caught on to the feeling in my voice, because the smirk disappeared straight away and he said, ‘All right,’ in a serious tone.
It wasn’t before time too, because right at that moment the door opened and Ben and Samantha came out of the kitchen, all smiles and hand in hand once more, although slightly surprised when they saw the four of us standing there.
‘Everything sorted then?’ I asked them.
Sam gave me a quick peck on the cheek, then Tim as well, which surprised me slightly. I also heard her tell Tim that she was sorry about earlier. Everything, it seemed, was once again as it should be, although I did noticed Ben looking at Matt with an air of apprehension.
‘Don’t worry,’ I whispered to him. ‘I’ve already put him in his place!’
By the expression on his face I wasn’t sure if he believed me or not. I mean, Matt wasn’t exactly one of those kind of people who could be easily put back in their place, but at least Ben looked a little more reassured than he had been a minute ago.
‘Bloody hell, this hallway is too crowded for six people to be standing around in,’ Matt suddenly exclaimed. ‘How about we get us some breakfast organised?’
‘Not for us thanks, Matt,’ Ben replied. ‘Sam and I are heading off down to the beach for a bit. We might get something when we get back.’
Matt simply nodded and said, ‘Well, have fun then, kids. And don’t stay too long, or we’ll eat yours!’
‘That’d be bloody right!’ Tim added. ‘Looks like you and Luke will have to do the shopping next time then!’
‘It’ll be our pleasure,’ Luke piped up and said, giving Matt one of those looks that said he shouldn’t say whatever it was that we could all see was on his mind!
As we watched Ben and Sam head down the hallway I chuckled to myself at the way he was able to handle Matt. Luke wasn’t the most forward of people, in fact he was just the opposite I reckoned, but he seemed to have a power over Matt that no-one else would be able to manage.
I guess that’s what love can do to a guy, huh?
‘All right then, Matt,’ I said, after Ben and Sam had disappeared out the door at the end of the hallway. ‘Seeing as you offered, we’ll be having bacon and eggs, thanks very much!’
‘Yeah, and I’d like mine with some toast and grilled tomato and onion, or something like that. It was a big night last night, so I feel like a big breakfast!’ Tim then added.
Matt simply rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, muttered something along the lines of, ‘The things I let myself in for,’ then headed for the kitchen.
Luke just grinned at us.
‘Just how the hell do you do it?’ I asked Luke after Matt had left us.
‘What’s that?’ he asked.
‘Put up with him!’
‘Hey… I heard that!’ Matt called out from the kitchen.
‘Don’t you worry about us! You just pull your head in and get our breakfast ready!’ Tim called out to him.
‘Mutter… mutter… mutter,’ was all we could hear in reply, accompanied by the clank of a frying pan being sat forcefully onto the stove-top.
‘Well?’ I asked.
‘It’s not as hard as you’d think,’ Luke answered. ‘He’s a pussy cat really.’
‘Yeah, as if!’ Tim replied.
‘I’m serious! He is! There’s one thing that would make it easier though…’ he said quite softly, leaning toward us as he did so, as if he didn’t want Matt to hear.
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
‘I wish he could get a bloody job!’
‘Yeah. And I reckon it’d help Ben too!’ I replied, with the three of us all nodding our agreement.
By the smell of things, something good was happening in the kitchen, so we decided to head in and see how much mess our cook was making.
‘Need a hand, babe?’ Luke asked him as we walked into the room, walking straight up behind him and placing his hands on Matt’s hips and laying his body against him, with his chin on Matt’s shoulder, then peering into the frying pan on the stove.
‘Yeah, that’d be great,’ Matt replied, without even looking away from what he was doing. ‘We need toast and we need coffee.’
‘I’ll do the coffee,’ Tim volunteered, while Luke set about putting some bread in the toaster, which left me as the only one doing nothing, but not for long, as I soon grabbed some knives and forks and placemats and set places at the table for us all.
‘Well, aren’t we an efficient little team then?’ I heard Matt say, turning around to see him standing there watching us all with his hands planted firmly on his hips.
‘Don’t expect it too often though,’ I replied, which only resulted in a tea-towel landing firmly in my face, followed by the sounds of three boys giggling.
‘You’ll all keep,’ I said to them.
‘Yeah, probably!’ Luke answered.
Breakfast was served a few minutes later and we all sat down and enjoyed it, talking amongst ourselves about what was going on around us, but all managing to leave the subject of Ben and Samantha well alone.
‘So, what did you guys make of last night then?’ I asked them, over coffee.
‘Make of what?’ Luke asked.
‘Oh, those arseholes mainly, I suppose!’ I answered. ‘I reckon we’ll all have to watch ourselves around here now… especially now that we know that there actually are people like them around.’
‘Oh, I wouldn’t be too worried about them,’ Matt said.
‘What makes you say that?’ Tim asked.
‘Well, they were all half tanked. Basically I’d say that they would be pretty gutless if we ever ran into them while they were sober. And even more-so if we ran into any of them alone!’
‘Yeah, well, that may be so,’ I replied. ‘But I still reckon we need to watch ourselves. Especially if we’re alone!’
‘Yeah. Point taken,’ Matt replied.
* * *
After breakfast Tim and I left the washing up to Matt and Luke, at their insistence, surprisingly, and while Tim headed for the bathroom to take a shower, I grabbed the previous day’s newspaper and headed out onto the back verandah to see what was happening in the world.
At least I wasn’t disappointed whilst doing that. The headlines were pretty much the same as always: Wars, murders, scandals. Nothing ever changes it seems.
Just as I finished reading Matt and Luke came out onto the verandah and joined me, and then moments later Tim arrived too, looking and smelling all fresh.
‘So, what’s happening out in the big wide world, then?’ Tim asked as I folded the newspaper and set it on the floor beside the two-seater that I had settled upon, before Tim sat down beside me, shirtless and with his bare shoulders touching mine.
‘Oh, same old, same old,’ I answered. ‘We’re lucky we live in a place like this, I reckon.’
‘Ain’t that the truth!’ Matt offered. ‘I’m just glad that we didn’t end up in a place like Sydney… that’d be just a bit too crowded for my liking.’
He and Luke had settled themselves down on the edge of the verandah with their legs hanging over the edge and their backs to us, and after he had said that I noticed Luke’s hand reach out and grasp hold of Matt’s, while Matt looked up and smiled at his mate.
‘I’m glad we ended up here too,’ Luke said to him, while leaning over and planting a quick kiss on Matt’s lips.
For many people such a scene would look strange. Some might even be repulsed, but here, amongst ourselves, amongst friends who knew and understood, there was nothing more natural, or more perfect, in the world that you could do.
I glanced up at Tim and saw him smiling at them as well, but when he noticed me looking at him he quickly cupped my face in his hands and kissed me also, with his lips lingering for far longer than for just a quick peck. But hey, I wasn’t arguing!
‘Hey, careful there you two, or I’ll have to turn the hose on you both!’ we soon heard Matt say. ‘We can’t have you pair setting the house on fire on us, we’d have no place to live!’
‘Very… fucking… funny,’ I said to him, tearing my lips away from Tim for just long enough to say that, then returning them to the job at hand.
‘Oh, Christ! I can’t sit here and watch this all day,’ Matt replied.
‘Suit yourself then!’ Tim muttered between my kisses and waved an arm loosely in his direction.
‘Hmmppff…’ was all we heard in reply, followed by, ‘What do you reckon mate? How about we head into town, and leave these two love-birds to whatever it is they want to do?’
‘Hey, I have a better idea,’ I said to them, tearing myself away from Tim for just long enough. ‘Why don’t we all go in to town? We could go and have lunch some place, spend the day on the beach, or on the lake! I mean, we haven’t got much else to do have we?’
‘Sounds like a great idea,’ Luke answered. ‘But what about Ben and Samantha?’
‘We could leave them a note. Tell them to meet us there if they want to.’
‘Well, I’m in,’ Matt said.
‘Yeah, me too,’ Luke added.
I turned to Tim and raised my eyebrows inquiringly.
‘Shit, yeah,’ he answered.
‘Good. That’s settled then!’
‘Just give us a few minutes to have a quick shower first, will you?’ Luke said, as he got to his feet and held his hand out toward Matt.
The grin on Matt’s face said told us all exactly what he was thinking.
‘I said shower,’ Luke admonished, which only caused Tim and me to start giggling.
* * *
It proved to be a great day to be on the water, with the sun and the cool summer breeze and all the locals making it perfect.
We had left a note on the kitchen table for Ben and Samantha and they joined us at about lunch time, walking hand in hand down to the water’s edge and waving to us, while the four of us were all out on the lake, having hired two of those floating trikes, or whatever it is that they call them!
All around us there were people swimming, or paddling in the shadows, or sailing their small boats around the lake. There wasn’t a huge crowd of people, but there were enough people about to give the place a summery kind of atmosphere.
When we spotted Ben and Samantha we raced in toward the beach, with Tim and me getting there first, much to Matt and Luke’s disgust.
‘Hey, that looks like fun!’ Ben said to us as Tim and I jumped from our craft.
‘Yeah, it is. You pair should have a go,’ I said to them both. ‘We’ve still got about half an hour left on the hire.’
Ben turned to Sam and asked, ‘What do you reckon? Are you game?’
‘Sure,’ she answered, but judging by her expression I wasn’t totally convinced by that answer.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ I said to her. ‘Once you get the hang of it, it’s a piece of cake!’
Once we got them both on the machine and pushed them off from the shore they managed to get it going themselves without too many problems, despite being a little unsteady to start with.
Matt and Luke paddled along beside them for a while, and we could soon hear the four of them laughing as they raced each other across the water.
‘Well, it didn’t take them long to get their sea legs,’ Tim quipped.
‘No, mate. I reckon that they’ll be O.K.’ I answered. ‘Come on, let’s head up onto one of those seats in the shade ‘til they’re finished, huh?’
‘Good idea. Then what do you say we head down to the Boardwalk for lunch, when the kids get back to shore?’
‘Kids? Geez mate, I’m not sure they’d like to hear you call them that,’ I said to him, grinning.
‘Yeah well, I wouldn’t say it to them straight-up now, would I? And I know that no-one else around here would tell them I would call them that!’
‘What makes you so sure?’
He simply shook his head and said something that sounded suspiciously like, ‘Bastard!’
We left the edge of the water and headed up the hill, toward a vacant bench that was in the shade of some trees, which is where we sat while the ‘kids’ continued to have their fun on the water.
‘This should do Ben and Sam the world of good,’ I said to Tim after we had watched them for a while.
‘Yeah, I think it will,’ he answered.
‘Do you really think that he’s over this little… errr… crisis? I mean, you know him better than anyone else?’
He didn’t answer me straight away and so I looked up at Tim, finding him intently studying the goings on down on the water.
‘I’m not really sure,’ he said, after quite a lengthy silence.
‘What makes you say that?’
‘Well, I think there could be a side to Ben that I’m afraid I don’t even know very well. Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t think he’s gay or anything, but there’s an adventurous, maybe even reckless, side to him that is always pushing him to try things. You know, live life on the edge and all that jazz.’
‘Yeah. I can see that,’ I replied.
‘Do you remember that day when we were in your mother’s kitchen? I think it was the first day that we actually kissed?’
‘Oh, geez yeah. How could I forget?’ I answered, feeling myself stir at the very thought of it.
‘And do you remember how Ben walked in on us? And said that it had to be one of the hottest things he’d ever seen!’
‘Yeah mate. I damn near shit myself!’
‘Yeah. Me too!’ he replied.
‘So, what about it?’
‘Well, you and me had him pretty worked up that day. It wasn’t long after that that he asked me what I would have done if he’d ever asked me to… well, you know!’
‘Sweet Jesus! Really?’
‘Uh huh. And don’t you ever say anything to him about it either!’
‘Wouldn’t dream of it, mate.’
‘Thanks,’ he answered.
‘So, what happened? I mean, well, did he ever ask you?’
‘No, he didn’t. He said he wouldn’t, because he didn’t want to lose me as a friend.’
‘I suppose that’s fair enough then!’
‘Yeah, I reckon it is,’ he answered. ‘But, you know, as much as I had hoped and prayed and wished at one time that he would have actually asked me, I’m glad that he didn’t.’
‘How come?’ I asked.
He didn’t answer at first. Instead he just placed his hand over mine, which happened to be sitting on my leg, and gave a gentle squeeze.
‘Because,’ he said. ‘If I’d have ever gotten involved with him in that way, chances are I wouldn’t have ended up with you!’
I looked up into his smiling face and I so wanted to kiss him, but being out here in the open like this, I knew I couldn’t.
‘Thank you,’ I whispered, while squeezing his hand. ‘And I’ll thank you properly later!’
‘That’d be nice,’ he replied.
We sat there in silence, just holding each other’s hands, discretely of course, and watching the world go by.
After a few minutes I said to him, ‘But you still haven’t said what you thought Ben would eventually do.’
‘Well, one day, I reckon that Ben will do something that will shock us all. I don’t doubt that he loves Sam, but there’s a need for him to find out… stuff. And that need will be what ultimately tempts him.’
‘I don’t follow,’ I answered.
‘One day, I think Ben will go off the rails. He won’t be able to resist. Given the right circumstances, I think that he will experiment with some guy. I think it’s inevitable.’
‘You’re joking of course?’
‘No, mate. I’m not!’ he replied, as we both watched our four friends come into the beach and jump from their machines.
‘What are you going to do about it then?’
‘Nothing I can do,’ he shrugged. ‘I just hope he choses the right guy.’
‘Surely not… not one of us?’
‘Oh no! I don’t think any of us will ever be that lucky,’ he replied. ‘I think that that would be just a little too close to home for our Benny-boy.’
I swallowed hard and looked back down the hill at the group of people trudging toward us.
‘Well, I just hope he doesn’t get hurt,’ I said to Tim. ‘And I hope that Sam doesn’t get hurt either.’
‘Yeah, mate. I agree!’ he said quietly, as the four of them got within ear-shot.
‘So, you boys ready for some lunch then?’ Samantha said as they reached us.
‘Hell yeah,’ I replied. ‘We though you guys were going to stay out there all bloody day!’
‘No chance of that,’ Ben replied. ‘We’re starved! There wasn’t any breakfast waiting for us when we got back, so we haven’t eaten yet!’
‘Hey, don’t look at us?’ I exclaimed. ‘Blame the bloody cook!’
‘Don’t worry, I already have!’
‘All right boys, give it a rest,’ Samantha quietly interjected. ‘I vote for fish and chips down on the Boardwalk! What about you guys?’
I got to my feet and walked over to Sam and put my arm through hers.
‘All right then. I guess that Guy’s with me,’ she giggled. ‘Who else?’
‘All right. All right,’ Ben said. ‘Fish and chips it is then!’
We all laughed and headed off down the hill, with Sam and I leading the way. I couldn’t help but think of Ben possibly cheating on her, especially with a guy, and hoped to hell that Tim was wrong about Ben.
As we approached the Boardwalk, on which there were a few food stands and shops, I could see that it wasn’t all that crowded, so we wouldn’t have any trouble finding a table for the six of us.
We went and ordered our meals at the main counter, then looked around for a table, finding one that was large enough over by the railing, looking out across the lake at the end where the weir held back its waters and the overflow creek started spilling the excess water in the direction of the ocean.
‘Well, the people you run into in these places!’ we heard someone say, and looking around us we noticed two people we knew, sitting toward the other end of the rows of tables. It was Scott and Justin, from last night.
God, how long ago that seemed already!
‘You folks want to come and join us?’ Scott asked. ‘We can move a few of these tables closer together if you like!’
We all looked at each other, and nobody said they didn’t want to, so we did, dragging a couple of tables over next to theirs and sitting down with them.
‘Do you come here often?’ I heard Luke ask them.
‘When we can,’ Scott answered. ‘It’s nice here.’
‘Yeah, it is,’ Matt answered.
Tim gave me a gentle elbow in the ribs and when I glanced at him I noticed him staring across the table. He was looking at Ben.
And Ben was looking at Justin.