Despite the fact that school was back in, Luke was in a good mood. It was a roasting summer's day. The holidays might be over, but the day was still gloriously hot, like most others had been that mid August. At least, being only the first week of the fall semester, the schoolwork schedule hadn’t yet been driven into high gear, and there was still time enough to kick back and enjoy some R&R.
That afternoon, when the final bell had come, the school had emptied rapidly and it looked liked many were planning the same thing as he and Ryan—at least those with pools in their backyards (which he had discovered, was most)!
Thirty minutes later, after dumping his bags in the house and quickly changing, he’d biked over to Ryan’s for a swim.
He liked Ryan Alexis. So? There was nothing wrong about that.
In fact they’d been friends for a long time, and that was how he saw it as he watched the guy drift around on the water in front of him. Everyone could have close friends, couldn't they?
Ryan was a couple of months younger than him, and an inch shorter, though you wouldn't know it just then as most of him was submerged in the pool. Ryan’s head stirred through the water, with it’s short-cropped, black hair which complemented a dark complexion.
When he first got to know Ryan, Luke suspected he must spend a lot of time in the sun —either that or he was just lucky. In time, he discovered it was a bit of both. The two of them hung out a lot, and it was handy that Ry’s place was just an easy bike ride away.
It was actually four years ago, almost to the week, Luke mused, as he rested on the edge of the pool with his legs dangling in the water. Four years since he’d come to this country. Four years since he’d first walked into their class at the Academy and been introduced to everyone as ‘the boy from London’, by Principal Benton.
Hell, he was almost an American by now! And even better, by this time next year, he’d have his own wheels! Now that would never have happened back in the UK!
He remembered the time when he and Simon had started at the Academy. Ryan had been an enigma then and during those first weeks at school, if you’d told Luke that the dark-haired kid now drifting in the water in front of him, the one who’d seemed so obnoxious at the time would become his closest friend, he would have eaten his hat.
At the time, while everyone else was flocking around Luke’s celebrity status, Ryan Alexis had been distant, unwilling to even give him the time of day. Popular guy or not, Ry had seemed —in the Queen’s English—a bit of a prat!
Stirring the water with his legs, Luke watched him now with fond amusement as the dark haired-head unexpectedly submerged with hardly a trace of a ripple. He shook his head at Ryan’s antics, wondering how those four years had passed so unexpectedly quickly, too.
At peace with the world, Luke lay back on the edge of the pool that had, over the years, taken some beating. It was big. Not Olympic big, but big enough to make a hell of a great splash. It would have been a brilliant setting for a really big pool party, for a birthday or something, with room for dozens. However, for a very good reason, Ryan never had friends around like that.
To be honest, with parents like his, who would?
Usually it was just the two of them. That worked okay.
The pool filters were running and the sound of the gurgling water was about as relaxing as it could be, and Luke sighed as he studied the deep azure of the late afternoon sky. The sun was just right. His life was just right. It was just…perfect! He was even glad to be back at school after the long summer break. The new semester was underway, and they’d all just picked up where they’d left off.
Sitting up again to rest on his elbows, he smiled to himself as he studied Ryan drifting around in front of him in the rippling water. Ryan had shifted onto one of those air-filled waterbeds, the sort that make pools more fun, and was kicking his legs gently in the water for steerage. Evil possibilities of bombing him, or sliding across unseen and tipping him into the drink took shape in Luke’s head.
He watched him thoughtfully as he decided which it would be, seeing how the sun glinted off the rivers of water that occasionally washed across his friend’s torso. Ryan was unbelievably brown, having really caught the sun that summer. Luke looked at his own arms. Maybe they both had?
“It’s the tennis try-outs tomorrow,” murmured Ryan. His eyes were closed against the afternoon glare, and his voice broke into the comfortable silence they were enjoying. “I assume you’re going out for the team again this year?”
Luke put bombing on the back burner for the time being and considered the question. They had both been on the squad the previous year, and though both expected to be chosen again, everyone still needed to attend the try-outs. Luke shrugged and quipped, “Actually I was thinking of going for the football try-outs this time round.”
Amusement crossed Ryan's face as he continued to drift lazily in the sunshine. Luke smirked to—both knew it was unlikely. Football and Luke did not get on. Ry, on the other hand…well, if he’d wanted to, he could probably have made the team. He just couldn’t be bothered.
“I hear they’re looking to start a cheerleader team," Ryan murmured. "You’d be good at that.”
“Asshole.” Amiably, Luke kicked water that sprayed across Ryan's floating torso. Theirs was an ‘all boys’ school, and the likelihood of there being cheerleaders was about as farfetched as coach going on his knees and begging Luke to try for quarterback!
Ryan ignored the soaking he received, though Luke knew full well it wasn't that hard. This wasn't the English seaside, and in this part of the world and at this time of year, he’d long since got used to the idea that you didn’t have to jump around squealing if cold water landed on you!
Smirking as Ryan continued to float through his drenching, beads of water formed on his skin, Luke followed them with his eyes as they hurried to make their way back to where they’d come from. Observing Ryan critically, Luke studied the tanned skin down to the black hipster swim trunks Ry was sporting again that day; the ones he’d picked up earlier in the summer. He often had them on. He liked dark colors, usually black, which looked good on him, though Luke still couldn't figure out how Ryan managed to wear so much black without looking like a Goth!
Not him. He liked wild, garish patterns...the more colorful the better!
He passed over those dark trunks and then caught up with Ryan’s tanned skin as it reappeared on muscular thighs. Legs where dark hairs now grew. No longer a kid’s legs. He dropped his eyes to his own legs and frowned at a dusting of light hairs that blended in so well they might as well not be there, and he pulled a face.
At least he had plenty of nicely bushy pubes to take pride in!
* * *
Extract from Luke's Notes:
In retrospect, what happened next was a critical turning point for me. Maybe you would call it a watershed moment—as much a watershed as it was for those beads of water, slipping off Ry’s flat abdomen and deciding to go down either one side or the other. A turning point because, after following the tanned skin to his knees, my gaze turned and walked back up to the trunks to study the sleek dark material stretched tightly over a distinct bulge in his groin.
What I found myself considering went WAY past anything normal I’d ever entertained with him before. In fact, not just him...with any guy, really.
Even though I knew quite well what his tackle looked like under those really sleek trunks, I found myself trying to conjure it up in my mind, secretly willing those trunks to evaporate. That was definitely a step further than my usual daydreaming—that hormone-driven comparing of wangers in the lockers, and the increasingly frequent speculation of what it was like for guys who, unlike me, DIDN'T have a chunk of skin hanging off them!
Possibilities charged my examination. There was a big difference between pondering a three-year old quandary and focusing on what was inside those swim trunks, and I'd definitely just crossed the line!
I couldn't tear my eyes away from that piece of stretched material through which I could see the outline of his shaft and even the shape of the head! That shape was hypnotic and the more I thought about it, the more my own stirred; and that continued, uncontrolled, until he turned his head towards me and seemed to ponder me. Uncomfortable, and knowing I was well into cranking up a substantial chub, I quickly shifted down into the water.
Diving, I swam along the bottom to the far wall, hoping my awkward discomfort would go away, before I surfaced at the far wall. After a few moments to let things settle, I began to push gently back through the water towards him.
Now of course, that studied gaze he’d fired my way probably meant nothing. How could he have ANY idea what thoughts I was having as I’d watched him? Fortunately, he went onto something else, his thoughts apparently elsewhere that day!
* * *
"So, how are you getting home?" Ryan slid off the airbed into the water and pushed it away.
"Today?" Luke grunted a sigh of relief, apparently in the clear. “On my bike of course.”
"No, asshole! Friday—after the sports day! If your mom's picking you up, can, I get a lift with you?"
"Sure." Luke backed away in the water, satisfied that nothing else had leaked from him. His hand reached for a ball and they began batting it back and forth. He’d been wrenched back to reality with a sharp jerk, and was left wondering what the hell he’d been thinking!
“So are you doing Drivers Ed still?” Luke asked, changing the subject. They’d both got their Learners Permits when they’d turned fifteen, and he now tried to get his mum and dad to take him out as often as they would.
“I will,” replied Ryan. “Just need to find an instructor.” He offered a rueful grin. “Going out with the old man doesn’t work for either of us. I plan to get my license right after my sixteenth, though. You?”
“Yep – same.” He expected Ryan would get a car fast too, whereas his mum and dad had already been clear that he wouldn’t get one until the start of the following school year, a full six months after his birthday. He’d whined at that, but he knew Simon would get the same when it was his turn.
* * *
Extract from Luke's Notes:
The conversation moved on that day, and my horniness with it. I decided to ascribe it to ridiculous teen hormones or something. But if you want to know when it started, it was then. That day at the pool was when I first held both the blue and the red pills in my hand and had a hard time deciding which rabbit hole to go down. That day, at his house, in the pool was the first time I looked at Ry and found my pulse racing and something in my shorts stirring.
Maybe it was like people say, and being gay is always there from birth? I didn't know on that one at the time, and to be honest, I still don't. But, like the Matrix (which had to be one of the coolest films around), I found myself weighing up the red pill and giving it a sniff.
There was another side to this, too, as unexpected though it was. It definitely fuelled what I convinced myself was a healthy interest in dicks – because, for some time, I'd been investigating what it would involve to get circumcised!
At home, we were already online. We started with a desktop computer, bought with the idea that Simon and I would be able to use it for our studies. Well, you know how THAT kind of deal tends to go; because we fought too much, arguing whose room it should go in, it went downstairs.
Then, for my previous birthday I got a Macbook—long story…will tell it later— but at least it meant I had my own computer in my room. (Simon got the desktop). I still had to be careful who might come in and see the screen, but I found out quickly how to cover my tracks. I explored a bit and found out things about wangers that Mum and Dad would NEVER think to tell me about!
So, the day came—after a few false starts where I kept chickening out—that I screwed up my courage and announced exactly what was on my mind.
After four years of living in the States, I’d decided that if I was going to grow up in this country (and after all the frustration of being made to emigrate here in the first place, I damn well wasn’t planning on leaving), I didn't want to remain the odd one out.
And what was crystal clear was that American guys were cut. That was how it was done here. It was normal. They seemed to like being unhooded, and I decided I wanted the same.
* * *
Luke landed his ultimatum not long after the annual tri-school sports day. Every year the three high schools in their area competed—them, Creek and Alpharetta High. That year it had been hosted at Alpharetta, and in the lockers, from guys he'd never met before, he'd picked up more looks of bemusement and a few wisecracks about his anteater. He'd had enough and it further fuelled his determination to do something about it.
A week later, he and Ryan had stayed on at a tennis practice, so it was only him and his mum when she came to pick him up at the end of the afternoon. It was then that he decided that this was his moment, and he spoke up.
It didn’t go down well.
“Excuse me?” Pulling into their subdivision, his mum's face gave the impression he'd said a naughty word!
“Circumcision. I want to be circumcised." He repeated it more slowly. Did she have to choose now to be deaf?
“Circumcision.” He tried again. “It’s when you…”
“Yes I know what it is!" His mum interrupted and sounded so aghast, that he cringed. "Luke, for heaven's sake, why on earth would you need to do that?” Pulling onto the drive of their home, she killed the engine. “And what do you know about circumcision anyway?”
“Mum, I’m fifteen, not five!” For God's sake!
Dismissive, she stalked to the front door. Even the way she jammed the key in the lock reeked of disapproval. “I don’t know where you’ve been getting this from,” she said. “But the answer's no – absolutely not!” Continuing to shake her head as though he’d lost his marbles, she went into the house.
Following her inside, he threw his backpack on the kitchen floor. This was not going well. He'd expected questions, a frank open discussion maybe, but not adamant refusal within a few breaths!
“But why not? I’m not a kid, why can’t I decide for myself what I want? What’s wrong with being circumcised? Everyone else here is!”
Her lips formed a hard line as she filled the kettle, banging it against the tap. "Well I'm not at all comfortable with the idea. I hear what you’re saying, but I don't think you've thought it through...at ALL!" She snapped on the switch. "Sure, most boys in this country are circumcised, but that doesn't mean you have to be.“
Not thought it through? That was like a red rag to a bull, and he raised his voice. “That’s easy for you to say – but it’s not something you have to face!" Why should he have to compromise on what he wanted?
“Don’t be ridiculous!”
"Why are you making me wait 'til I’m old enough that I don’t need your permission!” He tried not to make it sound like a threat, but he was frustrated. She could be so damn inflexible if it suited her!
With a shake of her head, she rebuffed him, but then her tone became a little less contentious and a little more delicate as she tried a different tack on him.
“Sweetheart, listen to me. Any kind of surgery, especially down there," she emphasized the word enough for him to twitch uncomfortably, "is never to be taken lightly. And most boys here are done that way when they’re babies. What you're suggesting is completely different.”
He couldn’t believe his ears. What was her problem? He was so fuming mad, he stalked out to go upstairs to throw his jacket on his bed, going over it in his head, By the time he returned, he was getting closer to boiling point, and he banged the kitchen door angrily.
He saw her purse her lips at his truculence, but still stuck with trying to reason with him. Maybe she thought his angry silence meant he was listening.
"Luke, it's not like your dad and I don't care what you think…." Her tone was conciliatory.
“…it’s just that it’s such a big step. Think about it; you can't just decide to be circumcised and change your mind the next day! Why don't you give it time? Maybe, when you're a little older, you'll feel differently?"
He couldn't hold back and growled at her. "I have been thinking about it. Do you actually think I'm completely stupid?" His volume climbed, unable to curb his anger at her pigheadedness. "I didn't just wake up this morning and make it up you know. Are you telling me I can't have it done?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying!” Her voice hardened on him, and he could tell she was done with the softly-softly touch and had made up her mind. “So let's just leave it there, shall we?"
"He can't do what?" Geoff Summers, Luke's father, walked in the door and slung his jacket over the back of a chair.
"Nothing!" Lucy snapped at her husband. "And please, could you hang that up properly?"
"It's not nothing!“ Luke shifted his attention to his dad who looked like he could tell he’d walked into a war zone. “I want to be circumcised!"
Geoff's eyes flicked from son to wife and back, blinking several times, obviously out of his depth and Lucy came to his rescue.
"Luke seems to think he needs to be circumcised, that's all." She glared at her son, daring him to challenge her.
“That’s NOT all!” Luke ground out the words, facing off against her. “I’ve been thinking about it for ages!”
"You asked my opinion,” she shot back. “And I said no. Now can we just move on?"
"No, we can't! And I didn't ask your opinion. I told you I wanted it done."
"And I told you that it's totally out of the question,” she replied tartly, overriding him. "Don't you agree, Hon?"
Geoff took a deep breath and said, "Okay, calm down everyone." He sat down, and Luke sat too, feeling more hopeful. Surely, as a guy, his dad would understand.
His dad looked him in the eye. "I don't get it. Why would you want to be circumcised?"
Irritated by her, Luke pulled a face. "Jeez —thanks for the support, Dad! You're telling me you don't understand?"
“Well…why don’t you explain it to me?”
“I just want to be circumcised, that’s all. Everyone else is…there’s no law against it, is there?” He shrugged uncomfortably, less prepared than he thought for justifying his demand.
"No law, no. But there is common sense, and I think Mum's right.” His dad’s calm approach ate into his resolve and Luke slumped over the table, crestfallen.
“Sunshine, I've no idea where this has all come from, but in any case an operation like that isn't going to be covered by insurance and, like Grandpa always used to say, 'If it's not bust, don't fix it!'"
And that had been their last word on the subject that day.
He was more than disappointed—he was totally pissed off! What the hell had it to do with them? And if they hoped he was just going to grow out of the idea in a couple of days, they’d got another think coming!
It was a setback, but if anything it drove his determination even harder, and he picked himself up, refusing to budge from the journey he wanted to take. Over the next months, he didn't let the topic die, but did his research—lots of it. And he made bloody well sure they got it all; deluging them with papers and reasonable arguments about health and cleanliness, all culled (and sanitized where needed) from stuff he’d gleaned off the web.
In the midst of it all, Simon thought he was COMPLETELY NUTS!
He and Simon were quite close, with Simon being just fifteen months younger, but close in ways that were more than just the slim age gap. The pair had grown up to be the kind of siblings that actually liked each other rather than dropping into the usual brotherly ‘ignore mode’. Open and frank about most things, neither had been that happy about moving to the USA and, for many months, the only friends they'd had were each other. That had changed as new friends began coming round, but he and Simon still remained close.
The pair were physically quite similar too, and you could tell straight away that they were brothers with their dirty blond hair and warm hazel eyes. Girls usually thought the two of them were pretty cute—particularly when they heard their British accents which seemed to elicit purrs of delight (at least in that country), from females from eight to eighty! And that little nut had worn thin on him years ago!
While they were playing on their PS2 one afternoon, Luke tried to explain his reasons for being skinned as best he could—well, at least he told Simon about the 'fitting in' bit, and carefully brushed over the other thing that he tried to hide from everyone. The truth was, he thought about sex almost all the time these days, and you couldn’t think about sex without bringing your dick into it!
It wasn't like Simon to ridicule people and their ideas, but after hearing some of the details of foreskin surgery, he did go for a bit of brotherly teasing.
"Crap...you'd actually let them go ahead and cut your wanger off?" He chuckled, flicking his fingers over the controls. "Isn't that going to hurt?"
“Asshole!” Luke rolled his eyes, but took it well. "They don’t cut it off – and it might be a bit sore for a bit, but it'll look a whole lot better when it's done!"
Well, he hoped it would. If it ever happened, that was.
"I still don't get why you think your dick looks wrong now?" Simon paused the game and studied him curiously.
"And in the lockers at school?" he shot back. "Don't tell me you don't get teased a bit." As a freshman, Simon had just started high school that semester and Luke knew from experience that puberty was already going to be well under way and, if they hadn’t already, guys started comparing tackle.
"Yeah, maybe...a bit…" Simon shrugged and went back to the game. "But I don't care." He seemed unconvinced, but then smirked as he added, "so you like the idea of having an American chubby then?"
"Don't be gross—and it's called a chub." Luke pulled a face and sneered. "I mean…do you even know what that is?"
Simon giggled, dropping the game into pause once more. "Duh..." Another cheeky smirk crossed his face. "Of course I know what a chub is, dufus! But don't you think American dicks look a bit like little chubby sausages?"
Luke had to laugh. Simon wasn't wrong - at least at his age. He still remembered the perky little seventh grade, inch long chipolatas that were little more than plump acorns on guys like Ryan and Todd when he first arrived at the school. Even then, sporting what he knew to be a normal foreskin, he’d had a few centimeters on them.
This time last year he was still half an inch up on their average, but Simon was right, his brother was probably still surrounded by those three inch plump sausages that hadn’t yet decided whether they were going to grow or not, at a time when many suffered a bit of diminutive willy syndrome! Another year would make a big difference.
“Well, you do what you like,” Simon said finally. “But I'm hanging on to mine."
He let it go. Si might never admit it but, like many younger brothers did with older siblings, he often looked to him to decide things if they were important enough. Would this be one of those things, he wondered?
Give it another of year, he smiled to himself. We'll see then whether it starts to bother you!
Simon got back to his game. “Do you want a go?” he asked.
“Nah – I’m going to go check my email.”
“Yeah, I bet,” Simon smirked. “And print of some more pictures of willys to give to Mum and Dad!”
Luke laughed. “I can give them to you if you prefer?”
“Yeah – whatever,” his brother said, staring at the screen and ignoring him.
Leaving Simon to continue playing, Luke went back upstairs and settled at his MacBook. He was definitely into the era of social media, and the same computer that had brought him unhooded dicks brought him Facebook, too.
Everyone was getting into Facebook and he was no different, though how he’d ended up with Damon Jamieson as a Facebook friend, he wasn’t entirely sure. It most likely had happened during a time when he was adding more people than he was deleting. The guy probably came from some long list of ‘people you might possibly know’, sent to him from someone else’s 'friends' list. He was tending to say yes to lots of them, thinking he could always get rid of them later if he wanted.
Either way, it was quite cool for others to see that you had lots of FB friends!
Cool or not, he had got into a bit of a ‘tidy up’ mode and had posted a disclaimer on his Wall, telling everyone that he was pruning his lists. Anyone who didn't reply would be toast! Okay, maybe the wording could have been better, but he only planned to dump people he didn't know from Adam.
However, Damon had replied with some quite amusing comeback. On the strength of it, he’d left him on and from then on they started dropping the odd note to each other and commenting more frequently on each other’s posts.
Damon was just an ordinary guy—about the same age as himself—who lived somewhere up in New York. And that was it. That was all he really knew about him to begin with, yet, through Facebook, an easy friendship sprang up.
He found the guy surprisingly easy to talk to and was intrigued enough to dig deeper, perusing Damon’s friend and group lists. Who cared if it was stalking—you could tell a lot about someone if you looked to see who their friends were! As he explored, he got the distinct impression (from the various subjects and comments, and the groups Damon belonged to) that the New Yorker was possibly—scratch that, probably—gay.
If he had thought that that might mean the guy would be creepy, and that he should pull the plug on the modem and run screaming from the room, he was wrong. Damon seemed as run-of-the-mill normal as any guy he knew. In fact, even a bit more interesting and fun than many, and he never even hinted at anything that sounded weird!
Still, it was only a passing acquaintance. They chatted maybe once every couple of weeks if they happened to be simultaneously logged in, but nothing more.
* * *
It had been on a cold, wet and completely boring Saturday afternoon, around four months later, some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that Simon wandered into his room and sat on the bed, looking out of sorts.
This had to be Luke’s favorite time of the year, the older boy felt. The smells from the richly scented candles, a massive glittering tree, an open fire that he hoped his dad would light soon and the promise of gifts that were already gathering under the tree. Around their subdivision, most of the houses were already well decorated for Christmas with lights twinkling during the night, and families gearing up for festive fun.
From where he was reading, comfortably propped up by the pillows on his bed, he flicked his eyes over the top of his book in the direction of his brother. Nothing was immediately forthcoming, so he ignored him and went back to his chapter.
He hadn't got more than a couple of paragraphs when a subtle noise got his attention, and he looked up again. Simon was still there and seemed to be teetering on the edge of something.
Okay, spit it out. He waited patiently, but the moment passed and Simon became distracted by a noise from the landing and wandered out again.
It was obvious something was on his brother's mind, but he shrugged and went back to his book as Simon disappeared from view.
Some minutes later, engrossed in a good chapter, he glanced up again to find his brother once again standing quite close by, watching him.
Oh for God's sake!
"Okay, what's up?" He put down his book, fully expecting to hear how life...and particularly parents...were against Simon in some new and diabolically evil way.
In mild irritation, he opened up the Harry Potter book once more, only to find, a few sentences on, his brother was still there! "Look...do you mind? I'm trying to read!"
"Anyway, I thought you were going out?"
"I am...was...it's raining." Simon moved to peer out of window, and Luke tried to ignore him, going back to his re-read of 'The Prisoner of Azkaban'.
Over the next minutes, Simon wandered aimlessly, picking things up and fiddling with them for no apparent reason. Distracted from his book Luke watched him out of the corner of his eye, amused now. Whatever this was, it had to be good.
After a while, Simon left and went back through into their shared bathroom to began messing with the lights. Luke could see him staring into the mirror, as if what he was seeking would somehow be staring back.
For him, reading the Potter book had taken him back to life in England—and Harry was as British as they came; not that any of the Summers family had lived in castles or flew broomsticks. They didn’t—at least that he knew of—and he'd never met anyone else who did or could. Still, England was special. It’d always been the place that made him…him.
At least he'd always thought it had. Maybe not anymore?
Did he miss it?
Yes. No. Maybe? Actually, the truth was, he hardly ever thought about it anymore.Maybe it was only the idea of England that he missed?
It would be Christmas soon and he kind of missed Christmas in England, although perhaps it was still only the idea of Christmas that he missed, too. A proper Christmas with stuff like going to the Pantomime. ‘It's behind you!’, they would all squeal from where they were seated up in ‘the gods’. He missed that.
And snow. That was the big thing for ANY kid. Would it snow on Christmas day, was the big question. They’d all used to hope so, and it usually did up north in Scotland, but near London, it hardly ever did. And having to clear snow off the drive was far, far less likely near Atlanta!
Christmas. Dumbledore and Privet Drive; Harry and Hedwig in the snow at Hogwarts...
He drifted back from his musings as Simon, yet again, wandered into his room. Unexpectedly, his brother went to the door that led out to the landing, closing it softly.
What the heck did he want? Guessing he wouldn't say until he was ready, Luke didn't have to wait long.
“Luke...I...can I ask you something…?"
He put the book down and grunted. “I wish the hell you would!”
He shook his head, in exasperation. “Forget it – for goodness sake, just tell me what you want!”
"Oh, come on. ENOUGH already!"
Simon looked uncomfortable, before finally blurting, "What do you think about being gay?" There was an awkward pause as he studied one of his nails. “I was just wondering…you know…”
Holy shit! THAT got his attention. BIG TIME!
A ripple of dread disrupted his wellbeing as the unwanted question hung there menacingly. ’What do you think about being gay…?’ His eyes narrowed, but Simon wouldn’t look him in the face and continued to fiddle with one of his nails, waiting.
In fact he thought LOTS about that topic these days, though not for one minute did he really believe that he himself was gay.
Of course, there were loads of people who were – some even some quite famous. But that was mostly on the TV. It wouldn't ever happen to him. It couldn’t. That would be way too weird and he could think of no normal scenario where having that happen would ever be good.
Not that there was anything particularly wrong with gay people, he reminded himself. Other than they were just...well...homosexuals.
So why did it feel wrong to be a homosexual? Wasn’t that even illegal in some places? Maybe. But gay? No, gay was probably okay. It just sounded...well, a bit better, he mused. More acceptable.
Of course there were plenty of other words, not quite so kind, and he’d grown up calling people 'poofs' for all kinds of reasons. None of it really meant the kid was actually a homo. It was just a word.
What’s wrong with a word?
Still, it was better to be gay than be a homosexual, ’cos being a homo put you on a par with the queers and all the other poofs.
For fuck’s sake - Get a GRIP! He tried to clear his mind and focus on what was important. While he accepted that he’d been looking at guys quite a bit, mostly it was just because he was curious. It was a phase. Still, he HAD been thinking about it.Even so, he definitely couldn’t be—WASN’T—gay.
Suddenly, it hit him like a ton of bricks why Simon was there.
He grew cold and then hot.
That was it, wasn’t it? It HAD to be! Simon really believed Luke was gay, and this was his way of broaching it. Could he be read as easily as the book that rested on his knee?
Vainly, he tried not to appear flustered as he started a reply.
"Gay? Oh...I don't know...nobody ever asked me that before." Already several versions of adamant denial were forming in the back of his mind. "Why do you want to know?" He looked up fearfully, expecting to see the accusation and already getting angry about it.
However, Simon was still unable to hold his eye and shrugged. "Oh...nothing. Just wondering."
Just wondering? Wondering WHAT?
The conversation stalled and Simon went to stare out of the window across the back lawn, leaving him floundering. His eyes darted after his brother. Was that it? Had Simon had his say; had he given his warning, just enough to let him know Luke was in the spotlight, without actually spelling it out?
He thought fast. What had people been saying? Had his friends noticed something too? Had he been too obvious in the lockers in letting his eyes drift? Had they been talking behind his back, added a few assumptions and started pointing fingers at him? Is THAT what Simon had come to warn him about?
It wasn't enough. He HAD to know more.
Trying to keep the dry tick out of his voice, he probed, "So...come on then. Have you heard of someone who’s gay?" He tried to sound amused, but was already dreading the answer. “Is it someone at school?” Even to himself he sounded guilty, but he needed to find out what it was that Simon—and everyone else—suspected.
"At school?" Simon turned and stared at him though hooded eyes. "I guess so...maybe."
Shit. He was being cagey. That was ominous. "Listen, why don't you just tell me what's bugging you?"
Simon shrugged and came and sat on the edge of the bed. His face was a mask.
Luke began to panic. What had Si already said to his friends? “Come on…what’s wrong?” He waited, but Simon still didn’t seem prepared to come out and say it.
Luke swallowed hard, trying to make some excuse. “It’s not what …" he started. "I mean whatever they’re…”
Simon didn't seem to be taking any notice. "Well...I...it's..." he began hesitantly. Then the mask collapsed and his face twisted in confusion. Tormented, he tried to gather himself and hold it together. Finally he broke and just sobbed. "I don't know if I want to be gay. I...I'm really scared!"
For the briefest of moments, all the wrong things went rushing through Luke’s head. OH THANK GOD, IT'S NOT ME! Followed by OH MY GOD! He’s a homosexual!
“Please don’t hate me. I’m sorry.” Simon gulped out his words. “Just don’t hate me, I couldn’t bear it…”
Luke wondered if his brother had heard those silent condemnations and felt quite sick; sick with himself, that he’d been so quick to treat him like some leper.
His own brother.
SHIT…this was NOT what he’d expected. At best he’d expected to hear some juicy gossip about some kids at school, caught with their pants down. At worst, something about himself. Not this!
Quickly, he shuffled up from where he was lying to sit next to his brother, putting his arm around him as he shook. Some corrupt place in his soul told him that his brother had just confessed to being a queer, and here he was, cuddling him. He angrily told the voice to piss off and held Simon securely, as he tried to get his words out.
After a few moments, Simon got hold of himself and calmed down. Frozen, he stared at the floor. It was obvious he was waiting for him to take it forward.
”So...you think you might be? Gay, I mean." Luke ventured carefully, trying to get him to talk.
Simon shrugged his reply sounded forlorn. "Yep." It wasn't much, but it was a start.
"Errr…can you tell me why? I mean how do you know?" It seemed such a difficult thing to be sure of, he felt. From his own research, he knew people thought lots of different things about what it meant to be gay—and why it was that people ended up that way.
Simon was quiet for a few moments, and then sighed. "I like guys." He kept his eyes off anything but the floor.
And that was it. All those psycho-babble musings were swept away. Simon liked guys; and wasn’t that what homosexuality came down to in the end? He faced the word head on this time.
He considered again what he thought about gay people. There was one openly gay guy at school. A senior. He didn't really know anything about him other than he wanted to be an actor. Some guys were a bit nasty to him but, on reflection, those were the kind who were nasty to anyone if they got a chance.
But him? No, he wasn’t at all homophobic!
Sure, he'd thought about it a lot and had read stuff about gay teens on the web.
‘Not a choice,’ many decided.
‘Genetic makeup’, they claimed.
Maybe I am gay, he’d wondered at the time? He certainly had little interest in girls, but he’d dismissed it. For God’s sake, he was only fifteen! Anyway, stuff like that only ever happened to other people – ones who usually had lots of other weird issues as well. Nope, being gay wasn’t anything that really affected him.
Until now. Until his own brother had walked into his room, a few minutes ago. He gathered himself. "You wanna tell me about it?"
And Simon did. In the privacy of his room that day, several weeks before Christmas, he let it all out.
Luke did nothing more than listen for what felt like an age, though it must have only been a few minutes. He listened as, piece by piece, Simon spilled it all out, needing someone to talk to; someone to tell in safety. Finally his brother stopped talking and looked relieved, and Luke knew that the burden had passed to him and that Si would somehow expect him to put it right. Make sense of it, like he always did.
He sighed. What was he supposed to think anymore?
The Prisoner of Azkaban, still lying on the bed beside them, could give no answers. Unlike Harry or Hermione, there was no spell or incantation that he could offer. No cloak of invisibility that could make it disappear. He pulled Simon closer in another side-by-side hug.
He repeated what he’d read. "Si, I think we often have no choice about these things." He wondered if that was true. It sounded right. "Maybe the important thing is to be happy with who you are. And if you prefer to be with other guys at the moment...” he shrugged, “…then, why not?"
Simon brightened considerably. "You're cool with it then?"
"Very cool!" Luke assured him, putting aside his questions for now, and making his choice, repeating the hug.
Simon smiled and hugged him back. "Thanks!"
Luke got up to stretch his legs and to ease the tension. He picked up his book and slid redundant Harry back on the shelf. “Come on, I was going to make a hot chocolate. Want one?”
Simon brightened. “Are there any packets with the marshmallows left?”
“I think so – let’s go look.” The pair went downstairs, to find their dad throwing logs onto a newly lit fire.
THAT was more like it!
Luke grinned as he watched it crackle energetically. This was why they had fires in houses like theirs! In the corner, the well-decorated tree glistened, filling the room with the rich scent of Christmas fir, and from the kitchen, the scented candles that his mum liked to light wafted vanilla and cinnamon down the hallway. Christmas, a fire and a warm room that made it home and drew them together. The perfect combination for days like today.
“We’re making hot chocolate, Dad. Do you want one?”
“You bet!" Their dad looked up as he threw the last of the logs into the growing flames. "Are there any of the marshmallow ones left? Oh – and while you’re heading that way, can you bring in some more logs?”
After putting the kettle on, the boys went through the connecting door to the double garage. Along one wall, a huge pile of drying wood was hoarded, and he held out his arms for Simon to begin stacking.
"So, is there a particular someone that this is about?" He kept his voice low, just for the two of them.
“You know what I mean,” Luke teased.
Simon looked coy. "Well, I kind of like Toby," he finally admitted.
“Toby? Toby Skerrit?” The realization that being gay was more than just an ‘idea’ and actually involved real people that Luke knew took some getting used to. Simon chewed his lip uncomfortably.
"Oh, he's nice," Luke agreed quickly, actually not at all surprised, now that he came to think about it. He was a nice kid. He and Simon had hit it off within a few months of them arriving in the country. He didn't live that far away, so they tended to spend lots of time together. The guy was big into art and they often ride shared with him and his mum, Grace.
The kid did have a tendency to be a bit prickly, and when he and Simon had first started hanging out, Si would frequently get TOTALLY fed up with Toby's ability to go off the deep end! More recently, he seemed to have mellowed, though the guy was hard to read. Still he could see how Simon could like him.
Toby Skerrit. Cute, if a little fiery at times! Used to wear round-rimmed glasses, just like Harry, Luke smirked to himself, though he had noticed more recently that they’d gone. Contacts probably.
"Really? Do you think so?" Simon looked up hopefully. “You think he’s nice?”
"Absolutely - I mean it's not like you don't know anything about him. Does he ...errr you know..." Christ, this was new ground! "Does he, I mean, is he like you?"
Simon just sighed. "Is he gay you mean? Maybe. I keep wondering.” He hefted a couple of equal sized chunks of tree, weighing one in each hand. “But is he really? I don't know. Probably not! Damn, how do you know if someone likes you?"
Don't ask me, Luke thought, wondering the same thing. Not a clue.
"Take your time, I guess?“ he hazarded. “And, if you're gay…if that really is how you are, then it probably won't go away.” Briefly, he wondered—as with a number of things he’d said over the last twenty minutes—if that was actually true! “Perhaps there's no way of really knowing, other than by being with someone and seeing if that's what you both want?"
Luke looked thoughtful. "I guess you need to be careful though...with who you tell, I mean," he added, a sense of caution reasserting itself. “Even with Toby…until you’re sure.”
"Maybe." Simon nodded as he considered both that and the wood in Luke’s arms. "Enough logs?"
The pile stacked in Luke's arms was getting heavy. "Just one more—that small one, maybe? You bring a couple too."
Simon picked several up, but hesitated nervously as they turned back to the door. "You're not going to tell Mum and Dad, are you?"
Now that was something Luke WAS sure about. "Not a chance! Right now it's just between me and you!" He thought a moment and then qualified. "Actually it's between me, you and Toby!"
They both sniggered. It seemed a good place to stop. Simon flicked off the lights and they returned with the logs and to make the drinks.
Frothy marshmallow in hand, the family congregated around the blazing fire, and Simon seemed to get back to more of his usual, irrepressibly confident self. Half an hour later, despite the on and off rain, he pulled on a coat.
"I'm going out - I'll see you later."
"Going where?" Luke teased.
"Mind your own business!" Simon flicked the top of Luke’s head with his fingers and smirked. They both knew where he would be.
He went to fetch Harry and Hedwig from the shelf and settled again in front of the roaring flames with his hot chocolate, still trying to make some sense of it all.
His dad caught a glance of the cover. “Harry Potter?”
“I’m reading through them all again.” Something he’d started after the last film came out – The Order of the Phoenix—the previous summer
“Isn’t there a movie out soon?”
“Not ’til next year.” Jeez—keep up dad!
His dad went back to his paper and he to his book, though he remained thoughtful.
As much as anything, he was relieved knowing that Simon seemed to be facing the same kind of stuff that he was. Perhaps everyone did at some point? It would probably be just a phase for his younger brother, just as it was for him, too; maybe it was just one of those things that was more in your face because they went to an all-boys school. It would pass, though perhaps he should get out more and meet some girls!
He wasn’t particularly worried for his brother. Simon didn’t take risks. In fact, he was almost OCD when it came to being carefully organised You didn’t win the Year Eight Match Prize unless you had at least some of Simon’s traits. His brother approached life in a way that didn’t tempt fate; whatever he did, he made sure it would be the right thing before doing it. Simon certainly wouldn’t take a shot in the dark with Toby or chance the wrong thing getting to the wrong ears. Simon was definitely the Hermione Granger of the family!
He grinned as he made the rather apt comparison. What would that make him? He would have liked to be Harry, but had to admit that Ry would probably get that one. He’d have to make do with Ron…faithful friend that was always a little bit behind, and still wore clothes that his mum bought for him!
He spent an entertaining few minutes characterizing other guys in his class—Ry, Todd, Kier and the others. One thing was for sure, Cody Mitchell wasn’t hard to cast; the slithering git was a perfect Malfoy!