A good weekend really needed to have some kind of regularity to it, some familiarity that defined its purpose. It was a two-day break that you didn't want to waste, and it needed to be different from the weekdays.
Well, that was what Luke firmly believed, anyway.
On the other hand, while it was okay to do a few different things now and again, he also liked to ‘veg’ with the familiar, too. It started with sleeping in on a Saturday, staying in bed with no hurry to be somewhere else. Unless it was something he wanted to do, of course. That said, he never slept in much past 9 AM. The ones he really felt sorry for were the kids whose parents apparently had this need to arrange activities for every moment of the day. What a nightmare! Fortunately, his own mum and dad were better trained.
Some things were always part of their family’s weekend program, like taking apart the paper on a Sunday morning. The Sunday AJC–Atlanta Journal Constitution–was a huge conglomeration of helpful reading, of which Luke was only interested in the TV guide. And of course, the Sunday program also had to include the worship service at Longhorn Steakhouse.
On Saturday mornings, however, his mum often went food shopping…and that presented choices. If she was just going to Publix, he wasn't interested. He clearly couldn't fit into the trolley anymore, and who wanted to walk miles of aisles for no good reason? BUT, if she planned to shop at Kroger instead, that meant she was also going to the mall. Sometimes he would tag along so he could visit the games shop, but he also liked to go to the mall so he could lust in the Apple Store!
As long as it was all well after nine in the morning, of course!
That particular Saturday was the day after his consultation with Doctor Tiberius. Luke was buoyant, and had woken up before eight and showered. Humming some tune he couldn't remember the name of, he'd bounced down the stairs and even had the coffee pot brewing before his mum and dad made it down, too.
Unsurprisingly, his lazy weed of a brother was still in bed!
The sun hadn’t made it around to the back windows yet, but it looked a gorgeous day outside, and he opened the kitchen door and stepped out onto the deck. He loved this time of year; early spring—the equivalent of a good British summer. Warm and fresh, but not yet hot enough to verge on the unbearably humid, it was a time of year that brought the promise of new things.
His nose flared at the warm sweet smell coming off the grass; grass that needed cutting. Maybe he’d do it later that day for them.
In the four or so years since they’d moved in, the gardens—both front and back—had really come on a treat. Mostly with their mum’s hard work. At the start, there had been a couple of beds at the front, but the backyard was nothing more than a huge space; it had been set to grass and left like that by the builders. However, over the years, his mum had transformed it, though most of the bigger trees still had a long way to go. She’d even planted a small orchard across one side!
Early spring as it was, flowerbeds were beginning to burst into color, breaking up the lawn, but leaving spaces where there was still plenty of room to kick a ball around or play badminton. It was a great garden, but as much as anything, he enjoyed just sitting on the decking near to the pond, reading and listening to the sounds of the water fountain playing across the surface.
All they needed now was a pool!
Returning to the kitchen, he left the backdoor open to let in the fresh air and studied the percolator as it hissed and gurgled productively. It reached a peak, and then, satisfied with what it had achieved, sighed in completion. Next, humming yet another tune he'd heard on the radio, he laid the table with typical breakfast fare before going back to check the coffee pot.
"You're up bright and early."
He turned at the sound of his mum's voice. He guessed his dad was still in the shower.
Her nose twitched. "Is that coffee I smell?"
"Just perked." He poured her a mug and then another for himself, before joining her at one end of the long kitchen table.
It was a large kitchen, if you could call it just a kitchen. In reality, it was more of an open-plan cooking/eating and generally hanging-out kind of room. After moving in, they'd remodelled a bit, getting rid of the trendy but far too small breakfast bar, opening it all up to make room for a more traditional, oak farmhouse table and chairs. Elsewhere in the house there was a formal dining room, but it was only used for important occasions like Christmas, or for when they had special guests. The kitchen table was the hub of the home.
He passed his mum the creamer and spooned sugar into his own mug.
"Mmmmm…" She took a sip, murmuring her satisfaction at the brew. "Perfect!"
Luke took a sip too.
"Since when did you start drinking coffee in the morning?" she asked, looking bemused. She was right; he rarely drunk coffee, preferring hot tea, especially first thing.
"I think I made it a bit strong," he admitted. He took another tentative sip and added more sugar. "I just fancied coffee this morning, that's all.”
Taking a bowl, he filled it with muesli and dowsed it with milk from the big plastic carton. His mum stood and began taking bread from the packet he’d placed on the table. “Toast?” she asked. He shook his head and spooned more muesli down his throat.
"Did you tell Dad?" He glanced at her between mouthfuls. His dad had got in late the previous night, having spent the day in Dallas on bank business. With an early flight out, he’d been there and back in a day. It was a regular trip for him, and Luke had gone to bed before his dad had got back from the airport.
“About what?” she said, though he could tell she was teasing.
"About the doctor’s yesterday." What else? "Did you tell him what happened—about the phimosis and stuff?"
"Of course I told him."
For heaven’s sake, a joke’s a joke but…. "Is he alright with it?"
"Of course he is. Why wouldn't he be?"
"I dunno," Luke shrugged, shovelling in more muesli. Did she want a list?
"Be nice to your old dad. You know, if it hadn't been for him, you probably wouldn't even have had a consultation."
Luke paused mid-spoon. "How so?"
"It was actually him that suggested we should arrange it."
"Oh. No, I didn't know." His dad? Luke had wondered what had changed in their thinking, but that was a surprise.
“It looks nice out today,” she said, looking through the open kitchen door out onto the lawn and changing the subject. "Any plans—going to play over at Ryan's?"
Luke rolled his eyes, wondering if all mothers were like this. Perhaps when he was six, he might have gone to 'play' at a friend's house. NOT when he was nearly sixteen! He let it pass. "It's the monthly army cookout thing today, so he's out of action. At least ’til this evening. I might cut the lawn later though, if you want?”
"Would you? That would be nice.” She paused and grinned. “Any chance of straight lines?”
Luke chuckled—it was an old joke. Whenever Simon sat astride the ride-on mower to cut the lawn, it was like watching a geometric exercise! Every angle had to be exact, every line perfectly straight. Luke’s own approach wasn’t quite so rigorous! It all got cut in the end, so why worry was his motto!
“I’m just kidding,” she added. “I'm going to the mall first thing if you're interested."
"I might be.” That made it Kroger, then. “When—and can I drive?"
She checked the wall clock. "It’ll be about thirty minutes, if I can get your dad out of the shower—and yes, if you want to drive, I don't see why not."
It was more like forty-five minutes in the end, and it was just after 09:30 that bright sunny morning that he buckled up into the driver’s seat of their minivan. ‘They’ being him, his mum and, on this occasion, his dad, too. Luke figured the only reason his dad was along for the ride was because he’d probably not been given a choice. Still, he reckoned it was highly likely that both of them would end up in the Apple Store.
There was no doubt about it, he loved driving! North Point Mall was just down the road, which meant about fifteen minutes or so by van. Almost on their doorstep, really. Once they got there, he pulled over into a spare bay not far from the south entrance, and they all got out.
His mum then took the wheel. "Okay, I'll pick you up in an hour," she proposed. "I'll be in Kroger."
Luke nodded, though he’d bet that an hour would end up meaning substantially longer than that!
Through the still-open side door, she then addressed Luke’s dad and said, "And Hon—ask them about bifocals, this time."
In surprise, Luke said, "Oh—you’re getting new glasses at last?" It all made sense as to why his dad had come along, now.
"Yes, well only if I really need them." Geoff sounded less enthusiastic.
"Trust me, Hon," Lucy pronounced as she fired the engine. "You need them."
His dad rolled his eyes theatrically, but both he and Luke knew what was expected. Rebellion was not an option—he would be getting new glasses! Before Luke could close the door, his mum called through the gap. "And Luke—if Dad chooses new frames, could you help him choose something modern?"
Geoff pulled a face. "I'm perfectly capable of choosing my own frames, thank you!"
"Of course you are, Hon, but a second opinion never did any harm," she returned easily. "Bye then!"
Luke could see his dad getting together what would probably be a foolhardy reply, so he slammed shut the sliding door before it got out of hand.
"I don't mind giving you a hand," Luke offered brightly as the two of them watched her drive off. "Especially if you fancy dropping into Apple on the way."
At the suggestion, his dad perked up, and the pair passed though the automatic doors into the cool, air-conditioned building. By that time of the morning, the place was already buzzing with activity, and they joined the throngs—all who seemed intent on retail therapy.
Luke was buzzing too, and it wasn't just the coffee. He felt upbeat; optimistic. That uncomfortable feeling he'd had for a while that he was the odd one out in life seemed to be coming to an end. It was like waking up on a day when he knew he’d be picked for the team and not just left on the bench. People passed them from all directions, alone or in groups of friends or with family. Many were teen guys like himself. He couldn't help glancing below the belts of a few, knowing that, in not many weeks, he would be as comfortable as they seemed to be with what he guessed they had.
The mall was set out on two levels, with lifts and escalators in abundance, and could be best described as ‘humongous’! Under one roof, you could find almost anything you might want to buy, whether you needed it or not—all sold from brightly decorated stores visible as far as the eye could see along the spacious aisles. Upbeat music played through hidden speakers, filling the air with lively tunes, and there was even a massive, multi-screen cinema, and he and Ryan often came down on a weekend to watch the newest movie releases. The food court was extensive too—as it seemed were the backsides of many who even by mid-morning on that warm Saturday, were shovelling down plates of food.
Passing by the food for better things, Luke and his dad chose fruit of a different kind rather than carbohydrate. Stepping off one of the escalators, the two of them reverently crossed the threshold of the Apple Store ready to bask in techy heaven.
Bright and clean, Apple was always packed. The iPhone, the iTouch, and the MacBook were all were totally out of Luke's price league, but it didn't stop him from a serious bout of lusting! Moving through the press of bodies, they stopped by a well-packed display.
His dad lifted one of the tethered phones, and with a healthy dose of self-satisfaction, said, "It looks like they’re planning on making this available through the office business contract." The trendy new Apple iPhone had come onto the market the previous summer. It was something nobody had ever seen before, and now—at least by the looks of the numbers of customers in the store—everyone wanted one.
Geoff added, "What do you think? Should I get one?"
"You're getting one? You lucky dog!" Luke gasped. An iPhone! As if there was any question! "Can't you swing one for dependents or something?"
His dad grinned as he played with the device. Over the last few months, their mutual love of technology, and particularly anything Apple, had drawn the two of them together, making a place where they'd begun talking again.
"These things run all kinds of apps that you can download," said Geoff, examining the one in his hand. "This seems to be mostly games."
Luke knew about the apps, but hadn't realized you could do more. "Games? What’s it got? Are they any good?"
His dad shrugged, though Luke wasn’t surprised. Games were not his dad’s thing.
"Well, if you get one, can I at least have your old phone?" Luke persisted. Unlike lots of guys in his class, he didn’t have anything yet.
"Maybe," Geoff allowed. "You'd have to pay for the calls, though."
A young store assistant noticed them, and came across. “Can I help you guys with anything?” he asked.
“No, were good, thanks,” Geoff replied. "Just looking."
The guy, in his smart slacks and an Apple polo shirt, didn't seem much more than his own age, Luke thought. He nodded amiably, and then moved away.
"Wouldn't it be cool to get a job here!" Luke sighed.
"In my day, we did the paper round!"
"They had rickets and beriberi in your day, too," Luke quipped. His dad was right though—the world was changing fast.
Geoff didn't rise to the bait, but changed the subject and said, "Mum said your appointment with the urologist seemed to go well yesterday."
Luke looked around quickly, to make sure there were no eavesdroppers. Even though the store was noisy and busy, and the likelihood that anyone could hear them was slim, he was still glad his dad didn't use the 'C' word. He nodded. "She said I had you to thank for that."
"For what? That you have this phimosis condition?"
“You know what I mean!” Luke almost giggled. He still felt like a little kid whenever he thought about it—one with a birthday coming up that would deliver some new toy. He’d gone to sleep grinning and woken up grinning that morning, too! Despite the fact that it was still three weeks and six days away, a date had been set for the surgery and everything felt right in his world.
“Anyway," he continued, "I just wanted to say thanks. Mum said it was you that persuaded her."
"You’re welcome.” Skipping through various apps to see what they did, Geoff dropped his voice even lower as he fondled the iPhone he was holding, and added, “She told me that it's set for next month sometime?"
"So, with this condition, it sounds like it’s also covered by insurance.”
Luke prickled as looked up from the device he was playing with. “Would it have mattered if it wasn’t? I know I have phimosis, but that’s not why I first wanted it done."
His dad grunted and glanced over. "I know. And if it had come back that the bill might have been several thousand dollars, you’re probably wondering what I would have said?"
"Dad, everything isn't just about money!" Luke retorted rather too loudly, irritated that this seemed to be the only thing that mattered for his father. Several heads turned towards them, staring curiously.
“Okay, okay—I know.” His dad lowered his voice and the pair slipped into the background again. “But maybe you'd see it differently if it were you who were the one paying." He held up his hands, defensively as Luke got ready to return a salvo.
"Look, I'm not here to fight—I would probably have done the wrong thing, and been a silly old fart and said no. It's kind of hard to believe that you're nearly sixteen already..."
Luke was a little taken aback. "The wrong thing?"
Geoff shrugged. "Well, maybe you're right. Not everything is about money."
Luke considered him, guessing he should make his peace, too. The argument had threatened to make a blotch on his, until then, perfect Saturday. He didn't really want to fight, and let it drop. “That's okay...and you're still a silly old fart, but a lovable one, too!”
Luke grinned. He wanted to give his dad a hug, but he wasn’t really the huggy kind of parent—particularly in the middle of the mall. “Tell you what, you can always make it up by buying me an iPhone." It was a long shot. The MacBook sitting on his desk at home had been a recent birthday-cum-Christmas present, and he knew exactly how much that had cost.
"You could try writing a note to the tooth fairy, maybe?"
Luke had to laugh and took it as a no!
Geoff looked at his watch "Come on. We'd better get to the opticians." With regret, they both put down the phones, and headed out of the door.
The opticians clinic wasn't anywhere near as crowded as Apple, and it didn't look like they would have long to wait to be seen. Luke sat down with his dad on a row of sensible chairs—comfortable, but nowhere near as plush as those at the urology clinic. There was definitely more money in penises than pupils!
The store was part of a reputable national chain that advertised on the TV regularly. He and Simon had come here once to get their eyes tested, though neither of them needed glasses. Idly, he glanced around the store at the hundreds of frames out on display, all mounted on numerous wall racks.
"I was thinking," Geoff mused.
Luke laughed. "Careful, now..."
"Funny boy!" His dad’s mouth twitched. "What I was going to say was that, with the surgery you need, maybe it's a good job we came here after all! Here as in America, I mean."
Luke studied him curiously. "So how do you figure that?" His dad could sometimes think totally out of the box. It was one of the things he did well—and why he was headed upwards at the bank.
"Well, look at it this way,” Geoff proposed. He paused and Luke could spot the familiar signs: his dad’s eyes flicking up and across, checking the logic of an argument as he went along. “If we'd still been living in the UK, and your phimosis condition had been spotted there, then you would have still needed to have the surgery—right?"
"Probably." Luke still didn’t get it. “So?”
"Well, following that, assuming you became the only circumcised lad in your class, you would certainly have been the odd one out."
"Oh..." As a staff member called his dad through for the eye test, Luke was left to dwell on it.
Damn, his dad was spot on! Luke could just imagine the guys at his old school making his life hell because he looked different. Stuff like that was never private. It would get out, and he would be the butt of no end of Jewish jokes about dick surgery!
That was the bottom line, and there was rarely a way around it. Wherever you lived, you needed to fit in and belong, or life could be crap—at least for a teenager it could be. Even if you had an iPhone! As he waited, wondering about that, he was also about to discover that life could be full of unexpected turns, too.
He looked up as a small group—a mom, two lads and a younger girl—came out of the area into which his dad had just disappeared. He guessed they'd just had their eyes tested, too. Of the boys, the taller one looked around Luke's own age…maybe a little older. It was quite hard to tell.
The four of them seemed on a mission as they began to peruse the ranks of frames, and it soon became obvious that it was the little girl, with the help of her mom and brothers, who was trying to find a new pair.
He found the boy interesting. Why that was so, he didn't really consider, but he did. Dressed in chocolate brown, baggy cargo shorts, either the guy liked the sagging style or he seemed to have forgotten a belt. Something told him, that for this unknown teen, 'forgetting' would be unlikely. A choice then?
Whoever he was, he moved confidently; fluidly. He seemed sure of himself, though not in an arrogant kind of way. His eyes swivelled briefly towards where Luke was comfortably lounging, but didn't linger.
As Luke listened to the four exchange conversation, the accents he heard were complicated. Being from another country, he 'heard' accents more easily than most, and he usually found he could pick up on subtleties. At one level, the family’s accents sounded American, yet scattered through their speech, he kept hearing words and tones that seemed to come from somewhere else. It was intriguing. A mystery.
"That one!" demanded the little girl, discarding one pair for her mom to return to the rack, and pointing instead to another, higher up. Her elder brother was kneeling in front of her on the well-worn, grey carpet, helping slide frames over her ears. He looked to where she was pointing.
"Those?" He pointed to the right place. She nodded.
Luke watched him reach up to pick a set of frames off a bracket. As he stretched, the simple short tee shirt lifted, and a pair of white briefs came into view. Pure white, with a light silver-grey waistband. Set against the cream brown tan of the guy’s midriff, Luke couldn’t help but appreciate the simply presented color scheme. It wasn't overdone in the way that some saggers seemed to like, with boxers that went halfway up the belly. It was subtle; deliberate.
Even the uncomplicated henna-colored, leather wristband looked right, though Luke never stopped to consider why he thought of it in that way. He smiled at the hair. Long, blond and wavy. Mine used to be like that before the Academy took it, he mused. The two unknown brothers shared the same ash-blond mane.
With his legs stretched out comfortably, Luke waited patiently for his dad, and enjoyed watching them...him.
As their little sister briskly ordered them around as she tried on multiple styles of frame, the younger lad was quickly getting bored with her antics. He was quite outspoken, and their mom frequently had to step in to keep the peace between him and his sister.
In a way it was quite funny, and the older brother looked across to Luke again and grinned, sharing the humor of it. Acknowledging him, Luke smiled back, surprised at how easily he'd been drawn into the discreet scene.
A couple of girls came into the store chewing gum and giggling. They gathered around a circular rack, trying on designer sunglasses. Luke glanced at them idly, unimpressed as they attempted to flirt with him.
Too young and too...whatever.
Returning his attention to the blond-haired guy, it was clear he'd noticed them too. To Luke's amusement, he rolled his eyes at their antics, too.
Luke smirked in agreement. Right on!
As the blond boy and his brother searched for frames for their feisty sister, Luke continued to study the family. There was nothing else worth watching—certainly not the silly girls! A number of times over the next minutes, the guy Luke was studying lifted his eyes and looked over to him, making brief eye contact. Having already acknowledged him, Luke didn’t feel particularly disturbed or threatened by it, and didn't look away. When the little sister finally made her mind up, the guy held up the frames for Luke to judge. Luke nodded back. They looked nice. As did the one holding them...
Luke shifted in his seat. Just a nice-looking guy, he told himself, nothing more.
Frames chosen, the shop assistant took them and slipped them into a package. Luke assumed it would be to fit the lenses when they were completed.
As the family left the shop, Luke continued to follow them with his eyes. As the blond-haired teen passed through the door, he reached behind himself and scratched the small of his back, lifting the white tee-shirt, once again showing off the quite sensual color scheme.
A simple salute? A tease?
Then he was gone and Luke was left feeling a little out of sorts, perplexed by the simple gesture and disturbed he'd been drawn by it. The two girls were giggling, pushing each other and trying to get his attention.
He wasn’t the slightest bit interested.