Luke collapsed back at the table to take a break from the dance floor. Sweat dripped down his back, making his shirt stick. The table was still stacked with half-empty drinks, though most of the empty food plates had been shifted, and he was gasping, so he took a long swallow from what he hoped was his.
In front of him the dance floor was humming and, without a doubt, he was having an awesome time! The music hardly let up and it was one of those times everyone wanted to dance and have fun. He'd even participated in a couple of the totally stupid, but quite hilarious, games!
Todd dropped down beside him, occupying Owen's chair, his face sheened with perspiration, too. Thirsty, he drained his glass of punch in one long swig. Luke didn't blame him—at least now it wasn't as humid as it had been. There had been a brief downpour during the evening, though the main storm had passed to the east. The tent held up to the weather, and it kept everyone inside dry as the party ratcheted up several notches!
Luke searched the spot-lit dance floor, and then scanned the marquee to see where Owen had gone. Not spotting him anywhere, he shrugged. If the guy didn't wanna dance, nobody could make him. Still, he worried that he should have done more. He glanced at his watch. It was getting late, and he even wondered if Owen had bombed and gone home somehow.
Surely he would have said?
On another front, his other worries seemed unfounded. He'd hardly spoken to Stacey all night. Everyone seemed to want her and she'd spent most of the time with her school friends, to the point where he wondered if he had got the wrong idea about any of her advances.
Instead, he’d hung out with Todd and a couple of others from the Academy; guys the year up from theirs who also seemed to know Stacey through the church youth scene.
The food had been spectacularly 'chickeny', though quite tasty. But now, having sat down, he decided he was danced out and about ready to leave. He'd plans for the next day and didn't want to be home too late, as Ryan was planning to come round in the morning. With end of term exams looming, they’d agreed to do some revision, and there was no point in being totally knackered! He also couldn't wait to tell him that Todd was a church guy!
Who'd have believed it!
He stood up from the table and again searched the milling crowds for Owen. Where the hell had he gone?
One of the Bracey Babes came by. She’d been nibbling away at Todd all evening.
“Have you seen Owen?” he asked her, trying not to smirk at the private look of horror flashing across Todd’s face as she rested her hand lightly on Todd’s shoulder.
She shook her head. “If he’s not in here, you could try the house. Some people went there for a little space, if you know what I mean!" she said. “Come on Todd, I love this song!””
Luke grinned, getting the picture—though it was highly unlikely that either Todd or Owen would be exploring some girl’s dental retainer that night! He left Todd in her capable hands and ducked out of the marquee and into the warm night. The rain had stopped. He walked across the lawn, and then through the back of the house and into the kitchen.
The kitchen was spacious, and with the abundance of chicken served during the evening, he wasn't at all surprised to see it occupied by half a dozen young people stacking containers, all of whom were wearing Chick-fil-A branded shirts. They glanced at him, but he ignored them and passed through to continue his search for Owen. Following the sound of voices, he put his head into the lounge, where he came across a dozen teens sprawled out on the sofas. Owen wasn’t among them.
He retuned to the kitchen and approached one of the Chick-fil-A guys, all of who turned out to be embarrassingly well-spoken and helpful. Several of them had to be about Luke’s age.
“You haven't seen a fairly heavy-set guy—about my age—have you?" he asked one who seemed to be the most approachable. "He has a Welsh accent.”
"No, sir. Some people did go that way a while back." The guy pointed in the direction of another longish corridor going off one side of the kitchen. “You could check…”
Luke thanked him and went to explore.
The corridor was wide, and dimly lit compared to other parts of the house, and he only had to go half way down to realize it wasn't going anywhere. There were a couple of doors, but there was no way he was going blundering into what might be someone's bedroom!
Bloody Owen! Where could he be?
It looked like there was no other option than to go back to the marquee. As he about-turned, he heard a voice and paused. It was coming from the door he'd just passed. He stood closer to listen.
In retrospect it probably wasn't, but at the time he convinced himself that the accent he could hear sounded distinctly Welsh! He decided he might as well check. If it was Owen, then it might save a lot of time.
He was about to tap on the door rather than just barge in, when he noticed the handle showed an indicator—the type normally associated with a simple indoor door lock. It was a bathroom.
Still not quite computing it, he leaned closer, heard a noise, and froze. Quite unmistakably now, it appeared that there was not just one, but two people in there. Yet the sounds were—to put it mildly—disturbing: soft whispers and grunts that began to sound breathless and rhythmic. Luke picked out one of them to be a guy’s voice that was…aroused. It hissed with quiet and tight excitement. “Oh God, don’t stop! I’m almost there…!”
Luke recoiled, flushing immediately.
Oh my God….
Surely it wasn't Owen? Getting a blow job in the bog? It was quite unbelievable that he could be in there, doing...something...with someone. Luke quickly glanced up and down the corridor, hoping nobody else was around, and he went hot and cold just thinking about it.
He tried to stop the thinking. Oh my God—how embarrassing!
Two things happened.
The first, the voice that came from behind the door returned. With it, Luke couldn't help himself. He knew that he shouldn't, that it was none of his business, but he stepped a little closer once more. The sounds remained muffled, but grew ragged. Now, quite distinctly, he could pick up every syllable. At least now it didn’t sound at all Welsh.
There was an hiatus—a tight silence as it teetered—then a squeak of surprise as if whoever it was, wasn’t quite expecting the end so suddenly. Following that came a series of heavy ragged breaths. There was no doubt he'd just unloaded, and a girl's voice giggled, whispering, "Shhhhh!"
Luke’s eyes widened. Oh My God! In someone’s bathroom? Worse—what if they opened the door and found him listening? Quickly he stepped further away from the door!
Then the second thing happened. Just at that moment, further down, almost right to the end of the corridor, another door crashed open. Out of that door flew a wheelchair. Following the wheelchair, Owen stuck his head around the doorpost.
"Luke?" Owen peered at him and looked at his watch in apparent surprise. “It's not time to go home is it?"
"What are you..." started Luke. But he got no further as the wheelchair came careering towards him. He stood to one side, but the owner still managed to run over his foot. He could swear it was deliberate!
"Sorry... " That was all he got from the occupant as the chair disappeared into the kitchen.
"Shit!" Luke hopped on one leg before reaching down to rub the damage. There was a noise behind him, reminding him that someone—someones—were still there in the bathroom. And the last thing he wanted to know was who!
"That was Olly," Owen grinned, stepping towards him.
Luke stared at the bathroom door, wondering how Owen would know that.
"In the wheelchair...the guy who nearly ran you down...?" Owen seemed bemused as Luke continued to stare stupidly at the bathroom door.
The name flicked out of the many cards and presents he’d seen. That was Stacey's twin brother? Fucking hell!
He gathered himself, wanting to exit the building as quickly as possible, and they went back up the corridor and into the kitchen, where they found Olly at an open fridge door, drinking milk straight from the carton.
"THAT,” Olly declared, “was fucking good!" He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand as the Chick-fil-A guys looked on, scandalised. Olly ignored them as they gathered to one side and hid behind their branded shirts. Luke ignored them too, and got out his phone to text home.
"I guess that means we're going soon?" Owen said. He watched as Luke pressed send.
Luke nodded. "She'll be here in about twenty minutes. I'm going back to the marquee."
"Cool—me, too!" Olly said. He raised his blond eyebrows. "Are you coming?"
Owen grinned. "I guess—try not to hurt anyone else, though!"
Olly stuffed the milk bottle back into the fridge. "And so it will be! Lead on McDuff!" He still pushed on ahead, driving his chair between the rest of them. At the door, with what Luke suspected was a parting gesture to Chick-Fil-A, he stuck up his middle finger. Luke shook his head in despair, and started walking back towards the party, too.
Ten minutes later he checked his watch yet again. His mum would be arriving soon, and he didn't want to keep her waiting. His ankle hurt and he was more than ready to leave, by then.
Back at their table, Owen had recovered his seat, and Stacey’s rather irritating twin brother—and who cared if he was in a chair or not—had decided to barge in! Pushing chairs out of the way, he’d manoeuvred his chair into center-stage at their table.
Way to go bud! Decided to join the party at last...your party!
Still, he wasn't hard to tune out, as Luke’s main problem just then wasn’t Olly, it was the tape that kept playing. Not the DJ—in fact he wasn’t playing any music at all right then, having disappeared for a break. No, it was the other one that he couldn’t stop replaying in his head, that bothered him. ‘Oh God, don’t stop! I’m almost there…!’ (rewind-rewind), ‘Oh God, don’t stop! I’m almost there…!’
He shook his head to try to clear the unwanted imagery that went with the tape, and looked around to see if anyone was watching before reaching under the tablecloth and pulling at his loose jeans to free up the SmartKlamp that was hampering the unwelcome boner.
SHIT it was uncomfortable! A brilliant night up until then, he'd quite forgotten about that little item. Now it wouldn’t go away—and he just wanted to go home.
Finally, with a little twisting, he freed the whole contraption so it sat better. He hoped his wanger would go down shortly. Trying to ignore it, he took a sip from his freshly-replenished glass and looked around the room. He needed to spot Stacey so that he and Owen could offer a polite and final goodbye.
"Mum’ll be here in about ten minutes,” he reminded Owen. “We'd better just see Stacey."
"And what would that be for, Luke Summers?" The familiar voice came from behind, spoke softly, and came with two arms dropped to rest on Luke’s shoulders. Squirming under the provocative touch, he sensed a train coming. He got up fast, hoping to dislodge the arms.
"Umm...Stacey...hi! We were just coming to look for you. It's just we're needing to go in a bit. Mum's picking us up."
"Not without a last dance, surely?" She regarded him evenly, her mouth achieved a playful, sensuous pout. "Come on, you haven't danced with me properly yet!"
It was true. Staying in bigger groups on the dance floor, he'd managed to keep out of her way.
"And it IS my birthday…” Without waiting for any excuse, she took his hand and drew him away from the table.
"But there's no music!" In fact, nobody else was dancing either. He wondered how to slip her grip without upsetting her. "Tell you what, I'll buy you a drink instead."
It was meant to be funny, but her forehead furrowed. Then, as she walked him out onto the completely empty dance floor, the sound system came to life. Wherever he had been, the DJ was back. If he hadn't have known better, he might have said it had all been planned!
Strains of The Carpenters singing 'It's only just begun' filled the tent. All eyes were on them and there were more than a few appreciative whistles as she seemed to have a fixed idea of how they should dance to what was clearly a song for lovers. She wrapped her arms around his back such that the only place he could conceivably put his without looking a total dork, was around her waist!
“You could relax, you know,” she suggested. She could probably tell he was anything but.
“I’m not much of a dancer, I’m afraid.” Not like this anyway!
It was the time of the evening when the lights softened and the songs with them. The moment when those who came as singles but would leave as couples, presented themselves and their intentions for all to see. Gradually, spurred on by the appearance of young love, more couples joined them on the floor. As the space around them filled, he became a little less self-conscious.
“So what’s with all the chicken?” He made an attempt to steer the conversation towards something with little chance of being considered a romantic chat-up line.
“Chicken?” Stacey looked at him oddly. “Oh…” She seemed to realize at last what he was talking about. “Dad works for Chick–fil-A.”
“Not at a counter, I’m guessing.”
She pulled a face. “No…if you must know, he works in the head office. He’s their Director of Marketing.” She seemed surprisingly uncomfortable revealing this. Glancing to the stage, Luke now realized where the sound system must have come from.
“I prefer cow,” she added.
Now it was his turn to look confused.
“Longhorn?” She looked bemused as she reminded him of where they’d first met.
“Oh…beef. I get it.” It felt like he was losing a sparring match.
She twirled him around, back on top of the conversation once more. “It looks like Owen’s had a good night,” she noted, turning him again so he could see the Welsh teen at their table, deep in conversation with Olly.
Whatever the pair were talking about, they both burst out laughing and Luke studied them as he and Stacey moved to the music. Whatever he thought of Olly, he was happy to see Owen actually having a good time. At least the night wouldn't be a total screw up!
"You never told me you had a twin brother?"
Her eyes flicked to her brother, and he could tell now how alike they were—just not in temperament. "You never asked."
Her face was unreadable, and he guessed that the next obvious thing people asked was, 'So why is he in a wheelchair?'
“He seems to have spent most of the night with Owen!” he said instead. He didn't know whether that was a good thing or not, but she frowned and he guessed the latter. "I met him earlier—he's quite a character!"
“Ah—you probably think he's a seriously irritating jerk. Did he run over you?"
Luke blinked. "I didn't mean it like that."
Watching his discomfort, Stacey snickered in a light, easy way. “No, I’m sorry. That was mean. I was just teasing! You’re right, Olly can be quite a pain sometimes, and he has this habit of running over my friends!”
“Yes, but….” Luke didn’t get far as Stacey stepped closer. Maybe she wanted to try to soothe his embarrassment, or maybe she knew she’d caught him with his resistance at a low point and was moving in for the kill? Dropping her arms lower down his back, she pulled him close into her body.
“You’re so funny and sweet, you know," she murmured, and then stopped, went quiet and stared into his face curiously. She seemed surprised, perplexed even, as though at odds with herself.
Tentatively she pulled him close again and her expression changed from puzzlement to something else, and he had absolutely no doubt that she was trying to make sense of the large and unexpectedly hard lump of the SmartKlamp that was resting in his pants!
Oh shit! It hit Luke full on. She thinks I’ve got a boner!
It was written all over her. Without any doubt, she’d got the idea that dancing with her had been so exciting for him, it had brought up an erection! Immediately, he twisted away to put a little space between them, as, whatever was going on in her head, she appeared to reach decision.
“We could always date, you know. If you wanted to…” She was slightly breathless, yet watched him expectantly as, artfully, she pulled him against her again. This time he felt her nudge against the plastic lump of his SmartKlamp.
“I can’t…” he said, and eased her away again. It wasn’t brilliant, but it would do for a start as he wracked his brains for something better.
She looked uncertain, even hurt as he continued to hold her at arms length. And, for God’s sake it wasn’t actually her fault. As far as she knew, thirty seconds ago he was dead set on impregnating her with his sperm. Now he was rejecting her!
“…until I’m a Junior!”
“What?” She looked confused.
They’d stopped moving as they stared at each other. Others were beginning to notice. He forced himself to take hold of her again, but still kept his groin out of the way as they continued dancing.
His voice became a tight whisper. “I can’t date until I’m in my Junior year. I’m really sorry. My parents said Simon and I couldn’t go out with anyone until then.” Of course, they’d never said such a thing, but it would do —at least for now.
Whether she was listening to him or not, he didn’t know. She said nothing and avoided his eyes as they kept dancing until the Carpenters decided it was time to bring 'We've only just begun' to an end.
Couples began to leave the floor as they remained rooted to the spot. He didn’t know what else to do. Maybe she regretted how she’d acted? Maybe she felt a conflict with her church beliefs? Maybe she felt guilty? Maybe she just felt plain rejected?
Unable to look him in the eye, she appeared flustered, and mumbled, “I’m really sorry Luke, I’ve embarrassed myself and you. Please forgive me.” With that, she let go of his arms and hurried off the dance floor leaving him standing alone and feeling like a crap bastard.
Many eyes seemed to watch her go as she passed through all the tables and rushed out of the marquee. Those same eyes returned to glare at him, accusingly. Her father also caught him in his gaze and glowered before striding out of the tent after his daughter.
Just then, his phone chirped with an incoming message.
It was his mum.
Trying to avoid any more eye contact, he gathered Owen and hurried out, too. For all the wrong reasons, he felt ashamed, so he kept his head down and tried not to see anyone. They got away without any more fuss.
“How was it, then?” Lucy was inquisitive as she drove them home through the night.
“Great!” Owen beamed—the one who had actually enjoyed himself for once.
Like hell it was!