With the van keys in his hand, Luke walked slowly back through the smoothly carpeted hallways towards the reception. Though he'd only passed that way a handful of times all told, the passageway had become comfortingly familiar. Even so, he didn't expect to be coming this way again.
The end of a journey.
Or maybe it was just the beginning of a new one, and he smiled happily to himself as he stopped to study a colorful print mounted in a frame on the wall; one that he quite liked. He felt in no hurry as he dawdled in front of it; there was time. In fact there would be time for lots of things now. Properly unhooded as he'd wanted to be for so long, he could afford to let it sink in and enjoy it at last!
...once the incredibly sensitive and incessant scraping had gone away, that was!
“Hello Luke. Not lost are you?”
Still staring at the intriguing picture, he turned quickly to find Ella Tiberius at his shoulder. He grinned in delight at seeing her again.
"No, I was looking—"
He shrugged…the picture didn't really matter. "I've just been with your dad." He beamed as they continued down the corridor together.
"Ah…the removal of your SmartKlamp, I assume,” Ella said, and he caught a sly wink. "Is that why you're walking so carefully?"
He winced as he tried to walk in a less-constipated way. Crap!
"Is it that obvious?”
She must have seen the pink tinge around his ears and took pity on him. “Sorry—I’m just teasing. It’s good to see you again, though. Was everything okay?”
He nodded. "Your dad said you were around somewhere. And, yes, it's fine, though…ummm…I had a bit of an accident." As part of his 'surgical team', it didn't even dawn on him that he shouldn't tell her everything. They reached the corner, and ahead was the final stretch that led down to the waiting area, but he paused and continued in a conspirational tone.
“Actually I broke the Klamp yesterday. I tripped on some stairs and fell on it.”
“That doesn’t sound good…" It looked like she was far enough through her medical training to have learned the very same look that her father gave Luke when he confessed! However, she didn't stay worried long. "I guess Dad sorted it out?”
It sounded like she had as much faith in her father as he did and he nodded.
“Yep, it was fine." He pulled at his pants meaningfully as they continued onwards. "It’s still really uncomfortable, though.”
"Don't worry about it, kiddo. You're not the first guy to walk out of here suffering from sensory overload!" She grinned knowingly, and the face he pulled was an admission he knew exactly what she was talking about!
"Well, there you go." Her eyes flickered with obvious amusement. "Want some advice?”
“Don’t wear loose boxers!”
He winced again. “Right. I’m just beginning to realize that!” They arrived at the confluence of corridors adjacent to the door that would take them out to the reception. Gallantly, he opened it for her.
Patting him gently on the arm, she shook her head, pointing instead down another corridor. “Take care Luke—and good luck!”
He watched her go, glad that he'd seen her. It just felt right, and ended things well.
Smiling to himself, he passed through the door into the reception, doing his best not to appear like a demented crab. He hoped his mum would be done quickly as, weird that it might seem to everyone else, he very much wanted to get back into school.
Carrying the envelope in hand, he stepped to the desk and waited politely while the receptionist dealt with an elderly gentleman who seemed to be having difficulty hearing what she was saying. He could have just dumped the envelope on the desk, but felt he should actually pass it to someone, like he was asked. While he waited, he turned to study the people in the reception area, trying to guess their ailments, just for a bit of fun.
First off, he picked out a couple of guys in suits, both looking like they were on edge to get back to their desks as soon as they could. There probably wasn’t much wrong with them and they were only there because wives or girlfriends had told them they had to be!
Next there was the young couple. They had a toddler in a pushchair, soundly asleep. He guessed it was likely to be the kid who needed the checkup.
Then there was the lady who looked so pregnant it appeared she might drop any moment. That one wasn’t rocket science. And then…his eyes widened. He did a double take, but there was no doubt.
He took in the studied face and the longish, blond wavy hair. It was him. The clothing was different, but not the attention to subtle color that had first caught Luke’s eye many weeks ago. There was no little sister or shelves filled with frames this time, but it was definitely the guy from the opticians. If Luke had wanted confirmation, catching sight of the neat, henna wristband was all that was needed.
They were unaware they were being watched as he studied them, and it was just the three of them this time—the guy, his younger brother, and their mum. Briefly, he wondered why they were there all together—especially in the middle of the school day. Neither of the boys looked particularly sick, but that wasn’t a real indication of anything. Neither did a whole bunch of people in the reception…including him!
A checkup, maybe?
Their mum was reading a magazine, as was the guy himself, and his younger brother was occupying himself on a Sony PSP. Both the guys were wearing informal clothing, and Luke looked down uncomfortably at the obviousness of his own formal school uniform. One thing seemed fairly sure: having seen them twice now, they had to live somewhere in the Atlanta area. And maybe, having spotted them first north of the perimeter, perhaps not far from him?
Suddenly, he felt a bit giddy, and wondered why.
He watched the three of them with as much interest as on the first occasion, to when the younger one seemed to get fed up of the game he was playing and looked up. His eyes drifted over the room until they spotted Luke waiting by the desk. The boy looked at him casually for a second, and then his eyes flickered with a moment of recognition. Luke watched him nudge his older brother. With the subtle flick of his head he directed his brother's gaze over towards the desk.
It was a complicated mixture of emotions that prickled Luke when, to his surprise, the older brother apparently recognized him, too, and quickly grinned as if they were old friends!
Luke felt satisfaction, pleasure even. And then he was a little unsettled by the memory that the last time he'd thought about this guy, he'd had his pants around his knees and had been happily jizzing into his recently-removed foreskin! Still, that little incident would conveniently remain a secret, and Luke raised his hand to acknowledge them…well, the older one, really.
All at once, he felt embarrassingly stupid. What the hell was he thinking, waving to some unknown guy at the dick doctors?
The point was, he did know him. Kind of. At least if the exchange in the opticians counted. It seemed the guy felt it counted too, as he raised a hand in return.
Suddenly, Luke felt awkward. Now what should he do? The polite thing would be to walk over there and say hello. It's not like he would have to sit down, though truth be told, he wasn't that keen on starting a conversation. But if he did go over there, at least he would get a name.
It was what came after that stopped him. It might start with ‘Hi, I’m Luke. Didn’t I see you guys at the opticians the other day?’ Then it might possibly end up being asked, 'So, Luke, why are you here today?'
Definitely a topic to stay away from, and rather than risk it, Luke let his eyes keep moving on, turning them to stare purposefully at the door through which his mum would shortly arrive. The door was a lot safer. However, as he studied it, he wondered if the guy did actually have a name.
Stupid question! Of course he had a name.
But what would it be? Certainly not 'Cody', or a bloody 'Scott'!
He considered that briefly. Names did mean something, and you could either like them or not, but that often depended on who else you knew who owned the same one. There were plenty of old fashioned names, but this guy didn't feel like an Edward or a George. Even Ed didn't feel right. What about names of good people…like Ryan? He flicked his eyes back towards the guy, to catch him whispering to his younger brother.
Nope, he didn't look like a Ryan, either.
There were 'American' kids names that were unusual, like 'Hunter' or 'Coleman', though the latter sounded like a pot of mustard. Then there was the weird—like the kid called 'Kai' in Simon's class—but who wanted to be named after a stupid kid's cartoon, for God's sake?
Their mum appeared Spanish looking, but the guy didn't have the look of a Hector or a Carlos. Anyhow, he'd heard him speak at the opticians in an accent that sounded English-Americany, with the hint of something else. Cameron maybe? English with a hint of mystic Gaelic? Luke grinned to himself in private satisfaction. Definitely a Cameron. Cam would be cool, too.
So where do you come from, Cam?
"Is that for me?"
"What?" Flustered, he spun to the source of the question. "I mean, excuse me?"
The girl on the desk was pretty and seemed bemused. "The envelope?" She pointed to what he was still holding, and he stared at it blankly. Finally, his brain kicked into gear.
"Oh…this you mean?" He held out the package for her, feeling sheepish.
"Aha...that would be it." She laughed lightly as she looked at what he was gripping, and he hoped to God she had no idea what had been going through his head!
And where the hell had all that name stuff come from, anyway?
Quickly he passed the package over while at the same time stealing a glance back towards the sitting area. The guy was watching him again with a bemused expression, but other than that, he was impossible to read. The younger brother was watching, too, and Luke saw him lean over and whisper something. His mouth moved, but Luke couldn't decipher what he said. Still feeling flustered by it all, a voice coming from behind him interrupted any train of thought Luke was trying to grab hold of.
"Come on then, if you've given in your notes, we can go." It was his mum.
He blinked. "Oh...yes, I'm done."
Walking beside her through the foyer, he made an enormous effort to ignore the sensitive scraping, and attempted to walk a little less like someone who’d recently had penis surgery!
As he passed by the family, he watched them out of the corner of his eye to see the boy raise his hand in a friendly gesture of farewell. At the movement, his mother, the dark haired latin-looking lady, came out of her magazine and studied Luke and his mum as they strolled by.
As they approached the exit, it would have been rude to do anything other than wave back, so Luke turned briefly and returned the gesture before slipping out the door.
Outside in the parking lot, the warm sun shone brightly, and they passed by numerous parked cars to get back to the minivan.
Well, that was unexpected. Too late, he regretted not getting a name…or maybe even more...
"So who was that?"
He was hardly surprised at the question. His mother missed little.
"Just some guy." He shrugged. "I don't really know his name."
In retrospect it would have been less obvious to make something up, like 'oh, I think it was someone I once played at a local school tennis match.’
"You wave to a boy in the doctor's office that you don't know?" She sounded rightly incredulous, and he squirmed.
There were a couple of ready options. There was the tennis line, or there was, 'I don't know who he is. I saw him at the opticians the day Dad went in for new glasses. We never actually spoke, but the way his chocolate colored shorts sagged, showing off white boxer briefs with a silver waistband, was a real turn on.'
Sensibly, he rejected the latter and shrugged again. “Actually, I think it was someone I once played at a local school tennis match.”
By her offhand reply to that, he could tell she'd already filed it as inconsequential, and he was relieved to be able to waddle towards the van, leaving the guy behind. And anyway, there was a more pressing issue making itself known below his waist.
In his backpack, he had another pair of his brother's underpants, but that was never going to be a good long-term solution. They both climbed into the van and he buckled up.
"Mum," he began, "you know what the doctor said about it being a bit uncomfortable for a while?"
She shot a concerned glance his direction, pausing before starting the engine. "Why, is it hurting sweetheart? Do you need a couple of Tylenol?"
"No…not hurting. Not like that." Though that wasn't such a bad idea. Maybe Tylenol would take the edge off it. "I was more wondering if it would be okay to buy some new boxers? The old baggy ones are just a bit uncomfortable down there right now."
He cringed at the confession, but considering she'd seen him throw a boner, admitting that his boxers dragged awkwardly over his tackle was minor. And he was skint and needed some money from her. In her eyes he could see her reading between the lines until they glinted and a sly smirk crossed her pursed lips.
"Mum!" His ears colored as he accused her hotly.
She grinned mercilessly as she turned the key. The engine fired and settled to a happy purr. "Of course you can. I'm going shopping today. Do you want me to get you something."
"It's fine. I can just get my own if you can give me some cash."
She shrugged as, setting the gear into drive, she moved off. "Sure, if you want. We can stop over at the mall on the way. I've some things to get too."
He considered it, but only briefly. Not only was he in a hurry to get to school for Ryan, he also didn't much like the idea of standing in the underwear aisle with his mother, choosing boxers with her watching!
"It's okay, I think I'd better get into school...just to make sure Ryan's okay. I'll pop out to the Mall later, if that's okay."
"Suit yourself." She seemed to consider it. "I’m going food shopping at Publix later this evening, anyway. I can drop you near Macy’s if you want. You need a few new things anyway...most of your tee shirts have had it."
He nodded enthusiastically. If she was in a good enough mood to be handing out cash to spend on some new clothes, he could survive the day in Simon’s briefs! He could do with some new stuff and could easily take his time choosing some trendy—and hopefully snug—boxers without her standing over him and watching!
They pulled onto the highway and the van bumped unexpectedly over a pothole. He winced. "Did you have any Tylenol?" She usually had everything!
She flicked her head in the direction of the back seat. "There's some in my purse." As he turned to reach, she added. "You'll find some bottles of water under your seat."
He searched through a bag that seemed to contain everything except the kitchen sink, and retrieved a packet that held a couple of foil trays of Tylenol tablets. Peeling out a couple, he reached under the chair, shaking his head in disbelief. "You actually keep water bottles under the seats?"
She shrugged. "For a rainy day."
It sounded so ridiculous, he sniggered. "You keep water under the seat for a rainy day?"
Even she started laughing, and he giggled uncontrollably until his sides ached even more than his winky!
Back out onto the perimeter, the traffic had calmed down and they made good time, which enhanced their good mood. He found the jazz station again, and an upbeat background filled the van as they chatted.
"All's well that ends well, then!" Lucy said, brightly.
Luke pulled a face. "I guess so, though I admit, breaking the thing was a bit of a shock."
"You don't say!" Her tone was dry as she pulled into the slow lane, getting stuck behind a semi.
He was in too good a humor to get razzled by it, and laughed. "Okay, you made your point! Moving on..."
She smiled good-naturedly too, and then pursed her lips looking thoughtful. "Now, if we can only get Simon put right, we'll have both of you properly sorted."
"Simon? You made an appointment for him too, then?" He wasn't surprised. "So, when is it?" He checked his watch and peered around at the rest of the fast flowing traffic. "Can you speed up a bit, by the way?"
She rolled her eyes, but did pull out from behind the semi into a faster lane and they picked up speed again.
"To answer your question, yes I got him an appointment with Doctor Tiberius. It's for the start of the holidays at the end of next month. Jonathan said he could go straight ahead and fit the SmartKlamp then and there if Simon needs it."
"Really? All at the same time?"
She indicated again and pulled back in. "Well, you know your brother—it might be easier to just get it over with rather than put it off for another appointment."
Luke considered that, suspecting that she was probably right, and pulled a face. "The injections sting a bit. You might not want to tell him that." By his reckoning, Si was gonna holler the place down when Tiberius jammed the needle in! "I can go in with him if you want." He grinned to himself. They might need an extra pair of hands!
He was surprised when she actually seemed to take him seriously.
"I might take you up on that," she said, looking thoughtful. "Maybe you and Dad can go. I've decided there are some things mums don't need to see any more!"
It took him a while to figure out what she meant...and then...
"Oh my God...MUM!" He cringed at the memory of an unfortunate woody, and flicked her a guarded glance as he cussed. "Listen...you won't tell anyone about that will you? Not even Dad!"
"Oh stop fussing! Of course I won't tell anyone! But for goodness sake," she continued. "I am married you know!"
He couldn't believe it, she even seemed amused enough not to call him on his swearing! But it bloody well didn’t take much imagination to gather what she was inferring. That was WAY too much information. He stared stolidly ahead.
"Can we just not talk about it anymore!" This was a conversation that didn't need to go on ANY further, thank you very much! Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her face and turned to glare at her. "And you can stop smirking—and can we speed up, PLEASE!"
Finally, their minivan drew into the school parking lot, and accepting a small peck on the cheek, he jumped out, pulled his backpack out of the back seat, and then waved her off again. He checked his watch again. Not quite recess yet. Despite the traffic, they had made good time!
At the office, he handed in the permission letter his mum had prepared. The old hag who took it seemed as suspicious of those wanting to get admitted into school as she was of those trying to leave. Maybe that was a good thing. Either way, Luke ground his teeth impatiently as she seemed to want to read it for the third time.
"Excuse me," he pleaded, making up a white lie. "I really need the bathroom."
She frowned at him, but kept the letter to file, signed him in, and let him go. The bell went, and with recess just starting, the hallways filled quickly. He went into the direction of his locker to swap some books out.
Once that was sorted, while he knew where he needed to be, there was surely time to go to the bathroom first and change out of his own baggy and rather uncomfortable boxers and into another pair of Simon's borrowed briefs, before heading to the next class…and maybe a chance of a closer look at his remodeling while he was at it!
However, it was only as he hurried across to the nearest set of restrooms, passing some guys who were exiting, that it dawned on him that he was back in the place where Ryan had been Hung. His eyes flicked to the floor, but the overnight cleaners had removed any trace of what had been milked from his friend the previous day.
It brought all the lousy memories rushing back, including being thrown out of Ryan’s home by the guy whose friendship he’d just pissed on.
Slipping into one of the stalls, he locked the door behind himself and slid out of his school jacket, which he hung on the hook on the back of the door. Then, from the waist down, he proceeded to undress until all that was left were his socks and boxers. They were a pair of his better black ones, but even so were not up to the task of hiding yet another boner that sprang up.
Shit, not again!
It seemed impossible to find a time to check out his circumcision without it becoming stiff and pulling like crazy! At least the Tylenol was helping.
Quickly he forced everything inside Simon's pair of tighty-whiteys, and got his pants back on. Tying off his shoes and slipping on his jacket, he was ready to face the rest of the day.
Out again in the corridor, he walked a few experimental paces.
Now, if only he could just spot Ryan. But would he even talk to him now? Whether he would or not, he still knew he had to make another attempt at making it up to him, and hopefully Ry was feeling less pissed off with him today, too. Most guys got over it eventually, didn't they?
He began to move through the bustle with the hope of catching Ryan before the next class started—if the guy was even in, that was—when a voice shouted above the chatter of those around him. It sounded urgent.
“LUKE! THANK GOD! THERE YOU ARE!!”
He turned, puzzled, seeing Jacko hurrying towards him.
Jacko was wide-eyed and breathless. "COME ON! IT'S BAD! YOU HAVE TO HURRY!"