Luke retrieved the Motorola Flip cell phone his dad had donated from the pocket of his cargoes and turned it over in his hand.
"So what's your number?" Ryan asked, getting out his own cell. "I'll put it in my phone."
Luke studied the device, realizing he no idea!
“Hang on, I’ll just find it.” He pressed the options button, found and then worked his way up and down various menus as he searched for it. After the fruitless minute that it took to realize he didn’t know shit about phones, he frowned. "It has to be here somewhere."
"Come on, give it here. I'll find it." Ryan held out his hand.
"I can do it."
"Suit yourself." Ryan shrugged, and sipped from his glass of tequila.
Glancing past the phone in his hand, Luke studied his friend, who, with shoes off, was comfortably laid across the bed cradling a gradually emptying glass. After the first two ‘down the hatches’ it was their third and Luke had made sure both glasses only got a few inches. Even Ryan was only sipping now, and he seemed to have mellowed. The black tee shirt he was wearing was one of Luke's—as were the boxers under the black pants. On the floor just by Luke’s bedside drawers was a neat pile of Ryan's discarded sweaty clothes. In the background, the room danced to the thrumming beat of Eva Cassidy.
Luke returned to the phone in his hand. "Would it be under profiles, or phone?" he murmured to himself, continuing to stab with frustration. "Who the hell decided to make your own number so hard to find?"
"'Cos you’re supposed to know it, asshole!" Ryan’s smirk was heartless. Luke ignored him, but after a few more attempts, threw the phone onto the bed.
"I give up. You find it. And put your number in at the same time." There was more to life than frigging numbers!
From the chair he watched as Ryan scooped up the device and began to flick through the screens. It wasn’t long before an infuriatingly smug look spread on Ryan's face, and Luke rolled his eyes.
"Don't tell me...you found it?"
"Maybe. I wonder if this is it?" There was no disguising the look of undiluted satisfaction. "There's something here called 'My Number'.” Ryan looked up and frowned. “D'ya think that might be it?"
"Oh, ha-ha." Luke rested his feet comfortably on his desk, and pretended not to give a shit. "Where was it?"
"Tricky to find. It was carefully stashed under a section called 'numbers'." Ryan smirked and continued to play with the keypad. “Go figure!”
Luke rolled his eyes. Surely even with several refills of tequila, Ryan couldn't be that dense. "My number. What is it?"
"Oh…" Ryan glanced up briefly. "Hang on, I'm just adding mine." A flurry of rapid stabs later, he looked up again. "It looks like it's with Verizon." He reeled off a number.
Luke didn't recognize it as being his dad's old cell. His dad must have switched them somehow, and Luke realized—having never had one before—how little he knew about cell phones. Placing his glass down on the floor, he jumped into action.
"Hang on, I need something to write on." He scrabbled for a scrap of paper. "Okay, what was it again?"
He scribbled the number down, and then Ryan's own mobile began chirping. Ryan slid it out of his pocket and studied the screen.
"Who's that?" Luke asked.
Luke frowned. Afterwards, he put it down to the booze, but at the time, it took a while to figure it out. "Why am I calling you?"
"So I can get your number, asshole!"
Luke grimaced. Why they hadn’t just done that before to get his number, he had no idea.
“Talking about numbers,” Ryan continued. “Was there any homework on Monday afternoon, or yesterday?”
“Oh…sorry, I forgot.” With Ryan AWOL, he’d missed the lesson. “Science—to be in tomorrow. There’s French and Geography, too."
Ryan pulled a face. “Have you got the science book here?”
“Sure.” It was sitting on the desk where Luke had left it. “You’re not going to do it now are you? For God’s sake, with your record, you probably won’t even get a slap on the wrist! Can’t you just tell him you were sick or something?”
“Better to just to do it,” Ryan grunted. “It won’t take long."
Shaking his head in bemusement, Luke reached for the textbook. Inside it was the photocopied question sheet that had been handed out, and he drew it out. It wasn’t much, just a few questions on the last physics module.
“Do you want to just copy mine?” he said. He also slipped out his page of written answers.
Ryan smirked. “I prefer to get it right. Now move over and give me some paper.” He put his glass down on the floor out of sight alongside the bottle and heaved himself off the bed.
Luke shook his head. A day like today’s and he wants to do homework! Giving up his chair at the desk, he watched as Ryan buzzed through the questions with ease.
“Well, that’s not right!” Luke pointed to the answer to question two with glee. He certainly hadn’t reached that answer!
Without breaking stride, Ryan snorted. “Bet you didn’t convert from centimeters per second to meters per second?” He tapped at one of the lines of his calculations.
“Oh crap! You’re right, I didn’t!” Irked, Luke put down his now empty glass and went back to his own paper.
“Luke?” There was a tap at the door. It opened and Lucy put her head around. “Dinner will be in about half an hour."
Having delivered her message, she studied the desk and blinked, and Luke cringed wondering if she’d spotted the glass. “You’re studying?” she said. She sounded a little too astonished for his liking, but Luke was relieved all the same.
“Just finishing off some homework.”
“I’m impressed!” Lucy pursed her lips. “You’ll have to come round more often, Ryan!”
Luke gritted his teeth and said nothing. That was unfair! He’d already done it…kind of.
“Anyway,” she continued. “I just wanted to find out if you still want to eat up here?”
“Yes, please—if that’s still okay with you.”
Luke pointed to the open books. “We’ve still got quite a bit to finish.”
Lucy nodded and was about to leave when she added. “Oh, and just in case you’d forgotten, I'm still planning to go to the mall after supper." She raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure you don't want me to get what you need, and you stay here?" Her eyes strayed towards Ryan.
Luke shook his head. ‘Get what you need’ was code for buying comfy underwear!
"It's fine," he replied. "I'll come with you." With a chance on the table to go buy some of his own clothes, he wasn't about to leave the choice to her. He felt a little guilty at dumping Ryan so soon after dinner, but that was life.
Ryan looked up from the paper he was still scribbling on.
"You're going to the mall? Cool…I'll tag along. I was meaning to pick up a few things myself." He tapped his pen on the desk, looking pensive. “And I might pop into the Apple Store too, and have a look at those iPhones.”
Luke felt caught between the two of them. Having Ryan riding shotgun cramped his style.
But what to do?
There wasn’t much he could do, really—he'd just have to wing it and hope for the best. Maybe he could shake Ryan off in Apple and go get what he needed.
"We'll both go,” he said at last. “Maybe you can just drop us off?"
"Sure—I can do that,” Lucy replied. “I need to stop in at Publix for a few things, so I’ll go do that and then come back and pick you up." Pulling the door closed, she left them to their books.
They went back to the physics questions and Ryan had them done quickly enough. To celebrate, they poured another shot of tequila and went back to the chair and bed respectively. Time passed, and they were getting a bit giggly. Luke was even about to confess to Ryan that he’d pulled a boner at the urologist in front of his mum, when there was a knock at the door.
From the other side, Lucy called out. "Can you get the door? My hands are full!"
"Crap," Luke mouthed. Sobering quickly, he slid his feet off the desk, and jumped up from the chair.
"Hide these!" He pushed his glass at Ryan who took it with his spare hand.
"Just coming, Mum!" Rapidly, Luke scanned the room. "Where's the bottle?" he hissed.
Ryan, however, didn't seem to have the same urgency Luke felt, but he grinned and nodded his head to the side of the bed distant from the door. He was still looking distantly bemused, and still holding glasses bearing the remains of their tequila.
“GLASSES!” Luke hissed, pouring as much command as he could into his stare. Finally, they disappeared, and he opened the door. His mum breezed in with a tray, and Luke turned to see that Ryan was standing now and studying Luke’s CD collection.
"Sorry,” Luke muttered. “We were just looking for some music."
"You two are ruined, you know!” Lucy said as she began lifting two steaming plates off the tray. The smell was mouthwatering. “Don't you start expecting this, every day!"
Fortunately, she didn't seem suspicious by the wait at the door, and Luke relaxed. There was nothing more obvious than overzealous excuses! She put cutlery on his desk and left the tray leaning against the side.
"Bring the plates down when you’re done. I've made a sherry trifle for dessert." At the door, she turned. "Do you need something to drink?"
From behind him, Ryan coughed, and Luke tried not to react. Trying to keep the terrible desire to snigger out of his voice, he replied, "Thanks, I think we're good…we emptied the Coke bottle earlier. And I can always come down and get one if we do."
After she’d left, he bent over and started laughing.
“SHIT— that was close!” He picked up one of the brimming plates and a fork and pointed.
"We'd better sit on the floor on that side, in case she comes back in." Luke settled onto the floor on the other side of his bed, away from the door. Snickering, too, Ryan gathered his plate and came to join him. They both leaned back against the bed, and from under it, recovered their drinks.
Ryan studied the level in his. “Any more?” he asked hopefully.
“You must be kidding!” Luke shook his head. Even he knew that booze on an empty stomach was a bad idea. “Get some food in you first!”
Ryan shrugged, but lifted what was left in his glass and said, "Cheers, then!" Clinking the tumblers, Ryan emptied half of his in one go.
"You better slow up on that stuff,” Luke warned. “It's pretty strong." He took a rather more delicate sip of his own. It was nice, though, and, after the first forkful, he decided it seemed to go well with the spicy fish.
With his mouth full, Ryan shook his head, then swallowed. "Never been drunk. Never will be." He sounded adamant and Luke guessed he was probably right. He felt warm and relaxed, too, but that wasn't anywhere near being legless. People who drank so much that they ended up like that were lunatics!
"Mmmm, this is good." Ryan shoveled in another huge portion of fish pie. Still with his mouth full, he said, "So, what d'ya need?"
"Need? Where?" Luke frowned. He swallowed what was in his mouth. "I don't need anything."
"At the mall, asshole!” Ryan shook his head and chewed. “God, you've got a memory like a sieve. We're going this evening, remember!"
"Oh, that." Luke shrugged. "Just some tees and stuff "
"Mum said I could get a few new things if I needed them."
Ryan grinned. "You’re saying that your mom is letting you buy your own clothes?"
Ryan waved his fork, poking it in Luke's direction. "I really like your mom." He giggled and it came out rather like a hiccup. "But that I find hard to believe!"
Much though he tried, Luke found it hard to feel irritated. The truth was, they both knew Ry had a point, and Ryan knew how their family worked as well as Luke did. Luke couldn't help it and started getting giggly again.
Ryan grinned along. "You, my friend," he said, pointing at Luke again, and sniggering, "are a shopping virgin!"
Luke dropped his fork and burst out laughing. "'Shopping virgin'? Oh God, don't let Mum hear you say that!"
Ryan shrieked, and his dark eyes flashed wildly. He waved the fork. "But don't worry. If tonight’s your first time, we'd better make it memorable!"
By now, Luke’s eyes were watering as the tequila slid him easily into paroxysms. "Oh fuck," he moaned. "I'm so nervous! It's my first time with another guy!"
As the humor competed with the fish pie, Ryan started choking. "I promise to be gentle!" He banged his hand on the ground, swallowing and trying to get his breath. "You never know, there might even be some special offers on for guys that have just been skinned!"
"Oh shit—stop it!" Luke had to put his plate down, and he curled up on the floor, holding his splitting sides. "Don't remind me about that!" Underneath his shorts, he felt the tight grip of the turtles.
"You wanna know a secret?" he hooted. Somehow, just then, it felt overwhelmingly hilarious. "Don't you dare tell anyone though!"
He unzipped and pushed his shorts down enough for Ryan to get a peek of the lurid green design of his tight Ninja Turtles undies. "I've been borrowing Simon's 'cos they don't chafe my dickhead as much as mine! These were all he had left!"
Ryan completely lost it. Some of the fish ended up on the floor as he screeched with laughter. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? OH MY GOD—you have to be kidding! I haven't seen that show in years!"
"Me, neither!" Luke’s stomach was a knot of pain as he heaved. He pulled at the tight waistband. "I never remembered it being so GRIPPING!"
They literally howled!
"Turn around," Ryan begged. “Please!! I just gotta see!”
Luke complied, and rolled over, pushing his shorts off his backside. They shouted it simultaneously.
Still laughing and fit to burst, Luke rolled over again, pulled up his shorts and sat up. "But if you breathe a word to anyone," he warned. "Mine won't be the only dick that gets cut off!"
Gradually the laughter subsided. Rubbing the tears out of his eyes, Ryan recovered the remains of his meal. He sniggered again. "Holy fuck—I can't believe you just did that!"
Luke could hardly believe it either, but who cared? Ry certainly didn't, and it was so good to be laughing again.
They got back to eating.
"So, how much have you got?" asked Ryan eventually.
Luke burst into sniggers again. "Hardly any! The doc took most of it!"
"The money, asshole!" Ryan spluttered. "How much money for clothes."
Luke grinned and then shrugged. "I dunno. Enough, I hope."
On the other hand, he hardly expected that the twenty-five bucks he was likely to get out of his mum for some boxers and tees would go far. “Finished?”
Scooping up the last few mouthfuls, Ryan nodded, and Luke stood and recovered the dinner tray.
Ryan wandered to the desk where Luke’s laptop was resting. “Do you mind if I check my email? I never got time before coming over.”
"Feel free.” Luke flipped up the screen. “I'll take these plates down and pick up some trifle for us."
Down the stairs he trotted, still grinning to himself at the turtles. His mum and dad were in the kitchen, seated across from each other at the table. He could see they'd already started into the dessert. Noisily he banged the plates down on the side and made a show of licking his lips.
"Scrumptiously delicious dinner, Mum!” In a good mood, he beamed widely. “Your best ever!" It felt right to let her know she was appreciated!
"It was just a fish pie." Curious, she eyed him over her bowl. "Do you want dessert?"
Realizing he was speaking rather loudly, he reined it in. Tidily, he emptied his tray by the sink ready to go into the dishwasher. "Some trifle would be perfect if there’s time." He glanced at the wall clock. "When do you want to go?"
"You're going out?" Pouring himself what was probably a second glass of wine, his dad looked surprised.
Lucy covered her glass with her hand when the bottle was offered. "I said I'd take Luke shopping," she told Geoff. She looked up at the clock, too. "About ten minutes?"
He frowned. Take him shopping? That wasn’t the plan! "I thought you were going to Publix?"
"I am. Why? Do you want me to come with you?"
"No, it's fine," he replied, hurriedly. "Ry and me can manage!"
"Ryan and I.”
Her eyes flicked to the ceiling towards his bedroom, and her tone became solicitous. "How's he doing? We heard you laughing."
Luke’s dad seemed bemused, too. "Actually, the whole street heard you laughing! What was all that about?"
Luke couldn't help it and started sniggering again. He shook his head. "Just a joke."
"Care to share?"
"I don't think so!" He changed the subject. "Mum, how much have I got to spend?”
Her eyes narrowed. "It rather depends on what you’re buying."
He shrugged, wondering how far he could push it. "You know…tee shirts and boxers…like we said...but I need some jeans and stuff, too."
“Jeans and stuff?” She leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. There was a twinkle in her eye. "I dunno. What do you think, Dad?"
Geoff looked thoughtful. "Stuff? Mmmm… Stuff's more expensive than when we were kids, Hon. What do you think? Ten dollars?"
"Let's not be tight, darling,” she admonished. “What about pushing it to fifteen?"
"Give me a break!" Luke rolled his eyes, and another option surfaced. "You could always give me your card, Dad!"
As though mortified, Geoff began to cough and splutter into his drink. Lucy took a cloth from the table and started fanning him.
"Now look what you've done. You've got him all upset!" She wafted the cloth even harder. "It's alright, Hon…he didn't mean it!"
Luke gave them his best pitying look. "Are you two really my parents? Is there a chance I was adopted and my sane ones are still out there somewhere?"
Taking the two empty bowls that were on the table and beginning to ladle trifle into them, his mum smirked. Then she said, “You know you can’t drive today. Not if we’re carrying a non-family member.”
She was a stickler for the rules, but Luke knew she was right—he hadn’t had his license long enough for that. He loved driving any chance he could get, and next September, when they were going to get him his own wheels, couldn’t come soon enough! But maybe it was for the best. He’d hate to see the expression on her face as she watched him blow into a breathalyzer!
Nodding, he took the bowls back upstairs.
Back up in his room, Ryan was still hunched over Luke’s MacBook. He seemed to be browsing Luke’s Facebook wall. Hopefully there was nothing too out of the ordinary, but Luke snapped the lid down, narrowly missing Ryan’s fingers.
“Finished, you nosey sod?” he grunted. In retrospect, maybe letting Ry loose on his laptop was not such a good idea.
“Touchy today, aren't we!” Ryan grinned and picked up his glass. It was completely full once more.
Luke’s eyes narrowed, but he didn’t say anything as he passed Ryan one of the bowls. “Mum said we’d be going out in ten minutes, so eat fast!”
Ryan lifted up his glass with a cheeky grin. “One for the road then!” He threw half of it back in one go.
Fifteen minutes later they pulled off the drive. In his wallet, Luke carried five, crisp ten-dollar bills. Not quite riches, but it wasn’t bad—he might even get some jeans and a couple of shirts out of it. He’d given his mum a big hug, thankful that the lingering smell of fish pie covered the tequila breath. In the van, he and Ryan played ‘I Spy’, and followed that with a round of ridiculous ‘knock-knock’ jokes all the way to the mall. His mum must have thought they were nuts!
Nuts? No. In fact, Luke felt relaxed and warm. Slightly dizzy maybe, but he wouldn’t call it tipsy—in fact, unexpectedly, everything around him seemed much clearer. Ryan on the other hand, was on a high and acting like a pinhead! Luke honestly tried his best for their messing around not to look too obvious, but even he could see Ry was a bit over the top. Who knew what his mum was thinking!
Lucy pulled by the main entrance to the mall to let them out.
“So how long?" she asked. "Can you be done in an hour?”
Luke looked at his watch. An hour wasn’t long. “Can you give us an hour and a half?”
“An hour and a quarter—no more,” she countered. “I want to get back to see something on the TV.”
“Okay.” It would have to do. “Call me when you’re on your way.”
He got out his newly acquired mobile. “Dad just gave me this. What’s your number?” She was bound to be late and it might give them a few extra minutes. She looked puzzled, but reeled off her own cell. Moments later her phone started buzzing. He grinned at his own cleverness as she answered it.
“There—you’ve got mine now!” Then he pushed Ryan out of the van before his friend said anything stupid!
Once inside, Luke bore to the left to lead the way towards Macy’s department store. However, after a dozen or more strides, he discovered he was walking alone. Turning, his gaze tracked through the press of shoppers to discover that Ryan had gone the other direction and had stopped by the escalators. Watching Ryan in bemusement, Luke went back.
"Lost?" Luke asked, stifling a smirk Ryan grinned at him. He seemed to be in another world.
"It's this way." Luke giggled and pointed to where he could see the Macy's sign which loomed in the distance.
“Where are you going? What's that way?" Ryan apparently had eyesight problems. Instead, he looked ready to step onto the moving escalator.
“You know where I’m going!” Luke snickered. He waited for some shoppers to step past them to be whisked away up the moving steps before continuing what seemed quite funny. “I'm going to Macy’s, to buy—amongst other things—some fresh Turtles that aren’t as tight as these!” Meaningfully, he pulled at his cargoes to relieve the pressure.
Ryan seemed to find it quite hilarious and sniggered with laughter, startling a young couple just coming off the 'down' escalator. He grabbed Luke around the waist, dragging him onto the 'up' escalator. ”Macy-Pacy!" he retorted. "We’re going where I go!”
A little surprised at first—and slightly unbalanced by the moving stairs—Luke held on to him happily enough. That was until they had nearly reached the top, that Ryan started walking backwards. They both nearly fell over, and an old lady coming up behind them pushed at them and glared. Avoiding her, Ryan turned around and started walking down back the way they’d come, against the direction of the machinery.
Standing at the top and having stepped off the escalator, Luke watched him make headway against the flow. "What the hell are you doing?" he shouted.
Without breaking his step, Ryan peered over his shoulder and sniggered. "I need a piss!"
Doing the right thing and taking the proper ‘down’ escalator, Luke headed for the bottom, too. Ryan had a head start, but it was an even race to see who got there first. Luke confronted him back on the ground floor again.
"Why the hell didn't you go at home?" He couldn’t help but laugh.
Ryan pulled a face, and was unrepentant. "Bet that's what your Mom says! Come on...it's this way!"
In one of the mall's restrooms, Luke squeezed his dick out of the turtles, while Ryan noisily emptied his bladder at the head next to him. After washing their hands, they left, and Ryan had a satisfied grin. "Damn, I needed that!" He looked around himself as if trying to get his bearings. "Now, where were we?"
"On the escalator."
Ryan brightened. "That's right. Shopping."
They rode the escalator without incident this time, and back at the top, Ryan draped his arm around Luke once more as the pair negotiated the buzzing crowds along the long, curved upper floor. Luke had no idea where Ryan was taking them, but he was confident that they wouldn't be headed for 'Ross - Dress for Less!’
“So where are we going?”
“Justins, of course! Where else?”
“Justins?” Past the food court and the cinema, Luke could see the store coming up on the right. Moments later they stopped in front of the trendy men’s clothing boutique.
“This is what you need,” Ryan declared. He pulled Luke towards the wide open doors.
Luke hesitated by the entrance.
He knew the shop a little, and had even been in a few times over the last year, though window-shopping was as far as it usually went. ‘JustIN’ (or Justins as everyone tended to call it) was the place to be if you had great taste and deep pockets.
Justins wasn’t anywhere near as big as the huge department stores, but they still had plenty of space and color and cool music to compete for a shopper’s attention. The fashionable outlet didn’t tend to do much advertising—and hardly needed to—but the ads he’d seen in the AJC Sunday paper said it all. JustIN was just that. Their stuff was always the latest, and whether they set the trend or just made sure they had what people were looking for, their clothing lines were always ‘in’!
He and Ryan passed inside and paused around the first set of displays. Well-tanned mannequins glinted at them, looking dressed to kill, and he studied a pair of jeans that one of them—who looked remarkably like Ryan—was wearing. It was nice stuff. Really nice! But in this place, even fifty bucks wouldn't go far.
He pulled at Ryan and muttered, "I don't have that much. Maybe we should look in some other places?”
“Hi guys…can I help you?” A well-dressed looking guy, one of the many store attendants whose job it was to ensure the customer bought more than they planned, approached them.
"Raoul." Ryan peered at the name tag. “My good friend and I are buying—amongst other things—underwear that doesn't have Teenage Ninja Turtley things on them.” Ryan peered around as if worried he might be overheard, but his volume was still brazenly clear over the beat of the background music. If he was trying to be discrete, it wasn't working!
“RY!” Luke cringed. Had he lost his mind? He could see Raoul watching them in bemused interest.
“He’s just joking,” Luke explained hurriedly.
"Mutant…" Raoul murmured.
Ryan frowned. "What?"
"I believe it’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’,” Raoul repeated. “And yes," he offered them a knowing smile, "we may have a few pairs without that design." He pointed down the right side of the store. "You’ll find Men’s Underwear down at the bottom."
"Down at the bottom?” Ryan burst out, startling both the other two. “Oh God, that's hilarious!"
Luke frowned and didn't actually get it, though he saw Raoul purse his lips in another controlled smile. However, there was a more delicate matter to deal with than just men’s bottoms.
"Ry, I've only got fifty dollars." He got his cash out for them to see.
Raoul raised his eyebrows, but Luke headed him off. "I mean I need to get other stuff too," he added. For God's sake, even HE knew a few pairs of boxers wouldn’t cost THAT much!
Striding back into the middle of the conversation, Ryan got his wallet out.
"Give those to me," he said, holding out his hand for the bills. Luke stared at the impatient hand before handing the money over, wondering what the hell Ryan was up to.
Stuffing the cash inside his wallet, Ryan got out a card and peered at it carefully. "Will this do, Raoul?"
"You have our store card?" Raoul took it, studied it, and handed it back. He seemed impressed. “Thank you, Mr. Alexis. That will do just fine!” Another couple entered and, as the salesclerk turned to greet them, he said, "Anything you guys need, just holler!"
Luke and Ryan moved onwards, and Luke waited until they were out of earshot before muttering, "You've got a card for this place?"
Ryan shrugged. "So?"
"So, it's not cheap!"
The hazy look on Ryan's face became more complicated.
"Look, Luke…” Ryan paused and grimaced. “It's been a crap week and I'd like to forget it. You know I've got more money than I need. Let me do this for you." The silly grin slipped back, masking the torment once more. "Come on, Summers…live a little!"
Luke shrugged. How could he refuse a face like that?
* * *
Extract from Luke’s notes
I think it’s safe to say that neither of us were really ourselves during the following hour. Enough of the tequila had made its way into my head, that ‘floating’ would be an understatement. On reflection, I made the discovery that, with enough booze in you, you can end up doing and saying things that you’d never dare to normally. Perhaps that’s the ‘real’ you showing through?
And if I was floating…Ry was…well…more like up in the clouds! The store guy must have suspected we were a bit pissed, but he let us be…I guess a sale is a sale. Mind you, after that day, I'm not sure if Ry ever went in there again!
Despite blurting to everyone in earshot that I needed boxers, we started my shopping with a pair of skinny jeans…a pair that quickly turned into two. I tried them on in the changing cubicle to be sure they fit right—and NO, I DID NOT let Ryan in. I noticed quite a few people glancing our way from time to time. I didn’t know any of them, but even so, there was no way I was going to let anyone get the wrong idea!
So it was in, out, in, out of the cubicle with chinos, shirts, tees, and a pair of shorts that were so baggy, I was never been able to wear them without them falling off, and eventually gave them to dad!
As the pile that we dumped on Raoul’s desk grew, I tried to complain at the extravagance, but Ry would have nothing of it.
* * *
Against Luke’s better judgment, they took the ‘well past knee length’ pair of flamboyant swim shorts to the desk to add to the pile Raoul was holding for them. Ryan laid them out for Raoul to see, and Luke pulled a face. While he liked bright colors, those were garish!
“What d’you think Raoul?” Ryan demanded. His voice was beginning to sound a little out of joint and slurred. “He has to have these! They’ll look good on him.”
Raoul laughed. “Honestly Mr. Alexis? I have to admit I don’t sell many pairs like this!” He cast a professional yet knowing eye over Luke. “But trust me, even these will look good on your friend!”
Ryan’s eyes glinted with victory. “Told ya!” He started fumbling for his wallet.
Luke checked his watch. Time was slipping away and he still needed underwear. Wasn’t that actually the main reason he’d come shopping in the first place?
"Hang on,” he said, and Ryan looked up. “I still need boxers."
Ryan's brightened and a slow sly smile crept across his mouth. "That y’do. Damn…nearly forgot!"
“We’d better hurry. Mum’ll be here soon.” They turned from the counter.
“Shall I start adding up this lot?” Raoul question had a hopeful tone.
“Yes, please,” Luke replied. “We won’t be long.”
Moments later, he found himself alongside Ryan, studying the racks and shelves of the underwear section. He hardly knew where to start.
One thing was sure–Justins definitely treated boxers as an accessory for the nearly naked. If you planned to go to a party just in your undies, this was the place to get kitted out with a pair trendy enough to get away with it!
Down at the ‘bottom end’, as Ryan liked to call it, the store was a veritable paradise for those bottoms not yet covered by the end of the market held by Macy’s and the like. Casting his eyes around, Luke hardly noticed anything resembling a pair of tighty-whities! Boxers galore filled the back corner of the store, with several islands adding to the display. A few of the brands he knew or had seen on classmates. Most he’d never heard of.
His eyes flicked from side to side across the walls of color, trying to bring order to the exotic chaos. Long ones, short trunks, plain colors, or a whole host of cute and sexy patterned designs filled his view. He groaned in a mixture of dismay and delight.
OMG…they were ALL screeching! How the hell was he going to choose something in the short time he had?
Maybe it should have been a lot more awkward than it was, especially having never shopped for items like this before, let alone with a major plus one in tow! But if Luke had had a shy streak, it had mysteriously evaporated during the last hour, and he cheerfully sorted through pairs of exotic underwear with hardly a care. Ryan made it easy too, acting and speaking—albeit sounding rather giddy—like he did this kind of thing every day.
Confidently Ryan picked up a pair of black CK trunks. “What about these, bud? Calvins are a good make.” He held them to Luke’s backside.
“XXL?" Luke took them and sniggered as he studied them. "You might have a fat ass, but not me. And anyway, we don’t all like black!” He’d had his fill of black and put them back where they came from. “Black’s not really my color.” He looked meaningfully at Ryan who was looking as gothic as hell that day!
“Hey!” Ryan pulled a face and protested at the attack on his dress sense. “I don’t just like black!”
With that he fumbled with the zip of his pants, undid himself and pulled them open. “Look!” Looking down on himself, he paused – apparently surprised that his boxers were black too.
“Oh…these are yours, aren’t they?” He frowned. “What happened to mine?”
“Put them away for chrissake!” Luke looked around quickly, but couldn’t help but grin at Ryan’s confused expression. “You left yours in my room. You changed, remember!”
Damn…Ry really was stewed!
Ryan grinned and seemed relieved. “Oh my God! I did, didn’t I!” He pulled up his zip and they went back to studying the shelves.
“I definitely don’t want ordinary black ones. Or grey. Maybe some white though.” Luke saw a pair of CK white ones with a light grey band and was reminded of someone he'd met again earlier that day. He shook his head and tried to stay on task. Time was running out.
“What about these? These should suit you.” Ryan held up a pair that Luke recognized immediately. These ones were lighter in color than the pair he remembered Ryan wearing, but they still had the brand name EUROBOY stenciled on the band. Ryan’s eyes were quite glazed though he appeared to be buzzed by the memory of the previous day. “If ya get hung, you gotta be wearing these!” He waved the pair in the air.
“Nah…” More uncomfortable with it than Ryan seemed to be, Luke shook his head. It didn’t take long to distance himself from the memory and they moved to another section.
“Okay, then what about these?” Ryan suggested, passing Luke a different pair.
Now those were more like it! Green and lively, the pair were eye-catching, but Luke hesitated. “They’re a bit bright…”
Ryan peered at them and frowned. “So what? Everyone has trendy stuff these days! Live a little!”
Luke nodded. Ry was right, they did, and he picked up the first pair that made it into his collection. It set the bar for what acceptable and it must have been ten minutes later before he said, “Okay, I’m sure that’s enough!” In his hand he had five pairs of boxers, three plain and two patterned, all of which were good brands and looked a good fit. He reckoned most of them were good enough to make it into the locker rooms.
“You’ve only got a couple!” Ryan already had another pair in his hands.
“God, you’re so pissed, you can’t even count!” Luke showed him the pile he already had. On the other hand, the ones Ryan was holding had caught his eye too.
“Okay…and those too, then.” Luke took the proffered deep-red, darkly patterned trunks and added them to his pile. “Come on, we’d better be going.”
Making his way back to the sales desk, he made a neat stack of the underwear and then looked around for Ryan, but he was nowhere to be seen. Raoul was already starting to scan in the underwear when Ryan appeared at Luke’s shoulder with more of them in his hands. He dumped them onto the pile that Raoul was working through. Luke could see that there had to be at least four more pairs there—and it looked like they were all EUROBOY brand!
“Come on,“ Ryan pleaded. “You’ve gotta admit it, they’re made for you!” He peered at Raoul. “He’s from England, you know.”
Ryan glanced around, and seeing other shoppers nearby, tried to sound enlightening. “It rains a lot there!”
Luke shook his head in despair. “What the heck’s that got to do with it?”
On the other hand, Ryan seemed to have go a grasp of his color palate. The colors were pretty good, though one pair was a little too tinged with pink shades for the locker rooms, however trendy they looked! Ryan sniggered and grabbed at one pair and stuck them on his head like a Beany skull-cap. Covered by a cool light blue, he looked a total sight!
Throughout it all, Raoul had remained a picture of tactful discretion, but even he let a small smile cross his lips as he continued to scan the newly arrived items through his till.
“Oh, Mum, it’s you. You’re outside? Yes, were just coming.”
To Ryan he mouthed, “It’s Mum.”
He continued into the phone. “Yes, we’re just leaving the store. Actually, we’re just paying, then leaving the store. See you soon.”
He put the phone back in his pocket. “She’s outside…waiting…we need to go…”
By that time, Raoul had everything scanned and bagged. It seemed to take forever for Ryan to find his wallet, but eventually the card went through the machine and Ryan signed off on it.
Luke didn’t dare look to see the damage!
Carrying four enormously loaded carrier bags, they said farewell to Raoul like he was an old friend, and hurried out through the mall towards the parking lot.