Luke looked up and across the hubbub towards the other side of the locker where Landon was changing. How the asshole still managed to come up smelling of roses in the aftermath of the confrontation in the principal’s office was beyond him. Okay, maybe not roses, but not pig shit, either! It was surprising how many had somehow picked up the idea from the bastard, that he'd taken the rap and shifted the blame off Ryan.
Frankly, Luke didn’t give any kind of shit about anything to do with Landon anymore. It still pissed him off that they all seemed happy with the outcome—that it had just been a smack on the hand, just like Mitchell had predicted. The mood around them seemed ready to enjoy a little more fun once more.
Assholes. Who cared what they thought?
What he was more bothered about was the frequent teasing Ryan was still being subjected to, and the growing enthusiasm there was for this last lesson of the morning before the lunch break. Everyone wanted a peek at the results of Kieran’s handiwork!
They spent the session working out in the gym, rotating around one piece of equipment to the next in a well-planned routine of running, lifting and stretching. It was just the twenty of them, and afterwards they returned to the smaller locker room B to shower and change out of sweatpants, and then go for a well-earned lunch. In the process, the provoking humor edged up a notch with the hope that Ryan could be tempted to display his freshly mown frame under the showerheads.
“Just ignore them,” Luke muttered, turning away from the rowdy banter towards where Ryan was sitting. His friend wore a dark frown from the frequent jibes. Luke knew that, for the most part, it was only horseplay, but they just didn’t get it.
“And you certainly don’t have to shower if you don’t want to,” Luke added. Frankly, he was planning to skip that, too.
Even though he'd packed his kit that morning, his mum had still given him another note to excuse him from the gym period. He'd been of two minds about it, and had been sorely tempted to give the class a miss and head for the library again. But after what had passed in Benton's office, the note had stayed in his bag.
With the week they'd had, his surgery had played second fiddle to what had gone down. Every day had brought an improvement to his condition, though the last forty minutes had contained numerous teeth-grinding pangs. That was bad enough, but he knew he wasn’t anywhere near confident enough to show off his tender and newly skinned-back schlong in the showers!
He felt relieved when Ryan reached for his own clothes—it looked like he was going to take the advice as the teasing persisted. Luke reached for his own stuff, but flinched as someone's sneaker came flying out of nowhere in Ryan's direction. It missed and bounced along the ground.
“SHUT IT! ALL OF YOU!” Todd had been sitting on one of the benches watching quietly, and suddenly reared up.
“Shut the fuck up yourself, Quince!” Mitchell taunted. “Come on Ry...don’t be shy!” He smirked at his clever ditty.
Todd was scathing as he bit back. “You know, the thing is, Cody, nobody actually cares what you think. I’m not sure anyone even likes you!”
All at once, the room hushed, sensing a fight looming.
“Come on, Todd. Don’t be like that.” Jake frowned. In his hand he held his remaining sneaker. “We don’t mean anything by it.”
Todd glared at him. “You think I’m just going to sit here while you make life hell for Ry?”
“Big words, asshole,” Mitchell called out, keeping his distance. Luke reckoned that he would still keep it to just words. You had to be really sure of yourself to take on Todd in a small space.
Rather than anger Todd, the taunts seemed to energize him. A glint came to his eye. “Words are usually just crap, Mitchell, and you would know—you’re full of it.” He reached into his bag and withdrew something. “What we did to Ry the other day was pretty shit. I wish now I’d stopped it.”
“Boo-hoo! No need to fucking cry!" Mitchell's tone was biting. "But I think you're on your own there, bud!” He got a smattering of grins and sniggers.
“Really?” Todd eyes marched across the crowded space. “Any of you want to look me in the eye and tell me we did something fucking heroic?”
Luke could see more than a handful of those eyes waver. He wished Ryan could see it, but his head remained turned down, awkward at the exchange.
Landon got his voice at last. “Heroic, no. It was still pretty spunky, though!” There were sniggers, though less than before.
“So be it!” Todd seemed to grow in stature. “But if you—” he scanned the crowd and suddenly bellowed at it “—any of you STUPID ASSHOLES think you can just keep getting off on the fact that Ryan got shaved, then you gonna have to start jerking off to me, too!”
Luke’s eyes widened. Explicit or what!
Then he gaped as, to a stunned silence Todd switched on the shaver he'd palmed. Without missing a beat, he wrenched down the front of his sweat pants and boxers and stripped himself bare. The thick black curls pared away a lot more easily than Luke had expected, floating down to gather on the ground.
Finally, Todd looked up from his dark bare skin. “THERE! Laugh yourselves sick. There’s two of us now!”
“Holy fuck!” Out of the lull, Miller muttered what everyone else was thinking.
Luke didn’t even stop to consider if it was a good idea or not. Calmly he took the chunky Norelco wet and dray shaver, and pushed down his own sweats and boxers. He didn’t have a great deal anyway after the previous trim—certainly nowhere near the amount of bushy pubes that Todd had recently sported. Not that it mattered. Flicking the switch, the hungry head marched across his skin leaving a furrow of bare skin. It only took a few more passes before he went smooth, too.
He eyed them all with stony determination and ground out, “Me too.”
“And me.” The sharp-edged tone in Kieran’s voice cut even more of a swath than the Norelco.
Kier's eyes flicked to where Ryan was watching the proceedings, a tight expression on his face.
“Sorry, bud. Of all people, I should have known better.” He, too then pushed down his clothing and buzzed himself down to the dark smooth groin that the whole class had once jeered at without remorse.
Fucking hell. After what they done to Kieran that previous Christmas, the guy had grit!
Meanwhile, Todd had calmly undressed. “Anyone else for a shower, or are you too spineless?” Completely brazen, he took his towel and bald patch through a crowd that separated to let him pass.
Preparing to undress too, Luke turned to Ryan and raised an eyebrow. “Coming?”
Ryan blinked and seemed unable to find any words. Instead, to the numb silence that surrounded them, he shed his clothes. The two of them, with Kieran not far behind, walked to the showers.
Behind them, Mitchell got his voice back and let loose a volley as the small group entered the steaming shower room.
“Fucking gays,” he jeered.
Surprisingly, it was followed by a more muted. “Shut it, Mitchell.”
Inside, Todd was in a remarkably upbeat mood. If he felt sheepish as water sprayed over him, he hid it well.
“Aren’t we a bunch of freaking idiots!” He grinned and studied himself. “Shit—I look cool though!” He laughed in an easy self-deprecating way.
Kieran snorted, and Luke had to agree. Todd was not going to make it as a porn star. On closer inspection, he’d missed quite a few clumps, so maybe he would do better if he tidied up a bit.
Finally Ryan spoke. “You guys are complete assholes you know.”
To Luke it sounded as shaky as he had the night he'd drunk too much.
“But thanks…and...Kier—” Ryan struggled to get the words out. “I’m so sorry—I know I deserved it after what we...I...did to you.”
“Forget it, Homie!” Kieran grinned down at himself. “Unlike Todd, I look kinda hot!”
He pulled a face and scratched his chin. “Oh shit—now I just have to explain it to Trish!” He shrugged. "Oh well.”
Luke smirked. Trish was Kieran’s girlfriend. He tried not to think about why she would have the opportunity to be surprised, when they were joined by more guys coming in from the locker room. Most seemed a little uncomfortable with what had happened and, as the shower room began to fill, a space opened up separating the smooth from the hairy. Conversation stayed at a minimum.
Luke decided to just ignore them.
“Room for another?” They turned to find an upbeat Chris Anderson. He was as bare as a baby’s bottom and Luke grinned in welcome as they made space for him. That made five altogether. Not bad for a statement!
It looked as if most, if not all, came in for a shower that morning. Maybe they were sweaty, or maybe they just didn't want to miss anything. However, there seemed nothing much more to write home about, and some were already beginning to leave, when Matt Young pushed through the doorway. He was still dressed in his shirt and sweats. In his hand he held the Norelco.
“What the fuck is this?” Matt stormed up to them. It was hard to know what Matt really meant, though he seemed steamed as the words ripped from his throat.
Todd stepped out in front of him, a warning glint in his eye. Luke became wary too. Whatever his beef was, Matt was a big guy and nobody wanted a fight.
“It’s being fucking gay, that’s what it is, Matt!” Mitchell crowed over the tops of heads that separated them. “Just leave them to their baby cocks.”
“For once in your fucking life, asshole, JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Matt’s bellow caused several guys to flinch. Eyes widened and the room froze as Matt’s clothing slowly became sodden under the remorseless jets.
Like Kieran, Matt was a basketball player. The tall teen moved in front of Ryan, though this time Todd didn’t intervene. This was something else and they were all on tenterhooks wondering what.
“This—” Matt held up the shaver again, but now he struggled to get his words out. “Shit...” He stopped and dragged the back of his hand across eyes already wet with the spray of the shower.
“Matt—” Ryan muttered. If he'd been shaken before, now he looked pale as he stepped out from under the spray. "I—"
“This isn’t just for you,” Matt interrupted, incredibly agitated. Then he stopped again, struggling to continue his sentence. “But…I’m so fucking sorry that I was part of that—” He broke up again and looked away.
“I mean what the fuck do we think we’re doing?” His accusation appeared to be directed at nobody and everyone.
Nobody spoke. Not even Mitchell. Luke still had no idea what this was about.
“My kid brother—” Matt's voice became tight. “Last night—”
He stalled again, and his face twisted. “Last night, I sat with Alex. He cried his eyes out as he told me that they’d benched him on his birthday; dragged his dick out and tried to make him…” He trailed off, unable to say it.
The uneasy silence grew, broken by an uncomfortable mutter that came from somewhere behind them, “Come on, Matt…”
He shook his head angrily and shouted, “HE’S ONLY JUST TURNED TWELVE, FOR FUCKS SAKE!” Heads snapped back like the owners had been slapped in the face.
Matt looked tormented. “So I’m asking you again," he ground on, demanding and impassioned. "What the FUCK are we doing?”
He didn’t wait for an answer, though it was unlikely anyone was going to offer one anyway.
“We do shit like we did to Ry and Kier like it was some harmless fucking game—and I know I’m guilty as hell, too! But when kids in middle school start doing stuff because we do, are we so fucking surprised that they get so fucked up in their heads, they don’t even know what’s right any more?
“They're just KIDS!" He glared around, but no one met his gaze. "And this has to stop, 'cos I for one give a shit."
He was openly crying now, and even the rivulets of water weren’t enough to disguise the tears that streamed down his face. “This isn’t just for you, Ry—this is for my kid brother. For Alex. Because I can’t look him face again and pretend I wasn’t the part of the reason a bunch of kids ripped his pants down and fucked him up!”
Pushing down his soaking sweats and trendy Calvin Kline trunks, he fired up the Norelco and slashed though his already well-cropped pubes. When he’d finished, he held up the shaver, and Luke had no doubt that somebody would else take it up. Several were as emotionally moved as Matt—especially those with younger brothers at the school—rubbing their eyes and trying not to let it break them.
The first was Rick Marino. Rick’s kid brother was still in Elementary. His face was twisted with the effort not to cry as he took the razor, and all he could get out was, "I give a shit, too—"
It released several more, and soon there was a determined line. Hardly anyone spoke and nobody, but NOBODY, left until all the shaving that was going to be done actually was done. It wasn't the whole class by far, but soon there were a dozen scraped guys having made a stand.
Todd took over and Luke was grateful. It was for times like this that they needed Todd. He invariably knew what to say.
"Well, there you have it," Todd said as the group looked round at themselves wondering what came next. "Like Matt, I give a shit, too. And if I'm not wrong, all of us do. Some of us have scraped, some are still thinking about it. Some can't for various reasons, but it doesn't mean you don't care.
"Things have gotta change, but it's only going to happen if we make it."
There were nods of agreement, and looks of relief from those who hadn't buzzed away their curls. At the same time, Luke didn't see anything but stony faces on Mitchell and Landon.
Despite that, Todd had nailed it to the point where Adam Miller swore and took the trimmer.
"I was damn well doing it tonight anyway," Miller muttered. "Might as well get it done!" He looked up and grinned as he poised ready with the blades. "What if I carve an 'S' into it, 'cos I damn well give a shit too!"
Relieved laughter skittered across the group and there was a lightening of the tension as people started breathing again.
"Okay, guys," Todd called as soon as Adam joined the ranks of the recently shorn. "One last thing..."
All ears—including Luke's—pricked up, wondering what he was going to say.
"I think we have to put our hands together for our very own imported Englishman!"
Luke frowned. That had to be him, but he had no idea what Todd was on about.
"I give you Luke Summers!" Todd grinned widely. "Who this very day is here to prove to us he's become a true American, and has finally shed the anteater and got himself well and truly unhooded!"
Oh holy freaking Mother of Mary!
In the midst of it all, Luke had TOTALLY forgotten about that! He cringed as his eyes flew down at the unfortunate reminder that his pubes weren't the only things that had been stripped. It felt like every eye followed him.
Chris was one of the nearest.
"Well, hot damn!!” Chris exclaimed as he got an eyeful. “Look at that! You went and got yourself skinned!” Like him, everyone seemed blown away. The only ones that kept smug smirks were Todd and Ryan.
He threw a daggered look at them. Douche bags!
Flabbergasted his classmates might have been, speechless they weren’t, and with something new to focus on, the questions started coming thick and fast—and ‘why’ was near the top.
Before he could answer, Ryan kicked in. On the outside at least, he seemed different from the person that had hurried back from the gym with his head down.
“He had a disease!” he chuckled. The troubled, dull expression had gone, and it looked like the old Ry was back. Hopefully, it was for good now that so many had pulled together behind him like they had.
“Asshole!” Luke pulled a face, but the tone was cheerful. “If you wanna know, guys, I had to have it done for medical reasons because of a tight foreskin!” Might as well get it all out there. “It was done last week and it’s freaking sore!”
It had still only been three days since the device had—with a little help from Ry—been removed. The cut line was still a red weal and he'd subconsciously stood away from any direct shower play on his glans.
“It’s why the poor guy is walking like a demented crab!” explained Ryan, a cheeky smirk on his face. Luke rolled his eyes and bore the teasing comments it brought.
“Hellfire! You’re brave!” muttered Ethan at last, pulling the kind of face that was common to many guys when it came to willy surgery. “Is that where they cut it?”
No, they used staples you dumbass!
Ethan shook his head. “I’d never let them touch mine!”
“Well, I didn’t really have much of a choice!” Luke returned.
“And anyway, Eth,” added Todd, laughing, “You’re already cut, or hadn’t you noticed!”
Ethan Parker examined his own low cut dick that now sprouted out of a perfectly smooth groin, and grinned at the playful banter.
There were plenty more questions that followed. They all wanted the gory details of the surgery, and when and where Luke had been in hospital. He skated over most of the facts and gave them a potted version of a SmarKlamp circumcision. One thing he was relieved about—he was far too self-conscious in front of an audience to be worried about anything inadvertently stirring. That said, he still kept well away from the shower sprays!
“Show’s over, guys!” Todd finally said, thankfully bringing the interrogation to an end. “Let’s leave Luke to look after his own wanger. Come on, I’m starving!”
In good spirits, they all trouped out to get dressed.
As they changed, it was odd to be surrounded by guys who were shaven smooth. Not wanting to risk dwelling on it too long, Luke slipped into a pair of his new boxers. They were the red ones. He caught Ryan’s eye, who rubbed his forehead and grimaced at the shared memory. Then Ryan grinned.
At least he can laugh about it now.
“So?” Luke demanded. He kept his voice down as he gave Ryan the evil eye. “How did Todd know?”
Ryan looked like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “I dunno—I might have accidently mentioned it last week.”
“Yeah, well..." Ryan shrugged. “These things happen.”
Afterwards they made their way towards the cafeteria. Luke was walking with Todd, while a little way in front, Ryan was deep in conversation with Matt. Further ahead of them, Mitchell, Landon and Johnson were as thick as thieves. JJ glanced back, but it was impossible to tell what was going on in his head.
Now he had Todd alone, Luke asked the obvious question. “So where the hell did you get that trimmer?”
Todd chuckled. “I went out and bought it yesterday afternoon, then put it on charge overnight.”
“Yesterday?” He’d assumed that... He frowned. Actually, he didn’t know what he’d assumed.
“I had to do something,” Todd explained. He lowered his voice “I mean it was my fault Ry got pulled up. Maybe if—”
“Hey—I was there, too,” Luke interrupted. “Maybe we both messed up.”
“Maybe,” Todd allowed as they walked slowly towards lunch. “Anyway I guessed that something like this would happen and they wouldn’t be able to leave Ry alone, so…” He shrugged. “I kind of had a plan, but wasn’t sure I’d have the guts for it.”
“The plan being to strip your pubes, too?”
“Something like that," Todd grinned. "It was either going to be mine or Mitchell’s. I guess he got lucky!”
Luke burst out laughing, earning him an inquiring glance from the pair in front. “Well, all I can say is you were pretty awesome, bud!”
“Maybe...” Todd said, though he remained thoughtful. “I never expected it to turn out like it did, though. Shit...that was…” He trailed off. Luke was of the same mind—there didn’t seem words for it.
“Let’s hope something good comes of it,” Luke replied musingly. He smirked to himself—other than the benefit that he got to try out what being smooth down there was like and still stay one of the crowd.
“Me, too,” said Todd. “In fact I plan to tell as many people as possible!”
Luke stopped in his tracks. “You’re actually going to tell people what we did?”
“Why not?” There was a glint in Todd’s eye. “And so are you! How else are we going to get everyone on board with bringing these fucking hangs to an end?”
“You know, you’re a total bozo," Luke chuckled as he started walking again. "Still awesome, but a total bozo!”
Despite it, Luke suspected Todd was right. And if Luke thought Todd had been joking when he'd said he was going to pass the word, he was wrong! The guy went on a crusade—and even more surprising, others joined him! By the time Luke and Simon were out in the parking lot waiting for a lift, Luke could already hear the gathering buzz of it in the groups that waited around them or passed by on their way to their cars.
Once he was home later that afternoon, much though he might want to go out and do something more interesting, he settled down to some schoolwork. Year end exams were looming, and with the week they’d had, he was way behind with revision let alone getting through the endless homework that was still getting thrown at them. Ryan had already indicated that he’d be doing the same, and Luke didn’t get the sense that his friend was dropping back into a depression again.
In fact, Ryan had been like a new person—or maybe it was just the old one again—and all through lunch and during the afternoon, he'd remained upbeat.
However, they had both gotten behind that week, and it needed attention, so Luke settled at his desk and got out his geography book to reread the module on climate change. He'd begun to think more seriously about med school after meeting Ella, and if he meant to prove he had it in him, it was time to put his foot back on the pedal!
By five, he was starving and was relieved to hear the call for dinner. He’d actually got a lot done and was satisfied with that. Maybe after eating, he’d do another hour and then call it quits.
“What’s for dinner, Mum?” He pulled up a chair at the kitchen table. Whatever it was, it smelled good, and by the look of what he could see though the oven door, it might be pizza. Then again, as long as it wasn’t fish pie, he didn’t care!
“I just put in a few pizzas,“ Lucy replied, getting the first out of the top shelf. “Be a dear and put the salad on the table for me, will you?”
She carried the first huge circle to the table, then went to the door and shouted. “Come on you two—dinner’s on the table!”
“So how’s Ryan today?” she continued, beginning to slice up the pizza.
“Actually a lot better!” Luke felt upbeat. “In fact, I would say it was a really good day all round!”
She smiled. “I’m glad to hear it. Just to warn you though, Dad still thinks there should be some consequences from yesterday.”
“What kind of consequences?" Luke pulled a face, though he hadn’t really expected to get away scot-free.
She peered over the pizza and gave nothing away. “Let’s wait for him shall we?”
* * *
Extract from Luke’s notes:
I had to wait till the end of the pizza before finally finding out my fate.
After I got the bad news, at first I thought, big deal…so what if I don’t have the use of my MacBook for a couple of weeks? But then afterwards, when I began to add up how much I actually used it, with Facebook, email and surfing, it wasn’t a compete walkover. At least I wouldn’t lose it until after the exams and it was only for a couple of weeks. It could have been a lot worse and they still might even manage to forget about it altogether!
That evening, I did another hour of schoolwork and then decided I’d done more than enough. Nothing was really going in by then anyway, so I switched to Facebook.
* * *
Damon—the New York teen Luke had befriended—was online. He messaged Luke almost immediately.
[DAMONJ] "Hi Luke....are you there?"
[DAMONJ] "If you are, I need to ask you something."
Luke shifted the rest of his books out of the way and settled in for a chat.
[LUKE] "Hey there—what's up?"
[DAMONJ] "Do you know any good hotels in Atlanta?"
[LUKE] "Why. Are you coming down?"
[DAMONJ] "To visit you? OMG—no chance!"
Luke was relieved. Friend that Damon seemed to be, he didn't really want to go that far with him.
[LUKE] "Good call! I could be a creepy perv!"
[DAMONJ] "Worse—you could be a girl, lol! Actually my folks are coming down for some convention. I said I'd ask you about places to stay."
Luke grinned as an immediate comeback came into his head.
[LUKE] "Dunno really. I usually stay at our house!"
[LUKE] "If they want to be in the city center, I think the Marriott is okay."
[DAMONJ] "Cool. Will let them know."
[LUKE] "So when is it?"
[DAMONJ] "In a few weeks."
[LUKE] "They're leaving you by yourself?"
[DAMONJ] "Yep. Just me and the goldfish!"
[LUKE] "Oh God—don't start that again! Anyway, how's things with you?"
[DAMONJ] "Oh...same old, same old. You?
Oh come on!
[LUKE] "Actually, to be honest, it’s been a tough week."
[DAMONJ] "Sorry to hear. How so?"
[LUKE] "Oh, you know how it is—some crap stuff at school. A friend got hurt.”
[DAMONJ] “Mmmm—not good. What happened?”
[LUKE] "It’s complicated…can’t say really. It’s all good now, though.”
[DAMONJ] “He’s okay?”
[LUKE] “I think so—at least I hope so. I dunno. To be honest, I seemed to spend the whole week stuffing up and making it worst. Just wanna tune it out now.
[DAMONJ] “LOL! You should try retail therapy! Works for me!"
Yeah, it had worked for Luke, too, he recalled. For a while anyway. At least his mum had stopped trying to get him to return it all now.
[LUKE] “Nah, am not much into shopping."
[DAMONJ] “LAMO! Don't tell me—your mom goes and buys it all!"
[LUKE] “Not likely! In fact I bought some new stuff the other day! It's just I don't much care to spend my life at the mall!"
[DAMONJ] “Fair enough—just kidding! Hey, forgot to ask. How's the C?"
Luke smirked—he knew perfectly well what the C meant.
[LUKE] “They tell me I'm walking like a demented crab, LOL! "
[DAMONJ] “They? Cool—so you told your friends?"
[LUKE] “I think they noticed, yes… They took the piss a bit, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought"
[DAMONJ] “Crap—don’t you just love the locker rooms!"
[LUKE] “Yeah—but not as much as you do, I bet!”
He smirked to himself as he pressed send. For a gay kid it would be as good as a weekly visit to Disneyland! On the other hand, maybe this was a way to begin talking about his own feelings at last. He had time and was in no rush for once. Perhaps now was a good time to talk the gay thing through with someone who would understand and give some good advice?
There was a long pause to the point where he began to doubt what he’d typed.
[DAMONJ] “That’s all you think gay guys do? Sneak into the fucking locker room to get off looking at naked guys? Fuck you!”
[LUKE] “Sorry…I don’t think that. It was a stupid thing to say.”
There was nothing in return
[LUKE] “Look, I am sorry…I’m a fucking idiot.”
Still nothing and it felt like the abrupt end to another friendship. Luke was disappointed…mostly in himself. All he ever seemed to do was mess up!
[LUKE] “Okay…well…see ya.”
Suddenly the screen blinked back.
[DAMONJ] “Sorry—you didn't deserve that. I guess I’m just a bit oversensitive. I had a bit of a crap week too, to be honest. I’ll go get some counseling from my goldfish or something."
Luke was relieved as the guy took the sting out of it.
[LUKE] “I really didn’t mean it like that, but I feel bad—it was still a bit crap thing to say.”
[DAMONJ] “Forget it. Tell you what—if I’m ever in the locker rooms at your school, I promise not to jump you!”
[LUKE] “You’re kidding—you’d have to be nuts to want to be at our place!”
Luke bounced the reply back quickly, but decided—yet again—to put the whole gay thing on the back burner. Maybe it was doomed to just stay there? It should have been be easy, but… He sighed and stayed on safe ground. They chatted a bit more before he went downstairs to watch some TV.
By ten, he was more than ready for bed. He took a quick shower before climbing under the sheets and opening the top drawer of his bedside cabinet.
Bloody hell, if she was going to provide him with a tube of lube, then to hell with what she knew or didn't. He was going to use it!