Simon trembled as he stared at the bedroom door that had been slammed in his face. The confrontation had left him shaking. How had Skerrit been able to get up there?
All day it had played on his mind what he would do when he finally saw Toby, but the way he had tried to sneak in and make it sound like he’d done nothing wrong, made Simon boil.
He had been close—soooo close—to just telling his brother exactly what had happened. Everything.
Luke would have known what to do…at least he’d thought that, but his brother didn't even want to hear it. And maybe it was a good job. In retrospect, he'd bet the farm it would all spiral out of control fast if he told anyone that he'd been... He still couldn't face the word. Even telling Luke would have ended up with everything in a shithouse, and keeping it under control was the only thing protecting him just then. Yet it meant that even his brother was pissed off with him now.
He sat heavily on his bed, and emotion was replaced by an empty weariness, as another tumbler fell on the lock of his determination not to allow anyone to get close enough to hurt him again.
The door opened once more.
“What was that all about,” asked his dad. There was a cautious suspicion as his eyes flicked around the room, as though searching out an answer.
Simon looked away. “Nothing. I didn’t do anything.”
His dad had been up earlier and Simon had had to work hard to avoid answering any difficult questions. He’d stuck with saying he’d just been resting, and lied, making out that he was feeling a lot better now.
"I didn't say you did." His dad studied him steadily, and then changed tack. “Me and mum are thinking about going to the mall after tea. Do you want to come?”
Simon wanted to scream through the fog that was enveloping him. He hit back. “How come everyone wants me to go to the flaming mall? I don’t need anything!” Or anyone.
His dad's tone remained reasoning. “I was more thinking about going the long way round and giving you a chance to get some driving time.”
A week ago, Simon would have jumped at the chance, but he shook his head. For Gods sake, he wasn't that much better!
“You really think I feel like driving just now?” This time, he kept his tone level and his emotions at a distance, too numb to do anything more than let it pass him by. Rather than accept that and leave, his dad moved further into the room and closed the door behind him.
“Sorry sunshine, I didn’t really think.” His dad’s tone was softly compassionate as he probed, “Is it still sore?”
Inside, Simon flared. Why the hell couldn’t they just leave him alone? Why did everyone want him to go out and do stuff? And why couldn’t he just be okay and normal, like everyone else?
He gritted his teeth and glowered. “Look, I really don’t want to talk about it, okay.”
"If you're sure...we—"
"For God's sake!" Simon interrupted, beginning to lose it. "Of course I'm bloody sure! Can’t you all just leave me alone?"
"Simon…" The compassion took on a warning edge.
"Sorry." He averted his eyes from the stern reprimand.
His dad's tone became a little more clipped. "As always, you know best. I picked up a video from the store if you're interested." Returning to the door, he pulled it to and left.
Simon lay down on his bed and shut his eyes. Great! Now he'd pissed off his dad, too! Everything he did was wrong and it felt like all the goodness had been sucked from him.
He tried to focus. Study the problem....that's what he needed to do.
It was like a math test. Study the problem, decide a plan of action, and make the problem go away, either by solving it, or by cutting your losses and going on to the next question.
Right then, he didn’t have the energy to fight back, or any idea how to solve his problems. Neither could he ask for help, because no one could ever find out. At all costs, he couldn't let anyone near the truth.
Yet none of it was his parents’ fault, or Luke's. They weren't to blame—even for the unwanted surgery. Not really. All that would come if he kept bitching at them would be difficult questions, none of which he had answers for. Defeat was easier, or at least quiet submission. Go on to the next question knowing he would never come back to this one, or have anything to do with anything—or anyone—that came with it.
With that in mind, he made a determined effort to go downstairs and try to act as normally as he could.
* * *
It was a long three days later that he was standing in the bathtub, waiting for the shower to settle down.
It had been a quiet week, and lonely, waking up to each disappointing day, and feeling a heaviness that wouldn't go away. Getting up for a shower was like swimming through treacle. He'd kept himself to himself, either alone in his room or sitting out on the back deck, reading. The long hours passed slowly, yet with Tylenol and time, at least the residual throbbing had dissolved into an irritating itch.
Dutifully, he’d taken every tablet that was presented, and sat down on time for meals that had no taste to them, avoiding anything that that would raise questions, and speaking only when spoken to. He felt like an actor playing himself, forcing smiles, but without the belief to actually mean it. The only thing that remained out of bounds were solicitous enquiries about his well-being. Those he’d either ignored or shut down...until they stopped asking.
After he’d thrown him out the first time, Toby had phoned on a couple of occasions. On the first, Simon had made an excuse not to take it, lying that he’d call him back. The second call had been later the same day. He'd been sitting on the deck doing nothing, and it would have been suspicious not to take it. He'd gone inside, and in a calm cold voice, told the bastard not to come around or call again. Just hearing his voice had brought it all back, and he’d remained in a foul mood for the rest of the day.
Now it was the middle of the day on the last day of the week, and he stood in the bathtub at a time when nobody expected him to be there. His dad was at work, and his mum had gone out midmorning and wouldn’t be back until lunch. Luke was outside on the back deck, playing games on his Mac.
Simon quietly slipped upstairs. Satisfied he was alone, he’d locked the bathroom doors. He’d had enough with washing with a facecloth...the fucking bandages were coming off, and he wanted it done without anyone knowing.
First he took a lingering shower, washing his hair again and scrubbing every crevice with copious amounts of soap, not caring this time if the bandage got wet, though he kept his dick out of the discomfort of the main stream. Then he filled the bath with water.
He studied the damage, though had to admit the days of forced convalescence had done him a lot of good. The painful swelling had all but gone—it was only his frustration that remained.
Uneasy despite the fact that he'd listened to Luke's advice to keep the water cool, he settled into it. He flinched as he carefully submerged. He'd already had several days to get used to those unpleasant sensations, though frankly, he'd take this any day over the eye-watering sting of a catheter!
Just soak it, Jacko's dad had said.
How long was soaking? Five minutes? Ten? Half an hour? He added a little more warm water and settled back with a book to wait.
Ten minutes later, he decided enough was enough, and began with the outer wrapping of clinical tape. Unpicking what seemed to be a single long strip, he started at the end where his hairs used to be, though even they were beginning to show again as rough stubble now. Once the tape was loose, it unwound fairly easily and he got it off all the way to the top.
"Shit!" He swore under his breath at the jabbing pain as he tried to strip off the final few inches that had been taped right down onto the skin of his glans. For that, he sat back and waited another five minutes, hoping the water would dissolve the adhesive binding.
Then he tried again. Had it helped? He gritted his teeth as he pulled at the loose end.
Like hell it had!
In the end, there was nothing for it, but to bite the bullet. Better that it was over fast, than death by a thousand cuts! He took hold of the end and pulled hard.
"Fucking hell!" He tried to keep his voice down, but the pain was eye watering—and it was still only half done! Another anguished tug and the adhesive tape came off.
He gave himself a five-minute time-out.
The actual bandage under the surgical tape proved a lot easier. His shaft was fully covered by the white cotton, and again he started at the end nearest his pubes. It had been sitting in the water long enough that, when he started to unbind it, it fell away like meat off a slow-cooked joint.
Bit by bit, he unraveled the tight overlapping turns, expecting at any moment to find the sutures at the place where he'd assumed they would have cut him. Luke had talked about it months previously, but he'd not really paid much attention at the time. 'High and Tight', his brother had described it. He'd seen a few pictures, and knew that it left a line half way back down the shaft. Luke's had been done with a SmartKlamp, but he expected they were generally all the same.
Turn by turn, he waited to see the result of the knife, but it wasn't until the final couple of unwinds that the black nylon came into view: a circumference of tight sutures nestled about half a centimeter from the flaring head of a glans that he'd never actually seen fully uncovered before.
Baleful, he frowned at the circle of regular black stitches that marched like maddened soldier ants under his head, biting at the aggravated wound underneath. It was not where he expected, but maybe that was because he was still soft? Truth be told, he actually hadn't been sure what to expect. Maybe he could have asked Luke, but that ship had sailed.
In any case, he didn't care. Either way, it was no use to him, and his main thought was that Monday couldn't come soon enough! Monday he'd been scheduled to go and have those sutures out, and as far as he was concerned, the sooner that happened the better!
Carefully he dried everything off, trying not to scratch where it was itchy. Then he dressed once more, before joining his brother back outside. He settled carefully, saying nothing about the de-bandaging or the sudden upsurge in teeth-grinding discomfort, now that his tender wanger had nothing to protect it from scraping the inside of his loose boxers.
* * *
Lucy pushed the shopping cart in front of her, humming along to a tune she actually recognized in the prepackaged supermarket music drifting across the aisles. She stopped to pick up another couple of jars from the shelf, and felt even more satisfied to note they were on sale that week. She put a couple more in her cart.
It had been a pretty good morning so far, and she was enjoying being out of the house doing her own thing for a change. She’d been out for coffee first off, catching up with Anne Kear. Anne was genuinely concerned for Simon, having heard about his stay in hospital from her daughter. And when it came to Becky and her boyfriend Sam? Well, Anne had just shaken her head and groaned. It had had them both laughing!
After that, it had all been good news, and Anne seemed a different person these days.
For a start, her husband, Steven, was changing jobs having been offered something that he really wanted and was good at. It came with quite a bit more money too, so they were planning to keep renting out their old place in Swansea as a long term let, and at last had decided to buy locally. All of this seemed possible because Owen appeared to have turned a corner at last and was making friends. He seemed to spend a lot of time at the Wyeman’s house, Anne had said.
With Stacey Wyeman, maybe?
Well, Owen couldn’t go wrong there, though it was a pity Luke hadn’t snagged that young lady himself, Lucy mused. Stacey was a nice girl, and would have made perfectly acceptable girlfriend material. Still, if she wasn’t Luke’s type, then so be it. Anne had even said that Owen had gone down to Disney Orlando with the Wyemans, to help out a bit with Stacey’s brother, a young man who was in a wheelchair. Well, good for Owen…a nice gesture.
After coffee, Anne had gone on her way. Publix was nearby, so Lucy had dropped in. She didn't really need anything much, but decided to stop by anyway to pick up a few extra nice things for lunch. Anything to try to improve Simon’s mood.
It brought her back to trying to figure out what was up with him. Not that she didn't know the problem—the question was how to fix it!
Around about her, as she maneuvered around other shoppers, more than once she caught the edges of conversations between mums who were discussing the upcoming return to school for their kids. She agreed wholeheartedly with the undercurrent of opinion: summer was over, and it was high time for them all to be back in their classrooms!
Luke for one was bored out of his mind—especially with Ryan away on holiday until the start of school. And Simon? Maybe that's what he needed too—to get back to school? That or a serious boot up the backside! She'd never known him to hold such a mood for so long!
She considered Simon as she rounded the corner of an aisle, leaning on her cart as she angled towards the deli counter. Perhaps she was being too hard on him?
The problem was, it had just been so straightforward with Luke. Bar an accidentally cracked plastic SmartKlamp, his circumcision procedure had been a breeze; his mood afterwards nothing like this resentful undercurrent they had with his younger brother. The pair were like chalk and cheese, and the difference of course, was that Luke had wanted the procedure. Simon hadn't, and while she appreciated that none of it had turned out like he might have wanted, there was nothing they could do about that.
Life could be a bummer, but you still had to get on with it!
“Ten slices each of both the honey-cured ham and the beef, please,” she said to the attendant behind the counter. She waited while her order was made up as she continued to think about Simon.
Physically, he seemed well enough, though he refused point blank to tell them anything, or let even Geoff examine him, so it was hard to tell. Perhaps he just needed a bit more time and plenty of TLC?
Taking the packets of meat, she picked up a pot of the olives that Simon had a taste for, as well as a bunch of other tasty nibbles from what was nicely displayed. She was in no hurry, so on a whim, headed towards the pharmacy section. Now she was here, she might as well stock up on what she knew they needed.
Perhaps that was how she needed to be with Simon? A bit more proactive?
It was so hard to strike the right balance. When the boys were young, it was just easier to plan things for them. Things that she and Geoff knew would be for the best. That's what good parenting was all about, wasn't it?
Now they were older, they weren’t kids anymore and they had their own plans. And that was fine, they needed that freedom, and the approach to parenting had to change with it. All well and good, but at the same time, the boys were still their responsibility. Kids at that age thought they knew everything, but they still needed a mum and dad at times to point them in the right direction.
Over the last week, Simon had held her and Geoff at a distance. What was going on in his head, she didn't know, but she'd made an effort to allow him the space he seemed to want, waiting it out all week, hoping he'd figure it out eventually, and come round.
And where had that got them?
She hadn’t been like that with Luke during and after his operation, that was for sure! Then again, it was a first for them and she'd been worried sick, and made sure she was on top of what was needed. In fact, one of the things that was on her list now that she was in the right section, was another tube of personal lubricant for Luke.
She’d provided the stuff for him at the recommendation of Jonathan Tiberius. It had been a bit unexpected, but she didn't shirk from it. However, she'd realized early on how awkward it was going to be—for both her and Luke—if Luke had to keep coming to her with an empty tube of KY, asking for a refill! Rather than put them both through that, she just made sure there was always a spare in his drawer. At first she'd tried not to think about how often it needed replacing, but over time the routine had settled into the kind of habitual purchase that didn't faze either of them anymore.
She maneuvered through the soaps and shampoos, picking up some items on the way, and it struck her that Simon was probably going to need a bit of help in that area as much as his brother had! She had to get more for Luke anyway, so maybe she'd stock up with an extra tube. Though this time she'd leave it to Geoff to explain to their youngest why it was there!
That was the kind of proactive that she was good at—helping her kids stay on track. Sitting back and watching Simon struggle was killing her!
And there was something else she could do too. Even though Luke had sailed through his procedure, he’d still voiced the need for some better fitting underwear. Like for Geoff, she’d always got the boys loose fitting shorts, but she got it that, in the circumstances, a tighter fit probably helped, and over the last months, she'd got used to seeing the trendy pairs of boxer briefs turn up in the wash.
Well that could be fixed for Simon easily enough too. She knew the right style and size she was looking for, and in her head she added another stop off before she would head home.
First off, some KY.
After picking up a couple of packs of Tylenol to replenish the ones Simon had used, she turned the corner into the personal hygiene aisle, where she knew she could find what she needed. Abruptly, she paused and frowned. She hadn't expected to run into Ryan—especially when the lad was picking out certain items from the same shelves she was about to peruse!
Wasn’t he meant to be away on holiday?
She hadn’t seen him for a couple of weeks, but Ryan looked relaxed and well tanned. His cart was full of food, and a pair of earphones was plugged into his ears—and presumably then to some MP3 player in his pocket. She glanced around, wondering if his parents were nearby, but he seemed to be alone. Like Luke, he was driving now too, and his truck had often been parked on their drive over the summer.
Ryan was a great kid, and fortunately just then seemed to be more intent with what was in his ears and on the shelves, than what was around about him. Thankfully, he didn't notice her as he studied what Publix had on offer when it came to personal lubricants. He was scanning the shelves, and before she could back away, he reached for a bottle of something and dropped it into his shopping cart.
Oh my God!
She couldn't help but smirk as she made herself scarce, glad—for his sake—that she hadn't been spotted. Still grinning, she headed to the bakery for fresh rolls and a French stick instead.
In many ways, inadvertently seeing what Ryan had added to his cart was actually quite a relief. She had been a little taken aback when Tiberius had indicated that Luke would appreciate a bit of extra lubrication for when it came to what nobody talked about, but maybe the doctor was right? Geoff never seemed to need to use it, but perhaps it really was more the norm for boys who were circumcised? Ryan was a pretty normal kid after all, yet it seemed he needed it too. Maybe they all did? It was outside her experience, but it would make sense if all you had left down there was dry skin. Frankly, she still didn't get why anyone thought being cut was a good idea in the first place, but either way, it was a done deal for both her boys now.
In the few seconds she’d been watching, she was also intrigued that the bottle she’d seen Ryan pick out hadn’t been KY. That brand was the only one she was familiar with and was what she always got for Luke. But maybe Ryan had done her a favor and shown her there might be something better for young men? She'd recognize the design on the bottle easily enough and would find it again when she had the chance and get the same for Luke—and for Simon too.
But not here. Perhaps best to make a swift exit rather than embarrass the boy. There was a Walgreens on the way home—she could always drop in there or get it another day.
She headed towards the checkouts with what she had in her cart, grinning like a Cheshire cat. She spotted Ryan one last time, just as she was steering her cart towards the exit. He was pushing his own cart up to one of the self-service checkouts. She didn’t blame him. With what he had in his basket, he probably didn’t want it going under the inspection of the pert young girl whose till she’d just navigated!
Next stop, the clothing outlet that was just the other side of Baskin and Robbins. What was it called…? She dumped the bags from Publix into the minivan and scanned across the parking lot. That was it…American Apparel.
She hardly ever went in there, but she knew they had plenty of good clothing for young people. It was a big store, and coming through the doors, she was immediately greeted by the overly loud beat of music. She rolled her eyes as she navigated past kids a third her age. If she’d wanted a disco, she’d have bought tickets to a night club!
To be fair, it was actually quite a good shop. Clothing was always a safe bet and she’d bought clothes for Simon’s last birthday to pad out other presents. He’d seemed to appreciate them, but maybe she should have come here for something a little more trendy.
It was Geoff’s thirty-ninth this year, coming up in October, and she wondered whether he would look good in any of the fashionable jackets she could see. Next year was the big four-oh for both of them. She would need to come up with something pretty special for that. What, she had no idea, though maybe it was time to take a trip back to see family in London?
Passing further down the store, it was easy enough to find what she was after for Simon, and they had plenty of good underwear for sale.
She looked along the displays. Times were obviously changing, as by the substantial crowd of cheekily dressed mannequins flaunting their branded boxer trunks, the style Luke seemed to prefer. While there was plenty of choice, cheap they were not, though having seen the prices tags on the ones Luke had bought—strike that, the one’s Ryan had bought— she guessed she had a bargain.
Taking her cue from Luke, she found what she thought would be the right fit of boxer briefs for Simon without too much trouble. She usually got him white or grey ones and dropped a couple of 'packs of three' at twenty-five bucks a shot into her basket. They were a well-known brand, and it was a good job Geoff didn’t like shopping that much—he’d have had a heart attack! At least they were on special offer.
It was then that she noticed the young lad and a girl rooting through a well-filled sale bin of underwear. The pair couldn’t be that much older than Luke, and she guessed they were more than just friends by the way they were acting. He had a goofy grin on his face as the girl lifted various pairs of boxers out of the tray and held them to his waist, apparently checking if she liked them!
Oh for goodness sake! It wasn’t like that in her day! And by the way his pants were sagging, she reckoned he’d be better spending his money on a belt!
Finally, the couple left with a few pairs of boxers, taking them along with their other purchases to the checkout. As soon as they were gone, she wandered over to the sale bin to have a look herself.
After a quick glance, she paused and chewed on her lip. Both the mannequins, the young couple, and Luke's underwear drawer gave a clue as to why what she'd got in her basket was thirty percent off. On top of that, the striking pattern on one of pairs the girl had got her guy modeling had caught her eye. A pair of smart white, trunk-style boxers hemmed at the waistband and legs in a light blue trim, they had a striking line-art image of a sailing boat splashed down the side.
Now if that couldn't bring a smile to Simon's face, nothing would!
They were the right size, and from nearby in the bin, she snagged another pair of the same design, but with orange and grey colorings.
She began to rifle further in the brimming tub. If you were waist size thirty-six and higher—which was way too many American guys—you would be disappointed. But for narrow-waisted fifteen year olds, it was a real find!
All were quality brands that probably came out of broken packs, and were as stylish and colorful as the mannequins. Using them and Luke’s underwear drawer for what she hoped would be a reliable guide, half a dozen pairs dropped into her basket. At eight bucks a pair, they still weren’t bargain barrel, but it was all in a good cause. On reflection, she chose a couple of extra fashionable Calvin Kline trunks. Maybe Simon was just getting sweatier as he reached mid-teens, but of late he seemed to get through a lot of pairs in a week! Well, at least now he wouldn’t run out!
Back home forty minutes later, she set about making lunch, laying out the spread and all the extra treats on the kitchen table. It could stay in the cool, though the three of them would eat lunch on the deck like they usually did.
Luke put his head through the kitchen door. "I'm starving! When’s lunch?"
His eyes landed on what was on the table and widened. "Is that all for now?"
"Just go call your brother will you?" With satisfaction, she eyed the plates and bowls that were stacked with enough cold meats, pate, cheeses, salads and other fresh produce that there should be enough to feed the four of them again later, when Geoff got home. She popped an olive into her mouth. If this didn't win Simon round, nothing would!
Lunch was remarkably tasty, and she was satisfied to see Simon filling his plate with a bit of everything he could see. The three of them took their food outside into the sunshine. As they dug in, Luke was chatty, but as usual, Simon kept his head down and seemed intent on avoiding normal conversation.
So much for good food loosening his tongue!
"This pate is really nice!" Luke shoveled in another bread hunk. "You gotta try it, Si."
"Don't eat all the stick, I was hoping to save some for tea." With her fork half way to her mouth, she flicked her eyes towards Luke. “Oh, by the way, guess who I saw at Publix?”
He looked blank, and she added. “Ryan.”
“Ryan?” He shook his head and chewed away a mouthful. “You need glasses! He’s at his grandparents. He doesn’t get back until next week.”
“You’d better tell him that then!”
“Oh. Really?” Luke brightened considerably. “Cool! I hope you're right. I might go round after lunch. Did he say why he was back so soon?”
“I only saw him from a distance, just as I was leaving.” She shrugged. They didn't need to know the rest!
As if on cue, the phone began to ring. Luke jumped up to answer. “That’s probably him now!”
* * *
Simon ate slowly, though there were lots of things his mum had brought that day that he liked, so he ate well too. The relaxed comfort of an ordinary day made him feel almost human again.
As his brother went to go answer the phone, he was left alone with his mum, and she seemed to take their moment of solitude as an opportunity to probe.
"Don't forget you need to soak off your bandages tonight, sweetheart,”
"I already did it." He couldn't help the sullen tone, and kept his eyes on his plate.
“You already did it?” She quickly covered her surprise. “Well, you know you only have to ask if you want dad to check it?”
Oh for God’s sake! He smothered the irritation and kept any emotion from his face. “No. It’s fine.” At least she seemed to have accepted that her time of studying his dick was over.
“Well, don't forget you're booked in to see Dr. Tiberius on Monday if you’ve got anything planned for then."
Planned? If he’d have laughed, it would have been sour. Monday was the day the stiches came out, but his social calendar was otherwise blank!
“And then we need to take you to the shops.”
He frowned. “What for?”
"Well, I was in in that place near Publix this morning…by the way, I picked you up a few things."
"Oh just some odds and ends." She seemed evasive. "Socks, underwear, some new T-Shirts. That kind of thing. Anyway, it reminded me you still need some new school clothes for this semester."
Clothes. He shrugged. Whatever.
Luke reappeared at the kitchen door. In his hand he held out the phone. “It’s Toby.”
About to stuff another olive into his mouth, Simon froze. The tone of his brother's voice had been guarded, and Simon wondered what Toby might have said. Standing, he reached for the handset, avoiding looking Luke in the eye and already feeling the tightening in his gut.
"Why don't you ask him to come over?” said his mum at once. “Now you're feeling a bit better?"
He grunted, took the phone, and stepped off the deck, drifting out of earshot onto the lawn again.
“I told you not to fucking call me again.” He kept his voice low, and glanced back to where he could see them still watching him.
"Don't hang up!" Toby pleaded. "Can't we just talk?"
"Talk? Now you want to talk and not just use me like some fucking pillow?" Toby was right about one thing, thought Simon; if Luke and his mum hadn't have been just there, he’d probably have already dumped the call straight away.
"Si, you have to believe me. I'm so sorry!" Toby sounded beside himself, but for Simon it had become too late the moment the bastard had stripped his foreskin back, and pushed himself deep inside.
"You put me in hospital!" It was so hard to keep his voice down. "Bastard!"
"I didn't know! It was an accident!" The voice on the other end sounded distraught. "Look, I want to put it right. Can't we just figure it out? I could come down...or better still, you come up here."
"Come up there?" Simon almost burst out laughing. "I can hardly walk, and you want me to just fucking mosey along up the hill to see you?"
"Mom can come and get you. She's worried about you too."
"You told her what you did?" Simon's tone was scathing.
There was a long pause, then, "No...not specifically..."
Simon wasn't surprised. "So you didn't let on that you raped me, then?" He also doubted that, at the other end of the phone, Grace was anywhere in earshot.
Toby sounded halfway between and angry and horrified. "Oh come on...I didn't fucking rape you! It was never like that! You wanted to do it too, remember?"
"Let me ask you one thing." Simon didn't have the energy or desire to continue the conversation. He was done with Toby fucking Skerrit. "What was going on in your head when I begged you to stop…you know, the time you just ignored me and kept going anyway?"
"I..." Toby faltered and it went quiet.
"And that's why I'll never come anywhere near you again."
“Don’t say that! Please…give me a chance to—”
Interrupting, Simon's tone dropped to become a furious hiss. "Don't come round here, and don't call again...ever!"
Without waiting for a reply, he disconnected the call, but then kept the handset to his ear talking about nothing for several minutes more. He needed that time just to get a hold of himself and calm down.
Slowly he returned to the deck.
“Everything okay?’ asked Luke.
Simon shrugged. It was hard to know what—if anything—his brother had guessed. “It’s fine,” he said, his voice back to normal again. He was just about to lay down the handset, when it burst into life again.
Fucking hell! Hadn't the bastard got the message?
"Yes?" His tone was abrupt as he barked into the phone. “What do you want?”
But he needn't have worried. This time, it turned out to be Ryan.
"It's for you," he said, pushing it to his brother. "It's Ryan."
Luke’s eyes narrowed at the way Simon had taken the call, but he took the phone, and walked away with it in the direction of the kitchen.
Heavily, Simon sat. Any feeling of wellbeing that had formed had been swept away. From the kitchen, he could hear the excitable enthusiasm in Luke's voice as he and Ryan chatted and made plans. Listening to them, a painful knot formed in his belly.
Why couldn’t he be doing that? It was all he'd ever wanted...someone to be with, that wanted and enjoyed the same things as him. Yet what he'd got was fucking Toby Skerrit!
“You could try to be a bit nicer,” said his mum, now they were alone. Her tone was cool, and was laced with the disappointment that had been brewing all week.
"Sorry.” He stared at wooden decking and said no more. The truth of it was, nobody really liked him anymore. And if they knew what he’d done—that he’d allowed himself to be fucked in the backside by another boy—they’d like him even less. They were right. He was a worthless piece of crap.
They descended into silence. After a while she asked. "So did you ask Toby to come down?"
"He can't, not today." Non-committal, he shrugged. Playing with the potato salad on his plate, it felt easy to add to the web of lies. "He said he was going out tomorrow, too. I was thinking about going over there on Sunday, but the Walkers are going up to the lake. They called earlier and wanted to know if I wanted a ride up there for the day."
That bit at least was true. The Walkers were members at his boating club, and he'd snagged a lift with them on numerous occasions. It meant putting up with their pushy daughter, who he suspected they were trying to find a 'friend' for, but that was a small price to pay. Once he cast off from the jetty, he would be alone.
The gambit paid off.
"That's nice of them!" His mum fairly gushed with the idea that he might actually be going out of the house for once, let alone with the possibility of enjoying himself! "As long as you're careful, I'm sure you'll be fine."
He nodded without meeting her gaze. They might have invited him, but whether he would go or not was another question.
Luke came and sat down again. There was a big grin on his face. "You’re right...he's back early!"
"Told ya…." Their mum seemed happy for him. "Where's he been? Holiday somewhere?"
Luke went back to his plate. "No. A tennis camp. Then he was meant to be at his grandparents 'til Tuesday. They live up in North Carolina."
"His parents, too?"
"Back home?" Luke shook his head. “No, they went for a break to Acapulco. They come back on Tuesday. I'm going round this afternoon."
“That’ll be nice.”
Luke paused and shifted his gaze. "We'll probably go to the movies or something this evening. Do you want to come, Si?"
The tone spoke volumes. Simon glanced at his brother through hooded eyes. He could tell Luke was only asking because he felt he had to, when the truth was, nobody wanted a moody shit like him around when they wanted to have fun. He made it easy for him.
"No thanks. Not tonight." He finished his lunch quickly, took two more Tylenol and went to his room.
He stayed there all afternoon reading a book, and even fell asleep for a while. He'd been doing that a lot the last week, though it made it harder to get to sleep at night. He'd only just stretched and picked up his book again, when there was a soft tap at his door. Moments later, his mum came through. She was carrying a shopping bag.
“Dad's going to be back with dinner in a few minutes if you want some,” she said. "It's just the three of us, so I'll keep the salad for tomorrow. He's gone out for Chinese."
"Okay." He yawned, put down his book, and tried to drum up some enthusiasm. He watched her lean an ‘American Apparel’ bag on the floor against his chest of drawers.
“Just some things I picked up for you earlier.”
After she’d left, he went to the bathroom to use the toilet. Returning to his room some minutes later, he lifted the bag and peered into it. It was like she’d said: tees, socks and underwear.
There might have been a time when he would have been elated at such an offering, but it didn’t touch him. He lifted the folds of the multiple pairs of fashionable trunks. They looked stylish, and might even be a lot more comfortable to wear than what he currently had in the drawer, but just then, he needed that discomfort. He didn’t deserve to feel good. He pushed the boxers into the back of his drawer and went downstairs.
It wasn't long before the Chinese came through the door. Once they had all the cartons set out, he loaded his plate, and went back to a brooding silence.
His dad tried to make conversation with him. "I gather Luke's gone to the movies with Ryan?"
"You didn't want to go with them?"
"No." His reply was gruff. He didn't even know what they'd gone to see, and frankly didn't care.
His dad studied him across the cartons of pork chow mein and chicken and cashews. "Any idea how long you’re planning to keep this up?" The tone was somewhere between humorous and sarcastic, and Simon blinked as the gloves came off.
There was nothing really to say. There wasn't really any point in saying 'keeping what up?' That just became stupid and undermined his inadequacy. He dropped his head, and under cover of the table, gripped his dick and squeezed until he felt like crying. The pain was good. It reminded him what a failure he was.
"It wasn't anyone's fault you know. Me and mum knew that you didn't want an operation, but the paraphimosis changed all that." The gloves were off enough that his dad didn't even waste time digging for a cause for his moody behavior.
"I know." They were wrong about one thing at least, and he added, "It was my fault."
"It was just an accident, that's all, sweetheart," said his mum quickly.
His dad didn't appear as quick to let it lie. "We've done our best, but if you won't let us help you, then—"
"It's fine." He turned his head at the sounds in the hall.
"It's only me!" Luke's voice followed an opening and swift clunk close of the front door. Simon was glad of the interruption, and, moments later, his brother appeared bright and breezy at the kitchen door.
"You're having Chinese?" Luke sounded peeked.
"We thought you had a better offer?" Geoff sounded amused. "Anyway, what are you doing here? I thought you were eating at Ryan's."
"I am...sort of. Actually we're going out. Ry's grandparents are staying over at his place. They're taking us all out for dinner tonight. Then we're going to the movies."
"So let me get this straight," said their dad. He folded his arms and his whole demeanor chuckled with the kind of family fun that Simon knew was missing when it came to him these days. "You're going out for a slap up meal, but you're still complaining because we're eating take-out?"
Luke grinned. "It's not a slap up meal...well, it might be...but I still like King Prawns!" He managed to sneak one out of the pot before Lucy swatted him away.
"I'm dropping off my car," he continued. "And actually, I came to ask Si if he wanted to come."
Simon looked up in surprise at the mention of his name.
"They're inviting you to dinner, too." Luke was eyeing him carefully. "If you want to. They're outside waiting in their car, so you'd need to come now."
"Well, that's very kind of them," said Lucy at once. "I'm sure he'd love to—wouldn't you sweetheart."
"Thanks, but I've already eaten." Simon tried hard not to sound too sullen.
"Are you sure?" His mum looked disappointed. "You've not really eaten that much yet. It would be nice to get out for the evening for once."
"No, thank you. I'm not really that hungry today, and I've got some stuff to do."
"Suit yourself," said Luke not hiding the relief in his face. He turned his attention back to their mum and dad and became eager. "And something else—they want you to come round for the afternoon on Sunday."
Geoff didn’t seem quite as enthusiastic as his eyes narrowed. "They want us to come over for the afternoon?" It wasn't hard to see the wary glint.
"On Sunday.” Luke beamed from ear to ear. “For lunch. I already told them we weren't doing anything...I mean, we're not are we?"
Simon already knew that Ryan's parents were on holiday in Mexico, but he saw their dad began to grimace. Luke quickly added. "It's okay, don’t panic. It’s just his grandparents. His parents don't get back from Acapulco until next Tuesday."
Simon didn't blame his dad. He didn't like them either!
"You'll really like them. I do—I think they're really cool." Luke was full of enthusiasm. "I know it's a bit last minute, but they really wanted to meet you. You know...to say hello while they're down here."
"They wanted to meet? Us?" His mum sounded incredulous too.
"I know—that's what I told them, you being foreigners an’ all." A sly grin snuck across Luke's face, and he affected a southern drawl. "I told them you didn't bite though. You don't do you? Anyway, I gotta go. Yes or no?"
"Why not," she said, finally. She flicked a glance at their dad who returned a small 'whatever' shrug. "It'll be just the three of us, as Simon is going up to the lake with the Walkers on Sunday.
"You're going sailing?" His dad sounded surprised.
Simon nodded, knowing it was another lie.
“Well, good for you.” Geoff’s tone was conciliatory. “Look…I’m sorry if I sounded a big naggy just then. Like Mum said, we’re just worried for you.”
“So are you two coming on Sunday or not?” pressed Luke.
Geoff studied Simon a moment longer, before saying, "Tell them we’d love to. What time?"
* * *
Later that night, when all was quiet and his brother was still out, Simon hid out in his room, bored and lonely,
Bedtime came early, because there was nothing else worth doing, and he stripped off and lay naked on his bed, pulling the white sheets just up to the top of his thighs. Let the air get to the cut, Jackson had said; let it dry out. Simon took that seriously and had turned up the overhead fan to full blast, still ready to cover up quickly if someone came knocking at the door.
The draft stroked his body comfortably, and with the stimulating breeze, his first post-bandage erection came. It was purely physical as nothing remotely horny was going on in his head, but in the darkness he could feel the loose skin begin to tighten. It came on quickly, stretching until he grimaced with the unusually rigid discomfort.
Reaching across, he flicked on his bedside light.
His dick had lifted as it always used to, jutting away from his stomach at a jaunty angle. Now, however, a bulbous shiny head sat upon a solid spur, and it not only felt tense, but looked it too. He didn’t have to touch it to know that there would be no movement, though the ring of close-fitting stitches held firm. Maybe it was his imagination, but it looked smaller than he remembered, though thicker, as the alteration they had made created an appearance starkly different from just a week ago.
To him, the rigid exposed shaft looked ugly, and brought back his sense of outrage that somebody could have laid him on an operating table and cut it all away without permission. He gave it a dirty look and it stared right back at him as though it were alive, rearing up with indignant frustration.
Get a grip it seemed to be pleading.
As if it were that easy!
However, his head was as empty as his hand, and if only it were that easy to get a grip on something that had got out of his control, he would. Hadn't he tried? Didn't he ache to have things back as they were?
Still, it beckoned him. 'Come on - pull out of this,’ it seemed to say. Touch me...hold me. We're both hurt, I know that, but I've not changed...we can still do what we need...we can get past this...try and you'll see...'
Try? See? If only… He reached and turned off the light on thoughts that were too dark to see past anyway. Maybe there would have been a time where he would have grabbed what was in front of him—literally taking up the offer enthusiastically—but this was now, not then.
Now? Now, there was no pleasure in that thick, ugly little shaft. His dick no longer hurt as much from the surgery, but any other interest dissipated as the tense arousal slipped away. Emotionally, he just felt empty. It had been another test that he’d failed, and now even his dick had given up on him.
It felt like he was falling down a shaft, and the light pointing to the way out was getting small and dimmer. He pulled the sheet over himself. They’d be starting school soon, and normally that would be something to look forward to. But now he just didn’t care. Though it was still quite early, he turned over and drifted off to sleep—the only place of escape left.