Where Do I Fit In?

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 16

Throughout this story real organisations and real people are mentioned by name. Their place in the tale is in the author's imagination. No thoughts, words or deeds attributed to those people or organisations are real, nor have they ever happened. This is a story! It's fiction. The people and organisations, even when they interact with the characters, are presented in an entirely imagined and fictitious manner, and no discourtesy is intended to them by the author nor by the web site.

As time progressed, Lucas and I managed to find more time for intimacy as well as our training and school work.

I think this was because we crossed the line from just being kids playing around at the edges of gay sex to being true lovers better able to respond to each other's desires and needs but also we were finally getting to the stage where training didn't hurt anymore. This made both of us cast our minds back five months to the time Alec had mentioned about how we'd reach the point where our bodies could manage pain and tiredness would become less of an issue.

The downside of this was remembering what else he'd said which was that come that time, our bodies would be able to get through the pain barrier and the adrenalin rush would push us on even further than we'd ever thought possible so it was Lucas who decided that we should put this to Peter who was the only person qualified to ask us to do it.

"Yes Alec was right. We've thought about what would be the best way forward but at the time your physical development was still going full steam ahead but as predicted, it's now beginning to slow. Sure you're still growing but the bulk and muscle development we wanted to see is almost there so our idea was to wait until we returned from Guam before doing a final appraisal. By then it'll be time for your physical again and so long as that doesn't flag anything that might prevent us going ahead, then we'll all sit down and talk about where we'd like to see you go.

"That's cool and we're not about to complain but can you tell us why it's necessary for us to do all this?"

"Yes I can. You see, diving isn't just about flinging yourselves off a high table. The aerobatics you guys do takes so much physical strength and mental effort that it's crucial that every part of you is powerful enough to maintain momentum. Mental discipline is also pivotal to all of this and whist I hate the expression, it's still very pertinent. A healthy body equals a healthy mind and also the reverse is true so it follows that if we work together to ensure you're at the peak of physical condition, keep you happy and laughing like you two always do then Bingo! Job's a good'un!"

"That begs another question. When do we go to Guam Peter?"

"Right after the New Year. Guam will be rammed with Japanese over the Christmas break but after the New Year it settles down so rather than you having to queue for hours on end to do what you want to do or see what you want to see then it makes sense to wait. I also sense and Lauren has also noticed, you both appear to be much more relaxed of late which is good to see. That spring in your step has reappeared!"

We looked at each other and laughed.

"Yeah it has. We know it has!"

"It's so good to hear you lads always cheerful and laughing. You make me, an old man very happy.

By the by, the documentary had finally been edited and we'll be looking at it tomorrow evening following a brief training session. All the team will be there as will all of your parents including Lorain and Paul's so it'll be a rather late finish."

Oh man it was fantastic!

We saw everything, our school, our parents and teachers, our friends, coaches, everyone in a totally different light! The way in which they'd edited and stitched it together was amazing to see. Our training and clips of our diving, no less impressive but the icing on the cake was that final interview which was untouched and very emotional to watch. The way they edited the final dive was just awesome especially when it went slow-mo.

No issues and everyone was very impressed so we all gave it our thumbs-up and so it was that a week later it was screened on Ch4 as a primetime piece which might hopefully get the attention of some kids.

It went viral. Those who missed the first time around watched it on 'catch-up', the press went wild asking for interviews, not only with us but also with Lor and Paul but our parents declined, possibly the right thing to do under the circumstances but then just before Christmas, a crowd of us were walking through the school ground when we spotted some graffiti drawn on a wall in crayon. It featured a 'Gay Pride' rainbow and the words 'I am gay and I proud of it!'

Lucas, Paul and Lor looked at me and as if with one thought running through our heads, made for Mr Fairbairn's office and asked his secretary if he would see us.

"Come on in you lot! What brings you here? Shouldn't you be in class by now?"

I spoke for us all.

"Normally yes sir, we should but we're on free study this afternoon but on our way to the chem lab, we saw something we thought you should see. Can you spare us five minutes?"

"Well yes of course. You obviously think it's important so where are we going?"

"Just round by the sports complex sir. Even given the documentary, this surprised us."

We lead him to where we'd spotted the graffiti and pointed it out to him.

"We'd better get that cleaned off pronto. The governors would have a fit if they saw that!"

Lucas, never the one to hold back, put in his pennyworth.

"Yeah they shouldn't deface school property but don't you see sir? It's working! Lorain put in an appeal to gay and lesbian kids to speak up, they're doing it already!"

"Yes but……..how do we handle it? God! I'm asking year eight children what I ought to do but……..no matter. Have you got any ideas?"

Lorain spoke up at this point.

"Why don't we organise something like an 'Honest Day' where all the kids can have the opportunity to be open and truthful, like display their feelings without any repercussions?

One of the company's my father is heavily involved with makes flags so if we could get them to donate the gay rainbow on little sticks then some that just say 'I support my gay mates', how good would that be?! Ashmead could be the leader in supporting kids who would otherwise feel disenfranchised, lonely and vulnerable instead of being valued, loved and appreciated as great little people!"

Mr Fairbairn smiled at this remark and answered her.

"Are you going into marketing as a career Lorain? Don't ever come to my house and try and sell me something or else you'll empty my bank account! It's a wonderful idea, I love it but I'll first have to get clearance from the board of governors and that might be tricky so leave it with me. I really do think that is probably the best idea I've had from any student ever! You had better get to your study period now but this I will get on with right away I promise! I'll talk to you all another time."

We walked towards the Chem lab but I paused and took Lorain's hand.

"Where did that come from? I mean it's a genius stroke but the rhetoric? Dear God girl? What the fuck? You are one amazing person!"

"Hey Andy! I don't know. I just had this idea come to me, it all seemed to make perfect sense somehow like a way of joining up the dots. I came out with that stuff about you guys acting as role models and stuff but I didn't have a clue how that might actually work out in practice, then today, we find that on the wall and I'm sorry, maybe I saw it from a feminine point of view but it was like a cry for help somehow, a kid reaching out to anyone who cared, someone who was frightened but was desperate enough to tell whoever saw it that he wanted recognition. Look I might be as straight as a dye but I wanna help these guys. I know loneliness, it was only because of you that I found Paul so I really want to give something back and maybe this is the way."

"That's a lovely compliment and a brill idea, even Mr Fairbairn is sold on it but you have to see his dilemma. The Governors are bunch of wankers, fit only for the funny farm most of them so he's really got his work cut out if he's to get anywhere. We have to get this together and fast if we're going to be able to launch it so why don't we get the guys together after prep and see who's up for it, you know, like a straw poll or whatever."

"Yeah that might work. I really do love you guy's y'know? Keep the faith as my Dad keeps saying!"

"So that's the basic idea people. A day of openness where everyone can express themselves without fear of reprisals. Who's up for it? A show of hands will do………wow! All of you??"

Little Benny got to his feet. Here's the boy who you wouldn't notice in a small crowd other than he was cute as a button.

"I think it's a fab idea. Where's the problem with being truthful anyway? I'm in."

Alan-the-bully or should I say 'ex-bully' stood up.

"Me too. Benny's right. Let's extend it from not just about people being open about their sexuality but everything we feel. I'll have a word with my mates, they'll be up for it for certain. Let's do it!"

As we all packed up in readiness to make our way home, it was decided that we would all give it more thought and see what we could come up with by the following afternoon but the general consensus of opinion was that there was little profit to be made by going at it bull at a gate and we should give Mr Fairbairn time enough to present our idea to the Governors. It made me chuckle though. I wonder if whoever it was who nailed their colours so firmly to the mast by daubing graffiti on the sports hall wall had any realisation as to what they might've started? Could it really be possible that such a simple act of petty vandalism could trigger the beginnings of a movement amongst kids that would demonstrate to the wider community the need for greater tolerance and respect towards everyone regardless of race, colour, creed or sexual orientation?

Lucas and I had come out in pretty dramatic fashion and we expected there to have been at least a few people at school who'd have a go at us but in the event nothing was said to us directly even though we knew there were those that held diametrically different views to our own. No harm in that, we're all different and entitled to our opinions but that was the point wasn't it? They probably didn't like us, again no problem there either cos nobody likes everybody, they probably didn't want anything to do with us but they showed tolerance, give us a wide berth maybe but they tolerated us, maybe even respected us.

My poor brain was beginning to hurt as I kept thinking about all the possibilities, how good it would be to use our new found notoriety in pursuit of better and fairer community relations. What would happen if every kid in our school selected an elderly person or couple and just once every couple of days, called by to make sure they were okay, did they need any shopping, were there any little tasks they needed help in doing or maybe just spend a little time keeping them company. A thousand kids at our school so a thousand plus elderly folk in our area with a potential lifeline, something really important now winter is knocking on the door.

That night as we lay in bed, I put this idea to Lucas.

"I think it's a great idea. I mean it isn't like it's going to eat into anybody's time in a big way. What twenty minutes every few days? What if we were to lead by example, each select someone needy and go calling then if it works out, put the idea to the guys and see if they're willing to pitch in?"

"I've got a better plan. We said we were all going to think about things and talk it through tomorrow right? So what if we say we're definitely going to do it and see if the others are happy to participate? I reckon we can count on Paul and Lorain, Benny, Alan, Kerry and possibly Ryan and Pete so there's eight of us already so maybe a sneaky bit of peer pressure might just be enough to swing the others, who knows."

"It might just work but you realise that there will be some of those oldies that will think there's a catch don't you so what if we did it with the support of the school like call it the Ashmead Community Project so it's kinda official like. Maybe we could even get a couple of calling cards printed for those of us who participate so whoever each of us visit, they can see it's all being done with the schools blessing and know who to contact if they have any reservations."

"Now that is a plan! Give me a hug cos I love you!"

The following afternoon we put our idea to our study club. It was pretty well received with just over half of the assembled immediately raising their hand in support, the rest of them being a bit more cautious but it was little Benny who talked them around.

"Aw c'mon people? I mean how much time do you spend lounging around watching crap on TV? How much do you think you'll miss if you just spend ten or fifteen minutes keeping some lonely oldie company once or twice a week? Not only will they really appreciate it, you'll feel good about yourself as well."

One of the older lads, a fifteen year-old named Colin Firth who hadn't raised his hand was the first to give in.

"Okay Benny, alright already! Count me in." He then looked around the room before adding "I guess none of us are so fucking busy that we can't spend a little time helping out, can we guys!"

That was enough to get everyone on board. The rather menacing way Colin had spoken had the desired effect but Benny wasn't quite finished.

"Look there's no pressure so if you'd rather not do it then its okay but all I'd say is just give it a go and if you're not happy, pack it in."

There were just nods of approval, no dissenting voices but another surprise was waiting in the wings as Colin spoke up again.

"So are you guys fronting this?"

"Well we could but what with everything else, we thought it might be better coming from one of you guys."

"Then I nominate Benny."

"What? Why me? I mean I'm just a little squirt, the youngest in the room. I'm pretty sure that there's better people here than me to do that?"

"Don't do yourself down mate? You did a fine PR job on me and I reckon if you were the one to put this idea to Mr Fairbairn, he'd listen to you and in fact your age might well prove to be an advantage."

"How so?"

"Well he'd expect to be approached by a senior like me or at least by Andy, Lucas and co but you're what, eleven and not six months into your first year here? Don't you see? He'd listen to you and what's more, it won't do you any harm for him to see that you're well capable of fronting this and that we have confidence in you as the best man for the job. Will anybody second him?"

Kerry raised her hand.

"I will. What Colin said makes perfect sense. Will you do it Benny? We'll all be backing you on this?"

"Well okay but that man sort of scares me a bit."

Lorain walked over and gave him a hug.

"Take it from me, he's actually a really nice man as I know you'll discover for yourself so don't be nervous. Just explain our ideas to him, tell him we're all up for it but you're the spokesman for the group on this. I'm telling you, you'll get back here with a completely different view of him, he really is an okay guy."

"Okay. I'll do it! When's best do you think?"

"Why not right now? He's pretty much always the last to leave the building so why not strike while the iron's hot?"

"Fine. I better get going before I change my mind and bottle out!"

Half an hour later we were getting slightly worried about where Benny had got to. Paul was all for going to look for him but Kerry thought that was a bad idea.

"We put our faith in him so let's not make him think that we've lost it. Mr Fairbairn's probably just having a long chat with him. He'll be back in a bit."

Half an hour turned into forty-five minutes and it wouldn't be too long before we'd have to leave for home but then Benny reappeared together with Mr Fairbairn.

"Well, well! Study Club turned think tank! Young Benny here did a sterling job in putting across your proposal and I have to say I love it and especially that you feel you want to do it through the school which as Benny pointed out, would make it more official and would serve to allay any concerns people may have. Yes of course we'll be more than happy to generate some individual calling cards which I'll have laminated so before you leave for home, jot you names, your age and whatever year you're in onto a sheet of paper, Benny can bring it to my office tomorrow morning and I set things in motion.

Just one other thing? In your study club, there are students that range from the likes of Benny who's eleven to seniors soon to be in our sixth form. It's really nice to see that you're spreading the responsibility around and encouraging youngsters to take the lead so I hope that you will allow Benny to continue in his position of spokesman for this enterprise, support him as I know you will." Then turning to the little lad, "If ever you need to talk to me just come to my office and if I'm not there, talk to my secretary and she'll either find me or make an appointment. Well done all of you and thanks."

After Mr Fairbairn left, the mood was upbeat and the wish to further discuss how we were to proceed was voiced so Lucas walked outside and called Peter explaining that we'd been delayed at school and would be running late for training.

It was decided that the best thing to do was to talk to our parents to see if they had any good ideas as to who in our immediate vicinity might be most in need of our help or company then once the school had provided our calling cards we would make a start. Benny took an A4 sketch pad and got everyone to fill in their details as suggested by Mr Fairbairn. The little guy was so enthusiastic that he managed to get everyone to sign up but all the time stressing that if things didn't work out for some people, there would be no shame if they decided to pull out.

The school was all but deserted as we left with just two cars on the staff car park so mindful of the time, instead of jogging home, we ran, cleared tea and made our way down to Christchurch. We were only ten minutes late and so we were able to put in a full evening.

During one of our breaks, Paul told Tony of our plans for community service and how everyone in our study club had signed up for it.

"I think it's a great idea. I take it you four are going to promote it?"

"Well only in as much as we're all part of it. The idea was mooted by Lucas and Andy but it was only……..what's the word?........Embryonic, so it was discussed and bounced around but the person fronting it if you like is probably the last name you'd think of!"

"I'm intrigued! So who is this mystery person?"

"It must be almost impossible for you to remember everyone's name at school but do you recognise the name Benjamin Sorensen? Little lad in year seven?"

"Oh yes! Now you come to mention it, I do. Tiny little waif, looks to be only about eight or nine!"

"Yeah, you've got him. Well he's our team spokesman and is pretty much pulling all of this together on our behalf."

" Really! Why pick him? I don't mean to sound patronising but........"

"Because he's really passionate about it and also Tony, there's one other thing. He has been in our study group like since it started, he probably sees Lucas as something he'd love to emulate but because he's little, he knows that can't happen but just being around him, studying with him, talking to all of us as an accepted equal has brought him out of his shell and increased his confidence to the point where it was Colin Firth in year eleven that put him forward to represent us.

He's got so much energy and drive, it just seemed right somehow."

"Hmm! Well I'll have to take a closer look at him and especially if you think he would be interested in sports. You did say he looks up to Lucas?"

"Yes but he knows he hasn't a chance in that regard."

"Okay, that might be true but what about gymnastics? Gymnasts are not big guys? Powerful and strong, agile and very, very fit but if they grow to a height of more than say five foot seven there's no possibility of them succeeding no matter how good they are and Benjamin is never going to be that tall."

"I hate to teach teacher but please Tony, he hates people calling him Benjamin. Better to call him Ben or even better, Benny. Kind of suits him don't you think?"

"Ha-ha! Yes it does!! Do you think he might be up for a try-out?"

"Definitely. I reckon he'd sell his soul to the devil to be near Lucas and if he finds his feet with gymnastics, well, where might that go?"

"Do you think he might be gay?"

"What Benny? Never in a million years! Puppy love, young adoration, something he'll grow out of. For a little-un he has an eye for the girls and them for him so no worries on that score!"

"Maybe that could be another problem for the future then!"

"Oh right! I see where you're at! No we'll have a little talk to him before that time comes!"

Over the next couple of weeks, life fell back into the same routine but with one difference. Our calling cards had been made up and with the guidance of our various parents, we'd all selected pensioners who might benefit from our visits.

I'd chosen an elderly couple who lived in a neighbouring street who were both well into their 90's. It turned out well although they were a bit suspicious to begin with believing it to be a prank but the cards seemed to do the trick as they displayed our names, age, year group and the address and phone number of our school and had also been printed with the school logo at the top.

He, that is Mr Twyford was a submarine Commander during the war, his wife worked as a Land Army girl and the stories they had to tell were fascinating and there were occasions, my twenty minutes turned into the best part of an hour! Mrs Twyford was reasonably able bodied but he was very frail and crippled with arthritis and so the one day I was asked to nip to the shop to buy two pints of milk, I had to go back and exchange the two pint carton for two one pints because he had so little strength that he was unable to hold the larger one. It brought home to me just how lucky I was to be young and fit and when we all discussed how things were going and much the same story repeated, Colin suggested that we might roll this out to the rest of the school.

"Not everyone will sign up for it, that's much too much to expect but even if half of them did, what a difference that could make."

We all agreed that the idea was good but how we proceeded became an issue but yet again, Colin had the answer.

"Well it's bloody obvious! Benny has a word with Mr Fairbairn, gets the okay to address assembly then the rest is down to the kids."

Benny was not best impressed!

"Hey! Hang on a minute? You want me to talk to the whole school? I can't do that? I'd be too nervous!"

"Sure you can! You didn't think you could approach Mr Fairbairn believing he was some kind of scary monster but you did it? You like him and he has a lot of respect for you now."

"Yes I know but why can't Andy or Lucas do it? They've been up there before so it'd be a breeze for either of them?"

Lucas and I looked at each other, Lucas replied to his question.

"Yeah we've been up there Benny and I'm not going to tell you it was easy but the thing was, we were passionate about what we needed from everyone so that made it loads easier.

You're passionate about our Community Project so that'll make it easier for you too. It's no big deal, honestly! They're all kids like you and I and everyone in this room and you don't have a problem with us do you? The only difference is there are more of them?"

"Yes but even though I'm the youngest here, I look on you guys as friends so it's easy."

"Okay so why not look on everyone else as friends you didn't know you had! Friends waiting to be introduced!"

"Yeah but what would I say?"

"Well Andy and I didn't have a game plan, no notes, no crib sheet, we just spoke from the heart so if you just get up there and tell everyone what we're doing, the changes for the good we're making to the lives of people less able than ourselves, tell them about your own experiences and maybe extracts from some of us others then pitch your tent, put it to the school and see if anyone else will join us."

"I guess but I'll be shitting myself!"

"D'you know what? I bet you won't be? We all know you can do this otherwise we wouldn't ask you. You're heading this venture so get up there and get the rest of the school on board!"

"Okay. Not the first time you've bullied me into doing something I really didn't want to do, so fuck you! I'm on the case and……..by the way……..thanks!"

OMG!! He was terrific!

His speech started with a little dig at himself which had the whole school laughing and that served to settle his nerves and what followed was quietly spoken yet clear, impassioned but to the point.

"Hi people. My name is Benny Sorensen and I'm in year seven but also part of an after school study club. I feel like a little minnow up here surrounded by a lake full of piranhas who want to nibble on my bits so please be gentle with me and hear me out."

The school erupted with laughter, Benny blushed then held up a hand and once the hall fell silent, he carried on.

"The reason I need to speak to you is that our study group has, with the blessing of the school, started a small community project. What we are doing is selecting an elderly person or a couple and visiting them once or twice a week. We aim to spend around twenty minutes or so with them each visit so we can perhaps help with little jobs they are unable to do for themselves, shopping maybe or even just being there for company and a chat.

We've been doing this for around two weeks now and we all agree that it's been fantastic. Not only do they get the chance to interact with us kids, we also learn from their experiences and I know I speak for all of us involved, the pleasure everyone gets from it is huge.

What I want to do is ask all of you to give some thought to what we're doing and perhaps think about joining us. The more of us that participate, the more folk we help and with Christmas just around the corner, probably the loneliest time for those who live by themselves, think of the happiness you might bring into someone's life and for what? Forty minutes of your time each week?

Please understand. No pressure will be placed on you, there are no Brownie Points up for grabs so if you don't want to help, then no problem but please give it some thought.

Should any of you want to talk about it further then please visit us after school in the old chem lab between three-thirty and five in building number two or else talk to your homeroom tutor who can put you in touch with someone in your year group who's already participating.

Now before I lose control of my bladder……..believe me, this is the most scary thing I've ever done, I'd better scoot! Thanks everyone!"

The laughter and clapping resonated through the school as Benny fled from the stage closely followed by Lucas and I. We eventually found him in the sports complex changing room in floods of tears……..he hadn't been joking, he'd pissed himself.

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