Where Do I Fit In?

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 29

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.

Thursday and back to the old routine. I was looking forward to this even though dragging myself out of bed was difficult. Guam had been a terrific experience, no denying that but the creature of habit that lived inside me needed normality, training, being with Lucas and yes, even returning to school seemed attractive. The self- imposed discipline had had an impact on just about every aspect of my life as no teenager actually relishes the prospect of getting up at five-thirty in the morning six days a week, punishing their body by going through intensive physical training and few actively look forward to school but I did.

The others arrived bang on six-thirty and the jog down to Christchurch was full of lively conversation and laughter with all of us keen to get back in harness. The one big surprise was to arrive to see Dan and Gary had joined us. Paul begged the question.

"Hi guys! I didn't think you were starting with until next Monday?"

Dan shrugged his shoulders.

"Peter called us and suggested we came along so we wouldn't like allow our fitness level to fall off and also to have a chat with your teacher to see if he'd be willing to take us on for our track and field work. Alec has agreed to waive his day off on Saturday so there's some consistency which is very kind of him."

"All good then! Tony isn't here yet unless he's got a new car so why don't we go inside and see what's happening."

We met up with Peter and Alec in the gym and pretty much immediately started exercising. It was obvious that we hadn't been pushed that hard while we were in Guam because by the time we'd finished our games of badminton and netball I ached!

Tony arrived and was introduced to Gary and Dan and while we went for our endurance swim he sat them down for a chat then once we'd all showered and changed we sat out in the reception area for a coffee. Judging by the looks on their faces, something had gone right for the boys but I asked anyway.

"So how did you get on with Tony?"

"Yes, all good. He's a nice bloke isn't he? He has agreed to take us on for our specialist work and explained that there were exercises I could use to supplement or rather simulate my field events until we get lighter evenings when we can use the facilities at your school to do the real deal. Running for Gary isn't so much of an issue because there's an indoor track he can use but I can't go around throwing a javelin or a discus inside for obvious reasons!"

"What will you do during the holidays when the school will be shut?"

"He's going to see if your head teacher would allow us access during those periods. We'll know more next week or maybe this weekend. What's your Head like? Is he okay?"

"Mr Fairbairn? He's always been good to us, very enthusiastic about what we do so he'll probably be okay with everything. How did you find our workout then?"

"A lot more rigorous than we've been used to! Peter really pushes you hard doesn't he!"

"Oh yes but you'll get used to it soon enough!

Benny poked Dan in ribs.

"Yeah and on top of all that, we've got an all-day workout today helping clean up Andy's new place!"

"I thought you didn't move for a while yet?"

"My Dad managed to push things along rather better than expected so we move in tomorrow but what Benny was referring to was, we're trying to get the house clean now rather than have to do it later when all the furniture's in the way and these blokes have offered to pitch in and help."

"Could you use two more pairs of hands? We're doing not a lot today and it would save Alec a drive into Worcester other than tonight so if you think we could be of help then count us in."

"Oh right! Like I'm going to turn away volunteers! Climb aboard guys!"

"Just let us check with our parents first but I know they won't mind in the slightest, best to do the right thing though and especially considering what we must do when the time is right."

Once the guys had left the building to make their calls, Benny looked at me and asked the inevitable question.

"What did he mean by what they must do Andy?"

"Come out to their folk's dummy? They're out to all of us but otherwise they're firmly bolted in the closet!"

"Oh poor sods. I feel really bad now."

"No need to feel bad Benny? They'll get there eventually? You like them and accept what they are and so do we all so they'll come to the realisation that being gay won't mean they're like cast out or anything so let it ride. This is something dead personal that they must work out for themselves."

"I guess so. I still can't help feeling sorry for them though?"

"I wouldn't. Take us as an example. Do we get any flack at school? None that I know of? Did we get any shit in Guam? No whatsoever so once they've found the necessary courage, they'll be fine so stop worrying!"

"I just wish there was some way I could help them, that all Andy?"

"You can just by your acceptance of who they are and how they feel towards each other. They're our mates so by letting it be known that you couldn't give a flying fuck one way or the other counts massively."

Just then the boys came back in.

"All sorted only my mother wanted to know if you needed money towards out lunch."

"No need. I thought we'd go up the road and give the greasy spoon at the top of the hill a hard time. Not all bad food and loads of it. No wonder most lorry drivers are fat!"

With the extra help, the cleaning took us almost no time at all. Our flat was vacuumed and all the surfaced cleaned and polished, all the cupboards and the wardrobe sorted out so we went back into the main house to lend a hand.

There really wasn't much left to do. The kitchen was spotless and all the downstairs rooms including the hallway had been thoroughly cleaned together with the upstairs bathroom and two of the bedrooms so with only two more to do, we cracked on finishing just before it was time to go back to Christchurch. Paul and Lorain disappeared home to get changed and we did the same but with me taking Dan and Gary back with me to await the others and our jog across town. I thought about offering the boys some tea but the place looked immaculate as my mother had obviously been very busy giving the place a once-over before the move plus we didn't have enough time before we had to leave so I made my apologies telling them that my catering skills might be better once they came to stay.

Training went well and it was good to get back in the pool for diving. Liam had drawn up a display for a future gala which we agreed was a good mixture of everything we did so we set about practicing it. Unlike that first gala, this time we would also be using the high table which would bring us on a par with other competitors and providing we came up with the goods, a medal might just be within our grasp but we had a few weeks in which to prepare ourselves.

Dan and Gary left with Alec and the rest of us jogged home. Benny, Lor and Paul said their goodbye's at my place and whilst Lucas was spending the night at his own house, came in for ten minutes so we helped ourselves to a glass of fruit juice and took them up to my bedroom.

"Last night apart Andy and I'm telling you. Tomorrow can't come quick enough."

"I know. We get into a routine of being together then three weeks in Guam where we were almost never out of each other's sight then suddenly it all falls apart."

"Yeah but with the promise of much better things to come so let's not get too down beat. I better get off home or my folks will worry. Just give me a cuddle before I go?"

I saw Lucas off and then joined my parents for supper.

"Thanks for the great job you did at 212 Andy. The place looks immaculate and it'll make life so much easier come tomorrow."

"You're welcome. Actually today there were seven of us so it really didn't take too much doing."

"Is Lucas coming over after training tomorrow morning?"

"I told him to leave it until after lunch as that'll give the removal men some space to get things done without too many people getting under their feet. Is that okay?"

"Yes that's fine. It should work quite well as it happens. Your bedroom and bathroom are going to be the last things loaded then they'll take the lorry to the Carmichael's storage unit where they'll load the things they're giving you. This will mean that all your stuff is offloaded first so you two can set about arranging things the way you want them then if you have time before your evening session, you can lend a hand with our stuff."

After training the next morning I left the others drinking coffee and ran home so I could be there to do whatever my parents wanted me to do. Dad had his own ideas on this front.

"Right son. We're paying shit loads of money to the removal firm so all we have to do is point out the order we want things loaded so you're sort of redundant! Mum thinks it's a good idea if you went food shopping so she's drawn up a list of things you're going to need. You go and buy them plus whatever else you might think of then take them to 212 and wait there because all the bits we ordered like your fridge and microwave etcetera are going to be delivered later this morning. If you call Lucas and tell him to meet you there rather than here so just as soon as the truck arrives you can start getting organised."

I called Lucas and told him what was going on.

"How much shopping is on the list?"

"Loads! I reckon I'll have to make at least two trips to bring it all back if not more!"

"Tell you what? How's about we both go. We can each carry some back then you can stay at the house so as not to miss the delivery people while I go back to collect what remains of the shopping. Plan?"

"Well if you don't mind, that would be great!"

"Why should I mind? It is going to be our place after all? I'll see you in around fifteen minutes."

Lucas arrived at about the same time as the removal men so we made a hasty getaway.

A lot of shopping? Try three trolley loads! We had to get everything to equip a normal kitchen such as salt and pepper, spices, sauces everything that you take for granted will always be in the cupboard somewhere but imagine a completely empty larder, no cleaning materials, bin liners or toilet paper and cleaner. Soap, washing up liquid, dish cloths and kitchen towels not to mention food.

The bill came to £285 and as we got to the checkout, the girl asked us if we needed help packing!

"Umm……..yes please! I think we'll need help getting it home as well!"

The girl rang for assistance and a short while later we were joined by the assistant manager of the store.

"Just the two of you to cart this lot home?"

"Yes I'm afraid so. We'll have to make a few trips to get it all back."

"Where do you live?"

"We're moving to 212 Cressingham Road as we speak."

He turned to the checkout girl.

"Shut this lane Sara and transfer your cashbox to number two please love. I'll try and sort this out. Can you lads wait here for a couple of minutes?"

"Sure. Sorry to put you out."

"For £285 you can put me out anytime! Just wait here. Won't be very long."

He returned with a man who looked to be in his 60's.

"This is Harry, one of our online delivery guys. He's just come off shift but for a little overtime payment will box up your order and bring it round to your door for you. 212 Cressingham wasn't it? You lads get back home and Harry will be with you as soon as we're packed and sorted. See you again sometime I hope!"

We ran home and it was a good thing we did as another delivery man was waiting outside.

"Sorry to keep you waiting? Got so much to do it's difficult to know which way to turn!"

"Don't worry mate. You're the last drop-off of the day. I've got a fridge, microwave, slow cooker, a wall clock and a washing machine."

" Washing machine? "

"That's what the manifest says here son. The Annex, 212 Cressingham Road, Gloucester. That's you isn't it?"

"Well yes but we weren't expecting one of them? I suppose you better leave it if it's all bought and paid for."

We helped by taking the slow cooker, clock and microwave while the delivery guy and his mate took care of the two bigger items and after they left, we unpacked the fridge and as per the instructions, cleaned the inside with warm water and bicarbonate of soda before plugging it into the socket to freeze down the freezer cabinet.

Our food shop was the next to arrive so we set about putting it all away. Fortunately nothing we'd bought needed to be kept frozen but there was plenty to go into the fridge. The cleaning materials either went into a cupboard or we left out to go upstairs into the shower room once the removal men had been and gone, the tins and packets of food was easily done but it was all very tiring and I wasn't much looking forward to our evening training session! I took a power nap sitting on the living room floor lodged up against the wall but it was only about fifteen minutes before Lucas roused me telling me the removal waggon had arrived and more work to be done.

Credit where credit's due, the removal people were ace! After about half an hour, all our stuff was in the flat and in the correct rooms so we set about rearranging everything and at Lucas' suggestion, we started with our bedroom.

"My Dad's theory is that you have to have at least one room to escape to that isn't in complete turmoil and that has to be the bedroom so you can relax and get a decent night's sleep then when you're feeling refreshed, you're better able to attack the others."

"I suppose so. I will admit to being absolutely shattered and I'm so tempted to cry off training tonight. I really don't think there's much to be gained by hiking down to Christchurch as my heart really wouldn't be into it."

"Well why don't you do just that then? Remember what Peter said about the enthusiasm having to come from within? If it isn't there tonight then there's no point in pushing it."

Just then my phone started ringing. Talk of the devil!

"Hello Peter. What's happening?"

"Hello Andy. I've just remembered that today is the day you move house, is that right?"

"Yes and we're almost done aside from some details."

"I'll put money on the fact that you're frazzled, am I right?"

"Yes. How did you know?"

"Been there that's why! House moves are the second most stressful thing you can go through, the first being getting divorced but you're not going through that yet! No, I just called to say, forget tonight, I don't want to see you. Get some well-deserved rest and I'll see you in the morning."

"Thanks Peter. I really wasn't in the mood for it. What about Lucas?"

"Be together tonight. Get an early supper and plenty of rest, both of you. There's nothing we can't catch up with later so just have a restful evening the pair of you. I'll see you in the morning."

Peter hung up and I turned to Lucas.

"He doesn't want to see us tonight. We're to be together, grab an early supper, an early night and he'll see us tomorrow morning."

Lucas feigned disappointment then punched the air!

"Result!! I would've gone but not without you and you're too tired. Now that the pressures off, let's do some more to the living room, get some supper and hit the sack."

In the event Mum did our supper. Maybe when we had school holidays or at weekends we could fend for ourselves but during term-time it would remain her responsibility. They both looked very tired so we did the clearing up for them having ushered them into their lounge and pouring them a large glass of port each. We left them to it and went back to the flat and had a joint shower which inevitably led to the inevitable, you know! We dried each other and collapsed into bed……..the first night in our own space.

As we jogged to Christchurch the next morning I quizzed Benny about connecting up the washing machine.

"There's a low level power point right behind where it'll go but I can't see any way to connect the water feed or the waste outlet. I don't think there has ever been a washing machine in there."

"Tell you what. We're going out to lunch today so there isn't much I can do but I'll come early before tonight's session and have a look. Where's it going to go in relation to the sink?"

"Right by the side of it."

"That's okay then. Even if there's no existing plumbing, it won't be too much of a job to hook it up."

After training we didn't stay for coffee as we were going into town with my Mum to look for a bed-settee and other bits and pieces.

We toured most of the furniture outlets but everything we liked was well out of our price range. We were about to give up when Mum suggested we took a look at one last shop.

"Come on, we've got this far so let's go and see what Benedict's have to offer."

"Benedict's Mum? That's real high-end stuff."

"Yes I know but it's got to be worth a try"

We had a look around more out of hope than expectation but then we spotted something. Sitting away from the main displays was a three seat bed-settee in a sort of maroon Draylon material but interestingly there was no indication of price. Lucas sat on it.

"Whoa! You're not wrong. This is top quality merchandise. I wonder why it isn't out on display?"

His comment had been overheard by a gentleman of advancing years who came over to us. His lapel badge had the name Charles Benedict engraved on it.

"Very observant young man. This is indeed top of the range furniture but we are unable to put it out on main display as it was part of a set of three easy chairs and this. The chairs were dropped whilst being delivered to this store and all landed in a puddle, the resulting damage was such that we had to throw them out and make an insurance claim against the delivery company so now we're left with this one single item."

"But is still up for sale though isn't it?"

"Technically yes but who would want it? Most of our clients wish to completely refurnish their lounge or dining rooms so a stand-alone item isn't normally what they're looking for."

"It's exactly what we're looking for actually. The new house has a granny flat and we can utilise existing furniture but we're missing something like this. If like you say you'll have difficulty shifting it, let's do a deal. What will you let it go for?"

"If you follow me I'll work out a figure."

Mr Benedict led us to an office and offered us a chair.

"I can't help but noticing your track suits. Are you by any chance the two divers my Grandson keeps talking about?"

"I'm Lucas Carmichael, this is my partner Andy Pope and this is Andy's Mum."

"A pleasure to meet you all."

He turned to my Mum.

"It would seem our Mr Carmichael has done this before! Never any harm in driving a bargain!"

Mum laughed.

"I think it's the younger generation attitude. I wouldn't have dared to even try!"

"Well perhaps you should. This suite of furniture retailed at £4000 which would make this item worth around £1200 but as it's already been paid for by the insurance claim I'll give you a discount of 75% so how does £300 sound?"

Mum looked at him in disbelief.

"£300? That would be wonderful! Thank you!"

"Good. I'll also throw in the cushions as we're never likely to sell those."

Lucas was still wearing his bargaining hat.

"And delivery?"

Mr Benedict chuckled.

"Yes okay, and delivery! Tomorrow afternoon be alright, say somewhere around two o'clock?"

Mum settled the invoice, we all shook hands and left the shop. Mum gave Lucas a quick hug.

"You should come shopping with me more often! I've never so much as set foot in there before knowing just how expensive they are but then we're attended to by the owner, the transaction done in his private office. It's a bit like being royalty! Let's go and see what Dunelm have to offer."

Again we met with a degree of success managing to get the plate racks and cutlery drawer inserts, lamp shades to match the colour of the bed settee, a set of kitchen scales and loads of other miscellaneous stuff. We then made our way back towards home stopping of at a big DIY outlet to buy plugs and bulb holders so we could convert the lamps from American standard to UK then helped ourselves to colour charts so we could decide on décor.

Benny arrived early as promised and took a look at the plumbing.

"No, there's never been a washing machine here so I'll have to break into the cold water pipe and tee it off and similarly the waste pipe. Then I'll have to knock through the outside wall to take the exhaust from the drier so I reckon it should only take me about a couple of hours. How soon do you need it?"

"There's no rush cos we can always use Mum's so whenever suits you really."

"Wednesday after school then. There's no training so I'll easily have it done and dusted before supper. Would that be alright with you?"

"More than! Are you sure you don't mind doing it? We'll pay you of course?"

"No I don't mind and no you won't pay me! It's my way of contributing something in return for all the things you guys have done for me and just so long as I get invited to the house warming party, that'll be enough."

"House warming party! I'd not thought about having one of them! You're a genius mate and of course you'll be invited and maybe your girlfriends??"

"Nah! They live too far away so I doubt I'll see them again. I want to find a local girl and one who's older than me, you know maybe thirteen or fourteen but they're mostly spoken for."

"Gloucester's a big city. There's someone out there for you."

"Yeah probably but it's like looking for a needle in a pissing haystack. The more I look the less I find."

"Let them find you then. You're a very good-looking guy with bags of personality? Who wouldn't be interested?"

"The girls at school, that's who! Never mind. It'll happen when it happens."

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