Where Do I Fit In?
by Andrew Foote
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.
Training was a blast with everyone totally on top of their game. For Lucas and I, a tonne weight had been lifted of our shoulders and the gym work was solid and our diving better than it had ever been. It was as if we'd found a new strength from somewhere and it felt good!
That evening, alongside Liam were three other people who we didn't know and a little later they were joined by Lauren. Normally we would have been curious as to who they were but it was obvious they all knew each other from somewhere so we didn't pay that much attention, instead we put all our efforts into our dives.
Our routine went on a lot longer than normal and we were still at it after the other guys had showered and changed but still Liam wanted more.
Finally he called us over.
"Just one more lads. I want you to do your swallow. How you do it and what you include is entirely up to you then once it's done, go and get showered and changed. I want to have a chat with you before you leave and your friends are waiting so let's not hang about."
I don't remember what we did for that last dive of the evening and neither does Lucas but it was a fast dive which left me feeling somewhat disorientated, giddy almost but both of us knew it was good if only because of the lack of swimming taking place in an open pool session and the number of people who had stopped to watch us.
Liam looked like the cat who'd got the cream as he ushered us off to the changing room off the gym, somewhere reserved for all of us on the team.
A quick shower then once we had changed we went back to find everyone sitting in the viewing gallery.
Liam introduced us to the people we'd seen earlier but one face we did recognise, the face of Tom Daley.
This time it was me who was lost for words so it was a good job Lucas had found his tongue but his language was slightly off kilter!
"What the fuck?? Sorry, I mean what the hell's going on here?"
Liam took up the slack.
"These gentlemen are from the SCGB and of course you will know Tom. The reason for their visit is to see what you're capable of with a mind towards selecting people to represent England at the Commonwealth Games in October. Tom is here at my request as he and I worked together before he competed in his first Olympics so I value his input but now I'll hand over to Mr Miles to give you the good news.
Mr Miles was a man in his late 70's but had an almost military quality about him, a nice enough man but one who seemed to know his business.
"We were all very impressed with your performance tonight and given that we were also told that you have undertaken some intense circuit training prior to getting in the pool tonight makes it even more spectacular. I think Liam told me that you lads have only been together for a little under twelve months and while I don't disbelieve him, I also find it hard to imagine how you've made such extraordinary progress in such a short period of time but I digress.
I'm pleased to tell you that we have selected the pair of you to represent your country at the Commonwealth Games this coming October and of course we all wish you well"
I was on the verge of tears, Lucas likewise but at least he could speak!
"You have to be kidding? There must be better couples than us out there?"
"Well if there are, perhaps you might like to introduce us to them young man. We travel all over the country to find the best talent and by far and away, you are the best we've seen."
"I or should I say we as Andy seems incapable of coherent speech, don't know what to say except thank you and that we'll pull out all the stops. God, it only seems like five minutes ago that we messed around with our first ever attempt at formation diving and got a ticking off from Mr Wilson and now this! It's very hard to take it all in."
He turned to Tom Daley.
"But won't you be competing?"
"Only in the individual event Lucas. The way I see it is that you're already far better at formation work than Mark and I ever were so it's time to step aside and make way for fresh and vibrant talent. You're good, very good and so if you don't mind, I'll be training alongside you for my own event and if there's any way I can help you guys then consider it done."
"That would be like a dream come true! Thank you!"
"Look at it from my point of view for a moment. For me to be able to say that I trained with the future world champions, and I'm pretty positive that's where you're headed, is a feather in my cap too so we can help each other. You'll find out that yes okay, it's a very competitive arena that you're stepping into but also you'll find that because of the nature of your discipline, there's also a kind of family atmosphere between competitors. Very little bitchiness or back-stabbing so even if I were to be diving against you, I'd still be happy to help. Just one last thing? Liam tells me you were taken out to Guam. Did you see that high table?"
"Oh yeah! Man that's high!"
"Did you go up there?"
"Well we had to really!"
"Did you pluck up the courage to jump off it?"
"Yes we did but only to get some sort of idea as to timing before attempting a dive."
"You actually dived from up there??"
"We could hardly trek halfway around the world and not. It was awesome!"
"I'll let you in on a secret. I've been there twice. I went up there, took one look and walked back down. The second time I managed to jump but I couldn't bring myself to dive from that height, not no way!"
"I've got it on video Tom. Remind me to show it to you. They were very impressive dives although I have to say I was almost wetting myself when they did them! Anyway you two ought to get home for supper. We'll see you bright and early in the morning."
We didn't go directly home, we broke the news to the others over a coffee.
"Bloody-hell! You've actually been selected?"
"Yeah but then you've all been like pencilled in for similar stuff."
"Yes I know but we haven't actually been selected, just that we're being put forward for selection, there's no guaranteeing that we'll make it."
"You will. There's that fire in your bellies so work towards it and you'll make it."
Over supper we broke the news to my Mum and Dad who were obviously delighted but again Dad was worried about the publicity it would inevitably attract but decided that he'd let the SCGB handle it as they were already well aware of his concerns.
Supper done and Lucas and I disappeared to our flat.
"Andy? Would you mind very much if I went home tonight? I really would like to tell my folks the good news."
"No you get off home. If the situation was reversed then I'd want to do the same. Just call me before you go to sleep okay?"
"I promise. It's just that after this afternoon, I was kinda looking forward to more of the same!"
"Yes well me too but this is too special to pass up. We can survive a night alone, we'll just have to make up for it another time now piss off before I change my mind!"
Training the next morning took on a whole new meaning with all of us pushing ourselves harder than usual. Tom turned up and went through our gym work alongside us but cried off when it came to our endurance swim.
"Oddly enough, I'm not a very powerful swimmer! You boys do what, a mile? That would most likely kill me! I'll stick with diving for now."
After we'd done for the morning, we took our usual coffee before going home. I was interested in understanding how Tom had coped with all the publicity so I asked him.
"The SCGB have learnt lessons since my time but actually they were pretty good even so but you obviously know all about me coming out as gay. That was difficult to handle but not because of anything the SCGB did or didn't do, it was more the way I handled it. I know about you two and I'll put money on the fact that even now, interest in that aspect of your lives has dwindled."
"Pretty much but our parents worry about it being reignited if we do well. I was just wondering if……..no it's too much to ask."
"Try me. I told you that I'll help if I can?"
"I just thought that if you had a chat with them, it might go some way towards helping them to understand what might happen and so preparing them for all eventualities."
"I can do that for you. I'm staying in a hotel just outside town so anytime that suits you."
"Really? That would be great! If you want, why not after training one evening and if you don't fancy the trip back to the hotel then we've plenty of space to put you up for the night, either in our flat or if you prefer, there's spare rooms in the main house. Have supper with us and if Lucas has words with his parents then we can all of us talk about things."
"Would that be okay? I love the idea as being in the public eye means I mostly stay in my room to avoid attention but then I don't want to impose myself on you."
"No imposition honestly. I know they'd like to meet you and also, having you stay would mean we get to chat with you so we get an understanding of what's to come."
"I can't turn down an offer like that so if you clear it with your folks then great, I love to."
Of course that wasn't a difficult thing to achieve, both Mum and Dad were well up for the idea and so the following morning we made arrangements for Tom to check out of his hotel and visit us for the night the following Saturday.
Tomorrow was Wednesday and with the half term break, we had no school to attend meaning we had the day to ourselves although Lucas would be at home for the night as was the norm.
We slept in or rather we stayed in bed until gone midday when we staggered into the shower to freshen up. We washed each other but I couldn't have raised a laugh let alone a hard-on! I think totally drained is the right way of putting it!
We ate lunch then sadly I waved Lucas goodbye and for what was left of the afternoon, I dozed in front of the telly. I woke feeling like I'd been kicked by a mule but the early spring sunshine found me out in the garden and putting some manners into mowing the grass. I knew that if I'd stayed indoors, I would've got tearful so better get busy than to let myself slide into a mood of depression.
Is this what love does to people? One moment you're on cloud nine, the next you feel so vulnerable and lonely? I was just wondering about this when I had a text from Lucas.
'Can I come home now please? I love my folks to death but I love you more!'
I texted back.
'I love you too but unless you feel like helping cut the grass then I think you should stay put!!'
'Love you, love your grass but……..!'
I carried on but then Benny walked through.
"Hey Andy? Wow that looks more like it! Want a hand?"
"What? Turn down help? You must be kidding! What do you want to do?"
"Got any edging shears? I'll go round the beds and borders if you have?"
"In the shed……..thanks but you really don't have to?"
"I know but I'm bored with everyone out at work so I thought I'd drop round and see what you were up to. You don't mind do you?"
"Oh c'mon Benny? You know you're welcome here anytime."
Oh boy did we work! The thing about our Benny is that there are no half measures. Either he launches himself into something or he avoids getting involved.
We called a halt just after five in the evening and went in for a cold drink.
"I enjoyed that! We've only got a smallish garden and my Mum sees to it. She's garden-proud and unless it's like heavy work, we get banished!"
"Well no problem if you ever feel like helping here! Dad bought the place on the understanding that Lucas and I would pitch in but of course it's home-time today. Like you, I was bored so I thought I'd make a start."
We chatted for ages and I began to see how Lucas felt. No, I didn't fancy him although he was terrific looking but like as a younger brother with similar interests and an electrifying personality then yes, I loved him as well.
We parted company with the usual hug and all of a sudden, as I stepped indoors, I burst into tears again then once I'd managed to calm down, I tried to analyse my feelings.
The closest I could get was, I had gone from being a kid with little or no self-worth, to an athlete with potential, realising my sexuality to having the single most gorgeous boyfriend in the world and surrounded by really close an loyal mates and all in the space of less than twelve months. There were people in my life who cared about me and what I did, helping make the most of myself both in school and out, recognition from my parents and mixing with my hero's such as Tom Daily. Every young schoolboy's dream I suppose but this wasn't a dream, it was actually happening!
Over supper that night, I decided to talk to my parents. Jo was there, offered to leave the room but I wanted her to stay. Our relationship had gone from being reasonably friendly and tolerant siblings to close friends, another bonus I hadn't given much thought to.
I needed to hear their take on everything and what better time to ask.
I broached the subject and Jo was the first to speak up.
"I have to live in the same building with my hunky brother and his equally hunky boyfriend and now I'm expected to live in close proximity to a guy who's every girls wet dream?? Not that girls have wet dreams but you know what I mean but if that wasn't enough, he's gay as well!!! Jesus H Christ people? Where is the justice in that!!?"
Mum chuckled, Dad laughed openly.
"You have Simon, a really great boy. What more do you want girl?"
"Nothing Dad. I was just thinking out loud but honestly!!"
"Yes well……..Tom is very welcome son. It would be nice to talk to him whether or not your sister has ulterior motives. Tell him we have no problem if he wishes to stay with you or here with us. His choice."
"Thanks Dad. I really appreciate it."
"That's okay but may I suggest you go next door and get yourself to bed? It sounds to me like you've got your work cut out and late nights won't help you."
"I'm gone already! You're all really special by the way."
We both talked to Tom the following morning. He didn't have a problem either way but sort of liked the idea of staying in our, umm bachelor pad as he referred to it.
"It makes more sense. We can talk more freely and share stuff without other people listening in on it. I don't want to intrude but for me? Well it would be like a breath of fresh air."
"Sorted then! Friday night?"
"Sounds good to me. I'll check out on Friday morning first thing which might make me late arriving here but not by a lot."
Lucas seemed thoughtful but then spoke up.
"What about your boyfriend, Tom? Won't he wonder why you're coming to stay with us?"
"No not after I've explained everything to him. He's the quiet type, doesn't like being in the spotlight and so on. You'll probably get to meet him but not for a while yet. When I came out, he nearly dumped me because of his dislike about publicity but once he understood that it was me who needed to clear the air and get rid of all the speculation surrounding my personal life, well he was okay with everything. We had the SCGB take out injunctions against some tabloid newspapers so as to protect his identity, they'll do the same for you if you ever need it but it's cool now. He's out to his parents which was his major concern."
"Was he jealous?"
"Not of my success in the pool, not ever as he's doing fine in his own chosen career but he was very bitter about the amount of attention I received through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Are you guys on either of them or similar?"
"No. We were warned off, not because of publicity so much but everyone was worried that because of our age, there might be weirdo's posing as kids attempting to chat us up."
"That sounds like Lauren. Was it?"
"Yeah! For somebody we took an instant dislike to, she's been really good to us."
"She's very good at her job though. Her problem is she doesn't mince her words, no finesse so if she needs to know something, really personal things, she doesn't mess around at the edges, just comes right out and asks but if you need her, by God she'll be there for you."
"So we found out! We hadn't told anyone about……..you know, our relationship but she seemed to know anyway and she did precisely that, she just asked the question! I was shocked not because she realised but more because she had the cheek to ask but Andy was furious! I was already out to my folks but Andy? Well he was still unsure where he was headed."
I had to laugh at this remark. I'd all but forgotten how jittery I was back then.
"But after we got back from Guam, I was really in a state. Not only was Lucas back at home, we were taking a break from training. I missed him, I missed everyone else as well and I needed to talk to someone who might understand how I felt so I called her really late one night. Tom, she was fantastic!"
"That's our Lauren for you! You're really fortunate to have her. Some of her colleagues just see it as a job of work but she sees it as a vocation."
"We've got so many questions we need answering especially now we're going to be representing England like how best to handle the pressure for starters?"
"In as much as your diving is concerned, just do everything you've always done. Liam tells me you have the ability to block out the crowd and focus on your dive so just approach it one dive at a time, one competition at a time but if you're talking about media pressure, don't worry about that because the SCGB or now as Team GB will be involved with you, let them handle everything. Sure you'll have to allow interviews and stuff. If you do well then there'll be poolside questions but that's easy enough but full blown question and answer stuff, you'll see the questions and have a chance to work out how you want to answer them before the time. They'll shield you from unnecessary attention. How about your school? Do you get mobbed or pestered?"
"No, they're great. The first time we got noticed, somebody had posted a vid on YouTube, we talked to everyone at a morning assembly and asked to be given our personal space and so far everyone has cooperated."
"That's very important because there's another kind of pressure if as everyone suspects, you do well and that is you'll be noticed in the street, in restaurants and believe me, you'll look forward to school if only as a place of sanctuary! Look I better get going or I'll miss my train. See you tonight."
We got back home and found a rolled up newspaper on the side with a note from my Dad.
'You boys better read the front page of this local rag so you're prepared for the consequences.'
Lucas picked up the paper and proceeded to read it out loud.
"Headline: Local duo selected for Commonwealth Games. The article goes on to say; Two Gloucester boys, Lucas Carmichael and Andrew Pope have been selected to represent England in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in October following their success as formation divers in various regional and European competitions and at the age of fourteen, will become the youngest ever to compete at this level in what is a very dangerous sport that requires a high level of discipline and personal commitment. Lucas and Andrew, both year ten students at Ashmead High School, first caught the public's attention when a video of their skills was posted on social media back in September of last year and a subsequent interview on Breakfast television demonstrated their strength of character when subjected to intrusive and highly personal questioning. This paper has sought to gain clarification from the Sports Council of Great Britain however at the time of going to press, no one has been available for interview.'
Oh God Andy? It goes on to say 'Benjamin Sorensen, Lorain Ifield and Paul Radcliffe, also students at Ashmead High School are also being considered for selection, Benjamin for Gymnastics, Lorain and Paul for Basketball. We wish them well in their endeavours.'
Fuck, fuck! They'll go mental! Where the hell did they get the information from?"
"God knows. I can't imagine any of our team would've leaked it, our parents and Jo most definitely wouldn't have breathed a word so who else is there?"
"Do you think we should call Lauren?"
"Yes but first I'm going to call my old man and I suggest you do the same."
"So what do you think Dad?"
"I don't know what to think Andy. As articles go it isn't so bad but now it's out there, the national press might pick up on it and God only knows what they might see fit to print."
"Why would they want to print anything? Lots of people will be selected for all sorts of sports so why would they want to make such a big deal out of us?"
"Your age for one. That article has already mentioned that you'll be the youngest ever to compete in that discipline and the other thing is, I Googled both your names when I got to my office and that YouTube video is there for all to see as it that damn interview. If the tabloids get hold of it, the shit will really hit the fan."
"But its old news so why rake it up now?"
"Because of sensationalism, especially that interview. The video? That's okay but dear God Andy?"
"I hear you. I'm going to call Lauren."
"You do that son and also, don't go answering the door unless you know who it is."
I called Lauren and explained what had happened. She was absolutely certain that nobody at the SCGB would've leaked the news but it was time for damage limitation and she'd see about issuing a formal statement.
Lucas finished his call at about the same time as I hung up from speaking to Lauren.
"I think I know how it all got out Andy and basically it's our fault."
"Who else knew? The blokes from the selection committee, Liam, Lauren and us. None of them would've gone mouthing off but then what did we do next? We told the guys and we told them in the coffee shop. Anyone might've overheard that conversation. Think about it, not only did we say about us being selected, we also talked about the possibility that the others might also be given they're under consideration. It all makes perfect sense."
"Oh bugger! I still don't understand how they got hold of our names and even what school we attended though."
"Easy-peasy. You ask someone. Let's face it, how long have we been going there? We know all the staff and they know all of us, they get our names and the rest is simple and logical deduction."
"My dear Watson."
"Never mind. Just my stupid attempt at humour."
"So where do we go from here?"
"Lauren is going to ask the SCGB to issue a formal statement in an attempt to divert some of the attention away from us. Dad said not to go answering the door unless we know who it is so I suppose we just keep our heads down and see what happens."
"Yeah. My Dad said that as well. Does that mean we can't go out?"
"Oh sod that! We're not like fugitives from justice or anything? Anyway no one is allowed to interview us without our folk's say-so, just live life normally works for me."
"I guess. Anyhow I'm starved. What do you fancy for brekki?"
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]