by Paul Jamison
The meal had been a brilliant success. Paul's instructions and what I'd learnt from helping my mother had worked out perfectly. Everything was cooked okay and I actually managed to carve good slices off the chicken. I put that down to having a really sharp knife to do it with rather than actually knowing how to, but as luck had it, I'd got it right.
We talked about anything and everything during the meal. After I'd served up and we started to eat, it was suddenly as if we'd known each other for ages. It was so easy to talk. Will and Jus helped by coming out with school stories that made Craig laugh and telling him all about Dazzer and the bike crash.
"So how come you guys live here," Craig asked us.
"Well, it's all to do with my dad being Royal Navy and my mum no longer being here and then my grandparents were in a car crash during the holidays and Gran died. So there wasn't anyone to look after me during Dad's times away at sea. Dad asked Rick and Paul if they could have me and they said they would. So that's why I'm here. Justin doesn't live here, though," Will replied.
"Are Rick and Paul a couple?" Craig asked a little nervously.
"Yeah, they're in a civil partnership. Your gran came to the party," I told him. "Hasn't she said anything to you guys?"
"No, not really. Mum asked her about the guys here and all she said was they were fine as she'd been to a party here and 'they were all very nice' or something. So mum said it was okay," Craig replied.
"Oh, right," I replied and with that subject dropped, I thought I saw relief on Will and Jus's faces as I knew they didn't want to come out to loads of people yet.
After the meal and coffee Will and Jus disappeared upstairs to Will's room. That left me and Craig in the sitting room. We talked about school and how they were getting used to things at the Royal Grammar.
"The teaching's better than where we were before," Craig replied, "especially English and maths," he went on. "I like Mr Stonebridge too."
"Yeah, I think everyone does to be honest. He's a brilliant teacher and he simply won't stand for any nonsense either," I told him. "You getting on okay at your gran's then?" I asked.
"Yeah, pretty much. Jamie and I are sharing a room with a double bed and a tiny put up bed right now and that's awful. He won't stay still when he's asleep. We've just not had time to get things properly sorted yet. There are four bedrooms, but two haven't proper furniture yet. So Mum and Gran are sharing and me and Jamie are until the two smaller rooms are re-decorated and we get new furniture. Hopefully by next week, we'll both have a room each. I can't wait either," Craig laughed.
"Have you got msn or yahoo messenger?" I asked.
Craig laughed and said "We haven't got a computer that works or an internet connection yet. Gran never had one and mine seems to have gone wrong on the journey over to here," he replied.
"Oh, Paul can fix that," I said. "He builds computers. He built Will's new one and fixed mine when it went wrong a few weeks back," I told him, "and you'll both need one for IT studies and school work soon," I said.
"Yeah, Mum knows that. It's just a question of her getting a job and getting the pension for Dad sorted out. Hopefully we'll get all that then and other things too soon, I hope," Craig answered.
"I'll ask Paul when they get home tomorrow if he'll look at yours okay?" Then all you need is a connection," I suggested.
"Would you? I've been worrying about us getting that sorted," Craig said.
"I don't think that'd be a problem. Paul could even get something sorted out for Jamie as well and then you'd each have one you could use. I wouldn't want a brother snooping on my computer anyway," I said.
"I'll try and talk to Mum tomorrow morning. Could you come over after lunch and we could do stuff and chat more?" Craig suggested.
"Yeah, sure, I'd like to. I'll have finished my prep by then," I replied.
Craig smiled back at me and I saw he had such lovely brown eyes. His longer hair framed his face just perfectly. I felt quite a flutter and I'm sure I 'did a Will' and coloured furiously. I hurriedly got up from the sofa and went to the music system and looked through some CD's that were out on the surface. I grabbed an Enya one and put it into the CD player. I was bending to do that when I caught Craig's reflection in the wall mirror. He was definitely checking out my bum. So I elatedly bent a little lower and yes, he really was checking me out. I finished sorting the disc and sat back down next to Craig.
"Best I could find," I said. "All mine are upstairs in my room. I'll show you another time if you like?"
"How come you live here now?" Craig asked.
My face must have been a picture as he suddenly said
"Oh, sorry, I really didn't mean to pry,"
"It's okay. You may as well know. I've fallen out badly with my mum, so much so that the rows got worse during the summer holidays. Mostly about going to her church and stuff like that. So when I'd met Paul and Rick through knowing Will at the swimming course I was on over the summer and then when they'd offered to fix my computer, I'd been over here and sorta got to know them a bit. They knew things weren't brilliant at home between Mum and me and they offered to help. I think they meant talk and advice, but one night it got so bad I just had to leave. I came here at two in the morning and brought most of my stuff with me. I've been here for just over a week now," I explained.
"Bloody hell! All that over going to your mum's church?" Craig asked incredulously.
"Well, not quite. The fact I told her that I'm gay had quite a bit to do with it," I said quietly, hardly daring to look back at Craig.
"Oh... yeah, I understand now... I think," Craig replied looking me right in the eyes.
I anxiously searched his face for signs of a reaction to the news I'd just given him. He looked right back at me and then said
"I think I'm gay too, but it's not something I've talked about to anyone else yet... till now," he replied looking me right in the eyes.
"Can we get to know each other?" I asked.
"Yes, I'd really like that. Could you come over and meet my mum and gran tomorrow afternoon?" he asked me.
I relaxed a little and smiled delightedly back at him and said
"Sure. I've got some homework to do tomorrow morning, the English assignment? Have you done yours yet?" I asked
"The Chaucer? No, but that's no problem. I love it..." and Craig then recited
" Whan that the Knyght had thus his tale ytoold,
In al the route nas ther yong ne oold
That he ne seyde it was a noble storie
And worthy for to drawen to memorie,
And namely the gentils everichon.
Oure Hooste lough and swoor, "So moot I
This gooth aright; unbokeled is the male.
Lat se now who shal telle another tale;"
(From the Prologue of the 'Miller's Tale' - Geoffrey Chaucer c.1343 -1400)
"You've learnt it by heart?" I said a little amazed.
"Just the first few lines of the prologue," he replied. "Middle English just sounds so... romantic I think," he said, colouring up a bit like Will did when he was embarrassed.
"You're amazing. What are you going to do at uni then? I mean if you're going to go to uni?"
"Oh yes, I'm planning to and now I think I'll be able to," he said with a sad look.
"Why, was there a problem?"
"Well, yes. I didn't see eye to eye with my dad on career choices you see, but that's not an issue now, is it?" he said quietly.
"Oh, I understand," I said.
I didn't push further on that and asked what course he planned to do at uni.
"Oh, the University of Kent at Canterbury has exactly the right courses. I can do a single honours degree in Drama and Theatre Studies or a combined one with say English and American literature, if I wanted," he replied.
"I'm going for a sports degree. I want to teach swimming and diving in schools. So I'll need the full degree course and it looks like Coventry University for me for that," I replied.
During talking we'd slid closer to each other on the sofa and our eyes met again. I looked right into those gorgeous deep liquid pools and moved my face closer to kiss him gently on the lips. I pulled away and anxiously looked for his reaction. Craig smiled and touched the back of my hand stroking with his fingers. I relaxed and grinned back. I was just about to kiss him again when I heard the baby heffalumps clattering down the stairs towards the ground floor. I smiled, rolled my eyes to the ceiling, glanced at the clock and saw that time'd simply rushed by and Justin had to go home and I guessed Craig also.
"Will and Jus," I said. "Jus needs to be home soon, so I guess that's it till tomorrow?" I asked.
"Are they boyfriends?" Craig asked.
"That's something you'll have to ask them or wait till they say," I replied. "It's not for me to tell either way."
"Oh, I see, I think," Craig replied with a big grin.
"I'd best get my coat then. I left it in the kitchen," he said getting to his feet as Will and Justin arrived.
Will saw Justin off and I'm sure Craig caught a glimpse of them kissing goodnight at the front door. He said nothing though, but just politely thanked us for a great evening and I replied
"See you tomorrow, then?" Craig smiled back, waved goodbye and walked off down the drive and up the road to his house. I closed the front door and locked it and went back to the kitchen to help Will with the débris and the clearing up. I told him that Craig and I'd got on well. It was then off to our rooms for both of us.
* * *
I came down to the kitchen for some breakfast at half past nine the following morning. I'd been quite tired after the previous evening's dinner party, the very first one I'd given without adults being present, and I'd been pretty chuffed as to how it'd all gone so well. The kitchen was a mess though and I knew we'd got to have it all washed up and put away before Rick and Paul got home that afternoon.
Liam came down a few minutes after me and we got some tea and toast organised. Then after that we emptied the dishwasher and put everything away and re-loaded it again with the rest of the stuff from last night's meal and set it going again. Then we did all the things that needed hand washing and then put the table cloth in the washing machine and set that going also. Once that was out of the way, and it'd taken over an hour, we made another brew and chilled out for a few minutes.
"Oh, you'd better talk to Jus and then tell Craig you two are boyfriends," Liam said smiling. "He saw you kissing Jus goodbye and he'd got suspicions before anyway 'cos he'd asked me when we were in the sitting room if you were."
"Oh, um... is he gay too then?" I asked.
"Look, just talk to Justin and you both tell him. Then I'm sure you'll find out. Okay" Liam said, sounding a little exasperated.
"All right, I've got the message," I replied. "So when is it you're seeing him again?
"This afternoon, okay? I'm going round after lunch and he's helping me with my English prep and he wants me to meet his mum and gran."
"Oh, so it's 'meet the parents' already is it?" I quipped.
"No, it is not. So, don't you dare say anything. We're just getting to know each other so far, nothing more," Liam replied.
"Okay," I grinned back, "but you do like him?"
"Yes, I already told you that yesterday," Liam replied.
We'd finished our brews and the clearing away was done. Liam got up and headed off to his room to do homework and after a minute or so I did the same. I spent the next two hours writing my English assignment and reading it through until I was happy I'd done as asked. Then I put all my schoolbooks into my backpack and logged on MSN to chat to Jus after texting him that I was going online.
At half past twelve Liam tapped at my door and I went to see what he wanted.
"How about some lunch?" he suggested. "That's if you've finished and stuff."
"Yeah, good idea. I'll be down in a few minutes, okay?"
I finished my chat with Jus, and shut down my computer and went down to the kitchen. Liam had already got the chicken, some bread, lettuce and tomatoes out and was cutting the rest of the meat off the bird. We made big chicken salad sandwiches and had a Coke each.
"I talked to Jus and if Craig asks you can tell him we're boyfriends, okay?" I said.
"Wouldn't you rather do that yourselves?" Liam asked.
Nah, it's okay. He seems all right about it, but we want to know when you get back what his situation is all right?"
"If he asks, then I'll tell him, but I think you should be the ones to say really," Liam continued. "I mean if it was me, I'd want to know how people felt when I told them stuff like that."
"All right, leave it. Tell him if he mentions it, but otherwise we'll tell him next time he's round here, okay? Are you going over there now?"
"Yeah, soon as we've finished this," Liam replied.
"Don't forget we're eating out at Mario's this evening. So get back around seven thirty, okay?" I reminded him.
"Yeah, I'll set my phone alarm in case we forget the time," Liam grinned at me.
We finished our sandwiches and cleared away. Liam went to his room to get his backpack and then headed off through the backdoor and down the road to Craig's house. I sat down in the sitting room with my Gerald Durrell My Family and Other Animals book and read through the chapters we were going to be tested on, on Monday.
I was back in the kitchen late in the afternoon making a mug of tea when I saw Rick and Paul's cars pull onto the driveway. They both got out and seeing me at the window waved. I went out of the kitchen door to say hi and ask how things had gone.
"Why both cars?" I asked.
"Couldn't let Paul guess I'd got a surprise, you see," Rick answered, "so he'd have to go into work as normal. We left his car there and went in mine. I came home Friday lunchtime and packed for us both. So it really was a surprise!" he explained.
"Oh, was it good then?" I asked Paul.
"Oh, yes, very much so. I've some pictures you can see later. Right now I need a cup of tea. So how did your little dinner party go last night? You and Liam must have coped, or we'd have heard from Mary, I guess," he laughed.
"It went very well. It was all cooked just fine and we had a great evening. Liam invited Craig," I said with a big grin.
"Oh, we know. He did tell us." Paul said.
We all went back inside and Rick put the cars away and came into the kitchen where Paul had made tea for us all. Paul got out a pack of some sticky currant cake things that he said were genuine Eccles cakes. I tried one with my tea and rather liked it.
"Where's Liam?" they asked me.
"Oh, he's gone down to Craig's to 'study' is what he told me," I giggled.
"Oh, it's got serious then, has it?" Paul asked.
"Dunno, he's not telling me everything, but I reckon it's heading that way," I replied.
"So do you tell him everything you and Justin get up to?" Paul asked back.
"No...oo!" I giggled.
"So, you shouldn't be too surprised if you don't know all that's going on with Liam then."
"Guess not," I grinned and took another bite of the Eccles cake.
"Have you booked Mario's?" Rick asked.
"Oh, yeah, all done. Table for eight, okay?" I confirmed.
"Um, is that a table for four at eight, or a table for eight at whenever?" Rick asked me laughing.
I laughed back and said "I dunno. Liam did the call and booked it. I think he said he'd booked a table for four at eight."
"Well, I'm sure that Mario can cope as long as we get there just before eight. We'll have to use your car, Paul, now there're four of us. Mine's not big enough any more."
"I know. We should have left it out ready really," Paul replied.
"Right, Will, we're going up to sort out our baggage and have a shower and change. Can you be ready down here to go at seven thirty alright? Oh and really well done the pair of you. Everything's just as we hoped it would be despite teen dinner parties!" Rick said.
"Thanks, yeah, no probs, see you later," I replied with a grin. They both left to go upstairs with their cases. I went back to my room and settled down to read for an hour or so.
* * * * * *
"D'you know, I'm really pleased that Will and Liam entertained last night and all went fine," I said to Rick as we towelled off after showering.
"Well, I knew you'd be happy. It does show they can both be quite responsible when the need arises. And that they can cook too, when they want to. Seems they had quite a feast," Rick replied.
"I'm sure we'll hear all about it later on. Anyway we'd best be getting down soon. We need to go in half an hour."
We finished dressing and tidying up and then went down to the sitting room that was to our surprise unoccupied.
Just then Liam flew in through the backdoor and with a hurried hi to us, shot upstairs, we guessed, to his room, to get ready also. Some twenty minutes later both boys came back downstairs and into the sitting room.
"How did your train dinner go?" Liam asked us as he sat down on the sofa.
"We had a brilliant time. The train was superb, the locomotive really great and the food wasn't at all bad," I replied.
"Our dinner was super too," Will said smiling away at Liam, "and Liam's got a boyfriend too!" he finished with a grin.
"Hey," Rick said sharply, "that's private stuff and you know it. "It's entirely up to Liam to tell us as and when he's ready to, okay?"
"Yeah, I guess so. I'm sorry, Liam," Will said.
"It's okay, Will, I was going to say something anyway," Liam replied.
"Not the point. You really must respect each other's privacy in these things. There's no harm done this time, but please be more careful in future, okay?" Rick finished.
"Okay, I understand," Will replied going his usual beetroot colour.
"I take it it's one of the new lads just moved in up the road?" I asked.
"Yeah, me and Craig are now boyfriends. We'll be doing stuff together and getting to know each other better," Liam explained. "We just got on so well last night and again this afternoon. I really like him and he seems to feel the same way about me too," Liam added.
"Well, if you still feel the same in a week or so and want to invite him away with us at half-term, then do so," I said. "We'll have a full crew on the boat then," I added smiling.
"Oh, I'd clean forgotten all about that, what with moving here and settling in and everything," Liam said. "I'd doubts whether my mum'd let me go. Remember? She wanted me away on that church course to make me straight."
"Oh, goodness me. Well I can't see you volunteering to go on that as that's the only way that you'll be going to anything like that. It's entirely up to you which holiday event you prefer," I said grinning at Liam.
"Oh, gosh, um... choices... so hard to choose..." Liam said, trying hard and failing miserably not to laugh out loud.
"When you're ready, and not before, you can tell Craig about the trip, okay?" I said. "One more won't make any difference. It's a full six berth boat."
"Okay, thanks a lot," Liam replied.
"Right, guys, it's time to go to Mario'sand eat, we'll tell you about our trip there and show you some pictures later."
"That's if you want to see pictures of steam engines and be told all the details about how they work?" Rick laughed.
"Sounds very interesting," Will giggled.
With that we all piled into my Citroen and headed into town and Mario'srestaurant. Mario was as delighted as ever to welcome us and had us seated with menus very quickly. We all made our choices and Mario brought our drinks and a basket of Italian style breadsticks that we nibbled and the boys chomped through happily while we waited for our food.
"So what was so special about this train?" Will asked.
"It's not so much being special, more just a really nice way to have a surprise meal," I replied. "It was lovely old fashioned 1950's Pullman coaches that have luxury seats, mahogany panelled walls and silver lamps on the tables. The linen was all super starched white and full silverware place settings. It was very nicely done," I replied. "We drove up there on the Friday from work," I explained, "and stayed at a nice country house hotel on the Yorkshire Moors that night. There was a huge four poster bed in our hotel room as well. So that was really rather fun," I added. "Then on the Saturday we went to Whitby and had a look round the harbour and the old ruined Abbey." I paused to take a sip of the wine we'd ordered and then continued. "Rick had told me we were booked for our dinner on a train on the Saturday evening. I knew of these trips, because, if you like steam engines and railways, you get to hear of such things from time to time. I'd always wanted to go on one. So, when Rick said he'd organised it as a surprise, I was really pleased and was definitely looking forward to it very much."
Just at that moment Mario and a waiter arrived with our main courses. So we sorted out whose was whose and when we were comfortable again I continued. "The engine was a LMS Stanier - Black Five 4 - 6 - 0 The Sherwood Forrester," I said to un-comprehending faces. "Look, I'll show you the pictures later, okay! So, let's enjoy our food."
Will and Liam looked at each other smirking away and I'm quite sure they thought I was from another planet. I said nothing more about trains and steam engines but asked them both
"So, tell me how did you both get on with your cooking last night?"
"Oh, really rather well, I thought. Your instructions worked perfectly," Liam said. "Everything happened just right and the food tasted great. We'd a really good evening. There was just enough left for some sandwiches today for lunch and the carcass's in the fridge like you asked," he finished.
"Oh, that's good to know. Thanks for doing a really good job of the clearing up too. I'll make some stock from the carcass and we can have some home made soup or a casserole from that sometime," I said.
"I guess you're both pretty chuffed you managed on your own so well?" Rick asked.
"Definitely am!" Will grinned. "It was great fun and I'd like to do it again sometime."
"Tell us about your new friend, if you want to," I asked Liam
"Well, we just seemed to get on and I liked listening to his ideas and stuff. I think that he likes me, but it's too early to say more really," Liam said.
"Good place to start and no earthly need to rush either," Rick said.
"Oh, and I fixed up Craig's computer too!" Liam said excitedly.
"Really, what'd gone wrong?" I asked.
"When they moved it'd stopped working when Craig tried it. I just thought that a good clean out and check that everything was still plugged in their sockets tight would be a start," he explained. "Pretty much what you did for mine and as I'd watched you carefully, I just copied what you'd done and it worked. Something must have worked loose during the journey, I suppose."
"That's always a good assumption to make if you have moved a computer some distance; they really don't like being shaken about too much." I said. "Have they got a connection at his gran's?"
"No, but now the computer's working again Craig's mum is going to get that sorted out next week. Jamie needs a computer as well rather urgently, as Craig doesn't want him using his really," Liam said.
"I could do something for him if they'd like that? But, don't forget to remind him that if they are having two or more computers in the house and they want internet access for them all, they need to get a connection arranged through a router, not just a modem, okay?" I said.
"Yes, I realised that when Craig showed me their old connection box. It was a single USB modem unit like I had at home before my mother bought me a computer of my own. We then we had to have the other sort and a bloke wired up my room to connect, I remember," Liam explained.
"Well, these days the wireless version of that is preferred as it doesn't need wiring up. That's how you two connect of course and is the simplest to set up."
"Yeah," both boys agreed.
"Tell Craig that if they'd like some help arranging that to come round and ask. It won't be a problem, okay?" I said.
"Okay, thanks, I'll text him now and let him know, he was anxious to get online soon."
Liam sent a text to his friend and we studied the sweet menu. After we'd chosen them and were sitting back to await them Liam's phone bleeped a message signal.
"You need to keep that on quiet or vibrate when we are out places," I suggested. "It really can annoy some other customers who're trying to enjoy a quiet meal," I said.
"Oh, yeah, sorry," Liam replied. "It's Craig, his gran's got no earthly idea how to get the internet and his mum's not that sure either. Seems it's something his dad always sorted out. They'd like some help with that and getting a computer for Jamie too," Liam reported.
"Okay, suggest they come over and see us and we'll get things rolling," I replied just as Mario and the waiter brought our sweets.
We enjoyed the rest of the meal, decided we'd have coffee back at home and asked for the bill. Rick settled up and then we left the restaurant and returned home.
Once back home, Rick helped by Will organised coffee and brought it through into the sitting room. We all sat and chatted about our trip and I showed the boys the pictures of the Pullman train, the table settings and steam locomotive. They showed polite interest and it was a very pleasant half hour.
At eleven both boys showed signs of needing sleep. So I suggested that they turn in, as both Rick and I had done a fair bit of driving that day and were pretty much ready for bed ourselves. Five minutes later the boys had headed to their rooms and we had locked up and done the same.
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