Not Always Easy
For the first seventeen years of my life everything was simple and easy. My parents were caring, sensible and supportive, and though they were not rich, we always had everything we needed and lots of things we didn't really need at all. At school I got good grades without working too hard and I got on well with most of my classmates. Even my adolescent acne hadn't been at all traumatic - it had come and gone in a flurry of spots for a few months when I was fourteen.
By the time I was sixteen I was pretty sure, but not certain, that I was gay, and that gave me a few concerns about the future but I didn't agonise about it. It was just something I'd eventually have to deal with, like A-level exams and getting into university. However, I wasn't ready to deal with it just yet and I was firmly in the closet.
The best part of my life was that I had several good friends and two people in particular were very special for me: a best friend who was like a brother and my brother who was one of my best friends. Soon after my seventeenth birthday I came to realise how important friendships can be, how easy it can be to neglect a friendship, and that friendship is not always easy.
Chapter 1 - A Different Kind Of Friend
It was a Wednesday evening, but for me it wasn't just any Wednesday evening. After dinner I showered, dressed, looked in the mirror, undressed, then dressed again. I'd told my parents I was going out to meet some friends but Mum had seen how nervous I was and I think she suspected I was meeting a girl. Fortunately, she trusted me and respected my privacy, so she didn't ask questions or make any comments. My real problem was that although I'd announced my intention to go into town, I was no longer sure that it was a good idea.
In my uncertainty, I paced my bedroom, then in a desperate attempt to calm my mind enough to reach a decision, I sat on my bed, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. At that point, my mobile phone rang, and on its display I saw the name and number of my best friend, Mike. This wasn't a surprise as we phoned one another most nights when we didn't actually meet. We usually didn't need any specific reason to call, and just enjoyed the contact.
"Hey, you," I said.
"Hey, you too," Mike responded.
This was one of our 'trademark' greetings. Although it wasn't very original, I found it very comforting, especially as I was somewhat stressed. However, I didn't have time for a leisurely chat.
"So, what're you doing tonight?" he continued.
"Actually, I'm just about to go into town and meet up with some guys from school."
"Oh," he said, sounding a little disappointed. "Well, when you get back, give me a call and if it's not too late maybe I'll come over."
"Okay," I agreed. "See ya."
I hated lying to him, and we rarely had secrets from each other, but I couldn't tell him that I was trying to pluck up the courage to go to a meeting of the town's gay youth group.
Mike was very different from me, but despite that we had been best friends ever since we were eight years old. He lived in the same street as I did, but he never went to the same schools as he wasn't Catholic. He was tall, dark-haired, handsome, full of mischief and adventure... and he had the most incredibly deep blue eyes. In contrast, I was just 'Mr Average'.
If I had to choose just one word to describe myself it would have to be 'medium'. Medium brown hair, medium hazel eyes, medium height, medium build, medium looks. I was born in a medium-sized hospital and lived in a medium-sized house, brought up in a medium-sized town, and attended a medium-sized school in England. At school my academic performance was good, but not spectacular and my sporting abilities were mediocre at best.
Why we became best friends and how we remained best friends was a mystery to me as there seemed little that I, 'Mr Average', could offer such a popular and fun-loving guy. Maybe it was because I was a point of stability for him, an area of calm in his turbulent life. Maybe it was because I never judged him or told him he shouldn't have fun, and he knew that not only I but also my whole family would always be there for him whenever he needed us.
Between the ages of ten and twelve Mike had needed us a lot as his own family was going through a messy and vitriolic break-up. After arguing and fighting for years, his parents divorced when he was twelve and he, an only child, stayed with his mother in the family home when his father moved out. During the unhappiest periods in his family life he would spend much of his time at our house and often stayed overnight, sleeping in the spare bed in my bedroom.
Unlike me, Mike was a real hell-raiser. He sometimes bunked off school, and when he was just fourteen he started occasionally getting drunk and smoking cigarettes. He often swore, but never in front of my parents or his mother. Once he was even arrested by the police for painting graffiti on a factory wall. Actually, I thought it was very artistic, but maybe I was biased. However, no matter what he did outside, he was always well behaved in our house and all my family liked, respected and trusted him.
Ever since I could remember I loved Mike, though never in a sexual way. Perhaps it sounds silly, but he was too close to me to evoke any sexual desire, though a couple of times as kids we played 'doctors' and during puberty we occasionally wanked together. Anyway, even from an early age, when I was beginning to wonder about my own sexuality, it was clear to me that Mike was completely and irrevocably heterosexual. There was no macho posing, no bragging about conquests, just the obvious fact that he was totally comfortable with his heterosexuality.
I was not quite so comfortable with my sexuality, however, and it was the one secret I kept from Mike as well as from my family. One excuse I gave to myself for not saying anything to him was that I still wasn't sure. However, that excuse seemed a bit lame when I considered that all my masturbation fantasies involved other males and never, ever females. Another excuse I made for my secrecy was that it should make no difference to anyone whether I was gay or not, and therefore it was none of their business. Furthermore, as I didn't particularly like the idea of being gay, I still clung to an irrational hope that my attraction to other males was a passing phase. So if it was a phase, I thought, there was no point in making a fuss over something that may not last.
With regard to that difficult decision, it was not the first time that I'd faced it. In fact I'd been thinking about the matter fairly frequently for a couple of years, ever since I'd first seen small announcements in the local newspaper about a Gay and Lesbian Youth Group. However, until shortly after my seventeenth birthday, I never really thought seriously about going. After all, I wasn't sure I was gay.
Maybe it was the course of driving lessons that my parents gave me as a birthday present that prompted me to be more adventurous, or maybe I'd just been thinking about it long enough. Whatever the reason, when I turned seventeen I began to think more seriously about going to a Group meeting. My idea was that I might go just to see what went on and maybe decide for sure if I was gay or not. Well, strange as it may seem, that was the way my mind was working at that time.
The weekly meetings were on Wednesday evenings in the local Technical College, and a few times I actually decided to go, but changed my mind at the last minute. Finally, though, as I sat on my bed after talking to Mike on the phone, I resolved that this time I would follow up on my decision. Despite that resolve, I hung around outside the building for almost an hour, walking round and round the block before working up the courage to go inside.
Once inside the building I quickly found the correct room, which was just as well because if there had been any problems at all I would have scampered quickly back home. I sidled into the large wood-panelled room and made myself as small as possible in the nearest corner. Glancing round the room, I saw that in the central area there were about thirty people, mostly male and ranging in age from about fifteen to twenty. Over at the far side of the room, sitting together near a small table with drinks, were two men and two women, all four of whom appeared to be in their middle thirties.
I had never met anyone I knew for sure was gay, so being in the same room as all these presumably gay people was an exciting and in some ways liberating experience, and I no longer felt quite so isolated. As I settled discreetly into my corner, the first part of the meeting, announcements, discussion of plans for future events, etc., was just drawing to a close and the 'socialising' part of the meeting was starting. I just stayed where I was and tried not to look too much like an outsider. Most of the people in the room looked like typical sort of youngsters who could have been seen at random on any street in town, and only a couple of the young men seemed to be behaving in a way that was obviously gay or 'camp'.
The first person to come over and talk to me was a slim Chinese guy who was wearing black loose trousers and a grey shirt. He introduced himself as Ben, and I found out from him that, at twenty, he was one of the oldest people in the GLYG, apart from the two men and two women who organised and 'chaperoned' the meetings. Ben informed me that when referring to the GLYG, everyone just used the initials and pronounced it as 'Glig'. He was friendly, charming, comfortable with his sexuality, and the first openly gay person that I'd ever conversed with. Besides all that he was both attractive and, at least in my eyes, exotic, being a Chinese Malaysian studying computing at the Technical College. Having asked what I wanted to drink, he brought me an orange juice from the little beverages table.
Something about Ben immediately switched on the lust centres of my brain. I was immensely flattered that he should be talking to me at all, and even more flattered when he suggested meeting for a coffee sometime. I couldn't bring myself to tell him that I didn't much like coffee, so I agreed and we exchanged phone numbers. That night I couldn't sleep because of all the excited thoughts buzzing through my brain. My first meeting with a group of openly gay people and one of the most attractive guys in the room came over and talked to me. Not only that, but he also asked me to meet him again. Perhaps this was going to be my first-ever date.
One evening a few days later, Ben phoned me and we arranged a time and place to meet, and when we got together I had such a great time chatting to him that I even almost enjoyed the coffee. He fascinated me by talking about Malaysia, his Chinese heritage, his family, and he even made the mysteries of computers seem interesting. A couple of days after our coffee meeting, and fortuitously during my mid-term holiday, he took me to a Chinese restaurant and introduced me to 'real' Chinese food for the first time. When he taught me how to use chopsticks properly, I marvelled at his long slim fingers, which perfectly matched his cute slim face and body. After the meal he invited me back to his apartment for coffee, and I agreed, telling him I had to be home by 11 pm.
His one-bedroom apartment was very neat and tidy, and was decorated with lots of oriental wall hangings. We sat together on his large, comfortable sofa, and I really tried hard to relax, but my body just wouldn't obey me. This was the first time I had ever been alone with another gay person and I wondered if anything would happen. In fact, I both hoped and feared that something might happen. Because of the conflict between my desires and my fears, my brain froze and I lost track of the conversation we were having. Ben, noticing my silence and seeing me perched tensely on the edge of the sofa, moved closer to me, and being a couple of inches taller than my 5'8", he easily put his long arm over my shoulders.
"Tell me to stop if you want," he said.
When he kissed the side of my neck I didn't say anything, and when he stroked my hair and kissed the side of my face, I felt my tense muscles suddenly go loose, and I collapsed backwards. Ben leaned over and kissed me on the lips, gently pushing his tongue into my mouth. This was my first ever 'French kiss' from anyone and it totally blew me away. My heart thumped so hard that it hurt and for a brief time I even forgot to breath.
As Ben continued kissing, he stroked my chest, then he hugged me tight and placed little kisses all over my face. When his hand drifted down to the crotch of my jeans I froze again and he asked if I wanted to stop. Relaxing, I remembered to breath, but still unable to speak, I shook my head to indicate 'No'.
This was first time anyone had touched me there since my childhood games of 'doctor' with Mike, and as Ben touched my cock I felt that it was harder than it had ever been before. Amazing myself with my boldness, I reached over and traced the outline of his cock through his black trousers. However, as I did that, my feelings of delight rapidly turned to embarrassment as I ejaculated into my underpants.
To say I was mortified would be a huge understatement. I just wanted to curl up and die, and unable to say a word I just stared at the floor. Ben knew immediately what had happened, but he was extremely kind and understanding.
"Did you just cum?" he asked, smiling.
Red-faced and filled with shame, I just nodded.
"Is this your first time with another guy?" he continued, and I nodded again.
"Well, I'm very flattered that I had that effect on you! Do you want to go to the bathroom and clean up?"
Having been concentrating so much on the emotional embarrassment, I'd totally forgotten about the physical results of my orgasm. It occurred to me that going home with cum-soaked jeans would not be such a good idea, so I nodded at his welcome suggestion and speedily headed for the bathroom.
I was very relieved to find that the mess was still mostly in my boxers and had not yet quite soaked through to my jeans. Eventually, I got myself cleaned up, taking longer than was really necessary as I was nervous about returning to Ben in the living room. When I did raise enough courage to face him, he was all smiles and understanding, but I wanted to leave quickly anyway, so I declined his offer of something to drink. He said that as it wasn't even 10 pm yet, it was a pity to end the evening so soon, but when I insisted on leaving he agreed to drive me home.
When Ben dropped me off outside my house he said he'd phone me soon, but I thought he was just being polite and didn't believe that such a cute guy would want to see me again after such a disastrous encounter. After all, it suddenly occurred to me that he hadn't had the chance to reach his own orgasm. I rushed into the house, shouted a quick 'Hi' to my parents, and fled to my bedroom, desperately hoping no one would see me and somehow guess what I'd been up to.
I sat on my bed, and as my emotions calmed down a little, I remembered that my mobile phone had been switched off while was with Ben, so I fished it out of my pocket and switched it on. There was a text message from Mike, reminding me to call him when I got home. Before going to meet Ben, I'd told Mike only that I was going out to a Chinese restaurant with a friend. Mike had been discreet and considerate enough not to press me for details but had asked me to call him when I got back.
I agonised about calling him and very nearly didn't. At that particular moment I didn't feel like talking to anyone, least of all Mike. I didn't know what I could say and was reluctant to lie if he asked me any direct questions. However, I had promised to phone, and as I didn't want to break that promise, I did so.
If I'd been with a girl I would have told him about the kiss and may even have admitted to cumming in my pants, though I definitely wouldn't have mentioned that last bit over the phone. As it was, we discussed the restaurant, the food, and other general stuff. By the time the call ended I felt much more relaxed and happy with life, and it occurred to me that if this calming and soothing effect Mike produced could be bottled and sold, then he'd make a fortune.
When Ben phoned me two days later, I was pleasantly surprised. He suggested we meet in the town centre the following Sunday afternoon and maybe go back to his apartment, which was on the opposite side of town. Now I might have been inexperienced but I wasn't a complete idiot, and as he mentioned no other activity apart from going back to his place, it seemed quite likely to me that he wanted us to carry on from where we left off. The idea of expanding my sexual experience appealed to me, and in any case I did feel a little guilty, not only for my premature climax but also for leaving him unsatisfied. Anyway, to try to avoid a repeat of my last performance, I made sure to have a wank during the shower I took before setting off to meet him.
We met in the car park behind the cafe where we'd had our first 'date'. The dark blue jeans and pale blue top which Ben was wearing really accentuated his beautiful dark-gold skin and shiny black hair. When he asked if we should go straight back to his place I quickly agreed, hoping that I didn't sound too eager or too nervous. Once we arrived at his apartment things started off as before, only this time I didn't have such a hair-trigger response as soon as we started getting intimate.
While we were kissing and stroking one another's bodies, he kept boosting my ego by saying that I was really cute and that I was so good at kissing he couldn't believe this was only my second time. By the time he suggested that we take off our clothes I was more than ready to agree and I don't think I've ever got undressed so quickly. Compared to his golden skin I looked pasty white, but it was, after all, almost winter and we were in England. Like me, Ben was totally smooth apart from head, armpits and pubes, but whereas his pubic hair was a large, thick black bush, my own smaller bush was relatively sparse and medium brown.
Ben gently pushed me back on the sofa, and lay on top of me, kissing me and rubbing our cocks together. I wasn't sure which would explode first, my cock or my rapidly thumping heart. Then placing his knees on either side of my thighs, he sat up, looked into my eyes, and started wanking me, pulling the foreskin backwards and forwards. I reached up and started rubbing his cock in the same way, and within just a few seconds I squirted on his chest and his knees, as well as on my face, on my chest, and on my belly.
The intense and prolonged pleasure was such that I stopped wanking Ben and could merely give his cock an occasional gentle squeeze. When I returned to my senses I noticed that Ben was smiling gently and was using his left hand to rub my cum into my chest and stomach while his right hand retained his grip on my wilting cock. Seeing my return to full consciousness he got up off the sofa and went over to get some tissues to clean us both up. It was only then that I realised that my thighs were aching where he had been sitting on them.
We sat side by side for a couple of minutes while I completed my recovery, then I reached over and began to wank him, first slowly, then following his instructions, I speeded up. After less than five minutes he too shot his load all over his chest and stomach, and I gently cleaned him and my hand with the tissues he'd left on the arm of the sofa. We lay down next to one another and continued kissing and cuddling until my cock, which had never totally softened, began to grow hard again. He then gave me my first-ever blow-job, making me go rigid with the pleasure. Had I not already ejaculated less than fifteen minutes earlier, I'm sure I would have cum immediately. As it was, the delicious feelings made my toes curl.
I told Ben that I wanted to do the same to him, so he moved round to a 69 position. This was my first ever chance to see another guy's cock quite so close, and at that moment in time it was the most fascinating and exciting thing in my universe. For a while, time became meaningless for me, so I've no idea how long it was before I came again and Ben swallowed it all. This time the pleasure was such that it was almost painful, possibly because it was only a few minutes since my last orgasm and this was my third orgasm in less than three hours.
While I was basking in the post-orgasmic glow, Ben got up and gave me a deep kiss. I tasted myself in his mouth and at first I felt a little queasy because I'd never tasted even my own semen before. Perhaps sensing my negative reaction, Ben moved and sat at the end of the sofa.
"Wow!! Thanks, Ben," I said. "That was the greatest feeling I've ever had!"
"You're welcome. How would you feel about sucking me off now?"
"Okay," I agreed, though I wasn't enthusiastic about having him cum in my mouth. "How do you want me to do it?"
"Why not come over here, kneel between my legs and see what you can do."
I did as he suggested, but after a short time, I could sense he was getting a bit impatient, so I became more energetic and used my lips to push back his foreskin and began bobbing my mouth up and down. He began instructing me on using my tongue to rub on the most sensitive bits, then told me to do it faster and harder. It wasn't long before he came, and despite my initial reservations I thought it only fair to swallow as he'd done for me. As it happened it tasted okay and somehow didn't seem as bad as tasting my own.
"That was really great," Ben said, leaning back and relaxing. "It's hard to believe you've not done it before."
Then he leaned over, raised me up off my knees, and started kissing me. We kissed and cuddled until I noticed the time, and told him I had to be getting home for my family evening meal. As we dressed we kept touching one another and exchanging kisses, which made me feel a wonderful deep emotional 'warmth'. Then he gave me a ride back into town, promising to call me again soon.
When I got home I dashed straight to the bathroom to brush my teeth as I didn't want anyone to smell anything on my breath. Then, going back down to the kitchen, I found that it was going to be at least another half hour until food was ready, so I decided to take a quick shower, just in case there was any smell of sex on my body. I felt happy and elated, but also a bit sad that I couldn't talk about it with Mike, the person with whom I shared everything else. As I was leaving the bathroom, I almost bumped into John, my younger brother, who was in the hallway . Mike often playfully teased us by saying that John and I could be identical twins born two years apart. We always strenuously denied this, pointing out what to us were obvious major differences, such as John's turned-up button-nose, and my notoriously unruly hair.
John greeted me with a surprised smile, quickly overlaid with an expression of curiosity.
"What's going on, Paul?" he asked, "Two showers in one day and it's not even dinner time yet!"
"Yeah, well," I stuttered, thinking quickly, "I was helping a friend fix his car and got a bit messed up."
As it was made up at such short notice, it wasn't a very good lie and John quickly saw through it, especially as we both knew I blush when I lie.
"But you don't know anything about fixing cars," he pointed out.
"That doesn't stop me helping, " I responded defensively, "holding tools and stuff."
"Well, who were you helping then?" he asked, doubt written all over his face.
"Look," I said brusquely, "I don't have time for idle chat. I've got to get dressed before dinner."
With that, I made a rapid retreat into my bedroom.
John was my only sibling and we usually got on very well. This was fortunate because when my parents had friends or family visiting the guests would get John's room and he'd share mine, where there was a spare bed. As the 'moveable' brother, John was expected to keep his bedroom tidier and in better condition than mine, just in case we had visitors. However, most of the time he never did, and it was fortunate for him that my parents had a very strict privacy rule. They would never enter our bedrooms without knocking and they never entered without permission.
My parents were very reasonable people, and although they were strict about certain things, they didn't actually impose a lot of rules. For the most part, our parents trusted us to do the right thing, and unless we betrayed that trust they assumed we could be relied upon. Maybe John and I were trusted because we were unusually reliable, or maybe we were reliable because we were trusted. Whatever the case, the system worked for us and we never deliberately betrayed their trust.
Of course neither John nor I were angels; we told lies, played pranks, got into trouble, and committed all the usual minor infractions of childhood, but when our parents put something to us as a matter of trust we did our very best not to disappoint them. We shared a common view that promises should never be forced, but once a promise was made voluntarily then it should never be deliberately broken. Mike, despite all his wild ways outside our house, seemed to embrace this family view enthusiastically when he was with us.
My parents' calm-and-reasonable approach seemed to go along with a preference for rationality over emotion, and our family did not seem to me to be as close or as warm as the families of some of my friends. We rarely hugged, seldom got too emotional, and our interactions were, for the most part, businesslike. This is not to say that we didn't love one another; in fact we often showed our mutual love and care in lots of little ways, but we just didn't say it out loud and rarely showed physical affection.
Ben called me the following week and we arranged to meet again the next Sunday afternoon. When I suggested maybe going for a movie or a meal he said he was busy with a programming project and wasn't sure if he'd have time. I was a little disappointed that we wouldn't have much time to socialise because I was hoping that Ben would become much closer than just a friend with whom I had sex. However, just listening to Ben's voice over the phone gave me a stiffy, so the prospect of meeting up for some physical interaction was very attractive.
We met in the same car park as the previous Sunday and he immediately drove us back to his place. As soon as we got through the door of his apartment he took me by the hand, led me to the sofa and started kissing me. I was so horny that I responded enthusiastically and, still standing, we began to undress one another. As soon as we were naked he led me to his bedroom and, lying on the bed we kissed, hugged, and ground our cocks together. He began to lick all over my face and neck as we fondled one another. Then he licked his way via my nipples all the way down to my cock.
His mouth and tongue drove me wild but just before I thought I would cum, he began licking my balls, which tickled so much that I couldn't keep still. When he moved his tongue lower and started around round my anal opening I was at first very shocked, but then it felt so nice that I decided not to complain. Then he turned his attentions back to my cock and my mind was so lost in pleasure that at first I didn't realise he was slipping his finger into my anus.
He must have lubed his finger with saliva because it went in easily. However, nothing had ever gone up there before, not even my own finger, so the feeling was strange and not exactly pleasant. Just as I was about to complain, his finger started to feel good inside, so I just lay there and began to enjoy it. When he moved his finger inside me he occasionally hit a magic spot, my prostate, and the feeling was so overpowering that I wasn't sure if it was pleasure or pain. Suddenly, before even I expected it, I had an intense orgasm, pumping what felt like a huge load of semen into Ben's mouth.
As soon as I finished spurting, Ben moved up and started kissing me, but his time I was not so put off by the taste and happily returned his kiss. He lay on top of me, kissing and rubbing his cock just under my balls. His dick must have been leaking lots of pre-cum as it slid very easily between my thighs. After my orgasm I was so relaxed and enjoying Ben's attentions that at first I wasn't giving much thought to how he might want to reach his own orgasm. When I felt Ben's hand push my thighs apart and then felt his finger on my hole, I began to suspect what he might have in mind.
"What're you doing?" I asked, beginning to get worried.
"Just thought you might need some loosening up."
"Loosening up?" I squeaked, realising immediately how stupid I sounded.
"You enjoyed my finger up there didn't you?"
"Yeah..." I said hesitantly.
"Well, I thought you 'd like to try something else up there."
From relaxed lethargy my mind switched into panic mode. I really didn't want 'something else up there', but I didn't know how to say it without hurting Ben's feelings or alienating him. Apart from anything else, I was sure 'something else up there' would hurt, and even if it didn't, I was still getting used to the idea of a finger and I certainly wasn't ready for 'something else'.
This was my first sexual relationship and Ben was clearly experienced, so I thought that maybe 'something else up there' was the usual and expected thing to do and that if I refused then maybe he would think I was weird. While these thoughts spun in my head I was quiet, and Ben must have taken my silence as an agreement to go ahead, so he began pushing a finger inside me.
"Stop! Please, stop!" I shouted in a panic, probably far too loudly.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothings ever been up there before your finger today."
"It won't hurt. I promise to be very slow and gentle."
"No, I'm really not ready for that," I said, more forcefully than I intended.
Ben just froze and tensed up, possibly considering what to do or say, and I felt terrible, as if I'd just spoiled this wonderful afternoon we were having together. He relaxed, rolled off me and lay beside me. For what seemed like a very long time he was silent and there was nothing I could think of to say. Eventually, I thought of something.
"Would you like me to suck you off?" I asked, hoping that I hadn't disappointed him too much.
"OK, if you want," he replied.
My heart sank as I heard the lack of enthusiasm in his voice, but I went ahead and moved between his legs to give him the very best blow-job I could. Thinking about all the instructions he'd given me during our last meeting, I tried my hardest to give him as much pleasure as possible and it wasn't long before he came in my mouth and I swallowed every drop. Then, as I moved up to kiss him he looked over at his bedside clock.
"Damn," he said and jumped off the bed. "I just remembered that I promised to meet the guy who's doing the project with me!"
Of course I knew he was lying, but what could I say? I was very upset by the way he was reacting and my emotions were swinging violently between anger and sorrow.
"We'd better hurry up and get dressed," he said as he moved toward the bedroom door. "I'll drive you into town."
"Can't we talk?" I asked as I got up off the bed.
"No time. Must dash. I'll call you later."
Those words were thrown over his shoulder as he walked into the living room to collect his clothes. Again, I knew he was lying and that he wouldn't call later, but I couldn't do anything but get dressed. No more words were spoken while we dressed or as we drove back into town. When I got out of his car I said goodbye and he mumbled some reply, but I couldn't tell what it was.
As I travelled home on the bus, I tried to analyse what had gone wrong. Was it my fault? Should I have been more tactful? Should I even have let him do what he wanted? As I thought more about that last question, I quickly decided on the answer: No! Despite my naivet, it began to dawn on me that Ben had just been using me for sex and that once I refused I was no longer of interest to him. Even if I hadn't refused he would probably have lost interest once he'd got what he wanted. Still, at least my sexual experience with him had made me pretty certain that I really was gay. However, as the idea of being gay wasn't too attractive to me just then, that certainty didn't make me feel any better.
When I returned home I went straight to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and gargled with mouthwash. As I knew there was plenty of time before our family meal, I had a long slow shower. This time not just to remove any smell of sex but because for some reason I felt really, really dirty.
That evening Mike phoned, and I can't express in words how glad I was to hear his voice. As we talked it seemed I was clinging on to his every word and he must have guessed something wasn't right with me.
"What's the matter, pal?" he asked.
"Oh, I'm just feeling a bit down. It's nothing much."
"C'mon Paul, I know you. It must be something to make you sound like that."
"Really, it's nothing important."
"Whatever it is, you can tell me. You know that."
"Well it's not something I can talk about on the phone," I replied evasively.
That was true, but the main reason I said it was to buy myself some time to think.
"Okay, I'll come on over and we can talk in person."
"Nah, better not. It's getting late and it's school tomorrow."
"Look, I can tell something's wrong and I'm not going to leave you like that. I'll fetch over my stuff, stay the night, and go straight to school from your place in the morning. See you in about ten minutes."
He hung up before I had chance to reply.
Finding mum in the living room, I told her that Mike was coming over for the night. There was no need to actually ask permission because ever since Mike was ten he had a standing invitation to stay whenever he wanted. Mum nodded and raised an eyebrow, but didn't ask why he was coming over that particular night. With the family privacy-and-trust agreement she knew that we would tell her if it was important to do so.
As soon Mike arrived and had greeted my parents, I took him upstairs, and despite the fact that I had no idea what I was going to say to him, I was still very happy to see him. Before going into my bedroom, he knocked on John's door just to say 'Hi'. That was typical of him, friendly and always making sure that none of his friends feel excluded. When we entered my room, I sat on my bed and he sat down on the other bed, facing me.
"Well, young Paul, tell me everything."
He often called me 'young Paul' when he wanted to wind me up, because when we were little kids I once made a big thing about me being six months older than him.
"Everything? I thought you were staying for a night, not a century."
My pathetic attempt at a joke was just stalling for time, and Mike knew it.
"OK, not everything. Just why you seem so unhappy."
"Unhappy? It's Monday tomorrow and back to school. That's enough to make anyone unhappy!"
"Doesn't seem like just 'Sunday evening blues' to me," he said, obviously able to tell I was mentally as well as physically squirming, "but if you don't feel like talking now, then maybe later. I'm here for you, okay?"
With that, he let me off the hook, at least temporarily and I diverted the conversation to other topics such as school and plans for Christmas, which was just over 5 weeks away. Eventually, I got to mentioning Sue. Mike had been interested in Sue, a girl in his school, for several months and had gradually worked his way into her circle of friends. He'd found out she didn't have a boyfriend at the moment but he'd not yet got around to asking her out on a date. He said he wanted to take things slowly and I told him that any girl who turned him down should be certified as totally insane. He responded by giving me one of his big beaming grins, which always make my life brighter.
Shortly after that we ended up watching TV and sitting next to one another on my bed, our backs propped oh the headboard.
"I'm glad I came over," Mike said without taking his eyes off the screen. "You seem much happier now than you sounded on the phone."
"I'm glad too, and I feel much better. I really appreciate it."
"And you know you can talk to me about anything, right? I'm not pressuring you and you don't need to say anything, but I just want to make sure you know I'm here to talk whenever you want. You and your family have always been here for me and I'll always be here for you."
There was quite a long pause while my mind began to churn, then I took a deep breath.
"Suppose you don't like what I talk about?" I asked.
"We're best friends, aren't we? Nothing will change that."
"Yeah, but just suppose..." I replied, my voice trembling a little.
"Look, Paul, whatever it is, we'll always be best friends," he said, moving his gaze from the TV to my face. "And one reason for that is we don't judge and disapprove. Remember when we were fifteen and I got hold of the whisky and we both got pissed and had terrible hangovers?"
"How could I forget!" I said and grinned.
"You never told me I was wrong, you never blamed me for your hangover and never tried to make me feel bad about you being so sick. You never told anyone why you were so ill and you never accused me of being a bad influence."
"Why should I? You didn't steal it and nobody made me drink it. I wanted to try it and it was just an experiment that was quite nice at the time but went too far."
"And left us feeling bloody awful!" he said and laughed, then became more serious and continued, "Lots of people would have blamed me. Not many people would have covered up for me when they were feeling as sick as you were."
I blushed but didn't say anything, and after a brief pause, he continued.
"Remember when we were fourteen and I started smoking?"
"God yes, the stink!" I smiled, thankful he'd given up.
"Yes, you kept having to 'deodorise' your room to hide the smell from your parents and the room ended up smelling like a perfume factory! All the time you covered up for me without criticising and without judging..."
"But I did point out the health risks..." I interrupted.
"Yeah, but having pointed them out, you didn't go on and on about it. You didn't tell me I was a stupid idiot.... When my mum found out I was smoking she went ballistic. She threatened to ground me for life and told me I was totally stupid. She went on and on about it for days. She made me look at pictures of lung cancers. YUCK! But nothing she said or did had any effect and I still carried on smoking in secret."
"Okay, but you don't smoke now do you?"
"No... and ya know why I stopped? I never told anyone this, but it was something you said."
Now it was Mike who blushed, something very rare for him.
"What did I say?" I asked, trying to remember what it could be.
"Well, one day you said that you wished that I'd give up. But it wasn't so much what you said but the way you said it and the way you looked. You weren't annoyed or critical, or disapproving or anything like that. You just made a quiet statement, and I could see from your puppy-dog eyes that it was something you'd really like me to do. So I gave up smoking. Not because of threats from mum. Not because of health risks. Not because anyone disapproved. But just because giving up was something I could do to make you happier."
Mike looked embarrassed but didn't look away from my face. I couldn't think what to say and there was such a lump in my throat that I probably couldn't have said anything even if I had known what to say. We rarely showed any signs of physical affection, but the only appropriate thing I could think of doing was to put my arm round his shoulders and to squeeze him in a sort of one-armed hug.
"Aaawww, Mike," I said when the lump in my throat had subsided enough for me to be able to speak again, "that's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. I'm lucky to have you as my best friend."
"I thought I'd just been explaining that I was the lucky one!" Mike said, pretending to be exasperated. "Anyway, the important thing to remember is that any time you want to talk, I'm ready to listen."
"Thanks..." was all I could think of to say, while my mind churned with the question: should I tell him I'm gay?
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