Not Always Easy
Chapter 11 - Friends On The Hill
The next morning I was having a dream about an earthquake when I woke up to find that my bed was shaking. I opened my bleary eyes, and as they began to focus on the outside world, I saw Mike. He was dressed in dark green shorts and pale green t-shirt and was bouncing up and down on the edge of my bed. As usual, he was bright, cheerful and full of energy.
"What time is it?" I groaned.
"Almost ten," Mike replied. "Didn't you say Dan would be here at ten thirty?"
"Yeah. Guess I'd better get up."
I yawned, stretched my limbs, and got out of bed. My morning stiffy was tenting my boxer shorts as I walked past Mike and headed for the bathroom. However, I wasn't embarrassed by my display because Mike and I had seen one another like that dozens, probably hundreds of times previously. As I left the room, he told me to hurry up with my shower and said he would join John downstairs. By the time I went downstairs I was feeling a bit more awake and was determined to ensure that I'd have my morning mug of tea before Dan arrived. I was just finishing my tea and toast when the doorbell rang. John went to open the door and brought Dan and Steve through to the kitchen where Mike and I were sitting at the table.
When I saw Dan and Steve my eyes nearly popped out of my head. They were dressed in full professional cycling gear, with their streamlined helmets under their arms, and they looked as if they were just about to take part in the Tour de France. It would be nice to be able to say that my first thought was that they must take their cycling very seriously, but in fact that was my second thought. My real first thought was that the tight Lycra left absolutely nothing to the imagination. Steve looked good in olive-green with black panels, but Dan looked gorgeous in royal blue with a yellow band round the chest and a yellow stripe down the side of each thigh. I presumed they were wearing underwear but I couldn't see any obvious outline, and whatever they might be wearing under their shorts certainly didn't obscure the view.
"Paul, " John said, then when I didn't respond, he repeated, "Paul."
I've no idea how long I sat there in a trance-like state, but to John's voice reality brought me back to reality. Everyone was looking at me with different expressions on their faces. John had his annoying smirk, Mike looked as if I'd grown horns, Steve had a huge grin and Dan had a shy smile and was blushing. I could feel my own blush begin to burn my cheeks.
"Hi, Dan, Steve," I said rather lamely as I stood to greet them.
This was the first time I had seen Mike and Dan in the same room and again I was struck by their similarity. The colour of their eyes was the most noticeable difference and Mike was a little taller and heavier, but they could easily pass for brothers. As I was the only one who was friends with everyone, I began making the introductions. Everyone nodded their acknowledgements and an uncomfortable silence followed, but fortunately John came to the rescue.
"Would you guys like anything to drink?" he asked Dan and Steve.
Both of them politely declined his offer.
"So you found the house okay, then?" I asked Dan, realising as soon as I spoke that it was a pretty stupid question.
"Yeah, you give good directions," Dan responded with a widening smile, obviously pretending that I'd asked a sensible question.
"Well, if everyone's ready we'd better get going," Mike said.
John and Mike had already packed their saddlebags so I grabbed a bottle of water and a sweater and we all went outside to our bikes.
The weather was perfect for cycling, sunny but not too warm and with a light, cooling breeze. A few small fleecy clouds drifted high up in the clear blue of the spring sky as we rode along at a pace that was almost slow enough to be described as leisurely. Mike was in the lead most of the time and the rest of us moved position as the mood took us or if we wanted to say something to a particular individual. It seemed I was the most mobile, while John mostly stayed close to Mike, and Dan mostly stayed close to me. Though we were not racing, it was clear that Steve could have taken the lead easily if he'd wanted, but it seemed he was holding himself back so that he could stay close to Dan.
The ride was very enjoyable and once we got into the countryside the scenery was extremely pleasant. When we stopped at the pub for lunch it seemed to me that we'd been riding for only a few minutes, but in fact we'd been out for almost two hours. Just as Mike had said, there was a large beer garden with plenty of empty tables. I asked John what he wanted to eat and drink, then he took our helmets and went to choose a table while the rest of us went inside. Some of the other customers cast curious glances at Dan and Steve, but I couldn't tell if the interest was generated by the cycling gear or by what their tight shorts failed to hide.
When we emerged from the pub laden with sandwiches, pies and soft drinks, we found that John had chosen a table in the far corner of the garden, well away from any other customers. This was Mike's first opportunity to talk to Dan and Steve, and I was very much hoping that they would get on together. As it turned out, I didn't need to be concerned as the three of them soon started talking about the school they attended. Mike and Steve seemed to get on particularly well, but maybe that was because Dan was like me, shy and quiet in new situations.
"So, Paul tells me you were beaten up cos you're gay," Mike said in his usual blunt manner while looking at Dan.
Dan nodded 'yes' and looked around, presumably to ensure that no one was near enough to overhear.
"That would explain why the headmaster made his little speech about diversity and tolerance and stuff," Mike continued.
"Yeah," Steve said, sounding a little annoyed. "Blaine spent ages beating around the bush when all he had to say was 'don't bully people just because they're different'. I wonder how many people really knew what he was talking about."
"Well I wasn't sure, but I usually switch off during Blaine's little speeches," Mike said, looking directly at Dan. "Anyway, you can count on me if you need help dealing with any bullies."
"Thanks Mike," Dan said, "especially as you hardly know me."
"Any friend of Paul's is a friend of mine," Mike stated simply and with such firmness that no one could doubt the truth of his statement.
"Yeah, thanks Mike," Steve said. "I'm glad Dan has another friend at school now. At least he'll have someone to back him up when I go to Uni next year. Pity we all didn't get to be friends sooner."
Dan looked at me and I knew what he was thinking because I was thinking the same thing - Sue. Neither Mike nor Steve knew she was almost certainly involved in the attack on Dan, and I wondered how she would react if, or when, she found out that Mike and Dan were friends. John obviously misinterpreted the exchange of looks between Dan and myself because he smirked and gave me a sly wink.
By this time we'd had enough to eat and drink so we continued our ride round Summer Hill. The cycle track climbed obliquely as it approached the far side of the hill, and as we reached the highest point of the track I was breathless and my legs ached. The others didn't seem as badly affected as I was, and I attributed that to the fact that their bikes were better and lighter than mine. John joked that it was really because they were all much fitter than I was, but I didn't have enough breath to argue the point.
When we reached the highest point of the track, I wanted to rest, even though much of the remaining journey would be downhill. The others took pity on me and we all dismounted. I sat on the grass at the side of the track and leaned my back against a wooden fence. Close to the place we'd stopped there was a footpath that led from the cycle track to the top of the hill. Mike, always full of energy, asked who wanted to climb to the summit and see the view. John and Dan were keen on the idea but I declined, telling them that I'd prefer to stay where I was and rest. When Dan found I wasn't going with them he looked hesitant, and I was surprised when Steve, probably the fittest of our group, told Dan to go with Mike and John while he stayed behind to rest with me.
"I should really be doing some studying," Steve said as he sat down beside me, "but it's such a nice day and, erm, I was hoping to get a chance to talk to you."
"Oh?" I said warily.
"Dan phoned me after he met you in town on Saturday."
"He really likes you. Has done for a long time. But I s'pose you know that?"
"Yeah," I said with a sigh.
I wondered to myself why I felt guilty and why I suddenly felt intimidated by Steve. He was bigger and stronger than me, but I didn't feel any sort of physical intimidation. Somehow it was more like he was a parent or teacher and I was a naughty little boy.
"So how d'ya feel about him?" he asked.
"He's a really nice guy. I like him and he's my friend."
"Is that all? Don't you find him... attractive?"
The way Steve was looking at my made me feel like a bug under a microscope and I squirmed uncomfortably.
"Yeah, he's definitely a cutie," I said. I felt myself blushing, so I looked down at the grass.
"And you don't want to be more than just friends?" Steve continued to probe.
If Dan hadn't told me about his background with Steve, these questions might have made me feel resentful and I would probably have refused to answer them. However, knowing how much Steve cared for Dan, I decided he deserved an answer. Unfortunately, I had no idea what to say.
"Err, yeah. I mean, I don't really know," I said, sounding pathetic even to my own ears.
I looked up to see how he was taking my non-answer. He looked back at me as if he were trying to read the truth in my eyes. As he continued staring into my eyes, I had to look away and pretended to find a particularly interesting blade of grass to focus on. He must have decided not to push that line of questioning directly because he continued on a slightly different tack.
"Last night when I was over at his house, he just couldn't stop talking about you, telling me how wonderful it was having lunch with you. He always enjoys making other people happy, but for you... Well, for you he'd do anything. It's obvious to anyone with half a brain that he's in love with you."
I could feel my face turning an even deeper shade of red and I wished I could find somewhere to hide.
"He was the one who made the wonderful lunch!" I said, hoping my feeble attempt at humour might decrease the intensity of our conversation.
The attempt failed, though he slightly shifted his line of questioning. "Is it true that you're in love with Rob and that Rob isn't in love with you? Do you think there's a chance that Rob will fall in love with you?"
At first I began to feel angry and was about to make some comment about him subjecting me to such personal questions. Then I recognised his motives and felt I should give him an answer. Also, by asking me these questions he was forcing me to confront some feelings that I had, up until then, been avoiding. Realising that sooner or later I would need to answer those questions for my own benefit, I spent a few seconds gathering my thoughts before replying.
"I don't know," I said finally, "but it's difficult to give up hope."
"Yeah," he sighed, "that's how Dan feels about you. Do you think he should give up hope?"
"Hope about me?" I asked. Steve nodded, so I continued, "No, he shouldn't give up hope. I think there's more chance of me falling in love with Dan than there is of Rob falling in love with me."
I paused for a moment then voiced the thought that had just surfaced in my mind. "In fact, if I'd been, erm, intimate with Dan before I met Rob then maybe I wouldn't have fallen for Rob at all."
I fell silent for a few seconds and Steve didn't interrupt my thoughts. I realised there was something I should say, but for some selfish reason I didn't want to say it. Fortunately for my self-esteem, decency overcame my selfishness.
"It's just that I know it's not fair to expect Dan to wait until I can sort myself out," I said.
"Oh, he'll wait," Steve said quietly, more to himself than to me. "He'll definitely wait."
He sighed sadly and then, taking a deep breath, he leaned toward me and grabbed my head in both of his hands. At first I was startled and a little afraid but he just turned my head so he could stare into my eyes.
"You won't mess him about will you?" he asked, maintaining his piercing gaze. "You won't hurt him? Because if you hurt him I'll... I'll... well you just better not."
"No, I'd never deliberately hurt him," I said truthfully with all my heart. "He's my friend."
"Dan's the sort of person who needs reliable friends," Steve said as he released my head. "Little things can make him happy but it's far too easy to hurt him."
He looked away toward the top of the hill where we could just see our cycling companions, then he turned his gaze back to me and continued, "I just hope you realise that he's a very precious and valuable person. Being loved by Dan is a wonderful gift and a great responsibility."
"I am his friend, and I am reliable," I said.
It was all I could think of to say, though I knew it was banal. Maybe it would have been best to say nothing, because anything I said would sound banal after Steve's words. That appeared to be the end of our conversation, and we sat in silence for a while. The others must have seen enough of the view because I could see them leaving the hilltop and setting off back toward us.
"Ya know Mike's girlfriend, Sue, used to be my girlfriend," Steve said, suddenly breaking the silence.
I couldn't tell if it was a statement or a question, but I decided to answer anyway. "Yes, I know"
"But you won't know why we broke up. Nobody knows except me and Sue. Not even Dan. Especially not Dan."
He looked at me again with his piercing gaze, but for some reason it didn't make me so uncomfortable this time. Maybe I was just getting used to it.
"I think I should tell you," he continued, "but first you have to promise not to tell Dan."
"You'd better not tell me then," I said, "because I can't make a promise like that unless I know what it is you want to tell me. And after you've told me I might not be able to make the promise."
For a moment he looked surprised, obviously not expecting the response I gave him. "What d'ya mean?" he asked.
"Well, I've been brought up not to make promises unless I'm pretty certain that I can keep them. If I make this promise to you, then feel that Dan would be hurt if I didn't tell him, I'd have to break the promise. I won't put myself in that position and I won't make a blind promise, so it's better that you don't tell me anything."
He looked away from me, apparently considering what to do next. I was concerned and curious, but I didn't say anything because he had to decide for himself what to do. From the way he kept rubbing his foot in the grass and looking at our companions as they came down from the hilltop, he seemed nervous and under pressure. I guessed that if he was going to tell me anything more he would want to do so before the others returned. Then he looked at me and smiled.
"I think I see one reason why Dan likes you so much," he said.
My blush, which I thought had begun to fade, returned in full force, and after a brief pause, he continued, "You'll be a good friend to Dan even if... well, even if nothing more. I hope you don't feel insulted by this, and I know I can trust you, but for my own peace of mind I want you to make a different promise. Will you... Can you promise that if you decide to tell Dan, it will only be because you carefully decide it's in his best interest?"
"Yes, I can do that," I replied, "but before I do there is another thing to consider. This is about Sue, isn't it? She's Mike's girlfriend now. What if I think Mike should know? Because if I think keeping something from Mike will hurt him then I can't do it."
"It doesn't really matter to me if you tell Mike or not," Steve said. "He's your best friend, so that's your decision, but if you do tell him, can you make sure he doesn't tell Dan?"
"Yeah, I'm sure he won't tell if I ask him not to, and I promise that I won't tell Dan either unless I think that he'll be hurt if I don't tell him."
"Okay, then I'll tell you because it may help you to protect Dan, especially next year when I'm away at Uni."
"Why does he need protecting?" I asked, wondering if Steve knew that Sue was involved in the attack.
"Don't get me wrong," Steve protested, "physically he can protect himself as well as you can, and emotionally he's stronger than me. He doesn't think that he needs protection at all, but sometimes he rushes into things without realising that not everyone is as nice as he is. He's not very good at reading people because he expects others to be just as good a person as he is, so mostly he needs protecting from the consequences of his own innocence."
I marvelled at the depth of his feelings for Dan and at how much thought he must have put into what he'd just said.
"But rather than just protect him, why not, erm, educate him, so he can see how dangerous some people can be?" I asked what to me seemed the obvious question.
"I doubt that I could convince him not to think the best of everyone," Steve said with a sad smile. "And I'm not sure that I'd want to even if I could. That mixture of strength and innocence makes Dan the loveable person he is. Maybe it's selfish of me, but I don't want him to change. In my eyes any change like that could only make him less wonderful."
If I had just said something like that about my best friend I would have been blushing profusely, so I was amazed that Steve didn't seem the least bit embarrassed. I rarely express such feelings so openly, and definitely not with someone who was only just becoming a friend.
"So what is it you wanted to say about Sue?" I asked as I looked toward the hill.
Steve followed the direction of my gaze and we saw that our friends were about half way between the hilltop and us.
"Now Dan's getting close to you and Mike, sooner or later he's likely to encounter Sue. And Sue is one of the most homophobic people I know. Someone told her that Dan was gay and she knew I was his best friend. She told me bluntly that if I stayed friends with Dan then she would no longer have anything to do with me..." His voice trailed off, and I detected a note of sadness in it.
"Ya know," he continued after a brief pause, "she'd never shown that part of her character before, and apart from that she really was a nice girl. Or at least I thought she was. She's also very sexy, and once I thought I even loved her."
He smiled, and expression showed a hint of bitterness mixed in with genuine amusement. Then he continued, "Sue knew how I felt about her, so she was very surprised when, without a moment's thought, I told her that I would always be Dan's friend. Ya know the phrase 'spitting with anger'? Well that's the first and only time in my life that I've seen it for myself. After that, she never spoke a word to me again. Sometimes I've overheard her talking to her friends about me or Dan and I discovered that she has a really sharp tongue. She said some of the nastiest things I've ever heard. Even though we went out together for months, I never knew she could be like that."
He shook his head and looked very sad for a moment, then he sighed deeply and his mood began to lighten again.
"Has she ever done anything else, ya know, homophobic?" I asked.
I wanted to know if he knew or guessed she was involved in Dan's beating, but on the other hand, I didn't want to give away something that Dan wanted to keep secret. I hate secrets and couldn't see why Steve and Dan didn't just tell one another all about Sue.
"Not that I know of," Steve said with a puzzled look. "What sort of thing d'ya mean?"
"Dunno. Just wondering," I said. Then, thinking that he didn't seem entirely convinced by my answer, I hurriedly continued, "But I still don't understand why you don't want Dan to know."
"If you get to know Dan better, and I hope you will," he said, "then you'll know he is one of the most caring and sensitive people alive. Even though it wasn't his fault, he'd feel really guilty and bad about himself if he thought that Sue and I had broken up because he's gay. He already blames himself because he thinks that the reason I don't have a girlfriend is because some people think that I'm his boyfriend. And he keeps going on about how guilty he feels about dragging me to gay places. Of course he doesn't drag me at all. I go because I enjoy being with him wherever he is."
His serious expression melted into a smile, and he continued, "And apart from not having any available girls, the gay pubs can be just as interesting as any other pub."
"So there's still the problem of how we can protect Dan from Sue," I said
Steve positively beamed his smile at me when he heard me say 'we'.
"I guess we'll have to try keeping them apart as much as possible," he said.
We both grinned when he placed great emphasis on the word 'we'.
"But what about Mike? D'ya think I should tell him?"
"That's up to you. If you're his best friend then no one knows better than you how he'll react," he said. "And as far as you're concerned, as long as Sue doesn't know you're gay she'll probably be really sweet and nice to you. Unless Mike tells her, or she sees you with Dan, how will she know?"
"Mike won't tell, but surely she'll find out eventually?"
"Maybe Mike and Sue will have split up anyway before she finds out," Steve said with a shrug. "Most teenage romances don't last very long."
He sounded weary and a little wistful, and although he less than twelve months older than me, for a brief moment he sounded like an old man. Noticing that the others were getting close and would be joining is in just a couple of minutes, I turned to Steve and spoke with complete sincerity.
"Look, Steve, I'm really glad we had this conversation, and I promise that I won't tell anyone, not even Dan, unless you tell me I can. Dan's really lucky to have you as his best friend and I'd like to be good friends with both of you."
I took a deep breath and rushed on before the others got within earshot. "I hope you trust me enough now to know I'd never deliberately do anything to hurt either Dan or you. And if you trust me at all, please believe me when I say that you and Dan should talk about Sue. I can see things from a different perspective, and I'm sure that you should both share what you know about her."
More by luck than good judgement, our friends joined us just as I finished that last statement, so Steve couldn't question me about what I meant by the words 'both share'. He simply gave me a curious look and nodded, then he leaned over and whisper to me.
"Yes, I trust you, and I'll think about it."
The rest of our group was flushed from their exercise, and from the way they were chatting and teasing one another it was clear that Dan had got on well with both John and Mike. Dan gave Steve and me an anxious look then seemed relieved to see that we were comfortable together. We mounted our bikes and continued our circuit round the hill. The others exchanged comments and friendly banter, but most of the time I rode in silence, lost in my own thoughts.
Just a couple of days earlier, Dan and Steve had been merely my acquaintances, and now I felt they were my close friends. Without giving it any real thought, I'd apparently agreed to share Steve's role as Dan's 'protector', though I was still concerned that such protection might not be good for our relationship. My feelings for Rob and Dan were getting more confused, and because I'd never been in love before, I wondered if I could be sure that I really was in love with Rob. I felt guilty and unfaithful just for having that thought.
Apart from all that, there was still the problem of Sue and Mike. I still felt that I shouldn't tell him about her, but maybe I should re-emphasise to him that I didn't want him to tell anyone about my sexuality, not even Sue. Last, but by no means least, there was still the question of when and how I should come out to my parents.
As we rode home from our trip around Summer Hill, my mind was so preoccupied that I barely noticed when we returned to the outskirts of town and Steve and Dan left our group. Mike, John and myself rode on together, and what little conversation took place was mostly between John and Mike. They didn't make any attempt to keep me out of their conversation, but I wasn't really interested because it seemed to be mostly about girls. At one point I heard John ask Mike something about how he could tell when a girl wanted to be kissed, but I didn't catch the reply.
"Right guys," Mike said when we arrived at his house, "I'm going straight home for a shower. What are you two doing later?"
"Going over for dinner at Rob's place," I replied as we dismounted.
"Nuthin," John said.
"Okay," Mike said to John, "how about I come over after dinner and keep you company until Paul gets home?"
"That's fine," John replied. "I wanted to talk to you some more about stuff anyway."
"Stuff?" I asked in an innocent voice, pretending ignorance.
John quickly detected that I was just trying to tease him because I couldn't suppress my smile.
"Man talk," Mike said with a grin.
"I'm a man, too!" I protested, deliberately rising to the bait.
"Okay, then, let's say it's more like 'girl talk'!" John said, nudging Mike and winking at me.
I realised that John seemed to have become much more interested in the subject of girls since he'd met Marie.
"Shall I tell Marie that you send your love then?" I asked John, trying to wind him up.
"You'd better not!" he threatened. Then with a shy grin he added, "But you can say 'hi' from me."
When I got to Rob's house just after six thirty, Rob looked relieved and happy to see me. He told me we had about an hour before dinner would be ready, and he suggested we work on a study timetable until it was time to eat. He led me along the hallway, past the dining room and stairway on the left and the living room on the right, until we got to the back of the house, which I'd not seen before. The hallway ended at the back door of the house and it was clear that the rear of the house was a new extension, with a kitchen on the left and another door on the right. We greeted his parents, who were both preparing food in the kitchen, and then he showed me through to the other room.
The room opposite the kitchen turned out to be a study-bedroom, with a large double bed, a desk, and a couple of bookshelves. On the desk was a computer, and on the bookshelves were what appeared to be mostly reference and study books. A couple of maths textbooks were open on the bed, and although he didn't actually say so, I presumed this was Rob's bedroom. He invited me to sit at the desk then he pulled up a second chair next to me and gave me a huge grin.
"Thanks for coming over," he said. "I really appreciate it."
"No problem," I responded with a smile. "After all, I'm getting a free dinner!"
"Hope you like spag bol."
"Yeah, I love it," I said.
What I said was true, but I was a little concerned because I usually make a mess whenever I eat spaghetti. I had visions of myself looking ridiculous after dinner with spots of red sauce down my sweater.
"Right," I continued, "shall we get started on this study timetable?"
"Okay, I think I've got everything we need here, including the maths syllabus."
"What about the exam timetable? You need to work in your other subjects as well."
"Ah, right. That's upstairs. I'll just go and get it," he said then left the room.
While he was out I had a closer look around the room and could see that apart from the maths books on the bed, it looked very tidy, and despite the bookcase and computer the room was very Spartan. There were no clothes on the floor, no posters on the wall, no TV, and no music system apart from a small portable radio and CD-player. In fact there was nothing to indicate it was a teenage boy's room, and it looked more like a guest bedroom with a computer and a few books added.
Rob returned and we worked out a study timetable for all of his subjects. He was most worried about maths and chemistry, but I warned him not to neglect his seven other subjects. We decided that I'd spend a couple of hours going through maths past papers with him on Tuesdays and Thursdays up until the start of his exams. I also told him he could contact me anytime if he had any specific difficulties while he was doing his maths and chemistry revision.
By the time we'd made those decisions it was almost time for dinner, so we went to see if his parents wanted any help. I helped them to put the food on the dining table while Rob went to tell Marie that dinner was ready. During the day, whenever I'd thought about this dinner, I had been worried that it might turn into another interrogation session. As it happened, my fears were unfounded and, except for Marie, we all had a pleasantly light conversation.
Marie was very quiet and shy, spending most of her time looking at her plate, but she seemed to show some interest in the conversation whenever John's name was mentioned. However, I'm not sure I would have noticed that if it hadn't been for Rob's comments to John when we were driving into town the previous Saturday. The other thing I noticed was that Rob's mum was very inquisitive about John, about his interests, his studies, and whether he had a girlfriend. I wondered if this was really just her own curiosity or whether she was asking those questions for Marie's benefit.
When dinner ended, I offered to help clear the table, but Rob's parents said I was already doing enough by helping Rob with his studies, so Rob and I got up to go and make a list of the parts of calculus he found most difficult. As I left the dining room, a mischievous little devil entered my thoughts and I turned back toward Marie.
"Oh, I almost forgot," I said. "John told me to make sure I said a special 'hello' to Marie from him."
The effect was better than I expected, or maybe it was worse, depending on the point of view. Anyway, Marie turned bright red, put down the plates she was carrying and fled upstairs. Her mum frowned at me as if I'd made a rude noise, and her dad looked puzzled then smiled slightly. Rob giggled, grabbed my arm and dragged me out into the hallway.
"You are soooo evil!" he whispered before bursting into more giggles.
"Who, moi?" I asked.
I tried feigning total innocence, but his giggles were contagious so I, too, started laughing.
"That wasn't very nice," his mum said, still frowning as she joined us in the hallway.
"I'm sorry, Mrs Streeter," I said, rapidly becoming serious, "but John really did ask me to say 'hi' to Marie for him. And I didn't think it would upset her."
"Oh," she said, clearly wondering if she should believe me. "Then maybe you should go and tell Marie that, because I'm sure she thinks you and Rob were making fun of her."
"Me?" Rob squeaked indignantly. "I never said a thing!"
"No," his mum said to him, "but I bet she thought the same as me, that you'd set this up and told Paul what to say."
"No, honestly Mrs Streeter," I said, "Rob never mentioned anything, and I really was just passing on a message from John. I never expected her to react like that."
"Well in that case," she said, "you really should go up and explain that to her."
"I'd better show you where her room is," Rob said before leading me up the stairs.
I felt a bit like a naughty schoolboy, but it seemed to me that Rob was still very amused by the whole incident, though he was trying to hide it from his mum. At the top of the stairs he pointed out the bathroom and toilet in case I needed to use it later. There were three other doors and Rob pointed out Marie's room. As I tapped lightly on the door, I noticed that one of the other two doors had a big 'Keep Out!' sign.
"Hey, Marie," I said. Then when there was no response, I knocked louder and called a little louder, "Marie?"
"What?" The response was barely audible.
"I'm sorry if you're upset," I said in my best grovelling tone of voice. "I wasn't teasing you or anything. John really did ask me to say 'hello' to you."
I looked at Rob, who had a smirk on his face and was obviously enjoying himself.
"Really?" Her voice was a little stronger now, but she still didn't open the door.
"Yes, really and truly," I replied. Then I thought to myself 'in for a penny in for a pound', and continued, "I think John likes you."
Yes, I know I'd not been authorised to say that, but I was pretty sure it was true, and I wasn't exactly breaching a confidence. After all, who knows how long it would have taken for them talk to one another if I didn't help out? Also, until they actually talked they wouldn't know if there was a chance for them to become friends. Anyway, that was the line of thought I used to justify myself.
"Are you okay now?" I asked when Marie hadn't responded to my revelation.
"Yeah, fine," came the muffled reply.
After a few seconds of waiting in vain for any further communication from Marie, Rob and I started to go back downstairs. As we turned away from her door, I wondered about the door with the 'Keep Out!' sign on it. However, as I felt I'd already been treading on dangerous ground, I decided not to comment on it. .
We returned to Rob's study schedules and started making a list of his problems with calculus. That's when I realised the magnitude of the task ahead, because the list contained a large proportion of the syllabus. While we assigned priorities to various study topics, Rob seemed to get closer and closer to me, and it wasn't long before his leg was pressed against mine. I wasn't sure whether he was doing it deliberately, but I was very aroused, and because I'd not had a chance for a wank that day I was feeling very horny. Eventually, we decided on a timetable and leaned back in our chairs, neither of us feeling like doing any more work that night.
"Why d'ya think your mum was so sure that I was teasing Marie?" I asked. "And why did she think you put me up to it?"
"Er, well actually I've been sort-of teasing her about John ever since Saturday." He looked a little sheepish as he said this, but didn't appear to feel guilty about it.
"Isn't that a bit cruel?" I asked. "I mean, especially as she's so quiet and shy."
"Ha! She's only like that with people she doesn't know. You should see her when there's only family around. And she teases me when she gets the chance."
While we talked, Rob had put his hand on my thigh and started stroking it gently. Not knowing what to do, I initially ignored his actions, but the discomfort of my erection trapped in my jeans soon made that impossible. Fortunately, Rob had closed the door when we'd returned to the room, and when I remembered that, I wondered if he'd planned this all along. For the second time in just a few minutes, it occurred to me that I'd not had chance for a wank earlier in the day.
"Erm, Robbie, d'ya know what you're doing to me?"
"Yeah. Is it bad?"
He was now stroking from my knee to my crotch and my hands were gripping the sides of my chair.
"No. But is it, erm, appropriate?"
"Why shouldn't it be?" Rob countered.
"Well, we're not boyfriends," I replied with a slight hoarseness, feeling flushed and breathless.
"We weren't boyfriends when we slept together either. We're friends and we fancy one another. Can't friends have fun together?"
"And you don't have a boyfriend, do ya?" he persisted.
"No," I said, groaning as he rubbed his hand over the bulge in my jeans.
"So why can't we have a bit of fun?" he whispered in my ear before nibbling on my earlobe.
My mind and my body were being pulled in different directions. I was afraid of the emotional consequences of having 'fun' but my body wanted, needed, and demanded that 'fun'. My body won, but before my mind surrendered totally, there was one last card to play.
"What if someone comes in?" I asked, almost as a whimper.
"They won't. I closed the door so they'd know not to disturb us," he said, then started nuzzling my ear as he squeezed my cock.
My mind gave up its objections and my body's needs took control. I turned my head to look into his gorgeous green-blue eyes and he began to kiss me passionately. After a couple of minutes of that, he stood up, grasped my hand and pulled me to my feet. Then he hugged me and plunged his tongue into my mouth. In a daze I allowed myself to be led to the bed, where Rob pushed me down on my back. When he lay on top of me and began grinding his crotch on mine, my temporary passivity disappeared and I hurriedly began to undress him. Our kisses became so heated and passionate that it seemed we were trying to devour one another.
In what seemed to be no time at all, we were both naked and I was lying on top of him, rubbing our leaking cocks together. When I thought Rob was getting close to orgasm I moved down and plunged my mouth over his cock, so as not to waste his cum. He must have had the same idea because we rapidly got into a sixty-nine position. He came first and I swallowed all he produced, but he hardly paused in his own oral activity, and within a couple of minutes I ejaculated into his mouth. It was one of the most powerful orgasms I'd ever experienced, and as I recovered I moved round and began kissing him, sharing our tastes together.
For several minutes we lay on our sides, chest to chest, hugging one another with his head tucked under my chin. As we cuddled in our post-orgasmic glow, I showered kisses on the top of his head and stroked his back. He kissed and tongued my chest and nipples, occasionally squeezing my buttocks.
Throughout all the preceding frenzied activity we were not silent, and some words were uttered between the moans and groans of pleasure. Though few of the words were particularly meaningful, the words I remembered most were Rob saying 'I need you' and me saying 'I love you'. Those words kept going around and around in my head as we gradually descended from our orgasmic high. I felt sad, and wondered if it was just a post-orgasmic depression or because the words 'I need you' and 'I love you' really gave an accurate view of our relationship.
This 'fun' we'd just had together had strengthened my feelings for Rob, so I thought it might have strengthened his feelings for me as well, but I didn't have the courage to ask. Despite everything my mind told me, my heart hoped that maybe if we continued in a sexual relationship he might even grow to love me. Physically, I felt warm and comfortable in Rob's arms and could easily have drifted off to sleep. Emotionally, however, I felt much less comfortable. I felt that I needed space to think because being with Rob like this made it impossible to think clearly.
"I think I'd better be going," I said, looking at my watch.
"What time is it?" Rob asked, his voice muffled because his face was still pressed onto my chest.
"Almost a quarter to ten."
"You can stay if you want. Don't forget, Mum said you can stay anytime."
"Maybe she only said that because she thought we were boyfriends," I said, sounding as if I was sulking. Perhaps I was indeed sulking, at least a little bit, but my feelings were so confused that even I wasn't sure. I felt Rob's body stiffen slightly, then relax.
"Well, you can stay, anyway," he said.
"I promised I'd be back home tonight," I replied. Then I took a deep breath and continue, "And I'm thinking of coming out to my parents tomorrow, so I want to keep them happy."
"Oh!" he said, and raised his head to look me in the eyes. "Hope it goes well. Will you phone me when you've told them?"
"Sure," I said, then got up from the bed.
Rob also stood up, and we both started putting on our clothes. Then I remembered something he'd said the previous night.
"When you phoned last night, didn't you mention there was something you wanted to talk about?"
"Yeah, but it's getting late," he replied, "so we'd best leave it to another time. How about Thursday after we've made a start on the calculus?"
"Fine by me. What time shall I come over?"
"Afternoon sometime? Then maybe you could stay for dinner again?" he asked hopefully as we finished getting dressed.
"Probably, but I'd better check with my parents. It depends on how the big announcement goes tomorrow."
"I'm sure it'll be okay," Rob said with a concerned smile as he came closer to me and gave me a big hug.
We broke our embrace and Rob led the way out of the room. We found his parents and Marie all watching TV in the living room, so I was able to say 'good-bye' to them en masse. Rob stood in the doorway as I went to unlock my car, and just as I was getting in, he was pushed aside by Marie. She ran up to me and pushed a piece of paper in my hand.
"For John", she muttered, barely audibly. Then she ran back into the house.
A quick glance at the paper revealed a mobile phone number, presumably hers. Rob grinned knowingly and waved at me as I drove away.
[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.]