Brownsville Tales

by Kiwi

Boy Chapter 9

A couple of hours later, Ronnie walked home with his arms full of books and his own key to the library in his pocket. Mrs. Thompson said that he was welcome to borrow any, and as many, books as he liked and for no charge too. She gave him the key so he could come and go as he pleased. All she asked in return was that he leave a record of which books he had and that he'd come and help-out for a couple of hours on Saturday mornings.

He'd love to do that! It would be good practice for when he had his own bookshop too.

A year, then almost two years slipped by. It was decided that the fire must have been caused by an electrical fault. The insurance company paid out and, after the rubble and ashes were cleared away, a 2-car garage, with a side-extension covering the stairwell, was built on the site.

Ronnie was beyond caring, but Reggie tried his best to get their father to have a second storey over the garage with rooms for Ronnie and himself. He got nowhere.

"No, Reggie. Definitely not. The insurance cheque will be barely enough to cover the cost of the garage, we can't afford extra rooms and you boys don't need them anyway. There are plenty of unused rooms downstairs, we don't need any more."

"But, Dad."

"But nothing. The answer is 'no'."

"Gran!"

"No, Reggie."

"Damm. Ronnie, back me up here!"

"You're on our own. The rooms are gone. Accept it and move on."

"Great one to talk you are. When are you going to move on?"

"Mind your own. You've got more than enough of your own business to worry about."

"No worries, Ronnie."

"Yeah, and that's the trouble - you should be worrying."

Their dad and gran both nodded in agreement. Everyone worried about Reggie's business except Reggie. He just shrugged, grinned and drifted along carelessly, which was dumb. Being easy going was all very well, but there was a limit.

Reggie had things that he should've been worrying about, like the fact that he was about to become a father at 15 years old. It seemed that he was not gay after all and, after a few casual relationships, he'd turned his back on all of that. Now he said that that was just kid-stuff and he was past that. He was very happy with his girlfriend, Beth, and they'd be getting married just as soon as they could.

It was just a shame that it was Lisa having the baby and not Beth. Dad and Gran were both freaking out, but he refused to worry. She'll be right, apparently. Ronnie was concerned about them too, but at least it took the attention off of him and his life.

Ronnie did his best to live quietly and mind his own business. He certainly was not going to get a girlfriend! He wasn't getting a boyfriend either, he wasn't interested. Even if he was, there was no-one that he saw who measured up to Boy.

He had his Saturday morning job in the library, which he loved, and was also working in Mr. Parkhouse's shop for a couple of hours each week-day. He got paid for that job, which was good, he could buy more books.

His dad had arranged that one. He said that he was serious about buying the business, Reggie was keen on taking over the family's garage business. Working in the shop meant that Ronnie was learning the trade and would be ready to take over when the time came - in another year or two, after he'd finished his schooling.

Between his jobs and his endless stream of new books to read, Ronnie was busy and he was contented enough with his life. He wasn't looking for any more than what he had. (Odd really, for a boy, but it talkes all sorts).

His 16th birthday came and went, there was no celebration. He didn't want any fuss and if Gran even thought about arranging a party, he'd be out of there and staying out until they'd finished and gone.

A few days after the non-party birthday, he came home from working in the bookshop, cold and wet. It was foul out there, cold driving wind blasting through the town, and it was a real relief to get home and downstairs where it was warm and dry.

He often thought that a disaster, like a tornado or something, could sweep the town away and they wouldn't even know about it until they came up top. There was no weather downstairs, and that was good.

He curled-up on the couch by the fire, with a book of course, and ignored the phone beside him when it rang. It wouldn't be for him, it never was. Gran came over, answered the phone and frowned at him as she spoke to whoever it was. She replaced the handset on the cradle.

"Ronnie, Sweet, there's a parcel been left outside the gargage doors on the front street. Your cousin's doing the delivery run and didn't put it inside out of the weather. It will be my embroidery materials and they'll be ruined if they get wet. Go and get it for me will you, My Lovely Boy?"

"Aww! Gran, I've just got comfortable here."

"It'll only take you a minute. Go on, Lad, your legs are younger than mine."

"You think? Oh, all right then," he grumbled. "Only 'cause it's you, Gran."

He went out, along the corridors, through the fire-door at the bottom of the stairs, and up into the garage. He opened the door onto the street and, whoah! The weather was getting worse out there and that rain was so cold!

So, where was Gran's parcel? It wasn't outside the door. He looked around and, ah yes, there it was. Janie really was a lame-brain. She hadn't put it outside the foot-access door, she left it by the car-door where it'd get run over. Idiot!

With his bare feet picking through the cold puddles, he went over and picked the parcel up. It was heavier than he'd expected. He hurried back inside out of the wind and was about to shut the door when he saw someone standing across the front street, looking at him. Well, probably looking at him, he couldn't see the eyes or face or anything. The figure was all wrapped in a big yellow raincoat with the hood covering its head.

It could've been a boy, it could've been a girl. It could've been an orangutan, there was no way of telling. But, there was something familiar. What? He didn't know.

He shook his head, grimaced at the weather and raised a hand to wave goodbye before he shut the door. The figure's gloved hand came up and waved back and it came across the road towards him. Did he know that walk?

"Hey, Ronnie."

"Hello . . . Boy??! Boy, is that you in there?"

"That's me." He pushed the hood back and pulled the scarf away from his face, showing his trade-mark wide, white smile. "Great to see you."

"Yeah? Good to see you too. What're you doing here, Boy?"

"Just passing through, I think. Ronnie, what happened to the old shop and your reading-room and everything?"

"Gone up in smoke. There was a huge fire a couple of years ago and it all burnt down."

"It did? Oh, Ronnie! Your books?"

"Gone. I lost every single one of them."

"Damm, that must've hurt."

"It did, but I'm over it now. I'll tell you what else hurt too. You left town without saying goodbye and I've never heard from you since - not one word! That hurt. I thought we were mates, shows how much I knew."

"We were mates."

"Yeah? Didn't know you cared."

"I cared. I loved you, Ronnie."

"Loved? Sure you did. Why didn't you say goodbye then?"

"Hey, I was upset too you know. Everyone up and left in a huge hurry and I didn't think that you wanted to talk to me anyway."

"Well I did. I came looking for you but you'd already gone."

"Bugger!"

"Yeah, bugger. What are you doing back here now? Passing through to where?"

"I don't know where, I've got nowhere. I was hoping that you'd give me shelter in the old shop, but," he looked in at the bare and empty garage, concrete floor and unlined walls, "that's not going to happen. Goodbye, Ronnie." He pulled the hood forward again and turned to walk away.

"Hey, wait up!" Ronnie grabbed his arm. "Don't walk away. Please don't go, Boy. Come inside out of this weather."

"Well," he looked around at the sound of a group of noisy motorbikes coming down the street. "Okay. For a minute I will."

He quickly stepped inside, shut the door and leaned back against it. "How've you been, Ronnie?"

"Not bad, how about you Where've you been all of this time?"

"Aussie."

"You're living in Australia?"

"I was. In Brissie - Brisbane, that is. Koru decided that he's not dying after all, he's much too busy for that, so we all went to Australia where it's warmer."

"Anywhere's warmer than out there. Why did you come back?"

"I, umm, I ran away I don't belong there, this is my home. Plus, I wanted to see how you were."

"I'm good now - really good! Can you stay a while?"

"If you want me too, I can. There's nowhere else to go."

"Sure I want you to. Take your wet coat off, hang it there and we'll go downstairs where it's warm and dry."

"Downstairs?" Boy looked down the concrete stairwell, his head came up at the sound of the motorbikes out in the street again. "Yeah, let's go down to your shelter."

"Great!"

He helped him out of his coat and hung it up while Boy removed his scarf and gloves and stepped out of his gumboots, leaving them all on the floor under the coat. Ronnie grinned at his now-revealed friend. He was taller and longer but just as thin as he always was.

"What you grinning at, Honky?"

"At you. You look good. It's so good to see you! Can I have a hug?"

"Only if I can have one too!"

They stood and hugged each other, heads resting on each other's shoulders. It felt so good, even though Boy was a bit smelly, Ronnie didn't care about that.

Boy did care though, because he pulled away suddenly. "Sorry." He gave a wry grin. "I haven't had a shower in ages and I've got no clean clothes to change into."

"No worries! Come down below. You can clean up and you can use any of my clothes, we're still about the same size."

"We are, but I'm much better-looking," Boy grinned.

"Shut up! But, you might be right. Come down and we'll get you sorted. Have you eaten?"

"Not today."

"We can fix that too, or Gran will. She'll fill you up."

"Thanks, Ronnie."

"No worries, My Friend!"

They went down and back into the living-room. Ronnie led the way in, Boy hung back a bit. Gran looked up.

"That took you long enough. Have you got my . . Oh my word! Boy!! Where did you come from?"

"I found him out in the rain," Ronnie answered because it looked like Boy wasn't going to, (he was blushing again). "Can I keep him?"

"If it was up to me, yes you could, but it's not, unfortunately. So nice too see you, Boy. Are your family moving back to town?"

"No, they're not, Mrs. Martin, there's just me. Good to see you too - real good."

"He hasn't eaten, Gran, and he's hungry. What've we got to feed him?"

"I'm sure we'll find something," she replied, rising up from her chair. "Leave my parcel there, Ronnie. You boys sit by the fire and I'll be back soon."

"Don't rush, Gran. He needs to have a shower too, we'll do that while we're waiting."

"Okay, fine. You've got 10 minutes." She headed for her kitchen.

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