The Ugly Duckling
by N Fourbois
Luke awoke in a cold sweat after a nightmare. With a feeling of relief he looked at his watch. Just gone nine. His whole body was bathed in cold sweat, foul-smelling cold sweat at that, now making him shiver as he sensed the wetness of his bedclothes. Even he found his body odour too much, but for the moment could not make that final leap into the shower as he contemplated the personal horrors in the dream he had just woken from.
Tuesday. He had just one day to while away until that minor surgical operation he had been dreading, but which he had been persuaded would make life a little more comfortable for him.
He finally managed to get out of bed and wander out to the bathroom to relieve the pressure on his bladder. On his way back he drew the curtains six inches and peered out. It was teeming with rain. You wouldn't think it was the summer half term break. No going out anywhere today. His mother and father had left for work, his older brother was away at university and his little sister was spending the week camping in the Lake District on a school trip. He could not even go onto the internet until six that evening, when the zero rate kicked in. Home alone. Like any full-blooded fourteen year old boy who had just woken up, was utterly alone and had nothing better to do, he was dying to jerk off, but Luke couldn't even do that. While he was half-looking out of the windows at the cats and dogs that were raining down onto the street and the roofs of the houses opposite, a myriad of images was going through his mind. He was back at school in the pavilion changing room after games, the first in the shower. He always was, but that was not personal efficiency; that was personal curiosity for one of the few pleasures in his life was, while standing under the central showerhead, watching his classmates come in to have their showers, and he went by the rule 'first in, last out'. That way he could admire their cocks on the way in and their butts on the way out. His classmates though were beginning to rumble him and that was the cause of his nightmare.
As he was standing naked in front of his bedroom window, casting an eye over a sky covered with unbroken grey cloud, he shuddered again and then started to shiver violently. He realised how cold he really was and decided to run a hot bath rather than shower. Home alone, he knew there would be no shortage of hot water and he moved quickly to run the bath.
Sitting in the bath Luke felt the heat of the water infusing into his body and while he could never be completely comfortable before his operation, he was as close to it as possible. His eyes closed and he found himself going through the details of that bad dream which had started his day. As said, his pleasures were few; his schoolwork was one of them which had given him the reputation of being a nerd or swot to be shunned by the masses, unless of course they wanted help with their homework. Then he was welcomed at the end of the telephone or first thing in the morning before assembly. He was not bad at games, but average was not good enough to get him into any school team and so he lost another opportunity to make friends. In fact he was better at individual sports rather than team games, anyway. He could put up an acceptable showing at cross-country, athletics and swimming, but then lost out at the house competitions because the natural jocks from the team games joined in and beat him.
It was back to the school shower room in the dream. Luke was under his usual showerhead admiring the scenery as it passed by him, when without warning his dick let him down by rising to the occasion. The whole class turned on him and calling him names pointed and jeered at him. He could take 'gay' for although it was his darkest secret, he had known for some time that he was. 'Perve' hurt him because he had always tried to behave correctly and despite temptation had never touched or made an improper suggestion to anyone. It was when they called him a nancy boy, fairy and a queen that he flipped because whatever else he was, he was all boy, adored all forms of human masculinity and would not accept that anyone could consider him effeminate. He beat his way through the throng, and the rest of the class grabbing their damp towels started flicking them at him. Luke, filled with fear and tears, made his escape through the door and ran naked across the first team pitch until he reached the edge, a precipice. He continued headlong over into the abyss, screaming as he fell... And it was with another little scream that he came to and remembered he was in the bath. The nightmare had not gone away.
Luke felt the exhaustion taking hold of his body. He also felt the loneliness of being by himself in the house with no one to talk to. He quickly got on with washing his hair, vainly applying conditioner, and soaping up the other parts of his body with the exception of the object of the next day's surgery. He pulled the plug and cleaned the bathtub as he had been trained to do, before drying himself off in a large thick towel. Returning to his room he stalled in front of the full length mirror on the sliding door of his wardrobe and studied himself. He did not like what he saw.
His hair could only be described as mousy in colour and made its own decision as to which direction it would grow in. Normally he kept it cut short, but because of school and, it dawned on him, his feelings of low self-esteem over the the last few weeks he had let it go and apart from washing left it to its own devices. Of course his parents had encouraged him to get it cut, but they had other concerns about Luke and were wise enough not to open up the battle on two fronts. They were prepared to enlist the help of Rupert, their elder son, when he came home from uni. The brothers were very close and Luke would be more likely to take some notice of him.
To say the least, puberty had been very unkind. His voice was taking its time breaking and he could not guarantee the pitch it would speak at. At its best it had that adolescent huskiness, which he liked; at its worst it would come out as a high-pitched squeak which again led to a great all-round piss-take at school and at his expense. Luke lowered his gaze from his hair to his face. Not only did he have what seemed like a permanent foundation of acne, which had incidentally also started to invade his shoulders and chest, but that particular morning there was an incipient large red zit on the fleshy part of his nose, naturally the most painful part, but even his limited experience of zitology told him he would have to suffer it at least until the yellow head appeared. He could not wait to squeeze it and for the pus to shoot out all over the mirror. That was the nearest he got to an orgasm these days. 'Wankspots those bastards at school call them,' he mused. 'If only they knew... there hasn't been much of that. It's not fair. There's half of them tossing themselves off morning, noon and three times at night and not a zit between them.' He squeezed a blackhead out from just above his right nipple. Fortunately he hadn't started growing any body or facial hair yet. 'Imagine shaving the tops off those spots every morning. It would be a blood bath,' he thought. As he had raised his hands, he became conscious of the smell from his armpits. 'For heaven's sake, I've just had a bath and they still stink.' He had trouble with deodorants. He'd tried different ones, but they left him with inflamed skin under his arms. He had to leave off and soap just didn't do the job. 'What did they do before deodorants were invented? I suppose everyone smelt the same.' At least his stomach and abdomen were smooth, but there was no sign of any musculature. 'I must do some exercises. Must ask Mr Wheeler at school,' and he stared at his gangly limbs - great big hands on the stalks he had for arms and huge feet at the end of matchsticks.
Finally his gaze stopped at his groin. Here was nature's final insult. In the showers he admired the other boys with their neat tufts of pubic hair. He on the other hand had a far from neat, oversized bush. 'I must do something about that. It's gross. I'm only fourteen. I don't deserve it.' It too had been the object of verbal abuse from his so-called mates at school. Then he came to the root cause of his immediate problems. He was surprised when puberty set in how quickly his genitals had grown. At first he became aware of it because he could never get them to sit comfortable in his trousers, and because he was always re-arranging them, that too gained the unwanted attention of his mates, but he could consider himself fortunate in one respect for his balls were large and hung low and his cock long and chunky. 'One thing they can't call me is a eunuch,' which they did to one poor late developer in the class. However, nature had, so to say, put a sting in the tail. His foreskin easily reached an inch beyond the glans and had tightened up so that he could no longer pull it back and it hurt if he tried. Of course it generated smegma, became infected and stank as he couldn't wash properly and his continual scratching and re-arranging led to the inevitable doctor's appointment. His foreskin was still red and itched, even after his bath, but tomorrow that would be over. Put all this together and you can see why it had earnt him the nickname Freak.
Luke was completely against circumcision, or had been in principle. There were only three in his games group that were cut, (Yes, he had counted them!) but he didn't like what he saw and would shudder whenever he thought of them. It was self-mutilation, or at least mutilation, akin to body-piercing and tattoos, the thought of all of which made him squirm, and while he would be among the first to agree that his tight, oversized foreskin was hardly beautiful to look at, especially compared with most of his classmates', he was rather attached to it. Finally he noticed his toenails needed cutting. No wonder he was on a downer.
Toenails cut, he got dressed grabbing the first clothes that came to hand, a scruffy off-white tee shirt, Matalan's best, and his pair of cheap supermarket jeans that were cut and sewn so badly that the zip was always visible. Finally he put on his baseball cap, even though he was indoors. After all it did keep his hair under some control and with its huge peak hid his face and therefore his zits were not so visible. Home alone, nothing to do and worse still, nothing to eat after six o'clock. There must be something more to life than this.
* * *
When Luke woke up again, he quickly remembered where he was. The earlier fuzzy feeling in his brain had gone, but the nightmare had re-occurred in a modified form. As he looked around the room he realised that he had been put into a side ward with one other bed, now occupied. His companion was still sleeping and like him he had a cage beneath the bedclothes over the groin area. 'Must have been doing a job lot.' He was not uncomfortable. He put his hand 'down there', but withdrew it quickly when it hit the edge of the cage. He knew he would be attached to a bag to begin with so that he wouldn't have to worry about peeing and after the medicine he had taken before coming into hospital he knew he hadn't to concern himself with any other bodily function for a bit. He was starving. On low in the background was a television set. Countdown with Richard Whiteley's avuncular, or was it inane grin? He quite fancied one of the contestants, obviously a student or a pupil still at school, smartly dressed in a blue shirt with medium length flowing blond locks and a smile, eyes and a voice to die for. "I hope he wins. I can watch him again tomorrow then.' Just as the adverts started, a nurse came in to check on the two occupants. His room-mate was still out cold.
"How are you feeling, Luke?"
"Fine, thanks, Nurse, but I'm starving."
"You can have something to eat when supper comes round later, but in the meantime try and drink as much as possible to stop you getting dehydrated." She produced a selection of soft drinks from his bedside cabinet and put them within reach with a fresh jug of water and a tumbler. "Your mother left these for you. She'll be in with your father later this evening. You'll be pleased to know that everything went well with the operation. You'll soon feel like a new boy." Luke blushed. Had they told her he was gay? Then it clicked about what she meant. Luke looked around for his baseball cap, asked the nurse to pass it to him and firmly planted it on his head. He then took a long drink and promptly dozed off again.
He must have been asleep for an hour or so for when he woke up it was Richard & Judy on the television. He looked across at the other bed. His fellow patient was still asleep and the television was obviously not disturbing him.
"And after the break we'll bring today's question for You say, we pay."
'I can hardly suppress my indifference,' and he poured himself another drink. Eventually the question came up on the screen. "God, these are an insult to your intelligence!" he exclaimed out loud. There was a stirring from the other bed. "Hi! I'm Luke Frampton. How are you?"
"Fine, I think. I was expecting it to hurt. By the way, I'm Tony Swann."
"Hi! I won't shake hands if you don't mind. My right arm's too short." 'Ooh! Bit of an own goal there,' Luke thought, remembering the sight of himself in the mirror. "Sorry, if I woke you. These questions just get to me, they're so stupid." He looked across to see Tony falling back to sleep.
"And here's tonight's question for You say, we pay. Which stand-up comedian plays Frank Butcher in Eastenders? Mike Tyson, Mike Yarwood or Mike Reid?"
"I know this and I don't even watch Eastenders!'
"If you want to take part, call in on 0901 490 4444."
'I've got nothing better to do. I'll give it a go. See whether I can beat the system.'
"Players must be sixteen or over..."
'Oh dear, I hope the voice doesn't let me down.' Luke grabbed his mobile phone from the bedside cabinet and pressed the buttons. Immediately the television jumped channels and finally ended up with a whole lot of static on vision and sound. 'Shit, I've picked up the remote,' he said to himself as he looked at what he had in his hand. He put the TV back on Four, swapped the remote for his mobile and dialled the number. 'I bet this will cost me a fortune. I'll have nothing left on my card.' To his surprise he got through and gave his details, wary in case there was anything about age. That done and over with, he switched the television over to The Weakest Link.
By now he'd forgotten all about Richard & Judy when twenty minutes later his mobile rang.
"Yes," he said after he'd been asked to confirm his name.
"You have been selected to take part in tonight's You say, we pay." He could hardly believe what he'd just heard and quickly zapped over to Channel Four. Tony was still snoozing. "Turn the sound off, otherwise we get feedback. You'll hear the sound over the phone," and he suddenly found himself on air.
"Hello, Luke," he heard Richard say.
"I hear you are in hospital," came in Judy.
'For goodness sake, please don't ask me what I'm in here for,' Luke implored silently.
"We hope you'll recover quickly. You know the rules. Good luck." The first picture came up.
"Female singer on that dating programme..."
"Cilla Black," said Judy.
"Two wheels. You ride it."
"Bike." Richard that time.
"Film actor. Gets drunk all the time. Beats people up."
"Small animal. Digs up lawns and g..."
"Don't know. Pass." Judy looked behind her.
"Of course. Girl singers. Group from Liverpool."
"Purple sprouting broccoli.?"
"No. Pear shaped."
"Lenin." The next picture came up as the seconds ticked to sixty and Luke heard a weedy whistling sound. "Go on, Luke. You can try this one in your own time."
"Flows through London."
"Well done, Luke," said Richard.
"You have won eight thousand pounds," said Judy. "What are you going to do with the money?"
"Go on holiday with my family," was the first thing that entered Luke's head. 'That's what they all say,' he mentally scolded himself.
"Well, congratulations and thank you for taking part in You say, we pay," and the sound and the vision separated. After his details had been checked, he switched his mobile off and quickly pressed the mute button to switch the sound back on, scarcely believing what had happened. He was in another dream. At that moment the nurse came in to check on Tony along with the lady with the meals trolley. Luke remembered how hungry he was. Perhaps life's not so bad after all, he thought.
The nurse woke Tony and sat him up for his meal. When she had gone, the two boys got chatting. Luke was so excited about his television appearance that at first he could talk of nothing else, but at last the two boys got round to talking about their operations.
"Are you in here for the same thing as me?" asked Luke.
"A snip job?"
"So I am."
"I can't wait to see it," said Tony.
"Rather you than me. I still shudder at the thought."
"You'll get used to it. Both my brothers had it done when they were my age. For medical reasons, you understand, not because we're Jewish or anything like that. Must be the way they bred us. Anyway, I'm like them now."
"My brother must have been lucky," said Luke. "He's still uncut." He was warming to Tony. He seemed cheerful in what Luke viewed as adversity. The two boys got on with their meal while they were talking and didn't realise how quickly seven o'clock had come round - visiting hours.
Both sets of parents came in together along with one of Tony's brothers. They had obviously met and introduced themselves outside. After the normal motherly enquiries about how he felt Luke couldn't hold back from telling her and his father about the money he'd won on the Richard & Judy Show.
"Can we go to America on holiday now?" asked Luke.
"Hold on," said his father.
"Let's wait for the money to arrive first, then we'll discuss it." Holidays had never been a great priority in his family and so they did not really have any arrangements for the summer. At least Luke was a very different boy from on the previous day, but his parents didn't know whether that was genuine or just the result of any pills or injections he'd been given. Anyway they jollied him along and told him that the nurse had said that if all goes well it won't belong before he goes home. 'What a way to spend half term,' he thought to himself, but didn't say anything. Eight o'clock soon came around and the nurse came in to say that visiting hours were over. The two sets of parents got up to leave, but not before having a few words with the other patient. While Tony's parents were just wishing Luke a speedy recovery he could not help but notice their elder son slipping Tony a pile of comics and magazines in a Tesco's bag, but he thought no more about it. As Luke's parents were saying goodbye, his father said to Luke with a grin
"Ask if they can surgically remove that baseball cap while you're in here." Hugs and kisses over and the families gone, quiet descended on the ward again and both boys felt some relief. The nurse tidied up their beds and made them comfortable before asking if they needed anything else. They could go to sleep when they wanted to, but she advised an early night as there would have been some shock to the body. She would look in later, but if they couldn't get to sleep they were to call her.
Luke was content to stare at the television. He was scarcely watching it for the visit and the excitement over his winnings had finally exhausted him. Tony on the other hand was engrossed in one of his magazines.
"What have you got there, Tony?" asked Luke when he had finally lost patience with the television.
"Nothing much," he replied evasively.
"It's certainly taking a lot of your attention for nothing much." Tony was looking a bit uncomfortable and wriggling under the protective cage.
"You sound like my mother in nag mode."
"Thanks a bunch."
"Anyway, you wouldn't be interested."
"Try me. It can't be any less interesting than the box."
"Are you sure?"
"Really, really sure?"
"Now you're sounding like the dialogue boxes on my iMac."
"You've got an iMac?" said Tony, pleased to change the subject.
"So have I"
Success. "I've got a computer magazine for Mac users amongst this lot somewhere."
"Tomorrow maybe," said Luke.
"I don't think I could concentrate tonight." It was slowly beginning to get dark outside. The nurse came into lower the blinds and offer her patients a pain killer, if they needed it. Luke noticed how Tony quickly hid his magazine. When she had gone, he said
"Phew, that was close."
"Have you got a porno mag there?"
"What me? No. It's a life-style magazine."
"Come on, give."
"Are you really, really, really sure, Luke?" The conversation had slipped back. "You won't like it."
"I'll take the risk," and Tony passed it across. When Luke saw it, he blushed. It was GY, not a porno mag, but as Tony had said, a life-style magazine, the GY standing for 'gay youth'. "Tony, are you gay?" It was Tony's turn to blush.
"Y-yes," he stammered.
"Don't worry. So am I." There was definite look of relief on Tony's face. "Did your brother really bring you that?"
"Is he gay too?"
"No, but I'm out at home and he's cool with it, the whole family is. So that's why he brought in the mag. Bit of a sick joke really because he knew that if I got a stiffy, it would hurt a bit. And it did."
Luke turned as best he could to look at his new companion. Maybe it was a sign of his recovery, but he'd aroused his interest. He handed the magazine back. They chatted for a bit and found out that they lived quite near to one another, although they attended different schools.
"You'll have to come round and hang out," said Tony.
"Great," Luke replied.
"I haven't got any gay friends. In fact I haven't got any proper friends at all really. The lads at school steer clear unless they want something, like help with homework. They speak, but I couldn't call any of them friends." The two boys exchanged addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, but they were both drained by now and decided they were ready for sleep. They put out the lights over their beds, just leaving the purple night light on. They wanted to clean their teeth, but as they couldn't leave their beds and didn't want to summon the nurse, they decided it wouldn't matter for just one night. Just before dozing off Luke thought of the coincidences that had brought him and Tony together.
* * *
It was a bright sunny summer's day and the nurse came in to tidy their beds.
"The surgeon's on his rounds, boys," she said and made sure everything was just so. Luke twisted round to look at the chart above his bed. 'Surgeon: Mr David C Cutter' 'That's a sick joke to have a name like Cutter after this op.' His mind wandered still further. 'Take the T out and he becomes Cuter. No, not my type. If he's called Dave, he becomes Dave C Cutter. Almost a stroke in cricket.'
"Good morning, Luke. Good morning, Tony How are you both feeling?" Luke was snatched from his musings. They grudgingly assured him 'well under the circumstances'. "Luke, I'll take a look at you first," Mr Cutter said as he studied the notes hanging on the end of his bed. While he was washing his hands the nurse drew the curtains round Luke's bed. By the time he had appeared inside the curtains he had donned some rubber gloves. The nurse drew back the bed covers and removed the cage.
"Have you seen this yet, Luke?" asked Mr Cutter.
"No. As you know I haven't really got the stomach for it."
"You'll have to sooner or later. Mmm, even if I say so myself, I think I've made rather a good job of that. You see, I took on board what you said and so I've trimmed the excess foreskin away rather than all of it and so your glans will still be partially covered. I don't like circumcision either, and I'll only do it out of medical necessity and not for any other reasons. Now, let's see. That's healing well and it's nice and clean. Nurse, I think the catheter can come out." Mr Cutter touched the tip of Luke's penis. He winced. "Does that hurt?"
"Not really. It's sensitive."
"You winced before I touched you, didn't you?" Luke nodded. "Well, if nurse agrees, you can go home with your parents when they come this evening. I suggest you stay in bed without the cage until after lunch. If you're comfortable, you can get up and dress then. Now you've probably never been asked to to this before, but as soon as you feel able, I want you to masturbate just to check that everything is in working order. Make an appointment with you GP if there are any difficulties and I'll check you over in three months." Although it was difficult for him to show appreciation what he had undergone, Luke thanked Mr Cutter for his care. As he was taking off his rubber gloves and washing his hands again before going across to Tony, the nurse told Luke to get up and take a shower, then put some shorts or pyjamas on.
"By the way, Luke, why do you wear that baseball cap all the time?" He lifted up the peak and said
"Look at my face."
"Yes, I noticed that when I was washing you. Unless you're being treated already, and there's nothing on your notes, I suggest you see your doctor about the acne. These days there's no need to suffer from it."
"Can you help me with something else, please, Nurse?"
"I can't use ordinary deodorant as it affects my skin and despite soap and water, even I find the smell too much."
"The smell is an unfortunate side effect of adolescence like the acne. What you need is an alcohol free deodorant which may well be hard to find, but they do exist, often in cream form. I'll write the name of one down for you. It's got aloe vera in it which should soothe the skin and you only need to use it every other day. If that doesn't work, go to the chemist's and ask to talk to the pharmacist."
"Thanks, Nurse. I'll give it a go."
The nurse handed Luke his dressing-gown and a towel before rejoining Mr Cutter who was with Tony. When he got back to his room, it was empty. He had passed Tony on his way to the shower. Alone he sat on his bed and inspected his cock. He gingerly touched it and it twitched and stiffened slightly, but it didn't hurt and with some pride finally, he watched the remains of his foreskin slide back over the glans, but he still didn't feel up to performing his surgeon's ultimate test. He had been given a tube of K-Y gel to make things easier and he applied it with great trepidation. It made him jump at how cold it felt. He also liked he effect of having had his pubic hair shaved off and thought he might keep it like that. He'd see how it went. Yes, Mr Cutter really had done a neat job.
He was still sitting there, nominally drying himself when Tony came back from his shower.
"I'll show you my op, if you'll show me yours," Tony said in a jocular fashion. This was an offer Luke could not refuse and jumped up from the bed letting his towel fall to the floor. He looked at the naked Tony and realised he was everything he wasn't; a body to kill for, clear skin, neat short blond hair. Oddly enough it was the first time they had seen each other face to face for while they were still wired up in bed they had only a limited view of each other. Luke noticed a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach as he took a sharp intake of breath and felt himself hardening up. He was about to pick up his towel when he observed that Tony was as well. This was better than anything he had seen in the showers at school. As they noticed what was happening to them, they burst out laughing and let it happen. After all they were both gay and this was part of it.
Over the remaining part of the morning and the afternoon the two boys got on really well together, chatting, playing games, watching television and sleeping. At seven o'clock they were ready for their parents to whisk them back home. They said their goodbyes to their nurse, then gave each other a farewell hug, taking care not to press the lower part of their bodies together and with the arrangement to ring each other after the weekend. For both it would be back to school on Monday. What a way to spend half term! What was worse for Luke was that he was off-games, so no inspections in the showers for him for a few days.
* * *
Back home Luke had the company of his parents, but still no brother or sister. Over the weekend his mother and father tried to keep him amused and busy as much as possible, but he was at times inevitably left to his own thoughts, and also inevitably they turned inwards on himself. At least he would have a doctor's appointment the following week to see about the acne and he could follow up his suggestion of using his winnings on a family holiday. He'd spoken to his brother on the phone and he was thrilled at the idea.
Monday, end of half term and return to school. Where did that week's holiday go, Luke thought fleetingly, although he was not serious about it for at last he was beginning to appreciate the benefits of his stay in hospital and at least he was feeling more positive about himself than he had a week ago. However, school was just the same. He got stuck into his work because he enjoyed work. As far as his classmates were concerned he was just there, since no homework had been set yet and they didn't have games or PE that day and so his two points of interest as far as they were concerned hadn't arisen yet. In any case he was off-games for a fortnight because of his op, which of course he hadn't told them about anyway; not out of shyness, simply because they weren't particularly interested in him. They hadn't even asked what he'd done over half term. Luke did think that two weeks off-games was a little excessive, if only because of his clandestine interest at the end of each session, but with his emerging reputation 'clandestine' was probably no longer the right word. He wasn't shunned by the others; he was just there as far as they were concerned.
Luke's mother had managed to fill a cancelled appointment with the doctor and she had texted him to say that she was going to leave work early to pick him up from school. In the doctor's waiting room she was wise enough to let Luke go into the surgery on his own in case the doctor wanted to inspect the operation, which he did, confirming that it had been performed in a most skilled manner. Then he fetched his mother so that they could discuss his acne. He was having a bad day with his voice which had helped to keep him quiet at school and it was still changing octave mid-sentence. The doctor wrote a prescription and gave instructions on its application, with the usual invitation to return in two weeks if the acne hadn't improved. Fortunately there was a chemist's opposite the surgery. So while the prescription was being made up he could ask about the deodorant that the nurse had recommended.
Returned home, Luke got on with his homework, then had tea when his father got home. After his homework was finished, he watched a recording of that night's episode of Home and Away. He usually found the story line weak, but he did like to see the bods on the beach, especially the boys from Summer Bay High, and for once the story line grabbed him as one of the hunkier boy pupils was being pursued by a female member of staff and his rebuttal of her advances was turning nasty. In the background he heard the telephone ring. He wasn't that worried. With his sister back from the Lake District there was only a twenty-five per cent chance it was for him. His father came up to his room and said
"Luke, it's a call for you."
"I expect it some no-hoper wants me to do his maths prep for him."
"No. It's Tony you were in hospital with." Luke's face lit up visibly. He stopped the VCR, yelled
"Thanks, Dad," the 'thanks' in treble and the 'Dad' in a husky bass, and ran down stairs.
"Hi, Tony, how are you doing?"
"Good. How about you?"
"I passed the surgeon's test last night with flying colours. How about you?"
"You know! The jerk off test."
"Oh, that one. I haven't dared try it yet. Haven't really been in the mood."
"Anyway, Luke, two things. I wondered if you like to come over to my place on Saturday and hang out. Nothing in particular. We can play computer games or go into town." Luke didn't say anything. He was so flabbergasted he just stood there by the telephone with his mouth open. "Hallo, Luke, are you still there?"
"Yeah," he said in a treble before his voiced dropped to a grating tenor. "Sorry. No one's ever asked me to hang out with them before. I'll have to ask and get back to you. What time?"
"Come round about ten. Gives us chance of a lie-in and you can stop for as long as you like. I've asked my Mum and you can sleep over if you want." Luke was speechless again. Eventually he stuttered out, bass this time,
"Love to, but I'll have to let you know."
"The other thing, Luke. I'm going to send you an e-mail, but make sure you're on your own when you open it."
"You'll see. You did say you've got your own computer, didn't you?" That made Luke even more curious. "I'll send it just before half past eight. My brother's been taking some photos with my digital camera." That really roused Luke's curiosity. "I've got to go now. I'm getting the call-waiting beeps. Don't forget to let me know."
"Take care, Tony, and thanks."
Luke went back up to his room and watched the end of Home and Away. He was going to leave Countdown until later. He went downstairs and joined the rest of the family. It was the first real opportunity he'd had to hear about his sister's week in the Lake District and he'd forgotten to tell her about what he had won on You say, we pay.
At half past eight Luke said
"I'm just going up to do some stuff on the computer."
"Don't forget you've got to start your acne treatment," said his mother.
"No, I won't. I'll be down for that." He went upstairs and booted up his iMac. He was lucky enough to have his own dedicated line so that it didn't interfere with the rest of the family. The rental was a sort of permanent combined birthday and Christmas present. He opened Outlook Express and clicked on 'Send and Receive'. An e-mail started to come though, but the progress submenu showed it was rather large. Finally he could open it. 'Hi Luke! After our stay in hospital, I thought you might like this. As I said, I got my brother Mark to take some digital photos. These are of my operation. Hope you like them. Hugs, Tony' He opened up the attachment to find a series of full colour, well focused pictures of... Tony's circumcision - before and after - and some full frontal nude poses. Luke felt his membrum virile wake and then stiffen. He could not take his eyes of them. Time for the surgeon's test, he thought, but I'll wait till later. He saved the pictures and encrypted them, just in case any nosy member of the family should come across them. He put them in a folder entitled Sliced Meat. He read for half an hour before showering, then going downstairs to start his treatment. Using the new deodorant with aloe vera he found that he could live with his armpits for the first time in ages. Would they be sore in the morning?
* * *
When he got home Tuesday evening, Luke found a letter waiting for him in which there was a cheque for eight thousand pounds. This now meant he had to open a bank account and of course he couldn't do that until Saturday when one of his parents could go with him. Oh dear! He wanted to go to Tony's on Saturday.
"Don't worry, Luke" said his mother. "The bank opens at nine. We'll get you there as soon as possible. Just let Tony know you might be a bit late. You have answered his invitation, haven't you?"
"Not yet. I haven't forgotten. I was going to e-mail him this evening."
"You boys and e-mails. Don't you ever think of talking to people these days?" His mother smiled and pulled the peak of his baseball cap right over his face. "And we'd better have a talk this evening about that holiday you mentioned. You don't have to take us on holiday, you know. It's a lovely thought, but the money's yours to do what you like with, and you'll need it later on if you go to university."
"No, it's all right, Mum. There'll be some left over and I really want us to go on holiday as a family."
"Well, perhaps somewhere nearer home not quite so extravagant."
"Let's discuss it this evening," Luke finished off.
After tea he wrote a quick e-mail to Tony to thank him for the photos and to accept the invitation for Saturday and Sunday, but he might be a bit late on Saturday. 'PS I passed the surgeon's test last night, thanks to your pix!!! More hugs, Luke' He did not have much homework that evening as he had spent the games lesson doing it. He caught up with that day's editions of Countdown and Home and Away, then went downstairs. Mum, Dad and his sister Lisa were in the sitting room watching television. The programme, whatever it was, was just rolling the credits, so Luke thought it might be a good time to discuss what they were going to do in the summer.
"You realise we've left it rather late to book up for this summer, don't you, Luke?" his father asked.
"Mmm, I suppose so, but let's try."
"And you're still set on going to America?"
"Yeah, Disneyland, or is it Disney World? I don't know. One's in Florida, the other's in California."
"Disney World," said Lisa. "You meant the one in Florida, didn't you, Luke?"
"It seems such a long way and so expensive to me," said his mother.
"Well, where do you suggest?"
"If you want to go abroad, I'd say France or Spain or Greece."
"What's there to do when we get there?"
"The sun and the beach," said his father.
"And what else? What's there for kids to do?"
"What do you think, Lisa?" said Luke.
"I think Luke's right. There'll be more for us kids to do. Do you want me to give Rupert a ring and get his opinion?" she answered.
"I think we ought to consult him," said their father and they all gathered round the telephone while he tried to catch him on his mobile. While it was ringing their mother said
"I don't think America will be that expensive after all because the dollar is down while the euro is up."
When Rupert answered they could hear a CD blaring in the background. Father put the phone on speaker.
"Hi, Rupert. I gather you're in the middle of studying." Immediately the music was turned down.
"We're discussing this holiday that Luke wants to take us on," said Mother. "Have you any ideas about where to go, Rupert" There was a pause.
"How about America?" Luke suppressed a grin even thought it was hidden by his baseball cap.
"We could go to Disney World in Florida, I suppose."
"Yeess," hissed Lisa and punched the air. Luke said nothing, but silently congratulated himself on e-mailing his brother on the subject over the last few days.
"It looks like Florida," said Father. The family had a short chat exchanging news and then hung up.
"Right," said Mother "I'll get some brochures together when I'm in town. Who's for a cup of cocoa?"
"Yeeeah," the other three chorused.
"Pleeease," again in unison.
Luke followed his mother out to the kitchen.
"Mum," he said as the milk was heating up. "You know I'm going to Tony's this weekend?"
"Well, it looks as he going to be the only proper friend I'll ever have. If we hit it off together, do you think he could come too?"
"From our point of view, of course. We'd only be too happy for you to bring a friend, but it's not as easy as that." Luke's face dropped. "His parents would have to agree for a start and we'd have to know at the time of booking and you mustn't be disappointed if he's already booked up to go somewhere."
"Oh, I hadn't thought of that," replied Luke.
"Look, just mention it in general terms without any promises. Sound him out. He may not want to go and remember these trips often include an apartment, so the hotel wouldn't cost any more. We'd just have to make sure he had a seat booked on the flight." At that moment the milk came up to the boil. "We liked him and his family when we met them at the hospital. So I think we'd all get along."
Luke's mother poured the hot milk into the mugs Luke had been mixing.
"Tony's like me, Mum. Does that make any difference?"
"What do you mean, like you? He doesn't look like you. Oh, you mean after his operation? Sorry, I didn't see what you were getting at."
"No, Mum, he's gay. Does that make any difference?"
"No, why? Should it?"
"No, of course not. I just thought..." She took her son in a hug.
"Luke, if you really are gay, and you won't know for sure for some years yet, you'll need someone special to make you happy and if that's Tony, we're okay with it."
"Thanks, Mum," and he hugged her tighter.
"Just you two behave yourselves. We don't want one of you coming home pregnant," she added with a twinkle in her eye.
"Mum! ... Anyway, we're not sure the equipment's in full working order yet."
"Fifteen all. Take that tray of drinks in and I'll bring the biscuits and open the doors."
"My, you're so sharp you'll cut yourself one of these days. Please?" and mother and son smiled at each other.
* * *
The week went slowly for Luke, but eventually Friday evening arrived. He wondered why he hadn't been asked to Tony's to sleep over on Friday night, but then remembered that that was a good thing as he had to open that bank account. He couldn't settle to anything and went and asked if he could have a bath. When he had dried himself, he went back to his room and took stock. Hair just as unruly. He hadn't been able to get it cut over half term. He stayed standing in front of the full length mirror. He was pleased to note that even in those few days his acne had improved. No fresh zits, his skin was clearing up nicely and there was no sign of any blackheads. Similarly the skin on his shoulders and chest were clearing. His armpits were as fresh as a summer's morn and he had none of the soreness he'd previously suffered. His limbs were still out of proportion, though. His gaze travelled downwards to his groin. His cock had healed completely and because he could wash it properly it didn't irritate him any more. In fact he had to admit to himself that it did look rather neat, if that was the right word, and compared very well with anything he'd seen in the showers at school. As his thoughts dwelt on it, it began to swell and he went to his bedside table, took the K-Y gel out and carefully applied some; carefully that is so that he wouldn't get too aroused. He wanted to save that for later when he could look at the pictures of Tony on his computer. He then looked at his pubic hair which was starting to sprout again. It had stopped itching at last as the hairs had pierced the skin properly and Luke was certain he preferred the designer stubble to the lush growth he had prior to his operation. 'I'll get a razor when I'm in town tomorrow,' he surmised. All in all Luke was impressed with himself. His self-esteem had moved off the bottom.
He pulled on a pair of shorts and tee shirt, then his dressing gown on top and went downstairs to join the rest of the family. They were sitting out on the patio enjoying the late June sunset.
"Have you packed your things for the weekend yet, Luke?" his mother asked.
"Not yet, Mum."
"You'd better do that before you go to bed. There won't be a lot of time in the morning." The four of them sat and chatted over a glass of home-made lemonade.
"When will Rupert be home?" asked Luke. He was missing his elder brother.
"He's got his first year exams all next week, then it's party time over the weekend and then he'll come home for the summer vac."
"Cool." Luke was very fond of Rupert despite some five years difference in their ages. For Luke his brother made up for the friends he didn't have at school.
After half an hour just as the last light was fading Luke said goodnight and went up to his room. He found everything he needed for an overnight stay set out on his bed along with his sports bag. He just had to pack it. With that done he switched on his computer, decrypted the pictures of Tony and lay on his bed propped up so he could see the screen and, just to make sure, slowly applied Mr Cutter's test once more to check on the complete success of his operation. Then he dozed off. When he woke, the computer had gone into sleep mode. 'Thank goodness no one came in,' he thought, although it was unlikely he would be disturbed once he had said goodnight and his parents had brought up two boys, after all. He brought computer back to life, closed the pictures and encrypted them. After shutting down the computer, he took off his dressing gown and got into bed. Having temporarily satisfied his longing, he soon fell asleep. The were no nightmares that night, just sweet dreams.
* * *
About half past seven Luke's mother put her head round his bedroom door to wake him up. A quick wash, then breakfast and the family were in the car on the way into town. They even had to queue outside the bank for a couple of minutes until it opened. To Luke the process of opening the account seemed unnecessarily complicated. Luckily his parents had thought to bring his passport with them, but of course proof of address was more difficult for a minor who is spared utility bills. However, finally they accepted that it could be a joint account in father and son's name and the cheque was duly paid in.
"Mum, Dad, I've just got to pop in Boots for something."
"You're buying condoms for your sleep-over, aren't you, Luke?" He blushed.
"No, I'm not. Anyway, be quiet, Lisa. What do you know about them?"
"We've just been doing them at school. They're used to protect the outer skin of bananas, or at least they were in our lesson."
"Thank you, children," interrupted mother. "Time and place for everything and this isn't..."
"Shall we wait outside then?" said Lisa, determined to have the last word.
"You can come in and help me choose, if you want," replied Luke. Luke got on really well with his sister, who was only a year younger than he was, but they did tease each other frequently, but God help anyone who tried to come between them, and that included their parents. With the razor selected and purchased along with a can of shaving gel, Mother and Lisa stayed in town to do some shopping, while Father drove Luke home.
"Do you want a lift to Tony's house?"
"No, it's okay, thanks, Dad. I'll cycle round there. It's not far and then we can go for bike rides if we want to."
Luke went up to his bedroom and collected his things, got his cycle out of the garden shed, put his arms through the handles of his sports bag so that it became backpack, planted his baseball cap on his head and left for Tony's.
* * *
When he rang the doorbell, he was welcomed by Tony and and his parents. Tony gave him a hug while he shook hands with Mrs and Mrs Swann. Mrs Swann took his bag and said
"Tony, show Luke where to put his bicycle and then we'll have a cup of tea in the kitchen. You do drink tea, don't you, Luke?" asked Mrs Swann.
"Yes, that will be fine, thank you." After they had stowed Luke's cycle away, they joined the whole family in the kitchen. It was a large and cosy room, akin to a large farmhouse kitchen with a range and a large table in the middle, although the Swanns' house was situated firmly in the town. It had a friendly atmosphere and was obviously the hub of the family.
"Luke, you met my brother Mark at the hospital." They shook hands. "And this is my big brother Jonathan."
"I'm called Jonny, Anthony... and Luke." He gave a warm smile as he shook Luke's hand before taking him in a hug. "Tony's told us all about you." Luke blushed, wondering just what he had told them.
They sat around the kitchen chatting and getting to know one another, drinking tea and eating home-made cake.
"What are you two going to be doing this weekend?" enquired Tony's mother.
"We don't know. We haven't talked about it yet. This is the first time we've actually seen each other since leaving hospital. Can we tell you at lunch? We'll just hang out this morning."
"Well, don't stay indoors all the time. It's a beautiful summer's day and I don't suppose Mr and Mrs Frampton want an obese couch potato for a son." Obese was one pejorative adjective you could not apply to Luke, or the Swann brothers for that matter.
As Luke sat there talking he was amazed how alike the three brothers were. If it weren't for their differing heights they could have been taken for identical triplets. So alike were they that he compared them with those Russian dolls that fitted inside one another. They all had a thatch of blond hair, blue eyes, the same shaped noses and chins and a mesomorph bodybuild. Jonny was sixteen and Mark fifteen to Tony's fourteen, which made Luke's Russian doll image even more apt. As if at a given signal they all put their mugs and plates into the washing-up machine and went about their business.
"Tony, you had better show Luke the accommodation."
The two boys climbed the stairs.
"You don't mind sharing with me, do you, Luke?" Luke's heart skipped a beat. This is what he'd hoped for all along.
"I think I'll cope. After all, we shared a room in hospital," he replied with a wink and a wicked grin.
"It's just that the guest room is a loft conversion and it can get a bit stuffy in summer." As Tony took him into his room, he noticed how large it was. Tony had a three-quarter bed and the spare bed was a sofa conversion job. "You can choose which bed you sleep in..." Luke didn't quite know what to say, but before he said anything Tony went on "...but I'm sleeping in this one." Luke put his bag on the sofa bed. The point of Tony's remark had completely gone over his head.
"Now, what do you want to do?"
"I don't really know," replied Luke.
"I suggest the following. After lunch we'll cycle down to the rec and kick a ball around. Now this evening's a bit complicated. Mum and Dad are going out to friends for dinner. Mark'll be out with his mates which leaves Jonny as the adult in charge. But he's cooking supper for his girlfriend and just wants us to make ourselves scarce because he's feeling lucky. So how about the early pictures, followed by Burger Star, then we'll get back here before it gets dark, but after Jonny's finished in the kitchen. How does that sound?"
"Great to me," replied Luke.
"Any particular film?"
"Have you seen the new James Bond yet, Tony?"
"Not yet. Sounds good."
The rest of the morning just flashed past with Luke and Tony doing what fourteen year old boys do: listening to CDs, playing computer games and generally being idle. At one o'clock they were called down for dinner. All six were in the kitchen, but only Mark, Tony and Luke had proper lunches as the others would have dinner later. Afterwards Luke and Tony changed into shorts, took a rugby ball and a tennis ball with them and cycled off to the recreation ground. They soon found it was too hot to do much, so they sat down on the bank of the stream that ran round the edge, dangling their bare feet in the water, and chatted in that intense way adolescent boys do, oblivious of their surroundings. They talked about their schools, which gave Luke a chance to describe how the others treated him there and how he had discovered he was gay. Tony had friends at school, but when his family had moved house, the boys wanted to stay at the same school. So they have a bit of a journey and none of their schoolfriends live that near them.
"Where are you going for your holidays, Luke?"
"It's not quite settled yet. It's a bit of a late booking, but we're hoping to go to Florida."
"Oh Disney World? I'd love to go there," said Tony. Luke didn't say a word, but made a mental note. It would all depend on how they got on this weekend.
Eventually it was time for them to ride back home. They had a quick shower before walking off towards the town centre. The cinema was air conditioned, so they felt quite comfortable as they sat there in the back row. Since it was a hot summer Saturday afternoon there were not many people there. Eventually, after the ads and the trailers, the film started. Luke found that he could not concentrate on it, particularly after their conversation that afternoon. He looked at Tony and he was the same. Then as they fidgeted it happened. Their hands met, completely by accident, but neither withdrew his and so they sat through the film holding hands, nothing else, although the message Luke was getting from his trousers told him this was the right thing to do. And now they could concentrate more on the film. Just as it reached its climax (the film that is) Tony laid his head on Luke's shoulder and their cheeks met.
At the end of the film Luke held Tony back. A few rows in front he had spotted a couple of pupils from his school and he didn't want them to see him. Pure bad conscience as they were behind them and for all they knew they both might well have been holding hands during the film too, though Luke doubted it. After all, he was the one under suspicion among his classmates, not them.
After Burger Star they made their way slowly homewards. It was still quite light, but as they walked along the empty streets they would hold hands, suddenly pulling apart if anyone came in view. When they arrived home, Tony closed the front door with a bang to let Jonny know they were back. They had a private agreement: the sitting room and Jonny's bedroom were out of bounds that night. As they went into the kitchen, they spotted a tray of snacks that had been left for them and Tony carried it up to his room. They turned the sofa bed back into a sofa and sat there snacking and watching television, now and then feeding each other with snacks and eventually settling back and holding hands again.
"Did you like those pictures of me I sent?"
"I'd love to have some like that of you. You know I think of you when I'm in bed, don't you?"
"What? Just like I've done with you?"
"You don't have to, but will you let me take some of you?"
"I don't mind, but are you sure? I'm nowhere near as good-looking as you are."
"Don't you believe it. Let's get a shower." Tony let Luke shower first, only so that he could come in and join him. They dried each other off and went back to Tony's bedroom. He got his digital camera and started snapping. "I'll put these on the computer and you can tell me which ones you like and I'll put them on a CD for you." Luke put his dressing gown back on and sorted out his zit treatment while Tony was downloading the pictures. When he'd finished and came to view them, Luke could not believe it, finding he looked better than when standing in front of the mirror. 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, you do lie,' he thought to himself. Then the thought struck him. Perhaps the mirror told the truth and the computer was lying... He noticed , but did not react any more than that, that Tony was sitting naked in front of the computer absolutely hard.
"Are you trying to tell me something?" asked Luke.
"I've been trying to tell you something since we were in hospital together, but I've never managed to get the words out. I just find you so hot." Luke was flabbergasted, flattered too, and so overjoyed he automatically hugged him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"Is that a sufficient answer?" asked Luke and they both collapsed, Tony in his chair and Luke on the bed.
After five minutes silence Tony said
"Tell me which ones of these you like." Luke picked out four, hardening up as he saw himself as he'd never seen himself before. "There's one missing," said Tony, got up, picked up his camera and took a picture of Luke with a full erection. He loaded it onto the computer, encrypted it along with the chosen four and burnt them onto a CD. "Don't forget the password, okay? Now we can send encrypted stuff to one another." Luke put the CD into his bag. "Do you feel tired yet?" asked Tony with a twinkle in his eye. Luke yawned.
"Time for bed, I guess," said Luke and went to open up the sofa into a bed failing miserably. "How do you do this?" asked Luke.
"I don't know. Mum always sets it up. Doesn't matter. As I said earlier, you can choose which bed you sleep in and that sofa's not going to be terribly comfortable as he rolled back the duvet on his own bed with an inviting gesture. Naked they climbed in together and immediately went into a hug.
* * *
Whenever one of them woke during the night he found himself in some kind of embrace with the other. They finally woke together at about half past seven with their arms still round each other. Luke kissed Tony gently on the lips.
"Good morning, hot boy," said Tony.
"Do that again." As their lips touched, Tony forced Luke to open his mouth and pushed his tongue in. Luke offered no resistance.
"I suppose this makes us boyfriends," said Tony when they finally came up for air.
"Do you really want to be my boyfriend?" asked Luke in a self-deprecating manner which failed to have any effect on Tony.
"Of course. I wouldn't have let you sleep with me if I didn't. I'm not a slut." Luke was taken aback with the directness of his reply. They sealed their newly formed relationship with a long French kiss. "Come on. We'd better get up. Breakfast is early for a Sunday in this house because we usually go to church. You don't have to go if you don't want to, but I want to show you this really cute choirboy."
"You know that's bribery?"
"He's too young for us, but in four years' time watch this space."
"You've already found out he's gay then?"
"No way. Just wishful thinking. Even if isn't, he's going to be very attractive eye candy. But at the moment he's a treble and strictly out of bounds."
They both turned up for breakfast just after eight. Luke decided he would fit in with the family arrangements, even though he might be doing it for the wrong reasons. When they got to church, Tony whispered in Luke's ear
"I'm not going to tell you which one it is. You can guess and tell me afterwards."
The service passed quite quickly. Not only did Luke have the eye candy to spot, but there was always something in church to attract his lively mind, if only the silly hats or the pi expressions on the faces of certain members of the congregation.
"Second on the left," said Luke as they left church.
"You got it in one." After the family had shaken hands with the vicar, Luke and Tony walked on through the churchyard while Mr and Mrs Swann and Tony's brothers were talking to him. Behind them was a sudden row and they turned to see that the choir had been released from the vestry.
"Hey, Dominic," shouted Tony. One of the choirboys broke away and ran across to where they were standing.
"Hi, Tony, how ya doing, man?" and the two high-fived.
"You got to meet Luke. He staying the weekend with me."
"Hi, Luke," and Dominic made to high-five him as well. Luke was mesmerised by this beauty he had been staring at during the service and who now he had now shed his robes looked no less angelic, but now all boy.
"Hi, Dominic. Tony was telling me about you be..." He felt a a tap on the ankle. "...before we came out of church..." His voice trailed off.
"Nothing nice, I hope. I don't really fit into the choirboy image. It's just that I can sing and I enjoy doing it."
"Tony, Luke, we're off now." It was Mrs Swann.
"See ya around, Dom," said Tony.
"Bye, Dominic," said Luke and he was off to catch up with the rest of the choir. "Did I nearly say something wrong there?" enquired Luke.
"No, it's all right. He knows I'm gay and just plays up to it. I was thinking more of protecting you. He'd have been outrageous if you hadn't been there."
"Thanks for introducing me to your eye candy."
Back at home they just chilled in Tony's room between elevenses and lunch. Tony pulled the sofa bed apart so that it looked as if it had been slept in while Luke lay on the bed leafing through his copy of GY. Then he came across an article How to make love to your partner without hurting him and started reading it. After a bit:
"You didn't tell me where you're going on holiday, Tony."
"We're not in the summer. Dad can't get away from work and so we're going to Tenerife for the autumn half term. Jonny and Mark want to work to get some money together and I might be sent off to Gran and Grandad's for a week or two, but I'm resisting it 'cos it's so boring. They do their best, but you can tell it's a strain, especially if all three of us boys go there."
"I wish I could look like some of those models in here," said Luke.
"You don't need to. You look great as you are."
"Come off it. I look at myself in the mirror every morning and shudder at the sight. Okay, I admit I look better since the op and since I started this treatment for zits, but it's everything else, my body, my clothes, my hair..."
"Now stop, Luke, and listen. First of all I think you're drop dead gorgeous..."
"Shhh! I mean it. But if you're serious, why don't you use some of that money you won for a makeover?"
"Yeah, why not? Right, let's start with what you wear. Where do you buy you clothes?"
"Mum gets them. Matalan, Peacock, Littlewoods, wherever..."
"There's the first thing. Go upmarket. You don't have to buy designer labels, but go to better shops, go on the internet, only you'll need to pay by credit card for that. Have you thought of doing exercises? Get a junior membership at a gym. If you do that, I'll join as well." Tony was opening up a new world for Luke.
"How do you know all this?"
"I've two older brothers and I read GY."
"My brother never needed a makeover."
"And one last thing. Next time you go to the barber's, don't. Go to a hairdresser instead and get your hair styled, dyed or highlighted even. Not bright green like a punk, but whatever you want, black, blond like mine, bleached, whatever. It might cost you a bit more, but it'll be worth it. It'll give you confidence."
"I don't know."
"Think about it. And another thing..."
"What? Another last thing?" Tony was pleased to see the fight back at last.
"No, I've just thought of it. If you're going to America, get your clothes there. You'll get better quality and it will cost you less. What costs you a pound here will cost a dollar there. Trust me."
"I'll have to ask at home, but they did say the money was mine and I haven't spent any yet. In fact the cheque only went in the bank yesterday. I'll see what Mum and Dad say."
"If you want, I'll become your personal fashion guru. It will make my beautiful boyfriend even more beautiful, if that's possible."
"Get away," said Luke and could not resist giving Tony a kiss. What was meant to be a peck went further until they heard Tony's mother call up the stairs
"Time to wash your hands. Lunch in five minutes."
"Okay," Tony shouted back. "Time to rearrange our shorts by the looks of it," he said to Luke and they laughed.
After lunch Luke and Tony cycled off to the open air swimming pool. They found that the water was quite warm, even though June could be a risky month for water temperature. However, they spent rather more time sitting on the benches at the edge of the pool talent spotting. Luke didn't need to be told how better looking Tony was in his Speedos than he was in his baggy Bermuda style shorts bought from the local market place. Luke was beginning to get the idea of what style meant. He just hadn't thought of it before. He hadn't needed to. The Swann family and Luke had tea on the patio and then it was time for him to return home, but not before going up to Tony's room for five minutes to gather his things together, but that five minutes stretched to half an hour as two moonstruck adolescents gazed into each other's eyes, talked about nothing and finally sealed the newly established status of their friendship with a passionate kiss, their arms firmly placed round the other's waist, hands on their butts, pushing themselves into the other as their aroused cocks ground against each other. It only stopped when Luke suddenly came in his shorts. For Tony it was too late. They both quickly changed before going downstairs. Luke gave profuse thanks for his stay to Mrs Swann. There were hugs from all five of the family for Luke and after the final goodbye, Tony accompanied him round to the garage to fetch his bicycle. Luke slipped his arms through the handles of his sportsbag, hauled it onto his back and cycled off with a promise to ring Tony the following evening.
* * *
When Luke arrived home he could not stop talking about his weekend with Tony, how well they got on together, how he felt a happier person when he was around. The family were all in the sitting room watching television, not seriously. It was a documentary about penguins in Antarctica. He just felt that he had to hold back on the things that had happened over the weekend that were really dear to him: his first romantic kiss, becoming boyfriends, sleeping with his first boyfriend, which made the less exciting things sound rather exaggerated. When Lisa had gone upstairs to wash her hair, his father turned the television off and put the wireless on low as background - Classic FM.
"Luke," said his mother, "I don't know what happened to you at Tony's, but you look and sound a different boy somehow."
"What do you mean?"
"You've got a certain liveliness about you we haven't seen for some time."
"There's a sparkle in your eye," added his father.
"And where's your baseball cap?" his mother remarked.
"I don't need it any more," he replied, enigmatically in the absence of any explanation.
"That isn't Tony that's done all this, is it?" Luke's face went red and he knew it.
"I wasn't going to say anything, but you obviously know, we've decided we want to be boyfriends. You don't mind, do you?"
"What do you think?" said his mother. "Firstly, we were your age once; secondly, did we mind when Rupert had his first girlfriend? And thirdly, if having a boyfriend does this to you, keep him for as long as you like."
"I hope you're going to invite him round," said his father "so that we can get to know him properly. Remember, we only really met him while you two were in hospital."
"I suppose Lisa will be the next," sighed his mother.
"I doubt it," said Luke. "She hasn't got a good word to say about boys. She says they're so immature. She says she just tolerates Rupert and me." He knew that to be untrue for she was extremely fond of her big brothers.
"It's okay, Luke," said Father. "Give her a year or so and she'll fall for some spotty 'erbert who can hardly string two words together."
"Ouch. Thanks, Dad."
"Now that's where you've got your self-image wrong. You're articulate compared with most of your age..." he said.
"...and talking of spots," came in Mother "yours have practically disappeared. You've been using that stuff while you were away, haven't you?"
"Yes, Mum. Now you know why I'm not wearing the baseball cap any more." Luke quickly seized on this window of rational explanation for not wearing it.
"I'll go and make some cocoa. It's warm enough still. We'll have it out on the patio."
With cocoa made, the three of them sat on the swinging sun lounger, Luke inbetween his two parents. Lisa was busy drying her hair and drank her cocoa in her room.
"Mum, Dad," said Luke "can I ask you something?"
"Of course you can, son." answered his father.
"I don't know quite how to explain this. You know you said that £8000 was my money and I could use how I wanted to?"
"Yes," they both said in unison, wondering what was to come.
"Well, since my op a lot of things have become clear to me."
"What sort of things?"
"I've realised that, while mentally I'm reasonably all together, physically I'm a bit of a mess." Luke's voice chose that moment to play him up. "The op started to tidy things up, then my zits. Well, now I want what they call a complete makeover, a change of image." His mother cuddled him tighter.
"Go on. Tell us about it," said his father.
"New hairstyle, new clothes."
"Have you anything in mind, Luke?" enquired his mother.
"Not yet, but Tony said you can get better clothes cheaper in America, so I'd probably wait till then."
"Well, unless you're going to do something extreme like punk or skinhead or gothic, I don't see why not," said his father. "What do you think, Mother?"
"You remember Rupert did something like that when he was Luke's age, though he didn't call it a makeover, did he? That's when the girls started flocking round him. It didn't do him any harm."
"All I would say, Luke, is set yourself a budget and stick to it, and going back to you and Tony, invite him here for the weekend and let us get to know him."
After the nervous energy and plain nervousness of bringing up this conversation Luke suddenly felt drained and exhausted.
"Thanks, Mum, thanks, Dad. I'm going to go up to bed now. Early night."
"Have you unpacked your bag yet?"
"Go and do that and bring your dirty washing down and put it in the washing machine," ordered his mother. He gave them both a good night hug and disappeared upstairs.
"This boy of ours is going to be a bit of a challenge," said Father.
"I thought we'd seen it all with Rupert growing up," replied Mother "and they don't tell you how to bring up a gay child in the parenting manuals, either."
"At least he's onside. Let's keep it that way. It could be a lot worse, you know."
As he was emptying his bag, Luke found Tony's CD. He knew he had another reason for an early night.
* * *
Back to school on Monday was an anticlimax for Luke after such an emotionally uplifting weekend, but it had two wonderful effects. He was no longer worried by his classmates' attitude towards him. Always secure in the knowledge that he was well loved by his family he now had the security of recognising he had the love, although so far that word had gone unspoken, of a special friend. one who could not be corrupted by the attitude of his fellows at school. Furthermore any disadvantage he might have felt at being gay was more than compensated for by having this marvellous person called Tony as part of his life and in him he now fully appreciated what he would have missed, had he not been gay. He therefore attended school that day with a spring in his step. No one could get him down or put him down. He had something, or someone, which no one else in the school could share and so the second effect was that with this new attitude Luke was more easily accepted and integrated into the peer group. It was not a gradual process, but happened on that day. It is perhaps an irony that despite the typical adolescent quality of introspection adolescents cannot or do not see these actions and reactions within themselves, and perhaps it is better that they don't for as a species their limited self-confidence would be eroded further. Luke had another week off-games which now didn't concern him in the least, although his recovery was such that he believed it unnecessary. He simply viewed it as an opportunity to revise for the forthcoming end of year examinations.
Back home he was busy doing his homework, mindful that he had a telephone call to make, when he heard in the background a ring at the front door. He ignored it until he heard his mother shouted up the stairs
"Luke, you've got a visitor."
'Whose maths homework have I got to do now?' he cynically thought to himself until from the landing he spotted Tony. He rushed down the stairs two at a time and took the new arrival in a bearhug, then led him into the kitchen where his mother and father were sitting over a cup of tea.
"I've finished my homework," said Tony, "so I thought I'd just cycle round and see what you were up to."
"Cool," said Luke, obviously delighted.
'Why didn't I think of that?' thought Luke.
"We'll give Tony a cup of tea while you finish off your homework, Luke," said his mother. "Have you got much left to do?"
"About five minutes," said Luke. 'He's going to get the third degree,' thought Luke.
The last five minutes of homework annoyingly lasted ten before he could go down and join the other three for a cup of tea.
"Tony's been telling us what a great weekend you had together."
'Don't jump to conclusions, Luke,' Luke said to himself, but his heart was racing faster. After a polite ten minutes or so Luke said "What shall we do then?"
"Don't mind," answered Tony.
"What about going to the park and playing tennis?" Luke wanted to get away from home for an hour or so and knew he would be encouraged to get out into the fresh air. They put Tony's cycle in the back garden, Luke fetched two racquets and string bag of balls from the shed and off they went.
On the way Tony said
"Have you told your mum and dad that we're boyfriends?"
"And are they cool with it?"
"Of course. Why?"
"I just sensed while we talking that I was more than just a mate coming round to hang out."
"Why? What did they say?"
"Nothing in particular. Just my sixth sense."
"Tony, did you tell your parents we're an item?"
"No, of course not." Luke was taken aback after his own candour.
"Why 'of course not'?"
"Because they told me," he said with a grin.
"They said it so was obvious from Sunday morning onwards, just by the way we acted. 'The sparkle in our eyes' they said."
"You don't think they caught us in bed, do you?"
"They didn't say anything, Luke. I don't think so, but they may have guessed something because before you came, I insisted we shared my room instead of putting you in the guest room."
"But I thought that was because..."
"Come on, Luke. Think about it." Luke blushed at being so thick. "Anyway, they couldn't say anything to me without having to say something to Jonny about Sarah, even though they took her home when they got back Saturday night."
"I'd be very surprised if they didn't."
"Anyway, what about us? Are they cool with it?"
"Seem to be. I didn't get any grief and they wanted to know when you would be round again." Luke put his arm round his boyfriend's shoulders in a hug. Meanwhile they'd reached the park.
They played tennis for an hour and any passer-by would have seen nothing but two fourteen year old boys like any other playing tennis. When they got back to Luke's place they had a drink of lemonade and biscuits for a quarter of an hour before Tony had to go home. They put the racquets and balls back in the shed and as it was at the bottom of the garden screened by trees with the window facing away from the house they took the opportunity of giving one another a goodnight kiss. As they pressed their stiffies against each other Tony said
"We must sort these out sometime."
"Oh, not another early night," said Luke in a mock sigh.
"Can you come round to my house tomorrow evening?"
"I expect so, but I'll give you a ring first, one way or the other." At that Tony fetched his bike and cycled off home before it got dark.
* * *
That's how the rest of the week passed. One would go round to the other's house taking advantage of the long evenings and they would go out to play, and that's all they did during that week, although the playing might have been interspersed with those intense discussions which so characterise adolescents. At that stage of their relationship during the week they were straight-acting friends, unintentionally so, but still friends; at the weekends they became lovers although they were nowhere near ready to take the ultimate step in lovemaking. It didn't even enter their heads.
Tony was due to sleep over at Luke's from Friday night till Sunday teatime. As the warm dry weather was continuing, Luke asked his parents if they could set up his two-man tent in the garden. He knew they would have more privacy that way, not that that was a reason he gave to his parents. With air mattresses and sleeping bags they made themselves comfortable. They even discovered the way to zip their two sleeping bags together to make a double. Friday night their union remained restricted to kissing and cuddling, fondling and the simple manual relief of each other's passion. It was with the early sunrise that light woke them at five on Saturday morning and unable to sleep they undertook a more thorough exploration of their bodies. On Saturday Luke's parents went in search of the family holiday and returned for lunch unsuccessful. Luke and Tony on the other hand found everything just too much and rather than just chill out, they crashed out on the bed in Luke's bedroom.
It was early evening when the weekly call home from Rupert came and the elder brother suggested they they might look through the holidays on Teletext on ITV. And that proved the key to success. Not only was it a late package from a reputable firm, but it was at a knock down price. One phone call and it was booked.
Because they were tired from the night before Luke and Tony slept in on Sunday morning only to wake up to the sound of rain pouring down on the tent. Disappointed Luke finally braved leaving the tent only to find brilliant sunshine and the garden sprinkler playing onto the tent flap. As he ran the gauntlet to reach the tap he heard his sister giggling and looked up to see her leaning out of her bedroom window. Luke didn't say anything to her, but just waved. Unfortunately in a moment of annoyance he omitted to use all of the fingers on his hand! He went indoors to dry off and plan murderous revenge before returning to the tent and snuggling down beside Tony to warm himself and to enjoy yet another orgasm each. The rest of the day passed in a comparatively uneventful way with the two boys simply enjoying each other's company.
Monday saw the return to school for both boys. Luke had one week before school exams. He was also back on games. But here was the difference. At the end of the session he made no effort to run into the shower first. He just went in and came out with everybody else. He realised, now that he had his own boyfriend, he had lost interest in any of the others and in any case he'd seen it all before. The rest of the term passed by uneventfully. The remaining games and PE sessions were all swimming and the significance of that for Luke will become clear later in the tale for they only had to get out of the water and run under the pool side shower to rinse off the chlorinated water; and once the schools broke up there were ten days until the flight to Florida and rather a lot to do. However, to return to that Monday there was a temporary setback which is illustrated by the French saying: reculer pour mieux sauter.
In the evening Rupert was due back from university for the summer vac. He arrived just after six at the local station and his father and brother went to pick him up. Luke had missed his elder brother and gave him a huge hug as soon as he spotted him on the platform.
"My, you've grown, Luke, and I've only been away for ten weeks." In the car they talked about Rupert's term, his summer job working as a relief postman and of course the family trip to Florida. Luke was so excited at having his brother home that he failed to notice a little discomfort in his body language. Once home Luke helped Rupert take his things upstairs and when they were alone in his room he filled him in on what had happened while he'd been away, particularly his op and his new boyfriend, before going off to do some revision for the fast approaching exams.
When Lisa arrived home from her ballet class and had greeted her newly arrived brother, the family sat down to tea exchanging the latest gossip and news. Luke suddenly remembered he was supposed to ring Tony before going round to his house. That done he climbed onto his bike and cycled off to the Swanns' house. Lisa went up to her room to catch up on homework which left Rupert and his parents round the table.
"When do you start work?" his mother asked him.
"Tomorrow at six o'clock."
"In the morning?"
"In the morning," he confirmed.
"Look," he said. "I'm in a bit of a difficulty. I rang up this morning to check details and asked if I could have leave to go on holiday. The bottom line was they said no with no room for negotiation. If I wanted the job, I had to work through, especially as they far more applications from students than they needed. It's these wretched student loans. Nearly every student has to find a job. Also, it might affect my application for Christmas. So you see, if I come to Florida, I lose my job with little prospect of getting anything else at so late a date."
"You know Luke will be disappointed, don't you?"
"Do I? He's hardly talked about anything else when he's phoned me. I felt a bit awkward in the car when he was talking about it. You said it's all booked now, didn't you?"
"Well, yes," said his father.
"So it's going to cost him some money?"
"Don't worry about that for the moment. We'll work something out there. It's just Luke."
"He'll be so disappointed. He's been so looking forward to having the whole family together again," said Mother. "He's been through a rough patch and he's just coming out of it. I'm afraid it might set him back."
"Rupert, we're going to have to tell him, and we'd better get it over this evening if we can, but I've got an idea which might just save the situation. Leave it with me, son," and at that his father went off onto his den to make a telephone call. As Rupert walked past the open door, all he heard was "...but don't say anything to him yet until we've had a chance to talk to him..."
When Luke got home about nine, baseball cap free, he was still on top of the world.
"Hi, Luke," said his father. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah, great," he replied.
"We've got to have a chat about the holiday."
"If you go and call Rupert, I'll make some drinks and we'll sit out in the garden," said his mother. Luke suddenly didn't feel good. Intuition told him something was up. He felt even worse when he saw the look on Rupert's face. They went out into the garden and sat round the picnic table.
"Where's Lisa?" asked Luke.
"She's got this mudpack thing on her face," said their mother.
"Something's up, isn't it?" said Luke.
"Well, it's just..." started his father.
"It's all right, Dad," said Rupert. "I'll explain. After all it's my fault really. Luke, you know how much I wanted to come to Florida with you." Luke nodded. "Well, the Post Office won't give me any leave and you know how much I need this job. They'll sack me if I go and if I don't earn any money the whole family suffers. I'm sorry, Luke..." Luke looked crestfallen, not far from tears, but he was made of sterner stuff. He hugged Rupert and genuinely felt more sorry for him than for himself.
"It's just that I thought it would be marvellous for us all to be together as family, like we used to be." He had always held it in how much he missed his big brother. He didn't even discuss it with Lisa.
"It's not all bad news, bro. Is it, Dad?" said Rupert.
"No, not at all. While you were out, Luke, I telephoned Mr and Mrs Swann and told them that because of the circumstances we had a spare place and if they were in favour and Tony wanted to, he could come with us." Luke's face brightened considerably. His mother continued.
"They were in favour and between the time you left them and arrived home, they talked to Tony and he said straightaway he'd love to come." Luke hugged his brother even tighter, said how sorry he was he wouldn't be there, but how glad he was Tony could. The situation was defused and the family got on with their drinks. Mrs Frampton let it out casually, although she knew this was not going to be a big deal with Luke, that the Swanns were going to pay all Tony's expenses. Just then Lisa turned up.
* * *
School broke up for both boys on the same day. With ten days to go until their flight they seemed inseparable even, quite often, at nights, for the sleepover had become far less formal as Luke became accepted into the Swann family and Tony part of the Frampton family. The only demand on them was that each family was kept informed because of minor details such as meals and personal safety. A spare bed was made up in each of their rooms and, apparently, no questions asked about who slept where, both families counting their blessings that their sons while going through this 'difficult' age were content, happy even, and furthermore generally co-operative.
Saturday morning Tony and Luke went into town. This was day one of the makeover. They cycled in from Luke's house and locked up their bikes in the High Street.
"Now what are we actually doing today?" enquired Luke.
"Fixing up your hair styling and getting some clothes to tide us over until we get to America."
"What do you think to this idea?" said Luke. "What we buy for ourselves today, we get the same, sort of corporate identity?" Tony thought for a few moments.
"I like that providing we don't do it all the time and only do it with clothes we both like."
"What do I need to start off with?"
"I'd say trainers, jogpants, polo shirt, shorts and Speedos. That'll do for today." They spent the next hour touring the sports shops before even attempting to buy anything. They settled on a pair of silver grey jogpants with a narrow red stripe down the outside of the legs by Le Coq Sportif and a white polo shirt which they bought as a matching pair. As they tried them on in changing room, Tony said
"You know, Luke, those boxer shorts don't do you justice, especially with your dick and your balls hanging out of the leg. It defeats the object." After they had paid for their new purchases, they crossed the road and went into one of the more upmarket department stores which was having twenty per cent off promotion.
"I want you to look at these, Luke," and Tony showed him the range of underwear. It was beyond his comprehension, but now Tony had finally made him fashion conscious he became interested. "Look at these," and Tony showed him a pair of briefs in soft cotton, but with a horizontal fly. "Try those. Trust me." Luke picked up a white and a black pair of Hom HO1s and before they made their way to the till Tony said "I dare you to get a thong." Luke looked at them and as he did he felt his cock stiffen in his jeans, he found them so sexy. He suddenly got Tony's point about his boxers. After browsing he picked up a box from the Sloggi rack. They passed a display of swimwear and immediately Luke's eyes settled on a pair of Speedos with a golden yellow front and back panel and mid-blue side panels.
"I love those, Tony. What do you think?"
"They're you, and come to think of it they're me as well," he replied as they searched through the rail and picked out two the same colour and the same size. They went to cash desk and handed their purchases to the assistant who added it up the cost and took the twenty per cent off, when Tony suddenly produced his mother's loyalty card and promptly got another ten per cent taken off. Tony handed over the cash for both of them. It was time to get a Pepsi at Burger Star.
As they were sitting there they took stock of what they'd done and what they needed to do. Shorts, trainers and hairdresser's. Luke looked up and saw someone he knew from school. His heart started to race, as if he was about to be outed at school. They waved to each other, but he didn't come across. They went into another sports store where they found a dark blue pair of shorts they both liked, cargo style, but not too long or baggy in the leg and Tony showed him the finer points of the cut which made them quality garment as opposed to those in some other stores. They each bought a pair and Luke realised he only had about five pounds left and had run out of his daily limit on his bank card.
Off to the hairdresser's. On Tony's advice Luke still hadn't had that haircut scheduled for half term. He hated long hair, but tolerated it since Tony had explained that if he was going to have it styled, the hairdresser needed some hair to start with and he could always end up with short hair. They made their way along the High Street to a shop called 'Curl Up and Dye' unisex salon. As they went in, Tony said
"Let me do the talking. Me and my brothers come here, so they know me."
"Oh hallo, Master Tony," came the shrill voice from the reception desk when one of the staff spotted them. Luke tried not to giggle at the high camp tone.
"Oh hallo, Jules. Let me introduce my friend Luke."
"And hallo to you too, Master Luke," said Jules. This could have been Kenneth Williams from the Carry On films, Luke thought, but kept the remark to himself.
"He'd like a new hairstyle," Tony carried on unabashed.
"Very wise. Very wise, young sir."
"What could you recommend?"
"Well, let me show you some of our models," at which Jules produced an album of photographs.
"Can we sit down and look, then we'll come back to you?" and Jules showed them to some seats in the waiting area.
Between them they narrowed it down to two that they both liked and they carried the album back to Jules. "Both very tasteful, Master Luke, but this one won't suit your hair type. We couldn't guarantee the result."
"The trouble with my hair is it won't lie flat," said Luke.
"No worries. No worries. That's why I wouldn't let you have that one, but the other one is you. Now what about an appointment? I can fit you in on Tuesday with me at ten. Would that suit?" Luke was obviously amused by the attention he was receiving. He nodded. "So that's settled. Tuesday at ten. I shall be here and waiting."
"Goodbye, Jules," said Luke with a smile.
"I'll catch you up, Luke," said Tony. "I just want to make an appointment for myself." Luke took the hint and wandered back into the High Street. The day was beginning to warm up.
"Jules, could you do me at the same time, please? Nothing special. Just a wash and a cut."
"I can do you while Master Luke is under the dryer."
"Now I want this to be rather special for him. If there are any extras, put them on my bill. Luke's a good friend..."
"My, Master Tony, we are growing up quick. It seems only five minutes ago I was giving you and your brothers your first blow dry."
"...and he's just coming out of a rough time," Tony managed to continue. "So the special treatment, okay? And the tip goes on my bill." Tony said goodbye and caught Luke up outside, told him the cost and they went off with their purchases to cycle back to Luke's house, leaving the trainers for another day.
* * *
Luke's parents were on holiday from Monday onwards and so they could make all the preparations for going away. They invited Tony's parents over for dinner on Tuesday evening to make the final arrangements and just for general chat about their sons. The spin-off of taking Tony was that the Framptons now had transport provided to and from the airport.
Tuesday was Luke's big day that week. Tony turned up at his house at about half past nine and they cycled into town for their hair appointment. It was with some trepidation that Luke entered the salon. It was not like any other establishment he had been in for a haircut.
"Just one warning," Tony whispered into his ear. "Keep you elbows well tucked in when you're sitting in the chair."
"Tell you later. You'll see." The receptionist summoned Jules who flamboyantly welcomed his new client. They checked over the final details against the photo of the chosen style, with Tony superintending, and Luke was led to a chair in front of a basin, but strangely with no mirror on the wall. The chair was reversed as he was made to lean back over the sink and Jules set to work with bottles and potions and washings and intermittent hot towels and a constant stream of chatter to keep his client's mind occupied. The only let up was while his hair was drying and he was supplied with a cup of tea. During that time Tony received Jules' attentions, but not in such detail. Although he could not see his hair, he felt how manageable it had become and how the comb glided smoothly through it. Finally he was permitted to rise from the chair and was taken to a corner of the salon where mirrors were fixed to the wall at right angles which, as students of physics will realise, had a wondrous effect. Luke could see himself as others see him without the reversed image. He was dumbfounded. He could not have imagined it would look so wonderful. Basically his hair had been dyed black and cut so that it was full-bodied on top, but with sharply razored edges off the collar and ears, which he liked anyway. His hair had been made to curl slightly and into the black, golden blond highlights had been added. Tony was delighted at the effect which brought out the blueness of his eyes, especially when he thought back to the mousy-haired scruff he had for some reason fallen in love with in hospital. He hugged his boyfriend and in a whisper straight into his ear so that no one else could hear he breathed
"Luke, I love you." Luke could hardly believe what he had just heard and, both because of where they were and because what he had just heard was so mind-blasting, he was incapable of reply. A second later while still stunned by one thought he had the clarity of mind to realise why he had unconsciously chosen that particular style for it was so similar to the hairstyle of one of his favourite characters in Home and Away.
Jules had not finished with him yet, There was still a snip here and a clipping there, a bit of teasing (of the hair this time, not the client) and the instructions on how to maintain the style and how it would need minor adjustments in the salon in the coming couple of months before it would either need discarding or renewing and he was given a neat little packet of grooming materials in a pale pink paper carrier bag.
"Give me the money and I'll settle the bill for both of us," said Tony. Luke was still in strict 'do as you're told' mode inside the salon and he sat in the reception area while Tony did the biz.
"Jules, you have excelled yourself. I'm proud of Master Luke."
"Thank you, Master Tony." He lowered his voice. "I knew it would be a challenge, but that's what makes hairdressing so exciting, especially when it comes off. If you've got any more to introduce, just let me know."
"Not at the moment. I've only got one boyfr..." "Oooh, Master Tony!" The 'Oooh' echoed round the salon. Some people looked, others tried to pretend they hadn't heard it. "You have let the cat out of the bag now." Then in a whispered tone "I hope you have a wonderful holiday together and that you'll both be very happy." Then in his normal flamboyant manner "Goodbye, Master Tony, goodbye, Master Luke." "Goodbye, Jules," they replied and left the salon.
As they were walking off to the leisure centre to pick up a leaflet about fitness classes, determined to continue the good work on the makeover when they returned from America, Tony asked
"Did you keep your elbows well tucked in?"
"Most of the time. I forgot just once."
"And what happened?"
"I felt Jules rub his crotch against them as he moved round, and he was half hard!" They took their time cycling home and when they walked into the Frampton house the family was visibly taken aback.
"Where's Luke?" was his father's first question, but his mother's look of surprise rapidly turned to one of pride as she realised how good-looking her son was. Even Lisa gave it her seal of approval, even if she did greet him with the remark "Hi, Noah!" Luke blushed. He'd been rumbled.
After a snack lunch the boys cycled off to Tony's house. He wanted some pictures of the new hair while it was still in pristine condition. In any case they would be back at the Framptons' later when the two families had their dinner date.
* * *
Saturday, the day of the flight, came round quickly. Despite the crowd on the second weekend of the school holidays they were checked in quickly and efficiently. The only snag was that Luke looked nothing like his passport photograph, but who does? They might have greater difficulty with the security on landing. They settled into their seats for the long haul to Miami, their starting point. After three nights they would be taken from Miami by coach to Orlando and Disney World for four nights, then over to the Gulf for a seaside holiday at Emerald Bay and finally by air back to England with a transfer at Atlanta.
Luke and Tony settled themselves into a set of two seats, while Mother, Father and Lisa had a bank of three and Lisa could look out of the window. The take-off went smoothly and then they were into the first meal after which the novelty of the flight and the interest in the in-flight movies were beginning to wane, but Luke and Tony were as bright as ever. They glanced around. Luke's mother and father were asleep and Lisa was off somewhere, so he took his opportunity. He put up the armrest between him and Tony, they pushed their seats back and snuggled up to one another. Looking around and summoning up all his courage Luke said in a half whisper
"Tony, when we get to America and get settled in, I want you to make love to me, properly, all the way," and kissed him on the cheek. Tony whispered back to him
"And I want you to make love to me. I want to feel you inside me," and kissed him back. Luke told Tony to put his table top down and he did likewise. Looking around again to make sure no one was watching, he took Tony's hand and placed it in his lap just where he was beginning to get hard. Then the aeroplane hit some turbulence.
* * *
Luke and Tony in the company of the family spent a very happy and enjoyable fortnight in Florida, which is not going to be dealt with in detail, but just with a mention of the relevant parts. Naturally Disney World at Orlando was the highlight for them all, although in their private moments together Luke and Tony might have had a different opinion.
At Miami airport they discovered that they were members of a small group under the protection of a guide and the driver of their luxury coach who would remain with them until their departure. They were whisked to a hotel in downtown Miami and shown to their rooms. To the boys' delight they were billeted in their own room a few doors down the corridor from their parents' suite which also had room for Lisa. As they opened the door, the cool effect of the air-conditioning hit them and as they walked in they were amazed to see the room dominated by a huge double bed. The whole family was feeling the fatigues of travelling and the extended day, and the next day, Sunday, 'Free in Miami', was designed as an opportunity to get over the effects of jet lag. Luke still needed to buy some clothes. The disadvantage was that he needed his father or mother with him so that they could be paid for by credit card. Tony made sure he bought the right things, starting with tee shirts and shorts for the heat, but also real American Levi 501s, one pair for himself and one as a present for his brother Rupert.
The first night Luke and Tony slept through out of sheer exhaustion. They did still feel one step away from reality the next day, but as they started to eat according to American time, their biological clocks made a quick adjustment. However, jet lag made a perfect excuse for an early night. At nine o'clock, after a group hug, and Tony was in no way excluded - for all intents and purposes he was family - the boys made their way to their room, locked the door, showered and after extensive probing and experimental foreplay finally fulfilled the promises made on the flight and gave themselves fully to each other.
At the end of a fortnight a very relaxed, contented and suntanned family prepared to board the shuttle aircraft that was to take them to Atlanta for the main stage of their journey home. The boys' only regret was the sharp contrast between the suntan on their bodies and the white outline of their Speedos as they stood together in the shower or snuggled up to one another in bed.
The return flight was uneventful. The Swanns were at the airport to pick them up and deposit them safely back at home on what turned out to be a Sunday. A couple of days to acclimatise after the return jet lag and life went on. For a couple of nights Luke and Tony slept in their own homes which to them simply reinforced how much they needed each other's company and how much they missed the love and sex life that had built up between them over the previous two weeks.
Tuesday morning Luke climbed out of bed towards nine and stretching inspected himself in the full length mirror on his wardrobe door.
"Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?" he recited out loud in a sing-song voice and the answer came from within his own head. 'T-O-N-Y S-W-A-N-N — Tony Swann!' "Yeah! I'll drink to that," he said again out loud. He took stock of himself. The hairstyle had held and he still thought it suited him. It wasn't even beginning to grow out yet. His skin was clear and there was a sparkle in his eye. He lifted his arms and smelt his armpits. 'Mmm, bearable. I can live with them. The bikini line's starting to fade and it's only two days. Must give the pubes another trim, though. I know. I'll shave them into a heart shape. Just need a treasure trail, then I will look like Noah! Trouble is, you can't fake them and there's no sign of any body hair yet. I'm not sure I want any, either. Still, Dad's got none, and Rupert's smooth skinned. I'm in with a chance. So I'm a twink.' He laughed at the idea. 'And tomorrow we start at the gym in the leisure centre. Mmm, yeah! Not bad, not bad at all. Luke, you're a very lucky boy. Lucky Luke, that's a comic character, isn't it, a cowboy?' and he put on his dressing gown and disappeared into the bathroom.
He met Tony as he was riding towards his place. Tony of course was riding over to Luke's. Fortunately they'd used the same route. They carried on cycling into town, chained their bikes together to a set of bars and went into the leisure centre to register their membership and find out the best times to go. They were not due to meet their personal trainer until the next day, so they popped into the cafeteria as part of the battle against dehydration on a hot August day. During the conversation Tony slipped in the question
"What are you going to wear tomorrow, Luke?"
"I hadn't really thought about it. My school PE shorts and tee shirt, I guess." Tony grinned.
"This is your fashion guru speaking. That was the pre-makeover Luke. You can't do that. You'll completely destroy your new image."
"Oh." Luke looked devastated and didn't know what to say and Tony reached out his hand across the table and took hold of Luke's in an encouraging way.
"What's the pocket money situation like?"
"Not too bad. I didn't spend as much in Florida as I thought."
"Well, I've still got some birthday present money left over. How about we do a little shopping this afternoon, especially while the sales are still on?"
"Okay. Let's go window-shopping this morning, then come back this afternoon, all right?" They finished their drinks and made their way back to the High Street, looking in the sports shops and the better multiples.
"What do we need?" asked Luke.
"We're okay for trainers, but we'll need at least two of everything else, if we're going to work out properly - one in the gym and one in the wash. So that's socks, shorts, top and sweater. We've already got a set of bottoms. And mustn't forget jockstraps. We'll need the support when we're doing weights and we can wear proper short shorts then. Those baggy ones that go down to your knees or below might be fashionable, but they're far from cool. They look a mess and loose clothing's really for fat people."
"Can we buy the same things again?" asked Luke.
"We're a team and I love the corporate identity thing we've got going."
"Sure, no worries." Luke's conversion of Tony to Home and Away was showing through. "I'll tell you what, Luke. You choose one set and I'll choose the other." With that they started their tour of the various shops.
After lunch they returned, armed with the necessary cash and acted on the morning's decisions. Luke selected a white set of kit, while Tony went for navy blue, one tanktop each and one singlet. When they had made all of their purchases, they went back to their bicycles and pedalled straight back to Tony's house.
"You know what I feel like doing now, Luke?"
"Yes, but then you always do."
"I don't mean sex, this time, although it might come to that. I think we need a session with our new kit and the digital camera." When they got home they found the house empty. They went up to Tony's room and tried out various garments and various poses, taking turns to snap the other. They were so occupied that they didn't hear the steps on the stairs and it was too late when there was a knock on the door and in walked Mark without waiting for an answer.
"Hi, guys. Whoops, sorry. Wow, you look great, you two." Meanwhile there were three very red faces.
"That's all right, Mark," said Tony without a great deal of conviction in his voice, "but another ten minutes and it might not have been. Know what I mean?"
"Gee, sorry. Still not quite used to you two guys getting together yet. Hey, what if I take some pictures of both of you together?" There were no secrets between Mark and Tony, especially as they were almost clones, and Luke readily agreed. "How about doing it in the garden?" said Mark. "The neighbours are at work and no one can look in anyway. Bring all you kit, and your tracksuits just in case we are disturbed." The other two boys did as they were told and once in the garden Mark arranged the background. Without having to worry about the flash, it didn't matter how many pictures he took and towards the end he didn't have to persuade them at all to pose in just their jockstraps and they were so excited by then that there was no hesitation when Luke suggested some naked shots including an embrace and a kiss.
The clock indoors struck four.
"Hey, you guys," said Mark. "I've got to get going. I said I'd be round at Jessica's house by four. Catch you later." Luke and Tony slipped on their tracksuit bottoms, put the garden furniture back to where it belonged, picked up their kit and went back up to Tony's bedroom.
"I'll soon load these pictures onto the computer," said Tony.
"I've got a better idea," said Luke and pulled his boyfriend onto the bed.
"Hey, mind my cam... mmm..." Luke gently took it out of Tony's hand, put it safely on the bedside table and continued the interrupted kiss. They knew they would be safe until at least five.
* * *
The next day Luke and Tony went to meet their personal trainer at the leisure centre. (He was also everybody else's personal trainer, but it sounded good.) They ran over with him what they hoped to achieve, were given an introduction to the machines and a work plan. The idea was that they would come down to the gym every day Monday to Friday at nine, complete their session and finish off with twenty lengths in the swimming pool, until the new term started. He explained how to spot for one another and the safety regulations, in fact how one became the supervisor of the other. On Saturday and Sunday they were to relax completely from the weekday régime, but could swim and do other forms of exercise.
They took their first session that day and couldn't complete some of the exercises, but were told to do as much as they could each day and build up. At the end of it they were well and truly knackered and chilled out in the gardens in front of the municipal hall before cycling back to Luke's place. They snacked for lunch, took the airbeds out of the garden shed and decided to do something about the bikini line in their suntan. They immediately crashed out and were only woken when Rupert, coming home off his shift at the Post Office, decided to squirt them with the garden hose.
As the days went on the exercises became easier until suddenly it was the day before term began. In the morning after their last session in the gym both boys walked along the High Street to keep appointments at Curl Up and Dye. They were greeted by Jules's customary vivacity and after some banter and some work emerged much as they had done six weeks earlier. They cycled towards their houses, said goodbye where their routes split, resolving to meet in order to start their term time routine, including the gym, on Saturdays and Sundays, as each had family business that afternoon. For Luke that meant going into town with his mother for his new school uniform, the only difference being this time he chose his shirts and his trousers and with his eye trained by Tony he searched out the best cuts, and they were not all that more expensive either. He just knew what to look for.
That evening Luke gave Tony a quick call to wish him a happy term and to say he was thinking of him, then he joined the family in the living-room.
"You know, Luke, I think you've grown over the holidays."
"Do you think so, Mum?" he said in a controlled dark brown voice.
"We'll measure you in a minute and see."
"I must admit, I'm looking forward to going back to school, and I don't think I have said that for some years. I feel I've learnt a lot this summer, not school things, but about growing up and life."
"I know I'm your Mum and if I say this it doesn't count, but you've grown into quite a handsome young man, just like your father when I first knew him." Lisa sitting in the corner giggled, Rupert in one of the armchairs snorted, Father buried himself with a rustle deeper in his newspaper.
After being measured Luke discovered that he was indeed two inches taller. After cocoa and biscuits Rupert went up to bed muttering something about having to start work at six, Lisa went to wash her hair and Luke decided he wanted an early night too, but that had more to do with looking at his 'holiday snaps' on the computer.
His alarm rang at seven. Luke got out of bed, unconsciously scratching his balls, and stood in front of the full length mirror taking stock. 'Hair fantastic, face not a zit or a blackhead in sight, armpits roses of attar, even after a night's sleep and now the body. Definitely some expansion of the abs and I do believe there's the makings of a sixpack. Lower stomach smooth, no sign of treasure trail there. Pubes nicely trimmed and still in a heart shape. Tony was impressed with that, and my arms and legs are at last no longer making me look like something out of a Lowry painting.' He stared absent-mindedly at himself until the snooze call on his alarm beeped again. He turned his alarm clock off properly, grabbed his dressing gown and went off to shower. On his return he towelled himself off thoroughly, went through the hair care routine, then before dressing smeared a little K-Y gel over his glans. Then in front of the mirror again he pulled himself up to his full height and said in something just above a whisper, reminiscent of Winston in Orwell's 1984 "I love my cock."
After breakfast Luke walked off to school with a new self-confidence. When he arrived, he was treated with the same indifference from his classmates that he had grown used to, but it wasn't the same indifference for once they had gathered in their new tutor room he realised that they hadn't recognised him, so complete had been his makeover, and when they did, after the furore had died down, they treated him civilly, or as civilly as any fourth formers ever did, anyway as one of their own.
After registration they were making their way to assembly when his peace of mind was suddenly shattered by a piercing scream of "Luke Frampton". He looked up. It was Mrs Sutton, one of the viragos among the female staff. In front of everyone else she continued
"Luke Frampton, what do you think that is?" pointing at his hair.
"Uh... uh..." was all he was allowed to say before she said
"You will go and see your head of year!" and stately as a steamroller she stormed off. Last year he would have worried all day about the prospect of seeing his head of year, but now his confidence was such that he could consider the evil sufficient until the day thereof and he wandered off towards the assembly hall.
"Congratulations, Luke," said Peter Knight. "Not bad getting busted within a quarter of an hour of the new term." He had never enjoyed such attention from his form mates before in his life.
After school assembly were year-group meetings. At the end of that he went up to Mr Evans, his head of year, and said
"Sir, Mrs Sutton sent me to see you."
"Luke, I think you'd better see me after lunch. I might know what it's about by then." After lunch were games. There always were for Year 10 (There now, I've said it and it didn't hurt. Well, not much.) on that afternoon since time immemorial, so Luke had a light lunch and made his way of to Mr Evans' office. Fortunately they knew one another well, for not only had he been taught by Mr Evans, but the heads of year usually took their year up through the school to the GCSE year.
"Sit down, Luke. Mrs Sutton has spoken to me and set me quite a problem, two in fact. I expect you realise that it is about your hair, don't you?"
"I guessed as much by the way she was pointing, although she didn't actually say the word."
"Well, this is my problem. We have rules in this school about hair being too long - it must be off the collar. These days that doesn't seem to cause much trouble. We have rules about short hair. No shaved heads, minimum number two cut, but, and I suppose this is because it hasn't come up before, we have no rules about dyed or styled hair. If you had dyed it bright green or day-glo red we could deal with that under bringing the school into disrepute, but I can't find that you have done anything to contravene the school rules. Personally I find it a great improvement over your appearance last term. My second problem is that I am supposed to support my colleagues and in this case I find that rather difficult, but don't worry. That remains my problem and I'll try and make peace on your behalf with Mrs Sutton. I'll just ask you not to exploit the situation in any way. She's not teaching you this year, is she?"
"Have a good term and when I'm less busy tell me how you got on in America."
"Thank you, sir," and Luke left Mr Evans' office nonplussed at what all the fuss was about.
The soccer lesson went as soccer lessons do but with one difference. Luke found he was passed the ball a lot more than usual. Since it was a hot September day, as expected. the lads were keen to get into the shower afterwards. It was a Pavlovian reaction rather than anything else which made Luke get into the shower first and stand under his accustomed central showerhead. At first he was just thinking of Tony and how his first day might have gone when he changed his mind afraid that the inevitable might happen and he would get some grief from the others. It usually did when he thought of Tony. He was brought back to reality by a shout of
"Hey, lads. Look at Freak." from Mike Hunt, who wasn't in any of his other classes. His mind jarred on hearing the name 'Freak', but before he could protest Hunt went on. "He's not a freak any more. Smart job, Luke." Luke didn't mind being looked at in the shower. After all, he'd done it enough times himself to others. He just posed and absorbed the interest and praise for his new body.
"How did you get on with Mrs Sutton, Luke?"
"All settled. No case to answer."
Luke was on a high as he walked home from school after the first day. He would ring Tony later and tell him all about it. The nights had drawn in and his parents were not too keen on the idea of his cycling after dark, so their meetings would be limited Monday to Thursday unless they had anything special on. Still after six o'clock phone calls cost nothing for under an hour, so there was no restriction on his calling if no one else needed the phone. After a cup of tea with Rupert and Lisa he was about to go up to change and get on with his homework when Lisa said
"Listen to this." She had her ghetto-blaster there and she switched it on. It was Danny Kaye singing a song from the film Hans Christian Anderson. Luke had seen it on the television. She sang along with it.
"There once was an ugly duckling / with feathers all stubby and brown / And the other birds said in so many words 'Quack, get out of town. Quack, quack quack, quack, get out of town. (...) All through the wintertime he hid himself away / Ashamed to show his face, afraid of what others might say (...) Till a flock of swans spied him there and very soon agreed / You're a very fine swan indeed! / A swan? Me a swan? Ah, go on! (...) Take a look at yourself in the lake and you'll see / And he looked, and he saw, and he said / I am a swan! Wheeeeeeee! (...) For in fact these birds in so many words said / Mmm, the best in town (...) And a head so noble and high / Say who's an ugly duckling? / Not I!"
"Luke," Lisa said, not able to judge his reaction. "You know that's you, don't you?" There were tears welling up in his eyes. He still didn't know whether she had done it to tease him or to compliment him. It could have been a disaster, had she not gone upto him, taken him in a hug and said "I love you, Luke." The tears came in floods as he realised what she was trying to say, a release of so many years' pent up emotions, washing away the few remaining bad feelings he had about himself. They were happy tears.
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