Bees, Red Admirals, Ants and Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Quantum Physics

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 7

"What time do you have to be home?"

"No rush. Dad told me that he's going to be working later than normal, and it might not be all a bad move if I got supper on the go about nine o'clock as that's the time he expects to get back."

"So, you've got time to come back to the tree place?"

"Yeah, why not?"

"What did you talk about?"


"Like when I fell asleep this afternoon?"

"Can't remember. I mean we must've said something, right? But I think it was mostly doing the teatime washing up."


Does your old man work late a lot, then?"

"Yeah, he does. Ever since his business partner left."

"Why did he leave?"

"Disappeared. Told dad he'd found a very rare Bugatti some place in the Middle East. Persuaded him to raise a banker's draft for seven hundred and fifty grand, fucked off with it, never to be seen again. Dad's words, not mine."

"Not good."

"No. Dad said he might've understood if it had been a couple of million, so like, how far did he reckon three quarters of one going to take him?"

"Far enough by the sound of it."


You alright?"


"It's only…… I dunno…… you don't sound very happy. Something on your mind?"

"Yeah, there is. I wanna come out, Rhys, only I don't know how."

"Why now? I thought you were going to wait until you were older, like sixteen, yeah?"

"I was. But something happened that changed stuff."

"What was that?"


"Me? What did I do?"

"You made me fall in love with you."

"Yeah, but only after you made me fall in love with you? Hardly my fault?"

"You mean, you feel the same way?"

"Of course, I do! We work! We click! Cute boys all over the place, I mean, like everywhere, who, don't get me wrong, I could easily fancy, but it's nothing compared with the feelings I get being around you? I get butterflies in my tummy just looking at you, butterflies in my tummy when I hear your voice, when you look into my eyes, or hold my hand? I lay awake at night wishing that you were in the same room so we could talk quietly before going to sleep, and if you'd already dropped off, just listening to your breathing would be enough, - all the time knowing that when I woke, the first thing I'd see would be you! And, oh, yeah…… maybe you'd come and help me with my paper round, so I could show you off! So, it'd be like, we're together. He's given himself to me, and I've given myself to him, so keep your grubby mitts of him, or I'll have to char-grill your gonads over an open fire!

So, yeah. You're pretty special really? Like, all things considered, yeah?"

Well, my suit still fits, even if nothing else appears to be in any hurry to.

See…… I've had this growth spurt, yeah? And suits are expensive, right? The, cut it slightly bigger for now, after all, it isn't like he lives and dies in one ever, ha-ha, - worked, because it still looks pretty good! I wanted to go into town to buy a new shirt, but dad told me that the car he wants to look at tonight, and probably buy, might eat into the finances somewhat, and I was to make do with one of my school shirts.

My shoes pinch a bit – not so much in the length, but the width of my feet feel rather snug, but then again, it could be down to the fact that I hardly ever wear them.

So, I've just managed, after fifteen long minutes, to tie my tie, like in in a Windsor Knot, and I'm ready to rock the Church of Saint whoever, and All Saints…… Why don't they just call it The Church of All the Saints, or even, All Saints Church?

It was good. Gabriel was waiting for me as we pulled onto the car park. I didn't much fancy the thought of having to search him out if he was talking to a bunch of strangers. These strangers probably believed in God, and there was this feeling in the pit of my stomach that I would be recognised as an interloper, almost if I had a brand across my forehead saying, Unbeliever, then get set upon by an army of handbag-brandishing old ladies, trying to cast me out.

"Hey, Rhys, thanks for this, right? I mean, I know you'll most likely be bored out of your mind, but I really need some moral support tonight."

"It's fine. I only hope I don't embarrass myself in front of your parents, like I won't know the tunes to the hymns…… stuff like that, so how can I be expected to sing along with them?"

"Don't worry. You'll be sitting with them, and what with the number of times they've been to church in the past six years amounting to never having been to church in the last six years, they've probably forgotten them as well!

"How 'bout you? Nervous?"

"Me? Yeah, a bit. The service? Same old, I suppose, and the blessing's just a laying on of hands, but my first ever communion's going to be tough."

"Why? What's tough about eating a biscuit, and chase it by chugging wine?"

"Not that. No, it's what it's meant to represent that's creepy. See…… they say that is symbolises…… it doesn't bear thinking about…… drinking the blood of Christ and eating his flesh, and I wanna throw-up!"

"Now, wait a minute! You telling me that Catholics still practice cannibalism? No way! Even I know that's against the law!"

"It's symbolism! 'Here's my body which I give unto to you, Et Cetera , and here's my blood which I shed for you, and stuff. They reckon he sacrificed himself in order to save mankind."

"Yeah, well. Even far-fetched as that is, it still doesn't give anyone carte-blanche to dine out on his left-overs, well, does it? It's sick and, and, depraved!"

"Did you ever watch Black Adder on the telly?"

"Of course?"

"Just reminded me of the Baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells, that's all. Lord Black Adder reckoned he ate babies for breakfast."

"Yeah! But that was comedy!"

"So's the Catholic church."

Well, I didn't understand a word. I didn't get to sing the hymns, and I couldn't even follow the service using the prayer book. I managed to stay in the shadows only by watching when Mr and Mrs Woodman, (that's Gabriel's dad and mum, in case you're wondering who I'm going on about), either sat, knelt, or stood, and copy what they did.

It was okay though. I can't say I enjoyed it, but I will say I'm pleased I went.

Gabriel's parents were nice people. Mrs Woodman was lovely, - very outgoing and friendly, but the clincher came after the service when we were sitting in the church grounds, with Gabriel and his mum disappearing into the tent go buy the drinks.

"I'm pleased you were able to make it this evening, Rhys, especially as Gabriel tells us you're not a church-goer?"

"No, I'm not. I don't have a faith even, but that's no excuse for being there for a friend, is it? Not that's the only reason for coming, but he helped me massively with my Haphephobia."

"I've never heard of it before. Can I ask what that is?"

"Haphe, from the Greek word meaning joint, or ligament, or connection. Someone who lives in constant fear of being touched by someone else, or touching someone else, is known as suffering from Haphephobia."

"And you're a sufferer?"

"Yeah, but I'm starting to get there now, thanks to Gabriel."

He asked me all the questions everybody asks, so I told him my story. "…… but Gabriel talked to me. Made me see that, if I really wanted to, I could overcome it."

I told him that I wasn't completely out of the woods, and went on to tell him about the screwed up paper delivery, and he laughed his head off! "So, you're able to shake hands now?"

"If it's, like, a complete stranger, I sort of have to steel myself a bit, - tell myself I can do it and not totally freak-out as a result, but yeah, I can."

"What about holding hands for an extended period of time?"

"That's okay too."

"You hold Gabriel's hand?"

That comment startled me. I looked up at him then concentrated by fixing my attention to a crack in the table-top. "Yeah, sometimes."

"And he doesn't mind?"

"He feels a bit uncomfortable doing it in public."

"But you don't."

"I don't mind. It's like, never having been able to accept any physical contact, like a kid who's never been able to eat sweets. When you find that you can, all you want to do is binge on it, I guess."

"I can understand that, but none-the-less, I'm surprised that Gabriel is less than enthusiastic about it."


"Because these days it would seem that you're the centre of his universe. Rhys this, and Rhys that, yet he's never said anything about helping you with your…… what was it again?"

"Haphephobia. And perhaps he didn't say anything is because he didn't want you to know he was hanging out with a kid who was suffering with a mental disorder."

"Possibly, but I don't think so. You're hardly straight-jacket material, are you?"

"There's something else I should tell you as well. About ten months ago I came out to my dad as being gay. I'd kind of suspected I might be that way for a couple of years, but then one day, things fell into place. Since my brothers got married and left home three years ago, it's been just me and my dad. We have a great relationship, and I didn't want to wreck it by being deceitful, and no matter if slapped me down, I should man-up and tell him how I felt."

"And did he, you know, slap you down?"

"No. He told me that it was okay to be gay, and, if that is what I am then I had no cause to feel ashamed of myself. All I ever want is for you to be happy, he said."

"He's right, too. I think I'd like your dad! Why did you feel you needed to tell me, Rhys?"

"The same reason I told you about my phobia. I've told Gabriel, and if you found out later, you might just think all I wanted to be friends with him for was to seduce him. I've never done anything like that to him. It's just a platonic friendship. I needed you to know that, right?"

"Yes, I can understand that. We've often wondered if Gabriel might be bi, or maybe even gay, and if he is, then we wouldn't give him a hard time over it. No child deliberately wants to set themselves apart from their peers, therefore it's fair to assume that they would prefer to be straight, if only for a quiet life. So, my view is, that if a child comes out to anyone, especially to their parents, then that has to be respected."

Our conversation continued until Gabriel and Mrs Woodman appeared with our drinks, at which point the subject was dropped in favour of less controversial stuff, and when another couple came over to talk to them, we made our excuses so Gabriel could give me a guided tour of the graveyard.

"How did you get on with my father?"

"Oh, yeah, okay. He seemed curious as to how and where we met, so I told him about you helping with my phobia and stuff. I told him about the handshake and how you got me up to fifty seconds, and then I mentioned the hand-holding and how you felt at odds going through town. Okay, so it wasn't the God's honest truth, but I said that I was too busy enjoying sensations I'd never before experienced, so I didn't care if someone saw us."

"And, so what did he say about that?"

"He was rather surprised with you, like being twitchy about being seen doing that in public. We weren't breaking any laws so far as he could tell, so why not do it?"

"I told you he was difficult to read, didn't I?"

"Yeah, you did. But then I really did stir things up. I told him I was gay, not that you were, just me. Just for the sake of clarity, yeah? Be honest. Get it out in the open. That way no-one can say I'm hiding anything.

Gabriel? He was so cool about it! I thought he might throw a loop and suggest to me that I call a cab and get the hell out, but he didn't. He said it was okay to be gay, and what's more, he said he sometimes wondered if you were too, and if you were, he'd still love and support you."

"Oh, shit. This is all happening too fast. I mean, I know I'm going to have to say something eventually, but not on the day of my confirmation, surely?"

"I wasn't suggesting that. Look, I never said one word about you being…… you know? Okay, he didn't ask me like, directly; I don't know how I might've answered something like that, but so far as he's concerned, right now you are his straight son who has a gay mate."

"Yeah? Like, who I hang with like, constantly, and hold his hand in public? He's a lot of things, Rhys, but stupid isn't one of them."

"No. You're right. He's not stupid. Maybe you should wait for him to ask you?"

"No way. It has to come from me."

"Good. Just keep telling yourself, that come the time, he's going to be okay about it, not running around the village demanding your severed head on a silver platter?"

We weren't the first to leave, but neither did we wait around too long once it was obvious that the event was on a wind-down, so we walked back to Gabriel's place in the village because Mr Woodman insisted on running me home instead of getting a taxi, and that's where the car was.

Mrs Woodman was charm itself. "It's been so nice meeting and getting to know you, Rhys. No need to be a stranger now, okay? You're welcome here anytime you like, and perhaps you might even take a break from your paper round one Sunday so you can spend the night rather than cutting your evening together short."

Wow! This is like, serious acceptance!

"Thank you! I mean, yeah, I'd really like that. Never a problem skipping a Sunday round. It's like, bonus day, double-bubble and stuff. The other guys will cover my round, no problem!"

I looked at Gabriel who was trying unsuccessfully to hide a smile.

Mr Woodman picked up his car keys. "Right, son? Let's see your valiant friend safely home, shall we?"

"What? You want me to come?"

"Of course? He's your guest, isn't he?"

Fifteen minutes and we were there. No car on the drive meaning my dad was still out, so finding my key, I went to say my good-byes, but Mr Woodman cut me short.

"Gabriel? I need fuel for the car, so why don't you stay here with Rhys until I get back? It won't take too long, there's a filling station up in the High Street."

"Why did he do that? I know where that filling station is, and it would be an easy diversion to get back home if he took the right turn at the lights?"

"Wanna know what I think? I think he's filling up with fuel for much the same reason as sending you to church on Sunday mornings. Like he's giving us some private time to say good-bye."

"You really think so?"

"Yeah. Like you said. By doing what he's doing means he'll come back here from the other direction, and that means, he'll get snarled up in the on-way system after he's picked you up. Makes more sense for you to be with him, 'cos you're right about turning at the lights."

"Time for a cuddle then?"

"Yeah. And it's getting dark!"

We didn't kiss. We both wanted too, but it would've been our first time, and we both wanted that first time to be special.

The ten minute cuddle was nice though.

Waving them off as they sped down the road later? Not so nice.

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