Where Do I Fit In?

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 12

The days and weeks that followed were much the same as any other but with the added bonus that we were joined by both Paul and Loraine for most of our evening sessions. They would meet us at whichever house we were at and while we jogged to and fro Christchurch, they cycled alongside us.

It was really nice to have the company of friends but both Lucas and I were just a bit worried that they'd find it all a bit boring and lose interest. I suppose the diving routines were interesting enough, yeah we could understand why they might enjoy that but all the gym work? Hardly fascinating stuff but then the one evening while we were waiting together by the side of the pool, circuit training and gymnastics out of the way, Tony came over and made a suggestion.

"I think it's great that you two come along and support Lucas and Andy but don't you find it all a bit tedious?"

Paul shook his head.

"No Tony, we don't but we would both like it if we were involved somehow but given how fit they are, that could never be a possibility."

"I don't know? What if I were to think of a way where you could participate, would you be up for it? I'm not for one moment going to suggest you go trying to do their routines but Peter made a comment which we thought you might like to think about.

You see, we've been trying to think of ways to introduce a bit of fun into these guy's training. Sure they enjoy what they do otherwise they would've given up long ago but that isn't what I mean. A fun activity which also keeps them on their mettle and so Peter thought about you two and how you could be a part of this so what we thought is that if you could bring your PE kit with you, we could sort out like a two-aside volleyball match, netball or handball game and by pairing one of you with Andy, the other with Lucas, that would even up the odds then you could change partners and have another go. What do you reckon?"

Loraine was fairly bouncing around enthusiastically!

"What a great idea! I'm definitely up for it, how about you Paul?"

"As the lady said! Definitely give it a go!"

"Brilliant! Will you be coming tomorrow evening?"

"Try and stop us!"

"Nice attitude Paul!

Now I've seen both of you working out at school so I know neither of you are slouches so I'm pretty confidant you're both fit enough but given you can pair off with Andy and Lucas, you should be pretty evenly matched so if you could remember to bring your kit with you tomorrow, we'll give it a go and of course if you want to go for a swim afterwards then please go ahead but just steer clear of the diving pool for obvious reasons!"

The next evening we met up and made our way to Christchurch and while Lucas and I did our usual warm up routines, Loraine and Paul went their separate ways and got themselves changed

Paul had brought along his school kit while Lor had gone the extra mile and emerged wearing a pair of Lycra or Spandex thigh length sports pants and a sports bra. Poor old Paul! He couldn't take his eyes off her and okay, while neither Lucas nor I were 'interested' as such, there was no getting away from the fact that she was a stunner!

She had been born to a Japanese mother and an English father so her skin was that really light pale sort of mahogany colour, her legs were long and slender and while she didn't have much 'on top', she had an hourglass figure, beautiful black eyes that slanted gracefully upwards above her cheekbones and with her long black hair tied back, she was, without doubt, one of the most beautiful girls I'd ever seen. No wonder Paul was having problems with his 'profile'! Lor noticed and looking down at his tented shorts merely kissed him on the cheek and said "That's a lovely compliment Paul. Thank you!"

By contrast, Paul was just soo apologetic!

"I'm so sorry! I mean I don't want you to think……..think I'm like all the others?"

"I know you're not silly! Don't you get it? I chose to wear this just for you 'cos you're very special!"

Fortunately for Paul, his embarrassment caused his boy tube to deflate just as Tony and Alec walked into the gym.

"All set? Who's pairing off with who?"

I suddenly thought of something.

"Tony? Given that Paul is taller than all of us and Lor is shorter by a head, why don't we do say, ten minutes each way but change partners at half time. That would really even things out as Paul has a height advantage."

"Yes. Good idea."

We played volleyball and after the first ten minutes, Paul and I were ahead by two shots to one then having swapped over, by the end of the second period the score had evened itself out to five all.

Next we played netball and while we all thought Paul's height would again give the advantage to whoever had him on their side, what we hadn't taken into consideration was just how fast and nimble on her feet Lor was. The result, even before we swapped over was a draw.

Tony came over to us as we took a short break.

"I'd like to try something if none of you have any objections. I'd like to see Loraine and Paul versus you lads."

We went at it again but this time the result couldn't have been more different. They completely annihilated us! One sided doesn't come close!

Then we went to basketball but instead of pairing us off like before, Lucas and I played against Loraine and Paul.

Well, I'm not about to tell you what the final score was but although we had the advantage of superior strength and our level of fitness being in a totally different league compared with theirs, we were completely out played and out classed!

Tony blew the whistle indicating it was time to call it a day then came over to talk with us and looking at Paul and Loraine said "Have either of you ever played that before?"

"Not really. Only what we do in school."

"Well had you said you played at club level, it wouldn't have surprised me. You're really rather good, both of you! To totally wipe the floor with two of the finest young athletes I've ever worked with was a sight to behold! You really should give some thought into taking it up properly. There's a club that meets here every Wednesday evening. Just think it over. Anyway if you want to go for a swim then help yourself. Andy and Lucas have diving practice now."

"That was a blast tonight! Shame that we were put on the rack by you guys but Tony's right. You're good!"

We were making our way towards home when Lucas voiced what we all thought. It had been a great evening!

"You know, Tony's right. Maybe you should take it up seriously, would might go from being rather good to very good!"

"Oh please Lucas? We could never be anywhere near as fit as you two?"

"Yeah but don't you see Paul? Despite all our training, you trashed us! I mean, your height! Just how tall are you?"

"Five foot eight. Why?"

"Five eight and still only thirteen? Shi-it man, you're going to be one really tall dude, you really are! And then there's Lor. Scooting around the floor like she was glued to it or something! She completely out paced us and out manoeuvred us. Both of you guys have qualities essential to that sport, remember it's played a lot in the States so I know a little about it."

"Okay so we'll have a chat about it!"

We reached my house and said our good-bye's, Paul giving us both a hug and Lor kissing us on our cheeks before they set off, arms around each other's waists towards their respective homes.

"Nice to see they're so happy don't you think?"

"Yeah. They're one neat couple of guys! You're a good shot and no mistake!"

"Not me! Cupid you idiot!"

"Whatever. But I mean Christ Andy? What that gal wore tonight was almost enough to turn a gay boy straight!"

"Maybe! The best thing was, although she could probably get away wearing anything, sackcloth and ashes even and she'd still turn heads, she wore that especially for Paul and if that isn't sending out signals, I'm fucked if I know what is!"

"Well let's just hope and pray they're sensible or sure as shit, we'll be hearing the pitter-patter of little tiny Radcliffe-Ifield feet!"

Thursday morning and with training and breakfast out of the way, we made our way to school. We met a crowd of our mates in our usual place, an area of partially dismantled wall which we could sit on and await the assembly bell. Lor and Paul were amongst the rabble but whilst they looked really happy, they also looked rather tired.

"We went and had a trial last night, you know? Basketball? Hey we were accepted! They said I was really agile and Paul, being tall and fast gave us a place in the club but oh brother! Did they work us hard! We both ache like crazy!"

"I promise you that if you push yourselves, you'll get through it. We did and after that first session we could hardly walk home but as Alec said, we'd see it as a walk in the park later and you want to know something? He was right! That was like kindergarten compared with what we do now! Why not have a quiet word with Tony, sorry I mean Mr Rogers now, get his opinion, see what he thinks."

"We intend to do just that tonight but there's one other thing.

Look we both think you're fab blokes, true friends so I need, no we both of us feel that we need to tell you something. The other night after we left you, we went back to mine. As per normal, my folks had friends there for a mah-jong contest and after we walked into the lounge, we got dismissed and went to my bedroom. Well……..one thing led to another and………we ended up in bed……..like together and……..we went the distance. It was wonderful! Oh my God, he's so gentle, so considerate but…….."

"No. Please don't say you didn't take any precautions or your parents caught you at it?"

No, no! We did take precautions. My folks are fairly liberal about that sort of thing and they knew it was only a matter of time before……..you know……..Paul and I…….. What I'm trying to say is, they bought condoms and even the morning after pill just in case of accidents so everything's cool but what I was going to say, or rather what we wanted to ask you was, look we wanted you to know what happened. We both love you guys and it seemed right after everything else that's gone down. You were so brave coming out to us, so kind allowing us to come to your training sessions that I didn't want to think that we got it together for some cheap thrill or anything. Up until the other night, I was a virgin. Damn it, I'd almost never even kissed a guy before so it's a really big deal for me, no, both of us and I know Paul won't mind me telling you but it was his first time as well which made it even more special but a girl, unless she's a right slapper, doesn't lose her virginity just for kicks which is why telling our two best friends was important to us but please don't go letting on to anyone else. We don't need it to be open season."

Lucas looked a tad emotional. He wasn't crying or anything but still, he had that look on his face, the same look I'd noticed when he effectively took my virginity in the shower, one of concern as if he'd overstepped the mark or something. He looked at me, willing me to answer.

"First off, I'm, no, we're happy for you, honoured that you thought it right to tell us and no of course we're not going to tell another living soul.

Listen……..when I came out to you, members of our coaching team and my parents, nothing of any real significance had gone on, you know, it was all very innocent. I knew that I wanted……..wanted Lucas, I'm in love with him for Christ's sake but I was frightened of actually doing anything. Do you understand what I'm trying to say? Even now, being labelled as 'gay' carries such a stigma. People get hold of the idea that it's dirty and immoral whereas actually it's beautiful. Lucas took me to places I never realised existed and so we completely understand where you're at with this. Please just be careful? We're too young to be God parents just yet!"

Mood lightened, we made our way to our homeroom and the start of another school day.

That evening at Christchurch we were again joined by Paul and Loraine. Tony and Peter brought all four of us together for a chat.

"Okay then. As I said this afternoon in school, I'm really please you decided to try out for basketball and I'm not a bit surprised that you were both selected but to address your comment about 'but we ached like hell afterward', what we propose is this. If you like, Peter and I will work with Lucas and Andy while Alec can work with you in order that you can build up more strength in your legs and increase your stamina. He can start you off fairly gently with some simple exercises such as running on the spot, skipping, squat jumps and obstacle racing, the idea being to keep you lithe and fast. Toning your upper body isn't as important as getting you to the point where you can easily handle chasing around for an hour, hour and a half on a basketball court without seizing up the following morning! Something else you might like to consider is once you've built up some stamina, why not join Andy and Lucas and jog here rather than cycling? Don't get me wrong, cycling is a great form of exercise, a damn sight better than taking the bus but jogging will help you immensely!"

"That's really good of you but aren't we like muscling in on Andy and Lucas's program?"

"Well yes and no I suppose but there are three of us here to train two so it really isn't an imposition and depending on how you get on, we could maybe look at getting you two on a program of your own but no promises mind but if you show real promise and determination? Well anything's possible."

"We can hardly turn down an offer like that can we Paul?"

"Definitely not! I mean we really enjoyed ourselves last night but it did go to show how much stronger we have to get ourselves so if everybody is happy to help us then yes!"

"Great! Now you go off and find Alec then once he's through with you, we can have another couple of games of something."

Our training followed a similar pattern as normal but Peter sort of mixed and matched the routines in a way that didn't concentrate on just one set of muscles. It was good and he slowly started to work us harder and harder so by the time we headed back home after each session, we knew we'd worked!

Paul and Loraine were also getting into the groove and Alec seemed very pleased with them so it was only about two weeks later that we all met up at Lucas's house and rather than them cycling, they jogged with us.

In between all of this was the barbecue Jo had been organising but as it was on a Saturday and given we were six years younger than her set of friends, we didn't expect to be invited but surprisingly, this wasn't the case.

We were at my house just finishing off some homework when she knocked on our bedroom door.

"If you're decent, can I have a word with you please?"

"Sure. Come on in, the door's not locked."

Jo came in, closed the door behind her and took a seat on our bed.

"I really came to apologise. The barbi on Saturday evening. I completely forgot to invite you. Will you come?"

Lucas looked up from his studying.

"Hey, that's really sweet of you but you don't want us two kids hangin' around?"

"Who says? You don't act like two bloody kids so why not? Both Simon and I want you to come that is, if you've nothing else planned?"

Lucas and I exchanged glances before I answered her. "We'd love to but the thing is on Saturday night's we're at his house and then there's the issue of Paul and Loraine. We couldn't just dump them and say 'good-bye, we're off to a party'? It wouldn't be right Jo."

"Ah c'mon? You would normally be back here Sunday morning after your training so why not just bring it forward? The issue with your friends isn't an issue. They are welcome just so long as they're like you guys? Well? You going to come?"

"We'd love to! Thanks sis! You'll like Paul and Loraine, they're cool and they both know how to behave themselves!"

That Saturday we left Lucas's house shortly after lunch and went directly back to mine. Jo had mentioned something about needing some help to string lights up in the garden so we had volunteered to give her a hand.

There were two other couples there besides Jo and Simon and by the looks of things, most of the work had already been done barring the top end of the garden and this seemed to have stalled progress. The trees were high and as she explained, our ladder was too short to get access.

"But I thought we had an extending ladder as well as the single aluminium one?"

"We did but don't you remember? The last time Dad went to use it, a couple of rungs gave way and so he broke it up and dumped it. You know what he's like? Out of sight, out of mind so he never got around to replacing it."

"What if one of us were to climb the tree?"

"Steve's already tried that. The branches are too flimsy and they couldn't take his weight. Oh well, I guess it's plan 'B' time."

"What's plan 'B' entail?"

"I don't know. I haven't got one!"

Lucas and I looked at each other and nodded our heads.

"Have you got a tape measure Jo?"

"Dad's got one in his toolbox. Why?"

"Just an idea we had. It might not work but it's worth a try."

I fetched the tape measure from the garage and measured Lucas from the ground up with his arms up above his head then he did the same to me but only up to shoulder height. Next we measured from the ground to where Jo had thought about stringing the lights. Lucas did a swift calculation and shrugged his shoulders.

"It's tight but worth a go. Jo, if you want to lay the lights out along the ground like across the garden, we'll try and put them up."

"How do you propose doing that?"

"Simple. I'll stand on Andy's shoulders. I reckon we've a couple of inches to play with so I should be able to reach."

"That's too dangerous!"

"Nah! We've done it plenty of times in the gym so what's the difference?"

"Yes well okay but the grass is a bit slippery."

"Yeah but if Andy wears a pair of soccer boots, the studs will stop him from slipping well enough."

"I'll be led by you Lucas but for God's sake, be careful!"

I fetched my now-redundant football boots, stripped off my sweatshirt so I was naked from the waist up, Lucas took off his shoes and socks. I knelt down on one knee under the first tree and Lucas came up behind me.

"On three Andy."

Again we counted silently then he stepped up onto my shoulders and with his arms out stretched, he asked Jo for the lights which she handed to him.

"On three again."

I stood up, my hands around his ankles, composed myself and waited as Lucas threaded the wires around the branch.

"Okay, ready."

We repeated the process until all the lights had been secured then kneeling back down, Lucas jumped off me.

Steve seemed very impressed.

"Where did you learn that stunt?! That was unbelievable! I wouldn't want to lift you in my arms let alone do that?"

Lucas laughed.

"Well we do train for that kind of shit but yeah, strength, balance, trust in your partner but most importantly, technique. It's a mix of all four to be honest."

"Yes well even so. There must be more to it than that?"

I piped up.

"There is but it has to come naturally. Breathing control, concentration, timing, all sorts of things that we don't even think about in a conscious way. If you think about it, if you were to life a heavy object, you wouldn't do so without taking a lung full of air? Your stomach muscles would have nothing to tense against. We are taught to use our body so as every part of it, every muscle compliments the other so they all work in harmony."

"Well whatever. Good for you."

After evening training the four of us went directly back to my house and the barbi. It was already dark and all the lighting, mainly strings of Christmas lights and a few 240 volt inspection lamps illuminating the barbecue itself had completely transformed the garden into a little wonderland.

We grabbed ourselves a can of coke each and went outside and wandered over to where Simon and Steve were busy cooking off the food.

"It's okay, you haven't missed out on anything! This poxxy barbi took bloody ages to get going so we haven't even served anything yet."

Lucas and I found a bit of dry grass underneath a tree and sat down. Paul and Loraine announced that they were going to take a stroll around the garden and as they walked away, Lucas looked at me and grinned.

"I think they want a bit of alone-time!"

"Can't say I blame them! I don't think they get many opportunities."

A few minutes later, Simon shouted out that the first batch of burgers and chicken drumsticks were ready but then we heard a commotion at the far end of the garden. It was Paul's voice and he sounded angry.

"What the hell are you doing? That's my girlfriend!"

"You mean was you little fart! She's one tasty piece of ass and I'm going to have some of it!"

We leapt to our feet and ran in the direction of the noise and got there just in time to see a pretty sizable guy knock Paul to the ground and grab Loraine by her wrists.

Lucas went crazy.

"What the fuck do you think you're at? Leave her the fuck alone!"

This guy, someone we were later told was some guy call John, well known for having an alcohol problem, rounded on him.

"Oh yeah? And what the fuck are you going to do to make me you little turd?"

"Plenty if you don't back off. I'm sick to death of people like you who think kids are fair game to do with as you choose. I had my belly full of it in the States and I vowed and declared that it would never happen to me again or for that matter, any of my friends so BACK OFF!"

I had never seen Lucas angry before and it frightened me a bit. He was always so placid, gentle and kind but now I'm seeing another side to him.

"Yes 'little boy'. I'm sure you did but if you don't walk away, I'll put you over my knee and make so you can't sit down for a fortnight and then, when I'm finished teaching you a lesson, I'm going to have a lot of fun with this bit of pussy. GOT IT?"

That did it. Lucas snapped and walking up to this John, levelled a powerful punch to his sole plexus.

The look of shear disbelief on John's face was priceless. His eyes crossed and releasing Lor, sank to his knees. Lucas stood his ground as John struggled to get his breath back. Lor ran over to Paul who put a protective arm around her.

Just then, Jo ran up to us, Looked at Lucas, then me, then John who was staggering to his feet.

"That about does it John. I want you off the premises right now and until such time as you get a grip on your drink problem, I don't want to see you near the place again, understand?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm going but not before I teach that little bastard a lesson he'll never forget."

"No John. You don't want to do that. Just go."

"Oh, I don't, don't I? Little fucker caught me with a lucky punch, that's all, so now it's payback time!"

"Trust me, you really don't want to do that."

"Like hell!"

He rounded on Lucas and threw his fist. Lucas neatly sidestepped it and landed a middle-knuckle punch to John's kidneys and just before he fell to the floor for the second time, finished the job with a punch which connected squarely with the bridge of his nose with a sickening 'crunch'.

John didn't know whether to hold his side or his very broken nose. Lucas looked at me so I stepped forward and together we dragged him across the garden, up the driveway and dumped him in the street, the entire episode had only lasted about ten minutes but that was enough to kill the party spirit.

Lucas slumped back against the wall.

"I'm sorry Andy. It's just seeing that asshole, for all the world telling everyone he was going to rape her? Well I had to do something? I know how difficult it is to get over something like that and as no one else was about to step in, it was either you or me and as I understand better than anyone else what could've happened, I just lost it!"

Jo came around the corner.

"I heard that Lucas. I don't know how or why you understand about a sexual assault, none of my business for that matter but you did the right thing and thank you. Come on. The food's going to waste and I think it's time we all had a proper drink."

We rounded up Loraine and Paul and adjourned to the kitchen and a glass of wine each. Lor was still very much in shock, Paul constantly muttering his apologies about how he should have done more to protect her.

"Paul I love you! I don't want to go out with a heavyweight boxer? You did what you could and I'm proud of you. You were hardly evenly matched but Lucas? Well that's a different matter. Thank you Lucas. I want to say more but I can't find the words."

"Don't sweat it Lor. Friends do what they must do."

Just then there was a knock on the front door which Jo went to answer. Believing it to be a neighbour asking what all the noise had been about, we ignored it but when two police officers walked through, we suddenly paid attention.

"Right everyone? I'm Sgt Withers and this is WPC Hammond and we're here to talk to you about an incident that happened here tonight. We were called to Gloucester Royal Infirmary where a John Todd made a formal complaint of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm. He didn't know his assailant's name but……..believed it to be a boy of around twelve or thirteen years of age."

He looked first at me, then Paul then finally Lucas.

"Well? Do we have any takers?"

Lucas stood up.

"It was me officer."

So you, a young boy decked a twenty year-old man?"

"Yeah. Twice actually."

"Twice. Well on that admission alone I'm going to arrest you for further questioning. The rest of you, stay put so we can get names and addresses, then you can do as you please."

Lor pushed he way though the throng of people that had come in from the garden.

"Officer? If that creep pushes charges, I'll make a few complaints of my own. Lucas here came to my defence when this John bloke threatened to rape me. It isn't my word against his, plenty of people witnessed it! Lucas gave him a punch in the gut, hardly ABH but then he made threats against Lucas and then brazenly told all assembled what he'd do with me afterwards. Then and only then did Lucas give him a pasting."

Sgt Withers looked around the room.

"Can anyone corroborate this?"

About a third of the assembled raised their hands.

"Anyone here who saw this disagree?"

No hands. Sgt Withers then picked out one lad.

"Aren't you Superintendent Collingwood's son?"

"Yes I'm Daniel Collingwood."

"And you witnessed all of this? Is that right?"

"Yes Sergeant. I was right behind these two boys. I saw and heard everything and I'll happily sign a statement to that effect."

"Well that puts a different complexion on things so for the time being, I want all your names and addresses, we may well need to speak to you another time and as for you young man?" turning to Lucas, "I'm not going to arrest you. The groundswell of opinion is that you did what you did in order to protect your friend but it was a pretty savage attack and I caution you to mind how you go. I'll seek advice but I may well have to interview you again should he insist on pressing charges."

We all sat around for what little remained of the evening. People disappeared slowly leaving Jo, Simon. Loraine, Paul and us on our own.

We'd done serious damage to father's wine cellar and before everyone left, Jo got them to chip in a tenner so she could replace his stock before he returned the following afternoon.

Jo turned to Lor.

"You could always press charges you know? We'd all of us testify for you?"

"I know, that's what the lady officer told me but……..after the kicking Lucas gave him, maybe that's enough? I don't want him to have a conviction for attempted rape hanging over him for the rest of his life as I know it was only the drink talking."

"But it's always something like that Loraine. Drink, drugs? Sometimes it's better to make an example of someone, you know?"

"I hear you. If only someone could talk to him, get him to go into rehab? Maybe that would make a difference?"

"Oh yeah, it would. He's a nice bloke when he's sober. Honestly, he's not the same person as you saw tonight."

"Well anyway, my mind is made up. Paul and I have had a chance to talk it over and we both agree. We want to move on."

Jo gave Lor a hug then looking at Paul, leaned across and did the same with him then whispering in his ear said "Jesus Christ, does she love you or what!! Take good care of her!"

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