Picking up the Pieces

by Ivor Slipper

If I was a real wimp, or the fairy they often call me, I'd be crying my eyes out after what the four of them had just done. Instead I'm sitting here on the edge of the road with a smile on my face and the pieces of my broken skateboard scattered round me. I'd like to get up and try and punch one of them, especially Justin Brooks who's their leader, but I know I'd never get near him. His two chief henchmen, Carl Sinclair and Rory Todd would see to that. Not so sure what the fourth one, Brian Beck would do. He's always with them, making up their little gang of four that terrorise the weaker and loner kids, both at our school and in the neighbourhood. Somehow though he doesn't seem to get the same pleasure from it they do – there's almost a reluctance at times and the others sometimes have to egg him on.

I know they'd like to see me crying. They've achieved that on more than one occasion in the past, but it ain't gonna happen today. And if I'm not going to sit and cry they really would like me to get up and charge at them, fists swinging. Then, as happened a couple of weeks ago, Carl and Rory would grab me and hold my arms so Justin could land come punches where they'd hurt, but the bruises wouldn't be visible until I was undressed. That was one of those times Brian didn't seem to have his heart in it and he actually called on Justin to stop. Mind you, there was someone coming down the lane when he said that, so he could as easily have been looking after their skins as mine.

I really, really ought to be crying about them smashing my skateboard. Why they chose to do it today though is a puzzle as they've seen me out and about on it many times. It might possibly be because I called them 'wankers' after they'd tripped me up in the corridor at school today. There were too many other kids as well as a couple of teachers around though for them to do anything immediately afterwards, but I know they heard. I probably should have called them 'fuckers' since based on the bragging they do at school they've had virtually every girl over the age of fourteen. But they're almost certainly wankers too as, let's face it, every teenage kid is one of those – even me. Or perhaps that should be especially me. No girls are going to look at loser me and to be honest, I don't really want any to. I don't look at girls, but I do look at boys – very carefully and making sure none of them see me looking. They may have their suspicions that I'm a fairy, or a poofter as the four of them sometimes call me, but they haven't got any proof.

So there I was boarding down the road when I see Carl and Rory in front of me, having appeared out of a side road. I stop and decide to turn round and beat a hasty retreat, but on doing so I see Justin and Brian appear from the side road I'd just passed. As I was trapped I decided to wait and see what they were going to do today. I expected a few punches, maybe a Chinese burn or two. At least it was too public here for them to do what they did to me in the park a couple of months ago. Then they'd dragged me into the bushes and stripped me down to my underpants before walking off taking my clothes with them. Those they dumped in a pile a couple of hundred yards away so several people saw me as I walked across the grass to reach them. It was so humiliating, people, including kids, seeing me in just my boxers. Today though Justin picked up my board, walked with it to the kerb, laid it down, wheels upwards, part on the kerb and part in the road, before proceeding to jump on it until it split into pieces. Then the others tossed the pieces towards where I was standing. I didn't try to stop them – there was no point, one against four.

It wasn't much of a board. None of your high quality, high tech stuff. Indeed it wasn't even new when I got it about three years ago. I suspect my mum got it from a charity shop, but that didn't bother me. I'd been saying for months that I wanted one, but I knew we didn't have much money since dad died, so I was both surprised and happy when she gave it to me at Christmas.

Dad had died when I was nine. He was in the Army and was blown up by a landmine while on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. I can remember clear as day the morning he left our house for the last time. He hugged me, kissed me, told me to be good, look after mum and that he'd be back soon. Then he saluted me and I saluted him in return, same as we'd done for previous deployments. This one was different though as he didn't come back. Well, some of him did, supposedly, in a wooden box. But from what I've read recently, I now wonder how much of him was there. I also remember equally well the day a car drew up outside the house we lived in and two officers got out, donned their caps and walked toward our front door. Mum knew as soon as she saw them get out of the car. She hugged me as we'd been sitting together on the settee watching TV before we heard the car draw up. Then she started to cry a little and told me I had to be brave, before she went and opened the front door. That was when my life changed. Of course I also remember his funeral, buried with full military honours they called it, but I try not to think of that too often.

I didn't know too much of what was happening after that, or why. Mum told me some things then and some others later. I'm sure she was trying to spare me the details and keep my life normal, but despite her efforts it was never going to be the same as it had been. I found out later that Dad had taken out a life insurance policy, but it wasn't for a large sum. Thus, when we had to move out of the house where we were living, because it belonged to the army, mum couldn't afford to buy another. We didn't have any close relatives with whom we could live because both my parents, like me, were single children. Consequently she had to rent and we moved into a small two bedroom flat in a different town. Mum told me later that she needed to make a clean break as there were too many reminders had we stayed. I wasn't happy about it as it meant I lost all my friends and had to start in a new school where I knew nobody. The other big change was that mum had to get a full time job, whereas before she'd only worked part time and was usually finished by the time I got home from school.

Why mum moved us where she did I never knew, but I stood out immediately at school because I didn't speak with a Birmingham accent. That, plus me not having the right branded trainers, jeans, backpack and so on, quickly marked me out as being different. Add to that I wasn't very sporty and I definitely fell outside of the mainstream. But I survived and mum and I had each other which was the important thing.

My life did get better in some ways after she bought me the skateboard. It was the Christmas after I'd moved to the senior school which was when the bullying had increased. At least with my board, once I'd learned how to master it, I could roam the streets or go to the skate park. There I found a few friends, most of whom seemed to be similar outcasts. We became a close knit group and life started to look up.

The good days didn't last for long though. I'd noticed for a little while that mum didn't appear to be her usual happy and cheerful self. But I had no idea she was ill until one evening when she sat me down and told me we needed to have a serious conversation. It must have been very hard for her to tell me she had cancer; almost as hard as it was for me to hear her say that word. She told me she had kidney cancer and that it was rare for people under fifty to get that. She was only in her forties though, so it just wasn't fair that she should get it. I had no idea of what to expect, but she deteriorated quickly. She wanted to stay at home for as long as possible to avoid me having to go into a home. We were lucky in having a very kind neighbour who cooked meals for me as well as doing shopping and spending time with mum. But eventually the point arrived at which she could no longer stay at home and had to go into a hospice.

That was the point at which I had to go into a home while they tried to find a foster family for me as there were no relatives who I could go and live with. I hadn't been there long when two things happened. Firstly, mum died and rather amazingly, according to my social worker, a family offered to foster me. I'd been told that it wasn't easy to find foster parents for kids of my age. Kids going through puberty and hormones taking effect caused problems, so I was told. Thus I'd been prepared to have to stay in the home for perhaps years – maybe until I was too old to stay there any longer. But I was lucky and this family came forward, Mr & Mrs Burton. Adrian and Marie were their names and they had two kids, actually twins. Their names were Peter and Paul and they were seven years old. They were nice enough kids and over time I did get to think of them as being little brothers. At first I did wonder if the Burton's had agreed to foster me as I'd provide a built in baby sitter for the twins when they wanted to go out in the evenings, but although that happened a bit, it wasn't too often.

So I slowly settled into a new life. Unsurprisingly it wasn't one I was really happy with. I'd lost both my parents and the natural love that came from them and although the Burtons cared, it wasn't the same. After dad died I'd started to become a loner and that got even worse now, especially with the bullying I was getting at school. Being without any real friends I was an easy target for them. I guess no other kid wanted to help me for fear of becoming a target themselves. After all, if they were picking on me they couldn't be picking on anyone else.

I was really getting very down and today just happened to be the anniversary of when dad had been killed. Thus I'd not been feeling bright all day and now to cap it all they destroy the board mum had bought me. I let them have their laugh looking at me surrounded by the bits of my board, although I'm sure they can't work out why I'm laughing. Not surprising they can't since I don't know why myself. After a couple of minutes they walk off down the street. I watch them go, give them a V sign – fat lot of point in that as its to their backs – before standing up, collecting the bits of my board and walking home.

I dump the bits of the board in the wheelie bin outside the side door, not wanting anyone to see and having to explain what happened. I say 'hello' to Marie and tell her I'm going up to my room to get on with some homework. Part of that's true as I do go to my room, but I just lie down on the bed and start to cry into my pillow. The crying goes on for ages, but I guess must have stopped at some point and I hear one of the twins knocking on my bedroom door to say dinner is ready. I consider telling him I'm not hungry, but if I do that it'll only bring Marie upstairs wanting to know what's wrong. Normally I like my food and she is a good cook, even if not as good as my mum was, so I decide to get up and go downstairs. I'm quiet during dinner, only speaking when someone asks me a question. Once we've finished I help clear the table and with the washing up, before saying that I'm going back to my room. The twins are disappointed when I say that as we often have a little game of football in the back garden, but tonight I'm not in the mood.

Instead I start to read a book, but my heart isn't in it, so after a while I put it back on the bedside table and just lay there in the dark thinking. I guess I must have dropped off to sleep as when I come to it is totally dark in the room and the house is quiet. I switch the bedside light on and look at my little alarm clock that stands on top of it. No wonder it is all quiet as the time is almost half past one. Suddenly though my mind is clear and the doubts and confusion I had when I came upstairs are gone. I know what I have to do, the only questions are how and where.

I've got nothing left to live for. No mother, no father, no brothers or sisters, not even any close friends. Them breaking my skateboard this afternoon was the final straw. I just can't take any more of the tricks and insults I get every day. What's the point?

I start to consider the possibilities. I suppose I might be able to find some of Marie's tablets, or maybe cut my wrists. Not sure I could find enough tablets to be certain though and cutting my wrists would make a hell of a mess, even if I could do it. Anyway, I wouldn't want her or Adrian to find my body, let alone one of the twins. That would traumatise them for life I reckon and they don't deserve that. So that also rules out hanging myself in the house.

It's going to have to be done outside, but how? No point trying to run in front of a car or a lorry - no guarantee it would kill me and I don't fancy the idea of being maimed for the rest of my life. Also, it would be unfair on the driver who hit me as they'd have that on their conscience for the rest of their life. Same thing applies to going and lying on the railway line. I could jump off the bridge over the river, but there's a couple of problems with that idea. I can swim quite well and the water is fairly deep, so I might survive the fall and then automatically start swimming. Also someone could see me on the parapet and try to save me – what if I struggled and somehow pulled them with me?

No, it has to be just me. I lie there thinking for a while and finally the answer comes to me. There's an old quarry about a mile away. It's about fifty or sixty foot deep I reckon, mainly filled with water, but there are rocks and boulders around the edges. Also I wouldn't have too long to regret my decision on the way down unlike if I jumped off a tower block.

With that decided I get off the bed and pull on my trainers. I'm still wearing the same blue jeans and the red and blue sweatshirt I had on this afternoon. Marie bought it for me at a jumble sale. It's got some funny foreign word boldly printed on the front of it. I've no idea what the word means, but it's nice and warm, which'll be good tonight as I think it's quite chilly out. Wouldn't do to catch my death, would it? I have a little chuckle at my own joke as I quietly close the bedroom door behind me before creeping down the stairs – being careful to avoid the one that squeaks. I suppose I should leave Adrian and Marie a note to say thanks for looking after me and it's nothing to do with them, but I think if I stop to write that it might give me time to change my mind. Instead I go out the front door, down the path and turn left in the direction of where the quarry lies on the far side of a small wood.

I hadn't gone far before I realised I hadn't thought this through very well. I'd not brought a torch with me and although there were streetlights on the roads, the woods would be in darkness. Fortunately however, it was full moon and there didn't appear to be any clouds in the sky, so hopefully it would stay that way as I couldn't risk going back to the house to find a torch. I was in luck as I saw nobody else while walking there, apart from one old drunk slumped on a bench.

Now the time was getting close as I entered the woods. I managed to find my way through them fairly easily as there was a path that led to the quarry. It was fenced off, but I knew from having been there before that there were some holes that I could crawl through. I was just about to kneel down to wriggle through one when I hear this loud voice behind me,

"Private Ryan, Halt! About turn!"

I knew that voice anywhere. It was my father's, but he'd died years ago, so that wasn't possible. And yet nobody else had ever called me Private Ryan. My actual name was Ryan James Stephenson, but dad had made a joke when I started marching round the house pretending to be a soldier, of calling me that. It wasn't until some years after he died when I saw the film on TV and realised the significance of the name.

Automatically I obeyed the order. I halted, turned about and stood to attention. There in front of me and not ten yards away, stood my father. He was dressed in his full military uniform just as I'd last seen him when he walked out of the house on his last posting. My mouth gaped open as I couldn't believe what my eyes were apparently seeing. My brain slowly started to get over the shock of what my eyes were telling it.

"Daaad...is that you?" I finally managed to say in not much more than a whisper.

"Yes, and no, Ryan. I'm not really me as in solid flesh and bones, but nor am I a figment of your imagination."

I struggled to take that in, but decided to ask another question instead.

"But why are you here now?"

"Ryan, what were you intending to do?"

I dropped my head and looked at the ground. I couldn't bear to look him in the face.

"You've had a very rough deal in life son, what with me being killed and then your mum dying. You've had nobody to truly love you for some years now. You've been picked on and bullied at school. And yet you're still a good kid. You've not gone off the rails like many do."

I stood and listened. I thought I could feel the love coming from him as it used to. The tears started to roll down my cheeks.

"Don't cry, Ryan. You're actually a very lucky young man."

'Young man', nobody had ever called me that before! It sounded good somehow.

"Because of what's happened so far in your life, I've been allowed to come here and give you a glimpse into the future – and what might be your future. Of course, after I've shown you that you may still decide to walk on and jump into the quarry. But, that would be an awful waste and I know you're not really a quitter."

I thought about that last word. I thought back to learning to ride a bike, learning how to skate and then progress to all the tricks I could do now. Used to be able to do would be more appropriate I said to myself seeing I no longer had a board, which was the basic reason I was here now.

I had nothing to lose by seeing what he wanted me to see. "Okay, show me."

"There will be two short films, Ryan. Watch them carefully and don't say anything until both have finished."

Some sort of screen appeared in front of the fence around the quarry and then I saw a dark blue BMW saloon and people about to get into it. I saw getting into the driver's seat was Justin Brooks's older brother, Terry. Justin got into the front passenger seat while Carl and Rory climbed into the back. Brian appeared on screen and looked to be getting in to sit beside Rory. The picture faded but quickly changed to one of a smoking wreck of a car that looked like a BMW which had evidently gone off the road and crashed into a couple of very large trees. The picture faded but was replaced by the front page of the local paper with a headline 'Teenagers killed in car crash.' I noticed the date – it was a couple of weeks ahead.

That film faded but another started. This was taken indoors but somewhere I didn't recognise. It was evidently a bedroom with a double bed with a grey patterned duvet cover and matching pillows. The camera panned round the room, three walls were painted in a dark blue and the other a sort of plum colour. On that wall was a large screen TV. Beneath it was a computer desk on which was sitting a small Christmas tree with little lights. Definitely not my room! The camera moved to show one part of the room not previously seen. Standing there were two naked teens, kissing and hugging each other. Why was my dad showing me a porn film I wondered, even as I started to get hard at what I was watching. I'd never seen a porn film, but I'd often wondered what it would be like to be doing what those two were.

I couldn't see the face of the boy at whom the camera was pointing, but he had his hands on the back of the other. His hands moved down from the shoulders and now I could see a birthmark on the back of the left shoulder. Brian Beck had one of those! The hands of the other boy moved lower down his back until they were cupping his arse. Brian leaned back disengaging from the kiss and now I could see the other boy. It was me!

At that point the film faded. I felt weird. My head was spinning trying to take in what I'd seen. I thought I might faint. From somewhere I found my voice,

"What was that I just saw?" I asked my father.

"You've been shown two things that might happen in the future, Ryan. The second one very much depends on what exactly happens in the first."

I sort of nodded and mumbled something in reply.

"Now, I've got to go."

"Will I see you again?"

"Not for a long while, unless you are stupid enough to go through that fence. Just live by that word on your sweatshirt."

I'd always wondered what that word 'PIRKOIA' meant. I'd thought, perhaps even hoped, that it might be a rude word in Czech or Polish - something like 'Get Stuffed' or even 'Fuck Off' would be great.

"So what does it mean?"

He laughed as if he was reading my mind. "It's not what you thought, Ryan. It's a Maori word and means 'Be Happy'".

And then just as suddenly as he'd appeared he was gone. Had he even been there I asked myself? Had I imagined everything? I walked slowly towards where he had been standing. Something glittered in the moonlight. I bent down and there on the ground was an old sixpence. I had a collection of those in the drawer of my bedside table. He'd always given me one each time he came home from a mission. This must have been the one he'd taken to give me when he returned from the last deployment!

Slowly I gathered my thoughts. The idea of killing myself was now gone from my mind. I had a puzzle, or maybe two, to solve – if I wanted to. The idea of Brian Beck and me being boyfriends was almost too much to take in. He'd never given me any indication that he might be gay and while I was happy to admit to myself that I very probably was, it was a fact I'd always kept hidden. They might taunt me as being one, but they had no proof other than I didn't have a girlfriend, although not many of the boys of my age did. But if they found out I was... it didn't bear thinking about. On the other hand, what I'd seen in that clip did have a lot of appeal – although maybe with another boy. Yet the clip was of me with Brian. But that could only happen if he wasn't in the car with the rest of them when it crashed...

I had some thinking to do and despite the hour my brain was in a whirl as I walked home.

It was after four when I got home. Luckily all was quiet and I managed to sneak back into my bedroom, unheard. Sleep didn't come easily though, if at all, and I wasn't a very happy person when the twins came to wake me up in the morning – sadly it was a school day. Marie must have noticed me yawning and nearly going back to sleep while I ate my cornflakes because she asked me if I was feeling ill. I told her I was fine, but just hadn't slept very well, which was definitely true. At least nobody had yet discovered the bits of my skateboard in the wheelie bin, so I don't have to answer any questions to explain what had happened to it. As usual she'd made up lunch boxes for the three of us, so we set off for school together and I left them at the gates of their section before venturing into mine, wondering what today held in store. Surely it couldn't be as bad, or as good, as yesterday?

I went through the morning classes on autopilot. Not only was I having to fight to stay awake, but also my mind was still trying to decide what I should, or could do, regarding the two films I'd been shown. The car crash was due to happen in a couple of weeks, so I didn't have long to decide. I didn't like the idea of anyone dying, but being totally honest with myself, I wouldn't shed any tears over Justin, Carl and Rory. I didn't know Terry, but from things I'd heard he was heading for a life of crime. That left Brian and it seemed if I wanted what I'd seen in the second film to actually come true, I had to ensure he didn't get in the car that evening. How could I stop that and if I managed to, ought I not also prevent the others going with Terry?

Although it was cold I decided to go outside to eat my lunch rather than going into the cafeteria where they'd probably come up with something to spoil it for me. I put on my anorak and went and sat on one of the benches overlooking the sports field. While I'm happily munching my ham sandwich I heard footsteps behind me, turned to look over my shoulder and saw Brian coming toward me. At least he was on his own I thought. He came and stood in front of me, sort of half smiled and asked if he could sit down. On the basis that he was less likely to try and do anything to me if he was sitting down, I agreed. A silence followed, which I saw no reason to break. Finally he coughed as if trying to clear his throat, and then spoke.

"Ryan, I'm sorry about yesterday. We went too far. They shouldn't have broken your board."

Wow, I said to myself, an apology and note the pronouns used. It was true the others had done the breaking, but was there more to this. Was he indicating something or just stating facts.

He might have just apologised, but I was still angry over what they'd done.

"No, they fucking shouldn't. That board meant a lot to me."

"I know...and I'd like to make it up to you."

I laughed out loud. "How the fuck you gonna do that. Buy me a new one?"

He smiled, "Not exactly, but I've got one at home I was given about three years ago. Never could master it, so it's sat in the garage doing nothing. You can have it if you want. I think it's a fairly good one."

Knowing him it would be. His clothes were always nice and he gave the impression of a boy who'd always had expensive toys.

"If you'd like to come over after school you can have a look at it and decide. Best you don't walk home with me though. Wouldn't want the others to see."

Could I trust him? Was this a set up to lure me somewhere and then beat me up?

"Ryan, I understand why you'd not want to believe or trust me, but this is straight. I'll give you my address and meet you at the end of the street."

After some thought I agreed to go. He told me his address, 4,Belvoir Close. I knew where it was. Although it wasn't very far it was in the opposite direction to where I lived, but definitely in the posh part of town. I told him I had to walk the twins home from school, but as soon as I'd done that I'd come round.

So that was what happened. On getting home I changed into my 'Be Happy' sweatshirt and jeans, same as I'd worn the previous day. Well, if I was going boarding I had to be dressed for it, didn't I?

True to his word he was waiting at the end of the Close. He'd changed out of his school uniform and was wearing a grey hoodie with the Nike swoosh, a pair of black skinny jeans that I reckoned he must have struggled to get on and Van checkerboard high-tops. I almost felt a little envious. Correction, I did feel a little envious. But, I did think he looked good, especially where those skinnies were bulging at the front!

We walked down to his house and up the drive before he opened the double garage. There was one car in it, a VW Golf, which I assumed must be his mum's on the basis that his dad was probably at work. He led me to the far end of the garage and there it was – a Birdhouse board that I knew at a glance was top of the range and with the wheels showing hardly any wear.

"What do you think? Is it any good?" he asked.

"It's fu... bleedin' brill," I replied.

"Take it outside. Give it a test on the drive."

I picked it up and carried it outside and proceeded to perform a few manoeuvres while he stood watching and occasionally giving me a cheer. I was enjoying myself when the front door opened and a woman appeared. She was tall and slim; smartly, but casually dressed and I could tell from her face that she was Brian's mother.

"Ah," she said, "I wondered what that noise was. It sounded like a skateboard, but I knew it couldn't be you, Brian."

He laughed, "No, definitely not me. This is Ryan. He's a friend from school. His board was broken yesterday and I said he could have this one. That's alright isn't it?"

"Goodness me, yes. That's just sat there for years now. It'll be good to be rid of it. Don't let me stop you, Ryan. Carry on, unless the pair of you could use some refreshment?"

"Fancy a coke, Ryan?" Brian asked.

I was thirsty, so I agreed and in we went to this well-appointed kitchen that I knew Marie could only dream about. Mrs Beck offered a choice of various soft drinks from a large refrigerator and also produced bags of crisps and other snacks which we sat down at the table to consume. She stayed with us for a few minutes before excusing herself. Surprisingly Brian and I found some things to talk about until I happened to glance at the clock on the kitchen wall.

"Shit! Is that the time? I need to get home," I said as I pushed the chair back and stood up.

"Good thing my mum didn't hear me say that," he exclaimed.

"Why, would you have got your mouth washed with soap?" I said laughingly while pulling an appropriate face.

"No, I'd have got my little bottie smacked."

He'd also stood up and as he said that he turned his back to me and bent slightly forward. I wasn't quite sure what possessed me, but I landed a firm slap on the offered target.

He turned round. I was half expecting a punch, but instead he had a grin on his face.

"There's more to you than meets the eye, Ryan Stephenson. As it's Saturday tomorrow are you going down the skatepark to properly test your new board?"

"Yes, but it won't be until after lunch. I've got chores to do in the morning."

"Will it be alright if I come down and watch?"

True to his word he turned up just after I'd got there. Today he was wearing a red hoodie which went well with his almost black hair. He seemed quite happy to just sit and watch, although I did ask him at one point if he'd like me to try and show him how to use the board. His response was along the line of not wanting to fall off and ruin his clothes. Made sense to me – I wouldn't want to go boarding wearing clothes like he had on and I wasn't likely to fall off!

After an hour or so I'd had enough and he asked me if I wanted a drink. There was a little cafe nearby, so we went there and he bought us a couple of cokes. We seemed to be getting on well and he was definitely a different person when he was on his own. As we were leaving the cafe he surprised me by asking if I'd like to go to the cinema in town with him on Sunday afternoon.

The cinema wasn't somewhere I could often afford to go, but I was enjoying his company so I agreed. When I arrived he was waiting outside and had already bought the tickets. He wouldn't accept anything from me for mine. So when the film finished I insisted on taking him to one of the food courts and buying both of us a burger and chips. We found a table with nobody sitting nearby, so I decided to take the plunge,

"Brian, why do you hang out with those three? You never seem that keen on their activities and from being with you the last couple of days, I know you're not like them."

He sighed deeply before replying and was looking down at the table as he spoke.

"Basically, because I'm a coward Ryan. We all started at the same junior school at the same time. They were soon into bullying and I was one of their targets, but I quickly discovered that if I joined in when they were picking on another kid, they wouldn't pick on me. So I tagged along with them. I tried to do as little as possible. Deep down I knew it was wrong, but the other day when they broke your board they crossed a line. I'd like to get away from them, but they'll almost certainly turn on me if I try and I don't think I can face that."

I thought about what he'd just said. I liked to think of myself as being strong, but at that age... I might well have taken the easy option. I stretched my hand out across the table and laid it on his arm. "You can have me as a friend if you want."

He looked up now, his eyes glistening. "Do you mean that, after all we've done to you?"

I nodded and tightened my grip on his arm.

"Phew! I'd like that – a lot!" A smile appeared on his face. Somehow he looked especially cute when he smiled. "I know you don't have a lot and I reckon you must be an orphan as your surname is different to the twins, so breaking that board on top of everything else we've done and you to just sit there laughing when you must have felt like crying your eyes out – that takes guts, Ryan."

It was my turn to sigh and then with a deep breath I started to tell him the story of my life. I'd never shared it with anyone, other than social workers, and although I'd only really known Brian for a couple of days I wanted him to properly know me. He sat there listening attentively when I talked, occasionally asking a question when something wasn't clear. I did go as far as telling him that I had contemplated killing myself after they broke my board, but I just said I'd changed my mind at the last minute.

That was a lot for me to say and for him to take in. We both sat in silence for at least a couple of minutes when I'd finished. I don't think either of us knew what to say. After a while we got up and started to walk out of the precinct. As we did so he took my left hand in his right and said, "I'm so glad you changed your mind."

If I hadn't decided before, that was definitely the moment I knew I had to stop him getting into that car.

The next week at school passed as it usually did, slowly and boringly. However, I did get very little hassle from the trio, which they now appeared to have become because Brian was rarely with them. He did tell me one day when we were in the same class, that he'd signed up for the drama group who often held rehearsals during the lunch break because that gave him a reason not to spend so much time with them. On Saturday afternoon though he was again down at the skatepark watching me perform. When I had enough I suggested we should go to the cafe and while we walked there I took his hand in the one of mine that wasn't carrying my board. "That feels nice," he said quietly turning to look at me with a smile, "I wasn't sure how you'd react last Sunday."

"Now you know," I said. I turned to look around and couldn't see anyone. I swung the hand that was holding my board around his back, pulled him toward me and planted a kiss on his lips. He pulled his head away and I feared I'd gone too far, but there was a sparkle in his amber eyes as he leaned forward, this time with his lips slightly open. We proceeded to exchange our first real kiss, but common sense quickly cut in and we drew apart.

"I'd like more of that, Ryan, but not here. If word got out in certain quarters neither of our lives would be worth living. We need to organise a sleepover, but it can't be next Saturday as I've agreed to go to a rave with them. Don't know where it is but Terry is going to drive us there in his new BMW."

This was it. The date was right. I'd wondered how I was going to find out that he was definitely going with them, but now I knew.

"You can't go, Brian. You mustn't go!"

"Don't be stupid, Ryan. I agreed a while back I'd go with them to this and if I drop out now it'll raise their suspicions of me still further."

Could I tell him about my meeting with my father? It all seemed so unreal even to me now, I felt sure he wouldn't believe me.

I pleaded with him, "Brian, I have this feeling something is going to happen to that car. You mustn't go with them."

"You're being silly. I'm going and that's it – end of story."

He might have said it was the end of the story, but I did try a couple more times during the week to try and get him to change his mind. Didn't succeed though. I did go to the skatepark in the afternoon to try and take my mind off the dark thoughts that were filling my head, but without much success. I went to bed early, but couldn't get to sleep. Somewhere in the early hours I got up, dressed and this time taking a torch with me I went to the quarry. Maybe I was hoping for another revelation, but it was just cold, dark and creepy with just the occasional screech of an owl or howl of a fox. After sitting there for a time I decided it was pointless being there, so returned home and finally managed to go to sleep.

When I woke it was almost nine, which was late for me. I climbed out of bed, had a quick shower, attended to the other morning rituals, put on some clothes, which happened to include that sweatshirt as it was the first thing I saw, and then went downstairs. The radio was on, both Adrian and Marie were listening. She turned to me as I came into the kitchen, "There's some awful news, Ryan. There's been a car crash local and some lads have been killed."

That was enough. I dashed to the sink and threw up.

"Ryan, I'm sorry I shocked you like that, but they haven't been identified, or at least their names haven't been made public, so they're hardly likely to be anyone you know. Have a cup of tea, that'll make you feel better."

I almost burst out laughing. 'Hardly likely to be anyone you know', followed by the standard British response to any crisis – a cup of tea! But I took it and it did seem to settle my stomach enough to eat a couple of slices of toast and marmalade. I'd just finished my second slice when the doorbell rang. Adrian got up to respond. I heard him open it and have a brief exchange of words with someone and then he reappeared. "Someone I don't know asking to see you, Ryan. You'd better go and find out who it is."

I had no idea who it might be, unless the school was being very efficient and sending people round to notify all the students what had happened. I walked into the hall, the front door was pushed closed, but not shut. I pulled it open – and there was Brian! I literally fell on him, wrapped my arms round him and kissed him. That was when I heard Paul's voice behind me saying, "Mummy, there's a strange boy at the door and Ryan's kissing him!"

I took Brian by the hand and led him into the kitchen.

"Adrian, Marie, this is my boyfriend, Brian. I thought he was in the car that crashed, but evidently he wasn't."

"I would have been were it not for Ryan."

Adrian leaned back in his chair. "I'm very glad you weren't lad, but it's quite a shock to find out young Ryan has a boyfriend! Not that we object, mind you. Marie and me have wondered on a few occasions if he might be gay. I'm sure you two have a lot to talk about in the circumstances, so why don't you go up to Ryan's room. We'll keep the twins occupied."

I thought he'd finished, until he added with a wink, "but leave your door open!"

When we got in my room I pushed the door to, so it was still technically open, and then we got into some serious hugging and kissing. I was quickly hard, but it didn't show too much due to the old pair of baggy jeans I was wearing. Brian's skinnies concealed nothing as we rubbed together.

Eventually, he pulled away. "Let's sit down on the bed before I come in my pants."

"Calvin Klein boxer briefs, grey?" I suggested.

He laughed. "How did you know?" He proceeded to undo his belt and the top button of his jeans before pushing them down sufficiently far for me to see the waistband and the colour.

After that we sat on the bed. It was only a single so the easiest thing to do was for each of us to sit cross legged at opposite ends. I couldn't help noticing he left his belt and the top button undone as he did so.

"More importantly, much more importantly, how did you know the crash was going to happen?"

"Before I answer that, tell me why you didn't go with them? Each time I tried to talk you out of going, you seemed to get more determined to go. In the end I could only hope that I was wrong."

"Alright, but I want the whole story. They came round to pick me up. I walked down the drive and Terry was on my side. He had the driver's window down and I could smell booze on him as he spoke. I went to the rear door, opened it, and there was a strong smell of weed. I'd been thinking about you asking me not to go, but you'd never given me a solid reason. It dawned on me this was a solid reason. I might miss a good rave, but there'd be others. So I said I'd changed my mind, shut the car door and walked back to the house amid a stream of jeers and such."

We stopped briefly as a little head appeared round the door. It was Paul. "Mum sent me up to ask if you two want anything to eat or drink?"

I laughed and Brian giggled. We both suspected a little someone was simply curious.

"Thank her for the offer, but tell her we'll be down shortly. And just pull the door to like it was before."

The head disappeared muttering something which I suspected was to Peter who was almost certainly behind him. Paul was always the more forward of the two, but I could see them becoming a real pair of mischief makers – in a nice way – over the next few years.

"So, you wanted to know how I knew?" He nodded. "It was just a guess really, but you struck me as being a CK person and grey's a nice colour."

"Bastard," he said quietly, "you know that's not what I mean, but before you ask I don't have a clue." He gave me a big grin as he finished.

I undid my belt and lifted myself up sufficiently to be able to push my jeans down. "Primark, boxer briefs, black." I grinned and gave him the V sign.

"Stop playing for time, Ryan before I come up there and thump you. Nice view though!"

I'd been slightly playing for time during this exchange, but now was the time and I was going to tell him everything – at least as far as the crash was concerned.

"You remember I told you that the night after you broke my board I'd decided to kill myself?" He nodded. "I don't think I told you I went up to the old quarry and was going to throw myself off the edge." He shook his head and started to say something.

"No, let me finish. It'll be easier and I'll try and answer any questions after I'm done."

I went on to tell him about Private Ryan and how my father had appeared and shown me this film of something that was going to happen. I think he believed me, especially after I showed him the sixpence.

"Wow!" he said when I'd finished. "I can understand why you tried to stop me from getting in the car and also why you didn't try and stop them. The crash was going to happen. You couldn't change that, but only affect who was in the car."

"That's right. It was horrible seeing it and knowing it was going to happen," I said tearily. "At least you're here."

"And I'm not going away. Don't fancy being on my own tonight though. Do you think your mum would let you have a sleepover?"

A sleepover? I'd never had one of those. The closest I'd ever come was an oversleep!

"I could ask. Better still, you could ask."

Brian grinned, got off the bed, adjusted his clothing and led the way downstairs. Adrian and Marie were still in the kitchen. He was reading the Sunday paper and she was preparing vegetables for dinner.

"Mrs Newman, would you let Ryan come and have a sleepover at my house tonight? After what's happened I don't like the thought of being on my own and I expect Ryan cold use some company too."

I just nodded and tried to look a bit scared.

"Are you sure your mother won't mind? Don't you need to see her to get permission?"

"No, she's met Ryan and she likes him. It'll be fine."

"If you're sure, then okay, but if there's a problem just send him home."

Turning to me, she said, "Just remember your manners and behave. It's a school day tomorrow, so take your uniform with you."

"Thanks a lot, Marie," I said and we headed back upstairs. Just as we got into my bedroom she shouted up the stairs, "And don't forget to pack some clean underpants!"

Brian threw himself on the bed and stuck his face into my pillow in an attempt to hide his laughter.

"Perhaps I'll not take any," I said and that started him off again.

We did manage to pack the things that I'd need for school, my uniform and some other items, into my backpack and a big carrier bag, and set off to his house. Before we left I had managed to persuade him to go into the bathroom while I changed into a better pair of jeans and a different pair of boxer briefs. He'd insisted that I had to wear my sweatshirt although I had no idea why. It was my boarding sweatshirt and I had a reasonable hoodie in the wardrobe that I thought would be much more likely to give a decent impression to his parents. However, I wasn't going to start an argument about it.

We were walking towards Brian's house when I realised he wasn't at my side. I stopped, turned round and he was standing a few yards behind me. He closed the distance to stand in front of me.

"Have you thought there very probably won't be any proper school tomorrow?" he asked.

The penny suddenly dropped. Because of what had happened there'd almost certainly just be a big assembly where the Head would say nice things about them and we'd be told there were counsellors available for us to see.

We both stood there thinking about that.

"Will you see a counsellor?"Brian asked, "I'm sure they'll be available and suggested."

I'd seen one after mum died. Don't remember seeing one after dad was killed, but perhaps I was too young and they just saw mum. I don't know if seeing one after she died did me any good or not. It's like there'd have to be two 'yous', one of whom saw a counsellor and one who didn't and afterwards you could compare each of you to see which was better.

"Nah, don't think I'd bother. Let's face it they made my life a misery so now they're not here anymore my life can surely only get better. I don't mean I'm glad they're dead, just wish they'd gone somewhere. But then they'd just have made someone else's life a misery, so perhaps... What about you?

"Mum'll probably insist that I do, but it's not as if they were really my friends. They'd never been to my house, nor me to any of theirs. It was mainly just a school thing for the reasons I told you. I made the decision to finish with them when I plucked up the guts to come and apologise to you."

We had a quick hug and then walked on towards his house, now holding hands.

He opened the front door and we walked into the house. After telling me to dump my bags in the hall near the foot of the stairs, I followed him into the kitchen. Based on the aromas Mrs Beck was busy preparing a roast dinner.

"Hi mum, I've brought my boyfriend Ryan back for a sleepover." I noticed her eyebrows shoot up on hearing that, but the welcoming smile didn't leave her face. "I didn't fancy being on my own tonight and neither did he."

Her eyes switched between the pair of us. Brian moved so he could hold my hand.

"In that case," she said, "I won't need to make up the guest bed. But I'll go up and change yours later. Until then it's out of bounds – for your own good. I doubt you'd want your boyfriend to see what a mess you live in."

"Mum, that's so untrue!"

She laughed. "I know it is, but I do enjoy pulling your leg sometimes. Now, get yourself some drinks and snacks, but don't eat too much. Dinner will be at one after your father gets back from his golf. You can go in the lounge or the games room, unless Ryan's brought his skateboard."

I hadn't, so we went into the games room which proved to have a half size snooker table, dart board and various other things. We passed the time playing snooker and darts until his mum came to tell us dinner was about to be served. I'd been dreading meeting his father and sitting down to eat a formal meal with them, but he soon put me at ease. The roast beef was excellent. Beef was a decided rarity in our house, so it was a definite treat. Of course his mum said how glad they were that Brian had decided not to get in the car yesterday, but it seemed he hadn't said anything to them about my part in his decision. I was glad about that as I didn't fancy getting into a detailed explanation of how that had happened.

After the meal we went into the lounge and watched the football on TV. I wasn't much of a fan, but it gave the two of us the opportunity to sit side by side on the sofa and hold hands. Somewhere around six o'clock Mrs Beck announced that she was going to sort out Brian's bedroom and also prepare a light tea, adding that she expected after the trauma of the day we'd need an early night. I was sure she winked at me when she said that!

Our light tea consisted of a couple of smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches in brown bread. That was something I'd never eaten before, but quickly decided I could get a taste for. Once that was eaten Brian asked his mum if it was alright for us to go up to his room. She said that was fine and she'd see us in the morning. He gave her a kiss; I thought of doing so, but as I didn't kiss Marie goodnight I was too embarrassed. When we got into the hall I noticed that my bags were no longer at the foot of the stairs. Thus as we walked up them I had nothing to impede my view of Brian's arse swaying as he climbed each step. I was thinking about the grey CK briefs under his skinnies and what was under those. By the time we'd got to the top of the stairs I was semi hard...

He led the way down the landing and put his hand on the handle of a door.

"Will the Christmas tree be lit?" I blurted out without thinking.

He wheeled round, "How do you know about my tree?"

I decided I might as well go the whole way now. "And are three of the walls painted in dark blue and the other one in a sort of plum colour?"

"What the hell's going on Ryan? What colour is my duvet cover?"

"It's grey."

"Got you. Your lucky guessing streak's over. It's blue striped."

He opened the door and stepped into the room. "Fuck me! It is grey, mum must have changed it earlier. But, how did you know?"

I was about to tell him, when a big smile slowly broke out on his face, "Did your father show you another film?"

I nodded, "He told me that the second film depended on what happened in the first. But I saw the room and you were in it with another boy."

"And that boy was you?"

I nodded again.

"And what were they doing?"

My nerve had come back by now, "Well they weren't just standing here talking."

"I bet they weren't," he said with a chuckle. "Get that sweatshirt off and then I want to see what colour your boxers are now as I know you changed before leaving home.

I'm hoping they're the red CK ones you often wear when we have PE."

I wasn't sure these were genuine as I'd bought them on the market, but I'd decided it was a good idea to wear something supposedly branded when getting changed at school. I'd seen a few boys get picked on because they were wearing ones that weren't advertising some company or other.

"Never knew you noticed me. Didn't think it paid to look at other boys in the changing rooms."

"It wouldn't for most, but I could get away with it because of being with them. I always admired your legs and your arse. Guess it was the boarding that built up the muscles there."

He started to take off his skinny jeans, which was quite a task, while I removed my sweatshirt and polo shirt and also, much more easily, got out of my jeans. After he'd also taken off his t-shirt we stood facing each other. His grey briefs showed a large bulge and I could tell my red ones were feeling the strain. The picture I'd seen was almost complete.

We stepped towards each other and kissed. The kiss seemed to last for an eternity as our tongues explored while our hands traced patterns on each other's torsos. Slowly our hands worked their way down until they met their respective barriers. United in thought we each put hands into waistbands and pushed downwards. Two fully erect pricks sprang free and now we could grind them against each other. I moved my hands down to cup Brian's arse and pull us together - now the picture was complete!

I let out a big sigh of satisfaction which only got bigger when I felt his hands cupping my cheeks and pushing us even closer. He began to inch backwards towards the bed, but suddenly stopped, took his hands away, turned and walking over to the bed, threw the duvet off to the far side.

"We'll keep the 'evidence' under cover," he said with a meaningful grin as he turned to look at me over his shoulder. Now he laid down on the bed on his back and extended his left hand toward me. I marvelled at what I could see and was being offered. The tip of his prick was fully visible and glistening with pre-cum. Mine was pulsing and my balls felt full and ready to burst. I stretched my hand out to touch his, but he knocked it away. I looked down at him in surprise.

"No, come and lay with me. I want us to do each other together, for the first time."

And that was what we did, although neither of us had to make much effort to bring the other off. After we'd come he did ask if I wanted to have a shower to clean up, but it was easy to decide to leave it until later because having one now would be rather pointless.

It was probably after the third time we'd come that he asked me the question. We were just lying there idly kissing and stroking, simply enjoying discovering the things we could do that would please the other. Just the touch of his moist lips on the head of my prick the last time, had given me feelings I'd never imagined. I knew there'd be lots more to discover on future sleepovers, although the first part of that word was evidently misleading!

"Ryan, I've always wanted to know what that word means on the front of your sweatshirt. Is it the name of some obscure Eastern European brand of something or other."

I moved my body so I could stare into his eyes while at the same time gently cupping his balls in one hand. I squeezed them lightly. They felt quite empty now as I was sure mine also must be.

"According to my Dad, PIRKOIA is the Maori word for 'Be Happy'.

"Did he tell you that that night?"

"Yes. I'd always hoped it might be something rude in Czech or Polish."

"Then as what he showed you proved to be true, I reckon that must also be."

"Guess so."

He sighed and started to lightly move my foreskin up and down. I had a feeling I was going to be sore but happy in the morning.

"I wonder what the Maori is for 'I am Happy?'" he mused.

"Dunno, but I guess we could find out. Why?"

"Well, if it was short I could get a sweatshirt or hoodie and have it printed on there."

I laughed.

"Don't laugh, Ryan. We'd look great wearing them when we go to New Zealand."

I stopped what I was doing to his balls and sat up.

"Who says we're going to New Zealand?"

"I've always liked the thought of going there and we'll have a gap year between leaving school and starting college or uni. We can backpack round the world!"

"Brian, I don't need to do that, although it does sound great. But, I AM HAPPY!"

He laughed as he continued to work on my foreskin, "PIRKOIA!"


This story is part of the 2023 story challenge "Inspired by a Picture: Wrecked". The other stories may be found at the challenge home page. Please read them, too. The voting period of 29 August 2023 to 20 September 2023 is when the voting is open. This story may be rated, below, against a set of criteria, and may be rated against other stories on the challenge home page.

The challenge was to write a story inspired by this picture:

2023 Inspired by a Picture Challenge - Wrecked

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Picking up the Pieces

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