After We Danced

by Mark Peters

Chapter 14

We all piled into Matt's car at about nine thirty after we had showered and had breakfast, armed with our maps of the town and the university campus; along with our towels, as requested by our friends.

I had to admit that Matt and I were both more than a bit curious about this special place that we were going to visit at some stage today, but in spite of our constant probing and digging we were still none the wiser. Tim and Guy were steadfast in their refusal to divulge their little secret.

As I have said before, our little hideaway of Thompsonville was roughly twenty minutes from Macquarie Harbour, so we pulled out of the caravan park and pointed the car south for the short trip to town, heading back out towards the Pacific Highway.

'So, besides looking around the campus, what else do you think we should look at while we are here?' Matt asked us, as we passed an old, orange, VW Kombi van as it laboured up a small hill, smoke billowing out behind it.

The back of it was covered with stickers of peace signs and marijuana leaves, and as we passed it we were all keen to look inside to check out the driver, no doubt expecting to see some long-haired hippie dude with flowers in his hair.

As it turned out we were to be disappointed, however, when all we found was a narrow-faced, middle-aged, bespectacled man with thinning hair and a goatee, wearing a collar and tie. He gave us a smile and a wave as we cruised by.

'Damn,' Tim said. 'That was a letdown.'

The four of us all laughed.

'So? What else is there to do while we are here?' Matt asked again.

'Real estate agents,' Guy answered. 'We should have a look for cheap flats, or houses to rent, preferably in Thompsonville. Today's Saturday, so some may be open, otherwise they'll still have notices in their windows, won't they?'

'Brilliant,' I said. 'Could we like, all share?'

'Of course,' Guy answered. 'It's the logical thing to do, isn't it?'

'Damn right it is,' Matt answered. 'We're keen if you're keen. It'd be perfect.'

We managed to find the campus a short while later, thanks mainly to the fact that Tim and Guy had already had a bit of a snoop around after they had arrived the previous afternoon. Shortly afterwards we had found a parking space in a car park at the bottom of a hill, at the top of which, we soon discovered, was the main administration building.

I got out of the car and simply looked around in total amazement.

'Everything looks so new,' I said to my companions.

'Yeah, well it is a relatively new university. It's only been going about five years. They're even still working on some buildings,' Tim said to me, pointing towards a construction site a few hundred metres down the road.

As we all walked up the hill towards the administration building, Matt asked, 'So, what made you guys want to come here?'

'Thompsonville,' Tim answered. 'We just loved the place so much after spending that bit of time here after Schoolies with you and Luke. What about you?'

'The same,' I answered, smiling.

Just as we reached the steps of the main building, we heard an awful racket down in the car park and turned just in time to see the same orange Kombi that we had passed earlier, pulling into the car park, still trailing smoke.

The day proved to be an experience, to say the least.

We were bombarded with literature. We were treated to tours of all the facilities. We had our every question answered. We had also found that there were various stands set up around the campus, offering details on all manner of activities that we could get involved in; from sports to the arts, even a Gay Support group, which we glanced at only casually as we were walking past, but which, I had to admit, certainly piqued my interest.

The Gay Support groups stand was being manned by a rather large girl with very short, spiked, bright-pink hair, who looked like someone you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley, so we kept walking… although I am sure that she would have proved to be perfectly charming had we stopped.

At lunch time we bought some food from one of several stalls that had been set up near the administration building and ate it sitting on a nearby grassed area, while watching clowns, jugglers and various other assorted entertainers plying their trade.

'Is this a university or a circus?' Matt asked at one stage.

'A bit of both actually,' came an answer from somewhere behind us. 'Those are mostly local students from our Performing Arts faculty.'

Startled, we spun around to see who it was, only to find that it was our weasel-faced friend from the smoke-blowing, orange, Kombi van.

'Are you all coming here this year?' he asked us.

'Everyone but me,' Matt answered.

'Well, I hope you are finding your way around the campus alright?' he responded.

'Yes, we are. Thanks,' Tim answered. 'It's been great.'

'I'm pleased,' the Kombi driver said, then without another word he wandered off along the path towards the administration building.

We left the campus about an hour later, shortly after we had come face to face with a couple of our old classmates; James Bower and Tom Davis, who, it seemed, would also be attending the university.

We introduced them to Tim and Guy, and for some reason my mind flipped back to that very first day back at school, after our formal, when there was the first sign of trouble for Matt. The guys chatted for a little while, but I drifted off someplace else, deep in thought, thinking about that day when James had asked Matt if he had 'got lucky on Friday night?'.

I remember his exact words now, just as plainly as if I were just hearing them for the first time today. I also thought about the mystery e-mailer I'd had way back when it was all starting. The one who had said he was gay and was in our class at school.

I wondered if it might have been James. I wasn't sure about Tom, though. Even though he had been in the same year at school, I didn't really know him well enough to even hazard a guess.

Moments later I snapped back to attention when I heard someone say, 'Luke?'


'I asked you if you got yourself accepted here?' Tom was saying.

'Sorry, I must have been somewhere else. Ummm… not officially. I'm still waiting to hear back from them. Matt and I just thought we'd come down to check the place out anyway and catch up with these guys, seeing as they were coming up to have a look around.'

'Ahhh… okay then. Well, good luck with it then,' James said.


We all went on our merry way after that, and our small group headed back towards Matt's car.

'You seen enough?' he asked me as we dawdled along a path, a few feet behind Tim and Guy, who were deep in conversation ahead of us.

'Yeah,' I answered. 'It looks impressive, doesn't it?'

'Hmmmmm,' was all that Matt said.

When we reached the car Tim and Guy were propped up against the front mudguard waiting for us.

'You ready for a trip now?' Tim asked us once we reached them.

'What sort of a trip?' Matt asked, rather cautiously.

'You'll see,' Tim answered.

After leaving Macquarie Harbour the boys led us northwards, with Matt driving, while Guy was chief navigator. It was getting on in the afternoon, but there was still at least a few hours of daylight left, so we were keen to take advantage of that.

At Guy's instruction, we didn't head back out onto the Pacific Highway, instead travelling through the northern suburbs of the city before winding up on what was called the Old Coast Road that, unsurprisingly, appeared to be running parallel with the coast.

It was a narrow two-lane road, with lots of twists and turns as it clung to the rugged coastline. I could see that Matt was starting to get a little anxious the further we went, with forests closing in around us, yet despite his obvious concern we pressed on. A short while later, once we started to catch glimpses of the cliffs and the rolling blue sea through the gaps in the dense forests, it seemed to lift all our spirits once again as the scenery was becoming more and more beautiful.

'Are you guys sure you know where we are going?' Matt had asked our friends more than once.

'Relax, mate,' Guy said. 'We're nearly there.'

'Yeah, but where is that exactly?'

'You'll see.'

Then just as we thought we had reached the end of the world the forests that had surrounded us gave way to open country, and when we looked towards the ocean all we could see were miles and miles of rolling sand dunes.

'Wow! Look at all that sand,' I exclaimed.

'Yeah, they mine it for use in building, like for making cement,' Guy remarked as we passed between the dunes and the mountains, before coming to a small cluster of buildings along either side of the road.

A little further on, we turned down a gravel road. Soon we came to a cleared headland and rest area, with picturesque views of the ocean and sandy beaches that ran for miles and miles in either direction.

As we rounded the last bend in the road, a sign loomed up in front of us.

'Welcome to Flinders Beach,' it said, and I heard Matt give a loud sigh.

'What is this place?' I asked them.

'Only the best nudist beach around here,' Tim answered.

'Now you're talking,' Matt said as he stopped the Commodore against the fence, pointing its nose out towards the azure sea.

There were only two other cars in the car park, which thankfully meant that things were fairly quiet today, so after getting out of the car, and flinging our towels over our shoulders, the four of us almost ran down the sandy path to the beach.

'Wow,' Matt said as he stopped and gazed along the beach in both directions.

'Come on you guys,' Tim said to us as he pulled his t-shirt over his head to reveal a perfect six-pack and beautifully tanned body. 'Last one in is a rotten egg.'

We were giggling like a bunch of school kids but within a matter of seconds we all managed to strip our clothes off and were soon running towards the water's edge, each as naked as the day we had been born.

We saw no one else on the beach that afternoon, despite the fact that it was a Saturday and there had been a couple of other cars in the car park. We figured that their owners were probably either on the beach around the other side of the headland, or off in the scrub having some other type of fun.

Undeterred, however, we played there until just before the sun showed signs of sinking below the horizon, dunking each other in the water, racing each other along the beach, or making out in the long grass that ran down to the edge of the sand from the shifting dunes.

It was a wonderful afternoon, but as the sun sank lower and the shadows slowly stretched their chilly fingers across the sands, we finally decided it was time to head back towards civilisation. With our towels wrapped around us or draped over our shoulders, we headed back towards the car, carrying our clothes.

'Come on, there are showers back up on the hill,' Tim said as we all trudged back up to the car park.

'So, you're still not sure yet if you will get into SSU?' Tim asked me as we made our way up the hill.

'No,' I answered him. 'I guess I was a little slow in applying. I've been keeping in contact with the admissions office though and I'm on the waiting list, so I'm hopeful they will find a spot there for me.'

'I hope so too,' he answered.

'Have you heard back from them yet?' I asked.

'Not officially. I rang them though, before we drove up here, and they told me over the phone that I was in. They said the letter of confirmation was in the mail.'

I just nodded.

'Hey, maybe yours will be waiting for you when you get home?' he said, punching me in the arm as he did so.

'Here's hoping.'

When we reached the top of the path Tim led us to a brick building, which was off to one side and right near the edge of the forest. There were toilets and showers in there, so we walked into the showers and dropped our clothes on to the change bench, before then stepping under streams of instantly hot water.

'Shit,' Matt exclaimed. 'They've even got hot water all the way out here. Brilliant.'

We all stood under the water, beneath separate nozzles, with the room slowly filling with steam. Matt stood at one end, then Guy, then Tim, then me.

I couldn't help myself, even though we had all been swimming naked together I just couldn't stop staring at Tim under the shower. He was standing next to me in the showers, letting the water run down over his body and wash away the salt from the ocean.

As we stood there, I noticed that he was growing erect and as he did so he glanced up and saw me staring at him, then smiled. It felt like I was back at school in the showers after playing football or something and I suddenly found myself stirring as well. I quickly turned away to hide my embarrassment.

When I felt someone place their hand on my shoulder, I jumped. Slowly I turned around, to see Tim standing there facing me, slowly stroking himself.

Matt was standing beside him with his arm draped over Tim's shoulder, his face lit up with this huge grin. Guy was standing there also, with his arm draped over Tim's other shoulder.

Three beautiful boys all in a row. And all three standing to attention. It was one of those moments I had fantasised about, but never thought I would ever be involved in.

As I stood there gawking at them, Tim reached over and pulled Matt's face to his, then kissed him.

My heart started racing. My throat went dry. My dick started throbbing. I didn't know what to do.

I thought about it. Oh god, how I thought about it. But in the end, I couldn't do it. As hot as these other guys were, there was only one guy that I wanted to kiss. There was only one cock I wanted to suck. There was only one guy I wanted to fuck me.

Just one.

Not three.

So despite all of my fantasies and daydreams. Despite my grinning at them this morning in the caravan while they were going at each other. This just wasn't me. I wasn't into group sex.

Feeling like a coward, I turned and ran from the room, on legs that felt like jelly, pausing only to pick up my towel on the way out.

From behind me I heard Matt say, 'Oh, shit,' then I heard him running as well, following me.

I only stopped when I was outside, having hastily grabbed my towel as I passed the bench and then wrapped it around me. I found myself leaning up against the wall of the building gasping for breath and shaking. It was crazy, I know. But I just couldn't help it.

'I'm so sorry. I just wasn't thinking,' Matt said to me as he came to me and leant against the building beside me.

I managed something that I think resembled a smile.

'You were thinking alright. But with the wrong head,' I said to him, grinning. 'Anyway, you don't have to be sorry. It was just me. That was all.'

'But I kissed Tim?' he exclaimed.


'You're not angry?' he asked, rather incredulously.

'I guess I should be, but no… I'm not angry.'

'So, what then…' he started to say, but I stopped him, by placing my fingers against his lips.

'You don't know how often I've fantasised about a moment like that,' I said to him. 'But when push came to shove, I just couldn't do it. I'm really not into that type of scene. There is only one person I want to make love to. Not three.'


'Shut up,' I said. 'And just kiss me.'

He did as he was told.

Tim and Guy cautiously emerged a few moments later, dripping wet and also with their towels wrapped around themselves.

Matt and I broke our lip lock just long enough to give them a smile.

'I'm sorry,' Tim started to say, but I stopped him.

'It's okay, really,' I said. 'It's no big deal. It's just that there's only one guy I'm interested in. You guys are hot, but that just isn't my scene.'

'No hard feelings then?' Tim asked, extending his hand towards me.

I didn't shake his hand, although I probably should have. Instead, we all just stared at him, with our mouths open.

'I can't believe you just said that,' Guy said to him.

'What…' he began to say, but then the penny dropped, and he went as red as a beetroot.

There was little said between us all as we drove back to the caravan park. Tim and Guy were wearing their looks of guilt quite well, not that it was bothering me much, while Matt was grinning to himself.

'What's your problem?' I tried asking him a couple of times, but he simply shook his head.

That evening, after having a proper shower and changing into clothes that didn't smell like a salt mine, we all went down to the boardwalk and ate fish and chips from a diner, while watching the lights of the few boats out on the lake and the houses on the far side being reflected off the water.

It was a peaceful scene, and one that I knew we would have very little difficulty in getting used to given half a chance. I pointed out some houseboats on the far side of the lake to Matt and we watched the people on board going about their lives.

'I could handle living like that,' he said to me as he reached across and took my hand in his.

'So could I,' I replied.

Afterwards, we went to the movies.

It was a pleasant night and we enjoyed ourselves, and we hoped it would be the first of many nights that we would enjoy here in each other's company.

'What about tomorrow?' Guy asked as we came out of the theatre and started walking back towards the caravan park. 'What do you guys want to do?'

'There are markets on in Macquarie Harbour,' I suggested. 'I saw a sign up at the university today.'

'Cool,' Matt said. 'That should be interesting. Do you want to go in and check them out?'

'Sounds good to me,' Tim said.

'Me too,' Guy said.

'That's great!'

'There's also something else we still have to do yet,' Guy added.

'What's that?' I asked.

'Have a look in the windows of some of the real estate agents for houses to rent.'

'That's right. We were going to do that, weren't we?' Matt said.

When we all got back to the caravan, we figured it had been a long enough day already and decided to turn in. After saying goodnight to our friends and them pulling the door to the bedroom firmly shut, we switched off the light.

'That was an interesting day,' I whispered to Matt as he sat down beside me in the darkness and rested his head on my shoulder.

'Hmmm. Yes, it was,' he replied.

I put my arm around his shoulder and kissed his forehead.

'Now, where did we leave off this afternoon?' I asked him.

He lifted his head and even in the faint light that was coming through the window I could see he was grinning.

I stood up to start undressing, but Matt had other ideas. He placed his hands on my hips and gently guided me around in front of him then he started fumbling with my belt and the zipper of my trousers, while I slipped my t-shirt off over my head.

As my baggy cargo pants fell around my ankles I reached down and grabbed the back of Matt's t-shirt, pulling it upwards and over his head.

We both worked slowly, enjoying every moment, even at this early stage.

Matt pulled my body towards him, and I placed my hands on either side of his head, then together, we positioned his face right in front of my rapidly growing member, which for now was still being restrained by my jocks.

He pushed his face into me and gently bit at me through the now stretched fabric. I giggled. So he did it again, but then he hooked his fingers through the elastic and slipped my jocks down around my knees, allowing my manhood to spring free and stand to attention.

I could feel his breath on me, cool and refreshing in the warm night, and it sent a tingling sensation through my loins. When Matt touched the sensitive head of my penis with his tongue, that same tingle then coursed right through my entire body.

I thrust myself at Matt and his mouth opened, taking all of my manhood inside it. As I did so, however, I also overbalanced. I had tried to move my foot, to steady myself but with my trousers and jocks around my ankles, I was effectively hobbled.

It all happened in slow motion. I was falling, and while Matt tried to hold me upright, he couldn't quite manage it. I fell sideways onto the bed, landing with a thud that shook the entire caravan, with his mouth still wrapped around me and both of us now giggling uncontrollably.

'Hey, what's going on out there?' we heard Tim call out, laughing as he did so.

It was too late for us. We were both already laughing.

The first Sunday of each month is traditionally Market Day, when most of shops in the main shopping mall in the centre of town are closed and the area coming alive with all manner of stalls, displays and entertainment.

As we walked down the mall, breathing in the experience that was our very first Macquarie Harbour markets, we couldn't help but be impressed. There were arts and craft stalls, along with food stalls, of every type imaginable. There were people selling all sorts of old gear, most of which looked like junk, but the money was changing hands like you wouldn't believe.

'Have you ever seen anything like this?' Matt asked me, as we pulled up in front of a stall that sold hand-made jewellery.

I just shook my head, while looking at a silver arrowhead on a leather thong.

'Hey, that's nice,' Matt said, after noticing what I was looking at.

'Yeah, it is. Probably expensive though.'

I let go of the pendant and we walked on a little further, soon coming across a group of people wearing tie-died clothes and with flowers in their hair, selling small pots with herb seedlings.

'What type of herbs are they?' I heard Guy ask a tall girl with dirty-blonde hair who was wearing bright yellow and red tie-dyed pants.

'There is Rosemary and Basil and Mint,' she answered him, pointing out each little group of plants.

Suddenly, Tim stuck his head out from around behind Guy, which startled the girl.

'Nothing more exotic?' he asked her seriously.

She looked at him sternly for a while then said, 'Not here I'm afraid, but if you come back when we are packing up, we may be able to help you.'

I looked around to see if Matt was there and watching this but couldn't see him anywhere in the crowd.

With a mischievous glint in his eyes, Tim said, 'Okay, I'll see what I can do,' then disappeared into the crowd, before then coming back around behind me, leaving Guy alone to discover the pleasures of herbs.

Yes sir, they had it all at these markets.

The four of us were reunited moments later, when Matt emerged from the crowd and Guy managed to tear himself away from his newfound friend.

'Where did you get to?' I asked Matt.

'Needed a piss,' he answered. 'Why? Did you miss me or something?'

'Maybe,' I answered, while grinning. He slugged me in the arm.

We walked on a little further and came across a stall selling Asian food.

'Hey, what time is it?' I asked Guy, who happened to be the only one out of the four of us who was wearing a watch.

'Going on for twelve,' he answered. 'Almost lunch time.'

'How about we grab a bite to eat here, and sit over there to eat,' I said, pointing at the Asian stall and then towards the steps of the Court House, which happened to be in the main street.

So, we did just that, and sat on the steps eating spring rolls and tasty satay chicken skewers, while we watched the world go by.

It was an eye-opener, to say the least. We saw people of all shapes and sizes and persuasions. We reckoned that the motto for these market days, if they had one, should be 'Let it all hang out' because that seemed to be what just about everyone was doing.

When we had almost finished eating, I looked up and noticed two guys walking towards us. They were about our age, or maybe a little older.

I noticed the bright-orange hair that one of them had. And also the black leather trousers the other one wore. What really caught my attention, however, was the fact that they were both holding hands.

I must have been staring at them for quite a while, because I heard Matt say in my ear, 'What are you looking…'

I glanced at him and noticed that he was then staring as well.

'Holy shit,' he whispered. 'There must be a thousand people here and look at them holding hands like that.'

I smiled at him.

'Notice something else?' I asked him.


'The only people staring at them are you and me.'

He blinked. He swallowed. Then he smiled.

'I think I could live in a town like this,' he said to me.

'So could I,' I answered, then took hold of his hand.

We walked along the mall like that before heading back towards the car – all four of us hand in hand – and even managed to spot a couple of real estate agents and browse the photos in their windows. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be much in the way of rentals available so I figured we would need to call in while their offices were open. I just couldn't believe we could all be so open in this place. The only reaction we got from anyone at all was a smile and a wink from an older guy with a ponytail.

We left Thompsonville and Macquarie Harbour behind us the following morning, after following Tim and Guy once again to the same roadside diner from where we had said our goodbyes on the last trip.

It was midmorning so we enjoyed coffees together and then hugged each other out in the car park, before heading our separate ways and promising to see each other again soon.

Tim apologised for about the fiftieth time for kissing my boyfriend. I told him not to sweat it.

As Matt and I were in no real hurry to get home we decided to stretch our trip home out a little, stopping frequently and having a look around in just about every little town along the way. This proved to be both enjoyable and educational.

Just like last time, we also stopped at the scenic lookout halfway up the mountain, where we sat at a picnic table that had a bark shelter over the top, and ate the lunch that we had purchased at the last stop.

After I had finished I wandered over to the railing and looked down into the valley below us that stretched all the way back to the ocean, which we could still make out in the distance.

As I stood there, Matt came up behind me and put something around my neck and, quite startled, I looked down and saw that it was the silver arrowhead that I had been looking at the previous day at the markets.

I turned around and faced him, and he leant in close, holding on to the railing with one arm either side of me, forcing me back against the rail and making sure I couldn't escape.

'What did you go and do that for?' I asked him.

'Coz I wanted to,' he answered. 'Do I need any other reason than that?'

I just shook my head and looked down at the silver pendant.

'Thank you. It's beautiful,' I said to him.

'Only on you,' he whispered, then pulled me to him and hugged me before we started walking back to the car, arm in arm.

When we reached my parents' house later that day, which was our first stop after getting back into town, it was just on dark but there were no lights on.

'They must have gone out someplace,' I said to Matt as we pulled up at the back door.

'Will we keep going?' he asked me.

'No, just give me a minute and I'll run in and see if they left a note or anything. We did tell them that we would be back tonight.'

'Okay, I'll just wait here for you.'

After getting out of the car and walking up the few steps to the back door, I pulled out my keys and let myself inside, then switched on the kitchen light.

Noticing that there was something on the table I walked over to it and found a note from my parents, plus two official-looking letters that were addressed to me.

The note said that they had all gone out to the movies, so I then turned my attention to the envelopes I was holding. Each of them bore a crest in the top, left-hand corner of the envelope, and I instantly knew what they were.

The first letter that I looked at was from Highlands University.

The second was from Southern Star University.

I looked at them for a long moment before finally heading towards the door. My hands were trembling as I switched off the light and then locked the back door. I nearly stumbled down the back steps.

'Is everything alright?' Matt asked me as I sat back in the car. 'You look like you've seen a ghost.'

I managed a faint smile then showed him the envelopes. He simply raised his eyebrows and let out a long soft whistle.

'So, where is everyone?' he asked me.


'Oh. Well, are you going to open them?'

For a long while I didn't answer him. I just kept staring at the envelopes.


'Huh?' I said, coming back to reality.

'I said, are you going to open them?'

'Later,' I answered. 'For now, let's just go home.'

We drove the short distance in silence, and when we reached our small flat I simply got out of the car and went straight inside, sitting straight down on the edge of the bed and holding them out in front of me, turning them over in my hands, unsure if they were going to bite me or kiss me.

'You have to open them,' Matt said when he eventually came inside, carrying both of our bags and noticing me staring at the envelopes in what he must have seen as fear.

Of course I had to open them. It was just that these two envelopes were making me more nervous than I had been when I held my unopened exam results in my hand.

'Hmmm,' I answered.


'Alright then. I'll do it. Which one first?'

'Highlands,' he answered, as he folded his arms and propped himself up against the doorway.

I looked at the envelope, then roughly tore the end open and pulled its contents out.

I felt my heart jump, as I quickly read through it, then I just put the envelope down on my lap and let myself fall back onto the mattress.

'Well?' Matt asked, as he crawled onto the bed beside me and propped himself up on one elbow.

'I'm in,' I answered. 'There's a place there for me if I want it.'

Matt smiled, lighting up the room as he did so, just as he always managed to do.

'Now for the big one,' I said.

'No matter what. It'll be fine,' Matt promised me.

Once again, I tore the envelope open and pulled out its contents, and once again my heart skipped when I read the contents of the letter.

When I was finished, I let my head fall back against the bed once more, only this time it was different.

'Well?' Matt excitedly asked me.

Of course, I'd already known what the letter was going to contain, but how could I tell him that I had missed out? How could I tell him that I was only on a waiting list? I had set my heart on this. Just as I was sure that Matt had now set his heart on it also. Now those dreams were shattered.

Finally, I looked at him and straight away he knew it. I held the letter out for him and he snatched it from my hands, before quickly reading it through.

'I… I…' I started to say, but no words could come out. All that seemed to be coming from me were tears.

He looked down at me and I could see he was near to crying as well, then in an instant, he was bundling me up into his strong arms and rocking me backwards and forwards.

'Ssssh…' he was saying. 'It's alright. It doesn't matter.'

I wanted to tell him that I knew that, really, but nothing came out.

He just held me close to him, rocking away my hurt, and somewhere deep in the night we both fell into a fitful, uneasy asleep.

It proved to be a restless night for both of us, with a lot of tossing and turning and with very little sleep going on.

When morning came we were both still dressed in the clothes we had been wearing the day before, having fallen asleep in each other's arms on the bed. There was a blanket covering us, which I guessed that Matt must have pulled up over us both at some stage.

Wearily, I sat up and ran my fingers through my hair, feeling as if I'd just gone twelve rounds with Mike Tyson, and when I looked across at Matt and noticed the dark rings under his eyes I reckoned it would be safe to assume that he was going to feel the same way when he woke up.

It was a little before seven so as quietly as I could, I got up and walked over to the clock radio and made sure that the alarm didn't go off and wake Matt up, thinking that I would let him sleep for just a little while longer.

I thought about going and having a shower, but instead I just lay back down on the bed with my arms folded behind my head, and stared at the ceiling.

This was going to be a long day. For both of us!

I thought about the letters I had received the day before and about our shattered dreams, but after a while I came to the conclusion that it really didn't matter where I went to university. Matt would come with me and we would be together. What did it matter where it was?

I knew that we also had to get through today first. There was something far more pressing to attend to today, so for the moment I would put aside my own disappointment to focus all my energies on Matt. He needed me today. And so did my father. And I wasn't going to let either of them down by being too wrapped up with my own problems and disappointments.

Finally, at about seven thirty, having reconciled everything I needed to do in my own mind, I reached out and gently shook him by the shoulder.

He simply brushed my hand away and rolled over.

I reached over and gently leant across him, then quietly spoke into his ear.

'Come on, dreamboat. You've got to get up,' I said to him.

I got no response at all this time. I was tempted to go and get a saucepan full of cold water, but quickly decided against that option.

I shook him by the shoulder again. Only a little more forcefully, and this time I got a reaction.

'Just leave me alone, will you?' he said to me.

'You have to get up. It's after half past seven.'

Quickly, he threw back the blanket and sat upright.

'What happened to the alarm? Why didn't you wake me?' he testily asked.

I almost laughed at him.

It was one of those awkward moments, the type that you always hoped you would be able to avoid but knew deep down would catch up with you eventually.

We had just climbed the stairs that led up to the main doors of the Court House. There were seven of us who entered the foyer together, being Harry, Matt and his parents, plus my parents and me, all nervous and wishing that this day would be over as quickly as possible.

What we were not prepared for, however, was the sight of Tony, Aunt Margaret and who I assumed was the Police Prosecutor, all walking into the foyer from a side door at exactly the same time.

We knew that we would be seeing them at some stage today, but to come face to face with Matt's accusers at this early stage of the morning was a little more than any of us had expected.

The two groups eyed each other off for what seemed like an eternity, before anyone spoke.

'Hello, Margaret,' my mother finally said to her sister.

Aunt Margaret simply nodded, while standing behind Tony and holding on to his shoulders, as if she were using him as a shield.

I looked at Tony, who I could see was quite visibly upset and shaking and was looking directly at Matt, while Aunt Margaret stood fast, her face set in a determined glare.

Tony's expression, to me, looked to be a strange mixture of fear and guilt, which I thought was rather odd, while Matt just glared back at him, understandably seething with hatred for my young cousin.

I think that if there hadn't have been so many people around, Tony would have found himself on the wrong end of Matt's anger this morning, which I would have hated to have seen, for both of their sakes.

The uneasy silence continued.

Finally, it was Harry who told us to move along, gesturing towards some seats that were over against one wall. We turned and started towards them, but just as we did this we were stopped, by three words which were unexpectedly uttered from behind us.

'I'm so sorry,' Tony said, pulling away from his mother's grasp and quickly walking over to where Matt and I had stopped, as we turned to face him.

'What did you say?' I asked him.

'Tony! Shut up,' his mother said, as she grabbed him by the arm and tried to drag him away from us.

It was Harry and the Police Prosecutor who then intervened and managed to free Tony from his mother's vice-like grip.

'Tony. What did you just say?' I repeated.

He looked from me, to Matt, to the Prosecutor, to his mother and finally back at Matt and me.

'I said I… I was sorry. I didn't mean for it to go this far,' he answered, rather meekly.

I let out a deep breath. Matt's trembling hand found his way into mine. I just wanted to hug him.

After a long silence Tony added, 'I tried to tell her the truth… that I had just made it up to get your attention, but she wouldn't believe me. Then she told me to shut up, and to say nothing. She said you deserved it anyway. You know, because you're both…'

Harry and the Police Prosecutor exchanged glances and I knew that finally, after all that we had been through, it was almost over.

Behind us, Matt's parents were hugging each other, with his mother sobbing softly on her husband's shoulder.

Matt and I were still too dumbstruck to even speak, while Aunt Margaret simply sank onto a chair, her shoulders slumped in defeat.

Finally, I turned to Matt and hugged him.

'It's over,' I whispered into his ear. He was too choked up to answer, so I hugged him again, while strangers in the foyer looked at us, horrified, and spoke to each other in quiet whispers.

Tony stood in the middle of us, looking like a lost, little boy and not knowing which way to turn.

Briefly, I left Matt and went to him.

'Thank you,' I said to Tony, stretching my hand out towards him.

Hesitantly, he took it, and then I drew him to me and hugged him.

'I'm so proud of you for doing that,' I said to him quietly.

With the back of his hand and his sleeve, he wiped away a tear and then nodded.

'You don't… hate me?' he asked.

Truthfully and without hesitation, I simply said, 'No, mate. I don't hate you.'

When we entered the courtroom a short time later, we took our places in the seats directly behind where Harry sat, just as he had directed us to. Things may have been over in our minds, but apparently we still had to go through the formalities in front of the judge.

Tony and his mother sat directly behind the Police Prosecutor, on the other side of the court room, and we all eyed each other with jubilation, triumph, contempt or fear – depending on which side of the fence you were sitting.

When the magistrate entered the room, a scholarly looking woman who looked to be in her fifties, with grey hair and wearing glasses that were parked on the end of her pointy nose, we were instructed to 'all rise' by the court assistant.

The magistrate settled herself into her chair, then looked over the sheets of paper that were in front of her, at which time we were then told to 'Please be seated'.

'Good morning, gentlemen,' she said after a brief silence, while looking out into the court room. 'Are there any matters for mention prior to our commencement?'

Harry stood up and cleared his throat.

'Good morning, Your Worship,' he said, in a voice that seemed to echo throughout the room. At the same time he turned and motioned for Matt to stand. 'In the matter of the Crown versus Matthew Charles Parsons and in light of new information, the defence moves to have all charges dismissed, Your Worship.'

She looked out over the top of her glasses at him, with eyebrows raised.

'Mr Sloane, what does the prosecution have to say on this matter?' the Magistrate asked, directing her question at the Police Prosecutor, who now rose to his feet.

'In view of fresh information that has only been made available just this morning, Your Worship, the prosecution concurs with the motion presented by the defence.'

The magistrate looked down at the papers in front of her, then back at both Harry and Mr Sloane, and shook her head.

'It appears as though the court's time has been wasted on this matter, then?' she stated.

'Errr, in this case Your Worship, yes. I'm afraid so,' Mr Sloane answered.

The magistrate continued to stare at him.

'However, additional investigation is now likely to be carried out with respect to this case, Your Worship, and the prosecution anticipates that further charges of Public Nuisance may be laid,' he added, while turning and staring directly at Aunt Margaret, who sat cowering in her seat.

The magistrate's gaze shifted from the prosecutor to Aunt Margaret, then back again.

'I see,' she finally said. 'Very well. I have no alternative other than to dismiss this case.'

From the back of the Court Room came a very loud, 'Yes!', and we all turned to see DJ and Hoss sitting there, grinning.

Even the magistrate managed a wry smile at that, just before she said simply, 'Case dismissed. Young man, you are free to go.'

For some reason it felt like something of an anti-climax. I had half expected her to slam a gavel down and for the finale to be all dramatic, but apparently things don't work that way in Australian courts.

Despite our jubilation at the truth finally coming out in Matt's case, our day wasn't over yet. Not by a long shot.

My father still had to face his turn before the Magistrate and there were no guarantees that things would go as sweetly for him as they had done for Matt.

Shortly after Matt had been given his reprieve, we had all slapped him on the back and said, 'Well done,' while Aunt Margaret made a hasty exit from the room with a now smiling Tony being dragged along in her wake.

The Magistrate once again asked if there were any matters for mention, and once again Harry stood up and cleared his throat.

'Again, Mr Lawson?' the Magistrate asked, looking down out at him over the top of her glasses.

'Yes, Your Worship,' Harry said. 'In the matter of the Crown versus Thomas James Solomon, the defence wishes to enter a plea of guilty.' He then turned to my father and motioned for him to stand.

Dad did as asked, standing with his hands clasped together in front of him and looking down at the floor. It was almost like he wasn't game to look at the Magistrate.

The Magistrate shuffled some papers in front of her, then settled on the forms she needed and started reading through them.

'Your Worship, as you will see from the statements, which have been presented to this court, this has been a most trying time for this family, and we contend that there were extenuating circumstances which led to the incident for which my client has been charged.'

'These are charges of a most grievous nature, Mr Lawson.'

'Yes, Your Worship, they most certainly are. However, I think you would agree that my client's actions were merely a reaction to a situation that he had had no prior experience with.'

'That is no excuse, Mr Lawson. Your client inflicted injuries in this attack, and on his own son no less, and while there may have been no lasting damage, for that attack there can be no excuse, mitigating circumstances or not.'

I looked at my father, who was sitting in the same chair that Matt had occupied just minutes earlier, directly behind where Harry now stood. He looked shaky and I could see the beads of sweat that were forming on his forehead.

Harry was getting fidgety, and I didn't like that.

There was a lengthy silence, as the magistrate continued to read through the documents in front of her.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, she reached up and took her glasses off, then rubbed at the bridge of her nose, before replacing her glasses.

'Having said that, however, and having taken all of the circumstances into account, I am loath to see any further pain inflicted upon this family in this case.'

Harry shot a glance at my father, which gave some glimmer of hope.

'I see that there has been a good deal of remorse on your client's behalf, Mr Lawson, and that he and his family have since reconciled.'

'Yes, Your Worship, they have,' Harry answered.

'Very well, I am not inclined to punish this family anymore, given their circumstances.'

I noticed Harry let out a huge breath. That had to be a good sign.

After a lengthy silence, the Magistrate finally looked directly at my father and said, 'Mr Solomon, I view matters such as this with utmost seriousness. However, as I have already said, I see no reason as to why your family should be punished anymore than they already have been in this case.'

She looked directly at Matt and me, obviously noticing him holding my hand, very tightly, then gave the slightest of smiles.

'You can consider yourself lucky that you have such a forgiving, and loving, family, Mr Solomon, and that your son did not sustain any serious injuries from this incident. I find the charge of Common Assault proven and a conviction is to be recorded. Furthermore, I hereby impose a Good Behaviour Bond of Three Years.'

My mother, who was sitting beside me, let out a loud sob, which echoed throughout the court room. I reached across and hugged her.

'A word of warning for you, however, Mr Solomon. Should there be cause for you to appear before this court at any time in the future, under similar circumstances, I will have no hesitation in imposing a much harsher punishment. Do you understand me, Mr Solomon?'

'Yes, Your Worship. I do,' my father answered.

'Very well then. You may go. Next case please.'

So, that was it. Three months of anger and heartache and hatred were now as good as over. There had been no fireworks. There had been no screaming matches. There were no tears, except maybe tears of joy.

We all walked from the court room, out into a beautiful, sunny, summer morning, with the weight of the world lifted from our shoulders. Birds sang in the nearby trees, and the busy street was still busy. Life would go on for all of us, and we could only look to the future now.

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