Juggling the Pieces

by Pink Panther

Chapter 7

August 2010

It's Tuesday. Scott's got a match this evening, in the first round of the League Cup. They're away to a club two divisions below them, up in the northern part of Lancashire, which means he's away all day. And even though they're coming back straight after the game, Scott won't get home until nearly two o'clock tomorrow morning. To allow for that, training tomorrow will be later than usual, which means that he won't be back at the flat until around four o'clock.

But I'm not complaining. I wanted to be Scott's boyfriend and this is part of the deal. The annoying part is that he's only going as a sub. Because they're playing lower-league opposition, they've put in several fringe players and left out some of their first team regulars. Fortunately, they don't have many evening matches.

After an easy five-mile run, I settle down to a day of reading and chilling out. I'd have asked Patrick to come and run with me, but he's working with his dad to earn some extra cash. I can't blame him for that.

The football match did not go well. I don't know the details, but they lost two-nil. I guess picking a weakened team may have had something to do with it. I don't even know if Scott actually got onto the pitch. They've got another Championship match on Saturday, away to Derby. I hope that one goes better.

The following afternoon, I arrive at Scott's place at quarter past four. I can tell straightaway that he's tired.

"What went wrong?" I ask as we snuggle up on the sofa.

"We started poorly," he says. "We looked very disjointed. To be honest, some of our guys looked like they didn't want to be there. To make matters worse, their supporters had turned out in force; we had hardly anyone. And I'm not going to blame the pitch, but it certainly wasn't what we're used to."

"You weren't playing, were you?"

"Not at the start; I was on the bench. I came on after half time, but it was too late by then. The fact is that they were right up for it. We weren't, and we paid the price. We have to learn the lesson, pick ourselves up and get back to work."

We gravitate to the bedroom. We strip down to our underwear but we don't have sex; this is TLC time. There's lots of kissing and snuggling. I even give him a massage: nothing very scientific, but it seems to help him relax. At quarter past five, he takes me home. As I stride into the house, I feel quite pleased with myself. When Scott was tired and a bit down, I was there for him.

It's the second Thursday in August; that's A-level results day. The students get their results emailed to them, but Claire, David and most of their friends are going to meet up at school as well. Just after half past nine, I hear a shriek from Claire's room. A moment later, she comes hurtling into mine.

"I've got them!" she says excitedly. "Look!"

She hands me her phone. There are her results:

French A*, German A*, English A, History A. Wow!

"Well done, sis!" I congratulate. "You deserve it! Do you know Damian's results yet?"

Right on cue, her phone starts ringing.

"This should be him now," she says as I hand it back to her.

There's an animated conversation.

"The same as mine!" Claire announces, beaming at me. "A*s for chemistry and biology; A's for maths and physics. Leeds, here we come!"

"Cool!" I respond.

"Right!" she says, all business again. "I've lots of people I need to tell before I go into school!"

"Sure!" I respond, taking the hint. "I'll let you get on with it."

As she returns to her room, I find myself basking in a warm glow. I'm absolutely delighted for her. She and Damian have worked really hard. Now they're reaping the rewards. Scott will have his results by now, but he'll be in the middle of training, so he won't have seen them yet. I guess I'll just have to be patient. I'll be seeing him this afternoon in any case, but I'll be fearing the worst if I have to wait till then. It would suggest that he hasn't got the results he wanted.

Just after midday, I get a text. It's very brief.

Economics A*, Maths A, History B. Hugs! Scott

Yes! I hammer my desk. I am over the moon! If he had wanted to go to LSE, he'd have got in with some to spare.

It's quarter to three when I arrive at Scott's flat. He opens the door, looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and as stunning as he usually does, such a contrast from yesterday.

"So who's a really clever boy then?" I quip, stepping inside.

Having closed the door, he draws me into the most wonderful hug imaginable.

"Thanks for yesterday," he whispers.

"What for?" I query. "I didn't do anything."

"Right at that moment, you gave me exactly what I needed."

"For you," I respond, grinning up at him, "that service comes as standard."

"I love you!" he says, guiding me into the lounge.

We flop down on the sofa.

"When you arrived yesterday, I felt like shit. Having spent more than six hours sitting on a coach didn't help. If we'd won, the return journey would have been okay. But having lost because we'd played like idiots, it was a killer. It seemed to take forever."

"It wasn't your fault that you lost," I suggest.

"We win as a team and we lose as a team," he says, firmly but gently. "I was on that pitch and wasn't able to make much impact, so I have to take my share of the responsibility. That's the way it is. But you were able to work your magic and ease the tension away. Today's been great. Training went really well. Getting my exam results was just the icing on the cake."

"Considering that you were playing football full-time, your results are amazing!"

"They're not bad!" he concedes. "I'm more than happy."

"Claire and Damian did really well too."

"Yes, Claire sent me a text, which was nice. And David's got his place at Oxford."

"I didn't know he was going to Oxford?"

"Oh, he doesn't talk about it," Scott says, smiling. "He just gets on and does it. David and I have been friends since we started at the grammar school. He was the one person that I could talk to about being gay and know that it wouldn't make a difference. I think he's one of the best people I've ever met."

"Will Lauren be going to Oxford too?"

"No, that was never on the cards. I think she's going to Nottingham."

"So how's that going to work?"

"It probably isn't," Scott says casually. "It was always a 'for now' relationship. They never expected it to last forever. When they get to university, they'll meet new people and see where that leads. They'll still be friends though."

"Is that why David split up with Claire?"

"Yeah, pretty much. Claire wanted a long-term thing. David wasn't ready for it."

I have to admit that the concept of a 'for now' relationship is one I've not met before. It seems strange at first, but when you're preparing for university and know that you're going to be separated, it does make sense. It's not what Scott and I want though. We're trying to build a long-term relationship, just like Claire and Damian are.

As for the A-level results, I'm delighted for Claire, Scott, Damian, David and all their friends, but they've made me realise how much I have to live up to.

It's Saturday afternoon. Once again, I have to keep track of what's happening in the football, but this time I'm far more relaxed about it. At half-time, the match at Derby is still goalless. Just before the hour mark, Reavington score. There aren't many details, so I'm not sure if Scott was involved or not. There are a couple more reports, with the summariser commenting on how tight the match is, but no more goals. In the league matches, they've won two out of two. You can't start better than that.

As I need to allow time for Scott to get home and have a meal, I don't arrive at the flat until eight o'clock.

"You won again!" I say, grinning.

"Just about," he responds. "We may have just shaded it, but on the balance of play, they were unlucky not to get a point."

I ask him about the goal.

"I was involved in the build-up," he says casually. "Not an actual assist though. So what about tomorrow?" he asks changing the subject. "What should I wear?"

"Smart casual," I tell him. "Not shorts, but nothing too formal."

"Should I bring anything? A bottle of wine, perhaps?"

"No; none of my other friends would."

"Fair enough!"

Dad and I begin Sunday morning by checking out The Football League Show on BBC iplayer. After a few minutes, they come to Scott's match. It seems that all they're going to show is the goal. It starts with Scott out on the left. He hits the ball diagonally to the far side of the pitch. From there, it's played into the middle where Femi, a tall, black guy who's their main goal-scorer, nods it down to his strike partner, who puts it into the back of the net. Neat!

"What a pass that was!" Dad enthuses. "You can't do it better than that. It had to be at least fifty yards. First, he has to see that the pass is on. Then he has to execute it. For an eighteen-year old, that's impressive."

On the telly, the pundits are saying much the same.

"All he said to me was that he was involved in the build-up." I comment.

"Hmmm," Dad says, nodding sagely. "I like that too."

I try not to show it, but inwardly, I'm glowing. Scott's made a good impression on Dad even before he's stepped through the door.

At quarter to one, the doorbell rings. I go to answer it. Scott's there, dressed in a dark, short sleeve shirt, a pair of neatly-fitting tan slacks and light-brown leather shoes. He looks great! I take him through to the lounge.

"Dad!" I announce. "Scott's here."

As Dad stands up, Scott steps forwards, extending his hand.

"Good afternoon, Mr Haskell," he says warmly as they shake hands. "Pleased to meet you. Thanks for inviting me."

"Pleased to meet you too!" Dad responds.

"I'm just going to take him to meet Mum," I say.

I lead him into the kitchen. Predictably, Mum's busy, her back towards us.

"Hi Mum!" I say. "This is Scott."

She turns around, and does a double-take. I'm not sure what she was expecting, but Scott clearly wasn't it.

"Good afternoon, Mrs Haskell," Scott says smiling. "Good to meet you!"

"Good to meet you too," Mum acknowledges, looking a little flustered. "We'll chat later!"

"Of course!" Scott responds, still smiling.

We return to the lounge. Just after one, we sit down to eat. With five of us, Scott and I sit on one of the long sides of the table, Scott to the left, me to the right, with Dad opposite us, Mum on our left and Claire on our right. We're having roast leg of lamb, definitely one of Mum's specialities.

"Well, Scott; thanks for coming," Dad begins. "We always like to meet Claire and Ian's friends. Could you tell us how you got into playing professional football?"

"Well, I've always loved the game," Scott explains. "And I've always done pretty well at it. I joined the junior academy of my current club when I was ten. They were prepared to give me a chance, while all the bigger clubs said I was too small. As it goes, it's worked out pretty well. I made the England Schoolboys' team when I was fifteen. The following year the club offered me a traineeship. I had to decide whether to accept it, or to stay at school and do my A-levels. I decided to accept it."

"Wouldn't you have done better to finish your education?" Mum queries.

"Actually no," Scott says politely. "Back in the 1970s, guys like Steve Heighway and Chris Hall, who both played for Liverpool, didn't turn professional until they'd finished their degrees. But the game's moved on since then. It would be very difficult to do that now."

"I understand that you've just done you're A-levels," Dad says. "How did you get on?"

"I got an A* for economics, A for maths and B for history," Scott says quietly.

"That's quite an achievement while playing football at the level you're at," Dad says.

"As I told Ian," Scott goes on. "Last October, I put in a UCAS application, because I wanted to find out what it would take for me to get into LSE. Their offer asked for an A in economics and B's in maths and history. I was never going to take it up, but it gave me a target to aim for. In October, I'll be starting an Open University degree in economics."

Mum and Dad are both impressed; I can tell. The meal continues in much the same way, with them asking a whole series of questions, and Scott answering politely but confidently. As we move onto dessert, Scott talks eloquently about our shared ambitions, as well as the commitment that we have to each other, and to what we're trying to achieve.

"We know it won't be easy," he concludes. "Nothing worth having ever is. But if we can make it happen, the prize, (of us living together, with him playing in the Premier League and me at a top architecture school) will be more than worth it. We want to give it our best shot."

I'm so proud of him. He answered every question and didn't get flustered once.

"Next Sunday," he says. "We'd like to invite you to a lunch-party at the flat. My parents will be there, and so it will be an opportunity for you to meet them, as well as seeing the wonderful job that Ian did in designing the place."

"Thanks!" Dad says. "We'd like that very much. You do know that I'll have to leave at about three o'clock?"

"Yes," Scott confirms. "Ian told me. We were thinking of twelve-thirty for one, if that's okay? Claire," he adds, turning towards her. "We'd like you and Damian to come along too if you can make it."

"I think that should be okay," she says, smiling. "We'll let you know."

"Right!" Dad says. "Mum and I need to have a chat before I go back to work, so why don't you young people go and enjoy your afternoon?"

"I'll just clear everything away," I respond, standing up. "Come on, Scott, you can help me load the dishwasher."

Ten minutes later, we're on our way. It's such a glorious afternoon, instead of going straight to the flat, we drive out into the country, where we spend almost an hour sitting outside a wonderful old pub, chatting and drinking glasses of coke.

Returning to the flat, we make passionate love, the way that only Scott and I can. At half past five, he drops me back at home. I make my way indoors. As I expected, Mum's on her own.

"Ian," she says. "I think we ought to have a little talk."

We stroll into the lounge, Mum sitting in her favourite armchair, me sitting on the sofa facing her.

"After you left, Dad and I had a long chat," she says gently. "I still think you're very young to be taking on something like this, but when you get down to it, the alternatives aren't very attractive either. Scott's clearly a very nice young man, and you seem quite determined that this is what you want, so we're going to give you our blessing."

"Thanks, Mum."

"We had another chat with Beth Goodwin," she goes on. "She said that she'd be turning cartwheels if Robbie found someone like Scott. Did you know he'd failed all his A-level courses?"

"Yeah, he called me. He was really upset about it. Not so much that he'd failed, but that he'd let his mum down."

"Did you tell him he needed to get away from Max?"

"Not exactly. He said he thought he needed to, so I told him he definitely did. It was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned."

"Apparently, Max was really unpleasant about it."

"I knew he would be. People like him always are when they don't get their own way. I hope Robbie stood up to him."

"To his credit, he did. Then Max's mother got on the phone and was very rude to Beth, going on about how Max was the only one who was capable of leading the other boys in the group, and how Robbie ought to be grateful for all that Max had done for him. The upshot is that I don't think we'll be seeing them again."

"Good!" I say, grinning. "The group will be better off without them."

"Now getting back to you," Mum goes on. "Our concern is not that you'll neglect your studies or anything like that, but that you'll find it too demanding. It's important that you know that Dad and I are still here for you. Please trust us enough to come and talk to us if things start getting on top of you."

"Thanks, Mum," I say, trying to stave off the tears. "I will; I promise."

It's obvious that Mum still has her doubts, but she's willing to put them on one side because what she really wants is for me to be happy and not screw things up. How lucky am I?

It's Saturday again. For the past few days, I've divided my time between reading, running, chilling out, being with Scott, and hanging out with friends. It's all been very pleasant.

Reavington have a home match today. Based on their league form, it's one they're expecting to win. Feeling more relaxed about it than I have previously, I don't even think about it until nearly four o'clock, when I check the half-time scores. I'm disappointed to find that the game's still goalless. The match report says that they've been well on top but don't have anything to show for it. I'm not too concerned; they've got another forty-five minutes to put it right.

I don't check again until twenty to five. With just over ten minutes left, nothing's changed. Now I am concerned. This was a match that they should have won comfortably, but they're not going to. Even if they do score a late goal, the victory definitely won't be comfortable. In the event, things stay as they are, the result a disappointing goalless draw. I wonder how Scott will react. I guess I'll find out later.

It's half past seven when I get to the flat.

"Not one of your better days, then?" I suggest, stepping inside.

"It was really frustrating," Scott tells me. "We did everything but score. We dominated possession and had several decent chances, but we couldn't take any of them. It just wasn't our day."

"How did you play?"

"I did okay; put in several good crosses and a couple of decent cut-backs, but every time, they were inches away from being perfect. It happens. On another day, we could have had a hatful."

"So what do you do now?"

"Basically, I need to keep believing in myself and carry on doing what I've been doing. The worst thing would be to try to be too precise. That definitely won't work. The game's too fast."

I don't totally understand it, but it is starting to make sense. When I get home, Dad's just about to watch Match of the Day . He pats the sofa, indicating for me to watch it with him. It's an opportunity I'm not going to miss. This is Scott's world, and I need to understand it far better than I do at the moment.

It's like somebody switched a light on. Dad does point out a few things, but now that I've developed an interest in the game, it's the TV pundits that really grab my attention. I become an instant fan of this Scottish guy called Alan Hansen, who's brilliant at explaining what's happening. With his help, I start to see things that otherwise I'd have completely missed. It's an important first step.

The following morning, Scott picks me up just before ten. We head straight to the supermarket, where we buy lots of salad items, and pick up the ready-prepared food that he's ordered.

Back at the flat, I'm put to work on the salads, washing this and chopping that, while Scott prepares the piece of rolled sirloin he's bought before putting it into the oven. He says it's going to be yummy. It certainly looks like it will.

When Scott held his flat-warming party, all the food was ready-prepared, and so I've not really been in the kitchen before. It's very well-equipped. All the knives and other utensils are absolute top quality, and it's very clear that Scott knows exactly what he's doing.

Once everything's been prepared, we lay it out in the kitchen so that people can serve themselves before taking it to the table to eat. Just before half past twelve, Scott takes the sirloin from the oven, putting it on an oval meat plate and leaving it to rest before carving. Coated in herbs and spices, it looks amazing!

Damian and Claire are the first to arrive, still bubbling at the prospect of their move to Leeds, Damian to study medicine, while Claire will be doing French and German. What I hadn't realised is that Damian's parents are buying a house for them to live in while they're studying. How cool is that?

My parents show up next. Of course, they've already met everyone, and so there's no need for any introductions. I look at Mum. I'm sure she still has some reservations, but whatever they are, she's keeping them well out of sight. It's like she's saying, 'I'm going to be polite and friendly, and do my best to make this thing work'. In the circumstances, I couldn't ask for more than that.

"This is a real young man's flat," Dad says approvingly as Scott gives my mum and dad the tour. "I wish I'd had a place like this when I was your age!"

"Totally!" Scott enthuses. "I love it!"

A few minutes later, Mum strolls into the kitchen, where Scott's about to begin carving the beef.

"Did you do all this?" she asks, smiling.

"I bought the wraps from M&S," he says, "but we've done all the rest. I did have a very good assistant!"

Mum beams at him. I'm delighted; Scott's learning very quickly how to push Mum's buttons!

Finally, Mr and Mrs Paxton arrive. As they make their way into the lounge, Mum and Dad intercept them.

"Good afternoon!" Dad says, smiling. "I'm Colin Haskell; this is my wife Judith. We're Ian's parents. Good to meet you!"

I take to Mrs Paxton immediately. She's warm and friendly, greeting everyone enthusiastically. I bet she's a wonderful teacher; the sort that most kids love to be taught by. Mr Paxton's a different matter. He's polite, but quiet to the point of being stand-offish. It's like he'd rather not be here.

Though I guess I shouldn't say it, lunch is superb. The beef is cooked to perfection, and everything else we've done has come out really well. As we eat, there's lots of friendly, happy conversation, exactly as we'd hoped there'd be. Scott's mum is a total star! She congratulates Claire and Damian on their exam results and shows a genuine interest in what they're going to be doing, and she chats to Mum like they've known each other for years.

By contrast, Mr Paxton says hardly anything. Dad tries to engage him in conversation, but it seems as though the man's mind is somewhere else. Oh well; I guess you can't win them all!

After we've finished eating, I head into the kitchen to make a start on clearing things away. Mrs Paxton appears.

"You've done a great job!" she says with characteristic enthusiasm. "Thanks for inviting us. It's been wonderful!"

"Thanks!" I respond, smiling at her. "It was mainly Scott's work. I just helped. You've obviously taught him very well!" I look past her. There's nobody else within earshot. "I hope you don't mind me asking," I say, lowering my voice. "But what made you suspect that Scott might be gay? It wasn't that he liked cooking was it?"

"Oh, good heavens no!" she says, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. "If I had my way, all boys would learn to cook! No, it was when he was about fifteen. His friends, like David, were starting to go out with girls. He just didn't seem interested. Now, I'd been told that several girls wanted to go out with him, but he kept making excuses that he was too busy. I batted it off; told myself that he just wasn't quite ready. Then a few months later, he went out with a girl called Zoë. Now that did set alarm bells ringing. He should have been excited about it, but he wasn't. His heart just wasn't in it. He was only doing it to fit in with the other lads."

"Thanks for being so honest," I say quietly.

"I'm glad he's found someone like you," she says gently, looking me right in the eye. "His dad might not be, but I am. I was worried that he'd meet someone who'd take him for a ride."

She leaves me to it. A few minutes later, I stroll back into the lounge, and catch the tail-end of what seems to have been a quite heated conversation between Scott and his dad. I only catch one word: paedophile. I stride across to them.

"Excuse me, Mr Paxton," I say firmly, trying to keep my emotions in check. "You do know that I'm sixteen, don't you?"

"This isn't personal," he answers. "Your actual age is not the issue. It's how old you look. It's all about perception. If people see you together, they're going to start wondering why Scott's in a 'relationship' with someone who looks as young as you do. It could ruin his career!"

"I think that's a bit extreme," Dad intervenes. "At the moment, Scott isn't that well known. It helps that the club he plays for is not very well supported. As long as they stay away from that area, as I believe they intend to, I think it's most unlikely that anyone seeing them out together will pay them the slightest attention. And that's likely to remain the case for at least a couple of years."

"And then what?" Mr Paxton demands.

"If their plans come to fruition, they'll be living together in London," Dad says calmly. "The thing about London is that it's very big, and if you want it to be, very anonymous. It shouldn't be that difficult for them to stay out of the public eye. But we're getting way ahead of ourselves. They'll have plenty of time to think about it once they know what the situation's going to be."

"Oh, take no notice of him!" Mrs Paxton says brightly, joining the debate. "He's always looking for problems, aren't you Geoff? I think he's got a masters' degree in it!"

Scott's dad promptly goes into a sulk. However, the vibes from everyone else, including Mum, are totally supportive of me and Scott. I have to smile. If Mr Paxton was trying to split me and Scott up, it's backfired big time!

Just before three o'clock, Mum and Dad say their goodbyes so that Mum can take Dad to the station. Mr and Mrs Paxton leave at the same time, Mum and Mrs Paxton chatting away nineteen to the dozen.

With his dad safely out of the way, Scott's finally able to say what he thinks.

"If Dad had those concerns," he says quietly, "he could easily have arranged to talk to me one-to-one. He could have come here; I could have gone there, whichever. I've no idea why he had to go on like that in front of everyone. It was embarrassing, for Mum especially." He turns to me. "Your dad was brilliant!"

Claire and Damian leave around half an hour later. I immediately head towards the kitchen so that we can get everything sorted, but Scott stops me.

"Leave that," he says. "I'll deal with it later."

We wander into the bedroom. Now that we're alone, I can see straightaway that Scott's found the last few hours far more stressful than he was letting on. After undressing each other, we snuggle up on the bed.

"Your mum's amazing!" I tell him, running my fingers through his hair. "She's so friendly and enthusiastic. She must be a wonderful teacher!"

"Yeah, I think she is," he says, giving me a weak smile. "I know she's very highly thought of."

"Do your mum and dad teach at the same school?"

"Yeah! Mum's deputy head and teaches English. Dad's head of chemistry."

"Is he a good teacher?"

"He gets pretty good results," Scott says guardedly. "I think he's pretty old-school though."

'Old-school' makes me think of the homophobic Mr Harrison, who's taught me physics for the past two years. I think that says it all.

"Dad's put a huge amount of time and effort into helping me with my football," Scott says quietly. "I'll always be grateful to him for that. Without his help, I wouldn't have made it as far as I have. But he can't run my life. I'm an adult now. I have to make my own decisions. What he did today was just wrong."

I snuggle right up, our mouths meeting in a sensuous kiss. This is TLC time and then some. Whatever he needs, whatever he wants; I'm here for him.

It's half past five when Scott drops me off at home. As I expected, Mum's on her own.

"I was really proud of you today," she says warmly. "You stood up for yourself, just like you did in the parent's group meeting. I really like Mrs Paxton, which is good, because if I am worried about anything, she's someone I can talk to. But he's very strange!"

"I thought she was great!" I say, smiling. "She seemed to get on well with everybody."

"My reading of the situation," Mum says thoughtfully, "is that Scott's not had much consistency from his parents. It's obvious that he's very close to his mum. But his dad treats him like a project."

"Sorry, I don't understand."

"When Scott showed a talent for football," Mum explains, "his dad took on the task of helping him to become the best footballer he could be. Now Scott quite clearly bought into that, as I'm sure many boys would. But his dad was the driving force, and he hates anything that he thinks might get in the way. He's obsessive about it."

"Wow! I'd never thought of it like that. D'you think his dad's attitude is the reason why Scott's gay?"

"Oh, it won't be the whole story by any means, but I'm sure it has a lot to do with it. I'm not claiming that we've been perfect parents, far from it, but one thing your dad and I always tried to do was to make sure we were singing from the same hymn sheet. Claire, bless her, made that very easy. She was always so sensible, so grounded. She made nice friends. She seemed to want the right things at the right time. I was a bit sad when she decided she wanted a 'forever' boyfriend when she was only seventeen, but it was a bit late to do anything about it by then."

"Oh, right!"

"You didn't cause us too many problems either. Your dad was a bit disappointed when you weren't interested in playing football or anything like that, but we weren't going to force you. That would have been stupid. The problems only arose when you told us you were gay and we found out that you'd been bullied. I don't think either of us really knew what to do. I certainly didn't. I'm not sure your dad ever fully supported the line I wanted to take, but as it was me that was here all the time, he was prepared to go along with it. Well, you know what happened. I just couldn't bring myself to deal with it. If it hadn't been for you and Claire niggling at me, I'd never have done anything. Anyway, your dad's patience finally ran out. After you told him about Scott, he decided we had to move on. He was right, of course. When Claire told me that it was time I woke up and smelt the coffee, I knew I wouldn't be able to put it off any longer. I do still have concerns; I won't deny it. But we're determined to support you as well as we can."

"Thanks Mum," I whisper.

I sit back on the sofa, staring at the ceiling. That is one hell of a lot to take in all at once. To hear Mum admit that she and dad didn't know what to do, and that they got a few things wrong is quite humbling. Somehow, I feel closer to Mum and Dad now than I have since I was small.

"You may not have got everything right," I say quietly. "But you got far more right than you got wrong."

"I think that's probably the best anyone can do," she says simply.

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