Juggling the Pieces

by Pink Panther

Chapter 17

February 2011

At ten to three, I stride briskly towards Scott's flat. As I arrive, I'm feeling bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

"How did it go today?" I ask, as he welcomes me inside.

"Very well!" he says, smiling. "The club doctor and the fitness staff were all very pleased. They said that if I maintain my current progress, by the time pre-season training starts in July, I'll be ready to go."

"That's great news!" I say, giving him a hug.

"The best part is that it gives me a realistic target," he explains. "There's no rush; if we just build things up gradually, I should be able to begin pre-season with the rest of the guys."

Moving into the bedroom, we begin to undress each other. As soon as we're naked, we got onto the bed. Wrapping his arms around me, Scott draws me into a passionate kiss. This is much more like it! Scott has an energy about him that I haven't seen for weeks. Okay, he's not quite the 'confident as fuck' Scott that he was just after New Year, but he's definitely on his way back.

We're approaching the coup de grace, and he's giving me the best fuck I've had since before he got injured. As I was walking here, I was a bit concerned that, after having sex with Franny barely three hours ago, I might not be able to cum. But with Scott kissing me, and pounding my arse like it's going out of fashion, there's no chance of that happening. I shoot all over us, just like I usually do. A moment later, he fills me up with his hot, creamy spunk. Oh, yes! He can fuck me like that anytime he wants!

At quarter to five, Scott drops me at home. Things are back on track, and I'm the happiest I've been since this nightmare started. I don't even feel guilty about having had sex with Franny. After all, there seems to be zero chance of Scott finding out, so there's no harm done. I've had a great day, and I've still got this evening to look forward to.

When Mum and I arrive at the community centre, Robbie and Noah are waiting for us. They greet me like a long-lost brother.

"How's your boyfriend?" Noah asks.

"Actually, he's been injured," I admit. "He's not playing at the moment. All being well, he'll be able to start playing again at the start of next season."

"You should have brought him with you!" he suggests.

"I'm not sure he's ready for that," I counter. "He's still paranoid about being 'out' in public. In any case, I'm not sure his parents would be willing to come with him. His mum might, but his dad definitely wouldn't."

We move into the meeting. After Beth welcomes everyone, we get into a lively discussion about how to create a safe and welcoming environment for kids who are growing up gay. We don't just talk about what 'other people', like schools, should be doing; we discuss the things that we can do, both as individuals and as a group.

Everyone joins in, including Sam and Zane, and the atmosphere is so positive. It's the best thing we've done since Mum and I started coming here. Almost before we know it, we've been batting ideas around for well over an hour. Finally, Beth calls a halt. As our parents leave us to our own devices, we, the gay offspring, stay together; boys and girls all enthusiastically continuing the discussion we've just been having.

This isn't what used to happen. Max used to insist on gathering the boys around him, in order to brainwash them with his ideas of what it means to be gay, with the girls banished to one side. I'm glad we've got rid of that! Right now, we're talking about ways we can support each other, and how we can extend that support to other gay kids. At quarter past nine, it's time to go home.

"I thought it was excellent tonight," Mum comments, as she drives away.

"Yeah!" I agree, smiling at her. "I've had a great time."

Although I'm tired physically, my mind's racing. It's as though I've been revitalised. It's suddenly dawned on me that if we can work together, this group might actually do something worthwhile.

The following morning, I settle down to sort out the design for the Live-Work unit. I'm brimming with confidence. I check my watch. It's half past eight. The guys are coming around for a training session at half past ten, so I've got almost two hours to come up with a solution. If necessary, I can finish the drawings later.

That's when reality bites. The problems I ran into on Monday seem more intractable than ever. I try one idea after another. Nothing works. In fact, most of my changes seem to make matters worse. I go back to my original design. It's viable, just about, but I'm less than happy with it.

I look at my watch. It's just gone ten o'clock. I've been working for an hour and half, and I'm getting nowhere. I'm starting to panic. I remember what Dad said. Having told Bill that I'd do it, it's starting to look like I might have to tell him I can't. Fuck! But I don't have time to deal with it now. The lads will be here soon. After our run, I'll have a shower, get changed and decide what I'm going to do.

At quarter past ten, Patrick is the first to arrive. Out of nowhere, I have an idea.

"D'you need to rush off afterwards," I ask.

"Not really. Why?"

"I'm working on this design project. Bill, the guy who refurbished Scott's flat, asked me to do it for him, but it's been a lot harder than I'd thought it'd be. I wondered if you could have a look at the drawings, to see if we can sort it out?"

"Sure!" he agrees. "Not a problem!"

Our run goes well. Although the weather's still cold, the air's damp and there's hardly any wind. Once we're on the move, these are good conditions for running. I finish the run feeling considerably better than I did when we started.

As soon as the other boys have gone, Patrick takes out his phone.

"I just need to call Ann-Marie," he says, grinning. "Otherwise, she'll be wondering where I've got to."

"Hi, babe!" he says, as his call is picked up. "I'm just helping my mate Ian with this design project he's working on. It shouldn't take long. I'll see you this afternoon, yeah?"

With the phone call completed, we make our way up to my room. He sits in my chair. I take the chair from Claire's room and park myself down next to him. He studies the drawings, beginning with the ground floor.

After checking a couple of details with me, he moves onto the upper floor. This time, he has quite a few questions. Finally, he goes quiet, just looking at the floor plan.

"You need to move the stairs," he says eventually.

"I didn't know we could do that."

"This is just an ordinary staircase, yeah?"


"Then it's not structural. It's not holding anything up, so you can put it wherever you want."

"Sorry; I didn't realise," I say, feeling like a complete idiot.

"Have you ever been on a construction site?" he asks.

"Not really," I admit.

"I thought not," he says, giving me a wry grin. "Dad started taking me out with him when I was ten. Of course, I was too young to actually do anything, so I'd sit there with my hard hat on, watching what the guys were doing. When they were having a break, I'd ask them, 'Why did you do this?' or 'How do you do that?'."

"Didn't they mind?"

"No, real tradesmen – the proper guys – love talking about what they do. I learned loads from listening to them."

"Why d'you think Bill never mentioned about moving the stairs?"

"It'll add quite a bit to the building costs. He was probably hoping you'd be able to find a way round it. But we've looked at it every way I can think of. It's obvious that they need to be moved."

I'm about to ask him where he thinks the stairs ought to go, but then another idea occurs to me.

"Are you doing anything tomorrow?" I ask.

"Not much. Why?"

"Is there any chance you could come over here so we could work on it together? Bill's paying me for this. He didn't say how much, but if you help me, we'll split the money fifty-fifty."

"Nice one! There's just one condition."

"What's that?" I query.

"If we're going to be on it all day, you've got to feed me!"

"Totally!" I agree. "No problem!"

With Patrick on his way home, I give Bill a call.

"Good to hear from you," he greets. "How are you getting on?"

"Not too well, I'm afraid. I've tried everything I can think of, but it looks like we need to move the stairs."

"I was thinking you might say that," he admits. "It'll push the cost up quite a bit, but if that's what we need to do, we'll just have to get on with it. Have you decided where you want to put them?"

"Not yet," I admit. "A friend from school was over this morning. I asked him to have a look at it. It was his idea to move the stairs. Anyway, I've arranged for him to come over tomorrow so we can work on it together. Afterwards, we're going to split the money. Patrick's been on quite a few construction sites. His dad's a painter and decorator."

"Oh, I see! What's his surname?"


"Right! Will he be coming to the site meeting on Sunday afternoon?"

"Sorry, I hadn't thought about that."

"It'd be good to have him there if he's been involved in the design."

"Sure! I'll ask him tomorrow."

"Will you have everything ready for tomorrow evening?"

"We'll have done the floor plans and the specifications. I won't have done the artist's impressions, but you shouldn't need those. They're one of my strengths. Once we've finalised the design, I'll be able to knock them out in a few hours."

"Fair enough," he says. "I'll see you tomorrow evening, around seven o'clock."

The next morning, Patrick arrives at half past nine. As we settle down to work, our first task is to decide where the stairs need to go.

"I think we should put them here," Patrick suggests, indicating the rear right-hand corner of the building, at the opposite end to the washroom. His plan is for a short flight of stairs from the ground floor to a small landing. The staircase then turns back on itself, taking you to the upper floor.

"Couldn't we save space by doing it all in a single flight?" I query.

"Not really," he says. "The landings will be too small. And we can't make the stairs any steeper because they wouldn't pass building regs."

I can't imagine how he's learned all this stuff just by watching and listening, but it's obvious that he knows what he's talking about, so I'm not going to argue. With the stairs where we've put them, we have to reposition one pair of power sockets on the ground floor, but that's the only change we need to make.

We move onto the upper floor.

"Why don't you make the lounge, dining area and kitchen open-plan?" Patrick suggests. "It could run right across the front of the building."

"Wow!" I agree. "That'll be an amazing space!"

"Then all they'll need to do is put up stud walls to enclose the bedroom and the bathroom."

We draw it out. At 16' x 13', the bedroom will be big enough to install fitted storage at one end, and put a computer workstation at the other. Nice! After all the problems I encountered, we've finally come up with a plan that utilises the space quite beautifully. I am over the moon!

"Thanks, man!" I say, drawing Patrick into a hug. "You're a lifesaver!"

"No problem!" he says, grinning. "It's been fun!"

"Sunday afternoon, will you be able to come with me to the site meeting? After our training run, you can stay and have lunch with us. Bill's arranged to pick me up at half past two. He said he'd like you to be there if you can make it."

"Yeah, great! I'm sure Ann-Marie will be able to manage without me for a few hours!"

After a cup of tea and a couple of chocolate digestives, we get down to the detailed planning: the layout of the kitchen and the bathroom, and the location of all the power sockets. By ten to one, we've done it.

"Right! Time for lunch!" I announce.

Down in the kitchen, I cook bacon, sausage, fried eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and fried bread.

"Oh, man!" Patrick enthuses. "The builder's breakfast! That's perfect!"

He eats hungrily. He seems to have an even better appetite than I do, and that's saying something.

"That was excellent!" he says, polishing off the final mouthful. "I'll come to this café again!"

"Better than your average greasy spoon, then?"

"You could say that. To be fair, they vary a lot. Some of them are pretty ordinary, but there are a few that are really good."

"Apple pie and ice cream?" I suggest.

"Oh, now you're spoiling me!" he says, grinning. "Yeah, bring it on!"

At two o'clock, we head back up to my room. After completing the drawings, we put together the specifications for the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, including the fitted storage, the staircase and all the flooring. Two hours later we've finished.

Putting the floor plans into my art folder, I accompany Patrick on the bus ride into town.

"I'm taking these to the print shop," I explain. "I'm going to get copies made. I'll need them when I come to do the artist's impressions."

"Now that's the part I couldn't do," Patrick admits. "I can visualise what it's going to look like, but when it comes to producing a picture, you can forget it."

Having arrived at the bus station, we go our separate ways. As I head to the print shop, I'm buzzing. Working with Patrick has been a blast. If we get the chance, I'd love to do it again.

When Mum arrives home at ten to six, dinner's nearly ready. Fifteen minutes later, we're sitting down to eat.

"You really are getting quite proficient at this," she says, tucking into the pork stir fry I've cooked. "This is very nice!"

"Thanks!" I acknowledge. "On Sunday, would it be okay if Patrick stayed for lunch? Today, he came over to help me with this design project. We worked on it for most of the day. Well, as he's helped with the design, Bill's asked him to attend the site meeting on Sunday afternoon."

"Yes, that'll be fine," she says, smiling. "As he was here for most of the day, I assume you fed him?"

"Yeah, we had a fry-up, the whole works. I reckon he eats even more than I do!"

"That's often the way with these ultra-slim types," she says, smiling. "He eats plenty, but burns it all off with all the exercise he does."

After dinner, I go to my room. I get changed into football kit, hoodie and training pants. Heading back downstairs, I stash a pair of Tommy Hilfiger briefs in my coat pocket. It's just before seven when Bill arrives. I take him into the kitchen, spreading the drawings out on the table so that he can study them.

"Whose idea was it to put the stairs there?" he asks gently.

"Patrick's. I didn't have a clue."

"Did he explain why he'd done that?"

"He said it was about future-proofing. If the owner ever wanted to separate the flat from the office, you could create a separate entrance to the flat in this corner."

"Very good!" he says, smiling.

"And why not take the stairs straight up in one flight?"

"He said they'd be too steep and wouldn't pass building regs."

"Correct! Actually, a single flight would be bloody dangerous. Remember that the ceilings are quite high. If you fell halfway down, you'd hurt yourself, but it's not likely to kill you. Falling the whole way would be a different matter."

I nod my understanding. Bill continues to pore over the plans and specifications.

"These are very good," he says finally. "You've even got all the power sockets in the right places. And Julian's going to love it! It won't be cheap, of course. He'll probably have to borrow some money from his dad, but it won't be a problem. This is a good investment."

"Thanks! I'm pleased you like what we've done."

"Is Patrick coming on Sunday?"

"Yeah. We run together from here on Sunday mornings, so he'll stay for lunch."

"That should work well then!" Bill says, smiling. "I look forward to meeting him. And remember you'll need to bring the artist's impressions with you."

"Yeah, no problem!"

"Okay," he says warmly. "I'll leave you to get on with your evening!"

"You aren't going near the city centre are you?" I ask.

"I can do," he responds.

"Would you be able to drop me off? I've arranged to meet someone."

"Okay! Come on then!"

Grabbing my coat, gloves and baseball cap, I stick my head into the lounge.

"Mum! Bill's going to drop me off. I'll be back just after ten."

It's quarter to eight when I arrive at Scott's place.

"How's the design project gone?" he asks.

"Great! Working with Patrick was brilliant! He knows so much about this stuff; he made me realise how much I'll have to learn. Anyway, the design we came up with is awesome! Bill was well impressed! So how's your day been?"

"Oh, I've been a busy boy!" he says, smiling. "After breakfast, I studied until quarter past ten. Then I went to the leisure centre. I did an hour's strength training, followed by thirty-five minutes in the pool. I'm up to fifteen hundred metres now. After that, I came home and had some lunch. Then I spent all afternoon working. I didn't finish till quarter to six."

"You've got your mojo back!" I say, grinning up at him.

"Something like that," he agrees. "I'm getting there anyway."

"D'you want to go to the bedroom?" I ask.


As soon as I've removed my trainers, we begin to undress each other. As Scott helps me off with my hoodie, he notices my football top. Grinning, he unties the drawstring of my training pants before skinning them down my legs. Kneeling down, he pulls them over my feet, leaving me standing there in my football kit, top, shorts and knee-length socks.

Running his hands up my thighs, he burrows inside my shorts, wrapping his fingers around my rampant cock.

"I know what you want, sexy boy!" he rasps. "Kneel down!" he orders, getting to his feet.

I do as I'm told. Reaching up, I undo his belt and unbutton the front of his jeans. After easing them over his hips, I work them down his legs. Underneath, he's wearing the shiny black trunks that I bought him for Christmas. I run my fingers over his throbbing bulge.

"Hmmm!" I purr. "The big bad wolf wants to get out!"

"Go on then!" Scott instructs.

Easing the waistband away from his stomach, I pull them down.

"Now suck it!" Scott breathes, guiding his hard prong towards my lips.

I take it into my mouth, gradually working my way down until I'm taking it right into my throat, my lips pushing into his pubic hair.

"Oh, yes!" he whispers, gently stroking my hair. "You love this as much as I do!"

For a couple of minutes, I continue to worship his cock, sucking it right down to the root, and running my tongue all over it.

"Okay, you can stop now," he says.

As I let him go, he picks up the tube of K-Y. Taking my right hand, he squeezes some onto my fingers. Grinning, I smear it over his glistening dick. Scott helps me up. Without waiting to be asked, I bend over the bed, my forearms resting on the mattress, Scott's well-lubed finger pushing into my bum-hole. After a few seconds, he lets it slide out. A moment later, his cock advances up the leg of my shorts, homing in on my starfish.

"This is what you want," he declares, thrusting right into me.

"Oh yes!" I gasp. "Come on, Scott! Give it to me!"

With his hands around the tops of my thighs, he sets to work, fucking me hard and deep. It feels wonderful. He hasn't given me an experience like this since before he was injured.

"Oh, yeah!" I moan. "This is so good!"

"You want more, naughty boy?"


Tightening his grip, he pounds into me even harder. As the tingling in my penis becomes almost unbearable, my balls churn into action. My cum surges through my cock and spurts powerfully into my shorts, my anal ring going into spasm around Scott's thrusting cock. A moment later, his hot, creamy spunk is flooding into my arse. Wow! I've been waiting for that! This is the Scott I want to be with!

It's time to visit the bathroom. After cleaning myself up, I rinse out my spunk-soiled shorts, leaving them on the shower-screen to dry. On my way back to the bedroom, I retrieve my briefs from my coat pocket.

Scott's lying naked on the bed. Leaving my briefs on the chair, I snuggle up next to him.

"Something tells me you enjoyed that," he says, wrapping his arms around me.

"Yep!" I confirm,

"You are so sexy!" he whispers. "I don't reckon anyone else could turn me on the way that you do."

"I've got the real Scott back," I purr. "I like that!"

"Yeah. It's like you said. We're going to get through this, you and me together."

"And you're going to be even better than you were before," I suggest.

"Oh yes!" he agrees. "No question!"

The following morning, I'm still buzzing. It's not just about the wonderful evening I spent with Scott, although that's a big part of it. Artist's impressions are the sort of thing I do for fun, so I'm really looking forward to working on them. I start work at half past eight. By the time I've completed the second one, it's ten past ten.

With a training session scheduled for 10:30, I leave it there. I'll get back to it later. Just over twenty minutes later, we set off to run an eight-mile circuit. Jon, Dean and Gary couldn't make it, but everyone else is here. For the first time in weeks, I'm feeling strong and relaxed.

With the weather having warmed up a little, the conditions are the best we've had for some time. By the time we've completed two miles, we're flying along. I'm a bit concerned about Rhys and Shaun, who are both quite new to this, but for the moment at least, they seem fine.

Running in watery sunshine, we head across fields and through woods. Steadily, we tick off the miles, the whole group staying bunched together. With two miles to go, Patrick moves up alongside myself and Alan.

"I'm going to press on now," he says.

I hand him the key to the utility room.

"Don't lose it," I say. "And put the kettle on!"

"Cool!" he responds.

Gradually, he moves away, leaving the rest of us trailing in his wake. Shaun and Rhys are still on the pace, but it's clear that they're hanging on. With Dean not here, I'm keen to keep them with us, and so I ease back a little. They respond exactly as I'd hoped, keeping in contact all the way back to the house. Slowing almost to a stop, we wander up the drive. Shaun and Rhys look all in.

"You two did superbly!" Alan says, smiling warmly at the two newbies. "That was pretty quick!"

Leaving our trainers in the utility room, we stroll into the kitchen. As instructed, Patrick's already got the kettle on. Smiling, he returns the key. What a wonderful group this is! I feel proud to be part of it.

During the afternoon, I complete another four drawings, leaving me just one more to do. After having dinner with Mum, I head over to Scott's place.

It's Saturday morning. I'm just settling down to finish my artist's impressions drawings when there's a tap on the door.

"Come in!" I call.

Dad appears. "So how did it go?"

"Pretty well, thanks!"

"Well, you're looking much brighter, I must say! I understand Patrick helped you with it. How did that happen?"

"Well, I'd got a design, but I wasn't very happy with it. So, when the lads came round on Wednesday morning, I asked Patrick to have a look at it. He told me I needed to move the stairs. I didn't even know you could do that!"

"No, there's no reason why you would."

"Well, I asked him if he could come round the next day so we could work on it together. So that's what we did. He knows so much more about this stuff than I do, like where the stairs should be and where to put all the power sockets."

"Given his background, that doesn't surprise me at all. Patrick's a lovely lad. He doesn't say much; he just gets on with it. I like all the boys that come here to run, but he's the one that stands out. I think it's great that you've got such a good group of friends, especially after Mark and Andrew fell out with you. I guess there's no sign of that situation being resolved, is there?"

"Not really. Since we started our A-levels, we don't even have any classes together."

"But they don't try to give you any grief?"

"No, they ignore me and I ignore them."

"Oh, well," Dad says. "It's a shame, but I guess you can live with it. Anyway, how did the design work out? Are you pleased with it?"

"Oh yeah! It's awesome! Even Bill thought it was good."

"D'you mind if I have a look?"

"Of course not!" I say, grinning.

I take the floor plans from my folder, spreading them out so that Dad can study them.

"Yeah," he says, nodding his approval. "I like this! You've used the space really well. But what's it going to look like?"

I hand him the pad containing the six completed artist's impressions.

"Oh, these are outstanding!" he enthuses. "They really sell the design. You and Patrick can be proud of what you've achieved here."

"Thanks Dad!" I answer, trying desperately to stop myself tearing up. To me, his approval means everything.

It's Sunday, shortly after midday. Following another good training run, we hang out for a while, drinking tea and chatting about this and that. Finally, the other guys begin to drift off.

As soon as they've all gone, Patrick and I make our way upstairs to shower and change. It takes me back to when Patrick first began running with us. It seems hard to believe that in less than two and half years, we've moved on as far as we have.

At one o'clock, we head downstairs for lunch. Mum's done roast chicken with all the trimmings. Patrick and I tuck in enthusiastically.

"Well, Patrick," Dad asks. "Once you've done your A-levels, what d'you hope to do next?"

"I want to go to Cambridge to do engineering," he says quietly. "Ultimately, I want to specialise in structural engineering."

"Cambridge?" Dad queries. "It's good to see you're so ambitious."

"That's the great thing about our school," Patrick says thoughtfully. "They encourage us to aim as high as possible, and our teachers know how to prepare us to get the grades we'll need."

"Very good," Dad says appreciatively. "And you're not worried about the social aspects of being at a place like Cambridge, you know, mixing with all these public-school types?"

"No," Patrick says, grinning. "If anyone thinks that they're better than me just because they've been to a posh school, they'll find out that they're not when I kick their arse."

"Good for you!" Mum says, smiling.

"Well, thanks for inviting me," Patrick says, finishing the last morsel on his plate. "That was delicious!"

"We've got apple crumble and custard for dessert," Mum says. "Would you like some?"

"Yes please!"

A few minutes later, it appears.

"This is amazing!" Patrick declares, having eaten a couple of mouthfuls. "Surely, it can't just be apples?"

"It's mainly apples," I tell him, "plus tinned apricots, dried fruit and cinnamon."

"Well, it's fantastic!" he goes on, "the best crumble I've ever had!"

As last week, Bill arrives just before half past two. As he walks up the drive, Patrick, Dad and I go into the entrance hall to meet him.

"Good afternoon! Good to see you again!" Dad says, opening the front door. "Come in for a moment."

Bill steps inside.

"Good afternoon, Patrick," he says, extending a paw. "You must be Jim Keaveney's lad."

"Yes, good to meet you," Patrick says. "You know my dad then?"

"I know every tradesman in the city," Bill says confidently, "at least the ones that are any good. He's a top man, your dad. It's a shame that there's not much call for the type of work he specialises in."

"What's that?" I query.

"Oh, dad loves working on old buildings with lots of fancy plasterwork," Patrick explains, "things like corbels, cornices and ceiling roses."

"You start by painting them a different colour from the background," Bill adds. "That's tricky enough, but if you really want to go to town, you can pick out the details in different colours. That's the sort of thing I'm talking about." He turns to me. "Have you got the artist's impressions?"

"Yes, they're all here."

"Let's have a look then!"

I hand them over.

"Oh, I like these!" he enthuses. "He's not going to be able to resist!"

"I looked through them yesterday," Dad says. "I think they really sell the design."

"Absolutely!" Bill agrees. "And that's important when we're asking the client to spend a bit more than he was intending to. Right! We'd better get on our way!"

Bill's pick-up is one of these big, posh double-cab jobs. I sit in the back, so that Patrick can sit next to Bill.

"You know you said you know all the tradesman in the city," Patrick asks, looking across. "Do you know Keith Brett?"

"Of course!" Bill says. "He's my go-to electrician." He glances over to me. "You've met Keith," he adds. "He did all the electrics at Scott Paxton's flat."

"Oh, right!" I confirm.

"Only I'm going out with his daughter, Ann-Marie," Patrick says. "We've been together for nearly eighteen months."

"Oh, that's good!" Bill enthuses. "Keith's a first-rate electrician and a really nice guy. I always use him if he's available."

When we arrive at the property, Julian's waiting for us. Over the next twenty minutes, Bill and Patrick walk him through the design. Patrick explains why we needed to move the stairs, and why he's positioned them where he has, as well as explaining several other aspects of what we've done. It's strange. Although he's still not very good at chatting socially, when you get him on this sort of thing, he can talk as well as anyone.

"The next question is what is it going to look like?" Julian asks eventually.

Producing my artist's impressions, I take him through them one by one. By the end, he's almost drooling.

"Are you sure it'll look as good as you say?" he asks.

"Better!" I tell him. "I've only done two previous projects, but they both ended up looking better than I thought they would."

"I can vouch for that on the last one," Bill chips in. "You've seen the pictures."

Finally, Bill and Julian go off to one corner to discuss the finances, leaving me and Patrick to watch from a distance. After about ten minutes, they shake hands, signifying that they've agreed a deal. Bill strides back over to us.

"Okay lads," he says, smiling. "Time to get you home!"

When to get into the pickup, he takes out his wallet. Having counted out £150 he hands it to Patrick. He then counts out another £150 and gives it to me.

"Thanks!" I say, not quite believing how much I've just been paid. "That's way more than I was expecting."

"Don't worry about it," Bill says, grinning. "It's small change on a job this size. In any case, an architect would have charged us three times as much. I reckon you two make a damn good team!"

Patrick and I grin at each other. I think Bill's right; Patrick and I worked really well together. Even so, it's a real confidence boost to hear him say it.

The next day, we're back at school. As soon as classes are over, I head to the gym changing room to get ready for our Monday evening training run. As I start to undress, Patrick joins me.

"Yesterday," he says quietly, "after we dropped you off, Bill asked me if I'd like to work on the refurb. They're going to do it over Easter. I checked with my dad, and he said it would be good experience for me, so I've told Bill I'll do it. It'll mean I won't be doing any running while we're off school, but I'm sure I'll soon get back into it afterwards."

March 2011

We've been back at school for two and a half weeks. From my point of view, things have been going really well. Now that I've become tuned-in to the way Mr Hawkes does things, I've finally got on top of A-level maths. Right now, I'm feeling more confident about it than I ever have.

I've been running well too. Last Wednesday, on one of the tougher courses that we race on, I finished sixth, beating Nathan and Alan for the first time since Scott got injured.

This week, we don't have a race. On Saturday, Patrick, Alan, Nathan and Jon are due to run in the English Schools' Championships, together with Niall from Year Ten, and so this afternoon we'll just be going out for an easy run. I'm not complaining. Having the occasional week off racing is nice, and it means I'll be able to spend more time with Scott. That can't be bad!

Something odd is going on with Roz Marshall, Damian's sister. She's the only one of my friends who's doing A-level art. We always sit together in history too, as we have done since we were in Year Ten. You could say we're pretty close.

Usually, when we have a class together before break or lunchtime, her boyfriend Ed collects her from whichever room we're in. Only this week he hasn't, not once. Rather apprehensively, I decide to broach the subject.

"What's going on with you and Ed?" I ask.

"Oh, he wants to be a party boy," Roz answers a little snappily. "He's been spending all his time hanging out with the lads he plays football with. Every weekend, they're off to a party somewhere or other."

"You don't mean Tim, do you?" I query.

"No, these days, Tim and Ed don't hang out like they used to. It's because Tim's in the first eleven. Ed's in the second eleven, so that's who he goes around with. The problem is, it's mainly Year Thirteen posers, you know, like Adam Barr and Jayden Kirby."

The alarm bells going off in my head are almost deafening. I used to fancy Adam Barr like crazy until I found out what a self-centred prick he is. And what's Jayden doing, going to parties with his football mates when he's supposed to be Anthony's boyfriend? I don't even want to think about it.

"It wouldn't be so bad," Roz goes on, "but these parties get really wild. They all drink too much, and the boys seem to think that if girls are there, they must be 'available'. Well, I'm not! Anyway, there was one last Saturday. I told Ed I wasn't going, so he went without me. Amanda 'Droopy-Drawers' was there. I was told that during the course of the evening, she and Ed disappeared into one of the bedrooms for half an hour. Well, I spoke to Ed about it. He didn't deny it. He just said he was drunk, so I told him that I'll talk to him when he's got his head sorted."

"Oh, right!"

"He's being so stupid!" she continues. "He drinks too much and stays out half the night. Then he has to spend the whole of Sunday sleeping it off, when he ought to be working. Mr Carter's already had a go at him, because his work's not been up to standard." She pauses for a moment. "I'm so disappointed," she says sadly. "He never used to be like that."

To be honest, I'm disappointed too. I know Ed and Jayden aren't saints, but I'd always thought they were okay. I guess that's how easy it is to slip off the rails.

It's Thursday afternoon cross-country training. With five of the squad due to race this weekend, all we're doing is an easy, three-and-a-half-mile trot.

This year, the English Schools' Championships are being held in Nottingham. As that's less than a hundred miles away, they'll be travelling there and back on the day. The lads who've made the team will have to get up at six o'clock in the morning to rendezvous with the coach, and won't get home until after eight o'clock in the evening. That's going to be a long day!

As we're running, I make a point of speaking to each of the lads who's made the county team, wishing him the best of luck. As I'm not going to be there, it's all I can do. After running very easily for twenty-odd minutes, we stroll back to the changing rooms.

"Are we getting together on Sunday?" Alan asks quietly.

"What do you think?" I ask.

"I think we should," he replies.

"I guess we could just do an easy six miles or so. You guys are going to be knackered. All you need is to get Saturday's race out of your legs."

"That sounds good," he agrees, smiling.

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