Juggling the Pieces

by Pink Panther

Chapter 24

June 2011

On Wednesday evening, I get a call from Robbie.

"We just wanted to thank you again for last night," he gushes. "It was wonderful! Before we met him, we were struggling to picture Scott. But the moment he walked in, it was like 'OMG, he's gorgeous!' But it wasn't just that, he was so, you know, quiet and ordinary. He never bigged himself up once."

"Yeah," I agree. "I'm a very lucky boy."

"Actually, I think you're both very lucky. He's lucky to have found someone who understands him and cares about him the way that you do."

"I'd say you and Noah are pretty lucky too."

"Oh, you don't need to tell us that!" he says confidently. "Noah's my shining light. If ever I'm feeling a bit down, or a bit stressed, I think about Noah, and everything's alright again. It's like as long as I've got him, I can deal with anything."

"Yeah, I guess it's like that for us too."

"Noah really appreciated the way you guys listened to what he had to say."

"He had a horrible time," I respond. "I went through a difficult period when I was younger, but nothing like that. Scott was fuming afterwards. He said that nobody should have to put up with what Noah went through."

"Scott mentioned something about us coming over to his flat."

"Yeah, we haven't had chance to talk about it yet, but the best time would be between the end of term and the start of the football season. Are you going to be working during the summer holiday?"

"Yes, but only for four weeks. I'm going to have a week off at the beginning and another one at the end."

"That should work then! Give us a couple of days and I'll get back to you."


July 2011

It's Friday evening, and once again, Scott and I are heading towards Birmingham. We're on our way to the gig where the jazz group that Franny's joined will be playing. I don't know much about jazz, so I'm not sure what to expect, but Scott's into it, and Franny's told us that they're pretty good, so here we are.

We arrive at Newton Valley High School just after seven. As Scott looks for a suitable place to park, I call Franny.

"Hi, man!" I greet as he picks up. "Scott's just parking the car. We'll be inside in a couple of minutes."

"Cool! I'll come and meet you."

As we make our way through the foyer, Franny comes striding towards us.

"Good to see you guys!" he enthuses. "I am so looking forward to this!"

"So are we," Scott says, smiling. "What's the programme?"

"Well, there's a hip-hop band on first. They're doing three songs. They're okay, I guess. Josh reckons they're much better than they were last year. Then this amazing singer Michelle is doing an acoustic set, just with two guitarists. She's class!

After the interval, it's us. We're doing five songs. I get to play solos on three of them. The solos will all be fairly short. This isn't the right sort of audience for us to be playing long solos."

"That makes sense," Scott responds. "Anything I'd know?"

Franny gives us a list of song titles. I haven't heard of any of them. Scott has though.

"Well, I know three out of five," he says, grinning. "All excellent choices. It's interesting that you're playing two Billy Cobham tunes, when he didn't have a horn player in his band."

"Oh, Josh is really into that," Franny explains. "It means we're not just copying the original. Those are the two songs that I don't solo on. Anyway, once we've done our set, Michelle's going to join us to do some, like classic soul, but with a jazz feel to it. We'll have a four-piece horn section for that; that's myself, plus three guys who play in the big band at the grammar school, where Ryan goes."

"Sounds good!" Scott enthuses. "Who does the arrangements, or do you just work them out among yourselves?"

"Josh does most of them. He's a fantastic musician. I mean, he only turned fourteen two weeks ago. The only ones he didn't do are the brass arrangements for the three songs we're playing at the end. Matt, who plays trumpet, did those. He's sixteen. He's been playing jazz since he was five."

"That's impressive!" Scott says, smiling.

As Franny returns to the backstage area, we take our seats. As the clock ticks around to half past seven, the compere, who's clearly one of the teachers, appears at the front of the stage.

"Good evening, everybody!" he says warmly. "My name's Mike Russell, and as well as being Head of Lower School, I have the responsibility for putting on these concerts to showcase the large number of talented young musicians that we have here, augmented by a few youngsters who attend schools elsewhere. This is the first of three concerts what we'll be holding before the end of term. So without any more waffle from me, may I ask you to welcome our first band of the evening, Yunga Bruvaz!"

There's a generous round of applause as the seven-piece hip-hop band takes to the stage. I'm not the best person to judge, but I'm guessing Franny was right. They're okay, but there's something missing. They're not really grabbing the audience. After their three songs, they make their way off to polite but generous applause. After a couple of minutes for the crew to reset the front of the stage, the compere returns.

"And now for a young singer that I know many of you have come to hear," he announces. "For her acoustic set, please welcome Michelle Hanson!"

Two acoustic guitarists appear, followed by a very elegant black girl, who's greeted with enthusiastic applause. After a short guitar introduction, she starts to sing. OMG! When Franny said she was class, I wasn't quite sure what he meant. Well, I am now! It's not just that she sings beautifully; the expression in her voice, and the way she reaches out to the audience, mark her out as really special. I am hooked! Glancing across, it's pretty clear that Scott is too.

She ends her first song to rapturous applause. I glance at Scott again. He is totally into it! Two more songs follow. She just gets better! As she and her accompanists leave the stage, there are calls for an encore. Instead, Mr Russell reappears.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he announces. "Michelle will be back with three more songs to close this evening's show. Now as I'm sure you appreciate, we have to look after that very special voice we just heard, so I'd ask for your patience. Right now, we're going to take an interval of around twenty minutes to enable the guys to reset the stage. Then we'll be right back, so don't go anywhere!"

As he disappears and the stage crew jump into action, we settle back into our seats.

"Wow!" Scott exhales. "I didn't know we were going to hear anything as good as that! Franny's band will have to be pretty special to top what we've just heard. She was fantastic!"

"Yeah! I thought she was amazing! I wonder where she learned to sing like that?"

"In church, probably," Scott tells me, "singing in a gospel choir."

I spot Franny heading towards us.

"Well?" he asks. "What did you think?"

"Superb!" Scott says, smiling.

"I told you she was good!" Franny responds, smirking.

"It puts a bit of pressure on you guys!" Scott counters.

"Oh, we're up for it!" Franny says confidently. "Believe me, we're buzzing!"

Just then, I notice a younger boy standing to Franny's right.

"This is Daniel," Franny says, by way of introduction. "He likes to hang out with us while we're rehearsing."

"Hi Daniel!" I greet, smiling.

"Hi!" he responds, giving me a very cheeky grin.

I remember the story that Franny told me when we were on our way to Starbucks to meet Scott. Daniel is the younger brother of Josh's boyfriend. He's the lad that Franny was introduced to the first time that he rehearsed with the band. From what I was told, Daniel didn't stop at hanging out.

I look the kid up and down. With his short dark hair, you wouldn't call him pretty, but he's very cute, with one of those faces that has mischief written all over it. And although he's fully dressed, it's obvious that he's got a great little body.

"How old are you, Daniel?" I ask.

"Eleven," he says. "I'll be starting here in September."

I swallow hard. I hope Franny knows what he's doing. Having full-on sex with an eleven-year old could be a very bad idea. But it's not my business. I need to stay out of it.

"We'd better get back," Franny says, grinning. "We'll be on soon. I'll see you afterwards, yeah?"

He and Daniel head backstage. As soon as the stage has been reset, the sound engineer gives a five-minute warning. People begin to retake their seats. A few minutes later, Mr Russell reappears.

"Our next band features two guests," he announces. "Those of you who are regulars at these events will have seen guitarist Ryan Clark before. Also playing with them this evening is saxophonist Franny Redshaw. So please give a warm welcome to the Josh Banham Band!"

The five musicians stride purposefully onto the stage. I can tell straightaway; these guys mean business! I look around. In addition to Franny, there's a tall, rangy guy on bass and a solidly built lad behind the drums. From what Franny told me, they're both sixteen. The guitarist, who's the same age as Franny, is around the same height, but slim and bony, with messy blond hair. The real surprise is keyboard player and bandleader Josh. He's blond too, but quite small, with wavy, collar-length hair.

"Now he is very cute!" Scott whispers to me.

"Down, boy!" I whisper back. "He is gay, but he's got a boyfriend!"

Having checked that everyone's ready, Josh starts up a toe-tapping rhythm on the piano. After four bars, he's joined by the bass and drums. Four bars later, the sax and the guitar, playing in harmony, come in with the tune.

Oh, wow! This is proper music, the sound so crisp and powerful, it almost knocks me back in my seat. I'm well into it! After two choruses of the tune, they move into the improvised solos. Josh takes the first one. He's good, his solo building on the pulsating rhythm. Franny comes next. He does okay, keeping it fairly simple.

Then it's guitarist Ryan's turn. Even though Franny's told us that he's an outstanding player, I'm taken aback by how good he actually is. With his fingers dancing over the fretboard, every note rings out, the sound warm and clear. He holds everybody spellbound. Finally, the tune returns, and after two more choruses, they end it to enthusiastic applause.

"That was excellent!" Scott says quietly, leaning across to me. "They're so solid and together. And the guitarist is exceptional. It was worth coming just to hear him."

The programme continues, with one great tune following another. After the fifth one, which features Josh, Ryan and drummer Greg, they're done.

"Please give it up for these amazing musicians!" Josh calls; "Greg Thornton on drums, Damian Reeves on bass, Ryan Clark on guitar and Franny Redshaw on saxophone!"

Mr Russell comes back onto the stage, applauding with everyone else.

"Josh Banham on keyboards!" he announces.

Josh stands up and turns to the audience, waving and beaming.

"That was superb," Scott says quietly. "I had to keep reminding myself all of them are under seventeen."

Finally, the audience quietens down.

"Now we come to the highlight of our show. As I mentioned earlier, Michelle will be coming back to perform three more songs, but before I bring her on, there are three more people for me to introduce. Helping us out this evening are three members of the big band at the boys' grammar school, so will you please welcome Matt Stokes on trumpet, Tom Hartley on saxophone and David Park on trombone!"

As the audience applauds, the three lads stride onto the stage, taking their places alongside Franny.

"And finally," Mr Russell announces. "Please give it up for Michelle Hanson!"

As Michelle takes centre stage, the bass player leads the band into a laid-back, funky groove. After a few bars of introduction, she begins to sing, her voice soaring over them.

"One more heartache, I can't take it now."

After around five captivating minutes, including a breath-taking solo from guitarist Ryan, they bring the song to a well-worked conclusion. The audience applauds with even more enthusiasm than before.

"That was an old song," Michelle announces. "I like old songs. This one's even older."

This time it's the horn section that starts things off, playing a slow, haunting melody before bringing in the rest of the band.

"God Bless the Child!" Scott whispers excitedly, as Michelle begins to sing. "This is a classic!"

With Michelle's powerful, emotionally charged vocals, and a beautiful trumpet solo from Matt, it's the most stunning performance yet. At the end, everyone's on their feet, shouting their appreciation.

"We've got one more song for you!" Michelle tells us. "But I'm going to need some help, so please welcome to the stage, Zac Reynard!"

"I think he's the singer with the rock band," I whisper to Scott, as this scrawny, Emo-type saunters onto the stage. Moments later, we're into a real foot-stomper. With solos from Josh and Ryan, it lasts for almost ten minutes, before ending in a spectacular climax. The two singers and eight musicians come together at the front of the stage, linking arms and bowing to the audience before making their way off.

"Well!" Scott says, a big smile on his face. "That was well worth the trip! It's great to see young guys who can play as well as that. Apart from Michelle, the two stars were Ryan on guitar and Matt on trumpet. They were outstanding. Ryan's solo on 'One More Heart-Ache' was unbelievable! It wasn't just the technique; it was so sensitive! A top studio musician would have been happy to play that."

"I thought the bass player and drummer were very good," I suggest.

"They were. They didn't do anything spectacular, but they didn't need to. And you could tell that they're used to playing together. They were bang on it."

"How did you think Franny did?" I ask.

"You could tell he was less experienced than the others, but everything he played was right on the money."

Just then, Franny appears.

"Hey, man!" we greet. "You did great!"

"Oh, that was so much fun!" he enthuses. "I loved it!"

"You did really well on Ramblin' ," Scott says, "trading phrases with the guitar."

"Oh, that was a blast! Ryan would play something, and I'd respond. To be fair, it was mainly blues licks, and I'm pretty comfortable with that."

"I thought the Steely Dan tune was an interesting choice," Scott goes on.

"We were going to do Song for Bilbao ," Franny says, "but that's a difficult tune to play on! Then Josh suggested we try Pretzel Logic , which Ryan's been working on with his tutor. That's much easier, so it's what we went for."

"That figures," Scott says, grinning. "The guitar solo on that was exceptional. You did well too. You kept it simple, and your phrasing was excellent."

"It's what everyone told me to do," Franny explains. "You know, the other guys in the band, and my teacher at the School of Music. Keep it short, concentrate on your phrasing, and don't overplay. D'you see that tall guy with the long hair?" he asks, pointing towards the far side of the stage. "That's Ryan's uncle. He plays semi-professionally. Ryan says he's really good. He came to a couple of the rehearsals. He was really helpful. Are you coming next Thursday?"

Scott looks across at me. I smile and nod.

"Yeah, we'll be there," he confirms. "We'll be a bit late getting back, but nobody's going to know."

"Great! I'll see you there! Right! I must go!"

Franny's got Daniel with him again. It's pretty clear that the younger lad doesn't want to stand around listening to us. He pretty well drags Franny away. I watch them go. Like I said, it's not my business, but it's obvious that something's going on. A little private get-together before they go home, maybe? That's certainly what it looks like.

We're just about to make our way out when we're approached by a tall, good-looking lad, with blue eyes and straight fair hair.

"It's Scott Paxton, isn't it?" he asks.

"Yes," Scott says, looking rather taken aback.

"I'm Tommy Shaw," the lad says quietly, "Josh's boyfriend. Franny 'accidentally' let it slip out that his cousin's boyfriend was a footballer called Scott. I guessed it was probably you."

"Nothing personal," Scott answers, "but I'm not very happy that he did that."

"That's what I told him," Tommy continues. "Actually, I chewed his ears off about you needing to keep it quiet. I'm pretty sure he won't be telling anyone else. And I certainly won't be saying anything. How's the injury progressing?"

"Very well, thanks. We start pre-season on Monday. I can't wait to get going. In some respects, I'm fitter and stronger now than I've ever been."

"That's great! As well as playing myself, I'm a bit of a football geek. Watching you last season, I thought you were one of the best young players around. I'd just like to wish you all the best." He lowers his voice. "Meeting another gay footballer is pretty special, especially someone at your level."

"So what position d'you play?" Scott asks.

"Central defence. I captain the school team; we'll be under-15s when we go back, and I play for the district. That's about it really."

"No ambition to play professionally then?"

"Not really. I want to be a teacher; maths and P.E."

"That's good!" Scott says smiling. "Work hard at it. I'm sure you'll get there!"

"Daniel's your brother, then?" I query.

"Yeah, that's right," Tommy confirms, smiling.

"He seemed to have attached himself to Franny."

"Oh, those two get on like a house on fire. I think they're good for each other."

"Right!" Scott says, smiling. "We need to get home. It's an hour's drive."

After shaking hands with Tommy, Scott and I make our way out.

"He seemed really nice," I comment.

"Yeah," Scott agrees. "But did you see the fire in his eyes? You wouldn't want to upset him. And if anyone hurt Josh or Daniel, he'd have their balls on toast!"

That's interesting. Even though I hadn't picked up on it, I know Scott's right.


It's Sunday lunchtime when I call Robbie.

"Hi, Robbie!" I greet. "Sorry I'm a bit late getting back to you. Scott starts pre-season training on Monday, so things have been a bit manic. We break up a week on Friday. How would you and Noah be fixed to come over here the following week?"

"That'd be fine," he tells me. "That's going to be my week off. Which day were you thinking of?"

"Tuesday or Wednesday."

"Let's make it Wednesday. What sort of time?"

"If you could get over here between four-thirty and five, that'd be great. We'll have a meal about six. Just so we know, is there anything that you or Noah don't eat?"

"I don't think so," he says. "I eat anything, and as far as I know, Noah's the same. But I'll check to make sure."

"Scott says he'll drop you back. That'll mean leaving his place by nine at the latest, because he'll have to get up for training the next morning. Will that be okay?"

"That'll be great! It's very nice of him to do that."

"He said you wouldn't want to be using the buses late at night."

"Oh, he's right about that!" Robbie says.

I take a deep breath.

"D'you want this to be a purely social occasion, or are you happy for things to go a bit further?"

"How much further were you thinking of?"

I take a deep breath. "We have two red lines," I say firmly. "The important one is that when it comes to going all the way, I'm with Scott. I know you and I have done that before, but now Scott and I are together; I don't do that with anyone but him."

"That's good. I've not talked to Noah about it, but I think we'd probably say the same."

"Short of going all the way, we'll be quite happy for us to get to know each other a bit better."

Actually, I'm almost certain that Scott will make a bee-line for Noah, but I don't mention that. I mean, I could be wrong.

"Oh, I'm sure Noah would like that," Robbie says. "He's never been with anyone but me." You said there were two red lines. What's the other one?"

"We don't do this sort of thing unless we're both there. That way, there can't be any misunderstandings. But we will both be there, so that's fine."

"Well, that makes sense!" he agrees.

"I take it that you and Robbie do go all the way?" I query.

"We do now. It was like the best Christmas present ever!"


Later that afternoon, I report my conversation to Scott.

"It looks like it could be a very interesting evening," he says, snuggling up to me. "So how will we play it if we do want to go all the way?"

"I guess we could do like we did with Luis and Diego."

"Wow! Doing that on holiday is one thing. I'd never thought about doing it here!"

"Why not?" I query. "We're all old enough. There is one thing though. I'm pretty sure Robbie and Noah will use condoms."

"Are you suggesting that we should do that?

"On this occasion, I think it'd be better if we did. I don't want Robbie to find out that we don't usually do that."

"Then we'd better get some practice," he says, grinning. "Make sure we know what we're doing. I'll buy some!"


We're into the last two weeks of the school year. Although we're expected to keep working, it's all very relaxed. Both Mr Hawkes (maths) and Mr Anderson (history) introduce new topics, but focus on helping us understand the ideas involved, so that next term, when we begin to study them seriously, we'll have something of a head start.


It's Tuesday lunchtime. Ed Jarvis comes to collect Roz from the art room. That comes as a surprise; he hasn't done that since before Easter. The implication is obvious; they must be back together.

"You've seen the light then?" I say, grinning at him.

"I had to," he says, putting his arm around Roz's shoulder. "Somehow, I'd persuaded myself that I was doing okay, and I'd get by. Of course, it was all bollocks! Looking back, I don't know what I was thinking about. Well, when we got our exam results, Mum and Dad were not happy campers, Dad especially. I've been given a study programme to work through over the holidays to help me catch up. Basically, I'm grounded until the October half-term. There's just one exception," he says, turning towards Roz. "Mum said that if we got back together, we could go out. So, I asked Roz if she'd give me a second chance."

"And you said 'yes'?" I suggest.

"Yeah," Roz agrees, smiling up at him. "I thought he was worth it. But he knows he won't get a third one."

"I won't need a third one," Ed asserts, grinning back at her. "I screwed up once. I'm not going to do it again."


On Thursday evening, Scott and I head to Birmingham City Centre. We're going to the School of Music, where the Josh Banham Band will be playing. As we make our way inside, Scott diverts to the men's room. Strolling into the auditorium, I spot Franny chatting with the band's bass player and drummer. I head across to them.

"Hi, Ian!" Franny greets. "This is Damian, and this is Greg," he adds, introducing me to the two big lads. "Guys, this is my cousin Ian. He's come to give us a bit of support." He turns back to me. "Is Scott here?"

"Sure! He had to go to the little boys' room."

"Looking forward to tonight?" I ask.

"It'll be tougher than playing at school," Damian says. "Everyone knows us there. We've only been coming here since last October. It was only because of Josh that we got involved."

"Does he run the band then?"

"Pretty much," Greg answers. "He's an amazing musician. We've been working with him for nearly three years now. It's made such a difference, playing with someone as good as he is. He's really spurred us on to get better."

"Back at the start, we were just a rock band," Damian explains. "We were playing our own songs – well, Zac's songs – so we had to work out our own parts. To be honest, we were pretty clueless! But then Josh joined, and he started to get us sorted out. Within a few months, we'd improved out of all recognition. A year later, Ryan joined. They asked us if we wanted to play some jazz. Well, that took things to a whole different level."

"We weren't meant to be playing tonight," Greg goes on. "The tutors just wanted us to take part in bands that they'd put together, but we begged them to let us play. Well, they were a bit sniffy about it, partly because Ryan doesn't study here. He works with a guy at the Royal Academy. Eventually, they said we'd have to do an audition. So, we came in and played Canteloupe Island for them. We nailed it, so they said we could play."

"Great!" I say, grinning. "Was that one of the tunes you played last Friday?"

"Yeah, it was the one we opened with. We'll be doing it again tonight."

"I'll look forward to it!"

"We'd better get back," Damian says. "It starts in ten minutes."

As the three of them head towards the backstage area, I turn around to find Scott standing there. We take our seats. A few minutes later, the concert begins. The first band consists of kids aged between nine and thirteen. They play very well, but it's a bit low-key and doesn't have much drive.

They're followed by a band who look to be in their early to mid-teens. I can hear that they're better, but the music still seems to lack impetus. Finally, in the slot before the interval, it's the Josh Banham Band. This is totally different. They play with authority, and have a vitality about them that the two previous groups just didn't.

As he was last Friday, Ryan's the star, performing a stunning solo on each of the tunes they play. But it's not just that he's an outstanding player, he really reaches out to the audience. It's like he's got them in the palm of his hand.

They leave the stage to rapturous applause. During the interval, they stroll into the refreshment bar area. We'd like to congratulate them, but there are lots of guys around them, all trying to get a word. Somewhat reluctantly, we leave them to it.

After the interval, there's a band made up of guys and girls in their late teens. They're very good, but still don't have the energy that Josh's band possessed. To end the evening, they're followed by the Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra.

"Matt, the guy who played at the gig last Friday, is on lead trumpet," Scott points out.

As the band prepares to begin playing, I spot the drummer. I know I've seen him before, but I can't think where. Then it comes to me. He was one of the guys that Anthony and I met at the Midlands Arts Centre, when we went there to do a perspective drawing class. That's more than three years ago. Fuck! The orchestra is very good, with Matt playing a couple of outstanding solos. But I still prefer the Josh Banham Band, possibly because the music sounds more up to date.

By the time the concert ends, it's twenty past ten. I'd like to stay around for a while, chat to Franny and some of the others, but we can't. In the morning, Scott has to get up for training. Even leaving straightaway, by the time we're back, he'll have broken his curfew, not that anyone's likely to find out. So that's it; we've got to go.

"I thought Josh's band were wonderful again," I say as we make our way out.

"They were great!" Scott agrees.

"Josh must be pretty amazing, to get the band playing like that. I mean, Greg and Damian are more than two years older than he is."

"Yeah," Scott replies thoughtfully. "He reminds me of someone else I know."

"You're not talking about me, are you?" I query, totally not getting it.

"Of course I am," he confirms. "Oh, it's in a completely different field, and yes, Josh is an outstanding musician, but what you share is the ability to pull a group of people together and help them to be the best they can be. Not many people can do that."

Walking back to the car, I'm almost in tears. Josh has to be one of the most inspiring kids I've ever encountered, and Scott's just put me up there alongside him. How special is that?


The following evening, I give Franny a call.

"Hi, man!" I say as he picks up. "Sorry we weren't able to speak to you after you'd played. At the interval, you had too many people round you, and once the gig ended, we needed to get back. Anyway, we really enjoyed it again. We thought you did great!"

"Thanks! We loved it! Will you be coming next Tuesday?"

He's talking about the concert at the grammar school that Ryan goes to.

"No, we're going to give that one a miss. As you're only going to be playing one tune, it won't be worth it."

"That's cool!"

"You know after the gig at Newton Valley, Daniel, pretty much dragged you away. I hope you know what you're doing!"

"Well, I wasn't going to say no! Man, I was so high, I was gagging for it! The audience had all gone by then, so we went into one of the toilet stalls, and I gave him a good seeing-to. He loved it!"

"Does Tommy know what you and Daniel are up to?"

"Sure! He's, like, totally cool with it. It means he can spend his time with Josh."

"Well, just be careful, yeah?" I tell him.


Saturday is finals day at the English Schools' Athletics Championships. I'd love to have been able to go and watch, like I did last year, but as it's being held two hundred miles away, there was no chance.

Patrick's promised to call me after his race. It's mid-afternoon when my phone finally rings.

"How did it go?" I ask.

"Not great," he says. "It was windy, so nobody wanted to lead. The pace was really steady until we got to the last lap. Then there was a big burn-up, and I got buried. You can tell how slow it was; the winner only ran eight thirty-four. I finished seventh in eight forty. It's disappointing."

"I'm sorry to hear that," I tell him. "But you were giving a year away. I'm sure you'll be better prepared next year."

"I hope so!" he says.

"Will we see you at training on Monday? We're just going to do an easy run."

"Sure!"

"We'll have a chat then."

We end the call. I'm disappointed too, not in him, but for him. I've got this nagging feeling that one reason he didn't run too well is that we weren't able to give him enough support in training. On all our hard sessions, he was out at the front, running on his own. Next year, we'll need to do better.


After training on Monday afternoon, Patrick and I sit down for a chat.

"This term, I don't think we supported you very well in training," I begin. "Last year, you had David to help you. This year you were pretty much on your own. All I can say is that with the guys we've got coming through, I'm sure we'll be better placed next year."

"That may be part of it," Patrick agrees. "But the big problem was spending the Easter holidays working for Bill. I thought I'd just be able to pick up where I left off, but it didn't happen. Once I got back to school, it felt like I was playing catch-up, and I never quite got there."

"So you won't be doing that next year then?"

"No, I've already spoken to Bill about it. I need to focus on my A-levels and my running."

"You're working for him this summer though?"

"Oh yes, but that's fine," he says, smiling. "The important races are after Christmas, so I'll have loads of time to get back into it."


The next day, I'm coming out of lunch when Simon Heath approaches me. Simon's a star cricketer, and at the weekends, he trains with the county team. During the winter, however, he runs cross-country to keep fit.

"You know the cross-country team trains from your house?" he asks.

"Yeah, but it's mainly on Sundays. That's why I've never asked you?"

"Don't you sometimes run from there during the week?"

"We do during the school holidays."

"Would I be able to join you?"

"Of course! We'd love to have you there," I tell him, "but I thought you'd be too busy."

"Last year, it took me ages to get into shape," he explains. "This year, I want to do better, or I'll have all the younger kids kicking my arse!"

Talk about music to my ears! We exchange phone numbers and I promise to contact him about our pre-season training sessions. Having him along will be such a bonus! Simon's a really nice guy, and a very useful runner when he's fit.

He's set me thinking too. Why don't I plan out the training programme now, and distribute it to everyone before the end of term? After dinner, I explain my idea to Mum, and ask if I can use the printer.

"Goodness me!" she says, smiling. "You are getting well-organised! Yes, of course you can!"


On Friday, as soon as afternoon registration has been completed, the summer term is finally over. That's another school year done and dusted. Along with most of the usual gang, I stroll into the city centre. We take over Starbucks. They're not objecting; we're just about the only customers they've got.

At quarter to three, I say my goodbyes and make my way to Scott's place.

"Looking forward to tomorrow?" I ask as he ushers me inside.

"Sort of," he answers, sounding less than convincing.

After two weeks of pre-season training, the club are due to play a friendly match against a local non-league side. Inevitably, Scott's been picked to play. After six months on the side-lines, although he's back in good shape physically, he's woefully short of match practice.

Unsure how he'll get on, he's apprehensive. As we snuggle up on the bed, I can feel how tense he is. Initially, I try the gentle, affectionate approach. It's not working.

I know what he needs, but I need to be patient, waiting until he's finished licking me out and working K-Y into my bum. Then, without saying a word, I place a pillow in the middle of the bed. Reaching into my school bag, I take out my shower towel and spread it on top. Finally, I lie face-down, the pillow beneath my hips, my legs spread apart.

Moments later, Scott lowers himself onto me. Over the course of the next few minutes, he fucks me senseless, just as I'd expected him to. It's wonderful! As he ejaculates deep inside me, I feel all the tension draining out of him. After a few seconds, he gently withdraws, rolling off onto his side. I turn to face him.

"Feel better now?" I ask, smiling.

"Oh babe!" he purrs contentedly. "I really needed that!"


The next day, it's nearly six o'clock when he calls me.

"How did it go?" I ask.

"It was okay," he says. "I was still a bit rusty, but I did alright. I felt okay too. I'll see you later on, yeah?"

"Sure!" I say. "I should be with you by about quarter to eight."


At half past eight, we're snuggled up on Scott's bed.

"Thanks for yesterday," he says quietly, nibbling my ear. "That was amazing! Beforehand, I was wound up like a spring. Afterwards, I felt completely relaxed again. You're a genius!"

"Not really. I'd tried being really affectionate, but it didn't seem to be helping. Well, there's nothing better for relieving tension than a bloody good fuck!"

"Well, it definitely worked! When I woke up this morning, I knew I was ready to play. Like I told you, I was a bit rusty, but I'll soon get through that."

"It's why we're together, isn't it? You'd have done the same for me."

"I'd like to think so," he says, licking my nose. "Actually, I've bought some condoms. Shall we try using one?"

"Sure!"

With our foreplay completed, he produces the packet. After opening it, he hands me the condom, which I roll onto his cock, before slathering lube over it. Lying on my back, I lift my legs, holding them with my knees close to my shoulders, my bum-hole completely exposed. Moments later, Scott's inside me.

"Well, that was simple enough," he says, smiling down at me. "It feels a bit strange, but it's okay."

"That's the easy part," I explain. "From what I've been told, the tricky part is pulling out without it slipping off your cock."

"Yeah, I guess it would be," he agrees.

Lowering himself between my legs, his lips meet mine in a passionate kiss.

"Come on, Mr Footballer," I urge, momentarily easing away. "Show me what you've got!"

He does exactly that, kissing and fucking me like it was going out of fashion. Condom or no condom, it's superb! Over the next few minutes, the tingling in my penis builds and builds until it's almost unbearable. Inevitably, I begin to shudder.

"Oh, fuck!" I gasp. "I'm going to cum!"

A moment later, my teen spunk spurts all over us, my bum-hole going into spasm around Scott's thrusting cock.

"Jesus!" he swears. "You are so fucking horny!"

Holding on tight, he unloads into the condom. After a few seconds, he lifts himself upright, his dick still buried in my arse."

"So how do we do this?" he asks.

"Use your first two fingers like a pair of scissors to grip the open end of the condom. Then pull out very slowly."

Following my instructions, he carefully withdraws, making sure the condom doesn't slip off his dick. I have to admit though, it does feel weird, not being messy after I've been fucked. To be honest, it's a bit of an anti-climax. After visiting the bathroom to dispose of the condom, Scott returns, snuggling up next to me.

"On Wednesday," he says gently. "Let's wait to see what they do. If they're going to use a condom, we will too. I'm not sure, but I've got a feeling that as they're in a one-to-one relationship, they might not."

"Yeah, we can do that," I agree, smiling.

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