Juggling the Pieces

by Pink Panther

Chapter 42

August 2012

It's Tuesday morning. I arrive at the flat just after eleven. I can hardly believe how much progress they've made. The new kitchen and the bathroom suite have been installed, along with the new boiler. There's still some tiling to be completed, but apart from that, the kitchen and bathroom are pretty much done. In addition, all the walls and ceilings have been replastered. I'm seriously impressed!

Right now, Jimmy and Patrick are dismantling the ensuite shower room, while Bill's tiling the main bathroom. It's time for me to leave them to get on with it.

"Okay Bill! " I say, stepping into the bathroom. " I 'm off now!"

"D 'you mind if I ask you something?" he says quietly.

"No, of course not," I tell him.

"I know it's not my business," he says, "but are you and Scott . . . , you know, like together?"

I should have seen this coming. When we set out the spec for the home office, he must have realised I was going to be living here. Even so, I don't know what to say. Actually, I probably don't need to. I'm pretty sure my face is saying it for me.

"It's just that I overheard a couple of things the lads were saying," Bill adds by way of explanation.

"Yeah," I confirm. "We first got together while we were doing his flat back at home. You won't say anything, will you? He's in a difficult position, being a professional footballer."

"Oh, I won't say a thing," he says, smiling warmly. "Like I said, it's not my business, is it? I just wondered; that's all. And I know Jimmy's gay. Was that how you met him?"

"Yeah. He's doing really well, isn't he? "

"Very much so; we gave him an opportunity and he grabbed it with both hands. He's been a real asset. Jimmy and Patrick are a great team. I take it your parents know about you and Scott."

"Yeah, we told them as soon as I'd finished my GCSE' s. "

"That must have been hard."

"It was, especially for Scott. But it was the right thing to do. They had their doubts at first, but they're totally behind us now."

"Well, congratulations!" he says warmly. "So this is where you'll be living when you're at university?"

"Yeah."

"Well, I wish you all the best. It's been great working with you. I hope we'll have the chance to work together in the future."

"Thanks, Bill."

"So will you be coming to dinner with us this evening?"

"Yes, I'll be there!"

"We 'll see you then!"

Making my way outside, I' m in a daze. I 'm not surprised that Bill realised what was going on; I just hadn't expected him to ask me about it. Maybe I should have. The good thing is that he didn't seem the least bit bothered. In fact, he was totally positive, so maybe things really are getting better.


"There's something I need to tell you," I say quietly, parking myself next to Scott. " Bill 's worked out that we're together. He asked me about it."

"Well, I guess it wasn't that difficult," he says casually. "It's not a problem, is it?"

"Not at all," I assure him. "He congratulated us and wished us all the best. I just thought you ought to know."

"Thanks," he says, stroking my leg. "It's good, really. It means we won't have to pretend we're not. Patrick knows anyway, doesn't he? "

"Yeah, and Jimmy."

"I 'm really looking forward to meeting him."

"Well, you've not got long to wait. We'll be seeing them in a few hours."


It's quarter past nine. After saying goodbye to Bill, Jimmy and Patrick, Scott and I make our way back to his car. We've been at a Thai restaurant in Farringdon, near where the guys are staying. With good food, excellent service and great company, it's been a most enjoyable evening. After getting into the Mini, we begin the journey back to Southgate.

"Thanks for this evening," I say, smiling. "I think it went really well."

"Very much so," Scott agrees. "So, you met Jimmy, what, five years ago?"

"Yes, almost exactly. It was late in the summer holiday. I was thirteen; he was fourteen."

"Wow! He's still pretty cute now. Back then, he must have been stunning!"

"I thought so. He had a big cock too!"

"I can imagine!"

"It's weird though. When I first met him, his legs looked really powerful, but his upper body was quite scrawny."

"That's normal. Your bottom half always develops well before your top half. Jimmy's upper body has developed the way it has because of his job and all the working out he does. Bill obviously thinks the world of him."

"Yeah, I got that. I'm really pleased for him. Growing up, it was just him and his mum, and she didn't look after him very well. When he was twelve, she got sick and he had to go into a kids' home until she was better."

"And now look at him! He's like the son Bill always wanted."

I nod but don't reply. Jimmy never knew who his dad was. His relationship with Bill does seem unusually close, but I guess that's because it works for both of them.

When we arrive at our temporary home, both Scott and I are super-horny. I don't know why; we just are. Half an hour later, he's fucking me senseless.


On Thursday evening, after Scott and I have had dinner, I give Jake a call. He quickly picks up.

"Hi Jake!" I greet. "How did the GCSE's go? I was hoping to get a text from you."

"Sorry!" he says. "I was going to do it this morning, but I knew you'd want to know how the other boys got on, so I thought I'd wait till this afternoon. Then I forgot."

"Well? "

"Not bad," he says. "I got three grade A's four B's and two C' s."

"Well done!" I say, recognising that those are good results considering how he was struggling less than a year ago. "Which subjects will you be taking for A-level?"

"History, geography and English Literature. I got A's in history, geography and English Language and a B for English Literature. Oh, I got a B for maths too, so thanks for helping me!"

"Well, it seems like you're making sensible choices. The important thing is that you've learned to believe in yourself. You know you can do it as long as you continue putting the work in. So how did the other lads get on?"

"Niall got five A* grades, and four A's, but he's a total brainbox!"

"I think it runs in the family," I tell him. "His older brother got a scholarship to Cambridge. What about Shaun and Gary?"

"Gary's results were about the same as mine. Shaun's were a bit better because he got A* grades for physics and additional maths."

"Well, that' s excellent! " I respond. "Just don't start thinking you can slack off. That's not how it works. You've got to keep up the hard work. When you get back to school, Mr Carter will spell it out for you."

"He already did!" Jake tells me.

"Yeah, well be prepared to hear it again!" I warn him. "Okay! I'll let you get on with your evening!"


The following morning, I arrive at the new flat just after eleven. The guys are due to leave at lunchtime so they can get out of London before the Friday afternoon rush starts. Bill welcomes me inside. I begin to look around.

"It looks like you've almost finished," I say, hardly able to believe what I'm seeing.

"Yes," Bill confirms. "The only job we' ve got left to do is tiling the ensuite. Jimmy will do that next week."

"Cool!"

"Let me explain what's happening," Bill continues. "Graham and one of his guys came in yesterday and fitted out the two bedrooms, so they're finished. They're now working on your home office. That'll be completed by the end of today. On Monday, the guy's going to come in to sand and polish the floors, so you'll need to be here by nine to let him in."

He hands me a business card for Prestige Flooring Services.

"Once he's finished, the floors will then need to be left for 24 hours. He'll be back on Tuesday afternoon to buff them up. I'll leave you to sort out the timings with him, okay?"

"Sure! "

"Jimmy and Patrick will come down on Wednesday morning. They'll be here about ten. You've got them for two days. As I mentioned, Jimmy's got that tiling job to do. In between, they'll help you set up the flat."

"Aren 't you coming?"

"No, you won't need me. They can handle it; they're perfectly capable."

"How are they getting here?"

"They'll use the small van. They can both drive!"

Okay; that's something else I didn't know.

"Let 's have a look then!" I say, grinning.

With Bill following behind, I head into the main bedroom. The fitted storage looks amazing, even better than I'd expected. I test out the drawers and cupboards. Everything works beautifully. I pop my head into the guest room, which looks equally good.

Next, we check out the bathroom. The slate grey tiling is darker than I'd expected, but it totally works, giving the room a somewhat austere, masculine appearance.

Moving on, we stroll through the lounge. Being completely bare, it's the one room that's difficult to assess, but that'll change once we've got the furniture in. Finally, we arrive in the kitchen. I'm blown away! Everything about it oozes class. It looks stunning, and I know it's going to be great to work in. Scott's going to love it!

"This is fantastic!" I say, turning to Bill.

"Yes," he agrees. "It's come out really well."

"Thanks for helping me with the design!"

"Oh, it's your design," he counters, smiling. "I just chipped in with a couple of ideas."

We return to the lounge.

"Right!" Bill says, smiling as he hands me the keys. " We 're going to make a move; get home and enjoy our weekend!"

Having shown them out, I head to our home office, opening the door carefully. Graham and another guy are busily putting the place together.

"Hi! " I say brightly. "Good to see you again. The bedrooms look superb, and everything works beautifully!"

"Well, that's what we're about," Graham says, smiling. " I 'm glad you like it!"

"Any idea what time you'll be finished?" I ask.

"Probably about four."

"Cool! I'll get back here for half past three, so I can lock up after you."

"Great!" he responds. " We 'll see you then!"

To be honest, that's a nuisance. If I go back to Southgate, by the time Scott gets home, it'll be time for me to come back here. But let's get things in perspective. It's a minor inconvenience. All the important stuff is going right. I' m not going to complain about something like that.


I spend the next few hours just hanging out around central London. At two o'clock, I send Scott a text to let him know I've had to stay in town. I don't want him getting worried.

As arranged, I return to the flat at half past three. Graham and his assistant are just finishing up. The home office is everything I could have hoped for. Not only is it wonderfully stylish, they've utilised the space superbly, giving us lots of dedicated storage as well as plenty of desk space. I love it!

I get back to Southgate at around half past four.

"The wanderer returns!" Scott comments, drawing me into an affectionate kiss. "Is everything okay?"

"Very much so!" I assure him. "All the fitted furniture is in now. It's superb. It was well worth the investment!"

"Sounds good!" Scott says smiling. "I look forward to seeing it."

Next, I quickly run through all the stuff that Bill told me.

"So Bill won't be coming down next week then?" he queries.

"No, he says there's no need. I guess he's got other jobs he needs to go to."

"Are you happy with that?"

"Yeah, no problem! Apart from tiling the ensuite, they'll just be helping me get the flat ready for us to move in. We don't need Bill for that."

"So we're on target to move in on Thursday?" he queries.

"Sure! You've arranged to have the home entertainment system delivered, haven't you?"

"Yeah. It'll be delivered on Thursday morning, like we said. A guy from Richer Sounds will be coming along to set it up."

"That's it then!"

"I can hardly believe this is happening," Scott says, wrapping his arms around me. " I 'm about to move into a really smart penthouse flat, and apart from making a few bank transfers and getting one bankers' draft, I haven't had to do a damn thing."


It's Saturday. Scott's dad arrives at the Southgate flat just before one.

"Hi Ian! " he says, shaking my hand. "Good to see you again. Are you ready to go?"

"Hi Geoff! Yes, thanks."

We 're travelling to the match by public transport. Scott told me that parking near the ground is so difficult we shouldn't even attempt it. Geoff asks me lots of questions about the new flat. I try to answer as best I can, without giving too much away.

"It sounds pretty impressive," he comments.

"I think it will be," I agree, "but please don't say anything to Scott. We want it to be a surprise."

We arrive at the ground at twenty to two. With more than an hour till kick-off, it's already starting to fill up. We find our seats, which are close to the halfway line. I look around. The ground is much bigger than Reavington's, and everything looks that much better. Of course, Greswall are several rungs up the ladder, and it shows. By five to three, the place is packed.

"This place has a capacity of thirty-six thousand," Geoff tells me. "They can't be much short of that. It's what I expected. It's a new season, they had an excellent result last week, and it's a great afternoon for watching football. The fans were bound to come out."

I estimate that there must be around thirty-five thousand here, more than double what they get at Reavington. Moments later, the teams take to the field. The roar is deafening, the expectation almost palpable. I thought the atmosphere at Reavington was exciting. This is at a whole other level. The teams line up with Greswall attacking the goal to our left, so Scott's right in front of us.

"Today's opponents finished one place above Greswall last season," Geoff tells me, "so this should be close."

But it's not. Right from the first whistle, Greswall are all over them, pressing them, harrying them, putting them under pressure, with Scott playing a major part. And the fans are going wild. I can't begin to describe it.

But Greswall's early dominance goes unrewarded. After twenty minutes, with the game still scoreless, the ball comes to Scott on the left wing. Skilfully shrugging off his marker, he set off along the touchline, the defender unable to keep up. A yard short of the corner flag he whips in a cross, cutting it back right over the penalty spot. Running in from central midfield, team captain Kevin White rises to meet it, his powerful header arrowing into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal.

The crowd erupts. I've never experienced anything like it. It's not just deafeningly loud; I can feel it right in my gut. Wow! With their tails up, Greswall continue to dominate, adding another goal before the half time break. The only disappointment is that they haven't scored more.

The players return, and the game resumes. Almost immediately, Greswall are on the attack again, their right back making a powerful run along the touchline in front of us. Seeing his path blocked, he plays the ball through the air on a forward diagonal towards the far side.

Coming in from the left-hand touchline, Scott runs towards the corner of the penalty box. At first, I think he's misjudged it. The ball seems too high. But he hasn't. Pivoting on his left foot, he swings his right boot at it, meeting it on the volley just below waist high. It flies into the top right-hand corner of the net, giving the goalkeeper no chance.

The earlier goals each produced an eruption. This one's like Armageddon. It's totally insane! But I can understand why. The first two goals were good, but nothing out of the ordinary. This one was special!

"I 've seen him do that once before," Geoff reminds me as things begin to quieten down. "But this one was better, because the ball was quite a bit higher when he struck it. Not many players could do that."

I nod my understanding. It's not just the athleticism. It's the control and above all the timing. The fans turn up hoping to see their team produce something extraordinary, and today they have.

With just over twenty minutes left, Greswall add a fourth goal. Immediately afterwards, Scott is withdrawn, receiving a standing ovation from the home fans. The game heads towards its conclusion, Greswall scoring a fifth goal before conceding a late ' consolation ' two minutes into injury time.

As the players leave the field, Scott trots back on, spending the next few minutes jogging round to applaud the fans in every part of the ground, while they stand to applaud him and chant his name.

The surprise is that it's not just the home fans who are applauding, some of the away supporters are too, though they don't chant his name, of course. Even so, it's pretty special. With the crowd beginning to disperse, Geoff and I make our way out of the ground.

"I can't believe how quickly he's adapted," he says. "It usually takes quite a while. But somehow, he knew he'd fit in here, and a goal on his home debut is the icing on the cake. I just hope the fans don't expect him to do that every week."

"Yeah," I acknowledge, not knowing what else to say.

For all that I'm delighted by how well Scott played, something's bothering me. He got a fair amount of coverage in last Sunday's sports pages. If I'm not mistaken, tomorrow he'll be all over them. It's all happened way faster than we expected. If things carry on, it won't be long before people start to recognise him in the street. That's scary. I hope we're ready for it.


I was right about the Sunday papers; the sports pages are full of it. Having won their two opening games, scoring eight goals and conceding only one, Greswall currently sit top of the Premier League, so I guess extensive coverage of their match was just about inevitable.

To my relief, it's mainly focussed on their outstanding team work, but Scott's contribution has been given plenty of coverage, including several pictures of him, and comments that he's adapted to playing at the top level much faster than most young players moving up from the Championship.

"Why d'you think it's happened so quickly?" I ask.

"It's hard to say," he says guardedly. "Part of it is that I've moved into a largely settled squad. The only new guys are me, and Viktor Korovsky in central defence. Viktor's a tremendous player. He totally bosses the defence, making sure they work as a unit. Having him in there is huge. Alvaro Fernandez joined back in January. He'd scored lots of goals in Spain, but he hadn't played in England before so it took him some time to adapt. But at the moment he's looking really sharp. So far, he's scored three goals in the league, to follow the four he got in pre-season."

I nod my understanding.

"Of course, the boss has a really clear idea of how he wants us to play" Scott goes on, "and how the new guys would fit in. That definitely helps. But the other reason is that we've really gelled as a group. It feels like we were meant to play together."

"Oh, I see," I say, smiling. "You told me when you joined that Terry had already marked out a role for you?"

"Oh, yeah," he answers. "I knew from day one what he wanted. I just had to deliver."

"Doesn't that put quite a bit of pressure on you?"

"Yeah, but that's what it's about. I knew before I started that I'd have to raise my level. It's how you improve, yeah?"

I give him a big smile. He's right, of course. In a sense, I guess it's what we both do.

After a leisurely morning, we drive out to Epping Forest. After a most enjoyable lunch and a stroll through the woods, we return to the flat for two hours of passionate love-making. I have to admit, right at the moment, life is very sweet!


It's Tuesday afternoon. The technician from Prestige Flooring Services has just finished working on the hardwood floors. When we first saw the place, they were dull and lifeless. Now, they're glowing, with a deep, lustrous sheen.

"They're quality timber," the guy says. " We 've brought them back to life."

It just gets better! I never realised he'd be able to make them look like this. Wow!


The following morning, I arrive at the flat at half past eight. I'm very nervous. There are loads of things due to be delivered today. Suppose something crucial doesn't show up? I guess I'll be keeping my fingers crossed until everything' s here.

The first thing to arrive are the beds, together with nightstands, duvets and pillows. One advantage of having bought the beds from the company that actually makes them is that their guys set them up for us. After showing them where they need to go, I leave them to it.

As expected, Jimmy and Patrick show up just before ten.

"Hi guys!" I greet. "Great to see you!"

Patrick's just about to step inside but checks himself.

"These floors look amazing!" he enthuses. " We 'll need to get some dustsheets from the van. Jimmy has to wear work boots while he's tiling. You wouldn't want to drop one of those things on your toe!"

They disappear, returning a few minutes later with canvas dustsheets which they lay across the entrance hall and through the master bedroom, to the ensuite where Jimmy will be working.

Over the course of the next few hours, we receive a whole series of deliveries, which I systematically tick off on my list. Like the beds, the lounge suite is set up by the delivery guys, and the blind for the bathroom window is fitted by the company that are supplying it. That leaves me and Patrick to deal with everything else.

By two o'clock, everything has arrived. I breathe a huge sigh of relief, no longer having to worry about whether things will show up.

"Right, let's put up the curtain poles," Patrick suggests. "Have you got a step-ladder?"

"No, " I admit.

"Okay, I'll go and get ours from the van," he says. "But tomorrow, we'll go to one of the DIY stores and buy one. I know you probably won't use it that often, but you really ought to have one!"

Once he's collected the ladder, we get to work. He blows me away! He's just so efficient! Having checked how long the curtains are, he makes sure the poles are in exactly the right position so that when we hang the curtains, they reach to within half an inch of the floor.

He continues in the same way. As soon as we've finished with the curtains, he hangs the mirror in the entrance hall, taking great care to make sure it hangs perfectly straight and level. Next, we unpack the cordless vacuum cleaner.

"Where d'you want this?" Patrick asks, holding up the battery charger.

I think for a moment. The kitchen would be the obvious place, but there really isn't room for it.

"Could we put it in the entrance hall?" I suggest.

"Sure! "

Quickly locating the power socket, he fixes the charging unit to the wall. There's no fuss, and the small amount of mess we've produced is quickly disposed of.

Moving into the kitchen, we open up the delivery from John Lewis, taking out crockery, cutlery, pots, pans and accessories. After washing things where needed, we store everything away.

Finally, we unwrap the pictures, beginning with the two from Anthony.

"Isn 't this the one that was hanging in main reception at school?" Patrick queries.

"Yeah, Anthony gave it to me as a going-away present. He did it two years ago, when we were on holiday together in the south of France."

"Nice one!"

"Yeah! I think Dr Kingslake was hoping he'd donate it to the school, but he gave it to me instead. We're puttng this one in the entrance hall."

Having hung the Antibes picture in the entrance hall, and the other one in the master bedroom, we move onto the final package.

"Where did you get these?" Patrick queries, admiring the first of Joel' s pictures.

"They're by a young artist called Joel Carpenter," I explain. "I found him on the internet. Fortunately, he's based in south London, so I was able to visit his studio."

"Wow! They must have cost a fortune!"

"Well, they weren't cheap, but he's not very well-known yet, so they were within what we could afford."

Over the next twenty minutes, we hang one in the guest room and the other three in the lounge. Patrick not only makes sure that each picture is hanging straight and level, he checks that the three in the lounge are all at exactly the same height. He is such a star!

It's time for a tea break. Jimmy emerges from the ensuite where he's been working all on his own.

"Okay, " Patrick says, finishing his mug of tea. "I just need to collect my hat and boots so I can help finish the tiling. Once you get above shoulder height, those big wall-tiles are difficult to hang. You really need two guys on them."

I have to admit that when I saw them in the tile store, it hadn't occurred to me that large tiles would be more difficult to hang than smaller ones, even though it's pretty obvious when you think about it. I guess that's another lesson learned. With nothing else to do, I retire to the lounge to chill out.


By five o'clock, everything's finished. As I stroll into the ensuite to take a look, I'm slightly concerned that without Bill here, the finish might not be quite as good as it is elsewhere in the flat. The moment I get in there, I'm cross with myself for even thinking that. The room's been finished to the same immaculate standard as everywhere else.

My one reservation is that I used the same tiles as in the bathroom. With no natural light in the ensuite, they do look very dark. It's not bad, just not quite what I intended.

"Will we need our working clothes tomorrow?" Patrick asks. "Or will we just be tidying up?"

"Just tidying up," I tell him. "Once Scott's brought all our clothes over and checked the place out, we want to take you out for a meal."

"It'll need to be early," Patrick cautions. " We 've got to drive back afterwards. We're working again on Friday."

"No rest for the wicked, huh?"

"We can't complain," Jimmy chips in. "Bill expects top quality work, and he's prepared to pay for it."

I guess that sums it up.


Travelling back to Southgate during the evening rush hour is not a pleasant experience. I'm glad that it's not something I'll have to do again. I get back to the flat at ten to six. Scott's cooking dinner.

"So, is it all finished?" he asks.

"Yes, pretty much. Tomorrow morning, I'll make up our bed, and put a cover over the one in the guest room. Oh, and Patrick reminded me that we need a step-ladder. Once the guy's finished setting up the home entertainment system, we'll go out and buy one."

"Cool! Did you mention taking them out to dinner?"

"Yeah. We'll need to make it quite early. They've got to drive home afterwards."

"Oh, right! I hadn't thought about that."

"Apparently, they've got to work on Friday."

"Yeah, I guess Bill must be very busy. I'll call the restaurant to check their opening hours. We might need to go somewhere else."

Before bedtime, I pack my clothes into my suitcase, leaving out just those I'm going to wear tomorrow. Scott will bring them with him after training.


When I wake up, I realise that finally it's Thursday August 30th, the day we've been working towards for the past month. After having a shower and eating my breakfast, I put my toiletries into their bag, pack it into my suitcase and zip it up, ready for Scott to collect later.

Before leaving the rented flat for the final time, I check the contents of the bags that I'll be taking with me: duvet covers, pillowcases and fitted sheets, plus a bed-cover for us to use in the guest room when it's not being occupied. I'm still very nervous. In a very real sense, this is the biggest thing I've ever done. I don't want to screw things up at this stage by forgetting something.

At half past eight, I head to the tube station. I'm not sorry to be saying goodbye to our temporary home. It was too small for Scott and I to live together comfortably, and for guys who like to cook, the kitchen really wasn't up to standard.

As Southgate is quite a long way out, I get a seat as soon as I get on the train. I just sit there, minding my own business all the way to Kings Cross, which makes the morning commute much less stressful than the evening one.

With the guy from Richer Sounds not due till eleven, I arrive at the flat much earlier than I needed to, but that's okay. The last thing I want to be doing is rushing around. I start by walking through the flat, checking things out. Unsurprisingly, everything is exactly as we left it. Even so, I needed to make sure.

Heading into the main bedroom, I make up the bed. It's the finishing touch. This is 'our room'. I say it again: 'our room'. Wow! I just hope Scott likes it as much as I do.

Moving into the guest room, I put the cover over the bed before storing the spare bedding in one of the drawers. As we only expect to be having guests for a few days at a time, the room has far more storage than we're likely to need.

The lads arrive just before ten. As I expected, they're dressed in casual clothes. That's fine. We won't have any dirty jobs to do; at least I hope we won't. After I've made tea, we sit around in the dining area.

"We 're having a lazy day today!" Patrick comments. "We don't get many of those. But Bill wanted us here until everything was finished and handed over, just in case there were any emergencies. Scott was quite happy to pay for it, so here we are. I think he'd have liked Bill to be here too, but that was never going to happen. It just wasn't necessary." He pauses for a moment. "Now that we've left school," he goes on, completely changing the subject, "have you thought about joining an athletics club?"

"No, why?"

"I 've decided to join Northdene Harriers, mainly so I'll be able to run in the big cross-country races, like the Midland (Championships) and the National. For the Junior Mens' events, we'll have a pretty good team."

"Northdene didn't look that strong at the county championships," I counter.

"That's because their membership's split over two or three counties," he argues. "For the club championships, most of their best guys compete in Staffordshire. And we never saw them in the schools' events because all their kids run for West Midlands."

"Oh, right!" I concede, quickly realising that he clearly knows far more about this than I do.

"I wondered if you'd be interested in joining us," he continues. "With you on board, we'd go from being a good team to being a really strong one!"

"I 'll need to think about it. I was just planning on running for the university."

"The problem with that is that the races they compete in are open-age, so you'll be running against guys in their twenties. You'll find that hard!"

"Talk to me about it later," I respond, closing him down.

The thing is that I do need to think about it. Patrick's life will be similar to what most students experience, so he'll spend roughly half the year living at home. Okay, he's got a girlfriend, but she's totally supportive of his running. She wouldn't be his girlfriend if she wasn't. Within reason, he can do as he likes.

My position's quite different. Having got myself into the best architecture school in the country, I'll need to work very hard just to keep up. For me, that's how it's always been. In between, I'll need to be there to support Scott in what he' s trying to achieve.

Of course, I'm going to continue running. I value the exercise, the camaraderie and all the rest of it. But I'm not sure that I'll be able to make it as much of a priority as Patrick will.

To be honest, I don't even know if I'll be able to focus on my running the way I've done up to now. And even if I do decide to join a club, wouldn't it make more sense for me to pick one based here in London? There's a great deal that I need to think about, and this is not the time for me to try wrapping my head around it.


The technician from Richer Sounds arrives just before eleven, bringing the home entertainment system with him. With assistance from Jimmy and Patrick he begins by mounting the 55-inch smart tv on the wall facing the long corner unit. He then starts to connect everything up. The audio output from the tv runs through a home cinema amplifier that sits on a low storage unit directly below. There's a blu-ray player there too, so that we can watch DVDs.

The tec plugs the output from the amplifier into four jack sockets that electrician Steve installed on the wall behind the storage unit. From these sockets, Steve ran cables through the walls to four more sockets, located close to where each of the loudspeakers is to be positioned. As the final piece of the jigsaw, the tec plugs in the speakers and boots up the system.

It's the moment of truth, the speaker cables being the one element of Steve's wiring that we weren't able to test. To my relief, everything works. More than that, it sounds fantastic!

Before he leaves, he demonstrates the remotes for the tv, the amplifier and the blu-ray player.

"Will you show my how to access Youtube?" I ask, knowing that to be the main reason for Scott buying a system like this.

The guy takes me through the three simple steps; no problem there! He also shows me how to play a DVD. That's a little more complicated. I note down the steps to make sure I don't forget anything.

"Okay, now you have a go," he says, returning the system to its starting point.

With the aid of my notes, I do it first time.

"So is that everything?" he asks.

"I think so," I respond, smiling.

"Okay, then! I'll leave you guys to it."

I usher him towards the door. Reaching the entrance hall, I pull out my wallet, taking out a ten-pound note.

"Thanks for the excellent service!" I say, handing it to him.

"Thanks!" he acknowledges. "Have a good day!"


As it's just gone twelve, we stroll over to the Skinners' Arms for a light lunch. Afterwards, Jimmy drives me to a local DIY store so we can buy a stepladder.

"I 'm really pleased that you met someone like Scott," he says as the van bowls along the road. "People think professional footballers are all really full of themselves, but he's not like that at all. Patrick told me that he was okay, but I guess I didn't really get it until I actually met him."

"Many people have the wrong idea about professional footballers," I explain. "When Scott and I got together, Mum thought we'd be staying out late and going to lots of parties. We don't do that at all. Unless he's got the next day off, he's expected to be in bed by eleven."

"Well, I'm really glad you met him. You deserve to be with someone really nice!"

"Thanks!"

"I 've never thanked you properly for putting me in touch with Bill," he goes on. "He only took me on because you recommended me."

"And you grabbed the chance with both hands!" I respond, grinning from ear to ear. "I wish everything I did worked out as well as that!"


Back at the flat, I make a pot of tea, and we park ourselves in the dining area, waiting for Scott to appear. I'm still apprehensive. He's spent a fortune refurbishing this place. It'd be a disaster if he didn't like it. But there's no point in worrying about it now.

"Tell me more about joining Northdene Harriers," I say, turning to Patrick.

"Well, my first thought was that if I was joining a club, I might as well give myself a chance of winning a few things. Then there was the coaching aspect. We've never really had a coach. Mr Saunders told us what track sessions we should do in the summer. Apart from that, we more or less worked it out for ourselves. Northdene have got this guy, Jack Ainsworth, who's been coaching distance runners for more than twenty years; everyone from good club runners right up to internationals. I thought I could use some of that, so I called him. He was really friendly and helpful. He said he was delighted that I was thinking of joining the club, and he'd be happy to work with me, even though we wouldn't see each other that often."

"Oh, right!" I say absently, realising that it does make a lot of sense.

Most of the guys that we've raced over the past three years, especially the better ones, have been members of a local athletics club, where they have a coach that I assume they'll continue to work with while they're at university, exactly as Dean will be doing.

The athletics club at UCL has around two hundred members, but I've no idea how training is organised, or if there will be anyone that I can ask for advice. 'Maybe having someone I can talk to would be a good idea,' I speculate.

"Can you give me the guy's number?" I ask.

"Sure! " Patrick says, smiling. "And I've got a spare membership form in my bag. I'll give it to you later!"


At quarter past three, the buzzer sounds. I go to answer it.

"Yes, who is it?" I say, picking up the intercom.

"It's me!" Scott announces. "I finally made it!"

"Surely you haven't forgotten your keys?"

"No, but I didn't want to just appear. And I'm carrying a lot of stuff!"

"Oh right! We'll see you in a minute then!"

After buzzing him into the building, I turn to Patrick and Jimmy.

"Scott 's on his way up," I tell them. " He 's brought quite a bit of stuff with him. I think he'd appreciate some help!"

With me leading the way, we head through the entrance hall. I open the door. A few seconds later, Scott emerges from the lift, manhandling our suitcases and a couple of bags full of groceries.

Stepping forward, Jimmy immediately relieves him of the two shopping bags, and carries them towards the kitchen.

"Great to see you!" I say, giving Scott a welcome hug. " Come in! "

Reclaiming my suitcase, I lead him into the flat, Patrick closing the door behind us. I head straight to the master bedroom.

"This is our room," I announce.

"Our room," he echoes. "I like the sound of that! And it's wonderful! I absolutely love it! This isn't the painting the Anthony did while the two of you were in the south of France, is it?"

"No that's in the hall. He gave us that one as a 'going away' present. I paid him for this one."

"This is real quality," he says, examining the built-in storage. "The finish is amazing!"

He wanders into the ensuite.

"Very nice!" he says approvingly.

"Don 't you think it's a bit dark?" I ask.

"It is dark," he agrees, "but I love it! It's not macho exactly, but, . . . well you know! Mum won't like it, but that' s okay. She 's not living here!"

"Because there's no natural light in there," I explain, "it looks darker than I expected."

"Well, I think it's stunning!" he reassures me, gently ruffling my hair.

From the bedroom, I lead him through the lounge.

"We 'll come back to this in a bit," I tell him. "I want to show you the kitchen."

After passing through the dining area, there it is.

"Oh wow! " he exclaims. "This is amazing! I knew it'd be good, but this is above and beyond! I've always dreamed of having a kitchen like this! I'm going to love working in here!"

He walks up to Jimmy and Patrick who are standing behind me.

"Thanks for all the work you've put in," he says, giving each of them a hug. "It's fantastic! I knew it'd be pretty classy, but I couldn't have imagined it being as good as this!"

"I think we ought to put the groceries away," I suggest, indicating the two shopping bags.

"Good idea!" Scott agrees.

After stashing the food that Scott brought with him, we stroll back through the dining area.

"There's quality everywhere you look," he says, tapping the dining table.

Back in the lounge, Scott looks around, taking everything in.

"Oh wow! " he breathes. "You're a genius! If I'd been able to describe what I wanted, this would have been it." He scans the walls.

"So, these are the paintings you bought?"

"Yeah. The fourth one is in the guest room."

"Right! I thought you might have gone a bit over the top with what you spent on them," he says thoughtfully, "but you totally haven't. They're wonderful!"

"Thanks!" I say quietly. "He asked for a thousand pounds each. I thought that as I was buying four, I should get them for a bit less. He seemed happy enough with three and a half."

"Good God!" Scott says, laughing. "I should have you negotiating my contracts for me! I'd have just paid him the four grand!" He pauses for a moment. "Were there any problems setting up my new toy?"

"None at all," I assure him. "It all works perfectly."

"We 'd better give it a go then!"

Being far more into electronics than I am, Scott needs no instruction. Picking up the remotes, he turns on the tv, calls up Youtube, and uses the search function to find the track he wants before switching on the amplifier.

"D 'you remember Franny saying that there was a Chick Corea song they wanted to play, but it was too difficult for them? Well, this is it. And this is why they can't play it!" He turns to Jimmy and Patrick. "I apologise if this is a bit 'out there'. Just bear with it, yeah? It's not that long!"

As we seat ourselves on the corner unit, he presses play. The sound is superb. It's very powerful, and you can hear absolutely everything. Wow!

I don't recognise the tune, but the style is familiar. It's the same sort of hard-edged electric jazz that Mike Stern played, and definitely the sort of tune Franny and his bandmates would want to play. Franny told me that the reason they can't play it yet is because it's so fast. Now that I've heard it, I know what he means!

After running through the tune, each of the five musicians takes a solo, finishing with the drummer.

"Is this the guy we saw at Ronnie Scott' s? " I query.

"Good spot!" Scott responds. "This is from 2003, so he looks a bit younger than he does now."

I 'm totally captivated. He's a phenomenal player. Finally, the tune reaches a spectacular finale.

"Well! " Patrick declares. " I 'm not going to pretend I could follow it all, but that drummer was fantastic!"

"Yeah!" Jimmy agrees. "Even I enjoyed that bit!"

"In my opinion, he's one of the best there's ever been," Scott says appreciatively. " He 's up there with the all-time greats! Anyway, enough of that!" he adds, turning everything off.

"How old was the guy who was leading?" Patrick asks.

"Back then, he'd have been it his early sixties."

"That's what I thought. I hope I'm as energetic when I'm that age!"

"Yeah!" Scott agrees. " He 's not just a great musician, he really knows how to draw the audience in. I saw them in concert a few years ago. I think everyone went home with a smile on their face."

For the next hour, we continue to chat, mainly about our hopes and dreams for the future. Finally, Scott calls a halt.

"I 've booked a table for five o'clock," he says. "So we can go now if you want."

"We haven't shown you the office yet!" I object.

"Wow! I'd forgotten that!" Scott says, grinning. "Come on then!"

Leading the way, I open the door.

"Oh, wow! " Scott says, looking around to take everything in. "Talk about saving the best till last! I'm so glad that Bill encouraged me to go for it, because it was expensive. But this is fantastic!"

"This is my pride and joy," I say, indicating my drawing board.

"You haven't installed a CAD (computer-aided design) workstation?" Scott queries.

"For our first two years, we're expected to do everything by hand," I explain.

"But surely you'll need one eventually?"

"Yes, but the technology's changing so fast, it'll be better to wait until then."

"Ah! " he concedes. "I hadn't thought of that! Okay then, lads! Let's go and eat!"

We head to the Thai restaurant we went to last week. With it being so early, we're the only customers. As before, the food and the service are excellent. In a way, the experience seems quite surreal. Not only am I here with my wonderful boyfriend; we've been joined by two of the best friends I could ever hope to meet. How lucky am I?


We leave the restaurant at quarter to seven. While Jimmy and Patrick set out on the long drive back to the Midlands, Scott and I return to the flat. Once inside he leads me into the master bedroom.

"I 'm so proud of you," he says quietly, gently wrapping his arms around me. "I know you didn't do the actual work, but you're the one that made this happen! You must have worked your socks off! You're eighteen years old! That's an amazing achievement!"

"Thanks!" I acknowledge, trying to stop myself tearing up.

"And this is our room," he continues. "And when we make love, it won't be in my bed, it'll be in our bed. "

He 's just spelt out how big a step this actually is. Without another word, we kick off our shoes and begin to undress each other. As soon as we're both naked, we climb onto the bed and snuggle up, our lips meeting in a passionate kiss.

"Oh, babe!" Scott urges. "Play with my nipples! We haven't done that for ages!"

I quickly set to work, eagerly sucking on one nipple while using my thumb and index finger to tweak the other one.

"Oh babe! " Scott moans, writhing in ecstasy. "That is so good!"

After a couple of minutes, I swap over, Scott's moaning and writing becoming even more extreme. While I enjoy having my nipples played with, they're nowhere like as sensitive as his clearly are.

Reaching down, I encounter Scott' s steel-hard penis. It 's throbbing with his heartbeat. Spontaneously, we morph into a sixty-nine. This is much more my thing, with my cock sliding in and out of Scott's mouth, while my lips and tongue work overtime on his.

Feeling my orgasm beginning to build, I ease myself away. Without waiting to be asked, I get onto all-fours. Moments later, Scott's behind me, licking me out. It's totally surreal, images of stars and rainbows flashing in front of my eyes. I grab a pillow.

"Have you got a towel?" I ask.

"Sure! " he answers, producing one from the nightstand on his side of the bed.

Placing the pillow below my hips, I cover it with the towel before lying face-down, my legs spread apart. Scott quickly climbs on top of me, his rampant prong pushing through my starfish. After a moment's pause, he thrusts it in deeper until I've got the whole thing.

"Oh yeah!" I gasp. "Come on, Scott! You know what I want!"

Within a few seconds, he's fucking me with long, rhythmic strokes, the sensations so wonderful, it feels like he's transported me to a different planet, where normal rules simply don't apply.

Once again, I feel my orgasm starting to build, but in this position, backing out is not an option.

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

Almost before I know it, I'm shuddering from head to toe, my breathing harsh and irregular. With my teen cum spurting onto the towel, my starfish goes into spasm around Scott' s cock.

"Oh fuck, babe! " he rasps, before pumping rope after rope of hot creamy spunk deep into my arse.

After a few seconds, he gently withdraws. Instinctively, we snuggle up.

"Oh, babe!" he purrs. "That was fantastic!"

I remember the first time we fucked. It was the day he moved into his first flat. Now, here we are, almost two and a half years later, actually living together. It's been quite a journey!

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