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by c m

Chapter 5

When I wake up, it's to find my mother bending over me.

'I just wanted to make sure you were alright, Charlie. Sorry if I woke you.'

'S'OK…mum…I just miss him so much already.'

She sees my phone lying where it's fallen from my hand as I slept.

'May I see?' she asks.

I nod. I wonder what she'll make of Luke and me kissing.

She picks it up and looks at the picture. She smiles.

'You two look like you really love each other.'

I nod. She strokes my hair.

'Love is hard, Charlie - especially when you're apart. And even more so when it's your first love. And it's OK to feel sad. It's normal to feel empty. You may even find yourself getting angry. But that's what love does to us, Charlie. And if you didn't feel these things, then you probably wouldn't be in love. And whatever happens with Luke, I will always love you, Charlie. And by the way, although I'm sure it's the last thing you care about right now, your share of the tip is £1800.'

£1800. It's more money than I've ever had. And Mum's right. I'd trade it in in a heartbeat to have Luke back here, lying beside me.

An hour later, my phone bleeps. WhatsApp is indicating a call. On the screen are the wonderful, the magical, the most special words in the world 'Luke Marshall'.


'Hiya sexy'

His face comes into full view.

'Just got back. Long way. Missing you like you wouldn't believe.'

'Same here, Luke, same here.'

I'm not going to put in writing the conversation that followed as it got very intense and very personal, both in words and pictures, but when we close the call forty minutes later, I'm feeling back on top of the world.

I get through the rest of the day with a smile on my face, and it is Luke's face and voice that fill my head as I fall asleep when I finally get to bed.

But this feeling doesn't last. The following morning I find myself wondering if the short-term lift I'd got from talking with Luke was worth the deeper blues I'm now getting as the effect wears off. On top of which I've never liked self-pity, and it galls me beyond measure that that's clearly what I'm suffering from. OK, so I've never been in love before but still….and it seems hard to shake off.

Chris does his best to help when he comes round later that day. I'm on Reception.

'Hiya Charlie…I wondered if you might be missing Luke so I thought I'd pop round and see if I can cheer you up. I know I can't take his place – in any sense – but…'

'Thanks Chris…I miss him like fuck.'

'If that's not an unfortunate choice of words,' he says with a smile.

I can't help laughing. I go over and give him a hug.

'Thanks for coming round. Any plans?'

'Not really. You on duty this evening?'

'No. Free from 6.'

'Want to come over to my place? Watch a film…play some games?'

'Sounds great.'

'I told my mother I wasn't sure if you'd be free, but she said there'd be enough food for you to eat with us as well if you'd like.'

An invitation to eat at Chris' is not to be turned down; his mother cooks the best Chinese food I have ever tasted.

'I'd love to.'

'Great. See you about 6.30?'

'I'll be there.'

Seeing Chris has made me feel better. It doesn't mean I think any less about Luke, but it does help kick me back into realising that Luke has added an extra dimension to my life rather than replacing everything that went before him.

Which also makes it easier for me when Luke calls just before I'm about to head over to Chris'. He's called to tell me that he's going off camping with a couple of mates and that he'll be out of touch in some remote part of a National Park for three days and won't be able to call or message.

'That's OK', I say, feeling anything but OK, 'have fun and don't do anything I wouldn't do.'

Luke can hear the undercurrent in my voice.

'They're just friends, Charlie. You're the only boy I want. I wish you could come with us; cosying up in a tent with you would be so perfect. It's just…it's only a few days until I go back to school – so if I don't fit this trip in now, it won't happen.' He pauses. 'But if you really don't want me to go, I won't.'

'Don't be stupid – of course you must go. I don't own you. I'm just jealous, that's all. Call me when you're back.'

'It's the first thing I'll do. And I'll be thinking of you every day. Only trouble is when I think of you I get a stiffy; hope the other guys don't notice.'

I laugh.

'I have the same problem, Luke. Just enjoy yourself – and speak in a few days.'

'Thanks – I'll try. Love you.'

'Love you too.'

I trust Luke – I really do. But there's a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. Three horny teenagers all sharing a tent. But there's nothing I can do about it anyway. It's good that I'm going to spend the evening with Chris.

It's one of those coincidences of life that Mrs. Young – that's Chris' mum – was Ms Yung before she married Chris' father. She's only a little over five foot tall and she's retained her looks. She has the same elegant, delicate features that Chris has inherited. I like her a lot – and she has always had a very soft spot for me.

'Hello stranger!,' she says, greeting me with a kiss. 'Forgive my not giving you a hug but my hands….'

She holds them; they're covered in flour from the little Chinese dumplings she's making.

'Hello Mrs. Young…' I sniff appreciatively. The smells coming from the cooker are wonderful. 'Everything always smells so delicious in your kitchen.'

'Oh just a very ordinary meal I'm afraid.'

'There's no such thing in this house,' I say.

She beams at me, then goes to the door and yells:

'CHRIS!...Charlie is here. Come down…where are your manners?'

There is a sound of running feet from upstairs, and then the rhythmic thump as Chris descends the stairs. He greets me with his usual bear-hug.

'How long 'til dinner, Mum?'

'About an hour.'

'Cool. Come on up to my room,' he says, turning to me.

I follow him upstairs and along the corridor to his room. I know it almost as well as I know my own. From the posters on the wall, to the books, games and videos on the shelves, to the unmade bed, to the scatter of clothes and the empty coffee cup that is always on the table beside his computer. It is familiar and comforting and despite the air of chaos it always smells faintly of his cologne. He may not be very tidy, but he hates the smell of sweaty bodies or smelly socks as much as I do. It's one of the many things we have in common. It's a big room in a big house, and there is a two-seater sofa as well as a couple of bean bags over to one side. The chair at the desk is a smart, leather, office-style swivelling affair and there's another more basic chair to one side for when two people need to be at the computer. There's a television on a bracket on the wall so that it can be angled depending on where we choose to sit. There's a big, thick, bright red rug in the centre of the room on top of the oatmeal- coloured carpet. More often than not we end up lounging on the floor – half in a bean bag and half on the rug. Today we both flop down into a bean bag.

'So, how's lover boy?' he asks.

'He's about to go off camping with a couple of friends for three days somewhere where's there's no mobile signal, but I had a nice chat with him just before I came over.'

'Will you survive?'

'Probably. I guess I'm going to have to get used to it. We can't live in each other's pockets when we're hundreds of miles apart.'

'I guess it's worse when you've been…as intimate…as you two got.'

'Maybe. I don't have anything to compare it with. I guess most people don't end up in bed with a boy the first time they spend any real time together. God, that must make me sound like such a slut.'

'It just so happened that the first guy you met was someone you really liked and who really liked you. You'd both lost your fathers who'd both been in the military. You're both bright, you made each other laugh, you were both unattached and you both fancied the pants off each other. Could have been the fiftieth boy you met before that happened. Just happened to be the first. You're no slut, Charlie.'

'But we ended up in bed on our first…well, it wasn't even a date, for god's sake, we just went to the beach together and then….'

'Is your thing with Luke just about sex?'


'Did you plan to have sex with him that first day?'

'No…well, not exactly.'

'How do you mean?'

So I tell him about that first morning when I took the coffee into Luke and he came out of the shower naked and how he'd seen I'd got hard and then how he got hard. And how we agreed to spend my day off together.

'Sounds to me that if anyone was planning sex, it was him.'

'I don't think he planned it. But we both knew we fancied each other. And when it happened, we didn't even tell each other that's what we wanted…we just looked at each other and knew…'

'Then what's the problem?

'I went to bed with a boy who I'd been with for barely two hours. I gave him my virginity. If I'd told you that that was what I was going to do in advance, would you have said 'that's sounds like a great idea, Charlie'…well, would you?'

'I'd have asked you if you were sure that's what you wanted, and I'd have asked you if you trusted the boy you were planning to do it with, but that's all. You're the most grown-up sixteen year l know, Charlie; you've handled losing your dad - and coming out as gay; you're already working for a living and yet you get stonking grades at GCSE; you've made the decision to go to College and get a career qualification…it's hardly as though you're some impetuous kid who doesn't know his own mind and gets taken advantage of. So if you decide that a good-looking boy – and he is – with whom you share some life experiences and who you fancy and who fancies you, is the one you want have your first sex with, then why not? And the fact that you've become boyfriends and it wasn't just some one-night stand would tend to suggest that your judgement was totally sound. You may have gone from 0 to 100 faster than most but so what? Do you regret it?'

'Not for a moment.'

'Then there you are.'

I look at him. How come he knows exactly the right things to say? I realise how lucky I am to have him. I lean over and plant a big kiss on the side of his face.

'What's that for?'

'For being the best, nicest friend anyone could have.'

'Thank you…but can we stick to hugs in future?'

'OK…until you decide to ask me for that blow job you really want,' I say with a smile.

'Not going to happen.'

'We'll see.'

I can see he's thinking.

'Charlie…it's probably none of my business, but…you know you said you gave Luke your virginity…well…was it a one way thing?'

'You mean had he been fucked by a boy before? You're right, it isn't really any of your business.'

'Sorry,' he mumbles, 'you're right…I shouldn't have asked.'

I can see that he feels very awkward. And could I honestly say that I wouldn't have asked the same thing if the boot had been on the other foot?

'Hey - you're my best friend, and we've never had any secrets from each other. Yes, he was a virgin. Why did you want to know?'

'I just…I suppose I'm pleased that he was as…unspoilt as you. I don't know why that matters to me but it just does. And sorry again…I shouldn't have asked.'

'It's fine, Chris – honest. But…'

He looks up.

'The price is that you tell me everything about it when you finally break your duck.'

He smiles. 'It's a deal.'

And everything is back to normal again. And I secretly love that he's so protective of me.

We watch a bit of tele but dinner is ready a few minutes later. As we tumble together down the stairs, the smells coming from the kitchen are even more appetising than when I arrived – and my stomach is rumbling in anticipation.

I am not disappointed. The meal is spectacularly good. How on earth Chris stays so slim is beyond me. The dim sum – the dumplings – are explosions of taste in my mouth; some pork, some prawn, some shiitake with chives. There is a whole baked seabass with ginger to follow, and then a spicy chicken noodle dish to finish.

'Mrs. Young,' I say, 'you are the most fabulous cook. I wish you'd come and cook for our guests at the hotel sometimes.'

'Oh, I'm just a home cook, Charlie. But I'm pleased you enjoyed it.'

'Yes, it was really good, Mum,' says Chris, 'we'll help you clear up.'

'You will not; Charlie is our guest and you will entertain him.'

'I'd be happy to help Chris, Mrs. Young. It's the least we can do to show our appreciation.'

'That's very nice of you, but I won't hear of it. Now go, go; upstairs with the pair of you.'

Chris and I play Fortnite for a bit; I'm not very good at it, but Chris gets quite a long way before he, too, is toast. We get up from the computer and slump down on the sofa. Chris puts a movie on – Dunkirk, I think – and we watch it as friends do, occasionally talking over it. The sofa is not huge, and our bodies press gently against each other – arm to arm, thigh to thigh - but there is nothing sexual in it; in fact the warmth and firmness of his body are comforting, and the film is sufficiently distracting to take my thoughts off Luke. As the credits roll, Chris stretches and gets up. I follow.

'Time for me to go,' I say,' thanks for a great evening.'

'My pleasure. We should do a sleep-over sometime – make a night of it.'

'I'd like that – maybe we can fix something before College starts?'

'Good idea. Your place or mine?'

'If it's mine, you'd have to share my bed – we don't have a spare room or anything. You probably don't want to do that.'

'Why not? Your bed's huge and it's not like you're going to rape me. Could we use the pool for a midnight swim if I stayed?'

'We're not supposed to; guests can't use the pool after 9pm…but maybe if we were quiet….'

'OK...let's think about it. If not, it's fine for you to sleep over here. There's a guest room – or you can have a mattress in here with me if you'd be OK with that.'

'Mattress would be fine. Part of the point of a sleepover is to kind of be together don't you think?'

'Yeah it is. OK. Maybe next week some time?'

'I'll talk to Mum and maybe you do the same with yours? See how they feel?'

'Will do.'

'Are you going to be OK walking home on your own. It's late.'

'I'll be fine.'

We hug each other and then make our way downstairs. His parents have already gone to bed, so Chris lets me out. We exchange a final wave as I turn out of the driveway in front of his house. It's only a fifteen minute walk, and it's a warm night. I'm still thinking about whether our sleepover should be at my place or his when a man steps out from the trees running alongside the road and accosts me.

'Hi…you're out late.'

In the moonlight he looks to be about forty and athletically built.

'Can I help you?' I ask

'I do hope so…you're cute. How much?'

I'm now fully on the defensive.

'What do you mean?'

'Oh come on, don't play games. A pretty boy like you all alone at this time of night? How much?'

'For what?'

'To suck me off…maybe more. I'll pay you well - and you won't be disappointed.'

'Fuck off,' I say and start to run; I'm afraid that he'll chase me but he doesn't.

'Fucking cock-teaser fag!'

His words are the only thing that follow me down the street, but I can feel my breath coming in gasps and my heart thumping in my chest. I know I'm about to have a panic attack and I run even faster to get to the hotel before it kicks in.

I fumble with my key, but eventually get the door unlocked and rush up the stairs and into my room, locking the door behind me. I collapse on the bed. My head is hurting and my mind is racing. And then I hear the knock on my door. It can't be…and of course it isn't. I hear my mother's voice. I must have made more noise coming in than I'd thought.

'Charlie? Charlie…are you alright…open the door, love, I'm worried.'

I stumble over to the door and unlock it. My mother comes in. She can see my distress.

'Charlie…love…what's wrong? Didn't you have a good evening?'

The words come out between the sobs that are now wracking my body as she holds me to her.

'I…had a lovely time…but…on the way back…there was a man…he wanted me to have sex with him…he offered me money… and then he called me a cock-teasing faggot…is that what I am, mum, a faggot? that what I look like? Is that what I've become?'

'Of course not, Charlie. Shh, shh. Everything will be all right. You're home now.'

I slowly calm down.

'This man…did he hurt you?'

I shake my head.

'No...I just ran away.'

'OK…well, we'll report it to the police in the morning.'

'But why did he approach me, mum? How did he know I was gay?'

'He didn't love. And the sort of boy he was looking for isn't always – even usually – gay. It was just bad luck. But we'll deal with it in the morning. Right now you need to get to bed and sleep. Are you going to be OK?'

Her hug and her reassuring words have worked their magic.

'Yes, mum…I'll be fine.'

'I'll go and get you some water.'

She comes back with a glass and she also hands me a small yellow pill.

'Take this, Charlie. It will help you sleep and stop you worrying.'

I do, and once she's gone I strip and get under the covers of my bed. Whatever it is she's given me works, and I'm asleep before any thoughts of the incident can return to haunt me.

I don't wake up until nearly ten o'clock; whatever was in that pill has knocked me sideways. I'm feeling a bit fuzzy so go and stand in the shower under a stream of water. I turn it to cold and the shock of it makes me gasp. It also clears my head. I turn it off and wrap a towel round my waist after roughly drying myself. As I step back into the bedroom, there's a knock on the door and then my mother comes in with a cup of coffee.

'I heard the shower running so I knew you must be awake. How are you feeling?'

'Better after the shower…and thanks for the coffee.'

'I've called the police, Charlie, and they want to take a statement about what happened last night.'

'Will I have to tell them I'm gay?'

'No, Charlie…that has nothing to do with it. A man approached you and offered you money for sex, and you ran away. That's all you have to say. They'll ask you for a description as well.'

'It was dark, mum. There's not much I can tell them.'

'Well just tell them what you can. And don't worry Charlie – they're on your side.'

'Will you be there with me?'

'Yes – if you want me to be. You're sixteen so that's up to you.'

'I'd really like it if you were.'

'Then of course I'll be with you.'

'Thanks Mum. When are they coming?'

'I don't have an exact time, but they said it would be before 1. Are you going to be alright?'

'Yes, mum. I'll be fine. But I wish Luke was around so that I could talk to him.'

'I know you miss him, Charlie. But I'm sure he'll be in touch the moment he gets back from his trip.'

Mum leaves, and I get dressed. And then my phone rings. It's Chris.

'Hiya Charlie…I've talked to my mother about a sleepover and she's fine with it – either at ours or yours. Have you had a chance to ask your mum yet?'

'Umm…no, sorry Chris. Not yet.'

The line goes quiet.

'What's wrong Charlie….you sound a bit…upset.'

How does he do that? How does he know?

'It's just…last night…on my way home…a man….'

Talking about it suddenly makes it all so real again. I feel the tears welling up..

'Charlie? Charlie? What man? What happened…?'

'He stepped out and…he wanted me to…he offered me money for…'

'Fuck. Don't go anywhere. I'm coming round.'

And less than ten minutes later, he is. He's run all the way.

'What the fuck happened, Charlie? And are you OK? Christ, you're shaking.'

He comes and wraps his arms round me. It feels wonderful.

'I'm sorry, Chris.'

'What for?'

'For being a wimp.'

'You're no wimp Charlie Douglas…now what happened?'

So I tell him. And he gets angry…angrier than I've ever seen him, I think.

'How dare he! What's wrong with people? If I ever find out who it is I'll punch his lights out. Bloody pervert. And to do it to you of all people. You know what really makes me angry? It's people like him, people who prey on those who have no other way to support themselves, who give homosexuality a bad name. It makes it look as though being gay means that's the way gay people behave. And the rest of you - forgive me - but the sweet, kind, lovely people like you who are gay but just have normal relationships with people of their own sex get tarred with the same brush.'

'I had no idea you were such a supporter of gay rights,' I say with a smile.

'What? Oh fuck off Charlie…' but he says this with a smile, 'you know what I mean.'

'I do – and it's lovely, and thank you.'

And I kiss him on the cheek. He gives me a look.


'Hmm…seeing as how it's you I suppose it's alright.'

I hear voices outside. One of them is mum's but there are two others I don't recognise. There's a tap on the door.

'Charlie…the police are here to take your statement. Oh hello, Chris, how kind of you to pop round.'

'When I heard what happened I just wanted to make sure he was alright.'

'That's very kind of you. Charlie…would you like to come through into the lounge, it would be easier for everyone to sit down in there.'

'Do you want me to come too, Charlie – if I'm allowed,' Chris adds, looking at the policeman and policewoman who have materialised behind my mother.

'And you are, sir?'

'I'm Chris Young, Charlie's friend. He was with me last night before…what happened.'

'In that case I think it would be useful if you'd come too, sir.'

We all file through into the lounge.

'Would anyone like tea or coffee?' asks mum

'A cup of tea would be most welcome, ma'am. White without for me and one sugar for my colleague here.'

'How about you, Chris?'

'A cup of coffee would be lovely. Just some milk with it thanks.'

'I'm fine, mum,' I say.

She goes into the kitchen and I can hear the sound of the kettle being filled.

'Is it OK to call you Charlie?' asks the policewoman.


'And would you prefer to wait until your mother's here before we ask any questions?'

'No…it's fine.'

'Very well. So tell me exactly what happened last night.

I tell her as much as I can remember, from the moment I left Chris to the time I got back to the hotel. I've just finished when mum comes back into the room with the drinks.

'Thank you very much, Mrs. Douglas,' says the policewoman. Charlie's doing brilliantly.'

She turns back to me and continues.

'And can you describe this man?'

'It's hard to be sure, but he looked about forty to me. An inch or two taller than me, so maybe six foot. Average build. Sorry…that's not much help is it?'

'It's fine, Charlie. Thank you. What was he wearing?'

'Umm...shirt, jeans - I think.'

So no coat or sweater?

'No…it was warm last night.'

'And Charlie…and I'm sorry to ask you this but I have to….did you do anything to encourage him to think that what he was asking for might be on offer?'


She can see that I'm visibly upset.

'I'm sorry, Charlie, but I had to ask.'

'I can promise you, Charlie's not like that,' says Chris.

'How do you mean, Chris?' asks the policewoman.

Chris suddenly realises what he's said.

'I mean, he's a really nice guy, that's all.'

I see the policewoman thinking. And making 2+2 equal four.

'Charlie…I apologise again, but…are you gay?'

'What on earth has that got to do with anything?' interrupts my mother. 'Even if he was, does that give a pervert like this man the right to proposition him?'

'No, no of course not. But it would be helpful if we have all the facts – particularly if this gets to court.'

My worst nightmare is unfolding in front of me. The police want to know if I'm gay and if it comes to court the whole world will know – because it's bound to be reported. And then I think 'to hell with it'. Why should I be afraid or ashamed of what I am.

'Yes,' I say, 'I'm gay. But I have a boyfriend who I love. There's no way I'd go with some middle-aged pervert for money and I certainly wasn't offering to. I was just on my way home.'

The policewoman turns to Chris.

'So how long have you two been boyfriends?'

For about two seconds there is total silence – and then Chris and I explode with laughter.

'HAHAHAHAHA….she thinks….'

'I know…you and me…HAHAHAHAHA…'

I can see the puzzled look on the policewoman's face. Chris and I are still helpless with amusement. Even mum is smiling. Then I see realisation dawning. And she flushes with embarrassment.

'Ah. Oops. I've just made a rather silly assumption, haven't I?'

'We love each other to bits,' says Chris, 'but we're just best friends. I'm not gay.'

'My apologies. And I think that's all we need for now. We'll do what we can to catch this man, but it's hard to prove anything in cases like these. I believe you entirely, Charlie, but in the end it would be your word against his.'

They rise.

'Thank you for the cup of tea,' says the policeman.

Mum shows them out.

Once they're out of the room, Chris turns to me.

'I am so, so sorry, Charlie. Me and my big mouth. If I'd just kept quiet, they'd never even have thought about asking you if you were gay.'

'Hey it's OK, Chris. It's time for me to a big boy about all this stuff. And it was worth it just for when she asked you how long we'd been together.'

At the memory, we are both convulsed with laughter again. And somehow, despite it having been a horrible experience, it is the laughter that we share over this bit that stays with me. The only other effect is to do with our sleepover.

'Would you mind if we planned the sleepover for here?' I ask Chris. 'It's just I think walking to and from your house…it might take me a while to get comfortable with that again.'

'Sounds wonderful to me. Midnight swim here we come!'

'Maybe,' I say.

When Mum comes back, she is clearly not best pleased with the policemen.

'How dare they ask if you're gay. That was quite wrong. Although I'm very proud of you for the way you answered.'

'Maybe it was for the best,' I say, 'It's helped me see that I shouldn't be shy or embarrassed about who and what I am.'

'Who and what you are is a smart, kind, loving, generous and wonderful boy of whom I am immensely proud,' says my mother.

'Me too,' says Chris.

Taking advantage of the Charlie-love that seems to be flowing round me, I ask mum about Chris sleeping over.

'That would be lovely' she says

'Next week OK?'

'I can't see why not.'

We agree it for next Wednesday. And Mum tells me I can have the whole of Thursday off.

The next three days pass in a bit of a blur, but Sunday is the day that Luke gets back from his trip. It's six o'clock in the evening before my phone rings and his name is there; 'Incoming call from Luke Marshall.'

'Hiya,' I say, trying to sound nonchalant.

'Hiya Charlie… I've missed you. How are you? What have you been doing? Tell me all about everything.'

'Did you have a good time?'

'Yah…pretty much. Would have been better if you'd been here. Maybe we can arrange it sometime – next time even.'

'Sounds good to me. What did you guys do?'

'Oh…some fishing – not that I caught anything – did a couple of nice walks. Went skinny-dipping in a lake.'

'You naked with other boys…what a surprise,' I say.

'It was bloody cold; I shrivelled up like a worm. And on the last night we cooked out on a fire that we made.'

'Sounds like you had fun. How were the sleeping arrangements?'

'Cosy...a bit cramped really. All three of us on top of each other. Not literally. It all got a bit warm what with it being so sunny. Ended up sleeping on top of the sleeping bags rather than in them. But how about you? Anything interesting happen these last three days?'

'Man offered me money for sex – otherwise, nothing.'

'Man offered you…? Whoa! What on earth….?'

I fill him in – including the part where the policewoman asked Chris how long he'd been my boyfriend. Luke hoots with laughter.

'Oh God…I so wish I'd been there. But…are you OK?' he asks, suddenly serious.

'I'm fine, Luke. Wishing you were here, but that's normal. Mum says Christmas is a runner, incidentally – provided your parents are OK with it. And she knows all about us and is totally fine with it.

'Sounds great, Charlie'

'Have you told your parents about me yet? Or Donna? Or your bro?'

'I've told bro. He started off by threatening to tell my parents if we stopped doing…what we did…but first of all I don't think he means it, and second I'm going to tell my folks really soon anyway.'

'And what about Donna?'

'I haven't seen her yet. But I will.'

'So, do we have time for a little fun together – or are you exhausted from jacking off with your friends as well as all the other stuff you did together?'

I mean it as a joke, but it all goes a bit quiet.

'I'm actually a bit pressed for time…and….god…I promised to have no secrets from you so…look, you know I said we all ended up sleeping on top of our sleeping bags? Well, none of us wears anything in bed so we were all buck naked. And then they started asking about my holiday…and I told them about you and what we got up to and I confessed to being bi. Then Tommy says the whole story has made him really horny and would we mind if he jacks off, and then Andy says he is too and, well…it all ended up with us having a circle jerk. I'm sorry…I've let you down, haven't I?'

'Just one?'

'No. Two. We thought it would better if we'd all done it to each other. And look, I know it doesn't make any difference, but I promise you, when they touched me I closed my eyes and imagined it was you. Sorry, Charlie, I should have said no.'

Maybe, I think. In a perfect world. But the world isn't perfect and if it had been me with Chris and another guy and we were naked and someone suggested playing with each other, would I say no? Probably not. Hormones don't work that way. Particularly when you're missing someone like hell and getting hard at the thought of them. In the end you need a release. You want their hand on your cock. And if they're not available…

'It's OK, Luke. We're both horny teenagers. It's just a slightly more interesting wank. But I guess I'd rather you did it with me.'

'I'd rather I did it with you too. Maybe next time we talk we can…..?'

'Sounds like a plan.'

'Sorry, Charlie…folks are waiting for me - but I wanted to call you just to say I'm back.'

'I'm so pleased you did – thanks. Talk again soon.'

'Very soon.'

And the screen goes blank. And I feel just a little bit hollow inside.

Wednesday finally comes around and Chris turns up at about 7. I've decided I'm going to cook him dinner in the apartment rather than us both going and sitting in the kitchen downstairs and eating whatever is left once the diners have all been served.

'You're going to cook for me?' he says, an edge of disbelief in his voice.

'That's the plan.'

'Hang on, let me check I've brought my indigestion pills.'

'You cheeky bugger! I shall surprise you.'

'Of that I have no doubt,' he says, half under his breath but just loud enough to make sure I can hear.

Actually, I'm not a bad cook – within my limits. I am not over-ambitious, and I know I do a very decent spag bol, a good chilli con carne, and a decent cottage pie. I can also cook steak in a cream and mushroom sauce and that's what I'm going to do him. It's the most adventurous of the recipes that I'm confident I've mastered.

'Come on then, o ye of little faith,' I say, steering him into the kitchen.

'This I have to see.'

'Mum says we can have a beer if we want.'

'Excellent. I'd love one.'

'Right. You open them while I slice the shallots.'

The mushrooms follow the shallots, and they both go into a pan with some butter and a splash of olive oil to stop the butter burning. I turn on the gas underneath the pan as low as it will go. Next, the steak. This is a piece of fillet which I cut into strips..

Mum has kindly measured me out some rice – I'm hopeless at judging how much you need for two – and this goes in a pan with twice the amount of water. I add cream, black pepper, salt and a shake of Worcester sauce to the shallots and mushrooms which have sweated down, along with a splash of white wine. Once the mixture has reduced a little I turn it off.

The rice comes to the boil for ten minutes and is then switched off to absorb the last of the water. I fry the strips of steak briefly in a very hot pan, and then tip them into the mushroom mixture, where their juices slowly seep into the sauce. Final blast of heat to bring the sauce back up to temperature and it's done.

I divide the rice and the steak into two on two plates and put one in front of Chris. He tastes it – rather gingerly I think – and then he smiles.

'This is amazing, Charlie…really, really good. And seeing you work was extraordinary. So focused, so precise. I am seriously impressed.'

'It's just my version of Beef Stroganoff really. Max showed me how to do it originally but I've made one or two adjustments.'

'Well it's bloody good. And I love that the steak is still pink inside.'

I glow with pleasure.

Dessert is ice cream. There's only so much cooking from scratch I can manage in one day.

After we've eaten, I call Luke, and the three of us chat for a while in my room. I love that Luke and Chris are so relaxed with one another, although Luke seems a little distracted. We all blow each other goodnight kisses before closing the call.

I've downloaded 'Black Panther' which neither Chris not I has seen, and we settle down to watch. There's a TV on my wall opposite the bed, so we can relax in comfort while we watch. We get completely engrossed in the film and the two and a quarter hours it takes just seem to fly by. It's now nearly 11 o'clock and my mother taps on the door to say goodnight. I haven't told her that Chris and I are planning to use the pool. We give her plenty of time to get to bed, and then sneak down to the pool. I've put swimming costumes for both of us in the changing rooms earlier, but when we get there, there's no sign of them.

'Shit. I left them here, in the locker. What do we do?'

'I'll skinny dip if you will,' says Chris.

Somehow the idea just seems to add to the slight thrill of danger that surrounds what we're doing.

'Fine by me.'

The pool is screened from the hotel by a wall and some trees, so provided we are quiet, there is actually no reason why anyone should know we're here. We both strip. We've left the lights off so that we don't attract attention, and Chris is illuminated by the moonlight. The monochromatic light just seems to emphasise the shape of his body, and to my alarm I realise I'm starting to get a stiffy. I quickly run out ahead of him so that he can't see my growing state of arousal, and slip as quickly as I can into the water. Chris follows me and we are soon just two shapes swimming gently up and down.

Skinny-dipping has a nasty habit of making me hard – unless the water's very cold - and today is no exception. I'm pleased it's so dark. I look around and realise that I can't see Chris…until suddenly I feel two arms wrapped round my legs and I'm pulled down under the water. He's swum almost the whole length underwater and taken me totally by surprise. And as my body brushes against his as I am pulled down past him, there's no way he can be unaware that I'm sporting an erection.

As we surface, all he says is, 'That's some weapon you have there.'

'I promise it's not because of you,' I say,' it's just that skinny dipping always seems to make me hard'.

'Tell me about it, he says, 'Look.'

He hoists himself up onto the edge of the pool and there, between his legs, sticking up almost vertically, is six inches or so of very erect penis.

'What is about being naked in the water that does that?' he asks, as he slides back into the pool.

'I don't know – but I'm pleased it's not just me.'

We swim around for maybe another ten minutes.

'Ready to get out?' he asks.

I'm not. Not because I don't think it's time, but because I still have a full-blown stiffy. Seeing Chris' erection has aroused me far more than just being naked in the water.

'Five more minutes?' I say.

By concentrating very hard, I'm down to a semi by the time I get out. I don't think Chris even notices. We both rinse off under the shower before drying ourselves and putting on the bare minimum of clothes necessary. We then make our way as quietly as possible back up to my room. We celebrate our boldness with another beer, and play a particularly pointless video game for an hour until we are both, despite our best efforts, very ready for bed.

'I don't wear pjs…is that OK with you?' asks Chris.

'Fine – I don't either. And it's not like we have anything left to hide from one another any more anyway, is it?'

Chris giggles.

'You're huge, Charlie.'

'Bit bigger than average maybe.'

'And you really get that inside Luke?'

'Arse like an aircraft hangar,' I say.

We both crack up, and then snuggle down under the sheet. There's plenty of room, but I'm aware of the heat coming off Chris' body. We both seem to be struggling to get comfortable. I desperately want to have a wank, but It's going to be all too obvious what I'm doing if I do. I wonder if Chris is feeling the same. I soon find out.

'Fuck I'm horny,' says Chris. 'Is it OK if I…you know…'

'I need to as well,' I say.

'Do it together?'


We throw back the sheet and lie there, both with our hands wrapped round our cocks, stroking slowly.

'What would Luke think of us doing this?' asks Chris.

'Luke did this with two other boys when they went camping,' I reply.

'Really? How do you know?'

'He told me.'

'And you don't mind?'

'It's what horny boys do. Straight as well as gay. In fact, they ended up jerking each other off.'

'And the other two are straight?'

'According to Luke.'

'And they jerked each other off?'

'Yes. Feels better when someone else does it to you.'

I let the comment hang in the air.

'We could do that if you want, ' I say quietly.

'Stroke each other?'


'I…isn't that a Sorry…'

'Not if it's just a release. Not if you don't fancy the other boy. It's just…more fun. It feels different…better.'

He turns his face towards me.

'It will be fine – if you want to,' I say.

And then, ever so slowly, his hand reaches across to my groin and he wraps his fingers ever so slowly around my achingly hard cock.

''s so big.'

I reach over and take hold of him. Once in my hand, I realise that he's actually not much smaller than Luke. I hear his sharp intake of breath. His foreskin moves easily back and forward over the head; it's an entirely different experience from doing it with Luke. Not better, just different. And then we just stroke each other to our climaxes. I tell him I'm about to cum so that he doesn't get my seed all over his hand. I think that would gross him out, and as my cock starts to kick in his hand he releases me. But I take him all the way. I end up with splashes of his goop on my fingers which I lick off - but I don't let him see me doing so. It's nice.

As he comes down from his high I ask him if he's OK with what we've done.

'I guess so. I mean, it felt…nice. But I sort of feel a bit uneasy as well.'

'You should never do anything you don't want to. If you decide that that was a one-off, that's totally cool, Chris.'

Then I wonder if that's the worst that could happen.

'But if you end up thinking it was wrong, please don't stop being my friend – that's all I ask.'

He turns his face towards me.

'Don't be daft, Charlie, I'll never stop being your friend. And it was my decision to touch you. I made the first move. Whatever else it may be, it's not your fault.'

'I hope maybe it was better than when you do it to yourself…and not anyone's fault.'

He goes quiet for a bit.

'You're right. It did feel better. Kind of exciting, actually. And I think I'm OK with it. Maybe you just exposed my 5%.'

'Enough to do it again?

'Maybe. But not now. And I need to get cleaned up – otherwise it's going to run off me and over the sheet.'

I pull my handkerchief out from under the pillow.

'Use this.'

He does, and then I take it from his fingers and use it to clean myself up before putting it back under my pillow again.

I pull the sheet over us.

'Night Chris. Sleep well. See you in the morning'

I roll over and close my eyes.

'Night, Charlie. And thank you.'

I feel his hand on my shoulder as he gives me a squeeze. I wish it was Luke, but Chris isn't a bad second best.

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