It was often bandied about by friends and family alike that Davey Thwaite could sleep for England, which was apt, as Davey, who had gone to bed early, slept through the midnight phone call that by its very nature cancelled the long planned family holiday. They had been due to get up at five in the morning and set off on the long drive to Dover and the cross-channel ferry -- the start of a meandering journey across Europe, eventually ending up in Russia. That had been the plan, decided by family vote after poring over maps of Europe late into the winter nights; but when Davey finally woke up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, he realised something had gone wrong. The sun was too high in the sky for five in the morning, even though it was mid-July.
Panicking wasn't in Davey's nature. He tended to take life with a pinch of salt, much to his best friend Jake's chagrin. But seeing as Jake wasn't there just then, Davey felt that a bit of panic wouldn't go amiss, since his father had warned him that if he were late, they'd leave without him.
Davey knew that his father would never really leave him behind, and in fact, at just sixteen, he couldn't actually legally be left behind, but that didn't occur to him as he rolled over and saw the alarm clock pointing at ten to seven and listened to a very quiet house.
He leapt out of bed and strode to the door, stumbling over a discarded pile of yesterday's clothes his mother had told him to put in the laundry basket.
"Hello?" he called. There was no reply, and in the silence he could hear the ticking of the grandmother clock in the hall below.
"HELLO!" He shouted now, and fancied he heard his voice echo back. Starting to freak out, he ran into his parents' room. The bed was in disarray, clothes strewn across the rumpled counterpane, and wardrobe doors left ajar. Checking in the bathroom, which was tidier, though still not as his mother would have left it, he went downstairs, and was almost at the kitchen when he heard a key in the front door. Relieved, he went to investigate and saw his sister, Yvonne, and her boyfriend, Stephen, struggle in, carrying grocery bags. She looked at him and then started to giggle.
"Goodness, Davey, you've grown."
"Huh?" Davey replied, unsure of what the hell was going on, and why Stephen now had a broad grin on his face, too. "Where are mum and dad, and why aren't I being bollocked for waking up so late, and why are you both laughing at me?"
With an effort, Yvonne stopped giggling and gently took her younger brother by the arm.
"Sweetheart, why don't you go and get dressed and then come down and have coffee, and I'll tell all?" Davey suddenly caught sight of himself in the hall mirror and blushed. He was naked. Yvonne watched as her young brother ran up the stairs, and for the first time saw him as a sexual being. His tanned skin, brown eyes, boyish red lips, and cheeks framed by dark brown hair and bangs gave him a Mediterranean, almost gamin appearance.
"Some arse that kid has," Stephen said wistfully. Yvonne laughed at his remark.
"True. Sad, but true." She took Stephen by the hand and led him into the kitchen, patting his bottom as they walked. "Yours isn't too bad though," she chuckled.
Ten minutes later and still with a beetroot face, Davey appeared in the kitchen. He'd put on a pair of cut offs, a sloppy orange T shirt, and was wearing his old tennis shoes; pretty much his usual summer get up. He found Yvonne and Stephen cuddling by the cooker and cleared his throat. "Umm...."
Yvonne gave Stephen a last kiss on the cheek and moved back to the table, smiling.
"Coffee's made, chump." Davey heard his sister but couldn't answer, as he'd just seen what had to be an erection in Stephen's jeans. He forced himself to keep moving to the coffee pot and tore his eyes away, hoping nobody had seen where he'd been looking. Grabbing a mug, he poured himself a cup, then paused.
"So what's going on, and where are Mum and Dad?"
"They got a phone call from Grandfather at the hospital in the middle of the night. Grandmother had a stroke," she said. "Don't worry, Davey," she added, seeing a concerned look cross her brother's face. "She's going to be fine, but Mum and Dad had to go and be with them...."
Davey took a deep breath, thinking furiously.
"And they want you to look after me?" Davey added two sugars and opened the fridge. " 'cause I'm sixteen now, and I can take care of myself if you two want to...," he took the milk out and then grinned at his sister, "... take off or something." Yvonne grinned back. Though he could sometimes be a real pain in the ass, she loved her younger brother to bits. She also inadvertently knew he was going through a tough time figuring out his sexuality. Her computer had crashed, and rather than waiting to re-boot, she'd popped into Davey's room to use his. Trying to find a short cut to Google, she had seen the famed Nifty at the top of his favourites list.
"Don't be daft. Leave you on your own, are you mad? Nope, I spoke to Dad and I've cancelled the ferry and hotel bookings 'n' stuff, and we're going to Cornwall for a couple of weeks," she smiled. "Invite Jake if you want. We'll be leaving in a couple of hours."
Five hundred miles to the southwest, the sun was beating down on sixteen-year-old Jack Butcher, who was finishing up his morning chores and thinking that working at a caravan park at the height of the holiday season wasn't an easy job for anyone, especially when the place was owned by your old man. He paused, running his fingers through his sweat-soaked hair, trying without success to get it to behave. Humming to himself, he parked the cleaning trolley off the main path under the branches of a stand of oaks and walked into the toilet block for a pee.
Running a basin of cold water, he looked in the mirror above and grinned at his reflection. It grinned back, showing a kind, tanned face with slate blue eyes, red cheeks and a nearly perfect set of teeth, except for his front two, which he'd chipped coming off his skateboard. He decided his blonde and rather straggly hair was beginning to need a cut badly. Turning the tap off, he cupped his hands and sloshed cold water over his face, then removed his T-shirt and did the same with his upper body. After double checking that there was no one in the stalls and that he was quite alone, he undid his shorts. Though he was now five foot eight and had a lean swimmer's body and a reasonable six pack, he had gone through puberty later than all his friends, and was rather paranoid about the size of things.
Half an hour later Jack was in the janitor's hut, refilling the cleaning supplies, when Sid Barrat, one of the several local students his father employed for holiday work, found him.
"Your dad says you're to spruce up the Jonah. He's let it out to some posh tart from the smoke."
"Are you sure he said the Jonah?" Jack replied, looking directly at Sid, whom he really didn't like but couldn't quite work out why. It wasn't the rampant acne, or the fact that that he never seemed to wash, that put him off - Jack wasn't like that. He never judged people based on their appearance, and generally found that he got on with everyone and their dog. No, there was something indefinably off about Sid that he had been puzzling over ever since the boy had come knocking on the office door at the beginning of May, looking for work.
"Yah," Sid continued, looking hurt that Jack had asked. "He said the Jonah."
"Isn't twenty-seven free though?" Jack persisted, and it suddenly struck him that it was the way Sid looked at him that was the problem. On the surface his smile seemed friendly -- but it really wasn't. His smile was slimy, lascivious, and worst of all, knowing; as if Jack were a piece of meat and the other boy was just biding his time before devouring him. Warm though the July morning was, Jack shivered.
"Twenty-seven went to a party from Llandudno first thing this morning," Sid said, and made a point of winking at Jack before his gaze wandered slowly down to his crotch and back again. "Didn't you know?" he added nonchalantly, attempting to pick a piece of food out of his teeth with a dirty broken fingernail.
"Obviously not," Jack replied. "Tell dad I'll get on it."
"Okey dokey, Jack." Sid patted him on the arm. "I'll let him know." Jack had to make a concerted effort not to shudder at the touch.
"Thanks... erm... see you later... mate."
"No probs, anything for a friend." Sid winked again and walked off.
Refilling his bucket with warm water and checking he had enough cleaning cloths, Jack walked to the end field and along the river bank to the caravan they called the Jonah. The end field was used for late arrivals, or those who hadn't booked, and the Jonah was situated ten feet from the field boundary and the bank of the river Coos, which flowed much too fast for swimming. A mile on its course took it over a weir and then split in two, one half meandering out to the estuary and the sea, while the other funnelled ever narrower into an old disused water mill, the water wheel still in place, but locked down above the fast flowing and lethal mill race. It was one more reason the Jonah was seldom rented out. Oddly, even when the local town of Coos Haven was humming and bursting at the seams and accommodation harder to find than rocking horse shit, people seemed to shy away from it. 'No thanks,' they'd say, 'we'll just pitch a tent.' One man had even crossed himself, Jack remembered with a smile.
Finding the key on the large bunch he carried, Jack opened the door and was assailed by smells of damp, unaired bedding, mixed with mould. Holding his breath, he opened all the windows as far as possible and then set to work making the place habitable.
The Jonah was an old fashioned oddity with wood panelled walls and a separate toilet and bedroom area off the main living space. Jack's father had bought it dirt cheap from an itinerant gypsy traveller just a week after he had closed on the purchase of the main campsite. The gypsy had just turned up on 'the off chance', or so he'd said -- the Jonah attached to the back of his lorry.
The first week the caravan had been occupied, the family who had hired it -- a nice young couple from the midlands with two pre-teen children -- had had an argument so fierce the wife had slashed her husband with a broken beer bottle. At her trial, she had stated she hadn't remembered anything until the morning afterwards, except for recollections of 'being in hell'. She was committed to the county asylum. After that, Jack's father, Gerald, had decided the gaudy lime green over puce paint job should be changed, and the job given to John Post, the camp's 'old boy', sage and occasional handyman. But John had decided the caravan didn't want to be painted and had told his father just that. There had been a row. Jack had been eight at the time and had been amazed that his father had eventually given in. "That daft old bugger John said we should never mess with a Jonah," he'd heard his father quietly explaining to his mother. "Yes, he's probably right," she'd replied seriously.
As the years passed, accident after accident befell those who stayed in the gypsy's old caravan. Sometimes no more than a bad cut, other times more drastic. Eventually the name John Post had given it stuck, and the caravan stopped being number sixty-six and became 'The Jonah'.
Jack decided to go and have some lunch and finish the cleaning later, after it had time to air out. He knew his father would probably moan, seeing as how the new arrivals were due in the morning, but since he was the only one who ever went near the Jonah, he thought he was on pretty safe ground. Closing the door, he made for the reception block, newly commissioned for the start of the summer season. Jack waved at John Post, who was adding a second coat of gloss paint to the window sills.
"Hi, John, how's it hanging?"
"Cheeky young pup!" John replied with a laugh. He was fond of the gaffer's son, and secretly thought he was turning into a right proper young gentleman. He put down his paintbrush. " 'ere Jack, I hear there are folks booked in the Jonah."
"So Sid told me." They both pretended to hawk and spit in unison and then burst out laughing. Neither of them liked the young student.
"Must be damn busy for your dad to rent that one out."
"Yeah, I think we're booked solid. Probably until the end of the season, too." Jack stretched, yawned and sat down on the reception steps to have a natter. John was in his late fifties but seemed a lot younger. He had long white hair always tied in a pony tail and mostly wore tattered jeans and a leather waistcoat. He was also Jack's closest confidante.
"Still, that means lots of young girls for a good looking chap like you, eh?" John said good naturedly. Jack winced. He didn't want to be having this conversation, especially with John, and especially after the thoughts he'd been having for the last year.
"Yeah, sure thing, John. I can hardly wait." It came out wrong, and Jack realised too late that John was giving him an odd quizzical look. The older man was not a fool, and Jack thought his lack of a girlfriend was probably already gossip among the seasonal staff.
The reception door swung open and Sid out came and sat down beside Jack, slinging his arm around his shoulders.
"Talking about girls, were we, chaps?" he said in overly friendly manner. "You're too old for that sort of talk, John, you dirty bugger," he chortled.
Jack slid away and stood up.
"Always listen to private conversations, do you, Sid?" Jack said in a conversational tone, though he was beginning to get angry. He dusted off his shorts, watching as Sid's smile slowly disappeared, to be replaced by a sly look which Jack could tell boded no good.
"Na, the window was open, dude, duh!" Sid said, flushing. "Besides, I know which side you like your bread buttered, Jacky me boy, and it's..."
"Jack!" His father's voice from the reception building brought Jack to his senses and averted the brewing row.
"Coming dad!" Jack called and bent down to look directly in Sid's eyes.
"Later, Sid. I'll catch you later." He saw a hint of fear cross the boy's face, and wrinkled his nose as he caught a whiff of his rank breath. Sid's expression turned blank as Jack stood up. "See you soon, John." He grinned, and John grinned back, doffing an imaginary cap.
"Yeah, bye, Jack." They watched him walk into the building, then John continued, "leave him be Sid, leave him be." Sid gave him a withering look.
"What do you know, old man?" And he walked off towards the camp gate.
Davey was almost regretting not taking his sister up on her offer of inviting another friend, once Jake had apologetically said he couldn't come at such short notice. The car journey was long and incredibly tedious, the traffic on the three lane motorway stop-starting for well over an hour as they crawled around Birmingham onto the M5. Davey was sure he'd loaded his I-Pod with enough music to last an age, and yet whatever he decided to listen to didn't seem to be there. Sighing, he gave up and put it back in his knapsack.
"Are we going to pick up hitchhikers?" he asked out of boredom, not particularly interested in the answer except that it got his sister going.
"Sure," Stephen answered, "if you see anyone you fancy, just holler." It wasn't the answer Davey had expected, and he tried to see Stephen's face in the rear view mirror.
"Stop it, Stephen, don't wind him up." Yvonne poked Stephen in the arm, at which he yelled as if being attacked.
"Help! You saw it, Davey, she attacked me! You're my witness!" They laughed good naturedly, and it was then that out of the corner of his eye Davey saw the boy in the car next door. He was probably fifteen or sixteen -- Davey wasn't that good a judge of age -- and had spikey blonde hair and a stud in his right ear. He was wearing a day-glo pink T-shirt with the slogan 'SUCK? YUP THAT'S LIFE!' and he was looking directly at him, smiling. Davey flushed and looked away, then down at his hands. The boy was definitely gorgeous, but so what? It wasn't like they were going to see each other again; they were in different cars, on a motorway, and for all he knew the boy might be insane... though it wouldn't hurt to have a look.
His sister and Stephen were still arguing about what CD to put on, so Davey boldly looked in the boy's direction and ran his tongue around his lips in a seductive manner. As his tongue got to the corner of his mouth, he realized it wasn't the boy he was looking at, it was an elderly woman who was knitting, in the back seat of a different car. She looked horrified, and Davey blushed, mouthing 'I'm so sorry' through the window at her. As he turned back to the front, he spied the boy in the car ahead. He was still looking at him, this time through the back window, and he was laughing hysterically. He'd obviously seen Davey make a fool of himself. Davey gave him a good natured bird and a grin, and was appalled that the boy mouthed back 'I love you' and then blew him a kiss.
He was even more appalled a second later when Stephen, in a puzzled voice, said, "Davey, why is that boy saying 'I love you'?" Yvonne, who had watched it all in the vanity mirror, smiled and kept quiet.
Jack sat down for his lunch in the staff canteen. He could have gone home to eat with his mother and father, but he wanted to try and fit in with the rest of the students, and he felt that playing the 'I am the boss's son' card wasn't the way to achieve it. The canteen had two long tables with benches. The older employees were already tucking into their meals, and he nodded to them as he sat down on the other empty table.
"Hi, Jack." It was Sid again, sliding along the bench next to him until their legs were almost touching. "Mind if I sit here?"
"Do I have a choice?" Jack was fed up with Sid's attention but bit back any caustic remarks, not knowing quite what the other boy knew or thought. He felt the gaze of several of the other students on them, including Anthony, who he knew was eighteen and heading for university on a sports scholarship come the autumn. "Give me a bit of room here, Sid, would you?" Jack dug his elbow into Sid's ribs, and the boy moved away a couple of feet.
"Why, don't you like me, Jacky?" Sid whispered, and Jack, who had been putting a fork full of lasagne in his mouth, nearly choked.
"Like you?" He sputtered, and Sid took the opportunity to thump him on the back.
"Yeah, Jacky, 'cause I like you," Sid whined, adding under his breath, "and you know exactly what I mean. I know you do. You and I could have a lot of fun." Jack could see Anthony was paying more attention to them than he was to his friends, one of whom was telling a really rude joke about a nun, a donkey and a cucumber seller. He caught his eye, and Anthony winked at him. Jack, who was finding it all a bit surreal, came to a decision. He stood up, causing the bench that he and Sid were sitting on to fall backwards, depositing the startled youth on the floor with a clatter.
"Right, Sid," he said in a intentionally loud voice. "Firstly, don't ever call me Jacky again. My name is Jack, or Butcher if you'd rather. Secondly, don't ever touch me again. Ever! Do I make myself clear? And thirdly," he continued, not giving the boy a chance to interrupt, "go away and leave me alone." The students on the other bench started clapping, and Jack, looking at Sid lying on the floor humiliated, realised he'd probably gone too far and made an enemy. His anger faded away, and he started to feel guilty. As a gesture, he offered Sid his hand and was amazed when the other boy took it.
"Call it quits, Sid? After all, you can be really annoying." Jack laughed nervously and hauled Sid to his feet, then righted the bench, waiting for a reply. Sid sat back down and picked up his discarded fork. The room was quiet. All the students as well as Jack were waiting for Sid's response. Sid looked at the fork for a moment and then turned to look at Jack directly. He smiled, and Jack knew the rage boiling in the other boy's eyes was meant just for him.
"Sure, Jack, quits. We're quits if that makes you happy."
Saturday mornings were the official change over day at Coos Haven. Guests leaving were due to vacate by ten, whilst incoming guests could arrive when they wanted, but could only get the key for their chalet or caravan after two in the afternoon. This gave the cleaning crew the time they needed. Jack was always amazed at the different ways people checked out. Some made sure they cleaned up behind them and left tips, whilst others left without a care in the world. After all, they had paid, so what did it matter if the toilet was covered in vomit and there were used condoms in with the soiled linen?
"Agh, fuck!" exclaimed Jack, as he found three used strawberry ribbed in the bedside cabinet on top of the Gideon Bible, along with a partly used tube of KY. "Peasants!"
"They were surely that," replied Anthony from the living room, as he put crushed beer can after crushed beer can into the garbage sack. "I bet they weren't even sober enough to drive."
"Who the hell were they, Ant?" Jack said, cursing as he found another tied and full condom chucked under the double bed.
"Fuck knows, bro," Anthony replied, peering into the bedroom and catching sight of Jack's arse as he cleaned under the bed. He was wearing cut offs from old jeans he had grown out of months ago, and consequently they showed his assets off rather too well. Anthony gulped and ran his tongue over his lips, wishing he had the guts to tell Jack what he was thinking. He blushed as Jack got up and caught him day dreaming.
"Hmm?" Anthony replied. He was wearing board shorts and a loose, un-tucked T which was a godsend, as it covered what was swiftly becoming an embarrassment.
"You're gay... right?" Standing there, Jack was five inches under Anthony's six foot one, and looked so vulnerable and young that thoughts of anything more personal fled.
"Ah... yah, I am, Jack... so?"
"Well, I... ugh... it doesn't matter."
Anthony walked around the bed and took Jack gently by the hand and led him into the living area and sat him down. The boy was shivering. Anthony sat down opposite him, well outside his personal space. Jack started chewing his index fingernail. Anthony started slowly.
"Your family's been good to me these last two years. I started here when I was your age and you were what? Fourteen?"
"Yeah, I'm just sixteen now."
"I'll bet you don't feel it though, huh?" Anthony laughed. "God, I was so confused when I was sixteen... I wish..."
"What?" The reply was instant, and Anthony smiled.
"I wish I'd had someone to talk to, Jack, someone who understood what I was thinking, what I was going through." He could see Jack start to tear up. "What I'm trying to say is that if there's anything you want to talk to me about, or tell me, or ask me... I'm here for you." He paused, then added, "no strings."
Sid licked his lips and wrapped his hand around his swollen cock, flinching with pain. He knew he should give it a rest and let his red raw chap recover, but he simply couldn't. He loved Jacky, and every time he thought of him, which was nearly all the time, he had to masturbate. So what if Mr Butcher had begun to ask where he was slinking off to? So what if the pain almost exceeded the pleasure? He needed the release, he needed Jacky ... his Jacky.
Sid closed his eyes and Jacky was above him, smiling, his naked muscular body bronzed by the sun, his blonde hair waving in the breeze. Gently, Jacky lowered himself so his erection was rubbing alongside Sid's, and their lips met in a tender but crushing battle that ended when Sid gently nibbled on Jacky's lower lip. Jacky moaned, and the smell of Jacky's hair, the musk of his scent, sent Sid over the top, and they came, together in one glorious moment of ecstasy.
Sid opened his eyes and licked the cum off his palm and fingers, reaching for a crusty towel on the rubbish strewn floor. Josh, his roomy, banged on the partition.
"For fuck's sake, Sid, stop playing with yourself. You're late for shift."
"Piss off, Josh!" Sid muttered under his breath, not wanting to upset the six foot four behemoth he lived with. Fondly, he fingered the clasp knife he kept under his pillow and started humming as he got dressed.
"Come on!" Josh battered on the partition again. "Jesus, Sid, you've already been threatened with the sack." Sid slid the knife into his back pocket and opened the partition door, glaring.
"Right, Josh, let's go be nice to the happy fucking campers."
Davey was in a righteously good mood as they turned into the Coos Haven Caravan Park. The journey had taken almost nine hours, and other than thrashing Stephen and his sister at I Spy a couple of times, he'd spent the whole journey thinking about things he'd tried so hard to bury and deny: about who he really was and what he really wanted. He thought a lot about the boy he'd briefly seen in the car and who had to have been gay, and he'd come to the conclusion that whilst his parents weren't around and he was miles from anyone he knew, he'd explore a little.
Yvonne, who had driven for the last couple of hours, pulled the car into the reception car park and switched off the ignition. They all got out, stretching arms and legs, Yvonne hiding a yawn.
"We'll go and sign in if you want to hang here, Davey," Stephen said. He took Yvonne by the hand, and they disappeared inside.
The park was split into sign-posted sections, with the small touring caravans and their cars nearest to the reception block. In the near distance, Davey could see larger static caravans arranged on a terrace system that stepped down to a river. They were all complete with outside tables, barbeques and happily smiling residents. There were a lot of little children thundering about, and he heard squeals and splashing coming from the pool area.
Davey started feeling a little self-conscious when he noticed that a boy around his own age sitting on the reception steps was casually checking him out. The boy was definitely good-looking, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and wearing cut offs and a 'Coos Haven 2006' T-shirt.
Davey, who was starting to blush, was relieved when his sister reappeared, followed by Stephen and another blonde guy who he guessed was around nineteen or twenty.
"Davey, this is Ant, the brother of a friend of mine," Stephen said, clapping the tall blonde on the back. "Ant managed to get us a booking at the last minute, and Ant, this is Davey, my fiancée's younger brother."
Davey felt his jaw drop, and Yvonne, tutting, said, "Way to go, dunderhead. He doesn't know yet." Stephen went bright red, and Anthony laughed, looking at Davey with a twinkle in his eye.
"Well, he does now. I guess 'welcome to Coos Haven' is a little sub par for conversation after finding out your sister's engaged, anyway. Let me introduce Jack, who's going to show you to your caravan." He paused as the boy on the steps got up, walked over, smiling, and offered Davey his hand.
"Nice to meet you, Davey."
Anthony, looking a tad guilty, turned to Stephen and Yvonne. "We've been booked out for weeks, but when you phoned..."
Jack interrupted. "What I think Ant's trying to say is it's a dump, but it's the last dump in town. I'll take them, Ant." So saying, Jack walked over to an electric luggage cart and got in.
"Wanna come with me... Davey?"
"Yeah! 'k," Davey grinned. "Love to," he said, still in awe at the tingling sensation Jack's handshake had given him.
"OK, you guys, follow us."
Jack waited until Yvonne and Stephen got in their car, spending the time surreptitiously checking out Davey some more. They pulled out onto the camp's main thoroughfare, Jack and Davey in the lead.
"You work here then?" Davey said, keeping his eyes on the roadway ahead and off Jack's legs, which is where they were demanding to wander.
"Yeah, my dad owns... " Jack slammed on the cart's brakes to avoid running over a squirrel and put his arm out to stop Davey from hitting his head on the plastic windshield. "Sorry...." He found his hand was pressed against Davey's chest, and he let it rest there a second or two longer than necessary, hoping to God his gaydar wasn't off.
"No probs," Davey said, grinning at him, "I'm always up for saving shrub rats who don't know the green cross code." The dark haired youth had a voice that sent shivers up Jack's back, and he felt himself getting aroused, half hoping that it wasn't too obvious, half hoping that it was, and that the next fortnight would turn out to be memorable.
"New punters, Jacky?" Sid appeared next to the driver's side and leaned in across Jack, holding out his hand out affably. "Hi, I'm Sid, one of Jack's co-workers and his friend." Davey took the proffered hand and quickly wished he hadn't; it was clammy.
"I'm Davey, nice to meet you," he replied, his manners taking over. There was something going on here, some undercurrent which felt weirdly off kilter to him. "Jack's just showing us to our caravan." Davey glanced at Jack and saw the boy had clenched his jaw.
"See you around then, Davey. Bye, Jacky boy." Without waiting for a reply, Sid walked off, whistling. Davey prodded Jack, who was now grinding his teeth and hadn't moved.
"Ya, no kidding." Jack replied and put his foot on the accelerator.
The metalled roadway petered out, and they crossed the last field at a much slower and bumpier pace, winding between tents and haphazardly parked vehicles, ending up some ten minutes later at the Jonah. Jack had explained the caravan's history, and Davey was rather excited. He leapt out and opened his sister's door.
"It's cursed, isn't that cool! We're gonna be staying in a haunted caravan!"
"Never heard of one of those." Stephen looked at Yvonne for confirmation but saw she was looking at the river and not paying the slightest attention.
"Is it dangerous?"
"What?" Stephen asked, exasperated.
"The river." She looked at him and smiled. "It looks dangerous, and Davey's not that strong a swimmer."
"Aww Sis!" Davey complained, knowing Jack, who had walked over to them, could hear what they were saying.
"There's no swimming allowed. The Coos goes over a weir just down stream from here, and then it splits in two, and one half goes through an old water mill. It's dangerous, and honestly not worth the risk... anyway, we've got a great pool up by reception." Davey watched Jack speaking and was lost. He wasn't sure quite what was happening to him, but he knew that he fancied the hell out of this other boy. Nervously, he ran his fingers through his hair.
"So what's to do around here then, Jack?"
Yvonne saw what was going on and interrupted. "Stephen and I are going to get settled in, so if you want to go off for a while, young brother of mine, then shoo." Davey looked at his sister, and then at Stephen, who was head into the tailgate, pulling out bags.
"Thanks, Sis... can I...," Davey started, and stopped when Jack grinned at him.
"Wanna hang with me for a while? I get off in an hour-ish and we could go into Coos Haven and grab a bite."
Shyly Davey smiled. "'k, that'd be cool."
Following them without being spotted had been difficult for Sid, but he'd managed it and was hiding behind an unoccupied tent not thirty yards from the Jonah. He was annoyed he couldn't get any closer, and he couldn't exactly hear the conversation that went on, but the body language was fairly telling. Sid pulled the clasp knife from his back pocket and with a snicker snack the blade flicked out and locked. All was right, and his darling was as sharp as she ever was. Giggling quietly, he viciously stabbed the earth next to the tent. This new Davey kid was in for a hell of a shock if he thought he could cozen Jacky away from him, oh, yes indeedy.
Sunday morning was bright and sunny, with not a cloud in the air above the Coos Haven Caravan park. Jack was in a fantastic mood, and it showed. He'd got up extra early and had a longer shower than normal, and put on his best clothes. He'd also managed, through the wonder of being the owner's son, to re-arrange his shifts, and had taken the day off so that he could show Davey around the area. He was just sitting down to breakfast when Anthony came in.
"Hey, Jack. You're looking happy this morning," he said, helping himself to a large bowl of cornflakes. "'sup?"
"Well...," Jack looked around making sure they were alone, "I think I'm.... " If he was totally honest with himself, he wasn't sure what he was, or what label to put on it. All he really knew was that being with and around Davey made him feel amazing.
"Ah...," Anthony said, swallowing and putting down his spoon, "Davey." He saw the younger boy was looking confused. "Rumours spread like the plague in a holiday camp, you should know that...." He paused, reaching for the teapot and pouring himself a mug, "want one?"
"De nada." Anthony poured a second mug and passed it across. "So go on then, tell all. I'm guessing you like him," he said, picking up his spoon and diving back into his cornflakes.
Anthony put down his spoon again and looked at Jack quizzically. "You're not daft, Jack Butcher, unless one night out with a good looking boy has addled your brains...." Jack was blushing and Anthony thought it made him look cute. "Well?... You, Davey, the evening in Coos Haven that John told me about, go on, tell all."
"I... erm... it was ok."
Anthony finished his cornflakes and reached for the toast.
"That good, was it?" he said, then realised that Jack probably thought he was teasing. "Sorry, kiddo," Anthony smiled kindly. "I didn't mean to pry. I'm just happy for you is all. Honestly, though, I'd be careful what you say to Sid."
"Sid?" Jack asked, glad that Anthony seemed to be ok about it. Anthony slowly put down the butter knife.
"You do know that Sid has a thing for you?"
"A thing?... what d'you... No! You're not serious?"
"'fraid so," Anthony said. "It's obvious if you know what to look for." He paused, waggling his eyebrows and making Jack laugh, "honestly though, he's an odd character, and I don't think he's entirely all 'there'."
"Shit! We did see him a couple of times last night... or rather I think we did. I can't be sure... I wasn't paying that much attention."
"I'll bet you weren't! So what are your plans for today?"
The room started to fill up with other camp staff having their breakfast before their shifts began. Jack was preparing himself to have a quiet word with Sid. He didn't like the other boy, no one really did, which Jack thought was rather sad. He knew Sid went to a single sex boarding school and Jack thought that was probably the reason he was so weird, but he really had had no idea that Sid had a thing for him. He shivered, his mind giving him images he'd far rather included Davey. The room cleared, and only Anthony was left.
"It doesn't look like he's gonna bother with breakfast today," Anthony said, pulling Jack back from his reverie.
"Who?" Jack asked, still thinking quite how to broach the subject.
"Sid. Want me to stay with you and we'll go and find him?" he asked.
"You're a really good friend, Anthony, and yes, please, if you don't mind."
"It's what friends are for, mon ami."
They put their crockery in the dishwasher and walked over to the reception block. John was standing outside, looking grim.
"Ah, there you are. I think you two should get over to the Jonah right now," he said, looking over his shoulder at the reception door. Then taking the two boys by the shoulder, he walked them to the electric luggage cart.
"What's going on, John?" Anthony asked, puzzled by the older man's behaviour.
"Nothing, 'cept Sid apparently has gone over there to 'sort out a little problem', and you, you daft young fool," he added, prodding Jack in the chest, "have opened a right can of worms, which I'm going to try and sort out."
"Me?" Jack started indignantly, "What have I done?"
"It's not so much what you've done, as how you went about doing it," John replied, lightening his tone and ushering the two boys into the cart. "Go and check on your friend, and make sure that fucker Sid doesn't do anything he shouldn't. Go on. I'll take care of your dad."
"My da... dad?"
"He knows lad, he knows, and he's not very happy about it."
Jack hadn't cried in years; the last time he remembered crying was watching the end of 'Pay it Forward', but now he felt the tears welling up behind his eyes, and felt his lower lip begin to quiver.
"Go on, Anthony, quick as you like," John said, then turned and walked back up the reception steps. Anthony drove off down the camp road. He could see Jack was in hell and put his arm around his shoulders.
"Cheer up, Jack, we'll have a good laugh about this later." It was lame, but really, he couldn't think of what else to say, and he was very worried about what Sid might be up to. He hoped they weren't going to be too late.
The last week had been very warm, drawing in sea breezes along the coast. On that Sunday morning they joined forces with a wet southerly air flow and shot upwards in a dangerous mix of warm, moist, highly unstable air. Nearby Coos Haven Moor thrust up the air mass even higher.
A line of thunderclouds rocketed up over 12km high, their tops streaming into anvil shapes as high-level winds swept air away from the storm, helping suck more air from below. The thunderclouds grew so tall that they created intense downpours, leading to more than 5 inches of rain falling around the head of the Coos in just a couple of hours. If it had been a normal year, the water would have soaked into the moor. But with the ground already saturated from recent rains, the storm waters had nowhere to go and were funnelled down the steep upper river valley of the Coos, turning the normally placid river into a raging torrent in minutes and lifting the level of water some four feet.
The holiday makers had no idea of what was about to descend upon them as they happily cooked breakfast and lolled about on their deck chairs, planning their day.
Jack and Anthony could see the fight long before they were able to intervene. Anthony thought it could have been a scene in 'The Karate Kid', albeit with a different cast. As his friend floored the accelerator, Jack stood up on his seat, holding on to the top of the windscreen and shouting, "SID! SID!" at the top of his lungs.
Neither of the combatants paid them the slightest attention, possibly because they were still too far away to be heard, but more likely because they were too focused on the fight. What Jack's shouting did achieve, however, were lots of heads peering out of tents, which in hindsight probably saved a lot of lives.
If an electric cart stopping on grass could have left skid marks, theirs would have, as Anthony and Jack leapt out. Both Davey and Sid were panting with the adrenaline rush by this time. Davey was gleefully laughing at Sid, partially because he knew he had the measure of the other boy, and partially because he hadn't felt this good since he'd been awarded his brown belt. Sid was scowling, because he knew the little shit had the better of him at hand to hand, and was planning on ramping up the fight and planting his knife somewhere in the little fucker's upper torso. He was just annoyed he couldn't decide where.
Through the red mist of anger, Davey and Sid finally heard Jack screaming, "Pack it in, you two, pack it in!"
It was this that caused the two boys to lose focus. The fight stopped, and Davey dropped his stance, unclenched his fists and started to walk toward Jack. Then he paused and turned to look, as they all heard the roar of the water coming from up river.
In a moment of utter clarity, Sid realised he was finished. He'd lost Jack to this northern upstart, and at the very least he was going to be fired, and possibly arrested for assault. With a guttural roar, he took the one chance he had of winning: he charged Davey. Picking him up by the waist and throwing him over his shoulder, he ran the ten paces to the river bank and jumped.
They hit the water together and the current took them. Jack could see that Sid was still trying to punch Davey's lights out, and that neither of them could sense the imminent danger they were in.
"Stop it, you two, and swim for shore, SWIM! IT'S A FLASH FLOOD!" Either the boys couldn't hear Jack's warning over the roar of the water, or they didn't give a damn.
"THE WEIR!" Anthony and he shouted together, and Jack saw Davey suddenly register the danger. It was at that moment, when Davey was distracted from the fight, that Sid struck him with a roundhouse to the head, and Davey went under.
"Nooooo!" Jack roared. "Anthony, get help and get to the weir!" And ripping his shirt off, he dived into the maelstrom.
Anthony stood there open-mouthed and then bolted down the river bank, trying to keep both Jack and Davey in sight and reaching for his back pocket and his cell phone. He used the speed dial and got through to the reception, and Suzzie.
"Coos Haven Caravan Park, could you hold?" her bored voice answered.
"NO! I couldn't!" Anthony shouted, "Suzzie, it's Ant, send an ambulance and the police to the weir. Sid's attacked Davey, and Jack's gone in after him."
"Oh, my God!" Suzzie sounded more intrigued than panicked, and Anthony began to worry.
"And tell the old man, too."
"What, Mr Butcher? I can't disturb him, he's in a meeting."
"Suzzie, I'm not kidding you, you stupid woman. His son is in danger of fucking drowning!" Anthony disconnected and dialed the emergency services.
"Ambulance, Fire Brigade, Police or Coastguard?"
"Send them all! The weir on the Coos, near Coos Haven. NOW!"
Strong though Jack was, he was finding it difficult to make it across the current to where Davey was floating; so rather than trying directly, he swam an almost parallel course, letting the current do the work for him. He kept Davey firmly in his sight, swearing to himself that he'd only just met him and he wasn't going to let him drown. The noise from the weir was getting louder and louder as thousands of tons of water from the heavily flooded river cascaded down the manmade slide. Once, when he was thirteen, Jack had swum the weir as a bet, and even though the river had been a sleepy Pussycat compared to the roaring Tiger it was now, he had come away with some bad bruises, and had nearly broken a leg. This was going to be worse, a lot worse.
Anthony made it to the weir as Davey was still some three hundred yards upstream. He could see Jack slowly crawling across the current and finally make it to Davey's side. He cheered as Jack got Davey in the rescue position, but could see that the younger boy appeared lifeless. Then, as he started to wade across the half submerged bridge that crossed the top of the weir to try and catch them, he caught a glimpse of Sid's greasy locks appear just yards behind Jack. Then they were over the bridge and onto the weir itself, crashing down the man made concrete slide together like rag dolls caught in a washing machine. They disappeared into the white water below, and Anthony had tears running down his cheeks as he heard the faint sound of sirens in the distance. Nothing could survive that.
Gerald Butcher was having a row with John Post when Suzzie timorously entered his office.
"I said I wasn't to be disturbed," he spat, squeezing frantically on his stress ball, still appalled that John, for all their bickering, one of his oldest and dearest friends, would be arguing on behalf of his pansy son. Didn't he know anything?
"Sorry, Mr Butcher, but it's an emergency. Anthony just called and it's Jack."
"What about him?"
"Jesus." All of the problems Gerald was trying to come to terms with disappeared in the instant he got to his feet. "Where?"
"The weir, sir, you have to get to the weir."
Davey had a dream, at least he thought it was a dream, though dreams weren't supposed to hurt, were they? He was floating and being pushed from side to side by lots of hands, invisible hands that had no form but whose fingers seemed to pinch and prod unmercifully. Then one set of hands caught him, and the love he felt from them warmed him to his very core. The dream changed, and Davey was looking down on himself. He was being held in the arms of Jack, and they were both floating in water, angry water.... Jack seemed to be very worried and was shouting something he couldn't hear. Davey wished he could see more of where his other self and Jack were, and instantly his view changed, as he shot upwards to hover some fifty feet above the raging torrent, his view widening exponentially. They were in a river -- was it the Coos, he wondered, and knew it was. He wasn't sure what was going on but felt a deep sense of danger.
He rose higher and could see that the bridge over the weir, which was normally ten feet above the water, was nearly totally submerged, just the top of the railings showing above the white water. Anthony, waist deep, was wading out onto it. His viewpoint changed again, and he was hovering behind Anthony's left shoulder as Jack and his other self were swept over the walkway and down the steps of the weir. Davey could sense Anthony's love for Jack and his confusion over his feelings. Then, seemingly half drowned, Sid appeared and caught hold of one of the bridge's stanchions, screaming for help. Before Anthony could reach him, his hand slipped and he, too, was swept down the weir. Davey didn't like the dream anymore. It felt like it was turning into a nightmare.
Gerald Butcher's Land Rover skidded to a halt twenty feet from the bridge and he leapt out, followed by John Post. They could see Anthony, standing waist deep in the middle of the river, looking down over the weir to the torrent below. The river was now well over its banks and flooding into the surrounding fields, and still the rain fell.
"ANTHONY!" Gerald called, and could see the dejected slump of the boy's shoulders as he turned to them. "WHERE ARE THEY?" It was difficult to hear over the roar coming from the angry water.
"OVER THE WEIR A SECOND AGO!" Anthony shouted. Gerald could hear the pain in Anthony's voice, and his heart sank. He turned to John.
"Jesus Christ, John, what am I to do?"
John clapped him on the back. "Don't panic yet." He strode as close as he could to the river bank, his legs now knee deep in water. "ANTHONY, ESTUARY OR MILLRACE?" he called, dreading the answer. He watched as Anthony, who had a much better view, looked and then turned back, his face draining of blood.
"SHIT! THEY'RE ALL HEADED FOR THE MILLRACE."
"ALL?... WHO?" John asked, confused.
"JACK, DAVEY AND SID.... "
Sid was nearly there, his obsession giving him strength he never knew he possessed. Twenty yards, just another few seconds, and he'd be able to relieve Jack of the burden of that bastard interfering boy and save him from the perils of the millrace. He'd be a hero: Mr Butcher would give him a permanent job, and he would live with his darling Jack for ever and ever. Oh, he knew Jack would be upset at first, after all they'd had their differences... but he'd see sense in the end, even if he had to tie him up! The thought sent a shiver of anticipation to his groin.
"JACK!" Sid cried and saw Jack turn his head, taking care the bastard boy's head was still above water. "SWIM TO ME! I'LL SAVE YOU!"
"FUCK OFF!" Jack spluttered. The effort of holding Davey's head above water was sapping his reserves, the dead weight of the boy threatening to drown them both. Worse, Sid was getting closer second by second, and Jack could see... he could see a half submerged tree bearing down on the other boy, who obviously hadn't spotted it. He was about to warn him when he caught a glimpse of the maniacal glee in Sid's eyes, and knew, knew without a shadow of a doubt, that Sid would kill Davey if he had the chance. He shut his mouth with a snap at the same time as the tree, which must have weighed several thousand pounds, hit Sid squarely on the shoulder. Over the cacophony of the water, Jack heard the crack of breaking bone, and the boy screamed, suddenly incapacitated, his good arm snaking around a branch to prevent himself being dragged under.
The momentum of the tree trunk swept it and Sid slowly past Jack, who managed to catch hold of the other end close by the root ball. Dully, he realised the current seemed to be getting faster. They were being pulled into the right bank, and the channel that led to the millrace. Sloughing off feelings of despair, Jack hoicked Davey onto a narrow ledge formed by the tree's tangled roots. The boy was still breathing, though unconscious, his brown hair plastered to his scalp.
"Leave him, Jacky, I love you more than he ever will."
"You're fucking mad," Jack said tiredly. "I could never even like you, let alone love you. You don't know the meaning of the word. Besides which, I don't love anyone. I don't even know if I'm gay!"
"Don't say that, Jacky...."
"DON'T FUCKING CALL ME JACKY!"
The current, which was spinning the tree around and around like a catherine wheel, finally delivered them broadside on to the mill race channel entrance. They hit hard, with a crunch of splintered wood, and Jack realised the length of the tree trunk might just save their lives. They were jammed across the channel entrance, Sid's end stuck in the bank, theirs in the main flow of the river, the channel pier acting as a pivot point.
Jack could see the huge mill wheel turning and knew the brake had been released by the watchman to prevent the torrent ripping it from its foundations. It was almost certain death to anything caught in the millrace.
"Sid. Help, please go and get help," Jack called, hoping that his tone would calm the other boy and get him to see sense. He was watching Sid's face and saw the boy was crying with pain, saw the hurt and anguish as plainly as if it were his own, and his compassion took over. "Look, Sid, go and get help, and I'll try and get dad to keep you on."
"You... you'd do that for me?"
"Yeah, look, can we talk about this later? We really need some FUCKING HELP NOW!" He choked, knowing that if Davey wasn't taken care of soon, he might not make it.
"You love him, don't you?" Sid was looking at him now, peacefully, his eyelids closing and opening again slowly, his greasy black hair matted to his scalp. Jack chose to avoid the question.
"Are you ok, Sid?" His concern for the other boy, who was looking as white as a sheet and seemed to be slipping away, was real now, and he also knew Davey desperately needed a doctor.
"I... I can't feel my arm. It's caught between the tree and the bank." Sid closed his eyes, and felt the cold creeping up his body. "I really do love you, Jacky." This spoken so quietly that Jack didn't hear it over the roaring water and the faint wailing of sirens coming from the direction of the weir.
Davey was woken up by the sun streaming through slatted blinds. Cautiously, he opened his eyes and saw his sister and Stephen asleep on a couch across the room. His body ached all over, and he found it was painful if he breathed too deeply. His nose started itching, and he tried to move his right hand to scratch it, then realised he had an IV attached. His left hand seemed stuck, and looking, he realised with a flood of emotion it was being held in place by a gently snoring blonde head. He wiggled his fingers and the resultant "Mmphuh" made him giggle.
"Jack," he whispered, trying not to wake his sister or her fiancé before he could have a quiet word with... with.... He flushed, realising that now he was awake, he badly needed to pee. "Jack!" He wiggled his fingers harder, stopping once he realised he might poke the boy's eye out. "Jack, I need to pee!"
The door quietly swung open and a nurse entered, her shoes squeaking on the polished floor. She cleared her throat.
"Morning, Davey. It's good to see you awake." She winked at him and pointed to Jack. "He hasn't left you since you were admitted. Refused to leave last night, and as he wouldn't go, your sister had to stay, too."
"I'm not deaf, you know." Jack raised his head blearily off Davey's arm but left his hand there, his fingers intertwining themselves with the other boy's. He looked a mess, Davey thought, but a wonderfully cute mess nonetheless. His hair needed a good wash, and his breath was awful, but Davey knew that if the room had been empty, he'd have demanded a kiss. He blushed.
"I really, really need to pee."
"So do I dude, but you just go ahead. You're all plumbed in."
"Catheter," said the nurse succinctly, "don't mind me."
Five days later, Davey was released from the Coos Haven Cottage Hospital. He sat on the bench by the entrance, his head still bandaged, waiting to be picked up and wondering about the speed of change in his life. He counted the points off on his fingers.
One: ten days earlier he had known he was probably gay, but had never told anyone or kissed a boy in his life. Two: now he had a boyfriend, who had risked his life for him when he had nearly died. Three: his sister was totally cool with the whole thing, and had said she'd always known. He knew he was going to have to find out how at some point, but it could wait. Four: He had been interviewed by the police, and had told them it had all been an awful accident. Sid and he had been ragging about and had fallen in, and how were they to know there had been a flash flood? Five: he had a wonderful boyfriend.
Davey giggled, knowing five was cheating, but then he did have a wonderful boyfriend, and so what? He dozed a bit, and was woken by the minty smell of Jack's lips bussing his nose.
"Get off, you weirdo!" he chortled, rubbing at his nose.
"Aww, can I try somewhere else then?" Jack had his hands on his hips and was pouting, his blue eyes twinkling in the sunlight.
"Sure, but not here, 'k?" Davey replied, grinning.
"No probs, dad seems ok with me. He's accepted what John told him, and believe it or not, we're ok to stay in the summer house 'till the end of the season."
"Yeah. Together... and there's Sid's job going, if you want it."
"Oh... how is he?" Davey frowned.
"Do you really care?" Jack returned Davey's frown with one of his own. He was finding it hard to accept the fact he had been the object of the Sid's obsession, and because of it Davey had so nearly died. He was also finding it hard to accept that Davey could forgive Sid so easily. Davey patted the bench for Jack to sit down, and then took his hand in his own, relishing the warmth and contact.
"I've got you now, Jack; you're mine, and I'm yours. I really don't care about the past.... The guy lost his arm. That's got to be punishment enough, hasn't it?"
"But what if he comes back?"
"What, like 'the Fugitive'?" Davey laughed, wincing, as his head wasn't one hundred percent yet. "Are you kidding me?" Jack didn't respond for a minute, studying his fingernails, knowing Davey was watching him. Then he looked back at him. He was, without a shadow of a doubt, a beautiful young man -- his beautiful young man -- and his spirit and love shone. Jack leant forward and kissed him on the lips.
"Just no sequels, huh?"
"Ok, Jack, no sequels."
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