“Eighty percent! Eighty percent! Eighty percent!” Freddie chanted in reply to Jeff’s question.
The four of them were sat around one the canteen tables eating their lunch. Vee and Freddie seemed to be glowing with confidence and energy, especially Freddie. He’d almost goaded Jeff into asking what mark they had received for their presentation the previous day, before Jeff finally had asked. Then Freddie had blurted out his answer, with Vee smiling alongside him.
“Highest mark in our class. Goes to show how shit the rest of our class is,” Vee said.
“But your presentation must have been good to get eighty percent,” Jeff pointed out. “Even if everyone else is shit you must have done well to get eighty percent”
“God, the other presentations were shit!” exclaimed Vee. “Freddie and I sat there and listened to them with our mouths open, they were so bad.”
“Victoria and Jade did a business proposal about opening a nail bar and their whole presentation was about different colours of nail varnish,” Freddie said. “I never knew there were so many different names for Slapper Red.”
“And Wayne and Preston’s business idea was all about selling autographed footballs,” Vee said. “Freddie nearly fell asleep during it.”
“It was so fucking boring I couldn’t keep my eyes open. And not one joke about Golden Balls,” Freddie added.
“Who’s Golden Balls?” Simon asked.
“Only the one-and-only, Prince David of Beckham,” Freddie replied.
“The only footballer Freddie knows,” Jeff said.
“That’s only because of all the underwear modelling he’d done,” Vee added.
“Too fucking right!” Freddie exclaimed. “I’d go off-side for him any day.”
“Before Freddie gets overwrought and breaks into a hot flush,” Jeff said, “I propose a toast to our future business leaders. Well done you two.”
“Well done,” Simon said, as he and Jeff raised their drink cans in salute to Vee and Freddie.
“You make me blush,” Freddie replied.
“Here’s the man who tells me all about his sex life, and I mean all, and doesn’t blink once. Yet he blushes over a little toast,” Vee laughed.
“What can I say? I’m a man of contradictions.”
“Like I hadn’t noticed,” Vee shot back.
Simon just smiled at the three of them.
When his mum and Niki had returned home the night before, his mum had still been in a bad mood. When he asked her how she was, she’d just replied, “All right.” But her tone told him not to ask anything more. Not long after she’d announced she had a headache and was going to bed, even though it was only nine-thirty.
“Don’t take it personally. Your mum is just worrying herself silly about all this mess with your dad. She has convinced herself that we’re going to lose and it’ll cost us a fortune,” Niki told him, after his mum taken herself up the stairs.
“What happened with Aunt Kate?” Simon asked.
“Kate was as upbeat as she always is, which just made your mum worry more. Anyway, all the texts and emails your dad sent you, Kate has sent them off to your dad’s solicitors. Now Kate’s really hopeful about it, she calls them dynamite. But she hasn’t heard anything back from your dad’s solicitor. Kate says that’s all normal, but it's worrying your mum stupid. I tried to tell her that lawyers and the law work more at their own pace, fucking slow, but that didn’t help either. She has convinced herself we have lost.”
“What can we do?”
“Get more evidence of what a shit father your dad is?”
“He made us live with my Grandma for years. She is a nightmare and she set about driving mum and dad apart.”
“That’s a bit harder to prove, but it’s a good point.”
“I could contact my dad. Meet him and record what he says. He’ll go on about me having to be straight and all that crap, and I’d have it there recorded on my phone.”
“Nice idea, but no. You’d be recording him without his permission, and God knows where we stand on that, legally. But you’d have to physically see him again and I can’t ask that of you. He’s really hurt you and I will not let that happen again. Also, if I see him again I might just punch his fucking eyes out… Well, there’s no might about it.”
“I hate all this crap and mess,” Simon quietly said.
“So do I,” Niki replied as she reached over and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze.
Simon looked down at his half-eaten lunch lying on the canteen table in front of him. He chosen a ham salad sandwich, though the description of salad was stretching it somewhat. The sandwich was filled with a thin slice of ham, one uncut lettuce leaf and two incredibly thin slices of tomato. The wrapper said that it had been prepared that day but the bread was so soggy, the lettuce and tomato so dry, the tomato having soaked deeply into the bread, that it must have been prepared in the early hours of the morning. If his stomach wasn’t complaining of hunger so much he wouldn't have eaten any more of it. He picked it up and bit into the soggy mess.
“Are we all ready for your trip out to the Vale Side Junction LGBT Youth Group tonight?” Freddie asked. “I’ve got my outfit sorted out already and, even though I do say so myself, I’ll look stunning.”
“I can’t go,” Vee said.
“What!” Freddie exclaimed.
“My mum wants to go and see my gran tonight and I have to go with her.”
“Why?” Freddie asked.
“She has this new idea that we keep my gran happy and actually visit her. I think my gran has threatened my mum that she’ll leave everything in her will to a cats’ home or something.”
“Why? Is she rich or something?” Freddie said.
“Shit no! But she owes her own house and my mum went onto Rightmove and saw how much it's worth, and it's loads. So suddenly my mum is all sucking up to my gran. Pathetic.”
“That’s so mercenary,” Jeff said.
“You’ve met my mum,” Vee replied.
“She wanted to know why I wasn’t your boyfriend,” Jeff said, looking mortified.
“I love your mum, she always says what she means,” Freddie added.
“You should try living with her. She never shuts up about me finding a ‘nice boy’. I am so over it,” Vee said.
“I’m sure I’ll be going next week,” Simon said. He knew how pleased Niki was when he’d asked her if she would take him to the youth group. He was sure she’d want to go the next week too, and the youth group did look interesting.
“But what if your mum wants to see your gran next Thursday?” Freddie asked.
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll say something tonight that will upset my gran and she won’t want me back next week.”
“Like what?” Jeff asked.
“My gran thinks Margaret Thatcher was the greatest Prime Minister ever, and that everything the Daily Mail says is true. It’ll be easy to get myself uninvited,” Vee told them.
“You can always think on your feet,” Freddie said.
“Should we come to your house?” Jeff asked, turning his attention to Simon.
“No need. Niki said she can pick you both up. You’re both on the way there,” Simon replied.
“Oooh, chauffeur driven! How posh,” Freddie said.
“Calm down, Fashion Boy,” Jeff said.
“I’ve been onto the Vale Side Junction website and there’s some hot boys who go there,” Freddie replied.
“God, a night of Freddie on the hunt, you boys are going to have fun tonight,” Vee said.
“You could fake an illness, give your mum the slip and join us,” Freddie said,
“It’s got to be something really infectious and my mum knows how to look up symptoms online. Look, my plan will work. I’ll piss off my gran tonight and then I’ll be able to join you boys next week,” Vee told them.
“And you’ll miss all the fun of Freddie chasing after all the hot boys who already have boyfriends,” Jeff said.
“He’ll do that next week,” Vee replied. “And we’re all going to Hades tomorrow night. I’ll get to watch him chase after all the unavailable men there.”
“Are you two saying I only chase after men who’ve already got boyfriends?” Freddie said.
“In a word, yes,” Jeff told him.
“And don’t forget all the straight men you’ve chased after,” Vee added.
“You two wound me to the heart,” Freddie said, obviously not meaning it. “And you’ll give Simon the wrong impression of me.”
“No they don’t,” Simon said.
“God, they’ve corrupted you already,” Freddie gasped in mock horror.
“And we didn’t even try,” Vee laughed.
“Hades is tomorrow night!” Freddie exclaimed.
“You hadn’t forgotten?” Vee said.
“No, I just got distracted. Where are we all going to meet beforehand? We need to make a fabulous entrance together.”
“Like anyone will notice,” Vee said.
“We’ll meet at my house, at nine,” Jeff said.
“Why yours?” Freddie asked.
“Because we can get one bus from my house straight into town. Plus, I’m going to give Simon a make-over. I’ll make him all sexy and amazing.”
“You will?” Simon said. He’d almost forgotten that Jeff had offered to lend him some clothes and give him a make-over. As he remembered he felt a moment of excitement tighten his stomach.
“Of course I will,” Jeff replied.
“And there I was thinking I’d give Simon the king of make-overs,” Freddie said, with a big mock pout.
“The Rent Boy look hasn’t been in for years,” Vee said.
“I’m hurt to my very soul,” Freddie said with more mock histrionics.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you,” Simon said. Even if Freddie was hiding it all with jokes he didn’t want to upset him.
“Don’t be silly. Your style is much closer to Jeff’s and any pants I’d lend you would be too short, and not everyone can carry off ankle length pants. Most men don’t have amazing calves like mine. My calves have been known to drive grown men wild with desire.”
“Are you having a stroke? You’re talking strange again. Is he having a stroke?” Vee asked.
“I don’t mind if Jeff does your make-over, I really don’t. But you better make him look fabulous,” Freddie said, directing his last comment at Jeff.
“Of course I will. So you two meet at my house at nine tomorrow, and Simon you come over at eight. Okay?”
“Sure, thank you,” Simon said.
He glanced over at Jeff for a brief moment. In the cinema, yesterday, Jeff had pressed their arms together, he’d even placed his hand over Simon’s. Yesterday evening Jeff had called him up out of the blue, though Simon had really needed to have that conversation. Jeff had been so good to him, so good for him when they talked, helping him see things as they really are. Yet today he was behaving again like they were just friends. No special glances or covert touching of his hand. Had his mind imagined it all? Was he seeing things that weren’t there? Were he and Jeff just good friends? The way Jeff was behaving was as if that was all they were. God, Simon found it all so difficult. He really, really liked Jeff but, as far as he could see, Jeff didn’t feel that way about him. It was all so complicated. Maybe all he was going to get from Jeff was friendship. But that was already turning into something good and special.
He wished he could see Jeff as just a friend, but every time Simon looked at him he felt a gasp of excitement. And every time Jeff paid him any attention he’d feel that same excitement squeeze at his stomach. God, it was all so complicated! It was never this complicated in all the coming-out novels he’d read on his phone, which seemed to make it appear so easy to find your ideal boyfriend. Life now seemed so much more complicated than it was in those e-books.
“Jesus, have you seen the time!” Vee exclaimed.
“Shit our lessons start in five! Eat up,” Freddie almost shouted back.
Simon looked at the remains of his limp sandwich and decided he'd eaten enough of it as he possibly could.
Because of the Covid-19 virus, it may take me longer than normal to get the next chapter posted. Please bear with me.