Nick didn’t dare open his eyes until he could hear Dave getting back on his bike and cycling away from him, afraid of what feelings they might betray if he did. His breathing came fast, in ragged pulls, and his heart was racing. At last he opened his eyes and stared into the darkness after the retreating back of the boy on the bicycle. He felt a single tear slide down his cheek, and he shivered, pulling the jacket tighter around himself.
Dave’s jacket, he realised with a jolt. He had left it. Run away without it. Nick breathed in deeply. The jacket smelled of leather and clean sweat and deodorant and soap, with a different, sweeter scent hiding underneath. Dave’s scent. He buried his nose in the lining, imagining that Dave was still there.
He had stupidly thought, for just a moment, that Dave had been about to kiss him. His eyes, so impossibly blue, had met Nick’s own, and the look in them had been so intense. He had wanted to lean into the touch of Dave’s hand on his cheek, wanted to kiss him, hold him and be with him.
Dave must have sensed it. That must have been why he stopped, got up and left. Of course he hadn’t been about to kiss him. Why would he do something like that?
But he had stopped to see how he was, and he had helped him, cleaned his wounds, listened to him and been concerned about him, and that wasn’t nothing. And he had said his name. It was the first time in as long as Nick could remember that Dave had called him Nick. Not Davis, or Nicky, or dickhead or stupid or nerd, but Nick. And it was the first time he’d said it with such urgency in his voice, like it mattered, like Nick mattered. It had been the most beautiful thing Nick had ever heard.
He had sounded almost protective of him when he asked Nick who had hurt him. ‘No one else is allowed to mess with you.’ That shouldn’t have made Nick feel so warm inside, but it did.
It was nearly midnight when Nick dared return home. Craig had fallen asleep by the telly, the empty beer cans nowhere to be seen. Nick went upstairs to his room, shutting the door quietly behind him. Then he lay down on the bed, let the tears come, and cried silently.
The following morning, he found Zoë back as she’d promised. Craig was in the kitchen with her, making coffee, acknowledging Nick’s presence with a nod and an unreadable look. How he wasn’t hungover was beyond Nick’s comprehension. Nick told his sister that he had tripped and fallen down the stairs. She called him clumsy and hugged him. He stayed home from school that day, nursing his arm and listening to Death Cab for Cutie.
* * *
Dave shook his head in frustration and threw his pen down on the desk. He couldn’t concentrate on anything. He’d been battling with himself for days, unwilling to admit to himself what had actually happened in the park. A week had now passed, and he and Nick hadn’t spoken at all. No quips, no fights, nothing. Not a single glance had passed between the two of them. For all the world, it was like they didn’t even know each other.
As the last lesson of the day was coming to a close, Dave glanced over at his enemy, who was sitting over by the window and appeared not to be paying attention either. The area around Nick’s right eye was now dark blue and yellow. His nose looked mostly back to normal. The cut in his lip was healing, but slowly. Dave noted how Nick’s tongue flicked out every few seconds, moving over the cut. Occasionally he chewed his lip absent-mindedly. No wonder the cut wasn’t healing quicker.
His arm was apparently fine, though Dave had noticed in PE the previous Friday how bruised it looked. He wondered vaguely if Nick had reported his sister’s boyfriend, or even told his sister about it. He guessed not, or people would have heard about it. Gossip spread quickly in Windfield Green. Small town syndrom.
Dave left the classroom with Alan, Chas, and Matthew Taylor. The latter had started hanging out with them more and more of late. He had moved to Windfield from Birmingham a couple of weeks after the start of term. It was Dave who had convinced him to join the football team, as he was exceptionally talented. With his athletic body and bad boy image (complete with pierced ears and a nipple ring), Matt was growing to be nearly as popular as Dave. He didn’t really seem to care much about popularity, though, hanging out with Dave and his friends mostly for something to do. He was far more interested in his friends back in Birmingham, whom he visited every other weekend or so to attend concerts and get high. It hadn’t stopped him from sleeping with about a dozen girls from school, though. Matt didn’t have girlfriends, he had fuck friends, and the girls he slept with seemed completely fine with that.
Nick rushed past them in the corridor without sparing them a glance. Dave’s eyes followed him until he disappeared around a corner.
‘I’ll see you at football tonight, yeah?’ said Matt to Dave.
‘Huh?’ Dave snapped out of his reverie and turned to his teammate.
‘Football!’ Matt enunciated, rolling his eyes. ‘Tonight?’
‘Oh, yeah, ’course,’ said Dave.
‘What the fuck is up with you, anyway?’ said Alan. ‘You’ve just sat around staring all week! And you haven’t had a go at Davis in ages, either.’
Dave shook his head. ‘It’s nothing. Been a bit out of it. It doesn’t matter.’
‘Yo, is it cause o’ dat Linda?’ asked Chas. ‘Cause you know, bitches ain’t shit.’
Dave raised an eyebrow at him. Sometimes he could barely understand what Chas was on about. ‘What? No! Look, I know she’s been telling everyone that she dumped me, but it was the other way around, and I honestly don’t give a flying fuck about her anymore.’
This was only partly true. It seemed Linda had put out some stories regarding why she dumped him, and all the prettiest and nicest girls were avoiding him, which pissed him off to no end, but he supposed it couldn’t be helped. Hell hath no fury, etcetera.
* * *
Dave really had been on his way to football practice, and he couldn’t have told you why he slowed down when he reached the street Nick lived on. Nor could he have told you why he craned his neck to identify which of the brick row houses was Nick’s (the one at the end of the street, with the blue front door and the equally blue Vauxhall Astra parked out front), or why he brought his bike to a stop in front of it. As he did, though, he thought he heard music coming from the back garden. Someone was playing guitar. He crept around the house, listening.
The sound of the guitar was soft and haunting. The chords swung this way and that, through melancholic progressions. And then a voice started to sing, softly. A very familiar tenor.
‘Waking up has not been the same. I’ve been trying to make a change. Your look left me feeling cold, but I’ll remember it until I grow old . . .’ A short instrumental break, then, ‘Where you touched me you left a mark. Not like the bruises, but altogether stronger. And though your lips never met mine like I thought they would, it’s like a fire burning. It’s like a fire roaring.’ The music gained intensity now. ‘I can’t stop to think! I can’t stop to ease the pain . . . You don’t know I exist, and you don’t realise what goes on inside me. This bitterness that’s living inside me . . . I’m growing dull . . .’
Dave sat down on a patch of dry grass, leaning the side of his head on the tall wooden fence, and just listened. He had had no idea that Nick could sing, or play the guitar so well. He knew he was intruding, and had the decency to feel ashamed about it, but still he didn’t get up to leave.
He sat there until it got dark and Nick went inside.
* * *
‘Nick . . .’ Nick turned at the sound of the voice, and found himself facing Dave. Dave looked deeply into his eyes and raised a hand to touch his cheek, gently stroking his bottom lip with his thumb. Nick’s heart was pounding, and his eyes closed as Dave leaned in closer, their lips finally meeting. Dave slipped an arm around Nick’s waist, pulling him closer, the kiss intensifying. Nick parted his lips and felt Dave’s tongue enter his mouth, hot and wet and insisting. Nick threw his arms around Dave’s neck and carded his fingers through his blond locks. The smell of him was intoxicating, the feel of his body, the taste of him . . . Every part of him was perfect and amazing and just Dave. Now Dave’s hands began to roam across his body, grabbing his arse, stroking his neck. He broke the kiss to bite at Nick’s throat and earlobe, and Nick stifled a moan. Then—
‘Beep, beep, beep!’ Nick’s alarm clock insisted, and his eyes flew open. He blinked a few times, then realised where he was. He sank back into his pillow, rubbing his sleepy eyes.
‘Shit . . .’ he muttered. Then he sat up to turn off the alarm clock. Pushed off the covers. Looked down and, oh yes, he had a hard on. At least his underwear wasn’t wet this time.
This seemed to happen most every morning, now. He was used to having the occasional dream involving his supposed enemy, but their frequency had sky-rocketed since the night in the park. Perhaps because he now had a better frame of reference for Dave’s touch and smell, the colour of his eyes, and the sound of his voice saying Nick’s name.
He sighed, happy that he at least hadn’t slept through his alarm and still had time for a shower and a wank. It was sorely needed.
* * *
Dave had returned home the previous evening, feeling more confused and frustrated than he had in a long time. He was fairly certain that song had referred to his and Nick’s meeting in the park, and he wasn’t entirely sure how that was supposed to make him feel. As a result, he had slept little that night and awoke the next morning feeling like something had shat in his brain.
He went through his morning lessons in a daze, occasionally glancing over at Nick, who looked just as out of it as he felt. Dave felt an overwhelming need to talk to him. Not to spar and argue, but to have a conversation, and he thought that maybe he was losing his fucking mind.
At lunch, Dave sat down with his friends. Alan and Chas were talking about something dull and mundane, and he wasn’t paying attention.
Then someone punched his shoulder. Not hard enough to really hurt, but it startled him and he turned around.
‘Where the fuck were you yesterday?’ Matt stood over him, looking annoyed.
‘Sorry, what?’ said Dave, blinking.
‘You missed football, you twat! Where were you?’
Dave’s brain started working again. Football! He had completely forgotten about it and gone home. ‘Oh, shit!’ he said. ‘I’m so sorry!’
‘You’d better be!’ said Matt hotly. ‘With the match coming up, you’re gonna make us look bad.’
‘I know, I’m sorry, I was on my way but something came up…’
‘What happened?’ Alan enquired casually.
I sat down to listen to Nick Davis playing a song about me in his back garden. For a moment Dave considered actually saying it, just to see the looks on their faces, but decided against it. Instead he said, ‘That . . . that’s personal.’
‘Oh, I get it, man! You got a new girlfriend!’ said Chas, gleefully.
‘I really haven’t,’ said Dave. ‘Honestly, girls are too much effort, I think I’m staying single for a while.’
‘Don’t change the subject, mate!’ said Alan. ‘You know you’ve an obligation to tell us about every girl you get off with.’ He grinned.
‘I told you, I wasn’t with a girl!’ argued Dave.
‘Then what the hell was so important you had to miss football over it?’ Matt asked angrily.
‘Will you stop it with the fucking interrogation already?’ Dave shouted, standing from his seat. ‘I’ve got enough on my mind as it is!’ He stormed from the cafeteria.
He ran to the boys’ lavatory, where he splashed water on his face to cool off and looked at his own reflection for a moment. He didn’t know why he’d blown up like that. They were his friends, he shouldn’t have let himself get so angry.
The door to one of the stalls behind him opened, and Dave saw Nick’s reflection in the mirror. He froze, as did Nick. After a couple of seconds, Dave turned around slowly. Nick looked away.
Dave pulled himself together. ‘Hi,’ he said nonchalantly.
‘Hi . . .’ Nick still wasn’t looking at him. He bit his lip.
Dave was battling with himself. He had wanted to talk to Nick, but now that they were face to face, he had no idea what to say. Should he ask Nick about the song? No, that would be the same as admitting to spying on him. He studied Nick’s face. A blush was creeping up his cheeks, and he was staring resolutely at the floor. He looked lost and uncertain.
‘Erm,’ said Dave in the end, trying to break the awkward silence. ‘Look, Davis . . . I just . . .’ He swallowed, hard, and ran his fingers through his hair. ‘Look, about last week—’
‘It never happened,’ said Nick quickly, looking up at him for a second, before lowering his gaze again. ‘The park, everything, it didn’t . . . Craig didn’t . . .’ He paused for a second, as though trying to catch his breath. ‘He never—‘
‘Right.’ Dave interrupted. There was another moment of silence. ‘I . . . I’ll see you around,’ he said, trying to catch Nick’s eye, but he was having a staring contest with the floor again. Dave sighed. ‘Bye,’ he said, and left.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope you liked it. If you have any questions, comments, or critiques, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.