I got too many friends, too many people that I'll never meet, that I'll never be there for.
It was September, and Nick found himself standing in his underwear in the middle of his bedroom, on the morning of his first day at Sapswell College, without a single clue as to what to wear. In the end he settled on his favourite Placebo t-shirt and black skinny jeans, and a white and grey checkered shirt over with the sleeves rolled up. Then he scrutinised his appearance in the mirror on the inside of his wardrobe door.
‘Zoë?’ he called.
‘Yeah?’ He heard footsteps down the hall and then Zoë was standing in the doorway to his room. She was finishing up braiding her long, red hair and spoke around the elastic between her teeth. ‘What is it? Ready to go?’
‘Do I look like a hipster?’
Zoë tied the elastic into her hair and then looked him up and down, frowning. ‘Turn,’ she commanded. He did. ‘Turn again.’
‘Zoë!’ Nick glared at his sister.
She laughed. ‘Sorry, it’s just funny to see you turn. No, you don’t look like a hipster! You have neither douchebag moustache nor black-rimmed specs you don’t actually need. You look fine, little brother. Now, are you ready to go?’
‘Yeah, give me a minute.’ Nick opened the drawer in his nightstand and pulled out the bracelet Dave had given him for Christmas. Clasping it on, he took one final look in the mirror, messed up his hair as much as he possibly could, and grabbed his bag before heading out of the room and down the stairs. As a final touch, he put on Dave’s Diesel jacket and a pair of black Converse and declared himself ready to meet the brave new world awaiting him at college.
* * *
Sapswell College was a state run sixth form that served most of the surrounding towns, villages and hamlets. Nick would have a bit of a commute, but it wouldn’t be too bad, with buses every fifteen minutes. Today, Zoë didn’t start work at the library until eleven, though, so she had time to give him a lift for his first day.
The college itself was a fairly modern red-brick thing consisting of three buildings and a large courtyard between. In the centre of the courtyard was a grassy area with a tall oak tree in the middle. Zoë dropped Nick off outside the gate, told him to look after himself, and then drove off again.
Nick drew a deep breath and wished, not for the first time that morning, that Dave was there with him. They would have taken the bus together, sitting in the back and talking excitedly about what it would be like, and then they would have entered the college hand in hand, looking like some fabulous power couple, all heads turning after them.
This was an entirely unrealistic thought, Nick knew, but he couldn’t quite help thinking it all the same. He sighed, shouldering his bag, and, head held as high as he dared, walked through the blue metal gates.
The first thing that struck him was how big everyone here was. Nick had never been tall, and was of slight build, but it had been a while since he’d felt like the smallest person in school. Here, even the most petite among the girls seemed to be wearing heels and thus towered over him, while the guys were tall and muscular, some of them quite grown up, and Nick felt properly tiny.
He recognised some of them, people he had gone to school with. People who had been in his year or the year above. He didn’t feel like he could speak to any of them. After all, he hadn’t exactly had a multitude of friends.
Then one of them waved at him, and for a moment Nick couldn’t quite place the ginger boy who was walking towards him, but when the boy had nearly reached him, he was hit by sudden recognition.
‘Chas?’ Nick said uncertainly.
‘How you doing, Nick?’ Chas Arden smiled. He wore no baseball cap, and his trousers actually fit and were held up by a belt instead of dangling off his hips and showing off his underwear. There wasn’t a hint of tacky gold chains anywhere, and he’d grown out his hair to a respectable length over the summer. He wore a green hoodie over an orange t-shirt with some no doubt very fashionable motif. He looked good.
‘Wow, you clean up well.’ Nick returned the smile. ‘What happened to Chas the Chav?’
Chas scratched the back of his head and looked down at his feet, still smiling. ‘I dunno. Didn’t really feel like me anymore. I figured, college, fresh start, innit?’ He looked up at Nick again and grinned. ‘Good chance to just be, you know?’
Nick nodded. ‘Yeah.’
‘Oi! Nick! Chas!’ Running footsteps approached, and then a pair of long, tanned arms had flung themselves around Nick’s neck from behind.
Matt Taylor pressed a very wet kiss to Nick’s cheek and grinned at them both. ‘Good summer?’
Nick shrugged. ‘All right. You?’
‘Yeah, well, you know . . . Lots of attractive people in Ibiza.’ Matt raised both eyebrows suggestively and then laughed, flipping his long, dark hair.
‘Well, that explains the tan, if nothing else,’ Nick remarked with a grin.
‘Doesn’t it just? Hey, Chas, you seen Alan yet?’
‘No, not yet. Why?’
‘No reason.’ Matt examined his fingernails nonchalantly. ‘No Dave, Nick?’
‘Oh, you didn’t hear?’ Nick stuck his hands in his pockets and kicked at the asphalt. ‘He’s going to the Dorcrest Independent College for Posh Twats or somesuch.’
‘Oh, ouch! Sorry, mate.’
‘Yeah. His dad’s a dick.’ Nick shrugged. ‘Doesn’t matter. Not like we would have had any lessons together anyway, he’s doing almost all sciences.’
Matt afforded him a sympathetic half smile. ‘Still sucks. Speaking of, I’ve been counting on you doing Music, Nick. Tell me you’re doing Music?’
Nick grinned. ‘Of course I’m doing Music, silly!’
‘Awesome! High five!’ Matt raised his hand happily, and Nick obliged him. ‘What about you, Chas? What are you most looking forward to?’
Chas shrugged. ‘I dunno. Media Studies, maybe? Or Computing.’
‘Wow, this place really has a lot to choose from,’ Nick remarked.
Matt clapped a hand onto both of their backs and grinned, surveying the courtyard. ‘You know what, guys? I think this is going to be a really good year!’
* * *
When Dave had taken off his Upper Windfield Grammar School uniform at the end of the previous academic year, he had thought he would never have to wear anything like it again. Of course, that had been before his parents had enrolled him at Dorcrest Independent College without even telling him. After a great deal of loud discussion, Dave had agreed to go, for no other reason than that Dorcrest had a splendid science curriculum and if he was going to study medicine, it would be a really good move.
The Dorcrest uniform consisted of black trousers, white shirt, navy and scarlet tie and a navy blazer with scarlet piping. Dave felt like a right twat, studying his appearance in the mirror. His mother had bought him a new school bag of some unpronounceable brand as well, in black Italian leather, and a new pair of shoes. A year ago, the certainty that he would look rich, elegant and respectable would have given him a sense of superiority, but now all he could think of was that Nick and Alan and Chas and Matt would all be attending Sapswell in casual clothes, having lunch together and looking out for one another, and it made him inexplicably sad and a little bit angry.
His father honked from the driveway, and Dave sighed, shouldering his fancy bag and trotting off down the stairs.
Dorcrest was a good twenty minutes away by car, and even a bit longer by bus. It would take some getting used to. Windfield Green was tiny, and Dave had never needed to travel far for anything. He would adjust, though. He always did.
His father barely spoke to him in the car, but when they pulled off the motorway George Thompson cleared his throat and said, ‘This is a respectable school. Don’t you go talking about your deviancy.’
Dave couldn’t help but laugh. ‘If you’re asking if I intended to go round introducing myself with, “Pleased to meet you, I’m Dave and, oh, by the way, I’m in a monogamous homosexual relationship,” you needn’t worry.’
Dave’s father acknowledged this response with a grunt.
‘But,’ Dave continued, feeling suddenly brave, ‘if someone asks me, or if some girl comes onto me, I’m not gonna lie or anything.’ He glanced sideways at his father. It wasn’t like the two of them had ever been much for conversation, but ever since Dave’s coming out, his father had barely acknowledged his existence, let alone spoken more than a couple of words to him at once. What little communication went between them these days was generally mediated by Dave’s mother, or took the form of passive aggressive huffing and slamming of doors. But now, Dave said, ‘How are you so uptight about this? Didn’t you go to Eton? Don’t the prefects bugger you senseless there?’
He thought maybe his father would slam the brakes and throw him out of the car, but instead he cleared his throat again and said, very quietly, ‘I would appreciate it if you refrained from ever making such aspersions upon my character again. I don’t expect you to like me, but you will respect me, boy.’
‘Yes, sir,’ said Dave, and turned his eyes back on the road.
George Thompson’s was not the only black Bentley that pulled up outside the gates of Dorcrest Independent College that morning. The large, grey building had been built as a manor house some two-hundred years previously, but had been converted into a sixth form college some time in the seventies. About half the pupils were boarders, while the other half commuted from the surrounding area. Dave had flat out refused to board, and his parents had reluctantly agreed to let him stay at home, provided he always put his studies first.
Dave got out of the car and his father told him, ‘Well, good luck, son,’ before driving off. Dave walked through the gates.
He saw no one he recognised (not that he had expected to), but his old self was pleased to find heads turning in his direction as he walked. Dave had never been oblivious to the fact that people found him attractive, and had frequently used it to his advantage, but lately when people stared, it was because he was Dave Thompson, the star football player and model pupil who turned queer, not because he was attractive. Not that Nick ever failed to let him know that he was.
He felt a pang of remorse deep in his chest, thinking about Nick. This wasn’t where he wanted to be.
‘Excuse me, didn’t we meet at the open day?’
Dave stopped in his tracks and turned towards the girl who had spoken to him. She had long black hair and dark brown eyes behind fashionable glasses, and smiled brightly, if a bit uncertainly, at him. She looked utterly unfamiliar.
‘I doubt it. I wasn’t at the open day,’ said Dave, but returned her smile.
‘Just me clutching at straws, then,’ she said, looking a little embarrassed. ‘Never fun being in a new place and not knowing anyone . . .’
‘Yeah, I know. Me too.’
‘Well, that’s a start.’ She stretched out her hand. ‘Mandira Kaur.’
Dave took her hand and shook it. ‘Dave Thompson. Nice to meet you.’
She fell into step next to him and they made their way towards the entrance of the building. ‘What A-levels are you taking?’ she asked.
‘Psychology, Maths, Chemistry, and Biology,’ Dave replied. ‘You?’
‘Oh, wow, I’m in Chemistry and Biology as well!’ She smiled. ‘Also, History and Law. I don’t really know what I want to do, but at least this way I have some options, you know? My parents want me to be a doctor or a lawyer or something, of course. All I know is I want to live in London. Don’t care what I do as long as I can get out of the Midlands.’
‘Are you boarding?’ Dave asked her.
‘No. I’m from Dorcrest, so I live really close by. You?’
Dave shook his head. ‘I live in Windfield Green. It’s a shit town, but I have friends there.’ He shrugged.
She nodded. ‘Think I’ve passed through there . . . Cute little stone church, next to the park with the little tower?’
‘That’s the one.’ Dave smiled.
‘I don’t think it seemed so shit. Well, no more shit than any of the other towns in the region.’
‘If you’re from Dorcrest, how come you don’t know anyone?’ Dave asked her.
Mandira shrugged. ‘Most of the kids I went to school with can’t afford to go here. There may be a couple of upperclassmen who’d recognise me, but . . . Not exactly friends or anything. My parents are pretty much bankrupting themselves to send me here, but they want me to have a good education. My older brother went here, too. I mean, my dad’s a lawyer, so it’s not like they’ll be destitute or anything.’
‘God, mine too,’ said Dave, rolling his eyes. ‘Aren’t lawyers awful?’
She grinned at him. ‘You seem nice. I hope we’ll get to do some lab work together.’
He returned her grin. ‘Yeah, that’d be nice. Hey, did you hear the one about the lawyer and the mortician?’
* * *
Nick was lying stretched out on his bed when his mobile phone buzzed in his pocket.
Are you home yet? Can I come over?
He smiled and typed back:
I’m home. Come whenever you like.
He didn’t have to wait more than ten minutes before the doorbell rang downstairs. He heard Zoë open the door, and a few seconds later, Nick could hear footsteps coming up the stairs. Then his door burst open and Dave strode inside, grinning and sitting down at the edge of Nick’s bed.
Dave looked him up and down and cocked an eyebrow. ‘Wow, did you go to college dressed like that? You look hot!’ Dave himself was wearing a plain blue t-shirt, blue jeans and a grey hoodie. Now he leaned down and kissed Nick on the lips, and Nick carded his fingers into Dave’s blonde hair, which was slightly damp. He must have hurried over. ‘How was Sapswell?’ Dave asked softly.
‘Pretty good,’ said Nick. ‘Matt will be taking Music with me. I ran into Alan briefly, but he was pretty quiet and sullen as usual. I think he misses you. Oh, and Chas! You should have seen him, he’s completely changed his style! He was in normal clothes, and he looked pretty good too.’
‘He can’t have looked anything like as good as you,’ Dave commented with a sly smile. ‘You look totally rock ’n roll. Everyone must have noticed how gorgeous you are.’
Nick felt himself blush. ‘Don’t be silly,’ he muttered. ‘I look normal . . . What about you? How was Dorcrest?’
Dave shrugged. ‘All right, I guess. Everyone was really posh. I think I made a friend, though. A girl called Mandira who’s in Chem and Bio with me.’
Nick cocked an eyebrow. ‘Should I be jealous?’
‘Yeah, I’m totally planning on cheating on you with the first girl I meet.’ Dave rolled his eyes. ‘She seems nice and all, but she’s not my type. You’re my type.’ He kissed Nick again, and Nick pulled him down on top of him, pushing his tongue inside Dave’s hot mouth and rolling his hips against him. Dave let out a small sound.
‘I was thinking about you all day,’ Nick murmured.
‘Me too,’ Dave replied breathlessly. ‘Kept wondering what you were up to, and how you were doing.’
‘Yeah.’ Nick snuck his hand down along Dave’s torso and up underneath his t-shirt. ‘Noticed this nice little hidey-hole in a stationary cupboard next to one of the music rooms. Just kept thinking that, if you were there, I’d drag you in there during a break and suck you off.’
Dave’s breath hitched in his throat. ‘You’re cruel, you know that?’
Nick grinned. ‘I know. But you love me anyway.’
‘Yeah,’ said Dave, moving his lips to the hollow of Nick’s throat and licking a trail up over his Adam’s apple to his chin. ‘I do.’
‘Good,’ Nick breathed. ‘It would be a terrible shame if you didn’t. And just for that, I’ll suck you off now if you want.’ Then he captured his lips again, and for a little while, all was right with the world.
Thanks for reading! As with book 1, I'm aiming for updating every other day or so, so please check back regularly! As ever, I welcome feedback of any kind, so if you have any questions, comments, or critiques, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.