Twelve Months
by Adam Northgate

 

Chapter Two: February

Three weeks later.

I burst through the door and run up the stairs and into my room and shut the door. I sit on the edge of my bed, survey the chaos that I have made my own, and begin to cry.

It is the first time since finding out that my dad had been killed in a road accident that I have been able to let my emotions out. Most of the people have gone now from downstairs. What had started out as a sombre occasion did, eventually, lighten up into a bit of a family and friends get-together, as these things inevitably do.

I undo the black tie that is threatening to cut off the circulation to my head. Slowly, I undo the buttons of my white shirt and shrug it off, throwing it and the hideous tie onto the ever-growing pile of clothes already on the floor.

My emotions are all over the place. I need to get out of these clothes. The clothes I’ve just worn to my dad’s funeral. But all I can do is sit. Shirtless and snivelling. I wipe my snotty nose on my cuff, and realise I’m not actually wearing a shirt. A snail-trail of snot clumps the fine, dark hairs on my forearm.

There’s a tentative knock on my door. Thinking it will be my mum, wondering where I’ve gotten to, I mumble an acknowledgement. The door opens and I stare at my shoes, sparkling from the over-zealous polishing my uncle gave them yesterday. I hear a barely audible cough.

“Adam? Sorry.”

I look up, a bit taken aback not to be hearing my mum’s voice. Instead of her standing there, there is a boy. A boy awkwardly poking his tousled head round my door.

“Oh,” is about all that I manage.

“Simon,” the tousled head says back, quietly.

“Simon?” I ask, incredulous.

Who is this lad, standing in my room? Watching my half-naked snivelling?

“I’m Patrick’s son,” says the head, running a nervous hand through his unruly, pale ginger hair. “He used to work with, um…” he trails off.

It is as if he sensed what I was thinking. Or maybe my questioning glare gives it away.

“My dad,” I manage to blurt out, before completely dissolving into great, heaving sobs.

“Crap. I didn’t mean to upset you,” he says. He seems genuinely worried.

“It’s not your fault,” I reply, grudgingly. “This is the first time I’ve cried… since it happened,” I manage to say, between racking sobs.

Simon looks on nervously from behind the half open door.

“Are you just going to stand there?” I ask, a bit too fiercely.

“Sorry.”

“Stop saying that!”

“What?” he asks.

“Sorry! It makes no difference. Just come in and shut the door.”

I am, by now, just about in control of my emotions. Enough to be able to string a sentence together. Simon comes further in through the door and closes it behind him. Like I was, he is dressed for a funeral, so I suppose his parents must have brought him. I don’t remember seeing him though, before this peculiar introduction.

“Look, I don’t mean to be rude but what do you want? This isn’t panning out to be the best day of my life. We haven’t met before, have we?”

“No, we haven’t. I can go if you want?”

He runs his hand through his hair again and looks around for somewhere to sit down. Of course, this being a teenage boy’s bedroom, every available surface – other than the bed – is covered with junk and crap. Sensing this may be a scheme cooked up by my mum to see if I am OK, I sigh deeply.

“No, it’s fine. You can stay. I’m guessing my mum sent you up here,” I say sullenly. “To see if I’m OK?”

“Actually, my mum sent me up here. She’s downstairs, talking with your mum. She thought it might be a good idea if I said ‘hi’ and stuff.”

Simon spoke quietly, almost whispering the words. Half-afraid that I was going to jump down his throat again, I expect.

He finishes off by saying, “We’re the same age.”

“OK. Right.”

He looks younger than me though. Must be the paler skin, but that goes with the ginger hair I suppose. Suddenly remembering my manners:

“Do you want to sit down? You’re freaking me out hovering about.”

“Sure.”

He seems relieved. With that, he comes and plonks himself right next to me on the bed. I mean, right next to me! Our hips and knees, touching. Like me, he is wearing dark grey trousers. His school trousers, as mine are on a ‘normal’ day.

What the hell is going on? This lad that I had met barely three minutes ago is suddenly sitting, more or less, on my lap. Cool as a cucumber. Well, he seems to be anyway.

I turn my head to have a look at him again and, as he is so close I am kind of inspecting his eardrum. He pulls away, startled.

Now it’s my turn to apologise. “Sorry.”

“Sorry,” he repeats.

“Ugh. Shut up!” I say, and my sullen, harsh voice dissolves into a laugh.

Thankfully, he laughs too.

His face which, up until now, is a picture of concern and worry, transforms into an open and bright vista. He has the most perfect, white teeth that I have ever seen, and tiny freckles that cross the bridge of his nose and peter out on the tops of his cheeks. He throws his head back, and then flops it back down again, in obvious relief that the tension that I had created has now gone.

I can’t help but notice the distinct bulge of his Adam’s apple in his pale, smooth neck. Maybe he is my age then. Mind you, no stubble on that smooth skin of his.

Simon turns his boyish, pale face toward mine and we sit there, looking at each other.

“So, Simon.” Considering I am generally a well-mannered, if atypical, teenager, I try to be polite in my tone this time.

“Adam. Look. I don’t really know what to say to you. My parents thought you might need a…” his soft voice trails off.

Unfortunately, the unexpected laughter, just a few seconds earlier triggers another hormonal, emotional bomb to explode somewhere deep inside me. I start to silently cry. Tears are streaming down my softly fuzzy cheeks, dripping onto my bare but hairless chest. I am just sitting there, letting it happen… with this, this Simon, sitting uncomfortably close to me.

Normally I would not be seen dead crying. Not even in front of my mum. Somehow it seems OK with Simon though. How can that be? I am dimly aware that he is talking again.

“A friend!” he says, in a voice more forceful than any he has used before. “They thought that you might need a friend. To talk to… and stuff.”

“Uucouggh.” I make a hideous noise, attempting to acknowledge his comment, but it coincides with a huge sniff, to prevent whatever is running out of my nose dripping down my top lip.

“It’s OK,” he says reassuringly, as he puts his arm round my shoulders.

He does it so deftly, I barely notice, but I can feel the very slightest pressure from the grip of his hand. It feels nice. Safe. Warm. I let myself go. I let my feelings pour out into the half-embrace from this stranger. This warm and calm teenager, who has suddenly appeared to make me his friend.

My whole body is shaking with the grief and emotional turmoil within me that has been buried a long way under the surface these past three weeks. The tears continue to roll down my cheeks, my chin and ultimately my chest.

Simon says nothing. He picks up my hand in his free hand. I lift my chin to look at him, kind of surprised at what he has done. Holding hands!? With another lad? What the…?

But all he does is look at me.

I look down at my hand in his. He squeezes it. His hands are white and soft, completely hairless, with perfect, unchewed nails. I look back up at him, and he just looks at me again. I take a massive breath in, about to protest at the intimacy that has occurred. Sixteen year old lads don’t hold hands in my book.

“Adam, don’t…”

“What?” I ask, on the defensive.

“Don’t say anything. You don’t need to,” Simon says, quietly. Still squeezing my hand.

His other hand, resting on my bare, right shoulder, I realise is now also squeezing me, pulling me toward him so that my other shoulder nestles in his armpit. I decide not to say anything. I am relaxing into his more certain embrace now. I just haven’t got the energy to do anything else.

We sit there for what seems like hours. In reality five minutes ticks pass. He holds me. I cry. I sniff. I breathe. Eventually, I am calmer. Simon has not released me from his grip, he is still holding me. I shiver. It’s beginning to get dark outside. I shiver again and feel my nipples harden against the cold air and the dampness from the tears that have rolled down my front.

Simon squeezes me harder and then lets go of my hand and shoulder, rubbing his hand over my hunched back as he does so. I shiver again, and not because I am cold this time.

‘Why did he do that?’ I think to myself.

“Sorry.” He looks away, a guilty gesture.

“What for this time?” I ask quietly.

“Erm… Shit!” he mumbles and inspects the wallpaper.

“Simon. Simon?”

He finally turns back to face me, and if he is surprised to find my face just an inch away from his, he doesn’t show it. That beautiful face. The only bright thing in my day today. I look him straight in the eyes and move my head even closer. I can feel his breath escaping from his nose and mouth.

‘He even smells like me,’ I suddenly think. ‘He must use the same shower gel as I do.’

I am unaware that I paused in my movement toward him until his lips touch mine. The merest touch. Almost as if he is asking a question, with that exploratory, feather-light touch. In reply, I edge another half inch forward, pressing my lips to his, in a more definite kiss.

Once again, I feel his hand on my bare, broad back. Simon caresses my spine, running his palm slowly up and down the bony outcrops between my shoulders. I raise my own arm and my fingers find the back of his shirt collar. I walk them up into the dense, thick hair that falls on the back of his neck. Simon responds by pressing his lips harder against my own. Our stubble-less chins and faces glide easily over each other. I feel my own lips parting, apparently of their own free will.

There is a clatter as our teeth crack against each other and we pull away, just far enough to grin and smirk, a tiny giggle erupts between us. Like girls. Then our tongues are darting over each other, writhing and jostling. Our mouths melding into one, sloppy, wet and messy whole.

Gently grabbing a fistful of Simon’s hair, I pull his face onto mine, exploring deep within his mouth with my tongue, lowering his whole head toward me.

“Fuck, Adam.” He quickly pulls away from me. Wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

I sit there, breathing deeply.

“What?”

“Nothing,” he says, too quickly. Unconvincing.

He looks down toward my crotch, where my grey trousers have ridden up into a pyramid of hideous, black, polyester fabric. The zip barely conceals my aroused dick.

“Look, I’d better be going. My mum will be wondering what’s happened to me.”

He gets up off the bed and turns away from me, leaving me staring at his back. He thrusts his hands in his pockets and then turns back to me.

“Simon?” I ask. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing, it’s cool. Look, be in touch, yeah?”

“Yeah, OK,” I reply, sitting on the edge of the bed, my pyramid crumbling.

He walks gingerly across the minefield to the door and turns toward me again. Now I can see what the matter is. Simon has his own grey pyramid erected in the front of his school trousers.

“Adam?”

“Yes?” Now I hang on his every word.

“You know you have a snot trail on your arm, right?”

He flashes me that beautiful smile again for a split second and then is gone. I can hear him padding down the stairs and the front door closing not long after.

 

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