After returning from Egypt, we only had a few weeks of lessons at school before we finished for our study break. Having spent the past six months together, not thinking about the future, it was only now that I realised what my life with Chris would be like. Or more to the point, what my life without Chris would be like.
'So, what universities did you apply to?' Chris asked over a milkshake in McDonald's one Saturday afternoon.
'Well, I hope to get into Edinburgh to do Psychology, but my second choice is Dundee followed by Glasgow. Glasgow is meant to be the best department for Psychology in Scotland, but I don't really like the city. You?'
'Well, my first choice is Cambridge for Architecture...' At that I spluttered on my shake.
'Cambridge? Really?' Fuck. I knew Chris was smart, but I had no idea he was that smart. I had no clue what his grades were last year from his exams, and at school he always seemed to be hovering around average. Maybe it was just his 'disguise', to not stick out.
'What? You don't think I can get in?'
'No, it's not that. But Cambridge! Fuck!'
He gave an embarrassed smile. 'I've already been for an interview.'
'What? When?!' I was shocked. Our nice little unit seemed to be crumbling before my eyes. I'd never really given our future much thought, but I always thought we'd be physically close together, at least within easy reach of each other. Cambridge was... It was another world away.
'Well, there was an open day last spring, and then I went for the interview in December,' he said gently. He could see I was shocked. 'I didn't tell you because... Well, I didn't think anything would come of it. You know, it's Cambridge. Everyone wants to go there. What are the chances I'd get to go there.'
'Mm.' I couldn't think of anything else to say. Cambridge. Fuck. I looked down at my shake and took another long slurp. Then looking up, trying to force a smile, I said, 'I hope you get in. That would be great.' I paused a little. 'Jesus! Cambridge. You'd be set for life!'
What were his other options? Was there any chance we could see each other a bit more regularly than mid-semester break? I was starting to hope he wouldn't get in. I knew it was selfish, but... He meant everything to me. For the past six months my life had revolved around him, and his around mine. Why hadn't I thought about this earlier? Even if I had, there's no way I could've got into Cambridge. Fuck.
He reached his hand over and gently stroked the back of my hand with his thumb. I looked at him and smiled. But it only made me sadder. I'd never find someone else like him. In Cambridge he'd be mixing with the elite, the creme de la creme. He'd forget about me in a week.
'I probably won't get in, you know, but I thought I would try.'
'What are your other options?'
He paused. 'Oxford...' he looked at me, waiting for my reaction, 'and the University of Bath.' Nothing in Scotland. Nothing.
'Wow. Big places.' I forced a smile but I was reminded of that old song, Tears of A Clown - 'But don't let my glad expression, Give you the wrong impression, Cos really I'm sad, Oh I'm sadder than sad.'
I drained the last of my shake, making that loud slurping noise, and then I suggested we leave. We wandered aimlessly for about ten minutes, in silence. We ended up at the park near our houses, and started to walk through it. At the first bench, Chris said, 'Let's sit down. I want a smoke.' We sat on the backs of the bench, our feet on the seat, and Chris took out a cigarette and lit it. It seemed to be happening in slow motion, and I was recording it all in HD. In a few months it would be all I had left.
'Are you ok?' he asked after a minute.
It took a moment, but eventually, I said, 'Yeah. I suppose so. I just...'
'I hadn't thought about what happens after school. I mean, I'd thought about university, obviously, but I hadn't figured where you... we fitted into it all.' I paused. 'And we don't.'
'What do you mean?'
'Well, us. There won't be an 'us'. You'll be down there. I'll be up here. With the best will in the world, it won't last. You'll meet people. I'll be a memory, a distant memory.'
'Oh.' I saw the clouds forming over his head. He hadn't thought about it either. 'Yeah.'
He continued to puff on his cigarette, the way he had done that day he decided to tell his mum he's gay. He flicked it off into the grass and watched it burn itself out. His hand reached across to mine on the bench and covered it, squeezing it gently.
'Maybe...' he started.
'No, no maybe.'
He squeezed my hand tighter and looked at me. I could see the sadness etched on his face. He took a deep sigh, then whispered, 'I love you.' He sighed again.
Oh fuck. I could feel my throat constricting. I knew if we didn't move and change the topic I'd have tears forming in my eyes any minute. I reached across and kissed him gently on the cheek. I didn't care who the fuck saw us.
'Let's go,' I managed to croak.
When we reached the edge of the park we had to make a decision which way we went - west, to Chris's house, or east to mine. We both looked at each other and gave weak smiles. We both walked in opposite directions.
'Hi Greg,' my mum called when I went in. I didn't reply. I went up to my room and lay on my bed. My throat was getting tight again. I realised my breathing was getting deeper, I was sighing, and I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.
My mum knocked on my door. 'Is everything ok, Greg?' she asked. I didn't reply. I heard her turning the handle. 'Oh Greg, what is it?' My lower lip was trembling and I couldn't say anything. My vision was getting blurry as I tried to blink away the tears. I raised myself up and hugged her. After a few more deep sighs I felt my throat loosening and I was finally able to speak. I told her about the conversation Chris and I had had and how I knew it meant we would break up.
'Oh Greg,' she said in smoothing voice, 'I'm sorry.' She ran her hand through my hair. 'It's never easy, but we all go through it. He's your first love, and now your world is crashing down around you. I wish I could make it all go away, but I'm afraid I can't.' She gave me a soft kiss on the cheek. She got up to leave and ran her hand through my hair again. 'Just enjoy the time you've got left.' She closed the door quietly and I was left on my bed, thinking about Chris.
I remembered back to the first time I spoke to him, approaching him in the bike sheds. He looked so handsome and macho, and I remembered the feeling of trepidation as I made my way towards him. I then remembered getting angry when he chewed my pencil in the library, and then seeing him in his own room for the first time. I smiled when I remembered our first kiss, the sparks running through my body as our lips connected that very first time. I remembered my heart racing and the sheer joy I felt.
I then remembered that day when I realised my dad had come home early and we had been discovered. Chris apologising, saying it was his fault, my parents saying they loved me. And then I remembered my knight in shining armour, defending me at the school fete, kissing me in front of everyone. I remembered back to our first time in the gay club, kissing in front of everyone, and the feeling of freedom, and then again walking around Amsterdam, hand in hand. I smiled when I thought back to Egypt, and running back to our tent in the nude, and his dad laughing at our predicament.
It was all playing in my mind like a movie, and I had a big smile on my face. I got up and reached for my phone.
'I couldn't say it earlier, but I love you,' I wrote.
':-) xx' was his reply.
Half an hour later there was another soft knock at the door. I heard the handle turning slowly, and when I looked around, there was Chris. He closed the door gently and dropped his bag on the floor. He walked slowly across to my bed, a warm smile on his face. I lifted myself up and we kissed. Chris climbed onto the bed and I opened my legs to let him lie on top of me. Our kiss was long and deep and full of urgency.
Chris rolled off and lay beside me and we just looked at each other, smiling. 'I'm going to miss you more than you know,' he said.
'I think I know. But let's cross that bridge when we come to it.'
Over the next few weeks we saw each other as much as we could, but that usually only meant at the weekends. We both had lots of revising to do - especially if my genius wanted to get into Cambridge - but we didn't let our time together go to waste.
When the exams were over I felt I had done quite well, although Chris was less sure. Now we just had to wait for the results.
For the month of June we hardly saw each other at all. My parents had booked a two-week holiday to Crete and then a few days after we got back, Chris and his mum were off to southern France. During these four weeks apart it made me realise that life would go on without Chris. I wasn't any less sad about the situation, but it gave me some perspective.
The first week in July saw Chris and I spending every waking moment together, either him staying at my house or me at his. During our time together I tried to find faults with his behaviour, something that would help me get over him when he had gone, but try as I might, I couldn't. He was warm, he was kind, he was funny and smart. Fuck, he was almost perfect. And his smile made me weak at the knees. And how I loved waking up next to him, watching his chest rise and fall, the little noises he made as he started to come to.
The rest of July and the first week of August Chris spent in Egypt with his dad. His regular texts kept me updated on how many times he had smoked shisha, and he also said he'd helped uncover something important in the soil, although I didn't quite understand what it was or what it did.
Then our results came. The morning they were delivered I woke up extra early, just to catch the postman as soon as it came through the door. Finally, at 11am, the brown enveloped landed on the mat. Shit. My heart was pounding.
Biology - A
English - A
Spanish - A
History - B
Maths - B
Chemistry - C (that was no surprise)
The relief washed over me like a wave. I had more than enough to get into Edinburgh, and it was just a formality of them sending the confirmation letter. I was over the moon. I rang my mum at work and told her the results, and she cheered down the phone. My dad said, 'Oh that's excellent son! Congratulations! We'll need to go out and celebrate.' Oh I was so relieved!
But what about Chris? I'd have to wait until evening when he got home from visiting his gran. This was torture!
When my dad got home he said he'd made reservations for the Carse Hotel, so I should smarten myself up before we left. The Carse Hotel was a really fancy place, and it was one of those places where there were no prices on the menu. If you had to ask, you couldn't afford it. Over the main course I felt my pocket vibrate. It was Chris. I asked my parents if it was ok if I checked the message.
Art - A
English - A
Geography - A
Maths - A
Physics - A
Technical Design - A
My mouth dropped.
'What is it, Greg?' my mum asked.
'He got six As!! Jesus!! He's a genius!!'
'Wow,' my dad said, 'that's great! What's he doing going out with a nob like you?!' he laughed.
So our fate was sealed. Chris would most definitely be going to Cambridge. But I'd had time to get used to the idea and I was now genuinely happy for him.
'Ur a fckn gnius!' I wrote back.
'I know! :-P xx'
I asked my parents if they could drop me off at Chris's house on the way home. I wanted to congratulate him in person.
'Well, look at you, all dressed up,' his mum said when she answered the door.
'Hi Mrs Adler,' I smiled. 'We went out for dinner to celebrate. Is Chris in?'
'Yes, he's upstairs, somewhere over the moon if you can drag him down.'
I ran upstairs and burst into his room without knocking. Before he had time to react I pulled him into a big kiss. 'Congratulations!' I said.
He had a huge grin on his face. 'The same to you.'
'Yeah, but I didn't get six As!!'
'Yeah, strange that you were helping me with Maths, but you got a B and I got an A!' he stuck his tongue out.
'I'd just say it means you had a very good tutor.'
I stayed the night and the sex was electric. Our last few times together had been great, but this was raw and wild. Thank God his mum was out! I woke up the next morning to find his cock hard and buried in my arse.
'I thought you'd never wake up,' he said, as he kissed my shoulder. And so began another intense session.
The next few weeks went by in a blur, and soon it was September and I was getting ready to go to Edinburgh. Through a contact at the bank my dad had sorted out a flat in the city. I'd be sharing with a girl who had gone to my school but who was a few years older than me. I vaguely remembered her, and was assured she was friendly and hard working, but also liked fun.
Finally the date arrived. It was a week before the semester started, but my parents had thought it would be a good idea to go early to get settled in. The day before I had spent with Chris at his house. We just hung out together, watching TV on the couch, going for a walk, and having lunch. When it finally came time to say goodbye I had a huge lump in my throat.
'Wait,' Chris said, when I was getting ready to put on my jacket. 'Come upstairs for a second.' We went upstairs to his bedroom and he lifted up his shirt. 'Lift up yours.'
He reached for his left nipple ring and pulled it apart slightly so the ball dropped into his palm. He threaded the ring through and told me to do the same. Once my ring was out, he started to push his ring through the hole. Replacing the bead he kissed me. 'Now you'll never forget me.'
'Moron. As if I'd forget you.' I threaded my own ring through his nipple and gave him a kiss. 'I love you so much, Chris Adler.' My throat was getting tight again. Shit. 'Hold yourself together,' I told myself. I pulled him closer to me and gave him a long, passionate kiss. Fuck. It was coming. I hugged him as tight as I could and I felt him hug me back.
'I love you,' he whispered softly in my ear. And that was it. One tear trickled down my cheek. I pulled back and looked into his eyes. He wiped the tear from my cheek, then whispered, 'And I always will.'
My chest was now heaving as another tear, then another, fell down my cheeks. I wiped them away and kissed him on the cheek. 'Bye,' I whispered back. I wanted to say more but physically couldn't. I kissed him gently on the lips and turned and left.
Walking home I tried to blink the tears away, but it was no good. When I got home I ran upstairs and flopped on my bed and hugged my pillow close to me. Fuck, did it have to be so hard? I was going to miss him so much.
The next day, my parents drove me through to Edinburgh to my new flat. Thank God for Sat-Nav otherwise we never would've found it! Laura was looking out the window and saw us arriving, and was waiting at the door to greet us.
'Hi, I'm Laura, you must be Greg!'
She helped us unpack my stuff, which took several trips back to the car, but finally I was ensconced in my own room. Laura made us all some tea, and she did a good job of reassuring both me and my parents that everything would be fine, and that Edinburgh was a good city to live in. After an hour my parents said it was time to go. My mum was choked up, but did a good job of keeping the tears under control, and then they were gone.
That evening Laura took me out to a pub to meet some of her friends and I felt so young. They were all 21 or 22, and I was this 18-year-old just starting out. They were all really great people and I knew that my time in Edinburgh wouldn't be so bad.
Halfway through the evening I got a text from Chris, asking how it was going. I smiled when I saw his face appear on the screen and texted back saying it was great and my new flatmate was really cool.
'Girlfriend?' Laura asked.
'Er... something like that.'
'Well... he's going to Cambridge, so ... I guess not any more.'
'Oh that's a shame. You miss him?'
'Don't worry, you'll find someone here in no time.'
'I'm not sure I want to just yet.'
'I understand. I was the same when I started. My boyfriend went to the States to study - he got a sports scholarship. It was hard at first, but you get over it. Promise.'
Over the next week I began to find my way around the city, and then the week after that my courses started. The first week was Fresher's Week, so there were lots of activities designed to get us to integrate. The people in my classes were all really nice, and I made a few friends on the first day. One or two I suspected of being gay, and although they were good looking, I wasn't ready to think about anyone just yet. I had my picture of Chris beside my bed and I texted him every night.
Two weeks later Chris started at Cambridge. He seemed to be enjoying it, although he said that he realised how little he knew compared to some of the others. I told him not to worry, that's what university was for, to get you all to the same end result.
His courses started and, like me, he made friends easily. He didn't mention it, but I imagined he was enjoying the freedom of not being attached to me. Studying architecture, I imagined there would be quite a few gay people on the course, and I supposed he was getting to know them quite well. It made a little sad to think that he had moved on, but I reconciled myself to the fact that we were finished, and that I should probably start to do the same.
I texted him every night, but he didn't always reply, and after a week or so I realised I should probably just let it go. He had moved on, so should I.
One Friday night Laura asked me to take her to a gay club.
'What?! You want to go to a gay club?'
'Well, I've never been to one,' she said, 'and besides, I think you could so with some fun. You might meet someone. It's about time you at least started to look.'
'Maybe you're right.'
Since I had no idea where the gay clubs were, Laura chose the place. It reminded me a little of Garlands, although everyone there was closer to my age and there were no drag queens about. The music was the same though. Laura and I danced together the whole night. It was fun, and it was nice to be out and about, seeing other gay people. Once or twice she pointed out some good looking guys and told me to go for it, but I resisted, saying perhaps next time.
While standing at the bar waiting for our drinks, a guy approached me. He was a little taller than me and really good looking. He had on dark blue jeans, a pair of cowboy boots, a dark blue v-neck sweater, under which there was a crisp white shirt. Yummy!
'Here alone?' he asked. God, he had a really deep voice, very attractive.
'Sort of. With a friend. A girl.'
'Fancy doing a few lines back at my place?' Oh.
'Come on, it could be fun. You might like it.'
'Maybe some other time,' I replied. Oh fuck, was it always going to be like this?
I went back and told Laura. 'Yeah, there's a lot of that, I guess.'
We continued to dance together, and at about 2am we headed home, slightly drunk, and very happy.
I decided I'd text Chris one last time. If he didn't reply, I wouldn't bother him again. 'Just got home from gay club. Guy offered a few lines of coke for a fun night at his place. Hope ur havin more luck.' Should I put a kiss or not? I decided against it, and pressed send.
No reply. Then again, it was 2am, he was probably in bed. Maybe not his own. By Saturday afternoon there was still no reply, so I made up my mind to try to put him out of my mind. His picture was beside my bed, and I was dithering whether to put it in my drawer. I decided I'd leave it out just another week. I'd do this gradually. No texts, but I could still have his picture. And his nipple ring of course. I brought my finger up to my chest and rotated it through my t-shirt. I smiled thinking back on the day when we swapped them. I'd been so sad, but now I could look back with fondness. He had been my first boyfriend, my first lover. I still missed him, but every day it got a little less. A little.
'I'm making some coffee, you want some?' Laura shouted through from the kitchen.
'Yeah, that'd be great.' A few minutes later there was a knock at the door. 'Come in. I'm decent.'
'I transferred.' I turned around in shock. It was Chris.
'I transferred. I missed you too much.'