An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA
by Riley Jericho
Harry, Hedwig and Homosexuality
He liked Ryan Alexis. So? There was nothing wrong about that, Luke decided, as he watched his friend drift around on the water in front of him.
A little smaller than himself, Ryan's short-cropped, black hair complemented a dark complexion. Either he spent a lot of time in the sun, or he was just lucky. In time, Luke discovered it was a bit of both. The pair hung out a LOT, and it was handy that Ry’s place was an easy bike ride from his.
Three years ago, almost to the week, Luke mused, as he sat on the edge of the pool. Three years since he’d come to this country. Three years since he’d first walked into their class at the Academy and been introduced as ‘the boy from London’, by the Principal.
During those first weeks, however, if you’d told Luke that the dark haired kid drifting in the water in front of him, who’d seemed so obnoxious at the time, would become his closest friend, he would have been REALLY surprised. While everyone else was flocking around his celebrity status, Ryan had been distant, unwilling to even say hello.
Popular guy or not, Ryan Alexis had seemed - in the Queen’s English - a bit of prat!
Dangling his legs in the water, he watched Ryan fondly and shook his head, wondering how it had gone so fast.
It was a roasting summer's day. A school day - hot and long, like most others that mid August. Being only the first week of the fall semester, at least the homework schedule hadn’t yet kicked into high gear. The final bell had come and the school emptied rapidly. Thirty minutes later, after dumping his bags in the house and quickly changing, he’d biked over to Ryan’s for a swim.
* * *
Extract from Luke's Notes:
I headed over to the Alexis place, for a dip, as fast as possible after school that day. I changed quickly into the swim shorts I'd brought and, joined by Ry, threw myself into the cool water, in relief. Man, it was good! His parents were in, but we stayed out of their way. To be honest, I didn't particularly like them, but Ry wasn't like them AT all.
After messing around in the water for a bit, I pulled myself out and lay back on the edge of the pool, with my feet dangling over the side. I loved their pool. It was big – not Olympic big – but big enough to make a splash! It would have been a brilliant setting for a pool party, for a birthday or something, with room for dozens. However, for other reasons, he never had friends around like that. To be honest, with parents like his, who would? Usually it was just the two of us. That worked okay.
The sun was just right. My life was just right. It was just…perfect!
It’d been a long day at school but, to be honest, I was glad to be back. Ry went away on holiday with his family at the end of the summer break and the last week and a half had been painfully slow. Now he was back, the new semester was under way, and we just picked up where we left off.
Sitting up to rest on my elbows, I smiled to myself as he drifted around in front of me on his back. He was lying on one of those air filled waterbeds that make pools more fun, kicking his legs gently in the water for steerage. The sun glinted off the rivers of water that occasionally washed across his torso. He was unbelievably brown, having really caught the sun that summer. I guess we both had!
“It’s the tennis tryouts tomorrow,” murmured Ryan, his eyes closed against the afternoon sun. “I assume you’re going for the team again this year?” Neither of us expected NOT to be chosen for the squad, but you still needed to attend the tryouts.
“Actually I was thinking of doing football.”
Amusement crossed his face, as he continued to drift lazily in the sunshine. We both knew it was unlikely. Football and I did NOT get on. If he’d wanted to, he could probably have made the team – he just couldn’t be bothered.
“I hear they’re looking to start a cheerleader team. You’d be good at that.”
“Piss off.” I grinned amiably, kicking water that sprayed across him. Ours was an ‘all boys’ school and the likelihood of there being cheerleaders was about as far fetched as coach going on his knees and begging me to try for quarterback! Ryan ignored the soaking. In this part of the world and at this time of year, I’d long since got over the fact that you didn’t jump up screaming, if cold water landed on you. Beads of water formed on his skin, and I followed them as they hurried to make their way back to where they’d come from.
Observing him critically, I followed the tanned skin down to the black hipster swim trunks he was sporting again that day; the ones he’d picked up earlier in the summer. He often had them on. Dark colors, even black, looked good on him.
Not me - I liked wild, garish patterns!
I passed over the trunks and then caught up with his tanned skin, as it reappeared on muscular thighs. Legs where dark hairs now grew; no longer kid’s legs. With a pool just outside the back door, he swam like a fish and made good use of those muscles.
In retrospect, what happened next was a critical turning point for me. Maybe you would call it a watershed moment; as much a watershed as it was for those beads of water, slipping off his flat abdomen, deciding to go down either one side or the other. A turning point because, after following the tanned skin to his knees, my gaze turned and I walked it back up to the trunks to study the sleek dark material stretched tightly over a distinct bulge in his groin.
What I was thinking was rather a surprise. It went WAY past anything normal I’d ever entertained with him. With any guy really. Even though I knew quite well what he looked like under there, I found myself trying to conjure it up in my mind, secretly willing the trunks to evaporate!
It was hypnotic and the more I thought about it, the more my dick stirred; and that continued, uncontrolled, until he turned his head towards me and smiled.
Uncomfortable, I quickly shifted down into the water.
Diving, I swam along the bottom to the far wall before surfacing, to push gently back through the water towards him. Now, of course, that smile probably meant nothing. How could he have ANY idea what thoughts I was having as I’d watched him?
It pulled me back to reality with a sharp jerk. Shit, what was I thinking? I shook water from my eyes whilst trying to shake the unwelcome images from my head.
That was when it started – that day, at his house, in the pool. Since those moments in the cool waters, I begun to notice him in ways that’d never been there before.
It was a bit disturbing.
* * *
It’d been round about the same time, that the Summers family officially got online at home. Just after the summer of their third year in the States, Luke's parents had got a desktop computer, for him and Simon to share. For the sake of 'homework research', it came with a modem. He'd begun to ‘explore’, and it wasn't too long after that he’d first approached his mum and dad about his desire to be circumcised.
The computer had also brought him Facebook.
Everyone was getting into Facebook and Luke was no different, though how he’d ended up with Damon Jamieson as a Facebook friend, he wasn’t entirely sure. It was, most likely, during a time when he was adding more people than he was deleting. The guy probably came from some long list of ‘people you might possibly know’, sent to him from someone else’s 'friends' list. He was tending to say yes to lots of them, thinking he could always get rid of them later, if he wanted. Anyway, it was quite cool for others to see you had a lot of friends on your Facebook!
Cool or not, Luke had eventually posted a disclaimer on his Wall, to tell everyone that he was pruning his lists, offering apologies if he inadvertently knocked off anyone that mattered. Okay, maybe the wording could have been better! However, Damon had come back to him, with some quite amusing reply. On the strength of it, Luke had left him on and from then they started dropping the odd note to each other and commenting more frequently on each other’s postings.
Damon was just an ordinary guy – about the same age as himself - who lived somewhere up near New York. And that was it. That was all Luke really knew about him to begin with. Yet, through Facebook, an easy friendship sprang up.
Eventually they’d chatted and Luke found him surprisingly easy to talk to. He even found himself perusing Damon’s friend and group lists. You could tell a LOT about someone, if you looked to see who their friends were!
As he explored, he got the distinct impression (from the various subjects and comments, and the groups Damon subscribed to) that the New Yorker was possibly – no, probably - gay. Nothing was ever said between them that made Luke feel uncomfortable, and it was still only a light acquaintance. They chatted, maybe once every couple of weeks, if they happened to be simultaneously logged in, but nothing more.
* * *
It’d been on a cold, wet and completely boring Saturday afternoon, around four months later, just after Thanksgiving, that Simon wandered into his room and sat on the bed, looking out of sorts. From where he was reading, comfortably curled into a soft chair, Luke glanced inquiringly over the top of his book. Nothing was immediately forthcoming, so he ignored his brother.
A small noise got his attention, and he looked up. Simon seemed to be teetering on the edge of something, but the moment passed and he became distracted by a noise from outside and wandered out. Still, it was obvious something was on his mind. Luke shrugged and went back to his book.
Simon’d left both interconnecting doors open and, from where he was sitting in his chair, Luke could see him standing by his own bedroom window, staring out into the drizzle. He disappeared from view and Luke went back to reading. Some minutes later, engrossed in a good chapter, he glanced up again, to see Simon standing quite close, watching him.
"Okay, what's up?" Luke put down his book, fully expecting to hear how life...and particularly parents...were against him in some new and evil way.
Sure, Luke thought to himself, with mild irritation. He opened up the Harry Potter book once more, only to find, looking up a few sentences on, Simon was still there!
"Do you mind? I'm trying to read!"
"Oh - sorry."
"Anyway, I thought you were going out?"
"I am...was...it's raining." Simon moved to peer out of window and Luke tried to ignore him, going back to his re-read of 'The Prisoner of Azkaban'.
Over the next minutes, Simon wandered aimlessly, picking things up and fiddling with them for no apparent reason. Luke watched him out of the corner of his eye, amused. After a while, he left, went back through into their shared bathroom and began messing with the lights. Luke could see him staring into the mirror, as if what he was seeking would somehow be staring back.
For Luke, reading the Potter book had taken him back to life in England - and Harry was as British as they came; not that any of the Summers family had lived in castles or flew broomsticks. They didn’t - at least that he knew of - and he'd never met anyone else could. Still, England was special. It’d always been the place that made him - him. At least he'd always thought it had.
Maybe not anymore? Did he miss it?
Yes. No. Maybe? Actually, the truth was, he hardly thought about it anymore.
Maybe it was only the idea of England that he missed.
It would be Christmas soon and he kind of missed Christmas in England, although perhaps it was still the idea of Christmas that he missed. And the Pantomime. ‘It's behind you!’, they would all squeal, seated up in ‘the gods’. He missed that.
And snow. That was the big thing for ANY kid - would it snow on Christmas day? They’d all used to hope so but, of course, near London, it hardly ever did. Snow was even less likely, near Atlanta!
Christmas. Dumbledore and Privet Drive; Harry and Hedwig in the snow at Hogwarts...
He drifted back from his musings as Simon, yet again, wandered into his room. Unexpectedly, his brother went to the door that led out to the landing, closing it softly.
What the heck did he want? Guessing he wouldn't say until he was ready, Luke just waited.
“Luke...I...can I ask you something…?"
“I wish you would!” Luke replied, dryly.
Luke shook his head, in exasperation. “Forget it – just tell me what you want!”
"Oh, come on. ENOUGH already!"
Simon looked uncomfortable, before finally blurting it out. "What do you think about being gay?" There was an awkward pause. “I was just wondering…you know…”
THAT got Luke’s attention. BIG TIME!
A ripple of dread disrupted his wellbeing, as the unwanted question hung there menacingly. ’What do you think about being gay…?’ He looked up sharply, but Simon wouldn’t look him in the eye and was now fiddling with one of his nails, waiting.
In fact he thought LOTS about that topic these days, though not for one minute did he really believe that he, himself was gay. Of course, there were plenty of people who were – even some quite famous ones - but it wouldn't ever happen to him. It couldn’t. That would be WAY too weird and he could think of no scenario where having that happen would EVER be good.
Not that there was anything particularly wrong with gay people he reminded himself. Other than they were just...well...homosexuals. So why did it feel wrong to be a homosexual? Wasn’t that even illegal in some places? Maybe. But gay? No, gay was probably OK. It just sounded...well, a bit better. More acceptable.
Of course there were plenty of other words, not quite so kind, and he’d grown up calling people 'Poofs' for all kinds of reasons. None of it really meant the kid was actually gay. It was just a word. What’s wrong with a word?
Still, it was better to be gay than be a homosexual, ‘cos being a homosexual put you on a par with the queers and all the other poofs.
Get a GRIP! He tried to clear his mind and focus. While he accepted that he’d been looking at guys quite a bit, mostly he was just curious. It was a phase. Still, he HAD been thinking about it.
Even so, he definitely couldn’t be - WASN’T - gay.
Suddenly, it hit him like a ton of bricks. He grew cold and then hot. That was it, wasn’t it? It HAD to be! Simon really believed he WAS gay, and this was his way of broaching it. Could he be read as easily as the book that rested on his knee? Vainly, he tried not to appear flustered.
"Oh...I don't know...nobody ever asked me that before." Already several versions of adamant denial were forming in the back of his mind. "Why do you want to know?"
Luke thought fast. What had people been saying? Had they noticed something too and been talking behind his back, added a few assumptions and started pointing fingers at him? Is THAT what Simon had come to warn him about? He looked up fearfully, expecting to see the accusation and already getting angry about it, but Simon was still unable to look him in the eye.
"Oh...nothing. Just wondering," Simon shrugged.
Just wondering WHAT? The conversation stalled and Simon went to stare out of the window across the back lawn.
"So...have you heard of someone who’s gay?" Luke voiced his fear, already dreading the answer. He needed to find out what it was that Simon suspected. “Someone at school?”
"At school? I guess so...maybe."
Shit. It was ominous.
"Listen, why don't you just tell me what's bugging you?"
Simon shrugged and came and sat on the edge of the bed. His face was a mask.
Luke began to panic. “Come on – what’s wrong?” He waited, but Simon still didn’t seem prepared to come out and say it and he swallowed hard. “It’s not what …" he started. "I mean whatever they’re…”
"Well...I...it's..." Simon interrupted. The mask collapsed and his distress became apparent. Tormented, he tried to gather himself and hold it together. Finally he just sobbed. "I don't know if I want to be gay. I...I'm really scared!"
For the briefest of moments, all the wrong things went rushing through Luke’s head.
OH MY GOD! He’s a homosexual!
“Please don’t hate me. I’m sorry.” Simon gulped out his words. “Just don’t hate me, I couldn’t bear it…”
Luke wondered if his brother had heard those silent condemnations and felt sick; sick with himself, that he’d been so quick to treat him like some leper.
His own brother.
SHIT…this was NOT what he’d expected. At best he’d expected to hear some juicy gossip about some kids at school, caught with their pants down. At worst, about himself. Not this!
Quickly, he shifted from his chair and came to sit next to him on the bed, putting his arm around Simon, as he shook. Some corrupt place in his soul told Luke that his brother had just confessed to being a queer, and here he was, cuddling him. He told the voice to piss off and held Simon, securely, as he tried to get his words out.
After a few moments, Simon got hold of himself and calmed down. Frozen, he stared at the floor.
”You think you might be?" Luke ventured carefully, trying to get him to talk.
Simon shrugged. "Yep!" he said forlornly. It wasn't much, but it was a start.
"Errr…why?" It seemed such a difficult thing to be sure of, Luke felt. From his own research, he knew people thought lots of different things about what it meant to be gay – and why it was that people ended up that way.
Simon was quiet for a few moments, and then sighed. "I like guys." He kept his eyes off anything but the floor.
And that was it. All those psycho-babble musings were swept away. Simon liked guys; and wasn’t that what homosexuality came down to in the end? Luke faced the word head on this time.
He considered again what he thought about gay people. There were some openly gay kids at school. Not many - a few. They seemed nice enough, though he couldn't say he knew them that well. In fact, he only knew about it because someone had pointed one of them out. Some kids were a bit nasty to them but, on reflection, those were the kind who were nasty to anyone, if they got a chance.
He wasn’t at all homophobic!
Well, at least he’d thought about it a lot and had read stuff about gay teens on the web.
‘Not a choice,’ many decided.
‘Genetic makeup’, they claimed.
Maybe I am gay, he’d wondered at the time? He certainly had little interest in girls, but he’d dismissed it. For God’s sake, he was only fifteen! Anyway, stuff like that only ever happened to other people – ones who usually had lots of other weird issues as well. Nope, being gay wasn’t anything that really affected him.
Until his own brother had walked into his room, a few minutes ago.
But then there was Ryan, he reminded himself. Ryan Alexis. That had been a disturbing dilemma for some time and one that he was determined to keep to himself. He turned back to Simon.
"You wanna tell me about it?"
And Simon did. In the privacy of his room that day, several weeks before Christmas, he unloaded. Luke did nothing more than listen for what felt like an age, though it must have only been a few minutes. He listened as, piece by piece, Simon spilled it all out, needing someone to talk to; someone to tell, in safety. Finally he stopped talking and looked relieved. Luke knew that the burden had passed to him and Simon expected him to put it right. Make sense of it, like he always did.
He sighed. What was he supposed to think anymore? The Prisoner of Azkaban, still lying on the bed beside them, could give no answers. Unlike Harry or Hermione, there was no spell or incantation that he could offer. No cloak of invisibility that could make it disappear. He pulled Simon closer in another side-by-side hug.
He repeated what he’d read. "Si, I think we often have no choice about these things." He wondered if that was true. It sounded right. "Maybe the important thing is to be happy with who you are. And if you prefer to be with other guys at the moment...” he shrugged, “…then, why not?"
Simon brightened considerably. "You're cool with it then?"
"Very cool!" Luke assured him, putting aside his questions for now, and making his choice, repeating the hug.
Simon smiled and hugged him back. "Thanks!"
Luke got up, to stretch his legs and to ease the tension. He picked up his book and slid redundant Harry back on the shelf. “Come on, I was going to make a hot chocolate. Want one?”
Simon brightened. “Are there any packets with the marshmallows left?”
“I think so – let’s go look.”
The pair went downstairs, to find their dad throwing logs onto a newly lit fire. THAT was more like it, Luke grinned as he watched it crackle energetically. This was why they had fires in houses like theirs!
In the corner, the well-decorated tree glistened, filling the room with the rich scent of Christmas fir. A fire and a warm room that made it home and drew them together. Perfect for days like today.
“We’re making hot chocolate, Dad. Do you want one?”
“Mmmm – that sounds nice." Geoff Summers looked up as he threw the last of the logs into the growing flames. "Are there any of the marshmallow ones left? Oh – and while you’re heading that way, can you bring in some more logs?”
After putting the kettle on, the boys went through the connecting door to the double garage. Along one wall, a huge pile of drying wood was hoarded, and Luke held out his arms for Simon to begin stacking.
"So, is there a particular someone that this is about?"
“You know what I mean,” Luke teased.
Simon looked coy. "Well, I really like Toby," he finally admitted.
“Toby? Toby Skerrit?” The realization that being gay was more than just an ‘idea’, and actually involved real people that Luke knew, took some getting used to. Simon chewed his lip uncomfortably.
"Oh, he's nice," Luke agreed quickly, actually not at all surprised, now he came to think about it.
He was a nice kid. He and Simon had hit it off within a few months of them arriving in the country. They spent lots of time together, even though Toby had a tendency to be a bit prickly and, when the two of them first started hanging out, Si would frequently get TOTALLY fed up with Toby's ability to go off the deep end! More recently, he seemed to have mellowed and came by their house often. He could see how Simon could like him.
"Really? Do you think so?" Simon looked up hopefully. “You think he’s nice?”
Toby. Toby Skerrit. Cute, if a little fiery at times! Used to wear round-rimmed glasses, just like Harry, Luke smirked to himself, though he had noticed more recently that they’d gone. Contacts probably.
"Absolutely - I mean it's not like you don't know anything about him. Does he ...errr you know..." Christ, thought Luke, this was new ground! "Does he, I mean, is he like you?"
Simon just sighed. "Is he gay you mean? I think so. Maybe. I keep wondering.” He hefted a couple of equal sized chunks of tree, weighing one in each hand. “But is he really? I don't know. Probably not! Damn, how do you know if someone likes you?"
Don't ask me, Luke thought, wondering the same thing. Not a clue.
"Take your time, I guess?“ he hazarded. “And, if you're gay; if that really is how you are, then it probably won't go away.” Briefly, he wondered - as with a number of things he’d said over the last twenty minutes - if that was actually true! “Perhaps there's no way of really knowing, other than by being with someone and seeing if that's what you want?"
Luke looked thoughtful. "I guess you need to be careful though...with who you tell, I mean," he added, a sense of caution reasserting itself. “Even with Toby…until you’re sure.”
"Maybe." Simon nodded as he considered both that and the wood in Luke’s arms. "Enough logs?"
The pile stacked in Luke's arms was getting heavy. "Just one more - that small one, maybe?"
Simon picked it up, but hesitated nervously. "You're not going to tell Mum and Dad, are you?"
Now that was something Luke WAS sure about. "Not a chance! Right now it's just between me and you!" He thought a moment and then qualified. "Actually it's between me, you and Toby!"
They both sniggered. It seemed a good place to stop. Simon flicked off the lights and they returned, with the logs and to make the drinks.
Frothy marshmallow in hand, the family congregated around the blazing fire, and Simon seemed to get back to more of his usual, irrepressibly confident self. Half an hour later, despite the on and off rain, he pulled on a coat.
"I'm going out - I'll see you later."
"Going where?" Luke teased.
"Mind your own business!" Simon flicked the top of Luke’s head with his fingers and smirked. They both knew where he would be. He left Luke sitting with Harry and Hedwig, staring into the roaring flames, still trying to make some sense of it all.
For editing, and beta reading, a huge thanks to Luke, Andy and Nephy. You guys rock!
I hope you're enjoying ET as it begins to take shape - drop a review, if you are. As alwasy, it's great to hear from those reading!