An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA by Riley Jericho


Author's Note

A personal note from the author:

With its real to life characters, ‘An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA’ is an account that’s been patiently waiting – and a heartfelt thanks to all those who’ve continued to 'hang' around for it!

We started to put it on paper several years ago and it was being published on the old eFiction section of GA. Was it any good? Well, I’m British and it’s genetically impossible for our culture to even THINK something we’ve done ourselves might be good, let alone come out and SAY it! J  - but I know a great many were reading it and giving reviews…I know, I know - they were probably just showing pity!

So why did I - we - stop writing?

Not going to dwell on that much here – but suffice it to say, I never quite expected to be personally experiencing the types of hard situations that we were narrating!

Some tough times meant I didn’t write for a year. Anything.  But, after completing ‘In Safe Hands’ (and I recommend you read that at some point as it provides quite a bit of background to ET), I think I’m ready to come back to it and be part of finishing the telling of a tale that was never actually mine, but Luke’s.

I think I have to point out that ET wasn’t without controversy when it was first published. There are some difficult bits – some said even a bit shocking. I don’t apologise for them, but give fair warning.

If the reality of same-sex relationships distressed you, then I guess you wouldn’t be here. Also, despite the arguably contentious title, the story isn’t about circumcision per se; different people see that in different ways, so let’s not argue about it. Rather, ET is about Luke Summers; a very ordinary young man, moving from the UK to the USA; crossing from one culture to another, and discovering more than he expected, both about the world around him and about himself in the process.

I’ve always tried to take the basic flow of the rambling notes I had, to recreate them into a narrative that remains readable but, frequently, the only way to adequately tell it ‘how it was’ has been to put Luke’s scribbles in just as they are.

I hope you’ll keep following  - just add yourself to the story follow list to make it easy - and that you’ll give feedback on each chapter as it gets published, on what I hope will be a regular basis.

Thank you for reading!


1. Chapter One (Story Prologue)

An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA

by Riley Jericho

Prologue

Extract from Luke's notes:

You know, when I began this and started telling you my story, it was a lot harder than you think to know where to begin. Start at the beginning people always tell you. Sure – but actually knowing where that is...well, that's another thing altogether!

But harder still is not just knowing where to start, but why

A wise old lady once told me this: if something bothers you and the darkness threatens and frightens you, then write about it. Write it down in all its horribleness and then burn it in a fire. Watch it go up in smoke and become nothing.

So I know why I'm starting and I hope you'll stay with me to the end. As to where to start - well, I'm going to start here – right in the middle! It's not the beginning...but then again, it is; as much a beginning as anything that affected me and those close to me during that time.

What things? Well for that, you'll have to keep reading.

 I know, I know...I'm already not making any sense at all!

So let's just start at the place where I was just then, lying on a surgical couch wondering - just a little bit - if I really was doing the right thing!

The rest I leave to you...

* *  *

Luke Summers watched it all with increasing fascination, or was it dread; almost forgetting to breathe as, around about him, things kicked into action. The room was filled with the urgency of medicine; sounds of sterile packages being torn open and latex gloves snapping over hands.

It was cool in there.  Above and behind him, he glanced back to see the air-vent which hummed, efficiently intent on spilling cold air right on top of him.  He folded his arms protectively and glared at it. Everyone appreciated air-conditioning, especially on warm days like that one, but he was feeling uncomfortably chilly. In retrospect he was thankful he’d got to hang on to his tee. Everything else bar a pair of dark grey ankle socks was gone.

He frowned at the doctor and his assistant as they bustled around.

I’ll bet he hasn’t had to lie here with no clothes on!

He tried not to let it get to him as he lay back on the surgery couch, waiting as he was ignored and left to shiver on the surgeon’s table. But it wasn't just the cold that touched him; there was anticipation and quite a bit of anxiety now, too!

All the comfortable sofa discussions, and easy, exploratory chats were over. Gone too were the leaflets and the websites, the options and the decisions. Past were the weeks - months, actually - of waiting. Tomorrow had become today and he was out of time. With the two of them donning surgical gowns, it seemed all too immediate and he almost regretted asking his mum to wait outside.

The nurse adjusted the strong medical light, focusing the beam directly onto him. She was pretty, had surprisingly small hands, and was uncomfortably young looking in the eyes of a guy whose dick had been unavoidably put on show and lit up like Nelson's Tower at night!

Not that his shrunken dick looked anything like, and for that he was relieved!

After applying some topical anesthetic around the base of the shaft in preparation for injections, the surgeon flexed his fingers in his surgical gloves, and drew in to take hold of his dick.

He gritted his teeth and shuddered as the man attempted to ease an exploratory the blunt instrument past the constricted tip, under his foreskin and around the sensitive head. He tried not to move, but the probing was quickly moving the dial on the scale from sensitive to lip gnawing!

The surgeon took no notice and seemed to be focused on the task in his hand. As the end of the blunt spatula began to disappear through the tip and he slid it from side to side inside, he murmured, "I’m checking to see if there are any adhesions."  As he continuing to dig around, Luke started to squirm and he bit back a squeak!

Adhesions? He had no idea what that meant and nobody explained as the flat, cold, chrome steel instrument scraped as it penetrated further under his foreskin.

BLOODY HELL!  Now it really hurt!

Frankly, this was the reason he was here – he’d never in his whole life had anything under there. In fact, until recently, he didn’t even know that ‘under there’ even existed! Thankfully, the pretty assistant came to his rescue.

“Dad…” she said, catching his attention.

Dad? He still couldn’t get his head around that!

The doctor looked up. Thankfully he followed her eyes and either finally noticed Luke was squirming, or saw that his fingers were gripping the sides of the bed fiercely enough to tear the sheets!

Gently he withdrew the unwelcome tool. "Oh, I’m so sorry Luke." He offered an apology, and sat back on his stool. “Let's just wait for a little numbing before I do any more of this shall we?"

Numbing sounded good!

Luke nodded, grateful for the reprieve those few minutes offered, but still looked apprehensively at the tray that the girl was preparing.  From sterile wrappings, she extracted an assortment of sharp pointy-looking tools, a syringe and needles. The realization that a woman - of the girl type - was going to be helping during the procedure; watching, maybe even touching his genitals, became secondary. The sharp stuff that was definitely getting all his attention!

To avoid dwelling on any of it, he looked away to explore the rest of his surroundings.

This compact surgical unit had been built into the center of the same complex where the doctor had his office. There were no windows…which made sense. Few would really want to lie out in the open and have the window cleaner stare at their bits! They’d put the back of the couch up a bit, so he could watch.

Damn right! He didn’t want to miss a thing.

From knees to navel, his groin was covered by some kind of green sterile towel with a hole cut in the middle. Poking out of the center rested his apprehensively shriveled wanger. It was rather like watching the repeats of the hospital soap, Casualty, that aired on the BBC channel they got on cable over here - except he was the patient! His whole groin had been painted with some dark, yellowy-orange stuff and the bright light made his penis glow like a fluorescent beacon, bobbing around in a sea of green.

The smell was off-putting and his nose flared at the strongly antiseptic aroma of the surroundings. In many ways, it reminded him of visits to the dentist, but glancing down, the comparison kind of ended right there.

While they waited a few moments more for the topical spray to have some effect, the doctor explained something that Luke was just coming to realize for himself.

"One thing I need to prepare you for, Luke," he said, all businesslike again. "As you've never been able to retract your foreskin, it’s going to take some getting used to.”

“You mean it’ll look different?” 

Wasn’t that the whole point?

“Yes of course, but that’s not what I meant. It’s quite likely – and quite normal - that you’ll find it uncomfortably sensitive around the glans of your penis for some time after this procedure. Eventually, it will settle down, so in the meantime don't worry about it; but don’t be surprised if, for a few weeks, you jump every time something rubs there."

Luke tried not to smirk and betray his secret thoughts. That was a laugh - it was usually HIM that did the rubbing!

He regretted it almost immediately as the niggling worry resurfaced: what if, in the middle of the whole thing, his dick took on an embarrassing mind of it own, and he threw a chub? Did that kind of thing ever happen in situations like this?

Thankfully, not to him that day. With the cold room, the anxiety, and the onlookers, he seemed to be okay.

At least the upside of it was that, not counting his family, it was really only the Doc and his assistant - daughter - who knew he was there.

Of course, something horrific could still happen…like he could be standing in the queue with his friends at McDonalds the following day, and this same pretty young lady (with everyone listening in and laughing), could tap him on the shoulder and ask him how his penis was doing.

That had to be the stuff of nightmares!

No, what he was having done was personal and he wasn’t planning on telling anyone else; at least not yet. He’d been careful to make sure none of his friends knew where he’d come today - not even his friend Ryan. It was better that way.

He looked across, apprehensive once more as the doctor reached into the tray the girl held out for him: the one carrying a syringe bearing that unpleasant looking needle. Holding it vertically he tapped it and expressed a short stream of fluid.

The reprieve was over. Luke wanted him to get on with it, but was NOT looking forward to this next bit AT ALL!

Shortly after that, and after the device had been placed in position and locked, the urologist took up a blade.

"OK, young man.” He studied him expectantly. “It’s the point of no return.” His warm, encouraging smile was in stark contrast to the razor-sharp scalpel he was holding. “Ready?”

Luke grinned at last, and nodded enthusiastically. It had been quite a journey for him to get to the table of a circumcision specialist in Atlanta.  Once he started to cut, there would be no going back. Was he really ready?

Hell, yes!

He’d been ready for months!


2. New Beginnings

An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA

by Riley Jericho

New Beginnings

Luke skipped quickly out of the end of English, the last lesson of that morning and made a beeline for the nearest exit that would get him out of the building and onto the path that would take him to lunch.

He tended not to eat the cafeteria food much, perhaps a sandwich or salad if he ate at all.  Why would he, when his Mum's cooking waited for then at home at the end of the day?  So was he hungry?

Hardly! Frankly, he couldn't have even pecked at a salad that day. Today, butterflies winged around his innards and even lettuce leaf felt like too much!

For the umpteenth time that morning, he checked his watch. His mum would be here soon and, having hardly eaten any breakfast either, he knew he would regret it in an hour or so if he didn't grab at least a bite of something.

"Luke! Wait up!" He turned to see Ryan hurrying after him across the neatly trimmed lawn, cutting the corner of the pathway, to catch him up. The way his friend was motoring, you’d think the school cafeteria was giving away free food.

Dragging his backpack with one hand, Ryan waved the other. "Slow up, can't ya?" 

With a silent groan, Luke accepted the inevitable. So much for his intention to eat fast and slip away quietly! Reluctantly, he slowed his pace and tried not to let the irritation show as he waited for Ryan to catch up.

"What the hell’s gotten into you today?" Ryan scowled at him, slinging his backpack over his shoulder at last.

Luke glowered. "Nothing's up with me. Why would anything be up with me?" He realized he was sounding too defensive and softened his tone. "I just wanna eat - no law against that is there?"

"So why the rush?” Ryan demanded. He looked suddenly suspicious. “Don't tell me you've got a detention? You’ve been acting really weird all morning!"

"Don't be ridiculous, why would I be in detention?" Briskly, Luke waved it off and began walking at a normal pace as they strolled past the old Art block and towards the cafeteria which loomed rapidly - a place he'd always compared the modern school cafeteria to a rather posh version of a motorway service station; predictable and overpriced - as if the school didn’t already get enough money from their tuition fees!

And God forbid if you should forget to clear your plates away! 

The pair joined the still short line, both selecting only a simple sandwich and a can. Everything else on offer looked…well, enough said. They found an empty table, then made room for Simon and two of his ninth grade Freshmen friends, Toby Skerrit and Mason Quince, all who'd joined the line not far behind them.

Luke picked at his ‘meal’ with little of the healthy enthusiasm Simon had for his enormous plate of fries. As he often did, Toby had brought sandwiches from home, but was currently helping Simon with his lunch anyway.

The Summers brothers exchanged a covert glance, before Simon checked his watch. They both knew their mum would be arriving soon.

“I watched the game last night,” announced Mason with his mouth full. “Man U v. Liverpool!”

‘Grinny Boy’ as Luke often referred to Mason Quince, was into soccer big time, despite having only discovered REAL football only four months ago now that UK Soccer League games were available on cable. A nice-hearted kid who smiled at everyone, his older brother, Todd, was a classmate of him and Ryan.

He rolled his eyes, amused to hear Mase talk about ‘Man U’ like some seasoned pro on the terraces. There was enough of that with their dad, with his blind faith that Arsenal were sure to top the Premiership that year! Despite being - as he’d recently discovered through a handy google widget - 4,204 miles from London, his dad still followed the team he'd supported from childhood, religiously!

Simon, however, seemed happy to pick up the topic and the two discussed the game. Ryan, sitting on the end, had that look - the one that said. 'Brits! Strange people. And who cares about soccer anyway?'

After hanging back on the edge of the conversation for a few more minutes, keeping himself from getting bogged down, he covertly peeled back his shirtsleeve one more time to check his watch.

At last, it was time.

To no one in particular, he muttered, "I just gotta go do something - I'll catch you guys later." Simon flicked him a knowing look, before turning back to the others to continue the soccer lesson.

Checking that nobody was following, he hurried to his locker in relief, knowing that Simon had understood and would do his best to keep Ryan and the others occupied for a while yet. Gathering up his gear, he quickly stuffed it all into his backpack, before making his way straight to the reception.

True to her word, his mum was already waiting.

A few minutes later, he was buckling himself into the family minivan as they headed for the exit.

His mum was upbeat and chatty as she drove the two of them, and he was grateful for the distraction. Soon, she settled down to navigating her way down onto the freeway, and he sat back, musing about how he’d got to what he hoped would be the final leg of the journey; a journey that had probably started five years previously and four thousand and two hundred odd miles away in seat 23D.

* * *

Nearly five years since they emigrated. Five years already?

Where had all the time gone?

It had been 2003, and he’d been eleven at the time and getting ready to start into year seven - his first year of senior school back in England. An ordinary kid from an ordinary suburb, the Luke Summers back then lived what he felt was an ordinary, but perfectly acceptable life.

That is, until his Dad had totally RUINED it! At least that was what it had felt like. He vividly remembered the day when they – his mum and dad – sat him and Simon down, and calmly informed them that they were moving.

Moving? Where?

He'd immediately started calculating the probable suburb, wondering how big his room would be, if he’d still be able to walk to school, whether he’d have to take the bus, and more importantly, what time would he have to get up to make it into school.

Then they’d dropped the bombshell. America, they'd said.

He honestly thought they were having him on!

‘It’ll be good for all of us,’ they had both added enthusiastically. ‘A bit last minute, they agreed, but it would be new start; a better life for all of them.’

His dad worked in the overseas finance department of a bank and had been asked to take over some obscure department on the US side. Low and behold, he and their mum had decided to accept.

And that was it. No give and take, or any 'dinner table family discussion' that they both kept saying was really important. The company had already bought the plane tickets that would take him from his comfortable way of life in the south of England, to make a new one in Atlanta, Georgia, USA

He had been totally fucking livid!

A new life? What the hell was wrong with the OLD one – the one where HE HAD A LIFE!!  

NO! Tell them you WON’T DO IT, he had screamed. They can't MAKE you!’

His parents had been firm. ‘It's already decided,’ they said.

‘It’s all about you isn’t it!’ he’d raged impotently. ‘It’s always about you! What about what I want – or Simon? Why do I even bother being in this fucking family?’

He’d got away with swearing at them once because of the circumstances, but when he did it again, his mum came down on him like a tonne of bricks. After that he resorted to an angry silence. They’d complained that he was just being difficult and needed to pull himself together and help them pack.

Difficult? Well tough titties!

None of it had changed the inevitability of seat 23D in the middle section of the Delta flight from Gatwick to Atlanta. He’d never been in a plane before, but was so pissed off, he refused to enjoy even that!

He continued to give them the silent treatment the whole flight, eating the crappy nuts and ignoring the even crappier movies. The four of them had finally touched down at Atlanta Hartsfield airport around nine hours later, with the sum total of eight cases and four pieces of carry-on. And it was still only the middle of the afternoon!

Even then, it had taken bloody hours to get through customs.

None of his mood was improved by the slow inching of the line waiting to get to the desk. There were visas, questions about work permits and the one ray of hope when the official had looked through his spanking brand new passport and stared at him intently. 

He'd glowered at him defiantly, tempted to say something unpleasant.

Go on – throw me out – do us both a favor!

But, instead of putting him on a plane back to where he rightly belonged, the official had brought his stamp down in final judgment.

Sitting for nine hours and then waiting in endless lines, had been exhausting. By the time they’d taken the packed underground train and been herded up the escalator into the main terminal, even he was glad to see the man with the sign with their name on it.

Recovering their eight cases from the conveyor belts, they were driven on the wrong side of the road from the airport through an unfamiliar city, straight to the house, which, on their behalf, the bank had already arranged as temporary accommodation.

They rented there for several months, before eventually buying a home of their own. The rest of their belongings were either being held in long-term storage in the UK, or were to be shipped across by container. A lot of it he never ever saw again.

But stuff was just stuff. What had really pissed him off was being made to leave all his friends, his school, and the familiarity of his world, to be dropped there just north of Atlanta.

Maybe 'dropped' didn’t cover it. DUMPED was better - dumped in a crap place where he had no friends and no fucking life!

Now okay, eventually even he’d had to admit that the house they finally bought wasn't bad. It wasn’t that their family had lived in some pokey three-bedroom semi in the UK. Far from it - he'd always thought their old house was pretty good, but this…?

Compared to ‘normal’ houses in the UK, this was something else!

They'd sold their UK home easily enough and, with the comparative housing market values and a good exchange rate, his Dad had been ecstatic. They did the rounds with realtors, looking at properties and, by that time, even he showed some enthusiasm when it came to deciding which one they would buy.

Typically, his dad had been all for ‘investing’ in something that was still only on the market because nobody else wanted it. ‘Do-er Up-ers’, he euphemistically called them. That way, he told their mum, they’d reap the benefit of taking the chunk of change that would be left and investing it for the future.

Thankfully, she wasn’t interested in any if them, and had short-listed three that nearly made his dad choke!

But she got her way and they'd ended up in a BIG place; detached, with an enormous backyard and a lawn that actually needed a ride-on mower to cut it all! They even had a huge airy basement, with more square footage on that one level than could be found in most ordinary houses in England.

Their house was a relatively new build, and, unlike many of the other wooden, flaky paint houses they'd toured, it was brick built. Everything seemed more spacious and more open plan than in any of the places he remembered back in England. There was even a huge, open wood fireplace, though after they experienced the sweltering heat of a Georgia summer for the first time, he had no idea what the hell anyone would need with one!

Gone too were the days of queuing up for the loo!

There was a big family bathroom but, on top of that, his parent’s room also had its own en-suite and he and Simon even shared a bathroom just for them, set between them and accessible from either bedroom.

Did everyone here live like this, he wondered? He didn’t really know, but grudgingly appreciated the house anyway. Okay, if he had to live there for a bit, all in all, it was bloody good!

At first, he had prayed that his dad's job would be temporary; a year maybe? A year would be okay, he decided...with a trip down to Disney to top it off. After a year, he could still go back to his friends and his old life. Everyone would think it pretty cool and welcome him back like a well-travelled hero, letting him drop instantly into everything as it had always been.

But the year passed; and another; and then more, until it was becoming entirely possible that they might be staying for good.

But, like all kids, he was more resilient than he realized. He and Simon had settled into their new life without really expecting to. More importantly for him, it was in a sub-division close to where several of his newly made school friends lived. They settled into that new school, too. A fee-paying, private school: The Academy.

An 'all boys' institution, The Academy had been chosen for them based on a number of recommendations through his Dad's contacts at the bank.

Schooling was high on his parent’s priority list he knew, and he learned in time that it had been one of the key factors for them (particularly for his mum) in deciding to move the family to the States in the first place. Though he didn’t know it at the time, she'd been quite reluctant to uproot the family, but education pressed all her buttons!

Back in the UK, they had been attending the local comprehensive school in their town. The primary school had been okay, and he was personally quite happy with the senior school, mainly because all his mates were going there.

Not his mum and dad. They were not impressed with it...not AT ALL!

In the transition from primary to senior, they had tried hard to get him somewhere ‘better’, as they called it.  But ‘better’ was outside of their catchment area and, much to his personal relief, had been denied. 

So instead, they pulled a fast one and the family had cut loose and left the country in early June, pulling both of the boys out of school before the end of the school year. At the time, the only upside that he could see was that he missed having to take the stupid SATS!

It gave them the summer to settle in.

His dad was obviously being paid well in this new job, because they had enrolled the two of them at the rather swanky private school. He saw the price tag once and his chin had dropped! 

He and Simon were welcomed into the new school for the start of the sixth and fifth grades respectively, for new term beginning in mid-August – but not before, both he and Simon had taken an entrance exam and then been interviewed prior to being admitted.

The idea that you had to have some kind of 'getting in' test to go to school seemed ridiculous – as if anyone cared enough to want to be there that much!

And then to have to pay for that privilege each day, too?

FREAKING MADNESS!

The test had been surprisingly ‘testing’. It took half the morning, covering various subjects and put to bed his belief that American kids were all Hollywood airheads. He felt he'd done pretty crap and, despite his distaste of being in that country, was disappointed with himself (particularly because he knew Simon had probably aced it without even breaking a sweat).

Expecting the worst, it had been quite a surprise - and unexpectedly a relief - when they still accepted him. However, in the admission papers, some cold hard facts came to the fore.

The first was that school started at 07:30 on the dot!

HOLY SHIT!

He never usually even got out of bed until eight! He could even push it till 08:30 and still make it for nine if he missed the shower and legged it! What bloody idiot decided to start school still 07:30 for fuck’s sake!

At least they were out by 2:30 in the afternoon, which was way better than 4.

Then it had been made clear that students at this school were expected to wear a uniform. Okay, no big deal, he'd been wearing school uniforms all his life. However, they also pointed out that for all students, including him, hair had to be well off the collar.

What kind of CRAP RULE was that he complained bitterly as he was sat down in the chair at the local hair salon!  The dirty blond locks were carefully tended to look unkempt, although he had to abide by his mum's rule that his hair had to be clean. Long, messy and slightly wavy, it had been his trademark look for years. He was Luke Oliver Summers and to his mates in England, Luke Oliver had been 'Lol', or more usually – Lolly. His hair was his look, and to be forced to have it cut down was a bunch of crap just because of a school rule! It was NEVER like that at his old place!

Still irritated by his previous educators, his mum said she wasn’t surprised and told the lady to cut it short and well off the ears!

However, despite early mornings and draconian hair regulations, Luke had to admit that the school wasn't that bad, and he quickly made friends with kids who seemed in awe of the British kid who used to live near London.

On the very first day of the semester (one of many new words that were tossed at him) his mum drove him to the main Middle and High School campus (Simon had started in the Elementary campus, several blocks away) The Principal himself had met them at reception and escorted him to his new class. After being formally introduced, he’d sat down, as self-conscious as hell, with heads twisting all around the room to get a glimpse of him.

Even so, it surprised him how friendly they were. That would never happen back in England! There, if a new kid arrived, it was better to treat them with a lot of suspicion until you found out what they were really like. New kids had to earn the right to join existing friend-groups. It took weeks, even months!

Here, they almost fell over themselves to welcome him and help him out if needed, and his class size dropped from thirty-three to twenty. It was actually surprisingly nice.

Living where they did just north of Atlanta, near Roswell, wasn't bad either. At first, usually his mum or dad drove them to school, or sometimes they caught a lift with someone else as they got to know them. Many of their friends from school lived near by and there was a huge Mall not far away, too.

Gradually it all grew on him.

One day, he realized he quite liked his life here; the people, the house, the friends, the school, the lifestyle, cable TV...even the weather!

* * *

Extract from Luke's Diary:

The WEATHER?

 If you ever want to know about the weather! then you could keep a Brit from the London area talking for hours.

Bottom line? The crap weather in the UK was something I did NOT miss.

Here, it was almost always sunny - about as sunny as it was wet in England, which meant going brown, not rusty! Mind you, sometimes it got TOO hot and sticky for comfort. Then, we were all thankful for air-con that kept the house cool and made it possible to sleep at night.

Water was a lifesaver too – swimming pools, I mean.

Sadly we didn't have a pool ourselves, but there was a communal one in our subdivision, and several of our friends had them in their backyards. It was all a million miles (well, not quite) from foggy London town where, with his passion for sailing, the only one who had ever spent much time on or in the water was Simon.

The truth was, I didn’t plan on feeling settled at all – in fact, quite the opposite. Somehow, it kind of snuck up on me.

The cranky emails back and forth with my friends in London became less frequent, until they just dried up. Life became familiar: the days, the places, the routine, the friends.

I remember during our second Christmas there, Mum reading out a bit of a letter that came with the card from her brother, asking us when we were next coming home.

It struck me then that we WERE home and I never really looked back.

 Okay, the grass wasn't really proper grass – not like in England - and the red fire ants were bloody demons, but other than that, Atlanta had become where we belonged.

* * *

At the Academy, other than having to get in by 07:30 each day for Homeroom attendance to be marked off, what came as a complete shock to Luke, was homework.

Lots of it!

All the FREAKING time! He got landed with two or three assignments a day, and more at weekends and, what's more, they were expected to even DO it!

Good God, it was relentless! In his old school, they were sometimes given homework, but he and his friends always felt that it was up to them whether they bothered with it; call it personal choice. If you didn't get round to it, who cared? Certainly not the teachers.

At the Academy, his expectations were radically realigned!

An official school ‘Learning Contract' existed, though he never remembered being invited to sign anything. It was an agreement between those who taught (the teachers), those who learned (himself), and those who should be minding their own bloody business (his parents!). Outnumbered two to one, he didn't stand a chance.

Holy shit, he was only eleven, but it felt utterly brutal! If you didn't get it done or started lagging behind, there would be detention. If it deteriorated further then parents would be called in and 'measures' taken.  Ya-de-ya-de-ya…whatever

However, after the first few times THAT happened, he was reeling in shock! They actually crapping well meant it, and expected you to 'achieve' at the Academy whether you liked it or not! Yet, by the following year, though he hated to admit it, his friends back in the UK wouldn't have recognised the new, shorthaired, rather sun-tanned, Luke Summers who studied hard and discovered he actually DID have the ability to stay focused and achieve.

He even managed a social life. In fact, he even began to enjoy it!

How fucking ridiculous was that?!


3. In Flagrante Delicto

An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA

by Riley Jericho

In Flagrante Delicto
(translated as the act of getting caught with your pants down!)

It was half way through a typical day at school, coming late on in the year they were al in the eighth grade. During lunch recess on that day, as they waited for that day's Advisory, many of Luke’s class were crowded around Chris Anderson’s desk.

On it, a magazine lay open.

Scott Landon pushed his way to the front and made out he was all over it. “OH FUCK – she can do that to me anytime!”

“So, we know what Scott’s gonna be doing tonight!” Cody Mitchell sniggered and made a ring shape with his thumb and finger, jerking it up and down. Everyone laughed, even Luke, though, as a somewhat naive thirteen year old, he hadn't the slightest clue what Cody was on about.

“Fuck off, Cody.” Scott colored and showed them where to stick it. "Does yer mom know you're such a wanker?"

The pictures were quite an eyeful. A porn mag that Anderson had smuggled into school from God knows where, they had it open at a page where a guy and a girl were squashed into the back of some car. Both were naked and she was straddling him and had hold of his huge, full-on dick.

Standing near enough so that he could see and hear, yet far enough away that nobody would ask his opinion, Luke was astounded. The couple were splashed across a double spread and the series of pictures that documented their encounter showed that, whatever she was doing, he seemed to be really enjoying it!

The finale was a close up. She had her hand wrapped tightly around him, just under his enormous, skinned, bell-shaped end. Her long red fingernails contrasted both the deep purple flesh and the white stuff that she seemed to be squeezing from the tip. The camera caught a string of it, as it joined a puddle of the stuff on his stomach.

It didn’t look like pee – unless the guy had some disease – but what it might be he unfortunately had no idea.

What bugged him was that while he had no clue what it was, picking up on the colorful descriptions being tossed around by Chris, Cody and the others, it seemed almost all of them did! An uncomfortable lump formed in his trousers and, throughout the rest of the afternoon, the lasting vision of that rampantly proud wanger, kept it there.

Now, he wasn’t a complete pinhead. He knew exactly what boners were and, as a 'not yet blooming, just turned thirteen year old', he got stiffys all the time. However, he guessed that the white stuff was going to be yet another thing that he'd grown up not knowing about. Maybe it was something that only cut guys did?

Later that evening, sitting alone on the toilet, he’d carefully experimented.

He was in for one HELL of a BIG surprise as he copied what it looked like the girl had been doing, and rubbed the loose skin up and down his shaft.

Before long, his tentative approach became bolder as he discovered some quite unexpected, but incredibly delicious sensations. Unprepared for where it was leading, it had caught him completely off-guard. Unnerved, he’d stopped, zipped back up and scurried downstairs, convinced his mum would ask why he looked so guilty!

Ten minutes later he was back.

Locking the door to the bathroom and not holding back this time, he’d squeaked as quietly as he could when he’d finally reached his very first climax, and spunked out his own white stuff.

Along with that sticky goo, the deliciously pleasurable world of masturbation erupted into his previously naive experience. He never let on that he'd only just discovered it, but he’d been hooked onto his dick ever since, and now, like most teens, he jerked and jizzed whenever he needed.

Like most days!

* * *

Discovering that dicks were unbelievably useful for something other than taking a pee wasn’t the first thing that had taken him by surprise in the USA.

There was a lot to learn!

It wasn’t just about driving on the wrong side of the road or navigating supermarkets the size of football pitches, there was new stuff almost all the time after they touched down at Hartsfeild airport. Even school was a minefield of the unexpected - like his brand new football kit and the weird undies they all had to wear with a protective cup inside them to stop his winky getting walloped! Jocks, they called them. And pants weren't undies anymore either. Pants were trousers!

Go figure!

It was all a lot to get his head around, but what he'd been even less prepared for was the world of the circumcised willy! In this respect, he discovered he was unlike everyone else of his age that he encountered.

Like everyone!

In fact, until then, he had never even heard of the term, yet three days at The Academy was all that it had taken to totally upend his world.

Carting his brand new kit and following the rest of them - his class and the three others like it in their year – he made it to the lockers to change for sport and his first exposure to American Football. He'd felt awkward and fumbled around getting the newly acquired cup into place, eyes darting to his classmates for clues.

Despite that, he'd actually enjoyed his first outing onto the field and had had a good time, though had no idea what he was doing other than running into people and knocking them over!

Hell – he had a bunch of friends in his old school that just LOVED doing that!

Full of excitable energy, they’d stripped off afterwards and, feeling one of the crowd, he'd followed them into the large, but rather cramped, shower block. It was then, through the shampoo, steam and lively banter of the dozens that surrounded him, that he noticed his very first clipped cock.

Taken aback, he immediately thought the kid was somehow malformed! The kid’s willy was short and rather fat, and where the tip was meant to be, the poor guy had a distinct mass; a weird lump of some kind.

His first thought was that perhaps it was a growth of some kind, like a tumour. Or then again, maybe the kid had been born that way? He'd cringed, thinking that it had to be impossible to pee through, and looked away quickly, embarrassed and knowing that the kid must feel bad enough without having people stare at him!

But, as the mass of both black and white eleven-year-old skin bumped and jostled for space under the showerheads, his eyes strayed further and boggled as it became apparent that they’d ALL been born that way!

Bloody hell! What was wrong with them all?

Anyway – and forgive the pun – cutting a long story short, whatever it was about (and it took some time to finally figure it all out), it seemed that everyone, at least in his year it seemed, had, as they often described it, been skinned.

They seemed to have all kinds of names for it, like cut, clipped, skinned or unhooded, though the official term he eventually found out, was 'circumcised'. Further, while they all seemed to know a heck of a lot about it - when it had been done to them, why, and even how - he was completely clueless!

Once the first weeks of courteous respect had passed and his school friends got to know him a bit more, the gloves slipped off a bit and he found himself being ribbed for the rather long, dangly piece of skin that hung off him.

Usually it wasn't mean, just a bit of dissing by guys who just could not believe he actually had a foreskin. Most admitted they had never even seen such a thing before and were just as totally bemused by the idea that basically nobody – like NOBODY – at least no kids he’d ever known – had been circumcised in his last school where, down there, absolutely everyone looked like...well, like him actually.

Rather than be pissed, he was just amused by them. With half their willys cut off when they were babies, they had no idea how totally ridiculous their stubby little wieners, with neat little acorns perched on the top, actually looked! But there was no telling them, and they were convinced he was somehow missing out.

‘Why not?’ was the question they asked when he said he wasn’t skinned. ‘Don’t you have insurance?’

Insurance? What the hell had THAT got to do with it?

They just couldn't get that England was normal, and a place where kids had normal dicks. Dicks that ended with the skin bunched tightly together at the end where you peed from. Yet, the way they discussed him, he got the impression that they felt he was the one that had the problem and that he should probably get it fixed because, here, showing that ‘head’ as they called it, was the norm. Being unhooded was the only way of getting to it, and it was him that was the odd one out! End of!

It opened up lots to think about though, up until then, he’d had never done much of that when it came to his dick.

It wasn’t just circumcision, either. In fact nothing much at all to do with sex had entered his experience, and they certainly never talked about stuff like that at home. And when it came to school, before the move he'd happily undressed and showered with his classmates, without ever giving any of it a second thought.

Now he realized he never even knew what a foreskin was, let alone be friends with kids who apparently didn't have one! And, for reasons he was yet to discover, he still didn't know that the peculiar mushroom shape he was noticing, also existed inside all the skin that hung off his own two inches.

So he happily ignored them, and while 'Anteater’ was hardly his favorite term, a redeeming feature seemed to be that he was quite a bit longer than any of them. Life had gone on, and he and they with it as they'd all got used to each other.

It was the same when it came to course work.

In many subjects, like science and math, he was on a par (or even slightly advanced) with the standard being taught. However, there were other areas in which he was a long way behind. History, for example, was mostly of the American type, and Geography mostly related to the States too. In those, he had a lot of catching up to do – but he did so, and gradually began to fit into the country and culture.

Another thing he got into quite soon after they arrived was tennis.

The school was keen to convince parents that boys should be guided into taking up at least one extracurricular activity, whether that be sport focused, or something else like the drama society or the chess club. There were plenty of options.

He’d played a bit of tennis at his last school and, after having grown up not too many miles from Wimbledon, and having watched a few Pete Sampras finals on the telly, he felt he had enough of a genetic connection to show them a thing or too.

Perhaps he wasn’t as good as he thought, but he practiced hard, and by the seventh grade he even made the team, earning himself the prize of a top of the line racquet from a proud mum and dad!

Tennis had other benefits too.

It wasn't uncommon for the full Middle and High School squads to travel to regional tournaments, competing against other schools in the state. Those were great times of getting out and about, though what was more unusual for someone born on a small island, was that it took so freaking long to get there!

On one occasion, during the spring semester of the eighth grade, they’d been away four days and three nights.

Leaving straight after school one Thursday afternoon, two full coaches carried them all and their equipment, plus teachers, coaches and various hangers-on. They’d driven for three or four hours before stopping over at a pre-booked motel. The next day, they’d spent half of it (school day as it still was), visiting some sites of dubious historical interest, being made to write pages of copious notes on what they saw.

Their ‘school day’ complete, they got back on the bus, to arrive at their destination in the late afternoon. After being welcomed and fed, they’d been bedded down for the night close by at yet another motel that had been booked out by the school.

The matches had been good and, as was traditional, the host school (a private academy, similar to their own) had arranged a celebration on the Saturday evening. A special dinner, which was nice, followed by a disco party, which was even better!

The culminating matches in the knockout competition for every age group, were played on the Sunday morning, though neither he, nor Ryan, made it very far, so they’d cheered from the side-lines. After an early and simple lunch, it was back on the coach for the long, tedious drive home, with few breaks. He’d slept for most of it because they’d stayed up late the night before, and he was totally knackered.

It had been a great trip, but it had still been three nights of sharing accommodation, with four to a room and him sharing a double bed!

At the same time, having been happily and regularly spunking for nearly a year, enforced celibacy was a pain in the ass! Each day, he’d awoken uncomfortably stiff, but could do nothing about it, other than sneak into the bathroom to shower and dress, hoping his morning wood wouldn’t be spotted. Even in the motel bathrooms, he was completely paranoid that he might be heard and dared not deal with it.

They'd eventually made it back to Atlanta and he was relieved to be home for dinner. It was later that evening that Simon had walked in on him, right when he was stroking himself to a long awaited, and desperately needed, climax.

* * *

Extract from Luke's Diary:

Getting caught your with trousers down can put a real kink in your day. Even if it’s by your little brother.

Actually, ESPECIALLY if it’s by your little brother!

Si had caught on quite quickly - not hard when he bloody well walked in on me when I was right in the middle of squirting!

After a few months of giving it plenty of ‘practice’, I’d got jerking off to a fine art. On that fateful day – the day when Simon had walked in on me - I was just in the process of bringing to an end four days of holding it in.

Crap! Embarrassing or what!

* * *

After they got back on the coach, his dad had picked up both him and Ryan from the school parking lot after they, along with dozens of other had disembarked and got their cases from the belly of the bus. Tired but happy, they’d driven home in silence dropping Ryan off on the way.

Once home, he’d eaten dinner and had revived enough to become impatient as he’d tried to answer all their many questions – and there were plenty as they wanted to know how the trip had gone.

Eventually, feigning tiredness, he'd gone upstairs to unpack and probably have a bath. Knowing everyone was downstairs watching TV, he'd locked the bedroom door anyway and unpacked his bag before stretching out on his bed, taking a few moments to shed some extra clothing.

When he jerked, he preferred to take everything off; at least from the waist down. Underwear just got in the way.

Comfortably naked, it didn’t take long as, just over a minute later, it was with some relief that that familiar, intense moment arrived. As he rode it through, spurting and grunting, something rather LESS welcome arrived, as Simon walked silently in - appearing through his side of the interconnecting doors - the one that led through the bathroom they both shared.

The one he’d forgotten to lock!

Out of the corner of his eye, Luke eventually realized he wasn’t alone, and he caught the surprised bemusement in his brother face as he found him energetically making out with his stiff pole.

"CRAP…SIMON!" Shouting frantically, he dived off the bed to scoop up his clothes from where he dumped them. Covering his dick ineffectually with his hands, he burned scarlet. "GET OUT – I’M BLOODY GETTING CHANGED!"

But Simon wasn't having any of it.

"That's not getting changed. You were playing with your willy!” He pointed to the freshly sprayed jizz that Luke was trying to wipe off with his undies. “And what's that stuff?"

The cat was truly out of the bag, and Luke was at a complete loss to do anything other than to continue swearing wildly at Simon, who left in a bit of a huff!

Once he was dressed, he sat on the edge of his bed and tried to calm down and figure out if he should just kill himself now, or wait till morning!

Fucking Hell! Why the hell didn't he lock the door?

Despite the humiliation of being caught with his trousers down, he knew it really wasn’t Simon’s fault and he should go apologize or something. At the very least he had to do some damage control. It could have been worse he knew; it could have been his mother who’d walked in, and that didn’t even bear thinking about!

Tentatively, he passed through the en-suite and tapped lightly on the door Simon had slammed behind himself on the way through. Slipping inside, he waited, feeling awkward. Simon sat at his desk and remained studiously glued to a book, refusing even to acknowledge his presence.

"Look...I'm sorry,” Luke began. “I was just...well, I just didn't expect you to walk in like that."

"You should BLOODY WELL lock the door then!" Simon yelled, still refusing to turn and face him from where he was sitting at his desk, which, unlike Luke’s own, was always neat and tidy.

Luke cringed at the volume. “Okay...okay...you’re right! Keep your voice down, can’t you?” The last thing he need was their mum or dad coming and asking questions!  “I should have done that...and I said I was sorry!" He knew Simon like no other – and guessed his brother wouldn’t stay mad for long. It just wasn't in his nature.

“Sorry for what?” Simon was relentless, and remained fixated on the pages of his textbook.

Oh for God’s sake!

“I’m sorry for swearing at you...okay?”

Simon put his pen down and relented. Swinging around, he glowered and then pursed his lips curiously. “Apology accepted. Now, what were you doing?”

“Nothing – I was just getting changed!”

The attempt to pass it off fell on deaf ears. “You were playing with your willy, you dirty git, so don’t deny it! And what was that stuff?”

“What stuff?” He cringed at the recent memory of his jizz, splashed for all to see.

SHIT!

“You know what stuff!" Simon crossed his arms and waited. "I can always go and ask Mum if you want?”

CRAP! Caught by the short and curlies! But how the hell did you tell somebody about this kind of thing, Luke wondered? The birds and the bees talk. Wasn’t that the stuff parents were meant to do?

Just like they DIDN'T for you, he reminded himself.

It was true, the only way he’d found out about the most important thing he knew of to do with sex, was via some dirty mags. And they’d been brought in by guys at school who he hardly trusted at the best of times! Better it come from him, than that.

Simon continued to glare. "Well?"

Luke took a deep breath. "It's called masturbating...." he began. He used the more polite term, but still flushed at the admission he knew what to do.

The blank look he got back put to rest any hope that the mere use of the rather indecent term would be enough. It looked like Simon was as naive as he’d been! Resigned, he tried again. "Okay...well have you ever heard of wanking?"

"You mean like calling someone a wanker?" Simon’s brow furrowed. "What's it got to do with that?"

Luke smirked to himself. Pretty much everything!

Sitting on the edge of the bed, he went on to give his fascinated younger brother a potted version of what he'd discovered.

After he'd finished, Simon was full of questions that needed immediate answers. "So you say you just rub it,” he demanded. “And it feels good?"

"It's amazing...trust me!" replied Luke. He heaved himself off the bed, ready to return to his own room, but of course, that same curious brother had to try it straight away! As quick as a flash, Simon had unzipped his shorts, reached under the band of his undies and fished out a limp worm. Following Luke’s instructions, he began sliding his loose skin up and down the small shaft. By the concentration on his face, he could have been performing a Science experiment!

Unsurprisingly, he was a normal guy, and that kind of manipulation started him boning up.

As he lengthened to his full size, Luke examined it critically, astonished to discover that the little brother he’d grown up with could be as capable of an erection as he was himself! Though still rather thin, the shaft was respectably long and now completely stiff.

“You mean like this?” said Simon, though he didn't seem that surprised. He obviously knew what a boner was, so Luke reckoned he was going to take the next step easily enough.

“Ah…yep,” Luke coughed feeling it was time to go.

“And?"

“Well…you just keep gong.”

Bemused, his brother did just that and then suddenly stopped and, apparently taken by surprise, turned bright red. As his ears burned, he quickly stuffed his stiff dick back inside and stood, looking troubled, and grunted, “I’ll do it some other time.”

Luke smirked. Been there, done that!

He nodded. “That’s probably best,” and tried to settle his brother’s discomfort. “You were doing it right though, and don’t worry, everyone else does it too.”

“Everyone?” Simon seemed surprised, and then cautious, “You’re sure it doesn’t hurt?”

Luke grinned. That he did have personal insight on. “No – it doesn’t hurt. “ He shrugged. “But you don’t have to, you know.”

You're choice bud.

 "Only try it if you want to…”

He'd give him ten minutes at best!

Simon was non-committal. “Maybe,” he replied. He appeared to brush it off as a problem for another time and went back to his books.

Luke returned to his room, and waited. Maybe he was being mean, but he couldn’t really help it. Call it payback!

It only took just over seven minutes and he heard the kind of heavy breathing and squeaking sounds that could only mean one thing. To be honest, he had to admit, he HAD been listening, curious to know what his brother would do.

Unnanounced, he opened the door – and his brother would have to learn to use the locks from now on – to Simon’s room to find him kneeling on the floor at the end of his bed, his shorts and classic grey Hanes Boys Briefs down at his knees.

Luke smirked at the Middle School standard. That’s what you got if you let Mum buy them for you!

His brother’s aghast face was a picture and Luke sniggered to himself, as the lewd thought stuck: so that’s what you look like when you unload it for the first time!

Simon’s hand was still grasping a jutting, thin-ish wanger, and there were discrete spots on the floor. Mouth still hanging open, he raised his flushed face and screeched in horror. “FUCKING GET OUT!” Shuffling quickly behind the bed, he made a rapid effort to hide his leaking boner.

Luke grinned. “There,” he said, satisfaction oozing through his voice. “Now we’re even!” He closed the door and left. He wasn’t worried, and didn’t expect Simon would be mad for long. He knew his brother too well for that,

In fact it only took a few minutes before Simon put his head around the door. “Bastard!” Simon scowled, but within moments it became a smirk. “Bloody hell, I didn't know it could do that...that was awesome!"

Luke sniggered, though not unkindly. “You might want to use tissues or something, rather than squirt on the floor!”

“Why didn't you tell me about this before?" Simon eyes flicked towards the new toy he’d just discovered hiding inside his shorts.  “Does anyone else know about it?”

“They show you how to do it in Biology.” Luke kept his face straight. “It's one of next year year's practicals.” Simon’s eyes boggled and Luke burst out laughing as he fell for it hook, line and sinker!  It was almost a shame to add, “Don't worry - I'm just kidding! And yes, most guys know how to do it."

He threw him the box of tissues that was on his bedside table and smirked. "But if you make a mess in the sheets and mum catches you, you're on your own!" Simon caught it, and the speculative look on his face seemed to be considering if the second one could possibly be anywhere near as spectacular as the first!

What his brother did after that day, Luke never knew, and certainly never asked. What he did know was that, from that moment on, Simon often took as long in the shower as he did!


4. Harry, Hedwig and Homosexuality

An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA

by Riley Jericho

Harry, Hedwig and Homosexuality

Despite the fact that school was back in, Luke was in a good mood.

It was a roasting summer's day. The holidays might be over, but the day was still gloriously hot and long like most others had been that mid August. At least, being only the first week of the fall semester, the homework schedule hadn’t yet been driven into high gear, and there was still time enough to kick back and enjoy some R&R.

That afternoon, when the final bell had come, the school had emptied rapidly and it looked liked many were planning the same as him and Ry – at least those with pools in their backyards (which he had discovered, was most)!

Thirty minutes later, after dumping his bags in the house and quickly changing, he’d biked over to Ryan’s for a swim.

He liked Ryan Alexis.

So? There was nothing wrong about that. In fact they’d been friends for a long time, and he watched the guy drift around on the water in front of him. Everyone could have close friends, couldn't they?

Ryan was a couple of months younger than him and an inch shorter, though you wouldn't know it just then as most of him submerged in the pool. His head stirred through the water and short-cropped, black hair complemented a dark complexion.

When he first got to know him, Luke suspected he must spend a lot of time in the sun - either that or he was just lucky. In time, he discovered it was a bit of both. The two of them hung out a LOT, and it was handy that Ry’s place was just an easy bike ride away.

Four years ago, almost to the week, Luke mused, as he rested on the edge of the pool with his legs dangling in the water. Four years since he’d come to this country. Four years since he’d first walked into their class at the Academy and been introduced as ‘the boy from London’, by Principal Benton.

Hell, he was almost an American by now! And even better, by this time next year he’d have his own wheels! Now that would never have happened back in the UK!

He remembered the time when he and Simon had started at the Academy. Ryan had been an enigma then, and during those first weeks at school, if you’d told him 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 eaten his hat.

At the time, while everyone else was flocking around his celebrity status, Ryan Alexis had been distant, unwilling to even give him the time of day. Popular guy or not, at the time Ry had seemed - in the Queen’s English - a bit of prat!

Dangling his legs over the side and stirring the water, he watched him now with fond amusement as the dark haired head unexpectedly submerged with hardly a trace of a ripple. He shook his head at his antics, wondering how those four years had gone so unexpectedly too.

At peace with the world, he lay back on the edge of the pool that took some beating. 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, Ryan never had friends around like that.

To be honest, with parents like his, who would?

Usually it was just the two of them. That worked okay.

The pool filters were running and the sound of the gurgling water was about as relaxing as it go,t and he sighed as he studied the deep azure of the late afternoon sky. The sun was just right. His life was just right. It was just…perfect! He was even glad to be back at school after the long summer break. The new semester was under way, and they’d all just picked up where they left off.

Sitting up again to rest on his elbows, he smiled to himself as he studied Ryan as he drifted around in front of him in the rippling water. He was lying on one of those air filled waterbeds that make pools more fun, kicking his legs gently in the water for steerage. Evil possibilities of bombing him, or sliding across unseen and tipping him into the drink took shape.

He watched him thoughtfully as he decided which it would be, spotting the sun glint off the rivers of water that occasionally washed across his torso. Ryan was unbelievably brown, having really caught the sun that summer, he noticed. He looked at his own arms. Maybe they both had?

 “It’s the tennis try-outs tomorrow,” murmured Ryan. His eyes closed against the afternoon glare, he voice glided into the comfortable silence they were enjoying. “I assume you’re going for the team again this year?”

He put bombing on the back burner for the time being, and considered the question. They were both regulars and, though both expected to be chosen for the squad, everyone still needed to attend the try-outs. He shrugged and quipped. “Actually I was thinking of going for the football try-outs this time round.”

Amusement crossed Ryan's face as he continued to drift lazily in the sunshine. Luke smirked too - both knew it was unlikely. Football and him did NOT get on. Ry on the other hand…well, 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," Ryan murmured. "You’d be good at that.”

“Asshole.” Amiably, Luke kicked water that sprayed across Ryan's floating torso. Theirs 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 him to try for quarterback!

Ryan ignored the soaking he received. It wasn't hard. This wasn't the English seaside, and in this part of the world and at this time of year, he’d long since got used to the idea that you didn’t have to jump around gibbering, if cold water landed on you!

Smirking as Ryan continued to float through his drenching, beads of water formed on his skin, and Luke followed them as they hurried to make their way back to where they’d come from. Observing him critically, he 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, usually black, looked good on him, though he still couldn't figure out how Ryan managed to wear so much black without looking like a Goth!

Not him. He liked wild, garish patterns...the more colourful the better!

He passed over those dark trunks, and then caught up with Ryan’s tanned skin as it reappeared on muscular thighs. Legs where dark hairs now grew; they were no longer kid’s legs. He dropped his eyes to his own legs and frowned at a dusting of light hairs that blended in so well they might as well not be there, and pulled a face.

At least he had plenty of nicely bushy pubes to take pride in!

* * *

Extract from Luke's Notes:

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 Ry’s flat abdomen and 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 found myself considering went WAY past anything normal I’d ever entertained with him. In fact, not just him...with any guy really.

Even though I knew quite well what his tackle and bush looked like under those really sleek trunks, I found myself trying to conjure it up in my mind, secretly willing them to evaporate. That was definitely a step further than the usual daydreaming; that hormone driven comparing of wangers in the lockers, and the increasingly frequent speculation of what it was like for guys who, unlike me, DIDN'T have a chunk of skin hanging off them!

Possibilities charged my examination. There was a big difference between pondering a three year old quandary and flirting with what was inside those swim trunks, and I'd definitely just crossed the line!

I couldn't tear my eyes away from that piece of stretched material through which I could see the outline of his shaft and even the shape of the head!  It was hypnotic and the more I thought about it, the more my own stirred; and that continued, uncontrolled, until he turned his head towards me and seemed to ponder me. Uncomfortable, and knowing I was well in to cranking up a substantial chub, I quickly shifted down into the water.

Diving, I swam along the bottom to the far wall, hoping it would go away, before surfacing at the far wall. After a few moments to let things settle, I began to push gently back through the water towards him.

Now, of course, that studied gaze he’d fired my way probably meant nothing. How could he have ANY idea what thoughts I was having as I’d watched him? Fortunately, he went onto something else, his thoughts apparently elsewhere that day!

* * *

"So, how are you getting home?" Ryan slid off the airbed into the water and pushed it away.

"Today?"  He grunted a sigh of relief, apparently in the clear. “On my bike of course.”

"No dufus!" Ryan swept water at me with the Friday - after the sports day! If your mom's picking you up, can, I get a lift with you?"

"Sure." He backed away in the water, satisfied that nothing else had leaked from him. His hand reached for a ball and they began batting it back and too. He’d been wrenched back to reality with a sharp jerk, and was left wondering what the hell he’d been thinking!

“So are you doing Drivers Ed still?” he asked, changing the subject. They’d both got their Learners when they turned fifteen, and he tried to get his mum and dad to take him out as often as they would.

“I will,” replied Ryan. “Just need to find an instructor.” He offered a rueful grin. “Going out with the old man doesn’t work for either of us. I plan to get my license right after my sixteenth, though. You?”

“Yep – same.” He expected Ryan would get a car fast too, whereas his mum and dad had already been clear that he wouldn’t get one until the start of the following school year, a full six months after his birthday. He’d whined at that, but he knew Simon would get the same when it was his turn.

* * *

Extract from Luke's Notes:

The conversation moved on that day and my horniness with it. I decided to count it to ridiculous teen hormones or something. But if you want to know when it started, it was then. That day at the pool was when I first held both the blue and the red pills in my hand and had a hard time deciding which rabbit hole to go down. That day, at his house, in the pool was the first time I looked at Ry and found my pulse racing and something in my shorts getting stirred.

Maybe it was like people say, and being gay is always there from birth? I didn't know on that one at the time, and to be honest, I actually still don't. But, like the Matrix (which had to be one of the coolest films around), I found myself weighing up the red pill and giving it a sniff.

There was another side to this too as, unexpected though it was, it definitely fuelled what I convinced myself was a healthy interest in dicks – because, for some time, I'd been investigating what it would involve to get circumcised!

At home, we were already online. We started with a desktop computer, bought with the idea that Simon and I would be able to use it for our studies. Well, you know how THAT kind of deal tends to go; because we fought too much, arguing who’s room it should go in, it went downstairs.

For my previous birthday I got a Macbook – long story…will tell it later, but at least it meant I had my own computer in my room. (Simon got the desktop). I still had to be careful who might come in and see the screen, but I found out quickly how to cover my tracks. I explored a bit and found out things about wangers that mum and dad would NEVER think to tell me about!

So, the day came - after a few false starts where I kept chickening out – that I screwed up my courage and announced exactly what was on my mind.

After four years of living in the States, I decided that if I was going to grow up in this country – and after all the frustration of being made to emigrate here in the first place, and I damn well wasn’t planning on leaving - I didn't want to remain the odd one out.

And what was crystal clear was that American guys were cut. That was how it was done here. It was normal. They seemed to like it that way, and I decided I wanted the same.

* * *

He landed his ultimatum not long after the annual tri-school sports day. Every year the three high schools in their area competed - them, Creek and Alpharetta High. That year it had been hosted at Alpharetta, and in the lockers, from guys he'd never met before, he'd picked up more looks of bemusement and a few wisecracks about his anteater. He'd had enough and it further fuelled his determination to do something about it.

A week later, he and Ryan had stayed on at a tennis practice, so it was only him and his mum when she came to pick him up at the end of the afternoon. It was then that he decided that this was his moment, and spoke up.

It didn’t go down well.

“Excuse me?” Pulling into their subdivision, his mum's face gave the impression he'd said a naughty word!

“Circumcision – I want to be circumcised." He repeated it more slowly. Did she have to choose now to be deaf?

“What?”

“Circumcision.” He tried again. “It’s when you…”

“Yes I know what it is!" His mum interrupted and sounded so aghast that he cringed. "Luke, for heaven's sake, why on earth would you need to do that?” Pulling onto the drive of their home, she killed the engine. “And what do you know about circumcision anyway?”

“Mum, I’m fifteen, not five!” For God's sake!

Dismissive, she stalked to the front door. Even the way she jammed the key in the lock reeked of disapproval. “I don’t know where you’ve been getting this from, but the answer's NO – absolutely not!” Continuing to shake her head as though he’d lost his marbles, she went into the house.

Following her inside, he threw his backpack on the kitchen floor. This was not going well. He'd expected questions...a frank open discussion maybe...but not adamant refusal within a few breaths!

“But why not? I’m not a kid – why can’t I decide for myself what I want? What’s wrong with being circumcised? Everyone else here is!”

"Luke, I have to confess, I'm not at all comfortable with the idea." Her lips formed a hard line as she filled the kettle, banging it against the tap. “I hear what you’re saying, but I don't think you've thought it through...at ALL!" She snapped on the switch. "Sure, most boys in this country are circumcised, but that doesn't mean you have to be.“

Not thought it through? That was like a red rag to a bull and he raised his voice. “Mum, that’s easy for you to say – but it’s not something you have to face!" Why should he have to compromise on what he wanted?

“Don’t be ridiculous!”

"Why are you making me wait 'til I’m old enough that I DON’T need your permission!” He tried not to make it sound like a threat, but he was frustrated. She could be so damn inflexible if it suited her!

With a shake of her head, she rebuffed him, but then her tone became a little less contentious and a little more delicate as she tried a different tack on him.

“Sweetheart, listen to me. Any kind of surgery, especially down there," she emphasized the word enough for him to twitch uncomfortably, "is never to be taken lightly. And most boys here are done that way when they’re babies. What you're suggesting is completely different.”

He couldn’t believe his ears. What was her problem?

He was do fuming, he stalked out to go upstairs and throw his jacket on his bed, going over it in his head, getting closer to boiling point such that when he returned, he banged the kitchen door angrily.

He saw her purse her lips at his truculance, but still stuck with trying to reason with him. Maybe she thought his angry silence meant he was listening.

Fat hope!

 "Luke, it's not like your dad and I don't care what you think…." Her tone was concilliatory.

Sure!

“…it’s just that it’s such a big step. Think about it; you can't just decide to be circumcised and change your mind the next day! Why don't you give it time...and maybe, when you're a little older, you'll feel differently?"

He couldn't hold back and growled at her. "I HAVE been thinking about it. Do you actually think I'm completely STUPID now?" His volume climbed, unable to curb his anger at her pigheadedness. "I didn't just wake up this morning and make it up you know! Are you telling me I can't have it done?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying!” Her voice hardened on him, and he could tell she was done with the softly-softly touch and had made up her mind. “So let's just leave it there shall we?"

"He can't do what?" Geoff Summers, Luke's father, walked in the door and slung his jacket over the back of a chair. "Nothing!" Lucy snapped at her husband. "And PLEASE, could you hang that up properly?"

"It's NOT nothing! “ Luke shifted his attention to his dad who looked like he could tell he’d walked into a war zone. “I want to be circumcised!"

Geoff's eyes flicked from son to wife and back, blinking several times, obviously out of his depth and Lucy came to his rescue. "Luke seems to think he needs to be circumcised.” She glared at her son, daring him to challenge her. “That's all." 

“That’s NOT all!” Luke ground out the words, facing off against her. “I’ve been thinking about it for ages!”

"You asked my opinion and I said no." She shot back. "Now can we just move on?"

"No, we can't! And I didn't ask your opinion. I told you I wanted it done."

"And I told you that it's totally out of the question,” she replied tartly, overriding him. "Don't you agree, Hon?"

Geoff took a deep breath and said, "Okay, calm down everyone."

He sat down, and Luke sat too, feeling more hopeful. Surely, as a guy, his dad would understand.

His Dad looked him in the eye. "I don't get it. Why would you want to be circumcised?"

"Exactly, Hon."

Irritated by her Luke pulled a face. "Jeez - thanks for the support, Dad! You're telling me you don't understand?"

“Then explain it to me.”

“I just want to be circumcised, that’s all. Everyone else is - there’s no law against it, is there?” He shrugged uncomfortably, less prepared than he thought for justifying his demand.

"No law, no – but there is common sense, and I think Mum's right.” His dad’s calm approach ate into his resolve and Luke slumped over the table, crestfallen.

“Sunshine, I've no idea where this has all come from, but in any case an operation like that isn't going to be covered by insurance and, like Grandpa always used to say, 'If it's not bust, don't fix it!'"

And that had been their last word on the subject that day.

He was more than disappointed - he was pissed off! What the hell had it to do with them? And if they hoped he was just going to grow out of the idea in a couple of days, they’d got another thing coming!

It was a setback, but if anything it drove his determination even harder, and he picked himself up, refusing to budge from the journey he wanted to take. Over the next months, he didn't let the topic die, but did his research - lots of it. And he made bloody well sure they got it all; deluging them with papers and reasonable arguments about health and cleanliness, all culled (and sanitized where needed) from stuff he’d gleaned off the web.

In the midst of it all, Simon thought he was COMPLETELY NUTS!

He and Simon were quite close, with his brother being just fifteen months younger, but close in ways that were more than just the slim age gap. The pair had grown up to be the kind of siblings that actually liked each other rather than dropping into the usual brotherly ‘ignore mode’. Open and frank about most things, neither had been that happy about moving to the USA and, for many months, the only friends they'd had were each other. That had changed as new friends began coming round, but he and Simon still remained close.

The pair were physically quite similar too, and you could tell straight away that they were brothers with their dirty blond hair and warm hazel eyes. Girls usually thought the two of them were pretty cute - particularly when they heard their British accents, which seemed to elicit purrs of delight (at least in that country), from females from eight to eighty! And that little nut had worn thin on him years ago!

While they were playing on their PS2 one afternoon, he tried to explain his reasons for being skinned as best he could - well, at least he told Simon about the 'fitting in' bit, and carefully brushed over the other thing that he tried to hide from everyone. The truth was, he thought about sex almost all the time these days, and you couldn’t think about sex without bringing your dick into it!

It wasn't like Simon to ridicule people and their ideas, but after hearing some of the details of foreskin surgery, he did go for a bit of brotherly teasing.

"Crap...you'd actually let them go ahead and cut your wanger off?" He chuckled, flicking his fingers over the controls. "Isn't that going to hurt?"

“Asshole!” Luke rolled his eyes, but took it well. "They don’t cut it off – and it might be a bit sore for a bit, but it'll look a whole lot better when it's done!"

Well, he hoped it would. If it ever happened, that was.

"I still don't get why you think your dick looks wrong now?" Simon paused the game and studied him curiously.

"And in the lockers at school?" he shot back. "Don't tell me you don't get teased a bit." As a Freshman, Simon had just started High School that semester and Luke knew from experience that puberty was already going to be well under way and, if they hadn’t already, guys started comparing tackle.

"Yeah, maybe...a bit…" Simon shrugged and went back to the game. "But I don't care." He seemed unconvinced, but then smirked as he added. "So you like the idea of having an American chubby then?"

"Don't be gross - and it's called a chub." Luke pulled a face and sneered. "I mean…do you even know what that is?"

Simon giggled, dropping the game into pause once more. "Duh..." Another cheeky smirk crossed his face. "Of course I know what a chub is, dufus! But don't you think American dicks look a bit like little chubby sausages?"

Luke had to laugh. Simon wasn't wrong - at least at his age. He still remembered the perky little seventh grade, inch long chipolatas that were little more than plump acorns on guys like Ryan and Todd when he first arrived at the school. Even then, sporting what he knew to be a normal foreskin, he’d had a few centimeters on them.

This time last year he was still half an inch up on their average, but Simon was right, his brother was probably still surrounded by those three inch plump sausages that hadn’t yet decided whether they were going to grow or not, at a time when many suffered a bit of diminutive willy syndrome! Another year would make a big difference.

“Well, you do what you like,” Simon said finally.  “But I'm hanging on to mine."

He let it go. Si might never admit it but, like many younger brothers, he often looked to him to decide things if they were important enough. Would this be one of those things, he wondered?

Give it another of year, he smiled to himself. We'll see then whether it starts to bother you!

Simon got back to his game. “Do you want a go?” he asked.

“Nah – I’m going to go check my email.”

“Yeah, I bet,” Simon smirked.  “And print of some more pictures of willys to give to mum and dad!”

Luke laughed. “I can give them to you if you prefer?”

 “Yeah – whatever,” said his brother, staring at the screen an ignoring him.

Leaving Simon to continue playing, went back upstairs and settled at his Macbook. He was definitely into the era of social media, and the same computer that had brought him unhooded dicks, brought him Facebook too.

Everyone was getting into Facebook and he 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.

Either way, it was quite cool for others to see that you had lots of FB friends!

Cool or not, it got into a bit of a ‘tidy up’ mode and had posted a disclaimer on his Wall, to tell everyone that he was pruning his lists. Anyone who didn't reply would be toast! Okay, maybe the wording could have been better, but he only planned to dump people he didn't know from Adam.

However, Damon had replied with some quite amusing comeback. On the strength of it, he’d had left him on and from then on they started dropping the odd note to each other and commenting more frequently on each other’s posts.

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 he really knew about him to begin with, yet, through Facebook, an easy friendship sprang up.

He found the guy surprisingly easy to talk to and was intrigued enough to dig deeper, perusing Damon’s friend and group lists. Who cared if it was stalking - 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 belonged to) that the New Yorker was possibly – no, probably - gay.

If he had thought that that might mean the guy would be creepy, and that he should pull the plug on the modem and run screaming from the room, he was wrong. Damon seemed as run-of-the-mill normal as any guy he knew. In fact even a bit more interesting and fun than many, and never even hinted at anything that sounded weird!

Still, it was only a passing acquaintance. They chatted maybe once every couple of weeks if they happened to be simultaneously logged in, but nothing more.

* * *

It had been on a cold, wet and completely boring Saturday afternoon, around four months later, some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that Simon wandered into his room and sat on the bed, looking out of sorts.

It had to be his favorite time of the year, Luke felt. The smells from the richly scented candles, a massive glittering tree, an open fire that he hoped his dad would light soon and the promise of gifts that were already gathering under the tree. In their street, most of the houses were already well decorated for Christmas with lights twinkling during the night, and families gearing up for festive fun.

From where he was reading, comfortably propped up by the pillows on his bed, he flicked his eyes over the top of his book in the direction of his brother. Nothing was immediately forthcoming, so he ignored him and went back to his chapter.

He hadn't got more than a couple of paragraphs when a subtle noise got his attention, and he looked up again. Simon was still there and seemed to be teetering on the edge of something.

Okay, spit it out. He waited patiently, but the moment passed and Simon became distracted by a noise from the landing and wandered out again.

Whatever.

It was obvious something was on his brother's mind, but he shrugged and went back to his book as Simon disappeared from view.

Some minutes later, engrossed in a good chapter, he glanced up again, to find his brother once again standing quite close by, watching him.

Oh for God's sake!

"Okay, what's up?" He put down his book, fully expecting to hear how life...and particularly parents...were against him in some new and diabolically evil way.

"Oh...nothing...I'm fine..."

Yeah - right!

In mild irritation, he opened up the Harry Potter book once more, only to find, a few sentences on, looking up to find his brother was still there!

"Lokk...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 he 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. Distracted from his book he watched him out of the corner of his eye, amused now. Whatever this was, it had to be good.

After a while, Simon left and went back through into their shared bathroom to 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 him, 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 who 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 ever 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 only the idea of Christmas that he missed, too. A proper Christmas with stuff like going to the Pantomime. ‘It's behind you!’, they would all squeal from where they were seated up in ‘the gods’. He missed that.

And snow. That was the big thing for ANY kid. Would it snow on Christmas day, was the big question. They’d all used to hope so, and it usually did up north in Scotland, but near London, it hardly ever did. And having to clear snow off the drive 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 didn't have to wait long.

“Luke...I...can I ask you something…?"

He put the book down and grunted. “I wish the hell you would!”

“What…?” 

He shook his head, in exasperation. “Forget it – for goodness sake, just tell me what you want!”

“Oh…well…err…nothing….”

"Oh, come on. ENOUGH already!"

Simon looked uncomfortable, before finally blurting, "What do you think about being gay?" There was an awkward pause as he studied one of his nails. “I was just wondering…you know…”

Holy shit! THAT got his attention. BIG TIME! 

A ripple of dread disrupted his wellbeing as the unwanted question hung there menacingly. ’What do you think about being gay…?’  His eyes narrowed, but Simon wouldn’t look him in the face and continued to fiddle 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 loads of people who were – some even some quite famous. But that was mostly on the TV. It wouldn't ever happen to him. It couldn’t. That would be way too weird and he could think of no normal 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 okay. It just sounded...well, a bit better, he mused. 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 a homo. 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 homo put you on a par with the queers and all the other poofs.

For fuck’s sake - Get a GRIP!  He tried to clear his mind and focus on what was important. While he accepted that he’d been looking at guys quite a bit, mostly it was just because he was 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 why Simon was there.

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 as he started a reply.

"Gay? 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?" He looked up fearfully, expecting to see the accusation and already getting angry about it.

However, Simon was still unable to hold his eye and shrugged. "Oh...nothing. Just wondering."

Just wondering? Wondering WHAT?

The conversation stalled and Simon went to stare out of the window across the back lawn, leaving him floundering. His eyes darted after his brother. Was that it? Had Simon had his say; given his warning, just enough to let him know he was in the spotlight, without actually spelling it out?

He thought fast. What had people been saying? Had his friends noticed something too? Had he been too obvious in the lockers in letting his eyes drift? Had they 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?

It wasn't enough. He HAD to know more.

Trying to keep the dry tick out of his voice, he probed, "So...come on then. Have you heard of someone who’s gay?" He tried to sound amused, but was already dreading the answer. “Is it someone at school?” Even to himself he sounded guilty, but he needed to find out what it was that Simon - and everyone else - suspected.

"At school?" Simon turned and stared at him though hooded eyes. "I guess so...maybe."

Shit. He was being cagey. That 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.

He began to panic. What had Si already said to his friends?  “Come on – what’s wrong?” He waited, but Simon still didn’t seem prepared to come out and say it. He swallowed hard, trying to make some excuse. “It’s not what …" he started. "I mean whatever they’re…”

Simon didn't seem to be taking any notice. "Well...I...it's..." he started. Then the mask collapsed and his face twisted in confusion. Tormented, he tried to gather himself and hold it together. Finally he broke and 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 THANK GOD, IT'S NOT ME! Followed by OH MY GOD! He’s a homosexual!

Embarrassment. Fear.

Poof.

“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 quite 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, something about himself. Not this!

Quickly, he shuffled up from where he was lying to sit next to his brother, putting his arm around him as he shook. Some corrupt place in his soul told him 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. It was obvious he was waiting for him to take it forward.

”So...you think you might be? Gay, I mean." Luke ventured carefully, trying to get him to talk.

Simon shrugged and replied, forlornly. "Yep."  It wasn't much, but it was a start.

"Errr…can you tell me why – I mean how do you know?" It seemed such a difficult thing to be sure of, he 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.

"Oh."

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? He faced the word head on this time.

He considered again what he thought about gay people. There was one openly gay guy at school. A senior. He didn't really know anything about him other that he wanted to be an actor.

Some guys were a bit nasty to himbut, on reflection, those were the kind who were nasty to anyone if they got a chance.

But him? No, he wasn’t at all homophobic!

Really...?

Sure, 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 now. Until his own brother had walked into his room, a few minutes ago. He gathered himself. "You wanna tell me about it?"

And Simon did. In the privacy of his room that day, several weeks before Christmas, he let it all out.

He 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 his brother stopped talking and looked relieved, and Luke knew that the burden had passed to him and that Si would somehow expecthim 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, and from the kitchen, the scented candles that his mum liked to light wafted vanilla and cinnamon down the hallway. Christmas, a fire and a warm room that made it home and drew them together. The perfect combination for days like today.

“We’re making hot chocolate, Dad. Do you want one?”

“You bet!" Their dad 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 he held out his arms for Simon to begin stacking.

"So, is there a particular someone that this is about?" He kept his voice low, just for the two of them.

“What?”

“You know what I mean,” Luke teased.

Simon looked coy. "Well, I kind of 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," he 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.

He didn't live that far away, so they tended to spend lots of time together. The guy was big into art and they often ride shared with him and his mum, Grace.

He did have 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, though the guy was hard to read. Still he could see how Simon could like him.

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.

"Really? Do you think so?" Simon looked up hopefully. “You think he’s nice?”

"Absolutely - I mean it's not like you don't know anything about him. Does he ...errr you know..." Christ, this was new ground! "Does he, I mean, is he like you?"  

Simon just sighed. "Is he gay you mean? 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 both 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? You bring a couple too."

Simon picked several up, but hesitated nervously as they turned back to the door. "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 went to fetch Harry and Hedwig from the shelf and settled again in front of the roaring flames with his hot chocolate, still trying to make some sense of it all.

His dad caught a glance of the cover. “Harry Potter?”

“I’m reading through them all again.” Something he’d started after the last film came out – The Order of the Phoenix - the previous summer

“Isn’t there a movie out soon?”

“Not ‘til next year.” Jeez – keep up dad!

His dad went back to his paper and he his book, though he remained thoughtful.

As much as anything, he was relieved knowing that Simon seemed to be facing the same kind of stuff as him. Perhaps everyone did at some point? It would probably be just a phase for his younger brother, just as it was for him too; maybe just one of those things that was more in your face because they went to an all boys school. It would pass, though perhaps he should get out more and meet some girls!

He wasn’t particularly worried for his brother. Simon didn’t take risks. In fact, he was almost OCD when it came to being carefully organised! You didn’t win the Year Eight Math prize, and his brother approached life in the same certain way that didn’t tempt fate when it was better to be sure. He certainly wouldn’t take a shot in the dark with Toby or chance the wrong thing getting to the wrong ears.

Bo, Simon was definitely the Hermione Granger of the family!

He grinned as he made the rather apt comparison. What would that make him? He would have liked Harry, but had to admit that Ry would probably get that one. He’d have to make do with Ron…faithful friend that was always a little bit behind, and still wore clothes that his mum bought for him!

He spent an entertaining few minutes characterising other guys in his class – Ry, Todd, Kier and the others. One thing was for sure, Cody Mitchell wasn’t hard to cast; the slithering git was a perfect Malfoy!


5. Food for Thought

An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA

by Riley Jericho

Food for Thought

Christmas and New Year passed, leaving a trail of torn wrapping paper and shed pine needles. February rolled around, fresh and clean, bringing hints of spring and warmer weather. It was a weekend and the Summers clan were out for lunch…and on most Sundays, they usually worshipped at that greatest of American institutions.

Longhorn Steakhouse!

Luke' s motto was this: a good Sunday lunch made up for a Sunday afternoon given over to school work. Okay, to be more honest, that usually ended up being a Sunday evening; several hours often consumed with trying to complete the homework assignments that were currently coming thick and fast, and should have done the day before!

Still, there were more important things than homework on a late Sunday morning, and that day, they were already getting ready to leave the house...because of all the things it was good at, America knew how to do food!

This eating out lifestyle was a far cry from life back in the UK. There, other than to McDonalds or to a pizza place as a treat before the movies, they hardly EVER went out. Here, people seemed to do it all the time. He knew some families that almost never dined at home, spending the week trailing around the huge variety of restaurants. IHOP, Chilli's, Cracker Barrel, TGI Fridays, Frankie & Benny's, Outback, Ruby Tuesdays; Luke was happy to eat at any of them, but eight times out of ten, they all voted for Longhorn, for a serious meat fest!

* * *

Extract from Luke's notes

Even Dad had been seduced by the eating culture when we got here, and would often leave the house early on a workday, to 'do' breakfast, as they all called it. It was code for an early morning start to the work schedule; a business meeting with colleagues, over hash browns. No wonder he’d put on weight!

I'd been out to breakfast plenty of times too. Trust me, I've got no problems eating the food. It was working through all the choices that had been freaky at first!

Back in England, the few times we'd eaten breakfast in a restaurant (and it was usually if we'd been doing B&B in some cheap hotel), there had usually only been a couple of options.  You could either go for the artery blocking ‘Full English’, or the less than appetizing, and slightly anaemic, ‘Continental Breakfast’.

That was it. Whatever option you chose, you got whatever was dropped on the plate in front of you.

Not here. Here, whatever you ordered, the choices were complicated. It went something like this:

“Eggs?”

“Oh, errr, yes please.”

“How?”

“On a plate...?” A bit of British banter, but the girl remains stony.

“Boiled, fried, scrambled, poached, steamed, baked, coddled or omletted,"she offers. "Or we do benedict too."

Who the hell is Benedict? "Oh, right…nice....mmm..." Buying time. "What was the list, again? Never mind…I’ll have fried.”

“Over hard, over medium, over easy?’

Over here would be good…

“Do you do sunny side up?”

Then you had to go through it all again, with the bread, having access to every variety and stage of toasted-ness!

“Grits?”

GRITS? Now there was a culture clash! For a young lad like me, coming here from London, the idea of eating grit seemed completely  hilarious!

The first thing to avoid getting confused with, were WalMart Gritters. They were a different kind of grit altogether. Theirs was a grit you couldn’t eat it; neither would you find the Gritters in the huge parking lot, throwing sand at everyone, just in case there was snow on them! No, the WalMart Gritters were a bunch of extremely jovial old folk (clearly well into retirement), who wore the WalMart uniform and stood at the door to grit (greet) you, as you entered the store.

Paid to ensure you were having a nice day, the Gritters were fabulous people!

Okay – ‘nuff said about food! Where were we?

Oh yes. Longhorn!

* * *

However, though it was the weekend, that particular day that they were pulling into the restaurant parking lot wasn't actually a Sunday. In fact, it was a Saturday, and all four of them were heading up to the lake on a day that was bright and sunny and full of promise.

The reason for this change in the usual arrangement was that they were due to go over to the Kears the following day, and that messed up the normal schedule. To make up for it as they headed to the lake for an afternoon of sailing, they unanimously voted to worship at the steakhouse on the way.

Longhorn was what it was - and as steakhouses go, it delivered well enough for the price you paid. Not fast food, but fast enough so that they could get your table back in a reasonably short time, to give it to someone else waiting in line!

Arriving at the restaurant well ahead of the crowds, they planned to eat early. Slamming the doors on their minivan, it was a good job the parking lot had plenty of space to fit the boat trailer too. Inside, it wasn't busy at all.

The four of them were promptly seated around one of the secluded round booths they preferred and, within a few minutes, a girl came to take their order. They recognized her at once, and Luke felt a teasing kick from under the table.

He gave his brother a warning glare.

She'd been there a couple of months - one of the many young people of his age, who took part-time jobs in places like Longhorn, to earn extra cash in their spare time. He had wondered about getting a job himself, but hadn't succumbed. Maybe in a year's time when he had his license and some wheels?

"Hello Stacey." Their mum smiled warmly as the young girl gave their table a quick wipe-over with a cloth. “How are you today?”

"Hi y'all!" Stacey beamed and then whipped out her pad and pencil. “I’m good thanks!” The smile wandered over to Luke and twinkled. "This is a nice surprise. Don't you folks usually come in on a Sunday?"

He caught another less than subtle smirk from Simon along with another prod under the table. Retaining a polite demeanour above the waist, he kicked back.

Pad at the ready and unaware of the exchange, Stacey pressed on. "So - what can I get y'all to drink?" They ordered their usual iced, sweet tea, and she bustled off.

"She’s a nice girl," Lucy noted, apparently to nobody in particular, though he studiously avoided catching her eye all the same. "I think her mother teaches at Creek Elementary."

Despite his mum's unsubtle musings, he had to agree. Unlike many of the girls her age, Stacey didn’t doll herself up with layers of make-up.  However, that didn’t mean she was plain. She returned promptly, balancing huge glasses on a tray; not that they actually needed to be big. That was the other thing that made America such a great nation - free refills!

Stacey deftly distributed the drinks and pulled out her pencil once more, and chimed in her dulcet southern tones, "So - y'all ready to order?" They nodded and she began to work around the table, until she got to him. "Will that be the Ribeye, as usual, Luke?"

Luke blinked, trying to look cool, whilst his innards remained fully flustered.

Oh my God! Not only had she remembered his name, but even what he liked to order!

"Oh...errr...yes, I guess so." It came out in a less than distinguished croak. "Errrr...thanks." As Stacey eyed him coyly, he saw his dad smirk from behind his menu.

You're welcome!" She beamed at him. As he happened to be sitting on the end of the circular seat that curved around their table, she 'accidentally' nudged him, as she leaned over to gather the menus.

Once she was out of earshot, Simon made some rather obscene kissing noises. "She has SO got the hots for you!"

'Pack it in!" Luke threw him a dirty look.

His dad's smirk grew. "She does seem nice..."

Luke glowered. Actually, he was right. She was nice. In fact she was a stunner, with a personality to go with it. It’s not that he wasn’t flattered – it was just things were a little more complicated than that.

"She's not my type..."

"Oh yes - and what is your type then?" teased his Dad, leaning back, amused. "It's obvious she likes you. You could date worse! Why don't you ask her out?"

What was his type? To that, Luke had no answer and sipped at his drink, grinding his teeth in silence. Simon giggled, earning himself another kick.

"Ouch...stop it," Simon whined and rubbed his leg, milking the moment. "Mum, tell him to stop kicking me!"

"OK - break it up you lot,” ordered their mum, though she wore a grin too. “When, and who, Luke chooses to date is his own business. He certainly DOESN’T need you two to arrange it for him! Let's change the subject shall we?"

"Well, I'm going to the salad bar!” Simon sucked at his drink and then scrambled out of the booth. “But, I think I need a pee first."

Lucy called after him. "Don’t forget to wash your hands!" She considered the menu herself. "I think I'll pass on dessert today. I'll have some salad too." With that, she followed her youngest out of the booth, leaving Luke and his dad alone, both of whom were holding out for both meat AND dessert.

* * *

As he waited with his eldest son, Geoff Summers picked up the menu again, squinting at it with some difficulty. He pushed his glasses up out of the way and squinted again, trying different combinations of glasses and distance to see if any of it made a difference. Frowning, he grunting, "Either I need new specs, or they're making these menus smaller!"

Luke couldn’t hold back a grin. "It's ‘cos you spend all day looking at computers and spread sheets, Dad. And you're getting old!" He smirked as he picked up a menu. "Do you want me to read it out for you?"

"Alright, alright. I know you think I'm an old fart,” he returned. “You don't need to remind me." He gave up trying to see the menu, put his glasses back on and looked meaningfully over the top of them. "And you might want to be nice - you still need my signature down at the DMV for your provisional!”

“And a car!”

 “Not ‘til September.”

Luke pulled a face, but he and Lucy were adamant on this one. He might be getting his license soon, but waiting a few months before getting his own car wouldn’t do the kid any harm. In his opinion, sixteen was far to young for kids to be behind a wheel by themselves - and far too many who thought themselves ace drivers had accidents within the first couple of months.

Sixteen already. He shook his head and sighed.

The two of them were sitting next to each other in the booth and he stretched out his legs, comfortably. Lowering his voice, he broached what had been on his mind that morning. "Mum and I were talking about you last night.”

Luke perked up. “Oh yes? Good or bad – and what about?”

“Surgery.” He paused and tried not to grin. In the circumstances, grinning wouldn’t help. “We got the last paper you printed out for us.” On a regular basis, for months now, Luke had been printing out, and passing them, what he saw as relevant information with regards to circumcision. He'd become a persistent little blighter...a bit like his father, Lucy had complained!

“And?" Luke raised his eyebrows looking hopeful. "Did you read it?”

“We glanced through it." It was a generous claim. Geoff kept his voice low, undercover of the hum of background chatter. They’d been talking about the subject, on and off, for a while now. It wasn’t new. "I see you’re still keen to have the operation?"

His eldest son shrugged and slid the menu back into the central holder. "Nothing’s changed, if that’s what you mean?”

Playing with the glass in front of him, Geoff nodded. He didn't really expect anything different.

However, it had been going on far too long and wasn’t getting them anywhere. Enough was enough, and these endless ‘papers’ needed to stop. Lucy was probably right and, just like with the car, Luke should wait and grow up a bit more first. But somehow he had to find the right way to talk some sense into his son.

"Luke, can I ask you a question?"

"Shoot..."

 "What if we’d still been living in the UK?"

"Meaning what?"

He waited a moment, pausing while some other diners passed out of earshot. "I mean would you have still wanted to be circumcised, if we were there?" Surely Luke could see what the point was - that there wasn't really any basis for all these papers!

Luke shrugged. "I doubt it..."

Bingo!

"...but we're not living there are we," he finished.

Geoff’s forehead furrowed. "But, then why..."

Luke interrupted him and posed his own question. "Dad, do you think we’ll ever go back to England?"

Coming from Luke, that one took him by surprise, though he'd considered the issue many times himself. Wondering where the kid was going with it, he sat up and leaned into the rounded table as he considered the question again.

"Sometime, probably. When, I'm not sure."  

When the time was right, he’d always assumed they would go back. But when that would be…who knew?

The job here was good. In fact, after only fifteen months staying with the bank that had brought him over, he'd been poached by bigger and better, who’d teased him away with a big hike in his salary, such that the school fees didn't really test them as much as they had.

He’d performed well with the new company and, less than eighteen months into the job, his growing reputation had been rewarded by his own department, another salary increase, and a team to lead.

But jobs came and went. It might not last forever; things might move them on. He shrugged as he computed the options and continued. "At the very least, it won’t be until schooling for the two of you has finished; probably college too. Then would be a good time to go back.”

“But why would we want to?”

“Well, why wouldn’t we?" he countered. "I don’t get you? It’s…”

“Home?” Luke completed, with a wry shrug.

"That’s the thing, Dad. It's not home anymore. Not for me." Luke spoke softly, pouring salt from the shaker onto the table, stirring complex patterns into it. “When we came here, I admit, I hated it - but that's years ago. It’s different now. Everything I know is here, and all my friends. I’m even beginning to sound American, for goodness sake!

Geoff pondered the salt and the changes that had had their impact on his family.

When it came to his career, the move to the USA had been timely. Like the release of a bowstring he’d shot upwards on the corporate ladder much more rapidly tan if he’d stayed put.

On the other hand there had been a price to pay. Grandparents were one. They were getting too old to travel and there was little enthusiasm at this end to keep dragging the family back that way either. When they’d first made the transition, he’d had in the back of his mind that they would go back when their parents got older. But was that really going to happen? Neither he nor Lucy were ‘only children’, but he still felt guilty.

Perhaps I need to take a visit over there soon?

"And what about Si?" Luke continued, interrupting his train of thought. "After college, he'll probably join some big-shot engineering firm or teach math or something!"

Geoff grinned. "Or worse, he could become an accountant!" His youngest could probably do and be anything he wanted, once he figured out what that was!

"And then what would you do?" he added, taking it a bit further as Stacey passed in front of them again. "You and Mum?” He lowered his voice for them only. "And what if I did fall in love with someone from around here - maybe even married? Simon too? Would you go back to the UK, or would you stay here with us?"

Geoff shrugged, at a loss. "This is a bit heavy for Longhorn isn't it?" Neither he nor Lucy had answers to such big questions. Belatedly, he realized that his sons would need to make their own choices in life – and those choices were likely to remain in America.

"Yep - a bit" Luke grinned. “You're probably right, but you started it! You're the one who wanted to know if I’d still have wanted to be cut if we’d been in England."

Geoff grimaced. Even the word gave him the shivers!

At that point, Stacey swung by to check on them once more to check their glasses. "You folks need a refill?"

The conversation switched.

"No, we're good thanks!" Luke smiled at her.

"Have you made a mess, Luke?" Seeing the trail of salt scattered in front of him, she scolded him playfully,

"Oops, sorry..."

She reached across him and skilfully smoothed it away, leaving him with a faint scent of roses.

"Thanks."

Luke had leaned back to study her as she did her job, though what he was thinking was hidden as she moved on and began to take the order from another table.

She was a nice girl he had to admit as he watched them interact. It was funny, but he’d never much seen Luke around girls much – probably because of the school they went to – but this one was definitely flirting with him! It was a little weird to consider that Luke would probably start dating before too long.

It might even be this girl...

"The thing is, Dad," said Luke, turning to him again after she’d gone. "Supposing I did date and get into a serious relationship with someone here?"

"Someone like Stacey?" He could do a lot worse!

Luke pulled a face. “Don’t start THAT again!” He shrugged and kept his voice low. "Who knows? The point is, everyone here is used to young guys like me, being circumcised - if you get what I mean. It's the norm. That's why I want to be the same - because this is where I live now. The truth is, when other guys in the locker rooms see me, they tend to think I'm a bit of a freak – it’s not cool! What if I married someone here, and they thought the same?"

"Oh..." Geoff was stumped.  “I never really thought about it like that.” It wasn't something he'd ever had to face. In fact he’d never much talked about anything to do with sex with the boys. Frankly, he'd never been good at anything related to the birds and bees, and had left all that kind of thing to Lucy.

Still, the penny began to drop.

Stacey passed by them quite frequently over the next hour, and Luke seemed to enjoy chatting with her in a relaxed and friendly enough way, though whether he would ever date someone like her, he had no idea. However, the likelihood that whoever either of his sons dated and even married would be American...well that was only just beginning to hit home.

Comfortably fed and watered, they returned to their van. Today the lake, and tomorrow the Kears. He was glad they were going to visit them again he mused as he checked the tow hitch.

As much as anything, Anne Kear had brought a good friendship to Lucy, and friends here – at least, in the way they’d had friends in England – were hard to come by. Of the two of them, it had been harder for her in this country. He’d got his office and his work, and plenty of colleagues that he counted as friends. But Lucy? Well, she’d struggled a lot more.

Of course, everyone here was so warm, and had been genuinely welcoming when they’d first arrived. This new world seemed to offer everything they’d ever wanted as a couple. A beautiful home. Top quality schooling and the potential that offered, for the boys. A good life, and now money to spare that would top up investments, for them and for the boys, in years to come.

 And everyone was so friendly…except ‘close’ friends were harder to come by than you would expect!

Steven Kear – who was also from the UK - had a theory. Friendship, he’d once quite aptly said, was a bit like the games of baseball played by the Braves down at their stadium in the city.

It went like this...

Take the UK, or in fact, anywhere in Europe, he’d explained. There, it often took ages to get a good friendship going. It was tough to get to first base. But, once you got there, moving on to 2nd and 3rd base, to deepen that friendship, could happen quite quickly. Here in the USA – at least in their part of it – you hit first base almost immediately… to find that there was no 2nd or 3rd! Those didn’t seem to exist!

At least not in the way he and Lucy had been used to, Geoff mused.

The outcome was this: over here, it was easy to know lots of people who, in their own way, would be delighted to count you a friend. But what did that mean? They would rarely invite you into their home or share a family meal with you other than ‘doing lunch’ out at some restaurant. Dropping in, uninvited, for a cuppa, was frowned on.

With their 'drive through' culture, even the schools were different, especially when the boys were younger.

In the UK on the daily school run, dropping off and picking up the boys, Lucy found that she could easily meet other parents. There was a tradition of finding a place to sit and natter while waiting for the children to come out. Here, parents drew up in their minivans (and the queue of vans often stretched way out the parking lot and down the road), until they arrived at the pickup point.  Doors slid open. Kids got in. Doors closed. Drive-through school!

Still, although it took some getting used to, it was at school that the boys had found good friends. Lads like Luke’s pal, Ryan; a great kid, though his parents were total crap, Geoff thought. No, it was the adults that had found the transition harder, and for Lucy, families like the Kears were a godsend!

As he drive away in the direction of the lake, and the family chatted and joked, his head was still buzzing with the implications of what Luke had said.

When they moved their family to the States, both boys – and Luke in particular – had been steaming mad with them. But that had passed, as he knew it would. Now, to hear him talk about this place as being ‘home’ – well that was quite something!, Even though it made complete sense! Could it really be that they, and any future generations of Summers family, would become American residents?

It was a price he'd never anticipated when he'd done the math to cost out the move. Would they ever be able to go back to the UK if the boys made their lives here? Could Lucy even contemplate that - leaving kids and possible grandkids to go live another country? Of course she wouldn’t.

It didn’t take too long, and soon they were pulling beside the jetty and unhitching the boat, easing it into the water alongside a dozen other colorful sails, all eager to catch the stiff breeze.

The boat? Well that had been a rash promise he’d made to Simon.

When they’d left the UK and the sailing club that he loved, they’d agreed to find a way for him to continue the sport in America and would even look into buying a boat.

Making promises was easy; delivering on them a lot harder - and that one had come back to haunt him! They’d rented boats for a while, but Simon didn’t let it go until they finally got the sailing dinghy, though it had taken quite a bit of negotiating to agree the when, what and how much. Not just for Simon, but for Luke too, who’d had to be bought off as well!

They’d got Simon linked into a club, one that centered up at the lake. But it wasn’t cheap! Mind you, having their own boat now cut the rental costs substantially, so maybe it was a sound investment after all?

It wasn’t a large craft; a one or two man racing dinghy that he’d bought off a colleague – a guy who’d claimed that the two greatest days of owning a boat were the day you bought it and the day you sold it! Still, he’d pushed for a good price, and it’d come with the trailer. The van already had a hitch, so they were good to go.

The purchase was in lieu of both Christmas AND birthday presents for that year – plus a TON of goodwill thrown in. When it had come to budget, and the actual style and standard of boat they should buy, the negotiations with Simon had been intense. Budgets he was quite happy with. Boys – particularly teenage ones – were a lot harder to understand!

Naturally, Luke stuck in his own oar, complaining that it would be completely unfair for Simon to get such a gift, and he get nothing. He’d bartered his own package deal (covering his birthday and Christmas gifts, of course). He ended up with what HE really wanted. One of the new MacBooks.

Now THAT was something that Geoff Summers could understand. Like his eldest son, he loved anything Apple!

Lucy had said it was all a small price to pay.

Sure!!

It WAS just money he’d tried to convince himself, and he couldn’t deny that the boat had been something they’d all come to enjoy over the last couple of year or so. Even then as the two of them sat together on the bluff and proudly watched their sons skidding across the choppy waves in front of them, he realized she was probably right! 

Simon steered the boat close into the Point, and he waved to them, watching as they sliced across the water, laughing; eyes bright through the spray.

‘You won’t have them for long’ a small voice whispered.

As any parent does, he realized the natural way of it. As Luke had instinctively known that lunchtime, the day would come when they would eventually make their own way in life.

Did it have to be so soon?

Watching the lively pair, the sadness of it touched him.

He sighed, coming back to the present. Now was as good a time as any. Whilst the boys cut through the water, he talked to his wife about another cut they needed to reconsider.

In the latest article that Luke had pushed at them, there had been a reference to what had been called, ‘The Kindest of Cuts’. A clearly pro-circumcision stance, the article had been an exploration of the cultural and positive health aspects of the procedure. He’d read it, but ignored the conclusions; and ignored what was right in front of him.

Maybe, for Luke, in the life that he now led - the life that he and Lucy had forced on their boys in the first place - he needed this more than they realized. Perhaps it would be the kindest of cuts after all?

* * *

After an afternoon on the water, the family had made it home around six.

Quickly polishing off a couple of homework assignments that just HAD to be done, Luke fired up his MacBook to log into Facebook, checking to see if anyone had left any messages.

Over the last six months, he'd added quite a few more friends. Basically, almost everyone from school was on Facebook, though by no means did he add them all! Neither of his parents were on the social network, and thought the whole thing ridiculous. How on earth can you have so many friends, his dad had asked him once? Do you actually know them personally? Of course he didn't, but on Facebook, the term ‘Friend’ didn't really carry the same meaning that they had grown up with. He knew they would never get it!

He logged in, and up came his page. His username on almost everything had always been 'londonlolly' (from the old nickname, Lolly) and his Facebook page was to be found at www.facebook.com/londonlolly.

Since that fateful day in December, when Simon had spoken about his sexuality for the first time, they’d talked about it, on and off and when it came to Toby, he hadn’t pried.

Toby had come along sailing with them a couple of times over the years, but wasn’t keen at all. It seemed the guys couldn’t even swim! In fact, it was one of his other classmates, Jacko, who had joined them more often.

But, when it came to guys, Simon wasn't the only person that Luke knew who seemed to be gay. As he logged into Facebook that night, he noticed the other one, currently registered in the 'online now' box at the bottom.

On impulse, he flicked up the messaging box.

[LUKE] "Hey!"

There was nothing for several minutes, as his message waited patiently. He was about to give up and log out when the reply popped up.

[DAMONJ] “Hi Luke - how's things?"

[LUKE] “Cool thanks. You?”

[DAMONJ] "I'm good! Bored …"

Luke grinned to himself. From the number of recent Farmville requests Damon Jamieson had generated, he could tell!

He’d been wondering for a while, but why Luke decided to ask that particular question, just then, he was never sure. They chatted about nothing of importance for a few minutes, before he got round to what was on my mind.

[LUKE]  "Can I ask you something?"

[DAMONJ] "Sure...shoot…"

[LUKE]  "It's a bit personal..."

[DAMONJ]  "OK, try me...(smiley)"

It was personal and Luke hesitated after he’d typed the short phrase. He decided to go ahead and press send.

[LUKE] "Well…I just wondered if you happened to be gay?"

After it fired off, there was a pause, before Damon replied.

[DAMONJ] "Hell - that's quite a question!"

[LUKE] "Sorry – none of my business - forget it!"

Embarrassed, Luke had typed hurriedly. There was a pause again – long enough to make him squirm, wondering whether he’d crossed the line, big-time!

[DAMONJ]  "Well, if you really want to know…yes, I am. Is that a problem?"

Now what should he say? He’d broached the subject, but without any idea where to go with it. He had to say SOMETHING.

[LUKE] "I kind of thought you might be...from stuff on your pages, I mean. No, it's no problem at all. I didn't mean it like that."

[DAMONJ]  "So why do you ask?"

The reply had come quickly and felt probing.

[DAMONJ]  "Are you?"

Whoaaa...

[LUKE] "No, but..."

Luke paused a moment, thinking it through. There was no way he was going to identify Simon, and reveal what his brother had told him - even in a private Facebook chat - to a guy he hardly knew, in New York! On the other hand, it wouldn’t do any harm to get another perspective. He continued typing.

[LUKE] "...someone I know - a friend I've known a long time…is I think. I was just trying to understand it more."

There was an extremely long pause before the reply popped up.

[DAMONJ] "He actually told you that, or are you just guessing?"

[LUKE] "No, he told me. We go back a long way."

[DAMONJ] "Oh. Well, he was brave!"

[LUKE]  "Why do you say that?"

[DAMONJ]  "Not sure I would do that. It takes a lot of trust in someone to come out to them like that. Trust me – I know! So, how do you feel about it...and him?"

That was easy. Luke typed quickly.

[LUKE] "It was a surprise, I guess - but he's still a friend. I don’t think it makes any difference in the end."

There was another long pause.

[LUKE] "Are you still there?"

[DAMONJ]  "Sorry...was just thinking...I need to go...talk soon...bye."

[LUKE ] "Bye..."

Luke was a little surprised by the abrupt end, and stared at the screen thoughtfully. After a few moments, he shut down the chat window and went on read a few of the messages that had piled up on his email. He sent out a number of replies, then logged off and went to go run a long hot bath in preparation for bed.


6. The Welsh Type

An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA

by Riley Jericho

The Welsh Type

Luke rarely went to Ryan's place on a Sunday. Partly, it was because his friend’s parents were home most of the day and he never felt welcome, but also because the Alexis family went to church. Sunday mornings, rain or shine, they would be there. It seemed quite bizarre to him, as they didn’t seem the slightest bit religious.

Later that afternoon, along with the rest of the family, he’d be going over to the Kears, but that wouldn’t be for ages. Then, over breakfast, while he was trying to convince Simon to come down to the driving range with him, his brother had got a call from Toby, asking if he wanted to come round.

That blew that option, so rather than sit alone and bored, he’d made a call himself and secured Ryan’s release for after church.  The service was always done, on the dot, by 10:45, so he’d invited Ryan to come over, and stay for lunch too.

It was far too nice a day to stay indoors. There would be enough of that in the summer when the overbearing humidity forced everyone to head for air conditioning so, a little reluctantly, Ry had agreed to the golf course.  Later that morning, he got on his bike and, with a handful of irons precariously balanced across his handlebars, headed to Ryan's.

Resting his bike as neatly as he could, he walked up to the ornate, columned facade and knocked politely on the imposing front door. Even after more than four years, he would never, ever consider going around the back uninvited, if he knew Ryan’s parents were home

 Holding a bottle of Budweiser and dressed in seat pants and a tee, Ryan's father, Captain Ethan Alexis, opened the door. Frowning, he looked intimidating. He always looked intimidating!

It wasn't because he was shirtless and carried an unmissable tattoo, etched into his forearm. It wasn't even the smattering of healed scars, that reflected of a life of violent action. In his opinion, it was because the guy was just plain nasty.

"Good morning, sir," he said, politely. “Ryan was expecting me.”

Captain Alexis glowered and stared at him as though he were an inconvenience rather than his son's best friend. Without breaking the grilling gaze, he bellowed back into the house. "Ryan! It's for you."

"Is it Luke?" A familiar voice filtered down the wide stairs. "Tell him to go around the back."

Alexis took a swig of his bottle and looked more likely to say 'get the fuck off my property' before giving him a perfunctory flick of his head as he shut the door. Glad to escape, he hurried around the side of the house, passing through the tall iron trellis gate and into the grounds.

If he'd thought their house was big, it was dwarfed by most on that exclusive, gated estate, where Ryan lived! Even then, the Alexis residence - the word 'home' didn't quite fit - wasn't by any means the biggest in the area!

The building extended on three sides; the two arms embracing the large, heated, outdoor pool. The fourth side of the pool opened up to the considerable gardens.

The main section of the house would have been more than enough room for a dozen, let alone just the three of them, and was a double story. The two arms reached out as single level, open-jaw, extensions. Along one side, the buildings housed a well-endowed gym, as well as a function room and home cinema. Across the other side of the pool was a separate apartment, though who’d really want to live there, was beyond him. A year or so ago there’d been a live-in maid he recalled, but she hadn’t lasted long.

Attached to the main building, there was also a massive, three-car garage. Within a few moments, the side door of that garage opened and Ryan came out wheeling his bike.

“And why am I doing this?” he complained, pulling a face as he left his bike on the side and went back in, to return momentarily with a couple of his own golf clubs.

“Because you love the game?” Luke hazarded, unable to stifle a grin.

Ryan shot daggers at him and they saddled up to head across to the golf course. More specifically, the driving range.

The pair had only started playing recently. Even then, he found he really only enjoyed whacking balls up the range, bored by the drudgery of walking from hole to hole in the time-honoured way. It wasn’t like he was even any good at the game.

However, the great thing was, at least when it came to sports, it was almost the ONLY thing he knew of, at which Ryan was TOTALLY CRAP! He still couldn’t quite believe he’d agreed to come again!

Maybe it was because Ryan wasn’t the type of person to let anything beat him, let alone a poxy 1.68 inch golf ball!

So it was around thirty minutes later that Luke watched in bemusement as his friend took another swing, clearly determined that this one was going to go fast, high, and right to the flag. He swiped at it with conviction, but the club head clipped the top of the ball.

"Oh, for God's SAKE!" Ryan kicked at the rubber peg in frustration.

"Ryan Alexis - and you've just been to church!” he grinned. They watched the ball bounce about a dozen meters before dribbling to a resounding stop. “What would the vicar say?"

"He's probably taking communion down at the Irish bar," Ryan grunted as he placed another ball on the tee. "You wanna go ask him?" He limbered up again.

Luke watched in amusement. It was a glorious Sunday morning that found them on the driving range - just not for Ry! He took his best shot and...

“Oh, bad luck! Try another one?” He counted up the number of balls that hadn’t made it more than ten meters. "Do you want some help?" Maybe it was a bit mean, but he knew the offer of it would really rub Ryan up the wrong way.

"Nope." The replies were getting as short as Ry's patience, and he smirked as the next one headed over someplace to the right. He teed his own, eyed it up, and took a controlled swipe, watching with satisfaction as it lofted high and straight, straight down the range.

Ryan stared at it, stonily. "How the hell is it that you're so good at this, and I totally suck?" He glanced around, relieved to see nobody else he recognised. Thankfully, there weren’t many people out on the range that morning.

"I'm English - it's probably in the genes.” He shrugged, smug with the taste of victory. “The next generation of Summers kids are bound to be world-class golf pros!"

“Yeah – right…” Ryan shook his head morosely and reached for another ball with the forlorn hope that this one might leave the tee with some modicum of grace.

He studied him with amusement. With smart shorts and an expensive looking polo shirt, Ryan looked the part - that is, until he actually hit the ball! Bottom line...he was absolutely useless at golf and, if it came to any genes he had to offer, then God help the next generation!

Other than that, he was one of those guys that could probably have any girl he fancied. Even the Stacey's of this world! Then again, he'd never dated anyone that Luke knew of.

"Ry....?"

"What?" Despite the interruption, Ryan kept his attention on the ball and tried to stay relaxed. He went back to taking small practice swings, hoping to gauge its position again.

"Have you ever had a girlfriend?"

The back and for movement of the club head halted momentarily, then resumed for a few swings, before stopping altogether.  Ryan lifted his head, a quizzical expression on his face. "Nope. You know I haven’t. You?"

"Nah....."

"So, why d'ya ask?"

"Dunno...I just wondered..."

"Wondered what?" Ryan continued to watch him, knowing him well enough to guess there was more.

"Well, it's just that there's this girl that works at Longhorn,” he confessed, prodding at a couple of loose balls with his toe. “We were there yesterday."

Ryan grinned and gave up on the golf in exchange for a full interrogation. "My God! You fancy some waitress?"

"Nah...not really." He shrugged - even to him, it sounded lame. “It’s not like that.”

"So what's her name?"

“I knew I shouldn’t have told you!”

“NAME! NOW!” With a glint in his eye, Ryan bore down on him.

"Stacey."

"Stacey who?"

"I don't know,” he replied, feeling awkward. “I only know she's called Stacey."

"So, let me get this straight,” cackled Ryan, gleefully. “There's this girl you know nothing about, other than she's called Stacey and is good with iced tea.” He counted off her qualities on his fingers. “Oh - and you have the serious hots for her!"

"Give over - it's not like that...." He rolled his eyes, wishing now he’d never mentioned it. He ignored Ryan, to take another swing of his own: a shot which went skidding to the right, almost to where Ryan’s had ended up.

His friend snickered, milking the moment. "Hell, Luke - it looks like this girl could really mess up your golf game - I would stay well away from her!” He leaned expectantly on his club. “So, when are we next going to Longhorn?"

Luke shook his head and ignored him. Sure - as if he would subject himself to THAT! Not a chance!

Finally, much to Ryan's relief, they ran out of balls and headed back  home for a light lunch. There was no rush and, as they passed along the crisscrossing golf-cart paths balancing clubs on their bikes, Ryan was contemplative.

“Joking apart,” he said as they peddled slowly. “Does she like you? This Stacey, I mean.”

Cautiously, Luke glanced across at him, but didn’t see any teasing. “Maybe – I’m not really sure.”

“And you?”

“She’s alright, I guess.”

“You don’t sound convinced.”

“I dunno - I’m just not sure I want a girlfriend right now, that’s all. What about you?”

“Does she have a sister?”

Without even looking, he could hear the return of the goading undertone, and shook his head, grinning. “Actually, I think she does. I heard she’s a bit chubby. Should be about right for you!”

His mum had prepared sandwiches for lunch, and Simon and Toby had arrived in time to tuck in, too. She shooed the four of them onto the back deck with their food, and they sat round a table laden with sandwiches, chips and cold drinks. Simon and Toby both seemed bright and cheerful and, as he had numerous times in the last couple of months, he observed Toby with curious interest.

Since that day just before Christmas, when his brother had come out to him, Simon had begged him not to tease, and definitely NOT say anything weird when he was around Toby Skerrit! He’d promised and kept his word. At the same time, he couldn't help wondering what Toby was really like behind those enigmatic eyes.

Over lunch, Simon was in a good mood and in full flood as he tried to explain the techniques of small boat racing to Ryan, who in turn seemed quite interested. The hot sun moved around as they ate and talked and he watched as Toby, who didn’t look like he saw the sun too much, dragged his chair nearer to Simon, getting back under the shade of the wide umbrella.

They were a curious pair. Simon, on his favorite subject, and Toby watching him with a cryptic smile. To the casual observer, pulling his chair closer meant nothing – and it probably was nothing, though he couldn’t help it, and his imagination went into overdrive.

Si had said that he didn't think Toby was gay, but what if he was wrong? He studied him out of the corner his eye. Could you tell if someone was gay? How they spoke...how the acted? He gave up on that train of thought fairly rapidly. Of course you couldn't.

Still - what if? Would Si have told him if there was something going on between the two of them? Maybe…maybe not.

He let his mind drift. So what if they were they together; as in a couple? Had they done any kissing yet? What had that been like? Nice?

“Luke likes it a lot too…”

He stirred uncomfortably, not knowing how anyone - even Simon - could know this to be true. He didn't even know himself yet!  Somehow, it didn't compute, yet he could see Simon was speaking to him - and he expected an answer.

“Don’t you?” Simon added, waiting.

“Sorry...what…?” He tried to pick apart the bits of conversation he’d heard, hoping to get some clue as to what he was missing.

“Leaning out the side, to keep the balance in a strong breeze!”

“Oh...THAT. Errr...sure...” Distracted by a daydream consumed by smooching, his reply was half-heartedly pathetic. He tried to think of something more definite, but Simon had moved on, explaining to Ry how easy it was to flip the boat.

He was right of course. In strong winds, it was extremely tricky to balance the forces when the light craft began to lift out of the water, and he didn't have the same feel for it that Simon did. More than once he’d dumped both of them in the drink!

As Simon pressed on, he went back to studying Toby, fascinated by the unknowns - that is, until Toby glanced his direction, and those dark brooding eyes quickly forced him to look away. He tried to wipe the unhelpful thoughts from his mind, feeling guilty he’d drifted to thoughts of guys.

Again.

After lunch, Toby and Ryan took off on their bikes, and the four of themy packed themselves a few bits and pieces into their minivan and made ready to drive over to the Kears. Later in the afternoon, they would be lighting the charcoal for a BBQ, though Luke presumed that it would be one of them would actually cook the meat again. Steven Kear was a bit hopeless in that area.

* * *

Extract from Luke’s notes:

I should probably tell you a bit more about the Kears.

They were Brits. The Welsh type. A family of four, who'd only been living in the US for nine months.

Steven Kear was some kind of Data Analyst and had taken a computer job working for some minor world-health agency, which had offices nearby. If the house was anything to go by, it didn't look like they paid much! They had a son, Owen, who was my age, and a precocious twelve-year-old girl, Becky. Becky really had a thing for Simon, which made being with them a whole lot of fun!

Purely by chance, mum had first met Anne Kear in a checkout line in Wal-Mart. She said she picked up on the musical, Welsh accent of the lady fumbling with cash in front of her, and they'd got talking.

Well, you know what mum's like! Discovering that Anne and her family were newly arrived in the area, she decided to take her under her wing, helping her with the mysteries of cross-cultural survival.

That had been not long into the autumn semester, about five months previous.  Like us, they'd come over during the summer holidays.

The truth was, things were not going well for the Kears. The first two or three months had been fine, and got the idea that Owen and Becky were actually more than happy to exit south Wales and take a flight, bound for the promised land of life in America.

But it hadn’t lasted.

And now they were in trouble. And it centered around Owen.

* * *

That afternoon, as the two older boys masterminded the grill, the fathers talked about savings and investments and Simon hid from Becky, the two mothers caught up with mum stuff.

"It's warm today!" Anne Kear fanned herself as they sat around the scruffy kitchen table, sipping a hot cup of tea.

Lucy felt for her. ‘World Health’ didn’t seem to pay well, and the type of place the family had been able to afford the rental on came with AC units out of the ark! The fan did it’s best to stir the air.

"Goodness, Anne, this is nothing," Lucy laughed, trying to make light of it. "You wait ‘til the summer comes. Then it really heats up!"

"If we're still here." Anne sighed, reminded of the problems that enveloped her little family.

"Oh..." She understood what they were facing. Seeing Owen mooching around, she already suspected the on-going cause. "The kids are still unhappy, then?"  

"Well, Becky's fine now – she’s made some good friends at last. But Owen's just become so negative.” Anne shook her head in frustration at her son's moody outbursts. “He's making it completely miserable for everyone."

"Our two were exactly the same, Anne. I just takes time."

"Yes, I know. You said that before. But he says he doesn't belong here, and doesn't want to try to fit in.” Anne hung her head. As the tears gathered, she shook her head in frustration and the sense of failure boiled up in her. "I mean, what's the point?" She paused, and the fleeting anger slipped away. “I can't seem to do anything right!  He can't, or won't, make an effort, so what kind of future is he going to have, if we stay?"

She was at a loss for what to say and reached out to hold her friend’s hands supportively.

* * *

At that very same moment, Luke was out on the back deck with Owen as they tended the smoking grill. The deck needed work; the garden was untidy; the home was missing something. It all reflected a family in crisis.

As far as he knew, the Kears’ place was rented - and it was a crummy place at that. Flaking paint, sad carpets, signs of rotting wood... Maybe that was part of Owen’s problem, he wondered? They hadn't bought here. Bridges hadn’t been burned and, unlike for him and Simon, the Kears still had a home back in Swansea. It was being rented out, and the option to crash out of life in the States still remained. He watched the burly, welsh teen push burgers around a rack that was far too small, with little enthusiasm for the task.

"I can't help it!" sighed Owen. His welsh lilt was strong. "I just want to go home, but they won't listen!" He didn't try to hide that he was fed up with America and pissed off with the totally crap existence that was his life.

"What's the school like?" He hoped there might be something positive he could draw out of the guy. Owen went to Creek High and Becky was in the middle school. As far as local schools went, he'd heard good things. “Made many friends?”

"Oh...it's okay, I guess." Owen shrugged and kicked a loose stone off the deck. "But I hardly know anyone. They all have their mates, but I never seem to bloody well fit in." He shoved at a sausage ineffectually and it fell through the mesh of the cheap grill onto smoking coals.

"Do you wanna do it?" Owen gave up the slice to him, before slumping down on a chair. Taking over turning the meat, he felt for him. He'd been there - for a short time anyway - but at least he'd made friends. If you didn't have anything worth looking forward to every day, it could get really bad. And Owen looked pretty low.

"It took me a year before I really began to feel settled, you know."

"A year?" Owen shook his head, took off his glasses and wiped sweat from his unfortunately spotty face. The zit god had not been kind to him that day.  He needed fresh air and sunshine rather than mooching around inside the house, day after day, "But that’s it. I don't want to feel settled,” he murmured, mostly to himself. “I just want to go home."

Luke had no answers. There was no quick fix. In fact, for some problems in life, there was no fix at all!

Fortunately for him, occasionally, life could give you a few breaks. On a completely different topic, he had little idea of what passed between his parents as, in the seclusion of their bedroom later that night, they talked about him.

* * *

“What you said yesterday,” Lucy began. She put down her book as Geoff crawled into bed, alongside her, “about this whole circumcision issue, with Luke.”

“Oh yes?”

“I’ve been thinking about it.”

Geoff knew she felt torn. As they'd talked about it by the lake, that’d been clear. On the one hand, she was dead against surgery, and thought the practice of circumcision on boys or men, quite barbaric. On the other hand, she agreed with him that they couldn’t just keep ignoring their son, his feelings, and the need to make his own choices in life.

“I was talking to Anne, this afternoon.” She seemed to change the subject, though perhaps it was all part of the same thing.

He frowned. "About Luke?"

"No...about Owen."

"Ah...him..." Geoff knew what she was referring to. “We’ve been lucky, you know.”

“With our two?” Lucy nodded, knowing he was right. She settled under the sheets and added, “Did Luke really talk about living over here permanently?”

He grimaced. It still took some getting used to. He'd told her about the conversation that he'd had with their eldest the previous day, and she, like him, had recognized the truth in it.

“They’re growing up fast, aren’t they?”

Luke had his own future to make. They'd both agreed on that.  'Family' could be a complicated thing, and he knew how lucky they were that neither of their boys was in the kind of hole that Owen Kear had fallen in to.

They switched off the bedside lights and settled into the darkness. “So, what do you suggest?” he asked, pushing her forward a little in the right direction.

“About circumcision?”

He nodded. He’d no qualms that, in the end, it would be her decision that counted. It wasn't as if she wore the trousers in their home - far from it - but she had opinions, and could be as stubborn as hell if she wanted to be. And when it came to the boys, she wouldn’t be swayed! Even when they’d first left the UK, despite his lucrative job offer and the opportunity to take great leaps up his corporate ladder, they’d only made the transition because she gave her blessing.

Maybe that's how all mothers were?

He’d learned over the years both how to direct her, and to give her the control she needed, so he waited. She needed time to work it through, that was all.

“What if we make an appointment for him?” she said finally, acknowledging that it was time for her to make room for a small step: for her and for her son. She twisted around to face him. “Just to get some advice?”

"A professional, medical opinion you mean?"

She paused and nodded, the turn of phrase helping her.

Geoff smiled to himself. Whatever that opinion turned out to be, he knew she would be guided by it, as he hoped Luke would be, too.

Good result!

* * *

Two days later, after being dropped off by Toby’s mum, Grace Skerrit, who’d done the school run that day, Luke strode into their kitchen, slung his jacket over the back of a chair. His mum was just hanging up the phone. He watched her write the word ‘consultation’ on the calendar that hung off the fridge.

“Two weeks on Friday,” she informed him as he opened the fridge.

“For what?” He retrieved the milk and, as an afterthought, found a glass and began pouring.

They'd better not have changed the date of his driving test!

“To see a consultant.”

“Is something wrong?” He paused and looked up sharply. Was someone sick! Her? Dad?

“For you. To see a urologist.”

His mouth dropped open. It wasn’t hard to equate ‘urologist’ to ‘circumcision’.

“You’re kidding!” Was this a wind up? His excitement brimmed as much as the milk. “You’re getting me an appointment to get done?”

“Yes and no,” his mum clarified, smiling at his enthusiasm and passing him a cloth to clean up the mess. “It’s a consultation with somebody who knows what they’re talking about. ONLY to get some advice, mind, that’s all.”

He hardly listened. It was a start- that's all he cared about! Suddenly he was unable to contain himself. “When did you say it was?” In his excitement, he started gabbling!

"Two weeks on Friday. It was the first available appointment they had."

* * *

Extract from Luke’s notes:

Dad made me laugh when I told him about it later that same evening. I asked him ‘why now’? He’d smirked and said, ‘“To be honest, son, we keep running out of paper for the printer!”

Dork!

At the time, two weeks on Friday sounded like an age, yet it was fast becoming a bumper birthday. My sixteenth was literally just around the corner, and a week after that - being the required year and a day since first I got my instructional permit, I was heading down to get my provisional!

My God, did the days go slowly. Those two weeks were worse than waiting for Christmas Day, back when we were kids! I know it sounds stupid but, as the time got closer, I became really nervous, even though I knew full well it was just a consultation. There was a lot riding on it, and I didn't want to mess it up! In fact I think I was more nervous about that, than the driving test - I mean you can always take that again if you had to!

By the way - for the record - I passed first time! It was a milestone and I could now go out in the van by myself if needed.

I needed!

Three days later, I got really uptight, more nervous than the morning of some PSAT exam! Mind you, like any well prepared student, I’d worked hard to arm myself with a wide array of good-sounding arguments, ready to convince the doctor that what I wanted was both reasonable, and do-able.

I just hoped to God he'd listen!

I remember sleeping REALLY badly the night before. I had a dream, in which some weasely looking surgeon had taken one look at me, and then put me on a plane straight back to England. It was one of those weird unending dream loops. In it, I’d been sitting, stark naked, in an aisle seat, unable to move. Some little girls, carrying refills of iced tea, kept walking by. They would take one look at my excessively long, ugly dick and giggle hysterically! Over and over again…laughing at my strange willy!

Freud would have a field day!

* * *

The day of the appointment finally came, and he got up early, feeling as nervous as hell!

He woke more than an hour earlier than normal and took a long shower, but didn't dare jerk off to relieve some tension with the fear that the Urologist would look into his face and somehow know!

The plan was that, straight after school, his mum would be picking him up from the parking lot straight after the bell to take him to the circumcision specialist. He was under strict orders not to dally.

Yeah - right! Like that was going to happen!

Time dragged through the day as, every few minutes, he rechecked his watch, thinking about what he was going to say to the doctor. How he was going to explain why it was important. Frankly, he was somewhere else!

In the middle of his closeted little world, he began to sense a voice. Finally, he realized that something - someone - was speaking. To him!

"Hello...earth to Luke!” Todd Quince was right in his face. “Anyone in there, dude?"

"What? I mean...yes?”

“LUKE!”

“WHAT?" He mentally shook away the disjointedness and let his irritation show. "Okay - for God's sake - you don't need to shout! Jeez!"

"Dude...where are you?" complained Todd. "You keep drifting off someplace!"

As they stood together on the open grass, Luke felt sheepish, but blustered his way through it. "So? Just got something on my mind, that's all. Anyway...what were you saying?"

"You are such an asshole!" Todd rolled his eyes in understandable annoyance. "Sorry, dude, I'm not going to go through all that again! If you weren't listening, ask Ry!" Exasperated, he left the two of them, pacing off in a huff.

"Was he still talking about Fion?" That had been the last thing Luke had any memory of. Fion was Todd's ex.

"You really were somewhere else, weren't you? What's up with you these days?” Ryan studied him in bemusement. “And yes, he was talking about Fion. You obviously somehow managed to miss most off it."

“So?" Todd was still carrying a flame for Fion. That made him the asshole for dumping her in the first place! Who cared anyway? He sure as hell wasn't going to become some kind of agony aunt for Todd Quince!

"Do you want to come round this afternoon - after school?" Ryan changed the subject and raised his eyebrows hopefully.

At any other time…absolutely. He loved going round and hanging out with Ryan. Just not today.

"Oh, sorry Ry....Mum wants me for something." It was a bit shallow. "What about tomorrow?"

"No go - Army cookout."

"Oh. Right." Luke grimaced. He knew how much Ryan hated that particular monthly gathering. "Sorry."

Ryan didn’t press and they moved on to something else. Well, Ryan moved on - Luke just went back to what was consuming him!

The minutes passed excruciatingly until, finally, the end of day bell sounded. Now, after all that hanging around, the clock was ticking. He kept his head down, avoided any conversations, and hurried out, relived to find his mum already waiting in the parking lot. Simon would be getting a lift with Toby, so it was just him and her in the van as they pulled away from the school. He was so on edge about someone spotting him making a hasty exit minus brother, that he didn't even waste time trying to get behind the wheel, even though a freshly printed licence was burning a hole in his wallet!

Thankfully, the traffic was still light and the two of them made equally light conversation on the journey. He flicked on the radio, tuning to a station that he quite liked and his mother just about tolerated, and listened to that as she drove. Even though they were taking the highway towards the city, he realized he’d got no idea where they were going.

"Is it far?" They pulled down the ramp, off the 400 and onto the 285.

"No, not too far." His mum negotiated their minivan into a middle lane and matched speed with the traffic. "About forty minutes. There's a letter with some directions in my bag. Can you get it out?"

He pulled out the letter which contained the confirmation of his appointment with a Dr. Tiberius. There was also a map and driving instructions. It all looked fairly straightforward.

Forty minutes? Just round the corner really.

When they came to live in the States, it was another of the many transitions they'd quickly made.  Back in England, if they were forced to go more than a few miles in the car, he and Simon had been naggy travellers. Here, people took distances in a completely different way. Even driving an hour to go to the shops was no biggy.

It’d taken them eight hours in the nice minivan in which he was now sitting to get down to Florida, on vacation. The journey down became part of the holiday. They'd talked a lot. He and Simon had listened to music and watched a few movies on the fold down screen, and there were always plenty of cup holders for the drive-through meals!

When people asked him about the differences between their two countries, his dad had a saying. It was this: for a Brit, a hundred miles is a long way; for an American, a hundred years is a long time! Actually, it was pretty true, though the rest of them got fed up of hearing him quote it.

He took on navigating and, only half-listening to the silly banter coming out of the station, exited them off the 285 perimeter that encircled Atlanta, and onto a highway that headed into the city. They travelled through an area of expensive looking office complexes, without a strip mall in sight – and you can imagine how much he and Simon had giggled when they first heard THAT term!

The map was good to its word and, ten minutes later, they arrived. He pointed to the building on the other side of the road and, crossing through a break in the traffic, his mum pulled into the medium sized parking lot that served what looked liked a sizable medical center, and parked up.

As she turned off the engine, he checked his watch.  Perfect timing as always! How the hell did she do that?

"Sweetheart, remember what we said? This is just a consultation.”

He nodded. They’d covered this ground several times already.

“We're seeing a urologist,” she continued.  “Doctor Marsh recommended him."

Duh...did she think he was dumb? At least they were here, he told himself. Impatient to get in, he kept his peace.

"I know you feel strongly about the whole matter, but don’t forget our agreement - to listen to, and abide by, his recommendation.” The way she saw it, Luke guessed that she believed he just needed someone other than her and his dad to tell him that it really was best to leave things as they were.

“If the specialist advises that the procedure is unnecessary,” she continued, “then let that be it."

Bingo!  Again, he nodded - but only on the outside.

They got out of the van and he took a deep breath as he followed her into the building.

Welcomed by pleasant air-conditioning, they approached the expansive reception desk where a receptionist greeted them politely. She was both attentive and courteous, as well being young and quite pretty – and she clearly knew her job. She glanced at Luke, dressed in his school uniform as he waited next to his Mum, and smiled. Politely too, he returned the smile, asking himself if she was the kind of receptionist that read patient's notes. He shifted uncomfortably, wondering whether she was thinking something like 'he-he, here comes another school-kid penis patient!'

The thought was off-putting and, while his mum completed the preliminaries, he studied the floor carefully.

"If you just want to take a seat," the receptionist said, once the paperwork was in order. She gestured to a bank of plush seating and picked up the phone. "Doctor Tiberius will see you shortly."

They took their seats to wait.

He took a moment to study the surroundings, and his immediate impression (similar to most times he went to Dr. Marsh, their family Doctor's office in Roswell) was that this was nothing at all like going to the doctors in the UK. At least to no doctor’s surgery he'd ever attended!

A nice building; a cool, comfortable and rather plush reception area; a polite welcoming receptionist and not a single copy of Good Housekeeping Magazine anywhere!

What also seemed missing, he noticed, were sick people. Rather than being surrounded by dozens of old people, coughing and shuffling, or screaming young kids being held down by desperate mothers, the small number waiting with them that day all looked remarkably well.

It felt more like a health spa, than a sanatorium!

He picked up the appointment confirmation letter that his mum had left next to her with her purse, and studied the name.

Dr. Tiberius.

Even that sounded like some ancient Roman baths! The only Tiberius he'd ever known was Star Trek's James Tiberius Kirk, and he smirked to himself as he tried to imagine Dr McCoy as some secret Federation Circumcision expert!

What would he be like - or, shit, it might even be a she he suddenly thought, but then remembered that his mum had always referred to him as 'him'.

Mind you, she could be wrong too!

They only had to wait a couple of minutes before he found out, as someone came out into the reception area and he spotted the middle aged, bow tie sporting, professional, speak quietly to the receptionist. It had to be him. He took a folder from her, before turning in their direction to stride purposefully towards them.

It was.

'Mrs Summers?" The smile was genuine and Tiberius held out an outstretched hand. His mum popped out of her seat rapidly and took the proffered handshake. Politely, Luke stood and the man turned to him and held out his hand again. "And you must be Luke. I'm Jonathan Tiberius."

For the briefest of moments, he had a panicky feeling that the doctor was bent on having the consultation right there in the waiting area, so it was a relief when he invited them to follow him. He guided them through the building, making several turns, to finally reach a door bearing a golden plaque. It read, 'A. Jonathan Tiberius', followed by a long bunch of letters. Briefly, he wondered what the 'A' was for but, as A. Jonathan ushered them into his office, he decided it didn't matter.

If he was meant to be impressed, it was working. As Doctor’s offices go, it wasn’t small!

For a start, the desk was definitively NOT the type you could pick up at a yard sale! Behind it, a padded and expensive looking leather executive swivel chair waited. Partly obscured by a curtain, he spotted a standard doctor’s couch at the end of the room. By the look of the place, he would definitely say there was money in penises!

The physician ignored the desk and couch and instead guided them to a couple of informal, overstuffed, sofas, set around a knee-high coffee table. A bowl of various fruits added to the decoration and Luke stared at the banana in amusement.

"Mrs. Summers. Luke," Tiberius opened, smiling genially as they all took their seats. His eyes strayed between them and then fixed on Luke’s mum. "How can I be of service today?"

Luke frowned. He was sure that the man had to realize that the ONLY reason he was there was because he was the patient, surely? Why else would he be there, and, unfairly, it felt his question was posed to the wrong person.

He’d come too far to fall at this point, and there was no way he was letting his mum decide the flow and tone of the conversation. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her leaning forward to speak, so he got in there first. "I want to be circumcised!" he blurted.

There was a slight pause, and he cringed, feeling two sets of eyes drilling into him, so he filled it - rather more awkwardly with, "What I mean is, if you can do the surgery for me, I'd like it…please…" A further pregnant pause followed, and he immediately thought of all the better ways there would have been to launch his campaign.