The breeze plays patterns with the curtain, shifting it aside and letting in the sunlight, drifting flat against the sill. The boys sit and sweat. Mid-afternoon, and the room is tired and tanned as all of August. School’s out for summer. School’s out forever. We don’t need no education.
“You said that already.”
“Well, I’m still bored.”
“What about bikes?”
“Oh, please. It’s too hot for that.”
Yeah, it’s too hot for that. Colin accepts the reprimand, fiddles with his camera. He has sweat all down his back, feels it glue the shirt to his skin. Last summer he was just a kid. Now he’s a proper grown up. Him and Gavin, proper grown ups. Gavin twitches at the curtain.
“When’s your mum leaving?”
“She said she’d be gone by now. Soon.”
The boys wait. Listen for Colin’s mum to leave. Curtains in sunlight.
“And you’re sure your sister’s out?”
“She’s in Brighton today.”
“Lucky bitch. Did you get them?”
“Yeah. I brought a couple of different ones.”
“Let me see.”
“No. Wait till she’s gone.”
“Come on, let’s see them.”
“No. Five minutes.”
Sun, bird song. Colin gives in.
Lifts his mattress, pulls out the rumpled bits of cloth. Red satin, black lace. Gavin pounces on the red in a heartbeat. Feels the cloth between his fingers.
“Oh, yes. This is perfect.”
He starts to peel off his shirt.
“No, no. Not yet. Put it back on. Wait for her to go.”
They simmer. They stew. They sit and sweat and wait. Sit and watch light dapple on the carpet. Colin looks around his halfway teenage bedroom. Tubs of Lego sit and gather dust. God, that was only a summer ago. Posters of cricket, ratty in the corners, posters of the girls from movies. And his first framed photos of the sea. Mum loves them, black and white from the pier at Hastings. Everyone says he’s a good eye for a picture.
Gavin gazes at the knickers on the sheet.
“They’re perfect, Col.”
“Megs’ll go mental if she finds out.”
“These are too good for your stupid sister.”
Sun, bird song, way-off construction. Colin summons courage.
“They’ll suit you though.”
Colin blushes. He can be so shy sometimes.
Colin’s mum is downstairs and muted, bangs the door shut. Colin’s mum crunches on the gravel. Car door, ignition, gone. The engine dwindles into summer, and the boys begin to stir. Gavin reaches out, runs fingers through hems and thongs. Gathers the underwear in handfuls, sniffs them deep. Then he scatters them on the bed, rose petals. Takes off his shirt, his back toned and slick. Slides a thumb around his waistband.
“Show you mine, darling. If I can see yours too.”
Gavin has his hands in his trouser waist, thumbs pushing at the hem. Colin thinks about it. Says nothing, wiggles out of his shorts. These are a kid’s pants, stupid pants. He’s not a kid.
“Take them off too, Col.”
“No. This is you.”
Gavin shrugs, eases the trousers from his hips. Trousers in summer so no-one knows he shaved his legs. His pants cling to his bits. Then they come off, too, and Gavin is naked, smooth all over. Colin’s ashamed to feel himself swell, and knows that Gavin sees it.
“Shut up. You can’t tell anyone.”
Gavin takes the red thong, and steps inside.
“Who am I going to tell, idiot? Course I’m not telling.”
He pulls it up, snug in crotch, snaps the elastic high above his hips. Puts a hand into the satin, starts to rummage, tucks and folds it back between his legs. Hands on sideways hips. Turns to Colin.
“That’s better. I feel better already.”
Something changes in Gavin. A strut to slanted hips, the ribs held up and out and proud to make the waist more narrow. His back arched, chest thrust forward, pubis smooth and tucked, hollow wrinkles in the satin. His neck seems longer. His legs are smooth.
“You look great.”
“Hang on a sec.”
Gav chooses one of Megan’s bras, black and flimsy, slips it over the shoulders.
“Do me up, will you?”
It takes a handful of attempts to catch the eye with the hook. Gavin starts to tousle his hair, tease it forward. It’d be long and shaggy for a boy. It’s a cutesy bob for a girl.
“Oh, that’s better.”
He starts to do his make-up in the mirror. Lips pursed and puckered almost mirror-kissing, kohl with steady hand. Preening volume in the hair. Like Twiggy, that’s the way. Blusher, eyeliner. Humming David Bowie songs, just so slightly out of tune. A bangle. A necklace. A ring.
When you’re a boy.
Other boys check you out.
Standing in pants and a sweat-soaked shirt, Colin gets his camera ready. Drapes the sheets. He’s got a good eye for a picture.
“Well? What do you think?”
Colin turns to see his friend. Slender, all curves and silky lines. Hairless, wide-eyed, red, full lips, angled hips. Hands at the waist, narrowing the waist. She gives a slow twirl, pulls her haunches high and back. Red lace splits her buttocks. The bra pinches black across her back.
“Now, then. Where’d you want me?”
Colin’s shame to feel a stiffy, aching in the root.
“Uh. On the bed. On your knees. Looking back at me.”
Other boys check you out.
Angie gets to her knees on the bed. Looks back over her shoulder, pouts, lips slightly open, smiles, revels in it. Pulls a bra strap to one side, leaves her fingers brushing a bare shoulder. Caught in negative, caught undressing like an accident. With the buzz in every camera click, Angie is the girl she’s always known herself to be. And Colin has a good eye for it. He takes her picture, all the pictures that she wants, all the poses that she wants. Like Twiggy. Like the girls from movies. Roll after roll. Colin gets excited as the films run out, and Angie peels the other bra strap, mouth open at him. Colin’s the only boy at school who’s got a summer girlfriend, even if no-one’s allowed to meet her yet.
Pocket money doesn’t buy a lot of film. But Angie always makes it worth his while. Angie always says her thankyous.