Kevin and Oscar: Snapshots
An Overdue Visit
Kevin flicked over a page of the in-flight magazine, and sighed wearily at what he saw printed there. As he abandoned the uninteresting reading material, Oscar came and plonked himself down in the next seat, looking very green around the gills.
'Jesus – there can't be any more!' said Oscar, exhaling heavily.
'At least you'll have plenty of room for your lunch when we get there,' said Kevin.
'Don't talk to me about lunch,' Oscar winced.
'Maybe you'll feel like finishing off your banana bread before we land,' Kevin said hopefully.
Oscar burped and held his hand to his mouth. Kevin shrank back against the window in alarm.
'It's okay – there's nothing else coming,' said Oscar. 'Man, now I remember why I hate flying so much! Plus it's boring.'
'Even with me here?' said Kevin. 'We were having a nice conversation about Mexico before you started projectile vomiting all over the place.'
'Shut up,' Oscar laughed, giving Kevin a shove. 'Most of it went in the barf-bag – I just got a little spatter on the back of the seat, that's all. But you're right – we were having a nice conversation, and of course flying is better with you here... but then there's nothing I used to do by myself that I don't enjoy doing more now that I do it with you, so...'
'I feel the same way,' Kevin beamed at him. 'So, do you want to resume our nice conversation?'
'I'll tell you one more thing I want to know about Mexico,' said Oscar. 'We're not flying there, are we? To our start point in Tijuana, I mean. We're taking the bus from New York, right?'
'We are taking the bus from New York, with a couple of changes. And there's no air travel of any description on our backpacking tour either – it's all buses, boats, mountain biking and walking.'
'Thank God for that! I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to the whole thing. We're gonna have the time of our lives, aren't we?'
'We sure are,' Kevin grinned. 'In so many ways, and in so many different places!'
'Ooh, promises, promises,' Oscar grinned back. 'Of course, this little vacation is gonna be pretty cool too. It'll be good to see Lucy and Jandro again. You must've been missing them a whole lot.'
'Yeah, I have,' Kevin sighed, 'and I know I'm gonna have even longer to miss them after this visit! But I guess it's okay, really. Wherever we go in the world – be it Mexico or Hong Kong or Nottingham – I know we'll always come back to each other when we're done, and I know we'll always be friends.'
'Of course you will,' said Oscar. 'Friendship like that doesn't just peter out.'
'I was including you in that “we”.'
'Yeah, well... I was including me in that “you”, I guess. Are you sure you know where we're supposed to go when we leave Nottingham Rail Station?'
'Are you sure you know where we're supposed to go when we leave Nottingham Rail Station?' Oscar asked.
Kevin pulled several folded sheets of A4 paper out of his pocket and studied the Google Maps that were printed there.
'No problem,' he said. 'There's the station... there's the café where we're supposed to meet your dad... there's the canal, and that's the way down to the tow-path... and we come off here, by the Castle Marina, as soon as we see Sainsbury's.'
'I'm putting my life entirely in your hands, dude,' said Oscar.
'Are you looking forward to seeing Andre?' asked Kevin.
'Not particularly,' Oscar shrugged. 'I guess it'll be interesting to catch up. I bet he'll like you.'
'Are you sure?' said Kevin. 'I was wondering if he might be a little... well, weird about us. I mean, it's not beyond the realms of possibility, is it?'
'I guess not,' said Oscar.
'Do you really think he'll like me?'
'Of course – people do. Besides...'
'Besides what?' Kevin prompted him.
'He'll probably be super jealous of me,' said Oscar, 'when I come waltzing into the café with a steaming hot Latino hunk on my arm!'
'Oh yeah?' Kevin laughed. 'Do you think he's secretly yearning for one?'
'Oh, I don't know,' Oscar said with a shrug. 'He could be, for all I really know about him!'
'I didn't realise I was a Latino hunk,' said Kevin.
'Of course you are,' said Oscar.
'Were you secretly yearning for one when we got together?'
'I was yearning for you, gorgeous.'
Oscar leaned over and gave Kevin a very deep kiss.
'I have to admit,' said Kevin, 'that tasted a little of barf.'
'Oh my God!' said Oscar, sounding utterly horrified. 'I'm so sorry – I just didn't think!'
'That's okay,' Kevin smiled at him, 'it's the thought that counts.'
Kevin replaced the menu on the tabletop by the condiments and glanced towards the door to the restroom, then he took another sip of his orange juice and glanced at his watch. His attention was diverted as the door to the street outside was thrown open and Andre entered the café. Kevin quickly snatched the menu back up and hid behind it. He saw that Andre was heading for the restroom, where he almost crashed into Oscar in the doorway.
'Oh, hi,' said Oscar. 'You finally made it, then.'
'My train was late,' said Andre, finding that he had to tilt his head upwards to meet Oscar's gaze. 'You've certainly grown, haven't you?'
'That'll happen in five years,' said Oscar. 'Going to the bathroom?'
'Yes. I'll come over and join you in a couple of minutes.'
Andre disappeared into the restroom, and Oscar went to join Kevin.
'Were you hiding behind the menu?' Oscar giggled.
'I didn't want to meet him without you here,' said Kevin.
'Fair enough,' said Oscar. 'Jeez, I'd forgotten how awkward I used to feel around him. Just talking to him for a couple of seconds, I could feel the surliness flooding back!'
'Oh no,' said Kevin, 'I don't want you to get surly again!'
'That's okay,' said Oscar. 'I could never be surly when you were around... and you're around now, so...'
'Do you want to bail right now, while he's in the bathroom?' said Kevin. 'We could hide in Sainsbury's all afternoon – he'd never find us!'
'No, let's stay,' said Oscar, laughing as he gave Kevin a shove. 'I don't want him demanding his contribution to my fare back from my mom.'
'He's had his money's worth now,' said Kevin. 'He's seen you and he's spoken to you – what more does he want?'
'At least one round of sandwiches and a cup of tea in my presence, I expect,' said Oscar. 'Oh look, here he comes.'
Andre sat down opposite Kevin and Oscar and fixed them with an awkward smile. Kevin smiled back, while Oscar folded his arms and adopted an impassive expression.
'Well, Oscar,' said Andre, 'aren't you going to introduce me to your friend?'
'Andre, this is Kevin,' said Oscar. 'He's my boyfriend – we are a gay couple!'
'Oh, is that right?' Andre said.
'Yeah, that's right!' said Oscar. 'You got a problem with it?'
'No,' said Andre, 'not at all.'
He reached into his briefcase and pulled out a nasal spray, which he immediately began jamming up each nostril in turn, inhaling its vapours heavily. Kevin burst out laughing, and snorted some of his orange juice onto the table through his nose.
'Oh my goodness,' said Andre, 'are you okay?'
'Yeah, it just went down the wrong way,' said Kevin, fighting to regain control of his breathing. 'I'm fine now.'
'Well, why don't we all decide what we want to eat and then have a proper catch-up?' said Andre. 'I'll go up to the counter with our order. Lunch is on me, by the way – it's the least I can do.'
'Oh, thank you very much,' said Kevin. 'I'll have the ham and cheese sandwiches on white bread, a chocolate milk and a Twix.'
'I'll have what he's having,' said Oscar, 'except I want a Kit-Kat instead of a Twix.'
'Okay,' said Andre. 'I'll be back in a sec.'
As Andre went up to the counter, Kevin and Oscar collapsed into giggles.
'He does have a nasal spray!' Kevin whispered. 'He carries one with him at all times!'
'If I'd known what it'd take for him to get it out,' Oscar whispered back, 'I'd have told him I'd fallen in love with a boy the last time I saw him!'
'Yes – you, you dink!'
'Even way back then, huh?' said Kevin.
'Yes,' said Oscar, 'even way back then.'
They exchanged a smile.
'I wonder how many of those things he's actually got in there,' said Kevin. 'Do you think he has, like, a backup?'
'Shh,' Oscar giggled, 'he's coming back!'
'Yes, I suppose it brings in a bit of pocket-money for you, and that's fine as far as it goes,' said Andre, as he took a sip of tea, 'but of course you'll have to get some kind of formal qualification before you can make any real money from your music.'
'Hey, Mood Slime's doing just fine, okay?' said Oscar. 'We're on the brink of a major breakthrough!'
'I don't see how you can be, if you're about to take six months away from the band to go traipsing around Mexico,' said Andre. 'You really should get your hair cut before you do that, you know – you'll catch fleas.'
Oscar scowled, and took a vicious bite from his Kit-Kat.
'You think fleas are a major problem in Mexico, Andre?' said Kevin.
'Bound to be,' said Andre. 'It's not the cleanest of countries, is it? Oh, no offence to you, Kevin – I can tell you have a good chunk of Mexican in you.'
'I'm very proud to have a good chunk of Mexican in me,' said Kevin.
'So you should be,' said Oscar. 'Nothing makes me happier than when I have a good chunk of Mexican in me!'
Andre snorted into his tea and scrabbled for a napkin.
'It's, er... it's a shame you haven't been able to get out here to see us for so long, Oscar,' he said, when he had regathered his composure. 'We've missed you.'
'I imagine you would've done,' said Oscar.
'It's a shame you haven't been able to get out to America to see Oscar,' said Kevin.
'Hey, yeah!' said Oscar. 'You could've done that, couldn't you?'
'I would've liked to, but I've had such constraints on my time,' said Andre. 'As a matter of fact I was in Jersey City for a few days last year, but I just didn't have time to do anything but work.'
'You were in Jersey City?' said Oscar, adopting a dark expression. 'You were in Jersey City and you didn't think to suggest you could come and see me, or I could come and see you, or we could meet in the middle and take a tour of Liberty Island or something?'
'I didn't have time for that,' said Andre. 'I was busy – I had a lot of meetings to go to.'
'A lot of meetings,' Oscar muttered, scrunching his Kit-Kat wrapper into a tight ball as he spoke.
'Well, we probably should get going now,' said Kevin. 'Thanks very much for lunch, Andre.'
'Not at all,' said Andre. 'Oscar, I was wondering if you'd like to come back to London with me and stay the night with the family? I'm sure Kate and the kids would like to see you. You can come back up to Nottingham tomorrow – I'll pay your fare both ways.'
'No,' said Oscar. 'I've come to stay with my friends, not with you. Tell Kate and the kids I'm sorry not to've seen them for so long and I really do remember them all very fondly, but... well, there it is.'
With that, Oscar jumped to his feet, snatched up his backpack and flounced out of the café. Kevin quickly followed his example.
'It was, er... nice to meet you,' Kevin called over his shoulder to Andre. 'Thanks again for lunch. Bye.'
Andre remained speechless as he watched the café door swing shut.
Kevin and Oscar were walking side by side along the canal tow-path, Oscar with his hands in his pockets and his gaze directed at the ground.
'Are you okay?' said Kevin.
'I'm never coming to England again!' said Oscar. 'The journey made me more nauseous than I've been for years, and then that man... I'm definitely never coming to England again! Well, not to visit him, anyway!'
'I hope you're not wishing you hadn't come.'
'No, I'm not wishing that – I'm looking forward to seeing Lucy and Jandro, and I've really enjoyed having an adventure with you, but... but... he was in Jersey City, for Christ's sake!'
'Yeah, he was,' said Kevin. 'Look, isn't it interesting how all the old warehouses have been turned into really expensive canal-side apartments? You can still see the old wharfs, where they would've loaded all the textiles and stuff onto the boats. Nottingham City Council must've made a fortune selling those things off!'
'Yes, that is interesting,' Oscar sighed, 'and now I'm cursing Andre even more for being on my mind when I should be devoting my entire attention to this fascinating canal-side walk!'
'Then let's sit down for a few minutes, until you feel better,' said Kevin. 'There's a bench coming up.'
'Okay,' said Oscar, 'good plan.'
They came to the bench and sat down on the part that had the smallest amount of duck excrement on it. Kevin put an arm around Oscar's shoulders, and Oscar snuggled up to him.
'You'd think it'd be worth the effort, wouldn't you?' Oscar mumbled into Kevin's chest. 'You'd think as he was just across the harbour, it wouldn't be too much trouble to suggest a quick meet-up with his son. But no – I guess I'm just not worth the effort!'
'Don't talk like that – it's his loss, not yours,' said Kevin. 'You are worth the effort – to me, you're worth all the effort I have. I love you, and I'm not the only one – just think of your mom and Jessica and your... your dad. They think you're worth it – you know they do!'
'Yeah, I do know that,' said Oscar. 'I know I'm lucky to have them... and I'm especially lucky to have you. Look at me, blubbering and whining like this! I don't know why you put up with me.'
'I just told you – because I love you!'
'I love you too. Do you want to get engaged?'
'Do what?' said Kevin.
'Get engaged,' said Oscar. 'You and me, right now!'
'Is that even legal?' said Kevin.
'It can't be illegal to get engaged,' said Oscar. 'I don't know exactly when or how we'd be able to take the next step... but it's definitely coming, someday soon!'
'Yeah, I guess you're right,' said Kevin. 'I've never really thought about it, to be honest with you.'
'But you have thought about the two of us having babies out of Ella and Lucy?'
'Well... yeah. I guess I was basing my vision of our future on Eduardo and Kylie, kinda.'
'Don't you think they'll ever get married?'
'I really don't know. If they both want to, I'm sure they will... but if they're happy to carry on like they are, I'm sure that wouldn't be a big deal to either of them.'
'Do you have a problem with marriage?' said Oscar. 'As a concept, I mean.'
'No,' said Kevin. 'I just think it's not for everyone. It shouldn't be the benchmark for a successful life, or the only valid way to have a loving, committed, long-term relationship.'
'Yeah, I guess you're right,' said Oscar. 'So, you don't ever want to do it?'
'I'm not saying that,' said Kevin. 'I'm just saying I think we should do whatever we're gonna do when the time feels right, without making any plans or goals that we feel we have to stick to – in fact I think if everyone did that, the world would be a much happier place!'
'I can't disagree with you there,' said Oscar, sounding a little subdued.
'Hey – I'll tell you what I wouldn't have a problem doing, right here and now,' said Kevin. 'I'll get down on my knees and pledge my absolutely undying, lifelong commitment to you if you want.'
'I'd kinda like to see that,' Oscar grinned. 'Okay, go ahead.'
Kevin slipped his backpack off, slid onto the ground and knelt in front of Oscar, taking his hand in a gentle grip.
'I hereby pledge my absolutely undying, lifelong commitment to you!' Kevin declared, rather more loudly than Oscar had been expecting. 'We can't know exactly what the future holds, but I do know that we'll always be together and we'll always love each other, and that's the only benchmark for success I want in my life!'
'Okay, okay – I believe you,' Oscar giggled. 'And I feel the same way. Get off your knees now – people are staring at us.'
'Do you feel better?' asked Kevin, as he got back on the bench.
'Completely,' Oscar beamed at him. 'Let's get on and meet up with Lucy and Jandro – I'm sure we're gonna have a ton of fun together!'
'You know it,' Kevin grinned. 'Okay, let's go – it can't be too much further to Sainsbury's.'
Kevin and Oscar came off the tow-path when they saw the back wall of Sainsbury's. As they approached the entrance door, they saw two familiar figures emerging from the supermarket. Jandro was dragging a large shopping bag on a wheeled frame, while Lucy was carrying a full plastic bag.
'Hey, guys!' Kevin called to them. 'Perfect timing.'
Lucy and Jandro turned and saw Kevin and Oscar. Lucy squealed in delight, dumped her carrier bag on the floor, ran to Kevin and threw her arms around him. Laughing, he hugged her in return. Beaming all over her face, Lucy kissed Kevin on both cheeks and ruffled his hair.
'Kev, I can't believe you're really here!' she screeched in delight. 'Oh my God, this is so cool!'
After a few more seconds of affectionate manhandling, Lucy made way for Jandro to take his turn embracing Kevin. After they had clapped each other on the back several times, Jandro surprised everyone by kissing Kevin on both cheeks as well.
'It's really good to see you, dude,' said Jandro. 'We've missed you like you wouldn't believe!'
'Oh, I believe it,' Kevin assured him. 'I've been feeling the same way about you. I'm really glad I've been able to visit... but I'm not here alone, you know.'
Lucy and Jandro looked to where Oscar had stationed himself to guard their abandoned shopping.
'Of course not!' said Lucy. 'Oscar, it's so wonderful that you could come. I can't tell you how happy we are to have you both here!'
Lucy gave Oscar a hug, then Jandro came to shake his hand and clap him on the shoulder.
'This is just gonna be da bomb!' Lucy enthused. 'We'll show you our hall of residence and we'll go for a walk around the lake and we'll take you to Wollaton Park!'
'But the very first thing we're gonna do is treat you to a meal at the Beefeater over the road there,' said Jandro. 'It really is delicious.'
'We're regular customers,' said Lucy, 'and we've been dying to take you on a double date.'
'Well, it's less than two hours since we had lunch,' said Kevin, 'but what the hell? I think I can squeeze in a couple of sausages.'
'Me too,' said Oscar.
'Excellent,' Jandro grinned. 'That's settled, then.'
Lucy led the way into her room, followed by Jandro and Kevin.
'Oh my God!' Kevin laughed, as he spotted the contents of Lucy's noticeboard. 'You've got those pictures of the six of us in our Halloween costumes!'
'Of course,' Lucy grinned. 'If ever I'm feeling down, Kev, the sight of you and your green pecs cheers me right up.'
'Me too,' said Jandro.
'Jeez,' said Kevin, 'I'd never have imagined that! Do you mind if I sit on your beanbag, Luce?'
Lucy smiled and shook her head. Kevin dumped the two backpacks he was carrying and sank gratefully onto the beanbag, while Lucy and Jandro started unpacking their shopping. Oscar soon entered the room and sank down onto Kevin's lap.
'The beanbag won't burst, will it?' Kevin asked.
'No, it's pretty hardy,' said Lucy. 'Just don't do anything too violent on it, will you?'
'What does Had a chunder? What a blunder! mean?' Oscar asked unexpectedly. 'I saw it written on a poster in the washroom.'
Lucy and Jandro laughed.
'Didn't you read the whole notice?' asked Lucy.
'No,' said Oscar. 'I just glanced at it on my way out.'
'It's a notice telling you not to throw up all over the bathroom after getting drunk and go to bed without telling the housekeeping staff what you've done,' said Jandro.
'Ew!' said Oscar.
'I hope that's not an issue with you two,' said Kevin.
'No way,' said Jandro. 'We never touch the stuff, do we, Luce?'
'We sure don't,' said Lucy. 'We learned our lesson a long time ago.'
'So, er... how are we handling the sleeping arrangements?' asked Kevin.
'Well,' said Lucy, 'we've filled in a form to say that you're gonna be sleeping on my floor for two nights, Kev, and Oscar's gonna be sleeping on Jandro's floor. But what we're actually gonna do is, you two are gonna take Jandro's room while Jandro bunks with me in here. We sleep together most nights anyway, in one room or the other.'
Jandro grinned and added, 'We don't only sleep.'
Lucy went slightly red, smiled and said, 'I'm sure they didn't need that spelling out for them, Jandro.'
'Anyway, you guys can do anything you want in my bed,' said Jandro, still grinning broadly. 'I really don't mind.'
'Well... thanks, Jandro,' said Kevin. 'We'll probably just go straight to sleep tonight – I can feel the effects of the day catching up to me already.'
'I hope you're not too tired to talk for a while,' said Lucy. 'We need to bring each other up to speed on everything that's been happening over the past six months.'
'Don't worry,' said Kevin, 'I'm definitely not too tired for that.'
Oscar slipped between the sheets of Jandro's bed and snuggled up to Kevin.
'You don't really want to go to sleep right away, do you?' said Oscar. 'Jandro did say we can do whatever we want in his bed.'
'Okay,' Kevin laughed. 'How about you show me what you want to do?'
Oscar thought for a moment, then he said, 'Did you and Jandro ever do anything?'
'Me and Jandro?' said Kevin. 'Do anything?'
'Before you and me were together, I mean,' said Oscar. 'I've been wondering ever since Sainsbury's. I absolutely cannot believe that the two of you never at least had a moment!'
'There was a moment once,' Kevin admitted. 'It was right after we'd helped Mike to get rid of that Angelo guy. Me and Jandro were in Jandro's kitchen together... but we didn't act on it.'
'Why not?' said Oscar.
'Because we didn't want to ruin our nice friendship,' said Kevin. 'And because we were both secretly yearning for someone else. Two different someone elses, I mean.'
'And who might they be?'
'You and Lucy.'
'So which one were you yearning for?' Oscar asked teasingly.
Kevin looked Oscar squarely in the eye and said, 'You.'
'Even way back then, huh?' said Oscar.
'Yes,' said Kevin, 'even way back then.'
Oscar grinned widely and said, 'In that case, I'll show you exactly what I want to do!'
'This brunch is delicious,' said Oscar, as he finished off the last of his bacon and egg.
'I think I'm gonna drop off my tray and then go back to the room,' said Jandro. 'Is anyone else ready?'
'I am,' said Oscar.
'I'm gonna have another mug of hot chocolate, before they turn the machine off,' said Lucy.
'Can you get me one too?' said Kevin.
'Sure,' said Lucy.
'Do you know what we should do later?' said Jandro. 'We should all spend the night in the same room and... well, do some stuff.'
'I knew you'd suggest an orgy sooner or later, Jandro,' said Lucy.
'I'm not suggesting an orgy,' said Jandro. 'I was thinking it'd be like the Halloween party – you know, separate couples in separate beds in the same room, doing some stuff at the same time as each other.'
'I guess we could move your bed into my room,' said Lucy. 'It probably contravenes a ton of fire regulations, though.'
'No one will ever know,' said Jandro. 'You want to do it, guys, don't you?'
'Sure, I'm up for it,' said Kevin.
'Me too,' said Oscar.
'Maybe I'll see if I can move my bed across the corridor right now,' said Jandro.
'I'll help you,' said Oscar. 'I bet we can do it between us.'
'I'll get our hot chocolates, Kev,' said Lucy.
'Thanks, Luce,' said Kevin.
Lucy and Kevin were sitting opposite each other and sipping their hot chocolate. Lucy reached across the table and placed her hand on top of Kevin's.
'I really have missed you, Kev,' she said. 'I'd gotten so used to having my best friend around, I felt like I'd left a part of myself behind in New York when I first came here.'
'Are you sure that was about me?' said Kevin. 'Maybe you were thinking of your family.'
'Pfft, my family!' said Lucy. 'The only one of them I really miss is John, and he keeps sending me video messages so I kinda feel like he's here anyway!'
'You've been watching my YouTube videos, haven't you?' said Kevin. 'Doesn't that make it feel like I'm here too?'
'No,' said Lucy. 'It doesn't work that way with you, Kev.'
'You know we're not gonna see each other for more than a year after this, don't you? I'm gonna be in Mexico when you're back in New York, then you'll be in Hong Kong when I get back, so...'
'Oh, don't! I'm gonna miss you like crazy, Kev.'
'I'm gonna miss you too, Luce,' said Kevin. 'But it's not gonna be so bad – I'll have Oscar and you'll have Jandro, so we'll both be very well off for company.'
'I know,' Lucy laughed, giving his hand a squeeze, 'but I'm greedy – I want you too!'
'I'll send you a postcard from Mexico,' said Kevin. 'When you're back in New York, I mean. And I know that when we're back together at the end of it all, we'll be friends for life – all six of us, I mean; Michael and Ella too.'
'Yes, I think you're right about that,' said Lucy. 'But while we are apart, you're the one I'm gonna be missing the most. I really love you, Kev; I hope you know that.'
'Of course I do,' said Kevin. 'And I love you too, Luce. That's not gonna change, no matter where we are in the world.'
'Yeah, I guess not,' Lucy sighed. 'Kev, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?'
'Ask me anything you want, Luce.'
'It might seem really random, but it's something I've been wondering ever since Sainsbury's.'
'I'll be happy to answer your question, no matter how random it is.'
'Did you always know you were gay? Like, at the time we first met?'
'Not exactly,' said Kevin. 'I've never thought about it quite like that, to be honest with you. Oscar's the only person I've ever really... liked in that way, but it took me a long time to straighten out those feelings in my mind.'
'But did you like girls when you were about eleven or twelve?' Lucy asked. 'You know, just physically.'
'Well, obviously there was Buffy,' said Kevin, 'and then there was Eduardo's sexy calendar – that used to do things to me – and I had a booby magazine I used to enjoy fairly regularly, but... well, I quickly came to realise that wrestling with Oscar in pyjama bottoms turned me on much more than any of that girly stuff, so I guess in that way I did always know, if you want to look at it like that.'
'Interesting,' said Lucy. 'You didn't ever fancy Ella, then?'
'Fancy?' said Kevin.
'Sorry,' said Lucy, 'I'm picking up Britishisms.'
'Well, I wouldn't say I ever exactly fancied Ella,' said Kevin, 'but obviously I can see that she's very attractive... if you like curvaceous blond girls, which I know a lot of people do.'
'So you never actually considered trying to steal her from Michael? Before you and he became such close friends and sleepover buddies, I mean. I bet you could've done it, if you wanted – you always proved you were stronger than him, and Ella likes that in a boy. That's why Michael was so threatened by you, if you ask me – because he knew you could've had Ella if you wanted her.'
'It was just never an issue to me. And I think you're underestimating the strength of Michael and Ella's relationship – it really is rock solid!'
'Now it is, yeah,' said Lucy. 'But back then, in a new school with a whole bunch of new people, and with Michael acting like a total jerk most of the time... I reckon you could've had her, Kev!'
'Then we should all be grateful I didn't want her,' said Kevin, 'because we've definitely ended up with the right partners in the end! Speaking of which, what about you and Jandro? How long were you desperately pining for him before you finally got together?'
'Since about the first Christmas we all knew each other,' said Lucy. 'I think I kinda knew we'd end up together after that time we got drunk and made out on his couch, but I'm glad we waited until the time felt right... and everything's felt right with us ever since.'
'That's truly heart-warming, Luce,' said Kevin, beaming at her. 'I feel the same way about how things have gone for me and Oscar. I think we're engaged now, by the way.'
'Is that even legal?'
'I don't know, but we've done it anyway.'
'Well, I'm really pleased for you,' Lucy smiled at him. 'Have you finished your hot chocolate?'
'Yeah,' said Kevin. 'This is just dregs, really.'
'Then let's get back to our perfect partners,' Lucy grinned.
That night, Lucy returned from the washroom to find Kevin, Oscar and Jandro all wandering around her room in their underpants. She closed the door behind her, took off her towel robe and hung it up.
'Yes!' Jandro declared, when he saw Lucy's state of undress. 'That's the spirit, Luce!'
'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em,' said Lucy.
'Cool,' Jandro grinned. 'Let's all get into bed and talk for a while, and see where things go from there.'
'I'm gonna open the window first,' said Lucy. 'We'll need the ventilation with all four of us – there's already a pretty strong smell of teenage boy in here. That's if I can pick my way through all the naked male flesh and actually reach the window!'
'We'll get into bed first,' Kevin suggested. 'Everyone ready?'
When her path was clear, Lucy moved across the room and started wrestling with the window.
'You're giving the burglars quite an eyeful, Luce,' Jandro remarked.
Once she had got the window into a position she was happy with, Lucy went to the foot of her bed and wormed her way under the duvet to join Jandro.
'Of course,' she said, as her head emerged onto the pillow, 'if anyone actually did look in and see me, they'll also have seen that I have three strong boys in here to protect me, so they won't try and get in tonight. Okay; let's get comfy and chat.'
'I can't think of anything to say now,' said Oscar.
'When do you have to leave tomorrow?' said Jandro. 'I hope we'll have time to do some more stuff first.'
'Our train's supposed to leave one minute after four in the afternoon,' said Kevin.
'Great,' said Lucy. 'That'll give us time to have a bowl of cereal each, take a walk around the lake, come back for brunch, have a final chat and then set off for the station.'
'It's such a bummer that we won't get to see each other for more than a year after that!' said Jandro.
'It's gonna be quite a year for all of us,' said Kevin. 'I can't wait to experience everything that Mexico has to offer, and then when we get back... well, I'm gonna be putting all that first aid training to good use, one way or another.'
'Yeah,' said Oscar, 'and I'm gonna be finding out just how hard it is to be a professional musician, and wondering what the hell kind of further education I'm gonna do!'
'It'll be so amazing, studying in Hong Kong for a year,' Lucy sighed. 'Finally I can find out if my Cantonese is really up to scratch!'
'I wish I could speak Cantonese,' said Jandro.
'You'll be okay, bro,' said Oscar. 'I'm gonna be relying on Kevin to speak all the Spanish for both of us, but I'm sure he's not gonna accidentally sell me to a white slaver or something.'
They all laughed.
'You are looking forward to spending a year in Hong Kong, babe, aren't you?' Lucy said to Jandro.
'Yeah, I am,' he assured her. 'I'm nervous about it – of course I'm nervous – but I'm gonna do it.'
'Just think how great it'll be when we all meet up again in the summer of two thousand seven,' said Oscar.
'We'll have to have another orgy to celebrate,' said Kevin.
'You can always count me in on a plan like that!' Jandro grinned. 'So long as Lucy's up for it too, of course.'
Lucy smiled and said, 'Well, I certainly don't hate the idea.'
Kevin and Oscar followed Jandro and Lucy down a set of steps and onto a railway platform.
'I think I can see the train,' said Kevin, squinting along the line. 'Yes, that must be it.'
'Oh, then we have to say goodbye,' Lucy sighed. 'Thank you both so much for coming – it's been wonderful!'
'We should do it again, when we're back here after Hong Kong for our final year,' said Jandro. 'Obviously we'll already have met up again by then, back in New York, but... well, we won't have done this.'
'It's a date,' said Kevin. 'Thanks for having us, and for paying for our Beefeater and our brunch.'
Kevin went to hug Jandro, who squeezed him tightly in return but refrained from kissing him this time. Lucy kissed Oscar on the cheek, and then they swapped partners. Oscar went in for a handshake and a shoulder-clasp with Jandro, but Jandro wrapped his arms around him instead, so Oscar hugged him back.
'The train's almost here,' Oscar remarked, after a few more seconds had passed.
'Oh,' Lucy sighed, 'curse us all for pursuing our globe-trotting adventures! I'll be thinking about you every day, Kev, and I'll keep watching all your YouTube videos, even though I was never really that much into Buffy.'
'I appreciate that, Luce,' said Kevin, giving her a kiss on the forehead. 'I'll do a special video about my thoughts on Nottingham, just for you.'
As the train trundled to a stop, Lucy reluctantly detached herself from Kevin and took a step back to where Jandro was waiting to put his arm around her. Kevin and Oscar stepped onto the train, and stood at the window waving furiously until they passed out of sight of the platform.
'It's strange,' said Jandro. 'We're not gonna see them again for more than a year, but in some ways I feel closer to both of them then I ever have before.'
'Me too,' said Lucy. 'Kevin told me they're engaged now, you know.'
'Is that even legal?' said Jandro.
'I guess it can't be illegal to be engaged, even if you can't actually get married,' said Lucy. 'Well, not yet anyway.'
There followed a few seconds of silence as they watched the tail end of the train gradually disappearing from view.
'Luce,' said Jandro, 'are we engaged?'
'I... I'm not sure,' said Lucy. 'I don't know if I want to get married... or if I'll ever want to get married... but if I do, I definitely want it to be to you.'
'I, er... I have a ring for you,' said Jandro.
'You do?' said Lucy.
'Yeah,' said Jandro. 'Not here in Nottingham; back home in New York. Ana's keeping it safe for me in the locker compartment of her nightstand. Mi Abue Tomás gave it to me last summer – it was the day before he died, actually – and told me to give it to my special little lady when the time was right.'
'He did, huh?'
'Yeah, he did. But that's not why I want to give it to you.'
'No. The reason I want to give it to you is that I really want to marry you, Luce... someday, I mean; not anytime soon... you know, when we're done with all this Nottingham and Hong Kong stuff. But if you'd wear the ring in the meantime, it really would be... I mean, apparently it's been in the family for generations, but then I guess grandparents have to say that when they pass engagement rings on to their grandkids... and that doesn't really matter to me; the only thing that matters is that you... well, I mean that we...'
Lucy gave Jandro an enormous smile and threw her arms around him.
'I'd love to wear the ring, Jandro,' she told him. 'I'll put it on the moment we're back in New York... and we're in your house... and Ana's unlocked her cabinet... and probably after we've had a bit of a sit-down and gotten our breath back.'
'Thanks, Luce,' said Jandro, hugging her tightly.
'You don't need to thank me for that,' Lucy giggled. 'You really are wonderful, Jandro; you know that, right?'
'I've never doubted it,' Jandro grinned.
Lucy laughed again, then the two of them stood and kissed on the platform for quite some time.