Chapter 3: Friend

Lewis sat outside at the back of the house. He had his laptop open on his lap, just relaxingly going through emails. Music was also being emitted from the machine. Mojo trotted over to him with a tennis ball. His master noticed him coming, ruffled his hair affectionately and held out his hand. The ball fell into it obediently. Lewis carefully aimed and threw the ball again, watching it to make sure it didn't go too far, then looked back at the screen. He was surprised a few moments later by the sound of Mojo barking happily, followed by the laughter of a stranger.

He looked up to find Mojo affectionately ruffled by a shortish-man, who let his thick, wavy black hair hang loose around his shoulders. He was deeply tanned and apparently well waxed. And well toned muscularly, as Lewis discovered when the stranger started walking towards him. His eyes were a deep brown and his smile very wide. To the morosely-dressed photographer, this person seemed so well suited to sunshine, since his T-shirt was half tucked in to the side of his baggy sports shorts. But the main reason he was such a welcoming sight was because he was not so...perfect. There was a glistening layer covering most of his exposed skin, one sock had been pulled up higher than the other and his trainers were so worn.

"Hey Lewis!" he called and waved as if wiping a gigantic window.

Rather than being happy and sounding so when greeting this half-naked man, the photographer just snapped to suspicion. "You figured out ma name jus' from the paper?"

"Don't snap, my boyfriend told me last night what you two looked like." Now sitting next to him, this man carried on talking. "I'm Tyson. Nice laptop. You're checking emails? And listenin' to Marilyn Manson? Awesome change! You like him much? I can tell you're a rocker."

"I'm not a big fan of Marilyn Manson, I just wanted know."

"Yeah I know. It's just a good change is all. All the Ukes round 'ere, they listen to the cliché stuff. Wham, the Sounda Music..." Lewis gave him a disbelieving look. "Yeah, I know." Tyson looked suddenly dispirited. " are married."

The photographer gave him a blank look. "For months. That a problem?"

Tyson shook his head and sighed. "Not really. But everyone's married 'ere." Mojo whined next to him. "Sorry boy, you want me to throw the ball?" He tossed the ball a good few metres in front of him. "Leslie joined the Semes Club too, 'uh?"

"That's not its name."

"It's what everybody calls it, every member's a Seme. 'cept Matthew but I got no clue what happened to his boyfriend-husband...whatever. What's the dog's name?"


Tyson laughed delightedly. "Who came up with that name?"


"Oh...he never gave you the puppy did he?"

"No, the puppy was given to me 2 years ago by my sister as a birthday present. You got any pets?"

"Yup! A pair o' lizards."

"Lizards?" Lewis seemed impressed.

"Yeah, I called 'em Flopsy and Mopsy as a joke. Kai gave 'em to me."

"KAI?" This made Tyson laugh like mad. "You're going out with Kai? The Kai from California?"

"And 2 colours in his hair? I love that, it makes him look hot."

Lewis looked at him incredulously. "You are not even a match. Where the hell did you meet 'im anyway?"

"I was 15 and on vacation in California with my dad. Kai was workin' in the hotel as a bell boy. ...He's still the same way now as he was then."

"Why's that?"

Tyson quickly put on a thoughtful face. Surprisingly serious. "He went through a lot, sorry but I can't talk about it. His experiences did make him...well, weird around people. But anyway, I know you're a photographer. I'm a soccer coach. After school today I'll be coachin' kids at the elementary school ground. Not a full time job but I'm too lazy for one." He chuckled. "Is it work you're doing?"

"Pretty much. I get most o' ma assignments by email or phone. I told every agent and contact my new address before I moved so for a week I've been getting lotsa offers for nature pictures." Another unread email suddenly appeared. "Yay, that's the confirmation of ma next job." He clicked on it to read it.

"What'cha gotta do?"

"There's this farmhouse about 9 miles north. I'm supposed ta take pictures of every view from the outside. Must be wanted pretty bad, I get paid $2000 once I post the developed prints."

"Who'd pay for those kindsa photos?"

"Some rich guy probably, or an 'istorical institute. I'm never told who wants the photos by the go-between, I only ever know if I'm employed directly."

"Did you say develop?"

"Uh huh."

Tyson seemed confused for a moment, then brightened up. " have your own digital printer."

"That ain't what it's called, but yeah, I have one. No, this guy wants old-fashioned photos developed from film. I've got my own dark room."

"Really? Can I see?"

Lewis grinned. "Sure, but 2 rules. Never go in without me and don't touch nothin'. Understand?" Tyson nodded. "Cool." He shut his laptop and stood up to lead his new friend into his house. The back door directly led into the kitchen.

"Damn it's good to see an imperfect kitchen! When you gonna do those photos anyway?"

"I thought tomorrow afternoon."

"Mind if I tag along? It'd be nice to get away from this town for a while."

"I guess, jus' come around after lunch. 1:30." He put his laptop on his desk in the study.

"Why'd you let your name get changed, anyhow?"

"Because I was born Lewis Hickenbottom," he answered in an annoyed tone.

... "Oh."


"Junk food, dinner for kings," Lewis sarcastically commented that evening while Leslie started opening the polystyrene containers.

"Tonight's the last night we use these as a life-line, no need for complainin'," the blonde murmured. "And anyway, you were so happy when I came through the door. Mind tellin' me why?"

The brunette sat down at the dinner table. "I got an assignment, so I'll need to borrow the car tomorrow afternoon."

... "That can't be it," said Leslie after finishing serving the burgers and fries.

"I got a friend," sang Lewis.

"That's great! Details please." (He bites into the burger.)

"His name is Tyson and he's a soccer coach." He put a fry in his mouth. "He was just happy the entire time he was 'ere and never stopped talking. He loved my pictures too. (Swallow) He moved here about a month ago with his boyfriend." He watched his husband's face carefully. "He's called Kai."

The blonde's mouth dropped open. "Kai!?"

Lewis laughed uncontrollably. "I know, they're just so different."


Leslie pushed the shopping trolley into the next alley. "Next stop, cereals," he mock announced. Today he was wearing a denim jacket with a Nike T-shirt and jeans. Lewis, wearing a T-shirt with the McDonald's logo saying 'Marijuana over 1 billion stoned' and scruffed black trousers, bent down to reach a box of Lucky Charms.

"Don't call me childish," he warned. "I want whatever I want after eatin' 3 breakfasts of eggs and toasts everyday." He looked up in confusion when he noticed his lover wasn't answering. Leslie seemed thoughtful. He followed his gaze to where he saw long-haired-Seth at a checkout with two small children and a serene blonde man. The children were very quiet and still. One was a girl, the other the boy. The girl saw something she liked and tugged on the blonde's trousers. He looked down, his only change in facial expression was a slightly wider smile.

"I dunno what it is about the Ukes here, but they're all..." Leslie searched for the right word.

"Too eager to please? Samey?"


Lewis raised his eyebrows, then shrugged. "That's true too." He dropped the box of Lucky Charms into the trolley.

The blonde standing next to Seth kept his mass of hair mostly behind his ears, in which he wore gold studs. He was wearing a thin, long-sleeved white T-shirt with beige trousers that were surprisingly smart. He wore green Converse canvas boots with the outfit. His eyes were a shining blue.

"The blonde's called Cloud," explained Leslie. He reacted to the baffled look Lewis gave him. "I know, weird name but his parents were hippies. He came in to the office yesterday with a tin o' cookies he baked himself. All he talked about was the fact he baked them for his husband and kids and since he just saw him he thought he'd give some to everyone stuck at work. The only time he changed subject was when he was introducin' 'imself to me...and the bit about his name."

The couple were then surprised by the sight of Cloud fainting just as the family were moving towards the exit. Naturally Seth was just as startled. A crowd inevitably began moving towards the scene. One of the staff members, a pretty woman with shining hazel hair, made her way through the crowd and immediately told Seth to call an ambulance. The anxious husband dialed the number into his mobile. The woman, whose workplace badge read 'Hannah Aeris', leaned her head against Cloud's mouth. After a moment or two, she looked up to tell the ambulance caller that he was breathing normally and quickly assured the children that he was not dying, that he would be fine. Other staff members ushered the crowd away as Hannah shifted Cloud's limbs into the 'Prone Position', which wasn't too hard considering he was already lying on his side.

By the time Lewis and Leslie were at the checkout themselves, Cloud was coming round and had help sitting up. His face was a completely blank sheet of bafflement. Once the Lemingtons were loading the shopping into their car, Cloud was being helped into the ambulance, despite quiet, passive protests of: "I'm fine, really" "You don't need to make such a fuss". But as he was seated, his two children, both being carried by a concerned Seth, waved to Cloud and he waved back. The doors shut and the ambulance drove off with its blazing siren.

"Call me crazy," began Leslie, "but I thought the hospital was the other way."


"The pompous Seth is married to Joey Wheeler. Like the rest of 'em the kids have the Seme's last name, so...Carpenter." Tyson was the passenger while Lewis drove through expansive coutrnyside. The shorter man had his hair tied back this time and his baseball shirt hung unfastened. "Joey's from New York and talks like an Italiano. He's got kinda dark blonde hair with brown eyes and he's almost as tall as Kai...maybe that's the only reason he's with Seth." He laughed. "Not...funny?"

Lewis shook his head apologetically.

"Oh...well, he's really pleasant and always tries to make me feel comfortable when I see 'im. Smiles a lot, keeps the house stupidly clean, same as all the others really. The difference is that he kinda has this attitude when the kids act too cheeky, like he's suddenly a kid and challenges them to really hard game or somethin'. And he talks about somethin' else other than weather, housework, husband and kids. Don't care if he's talkin' about a movie, book or world event at least it's somethin' else. I'm most comfortable around him out of all the Ukes." Tyson flashed a grin. "But now you've moved in."

Lewis grinned. "I'm flattered. You ever met Ivan's partner?"

"No...never seen 'im I don't think. I know his name's Jack and I heard he's an introvert. That's it."

"We could always ask Mark I guess."

"The paper editor?"

"He's been 'ere a long time, he must know a lot about the town."

The car had slowed down and Lewis brought it to park on a gravelled slope.

"We're here? want me to do anything?"

"You can guard the car." Lewis got out.

"Against what?" Tyson called out as he got out.

The taller man laughed as he opened the boot. "You never know who or what could be hidin'."

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©Ruth Amy Louise Hüneke 2008