The Sun to your Moon #4
Updated: Sep 30, 2022
Shouts, curses, and cheers carried across the field. John battled with the pushchair, forcing it over the waterlogged grass. The wheels dug in, leaving a track behind him, but he persisted, getting closer and closer to Scott.
The rain had died down to a drizzle, but John kept the cover over Alex.
When he peered through the plastic, he relaxed at Alex still asleep. It had been a long walk to get there, over an hour, and the sound of pattering rain lured Alex to sleep.
John stopped to stroke back his soaked hair. He looked ahead at the boys playing on the field.
They were laughing and shouting, and skidding paths through the wet grass.
John’s sodden clothes stuck to his skin. With each step, his jeans rubbed, but he pushed on.
Scott spotted him, abandoned his friends and jogged over. Mud splattered his T-shirt and sweatpants, and his brown hair lay flat and dripping on his forehead, but when he smiled, it was a beam of light on the dull field.
John stopped pushing and looked at him.
He swaggered over, each harsh pant louder than the one before. “Ever heard of an umbrella?”
John’s nose twitched with the scent of rain and mud radiating from Scott. It covered his left cheek and filled in his dimple. John’s throat tightened at Scott’s T-shirt, no longer white, it clung to his body as he stood with his hands on his hips, breathing heavily.
“I couldn’t push and hold an umbrella.”
Scott nodded and leaned down to look at Alex. “They look so much cuter when they’re asleep.”
“You should have seen him earlier when I had to change him.”
“Eww. I outright refuse when mum asks me to change Albie.” Scott stood up straight and stroked back his wet hair. A laugh of disbelief escaped him. “Jesus, John.”
“You’re soaked too.”
“But I’m running about.” Scott shook his head. “I text saying you didn’t have to come.”
“I wanted to.”
Scott had messaged to ask if he’d like to hang out Sunday, and John had jumped at the chance, packing all Alex’s necessities before he’d even texted back. This wasn’t a maths session. This was hanging out like friends did.
“You bought the milk?”
John rolled his eyes. “Yes. Are you going to keep saying that every time you see me?”
“I’m only reminding you.”
“That reminder would be too late.”
Scott flicked his chin back in the direction of the group of boys. “Want to play? The pavilion has a cover; we could put Alex there.”
John looked over to the triangular building. Two girls were leaning against the wall, puffing out trails of smoke. Their eyes were fixed on him and Scott.
He’d been watching on the way over. The boys skidding about laughing and cursing. They’d all jumped on Scott at one point, ruffling his hair, and tugging his T-shirt.
Too many hands.
Too many touches.
Scott had fought them off but there had been a huge smile splitting his face. John's instincts would've told him to curl up until they'd gone.
“Hey…” Scott took a step closer, blocking John from prying eyes. “If it gets too much we can go.”
“I’ll watch with Alex,” John said. He started pushing before Scott could argue.
Scott's football boots squelched as he followed John. “My hoodie is inside the male changing room on the bench. It’s grey.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
Scott quickened his stride to walk next to him. “You can wear it and don’t have to stand in a damp jacket.”
“Oh. Thank you.”
“What’s the hold-up!”
The holler came from the closest boy who stood in the goal. He slapped his gloves to his thighs to get Scott’s attention. John narrowed his eyes. Beneath the red complexion and the waterlogged orange hair, John recognised him as the other boy near the shop. Darren. The look Darren gave him was fleeting, his focus swiftly returned to Scott.
“I’m coming!” Scott yelled back, taking off in a jog.
John stopped beneath the sheltered roof of the pavilion and turned the pushchair to face the field. The girls glanced at him, then glanced at each other, then resumed watching the match. One kept shouting out Scott’s name, cheering him on. John crouched down and uncovered Alex.
He shifted in his sleep but didn’t wake.
John arranged Frank the Firefly next to him just in case.
“He’s asked me out three times.” The girl wound a strand of her hair around her finger and breathed a cloud of smoke upwards.
John angled the pushchair away from them. He’d removed the cover to give his baby brother some fresh air, not cover him in ash.
“And you keep knocking him back?”
“No. I say maybe one day.” She laughed. “Treat them mean.”
“Keep ‘em keen, but Janice, you better make your move quickly.”
Janice pushed off from the wall, dropping her cigarette on the floor. She stamped it out while searching her friend's face for answers. “What? Why?”
“Tart more like.”
“Exactly. She’s got a thing for your man.”
John clutched onto the side of the pushchair. He stared at Alex, but his ears targeted the two girls. Her man. He risked a glance, followed their gazes, and they were both watching Scott.
John’s fingers ached. He’d curled them so tightly into the pushchair pain shot through them towards his palms. When he let go, he lost balance and had to brace himself on the ground. His heart took off in a gallop and he pushed at his chest, trying to settle it.
“You better tell him so before Emily gets her claws in.”
“The only claws will be mine, tearing up his back while he pushes into me.”
They both dissolved into giggles, shoving each other along the wall. John peeked up at Janice from his position on the floor. His gaze found her nails, blood red and sharp looking. They’d easily carve marks into Scott’s back. The thought left him dizzy.
“Do you think he’s still a virgin?”
Janice shrugged. “I’d love to teach him how to please me.”
“You’re a dirty girl.”
John got to his feet, fighting against his pounding heart and his sodden clothes that had tripled in weight. His rash movements put a spotlight on him, and the girl’s laughter died. He didn’t face them, but marched up to the pavilion door, blocking out their confused smirks as he flung it open and stepped inside.
He found the grey hoodie folded on the bench.
Well-worn with bobbles in the fabric and stretched sleeves, John thought it must have been one of Scott’s favourites. He unzipped his wet jacket and dropped it to the floor before pausing and taking off his T-shirt too. The scent of washing powder and Scott’s unique smell filled his nose. The rough material against his skin made him shiver, and he wrapped his arms around himself as he took a few moments to breathe. His heart slowed, his dizziness subsided, and he released a long sigh.
Scott’s hoodie hung off him, and the sleeves covered his hands, but John found he liked the way it engulfed him. He pulled up the hood and toyed with the drawstrings. The ends had frayed, and without thinking he sneaked one into the corner of his mouth.
It tasted of fabric softener, and he pulled it out with a grimace.
Janice gave him a hard stare when he returned, but it didn’t bother him, not when he had Scott’s clothes against his skin and his smell up his nose. He watched Scott and his friends play football until grass stains and mud from the field covered them.
Janice and her friend kept glancing at John, but they didn’t speak, just eyed him. One by one, the boys left until Scott and Darren headed over. Darren’s whole face glowed red and when he panted, spittle flew from his lips. John frowned at him, unfolding the rain cover over Alex.
“He’s wearing your hoodie.” Darren snorted. “That’s weird.”
Scott shrugged. “I said he could.”
“It’s still weird though.”
“A few months back we swapped shirts. Remember?”
The girls burst out laughing, and Scott startled, flashing them a look. He blushed, but Darren grinned and knocked Scott’s ribs with his elbow. “Oh yeah, you were scared about going home with the grass stains and asked to swap.”
“I’m pretty sure you offered.”
Darren scrunched up his face and wiped away an invisible tear. “Didn’t want to get in trouble with mommy.”
The girls laughed harder. Scott’s cheeks changed from blush pink to red, and he glared at Darren. John didn’t understand the warning in the look, but Darren did, raising his hands in surrender.
“Aww Scott, afraid of your mum,” Janice said. She pushed off from the wall and strode over. “She’s gonna hate me.”
Scott’s gaze stayed on her as she circled him, glancing him up and down. John stared at Scott’s throat as he swallowed. “Why’s that?”
“I’m going to get you in lots of trouble.” She blew him a kiss, then looped her arm for her friend to grip on to. They left, and no one spoke. John flicked his eyes between Scott and Darren, both gaping as the girls retreated across the field.
“I’m pretty sure Janice was giving you the eye,” Darren said. He smacked Scott on the shoulder. “I reckon she’ll be the one.”
“The one?” John asked.
Darren twisted to face him. “To take Scott’s v plates.”
Scott shoved Darren’s shoulder, tilting him off balance. “Cut it out.”
“Come on, the kid's not that young, he knows what sex is.”
“I’m not a kid.” John turned his attention to Scott. His eyes were still elsewhere, glued to Janice as she faded into a dot in the distance. “Do you want to have sex with her?”
Scott jolted, spluttering on half words until he managed to blurt out, “What the hell John?”
“It’s a simple question.”
“I…I mean,” Scott’s face started to resemble Darren’s, glowing red. He tugged at his T-shirt, struggling to get it off his skin. “I want to get to know her. You know.”
Darren hiked up one of his eyebrows. “By that, he means he wants to get to know her mouth when she’s….” Darren pointed to his crotch and cackled. The sound rang in John’s ears.
Scott groaned. “Enough with this conversation.” He moved behind the pushchair and took hold of the handles. “Ready to go?”
John blocked his path. “You want her to kiss you down there?”
Darren bowed over in hysterics. “How old are you?”
John didn’t answer, he tried to search Scott’s eyes, but he avoided looking at him.
“Of course, Scott wants her to kiss him there,” Darren shook his head. “He wants to have sex with her too, lose his v plates, maybe you are too young for this conversation.”
“That’s why we should change the subject,” Scott said. The wheel of the pushchair met John’s foot, but he didn’t move, not when he was still trying to wrap his head around Scott wanting to have sex with the girl with the blood-red nails.
“Have you ever kissed anyone?”
John blinked at the question and turned to Darren. His round face scrunched up, bunching his lips as if he was holding back laughter. It still escaped, flinging spit in John’s direction.
“You don’t need to answer, John.”
“No,” he said. “I’ve never wanted someone to kiss me down there. I’ve never thought about sex with anyone.”
His heart boomed in his chest. The way Darren stared at him with the smirk, and the lifted eyebrow made his skin crawl, and his body heat up, like he was alien, dirty for never imagining those things.
He shuddered, stepping away from the pushchair.
“I think you’re safe,” Darren said.
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t think anyone’s going to want to do that to you. Ever.”
“Leave off, Darren.” Scott joined John’s side. “It’s not like you’ve kissed anyone yet.”
The amusement faded from Darren’s expression. He took a step back. “Fuck you, Scott.”
"You give it out, but don’t like it dished back at you."
“Why is he even here?”
John flinched at the finger in his face. He recognised the savage glint in Darren’s eye and glanced back at the door to the pavilion.
“Hey,” Scott snarled. “Back off.”
“He’s a weirdo,” Darren said. “You think so too. You said.”
Scott shook his head. He reached for John’s shoulder but pulled back at the last second.
John watched as his reaching hand curled into a fist.
“The only reason you hang around him is because he’s good at Maths.” Darren began to walk away. “He’s weird, look at him, Jesus, Scott, would you just look at him.”
Scott glared at the back of Darren’s retreating head with his nostrils flaring. John frowned at the clunk of the pushchair. Scott had put the break on. He let go of the handle.
Scott rocked forward on his toes. His firm lips parted, and John heard his breath, a hiss of a sound, harsh against his lips. He watched Darren’s retreat with anger in his eyes. John clutched his nape, stroking the hairs standing on end. He didn’t know whether he liked the look on Scott or not. He’d seen it before on others, snarls and snipes, and evil glares.
“Please…” John whispered.
Scott eased out a breath. “Please hit him or please don’t?”
John took a full minute to think about it. Darren faded to a dot in the distance, but Scott had a fast run and powerful legs. There was no doubt in John’s mind he could chase him down.
He had seen angry faces before, but never one angry on his behalf. It fluttered his heart and tipped dread into his stomach. The mishmash sparked pain in his temple. One minute turned to two. Darren had gone from view, but Scott kept his pose, poised to hunt him down if John gave him the word.
“Please… stay with me.”
Scott stiffened. His breathing broke off, and then he slumped. The tension drained from his shoulders, and he kicked the pushchair break up again. Alex hadn’t woken, but Scott wheeled him back and forth like he had.
“I’m sorry about him.” Scott sighed. “I don’t think you’re a weirdo. I might have said that…or something like that when we first met, but I didn’t mean it.”
“It’s not okay. I’m sorry.”
John shrugged. “I am weird.”
“No. You’re not.”
He was, but John didn’t want to argue. Scott would deny it, but John knew the truth. He’d watched enough TV programmes and movies to know he wasn’t normal in comparison.
“And if the only reason you hang out with me is because of maths, that’s okay.”
“No, it isn’t,” Scott growled. “That wouldn’t be okay, that would be me using you, and I’m not. I like you. We’re friends. Darren, he…. he takes jokes too far.”
“That was a joke?”
“Banter, teasing, whatever you want to call it, he takes it too far and doesn’t like it when it’s done back at him. I’m sorry.” Scott began wheeling Alex back across the field. “I said we’d meet mum in the café at four. We don’t have to though.”
“The café sounds good,” John said. “I like their sandwiches.”
“Who the hell wants a sandwich? If it doesn’t have chocolate in it, then what’s the point?”
“I like the milkshakes too.”
“They’re both good and bad.”
John had been waiting for that response and chuckled.
Scott beamed at him. “You look so different when you laugh.”
“Like a different person?”
“No. Just happy I guess.”
“Doesn’t everyone look happy when they laugh?”
Scott scrunched his face at the sky. “I guess so, but I like it on you. You being happy, makes me feel happy. Do you get that?”
“So…I was wondering…”
“It’s my birthday coming up soon. In five months.”
“I wouldn’t say that was coming up, do I need to explain maths to you again.”
Scott laughed. “My birthday present is to watch Chelsea play in the FA cup final. Dad said I could bring a friend, and I know football isn’t your thing, but would you want to come?”
John eyed the ground. His trainers pushed out a flood of brown water. He’d stepped through several puddles in his eagerness to get to Scott. His feet ached with dampness, but he didn’t regret it, not when being by Scott’s side filled his chest with a warmth he couldn’t describe.
“John? You’re leaving me hanging right now.”
He glanced up in time to see Scott grimace.
“If you don’t want to go just say. It’s fine.”
“Thinking of an excuse not to go? Thinking I might get angry if you say no?”
“Gonna tell me what about?”
John shook his head. “But I want to go with you.”
Scott curled over the top of the pushchair, breathing out a laugh. “Jesus John, you know how to make a guy suffer.”
“Sorry, I was just—"
“Thinking. I know.” Scott slowed their walk. “There’s a condition though.”
“My mum wants to meet your mum. I know they’ve spoken a few times on the phone, but she wants an actual sit down at dinner, meet the mum experience. I’ll warn you, it will be super awkward.”
John shrugged. “Okay.”
“Wait, what? Okay? My mum has been on at me for weeks to ask you, and it’s that easy?”
“It’s that easy.”
“I was starting to think…”
“Starting to think what?”
Scott shook his head, flinging droplets from his hair. “I dunno.”
“That’s why you should leave the thinking to me. I’ll have to see when my mum has a day off, make sure it's at the same time as your mum.”
“My mum is free every day of the week.” Scott smiled. “That’s really cool.”
“Your mum can’t be that bad. She gave birth to you after all.”
“That’s not something I want to think about.”
“Yeah. Sorry.” He tipped forward with another free-sounding laugh.
John enjoyed the sound of it. It made his chest feel lighter. He wondered whether that was what Scott meant about being happy for no other reason than someone else feeling happy.
Scott’s eyes held his, and he smiled, his big, beautiful smile that reminded John of the sun. It was bright and strong, and John knew the dangers of looking at it for too long, but he still did.
He returned the look with a cautious smile before lowering his gaze back to the dullness of the sodden grass.
“You know,” Scott started. “My hoodie suits you.”
John’s stomach flipped. He clutched the sleeves, hooking his fingers over them, holding on in case Scott asked for it back. The hem reached John’s thighs, the chest hung loose, and the pockets had stretched to the point they flashed their vibrant green lining.
John had never loved an item of clothing more in his life.
“The grey,” Scott said. He wasn’t whispering, but his voice hit John’s ears at a whisper and a shiver raced up his spine. “It’s the same colour as your eyes. Keep it.”