REVIEW PLEASE xx
Freddie remembers the first time they kissed. It runs through his head like an oh-so-familiar film. Aged 12, he sits in his shed with gameboy in hand. These were the days before drugs and complications. Girls had cooties and friends were like brothers in blood. These days were bordering on teenage life, just beyond the jelly and ice cream stage but still with that lingering innocence that sweetens every moment in its simplicity. As Freddie's fingers stray frantically over the buttons - he's concentrating hard on reaching the next level of Zombie Crash 3 - Cook stumbles through the door. The shed is as dank and messy as ever, but now the floor is littered with football cards and disused rollerblades, rather than porn magazines and stubbed out spliffs.
Cook kicks the door shut, with something hidden behind his back. His hair is sticking up in all directions and his almost-perfected trademark smirk is free on his chubbier face. His eyes reek of naughtiness as he collapses beside Freddie on the permanently broken sofa. Freddie shifts slightly to give him room, his eyes not moving from the screen once he's registered his friend's arrival. After a few seconds, Freddie finds his gameboy sailing out of his cupped hands and it crashes to the floor. He groans, disappointed, but is interested in what Cook is concealing. After a couple of mock punches the smaller boy reveals a small - squashed - packet of cigarettes from his back pocket.
"Nicked 'em off me Dad," Cook's grin is contagious as he offers the box to Freddie. Taking one, the boy rolls it between two fingers in awe. Cook flicks a lighter out and the two young boys smoke for the first time. Or at least, that's what Freddie thinks. They cough and splutter yet think themselves incredibly cool as they narrowly avoid setting each other alight. When they stub out - the shed's first cigarette hitting the dirty wood - the exciting smoke lingers around them in an intoxicating way.
They sit companionably in the dimming light, the scents of adventure and adulthood drifting around their boyish forms. Cook - small, but stronger - with his brown hair (free of hair gel) and Freddie, lanky and unsure of what to do with his long limbs. They sit, as themselves, with no concealment or lies. This is before Effy, before anything outside the shed existed. Or if it did exist, it didn't matter. It seems perfectly natural when suddenly, inexplicably, the boys' mouths meet. As if they are trying to cling to the taste of grown ups. The taste of being grown ups. Their lips brush together for immeasurable moments and Freddie can taste the stale cigarette mixed with Cook's own flavour. Limes and pickled onion crisps and familiarity, with a little dash of danger which makes it so strange.. and somehow not strange at all. This kiss is like hugging his oldest teddy bear, or kissing his Mum goodnight. Like hot chocolate in winter and ice poles in summer. Like dancing with Karen on Christmas morning or going to the football with his Dad. Its innocent and sweet and so familiar that its unfamiliar. Because its Cook and Cook is fucked up in every way imaginable.
The kiss is over in a few seconds, and to be honest nothing much has changed. Its not some massive revelation, just an interesting change of scene. On one side of them lies the open pack of cigarettes, symbolising the way up from there. On the other side they barely notice as the gameboy's light flickers and dies.
They never talk about it.
The second time was when they were fourteen. Freddie's mother has just died, and he lies face-down in the skate park, still in his stiff funeral suit. He is alone, so nobody hears the sobs that rip his chest like knives and threaten to spill over. His small tan fists beat the dusty earth as the evening draws on. He thinks that the world has most definitely ended. And then, Cook is there. Just as he always would be, but still totally unexpected. He's a little older now, his face a little thinner, his eyes a little wilder as he pulls Freddie into his chest. Cook's arms go around him and they sway to and fro to no particular rhythm as Freddie's sobs subside.
As his breathing slows, he looks up into Cook's eyes. They're blue and have been part of his life for as long as he can remember. But in someways he doesn't know them at all, he doesn't know anything anymore. Cook pulls his arms back, embarassed at the anti-masculine display of affection, and pulls a bottle of vodka from his pocket. He takes a long swig and is just pulling it from his mouth when Freddie crushes him with his body.
They roll down into the dirt, and Freddie shoves his mouth against Cook's. Its aggressive, a desperate, wordless plea for an answer that nobody can supply. The bottle rolls away as Cook hugs him so tight they can barely breathe, inhaling in sharp gasps. Squeezing the life out of each other because its the only thing that makes any sense right now, Freddie dimly thinks this is ironic. Cook runs a cold hand along Freddie's cheekbone, and the sun sets on the worst day of the boy's life.
They never talk about it.
The third time has been in that year, that month. Cook had Freddie by the shirtcollar, eyes blazing and alcohol plain on his breath. His hair is different, his body leaner, but the eyes always stay the same. There is a small bruise forming on his forhead where Freddie just heabutted him, and his fist is raised high. Their faces are together, lips and eyes inches apart as Freddie awaits the blow. Their best friend JJ hovers in the background, shaking and bleating that they should calm the fuck down. That Karen deserved it? Problem is this isn't about Freddie's sister. Not really. In his head he sees the kisses. The fucking kisses that made everything better but screwed everything up at the same time. The dangerous kisses that are only dangerous because they're so normal and familiar.
Freddie is braced for the assault of Cook's coiled hand but, surprisingly (and not surprisingly at all) gets assualted by his friend's lips again. Cook grips his face had enough to bruise, slamming his mouth against his with as much force as he can muster. Because Cook is the one hurting now, he only wanted to make Freddie happy and he feels betrayed. And he sure loves to be in control. Freddie doesn't have a chance to react before Cook is gone. Wrenched away from him before his mind can register the feel of his lips.
"I really fucking love you, you bastard."
Cook leaves shattered glass and shattered feelings.
And they're not going to talk about it.
Freddie comes back to himself. Leaning his head back in the chair as he stubs out his joint. He wonders why he even bothers doing drugs anymore, with Cook and Effy around to mess with his head. He can hear someone in the garden, approaching with quick disjointed steps. He wonders who it is, who he wants it to be. Effy? The only equal to Cook he's ever met. Or Cook himself? The guy he just can't quite bring himself to hate. It would probably be easier if it was JJ. The aspergers autistic guy was the most normal of the lot of them, and the most good-hearted.
But, of course, it wasn't JJ. Cook barells head first into the shed, knocking rubbish flying. Freddie thinks he sees a flash of an old games console in the wreckage, but he isn't sure. Cook is clutching a cigarette and Freddie can smell the vodka from the other side of the room. He knows this is the very essence of Cook. The 'fuck it' Cook that knows no limits. He is dependent on substance. Freddie recalls that all their intimate moments have involved some kind of drug. Be it alchohol or nicotene or just dirty thoughts. That's when Freddie knows he's had enough.
Jumping up, Freddie grabs Cook by the shoulders and shoves him against the door. Cook struggles blearily, his familiar eyes familiarly unfocused. Drunk and doubtless stoned too. He shifts, slurring something about Freddie being a 'selfish bastard', and tries to move away. Normally he's stronger but he's not really trying and Freddie pushes his hips forward, pinning Cook to the wood as he yanks the bottle from the shorter boy's pocket and throws it behind him. It smashes but Freddie doesn't care, keeping his eyes locked on Cook as he yanks the sweltering cigarette out of his friend's mouth. Throwing it out the window he grabs the bottom of Cook's shirt and yanks it over his head like he's five-years-old. Cook no longer struggles, just stares at Freddie in a foggy haze of bewilderment and pain. He doesn't give a shit what happens to him now, and he doesn't think Freddie will hurt him. He's interested in this new idea, this familiar change of scene.
Keeping him pinned with his hips, Freddie leans back to grab a half-empty bottle of water from the floor. Cook is looking at him like 'what the fuck?!' but Freddie takes no notice as he unscrews the cap and - not taking his eyes off of Cook - tips the water over his best mate's head. Cook yowls, trying to flinch away again, but stops when he feels Freddie's hips flex against his. The water runs down his cheeks and over his chest, goosebumps rising on his arms. Proof that he's human.
Freddie lets the empty bottle drop to the floor and puts one hand on Cook's hip, getting right in his face so their noses almost touch. Cook's eyes have lost their bleariness and the blue pierces into Freddie's face. He looks so vulnerable and Freddie sees a flash of the twelve-year-old in the shed, kissing him. And the teenager rocking him from side to side in the amber light of the skate park. He also sees the twisted git who'd paraded around at Effy's window, and laughed as Karen lost her competition. He sees these things, but all of it combined is what he is struggling to take in. This is Cook and Cook is everything and nothing. He's light and dark and dark and light. He's summer and winter and sex and cuddles and everything in between.
Freddie snakes one hand around the back of Cook's head, locking his fist in his scruffy, greasy hair. Wrenching his face closer roughlly, he parts his lips.
"Sober?" Freddie's question is almost a growl as he observes the lucidity in Cook's eyes.
"Y-yeah." Cook still doesn't understand what the fuck is going on. He's standing in Freddie's shed, dripping with water, bare-chested, cigarette free and with his best mate looking at him funny. He's more sober than he has been in a long time and its quite a big thrill. The thrill of not hiding behind the substances. Cook is nothing but a thrill-seeker. They both know that.
"Good." Those few centimeters could have been a mile but it doesn't mean a thing. Freddie moves closer, inch by inch until there is hardly any space between their lips. Cook looks frightened as Freddie lays a soft kiss on his bottom lip. Its over in a second as Cook computes the results. He can't blame it on the drugs and he doesn't know how he feels. After a few seconds he looks back into Freddie's face and nods slowly.
Freddie kisses Cook this time, not the other way around. Freddie's lips explore Cook for the fourth (and probably not the final) time. His mouth skims over the water that clings to the pale, blotchy skin of Cook's collarbone. Cook's breathing grows heavy as his hands trail up Freddie's back, "F-Freds..." He murmurs an objection but is interuppted as Freddie's lips meet his forcefully. How the hell did Freddie become the dominant one? It was role reversal, which made it very unfamiliar. Freddie is teaching Cook a lesson. What its like to be on the recieving end.
There is a neat balance of aggression and comfort in the kiss. A balance of all three of their previous kisses. There's the same danger, with the same flash of familiarity. Hate and love. Love and hate. Smoke and water. Poison and antidote. Cook and Freddie. But now its Freddie and Cook.
The forgotten cigarette burns to ash outside, and stale vodka drips between two floorboards.
Will they talk about it?