Hong Kong, July 1994
Yet another sunny, steamy day.
John's been leaning against the rusty, paint-chipped bus stop post for nearly fifteen minutes now, his t-shirt soaked through with sweat, but Anthony's long since given up and retreated to squat against a concrete wall only just covered in a sliver of shade.
The air is pungent with the sickening smell of durian. Any stronger and it would be overwhelming.
John checks his watch for the twelfth time, then scans the road again, using his shirt to wipe the sweat from his forehead as he looks. A creaky truck covered in striped plastic tarp rattles past, and when the young men riding in the back spy the two fifteen year-old gweilo, they shout out, "Diu lei lo mo!" and then laugh together.
John frowns and turns away; he knows what the words mean (though he thinks maybe Mum and Dad wouldn't), and he's seen enough of the way things work here - sunburned housewives with leathery skin ordering elderly Chinese men about - not to begrudge them. But it doesn't soften their sting.
He looks up the road once more and, finding it utterly empty of transport, sighs and trudges over to the shade, where Anthony sits fanning himself with a film pamphlet snagged from the theatre. He crouches next to the other boy (he's been trying to perfect that flat-footed squat the Chinese men do, but he can't quite get his heels on the ground) and snatches the paper from his hands.
"Prat," Anthony grumbles as John quickly fans his face, then hands it back. When his legs begin to ache, he settles on the ground and leans back, delicately resting his head against the baking concrete, his forearms propped on bent knees. They sit this way for several minutes, Anthony leaning forward, lost in his thoughts, and John lost in the sandy blond of Anthony's hair.
Then, as though sensing John's gaze, Anthony turns quickly to face him.
John averts his eyes, but it's too late. Anthony's narrow slightly and John turns his face away, thankful that the blush rising to his cheeks is masked under skin already reddened by the sun.
"Did you hear about Richardson?" Anthony asks after a moment.
"The corporal?" John asks quietly, knowing the answer and hearing the real question beneath the words. "What about him?"
"My Dad says he's a bloody shirt lifter, that's what," Anthony says with a shake of his head. "Got caught with one of the Chinese drivers."
John keeps his eyes trained on the road, searching (desperately) for the number six bus.
"'s not normal, y'know," Anthony continues, and John gives a noncommittal hum. His own Dad's been all too clear on the subject (If anyone talks to you in the loo, John, you punch him in the face and get the hell out of there, understand?), and he's not about to disagree.
It was stupid, he thinks, to get caught looking - and what's a look, anyway? It's not like it means anything.
He turns to Anthony and finds a warning in his eyes. But before he can say anything more, John spies the blue double-decker bus that will return them to Stanley Fort barrelling down the road behind him. John climbs to his feet and unthinkingly holds out his hand to Anthony. The other boy stares at it for a moment, then pointedly rises on his own.
John's hand drops to his side.
He thinks they won't be spending much time together anymore.