Tom sort of had a grudge against his bicycle.
It was a rather worn 1989 Bianchi Giro in light blue (the only thing he did like about it) and it had been his brother Joe's before he had gotten a car. Tom wishes he had a car.
It wasn't that he was ungrateful for the bike, really. He just thought it was a sodding piece of shit with unruly handles, the most uncomfortable seat, and tires that needed patching every other day. Not to mention all the times it had, unfortunately, fucking embarrassed him. Just the other day for example, Tom had ridden to the shop around the corner to pick up eggs for his mum, and the steering fucked up like it always did. He landed straight into the fountain in front of a whole bunch of other teenagers, and had to ride home absolutely sopping.
He hated that bike. But, considering it was the only form of transportation he had, he used it. His mum and Joe shared Joe's 1985 Honda Civic, and Tom had failed his drivers test six times, so even if he wanted to use the car, he couldn't. He didn't understand why his mother couldn't just purchase him a new bike. They weren't loaded, sure, but the bike was pushing five years. Tom expressed his utter contempt for the damn bike loudly and clearly, and his mother always nodded along, telling him they'll replace it eventually. But they never did. Tom was stuck with the sodding thing. Nothing good had ever come of it.
Except for that one time.
Tom had been riding about the village, like he usually did when he had free time. It was late summer, so he was out of school, just a boy of eighteen. His birthday had been the fourteenth of October last year, and he was relishing in the fact he could legally drink. And smoke. That was a terrible habit he had picked up from Joe, and his mother absolutely couldn't stand it. As much as she hated it, though, their agreement was no smoking in the house, therefor she wouldn't pester him about it. Tom had been diving down hills, the wind whipping his hair from his eyes, taking in the village scenery. Stanton-On-Sea was nice this time of year, you could smell the hearty, powerful smell of the ocean, and the trees were all wonderfully green. It made Tom feel free, which he didn't feel very often, so he basked in such a thing. His tape player was going strong in his pocket, the cheapest headphones he could by clasped to his head. 'I Started Something I Couldn't Finish' by The Smiths was blaring, and Tom had half a mind to scream the lyrics.
The other half would be terribly embarrassed to.
He had been riding down Lucky Lane (a wonderful street name, Tom thought) when his bike's miserable luck decided to kick in. Next thing he knew, Tom went flying over somebody's bins, crashing into someone's mucky garden, covering himself in mud. He grimaced after finding his barrings, trying to swipe all the dirt he could from his jumper. Oh, his mother was going to be absolutely pissed about this stunt. Tom was muttering a string of filthy, filthy exclamations to himself, trying his best to fix his godawful bike, when he heard it.
Laughter. Strong, pure, downright busting at the seams laughter.
Tom turned on his heels, fully intending to tell whatever prick was laughing at him off, but he stopped.
Across the street was a quaint house, owned by Susan Schofield. She was one of the many older ladies in the village, and Tom knew her from church and his mother's bridge games. There was a truck parked out front her house, a Ford Tom thought. It was a warm brown with chestnut siding, and a terrible dent just ahead of the bumper. In the bed of the truck stood tons of boxes, all with labels on the sides in marker. Clothes. Books. Bedding.
Standing beside the truck, a box perched in his arms, stood a man in a navy blue jumper. The one laughing.
Tom's face balled up, and guiding his bike alongside him, and he stomped over to the man, all the while still covered in dirt. There were sticks in his hair too, he idly realizes, but he could deal with that later. Right now he was seething, more at the bike than anything, and the man's laughter just sent Tom into a terrible mood.
He makes his way across the road finally, and the man's laughter has died down, but he's still smiling, and the sunlight looks so nice on his face, and-
Tom realizes how attractive the man really is.
He was tall, taller than Tom at least, with strawberry blonde hair stuck out in thick, loose locks covering his head. His eyes were the shade of blue meant for teenage magazines to fawn over, and his smile was increasingly infectious. Fuck, since when had Tom started smiling? He was meant to be absolutely fuming right now! He laughs mirthlessly, and rubs the back of his neck, continuing to look the man over.
"You took quite the, ah, the tumble there, mate."
Oh shit, had Tom really just been staring at him just now? Tom laughs again, albeit a tad more nervously, and grips the handles of his terrible, awful, miserable, no good bike.
"Guess so, yeah." Tom replies curtly, cocking his head to the side. "I'm fine, though, no need to offer a hand." He adds a bit passive aggressively, a peculiar smile still plastered to his face. The man before him shifts on his heels for a moment, clearly feeling a bit awkward now, before smiling again.
"Sorry for laughing, honest. I don't know what came over me." The man shrugs, and sets the box he's been holding into the back of his truck. Tom watches him carefully. "Wrong foot to start off on. I'm Will."
Tom continues to watch as the man extends a friendly hand, the man's faintly freckled face a peculiar mixture of emotions. Tom couldn't quite pin them down. Before he knows it, though, he's thrown out his own scuffed hands, and their skin connects.
"Tom Blake. Are you moving in with Ms. Schofield?" Tom asks politely, a faint sweat breaking down the back of his neck as their grasp disconnects. Will's hands were very soft. He does his best not to think about it, but to be fair, his best isn't very much.
"Yes, actually, she's my nan. Thought she might like having someone to dote upon," Will's face expression neutral, but Tom can tell by the crinkle about his eyes that it's meant to be a joke. So Tom laughs, leaning his weight onto his bicycle handles, heels scuffing the edge of the curb idly.
"But do you like being doted on?" Tom asks, his normal attitude slipping back into place. All those thoughts of tearing this guy a new one, or maybe even proper socking him in the face dissipated from Tom's mind. It'd be a shame to leave a bruise on a face like that, Tom thinks absentmindedly. His face goes flush before he even realizes what he thought, and he looks away.
"Not particularly." Will sighs heavily, before picking up the box from earlier. "Aces meeting you by the way, sorry about your bike, mate." Will nods down at the wheel of Tom's bike, and Tom follows his gaze, and oh, shit- The wheel is completely torn to shit. No amount of patching would fix that. Will must notice Tom's dismayed grimace, because he sighs again, holding the box to his hip.
"Shit, my mum'll be pissed," Tom starts, falling to his knees, fawning over the shredded rubber. Will looks around for a moment, before setting down his box on the sidewalk, and squatting down next to Tom. Tom groans heavily, his eyes drifting back over to Will. Oh, he was so close now. That fact makes Tom feel funny, and he doesn't know why. "I don't even live close to here. I'm all the way across town."
Will holds a hand to his chin, glancing back and forth between the torn wheel and Tom, before standing again. He sighs again, and Tom guesses he must do that a lot. "So how'll you get back home, then?" He asks politely, holding out a hand to help Tom up.
"If I could use your phone, I'll give my brother a ring, he can come get me." Tom answers, pulling himself to his feet with Will's help. A bit of the dirt from Tom's jumper cuff started coming off onto Will's, and Tom pulls his hand away, perhaps a bit too fast.
"We don't have a phone." Will states plainly. "Tell you what, though. Help me unload a couple boxes, I'll give you a lift home?"
Tom thinks it over for a moment.
Tom's excuse for arriving home so late that night is that he was a good lad, and helped Ms. Schofield's grandson move in. He doesn't tell his mum about how utterly fucked his bike is, or how absolutely huge of a liking he had taken to the man. He waits until after his mum's gone to bed to tell Joe about his bike, but he still leaves out the liking part. There was no use getting into those sorts of things with Joe or his mum. Tom quite frankly knew he wasn't normal, and never would be at this point. Joe simply swelled with laughter over Tom's idiocracy, and promised to help him fix the bike before their mother found out. It did absolutely fuck all for his nerves.
He lays by himself in bed that night, Walkman Sports playing an Echo & The Bunnymen tape, and wonders why the new boy had to be Will. They had spent the day unpacking his things, moving boxes to his room, that sort of thing. It would all be swell and good if Will Schofield was an arsehole, Tom could deal with that, but-
Will Schofield was terribly nice, he used to go to University in London, and he liked reading long, boring books. His favourite food is Tim-Tams dipped in coffee and his favourite tea is Lemon Ginger. Tom had painstakingly memorized these facts through relaxed conversation as he helped Will unpack, and painstakingly realized how quick of friends they had become.
Tom couldn't decide if he was pleased or miserable over this fact. Sure, he quite liked Will, he liked that he had a dry sense of humor and was self described as great at card games. He liked how the traces of what could have once been freckles stuck out when the sun sets. He likes how the man's hands looked gripping the wheel of his Ford. A 1980 F180, he had told Tom. That's what made this miserable, Tom decides. The fact that he really, really liked Will. Too much, already he liked him.
Tom had fallen painfully, dreadfully hard for a man he had just met.
That morning, while Tom was swallowing down a big bowl chocolate cereal, his mom tells him something that gets him a bit confused. He was going through his regular morning routine of filling himself to the brim with sugar, before dicking around in the park for a bit, when she spoke.
"Susan rang me, wanted to say what a doll you were yesterday." His mother tells him over her cup of tea, a tight, genuine grin pulled across her red lips. She was done up the way she usually was for work, her normally loose brown curls pulled into a careful, precise bun. She worked at the market in town, Somerfield's. She was always pestering him to get a job there, but he always declined. It was a bit lame to work with your mum like that. Not that Tom thought his mum was lame, a momma's boy such as him could never say such a thing.
"They don't have a phone," Tom replies without thinking, shoveling more chocolate covered whatevers into his mouth. It catches him after a moment. "That's what Will told me when I tried to call you."
"He's done up all wrong then, Suzy calls me every Sunday after church. You've heard us titter, I'm sure," She takes another sip of her tea, waving her hand about as if to dismiss him. "She asked if you would mind showing Will around, since you got on so well yesterday."
Tom thinks on it for a moment, before getting up. He tosses the rest of his cereal in the trash, and shoves his dishes in the sink.
"Tommy dear, where in the world are you going?" Mrs. Blake asks quaintly, an amused look pulling on the corners of her lips. She sets her mug down on the table, and crosses on leg over the other, straightening her calf length skirt.
Tom turns around, and gives her a small, obligatory grin.
"I've got to get dressed if I'm showing him around."