All around the town, mobile phones were tinging and vibrating on nightstands as Lucy’s messages arrived, although very few of her friends were yet awake to read and reply. Even with the prospect of a sleepover to look forward to, most 11 year olds try to stay in bed as long as they can on a Saturday morning, and her girls were no exception to this.
Lucy was a little surprised to receive a reply straight away, but even more so when she saw it was from Daniel.
‘Hi Lucy, I really want to come to the sleepover, but don’t think I can. 😞 Great idea to meet at Em’s early, I’ll be there, really need to talk to you guys. D x’
Lucy didn’t know what to make of this, she knew Dan had been cagey about the sleepover from the start, but he’d said he was going to sort it with his mum. And now he was going to be there earlier on, but not stay? Very odd.
‘What’s up Dan? Hope you’re ok…We’ll be at Em’s by lunch, come over anytime and let’s chat. Bring your stuff, I’m sure you’ll be able to stay. X’
Daniel had been awake for hours, in fact it felt like he’d barely slept all night. He just kept playing over everything in his mind, and had worried himself to the point of almost being physically sick. He hated himself for being so awful to his Mum, knowing she was just looking out for him, and knowing that deep down she was right. But he also couldn’t bare the thought of everybody knowing his secret, or even worse, something happening and everybody finding out. He’d avoided this for years, why couldn’t he just carry on avoiding it?
Lucy. That’s why. He just couldn’t get that damned girl out of his mind, and it was driving him crazy. If it hadn’t been for her, he’d have just stuck to his like that he couldn’t go, and that would have been that. Em and the girls would have had a great time, he’d have been bored at home, but that’s just how it had to be for boys like him, and he’d always accepted his lot. But her words kept niggling at him, making him realise just how much he wanted to be there. In fact, lying there awake in his bed, he decided once and for all that he was going to go for it, and to hell with the consequences.
‘Sod it, I’m coming! Don’t care now, whatever anybody thinks. But I REALLY need to talk to you 3 before the others get there. Just please don’t hate me, ok? X’
And with that, trembling at what he had just done, Dan leapt from his bed and made a frantic run for the bathroom, just making it in time to vomit into the toilet, muttering to himself under his breath. “What have I done? I’m ruined!”
The sound of the bathroom door being slammed and Daniel being sick roused Val from her slumber, and quickly throwing a dressing gown around her shoulders she padded over to the bathroom, knocking gently before letting herself in. Dan was slumped against the bath, seemingly finished, but with tears rolling down his cheeks.
“Oh Daniel, are you ok? Whatever’s the matter sweetie?”
Through tears, and continuing to shake, Dan whispered “I’ve done it Mum, I’m going to the sleepover. What am I going to do now?”
Putting her arms around her distressed son and pulling him into a warm embrace, Val smiled at him. “What you’re going to do, young man, is pick yourself up, get in that shower and then get to work packing your overnight things. Grab the bull by the horns, and then get out there and have the best damned sleepover you’ve ever had.”
Dan managed a small watery chuckle at his Mum’s words “Well, it can hardly go any worse than the last one, can it. Ok, I’m going to get showered and dressed, but then, can we have a chat before I start packing? Maybe over a hot chocolate?”
“Of course love, you get yourself sorted and I’ll go and pop the kettle on. Remember, you can talk to me about anything, anytime. That’s what I’m here for.”
As he stood under the shower, it began to dawn on Dan just what a massive step he was taking. There was no backing out now, he knew he wouldn’t hear the end of it from Lucy if he didn’t stay, and she’d end up weedling the reason out of him too he was sure. Thinking about it practically, it was best that he talked to them about it first, so they knew the truth, rather than risking it coming out. Plus, should the worst happen, he’d need them to help him, he knew that. But he was placing so much trust in them, he hoped he’d got this right, he really did.
Once he was dressed, Daniel made his way down to the kitchen, where his Mum who had heard the shower stop had two large mugs of steaming hot chocolate ready and waiting, along with a stack of freshly toasted crumpets. Good old Mum, he thought, as he grinned and grabbed one, butter dripping down his chin has he bit into it.
“Ok love, how are you going to manage this? I know you’re so worried, but honestly, it’s really not the end of the world.”
“Well, Lucy text me earlier, and to begin with I tried to get out of it again. But then I realised I really do want to be there, I want to spend some time with her, and I don’t want to live my life hiding away any more. So in the end, in frustration, I said I was going to go and that I didn’t care what anybody thought.” Dan paused, taking a sip of his drink and glancing up at his Mum, who nodded encouragingly. She’d picked up on his comment about wanting to spend time with Lucy, but wasn’t going to embarrass him by mentioning it.
“That’s not true though, not really. I do so want to go, and I am going to. But I really don’t want everybody to find out, and I do care about what people think. Even though I know I probably shouldn’t, it’s just so difficult. When Lucy text, she said that her and Becky are going to Em’s early, and they’ve asked me to join them. If it’s ok with you, Mum, I’m going to go and talk to the three of them. I’m going to tell them everything, and hope that they’ll be there to help me should I need them to. If they know, they may be able to help make sure that nobody else finds out, and if anything goes wrong, I won’t be on my own either.”
Val felt a lump rising in her throat, and she wasn’t sure she could trust herself to say very much without breaking down in tears herself. Instead, she simply said “I’m so proud of you Daniel. Well done you!” And reached over to take her sons hand and give it a reassuring squeeze.
“Thanks Mum. But I’m going to need your help too, with the practical stuff. Let’s finish these delicious crumpets, and then will you come upstairs with me whilst I get everything sorted please?”
“Of course I will. In fact, like I said last night, I’ve already got a couple of ideas to run by you, which may help.”3
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