Cheers for the reviews.

Fourex is beer. A stubbie is a small bottle of beer.

'Gravy, Roman?'


Brett dumped a spoonful of the lumpy brown sauce onto Roman's chips, and handed the plate over. Romie carried his dinner over to the table and took a seat next to me. It was a typical Brett dinner; steakburgers with chips and gravy. The only vaguely healthy items on our plates were the tomato, lettuce and beetroot in our burgers.

Roman loves Brett's cooking. His mother insists on feeding him salads and fruits, which he swears results in him 'starving'. The rest of us aren't so sure of Brett's culinary expertise. We're convinced that he's leading us directly to a heart attack. Come on, can you really trust a guy whose 'healthy' dish is a bolognaise which could accurately be described as 'pasta cooked in fifty percent water, fifty percent oil, served with deep-fried mince'?

'Is there egg on my burger?' Lee inquired, poking at his bun.

'Yes,' Brett replied irritably. 'Just eat it. We had twelve eggs in the fridge; they needed to go somewhere.'

'Didn't Cody suggest a sponge cake? Or a meringue?'

Cody is part of our 'other family'. Before I came into Brett's care, Brett was seeing another guy, Damon. When Damon left Brett, he moved to America and ended up dating an American man, Trent. Cody is part of Trent's family. Brett and Michael are in contact with Damon and his new family, as are us kids. We even went to the US last month for the purposes of visitation. Lee, who came into Brett's care when he was partnered with Damon, is frequently on the phone to the American branch of his foster family.

'I don't have time to make sponge cakes,' Brett retorted. 'Be quiet and eat your dinner.'

'I bet you'd have time to make a meringue,' Lee argued. 'All you need to do is whip egg whites and sugar, and then bake it.'

'What would I do with then egg yolks then, smartass?' Brett inquired.

'Make a lemon meringue then,' Lee answered triumphantly.

The older of my foster parents glared and stalked over to the table, carrying his overloaded dinner plate. Brett need only look at gym equipment in order to grow muscle. He visits the gym with me once or twice a week, and the results of his labour are unfairly impressive. Naturally strong and with a heavy build, he body is now a kick in the face to the bodybuilders that visit the gym twice daily, sweating to achieve what Brett easily maintains with only three or four hours work each week. His appetite, however, is massive. I train a lot and I still eat less than he does.

'You make a bloody lemon meringue, then. You can get started after dinner.'

'No worries,' Lee smirked. 'And if I get it right, next week you can make one.'

Brett exhaled loudly and reached for the pepper steak sauce. He lifted the lids off his two burgers, applied a generous amount of sauce, and slapped the tops back on. I watched as he raised one of his burgers to his mouth and took a bite, whilst his dark-eyed gaze fixed directly on Lee. The two can be disgraceful in public. Brett abhors any public display of attention or love and Lee, being piercingly aware of his foster father's attitude, will respond accordingly to Brett's public persona. Tonight, it is Roman's presence that's exacerbating their respective faults.

'Well?' Lee prompted.

'Well what?' Brett snarled.

Lee sighed. 'Well, are you going to make sweets next week?'


'Then why do I have to make one tonight?' my blonde 'sibling' complained, outraged at the apparent injustice of the situation.

'Who said you had to make anything?'

'You did by default! Otherwise all you give us is fried eggs. It's like, we can't go three fucking seconds without you shoving egg down our throats.'

Brett dumped his burger back on his plate, which he then picked up and carried over to the study nook. Tucked under his arm was his stubbie of fourex. The five of us at the table - Lee, Michael, Roman, Ella and I - watched as he placed the items on the computer table and switched on the monitor.

Michael was embarrassed. 'I'm sorry,' he apologised to Roman. 'He's only got three more subjects until he graduates. He's a little stressed at the moment.'

Brett teaches at a technical school on weekdays, works the Saturday morning overtime shift at a metalworks outfit, and is in the final stages of completing a bachelor's degree in civil entgineering. He's doing two subjects this semester, and as a result he's incredibly testy. He likes to study, and hates anything which he perceives to be an unnecessary interruption.

'Oh, it's fine,' Roman grinned. 'It's a better excuse than menopause.'

Lee made a disguisted noise and picked up his plate. He pulled Ella out of her high chair and started walking over to the lounge, gesturing for Claire to follow him. Roman winced. Michael glared at Lee and Claire, before letting out a sigh of resignation. Lee flicked the television on, and rested his feet on the coffee table. Claire sat beside him, nibbling at her steak-free egg and salad burger, with her daughter on her lap.

'Christ, I could kill somebody,' Michael remarked quietly. He neatly speared a few chips with his fork. 'Jesus.'

Michael is the social glue of our family. He's the one who holds us together through the bad parts, and lubricates the unintentional courseness of Brett, and the couldn't-care-who-I-offended words that spring forth from Lee's mouth. He's young and blonde, with classic good looks and he's always dressed appropriately. Women adore him. Men either respect him, due to the fact that he's a qualified electrician and thus can 'do' things, or hate him because he reminds them too closely of the aerobics instructors their wife is currently having an affair with. Brett loves him, though, and I think love is something that not many people have offered him. I've heard people talk; I know Michael's had a lot of sexual partners. I also know - because I was around to witness it - that he found his way into Brett's bed months before he managed to infiltrate Brett's heart.

'How was work?' I asked.

'Crappy.' He smiled at each of us. ' School?'

'Crappy,' Romie and I replied in unison.

Roman and Michael like one another. Not in a sexual way, of course, but in a social manner of speaking. They don't have any urge to outdo one another, and Michael will always drive Roman home without uttering a word of complaint. To Michael, acting as a chauffeur is part and parcel of having children. To Brett, it's a disgrace that Roman celebrated his seventeenth birthday five months ago, and still hasn't bothered taking driving lessons. Brett doesn't understand that midnight trips home on a bicycle are sometimes a necessary inconvenience that is associated with riding a pushbike to school. Despite his impressive build, Brett has no aerobic fitness and besides that, he hates cyclists who ride on the road. It's his opinion that Roman should ditch his bicycle and learn to drive.

We talked and laughed as we ate. Lee yelled at us to 'shut-up', but Michael ignored this. When Lee repeated his demand, Brett told everyone to shut up. Michael just gritted his teeth and ignored what he perceived as a gross lack of social graces. Roman might be my friend, and he might visit at least once a week, but to Michael his presence meant that we were required to act civilly.

'I'll wash up,' Michael offered after dinner. 'You two can go and study.'

'We've fin-' Roman started.

Mike quickly shushed him and pointed us in the direction of my bedroom. 'Go and study,' he repeated.

He was both offering us an escape, and telling us to go away whilst he told off Brett, Lee and Claire. In fact, I'd barely closed the bedroom door behind me before I heard him approach Brett.

Roman sniggered, and turned on my CD player. 'Your family's nuts,' he remarked.

'Yeah.' I could feel myself go red. 'Sorry about that. They're not normally that bad.'

'I know. I come here every week, remember?'


'Yeah,' he grinned encouragingly. 'I'm glad your family's batshit crazy. It means I don't have to worry about my mum being batshit crazy.'

'Huh. What's your excuse then?'

'Hey, I'm not the one who shagged Connor.'

'Ughhh, not that again,' I complained. I lay on my bed and buried my head in the pillow. Romie sat on the floor, his back against the bed, with several of my magazines on his lap. He's forever leafing through everything 'gay' I own. I think it fascinates him. At first, I suspected (hoped) it turned him on, but there's nary a hard-on to be spotted afterwards. I've checked, of course. 'What do you want to know?'

Romie shrugged and flicked through a six month old issue of DNA. 'Why did you do it? I mean, what got you started? Not many people know for sure that you're gay. How did he know?'

I kept my face safely buried in the pillow. It helped ease the embarrassment. 'I don't know,' I mumbled. 'After you left, I went to say good-bye to everyone and asked if I could borrow the phone to call a taxi. I didn't want to call from my mobile. I only had two dollars of credit left on it. I, um... I went to the loo and he followed me in.'

'What?' Roman exclaimed. 'He followed you into the toilet? Does he get off on watching guys piss or something? Yuck. I'm never going to a urinal with him again.'

A frustrated noise escaped my throat. 'No, you idiot. Who gets off on watching people piss?'

I knew it was bad question the moment I asked it. Roman is fascinated by human sexuality and can pretty much name every fetish under the sun. He wants to be a sex therapist when he graduates from University, or so he claims. I think he's just a frustrated virgin, who is even more frustrated at the fact that he nicked off home early on Saturday night, and thus missed my very short, very intimate, affair with Connor. He didn't find out until Sunday afternoon, when I sent him a brief email to bring him up to date.

'Okay, don't answer that,' I added hurriedly. 'I'll just keep going on with the story. So, we were in the toilet together. He asked me if I was going to take a leak, and I said 'yeah, I was'.'

Romie snickered. 'Wow, he's so bright. I mean, how did he know you went to the toilet to pee? I never would have guessed.'

I flung an arm out and aimed a punch in his general direction. I smirked in satisfaction when I connected with his shoulder, and heard his pitiful yelp.

'So I peed.'

'Wait, you peed in front of him?'

'Um, yes. I really needed to go. There was a queue to the toilet, and I'd drunk...well, I'd drunk a lot. You know that.'

The story became increasingly more humiliating. It was so much worse in retrospect than it had been on the night, largely because on Saturday I'd had the benefit of intoxication. Now I had nothing. Now I had a nosy best mate and a horrible, woeful tale of lost virginity. Tears of laughter were dribbling down Romie's cheeks by the end of the story. I was quite crabby that I was copping shit from a virgin of all people, and a straight virgin at that.

'Shut the fuck up,' I complained, stealing one of Lee's faviourite phrases. 'When you have sex, you can laugh at my sex life.'

'You don't have a sex life. You had sex, once. Bad sex. Terrible sex.'

'Whatever. I'm bored, I want to go for a run. Did you want to come with me, or should Michael drop you off home?'

Romie sighed. 'I wasn't laughing at you. I was laughing at, well, Connor and you.'

I'm pretty lousy at staying angry. 'Fine. Forgiven.'

'Did I expressly apologise?'

I groaned and hit him. He laughed, and threw my stack of magazines under my bed, before returning the punches. It's hard to fight with Romie, because I hate the thought of him being hurt. Pathetic, no? But ever since our first real conversation eight months ago, I've liked him more than I've ever liked anyone else. He was my first real friend. He knows almost everything about me, including the details of my biological family, some of the reasons I entered foster care, and of course, my homosexuality. He knows that I asked to be placed with a gay person or couple and he knows that I'm now too intimidated to 'come out' to Brett and Michael. Ever since Brett and Michael got the idea into their heads that I'd kissed a girl at a wedding they took me too, they've been convinced I'm heterosexual. Their expectations make it...well, it's hard. It's embarrassing to think about having to say 'I like boys, guys'.

'Will,' Romie groaned. 'You're the worst fighter, ever.'

'If you want a good fight, fight Brett.'

Romie laughed. 'I don't think so.'

Before I had a chance to reply, there was a knock at the door. It was Michael, explaining that Lee needed lemon juice in order to make lemon meringue, and did Roman want to be dropped off home now?

Roman took the hint; Michael didn't want to make two journeys on the one night.

'Did you want me to come with you?' I asked.

'Nah,' he shrugged. 'I don't need anyone witnessing Mum's flirting.'

I grinned as he picked up his back-pack. 'Make him stay in the van.'

'She catches him as he's getting my bike out of the van.' Roman paused and grinned at me, before opening the door. 'I'll see you tomorrow.'

'Sure, see ya,' I replied. My gaze swivelled across to Michael. 'Thanks Michael.'

Mike shrugged. 'It's no problem. I'll see you when I get back, Will.'

I flopped onto my back as Roman shut my door behind him. They would be fine together, and I knew from previous experience that Roman was being entirely honest when he stated he didn't want me to see his mother flirting with Mike.

I sighed and rolled over, so that I was facing the wall. It had been less than forty-eight hours since I'd lost my virginity. Everyone who had been at the party knew, Roman knew, Breanna and Caroline knew. Well, they thought they knew. They knew about the sex, sure. What they didn't know was that I wanted to see Connor again. Was that normal? Damn. Damn, damn, damn. The suckiest part of having a virgin for a best mate, is knowing there's no one you can reasonably question on the matter.

I wanted his number. He might have been a tosser, but I'd had sex with him, and there was an odd bond I felt I had with him.