Lucy Lambert and Tommy Johnson had been friends since they were both in Mrs Mulgrew's class in Infants School. Both were an only child, so school had been a scary place for both five year olds, and they had kind of naturally recognised each other as kindred spirits and gravitated towards each other for comfort and reassurance.
As their school years progressed, they weren't always in the same classes, but at break times they were never far apart: even during the crazy years when most little boys want nothing to do with little girls! And as they got older and biological changes kicked in, Lucy often found herself responding to the comments of other girls, such as: 'I think your brother is really cute!'; to which her comeback was usually: 'I guess ... but he's not my brother!' Although, to all intents and purposes, that's exactly how she thought of him!
They usually walked home together after school; sometimes with his or her friends; and on most days they would sit together in her family's dining room, doing homework for a couple of hours. Lucy's parents were somewhat protective of their daughter, but they seemed to have no doubts or misgivings about leaving the two growing adolescents alone together.
On one such occasion, when they were both fourteen, Lucy leaned in and said to him, in a quiet, conspiratorial tone: "Martin Matthews has asked me to go out with him, Tommy!" Tommy smiled at her, in that way he had which always seemed to make her happy.
"I know! He asked me in Games what you'd say ... I just said he'd never know unless he asked you!"
"But it's the first time someone's asked me out, what do you think I should say?"
"Well, I won't embarrass you by asking if you fancy him or not, but he's always seemed to me to be a nice bloke, I don't think he'll mess you around!"
"But what about physical stuff ... you're the only boy who's ever held my hand, but that was years ago, and I've never even kissed a boy!"
"Look, Lucy, they're both natural things ... just remember that you don't have to do anything that you're not comfortable with. And Martin knows better than to do anything dodgy while I'm around!"
As ever, Lucy was reassured. She'd been waiting ages for this particular rite of passage, and she knew that Tommy had been going out with her friend, Sally Jenkins, for several weeks now, and Sally had said that Tommy was a good kisser. Lucy had also suspected that maybe other boys would have liked to ask her out, too; but although she knew that Tommy was the kindest, gentlest boy in the world, he was also rather tall and athletically built for his age.
Then at 18 they applied to a lot of the same universities, but Lucy got into Sussex to read Biology and Chemistry, while Tommy did Creative Writing and English Literature at Middlesex. And while they were both happy to be going, they were also of course sad, at not being together at university.
They saw each other at vacation times, though, and during their three years of undergraduate study, they often visited each other's campuses for weekends during term time: although Tommy always gave up his bed for Lucy in London and slept on her bedroom floor in Sussex. They had also made a pact: that wherever they were, or whoever else they might be seeing, they would always try to spend New Years Eve together. So each year, on the evening of the 31st, Tommy would call for Lucy: they'd have a small celebratory drink with her parents, and then go out to one of the local pubs to see in the new year.
Two years after graduating, Lucy was still in Sussex. Having finished up with First Class Honours, she was now doing post-graduate research, while working towards her doctorate in Biochemistry. Tommy was making a small, but reasonable living as a freelance writer, and also as a part-time staff writer for a listings magazine. With her research grant allowing her to live off-campus, Lucy had just moved into a small flat between the university and Brighton; which is where Tommy had travelled down on December 30th to see her, for their annual New Year reunion.
" ... Well, this is very cosy ... not like my place!" he said when he arrived there for the first time.
"Aw, I love your flat, Tom! This is nice, but the neighbourhood has no atmosphere, unlike London!"
"I suppose so!" He looked around her living room, which was still very festive with all the Christmas decorations: he had a few greetings cards displayed, but that was all. "But at least you have a nice sofa I can sleep on: I'll leave my sleeping bag in the car until I need it, though."
Lucy stood before him, feet apart and hands on slender hips. She wasn't exactly frowning, but she had a serious look on her face. Tommy knew that stance well, and even though physically he was inches taller and broader, he listened carefully to what she had to say.
" ... And I really think that you ought to leave it in there while you're here this time, Tommy! There's enough room in my bed for two, and I know that after all these years I can trust you." The trouble was, Tommy didn't know if he trusted himself.
"I suppose it wouldn't hurt for a couple of nights, Luce! Is there no boyfriend on the scene at the moment: I wouldn't want to rock any boats, and if you were my girlfriend, I wouldn't be very happy at the idea of you sharing."
Lucy looked at him quizzically: in all the time she'd known him, she'd never heard him say anything like that before.
"No, there's no boyfriend, Tom: I haven't really been in a relationship since I started my research work; there's too much else to think about."
"All right, then. Are we staying in or going out tonight?" he asked her, trying desperately to get all thoughts of their sleeping arrangements out of his head.
"I thought we could stay in and just catch up tonight and then go into Brighton tomorrow night, if you like."
"Sounds good to me ... are you cooking, or shall we get a takeaway?"
"I don't mind, but we haven't shared a Chinese for a while, have we ... I don't usually bother when I'm on my own."
Lucy had the phone numbers of several fast-food places that delivered, so they settled in for the evening. Later, after they had eaten and cleared away, she made coffee and they sat together on the sofa.
"I think that this is what I miss most about living here," Lucy said, "we can't just pop round to see each other when we feel like it. Most of the people who were here when I did my first degree have moved on; and anyway, I don't really want that student lifestyle any more."
"I know what you mean. I really don't mind being on my own, and I can get a lot of work done at home in the evening ... but it's nice to see a friendly face, or have someone to talk to when you take a break."
"And how is your novel coming along, Tommy?"
" ... Slowly! I have days when I get a lot written; but then other days when nothing seems to come to me, so I just get on with the bread-and-butter stuff that brings in the money."
But at last the time came when they, and Lucy in particular, were too tired to talk anymore.
"Did you bring a toothbrush, Tom; I've got a spare if you didn't bring one?"
"No, it's okay ... I'm sorted! Do you want to use the bathroom first?"
"If we're only brushing, there's room for two."
They had seen each other in their underwear on lots of occasions in the past, but Tommy always looked away, or went to the bathroom, while she was changing. She didn't seem to mind what he did or didn't see, but it was about the only thing between them that he still felt self-conscious about. He wasn't even sure what she usually wore in bed when alone, but whenever they shared a room when visiting each other, she wore a T-shirt and a pair of knickers at bedtime, and he wore his close-fitting boxers.
Lucy felt surprisingly comfortable as they got into bed together for the first time, and it was Tommy who felt 'odd'. They kissed each other lightly on the lips, then lay with their backs to each other to go to sleep. Lucy was quickly asleep, as she usually was, but Tommy lay awake, listening to her breathe and feeling the heat from her body as they lay only inches apart in the bed. It was usually the same thing even when they slept apart. He had often wondered what it would be like to hold her in his arms and feel her naked skin against his, but now she was so close; he only had to turn and reach out to her, but he knew that he must not!
Eventually fatigue overtook him, however, and he drifted off into a restless sleep as the night slowly passed by. In the morning when he finally awoke, still tired, the bed beside him was empty. His bladder was giving him very insistent instructions, so he got out of bed and still not fully functioning mentally, he walked to the bathroom, turned the handle and went in. He wasn't alone!
" ... I ... I'm sorry!" he said, seeing Lucy in the bath, "I'll come back..."
"Don't be silly, Tom! If you need to pee, just go!"
He wanted to make his apologies and leave, but there was a sharp pain in his bladder telling him to stay. He heard her gentle laugh.
"Do you want me to close my eyes and cover my ears!" He had been standing there for several seconds with nothing happening.
"It's not funny, Luce! I think I'm about to explode!"
"Okay! Give me a couple of seconds!" He heard her get out of the water, then a few seconds more during which he assumed she was wrapping herself in a towel, then the bathroom door being pulled shut.
"Aaahhh!" he exclaimed loudly, as his sphincter finally opened and his bladder emptied. Leaving the bathroom, he saw her in the kitchen, covered from armpit to thigh in white, fluffy towelling. "Thanks!"
.... There is more of this story ...