Justin Boyland stood at the counter in the college refectory waiting to be served: he rarely ate in there, but he bought his customary sandwich or filled bread roll, together with a piece of fruit; which he then took away to a quiet place where he could eat and read in peace. Despite his quietness, he was a likable guy and it was commonly acknowledged that he really knew what he was talking about; compared to other students who were more outgoing and could talk a good talk, but who were often found wanting when it came to putting their supposed knowledge into practice.
But although he was generally popular, he remained aloof, and he assiduously sidestepped all attempts by others to befriend him: including those of some of the prettiest girls, who found his whole demeanour quite attractive; especially when compared to other boys who pursued them as if they were some kind of prey in a ritualistic game. This, of course, led to speculation that Justin might be gay and that he either hadn't realised it yet; or that he had, and he just wasn't sure how to proceed. But Ben Fisher didn't subscribe to the gay theory: he thought that there must be something else about Justin Boyland that made him act the way that he did, and he was really curious to know what it was!
Ben was two places behind Justin in the queue, so when they had both just joined it, he was well-placed to hear Tracy Clarke's question:
"Hi, Justin! I don't know if you're interested, but I'm having a party tomorrow night; a lot of the gang from here are coming, and you know you're very welcome if you want to come, too!"
"Thanks, Tracy! But I'm just not a party person! Is it your birthday, or just a get together?"
"It was my birthday a couple of days ago, but I thought that Friday was a better night for everyone!"
"Well, I'm sure it will go great! And belated birthday wishes, Tracy!"
"Thank you, Justin! Let me know if you change your mind!"
Now Tracy was really hot, and several of the guys in the queue watched her bum in her short skirt as she walked away ... Ben included ... but not Justin; who just looked at the queue in front of him getting smaller!
Ben thought about following Justin to see where he took his food, but he had arranged to meet his pal, Steve; that, plus the fact that he usually bought a cooked meal, which he had to eat sitting in the refectory. He knew Justin was very bright, but apart from looking quite young, he had no other distinguishing features, apart from shyness, that might explain his behaviour. Ben had already accepted an invitation to Tracy's party: although he didn't think that she liked him that much, but she was the sort of person who would invite everyone, rather than make one person feel bad about being left out! Ben wasn't actually that fond of parties himself; but unlike Justin, he had never turned down an invitation to one!
However, Ben put his curiosity about Justin to one side for the time being: he couldn't think of a plan, so he just waited for any likely opportunity that might arise in the future; such as the following Tuesday...
It just so happened that Ben was waiting at the bus stop when Justin joined the queue. Ben got on before him, but he sat at the back of the bus and when Justin got off, he followed him. Now he knew that if no one else got off at the same time, he'd have to let him go; but fortunately there were several people between them. Then Justin turned towards the shopping arcade, so Ben followed a short distance behind; knowing that he appeared to have a legitimate reason for being there if he was spotted.
He followed Justine into a large store and up the escalator to the floor above; but then he lost sight of him, so he decided to wait near the down escalator until Justin appeared, so that he could follow him again. But Justin never appeared: only women and girls, so he assumed he'd missed him; but he was determined to try again another day.
The next day he went to the same bus stop, at the same time, but there was no Justin, so he went home instead. On Thursday he was late out, and from ten yards away he saw the familiar figure boarding the bus, but by the time he got there it had pulled away.
"Okay!" he said to himself, "If I don't see him tomorrow, I'll have to have a rethink!"
But on Friday he trailed Justin down the road and they both caught the bus. Once again Ben followed him into the shopping arcade. He was able to tag along behind him into a shop, close enough to see what he bought, and then into the nearby fast food outlet. They both got burgers and cokes and Ben was able to sit close enough to see him when he left again. But Justin went upstairs to the bathrooms first, so Ben waited until he came down again. And then he saw him. Ben smiled. "Gotcha!" he said quietly to himself: there was now no need to follow him any more.
They were in the refectory queue on Monday, and when Ben had seen Justin approaching, he had manoeuvred himself into the queue just in front of him, and in place of a meal, he had just bought a sandwich and a soft drink. Then instead of sitting at a table, Ben waited for Justin.
"Have you got a minute, Justin!"
"Sure ... but I'd really like to go and have my lunch!"
"That's all right ... I'll walk along with you!"
"Okay! What was it you wanted to tell me?" Justin asked as they walked along. Ben paused.
"I know your secret, Mate!"
Justin kind of froze on the spot.
"Wh ... what secret?"
"Look, it's none of my business, and I won't tell anyone else; but I saw you yesterday ... I was in the burger place when to went up to the toilets, and I was there when you came down ... dressed like a girl! Like I say, Mate, it's your business! Mind you ... you do make a pretty good girl!"
"I hope so ... I am one!"
"No! Get away!" Ben exclaimed.
"Well, I'm not going to prove it here!" Justin said.
"But why!" Ben exclaimed again, " ... Although I suppose that explains a lot of things! You do know what people have been saying ... what is your name, by the way?"
"I'll tell you, Ben; but can we go somewhere a bit less public, please!"
They walked until they found seats.
"Well, it's obviously not Justin ... it's Justine, actually ... almost the same ... and the reason why I've been pretending to be a male...
" ... Okay, but before I go on ... let me ask you a question first, Ben: when you saw me on Friday, did you think that I was attractive?"