Spig and Mitchell had wanted me to come up with some new lyrics for a tune they'd been putting together so while Gareth had been battling with deadlines and ignoring my existence, that's what I'd been trying to distract myself with. But it turns out, Denial's pretty soul-rotting.
The lie was easy, it was the way it got to me afterwards that was tough to take, because I didn't know what the truth was, but it wasn't this and why the hell was I pretending, hiding like some proper creep – like I couldn't tell anyone at all? And what would they all say if I did tell them?
I choked every time I imagined the conversation – my brain refused to push past the point where I said "Hey, guys, you know that Gareth kid in the year above? I fancy him rotten.". I literally didn't know what their responses would be. I couldn't picture Mitchell punching me in the face and calling me a fucking queer, but I couldn't quite see him going "Ok, no biggie. Any ideas for the next song?" either. And as for Spig – you can never predict what Spig's going to do about anything.
I had negative inspiration and every time we had practice, I'd stare down at this blank piece of paper with a blunt pencil in my hand while they played over and over and absolutely nothing came out because of all the thoughts whizzing round my head. That's what I'd been doing that lunchtime before I got up the guts to talk to Gareth.
"Bloody hell Jonty, you're rubbish this week." Spig was less than impressed.
I felt shit about trying to pretend I'd just been mucking about with Saul, even worse about everyone hearing me get angry on Marrku's behalf when it wasn't even necessary and absolutely crap because Gareth hadn't even called to ask me why I'd done it. He must have known I'd been lying – even I could tell it was obvious – so it seemed like there was no way he cared what a confused mess I was in. Most likely, he was too busy with Saul to think about me.
"Mate, just write something, yeah?" Mitchell sighed, nodding at me with a patronising eyebrow raise.
And why would Gareth talk to me again anyway? I was the guy who'd refused to shake his hand, run away from him, ruined his party and told everyone he was going out with his best mate, more or less.
Heather hadn't even tried to get me to apologise. She'd just written me off and banned me from associating with her friends anymore.
"It's not that hard, Jon. Look 'I wish, I wish I was a heartbreaker, but I'm just another star, stargazer. Chasing you is trippin' me up. I can't run, can't run, run, run that fast for you, you got my laces in a knot.'"
My jaw dropped, I swear it. Bloody wanker. Trust him to come up with something brilliant off the top of his head, just like that. No fucking effort at all. I heaved to my feet, properly moody.
"You know what? I'm out. You two are doing great."
It didn't get much lower than Spig taking over my job.
But I didn't stop and they didn't come after me. I guess they figured I'd get over the mood I was in and it would be cool again later, but I wasn't so sure.
The only thing I could think about was making it right with Gareth, because I was fed with being pathetic about the whole... fancying him thing.
Sure, all Gareth ever got to see was me tripping over my sentences and looking like I had a perma-blush, but I'm not like that when I'm not around him. Spig and Mitchell think I'm a moron, sure, and yeah, I've not had a girlfriend and I'm not the brainiest kid on the block, but I'm not some spineless wonder all the bloody time.
Talking to him needed doing. And so did his garden, especially after I'd puked all over it. So, I just did. In front of everyone.
It was kind of redeeming pretending like I didn't care what they all thought, like it was some huge deal, even though I'd not actually asked him out, or done anything that any one of them probably did on a daily basis; I'd only talked to the guy at school – he wasn't some kind of leper.
And it was all fine, until I legged it out of the Sixth Form block again and realised that I was going to be spending Saturday with him. All of Saturday. Alone.
Much as I wanted it to drag, the rest of the week disappeared into some freaky time-warp and it super-speeded up to Saturday morning.
I had to walk over, because no way did I want to ask either Mum or Heather for a lift. I'd be subjected to a total interrogation and then Megan or Beth would hear, and most likely they'd end up running around sing-songing 'Jonty likes Gareth' just because they were in that kind of mood and even though I knew they'd have done the same thing if I'd said I was going to Spig's, it would have go to me.
So I turned up on his doorstep all by myself for once, gripping a pair of gardening gloves and Dad's old shovel. When he opened the door, Gareth was standing there in normal clothes. It was well weird. He had joggers and a jumper on, those Welly boots of his. Apart from the slim bandanna holding his fringe back, we were pretty much wearing the same thing, just in different colours and I had jeans. He also had the biggest grin I'd ever seen him wearing.
"You came!" He looked ridiculously pleased, which made my stomach flip-flop.
I just about managed to open my mouth and shrug before he tugged me inside – no hug, none of the kisses he usually greeted Heather with, but his fingers lingered on my arm.
"I have a plan," he informed me, eyes flashing to meet mine as he walked us through to the kitchen – the scene of my embarrassment. "I want huge double borders and roses everywhere. Look."
He waved a plan in my face and I couldn't help but get caught up in his enthusiasm. The paper held a detailed drawing, at least roughly to scale, showing large flowerbeds sweeping out from the edges in dramatic curves, that softened slightly as they came together. I realised that there would be pathways leading through the garden from the house and vistas at each turn. For a suburban back garden – 90' at the most, it was impressive.
His nose wrinkled slightly and he leant forwards, lowering his voice. "Are you any good at stripping turf? There's rather a lot to do. I got a little carried away, I'm afraid."
I found myself laughing a bit though, grin just as broad as Gareth's was, because I could see how much he wanted this – how much it meant to him and I wanted to do it. All of it, even if we had to stop when the ground got too hard to dig and start up again in the spring. And it wasn't just because of him, either. I could see the garden would be brilliant when it was finished, but he wouldn't be able to do it all on his own.
Somehow, staring down at the plans, having a focus for my attention made it easier to be normal around Gareth – easier for me to get my words out and stop bumbling.
"Where d'you want to start? We need to measure it out, right?"
Gareth glowed, rising up on his toes briefly and bouncing a little, making an excited noise in the back of his throat that kind of made me want to kiss him. "I have so much hose pipe – I've been laying it out on the lawn already!"
I had to laugh as he grabbed for my wrist, tugging me after him with a gleeful bounce to every step.
"Hey, Gareth? Gardens or clothes?"
He stopped dead, mouth open slightly as he looked back to meet my eye and his frown wrinkled momentarily, obviously truly stumped. "Both, Lovely. Can't I have both?"
That was a very good question I realised suddenly. Couldn't I have both as well?