Catch the ball, run, then throw it at your teammates behind you. Join them in the scrum, do your best and remember. Remember you were made for this- you live for this. Most importantly, don't forget: Don't forget who you’re doing this for.
I remember the first day Grégoire Valmont and his sister arrived at St Tom’s. It was about four years ago. They arrived in year 8, when I was still in year 7. I immediately thought that he was the coolest kid around.
He had messy black hair and icy blue eyes and spoke with a funny accent, but I still thought he was just amazing.
I also remember that that year was the year when I joined the rugby team and became friends with Greg, James, and Gatsby. They were all a year above me, but they became my only friends, along with Greg’s sister, Marie-Ange, and her friend Nathalie.
Grégoire was the first to approach me when I started playing rugby. He spoke English well, he still had an accent, but he was understandable. He gave me tips on how to control my breathing when I ran and how to do crunches before we started playing.
That was nice of him.
When he started being friends with Gatsby and James, he dragged me in with them and we started hanging out together. We were a bunch of happy twelve to thirteen year-old kids. It was fun, back then.
When Grégoire and his sister turned fourteen, some rich older man came to the pitch to watch us play. He kept watching Grégoire intently, an interested yet discreet smirk curling his lips.
When Coach introduced us to the man, Mr. Westwood, Greg was ecstatic. The man was going to scout a few of us when we would be older, choose us to play pro.
And when he looked up to Westwood, I saw his bright blue eyes shining. He wanted to play pro, he was ready to do anything to play pro. And I wanted him to achieve his goal.
I owed everything to Grégoire. My place in the team, my skills when I played, and the circle of friends I had been introduced to.
I owed him my life.
I had always admired Grégoire. He was amazing, he was my best friend (though he didn’t consider me his as he was closer to Gatsby) and he had everything I didn’t have.
Skill, good looks, and charisma, three things that I lacked.
He made every girl in his class swoon, whether it was with his devilish grin or his soft accent when he spoke, I didn’t know. However, what I did know was that, well, I thought he was pretty hot too.
I was scared, terrified even, that I was a guy who was attracted to another guy.
It wasn’t normal.
My parents would kill me.
Being gay in my religious family was an absolute no-go.
I hid my feelings, I concealed them as well as I could. I didn’t tell anybody. Not my parents, not my older brother and sister, nobody. I hated myself, I was disgusted with myself. Boys couldn’t—shouldn’t love boys.
But Grégoire was on my mind all the time. I couldn’t help it. I was obsessed with him.
The way he walked, the way he talked, the way he’d grin and the way he’d cheer whenever we won a match. I fell in love with all those things.
But then he started dating Molly, Gemma, Lucy, Roxanne, Trisha, and Gwen. There were probably more, but I couldn’t remember them all. He snogged them and probably went further than that with them. He liked girls and I was hopeless.
On my fifteenth birthday, Gatsby held a party in his attic for me and that’s when Grégoire revealed to me that he was bi.
I wasn’t sure I really understood what that meant by then. What I do remember was that he was drunk and that he had kissed my cheek a little too lovingly for my tastes, his already large, strong hands on my hips.
I wanted that moment to last forever.
I kept thinking about that kiss.
I kept thinking about his hands.
I kept thinking about his smell, his hair, his eyes.
His cold, icy blue eyes.
I kept thinking about him.
I think I had accepted my homosexuality by then. I was still deep enough in the closet to find my way to Narnia, but I was slowly accepting who I was.
I was starting to like myself.
Two months later, in October, Grégoire and I were alone in the changing room after winning a match against Rickmansworth.
He had finished changing a while ago, and I was the last one to still be in my boxer shorts. He looked at me, studied me, licking his lips like a tiger who was about to pounce on his prey.
I looked at him and asked him what was the matter.
“Nothing.” He said with a smirk. He always had a problem with pronouncing the ‘th’ sound, I noticed, so that word came out as ‘nossing’ instead.
He licked his lips again and got up. I pulled on my jeans quickly and rummaged through my bag to find my jumper. When I leaned back up, Greg was behind me. Placing a hand on my hip, he leaned in and brushed my long, curly blond hair out of the way before he kissed my neck. I let out a gasp and turned over to look at him. His eyes were cold, unforgiving, and his grin made me feel nervous.
I was scared, but that feeling fled once he kissed me again, me pushed up against the wall, him running his hands all over me as he kissed my lips, my chin, my neck, his hands lowered to unbutton my jeans…
In that moment, I swore I felt pure bliss.
I let out a shaky breath and a moan before I bit my lip, wrapping my arms around him as he kissed my neck once again.
Then I heard the dressing room creak open.
I was scared once again. David, one of Grégoire's friends who was looking for him at that moment, had caught us.
I spent that night crying in my bed. I was terrified.
What if David told everybody?
I was going to be out.
I was going to die.
I prayed that night: Lord, forgive me for I have sinned.
I’ll never think of Grégoire in such sinful manners ever again. I’ll never even look at him ever again, but please, Lord, forgive me.
He’ll never be my boyfriend, he’ll never be my lover. He mightn’t even be my friend after what happened.
All I wanted now was just for us to be teammates.