I retrieved my cellphone from my bookbag and, quickly shaking off any last traces of uncertainty, flipped it open and punched in Ziggy’s number. I listened to the ringing, folding and unfolding Ziggy's scrap of paper as my mind jumped from subject to subject, so nervous had I become. While I waited, I returned to my bed and tried to resume reading Maurice, sandwiching my phone against my ear with a shoulder. Before I had found the sentence where I had left off, however, my call was answered.
'A.J., is that you?' A voice of indeterminate gender breathed into the phone, halting my whirling thoughts.
'N-no, this is Dave, Dave Host, I'd like to speak to—' I started, but the voice raced on.
'Dave, right, you're chums with A.J., aren't you? You've got a class together, at any rate. Has he been acting…off at all lately?'
As I havered, unsure how to answer—I barely knew this A.J., as he was a first-year and the class we shared was fitness, a massive class with all ages—there was a faint shout of 'Shove off, Dean!' and some rustling as the phone was handed over.
'Sorry, mate, Dean practically lives by the phone these days.' A familiar chuckle, and I realized who was speaking.'Anyway, this is Dave, isn't it? Ziggy here. Have you read any of those books yet, the ones I recommended?'
'Uh, yes, I've almost finished Maurice, but, er, t-that's not what I wanted to talk about.' I felt as though I sounded like a clumsy clod, stumbling over my words, yet Ziggy showed no impatience. If anything, he sounded concerned, with all the care of a lover.
'Is something the matter?'
'Well, see, it's my parents. My mother caught me reading the books, and they've never approved of the whole matter, so now she's steaming mad even though she hasn't said anything yet, and I just know that my father is going to completely have it off at me when he gets home and I've just realized that I don't have the balls to stand up to either of them.'
The words spilled out of my mouth in a breathless jumble as I practically vomited all my pent-up worry and fear onto Ziggy, who was silent for a few long moments. When he spoke again, I could just barely hear an undercurrent of anger bleeding through his voice.
'Of course you've got the balls. You're a fourth-year, which means that this is your last year trapped behind your parents' curtains of iron. Soon you'll be able to draw them back and look through into the real world, the better world. In fact, you're perfectly capable of doing it sooner, doing it tonight, and freeing yourself from the mindsets that have hindered you for so long. Not being a full-fledged adult doesn't mean you haven't got the right to believe in yourself and assert those beliefs.'
Looking back, it seems a bit melodramatic, as teenage speeches tend to be, but it certainly gave me faith in myself at a time when I most needed it. In fact, come to think of it, he gave me true self-confidence for the first time in my life. We chatted for a short while longer about this and that as the shadows grew and the sky darkened, until finally I heard the front door opening—my father had arrived home. We whispered our hurried goodbyes, and I steeled myself for what was to come.