Check out our episode here! Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman
Charlie Spring’s phone shows several text messages from Ben with suggested locations to meet at school, Truham Grammar School for Boys, to make out. Now, when the first bell rings Charlie heads off to room B25 to meet his new form group, Hamlet 5, led by Mr. Lange. On Mr. Lange’s seating plan he has Charlie sitting next to Nicholas Nelson who is in year 11, only a year older than Charlie.
For four days, Charlie and Nick exchange pleasant greetings which confuses Charlie and makes him very paranoid considering the bullies he’s had to deal with in the past. During morning registration, Nick’s fountain pen explodes and the ink goes everywhere. Mr. Lange sends him to clean up and asks Charlie to accompany him to open the doors. They chat and bemoan the cat food smelling science teacher Mr. Hutchins who Charlie currently has and who taught Nick the previous year. The blue ink won’t come off, so they joke that maybe Nick could pull the ink off as a new fashion statement or a tattoo. Probably not.
When the bell rings, Charlie checks his phone and sees several messages from Ben. Charlie didn’t reply to his message for a hook-up and Ben didn’t take it well. Meanwhile Nick asks if they are friends. Yes, yes they are. This is a strange relationship to Charlie’s friend Tao Xu, because Nick is a rugby player! He’s friends with Harry Greene! He’s a chav! He calls everyone ‘mate’! But Nick is nice to Charlie, and no, Charlie hasn’t fallen for him. Nick is probably straight anyway. On Charlie’s way home from school he sees Ben being all lovey dovey with a girl. That night, Charlie texts Ben and calls off whatever it is they had.
During PE, Charlie is beating everyone’s time again on the track and Nick is watching from another field. Later, Ben confronts Charlie in the corridor about not returning his texts for two weeks. Ben is not taking Charlie cutting off their hook-ups well and grabs Charlie and shouts in his face. Nick happens to be walking by and defuses the situation. Ben is a fellow year 11 and in Nick’s opinion, is kind of a dick. Anyway, Nick had something to say to Charlie, and sorry Charlie, it is not his undying love and devotion, it’s whether or not he’d like to be on the rugby team because he’s a really fast runner and would be perfect. Er… well… Charlie asks to think about it.
One week later, Nick is getting ready for rugby practice and being bombarded by his team about Charlie. Why would you want him on the team? He’s nice and popular but is he any good? Does he like sports? He’s gay! When Charlie walks into the locker room, they all fall silent. Nick gives Charlie some of the basic rules as they walk to the pitch, and Miss Singh, their coach, asks Nick to run through the basics with him. Charlie isn’t half bad and picks up the throws, passes and tackles quickly. Day after day, they practice and Charlie gets better and better. He has impressed Nick, won over the team and is feeling less self conscious even though the older boys remind him of his old bullies. Nick does not like the idea of Charlie being bullied. He likes him and wants him on the team.
One day after practice while in the locker room, Charlie receives a text he’s none too happy about. It’s Ben and he wants to meet to talk. Fine. Nick sees that Charlie seems a little off and watches him as he heads to the music room. Ben is waiting for Charlie and instantly acts like a jerk toward him. Ben says he’s trying to be nice to Charlie and doesn’t believe Charlie wants to stop making out. He says he’s just scared of being caught. Really?! Charlie is openly gay, Ben isn’t out yet, they can’t call what their hook-ups are a relationship and, oh yeah, Ben has a girlfriend. Charlie is convinced that Ben only chose him because he was the nearest gay guy willing to make out with him because Ben clearly doesn’t give a shit. TRIGGER Ben then slams Charlie against the wall and tries to kiss him. Charlie tells him to stop but Ben doesn’t and becomes more physically forceful in restraining Charlie.
Thankfully Nick comes into the room and pulls Ben off Charlie, pushing him away and telling him to fuck off. Pissed, Ben walks away. Charlie is very upset and Nick is very concerned. He heard everything that happened, but doesn’t judge Charlie. He saw that Charlie looked stressed earlier and just wanted to make sure he was okay. Charlie apologizes, but Nick tells him he has nothing to be sorry for. Nick is then super adorably cute which cheers Charlie up and they walk out of school together. Charlie berates himself for being an idiot on the walk home, meanwhile, Nick is preoccupied on the drive thinking of Charlie’s smile.
That night, Nick is sitting in bed looking at Charlie’s social media. He remembers ten months prior when Charlie was outed, the news spread like wildfire through the school. Nick opens a messaging app and after a couple of false stats sends a message to Charlie checking up on him. Charlie is in his bedroom playing on his electronic drum kit when the message comes through. He promises he is fine but when Nick pushes, it takes him five minutes to respond. Is he fine? After a few more friendly, non-forceful messages from Nick, Charlie spills the whole story about Ben. When he was outed as gay, it was bad. Eventually some sixth formers got the bullies to stop and one day while he was playing drums before registration, Ben came into the room and told him how brave Charlie was. One thing led to another and they started kissing. They were just make out sessions, though Charlie thought they had a secret romance, but it turns out Ben has a girlfriend and was just using him so he broke things off. Ben was not pleased and kept pestering until that afternoon when everything happened.
Nick doesn’t want Charlie to see Ben again and says he'll kick his ass if he comes near him, which gets no argument from Charlie. When they sign off for the night, they both send heart emojis. The incident has brought Charlie and Nick closer together as friends, and now they text all the time, eat lunch together and have flirty rugby practice. Tao points out to Charlie that Nick is straight and he’s playing a dangerous game. He needs to let that straight boy go, it's causing him too much pain. Charlie knows, but he doesn’t want to.
Charlie and Nick are sitting in registration, Nick is trying to find a picture of a cheesecake he made for his grandma, and instead he shows Charlie a picture of his dog Nellie. Charlie would love a dog but parents won’t allow it so Nick invites him over on Saturday to meet Nellie. Charlie is a little nervous/excited about going to Nick’s, especially as he’s had a haircut that he’s not sure about. His sister Tori sees no difference in his hair. As he leaves, she gives him a knowing look.
Nellie greets Charlie with lots of excited woofs, and Nick is just as excited to have his new friend over too. Nick’s mom gives him a cup of tea and they play Mario Kart for a while until it starts snowing. They take Nellie for a play in the snow, make snow angels and have a snowball fight. When they get back to Nick’s house, Charlie is soaked through and borrows a hoodie from Nick. Eventually Charlie has to head home, and later, over a cuppa, Nick’s mom mentions how nice Charlie is and how very different he is from Nick’s other friends. She also mentions that Nick seems more himself around Charlie which surprises him. Later, he keeps looking at pictures on his phone he took of Charlie as they played in the snow and starts to wonder. Meanwhile, Charlie returns home and confesses to Tori that he’s fallen for a straight boy. She hugs him tight.
Next Saturday, Nick comes to Charlie’s house. Nick attempts to play on Charlie’s drum kit and is terrible so Charlie shows him how to play by holding his hands over the drums. Charlie gets up nervously and starts to work on homework which results in a play fight, some pinning and an unintentional handhold. They decide to play Mario Kart until Charlie’s family comes home. Oliver, Charlie’s six-year old brother, is in instant awe of Nick. Later that night, Charlie falls asleep as they’re watching Back to the Future. Nick looks down at the space between them and sees Charlie’s hand. Carefully he holds it for a moment before Charlie wakes up. Before Nick heads home for the night, he gives Charlie a big hug. Tori pops up and tells Charlie that she doesn’t think Nick is straight. Meanwhile, Nick arrives home and is a little short with his mom because he has a lot on his mind. Opening his laptop, Nick spends hours looking up “how to tell if you’re gay” and “I like girls but now I like a boy????” Everything is overwhelming and he goes to bed begging for help.
Two weeks later, Charlie is sitting on the rugby sideline bench texting Tao. He tells Tao he thinks Nick may like him. They’ve hung out everyday over the Easter break and Nick has become more physical, and they hug now. Tao breaks the news that Nick has fancied a girl from Higgs School for years, Tara Jones. While Charlie has been preoccupied, his team won and Nick celebrates by hugging and swinging Charlie around. Nick’s supposed crush on a girl plays on Charlie’s mind.
As the team is leaving, one teammate, Sai, points out to fellow team members Christian and Otis that Nick has a crush on Charlie. It’s obvious. But Nick isn’t gay is he? He doesn’t look gay? Miss Singh tells them, you can’t tell sexuality by appearance, there are more than two options and it’s plain rude to speculate. Sai can see Nick and Charlie together and isn’t unhappy with it.
Harry Greene’s birthday party is on Saturday. Nick is going but wants to make sure Charlie is too. Charlie is invited but hesitant; however, he’s easily persuaded by Nick to go. The hotel hosting the party is huge and grand, the place is packed and the music is turned up to eleven. Nick is already there when Charlie arrives and has been waiting for him. They go to the bar area and chat for a while before Harry Greene, The Birthday Boy, drags Nick away to see someone important. Tara Jones, his crush, is here! Oh. Nick isn’t interested, they had one kiss at a party when they were thirteen. Turns out, Tara isn’t interested either, she’s at the party with her girlfriend because she’s gay and apparently Harry didn’t get the memo. Nick doesn’t see Charlie walk away, and doesn’t realize he’s bumped into Ben.
Tara realizes Nick may be sorting out some feelings about his own sexuality when he’s overly concerned by Charlie’s disappearance and offers to talk about it if he needs to. Right now, Nick needs to find Charlie. As he’s asking around, Harry asks if Nick feels sorry for Charlie because he’s gay but Nick won’t stand for it and calls Harry out as a pathetic homophobic self-obsessed DICK before storming down the hall.
Eventually Nick finds Charlie in the main function room. Charlie tells Nick he ran into Ben but didn’t take any of his bullshit, and got quite forceful with him. The message seems to have gotten through this time. They decide to find somewhere quiet, and after Nick leads Charlie by the hand through the dance floor, they have a play race to a huge gallery room. Nick is able to tell Charlie that Tara was a silly childish kiss and he doesn’t like her like that. He has feelings, but not for a girl. Charlie gently coaxes Nick about liking a boy, and slowly their hands and feet start nudging together. Charlie asks if Nick would kiss someone who wasn’t a girl, and would Nick kiss him? Yeah, he would. They have a gentle but a little awkward first kiss, but kiss again with more vigor.
They are suddenly interrupted by someone calling out for Nick. Harry has a few words for him. Uggggh. The spell has been broken, Nick is awkward again and takes the excuse to leave. Charlie is left alone and crumples to the floor, head in hands, repeating “I’m sorry.”