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Heartstopper Volume 4

Heartstopper Volume 4 by Alice Oseman

10th August, Charlie’s Diary Charlie is stressing about it being too soon to tell Nick he loves him. They’ve only been going out for four months, but they’ve been to Paris, are out to the whole school and Charlie shared his “weird eating thing.” What if Nick doesn’t feel the same way? Charlie is nervously practicing saying “I love you” in his bedroom so obviously big sister Tori and little brother Oliver are spying. Tori’s advice is to just tell him (for Tori is sage and wise) and Oliver adores Nick as a big brother already. Could it be that easy? It’s either tell Nick tonight or wait until he’s back from his family holiday in three weeks. AAAH!

Nick arrives soon to pick Charlie up for their beach trip and Oliver is about to tell him Charlie loves him but Charlie grabs him in time. Luckily Oliver is small enough to manhandle. It isn’t just the two of them on the trip, Elle, Aled and Tao are in the car (with Elle’s mum playing taxi) and Tara, Darcy and Sahar are meeting them at the beach. The Paris Squad is back together! Settling into a good spot on the beach, Charlie can’t stop ogling Nick. He’s wearing a vest top which is unusual but then… he takes it off and asks Charlie to put sunscreen on his back! Gulp! Charlie’s imagination runs aways with itself as he imagines telling Nick he loves him but also being rejected. In reality, Charlie has turned into one huge blush as he rubs Nick's back. After, Nick encourages him to put some on too by giving him a sticky gross hug. Nick points out that Charlie seems stressed, but he brushes it off as being hot. Snogging Charlie’s face off, Nick heads into the sea with some of the others.

Elle, who hasn’t gone into the water either, notices Charlie’s reaction to Nick taking his top off. Yes, Charlie has seen his boyfriend with his shirt off at rugby, but “this is an entirely different context!!” Elle also notes Charlie looks stressed and he admits it’s because he wants to tell Nick he loves him, but Elle points out Charlie is generally a stressed out person. She offers him snacks, which Charlie is reluctant to accept, but thankfully Tao and Aled come by then so he’s able to decline. In the panels, Charlie looks really sad, and Nick, who is watching him from the water, looks concerned.

As Nick is reclining in a doughnut floatie, he remembers a few weeks ago Googling about eating disorders and is really worried about Charlie. As they head to lunch, Sahar pulls Nick to one side and tells him she's nervous about starting school at Truham because she's going to be one of the few girls there. They agree to hang out and Nick offers to introduce her to the nice rugby lads. When she asks if he’s nervous, he admits he’s been thinking about other things and the panel shows Nick searching “how to help someone with an eating disorder.”

Piles of fish, chips and sausages are brought to their picnic, and whilst everyone tucks in, Charlie idly picks at food. Nick checks on him and forms a plan. He gets up and cuddles Charlie from behind offering to go somewhere else for him to eat. Charlie declines and says he just can’t today, so when Elle brings out a dish made by her mom, Nick declines on their behalf.

As they’re walking along the beach huts, Tao praising Elle’s mom’s falafels, they talk about families. Elle hasn’t been to Egypt to see her grandparents since she was eleven because it’s not safe to be trans there. Darcy offers to be a replacement grandparent as she’s great at making cookies and is extremely wise, plus, she doesn’t get along with her own homophobic family so her friends are her family. Nick admits he’s not sure how his dad will react, but at least he’s got his friends.

Back on the waterfront, Nick persuades Charlie to go into the water. They mess around and play for a while, going under water and dunking. It obviously turns to kissing and it’s a beautiful moment. Is this the right moment for Charlie to tell Nick how he feels? He tries to, but Nick also has something he wants to say and goes first. To Charlie’s disappointment, Nick doesn’t confess his love, but says that he thinks Charlie has an eating disorder. Charlie thinks Nick is right but doesn’t know what to do, so Nick suggests talking to his parents. He’s been doing research to help explain it to them.

Elle’s mum picks them up from the beach and drops Charlie at Nick's house where Charlie is able to eat comfortably. Nick is the one stressed this time, he’s off to Menorca in twelve hours and can’t find his goggles. Because he can feel sand in uncomfortable places, Nick heads into the shower. Charlie gets a text from his mom telling him to get home as he’s past curfew. Ugggh. Knocking on the bathroom door, Charlie tells Nick he’s heading home and also says “I love you.” [dramatic voice] WAIT?! WHAT?! While Nick is in the shower!! Nick has the same reaction, falls scrambling out, puts some shorts and a hoodie on and runs out the door chasing Charlie. Nick makes Charlie say it again and Nick tells Charlie he loves him too. They are so cute! Nick walks Charlie home (he’s not wearing any shoes by the way). When Charlie is home, Tori, who got a haircut, asks if Charlie managed to tell Nick, and yeah he did. As he’s about to also mention their conversation about his eating disorder, Charlie closes up.

The next day Nick and Charlie are texting as Nick is on the way to the airport. Amongst the cuteness, Nick asks if Charlie is going to talk to his parents, and he says he will try. Later that day, Charlie is working on some summer homework when his mum asks him to tidy up his room, but then Nick calls and Charlie talks to him instead, even though the reception is terrible. Charlie’s mum shouts at him to put the phone down just as the call fails. Charlie’s mum then decides to have a little chat because she thinks Charlie is too young to have sex and claims him staying out late and wearing Nick’s clothes are obvious signs that that's what they're doing (they’re not). The rant continues with her saying he needs to concentrate on his summer work, not let a school romance mess up other parts of his life and to not run his whole world around his boyfriend. Charlie’s dad steps in saying she’s being too harsh. The text where Nick asks Charlie to talk to his parents is on his phone screen. Charlie runs to his room passing Tori on the stairs who can hear her parents and feels terrible for her little brother.

The first week of the holiday goes well for Nick, other than his brother David being an asshole, but that’s nothing new. Charlie on the other hand is hiding in his room and not responding to group messages. The second week, Nick gets worried about Charlie, as does Tao, who has noticed Charlie is quiet, but Charlie blames that on missing Nick. The third week, Tori, who knows something is up with Charlie, tries to ask him about it, but their dad interrupts because their grandparents from Spain have arrived for a family dinner. Charlie struggles all the way through and has to excuse himself to hide in his room. He calls Nick, and the reception for once is good. As they’re talking, Charlie admits he can’t tell his parents about his eating disorder because he doesn’t have the same relationship Nick does with his mom (who, by the way, is currently berating David for being an asshole about Nick).

Nick's mom is worried about him; he’s been throwing stones in the sea for twenty minutes. Nick tells her about Charlie’s eating disorder and confesses he doesn’t know what to do or how to help him and that he's worried about what might happen if he doesn’t do anything. His mom tells him he’s only sixteen and this is a lot to carry on his shoulders. It isn’t his job to save Charlie but a professional’s, but he can support him in lots of other ways. As Nick’s mum tells him how, the panels cut to Tao and Elle FaceTiming then Tara and Darcy in Darcy’s bedroom, each supporting the other. Nick’s mum promises that when they get home they will sit down and do some proper research about how to talk to Charlie’s parents or to a doctor.

A couple of days later, school starts. Elle, Tara and Darcy are starting sixth form at Higgs, and Charlie, Tao and Aled are entering Year 11 at Truham. Nick walks into school and sees Christian, Otis and Sai who are also starting sixth form at Truham with him. They haven’t seen Nick all summer. Is it because he spent it with his boyfriend? They aren’t taking the mickey, they're actually really curious and apologize for making a hash over it at the beginning of the summer. Sahar is at the school gates waiting for Nick, and all his friends welcome her to Truham and quickly help her find her way around which is useful because Charlie has texted Nick and he goes off to find his boyfriend and get his promised kiss.

During registration, Nick asks Charlie to come over on Saturday because it’s his birthday and he wants to introduce Charlie to his dad. When Charlie arrives on Saturday, Nick is upset because his dad didn’t come. They still have a fun afternoon with his mum who gives Nick driving lessons as his gift. Excellent! Charlie gives Nick all of the jumpers he borrowed off him and a real present too: a photo album with a picture from the beach, the rest empty for Nick to fill.

Later, Nick wakes Charlie from a nap and tells him he’s worried about him. He’s noticed he's stressed and very tired lately, and he offers to be there when he talks to his parents and suggests that maybe writing everything he wants to say down will help. Charlie agrees and is worried his parents won’t believe him. Nick walks Charlie home and holds his hand as he talks to his parents. The last two panels show Charlie crying and being held by Nick and his parents, then a copy of the letter he wrote ending with “I want to get better.”

Nearly four months pass and it’s now New Year's Eve. Nick is tidying his room and finds his journal. It’s been a while since he’s written anything in it, so he takes a moment to update it before Charlie gets there. He writes about Charlie going to the doctor and being referred to an eating disorder service, but the waiting list was long and his appointment isn’t until January. Things then got worse for Charlie. He started skipping school which made his mum mad, he became obsessive over food, and he started self-harming again.

In October, Charlie’s parents had to take him to the emergency room. His mental health was assessed there and the doctors recommended he spend some time as an inpatient. He said yes and got a place in a hospital two hours away. They spoke on the phone and Nick visited a lot, but it was worrying, and made Nick anxious, but his mom helped. At Charlie’s request, Nick didn’t tell people at school why Charlie's been out, but the Paris Squad knows. They’ve been supportive too, sending care packages and helping Nick. Nick’s also gotten to know Oliver and Tori better during the car rides to the hospital. Tori is quiet and intense but good people. In early December, Charlie came home. Christmas Day was especially hard because he had a massive argument with his mum. It’s a long journey and this is only the start, but Charlie is doing better. He has a therapist, he hasn’t self-harmed for months, and he's been thinking differently about how to deal with his anorexia. Now, it’s time to get ready for a party!

The Paris Squad is at the party and they’re so happy to see Charlie. Nick is good at deflecting questions from others about Charlie being off school. Somehow Nick manages to stay awake until midnight and the fireworks display. At midnight they snog each other's faces off.

Flash forward to March. Charlie is sitting in his room looking at his journal which he’s not written in since the summer. Geoff, his therapist, has encouraged him to start writing in it again. He writes that he hates the idea of therapy at first and that there have been ups and downs. The hospital was what he needed even though some rules sucked and some days were awful, but mostly it was fine and he even made friends. He was diagnosed with anorexia and OCD, and though the words are scary, they're also a relief and things start to make sense. Geoff is helping process all the bad things that happened: being outed, the bullying, Ben. Some days Charlie is fine, others he’s not, but he’s been assured the bad days will get less common. Some days Charlie thinks Geoff is full of shit, but some days he feels hopeful.

Charlie goes on to write about returning to school after the Christmas holidays and how Mr. Farouk and Miss Singh have been really supportive. So has Tori even though she’s carrying a lot of guilt and her mental health isn’t great either, but she’s made a new friend, Michael, who is the total opposite of her. Charlie had a self-harm relapse in January after having a shitty day then arguing with Nick over something dumb that made him leave. It just got to be too much. Tori told Nick and he immediately came back and they made up. Charlie’s parents even let Nick stay over to “keep an eye” on him, which was not necessary, but they got to cuddle all night. This whole thing has made Charlie realize that they need other people, too, like siblings, parents, friends, a therapist, more friends, even teachers. Tori interrupts Charlie’s writing because it's almost time to go to dinner. The Spring family will be having dinner with Nick’s family, and his dad, who Nick isn’t out with, will be there. Tori gives Charlie a hug before letting him get ready.

Nick is setting the table and looks nervous. His mom tries to comfort him and assures him that he doesn’t need to come out to his father. He doesn’t owe it to him. It’s not for his father, though, he's doing it for himself. Just then, the doorbell rings. The Springs have arrived and Oliver only has eyes for Nellie and Henry, the newest baby doggo. Greetings are exchanged and we find out the parents' names! Nick’s parents are Sarah and Stéphane, Charlie’s are Jane and Julio. Tori checks that Nick is okay, and he is as well as can be, and then Charlie checks if they need to pretend to be platonic BFFs. David is there too, not interacting.

The meal is going well and Nick is trying to decide the best time to come out to his dad when David takes it upon himself to interrupt the conversation asking his dad if he knows how Nick met Charlie. Yes, they met at school and they play rugby together. Stéphane misunderstands David’s pointed comments and exclaims how rugby players attract all the girls, and then he asks if Nick or Charlie have found a girlfriend yet. Tori watches David closely, and if looks could kill, he would be ashes. When David almost outs Nick about not needing a girlfriend, Tori grabs David’s arm and digs her nails in whispering “Don’t you fucking dare.”

It’s too late, Nick is pissed off and he calls his brother out for always doing this. David says he's just helping, but isn’t “helping,” he’s an asshole. Nick stands up, tells his dad that Charlie is his boyfriend, that he’s bisexual, and that he's surprised he hadn’t caught on to that considering how much he talks about Charlie, but honestly, Nick doesn’t care what his dad thinks as he sees him so rarely. Then, turning on his brother, Nick calls David out for bullying him into hating himself for his whole life, but you know what? It’s not working. Nick likes who he is and he likes his life. Nick leaves the table and Charlie goes after him.

David turns into a whiny little bitch, demanding his mum not let Nick talk to him like that, but she shuts him down immediately. Even his father tells him how disappointing David is to him. BURN! Sarah then puts Stéphane in his place, telling him he has no right to say anything since he barely sees his children. She’s sick of them both. The Springs are suddenly interested in each other and the dogs.

Charlie catches up to Nick in the back garden, and you know what, Nick is alright. It wasn’t what he planned, but it was honest. Sarah also comes out to check on Nick and tells him she's glad he said what he did. Later, as Stéphane is leaving, Nick sees him to the door. Stéphane apologizes and says he wants to be better. Nick tells him how hurt he is that he cancels plans and that he needs to *actually try* to be better, not just say it. They agree to meet before he goes back to Paris, and Charlie is invited, which is a huge deal.

As the Springs are getting ready to go, Julio congratulates Nick for handling the situation well while Sarah and Jane compare drama, and Oliver holds the dogs tight. Tori, in the bathroom, overhears David sitting on the stairs talking on the phone. He’s being a prick complaining about Nick coming out and calling him an attention seeker and blames it all on Charlie. Tori kicks David’s phone out of his hand and sends it flying. Tori calls him a “pathetic little man” and promises to end him if he talks about her brother again.

Back in the hall, Oliver is inconsolable at having to leave the dogs. Charlie meanwhile asks his mom if he can stay out a bit longer to take a drive for milkshakes since Nick has passed his test. Jane gives Charlie a massive hug, extends his curfew to eleven and tells him, “I trust you. Sorry I haven’t been very good at that.” Nick and Charlie leave, get into Nick’s car (which has a P plate, poor guy) and, with Chloe Moriondo’s I Want To Be With You blaring, go for a drive.

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