Sometimes, when I had Fridays and Saturdays off, Mark and I went to the beach in the mornings. It was only a short walk, and it gave us a chance to lie on the beach and size up the guys. Of course, neither of us found one that we liked better than our own partner, but it was an enjoyable, harmless game. We swam and played in the water. We tossed a football on the beach. Sometimes other kids joined us for a while, which we rather enjoyed. Other times, we just kept to ourselves and talked.
July moved into August and we continued the same pattern all month. Joey continued to make good progress and was learning the dolphin kick, although he was still a little small to get much power in it. All three of us were growing fast and filling out. When we were naked, I often admired Mark's body, so strong and healthy. He looked at me and complimented me on the new muscles I seemed to be growing as a result of both the yard work and the swimming.
The best part of August was that our love just kept growing. Often, when I was away from Mark, I still thought about him, and it really wasn't only the sex. It was as if we had become a part of each other. We shared thoughts about reading, about school, about swimming, and, yes, about sex. Often now, we kissed when I first got to his house even in front of the adults.
My fifteenth birthday was August 28. Grandma had told me to invite Mark for my "birthday dinner," a meal where I was allowed to specify, within reason, what we would eat. I really didn't want to invite Mark. He had never been to our apartment; I wanted to keep it that way. But Grandma insisted, so eventually, with trepidation, I invited him.
Mark arrived about half an hour before dinner. First he asked if he could see the apartment, so, grudgingly, I showed him around and introduced him to Tim. The tour didn't take long. Afterwards we sat on the little front deck sipping soda, chatting, and smelling the aroma of steaks cooking. I had asked for steak, corn on the cob, potato salad, and then ice cream for dessert. To me, that was a banquet.
When Grandma called us in, the others were already at the table with two seats side by side for me and Mark. It being a small table, things were a bit crowded, but my family was used to being crowded. Grandma began with grace, asking a special blessing for me on my birthday.
As we sat down, Tim asked, "So, Little Dick, are you two doing it yet?"
"Doing what?" asked Joey.
I slammed my hand down on the table and stood up. "What the hell are you saying!?"
Grandma gave Tim one of her looks and he mumbled, "Whoa, I didn't think…."
"That's just the trouble," I interrupted. "You never think before opening that God damned mouth of yours. You were one of the reasons I was reluctant to invite Mark to come here in the first place. C'mon Mark, let's get out of here."
I took Mark's arm to get him to stand, but he just sat there looking at me. "No," he said. "This is your birthday; this is your dinner. If anybody should leave, it should be Tim." He looked at Tim and Tim stared at him. This was a first for Tim. No boy our age had ever called him to account before.
Grandma stated, "Nobody's leaving. Tim, you apologize to the boys at once. You and I are going to have a serious discussion later."
Tim mumbled, "I'm sorry. I know I was out of line. It just came out."
For the next ten minutes of the meal, nobody spoke. Then good old Joey, always the peacemaker, asked, "So, Mark, where do you go to school?"
Mark told us about the Academy and how much he loved it there. I was envious. He talked about his classes and his friends, how much fun he had learning, and the swim team he was on. Why couldn't learning always be fun?
Tim asked him how he did on the state exams, which were minimum competency tests. Mark explained that, because the school was a private one, he didn't have to take the state exams. He did have to take achievement tests, but he didn't pay much attention to them. He paid more attention to his grades which, he said, were "pretty good." I knew they were more than pretty good because I had seen his last report which was all A's.
Somehow, we got through the meal and everybody sang "Happy Birthday" to me. I was now officially fifteen.
Mark said, "I have something for you, Richard." He surprised me because I really wasn't expecting anything. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. In it was a funny birthday card, and in the card was a ticket to the Red Sox game on Saturday. The seat was right behind home plate, one of the best seats in all of Fenway Park.
"Thank you, Mark, but how can I get to a game in Boston?"
He smiled. "That's easy. You're going with me and Dad. I've already cleared it with your grandmother. And," he added, "we're going to spend Saturday night in a hotel and enjoy Boston before we drive back."
I was flabbergasted. "That's so kind of you, Mark, but there's no way I can accept."
"Why not?" Mark asked in astonishment.
"Because there's no way I could ever give you anything so nice."
"I don't want anything from you except your love, Richard. Your gift to me will be going with me and sharing the time together. That's absolutely all I want."
"Do you two love each other?" Joey asked, astonished. Trust Joey to pick up on that word. I could see him trying to work this out in his mind.
I looked at Grandma, who nodded, and then at Mark, who nodded, and said, "Yes, we do Joey, and we hope we'll always be together." Needless to say, I didn't look at Tim, although I must admit he was trying to make amends.
Mark and I decided we would take a little walk to work off all the food we'd eaten. As we walked side by side, but not hand in hand because we were in public, Mark said, "OK, Richard, now I want the truth."
What's this about? I wondered.
"When you got mad at Tim, you said he was one of the reasons you hadn't wanted to invite me. Were there others?"
Oh, shit, I thought, I really don't want to talk about this. But after a brief silence I sighed and nodded again.
"Will you tell me what they are?"
"There's really only one, but to me it's a big one and it's hard to explain. I guess the easiest way to say it is that I really didn't want you to see how I lived."
"Well, you live in a beautiful home with lovely grounds. You have a swimming pool and everything you could possibly want. Your family has enough money to send you to a private school to say nothing of taking us to a ball game in Boston and spending the night. I don't have any of that. I live in a little, crowded, noisy apartment. We don't have much stuff and there's no room for what we do have. I'm not trying to make you feel guilty or anything, but I guess I'm envious and embarrassed, so I didn't want you to come, but Grandma insisted."
"I'm glad she has more sense than you. She's a lovely person, by the way. Do you know that I also envy you?"
"How could you?"
"I envy the fact that you have brothers. Oh, I know Tim is something of an asshole, but that's probably mostly his age. He thinks he has to be macho and a little rebellious, but I'm sure he'll grow out of it. And Joey is a dear. Where in heaven's name did you find him?"
"I never thought that anybody could be envious of me because of my brothers. Until about a year ago, Tim and I got along well, so you're probably right that he'll grow up eventually. As for Joey, he was only about two when Mom died so I suppose you could say that the three of us are raising him. You're right about him too. He really is a sweet kid, and he dotes on me and Tim. And you're also right about Grandma. She is a lovely person. She took us in when Mom died. She's always been just what you see: caring and loving, and she works hard to support us. I know I shouldn't be ashamed of where we live. Usually, I'm not because I know how hard she's trying. It's just that you're from such a different world that I thought you might kind of look down on us, and I didn't want that to spoil what we have."
"Well, I don't look down on you. You have to have more faith in me than to fear that. I knew about where and how you lived. You know, we drove past your place one day, just to see it. I knew that you were working next door to help support your family, while I was lying around in a hammock and swimming in a pool. I love my parents, Richard, and they love me, but I think you're very lucky to have the family you have. Will you please let me come back, often?"
Despite the fact that we were in public, we hugged, and I gave him a kiss.
We returned to the apartment just as Mark's parents pulled up to take him home. Leaning in the car window I thanked them for the wonderful present. They told me that it had been Mark's idea and that Mark's dad would pick me up at 7 AM on Saturday. I thanked them profusely again and waved as they drove off.
When I went into the apartment, Grandma and Tim were having a huge row in the living room. Grandma was doing most of the talking. I went to our bedroom where Joey was trying to hide from the anger and the noise. I closed the door and suggested that we play Monopoly, which he loves. It's a long game, and eventually, the noise died down in the living room.
While we were playing, Joey asked, "What was it that Tim was asking about that you and Mark do?"
"It's not something I can talk about right now."
"You mean, I'm not old enough?"
"Something like that."
"But you two do love each other, right?"
"Very much. As I said, we hope to be together forever."
At that moment the door opened and Grandma and Tim came in. "Tim has something to say, Richard."
Tim hung his head and said, very quietly, "I'm sorry I was such an ass, Richard. Mark is really a nice kid, and you're lucky to have him. He was absolutely right, I was the one who should have left, but I'm glad I didn't because then I would never have gotten to know him."
"And?" said Grandma.
"Oh yes. I promise I'll never call you 'Little Dick' again. Can we just be friends like we were?"
I nodded, stood up, and gave him a hug. "Tim, I know you care about me and Joey and we care about you. Let's put this behind us and get back to being an odd but happy threesome."
And so we did.
Unfortunately, after that night, Mark was only able to come over once more before disaster struck, but that was after we went to the ballgame.