Monday, after our talk by the river, I went in to meet Mr. Jenkins. He and Jason were on a first-name basis, but I found it hard to call him Jake at first--and started working two days a week. When Jason and I talked to my grandparents about me going to work, they were concerned about several things: the time I was taking from studying, having my best friend as my boss, and my feeling that I should be earning more of my support.
"Originally I had planned to be taking piano two days a week, so going to work will put me on a schedule we all thought I would be on," I told them. "Jason is managing with his schoolwork and working at least five days a week, so I think I can."
My grandparents agreed, with the understanding that I would stop work if my grades slipped. "That goes for you as well, Jason," Granddad said. I think we all knew that keeping our grades up would not be a problem. Actually, not having to go to the library to hide from Jason made keeping up easier, since Hank started coming home with us and the three of us did homework together. Usually we worked at my place, but when Hank's mom came home from the store early, we went to Hank's. When we did, we also had dinner with his folks, giving my grandparents a night to themselves.
We finally agreed that all of my lease income from the house in Durham would go into my college fund, since my work income took care of my living expenses. Of course there were times when I would need to pay for extras-- things like a school ring, yearbook, prom dues, etc. and those could come from the income on the house.
Granddad had already told Jason he would take no money from him. "You are working and you need to save all you can for college and extras," he had said. Jason said he doubted he'd go to college and when Granddad asked him why, he hemmed and hawed and finally said he couldn't afford it. "We'll cross the money bridge when we get to it," Granddad said. "Just save what you can, but don't deny yourself things you want for school. You have already proven you are not going to waste money, so just keep up what you have been doing."
Granddad did say again there was a real possibility having my friend as my boss would prove a bad move. Fortunately, I guess, I had to prove myself to Jason as well as to Granddad so that was never a problem.
With Jason's grandmother's death and my fight, homecoming slipped up on us. Actually, I think it slipped up on the football team as well. Seems something happened over the summer--I'm not sure what as I am not at all into football--and the football schedule had to be rearranged. Believe it or not, homecoming was the last game of the season, the first Friday evening in November. Hank started bugging me and Jason about inviting girls to the game and homecoming dance. "And I don't want you two doing something foolish like getting cut so you don't have to go," he laughed.
It seems Beth's girlfriends were still not dating anyone, according to Hank, and he suggested we ask them. Jason laughed and said, "Man, I don't know that I want to date someone that can't find a boyfriend."
We asked the girls Monday--two weeks before the big game--and they accepted.
Hank reminded us that since the game was homecoming, the girls would expect flowers--football mums he called them--and dinner before the game. "I knew there was a good reason I haven't dated women," Jason said. "Women are expensive!"
"But worth it!" Hank replied.
Wednesday, Hank suggested we invite the two to dinner and a movie in Asheville Saturday night. "What's with all this pushing spare women off on me and Doug?" Jason laughed.
"I want to make sure you two clean up good," Hank retorted. "Since you're going to the game with them next week, you might as well date them this weekend too." Both girls seemed really happy to be asked for a Saturday night date.
Wednesday afternoon, just after lunch, the three of us were called to the principal's office. When we reached the receptionist's desk, she told us Judge Harkin had called and wanted us to come by the courthouse today. "He didn't say what it was about, just that he wanted you to come by as soon as possible."
We signed out and drove into Clarksville, wondering what was going on. When we asked a receptionist about Judge Harkin's office, we were shown into the judge's chambers where we waited for half an hour. We were debating what to do when a very stately man dressed in black robes came in the door. "I guess you are the three sentencing experts," he said, looking very serious and maybe not very happy.
"Not really, Sir," Hank said and Jason and I nodded as we stood.
"Seems to me you are selling yourselves short," he said. He then indicated chairs and we sat down and talked with him for half an hour. When we were ready to leave, he said, "I admire your spirit. I seldom see young men who are a credit to their generation. Very seldom ... and I wanted to meet you three."
We thanked him and left, Hank and I for swim practice and Jason for work.
When we were coming home from work Friday, Jason asked how the six of us were going to Asheville. "Doug's Jeep isn't big enough and if we borrow Mr. McElrath's Buick, we'll have to split up with three in front and three in the back."
"I've got that problem solved," Hank said. "Dad's going to let me use the van. Only one condition: one of you has to drive because I expect to be busy in the back!"
"Playing international games?" Jason laughed, "with Roman hands and Russian fingers?"
"Something like that," Hank said. "YES!" he shouted as he pumped his fist into the air.
I was actually looking forward to Saturday night. After we had to kinda stand up Janie and Sandra for the concert, Jason and I did get to know them at school. We also knew Beth very well since she and Hank were together constantly. All three girls were fun.
Also, I thought Saturday might help Jason. He was handling his situation pretty well, but he did have times when he was really down. At first I thought about trying to cheer him up, but remembered how I felt when someone tried to cheer me up. I felt I had to work hard to make them feel what they were doing was helping and it wasn't.
Jason made it clear he liked to have me around so, if the weather was good, we often roamed the woods. A couple times we went to the waterfall, but usually we walked to the rock, our private place. When we reached it, more often than not we'd just sit in silence, an arm about the other's shoulder.
As soon as we left the house Jason would take my hand and we would walk hand-in-hand. It meant a great deal to me and I know to Jason, even if it was something guys didn't do. When I said that to Jason, he said, "More's the pity," and I agreed. We became so used to holding hands when we were walking together that we had to watch ourselves at school because, had we walked down the hall holding hands the way girls do, we'd sure hear about it.
Saturday I realized I was driving into Asheville for my piano lesson, back home and then back to Asheville for the evening, but I guess nothing could be done about that. When I got back from my lesson, Granddad and Jason were working in the barn, mucking up and adding fresh bedding for the milch cows.
Granddad bought a second cow after Jason and I came. He had talked about it after I arrived because of the amount of milk I drank--when I got used to raw milk. Then when Jason arrived, we kept running out of milk. Not only did the two of us drink a lot, but the fresh butter and cottage cheese we used put a real strain on the milk supply.
Jason told Granddad he and I could take over milking. Granddad said he could handle it but then I think he saw Jason's face fall, and realized Jason was offering to help out by doing something he could do--well THOUGHT he could do. It turned out it was something he and I could LEARN to do. It was hard to keep a straight face when I saw him trying to milk and getting nothing. And he didn't even make an effort to keep a straight face when I tried. We finally got the hang of it and took over the evening milking chores and milked Saturday morning as well.
I changed and went to the barn to help the two and we finished in time for late lunch--dinner. (Remember? The noon meal is dinner in the mountains.) As we were eating, Grandmom said, "Gerald, I guess you'll have to do milking tonight since these two swains are going to be out courting the ladies. It won't do for them to go courtin' smelling of cow."
"I don't know about that, Sara, I seem to have done pretty well smelling of horse," Granddad laughed. "Fellows, I brought the family car home empty one Friday night when I was sparking your grandmother"--I took a quick glance at Jason to see his reaction to Granddad's slip. One of his special smiles flickered about his mouth and I knew he was pleased that Granddad had indirectly called him grandson. "That was a cardinal sin. I was told I couldn't use the car for two weeks. I had a date with your grandmother to go to an ice cream social at her place and had no intention of missing it, since I was not the only one courtin' her. I threw a blanket over our old plow horse and rode to Sara's house. It was summer and hot, so by the time I got there, I smelled like a horse."
"I was impressed at how clever he was and kinda started leaning toward him," Grandmom smiled. "Actually, I was leaning his way before but you have to keep guys guessing," she chuckled. Granddad chuckled with her, their eyes sparkling as they recalled being young.
After we had eaten, Jason and I helped Granddad do some other chores around the barn, finishing around four. We had gotten into cleaning the feed room ,which was extremely dusty and dirty. Grandmom told us to take off our dirty clothes on the back porch when we got to the house. "I don't want you tracking barnyard dirt into my clean kitchen. Strip to your drawers." We did as we were told, leaving our dirty clothes on the back porch.
Jason and I headed upstairs. I was walking ahead of him when he reached out and grabbed my butt and said, "Yes, you have one nice-looking ass, Kid."
"Hey, hands off," I laughed.
When we got upstairs, Jason said, "I think we may need to scrub each other down good. Even I can smell me. Phew! Do you mind?" I guess Jason saw the expression on my face and thought I didn't want to. "If you'd rather not, Doug, I'll understand."
Part of me welcomed Jason's invitation and part of me did mind because I was afraid I'd pop a boner as soon as I had a good look at Jason in the nude. "No, no, it's ok." I said somewhat hesitantly.
We both went into the bathroom. Jason adjusted the shower and when the water was right, he stripped off his boxers, tossed them into our dirty clothes hamper and got in the shower. I took my time getting out of my briefs and joined him. Jason was standing with his back to me unbraiding his hair. I had a perfect view of his ass--he had a nice butt too. When his hair was free, he handed me the shampoo and leaned forward so I could wash his hair. I massaged the shampoo into his long black hair, and when I finished he rinsed it and used his fingers to remove tangles. When he finished, he turned to me, smiled, and handed me the soap and a washcloth. He turned his back to me again and I started scrubbing.
When I had scrubbed his back, butt and legs, he turned around, took the soap and wash cloth from me and put them aside while he washed my short hair. Long hair is entirely too much trouble and a real handicap when I am swimming on a team.
When Jason finished with my hair, he scrubbed my back. Having done that, he handed me the wash cloth, reached over to the towel bar and got one for himself. I tried to keep my eyes away from Jason's manhood but I didn't do a very good job of that and, as a result, was getting hard quickly. I finished my shower as soon as possible and, even at that, was more than half-hard when I hopped out of the shower. I noticed Jason was as well.
We got dressed pretty much as we would have for school, but in nicer outfits. Jason wore a pair of khaki cargo pants and a pale green shirt which made his eyes seem even blacker, if that was possible. He threw a khaki windbreaker over an arm when we were ready to leave. I was dressed very much as Jason except I wore an off-white shirt. "Do you really think we'll need a jacket?" I asked.
"Maybe not, but better safe than sorry. We can leave them in the car if we don't need them."
It sounded like a good idea to me, so I took a black windbreaker.
"How about asking Grandmom about Hank spending the night after we get back? It'll be after midnight I suspect."
"Sounds good to me," Jason agreed. "I'll call." He did and Hank said he thought it was a great idea.
Hank showed up at 5:30 and called as he came upstairs. "I thought I might better come over to see if you were going to pass inspection." Jason did a turn in front of Hank, wiggling his butt as he did. "I think Sandra will want some of that," Hank said approvingly, as he smacked Jason on the butt. "You'll pass as well, Douglas," he said. "Well, let's hit the road."
All three girls were at Beth's, so we had only one stop to make. Hank had driven the van to Beth's, but when the six of us got ready to leave for Asheville he, as he had said, got in a back seat with Beth and was making out pretty heavy before we were half-way there.
When we reached the Apollo Flame, Hank told the hostess, "Dennison, table for six." It was a good thing he had called for reservations as the tables were full and there were people waiting. We were shown to our table promptly, all ordered cokes and Hank said, "I'll take care of the ordering. He ordered three Greek salads and six plates and three pizzas. I wondered why only three salads until they arrived. They were huge. We had a leisurely meal which we all enjoyed.
The movie was an action film. I was surprised that Janie and Sandra seemed to enjoy it since I expected they would have been into chick flix. I'm sure neither Hank nor Beth could have told anyone what it was. They were sitting between Jason and me and our dates, making out big time. I noticed Jason was holding hands with Sandra as I was holding Janie's. That was the extent of our making out.
Hank had taken his jacket into the theater. I wondered why since I didn't think the theater would be chilly enough for a jacket and it wasn't. However, when we left he was holding it in front for himself and I saw why. He had a large wet spot beside his fly.
We stopped at Sonics for milkshakes on our way home and when we finished and got underway, Hank was making out again.
We took the girls to Beth's place, walked them to the door and kissed them goodnight. Jason and I gave Sandra and Janie a polite kiss on the mouth, while Hank looked as if he was trying to swallow Beth.
When we got back to the van, Hank took the driver's seat. As he started the van, Jason said, "Did our diddle boy wee wee in his pants?" and laughed.
"Man, I was streaming precum before we got to Asheville and it hasn't stopped! Beth really gets my motor running! Now I have stone aches. Man, I am in pain."
"Stone aches?" I asked.
"You know, stone aches, blue balls, what you get when you stay hard for ages."
"Didn't know," I said. "It hurts?"
"About the same as being kicked in the balls," he answered as we drove into our driveway.
When we started upstairs, Hank started moaning. "Man, I have got to get relief," he said, supporting his cock and balls in his hand. "Kick my ass if I go out on a date again wearing boxers. I like to have it hanging free, but with what I got now, I need support. I gotta have relief!"
"How?" I asked.
"I've got to cum. Want to do me?"
"Don't think so," I laughed.
When we got upstairs, we all headed for the bathroom. Jason and I shared the pot for a piss while Hank just stood behind us and groaned. As soon as we finished, Jason and I left the bathroom. Hank closed the door and emerged several minutes later, appearing much relieved.
"You guys have a good time tonight?" he asked.
"I had a good time--very different from yours I might add," Jason responded. "But, yes, I had a good time."
"How about you, Douglas?"
"I had a good time, Hank. I like Janie. She's a lot of fun, very clever. Yeah, I had a good time."
"I didn't see either of you putting the make on the girls," he said, "so I wondered if you had a good time."
"They are just friends, Hank, not girlfriends," I said.
"Yeah, I don't want to rush things and I don't want Sandra to think there is more involved than there is.
So long as we can just be good friends, it will be great."
Hank looked a bit puzzled, then said, "Well, now that I'm over the pain of a hot date, I think I'll hit the bed. Where do I sleep?"
"Gee, I forgot. Sorry," I replied. The twin beds were no longer in Jason's room. We had moved them out promptly and moved up a queen-size from downstairs. "You have a choice. You can sleep with Jason or me or, if you like, the two of us can sleep together and you sleep in the empty bed or you can sleep in the den. The sofa folds out into a very comfortable bed, unlike most. I was really surprised how comfortable it is when I slept on it in Durham. You pays your money and you takes your choice."
"Think I'll take the den if you don't mind."
"Great. Jason and I will help you with it." The three of us went into the den, folded down the sofa and made up the bed. When we had the bed ready, Hank said, "I am ready to hit the hay as soon as I brush my teeth." He had left his kit in the bathroom earlier and I could hear him brushing away. Before he came back, Jason said, "Doug, we need to talk. I mean I need to talk to you ... just the two of us."
"See you in a few," he said as the two of us headed for the bathroom. When we finished, I said, "When you're ready, come to my room." I guess Hank really did need sleep because when I passed the den, he was curled up in the middle of his bed, sound asleep. I went on to my room, got undressed and pulled on a pair of boxers--what I wear for PJs--and lay down on my bed.
Jason came in to my room a few minutes later, also dressed in a pair of boxers. He closed the door and I slid over and he lay beside me. "So what's up?" I asked.
"It's about Sandra and me. I really have a good time with her, but I think maybe she wants more than I do."
"Like she wants to make out and you're not interested?"
"Yeah. How did you know?"
"I have the same problem with Janie. At least I think I do. I'm not sure. I don't know how a girl lets you know she wants to make out."
"Right. I wonder if she wants more or if she thinks I do and she obliges or I'm wet all the way around."
"Yeah. I enjoy being with Janie. She's lots of fun and I did have a good time tonight, but I didn't want to make out with her. I kinda like holding hands and a goodnight kiss, but more than that ... Jason, I don't know. I mean I don't know why I'm not like Hank when it comes to women, but I'm not. I ..." I fell silent. I had said all I thought I could safely say.
"Yeah. That's what I'm confused about. I mean what's wrong with me? Is something wrong with me?"
"If there's something wrong with you, I think it's wrong with me as well," I answered.
"Guess we are not going to answer the riddle of life tonight," Jason smiled. "Good to know I'm not the only one confused around here. Well, goodnight, Doug."
"Goodnight, Jason," I said as he started toward the door, headed for his room.
I turned out the bedside lamp and lay awake for a long time, thinking about what Jason had said. I was pretty sure the reason I wasn't turned on by Janie was because I was into guys. Well maybe not into guys, but definitely into Jason. I thought about remarks he had made about my butt and what he said tonight and wondered if he, too, was gay. "He too?" Had I accepted the fact that I was gay? I guess I had.
When I thought about the consequences of that, I shuddered. What would Hank say if he knew I was gay? For that matter, how would Jason respond? Yeah, what if Jason was gay? Or what if I had read something there that wasn't, and Jason was as straight as they come? I guess I might lose a friend- -well two, Jason and Hank. But more was involved, a lot more.
What if my grandparents found out I was gay? What would they do? Throw me out? Jason? I had read a lot on the internet about parents who threw their sons out when they found out they were gay. Seemed to me it would be easier for grandparents to toss out grandsons. And Jason? Yeah, they were surely treating him like they did me, but if he turned out to be gay?
What about Jake Jenkins? Would he have a gay guy working for him? I could get by without work, but Jason couldn't or at least didn't need to.
What about school? I had been called sissy because I was dressed differently, but what if I was very different? What if I was a fag?
I had thought and worried about those questions before about myself, but if Jason was also gay?
I realized I had some pretty hot fantasies about Jason and me, but had never considered them any more than fantasies. It took a while before I finally went to sleep and, even then, I did not have a peaceful night. My dreams were chaotic and often terrifying, so I was pleased when I woke up and couldn't remember them, but I did remember my fear.
The three of us were up at about the same time and had gotten dressed before Granddad called from downstairs. Jason looked as if he had also had a rough night and Hank commented on how both of us looked. "I'm not sure you two are old enough to date if it's going to make you look like something the cat drug in." Neither Jason nor I responded to Hank's quip.
After breakfast, Hank left for home and Jason and I did the morning chores. Since Granddad had milked for us Saturday night, we did Sunday morning's milking. As soon as we were away from the house, Jason said, "Doug, you look like you had the same kind of night I had."
"If you mean restless, near sleepless, bad dreams, you're right. I finally went to sleep, but I had some pretty bad dreams. I don't remember them exactly, but they weren't pleasant."
"Same here," Jason said. "I dreamed ... I dreamed I told someone, I think it was Hank, I was ..."
"What? What did you tell him?" I asked.
"I'm not sure," Jason said slowly. He was silent, as was I, for a while. The only sound was that of our milking. Finally he said, "I don't know what I told him, but I woke up wondering why he was mad at me. Just a foolish dream I guess."
When we came out of church later, the sky was crystal clear and so blue it seemed you could feel it.
"Looks like one of those perfect October days here in November," Granddad said.
After Sunday dinner, Jason asked, "Like to go for a walk, Doug?" I said I would and we started toward the woods, holding hands, headed for the rock. When we reached it, we lay in the sun and both soon fell asleep after our restless night.
An hour later I opened my eyes and Jason's eyes met mine. We lay facing each other, saying nothing.
Jason picked up a twig and started drawing patterns in the sand. He stared intently at the patterns he was drawing and didn't look up as he said, "Doug, I really need to talk to you, but I'm afraid. I'm afraid what I have to tell you will make you hate me."
"Jason, there is nothing you can tell me, nothing, which will make me hate you. I love you, man. You are my best friend, my brother. I could never hate you."
"Remember last night when I told you Sandra didn't have the effect on me Beth has on Hank?"
"Yeah, and I told you the same was true with me and Janie."
"What I didn't tell you is that someone does have that effect on me." When he said that, it surprised me at first, then I realized if someone got him all hot and bothered, what I had been fantasizing about wasn't in the cards. I had a sudden sinking feeling. I said nothing and neither did he.
After a long silence, Jason said--without looking at me--"You know before I ever met you, I used to come to the edge of the meadow and watch you up here. I dreamed about meeting you, talking to you, getting to know you." Jason hesitated, looked up from the pattern he had been tracing in the sand, let out a long sigh as though he had been holding his breath for ages, and said, "Each time I saw you here, I told myself now was the time, pretending that I was going to step out into the meadow and call to you, but I never did."
"Then one day I saw you stand up, take off your clothes and then lie back on the rock naked. I couldn't see what you were doing--in fact, I couldn't see you at all after you lay down--but I thought I knew what you were up to and I was doing the same thing, thinking about you."
It was my time to breathe again as I realized I had, indeed, been holding my breath. I looked into those black, black eyes and I saw a question. Jason was waiting for my response. I didn't know what to say, so I reached out, took his hand in mine and smiled into his eyes. As I did, Jason brought my hand to his lips and kissed my palm. I continued gazing into his eyes as I brought his fingertips to my lips and kissed them tenderly.
Jason got up on his knees and when I did as well, he put his arms around me, pulling me to his hard body. He pressed his lips against mine in a slow, gentle kiss. When we broke our kiss, Jason was smiling as I asked, "Does this mean what I think it means?"
"If you think it means I am in love with you, it means what you think it means," he smiled and kissed me again.
We lay back, facing each other, our heads resting on a hand, our elbows on the soft moss on the rock, the fingers of our free hands entwined. "Jason, the first time I saw you in the park, I was strangely attracted to you. It was as if your presence was calling me. I felt very, very strange. I saw you later while we both were watching the buck dancers and I felt ... actually, in thinking back on it, it was as like you were calling my name."
"When I met you, I found I was having some very strange feelings. It wasn't love at first sight. I didn't know what love felt like then. But the longer I knew you, the deeper my feeling became. I have worried about how I could let you know how I felt, about how you might react. I, too, was afraid if you found out, you'd hate me. I guess last night when I kissed Janie goodnight, I really came face-to-face with my feelings. As I was walking back to the car, I realized that as I kissed her, I was dreaming it was you."
"Doug, when we were in the movie and I was holding hands with Sandra, I could see Hank making out with Beth and I realized I was daydreaming it was your hand I was holding. I dream about you, daydream about you, think about you all the time."
We talked for a long time about our feelings for each other. From time to time, one or the other of us brought the other's hand to his lips in a kiss.
Finally Jason said, "Doug, we're in love and we know it, at least I think we know it, but there's another side to this. We may be happy--I am floating on cloud nine right now--but our happiness will not be shared by most of those who know us. How will your grandparents feel about it, especially since we are together in their house? How will Hank take it? He is a true friend, but will his friendship be strong enough to accept us as lovers? Can you imagine how we will be treated at school if it becomes known we are gay, much less lovers? How about Jake? I have heard him make some pretty harsh remarks about homos. There's a lot of questions to be answered."
"Jason, I know there is a lot hanging in the balance right now. And, to be truthful, while we may be in love ..."
"We are in love."
"While we are in love, I think it has to be a secret love right now and so long as it needs to be. You and I both have to handle losing our family--you more recently, but I still have a hard time sometimes. I'd like to shout from the house tops, 'I am in love with Jason Talltree and he's in love with me' but, right now, I think we need to take things slow and easy, handling matters as they come up, but not pushing anything. We stand to lose too much if we rush into things headlong."
"We stand to lose a whole lot regardless of how we handle things, but you're right, we have to walk carefully. As much as I would like to, I think we'd best not run around outing ourselves. And we have a lot to learn, I am sure. About being lovers I mean."
I giggled and said, "I bet I'm going to like practicing being your lover a lot more than I like practicing swimming, and I love that."
Jason laughed and said, "Yeah, and I guess we'll both be coaches."
We talked a while longer and finally got up and started back to the house, holding hands. Just before we stepped out of the woods and into a hay field, Jason pulled me to himself and, holding me close, gave me a deep, passionate kiss. "God, I love you, Doug McElrath," he said, his eyes shining into mine.
"And I love you, Jason Talltree."