The road we travel is so difficult. Especially when we do stupid things that take us away from the direction were heading. I keep doing that. I keep fucking up, keep going the wrong way. I get angry and discouraged and I want to run away. But they wont let me. They envelop me with love and care and help. They are patient beyond belief, and they wont let me go. Its not confining, its comforting.
Okay, so you know what? Nothing happened. I mean, life went on. Danny and I had been convinced that one of two things would happen. Either we would both die the moment his car turned the corner and we lost sight of each other, or the world would simply split apart and crumble into the vast blackness of the universe. Well, we didnt really believe that, but we had sorta hoped. We either wanted his parents to suffer forever with anguished remorse for what they had done to us (our deaths) or everyone else in the world to feel the pain we felt (the world ending).
And the rotten part is, neither of those things happened. Becky and the Kyle helped me for a while. Then Kyle went with his folks to take Becky back to the farm. So I was left alone for a few hours and I didnt die. Oh, my heart hurt and I was pissed off at the world. But I didnt die.
See, heres what we forgot. There are telephones all over the United States. And you can use those telephones to call anywhere in the United States. Heck, anywhere in the world, I guess. And thats exactly what Danny did. He called from some town in Nebraska where they were staying the night. We talked. It was great. He said his parents and his brother were at the pool. I asked him why he wasnt there.
"I wanted to call you and Dad said this would be a good time to have some privacy. Im going after were done. Im all set got my swimsuit on."
"Cool. Thanks for calling. I miss you."
"I miss you, too, Justin."
"So, you just got your swimsuit on?"
"Hehehe. Yep. Swimsuit and nothing else."
"No shirt? No sandals?"
"Swimsuit, period. What are you wearing?"
"Ever since you said hi Ive been taking off my clothes. Im sitting on my floor naked."
I heard a small gasp at the other end.
"Are you hard?" he asked.
"Pretty much. Not quite yet."
"Im playing with my toes."
"Okay, Im hard now."
It went on from there. We touched our own nipples at each others suggestion. We caressed our own butts and told each other. We cupped our balls as the other did. We set a cadence for flogging our dicks, but I was so hot I came before he did. We said we loved each other, and then our time was up. It was almost as bad saying good bye that night as it had been earlier in the day.
I wasnt going to make it.
Danny called the next night, but said he wouldnt be able to the night after that. Theyd be in California moving into their new house, which didnt have a phone yet. The day went slowly. Kyle and I were out mowing our lawns. It was a warm day, and both of us were stripped to the waist. Kyle was really handsome, and I understood Beckys attraction to him. Becky. I hadnt talked to her for a few days. I felt sorta guilty feeling about Kyle that way, but he was cute. He had an innie navel, a flat tummy and soft but developed chest with nipples about the size of quarters. Oh, shit. No, this wasnt going to happen. Nope, nope, nope.
We got done about the same time. He put his mower away and walked over to my backyard, wiping his chest with his T-shirt. I grabbed a couple of Cokes out of the fridge and handed him one.
"I dont believe its so hot this early in the summer," he said.
"Yeah. I hope its not an omen."
"You wanna catch a movie tonight?"
"No, I cant. No money. I used up my allowance already."
"Yeah, me too, actually. We need to make some cash."
"How? Cant work at the grocery store till were 16, and I think the older kids have most of the part-time jobs taken up already."
"Well, we dont have to work at a store."
"Maybe we could mow lawns together."
I thought it over a few moments. "You know, thats not a bad idea. It wouldnt take us long to mow the lawns with both of us doing it, and wed just split the money. We could sorta set our own hours."
"Yeah. My brother did that a few years ago. Maybe he can give us some names."
As it turned out, it wasnt his brother who gave us the names but his mother. She found the old address book he had kept for his lawn mowing summers he had done it almost five years and gave it to us. We started calling that afternoon.
Two hours later we had 10 lawns lined up. Two a day, five days a week. Each would take a couple of hours to do. Ten dollars a lawn, split between the two of us, was fifty dollars each a week. We would be wallowing in cash. We would have to buy gas for the lawnmowers out of that, but still. This was going to be great.
We shook hands as I walked out of Kyles house. Life settled into a summer routine, but one that was punctuated by a severe sense of loss. Sometimes Dannys absence was so overwhelming I broke down. It happened when I was along with my thoughts. Even mowing the lawns we had lined up. Usually Kyle and I did these together. Now and then wed each take a lawn alone. But all the money went into a central fund, from which we bought gasoline, oil and repairs for the mowers. We actually paid ourselves a salary and banked the rest. It was Kyles dads idea, and it really worked out.
We walked to our jobs. They were usually within a few blocks of our houses. Hell, damn near everything in town was within a few blocks. We talked about a lot of things, and Kyle was really helping me cope with Dannys loss. It wasnt a total loss, of course. We talked on the phone a lot. Every other night, usually. Id also talk to Fran, and usually to Charlie, too.
Oh! I got my learners permit, too. You can do that at 15 where we lived. And get your license at 16. My first venture behind the wheel was moderately successful, a trip to the grocery store with my dad, who was quite businesslike and didnt panic at all. He signed me up for drivers ed for the summer, and that took up three mornings a week. Kyle was taking drivers ed, too, and so we didnt get started with mowing till about 10:00. We were usually done by 1:00 or 2:00, which gave us the rest of the day to play.
And play we did. Our afternoons were about as perfect as things could get. Except Danny wasnt there. We all missed him. I missed everything about him. His laughter, his fun, his love, his body, his eyes, his family, his toes, his concern. Everything. I know the other guys did, too, because sometimes after swimming or a good game of driveway basketball wed be sitting trying to catch our breath. It would be quiet, and as I glanced around the circle, there would be sad faces. I knew what they were thinking. I was thinking the same thing. Danny wasnt there.
And while the days were perfect, the nights werent. Every night. I couldnt sleep. Maybe a few hours after the noise died down. Drivers ed was early, so whatever sleep I had got me through that, but I went downhill fast afterward. Kyle began to notice, but I just kept putting him off. Becky yelled at me when I went out to the farm one day.
"Youre a zombie," she said.
"I am not."
"Look at you. You barely know where you are."
She slapped me. "Now I know something is wrong. Youve never said that to me. And I dont believe you meant to."
"I didnt, Becky. Im sooo sorry. I didnt . . . I cant . . ." Tears began to form, but I didnt want to cry.
"I know, Justin. Thats what I mean. You dont know what youre doing."
"I can handle it."
"You cant. No one can. But especially with the added stress. Stay here tonight."
"Youre dating Kyle."
"Oh, for gods sake, stay in Jims room. Hes not dating anyone just now."
"At least youll get a good nights sleep. Why are you doing this? You never stayed there when Danny was here."
"Thats just it. Hes not here anymore. I have to learn to take care of this by myself. I have to learn to cope."
"Well maybe coping means getting the hell out of there. Maybe coping doesnt mean continuing to live with it. Did you ever hear about the guy who was in the middle of a flood?"
"Well the flood was rising, and these guys came with a rescue boat. Get in, they said, well save you. But he refused. God will save me, he said.
"Pretty soon the water had forced him onto his roof, and another boat came by. Get in, well save you, they said. But he replied, No, God will save me.
"Then he was forced to sit on top of his chimney and another boat came along. Its your last chance, they said. Get in. But he said, Ill put my faith in God, who will save me.
At last the water rose over his head and he drowned."
"Oh, great way to cheer me up."
"Shut up. So the guy dies and goes to heaven, and theres God. God, he says, I put my faith in you that youd save me. Why didnt you save me? And God looks at him and says, "What? I sent three boats!"
"So whats your point?"
"My point is, you think coping is learning to live with all the shit going on at your house." Becky could be pithy. "Maybe youre not looking at it the right way. Maybe coping is learning when to get the fuck out."
Still, I went home that night.
This went on about a month. One day Kyle and I were walking to a job, pulling the lawnmowers along.
"Are you listening?" he asked.
"Uh, yeah, sure."
"Then what do you think? Did I do the right thing?"
"Uh, yeah, absolutely. Id do the same thing in your situation."
"Justin, I just said I broke up with Becky because I caught her fucking her brother."
"WHAT?? How did . . . are you . . . I . . ." I was at a loss. Of course I hadnt been listening.
"Of course you havent been listening, you jerk. No, we are not breaking up and no I didnt catch her fucking her brother. Jeez. But I did say that and you didnt even react. Justin, you were almost asleep on your feet. Whats the matter with you?"
"Nothing, I just couldnt get to sleep last night. Too much Coke before bed."
"Bullshit. Youve used that excuse before. Its your parents, isnt it?"
"So what if it is?"
"Justin, you have to get out of there and get some sleep. At least once in a while."
"I cant. Dannys gone."
"Well, pardon me for saying it, but Dannys isnt the only house in the universe. Greg said you could come over there."
"No, I cant."
"Just cant." They didnt know about Greg and Danny, and I was afraid what I might do with Greg, too.
"Then my house. Were partners, we share the work and our money 50-50. I can share my house, too."
"What about your parents?"
"Uh, well, um, actually, see, my mom already knows."
"You told her?"
"Sorta?? What the fuck do you mean?"
"She started asking questions about you staying at Dannys so much and some of the things shes heard. I just . . ." He stopped.
After a pause I said, "Its okay, Kyle. Dont worry about it. But please dont tell anyone else."
"Well, I wont, but the thing is, after Danny left she asked about you. I said you were handling it, and I thought you were. I dont think that any more. She said to tell you that you could come over any time."
I sighed. "Okay. If it gets too bad, I promise I will."
He speeded up and stepped in front of me, blocking my way, and looked me in the eyes. He had deep blue eyes, I noticed. Very emotional eyes.
"It IS too bad, Justin. Please dont do this to yourself."
I looked deeply at him, and said sincerely, "I wont. I promise. Thanks, Kyle."
I went to bed about 10:00 that night, dead tired. But about 1 a.m. the noise started, and it grew and grew. The shrieking brought tears to my eyes. I was now convinced they didnt care about me. Oh, they fed me, clothed me, taught me to drive, things they were supposed to. Even said they loved me. But it was hollow. This was not love. Even if their anger was directed at each other, they could not love me and put me though this. They knew it bothered me enough that it forced me out of the house.
That night I reached the end. For the first time in more than a month I got out of bed and slipped on a pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt. Bbare foot, I quietly made my way out of the house and around to the back yard. I looked at Kyles house, dark, asleep, and realized I didnt even know where a key was.
Still, I walked over, and, hoping against hope, tried the back door. It was open. I crept inside. Id been in the house and knew it pretty well, but not perfectly. Oddly, there were nightlights in the kitchen, dining room, family room and up the stairs right to Kyles room. I got to Kyles door, and slowly opened it.
"Kyle?" I whispered.
I stood there and sobbed. He came over to me, dressed only in pajama bottoms, and put his arms around me and let me cry. We stood there a good 10 minutes. Wordlessly, he led me to his bed, slipped my T-shirt off me, and eased me in. He crawled over me and got in behind me, next to the wall, then pulled the covers over us.
I lay there in bed. A strange bed. A bed I had never slept in before. Next to a boy Id never slept with before. Kyle put his arm around me to comfort me, and soon I felt it go limp as I heard his breathing change. But I couldnt sleep. I was so lonely. I ached in my balls and in my heart. It was an emotional and sexual deprivation. I lay there for 45 minutes, watching the numbers change on his digital clock radio. The only way I was going to get to sleep was make myself cum. But I couldnt get out of bed without waking Kyle, because he had his arm around me.
I lay there shaking, afraid of the dark. Afraid of being alone. I was so desperately in need and I didnt know why. I mean, of course I knew why. I didnt have Danny to make love to. But that wasnt unusual for boys my age. Fifteen-year-olds didnt have regular lovers, at least not in our town. I got to talk to Danny on the phone and over e-mail, so I did have someone to talk to. Danny had been taken away from me physically, but I still had him. But now I needed him desperately.
The spirit was strong between us, but we belonged together. It would have been hard if any of us had moved away, but Danny and I had developed the deepest bond you can. It was based on seeing each other. The verbal contact was important and we talked a lot every day about a lot of different things. Just about whenever we wanted and for as long as we wanted. We saw each other in school or in our yards. We laughed and played. We rode our bikes around town and went swimming. It was that contact, the physical presence, that I needed. The sex? Yes, I wanted that, too. It was an elixir for me, a tonic that clamed me, because it said someone loved me enough to make me feel that good.
But it wasnt just me feeling good, it was me making Danny feel good, too. That was just as important to me. Danny had to feel good or else I had failed. I wanted him to be as happy as I was. And I thought about ways I had made Danny happy over the past year. Had it been only a year? Yes, just over a year. The void I felt was suddenly huge.
I was hard thinking about it. That was a horrible condition, because I knew Id never get back to sleep now. There was only one way, and with Kyle in bed next to me, I knew that was not an option. I knew it. But my hand didnt. I was suddenly stroking myself. My hand knew enough to try to be discreet about it to make as little motion as possible, to take it slowly and not disturb Kyle. It would take a long time that way, but I could not stop. I was on the way to an orgasm. I looked down and saw my T-shirt lying beside the bed. That would have to be my cum rag tonight. I slowly reached to get it, moving the bed slightly. Kyle didnt move. His arm was still around me, making this even more difficult. Slowly I rubbed the length of my cock, pulling the loose skin up over the head and back down, wetting my thumb with my precum and spreading across the increasingly sensitive head.
I started to breathe faster and I tried to slow by taking deep breaths. The pressure was building in my balls and my gut. My cock and brain screamed for my hand to go faster, but enough sanity remained in me that I ignored it I would surely wake Kyle. Still, the moment was coming and I grasped even tighter, stroking slowly. My breathing was labored and unsteady and I reached the top. One or two more strokes. And then I felt something. It was Kyles thumb rubbing across my nipple, taking it between his thumb and finger and lightly pinching it. With a silent scream I held the T-shirt to my cock and shot a sonic boom of semen into it. I held my breath while my balls emptied into the shirt, and still Kyle pinched, rolling the nub in his fingers. I pumped out the last of the orgasm, and let my breath out, still holding the cloth to my cock, which stayed hard. I didnt know what to think. Kyle released my nipple as my breathing slowed. I felt a slight shift, then a gentle kiss on the back of my neck. But he didnt roll over and he didnt take his arm away.
Softly, almost imperceptibly, he whispered, "Its what friends do. They help each other."
"Justin? Thank you. For trusting me."
He was still holding me the next morning. And the next morning. And the next.
And a month later, he was still holding me when I woke up each morning after spending the night at his house. I had shared his bed with him three or four nights a week for a month. But we never shared that kind of moment again. Id be at home in the evening and I told Danny about it each time we talked. We ended up crying together. We spent his birthday on the phone, we spent the summer on the phone, and we spent my birthday on the phone. No birthday party, no camp out with the guys. My home had died. My mom had started drinking, my dad had lost his soul, and I had lost everything. But I did get my drivers license
In July something really scary happened. Greg was out driving with his sister on his learners permit. She was teaching him how to pass on a two-lane road when some drunken fucker pulled out in front of him. They slammed almost head-on. Greg and his sister were wearing seat belts, but the crash was so violent they had to be cut out of the car.
Kyle and I were mowing a lawn when Kyles mom came by in her car and told us. We just left the mowers where they were and blasted toward the hospital. Gregs sister, Stephanie, was being treated for broken bones. Greg had internal injuries, broken bones and was unconscious. I knew the feeling. The numbness.
His mom was devastated. Kyle and I sat with her as she cried. I held her hand. As night came on Kyle went to get us something to eat. I called home and told my mom I was staying at the hospital, and after we ate, I told Kyle I wasnt leaving.
"You gotta go home, bro," he said.
"No, I dont. You guys didnt when I was hurt. Especially Greg. He and Danny stayed with me."
He just sighed. "Ill be okay," I said. "Besides, Id probably end up coming over to your house again anyway. Itll be a break in the routine to stay here."
"Honey," Gregs mom said, "you need your sleep. Go home."
"No, Mrs. Faye," I said. "I need to stay here with Greg."
"They wont let you."
"They remember who I am, and they remember Greg. I think theyll let me stay."
And I did. Kyle came by the next morning with some breakfast. He said hed finish up the lawn we had started the day before, and hed do the one we had scheduled for today. He also brought me a change of clothes, including underwear, since I now had a stash of clothes at his house.
I stayed at the hospital for three days, except for mowing the lawns. It had made a commitment to Kyle when we formed the partnership, and I meant to keep it. When Greg woke up, I was there. And again the guys rallied around, helping him get back on his feet. His head injury wasnt as bad as mine, but his left arm was broken and his left knee was shattered. They eventually got him stitched back together, and he slowly made the same comeback I had made. We were there all the time for him. It felt good to give back to the gang what they had given me.
About three weeks after that accident, Kyle and I were riding our bikes to the swimming pool. As we were turning a corner we splashed through a puddle. Then just ahead a car backed out of a driveway. I zoomed up onto the sidewalk, but Kyle had no where to go. He squeezed his brakes, but they were wet from the puddle. He headed right for the car, which had seen him and stopped, but stopped right in his path. He turned to try to avoid it, and just then the brakes grabbed, but he skidded into the side of the car. He stuck his left foot out to brace himself and slammed into the side of the car. He went down in a heap.
He immediately scrambled to his feet and then fell back down, grabbing his left foot. The lady driving the car got out and ran over to him. He said he was okay and got up again. This time he didnt fall down. It scared the snot out of me, and I was all over him.
"Im soo sorry, young man," the lady said. She was, too. "I just didnt see you coming around the corner. Im soo sorry."
Kyle had caught his breath. "No, its okay. Im fine. I should have been watching, too. It would have been okay except my brakes got wet and I couldnt stop."
There was a small dent in the ladys cars back door, but she didnt seem concerned about it.
"Do you want to go to the hospital? Ill take you."
Geez, I thought, if I go to the hospital with him Ill start qualifying for free gifts on the frequent visitor plan. I figured theyd have a name badge made up for me.
"No, thats okay. Im fine, really. I think I just bruised my foot." We got back on our bicycles and sped off to the pool.
Kyle was fine for the rest of the day, but he was limping when we got back on our bikes. At his house, he took a good look at the sole of his foot. It was pretty badly bruised. His mom walked by just then and asked what happened.
"Kyle kicked a car," I said with a grin.
"You kicked a car? Did you leave a dent?"
"I didnt kick it," he said, throwing me an evil look. "I hit it. And yes, I did leave a dent."
We told her what happened, and she bundled Kyle into the car for a trip to the doc. We had this walk-in doctor who ran his office like a barber shop. First come, first served. People would sit in there for hours hacking and wheezing and spreading disease because there were 10 or 12 ahead of them.
By that late in the day there were only two ahead of him. Mrs. Delmont had offered to take me home before she took Kyle to the docs, but I said Id go along and keep them company.
An hour later, broken foot. Not bad, really just a hairline crack. But hed be in a soft cast for three weeks and was told to stay off it.
"Can I mow the lawns I have?" he asked.
"No, that wouldnt be a good idea. Too much stress. You can go swimming, but no baseball, no hoops, no running, no bicycle and as little walking as you can," he said.
When we got home, Kyle said, "Im sorry, bud. Im gonna hafta give up my half of the business."
"Its okay, Kyle. I can do them. None of the yards is very hard. It wont be a problem."
"I know, but I really hate to give up the money."
"Getting you well is the most important thing."
The next morning I started doing all the lawns. It didnt take much extra work. About an extra hour for each one, sometimes not that much. I trimmed, weeded, tidied, swept sidewalks and tried to do as good a job as I could. It meant a lot to me. Once in a while Kyle would come with me and sit on a porch step, really just to keep me company, but only when he could sneak out. Every time his mom found out and he caught hell when he got home.
Three and a half weeks later he was declared crack-free, the cast was discarded and Kyle rejoined me in the yards.
When we got done that first day, he said, "Feels good to be making money again."
"Yeah, I bet. Cmon, let me buy you a Coke."
We rode to the little store, got some pop and went outside to sit. It was getting on in summer, and it was one of those really perfect days. The same streamed through the huge oak trees that lined most of the town streets, making mottled patterns of light and shade on the sidewalk. Ants plied back and forth in the dirt under our feet. Kyle took a long drink of his Coke and sighed contentedly.
I dug into my left pocket and pulled out a wad of bills.
"Wow. So thats what that lump was. I thought you were just happy to see me," he laughed.
We both giggled, and then I handed him the wad.
"Half of what?"
"The lawn money. Its your share from the last three weeks," I said.
He just stared at it, and then back at me.
"I didnt earn this."
"Youre my partner."
"You mowed the lawns. This is your money."
"No. My dad still gets paid even if hes sick. Were partners and we share everything 50-50. This is your share."
"Justin, I . . ."
"Stop. Its yours."
He put out his hand and I shook it. "Thanks, bud," he said. "I dont know what . . ."
"Dont say anything, Kyle. Youve done a lot for me this summer. I cant cheat you out of your money."
"It isnt my money, Justin, but thanks."
When school started, I zombied around the building for three weeks. And on September 22, it all shattered.
The arguing had been particularly loud the night before, but I had spent three straight nights at Kyles and I figured I was pressing my luck. So I lay there and persevered. About 2:00 I heard someone go downstairs, then the door to the garage banged. The garage door opened and then closed, and a car sped away.
When I got up the next morning my mom was up watching TV. She had a glass of ice water with her. I went to kiss her good morning, and I smelled alcohol. It was a bad omen. The ice water was gin.
I slept through my first class, but Greg, fully recovered from the car wreck, kept me awake in math, and Richie kept me going through English and history to lunch. When I got home, Dads car was in the driveway. He hadnt come home early from the office for a year, so I figured this was a bad sign. As I walked up the drive, he came out carrying a box.
And he told me he was leaving.
He was pretty matter of fact about it. Hed gotten a job in Chicago. He was leaving. He couldnt stand it any longer. Hed call. One day hed have me come. He was sorry. He left.
I held myself together until I got to Kyles house, but no one was home. On to Gregs. Oh, please, let there be someone home. I was losing it. I heard movement as I knocked, and I started to hyperventilate. In a matter of seconds I was dissolved into a mess, and Greg pulled me inside and into his arms. I cried and cried and in between I choked out what happened. Suddenly Richie was there with us, and then a little while later Kyle. I dont know what happened the rest of the day. I got fed, moved to Kyles, showered (??) and into bed.
Ever since the baseball accident I didnt handle stress well. I went sorta comatose. It was almost like I couldnt process the overload of information, and I just shut down while each piece of data processed through. Like sand passing through the middle of an hourglass. Everything got backed up.
I drifted through school the next day, and afterward Becky took me to Kyles.
"Are you going home?" she asked. "You could come stay with us if you want."
"I dont know. I cant think what to do."
"If you want to go to your house Ill go with you."
"Would you? It might not be pretty."
"Its okay. Lets go."
It wasnt pretty. Nothing had gotten done. My mom was passed out on the couch. She slurred some sort of "hello" to me when I tried to wake her, but she was gone. I gathered up some stuff and got Becky out as soon as possible.
"Sorry," I said as we walked back to Kyles.
"Dont be. It isnt your fault. None of this is."
"Then what happened?"
"I dont know. Neither of us can know. Only your mom and dad can know."
"I need Danny."
"Hes two hours behind us. Hes still in school."
"When does he get home?
"About a quarter after five our time."
"Then Ill wait here with you and you can call him then."
"No, I dont want to run up the Delmonts phone bill."
"Then get a phone card."
"Hey, I didnt think of that."
"Got a bike?"
"Then cmon. Ill borrow Kyles and well go get you one."
"Lets just walk. I think the little store has them."
We walked, hand in hand, down to the store. I bought her a treat, and bought me a phone card.
"Now, call him tonight and let it all out."
"What if they hear me at the Delmonts?"
"Jeez, Justin, you can be soo dense. Tell Kyle youre going to call Danny. Hell find a place where you can talk. He will. And if thats not possible, call me, well come get you and you can call from my house. You can go out and use the phone in the barn if you want."
"Okay. I dont want to burden him with this, Becky. Hes having enough trouble making the adjustment. Itll tear him up that he cant be here to help me though this."
"Hell be even more sad if you dont tell him. And hell be mad at you. Has he said hes having trouble adjusting?"
"No, he wouldnt. He says things are going fine. Says hes making lots of friends."
"What? I think hes lying so I wont feel bad for him."
"God, you two are really a pair. You try to make each other feel better by making yourselves miserable. Why dont you think he cant make friends? Is he that much of a loser?"
"Hes not a loser," I said a little more angrily than I meant.
"Okay, then, he can make friends. And if he loves you, he wants to help however he can."
I did talk to Danny that night, and he cried with me. He said not to worry about him, and hed find a way to get me out of that situation. But I knew I couldnt leave then. As mad as I was with my mom, I couldnt leave. And I stopped going to Kyles because it was quiet at home.
For two months.
One day I came home after school and was greeted by a man in his underwear.
"Who the fuck are you?" he demanded.
"What do you mean who the fuck am I? Im Justin. I live here. Who the fuck are you?"
"You LIVE here?" He hollered up the stairs. "Marty. Theres a kid here. You never told me you had a kid. Get the fuck down here."
I seethed. "You cant talk to my mom that way."
"The hell I cant, brat. She lied to me. MARTY. Get the fuck down here. Now!"
Without taking off my backpack I ran at him blindly, plowed into his belly and pushed him into the kitchen table. I thought I heard a rib crack.
"JESUS CHRIST. Get the fuck off me, kid. Ow. Fuck. Goddam." He swung out and caught me on the cheek with his fist, but not squarely. My mom came staggering down the stairs.
"Justin," she shouted. "Stop that. Davids a visitor here."
"Visitor? Did he . . . did you . . ." I couldnt say it. Not my mom.
"Yeah, kid, we did. And we were going to again till you came home."
He reeked of liquor, sitting on the floor. The flap on his boxers was open and I could see his flaccid cock in the shadows. It looked gross.
"Whats going on here, mom?"
She was helpless drunk, but looked at me and shrugged. "I needed someone to take care of me."
"I can take care of you."
"Not like I can, buddy," Frank slurred from the floor.
"You cant even get up. Get the fuck out of here."
"You arent gonna order me around, kid. Ill flatten you."
I was completely at a loss. My brain shut down and I wanted to vomit. So I did. Right in Franks lap.
He struggled to his feet, the vomit spreading from his navel to his knees, and seeping into the opening of his boxers.
I barricaded myself in my room, too scared to come out. He pounded on the door, and finally gave up. I sat on the foot of my bed and didnt move; didnt make a sound. I stayed there the rest of the night, getting almost no sleep. I didnt take a shower in the morning, just changed clothes and snuck out.
When I met up with the guys, Kyle said, "What that hell happened to you?"
"Nothing? What do you mean?"
"I mean nothing."
"Cmon, Justin. You look like you didnt get any sleep, your clothes are a mess, and your hair isnt washed."
"Back off, fucker," I shouted.
He stopped and looked at me with anger. "Hey. I dont deserve that. Ive been trying to look after you. Ive been your friend for-fucking-ever. Dont you yell at me or tell me to back off. Im worried, Justin. Tell me whats going on."
Tears welled up. "I cant."
"You can." He turned around and headed back home, the others watching us go. "You will. Come on."
We walked back to his place, and when we walked inside his mom said, "Kyle? Justin, what . . ."
"Later, mom," he said. "Could you call us out of school for about an hour? Justin and I have to talk."
We went into his room as his mom picked up the phone. And we talked. And I told him everything.
"Jesus, Justin. Youve got to get out of there."
"No, I cant. I have to stay. I cant leave. Hes going to hurt my mom, and I cant."
"Hes going to hurt you. We have to get him out of there."
But we really couldnt come up with a way. We tried all the way back to school, but of course I couldnt concentrate. And so it went. When coach asked me if Id be helping with the team again, I said no. When I was invited to parties I said no. I pretty much dropped out of school, out of life. Danny was frantic about me, but couldnt do anything where he was. They were building a new house, a huge one, and he was busy at school, trying to fit in, making new friends.
We do what we have to. All of us. When it comes to family, or friends, we do what we have to. I stayed. Not every night. Sometimes I went to Kyles. I had also started going to Gregs house and spending the night. But Most nights anymore I stayed home. September, October, November. Christmas wasnt. January.
In February I came home to a dark house. When I went in, candles were lit.
I flipped a light switch. Darkness. Our electricity had been shut off.
"Thats it," I shouted at Frank sitting in his shorts at the table. My mom was beyond hope. "Get the fuck out."
"You helpless faggot."
"What? What did you call me?"
"A faggot. I found these in your bedroom today." He held up a couple of magazines Danny had sent me for Christmas. "Youre a fag boy."
"Why were you in my room? Give me those."
"Ha ha ha. I was looking for this." He held up my bank book. I paled as I realized what he had. "We needed money. Be good and we might pay you back."
I picked up a clock and threw it at him. "Get out. Get the fuck out."
He just laughed and threw it back at me. I ducked. He went to take a bite of his sandwich, and I took the opportunity to run at him and kick him in the balls. He bend doubled with pain and spit the sandwich out.
He roared at me and came lunging in my direction. He head-butted my shoulder and shoved me back into the wall. As he stood I took a swipe at him and hit his jaw. The pain shot through my fist. Jeezuz, John Wayne never winced when he hit someone. Frank threw a punch at me and hit my left cheek. I stomped on his bare foot, and as he pulled it away I stomped on his other bare foot. In pain he came at me again. I moved out of the way and scrambled to my room. I locked it in terror as he screamed obscenities from outside and pounded on it. I struggled to move my desk in front of the door. I was scared. I grabbed the phone and called Kyle. Gasping to hold back tears of shame and fear, I told him was going on. He said to wait and hed be right there and to watch for him out the window.
Not more than two minutes later, with Frank still pounding at the door, I saw Kyle, Greg and Richie running into the yard and to the front door. They didnt ring the bell, they just barged in, screaming for me.
The pounding stopped and Frank yelled, "Who the fuck is that?"
"Its us, asshole, your worst nightmare." Well, wed seen way too many movies.
"Get the fuck out or Im callin the cops."
"Fuck off, you drunken prick. You couldnt even find the phone." It was Richie. "But I can. And how would it look to the cops you beating up our friend? A minor."
Frank was enraged. I could hear him move away from the door, and I shoved the desk aside and opened it just in time to see him go running at the three of them. They stood there in a sort of wedge, Richie in front, Greg and Kyle to either side.
"Dont try it," Richie said, but Franks momentum kept him moving. The tree of them stepped apart and Richie stuck out his foot as Frank barreled toward them. He tripped over the foot, and as he fell, Kyle brought his knee up into Franks chin. The noise was sickening, and Frank let out a yelp of pain. Blood gushed from his lips where his teeth had buried themselves. He crumpled on the floor and lay moaning. Without hesitation, Greg kicked him in the rib, then Richie grabbed one of my hands and Kyle the other and they dragged me out of the house.
At Kyles I couldnt stop shaking. They wrapped me in a blanket, gave me hot tea, rubbed my arms. But I wasnt shaking from cold. I was shaking from fear. And adrenalin.
I was charged up because I knew what I had to do.
"Im leaving," I said.
"You are not. You stay here tonight," Kyle shot back.
"No, I mean Im leaving town. Im going to find Danny."
"How?" Greg asked.
"I dont know, but Im going."
"That sonofabitch took all your money. You cant even buy a bus ticket."
"I dont care. Ill find a way even if I have to hitch hike."
"Bullshit on that," Kyle said. "Thats f . . . er, dangerous." He eyed his mom hoping she hadnt heard his language.
"I cant stay here."
"You can stay here, Justin," Kyles mom called from the next room. "You can stay here as long as you like."
"Thanks, but I cant. I really cant. I need to leave. I fell like Im dying here. I dont know what to do, but I do know I have to leave."
Richie looked at me. "Ive got money for a bus ticket."
I smiled at him. "I love you guys. You know that?"
They stayed with me till I stopped shaking. About midnight, everyone left, and Kyle and I got ready for bed.
I lay there in bed alone while Kyle got showered and brushed his teeth before coming to bed. I had a moment to think, and I came to a decision.
When Kyle crawled under the covers he put his arm around me to comfort me as he usually did. He snuggled close, his chest against my back. I desperately wanted to feel him against me. I was lost in the moment. I wanted to feel his hard cock press against my ass. But it didnt. He didnt get hard. He was my friend. My dear, wonderful friend. Not my lover.
"Thank you. Youre my very best friend, and I love you."
"I thought Danny was your best friend."
"He surrendered that role when he became my lover. Hes my lover more than a friend. Youre more than a friend, too, but I cant think of a better way to say it. Youre my best friend. And I love you."
"And youre mine. And you always will be."
We were silent a moment.
"Theres just one more thing," I said.
"What is it?"
"Promise you wont get mad."
I rolled over so I faced him. He hadnt moved his arm, so it was still around my waist. I looked him in the eyes, in the dim light of the room. They were clear, shining and loving.
I raised myself up a little, then kissed him on the lips. I wanted it to be a kiss of genuine love, thanks and friendship. I pressed my lips against his, mouths closed. I opened my eyes and looked at him. His eyes were closed. I ended the kiss, and gave him one little peck, then lay back down. He didnt move. He had a serene look on his face. Then he opened his eyes and looked at me and breathed the word, "Wow."
I rolled over so he could hold me again, and we fell asleep that way.
It was the last night I spent in that town.
Im trying to cope with all of this Change is so difficult, but Ive had a lot of help. There is nothing better than love. I think people my age think of love as sex. It isnt. Sex is sex. You dont have to love to have sex, and you dont have to have sex to love. I loved Kyle at that moment. Thats what the kiss was about. It wasnt sexual. It was love. And I have sex with my lover now, but fortunately, its with all the love we can show. Is love with sex better than love without sex? I dont know. I could never have sex with Kyle, but I love his as deeply as I love my lover. Of all the things I still have to deal with in my life, that isnt one of them.