Grounded in Air
Copyright © 2009 by the author under the pseudonym Gee Whillickers. All rights reserved.
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This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any actual place, event, or person, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This story is intended for adults and contains subject matter not suitable for children. Parental Advisory in effect.
** 9 **
"Tell me what happened." said Donny. Quietly. He tried to keep his voice even and respectful, very aware of Ryan's vulnerable state.
Ages had gone by since Ryan made his pronouncement. Ages and ages. Well, ok, maybe twenty seconds, but it seemed more like centuries to Donny. And probably to Ryan too by the looks of it. Donny still didn't really know what to do with this. He still didn't even like Ryan, not really. But something kept him there, still trying to figure out how to help. It just didn't seem right to leave it like this.
Another few centuries passed before Ryan took a breath to answer. "Me and Shaun. We were walking. Close to his house, along the path that goes beside the river. We went off the path a bit, into the trees, so we could..."
Ryan stopped, looking like he didn't know how to continue. Ryan's face was as red as it was possible for a face to be. Donny couldn't remember ever seeing Ryan look embarrassed before. Donny just waited. He tried to be really conscious of what his face, his eyes, were communicating to Ryan.
Eventually Ryan started again. "...so we could, um, kind of fool around. We got caught. The groundskeeper for Shaun's place, he rides his bike along the path to and from work every day. He must have heard us and recognized Shaun's voice. He came into he woods and saw us. Shaun was..."
Ryan stopped yet again. Donny was still having trouble figuring out why Ryan was trusting him with this at all, this very personal information. Still, there he sat. Despite Donny's unspoken questions Ryan was trusting him enough to tell him all of this. So the least Donny could do was listen and try his best to look sympathetic. It must have worked. Ryan looked at him for a few seconds and then started talking once again.
"Shaun was, like, on his knees, in front of me. My pants were down. He was...sucking me. The groundskeeper recognized him. I had my back to him. The groundskeeper told Shaun's parents. That was a week and a half ago. On Tuesday. By this Thursday he was gone.
"I still don't know if he recognized me. I'm scared Donny. For Shaun, I don't even know how to contact him, and for me. Every time I see my dad I expect him to tell me I'm going there too. He absolutely hates fags...um, gay people. I know he suspects something. Even if only because I keep avoiding him the past few days. So he's watching me like a hawk."
Donny waited for a few seconds and then realized Ryan was finished. It was his turn to say something. Donny had a slight problem though. He had absolutely no idea what to say.
Unfortunately, he began talking before he actually started thinking. He realized too late, much too late, how stupid that was. He asked Ryan, his voice tone all wrong, "So what are you telling me for?"
It came out completely wrong. It must have sounded callous, uncaring. He immediately was ashamed of himself, even as the final sound was escaping his lips. As soon as he was done talking he could see Ryan's face cloud with anger. He bristled, actually bristled, Donny hadn't really known what that meant before, until he saw Ryan do it, and then he watched as Ryan got up and left.
Just before Ryan walked away he said to Donny, "I can't believe I'm so stupid. Why the hell am I telling a fuckup like you?"
Donny was sitting there frozen, watching Ryan's back as he opened the door and walked out. He was feeling like he was the world's biggest piece of crap, and wishing he would just melt into the floor and disappear.
Donny had forgotten in the drama of the moment that Fred was in the cafeteria. Suddenly there he was, standing next to him. Talking to him.
"Donny! Pull it together. Go! Fix it. Before it gets even worse." Fred's eyes were on him, intent and serious.
Somehow it helped. Donny jumped up and began chasing after Ryan, without even acknowledging Fred. "Ryan, wait!!"
Donny slammed through the door and hobbled to catch up. Stupid cast. "Ryan, wait! That came out totally wrong. I'm stupid. Sorry! Honest, I'm really, really sorry. I feel horrible. Just wait. Let me fix it!"
Part of Donny, a fairly big part if he was being honest with himself, was still watching this whole interaction in amazement and wondering why he was doing this. Why was he actually apologizing and feeling bad for Ryan, the boy who had caused him so much grief lately?
Ryan stopped, halfway to the parking lot and the road beyond, his shoulders slumped. He didn't look like he had the energy to be really angry at Donny. "Why are you chasing me? I don't get it. I've been an asshole to you for weeks. Then all of the sudden I'm telling you all this, I have no idea why, and now you're apologizing to me." Ryan's face looked surprised, and underneath that, weary and sad.
Huh? Donny caught up to Ryan and stopped, looking at him. He had expected Ryan to be angry. Not apologetic. Anything except that.
"Honestly? I have no idea. But it just seems like the right thing to do. Listen, you have been an asshole." Donny hurried to finish his thought when he saw the beginning of Ryan's reaction to that. "No, no, I mean despite that, it didn't matter in there. When we were talking. I don't know why. But it didn't. I'm sorry about what happened, with Shaun, and about your dad, being all prejudiced. I sure as hell don't want my mom to know about me, and she hasn't ever said anything bad about gay people. I think she suspects though, because of Fred."
"Isn't Fred that teacher who always comes around here and hangs out with you?"
It was Donny's turn to feel embarrassed. "Um, yeah. My mom thinks there's something wrong with me hanging around him. That there's something going on."
"Is there?" Ryan asked.
Donny just stood there looking at Ryan and blushing.
Ryan seemed to realize something, maybe for the first time. "Sorry. That's not right. I shouldn't have asked, not my business." He smiled, weakly, his eyes not showing it, "Hey, I'm trying here."
"It's ok. Listen, maybe we could talk to him. To Fred. He's cool. I don't know if he can do anything about Shaun, but I know he'll listen."
* * *
Donny was right. On both counts. Fred couldn't do much, at least about Shaun, but he did listen. Fred, Donny, and Ryan sat and talked for another half hour or so. It seemed to help. Maybe nothing had really changed, nothing really resolved, but Ryan seemed a little more stable, a little more confident than before the conversation. Donny had actually agreed to call Ryan later on the phone. Him...call Ryan. How weird is that?
"I'm proud of you Donny," Fred said after Ryan had left.
"For helping him. You didn't have to do that, especially after how he's treated you," Fred said.
"Well, I didn't really help him. I just talked to him, and listened. It just seemed right somehow. Even though while I was doing it I was kind of wondering why," said Donny.
"That's how you helped. Sometimes just having someone who understands, who supports you, is enough. It makes it easier to deal with things somehow. That's what you did for Ryan. I really wish we could do more, especially for Shaun. I just don't see how though, this isn't some TV show. But maybe we can be there for Ryan. At least we can do that much."
Donny just smiled at Fred in answer. What was he supposed to say to that? It was nice hearing the praise from Fred though. He just loved Fred more and more every moment they spent together.
"Let's go," Fred said, "maybe we'll stop for an ice-cream on the way home."
"My mom's at work you know. That's why she let you pick me up today. We don't have to hurry. Maybe you have ice-cream at your place?" Donny smiled at Fred.
Fred laughed. "Oh, don't I wish. No, we're not going to my place. Your mom trusted me enough to pick you up and drive you home, and I'm not going to ruin that by taking you to my place, much as I'd like to. You know what would happen as soon as we walked in the door."
Donny pretended innocence. "Something would happen? Other than ice-cream? I can't imagine what. Unless....Would it involve us not having any clothes on? Cool! Sounds fun, let's go!"
"Ok, quit trying to tempt me you horny scamp. Maybe your mom will trust me more sometime, but doing things against her wishes isn't going to make that happen. Besides," teased Fred, "remember what the doctor said. No orgasms until your leg heals or the bone won't set right." Fred noticed a half second of a panicked look on Donny's face before he took pity on him. "Just kidding, just kidding!! Orgasm all you want. Honest."
"I know you were kidding," said Donny. Still, he sounded a bit relieved.
They did stop for ice-cream and they did manage to find a private spot to park and make out for a bit before going to Donny's. It was heaven. Donny managed to get his hand into Fred's shorts and managed to hold on to his hard penis for a while before Fred stopped the proceedings.
Not long after Fred dropped off Donny at home he found he was bored. He phoned Ricky to ask him to come over but his parents were taking him shopping or something. He just sat down in front of the TV when the phone rang. The caller ID said Crayson Motosports. Donny answered the phone.
"Donny? It's Bill Crayson. How's yer leg? Healing up I hope?"
"Yeah, it's fine Mr. Crayson. Hopefully it won't be much longer. Umm, my mom isn't home right now if you're looking for her. She's at work," answered Donny.
"I'm glad yer leg is healin' up, 'cause I'm looking forward to seeing ya racing again real soon. And I'm not phoning for yer mom, I called to talk to you."
"Well, my leg is fine and healing on schedule, but I won't be able to race for a long time. I'm saving everything I can from my allowance and what I'm earning instructing at the track, but it'll be ages before I have enough for a new bike."
"Maybe sooner than you think Donny." Donny could hear a smile in Mr. Crayson's voice.
Donny couldn't help keep a bit of excitement out of his voice. "Really? How!?"
"Well, you hear about that new company? Mydas Bikes?" asked Mr. Crayson.
"Well, sure, they've been on every magazine cover for the past two months. They're real expensive though, I'm not saving for one of them." His excitement died. He wondered why Mr. Crayson would think he could ever afford one of those.
"Their sales rep is tryin' hard to get me to carry their line. The kid's bikes too. I told 'em I needed to see one in action myself, and see how they held up in real racing, over several weeks. They offered to fly me out to watch one in action near their manufacturing plant, but I told 'em I couldn't do it. I told 'em to send me one here, and I'd have one of my racers test it out, as long as he could keep it afterwards. They're really pushing hard to get someone to carry 'em in this region, so they agreed."
"Really? Cool! I want to come out to watch when you get it. Those bikes are awesome! Who are you going get to ride it when it gets here? Alan? Or maybe Jesse?"
"Well, Donny, like I said, they're lookin' at me carryin' their kids' bikes as well as the adult bikes," said Mr. Crayson, "As for a rider, I was hoping that'd be you."
Donny pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at it, just to see if it was real. Then he realized he hadn't answered yet. Mr. Crayson didn't seem to mind, Donny could hear his loud belly laugh even with the phone two feet from his ear.
He put the phone back to his ear. "Yes!! Yes, oh jeez, yes!!" He didn't realize it was possible to actually jump up and down with a cast on.
* * *
"Tiller residence. May I help you?" The voice on the other end of the phone was stiff. Formal.
Donny was caught off guard a bit. "Um. Well. Um...Is Ryan there?" he finally managed.
"May I have your name please? I will ascertain his availability."
"Uh, Donny. Donny Sherbrook"
"Thank you. One moment please Mr. Sherbrook."
Donny heard music playing softly on the phone. Music, while on hold, on a home phone. And he called him 'Mr. Sherbrook.' That was definitely a first. Donny giggled a bit to himself and then found himself wondering if someone maybe was listening, so he stopped himself.
He had been waiting several minutes and just started to wonder if he should hang up and try again some other time when he heard the music stop. "Hello?" Ryan's voice.
The sound of Ryan's voice on the phone made him realize the unliklihood of this situation, up until today anyway. This was almost surreal. It just wasn't a situation that Donny had ever imagined he would be in. Here he was, actually willingly phoning Ryan Tiller, and wondering if he was ok.
"Hi, Ryan? It's Donny. Um, how are you?"
"Hi Donny. Listen, can I call you right back? This is your home number, right? I just need to finish something here."
"Uh. Ok. I guess so," Donny replied. That was kind of odd.
"Ok, thanks," came the reply and the phone went dead. Donny looked at it for a second and then hung it up. He didn't know whether he should stand there by the phone or go and try to find something to do for a bit, he wasn't sure how long Ryan would be.
Fortunately the phone rang again almost immediately, answering the question for him.
"Hello?" Donny answered.
"Hi Donny, it's Ryan. Sorry about that. The house staff always listens on the extensions on the other line, the one you called on. They think it's their duty to keep up on the gossip. This one is private."
"Oh. Ok. So, um, how are you?"
And so they were actually talking. Donny was actually having a conversation, almost like they could stand each other, with Ryan Tiller. The part of his mind that watched things objectively was still shaking its head in amazement, but the rest of him just enjoyed the conversation.
Donny had just finished telling Ryan about the new bike, and for the second time today he heard a bit of jealousy from Ryan.
"Oh man, those things are supposed to be amazing! Do you know they use some new kind of composite alloy to make the frames stronger and even lighter? And the engines have these weird shaped combustion chambers, I guess designed by some computer to get better power or something. I'll bet you can hardly wait!"
"Ya, that's for sure," Donny answered. "It'll be a while yet, I still have this cast on my leg and then physio after that."
"Well, you're lucky. Nobody will be able to keep up with you." Ryan's tone changed when he spoke again. "Umm, Donny?"
Donny felt himself tense a bit at the change in Ryan's tone, though he didn't really know why. "Yeah?"
"Listen. I'm not used to doing this. But I know I've been a jerk. To you. My dad, I think I told you, he hates gays. He's always talking about how they're ruining family values and spreading disease and stuff. He says they all have sex all the time with as many people as they can to make up for how miserable their lives are. I guess I'm making an excuse here, though I know there really isn't one. I've been a jerk. And I'm sorry."
Donny found himself thinking about Ryan's words before he realized he was taking too long to answer. Then he realized another thing. He wasn't sure how he wanted to answer. His bullying hurt. A lot. He wasn't sure if he could forgive him that easily.
"You know Ryan, you really hurt me." Donny's voice was shaking slightly, though he maintained control.
"I know. I know that now. I'm really sorry. I wasn't even thinking about you. I know, that just makes it worse. I was just thinking about me though. I was trying to impress my dad. And to convince him, and me I guess, that I wasn't queer...umm, gay. Even after me and Shaun started, I still kept trying to convince myself it was just a little fun, didn't mean anything. I was lying to myself though."
"Ok," Donny answered, "I think I get that. I dunno, it just doesn't seem right though. The way you treated me. I don't think I could ever do that. When I'm all messed up inside I just usually hide from everyone."
"Well, that's you I guess. Like I said, I know it's wrong. And I'm sorry. I don't blame you if you don't really forgive me. I'm not even sure if that's what I'm asking for. The last couple of weeks...it's like my life has changed. Like everything I knew and took for granted suddenly has been flipped over onto its back. I'm just so messed up. That's the only reason I think I was brave enough to tell you what happened. Seemed like I had nothing to lose."
Donny couldn't help thinking of when his dad died. And when, much more recently, things had started changing for the better for him. "Now that much, Ryan, I can definitely understand."
The phone call lasted another half hour. The conversation drifting back and forth between topics, serious and frivolous. After he clicked the 'end' button he stood there looking at the phone, still in his hand, for a minute. God, life was weird. He had just talked on the phone for almost an hour to Ryan Tiller. The boy who had worked hard to make the last few weeks horrible for Donny. The boy who Donny was sure beyond a doubt, before today, had no redeeming qualities, and not a shred of empathy anywhere. The boy who was now, he knew, his friend.