Heaven Next Door, part 16
I know, yeah, I already said: Bill, he ain’t my guy. But as we went outta the changin’ rooms I kinda let myself pretend some. Walkin’ along an’ tastin’ Bill’s warm, sweet jizz all inside of my mouth I just couldn’t help it somehow; I kinda needed that pretendin’, on account of then I didn’t have to think on this other boy what Bill’s been fuckin’. Lucky li’l shit.
Man, it sure did feel good swallowin’ Bill’s nice hard guy-meat and feelin’ him rubbin’ on my uhu, it gimme that ache, you know: right up behind my dickie? And him gettin’ all rough and strong; well, ain’t no wonder I got a stiffie and my insides was jumpin’ like a sack full of rats, and the stupid part of me what won’t learn was still hoping he was gonna spin me round, fuck me hard and say real serious as how he was gonna watch out for me an’ how I weren’t to give it away for free no more. I guess I was still feelin’ bad about doin’ nice touchin’ with Mister Ray.
Well anyhow, after today Bill’s gonna have someone new to fuck. I’m a whole lotta scairt. I know I should of said to Bill about how I screwed up an’ all, and Lee said I should own up and not to be scairt on account of Bill bein’ a nice guy. Like I don’t know that already! That ain’t the problem: problem is Bill don’t know I ain’t a nice guy, an’ if I told him about me sneakin’ around an’ snakin’ someone right out from under him, well he’d sure know it then. It ain’t nice havin’ someone knowin’ you ain’t nice.
As we walked out around that pool for the little kids it got to be that other kind of nice. Not the tinglin’ nice of around my dickie and my uhu, but that warm, happy-nice of like before, on the bus.
I kind of felt that before, with Lee doin’ that huggy-nice and I do like him a whole lot, but it ain’t like with Bill. With Lee that huggy-nice is like a real warm bath what you can just sink down into, and he’s just there, you know? With Bill it’s like that bath only somebody just thrown a hair-dryer in: chills an’ sparks an’ fireworks.
When, on the bus, Bill put his arm around me and let me lean against him, it was so nice it was scary; kind of like the nice when we was doin’ readin’ and Bill said as how I’m his special buddy. Even now, just walkin’ along with two foot of air between us I’m feelin’ Bill like this big warm place moving right alongside of me.
Maybe it’s a good thing I’m gonna come clean with Bill today; I ain’t so sure I should do this special buddies stuff. Suckin’ and fuckin’ and all that; sure I could handle all what Bill wants, if he still wants to. But that nice touchin’ like Bill done when we was readin’, and now on the bus all friendly and with him jokin’ around and his voice makin’ me go all shivery inside, I could get used to that real easy. Ain’t so much I’m scairt it’d make me stupid, more it’s like them whores what do crack? ’Cept with them whores if their dealer gets busted they can always go get crack from some other guy.
I don’t wanna think about Bill stoppin’ bein’ special buddies with me, I reckon I just gotta enjoy all of this swimmin’ and the nice time right as hard as I can in case it’s the last time I got with Bill.
My dickie had gotten soft an’ decent again, so I took my towel from around my waist an’ I put it over one shoulder. Bill, he just put his hand on my shoulder -- well, okay, on top of the towel, but I could feel his thumb, I guess, just brushin’ my neck, and it was like the whole of me got to be focused on just that place. Anyhow it made me walk kinda closer to him and bein’ close to Bill always scrambles what brains I got.
He said where did I wanna go, and afore I thought I said could we go look at the Sky-dive? When we was in the trailer park I used to bust in this place a whole lot an’ I always liked checkin’ it out. For a time it used to be all lit up and there was construction guys workin’ with their shirts off but then it got so they was only workin’ in the daytimes so I didn’t look so much.
Anyhow this time I didn’t care if there was guys workin’ or not; I said on account of it’s a good long walk around the curve of the park and I just wanted to go on feelin’ Bill walking close and him touchin’ me for as long as I could. I guess inside I knowed I ain’t gonna give up this nice Special Buddies touchin’ what’s so scary. Only with my brains half workin’ I told myself maybe, maybe I can get a whole lot of it, and remember it real good so I can kind of save it for thinkin’ on later when Bill don’t want to no more. Junkie thinkin’.
So we’re walkin’ along, me kind of tingling and wantin’ to shout out: “Look! It’s Bill ’n’ ME!” And watch ’em all go green-jealous on account of he’s my friend, an’ - an’, you know: special guy what looks out for me and takes care of business.
Well, anyhow, they wouldn’t know he ain’t and like I said, I was needin’ that pretendin’ real bad. I kept lookin’ up at him, kind of secret-like, only he caught me lookin’ and smiled this real hot smile, and he said, without me askin’ or nothin’ how it was just great bein’ here an’ he said “thank you Shayne,” just like that, for nothin’, which was kind of weird since he could of come here anytime.
I wanted to say as how it was really great he liked this place, and I hoped he liked all what I fixed up, though of course it was for certain sure he was gonna like his special fuck! I wanted to say as how I was sorry, and if he wanted anything I’d go get it and I wished I could just make everythin’ just perfect for him forever, but I didn’t on account of it was all mixed up in my head and I didn’t know what to say first and anyhow it would have sounded all dumb.
Instead I said, “Uhuh,” with my ears and my face all kind of burnin’ and I had to look down to check my feet, on account of it didn’t feel like I was walking on the ground no more.
Well we went on around the curve, past some of the pools, little-kid rides and the wave machine, with me not seein’ anything much. I kind of floated along, feelin’ the glow of the sunshine and Bill’s big hand on my shoulder and me wishin’ I’d had the brains to put the towel on my other shoulder so his whole hand would of been touchin’ me instead of the towel. Seemed like forever and no-time ’til we come into the shadow of the big high-dive platform and the show pool, and that sudden dim and cold kind of woke me up. They got these wooden boards makin’ walls all around, and all painted like they got flames all over, but they’d cut holes like windows so you could look in and see the guys workin’: some cut high up for grown-ups, but some low down too.
The round pool was dry, just like it had been all the time since they shut the high divin’ and there was this brown Latin guy, kind of nice with his shirt off, foolin’ around with wirin’. Used to be the pool was blue, but now they done it all again in red an’ black tilin’. They put in loads of lights, mostly red, and I heard they put in a fancy computer to work ’em too. When they’re all done it’s gonna be real neat, and classy too, and the water’s gonna look just like that boilin’ rock what comes out of them mountains. I just stood there, watchin’ that guy’s wide back, all muscly and shinin’ in the sun but somehow in my head I was seein’ Bill.
Bill said as how it looked like they weren’t gonna be doin’ any shows any time soon, and I said sure, they was still workin’ on the new divin’ tower, see?
The tower’s still half gray cement; they ain’t finished paintin’ all the blue and clouds and stuff on yet, they’re still workin’ on the angels what’re gonna fly up one side an’ the devils flyin’ down the other. It’s built like this great big stretched letter “A”, with silvery metal steps between the legs goin’ up round-an’-round to the lower board where the cross-bar of the “A” would be, and after that winding around and around the outside of the stretched upper part to where another board sticks out right at the top. There was a guy up there sitting in kind of a harness doin’ hammerin’ and stuff, and he was up so high he weren’t no bigger than my little bitty fingernail. There was a airplane behind the guy, goin’ across the sky, an’ I thought how nice it’s gotta be, flyin’ up so high you’re right next door to Heaven and thinkin’ how one day I’d like to fly just like that, like a angel.
I said to Bill how if we was up there we’d have a real good view of the airport an’ the sky and them shiny silver planes, and Bill said “what?” like he weren’t really listenin’ so I guessed he was bored.
* * *
Bill smiled as they emerged from the changing rooms, feeling supremely relaxed; a deep animal content that was only partly to do with the lack of pressure in his balls. As much, or more, was the stunned appreciation of his little buddy’s generosity setting this trip up: the gift of his time and energy in thinking and planning it out just as much as the actual money he’d spent on those swim pants and towels. It must have been nearly the whole of his allowance.
Once again, Bill felt a slight uneasiness as he wondered what would happen when lunch-time came around and Shayne realized he didn’t have sufficient funds. It would take delicate handling: the last thing he wanted was for his little buddy to feel like a failure.
The sun-warmed sand-colored tiles felt very slightly rough beneath his feet, presumably to give a good grip even when wet. The park’s main, spiralling walk curved ahead of them, turning counter-clockwise and broadening as it went. Bill found himself suppressing an urge to hum “Follow the yellow-brick road.”
To their left, fairground-style rides were built along the inner part of the curve. Behind them the cement was sculpted and painted to look like hills and mountains, doubtless concealing machinery for the other, more elaborate rides. Beyond the painted hills Bill could hear distant yells of excitement and felt cold rise up his spine.
On their right, the outer side of the curve, the shimmering blue of swimming areas opened off the walk like petals on a flower head, interspersed with cafes and retail units selling swimming aids, costumes and souvenirs. Even here, the sight of some of the water slides was enough to make his stomach churn and bring a bitter taste to the back of his throat. He hoped Shayne, walking so quietly at his side, would want to stick to swimming.
They walked the outer perimeter together, skirting the little kids’ “spray and play” area: fountains and shallow pools for dipping and paddling, weaving between noisy family groups applying sun lotion and finding water-floats, fathers unpacking holdalls and mothers yelling instructions to “not go in too deep,” and to “wait for your sister, honey” to heedless little kids running towards fun. He moved his hand a little, feeling the rough toweling beneath his palm. Perhaps he shouldn’t be touching the boy this way in public, but Shayne seemed okay about having Bill’s hand resting on his shoulder, if a little quiet, so he let it be.
“Well,” Bill said, as they passed an ice-cream parlor and a submarine sandwich concession, the fusty-sweet smell of baking and herbs warm in the bright morning air. “Where do you want to go”?
Shayne looked up at him, flushed and excited. “Can we go look at the Sky dive? Heaven ’n’ Hell? I know it ain’t open, I just wanna see it. I always go look at it first. It’s along the big walk, thataway”.
“Sure,” Bill said. “You know the way.” He squeezed the towel where it draped over Shayne’s shoulder and felt an odd, swelling pride within him. He found himself resisting the absurd impulse to grab his little buddy, boost him up shoulder high, swagger over to those family groups and show off: “Hey mister, you think your kid’s smart? Well this little guy here, he just planned out the whole day, thought it out and fixed it up all by himself; paid for it too. What do you think of that? Isn’t it great? Brains like that, someday he’s gonna be President!” And they’d laugh good-naturedly and brag in turn about Sophie’s violin playing or Junior’s irresistible tackle.
Of course it was just ridiculous fantasy. No way would he embarrass the kid, that way or any other. In fact, feeling on the verge of such dangerous joy Bill was careful to keep his hand still and his tone light as he said: “Hey, it’s really great here.” He had to swallow before he could add “Thanks, Shayne”.
As they walked further around the broadening spiral, Bill paid attention to the ameneties built along the inner part of the teardrop-shaped park’s curve. Near the changing facilities these were all themed and scaled for small children: a playground with a teeter-totter and a play fort, a train ride, and a carousel that had horses, a fire engine and aeroplanes on it.
Sure enough, as they continued around the curve the rides grew more dangerous: a water flume, then a couple of roller-coasters -- the queues already forming -- with other mechanical fairground-style rides beyond.
When they arrived at the center of the park, Bill took one glance at the tall gray tower Shayne was leading him towards and then looked away, feeling the bile rise in the back of his throat, glad that it was closed even though the diving tower would obviously be open only to skilled performers. Just sitting in the audience and looking up would be enough to unsettle his stomach.
Standing next to the gaudily-painted plywood safety wall he faked a look up, glanced through a peephole window and noted a stomach-churning drop into the empty pit of the pool, then hurridly looked aside at Shayne. The boy was looking through a window that, despite being cut at mid height, was still a little high for him. He was standing on tiptoe, and Bill drew in his breath at the sight of the boy’s firm, round little buttcheeks outlined beneath the tight, thin, dark blue Spandex of Shayne’s swim shorts.
A yellow, five-pointed star glowed high up on the boy’s left buttcheek, the tip of one point hooked over the top seam as if pointing to the smoothness of Shayne’s lovely, golden back and the soft, blue-shadowed curve of his spine. A cartoon rocket curved over his right butt cheek as though in orbit around his little ass, or possibly intending to slip between those lovely grapefruit-sized globes and force itself up into the heat of that tight inner darkness. In his mind’s eye, Bill could see the silver-white of the rocket stretching open the crinkled pinkness of the boy’s ring and hear his gasps of pleasure as the cold hardness slid inside.
Shayne said something about flying, and Bill jumped, scared for a moment that he’d fantasized out loud. Despite the recent blow-job -- what a casual name for something so wonderful! -- Bill felt his cock hardening again and was grateful for the inner netting of his new surfer-style shorts which kept everything decent.
“What?” he said, more than half his mind still on the lovely caresses Shayne’s lips and tongue had lavished on him. The memory of his sweet upturned face, half veiled by the shifting shadows of those moving golden curls, his little red lips stretched wide around the swollen whiteness of Bill’s big man-cock; the way he stole looks up at Bill from beneath his eyelashes, his lovely eyes both innocent and naughty.
The boy’s growing excitement had excited him too: the obvious enthusiasm and pleasure with which he’d caressed Bill’s big hard tool, licking and kissing it. The eagerness with which he’d taken to swallowing Bill’s cock, and the sensual movements of his hot little throat as he swallowed deeper, deeper, encouraging Bill to fuck that tight, slippery warmth.
“I guess we better go grab us a couple of sun-beds, else they’ll all be gone,” Shayne said. “After that you wanna go swimmin’ or pick a ride”?
“Swimming,” Bill said, firmly. Despite Shayne’s “help” in the cubicle just before, some cold water on his dick would be a good idea: help keep things under control.
They headed back along the walk to the main “wet” area and dumped their towels on a couple of sun-beds, leaving them under the benevolent supervision of a sun-worshiping matron Shayne effortlessly charmed, and headed for the pools together.
The rectangular “swim pool” wasn’t very crowded. It seemed to be favored by either budding athletes grimly swimming length after length, or, at the shallower end, sun worshipers cooling off with a quick dip. The “frolic” pools to either side were far busier. The one to the right, at the fringe of the family area, had low water-slides and brightly colored hoops and “swirlie rides” designed for very small kids, but it was to the other, most popular pool that Shayne’s glance kept straying. This boasted not just a central pool, piratically styled with a raft and smaller islands armed with water hoses, but was ringed with water slides rejoicing in names like “Dead Man’s Slide,” “Skullslapper,” “Davy Jones’s Plunge” and “The Chiller” - though this last slide was starred and height restricted.
“You get to do the choosin’,” Shayne said, generously. “It’s your nice day, so we’re gonna do what-all you want”.
“Swimming then,” Bill said. “Last one in’s a stinky-pants”!
They raced each other for a time. Bill said he’d alternate crawl and breaststroke for the first race, thinking not to beat the boy too badly, and rapidly learned his error. Shayne was the smaller; his little arms couldn’t reach as far as Bill’s, nor were his legs as powerful, but with his clean, efficient style he cut the water like a fish, and through most of the sixth and final length Bill had to suffer Shayne lounging at the winning rail, giggling and remarking loudly on how much more tan he was going to be by the time Bill finished.
They raced a couple more times, with a much closer result, but Bill noticed how Shayne kept glancing at the busy “Pirate” pool next door. He surrendered. “Why don’t we go check out the pirate pool?” he said. “It looks kinda fun”.
“You wanna?” Shayne said, doing his best to hide the eagerness in his voice. “It’s real cool with all slides an’ stuff, but we can stop here swimmin’ if you want, I don’t mind”.
Bill had to bite his tongue to hide his smile at the evident lie. “No,” he said. “I reckon I’m done here, now I’ve had a swim”.
At once Shayne levered himself up, out of the water, and Bill had to suppress a groan at the sight of those wet stars and rockets stretching and shifting. The flimsy wisp of material clung to Shayne’s gleaming body like a second skin, deliciously molded over the grapefruit-sized curves of Shayne’s little buns. “Hurrah for cheap knock-offs,” he thought as he made shift to follow his impatient little buddy.
The “Caribbean Pirate Pool” wasn’t a single pool, but rather several pools joined by low underwater walls. It was irregularly shaped, broadly in the shape of a paw-print with the largest pool - the “palm” - nearest the walkway and the three “toes” on the far side of it forming the arrival zones for the big water-slides whose bamboo-styled tubes twisted overhead. Bill was pleased to see a couple of lifeguards keeping a benevolent eye on the horseplay around the arrival pools.
“I’m gonna do ‘Skullslapper!’” Shayne said, as they arrived, pointing to a tangle of bamboo-styled tubes. “It’s a whole lotta fun,” he added, “only they turn the water pumpin’ off at night an’ then your ass sticks to the tube so you don’t slide real good”.
“Shayne, about that stuff, at night-” It wasn’t his place to speak; it was the boy’s family who should be telling Shayne what, and what not to do. But the thought of that fragile body bruised or broken was too much for him to bear. “I don’t want you using the slides. Not at night.”
The boy looked up at him, his gaze intent. “You’re sayin’? Tellin’ me? Like a rule”?
Bill took a deep breath; there was no backing down now. “Yes.” No doubt others would say that he should have forbidden such adventures outright, but better a smaller restriction that would keep his buddy a little safer rather than an outright veto that Shayne might simply ignore. “Exactly like a rule. You promise”?
“Okay Bill!” Shayne crowed. “I promise!” He seemed curiously happy, and Bill felt a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach as he realized he’d practically sanctioned slide-free night time visits by implication. Oh well. His little buddy sure did look cute when he was happy.
“Anyhow,” Shayne continued, “this place is too far away now. It was really only before, when we was livin’ in the trailer park around here: that’s when I come at night-time with my homies.”
“You miss ’em, huh?” With his thumb, Bill scooped Shayne’s hair neatly back, tucking it behind his cute little ears. Shayne tilted his head, for all the world like a puppy asking to have his neck scratched.
“Yeah. I was kinda hopin’ to meet some.” The boy blushed. “You wouldn’t mind, huh? Bein’ my uncle what’s here with me on account of he’s a nice guy”?
“Sure,” Bill said, touched at Shayne’s plan to “show him off” to his friends. “You said something about meeting someone, I remember now.” He couldn’t help smiling at the lurid pre-teen orgy his imagination had conjured, when all the time it had been as innocent as this.
“I did?” Shayne looked anxious. “I didn’t say any other stuff, did I? Or about Freddie MacBees? That’s a surprise”!
“No, nothing about that.” Bill hadn’t noticed a Freddie’s franchise amongst the cafes and restaurants they’d passed, but no doubt there was one. Recalling the antics Shayne had gotten up to beneath the table in the last one, Bill felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. All his earlier misgivings about Shayne not intentionally messing up came flooding back.
“Oh, that’s okay then.” Shayne was beaming relief, and Bill didn’t have the heart to dampen that enthusiasm. He’d just have to be a worry-wart on his own time.
“Why don’t you go check out the other slides, huh?” Bill said. “I’ll check out the pool while you wait in line, okay”?
“Yeah, okay - Skullslapper comes out there, so you gotta watch that tube, got it”?
Shayne skipped off, and Bill slipped into the pool. Its sides weren’t plain and square, as in the “serious” swimmers’ pool, but imitated the irregular coastline of a rocky beach pool, the smooth cement sculpted into ledges and steps equally convenient for seats or access to the water, and planted here and there with vegetation.
There were quite a few kids around Shayne’s age, playing on the water slides or involved in private group splash and chase games around the central island, and a few adults, too. Most of the swimmers were in their teens, and Bill realized that there was a definite segregation of the sexes. The girls gathered in the shallow, palm-shaded waters closest to the walkway, curled on cement “boulders” like so many mermaids, adjusting bright, barely-present bikinis or their hair, chattering amongst themselves and pretending indifference to the groups of adolescent boys further in, rough-housing and showing off in the area near the small reception pools.
Bill swam through the “mermaid zone,” looking for a suitable place to watch for Shayne. He found a comfortable spot with a good view of the receiving pool Shayne had indicated, nodded politely to the nearby boys, who returned him looks of suspicion and lowered their voices.
Shayne shot out of Skullslapper’s tube in an ungraceful tangle of limbs. Bill waited until his little blond head bobbed above the surface, and then waved to him.
“You going around again, little buddy?” he called, once Shayne had paddled over to him.
Shayne grinned, and blushed. “Yeah, I kinda messed up. That slide goes a whole lot quicker’n I thought, with water in. You gonna wait here an’ watch, or come on it too? You can: it’s for grown-ups too”.
“No, I’m fine,” Bill said, privately dreading the thought. “You go practice a while and look for your homies. But don’t go away from this pool, okay? If you want to move on, come get me”.
“Okay Bill!” Shayne scampered off to re-join the line.
Shayne’s visit evidently established him as a friendly figure rather than some sort of undercover security, and Bill noticed a change in the attitude of the groups of nearby boys, who relaxed and began joking around again.
Over the course of Shayne’s next dozen slides or so, Bill gradually became aware of one group in particular - mid teens, he estimated. They’d colonized a little area of the central island, and seemed focused on the Davy Jones slide, alternating diving with critiquing each other’s technique. It took Bill a little while to focus on what was different about this group. It was only when one boy, a handsome Italian-American looking youth with curly, dark hair and a smile as white as his necklace, managed a particularly graceful and, Bill suspected, technically difficult exit from the slide, that the penny dropped.
When boys from the other groups managed something difficult or merely splashy, they checked the reaction from the mermaid zone. This group didn’t. There was something about the way they stood or sat together too-
A skinny redhead leaned close to Necklace boy and whispered something to him. Immediately Necklace boy looked round and caught Bill looking. His eyes sparkled with mischief.
Not wanting to alarm the boy, Bill smiled pleasantly before looking away and resuming watching for Shayne, who soon shot into view, now executing the dive as smoothly as any of the other boys.
Shayne swam over, and Bill praised his technique again. “You really have gotten the hang of that quick,” he said.
“You don’t wanna go on the slide, Bill?” Shayne’s tone was wistful, and Bill felt a twinge of guilt as he once again declined.
“I get kinda dizzy,” he said.
“Okay,” Shayne said. “I’m gonna switch to Davy Jones now, that kinda shoots you up, at the end. It’s the only place they let you do cannonballs an’ stuff. You ain’t gotta move or nothin’ -- you can see it real good from here”.
It was only once Shayne had hurried off, that Bill noticed the skinny, ginger-haired boy again, who was giving him a very unfriendly look. His lovely friend with the necklace seemed to have disappeared.
Bill turned his attention to the receiving pool, but to his surprise it wasn’t Shayne that he saw shooting out of the slide’s exit, but the boy with the necklace, who performed an elegant porpoise roll before disappearing beneath the surface of the pool. He bobbed to the surface and then swam over to where his red-headed friend sat. Bill watched as the boy lifted himself out of the water to sit on the poolside. He was tanned brown as a berry, and the water made his skin shine like polished beechwood.
The boy settled with one brown arm resting across his raised knee, his chin on his shoulder, talking to his ginger-headed friend and flashing his handsome, white smile. His legs were casually spread to display the bulge in his blue swim-pants, and Bill could have believed the perfect picture of innocence were it not that the boy was so careful to avoid looking in his direction.
The red-haired boy had no such inhibitions and gave Bill a couple of looks which mingled aggression and uncertainty. Bill toyed with the idea of waiting until Necklace Boy queued for a slide again, and then putting Red out of his misery. “Look,” he could imagine himself saying, “your buddy’s just yanking your chain. I bet if I were to come on to him, he’d be out of here in nothing flat.” Of course, if he were truly going to be a friend to Red, he’d have to add, “And find yourself another crush: he’s pretty immature. If he really liked you that way, he wouldn’t be playing this game right now. He’s enjoying torturing you”.
Bill surfaced from his thoughts with a jolt to find Shayne staring at him, wide brown eyes full of hurt.
“Hey, did I miss your first trip down Davy Jones?” Bill said.
“I guess.” Shayne shifted a small, tawny shoulder in a miniscule shrug. “You gonna fuck him, Bill?” He tilted his head towards the boys sat together on their “rock”.
Bill’s first instinct was to deny knowledge of what Shayne meant. “I’m here with you,” he said instead.
“Uhuh. It’s okay Bill,” Shayne said, his little face woebegone. “You can go play somewhere’s else an’ talk to boys if you wanna. I’m sorry you ain’t havin’ no fun”.
“Don’t think that,” Bill said. “I’m having a great time”.
Shayne just looked at him, then over at the red-head and his handsome friend, and then back at Bill. He seemed to think that all Bill had to do was walk across to that other boy and tell him to “bend over.” It didn’t matter that Shayne was wrong; now whenever he was apart from Bill, his little buddy was going to think he was picking up boys.
The sight of his little buddy’s expression, so different from the happy excitement of a little while ago made Bill’s skin prickle. Well, if he expected Shayne to be a good boy and honor his promise, then Bill should be prepared to do things that he didn’t want, too.
Bill held out his hand, his gut cramping up at the thought of what he was going to do. “Help me up. What do you say we try the last slide together”?
“Yeah?” Unhappiness vanished off his little buddy’s face. “Together?” Shayne danced a happy little hop-step. “Yeah, that’d be neat! Dead Man’s real cool”!
It was ridiculous, Bill thought, how affecting he found Shayne’s sudden happiness.
“This way, Bill!” Shayne said, tugging him along. The happy shouts from the toddlers’ pool fell away behind them. Bill resisted the urge to check his breath one more time: it wasn’t only that he'd rinsed his mouth obsessively, but he didn’t want to remind Shayne of the incident either. His little buddy seemed to have recovered his good spirits and even to have enjoyed himself since Bill’s dramatic miscalculation.
Shayne seemed to be heading for a cafe, and the aroma of excellent coffee mingling with the smell of toasting panini was torture. Bill wasn’t so much hungry as feeling he had a hole the size of the sky-dive pool where his stomach should be.
Nevertheless, he didn’t think the Cafe Marina looked a good choice for Shayne. From the artfully arranged sleek bentwood furniture beneath the poolside designer awnings to the lovingly trimmed topiary in terracotta tubs which subtly marked out the area as a private space, everything said “expensive.”
The clientele suggested it too. Toned, tan women in designer swimwear shared dark-stained teakwood tables with sleek, styled young executives with muscle implants and whitened teeth. To his left, a table of four laughing women clinked champagne glasses together, the beaded silver of the ice-bucket at their side dazzling in the sun. He doubted Shayne could afford to buy a soda here, much less lunch.
“Easy there, little buddy,” Bill said, hanging back. “You sure you want to go in there?”
“Come on Bill! Or it’ll spoil the surprise”!
“Another surprise?” Bill said, smiling. “I’m not sure how many more surprises I can take”.
“Oh you’re gonna like it,” Shayne said. He looked up, his eyes sweet toffee brown in the sunlight. “Only it ain’t really an ’it.’ It’s uh, kinda special.” He stopped dragging at Bill’s hand, and they paused next to a trimmed box-hedge globe in a pot. “Uh, Bill? Um”-
“Y’know, y’know when you said about us bein’ buddies? Special buddies? When we was readin’”?
“Yeah.” Bill smiled, trying to put Shayne at ease. “Sure, I remember. You don’t think I make special buddies every day do you”?
Shayne looked at him, and hunched a small brown shoulder, his gaze suddenly wary. His lips shaped something Bill couldn’t hear.
“What, Shayne?” He knelt down.
Shayne looked at him solemnly. “I, I’m sorry about the barfin’ - but ’cept for that it’s been okay, ain’t it? Today”?
Bill resisted the urge to check his breath again. He’d swilled his mouth out repeatedly; he knew it wasn’t sour. “It’s been great - I’ve had a great time, with you”.
“Yeah? Really truly? An’ I been your special buddy the whole time”?
“You know it! All the swimming, and the slides, it’s been great!” Bill looked up at the cafe’s frontage with growing alarm, wondering what the kid had in mind. Some scam? “It’s okay Shayne, you don’t have to do this -- we can go somewhere else, it’s okay. Or back to the pool -- I’ll have another go at the water slides, if you like. Or, or, I’ll play chair-o-planes with you in the pool, how about that?” Kid’s stuff, it was all he could think of in his desperation.
“The swingin’ round game? An’ the huggin’?” Shayne looked at him, and then back up at the cafe, obviously torn. “I cain’t Bill! It ain’t nothin’ about not wantin’ that nice stuff, but we gotta go in! Or it’ll all go wrong, an’-”
Bill saw Shayne stare across at the “family pool” where they’d spent the remainder of the morning, and followed his gaze to where a large hairy bear of a man had just swept up his daughter as she scooted out of the water slide, beaming with pride.
“Hey,” Bill said. “Heidi just did the big loop!” She’d been working her way up to the higher slides all morning, scooting down into the arms of Mom or Pop as she got steadily braver. “No wonder Sal’s grinning like that”.
He glanced aside at Shayne. After Bill’s episode, they’d abandoned the Pirate pool for the pool with the lower, “kiddie” slides. Shayne had stayed with him, despite Bill saying he could play on the slides at the Pirate pool and meet him later. Secretly, Bill had glowed with pride at Shayne’s way with the younger kids, and Heidi especially, Shayne being her “special buddy” as she’d braved the Kiddie-Twist and finally the Swooper, showing her each time how she’d be caught by her daddy, as demonstrated by himself and Bill. Shayne had whispered how he knew it was “only pretending,” which puzzled him until Shayne had mentioned about his little sister - or brother - to be. Until now, he’d never guessed how much Shayne wanted to be someone’s “big brother”.
“Go on, Shayne!” he said. “Wave”!
Shayne went one better. He cupped his hands around his mouth: “You done good, Heidi!” he yelled. “Shit-hot to fuckin’ die, bitch”!
Cue one chubby fist in the air, and two startled parental looks.
“Uh, yeah. Watch the language, buddy.” Red-faced, Bill waved too, ignoring the scowls from the tables around them.
But Shayne wasn’t listening. Grinning, he added a hi-hop and a wolf-whistle. Bill grabbed his shoulder.
“Okay, enough, Shayne!” he said. “Don’t disturb the other people here. Let’s just go quietly, huh”?
“I was only encouragin’ her,” Shayne protested. “You said you wanted me to!”
He grabbed Bill’s hand. “C’mon - let’s cut it.” And with impeccable dramatic timing, he dragged Bill through the chrome-plated doors of the cafe Marina.
Inside, the cafe was quiet, with low, relaxing lighting, and decorated in earth tones. The wall behind the serving counter was sandblasted brick, hung with chalkboards advertising designer coffees and organic “Raw Food” energy salads, whatever they were. The other walls were rough-plastered and painted the rich, luxuriantly silky green of a ripe avocado. Here and there, glossy-leaved plants basked beneath brassy downlighters in buttery pools of artificial sunshine, but most of the light came through the window wall which looked out onto the water park, the mossy glass painting everything with a warm, relaxing, vegetative tint, like a captive rainforest. A little way inside, just past the coffee and hot sandwich counter, a silver railing divided the coffee bar. A sign next to the gate read “Pool customers please scan out.” Beyond was seating and another exit to the parking lot.
Shayne went straight to the little gate in the railing. He held his wrist up to the security scanner, and Bill saw the red line flicker across the barcode on the boy’s blue band. It chirped, and the gate slid open. Bill did the same, but when the waiter looked at him and said “table for two, sir?” Shayne grabbed Bill’s hand again. “No, ’s okay: we’re meetin’ somebody.” He looked around the restaurant and then pointed. “This way, Bill”.
He led Bill towards a small table near the glass wall, where a graceful, asian teenager - a young man, rather, Bill corrected himself, recalling Jay’s dislike of the term - was sitting with a slim, silver laptop in front of him, a cooling glass of lemon tea centered on a crisp white napkin at his elbow. He looked the right age to be a student, like Jay, but a little older: perhaps just reaching his twenties. His shining black hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail, and dark jewelry gleamed at his ears and slender wrist.
Bill knew he wasn’t good with clothes, but there was something about the way this guy wore the rough-woven creamy white shirt, with the collar up in back and the sleeves half rolled, half pushed up his sinewey forearms which reminded him of the way Mary used to dress. She didn’t dress flash or showy, but when she wore loose clothing like this, he’d learned it only looked casual; she’d spend forever getting the folds arranged just so. The boy’s entire outfit had that sort of subtly arranged look: the shirt unbuttoned all down the front, its texture and color emphasizing the smooth, rich honey color of his skin, the tight v-necked black undershirt beneath molding to a lean, toned body without an ounce of fat. He couldn’t see below table level but he’d bet money this guy wasn’t wearing any old jeans but neat, tailored black pants. He felt himself warming to the guy, this boy-man who’d put so much work into looking good, knowing this was such a big day for Shayne.
The pretty guy wasn’t working at his laptop so far as Bill could see, just sitting, one hand descended on the keyboard, his tobacco brown gaze directed at the window, yet inward and distant, a small, silken crease showing beside nicely shaped lips drawn narrow with unhappy thoughts. His lean face was lovely, even in its melancholy, and familiar too: Bill was certain he’d seen this boy somewhere before.
“Hey, Lee!” Shayne said. “You forgot we was comin’”?
Bill saw Lee’s gaze jerk back from infinity.
“Of course not.” Lee smiled, sealing his thoughts away from them, his expression kind, and Bill mentally upped his assessment from “pretty” to “startlingly beautiful.” There was a word for guys like this now, wasn’t there? To do with fashion and the Metro-something. Classy, anyway.
“Have you two been having fun?” Lee smiled to include them both, but was watching Shayne.
“Yeah! We been in the pools, and I been on a whole lotta wet slides an’ stuff! Bill, this here’s Lee, what works at Freddie Mac Bee’s? An’ Lee, this is my uncle Bill”.
For a moment, Shayne flashed him an anxious look, and it was all Bill could do not to drop his jaw as he recognized the server he’d flirted with. “Yeah sure,” he said as Lee rose to shake his hand. “It sure is nice to meet you. Thanks again for that cardboard crown. It’s those little bits of kindness which make the nice guys stand out from the rest,” he said, offering his hand in turn.
Lee’s smile warmed. “You’re welcome,” he said, a blush creeping up along his cheekbones. Slender and boyish as he looked, the grip of Lee’s lean, elegant hand was surprisingly strong. The guy was pretty as a picture and a real swish, but he shook hands like he meant it.
“Wow, do you train?” Bill said.
“Sorry.” Lee winced, looking guilty. “Not presently. I need to cool it for a while”.
Fuck, Bill thought. Foot-in-mouth syndrome strikes again. “Sorry. An injury”?
Lee nodded. “My partner,” he said, looking down at the tabletop. “I lost my focus and hurt her badly.”
“Her?” Bill said, surprised.
“His trainin’ partner,” Shayne said quickly, not”-
“Shayne.” Lee looked directly at Shayne, and it seemed to Bill that he even shook his head slightly. “I told you, that’s private”.
“Not boyfriend, that’s all I was gonna say.” Shayne pouted. “I know you said: I recall about Harmony an’ not sayin’.”
Lee managed a smile. “I know, I’m just jumpy. I’m really bringing you guys down, sorry. Would you like a coffee”?
Bill hesitated. Lee caught his eye. “Don’t worry,” he said. “This part’s on me. Shayne and I did a deal”.
“I ain’t told him nothin’ about that,” Shayne said, flashing Lee a grateful look that melted into guilt. “You two talk an’ I’ll go get ’em, okay?” Shayne said. “What d’you-all want?”
Lee passed him a folded banknote and chose another lemon tea, while Bill opted for plain black coffee.
As Shane headed to the counter, Lee leaned closer. “Sorry I can’t offer you cakes and the like,” he said quietly. “I’m guessing you must be starving.” He glanced aside at Shayne, the affection in his glance making his face still more beautiful. “Lunch won’t be long now”.
Bill massaged his stomach. “Uh, not to push, or nothing; but how long”?
Lee closed his eyes a moment, and then forced a smile. “Long enough for me to apologize, I hope.”