Love in the Garden of Deceit. This
story may contain scenes of sexual activity among males and between
members of different generations. If you find this offensive or if you
believe it may be illegal for you to read this in your jurisdiction,
please do not do so.
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Love in the Garden of Deceit
Mr. Roberts, in charge of Sixth Hour English, was another younger teacher with dark blond, almost brown, hair, cut short and combed over, much like Christian’s. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and a cardigan over his shirt and tie. He looked like an English teacher.
“Well, this should be a class I don’t need extra help in,” Jamie said as they entered the room, his first words since leaving their lockers. “ Mr. O’Leary offered to give me some tutoring if I need it to catch up in American History.”
This did not make Christian any more relaxed, but he hid his concern as Jamie added, “Of course, the early history of the US is similar to Canada’s so maybe I don’t need that much help.”
Mr. Roberts smiled warmly at them from behind his desk.
“How are you today, Christian?”
The boy attempted a smile and gave a thumbs up. Mr. Roberts grinned.
“Groovy” he replied with an exaggerated voice. “And, who are you?” he asked as Jamie approached. He replied and the two began the formalities of entering Jamie in the class. The procedure didn’t take as long as it did with Mr. O’Leary and Jamie was in his new desk in the back just as the bell rang to begin the final hour of the day.
After Mr. Roberts called the roll, with Jamie’s name at the end, he looked up at the class with a broad smile and asked, “So, who would like to venture a guess at the message Dickens was trying to convey in Great Expectations?
Christian raised his hand, something he almost never did in any other class. Mr. Roberts, said encouragingly, “Well, Christian, what do you think?”
“I th-th-think he is us…ing P-p-pip to sh-sh-show how… easy it… is t-t-to b-b-be a ssssnob. P-p-pip th-th-thinks th-th-that the out…ssssside is wh-wh-what’’s immmport-t-tant, -b-b-but whhhhat’s insssside issss mmmmore im…”
He was unable to finish as giggles had started at the side of the class as Craig Stinson quietly mimicked, with a grin, “P-p-p-pip.”
“Excuse me, Christian. Craig, would you stand?”
Craig gave an obnoxious grin to his cohorts and stood.
“Yes, Mr. Roberts?” he replied unctuously.
The teacher’s eyes narrowed and he took a breath before speaking.
“I have kept quiet since the beginning of the school year on this matter, hoping that perhaps the common sense and natural goodwill of our students would prevail. Apparently, I was wrong. Craig, stuttering is not a sign of mental retardation any more than your cruelty and ill-mannered behavior is something you can’t help. You can and you will in my class. I’ll have you know that Christian is the best student I have in any of my classes. His papers are the best written, the most literate, and represent the clearest thinking of any student I have this year. And, if I see, hear, or learn in any way that you or anyone else in this class have been mocking or ridiculing him in any way for his stuttering, the punishment will be swift and merciless. I will not hesitate to send you to the dean, nor will I hesitate to have you removed permanently from my class.
“The pussy can’t take a little teasing? What’s the matter, Mr. Roberts? You got a hard-on for him?”
The collective breath of the class seemed to leave the room. Everyone’s eyes grew wide at the brazen example of insubordination. Mr. Robert’s face remained passive, though it grew red and his hands clutched the edges of the lectern so tightly, they were turning white. Craig stood smiling insolently at the teacher for several seconds, their eyes locked on each other, until Mr. Roberts slowly released the lectern, walked carefully to his desk, and began to write on a pad of pink paper. He tore the paper from the pad and Craig didn’t even have to be told what to do. He was already swaggering up to the front of the class. He whipped the pink slip from the teacher’s hand, grinned triumphantly at the class, and sneered, “Thanks, Teach,” as he strode toward the door.
“You won’t be so cocky when you’re kicked off the football team,” Mr. Roberts said quietly.
Craig turned around at the door and said, “Won’t ever happen,” before disappearing into the hallway.
All this time, Christian had sat trembling in his desk, his head down, his eyes tightly shut. Mr. Roberts saw the boy’s distress and realized his mistake. With a sigh and a quiet voice, he looked at a girl in the center of the room and asked, “Veronica, what purpose does Mrs. Havesham serve in the story?”
When the bell rang, Christian couldn’t remember anything that had transpired in the class after Craig had been sent to the office. He knew that it had continued and that the others had discussed Great Expectations, but that was all. As the students quickly escaped the room to begin their weekend of freedom, Christian slowly stood and picked up his notebook and his copy of the novel. He was afraid to look at Mr. Roberts for fear that he might burst into tears, but as he walked past the lectern, the teacher softly said, “Christian, are you all right?”
The boy stopped and looked up at his teacher. Their eyes met and it seemed the man was trying to give him some message with his eyes. Christian had a sudden need to run up to Mr. Roberts and throw his arms around him, a need to feel the man’s arms hold him and comfort him. They looked at each other for several seconds until Mr. Roberts turned away and, sighing deeply, said, “Have a good evening, Christian. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Christian nodded and looked down as he trudged out of the class. Jamie was waiting as he emerged into the hallway. He put his arm around Christian’s shoulder and pulled him aside as hordes of adolescents stormed through the hallway in search of an exit.
“Hey, it’ll be OK. That Craig guy is really a jerk, eh? Well, don’t worry. Mr. Roberts knows you’re the smartest guy in his class. He said so, though he probably shouldn’t have. It makes you look like a keener. But, it doesn’t matter what the jerks think. Come on. We’ll go to the Art Center and the class. OK?”
Christian couldn’t respond for fear that he would be unable to articulate anything. His right hand automatically rose and he ran his fingers through his hair as his head shook slightly. He averted his eyes. Jamie was undeterred.
“Hey,” he said gently lifting Christian’s chin with his right fist. “Look here. That’s better. Come on. Smile. There. Let’s go. You’ve been looking forward to the class. It’ll be great.”
Christian smiled wanly and nodded. Jamie grinned, the strangeness of Fifth Hour English seemingly forgotten, and the two joined the exodus. Christian led the way to the Orchestra room to retrieve his clarinet and music, and then Jamie followed him down to their lockers, where they gathered the material they would need for that night’s homework. Christian was actually becoming comfortable again and when Jamie slammed his locker shut and joined him at his, he looked up and said, simply, “Thanks.”
Jamie simply smiled and led the way himself, this time, toward the front of the school.
Jamie was saying something about the class at the Art Center as they negotiated the crowded hallways, but Christian wasn’t listening. His mind was a blur. Jamie and Mr. O’Leary had obviously been flirting with each other. That was gross. But, that meant that Jamie was gay, which wasn’t gross, that maybe, possibly… But, Jamie and a teacher! And, then, there was the humiliation in English of Craig mocking his stutter and Mr. Roberts doing exactly the wrong thing and coming to his defense so strongly. Everyone would know he was the teacher’s pet, now, in English. It was bound to make things even worse.
He needed to escape to the Gardens, but maybe the “Express Yourself” class wasn’t what he needed. What he wanted was to sit, alone, in one of the arbors, isolated from the rest of the world, gazing at the flowers, watching the koi in the great pond, freeing himself of the stress of his life before going home and facing the hostility of his mother and the apathy of his father.
Once again, Christian was not on guard and as they passed through the lobby, Jamie’s patter ended suddenly. Christian found himself thrown against the trophy case and others in the hall slowed down, hoping for a good show.
Craig Stinson was holding Christian by his collar and his face was just two inches away.
“You’re dead meat, pussy. Holgren just reamed my ass good. I won’t get kicked off the team, but I am going to make sure you’re life is hell for the rest of the year. I am going to… “
Suddenly Craig flew backward and then was spun around and thrown against the trophy case himself. Christian’s eyes opened in pure shock as he saw Jamie holding Craig against the glass just as Craig had, seconds earlier, held Christian. His face just inches from Craig’s, he spoke in a soft but thoroughly menacing voice that shocked Christian, “Listen, hoser. You leave him alone. Got it? I have friends you can’t even guess about and if anything happens to him, they will cut your cock off and shove it down your throat. Got it?”
Craig looked at Jamie as if the boy were insane, until his face suddenly collapsed in agony. Jamie had shoved his knee sharply up into Craig’s crotch and the quarterback of the Whitman Wildcats collapsed onto the floor in the middle of the lobby in front of dozens of witnesses, doubled over and fighting not to retch.
Jamie grabbed Christian’s arm and pulled him away, saying firmly, “Let’s go.”
He pulled the stunned and speechless boy down the hallway until they reached the east side entrance. They plowed through the gaggle of gossiping girls on the steps, all unaware of what had just transpired inside, and didn’t stop until they reached their bikes.
“Come on,” Jamie said in an uncharacteristically commanding voice. “Put your stuff in your baskets and let’s go.”
On autopilot, Christian deposited his things in the baskets, unlocked his bike and pulled it out of the rack just as Jamie withdrew his. Together, they pulled out onto the sidewalk, jumped the curb, and pedaled away from the school. It wasn’t until they had reached Brentwood and turned the corner to the south that Jamie finally pulled over and looked at Christian as he stopped beside him and rested his foot on the curb.
Christian fought to speak. Jamie could see he was struggling and reached over. He took Christian’s hand and held it, smiling at him. The boy immediately began to relax.
“Whhhat j-j-just hap…pened?”
“I just made sure that nobody’s going to fuck with you anymore.”
Christian shook his head in wonder.
“Are yyyou c-c-crazzzy? Thhhey’ll k-k-killlll me nnnow!”
Jamie shook his head.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got it covered.”
“How?” Christian asked as if Jamie were delusional.
“Like I said. I know people. I’ll take care of Craig or anyone else who hurts you. You’re my friend. I take care of my friends.”
Christian shook his head, unable to comprehend what Jamie was saying.
“Don’t ask,” Jamie interrupted. “Don’t ever ask me. OK? Just relax. It’s all taken care of. Hey, do you have a yearbook with Craig’s picture in it?”
Christian was still dazed, but he managed to reply, “Yyyes. Lllast year’s.”
“Good. We’ll stop by your place on the way to Art Center and when you drop off your stuff, we’ll pick it up. I need it for a bit.”
Christian’s brain was still scrambled, but he looked at Jamie and said, “I… don’t get it.”
“Get what?” Jamie asked softly.
“You’re ssso d-d-different. I mmmean, yesssterday and thhhis mmmorning, you were ssso… shy and q-q-quiet and… sweet.”
He blushed furiously after the last word, and Jamie’s sweet smile grew. Christian forced himself to continue.
“Thhhen, in Hissstory, you wwwere so… d-d-different with Mmmr. O’Llleary.”
Jamie’s face clouded.
“What do you mean? I wasn’t different.”
Christian frowned and shook his head. He paused, then decided not to pursue that point.
“And, thhhen, you t-t-turn innnto J-j-john Wwwayne with C-c-craig. You’re lllike three d-d-different p-p-people.”
Jamie looked down at the asphalt beneath his feet. He was silent, his face a blank, until he finally looked up.
“I like you, Christian. You’re like… real and… good and… innocent. I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Just, that, I’ve only known you since last night, but I feel like if I know you, I’m a better person. I’m not like… “
He stopped and looked away. Christian watched him and realized there was some struggle going on inside the boy before him. He waited and as some seventh graders on bikes sped past them, he decided that it was his turn, now, to be strong.
“C-c-come on. Lllet’s go. I d-d-don’t wwwant to b-b-be lllate.”
Jamie looked him and smiled.
“Yeah,” he softly replied.
They rode in silence to Christian’s house and Jamie waited outside in the carport as his friend took his schoolbooks inside. In a moment, he emerged from the backdoor carrying his seventh grade yearbook and carefully closed the gate. He paused at his bike for a moment with a dark expression on his face before looking up at his friend and smiling. He handed the book to Jamie, who placed it in the basket with his other books.
“Well, lllet’s leave all this crap behind and g-g-go to the Gardens.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jamie replied as Christian mounted his bike and swung out into the street. He quickly followed and the two rode in comfortable silence through the neighborhood.
As they came upon the Christiansen’s faux-Frank house, Jamie pulled into the driveway and yelled back, “We can leave our bikes here and go in the back way. There’s a gate from our backyard into the Gardens.”
“C-c-cool! How cool that you can g-g-go to the Gardens any…t-t-time. It’s like they’re your backyard!”
“Yeah. Maybe we can go walking around some night at midnight! Wouldn’t that be cool?”
Christian answered with a grin of his own as the two bikes pulled up to a privacy fence at the back of the side yard. Jamie opened a gate and they rode into the backyard. Christian’s eyes grew wide. There was a long rectangular koi pond in the center with flat, square planters full of impatiens in two rows on either side of the pond leading away from the house. A large picture window looked out on the yard from the house and a door with bronze arrows pointing upward led inside from the patio.
Jamie dropped his bike carelessly on the patio after removing his books from the baskets. Christian lowered the kickstand on his and parked it beside the house. He held Jamie’s books for him as the boy unlocked the house and then followed him in.
The kitchen didn’t look much different from most modern kitchens, though Jamie remembered from the paper he had written that the design was copied from a house Wright had created before the First World War. They walked through a dining room in which he saw a table and chairs that complimented the style of the house, and into a large room with the picture window he had seen. Once again, the furniture style matched that of the house, with strange vertical lines and sharp angles. Jamie threw his books down on a couch and turned to Christian with a big grin as he saw the look of wonder on his friend’s face.
“Like it?” he asked.
“Thhhis is ssso nnneat. I can’t b-b-believe it. It lllooks just lllike his early wwwork.”
Jamie started back for the dining room and kitchen. Christian followed him as he said, “Yeah, it is pretty cool. But, it’ll get old pretty fast, I’ll bet. It’s too much like living in a museum. But, Dad has to entertain and so I guess the rich people and the intellectuals and all will be impressed. My bedroom isn’t anything like this.”
As he opened the back door, he looked at Christian behind him and said softly, “I’ll show you my room later. I think you’ll like it.”
Christian felt a thrill at the thought of being alone with Jamie in his bedroom, but he suppressed the thought as he didn’t have a notebook to hide behind.
They walked across the yard to a break in the redwood privacy fence that was filled with a wrought iron gate leading out to the back of the Westport Gardens. Jamie unlocked it and Christian followed him along a winding walkway through a number of large hydrangeas and crepe myrtles until they came to a footbridge across Falcon Creek. On the other side, in a long vista up the gentle hill toward The House, was the round imitation-Christopher Wren gazebo, tall, round, supported with wooden Ionic columns and topped with a green copper cupola. The gazebo was atop stone steps that were covered with ancient ivy. Beyond was a natural-looking koi pond leading to a narrow formal garden extending up to the east portico of The House.
There were several teenagers gathered around the gazebo as they approached. Jamie smiled at one, a boy of about fifteen or sixteen seated on one of the steps. Christian was surprised by the guy’s shoulder-length hair, something one normally saw only at the University, almost never among high school kids. It was a dark blond, almost brown, but was sun-bleached in streaks throughout. His eyebrows were a darker color and almost met in the center, but not quite. His high cheekbones lent an almost feminine quality to his face, but his dark, tight jeans and his lighter denim shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and his work boots looked very masculine, especially the way his arm rested on his knee.
“Is this the class?”
The “hippy” guy gave Jamie a slow look up and down and then smiled with laughing, brown eyes.
“Yeah, this is it.”
“Cool. I’m Jamie, this is Christian.”
Hippy nodded and replied, “Stevie.”
He turned to a guy behind him, seated on one of the stone benched inside the gazebo, whom Christian immediately recognized from school as Scott Warren, a ninth grader who played baseball, a jock, but nonetheless a nice guy who never gave any of the younger, smaller guys any grief. His blue eyes looked out from a mass of dark blond curls protruding from underneath a navy blue ball cap. His tall, slender frame was enclosed by a yellow pullover, dark jeans, and Converse hightops. He stopped chewing his gum long enough to nod and smile to Christian as Stevie introduced him. Beside him was another guy from Whitman, a seventh grader named Jared Something, a quiet boy whom Christian seldom saw around the school except during lunch and after classes. His red hair was so darkit was almost black and was cut in almost a bowl shape. His face, adorned with a few large freckles, was watchful and slender. He was skinny and tall and seemed quite nervous.
“Hey, Jared,” said Christian with a friendly tone. The boy jumped as if reprimanded.
“Oh, um, hi.”
Opposite their bench sat two rather snobby looking girls who seemed to be doing their best to avoid eye contact with any of the males. Jamie and Christian both looked at them and then at each other. Together they raised an eyebrow and chuckled.
Christian looked beyond the gazebo to the south and saw a kid approaching from the small cottage in the southeast corner of the grounds across the creek. He assumed he must be one of the groundskeepers, but something about the boy held his attention. As he approached, he could see shaggy brown hair parted in the middle and hanging down over his ears, dirty jeans, and a dark Jethro Tull concert shirt.
As he reached the gazebo, he jammed his hands into the pockets of his jeans and rested his right foot on one of the steps, striking a defiant pose and warily checking out the others. He said nothing, though Christian saw he seemed to look long at both Stevie and Scott before turning away and watching two figures approaching from The House.
One was obviously a Negro, which surprised Christian. The courts had just ordered the Westport schools to abandon their neighborhood districts and desegregate. Christian had never gone to school or had a class of any kind with a Negro. He watched as the teenager approached. He seemed rather nervous. He looked to be maybe fifteen or sixteen, with thick shiny curls in his hair, much larger curls that one would expect on a Negro. He also didn’t have the nose Christian would have expected. It appeared to be shaped as Christian considered “normal.” And, his eyes were… blue?
He was wearing a white, long-sleeved dress shirt and navy slacks. He hesitated as he approached the gazebo. Stevie immediately gave him a welcoming smile and patted the step next to him.
“Hey! Have a seat!”
The Negro smiled nervously and sat beside him.
The other person who accompanied him down from the Art Center was a little taller than most of the guys in the group, but didn’t seem much older. He had thick, jet-black hair, sweeping across his forehead and over his ears past his collar. He wore a white tee-shirt with a tan leather vest, blue jeans, and work boots similar to Stevie’s. His eyes were a sharp blue and scanned the group as he approached.
“Well, it looks like we’re all here. Hey, everybody. My name is Ben and I’m your facilitator for ‘Express Yourself.’ Anybody have any idea what a facilitator does?”
Scott grinned from under his cap and shaggy hair.
“Very good, smart-alleck. I facilitate. In other words, I’m not a teacher. A teacher teaches. In this class, I don’t teach. You do. I am simply here to guide you as you teach yourselves and each other. I am here to help you find the genius that is buried in each of you and to bring him or her out into the open so that you can flourish in your creativity.”
He looked around with a huge, enthusiastic smile. The rich girls seemed bored while Jethro Tull was looking on skeptically from the side.
“All right then. You already think I’m a geek. That’s OK. In this class, no one gets embarrassed. In this class, you are free to do anything that comes to your mind to express yourself. And, nobody laughs at anyone else’s efforts. We’re all here to learn and to grow. So, we’ll start off by telling something about ourselves.”
The snobs rolled their eyes. Jethro looked to the side as if contemplating escape routes. The rest of the guys seemed interested, though Christian was trying to figure a way not to be first.
“I’ll go first. I’m Ben Simpson and I’m a grad student at the University. I have a Master of Liberal Arts degree and I’m writing a doctoral thesis on young people and creativity. I love Bugs Bunny, The Doors, and Edgar Allen Poe. “
The snobs were not impressed. Ben simply smiled, undeterred and looked around at the class expectantly.
“Well, Stevie, why don’t you tell us what makes you unique and why you want to take this class?”
Stevie inclined his head for a moment and then replied, “Well, I’m a rebel and I don’t conform to convention. I’m sixteen and a junior at Lincoln and I’m starting a band with some friends and I want to learn some ways to be more creative.”
Ben smiled approvingly and nodded.
“Excellent! Excellent! I’m impressed. What kind of music does your band play?”
Stevie grinned and looked around.
“Well, it’s hard to describe. It’s kind of like Pink Floyd or Yes or Genesis, but it’s also sort of like jazz and, I don’t know. It’s really different.”
“Cool. I like different!”
He looked at the Negro and said, “Calvin, what’s your story?”
Calvin seemed shy and looked nervously down at his feet for a moment.
“Well, I go to Washington. I’m a sophomore and my mother teaches at the University. Political Science. And, she thought this would be a good way for me to learn how to… be… more… creative and learn how to express myself better.”
“Well, all right. Very good reasons. I hope we can help you! So, now, how about one of the girls.”
The girl on the left of the second bench, a brunette in a perfect blue plaid shirt with a perfect white blouse, closed her eyes and shook her hair out of her face. With perfect diction, she replied, “I’m Heather Turner and I’m a freshman at Stratford Hall and I am taking this course to further my education in art.”
Jamie looked at Christian and raised an exaggeratedly impressed eyebrow. Christian grinned. Behind the girls, Jethro Tull rolled his eyes and looked away with a bored sigh.
“OK,” Ben responded. “Well, we will certainly be studying art, among other things. We will be looking at the whole spectrum of artistic media, from art to dance to theatre to, perhaps, forms of expression that you, yourselves, will create. Thank you. How about you?”
Ben spoke to the second girl, a blonde wearing the same uniform as the first girl.
“I’m Heather Wallace and I’m also a freshman at Stratford and I’m taking this to further my art education, but I don’t think that this will be what I am looking for.”
She looked about as if finding herself in the midst of a group of undesirables, untouchables, unmentionables. Ben simply smiled at her and waited a moment before saying, “Well, I hope you might still get something out of it.”
Stevie looked at Jamie and grinned. Jamie stifled a chuckle as Ben pointed to Jared, who looked distinctly uncomfortable. He opened his eyes wide in a comic fashion and declared, “Jared Campbell of Whitman Junior High! You must speak!”
The others, with the exception of Jethro and the Heathers, chuckled and grinned. Jared nervously smiled.
“Well, I guess… um, it’s hard for me to express myself. I want to be a lawyer and… um, I need to find ways to express myself… and, to think in different ways… and my dad thought this was a great way to learn how.”
“Well, we will certainly help you with that! You’ve come to the right place! Scott, what do you have to say for yourself?”
Scott grinned and replied, “Well, Dad says I’m a dumb jock and I need to expose myself to new things. “
“Well, I don’t know if we want you to expose yourself,” everyone laughed except, once again, Jethro and the Heathers, before Ben continued, “but you will certainly learn a lot of new things. I think you’ll like this class.”
Scott smiled and nodded. Ben looked over to Jethro standing behind the Heathers and leaning against one of the pillars as he stared off toward some trees to the side. Be waved at him.
“Hello, there! Welcome to the class! Want to tell us a little about yourself?”
“Well, that’s cool. Silence is a form of expression, too. I guess, you’re Cody. Right?”
The boy nodded.
“My dad’s the head groundskeeper here. I work here, too. Dad wants me to learn something. I think it’s a waste.”
Ben shrugged and nodded.
“You know, you and your dad do an amazing job around here and landscaping is a terrific way of expressing yourself. You probably already know a lot about creativity. Maybe you could help us.”
Cody shrugged and replied, “K.”
Ben nodded with satisfaction and turned to Jamie.
“You, Dutch boy. You’re supposed to be sticking your finger in the dike, aren’t you?”
Jamie grinned as some of the others chuckled.
“Actually, I’m Canadian, but my Dad’s ancestors came from Norway. So that’s why I have such blond hair.”
Ben nodded and smiled. Jamie continued.
“I’m Jamie and, no, it’s not a girl’s name, and my dad’s the new Director of the Art Center and I’m taking it because he thought it would be a good way for me to learn creativity and to meet other people since I just moved here from Toronto.”
“Cool,” Stevie said as Ben nodded.
“OK. The Boss’s son. Well, I’ll have to ride your butt harder than anyone else’s, then, won’t I?”
Jamie raised a suggestive eyebrow, to which Ben narrowed his eyes.
“Hmm. Yes. Well… so now we come to the boy on the left who has been praying for ten minutes that I would forget to call on him.”
There were more appreciative and supportive chuckles and Jamie grinned at Christian.
“Wwwell, I’mmm C-C-Christian and I lllove art and the G-g-gardens. I lllove the G-g-gardens. Thhhis is my fffavorite p-p-place in t-t-town to g-g-go and I wwwant to lllearn c-c-creat-t-tivit-t-ty and how t-t-t ex…press myself.”
Ben gave him warm smile and a nod.
“Finally, someone who isn’t here because of their parents.”
“Christian, I think that’s great. I’m going to do everything I can to help you find that genius inside you. And,” he declared holding his arms out to the entire class, “We will begin right now. Nobody gets embarrassed. Everyone be open to new ideas. Stevie, I want you to be a chicken. I want you to walk around here and be a chicken.”
Stevie grinned and stood. He put his hands inside his armpits and started squawking and strutting like a chicken. Everyone except the Heathers chuckled. Cody even fought a grin.
“Great,” Ben declared. “Now, Scott, you are a dog.”
Immediately, Scott fell to his knees and started panting and sniffing Heather Turner’s dress, much to her disgust and everyone else’s delight.
“Calvin! You’re an elephant!” and Calvin immediately extended his arm from his face like an elephant’s trunk and began to make trumpeting noises.
“Jared, you’re a ferocious grizzly bear!”
Jared smiled and then stood up, growled and held his hands even with his shoulders as if he were ready to attack.
“Heather Turner,” Ben began. However, both Heathers stood and, without another word, left he gazebo and walked away. As Stevie strutted in front of him, clucking at the retreating girls, and Jared growled at them, Ben grinned and said, once they were out of view, “Heathers, you’re boring.”
Even Cody joined Christian and Jamie in their laughter.
“Cody, why don’t you try out being a pig.”
Cody rolled his eyes, but he didn’t hesitate to get down on all fours and start grunting as he crawled around the gazebo.
“Jamie, you’re a snake,” Ben declared with a wink. Immediately, Jamie began to hiss and flick his tongue out. Christian noticed how Jamie was showing off his tongue for Ben and, also, how Ben seemed to be watching. With a shock, (and a thrill), he saw how Ben’s crotch seemed to become more defined as the blond boy pretended to slither around the gazebo.
Finally, Ben’s eyes landed on Christian and, for a second, the met the boy’s. He was silent and then smiled warmly.
“Christian, I think you should be an eagle,” he said with a dreamy sort of voice. He gave Christian an encouraging smile and the boy nodded. He held his arms out and began to swoop around the gazebo as Stevie strutted and cackled, Calvin trumpeted and waved his trunk, Cody grunted, Scott barked and sniffed Jared’s butt, and Jared growled and stumbled about.
After a moment of watching the spectacle with a huge smile, Ben declared, “OK, guys. That’s enough. Guys. Whoa, guys!”
It took a moment, but finally everyone broke out of character and returned to the reality of being teenage boys in a garden. Everyone was grinning and chuckling.
“So, there. Nobody feels like an idiot, do they? Cody, you feel stupid?”
“Yeah, but I’m used to it.”
“Cool. Glad it wasn’t a stretch for you. Guys… wow, an all guys class. This might make it a little easier and a little more fun… Guys, this was a silly and fun way to break down the walls and let you all see that, in this class, you have nothing to be embarrassed about because we are all experimenting and trying new things and checking out new ways of… expressing ourselves. Over the next few weeks, we’ll have a performance artist come out, a ballet dancer, a sculptor, an actor, all sorts of people to help us find ways to express ourselves. And, you’ll have a project at the end of the class and we’ll present them before an audience.”
Up until that last pronouncement, Christian was fine, even excited. But, he looked at Ben in horror at the thought of standing before an audience. Ben saw it and winked.
“Don’t worry, Christian. You will find the perfect way to express yourself. You’ll be great. Don’t worry.”
Christian blushed and looked downward as Jamie reached over and patted his shoulder. He looked up and saw Cody had joined the group, taking the bench formally occupied by the Heathers. He nodded at Christian.
“So, be here Thursday and we’ll start!”
The boys crowded around Ben and asked all manner of questions for nearly twenty minutes, until the facilitator finally waved and broke away.
“Thursday! Same bat-time. Same bat-channel!”
Jamie and Christian started walking back toward Jamie’s yard when Stevie called out, “Hey!”
They turned and saw him watching them, his long hair tossed slightly by a cool, late afternoon breeze. He was smiling and he raised a hand.
“See ya, Thursday.”
Jamie and Stevie’s eyes met for a moment, and then Jamie replied, “See you!” Christian smiled and waved, his mind a whirl. He saw Cody walking away toward the small cottage across the creek from the gazebo and the others strolling up the walk toward the Art Center.
“Thhhis is going to be fffun,” Christian said as Jamie unlocked the gate.
“Yeah. So you want to come in for awhile?” Jamie asked tentatively.
Christian hesitated. He wanted to, desperately. Yet, something stopped him. Was he crazy? He was scared and nervous and he needed to think.
“I’d b-b-better g-g-get home for d-d-dinner.”
Jamie looked truly disappointed. His eyes fell to the thick grass as they walked across the yard toward the patio.
“Oh,” was his only reply.
Christian picked up his bike, raised the kickstand, and looked at Jamie’s confused face.
“Thhhank you for taking up for me at school. And, thank you for getting me into the class. And…”
He paused, afraid of a Mr. Rogers moment.
“… thank you for b-b-being my fffriend.”
Jamie smiled sadly.
“Yeah. Tomorrow morning?” he asked hopefully.
Christian nodded and, with a grin, added, “Same bat-time, same bat-channel.”
He mounted his bike and, as Jamie opened the gate, waved and rode off.
That night, at his desk, it took much longer than usual for him to do his homework as his mind kept drifting to the various events of the day, the many ways Jamie and he had forged their friendship, Trent’s approaching Jamie and Jamie’s rejection, Jamie’s and Mr. O’Leary’s flagrant flirting with each other, Jamie attacking and warning Craig Stinson, Ben’s seeming flirtation. So much had happened and Christian couldn’t absorb it all. When he finally made it to bed, he lay atop the sheets, rigid and confused.
He had never seen anyone whom he knew was gay, though he had seen several boys and men in his life whom he suspected. However, in just a few hours that day, he had seen Jamie exchanging flirtations with a teacher and the facilitator of the class at The Gardens flirting with him. Jamie seemed to like him, yet he was flirting with a teacher, another person, an adult! And, the adult was flirting back. And, another was flirting with him! He had seldom thought of adult men in a sexual way before, though Jamie’s dad was certainly handsome.
Suddenly, he felt flushed and a sense of excitement burst through his body. Images of Jamie popped into his head, Jamie naked, Jamie naked with Christian, Jamie naked with Mr. O’Leary, Ben naked, Ben naked with Christian. It was all too much.
Christian grasped the erection that was poking through the fly of his pajamas and began desperately to stroke himself. For a wild, frantic, lustful moment, visions of Jamie, Mr. O’Leary, and Ben all seemed to meld into one sensation of horniness, finally resulting in the mind-blowing, body-wracking explosion that left the boy stunned and gasping for breath. He wiped himself off and sighed as he closed his eyes.
Same bat-time. Same bat-channel.