Eventually we found Mitchell's Sports, which was only about a 5 minute walk from Nathaniel Square if you walked really quickly. We went inside and spent a few moments admiring the equipment lining the aisles. "I love these shoulder pads," Julian said vaguely. He looked like he was daydreaming looking at the pair of Schutt Junior Varsity pads.
"They're really somethin'," I remarked. "Throw 'em on and see how they fit," I said to the boy whose face lit up like a Christmas tree.
"You really mean it?" He asked in disbelief. "They cost like two-hundred bucks!"
"Yeah lets see how you look in them," I said. "Put one of the McDavid collars on it too."
"Can I help you?" Asked a young salesman.
"Yeah just picking out some equipment here," I said plainly.
"Those pads are pretty expensive," the salesman said. "With a cowboy collar you'll be spending over twp-hundred dollars."
"And?" I asked with a tone that showed my impatience. This was a kid telling me about football equipment. I had coached back in Ohio for 5 years as well as playing youth, high school, and university football. The salesman looked like he'd been slapped in the face so I spoke again to cool things down. "I'm not worried about prices.. John," I said reading his nametag. Julian now had on his shoulder pads with the cowboy collar and looked stunning to put it mildly. At least he would look stunning when he had a jersey on over the top. "How do you like them?" I asked him smiling now at the beautiful boy before me.
"They're great!" Julian exclaimed excitedly.
"Okay then. We'll take the shoulder pads, and he'll also be needing a pair of good knee and thigh pads, and a cup." I said as I helped Julian get the pads off over his head.
"What size cup will he need?" The salesman asked.
"Probably a youth large," I said winking at Julian who managed to stifle his giggles until the salesman had left.
"Hehe don't do that you bum!" Julian giggled punching me in the stomach playfully.
"Don't do what?" I said trying to look and sound innocent grabbing his hand and spinning him around into a fake sleeper hold. Julian pretended to elbow me until I let go and we grabbed his stuff and wandered up to the front of the store and waited for John to come back with our stuff. Everything rang through and was totaled up. I tossed it on my MasterCard and we hopped back in the truck.
"Thanks Mike, for everything," Julian said as he grabbed hold of my hand before I started the engine.
"Don't mention it kiddo," I said happily.
"I gotta though," he said squeezing my hand tighter. "You've been so nice to me for like no reason at all. It means a lot to me."
"You've given me your friendship Jul. That's as much as I could ever ask for from you!" I looked into his eyes and began to lean forward subconsciously. We got closer and closer until our faces were almost touching then we both seemed to remember we were in public at the same time and shifted to the side and gave one another a hug. Julian held me tight enough that I almost found it hard to breath.
"I love you Mike," he whispered.
"I love you too Julian," I said back with my own whisper.
We pulled apart almost reluctantly. All of a sudden my heart was aching with love for this boy. My mind was screaming for control but pulling away from Julian actually hurt me. I wanted to stay in his arms forever. I started up the engine after a releasing a deep sigh. I threw the truck into gear and we pulled off and headed back to Julian's. I stopped at a drug-store on the way and picked up some Gillette clear gel, and a new razor for myself, and another for Julian. It had a little "dummy blade" on it - one with no razor blades just the plastic, and I figured Julian could practice with that until he had a little more hair to shave and went back to the truck. Then I made a quick stop at my place to pick up some clean clothes. As I walked out I had an idea. Julian had told me a couple days before, that his mother wished she could get out more to do things like go to the opera, and theater but didn't usually have the chance since she hadn't had anyone to go with. His mother was attractive enough to find a partner, but not many wanted to deal with Julian who was - from what I understood - fiercely overprotective. He believed (and rightly so) that his mom deserved the best and didn't like many of the men she'd introduced him to before.
We planned it all out on the way back to his house. In the afternoon we'd go to the mall and get ourselves sized for a pair of suits, and would take his mom to the theater to see some show. Neither of us knew what was playing for although I was pretty refined as far as most people were concerned, at 26 years of age I was not all too interested in theater. To me, that was for older married people. Either way we'd find out and then we'd surprise her one night after work and pick her up in a limo with a nice dress for her to wear and take her to the show.. whatever we decided on between the two of us. After we were measured for our suits we'd go go-carting for an hour or so, then we'd head back to Julian's house and hang out in the basement which was also what we intended to do until after lunch.
"This is gonna be so cool," Julian said happily.
"The theater?" I asked.
"No like everything!" He said cheerfully. "I dreamt I'd meet.. well.. someone on the beach who'd make everything better, and now you're here!"
I could only smile at him and look back to the road. We pulled up into the driveway and Julian hardly waited for me to shut the engine off before pulling me out of the truck and into the house. He was really excited about showing me his basement and I played along at being excited too. Don't get me wrong, I was intrigued, but excited wouldn't have been the right word to describe me. I was just happy to be spending what would otherwise have been a boring Saturday with the most gorgeous human being alive. Julian was radiant! His smile was enough to break the face of any poker player and I couldn't have been having more fun. Still excited wouldn't be the word.. until I got into the basement.
It was like walking into some health nut's gym! When you reached the foot of the stairs there was a little sitting area like a family room in the basement with a television and couch with two end chairs and a coffee table. When you walked through that room there was a little hallway with a door that led to a bedroom and another doorway that led to a bathroom. Past the bathroom was an open room larger than the living room with mirrored walls and carpeted floor. Then on the floor of the room were weights. Not just a few pounds but racks of Olympic free-weights and a large universal set. There was also an exercise bike and a rowing machine.
"What do ya think?" Julian asked me as his eyes twinkled in the reflected lights from the mirrors. "Pretty cool huh?"
"Yeah this is really something!" I said really rather amazed. "Where'd you get all this stuff?"
"This used to be my dad's workout room before he.. like took off," Julian said lowering his eyes to the floor. The smiled faded from his face.
I reached out my hand and ran it gently down his left cheek then knelt down. "Hey," I said softly. Julian looked up from the floor and I could see the tears brimming in his eyes. "Come here," I said continuing my soft tone as I pulled the boy to me. He wrapped his arms around my neck and threw his head over my shoulder and started to cry. "Shhh... it's okay Julian."
"No it's not," he whimpered. "Daddy left cause.. cause.. I'm a fag and.. he couldn't.. t.. t.. take it." He was sobbing now as I rubbed my hands gently up and down his back. "It's all my fault," he whimpered. I didn't know what to say. Julian had been harboring a lot of guilt and needed to get his feelings out but I wasn't sure how to respond but I gave it my best.
"It's okay," I began quietly. "Your parents didn't break up because of you Julian. These things just happen sometimes when grownups decide that they're not right for each other. Why would you think it was because of you?"
"The night before my dad left he and my mom were arguing about me about something," he said more calmly now. His crying had eased up and he was in that relaxed state where he just wanted to be held.
"Did you ever talk to your mom about this?" I asked calmly.
"No way! What if she thinks I'm straight and I went and told her I'm gay! I'd look pretty stupid in a hurry," Julian said raising his voice a little, then he settled back down resting his hand on my shoulder again. "This is really nice," Julian said in almost a whisper.
"What is?" I asked unsure.
"You holding me.." he trailed off. "Can I ask you somethin'?" Julian asked me faintly.
"Of course, you don't have to ask me if you can ask me a question Julian," I said trying to sound as tender and caring as possible for the fragile boy in my arms.
"Do you think I'm.. uhh.. good looking Mike?" Julian asked slowly and almost reluctantly. "You said when you were my age you thought about other guys so what about now?"
I took a deep breath and pulled the boy away from me so I could look at him. He looked as if he thought I was about to yell at him as he tensed up, but a gentle hand down the side of his face relaxed him. "Well Julian," I began quietly. "I think.. well that is to say," I couldn't find the right words.
Julian took my hand in his and gave me a gentle squeeze. "If you don't think I'm good looking it's okay Mike. We can still be friends right?"
"No it's not that at all," I said in a rush. I didn't want him to think he was unattractive as he certainly wasn't. "I think you're the most beautiful creature alive Julian. I don't know what it is about you. It's everything about you. Your hair, your eyes, your nose, your voice, the way you smile, the things you say, everything about you is perfect Julian. I've been asking myself everyday since I met you what it is about you that makes it so irresistible to love you and I can't come up with a thing." I had poured my heart out to the twelve year old boy and he sat before me with a stunned expression.
"Oh Mike," he said in a voice barely above a whisper. A big smile spread across his face making the room seem brighter. He moved forward slowly and touched his lips to mine in the most gentle kiss I had ever felt. His lips were unbelievably soft, and slightly moist and their touch was nearly enough to drive me instantly over the edge. He laid his arms gently around my neck and kissed me again, this time with more force. It felt like waves of electricity were shooting all through my body and my heart pounded in my chest as I felt the boy's lips part and his tongue press against my lips. I opened my mouth to let him in and for the first time felt Julian's tongue exploring my mouth. I followed suit shortly after and we were soon locked in an embrace of love. Julian was an amazing kisser (although he's even better now) and it was hard to stop but we eventually did. "I love you," he said then added giggling, "for real."
"I love you too Julian," I said and chuckled also adding, "for real." It was true though. I had loved Julian in a way from the first time he'd spoken to me, as one would love a little brother, or a cousin. Someone younger at any rate. That kind of love one had for a younger boy, but now it was different. When I admitted it to him.. the feelings that I had things had changed. I looked at him as he showed me all the workout equipment in the basement and knew why he was so well developed with his taut 6-pack and neatly defined pectoral muscles I knew why I was attracted to him physically. He was gorgeous, but there was so much more to him than that. It was as if I couldn't get enough of.. whatever it was. That thing.. that something about Julian.