"Don't ask for whom the bell tolls... it tolls for thee."
Dylan sprawled on the living room sofa, going over the chapter for the second time. Reading ancient 1930s novels wasn't exactly his favorite pastime, but he'd have to finish this one by the end of the week, lest he risk the wrath of Ms. Raymond in English Lit 201. The Hemingway quiz was coming up on Wednesday, right before the Thanksgiving holiday, and it would count for a third of his grade. He definitely couldn't afford to let this one slide.
He yawned and stretched out on the cushion. Nearby, Lady stirred and let out a small whimper. Dylan reached over and absent-mindedly scritched her behind the ears. She gazed up and gave him a half-grin, then put her head down on his lap and let out a contented sigh.
Dylan put the book down and leaned back. God, what a week from hell, he thought wearily. It's like a total nightmare. Hank's dead... K.C.'s dead... Angel's dead... Angel's father almost dead... But at least Dylan was alive -- alive and out of jail, to boot. Lady was recovering nicely, though half of the fur on her left side was shaved off, and she had a large cone-shaped plastic collar around her neck to prevent her from pulling out her stitches. Nobody at school knew what had happened, and McBrian had assured him that his name would stay out of the papers. The police were even going to drop the drug-possession charges. The nightmare was over. Before too long, maybe he could get back to his life again.
"Yeah, just like nothing ever happened," Dylan said sarcastically, to no one in particular.
"You want some more lunch, baby doll?" called Yolanda from the kitchen hallway. "I've still got a little soup left, if you want it. Only take me a second."
"That's okay, Yo," he replied. "I'm alright."
She walked out to the living room and stood by the couch. "You really all right, Dylan?" she asked. When he didn't respond, she came closer and sat next to him and put her arm around his shoulders. "C'mon -- you sure you don't need a little nap or anything, hon'?"
He shook his head. "I slept most of the weekend in jail. I'm so wired now, I may just stay awake until Thanksgiving."
The woman smiled. "You need to get back into the swing of things -- relax and put all this behind you."
Dylan sighed. He let all the events of the last 72 hours rewind through his head again. The DA had been apologetic, as had several of the investigating officers, and assured him that even if Angel's father hadn't confessed to the murder, forensics had shown that the hands that had beaten and strangled the boy were much smaller than Dylan's. They'd even found a partial thumbprint on Angel's collar button, matching that of Richard Tortellini's.
"Not quite an open-and-shut-case," the DA had explained. "But more than enough to completely exonerate you."
On the way back home, McBrian said he'd make sure the civil suit was dropped. Dylan had still not forgiven the man for disbelieving his story, but the lawyer was adamant. "You gotta always have a backup plan," he insisted. "We had a few options, but as luck would have it, we didn't have to use them. No matter what, at least you're out of jail, and that's all that matters."
His parents were relieved that the sordid affair was over with. Initially, he was embarrassed by the revelation of his sexual identity, but his father said he didn't have a problem with it. "You know Tom Brushfield, our VP of operations?" he reminded. "He's the number three man at our corporation, and he's been gay for... well, as long as I've known him. Him and his partner Louis."
His mother still remained sullen. "Give her time," his father advised. "She'll get used to the idea -- sooner or later."
"What if she doesn't?" Dylan had asked.
His father grinned. "We'll negotiate a settlement, find a compromise all of us can live with. You wait and see."
The boy sighed again and rubbed his eyes.
"Dylan Callahan!" cried the maid. "Have you been listening to a single word I've said?"
He smiled wanly and turned back to the woman, who looked at him with some concern. "Sorry, Yo," he said. "I'm still kinda out of it. What was that again?"
"I said, your friend Kyle's been calling for two days, trying to find out what's going on. He's probably home from school by now -- it's almost 4PM. Why don't you call him and invite him over?"
Dylan nodded. Gotta come clean with Kyle, he thought. For once and for all.
"Does he... does Kyle know?" she asked gently.
He shook his head.
She reached out and squeezed his shoulder. "He's gonna find out eventually. Maybe today's as good a time as any."
"He's the best friend I've got," Dylan said quietly. Since Corey back in Phoenix.
"Then you owe it to him to be honest about yourself," she said. "A wiser person than me once said: 'the truth will set you free.'"
Yeah, he thought glumly as he reached for the phone. Either that, or get my fucking head knocked off.
§ § §
"Dude," Kyle breathlessly began, as the two teens tore up the stairs, "you will not believe the shit I've been through for the past three days."
Dylan had to stifle the urge to laugh. "Yeah. Me, too. Lemme close the door before we get into this," he said, pushing his friend through his doorway and into a chair. He closed the door to his room, then sat on the bed.
Kyle ran his hand through his hair. "I had to go over to Hank's house and let his mom cry on my shoulder... man, it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life!"
"I can imagine," Dylan said sympathetically. "But listen, I got some stuff to tell you..."
"No, no -- listen, it gets worse!" he protested, frantically waving his hands. "My parents found out what happened Friday night, and I'm grounded for like... forever!"
I can think of a few things worse than being grounded, Dylan thought. "That's really tough, Kyle," he began, "but I had kind of a bad weekend myself..."
"No, no -- it's worse than bad! Guess what I found out at school today!" Kyle interrupted, as he leapt to his feet. "Randi Webber's got AIDS! Swear to fucking god!"
Dylan's mouth dropped open. "What?"
"Alright," Kyle corrected himself. "Not actual-AIDS, but she's HIV-positive, and in the hospital. And I fuckin' banged her Friday night -- twice! Me and Jimmy Fernandez at the party!"
The other teen shook his head. "Dude, we both banged her a couple of weeks ago, remember?"
"Yeah, I know," Kyle replied. "For all I know, now we've been exposed to fucking AIDS -- me and about 50 other guys! I stopped by the clinic this afternoon, and we'll know for sure in a coupla days. You should do the same thing." He turned and looked at his friend. "I'm real sorry to tell you this shit, dude, but it's better you find out from me than those idiots at school."
Dylan sighed. "Jesus. You always read about this shit happening, but I've never actually known somebody that managed to get it."
"Me, too," Kyle said, idly toying with the mouse on Dylan's computer desk. "So what happened to you? I called all weekend long, and first Yolanda said you guys had some kind of 'family emergency,' then you weren't at school today. So what's up with you? You look fine to me."
Dylan got up from the bed and leaned on the desk. "I don't even know where to begin," he said quietly, "so I'll just say it. You heard about that local kid that was murdered on Saturday?"
Kyle nodded, and continued playing with the mouse. "Yeah, yeah... it was all on TV. Was he from around here?"
Dylan pulled the mouse away from him. "Listen to me, dude!" he said angrily. "This isn't exactly easy for me to say, alright?"
"Sorry," Kyle said meekly, and leaned back in his chair. "Okay, so some kid got killed. I figure it was a drug deal or something, right?"
The boy shook his head. "Wrong. The kid was a friend of mine. You even met him a coupla times: Angel -- Angel Thompkins. His real name was Michelangelo Tortellini."
Kyle cocked his head curiously, then began to nod as realization set in. "Oh, yeah -- the kid with the long black hair. He was the dead kid? How'd you know him?"
Dylan took a deep breath. OK, this is it. He took a few steps back, sat back down on the bed, and looked his friend right in the eye.
"Me and Angel had been having sex for a few months. When his body was found Saturday morning, after I took you home from the hospital, the cops found out I was the last person to see Angel alive, and so they charged me with murder. I've been in jail all weekend long, but I just got cleared."
The expression on Kyle's face slowly changed. "Wait a minute," he said. "You mean... you were... he was..." He stammered and shook his head in disbelief, as if the concept was too ridiculous to say out loud.
"Gay," Dylan said, almost in a whisper. "I'm gay, Kyle. So was Angel. We were together."
The other boy was silent for a moment, then shook his head. "No," he said firmly. "Not possible. No fuckin' way. I know you're totally into chicks. You and Tracy..."
"I never had sex with Tracy," Dylan corrected. "Not all the way, anyway. I was... shit, I dunno. I was fooling myself -- she never knew, either. And she didn't give a shit, as long she was going out with the rich kid with the BMW."
Kyle stared at him. "But you were always talkin' about some hot chick or another... you totally had the hots for Christina Aguilara, right?" he protested.
Dylan grinned and shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, she's not bad, but Justin Timberlake's more what I'm after."
"No," his friend sputtered as he got to his feet. "You had sex with Randi! I saw you do her! No homo could get it up for her."
The other boy shrugged. "I was horny, she was there, I was turned on... That's all there was to it. I closed my eyes and thought of...." He stopped himself from saying "you," but then continued. "...I thought of guys. Having sex with guys."
Kyle shook his head, then started to speak. He stopped himself, then stared at Dylan, his eyes wide with... was it fear? Anger? Or just bewilderment?
"I'm incredibly sorry, man," Dylan said quickly, hopping off the bed and waving his hands apologetically. "I lied to you since the day I met you three and a half years ago, and I've... I just realized, I gotta be honest from here on. Don't hate me, alright? I swear, I won't grab you or anything. I mean... shit, Kyle, we've seen each other naked like a million times, and I've never even touched you. I'll keep all the gay shit to myself, alright? I promise!"
For a moment, Kyle began to shake. Dylan wasn't sure if his friend was going to scream at him, explode in a firestorm of fury, or just bolt from the room.
Suddenly, Kyle began to laugh.
"What?" Dylan snapped. "You think this is funny? This is like the hardest fucking thing I've ever had to do in my life."
Kyle only laughed harder.
"Look, dude," Dylan pleaded, "you're the only guy I can talk to about this. I had to tell somebody, and I know you can't understand how I feel, but this is just how I am, alright? I'm still the same guy I always was -- it's just that... well, there was just one thing I never told you about, okay? And I'm sorry!"
Kyle was laughing so hard, tears were rolling down his face and he had to hold on to the desk for support.
"GODAMMIT, KYLE!" roared Dylan. "Will you fuckin' stop laughing at me? I've really had a bad last couple of days, and if you can't handle this, then just get the fuck out and forget everything I've said!"
"Sorry, dude," Kyle croaked, regaining his composure. "It's just that... well..."
Dylan rolled his eyes. "Don't tell me you're gay."
His friend grinned. "No way. I'm not."
"So, look..." Dylan began, trying to keep the emotion out of his voice. "Can we stay friends anyway? Please?"
Kyle walked forward and put his hand on Dylan's shoulder. "Dude... I'm bisexual. I've fantasized about you for -- well, shit... as long as I've known you."
Dylan grimaced. Great, he thought. Now my best friend -- more like my soon-to-be-ex-best-friend -- won't even take me seriously.
"That's not funny, asshole," he retorted.
"I swear!" Kyle said, pantomiming one hand in the air. "I'm totally into dicks and chicks. I'd do you in a heartbeat if I could."
"Some fucking friend you are," Dylan spat, pushing past him towards the door. "Making jokes, and treating me like I was some fag-idiot!"
"Hold it!" Kyle ordered, as he pushed past Dylan and stood directly in his path. "I swear, you gotta listen to me, dude! Me and John Kincaid... we were doin' each other every other weekend last year, until he left for college over the summer. He's totally gay, dude."
Dylan stared at him incredulously. "But you said you were..."
"Bi," Kyle said. "But John's definitely bent. That's why he came on to you at the dance last month."
Now it was Dylan's turn to be utterly perplexed.
Kyle reached out and touched Dylan's face. "But a totally straight guy could never do this." He leaned forward and lightly kissed Dylan's lips, then gently traced the curves of Dylan's teeth and let their tongues intertwine. Dylan moaned softly and Kyle put his arm around him and pulled him closer. They breathed together, squeezed together tightly, and felt the warmth of their bodies.
When they finally parted, Dylan's heart was pounding and he felt dizzy.
"God," he said quietly. "I guess... I guess you really weren't kidding."
"Yeah," Kyle agreed.
Dylan looked at him. "So what're we gonna do about this? The team..."
"Fuck the team," laughed Kyle. "Which I've actually thought about doing at least once or twice."
"But..." Dylan began.
"You talk way too much," said Kyle, who gently pushed Dylan back to his bed and began pulling his shirt off.
"Kyle, I... mmmph."
They kissed for a good solid thirty seconds, and though Dylan wasn't sure how, he eventually wound up with one of his hands on an erection. Judging by how big it felt, he was fairly certain it wasn't his own.
"God, I've thought about this for so long," whispered Kyle, his eyes riveted to Dylan's as he pulled off the rest of his jeans and underwear with two quick tugs, then yanked the T-shirt over his head.
"Me, too," muttered the other teen, as he tossed the last of his clothes to the side of the bed, then leaned forward to lick Kyle's taut, muscular chest.
Kyle immediately moaned. "Dude, that's totally hot," he said hoarsely. "Lemme show you Kincaid's special technique he taught me..." The boy moved his mouth downwards and Dylan immediately felt a familiar sensation in his groin. It felt electric, like the pleasure center of his brain had just received an extra jolt.
God, he thought. Almost as good as Angel. He lay back and felt a surge building from deep inside, then closed his eyes and moaned. I can't believe this is happening.
Suddenly, the feeling abruptly stopped.
"Shit," muttered Kyle, who wiped off his mouth and fell back beside him on the bed. "I can't do this."
Dylan was perplexed. "But this was your idea!"
His friend turned towards him. "It's... it's too risky, dude. I was with Randi Webber at least half a dozen times -- twice, just the other night. That means... that means I might have it."
Kyle didn't have to explain. All the students at Chatsworth High had been inundated with pamphlets, health discussions, and educational films on the dangers of unprotected sex. The risks of STDs had been pounded into their heads long before they had a clue as to what sex really was. But HIV always seemed to be one of those things that happened to other kids, at other schools; the horrible reality that it might happen to them began to sink in.
"Shit," Dylan said softly. "Me, too. I had... I had sex with Angel late Saturday night. We didn't use protection, either." Christ, he thought with a shock. What if Angel deliberately infected me? It'd be just like that little monster to do that.
"It doesn't seem fair," croaked Kyle, as he reached across and lay his arm across Dylan's chest. "I'd been planning for months to try to tell you... y'know, how I felt and all. That was why I set that thing up with Randi a coupla weeks ago."
Dylan turned to his friend, and reached out to wipe away a lone tear on the boy's left cheek. "Yeah," he said quietly. "That was really cool. I thought about that a lot. About you, too." He looked down at his friend's body, and saw his large erection, still throbbing above his belly. Dylan grinned. "Seems to me, HIV or no, you're still hot to trot."
Kyle sniffled, then laughed, sort of a half-choke. "Thanks. You, too, man."
Dylan sat up on his knees. "Look, chances are, we aren't infected. And even if we are, there's still stuff we can do."
"No," began Kyle, but Dylan pressed a finger across his lips.
"Shut up and enjoy this," he ordered. Dylan reached out and began exploring his friend's body with his fingertips.
Kyle moaned out loud, in a combination of relief and desire. "Jesus," he wheezed. "Whatever you're doing... keep doin' it." Then after a pause: "No -- higher up. Yeah. Now, go faster."
Dylan grinned and increased his pace for about a minute. His other hand explored his friend's massive chest, his thick arms, then down his ribbed stomach to the nether regions below. Kyle was as big as he remembered -- perfectly shaped, and as hard as velvet-encased steel. Dylan's right hand was a blur now, kneading the flesh slowly, then stroking him to the brink and backing down again. When he knew his friend was moments away, he leaned over and kissed him savagely, practically raping his mouth with his tongue. Kyle groaned loudly and began uncontrollably thrusting his hips.
"Oh, GOD, here it comes!" he cried... and it was over.
Dylan let his hand stray across his friend's chest. Kyle, still exhausted, reached a trembling hand over and pulled him closer, and they kissed. Dylan inhaled his friend's breath, smelled his sweet sweat, his intoxicating aroma.
"Dude," wheezed Kyle. "That was... god, I don't know. Maybe I was pent-up or something, but... it was..."
"Shut up," ordered Dylan, who got up on his knees. "Now it's my turn. I haven't gotten off in like three days."
Kyle did as he was told.
§ § §
Afterwards, Dylan went through all the sordid details of the last few weeks -- his relationship with Angel, the blackmail threats, leading up to Dylan's torment, and then Angel's murder and Dylan's subsequent arrest, including his harrowing ordeal in jail over the weekend. Kyle was initially irritated that his friend had been hiding his problems all this time, but Dylan quickly pointed out that Kyle had been just as dishonest.
Kyle reached over and brushed the bangs out of his friend's eyes, then grinned. "Dude, there's no way I ever could've told you about me! You were like one of the most homophobic guys I know! Ever since I met you, back in junior high, you were always talkin' about fag-this or homo-that -- always makin' jokes and shit. And now this." He laughed again, and shook his head. "I should've known. Anybody who complained as much as you did about gay shit must've been seriously tryin' to hide something."
"But not any more," Dylan said, suddenly serious. "I've had enough of trying to cover up what I really am."
Kyle shrugged. "But nobody needs to know. It's not their business, anyway."
"All I know is, most of the bullshit in my life happened because I lied," Dylan said tersely. "I pretended to be something I wasn't. And I'm not gonna do that anymore."
Kyle looked his friend in the eye. "But what about the team? You'd be lucky to make it alive through a single game, if anybody else knew."
Dylan sighed, then he shook his head. "How'd Kincaid handle it? He was quarterback and team captain all last year when he was a senior, and he was like king shit."
"Yeah," Kyle said with a grin. "But even John kept a lotta things quiet. He came onto me once in the shower, when we were both there in the locker room late after practice. I dunno... it just seemed right with him. Nobody ever found out about it. He told me there were a coupla other guys on the team he'd done it with, but kept it pretty quiet. Most of the time, he went out with one of the cheerleaders, just for his rep. But Kincaid was definitely 100% gay."
"And nobody even suspected," Dylan mused. "How long were you guys... y'know, together?"
"It wasn't like that," his friend explained with a shrug. "It was just an occasional thing. Maybe once a month or so, we'd both get horny and find some place to do it at. I mean, you had Melissa... I know you dragged me out on those stupid double-dates once in awhile, but I felt kinda weird about it." He reached out and gently tweaked Dylan's right nipple, which rose like a peak from the powerful flesh below. "When the four of us went out, I usually felt like shit... I was thinkin' more about wantin' to do it with you, and not Joanne."
Dylan nodded. Joanne had been Kyle's on-again/off-again girlfriend for the past few months, but he never really understood why the two of them hadn't clicked. Now, it all made sense, he thought.
"But I gotta get outta here," yawned Kyle, as he rolled off the bed and struggled to his feet. "I'm sticky as shit, and the 'rents are gonna kick my ass if I'm late for dinner. You're a mess, too. You wanna take a shower?"
Dylan grinned. This would definitely be a lot different than the locker-room showers they'd taken after practice for years on the team. He hopped off the bed, and felt his arousal begin to stir.
"But no screwin' around, 'kay, dude?" warned Kyle, as he closed the bathroom door behind them. "At least, not until after we've both had an HIV test. Just to make sure we're safe, y'know?"
Dylan reached in and turned the water on hot, and the glass doors quickly steamed up with the warm mist. "Alright. I'll get a test after school tomorrow at the West Valley Clinic. We'll know our results by the end of the week, right? Until then, we'll keep things cool."
Kyle gingerly put his hand in to test the temperature, then winced and cranked the cold tap. He turned to his friend and grinned. "Dude... things are gonna be way different from here on."
Dylan leaned forward and kissed him hard, on the mouth, then pulled him into the gentle water spray and let the glass door click shut behind them.
§ § §
Sean McIntosh frowned and drummed his fingers on his desk as he watched the students silently file out of the classroom. This was the second week in a row that Donny Mitchell hadn't shown up for the Gay-Straight Alliance meeting. The younger student seemed to be recovering from the loss of his friend Jeff Stewart the month before, but he'd... changed somehow. Almost like he didn't want to feel anything anymore, like he was turning to stone. With Jeff and Donny both gone, their little group had shrunk to just eleven active members -- not even 1% of the student body, he thought ruefully, as he gathered his papers together and stashed them in his notebook.
"Hey, Sean," said one of the regulars. He looked up and saw the smiling face of Emilio Gugino, who'd joined the group late last year. "You still need some help with those posters for the benefit dance next week?"
Sean shook his head. "Naw. Me and Sandy will take care of those tomorrow."
"You seen Donny around?" Emilio said, his mouth half-full of potato chips. He was one of those types who always seemed to be eating. "I had some CDs to give him from a coupla weeks ago, but he's been skippin' classes a lot lately."
McIntosh raised an eyebrow. "You try calling him at home?"
The pudgy teen nodded. "Yeah, but I keep gettin' his answering device. I've been tryin' to... y'know, try to help him come out of his shell."
Yeah, thought Sean. Come out of his shell so you can get into his pants. Fat chance. "You gotta give him some time to get over Jeff. Those two were really tight."
Emilio shrugged and reached into the bag of barbecue chips and took out a handful. "I'm just worried," he said, in-between mouthfuls. "Me and Donny almost got beat-up by a buncha jocks again last Friday."
"You're supposed to report that shit to the principal's office," piped up Sandy Reynolds, one of the few out-and-proud female members of their group. She carried a blue denim backpack in one hand, adorned with a hand-stitched rainbow GSA patch, while the other hand held a mock-up poster for the Annual Gay-Straight Alliance Dance ('Our 3rd Great Year' proclaimed one headline). "That's what you'd do, if you had any balls, Gugino."
"Gimme a break, Sandy," he whined. "Those guys were... massive." Like I can only imagine, he sighed to himself.
She eyed the Hispanic boy. Too soft, she thought. That's his problem. "Try standin' up for a change, Emily, and maybe the goon-squad will keep their fag-bashin' hands to themselves."
The three started walking for the door. Emilio nodded, then crunched a few more chips. "Yeah. That's what Donny said. He was really mad about it, like he was gonna get even."
Sean stopped in his tracks. "Wait a minute. What did Donny say exactly?"
Emilio stopped chewing for a moment, then snapped his fingers. "Something about 'evening out the odds.' I think maybe he'll let the air out of their tires or something, or pull some kinda prank in the locker room, just to get back at them."
Sandy rolled her eyes. "You know that's gonna just make things worse, dick-for-brains!"
"I'll talk to him," reassured Sean. "Donny's a lot smarter than that. I'll calm him down in Drama class tomorrow." The three nodded as they left the meeting room, then split up, leaving Sean to make his way through the already-deserted hallway and out to the senior class parking lot. Since it was already close to 5PM, there were only six cars left. He trotted up to a beat-up 1986 Jeep Cherokee, tossed his notebook and books in the back, then looked on the left side and sucked in his breath.
Shit, he thought. There was a long scratch that extended from the rear-view mirror all the way to the back bumper, like a jagged scar on a wounded animal. Some jerk keyed my car! Fucking bastard jocks. One of these days, somebody's gonna pay for this. Assholes.
Sean shook his head sadly, then fired up the engine and tore off through the exit, worrying about how he was ever going to find the money for a new paint job.
§ § §
Donny Mitchell carefully inspected the document on his desk. "Colt Manufacturing," he read. "Hartford, Connecticut. Operating Manual for 5.56-mm Rifle M16A1."
I wonder what the difference is between the M16 and the M16A1, he mused to himself, while ignoring the warning labels "Not for Foreign Export" and "Property of U.S. Army." He flipped through the index, and quickly found the explanation. "The 5.56-mm Rifle M16 does not contain the forward-assist assembly contained on the 5.56-mm Rifle Ml 6A1," he read out loud. "Both models may be equipped with the low light-level sight assembly."
Donny leaned back in his chair, then reached over picked up the olive green rifle that was stashed to the side of his desk. It was lighter than he remembered, only about seven pounds. He ran his fingers down one side and examined it carefully. Damn, he thought, after comparing the top side to the diagram. No low-light sight. "Screw it," he said out loud. I probably won't need it anyway.
He turned the page and glanced at the introduction. "Equipment characteristics, capabilities, and features," he recited. "The M16/M16A1 rifle is lightweight, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed, and shoulder-fired. The rifle may be fired with selector lever in the automatic or semiautomatic position." Hmmmm.
His fingers quickly found the two-position mechanical switch, which was conveniently located on the left side, near the trigger. His uncle David had let him use the rifle several times on hunting trips last year, but he'd cautioned him several times not to use the automatic position. "You'll burn through 30 rounds of ammo in about a second," the man had warned. "I learned that when our troop used 'em in Desert Storm. Just use it in short bursts. We can't go wastin' all our rounds, right? This box has gotta last us all day."
Donny put the rifle down and checked the ammo boxes to his right. He counted them twice, to be sure. More than 500 rounds, he thought to himself. Plus ten magazines. That oughta be more than enough. He made a mental note to practice ejecting spent magazines and reloading fresh ones.
He sat back in his chair, then glanced over to the Playgirl all-male calendar above his desk, which had a bright red heart delicately scrawled on Wednesday, November 27th -- the day before Thanksgiving. That would've been Jeff's 17th birthday, he reminded himself. Donny had drawn that heart over the summer, just as a reminder so he wouldn't forget to buy the love of his life that MP3 player he'd talked about.
But all that changed, just three weeks and five days ago, when... no, he reminded himself. I'm not even gonna think about it. A bright vision of Jeff came into his head... Jeff, smiling and laughing that time they went to Gay Day at Disneyland in June. They'd acted like a couple of idiots, giggling at the hokey effects in the Haunted Mansion, rode Space Mountain twice in a row, and even made snide remarks on the alleged sexual preferences of Mickey and Goofy. I think that was the best day we ever had together, he thought.
Donny stared at the calendar, then let his eyes wander to
the plastic picture-frame on the side of his desk, which had been tipped over.
He picked it up and looked at the face of the boy on the right, then put his
fingertips on the photo. "I got something to give you on your birthday, babe,"
he whispered. "Something a lot better than an MP3 player. It's a surprise. You'll