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"You do look nice," Chet said as we got to his car.
"He really does," Howie agreed.
I felt myself blush.
"We just need to get rid of that Brylcream," Chet offered.
"Why? I thought it was the thing?" I said defensively. "I've seen a lot of you guys wearing it."
"Yeah, a lot do. But you don't look right in it," Chet said as he turned in his seat to look at me in the back. "You're blond hair looks better natural."
I felt my face getting redder. I noticed that Howie was wearing his hair with the cream in it.
"What about Howie?"
"He looks good with it. Dark hair does. Not blond. We'll get it out before we get to the party."
Chet turned and started the car and pulled out.
I couldn't help but be nervous. I was so worried that I'd be made fun of by the older guys. Or picked on. Or something. We got to a house on the edge of town and they got out. I followed. It was apparently Chet's house. My guts twisted up as we headed into his bedroom. It was filled with sports things, mostly baseball, and he had trophies all over the place.
He took me to the bathroom down the hall and told me to take off my shirt. I was shocked. He grinned.
"Just off with the shirt," he said, still laughing.
I took it off and he said to take off my t-shirt.
"You just want to see my naked chest," I said.
"No, and I already saw it at the pool. And it was nice. But if I wanted to see you without your shirt right now and that was all, I'd ask. And I do, but not now. Just going to wash that cream out of your hair."
"Sure," I said with a laugh and took off my t-shirt.
He washed my hair in the sink. He dried it and combed it in a way I would never have. Instead of using the natural part down the center, he brushed it over from the left side, all across my forehead, and the sides well back over my ears.
"Looks much better," he said, looking at my reflection in the mirror.
"Yeah, I'm sure. Put your shirt back on and we'll go ask Howie."
I did, and when we got back to his room, Howie smiled and said, "Much better!"
Chet patted my back and put his team jacket back on. He stopped and looked at me. It was a weird moment.
"He really is a good looking guy, huh?" Chet said.
"Killer. Glad we found him before he got lost and ended up wasted on a chick."
I was aghast. There I was, standing in a sports star's bedroom, with two really good looking athletes, and they were talking about how good looking I was.
"Well, come on, handsome, let's go have a good time!" Chet said, turning me by my shoulder.
The ride to the party was short, and I found myself wishing it was a much longer ride. I wasn't ready. They got out, and I had to follow despite wishing I hadn't agreed to come.
"He's gettin' cold feet," Howie said as I climbed out.
"Hey, Jer, chill out. You'll be fine. Nobody here will bother you. If anyone does, Howie or me'll take care of it. Okay?"
I nodded and tried to swallow. I knew they could tell how nervous I was. I tried to relax, but there was no way I could. They walked on both sides of me as we headed to the front door. Chet knocked. It was opened by a huge guy in a letter jacket.
"Chet. How. Who's this?"
He didn't look pleased to see me.
"This is Jeremy. He's going to be a freshman, and on the ball team this year. He's our guest."
"Well, okay," he said with a shrug.
He swung the door open. I walked in between Chet Hawkins and Howie Skinner. We didn't get two steps in before guys and girls started saying hi to them. Some asked who I was. Chet and Howie took turns saying I was with them and going to be a freshman and on the ball team.
There had to be fifty people there! Guys and girls. Some were dancing out back on the patio where the record player was. The pool had a few people swimming in it. Some were moving around inside the house, eating from trays of snacks on the long table in the dining room, or watching the television in the living room. I didn't see any adults. I didn't see any beers or other drinks, either. Sodas were all anyone was drinking.
Chet and Howie ended up talking to girls most of the night. Howie had a reputation as being a Christian and not into dating, not until he found someone he planned on marrying, so he wasn't chased by the girls like Chet was.
I mostly sat nearby, smiling even though I felt nervous and uncomfortable. Everyone was older than me, and no one seemed interested in talking to me. I wasn't having a terrible time, just not a good time. Chet and Howie kept asking me things, and obviously trying to be nice to me, and trying to get me involved.
When the topic was baseball I joined it, and had a better time. But then it would turn to something I didn't know about and I'd feel left out even though Chet and Howie kept talking to me.
I learned about Howie's reputation when I was getting a cold soda and heard three girls talking about him and Chet. On my way back to Chet and Howie, a girl said hi to me. She was about my age, my height at least.
"Hi. I'm Katy. You in high school?"
"No. I'm going to be a freshman," I said, already sweating again.
"Oh. I'm going to as well! My brother is throwing the party. I'm Mark's sister."
"So, you having a good time?"
"Uh, yeah. You?"
"Not really. Everyone is older and don't want to talk to me."
"Yeah. Know what you mean."
She was pretty. Just because I liked looking at guys didn't mean I didn't know what a pretty girl looked like. She had curly blonde hair, big brown eyes, big, red, soft-looking lips, and a nice face. She was wearing a little makeup, and I wondered if her parents would approve of that or not.
"You want to dance?"
I swallowed. I wanted to run away! But I thought of how Chet and Howie played it so cool, and decided that I had to, too. So I nodded. I followed her outside and we started dancing. The song was one I really liked, and I had danced to it in my room plenty of times, so I wasn't a total clod. I just had never danced with someone else, so that was a bit awkward, but I found that I was able to. She smiled and I started having a good time.
I was still dancing with her when Chet found me later.
"Hi, Katy. I see you met Jer here. You're not wearing him out, are you?"
"Hi, Chet. No! He's gonna wear me out!"
I laughed and felt myself blushing.
"He's not a bad dancer, huh?" Chet asked, grinning at me.
"Not bad at all!" Katy agreed.
"Well, we've got to get him home before he gets in trouble, so say goodnight and walk him to the front door in a bit, will ya?" Chet asked her.
She pouted a bit, then nodded at him.
"Thanks, kiddo. See ya in a bit. And don't go taking him to your room and having your way with him. You waited too long," he told her.
She got beet-red and made a bad try at slapping him. He laughed and turned away after winking at me.
"He's so bad!" Katy said, grinning and still very red-faced.
"He's just kidding," I said.
"I know. He's a good guy," she said, smiling at me. "So are you."
I got so embarrassed. It was hard to look at her.
"Who's your homeroom?" she asked.
"Oh. I've got Mister Glary."
"Maybe we'll have a class together," she said hopefully.
I found myself wishing so. I liked her. I wondered if I was actually not a homosexual, and was just now starting to like girls. I wondered if I liked her. She was pretty, and nice. I felt so confused.
"Well, we better get you going."
"I can't believe it's so late already!" I said as we turned to head inside.
"Time flies when you're having fun," she said. "I guess you had fun?"
"Yeah, I sure did," I said, afraid to meet her eyes.
I could tell that she was looking at me. I wanted to look, but I didn't want to look. It was embarrassing! I was never so glad to see someone as I was Chet and Howie.
"Let's get goin'," Chet said when he saw us coming.
"See you at school," Howie said to a girl.
"Yes, sure will," she said, smiling at him.
"Nice meeting you," Katy said to me.
"Yeah, really nice meeting you," I said to her.
I felt my face getting red.
"Bye," she said, then waved at me.
I waved back, and then Chet was pulling me by my shoulder.
"Come on, Lothario," Chet said, "Before you end up spoiling Mark's little sister's reputation."
She giggled. I blushed even more. She waved again, sort of standing up on her toes and then dropping again several times. She was smiling really nicely. I waved again, feeling sort of weird and embarrassed.
When we got to Chet's car, they both turned and looked at me, grinning.
"What?" I asked.
"You sure you know what team you want to play on?" Howie asked with a snicker.
I felt myself blushing yet again. I shrugged.
"Maybe he'll be a switch-hitter?" Chet asked.
"What does that mean?" I asked, a bit offended.
"Maybe you'll like both," Chet answered.
"Both? Both what?"
They looked at each other and laughed, then back at me.
"Both... guys and girls," Chet said.
"Both?" I asked. "You can do that?"
They laughed. I could tell it wasn't at me, so I wasn't angry. I was still very confused.
"We need to get him into lessons," Howie said, turning back to face the front of the car.
Chet looked at me, smiled at me, said, "Yeah, the sooner the better," then turned to face the front as well.
"Lessons?" I asked.
"You have much to learn," Chet said as he started the engine.
"So much," Howie agreed.
"Why don't you get in back and cover the basics before we get to Carl's?"
Howie wormed over the back of the front seat and sat down next to me.
"Basics? Carl's? What's going on?"
"Well, first," Howie said, turning to face me and pulling his legs up crossed on the seat. "Carl is a good friend, and he's, well, he's like us. Well, me and Chet. Maybe you. We're goin' to his house for a smaller party now."
"Won't I be late getting home?"
"But it's late."
"It's only eight, almost," Howie said.
"But, Chet came and said it was getting late and he had to get me home."
"Well, he wasn't going to tell you in front of Katy that we were planning on taking you to a party with a bunch of guys who don't like girls."
I gasped out loud.
"Don't worry, nothing will happen. It's not like some sex party or something. Okay? You'll have a good time. Trust me."
"But... everyone there will..."
Howie nodded and smiled.
It was mind-boggling.
"Before we get there, there's something we should talk about. See, just because you like guys, that doesn't mean you can't like girls, too."
"Don't think like that stupid health class movie. You don't have to like one or the other. You can like both. Some of the guys at Carl's party do."
"Sure. You'll meet some tonight."
He laughed, and so did Chet up front.
"You don't have to only like guys. If you like girls too, well, fine. Like girls too."
"Sure. When we get to Carl's, I'll make sure you meet a couple of guys who do. Okay?"
"Wow," I said, awed.
He grinned at me, which sort of made me feel okay with the fact that I could be normal enough to still like girls. I didn't have to be a complete homosexual.
"You don't have to decide at some set time. You don't even have to decide. You'll just know, not decide. Okay?"
I nodded, thinking.
"You got any idea now? I saw you dancing with Mark's little sis. You like her?"
I felt myself blushing again. I didn't know. I shrugged.
"Well, let things go however. Find out. Give her a chance. Okay?"
I nodded again, still thinking. I was elated that I didn't have to be a homosexual. If I could like girls, too, then I could be at least half normal.
"Well, you met a nice girl at the first party, let's see if a guy catches your eye at the next one. Okay? If not, don't worry. Heck, you might just go chasing off after Katy and not be interested in any guys."
"Shame," Chet said from the front seat.
"Would be," Howie agreed. "But you have to figure that out. Not us. And no way are we gonna try to influence you either way. You got to be what and who you are. Okay?"
I nodded yet again.
"Hey, don't think about it so much. Let it come as a natural thing. Not something you thought about and figured out, but something that came to you. Okay?"
Howie put his hand on my shoulder and smiled at me. I found myself wishing I found someone as nice as him or Chet, if I was a homosexual.
What if I am? I wondered. What then? Why am I worrying about it? Howie said not to. Try not to.
"Let's just go have some fun at Carl's. It's the same as Mark's. Okay? If you find someone to dance with, fine. If you don't, fine. Just sit back and have a good time. Okay?"
I nodded again. He shook my shoulder and wormed his way over the seat to the front. He turned up the radio and we listened to music as the night-shrouded countryside passed by in a dark blur, and my mind furiously ran, filled with conflicting thoughts.
What if I felt something for a guy at this party? What if it was more than what I thought that maybe I felt for Katy? What if what I felt for Katy was nothing? Just a faint interest?
Those thoughts kept repeating, along with others for what seemed an hour.
"Almost there," Chet said.
My guts fell into my ass.
to be continued
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