Hey guys, here's something to start your New Year off right; the latest chapter of "Love On The Links"!  Check out my site, you might find another New Year's surprise waiting on ya!  Gotta go, be safe, and don't drink and drive!  Duffer

http://ncduffer. tripod.com

I woke up somewhere on I-95 just past the South Carolina border.  I'd been out most of the ride down here, so I had no clue what time it was.  I looked up at the clock in the car, and it said 8:30.  Mom was humming along to a song on the Oldies station while dad was steadfastly navigating us towards Charleston.  I wished that the trip were over and that we were heading back north; back towards Jack.  I wondered how I would manage this week without him.  He was at home, so he would have all our friends to keep him distracted.  I on the other hand was stuck with the fam all weekend.  I just put on my headphones and put "Darkside of the Moon" in my discman.  I closed my eyes and drifted back towards dreamland.

I awoke when I felt the car stop.  We had stopped at Crackerbarrel for breakfast.  All through breakfast I was quiet.  I was tired and I was cranky, but I had another reason for being ill.  I was basically heading on a collision course with this Hillary Trudeau, a faceless person whom I had grown to hate and resent.  She's probably some snotty little princess who expects me to buy her everything this week.  I'm sorry, but I'm just not gonna be happy this week.  I refuse.  I resolved in my mind to be the meanest little asshole I could be.  Maybe mom and dad would see how unhappy I was to be here and call off the arrangement.  A few hours later, we were checking in to a Bed and Breakfast, a really nice antebellum home near the Battery.  While we were unpacking, dad phoned Dr. Trudeau and made plans for today.  We were meeting the Trudeaus later this afternoon for some light shopping and then dinner at Hyman's, THE best seafood restaurant in the city.

We had a few hours before then, so my mom suggested we go on a little walking tour.  We set out for the waterfront, and were soon in Battery Park.  It was so pretty, and despite my best efforts at being sour, this place really did make me feel very peaceful.  I just gazed out over the horizon and wished Jack were here with me.  This place is THE most romantic city I've ever been to, I just wanted to experience it with my Jackson.  We saw some of the Citadel nobs milling about, and my dad gave us a brief history of the civil war.  He was really into the whole "southern heritage" thing; I think he was still fighting the war!  After quickly losing interest in the names he was rattling off of famous generals and battlefields, I began thinking about this afternoon.  I was seriously contemplating faking an illness.  I wonder what it looks like if you have appendicitis?  I wish now I'd paid better attention in health class, dammit.  When I realized my parents would almost surely see through my flimsy attempt at a medical emergency, I began to get nervous.  I was starting to get the butterflies, but this wasn't the kind Jack gave me.  These butterflies felt like they had razors attached to their wings.  I honestly began feeling sick, which I guess is the cruel irony of the situation.  Soon enough, it was time to go back and get ready.

When I got out of the shower, mom had replaced the cargo pants and long sleeved Abercrombie Teeshirt I had picked out with these starched khakis and a powder blue polo shirt.  When I looked quizzically at my mom, she just whispered, "first impressions are very important, dear."  Why did I have a feeling this week was gonna be pure torture?

We made the quick walk up to Market Street where we were supposed to meet my betrothed and her family.  When we walked up my dad let out this excited shout that I'd only heard a few times in my life.  "Knox!" he shouted, "how in the world are you?"  A very distinguished looking man with silver hair and nice features waived over at us.  I could see there were three other people with him, a nice looking lady and two girls.  As soon as I saw her, I was floored.  She was gorgeous!  I mean, I am totally in love with Jack, but damn, this girl was about to make me unsure I was still gay.  She was about 5'7, about 110 pounds, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a flawless complexion.  It didn't even look like she was wearing any makeup, either.  She was just naturally beautiful.  It was gonna be tough hating this girl, I thought.  I was just hoping she was gonna be a snotty little bitch though, so I could have some excuse to not like her.

My father introduced me, "Hillary, this is our son, William."

"Will," I said with a little smirk on my face, "call me Will."

Dr. Trudeau took turns next, "Will, I'd like to introduce you to our oldest daughter, Hillary."

"You may call me Hill," she said softly, almost in a whisper.

"Aww!" my mother squealed in delight, "Will and Hill, how PRECIOUS is that?"  Mrs. Trudeau nodded in agreement.  The mothers soon engaged in the `catch up' talk about what had transpired since their last meeting.  The families started to walk off, but before they left us alone, dad slipped me a platinum card and whispered, "anything she wants."  Great, I thought, I am gonna have to buy her everything.

As soon as we were alone, I asked her, "you know why we're here, right?"

She rolled her eyes and suddenly found her voice, "yeah, it appears we have no decision at all about our own lives."  Boy, she was actually really quite assertive.  I wonder why she'd been so quiet earlier?

"So you're not down with the whole `pre-arranged' thing, either?" I asked.

"Don't get me wrong," she started, "I'm sure you're a really nice guy, and you're really good looking."  I blushed at her compliment, and she continued.  "But I've got certain plans for my life, and well, they don't really include you.  No offense."

"None taken!" I almost shouted.  "In fact, that is the best news I've heard all day!"

After that, we just took off chatting it up about how annoying this whole thing was.  Then we started talking about our lives, our childhoods, school, and sports.  As it turned out, Hill was the number one seed on her school's tennis team.  She was ranked in the juniors in South Carolina, and had won quite a few tournaments.  She was already starting to get recruitment calls from some pretty good schools.  I told her I was on the golf team and told her about the tournament dad and I had won.  I sort of hesitated after that, because an image of Jack flashed through my mind.  I hadn't thought about how I was gonna discuss the nature of our association.  I mean, I had just met her, and although Hill was a cool girl, I wasn't ready to just trust her with my most guarded secret.

We walked into the shops on King Street and we both headed straight for the GAP.  We both laughed at this, and we spent a few hours picking out clothes for each other.  Hey, my dad said buy her anything she wants, and believe me, I melted that credit card.  We headed back out on the later that day laughing and carrying all our purchases.  We headed up to Citadel Square, and sat down on one of the benches in the park on Calhoun Street.  Just as we were sitting down, this group of hot fraternity guys from the College of Charleston came passing by us.  Most of them were staring at Hill, but I made eye contact with one, and he smiled at me.  I got really bashful all of a sudden and looked down at the ground.

"Why'd you do that?" Hill asked me, "I think he likes you."

"Wha, Huh?" I choked out.  "I'm not…I don't like…I mean, I'm…not..." I stammered.

"Gay?" Hillary helped me finish my sentence.

"Yeah," I whispered and looked at the ground.

"Will," she said as she lifted my chin up to make eye contact, "you are talking to THE supreme fag hag of the universe.  I can spot `em a mile away!"

"But how did you…" I was still in shock at this point.

"Not to stereotype or anything," she explained, "but I've never had that much fun shopping with any straight boy before.  But don't worry," she added, "your secret's safe with me."

"Thanks," I mumbled.  I can't believe I was that easy to spot.

"So why didn't you smile back at that boy?  He was obviously interested in you," she said.  Boy, she was persistent.

"Well," I whispered.  Why was I whispering?  "I kind of have a boyfriend.  Back home.  His name is Jack," I managed to spit out in short fragments.

"Aww, that is so sweet!" she said.  "You must have really not wanted to come down here, then."

"Honestly, I was hoping you would be this grotesquely deformed snotty bitch so I could hate you and not have to marry you," I said as we both giggled.

"Well, I hope that you were proven otherwise?" she asked with a playful little gleam in her eye.

"Oh, definitely," I said.  "I thought for a second I really could be straight afterall."  We both laughed and then I looked at my watch.  Oh shit!  We were late!  We took off on the short walk to Hyman's.  We walked up to find our families standing on the sidewalk outside the restaurant.  There was a waiting list apparently.  From what I've heard of this place, it was worth the wait.  As we walked up, Hill grabbed my arm and hooked hers inside mine.

"Escort a lady to dinner?" she asked as she winked at me.

"It would be my honor, ma'am," I said and we both cracked up giggling.  I could see the smiles of approval on all our parents' faces.  Ahh, what they didn't know…

Soon we were seated, and then we ordered.  I was having crab legs, and I was surprised to see Hill ordering the same thing.

"What?" she whispered, "ladies can eat crab legs!"

"I know, but are you gonna need help cracking them?" I picked.

Boy, the food was absolutely the best seafood I'd ever put in my mouth.  I had dreaded this whole trip, but now I was absolutely having the time of my life.  I felt a twinge of guilt, though, because I realized I hadn't thought about Jack much at all that day.  I shrugged it off, though, and delighted myself with the fortunate way things had unfolded.

"So, did you kids have fun today?" Dr. Trudeau asked us.

"Daddy!  Will's the best beau EVER!" Hillary exclaimed.  "He bought me that leather Gucci bag I've been pining over all week!"

Dr. Trudeau just shook his head and said, "Son, I hope you plan on getting a good job."  We all had a good laugh, especially me, when I thought, `yeah, I plan on getting a great one from Jack as soon as we get home!'

After dinner, we headed out to Battery Park to catch the sunset and try to walk off a little of the heavy meal we'd just eaten.  Of course, everyone split up and left Hillary and me alone.  The sun was so beautiful as it was setting off over the distance; the last of the golden rays reflecting off the water.

"You miss him, don't you?" Hillary asked me once the families were safely out of earshot.

"Yeah," I responded.  "I've kind of got `missing limb syndrome.'  Like I keep wanting to turn around and I expect him to be there.  I just wish you could meet him.  God, this place is so romantic, he would just LOVE it."

"Well," she said, "I can tell you this much, he's probably missing you just as much.  And let me tell you, whenever I do meet this Jack, the first thing I'm gonna tell him is that he is the luckiest guy on the face of the Earth.  Well, except for MY husband, that is!"  We both cracked up at that.

Hillary is the coolest girl I think I've ever met.  Everything about her just radiated class, she was definitely a refined lady.  Yet, she rebelled in her own ways, playing sports, eating crablegs, and generally just asserting her independence.  She was not just some little doe-eyed debutante that would be walked over by her husband.  No, I had a feeling she was gonna wear the pants in her marriage.  And I really was a little jealous of her future husband, truth be known.  Whoever he was, the guy that gets to spend the rest of his life with Hillary was definitely lucky.  Almost as lucky as this guy who gets to spend the rest of his life with the greatest guy in the world.  I couldn't wait to get home and tell him all about Hillary!  I made a mental note to call him tomorrow and check in.  As the last rays of the sun slid behind the water, I could see our families heading back our way.

"Hillary," I said, "I just want to thank you.  For everything.  I think for their part, our parents are gonna get their wish.  We're gonna be close for the rest of our lives, just not the way they had planned."

"I agree, Will," she said, "I was rather apprehensive about this whole thing this morning, but I'm glad we met, and I just know we're gonna be lifelong friends."  She leaned over and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek just as our parents were walking up.  I heard my mom sniffle and looked over to see her getting all misty eyed.  I blushed and Hill grabbed my hand.

"Will and I have been talking," she announced, "and we can't thank you guys enough for setting us up."

This sent a collective wave of satisfied grins and looks through the parents; they were thrilled.  If they only knew…

We went back to the B&B that night and I fell asleep happier than I'd been in a long time.

The next morning we headed out to the Trudeau's house on Kiawah Island.  When we pulled up, I must say I was overwhelmed.  This place was huge!!

"What kind of doctor is Dr. Trudeau, anyway?" I asked my dad.

"Oh, he's a cardiologist.  Nice house, huh?" he asked as we piled out of the Expedition.

We forewent the usual etiquette of going to the front door, Dr. Trudeau had apparently just told my dad to come on around back.  We walked back round to the rear side of the house which faced the ocean.  We ascended a small staircase and met the Trudeaus on the back deck.  When we all had said our hellos I took a look around me.  The deck offered a complete 180 degree view of the horizon and the vast expanse of the ocean spread out before us.  I just could just imagine waking up to a sunrise here everyday.  Even more, I couldn't think of waking up beside anyone other than Jack.  What would it be like to take our breakfast on this deck each morning? I wondered.  I could just picture in my mind's eye Jack and me about 30 years down the road.  His soft brown hair had these little distinguishing patches of silver mixed in, but he was still simply an amazing sight to behold.  God, how I absolutely could not wait to grow old with him.

Suddenly, I was awakened from my daydream by two soft arms wrapping themselves around my waist from behind.

"Hey loverboy," Hillary whispered in my ear.  "I hope you weren't thinking about me just now, because I think Jack might get a little jealous of the reaction you've got going on downstairs," Hillary said as she gave me a playful hug.

I blushed about 10 different shades of red when I noticed that my daydreaming had given me an erection, which was clearly visible through my khaki pants.  I cast my eyes downward as Hillary just giggled at me.

"You know, you are hopeless," she said.

"I know, but I guess I picked a good thing to be hopeless about then, right?" I said.

"I really have to meet this guy," she said, "I am just DYING to know what he's like."

"Well," I said, "I can give you the cliff's notes version if you want.  He's a little bit shorter than I am, with chestnut brown hair and deep blue eyes.  He's got this awesome complexion with these pearly white teeth.  His lips, ahh, his lips.  They're just two full pink cushions that taste like pure sugar cane.  He is absolutely the best kisser in the whole wide world.  He's not pushy or aggressive, he just is so gentle and soft when he kisses me.  I feel like I've got clouds under my feet when he kisses me.  I honestly feel like I'm floating," I said as I let out this soft sigh.  "God, Hil, I really miss him."

"That is so beautiful," Hillary responded, and I noticed she had the beginnings of tears in her eyes.  "I hope my beau talks that way about me someday when someone asks him what I'm like.  The tenderness you show whenever you talk about him just makes me so jealous.  I can't wait until I find love like you've found.  It's purity is so sincerely evident," she said.  "When are you gonna tell your parents?"

"Hmm," I responded, "I honestly don't know.  I have a sneaking suspicion that they already know, but I can't confirm that."

"Yeah, most of my gay friends told me that when they came out to their parents, they already knew or at least suspected," she said.  "I don't want to stress you out about this, but I don't think your parents will take it that well.  I mean, they seem a lot like my parents, and are really into this arrangement.  I mean, did you SEE the way our moms were getting all misty-eyed?  Give me a break!"  I knew I loved this girl for some reason, I thought.  "I guess what I'm getting around to is if you want use me to take some of the heat off, I'm willing to run interference for you."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, I can honestly see how much Jack means to you, and I wouldn't want to risk anything happening to that by your parents getting all paranoid.  I guess what I'm offering is to be your doting debutante while you get everything figured out on the homefront.  If you ever get any tough questions that you'd rather not answer, just tell your folks that we're an item, and that's that.  Hopefully, that will diffuse the situation and divert any unwanted attention on you and Jack."

"Hillary," I said, "you have no idea how much this means to me."

"Oh yeah?" she said, "I have to pretend to be dating a gay boy who is `sneaking around' on me with his boyfriend, all the while I have to stay tirelessly devoted to you.  I think I have a pretty good idea what it means," she said smiling as she drew me in for a hug.  "This is a very generous gesture on my part, but I'm willing to do it for you.  Just promise me one thing," she said.

"Anything," I said.

"Promise me you'll be careful…with everything," she said.

"I will," I agreed.

"I'm serious, Will, you can never be too careful with your heart or your body these days.  I just don't want to ever see you hurt," she trailed off.

"Hillary," I said, "if I weren't a hopelessly in love gay boy, I would marry you in a heart beat!"

"Thanks, I think," Hillary said as we both easily giggled.  It amazed me how comfortably I could talk to her about anything, it was just a really nice feeling to have somebody to really dead level open yourself up to that would listen without reproach.  Of all the girls in the world to be paired up with, fortune had really smiled on me by giving me Hillary.

"Of course," she added, "you're going to have to continue to buy me lavish presents and tokens of affection if we're gonna make this look believable.  Give me your email address, and I will send you my wish list for this month," she finished with a huge grin.

"Of cawse, mah dear," I said, trying to imitate her languid flowing accent.  We both laughed at how silly I sounded, but the sentiment came through.  I really did come to love Hillary, just in a different way than I was supposed to.  I could live with that, though, for sure.

The rest of the two days that we spent in Charleston were spent with both families together.  Hillary and I had little time to talk about private matters like we did on the deck that sunny Tuesday, but soon all I had to do was give her a look and she could read exactly what I was thinking.  It was nearly as easy for us to read each other as it was for Jack and me.  That was one person I couldn't wait to see, though, that's for sure.  As we packed up our things in the Expedition on Thursday morning, I couldn't help but feel a little sadness.  I was really going to miss our talks, and talking to Hillary on the phone just wouldn't be the same as being there with her in person.  As we left Charleston, the irony of the whole situation was not lost on me.  A trip my parents had arranged for me to realize the person I was going to spend the rest of my life with definitely accomplished its purpose.  Only it wasn't the cultured belle they had picked out, it was my beau Jackson.

Well, I decided not to go with the cliffhanger for this chapter, but don't get too used to that!  LOL.  and I know all ya'll are absolutely just DYING to know what happened with Jack and his dad, but I guess you'll have to wait for Chapter 10, huh?  wow, 10, I never thought I'd get to 10 chapters of this story, I guess I'll have to make it extra special, hmm?  Well, let me know what you guys thought about this chapter.  Till next time, Duffer.