Angel in my Arms
I hung the phone back into its cradle after the brief call. I could feel my stomach tighten into knots with the anticipation of the impending arrival of my best friend and lover Anthony, who'd be here in an hour or so. I hadn't seen him in almost six months, since I'd moved from our old hometown in the Adirondacks near Lake George last June.
The tree was up and decorated - Mom had given me almost all of the decorations we'd used during past Holidays in our house before I moved, anticipating that my first Christmas away from home might be difficult. She was right. I missed her a lot and the old house on the hill. But the tree looked great and there were many brightly wrapped and decorated packages adding to the whole festive mood in the apartment.
I checked the oven once more, insuring that the meal I was making would be ready on time and added more ice to the champagne chilling in it's bucket. I resisted taking another shrimp from the cocktails but poured a Bass Ale into a glass instead and sat down on the balcony, listening to the traffic go by three blocks away and thinking of nothing now but Anthony. God, I've missed him so much.
My mind wandered back to some of the adventures we'd enjoyed in the rugged hills and valleys while growing-up: all those outdoors things, fishing, camping, swimming and in the winter, skiing, skating and the long drawn-out, all afternoon snow ball fights with the neighborhood kids, the two of us against all comers! Generally, we'd do anything to get away from our houses and our moms and be together. Except when we worked on the sailing ship models together. They were all here too, displayed around my spacious apartment and in the extra bedroom that served as my office and workspace.
I was thinking about how the two of us had become so close when I recalled our less than happy introduction to each other; I'd been roped into babysitting him by my Mom so she and Anthony's mother Maria could drive into Albany and take the train down to New York for a day of shopping in the city. It was the weekend before Christmas and the same weekend a blizzard dropped almost four feet of snow in two days. That was some weekend!
"But MOMMMM! He's almost twelve! Isn't that old enough to take care of himself?" I had met Anthony a year ago at his schools "Carnival Day" fundraiser, but he'd recently gotten out of the hospital and just sat there. I didn't really pay him any attention to him at all.
"Matthew Dennis Clarke you stop that whining this minute! You know that he's been sick and besides that, you're the only one close to his age in the neighborhood. You can't expect that Maria can get someone else now; we made our plans weeks ago. Mrs. Carlson had to go to her sisters for some kind of family emergency and couldn't watch him today and since you're here doing nothing anyway, so you're it, like it or not."
Mom was giving me that "look," the one I understood all to well to mean just shut-up and do what I tell you.
Well I knew that there was no use arguing at this point, still it rankled me that here I was almost 14 and I was going to be saddled with a sickly eleven year old for the whole day and most of the evening. Even if it was 20 degrees outside and looking like more snow was about to fall, I knew I wouldn't be going outside in this weather - I liked it warm, not cold - but I was convinced that he'd be a pest the whole time, wanting to play silly kid games all day with me - a fourteen year old guy (well almost anyway) and as far as I knew, that wasn't in this teenage boy's job description, at least until now it hadn't been.
Defeated and with no escape, I decided to change my tune, after all Christmas was just four days away and I still hoped to get one of the new Nintendo game machines this year.
"Okay Mom, no problem. I'll watch him for you." She smiled at me, in effect telling me that she wasn't really mad, but I fully intended to let the little worm dangle in the wind, by himself - nobody said I had to play with him or let him hang out with me.
Mrs. Rinaldi brought Anthony with her when she drove the two miles from their house to pick Mom up so they could catch the train.
Anthony was small for his age, somewhere under 5' tall and couldn't have weighed more than 90 pounds, he appeared to be a walking bag of bones under his clothes. He had long shiny black hair tied into a ponytail and the biggest, deepest blue eyes I've ever seen, before or since. He appeared to be very shy as well, sitting in the corner of the living room while our mothers prepared to leave, still wrapped-up in his coat, muffler and gloves. He seemed like he was lost, looking around the living room as if seeking an escape route.
I was given instructions about when to give him his medicine and what he could and could not do, eat, watch on TV and most definitely, not to tease him! Tease him? I wouldn't be able to tease him because I didn't intend to talk to him more than necessary at all!
After our Mom's were gone, Anthony continued to sit in the corner of the living room, still with his coat and stuff all buttoned-up.
"Well are you going to sit there in your coat all day? You aren't going anywhere so you may as well take it off and hang your stuff in the closet," I told him before turning around and walking back into the kitchen for a soda. I didn't offer him one either.
When I came back into the living room, he was unzipping his heavy jacket and placed it onto a hook in the closet by the front door.
"God, he is a bag of bones," I thought noticing how all his clothes seemed to hang off him seemingly a couple of sizes too large.
I went up the stairs to my bedroom, leaving the door open so I could hear what he was doing, then started working on the model of the USS Constitution - Old Ironsides - that I had been working on for a couple of weeks. If I had one passion, large sailing ships were it.
My dad had been in the navy and he'd taken me to see the Constitution just before he returned to sea and the fighter jets he flew off the USS Nimitz. He'd been killed in a training accident when another fighter clipped his wing at low altitude, but his love of the sea and tall ships still was strong in me. I suppose that all the hand built plastic and wood models on shelves around my bedroom we really a sort of memorial to Dad's memory and the good times I remember having with him. I had just turned seven when he'd been killed.
While I tinkered with the model trying to set a mainsail yardarm in place, I hadn't heard Anthony come up the stairs and sit cross-legged in my doorway.
"Why are you mad at me Matthew?" I heard him ask me in a soft quiet voice.
Startled, I turned around and looked, ready to yell at him for "sneaking-up" on me like he'd done, so quietly and without a sound, but when I saw him sitting there on the rug, for some reason the reply died on my lips.
"I'm not mad at you." I told him.
"Then why...why don't you want to be around me, or talk to me?" He asked, again in that soft voice, his big blue eyes fixed on me.
"Ahhh...well I...," Oh shit, I couldn't tell him that I thought I was too "old" to be babysitting an eleven year old boy, or that I resented that my Mom was making me do so.
"Tony," I started to say when I saw the fire in his eyes briefly come alive when I started to speak.
"My name is Anthony...not TONY! Tony was my father, not me," he said, this time with firmness in his voice that surprised and shocked me. He then got up and walked back down the hallway towards the stairs without saying anything else.
'Hell, now I've gone and made him mad at ME!' I thought, still wondering why I hadn't kept to my plan to not deal with him at all knowing that now, I'd have to go after Anthony...not Tony...and ask what was going on.
I sat there looking at myself in the reflection of the mirror on my closet door while I pondered what to do about Anthony and...well, my own behavior towards him. Was I avoiding him like I had almost all the other guys I knew?
For the past couple of years, I'd become more aware that I preferred to hangout with the other guys who lived nearby rather than make friends with the girls like everyone else seemed to be doing. Then last summer at camp, I had my first sexual experience...with another boy.
We'd been swimming at the lake late into the afternoon until we were called to get ready for dinner. My friend Gabe and I were assigned to gather all the equipment and secure it so we were the last ones to make it back to the cabin and into the showers. By then, everyone else had left for the dining hall so the two of us were left alone.
I watched Gabe strip off his shorts and
was amazed that his young teenage cock was fully hard and pointing straight
up at his stomach. I was even more amazed when my own dick got instantly
hard while looking at him. At 13 (almost 14) my cock was slightly longer
than some of the other boys, but thin and narrow. The sparse patch of reddish
blonde hair at it's base was silky and straight but darker than the hair
on my head that always
turned blonde in the summer sun. When I looked at Gabe, I think I even drooled a little.
"Like what you see Matt?" Gabe asked me as he grabbed my shoulder to pull me closer and then slowly fondled my balls and cock.
Well one thing led to another and we both ended up jerking each other off, spewing our boy cum into each others hand. Then Gabe did something that shocked me to the core. He knelt in front of me and slipped my still throbbing cock into his mouth and sucked, running his tongue all around the head of my rock hard penis. It was too much for me and I came again, this time into his mouth.
The next two days before camp ended, Gabe sucked me off a half dozen times, but all I could bring myself to do to him was jerk him off. But we'd kissed and had touched and caressed each other a lot too. I really liked that.
I started to think that maybe I was gay during the fall; the memories of what Gabe and I did together made masturbating at night in my bed more exciting and I had recently started to wonder if the any of the other guys I knew did the same thing. I never had the nerve to ask anyone because I had heard the way the older teens at the high school talked about "fags" and "queers."
Afraid I was one of "them" too because I really liked the kissing and closeness of having sex with Gabe, I started to stay at home more and more after school, my models became a very important distraction too - all because I was afraid someone would find out about me. It was a very lonely time.
Since Mom works long hours as a nurse in a private hospital nearby, I don't think she ever noticed I'd begun to change what I spent my time doing. She thought I was just "growing-up," because I'd keep the lawn cut and raked, the dishes washed and started doing my own laundry too - without her having to ask, but in reality...I was hiding from my friends and from myself as well.
Now, after all those memories flashed by me in a few moments, I realized I was staring at myself in the mirror on the back of my closet door and I still didn't know what to do about Anthony. Then I heard the front door slam!
I jumped up and ran down stairs into the living room. No Anthony.
Over to the picture window: no Anthony to be seen. The snow had begun to fall again and by the look of it, there'd be a lot too. It was then that I saw a little splash of color a way down the road - it was Anthony running down the hill in the direction of his house - two miles away!
'Well, let him go home. He ran off. Damned if I care. I didn't make him leave...or did I?' Those thoughts were running around in my head when I knew I had to go after him.
I've never understood where the edge of panic came from, maybe it was the fear that I'd be in big trouble with our Moms, or perhaps I knew that on a day like this, the "bag of bones" didn't have a chance to make it the whole two miles to his house, whatever...I ran out of the front door - no coat, hat, gloves or boots - and took off after him.
Ten minutes later we were both back in my house sitting the closest we could get to the radiator in my room, wrapped up in blankets and shivering. My feet were numb with cold and I knew they'd begin to hurt soon too and Anthony...he just sat on the edge of my bed and glared at me.
We hadn't said much after I carried him back through the front door. He'd stopped struggling and yelling for me to let him go when we reached my driveway, it's a good thing too, because he's a lot stronger than he looks and I was about to drop him.
I was just to the point of defrosting enough to feel my feet begin to hurt when he spoke up in that soft voice I'd heard only once today, before things got out of hand.
"Why did you come after me Matthew?"
"Because you'd have frozen to death before you got to your house, that's why."
"That wouldn't have been so bad," Anthony said to me quietly looking right into my eyes when he did. I'm sure he saw the shock on my face as what he'd just told me finally registered in my still half frozen brain.
"What?" I asked, beginning to see some light in the fog.
"I don't have any friends here or anyplace really. When I got out of the hospital we had to move so Momma could find work at the same place your mom works at. She's never home and...I don't think anyone would miss me...," his words trailed off leaving me to fill in the last few myself: If I were gone...dead? There was a depth of sadness in his eyes that shook me too.
"I'd miss you Anthony."
I'm not sure why I said that I'd miss him, but when I did say it, I knew that I meant it. Sitting here in my bedroom after freezing my ass off chasing after him, I realized that the black-haired, blue eyed twelve year old (well almost twelve) and I had made some kind of connection at a really basic level. I remember seeing that same sadness in my own eyes when I was seven.
"You'd miss me Matthew? Why?"
"Because...because I like you Anthony. I think we're a lot alike, you and me."
I got up and stretched, pulled the blanket I had around me tighter then went over to my bed and sat next to him. Anthony scooted around so we were facing each other.
"Anthony...I'm sorry for not talking to you and...well...for being such an asshole earlier. When I said we're alike, we are. I don't have too many friends either and I spend most of my free time in here working on my ship models and..."
"You're lonely too Matthew?" Anthony asked. He did know what I was saying.
"Yes, maybe as lonely as you are."
"We can be friends, you and me, can't we Matthew?"
"I think we're already friends Anthony only we just didn't know about it until now." For the first time, I saw Anthony's lips start to twitch and a hint of a smile begin, that grew and grew until he was grinning from ear to ear. So was I.
"Friends?" I asked offering him my hand.
"Friends!" He said, taking my hand in his, strongly grasping it, we shook twice, then relaxed our grip, but didn't release each other. Instead we just sat there holding hands looking into each other's eyes. I was lost in those eyes but finally the cold damp in my jeans told me I needed to get out of the soaked clothes.
"I gotta change out of these wet things Anthony and so do you. We're both soaked and cold and if you get sick..."
"I won't get sick Matthew, I am cold but I didn't bring anything else to wear." He told me, his eyes breaking contact with mine as he shivered a little.
"That's okay Anthony, I think I can find something for you to wear." I got up from the bed but realized that we were still holding hands. We looked at each other and laughed, the first time I'd heard his funny little cackle of a laugh.
I found him a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt I'd outgrown but no briefs and mine were too large for him. While he changed in the bathroom, I tossed our wet things into the drier, made us a big pot of hot cocoa and grabbed a bag of cookies from the cupboard too before going back upstairs to my room.
I was standing in the doorway watching Anthony look at my models when it struck me that for some reason Anthony seemed to me like he belonged here. Maybe it was my clothes he was wearing, maybe it was the fact that we'd just agreed to become friends, but from that moment on I knew in my heart that Anthony and I belonged with each other.
We puttered around my room and the house, playing Risk (I won), Monopoly (he won) and chess (a draw). I showed him what I was doing with the Constitution model and he surprised me again by knowing some of the parts and what their function was on the real ship. Anthony never left my side, or was it that we never left each other alone the rest of the afternoon and evening.
We made our dinner together - hamburgers and oven fries - and were cleaning-up when Mom called from Albany.
"Matthew, the storm has closed all the roads so you'll have to take care of Anthony tonight and maybe the rest of tomorrow too. We're stuck here till the roads reopen so Maria and I are staying at this motel," Mom told me and rattled off the phone number that I wrote down on the pad by the phone.
"That's alright Mom, we're fine and everything is good here." I described what we'd done during the day (leaving out the earlier trek in the snowstorm) and the meal we'd just made and she issued me instructions about what to make in the morning and maybe for lunch tomorrow too if the roads were still closed.
"Mommm! I can take care of Anthony and myself and I know what to make," I told her.
"I know dear, it's just that I worry about leaving you two alone in this storm. I know that you'll do just fine. Now put Anthony on. Maria wants to talk to him."
Anthony spoke quietly to his mother on the phone then hung-up when they finished. He turned around and looked at me in a very serious way, then threw his arms around me and hugged me tightly.
"Thanks for not telling her about what I did today...about running off and all that."
"What are friends for Anthony, if not to cover for each other...huh?" I told him as I succumbed to my own desire to hug my smaller friend back, just as tightly as he was holding me.
We watched TV for a while; the late news and weather reported that the storm had turned into an unexpected blizzard and with Christmas less than a week away the weatherman said he could predict a white Christmas for everyone in the area. What a fool. We both laughed at his forecast being so obvious now that we were expected to get two to three feet before tomorrow night. Then it was time for bed.
It never crossed my mind to ask Anthony if he wanted to sleep in my bed with me, he just stripped down to his now dried briefs and dove under the sheets and comforter before I came in from the bathroom. I didn't say anything to him about it, but turned out the light and joined him.
Anthony just snuggled up against me and I wrapped my arms around him. I think we were both asleep in moments.
I was dreaming of camp last summer, and of Gabe's lips wrapped around my dick sucking me gently, his tongue dancing around my shaft and cock head making my balls contract and spew my cum into his mouth. Just as my orgasm was at its peak I woke up to feel real lips around my throbbing penis and Anthony's sucking mouth draining the last of my cum.
"What are you doing Anthony?" I yelled at him. I was truly surprised by what he'd been doing.
He jumped off my cock and before I could move, he'd climbed out from under the covers and ran out of the room.
"NO! NO! I'm sorry...don't hurt me..." he was screaming at me when I found him sobbing and wedged between the commode and the bathtub in my Mom's bathroom downstairs.
I fell to my knees in front of Anthony and reached out to touch him. When he tried to collapse in on himself...trying to become smaller and withdraw further away, all I could think to do was talk to him. He seemed terrified of me and I have to admit I was very frightened too and worried about Anthony.
"Anthony I'll never hurt you...I couldn't hurt you, ever, but what happened upstairs has me...well, I'm confused and I need you to help me understand Anthony. Please Anthony, please come out and tell me what's going on."
"You promise you won't hurt me?" He asked me through the tears and his gasping for air.
"I promise Anthony. I couldn't ever hurt
you because...because you're my friend
"Come on buddy, let me help you out of there." This time when I reached out to help him he grabbed my hand with both of his and flew out into my arms wrapping his skinny little legs around my waist, sobbing again and gasping for air.
'Gasping for air?' I thought as suddenly I remembered about his medicine. His inhaler!
I picked him up in my arms and turned to carry him back out of the bathroom when I saw the marks...scars...across his back in the mirror. I'd seen these kind of scars only once before...in the movie Glory...on Denzel's back. Someone had beaten my new friend...my Anthony, very badly. The sight of those injuries made me feel sick and made my chest hurt too and I could feel my tears rolling down my face.
I carried him upstairs and laid him gently on my bed, then went to look for his inhaler. While I was downstairs retrieving his medication the lights went out.
"MATTHEWWWWW!" I heard him shout.
"I'm here Anthony!" I ran back up the stairs pausing only long enough to grab some candles and matches out of the hall closet.
Lighting one and putting it on the bedside table, I saw Anthony huddled in the corner of my bed up against the wall shivering and gasping for breath. I climbed onto my bed and gently eased my friend into my arms and held his hands while he took puffs of the medication down into his lungs.
He was breathing easily when I lay down with him in my arms and pulled the covers back over both of us again. I wrapped my arms around him and pulled Anthony as close against me as I could. He didn't resist, instead he tried to get even closer to me, hugging me tightly, resting his head on my shoulder, his tears...and mine...soaking spots on my pillow. Tremors wracked his slight body as we held each other.
When Anthony was calmer and had stopped
shaking, he quietly began to tell me his story...about his father catching
him and his older cousin having sex in the basement...about the beating with
a length of rope on the naked flesh of his back...of his cousin being beaten
nearly to death by his father...Tony. Anthony told me about
the weeks he's spent in the hospital and of his fathers suicide after he'd been arrested and charged with attempted murder.
My brain was numb.
'So this is what Anthony has had to deal with,' I thought to myself, crying just as hard as he was now.
"But why...earlier, you were..."
"I wanted to make you feel as good as you made me feel today Matthew becoming my friend and because...because...I think I love you Matthew," he cried out, burying his face into my chest.
"That's okay Anthony because I know I love you too."
His head lifted up from my chest and in the candlelight his face looked to me like that of an angel in a Renaissance painting...tear stained face, reddened eyes and all...and the look he gave me was filled with love...just love. Our heads moved slowly together and we kissed, gently at first then with great passion. I don't think we ever went to sleep that night, more like passed out from complete emotional exhaustion.
Our lives were both changed that night, irrevocably and forever.
From that day on, we were hardly ever apart again. Anthony and I became closer than brothers and for the next few years, we enjoyed the rest of our childhood. Anthony began to fill-out and by the time he was fifteen, he'd metamorphosed into a stunningly handsome and strong young man.
That year at Christmas, we finally had enough courage to come-out to our Moms.
There weren't any angry words, no recriminations about never having grandchildren or how awful it was to be gay - none of that. In fact we were to discover later that they'd figured it all out before our next Christmas together - when Anthony turned thirteen and I was almost fifteen and had let us alone. We have two of the best mom's anyone could ever have. They both read about gay life and educated themselves in order to teach us about what we'd need to know.
We had "our" bedrooms in both houses and with certain restrictions, like locks on the doors, as little noise as was possible, and being careful with each other (yes, they'd both given us the "talk" separately and together), our love and devotion to each other continued to grow and become stronger with each passing year.
There was never any problem at school, we knew better than to advertise out relationship, in fact Anthony and I both dated girls, but besides a few pecks on the lips, nothing ever happened with them...we were already committed to each other.
I went to the local community college for two years while Anthony was still in high school and we alternated nights at each others house as we'd been doing for a long time. When I graduated - I learned computer programming at the college - I had to move to Atlanta for the company I worked for. That was six months ago and now in a few minutes, Anthony would join me here too.
When Anthony walked through the door, dropped his bags and flew into my arms, wrapping his legs around my waist like he had so long ago, I knew everything was right with the world: Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I knew I'd wake up in the arms of my angel.
We wish all of you the Happiest of Holidays
and a Healthy, Prosperous New Year filled with Love.
Mike and Alan