The following fictional narrative involves sexually-explicit erotic events between men. If you shouldn't be reading this, please move on.
In the world of this story, the characters don't always use condoms. In the real world, you should care enough about yourself and others to always practice safe sex.
The author retains all rights. No reproductions or links to other sites are allowed without the author's consent.
The town of Stafford, the Sunrise Arts Center, and the characters in this story are fictitious.
Thanks to Mickey S. and Drew Hunt, who have provided inspiration, advice, and encouragement throughout the writing of this series. Special thanks to Jeff Allen for supplying information I needed for this chapter.
I flew out of Charlotte for Waltersburg on the Friday of Veterans' Day weekend. Doug met me at the United baggage carousel at Waltersburg International. We hugged. It was wonderful, since we hadn't seen each other in several years.
Doug told me it would take about an hour and fifteen minutes to drive from the airport to Lake Polk. We used the time to get caught up on each other's lives. He told me that he'd left Cranmer College in Ohio, where he had taught, because he'd had an affair with one of his students. Word had gotten out about the affair, and Doug was the butt of campus jokes and derogatory comments from his students. He decided he couldn't remain at Cranmer any longer. About that time, his parents were both killed and he inherited enough money to live independently if not lavishly. He had moved to Lake Polk as a kind of exile, though he explained that it was a pretty town in one of the few hilly areas in the Florida peninsula, a place where he'd often though he'd like to live.
Doug told me that he'd become a lay Eucharistic minister at the local Episcopal Church. One Sunday morning when he was serving the chalice, he'd been intrigued by a newcomer. They'd looked into each other's eyes, and that was it. As he put it, "Lust at first sight." Lust quickly turned into love, and they'd been partners ever since. They thought they were being discreet, but their love was discovered, they were outed, and Stan, his partner, had resigned under pressure as the city manager.
Stan was apparently financially comfortable, and the two of them could have gone almost anywhere to live. Instead, they had decided to stay there and model what a committed gay couple could be for the community. They'd bought a big old house facing the lake. Stan had opened a law practice primarily for the low-income African-American and Latino segments of the community. Doug helped run the office, take care of the books, do the data processing, and with current software come up with many of the standard legal forms. Both men worked on fixing up their beautiful but aging house, though Stan said it was mostly Doug's project.
"Doug," I asked, "don't you feel as if your education and experience as a professor are going to waste?"
He grinned. "Not really. I'm doing what a paralegal would have done for Stanley, and I'm happy I can work with him that closely. And there's something really satisfying about painting, refinishing, hammering, and sawing on this old house. I can see at the end of the day exactly what I've accomplished. Besides, I started working on a book on Faulkner when I moved here, before I met Stan, and I still write a bit on that from time to time."
Stan Mason came out the front door of the big old frame house as we pulled in the drive. He was shorter than I'd expected, 5'8" or 5'9", with close-cut but curly hair. It was black with a liberal sprinkling of gray. He wore a well-trimmed mustache and goatee. His shoulders were broad, his chest big, but he had a waist as small as Doug's, and Doug tended to be on the skinny side. His intense blue eyes, however, were his most striking feature.
He came down the steps from the veranda that went across the front of the house and along one side. Without waiting for introductions he came up me and gave me a big hug. "Jon, welcome to Lake Polk. Doug's been so eager for this visit! He's told me a lot about you. We're glad you came to see us."
Doug stood there beaming, as if it pleased him to see Stan and me hugging on the front walk.
Doug grabbed my bag and Stan led the way inside. After they showed me to my room and I used the bathroom, they took me to a large screened porch (or screen porch as they called it) at the back of the house. They served up drinks and snacks, and Doug lighted the gas grill for steaks later.
It seemed we spent the whole weekend talking. They told me more about the problems they'd had after the were outed, about Doug's picketing the diocesan office in Walterboro after his lay reader's license was revoked by their bishop, and about the new life they were leading in the Lake Polk community. They in turn wanted to know all about life in Stafford and my work at Sunrise.
On Saturday they took me to the Ridenour Gardens, a beautiful spot with its famous bell tower and plantings laid out in the early twentieth century by the landscape architect who'd planned New York's Central Park. We had lunch at the café there, sitting outside under an arbor, surrounded by all sorts of beautiful flowers. Doug mentioned that he had worked at the reception desk in the visitors' center at the gardens until he and Stan became notorious in the community. As he said that, Stan was holding his hand under the table and looking at him with great love.
I asked why they stayed around, in view of the trouble they'd had. Stan turned to me, gave me a grin that made my dick twitch, and explained that they liked the area and that they weren't going to let the bastards chase them out.
"Besides, we still have lots of friends here. And we've made some new ones as a result of the stand we've taken. "
"Well, Stanley," Doug said, "I think you're providing an important service to the low-income families in the community, too."
"Yeah, there's that as well."
On Sunday we drove into Cypress Haven to attend church. They'd quit going to the Episcopal Church in Lake Polk when the bishop of their diocese had revoked Doug's license to be a lay reader and some members of the parish had told the rector they wouldn't come back so long as Stan and Doug were attending there. Rather than create problems for the parish and the rector, who, Doug said, was a pretty decent guy, they elected instead to go to the much larger and more liberal church in Cypress Haven. It was about a 35 minute drive, and they'd been happy to do that.
On Monday they took me to Parkerville, the largest city in Imperial County, to see the Imperial Museum of Art. It was a beautiful new facility with lots of gallery space. They had a permanent pre-Columbian exhibit that I thought was really impressive, especially for a town of 70,000 people. I spent some time talking with the volunteer at the desk while Stan and Doug were looking at an exhibit of art by local high school students. The main galleries contained huge abstract oils by a woman at the University of Florida in Gainesville. We had lunch at a New Orleans-themed restaurant in the downtown area, walked through a beautiful formal garden next to a lake adjacent to the business district, and drove back to Lake Polk.
I neglected to mention that we did all our driving in Doug's pickup truck. It was the kind that had a back seat. Stan laughingly explained that Doug had had a gray Buick sedan which he, Stan, called "the hearse." When they bought their current house, they decided to trade the Buick for the truck. It was bright red. Doug explained that he'd chosen that color so it would match Stan's car.
"What kind of car does Stan have?" I was wondering why we were riding around in a truck if Stan had a car. "Oh, we'll show you. But it won't hold three people. It's a Thunderbird."
Sure enough, when we got home, they opened the garage and there was the bright red sports car, the kind Ford made for a few years in the early 21st century. "It's perfect for the two of us, but no good when we have guests. So I try to keep the inside of the truck presentable, and I manage most of the time. Unless we're into some heavy remodeling."
Stan grinned. "Who ever would have thought the professor here would be so good with his hands? He's learned to work with drywall, and he's a great painter. He's even repaired some of the crown molding." He slapped Doug on the butt. "This is quite a guy, Jon. There are a lot of things about him his students would never have guessed."
After supper that evening, we sat for a while on their veranda looking at the lake. It was about 100 yards from their house, and the area between Lakeside Dr. and the lake was filled with huge old live oak trees, with their Spanish moss. A paved walk went around the lake, and we watched as the occasional walker or jogger went by. On a hill on the far side of the lake the rays of the setting sun were hitting the carillon tower at the Ridenour Gardens.
I was struck by how peaceful it was, and I said so.
"Yes, it's peaceful. We love this old house and the view. Except for being the local poster boys for gay couples, we even like the town," Doug said. "But we have to go to Tampa to see decent live theater or hear a symphony orchestra."
"Do you do that often?"
"Three or four times a year," Stan said. "Not often enough. We usually get a room and stay over. We'd rather get up early and arrive back here in time to open up the office than to drive back late at night. Sounds like we're getting old, doesn't it?"
I laughed. "Hey, you guys are youngsters. I could tell you a few things about getting old."
It got chilly on the veranda, so we moved inside. Doug got us brandies. We sat in their living room, occasionally sipping our drinks.
Stan looked at me with those blazing blue eyes of his and asked, "Jon, you have told us about Stafford and about Sunrise. You haven't said anything about a man in your life. Is there anyone special?"
"Has Doug told you about Will?"
"Yeah, he has. I'm sorry."
"Will's been gone for ten years. I decided a couple of years ago that if another guy came along, someone I could really love, Will would approve. But there just hasn't been anybody. Until recently, that is."
"That sounds promising," Stan said. "Want to tell us about him"
So I told them about Frank.
Doug said, "By the light in your eyes, Jon, I think you really like this guy."
"But you haven't had sex yet?" Stan asked.
I told them about wanting to go slow and about our agreement to see where we stood by Christmas time.
"Forgive me, Jon," Stan said, "but you've said you really enjoy being with Frank and doing things with him, right?"
"And you two have done some cuddling and some pretty hot kissing."
"Then what are you waiting for? Life's too short to be cautious, especially as we get older. I've been grateful for every second I've had with Doug."
They were sitting together on the sofa, and at that comment Doug took Stan's hand and held it.
"You know, I think Stan's right. I don't see why you should wait another six weeks if you really care for this guy. Being alone's no fun, especially when there's a great man who'd like to share his life with you."
"Guys, thanks for the advice. Thanks for caring. I'll give what you've said a lot of thought, I promise."
On the plane back to Charlotte the next day I did give it a lot of thought. I remembered the many loving touches and looks I saw between Doug and Stan during my brief visit with them. I realized that I needed a lover. I asked myself again whether I really had feelings for Frank or was interested him just because he was available and attractive and I was lonely
One morning in November Jean told me that Chave MacPherson's assistant was on the phone for me. I had to think a minute to remember who Chave MacPherson was. Then I remembered the guy Father Gary had introduced me to at the Telford/Fields reception, the guy who was so slick and polished and obviously successful that I took an instant dislike to him. Though he'd been pleasant enough as we chatted, I couldn't get over the fact that he reminded me of my older brothers. Reluctantly, I told Jean to put the woman on.
"Dr. Pell, this is Stephanie Blaine, Mr. MacPherson's assistant. How are you this morning?" She sounded expensive. I could just see her, well tailored, meticulously coifed and made up, unflappable as well as decorative, sitting in the posh offices of Tweedle, Dee, and Dee, or whatever the law firm was she and MacPherson worked for.
"I'm well, thanks, Ms. Blaine. And you?" In the South we have to go through those amenities. Frankly I didn't much care how she was, but custom dictated that I ask.
"I'm just fine, thank you. Dr. Pell, Mr. Mac asked me to call and see if we could set up a lunch date for the two of you. Would you be free this Friday about 1:00?"
I really didn't want to have lunch with this guy, but since there was a chance he might become a contributor to the Alliance, I checked my calendar, saw that it was open, and told Stephanie so.
"Excellent. Could you meet him at Raintree? If not, he says he'll be happy to pick you up at Sunrise."
"No, that won't be a problem, Ms. Blaine. I'll see him at Raintree at 1:00 on Friday. And would you please tell him I said thanks for the invitation. I'll be looking forward to seeing him again."
I wasn't looking forward to it, but I said what I had to. That was a part of my job I didn't much enjoy.
Friday, a few minutes after 1:00, as the maitre d' showed me to the table where MacPherson was already sitting, I realized I stood out in the crowd. Raintree's lunch patrons were downtown professionals, and I was one of the few men there who wasn't wearing a dark suit. In my jeans, tattersall shirt with a knit tie, tweed jacket and pony tail, I didn't exactly fit the corporate image projected by the other diners -- or lunchers, to be precise.
Chave MacPherson was reading something as I was led to his table. He took off a pair of rimless glasses, put them in his inside coat pocket, and stood to greet me. Dressed like most of the other men in the restaurant, he looked a great deal better. The subdued lighting still managed to bring out highlights in his red-blond hair. We shook hands and I sat in the chair opposite him, the chair the maitre d' had pulled out for me.
A waiter appeared almost immediately. When he asked if I wanted a drink I requested unsweetened tea. Then I noticed that Chave was drinking white wine and changed my mind, asking for whatever he was having.
After greeting me, Chave didn't say anything else until my wine came. I was uncomfortable as he sat there looking steadily at me and smiling. I couldn't help wondering what he wanted.
When the waiter brought my chardonnay, I raised my glass to him. We touched glasses, said "cheers," and drank. The wine was a heavenly chardonnay, full-bodied and oakey just the way I liked it. I was about to tell him how good it was when he asked me a question.
"Whitney, I'd guess you were from the eastern part of the state from your accent. But didn't you come here from the Midwest somewhere?"
"Yes, you're right about the area where I grew up. I didn't know you were a linguist."
He smiled, and I had to admit to myself he was really good looking. All the more reason to be distrustful. "'Tell the truth and shame the devil,' my mother always said. I went to Duke and I'm from Raleigh, so I should know the accent. Besides, I'd already guessed you were related to the Pells from that area. Don't you have a couple of brothers in my profession?"
What was I going to do, lie to him? "Yeah, you're right on all counts. Do you actually know my brothers?"
His face clouded a bit. "Yes, I've had some dealings with them."
"Then you know what they're like. Now, if you don't mind, let's change the subject."
He seemed surprised, but he smiled and mentioned that he'd bought one of Chris Fields' paintings from the recent show. I knew that, but I thanked him and said I hoped he'd enjoy it.
"Oh, I shall. I've recently bought a condo in that converted warehouse on River Road, and I'm in the process of furnishing it. I've got lots of blank wall space at the moment, but Christian's piece looks perfect over my bed."
I asked him several questions about the condo, and he seemed pleased to talk about it. Evidently he was enjoying furnishing and decorating it. I wondered. It was stereotyping to assume that because he liked fixing up his new place he was gay. But it was Father Gary who had introduced us, and Jean suggested I should get to know him, so at that moment I'd have bet he was family. But because he was gay didn't mean that I had to like him.
I remembered something Jean had suggested and started to change the subject, but the waiter came back with Chave's lobster salad and my chicken Caesar. We each buttered a roll and tasted our salads. You can get a chicken Caesar salad at fast food places these days, but the chef at Raintree knew how to do it right. I closed my eyes as I enjoyed my first taste. When I opened them, Chave was grinning at me.
I couldn't help smiling back. "Yeah."
"Whitney, it's time for me to tell you why I asked for this lunch."
I looked him in the eye and said, "Okay, Chave, and then I'll tell you why I accepted."
He laughed at that. "Fair enough. In fact, why don't you go first?"
"No, it's your party, after all. Please go on."
"Right. Is there some pet project you have for Sunrise, something that you need but haven't managed to collect the funds for?"
I thought about that as I munched my salad. "In an organization like ours, we always have our hands out, Chave. That goes with being a non-profit organization. Basically, though, we're in pretty good shape. But there is one thing . . ."
"And that would be?"
"We have a grand piano in the music hall. It's okay for the jazz combos that come. But all of the classical pianists bitch about it. I've been thinking of starting a fund for a new Steinway or Bosendorfer. I haven't said anything yet to the concert committee, but I think they'd get behind the effort very quickly. I just haven't wanted to try to ask for major fund raising too soon after taking charge here."
He smiled, reached in his coat, and pulled out an envelope, which he handed to me. "Open that, please."
In it were two checks, both payable to the Stafford Arts Alliance. The one on top was written on the account of Gates, Brownlee, and Estes, Attorneys at Law, for $50,000. The second one was written on Chave MacPherson's personal account for $5,000. I'm usually a pretty calm guy, but I think I gasped.
"Chave, I don't know what to say. These are wonderfully generous gifts, both of them. What brought this on?"
He grinned. "Well, after your reception the other night, I approached the senior partners and told them what a great show that was. I asked if they'd enjoyed having Sunrise and its activities in the community. All three of them said they had indeed. Hank Estes, who's a music lover, said he and his wife always had season subscriptions to your music series. Then I asked if they'd ever contributed. Clay Brownlee said he didn't think they'd ever been asked. I'm afraid your predecessor dropped the ball there."
I agreed, but I didn't say so.
"A day or two later, Hank stopped by my office with this check. He said since it was my idea, I should have the pleasure of presenting it to you. And then I thought I'd add my own modest gift for good measure."
"Again, I'm floored, but believe me, I speak for the Board when I say that we're very grateful -- very grateful, Chave. Thank you. I'll write to your senior partners and thank them in behalf of the Alliance. Now, tell me, are there any special restrictions or requests from either you or your firm as to the use of the money?"
"There weren't. Now that you've told me about the need for a good piano, I hope you'll put both checks towards it."
"That will almost do it. I think I know a member of Board who'll make up the difference."
I must have been grinning, for Chave was sitting there grinning back at me. I had to admit he was a good-looking guy. But then I thought that anyone who'd just handed the Arts Alliance $55K might look good.
"This is just a suggestion, mind you, but when you get your new piano and it's used the first time in a concert, you might want to put a note in the program thanking Gates, Brownlee, and Estes. No need to mention my little contribution."
"Oh, we'll see that your firm gets credit, along with my associate on the SAA Board. Chave, this has been a wonderful surprise. I'm grateful to you and your partners."
"'Nuff said, Whitney. It is Whitney, isn't it? I hear you don't like to be called Whit."
"Yeah, I prefer Whitney, if you don't mind."
"Not at all. Now, I'd like to make a personal suggestion. It has nothing whatever to do with the donations we've just been discussing."
`Uh oh,' I thought. `Here it comes.' I raised an eyebrow questioningly but didn't say anything.
"Have you considered a show of your own work? If not, you really should, you know. It's superb. I've never seen anything quite like it."
I was stunned. "Where did you ever see any of my work?"
His smile was nice, actually. "I was in Charlotte on business while your show was on there. I saw an ad in the paper about the exhibit, and since I'd never heard of fused glass, I stopped by. Bumped into Carol and Randy Burns. They were excited by your work and planned to introduce themselves to you, but I had to get back here and didn't stay. Needless to say, I was delighted when I heard that you'd become the director at Sunrise."
I was at a loss for words. Since I didn't say anything right away, he continued.
"Do you have a studio here in Stafford? If so, I'd really like to come by sometime."
"Wow! I'm a little bowled over here, Chave. As for a show of my pieces, I suppose eventually I might do that in one of the smaller galleries. But all our galleries are committed until about June."
"Okay, please think of an exhibit of your things in June. Our city ought to see what a talented artist the director of Sunrise is."
One of the curses of being blond is that I blush easily. I know I blushed then. I could feel my face and neck burning.
"I don't have a studio that's open to the public, but I've converted a part of a garage into my workspace with my kilns and all. If you'd like, you'd be welcome to come by some weekend and I'll show you how fused glass is done."
"Really? That'd be great. I'd love to!"
The slick veneer of the successful lawyer disappeared and he seemed almost like a boy in his enthusiasm. Determined as I had been first of all to dislike him and secondly not to be bought by his handsome gift, I found myself liking the man. He had no possible reason that I could think of to tell me he liked my glass pieces unless he actually did think they were good. I still wasn't sure how much he knew about art, but how could I distrust the judgment of someone who thought my stuff was good? I must have grinned at my own rationalization when he asked, "What's so funny?"
"Not funny exactly. I was just feeling like it was Christmas. I've got these two checks to take back to Sunrise, and my own work has just been praised. This has been some lunch, Chave."
He looked at his watch. "It's been a pleasure for me, Whitney, but I've got to run. I have an appointment at 1:30 and need to get back to the office."
"I've never even asked what kind of law you practice."
"I'm into estate and probate work."
"Do you enjoy it?"
He grinned. "No, it's boring as hell. But it pays well, so I can afford to do things I like after office hours."
I wondered what kinds of things those were, but I didn't ask.
He signed the bill, and we walked out together. On the sidewalk in front of Raintree, I shook his hand and thanked him sincerely for the lunch and all that went with it.
He walked off toward his office and I waited for the valet to bring my car. I gave the kid a bigger tip than I normally would have. I knew the money in my coat pocket wasn't mine, but somehow I was feeling pretty good right then.
That Friday evening at Judd's was wonderful. It wasn't just sexy, it was sweet. I couldn't wait for us to get back together again. I had to wait all day Saturday, though. Judd's family drove up to Boone to see an App. State football game. There was some sort of alumni lunch first, so they were gone all day.
I moped around my room. I didn't feel like doing anything with the camera. I went to the gym for a while. At lunch Maman asked if anything was wrong. I told her no. I'd already arranged for Judd to come over for the evening. He was supposed to show up about 7:30. I wished he could spend the night, but didn't have the nerve to suggest it.
That afternoon I browsed some of the sites with gay pictures. I found myself criticizing the photography and thinking that none of those guys was as sexy as my Judd. My Judd? I hoped he was my Judd. Anyway, I didn't want to whack off `cause I wanted to save it all for him. So I played some computer games. About 4:00 I went to the mall and walked around there for a while. I saw some really cool low-rise briefs and bought a pair in black. I thought I'd put them on before Judd came.
My folks were going to a dinner party at one of dad's doctor colleague's, so I knew they wouldn't be back until late. I prayed there wouldn't be an electrical outage again.
I ate alone and then put my things in the dishwasher. After showering I put on my new briefs, a pair of faded jeans, and a black tee. I had one of those shell necklaces which I didn't wear often, but for some reason I put that on.
Judd arrived right when he was supposed to, looking fabulous. I grabbed his hand and pulled him into the foyer. As soon as the door was closed, we kissed. When we had to stop so we could breathe, I gestured for him to take off his coat. As I was hanging it in the closet, I asked, "How was the football game?"
"It was okay. App. State won big, so Mom was happy. Now, where are your folks?"
"They're out for the evening, assuming the power company has things under control."
He chuckled at that. "So what are we waiting for? Let's go up to your room!"
I led the way. "Man, you've got a great ass." He cupped my butt, with his middle finger running along the seam of my jeans and my crack. He left his hand there, lifting lightly, all the way to my room.
When we got there, I hugged him again.
"Glad to see me, Louis?" He pushed his hard cock against mine.
"Yeah. This has been the longest day I can remember, just waiting for you to get here."
"Really? Cool! I should have been enjoying the trip today. The trees still had a lot of color, and I like seeing college football in person. But all I wanted to do was to get back here."
"So we could do stuff to each other?"
He grinned. "Well, that, too. But I just wanted to be with you."
"Aww, that's so sweet. I love being with you, too. Now, let's do some of that stuff to each other."
So we did. We took off our clothes and then spent a lot of time kissing and cuddling. We also managed a couple of blowjobs apiece and a had very sexy shower together before he got dressed and left -- just before my parents got home. I cracked the windows in my bedroom hoping the smell of cum would clear out before anyone was in there besides me.
The next night we didn't have much time at Judd's house because it was a school night, but we were able to try a 69 in his bedroom. It's a good thing he's down there where his parents can't hear what's going on, `cause we did a lot of moaning around the dicks in our mouths.
After that weekend, we ate lunch together at school every day. We got strange looks at first from some of his soccer buddies, but no one said anything to either of us, not even the Albright cousins. We didn't have any classes together, so the only time we were seen together was at lunch. And if Judd didn't care, I was happy to get to be with him for even that brief time. And I was glad soccer season would soon be over and we could study in the library at Sunrise. I had always found that a nice place to go after school when I wanted to do schoolwork, but Judd and I hadn't been able to go there together because he always had practice right after school.
His last match of the season was the Friday before Thanksgiving. Of course I went. I noticed that Whitney Pell was there along with Jonathan Baker and Mr. Cummings, the English teacher. Baker and Howard were always there together. I wondered if maybe they were more than just friends. That would be neat. I often felt that Jon was lonely.
The soccer match was weird. We were playing Hilldale, who were Stafford's arch-rivals in every sport. They were great in basketball, baseball, and football. They hadn't been having a good season in soccer, however, so everyone, Judd included, figured it would be an easy win and we hoped the team could close out its season in a blaze of glory, as they say.
Hilldale scored on us early in the game. Then, though there was a lot of running up and down the field, nothing much seemed to be happening. All through the game nothing happened. The guys were gorgeous in their uniforms, with their muscular legs and great asses, but it was pretty boring as sport. Just a lot of running around and no scoring. At some point I realized Judd just wasn't getting the ball. He wasn't being given any opportunities to score. Other guys would attempt to, but the Hilldale goalie always managed to deflect the ball. Fairly late in the game, one of our guys did score. A few minutes before the end, though, Hilldale managed to slip in another goal, so the match ended Hilldale 2, Stafford 1, Judd 0.
I went down to the edge of the field when it was over. He came to me for just a minute. He looked -- strange. I'd never seen that expression on his face before.
"What happened, babe?" I asked.
"Those bastards froze me out. And the coach is majorly pissed. There's a team meeting right now, so I gotta go. I'll call ya when I get showered and changed after the meeting."
He called a while later. "Meet me at BK? I'm starved. I've told my folks I won't be home for supper, and they're cool with that. They were disappointed when I told them the score, but they don't know why we lost. I need to be with you, babe."
I told Maman that Judd and I were getting together at BK and I wouldn't be there for supper. She said she wished I had told her earlier, but she didn't really object.
After we had picked up our burgers, fries, and cola, we managed to find a table, though the place was crowded. Judd didn't say much as he ate. He must have been hungry, `cause he really scarfed down his food. He went back and got another burger. He could have had mine. I was so worried about him I wasn't hungry.
When he finished his food, he suggested that we go back to his place. I think we both felt his room in the basement was a little more private than my upstairs bedroom. So, I followed him to his house. We said hello to his parents and went downstairs.
He took the computer chair and left the more comfortable one for me, as he always did.
"Judd, what happened today?"
"Well, no one's talking to me, so I'm just guessing. The Albrights must have told the others I'm gay. The only way they'd have of thinking that is because you and I have been hanging together. But anyway, they just froze me out. They made sure the ball never came my way. We held them to two goals, but couldn't score except for that one time."
"What happened at your team meeting?"
"Coach was really pissed, like I said. He could see what was happening, but he didn't understand why. He told them the loss wasn't my fault and asked each of them individually what was going on. They all shook their heads and said they were sorry about the loss, but denied they were deliberately keeping the ball away from me. Finally, he asked me."
"Yeah? What did you say?"
"What was I gonna say, babe? I just said I was sorry I hadn't been able to get to the ball and didn't think my buddies on the team would deliberately freeze me out."
"Did the coach buy that?"
"I don't think so, but he dropped it after that and sent us to the showers." He paused for a moment. "And then you know what, Louis? Jamie came up to me after we were dressed and ready to leave. You know what he said? He said, 'Thomas, you may be a fag, but at least you're a gentleman.'"
I felt dizzy at that moment. This was all my fault. I had brought all this on my Judd.
"Judd, babe, I'm SO sorry. I'm the cause of all this. You've lost your team mates as buddies because of me."
He stood up and came over and pulled me up. "I think I said this to you before. Fuck `em. Fuck `em all. I'll choose my friends, and if they don't like it, tough shit. Those guys are snobs and homophobes. Soccer season's over, and I don't have to have anything to do with them. I've got other friends. And the most important friend I've got is you."
He hugged me so tight he almost squeezed the breath out of me. Even though I'm as tall as he is, I leaned my head on his shoulder. We just stood there like that for a while. Then he pulled me over to the bed. We kicked off our shoes and stretched out. He smelled wonderful, of soap and shampoo and my Judd.
To be continued
[If you'd like to read Stan and Doug's story, see "Out of the Night" in the Nifty Archive's Adult Friends section, January 8, 2004. --Tim]