"Oh, Cammy, darling, you cute little fuck, it's time to get up!!!"
A shrill, falsetto voice squawked into his left ear as the boy lay on his side in bed, and then his bed itself began to bounce up and down in an exceedingly unpleasant manner.
The voice matched the pitch of his mother Catherine's voice perfectly, but the tone was all wrong. And the word "fuck" and any of its derivatives were definitely not something the elegant, refined author and full professor of English literature at St. Francis University would say to her son. As for bouncing the bed--no way!
Cam opened one eye in the semi-dark room, and looked up to see his next door neighbor and best friend, Kevin Stoltz, standing there wearing running shorts and a San Rafael High School soccer team T. He was sporting an evil grin on that expressive face of his. No matter what the boy was thinking, his face always showed it.
"Getcher ass up, Mac," Kevin said, reverting to his own baritone voice as he straightened up from bouncing the bed. "It's time to run."
"I knew it had to be you," Cam said, groaning and rolling over on his back, tenting the sheet with early morning wood. "How did you get in here, anyway?"
"The same way you get in. I used my key."
Each family house-watched for the other when they were out of town, so the boys each had keys.
"Dr. Mom was in the kitchen when I came in, though," Kevin added. "I told her I was going to motivate you to be a better boy today."
"And..." A slow smile spread across Cam's face.
"'Go for it!', she said, and went back to drinking her coffee."
"Leave me alone. It's Saturday."
"Nuh uh. Are you going out for pole vault this year?" Kevin asked, laughing, pointing at the pronounced tent in the bed sheet.
Like lightning, Cam grabbed his friend's wrist as he stood at the side of the bed, yanking him down. Rolling over on top of Kevin, he put his hands around his buddy's throat and pretended to choke him. Then, before the stockier boy could get in the game and defend himself, Cam jumped out of bed wearing a pair of huge, humongously ugly, puce colored boxers covered with red hearts, and ducked into his bathroom, not bothering to shut the door behind him.
"Nice underwear, man," Kevin snickered, putting a pillow under his head and continuing for the moment to lie where he had landed in his friend's bed.
"Don't make fun of these. They were a gift from my dead grandmother," Cam replied as he relieved himself at the toilet.
A moment later the toilet flushed, and Kevin heard the shower door open, the water start, and the shower door snap shut.
Kevin thoughts turned to the MacKenzies and the Stoltzes. The two families had moved next door into the houses where they still lived within two weeks of each other before California real estate had really boomed. They had become friends immediately. In fact, they had been like one big extended family, particularly during the early years.
Alex MacKenzie, Cam's dad, and Michael Stoltz, Kevin's father, had been young up-and-comers. Alex was on the staff of a small company making educational films for school consumption, and Michael was a new underwriter at the regional offices of an insurance company. Catherine MacKenzie had been working on a Master's degree in literature at St. Francis University to see if she wanted to go on for a doctorate, and had already been chafing at some of the Catholic strictures on free and open discourse in an academic setting. Lynda Stoltz, Kevin's mom, had been a full time housewife, and had done a lot to keep both households running smoothly when time was tight for Catherine. Kevin and Cam were born within days of one another, and in effect, had had four parents from the beginning instead of the usual two. It had been only some years later that Lynda Stoltz's health began to decline.
Turning his head, Kevin looked around the huge bedroom at Cam's stuff, almost as familiar to him as his own things at home. He had spent many nights in this bed with Cam on sleepovers when they were younger. Across the room, the flat screen monitor on Cam's desk was dark, the computer in sleep mode. Unlike himself, the slob, Cam had a place for everything and everything was in its place. There were a few soccer posters on the walls, along with a huge picture of Cam and his dad taken two years earlier in Scotland, standing in front of the castle of the Earl of Cromartie, now recognized as chief of Clan MacKenzie. One portion of that wall was devoted to still photos of scenes from some of the movies his father had directed during his career of late. On another wall, there was a poster-sized picture of the Royal Highland Fusiliers on parade in London. Cam was very proud of his Scots heritage, and had a kilt in the MacKenzie tartan, a beautiful blue-green plaid, but Kevin had never seen him wear it. As the result of a lost bet in a recent late night poker game, however, Cam would have to wear it to the senior class formal later this year. He'd better not chicken out on that, either, Kevin thought to himself.
Kevin closed his eyes for a minute as the shower continued to run. He smelled his friend on the bedsheets, and found himself wondering if his bud still spanked the monkey as much as he himself did. When puberty had hit with a vengeance in eighth grade, they'd jacked off together a few times--no touching each other, of course. But once they had both started dating girls in high school, they never got together for that purpose again. Neither one of them had anything to be ashamed of when it came to their bodies or their equipment, but Cam was particularly well hung. Not surprisingly, the kid's circumcised dick was even bigger now that he had grown up, judging from what Kevin had seen in the locker room. There was no word among the guys they hung with as to whether the kid had been using it on his current girlfriend, Teri McKee, or not, and Cam had never said anything about that even to him, his best friend. In that, at least, they were typical jocks--when it came to their deepest emotions, things were always fairly well hidden, unspoken.
Kevin himself had been using his own cock to good advantage, getting laid pretty much every weekend by own his girlfriend, Heather "Big Butt" Butler. Far from having a big butt, though, Heather was actually a beautiful young woman, at least physically. In his more lucid moments, Kevin had to admit he liked sex with Heather a lot more than he liked Heather. He had to pay dearly for "gettin' some" by letting himself get bossed around quite a bit, but he guessed it was worth it.
His thoughts turned away from sex with Heather and back to Cam. They had been friends from birth, even before they attended kindergarten together at their neighborhood Catholic grade school. They had a lot in common, including the fact that each was an only child. Kevin loved Cam more than he could or would ever tell him. Loving this kid wasn't difficult, because Cam had been blessed with a beautiful temperament. For a big jock and soccer star, he was easy-going to a fault. Kevin and Cam had been co-captains of almost every athletic team they had ever been on as they came up through school, and Kevin couldn't even remember the last time he had seen Cam get angry about anything. And yet the kid commanded such respect from everybody who knew him. He thought back to the time last year in the locker room when a fight had broken out after soccer practice between Phil d'Arcy and Rafe Murillo over something stupid. After showering, Cam had been dressing one aisle of lockers over from the brawl, and he walked over to the head of the next aisle and looked at the combatants. When they saw him, he shook his head in an almost imperceptible "No." Phil just gave Rafe a last shove and walked away. Pretty amazing, because the guys fighting were seniors and Cam was a junior, and at age 16, a young junior. But that's the kind of influence Cam had with people.
Cam was not only influential with his schoolmates, he was also the best hearted person Kevin knew. One day when he and Cam had been in 5th grade and walking home together in their school uniforms from St. Michael's grade school, they saw a bunch of eighth graders messing around with a little third grader from their school. Eventually the eighth graders had pantsed the kid, throwing his drawers up on the roof of a nearby front porch. When Cam and Kevin reached the kid, he was sitting on the front steps of some stranger's house in his underwear, crying his eyes out. Cam went to the boy, took his own gym shorts out of his book bag, and let the kid put them on. Then he and Kevin had walked the kid home. Cam later went back to the house and had talked the owner into letting him go out an upstairs window and on to the porch roof to retrieve the pants. Then he had dropped them off at the boy's house. That kindness of spirit still characterized Cam's approach to most of the people with whom he came into contact.
Kevin himself, on the other hand, was an entirely different animal. He wasn't a mean person. Far from it. But he was definitely one tough kid, seemingly without a lot of nuances to his character until you got to know him. He could focus like a laser beam on whatever the challenge of the moment was. In relationships with others, he never looked for trouble with anyone, but if it came his way, he always faced it head on. And if the trouble were physical in nature, it was rare that he didn't prevail. He had an unusually high pain threshold, and was strong as a bull. He didn't have a hair trigger, but anyone who managed to make him angry usually lived to regret it. It was a given that he always had Cam's back, without question. Despite his toughness, he was well liked by his classmates pretty much across the board, not just by his fellow jocks.
Kevin dozed off in his friend's bed, coming to only when he heard the shower in Cam's bathroom shut off. After drying himself, Cam strolled back out into his bedroom buck naked except for the towel thrown carelessly over one shoulder. Kevin studied his friend's body as the boy walked in. Standing 6 feet tall, Cam had a defined musculature rather than being full-out ripped. He prided himself on never having done a decent workout with weights or on the gym exercise machines in his life. He was hairless except for his armpits, groin, and head, where his sandy colored crewcut spiked up in front thanks to a little newly applied styling gel. Oh, yes, and there was the pitiful little goatee he was trying to cultivate on his chin without much luck. His face was that of a boy-man, one of those handsome faces that would look forever young, even in old age, with green eyes that coolly took everything in and a generous mouth that usually kept its own counsel. Thanks perhaps to his Scots forebears, his face looked ruddy--his cheeks had a perpetual glow to them that didn't depend on cold weather, which fortunately was not experienced very often in northern California.
Kevin, on the other hand, was definitely ripped, and took his beefier 5'11" frame to the school fitness center no less than three times a week for a few hours. He also worked out at home, and had the physique to show for it. His pecs and abs were works of art, and his arms and legs were perfectly muscled without having a "gym rat" look to him. The front of his body and his butt and legs were only lightly dusted with black hair, with patches of hair in his pits and between his pecs. A narrow, black treasure trail led down to his groin, with its own growth of abundant black hair. His dick was long, plump and cut, and as he liked to tell his fellow jocks, "always ready for action." He had a perpetual five o'clock shadow, and had to shave twice a day if he wanted his handsome face to look clean shaven. The black hair on his head was worn in a short crewcut, spiked up in front like Cam's. His eyes were so brown they almost looked black, and usually sparkled with the joy of life.
Kevin sat up on the side of the bed, continuing to survey his friend. Cam walked over to his dresser, pulled a clean jock out of a drawer and stepped into it. Kevin's eyes were drawn to the muscles flexing under Cam's perfect skin, the V-shape of the boy's back from his broad shoulders down to the beautiful curve of his ass, his stocky legs, and to the big bulge in his jock as he turned sideways a bit to pull on a pair of ratty, old red plaid shorts that reached to mid-calf.
"I s'pose it's too late to ask you to be my date for the prom," Kevin said to Cam, grinning, before pushing his admiring thoughts out of his mind.
"Oh, shit, Kev! If only I'd known! I just asked Teri yesterday. Oh, well, maybe it's for the best! Heather's told me how grabby you are, and I'm wearing my kilt on prom night. I wouldn't want you groping me," Cam said. He dropped the towel from his shoulder on to his computer chair, and taking a soccer T-shirt matching Kevin's out of another drawer, he pulled it over his head.
"Whaddaya wear under kilts, anyway?"
"That's a Scottish national secret."
"Never mind. I'll ask Teri after prom night," Kevin said. "She'll know."
"Not necessarily. Mom told me I could have a few drinks on prom night, but I'm not to have sex."
"You're such a bullshitter! I'm sure Teri will blow ya at the very least, won't she?" Kevin asked, trolling for information. None was forthcoming.
"A blow job doesn't actually qualify as sex, y'know," Kevin continued. "Of course, Father Andy told me he's been appointed by the Vatican to follow you around on prom night, so maybe you'll be good for a change."
"When did you last see Father Andrew or any other priest? You haven't been to Mass in months."
The two guys continued to bicker as Cam put on his sweat socks and size 13 trainers, and then they took the back staircase downstairs two steps at a time, deliberately jostling each other on their way down to the kitchen. Catherine MacKenzie looked up from reading the morning paper in the breakfast nook as the boys came by.
"Hey, Mom, thanks," Cam said as he took the remnant of a piece of toast right out of her hand and ate it in one bite. She pretended to be annoyed, looking over her glasses at him with cool, gray eyes, shaking her head. Then she smiled, and her face was beautiful. She was normal height for a woman, 5'8". Even through her bathrobe you could see she had a nice shape to her.
"Bye, Mom," Kevin said, as he bent down and kissed her cheek on the way past her to the back door.
"Heckle and Jeckle," Dr. MacKenzie commented, picking up another piece of toast from her plate. "Don't run in the street," she said mostly to herself as the door slammed shut behind the two boys.
Cam and Kevin did their stretches behind the house by the pool before they loped down the long driveway to the street and began running on the sidewalk. Not much was happening that early on a Saturday morning as they ran past the large, older, well kept houses in their neighborhood, mostly stucco, reflecting the Spanish architectural style. There were even trees here, unlike the new developments which had sprung up around the core city. It was a nice place to live, but it was Marin County, and you had to have money.
"We gonna do 5?" Cam asked his buddy as they ran along.
"Yeah, if you think you're up to it."
Cam smiled as they settled into their pace. He loved to run, and it was the perfect opportunity to think about all kinds of things. To think about life and how unpredictable it was sometimes.
* * *
Cam had never complained in so many words about it to anyone, even Kevin, but the last three years of his life had been a real bitch. The major item on the bad list was the fact that his dad, Alexander MacKenzie, at that point a movie director of growing reputation, at age 39 had left his mom and him, and moved to Los Angeles, in part because of his work.
Alex had sat Cam down in his study for a long talk not long before he had left San Rafael for his new life. He mostly did the talking, and Cam did the listening. Alex had told him that he loved the boy's mother, and that he would always love her. He said that there were some things that made it impossible for them to stay together as a family, but he hadn't come right out at that point and offered an explanation. He had just said that the one constant in life is change itself.
Cam had been shocked right down to his toes at what had happened to his parents' marriage. He was heartbroken, and he had cried and begged his father not to leave. He and his dad had always been close. Alex had taken his son in his arms at the end of their conversation and kissed him, and told him that his love for him would always be in his heart wherever the two of them might be in this world. That hadn't been much comfort to Cam at the time.
In fact, in the weeks following Alex's departure, Cam had been inconsolable, and was pretty much shut down emotionally. The only people he had talked to in more than monosyllables for a long time were his mother and Kevin, and a little bit to his girlfriend, Teri. Catherine was busy dealing with her own grief right then, but Kevin had kept pushing him hard when it came to soccer and running, and came over almost every night to the house to study with him. He would barge into his room whether Cam wanted company or not, shut off his TV or the computer, and make him work on school stuff. Kevin would probably never fully comprehend what he had done for him, maybe even saved his life, Cam knew, because he had been deeply depressed and ashamed at what had happened to his family.
Both the MacKenzies and the Stoltzes were Roman Catholic. Although they were faithful to their basic Christian duties, they had been less than rigorous in their adherence to some of the Church's more esoteric doctrines and disciplines. They weren't "New Age" or anything, but neither were they the American equivalent of the little old lady in a lace mantilla who went to Mass every day, rosary in hand.
Still, for a good Catholic family like the MacKenzies, separation and divorce just didn't fly. Their young parish priest, Father Andrew Gilbert, had visited the house once at the time of the breakup, but what could anyone really say after the requisite praying was finished?
Cam was to find out. Father Gilbert had asked him to walk out to the car with him when the priest left the house, arm over the boy's shoulders.
"Cam, I know you're just at the beginning of your life journey, and I also know that I'm not all that much farther along myself. But I want you to remember one thing above all else," Father Andy had said to him. "I want you to remember that God always brings good out of evil. Always. It can be painful, and we don't always get it right away, but it's the truth. You need to hold on to that as issues in your family life resolve themselves. Will you promise me you'll do that?"
"Yes, Father," Cam had muttered, not taking it too seriously and just wanting to get back up to his room to be alone with his sorrow. But he hadn't forgotten what the priest had said, either.
Moving away had been terrible enough, but Alex was now living with a "friend," John Kelley, 38, in Malibu. Cam refused even to consider that his dad might be gay, and that matter had certainly never been addressed by Catherine or his dad in so many words. Worse yet, Cam had been down to visit the new "couple" once, and despite all his efforts to the contrary, had actually liked John. Nice, wholesome, handsome, genial, youthful John. John with the blond hair, cobalt blue eyes, and killer body. Fuck! He couldn't help thinking that liking the guy was tantamount to betraying his mother. Alex had met John when the latter worked as assistant director with Alex on a movie Alex had made the previous year. Cam had noticed the big change in his dad since the man had moved: Alex was happier and more outgoing than his son had ever seen him in San Rafael. Once he had moved on from making educational films to working with a big Hollywood studio, his name on a film as director had become gold at the box office, and that had continued to be the case.
Ultimately, his mother had rebounded from the breakup better than Cam had expected. Maybe she had seen it coming for a while, he didn't know. She was a strong woman, and had always been a hard worker in her field of endeavor. As the months passed, she seemed to immerse herself more than ever in her teaching of literature at St. Francis and in her own writing. Along with Lynda Stoltz, Rosa Mendez, the MacKenzies' maid and friend of twenty-some years who had been taking care of the family longer than Cam had been on earth, kept the household running pretty smoothly through everything that had happened. Rosa was particularly solicitous of Cam and kind to him, and he loved her for it.
* * *
Fall lurched into the early, mild California version of winter, and then the second shoe of tragedy dropped. Kevin's mother Lynda had been battling cancer of the liver for a long time, growing weaker and weaker as it spread throughout her body, but Cam and Kevin all the family's friends and relatives were still stunned when she suddenly passed away two weeks before Thanksgiving. Michael Stoltz, an important insurance company executive by that time, was deep in grief, and is often the case, unable to provide Kevin much in the way of comfort.
Remembering what Kevin had done for him when he was down in the dumps for several months, Cam stepped in and did everything he could for his friend, handling things at school for him and also at home. The night after Mrs. Stoltz died and the undertaker had taken the body away, Cam studied his school assignments alone in his room for a while, thinking it was probably too soon to start helping his friend to deal with his grief. After his school work was done that night, he paced up and down in his room worrying about Kevin, periodically going over to his bedroom window and looking over at the house next door. Eventually, all was dark over there. Kevin and his dad must have both gone to bed.
Cam went to bed himself, but tossed and turned for an hour, still worrying about Kevin. Finally he got up about midnight. Pulling on his pants and his T, and then putting on his sneakers, Cam quietly went down the back stairs of his own house. He went outside into the cool night air and took a step ladder out of the garage. Putting it against the wall between the MacKenzie and Stoltz properties, he climbed up and skidded down the wall on the other side. At the back door, he punched in the security code that he had watched Kevin enter a thousand times to turn off the alarm, and went in, using his key. He stepped into the dark kitchen and made his way upstairs. He knew his way around that house as well as he did his own. Going to Kevin's door, he opened it, stepped inside, and shut it behind him.
"It's me, Kev."
"OK," a sad, muffled voice said from the bed.
Going over in the dark, he sat down on the edge of the bed and stripped down to his boxers.
Unceremoniously pushing his friend over, he got in bed with him and covered up.
"This is a one-time deal, loverboy, so don't get used to it!" Cam warned Kevin.
Kevin tried to laugh, but instead began sobbing. Resting his head against his friend's, Cam could feel the tears on his cheek. Cam spooned him, wrapping his long arms and legs around him, and eventually Kevin stopped weeping.
"Thanks," Kevin whispered.
They both finally dropped off to sleep.
They woke up at the same time the next morning, Kevin still in Cam's arms. They both had morning wood. Kevin kept his face turned away, a little embarrassed in the light of day to be in bed with his friend, but enjoying it more than he thought he should.
"Kev, look at me!" Cam demanded before he turned his friend loose.
Kevin turned his face toward him.
"If you're embarrassed now about us being in bed together, don't be," Cam said. "After everything you've done for me in my life, you're the closest thing I have to a brother. So fucking get over it! I love ya, dude!" Cam kissed Kevin on the side of his head, untangled himself from the bedclothes, and got up. He pulled on his clothes without another word, and left.
What Cam had said really hit home, and Kevin lay there in his bed for a long time with tears in his eyes because he had really needed to hear someone tell him right about then that he was loved. When he saw Cam later in the day, he put an arm across his shoulders and hugged him silently.
Lynda Stoltz was buried from the church, where Father Andrew offered a beautiful Requiem Mass for her, mentioning especially in his homily the love and patience which Lynda had exhibited to her family and everyone around her during her illness, and her faithfulness to God and the Church. Then he proclaimed the Church's core belief, held for more than 2000 years, that the faithful would all be reunited at the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection to eternal life.
Cam and his mother attended the service, of course, and Cam served as a pallbearer. At graveside Cam stood behind Kevin where the latter was sitting at his father's side, with his hands on his friend's shoulders, as the boy's mother was laid to rest in the parish cemetery. Mr. Stoltz had ordered a fine headstone which would be placed on the grave within a few weeks. As the crowd dispersed after the prayers at graveside were said, and streamed toward their vehicles, Kevin had turned as he reached the limo and looked into Cam's eyes. Cam had never seen such sadness in his life.
Catherine MacKenzie went to Michael Stoltz the next day, and invited him and Kevin to come to Thanksgiving dinner at the MacKenzies'. Michael refused at first, telling her that Lynda Stoltz's younger sister, Sue Maxwell, her husband Joe, and their two young boys were scheduled to be at his house for Thanksgiving, so Catherine invited them as well. Alex's sister Anne Hauser, her husband Frank, and their two sons were also coming to Catherine's. Anne had told Catherine after Alex left for L.A. that nothing was going to break up the friendship that she and Catherine had always enjoyed, and that's the way it had worked out. Cam's mother also invited their longtime maid, Rosa Mendez, her husband Julio, and their three sons to be guests for dinner, too.
Kevin told Cam on the Friday before Thanksgiving that if the five families were all going to church together and he was going to receive communion on Thanksgiving morning, he probably needed to go to confession on the following day, Saturday. He hadn't made his communion at his mother's funeral, and everybody thought it was because of his grief.
"There's no 'probably' about your needing to confess, dude," Cam said, laughing. "I know what you and Heather have been up to, and I don't want to think about you skewered and cooking over a slow fire in the hereafter."
"You're such a shit sometimes," Kevin told him. "Wherever I am, you'll be right there beside me, and just don't forget it."
"I don't think so," Cam said, "but I'll go to church with you tomorrow just to keep you company."
Saturday morning, they both climbed into Cam's restored '67 Camaro, four on the floor, a glistening yellow with a black stripe across the front of the hood, complete with headlight ports that opened and closed, and they drove to the church. Kevin himself had a new Mustang that his dad had bought him, but he coveted Cam's car. Kevin's gift to him on Cam's last birthday had been that he had detailed the Camaro for his friend, and it had taken him an entire day.
Kevin made his confession at church, and then they drove home and played basketball in front of the Stoltz's garage with some of their soccer buddies who dropped by. Cam was glad to see Kevin staying active, and prolonged the game as long as possible.
Catherine MacKenzie, Anne Hauser, Sue Maxwell and Rosa Mendez got together early Thanksgiving morning at the MacKenzies' house to get a jump on fixing the meal, and mid-morning everybody from the five families went to Mass.
"It's good to see you receiving communion again, dufus," Cam whispered to Kevin after they came back from receiving communion and knelt side by side. "The church roof didn't fall in, but I thought I heard it shift a little when you came in the door."
"Shut up," Kevin said with a sly sideways look at his friend. "I'm tryin' to pray."
Afterwards, back at the MacKenzies', the women continued working in the kitchen while the men, lucky dogs, sat around Catherine's big swimming pool, drinking beer and wine and watching all the kids swim. Cam and Kevin and the Mendez kids were in their element, giving the younger boys advice on improving their diving skills, and then they chose up sides and had a water polo game. Kevin was really glad to see his father at poolside relaxing and smiling for a change, and forgetting for the moment the great loss which his family had just sustained.
They ate dinner at three o'clock. The table was loaded with a huge, steaming turkey and everything that went with it, and the food looked and smelled delicious. Out of the blue, Catherine asked Cam to say grace, and he shot her a dirty look as they all joined hands around the table.
After a moment's silence, Cam prayed:
"Well, God, here we are, and we're a little beat up right now because of the things that have happened. But we're grateful for good friends and new friends and for this food. We ask you to bless this food and bless us in the future, because we sure need your help right now, through Christ our Lord."
"Amen," they all said, and Kevin dapped his buddy as the adults thanked Cam for a good prayer.
The men seated the women. Catherine sat at the head of the table, where Alex had always sat. Using an electric carving knife, she sliced that turkey like a surgeon, and they all tore into a delicious meal. The cooks had to acknowledge a whole lot of compliments.
* * *
Cam and Kevin had made a deal a long time ago that they were going to go to college together after they graduated from high school. Their target school was UCLA, but during the summer prior to their senior year, they had both sent off a raft of applications to ten of the same schools scattered around the country, and had followed up religiously with the information the schools had asked for. Jocks they might be, but they weren't stupid by a long shot. Their applications were supported by SAT scores of 1500 for Kevin and 1525 for Cam. Kevin was interested in aeronautical engineering--he was a whiz at math and in physics--and Cam's passion was filmmaking, originally fueled by a desire to follow in his father's footsteps. Whereas Kevin could have gone to any number of schools for an engineering degree, Cam wanted to go to UCLA because of its acclaimed Film and Television school. And Kevin was sticking with Cam.
Catherine MacKenzie had been trying to get the boys to apply at St. Francis, where she taught, so they would have a year longer to mature before taking on a huge university, but to no avail. The boys knew that St. Francis was a good school, but it didn't offer enough concentration in the academic specialties they were interested in. They weren't real hot about going to a Catholic school, either, and they thought they were more than ready to live away from home.
There was a third shoe yet to drop in the boys' lives, and that happened not long after Thanksgiving. Michael Stoltz received word that he was being promoted and transferred to the home office of his company in Manhattan. When he told Kevin that they would be selling the house and moving, he had a rebellion on his hands. Kevin yelled, cursed, cried, punched a wall, and flat out told his dad that he wasn't moving anywhere, and there was nothing his father could do to make him. They fought about it for days, with Kevin determined that he was not moving away during his senior year at San Rafael High. And he definitely was not going to leave his best friend behind.
When Kevin finally told Cam what was up, the latter nearly stroked out despite his normally even temperament. Several days after the two guys knew about the transfer, Cam went next door to study with Kevin in the evening. Mr. Stoltz let him in, just grunting at him when Cam said hello. The boy could smell alcohol on the man's breath. Cam went upstairs, and when he went into Kevin's bedroom, Cam noticed Kevin kept the left side of his face turned away. Cam grabbed his friend's arm and turned him around, and Kevin had an abrasion on his left cheek, and his left eye was swelling shut and turning black.
"What the fuck happened to you?!!" Cam demanded.
Kevin just shook his head and didn't answer for a minute.
"Well," he finally said, "Dad and I were fighting again about moving to New York, and he finally let me have it. I pretty much asked for it, though," Kevin said, defending his dad.
Cam sat down hard on Kevin's bed, and studied his friend.
"Has this ever happened before," Cam asked.
"No. You know I would have told you. And you would have seen it."
"Even so, bro," Cam said. "This is just wrong, y'know." Standing up again, he touched Kevin's face gently, causing Kevin to wince a little. "We gotta get some ice on this."
"Yeah. I'll put some on later."
"Do you really want to stay here in San Rafael until college?" Cam asked.
"You know I do."
"Uh huh. Well, if you want to stay here, I think Daddy Dearest just made that possible."
"Whaddaya mean?" Kevin asked.
"You're a minor, dude. I know your dad has been under a lot of stress because of your mom dying, and now this move East, but you can't do something like this to your kid."
"Wait now, I don't want to get my dad in trouble. He's been through enough."
"I know. I don't think it'll come to that, but just let me think this over for a while, all right?"
The two guys sat down on opposite sides of Kevin's desk and opening their books, starting studying. All during the time they were together before Cam went home, he kept looking up from his books at Kevin's face and shaking his head. By the time he left, he pretty much had a plan.
When he got home, Catherine MacKenzie was still up, and was in her study reading. Cam went in and sat down in a leather chair in front of her desk.
Catherine smiled at her son. "Hi, sweetheart. To what do I owe the honor of this visit?" she asked.
Cam looked her in the eye. "Mom, you know Kevin wants to stay here in San Rafael when his father moves East, right?" he asked.
"I didn't know for sure, but I thought that might be the case."
"Would you be willing to let him live here with us until the two of us go to college? It's not like we don't have the room."
Catherine slowly closed the book she was reading and took off her reading glasses, putting them on top of the book on the desk.
"That would be taking on a pretty heavy responsibility," she commented. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"It's a great idea, Mom," Cam said. "We've known Kevin all his life, and you've been like a second mother to him. You know he won't be any trouble, and if we take him in, he won't have to face starting in a new school during his senior year, just when things are the most fun."
"Are you sure this is what Kevin wants?" Mrs. MacKenzie asked.
"Would you and Kevin help out Rosa and me more around the house, and keep your rooms clean and picked up?"
"Yes, Mommy, I promise we would."
"What does Mr. Stoltz say?"
"He doesn't know about it yet. But I just know he'll agree."
"How do you know that?"
"I just know," Cam said solemnly.
"Hmmm. Well, if Michael Stoltz asks me, I guess we can take Kevin in. It's not as if we don't know who he is. He's probably spent as much time over here as he has next door," Catherine said.
"Yes, Mom!!" Cam said, smiling from ear to ear. "Thank you!! I love ya! You're definitely the greatest!"
"I love you, too, sweetheart."
Cam stood up and went around the desk, hugging his mother and kissing her.
Turning his mother loose, Cam strode out of the study, and going out the front door, went back over to the Stoltzes'. Taking a deep breath, he rang the front doorbell. Mr. Stoltz came to the door and was surprised to see Cam again.
"Just use your key, Cam," the older man said a little disagreeably.
"I came back over here to talk to you, Mr. Stoltz," Cam said as they stood in the doorway.
"Really? About what?"
"About Kevin staying here after you move."
"That's not going to happen," Mr. Stoltz said. "I've made that very clear to Kevin."
"Yes, sir, I saw how you made that clear to him. It's written all over his face."
"Oh, God!" Kevin's dad said after a pause. "It shows?"
They stared at each other.
"I just want to talk to you," Cam said.
"All right, come on in, then," the man said, looking angry and ashamed at the same time, turning his back and walking away.
"Who is it, Dad?" Kevin shouted down from upstairs.
"It's for me," Mr. Stoltz shouted back.
Cam stepped inside, shut the door, and followed his friend's father into the big living room. The room reflected the understated opulence of an upper echelon executive in American business today. It was a nice blend of art and antiques and modern touches, all top quality. Lynda Stoltz had had an eye for what would work when it came to decorating, and it was a beautifully furnished room.
Cam and the older man sat down in overstuffed chairs across from another, and studied each other for a minute. Kevin's dad had dark circles under his eyes and looked sad, depressed and a little drunk. His face was peppered with gray stubble by this time of the night.
"Are you going to call the juvenile people?" Mr. Stoltz finally asked.
"I came over here with every intention of doing that if you didn't agree to let Kevin stay here. But I'm not going to do it. I know that what you did to Kevin really isn't you. If I used it as blackmail, I don't know how I'd forgive myself. I just want to make Kevin's case for staying here to you, and it's a good case. I hope you'll hear me out."
The look on Michael Stoltz's face brightened a little as he looked back at Cam.
"You're a good boy, Cam. I've always known that. Go ahead."
"Thank you, Mr. Stoltz."
Cam felt a twinge of regret in confronting the man this way, a man he had known all his life and basically liked and admired, but he steeled himself and went ahead. He pointed out that Kevin was 17 years old now, and that the year before he became 18 would fly by. At that point Kevin would be making his own decisions about where he was going to live, anyway. He told him that any way you looked at it, after all the years of friendship Kevin had enjoyed with his classmates and fellow jocks, that it just wasn't right to uproot him at this late date and make him start over in a new place and a new school, and that he had to know how painful that would be for his son. He explained that Kevin was such an integral part of their school, and particularly of their athletic teams. His leaving would deal a serious blow to the school that Mr. Stoltz, as a parent, had given great moral and financial support to for so long. And finally, with tears starting to form in his eyes, he said that he had never had another friend like Kevin, and that he probably never would again, and begged the man not to take his best friend away from him. He told Mr. Stoltz that there was a good alternative to making him move to New York: Catherine MacKenzie had agreed to take Kevin into their home and would take good care of him and supervise him. All Mr. Stoltz had to do was ask.
Cam sat back in his chair, clenching his big hands tightly in his lap and waiting for the verdict.
There was a long silence as Mr. Stoltz looked at the floor.
"I can handle one of you guys with no trouble, but when you double-team me like this. . ." Michael Stoltz finally said resignedly. He stood up and walked to the foot of the stairs.
"Kevin," he shouted upstairs. "Cam's here. We want to talk to you."
Cam heard Kevin's bedroom door open, and then his friend's footsteps coming down the stairs.
"'Sup?" the boy said, standing in the doorway to the living room, looking curiously at his dad and his best friend, his left cheek now cherry red and the eye blacker than it had been and almost swelled shut.
"I'm going to let you stay here with the MacKenzies, if, as Cam says, his mother is willing to take on the responsibility for you. I'm going to miss the hell out of you, though, Kevin. I'm sorry I hit you, son." Cam stood up, and they all stood there, and then the older man's sorrow about life right then just overwhelmed him, and he began weeping. So did Kevin.
"Thank you, Dad, thank you, Cam, thank you, God!" Kevin said, looking upward. He walked over to his father and hugged the man. "I know you didn't mean to hurt me. I love you, Dad." Then he pulled Cam into the hug as well, and the three of them stood there together for a long time.
Before Cam left the house, he went to the kitchen and filled a baggy with ice, and made sure that Kevin was holding it to his face.
Michael Stoltz went over to talk with Catherine MacKenzie the next day, and he agreed to give her power of attorney for Kevin's affairs, and to allow Catherine to petition juvenile court for temporary custody of Kevin until his 18th birthday. Catherine told him she would be happy to have Kevin, and said that for the sake of the boys, she was pleased that he had come to this decision. When she next saw Kevin and asked what had happened to his face, he told her he had had an accident, and nothing more was said.
The Stoltz house went up for sale in early December with an asking price of three and one-half million dollars, and despite the fact that real estate doesn't generally move well during the holidays, it sold at the asking price within two days. Catherine MacKenzie had movers come and put the furniture from what would be Kevin's new room into the MacKenzies' attic, and then move Kevin's own bedroom furniture over to his new room so he'd feel more at home. Then the two boys brought Kevin's computer and other personal possessions, including his weights and exercise bench, into Kevin's bedroom adjoining Cam's room. The guys would share the bathroom connecting the two rooms.
As for Kevin's car, there was also an empty bay in the garage for it that Alex used to use.
Despite the negative circumstances that necessitated Kevin's move to the MacKenzie's, Cam and Kevin were really, really happy about the way things had worked out. Given what they had both been through lately, Cam told his buddy, it was only fair that something good happen to them for a change.
Michael Stoltz flew to New York and bought a condo overlooking Central Park in Manhattan, moved his furniture into it after it arrived, and then flew back to San Rafael just in time for Christmas. At Catherine's invitation, he stayed at the MacKenzies'. Throughout the holidays, people from the MacKenzie family and the Stoltz family and Cam's and Kevin's soccer teammates and friends, including their girlfriends Teri and Heather, streamed through the big, old house, totally decked out in its Christmas finery. Cam and Catherine went out of their way to make sure the Stoltzes felt especially at home and had a good time.
Catherine bought Kevin a beautiful red sweater that set off his dark hair and complexion, and Cam bought him an expensive new electric razor which, by reputation, gave the closest shave you could get. Cam's gift to his mother was a gold bracelet. Kevin gave Mrs. MacKenzie a new watch that matched her favorite outfit, and totally surprised Cam with a silver chain necklace with the MacKenzie coat of arms suspended on it. The gift just blew Cam away, and it made him treasure his friendship with Kevin just that much more.
Cam had been putting up a good front for everybody, but despite the holiday spirit surrounding him, the days of Christmas vacation from school crept by without giving him the joy he should have had, because Alex wasn't there with them. With him. As the days passed, only Kevin could get a smile out of Cam, and he had to work hard to get that.
Cam called his dad in L.A. on Christmas night after all the company left. John Kelley answered the phone.
"Hey, John. This is Cam. Cam MacKenzie. Merry Christmas."
"Cam! How you doin', man? Merry Christmas to you," John said.
"Thanks. Same to you. Is Dad around?"
"I just heard the shower shut off, so he's just finishing up. Let's give him a minute."
"Are you having a good Christmas?" John asked.
"Not bad," Cam lied. "How about you guys?"
"Yeah, it's been good. But your dad misses you, Cam, in case you don't know it. Misses you a lot."
"I miss him, too, but I'm where I've always been." Cam couldn't resist taking a little shot.
Cam heard a door open, and then he heard John say, "It's Cam."
Alex MacKenzie took the phone.
"Hello, son. Merry Christmas," Alex said in his smooth baritone voice. "I'm glad you called. I was going to call you if you didn't call me. What's been going on?"
"A lot. Mrs. Stoltz died just before Thanksgiving from cancer. Then Mr. Stoltz got promoted and transferred to New York, so he sold his house. He's staying with us for Christmas, though."
"I wish you or your mother had told me about Lynda. E-mail me Michael's address in New York, will you? I want to send him a note of condolence."
"What about Kevin? Is he all right?" Alex asked.
"He took his mom's death hard. He won't get over it for a long time, I don't think. But Mr. Stoltz is letting him stay with us so he won't have to move to New York in the middle of our senior year, and Mom has taken custody of him. If that hadn't worked out, I think I would have hung it up for good. Seriously."
"You've had a lot of crap piled on you in a short time, Cam. I know that. But you know what we talked about before I left," Alex said. "Life is change. That's the one thing you can count on in this existence."
"For some reason, that information isn't cheering me up the way it should. I miss you, Dad."
"I know. I miss you, too. Why don't you come down here before school starts again? I want to see you."
"I don't know. Maybe. Can I bring Kevin? He's never been in L.A. before, and I want him to see the UCLA campus. We both put in an application there."
"Absolutely, Kevin should come! Do you want me to talk to your mother about you guys coming down?"
"I think she'll be OK with it. She told me once that she'll never try to stand between you and me. She's a great person, Dad. Jesus, I don't know how you could just leave us." Cam had promised himself over and over that he was not going to upbraid his father any more about leaving the family, but he couldn't help it.
Alex sighed. "I know you don't understand. We'll talk about it some more when you come down."
"Let me know when you want to come, and I'll have tickets waiting at the airport for you."
"That'll be great. Maybe it will just be me, I don't know. Kevin is still kinda mad at you because you moved away, and he may not want to come."
"You tell him I want to see him down here, all right?"
"Did you get some good presents for Christmas? I have your gifts down here, and if you can't come, I'll ship them to you. I'll get some things for Kevin, too, now that he's even more a part of the family."
"Thanks. That'll be great. I did get some nice presents up here. Listen, Dad, I'm feeling a little down right now, so I need to let you go. Merry Christmas. I love ya."
"I love you, too, Cameron. Let me know when you and Kevin are coming. Tell your mother Merry Christmas for me."
They hung up, and Cam sat at his desk in a blue funk until Kevin bounded through the door from the bathroom, dressed for a run. Kevin took one look at him and knew what was going on.
"You talked to your dad?" he asked.
"Yeah. He wants us to come down and see him."
"Us? I wouldn't walk across the street to see that prick," Kevin said. "I know he's your dad, but still..."
"If I go, you hafta go with me to keep me company," Cam shot back. "Besides, if I can forgive your dad for getting drunk and punching you in the face, you can do a little forgiving when it comes to my dad. He's always loved you, man, and now he's worried about you because your mom died, so..."
Kevin looked at his friend's sad face, and it wasn't a tough decision.
"Whatever you want me to do, I'll do it, you know that," he said.
"Cool," Cam said, a smile breaking through the sadness.
"Now, get your shorts on, and let's blow this pop stand. We didn't run today, and you need your exercise."
"You're a riot, Stoltz! I need my exercise? You're gettin' fat as a pig from all the eating you've been doin', you dumb shit!"
"I haven't gained an ounce," Kevin swore, raising his right hand as if taking an oath. "Anyway, save your insults and get your jock on, asshole!"
Cam gave him the finger, and stood up and began stripping as Kevin watched, unable to look away. This kid has a great body and then some, Kevin thought to himself for the umpteenth time. After a struggle, he finally turned his head away because he was embarrassed and confused about perving on his friend. I like tits and pussy, Kevin reminded himself sternly.
Five minutes later they were out the door and doing their stretches before their run.
* * *
Cam continued to reinforce Kevin's decision to go with him to L.A., and two days later they drove down to San Francisco. They left Kevin's car at the airport, and flew into LAX using the reservations Cam's dad had made for them.
Alex MacKenzie and John Kelley were waiting for them at the LAX luggage pickup after their flight. Alex enfolded his son in his arms for a long hug, and kissed his cheek. Then while Cam was greeting John with a handshake, Alex turned to Kevin, who had been hanging back.
Alexander MacKenzie, boyish and lanky like his son, looked ten years younger and much happier than he had when he had lived in San Rafael, Kevin noted. The man he was with, John somebody or other, was a real hunk, one of the best looking guys Kevin had ever seen. He was obviously doing something right for Cam's dad.
"Commere, Kevin," Mr. MacKenzie instructed, holding out his arms, and with a sheepish look, Kevin allowed himself to be hugged and kissed on the cheek.
"I'm sorry about your mother, Kev," the older man said in his ear as he held him. "Even at my age I'm surprised by death," he added. "I wish I had the power to make you feel better".
"Thanks," Kevin nodded as they let go of one another. Cam introduced John Kelley to his friend, and they shook hands.
The boys collected their bags, and the four of them headed toward the exit, where a black stretch limo was waiting at the curb for them. The chauffeur got out of the vehicle and put the suitcases in the trunk while his passengers climbed into the back of the car. Cam and Kevin sat on the center seat facing Mr. MacKenzie and his friend.
"Nice wheels," Cam told his dad.
"You can thank the studio. They take pretty good care of you while you're shooting a movie for them." Alex handed Cam his cell phone.
"Call your mother and let her know you guys got here all right," he instructed. Cam punched in the number and talked to his mother, and hung up and handed the phone back to his dad.
Alex noticed the silver chain Cam was wearing around his neck with the MacKenzie coat of arms hanging from it, and leaned forward to look at it.
"That's beautiful, Cam," he asked. "Where did you get it?"
"Kevin gave it to me for Christmas," Cam said, giving Kevin an appreciative glance. "I wear it all the time now except for soccer."
"Nice gift, Kev," Mr. MacKenzie said. "I've never seen one like it. Where did you find it?" he asked, looking at Kevin.
"I had it made from a picture in one of Cam's MacKenzie books that I snuck out of his room. The jeweler did a good job."
"It looks accurate to me," Alex said as John Kelley slid forward in his seat for a closer look, and held the crest in his hand.
"'Luceo Non Uro,'" he read the motto before sitting back. "What's that mean?"
"'I shine but do not burn,'" Cam and his dad said simultaneously.
Kevin looked at Alex. "Speaking of things Scottish, Cam is gonna wear his kilt to the senior prom," he said.
"How did that come about?" Alex asked.
"I lost at poker," Cam grimaced.
"Teri will be glad you're bare legged," Kevin said. "She likes to play with your leg hairs."
"Shut up, dufus," Cam said, blushing. "Anyway, I'll have hose on."
Kevin tried to hide a grin.
"You'll look good in your kilt, Cam," John said. "Don't let anybody kid ya."
They rode in silence for a few moments as the four men looked at one another.
"I know you're going to UCLA to look around while you're down here," Alex finally said to the boys. "But I want you both to set aside some time to talk with John and me. I know you're both still angry at me for leaving you guys and Catherine, so we need to have some conversation about why things are the way they are. Can we do that?"
"Yes, sir," Cam said as Kevin nodded.
"And if you have time, you boys can come over to the studio while we're shooting some scenes there." Alex had bucked the trend to use digital cameras and was still using film. "You can use my car while you're here." Mr. MacKenzie drove a new Porsche convertible.
"Cool," Cam said, smiling. "I'd like that. Are you two guys working together on this picture?"
"Yes," John said. "Whenever I work with your dad, it's a real trip, believe me. Er, I mean 'learning experience.'"
Alex looked at John with love and amusement in his eyes, shaking his head and smiling.
"What's the picture called?" Kevin asked.
"For the moment, 'Liftoff,'" John said. "But that's not set in stone."
They talked about the story line of the movie until they eventually reached one of the gates into Malibu off the Pacific Coast Highway, and turned in. A guard identified them, and the limo made its way down the street to Alex's chrome and glass beach house. It was in stark contrast to the charm of the house in San Rafael. The sun bathed this house in light throughout, and every bit of the ocean vista could be clearly seen from the house and from the front deck. A structure of such stark modernity could probably never be built in Malibu today because housing codes were now more protective of the traditional. But Cam had fallen in love with this place the first time he laid eyes on it.
The chauffeur removed the boys' bags from the trunk, and they began hiking to the back door. Alex MacKenzie gave the driver instructions to pick him and John up at 4:30 a.m. for the next day's shooting, and the car pulled away.
It was a four bedroom house. Rather than take two separate bedrooms, the boys decided to stay together in an ocean-front room next to Alex's and John's bedroom. The room the boys picked had a huge king size bed in it.
"You'll be stayin' on your side of the bed, woncha?" Kevin said, grinning at Cam as they plopped their suitcases down on it and started to unpack.
"The only way I'll be on your side of the bed is in your dreams, asshole," Cam retorted.
If he only knew, Kevin thought to himself.
They put their clothes away, and looked out their front window at the sparkling sand and gentle surf. The smog in L.A. proper was omnipresent, even on some days in the winter, but thanks to a light southwest wind that day, a narrow band of the Malibu beach front was sparkling clear and sunny.
"You wanna run?" Kevin asked.
"Yeah. Let's see if Dad and John want to come, too." Cam went out into the hall and leaned over the polished chrome banister on the upstairs landing. "Dad? Kevin and I are going to run on the beach. Do you and John want to come with?"
"Yes, we'll come," John answered a minute later. The two men came upstairs and went into the master bedroom to change.
Kevin and Cam began to strip off their clothes. Cam looked at Kevin's body as his buddy's clothes dropped to the floor.
"I hafta admit that workin' out has really buffed you up, Kev. Do you think I should put in a little gym time?"
Kevin looked over at him, smiling bigtime.
"Yeah, man!" he said enthusiastically. "We could work out together."
"I was only kiddin' ya," Cam said. "I wouldn't be caught dead in the gym."
Wham! Kevin's naked body tackled Cam, who was also naked by then, and down they went on to the bed with a crash.
"Ewwwww!" Cam protested. "Get your naked junk off me!"
"First you have to apologize for deliberately antagonizin' me, you shit!" Kev answered, holding his friend down.
They were both starting to get erections from being skin on skin, so Cam faked an apology before it really got embarrassing. They stood back up, and cramming their meat into their jocks, finished dressing.
They went down the broad, open stairway and out on to the front deck, enjoying the view. Alex and John joined them a few minutes later. They did their stretches and went down on to the white, sandy beach.
"We don't want you old farts to feel bad, now," Kevin told the older men. "We'll let you set the pace because we don't want to leave ya in the dust. How far do ya wanna to run?"
"I see you're still a smartass, Kev," Alex said, grabbing the kid around the neck from the side, pulling him to him and squeezing. "Why haven't you cured this boy of his bad attitude by now, Cam?" he demanded. Kevin loved it. His own dad wasn't very demonstrative, and hadn't touched him affectionately very often.
"You're asking the impossible," Cam said. "I've worked and worked on that, and nothing I do seems to make any difference."
"Shape up, boy!" Alex told Kevin, turning him loose with a grin.
Kevin began running in place, taunting his companions. "All right, how far?" he demanded.
"We usually do five miles," John said, laughing at Kevin. "You boys think you can make it that far?"
"Shoot!" Kevin said. "That's just a warm up for us."
They took off at a middling clip, Cam wearing a big smile. He was feeling better. Better than he had for a long time. He glanced over at John Kelley, who was running next to him and half a stride ahead, and took in the man's body. John looked as good in running shorts and a T as he did in street clothes, and that was damn good. His was close to being a more mature copy of Kevin's physique, really buff and cut, but hairless from what Cam could see, except for his blond, crewcut head and blond tufts of hair under his arms. His face was so handsome it bordered on the beautiful, but in his manner he was unfussy and all man. He looked to have a good, solid, muscular butt on him tapering down into great looking legs.
Cam looked over at his dad. He was a more mature image of Cam himself, tall and lanky with a defined but not pronounced musculature, and a smooth, tan complexion with rosy cheeks and a sandy colored crewcut. He moved with grace, like Cam, but was likewise very masculine in his movements and demeanor. He also had an easy-going, laid back temperament, but get out of his way on those rare occasions when he did get pissed off about something. He had never laid a hand on Cam in anger or punishment throughout the years the boy was growing up, but Cam had always known better than to cross him when Alex had given him instructions to do something. So it was, that Cam at 17 and Alex at 40, loved each other without reservation and without anger--save over the issue of Alex leaving San Rafael.
Cam had mixed feelings about talking to his dad and John about their relationship. He desperately wanted to know how Alex could leave Catherine and cohabitate with a man, even one as nice as John. But he didn't know how comfortable he would be discussing the matter in any depth with his father. Still, he hoped that by the time he left Los Angeles he would have a better understanding how it had come about that his father had left his family after all those years as a devoted family man and was now living with a male companion.