Chapter 8
Copyright 2005 Julien Gregg
Edited by Bruce

This story is about homosexual teenagers.  If you are offended by this kind of story, then you shouldn't read mine.  If it is not legal for you to read erotic fiction where you live, then you should not read this story.  If you have questions or comments, email me.  You can also visit my webpage.  There is one exclusive story there, and you can join my mailing list to be notified when I post to a story.  This story is copyrighted, so please do not duplicate it in whole or in part without permission.

"How did he find out that we live here?" I demanded as I came from the bathroom, wrapped in a towel  with water dripping on the carpet of the hall way.

"I don't think he knows you live here, yet," said Phillip as he gawked through the viewing hole in the door. "He's got a box in his hands, and he's going into the apartment across the hall."

"He's what?"  As I came further into the living room.

"You heard me," replied Phillip.  "I think he's moving into the apartment across the hall. You said it was empty, right?"

"Yeah, but why would Tom rent the apartment across the hall from mine to Keith?"  I asked.

"I don't think he did it on purpose," he said.  "Uncle Tom probably doesn't even know who Keith is, Dustin."

He was right about that.  Tom had never met Keith.  At least I didn't think he had.  Well, he'd had to have met him to rent him an apartment, but that didn't mean that he knew who Keith was.  I just wasn't sure that having him right across the hall from me was going to be a good idea.  It was funny, though.  While we were growing up we'd always said that we were going to buy houses next door to each other.  Now it was like we'd actually done the next best thing.

"I've got to dry off and get dressed," I said, turning to leave the room.

"I'll talk to Uncle Tom about this if you want me to," he said.

"No," I replied, stopping at the door to the bathroom.  "I'll talk to him about it if anything bad happens. Until then I don't see a reason. I mean, I can't govern where Keith lives just because we're no longer friends."

Once I was dressed and back in the living room, Phillip took his turn in the shower while I looked through the viewing hole at my former best friend.  What I saw was his mother carrying two bags of groceries into the apartment.  It was clear that he really was moving in.  I wasn't sure what I thought about that at all.  I mean, it wasn't as if his living across the hall meant that I had to have anything to do with him.  I just didn't like the fact that we'd probably run into each other from time to time.

It had been a good day for us until this.  Charlie had left early that morning to get his stuff packed in Carbondale, leaving me and Phillip to do the lawns ourselves.   It didn't take us long because we'd split up and did two lawns a piece.  I guess I was just lucky that we'd come home when we did and hadn't bumped into Keith or his mother on our way into the building or up the stairs.

I abandon my peeping exercise and went to the kitchen to make us something for lunch.  I was almost done with the chicken patties when Phillip came out of the bathroom dressed and clean with damp hair.  He looked so sexy that I almost abandoned what I was doing to attack him.  At the last minute, I decided against it for fear of burning down the kitchen.

"What are you making?" he asked as he came into the kitchen.

"Just chicken patties and fries," I replied.  "I'm not exactly starving, so I didn't want to make anything really heavy."

"Good," he said.  "I wasn't overly hungry, either."

"What do you want to do with the rest of our long day?"  I asked.

"Well I don't know," he said.  "We could watch television or something."

"No cable," I said quickly.  "They won't be here till Wednesday."

"You've got a DVD ROM in your laptop, right?" he asked as he sat down at the table.

"Yeah," I replied.  "But we've seen all of the DVDs I have."

"Well, we could rent one," he said.

"Do you really want to watch it on my small laptop screen?"  I asked.

"OK," he said.  "What other options do we have?"

"Well, I still need to go and buy two more lawn mowers and a few other things," I said as I put his plate in front of him and sat down with my own.

"Tommy said he doesn't mind storing all of the equipment in his garage," he said.  "I even told him about the two extra mowers when I talked to him this morning."

"Yeah, Tom said that he's going to find me a place to rent for that, too," I said.  "I'll be able to right off the rent at tax time."

"I've been meaning to ask you about taxes," he said.  "Now that you're going to be giving us all checks, are you going to deduct taxes and stuff?"

"Well, I don't really know enough about all of that to do it," I admitted.  "Tom said that all I have to do is provide tax forms to each employee, and remind them that I'm not deducting anything.  You guys would have to file your tax returns at the end of the year and figure your payments then.  I know that's kind of crude, but until I learn more about this stuff, that's all I can do."

"No worries here," he said.  "My dad will know what to do with all of that when the time comes.  We'd have to save our check stubs, right?"

"Well, I'll be giving you printed statements with each check.  Those will serve as stubs I guess. You'd have  to keep those for the end of the year, but I'll also have yearly wage reports available, too.  If you lose a statement or something throughout the year, you could always call me, and I'd email you yours."

"Sounds good," he said.  "Sounds like you've got all of this pretty well figured out for now."

"Charlie helped me with some of it," I replied.  "I have a lot to learn yet.  After a few business and finance classes I should know enough."

"Adding to your course list?"  He asked.

"Well, I'm going to talk to the academic advisor about what it is that I want to do and let the advisor give me suggestions on which classes to take and how many," I said.  "I figure that's what an advisor is for."

"Yeah," he said.  "So what do you think about Keith moving in across the hall?"

I wondered when he'd get around to asking about Keith.  He knew how much I really disliked Keith now, and he'd been with me on the few occasions that I'd had to face him outside of the day of my father's funeral, so I knew that he was wondering what my reaction would be knowing that Keith would be living across the hall.

"I'm not really sure," I admitted.  "Part of me wants to demand that Tom evict him, but there really isn't a legal reason for him to do it.  I guess I'll just have to grin and bare it for a while.  If something happens, I'll move.  If Tom won't break the lease, then I'll ask him for a unit in another building or something."

"You know you could just ask Tom to move you now," he said.  "That way you wouldn't have to face Keith at all."

"Yeah, but I don't want to move again," I said.  "I like this apartment, and I shouldn't let Keith run me off. I'm a big boy.  I'm sure I can handle myself."

"What's Charlie going to say about it?"

"I'm not sure about that," I admitted.  "Charlie hates Keith with a passion because of what he did.  I guess I'll find out when he gets back from Carbondale."

"When is that?"

"Tomorrow," I said.  "So I don't have long to wait."

"Is it still all right if I take tomorrow off?"  He asked.

"Sure," I replied.  "I told you to pick two days other than Sunday.  The only thing is, you have to stick to those two days each week."

"No problem," he said.  "My two days will be Tuesday and Saturday."

"Charlie picked Monday and Friday," I replied.  "I'm taking Wednesday and Thursday.  I don't really mind working on Saturday.  With only two lawns to mow that day, it won't be so bad."

"That's until we get more lawns," he reminded me.

"Yeah, but Jason and Danny start Monday," I said.  "That makes five people until August.  Then I'll be down to four."

"Yeah," he said.

After we'd finished eating, I did the dishes and we headed out to buy the lawn mowers.  We didn't see Keith in the hall, and his car wasn't anywhere in site outside, either.  I decided to put him out of my mind for a while and deal with him when I had to.  There was no point in getting myself all worked up over an encounter that hadn't happened.

It didn't take long to get the mowers, and we spent even less time looking for rakes and other supplies.  I also picked up two extra gas cans and a case of oil.  We loaded everything into the truck and headed for Tommy's.  Phillip had his bag in the truck, so he could get clean clothes.  I wasn't really looking forward to a night alone, but I figured I'd eventually have to deal with it.

"Hey guys," said Steve when we pulled into Tommy's driveway.  "More mowers?"

"Yeah for Jason and Danny," I said.  "They start Monday, and they'll need mowers if they're going to cut grass.  How are things around here?"

"Oh, same old thing," he smiled.  "How do you like your apartment?"

"Love it," I said as we started to unload the truck.  "Miss everyone, though."

"Well, living across town doesn't mean that you can't visit us or the other way around," he said.  "We're still on for poker Saturday, right?"

"Sure thing," I laughed.  "Charlie's stoked. He thinks he's going to take our money."

"You playing, Phillip?"  Asked Steve.

"Nope," he replied.  "I have to spend some time trying to convince my father to let me come back to Storyville next year."

"I thought you said you had all of that worked out," I said.

"Well, I thought I did until I called him before coming to your place last night," he sighed.  "I guess the folks are still a little mad at me."

"Ben's still coming, right?" asked Steve.

"As far as I know," I replied, following him and Phillip into the house.

"Tommy has to work, and Vince will be with Maria," he said as we all sat around the dining room table.  "I'm not sure where Andy will be, but I suspect that wherever he is, Gage will be close by.  They both work during the day and I don't know their plans for the evening."

"Well, at least there'll be four of us," I said.  "You, me, Charlie and Ben should do OK."

"Twenty dollars, right?"  He asked.

"Yeah," I replied.  "In quarters just like always. It'll be nice to play again."

"So," said Steve, looking at Phillip.  "Are you staying here tonight, or did you come for clean clothes?"

"Just getting clean clothes," he said.

"I was wondering where Tom's truck was," said Steve.

"I'll be right back," Phillip said, smiling.

"You two are getting close," said Steve.  "I hear that Phillip wants to come back next summer and attend Storyville University the following fall."

"That's what he said," I nodded.  "He thought that he had all of the details worked out last night, but I guess there are a few glitches."

"Sounded like it," agreed Steve.  "I hope everything works out for you both."

"Thanks," I replied.  "After this morning's new arrival, it'll be nice to have Phillip with me for the night. I'm starting to really like having him to hold on to all night."

"New arrival?"  Asked Steve, cocking his head.

"Oh yeah," I sighed.  "Keith moved into the apartment across the hall from me this morning.  Phillip and I watched him and his mom carry boxes and groceries in when we got back from mowing."

"That going to cause you problems?"  He asked.

"I don't know yet," I admitted.  "I'm sure I can deal with whatever happens. And Charlie will be back tomorrow. Once he finds out that Keith lives across the hall, I'm more worried about him causing problems for Keith. I just want to live in peace, you know! I don't need a bunch of fighting all of the time."

"Well, if Keith starts anything, just tell Tom," said Steve.  "I'm sure that he'll evict him.  Tom didn't know anything about your history with Keith.  We didn't know anything about Keith renting the apartment, or we'd have told him all about it."

"Its OK," I assured him.  "I can't dictate where Keith can live. As long as he leaves me alone, there won't be a problem on my end.  I'll talk to Charlie when he gets back and make him understand that we have to leave Keith alone, too."

"Do you think that you and Keith might ever patch things up and become friends again?"  He asked.

"I don't think so, Steve," I said quickly.  "What Keith did was just so wrong.  I lost my father over it. Sure, my father and I never were close, and we probably never would have been, but Keith took away my chance to find out."

"Dustin, you would have come out of the closet on your own eventually, right?"  He asked.

"Well, yes," I said.  "But if I had, no one would have ever heard me say that I tried to rape my best friend. If it was just outing me, I could probably forgive him for it, but he didn't leave it at that.  He tried to make everyone believe that I tried to force him to have sex with me.  Why would I even take a chance of being even a passing friend to him again, knowing that he could do something like that again?"

"I understand," he said.  "I just think its sad that you guys would throw away so many years of friendship."

"I'm not the one throwing it away, Steve," I said.  "Keith did this.  I don't know why, and I don't understand how he could do it, but he did it.  I can't forgive him for it.  That's all there is to it."

"I understand," he said as Phillip came back upstairs.

"All set?" I asked Phillip, wanting to get out of there.  I wasn't comfortable with the conversation I was having with Steve.  I didn't understand why he'd even ask if I could be friends with Keith again.

"I'm ready," he said.  "Just had to grab a few things."

I noticed that his tote bag was a lot fuller this time than it had been when he'd showed up at my apartment.  I wondered what was in the bag now besides clothing.  I smiled as I thought about the last time he'd said that he had to pick up a few things.  I'm sure Steve could see the smile in my eyes when we said goodbye.

We were quiet in the truck on the way back to the apartment.  I kept thinking about the first night we'd been together, and I was trying hard to keep the end of that night out of my mind.  In fairness to Phillip, I should only think about what happened between the two of us that night.  Phillip had shown me a really great side of sex that night, and after my only other experience it had showed me that there were guys out there that believed that pleasure wasn't one sided.

We stopped at a grocery store and got steaks for supper.  Phillip walked around picking up this and that while I watched him shop.  I smiled as I watched him.  I'd agreed to let him cook the meal, and he was taking it very seriously.  I had no idea what he was planning to make with the steaks, but he certainly seemed to know what he was looking for.

On the way back to the apartment, we talked about Danny and Jason.  Phillip was eager to learn masonry from them, and I had to admit that it sounded like fun.  Of course I knew that once I added it to the list of services that we would provide our customers, it would probably no longer be fun, but I was excited about getting my business started.  Adding masonry wasn't one of my original plans, but I was sure that it would bring in more money once we all became comfortable with the skill.

I was sure that the real money would come from flowers and plants.  I was even more eager to get to school and learn all of that.  I wanted to talk to Tom about the greenhouse and storage sheds for the equipment.  I wasn't sure how soon we'd need them, but it couldn't hurt to be prepared.  I also had a few ideas about the winter season, and I needed to talk to him about that, too.

"You got quiet on me," said Phillip, pulling me out of my business thoughts.

"Sorry," I said.  "Thinking about winter."

"Oh, well I didn't know that my company was that boring," he laughed.

"Oh, shut up," I laughed.  "We got to talking about Jason and Danny, and I started to think about more shovels for winter. Then I started to wonder how much it would cost to buy some snow blowers."

"That's a great idea," he said.  "I don't think you'll be able to afford it, though."

"Expensive?" I asked.

"Very," he replied.  "We can look around tomorrow if you want, but I don't think you'll find any this early in the summer. We might find a catalog in one of the shops."

"That's better than nothing," I said.  "At least I'd know prices."

"How are those investments doing?"  He asked.  "There should be a little money there, right?"

"Too soon," I replied.  "Its only been a few days since the money was invested.  It'll take a while for that to show anything."

"Well, you said that we have new lawns lined up soon," he said.  "What about those?"

"Well, we do have six more for sure that start next week," I said.  "I've talked to four more people about doing their lawns, but they haven't committed so far."

"I heard Tom talking to Andy about putting an ad in the paper," he said.  "What's that about?"

"Well, we'd run a weekly ad in the newspaper, and put something in the phone book when it comes out in August," I said.  "Tom's really thinking about advertising, so if he gets all of that done, I'm sure we'll have scores on new clients before too long.  We may be in over our heads if we're not careful."

"You'll need more employees," he guessed.

"That," I nodded.  "I'll need more of everything. Money is what I really need."

"What about a loan?"  He asked.

"Well, we've talked about that, but I don't really want to owe against my business," I replied.  "That would defeat my purpose."

"What about a business partner?"  He asked.  "They bring money to a business, right?"

"Right," I said slowly.  "The problem there is that I don't know anyone with money that would want to become my partner."

"Yes you do," he laughed.  "My aunt Shirley would probably become your business partner.  She also knows about plants and flowers."

"Would she want to be a partner in a lawn care business?"  I asked as we pulled into the apartment complex parking lot.

"Well, she always seems very interested in your business plans when Tom discusses them with her," he said.

"I guess I should talk to her about it then," I said as we got out of the truck.  I noticed that Keith's car wasn't in the lot, but it could have been in his garage unit.

"You're looking for him, aren't you?"  Said Phillip as he came to stand beside me.

"Just checking," I admitted.  "I don't think he's here."

"Are you sure that his living in this building isn't going to be a problem?"  He probed.

"No, I'm not sure," I replied.  "But I can't run from him every time I see him.  I'm not a child, and I can stand up for myself.  He hurt me, but he didn't kill me."

"Well said."

"Thank you," I laughed.  "Now, you owe me a meal."

Once we got upstairs and in the apartment, Phillip banned me from the kitchen.  He told me to go sit on the couch and wait.  I laughed at him at first, but once I saw the serious look in his eyes, I complied with his order.  We kept up a steady conversation while he cooked, but he wouldn't discuss what he was cooking.  It smelled great, and my stomach was certainly looking forward to whatever it was that was being cooked in my kitchen.

I was going to have to sit down with Tom and Shirley to discuss my lawn business.  If Shirley was interested in becoming a partner, then maybe I could get a jump start on flowers and plants.  That would mean more business, and she and Tom were both very knowledgeable when it came to running a business.  Andy had told me that his parents had owned a small business of their own in Maine.  I didn't know exactly what it was that they did, but knowing that they had been at least moderately successful was enough for me to want to at least talk to Shirley about my own business.