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Note: Thanks to Tim and Rock for feedback on the draft chapters. I owe a special thanks to Robb for doing the final proofreading and catching all those silly little errors I missed.
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I stayed out on the porch and heard Derek rummaging around in my room. After just about enough time for him to pull his clothes on, I heard him run down the stairs, start his car, and drive away.
I'd just lost my best friend! Why did I feel that I had to tell him I was gay? At least I didn't tell him that I was in love with him. Man, that would have just made it worse.
I lay back on the mattress and looked up through the trees to the stars. Tears ran down my face.
I heard someone coming up the stairs. Daddy slowly sat down beside me on the mattress.
"I told Derek."
"I see. He left?"
I nodded. "All he said was, `I think I need to go home.' Daddy, I just lost my best friend."
Daddy lay down beside me and pulled me to him. "Maybe he just needed to think about it."
"No...I've lost him."
I started to cry again, and Daddy held me and stroked my hair as I buried my face in his shoulder.
When I woke up the next morning, Daddy was still on the mattress beside me. I watched him sleep, and I knew that whatever happened...even if Derek told the whole school I was queer, and never spoke to me again...I could get through it, because my family loved me.
I tried to study for my exams. I had a hard time concentrating, and I dreaded Monday morning expecting that the news about me would be all over the school.
However, no one seemed to react any differently toward me on the school bus. I was looking for it, but I didn't see any signs. Everyone was talking about normal things, like the final exams, graduation, summer plans. No one pointed a finger at me and called me a `faggot.'
It was the same thing when we got to school. Derek avoided me, but no one else acted any differently toward me. I was relieved, but it still hurt that Derek wouldn't even look at me.
Somehow, I got through the week of exams. I went to the commencement ceremony to watch some of my friends graduate. Next year it would be me walking across that stage. Then what? I needed to think about which colleges I wanted to apply to, and I needed to learn a whole lot about what scholarships and loans were available.
Summer vacation started. That meant I was working full time at Tarricone's Market, but at least that kept my mind off of Derek...well, at least a little. I still hadn't heard a word from him. I was hurt. I missed him, but I was darned mad at him also.
The second week after summer vacation started, Hector Delgado came home on leave from the Army. I'd known when he was going to be home from the regular letters I'd received from him.
Hector looked older. He'd really matured in the ten months he'd been gone. His face had filled out, and as I found out later, he'd added some muscle to his frame. With his Army regulation high and tight haircut, he was one studly soldier.
He came out to the house to see me the second night he was back in town, and he ended up staying overnight. He was hot to trot, and so was I. Almost as soon as we got up to my bedroom, Hector stripped off his clothes, and knelt down on my bed presenting his upturned ass to me.
"I want you to fuck me now, Brett. I haven't had any sex other than with my right hand for ten months."
Well, of course, I did what he wanted. I mean, we all have to do our part to keep the troops happy, right?
I didn't last very long the first time. After all, it had been ten months for me, as well. But, I managed to make it well worth his while the second and third times that night.
Apparently we were kind of noisy. The next morning Scott pulled me aside and said, "Bro, I am not old enough to be hearing the things I was hearing coming out of your room last night. The next time you and Hector go at it, put a gag in his mouth."
We didn't use a gag, but I did give Hector an old towel to bite on whenever I fucked him over the next week and a half. I think both of us were trying to make up for lost time.
Hector seemed content to be the bottom. I was sure content to top him. I could see that he was getting a lot of pleasure out of my dick moving in and out of his ass, but I just wasn't sure I'd ever enjoy having it done to me.
Hector seemed determined to get in as much sex as possible, because he was going to be spending the next fifteen months in Iraq. It was going to be a long dry spell for him...in more ways than one.
A couple of days after Hector left to rejoin his unit, Derek was standing next to my car when I finished closing the store for the evening. We hadn't exchanged more than brief `hellos' in the six weeks since I'd told him I was gay. I had a moment of panic that this was a set up. I quickly scanned the surrounding area for other cars or people loitering around in the darkness, but except for his Jeep and my Impala there weren't any other cars in the parking lot, and I couldn't see anyone standing around at the edges of the lot. My momentary paranoia receded.
"Hi, Derek. What's up?"
"Can we go someplace and talk?"
"Do we have things to talk about?"
"I hope so."
"All right, where do you want to go?"
"Can we go out to your house?"
"Okay. You know the way."
When we got to the house, all the lights were off downstairs so I knew Daddy had already gone to bed. Scott's light was still on upstairs.
We quietly entered the kitchen. Scott came bounding down the stairs, but came to a screeching halt when he saw Derek.
"Hey, Scott. How's my little buddy?"
"Uh...I'm good. How about you? I haven't seen you for a while."
"Yeah, that's my fault. Sorry."
"Uh, Scott, Derek and I have some things to talk about." I moved my eyes back toward the stairs.
He took the hint. "Right. I...uh...just came down for some iced tea. You guys want some?"
"Thanks, bro, but we'll get it."
"Right. Good night." He turned and beat a hasty retreat back up the stairs without getting any tea from the refrigerator.
I poured some tea for the two of us, handed Derek his glass, and headed through the house to the chairs on the front porch. Derek silently followed.
Once we were seated across from each other in two of the big chairs, I asked, "So what do you want to talk about?"
He smiled nervously. "Can we talk about what a shithead I've been to you for the last six weeks? Brett, when you told me you're gay, I didn't handle it very well. I know it had to have been hard for you to tell me, and I acted like a real asshole and just left. When I saw you at school that next Monday, I still couldn't think of anything to say." He put down his iced tea and looked at me. In the moonlight I could see tears welling up in those incredible green eyes of his. "I want to apologize for the way I acted. You'd been my best friend, and I did my best to push you away. I've really missed you these last six weeks. I don't know if you can forgive me, but if you can, I'd like another chance."
"I need to know something before I answer. Did you tell anyone about me?"
"No. At least I had the sense not to say anything to anyone else."
I breathed a sigh of relief. "Good, I don't want to be known as the local queer."
"Does that mean we can be friends again?"
"Yes, but I need to say a few things first. Derek, I've missed you, too. You're the best friend I've ever had. I told you about me just because I didn't want to be keeping a secret from you. It's a part of who I am. Daddy and Scott know, and they've been wonderful about it. I'm not ready to come out to the whole world right now, if I ever will be, but I didn't want to keep it a secret from you."
Derek gave me one of his sly smiles. "If we're friends again, can I get a hug?"
"Come here, shithead."
We hugged for a good fifteen or twenty seconds before Derek broke away. "Okay, enough hugging. I don't want you to get excited."
"In your dreams, Jackson."
"Can I stay out here tonight? I've got my stuff out in the Jeep."
We talked and laughed together for another couple of hours before falling asleep. It was just like before, except that Derek slept on a mattress we pulled into the room from down the hall. I missed sharing the bed with him, but it felt so good to have our friendship back on track that I didn't mind the loss of some physical contact with him. I decided I'd take what I could get.
Derek and I quickly settled back into our old routine of spending Friday night at either his house or mine. Again the ratio was about three times at my house for every time at his. The only differences that I could see in our relationship were that he never asked me for a back rub or shoulder rub like he had before, and we didn't sleep in the same bed like we had before. We eventually moved one of the beds from a spare room into my room so that Derek had his own bed. At his house, we slept in sleeping bags on the floor of his room.
I missed touching his body, and I missed waking up with him next to me in the bed, but our friendship was back. That was the important thing.
I was over at Derek's house the Friday night before the start of football practice, and the next morning, Derek's grandfather was there at breakfast. He was spending a lot of time over at the Jacksons, especially since the death of his wife. He and Derek's mom and dad were talking about politics (as usual) when we walked in. Derek's father was running on the Democratic ticket to be the Congressman from Georgia's 14th Congressional District. As the Jackson's had become more familiar with me, they were freer in discussing political matters while I was in the room.
They had been talking about one of the local political bigwigs. Derek's grandfather apparently didn't like or trust the man, because he commented that, "That crooked old son-of-a-bitch doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground."
Mrs. Jackson patted his hand and smiled. "Cleon Robert Jackson, you need to watch your language. That old son-of-a-bitch can swing a lot of votes our way."
The adults all laughed.
I pulled Derek back into the hallway.
"I thought your grandpa's name was Robert?"
"That's the name he uses. His real first name is Cleon. It's some old family tradition dating back to the days of slavery about saddling the eldest male child in each generation with the name Cleon. It's supposed to remind us that we were once slaves. None of us ever use it. We all go by our middle names."
"Your first name is Cleon?"
"Yup, I'm Cleon Derek Jackson. Dad's full name is Cleon Ronald Jackson. Now you know one of our family secrets. But I' tellin' you right now, don't ever call me Cleon. I hate it."
"How old is your grandfather?"
"That's a random question."
"Just tell me how old he is."
"Okay, man, don't get pissed off about it. I think he's sixty-five. Yeah, that's it. He just turned sixty-five. I remember him telling Nana that he'd retire when he reached sixty-five, but she died just before his sixty-fifth birthday."
Sweet Lord in Heaven! How many Cleon's could there be that had grown up here in Fenokachee County and were two years older than my daddy? Derek's grandfather had been my daddy's first lover!
"Brett! Hey, Brett, are you okay? You look kinda pale...even for a white boy."
"Yeah, I'm okay. Maybe I need some coffee."
We headed back into the kitchen where I tried to keep my expression neutral.
(To be continued)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Some of the characters who play parts in this story were previously introduced in "When Love Comes" (last posted in the College section on Sept. 6, 2001), "Love of a Lifetime" (last posted in the College section on May 19, 2003), "Finding Family" (last posted in the College section on June 5, 2008), or "Construction Job" (last posted in the College section on July 24, 2008). While not necessary, readers may find it useful to read the earlier stories posted on this site. All of the Adams State/Carterville stories listed above as well as my other stories are also posted at www.crvboy.com.
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