The following is a work of fiction. Any similarities are entirely fortuitous. The story may contain profanity and references to gay sex. If such content offends you please leave now. The author retains all rights to the story. Do not copy or use without written authority from the author. Write Bobby at this address with your comments.

Along the Way 01

All liquor stores are the same to me. They all have a small number of food selections, but yet their alcohol selections are among the biggest I've ever come in contact with. How is it possible that they have more alcohol than food? The fact that they are called liquor stores doesn't mean anything, though, because some are called convenience stores. These convenience stores still have a larger selection of alcohol than they do food.

Tonight I have the misfortune to purchase my dinner from a liquor store. I searched and searched for something adequate enough to fill me up, but I was coming up short. The closest thing that I could find that would fill me up, but would be under $1.50 is a bag of chips. Surprised?

I walked up to the counter and set the bag down. "That'll be $1.05." the clerk gruffly said.

"But the price on the bag says 99." I replied.

"But tax brings it up to $1.05." rudely the clerk argued.

"There isn't supposed to be tax on this. No other store would charge that!"

"Listen kid, if you don't want to pay, then put them back!"

"I only have a dollar. Can't you just let me go this once?" I pleaded with him. I could've sworn I had $1.20 though.

"No."

"Sir, ple-"

"Give him what he wants." a boy said, tossing a dollar onto the counter. I turned my head to look at him. He was dressed in all black, even his shoes. He had a hood over his head and aviator sunglasses covering his eyes. "And keep the change you cheap son of a bitch." He then walked out of the store in a calm pace.

I turned my attention back to the clerk. His face was red and I swear there was steam coming out of his ears. Not wanting to irritate him any further, I grabbed my bag of chips and then ran out the store. The boy who helped me was already far away from the store, but I just had to thank him.

"Hey, wait up," I panted as I caught up to him. "Thanks for the dollar. I really appreciate that."

The boy stopped walking and looked at me. He removed his glasses and slid his hood off his head. "No problem,"

"I-I'm Tanner," I stuttered nervously. The boy was incredibly cute. His black hair was combed downward, but was a little messed up from his hood. The eyes that were staring into mine were maroon in color. They seemed to be staring into my soul.

He stuck out his hand and said, "I'm Brett,"

"Well, thanks again for what you did. If it weren't for you I probably wouldn't have gotten dinner tonight." My face must've turned seven shades of red after I said that.

"What? This is your dinner?" Brett asked incredulously.

I turned even redder. "Yeah,"

"Hmm, you're coming with me, Tanner. We're going to get some real dinner." Brett ordered.

"B-but I have to go home, and my-" I tried to argue, but Brett wouldn't hear of it.

"I don't care. You need a real dinner." Brett ushered me to a black car that looked way too fancy for me to even glance at. He opened the door for me and allowed me to crawl inside. I was beginning to grow a little frightful.

"Where are we going?" I questioned nervously.

"I don't know. What do you feel like?" he asked.

"Honestly, I could go for a nice, big, juicy burger and fries." I said, trying not to sound too hungry. I think I failed miserably, however.

Brett chuckled. "Me too," He pushed a button and suddenly a front partition rolled down and there was someone in the driver's seat. "Niles, can you take me and my friend here to Bob's Barbeque, please?"

"Sure thing, sir," the driver, Niles, replied. Brett then pushed the same button, but this time the partition rolled up.

"So, Tanner, how old are you?" Brett asked with a smile.

"I'm seventeen, eighteen on July twelfth." I said, trying not to stare. "What about you?"

"Oh, I'm eighteen," he said. "You have a girlfriend?"

This question caught me completely off guard. I said in a horrendous stutter, "U-uh, no I d-don't. Um, do you?"

"Girlfriend?" Brett chuckled. "Nah, I'm a girl-less guy."

"Oh, that sucks," I lied.

"Not so much. What school do you go to, Tanner?"

"Dean High," I answered. "You?"

"I'm actually done with school. I start college in August, though."

"Sweet!" I said too enthusiastically causing me to blush and Brett to laugh. "Sorry."

"Hey, don't be. I'm pretty excited to start actually. What about you? What are your plans for after high school?"

"I'm not sure. I'd like to go to college too, but I might not have enough money to go." Sadness consumed my emotions and tears filled my eyes. I did all I could to not let them escape.

"What about scholarships and grants?"

"So far I haven't gotten anything."

We pulled up to the restaurant without a moment to spare. Brett put his sunglasses back on and his hood over his head. He and I went inside and were promptly seated. After we ordered, our conversation was light but fun. I had a warm feeling with him that I can't really describe. The more we talk the more I realize what a great person he is. Great, I'm falling for a guy that is straight more likely than not.

Throughout dinner, Brett continuously complemented me on things I never would have guessed. He said I have amazing eyes and a very bright smile. If Brett is straight like he said he was, then he is surely bisexual. Actually now that I think about it he never actually said he's straight. He just said he doesn't have a girlfriend. That automatically means he's gay, though, right? Even if he isn't straight, there's no way he'd be interested in someone like me. I literally have nothing to offer him.

After dinner, Brett offered to take me out for some ice cream, but I declined saying I really had to get home. I was lying through my teeth, but I just need to be alone right now to process things in my mind. This act of kindness on his part wouldn't have been able to happen anyways, however. All of a sudden, his driver came in the restaurant and informed him that his father wanted him home immediately.

"Damn, dad," Brett sighed. "Can't you stall him, Niles?" Brett looked like a sad little kid whose favorite toy just got taken away.

"I'm sorry, sir," Niles replied, head down.

Brett squinted his eyes and looked really focused on trying to hear something. He must've heard it because the next thing I know we're running out of the restaurant in a fury. Niles screeched out of the parking lot as if something was chasing him.

"What's going on?" I asked, terrified.

"I'm so sorry about this, but my dad you see... Well, he's... Let's just say my dad is very protective of me." Brett strongly answered back. "I'm sorry again, but I don't think I'll be able to drive you home. Is it all right if I have Niles drop you off back at the liquor store?" Brett began to look out the windows into the sky. He seemed really anxious about something.

I looked at him cautiously. "Yeah, that's fine. My house isn't that far from there."

He gave me an odd look. "Do you think we can hang out again sometime? Tonight was really fun."

"Uh, sure," I said without really knowing what I agreed to.

"Awesome," Brett said, finally looking at me instead of out the window.

"Mr. Malcolm," Niles said through an intercom. "We're nearing the liquor store. There isn't any time to waste."

"Right, Niles."

"Well, it was really nice meeting you and thank you so much for dinner tonight. You don't know how much I appreciate that." I said politely.

Brett smiled broadly. "It was my pleasure, Tanner. I really did have a fun time tonight." His words were kind enough to be considered common, but they were also warm and...hopeful in a way.

"Same," Suddenly, the car came to a fast stop. I looked out the window and saw the liquor store right outside. "Well, I'll see you later then."

"Bye, Tanner, and again I'm sorry about all of this." Brett apologetically said.

"It's no problem," I stepped out of the car and closed the door. Niles tore off down the street, out of sight.

As I was walking home, I realized that Brett knew nothing about me except my first name. Well this is just perfect. This hot guy wants to hang out with me again, but we have no way of contacting each other. I should have known my luck couldn't have just magically gone from bad to amazing in a matter of a couple of hours. Maybe someday in the future we can meet again.

My life is really nothing to be proud of. I have no money, no friends, no parents. Scratch that. I do have a mom, but that is only a title she is forced to carry for about another month until I turn eighteen. She is a heartless drunk who collects social security money to support her drinking habits. Unfortunately for me, my dad died when I was way younger. The government gives mom a five hundred dollar check every month to help raise me. That money of course only goes to liquor and whatever she wants. Me? I get nothing. The few clothes I have are because I've worked my ass off to get them from thrift stores. At home there isn't really any food whatsoever. The food we do sometimes have is usually tortilla chips and the occasional box of macaroni and cheese.

Mom's car wasn't in the driveway when I walked up to the house. The house itself looked absolutely horrible. The windows had cracks in them. The paint covering the house was peeling and faded. There's nothing really positive I can say about my house except for that it at least has a roof.

With all the care in the world, I stepped inside. I'm being extra careful because although my mom's car isn't in the driveway doesn't mean she's not home, or anyone for that matter. In fact I remember this one time I came home from school and just as I had cracked the door open I saw the disgusting image of my mom on top of some dude she brought home. That image is sadly burned into my memory, not as a souvenir, but as a reminder of how little she cares for me.

You know, I'm nothing to really look at. I stand at maybe five foot nine and weigh in at a measly 135 pounds. I do luckily have a nice even tan all throughout my body and light hair everywhere on it. The hair on my head, though, is styled in a messy faux hawk fashion; it's the color of a milk chocolate bar. My eyes are the same color as my hair lucky me.

I plopped down on the beat down couch that was in the living room. So many thoughts were floating around in my mind. Most of the thoughts I was having were about Brett, but there were also some stragglers about my life. The ones about Brett were difficult to think about, not because I had a headache or anything, but metaphorically my heart is aching. Brett is so gorgeous and generous and kind, but what the hell am I even doing? I'm arguing with myself in my head about a guy I know very little about. I don't even know if he's for sure straight or not. And why the hell should I be even remotely upset about any of this? We don't know each other that well. We are nothing. I shook my head to try and clear my mind. I grabbed a remote and turned the TV on. Oddly enough, mom can afford a nice TV, but she can't afford to buy me some new clothes.

"And today President Malcolm visited a museum located in San Bernardino, California saying that he wanted to visit a favorite pastime of his childhood. Of course he arrived back home today to have dinner with his wife and son." the anchorwoman said with one of those smiles that only anchormen can pull off. "In other news..."

The name Malcolm rang a bell in my head though. It sounds so familiar, but I just can't seem to place that name.

The world is filled with unlikely friendships. How do they begin? With one person desperately in need and another willing to lend a helping hand. When such kindness is offered, we're finally able to see the worth of those we had previously written off. And before we know it, a bond has formed, regardless of whether others can understand it. Yes, unlikely friendships start up every day. No one understands this more than the lonely. In fact, it's what they count on.*

* * * * * * * * * * * *

* by Marc Cherry, 2006

Hey everyone, I really hope you enjoyed the first chapter of my sixth story! I know it's shorter than most of my chapters, but I just felt really stuck with the first chapter as are most authors. Don't worry, though, because future chapters will be better.

As always feel free to write me with your thoughts, questions, or criticisms at the address given atop every single chapter. Also feel free to join my group at this address. Thanks!

And don't forget to purchase A Life So Changed. You may purchase it here: Bobby's Storefront. If you liked the story online, wait until you see it in print! It would mean the world to me if you bought a copy! Thanks again!