SUMMARY: At a time of national turmoil, the lives of four boys become connected as each struggles to accept his sexuality and to address the challenges he faces in life. To the extent the boys succeed in coming to grips with those challenges, it may be in ways that prove surprising or troubling. This story is also being published on my blog and you can find a longer synopsis there. While some events, locations and features in the story have been moved forward or back in time for dramatic and other purposes, it takes place during an era when prejudice against homosexuals is rampant and the gay revolution in America is still in its infancy. Italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
WARNING: Sex is not the primary focus of this story. If you're looking for erotic content, you'll do much better with other stories on Nifty. While sexual content is secondary and incidental, the story does include some scenes that depict sex and violence, sometimes graphically depending upon the characters and circumstances involved. For that reason, the story is intended for mature audiences only. If you do not wish to read such material or it is illegal for you to do so, please look elsewhere. The story remains the property of the author and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. It is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author, but you may not use this work for commercial purposes. You may not use any of the characters, bars or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon this story in any way.
AUTHOR NOTES: This is my first effort at writing a story. As a general rule, I only plan to publish one chapter a week and you'll always find the latest chapter on my blog initially. However, I may publish more frequently on Nifty during the first month. Comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames will be ignored. If you would like to let me know what you think, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 6, Josh tells Nolan they’re too old to be skinny dipping together. Nolan begins to panic because he thinks Josh knows he’s homosexual. Later, after spending some time in town together, the boys return to the tent and Nolan finally gets to give the gifts he bought in Burlington to Josh. They talk a bit about college. Josh wants to go, but needs a scholarship to pay the way. Uncertain whether he’ll get one, he tells Nolan he may join the Army instead. Nolan argues against that because he’s afraid Josh could get killed in the war. The two boys go swimming the next day. Nolan challenges Josh to a race across the lake to decide whether they’ll go skinny dipping or not, but insists on a big head start. The race tires Nolan out and he slips under the water.
PART I - INNOCENCE AROUSED
“Nolan, are you okay? Please be okay. I love you, Nolan. Don’t leave me here all alone. Please be okay.”
Engulfed in darkness, I remember hearing the words from some faraway place. They seemed to be echoing around inside my head, very faintly at first, then more and more clearly. I didn’t have a clue where I was; and while I knew the voice was Josh’s, I didn’t have a clue where he was either.
Everything was just so dark. I couldn’t see anything at all because my eyes wouldn’t open, no matter how much I tried to force them to open. Like I said, I wasn’t sure where I was so I just laid there calmly, listening in silence as the words continued to echo around inside my head.
Something was pinching my nose. Then I could feel lips pressing against my mouth.
Is someone kissing me I wondered? Is this what it feels like to be kissed?
I could feel air being forced into my mouth, then feel it being pushed deeper inside me with still more air. Then, just as quickly as they had appeared, the lips were gone, replaced by the feel of hands pressing against my chest, hard, really hard.
“Nolan, are you okay?”
The voice was becoming louder now.
“I love you, Nolan. Please don’t die. Please. I need you to stay here with me, Nolan. Please be okay.”
I remember trying to open my eyes again and again, but they just wouldn’t work. And then, when I was just about to abandon hope, there was a glimmer of light and they finally seemed to work, if only imperfectly.
I could see tears streaming down Josh’s face, could feel how frantically he was working, falling silent while blowing air into my mouth and lungs, then pressing his hands against my chest, over and over.
Why is he doing this, I wondered?
But then there were the words again. They were stronger than ever now, louder and more insistent.
“I love you, Nolan. Please don’t give up on me. Please, Nolan. Please don’t leave me all alone by myself. I need you to be here with me.”
I tried to say something but nothing came out. I tried again and again, but my voice took forever to work.
“I’m okay,” I was finally able to stammer. Then, suddenly, I began coughing uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop coughing and all of a sudden water came gushing out of my mouth.
I remember feeling totally exhausted. Josh was still crying.
“What happened,” I whimpered, gasping for air?
“You almost drowned, Nolan,” Josh replied. “I could see you struggling and tried to swim as fast as I could. But you were already under the water when I got to you. I put my arm around your neck and hauled you over to the other side of the lake. I’ve been doing CPR on you forever, Nolan, at least it seems like forever to me. You scared me, Nolan. Please, don’t ever do that again. I don’t know what I would do if you drowned and left me here all alone.”
I remember being surprised at just how much it seemed to bother him I might have died. He would have been in trouble for sure if I had. But I could tell from his voice he wasn’t even thinking about that. He cared. He really did care about me.
He was staring down at me now, his face still streaked from all the tears.
He was so beautiful. I couldn’t help smiling at him.
“Thanks for saving me, Josh,” I said. “You know, there were times in the past when I wouldn’t have cared if I drowned. But that was before I met you. I don’t want to die now that I’ve met you, Josh. Thanks.”
“It’s okay,” Josh responded. “I don’t want you to die either. You’re my best friend, Nolan. I don’t want you to go away and I’m really worried about you. Do you think you’re strong enough to go back to the house with me? I’m sure your parents will want to have you checked out by a doctor or maybe even take you to the hospital over in Rutland.”
“No, I’m not strong enough to go back now,” I lied. “And I don’t want to go back when I am, Josh. I’m fine. Let’s just stay here and talk. And please don’t ever tell my parents or your Mom what happened, Josh. Please? If you do, they won’t let us come here alone again. I like being alone with you, Josh.”
“I don’t know,” Josh stammered. “I just don’t know what to do. Maybe I should just go back by myself and bring your folks back here. Are you sure you’re okay, Nolan?”
“Yeah, I’m okay, Josh,” I replied. “And I won’t ever try something dumb like that again either. I’m not the world’s greatest swimmer and I knew it was pretty far across the lake. But I wasn’t trying to hurt myself, Josh. I just wanted to win the race so we could go skinny dipping again.”
“We can go skinny dipping whenever you want, Nolan,” Josh replied. “I was just being totally stupid making us wear those damn suits.”
“Maybe you can help me become a stronger swimmer while I’m here this summer, Josh,” I replied? “I could sure use some help. Maybe we could try to swim out from the rock a little further each day so I can get all the way across the lake before I finally have to leave? But I would need you to be next to me all the way. Could we do that, Josh?”
“Sure, we can do that, Nolan,” he responded. “I’ll help you become a better swimmer. That’s what best friends are for.”
After that the two of us just laid there together for the longest time without exchanging any more words. I wanted to ask him whether he really meant what he said about loving me, but I was confused. I knew what I wanted it to mean, but maybe he just meant he loved me like a brother or a best friend. I was afraid he'd be mad or disgusted with me if I asked.
Finally, it was Josh who broke the silence.
“We have to go now, Nolan,” he said. “It’ll take another fifteen or twenty minutes to walk all the way around the lake from this side. Are you strong enough to walk back now?”
I just nodded at him.
With that he offered me his hand and helped pull me up to my feet; then, with Josh leading the way, the two of walked back to the house in silence. I remember looking at his butt the whole way and feeling really guilty about that after all he had just done for me. But I just couldn’t stop looking, no matter how much I tried. It was just so cute and my eyes liked it so much.
We must have been kind of quiet that evening at dinner because I remember Josh’s Mom commenting about it.
“You two boys sure are sure pretty quiet for a change,” she said. “What’s up?”
“Oh, it’s nothing, Mam,” I piped up before Josh could even think about spilling the beans. “We’re just pretty tired out from all the swimming we did today. Especially Josh. He’s trying to help me become a better swimmer and it isn’t the easiest job in the world, that’s for sure. He had to show me everything like a gazillion times before I would get it right. I’m lucky I didn’t drown in the process, but I’m sure Josh wouldn’t have let that happen. Would you, Josh?”
“I don’t know,” Josh responded, revealing just the slightest hint of a smile that had been missing for most of that day. “It might be the only way to get you to stop yakking all the time. With the way you yak, you’re going to be a great politician someday, that’s for sure.”
“Don’t pay him any attention, Mam,” I continued, smiling at his Mom. “I think I just tired the poor boy out completely so he’s a little cranky right now. You’ll have to forgive him.”
Then I stuck my tongue out at Josh while she wasn’t looking.
“Well, it sounds like the two of you are having fun and I’m really glad to hear that. Sometimes I worry about how lonely it must be for Joshua out here on the farm all by himself.”
“People can be lonely even when there are lots of other people around, Mam,” I replied, turning serious momentarily.
“I’m sure they can, Nolan,” she replied, nodding her head. “I’m sure they can.”
“Just like I’m sure it must be hard for Josh, Mam, trying to decide who he likes better now, me or that pet goat of his,” I added, laughing.
“Oh, that isn’t hard at all, Nolan,” Josh replied. “That goat has a much sweeter personality than you by far.”
At which point Josh returned the favor and stuck his tongue out at me.
I remember smiling. It was nice to see Josh finally loosening up.
Later, after we had finished dinner, Josh and I went for a long walk. We didn’t really say anything very much to each other. We just walked and walked for the longest time. Josh started to say something a couple of times, then backed off. I wanted to say something too, but didn’t know how to go about doing it. I was afraid he might feel embarrassed and that was the last thing I wanted. Eventually, we ended up back at the farm. It was late. After saying good night to our parents, the two of us headed off to the tent.
After we had stripped off our clothes and crawled into our sleeping bags, I started thinking about everything that had happened that day. In some ways, Josh had seemed a little more relaxed that evening. He didn’t turn his back on me while he was getting undressed, for example, and I liked that. But he still wasn’t talking very much and I wondered whether he was embarrassed by what he had said while he was administering CPR.
It was Josh who finally broke the silence that evening.
“Um, well, can I ask you something, Nolan?”
“Sure,” I replied, “whatever you want.”
“Well, the thing is, I was just kind of wondering what it was like down at the lake before you woke up and coughed up all that water,” he asked? “I mean, do you remember anything at all after you slipped under the water?”
I knew what he was getting at. And the thing is, I didn’t remember everything. I didn’t remember Josh reaching me or hauling me to the opposite shore. But at some point I became aware of the darkness and then of his voice. And once I became aware of it, I remembered everything he said. I wanted to tell him the truth and tell him how much I loved him, but I didn’t think he wanted to hear that from me. So even though I didn’t want to do it, I figured I should let him off the hook.
“I don’t remember very much, Josh,” I said. “I mean, when you were doing CPR on me, I couldn’t see you or talk to you for the longest time. I don’t know why, but that’s just the way it was. But the weird thing is I could feel your hands pressing against my chest and feel you pinching my nose and blowing air into my lungs.”
“But I couldn’t hear anything you said,” I added, lying. “Of course, you probably weren’t saying very much at all given everything else you had to do.”
Josh looked over at me, anxiously.
“You couldn’t hear me talking to you,” he asked? “Are you sure?”
“Well, pretty sure,” I responded, dejectedly, because I wanted to tell him the truth. “I mean, I thought I heard you say something at one point, but I really couldn’t make out what it was.”
Silence engulfed the tent momentarily as the two of us lay there, staring at one another.
“You’re lying, aren’t you, Nolan,” Josh finally responded, looking directly into my eyes?
“Why would you say something like that, that I’m lying,” I tried to protest, softly, averting my eyes from his because I was ashamed to be lying to him.
“You heard everything, didn’t you,” Josh said, staring at me more intently than ever. “You heard everything, but you’re lying because you’re thankful to me for saving your life. That’s it, isn’t it, Nolan?”
“No,” I said, protesting again. “Why would I lie about something like that?”
“You’re lying because you heard what I said and you’re disgusted with me, but you don’t want to hurt my feelings because of me saving your life.”
“No,” I repeated. “It isn’t like that at all. I would never be disgusted with you, Josh.”
“You didn’t hear me say it,” Josh continued, relentless?
“I love you, Nolan.”
“You didn’t hear me say that? Because I did say it.”
“What if I did hear something like that,” I responded, trying to push back against his effort to force me to tell truth. “What’s the big deal? I mean, the thing is, things must have been really nuts right about then. You were probably half crazy with worry about whether I was going to die. So even if you said something like that, I know you didn’t really mean anything by it.”
Josh just stared at me for the longest time. I guess he was trying to decide what he should say.
“Thanks, Nolan,” he finally responded. “You’re a terrific friend. But, the thing is, you’re wrong about that. I did mean it. And I’m really sorry about that. Not for saying it or for feeling that way. But for putting you on the spot like I have. I mean, I’m sure you must be grateful to me for rescuing you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be angry with me for saying something disgusting like that. I’m really sorry about that and I apologize for being so gross.”
“The thing is, well, I’ve been trying to tell myself for the longest time now it wasn’t true,” Josh continued. “That I wasn’t one of those of those homos. But I reckon I must be. You know, that first night I saw you come into the dining room I got a boner just looking at you, Nolan. Do you believe that? I know that must really disgust you, but it’s the truth.”
“And it’s been pretty much that way the whole time since you arrived. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you. And then, when I thought you had drowned today, I was devastated, Nolan, just totally devastated. So, yeah, I meant it. I’m queer. And I am sorry you hate me now. I’ll do whatever you want. If you want me to sleep upstairs in my room, I’ll do it. Because I know it’s cooler down here at the tent. Or you can stay in the room if you prefer. It’s just whatever you want. But I hope you won’t tell my Mom about any of this. It would kill her if she knew any of this.”
I was looking at Josh intently now, waiting for the punch line, waiting for him to burst out laughing and say he knew I was queer and how much he hated me. But from the look on his face it didn’t seem like he was messing around with me at all. If anything, it seemed like he was in total agony about the whole thing.
Is this even possible? Could he be telling the truth? Or did he know I was queer all along and now he’s trying to find some way to help me come out to him by pretending he was homo himself?
“Oh, hell, don’t tease me like this, Josh,” I replied, trying not to be angry. “It’s cruel. I mean, pretending you’re a homo because you know I’m one. I know you’re not. You’re way too masculine to be a homo. I’m the only homo in this tent, Josh. That’s why everyone at school hates me, you know.”
“I mean, the first day we arrived, I went for a walk down by the lake and I saw you swimming there naked. And I was like totally turned on just looking at you. So I just stayed there and watched you for the longest time. And that’s why I’ve been pestering you all this time about skinny dipping. Cuz I’m a pervert. I like boys, not girls. And if you’re not teasing me about it but trying to help me out by pretending you’re one too just to make me feel better about it, well, thanks. I wish I could be really masculine like you, Josh, but I can’t. It’s something I can’t really control. I’ve tried everything I can think of. So, yeah, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but it’s really messing me up in the head. Big time.”
The two of us just laid there silently, staring at each other for what seemed like the longest time.
“This can’t be real,” Josh finally muttered. “This is so unbelievable. That you’re telling me you’re a homo, something I would never, ever, have believed in a million years. And that you think I’m just trying to make you feel better about it by telling you I am when exactly the opposite is true. I wasn’t trying to make you feel better, Nolan. I was trying to tell you the truth. I’ve never told anyone the truth before. This whole thing, it’s just unbelievable.”
Could he be right, I wondered? Is that even possible, that both of us are homos?
“Are you serious, Josh,” I finally responded? “I can’t believe you’re homo. Me? I’ve known since I was 12. Not that I’ve ever done anything about it, of course. I don’t have a boyfriend. I’ve never messed around with a boy. Mostly I just surf the internet looking for porn and play with myself when I find pictures of cute guys.”
“I don’t even have a computer,” Josh sighed. “My Mom said maybe we could get one next year if I get into college. So I can’t even do that much. I just go down to the pharmacy in town some days when it’s really killing me and try to look at the body builder magazines.”
He’s telling the truth, I remember thinking. I can’t believe it, but he’s telling the truth.
“So when did you first know, Josh,” I asked, suddenly curious?
“I think I’ve known for a while, Nolan,” Josh said, “at least deep down inside me somewhere. I’ve just been keeping myself really busy to avoid having to think about any of this stuff. I don’t like thinking about it. But then you and your parents arrived; and, like I said, that first night we met at the dining table, I got hard just looking at you. I had to put my head down because I started to blush and I was so praying you didn’t see it. I guess that’s when I finally admitted it to myself. Like I said, I suspected I might be one a lot longer.”
“It’s just really hard, Nolan,’ Josh continued, sighing. “Not loving you. That’s really easy because you’re so cute, just so incredibly cute. You look like an angel to me. But it’s hard accepting what it means about me, Nolan.”
“What does it mean that’s so hard, Josh,” I asked?
I didn’t want it to be hard for him.
“It means I won’t grow up to be the man my Dad wanted me to be. In fact, I really won’t be much of a man at all, will I? I won’t ever be able to get married and have kids of my own. My Mom is so proud of me and now I’m going to end up disappointing her by not giving her any grandkids. Like I said, it’s just hard, really hard.”
I remember thinking back to when I was twelve and just beginning to realize I was queer. It had seemed pretty hard to me back then too. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. Even now, four years later, it still seemed hard most of the time. I knew what Josh was going through and I wanted to make it better for him.
“Look, Josh, you can’t do this to yourself,” I said. “If you keep beating yourself up about this, you’ll go crazy. I know. Look at me. I’m already crazy. But, the thing is, it isn’t right or wrong. It’s just the way things are and you have no control over it at all. It’s just the way you are. If you are. And I’m not saying you are. I mean, well, you could just be going through a phase or something, you know. If not, well, there isn’t anything wrong with it.”
“Now as for being a man, you’re the most masculine boy I’ve ever met in my life. You reek masculinity, Josh. In fact, I’m kind of disgusted with myself for being attracted to someone as masculine as you,” I added, grinning at him. “ “And, as for your Dad, well, I don’t know. Tell me about him. What did you admire about him the most?”
“He was so strong,” Josh responded, “so brave and courageous. Every night when I was little he would put me to bed and I would tell him about the monsters under my bed. And he would get down on his hands and knees and he would fight them. And they would be rolling around on the floor and I would be laughing and then he would get up and toss those monsters out the window. And then he would tuck me into bed and kiss me good night. I miss him so much. I really do.”
I remember being sad because my Dad had never done anything like that with me.
“Well, there you go, Josh,” I said. “About the only reason I can think of why he might be disappointed with you is if you were too chicken to face up to the truth and admit it. That might make him unhappy because you have to be really strong to be different, Josh. To fight all those monsters that come with being different, the ones inside you and the ones on the outside, you have to be really brave and courageous. But being different? If your Dad loved you and I can tell he did, he would never be disappointed in you just for being different, Josh.”
“And your Mom, well, I’ve seen her look at you, Josh. She loves you more than anything and she’s never, ever, going to be disappointed by anything you do or say. She might worry about you. She already does. But she’s always going to be there for you, Josh. You’ll never have to worry about that.”
“Do you think so, Nolan,” Josh asked, and I could see real anguish in his eyes?
“I don’t think so, Josh. I know so. And when you get up the courage to tell her, I know she’ll be there for you, Josh.”
I remember wondering how my own parents would react if I told them? I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think it would go over real well, especially with my Dad. He wanted me to be Governor so bad and giving up that dream would be hard for him. Yet, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that Josh’s Mom would be okay with it. Why is that, I wondered? Why do I know for sure his Mom will love him no matter what while I’m not really sure how my own parents will react?
“And as for getting married,” I continued, “well, who needs it, Josh? I’ve never seen so many unhappy people as the parents of all the kids at my school. Sometimes I wonder why they even bothered getting married in the first place. But if it’s that big a deal, just get off that damn ass of yours, get down on your knee and propose to me. I’ll marry you if you ask me properly. We can make up our own private ceremony.”
I had meant it to be serious, but then Josh started giggling and that made me happy.
“And just what’s so funny about that, Mr. Josh,” I continued, trying to act cross. “You think you’re too good to marry someone like me?”
“I was just trying to picture you in a wedding dress, Nolan, that’s all,” Josh replied, giggling even more.
“Oh, you were, were you,” I responded, smiling inwardly? “Well, you had better think about that. Because there won’t be any free samples until we get married properly, goat boy. There’s no way I’m ever going to give up my virginity until you decide to make an honest boy of me and get down on your damn knees and propose like a real man would.”
By then Josh was starting to lose it. His giggling had turned into a full blown laugh, and he was starting to laugh a lot.
“What do you mean no free samples,” Josh interjected, challenging me? “You expect me to propose to you without any free samples?”
“Well, maybe just one or two,” I replied, picking up on his banter.
“One or two just isn’t going to cut it, Nolan,” Josh replied, pressing his advantage. “I was thinking of like a gazillion free samples since that seems to be your favorite number. And what about that dress, city boy? If I propose, are you going to wear a wedding dress when we get married? Cuz I sure as hell ain’t.”
“Yes, I was planning to wear a dress,” I replied, totally into it now. “But if you’re going to insist on a gazillion free samples, it will definitely have to be off white, that’s for sure. But, hey, no problem. I already know from wearing your briefs that white is definitely not my color.”
That only got Josh laughing again.
“And as for having kids, well, who knows,” I continued? “We’re too young to have kids right now. But when the time comes maybe I’ll fool you and you’ll get me pregnant and then you’ll have to marry me for sure. Because otherwise my Dad will come after you with a shotgun, Josh, and you’ll be in big trouble.”
By then I knew I had him. He was laughing uncontrollably and I was so happy to see all of his cares and worries just disappearing, if only momentarily. So I decided to try to end on a more serious note.
“And if after you tried to get me pregnant without success a gazillion times, well, then, we could always adopt. Or there are other options too if you want to pursue them. But the point is you would be a terrific Dad, Josh. I know you would be. But that won’t ever happen if you keep beating yourself up for something you have no control over. None of us do, Josh.”
“The thing is,” I continued, “you’re not the first boy who woke up one morning and said to himself, damn, I like boys, not girls. In fact, you’re probably not even in the first gazillion of boys to wake up and say that. So you need to snap out of it, Josh, because I ain’t ever going to have a boyfriend who is ashamed of himself for loving a cutie like me. Understood?”
When he was finally able to get control of himself, Josh just nodded.
I knew it wouldn’t be the last time he was depressed about it. But I wasn’t about to give up on him either. Just like he didn’t want to be left alone, I didn’t want to be left alone either. I had found the person I had been looking for my whole life and I wasn’t about to let him drown in self-pity.