This story is fiction. It depicts, sometimes explicitly, sex between teenage boys, between boys and men, and between boys and females, both teenage and adult. If you find such things offensive, or reading such things is illegal where you live, please read no further.

XIV. The Homecoming

At about six p.m. on June seven, the big Lincoln pulled into the driveway of the Edwards home. As the boys were getting out of the car, Dan's parents rushed out to greet the arrivals. There were tearful hugs all around as Dan introduced Jerry, then Dan's mom and dad both stood back and regarded their son. "Linda was wrong," Dan's mom exclaimed. "You have changed. You're so.... so polished... and handsome!" Of course they had seldom seen Dan and Charlie in anything but old jeans and T-shirts before, with the ratty untied sneakers that were part of the uniform of the day. And of course the boys had made an extra effort that morning to look casual, yet immaculate and well groomed.

"What have you done to our boy?" she said to Jerry. "You've somehow transformed the original sow's ear into a silk purse!"

"We've all learned a lot these past few months, Mrs. Edwards," he replied.

"Mom," she returned. "Mom and Dad to you three." Then Dan could stand it no longer. He fell on his mother and wept like a small child. "I'm so sorry, Mom," he sobbed. "I've missed you so much, and I never wanted to hurt you. I wanted so much to make you proud. It's just..."

"I know," she comforted as she held her son. "We are proud! You've acted with honor and love, and that's as much as anyone can ask." When Dan finally released his mom, his dad was there to embrace his son self-consciously. He was not a man to express a lot of emotion, and all present knew the significance of his gesture.

"Welcome home, son," he said in a breaking voice. "What's done is done, so let's forget the bad and build on the good." And that was their meeting! The reunion they had all feared for so long was over, and Jerry and Charlie had a new family and were accepted with no reservations. Of course there was plenty of tension as all parties groped and struggled with their new relationship, but all were trying earnestly. They talked into the night that first day. About how Dan and Charlie left, going to Montreal to throw them off the trail; about sleeping in packing crates in an alley; about half freezing to death in New England; the sleazy fleabag hotel in Boston.

As the two boys related the stories one more time it all seemed a thousand years ago, and Charlie couldn't help thinking that he and Dan, and later Jerry, had already stored up a lifetime of memories, hardships and successes, and they had been together just half a year! But as expected, the stress of the reunion wasn't all over yet.

"Come home," Mom pleaded. "All three of you, stay and go to school. We've gotten used to your situation now and we can live with it, so all three of you move in and stay as long as you want." Jerry and Charlie eyed each other, then Dan. They knew this would be hard for him, and they knew he and he alone had to make the decision.

"It just wouldn't work, Mom," Dan answered. "So much has happened, and the life we lead just doesn't fit here. I wish more than anything in the world we could live here again, but just because you accept us doesn't mean the rest of the world does. I love Charlie and Jerry, Mom, and I want to be with them. I love you and Dad too, but you have to understand, it's best for everyone if we stay in Daytona, at least for now." Mom tearfully admitted that he was right, but she said she had to make sure he knew he was still welcome as their son. Then she showed just how much she loved him by not putting any more pressure on him.

The third day home, the three friends ventured out to some of Dan and Charlie's old haunts. Mom and Dad had cautioned them, the only time they brought up their special relationship, that they might not be as well received as they would like. "We know, Mom," Dan had said to her, "but they were our friends and we just have to know, one way or the other." They were pleasantly surprised, though. They had become sort of folk heroes, and most of the kids wanted to know all about their journey and what they were doing now. They told their friends whatever they asked, with the exception of explicit sex details. They made no secret of their trio arrangement, which of course blew everyone's minds. The real benefit, though, was that they found out really quickly who their real friends were. Most of the girls, for some reason, seemed to take the whole thing in stride very well; the boys, at least many of them, had a fair problem with it. Of course neither Dan nor Charlie had had many close friends anyway, so it was easy to adopt an "I knew it all the time" attitude. So some of their former classmates were willing to accept them completely; others were tolerant at a distance while still others were downright hostile. And of course the boys' appearance, and the Lincoln, did not go unnoticed by the girls.

"So you three are lovers," one would say. "Well, that's a loss to womanhood." Or, "I just wish I'd noticed you two before you realized you were gay." It was great, but all good things had to come to an end.

"Well, if it isn't the queers!" the voice of Bill came from behind the group, as he and Joe walked in the door. The trio was in one of the teenage haunts, playing pinball machines and just hanging out. "My, aren't we looking fruity." He had obviously overheard some of the girls' comments, and did not take kindly to anyone attracting some of what he fancied to be his harem, especially queers.

"Hi, guys," Charlie offered, "Hey, sorry about that gun thing back in the camp, but we felt at the time we had no choice."

"No problem," he shot back. "You probably saved us from a murder rap." And with that he started for the two visitors.

What he didn't know was that Dan, Jerry and Charlie, because of the danger associated with their business, had been studying Karate with a special emphasis on self defense, or ordinary street fighting. On more than one occasion it had saved them from an ugly situation. So now they quickly dodged the two, ran outside, and made ready for battle. They had no desire to hurt anyone, but neither did they have any desire to get hurt. Jerry seemed to know he wasn't a part of this exchange, so he faded into the background and watched with the others. They kept coming, and Charlie and Dan kept dodging, until finally Charlie said to Dan, "They're just not going to quit, so we might as well get it over with." Just as he got the words out, Bill lunged at him. Instead of stepping aside, he allowed Bill's jaw to connect with his fist, tripping him at the same time. As he was falling, Charlie's free hand gave him a little love tap to the back of the neck, and the fight was out of him. At almost the same time, Joe's fist was heading for Dan's mouth. Dan deflected it and landed his own fist to the bridge of Joe's nose, dropping him to his knees. As quickly as that, it was over.

"Charlie is gonna be pissed off at me for saying this," Dan said, "but here goes anyway. I enjoyed that. You two picked on me all through school, and you had it coming." Then he added, as if for Charlie's benefit, "I'd like to be your friend, but I don't take any shit off anyone anymore." Charlie was proud of 'my little Danny', as he'd begun to call him. So proud he wanted to kiss him right there, but he settled for one of the girls. And now two myths were shattered in as many minutes. A lot of teenagers discovered that being gay didn't necessarily preclude an interest in girls, and at the same time they discovered that being gay and being defenseless were not synonymous.

Several days later Jerry took the Lincoln in for service. Dan and Charlie were out for a long walk, just looking over the town, remembering, allowing the nostalgia of their childhood and early teen years to take over for a while. The pair had always been very happy together, always shared their boyhood interests with seldom an argument or serious disagreement.

As they passed the hockey arena where so many games had been fought, Charlie was embarrassed to feel a tear in his eyes. Neither he nor Dan had been what you'd call stars, but that had never been important. They had played their best, being almost in another world when they were on the ice. They could still have been here, he thought, still playing hockey, still going to school, but all that was history now and had to be tucked away with all the other fond memories of their childhood. That they had become lovers seemed a natural turn of events to them now as they reflected on those early years, but their happiness was marred by the realization that they could never live here again and be happy, never be a part of the home they loved.

As they rounded a corner they encountered Bill and Joe walking toward them. "Uh oh," Dan whispered, "here we go again." This time they were alone, with no moral support on either side, and Dan and Charlie both knew that this time the situation could get much more ugly. The would-be attackers were smiling that teenage smile that said they were looking for fun as they approached their quarry. "How are the fags today?" Bill leered.

"Great," Charlie answered as friendly as he could, "and how are the straight-asses?" Bill's face was serious now.

"That doesn't bother you a bit, does it?" he said.

"Nope. It's true, so why should it bother me?" It did bother him a great deal, but Charlie wasn't about to let Bill know.

"Well, I gotta hand it to you," Joe said, sticking out his hand. "At least you know who you are and what you want." So the friendship was rebuilt. The four spent the afternoon together, talking and joking just like they used to except that Dan, to his delight and satisfaction, was no longer the little kid of the group whose only purpose was to provide someone to torment. Now Charlie was getting homesick for the life he had left and could never have again. As they were sitting in a popular burger joint sipping on a Coke, Joe started asking them about their lives, their activities, and the way they were making a living.

Dan explained that the night in the camp had come as much of a surprise to him and Charlie as to them. Joe looked doubtful. "Why in the world would we do that with you guys there if we'd planned it?" Charlie reasoned. "We would have been much better off going off by ourselves." That seemed to satisfy him.

"So you are all three lovers?" Joe said.

"That's right."

"You do... that... together, all three of you?"

"That's kinda personal, but yes, we do."

"And you do it for a living?"

"We do. We're not really thrilled about it and we're trying to become a legitimate escort service, but we're not there yet."

"Would you do me?" He was serious now.

"Sure, if you like." Charlie was toying with him now, and Dan was enjoying the spectacle. Bill was astonished, both at Joe's question and Charlie's response.

"You're serious, aren't you?" Joe said. Charlie started to believe he really wanted to give it a try, so much so that he didn't realize Charlie was having a good time at his expense.

"Sure I'm serious," Charlie answered. "Any time."

"How about tonight?"

"Okay. You got the money?" Joe's face went pale.


"Of course. Like I told you, I'm a professional."

"How much money?"

"Well, since you're a friend and I'm supposed to be on vacation anyway, I can't see charging you full price. Tell you what. You get the hotel room, and about $150 should take care of my fee. I'll supply the condoms." Joe's mouth dropped open; Bill swallowed hard. Dan was almost exploding he wanted to giggle so badly.

"You mean to tell me that for $150 you'll give me a blow job, and you're not ashamed of it?"

"You got it. Is it a deal?" Negotiating in such a manner with a former good friend felt really strange to Charlie, and the fact is he was ashamed, in a way, but he'd got himself into this exchange, and he had to see it through. And he was pretty sure Joe didn't have the money anyway. Joe was trying desperately to back pedal now.

Then Charlie explained the facts of life, his life, to them. "Dan and I are homosexuals, or more accurately, bisexuals," he lectured. "We have probably had sex with more women than you ever will, and we enjoy it immensely. But we're in love with each other, and we express that love with sex, the same as everyone else. Only difference is the construction of our bodies requires that exactly what we do is different than if one of us was a girl. We do it with other guys, but that's business. We try hard to enjoy it because we want to be good at what we do, and the only way to be good at sex... any sex, is to enjoy it. But we have no desire to rip your clothes off, touch or handle you, or even see you naked. It's just the way we make our living."

He told them of the old ladies and old men. He told them about the young ladies and young men. Bill and Joe were both sitting silently, trying to decide if Charlie was putting them on. Then it was Dan's turn. He told them about the Mustang and how they had got it. This was too much. "You're kidding," said Bill in disbelief. So Dan produced a wallet full of pictures; one of the prized car, then a picture of Jane and Charlie, Dan and Karen in California, and several of the three of them dressed up to go out on a date. "You'll never see anything like that again if you live to be a hundred," Dan laughed, referring to Jane and the Mustang, "The chauffeur stopped the limo and we all watched and applauded like we were watching a ball game or something." This was quickly becoming more than Bill and Joe could handle. They sat there, their faces pale, eyes wide open.

"And that's how you live?" they said with awe.

"Sure is," Dan gloated, "and we wouldn't change it for anything." The fact is both Dan and Charlie would have given anything to just be normal high school kids in Truro, Nova Scotia again; they now knew that all the sex, parties, rich tricks, could not replace what they had lost.

"Well, I gotta tell ya, you're all right," they both agreed. And of course they wanted in on the action.

"I don't think you could do it," Charlie said somberly.

"Sure we could," Bill said, offended. "What's to do? Just drop your pants and collect the money." His manhood was in question now, and he had just been told that a faggot could do something he couldn't. Charlie couldn't resist toying with him just a little more.

"Ok," he challenged, "prove it. Tonight, with me. I'll pay you the $150." Dan was having trouble keeping a straight face again. Bill and Joe's mouths dropped open again; they were starting to realize that it was not as easy as it sounded.

"What would we do?" Bill stammered.

"I don't know, exactly. Just whatever feels right."

"I was talking more about doin' it with the ladies," Bill said.

"That's not necessarily any easier. When you're doing it as a job, you've got to do what the client wants, and you gotta do it in such a way that it doesn't seem like business."

The four old friends, along with Jerry, spent a lot of time together over the next two weeks. Jerry liked them and understood their initial reaction to the whole situation, probably better than Dan and Charlie did. The three also spent a lot of time with some of the girls they had known, even dated a few times. They were very attracted to all three, much more than they had ever been before. Whether it was their clothes, their lifestyle, curiosity or what was hard to say, but the three could have had just about any girl in town. So they dated them, as much as anything to prove that they were not some kind of freak, and that they could act normally at least some of the time.

Of course Charlie ran into Lisa, but they didn't spend a lot of time together. They had gone together a little over a year, about the only serious girl friend Charlie had ever had, but they had been so young and inexperienced, their idea of an intense love affair was to kiss more than three times in one evening. Still, Charlie had fond memories of her, and they were the best of friends now. She of course couldn't understand what had happened to Dan and him, but she accepted it and tried hard to overlook it.

Charlie had been quite concerned about how Dan and he would react back on their home turf, and when the girls started crowding around them, he was doubly concerned. Would this be the end of their affair? Would one or the other of them enjoy this new attention, this availability of girls, so much that he would want to stay? They discussed it often and concluded that the novelty would soon wear off and then they'd still be a couple of faggots in a small town, and whether they changed their lifestyle or not, people don't forget. The truth was, they could never live in this town again, and they had to face that no matter what they did with the rest of their lives.

One afternoon, about a week after the conversation with Bill and Joe, eight or ten of the old friends which now included Jerry, were bunched in an arcade playing pinball and just hanging around as only teenagers can do. It was fun being a teenager again, and once more Charlie realized that this was a part of his former life he had missed... just being a happy-go-lucky kid. The three were accepted by the group, but there was a tension that hadn't been there before. Most of the kids seemed to be trying though, and Jerry had reminded his friends it was hard for them too. There were, of course, those who'd have nothing to do with the three. These either ignored them completely or outwardly harassed them. But that was no worse than they'd expected, so Dan and Charlie concentrated on the ones who wanted to renew the friendship and tried hard to ignore the others.

Suddenly Charlie felt a tug on his shirt sleeve, and there was Bill, motioning Charlie to follow him outside. "I been thinking about the $150," he began nervously, shuffling his feet in the dirt. "Suppose you paid me to do it, then I paid you. We'd be even, right?"

Charlie was aghast. He thought he was ready for anything, but now he was stuttering again. "Bill, do you realize what you're saying? You can't be serious."

"I've never been more serious in my life," he said, looking Charlie straight in the eye. "I've never been able to get over the sight of you two in the camp, and now the stories you tell... well, I just gotta try it, and I think I'll want more. I thought that you, for old times sake, would help me find out for sure, and if the answer is no, then no one else ever has to know."

Charlie didn't bother to explain to Bill that his concept of how the business worked was a bit screwed up; the payment of the money wasn't for a specific action, but the overall presence and services of the person. He didn't tell him that he'd been yanking his chain the other day because Bill was serious, and Charlie had to deal with the situation at hand; A few misconceptions about who paid whom for what were, at the moment, irrelevant. And then there was that pesky caring nature that plagued him and Dan; the very nature that gave them a remarkable empathy with almost every situation.

For the first time since he'd got into this kind of activity Charlie was seriously doubtful, afraid that he was going to lead someone into something that he would otherwise not do. "I just don't know, Bill," he said. "I just can't picture you... you know... you've always been a ladies man, always so macho..." He was searching for words, but none would come. "Tell you what," he offered, "I'll talk it over with Dan and Jer. If we all agree, and I can bring myself to do it, I'll go ahead. I think this will be harder for me than you realize. I'll call you about seven."

"Okay, thanks, Charlie," he said, relief showing on his face. As soon as he could do so gracefully, Charlie got Dan and Jerry out of there. When they were again in the Lincoln, he told them about the proposition.

"Bill?" Dan demanded, his eyes popping. "Bill?" he repeated. That was about all he could say. Charlie told them that he couldn't do anything until he had checked with them, that he was very apprehensive about it, but that Bill seemed sincere in his desire to experiment.

Jerry suggested that he may be just looking for a free blow job, but Charlie didn't think so. "After all," he reasoned, "he offered to sell his services to me first, to make the money to pay me with." They all agreed that must have taken a lot of guts, and was some indication of sincerity. After a lot of discussion the trio agreed that Charlie really had nothing to lose; and perhaps, if Bill was really that curious, they could save him a lot of embarrassment by satisfying that curiosity in a way that was discrete, harmless, and safe. So at exactly seven Charlie dialed Bill's number.

"Okay, Bill," he said simply when Bill picked up the phone, "I'll pick you up in fifteen minutes." Bill agreed, and they hung up. Charlie's first time with Dan had been spontaneous, and therefore easy. They hadn't thought about it, just done it. But with Jerry and the first few clients, it had been, Charlie thought, the hardest thing he had ever had to do, but he was wrong. That had been nothing compared to what he'd just agreed to do. Bill and Charlie had known each other since age six, had gone to school together. Charlie had watched as he took literally dozens of girls out, played football, and done all the macho male things that earmarked a normal he-man type of guy. I guess I'm stereotyping, Charlie thought, But here we are, about to... about to what?

Charlie pulled the Lincoln into the parking lot at the Journey's End Motel. He had chosen this one, out on the highway, in hopes that no one would spot the car out here. Bill sat in the car while Charlie registered, and they were relieved to find they had a room around back. After he had parked the car, Charlie gave Bill one more chance to back out. "Once we get inside," he said, "I'm going to treat you like just another of my clients. I'll do my best to show you what you want to know, but if you have any doubts, now's the time to say so. Either way, it's our secret unless you tell someone. I never will."

"Let's go," Bill said in a whisper. For a moment Charlie thought, maybe hoped, that he'd meant let's go home, but Bill went on. "I've waited a long time for this, and now that I have the chance I'm scared to death, but I have to know." He opened the door and got out.

The motel room was your standard family type motel. Two beds, a small bathroom, TV, coat rack, dresser, and not much else. Charlie closed and chained the door and turned on the TV at a low volume. "What now?" Bill demanded. Charlie chuckled nervously. "What would you say to a girl in the same situation if she asked you that question?" he asked. "There's no standard procedure, Bill, you just do whatever feels right, whatever you want."

"Okay," he said, sitting on the bed, "but for the record, I've never had a girl either. I'm not near the sex machine I like everyone to believe." Charlie was a little surprised, but he remembered telling Dan that their bragging had probably been just that.

The two friends talked a lot, delaying the inevitable, each having a great deal of difficulty initiating anything. Charlie was having a lot of trouble thinking of Bill as a client - this was personal, no matter how hard he tried to make it otherwise. Slowly, tentatively, they began touching each other. As Bill responded almost instantly, Charlie began to recall all the skills he thought he had mastered, but could not seem to find tonight. He skillfully peeled off Bill's T-shirt as he had done many times before, revealing a husky, quite hairy chest. Bill tried to retaliate but was very clumsy, never having undressed another male before. Charlie tried to help him, but he insisted on doing it himself.

Bill's hands were tentatively exploring forbidden places, but recoiled as if they'd been burned when he touched Charlie's body. "It's all right," Charlie whispered, "that's what we're here for." He took Bill's hand and gently placed it where he had tried to put it before. Charlie was wearing light loose fitting shorts, which allowed Bill to feel easily what he was touching.

Slowly, hesitantly, Bill shed his inhibitions. Charlie was feeling more at ease, starting to think of him as just another client, but still remembering their friendship, flashes of the past, their boyhood adventures popping into his mind as he now led Bill through uncharted waters, at least where Bill was concerned. Charlie was still not sure that what he was doing was right, but then he'd had that feeling lots of times and had always managed to rationalize it away somehow.

They did most of the things Charlie had learned that night. Bill became eager to learn, to experience. He kept pushing Charlie as he held back, not wanting to take his student/friend where he didn't want to go. But Bill wanted it all; eighteen years of wondering, of conditioning, of suppressing, had been shed at last, and he wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to take full advantage. As he relaxed and fully enjoyed what he was doing, Charlie started getting aroused by the obvious pleasure he was giving Bill. And he knew, without question, that Bill would have done this eventually, so why not with a friend who cared enough about him to teach him safety and discretion? So after two or more hours of tentative, guarded experimentation, the walls came down and the shackles of inhibition came off. Now they could both enjoy their rendezvous, and they did.

When finally they were tired of their play they lay on the bed, Bill starting to talk. Before long he would not be shut up, which again surprised Charlie. He had been afraid that Bill would be so stricken with guilt and embarrassment that he'd be quiet as a stone, but he needn't have feared. "Charlie," he was saying, "I think you've just changed my life, and I hope we can do this again before you leave." Charlie was exasperated. Another one of his lectures was in order.

"Bill," he said in frustration, "I didn't change your life. I just helped you discover what was already there. You said yourself that you've been thinking about it a long time. I don't believe anyone can force you to want those things, only to do them reluctantly. I'm afraid we can't see each other, at least in this way, again. Remember, I'm involved, and I did this tonight only because I thought I could help you discover what you thought to be true anyway. I wasn't trying to sell you anything, just helping you experience what you'd been curious about."

"You're right," he answered, "but how do I get started?"

"Started?" Charlie grinned." It seems to me that you're already started. You just need to think things through very carefully. And it wouldn't hurt to try a girl too, before you make any drastic decisions. Right now you've had a pretty good time and you're probably dazzled by the way Dan and I live. But for the record, I think the word 'gay' isn't terribly accurate. Many of the gay guys I know are anything but gay, in the older sense of that word. They suffer discrimination at work, get beat up by gay bashers, and get rejected by guys they're attracted to, but who aren't gay themselves. It's not an easy life, which is why Dan and I can never come home to stay, and why you'll have to leave too, if you're to be open and honest about yourself. And in this small town I don't think you can keep your secret unless you just don't get involved with anyone."

Bill was quiet for a long time. "I still don't know what to do," he said quietly, "but thanks to you, I have a lot more information to work with. How did you figure all that out?" Charlie explained once again that he was forced by circumstances to act rather than think, and that he and Dan had been fortunate enough to meet Jerry and had profited from his experiences. Then he told him what he knew of Jerry's story, about life on the streets, the drugs, the beatings, the disease, the dangers, all the things that Jerry had lived through, and had protected Dan and Charlie from.

"Wow!" he exclaimed. "You sure have been around since you left here." Charlie thought with some bitterness of how they had left, not knowing what was in store, knowing only that they had to get out, and how it could have turned out had it not been for Jerry. He tried to tell Bill that he would rather be here, going to school, being normal, but he couldn't have that and Dan too, and that's the kind of decision Bill would have to make.

They made love again, several times through the night. Charlie usually reserved that term for the relationship between himself and Dan or Jerry, but tonight, it was truly making love. Twelve years of friendship, of sharing all the things that growing boys share, of spending so much time together, of sampling life together, was in his mind. They were no longer experimenting, they were no longer teacher and student, they were sharing, discovering something else they had in common. Charlie was experiencing more emotion than he wanted to admit, and the release of tension and full acceptance by Bill was kindling the fire.

They stayed all night, as they had planned. They talked a lot more about the safety practices Dan and Charlie had learned, about the dangers of their work, of the unpleasantness involved in being intimate with people who were completely unattractive, and how they had taken courses in self defense, which was why Dan and he had been able to kick Bill's butt that first night they'd met him after coming home.

When Charlie dropped him at his home about ten the next morning, Bill offered his hand. "I'm sorry for the things I said," he offered. "Even then I was fighting what I think I knew to be the truth." Charlie took his hand and shook it.

"Forget it," he said, "I understand."

"Then we're friends again?"

"Still," Charlie corrected. "Best friends... the very best." As he pulled away from the curb, he felt better than he had felt for a long time. There probably weren't too many people in town that would agree with him had they known what he'd done, but Charlie felt he had done Bill a real favor.

Dan, Jerry and Charlie didn't talk much about that night. They seemed to sense that Charlie wasn't ready to discuss it, and were content with a simple "OK", when they asked how it had gone.

Several days later a group of kids were hanging around a mall when someone started the familiar chiding about faggots. Bill was up in a flash, facing his friends' tormentor face to face. "Some day when you grow up, if you ever do," he threatened, "I'll tell you a few things about those faggots. In the meantime, all you have to know is that those three faggots are the best friends I've got, and as long as I can stop it, there will be none of that kind of talk about them. Trust me, you don't know what you're talking about." Dan and Jerry looked at each other, then at Charlie.

"Boy," Dan said with awe, "you sure must've done some job on him!" Charlie grinned and said quietly, "We aim to please... remember the Mustang."

It was only two days later when Charlie came face to face with Lisa. He had announced he wanted to take a walk, alone, to try and sort out some of his feelings about his father. Charlie was becoming more and more convinced that he'd been permanently excommunicated from his family, and he didn't know how he felt about that. He was lost so deeply in thought, walking with his head down, he almost collided physically with Lisa. "OH!" he exclaimed, "I'm sorry, I didn't see you."

"Good thing," Lisa replied cheerily, "your aim was pretty good for not looking. If you'd been watching you'd have got me for sure."

"Hi, Lisa," Charlie said sheepishly when he finally recognized her.

"Hi yourself, Charlie! I've been hoping I'd run into you, but not quite this literally. Do you have time to allow me to buy you a coffee?"

"Uh... sure, I guess. I'm not due back till dinner time."

When they were seated in a booth at a nearby restaurant, Charlie started to get nervous. He thought he was over such things, but this was different. This was Lisa! The only girl he'd ever found attractive, and the only girl with whom he'd had a relationship! Now she wanted to talk to him and Charlie had agreed, putting himself into a position where he couldn't escape, even if he wanted to. But he didn't want to, did he? Or did he?

"I just wanted to be sure that we're still friends," she said as she laid her hand on Charlie's.

"Of course we are!" Charlie exclaimed. "I certainly have no reason to break off your friendship. If anyone has a reason, it's you."

"Charlie," she said far too tenderly for Charlie's comfort, "I don't even know what's true and what's not. I mean, there've been so many stories going around, and some of 'em are so bizarre, I don't know what to believe. But I don't think you've changed, have you?"

"I think I've changed a lot. For the better, I hope, but I guess that's not for me to say. But I suspect most of what you've heard is true. Kinda disgusting, isn't it?"

"Are you kidding? I think it's beautiful. I honestly didn't know two guys could be in love, I mean... really in love. But when I thought about it, I always thought Dan was a cute guy, and I already know what a great guy you are. So why not? And the way you two took off so you could be together! I think it's so romantic!"

"We weren't tryin' to be romantic," Charlie said bitterly. "We were doin' what we figured we had to do, to save what was left of our lives."

"I know, Charlie. You were probably right too. But everybody's had a lot of time to get used to the idea. I think it'd be different now."

"Things are different anyway, Lisa. We've got a new life, a career, friends. I think we're doin' pretty well."

"So I presume that means you won't be coming home any time soon?"

"Not me. My father is making it pretty clear I don't have a home here. I'm pretty sure Dan's thinking of coming back, but I don't think I have that option."

"Charlie, are you and Dan... er... breaking up?"

"No, Lisa, nothing like that. It just means that we might have to be apart for a while til he finishes school. I've got a couple things in the works, but I don't want to talk about them just yet."

"In the works? You mean so you can come home?"

"Lisa, I told you, this isn't my home any more. My dear old dad would make it pretty miserable for me if I were within his reach. My home is in Daytona now, and I love it there."

"That's too bad. I was kinda hoping..."

"Lisa, I'm in love with Danny! It really doesn't matter if you understand that. I'm not even sure I understand it myself, but that's the way it is."

"I know that, Charlie. But I was still hoping, well, there's a dance Saturday night at the park pavilion. That new band in Halifax you liked so much is playing, and I was really hoping..."

"You want me to take you to the dance?"

"I'd love it! Would you? I've also heard you've learned to dance really well."

"I guess that's not for me to judge. I'd like to take you, but I gotta check with Dan. Can I call you?"

"Charlie, you can always call me!"

If you like this story, or for that matter if you don't, please let me know by writing to