NOTICE: This story contains sexually explicit material involving members of the same sex.  If this offends you, or if, for some reason, it is not legal for you to read this, then please leave.  This is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is completely intentional. (It used to say coincidental, but that wasn't entirely accurate.  It also says that the story contains sexually explicit material, but that will likely never happen, either.  I just put that there in case I go mad crazy and write a sex scene.  But if that's all you're looking for, you should look elsewhere.  Sorry, but that's just the way it is.)

Comments and criticisms are very much appreciated.  Please email me with any thoughts, rants or praises.  Flames will be ignored, of course, but most emails will gain a response.


Author's Note:  For those of you who live in Springfield, Illinois in reality, Westlake, of course, is not a real school.  A lot of places that are going to be mentioned in this story really don't exist.  The story will also begin to speed up soon, so that I can catch the characters up to the present time.  Right now, the story is set in the summer of 2003.  I want the story to be as close to the present day as possible, so don't be alarmed when I go from day to day to "..and Christmas was upon them.." or something to that effect.


Everything's Eventual

by R.H. Lee

Chapter 3:

The New Life


    The last week of Summer Vacation practically flew by for all of them.  They were each eager to get back to school for different reasons.  Ryan wanted to know what it was like to have real friends at school.  He wanted to know what it was like to be part of a crowd.  For years, he'd watched other kids divide into groups of friends, sharing similar interests and having fun while he remained alone.  Now, he had friends to hang out with, and he wouldn't have to watch the other kids having fun.  He could be in on the fun, too.

    During the week before school was to start, Ryan spent most of his time hanging out with Jeff or Travis.  Nathan, Robin, Nathaniel and Rick all had jobs, so they rarely got to hang out.  Ryan was more than happy to spend time with Jeff and Travis, though. Travis was the perfect person to be silly with and just talk about anything in general.  Jeff had his own brand of fun that Ryan liked.  The two of them watched at least a movie a day, whether they both liked the movie or not.  It seemed that they actually liked to force each other to watch something that the other clearly didn't like.

    During that week, Jeff was the one that Ryan got to know the best.  He lived right across the street, and Jeff was always in the mood to hang out.  They sat out by the pool, watched movies or played with Ryan's computers.  From Jeff, Ryan got to know a lot about his other friends.  He told him about how Robin and Nathaniel got together, and how they both still tried to downplay their relationship.  Nathan was the computer expert of the bunch.  Jeff told Ryan that he would do good to have Nathan help him set up things on his computer to get even more out of them than he was already getting.

    From Travis, he learned other things about his friends.  It was clear to Ryan, after hanging out with Jeff and Travis separately, that Travis was the one who was prone to saying things before he thought about it and giving away information that Jeff would not.  For instance, he learned from Travis that Nathan was not gay, but bisexual.  Jeff hadn't exactly said what Nathan's sexuality was, and Ryan was sure that he hadn't planned on telling him one way or another.

    He'd also gotten quite a bit more information about Rick from Travis.  Travis told him that he and Rick used to be pretty close, and they hung out together almost every day.  Now, with Rick working, they didn't spend near as much time together.  The two were still pretty close, but Travis had started spending more time with Jeff.

    On Thursday evening, Jeff sat in Ryan's room, watching Dogma and talking about what Ryan could expect when he got to the school the next morning.  Ryan was starting to get a little nervous.  He didn't know how many kids would be at the orientation, and putting his new friends aside, he wasn't good with new people.  He hoped there weren't too many new students.

    "Oh, the eighth grade class will be there, more than likely," said Jeff.  "It'll be their first year at the school. Rick told me that it used to be seventh thru twelfth, but they changed it the year after he started there."

    "So, how many kids will be in the eighth grade class?" asked Ryan, thinking that tomorrow morning he would be just as uncomfortable as he had feared.

    "Well, I'm not sure exactly," said Jeff.  "There are about 120 kids in our class, so around that number, or less, for eighth grade."

    "I doubt that there'll be many tenth grade transfers," said Ryan, thinking that he'd be stuck with more than a hundred thirteen year olds all morning long.

    "Well, that makes it easier for you," explained Jeff.  "They'll separate each grade for the tour and stuff, and only about fifty kids will be there at a time. They schedule everyone in groups. The only thing that you'll be with everyone in your group for is the meeting with the principal and dean. But that's more like an assembly."

    "Its held in the auditorium?" asked Ryan.

    "Either there or the gym," replied Jeff.  "They'll talk about the school calendar, dances, trips and other events, and then you'll hear about the athletic department, after school activities and clubs."

    "Well, the only thing I'd be interested in would be music programs," said Ryan.  "All that other stuff doesn't apply to me."

    "Well, they'll talk about everything for a while," said Jeff.  "Then you'll get the 'good student' speech from Dean Phillips, and then you'll divide up and take the tour. You'll buy your jackets, get your ties and pick up your locker assignment after the tour. That's also when you can get take home information about the extra curricular activities. They'll hand you a bunch of papers and packets to bring home for you parents. Stuff about lunch, book fees and your class schedule."

    "What time do you think I'll get out of there?" asked Ryan, remembering that Rick said that he'd be outside the school at nine-thirty.

    "It takes about two hours or so," said Jeff.  "What time are you going in?"

    "Scott and I both have to be there at seven-thirty," replied Ryan.

    "Well, then you should be out of there by nine or nine-thirty," replied Jeff.  "Just tell your dad to be there around nine, and you'll be set."

    "Well, Rick is picking us up after orientation," said Ryan.  "He's dropping Scott off here, and then I'm going to hang out with him and head over to Robin's around noon."

    "That's right," said Jeff.  "Robin told me that you and Rick had talked about it at the mall."

    "Yeah," said Ryan, not knowing what else to say.  He didn't want to tell Jeff that he liked Rick.

    "Well, then your day is pretty well planned," said Jeff.

    "Sounds like it," said Ryan.  "My dad is giving me twenty dollars for the day."

    "Rick won't let you spend it, though," laughed Jeff.  "If he invited you to hang out, he'll pay for whatever you guys do."

    Just before Ryan went to bed that night, he picked out his clothes for the next day.  He'd never been so nervous about anything in his life.  He worried that he would say something stupid at the school or to Rick.  He really didn't want to make a fool out of himself.  After worrying about it for a while and changing his mind about what to wear at least three times, he gave up and went to bed.

    When the alarm sounded the next morning, he swore he had just closed his eyes.  He glanced at the alarm clock and saw that it was really 5:30am, so he got out of bed and headed for the bathroom to take his shower.  He was no more comfortable about going to school than he had been last night, and he was even more sure that he'd do something to make a fool of himself today.

    Scott was already at the table when Ryan got downstairs.  Sheila had made pancakes and sausage, and she, Scott and Frank were already eating.  Ryan went to the refrigerator to get a bottle of chocolate milk before joining them at the table.  He was not a morning person, and this morning was not a good morning.

    "Good morning, Ryan," said Sheila.  "How'd you sleep?"

    "I guess like a rock," said Ryan.  "It seemed like I closed my eyes and the alarm went off."

    "You went to bed early didn't you?" asked Frank.  He'd warned both of his sons to get enough sleep before today.

    "Yeah," said Ryan.  "I went to bed right as the news started."

    "Well, then you should be well rested," replied his father.

    After that, they ate their breakfast in silence.  Frank would be dropping his boys off at school, and then he and Sheila were going to go and find a car.  They had planned on being back in time to pick Ryan and Scott up, but Ryan had already found a ride.  Frank was surprised, but delighted, that his oldest son now had friends to hang out with.

    On the drive to the school, Frank talked to both of his boys about what they had planned for the rest of the day.  He knew that Ryan wouldn't be home until after dinner time.  Scott was going to some sort of fun center with his friend Mark.  That meant that Frank and Sheila had pretty much the better part of the day to themselves.

    Ryan and Scott were both amazed when their father pulled onto the campus of their new school.  Westlake Academe's campus consisted of seven two story buildings, an outdoor pool, tennis courts, a football field and a lake.  The buildings were all black stone with slate roofs.  The grounds were immaculately groomed with hedges and flower gardens.  Frank stopped in front of the main building.

    "You two have a good day, and be on your best behavior," he said as the boys got out of the car.

    "Yes, Sir," they replied in unison.

    Walking into the building, Ryan noticed that there were several students there for orientation.  Each of them looked just as nervous as he felt.  There were three lines of students, and a sign at the entrance instructed that students were to check in with councilors seated at tables in front of the auditorium.  Ryan and Scott joined the closest line.

    After about ten minutes, Ryan and Scott were signed in.  They'd each been handed a large manila envelope filled with papers and a packet.  Then, the councilor that signed them in told them to follow the others into the auditorium and sit anywhere they liked.  The balcony was off limits this morning.

    The auditorium was very modern.  The walls were all covered with deep burgundy curtains, and the seats were stadium style.  The stage looked very large with the curtains open, and Ryan could see the pit below where the musicians would be during events and shows.  Looking around, Ryan thought that with the balcony, the auditorium would easily seat 2000 people.

    Sitting next to Scott, Ryan leafed through the packet in his hands, briefly scanning each page.  There was information on lunches, a school calendar, forms for each student to sign as well as other information that he hadn't gotten to look at when the principal stepped up to the podium on the stage and called everyone to be seated and quiet

    The principal, Tom Williams, was an older man.  Ryan thought that he had to be in his fifties.  He had dark hair that was going grey, and he was dressed in a pin striped suit and glasses.  Everyone got quiet relatively quickly when Mr. Williams stepped up to the podium.  He waited until everyone had sat down and all was quiet.

    "Good morning," he said.  "I'm Principal Williams, and I'd like to welcome all of you to Westlake Academe. Let me first say that, for those of you who won't be residing on campus, transportation to and from school is completely your responsibility. Have a parent drive you every day, or ride with another student. There are no buses.

    Second, please find, in the packet you were given, the section that discusses dress code. This is very important. The school uniform is a navy blazer with our school insignia on the left breast pocket, a navy tie, white shirt and navy pants. The school will be open from nine until three tomorrow, so that your parents can purchase blazers for you to wear. If any of you have brought money to purchase your blazers, we'll get that taken care of at the end of the tour.

    The second sheet in your packet should be the form for you to take home to your parents about your uniforms. If you look at the price of the blazers, you will see that each blazer is $50, and it is recommended that you have at least three. For those of you who knew about this before today, and have brought money with you, you'll need to fill that sheet out as to size and sign it.

    When you are given your class schedules, you'll also receive a copy of our school handbook. Now inside that book, you will find a section on school rules. Let me stress to you in advance that this school will not tolerate breaking the rules. The book also has a section on disciplinary measures. You will need to read through your handbook with your parents. The last page is to be removed from the book, signed by both you and your parents, and returned on the first day of school."

    Ryan sat through the rest of the speech, but when it was over, he couldn't have told you a word that was said.  He couldn't even have told you what the dean's name was, or what he looked like.  He came to the podium after the principal and talked for a while, and then they were walking back out of the auditorium, stopping at the same tables to get their schedules and handbooks.

    Next, they took the tour of the school.  Ryan was impressed with the classrooms.  They looked nothing like the classrooms in San Dimas.  These were larger, and they were set up like lecture theatres.  The only classrooms that weren't set up that way were the science rooms.  Those had lab tables or regular desks.

    Before he knew it, he'd purchased his and Scott's blazers, received their ties, locks for their lockers, and he had his class schedule.  He and Scott walked out the main doors of the school, and Ryan looked at his watch.  It was almost nine-thirty.  He realized that he didn't know what kind of car Rick drove, so he didn't know if he was already there or not.

    He looked at all of the cars in the parking lot, but he didn't see Rick in any of them.  He and Scott stood there and watched all of the other kids get into cars with their parents or friends and head home.  While they were watching, Ryan saw a metallic blue car coming into the parking lot.  It was one of the coolest cars he'd ever seen.  Behind the wheel, he could see Rick.

    Rick's car was a metallic blue, 1977 Ford Mustang with black leather interior, bucket seats and chrome everywhere.  It was the one thing in the world that Rick cherished.  He'd saved all of his allowance, birthday and holiday money and even most of his paychecks until he could buy that car.  His mother had helped him pay to have it painted and restored, and he treated it like it was his actual living baby.

    "Hey guys," said Rick as Ryan and Scott walked up to the car.

    "Wow!" cried Scott wide-eyed.  "This is the coolest car I've ever seen!"

    "She's my baby," said Rick, smiling from ear to ear.  He loved it when people admired his car.

    "It is really awesome," said Ryan, sweeping his eyes from the grill to the bumper.

    "Well, hop in, and let's go," said Rick.

    All they way back to their house, Scott asked Rick questions about his car.  He wanted to know how fast it could go, how much it had cost and if Rick knew where to get one just like it.  Rick smiled and answered each of Scott's questions, and Ryan could see the pride in Rick's eyes.  He wondered what kind of car he would have when he was sixteen.  His father had promised him that he'd buy him a car for his sixteenth birthday, but he doubted that it would be as nice as Rick's.

    In San Dimas, his next door neighbor had a Monte Carlo, and Ryan had always liked that car.  It was black with almost as much chrome as Rick's Mustang.  Ryan used to sit and look at that car for hours, wishing that someday he'd own one like it.  He'd begged his dad to buy him one when he turned 16, but all his father had said was that he would buy Ryan a car that was efficient and practical.

    "So what are you doing today, Scott?" asked Rick as they pulled into the driveway of Ryan and Scott's house.

    "My friend Mark's parents invited me to go with them for the day," replied Scott.

    "Where are you going?" asked Ryan.

    "I don't remember what it's called," replied Scott.  "All I know is there are go karts there."

    "Probably Folly Fun Center," said Rick.  "That's where my sister's birthday party was."

    "Yeah, that's the place," said Scott.  "Well, I better go get changed."

    "Well, you ready?" asked Rick when Scott was out of the car.

    "Where are we going?" asked Ryan.

    "Well, I thought you might like to see the Lincoln Sites," replied Rick.  "That sound ok?"

    "Sure," replied Ryan.  "What are they?"

    "Oh, well, they are a bunch of old houses and stuff," said Rick.  "President Lincoln lived here."

    "My dad said something to us about that before we moved here," replied Ryan.  "I had forgotten about it, though."

    "Well, if you'd rather go somewhere else, just let me know," said Rick.  Ryan didn't seem to be too enthused about the Lincoln sites.

    "No, we can go," said Ryan.  "I'd actually like to see them."

    "OK," replied Rick, backing out of the driveway.

    They only got to actually tour the Lincoln Home.  Most of the other buildings were closed, but Ryan enjoyed himself. When they were done with the tour, they headed for Rick's house to just hang out.  It was almost eleven-thirty, and they didn't need to be at Robin's for at least a half hour.  Rick had said he wanted to grab a few things from home that he'd forgotten, anyway.

    Rick lived in a house that looked like a log cabin.  It was two stories, with a wrap around porch and a two car garage.  Rick pulled into the driveway.  He turned off the car and told Ryan that he'd be just a minute.  Ryan watched as Rick entered the garage, and he wondered what the inside of the house looked like.  Before he could think about it too much, Rick came back out of the garage.

    "Change of plan," he said, getting back into the car.  "Robin called and said that we can't have the barbeque at her house after all."

    "What happened?" asked Ryan.

    "Well, I guess her dad is mad about something," said Rick.  "She said she has all of the food, but she doesn't know what she's going to do with it."

    "Take me to my house," said Ryan, thinking that they could just move it to his house.  He had a pool, so he warned Rick that he might want to go and get trunks.

    "I have my trunks and a towel and stuff in a bag," said Rick.  "I keep it in the trunk of the car."

    "Alright," said Ryan.  "Let's go talk to my dad."

    "You could just call him," said Rick, pulling his cell phone from his hip.

    "Well, you're right, I could," laughed Ryan.  "But I don't know the number to the house. I only know my number."

    "Oh," chuckled Rick.

    They drove back across town, and luckily, Frank and Sheila were both still home.  Ryan knew that they had planned to go car shopping today, but he didn't know when they were planning to leave.  He hoped that his dad would allow them all to have the barbeque there while he and Sheila were gone.

    "There's a refrigerator in the pool shed," said Sheila.  They called the little pool house a shed, because it wasn't big enough for anyone to actually call it a house.  "I think there's soda in it. You can run to the store if there isn't."

    "No one in the house while we're gone, Ryan," said Frank as he and Sheila got into their rental car.

    It was all set.  Rick called Robin to tell her to bring all of the food over to Ryan's house.  She asked about a grill, and Rick told her about the two that were already at the house.  There was a full sized gas grill and a smaller charcoal grill.  Robin was pleased with the news.  She called Nathaniel and gave him directions to the house.  She also asked that he pick up Travis.  Jeff was still at home, and Nathan was over there, so Rick called across the street to tell them both about the change in plans.

    Ryan checked the refrigerator in the shed, and found it completely filled with Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Dr. Pepper.  He hoped that everyone liked what was in there.  If not, he'd ask Rick to take him to the store.  His parents had given him money, and he hadn't spent much of the money that Sheila had given him to go to lunch with Robin.

    "So, everything is ready, then?" asked Rick when he got off the telephone.

    "Well, all there is in the refrigerator is Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Dr. Pepper," said Ryan.  "If anyone wants something else, we'll have to go to the store."

    "Robin is bringing a cooler with bottled water and juice," said Rick.  "I think that about covers everyone."

    "Well, I guess we'd better look in the garage and see if we have charcoal," said Ryan, walking toward the garage.  There was a full bag as well as a can of starter fluid, so Ryan took them both back to the charcoal grill and got the fire going.

    "There are some pool toys in there," said Rick, coming out of the pool house.  "Should we get those blown up?"

    "There's a compressor in there somewhere," said Ryan.  "We can use that. I don't know which ones we'll use, or if we'll use them at all."

    It was as if the two of them had done this a million times.  Ryan couldn't believe how comfortable he felt with Rick.  He expected to be nervous and quiet, but that wasn't the case.  He felt as if he had known Rick all of his life.  He felt comfortable with Jeff and Robin, too.  Travis was so easy to get along with, Ryan had very little trouble talking to him.  He was a little worried about meeting Nathaniel, though.

    They chose three air floats and got the dive sticks and beach ball out of the shed.  They were just finishing with the floats when Jeff and Nathan came through the gate, carrying towels and a cooler.  They sat their stuff down by the picnic table and joined Rick and Ryan.  As soon as they got everything ready, Rick and Ryan went to change into their trunks.

    "Man, I wish we had a pool," said Nathan.

    "Yeah," said Jeff.  "But it won't be long before we won't be able to use them."

    "I know, but think of the fun we could have," replied Nathan, wagging his eyebrows.

    "I think we have enough fun without a pool," chuckled Jeff.

    "Well, yeah," said Nathan as Nathaniel and Travis walked through the gate, carrying another cooler and more towels.  Travis was also carrying a plastic container.

    "Where's Robin?" asked Nathaniel.

    "She should be here any minute," replied Jeff.  "She called just before she left her house."

    "What's in there?" asked Nathan, pointing at the plastic bowl that Travis sat down on the patio table.

    "Fruit salad," replied Travis.  "I wanted to make sure that there was something here that Jeff would eat."

    "Oh, there will be," laughed Jeff.  "Robin said she already has veggie burgers to grill. That's why she wanted two grills."

    "Why would they have two grills, anyway?" asked Travis.

    "Well, if you'll look closely at the charcoal grill, you'll see that it is really just part of the patio," said Nathaniel.  "It's built right out of the concrete."

    "They probably brought the gas grill with them," added Nathan.

    "Does the food taste the same off of a gas grill?" asked Travis.

    "Slightly different," replied Nathaniel.  "But it doesn't taste bad. Some people just like the taste of food cooked over the charcoal better than gas."

    "My father used to complain about that," said Ryan, walking up to where they were looking at the grills.  "He said that Sheila was trying to change him."

    "She's the gas grill lover, then?" asked Jeff.

    "Yeah," said Ryan.  "She won't touch food cooked over charcoal. She has a reason, but I don't remember what it is, and I don't think I understood it when she told me."

    Ryan looked around the group.  Rick still hadn't come out of the pool shed, and he wondered why for a moment.  Then he noticed the other guy.  It had to be Nathaniel.  He was the only member of the group that Ryan hadn't met yet.  He was about two inches taller than Ryan with light brown hair.  He was dressed in a white t-shirt and blue surfer's shorts.  He looked muscular, and his facial expression was passive as he looked at Ryan.

    "This is Nathaniel," said Jeff, pointing at the other boy.  "Nathaniel, this is Ryan."

    "I hope you don't believe everything you've heard about me," laughed Nathaniel, shaking Ryan's hand.  Ryan thought he had a great smile, and made his eyes light up.

    "I haven't heard much of anything about you," replied Ryan.

    "Well," replied Nathaniel, eyeing Jeff.  "I see how I rate."

    "Hey, I don't talk to him as much as Robin and Travis do," laughed Jeff.

    "Robin's being tight lipped, I see," said Nathaniel, turning back to Ryan.  "I'm a little mean sometimes, or so they all tell me. I mean nothing by it, though. Just think of me as the prick of the bunch."

    "That's an understatement!" laughed Rick, coming out of the pool shed.

    Ryan stared at him.  He was wearing a pair of black speedos, and his body was, in Ryan's opinion, perfect.  He was toned but not overly muscled, and his skin was bronze from the sun.  As Ryan stared at him, Rick met his gaze.  Ryan's heart began to race, thinking he'd been caught, but Rick simply smiled at him.

    "Where is Robin?" demanded Nathaniel, breaking Ryan's train of thought.

    "I'm right here," said Robin from behind them all.  "And instead of screaming my name, why don't you help me with the stuff in the car?"

    Nathaniel helped Robin with all of the food in the car.  Travis went to help them, but he was sent back to the back yard.  Ryan and Jeff spread the table cloth that Sheila had insisted on over the picnic table, and Nathan and Rick carried on in the pool.  When Robin got to the back yard, she told Jeff and Ryan to go play.  She didn't need any help cooking.

    Nathaniel stayed with Robin, but Travis happily got into the pool.  He splashed around and had a great time with the others.  It wasn't long until Ryan could smell the hamburgers cooking, and his stomach began to growl.  He hadn't eaten since breakfast, and his stomach was letting him know that it missed the mid morning snack he usually consumed between breakfast and lunch.

    "So what classes do you have?" asked Jeff while they were in the pool.

    "I barely looked at the schedule, but I do know that I have English with Ms. Pearson first hour," replied Ryan.

    "Cool," said Jeff.  "I have Pearson first hour, too."

    "Me, too!" said Travis.  "I have gym second hour, though. So, I'll have to figure out something to get out of it."

    "I have Art second hour," replied Jeff.  "I don't even have gym this semester."

    "How'd you get out of that?" asked Travis.

    "Easy," replied Jeff.  "I'm taking Metal Shop."

    "You just did that so you could be with Nathan," laughed Nathaniel, getting into the pool.

    "So, you took Spanish to be with Robin!" chuckled Jeff.

    "I took Spanish because I've been in Spanish since seventh grade," replied Nathaniel.  "I traded hours to be with Robin."

    "Well, I have Biology with Nathan third hour," said Jeff.  "And that's the only class besides Metal Shop that I have with him."

    "I skipped Science last year for more computer classes," explained Nathan when he caught Ryan looking at him strange.

    "I had Biology last year," said Ryan.  "I have Chemistry second hour."

    "Me, too," said Nathaniel.  "And Robin."

    "So you'll have both of them in class with you then," said Jeff.

    "We might as well bank on being a lab group," said Nathaniel. "I think we'll need a fourth, though. That depends."

    "I checked," called Robin.  "There were only fourteen students in the class until Ryan. So the lab groups will be trios."

    "Cool," said Nathaniel.  "Time to eat yet?"

    "Everything's mostly done," she replied.  "You could help me set the potato salad and stuff out."

    "On my way," he replied, getting out of the pool.

    They all got out of the pool and gathered around the picnic table to eat.  There were hamburgers, veggie burgers, potato salad, corn on the cob, potato chips and fruit salad.  Ryan grabbed a paper plate and made himself a hamburger, took an ear of corn and filled his plate with chips.  Everyone started eating, and conversation was all centered on school.

    "Did you pick your classes this year?" Robin asked Ryan when she sat down at the table.

    "I don't know," he replied.  "We picked our classes a week before school let out, but that was in California. I got most of the classes I picked last year, but I didn't pick World History."

    "You've got World History?" asked Jeff.  "How'd you skip American History?"

    "We did American History last year," he said.  "We got all the way to the civil war."

    "They do things different in San Dimas, then," said Robin.  "We had American History last year. We weren't offered World History in tenth grade."

    "Well, what hour do you have it?" asked Nathaniel.

    "Fourth or fifth, I think," said Ryan.  "When we're done eating, I'll go get my schedule."

    "I have World History fourth hour," said Robin.

    "And I have it fifth hour," said Nathaniel.

    "I don't have it at all," said Nathan.  "I'm skipping World History and going straight to American History II. I have it sixth hour."

    They talked back and forth about who had which classes and then Ryan went and got his schedule and showed it to them.  He had English I first hour, Chemistry I second, Computer Basic I third, World History fourth, Algebra I fifth, Art Theory sixth, and Gym seventh.  Jeff and Travis were in English with him, Robin and Nathaniel were in Chemistry with him, Nathan was in Computer Basic with him, Robin and Rick were in World History with him, Travis was in Algebra with him, and none of them were in gym with him.  Rick was the art assistant for sixth hour, so he would be in the class with Ryan.

    Ryan was happy to know that he'd have at least one friend in almost all of his classes with him.  He was no stranger to being without friends in school, so being in gym with none of them wasn't that much of a worry for him.  He worried about it just like he worried about going to the new school.  His worries about going to a new school were slowly going away, though.  He now had six friends to associate with at school.

    Lunch was the time that they would all be together.  Ryan had automatically been given the second lunch period, but Robin, Nathaniel, Nathan and Rick had all had to pull strings with their counselors to get second lunch.  Travis and Jeff were Sophomores, so they both got second period, because Sophomores always had second lunch.  Freshmen and eighth grade students ate third lunch.  Sophomores ate second lunch with half the freshmen class, and juniors and seniors all had first lunch.

    After everyone had finished eating, they all cleaned up and sat around talking about school for a while before getting back into the pool.  Frank and Sheila came home with a new BMW M3 Convertible.  All of the kids gathered around the car when Frank pulled up in it.  Sheila was still driving the rental car.  They hadn't gotten her one just yet.

    Frank told them that the BMW had an on-board navigational system, rear park distance control, heated adjustable seats and front side airbags.  The interior was leather, and the color was cinnamon.  They all loved the car except Robin, and Frank gave them all a ride around the neighborhood in it.  After the rides, Robin and Nathaniel started packing her car with the left over food, and Travis left with Nathan.

    Soon it was just Ryan, Rick and Jeff.  The three boys were now allowed to move into the house, so they went up to Ryan's room to watch a movie.  Watching was a relative term, because they talked through the entire movie.  Jeff wasn't a horror fan, anyway, so he was happy to talk through it.

    "So, what did you two do today before the barbecue?" asked Jeff.

    "I took Ryan to see the Lincoln Home," said Rick.

    "I figured you'd get around to that," chuckled Jeff.  "He took each of us to the Lincoln Sites when we got here."

    "Well, it's really the only thing I know to do," said Rick.  "The Mall is over done."

    "There isn't much to do here," agreed Jeff.  "What are you guys doing tomorrow?"

    "I'm working," replied Rick.

    "I have no idea," said Ryan.  "I guess I'll sleep in and then just hang out around the house."

    "You could hang out with me and Nathan," said Jeff.  "We're going to go to Best Buy and maybe Circuit City."

    "I'd like to get some software," said Ryan.  "I'll ask my dad."

    "Cool," replied Jeff.  "What time do you work tomorrow, Rick?"

    "I go in at one," he replied.  "I was hoping to have the entire weekend off. There are a few parties this weekend."

    "Yeah, I'm sure," said Jeff.  He didn't get into the party scene.  Outside of his group of friends, he didn't really like anyone well enough to hang out with them.

    "Robin and Nath are going to Missy Kreiger's party tomorrow night," said Rick.  "I think Travis is going to hang out with Monica and Brent."

    "Yeah, he said something about that today," replied Jeff.  "Do you work Sunday?"

    "Nope," replied Rick.  "I'm free all day. You want to get together and do something?"

    "Love to, but I'm going to St. Louis with my dad," he replied.

    "What about you, Ryan?" Rick asked.

    "I don't have anything planned," said Ryan.  "What do you want to do?"

    "Well, I was thinking about Six Flags," replied Rick.  "It'll be kinda crowded, but it will probably be about the last time I can go for a while."

    "I'll ask my dad about that, too," said Ryan.  "Is it anything like Magic Mountain?"

    "Hardly," chuckled Jeff.  "The park is like half the size of Magic Mountain, and there aren't as many rides. It's cool for what it is, though."

    "I'm going to talk to Nath about going, too," said Rick.  "He's been itching to take a road trip since he got the corvette."

    "I bet," said Jeff.  "Is he off on Sunday, too?"

    Rick nodded.  "So is Robin.  Maybe they'll both go."

    "Travis will want to go, I'm sure," said Jeff.  "Nathan has to work."


    "So, what do you think of Ryan?" Robin asked Nathaniel while they were sitting in his bedroom.

    "He seems cool," said Nathaniel.  "He didn't say much to me all day."

    "He doesn't know you," she replied.  "I think he really likes Rick."

    "Yeah," said Nathaniel.  "Rick talks about nothing else at work. If he doesn't make a move soon, I'll go nuts!"

    "So, Rick does like Ryan?" she asked.

    "Oh yes," replied Nathaniel.  "He's into him in a big way."

    "I think they'll get together," said Robin.  "At least, I hope they will."

    "I don't know if they will or not," said Nathaniel.  "I don't really care either way."


    "Do you think you should go the day before school starts?" asked Frank when Ryan asked him and Sheila about going to Six Flags with his friends on Sunday.

    "You have to get up awful early on Monday morning for school, Ryan," said Sheila.  "What time did Rick say that you guys would be coming home?"

    "He said that we'd stay until it closed or until we got bored," replied Ryan.  "It's only a little more than an hour away from here, and I go to bed around eleven, anyway. Getting up for school won't be a problem."

    "And you want to go to Best Buy with Jeff and Nathan tomorrow?" asked Frank.

    "That's just on the other side of town, Dad," replied Ryan, thinking that they weren't going to let him go.  "I would just like to see the store. I might buy something for my computer. I don't know."

    "Well, I have no problem letting him go to Best Buy with his friends," said Sheila.

    "You're sure that you'll get up on Monday morning with no problems?" asked Frank.

    "I'm positive," replied Ryan.  "Rick said that it will probably be the last time he's able to go for a while, and the park will close for the winter, too."

    "Not until November," replied Frank.  "I've checked their schedule. I was thinking of taking the entire family to Six Flags for their Halloween celebration."

    "How much money will you need for Six Flags?" asked Sheila.

    Ryan could tell that they were breaking down.  Rick had told him that he had an extra ticket to get into the park, so all Ryan would need was money to eat on.  He wasn't big on souvenirs, so that wasn't an issue.  In California, food and drinks at the park were very expensive, so he figured that, though they'd be slightly cheaper, they'd still be pricey.

    "Rick said all I need is money to eat on," replied Ryan.  "He has an extra ticket."

    "Well, Scott did go to the Fun Center with his friend," remarked Frank.  "If you promise that you'll get up Monday morning with no trouble, and you won't fall asleep in school, then I don't really see a problem."

    "I doubt that I'd fall asleep on my first day of school," replied Ryan.  "But Monday morning will not be a problem."

    The next day, Ryan waited with Jeff for Nathan to pick them up.  It was the first time that Ryan had ever been to Jeff's house.  It wasn't much different than his own, but the walls in Jeff's living room were a cream color, and Ryan's were white.  Most of the houses on that block looked the same.

    "So tell me about you and Rick," said Jeff while they waited for Nathan.  "What's going on there?"

    "Nothing," replied Ryan.  "I guess from your question, Rick is gay?"

    "I thought you knew that already," replied Jeff.  "I guess he hasn't told you."

    "No, we haven't really talked about that," said Ryan.  "We talk about our families, school and his car most of the time."

    "Well, he's definitely in love with his car," laughed Jeff.

    "OK," said Ryan.  "Now I know he's gay. I guess my next question is, does he like me?"

    "Well, from what I can tell, he does," said Jeff.  "Robin's pretty convinced that he does, and so is Nathaniel."

    "So, you've all be talking about this?" asked Ryan.

    "Well, kind of," chuckled Jeff.  "We're a close bunch."

    "So I'm starting to see," replied Ryan.

    And then Nathan was there.  He walked into the house, smiling and talking about his mom, and Ryan and Jeff fell silent.  Their conversation was not forgotten by Ryan, but for now he'd have to wait.  He'd be alone with Jeff again when Nathan dropped them off, and he hoped that they would talk more then.  He knew that he could just be bold and ask Rick how he felt, but that just wasn't the way Ryan operated.  He'd have to wait for Rick to say something.

    "You OK?" asked Nathan, gazing at Ryan through his rearview mirror.  "You're awful quiet."

    "I'm fine," replied Ryan.  "Just thinking about something."

    "Rick, I'd imagine," said Nathan, and Jeff glared at him.

    "Leave him alone," ordered Jeff.

    "I'm not being mean," replied Nathan.  "They like each other, don't they?"

    "That's not really our business," said Jeff.  "Let them deal with it."

    The three were quiet all the way to Best Buy.  Ryan was starting to get a little upset with all of them for talking about him behind his back.  He wasn't sure what to say to any of them about it, but he would think about it for a while.  If they were all going to be friends, then they shouldn't talk about each other like that.  Secrets hurt people, and hurt people don't make good friends.

    Later that night, he thought more about it all.  Jeff hadn't said another word about Rick when they got back to his house, and Ryan didn't know how to bring it up without sounding too interested.  He was still a little angry with them all for discussing it behind his back like that.  Something would have to be said about it, but he didn't know what to say.

    He had trouble sleeping that night.  He was nervous about riding to Six Flags alone with Rick now.  He'd been too worried about finding out if Rick liked him to even think about what it would mean if he really did.  Now, he didn't know how to act around Rick.  He was more scared than ever that he'd say something stupid or do something that would make Rick not like him.  He fell asleep with that thought on his mind and was not very rested when the alarm went off the next morning.

    He moped to the bathroom to shower and listen to his stomach growl.  He was excited about going to Six Flags, but he really wished that he could just sleep for another twelve hours or so.  Rick being downstairs, talking to Scott woke him up, though.  He walked into the kitchen and grabbed a bagel and a bottle of juice.

    "Morning, Ryan," said Rick.  "Scott was just telling me about your cousin."

    "What?" asked Ryan, looking at Scott.  He had no idea what was going on.  As far as he knew they didn't have any cousins in Springfield.

    "I thought Dad talked to you last night," said Scott.  "Mitch is moving in with us for a while. He'll be here on Friday."

    "I didn't see Dad when I got home last night," replied Ryan.

    Mitch Happel was Sheila's nephew.  Ryan had only met him once, and that was three years ago.  He didn't know what to think about him moving in with them for a while.  He wondered why, but he thought it would be better to discuss it with his parents when he saw them.  He didn't even want to think about how Mitch's arrival would affect his life.

    In the car, Ryan was quiet.  He wasn't as awake as he'd thought he was, and he was still nervous about saying something bad.  Rick talked about Six Flags and asked simple yes or no answers, giving Ryan plenty of time to wake up.  Once they picked up Travis, he kept a steady conversation going with Rick while Ryan sat and listened.

    He watched the passing scenery which consisted of cornfields, cows and occasionally horses.  Now and then, the monotony of it was broken by a farm house or small town.  They stopped at a truck stop for sodas, and then the scenery changed from cornfields to more highway lanes.  Ryan caught himself nodding off a few times.

    "You OK, Ryan?" asked Rick.  "You've been awful quiet."

    "I'm fine," he replied.  "I guess I'm not as awake as I thought I was."

    "You'll wake up when we get there," laughed Travis.  "Rick will drag you all over the park!"

    "Oh, I will not," chuckled Rick.

    "What about you?" Ryan asked Travis.

    "Oh, I'm planning to spend most of my time in Hurricane Harbor," he replied.

    "What's that?" asked Ryan.

    "It's the water park part of Six Flags," said Rick.  "Water slides, wade pools and stuff like that. Travis spends most of his time there."

    "Ah," said Ryan.  He hadn't brought a pair of trunks, and the shorts he was wearing weren't good for swimming.  He supposed that he would just ride the regular rides.  It was coasters he was most interested in, anyway.

    "How are we supposed to meet up with Robin and Nath?" asked Travis.

    "They aren't coming," replied Rick.  "Robin had something to do today, and Nath is visiting his grandparents."

    "So it'll be just us three, then?" asked Travis.

    "Yeah," said Rick.  "I'm sure we'll be able to amuse ourselves, though."

    When they pulled into the parking lot, Rick paid for their parking, and they were given booklets of coupons and two flyers about Batman Nights in October.  They parked as close to the entrance gates as Rick could get.  Ryan could see a few coasters from the parking lot.  It didn't look anything like Magic Mountain, but he figured he'd have fun.

    "We'll meet right here at three, Travis," said Rick when they got inside the park.  "Don't make me have to have you paged."

    "I'll be here!" he called as he quickly walked toward the big wooden gates of Hurricane Harbor.

    "OK, what do you want to ride first?" asked Rick when Travis was gone.

    "Does this park have X?" asked Ryan after thinking for a few minutes.

    "What's X?" asked Rick.

    "Well, I guess from your answer that it doesn't," chuckled Ryan.  "X is a really awesome roller coaster."

    "Oh, if you want a coaster, there's Mr. Freeze, Bat-Man, The Ninja, The Screaming Eagle and The Boss," said Rick.  "There's another one, but I don't remember the name of it, and I rarely ever ride it."

    "Well, why don't we try The Boss?" asked Ryan.  "What's it like?"

    "It's a wooden coaster," said Rick as he led Ryan off into the park.  "I like it a lot, but a lot of people don't like the wooden ones."

    "I don't really have a specific favorite," said Ryan.  "As long as they're fast and can make my stomach flip, I like them."

    When they got to The Boss, the line wasn't all that long.  The park had just opened, so a lot of people hadn't drifted to that particular coaster.  Ryan and Rick talked about other rides while they waited.  Rick described each of the rides that he usually rode.  The only one he hadn't ridden yet was Excalibur.  Ryan was very interested in that ride from Rick's description.

    Throughout the day, they rode ride after ride, and Ryan admitted that this park was nothing compared to Magic Mountain.  He liked The Boss, and he loved Excalibur, but he missed the rides that weren't there.  He and Rick talked about school and the rest of their friends.  Ryan wanted to tell him that he knew that he was gay, but that just didn't seem like the right place for such a discussion.

    Just before three, it started to rain, and Rick was a little mad that they'd probably have to leave the park early.  Travis found them right on time, and he wanted to change, because he was cold.  That meant that he had to go to the car.  Rick looked at Ryan, wondering if Ryan wanted to go home or try and stay.

    "Guys, I'm really, really cold," said Travis.

    "Well, do you want to stay or go, Ryan?" asked Rick.  He hated the idea that Ryan's first trip to the park would be cut short by rain, but it was getting colder, and even he was starting to shiver.

    "I think we'd better go," said Ryan.  "It is getting cold."

    In the car, Travis wrapped himself in his towel, and Rick turned on the heat.  They weren't the only ones leaving the park.  The exits were crowded, but not as bad as it would have been at the end of the night.  It wasn't long and they were on the road back to Springfield.  Travis talked a mile a minute about Hurricane Harbor.  He was excited about a guy that he'd bumped into there.

    "He was wearing a pair of black speedos with a pink triangle on the crotch!" he cried from the back seat.

    "Well you know that some guys are more out than others," said Rick.  "He was probably just more comfortable with his sexuality than some."

    Rick was being careful about how he said things, because he still wasn't sure what Ryan's sexuality was.  He didn't know if Ryan knew about him, either.  He didn't want to out himself if Ryan was not comfortable with gay people.  He was sure that Ryan had to know about Travis, because out of all of them, Travis was the most obvious of the bunch.  That didn't mean that he knew about everyone else, though.

    "Ryan, did you ever see gay men wearing rainbow pins or triangles?" asked Travis.

    Ryan thought about how to answer that question.  He knew now that Rick was gay, and he wanted to let Rick know that he was, too.  He didn't want to just come right out and say the words, though.  He had been trying to think of a way to just let him know without saying it all day long.  He supposed now was his chance.

    "Well, I wasn't out in California," he replied.  "So, I didn't know many gay people."

    "You're out to everyone here?" asked Travis, making Rick glance at Ryan quickly.

    "Well, no," said Ryan.  "What I mean is, I didn't have close friends in California, so no one really knew that I was gay there."

    He knew that there was no doubt in Rick's mind now.  He'd actually said the words that he hadn't wanted to say.  He supposed he had been being silly about it.  It wasn't as if Rick would object to his sexuality.  He had to convince himself to relax a little more around his new friends, but it was hard to do.

    Rick was silently thanking his lucky stars.  He really liked Ryan, and he hoped that things would develop past friendship between them.  Now he knew that there really was a possibility of that.  He just hoped that Ryan liked him half as much.  He had no idea how to find that out, though.  His friends were all being very tight lipped about Ryan.

    He listened to Ryan and Travis talk back and forth about what Ryan thought gay people should act like.  Ryan told him that he didn't' know how they should act.  He supposed that it was up to each individual to act the way they were comfortable with.  Rick liked his answer, and he wanted to know more about what Ryan thought.

    It was almost five when they reached Springfield.  They went directly to Travis's house to drop him off.  Rick told him to be ready in the morning, because he didn't want to be late for the first day of school.  Travis laughed at that for a few minutes, and the two traded friendly threats back and forth about what Rick would do to Travis if he made him late for school.

    "You have company?" asked Rick when they got to Ryan's house.  There was a white Ford Excursion sitting next to Ryan's dad's BMW.  It looked brand new.

    "No one I know," replied Ryan.  "As far as I know my parents don't know that many people around here yet, so I don't know who it would be."

    "Where's the rental car?" asked Rick.

    "Probably in the garage," said Ryan.  "They're supposed to take it back tomorrow afternoon."

    When they got inside, Ryan didn't see any signs of company in the house.  Scott was sitting in the living room, watching a movie.  He didn't even look up as Ryan and Rick passed the living room on their way to the kitchen.  Frank was in the dining room, reading the paper, but he didn't notice the boys, either.

    "Who's Excursion?" Ryan asked Sheila when they got to the kitchen.  Sheila was making dinner, but Ryan still didn't see any visitors.

    "We bought it this morning," replied Sheila, smiling.  "How was the park?"

    "It was fun until it started to rain," replied Ryan.  "So, you picked a car?"

    "Well, your father picked it, really," she said.  "I wanted something a little smaller, but he reminded me that there were campsites around here, and now he's hinting about buying a camper."

    "Where's the rental?" asked Ryan.

    "Oh, they were open today, so we took it back right after," she said.  "Go wash up, dinner will be ready in a few minutes. Rick, are you staying?"

    "If it isn't too much trouble," he replied.

    "No trouble at all," replied Sheila.  "I made enough for the whole family, but Scott is going to Mark's for dinner, so there's plenty. Follow Ryan. I'll call for you when it's ready."

    They went up to Ryan's bathroom to wash their hands.  Rick marveled over Ryan's keyboards, and when he saw the computers, he shook his head.  A big smile spread over his face as he thought about Ryan sitting in front of his computers writing his stories.  He wondered if Nathan had been up to Ryan's room.  The two of them would have plenty to talk about once he made it up there.  Nathan was a computer genius.

    They had just gotten their hands washed and dried when Sheila called for them to come to dinner.  They passed Scott in the hall on his way out the door, hearing Frank call to his youngest son that it was a school night, and Scott knew the rules about school nights.  Rick chuckled to himself as he watched Scott's brow wrinkle.

    "So," said Frank, when they were all seated at the dining room table, passing food back and forth.  "I've heard a lot about you from Ryan and Jeff, Rick, but I think this is the first time that I've actually had a chance to talk to you."

    "Yes, Sir," replied Rick.  "You were in a hurry on Friday."

    "All set for tomorrow?" asked Frank.  "Ryan tells me that you go to Westlake, too."

    "Yes, Sir," replied Rick.  "Mine was the first eighth grade class to ever go to Westlake."

    "So you've lived here all of your life?" asked Sheila from across the table.

    "Yes, my mother talked about moving back to New York after my father died, but we stayed," said Rick.

    "I'm sorry to hear about your father," said Frank.  "Do you have siblings?"

    "A younger sister," replied Rick.  "She'll be in eighth grade this year, so she'll be going to Westlake, too."

    "Ryan was telling us that your sister just had a birthday," said Sheila.

    "Yes, she did," said Rick, smiling.  "We threw her a party that she'll never forget."

    They talked back and forth throughout dinner, and Ryan was pleased to see that his parents seemed to like Rick.  They didn't interrogate him too harshly, but they learned all that they could during the meal.  A lot of the answers that Rick gave were new for Ryan, too, so he was getting to know Rick a little better as well.

    Rick had to leave shortly after dinner.  He said he wanted to get home and get a few things taken care of before school in the morning.  Ryan still needed to get his stuff together, so he said goodbye and went up to get his notebooks and other school supplies ready for the following morning.  He was nervous, but it helped to know that he would have friends when he got there.

To Be Continued.