15 And Life To Go - Chapter 3

By: Brian Barnes




Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction involving teenagers in adult situations. If this offends you, please do not continue.


I slept the entire time we cruised down the highway. Mark's car was an older style Oldsmobile with worn out struts, so it literally felt like we were in a boat. I didn't mind a bit, if only because every time the car jerked a little too violently, Jeff unconsciously tightened his grip around me. He had his head on my shoulder, and boy was he drooling. At least he didn't snore. I'm generally a light sleeper, and I'd hate to have to make him sleep on the couch sometime in the future just so I can catch some zzzs.
I can't tell you how long we've been driving, but it's been at least an hour. Even though I haven't had anything to drink in hours, my bladder is on the verge of exploding. I have no idea how to ask if we could stop `cause I'm really confused with the situation. I half expected to be transported on a bus with bars on the windows, and shackles on my ankles. I figure we'd have to be close to reaching our final destination, so I decided to hold it. Even though Mark seems laid back and all, I don't want to rock the boat, so to speak, and ask for anything. Maybe I'll test the boundaries later, but for now I just want to get to a rest room and a comfy bed, cot, or whatever the hell I'll be sleeping on in this so-called `institute'.

Trying to get a little more comfortable in my compromised position, I sat forward a little bit, but Jeff was hearing none of that, pulling me even closer to him. I let out a little bit of a frustrated huff, eliciting a laugh out of Mark. "I didn't take you for one that would fall for the clingy type, Nathanial. So, is this like a forbidden fruit kind of thing you've got going on? You know, running away with the sheriff's grandson?" He asked. I would normally be a little offended at this level of questioning, but I was oddly at ease. Mark has already shown that he was a decent dude from what I can see, and the way he asked it seemed more like doing `guy talk' than an adult talking to a teen, or a jailer talking to an inmate for that matter. Leaning forward, I filled him in. "Nah, it's nothin' like that, honestly. Once he came out of his shell a little bit, we just clicked, ya know? I can't describe it, really. It's all new to me to be honest. I've never been in lllov..." I couldn't say it. Don't know why, but my body just refused to say the damn word. It's probably for the best, right? I mean I'm too young to fall in love, right?!?

Mark instantly seemed to recognize my inner conflict. "Don't stress out to much, Nathaniel. Your young, and as it looks, struggling just to keep yourself in order. No sense stressing out with all these other things when right now you should be worried about you, yourself. Now, I've got to stop and gas up, and judging by the little jig your dancing back there your about to make a mess. Here's some cash. Put twenty bucks on our pump, and get you two a drink. Don't worry `bout waking Jeff. The way he's drooling, he'll be out until we drag his ass to the cabin." With that, Mark gave me two twenties, and an ungodly amount of freedom.

Standing in front of the soda coolers, I realized how little I actually know about Jeff. Oddly enough, a lot can be said about a person by the soda they prefer. Let's see, old people and kids like root beer, orange, and cream. I doubt he drinks diet. Rednecks like mountain dew. Don't even get me started on Pepsi vs. Coke, that's worse than a political conversation between a righty and a left winger in November. Sprite seems safe. Grabbing two, I started to approach the counter to pay but turned around realizing I forgot a drink for Mark. I remembered seeing Lipton's Green Tea bottles on his floorboard. Maybe a little bit of ass kissing will make my time easier.

The clerk took one look at me and glanced at Mark outside. "Your one of Marky's new recruits, eh? Well, stay out of trouble. He's a good guy, but I for one would never want to get on his bad side. If you keep your nose clean and stay on the narrow path, he will fight to the death for you, but once he decides you're a lost cause, it's over kiddo. Tell'em Bob said `sup, `kay?" I nodded, thanked the clerk, and walked over to the car. Handing Mark his tea, he looked at me like I had a sixth sense or something. Deciding that the best way to lighten the mood a bit was some humor, I looked as innocent as possible and said "What? I thought you old guys needed to keep the ticker healthy. No pop for you, too much sodium, right?" I was able to maintain a straight face for just a fraction longer before we both cracked up.

We must have caused a ruckus `cause Jeff woke up looking confused as hell. Like a little kid, the first thing out of his mouth was "Are we there yet?" Looking at him made me melt all over again. His hair was a mess, spiked in all different directions, and the drool finally dried leaving a trail of white crust running off his chin and down his neck. When you threw in the zombie I-just-slept-for-days eyes, he truly did look undead, but he still was gorgeous. I couldn't help myself. Leaning over I greeted my babes with a kiss which he took willingly. Up front, Mark let cleared his throat. "Okay, boys, I was going to let this wait until tomorrow, but you've given me no choice." Shit, here it comes. We're already in trouble, I bet. "I know you two are a couple and all, but this is supposed to be punishment, you know. I personally have nothing against you two being in a relationship, but we're not here for summer camp. You must remember that there are other people up in these hills that might not like your displays of affection too much. As far as them mistreating you because of your orientation, I doubt that will happen. If it does, I'll end it, but don't give anyone ammunition. There is another couple of boys up there that think they are fooling everybody, but I'm pretty sure everyone is in on their little secret by now, and they respect them both just fine. I just don't want to see anyone get into trouble over something so juvenile and senseless, you hear?" Jeff and I were both quick with a "yessir!" That went a lot better than I thought it would. It sounds like a don't ask, don't tell policy, and I for one can live with that. Even though he didn't explicitly say it, I'm sure a `no sex' policy is in order as well. We'll survive I guess.

After about another twenty minutes of driving down a county highway, we turned off the main highway onto a dirt road leading up into the hills. The only light visible was the headlights, and through the trees you could see fog settle on the underbrush. Eerie doesn't properly describe the atmosphere in these woods. Any second now "Jason" was going to come running out and hack us to death. At least Jeff and I were cute. They always kill the cute ones last, right? A little further up the road, we stopped at a flimsy gate that Mark simply nudged open with his bumper. Seeing the look of surprise on my face from the evident lack of security, Mark told me that trying to escape would be useless with all the coyotes prowling around. I think it was an attempt at a joke, or maybe he was just trying to scare us. Either way, it worked.
We finally pulled up to what I can describe as a makeshift compound of about six or seven log cabins. They looked like they were hand built by Paul Bunyan himself. The clock on the car told us it was two thirty three, and it felt like it too. Long drives always wore me out. Jeff looks like he's ready to drop as well. I don't know why; the drool stain on my shirt alone proves he had plenty of sleep. Getting out of the car, I asked Mark where we should put our things, but he told me not to worry about it and that we should get some rest because "five AM comes fast around here." I for one am not looking forward to early morning wakeups, but what can I do? He pointed us to cabin number two, and told us that the bunk beds in the far corner were ours.

I opened the door to the cabin, and searched in vain for the light switch to no avail. With absolutely zero visibility, I tried to slowly maneuver my way across the room while holding on to Jeff's hand. Midway through the room I finally found what I thought was our bunk beds. I whispered a "thank the lord" to Jeff and instructed him to take the bottom as I climbed up top. The instant I laid down I knew shit was about to hit the fan. Before I could react to finding out I wasn't alone in the bunk, I was flying out of it followed by a voice yelling "What the FUCK!" at the top of his lungs. Lucky for Jeff, he didn't already climb into the bottom yet and receive the same fate.
"Dude, ohmygod! I am so friggin' sorry, I thought... I thought it was empty. Shit, I couldn't find the light. I still can't see!" I exclaimed with a mixture of both embarrassment and genuine fear. Whoever was on the bottom flicked a lighter a couple of times and lit a candle on top of a wooden dresser. With the candle lit, he started lighting a lantern that hung in the middle of the cabin. Looking around it hit me. This place had no electricity. Instantly I felt like I was plunged two hundred years in the past. When I looked over Jeff, he was off in a corner. I'm sure that he was about as freaked out as I was. I motioned him over with a head nod, but he just looked at me like I was crazy, and took a little step back.

"Hey, man, shit happens, it's all good. We didn't know you were coming. Mark usually tells us but he's been gone all day. I'm Brandon by the way. That was Casey up there that you felt up. Don't worry about him, he's cool. Good luck trying to get him to talk, though. Over there in the single bed is Ricky. He thinks he's top shit `cause he doesn't have a bunk bed or whatever. He's been here the longest out of us in cabin two. You'll meet the others tomorrow." Brandon seemed pretty cool. After the initial shock, they all seemed decent enough. They were all about fifteen or sixteen, and if I might say, rather cute. I'm not saying I'd give up Jeff to do something stupid, but having good looking people to live around never hurt anyone with at least a little bit of self-control.
Brandon was about five foot ten, rather slender, and kind of reminded me of a skater dude. He definitely wasn't shy. The entire time he was making introductions he was parading around in just his boxers flaunting his body. Of course, if I had been built like that, I would too. I initially felt bad for staring, that is until I seen that Jeff had his eyes glued too.

Casey, on the other hand was a lot more reserved. He had on sweats and a tee, and they were way too big on him. He was rather small framed, and I soon learned that his nickname was Tiny Tim. Even though he wasn't all that big, his features fit him, even if it did make you want to pick him up and put him in your pocket. He had the darkest eyes I'd ever seen. They were almost as dark as the vampires in the movies, but instead of invoking fear, they seemed to make him look gentle.
Ricky instantly struck me as a character all to his own. You know the type. The life of the party, and more than likely the host as well. He was bigger than the other two, but he didn't seem uncomfortable in his body at all, and he wore it well. I couldn't quite make out his nationality until he greeted me with a `G'day mate!' The sound of his Aussie dialog was a surprise, but I thought it was pretty damn cool. The other's seemed to call him `Beats'. At first I was scared that it was because he drummed on everything like some of the kids in juvie did all hours of the night. I was quickly reassured that none of that shit goes on here.
After introducing Jeff and a little bit of small talk, Brandon announced he was going back to bed with Casey and Ricky following suit. Jeff was still hiding in his turtle shell, but I personally didn't want to push him too hard. Besides, it seems that once he's comfortable in his environment he's hard to tame. I just hope he doesn't feel left out. Walking over to our bunks I gave him a sexy little wink and a good night, and bedded down myself, ready to face the first day here at T.I.


They said five o'clock was gonna come early, and that was no lie. I woke up to someone gently nudging my shoulder, and even though I tried to turn over and ignore it, whoever was doing the nudging kept it up. After five or so minutes of this horrible torture, I relented and opened my eyes to see Casey standing there with an annoyed look on his face. Without so much as saying a word, he pointed down towards Jeff, and cocked his head towards the door before heading out himself. I allowed myself to process the odd and silent conversation I just had with my bunkmate before I hopped down to wake up Jeff. Brandon told me that Casey was quiet, but I thought it was an exaggeration.
Looking around and seeing the cabin empty, I took the chance to quickly give Jeff a good morning kiss while he was still sleeping. He popped his eyes open and gave me a classic `cute Jeff' smile while he stretched his arms above his head. "Hey Nate! Time to wake up already? I just got to sleep!" He was still yawning as he talked, instantly making me feel bad for having to wake him up. "Casey woke me up, and I think we're supposed to go out there somewhere." I said pointing at the door. We both stumbled around getting dressed and headed out into the morning air.

Brandon waved Jeff and I over to a campfire built in the middle of all the cabins, and we didn't waste any time. The sun hasn't been up for long, and even though it's the summer there is still a crisp chill in the air. I've never been camping before, and to be honest it was pretty damn awesome out here. The sounds of the city were non-existent, and the smell of nature filled my senses. Even the smoke blowing in my face, stinging my eyes, didn't seem to bother me much, as if all my problems just kind of disappeared. Pulled out of my kumbaya moment, Brandon started ribbing on me and Jeff. "Leave it to the new guys to sleep all day!" he exclaimed, causing both me and Jeff to look at him like he had two heads. "All of us were up bright and early at five, and you guys saunter out at nine. Geez Louise!" Ricky said as he joined in. Even Casey looked at us, shook his head, and made a gesture with his forefingers miming "Shame!" I was really confused now, there was no way I slept for six hours and woke up feeling this groggy. Jeff looked at me as if to ask for help, but I was just as lost. Casey was the first to crack, not being able to keep up the act. With everyone laughing at our expense, I chimed in. "Ha ha that was a good one." I said dripping with sarcasm. If that's the worst hazing here, we'll live.

Something about this scenario seemed amiss. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but it felt odd. Then it hit me. The only people I've seen today were my bunkmates. No guards, no adults for that matter. "Where is everyone? I haven't seen anyone but you guys. What about the guards?" I questioned. Ricky informed us that this place didn't have `guards' in the true sense. We had a couple different counselors, and of course Mark, who everyone here fondly refers to as `Brother Mark'. No sooner did Mark's name get mentioned, he came driving up in a beat up pickup truck. Climbing down from the driver's seat, he proceeded to hand out Hardee's bags and a cup of coffee to each of us. Mark sat down around the fire, and all six of us devoured our breakfast in complete silence. Finally with our bellies full, Mark asked how we slept. Jeff now satiated finally piped up for the first time. "I slept like a rock. Not bad for three hots and a cot, right? It could have been worse. I could have been the one to climb into bed with a perfect stranger at two something in the morning..." He went on to retell last night's events to Mark without even taking a breath between sentences. I guess I don't have to worry about Jeff and the shell he hides in any longer, dammit. Of course I would have to relive my cuddling up to Casey the night before.

"I was wondering what all the ruckus was about when I sent you in there. I didn't even know Casey had the ability to curse until you tried to deflower him." Mark said with a straight face. By this time everyone was in hysterics again at my expense. I suppose I had that coming. It felt good though. The atmosphere and comradery here was very welcoming, allowing me to let my guard down a bit. Mark told us to settle down and get serious, and it was like he flipped a switch. Instantly and obediently everyone went silent turning their attention over to him.

"Okay, guys, we've had our fun, now down to business. Normally we have both cabins here in the morning, but they are working in town for the week painting the school for the next session. I see that you've all been introduced, so we'll just move along. Here at T.I. we follow both rules and schedules. It's a little daunting at first, but you'll pick up the routine quickly. We attend school six days a week, no excuses outside of death or at least near death work. Trust me. We work six days a week, whether it be tasks assigned around the grounds here, or community service somewhere else. We survive without electricity, running water, etc. This isn't summer camp, we really are roughing it. If you want something special, you better be a good craftsman, `cause you'll have to make it. You will all learn how to cook meals, and we all take part in the duties here. I'm not here to babysit or stand guard. I'm a counselor in my office and my office only. Other than that, I'm out here right alongside of you. My beautiful wife Mary will be your instructor for classes, keep your eyes to yourself. No fighting, drugs, stealing, leaving the grounds without permission, or any other breach of common sense allowed. On Sundays, we worship. I don't care who or what you worship, but you will show thanks to whatever deity you choose. No exceptions. Any questions boys?"
The last part kind of threw me for a loop. I've never even thought about my higher power outside of using God as a scapegoat for everything that is wrong in my life, let alone thank him for anything. I know Jeff won't have any problem with the whole `deity' issue as I've overheard him both praying and thanking God more than once. Everything else sounds fine, I guess. I do feel bad for the others here at camp though. I've never cooked a day in my life and I don't know the first thing about it.
With an understanding from Jeff and me, Mark informed us that it is a day off for our cabin so that we can better acquaint ourselves, and learn the ropes. When Mark gave us the all clear, Ricky quickly volunteered to give us a tour, while both Brandon and Casey mumbled something and took off in different directions. The shifty eyes and nervousness of both boys told me there was more to the story, but I doubt it was any of my business. I do, however, believe I found the other two boys that Mark spoke of the night before. I hope me and Jeff aren't that obvious.

Without wasting any time Ricky wrapped his arms around our necks like ol' chums, and set off into the underbrush leading us to God knows where. "It's really not that bad here, ya know? I mean we could be locked up in Chicago, but instead we get work camp duties. There's not much down time, but it's cool. I hope ya'll don't expect a hot shower on tap, `cause it's a pain in the ass heatin' the water up and getting the pump workin', so we usually clean up in the lake." Just the thought of us all splashing around naked in the lake woke my imagination up a bit.

"You guys must be pretty chill to be put in cabin two, I hope you know." Ricky continued, "The guys in cabin one are real pricks sometimes thinkin' they're hot shit, ya' know? Always givin' Casey and Brandon a hard time for nothin'. They don't mess with me much, but they always get in trouble and get sent up the river, if ya' get my drift. Stay away from Tony, whatever you do. He's a few wanks short of an orgasm, and I ain't pissin' in your pocket, mate!" Even though I could only catch about half of what Ricky said through his Aussie dialect, his warning stuck to my mind like glue.

All in all there really wasn't much to see. Just some trees, a few trails, and some favored hiding spots that I will remember for later. Ricky informed us that we should head on down to the lake to catch a few fish for lunch while he gets the fire going, and I froze. I understood that the food here came from somewhere, and the way this place is ran it shouldn't have surprised me that we would have to gather it ourselves. The little bit of fish I've ever eaten disgusted me and I was a little disappointed because I had high hopes on at least a little better bit of cuisine here. On top of that I've never been fishing before. How hard can it be though? Jeff seemed excited at the prospect of fishing and readily scooped me up half jogging to the little shed by the lake where we were told the tackle was.

"I don't know about this babe. I've never fished before, and personally I hate eating anything that swims." I told Jeff. He just smiled and dismissed what I said without thinking twice. With two poles and a tackle box in hand Jeff skipped to the edge of the lake and quickly got to work getting hooks on the lines. He handed me a pole and gave me a quick instruction on how to cast. It looked easy enough, but like any first time city-slicker turned angler I failed miserably. The first time I cast, it ended up behind me, as well as tries two through ten. Jeff on the other hand has already caught six fish and is fighting his seventh. Frustrated, I threw my pole at the ground in defeat causing it to fall partially in the lake, and to my surprise, a fish got hooked and started swimming away with my pole! I dove to the edge and scooped it up while Jeff watched on, seemingly more excited than I was. I fought tooth and nail with the fish, and after about five minutes of wrestling with what I thought was a shark, I finally reeled in my catch. A five inch shiny little fish that Jeff informed me was a bluegill. I held up my prize like any proud fisherman, and for the first time in a long time I was proud of myself, even if my catch paled in comparison to the huge fish my better half was reeling in.

With the sun beginning to beat down on us we decided to head back to the main camp with our lunch in tow. Even though the fishing was rather boring, I found it rather calming allowing me to get out of my head for a while and simply relax. About halfway down the trail Brandon and Casey came out of a side trail and blushed to high heavens when they saw Jeff and me. It didn't seem like Jeff made the same observation that I have, and if he did, he hid it well. Me, on the other hand, shot an eyebrow up, and gave a knowing grin which made both of the guilty party squirm. Eventually I would want to approach the topic provided Jeff was comfortable with the idea, and I was simply laying down the ground work, trying to let them know it's all good in my book. It was no surprise when Brandon quickly found something else to talk about. "Damn guys! Look at those fish! We're eating good today." He said licking his lips.

Arriving back at camp, Ricky led Jeff over to a cabin that I suppose served as a kitchen to prepare the feast while I sat with Brandon and Chase around the fire pit. I'm seriously showing a lot of self-restraint because I really want to get the scoop on the two boy's relationship. Watching them interact was indescribable. Just the way they looked at each other and knew what the other person was thinking without a single word spoken told me they were truly bonded in a way I can only hope I reach with Jeff.
"So Nate, tell me, did you know Jeff out on the streets? He said you're both from the same area." Brandon inquired. I filled him in on how I met Jeff and a few of our antics while locked up. Nothing too personal, but I think I was blushing none-the-less. For every funny story I had about Jeff, Brandon matched me with one about Casey. The parallels were uncanny. Even Casey's facial expressions mirrored Jeff's while Brandon was telling me about how Casey once got attacked by a squirrel out on the trails. Much to Casey's relief, Jeff and Ricky came out of the kitchen cabin with freshly gutted and seasoned fish ready for the flames.

Watching Jeff prepare our meal was entertaining. For such a shy guy, he was sure barking orders making people prepare rice, cut lemons, set the table, and for me, getting the hell outta the way. I could tell he was in his element making sure everything was perfect with the flair of a five star chef. By the time everything was finished, all of us from cabin two were ready to dig in. If it tasted a fraction as good as it looked and smelled, I would take back everything bad I've said about seafood and eat fish for life.
Just as lunch was being served, Mark was driving up again with a woman in the cab of the truck. Brandon informed us that she was Marks wife, Mary. Ricky throwing in his two cents told us to keep our eyes to ourselves if we knew what was good for us. I must admit, she was very pretty. That must be torture for the straight fellows around here. Mark led her over to us and introduced Mary, who was also to be our teacher when we attend classes. She seemed like a very caring person, like a poster child for the Peace Corps. With both Mark and Mary joining us for lunch, we had just enough food. When Mark seen the meal that was made, he was shocked and he didn't hide it. "Okay, guys. I know Brandon and Casey didn't fix this, and Ricky, your good, but not this good. Looks like it's time to pass the torch to the next camp cook! Let's eat!"

While everyone attacked their plates like they haven't eaten in years, I poked my fish still scared to try it. Jeff, after seeing me being a wuss, reached over and squeezed some lemon on my portion promising me it would taste `less fishy'. Slowly I allowed my nibble sized bite to enter my mouth ready for the worst. Surprisingly it tasted pretty damn good! Jeff seemed pleased to know that he won both my heart and my stomach. Of course I was pleased to know I would never starve around Jeff. He seems to be a natural born cook. I wonder what other talents he has.

Mark was the first to excuse himself along with Mary. The married couple headed to Mark's office, accompanied by numerous cat calls and whistles as the boys couldn't pass up the opportunity. Mark rolled his eyes at our immature behavior and asked us to behave and stick together. Brandon pitched the idea to go swimming which sounds like a great idea. The Midwestern humidity is creeping right up with the heat and it would feel great to cool off a bit. As we headed off to the cabin to get changed I was a little disappointed that skinny dipping wasn't the norm around here.

All five of us goofed around in the summer sun all afternoon. The area where we went swimming was tucked away in a little cove a bit farther down from where we went fishing at. The water was perfectly clear and there was no telling how deep it was. There must have been a spring underneath. I looked at the cliff that ran along the side the spring with the urge to jump pulling at me. Jeff must have read my mind because he was on me like flies on shit begging me not to be a daredevil. With Jeff unable to convince me to stop, I climbed my way up to the top. Overlooking the lake below me I realized that I was much higher than I thought. With Jeff being the only person that knew I was up here everyone was surprised when I made my Geronimo announcement and dove off. It felt like it took a full minute to reach the water allowing me to fully take in the experience.

"Dude, your fucking nuts! That was awesome!!" Casey exclaimed. I'm pretty sure that was the first time I've heard him actually form full sentences since I've been here. Everyone else just stared at me like I was a mental case, but I didn't care. That jolt of adrenaline was well worth it. After my heart rate returned back to normal, I almost went a second time, but the hike from the first wore me out.

We swam until the sun began to set, completely forgetting the outside world. The crickets chirped along the narrow path in the trees. The boys that are more familiar with the trails zoomed ahead of me and Jeff, leaving us to fend for ourselves. I looked around and realized that this is the first time I've been in the woods after dark. A strange fear gripped me in an instant. Jeff's intuition picked up on my anxiety, and he instantly gripped my hand, instantly dropping my heart rate. Knowing that we were under the cover of darkness, I pulled Jeff into an advantageous kiss. It's only been a day and I've been missing his touch something terrible. A rustle of leaves broke us apart in an instant. I could barely make out a figure quickly walking away in the opposite direction. It was too dark to tell who it could be, but I highly doubt they missed what we were doing.
Frozen in place, Jeff just stood there slack jawed not wanting to believe that we just got caught on the first day at camp. I wonder who it could be. I already had my suspicion about Brandon and Casey, but I wasn't sure, but I don't think that was either of them anyways. It seems like where you find one, you find the other and our intruder was by himself. Ricky has given no hints one way or another if he'd give a shit either way, of course I'd rather it be him than a stranger from cabin one if they came back already. Knowing that stalling wasn't helping either way, I took Jeff's hand and led him towards camp ready to face the music.

We could smell the smoke from the fire and the voices of those scurrying around camp as we walked up. I kept an eye peeled for anyone acting like they were dying to get something off their chest with no results. It was still just the members of cabin two, Mark, and Mary. They were all busy getting dinner ready. Ricky was there ready to mock us for taking too long. He even drew a little map in the dirt being a smart ass. If he seen us, it obviously didn't faze him. That leaves either Brandon or Casey, and I'm kinda secretly hoping it was. That way maybe we could get all our chips on the table, and not have to hide so much. I saw Jeff was looking around too. The poor guy looks so guilty which in turn makes me feel guilty. Pushing the thoughts out of my head I sat down on a tree stump ready to chow down.

Dinner was nothing to call home about. We had barbequed brats, beans, and potato salad. It still beat the county jail's food though. Mark told us to relax for the rest of the evening and to savor it because free days like this don't come often. The way the other boys readily agreed told me I should follow his advice. We mainly just sat around the fire shootin' the shit about nothing at all and reminiscing about life `out there' beyond the trees. I had a feeling I was going to get really close to these guys in the upcoming months. It's been less than twenty four hours and they already feel like extended family, and that's a lot for a person coming from a broken home. We all swapped horror stories about how we ended up coming here. Ricky and I pretty much had the same story; fights and other petty shit. Brandon actually set his parent's house on fire and oddly enough he showed absolutely no remorse. I'm sure there is more to that story than we've been given, but it's none of my business. Casey didn't really join in the conversation, then again I really didn't expect him to. He just sat there absorbing what everyone said. Finally it was Jeff's turn, and I was secretly kicking myself for not changing the subject before the spotlight landed on my babe. He played it cool though, saying there was a lot of drama with his abusive father and that he snapped. That seemed to satisfy curious minds for the time being.

With that crisis averted, the topic switched to music when Jeff told everyone about me singing in the shower. Almost at once everyone started pressuring me to sing. Even Casey shot me puppy dog eyes and pouty lips, but that didn't work on me, at least coming from him it didn't. I think Jeff did that just to get back at me for letting him get thrown under the bus just moments ago. Before I knew it Ricky jumped up and knocked on Mark's cabin. When he came back he was carrying an acoustic guitar. I could see where this was going a mile away. This is what I get for singing in the shower, dammit. Before I was able to protest yet again, Ricky surprised me by handing the guitar to Casey. I guess secretly I wanted to be the center of attention, now feeling stupid that this obviously has nothing to do with me. Casey though? He seems scared of his own shadow and now he's going to perform for us?

Casey scooped up the guitar, picked a little bit while making sure it was in tune, and finally looked up to see if we were ready. Of course we looked at him with anticipation wondering what we were going to hear. Ricky hopped up and told him to `hang on'. Ricky went to the cabin and grabbed two noticeably hand-crafted drum sticks and an empty five gallon bucket. "Now we're ready" Ricky said while pounding on the homemade drum with the finesse of a veteran. Now I get why they call him beats. He made the cheap one drum set sound like Travis Barker himself was playing them.

As if nature knew its cue, the moonlight peaked through the clouds illuminating only Casey as he began to strum a melody slowly on the cheap guitar. Just the notes themselves gave me goose bumps. It wasn't until he opened his voice that I was truly awestruck. He was singing this song by a band named `Fun' that I'd heard a time or two. Adding in Ricky's drumming they sounded epic. Casey's silent and shy demeanor disappeared and a confident young vocalist emerged flawlessly.
As the song ended Jeff and I were definitely amazed. There was absolutely no way that what we just witnessed actually just happened. Jeff seemed so comforted by the music that he weaseled his way closer to me and didn't even seem to notice that he was resting his head on my shoulder. I didn't even care myself. We'd already been caught once tonight, and at this moment I felt comfortable enough around my new found comrades as it is. They didn't seem like the type to give a damn about it, especially if my theory was right about two of the three.

Brandon was the first to notice. Out of the corner of my eye I seen him nudge Casey with his elbow and whisper something in his ear. Casey looked back at him and shrugged. "Um... guys..." Brandon started, "I know ya'll just got here and all, but seeing you two all cozy, um..." Jeff shot his head up now realizing what he was doing. "I mean... don't be uncomfortable!" he continued, "Casey and I, well, we're close too ya' know? If you don't judge us, we won't judge you is all I'm sayin'." Brandon was sweating profusely. As if to prove his point, he held on to Casey's hand.

"I take it this isn't news to Ricky," I said. Ricky just shook his head no and said "naw, they don't hide it well. Neither do you two blokes either. Cabin one isn't here right now, but if they were and caught you two on the trail like I did, ya'll would have been up shit creek. Gotta' be careful, bro! I warned ya' for a reason!" I breathed a sigh of relief and Jeff rested his head back down. "Speak of the devils!" Ricky exclaimed to the sight of a pair of headlights rising up the driveway to camp. It looks like cabin two is finally making their arrival. I am not looking forward to this meeting at all.

Ricky, Casey, and Brandon hopped up grabbing their things and headed to the cabin. Taking their cue, me and Jeff too began the walk to the cabin. Not really wanting to find out what all the fuss was all about, we tried to be invisible, but that was shattered as soon as I heard my name called out. "NATE! Is that you?!?" a voice called out in the dark. When the person came into view I couldn't believe it. My luck seriously sucks. "Anthony, funny seeing you here." I answered while pulling him off to the side. "Dude, seriously. Just stay clear of me and I'll do the same!" I whispered. "We'll get through this camp and go our separate ways. Don't think about fucking this up for me or I will END you, got that?"

"Relax, bro. I won't start nothin' that doesn't need starting. Your secrets safe for now faggot. Maybe those pretty little lips will come in handy around here bitch" Anthony sneered back. I turned and walked back into the cabin quietly cursing to myself. This cannot be happening to me again. As I prepped my bed for the night, Jeff looked at me with concern. I shrugged it off and just shook my head not wanting to talk about it right now. Ricky's previous advice was pounding in my head like a siren; "Stay away from Tony, whatever you do...." he warned. I don't think I'll have a choice in the matter. I'm stuck in hell with the man that outed his own brother and me....