15 And Life To Go - Chapter 5
By: Brian Barnes
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Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction involving teenagers in adult situations. If this offends you, please do not continue.
Throughout the night my body just refused to sleep. All I could think about was that beautiful boy beneath me that I stupidly shunned all afternoon for absolutely no reason whatsoever. I mean, so what? He talked to a boy. Hell, he might have even thought he was cute. It even sounds like this Brent character may have been into Jeff as well. None of that means anything because the first thing Jeff did was tell me and I never even allowed him to explain or anything. How can I allow my dumbass brain get in the way of the best thing that’s ever happened to me? I spent fifteen years building a wall around my heart and soul but it took Jeff less than a week to tear it into pieces. I’ll be damned if I didn’t pick up the tools and start rebuilding the barrier at the first sign of trouble.
Sometime after midnight I decided I had to do something. I was going insane with guilt and worry and I could hear Ricky turn over every time I let out a pitiful sigh. After what he did to Tony’s bunkmate, I really don’t want to piss him off. Hopping off the bed, I grabbed my pen and paper, swiped the cabin’s lantern and walked out to the fire pit to put words to my thoughts. With the embers beginning to turn to a fine ash and the crickets humming along to their own tune I let the words flow without bothering to stop and think. I had to let Jeff know what I was thinking when I was being a complete dip-shit, and so far he’s not talking to me so it looks like a written apology will have to do.
I re-started my letter professing both my love and stupidity time and time again, but my thoughts kept getting in the way. The rising mound of crumbled papers catching fire served as a reminder of how much I fucked up, and how hard it is to make it up to Jeff. Frustrated, I threw the notepad down and put my head on my knees in desperation. Just when I was damn near ready to start thowin’ shit Mark came out of his little den. I figured I was more than likely in trouble for not being in the cabin after lights out. Mark simply walked over and put his kettle on the coals and warmed his hands on the little inferno of failure I had built. I looked at him and waited for something; a lecture, a joke, anything, but he just stood there and smiled gently. Finally, I couldn’t take it. He was just standing there all chill.
“Well?!?” I said. Mark just grunted out a “Well, what? You’re the one out here pulling his hair out, ya know. I just want some cocoa. You know, when the youth director Brent asked if you guys wanted to be in the choir, he was just being a youth director you know? Jeff was only worried because he referred to you as his boyfriend, and he didn’t want to upset you by telling other people. He was just caught up in the moment talking about you guys and some band ya’ll are coming up with. You really don’t need to worry, Jeff loves you so much it makes me sick. Besides, when I look in the mirror I feel ugly, but when I see Brent, well, I feel lucky! Okay that was just being mean for your benefit, but you get what I’m saying?” It was amazing. Mark made me feel like total shit, then turned around and made me feel awesome in the same sentence. Before I could thank him, Mark had already pulled the kettle off the fire and headed off back to his cabin without ever making his cocoa. I know he just used it as an excuse to come out and talk me down off the ledge, but he totally endeared himself to me. This place just continues to surprise the hell out of me. With a renewed vigor I started my next and final draft of my note to the boy I want to spend the rest of my life with.
I didn’t know how to express myself, and you don’t seem to want to talk but I have to let you know how sorry I am. We both know I’m pretty stupid when it comes to common sense sometimes and me walking away from you without giving you a chance to explain anything to me was horrible. I don’t think I will ever understand what you see in me. I’m waiting for the day you look at me, the real me and realize that I’m not worth saving. Honestly babe, I am scared to death. I’m afraid of the future of us and what will happen when we leave this place. I’m not even fully convinced that at some point I’m not going to wake up alone in a jail cell back in county and realize that this was all just a dream.
I guess what I’m trying to say is you’re a good guy, perfect in fact and everyone can see it, except for you. People like you go on and visit the world and run fortune 500 companies and marry equally successful people. People like me, we live in squalor, hustle money on the streets, and, well, end up in prison when we get caught. In my world, luck and chance is bought and bartered, yet with you it was just handed to me so it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the past week. Forgive me for being confused and a bit naïve, but all I know is I love you and I don’t want to lose you. When you walked up and told me about your conversation with that Brent dude, I knew you were hiding something. I could see it in your eyes, and it broke my heart. I thought you had ‘seen the light’ and I did the only thing I know to do, and that was run from the truth. I don’t think I could bear to look in your eyes let alone hear you say the words that you found another man. The bad thing is, I trust you one hundred percent and deep down I knew nothing had happened, but based on my “luck” I feared for the worst. Please forgive me Jeff! You’re the only reason for me to be walking this Earth anymore and without your smiling face there with me I’m incomplete. You’re my angel and I need you.
Tears were streaming down my face as I signed the bottom of the letter. Jeff means everything to me and hopefully I was able to convey my thoughts on paper as such. When Jeff told me that he didn’t want to talk earlier, it tore my heart in two. His beautiful blue eyes looked more like ice chips, his stare was even colder, and it was all my fault. Never again, I vowed, will I ever second guess my Jeffy. For some reason he sees me as number one in his book so I should see to it that I can keep that label with dignity, and maybe one day I could see the same things that he found in me. It’s no question that I’ve pretty much changed overnight, and undoubtedly it was Jeff’s influence that seemingly turned me into a saint. Hell, I’m sure most people that know me would call it a miracle and demand actual sainthood for lil’ ol’ Jeffy.
Now that my mind can finally be put to rest, I packed up my supplies and stretched realizing I must have been out here for a good hour or two with my time to sleep dwindling with each passing moment. I raked the coals so that they would extinguish quicker and headed off to my cabin. Halfway across the campgrounds a movement out of the corner of my eye alerted me. Sneaking a glance I spotted a bruised face in the window of cabin one watching me with a rather somber look on his face. Upon closer inspection I could see the face belonged to none other than Tony himself. It looks like his cabin mates must have turned on him and gave him a little jail-house justice for getting them locked up all week. As much as I detest Tony and everything he stands for, a pang of guilt still escaped my emotionally weakened heart somehow leading me to extend a courteous head nod in his direction. Although it was an extremely small gesture, Tony still caught it and responded with a pained smile and disappeared reminding me for a moment of the old Tony before Karl and me were found out. Somewhere underneath his self-built wall of fury still existed a kind young man, but I personally didn’t have the energy nor the desire to seek it out of him. He made his bed now he must live with it and that guilt will never rest on my shoulders.
Back in my cabin, I put the lantern away and scurried over to Jeff’s belongings quickly stuffing the note in his shoe. With Jeff’s stuff in my hands the scent of my baby boy washed over me pulling all the thoughts of the previous day back to the front of my mind. I had to laugh at myself once I realized what I was doing... smelling Jeff’s shoes to remind me how shitty I was today. I set his little sneakers down nicely and made my way to my bunk, but not before I stopped and took in the boy that stole my heart. He was sleeping with a permanent frown on his face yet he still looked at peace in his slumber. Knowing that I had to get at least a couple of hours sleep in before I faced the day, I leaned down and stole a quick kiss. Like a light switch his frown reversed and my Jeff was happy again.
For those that have never been in the military and had to endure waking up to revelry in the morning, let me tell ya! Apparently I was not properly informed of all the consequences and punishments that go on here at Camp Hell. Here I was swimming in the ocean soaking up the rays one minute and the next I was leaping out of bed half-dressed thinking the sky was falling and the world was about to end only to realize that someone decided to give Ricky a damn bugle to wake my ass up! What made matters worse? The fucker could still play the damn thing as he was running away from me causing my mostly naked ass to fly out into the cold morning air after him with the entire camp, Mary included, cheering him on. Ricky’s a pretty bulky dude, but with me being bare-foot he easily out ran me causing me to simply fall over from exhaustion. Without hesitation, revelry turned into a slow taps mocking my defeat and causing everyone to double over laughing their asses off. Licking my wounds I sauntered back into our hut to get properly dressed and hide the shame that I just brought down on myself.
As I walked in the cabin the door slammed shut behind me and Jeff pushed me in the corner smashing his lips onto mine. I could barely breathe with the onslaught that Jeff brought against me, but I didn’t care. Apparently my little letter did the trick! With the way Jeff’s hands were exploring my body I was quickly aroused which left me frustrated when he stopped his lovely assault. Jeff had a shit-eating grin as he slowly backed away knowing he had me wrapped around his finger at that point. He started walking to his bunk, but not before he gave me a stern warning; “Babe, if you ever make me go to bed angry at you again, blue balls will be the least of your worries! Go get dressed, we’re late for breakfast.” So all of that was punishment... huh. I never thought I’d be into pain for pleasure but if that’s how he dishes out punishments, I’m game all day.
I still hadn’t moved yet when Jeff asked me if I had seen his shoes. Shit! That means he never read the note and all that was just Jeff being Jeff! I don’t know why I’m worried. It’s not like it said anything bad or anything, but now I really feel like an idiot. Not only did I not trust him with the whole “Brent thing”, but I couldn’t even trust him to work through my bull shit with me without having to go all self-loathing sappy-note-writing on him. I could see him through the bunk beds slowly reading my writing with an increasing frown appearing across his face. When he finished reading it, he carefully folded it up and placed it neatly in his footlocker and jogged past me out of the cabin. I swear I’m gonna choke that boy. I’m usually pretty good at reading people, but Jeff? Not a chance! He just strutted by with absolutely no emotion whatsoever. That boy is driving me insane...
Breakfast for me was cold scrambled eggs and coffee. At least Brandon was nice enough to save me seconds otherwise I probably would have starved. I barely had a chance to clean up my mess before Mark told all of us to hop in the bed of the truck. As we headed down the trails I asked if anyone knew where we were going, but nobody had a clue. All Ricky said was that we must have a detail in town somewhere, but couldn’t figure out what it could be because we had no tools or lawnmowers. Before long we breezed right through town without stopping causing all of us to be stumped, except for Jeff. He seemed to know where we were headed and wasn’t about to tip any of us off.
A few miles down the road a rather large church sat off on a hill all by itself. It seemed strange to have a church way out here in the middle of the countryside, but it all made sense now. When Jeff talked to that Brent assh.., erm, I mean guy, he must have volunteered all of us. Pulling up in the parking lot, the rear of the truck was buzzing with a bit of excitement. Our work day sounds like it might end up being a day of play if we can get away with it. A younger guy came out to meet us, and based on his looks I deduced that this must be the famous Brent. Mark was right, I had no reason to worry. For a man so dedicated to God and the cause he sure looks like he got short changed in the looks department. Of course while he’s in Heaven for his deeds, I’ll probably be in Hell just for thinking that.
After the introductions were made Mark warned us all to mind our manners and act like humans rather than heathens while he rode into town for some errands. Walking through the main doors of the chapel I was half expecting to see rainbow flags and a flamboyant, and not to mention well dressed, welcoming committee but from what I saw it was your run of the mill church. Brent went on to explain how everyone is welcome here and absolutely no judgments are passed based on race, orientation, etc. He also mentioned that Mark informed him that we are in need of volunteer work and asked if we would like to help out the youth ministry with their projects, which we readily agreed. We didn’t even bother to ask what kind of work we would be involved in, but the prospect of working with other teens was a much welcomed change. Hell, for Ricky it might even mean meeting a lovely little lady so we could stop worrying about his love life.
While Brent led us down a corridor towards the rectory and parish center he finished up his little speech telling us how Jeff informed him of our ‘insane musical talent’ and our wish to form a band. I guess I was the only one of us outside of Jeff that knew that little tidbit of information, because Casey, Brandon, and Ricky had a questioning look on their faces. Brent told us that they had a youth choir, but it wasn’t very big, and no one knew how to play any of the instruments that had been donated a year ago. When he showed us into the music room we were like kids in a candy store. They had the whole setup. Drums, guitars, a few keyboards, and entire set of brass instruments. Ricky didn’t even bother to ask. He parked it at the drums and went to town. It was obvious that he’s probably been playing the majority of his life. He abruptly stopped his racket and practically begged Brent to have a jam session which he readily agreed to.
While Brandon and Casey both picked up guitars and plugged then in, Jeff and I took a seat off to the side. After a quick mic check Ricky counted off and Casey led them through the same song they played the other night, except for this time they played with proper instruments. I mean, I thought they sounded good at the camp fire, but this was ridiculous! People would definitely pay to hear these guys play. By the time they finished up, Brent was looking around the floor for his jaw and all the people who happened to be in the parish center all came in and listened. An applause finished off their song as everyone was spellbound. The three boys didn’t seem to notice, or were just being bashful, but either way they were absolute naturals.
The applause eventually subsided and before anybody could react or say anything he called Jeff and me over for ‘our turn’. Casey pretty much ordered me to sing the Jason Mraz song, “I Won’t Give Up” I was singing when we picked up trash. Jeff told us he knew the words so we took our place at the microphone for a little duet. I was nervous as hell and it showed. Jeff didn’t seem too bad, though. If he was nervous he surly wasn’t showing it. Without warning, Casey started strumming again and after a little rocky of a beginning Jeff and I found our groove and performed what I believe was a perfect song for us to sing together. Once the song hit its peak, Jeff took over and belted out the most heartfelt tune I think I’ve ever heard. With tears in my eyes, we finished the song and I couldn’t stop myself from planting a wet one on my beautiful boy.
It wasn’t until the sounds of applause reached our ears that we remembered where we were at. I tried to remain calm, but it still ended up with me yanking away from Jeff in a panic. When I saw the onlookers they didn’t look at us with disgust like I thought they would, rather they seemed to be touched with the love they felt in the room and embraced it with caring looks on their faces.
An older gentleman walked over and introduced himself as Father Tim. The minister was in his thirties with gentle features. I can’t really say he was really ‘priest-like’ but seemed more like an average Joe, especially with him standing here in jeans and a tee-shirt. When he spoke, he didn’t seem like he was talking to ‘his flock’ but more like we were his equals; “Gentlemen, what a wonderful surprise you brought here today! These instruments have been sitting here collecting dust for quite some time now, who would have thought the cabins in the hills held so much talent! Brent here told me to be ready for a few visitors from the compound, and I’m not going to lie I was a little weary, but wow! I know kids your age aren’t too keen hanging around a church all the time, but if you’d accept I would like to invite you guys here as much as you would like and grace these halls with those beautiful notes you play. That is, if your, um, your, uh, warden? Is that the word? Well whoever he is, I’d like to meet with him and see if I could use your company around here. I think it would do you guys some good, plus the world deserves to hear you guys! How does that sound?”
Needless to say, we were all ecstatic at the thought of not only being trapped at the camp all day but also getting to form the band as well? That would be awesome! The only question, though, will Mark go for it? It would get us out of his hair a lot, unless he can’t leave us here alone. He didn’t seem to have much of a problem with it today though. Either way I won’t complain. It is supposed to be punishment and prison and all, so whatever we do is good with me. Besides, I’m sure rocking out here we’d be forced to perform hymns instead of songs. As if to answer my question, Father Tim told us that while we could sing on Sundays at mass, all the other time can be spent on our material as long as it’s decent and clean.
Our little celebration was cut short with Mark returning to bring us back to camp for classes. I doubt he knew what he was walking into when he seen all five of us giving him puppy dog eyes. Father Tim rescued our poor leader and shuffled him off into the hall to have a word with him while we stayed inside holding our breath. It wasn’t long before Mark called for us and we headed to the truck without a single word spoken about our offer. As we hopped in the back of the truck we all were all on pins and needles and wondering why Mark didn’t say anything. I can’t say I really blame him. Five teenagers could be a real handful with something like this, and the less said about it, the more in control of us he was.
The smell of lunch was wafting all the way down the driveway as we pulled back up to camp. With cabin one on lock down and all five of us at the church all day, which left Mary at the camp to prepare lunch and whatever she made smelled wonderful. It turns out that she spent the morning preparing campfire pizzas, a concoction I’d never heard of. Whoever came up with the idea was a genius. The crust took on a smoky flavor and it was absolutely delicious!
Now that our bellies were full, we were promptly herded up into the hills to attend our classes. Poor Mary didn’t stand a chance at having our full attention on our lessons because it seems as if all of our heads were in the clouds. I could tell she was getting increasingly annoyed with us. She finally snapped and literally threw the book at us. We were supposed to be studying math and apparently she asked Casey what two plus two was and he was clueless. I think we all were because I too didn’t hear the question. If she wasn’t so mad it would have been funny because her voice got all high pitched and she was hopping around pumping her fists.
Jeff managed to calm her down a little bit by apologizing for all of us and explaining what’s on all of our minds. She seemed to have at least went from a full boil to a simmer as she told us she was happy but warned us not to get our hopes up too much. She reminded us that we are wards of the state, and even though Mark gives us as much freedom as he possibly can when we deserve it that sometimes his hands are tied with things like this. She also brought up something I think none of us even gave a passing glance to. If we are able to do this, we more than likely will have to include the entire camp, not just the five of us. With that one bit of information all hope that we held disappeared into thin air.
With all of our dreams deflated Mary was able to continue on with her lesson, even if it meant we were mopey little creatures now. Walking back down the trail after class Ricky was the first to break down. He picked up a log as thick as my head and started beating up on a defenseless tree with it calling out four letter words the entire time. He was pissed that every time something good happens in camp that cabin one is there to fuck it up. I for one agree with him, but I doubt beating the bark off a tree was going to solve anything. Brandon and Casey didn’t really say anything about the matter. Rather, they quietly consoled one another through their disappointment.
At about the halfway point Jeff pointed out the obvious solution to everything that none of us seemed to notice. “Guys! This could be a good thing, K? Figure this... cabin one hates us, most of them for absolutely no reason; just because Tony told them to. All we have to do is be cooler than Tony, and they’ll be with us instead of him and with him on his own team alone he’d have no choice but to conform to the rest of us!” We all stopped and stared at Jeff. How stupid could we be? This could be our golden ticket! As we talked out our plan I felt kinda bad. When I saw Tony looking out the window last night I could tell he was already alone in that cabin. Maybe this could be a way for that fucker to become human again, who knows? I debated whether or not to tell the others what I saw, but ultimately kept the information to myself. If Tony truly has a decent bone in his body, our plan will show it. At least now we can go to Mark and tell him that this would be a good way to get over our differences. The only scary part.... I’m not sure even God could straighten out that boy, but I don’t see any harm in trying. We decided that after dinner we would pitch the idea and go to bed praying that it didn’t fall on deaf ears.
It seemed like time was moving extremely slow from that point on. All of us sat around talking to pass the time and right when it seemed as if we were going to run out of conversation pieces the dinner bell was rung and we went flying. The food barely hit the plates before it was devoured. It took us a total of five minutes to eat our pulled pork meal and clean up the mess, at which point we surrounded an unsuspecting Mark. He wasn’t even able to take a single bite of food before we had him cornered. After he informed us why it would be a hard decision due to the other cabin’s involvement we laid out our plan. Mark’s response was simple; “Do you really think this will bring the two cabins together?,” a quick affirmative from us, and “If I pull them out here and ask them right now and they say yes and wave the white flag should their lockdown be over?” The last one got us thinking. Everyone looked at me like I held the ultimate answer. Impulsively I said “Fuck it, let’s do this!”
One by one, the members of cabin one came out to hear what we had to say. At first they were surprised to be included. Surprise turned to excitement when they heard the whole thing. The only person that remained emotionless was of course Tony. I took a cue from Mark and pulled him off to the side and asked him to walk with me. My mates were a bit apprehensive about me being alone with Tony, but if we are going to do this, we’re gonna do it right. Out of earshot of everyone else we sat down with me starting off.
“Tony, you don’t like me and I don’t have much to say for you but we are both stuck here. Obviously you lost a few friends the other night and this is just us all trying to get along. You don’t have to like me or who I ‘choose’ to date to be a part of this. Can’t we just bury the hatchet once and for all and just get through this?” I tried my best to hide my anger and be a reasonable dude. What I didn’t expect was the look Tony was giving me. It wasn’t hate or resentment. It was the same look he was sporting when he was looking out the window last night. Hollow is the only word I can place for it. He mumbled out “sure” and weakly shook my hand before he walked back with his head hanging. That didn’t go at all like I had planned. Tony was acting like I just killed his puppy, wonder what that was all about? I didn’t care either way. We got what we wanted and it didn’t look like Tony was going to be a problem anymore so I could sleep easy tonight.
With sleep on the brain and my lack thereof, I dragged Jeff into our cabin for a little bit of one on one time before I passed out from exhaustion. Even though both of us seriously wanted to shed each other’s clothing and make like animals we kept it simple. I told Jeff that I loved him and I was sorry about all the drama from the past day. Jeff being the sweet boy he is tucked me in and told me all was forgotten. He stayed there until I fell asleep never answering my questioning mind. I guess I’ll never know how I had gotten this lucky....
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