15 And Life To Go - Chapter 7
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.
I was the first of us to wake up on Tuesday morning. This place must have trained me quick; before I came here I was never up before the sun. Deciding to make the best of this little bit of solitude, I threw on a pair of sweats and decided to hit the trail for a quick jog before breakfast. I’ve never really been into running much, but I’m thinking that was all the weed and beer slowing me down. Plus it’s been about three weeks without a cigarette. With Jeff around I haven’t really thought much about my addictions, except for one that is. It was decided that we could both wait through this camp without trying for sex, but I haven’t even been here a week and I’m dying here. It’s to the point now that every time Jeff smirks just a little bit I almost cream myself. Hopefully exerting a little energy will take my mind off of things.
The air outside today was rather crisp with a nice breeze keeping the summer heat in check. With the past couple days in the upper nineties, the cooler temperatures was a nice change. Before I could change my mind and allow my weak will to get the best of me I took off down the main trail leading up into the bluffs. The first leg of my journey in the woods was of course easy. My body was rested and my mind clear as I my cheap sneakers hit the dirt. However, being the green jogger that I am I refused the tiny stich in my side any attention and before long I was pretty sure I was gonna die! I barely reached the school area which, if I had to guess, was probably a mile from camp but felt like forty. Unable to go any further I collapsed into a heap of sweat and uninvited tears. I felt better since I stopped, but how in the hell was I going to muster the will to get back? I still had plenty of time, as the sun still hasn’t risen much, so I decided to kick back and watch the waves for a few while my heart rate returned to normal.
Alone with my thoughts yet again my mind flashed back to my conversation with Tony. I’m currently confused by the man. One minute he was ready to kick ass and take names then a short couple of days later he’s completely introverted and docile. Everyone knows that he cannot be trusted, but I keep getting this nagging feeling like I’m missing something. Of course there is that off chance that we are all wrong and Tony has finally been beat into submission and won’t cause any more troubles for us. I’ve known the guy for years and I’ve never once seen his confidence waiver, especially when he’s pretty much getting called out on something. Either way, he’s still the asshole that almost got his kid brother killed. How he can sleep at night, I don’t know.
I was laying on my stomach half propped up on my elbows tossing pebbles over the edge of the cliff when I was pulled out of thought by a voice. “Nathaniel! Great day to nap in the grass, eh?” Mark called out. If I wasn’t so tired, I probably would have jumped out of my skin and into the cold lake below. Before I could even react, Mark walked over and plopped down next to me with his feel hanging over the ridge. “What’s got you up so early kiddo?” He inquired.
“I dunno.” I answered reluctantly. “I woke up early and decided to jog off my worries and all. I got this far and my legs quit on me so I figured I’d sit here and think a bit. I’m not in trouble, am I?”
“Well, I’m surprised to have found you away from your cabin but if the worst you’re going to do is exercise and contemplate life I suppose I can let it slide this time. Next time, just put a note on my window or something, okay? Now, I did want to talk to you anyway, so I guess now is as good a time as any. Last night I was pleasantly surprised to see how all of you handled yourselves maturely, especially you Nate. You could have just left things where they were, but for you to speak with Anthony privately was a step above what I expected. I know you are probably waiting for him to catch you by surprise, but I think there is a small possibility this little idea you kids cooked up might just work. Originally we had planned on splitting you and Jeff up so the cabins wouldn’t be so stacked against each other, but when I met you two I changed my mind. I thank the Lord I did, too. The five of ya’ll just naturally seem to work together and it’s a positive influence for everyone here as you can see. I’ve seen many boys come through here all with a different attitude and outlook. Some just do the bare minimum, some kids act like they are trying hard to get an early release and hit the road with the same attitude that got them locked up in the first place, and every once in a while we get a kid deemed a ‘lost cause’ that surprises the hell out of everyone. It is too early to tell, but you, my friend, are well on the way to knocking our socks off. Keep up the good work, and hell, just keep doing what you’re doing now for the rest of your life and you’ll be set!”
Mark concluded his little pep talk with an obligatory back pat and invited me to race him back to camp. I of course declined, instead opting for a nice slow nature walk. He agreed and we headed back letting the smell of breakfast lead the way.
By the time we got back, camp was full of activity as all the other boys prepared for the day ahead. To my surprise a few of the boys from cabin one were actively helping Jeff and Ricky with breakfast while Brandon and Casey sat with a third kid, whose name I did not know. The only people missing were Tony and that Jack kid that Ricky knocked out a few nights ago. When Jeff seen me he literally skipped over to me and damned near knocked me over with a bear hug. I guess he was worried when he woke up and I was nowhere to be found. Instinctively I gave him a quick kiss without realizing it that I pretty much outted us to the other half of camp. Realizing my mistake, I quickly looked up hoping my gesture of love hadn’t been caught by anyone else but I was too late. All three of the teens from cabin one were frozen in shock. Ricky again quickly came to our rescue asking if there was a problem, which was answered with three nervous head shakes. With the fear of Ricky taking care of business yet again, the trio hurriedly continued their work ending the drama before it could start.
Breakfast was served causing Jack and Tony to come out of hiding. I guess neither one of them felt welcome enough to join the crowd while the meal was being prepared. While they were walking over, the other three boys that have yet revealed their names introduced themselves. They could have been brothers by the way they all looked alike. How I would be able to tell them apart was beyond me, but I learned that their names were Eric, Henry, and Blake. They seemed normal enough, I suppose. If we would have met under different circumstances I bet we would have become friends real quick, but of course Tony had to fuck up everyone’s mojo. Either way, for the first time since we became residents of this fine facility all the members were present all at once, finally getting along or at least tolerating one another.
The conversation around the campfire remained neutral as be began to get to know each other outside of the battlegrounds. As it turned out Eric and Blake really are brothers and their parents are supposedly independently wealthy. I have a sneaking suspicion that they made a nice ‘donation’ to get their two trouble-making boys into a place like this. Outside of their terribly snobbish demeanor they were actually pretty cool when they weren’t trying to prove they were better than you. Henry, on the other hand, was very submissive and seemed as if he couldn’t make his own decision if it saved his life. I always felt sorry for people like that. I mean, a person could have absolutely nothing to their name and be totally unpresentable, but with the right attitude and confidence he could fool anybody. Take Henry, though, an attractive kid in his prime and he doesn’t feel worthy enough to do anything. I’m willing to bet that whatever he got locked up for wasn’t his idea, and whoever else was involved didn’t get into trouble. Yup, that’s Henry in a nutshell; the chronic scapegoat.
Since the schedule is being changed to fit in our new volunteer work, both cabins were to attend classes together today. I get the feeling that our little group of five just doubled permanently. I hope we knew what we were doing when we consolidated the groups ‘cause if we didn’t, we’re screwed. Now, as it seems, the ‘good guys’ group grew to eight, with both Jack and Tony still ostracized, but for different reasons. Tony is still licking his wounds and wallowing in self-pity, while Jack seems to have had his ego explode on him for some reason. I could almost see the wheels turning in his head. Now that Tony has been knocked off his throne, the seat is empty. He’s going to try to claim the seat as his but hopefully he’s too late. I imagine that he is going to try and rope Tony into doing something epically stupid to try and bring us down and if I’m right it brings a major flaw to our plan.
Classes for the day were a bit livelier than normal. Mary seemed to be pleased to teach a larger more active group. The discussion for the day was conveniently human rights, and what they meant to us. We all squabbled on the intricacies of freedoms of religion, freedom of speech, oh and you should have heard us complain about the right to bear arms. As convicted felons, we are not allowed to possess firearms for at least the next seven years. This didn’t seem to please about half of the group. It wasn’t until we reached the ninth amendment that things got interesting. I could see that Mary was trying to avoid the subject, but she was double teamed by the quiet members of the group. Casey was the first to step up to the plate wondering why he couldn’t marry even though it was clear in the bill of rights that the government was more of a declaration of our freedoms rather than a tool used to ‘protect the sanctity of marriage.’ Of course this opened up a whole can of worms with the debate split right down the middle.
Brandon, Ricky, and I were all on the ‘gay’ side of the issue but kept our mouths shut to avoid things getting blown out of proportion, but Jeff being Jeff had to stand up and put his two cents in talking about how the majority of us are from broken homes and products failed marriages which we all agreed on. He then begged the question on why he couldn’t marry a guy if it meant that he could raise a child in a loving home. Eric and Blake refuted the claim, based on them being from a loving home. They did however say that there was nothing wrong with ‘the gays’ but marriage simply didn’t make sense because we couldn’t have kids like ‘normal people.’ Tony remained quiet throughout even though you could see it was killing him to hear the debate and not join in. Jack just about blew a gasket when Henry said that we were all created in God’s likeness and it was up to God who we marry and not on a human being’s interpretation of ancient text, especially when marriage is a law and there is a separation of church and state. That was, in my opinion, the best argument on the table. By that point Jack was red in the face with a vein popping out of the side of his head ready to swing. He jumped up like he was going to sock poor Henry in the face, but never got the chance. As quick as he went up, he hit the ground. At first glance it looked like he tripped over his own feet, but I knew better. I saw Tony stick his foot out as soon as Jack’s ass came off of his little tree stump. Nobody else seemed to have noticed, and Tony’s good deed went unseen to the best of his knowledge. Now I am stuck once again with a reason to defend Tony, dammit.
Mary ended the lesson after getting us all cooled down, and the minute she dismissed us Jack tore through the trees in a huff to get away from the group. I already knew that Tony had a screw loose, but knowing how he grew up at least gave him a reason. Jack’s situation is much different, and it seems as if he might be one of those redneck over-evangelical diehards that won’t let it rest until he gets his way. That is the only kind of person I’ve ever really been scared to know my orientation. When you read a news story about a murdered homosexual there is always an obscure church mentioned in the article and they always seem to have extremist views. For some reason everyone else just went on their merry way seemingly without giving Jack’s behavior a second glance. As for me, I’ll probably have nightmares thinking about how he’s going to tie me up and beat me to death in “God’s name.”
I wasn’t about to let anyone, including a crazed homophobe, destroy my mood. Everything in the world was right, and I was happy just to be walking along Jeff through the trees on a great day in the sun. You know, I could really get used to living in the outdoors. It’s been a while since I’ve watched television or thought about a computer and so far I haven’t felt like I’ve missed much. While the rest of the group forged on ahead, I decided to take the opportunity to have a quick five minutes with my boyfriend in privacy for a change. He must have been on the same wavelength because I didn’t have to say a word before we both turned around and walked back the way we came.
“Jeff *kiss* I don’t *kiss* know how long *kiss...kiss* I can hold on before *kisssss* I burst!” I exclaimed, knowing full well that the lump in his pants agreed. I’ve personally racked my brain about a million times trying to figure out how to get some extended privacy, but I just can’t see it happening.
“Nate, we’ll live. Next time you clean up in the lake take care of it. That’s what I do!” Jeff informed me. I don’t think I’m going to be able to get the image of a naked Jeff wanking in the lake out of my head anytime soon. “Besides,” he continued, “we’ll be out of this place soon enough and I’ll be living with my gramps and he already knows that you’re my boyfriend. We’ll have all kinds of time to fool around!’ By now Jeff was really excited at the prospect of life after jail. I was a little dumbfounded, though. I had no idea that Jeff was moving in with the sheriff. For some reason the thought scared the shit out of me. I knew he wasn’t going to go back to the same house, but I never gave it much thought.
Though we only had a couple minutes together, we made the most of it. I’d like to sit here and say that I had forgotten how his lips felt, or the taste of his kiss but that would be a lie. I doubt I could ever forget. Hell, it keeps me up at night remembering and these short encounters only make it worse. We both knew we had to get back to camp before they sent a search party, so we um..., adjusted ourselves, and started walking. With the pain of teenage erections trying to tear holes in our jeans we looked like a pair of drunks walking bowlegged the entire way. Both Jeff and I untucked our shirts hoping that it would hide our bulges but knowing damn well we were just giving ourselves away.
While we were off at school, Mark apparently took the time to work out some details with Father Tim at the church. When Jeff and I approached the campsite, Mark called us into a huddle of sorts to give us the lowdown on how the upcoming days were going to work. He started off by telling us something that surprised everyone in the group. All of us were under the impression that this was a state run facility and part of the juvenile detention system, but we were wrong. Mark and Mary are simply volunteers that pretty much took us in as wards of the state. They don’t receive anything from the State of Illinois so even the grocery money comes out of their pockets. The reason that this was important to mention is because they were planning on changing the entire system based on the volunteer work at the church. Instead of classes up on the bluff, Father Tim suggested that we use the classroom facilities in the parish center. Not only would we have what they called a ‘proper’ learning environment, but we would have access to computers, a few volunteer teachers, and actual transcripts that we could use towards an actual graduation versus the GED that we could get with the education system in place now.
Just the thought of graduating high school alone was enough motivation to accept this idea but there was more. Last night the entire church congregation had a meeting about our acceptance into their church and a committee was formed to oversee the project. Mark said they called the program “Through Their Eyes” which I thought was pretty damn cool. I expected something demeaning. We were reassured that there would be no pressure to join the church, even though we were of course welcome to attend. Volunteer work would be decided by us, but with our group being the first of what they hope many, they hoped we would use music as our vehicle. That was no surprise.
The final detail of what was being said excited me the most for some reason. Overnight plans have been made by Mark and Mary in conjunction with the parish to begin the process to build a new complex to grow the program. They emphasized ‘slowly’ and informed us our participation was vital. The new candidates were going to be hand-picked by all of us, not just Mark and Mary. They would arrive one or two at a time and no new additions would be made until the newbies were properly assimilated into our environment. That way we would all be on the same page and could get along like a big family like we seem to now. The only confusing part to me, though, was the release of us by the program. When I had asked, Mark smiled and told me that we would tackle that when it comes up. This would only hasten our release into society if it worked, but since we are all pretty much wards of the state until we are eighteen, there is nothing stopping us from staying if it was in our best interest. I swear, when Mark said that I saw tears in his eyes.
By the time Mark finally finished explaining everything we were all starving and the sun was starting to set. You could tell that Mark was visibly emotional and it felt good knowing that after Mark and Mary poured so much effort in helping us out without anything in return that I could be involved in paying them back, in sorts. Here I thought, hell we all thought that this was their job and we were just kids to them. Instead they were pretty much our foster parents and we didn’t even know it. His words stuck with me too. If I want, I could stay here instead of getting released back into my father’s care. I wouldn’t mind that at all. It’s not like the asshole would even notice me missing. I wonder if he even knows where I’m at right now. Either way it opens up options for our future. What if both of us stay here? Okay, I’m planning too far ahead, I better settle down.
By the time the pizza guy pulled up our hunger for food had reached fever pitch. It didn’t take long for the twelve of us to demolish eight pizzas, and it seemed as if we were still famished. It was nice, though, to sit around in a big group shooting the shit instead of it being cabin one versus cabin two. Even Tony managed to smile a time or two, even though you could tell he was trying his hardest not to. Being true to form, Jack was eating his portion inside his cabin completely ignoring the festive atmosphere outside. God only knows what he was in there contemplating. I personally was sick of worrying about the dumbass, instead suggesting we toss a ball around in the dark for a while.
After Mark produced a football that was half flat and falling apart we split into two teams and hit the grid-iron. We played cabin vs. cabin with Mark taking Jack’s place on the other side. I doubt anybody thought enough to keep score, but were having fun. At one point I caught a pass from Brandon and Tony creamed me after coming out of my blind spot. All at once everyone held their breath waiting to see my reaction. A collective sigh of relief could be heard when Tony extended his hand and helped me up. If Tony keeps proving my instinct wrong, I’m going to have to eat my words. I don’t get it. He fucked up everything; his family, his father, his life. What is going on in that head of his? Could he really want to change and make amends? I still don’t trust him, but its food for thought.
After the football game the night was winding down and we all limped to our cabins. Even though we were in the prime of our youth we sounded like a bunch of old men. The only person that didn’t seem worn out was Mark, and he was still hopping around with energy. There was no way any of us could keep up with him. I wonder if we’ll see the lights go out early in our counselors’ cabin tonight. I love Mark like a brother, but that is a shady move if he shags with Mary tonight with him knowing he’s got at least two pairs of horny teenagers here that would kill for a half hour of alone time. Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be ‘shady’ but still. I’m so close to stripping Jeff in the middle of the cabin and having my way with him. Jeez, I’m getting hard again just thinking about it!
Walking into the cabin just made matters worse. Everyone inside was in some stage of undress so everywhere I looked was prime teenage ass. Even Ricky was looking quite cute right at this moment. Hell, I’m so desperate even Brent from the youth group would get me to twitch. When I spotted Jeff in the far corner I could tell he was looking everywhere but at anyone else. I thought I was frustrated! You should have seen him. Not only was his face fully blushed, he was stumbling around with his back towards everyone tripping over his feet and when he finally had his sweats around his waist they were on inside out! By the time I reached him he looked like he was ready to give up. He didn’t see me walk over and when I put a hand on his shoulder he shrieked, damn near breaking my eardrum. It took a while but I finally got him settled down. Poor Jeff was even shaking he was so worked up. Finally Ricky walked over and made it real simple.
“Dudes! I showed you the little hideout on the first day you were here! Tomorrow after class sneak off for a bit. We’ll cover for ya. Jeez, just do something mate. Your starting to freak us out ya lil’ horn-dogs. Seriously, though. Where do you think Brandon and Casey go every Sunday? Um, duh!” Ricky exclaimed and walked off.
Well, that was that! Tomorrow after school I’m going to show Jeff how much I love him, and even more so how much I need him. For now, I have to sleep. That is if I am able to. I sat down on Jeff’s bed and gave him a goodnight kiss and told him how I couldn’t wait for tomorrow. While I was tucking in my baby boy he smiled at me. He didn’t say anything, but then again he didn’t need to. That smile belonged to me and I knew exactly what it meant. I let my head hit the pillow once again looking forward to the future realizing that I had completely quit regretting the past. This is me now. This is my life. The streets don’t seem to want me anymore, and I couldn’t be happier.
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