When I pulled into the school's parking lot on Monday, my eyes did a search for Cal's Buick, but he wasn't there yet. I was hoping to see him before classes started, so I'd arrived early, much to Finn's annoyance—he'd have a longer wait for his bus to school, and the extra time was spent waiting for his friends to show up. I tried talking him into coming with me, but he'd rather wait on his friends than arrive even one minute before he had to. I parked my `Cuda in the far corner of the lot where Cal usually parked, and settled in to wait for my boyfriend to get there.

I had a vague idea of reviewing my Algebra homework, but gave that up in favor of thinking about the time I'd spent with Calvin over the Easter weekend. After shopping Friday at Eastland Mall, we'd gone back to his place and he modeled the new clothes for his grandmother...all except the underwear of course. I felt a smile creep onto my face thinking about those—I'd removed every pair of olive drab briefs and all but one tee-shirt from his dresser, and thrown them in their trash barrel in the back yard. Okay, I let him keep a couple pairs of the boot socks too—but everything else made a very nice fire when I poured a little gasoline on them and tossed in a match. "Just so you can't drag them out again," I'd said with a snicker, watching his sad expression. "Callie, you're so much cuter in the new clothes...think of it as one more step away from the bad memories from last year...please?"

Later that evening, before I went home, we'd talked as he showed me around their small farm. It wasn't as big as some in the area, but it had enough land for a stand of woods, pasture and grain fields, and the house and barns. They grew enough food and fodder to be self-supporting, but his grandfather's main income had been his job at North American, as well as his social security. Calvin had moved in with them when Pieter became ill, and helped out with the chores. He'd been fairly happy...until his parents told him they were having problems, and he needed to stay there rather than come home. As time went on, it looked like their trial separation would become permanent. I remembered the picture of him standing in an empty field he'd taken last winter, and had pulled him into my arms for a long time as he cried. I wondered if his parents knew he liked boys, since his grandparents knew, but he said no... and it wouldn't have helped in his home life. "They always criticized me, and saw my interest in art as a waste of time...one more thing they could have harped about."

We had watched the sun set on Friday, and I'd kissed and held him while the oranges turned to purples and the empty fields turned gray. At the last twilight embers, we walked back to the house, where his grandmother Lisbet had cookies and milk waiting. One look told her Cal was a little upset, and she fussed over him and told some of the worst jokes I'd ever heard...then she pointed at me and added, "You do remember, don't you, that you now have a boyfriend? I'm pretty sure he loves you too..."

Before Cal could look in my direction, I stuck out my bottom lip in my best pout. "I guess I'm not much of one if he's forgotten me already." I let out a little sniffle and made a swipe at my eyes to brush away phantom tears, and he punched me in the arm. I rubbed it and managed to look affronted, which made him laugh.

"Come on, grandma...you know he's only here to scarf down any desserts that might be around for the holiday." His grin was mischievous, but he tempered that with a swift hug and a kiss to my cheek. His mood had lifted, and he dragged me into the living room to sit down, before he called out for Lisbet to join me. "I'm gonna show you my new outfits...I hope you'll think we spent the money on good stuff." So the next half hour was spent admiring his clothes, and his grandma complimented him on the choices, including me in her praise.

"Don't look at me; I'm hopeless. Our friends Greg and Denny came along, and they did most of the hard work. If it was just me, he'd be in sweatshirts and jeans." I helped Callie put away his new clothes, with a lot of kissing and cuddling, and finally left about 10PM. I called him on the phone just before I went to bed, and nearly fell asleep with the receiver next to my ear, , but Finn came up and told me he wanted to call one of his friends, so I hung up and buried myself under the covers.

I'd planned to visit him again Saturday, but dad gave me a list of chores Finn and I had to do, so the day was a complete waste of a holiday break. I did spend an hour or two on the phone again after dinner, and told Cal I'd see him Monday...

My reverie was interrupted by a tapping at my window, and I looked up into my boyfriend's smiling face. I don't know how I missed hearing his car pull up next to mine, but I had. "Holy shit, Cal—what did you do?" He was decked out in a new shirt and jeans, and his hair was neater and at least an inch or two shorter—now it only came down to the collar of his green button-up shirt. I climbed out of my car and stared. The black jeans fit him with just a little room to spare, and the shirt's sleeves were turned up and pushed just past his elbows. The Army boots were gone, replaced by a pair of black loafers, and I saw a silver chain dangle from one belt loop to disappear into a small pocket on the right side of his jeans. When I asked about it, he pulled out an old pocket watch with a hunting scene on the front. "It was my grandpa's—Gran said I could wear it as part of my new `look'." He lowered his voice to a whisper, even though no one else was anywhere close to us. "You like it? Am I okay?"

For a few seconds, I couldn't speak, and my eyes roamed him from head to toe in wide appreciation. He moved a little closer, and I could tell he wasn't wearing a tee. I gulped, and licked my lips as my mouth went suddenly dry. "Damn, you look good enough to eat—so where are we going for lunch?"

Right then, Jay's truck came to a stop next to my car, and Denny's Corvair parked next to Cal's before our friends could join us. All eyes focused on Cal once we were all together, and Jay and Mikey were stunned at the transformation in Cal's appearance. They hadn't gone shopping with us, so this was all new for them. For the next ten minutes before the bell, we listened to Jay go on about his new stereo, and he had to show us how it worked, and told us his two friends from OSU had done it Saturday. It sounded great, and I saw they'd also done a little of the sanding, since part of the front fenders were a medium gray rather than rusty blue. Mikey reminded me that we were supposed to go to Jay's after school to study, and then the bell rang, so we headed in for our first classes of the new week.

* * * * * * * * * *

I got to our lunch table first, since Jay and Denny had to shower after their Phys. Ed. Class, and Greg was beginning his shift in the lunch line. The mystery meat looked like shoe leather doused in brown sludge, so that meant it was probably Salisbury steak, unappetizing but just barely edible. The mashed potatoes were good, and I could eat the cooked carrots, though I preferred them raw. Dessert was chocolate pudding, which I swore I'd save for last, and Greg had made sure I got my chocolate milk too. I saw Calvin come out of the lunch line with his own tray, and was going to invite him to sit with us, but Benny intercepted him and after a few words, they went over toward the other wrestlers at the `jock' end of the cafeteria. I laughed to myself about Ben's move before remembering that Cal had tried out for wrestling last semester, so they had not been strangers, just estranged friends.

Cal might be a fox now, but my heart belonged entirely to Jay—the best looking boy in our whole school.

This morning when Jay picked me up, my dad had looked at the patches of filler, and shook his head. "That'll do for small areas, as long as you have solid metal at the edges, but if there are any bigger ones, you ought to weld new metal...if I had the tools, I could do it for you." I had just stared at him, and he gave me a wan smile as he tried to ruffle my hair. "Your old man has a few tricks up his sleeve, Mikey. I worked in Columbus during the War, making armor plating for battle-ships, so I had to learn riveting too."

This news set Jay off, and they were trying to figure out if the Auto Shop at school would let him use their equipment when I reminded my boyfriend we were going to be late if he didn't get a move on. "Bye, Mr. Stevenson," Jay called as he climbed behind the wheel, and just before I turned to get in, I gave my dad a quick hug, surprising both of us.

"Bye, Dad..." I felt him return the hug then we were on our way, with a warm glow filling my insides...and a part of that was from my dad's embrace on top of the love I already held there for my blond Dane.

Maybe thinking about him conjured him up, because right then I saw Jay coming out of the line with Denny right behind him. They both looked freshly-scrubbed, and for once Denny's hair wasn't an unruly mass of curls since it wasn't fully dry yet. Jay's was slightly darker from the shower, but would be back to its normal gold by the time lunch was over. He pulled out the chair opposite mine, and Denny took the one to his right, leaving the other one for Greg when he finished serving. Jay gave me a grin, and then I felt his ankle brush against mine under the table. For the thousandth time, I was both relieved and frustrated that I was excused from gym classes—it meant I wouldn't see him naked at school and get an instant boner—but it also meant I wouldn't see him naked at school, and that side of the coin was a bummer.

We began to eat, talking about our weekends until Greg showed up about ten minutes later, and we learned from him that our two friends had spent the night at Denny's on Friday. "Is that why you didn't show up at Jay's on Saturday," I asked.

Greg gave us a nod. "We played cards, then watched the late movies on channel 4..." Why did Denny blush at the words `playing cards?' "On Saturday, he showed me around their farm, and then he came home and ate with us, and spent the night." Denny added that his parents are always out of town during the Easter weekend at a fund-raising dinner for some charity they supported, so he would just have been bored by himself. "Turns out," Gregg went on in a rush, "they have a big barn which is just sitting empty. No one has used it since his grandparents died...he told me they used to raise horses, and there's lots of overgrown trails in their woods."

"My uncle Rhys got the best horses, and he does a little breeding, but only as a hobby. I like to ride, and someday, I'd like to get some of the horses and either breed them or give riding lessons. That was the one thing I loved at my old school..." His voice trailed off, and I saw Greg reach across the table to give his hand a warm squeeze. Jay had told me of his experiences with his roommate up in Maine, and I decided it was time to get his thoughts on something else.

"Before Greg has to go clear tables, I think we should plan out our studying because the six-weeks' quizzes are next week." I laughed when that got the expected groans and sighs of `don't remind me' from more than one of my friends. "What if we devote one night to each subject? We could do a quick review on Saturday, then go do something fun?"

Jay's blue eyes met mine across the table, and I saw a twinkle which meant he was going to throw a monkey wrench in my plans. "Um, kćreste, there are only four subjects we have in common, so doesn't that leave Friday for a general review? Then we can horse around all day on Saturday?"

Greg and Denny were quick to pounce on that, and then I remembered there would be two new guys in our group now that Calvin and Benny were invited. "What about Cal and Benny? They might need Friday for a different subject—and I have Poetry instead of Algebra. I was going to do that on Friday night."

That stumped them for a minute, but Jay's eyes lit up and he waved his hand in dismissal. "Nope, with your allergy to math, you'll be doing Poetry in the kitchen—and you can practice your skills for Home Ec by baking us cookies—or your famous banana-less banana fritters!" Jay went on to tell how I'd done that a couple weeks ago, forgetting the prime ingredient for the batter. I had my own jab ready though, since we were caring for babies this week.

"Oh, we've moved on from baking...it's babies this week." I pointed my fork at him and grinned evilly. "I'll practice that by making you wear a diaper—I just hope I don't stick you with the safety pins when I put it on your little pink butt!" Greg almost choked on his milk, and Denny covered his mouth with his napkin to avoid spitting out some of his carrots. Greg finished up his tray and stood up to start clearing tables, giving us all a wave, though his eyes lingered on Denny the longest.

"See y'all tonight," he said with his exaggerated drawl, and went to put on his apron in the kitchen. He was back in a minute and began clearing tables, exchanging words with a few people he knew; I could tell Denny was watching him out of the corner of his eye most of the time, giving the rest of our conversation only half his attention. I wasn't sure, but it felt like something in their relationship had changed, and probably for the better. In Jay's barn loft I thought they might have done some petting and making out, but with a whole house to themselves for a weekend...I put that thought out of my head because they were my friends. Besides, Jay would razz me for a week if I stood up to go to class with a big erection in my jeans. It was bad enough that just sitting across from him kept me half-hard, and every so often he'd give his fork or spoon a suggestive lick with his eyes locked on me. A couple minutes before we split up to head for our lockers, I calmed down by thinking of some of the Algebra problems Mrs. Blair had given me last semester before I transferred out. If anything, I think my dick was even smaller than usual after that.

* * * * * * * * * *

I was a little let down by Mr. Vincent's talk with me in Ag class ; I'd asked him about using the welding torch to fix my truck, and he'd said that wasn't his department—I'd have to talk to Mr. Phillips or Mr. Duncan who ran Auto Shop. It wasn't common to allow anyone outside the school to use any equipment, mainly due to the risk of accidents and insurance issues...and he asked why I didn't try to learn welding myself. I told him I couldn't fit in the class, and I was hoping to have my truck finished and painted before the end of summer. "Well, Jay, I think your best bet is to talk to either of them after school. Explain what you need, and maybe they could slot you in to do the work as part of a lesson? I know they send the bigger projects over to the Joint Vocational School in Newark, but this sounds like something they could do here."

I caught Mr. Duncan after leaving Art with Mikey, who'd decided to tag along since my truck was our project, and he'd had some experience doing body work on his Pontiac last year. Mr. Duncan was about average height, but muscular in an adult way, and looked to be in his mid-forties. He listened to my request and waved his hand to dismiss it. "We can't allow non-school use of the tools. Insurance forbids it and it would leave us open to a lawsuit." Mikey told him that his dad had done welding during the War, but that didn't change things at all. "That was thirty years ago, young man...there have been changes in both the tools and processes since then."

I saw Mikey getting annoyed at the implication his dad wasn't qualified, but I headed him off by asking if my truck could be done here, maybe as part of a lesson. Mr. Duncan looked at his watch, then told me to bring it over and put it on the lift so he could get a good look at it from underneath as well as on top. He spent about ten minutes, once it was in the air, poking and using a flashlight to get a better look. "For its age, there isn't a lot of serious trouble...if you are willing to do the prep work, we could fit it in next week as an end of period exam. The running boards will need to be taken off, sanded, and the body sanded where they attach—down to bare metal on both sides. Welding has to have a clean surface to work. Also, break out as much of the crumbled metal as you can, to minimize the amount of cutting we have to do. Can you have it ready by next Wednesday?"

I was so excited. I told him I could have it by this Wednesday, but he laughed and led me back to his office to sign forms allowing the students to do the work. "Have it here on the lift before school starts, and leave the keys with me so we can get inside if we need to. Make sure you have all the prep done—we can't waste time during tests to do any of it for you." Just as we were at the door, he added, "One bit of advice...prime the undersides of all your patches...and sand underneath too—it makes the repairs last longer. I hate seeing good work spoiled on such a well-kept antique like this."

During the ride home, I kept hold of Mikey's hand on the gear shift, and I'm sure he was annoyed by my chatter-filled excitement, but he didn't show it. When I turned onto the gravel road toward my house, he leaned in and kissed my cheek, and laughed at my enthusiasm. "I guess I know where I stand in relation to your truck..." I could tell he was kidding me, and I took a second to kiss him back.

"More than you can imagine, elskede. If I didn't have my truck, we wouldn't be able to spend as much time together...I'd have to walk or bike over, so I'm really glad to have it. I'd say spending our days together is worth some gas and a quart of oil now and then, wouldn't you?"

I watched Mikey tilt his head a bit and he pouted. "Great—I have such a romantic boyfriend." He tried holding that expression for a few seconds, but I could see the grin trying to come out even as he said those words. I'd surprised him on our one-week anniversary by taking him out to dinner and some quality time walking around an Indian mound after all...and I was working on a plan for our one month celebration next week. "Shit! Six-weeks finals are next week," I exclaimed angrily, and pounded my hand on the steering wheel.

Mikey's look of alarm turned to amused indulgence. "No shit, Sherlock...and they said you were dumb. What were we just talking about at lunch?" Crap, I had to be careful or I'd give my plans away...I'd almost blown it just now, but I covered up by stroking Mikey's cheek in a conciliatory gesture.

"Well, you know how it is...takes a while for bad news to sink in." We pulled up in front of the barn, and I jumped out to open Mikey's door, kissing him firmly as he climbed down. Maybe our real anniversary would be on Friday, which was when we said we loved each other, but I saw it as Wednesday, when I'd first asked him out on a date...and that would be right in the middle of period final quizzes. I wasn't going to let that deter me or derail my plans, so studying this week had to be intense. We walked over to Gulliver and hugged him fiercely, and I told him I'd take him for a ride tomorrow after school. He gave a soft whinny and nudged my shoulder with his nose, and did the same to Mikey. "Yes, he'll come along too...the three of us are a team, you know." Gulliver snorted approvingly and we headed off toward the back door after stroking his cheek and kissing him goodbye on his forehead.

Mor came into the kitchen from the hall, and we gave her a hug before starting toward the back stairs. "Don't you want to check through the day's mail?" I just gave her a blank stare for a second before I let out a whoop and headed to the hall table where the mail waited to be claimed by its rightful owners—once we'd all learned to read, our parents let us open our own letters, only helping us if we had trouble with the bigger words. I saw a brown paper-wrapped parcel secured with masking tape and the top had my name on it, and a bunch of stamps with wildlife pictures on them, and one or two of Queen Elizabeth. The postmark said `Toronto, Station A', so I knew it was the long-awaited `care package' from Uncle Mikkel and Sam. It was about a foot long and six inches wide, and maybe the same in height. I guessed it weighed around two pounds, so this was a lot more than some notes and a letter. Like I'd do with a Christmas present, I shook it next to my ear, but couldn't hear anything.

I was about to tear open the paper when Mikey put a hand out to stop me. "I think we should wait until later to open it, don't you..." His glance at mor made my cheeks turn red. If there was more in there than notes as Mikkel had hinted, then I'd rather die than have my mom see the contents. I grinned at him and tucked it under my arm to head upstairs, remembering to remind my mom there'd be two more guys tonight to study with us. We'd told her and far it was Cal and Ben, but they didn't know it was the guy who'd dated Linda last Fall...and I wasn't going to give that surprise away either.

Mikey cleared his throat to get my attention. "Umm, we already have the spare kitchen chair up in your room...where are we going to put two more people?" He blushed before going on, "There's room on your bed for them, but I don't know if it will hold up to four guys and our books...and won't the floor be kinda uncomfortable after a few minutes?"

That's what I loved about Mikey; he was always thinking ahead. There might have been space for a couple more chairs, but not for anything which could be used as a writing surface. I thought we might move my desk out from the wall, but wondered if it had enough area for four sets of notebooks. I looked around the kitchen, but we'd be in the way while mor was fixing dinner. "What about using the dining room," I suggested tentatively. Mikey shook his head, pointing out that we'd all have to eat there...then I had an idea.

"Mor, can we use the family room? That way, we can close the doors and not be in the way, or get distracted by the lack of space..." The room's two couches and several armchairs meant we'd all be cosy, and we could use the two coffee tables to write assignments on.

"If you promise to work, and not just watch t.v., that will be fine. I'll make up some snacks you can nibble on since dinner's still three hours away. Can't have six boys wasting away until then." I gave her a hug and followed Mikey to the room at the end of the hall, tossing my book bag on one of the couches, and then pulled my boyfriend down beside me for a quick make-out. We had been kissing for about five minutes when I heard car doors slam, and the screen door creak as footsteps clattered on the back porch. I wondered if it was Benny's car or Denny Watson's...I wanted to be there when my parents saw which `Ben' was coming to study. From our conversation last week, they knew this was another gay couple, so it should be a huge surprise when Linda's ex showed up with Calvin Schuyler.

I was on my feet and pulling Mikey up to head into the kitchen when I heard Greg and Denny's voices. Mikey saw the disappointment on my face, and giggled. "What makes you think it will be a surprise? Linda could have told them why she and Benny broke up...or maybe he's the only Ben they know of who's in our class?"

Until yesterday, when Linda turned my prank back on me, I'd have said she wouldn't mention Ben's sexuality to our parents, but now I wasn't sure. I chewed on my lower lip for a second before shaking my head. "No, she wouldn't betray something she was told in confidence. That's the main reason I can't ask her if Jerry told her he might be bisexual—she'd never say unless he gave her permission." Mikey nodded at my words, knowing I was right. I gave him a kiss just as our two friends came into the room, taking up the other couch with their own books. "Any sign of Cal and Benny?" I asked hopefully.

Greg gave Denny's hand a squeeze as the two of them began taking out their notebooks. "I think they'll be a few minutes. I saw them trying to figure out if they were both driving, or coming in one car...and your sister had to return some books to the school library." Greg's words were cut off by the sound of heavy footsteps coming in from the hall, and we looked up to see far enter the room with a tray of glasses and a two-liter container of Pepsi.

"Your other two friends not here yet? Mother's already making enough food for a small army, so I hope you're all hungry if they don't show up." He put the glasses on the large central coffee table, and put the plastic bottle down next to them. "I hope this works for you all...Jay likes grape, but we're out of that. It's lamb stew tonight, with roasted potatoes and green beans or corn."

As he was turning to leave, we heard more car doors slamming, and then steps on the porch. I grinned when I heard Linda saying hi to our mom, then I heard her go up the back stairs. Benny's voice could be heard asking where we were studying, and was pointed to the family room. I let out a frown because I hadn't heard Calvin's voice...had he decided not to come? I exchanged a worried glance with Mikey, and he shrugged. "I don't know any more than you," he laughed softly.

Benny padded into the room and held his hand out to shake with his host. "Hi, Mr. Beckel...sorry I'm late—I had to wait on Linda. You know how girls are." Far laughed and nodded, taking a quick glance toward the hall and seeing if the coast was clear. We all laughed when he wiped a hand across his brow. "I asked your wife to show our final addition into the room...he had to get his books from his locker, so he's only a minute or two behind me."

Benny had dropped his books by one of the armchairs, and took a glass of Pepsi from the coffee table. Rather than drink right away, he placed it on the small table between his chair and the one next to it. We all looked expectantly at the doorway when we heard the back door, followed by voices exchanging greetings. Calvin appeared slightly behind my mom, and stepped down to join us with a shy smile. He held out his hand to shake far's. Benny glanced from Calvin to my parents, cleared his throat to get our attention.

"Mr. and Mrs. Beckel, may I introduce Calvin Schuyler, my boyfriend?"

* * * * * * * * *

Okay, we did have to wait for Linda, but Benny and I had gone to Mr. Phillips' room to check on the pictures I'd done last week...I'd have checked on them Friday, but forgot with the excitement of spending the afternoon with my new group of friends. I'd seen Jay and Miles around the school, but hadn't talked to them before going to Pizza Hut on Friday. Benny told me they were nice, and he was right...Jay treated me like an old friend, and while Miles was shy, he also made an effort to include me in conversations. I'd known Greg since last summer, and I was glad when he introduced Dennis Watson as his boyfriend—like me, he'd wanted one for a long time—but I was the one who'd won Ben Ross, despite the big guy's denseness when it came to figuring out how to approach me.

I couldn't figure out why the guys had asked us to study with them, but I'd followed when Benny accepted the offer. I had been a good student, but had to admit that the trouble with my parents had caused me to slip some, so maybe that was why Benny did it. Or maybe he did it because he needed the help too. There was a lot about my boyfriend I didn't know yet...despite making love to him on our first evening together. I was glad I was still holding my book bag, because it hid the bulge in my new jeans. All it took was thinking of Ben in that sweaty singlet and my dick grew in response. My old Army clothes would have hidden it, but Ben had burned all those along with the military-style underwear.

When Benny told Jay's parents I was his boyfriend, I blushed, and wondered what they would say—he'd dated their daughter for a while—but they surprised me. No disbelief, no rejection, just warm smiles from both of them. Mr. Beckel gripped my hand firmly, and told me I was welcome there any time...and Mrs. Beckel came up and looked me in the eye before nodding, and then did the same to Ben. "I can see you care for each other—that's all I need to know. If you two don't have a place to be yourselves, you will find it here, like the other boys."

I was confused for a second, then realized she was offering us a place to show our affection openly. I felt tears brimming in my eyes, and it took a little longer before I could gather myself together to reply. "Thank you...My grandparents have known about me for almost four years, and my Gran welcomed Ben into our home with open arms." My voice faltered a bit, but I plowed on. "I've lived with her for nearly three years...the first one was helping out on the farm until my gramps died—and since then, to help her run the place as best I can."

I felt arms around me from both front and behind, and the scent of perfume told me Mrs. Beckel was one set, while Ben's Aramis meant his were the other. A kiss on my forehead was followed by a small push so that Benny could pull me in tight, and I heard Jay's parents head out the door. "One thing, all of you," Mr. Beckel said, "if you need to talk—about anything—Rosalie and I are here for you. Don't ever feel that you have to handle tough things alone..."

I heard Jay's dad pull the two sliding doors closed behind him, leaving us alone with our books. Benny led me over to his seat, and then sat me in his lap, wrapping me in his strong arms. He put a cold glass in my hands, and whispered for me to drink...then just held me until I got myself together again. Jay handed him some Kleenex and told me to blow. I giggled; nobody had said that to me since I was a little kid, but I sniffled into the tissue obediently.

I was a little self-conscious, but Benny wouldn't let me up until he was sure I was okay, and his eyes were on me until I started pulling my own books out to start our session. I gave the other guys a crooked smile. "Okay, how are we doing this?"

Mikey acted as the spokesman for them all. "We were thinking of doing one subject a night, since the tests are next week...maybe using Friday as a general review. Except for a couple of electives, we all have nearly the same classes: Chemistry, English Literature, History...and...Al...Al..." Jay hooted with laughter and gave his boyfriend a kiss on the cheek.

"He's trying to say `Algebra', but he's got a math allergy." We all broke up into snickers and long laughs, but Mikey gritted his teeth and his expression showed he was above such common vulgarity...of course, that made us laugh even more. "What are the electives you guys have? Mine's Vocational Agriculture, and Mikey has Poetry and Home Economics..."

Comparing schedules, it turned out only Miles and Ben had World History instead of American this semester, and Denny added Social Studies to that. Ben and Miles had Home Ec at different periods, but Ben also had Physics. Greg had Trigonometry, while Calvin had Photography and Biology. He and Denny shared Psychology, but at different times during the day.

"Okay," Miles said, "I think it might be best if we use Friday to do the courses we don't all have, rather than review. We could do History tonight, if that works, then English Tuesday, Chemistry on Wednesday, and you-know-what on Thursday?" I laughed along with the others, now that I knew `you know what' meant Algebra. We all nodded, and put our other books away, keeping out only our American or World History texts and notes.

Benny and I pulled our chairs closer to the coffee table, and it only took a couple minutes for us to realize that this wouldn't work—we were getting confused by the mingled conversations—there was no way Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in charge of the ancient Greek forces which defeated the Persian Empire...With reluctance, I motioned for Miles to change places with me so he and Ben could study together. I gave my big wrestler a kiss before I left my seat to sit next to Jay on the couch.

That went a lot better, but I noticed Jay was stealing as many glances at Miles as I was at Benny. Even so, we did get a lot of work done, and we all felt ready for the exam next Monday. It sucked, but the teachers had decided to stagger their quizzes so they weren't all on the same day—I guess it was easier on them not to get it over all in one day, but it meant that us kids didn't have any real time to unwind. The final six-weeks tests were the week before Graduation, so those last grade cards would be sent out in the mail rather than given to us to take home like the other ones.

Mrs. Beckel called us to dinner at 6:30 and we filed into the dining room after crowding into the upstairs bath to wash our hands. I thought the seating would be awkward, with an odd number of kids, but the table could fit four people on the sides and one at each end, where Mr. and Mrs. Beckel sat. Linda sat next to her dad, with me, Benny and Miles to her left, while Greg, Denny and Jay sat opposite. The empty chair on their side was closest to Mr. Beckel. It seemed odd that Jay and Miles weren't next to each other too, but they didn't seem to mind.

The food was great, and I had to admit that lamb stew could grow on me. My grandma rarely made it, preferring beef, but I'd gladly join the Beckels for dinner any night they'd ask. That caused me to feel guilty about leaving my Gran at home alone...I almost never missed dinner with her...but she'd encouraged me to study with my friends rather than stay cooped up at home. I felt my eyes getting moist as I looked down at my plate, and Benny grabbed my hand under the table, asking what was wrong. I shook my head, not wanting to bring down the mood, but Mrs. Beckel saw my sad face right away. "Calvin, what's wrong...it will help if you let it out."

I swallowed the lump in my throat, and finally said in a low voice, "This is the first time in a long time that I haven't eaten dinner with my grandmother...she insisted I come over to be with my friends, but she's eating by herself. I should have gone home to eat dinner."

I felt a rough hand on my shoulder, and looked over to see Mr. Beckel exchange glances with his wife. At her nod, he gave me a gentle squeeze. "Look over there, Calvin—that's an empty chair just waiting for someone to use it. If your grandmother drives, have her join us...if she doesn't, then bring her with you next time. It would be nice to have some adult conversation once in a while." He laughed when Jay glared at him, but when both he and Linda added their own words of encouragement, I felt ready to cry all over again.

"I'll ask her, sir; she's only had me since gramps died...what relatives she has left other than my parents are in up-state New York. Most of her friends are living in nursing homes or passed on."

"Then we'll see her tomorrow," Mrs. Beckel said. "Our parents live far enough away that we don't see them as often as we'd like. It will be nice to have someone to chat with while I cook dinner."

"She'll insist on helping, or bringing something with her...she's not one to just sit idle." I saw Benny give out a big smile, and nod his head to agree with me.

"She's really good at chocolate cake!" Everybody laughed at his excited statement, but I hit him in the arm as I did it...then he pulled me into him so he could give me a gentle kiss. "Well, she is," he reiterated to more laughs.

We did a little more studying after dinner, mainly to get the information organized, and then Benny and I excused ourselves...outside, he told me he'd follow me home, and spend some quiet time in my room. That made me smile all over, we'd try to be quiet, but I wasn't going to bet my allowance on it, not after our first night together. Our wrestling had turned into a very intense bout of love-making, and we'd both lost control as he took me inside him for the first time. It had been sweaty and rough, and I'd felt guilty afterwards, spending an hour or so in my bathtub soothing him and making sure he was okay. He'd told me before leaving that he kinda liked it, but that some lube wouldn't be unwelcome next time. We hadn't had the time yet for me to return the favor, but I was eager for him to take me, rough or gentle, because I loved him and he loved me. With our study sessions, I didn't think it would happen until the weekend, but as I got into my car, he whispered, "You haven't washed those singlets yet, have you?"

Shit—I was hard as a rock all the way home, and damn lucky there weren't any cops around as I ignored all the speed limit signs on the way...

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