Just Over That Mountain - Chapter One
"It's not worth it, Jake."
"Shut up, Brandon. What would you do if you walked in and saw your girlfriend getting groped by some other guy?"
"First of all, that wouldn't happen for the obvious reason that I'm gay. Second, he's the starting center of our football team. He's got at least 90 pounds on you, and you know damn well the other football players here would back him up. Don't get me wrong, I would help you out if you needed it, but I really don't feel like getting my ass kicked tonight!" Brandon yelled as he turned and walked away for Jake to follow.
The boys walked through the backdoor to the deck and poured themselves another beer from the keg. It was the last party they'd be able to attend before starting their senior year of high school. Though there would be many more parties throughout the school year, they saw this as their last `free' day to really let loose.
Brandon walked to the edge of the deck and stared down at the pool below. The stars glistened off the waves as a gentle breeze swept through. Being friends since elementary school had its advantages, and Jake could instantly sense something was bothering him.
"Alright, what's wrong this time?" Jake asked as he threw his arm around Brandon.
Brandon shrugged off his arm and took a few steps away. "It's nothing. I just don't really feel like being here tonight is all."
"You're the one that wanted to come to this party. I said we could always hang out with Steph and Amber, but you kept saying no, let's come here instead."
"Yeah well that's when I thought he was going to be here." Brandon said as he turned to face his friend.
Jake knew who `he' was and rolled his eyes. "For God's sake, bro, all I've heard about these past three years is `Tyler this and Tyler that'. No matter how many times I put you in a situation to talk to him, you always chicken out. If you're not going to do anything about it, then at least stop fucking talking about him!"
Brandon stood speechless in front of Jake with wide eyes. Of all the years they had been friends, he never once heard him speak to anyone like that, much less himself. "You're right. I'm sorry I've been a little drama queen about it. Let's just go back inside and enjoy the rest of the night."
Jake nodded his head and punched him gently in the arm. As they turned to head in the doors, Jake's girlfriend Amber appeared in front of it with an empty cup in her hand. All three stopped and looked at each other.
"Hey baby! I didn't know you were going to be here," Amber stuttered as she came out the door. When she got closer it was easy for them to see that she'd already had more than a few drinks in her. Brandon stood by and watched as she stumbled over to Jake and put her arms out to hug him.
Jake shook his head and brushed around her as he headed for the door. A blank look came across Amber's face as she realized what just happened. She didn't say anything but just watched him walk into the house. Instead of following him, she walked off the deck and sat on the edge of the pool with her feet dipping in the water. Brandon was conflicted and didn't know what to do. Jake was his best friend, but Amber was his cousin. After a few minutes of deciding, he too shook his head and walked through the doors.
When he came inside, he saw Jake on the other side of the kitchen writing their names down on the Beer Pong list. It was early enough in the night where there weren't many names on the list and they would have the table after two other groups. It would still be about half an hour so they headed through the house to find something else to keep them occupied for the time being.
"BULLSHIT!" Someone screamed at the other end of the room drawing the attention of both boys. They looked at each other and smiled as Brandon led the way to the group of people playing a card game known as Bullshit. It was a fairly simple game that both boys were good at. Especially when they cheated, which they often did.
The object of the game was to run out of cards before anyone else, but if you didn't have the card, you had to lie and pretend like you did. If someone didn't believe you had the card, they would say bullshit. If you lied, you take the stack of cards and add them to yours; if you were telling the truth, the other person would take the cards. The game gets intense even when sober, but add alcohol to the mix and it gets a lot wilder.
The first game was just finishing up when they took their seats around the table. A few people left to make a quick beer run while the dealer shuffled the deck. They were idly talking to their classmates around the table when a voice came from the door.
"Mind if I join you guys?" Brandon knew who it was and almost choked on the beer that was going down his throat.
"Sure, Tyler! Have a seat next to Brandon!" Jake beamed as he gestured toward his friend.
Tyler pulled out the seat next to Brandon and put his hand on his shoulder. "I've seen you around before but I don't think we've ever actually met. I'm Tyler."
"I... I'm uh..." Brandon stammered unable to speak with the hand on his shoulder.
"Brandon, right?" Tyler asked as he took his seat.
Brandon just nodded and looked over at Jake with pleading eyes silently begging him to help. Jake smiled and shook his head and turned to talk to the person next to him. With nothing left to do, he chugged the remaining beer in his cup and stood up from the table.
"I'm going to get a refill before the game starts. Jake you want to come with?" He asked. Jake looked in his cup and shook his head. He looked over at Tyler and a smile came to his face.
"Tyler doesn't have a drink yet though. Maybe he'd like to go with you," he said. Brandon's eyes grew wide and he felt a lump forming in his throat. He looked over at Tyler and saw him staring back with a questioning look.
"You don't mind if I tag along do you? I just got here and don't know where the beer is yet."
"Uh, yeah I'll show you. It's out back," Brandon said as he turned to walk outside.
When they got outside they found it more crowded than it was earlier. The party was starting to get busier and the smokers were starting to take over the deck. Brandon shook his head at the smokers and started to fill his cup with beer. When his cup was full he turned to head back inside but forgot Tyler was waiting right behind him.
"Shit!" he screamed as he tripped and started falling backwards. He braced himself for the impact of the deck, but felt a pair of arms wrap around him and stop him before he hit the ground. The arms lowered him to the deck and let go. When he looked up and saw Tyler's face hovering above his with a huge smile on his face.
"My fault dude, I was standing too close I guess. Just be glad I can move fast enough to catch you," Tyler said. He gave Brandon a wink and turned to fill his beer. Brandon sat there for a minute try to think if he imagined the wink or if Tyler really just did that. His mind was lost in thoughts and didn't hear anything around him until he felt the familiar pair of arms reaching around him again, but this time they were pulling him to his feet.
"You alright, Brandon? You didn't hit your head or anything did you?"
"No, I'm fine. I was just thinking about something, sorry."
Tyler nodded his head and handed his cup of beer to Brandon. He gave him a puzzled look and watched Tyler start filling another cup.
"If you didn't notice, you're wearing your other beer," he said. He smiled at him again and turned to walk back inside. Brandon looked down at his shirt covered with beer and rolled his eyes. Great first impression he thought to himself and followed Tyler inside.
As they took their seats, the cards were already dealt and the game began. With the modified drinking rules, it was not wise to lie unless you knew you had a chance at getting away with it. Whether people didn't realize this, or knew and wanted to get drunk faster, the game consisted of mostly lies and had the promise to carry on for a long time.
An hour into the game Brandon noticed Jake continuously looking at his phone and responding to text messages with what he could only assume were angry words. He was concerned that the situation between Jake and Amber was about to get a lot worse. They'd been friends since elementary school, but he was also close with his cousin. If they broke up, which Brandon knew was most likely what would happen, he didn't want to have to choose between them. He continued to think of the possibilities and what he would do when Tyler nudged his shoulder.
"You sure you're alright? You look a little out of it and you haven't been drinking much."
Brandon looked down at his still half-full cup and frowned. "Yeah, just a lot on my mind, sorry. Is it my turn?"
"You're on sevens," Tyler responded with a concerned expression.
Brandon picked two cards from his hand and set them face down on the table. "Two sevens."
"Total fucking bullshit!"
Brandon smiled thinking he tricked Jake into believing he didn't have them. As he started to flip over the cards, Jake got up and stormed out of the room. It took Brandon a bit, but he soon realized his friend wasn't calling a bluff, but responding out loud to a text. No one else at the table understood what was going on and assumed the game was over and started to disperse throughout the rest of the party. Still in his own mind, Brandon didn't notice the presence of a body that didn't leave the table.
"Are you going to go after him?" Tyler asked bringing Brandon back to reality.
"No, there's nothing I can say to him right now that will cheer him up. I know what he went to do, and I really don't want to be a part of that right now. I'll give him an hour or so before I try and find him."
"In that case, would you mind if I take his spot on the beer pong list? You guys are up."
Brandon shook his head in disbelief at the question and said, "Sure, be my guest. Have fun." As he stood to leave the table, Tyler grabbed his arm.
"No, I meant with you, not instead of you. I'll take his spot and we can be a team."
When he looked at Tyler he saw the most amazing smile and couldn't help but return it. Tyler took that as a yes and led the way to the table.
As with most parties, beer pong rules were never constant and everyone played by house rules. To make things less complicated, the rules were posted for everyone to see. The `Beer Pong Constitution' as this one was so finely named, gave them the option to play either a short 6-cup game or a longer 10-cup game.
"Winners choose. You guys have the table so are we doing six or ten?" Brandon asked the two girls on the other side of the table.
"Ten of course! The longer we play, the more I get to look at you two!"
Tyler smiled when he noticed Brandon blushing and filled the remaining 4 cups to finish the setup.
"You guys shoot first. Do you have balls, or would you like some of mine?" Tyler smirked.
"I don't know if yours are big enough for me, so I'll stick with the ones I have... for now."
The flirting Tyler was exchanging with the girls was not lost on Brandon. Any glimmer of hope he had of Tyler being gay was slowly fading away. He chugged the rest of his beer and asked someone to grab him another while he shot. The sooner I finish this game, the sooner I can stop torturing myself by being next to him Brandon thought as he sank his ball in one of the opposing cups.
The game started off fairly slow with some mild chatter back-and-forth mostly between the girls and Tyler. As they all became more intoxicated, things started to get more intense. The four grew louder with Brandon forgetting about his love interest and drowning his thoughts with beer. When it got down to one cup each, the game seemed to drag on. The lucky shots from the beginning of the game gave way to more complicated shots trying to sink their balls into one small cup. When desperation to win the game came into effect, the girls tried their luck at distracting the boys with their bodies.
"Sorry ladies, but that doesn't work on me." Tyler said as he sank the final cup. "I mean, they're nice and all, but when you've seen one pair, you've seen them all."
After a failed rebuttal attempt by the girls, Brandon and Tyler walked outside to get some fresh air. Tyler noticed that after the game ended, Brandon became quiet again and was standing farther away from him than he usually did.
"You alright, Brandon? You seem kind of upset." Tyler asked as he took a position next to him on the deck railing.
When Brandon didn't immediately respond, he glanced over to where Brandon was staring and saw the problem. Jake was on a swing in the backyard with his arm wrapped around another girl and guessed what his problem was.
"Hey. Don't worry about him. He's drunk and he's hurt. I heard that Amber was making out with other guys and cheating on him. They'll be fine after tonight. They'll talk about it and work everything out."
"No they won't. They've had problems for a while and I knew it was coming. But that's not the problem. I already made it clear that if they broke up I wouldn't pick sides between my family and my best friend."
"Then what is it?" Tyler asked as he put a hand on Brandon's shoulder.
"It's nothing. Just forget about it. I need another beer." Brandon said as he took off towards the keg.
Tyler stood there for a few minutes trying to comprehend why he was upset, but shook it off and followed him back inside for their second game. They weren't close enough for him to push. If Brandon didn't want to talk about it, he would wait until he was ready.
Their second game started off much the same as their first, but with less successful shots. Tyler continued to banter with their new opponents, but with less flirting than the previous game. Brandon remained mostly silent and continued to drink trying to control the thoughts and emotions running through his head. It wasn't until someone came in screaming, "COPS!" that everything fell apart.
Brandon was still too pre-occupied in his mind and slightly drunk to comprehend what was going on. Tyler grabbed his hand and started pulling him in the direction of the backdoor. When it finally hit him what was going on, Brandon grabbed a bottle of vodka on his way out the door and followed Tyler into the darkness.
The party location was chosen due to the relatively remote location with few neighbors. With no surrounding buildings to conceal them, the two took off into the woods behind the house. As they ran, they heard footsteps behind them coming through the woods. With no way to know whether or not those were fellow partiers trying to escape the cops, or the cops themselves chasing after those that fled, they continued to make their way deeper into the woods.
After 15 minutes of running through underbrush and fallen branches, they came across a small path that looked like it was rarely used. Brandon stopped running and looked around while Tyler continued to make his way down the path grateful for not having to deal with spider webs and branches hitting him in the face. A few hundred feet down the path he stopped and noticed Brandon was no longer by his side running. Thinking he fell and hurt himself, Tyler doubled back to find him.
"Do you know where we are?" Brandon asked when Tyler came jogging up to him.
Tyler looked around and shook his head. "No. Do you?"
"Yeah, I've been here a few times. Follow me." Brandon said as he took off down the path in the other direction.
With the danger behind them and no more footsteps following, the two allowed themselves to fall into an easy pace as they tried to catch their breath. It was clear that Brandon was still lost in thought so Tyler remained silent while they continued on their walk down the path.
Ten minutes into the walk Tyler couldn't stand the silence anymore. "Where are we going?"
"How much farther is it? I'm too out of shape for this." Tyler complained. Brandon glanced at him and shook his head.
"Maybe. But really, how much farther are we walking? I'm completely lost out here."
"See that bend up there?" Brandon pointed. "It's around that and up a small hill and we're there."
"And where exactly is here?"
As they rounded the bend, Tyler noticed that the `small hill' was not as small as he imagined. He groaned as they made their way up the hill. When they reached the top, he noticed a small clearing with a small fire pit in the middle made out of stones gathered from the area.
"Is this it?"
"Kinda. Through those trees."
"You keep saying things like that, but all I hear is `Home is just over that mountain.'" Both boys laughed as Brandon led the way through the trees and stopped in front of a large boulder.
"Are you scared of heights?"
"Well no, but I would rather not jump off a cliff right now."
"Fair enough, let's go." Brandon said as he climbed the massive rock.
He noticed Tyler had no problem keep up which made him believe that he was far from being out of shape. When they reached the top, Brandon sat down and waited for Tyler to join him. As Tyler reached the top, he gasped at one of the most beautiful sights he'd seen. They were in fact on the edge of a cliff, but it overlooked a small pond. Beyond the pond, the city lights sparkled in the distance. Still awestruck by the view, he sat next to Brandon without saying a word.
Brandon opened the bottle of vodka he took from the party and took a swig and then handed it to Tyler. The two continued to enjoy the view in silence as they passed the bottle back-and-forth.
"How'd you find this place?" Tyler asked as he took another shot.
"Pure luck, really. I found the trail while I was driving around one day and decided to follow it."
"Who else knows about it?"
Brandon glanced back at the fire pit and shrugged. "Apparently enough people to wear in a path and build the fire pit, but I have yet to see anyone else up here."
"Does Jake know about it?"
"No. Well, he knows about it, but not where it is. I've never told him. This is my escape from reality. I've never brought anyone here before."
"Not even a date?"
Brandon smirked and shook his head. "What dates? It's been a while... a long while."
Tyler frowned and took another drink of the vodka before passing it back to Brandon. Their conversation from earlier was still bugging him. After running from the cops through a forest and the shots of vodka, he assumed they had formed a strong enough friendship to bring it up.
"So about earlier..." Tyler said.
"What about earlier?" Brandon asked as he turned to face Tyler.
"You said that Jake being with another girl wasn't the problem. If that's the true, why were you so upset?"
Brandon looked back to the city while he contemplated his response. He was too drunk to think of a lie, and didn't want to just blow him off, so he decided to just let it all out.
"I was jealous."
"Of the girl? I've never seen her before. What's her name?" Tyler asked.
"I have no idea. It's not the girl. She was probably just some random girl he found that was drunk. I was jealous of the fact that I could never be like him. Jake is never single. If he is, it's because he wants to be, not because he can't find a girl. He can break up with someone, take Amber for instance, and then immediately find someone else."
"So you're jealous because he's a player?" Tyler asked slightly confused.
"No, I'm jealous because I can't have that. I haven't been in a relationship that's lasted longer than a year. I'm jealous because I can't just walk up to someone and hit on them. I'm jealous because I'm a chicken shit that can't even talk to the one person I like. I'm jealous because I'm fucking gay and that bastard isn't!" Brandon screamed as he let a tear stream down his face. Tyler waited a bit before responding.
"So you want Jake?"
"What? No! He's like a brother to me. I don't want him, I want what he has. I want a relationship and someone to be with."
"Oh." Tyler said as he took another drink.
They fell into an awkward silence and continued to drink out of bottle and look over the city. Brandon was still silently crying, embarrassed that he revealed his deepest secret to his biggest crush that obviously didn't return the feelings.
"I understand if you want to go. If you follow the path back, you'll find the highway and should be able to find your way home. I know hanging out with an emotional fag isn't high on your list of things to do."
Tyler didn't say anything, but just sat there for a while. After a few minutes of silence, he stood up and brushed himself off. Brandon glanced at him and shook his head. As Tyler made his way down the boulder, Brandon let loose and started sobbing.
This is one of my first attempts at a longer story that I might actually continue. Comments, feedback, and criticism are always welcome. I'll try to respond to all emails, but my filter snags some of them. More to come! (I hope...) Joe@gayauthors.org