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Sorry about how long it's been everyone. I kinda' gave up on Loner and some of my other stories as I focused on my largest project, but now I'm back in full force. The Loner chapters will probably get longer now as more things are happening in the story.
"I'm sorry, but your times are just fucking awesome, man!" Sean clapped Jas on the shoulder as they both got dressed.
Jas looked down and nonchalantly responded, "Thanks."
Sean rolled his eyes. Ever since Hunter had suddenly runaway, Jas hadn't been the same. He wasn't his outwardly charming, Type-A personality-self anymore. He had drawn into himself, becoming quiet, despondent and quite determined when it came to his schoolwork and swimming. He practiced more than anyone else – even his own twin, Dal. Dal had tried doing all he could for his brother but was beginning to give up. He was okay with just being there for Jas because he knew his brother was hurting.
Sean grabbed his friend by the shoulders and looked him in the eye, "You gotta move past Hunter. I mean I know you liked him and all but--"
Jas's eyes grew wide. "You knew I liked him?" he interrupted.
Sean smiled, "Your reaction to him running away doesn't make sense any other way to me. And that day he showed up at our table at lunch and just stood there. You just got up and followed him." He paused for a moment, "I also overheard you tellin' coach you were gay. Don't get mad! I wasn't trying to listen to you and coach talk, but his office door wasn't completely closed, and I just found myself listening. . . . sorry."
Jas didn't really care about Sean's listening in on his conversation. He just wanted to know one thing. "You don't care that I like . . . guys?" Jas asked.
Sean shook his head and his expression grew serious, "Not at all." Jas smiled. It was the first smile Sean had seen Jas make in almost two weeks, and he was quite proud to have produced it.
Jas sat down to put on his sneakers. "Thank you," he smiled to Sean.
"No problem," Sean replied, sitting down next to Jas. He looked at his hands, and thought about what he was going to say before he said it. A nice silence hung between the two friends, and finally Sean broke it. "I'm sorry about what Amy said the other day!" he blurted out.
Jas looked at Sean in surprise. "You don't have to apologize for her. It's no--"
"That's not entirely true," Sean smiled uneasily and looked away for a moment. "What she accused you of--"
"That I came onto you," Jas spat immediately regretting his tone.
". . .yeah. Well she only did that because I--"
Jas jumped, his cell phone buzzing and vibrating in his pocket. He saw the name of the caller on his phone. "HUNTER?!" he couldn't keep the smile and surprise off his face.
"Yeah, Jas," Hunter spoke softly.
"I can't believe it's you!" Jas exclaimed, smiling to Sam, who did his best to smile back as enthusiastically.
"So...? Are you coming back?" Jas asked hopefully.
"No," Hunter answered with a frown. He wiped his forehead and leaned back against the car. He looked off at the other side of the road where Lalo had walked a distance to piss. "I don't know when I'll be back. I just called to say, `Hi'. Y'know? Just so you know I'm okay."
Jas nodded, frowning, "I understand. . . So where are you and uh . . . Lalo?"
Hunter shrugged as if Jas were there and could see the action. "I don't know. Somewhere in the middle of the desert. At first riding through the desert was fun, but after a while it all looks the same. I never get tired of looking at the stars at night, though," he answered.
"That's good," Jas smiled, "Can I ask you where you're heading?"
Hunter laughed, "You can, but I won't tell you. I gotta go Jas."
"Bye," Hunter hung up the phone.
"Damn!" Jas exclaimed, taking his book bag out of his locker.
"What's wrong?" Sam asked, picking up his bag. He began heading out the locker-room with Jas in tow.
"I think," Jas began, "He thought I was asking him where he was going for his parents."
The two swimmers walked into the large hallway, heading towards their homeroom. Mr. Pacingham, their chemistry and homeroom teacher, smiled at them as they came in. "Good morning," he greeted them cheerfully.
"Mornin'," Jas and Sean answered in unison, going to their seats. They were happy because Mr. Pacingham was a very relaxed teacher. He rarely assigned seats, unless a class was too disruptive. Jas and Sam went to their seats in the back of the room. Amy Whisterling, Sean's girlfriend, came in the classroom with her friends, Heather and Keisha. She frowned immediately upon seeing Jas and Sean sit together. She didn't know why suddenly Jas had become Sean's best friend, but she by no means trusted a gay guy to be hanging around her boyfriend so much. She put her books on the desk in front of Sean. Then she made a production of putting her arms around Sean and giving him a most sensual French kiss.
"Hey to you, too," Sean smiled and kissed his girlfriend again. Jas rolled his eyes along with Heather and Keisha.
"Ok, you can break it up now. We all know how hot you are for each other," Keisha grumbled, smiling at Jas. She sat down at the desk in front of him. "So you ready for your first swim meet? It's coming up soon, right?"
"Yeah, I think I am," Jas smiled back at her. They glanced at each other and then at Sean and Amy, who were still making out. Amy pulled away.
"Wow," Sean grinned. Amy winked at him and then glared at Jas.
Keisha and Jas shared another glance and rolled their eyes. "So anyway, Jas, is it true that you and your brother are from Australia?" Keisha asked, purposely ignoring Amy's display.
"No," Jas began, "We're from New Zealand."
"Oh cool. Tell me about it," Keisha smiled. Amy pursed her lips at her friend and went back to batting her eyes at Sean.*******************************************************
"Where the fuck are we now, Lalo?" Hunter asked with a sly grin. Lalo glowered at him, annoyed. Hunter had been asking him that question for about thirty minutes now, and every time he received the same answer: "Not far from Indio and Palm Springs, Hunter." This time Lalo chose not to answer him and pulled the car over to the side of the highway. He got out of the car, opened the trunk, and took out the plastic canister of gasoline. He opened the nozzle to the tank and was going to start to fill it, but he was stopped . . . by a pair of hands on his waist.
Hunters hands swept around his waist, and he grabbed them together, pulling Lalo in closer to himself. He leaned his head down onto Lalo's shoulder, only one or two inches taller than him. He then squeezed him tightly, "Thank you."
Lalo couldn't stop himself from smiling widely. He'd been waiting for such a moment for such a long time. He practically melted in Hunters arms. "No, thank you, Hunter."
"For what?" Hunter asked confused.
"Because you don't hate me anymore," Lalo sighed and then chuckled. "Hunter, let me go please cos let's be for real. I'm gonna purposely take this hug for more than it is." He frowned for a moment and then smiled. Hunter put his mouth next to Lalo's ear. "What if I want you to?" he asked huskily.
Lalo almost punched himself, knowing what he was going to say. "Please don't. We still haven't seriously talked about all the shit that I did do to you, Hunter. I lied too, and I want all the air to be clear between us." He cursed Hunter who had taken the opportunity to gently rub up against him. Lalo sighed and softly pushed Hunter away. He took Hunter's face in his hands and quickly kissed him. "I really meant what I said, Hunter."
It seemed as if Hunter's mood changed drastically. He looked at Lalo with disgust for a moment. His expressions in his eyes reminded Lalo of the same disgust Helena shot at him the last time he saw her. Hunter's smiled slightly, and his expression visibly lightened. "Maybe I don't understand that well what has to be done. Cos you're almost completely forgiven as far as I see it. But whatever, Lalo," he smiled. He bent over, picking up the canister, looked back at Lalo and winked. "I was ready for us to have fun like we used to."
Lalo smiled getting in the driver's seat. "We only went all the way four times, Hunter. And it didn't start to feel good till the third time."
"Yeah but this time I wanted you in me," Hunter called out closing the trunk. He laughed at Lalo, who had smacked his head against the door frame, trying to incredulously glare at Hunter. "C'mon Lalo," Hunter said as he got in the passenger side, "Let's get to San Francisco."*******************************************************
"Helena, we gotta go to that Parent-Teacher thing tonight," Sal reminded his wife.
Helena cast a bored gaze at him. "Sal, I don't care about any meetings. I just don't care. Fuck Parent-Teacher whatever," she complained.
"Salene's teacher wanted to talk to us about her grades," Sal countered. "We should be there."
"Well if her grades are falling that's to be expected," Helena rolled her eyes. She walked to their closet and found a nice light-knit sweater. She took off her T-shirt and pulled the sweater over her head. "Her brother has run away and has not – to our knowledge – contacted anyone we know."
Sal sighed deeply, putting his head in his hand, "Hunter's fine."
Helena whipped around to look at her husband, "How do you know that? Really Salvador. How do you know that? We don't know where he is! Off with some lying shit of a boy who had nerve to show up back here after what--"
"We helped pressure him into doing?!" Sal interrupted yelling. "It's not Gary's fault. None of this is his fault! Stop blaming him. It's ours. Plain and simple. Stop trying to find someone else to be angry with, Helena. Our son is gone because of us!"
Helena marched over to the armoire. "I am not blaming, Lalo! I am not. I know what me and Laura convinced him to do! And you and Fernando agreed that it was a stupid but smart move. But that doesn't mean that I'll just accept that my son has run away and has no intention of coming back! I'll not believe that for one moment. If he can forgive Lalo . . . I hope--I hope beyond all hopes that he can forgive us too."
Changing the subject because he didn't feel like arguing anymore, Sal asked, "So are you going to try for that substitute position at the high school?"
Helena blinked and smiled, surprised at how Sal changed the subject. "Thank you for doing that," she smiled lightly.
Understanding what she meant, Sal nodded, "No problem. So the job?"
"Sources say," she began, "I got it basically. I think it's an English class. A woman named Cassandra Bleuve was the teacher, but there was a death in her family; so I should have the post for a month or two." She went over to her and Sal's bed and slipped on a pair of comfortable shoes. "Let's go."
The two headed downstairs, Helena first with Sal in tow. Sal quickly went into the kitchen to get his keys, while Helena picked up a small set of envelopes from the coffee table in the living room. She made her way to the kitchen and grabbed two waters for herself and Sal. Just as they went to the door, they heard the lock click as it turned. The door flew open barely missing Sal.
Nokomis jumped, realizing that she almost sent the door crashing into Sal. "Sorry!" she exclaimed. "Your not hit, right?"
"No, Nokomis," Sal smiled.
"What brings you, Nokomis?" Helena asked with pursed lips. She knew that if anyone, anyone at all, knew where Hunter had run to, Nokomis would know; so far, Nokomis's lips were sealed. "We're just on our way out."
"I'm sorry but that's gonna have to wait," Nokomis said firmly, closing the door behind her. She sat at the kitchen table. "I had a long talk with my parents about this. I wasn't even truly sure if I should--"
"I'm sorry, Nokomis, but we are heading out," Helena interrupted. "I'm sure whatever you have to tell us can wait."
"Helena," Sal gave his wife a hard stare. He looked at Nokomis, "What's going on?"
"Hunter finally told me where he and Lalo are going," Nokomis's shoulders relaxed – a sign that she was visibly relieve at giving that information.
"You've been talking to Hunter?!" Helena's eyes grew large. "And you didn't tell us anything!"
"Helena!" Sal chastised her again.
"Helena, my ass, Sal! I knew that Hunter would've been speaking to her! I knew it!" Helena declared.
"I didn't tell you anything because I agreed with Hunter," Nokomis countered.
"About what?" Sal asked.
"When he got into Lalo's car, I asked Hunter what I should tell you," Nokomis clarified. "His answer? `Nothing. They don't deserve to know anything. They don't deserve anything from me.' So yes, for these two weeks he's been calling me."
"So you lied, Nokomis?" Sal asked with disbelief. "You lied to us and to the police. You could've helped them with the case. We could have Hunter back now if. . ." Sal took a deep breath and forced out a labored exhalation. "He didn't tell you where he was going, though. It wouldn't've really mattered. But please don't leave anything like this away from us again, Nokomis."
"I'm not gonna promise that. I can't. It wouldn't be fair to him," Nokomis looked Sal and Helena both in their eyes. She turned away from them slightly. "They're going to San Francisco, he said."
Sal and Helena immediately turned to each other. "What's in San Francisco?" Sal asked. Nokomis shrugged, and Helena didn't respond at first.
"Wait!" Helena exclaimed, "Lalo's school. The college he's going to. It's in San Francisco." Helena ran to the phone and immediately dialed Laura Callas's number.
"Who are you calling?" Sal asked.
"Laura! If they're going to his college we should at least tell her that too. And maybe she'll have an idea or something," Helena explained.
"Wait, Helena, what if he's lying?" Sal asked and then looked at Nokomis.
"What?" Nokomis and Helena asked in unison.
"What if he's lying to you Nokomis, so that we go on this San Francisco search, and then he and Gary have gone somewhere else?" Sal surmised.
"He's not lying," Nokomis assured him.
"How do you know that?"Helena asked. She put the phone back on its base.
"Because he trusts me," Nokomis answered, standing up. "I thought that I'd try to help you out, but it seems you don't want help."
"No, Nokomis. Thank you for telling us, but we have to be cautious," Sal explained.
"Cautious about what?" Nokomis asked.
"If Hunter wants us to find him, then I think he'll make himself known. I don't want to press the issue," Sal answered.
"Speak for yourself!" Helena chortled. "We're finding our son, and if he said he's gone to San Francisco. Then that's where we start searching." She picked up the phone again.
"He doesn't want to see us!" Sal declared. He went to his wife, took the phone from her hands, and put it back on its base. Grabbing Helena by her shoulders, he looked into his wife's eyes. "Hunter doesn't want to see us. Do you get that? No matter how much we want to find him, he doesn't want to be found. We find him, then we risk him running away again. Gary's not a dumb kid. According to Laura, he has his car. He went to the bank and withdrew a large amount of cash. It's sad to say, but they've got this planned out. They'll be safe. They have to be."
"I can not just sit here and do nothing. I can't, Sal. I won't. I'm calling Laura, and then I'm contacting Detective Tiehrs," Helena picked up the phone again.
Sal let his wife go and headed towards the door. "Well, I'm going to the parent-teacher thing. I'll grab some food and pick up Salene."
"Could you give me a ride to Tasha's?" Nokomis asked Sal.
"Sure, c'mon," he nodded, beckoning her to follow. The two left the house while Helena called Lalo's mother.
"Laura? Yeah, it's me," Helena began, "I've got some news. Hunter said he and Lalo are going to San Francisco. . . ."
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