This is a work of fiction; all the characters are inventions, though some may have been modeled substantially upon people of the author's acquaintance.

The author encourages comments from readers. Send all such correspondence to Tommy.Boyd @ Comcast.Net .

Chapter 4. Queen's Gambit

Oh, tell to me, Tam Lin,”she said, “why came you here to dwell?
The Queen of Faerie caught me when from my horse I fell.
And at the end of seven years she pays a tithe to Hell
And I'm so fair and full of flesh, I'm feared 'twill be myself.

--Ballad of Tam Lin

Excerpt from Kyle's Diary: Thursday, Feb 5:

After Tommy and I had so much fun yesterday evening, I was a little surprised to have that nightmare again last night, even more vividly. Now Simon has found his way into it, where I'm looking for Tommy, and Simon is laughing at me and making me mad and wanting to gut-punch him like I do with Tommy. I guess I'm still mad at him for the way he threatened to tell the principal about us back in November, and how he tried to get sexual favors from Tommy. I know we shouldn't have been doing stuff in the bathroom stall, but we didn't think anyone would see us. And it was almost worth it; there is something about his marbley hard body that isn't like others I have seen, something that makes it beautiful and not just ‘pretty’. I remember kissing him on his tummy a few times and thinking, he's not just a kid like I am; he's a fantasy on legs.

I wasn't with him a couple of days after that when Simon was pressing him for an answer and groped his chest, and when Tommy wouldn't agree right away, he hit Tommy in the mouth. Tommy had to close his eyes count to ten and clench his fist and do nothing — people who think he can't keep his temper don't know how he can restrain himself when he wants! All he did to Simon was hold him very firmly by the arm (which can cut off the circulation if he wants) and tell him he needed more time. But I could feel the cut on Tommy's lip when we kissed that evening, and knew how much he hated it. He was just so upset that, in spite of all his strength, he had to just stand there and take it. And he was so worried that we could be expelled, and he really was more worried for me than he was for himself.

Anyway, it turned out OK, because Tommy went to his homeroom teacher and confessed first, and it was Simon who got in trouble for the sexual blackmail instead. And he made sure that Simon wouldn't bother us again: he met with him in a classroom, and broke a thick tree branch he'd brought with him, reminding Simon that the branch was thicker than Simon's arm bone, and did other strength demonstrations like bending a chair leg. I'm sure Tommy could break his arm quite easily, and I'm also sure that Simon got the hint, because that was the last we saw of him.

Anyway, when I told Tommy about the dream, he just smiled and hugged me and told me again that he wouldn't let anything happen to me. And I feel the same way about him. I would do anything in my relatively limited power to protect Tommy — anything! And of course I know it's silly to worry about bad dreams, though after what I saw today, I guess maybe I'm entitled to get a little superstitious.

Tasha was having a good day. She decided to hang out with some of her freshman friends during lunch. Even though she liked the status of being able to spend lunch with her newer friends on the junior varsity cheerleading squad — a full two years older than she was! — they still treated her kind of like a little kid sometimes, and besides, what was the fun of being in with the juniors if you couldn't lord it over your less fortunate friends? She set her tray down and sat across from Alison, whom she had known since grade school.

Ooh, Tasha! Is it true that you got to be Tommy Boyd's lab partner in science class? He is so the cutest guy in the whole class, you are so lucky, I'd just do anything to be spending all that time so close to him!

Tasha tossed her hair carelessly, with that particular head movement that she had practiced for hours. “Oh yes it's true Tommy and I are lab partners and he is so strong and I got to feel his muscles while we were working and they're like so hard I mean like a rock or something, he's like a hundred percent muscle and I'm sure he's really hot for me so it'll be fun to lead him on for a while but you know I'm going out with Mouse and he's on the varsity football team and like a senior you know …” She paused, partly to catch her breath, and partly to let the reminder that she was dating a senior on the football team have the suitable effect. She waited for Alison's admiring nod and continued. “And even though yeah Tommy's real cute in his little-boy sort of way and I know all the girls in the class are all moist for him and stuff he's like still just a freshman y'know? And he's not as big and strong as Mouse or as mature, if you know what I mean, so Tommy's just kind of a side-dish, kind of tasty, y'know?

There was a bit of a pause, then Tasha leaned just a bit closer, in a conspiratorial sort of way. Her voice kept up at its accustomed volume, though. “I'll tell you a secret; actually, somehow Mouse knew that Tommy and I were going to be lab partners isn't he smart? And he told me to play up to Tommy and flirt with him and tomorrow I'm going to invite him over but it won't be really my house it'll be Mouse's garage and he's going to play some kind of joke on Tommy won't that be funny? But you know you can't tell anyone, promise?

Alison, with a wide-eyed look, just shook her head and made a lip-zipping gesture with her finger across her mouth. And, in fact, she would keep her friend's secret. She was, for some reason, genuinely devoted to Tasha, and would never think of betraying her confidence, even though she didn't like the idea of someone playing a trick on someone as cute and nice as Tommy. Neither of them noticed the plain-looking girl who was sitting at the next table just a few feet away, for she was, at best, invisible to girls of their lofty social stratum. But she had been listening very closely ever since Tommy's name had been mentioned, and now, as their conversation turned to such matters as Alison's new clothes, she sat quietly and finished her lunch, deep in thought. Just as the bell was about to sound to end lunch, she heard an exclamation from Tasha.

Oh, look, there's Mouse!” She got up and rushed over to her somewhat surprised boyfriend, and gave him a big kiss on the mouth. Usually they were a bit more restrained in school, but she did this mostly to impress Alison anyway. Certainly, a lot of people saw the kiss, and among them was Kyle, who was throwing his lunch trash away nearby. The bell rang, and Tasha, with a final quick peck, left and walked to her Science class as Kyle, frowning slightly, went to his English class.

Tommy was already sitting and chatting with Brian when the subject of their conversation made her usual grand entrance into the classroom. Brian poked Tommy and pointed as Tasha, catching Tommy's eyes and smiling knowingly, glided into her seat just as the bell rang to begin class. As before, there was a laboratory demonstration towards the end of the period, and Tommy and Tasha returned to their stools at lab bench 4.

Mr. Wesson sighed and rubbed his head as he watched the students begin the lab. I don't know what that Simon kid's angle is; matchmaking isn't remotely his style, he thought perplexedly. I don't know anyone on the faculty or administration who won't be a lot happier when he graduates. Tommy, though, he's a good student, even if he is kind of a showoff and a disruption at times. Maybe sometimes he gets away with things because he gets by on charisma — especially with the women on the faculty! — but basically he's a hard worker and a good kid. Bright student, like his brother was. Maybe he'll be a good influence on Tasha; she doesn't work anywhere near her level of ability. He strolled around and noticed that while Tommy was doing the experiment, she was rubbing her hand across his chest. He frowned, but, per his agreement with Simon, did nothing as long as the class wasn't being disrupted. He checked; nobody else was looking at their little performance. He began to imagine what the boy's strong chest must feel like to her; probably rock hard beneath his thin silky shirt. Probably flexing them a little bit for her benefit. Whatever he's got under his shirt there, she does seem to be enjoying it! Mr. Wesson blinked, sort of shook himself, and went over to help out a student who was raising his hand across the room, grateful for the interruption, as Tommy and Tasha continued their experiments.

Did you know she has a boyfriend?” Kyle looked to see if his bit of news surprised Tommy. It was late afternoon, and Kyle was helping Tommy and Ron moving some of their dad's old computer equipment out to their garage.

Tommy looked up from where he was uncabling the monitor from the CPU. “Really? Someone in our class?

Kyle shook his head. “No, in fact it's that same guy from the football team who used to harass me back at the beginning of last semester before you ‘explained’ things to him. Anyway, at the end of lunch I saw her go up to him and they had a really big kiss right there. I think I heard her call him Mouse.

Ron easily picked up the large carton full of old manuals he had been filling and looked at Kyle. “That jerk? I remember him from last year. He wasn't even a decent tight end.

Tommy laughed and said, “Well, I have a boyfriend too! And mine's about a million times cuter than hers!” Kyle stopped what he was doing and went over to Tommy and gave his boyfriend a big kiss. Tommy smiled at him for a long moment, then continued, “And besides, if he's the jealous type, there isn't really anything he can do about it, is there?” and Kyle nodded as he remembered the last time a jealous boyfriend had challenged Tommy. That ‘fight’ had lasted less than five minutes, and Tommy hadn't done a fraction of what he could have done to humiliate the guy.

Come on, you guys,” said Ron, “let's get this stuff out to the garage, you ready?

Excerpt from Kyle's Diary: Thursday, Feb 5 (continued):

So Tommy told me about the way Tasha had felt his chest, then his abs. We both kind of laughed at that, and had to explain to Ron that it was funny because I have sometimes done the same, secretly counting the bumps on Tommy's abs during math class — hey, that's kind of mathematical, isn't it? Ron said he was surprised I could concentrate well enough to keep count!

So, while we were talking about all this, something funny happened, although I almost got hurt: Tommy picked up the old 19-inch monitor and handed it to me. It was real light for him, and he held it out with both arms outstretched, as though it were an empty box, and gave it to me. But he simply forgot how heavy it is, so he didn't wait to make sure I had gotten a good grip, and I almost fell over when suddenly the full weight was dropped into my arms! But I didn't get hurt, and Ron couldn't help laughing at how funny the whole stunt had looked, and then Tommy and I laughed too.

Almost every day, something like that happens, where Tommy just amazes me by showing me how strong he is, doing something I've never seen him do before, whether it's something he lifts or moves, or pullups with me hanging on his back, or whatever. All this worrying about boyfriends, football players, stupid Simon and bad dreams is so stupid; Tommy can do anything!