This story is a work of erotic fiction involving teenage boys. All the usual rules apply. If you shouldn't be reading this now then don't continue on.

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A New Life Chapter 40 Part A

Winding Turns

We kissed for a long time -- through the radio station's commercial break and well into another song before coming up for air. Draping my chin over his shoulder, I sighed and hugged Prez tightly for a few seconds. Having taken a few chances to mention his aunt and his feelings about summer vacation, I was worried that he'd be upset - but not my lover. After all that, he soothed my fears by telling me that I was the best thing that had ever happened to him. No sweeter words ever escaped his lips.

Our legs were intertwined and almost all of my weight was on him. Against my hip I could feel his growing erection and I was popping a bone too. I knew that he wanted to make love and I did too but it was still early and could wait until we talked a little more. I softly said, "I get sad when you're sad, you know?"

He sighed, "I know, babe."

"How can I help, Prez?"

Prez smiled and squeezed me tight saying, "You've already given me lots to think about." Moments later he whispered, "I hope I didn't insult your folks."

I didn't understand what he meant or why my parents might be insulted. After a few moments, Prez said, "Because I offered to pay room and board, ya know? Some people might've gotten angry about that."

I asked, "Did they seem angry?"

Prez quickly said, "Not really, just surprised. But I was stuck for a while there. I wanted to make the offer but, at the same time, I didn't want to upset them." He paused, cuddled a little closer then said; "At least that's done with."

I whispered, "Is there something else that needs to be taken care of?"

Prez hummed affirmatively and said, "Its way more difficult though."

Pulling back, I looked down at him curiously.

Prez smiled, "It's not you or anything you've done. Its death."

I frowned.

"I mean, the different ideas about life after death," Prez quickly corrected. Then he explained, "My Catholic upbringing tells me that my mom is in heaven and that one-day we'll be together again. I wish that somehow it could be proven though. It's almost as if religions were created partly to relieve the sadness we all feel when someone dies. Then they expanded on that, teaching us to live honorable lives so we'll be sure to go to heaven and spend eternity with our loved ones. It's a double-edged sword, ya know? Half the time it keeps me sane, believing that we'll be together again. The other half of the time it drives me crazy because there's no way to be sure that we'll ever see each other again." He paused then shrugged, "But other folks believe in reincarnation. What if a baby girl was born moments after she died? And lots of people try to communicate with spirits at séances. Like in the movie, Ghost? What if she's close by, watching me, helping me? But then again, some people actually worship snakes!"

I chuckled and Prez sighed, "I have to wonder if any of it is real. I'd like to believe that she hears me when I'm talking or thinking about her. If only I could know for sure."

I reassured, "All that matters is how you feel," and then quickly asked, "Remembering makes you feel better, doesn't it?"

Prez nodded, "Most of the time, yeah. But there was that one-day I woke up sick a few weeks ago. And what happened today felt good... until I found myself sitting on the floor!"

I grinned, "It was really like a visualization?"

Rapidly nodding, Prez said, "That same tingling feeling, like tapping into unused brain cells. Smelling her perfume though... man that freaked me out!"

I softly said, "You miss her, Prez. It's totally natural. When our dog Aldo died, I kept seeing him out of the corner of my eye, sprawled out asleep in his favorite spots. But when I did a double take, he wasn't there, of course. It's like the mind has the power to recreate what it's been used to dealing with. It took a long time, a couple of weeks at least, before I stopped seeing Aldo. And I'm only talking about our family dog! I remember when Mike absolutely refused to go into his dad's home office. A little while after his dad died, Mike said that he saw his dad in there at his desk. After that, Mike didn't go in that room again for a long time. Similar stuff must be happening to you."

With hopeful eyes, Prez asked, "So its just my mind playing tricks on me?"

I nodded, "I'll bet that's a big part of it. The funny thing about Mike's situation is that Mike's bedroom was once his dad's office. Last year they moved the office furniture upstairs and Mike moved his bedroom downstairs." I paused for a second, and then softly reminded, "It took about three years for that to happen, Prez. Give yourself time."

For a long few moments, Prez seemed to absorb what I had said. He sighed, "Today's been one of those day's." Looking deep into my eyes, he confessed, "I really am comfortable here, Keith. I always have been but sometimes it feels like it's time to go back to my home, almost like I'm a guest."

Pulling myself tight against him, I groaned, "Oh baby, you know you belong here now, don't you?"

He nodded, "Most of the time I do, yeah. But since that day a few weeks ago, when I woke feeling sick, I sometimes flash back. Today was a flash back sort of day, in lots of ways. And I immediately know its wrong so I feel a little... weird, as if I'm here visiting you, like last year. But since I am already home and there's no place else to go home to, I feel guilty. The moment I recognize it though, I start rationalizing to push the feeling away."

Softly, I kissed his forehead. With my lips still touching him, I softly said, "Adjustments, Prez. It's all mind games, reconciling changes. When you feel it happening, you'll need to tell me, okay?"

Prez nodded. He then asked, "What do you believe? About life after death, I mean."

Inhaling deeply, I thought about it then answered, "We've never been that religious but its definitely based on Christianity. I guess I've never really thought about it too much. When my dad's parents passed away, I was only about eleven years old. But I remember crying for selfish reasons because they were gone. When Mike's dad died, I was more worried about Mike than trying to figure out where people go when they die. Its not something we can really know about without dying."

Prez softly said, "I need to ask something so please don't get angry."

The way he apologizes before even saying what's on his mind always cracks me up. I grinned, "Don't worry, I won't."

Beginning to softly rub my back, Prez said, "Back when you were coming to terms with being gay and considering suicide - do you think that lack of faith had anything to do with it?"

"No," I quickly said and then explained. "What kept me from actually doing it was the few good things. Like, the fact that nobody in school ever bashed or bothered me.

"That winter it just seemed that everything was chaotic. Not only was I gay but also I witnessed a big argument between Mike and Derrick. I thought the fight was about or because of me. It seemed that all my relationships were getting worse all the time. And from my perspective, it was my fault, because I'm gay.

"But then Mike lost it when I mentioned suicide. After losing his dad? That was probably the stupidest thing I could've said. It's the only time he's ever hit me and meant it. But I didn't really mean for him to hear it either. I was angry with myself, mumbled and he heard. It was a bad scene but at least he cared enough to club me one and curse me out for even thinking it. Then one day my bad attitude got me in trouble here at home. The entire day, Drew was trailing me and I couldn't take it. Weeks later, when I came out, I found out that Mike talked to Drew. If my friends and family didn't care as much as they do, there would've been nothing stopping me."

I sighed then said, "Accepting that I was gay, that I wouldn't be considered normal by most people was really depressing for a really long time. I fought all those preconceived notions as best as I could but it would still drag me down.

"But at the same time I was depressed, I'd fantasize about someone that would want to be with me and have sex with me. What would it be like to have a boyfriend? Would we really be close friends? Could we be together for more than sex? Or would sex be the center our relationship revolved around? And even those little fantasies, as good as they were, made me feel guilty. Every dude wants his dick sucked but I'd ask myself if I'd want to suck dick too and not have any answer. What if it was really big? What if it just smelled bad and tasted even worse? What if anal sex was brutally painful? Until you actually have sex you just don't know what to expect. It's exciting and scary at the same time.

Prez nodded and continued rubbing my back. I smiled down at him saying, "That's over and done with, thank goodness! I found you and we answered those scary questions together."

Once I finished, Prez waited a few seconds then smiled, "Thank you," and his hand stopped moving around my back.

"For what?"

"For the honest answer and not getting upset," Prez said. "In some ways, it was different for me. Sex was something way in the future and not worth really thinking about. I'd resigned myself to being alone and just jack-off fantasizing about famous people. Male or female didn't matter, I'd feel guilty either way." Then he grinned, "That's one of the worst parts of being Catholic -- how they teach you to feel guilty about every little thing!"

Cautiously and softly, I said, "You need to stop feeling guilty over your mom. You didn't kill her. And you sure didn't ignore her. You couldn't have changed things."

Prez sighed, "I know all that but I still feel guilty sometimes. And it's not just about her or how she was taken away." Prez reached up and began running his fingers through my hair. Then he softly admitted, "As great as it is living here with you, as considerate as your family is, I still feel like I'm intruding a little bit. There's no logical reason; I just feel that way once in a while. It bothers me too. Offering room and board was my way of fighting the guilt."

I sighed, "You are not a guest in this house, Prez. You are part of this family and have been since last June."

Prez nodded and smiled, "I think of it as living with my in-laws."

"However you want to consider it. Your happiness means everything to me."

Prez smiled, "You've made that abundantly clear," and then pulled me down again for another deep kiss. Moments later, his face slid around mine. He sighed, "I feel guilty about the fight too."

Squeezing him tightly for a few moments, I said, "Don't, baby. I sure don't blame you. Mike and Derrick have never implied anything."

"I can't wait to find out why he singled me out."

I reminded, "Mike was there too."

Prez said, "But Jake pulled the knife on me. He was smiling when he threatened to kill me, Keith. Like it would've made his day!" By the time he finished speaking, I realized that he was shaking.

I gently shushed him and hugged him tightly then said, "He's just a sick puppy, Prez. Think about it for a minute. If you or I don't like someone, we usually just avoid him or her. Jake jumped right past that alternative. He could've started a fistfight, without the knife. But he wanted insurance. In the office, he shouted slurs and threats in front of the police. Face it baby; he's not too bright." Prez giggled and I then said, "Given all that, I would bet big money that he's just sexually insecure. Whatever you and Mike said, even though you were joking, he took it to heart."

Prez sighed, "He should've just kept his mouth shut. I guess he thought that Mike and I wouldn't have a comeback."

I grinned and whispered, "Be good little fags and hide in a closet."

Prez softly snickered, "Fuck that!" and moved his hand from my back pocket to my back.

Since I had been laying on him for a pretty long time, I took the opportunity to roll back, pulling Prez along so he was lying on top of me. I softly asked, "Remember all those nightmares I had?"

He hummed affirmatively and then asked, "You're not still having them?"

I quickly said, "No, not for a long while. But, in hindsight, I've realized something about myself."

Prez started sucking on my earlobe and softly mumbled, "What's that?"

"I totally lost it that day," I admitted. "It was almost as bad as my worst nightmare. All I thought of was protecting you, saving the one person that made my life fun again, like when I was little. But when I'm alone and someone passes a rude comment, I usually think to myself, fuck you very much, but don't actually say anything. It's like I'll fight for anyone else's sake but not for my own."

Prez nodded and smiled, "I'm not the least bit surprised."


"That's you Keith. But don't forget how you handled Donofrio."

"That was just words though, probably like you and Jake in the locker room. I don't know that I would ever throw a punch in self defense."

"You would," Prez quickly stated, as if it were already fact.

"I love the way you make it sound so certain."

"It is certain," Prez quickly said, "Adrenaline starts pumping and everything goes on auto-pilot." After a few moments silence, he then pulled back and grinned, "I feel so much better."

I then said, "We're gonna have a lot of fun this summer. We can do whatever we want, whenever we want. I'm thinking about a camping trip somewhere."

Wide-eyed, Prez excitedly asked, "Where?"

I smiled and looked away saying, "Oh, I've got a few places in mind."

He giggled, "You love surprising me, don't you?"

I grinned and nodded, "It's one of the many things I love. Laying here with you and talking like this has got me so freakin' hard!"

Prez smiled widely and, glancing down at the bulge in my shorts, reached down then began firmly rubbing my bone. Looking in my eyes again, he softly said, "I've been so horny lately. It must be spring and the warmer weather," and then began fumbling with the button on my shorts. Once he got the button undone and the zipper carefully lowered, my lover reached his hand inside. He moved to kiss me and began fondling me. He then said, "Just like you enjoy surprising me, I'd like to surprise you once in a while. The suede jacket wasn't that expensive. And I really enjoyed getting it for you. Your reaction made it that much sweeter."

I grinned, "Like I might disagree while your hand is down my pants!"

Prez giggled, "I have pretty good ideas of what you'd like. I promise not to go overboard."

I nodded and chose not to argue, believing that we'd have a chance to talk more about it another time.

He can do absolutely amazing things with hands! Omigod! For a minute or two I groaned and writhed around while his magic fingers teased my hard dick. And Prez silently watched, smiling at me the whole time. He began sliding my dick between pairs of fingers - index and middle finger - middle finger and ring finger - and then back to index and middle finger. Involuntarily I bucked up off the bed into his hand.

He then began to get up off me and moved to pull my shorts off me. Prez grabbed the waistband and I lifted my ass. As soon as my bare ass hit the bed again, I sat up and helped him get his shirt off.

I grinned, "Are we bad?"

Pulling his arms out of the shirtsleeves, Prez smiled, "What do you mean?"

I said, "I dunno... it just seems that Mike and Derrick think we have sex too often," and then tossed his shirt over towards the closet.

Prez laughed and got up off the bed saying, "What's too much? Besides, it sounds to me like they have plenty of oral sex. They don't get too many opportunities for intercourse is all. And they're so jealous!" He then threw his head back and roared laughing!

Giggling uncontrollably, I got up and took my T-shirt off, threw it at the closet and then helped him get his jeans off. While I was tugging at his pants leg, I smiled, "As long as you don't think we're doing it too much."

I got his jeans off and started emptying the pockets, placing his keys, wallet and a few coins on the dresser. And while I did, Prez rolled his undies down. Then he peeked in the dog's crate and said, "Good boy. Shred that rope, you silly hound!"

In response, the dog's tail rapped at the sides of the pet apartment.

Tuning to me, my baby smiled and softly said, "Lately, there have been days when I've wanted some, oh, about every other hour."

My eyes almost shot out of their sockets! I giggled, "That's like eight times! Our dicks would be sore for the next two days!"

We wrapped our arms around each other in a tight embrace. Prez grinned, "It might slow me down but I would still want some. Don't you feel that way too sometimes?"

I rolled my eyes and nodded, "Seems to me, I spent most of my fifteenth year with my dick in my hand. Then I learned how much fun I could have with candles!"

Prez chuckled, "No one else has ever told me anything like that."

"Not even Derrick?"

Prez shook his head, "Not Mike either."

Pulling back and looking in his eyes, I asked, "You really don't find either of them that attractive?"

Wide eyed, Prez squeezed my buns and smiled, "Sure they're attractive. But so are you. I don't need to know how often they have sex or what kind of sex or how much they jerk off. Since I'm not in love with them, it probably shouldn't be that way. But I can't help dropping a little inside info now and then, just like they do."

I giggled, "Inside info?"

Prez nodded and explained, "Like last week, when I asked Mike how his new toy was working out? He was surprised I asked but he answered the question and added a little more information than I needed! It's just not at that level. But for reasons I haven't yet figured out, we all seem to enjoy teasing each other. It must be part of being gay, ya know?"

Smiling widely, I whispered, "I love you," and then went after his neck and throat.

We made love for two incredible hours. It was a few minutes after midnight when we turned off the stereo and fell asleep. But hours later, in the wee hours of the morning, while birds chirped loudly outside, I felt Keith behind me, grinding his hard dick against my butt! At first, I was still mostly asleep and just enjoyed it. I thought he would eventually stop and roll away like he usually does. But he wasn't stopping! And I was getting really excited! We'd never done it in the middle of the night like this before!

When he reached down to move his cock between my cheeks, I was pretty sure that Keith was awake. To prove that I was awake and more than ready, I lifted my right leg to give him access. As slippery as we already were, Keith easily slid inside me. He moved very slowly at first and then we began rocking to and fro. Leaning more onto me, Keith then reached for my hard dick and stroked it for me. After a while, he then pulled me backward onto him. In my mind, I flashed back to my first time because we wound up in almost the same position. Seconds before I lost it, I softly groaned, "Oh Keith, I love you."

And Keith hummed then hoarsely whispered, "As much as you need or want, lover."

Hearing him say that pushed me over the edge. While I was still shooting and panting like a dog, Keith whimpered and thrust up against my ass hard, letting loose inside me.

When we finally caught our breaths, Keith whispered, "Omigod! That was intense!"

Rolling off him, I stole a kiss then giggled, "I really, really enjoyed that!" Then I suggested, "This summer, any time either of us wants it?" I snuggled up close, rested my head on his chest and wrapped an arm over him.

Keith wrapped an arm around me and nodded, "Too much is when we're too sore to even try."

Lifting my head up off his chest, I peeked at the clock and said, "It's five-thirty. I'm not sore yet."

Keith giggled, "I was getting limp until you said that!"

I smiled, bounced my eyebrows playfully then reached for his cock saying, "Or we could get another ninety minutes sleep?"

He kissed my forehead and said, "Let's rest. Grind-a-thon starts around seven."

I kissed him goodnight but remained snuggled up with my hand resting near his package. Falling almost immediately to sleep, I dreamt of visiting my Aunt. Keith was with me too. It was a good dream and I hoped that real life would be that good.

Keith and I often talk about our dreams while we're in the bathroom getting ready for the day. He had summer camping dreams all night! I nodded and smiled thinking, no wonder he was so frisky at five in the blessed morning! But I liked it way too much to say a word. I was hoping for more nights of interrupted sleep just like that.

Back in our room and getting dressed for school, Prez reminded me that I needed to bring my SAT scores along. I got the envelope from the desk drawer and stuffed it into my chemistry book. Prez closed the bedroom door. Then we grinned and both double-checked that it was securely shut. Then we hurried out to the Four-Runner. Prez started the engine and moments later sighed, "The low fuel lamp is staying on," and then turned the engine off. Quickly, we unbuckled and ran to my car.

On our way to Mike's, I asked, "Have you figured your gas mileage?"

Prez hummed and nodded, "About eighteen miles per gallon around town. We haven't taken any long highway trips yet though."

Grinning, I patted the dashboard and said, "Twenty-four around town, closer to thirty on the highway."

Prez said, "Mine's bigger," and then quickly chuckled, "At least my truck is bigger!"

I chuckled, "Yours is plenty big."

After I completed a turn, Prez asked, "Did you have as much fun as I did last night?"

Reaching for his hand, I smiled, "Of course baby. We obviously needed it."

He softly smiled, "You were awesome!"

Pulling his hand up, I kissed it and grinned, "I aims ta please!"

Prez cracked up at my feeble attempt to sound like a Texan.

I turned onto Mike's street. Since we were running a little behind schedule, they were already waiting outside by the street. As I slowed and pulled up to the curb, I noticed that both Mike and Derrick were holding their hands up to their mouths with the index and middle fingers spread apart. Mike had his acoustic guitar with him again too.

Turning and looking at me curiously, Prez asked, "Wonder what that's about?"

Popping the trunk, I shrugged, "I'm almost afraid to find out."

Mike stowed his guitar then opened the back passenger side door. He slid in, giggling like a hyena. Grinning insanely, Derrick followed and closed the door.

As I pulled away again, Prez turned around, put his hand to his mouth with his two fingers spread and asked, "What's this?"

Mike roared laughing and Derrick giggled, "You're not doing it right." Then Derrick raised his hand to his mouth again but stuck his tongue out and licked between his fingers. Prez grinned and repeated the process, causing Mike to have some sort of hysterical breakdown. Derrick then nudged Prez's seat and roared, "Lickity-split! Get it?"

Breathlessly, Mike heaved, "Does it remind you of anything?"

We all about died laughing all the way to school! Taking the obvious tangents, we even agreed to use it as a signal! Derrick giggled, "Whenever ya see the sign it means, see ya later, we're gonna go have sex now!" Mike and I were still snickering as we split up and went into our homerooms.


Before homeroom, I crossed the hall and said good morning to Rebecca. As I expected, she wasn't as friendly as she once had been. But I told her about Mike's birthday party the previous evening anyway. When I had finished and asked if anything was new in her world, she pulled me aside and softly asked, "Why are you doing this?"

I answered, "Because we've been friendly for over a month and I'd still like to consider you a friend."

She looked up at me curiously for a long few moments and then said, "I don't know if I can, Prez. It still hurts too much."

I nodded understandingly then explained, "My father is the kind of man that likes to hold a grudge. Let me just say that he's one of the saddest people I've ever known. I refuse to be like him."

She nodded and sighed then started to walk away.

The bell rang and I quickly said, "This Friday our band will be doing a little after school show at our house. A few of our friends will be there too. Why don't you come over too?"

Before going into her homeroom, she said, "We'll see."


Immediately after homeroom, I walked with Mike as far as the main office.

Mike asked, "Have you and Prez decided which colleges you're interested in?"

I said, "We haven't even begun looking yet. Prez wants to stay in California and that's fine with me."

Mike said, "California's pretty big," and then asked, "How far away would you want to go?"

"It depends on which schools have the programs we want. As soon as I get done with the counselor, I'll know a little more."

The remaining steps were silent. When we got to the main office, Mike pulled me aside and asked, "Does Prez want to go very far?"

I answered, "We talked about UCSB once. Santa Barbara isn't too far." Noticing his concern, I asked, "What's the matter?"

He shrugged and sighed; "It's just not time yet, for a shit-load of completely selfish reasons, yeah, but also for another reason. It's too soon for Prez. Yeah, he wants to be alone with you but he needs to be here with family and friends too, don't you think?"

I smiled, "Don't worry, dude. We'll be talking a lot about it and we'll be talking with you dudes too."

Mike nodded and smiled, "See ya later."

While I waited for my turn to speak with the counselor, my leg was bouncing. I realized that I was getting nervous about college and moving away from home. In my mind I could picture Prez and I in our own place. It was a good feeling that I totally looked forward to. But moving away from the only home I'd ever known was kind of scary and a little sad too.

I would have to ask Prez how he felt when faced with his move from Texas last year. Every other time he'd mentioned his move, Prez seemed happy to have moved on. But he hadn't given up much, judging by the way that he's talked. If we moved far away though, we would be giving up a lot; namely our family and friends.

And then I wondered if it would be good for Prez to face another big move? Sure, it was still at least a year away but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like asking Prez if he'd mind staying closer to home. While I chatted with my guidance counselor, I asked specifically about colleges and universities within a two-hour drive of home that had good creative writing and film courses. Her computer printed a fairly long list of names, addresses and web sites. Then she handed me the list and a pamphlet that described how to write letters to admissions offices. By the time I stepped out of the office, there was less than ten minutes remaining in first period. So I slowly headed towards Prez's first period class, stopped by my locker and then hit the boy's room to take a leak. After washing my hands, I loitered another minute or so until the bell rang and then waited for Prez in the hall.

I watched Prez's blank expression brighten the second he noticed me waiting for him. Stepping up beside him, I said, "I just got done with the guidance counselor. There's at least twenty schools in the area I can apply to."

Prez giggled, "Cool! Another two days and I'll have my own list."

I said, "I hope you have as many options."

Prez smiled, "Around LA? I don't think it'll be a big problem."

I said, "So you wouldn't mind staying near home?"

Looking at me curiously, Prez said, "Whichever school has the best courses. And we can transfer credits to other schools if we feel like we want to try someplace else in the future. Right now, we just don't know enough to say where we'll be or when."

I nodded, "I had a talk with Mike after home room. He seemed... at least concerned... maybe a little scared."

Prez frowned, "There's no reason for him to be scared. No matter where we live or go to school, we won't forget our friends."

Then we walked into our English class and took the first of three exams to be taken over three days.

I wish that there were some way to stagger final exams. All those tests, one right after the other, only separated by PE and lunch is just too much for the average teenager to handle. Turning on my autopilot, I weaved my way through the halls towards the cafeteria.

Instead of spending another lunch period in the school cafeteria, we decided to go to Carl's Junior. Mike got his guitar out of the trunk then took a seat at one of the outdoor tables while the rest of us went inside to place our orders. Minutes later while Prez, Derrick and I were heading outside with our food, Jerry, Mack, and Gil walked in and said hello.

I asked, "Are you dudes staying here or heading back to school?"

Jerry answered, "We're staying here. We'll meet you outside."

I said, "Cool," and then followed Prez outside.

Mike was playing a blues tune that I never heard before. It sure wasn't a Stevie Ray tune - or at least I didn't think it was since Mike was playing his acoustic. It looked like Mike had gathered an audience too. When we went inside to place our orders, only one outdoor table was occupied. Now all but two tables were occupied. Shaun was sitting at the other table, watching Mike's hands and fingers like a hawk.

Prez sat down first and said, "How's it goin', Shaun?"

Without looking away from Mike's hands, Shaun said, "Good so far. I've got a trig test after lunch though. I may need medical attention by the end of the week."

Prez watched Shaun answer without even looking our way, turned to me and smiled; "I should be watching Mike's fingers too."

Shaun cackled but only glanced our way for a moment.

Turning to Prez, I chuckled, "Back to guitar again?"

Removing the wrapper from his chicken sandwich, Prez giggled, "For the moment."

Mike continued playing but turned and said, "Bass isn't that much different from guitar - just an octave lower and fewer strings."

Still chewing, Prez smiled, "I'll get a six string bass then."

Surprised, I turned to him and asked, "They make those?"

He nodded, "Five and six string, with frets and fretless." Then he smiled at Mike and said, "They don't make fretless guitars."

Shaun said, "Pedal steel guitars just have fret lines but no real frets."

Mike asked, "Really? You've seen one?"

Shaun nodded, "My uncle plays Hawaiian stuff on his. I tried to get him to play some Eagles with me once. It came out sounding... I dunno, country-Hawaiian!"

Quickly covering his mouth, Prez cracked up.

Derrick looked up at Mike and said, "Floyd used a pedal steel with lots of distortion and echo on a few tunes. It sounds really cool too." Mike nodded excitedly and then Derrick said, "Come on dude, take a break. Your burger's getting cold."

For another few seconds Mike played and created himself an ending. He then stood and handed his acoustic to Shaun.

Immediately, Shaun began strumming. Still chewing, Prez looked up at Shaun. Prez seemed surprised so I softly asked, "Something wrong?"

Prez shook his head and swallowed then explained, "That's an America song. My mom really liked them." Then he looked at Shaun and said, "That's America, right?"

Shaun smiled and nodded, "Sandman, another five chord wonder."

Derrick asked, "Can you sing it?"

Shaun nodded and looked around for a few seconds. I wasn't sure whether he would sing or not and it appeared to me, probably not. But then Shaun returned to the beginning of the song and started singing. I didn't know the song at all but he sounded pretty good, his voice wasn't quite loud enough but he seemed to be holding the tune. Impishly, Mike and Derrick smiled at each other. I turned to Prez and he was grinning widely, munching his fries.

I thought to myself, poor Shaun, and began laughing.

Confused, Shaun looked over at me and quickly I pointed at Prez, just so Shaun didn't feel that I was laughing at him and get self-conscious. Shaun nodded and continued. Then Jerry, Mack and Gil stepped outside.

Mack sat across from where Shaun was sitting. Jerry sat next to Mack and Gil sat beside Shaun. Mack and Jerry dug into their fries and began unwrapping their sandwiches. But Gil only took a small sip from his soda and watched Shaun. Moments later, Shaun finished singing and abruptly stopped playing. Mike, Derrick and Prez clapped and a few other people around clapped so I clapped too. But I turned to Prez and whispered, "Is that how that song ends?"

Shaking his head, Prez grinned, "The guy's hungry though."

When I looked over again, Shaun had put Mike's guitar back in its case and was sitting down next to Gil.

Mike said, "We're jammin' tomorrow after school, Shaun. Why don't you bring your guitar and join us?"

Turning and smiling, Shaun meekly said, "Thanks, but I don't think I'm any where near the same level as you dudes are."

Derrick chuckled, "You're a rhythm guitarist dude! What you play sounds good! The timing is right on and you've got a good voice."

To my surprise, Prez looked past me and added, "We'd like it if you tried, man. I'll bet that we could back you up pretty easily."

Mike excitedly said, "Yeah! We'll learn the tunes you know and try to teach you a song or two that we know."

Looking around Mike, Derrick said, "This Friday after school we're jammin' too." And then Derrick and Mike smiled widely at me!

Turning to Prez, I saw him grinning widely, his eyebrows pointing up playfully. The harder I tried to hold eye contact, the more he looked around! Soon he giggled, "Ya wanna start summer with a bang and have a few friends over?"

Still smiling insanely, Derrick and Mike batted their eyelashes and nodded excitedly!

I laughed, "Okay! I'll ask the 'rents tonight."

Mike turned to the other table and loudly said, "Party at Keith's house, Friday after school!"

Turning, I quickly added, "Let me just clear it but it should be alright."

Mack nodded and grinned, "Kewl!"

Jerry excitedly said, "This is the year dudes! Starting this summer and all through next summer, it's our time!"

Shaking his head, Shaun laughed loudly.

Everyone settled down and finished lunch. Derrick asked, "Were any of you dudes at the frolics?"

Everyone at the other table nodded or said that they had.

Mike asked, "How did we sound?"

Our four new friends looked at each other nervously for a few moments. Then Shaun turned and said, "You're good, very good, in fact. The music is tight and Keith's vocals are really great."

I involuntarily blushed and Prez softly giggled beside me.

Mack said, "It just wasn't very loud, ya know?"

And Jerry added, "Derrick's drums seemed way in the background."

Prez said, "It's a big auditorium. We'd probably need another board and at least two more speakers to fill a place like that properly."

Then Derrick explained, "We've been thinking about that already. I'd need to get six mics and another sound system to get the right mix."

Mike smiled, "We're planning on getting some additional equipment. That's what we'll be working for this summer, Derrick and I, anyway."

Prez added, "I'll be getting an acoustic bass really soon."

Shaun then said, "Your sound needs to be bigger for bigger rooms too, dude."

Stunned, Prez said, "Really?"

Jerry, Mack and Shaun all nodded.

Prez said, "In that case, you really need to hear us again this Friday. You can hear how we sound outside. Hopefully it'll sound better." Then he looked across the table at Mike and Derrick saying, "We won't always play at big auditoriums. But I guess we need to get prepared for next year's frolics." Mike and Derrick smiled and excitedly nodded.

I turned around so fast that Prez jumped in his seat a little. He smiled and softly said, "You don't have to but yeah, we'll play at next years frolics too."

On our way back to school, I thought aloud, "We could do this Friday jam at your house, Mike?"

Mike and Derrick looked at each other briefly. Then Mike shrugged, "We'd have to do it in the back yard though. There's not enough room on the other side of the yard for all our equipment. If something electrical gets wet, we're toast, dude."

Derrick added, "We'd have to move all our stuff there too."

Prez reached for my hand and I asked, "This isn't going to be a recurring theme all summer, is it?"

Mike chuckled, "Not at your house, at Doug and Brian's."

Derrick said, "With the help of their recording equipment, we could hear for ourselves what we sound like. Compare the tape we made in January to what we make over the summer, ya know?"

Mike added, "That room is sound-proofed, bro. Doug said that he's been in there putting down drum tracks at three in the morning and no neighbor has ever said word."

Derrick giggled, "Brian obviously had plenty to say though!"

A little stunned, I said, "Oh! I just don't want to spend the summer inside. Nights wouldn't be bad though."

Prez said, "Daytimes at the beach. I promise, this summer I will stand up and ride a wave all the way to shore without killing myself or anyone else!"

In the backseat, Mike and Derrick cracked up. Chuckling, I lifted Prez's arm and kissed the back of his hand. He rode plenty of waves to shore last summer. But he did it kneeling or squatting down low. Whenever he tried to stand, down he went!


That afternoon, after Keith left for work, I went to the kitchen and looked up my aunt's number. Picking up the phone, I heard Rush bark twice and looked out the window. Drew and Corey were out there playing with the hound - holding his rope toy high, out of the dog's reach.

Taking a seat at the counter stool, I stared at the phone a few moments, wondering what I could say to my aunt. Apologizing for being so distant for so long might not be a bad start, I thought. Finally, I tapped in the numbers, put the phone to my ear and waited for an answer. On the second ring, a large knot began forming in my throat.

There was a click after the third ring and then my Aunt Eileen's voice. "Hello?"

She sounded very much like my mom. I swallowed hard then said, "Hi Aunt Eileen."

She excitedly said, "Preston! Hello! How are you?"

I was a little surprised with her greeting. "I'm pretty good," I smiled. "Finals at school this week. My brain is mush." She giggled and I said, "Otherwise, I've been doing really good." I realized that even her general demeanor was very much like my mom's.

"You're excited about summer vacation, I'll bet, aren't you?"

I stammered, "Yeah. I was hoping... that... we could..." The knot in my throat prevented me from saying the words. For the first time since my mom died, I felt I was violating her memory - that I was already putting too much pressure on myself and on her. She had little reason to be so pleasant with me. But her tone voice made it clear that she was genuinely happy to hear from me.

After a few seconds silence, my aunt said, "We could, any time you'd like."

I cleared my throat and hoarsely said, "Next week, after school starts?"

She said, "Sooner if you'd like," and then teased, "Brisket for dinner tonight."

I started laughing but before I knew it, was sobbing unrestrained. I cried, "I'm sorry! I just couldn't. Don't even know if I can now. I do want to try though. I'm really very sorry!"

Then I realized that my aunt was crying almost as hard on the other end of the line. "It's okay! It was a horrible thing. There was so much... I thought I was ready but I really wasn't. Things worked out better for both of us. I'm sorry too."

Noticing Drew looking in and appearing worried, I forced a smile, waved at him and then went back to our bedroom. For several minutes, my aunt and I totally lost it, crying things across the phone line. She said that she had offered to help with the apartment. I didn't remember that or telling her no, that it was my job. I told her it was better that I did it myself. The two of us breaking down would've only slowed things down more. She had offered to take me in too. I didn't remember the offer or saying no either. She and the Hundsers agreed that it wasn't the time for me to face another change. I thanked her and glanced over at the clock.

Quickly, I said, "Damn! It's time for me to get ready for work."

She asked, "Are you sure, Preston? I'd very much like to talk more."

"I'm sorry, I told a friend that I'd pick him up on the way. We both work at Black Angus."

She sighed, "If you're sure." Then she added, "Please be careful driving, sweetheart." Hearing her say, "sweetheart" was like being thrown back in time and hearing my mom say it. I almost didn't hear the rest of what she said. "I've gotten so emotional that your uncle is cooking dinner now. You're all I have left, Preston."

My water works had only just begun drying up but hearing her say that I was all she had left had me sobbing again.

Then my aunt began insisting that I not go to work. "You're only sixteen! Please call in sick tonight. I'll get myself together and be there in an hour. You'll have dinner here..."

Through my sobs, I explained, "I'd like to but I can't. Next week, okay?"

"I'll hold you to that," she warned, and again she pleaded, "Be careful Preston."

Wiping my eyes and kicking off my sneakers, I said, "I will be careful. And I'll call again Sunday afternoon to make plans, okay?"

She said, "We'll talk more Sunday. Bye."

I said, "G'bye," and hung up then began racing to get changed into my work clothes. I should not have worn a button down shirt that day. Unbuttoning took forever; my hands were shaking so badly! Grabbing the little latch on my jeans' zipper was another exercise in futility! I looked at the clock again as I pulled one leg out and fell on the bed. It was 3:45. I couldn't even get undressed! Driving this way would be stupid, I reckoned. Still only half out of my jeans, I whispered, "Fuck it," and reached for the phone to call Derrick.

Their phone only rang once and Mike picked up. "Hello?"

Kicking my pants off, I said, "Hi Mike, it's Prez."

"What's up? D's waitin', dude."

"I can't drive. Think I'll just skip it tonight."

After a short pause, Mike said, "You okay? Ya kinda sound stuffy all of a sudden."

Sitting up and finally out of my jeans, I explained, "I'm not sick, just a little rattled."

During a pause, I heard Derrick in the background asking, "What happened?"

I said, "Tell D that I talked with my aunt and to get his buns to work."

Mike said, "We hear ya," and hung up the phone, which I found rather sudden, to say the least!

Lying back on the bed, I looked around the room and again got the feeling that this wasn't really my room. Again I picked up the phone and called work to let my boss know that I wouldn't be in. She wasn't pleased but since Tuesday's were slow, she was more understanding. I promised to make it up to her first chance.

Looking around the room and hanging up, I saw signs of me all over the place - things of my mom's and mine. I hated dealing with the recurring doubts. Realizing that I had to pee, I forced myself up and looked in the dresser for a pair of shorts. I remembered the day we moved the furniture around as I slipped into a pair of Keith's shorts. Padding across the hall, I struggled to remember the day I moved the last of my stuff to the Hundser's. There really wasn't that much. My mom's entertainment center and components were the only big things. And maybe a dozen or so small boxes went up in the attic. Pointing my dick at the bowl, I tried to remember exactly what was in the boxes and started leaking. I recalled a box of photo albums, the kitchen utensils, microwave and the china. After that, I moved in with a small suitcase of clothes and toiletries. The larger suitcase that I filled during our move to California was empty because so much was already at the Hundser's house.

Finished at the toidy, I went to the sink to wash my hands and tear stained face. As I was drying off, I smelled the towel. It was a very familiar smell - the smell of Mrs. Hundser's favorite brand of fabric softener. That's why I was here, because this is where I wanted to be. At least half of my things were here before my mom died. Being here is right, I reasoned. It was right then and it's more right now. Now I just needed to stop seeing the place as something other than my home. I began dreading the idea of being home alone without Keith near by.

There was a knock from the front door and Rush started barking, jolting me back to reality. I went to answer the door but Drew had beaten me to it. The second the door opened, Mike walked into the house. In his hand was his electric guitar case. At the curb, Derrick waved and pulled away. Mike smiled at me and cheerfully said, "Misery loves company."

I smiled, "Do I look miserable?"

Drew smiled widely, closed the door and returned to the living room.

Mike answered, "Not yet, but I just got here," and then nodded towards the garage saying, "Lets make some sounds."

He started walking in that direction and I followed saying; "I don't know Mike. My head's still spinning."

Stopping and turning in the hallway just before the garage door, he grinned, "There's no better time then now. Stop thinking and play what you feel, dude."

We went into the garage and Mike started setting up his equipment. I went to my amp, powered it up and said, "You want me to play sadly?"

Getting his guitar out, Mike said, "If that's what you feel."

I smiled, "This is a switch for me, I usually play happy to stop being sad."

"And that's cool too but this time, express what you feel. I know you can with words. Now do it with sound."

I looked down at the empty guitar stand and turned to Mike smiling, "Guess I need to get my bass out from under the bed."

"Or you could play D's drums or Jessy's keys? Whatever you want."

I shrugged, "I don't feel like pounding drums and couldn't do much with the keys. I'll be right back." And started for the garage door. Mike began playing soft, clean arpeggios just before I stepped back inside the house.

As I walked past the living room, Drew cautiously asked, "Do you dudes need me in there?"

Drew and Corey both appeared worried. Even Rush had his ears back, only tapping the tip of tail. I paused and smiled, "Not this time, Drew. Go ahead and do whatever you guys want. I'll be fine," and then continued on my way to our bedroom. Rush followed me.

I kneeled down to get my bass case from under the bed and Rush sat down right beside me, in my way! Petting him, I softly said, "It's okay, hound dog." He got up and trotted into his crate. I pulled the case out then Rush dropped a rawhide bone on it! Picking up the dog's toy, I grinned, "That's your toy, silly hound! Go be good and play." I put the bone in Rush's mouth. Then he turned and trotted out to the living room.

Quickly, I got my bass and returned to the garage. Plugging in my bass, I asked, "Key of E or A?"

Mike answered, "No key signature."

I giggled, "No key? How will we know how to build any kind of progression?"

"No progression either. No thinking - not about music anyway. We'll watch each other and feel what we play. A point-counterpoint thing, get it?"

Nodding I chuckled, "Got it, I think!" and then played just an open low E, letting it ring out. While the note hung deep in the air, Mike played a clean E minor ninth chord and followed it with a slow, melodic line with plenty of hand vibrato. Suddenly Mike stopped playing and held the last note he played. Reaching down to the fifteenth fret, I slid the G down to B, then walked down from A to the low G. Mike countered but stayed with the E minor ninth at a different position and the melody was similar to what he played the first time around. Back and forth, we continued on like that for about an hour. There was some dissonance every now and then but the way we resolved it made it actually sound good - like tension built and then released. We grinned at each other and stopped, letting our final notes hang lazily in the air.

I giggled, "My brain feels tingly!"

Simultaneously, we said, "Like after a visualization."

Surprised, I smiled, "You feel it too?"

Lowering the volume and taking off his guitar, Mike chuckled, "'Course, dude! Did you know that's what I did after my dad died?" I shook my head and Mike continued, "I didn't know that's what I was doing then but I had the same feeling lots of times. I'd just lay back on my bed with my guitar in hand, ya know? I'd play, just moving my fingers, play a chord, get its sound and then play a lead, over and over for hours sometimes. Then my mom would call me for dinner, I'd stand up and about fall on my face!"

I cracked up and Mike grinned devilishly at me. When I stopped laughing, I softly asked, "Did your dad know you liked guitar and music?"

Mike sat on his amp and nodded, "I got the Ibanez about a year and half before he died. I got my amp the Christmas before." Patting his Fender Twin reverb, Mike smiled, "I'll never get rid of this amp, dude." He paused and then said, "Learning was a bitch at the start but I really wanted to. Then after he died, I'd just lie around with my eyes closed sometimes, playing and listening... and remembering."

My eyes filled with tears immediately. I turned around, wiped my eyes and took off my bass, returning it to its stand. Before turning around, I said, "I want to remember but it makes me crazy too sometimes."

I heard footsteps. Then, only a few feet behind me, Mike softly said, "Life goes on. But you feel like it should've stopped that day for everyone. How can there be another smile? The first smile hurt like hell. How can there be another birthday or holiday? They hurt too, I know. We feel guilty because we're happy and happiness shouldn't still be allowed. It's one of those, 'damned if ya do, damned if ya don't' situations."

Spinning around with tears flowing down my face, I glared at him. Tears were flowing freely down his face too but it wasn't noticeable in his voice. He smiled and wiped his eyes saying, "If we're gonna be damned anyway, let's have a reasonably good time doing it. My dad told me more than once that if I loved guitar and practiced that I'd be great some day. Of course, back then I gritted my teeth through most bar chords and I wondered if it would ever happen. But good things did continue to happen. They're still happening too, don't ya think?"

Nodding, I forced a smile, stepped forward and hugged Mike tightly. For a good five minutes we stood there hugging each other. There was a lot of sniffling but no other sound. Just the two of us remembering and sharing the pain.

Then we heard a car pull into the driveway. We each took a step back. Wiping my face again, I sniffed, "It's probably Keith's dad."

Mike nodded and sighed loudly. He then asked, "Can I stay for dinner?"

Still trembling slightly, I grinned and nodded, "Neither of us is in any shape to drive." Then I turned off my amp and headed for the garage door saying, "I wonder what's for dinner. Don't think I've even looked in the fridge."

Mike said, "Wipe your face off in the sink, while you're there, dude. I gotta go to da toidy."

I thought, he's really not wrapped quite right. Stopping at the door, I chuckled, "Thanks, Mike."

He nodded, "D told me to wait. That if I said all that, you might get angry."

I shrugged, "He might've been right if it was said last November. You've got good timing though."

Mike leered and giggled, "So I've heard!"

Opening the door and going inside, I softly chuckled, "If you had popped a rod..."

He said, "That would be bad timing!" and then giggled at himself.

I hope you enjoyed the story. Comments and constructive critisisms are always welcome.
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