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A New Life Chapter 40 Part B

Winding Turns

The whole time I was at work that Tuesday night, I absorbed what Prez had told me the previous night. From my perspective, most of it was completely understandable. Almost eight months had gone by since his mother's death. In that time, Prez has occasionally... well, phased out - for lack of a better term. Sometimes it would barely be noticeable. Other times he'd quietly reminisce for several minutes before snapping out of it. And thinking of her was causing him to question his faith in an afterlife. That doubt seemed to also be creeping into other parts of his life. All these months, he's lived with my family and me, in our house, without any problem at all. But now he says that sometimes he feels like he's visiting me, like last summer. And therefore, he also occasionally feels like its time to kiss me goodbye and head back to the apartment.

Thinking all that brought me to tears. And not being able to find any way to help got me so choked up that I quickly headed for the bathroom to wash my face and pull myself back together. But instead, I almost broke down weeping and remained in there for at least five minutes. To me, Prez was home. He'd been living with us twice as long as he lived with his mom in the apartment. What was it that was making him feel this way, I wondered. Thinking, at least he doesn't feel anything is wrong with our relationship, I stopped crying, washed my face and returned to work.

A few minutes after nine, I finished at the checkout counter, clocked out and said goodnight. On the way home, I thought about a few changes that had occurred since Prez moved in. Half of October and most of November were pretty sad but there were good days even then. Then I started worrying about Prez's first holidays without his mom. I watched him like a hawk as much as possible, even after my skiing accident, while I was hobbling around with one bad leg. When I asked myself, what happened next, I remembered that I started singing with the band; we met Doug and Brian, Jessy joined and we accidentally outted ourselves in front of Kim.

I asked myself, then what, and ratted through the list. A rainy Martin Luther King holiday weekend followed by our Valentine's Day weekend down in San Diego and a lot of band rehearsals. School, homework, spring break, John's birthday party, the frolics, the prom. Lots of things had happened but not one of them were reason for Prez to not feel at home. It didn't make sense to me.

Driving onto our street, I saw Prez's 4-Runner parked in front of the house. I asked myself, wasn't Prez picking up Derrick and driving to work tonight? Believing that I had misunderstood or that the plans somehow changed and Derrick drove them to work, I parked and walked to the front door. My dad's car was gone though, I noticed.

Opening the door and stepping inside, I said, "Hey. I'm home," and Rush came scampering to me, prancing around at my feet. Stepping into the living room and petting the dog, I smiled at my mom.

She smiled and asked, "Did you have a good night?"

I nodded and sat on the loveseat saying, "Yeah, pretty good. Just thinking a lot." Rush sat in front of me and panted contentedly. Then I realized the stereo was on in our room and said, "Oh shit! Did Prez leave the stereo on all this time?" and started to stand.

My mom said, "Preston didn't make it to work tonight."

Surprised, I sat again and asked, "Why? What happened?"

"Nothing bad," my mom quickly said. She then explained, "He called his aunt tonight and got pretty emotional. It was all over by the time I got home though. Mike was here with him."

I smiled, "He was?"

She smiled and nodded, "He's still back there with him."

I chuckled, "That's why the stereo is on! I'm surprised they're not blasting heavy metal!"

My mom grinned evilly, "They were but I asked them to lower it."

I nodded and relaxed a little then asked, "How is he now?"

"He was fine at dinner, poking fun at himself for getting so worked up," my mom explained. She then asked, "You encouraged him to call his aunt?"

I smiled and nodded, "He brought her up. I just pointed him in that general direction. I've been thinking about stuff we talked about last night too." My mom waited and I continued, "Everything he feels is just what you expected except for one thing that worries me. He says that he occasionally sees himself as just visiting, like last summer."

She nodded as if it were completely expected and said, "That's understandable too." Immediately noticing my stunned expression, my mom said, "Think about it, Keith. What caused the accident to happen?"

"Rain, slippery roads."

She nodded, "And the last weekend of October we set the clocks back."

Wide-eyed, I added, "And in April we jumped ahead an hour!"

She said, "It's been dark, dreary and rainy for six months - more so for Preston. Now the sun is shining again and it's bright later in the day."

It was so simple I couldn't help but chuckle, "Of course! It was drizzling back in April on the six month anniversary too!"

She smiled, "Your boyfriend is very perceptive but he doesn't even realize what he's doing sometimes."

Tilting my head, I frowned, "What do you mean?"

My mom sighed, "Over dinner, he mentioned some of what you two talked about last night. Specifically, we talked about life after death. He also mentioned some video game that he loves but hasn't been able to play lately? Something about discovering ceremonial burial, monotheism and theology?"

I grinned and nodded, "Civilization two."

She then said, "He's searching for the truth, Keith. That's why everything seems questionable to him. And the natural cycle of the seasons, emphasized by the end of a long El Nino rainy season, is making him remember. And it's causing him to want to learn about the things that he naturally forgot about. He's getting what he wants, in reasonably sized doses. It takes time to absorb new things."

Rush got up and went to the door. Moments later, my dad and Drew walked in.

Walking around the short entryway wall my dad smiled down and firmly grabbed my shoulder saying, "Hi. What's new with you?"

It was a simple question that I might've normally answered by saying, "nothing much," but I began giggling and then laughing. I was thinking, the season is new and my boyfriend is new, that's what's new!

Drew looked at me like I was a few bricks short of a full load and then went to the kitchen. My dad shrugged and, turning to my mom, smiled, "It wasn't that funny, was it?"

My mom shrugged, "We were just talking about our dinner conversation."

Walking over to the sofa, my dad said; "A thousand and one ways to say goodbye, a thousand and one ideas of what happens after we're gone." Then he sat and gave my mom a peck on the cheek.

The music from our room suddenly seemed louder, causing me to turn and look over my shoulder. Walking down the hall, Prez saw me and smiled, "I was wondering why you weren't home yet!"

It appeared to me that he was glowing all over. Getting up, I said, "I've only been home a few minutes," and opened my arms. Prez stepped in close for a hug and gave me a really passionate kiss! It only lasted five or so seconds but the kiss was so hot that it made my dick swell and throb! It would've only taken another few seconds before my hips involuntarily bucked! But Prez stepped back and softly smiled, "Do you want a soda, babe?"

I smiled and nodded, watching Prez walk confidently towards the kitchen. Damn, he looked so fine. He was wearing a pair of my shorts and his white Johnson motor T-shirt with the cartoon rowing team on the back. Above the picture were the words, "Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!" We cracked up when we saw it at the store so Prez bought it. Part of me wanted to follow Prez into the kitchen but I held myself back thinking, this is his house too, he can manage.

Mike purposefully bumped into me and asked, "Has Derrick called yet?"

My mom answered, "Not yet."

I grinned, "I didn't know he was expected to!"

Mike smirked, "Do you want to drive me home?"

Cocking one eyebrow, I mumbled, "Umm... no."

Smirking, Mike softly growled, "Bitch!"

Drew returned from the kitchen munching on a bagel. He swallowed, looked at me accusingly and softly frowned; "Your boyfriend cooked dinner... again!"

I chuckled and from the kitchen, Prez began laughing loudly. He returned with our sodas giggling, "It wasn't just me this time!" and handed me a glass.

My dad smiled, "I helped."

And Mike nodded, "So did I."

I grinned at Mike and groaned, "Oh no!"

My dad said, "Funny, I didn't hear anyone complaining while we were preparing or eating dinner?"

Prez nodded, "John's in his bedroom plotting my demise."

Drew quickly added, "And he's doing it all alone this time! I'll have nothing to do with it!" and then headed for his room.

Prez and I grinned evilly. Then the phone rang but no one moved to answer it. My mom and Mike looked at each other briefly. When she nodded, Mike spun around to answer the phone.

Turning to Prez, I looked deep into his eyes. In a second he noticed and held eye contact with me.

"Are you feeling okay now baby?"

He smiled and nodded. "There's still some more to resolve but I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel." Wrapping his free arm around my waist, he turned to look at my parents and said, "We'll be back in a few minutes," then led me down the hall. Rush hurried to follow, passed us and was lying down with a rawhide when we stepped into the room.

I asked, "You and Mike had a good time?"

Prez nodded, "Things are going to be so much better between us now. At some level, I was scared of him too, ya know?"

I nodded and sighed; "You hid it well, most of the time." We put our glasses down and I closed the door.

Prez came to me and said, "It was between us. But it's definitely out of the way now. How was work?"

I shrugged, "Good. I was thinking about what we talked about last night."

He nodded and asked; "You see the cycle?"

I nodded.

"Some things are gonna hurt."

"I'll help you get past it."

"Or pick up the pieces?"

I nodded again. "Or pick up the pieces."

There was a knock at the door. Mike hollered, "Hey! Don't go startin' anything yet!" and turned the knob. Mike stepped in the room, leering at us, as if we were already in the middle of something sexual. Prez giggled and shook his head.

I loudly said, "We were just talking."

Mike smirked, "Funny, I didn't hear anything but the stereo."

Squeezing me tight, Prez giggled, "Sometimes words get in the way."

Mike hummed suspiciously and walked towards the desk. Picking up a pile of paper and turning around still looking down at it, Mike said, "We got a lot done tonight, dude."

Without letting me go, Prez nodded and said, "Six songs in what? Less than three hours? That's pretty damn good to me!"

I asked, "You worked on songs all this time?"

Prez nodded, "Since dinner, yeah."

Still looking at the pages in his hand, Mike said, "We chatted and played a little bit before dinner too."

Prez chuckled, "Formless music."

Mike grinned and nodded, "You caught on pretty quick too."

Turning to me, Prez explained, "I played something then Mike played something. Then I played more and as I was finishing, Mike started. As he finished then I started again. Soon, we were playing with and against each other. It was definitely different!"

Mike looked up and grinned, "It's based on something D played for me once. Mahavishnu Orchestra, or something like that. The guitar player was killer but there was so much other counter-point stuff going on. At first it sounded like noise but then Derrick asked me to picture in my mind what the band was doing. It was probably never that popular but from a purely musical point of view, it's pretty cool."

Prez nodded, "He and Derrick practice like that sometimes..." He then smirked, "Playing with and against each other."

Mike grinned and nodded; "D should be here pretty soon. We can get him filled in tonight and share with Jess tomorrow."

I asked, "What's special about tomorrow?"

Prez said, "Just rehearsal."

And Mike quickly added, "With Shaun... if I have to hound him all friggin' day! I warned him though."

I chuckled, "If he doesn't want to, dude..."

Mike growled then said, "Some people just need the proper motivation! It's just a matter of discovering what motivates him."

Prez cracked up laughing but blushed bright red and I smiled at him.

Raising his hands and the pages above his head, Mike hollered, "That's it!" Then evil blanketed his face and he paced the room softly giggling; "I'll work on Gil tomorrow too! He obviously likes it when Shaun does his thing!" Stopping and looking at us, he paused and laughed, "In a manner of speaking, of course! You dudes gotta help!"

Prez and I collapsed against each other and cracked up.

A few minutes after ten, Derrick showed up. Mike and I then spent the next half-hour with Keith and Derrick in the garage, reviewing five songs by the Eagles and Sandman, by America. My mom owned a few older records by the Eagles and had a few on CD also. It seemed that all the songs Shaun knew were on the Eagles Greatest Hits CD. We reviewed Best Of My Love, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Desperado, Lyin' Eyes and Witchy Woman from that disk. Then we quickly ran through Sandman before Mike and Derrick had to leave for home.

Back in our room, Keith began undressing and said, "Ya know, in some ways, I'm glad you dudes want Shaun to join the band."

Taking off my T-shirt, I said, "So you won't be the front man so much?"

Sitting on the desk chair and untying his sneakers, Keith nodded, "But I'm also a little jealous too."

Reaching for the button on my shorts I paused, a little stunned and said, "Jealous? Really?"

Keith nodded and sighed, "I wish I could play an instrument."

I quickly said, "You do! Several different percussion instruments."

Keith smirked, "They don't count."

"Sure it does!" I quickly said, and dropped my shorts. "You quickly knew what to do with each of them but Derrick taught you proper timing. It takes rhythm and coordination."

Keith stepped behind me and began firmly massaging my shoulders. He said, "It's your dream though, Prez. I wouldn't want to face a life of gigs, getting my bowels all in an uproar before every show, worrying if my voice will finally crack in front of an audience."

I turned around and softly smiled, "Why do you do it then?"

He hugged me tightly and repeated, "Because Mike and Derrick have always wanted me to and you do too. And because it's fun hearing you all learn new songs. And it's fun when you start jamming."

Pulling him closer and squeezing tight, I whispered, "You put your own needs aside for us?"

He shrugged, "Each of you have done the same for me." I tried to hold eye contact but Keith kept looking around. He then softly grinned, "What I'm about to tell you makes me happy and a little sad too."

I nodded and waited anxiously.

Then Keith sighed, "Earlier tonight, while I was at work, I put myself in your situation."

"Aww Keith, don't..."

"Wait, it's mostly good, I promise," Keith quickly interrupted. He then said, "I realized how much I have and... well, you're it, baby. You're my best friend, my lover, my conscience... pretty much the center of my world."

With tears welling up in my eyes, I forced a grin and asked, "How is that sad?"

He shrugged, "Just admitting to myself that you're more important than a bunch of other important people in my life. And realizing just how few people you have in your life separate from me hurt too."

"I called my aunt tonight."

Keith nodded, "I heard you got upset?"

I nodded, "I wasn't the least bit nervous about it until I picked up the phone. After I heard her voice and how happy she was that I called, I started to lose it."

Noticing me getting choked up, Keith kissed me and nuzzled my ear whispering, "She's your family."

I almost broke down again whispering, "She said that I was all she had left." Pulling myself together again fairly quickly, I continued, "And she's right. My grandparents on my mother's side died when I was about two or three. I don't even remember them. It's only her and me on that branch of the family tree."

"She's important then."

"I told her that I'd call again Sunday to make definite plans for next week. I want you to come with me."

After a long pause, Keith softly asked, "What about your father's side?"

I thought carefully before answering, "There's not a single person I miss at all, in all this time. I'll bet they don't miss me too much either. They've never called. They never even sent a card when my mom died. That's cold, man."

Keith hugged me tight and softly sobbed into my shoulder. He was more upset than I was! And that caused me to leak more tears while I softly reassured Keith. I told him, "What I have now is more than I've ever had before. I'd like to be a part of my aunt's life and have her part of mine. But I'm not going to push it. I'd just like to be able to tell her about things that have happened, and what we know will happen, and what we hope will happen years from now."

Looking up again and searching my face, Keith sniffed and forced a chuckle, "That's what family does."

I suggested, "Bed time?"

He nodded but said, "Bathroom first."

I said, "Me too," and followed him across the hall. The house was dark and quiet. Rush wanted to follow too but I stopped him in the hallway and closed the bathroom door. Keith and I took places in front of the bowl and relieved our selves. We looked at each other and, noticing how much of a wreck we were, we began to smile. Finishing and flushing, we went over to the sink, cleaned up, brushed our teeth and then went to bed.

Getting comfortable and snuggling close to be held by my lover, I said, "I mentioned our Friday afternoon plans over dinner."

Wrapping his arm over me, Keith yawned, "Oh? What did they say?"

"It's cool. We can do it in the backyard but we stop at the first complaint. I said, no problem."

"Who else would be home in the middle of the afternoon to complain?"

"Your mom said, the lady down the street with the baby."

"Oh, okay. G'night Prez."

"I love you."

"I love you too."

We were exhausted and fell asleep very quickly.

The next day, before homeroom, I crossed the hall to say hello to Rebecca. She still wouldn't agree to coming over Friday afternoon. I smiled warmly and said, "Just show up. You're welcome anytime."

Argh! I despise finals! They want me to remember something from September when I can't remember what color boxers I put on most mornings! Gimme a break!

That day Mike brought his acoustic guitar again. And Derrick brought a tambourine and his bongos. We stayed at the cafeteria for lunch and then we went outside to quickly rehearse. Under the shade of a Sycamore tree, we sat in a circle. Around the circle to my right were Prez, Jessy, Nelson, and Derrick and finally, on my left, Mike. While we were out there, almost everyone from Mike's birthday party showed up, with the exception of Francis and Graham. I began wondering about them.

At the party Saturday night, they seemed to get along pretty well. Sure, they spent more than half the time alone together but so did everyone else. They didn't seem too enthused with the idea of a gay-straight alliance club either. Then I remembered that they left early too. Maybe they didn't really have to leave to meet a curfew? Maybe they weren't too comfortable? Mike had told me they were sophomores. I wondered if maybe they were separating themselves because of the year's difference?

A few minutes before the end of the period, Mike and Derrick stowed their instruments in the trunk of my car. Prez and I waited for them.

I asked, "Have you seen Francis or Graham this week?"

Prez nodded, "In the halls."

Frowning, I asked, "I wonder why they don't hang with us."

Prez grinned, "Mike said that they don't like our style of music very much. They've both acknowledged me in the hall though."

I shrugged, "There is a year's difference too."

Prez huffed, "I'd hope it's not because of that! At least musical tastes makes sense."

Returning from the car, Mike said, "We're as ready as we can be."

And Derrick smirked, "What are you two doing?"

Prez chuckled and bounced his eyebrows. The four of us began walking towards the school.

I grinned, "We were just talking about Francis and Graham. I haven't seen them very much since Saturday night."

Mike leered, "Would you like to?"

Chuckling insanely, Prez answered, "We did want to know who was cool and who wasn't."

Then Derrick said, "I found another bigot. In the hall this morning, after first period." He then softly growled, "Nothing trips my switch faster than those fuckers."

Mike quickly said, "It's over now," and Derrick nodded.

I asked, "What did you do?"

Derrick answered, "What I had to, I ignored him. If I try to be like you or Prez or even Mike, I'll lose it, I swear."

Mike reassured, "You'll get there in your own time, dude."

Nodding, Derrick agreed, "I'm not gonna fuck up my life over some worthless asshole like that."

Bumping into Derrick, Mike looked up at him and smiled, "I sure like it when you go into defensive bulldog mode though."

Blushing fiercely, Derrick giggled, "Don't call me that!"

We all cracked up. The warning bell rang and we said our good-byes, splitting up to go to our fifth period classes. While Prez and Mike headed for the gym, Derrick and I headed for the computer science wing.

I said, "They're lucky having PE this period. It almost cuts the day in half."

Derrick nodded, "Right before lunch was the best last year. Having PE first thing in the morning though..."

He paused to dial the combination to his locker and I said, "That's gotta suck. Last period is good though. It makes the day end a little faster."

Grabbing our books and handing me mine, Derrick said, "I hope we get decent schedules next year," and then closed his locker.

We started towards our class and I said, "This year was okay but I hope Prez is in more of my classes next year."

Derrick softly giggled, "If Mike were in all of my classes, he'd go out of his way to make me crazy. We'd wind up in detention and then in a frenzy when we got home again. And that's the best of several possible scenarios!"

Rolling my eyes because he said that in our school hallway, I just about died laughing as we walked into the classroom.

The teacher grinned at me wickedly and sneered, "I hope you're in the same cheerful mood after today's final, Mr. Hundser."

Out of the corner of my eye, I looked at Derrick. He was sitting there grinning impishly! Looking up at the teacher, I chuckled, "Prolly not but it's a good start."

The whole class started snickering! Unable to hold it in any more, Derrick finally threw his head back and laughed loudly.

There were only two days before the end of the school year. Everybody was ready to, "get the heck out of Dodge," as Prez says.

On the way home that afternoon, Mike and Derrick were sharing some ideas for our band.

Mike said, "To play outdoor parties we're going to need a few things."

Derrick explained, "To cover our gear and us, we're going to need a really large tent or cabana - a tarp spread over poles or something like that. The sun was pretty hot on John's birthday."

I grinned at Keith. "Did he say, poles?" and Keith began snickering.

But Mike continued on, "And we'll need some lights for possible night time gigs."

Derrick commented, "The night of John's party proved how much more light we need."

The Hundser's have several lights against the back of the house. There are two patio lights and, at each end of the back of the house, there are two spotlights. I agreed, "By seven-thirty we needed the spot lights turned on and by eight, that wasn't really enough."

From the driver's seat, Keith asked, "How much is all this going to cost?"

Mike answered, "We started a list the other night. I figure at least eight cans, two for each side of the rectangular area we occupy."

I said, "It sounds reasonable."

Derrick sadly said, "The cans are about forty bones each."

Keith yelled, "That's over three hundred bucks!"

Mike said, "Three-twenty, without tax. More like three-fifty."

I said, "That's not so reasonable any more," and Keith chuckled.

Derrick said, "A twelve foot by sixteen foot tent is another three hundred. But we could go to a surplus store to get a tarp and some poles."

I snickered, "There he goes with the poles again."

Nudging my seat, Derrick loudly said, "That would be much less expensive, a little over a hundred bucks."

Mike then said, "We've already got a few extension cords and power strips but we'll need a few more of those too."

I then reminded, "Jerry and Shaun think we need to push more air too. I need to look for a bigger amp."

Derrick then suggested, "Or you could go stereo, dude? Get one of those bass pod things?"

I shrugged, "That would be cool too. And another hundred watt bass combo amp."

Keith asked, "How much for one of those?"

Before I could answer, Mike said, "The bass pod is about two-fifty."

I said, "Another amp, about four hundred."

Pulling up to Mike's house, Keith loudly chuckled, "Where are we getting all this money?"

Opening the back door, Mike nudged his seat and said, "Jobs!"

Waiting on the other end of the back seat with his door open, Derrick said, "That's our priority this summer, dude." Then he and Mike stepped out and closed the doors, hurrying towards the house.

Keith turned to me and said, "That's not exactly my priority this summer."

I smiled and nodded, "It's not my only priority this summer. You know I have a bit more on my plate than that."

Keith grinned and chuckled, "Why do I see dollar signs in your eyes then?"

I smiled, "That's just getting the stuff we need so we can get work."

Reaching for my hand, Keith smiled warmly and sighed, "I'll have to keep you under control."

Looking deep into his brown eyes and seductive expression, I groaned desperately and sighed, "If it weren't for the band, my aunt and the few other places we want to go, we might not ever leave the bedroom all summer."

Smiling widely, Keith sighed, "Guess we need some other parts to our lives. You'll get only what you need for you though. Chip in for the other stuff."

I nodded excitedly, "Okey doke!"

Returning from the house, Derrick and Mike stowed their gear in the trunk then we headed home.

Derrick said, "I want to turn my platform into risers, about a foot or so higher off the ground."

Mike giggled, "Hopefully my mom won't freak out again this time."

I turned and asked, "Why'd she freak?"

Mike said, "Because we were using my dads power tools to build the platform." He then chuckled, "She was sure at least one of us would walk out of the garage with only nine fingers!"

Rolling over and resting his head on Mike's lap, Derrick sighed, "No one was dismembered though, obviously! I want to build fold down, collapsible legs on that thing. That way it's easily transported."

Keith said, "I hope one of you are planning on getting a van or a truck. Getting everything moved for the frolics took two cars and Prez's 4-Runner."

Mike said, "After I turn eighteen next year, bro. Probably a van but my mom's gonna fight it tooth and nail."

Derrick chuckled, "She didn't seem to thrilled the first time it was mentioned."

Mike assured, "By next year, I'll have even more reasons for a van. She'll give in, I promise."

Derrick softly said, "I think Jerry was right. The things we do over the next year will make or break us."

Taking Keith's hand in mine, I said, "It's time to plan for the future. What we're doing now sets the foundation."

Keith looked over and whispered, "You've been talking to my dad?"

I nodded, "And the rest of the family last night during dinner."

Bowing his head slightly, Keith said, "Sorry, my brain is finals frazzled. It's a good thing Shaun is coming. I might wind up mixing lyrics from several songs."

I asked, "Shaun is coming, isn't he?"

Mike nodded, "Gil too but he's got to leave for work by five-thirty the latest."

Pulling onto our street, Keith asked, "Where does Gil work?"

Derrick answered, "A small PC store off of Burbank Boulevard."

Pulling up alongside the curb, Keith parked the car. We all got out and helped get Mike's gear out of the trunk. Derrick had Mike's gig bag, loaded with the GT-3, cables and drumsticks. I took the acoustic case while Mike picked up his electric case. Heading towards the house, Keith frowned, "Nothing for me?"

I ran up and goosed him with the guitar case! He jumped and hollered then turned to me smiling wickedly. I seductively whispered, "I've got something for you."

Unlocking the front door, he whispered, "We did skip last night."

I nodded, "I don't expect any reason to skip tonight."

Behind us, Mike loudly said, "What was that?"

Wide-eyed, Derrick softly said, "You dudes didn't have sex last night? Sacrilege!" and Mike's jaw dropped.

Keith loudly said, "We don't have sex every night." Then he giggled, "Just most of 'em!"

Walking into the house to get Rush and my bass, I loudly said, "You two are so jealous!" and Keith snickered. I opened our bedroom door and Rush tore out of the room. Once he had inspected the living room and said hello to everyone there, he returned to me wagging his entire body. I pulled my bass from under the bed and said, "Time to go out, hound dog?" Before I even finished speaking and stood, Rush was out of the room.

When I passed through the living room, I heard Mike from the garage. "We're gonna have so much sex at Doug and Brian's." Derrick giggled. Mike loudly chuckled, "I swear dude, every time one of us gets hard - for at least the first few days."

I let Rush out back and Derrick hollered, "Ooooooomigod! We'll need vitamins!"

I heard the pop of the PA being powered on and Mike chuckled, "We never needed vitamins before, I doubt we will now."

Having overheard way more than I needed, I stepped outside with Rush and closed the door. Looking around the backyard as Rush sniffed out the perfect place to shit, I grinned and thought - it's all perfectly natural. This is my home and thankfully it looks like home right now. Even our two goofy friends verbally seducing each other was just right. There was only one thing missing... where the hell was Keith?

I turned around and saw him walk past the sliding doors into the kitchen. Stepping inside and closing the door behind me, I asked, "Where'd ya go, babe?"

Peeking into the fridge, he replied, "To the toidy. Then I changed my shirt and switched from sneakers to sandals." The doorbell rang as he finished speaking. Pulling out a two liter bottle of 7-Up, he said, "That's prolly Jessy. Get the door please, baby? I'll pour us some drinks."

Things have happened like this before but on that day it sent a chill down my spine. I didn't feel distant or separated like I sometimes do. As I answered the door, Mike and Derrick began playing Peaceful Easy Feeling in the garage. Jessy stood on the porch in front of Nelson and said, "Hey, Red," just like she almost always does. I smiled and said hello then showed them inside.

Nelson smiled, "How's it goin' Prez?"

Closing the door I said, "Really good. How about you?"

Following them to the garage, Nelson said, "I met with my guidance counselor today. UCLA is interested."

I patted him on the back and congratulated, "That's great, man!" then stopped at the garage doorway and said, "Excuse me, I have to get my bass."

Still playing his drums and over the PA, Derrick said, "Can we get a fan in here? It's already pretty warm."

I didn't hear any reply but seconds later, as I was returning to the garage, Keith joined me with the big box fan in his hand. While I got my bass on and plugged in, Keith sat the fan on top of the washing machine, blowing right at us.

The Hundsers have a two-car garage. Last summer, they kept both the Suburban and the Camry in there so you can imagine; it's pretty big. As you walk into our garage from the house, immediately to the left is a speaker stand pointing away, into the room. Along the wall on the right are the water heater, furnace, the washer and drier, and then a door to the yard and finally the PA mixer in front of a small work area. Along the far wall are Jessy's keyboard amps, my bass amp and the other speaker cabinet. The drums are set in front of the driveway garage door. Keith's bench and weights and Mike's gear are along the other adjacent wall with two microphone stands in the center of the room. When we rehearse, we're all looking into the room, towards each other or the washer and dryer.

Stepping up to the lead vocal microphone, Mike suggested, "Until Shaun gets here, lets work on School's Out." We all nodded and stopped tinkering about. Then Mike explained, "Key of E," and began softly playing the opening with Derrick tapping out the beat. "We play this through the verses," Mike demonstrated, and then switched what he was playing and so did Derrick. Mike continued, "This through the chorus and bridge and then back to the opening riff again."

The first time through as a band, Mike sang lead vocals while Derrick called out the changes. Of course, we all sang the chorus background vocals.

When we were finished, Keith said, "Not bad for a first time," and Nelson smiled widely at Jessy. Believe me, our first runs are usually pretty sloppy with Derrick holding us together on a wing and a prayer.

Mike then stepped up to me and played a section then said, "When I do that, you need to remember to accent the little hammer-ons, dude." Then he reminded me of the record by turning the tone all the way down on his guitar and playing the bass part. I nodded and quickly repeated the section with the hammer-on. Then we tried a second time. Mike started us off at normal volume and soon began singing.

Well we got no choice
All the girls and boys
Makin' all that noise
'Cause they found new toys

Derrick hollered, "Bridge!" and Mike sang.

Well we can't salute ya
Can't find a flag
If that don't suit ya
That's a drag

Derrick hollered, "Chorus!" and we all began singing.

School's out for summer
School's out forever
School's been blown to pieces
No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher's dirty looks

Mike screamed like he was on fire, threw his head back and wailed out the solo. Then Derrick shouted, "Verse!" and Mike hopped in front of the microphone again singing.

Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can't even think of a word that rhymes

Derrick hollered, "Chorus and ending!"

School's out for summer
School's out forever
School's been blown to pieces
No more pencils
No more books
No more teachers' dirty looks
Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all
School's out forever
School's out for summer
School's out with fever
School's out completely

And Jessy made her first attempt at making her synthesizer sound like a ringing school bell being slowly phased out of existence. It was close but not quite right and we all started laughing. Suddenly, there was a loud knock on the driveway garage door. Moments later, Drew walked in from the house, smiling widely and beat red from laughing. Corey was with him and laughing still.

Turning to his brother, Keith asked, "Was there anyone hanging around outside, Drew?"

Drew giggled, "No."

Turning around slightly, Derrick knocked on the garage door. Moments later there was a shout and a knock back!

Facing Keith, I snickered, "Open the door please, babe."

Getting up and turning around, Keith pressed the button and the door began rising up. Once the door was up about a foot off the concrete, Derrick sighed, "Ah! Fresh air." Then he looked at Keith and smiled, "Can we keep it open at least part way, dude?"

Keith nodded, "As long as nobody complains," and the door continued sliding up.

As soon as his face was below the rising door, Shaun giggled, "That was awesome!"

Greeting Shaun and Gil, I smiled, "Hey dudes, we're glad you made it."

And Mike added, "I was beginning to expect a lame excuse tomorrow."

"No dude," Shaun giggled, "We'll both find out once and for all." Looking around the room, he said, "Don't anyone be afraid to tell me to take a hike."

Mike and Derrick and I groaned loudly but Keith and Jessy protested the most loudly. Keith whined, "You were really good Saturday night!"

And Jessy said, "For the last three days every thing that Mike has said to me has had your name in it somewhere."

Mike put his electric down, got another cord from his bag and then handed it to Shaun.

I asked, "You've got a pickup in your acoustic, Shaun?"

Bending down and opening his guitar case, he hummed affirmatively and said, "My uncle gave this to me last Christmas. It plays much better than my old guitar." Then he pulled out an Ovation acoustic and plugged it in. Mike plugged the other end of the cable into the PA and Drew turned up the volume on that channel. Standing up, Shaun slid under the guitar strap and played an open E string. Jessy played her E and I followed with mine. Shaun's guitar was just slightly sharp but he spent only a minute tuning the remaining five strings. Looking first at Mike and then around the room, he asked, "What would you like to try?"

Derrick shrugged, "Whatever you're most comfy with, dude."

And Mike said, "How about Peaceful Easy Feeling? I know you know that one."

Shaun nodded and his foot began tapping. He stepped in front of the mic and gave us a soft count. Then, as if we had all been doing it forever, we started playing right on the downbeat and just kept on going. Shaun began singing and Drew adjusted the volume a little for both Shaun's acoustic and vocals. Mike started picking arpeggios and I played a really bouncy country bass line. Jessy was playing Mike's acoustic guitar too. We sounded really good! And it was a good thing too because half way into the song, while Mike picked out the lead solo, Keith realized that the garage door was still completely open and a little audience was gathering in the driveway! I think all of us knew it except Shaun. He found out when he turned around to say, "That wasn't so bad."

Jessy grinned, "You're not hiking yet, dude." Then she sat at her keys and began playing Desperado perfectly. Shaun nodded and stepped up to the mic. Right on queue, he began singing softly and sweetly.

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses,
You've been out ridin' fences for so long now,
Oh and you're a hard one, but I know that you've got your reasons,
These things that are pleasin' you can hurt you somehow.

Shaun began strumming chords. Mike got his new E-bow out and played the counterpoint strings part and I added a soft bass line as Shaun sang the second verse.

Don't you draw the Queen of Diamonds boy; she'll beat you if she's able.
You know the Queen of Hearts is always your best bet.
Now it seems to me some fine things have been laid upon your table,
But you only want the ones you can't get.

At the next verse, Mike, Derrick and I began softly wooing in the background.

Desperado, you ain't gettin no younger,
Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin you home,
And freedom, oh freedom, well that's just some people talkin'.
Your prison is walking through this world all alone.

And Derrick came in adding a strong beat.

Don't your feet get cold in the wintertime,
The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine,
It's hard to tell the nighttime from the day.
And you're losin all your highs and lows,
Ain't it funny how the feelin' goes away?
Desperado, why don't you come to your senses,
Come down from your fences- open the gates.
It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you.
You'd better let somebody love you,
(Let somebody love you)
You'd better let somebody love you, before it's too late.

The ending retard was a little sloppy but for a first time, it sounded okay. Shaun was obviously pleased. I glanced at Gil. He was smiling, looking at the PA carefully and clapping. Everyone else in the garage was clapping, making Shaun feel welcome. So were the people out in the driveway and in the street! He really was very good.

Mike said, "Let's teach you a song now, dude."

Shaun smiled and giggled, "If you dare."

Derrick wiped his brow and suggested, "How about some Hootie? Hold My Hand?"

Mike agreed and reset his guitar processor so that his electric sounded like an acoustic. Then we spent the next minutes showing Shaun the progression. The second time around, Keith sat next to Nelson but sang the lyrics as we walked Shaun through the sections. He caught on fairly quickly. Most of our audience outside had wandered off, I noticed. Only a few really young kids were still out by the street. The third time around we tried it at tempo. Shaun played the rhythm guitar parts normally done by Mike. Without any difficulty at all, Mike adjusted what he was playing. Keith and I sang the lead vocals together, like we normally do. Having gotten used to our version without a lead guitar part, I was momentarily surprised by the added electric guitar arpeggios and power chords after the first verse. With his head thrown backwards, Derrick grimaced and slammed his drums as if they had somehow pissed him off. His beat was as strong and steady as ever though. Shaun was obviously enjoying himself, turning around periodically and watching each of us. When we were done, Derrick looked forward and chuckled, "That sounded way fuller! You're in dude."

Shaun cackled, "I'm liking this a lot!" He then glanced at his wristwatch, checked with Gil and said, "We've got time for another."

Mike said, "Show us the way."

Shaun thought for a few seconds then suggested, "Best Of My Love?"

Keith enthusiastically said, "Yeah! Go ahead dude."

Shaun began strumming his guitar and Jessy reached for Mike's acoustic asking, "C and D minor, right?"

Mike said, "That's the one," and began fooling around with the slide and echo. Shaun got a little freaked out and stopped playing just as Jessy started strumming. Looking at Shaun, Mike and Jessy stopped playing too. Shaun giggled, "Sorry. Lost it for a second there."

Keith joined Mike and I at the second microphone and said, "Take your time dude. Have another shot." Then Keith grinned at me and silently asked, "Happy, baby?"

I glared at him. "You know what this is going to do to me!"

He smiled wider. "I know!"

Shaun then counted softly. At the same time, he and Jessy began strumming the same chords in the same rhythm. It sounded every bit as sweet as the record. I played a little lead-in bass and Mike started playing country slide. Then Shaun began singing. He led and the rest of us backed him up. With three guitars, bass and drums we sounded really good all the way through the song - until we were close to the end.

Following the melody perfectly, Shaun sadly sang, "Whoa-ooo-ooh, sweet darlin', I wish I new how to end." Everyone inside and outside started cracking up but we held the rhythm another few beats. Then, one by one, we each played a C chord, Derrick crashed a cymbal and we fell apart in fits of hysterics!

Drew loudly laughed, "I may not know much but I know that's not how that song ends!" and turned off the PA with a loud pop.

Taking his guitar off, Shaun giggled, "We'll work on it another time."

Mike grinned, "There's gonna be another time?"

Turning to Mike, Shaun gleamed, "I guess so. When are rehearsals?"

Mike answered, "They've been Wednesdays and Sundays but with summer coming, they'll be when ever a few of us can get together."

Shaun asked, "Same place?"

Derrick grinned, "That'll probably change too."

Shaun chuckled, "As long as its not Friday night or Saturdays."

I assumed, "You work those days?"

Shaking his head, Shaun said, "Sabbath."

Disappointedly, Mike complained, "It must suck having to stay home Friday nights."

Putting away his guitar, Shaun shrugged, "It's not too bad. I can have guests. But going out to party? There are some things my folks won't budge on. But the other night, they were great when I told them I was gay."

Obviously surprised, Nelson's jaw almost hit the floor.

Shaun noticed and giggled, "Maybe I don't look gay - but I am." Then he grinned devilishly and chortled, "I just hope I don't look too Jewish, is all." We all cracked up laughing again and congratulated Shaun on his triumphant coming-out.

Just as we were all heading towards the street, Keith's dad pulled in the driveway. Keith wanted to introduce Shaun to his dad but unfortunately, they had to take off quickly and get Gil to work. Shaun rattled off his phone number and they waved goodbye. While Mike and Derrick chatted with Jessy and Nelson, Mr. Hundser met Keith and I in the middle of the driveway. He asked, "Has the door been open all afternoon?"

Shaking his head, Keith grinned, "No, about an hour, maybe longer."

Mr. Hundser nodded then asked, "Were there any complaints?"

Keith and I both shook our heads and I smiled, "A bunch of neighborhood kids came by to listen though."

Mr. Hundser smiled, "They usually do. With the door closed you've never seen them before. Are Mike and Derrick staying?"

Keith's head barely turned to look my way before I answered, "Not tonight."

Nodding, turning and heading for the house, Mr. Hundser said, "I wonder what's for dinner?"

Raising one eyebrow, Keith silently questioned me.

Once his dad was out of earshot, I slid in really close to Keith and softly giggled, "Best of my love? Uh huh."

Seeing the light, Keith loudly said, "Oh! Yeah, they really need to go home, I totally agree!"

Mike turned and asked, "You're throwing us out?"

Derrick loudly giggled, "You drove us here though!"

Turning to Derrick, Mike sarcastically said, "We've served the purpose for the moment. It would seem that we're dismissed!"

Grinning at me but speaking to Mike, Derrick suggested, "It's just possible that they've got other plans."

From the front seat of their car, Nelson and Jessy laughed, waved and then pulled away.

Heading back into the garage, Mike and Derrick chattered about what rude hosts we were!

Keith loudly laughed, "I'll drive you home! Get your shit together!" Another rant about their stuff being nothing but shit ensued. Keith turned to me and smirked, "I'm gonna tell my dad where we're going," and then he headed into the house.

The second Keith stepped inside Mike and Derrick stopped ranting. They finished packing their gear and turned to me.

Derrick grinned, "Gonna get some tonight?"

I nodded and chuckled, "You will too, in some manner or another, I'm sure."

Smirking evilly, Mike said, "You know how lucky you are?"

That question all but wiped the smile from my face. I only nodded thinking, yeah; I know how lucky I am. I've got a great foster family, two very good but totally whacked out friends and, over on the other side of the valley, an aunt that has missed me. Tilting his head curiously, Derrick waited for my answer. But Mike's eyes and smile widened. No doubt, he had a clue what was running through my mind.

Keith returned and said, "Let's jet!"

As we were walking to Keith's car, Derrick asked, "Would you dudes help us move Saturday? We'd like to get it done before I have to work that night."

Keith answered, "If I'm not working that morning, sure."

I asked, "Are you two going to the Pride parade on Sunday?"

Nodding, Mike answered, "We're already planning on it. My mom is going. So are Doug and Brian."

Keith popped the trunk and I asked, "Your sister isn't going?"

Stowing his gear in the trunk, Mike said, "My mom would rather she didn't this year." Picking up his electric, Mike looked at me and grinned evilly, "She thinks drag queens and Dykes on Bikes might be a little too much too soon for Lindsay."

"I can totally relate," Derrick said, "Drag queens are a little too much for me to handle too," and closed the trunk.

Walking to the driver's side door, Keith said, "We'll be marching with the PFLAG group."

Just before we got into the car, Mike loudly asked, "Really? You're going to march?"

Keith started the car and answered, "Yep. Maybe we'll watch another time but this year we're going to march." Pulling away from the curb, Keith then glanced my way and reached for my hand.

From the back seat, Mike softly asked, "Ya wanna?"

Half-heartedly, Derrick replied, "I guess. We should at least stick together."

I offered, "Do you guys want to join us?"

Keith said, "I'll bet your mom is marching with PFLAG too."

Derrick asked, "Did Brian or Doug say anything about marching?"

Mike replied, "No. But I wouldn't be surprised if they were marching with PFLAG too."

Derrick chuckled, "I guess we're marching then!"

Mike loudly groaned, "Shit! We'll be on TV and I haven't a thing to wear!" Wide-eyed and grinning, I spun around. Mike smiled widely, baring his pearly whites.

Keith chuckled, "Any rainbow colored frock will do," and we all started laughing loudly.

Over the sound of our laughter, Derrick loudly chuckled, "Why would a dude want to wear a dress? Even as a goof, it's pretty extreme."

I reminded, "To some, any sort of gay pride is radical enough."

Keith reminded, "Individual rights, just like ours."

Mike growled, "I couldn't even begin to wonder what it might be like to choose to be with a woman when I know damn well that I couldn't even begin to get emotionally involved with her."

Derrick added, "I tried but couldn't. Believe me, that was a bitch to deal with."

I asked, "Who did you try with, dude?"

Derrick said, "Do you know Janet Phillips, bro?"

I searched my brain for a face to put with the name. Then Keith softly said, "The cheerleader."

Wide-eyed, I spun around saying, "Whoa! She's pretty hot!" and Keith let go of my hand, flashing a suspicious grin. I laughed, "When someone's attractive, I can acknowledge it!" He smiled widely and softly snickered.

Mike then said, "She asked D out. They were together about a month, I guess."

Derrick nodded, "The best part was the day she asked me out. Conversations were always one-sided. Kissing her did absolutely nothing for me. Imagining us together naked was almost enough to destroy any self-confidence I might've had."

Shuffling closer to Derrick and wrapping an arm around, Mike then said, "About six months later, he came out to me."

Nodding rapidly, Derrick nervously chuckled, "I wish I could've said something sooner. Just Mike moving closer has had a huge emotional and physical response!"

Laughing and facing forward again, I reached for Keith's hand. Moments later, we pulled in front of Mike's house. Keith and I turned around to find Mike and Derrick making out. Facing Keith, I grinned, "No wonder they were so quiet the last minute or so!"

Nodding, Keith chuckled, "Your home, dudes!"

Mike began breaking away from Derrick. Once their lips were separated, Mike softly huffed, "Pool?" and moved off of Derrick.

Derrick nodded and panted, "Gonna have to."

Sitting up again, Derrick smiled, "See ya in the mornin'," and opened his car door. He shuffled out and Mike slid over saying, "If your not too busy later, give us a ring." Then he slid out of the car and stood up. Judging by the tent in Mike's shorts, he did indeed have at least eight inches! Mike closed the door, we all waved and said, "Later," and then Keith pulled away.

He asked, "How're you feeling today baby? Any of those moments?"

I answered, "Not one. Everything looks just like home today."

Keith smiled, "Good!"

Turning to him so I could see his response, I asked, "Would you like to go out after dinner?" I then quickly said, "My truck still needs gas and I thought we could at least check out the Carvin store, if they're open."

Keith giggled, "That's fine, baby. You're not thinking of sleeping anywhere else tonight, are you?"

I grinned, "Of course not! Why would you ask that?"

Keith started laughing and we had to stop for a traffic light. He turned to me and laughed, "You spent just one second too long looking at Mike's boner! And not two minutes after you said Janet was hot!"

I laughed, "So! She is very pretty."

Keith laughed again and started to pull away. We were both grinning from ear-to-ear but silent.

We pulled into our neighborhood and I admitted, "I'm horny."

Keith nodded me, "Me too." My stomach growled and Keith heard it. Squeezing my hand in his, he said, "Dinner first, whatever we feel like after that."

I nodded and watched the homes in our neighborhood breeze past the windows. It was all very familiar. I remembered last summer. On my bike and peddling franticly to make it to Keith's house. There was no reason to hurry really. I just wanted to get there and hold my lover. Glancing at Keith as he made the final, it abruptly hit me that now I didn't have to hurry back for an extra second with him. We had been living together for almost eight full months.

We pulled in front of the house. Keith turned off the engine; we unbuckled our seat belts and glanced at each other.

Keith smiled, "What?"

Smiling back, I shrugged, "I was just remembering last summer. How I used to peddle my ass off to be here and waiting before you got home from work."

Keith prompted, "And that makes you feel?"

I chuckled, "Silly." Then I explained, "How can your house look like anything but home to me? It's ridiculous to think otherwise. Even though I know all that, I have seen it differently. I can't wait for it to stop looking foreign."

Keith smiled and nodded. "It's summer again, Prez. To you, everything looks just like last year."

I nodded, "Your mom said it was cycles. Cycles of growth, of healing and of seasons. Our anniversary is just around the corner, babe. I don't want to do anything to fuck it up."

Reaching for my face, Keith softly brushed the back of his hand against my cheek saying, "The things you're feeling won't fuck up our anniversary. I can only think of one thing that could fuck it up."

It took only a second to reply. "Not having you there would be bad."

Rapidly nodding, Keith then asked, "Where else would I want to be?"

I asked, "Do you know what day of the week it is?"

He nodded, "A Wednesday, I think." Grinning widely, he droned, "We'll both be off work the whole day."

I laughed, "Whatever will we do?"

Keith's smiled waned. His eyes softened and he whispered, "Hold each other, listen to each other, make mad, passionate love a few times."

Reaching for his hand and kissing it, I then said, "Maybe we'll go out for dinner? We'll bring a blanket and my portable radio. Then we'll slow dance on the beach until we collapse and wake up there the next morning."

Keith smiled and nodded; "It sounds great to me!" My stomach growled again and Keith chuckled, "Let's have tonight's dinner first." Then he turned to open his door.

Hand in hand we walked up the to the front door. Waving his other hand, Keith softly reassured, "It's the same ol' place, Prez."

Before we reached the front door, it opened. Keith's dad stepped out, holding up a tape measure, a pad and a pencil. He smiled, "I'm glad your home. We need to measure the house. Your mom and I are trying to get an estimate of what siding might cost before we call a contractor."

Keith turned to me and grinned, "Okay, so it won't be the same ol' place for very much longer!"

I cracked up. Smiling but shaking his head sadly, Mr. Hundser said, "Come on, I need someone to hold the tape measure," and walked around us. For the next half-hour or so, we helped Keith's dad measure the house. Keith's mom called us for dinner just as we were finishing the measurements of the last section. A few minutes later, we walked in the back door. Mrs. Hundser, John and Drew were already at the table and eating.

Mr. Hundser ducked into the master bedroom to wash his hands. Quickly, Keith and I washed our hands in the kitchen sink. I was starving and hurried to take my seat at the table.

The moment I sat down, BBBAAAAAAAAAAARRROOOOOOOOOFFF! For a split second, everyone turned my way, obviously surprised. I all but self combusted.

Quickly, Drew covered his mouth, swallowed and cracked up laughing. Beginning to take his seat beside me, Keith smiled at me wide-eyed.

John loudly chuckled, "DUDE! At the table?"

At my other side, Keith's mom smiled and shook her head.

Blushing fiercely, I stood up and looked at my chair. Grinning, I picked up the whoopee cushion and turned to John saying, "This must be yours."

John giggled, "It's not mine."

Mr. Hundser returned and asked, "What in the world was that noise?"

John looked up at his dad grimacing. "Prez has a little gas, obviously!"

Passing me, Mr. Hundser saw me holding the whoopee cushion and said, "That's round two!"

Drew stood and said, "I'll take that, Prez."

Handing it to him, I grinned, "I thought you weren't getting involved?"

Beginning to serve himself, Keith glared mischievously across the table and chuckled, "Yeah!" Turning to his father, he asked, "What do you think dad? Is Drew an accomplice?"

Mr. Hundser smiled and turned to Drew asking, "What are you going to do with exhibit A?"

Drew paused and mumbled, "Give it back to Corey. It's his dad's."

Picking up the bowl of mashed potatoes, Mr. Hundser shook his head sadly and said, "An accomplice after the fact, disposing of evidence."

Looking across the table at his brothers, Keith chuckled, "You asked for it now!"

Serving myself, I wondered aloud, "How might I embarrass them?"

Drew whined, "No. Please."

Keith glance my way saying, "It would have to be public, just like this was."

Defiantly, John giggled, "You'll never get me!"

Quickly turning to John, Drew loudly said, "You just shut up! This is all your fault!"

Mrs. Hundser smiled, "Dinner is getting cold, boys."

Returning to our food, evil glances began shooting over the table. Mr. and Mrs. Hundser began talking about the siding.

About half way through dinner, Keith leaned close to me and whispered in my ear. "So it looks like we're planning."

Making my eyes wide, as if Keith had shared a great idea, I rapidly nodded my head. Noticing Drew watching, I batted my eyelashes innocently.

Drew paused and watched us suspiciously for a few seconds then returned to his dinner.

The Hundser's had stopped talking and I waited a few extra seconds before leaning close to Keith and whispering, "Ya wanna go out when we're done?"

Hamming it up, Keith grinned mischievously and nodded his head excitedly.

This time, Drew and John stopped chewing and glared across the table.

Snickering and looking at Keith's mom, I said, "I'd like to get some money out of my account. For summer beach parties, I need an acoustic bass."

She said, "That's fine. Do you know how much you'll need?"

Naturally, I knew what the basses at Guitar Center cost. All the models they had were between four and eight hundred dollars. But I wanted to get some other things too. Something mostly for Keith that I could at least say was for us. Keith was watching me though. My right leg slid next to his. I tapped him gently then answered, "Probably more than a thousand. I'd like to withdraw two thousand, just in case."

The Hundser's looked at each other for only a second or two. Then Mr. Hundser said, "If your absolutely certain, Preston."

I nodded, "I am. I'll need the bass. That's what I want to do with my life. And I haven't felt bad considering it."

Mrs. Hundser nodded then Mr. Hundser said, "Get a check and I'll endorse it."

Extremely enthused, I said, "Great! Thanks!" and concentrated on my plate. Beside me, Keith was bouncing his leg against mine. Turning and glancing at him, a silent conversation ensued while we finished eating.

"What are you doing?"

I grinned. "What?"

"I know damn well that bass was only a few hundred!"

I batted my eyelashes and grinned, "So! You said, whatever I wanted for me, didn't you?"

Keith sighed and reached for his glass. Finishing his water, he eyed me suspiciously.

Gathering my plate, glass and utensils, I said, "That was great, mom," and hurried to the kitchen. Keith was right on my heals.

Alone in the kitchen rinsing off our plates in the sink, Keith whispered, "I hope you know what you're doing."

I nodded and whispered, "I've been thinking like this for at least a month. It's never felt bad. I would've done it sooner but I kept questioning it."

We finished in the kitchen and I hurried back to our room. It was a little before seven. With Keith watching over me, I pocketed the money left over from Monday night and made out a check for two thousand dollars. He said, "I'll drive, okay?"

Scribbling my signature, I answered, "Sure, babe. Let's take my truck though."

Barely controlling the sound of his voice, Keith laughed, "Do we need the truck, Mister Moneybags?"

Tearing the check out, I then smiled at him and giggled, "No, but it still needs gas. We could take your car, if you want. Everything will fit... I think." Keith slouched and cracked up. He followed me out of our room to the dining room. I put the check down in front of Keith's dad.

Smiling at me and then the check, he asked, "Tonight?"

Handing him the pen, I nodded and reassured, "It really does feel like its time."

Mr. Hundser took the pen and signed the check under my own signature saying, "As long as you're ready." Then he handed me the pen and the check.

I smiled warmly at Keith's dad and said, "Thank you. You'll see, it's alright."

Keith asked, "Time to jet?" and headed for the front door.

I said, "Yep. Let's hit the bank first," and followed Keith out of the house.

My bank is less than a mile away. Getting in the car, I said, "I hope we make it."

Keith said, "Don't worry, Prez. If not tonight then we'll do it tomorrow." After we pulled away, Keith asked, "What do you want to get?"

I turned on the radio and said; "I definitely want an acoustic bass tonight. I'll look at bass amps too, if there's time. Let's also check out Circuit City." I lied, "Maybe I'll pickup a few CD's."

We made it to the bank with five minutes to spare. I hurried inside and Keith followed. I said, "You could've waited in the car, babe."

Keith chuckled, "No, I don't think so! Not with that much cash in your pocket."

We waited for the customer ahead of us then I stepped up to the counter. I showed the lady my ID. She checked it, nodded and asked, "Twenties and fifties?"

It took me two seconds to figure out what she was asking! I stammered, "Umm... no - hundreds, please." She lifted the tray and then began counting out twenty one-hundred-dollar bills. I counted with her, smiled, gathered the money and stuffed it in my pocket saying, "Thanks."

Outside, Keith chuckled, "You're really enjoying this!"

I grinned widely, "You have no idea how much I'd like to do with that money. It's our education, I know. I have to keep that priority in the back of my mind."

Keith softly said, "Prez, it's your education. It's not mine too. My parents already have college accounts for me and my brothers, remember?"

We got in the car and buckled up. Keith started the engine. I changed the radio station while he backed out. Once we were moving gaily forward, I said, "I almost did forget. All I want is to make our lives easier, Keith. Without that money we'd be scrambling to school and to work, paying our way the best we could but still needing loans."

"We'll still have to work."

"But we'll be able to concentrate on school and not worry about where our next meal is coming from, or how we're going to pay the rent."

We drove on silently for a few minutes. Stopping at the light leading to the 101 on-ramp, Keith said, "It's gotta be fifty-fifty, Prez. My parents may not have as big a stock portfolio, I don't really know. But I do know that we're not hurting. I can't let you use that money so we're living in the lap of luxury. I'd never be able to forgive myself."

I reached for his hand asking, "Are small loans, acceptable?"

Keith giggled, "Very small! And very rarely too!"

I laughed and asked, "Can I change the station?"

Reaching for the dashboard, Keith changed from his favorite station to my favorite classic rock station. They were playing the ending guitar solo of Hotel California. I turned it up a little and said, "Shaun was pretty good today."

Nodding, Keith agreed, "His voice is good for the songs he sings."

I grinned and squeezed his hand. "Do you still feel jealous?"

Keith snickered, "Not very. I do wish I could play an instrument though. Sometimes I really feel exposed."

I chuckled, "And you had jeans on!"

Keith giggled, "My undies were showin' and so were my titties!"

I smiled, "Your God given natural talent was showin' too. Now that I think of it, I don't think I'm done saying thank you..."

At the top of his lungs, Keith hollered, "PRESTON ALBERT O'BRIAN! Don't you dare!" and I jumped in my seat!

I laughed, "What?"

He sneered, "You can forget Circuit City, straight boy!"

My lover is no dummy.

Realizing that I shouldn't have mentioned the frolics or saying thank you, I balked, "I can't buy CD's?"

He chuckled, "Yeah... right."

Growling softly, I thought, he would never let me get anything for him again as long as he's around! I wished that I might've thought of going shopping last night with Mike.

We pulled into the Carvin parking lot a few minutes later and went inside. Closing time was eight. We only had forty-five minutes. The place wasn't that big compared to Guitar Center but they did have lots of stuff. Against one wall were all the guitar and bass amps. The PA gear was in the rear of the store. And to our left were dozens of guitars and basses.

A young man walked up and asked, "Can I help you?"

I said, "Yeah, I've seen your ads and thought I'd see if you had any acoustic basses."

The salesman asked, "Four or five string?"

I pointed at a model on the wall saying, "Can I try that five string fretless model?"

He nodded, turned and got the guitar. Then he walked away from us! Reaching into a box, the salesman turned around with a canvas strap and came back towards us asking, "Have you ever played a fretless before?"

Grinning and reaching for the strap, I said, "No, so I'll need your ears, I guess."

While I adjusted the guitar strap to a reasonable length, he said, "Once you get used to it, you'll prefer it, I'm sure." Then he handed me the bass.

It was light and thin compared to the bass I played at Guitar Center Monday night.

I started playing and Keith asked, "Why are there knobs?"

The salesman answered, "Its acoustic-electric."

Momentarily surprised, "Keith said, "Oh! Cool!" Then he looked at me and asked, "How does it feel?"

I shrugged, "It's definitely different. How does it sound?"

Keith nodded and said, "You're sliding into notes more, aren't you?"

I nodded, "Without frets I have to hear where the note is. It's a challenge."

The salesman said, "You're doing pretty good, for a first time." I was only playing a walking bass line purposefully to discover where the true tones were. I then started playing some funky slap bass and said, "It doesn't sound very loud. How does it sound to you, Keith?"

Keith shrugged, "I dunno. It's hard to tell without hearing it side-by-side with an acoustic guitar."

The salesman said, "I'll be right back," and then turned and walked away.

Keith said, "It's deep tones. Play higher."

I did as he asked and played high on the neck, concentrating on the D and G strings. Keith nodded and said, "That's better."

I began moving lower and Keith said, "It's deeper than I'm used to, isn't it?"

Noticing the salesman returning with an acoustic, I nodded and said, "The extra string is lower."

The salesman stopped beside me and said, "Stay in the key of G," then began finger-picking some bluegrass in the same key. Keith stepped back and smiled widely. We played for a minute or so and I purposefully concentrated on playing the lower strings then moved higher. The salesman then strummed a G chord a few times, I returned a similar pattern on the bass and stopped playing.

Keith chuckled, "That was great!"

I asked, "It mixed alright with the acoustic?"

Keith smiled and nodded, "It's perfect... dude." He just barely caught himself!

Wide-eyed, I smiled at my lover. Then I turned to the salesman and asked, "How much?"

The salesman replied, "Seven forty-nine. Hard shell cases are fifty-nine."

I said, "Cool. Can I plug it in real quick?"

Smiling, the salesman said, "I was going to suggest that. What type of amp do you have?" and he started across the room.

Waving Keith along, I followed the salesman and answered, "A hundred watt combo with a fifteen-inch speaker."

Moving down the row of amps, the salesman said, "We've got one just like it." I watched the salesman plug a cable into an amp about the same size as mine and power it on. But this one had an equalizer on it! I noticed the price tag - it read, $299.95. Plugging in the cable to the bass and turning the knobs up full, I then began playing. Keith went with the salesman to the amp. The salesman then started explaining it and adjusting knobs, sliders and buttons.

I thought, this amp was great too! The sound moved fluidly from booming to thin and everywhere in between. It was every bit as good as my Peavey, maybe a little better!

I stopped playing. Keith and the salesman turned to me. I said, "Wrap 'em up."

Keith almost jumped where he stood. He loudly giggled, "Them?"

I nodded, "The amp too, please."

Laughing hysterically, Keith wandered around.

Smiling widely and walking towards me, the salesman said, "Everything has a lifetime warranty."

I said, "And I can bring them back here for adjustments or repairs?"

He nodded and held out his hand, "I'm Glenn."

I shook his hand and said, "Preston."

Glenn said, "My pleasure. You know our factory is down is San Diego?"

Taking off the bass and handing it to him, I nodded and said, "Yeah. A friend of mine bought an electric guitar here."

"Give me his name and I'll mark it in the database," Glenn said, "Ten percent off his next purchase. With this be cash or charge?"

We headed for the checkout desk and I answered, "Cash."

Keith stepped up behind me and asked, "No discount for real money?"

The salesman looked at him like Keith wasn't supposed to mention that. I turned and beamed at him. "Thanks, baby."

Glenn sighed, "We want loyal customers. We'll cover the sales tax." He then started tapping into his calculator. "Eleven-o-seven and ninety-five cents... you save... almost ninety-five bucks in sales tax."

I smiled, "Cool," and reached my hand in my pocket.

If you've never pulled a wad of hundreds out of your pocket in front of salesman before, let me just say, its funny. They almost drool! Suddenly, I was Glenn's best friend!

While I counted out hundred dollar bills, Glenn asked, "Is there anything else I can get for you, dude?"

Keith giggled, "Don't ask him that!"

After counting out eleven bills, I looked up and smiled, "Not tonight."

Glenn suggested, "We've got strings, every kind of cable, custom canvas amp covers, flight cases, anything you need."

Reaching into my wallet for eight singles, I chuckled, "You've been great, dude. This is enough for tonight."

Keith walked away, softly mumbling, "Enough for tonight, for this week, all summer even!"

Ringing me up in the register, Glenn said, "Let me get the case and the amp from the back." He handed me the sales receipt, turned and disappeared. I went over to Keith and said, "I'm stoked!"

Keith took my hand and smiled, "Really?"

I nodded enthusiastically and explained, "The bass I played at Guitar Center was only four strings, only acoustic and had frets. This bass has the extra string, it's electric too and cost less than that other one! And the amp is every bit as good as mine! My amp was almost four hundred buck three years ago. This amp cost three hundred. I think I've gotten really good equipment at a very good price." Hearing Glenn returning, I then whispered, "Thanks for asking about a discount before. I was totally happy with the prices and quality but a dollar saved..."

Keith nodded, "As long as your happy, baby."

Squeezing his hand in mine, I reassured, "Very happy," and then turned and walked over to Glenn. He had opened a box with a new amp in it and was testing it out for me. It was then that I noticed the stereo RCA plugs on the amp. I could plug a CD Walkman into the sucker! Glen then showed me the case, opened it, and pointed out the plush blue interior. In the case were the strap i used and a new set of strings. Holding his finger to his mouth, Glenn winked. I noticed Keith looking over my shoulder. Glenn then closed the case and reached to shake my hand saying, "I'll help you out with these. Just lead the way."

Keith and I walked out to the car with Glenn pushing a dolly behind us. We stowed the bass in the trunk because the amp wouldn't fit. The amp just barely made it into the back seat. I shook Glenn's hand again and so did Keith. The second my car door closed, I overflowed, "DOOOOOOOOODE! That amp is fabulous! I can plug a CD player into it and jam along!" Surprised, Keith glanced at me briefly and started laughing. I rambled on about the amp and the bass all the way home.

That bass was totally fabulous too! It was thin and comfortable like an electric and had a sleek ebony fret board. I immediately felt the difference between the rosewood on my Fender and the ebony on the Carvin bass.

Keith pulled in front of the house. I paused and smiled, "That's gonna be my favorite bass from now on, I can see it already."

After kissing my hand, Keith smiled, "I'm glad your happy, baby. I gotta admit, I was worried."

Reassuringly, I said, "It's part of my mom's legacy. That's part of what she wanted, I'm sure of it. Why else would she get so much insurance?" Keith shrugged and I answered my own question, softly joking, "So my basses were covered!"

Chuckling, Keith turned and got out of the car. I followed on my side and got the bass from the trunk. Keith suggested, "Let's open the garage door. We don't have a dolly and that thing's heavy!"

Glancing at my watch as we walked towards the house, I commented, "It's almost nine. Once we get it inside I want to try it out again, just for a few minutes."

Keith opened the door saying, "That's fine, baby. I'll hang out and listen."

Stepping inside, I said, "I'll need fine tuned ears for a while, until I get more used to it, anyway." Turning to the living room, I cheerfully said, "Hi! We're home!"

Sitting with his sons watching a baseball game, Mr. Hundser chuckled, "Hi! We know!"

Mrs. Hundser returned from the master bedroom and asked, "You were able to get what you wanted?"

Putting the case down in front of the loveseat, I smiled, "Sure did. It's really nice. I'll show you in a few minutes. We've gotta bring the amp into the garage first."

Keith and I started for the garage but barely took three steps before Mr. and Mrs. simultaneously repeated, "Amp?"

We stopped and Mr. Hundser asked, "I thought acoustics didn't need amps."

Noticing Mrs. Hundser glaring at Keith, I nodded and, without even thinking, turned and answered Keith's dad. I said, "It's acoustic-electric, actually. It swings both ways."

Drew snapped his neck turning to look at me then started shaking his head and giggling. Mr. Hundser's head sagged into his waiting hand and his shoulders started bouncing.

John looked around and said, "Oh! I get it!" then started snickering.

Behind me, Keith giggled, "I did everything I could, I swear!" and I turned to see him two paces in front of his mom. Quickly, I moved beside Keith and said, "They're things I really need."

Mrs. Hundser sighed, "If, in a few days, you feel a little regret, it's natural. You'll get past it."

I smiled and assured, "I got quality at a good price."

Mrs. Hundser nodded, "Go get the amp then. Show us what you're so obviously pleased about."

I picked up the case and followed Keith to the garage. Keith pressed the button and the garage door began opening. He said, "They expect you to regret it."

Putting the case down in front of Derrick's drums, I asked, "But what were you supposed to do? Hold me back?"

Keith smiled, "Like I might've even tried."

I asked, "Did you feel caught in the middle?"

Starting for the opening door, he shrugged, "A little."

Following, I asked, "When you started pacing the store?"

He hummed affirmatively and said, "But then I thought, at least I can make sure you get a good deal and don't spend a cent more than necessary."

I reached for his hand and said, "Thank you for that. I was a little excited."

We started for the car and Keith giggled, "That was obvious!" Then he turned and said, "You weren't like that in Guitar Center the other day. I've never seen you like that in any music store before!"

I giggled, "I've never been that stoked before! All I can say is, I think I did very well tonight." Releasing me, Keith unlocked the car again and walked around to the other side saying, "I'll push, you pull."

My eyes opened wide and I started bellowing loudly!

Grinning insanely, Keith then went off, yelling in the middle of the street. "It barely fit inside! We'll probably need a gallon of lube to get it out again!"

Bending in half and straightening up again, I roared and staggered around the lawn, hysterical. No one can expand on a bad choice of words like Keith. That's one of the many reasons why I love him! Flashing back to us fighting my Super Nintendo, I literally laughed until I cried.

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