The following contains descriptions of graphic sexual acts between consenting underage boys. It is a work of fiction and has no basis in reality.
Do not read this story if:
1) You're not 18 or over.
2) If it is illegal to read this type of material where you live.
3) If you don't want to read about gay/bisexual people in love or having sex.
The author retains copyright (2003) to this story. Reproducing this story for distribution without the author's permission is a violation of that copyright.
Perry and Jesse: The Incredibly Romantic (and slightly kinky) Adventures of Two Boys In Love
Part IV Brothers
Chapter 9 A Hot Thanksgiving
It seemed like I had just closed my eyes when the alarm went off. Seven thirty already! I couldn't believe it. I wanted to go back to sleep, but I knew my mom would already be down in the kitchen, slaving away. Of course my eyes were practically glued shut from crying myself to sleep--what a big baby!
Groggily, I stumbled to the shower and did my best to clear my head. I wondered how Morgan and Derek were doing. They were visiting relatives up in Valencia today, but hopefully they had time yesterday to talk about some things. I really felt hopeful about Morgan. The fact that he was going to some sort of anger management counselling seemed encouraging and I got the sense that he was going to be supportive of his little brother and his apparent predilection for boys. Of course, as Jesse had pointed out, it might be that Derek just liked butt ugly kids from Illinois! I found myself laughing out loud in the shower. Sigh...my beautiful blond angel. At least I'd be seeing his butt ugly face again soon. His mom was going to drop him and his sister off around ten o'clock. Hopefully, none of the other guests would arrive before noon, with the Thanksgiving feast scheduled for around two o'clock.
Despite all the things she had to do, essentially preparing the entire lunch herself and making the house look presentable to guests, she still found time to make me some French Toast and sausage. I helped out by first polishing the silverware and then sweeping the porch and the patio. The backyard didn't look very nice with all the repair work still going on with the stupid pool--when would they ever finish that thing? At nine in the morning, it was already shaping up to be an unusually warm Thanksgiving Day--even for southern California.
I had just helped my mom hoist the twenty five pound bird into the oven when the doorbell rang. I ran to the front door, dressed in a blue DKNY button down shirt with the collar open, black dress pants, and black Vans. Miranda immediately came flying in, running straight to the kitchen where she began pummeling my mom with questions. Mrs. Taylor stood at the door, already dressed in her Italian style waitress uniform with her hair pinned up. It was nice and warm for this late in November, and probably nobody would even be wearing a jacket today. If they did, it would be my job to hang their coats up for them.
And there he was, Jesse Taylor, hands down the most beautiful boy in the world, standing shyly by his mother as if he had never been to my house before. He had on a white dress shirt with light silver stripes, dark grey dress slacks, and brand new black Vans--just like mine! His long, golden blond hair was perfectly parted down the middle, and looked so naturally shiny, I imagined a person could see his reflection in it. I had to deliberately force myself not to stand in awe of his flawless teenage beauty.
My mom finally came to the door, wiping her hands on her apron with Miranda following close behind.
"When is the turkey going to be done?" she was asking my mom, her mouth running a mile a minute. "Did you put any stuff in it? My Aunt Ruthie put stuff in it and she called it stuff-in'--cuz it was stuff and it was in the turkey--isn't that funny?"
"Hi, Arlene. Happy Thanksgiving," my mom said, giving Mrs. Taylor a quick hug.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Tricia," Jesse's mom replied. "Thank you so much for taking the kids. If Miranda gets on your nerves, just pop something in the VCR and she'll be transfixed."
"I want to watch Lilo and Stitch again! I was Lilo and Stitch for Halloween--only I was just Lilo, but Timmy Sandmeyer was Stitch and he tried to sing like Elvis, but he didn't sound like him at all!"
"I wish you could join us..." my mom said with obvious sincerity.
"It's all right. I have the next three days off so that'll be a blessing. And of course, we're looking forward to the Disneyland trip, aren't we, Rindy?" Mrs. Taylor asked.
"I want to see Lilo and Stitch at Disneyland," she squealed. "Jesse says Mickey Mouse is the best but he's just a stupid mouse with gloves on--I don't know why he wears gloves..."
"I think Miranda is going to be a big help to me in the kitchen," my mom said calmly, not seeming to be the least bit bothered by the nine year old's incessant chattering. Of course the day was young.
"We're going to make orders!" Miranda said, jumping excitedly up and down, causing her blonde pig tails to bounce in the air.
"Hors d'oeuvres," my mom corrected her.
"Thank you, Tricia--what a blessing you've been to our family," Mrs. Taylor said, wrapping my mom's hand in both of hers.
"Oh, it's no problem. In fact, I plan to put Jesse to work immediately!" my mom said, giving the two of us a mock-stern look.
"That's wonderful--this boy has it too good out here in California!" Mrs. Taylor remarked.
"Oh, and congratulations. We were so excited to hear that Jesse received the top academic honors last quarter!"
"He's doing much better here," Mrs. Taylor said, beaming with pride. I had to laugh to see Jesse turn such a bright shade of red.
"And of course, Perry has so much to do with it. He's been a wonderful friend to Jesse."
"I've never seen two boys take to each other the way these two have," my mom noted. "It's like they're long lost brothers or something!"
"I think Jesse would love to have Perry as a brother," Mrs. Taylor agreed, and now it was my turn to go beet red. "All right," she sighed, glancing at her watch, "I've got to get going or I'll be late. I'll be by around eight to pick up the little monsters--Jesse, you make yourself useful, and don't ignore your sister all day--understand?"
"Yes, ma'am," Jesse answered quickly. "And I'm not a little monster," he pointed out.
"No, you're a big monster, but I love you anyway!"
Mrs. Taylor gave Jesse an affectionate hug, and looked around for Miranda.
"I think the turkey's almost done--it's really hot!" Miranda shouted from the kitchen.
"Be good, darling. Mommy will see you tonight!" Mrs. Taylor called. "She can be a handful," she said apologetically.
"We love having her here," my mom assured her. The two women hugged again, this time a little longer, and then Mrs. Taylor left.
"Jesse, I don't want you to mess up your nice clothes, but if you two could bring in one of the long tables and six folding chairs from the garage, I'd be very grateful."
"Of course, mom," I said, feeling my gloomy mood improve just by having Jesse under my roof again. Taking my beautiful boyfriend fully into my gaze, I realized the turkey wasn't the only thing that was hot in here!
"Take your time. There's no rush. I think we're right on schedule." She started for the kitchen and then stopped abruptly and turned to the two of us, who were still standing in the foyer. "Oh...I have to have a picture of you two. You both look good enough to eat!"
We took a few pictures in the livingroom: a couple of Jesse and me, and a couple with Miranda, and then some with just Miranda and Jesse. They sure looked beautiful together, with their silky blonde hair--Miranda's a shade lighter--and their stunning sky blue eyes. Finally, Jesse took a picture of my mom and me, even though she protested that she looked a 'frightful mess.' It was funny that I didn't hate getting my picture taken as much as I used to. I guess it had something to do with Jesse. It was kind of fun and it did feel like we were a family.
After the impromptu photo shoot, we all headed for the kitchen, where Miranda started boldly looking through various kitchen cabinets and taking a verbal inventory of everything she could see.
As Jesse and I started to head out to the garage, my mom placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. "I'm sure you boys would like a little quiet time before the other guests arrive. I think I can keep Miranda occupied, so don't worry about her."
I couldn't help it. I had to give my mom a big hug.
Jesse and I entered the garage through the side door and closed it behind us. I flicked the light switch, illuminating the Lexus, which was parked in the middle of the large space. Jesse stood before me and rubbed his hands gently along my arms.
"What's wrong, babe?" he asked with obvious concern. "Didn't you like my email?"
I nodded. "It was really funny," I said dismally. I wanted to tell him how stupid I was, but I was embarrassed. Imagine, being sad because Jesse was coming to my house...what was wrong with my brain?
"Are you worried about Derek?" he asked, probing for some explanation for my strange mood.
I nodded. "I'm worried about Derek, and Morgan. I'm worried Tom's gonna rush into something and end up getting hurt. I'm worried about Jessica 'cause she likes me and I don't want to hurt her feelings, and...and...Katy, Morgan says she likes me too but she won't give Morgan a blow job and that makes me sad, and I'm worried about my mom not dating anybody...and...and..."
That's when I finally lost it and crumbled into Jesse's waiting arms. I had myself a good cry while Jesse held me and stroked my hair.
"You're gonna mess up my fancy new shirt," Jesse warned me.
I tried to pull away, but he just held me close. "Why is it, every time you see me, you burst into tears?"
"I don't know," I pouted, sniffling like a little kid. "It...it hurts to not be with you." I wrapped my arms tightly around his slender waist, my cheek pressed against his chest, the steady thump of his heart helping me to calm down.
"I'm here now," he reminded me.
Jesse moved back and rubbed his finger against the side of the car, checking for dirt. Apparently deciding it wasn't going to mess up his white shirt, he leaned against it. I wrapped my arms around his neck and stared into his beautiful blue eyes.
"Can I have a kiss?" I whispered, my voice dry and raspy from my most recent crying jag.
"Gee, I don't know..." Jesse teased. "Boy's aren't supposed to kiss each other. What'll your gal in La Jolla say? Maybe we should just--"
I interrupted his suggestion with my lips. I remembered from my dream the way Derek had chewed hungrily on my lips, fighting to gain entry into my mouth. I did it for real with Jesse, sucking in first his lower and then his upper lip, relishing his taste and gliding my tongue over his smooth white teeth before he opened up and our tongues engaged in a passionate dance around each other's mouths.
"Mmmm..." Jesse moaned. "That was nice..."
I felt myself shivering even though it was a nice warm day out. I felt the tears coming again and I started shuddering with sob after sob.
"Perry, please...I can't stand to see you like this. Honestly, if this is what I do to you, then I need to just get out of here right--"
Again I interrupted him with another frantic kiss. In my unbridled passion, I inadvertently rammed the back of Jesse's head into the side of the car.
"Ow! That wasn't very romantic!" he complained, wincing cutely as he rubbed the back of his head.
I couldn't help it. I started giggling, and then Jesse started, and soon we were both hanging on each other, laughing. That felt good, and it lightened my spirits somewhat.
Once we calmed down, he looked at me with concern. "Really, you need to get a grip before you tear yourself apart from the inside out," he cautioned me. "You have to let some of this go. You can't solve everyone's problems and you can't make everyone happy. It's an overwhelming job and look what it's doing to you."
I bowed my head in shame. "I'm sorry..."
"There's nothing to be sorry about. You just have to trust that Morgan is going to be able to take care of Derek. You have to trust that Tom's going to be discreet about his relationship with Derek. You can't help the way Jessica feels. I've already told you that you should go out with her. She's so much better for you than..."
"No!" I shouted loud enough that it echoed through the whole garage. I glared at Jesse for a moment, feeling the heat of anger surge through my body. I even balled up my fists as if I was going to hit him. The moment passed quickly, and I felt ashamed of myself. I frustratedly slammed my fists painfully into my own thighs, and fell back against the car myself.
"I'm sorry...I shouldn't have said that," he apologized quietly.
This was so wrong. Jesse had nothing to apologize for except for being the most beautiful and amazing person I had ever met or could ever hope to meet in my entire life.
"I almost hit you," I mumbled embarrassedly. What was wrong with me? It was like being in love was somehow driving me mad. I had Jesse Taylor here, in my garage. He would be here the whole day. He was beautiful and funny, and full of life. Why was I giving him a hard time? I was too embarrassed to look him in the face. "I'm sorry..." I mumbled, my voice shaking with emotion.
"That's okay. Actually, that reminds me of something," Jesse said, the look of worry and concern still clear in his eyes. "After you told me about Gary's warning, it made me realize that I really do need to teach you a few moves."
I had to smile ( a little) when he said that. I had made just that request the first time he had come over. My idea then was to be able to get into any sort of physical contact I could with him, with the hope being that I'd somehow find out what Jesse's true feelings about me were. While it had turned out to be a lot of fun all by itself, my little ploy actually worked better than I could have imagined. After he had flipped me a half dozen times and collapsed in laughter at my ridiculous attempts to attack him, we had ended up expressing our love for the first time. When I looked back on it, that moment seemed colored with magic somehow. Things could have gone so wrong if Jesse hadn't had the same feelings as I did. I shuddered, thinking about poor Derek.
"But none of that 'constipated apeman' stuff this time, okay?" he teased, reminding me of the silly way I had tried to 'attack' him that afternoon.
"You're going to teach me flips and kicks and all that stuff?" I asked excitedly, feeling my mood improving slightly despite my nagging worries.
"Well...just a few basic things. Being able to block an attacker, throw them off balance, just enough stuff so that you have a chance to get away. That's called Aikido."
"But I want to learn everything," I insisted stubbornly, thinking how great it would be to not have to live in constant fear of Fred Goreski and his goon squad.
But Jesse shook his head. No, that would be bad," he said.
"Think about the times you've seen me fight," he explained. "I beat up those bullies at the mall and they ended up chasing us through the parking lot. We met up with Julio at Kennedy, and I got an offer to participate in a cage fight! And Goreski--that was the biggest mistake of all..."
"But you saved Gary!" I reminded him forcefully.
"Gary didn't need saving," Jesse pointed out. "He's a big boy. He could've taken care of himself. We should've just gotten out of there, Perry, and let the high schoolers deal with their own problems."
"But Gary rescued me! It would've been wrong to just leave him!" I insisted.
Jesse shook his head. "That's where we think differently," he said a little sadly. "The way I figure it, no one asked him to challenge Goreski. Hell, he was standing there waiting for his turn to get a blow job from you. It was just lucky that he had a last minute change of heart and finally did the right thing. If I had come in and caught him doing that to you..." His voice trailed off but his meaning was clear.
"But he did do the right thing..." I began protesting, and realized we were rehashing the same discussion (argument?) we had the day of the rummage sale. I sighed. "I guess I see what you mean," I admitted, "but I just think that things worked out the way they were supposed to. You're a heroic person, Jesse. You're my hero. You can color it any way you want, but I think you're an amazingly good person and you just don't want to admit it for some reason."
Jesse concentrated on what I was saying and just nodded. I could see in his face that he couldn't accept what I had just said, but he also didn't want to argue with me about it.
I felt like we had reached an impasse of some sort. "I guess we should grab one of those tables..." I said gloomily. I started to head for the back of the garage.
Jesse grabbed my arm and turned me so that we were face to face. "Before I met you, if someone had told me that there was a boy out there somewhere in the world, whose physical beauty was beyond compare, with the heart of a saint and the face of an angel, and that this boy would actually...care about a hopeless wreck of a human being like me, I would have said they were crazy. But now I know better...I just can't believe that God granted me this opportunity--however brief it turns out to be, to share this moment in time with you. How lucky am I?" he asked, pulling me into a passionate embrace. "How lucky am I?" he whispered into my ear.
I had to shed a few more tears after that, but I did feel better. I wasn't able to be with Jesse the way I wanted to, but he was still here, and even just hauling furniture around with him was a thrill for me. I did feel bad that I had somewhat dampened his spirits (that wasn't very saint-like!), and he seemed more thoughtful now and careful about what he said. It seemed to me like my greatest gift was the ability to ruin things for others.
Miranda actually joined in hauling the metal folding chairs from the garage to the dining room. Her constant stream of consciousness chattering brought a smile to my face until she asked a very surprising question.
"Are you Jesse's boyfriend?" she asked at one point, causing me to stop in my tracks, which in turn caused Jesse, who was carrying a chair in each arm, to bump me from behind.
I looked at Jesse in surprise and he just gave me a helpless shrug. We were standing out in the driveway and I was glad my mom wouldn't be able to hear our conversation.
"Well, I'm his friend, and he's mine. That's not exactly like a boyfriend..."
"I know that. Only girls are supposed to have boyfriends. I was just askin' 'cuz...will you be my boyfriend, Perry?" she asked, looking up at me with those big, bright blue eyes and a serious look on her delicately round face.
"Well...I...uh...aren't I too old for you? What about Timmy Sandmeyer?"
"He's stupid. He thinks he sounds like Elvis but he just sounds like a dumb little kid!"
"Oh...well, what about Jesse?" I asked, hoping to get the attention off myself.
"Jesse used to be my boyfriend, but now he says he's too ugly to be my boyfriend anymore and besides, sometimes he's grumpy!"
"Really?" I asked, glancing behind me.
Jesse smiled and stuck his tongue out. Mmmm, that looked good!
"See how grumpy he is?" Miranda said, putting her little fists on her hips.
"What would I have to do to be your boyfriend?" I asked hesitantly, not sure how seriously I was supposed to be taking this conversation.
"You'd have to hold my hand sometimes, and pull my chair out for me at the table, and be a gentleman, and buy me gum!"
"Wow, that's a lot of stuff to remember," I said, holding my head as if I was being overwhelmed by her demands.
"It's okay. I'll remind you all the time so you won't forget."
"I bet you will."
"Also, you're not as ugly as Jesse, so that's good too. You can be like a handsome prince and I can be the Beauty and the Beast girl."
"And Jesse can be the Beast!" I teased.
Miranda thought that was really funny and she laughed and laughed in a high squeaky voice.
My mom had everything set up nicely. We placed one of the folding tables sideways against the regular dining room table so that the two together formed an 'L.' She had two matching earth tone tablecloths which she draped over them so that it looked like one long table. We set up the extra chairs and carried out the china. Several large and colorful cornucopias full of colored corn and squash set the holiday tone. My mom was just showing Miranda how to place the silverware when the doorbell rang.
The first people to arrive were my mom's choir friend, Anna Littleton and her son, Tyler. He was the one that was always trying to get me to play Pokemon with him. He was a year older than Miranda, and had his three ring binder tucked under his arm. He started telling me about all the new cards he had gotten since the last time we had brunch together as if no time had passed since our last discussion.
Anna had brought four delicious looking pies which Jesse and I got out of her car for her. There were two pumpkin pies, a fresh strawberry pie, and an apple pie. I was ready to eat! Of course, we'd have to wait until after lunch, but the ratio of pies to people--4:12 was definitely promising. I was starting to feel better now that people were beginning to arrive. It would be fun to spend the day with Jesse just like we were brothers: helping out, playing with the other kids, just hanging around and enjoying each other's company. The other things I was feeling would just have to wait for another time. At least I knew that Jesse cared for me deeply and I took great comfort from that.
By the time we got the pies inside, Miranda had already cornered poor little Tyler. They were sitting on the floor in the livingroom, cross legged, and Miranda was busy telling him which Pokemon she liked and which ones she didn't. Surprisingly, Tyler seemed perfectly content to listen to her express her opinions. Occasionally, he would offer an alternate view and she would just giggle and give him a push! How funny if Miranda turned out to be a big flirt just like her brother!
I was glad to see that Mrs. Littleton, who had already been divorced when we first arrived at St. Agnus, was not afraid to get her hands dirty, as she immediately found out what needed to be done in the kitchen and saw to it. That meant no peeling potatoes for me!
Jesse and I snuck up to my room and closed the door. We didn't dare lock it, because if Miranda or Tyler came up and started making a commotion, my mom would get on my case for ignoring the younger kids.
"So, you like having the internet at your beck and call?" I asked.
Jesse shrugged. "It's okay. I think I'd much rather talk to you in person though."
I could understand that. Just hearing Jesse's voice on the phone filled me with warmth and joy, and I figured the internet would be more useful for exchanging tangible information like Gary's disturbing warning.
"When are you going to teach me some of those moves?" I asked, not being able to stifle a little giggle. I really was anxious to learn to defend myself. And if that just happened to involve a lot of close physical contact with an incredibly hot blond teenage stud, then so be it!
"Well, as soon as we have a chance--and we're not all dressed up!" he pointed out.
"Yeah, I agree--we should practice naked. That way, you can show me how to attack all of my enemy's vulnerable areas!" I came up and boldly cupped his package through his slacks.
Jesse's eyes lit up even as he flinched. "Seems like you've already got that technique down!"
I pressed him up against the door and gave him a long, loving kiss. I hungered for his taste as much as I did for anything being served for lunch today--with the strawberry pie coming in a close second! "Oh, Jesse...why do you have to wear clothes all the time?" I moaned frustratedly.
"So you can concentrate on your school work, young man!" he replied teasingly, even though he was seriously blushing.
My God, I had seen this beautiful boy naked! How lucky was I? It made my head spin... I backed off and glanced down at his feet.
"Cool shoes!" I said, pointing to his black suede skater sneaks, the same style Vans I had bought before Katy's party.
"Hehehe, like 'em? They're pretty ugly but they were like ninety percent off at Goodwill..."
"Yeah, right," I retorted. "These are brand new and they cost around fifty bucks!"
"They remind me of you," Jesse said quietly.
"Oh..." I said rather stupidly, choking back the emotion that always threatened to overwhelm me when Jesse expressed his love for me in such unexpected ways. I got down on my knees and pretended to examine his new shoes carefully.
Jesse slid down the length of the door to join me, and sat with his back against the door, his legs bent and his feet flat on the floor.
"Hmmmm...I'm wondering if maybe you got a defective pair," I said, tapping his shoe lightly with my finger.
"Really?" Jesse asked seriously.
"Yeah, look how the laces keep coming undone..." I tugged on the white bow of his left shoe and collapsed it.
"I hate it when that happens," Jesse said, smiling at me with twinkling blue eyes.
"I think this one's bad too," I said, collapsing the bow on his right shoe.
"You think? What should I do?" Jesse asked worriedly.
"Maybe you should let me have a look at 'em," I suggested.
Jesse straightened his legs out and I tugged his left shoe off. Even though he was wearing a fancy button-down shirt and dress slacks, he was still wearing white crew socks on his feet. He wiggled his long toes playfully.
I held his size eight and a half shoe up to my face and took a good sniff. "Hmmm...new shoes. There's hardly any Jesse smell in it," I said disappointedly.
"That's a good thing--I think," Jesse said, cutely crinkling his nose in distaste.
I put the shoe down and pulled off his other sneaker. I grasped his warm feet through his socks and rubbed my hands up and down the tops and arches from his toes to his ankles.
"Where did you get these beautiful feet?" I crooned in wonderment, transfixed by my sweet angel's sock clad extremities.
"The Goodwill..." Jesse giggled.
I shook my head, earnestly denying my friend's little joke. "These were made by a true artist," I countered. "They're beyond perfect, so slender and smooth and..." I bent down and took his big toe into my mouth "...delicious!" I began nibbling it through his sock and Jesse started to laugh.
We heard the doorbell ring downstairs, but I continued nibbling away at his toes, feeling the tender flesh and tiny bones, all through the dry cotton fabric of his socks.
"I think you have more guests," Jesse noted between giggles.
"They can get their own toes to chew on," I said between mouthfuls.
"Perry! It might be your cousins, and they might come up here!" he warned, covering his mouth to muffle his laughter.
"If they want me to suck on their feet, they'll just have to wait their turn!" I replied distractedly.
"You're getting my socks wet!" Jesse chided. He pulled his knees up so that his feet were once again flat against the carpeted floor.
I came and snuggled up against him, rubbing my cheek against his. Then I turned to kiss him. He pulled back.
"You had my socks in your mouth!" he pointed out with a look of mock disgust.
"True," I acknowledged thoughtfully as I licked my lips. "They don't taste as good as your bare feet!" I agreed, and started tugging one of his socks down his slender ankle.
"Perry...!" my beautiful angel protested playfully.
That's when we heard the thumping of someone running up the stairs. We both got up and Jesse stuffed his feet into his untied sneakers. There was a vigorous knock on the bedroom door. I gave Jesse one more peck on the cheek before opening it. I was determined to express my love to him in every way I could, but Jesse threw me a look that was clearing telling me to cool it.
"Be careful...please?" he pleaded in a whisper, and I understood what he meant. Getting caught would be a disaster, especially with my family here.
It was my twelve year old cousin, Derrin. He was smiling a broad smile of big white teeth. His top front teeth protruded slightly, giving him a cute, rodent-like visage. His light blond hair was impeccably spiked, and his grey-blue eyes sparkled with excitement. He was dressed in a long sleeved, button down yellow Tommy Hilfiger shirt, black jeans, and white Pony sneakers. I was a little surprised that my Aunt Karen would let him wear jeans to a holiday gathering, but I had to admit they hugged his narrow hips and legs nicely. He was clutching an overnight bag in one hand and stood there slightly out of breath from his race up the stairs.
"Hey, Perry!" he said, standing in the doorway. He immediately noticed Jesse standing behind me and I thought I saw his eyes widen at my friend's striking appearance.
"This is my friend, Jesse Taylor," I said. "And this is my cousin, Derrin."
"Watsup, Jesse?!" Derrin said, boldly stretching out a friendly hand for Jesse to shake.
Jesse for his part, suddenly became very shy, and kind of hid behind me. He tentatively reached over and shook Derrin's offered hand. "Uh...hey there, Derrin," he said quietly.
"I haven't seen your room for like a year!" Derrin said, inviting himself in. "Look at all these books!"
I didn't remember Derrin ever mentioning to me that he liked to read, but maybe he was just impressed by the sheer number of volumes lining the walls. He casually threw his overnight bag on my bed, and then went over to the TV and knelt down to check out my video game collection.
"All right--Kingcarver 2!" he exclaimed. "It's awesome! I'm up to level twelve all ready!"
That was pretty impressive, but I didn't mention that I had just beaten level fourteen. He was already taking the game out of its case and sticking it in the Gamecube.
"Do you play, Jesse?" he asked as he rummaged through his overnight bag for his personal controller.
"Not really..." he said.
"We'll teach you--right, Perry?"
"I don't know--Jesse's not always too quick on the uptake, if ya know what I mean!" I was teasing of course, but Derrin took me seriously.
"Oh...maybe we should start with something easier, like Mario Brothers or something."
"Where's Josh?" I asked, referring to Derrin's sixteen year old brother. He had grown into a pretty hot looking guy, with his muscular frame, curly blond hair, dark eyebrows, and piercing blue eyes.
"Oh...he's around," Derrin said disinterestedly.
"Did he bring his gal along?" I asked, remembering that last time I had met him, he had brought his girlfriend, Hannah, along for some intense face sucking practice.
"Nah...my dad wouldn't let him cuz we're staying over night. Can I sleep with you, Perry?"
That sounded weird, but I realized he was asking if he could sleep in my room.
"Yeah, I just assumed you're parents would sleep in the guestroom and you and Josh..."
"My mom didn't come," Derrin reported rather dissmissively
I gave Jesse a concerned look, indicating that this was something very much out of the ordinary. I had never seen my Uncle Ron around without my Aunt Karen by his side.
"Uh...she sick or something?" I asked hesitantly.
"I guess..." Derrin answered distractedly, already engrossed in his game.
I was about to ask him some more questions, when Jesse lightly touched my arm and shook his head.
"Why are you chopping down all those trees?" Jesse asked, referring to the barbarian character on the TV screen who was vigorously using his sword as a makeshift axe as he sliced his way through a dense forest.
"He needs all this wood to build a bridge to the Lost Kingdom," Derrin explained, his eyes transfixed as his fingers moved in a blur on the yellow controller that coincidently matched the bright color of his shirt.
We watched Derrin play for a while. You always had to start at Level One, so it would take hours before he could get back to Level Twelve, that was if he was very good and very lucky. I could see that Jesse was getting restless as he idly tied his shoes.
"We should go say hi to Uncle Ron and Josh," I suggested.
"Oh, okay..." Derrin said, his eyes never leaving the screen.
I took that to mean that Jesse and I were free to go while Derrin remained here sitting cross legged on my bedroom floor playing his game. I shrugged and headed downstairs with Jesse. We found my uncle and my cousin sitting in front of the bigscreen, watching football.
My Uncle Ron was a tall, thin man, the oldest of the three siblings of which my mother was the middle child. He had a bushy mustache and touches of grey at the temples of his dark brown hair. I could tell immediately that something wasn't quite right. He looked tired and drawn as he stood up to shake my hand. I introduced Jesse and they exchanged pleasantries.
"Hey there, cous!" Josh exclaimed, jumping enthusiastically to his feet. He shook my hand and then Jesse's. My older cousin was looking fine in a long sleeved, maroon silk sweater that clung tightly to his chest. He clearly wasn't wearing a T-shirt underneath. He was wearing some light grey cargo pants with a chain dangling from one belt loop into his pocket. On his feet he wore dark grey Sketchers with the laces tied in big white bows. His dark blue eyes sparkled from beneath a shaggy mop of curly blond locks and his face was tanned a rich California brown.
"We'll shoot some hoops after lunch, hey cous?" he suggested.
"I hear your team is undefeated," Uncle Ron noted.
I blushed a little, but Jesse announced that I had scored the winning basket at the last game against St. Luke's.
"Way to go, dude!" Josh said, proudly slapping me on the back.
While Tyler was still sitting on the livingroom floor, now with his Pokemon cards spread in a large half circle around him, Miranda had gone back in the kitchen to 'help' my mom. I wanted to find out what was going on with Aunt Karen, but this was obviously not the time. The kitchen seemed to be at a peak of frantic, last minute activity, with boiling pots of water, waves of heat radiatating from two ovens, and both my mom and her friend madly chopping away at various kinds of vegetables.
"Need any help, mom?" I asked above the din.
"No boys allowed!" Miranda proclaimed loudly, waving at me threateningly with a big wooden spoon that she had been using to mix what looked like a large bowl of water. My mom had obviously given her a little 'project' of her own.
"Watcha making?" Jesse asked.
"Soup--but not for Tyler!" she stated emphatically as she began stirring again. "He thinks he's so smart but he's not!"
"Why, what did he say?" Jesse asked.
"He said I was too little to have a boyfriend and I said I wasn't and then I hit him and he said I was just a stupid little girl anyway!"
Jesse looked at me for help.
"Do you want me to beat him up?" I asked.
"Of course--that's you're job, isn't it?" she demanded, her bright blue eyes fierce with determination.
"Maybe I should just talk to him," I suggested.
"If you're my boyfriend then you have to beat him up first and then talk!" she insisted.
Just then, the doorbell rang. I went to get the door and Jesse followed quietly behind.
It was my Aunt Rosemary, and she had a friend with her. My aunt very much resembled my mom in facial features and build, but had a drastically different fashion sense. While my mom tended to dress fairly conservatively, and wore her hair long and loose (except that today she had it tied in a big ponytail), Aunt Rosemary had her hair cut short--really short. Today, it was also bleached a nearly white blonde. In addition to a plethora of ear rings, she had three tiny rings through her right eyebrow. She was wearing tight reddish brown pants and a heavy striped sweater. It seemed much too warm and bulky to be wearing on such a balmly day. Of course, she had probably left the Bay area very early in the morning and it had probably been much cooler there. She was holding a bottle of wine with a bow wrapped around it.
"Hi, Perry," she said, giving me a long and intense hug. She smelled like tropical fruit. "Still at St. Barney's?" she asked a little disdainfully.
"St. Boniface," I corrected her, a little embarrassed by my Aunt's typical brashness. Of course she knew the name of my school since she herself had attended there along with my mom and my uncle.
"Father Marlen still there, the spooky old coot?"
I don't know why your mom sends you to that dried up little hole in the wall Catholic school," Aunt Rosemary complained to me. "She has the money to send you somewhere decent. I keep telling her there's a Walden school just outside Escondido but..." She sighed frustratedly. Only then did she seem to remember that she had brought someone along.
"This is my very good friend, Darlene," my Aunt said, wrapping her arm carelessly around her friend's neck.
If Aunt Rosemary had short hair, then Darlene was practically bald! She had really short black hair, shorter than Morgan's, and a smooth, almost milky complexion. She looked Chinese, and she had some heavy eyeliner on and dark lipstick that made her lips look almost black. She was wearing a white button down shirt with an assortment of necklaces dangling from her slender neck. Despite her somewhat eccentric appearance, she still had an appealing and graceful countenance.
"Glad to meet you, Perry. Rosie's told me so much about you and she has pictures of you everywhere, but I think you're much cuter in person!"
I felt myself blushing. I was almost fourteen years old, for christssakes! Wasn't I getting a bit too old to be called cute? Actually this all seemed really weird. Aunt Rosemary usually came to these holiday gatherings alone. I had a vague recollection of her bringing a boyfriend over for Christmas one year when we were still in La Jolla, long before my dad started his affair...and why was she putting her arm around Darlene's shoulder like that?
"Who's your hot little friend?" Aunt Rosemary asked brashly, giving Jesse a knowing wink. She always was a little more casual than her older brother and sister, but she seemed even looser today. The way she put her arm so casually around her friend's neck like that...
"Jesse Taylor," my friend announced quietly in his usual bashful manner, seeing that I was lost in my own little world of confusion at the moment.
"Sweet Jesus," my aunt exclaimed, looking back and forth between Jesse and me, " if there'd been boys like you around when I was in high school--"
My aunt's trip down memory lane was interrupted by my mother making a loud, throat clearing noise. I immediately saw Aunt Rosemary's face change. Her smile became more formal and she took a discreet step away from her friend.
"Hey, Trish, how's my favorite big sis?" she exclaimed, stepping up and giving my mom what looked like a loving hug.
I noticed my mom only half heartedly returned the gesture.
"How was the drive?" my mom asked, stepping back and absently clutching her apron.
"It was cool--hardly any traffic except for going through L.A. of course--smoggy even in November! We started out around seven thirty, and we traded off a couple of times..."
For the first time, my mom acknowledged the presence of her sister's guest.
"Tricia Thompson," my mom said, formally extending a hand of welcome.
"Darlene Ho," the slender Chinese woman responded. "It's lovely to meet you, Tricia. You're sister practically worships you, you know."
I saw my mom blush, which looked pretty strange. While she was obviously trying to be polite, she didn't try too hard to hide the fact that she clearly didn't approve of my aunt's friend, or at least not the relationship that was implied by her presence...And yet, she seemed more annoyed than shocked.
"Do you work with Rosemary?" my mother asked politely.
"We work in the same building. I'm with a consulting firm on the same floor. We've known each other for about a year now."
"I see..." was all my mom managed to say.
"Hey, Trish, mind if we come in and wash up--it's been a long trip..." my aunt reminded her. She handed my mom the bottle of wine. "Sweet Jesus, it must be about ninety degrees out!"
"Thanks, Rosemary. Where are my manners? Please, come in. Make yourself at home. Oh, and Rosemary, please show your friend where everything is. We'll be eating in about half an hour...Oh, and uh, I do need to speak to you as soon as possible," she added, a clear sense of urgency in her tone. "It's about Ron..." she added quietly.
I guessed my mom wanted to tell Aunt Rosemary something about why Aunt Karen wasn't here, and I wished I could get in on that conversation. As the three adults moved into the house, Jesse and I hung back, standing in the foyer together, not too far from where Tyler was engrossed in his own Pokemon competition.
"You never told me your aunt was...you know!" Jesse whispered with a knowing grin.
I flushed with embarrassment. The fact was, it had never occurred to me before. I had never really questioned why my aunt, at age thirty two, was still unmarried, or why I could only remember her bringing along a boyfriend maybe once in the last three or four years. Now I had to wonder if that had just been for show, to placate my grandparents and the rest of the Thompson clan. It was interesting that she chose this gathering to bring her friend to, since my grandparents were away visiting friends in Europe.
"I guess it never occurred to me before," I admitted sheepishly.
"Anyway, she seemed pretty cool," Jesse said with a smile.
"It's going to take me awhile to get used to that..." I admitted, my head spinning from our brief encounter. "But I'm really wondering what's up with my Aunt Karen. Why didn't you let me ask Derrin about her?"
"I think he'll tell you when he's ready," he assured me.
So we hung out with Tyler in the livingroom, playing Pokemon until it was time to eat. Everything was delicious of course. We watched anxiously as my Uncle Ron carefully and meticulously carved the turkey with the electric knife. The two tables were filled with mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, stuffing, including a vegetarian version, sweet potatoes, corn, baked beans, and somewhat incongruously, my mom's signature Chinese Chicken Salad.
While Josh and Derrin seemed fine--enthusiastically chowing down like any two teens forced to eat a late lunch, and Tyler and Miranda acted like normal little kids, there were definitely some weird vibes going around the table. I could see that my mom and Uncle Ron were uncomfortable with Aunt Rosemary's choice of companion, although everyone was very polite. I could also sense that there was more to the absence of Aunt Karen than just a sudden illness, but nobody brought it up.
Aunt Rosemary seemed in especially good spirits. I think in a way, this Thanksgiving feast was a Coming Out for her. She was plainly showing her brother, sister, and nephews who she was for the very first time (at least openly) and I think it was liberating for her. Certainly, she knew her conservative siblings well enough to know that they wouldn't be overjoyed with the situation. Of course, it made me wonder what it would be like if I ever came out and told everyone about Jesse and me. Somehow, I didn't think it would be quite the same. While my Aunt Rosemary and her friend were grown ups who lived hundreds of miles away in Berkeley, I was here, underage, and an only child. Besides, I knew my mother well enough to tell that the cool but polite demeanor she was now displaying was covering up some much stronger feelings underneath. As much as I was certain that my mom loved her younger sister, I was sure she didn't approve of Aunt Rosemary's life choice.
Derrin was sitting next to me, greedily chewing away at a whole turkey leg.
"I saw Aunt Rosemary holding hands with her friend!" he whispered conspiratorially. "That must mean that..."
"What level did you get to?" I asked, quickly interrupting my cousin's conclusion.
And so the lunch went fairly smoothly, and eventually the pies and whipped cream were brought out. Miranda, who hadn't really done more than pick at her turkey and stuffing--reminding us several times that this was already her second Thanksgiving, insisted on a huge slice of pumpkin pie. She grabbed one of the cans of whipped cream and sprayed on a pile about half a foot tall. Tyler thought this was hilarious and did the same thing. I was sure that there was no way those two little kids could put all that away, but I was wrong about that!
I had a slice of strawberry pie and hoped there'd be some pumpkin pie left for a snack later. Jesse ate well as usual, and I think he took at least one serving of everything on the table and seemed to enjoy every bite. I had a sudden vision of Jesse, me, my Aunt Rosemary and her friend Darlene, years from now, all sitting out on some balcony overlooking the ocean, watching the sun set, two old, married couples just enjoying each other's company--no one judging anyone else, and all of us expressing our affection for our life partners in an open and loving manner. It made me shiver.
After wolfing down their pie, Derrin and Josh went upstairs to change. When they came down, Derrin in a Kingcarver 2 T-shirt, and Josh in a Laker's jersey and that nicely showed off his well-muscled torso and shorts, Jesse and I joined them for a game of hoops. It had to be around eighty degrees out if not hotter, and after casually tossing the ball around for a few minutes, I felt compelled to take off my hot, long sleeved shirt. Jesse soon followed suit so that we were just wearing our plain white undershirts along with our dress pants.
We decided to play two on two, with Jesse pairing up with Josh. Since I had to play defense against Josh, Derrin got the enviable task of covering Jesse. Everyone was quite good and took the game seriously. I was proud to see Jesse holding his own, especially considering he barely knew how to dribble a ball just a couple months ago.
My mom and her friend set out cold drinks on the patio table, and everyone pretty much ended up lounging around outside. Aunt Rosemary and her friend seemed to enjoy watching us boys playing basketball and I got the feeling they would've joined us if they were more appropriately dressed.
The big excitement of the afternoon came a little after three thirty or so. We'd been shooting hoops for about thirty minutes now and were ready for a break. We went around back to the table where my mom had placed a large bowl of fruit punch. There was also a cooler full of soda and beer. Of course, no one underage was going to be drinking beer today, but an ice cold Coke was just the ticket for me.
All the adults were sitting around the patio in the shade, looking out towards the still unfinished pool. It seemed like that damned thing was never going to be fixed and the workmen had placed some yellow 'danger--do not cross' tape around the perimeter, propped up by cans of some kind of chemical coating. I smiled as I watched Miranda chasing Tyler around and around the empty pool. I got the impression that there was absolutely no reason for their frantic chase and that it really wouldn't have mattered if it had been Tyler pursuing Miranda instead of the other way around. The important thing was that they were running frantically after each other, occasionally letting out little high pitched squeals of excitement.
I glanced over at Jesse, who was also enjoying watching his little sister, and I immediately started thinking how hot he looked--both literally and figuratively--in that plain white T-shirt. Sweat glistened on his face and arms, and there were perspiration stains around his pits. His hair was pretty messed up, but because it was so silky and shiny, it looked great no matter how tangled up it was. For his part, Josh looked great as well, a real jock with bulging biceps and broad flat pecs. But for me, there was just no comparison. For the first time in several hours, I got one of those pangs of lust. I wanted to be alone with Jesse right now, rip the sweat soaked clothes off his body and lick the salty boy taste off of him inch by inch by...
That's when I heard the scream. It was coming from Mrs. Littleton, a large, heavy set woman who's powerful soprano voice often belted out the most demanding solos for the St. Agnus choir. Now, she was using that impressive voice to express shock and dismay. At first, I was unclear as to what she was screaming about. Then I saw the large white mushroom cloud slowly rising over the pool...
"Shit--he fell in!" Josh exclaimed, quickly running to the pool's edge. He didn't waste a second, but leapt down the six feet or so to the pool bottom.
As the rest of us gathered around, Josh was soon holding up by his arm pits a ghostly version of a rather stunned looking Tyler. He was entirely covered in some sort of white powder that had burst out from the pile of bags he had been fortunate enough to land on. My Uncle Ron quickly grabbed the lightweight boy from his eldest son.
"Are you okay?" he asked the ten year old with genuine concern.
But Mrs. Littleton ran up and grabbed him away and started blubbering, getting the white powdery substance all over her autumn-themed printed dress. She was frantically trying to brush the powder out of her son's straw blond hair and was holding him like a sack of potatoes. My mom came up and finally persuaded her to set the boy down so that it could be determined if he was hurt or not. It took some cajoling, but Mrs. Littleton finally relented and set Tyler down on the lawn next to the patio.
Everyone stood over him anxiously as he looked up, his face and clothes completely white. The only part of him that retained its natural color were his big blue eyes, which stared like big wet saucers from his Kabuki-like face. We all stood there expectantly, not quite sure how to proceed. Suddenly, he broke out into a big grin.
"That was kewl!" he giggled, quickly picking himself up and ineffectively trying to brush himself off. "I want to do that again!"
Mrs. Littleton just about had a cow as she once again scooped up her son and held him close, cooing and mewling as she rocked back and forth, comforting a boy who obviously had no interest in being comforted.
"Hey, Perry!" came the disembodied voice of Josh. I suddenly remembered that he was still at the bottom of the pool. I went over to help him out.
When I looked down, he was standing near the edge, at about the six foot mark, blocked from moving to the shallower end by a line of large barrels. I realized that Tyler had been incredibly fortunate to land where he did. Josh was also covered with a light dusting of the mysterious white substance. He came up to the edge and I grabbed his hand, instantly feeling the power and strength in those big biceps. Jesse came over and grabbed Josh's other hand. Between the two of us pulling, and Josh scaling the pool wall with his sneakers, we were able to get him out. He also tried to shake the powdery stuff off, but because he was already soaked with sweat, it clung to his body and became a milky substance as it mixed with his own perspiration.
"Shit," he muttered.
"That was a great rescue!" I said, congratulating him. "You sure were quick!"
Josh shrugged. "Didn't think, I guess. Story of my life..." he laughed.
Mrs. Littleton blubbered some sort of half-hysterical thank you, but when she started moving towards my older cousin, he quickly backed off.
"No big deal, ma'am--honest!" he insisted. He quickly turned and headed for the house, telling my mom that he was going to shower and change into clean clothes. My Uncle Ron reminded him to take off his shoes before going inside and tracking the floor with the white powder.
While Mrs. Littleton remained fairly distraught, and Tyler got antsy to start running around again, my aunt and her friend also went inside to change into more comfortable clothing for the remainder of their trip. It turned out it was already time for them to leave. They were still planning on heading down to Ensenada where they were supposed to rendezvous with some other friends of theirs. That meant they still had at least a three hour drive ahead of them--including crossing the border, and it was already nearly four.
We were taking a break from our game, when my aunt announced that they had to be going. She and Darlene were both dressed much more casually in comfortable blouses, jeans, and sneakers. She gave everyone at the party a quick hug and then started through the house for the front door. My mom followed them and my aunt beckoned for me to come as well. I left Jesse to restrain his sister, who wanted desperately to jump into the pool.
"I want to make a big white cloud too!" she insisted petulantly as I went inside, carefully wiping my feet in case any of the powder had gotten on me.
While my mom put together a basket of leftovers for Darlene, my Aunt Rosemary took me aside.
"Perry, Perry," she said, "I can't believe how you've grown into such a handsome young man!" She held me at arms length by the shoulders. "I certainly don't approve of some of the decisions Jake (my dad) made, but he sure was one helluva a looker! And you're starting to look so much like him, it's amazing!"
"I'll never look like Josh," I pointed out dismally.
"Why would you want to?" she laughed. She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "He's the kind all the girls fight over only to discover there's nothing interesting inside." She gave me a warm smile. "Not like you, Perry. You're different in the best possible way. You may even be the best of us..."
I didn't know why she was getting so sentimental all of a sudden. It was making me uncomfortable. I was still trying to come to grips with the implications of her 'coming out' today.
Her smile now faded into a more thoughtful expression. "I know you were...surprised when you saw me with Darlene today," she began.
I started to deny it, but she gently shushed me.
"I saw it in your eyes...your beautiful eyes, Perry. They're like a window to your soul..."
My stupid eyes! They were always getting me in trouble! I should just wear a pair of wrap around sunglasses all the time like those people in The Matrix. I might trip over a few things, but it'd be worth it not to have people knowing what I was thinking every freakin' minute!
"It's a lot for you to take in, I know, but I'm sure you can handle it. I just wanted to say, the reason your mom and Uncle Ron are so upset today, doesn't have much to do with me. They already knew...they've known for years. It's just that we've all been careful about it around your grandparents--you understand, don't you?"
I nodded, even though I was still having trouble believing my mom's sister was a lesbian!
"Your Uncle Ron is trying to deal with a difficult situation of his own--your mom and I just found out about it today, and I'm sure they'll talk to you about it soon. I just hope that, after today, you and I are still okay." She looked at me with moist brown eyes.
"Yeah, of course, Aunt Rosemary..." I said awkwardly.
"Call me Rosie--Aunt Rosie if you'd like--Rosemary is so formal. I guess it's just Trish and Ronny's not too subtle way of telling me they don't approve of my...choices..." She shrugged helplessly.
"I'll try to see you again before you leave for New York," she said, affectionately brushing my cheek as she saw my mom and Darlene starting to head over from the kitchen. "Oh, and Perry," she said in a much quieter voice, "I just wanted to say, I really like your friend, Jesse. He's an extremely beautiful boy and I'm...well, glad you have such a nice friend." She gave me a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"Bye, Trish. Thanks for everything," Aunt Rosemary said, giving my mom a sincere hug. This time, my mom seemed a little more into it, and they held their embrace for a good long minute before my mom stepped back.
"Please drive safely," my mom implored as my aunt and her friend stepped out the door. "Call and let us know you made it to Ensenada okay!" she called after them.
After she closed the door, my mom and I just stood in the foyer, looking at each other. I could see the troubled look on her face and I'm sure she could see something similar on mine.
"I'm sorry if you were upset by...by what you saw today," my mom began to apologize earnestly. "I should have told you about your Aunt Rosemary being...well..."
"It's okay, mom," I told her truthfully, wanting to spare her the pain of having to admit something that clearly made her very uncomfortable. "I was a little surprised, but she's still the same Aunt Rosemary to me. At least she seemed really happy today, and I think that's the most important thing."
I wasn't sure my mom agreed with me on that, but she didn't argue.
"I suppose I need to tell you a little bit about what's going on with your Uncle Ron," she said reluctantly, coming closer so that she could speak in a more hushed voice even though everyone else was outside, except for Mrs. Littleton and Tyler, who were in the downstairs bathroom, washing up.
I could hear the thumping of the basketball again, and the occasional squeals of Miranda having a good time doing something.
"It seems that your Aunt Karen is...well...having some sort of an affair..." When my mom said this, I knew immediately that she was thinking about my dad and his illicit relationship which eventually led to the divorce.
Still, I was really shocked. Uncle Ron and Aunt Karen always seemed so happy and comfortable together. I always thought they were a good team and I actually felt more than a little envious of Josh and Derrin having two good, concerned parents to look out for them.
"How...?" was all I was able to utter.
My mom sighed tiredly. This had been a long day for her, and my aunt's seemingly flagrant behavior coupled with the unexpected crisis with her brother's marriage had just about drained her.
"Oh, honey, we'll talk about this soon, but we really need to get back to our guests. Just remember that Josh and Derrin are having to deal with a very difficult situation right now and...well, I know you'll be sensitive to it."
"Sure, mom. Derrin already asked if he could sleep in my room tonight. I was expecting Josh too, but Derrin seemed to think that Josh would sleep in the guest room with his dad."
"That's probably what will happen then. I would only say, don't bring up the subject of Aunt Karen unless Derrin looks like he wants to talk about it, okay?"
I nodded in understanding and my mom gave me a warm hug. We had done a lot of hugging lately for some reason and I didn't have a problem with that. I think it did my mom as much good as it did me and I didn't mind the overtly physical form of affection as long she didn't do it in front of my friends at school!
After Mrs. Littleton got Tyler somewhat cleaned up, she insisted he stay inside, so he was soon back to spreading his Pokemon cards out on the floor of the livingroom. Since he seemed happy to play by himself, I went back outside. I watched as Jesse tried to hoist his sister up so that she could stuff the basket. He wasn't quite tall or strong enough, and the ball bounced off the hoop and hit Miranda on the head. I thought she'd start wailing for sure, but she just told Jesse to put her down and went running over to Josh.
"You have the biggest arms, mister!" she said, clutching the basketball tightly in her hands. Her implication was clear and Josh dutifully lifted her towards the basket where she joyfully dropped the ball in. "Swish!" she cried out. "Again!"
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