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The following is an original work of fiction and has no basis in reality.

Do not read this story if:

1) You're not 18 or over.
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3) If you don't want to read about gay/bisexual people in love or having sex.

Warning:  This chapter touches briefly on the subject of teenage suicide.  If you are sensitive to this type of material, please find something else to read.

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 V  Truths and Lies

Chapter 14  The End Of a Long Day

Gary and Theresa were already waiting in the old, exhaust spewing Nissan, so I got in the back seat, but it didn't seem like we were ready to leave yet.

"How you doing, sweetie?"  Theresa asked with sincere concern.

"I'm okay.  I felt really bad for Jesse yesterday, but at least we all got a chance to talk today, and I think maybe we're gonna get past it just fine.  He's really strong."

"That's good," Gary noted.  "Jesse's an amazing kid, and I wouldn'ta believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes, the way he can fight, know, Perry,"  he said, giving me a somewhat guilty look,  "Jesse's quick and clever and a...a really good person, but he's maybe not as strong inside as you think."

That sounded so wrong!  "What?"  I exclaimed.  "Jesse?  He's really strong.  He's been through so much and he still tries to be the best person he can.  You have no idea what a good friend he's been to me!"

Gary cringed a little at my beratement.  "Chill, dude, please...I didn't mean anything bad by that.  I'm just telling ya, after talking with him a little last night--me and T.--well you could just see that he's really insecure inside.  I mean, I'm not trying to put him down or anything, I'm just telling you what we got."  He looked to Theresa for confirmation of his assessment, and she nodded her head.

"But you two, you're great together,"  Gary noted.  "You compliment each other somehow.  I mean, if I were going to be critical, it would only be to say that I wonder if you guys like...really see each other in a realistic way.  I know Jesse's really sharp and streetwise, but he's also really taken with you.  It's almost like you guys...worship each other or something."

Why had Gary made me hang around for this?  Who was he to tell me about Jesse's problems, or my own  naiveté?  And yet, if I allowed myself to really think about what he was saying...maybe he did have a point.  Jesse and I were so much in love, it was like we put each other up on pedestals.  Maybe we did have unrealistic visions of what each of us was capable of.  Still, I bristled, not wanting to hear anyone dis on Jesse, especially when he wasn't here to defend himself.

"Please, sweetie, don't get upset,"  Theresa pleaded.  "Gary's just trying to say, in his own oafish way, that you and Jesse, you need to stick together, get through this whole business as a unit.  If you guys can be there for each other, both of you'll come out stronger in the end."

Yeah, I felt that she was right about that.  I was learning that I didn't have to always have to be the helpless one,  that I could stand up for myself, and that I could be there for Jesse when he was feeling weak or frightened or simply overwhelmed.  Wasn't that the way it was supposed to be with a true friendship, both giving, both taking, both deeply respectful of each other's feelings, hopes, fears, and concerns?

"Yeah, you're right," I conceded.

"Good, I'm glad we got through that okay..."  Gary said with obvious relief.  "Now I have to tell you something else, about the Hode Ranch business."

I nodded, not knowing what to expect.

"I got a call this morning from the Sheriff's station..."

"They called you?!"  I asked incredulously.  "But I thought they were gonna leave us out of all this..."

Gar nodded quickly.  "Yeah, calm down.  It wasn't so bad.  I mean, I was freaked at first, but they explained that as far as they were concerned, the three of us were never there, and there's no record with our names on it or anything.  But they do have their call log and they got my cell number..."  He shrugged helplessly.  "So anyway, they asked if I would be willing to come down to the station in Escondido and help them with some ID.'s.  There were so many people running around that place last night, what with guys trying to escape, and kids, and workers, and the building getting ready to explode..."

"Did you go?"

"Well, I talked to T. about it, and we decided it was the right thing to do.  I mean, you wouldn't want an innocent person going to jail if you could help it, would you?"  he asked pointedly.

I shook my head, and then nodded, thinking that anyone at that place last night wasn't exactly pure and innocent, and then I realized that Gary and T. and myself had also been there, and then..."I...I guess not,"  I replied.

"It ended up taking a couple of hours, but T. took off'a work to come with me," he noted affectionately, and I saw him reach over and take her hand in his.  "So they got her involved too.  We were able to help a few kids out I guess.  Some of the ones they'd arrested and thought were part of the operation, we told 'em they were just spectators as far as we could tell.  But there was that guy who made a big show out of locking up the Cage before--"

"Gus?   They got Gus?"  I asked disbelievingly.

"Yeah, Gutierrez.  Gus was his nickname I guess...You know him?"

"He's the one we met at Kennedy High, the one that Jesse fought.  Then Gus and Julio told Jesse about the cage fights..."

"Fuck...I didn't realize that was the same guy...Well, that's ironic then, huh?"

I shrugged.  I didn't really wish anyone had to go to jail, but that smug high schooler had really been responsible for this whole mess!  "So, he was in a lot of trouble?"

Gary nodded.  "Yeah, quite a few charges:  aiding and abetting, coercion, illegal wagering...Looks like he might be out of action for a few years.  And there was another guy, his cousin I think..."

"Jaime!"  I felt bad for him.  He hadn't seemed like a bad guy, and he was friendly and respectful to me.  "That sucks..."  I said dismally.

"Well, I don't know what happened to him, but we told them we'd never seen him,"  Gary noted.

"Oh yeah, 'cuz he was in that waiting room where the fighters come out of!"  I remembered.  Maybe they'd end up letting him go after all!

"I didn't see any of the upstairs people,"  he told me.  "I did read a tiny paragraph in the paper this afternoon that Camp Pendleton detected some sort of bogie--possibly a stealth chopper--leaving the Hode Ranch area right before the explosion.  But they lost track of it after a few miles.  It just seemed to disappear in the hills..."  

So Al-Jihuad, Zhen Woo, Myashi, and that raven haired woman had all probably escaped.  What about...?


Gary shook his head.  "I recognized a couple of guards--including the two who had been patrolling the parking lot..."

The ones who had tried to chase us down just as the raid was beginning.  I still wondered why they were after us.  Did they somehow know that Gary had been the one to squeal?  

"And I recognized a few others who seemed to be involved in the operation and...that was about it,"  he sighed.   "They were really grateful for our help and..."

"Thank you, Gary!"  I blurted out emotionally.  "Thanks for doing all this.  I swear I wasn't thinking straight--and I know that's no excuse-- or I would have never put you through all this--I'm so, so sorry!"

"It's okay, dude!"  he tried to assure me.

"No, it's not.  I was so stupid...!"  I said, getting angry at myself.  "I'll never forgive myself for dragging you into that mess...All that danger..."  A few tears in my eyes spilled down my cheeks, but the anger kept me from a full on crying jag.

"Yeah...uh...guys.  I think I'm gonna go back in and get a cup'a joe... Anyone else want something?"  Theresa asked uneasily.

I just wiped the tears from my eyes and Gary shook his head.  I could tell that Theresa just wanted to give us a few minutes alone, and I decided to take advantage of that.

"Gary,"  I said, after Theresa had gone back inside the diner,  "you saved me twice, risked everything for me twice.  I can't tell you how much that means to me."

"Let's not go there,"  Gary insisted.  "I'm not the big hero you're trying to make me out to be.  If you only knew..."

I wondered if he was referring to that thing Theresa had told me about last night, that Gary might have some sort of feelings for me, or even a physical attraction.  That gave me an idea.

"I just want you to know that, I'm really really grateful.  You didn't have to help me either of those times.  I mean, the first time, at the rummage sale, you didn't even know me or anything!  You were scared of Goreski but you still faced him down...and..."  Okay, this was going to be difficult, but it was important.  I needed to say it.  "I just want you to know that...that thing you wanted...that day at the rummage sale...I'll do that for you whenever you want!"

Gary turned from the driver seat to look back at me, and I could see a lot of pain in his expression.  There were conflicting emotions there to be sure.  "So you're telling me that you'd be willing to suck me off?" Gary asked bluntly.

I nodded, feeling myself blush, but refusing to break eye contact.

I saw anger flare in his dark eyes and I felt a sudden chill go through my body.  "Let me tell you something, Perry.  Something that you really need to get in your head," he said, and I could tell by the tenseness in his jaw and the way the veins were sticking out on his forehead that he felt like shouting but was restraining himself  with great effort.  "That day, when I first laid eyes on you and Jesse, it just hit me.  You guys were like the most attractive boys I'd ever seen...Yeah, I thought you guys were hot--how fuckin' gay is that, huh?"  he asked irritably.  "You thought Billy was something..."

He turned to face the front of the car and grabbed the steering wheel in a white knuckled grip.  "Shit...Perry.  You don't know me...what goes through my fucked up brain..."

This was really scary.  Gary had bad feelings about liking boys.  Obviously, he didn't consider himself gay and didn't want to have those kinds of feelings, and yet he did, going back to his friend Shane.  But I remembered what I had told Gene just a few minutes ago.

"I don't judge my friends that way,"  I told him.

"Well...maybe you should," he said through gritted teeth, leaning his head on the top of the steering wheel.  Then, it was almost like he was talking to himself, and it was hard to hear over the sputtering of the still running car engine.  "When I saw you guys, all those feelings came back..."  He balled one of his hands into a fist and just held it like that.

"When Goreski said he was going in after you to get his goddamn blow job, it was like, I don't I became a different person.  I hadn't even thought about doing stuff with guys for like three years, and I was so lucky to find T."

"I really like her!"  I said encouragingly.

"Yeah, that makes two of us," he said, seeming like he was starting to calm down a little.  "But Perry..."  And I felt the anger well up in his voice again.  "I'm trying to tell ya--making it as clear as I possibly can!  There I was, hanging around outside the john, while I knew what Goreski was going to do with you..." he said bitterly.  "And the thing of it was...I was looking forward to my fuckin' turn!  Do you hear what I'm saying?"  he asked, turning to me with dark, flaring eyes.

I flinched in my seat, but realized I had nowhere to go.

" were thinking about your friend..Shane..."  I offered timidly.

"Fuck no!" Gary erupted, slamming the steering wheel so hard with the palm of his hand that I literally jumped.  "What Shane and I did, that was mutually consensual.  This was...totally different.."  He took a couple of deep breaths and I was glad to see that he was trying to calm himself down.  I was starting to hope that maybe Theresa would decide this was a good time to come back to the car.

"I was only thinking about you...Perry Thompson, this incredibly cute thirteen year old boy I'd been eyeballing at the rummage sale..."

He was really scaring me now, and I was definitely getting some of that vibe that I had gotten from Billy last night as he had screamed at me to take off my boxers...

"I was picturing you all right, but not in some dingy old public john...."  His voice got quieter as he recalled the vision he had that day.  "It was such a nice, peaceful scene..." He laughed a dry and humorless laugh.  "We were in my house, just you and me, in the living room.  The lights were out, and...and I remember there were candles everywhere...And I was sitting in my favorite chair, hornier than a bitch in heat, staring at you...and were naked..."  he whispered.  "You were naked and so beautiful like a fuckin' angel or something...this smooth, creamy skin, those big hazel eyes, those full red lips--God I wanted those lips wrapped around my cock so bad...And you smiled and got down on your knees in front of me.  You spread my legs and unzipped my fly.  You reached in and pulled out my raging boner and...and..."   He made a horrible  guttural noise deep in his throat and shoved the car door open.  He dashed out into the chilly night air, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his denim jacket.  He just stood there, frozen like a statue, looking up into the clear, star filled night.

After I had recovered somewhat from my shock, I got out and carefully approached him.


"Perry, you should really get away from me right now...I'm not....I'm not a good person and I don't want to hurt you..."  He sounded like he was under an incredible strain.

"You are a good person.  I knew that from the minute I first saw you,"  I argued, even though my voice was still quivering with fear.  "And you'd never hurt me..."  I added with slightly less self assurance.

Gary shook his head and refused to look at me.

"You know,"  I said, trying to keep my voice from trembling, "the important thing is, you changed your mind.  You saved me from something...horrible..."

"Naw, that was no big act of heroism or anything," he insisted.  "I just knew it was wrong--black and white.  You were so young...and Goreski...God damn that arrogant son of a bitch!"  Gary spat bitterly.

"You seemed like a hero to me, and you still do,"  I told him in no uncertain terms.  

Gary stubbornly shook his head.  "None of that changes the fact that I was...lusting after you!  That was sick...I am sick--just as sick as Billy Zanterman!"

"You know, there's an easy way to fix all this," I suggested nervously.  "I'm really shy and stuff, but maybe if you just saw me like...with no clothes'd see that there's nothing--"

"Stop, Perry!  Just stop!"  he said between heavy gasping breaths.  "Don't say another word or so help me I'll..."  He spun around looking wild eyed and angry, and I thought he was going to hit me.  But instead, he threw himself against his car, pounding his fists against the steel top of the Nissan.

"What 's goin' on here?"  It was Theresa, looking shocked and confused as she clutching two styrofoam cups of coffee, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I didn't know what to say and I felt myself trembling.  I was frightened by what I had seen, but I also knew I wasn't afraid of Gary.  True, it was possible he could hurt me, but it would be an accident, just like with Morgan.  I knew he would never intentionally harm me.  It was just that he was so emotionally distraught right now, that I couldn't be sure that he was completely in control of himself.

Gary was still leaning against the car, his arms folded on the roof, his face buried in his arms.  "T.." he said, his voice hoarse and muffled.  "T.  Please take Perry home..."

"But what's going on?  Perry, are you...?"

"Please, Theresa?  Will you please take Perry home--right...fuckin'"  Gary pleaded, but still with his face buried in his arms.

"Sh...sure, Gar.  No problem...You gonna be okay?"

He finally picked himself up but intentionally didn't look my way and I felt so bad for having done this to him.

"Gary, please...I'm so sorry..."  I began apologizing.

"I don't need you're sympathy, kid!"  he said with barely pent up anger.

"Yeah, well..Maybe he's right," Theresa noted nervously.  "Maybe the best thing is I just take you home."

"But what about Gary?"  I asked.

"He'll be fine.  I'll come back for him after he's had a little time to cool off..."  She handed Gary one of the cups of coffee, and then led me back over to the passenger side and opened the door for me.  

Still, I looked at Gary, hoping he'd at least face me so he could see how truly sorry I was.

"We should go..."  Theresa urged me.

"But..."  I began to protest.

"Go Perry, please--for me?"  Gary pleaded, finally daring to face me, tears streaking his rugged face and high cheekbones.

Reluctantly, I got into the car and put on my .seat belt  Theresa went back around, rubbing Gary's shoulder affectionately before getting behind the wheel.  I looked back as Gary stood there, a lone, dark figure in the parking lot of Herbie's.

"That was awful,"  I groaned.  "I just keep making things worse and worse..."

"How's that?" Theresa asked as we headed back for Coronado Hills.

"Gary said he was having these...feelings about me the day of the rummage sale..."  I couldn't tell her what Gary had said about picturing me naked--that was too embarrassing.

"I did try to give you a heads up on that," she reminded me gently.

"I know.  And I thought that, maybe if I just offered to give him what he wanted in the first place..."

"You mean, you offered to give Gar a blow job?"  Theresa asked incredulously.

I nodded, and then, realizing she was watching the road, answered her quietly.  "Yeah..."

"Oh, Perry!  Don't you see?  He's on this terrible guilt trip  from what happened with his friend Shane.  For you to just offer yourself to him like that, it was too much for him...a temptation to do something he swore he'd never do again.  Do you understand?"

"Well, sort of..."  I replied uncertainly.  "I mean, I just wanted to show him how grateful I was, and for whatever reason, he wanted that from me so..."

"Perry, tell me the God's honest truth.  Do you want to give Gary a blow job?"

"," I admitted with shame.

I heard Theresa sigh.  "Okay, Perry, I gotta tell you something else now, something else Gary's gonna get pissed at me about...But it's probably the only way I can make you understand what's going on here.  Why Gary's been acting so strange; why he doesn't want your...your gratitude."

"Please tell me, because I feel terrible about hurting him so much when all I was trying to do..."  I felt like I was about to lose it and a few tears trickled down my cheeks and my nose began to run.

"Just hold yourself together, sweetie,"  Theresa crooned anxiously.  "Let me just tell you something.  You may have already figured it out.  I'm not sure what Gary told you, but this is how he told it to me finally, after dancing around the subject for over a year.  It seems that, after Gar tried to explain to Shane that he had strong emotional feelings for him--that it was more than just messing around, Shane got really, really pissed--just totally enraged!  He called Gary a fag and said that he must be one too.  If you ask me," she remarked,  "I think Shane did have some feelings for Gary, but for some reason--just the way he was wired I guess--he just couldn't deal with it...So a couple of weeks after that incident, he committed suicide."

Theresa turned to see how I was reacting to her story, but I just felt myself sinking down a deep hole.  Gary had tried to tell his friend that he loved him, and Shane had killed himself because he couldn't deal with it.  Maybe he had been brought up to believe that being gay was somehow wrong, or evil.  But that was a common attitude.  I was brought up that way, and I knew my mother didn't think homosexuality was right.  I remembered that afternoon at my house, sitting on top of Jesse, daring myself to make that leap of faith...telling him my feelings, telling him that I loved him.  Again and again, I had wondered what would have happened if Jesse had freaked out.  Would he have hurt me or beaten me--maybe even to death?  Would he have run off and never looked at me again?  Now I had to seriously wonder...Was it possible that he could have denied his own feelings and did what Shane had done?  

I suddenly felt an overwhelming wave of nausea, and the deliciously thick and cold strawberry shake that I had enjoyed half an hour ago had now taken on sinister proportions in my stomach.

"Stop the car...I'm gonna be sick..."  I groaned.

Theresa quickly pulled over and I fumbled with the seat belt and stumbled out of the car.  I got down on my hands and knees on the cold and damp strip of grass between the curb and the sidewalk, waiting for my milkshake to come up.  I let out a hideous retching sound, but nothing happened.  Now Theresa was there, crouching next to me, rubbing my back.

It all seemed so clear to me now.  By my selfish,  all consuming need to express my own feelings, I could have driven my sweet angel to suicide!  It had never occurred to me before, but now it seemed so if it had been only a hairsbreadth worth of fate that had caused things to tip the scale in my favor.  How could I have been so reckless?  So incredibly naive?  I felt another gut wrenching wave of nausea course through my system and I dry heaved once more.  Apparently, that damn milkshake didn't want to come back up after all, but it sure wasn't doing me any favors by sloshing around in my agitated gut.

Feeling weak and delirious, I leaned over, thinking I was just going to collapse on the cool grass, but instead, Theresa caught me.  She wrapped me in her arms and held my head against the sleek shoulder of her leather jacket.

"I might puke on you!" I warned her.

"You go right ahead and do that, sweetie.  It's only a jacket..."  she crooned soothingly.  She started rubbing my back again and my stomach started to settle down.

"Better?"  She finally asked, holding me at arm's length.

I nodded, embarrassed at my display of weakness.

"You are the sensitive one, aren't you?" she asked.

"Sorry," I mumbled as she helped me to my feet.

Theresa was such a kind and nurturing person.  It was so hard to believe that Mario was her brother!  It didn't seem like two people from the same family could be so different.  I stood up and breathed deeply of the cool nighttime air, letting it soothe and heal me.  As sorry as I felt for Shane, I didn't know him.  It was Gary that I was worried about.  I could really sympathize with how he must have felt, just by imagining what could have happened if things hadn't worked out between Jesse and me.   I had to wonder how Gary had even been able to survive such a shock.  The guilt and remorse must have been overwhelming.

"Poor Gary..."  I moaned.

"Well, right now it's you I'm worried about,"  Theresa said, sitting me back down in the car, but keeping the door open.  She leaned down so we were eye level and looked at me intensely.  "Can you make it home?"  she asked.  "I really think the best thing for you now is a hot cup of tea and a warm bed."

I nodded in agreement to all the things she had just said.  Theresa closed the passenger side door and got back behind the wheel.  She started driving again, but kept at a deliberately low speed, trying to keep me from heaving my guts in the car.

"Gar's had time to recover, so you don't need to feel so bad for him,"  Theresa told me.  "It's not like it just happened yesterday.  But I guess seeing you--and Jesse--that day, somehow brought those feelings back, not so much for Shane specifically, but for boys in general."

"I guess he doesn't want to be gay..."  I conjectured.

"I think that's part of it," she acknowledged.  "But I don't think it's that simple.  I mean, it isn't like he doesn't know how to show a gal a good time!"  she stated with a satisfied smile on her face.  

"You have such a great relationship,"  I observed hoarsely, wishing I just had a glass of cold water to wet my parched throat.

"Well, relationships are complicated.  You'll see someday,"  she observed.  "You have your ups and downs, your good days and bad days.  But overall, we've had more good than bad."

It seemed like Jesse and I went through a whole raft of those ups and downs every time we got together!  "What should I do about Gary?"  I asked worriedly.

"That's a tough one," she admitted.  "You see, I think he really wants to be your friend--yours and Jesse's--but then, he has these feelings too, feelings he doesn't want to have and doesn't know how to deal with..."

"I really want to be his friend!"

"You are, sweetie; you are!"  she assured me.  "I guess time is always the best thing.  Now that things are a little clearer to me, maybe I can help him through it."

"People think sex is really important,"  I noted.

Theresa shrugged and looked uncomfortable.  And why not?  Here she was, an eighteen year old woman, talking about such intimate things with a fourteen year old boy she had only met yesterday--and even that meeting had been under extremely bizarre conditions!

"You're right about that.  People do tend to put too much emphasis on the physical part of a relationship.  But Perry, don't think that's all Gary's about.  He cares for you a lot..."

"I can see that!  I can't believe he went through all that last night, and then again today..."

We turned at the big stone sign that announced we were entering Coronado Hills.

"Somehow, he has to get passed it,"  she insisted, as if she was trying to convince herself.  "But you don't make it easy!"

"You mean, 'cause I offered  do that thing for him?"

She nodded.  "That's part of it.  I mean, I'm not usually one to pay attention to kids four years younger than me, but you really are a looker...and the sweetest thing on God's Green Earth."

"I'm not very sweet,"  I told her plainly.  

"Well, maybe that's not how you see yourself, and that's okay, I guess,"  she noted, a slight smile on her face.  "My point is--and I know this is gonna sound strange coming from his girlfriend--Gary has really good taste in boys!"

When people said things like that, it only helped to remind me that I was my father's son.  He had hurt my mother deeply, and I reminded her of him and of the pain he had caused her--was still causing her.  I would have traded my face for anyone's at this point--even Arnie Hollister's!

We turned on our street and I pointed out our house.  The kitchen light was the only one I could see that was on, but my mom's room faced the back of the house so I couldn't really tell from here if she was still up.  We pulled into the driveway and there was a moment of awkward silence.

"Don't worry about Gar," she said, and it was almost a plea.  "He'll work things out--or we'll do it together.  You never can tell with him."

"Tell him how sorry I am,"  I begged her, "not just for dragging him out to Hode Ranch last night, but for getting him so upset, like two times now!"

"You certainly bring out something in him!"  she noted wryly.  "You really should get inside.  I strongly suggest some herbal tea to relax your stomach before you go to bed," she reminded me.

I nodded.  "Thank you so much, Theresa.  You've been so nice to me--I really don't know why..."

She shrugged uncomfortably.  "Well, you probably don't even want an answer to that, but I'm gonna give you one anyway," she said with a slight smile.  "First of all, you mean a lot to Gary.  Even before last night, he'd talked about you a lot: what an amazing kid you were, how terrible he felt about that day, and how he wanted to make it up to you some how..."

"He sure did that!"

"Maybe..."   she noted ambiguously.  "But you are an amazing kid--an amazing young man, and even though it turned out to be a wild goose chase for you guys, I was glad to be along for the ride."

"It was just like a movie, the way you came blazing around that building just in the nick of time!"  I recalled.  I had to seriously wonder what those guards with the guns wanted with us.  Knowing now that Al-Jihuad and his entourage had made good their escape--maybe in a helicopter hidden somewhere on the grounds--was it possible that they had intended to take us with them?  Perhaps to be hostages, or perhaps to participate in some other aspect of Al-Jihuad's underground empire?

"Yeah...well..."  She looked at me indecisively, and then leaned over for a hug.  We embraced tightly, and I could smell the subtle scent of her perfume.

"I wish I could repay you somehow for everything you've done for me.  I can't believe you could  be so nice to a complete stranger!"

"You don't feel like a stranger to me, Perry.  Maybe it's because Gary talked about you before, or maybe because we met under such...such outrageous circumstances..."  she laughed.  "Or maybe it's because I didn't think people like you even existed anymore, fourteen years old or otherwise."

"What kind of people?"

"People that are sweet, and warm, and real..."

I didn't know what she meant by that.  I didn't even know what was real myself.  Was last night for real?  Had I actually been in a building that had exploded only a few minutes after I left?  Had it really been on TV and in all the papers?  Had I really been in that room with Billy Zanternman and the inscrutable Zhen Woo?  Had Billy really intended to rape me with his boss's blessing?

"Gahhhh..."  I gasped emotionally as my head spun wildly.  It was too much to think about.

Theresa held me again.  "Oh no, you getting sick again, sweetie?"  she asked.

I shook my head and pulled back, feeling dizzy. "No, I'm...I'm okay.  It's just much has happened, it's hard to take it all in."

"I understand.  It seems to me that you're dealing with things okay.  One thing I know for sure--your heart is in the right place!"

That reminded me of my cousin Derrin's little speech and that made me feel better.  I could feel the anxiety  that was clouding my mind start to dissipate.

"Gary's lucky to have you as a friend,"  I said.

"Yeah, he is," she agreed facetiously.  

"Can I be like...your friend too?"  I asked hesitantly, thinking I might be over stepping my bounds as an eighth grader talking in such a forward manner to a high school senior.

"Hmmm...let me think about that a bit...Would a friend do this?"  she asked, as she leaned in, took my cheeks between her hands, and pressed her lips against mine.  At first, I was petrified, but I relaxed a little as she lightly nibbled my lips in a way that almost tickled.   It certainly wasn't a hungry, lustful kiss, and yet it wasn't a motherly peck either.  It was tender and heartfelt.

"Th...thank you..."  I stammered.

"Thank you!"  she said enthusiastically.  "A little more of that, and I wouldn't be responsible for my actions!"  she laughed uneasily.

"You're making fun..."  I said shyly.

","  she said, a warm smile still on her face.  

"Friends?"  I asked again.

"Oh yeah..."  she assured me.

We just stared at each other for a while and it was like we had made some kind of connection.  Finally, she broke our gaze.  "Well, I should go scoop up my boyfriend.  God knows, it's gonna be a long night..."  she sighed.

"Please tell him how sorry I am,"  I pleaded as I got out of the car.

"He knows how you feel, Perry.  He knows.  Everything'll be fine.  You have a great trip and I bet we'll see each other again soon!"

"That would be great!"  I assured her.

Even though it was cold and I was feeling tired and weak, I stood in the driveway and watched as Theresa pulled the old Sentra out onto the street.  She waved and smiled and I did the same.  I let myself in the house with the spare set of keys my mom had given me, set the security alarm, and heated up a mug of water in the microwave.  I picked out a bag of Chamoumille from my mom's collection of herbal teas and dipped it in the hot water to steep.  My mom shuffled into the kitchen dressed in her bathrobe and slippers as I sipped the tea.  It really did feel good.

"Well, now I've seen everything!"  she declared, and for an instant, I thought maybe she had seen me and Theresa kissing in the car!  "Since when do you drink herbal tea?"  she asked, coming up and gently stroking the hair on the back of my head.

"Theresa said it would settle my stomach,"  I explained.

"I see," she said.  "Too many milkshakes, I suppose...?"

"Yeah, there was a lot toasting and stuff..."

"It sounds like you had a good time."

"Everyone was so great, mom.  You shoulda been there.  They sang 'For He's A Jolly Goodfella', and Morgan gave a little speech and they made me give a speech, but it was really stupid and Jesse was so funny...and we just talked and stuff.  It was cool!"  

You have some wonderful friends..."  she noted with some satisfaction.

"Even Jesse?"  I asked hopefully.

My mom looked at me with a thoughtful expression.  "You know I'm very fond of Jesse," she offered.  "But Perry, you have to understand, from my perspective-- from a mother's perspective--it's my obligation to protect you the best that I can, and that includes keeping an eye on the company you keep.  It's not like you're ten years old anymore when you and your friends used to play outside all day until you could hardly stand up anymore, and then you played video games and fell asleep in front of the TV.  You're starting to get out into the world now, and I hope you learned at least one thing from your little adventure last night..."  She paused for dramatic effect.  "There are a lot of bad people out there, people who will hurt you, or use you, or abuse you for whatever suits their purpose.  I simply can't let you stumble blindly into the lion's den..."

"I'm not blind, mom," I assured her, trying to keep my voice calm and reasonable sounding.  "I know there are bad people out there, and I know I've run into some of them.  But you can't protect me forever.  And even if dad was here, I'd tell him the same thing.  You know it's true."

"You're not grown up yet," she reminded me quietly but sternly.  "In the eyes of the world, you are still a child, and still vulnerable."

"But at least I have friends around me who will back me up, help me out of a tight spot if it comes to that.  If you just knew Jesse the way I do, you'd see that he's a real, honest-to-goodness hero, someone who's overcome a lot of...of difficult stuff and can do amazing things...good things!"

"I know you have a special  relationship with Jesse, and I would be foolhardy to think I could ever split the two of you apart,  but this seeking out violent confrontations, this concealing things from me, this deliberate lying to keep me in the dark...That all has to stop."

I reluctantly nodded in agreement as I finished my tea.  "We'll do whatever it takes to earn your trust again,"  I promised her.  "And we'll accept whatever punishment you and Mrs. Taylor come up with, as long as you don't take Jesse away from me."

My mom came up real close, so I could smell the familiar and comforting scent of her  terry cloth bathrobe.  "I love you Perry, and I would never do anything to deliberately hurt you."

"Same here!" I assured her.  We had a warm hug and trudged wearily up the stairs together.


There is a wonderful page at that touches on some very important topics including teen suicide, and also contains a list of resources, including weblinks and phone numbers.  There is always help and always hope!

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