The following contains mild descriptions of sexual acts between young people. It is an original work of fiction and has no basis in reality.
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The author retains Copyright © 2004 to this story. Reproducing this story for distribution without the author’s permission is a violation of that copyright.
What a crazy Saturday! It was still hard for me to accept that two kids in our small eighth grade class were “doing it.” Kyle and Melissa were fucking like rabbits. And while you would think that would be enough to satiate any fourteen year old’s sexual appetite, Melissa still felt the need to pursue other intimate liaisons as well, launching herself fully into every potential opportunity. I supposed I should be grateful that I survived our halftime encounter with my virginity intact.
Next had been a day of shopping with Jessica. After running into one of those fawning casting directors I hated so much, I was nearly shocked out of my boxers when we ran into Jessica’s cousin, Clarissa. I supposed we should have been flattered to be invited to her secret lair, but Jessica and I were both stunned at her audaciousness. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to engage in any kind of sexual activity with her, she had had the gall to suggest that Jessica and I strip to our birthday suits and provide her afternoon’s entertainment. Jessica, seemingly under the sixteen year old witch’s evil spell, had nearly succumbed, removing her top and almost exposing herself to me in an attempt to seduce me into some kind of sexual interplay for Clarissa’s twisted amusement. It had all ended rather dramatically with the two cousins tumbling over a coffee table, with Clarissa’s magenta boots shattering the glass top. Still, she had been surprisingly easygoing about the whole affair once it was over, and let us go on our way while she stayed behind to repair the damage. Even though I didn’t like her and felt that she had gotten what she deserved, I didn’t really want to see her get in trouble with the management at Neiman Marcus. Such a revelation would undoubtedly cause much embarrassment for her mother, who was apparently an important figure in the fashion industry.
The most surprising event of the day had taken place in, of all places, the parking garage of Fashion Valley. That was where Jessica, still wound up from our bizarre and unexpectedly thrilling encounter with her cousin, had dared to proclaim that she was in love with me. In LOVE! Seeing the shocked look on my face, she had tried to get past the moment as gracefully as she could. Still, to her credit, she didn’t recant her words. She had stopped me from replying, and that had probably been a good thing for both of us. If I had told her that I loved her too, it would have been a lie of the highest order. There were only two people that I would say those words to in this world and mean it, and those two loves were different enough that I had room for both in my life. While my cousin Derrin had insisted that my heart was larger than the average Joe’s, I knew that wasn’t really the case. I had to draw a line between my friends and my soulmate, and falsely declaring my love for Jessica just to make her happy was wrong in, oh, so many ways.
But now it was Sunday morning, and after having the weirdest dream of my entire life, it was back to the usual routine, getting dressed up in a suit and tie, stuffing my feet into those cursed loafers, and shuffling off to church. I certainly had mixed feelings about running into Jessica today. She had shown me yesterday that she wasn’t totally just about raging teenage hormones. There was no way I could simply dismiss her out of hand. In fact, the more time I spent with her, the more I liked her. Some small but persistent voice in the back of my head was warning me that this was all going to end in some horrible, and possibly catastrophic, disaster that would make our encounter with Clarissa look like a tea party by comparison. But for now, I felt the need to continue this relationship, both for Jessica’s sake and because Jesse apparently wanted it so.
We went earlier than most, so that my mom could warm up with the rest of the choir. I just followed her quietly to the loft and sat in one of the empty pews off to one side. I saw Jessica and her family come in around a quarter to ten. She looked stunningly beautiful this morning with her hair pulled back and up into a loose bun with dangling strands of blonde highlights scattering from it. The diffused light coming from the multi-colored stained glass windows twinkled on the diamond studs dangling from her earlobes and the diamond studded crucifix on her bare, slender neck. She was wearing a blue dress with a rather daring neckline that perfectly followed her slender waist and curving hips and ended just below her knees. Of course, she turned around to scan the balcony, and I waved bashfully. The look I got back from her had an unexpectedly powerful emotional impact. I suddenly felt very guilty for sitting up here alone, especially after everything that had happened yesterday. The choir would start singing its prelude music in about five minutes. I got to my feet and started down the stairs. I was startled to see Jessica standing there at the bottom, clutching her sleek black Gucci purse and looking like she was ready for a night at the opera.
“I’m glad you came for me,” she whispered, as we stood apart from the large crowd that was filing into the sanctuary.
“Where do you want to sit?” I asked with a smile.
“I want to be wherever you are,” she answered with a serious face.
No doubt, things were getting deep with Jessica. Now, along with all the other mixed up feelings I had about this lovely young lady, was the fact that I felt like I owed her. I doubted that sitting with her during Mass was going to comprise payment in full, but I needed to take this one step at a time. Despite everything Jesse said, I didn’t think he really wanted me to fall in love with Jessica. I felt my heart rate increase as I contemplated the possibility. Was that what was happening here? Maybe it was something that was growing slowly, day by day and week by week—not like the “grand piano dropped on your head from eleven floors up” impact of falling for Jesse Taylor. That had happened so quickly that it took my head much longer than my heart to figure out what was really going on. I didn’t think that was what was happening with Jessica. I didn’t feel that strongly about her, and despite what she had said in the back seat of the Jaguar, I wasn’t even sure she felt that strongly about me. I think she just liked the idea of having a boyfriend and I was fairly undemanding and from what people kept telling me, I wasn’t too hideous to look at.
“It’s nice and quiet upstairs,” I suggested.
“Except for the forty voice choir!” Jessica giggled.
“Well...you know what I mean,” I blushed.
She nodded, offered me a perfectly manicured hand, allowing me to lead her back upstairs. I noticed my mom giving us an approving smile just before the choir launched into a peaceful Christmas chorale.
Finally it was time for mass to begin and we all got to our feet to sing the first hymn, “O Come All ye Faithful.” I was sure my face turned white as a sheet when I saw that one of the altar boys following silver-haired Father Garetto up the center aisle was none other than the Karate Kid himself, dressed in his white cassock and red collar. I had hoped that he wouldn’t be here today since he had just served a couple of weeks ago. The usual rotation for altar boys was around a month. Maybe the recent church scandals had scared off some of the kids or their parents, even though, as far as I knew, no one had ever accused either Fr. Garetto or Fr. Mike of any inappropriate behavior. I didn’t know if I wanted to face him after what we had been through. Even though he had kicked me in the chest and probably would have beaten me senseless if not for the fortuitous arrival of the police, I was still curious to know why this cherubic altar boy would get himself involved in such a dangerous enterprise. Jessica and I were sitting in a small row of pews off to the side of the choir and I guessed it wouldn’t be hard for Craig to spot us from his vantage point at the front of the church.
“What’s wrong?” Jessica asked, already down on her knees and tugging gently on my suit coat.
“Huh?” The congregation was beginning to recite the Our Father and I quickly knelt before I attracted the very attention I didn’t want.
People began filing out of the church even before we sang the last stanza of “Hark The Herald.” I noticed Kyle and Melissa’s families among the many familiar faces in the crowd, although the two lovers kept a respectful distance from each other.
“Oh, doesn’t Katy look nice!” Jessica exclaimed, touching me lightly on the shoulder.
And that she did, with her bushy reddish blonde hair curled and tumbling loosely about the shoulders of her golden-colored knit blouse. She was also wearing a knee-length plaid skirt and brown loafers. Mrs. Mulroney was already chattering away with Mrs. Bainbridge and her other friends as they moved down the center aisle. Katy looked up at us and smiled and we waved back.
“Let’s go down!” Jessica said excitedly.
“Um...I should wait for my mom,” I said hesitantly. I was making a mental list of all the people I didn’t want to run into today: Kyle, Melissa, Craig....
“But we’ll miss Katy!”
“You go then. I feel like sticking around here for a bit.”
I saw a momentary flash of impatience flash across Jessica’s high-cheekboned countenance, but it was quickly replaced by a look of disappointment. “If you don’t come down, I won’t get my Sunday kiss!” she whispered, standing so close that she tickled my ear with her breath.
“You mean, Katy won’t kiss you unless I’m there?” I joked.
Jessica stuck her tongue out at me and giggled. “I’m so looking forward to Friday!” she whispered excitedly. “We’re going to take you out to lunch—my mom and me—right after school, and then you can come over and help us get ready for the party.”
I tried to disguise the shock I felt when she told me her plans. Even though Jesse and I had been forbidden from seeing each other outside of school (at least until the party), I had hoped that we’d be able to get together somehow, somewhere for at least a little bit.
“Uh...I’ll have to see what my mom has in mind,” I replied hesitantly. “We might have to do some shopping or...stuff to get ready for New York.”
“I’m sure our moms’ll work things out!” Jessica replied unconcernedly.
“Hi, Mrs. Thompson, Mr. Vandermach,” Jessica said with a slight curtsey.
I turned to see my mom standing practically right next to us, a rather uncomfortable smile on her face. And next to her was a tall man in a dark gray suit and burgundy tie. I wondered how Jessica knew this guy. He had joined the choir for the holiday season, and I think he sang with the tenors. He was about 6'3", broad shouldered but slim, with a long, clean shaven face, a cleft chin, a huge smile full of bright white teeth, pronounced dimples to go with his tanned southern California complexion, and wavy black hair peppered with silver along the sideburns.
“Hello, Jessica, dear. You look exceptionally beautiful today,” my mom noted cheerfully.
“Thank you, Mrs. T. So do you,” Jessica replied in a sweet voice that wasn’t overly cloying.
“I suppose you’re busy planning for your big party on Friday!”
“Yes, in fact, I...I mean, my mom and I, we were wondering if Perry could come over early—like after school, and maybe help out a bit. My dad’ll be at work all day and it would be nice to have a man around to handle some of the bigger things.”
“A man?” my mom asked with a puzzled expression. “Oh—you mean Perry!” she chuckled.
I blushed. I hated it when my mom tried to make a joke—especially at my expense.
“I’m sure Perry would be glad to help, wouldn’t you dear?”
“If we don’t have anything we need to do for the trip...” I hinted hopefully.
“I think everything’s under control there,” my mom assured me.
“Oh...well...then,” I stammered helplessly.
“I’ll work everything out with Helena,” my mom concluded helpfully.
“That’s wonderful, Mrs. Thompson. Well I’d better catch up with my family.” Jessica gave a little curtsey again.
“Be sure to say hello to your father for me,” Mr. Vandermach requested in a deep, smoothly resonant voice.
“I will, sir!” Jessica assured him as she hurried off.
“Perry, I’d like you to meet Allen, Allen Vandermach,” my mom declared.
The tall man immediately extended a hand and I offered him mine. His grip was strong and I tried not to flinch as he gave my palm a hearty squeeze.
“It’s so good to meet you, Perry—I mean, really meet you. Of course, I’ve seen you plenty of times—you’ve grown into a fine young man over the past year. Trish says you’re one of the stars of the basketball team at St. Boniface this year, and that you’ll be heading for the playoffs in January. Congratulations!” This involved another vigorous and painful handshake.
“Mr. Vandermach has kindly invited us to join him for brunch at the Castaway,” my mom said, and I could tell by her tone that she was both excited and aprehensive. And why shouldn’t she be? This was the first time I could remember since we moved here that my mom was actually going out with a guy—just one guy, and not a group.
“Cool,” I acknowledged politely.
“Mr. Vandermach is a very famous architect and he’s on the church board of directors as well as president of the Santa Corina Chamber of Commerce.”
“Wow, that’s a lot of stuff!” I gushed. Now I remembered Mr. Vandermach being introduced at some luncheon a while back as one of the board members along with Mr. Bainbridge. That must be how Jessica knew him.
“Guess I like to keep myself busy,” Mr. Vandermach laughed. “Keeps me from getting old!”
“Oh...that’s cool too,” I stammered stupidly. I wasn’t very good at talking to adults, and my head was still spinning a little, realizing the implications of this invitation and what it meant for my mom. Still, this was a good thing to be sure, and I smiled enthusiastically, wanting to make a good impression and thinking that I’d have some interesting news for my dad.
“So, you up for a little brunch?” he asked.
I smiled. The brunch at the Castaway was anything but little. “Yeah, absolutely!” The last time we had eaten there was after I had spent the night at Jesse’s place. I felt a shiver go down my spine. God...there had been sword fighting! I wished so much that I could call him and ask him to join us today, but I was determined to respect my mother’s decision that we not see each other outside of class—until the party anyway.
We all went downstairs. But instead of heading out to the parking lot, we lingered in the lobby. Katy and Jessica’s families were already gone, but I did glance guiltily over to the empty hallway where we had done a little face hugging just a couple of weeks ago.
“He should be here any minute,” Mr. Vandermach said, glancing at his Rolex.
I tried not to show my disappointment, realizing that this wasn’t going to be the one on one encounter I’d thought it would be. Probably one of Mr. Vandermach’s other friends was going to join us, and it would be a cordial, but impersonal afternoon. But my disappointment quickly turned to shock as I saw Craig come strolling out of the sanctuary and right towards us. He also looked momentarily stunned, but quickly put on a cheerful smile. He had on a white button-down shirt, now open at the collar with a dark colored necktie hanging loosely around the collar. He was carrying a shiny black leather jacket.
“My favorite altar boy!” Mr. Vandermach announced. “Trish, Perry, I’d like to introduce my one and only son, Craig. Craig, this is Mrs. Thompson and her son, Perry.”
The Karate Kid and I exchanged wary handshakes and I felt like I was right back in the Cage, about to get my ass royally kicked to Kingdom Come.
“We’ve met,” Craig noted.
I looked at him with perplexed astonishment. He wasn’t about to tell everyone about our previous encounter, was he?
“You remember, the St. Patrick Day lunch last spring?” he asked. “We were shooting hoops with a bunch of other guys. You were pretty good.”
It was true that, after wolfing down my beef brisket and cabbage—not my favorite meal in the world—I joined a bunch of other guys around the back of the social hall for a pickup game. It was kind of strange because we were all in our Sunday clothes and dress shoes. Still, it beat sitting around with a bunch of grownups, waiting to get gas! It was possible Craig had also been amongst the group, although I was positive we’d never actually spoken to each other.
“You go to St. Boniface, right?” he asked with a slight smirk that reminded me of the cocky attitude he had displayed at Hode Ranch.
I had been wondering how he had managed to sneak out of the house that night of the cage fights without his parents knowing, but after hearing all the stuff his dad did, I guessed it wasn’t such a big trick after all.
“Yeah—eighth grade. And you?”
I was surprised since he looked so young, with that round, cheeky face and curly mop of dark blond hair.
“I turned fourteen in September. I’m one of the youngest kids in my class,” he added, seeing my skeptical look.
“Well, I hope you boys are hungry, because the Castaway calls!” Mr. Vandermach declared, leading us out to the parking lot. He and Craig got in their Range Rover and my mom and I followed in the Lexus.
Mom was smiling and humming one of the hymns we had sung today. “So, you’re going to spend Friday afternoon at the Bainbridges’?” she asked, not sounding the least bit disapproving.
“Well, Jessica said she and her mom wanted to take me out to lunch.”
“That’s sweet. I wonder where they’re planning on going? Maybe I could join you.”
“Oh, well, yeah, you could do that...Are you sure it’s okay though? Is there some stuff we need to do before Sunday?”
“I can’t think of anything. You don’t have to pack too much since your father will be getting you a complete winter wardrobe once you get there—just some basic things, underwear and socks, your traveling clothes, a warm jacket and your pajamas of course!”
“Okay...” I muttered, trying to hide my disappointment.
“Is Jessica coming on too strong?” she asked perceptively. “Is she moving faster than you feel comfortable with?”
I shrugged. “Sorta.”
“Have you been kissing...with tongues?” my mom asked.
“Gees!” I shuddered with embarrassment.
My mom laughed. “You’re such a prude, Perry! I was your age once you know, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”
“Ha ha,” I noted sarcastically.
“Well, I’m glad you don’t want to rush into anything. For heaven’s sake, you have your whole life ahead of you. You need to make it clear to Jessica what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. I think some hand holding and an innocent peck on the cheek are more than enough for boys and girls your age.”
I didn’t respond to that. It was bad enough that Jessica wanted to see me naked and give me a blow job, but she was already talking about us making love someday! Oh yeah, and then there was the part about getting married and walking down the red carpet at the Emmy’s with a bun in her oven.
“So, what’s with this Vandermach guy?” I asked, trying to sound casual and disinterested.
“Whatever do you mean?” my mom teased.
“This is the first time you’ve ever gone out with a guy—alone.”
“We’re not alone. We both have our little rugrats with us!”
“But you’ve—we’ve never gone out to eat with just one guy before,” I persisted.
My mom nodded and her expression became a little more serious. “He’s been wanting to take me out—take us out for some time,” she revealed. “It’s just that I’ve been...well...not quite ready I suppose.”
I thought about my mom’s reaction to my dad’s announcement that he was getting remarried. Obviously, she still had feelings for him. It must have made her realize that while he was moving on with his life, hers was standing still.
“I understand...I think it’s cool,” I assured her.
“Thank you, Perry,” she said with heartfelt sincerity.
Even though the elegant dining room was crowded, we were seated right away. But Craig had a rapid, whispered conversation with our hostess and she smiled and nodded.
“C’mon, Thompson!” Craig said cheerfully, gesturing for me to follow him.
“And where are you boys off to?” Mr. Vandermach inquired.
“I figured you guys might want some privacy, so we’re gonna get a table way, way over there!” he gestured across the large room with its tropical island theme and wall of French doors that looked out onto a wide outdoor patio.
My mom blushed and Mr. Vandermach looked uncomfortable. “That’s not really necessary, son,” he mumbled. But he looked at my mom and a bemused half smile appeared on his face. “Are you sure that’s okay?” he asked the young lady who had seated us. Her name, according to the tag pinned to her lapel, was Leanne.
“Of course. Anything for you, Mr. Vandermach,” she said respectfully.
“Trish, do you think we can trust our boys to feed themselves?”
“That’s one thing Perry rarely needs help with,” my mom assured him.
“Great—let’s go!” and Craig was off. I gave my mom a helpless shrug and hurried to follow as we wove between tables with white tablecloths and people carrying plates full of colorful salads, sushi, crab legs, carved roast beef, and lavish desserts. The hostess showed us to our table, which was really small and off in a corner near the kitchen.
“Perfect—thanks, Leanne!” Craig reached in his pocket and took out a big wad of cash. He pulled out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to her.
“Thank you, sir! You boys enjoy your meal!” she gushed as she quickly stuffed the money into a pocket of her tidy navy blue blazer.
“This is great, huh?” Craig said with a big grin.
“Uh, sure....” I said uncertainly. I didn’t know if it was my imagination or not, but I suddenly felt a dull ache in my chest right where he had kicked me a little over a week ago.
I sat and watched in quiet confusion as Craig first sat, then got up and adjusted the distance of his chair from the table, then sat again, made some more adjustments, stood up again, eyeballed everything carefully, and then finally sat down again. He started to speak, and then, as if having a sudden annoying thought, moved his chair about a quarter inch to the right. Next he stared intently at his silverware, as if taking inventory, making sure he had everything from his butter knife to his coffee spoon and that nothing was missing or out of place. “This is great, huh?” he asked again, as if nothing odd had just occurred.
Hey, don’t worry about the other night,” he assured me, apparently seeing that I was giving him a bit of a strange look. “No hard feelings, right?” he asked, and he sounded sincere.
“No hard feelings,” I repeated. “It’s just that—”
“You’re wondering what the fuck I was doing there in the first place, right?”
I nodded. Apparently, he wasn’t even aware that the chair moving thing looked kind of weird.
“Well, I guess I’ve been wondering the same about you. You said you weren’t a fighter and you were looking for a friend...What was that about?”
“Uh...maybe we should get something to eat first, and then talk,” I suggested.
“Sounds like a plan—I’m totally starved!” Craig seemed in a really good mood and I wondered if maybe this was his dad’s first “date” in a long time as well. I didn’t want to pummel him with a bunch of personal questions right off the bat, but there were so many things I was curious about.
When we returned to our seats our plates were spilling over with everything from sliced roast beef to sushi to...well, anything we could pile on without it sliding onto the floor. Craig set his plate down and then went through a briefer version of his chair dance/silverware inventory before enthusiastically stuffing his face full of rare roast beef and mashed potatoes. Despite his mouth being full, he still managed to ask me again what I had been doing at Hode Ranch that night. So I gave him the Cliff’s Notes version, telling him I had a friend who was a blackbelt and had been first challenged, and then solicited by Gus. My friend had said he wouldn’t get involved in a cage fight. But then a high school friend of mine had mentioned the cage fight and that a kid that looked like my friend was supposed to be there.
“That was me, huh?” he asked with a touch of pride.
“Yeah, the Karate Kid—”
“Shhh!” Craig hissed, quickly looking around. “I don’t want people hearing that name around here!”
I shrugged apologetically. “So anyway, when I found out about it, and I couldn’t get a hold of my friend, I panicked I guess, and persuaded my high school friend to drive me out there. Only, we had a little trouble getting in—”
“That creepy guy at the gate,” Craig noted. “The Gatekeeper!” he croaked in a horror movie sounding voice, hunching one shoulder up and clamping one eye shut.
“Yeah...” I had to smile at his silly impersonation. “So the only way I could think of to get in quick was to claim that I was a blackbelt myself.” I told him briefly about my exchange with Al-Jihuad, but left out everything about Billy Zanterman.
“That’s cool. I didn’t get a chance to go upstairs, but Gutierrez promised me that I’d get to meet the big kahuna at the party later. Well, obviously, that shindig was cancelled—permanently!”
I didn’t tell him that it had been the friend who had driven me out there that had called the police.
“Wow, so if it wasn’t for the raid, I would’ve punched your lights out!” Craig said disbelievingly. “I was sorry to see the place go up, but I guess it was for the best. I mean, I’d never want to hurt an innocent person!” he noted sincerely.
“That’s good. You sound like my friend...And you do look a little like him too,” I admitted uncomfortably. Actually, it had been his eyes, more than his flat round face or curly blond hair, that had suggested a slight resemblance. But now that I saw him up close, there was something noticeably lacking in Craig’s light blue peepers.
“He must be the best lookin’ guy in his class then!” Craig laughed self-deprecatingly.
If only he knew! “Hehe...So...uh..anyway...that’s my story.”
Craig nodded and his expression became more serious. “Man, it was so unbelievable. After Gutierrez let us out of the Cage, I tried to find the friend I’d come with, but there were just so many people everywhere, just...freaking out. As soon as I got outside, the cops herded a bunch of us all the way across the parking lot and didn’t stop until we were way in the woods. People were bitching and moaning and then...WHOOM! There was this huge explosion and then another, and the roof just blew off that fucker!”
I nodded, remembering how unreal it had seemed to see that orange pillar of flame shooting straight up into the jet black sky. “How did you get away?”
“I didn’t really. They took me to the sheriff’s station and made me call my dad. God, it was so embarrassing. I finally caught up with my friend there and he’s already eighteen, so they didn’t make him call his folks, but they sure did ask him a lot of questions—at least, that’s what he told me later. I had to split as soon as my dad showed up.”
Craig suddenly started playing with his silverware, setting his forks, knives, and spoons, used or not, in neat rows on either side of his nearly empty plate. He scrutinized the arrangement intensely, and then made a few adjustments before looking up at me again as if nothing peculiar had just happened. “You probably heard that I have a blackbelt...in Karate by the way, not Tae Kwon Do.”
I didn’t really know what the difference was, but I just nodded.
“I don’t wanna brag or anything, but I’m the best in combat at my dojo...better even than the Nidans!”
“The second degree blackbelts. I’m a lot quicker and I also have some of my own moves...things they don’t teach in class but really work when you’re actually in a real life situation. But of course, in school, it’s all very formal and controlled, and you have to wear all this protective gear and shit. So I guess I really wanted to test myself...see if I could use everything I learned plus my own techniques, and just see what would happen.”
“So you signed up for the cage fight.”
“Well, not right away. I have this really cool friend at school—he’s a senior. He lives in the same condo complex as me and my dad. He’s like an okay brown belt, but he doesn’t claim to be any more than that. He totally rules at water polo though. But anyway, he helped set up some private matches between me and some other guys from his dojo. At first, it was just for fun, but I started winning, and more and more guys were interested in challenging me.... Then somehow, the betting started. Some of the kids from Arlington started wagering on the matches, and I actually started making some good dough!”
“But your dad is a famous architect. Doesn’t he give you all the money and stuff you need?”
“It’s not about that,” Craig explained earnestly. “It’s about winning...about earning the money yourself, not just getting handouts from your folks, ya know?”
I guessed it would mean something to actually earn the money in your pocket as opposed to having it simply given to you by your parents. I always cringed when my mom pulled out that big wad of twenties whenever we went someplace and acted like I couldn’t survive without my wallet bulging with cash. If I ever went to work for the Chandigars, I’d be making my own money and I was pretty sure it would have more value to me than what my mom handed to me without a second thought.
I nodded in understanding.
“Hey, let’s get another plate!” he suggested, getting to his feet. I was only about halfway through mine, but I nodded and went along with him anyway. I was starting to observe his behaviors a little more closely, and I was puzzled as I saw how he just slopped everything haphazardly on his plate as we went down the rows of meats, salads, and side dishes. He even plunked a couple California rolls right down in his second heaping serving of mashed potatoes and gravy. It was so different than the meticulous way he adjusted his chair and his silverware.
I watched with growing interest as he went through his little chair dance again. He tweaked the positions of his silverware as well before digging in again with a vengeance. I was getting full just watching this kid stuff his face. “So a couple of months ago, word got out about this junior cage fight thingie,” he said, picking up his story right where he had left off. “Of course I got totally stoked. I trained extra hard and really started concentrating on developing my own techniques—things no one would expect from a little punk like me, ya know?”
“So I got my friend to drive me out there—man he was so pissed that the place got raided. He’d put some big money on me and never got a chance to collect!”
Well, wasn’t that just too bad. Lucky Craig hadn’t run into Billy Zanterman or Zhen Woo.
“I heard you won every match.”
Craig nodded proudly. “It was easier than I thought. Most of those guys just rely on intimidation and brute strength. The only kid who gave me any trouble was a Tae Kwon Do blackbelt, but I was faster and I knew just which moves to use to catch him by surprise.”
“So you’d do that again?” I asked.
“Absolutely. It’s a total adrenaline rush. Besides, it’s not like I got much else going on. I mean, it’s just me at home, right? My dad’s always workin’ late at the office or going to meetings and shit.... Not that he’s a bad guy or anything, just that...” His voice trailed off. “Well...I just don’t see him much. And I don’t have many friends at school, being small and the youngest in my class.... Man, I’m so jealous!”
“Of you! All those girls always hovering around you...You bagged that hot Bainbridge chick!”
Well, actually, she had bagged me. “Oh, Jessica. She’s really nice once you get to know her.... We go to the same school, and we went to this one party and—”
“She’s been putting out for you?” he asked with a knowing grin. He continued shoveling forkful after forkful of everything on his plate indiscriminately into his mouth.
“Um...well...we’re taking it kinda slow—”
“Oh man, if it was me...!” He let his words trail off suggestively and he made some clicking noises out of the side of his mouth.
“So...uh...it’s just you and your dad?”
“Yeah, my mom died when I was like ten.”
“I’m really sorry.”
“That’s okay...” he shrugged, his smile dimming only slightly. “It’s been a long time now. Sometimes, I can’t even remember what she sounded like—isn’t that weird?”
“I...I can’t imagine,” I admitted.
“Hey, but it’s great that my dad and your mom...huh?” he smiled excitedly.
“Yeah...It’s the first time since...since my dad left that she’s...we’ve done anything like this.”
“Yeah, it’s been awhile for my dad too. Your mom’s really pretty.”
“Dad’s actually kinda shy with the ladies even though they seem to like him just fine. But anyway, it seems like your mom is really something—someone special so...that’s why I thought it would be nice to give them a little space.”
We both glanced at the same time across the room. Mr. Vandermach was talking enthusiastically about something and my mom had a big goofy smile plastered on her face. I couldn’t help but smile myself.
“Wouldn’t it be great if they got serious about each other?” Craig speculated.
I really wanted my mom to be happy, and Mr. Vandermach seemed like a nice, handsome, intelligent guy—just what she deserved. I nodded.
“We could be like friends...brothers even!” he said excitedly. Then his face suddenly sagged. “I mean, we can be friends if you want to...” he offered, sounding something close to humble for the first time.
I was already trying to imagine what it would be like for Jesse and me if my mom did get serious about someone. In the short term, it would mean them going out on dates and me having the house to myself. Jesse could come and sleep over and...well, that would be great! And in the long term, if my mom and Mr. Vandermach got really serious, even getting-married serious, wouldn’t that make it that much easier for me to tell my mom the truth? Even if she really did get upset, at least she’d have Mr. Vandermach there to comfort her and I wouldn’t have to feel so bad. And once things were out in the open, I was sure that eventually, my mom would come around.
“Gees, that was dumb, huh? I mean, why would a cool kid like you want to hang with a punk like me?” Craig muttered.
“What?” I asked, coming out of my reverie. “Oh, no...I mean, yeah, it would be totally cool if we could be friends,” I assured him even though I wasn’t really sure I liked him that much. He seemed rather full of himself. It was sad about his mom though.
But Craig’s face lit up, and for a brief moment, there was even that sparkle in his eyes that reminded me again of my beautiful angel. “That would be great! I could even teach you some of my moves if you want—you know, in case you find yourself in another cage fight!” he added with a knowing wink.
That wasn’t a bad idea. It didn’t seem like Jesse and I were getting anywhere with the martial arts training. He had wanted to teach me some Aikido, some strictly defensive stuff, but whenever we were together and alone, martial arts seemed like the furthest thing from our minds.
“I’d like that,” I said sincerely.
“That’s great. Maybe you could come over next weekend.”
“Well, um...actually, I hafta go to New York next Sunday. That’s where my dad lives now.”
“Oh,” Craig said, the look of disappointment clear on his boyish face.
“Yeah, see...my dad’s getting remarried, and I gotta be the best man and stuff.”
“Oh...That’s intense,” he said sympathetically. “At least he’s still around though,” he pointed out.
That was true enough, and something I really needed to think about. I had never seriously contemplated the idea of losing one or both of my parents. It seemed unimaginable, and yet people died every day, from car crashes, fires, heart attacks.
“You’re right about that,” I said. “And he’s not so bad. I wish he hadn’t left but....”
“That’s the way it goes sometimes,” Craig finished, sympathetically.
I nodded and we sat there in silence for a few minutes, lost in our own thoughts.
“You look like you’re in pretty good shape, even if you aren’t a fighter,” Craig noted.
I shrugged. I still felt like the skinny, geeky kid that had shown up at St. Boniface clueless and friendless almost a year and a half ago. “I just play basketball. I don’t work out or anything.”
“We have a pretty good gym at the condo complex. You know, it’s that tall building near the mall?”
Santa Corina was a small town and any building more than a couple stories tall was pretty hard to miss.
“Oh, you live there?”
“Yeah. It’s like eight floors, but we live in the penthouse above that.”
“Yeah, there’s a huge deck with a built-in barbecue and a jacuzzi, and at night, you can see all the lights in the valley—Escondido, San Juanito, Santa Corina of course. Where do you live?”
“Awesome. That’s where most of the rich people live. I can see you guys from my bedroom window!”
“Well, we’re not rich,” I pointed out quickly. “My mom’s a paralegal and my dad sends us some money. He’s a pretty successful lawyer.”
Craig had managed to polish off his second plate and he was now going through his silverware adjustment routine. For the first time, he noticed I was watching and a guilty look appeared on his round face. “Oh...hehe.... Sorry about that.”
“About what?” I asked innocently.
“You know, the silverware, the chair....”
“It doesn’t bother me,” I assured him.
“I knew you were a cool guy!” he declared with a triumphant smile.
“What’re you talking about?”
“Like that day we played basketball in back of the social hall. It was obvious that you were really good, but you never hogged the ball. You always tried to give the smaller kids a chance. You didn’t cuss when the older guys got rough and knocked you around.”
“There’s nothing cool about that!” I assured him. “And I don’t think I was very good. I mean, that’s for sure the last time I play basketball in my loafers!”
We both laughed. “You are cool, Perry and you just don’t see it. That’s funny!” His turned-up nose crinkled as he laughed. Then his expression became decidedly more serious. He scanned his silverware but apparently didn’t find anything out of place. “I want to tell you something....” His voice got serious and a little softer and raspier. “You should know...just in case it’s possible that we could be friends.... See, it like started after my mom died—in a big car crash on the 405.”
“Oh.” I felt a shiver go down my spine.
“Yeah, we used to live in a totally awesome house up in Newport Beach. You could look out over the ocean from the deck and the pool was always heated, and my dad had converted the pool house into a really cool office. We had a big sailboat in the marina, and we used to have parties all the time and my mom was such a good cook and there’d always be some kids to play with.” I thought his eyes were getting a little teary now. “Yeah, and then she was in this huge car accident on the 405. It was like a ten car pile up.”
“Hey, you don’t have to tell me all this stuff!” I told him. “I mean, you don’t want to start thinking about all those bad things.”
Craig shrugged and decided his silverware did need some adjusting, and then realizing what he was doing, guiltily put his hands in his lap. “No, Perry, you’re really cool and you’re being really nice to me and I just want to tell you this. You must be wondering why I keep doing this stuff—the chair, the silverware.”
“It’s sort of a strange sickness where you do certain things over and over again—you know, compulsively? And the weird thing is, it seemed to start after my mom died.”
I hadn’t expected to be hearing such a sad story over lunch and I suddenly felt my appetite waning. Was it just my imagination, or did kids seem to suffer more than anybody else in this world?
“It was like, I was so afraid the same thing was gonna happen to my dad, and I became, well...obsessed with him putting on his seatbelt. I mean, he usually did, but still, I just had to know, whenever he was driving, if he had it on. So I’d be calling him all day long—even from school. The fear would build and build in me, and I’d have to excuse myself and go out in the hall and call my dad. The other kids would make fun of me of course. It got to where I was doing that like two or three times an hour. At first, the shrink thought it was post-traumatic stress disorder, but I started doing other weird things and it didn’t fit the pattern, so, well, to make a long story short, it turned out I have this OCD thing.”
“Gees, that’s rough, Craig.”
He shrugged. “Naw, it’s okay, really. I got diagnosed pretty fast and they stuck me on Prozac and that seems to help a lot. I didn’t get those panic attacks anymore, but I did start doing weird little things like...well, you know.”
I nodded. “I’m glad they were able to help you.”
“Me too. I mean, I was the laughingstock at my old school in Newport. It was even snobbier than Arlington. So a couple of years ago, when my dad started getting more and more work in San Diego, he decided it would be best if we moved. I think he felt weird too, being in the same house where we all lived together and now there was just two of us in that big place. So we looked all over, Coronado, Ocean Beach, Del Mar, La Jolla—”
“We used to live in La Jolla!” I blurted out, as much to distract myself from Craig’s heart-rending tale as anything else.
“Cool—that’s an awesome place. But I guess the ocean reminded my dad too much of...of Mom, so we started looking inland, and somehow, he just really took to Santa Corina.” He leaned across the table and looked at me conspiratorially. “I thought it was the shits!” he declared, grinning for the first time since he had started his story about his mom.
I looked at him with surprise.
“Just kidding. I mean, it did bug me at first that it was such a small town, with hardly anything going on, but then, it also felt right, ya know? It felt like we were starting over, and that was a good thing. So my dad enrolled me at Arlington Prep and it turned out a few other kids from there also lived in our condo complex. Most of them thought I was a joke,” he said sadly. “I’m pretty smart, but you know, small and stuff. And then sometimes, especially when I’m excited about something, my OCD kicks in—like today, and the medication just doesn’t seem to help much. But sometimes I can go days without it bothering me,” he shrugged. “Anyway, there was this one older kid, that kinda helped me out at school. Then it turned out that he lives in our building so that was cool. We would meet at the downstairs pool and he’d try to teach me water polo and shit and then we found out we were both into Karate...So he’s pretty much my best friend, although like I said, he was pretty pissed that he lost all that money at the cage fights!”
Wow. Craig and his dad had been through so much. Sure, they were well off, or more than well off, but it hadn’t spared either one of them from the tragedies of life. The loss of Mrs. Vandermach was obviously something that would scar the two of them for the rest of their lives, and now, they also had this peculiar OCD thing to deal with.
“How does that uh...thing affect your Karate?” I asked carefully, hoping that wasn’t an offensive question.
“Oh, you mean the OCD?” he asked casually. “No biggie. As long as I take my meds, I’m fine. I told you, I’m one of the best at my dojo. You should join. I could catch you up. I bet you’re a fast learner.”
“Actually, I’m pretty dense,” I admitted. “And it seems like I already have too much stuff going on. Basketball’s almost done, but then I gotta go to NYC for two weeks, and then back to school, and then we have championships and semester exams, and then baseball season’ll be starting up soon and—”
“Jessica!” he added with a knowing wink.
I blushed. That was true. Jessica would still be here when I got back from Manhattan, and how would I handle things then? My first priority was Jesse and every selfish bone in my body was yearning to be with him, to hold his naked body against mine, run my hands through his silky blond hair, feel his hot breath on my cheek, his wet tongue in my—
“Hey, I’m ready for another plate—what about you?” Craig declared abruptly, shaking me out of my lurid reverie.
I quickly realized that I wasn’t quite ready to stand up and stalled for time. “Um...just let me finish these California rolls first,” I grinned sheepishly.
Wow, another three days of head-spinning weirdness! First, there had been my intense get-together with Gary. I knew that we had formed an immediate bond that day at the rummage sale, that he cared deeply about me, and that I also had strong feelings for him. The only difference was that he had some sexual feelings for me which I didn’t feel for him. I’d rather look up to him as a big brother—not the kind that beats you up and steals your CD’s and tells your mom that you flunked your math quiz, but the kind that would always be there when you needed him, whether it was to get advice about girls (or boys?!), fix your bike, or to help you out of a tight spot. I thought about Gary and Morgan. They were both great athletes, top sports stars in their respective schools. Both had great girlfriends, and both truly understood the meaning of friendship. But Gary was haunted by an earlier experience, one in which sex had grown out of a childhood friendship and had occurred naturally as the two boys grew into adolescence. The only difference was that Gary had started developing a real emotional attachment and that had apparently terrified the other boy. Of course, only God knew for sure why young Shane had chosen to take his own life. I wondered if God had approved in some way, had seen the pain in Shane’s soul, had seen it to be so all-consuming, so overwhelming, so beyond the innate human capacity to heal, that he had allowed Shane to make his choice, had allowed him to succeed. No, that wasn’t something I could accept. The God I believed in was a God of Life, not Death. Shane had gone to his own deep and dark place to do the thing he had done. He had cut off contact with his family and the rest of the world, and had let himself drown in his own turbulent ocean of teenage angst.
Morgan on the other hand, though he had always given the impression of being a smooth and confident lady’s man, had turned out to be rather shy when it came to the fairer sex. He had actually been intimidated by Melissa’s audacity and had backed away, allowing Kyle to come in and fulfill her newly awakened need for sexual intimacy. But Morgan had been fortunate to hook up with one of the sweetest and prettiest girls in our class—Katy Mulroney, a girl that I had fantasized about for nearly a year and never had the nerve to approach. How ironic to discover, at her very own un-Halloween party, that Katy had actually been harboring a small crush on me! But it was too late. She and Morgan had already become a couple in that way eighth graders did: holding hands, always pairing up in class whenever that was an option, whispering in each other’s ears, exchanging secret jokes that only they understood, and occasionally going to the mall together.
He had been my first friend at St. Boniface, and for a while there, I had practically worshipped him. Maybe it was similar to the way Reggie Colbert felt about me, although I had none of Morgan’s charisma, or strength of leadership, and only a modicum of his athletic prowess. It had seemed only right and just that Morgan would hook up with Katy, and I never felt more than a twinge of jealousy. What I hadn’t realized was that, as our friendship grew, Morgan had started to develop sexual feelings for me. At first, that had simply freaked me out, and when he had told me at Disneyland that he very much wanted to jack me off, I couldn’t understand and I was afraid. I was so glad that Jesse and Morgan had talked at Disneyland, and that Jesse was willing to help us through this strange situation in any way he could.
Sunday, I was thrilled to discover that my mom was apparently ready to start dating again. A charming and wealthy member of the parish had approached her, asking if we’d like to join him for lunch. It had been quite a shock to discover that Mr. Vandermach’s son was none other than the Karate Kid, he of Hode Ranch fame. Actually meeting and having brunch with the diminutive martial arts adept had been nothing like I imagined it would be. While he definitely had a cocky side to his personality, it seemed to cover up something much more fragile. The trauma of losing his mother in a horrible car accident had triggered one of the strangest of afflictions: Obssesive-Compulsive Disorder. This had caused the young man to become a pariah in his old school, and hadn’t helped him much at his new school, Arlington Preparatory School, an expensive private institution located on the outskirts of Santa Corina. He seemed like he genuinely wanted to be friends, and while I didn’t find him particularly likable, I was willing to be a sport in order to help my mom through this important transition in her life. >From what I had gathered from out conversation later in the day, she and Mr. Vandermach were discussing the possibility of going on a real date on Friday while I was at Jessica’s party.
It had been a long Sunday afternoon, pounding out two full drafts of my short story assignment for Mrs. Rutherford’s class. The details of my strange, two-part dream remained uncannily easy to recall, and my imaginary meeting with my older self inspired me to write a fictional version of what the possible consequences of such a meeting could be. In my story, anything the boy tried to do to alter the future foretold by his older self, only ended up causing that thing to happen anyway. For some reason, even though I hadn’t intended it that way, the story came out with a rather sad ending. Granted, using a personal time paradox wasn’t the most original idea on the planet, but it did at least give me a chance to explore one of Mrs. Rutherford’s favorite, non-grammar related subjects: the inevitability of fate.
Jessica looked at me shyly from her seat as I walked past and I took the time to give her a warm and reassuring smile. I felt a little shiver go through me when I realized how serious things were getting with her. I refused to let my mind go there and was relieved when a golden-haired beauty appeared in the doorway.
Seeing Jesse stroll into class just as the bell rang after not seeing him all weekend made me realize all over again why I was so attracted to him. The fact that his crystal blue eyes sparkled the way they did despite the darkness he held deep inside now truly astounded me. If he had ever wavered or seemed momentarily overcome with guilt or self-doubt, I realized now that what he was revealing was not weakness, but amazing strength, the ability to grapple with all the experiences of his past, and still manage to excel at school, make new friends, and love a plain and unworthy boy such as myself. I was grateful to my mom for moving us to Santa Corina, to Jesse’s mom for moving her family here from Illinois, and even to his Aunt Ruthie (whom I had never met) for persuading and helping the Taylors to make the difficult move, and while I was at it, God Himself, who had sent Jesse a seemingly celestial command to remain by my side. There was no pain I wouldn’t bear, no risk I wouldn’t take, no deception I wouldn’t commit to make certain that the two of us were never parted.
At lunch time, I was relieved to see Tom go and sit with Derek. I noticed they didn’t sit alone, but with a few other seventh grade boys, including Billy Scott. I was glad that Derek really did want to be with Tom and it made sense that they should hang out with the other guys, rather than isolating themselves. But Tom seemed happy nonetheless, and I loved to see that smile of bright white teeth that contrasted so nicely with his smooth mocha skin. He really was one of the cutest boys I knew and I wondered why I wasn’t attracted to him physically. Why did my dick twitch for the slightly obnoxious, lanky seventh grader, Reggie Colbert when I really and truly cared about Tom Espinoza? It was like there was no rhyme or reason to it and I had no conscious control over who turned me on and who didn’t.
As we pulled our sandwiches out of our brown bags, Morgan looked more than a little uncomfortable and he and Jesse kept exchanging glances, as if they shared some secret, something that was apparently best kept to themselves yet at the same time was also some kind of burden. As much as I wanted it not to be about me, I sensed that it probably was.
Gene sat with us for the first time in quite a while and immediately dove into his sandwich, a three inch thick pile of lunch meat, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, two kinds of cheese, and mustard, all stuffed into a good sized grinder roll.
“I heard Kyle really blew it,” Morgan said a bit smugly, suggesting that there was some good natured rivalry between two of the top jocks in our small class.
Gene shrugged, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed a mouthful. “It wasn’t just his fault. I mean, we were short two men and we couldn’t afford that. Everyone was exhausted and...what can you do? It’s a small school.”
Gene sure had a healthy attitude, and while I didn’t want to say it out loud, I would have agreed with Morgan that Kyle had really let the team down. His disinterest in playing defense combined with his lack of concentration were clearly his downfall. And that was a shame, because I knew Kyle was an incredible athlete whose football prowess came close to matching Morgan’s basketball skills. But where the two boys clearly differed was in attitude: Kyle only played hard when he felt like it, and Morgan always gave a hundred and ten percent regardless. And knowing now, some of the personal issues Morgan was dealing with, it made his accomplishments all the more impressive. Clearly, it just wasn’t enough to have the physical skills, and our football team had paid the price.
“You were amazing!” I congratulated Gene. “I’m so glad I was there.”
“You went?” Morgan asked, sounding a little surprised.
“Yeah. First time this year too.”
“Cool. I’ve been having swim team every Saturday morning,” he noted regretfully. “Wish I coulda come.”
“They’re gonna have a great team next year,” Gene said with a magnanimous smile. “A championship team.”
We all felt a little bad when he said that, and I saw Morgan and Jesse exchange those odd glances again.
“Whatcha been readin’ lately?” Jesse inquired.
“Dark Tower Five,” Gene responded.
Jesse nodded. “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to read those.... Maybe over the Christmas break,” he noted, glancing uneasily at me.
“If you ever want to borrow them, just let me know,” Gene offered.
“Cool!” Jesse acknowledged. “It’s really interesting the way King combines traditional gothic horror with sci-fi and metaphysics.”
“Yeah, he’s really not just a straight horror writer,” Gene agreed readily.
“Uh...Perry,” Morgan said in a subdued voice as Gene and Jesse got more involved in their Stephen King discussion.
“Can we...uh...go talk...somewhere?”
I didn’t have a good feeling about this, and I didn’t like seeing this troubled, vulnerable side of Morgan. My favorite vision of him was on the basketball court, dribbling as fast as most kids could run, dodging, faking, springing straight up on those two powerful legs, and then tipping the ball into the hoop with his fingertips.
“Sure...” I glanced at Jesse, and he gave me a concerned look, and just the slightest nod of acknowledgment. Apparently, he knew what this was all about and was telling me it was okay to go.
“See ya in a bit, Gene,” I apologized. I always sensed my good-natured buddy would like for us to spend more time together, but circumstances always got in the way. I for sure would like to know more about George, and Gene didn’t seem too uncomfortable talking about his openly gay brother, at least in private, but it seemed like we never even had a chance to have a one-on-one conversation. While he had been in attendance at my impromptu birthday celebration at Herbie’s, the last time we had done anything together socially had been to see the Jackie Chan movie in October. Still thinking about the role of fate in our lives from my weird dream and the short story I had labored over most of the day yesterday, it seemed to me that night at the mall had been the moment when Jesse and I had somehow been joined together in a way that couldn’t be seen but nevertheless had managed to inexorably change our lives ever since.
Morgan and I headed slowly toward the parking lot, which was relatively quiet at this time of the day. The school didn’t really like kids wandering off from the lunch area, but they tended to be pretty tolerant with the seventh and eighth grade as long as there wasn’t any trouble. Morgan had his hood pulled up over his head so that most of his features were hidden from me.
“Tomorrow’s gonna be perfect,” he declared with quiet certainty.
That sounded like the slogan for some new miracle drug advertisement, which would then be followed by a long list of horrifying side effects beginning with dry throat and ending with death.
“Perfect for what?”
There was a long pause, and then Morgan stopped and turned towards me. “For what we talked about the other day...at Disneyland.”
That hit me hard. It had been a week now, and even though it was always there in the back of my head, I had hoped that maybe Morgan had changed his mind, or let the whole idea go.
“You know what I mean,” he added, seeing my hesitation.
“Well, it’s the last chance really, with Wednesday being practice and Thursday being the game against St. Joe’s. But besides that, Derek’s got an orthodontist appointment after school. It’s right across the street from the mall, so afterwards, he’s gonna walk over there and meet up with Tom.”
That made me feel better, knowing that Tom and Derek still wanted to spend time together alone despite the jitters they had gotten from Jesse’s cautionary tale.
“So I was thinking, you could maybe come over to my house.”
“Oh...okay,” I agreed, the words coming out thick and hollow.
But Morgan either didn’t pick up on that, or chose to ignore it. “Maybe you wanna go home first; get cleaned up and stuff, and then come by.”
“Sure, that makes sense,” I agreed as my head went into it inevitable spin cycle. Morgan wanted to jack me off at his house! He would see and touch my dick—maybe even my balls. He would see me having an orgasm. How could I ever face him after that? I swallowed my panic. “Um...what about your mom?”
“She’s gonna drop us off...I mean me, and then take Derek to his appointment, and then do some shopping while the guys are in the arcade. And my dad’s outta town for a couple of days, at some conference up in Sacramento. He’ll be back for the big game though,” Morgan assured me. “We’re gonna kick St. Joe’s ass all the way to Oceanside!” he said with almost desperate assurance.
“But your sister....”
“Ally’ll be at work ’til nine,” Morgan answered quickly, offering me a nervous smile. And Jesse had tutoring, I thought dismally to myself. Things really were perfect then—from Morgan’s point of view!
That night, I IM’d Jesse. First I told him about Mr. Vandermach and his son.
bbplayer125: It turns out he’s a freshman at Arlington Prep.
Jerrinheimer: I hear that’s a pretty snobby school.
bbplayer125: Yeah, I guess. When u see those kids at the mall or whatever, they always seem to be looking down their noses at everybody else. But Craig isn’t really like that. I mean, he’s an ok guy. He said he’s better than the Needons at his dojo.
Jerrinheimer: You mean Nidans? Good for him. That means he can protect his hoard of gold from thieves and brigands.
bbplayer125: Well, I don’t know about that, but he seems pretty confident about his martial arts skills. Otherwise, he seems kinda insecure. And there are some sad things too.
bbplayer125: Well, first, his mom died in a car accident about 4 years ago, so it’s just him and his dad now.
Jerrinheimer: That’s rough.
bbplayer125: Yeah, and then it also turns out he has this weird thing called OCD.
Jerrinheimer: I’ve heard of that. Where a person keeps repeating the same action over and over again.
bbplayer125: Yeah, at brunch, Craig kept adjusting his seat and playing with his silverware. It was a pretty strange thing to see and I know he’s embarrassed by it.
Jerrinheimer: Isn't he getting some kinda treatment?
bbplayer125: Yeah, I think he said he’s on Prozac and sees a shrink.
Jerrinheimer: I’m sure he’s getting the best care money can buy. I remember this kid at one of the apartments we used to live in when I was like nine or ten. He was a high school kid, and real tall and skinny. I don’t know where he went on school days, but when there was no school, he’d run around the building all day flicking light switches on and off everywhere. Used to drive the manager crazy. My mom said he had OCD and it was incurable.
bbplayer125: O, that’s sad.
Jerrinheimer: It is. For sure his parents didn’t have any money and probably not any insurance either.
bbplayer125: What happened to him?
Jerrinheimer: I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up getting the shit beat out of him at some point. There were always groups of troublemakers patrolling around, looking for people to pick on.
bbplayer125: Gees, that sounds like an awful place.
Jerrinheimer: Well, at least my dad was still with us back then, and looking back, it doesn’t seem like things were so terrible. I guess it just depends on what you’re used to.
I always got a queasey feeling in my gut whenever Jesse talked about his past. Maybe it wasn’t right that I felt sorry for him and Miranda, but I just couldn’t help it. I decided this was a good time to chance the subject and told him about my talk with Morgan.
Jerrinheimer: Yup, I already knew about it. Sorry I didn’t say anything, but that’s the way he wanted to handle it.
bbplayer125: What should I do?
Jerrinheimer: Enjoy yourself!
bbplayer125: That’s not funny! I don’t want Morgan to see my stuff! And I for sure don’t want him to touch me there!
bbplayer125: Morgan’s straight. He shouldn’t be doing that kinda shit.
Jerrinheimer: Um, we talked about that, already...remember?
bbplayer125: About him being queer just for me?
Jerrinheimer: Yup, I think it’s something like that. Weird, huh?
Jerrinheimer: Just remember what I said about not doing anything with him u don’t feel comfortable with.
bbplayer125: I don’t feel comfortable doing ANYTHING with him!! And we’re gonna be all alone at his house!!!
Jerrinheimer: He’s your friend. He cares about you a lot.
bbplayer125: I care about him too, but I don’t see what that has to do with my dick.
Jerrinheimer: What can I say? He has good taste in boys!
bbplayer125: How can you be so calm about this? Doesn’t it bother you that another GUY wants to see and touch my privates? That should be stuff that only you and me do together—alone!
Jerrinheimer: I'd like it to be like that, and someday it will be like that, I promise. Right now, Morgan needs you.
bbplayer125: I guess I need to help my friends, huh?
Jerrinheimer: I think u have to try.
bbplayer125: But you’re the one I love, and I don’t want you to think I’m a slut.
Jerrinheimer: I’d never think that. R u turned on by Morgan?
bbplayer125: Of course not. U know that!
Jerrinheimer: Then I don’t think it’s a problem. Besides, whatever action Morgan gets tomorrow, there’s one thing for sure he won’t be getting.
bbplayer125: What’s that?
Jerrinheimer: Your precious soul. That’s mine, dude. All mine!
Special thanks to Blue for contributing his precious time and expertise to the editing of P&J. I hope everyone will give him a word of thanks for his efforts at the forum.
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