by Julien Gregg
Copyright 2003 - 2004 Julien Gregg

This story is about homosexual teenagers.  If you are offended by this kind of story, then you shouldn't read mine.  If it is not legal for you to read erotic fiction where you live, then you should not read this story.  If you have questions or comments, email me at  You can also visit my webpage at  This story is copyrighted, so please do not duplicate it in whole or in part without permission.

Chapter 1

As stories go, I don't know how this one will be, but I'll try to tell everything as accurately as possible.  Bear with me, though.  It could be a very bumpy ride.  I've never done this before.  Writing, I mean, so it could get messy from time to time, but if you're willing to overlook the misspelled words and other errors I'm sure to make, then welcome aboard.  I'll tell you my story as best as I can.

Oh yeah, I'm Tommy, by the way, Tommy Porter.  I'm fifteen years old with dirty blond hair and green eyes.  I'm five feet and six inches tall and weigh in at an astounding one hundred, twenty-five pounds.  Short for my age, and kind of thin, I know, but that's genetics, right? My mom says that I look like my dad.  She says he wasn't much taller than me, and like me, he could eat an entire supermarket of food and not gain a pound.

I never knew my father.  He died three months before I was born.  It was some kind of weird brain thing.  Mom gets upset when she talks about it, so I rarely ever ask questions about how he died.  There were pictures of him all over our apartment in Florida, and Mom is right, I do look like him.  Except, I get my green eyes from my mom.

I guess I should tell you up front that I'm gay.  I don't want to start off without clearing that up.  I mean, I don't know how you feel about gay people, but if you're going to read about me, its best you know about it now.  That way, you can stop here if you don't like it.  I wouldn't want to surprise anyone or make anyone mad.

My first crush was probably the greatest and worst experience of my entire life.  His name was Ben Meyers, and he lived a block from us at the time.  We had known each other since Kindergarten, and up until the time his family moved to Maine, we were inseparable.  We did everything together from playing video games to sneaking cigarettes from his mother's purse when she wasn't looking.  The smoking thing didn't last long, though.  We'd each taken one puff when we discovered that you had to be insane, and have a set of iron lungs to actually smoke an entire cigarette.

We hit puberty at about the same time, so naturally, we learned to jerk off together.  I lived for those sessions when we would sneak around in his or my bedrooms and pull our shorts off, exposing ourselves to each other without modesty.  Those sessions were my very first sexual experiences, and they meant a great deal more to me than they did to Ben, but at the time, I was too blind to notice.

What made me see the light was when Ben discovered girls.  We were just about to turn fourteen, so I suppose he was right on schedule, but I hated it every time he'd talk to me about a girl that he thought was hot in our class.  At first I would just blatantly show my indifference, but as time went on, and my indifference turned into something closer to disgust, it became clear to me that I was jealous.

When Ben started dating, I went crazy.  His girlfriend was a girl named Laura Darns, a girl we'd grown up with who, until then, was just like one of the guys.  It was after the first time I saw them kiss that I went ballistic.  I stopped talking to Ben for a long time, and though this confused him and genuinely hurt him, I didn't relent for quite some time.

Likewise, I stopped having anything to do with Laura as well.  This wasn't so much of a shock to her, because she seemed to understand that once she became a real life "girl" instead of one of the guys, a lot of our friends started to treat her differently.  So dropping my friendship with her wasn't as significant in my mother's eyes as was the apparent ending of my almost lifelong friendship with Ben.

Things got really difficult for me during that period.  I missed Ben like crazy, but at the same time I felt some ridiculous feeling of betrayal from him, too.  In my mind, he'd betrayed me by doing what was natural for him to do.  I hated Laura for coming between us like that, but really, it wasn't her fault, either.

I stopped having anything to do with all of my friends after a while, and I spent most of my time sulking in my room.  My mom constantly tried to get me to tell her what was wrong, but I refused to talk.  I didn't know how to tell her what I was feeling, because I didn't understand it myself at that point.  All I knew was that my best friend in the entire world had betrayed me.

Another strange thing that started happening were my fantasies and dreams.  At night, I'd dream about me and Ben as if nothing had happened.  We'd play catch, swim at the beach and play video games like always.  But by the end of every dream I would instigate our routine jerk off session, and Ben would walk out of my room.  I'd wake up confused and shaken every time.

My jerk off fantasies had always included Ben, but they had usually been of watching him jerk off at the same time that I was.  Now they had changed, and they really scared me at first.  Now, whenever I jerked off, it wasn't my hand that as touching my dick, it was his.  In my imagination, he didn't walk out of my room.  Instead, he pulled my shorts down and wrapped his hand around my hard dick and jerked me off to the most powerful orgasms of my young life.

Being the computer kid that I was, I searched the internet for what my fantasies might mean.  That was when I found the sight about puberty, normal development and sexual orientation.  The site basically told me what I had refused to even consider to begin with.  We all knew what gay meant, and we all knew that it was something dirty and bad.  So, I never even once let myself think that I might be gay, but I was.  That was why I felt so betrayed by Ben when he started hanging out with Laura all of the time.  It was also why I fantasized about him while he was fantasizing about girls.

I was more confused than ever after reading the articles on that site.  I didn't know what my mom would think of having a gay son, and I didn't want anyone to find out about me, because I knew what all of my friends thought about gay people.  We discussed it all of the time.  Well, discussing wasn't really the right word for what we did.  Each of my friends had a barrage of gay jokes, and the gay guy in each joke was made fun of.  I didn't want to be made fun of by my friends.

So now I was even more depressed.  A million bad feelings suffocated me into hiding out in my room.  I felt confused as to why I was gay.  Shame was a big part of that feeling, too.  Guilt was another large part of it, because I knew that if I was gay that my mother couldn't love me, and that was awful.

Throughout all of this, Ben continued to try to talk to me.  He called almost all of the time, tried to get me to talk to him at school, and even came to the apartment a few times.  Each time that he called or came over, I made my mom tell him I didn't want to talk to him.  At school, I just pretended not to hear him when he talked.

Finally, school was over, and I didn't think I'd have to deal with Ben for a while.  Sure, he'd still call and come over, but at least then I could hide behind my mom.  At school, I had to see his hurt expression every time ignored him when he tried to talk to me, and it made me feel bad every time.  I felt worse, because I knew that he thought he'd done something wrong.  I no longer felt betrayed by him.  Now that I knew the truth about why I'd had those feelings, I felt ashamed of myself.

And then, the day after school let out for the summer, I was helping my mother carry groceries into the apartment building when Ben came up to the car.  I was trying to drag a bag of canned goods out of the back seat of the car when he just walked up behind me.

"I know you hate me now, Tommy," he said, and I could hear the pain in his voice.  "I don't know what I did to you, but I came to say I'm sorry. You won't have to worry about me coming around and bothering you now, though. We're moving in two weeks, and you'll never have to see me again."

I didn't turn around the entire time he was talking, and when I finally did, he was gone.  By the time I got that bag of canned goods up the three flights of stairs to the apartment, I was sobbing.  My mom took one look at me, and grabbed the bag from me, and I ran to my room and slammed my door.

I threw myself on my bed and stayed there, feeling sorry for myself for a long time.  My mom came in and asked me what was wrong, but how could I tell her? How could I tell her that I had hurt Ben so bad that he thought I hated him, and now he was moving away? How could I tell her why I hurt him like that? I would have to tell her I was gay, and I just couldn't do that.  At the same time, I wanted to so bad, because I couldn't hold it in anymore.  I knew that if I didn't say something that I was going to just keep on crying like a baby.

"You have got to talk to me, Tommy," she said, sitting on my bed.  She looked so worried.

"I'm scared, Mom," I said and the sobbing started all over again.

"Tommy, you have to tell me what's wrong," she said.  "You won't talk to Ben, and you don't say much to anyone anymore. Your grades are bad, and your teachers told me that you rarely pay attention in class anymore. Something is wrong, Tommy, and I want to know what it is."

"I can't tell you," I cried.  I had to get away from her, because I knew that if I didn't, I would tell her exactly what was wrong with me.

"We're not moving from this spot until you talk to me, Tommy," she said.  The look on her face went from worried to angry and back to worry over and over again, and I couldn't stand it.

My stomach started to rumble and it just got worse.  Every time I thought about opening my mouth to tell her what was wrong, my stomach lurched again.  Mom was serious about not letting off the bed until I talked, but I knew I had to get to the bathroom fast.  I pushed past her and ran for the bathroom, barely making it before my stomach let go of everything I'd eaten that day.  My mother was standing in the bathroom doorway, and I just kept vomiting and retching until I thought my stomach was going to tear loose and come flying out of my mouth.

Then she was kneeling behind me, stroking my back and telling me over and over that it was going to be all right.  Hearing this just made me cry harder, but luckily, my stomach was empty.  I sank down to the floor completely, sitting on my knees as the tears started anew.  I almost wished that I could just die right there.

"Mom, I want to tell you what's wrong so bad," I said between sobs, "but I know that if I do, you'll hate me."

"Thomas Ian Porter!" cried my mother, startling me.  "Don't ever say that! I could never hate you. You're my son, Tommy, my baby. Nothing you could ever do would make me hate you. You've got to tell me what it is that's wrong. If you don't tell me, Tommy, how can I help you fix it?"

"Nothing can fix this, Mom," I cried.  "Nothing can ever fix this, and I can't tell you, because you will hate me for it."

I stood up on very shaky legs, and my mother reached out to steady me.  She had to help me get back to my room, and I crawled right back into my bed again.  Every time I looked at her face, I started to cry again.  Thankfully, I wasn't sobbing anymore, but the tears just kept on coming.

"Tommy, you have to talk about this," she said, smoothing my hair away from my face.  "You have to, baby, or it will eat you up. Look at what its doing to you already."

I cried harder and turned my face away as I whispered, "I'm so sorry."

"Does this have something to do with Ben?" she asked, making me snap my head back and stare at her.  "I know that something is going on between you two, because there hasn't been a day since you met each other that he hasn't been over here, or you've been over there. Now something happened between you two to separate you, and I want to know what it is."

Before I could stop myself, it all came out.  Through tears and more sobs, I told my mother my darkest secret.  "I love him, Mom," I said, and then the sobbing really rocked me.

"Well, you've got a funny way of showing it," she said, completely missing the meaning of what I said.  "He calls constantly, Tommy, and he comes to the door every single day. You should see the hurt look in his eyes when I tell him you don't want to see him."

"He'll hate me, too," I said.  "You'll all hate me if I tell you what's wrong, Mom. I know you say you won't, but you don't know what it is, yet. Trust me, you'll hate me. You won't want to look at me if I tell you."

She left my room after that, so I thought I'd finally gotten through to her.  I thought I'd finally made her understand that what I wasn't telling her was way bigger than what she could possibly imagine.  Why else would I know so completely that she'd hate me if I told her? Thinking about that, I just started crying again.

Amazingly, however, my mom came back into the room carrying a glass of water and a wet wash cloth.  She sat the glass of water down on my nightstand and sat back down on my bed.  Using the wash cloth, she wiped my face as if I were five again, but this time I didn't even protest.  She ran the cloth over my forehead and reached for the glass of water.

"Take small sips of this," she said, handing me the glass.

I sat up slightly as I took the glass, so that I wouldn't spill it as I tried to drink it.  The entire time I sipped the water, my mother just watched me.  The concerned look was still on her face, and worry was in her eyes.

"Thanks," I said, handing the water back to her.

"Now," she said, sitting the water back on my nightstand.  "No more about this nonsense of me hating you, Tommy. I promise you that no matter what it is that you say, I won't hate you. I may be disappointed, but I would never hate you. You're my son, Tommy."

I don't know where the courage to tell her came from.  Maybe I just knew that she would never let me get away with not telling her.  Whatever it was, I just opened my mouth and said, "I'm gay."  Tears flowed again, and I searched her eyes for any sign of disgust or hatred, but I didn't see any of that.  Instead they softened, and she pulled me into her arms as I cried even harder.

"My poor, poor baby," she said as she started to rock me.  "Hush, Tommy, it's ok. I don't hate you."

"I'm so sorry," I said into her shoulder.

"Tommy, you have nothing be sorry for," she said, holding me tighter.  "You've done nothing wrong, and I don't hate you. I love you so much."

We stayed like that for a long time.  She just continued to rock me, and I continued to cry.  I didn't know what to say to her now.  I was so thankful that she didn't hate me, but part of me still expected to hear her say it anyway.  She assured me over and over again that she loved me, and I soaked it up like a sponge.

"Does Ben know?" she asked after my crying had stopped and we were just sitting there.

"I don't think so," I said, and I really wasn't sure if he knew or not.  I didn't see how he could.  As far as I knew, I hadn't done anything to make him think that I was gay.

"But this is why you stopped talking to him, right?" she asked.  I nodded.  "I thought that something happened between you. Maybe something was said or he didn't react the right way. Something."

"I didn't understand," I told her as I closed my eyes.  "At first I just felt betrayed, because he spent more time with Laura. But then, when I really thought about it, I knew something bigger was wrong. I started to surf the internet for information about what I was thinking about and feeling, and that's when I knew."

"It was very brave of you to tell me this, Tommy," she said.  "So many boys can never tell their parents."

"I read stories on the net about how parents had thrown their sons out and never had anything to do with them again," I told her.  "I was so scared to tell you."

"Never be afraid to tell me anything, Tommy," she said.  "I am your mother, and you're all I have left in the world. I wouldn't throw you aside just because you are different. Tommy, I'd hoped that you understood that I wasn't like most mothers."

"Well, I didn't think you'd be any different than most when it came to this," I said.

We sat there and talked about it for hours.  I was starting to feel better, but I knew that this wasn't over.  It would never be over.  Next I had to fix what I'd done to Ben.  I couldn't stand it that he thought that I hated him.  I didn't know what I would say to him when he asked me why I'd stopped talking to him, but I had to make him understand that I didn't hate him.

Telling anyone would be hard to do.  Telling my mother was the hardest thing I'd ever done, and I was still worried and scared that she'd eventually hate me for what I was.  No matter how many times she said she loved me no matter what, I just couldn't shake the feeling that she would eventually tell me that she'd been wrong.

When supper time came, I wasn't hungry.  My stomach still didn't feel right, and Mom made me hot tea and toast with no butter.  I sat there with her at the kitchen table, and she told me again that I'd been brave to tell her.  I was lucky, and I knew it.  I just hoped that she wouldn't change her mind and tell me she hated me any way.

I didn't sleep very well that night.  I knew that the next day I would have to do another very hard thing.  I would have to face Ben.  I still wasn't sure what I was going to tell him.  I didn't think he'd take the news of me being gay very well, so I didn't think I could tell him that.  I lay there, thinking about all the things I could say to him, but nothing I thought of sounded right.  Besides, I didn't want to lie to my best friend.

The next day, while my mom was still at work, I called Ben's house and asked him to come over.  He sounded so excited, but at the same time he sounded worried.  He told me that he'd be right over, and I sat there, waiting for him to come and tell me that we couldn't be friends anymore.  I felt my stomach start to rumble again, and I hoped that I could at least keep from barfing all over myself when I told him.  It wasn't until that moment that I knew I was going to come clean with him and tell him everything.

Sitting there wasn't doing anything to still my rambling thoughts, so I got up and started cleaning the kitchen.  My mom would have flipped if she'd been home to see me wiping the counters, drying the breakfast dishes that were in the drainer and cleaning the table with the dish cloth.  But anything that kept me from thinking about what was about to happen was good.

When I heard him knock on the door, my stomach lurched, and I was afraid that I would barf on him when I opened it.  Luckily, that wasn't the case.  Instead, I was just a nervous wreck.

"Hey," he said, and I had to resist the urge to grab him and hug him.

"Come on in," I managed to say, stepping aside to allow him entry.

"Look, Tommy, I know you hate me," he said as soon as he sat down at the table.  "I just don't know why?"

"I don't hate you, Ben," I sighed, sinking into a chair of my own.  "I just . . ."  That was all that I got out of my mouth.  I didn't know how to say what I needed to say to him.

"Just what?" he asked.  "I don't know what happened, Tommy. I mean, on day we were doing great, and the next, you stopped talking to me completely."

"You started hanging out with Laura," I said.

"That's what it was?" he asked, stopping me from finishing my thought.  "Tommy, just because I started hanging out with Laura didn't mean that you and I had to stop hanging out."

"Look," I said, grabbing the bull by the horns, "you have to just listen to me, Ben. I have something to tell you, and I don't want you to say anything about it until I'm done. Can you do that?"

"Yeah," he said, looking down at his shoes.

I took a deep breath and laid it all on the line.  "When you started hanging out with Laura, I was jealous. I didn't understand why at first, but I just couldn't stand to see you two together. I stayed home, hid in my room, didn't talk to you at school and wouldn't take your phone calls, because I couldn't face you once I figured it out, Ben. I'm still not sure that telling you this is a good idea, but you said that you are moving away, and I can't let you leave thinking that I hate you.

"It took me a little while, but I finally figured out why I was so jealous," I continued.  "Every time I would see you talking to Laura, I would get a sick feeling in my stomach, and once I figured out why, I was sure that you would hate me if you ever found out about it. So, I just cut you off. I know that wasn't fair, and I'm sorry, but at the time it seemed like the only way to do it."

"But why did you think that I would hate you?" he asked.  "I don't get it."

"The reason that I got jealous in the first place was because I wanted you for myself," I said, wincing as I said it.  "Once I figured that out, I had to do a lot of thinking. I figured it out, Ben. I'm gay."

There, it was said.  Everything that I didn't want to tell him was now out in the open.  He sat there, stunned.  He just stared at me for a few minutes, but those few minutes seemed like an eternity to me.  I was so worried about what he was thinking, and my mind ran faster than light with all kinds of different scenarios and I came out bad in every one of them.

"You mean that you like me that way?" he asked.

"Yes, Ben, and I understand if you don't want to be my friend anymore," I said.  "I knew that was probably what was going to happen when I decided to tell you. You can walk out the door, and you never have to see me again. I just didn't want you leaving without knowing that I don't hate you."

His expression was hard to read.  He didn't look directly at me for a few minutes, and I wondered when he would start screaming at me.  He stared at his shoes again for a few minutes, and I swear I could hear my heart beat.  Strangely, I still held out hope that he would come to his senses and want me, too.  I knew it was stupid, but I couldn't help it.

"I don't hate you, Tommy," he said.  "I mean, why would I? So you're gay. Ok. I get that. But why would I hate you for that? I mean, yeah, you just told me that you like me, and it is a little weird, but what's so bad about it? You never did anything to me that I had to forgive until you stopped talking to me."

"So, you're telling me that you still want to be my friend?" I asked shocked.

"Well, yeah," he said.  "Tommy, we've been friends since Kindergarten! Look, my older brother is gay, stupid. If you had just trusted me enough to tell me the truth, you would have known that I wouldn't hate you."

"I just couldn't know that for sure, Ben," I said.  "And it hurt to see you with Laura. I mean, I knew that I didn't stand a chance, but it was like you were throwing it in my face."

"Laura?" he chuckled.  "Laura went to the movies with me one time, Tommy. We hung out in school, because of a science project. Did you ever see us together after the first week?"

"No, but . . ."

"Because you wouldn't even look at me anymore," he said.  "If you had told me about this, then I would have explained all of that to you then. I know you didn't know how I would react, but God, Tommy, you didn't even give me a chance. That's not right."

"I know, and I'm sorry," I said.  "For what its worth, I still want to be friends. But now you're moving away, and I won't even get to see you at all."

"Well, we can write letters and talk on the computer," he said.  "Tommy, you are my best friend. I'm not like that, but I'm not a moron, either. I wouldn't judge you for that. Maybe you should start trusting people a little bit more."

And that was that.  I was stunned, happy and sad all at the same time.  I got my best friend back, he knew I was gay and didn't care, and he was about to move away.  However, we made the most of the time we had left together.  For the rest of those two weeks, Ben and I were inseparable again.  We hung out at my apartment and at his house.  I even got to talk to his brother about being gay.

I was blown away that Andy was gay.  But he explained all sorts of things to me, and he even told me that I may not really even be gay.  That one blew my mind, because I was pretty sure.  He said that I was still young enough that it might just be a phase.  He said that I might wake up one day, meet a girl and fall in love.

I didn't think that was going to happen.  When I looked at girls, I just didn't feel anything.  Ben wasn't the only boy I looked at, either.  He was just the only one I wanted to be with.  I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do with him, but I knew that I wanted it to be him.  I explained all of this to Andy, and he told me that he'd gone through pretty much the same thing.  He said that Ben should be flattered that I cared for him that much, but I should never do anything to make him feel uncomfortable.

The day before they left, Ben came over to my apartment and had dinner with me and my mom.  We were sad that he was leaving, but we tried to smile and have fun.  He told us about his cousins in Maine, who he'd be staying with until his mom and dad found a house, and he promised to write and email me as much as he could.

"And maybe you can come and visit," he said when we were in my room after dinner.  "I heard my mom and dad talking that over with Andy, and they told me that if they could find a way, then you could come up and visit after we get settled."

"That'd be cool," I said, "but I don't know if my mom will let me."

"Well, my parents would talk to her," he said.

We talked about what it would be like for me to visit for a while, and then my mom knocked on my door to tell us that Mrs. Meyers had called to say that it was time for Ben to come home.  They had an early flight, and she wanted to make sure that Ben got plenty of sleep.

"I'm going to miss you," I told him when my mom closed the door.

Then he did something that took me by surprise.  He grabbed me and hugged me tight, which was nothing new, we'd hugged each other lots of times in the past.  It was the feeling of his lips on my cheek as he kissed me that surprised me.  After he kissed me, he squeezed me tighter.

"I'm going to miss you, too," he said.

After he was gone, I was depressed for a while, but his daily emails helped with that.  I started hanging out in the vacant lot again with the rest of our friends, and I even started talking to Laura again.  They all accepted me like nothing had happened.  Sure, they asked questions, but I told them that I was just dealing with some stuff, and they left it at that.

When school started, I got right back into life again.  I started hanging out with Cory Duncan a lot, and we because really good friends.  I never thought about him sexually, and I never told him I was gay, either.  I didn't think it was his business to know.  I mean, we weren't that close.

My mom was really supportive of me, and that helped a lot.  I also got emails from Andy and chatted with him, too.  My mom bought me a few books about homosexuality, and they helped some, too.  Half way through the school year, I started to think I was going to be ok with being gay.

Then, two weeks, before school let out, my mom told me that we were moving.  I wasn't too happy about that, because I'd have to leave all of my friends behind.  I didn't have a best friend that lived near me anymore, but at least I had friends.  My mom told me that I could make friends in Storyville, too.  That was where we were moving to.

Two days after school let out, we packed up everything in our apartment, and a moving company came for it all.  My mom had decided to drive to Storyville, because she said that would give us some time together.  Four days is what it would give us.  It was a four day drive! I wasn't too thrilled about being stuck in a car for that long, but Mom told me we'd stop and see sights and stuff along the way.

So, we set off on our four day car ride just two days after my fifteenth birthday.  We talked and joked a lot, and we played silly road trip games with each other to pass the time.  We stopped in several places, and we saw a lot of stuff that my mom thought was really cool.  Some of it was for me, too, but most of it was kind of boring.  It was nice to get out of the car and stretch my legs, though.  Other than bathroom breaks, food stops and hotel visits, those sight seeing stops were the only times I really got to get out of the car.

All of those stops also added two days to our trip, so we pulled into Storyville on the sixth night after we'd left Florida.  I was so tired that I can't even remember much about my first glimpses of the city.  When we pulled up in front of the new house, my mom helped me get our bags and air beds out of the trunk, and we toured our new home.

My mom had bought the house through an internet realtor, and we'd taken a few virtual tours through the house, so I pretty much knew what everything looked like.  It was a bit different than the website showed it, though.  The living room was a lot bigger than the one we'd had in our apartment in Florida, and here, we had a dining room.  The kitchen was pretty bid, too, which I thought was strange since we had a dining room.

There were three bedrooms, all on the second floor.  My mother planned to use the third bedroom as an office, so I chose the last bedroom, in the back of the house.  I had a bathroom all to myself, because the master bedroom had its own bathroom.  There was a half bath on the ground floor, too.

After a quick bite to eat from what was left out of what we'd gotten in the last town we stopped in, my mother helped me get my air bed inflated, and I helped her with hers.  She talked to me about how great it was going to be for us here, and she promised again that I'd make new friends.  Once I laid down on the air bed, I was out like a light.

The stupid sun came through my window and splashed across my face, waking me up completely.  For some reason, I've always been like that.  As soon as the sun comes up it's like my body starts screaming, "DAYLIGHT! IT'S DAYLIGHT! GET UP!" I hate it.  Usually, I keep my blinds drawn and my curtains shut, but at that time, my windows were both bare.  The moving truck was supposed to show up today, and all of that stuff was on it.

This was my very fist morning, waking up in Storyville.  I had never even heard of the place before she told me that we would be moving.  Thanks a lot, Mom! No problem.  I'll just tell all of my friends that I'm moving hundreds and hundreds of miles away from them, and I'll never see them again.  That's just great.  I can't wait.

Well, I didn't say any of those things, but I felt like saying them.  In Florida, I had a lot of friends.  I wasn't the most popular guy around, but I wasn't a nobody like I would be here in Storyville.  Here, I didn't know anyone, and it was summer! Not that I'm a school junkie or anything, but how was I supposed to make friends in this city when I had no idea where to find them? Another brilliant move by my mother, moving us half way across the country right as school was letting out all over the place.

Actually, my mom isn't that bad.  She's usually really cool, in fact.  She rarely ever yells at me, and she stopped making me stay with a babysitter almost a year ago.  She said she hated to move so far away, and I really believe her, but they were offering her a really great job with an awesome salary.  She'd even been able to almost completely buy this house with the advance they'd given her.

The house is nice, anyway.  For one thing, my bedroom is bigger than the one I had in Florida.  I even have my own bathroom here.  Mom does, too.  In Florida, we lived in a two bedroom apartment.  Here we have a yard and everything.  It's great.  There's an extra bedroom that mom says she'll use as an office.  The living and dining rooms are huge! Mom said that it would take forever to find new furniture to fill those rooms.

There was no point in me trying to go back to sleep with nothing to block the sunlight, so I crawled off of the air bed and started searching through one of my duffle bags for something to wear and a towel.  I couldn't wait for the truck to get there, so I would have all of my stuff back.  I missed it all.

After my shower, I went downstairs and found my mother in the kitchen, making breakfast.  I sat down on one of the stools at the breakfast bar as she handed me a glass of orange juice.

"Morning," she said.  "I went to the grocery store early."

"What time is it?" I asked, wishing that I'd have dug deeper into the duffle bag for my watch.

"It's almost nine," she said.  "The truck should be here soon. We have a lot of work to do today."

"Well, it isn't like I have anywhere else to be," I said as she sat a plate of eggs and bacon in front of me.

"Tommy, it won't be long, and you'll have all kinds of friends here," she said.  "You'll see."

"Yeah," I said, trying to at least sound like I believed her.

When I was finished eating, my mom took my plate and loaded it into the dishwasher.  I hadn't even noticed that we had one here.  In Florida, I usually had to stand at the sink and scrub the dishes by hand.  This was another positive thing about living in a house.  I wondered what else there was around here that I didn't know about.

Shortly after breakfast, I was back in my room with paper towels and a bottle of Windex, cleaning my windows.  I didn't know why my mom wanted me to do it, because from the looks of the windows, they'd already been cleaned.  She insisted, though, so I did as I was told.  I couldn't wait to see what else she'd have me doing.  Luckily, she didn't have anything else in mind until after the truck got there, so I went out to sit and wait for it.  I got outside, and I noticed that a newspaper was lying in the yard.  I went to grab it when something struck me in the head, and everything went dark.

"Holy shit, dude, are you alright?" said a voice as I lay there, studying the backs of my eyelids and wondering just what fell from the sky and slammed into my throbbing head.

"What the . . ." I stopped when my eyes opened.  Standing over me was a boy with dark hair that was falling in his face as he looked down at me through the darkest eyes I've ever seen.

"Sorry, dude," he said, grabbing my hand and pulling me into a sitting position.  "You came out of nowhere, and I'd already hit the ball. Are you alright?"

"Yeah," I said, standing up.  "Head doesn't feel so hot, but I'm fine."

"Tommy?" called my mother from the porch.  "What happened?"

"I'm fine," I called back to her, not taking my eyes off of the boy in front of me.

He was dressed in a pair of cut off blue jean shorts and a pair of black tennis shoes.  His skin was sun darkened to the color of my mother's coffee when she adds her cream to it.  He was breathing hard, and I watched his muscled abs move with every breath.  I couldn't take my eyes off of him.

"I'm Nick," he said, grabbing my hand.  "I live next door to you. When did you move in?"

"We got here last night," I said after a few seconds.  I hoped that he didn't notice my pause.  I didn't know what was wrong with me.  Maybe it was the knock on the head.

After that, things started to move a bit faster.  We sat on my front porch and talked about where I'd moved from, how old we were and if I liked baseball.  His name was Nick Andrews, he was also fifteen, and he was just out smacking the ball, because he was bored.  His friends were all gone with their families on vacations, and he was stuck in Storyville with his family.

When the truck arrived with the rest of our belongings, Nick and I helped the two men move as much in as we could.  Each of the boxes were marked to tell us which room they went to, so it was pretty simple really.  In Florida, I thought it was stupid to mark a box "dining room" when we'd never had a dining room in my life, but now that we were here, understanding was divine.

We stayed out of the way while the two men started moving the furniture.  My mother was outside directing their every move.  Nick and I chuckled at the looks on the mens' faces.  Mom was really getting on their nerves, and as much as I would have liked to spare anyone that hardship, I found it amusing, thus I allowed it to continue.  It really did make sense to listen to what my mother said.  Once they did that, the furniture went into the house quite quickly.

Instead of offering to help arrange the furniture for her, the two men accepted my mother's tip and were out the door, leaving me to do all of the work.  Thankfully, Nick was a glutton for punishment, and he helped me.  We laughed and playfully insulted each other the entire time, so the job was fun and not so boring.

Once we were done, my mother invited Nick to stay for lunch.  He accepted, but said he had to clear it with his mother.  He was out the door and back in a flash, and we sat down to bowls of my mother's chili macaroni.  All the while, my mother interrogated Nick.  I knew that it was useless to try and save him from this plight, so I just gave him a sympathetic smirk and hoped that he would endure it patiently.

After we had everything where Mom wanted it, Nick and I went up to my room to start putting my stuff away.  He helped me put my bed frame together and my desk.  After we'd put all of my clothes in the closet and chest of drawers, we started putting my electronics together.

One the stereo and computer were set up, we broke down all of the boxes and took them downstairs.  Mom had a stack of them by the back door, and she told us to put them out behind the garage.  After we'd stacked the boxes, Nick went to get his ball glove, and I went upstairs to get mine, so we could play catch in my back yard.

"So what was it like in Florida?" he asked as he fired the ball at me.

"Well, for one thing, I didn't have a back yard to play catch in," I said, firing back.

"That would suck," he said.

"Well, we had a vacant lot about six blocks from our apartment, and me and some friends usually got together over there just about every night," I replied.

"What did you guys do?" he asked.

"Well, it would depend," I said.  "Sometimes, we'd play baseball when enough people showed up to play. Most of the time it was just hanging out and talking, I guess."

"Around here, everyone has a back yard," he said.  "There's always something going on at someone's house during the school year. I'll introduce you to all of my friends. I'm sure they'll like you."

"Thanks," I said.  It sounded like my problem with friends would be solved as soon as Nick's friends came back from their vacations.

We played until his mom called him in for supper.  Then I sat in my room until Mom had our supper ready.  I made sure that all of my computer equipment was hooked up right, and then I popped a CD into the player on the stereo and started hanging my posters on my walls.  Mom had told me when I came in that she was about to start supper, so I knew I had a little bit of time.

Once my posters were securely tacked to my walls, I fired up my computer to play Grand Theft Auto until Mom called me down to dinner.  I was feeling better about moving to Storyville, and I hoped that Nick's friends were as easy to get along with as he was.  I didn't know what any of them would think if they found out I was gay, but I thought I'd just deal with that when, and if, it happened.

So for the next few days, Nick and I spent a lot of time together.  I met his mom and dad, and they seemed nice.  A little different than my mom, but then not everyone is perfect, I guess.  Nick's room was almost like mine.  The big differences were the posters on the walls.  He had posters of athletes, just like I did, but his were put together based on a particular sport, and mine were from just about every sport from baseball to soccer.

Over the course of the next several days, I got to know a little bit more about Nick's parents.  Mrs. Andrews was a psychiatrist.  That was interesting to me, because I had always wondered what it would be like to be one myself.  I wasn't sure that I wanted to go to school that long, but it was an interest.  She talked to me about school and the strain it could put on a person to walk around with all that information about other people's problems running around in their head.

By the end of our first week in Storyville, Nick's mom and dad invited me and my mother to dinner at their house.  It was a nice meal, Mr. Andrews did the cooking, which was strange for me, but I guess it would be, since I'd grown up without my father.  My mom was really impressed. I could see that just by watching her.

"So, Donna, tell us, what brought you to Storyville?" said Mrs. Andrews, Sharon, as she corrected me the first time I called her Mrs. Andrews.

"Well, I was offered a job at Lauren, Banning and Hart," she said.  "I'd been working for Legal Aid in Florida, and the salary increase and other incentives really made me want to take them up on their offer."

"So you're the new lawyer in the firm?" asked Mr. Andrews, Mike, as he instructed me to call him.

"Guilty," said my mother.  "You're a lawyer?"

"Sure am," said Mike.  "I made partner at Lauren, Banning and Hart just a year ago. We'll probably be working together."

The adults talked on and on about work, and Nick and I made faces at each other across the table, silently dramatizing their conversation as they went along.  We had a great time in spite of their boring conversation.  By the time dinner was over, they'd moved to the living room for coffee, and Nick took me upstairs to play a video game.

We were really into the game when Sharon came upstairs to tell me that my mother was going home.  She said I was welcome to stay for a while, and I thanked her.  There was something about her that made me a bit nervous, but I couldn't put my finger on it.  After she'd gone, I decided not to worry about it.

"Your mom is really cool," said Nick after we'd stopped playing video games.

"You have no idea," I said, thinking about just exactly how cool she really was.  "My mom's the best."

"It's really cool that she's going to be working with my dad, too," he said.

"Yeah, I had no idea that your dad was a lawyer," I said as he put his video games back in the box under his television.

"Yeah, he's been with the firm for as long as I can remember," he said.  "My friend Steve's dad is a lawyer at the firm, too."

"Steve?" I asked.

"Steve Sutton," he said.  "His parents took him and his brother, Vince, to Disney World. They'll be back in like a week, or something. You'll meet him then."

"I should probably get home," I said, looking at the clock beside his bed.  It was after nine.

"Ok," he said.  "What do you want to do tomorrow?"

"Don't know," I replied.  "I guess we could throw some ball or something."

"You know, you could just spend the night here," he said.

I thought about that for a minute.  I knew that it would be a normal event in a teen aged boys life to have his friend stay over, and it wasn't like I was hot for Nick or anything.  Still, I was kind of worried about staying for some reason.  I wasn't sure why, though.  I couldn't think of a logical excuse to get out of it, though.

"Do you think your mom and dad would let me?" I asked, hoping that they would say no.

"Sure," he said.  "I have overnight friends all the time."

So we asked his mom and dad, and he made me stand there in the living room with him while he asked.  I was almost disappointed when they said the didn't mind if my mom said it was ok.  Then, before I knew it, Nick was dragging me out of their house and across the lawn to mine.

My mom did even glance up from the paperwork she was working on as she said she didn't care.  She reminded me to take clean underwear and not to forget my tooth brush as Nick and I went up the stairs to my room to get my stuff.  Great, Mom, I thought.

"It's too bad you don't have the internet," said Nick when we got to my room.  "We could find all kinds of cool games to play online."

"Nah," I said.  "Most of them require a credit card to play, and my mom doesn't allow me to visit any kind of pay sites. But I will have the internet on Monday."

"Really?" he asked, looking excitedly at my computer.

"Sure," I said.  "My mom is getting us both connected. That way I can talk to all of my friends back in Florida without running up her phone bill."

"You got a hot girlfriend in Florida that you talk to online?" he asked, wagging his eyebrows.

"Nothing like that," I said, trying not to feel too uncomfortable with the simple question.  "Just a bunch of friends. My best friend, Ben, moved to Maine last summer, so we talk to each other all the time online."

I grabbed my duffle bag, stuffed a pair of shorts, socks and a shirt in it, and not forgetting to take clean underwear.  In my bathroom, I grabbed my tooth brush and my tooth paste off of the counter, and I got my deodorant out of the cabinet.

"God, Tommy, you're not moving in," he chuckled when he saw everything in my hands.

"I know," I said, smiling.  "But my mom will probably ask what's in my bag, and these are the things she'll remind me about."

"Come on," he said, picking up my bag after I threw the contents I was holding into it.

"Have fun, boys," said my mom as we came down the stairs.  "Be good, Tommy, and don't eat them out of house and home."

"Night, Mom," I said as Nick snickered.  Parents, right?

Back at Nick's house, his mom had made us a snack, and we sat at the kitchen table to eat it.  I still thought it was funny that certain meals were eaten at the kitchen table and others at the dining room table.  It just didn't make much sense to me, but I never commented on it.

"You boys clean up your mess when you're done, and don't stay up too late," said Sharon.  "Your father and I both have to be up early, so don't keep us awake."

"No problem, Mom," said Nick.

"I mean it, Nick," she said.  "Keep your television turned down, and go to sleep at a decent hour. Don't keep Tommy awake all night, either."

"I won't," he said.

"Good night, boys," she said as she left the kitchen.  Suddenly, she didn't seem so different from my mom.

After putting our plates in the dishwasher (you just have to love those things), we went up to Tommy's room.  He turned on his television and put a video in the VCR for us to watch.  When he stretched out on his bed, I sat on the floor with my back resting against the bed.

The movie was good, and I hadn't seen it before, so I tried to keep my mind on the movie and not on where I would be sleeping.  I didn't want to accidentally do something in my sleep that I'd regret when I woke up, and since Nick had a double bed, I was worried that I would be expected to sleep with him.

After the movie, of which I actually paid attention to half, we played video games again for a while.  Nick told me more about his friends.  There was Steve, who he'd talked to me about already a bit.  He said that he was probably his closest friend, mostly because they were thrown together so much with their fathers working together.

He told me about Peter Noll, who he said was the mouth of the group.  He said that Peter always had something to say about everything, and it wasn't that he was a know it all, he actually was pretty smart.  Nick told me that if I could get past his constant chatter, I'd probably like him.

Then there was Jeremy Stokes, who he said I would probably want to strangle more times than not.  He started to tell me more, but suddenly thought better of it for some reason.  I wondered what the story was there when he said, "It really isn't right to talk about him behind his back."

After that, we were both yawning like crazy, so he started to get ready for bed.  The entire time I was brushing my teeth, I was stressing over the sleeping arrangements.  I don't know why I was so worried about it to be truthful.  I'd stayed nights with friends several times, and I'd even shared a bed with most of my friends at one time or another, and noting seedy had ever taken place.  I told myself I was probably being silly.  It turned out that it didn't matter, because when I got back to the bedroom, Nick had placed a sleeping bag and a pillow on the floor beside his bed.

"Your choice," he said, nodding at the sleeping back and then the bed.  "Bag or bed."

"Bag," I said without even giving it a thought.  "You take the bed. Bathroom's all yours."

"Cool," he said as he headed for the bathroom.

I just crawled into the sleeping bag and closed my eyes.  I told myself that I had to stop being so stupid and quit worrying about what other people thought.  He had no idea that I was gay, and there was no reason to even think that something would have happened if I'd shared the bed with him.  I really needed to get a grip on myself.

Of course, his blinds weren't drawn, so as soon as the sun was high enough in the sky to fall across my face, I was awake.  My bladder was full, so there was no point in even trying to go back to sleep.  I got up and went to the bathroom, and then the smell of food hit me, and my stomach growled.

"Good morning, Tommy," said Mike, coming down the hall.

"Morning," I said.

"Up early," he said, smiling.

"Yeah," I said.  "I've always been cursed with being an early riser."

"Well, come on downstairs and have some breakfast with us," he said.  "It'll be noon or better before Nick drags himself out of bed."

I followed him down the stairs, yawning on ever other step while he giggled at me.  Parents are weird, but I wasn't sure exactly what a father was supposed to act like, so I spared him by not sharing my view on how weird I found him.  Instead, I sat at the kitchen table across from Sharon, who was reading the newspaper.

"Good morning," she said, putting the paper down to take a sip of her coffee.  "You're an early bird. I find redeeming qualities more and more as I get to know you. How'd you sleep?"

"Fine, thanks," I replied.  "I've never been a late sleeper."

"Rub off on Nick, please," she said through a smile.  "We're having eggs and bacon. Hungry?"

"Yes, actually," I said, smiling back at her.

"Your mother tells me that you like theme parks, Tommy," said Mike, putting a plate in front of me.

"Yes, very much," I replied.

"Well, have you ever heard of Magic Land?" he asked, sitting down in front of his own plate.

"No, I haven't," I replied.

"Mike gets tickets from the firm every year," said Sharon.  "We go usually a couple times each summer. If you'd like to go with us, we'd be glad to take you along, Tommy."

"Thank you," I replied.  "I'll ask my mom."

"Why are you awake so early?" asked Nick from the doorway as he stretched.

"Nick, what are you doing up?" asked his mother.

"I had to use the bathroom, and I noticed that Tommy wasn't in the sleeping bag, so I came to look for him," said Nick.

"Well, sit down, and I'll get you something to eat unless you're going back to bed," said Mike.

"Can't now," he said, stretching again.  "If he's awake it would be rude."

He sat down and wolfed down a plate of eggs and bacon in no time.  I was amazed at how fast he ate it.  Mike and Sharon didn't seem to be even slightly surprised by his appetite, so I didn't say anything.  I just sat and listened to them describe Magic Land.  It sounded really cool, and I was actually getting excited.

"We're planning a trip as soon as Steven returns with his parents," said Sharon.

"He always goes with us," explained Nick between mouthfuls.

"I'm sure the two of you will get along, Tommy," said Sharon.  "Steven is a great boy."

"Well," said Mike, standing and checking his tie.  "I'd better get going."

After that, there was a flurry of activity as Sharon and Mike got ready to go to work.  Nick finished his breakfast, and we loaded the dishes into the dishwasher.  When his mom and dad were gone, Nick and I went back upstairs to play video games.  I wondered the whole time just what Sharon meant by what she said about me getting along with Steve.

For the next four nights, I was either at Nick's or he was at my house.  My mom started her job and immediately caught a case.  She was excited about having her first case, and she took me and Nick to a restaurant to celebrate.  They finally came to set us up with DSL, and I logged on to my email server as soon as the guy was out of the house.  I sent an email to Ben, telling him my new email address and gave him the address to where we lived.  I couldn't wait until he checked his mail and sent me something back.

It took him exactly twenty minutes to email me back.  I was downloading all of the messengers when his email came, and once I was done, we both logged on to Yahoo and started chatting about everything.  I told him all about Nick and his parents, and Ben told me about their new house.  He said they'd moved again for the third time.  I also told him to give Andy my email address before we logged off so that he could go with his mom to get clothes.

Things settled into a pretty good routine for me.  I hung out with Nick almost all of the time, I chatted with Ben for at least an hour every day, and I even talked to Andy from time to time.  He was still sending me links to articles and sites that had material that he thought I might be interested in.  I was careful to always make sure that I cleared my history and hid the links and saved articles in a hidden folder on my computer.  I didn't want Nick to find them.

So on Friday night, Nick spent the night, and while I was downstairs, talking to my mother, I left him on my computer to play Grand Theft Auto.  When I got back upstairs, he was reading something on a website, and when I got closer to the screen, I froze.  Either Nick had found my private folder, or I'd forgotten to clear something from my history.  He was reading an article about being a gay teenager in school and how to protect yourself against bashing and bullies.

"Nick," I said, startling him.  He turned around to face me, and I could see it in his eyes.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked.

"How did you find that link?" I asked.

"You got an email while you were downstairs from somebody named Andy," he said.  "I know I shouldn't have, but I clicked on it, and this link was what he'd sent with a note telling you that he hoped this answered your question."

"You read my email?" I asked, trying to remain calm while my insides were threatening to become liquid and come hurling out of my mouth at any moment.  Nick had found me out!

"I'm sorry about that, Tommy," he said.  "But why didn't you tell me? I thought we were friends."

"We are friends," I said.  "I just didn't know what you would think about it."

"Well, you still haven't told me," he said, and I tried very hard to read his expression.

"What do you want me to say, Nick?" I asked.  "Do you want me to stand here and tell you that I'm gay? Do you want me to stand here and tell you that every day I wonder just who is going to find out about me, and what they're going to think or do because of what they find out? Do you want me to tell you that I didn't tell you any of this because I was scared? I like you Nick. You're fun to hang out with, and we always have things to talk about, but this one is a tuff one. I can't just talk about this like I talk to you about football or baseball."

"Wow," he said after I'd finally shut my mouth.  "So, you're gay?"

"God," I sighed, sitting down on my bed and putting my head in my hands.

"Tommy, it doesn't really matter to me," he said.  "What matters is that you didn't think we were good enough friends to tell me this to begin with. I think that's kind of mean."

"Nick, I didn't just not tell you," I said.  "Believe me, I thought about telling you. My God, the first time I spent the night at your house I was terrified that I'd do something to give myself away or something. I didn't know you very well then, and I was scared of what you would think of me. I wanted us to be friends, Nick, and I didn't want this to ruin it."

"It wouldn't have ruined it, Tommy," he said.  "It isn't ruining anything. I don't care if you're gay or not. You're still pretty cool. It's not like you're the only gay friend I've ever had."

"Well, how was I supposed to know that?" I asked.  "We never talked about what you thought about gay people."

"Because you never told me you were gay," he said.

"Because I was scared, Nick," I said.  "Can't you understand that?"

"Why should I be able to understand that?" he asked.  I couldn't believe how he was acting.  He wasn't mad because I was gay.  He was mad, because I didn't tell him!

"I don't know," I said.  "I guess I thought that since your mom . . ."

"Oh, I get it," he said, getting angrier.  "You thought that because my mom's a shrink that I should have some great insight into the thoughts and fears of someone who I thought was my friend."

"Nick," I said, trying to figure out what to say to that.

"Save it," he said, standing up so fast that he knocked my keyboard off of my desk.  "I'm out of here."

I couldn't believe it! I just stood there and watched as he stomped out of my room.  I didn't follow him, because I was stunned.  People were surprising the Hell out of me.  Ben wasn't phased by me being gay, because of Andy.  He'd had time to deal with the gay thing, and if I'd known that I probably would have told him sooner, but he didn't get angry about it.  He had more reason to be angry with me for not having anything to do with him out of fear than Nick had for me simply not saying anything about it.  This was all crazy!

When my mom got home, she noticed right away that something was wrong.  Usually at that time of the day, I was either at Nick's, or he was at our house.  Not only that, I was sitting in the living room just staring at the blank television screen.  I was confused and needed to think.

"What's wrong?" asked my mom when she sat next to me on the couch.  "Where's Nick?"

"He went home," I said.

"Did you two have a fight?" she asked.

"Yeah, I guess we did," I replied.  "I still can't believe it, though."

"What happened?" she asked.

I thought for a minute about how to say it all.  I still didn't understand why he was mad.  I mean, sure, I shouldn't have said what I said about his mom being a psychiatrist, but that didn't explain his initial anger.  Why couldn't he understand that I was afraid to tell him? Was that so strange?

"Well, Nick read an email from Andy," I said.

"Oh, Tommy," she said, putting her arm around my shoulders.  "I'm sorry."

"Well, he  wasn't upset that I'm gay," I said.

"Then I don't understand," she said.  "What happened?"

"Well, I'm not exactly sure," I replied.  "He was mad at me for not telling him, and I tried to explain how hard it was to tell people, and he just got even more mad at me."

"That doesn't sound fair," she said.

"I don't get it," I said, turning to look at her.  "He was fine with me being gay, but he was so mad that I didn't tell him. He said that a friend would tell."

"Well, he has a small point there," she said.  "But telling your friends that you're gay isn't the easiest thing in the world to do. He should understand that."

"That's what I thought," I said more confused than ever.

Mom was great, though.  She patted me on the back and told me that I had done nothing wrong.  She said Nick would most likely figure out that what he was mad about wasn't the big issue, and he'd come around.  We were half way through supper when the telephone started to ring.  My mom got up to answer it.

"Hello," she said.  "Yes, hi,, we were just eating supper......yes, I heard about, I don't think that'll be a problem......we'll be over as soon as we've finished eating......alright.....yes, I to you soon......goodbye, Sharon."

"What?" I asked when Mom sat back down.

"Well, apparently, Sharon and Nick had a talk when she got home, and now, Sharon and Mike want us to come over and talk after supper," she said.

"Mom, they know, don't they?" I asked, dreading the pending discussion.

"Yes, they do," she said.  "Sharon wanted me to tell you that they don't care about your sexuality. They just want to get this settled between you and Nick."

"But if he doesn't want to settle this . . ."

"Eat," she said.

When we walked next door, Sharon was watching for us through their living room window.  My knees were shaking, and I wasn't too sure about the safety of the contents of my stomach, but I knew that I couldn't get out of this.  I couldn't believe that my mom was just going to make me go and talk to them.

"Donna, thank you for coming over," said Sharon when she opened the door.  "Tommy, I'm glad you came."

"Thank you for inviting us," said my mother.

"Hi, guys," said Mike when we followed Sharon into the living room.  Nick was sitting in the recliner, but he didn't even look at me.

"Hello, Mike," said my mother.

"Tommy," he said.

"Hi, Mike," I replied, and I was furious with myself when I heard the quiver in my voice.  I was scared shitless.

"Ok," said Sharon after me and my mom were seated on the couch.  "It seems that our boys have something to work out."

"Mom," said Nick.

"No, Nick," said Mike.  "You two are friends, and this is stupid. Now you are going to sit there and listen to what your mother and I have to say."

"Tommy," said Sharon, making me jump.  "I want you to know that I think you are very brave. It takes real guts to come out to your friend like that. I'm proud of you."

"But he didn't come out," said Nick.  "The only reason that he even told me is because I read that damned email."

"Language, Nick," said his father.

"But still," he said.

"Nick, you had no right to read Tommy's email," said Sharon.  "How would you like it if he went through your notes from school? Would that be fair?"

"No," he said.

"Then what made you think it would be ok to read his email?" she asked.  "I don't see the difference."

"I apologized for that, Mom," he said.  "I knew it was wrong, and I don't even know why I did it. He could have just old me, though. I wouldn't have hated him for it or anything like that."

"Well, you know that, and we know that, but Tommy had no way of knowing that, Nick," said Mike.

"He couldn't know, because he didn't trust me," said Nick.

"Nicholai Porter," said Sharon, "that's the most unfair statement I've heard. How was Tommy supposed to know that he could trust you with his secret? Tell me, did you have any reason to even let him know that you'd be ok with it?"

"Nick, you don't know how hard it is to tell your friends that you're gay," said Mike.  "Especially a new friend. How was Tommy supposed to know that you wouldn't hate him or spread his secret all over town if he told you?"

"But we're supposed to be friends," said Nick.

"And you're being a great friend right now, Nick," said Sharon.  "Frankly, I'm disappointed in you. You knew how hard it was for your other friend to tell you that he was gay. Don't you even remember how sick he got just worrying about what you would think? He is your best friend, Nick. Tommy barely knows you!"

My mom and I were silent during this exchange.  My mom was watching me very closely, and I could see her out of the corner of my eye.  I was watching Nick.  I was also shocked at how calm I felt suddenly.  Sharon and Mike didn't seem phased by the fact that I was gay.  They were more concerned with Nick's reaction to it and how he found out to begin with.

"It's because of what happened with him that I am so upset with Tommy for not trusting me, Mom," he said.  "What would have happened if he had done something to himself out of fear of what my reaction would be?"

"What makes you think that Tommy was even planning to tell you to begin with?" asked Mike.  "You've only just met him, Nick. It isn't as if he had to tell you. What if he wanted to wait until you guys had known each other a little bit longer?"

"Nick, telling someone a secret like this is the hardest thing to do," said Sharon.  "You know that. Why would Tommy risk being turned away from a friend he'd only just met?"

"I didn't think about it like that," said Nick.  "I was just angry, because he felt like he couldn't tell me the truth."

"But I didn't lie to you," I said no longer able to keep quiet.  "I didn't say anything, because I was scared that you wouldn't want to be my friend anymore. Nick, I am very happy that we're friends. You're the fist person I've met in Storyville. I didn't want to risk our friendship."

"But you wouldn't have lost my friendship, Tommy," said Nick.  "You just should have trusted me."

"Nick, you haven't listened to a word he's said," sighed Mike.  "He's telling you why he didn't tell you, and all you're concerned with is trust. Did you ever stop to think that maybe he was letting trust build between the two of you before he took the risk? Did you even think about his feelings? I think that you are being very selfish in this, Nick, and I am ashamed."

"Do you hate me now?" Nick asked, looking at me.

"I don't hate you," I said.  "I just didn't understand why you got so upset. I want to be your friend, Nick, but trust like that is going to take some time. You being ok with this makes me understand that I can trust you, but I didn't know that then."

"Are you mad at me?" he asked.

"I'm a little mad at you, because you read my email," I said.  "But I understand that you are upset, because I didn't know that I could trust you to still be my friend if I told you I am gay."

"I understand why you didn't tell me," he said.  "It just didn't make sense to me at first. I'm sorry that I got all bent out of shape about it."

"Are you ever going to read his emails or anything else that he deems private again?" asked Sharon.

"No, that was really stupid of me," he said.  "I'm ashamed of myself for that, too. I don't even know why I did it."

"Tommy, do you think you can trust Nick anymore at all after he read your email?" asked Mike.

"I'm not happy with him for it," I said.  "But I think I know why he did it, and I forgive him for it as long as he promises never to do it again."

"Why do you think he read your email?" asked Sharon.

"Curiosity," I said.  "That's probably all there was to it."

"What do you have to say to Tommy?" Mike asked Nick.

"I'm sorry that I read your email, Tommy," he said.  "And I'm sorry for acting like a jerk about this."

Everyone looked at me as I said, "I forgive you."

"Can we still be friends?" asked Nick.

"Sure," I said.

"Nick, I think there's something else you need to assure Tommy about," said Sharon.  "What did your other friend make you promise him when he told you?"

"Oh," said Nick.  "I promise that I won't tell anyone about this for any reason."

"Thank you," I said.

"So this is settled, then?" asked Mike.

"It is as far as I'm concerned," I said.

"Me, too," said Nick.

"Donna, how do you feel about this?" asked Sharon, looking at my mother, who had remained quiet.

"I think that my son has very good taste in friends," she said, squeezing my shoulder.

"Well, I think they both need a night apart to think about this," said Mike.  "Nick stays home tonight, Tommy."

"And you stay home, too," said my mom.

"Now, Nick, you need to go up to your room so that we can talk to Tommy and Donna in private," said Sharon.

Nick didn't look happy about it, but he got up and left the room.  I was worried about what they wanted to talk to us about.  I'd thought that they were fine with my sexuality, but maybe I was wrong.  Maybe they wanted Nick out of the room so they could tell me to stay away from their son.

"Tommy, you ok?" asked Mike.  "You look terrified."

"I guess I'm a little worried about this discussion," I admitted.

"Tommy, you have no reason to be worried at all," said Sharon.  "We simply wanted to tell you and your mother in private that we are very proud of you for the way that you handled yourself tonight. Telling Nick must have been one of the hardest things you've ever done."

"One of them," I said.  "Telling my mother was the hardest of all."

"Donna, you keep showing me great qualities," said Sharon.  "So many mothers are not able to handle their sons when they come out."

"Well, I love Tommy no matter what," said my mother.  "We've had long talks about this, and I have assured him that his sexual preference has no bearing on my love for him. He's the only son I have."

"You are a remarkable woman," said Mike.  "I'm very glad that you've moved here, and its an honor to call you a friend."

"Tommy, you are welcome here any time," said Sharon.  "I want you to know that if you need anything at all, at any time, you can come to us. If you mother isn't available, find me. I'm sure there will be a lot of hard decisions for you to make in the future, and I just want you to know that Mike and I are behind you all the way."

"Thank you very much," I said.  "That means a lot to me."

Later, when we were at home, I talked to Andy on the internet about everything that had happened.  He congratulated me on yet another successful connection.  I told him about how scared I was to tell Nick and about how great Mike and Sharon were about it.  He said that he envied me, because he didn't have it so easy when he first came out.  He didn't go into detail, and I didn't press him.  His private demons are his own.

Andy had been the one to explain a lot of feelings and questions for me.  He'd told me a lot of very helpful things about what it was like to come out, what to expect from friends and others around me.  He told me that it wouldn't always be easy, but that I would learn who to tell and who not to as time went on.

Luckily, I hadn't had any real problems so far.  Telling Ben had been hard, but telling Nick wasn't exactly hard, because I was so upset over his attitude that I said it without even thinking about what I was saying.  In the end, it turned out fine, but at the time, after actually saying the words, I'd been a nervous wreck.  It was a feeling that I was afraid I would be having a lot of in the future.  I didn't like that thought, but there really wasn't anything I could do about it.  Short of changing the world and making everyone open minded and tolerant, there wasn't anything I could do about the way people thought and felt about homosexuality.

The next day, it was almost as if nothing had happened between me and Nick.  We got together around noon, and I could tell that he hadn't been awake long.  We played catch for about an hour, and then we just sat on my back porch, talking about nothing in particular.  He said that his parents were more anxious than ever to take me with them to Magic Land.  The way Nick talked, I'd made quite an impression on them.  I didn't see how, but I didn't comment on it.

My mom came home around three, which was early for her.  Nick and I just shrugged and went inside to greet her.  She was moving through the house like crazy, and she barely stopped to say hello to us before she raced up the stairs.  I sat down in the living room wondering what was up.  The only times I'd ever seen her like this were when something important was going on.

"Alright, boys," she said, coming back down the stairs.  "I've caught a big case, and it's my first. I want to make a good impression, so I'll be working late at the office with three of the senior attorneys. Tommy, I want you to stay with Nick tonight. I've already talked to Mike about it, and he said it was fine. I'll see you when I get home from work tomorrow."

She kissed me on the forehead, ruffled Nick's hair, and then she was out the door, leaving me and Nick looking at each other.  She'd said she'd caught a big case.  I was happy for her for that.  She'd been waiting for a big case, and although it hadn't been long, I knew what winning it could mean for her.  I hoped she did well.

We were sitting in Nick's living room when Sharon got home from work at five.  She had brought home pizza, and told us to head for the kitchen while she changed clothes.  Nick informed me that we couldn't touch the two pizza boxes until she came back downstairs.  Andrews family rules.

"Well, guys, its going to be just us for a while," said Sharon when she came into the kitchen.  "Mike and Donna will be working late on a case, and they'll probably be working late several nights for a while. Let's dig in, so we can enjoy the rest of the evening."

Over pizza, we talked about all sorts of things.  I told them all about Ben and how I'd come out to him two weeks before his family moved to Maine.  In doing that, I told them about Ben's brother, Andy, and all that he'd done for me since I'd come out to Ben.  Sharon thought that it was great that I had Andy to talk to online.

"So that's who you had a crush on?" asked Nick between bites of pizza.

"Nicholai," warned Sharon.

"No, its ok," I said.  "Yeah, I had a huge crush on Ben, but he's straight, and he's my best friend in the world. Its great that we're still friends. I was so scared that he'd hate me when he found out."

"But he didn't," said Nick.

"No, but I was worried about more than him knowing I was gay was that I had a crush on him," I said.

"Did you love him?" asked Nick, gaining another disapproving glance from Sharon.

"Well, yeah, I love him," I said, smiling.  "But I don't think I love him the way you meant. He's my best friend, and I'll love him forever, but I got over the crush."

"Where in Maine did he move to?" asked Sharon.

"He lives in Westbrook," I replied.

"Well my sister and her husband live in Portland," she said.  "We go to visit about twice a year. Maybe you could come along, Tommy. Westbrook isn't far from Portland."

"Really?" I asked excited.  "That would be really great! I haven't seen Ben in almost a year."

"Well, I'll call my sister and see about setting up a visit," said Sharon.  "If I can clear my schedule and Mike can take some time off, then we'll fly out and spend a few days. Then you could let Ben and Andy know you're going to be in the area, and they could either come and visit, or I'd drive you to see them."

"Thanks, Sharon, that would be awesome," I said, smiling from ear to ear.

I couldn't believe it.  I would get to hang out with Ben again, and I'd get to see Andy.  I'd even get to introduce Nick to Ben.  I was sure that they'd get along.  They were a lot alike at times from what I'd gotten to know of Nick so far.  I just hoped that Mom and Mike could get time off.

For the rest of the night, we watched television with Sharon.  It was a lazy evening for us, but that was fine with me.  I couldn't stop thinking about going to Maine to see Ben.  I wanted to go next door and tell him about it in an email, or maybe chat with him for a while, but I thought it might be best to wait and make sure that we could actually go.

When Sharon decided to go to bed, I poked and prodded Nick to wake him up enough to get upstairs.  Once we were up there, I brushed my teeth and crawled into bed beside him.  We'd given up on the sleeping bag after the third night.  I wasn't worried about anything crazy happening anymore, either.  I'd gotten over that irrational fear, thank God.

The next morning, I had breakfast with Sharon before she left for work.  Mike was already gone, and Sharon told me that my mom was gone, too.  After that, I went into the living room to channel surf for a while, knowing that nothing but mind fluff would be on the television that early.  I was about to go upstairs and play a video game when the front door burst open and one of the hottest boys I'd ever seen came into the house.

"My God," he said with a huge smile until he got a good look at me.  Then his smile faded slightly but didn't falter completely.  "Who the Hell are you? Where's Nick?"

"Uh, I'm Tommy, and Nick is upstairs sleeping," I said.  "And you are?"

"Sorry," he said, shaking his head slightly.  "I'm Steve. I've been in Florida for a few weeks, I came to wake up Nicky."

"Be my guest," I said.  "He's up in his room."

"I'm sorry," he said, smiling again.  I was really starting to like that smile.  "Who exactly are you?"

"Oh," I said suddenly realizing that I was staring at him.  "My mother and I moved into the house next door about two weeks ago."

"Cool," he said.  "Sorry if I scared you. But you'll be seeing a lot of me, I think."

With that said, he raced up the stares and not long after that I heard Nick scream, "STEVE!"

Steve Sutton was one of the best looking guys I'd ever seen in my young life.  He had dark hair that he kept combed to the right in a part that was almost perfect.  His eyes were icy blue, and they almost glowed.  He had a perfect smile, and dressed in a pair of shorts and a tank top, his tanned body was chiseled with muscle.

As I sat there, dreaming about what it would be like to touch those muscles, Steve came back downstairs with Nick in tow.  I was impressed.  He had Nick awake and dressed before ten on a summer day.  Nick rarely got out of bed for anything before noon.  They were both talking at the same time and laughing as they did.

"Well, I guess you've met Steve," cried Nick when they got to the living room.

"Yeah," I said, trying hard not to stare at him.

"Well, he turned sixteen while he was in Florida, and his brother, Vince, is going to take him to get his license today," breathed Nick.  "He asked us to come along."

"Can we actually go with him?" I asked.  I'd never heard of a crowd accompanying a student driver to get his license.

"Sure, bud," said Steve with a grin.  "You can't ride with me while I take the test, but you can come along and sit in the waiting area."

So, we left a note for Sharon just in case we didn't come back before her.  Steve said that the DMV could be murder.  Then we were out the door and walking to Steve's house.  He just lived down the street in a house even bigger than mine.  His brother was sitting on the front porch, talking on a cell phone when we got there.  Vince was nice looking, but he wasn't as hot as Steve.

"Hey, Nick," said Vince.  "You guys all set?"

"Yup," said Steve excited.  "Vince, this is Tommy. He moved into the house next door to Nick. Alright if he comes with us?"

"Sure, I don't care," said Vince.  "Hi, Tommy."

"Nice to meet you," I said as we climbed into a black Nova.

All the way to the DMV, Steve and Nick talked all about the vacation that Steve and Vince had just returned from.  Now and then, Vince would throw out a comment, and Steve would excitedly elaborate on it.  He was sitting in the front seat next to his brother, but he was half turned around to face us.  The seatbelt kept reminding him that he couldn't turn further.  I couldn't stop staring at him.

When we got to the DMV, I saw why Steve said it could be murder.  There were people everywhere.  Most of them were teenagers, getting their licenses, too.  Vince led Nick and I to a seat in the waiting area while Steve went and got in line for his license.  As we sat there, history tried to repeat itself.

I had only just met Steve, but already I couldn't take my eyes off of him.  That was why I was the first to notice the pretty blond girl walk up to him and hug him.  They talked for a few minutes, and he kept smiling and laughing.  It looked like they were rather close.  Then she looked over at us, and she asked Steve something.  When he replied, she looked at me and smiled.

"Boy is she off," laughed Nick beside me.

"What are you talking about?" I asked already seething, because I didn't like this girl cutting in on Steve.  Not that there was a chance in Hell that he was gay and liked me.  He hadn't even said much to me since I'd met him.

"That's Wendy Benson," said Nick.  "She's like one of the most popular girls in school, and right now, she's looking at you like you're the prince of a country she wants to conquer."

"What do you mean?" I asked, turning to look at him.  I noticed that Vince was watching our conversation intently.

"I mean, she's seriously looking at you like you're boyfriend material," he said, chuckling.

I looked back at her, and she smiled again.  This time she waved.  I waved back stupidly, and I noticed that the smile on Steve's face died.  I got the feeling that I was missing something important, but I couldn't figure out what it was.  Before I could think about it too long, she came over to us.

"Hi Nick," she said.  "How's your summer so far?"

"It's been great," he said, smiling at her.  "How about yours?"

"Oh, it was boring until I got my license today," she beamed.  She thrust out her license for us to see like it was the most awesome thing in the world.

"Cool," said Nick.

"What," she said, looking at me, "you don't talk?"

"I'm sorry?" I said dumbly.

"Steve says you're new here, right?" she asked.

"Yeah, brand new," I said, smiling at her, and again I saw Vince watching me from the corner of my eye.  This was all starting to make me uncomfortable.

"Well, there's a party at my house Friday night," she said.  "You should get Steve to bring you and Nick. Just about all of our friends will be back in town on Thursday, and I'm celebrating their return."

"I'll see what I can do," I said, smiling again.

"Work on him, Nick," she said.  "I really want you guys to come."

"I'll do my best," said Nick.

"And bring Tommy," she said, smiling at me again as she walked away.

"Oh boy," laughed Nick.  I shoved him as Vince watched us with a small smirk on his face.  What was with him?

We were quiet for a little while, and then Vince took up where Steve left off with the descriptions of their vacation.  I went back to watching Steve stand in line.  I was still shocked at my feeling of resentment toward Wendy when I thought she was too close with Steve.  If I was going to be like that, I thought I'd better start watching myself very close.

The way she looked at me wasn't lost on me, either.  I seriously didn't want to go that party on Friday.  What was I going to say to her? I couldn't tell her that I wasn't interested, because I'm gay.  Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, right? If I did that, my secret would be all over the place by the end of Friday night.  I'd start school in the fall and I'd already be ruined.

I worried over that the entire time that Steve took his test.  I was still thinking about it all the way back to Steve's house.  What was I going to do? This could seriously suck if it went bad, and I was sure it was going to go bad.  What did she like about me, anyway? I wasn't nearly as good looking as Steve.  I mean, I'm not ugly, but I'm noting special, either.

"Tommy, what's wrong with you?" asked Nick while we were walking back to his house.  Steve had to stay at home, because he and his brother were supposed to go to dinner with their parents.

"I'm just thinking," I said absently.

"About what?" he asked.

"Wendy Benson," I replied.  "I don't want to go to that party on Friday."

"Why not?" he asked.  "Everyone will be there. Tommy, these are my friends. I want you to meet everyone."

"What did you and Steve talk about when you guys went off to the other room?" I asked.  They'd went into the kitchen while me and Vince sat in the living room at Steve's.  They were gone for a while.

"Nothing," he said quickly.

"Nick, that's not fair," I said.  "You were talking about me, weren't you?"

"I didn't out you or anything," he said.  "But I can't tell you what we talked about, because I promised."

"Ok, but tell me if it has anything to do with the party," I demanded.

"It doesn't," he said.

"Wendy?" I asked.

"Likes you," he said.  "But I think that Steve will get her off your back for you."

"What makes you say that?" I asked.

"Just a feeling I have," he said, smiling.

I didn't like this.  He was hiding something, and I really wanted to know what it was.  Then there was the way that Vince kept looking at me.  It wasn't a mean look or anything.  It was like he was measuring me or sizing me up.  All I knew was that it made me very uncomfortable.

When we got back to Nick's, it was dinner time.  Sharon was home, but my mom's car wasn't there.  Mike's wasn't either.  We walked into the house and found her in the kitchen, frying hamburgers.  She smiled at us when we came in and told us to go wash up for supper.  It seemed my mom and Mike were working late again.

"You're mad at me, aren't you?" he asked as we took turns in the bathroom.

"I'm not mad," I said.  "I'm a little uncomfortable about all of this, but I'm not mad. But, Nick, I don't like being lied to."

"I haven't lied to you," he said.  "We didn't talk about the party. We talked about Wendy liking you. Now that's all I can say, Tommy. I promised."

"I hate being kept in the dark when whatever I'm being kept in the dark about has to do with me," I said.

"Please, Tommy," he said.  "I can't. I promised, but it was noting bad. I swear."

"Fine," I said as I turned and walked out of the room.

"There you are," said Sharon when I got downstairs.  "I was about to come looking for you."

"Sorry," I said, sitting at the table.

"Tommy, what's wrong?" she asked.

"I'm not sure," I replied as Nick came into the kitchen.

"What's going on, Nicholai?" she asked him as soon as he sat down.

"Tommy thinks I'm hiding something from him," said Nick.

"And are you?" she asked.

"Not really, Mom," he said.  "Steve and I were talking in private, and Tommy thinks we talked about him."

"Did you?" she asked.

"For a few minutes," admitted Nick.  "But Steve made me promise not to say anything. It wasn't anything bad, Mom."

"Does this have to do with what Steve and I talked about last summer?" she asked.

"Very much so," replied Nick, looking miserable.

"Well," she said.  "As much as I don't like secrets, I have to say that its good that you keep your word to Steve on this."

"Still mad?" asked Nick, looking at me.

"I told you, I'm not mad," I replied.  "I just don't like being talked about behind my back."

"Tommy," said Sharon.  "You know how important it is for Nick to keep your secret?" I nodded.  "Well, its just as important that he keep a lot of Steve's too. I know it makes you uncomfortable, but you have nothing to worry about. Steve is a good guy. He really is. You can trust him with a lot more than you think."

"Mom!" gasped Nick.

"Calm down, Nick," she said.  "All I'm saying is that he doesn't have to worry about what you two talked about. I wasn't suggesting or insinuating anything."

That conversation left me even more confused.  I didn't know if Sharon was helping Steve and Nick keep something from me, or if what she said about Steve was true.  I hoped it was the latter, but I wouldn't have been surprised if it turned out to be the former.  I was getting paranoid.  At least I thought it was paranoia.

After supper, Nick and I went up to his room to play video games.  I couldn't stop thinking about what he and Steve talked about, so I wasn't a worthy opponent.  I'm sure Nick realized it, but he didn't say anything.  I just couldn't get it off my mind.  Nick and Sharon both kept telling me that Steve and I could be really good friends, but I didn't see how that was possible if he was going to talk about me behind my back.

Then there was still the Wendy Benson thing.  That could turn out to be disastrous.  I didn't know what to even think about that.  Everything I did think of was really, really bad.  I was starting to not like living in Storyville as much as I had.  I wasn't really sure what kind of friends I was making, but so far, I wasn't really happy with them.

Not long after Nick finally gave up trying to get me to actually play the video games, Steve came into Nick's room.  He smiled at me, but when I turned my head, he looked at Nick.  I saw Nick shake his head slightly out of the corner of my eye.  Great, I thought, more secrets.

"So, are we going to the party Friday?" asked Steve as he sat on Nick's bed.

"I didn't get a chance to talk to my mom about it," said Nick.

"I'm not going," I said.

"Tommy, man, come on," said Nick.  "I told you I want you to meet my friends."

"Well, I don't want to go," I said not looking at either of them.

"You guys having a fight or something?" asked Steve.

"Not really a fight," sighed Nick.  "Tommy is mad at me, though."

"For the last time," I said, glaring at him.  "I'm not mad at you!"

"Woe," said Steve.  "That didn't sound very friendly, dude."

"Yeah?" I said, standing.  "I can solve that one."  I started for the bedroom door.

"Tommy, where are you going?" asked Nick.

"Home," I said, and I walked out of the room.

Sharon asked me if something was wrong, but I didn't even look at her as I walked out the front door.  I could hear Nick talking to her as I crossed the front lawn, but I couldn't hear exactly what they were saying.  I didn't care, either.  If they wanted to keep their secrets, that was fine.  I didn't have to stay around to be talked about.

I let myself into my house with my key and locked the door behind me.  Without even checking to see if my mom was home, I ran up the stares to my room.  I turned on my stereo, turned up the volume and fired up my computer.  Once Windows was loaded, I opened my email and messengers.  There were two emails from Ben, and I read them quickly, calming down a little.  He talked about joining a baseball team in the first, and the second was about his birthday.  It was coming up in a few weeks, and I wanted to remind my mom that we needed to get him a card at least.

Surprisingly, he was on Yahoo.  I sent him a message as soon as I got connected.

'Hey you,' I typed.

'Cool you get my email?' he asked.

'Sure did. Just read it,' I said.

'Hoping I get a car for my b-day,' he said. 'Mom keeps saying we'll see.'

'That'd be nice!' I said. 'Then you could drive all over.'

'Yeah, that'd be cool,' he said. 'What have you been doing?'

'Nothing important, really,' I replied. 'Mom's working on a big case, so I'm alone in the house.'

'That bites,' he said.  'Bet you're starving.'  He knew that I couldn't boil water.

'Nope. I've been eating next door,' I said.

'Nick's?' he asked.

'Yeah. But I'm back home now,' I said.

'Why?' he asked.

'Not really happy with Nick right now,' I said.  'His best friend came home, and they were talking about me in private, but they won't tell me what they said. His mom even backed him up.'

'That's bogus,' he said.  'I thought you guys were friends.'

'So did I,' I replied.  'Just goes to show that you can't trust anybody.'

'You can trust me,' he said.

'Always could,' I typed, feeling sorry for myself, because my best friend was so far away from me.

We chatted for a while longer, and he told me that he'd have Andy send me an email.  I was thankful for that.  I really missed Ben at that moment.  I wished that we still lived just blocks away from each other, so I could talk to him face to face.  I really needed a real friend about then.

I played computer games until my mom came home around nine.  I heard the car pull up, but only because I'd gotten tired of listening to music and turned off the stereo.  She didn't come in the house for about five minutes, so I knew that Sharon was telling her that I walked out on them.  I didn't care.  I wasn't going to sit over there with Steve and Nick when they talked about me behind my back.

"Tommy," called my mom when she came inside the house.  "Downstairs."

I saved my game and went downstairs.  I was prepared for Mom's lecture.  But this time, I was right.  I shouldn't be expected to stick around when I was being talked about behind my back.  She'd just have to understand.  If she didn't, then I'd take whatever punishment she imposed, but I'd tell her just how unfair I thought it was.

"Alright," she said when I got downstairs.  "We have to talk."

"Mom, I know that walking out on Sharon wasn't polite, and I'm sorry about that," I said.  "But I was really upset, and I just wanted to come home and think."

"First of all," she said, rubbing her temples as she sat on the couch, "Sharon isn't angry with you. She told me you were upset, and she told me why. Now, I don't know what they talked about, but she told me that Nick was sworn to secrecy. As much as I can imagine that you're feeling betrayed, I can see why Nick won't tell you."

"Mom . . ."

"I didn't say that I thought it was fair, Tommy," she said. "I just said I can understand why he won't tell you what was said. Now, its been a long day for me, and I don't want to argue."

"So how long am I grounded?" I asked, expecting to be punished.

"You're not grounded," she said.  "I just said I understand, Tommy. But Nick is very upset, and so is Steve. Whoever he is."

"He's Nick's best friend," I said.

"You don't think that Nick told Steve about you, do you?" she asked, looking like she was about to start screaming.

"No," I said after a minute.  "I really don't think that was it. But they were talking about me. Nick told me so. But that's all he would tell me."

"Alright," she sighed, calming down.  "I have a few motions to work on, so you just keep it down for me, ok? No stereo tonight."

"No problem," I said.  "Its nice to see you, Mom."

"I'm sorry that I've been working so much," she said.  "This case is bigger than I thought it would be. I've really got my work cut out for me, Tommy."

"I'm not complaining," I said.  "Just telling you that I'm glad to see you."

"I'm happy to see you, too," she said.  "Now scoot."

Back in my room, I finished my game and then put a movie in the VCR.  I'd seen it about a hundred times, but I didn't care.  It was one of my favorites.  I told myself not to think about Steve, Nick, Wendy or anything but the movie.  It must have worked, because I fell asleep half way through the movie.

Mom was already gone by the time I came downstairs the next morning.  I went into the kitchen to make myself a bowl of cereal and I found a note on the fridge.  It basically told me to be good today, and if I wanted to stay home, that was fine.  She signed it, "Love you, Mom."  I put the note on the counter and made my cereal.  I was half way through the bowl when someone knocked on the front door.  I was surprised to see Steve standing at my door.

"Hey," he said when I opened the door.  "Can I come in?"

"Suit yourself," I said, walking away.  I went back to the kitchen to finish my cereal.

"Look, Tommy," he said, following me.  "I know you're mad at us, but we really didn't say anything bad about you. I swear."

"Then why can't you guys tell me what you talked about?" I asked.  "I don't like it when people who are supposed to be my friends talk about me behind my back. What's worse is when they tell me they are doing it but won't tell me what they said."

"Look," he said.  "I asked him what you thought of Wendy, and when he told me that you didn't seem to like her the way that she obviously likes you, I told him I'd take care of it."

"That's all?" I asked, wondering why they couldn't just tell me that.

"No," he said, looking down.  "But I don't want to tell you what I said yet."

"Why?" I asked.

"Well, I don't even know you," he said.  "I'm not comfortable talking about specific things with hardly anyone. Please believe me that it wasn't anything bad, and if we get to know each other better, I'll probably tell you all about it. I just can't right now. I made Nick promise, and because of that, he thinks you don't like him anymore."

"So let me get this straight," I said.  "You want me to just forget that this happened, hang out with you guys and let you continue to talk about me behind my back and not tell me anything that's said?"

"No, jeez," he said.  "Tommy, I swear to you that if I have anything to say about you in the future, I'll come to you with it. I just don't feel comfortable telling you about what was said yesterday. I have my reasons, and they are very personal ones. I hope you can understand that.

"From what Nick has told me, you are a really cool guy," he continued.  "I'd like to get to know you better, and I'm hoping that we can be friends. Now, I'll take care of Wendy for you, so you can go to the party and meet the rest of our friends. All I'm asking for is time."

I was quiet for a while, thinking about what he'd said.  If anyone could understand about personal reasons for keeping a secret, it was me.  I didn't like the fact that they still wouldn't tell me what was said, but he had me on the personal reasons for it.  As much as I didn't like what they'd done, I had to admit that I really liked Nick, and Steve, as well as being incredibly hot, seemed cool, so far.

"Alright," I said.  "I'll let this go under one condition."

"Name it," he said, smiling.

"No more talking behind my back," I said.  "If either of you have something to say about me, I have to know what it is. I can't be friends with people I can't trust."

"Deal," he said, sighing dramatically.  "Can we tell Nick?"

"Is he awake?" I asked.

"Probably not," he said.  "I don't know, because I went home shortly after you did. Nick wasn't really in the mood for company after you left."

"Yeah, but you know that he doesn't get up before noon," I said.  "That reminds me. How did you know I would be awake this early?"

"You got me," he said.  "I asked Sharon about you last night before I went home. She has some really good things to say about you."

"Oh?" I said.  "Talking about me again?"

"I'm covered this time," he chuckled.  "For one, I'm telling you about it. For another thing, I have every right to ask questions regarding the character of the new friends in my life."

That smile again.  This was going to be bad if he didn't stop smiling at me.  I couldn't think straight when he smiled.  I was going to have to start averting my eyes when he did that.  If I didn't, I was sure there wasn't much he couldn't get me to do, and that really would be bad.

For the rest of the morning, Steve hung out with me.  I showed him my room, and he thought my computer was cool, but he had one of his own.  He said it wasn't as nice as mine, but he did have the internet.  He gave me his email address and his messenger information, and although I didn't know why I would need it when he lived two blocks away from me, I entered it all in the right places.

"Do you work out or anything?" he asked when we were sitting in the living room, watching television.

"I used to," I said.  "In our building in Florida, there was a gym in the basement. The equipment wasn't the greatest, but it was all I had. I stopped when my workout buddy moved to Maine."

"Ben, right?" he asked, letting me know just how far he'd checked up on me.

"That's right," I said.  "Ben and I are best friends."

"It has to suck not having your best friend around," he said.

"Well, we both have the internet, and we email each other a lot," I said.  "We chat just about every day, too."

"That's cool," he said.  "Nick is my best friend."

"He told me," I replied.

"Well, he doesn't like to get up in the morning," he said.  "I usually work out in the morning, and I don't have a workout partner. So, if you want, you could work out with me."

"How many mornings are we talking about per week?" I asked.

"Well, I alternate," he said.  "I run three days a week, and I work out the other four. Its an every other day thing."

"Well, I can do the workouts," I said.  "But I'm not sure about the running. How far do you run?"

"I go to Merriment Park and run around the whole park," he said.  "Its about a mile and a half in all."

"Well, I might be able to run with you," I said.  "But you'd have to go easy on me for a while."

"No problem," he said as someone knocked on the front door.  I glanced at the clock.  It was twelve-thirty.

"That'll be Nick," I said.

"Hey, Tommy," said Nick when I opened the door.  "Mad?"

"Come on in, Nick," I replied, stepping aside to allow him entry.

"Hey, buddy," said Steve when Nick and I returned to the living room.

"Cool," said Nick.  "You guys are talking."

"And came to an agreement," said Steve, flashing that million dollar smile of his again.

"Agreement?" asked Nick.

"Well, I've agreed to forget about yesterday as long as there's no more talking behind my back," I said.  "I have Steve's word. Care to give me yours?"

"Deal," he said with a shrug.

We settled into the furniture in the living room and watched movies on the movie channels until we heard our stomachs start to growl.  I fixed a bunch of sandwiches and grabbed a bag of chips from the cabinet in the kitchen.  Nick carried three cans of Coke to the living room.  We stuffed ourselves and then went back to the television, switching from movies to music videos.  When we heard Sharon pull up outside, the three of us went next door.

"Sharon, can I talk to you for a minute?" I asked when we got inside.  Steve and Nick went upstairs.

"Sure," she said, sitting down on the couch.

"I want to apologize for being disrespectful last night," I said.  "I hope you believe that I'm not usually like that."

"I think I can overlook it, because you were upset and confused," she said.  "I had a long talk with both of the boys last night after you left, and I hope that you had one with both of them today."

"I did," I replied.  "Everything is worked out, and I've agreed to overlook yesterday as long as they both come to me with anything they have to say about me in the future."

"That sounds fair," she said.  "But, Tommy, he really does have a good reason for not wanting you to know a few things."

"He told me that, too," I said.  "And I thought about the night that I told my secret to Nick. If I can't understand why Steve wants to keep a few things private, then I'm a hypocrite."

"You continue to surprise me and make me proud, Tommy Porter," she said, smiling.  "Last night is forgiven and forgotten as long as it doesn't happen again."

"You have my word," I said.

"Good," she said.  "Go play, so I can make supper. I assume you're staying?"

"I will, thank you," I said.

I went upstairs and joined Nick and Steve.  They were talking when I came in, and they continued their discussion when I walked in.  I didn't think they'd been talking about me, so I decided to test them a bit.  I asked them what they were talking about.  Nick smiled, and Steve laughed.

"We were talking about you," said Steve.  "Exactly what is how I'm going to get Wendy off your back, so you can go to the party Friday with no worries about being hit on."

"Ok," I said.  "What did you come up with?"

"Well," said Nick.

"I'm going to tell Wendy that you are off the market," said Steve.

"And how is that exactly?" I asked.

"Easy," he said.  "I'll even get her to not even ask about a girlfriend. I assume you don't have one yet."

"No," I said, glancing at Nick.

"Well then," he said, "how about it? Will you go with us on Friday night?"

"If you can make sure that Wendy won't hit on me, I'll go," I said.

"Cool," he said, smiling at me again.  Man did he like to smile.

"Alright, so we'll be at Wendy's until eleven that night," said Nick.  "Which house are we staying at?"

"Well, we could stay at my house," said Steve.  "My mom and dad probably won't be there."

"What about Vince?" asked Nick.

"He'll be there at some point," said Steve.  "But I'm sure he'll have a date with Lisa that night. It will be the first Friday since we got home."

"Cool," said Nick.  "Tommy?"

"Fine with me," I said.  "I just have to get my mother to agree with it."

"Don't worry about that," said Nick.  "I'll have my mom talk to her."

We talked about the party, and who would be there until Sharon called us down for supper.  She'd made broiled chicken and vegetables.  It was very good, and surprising myself, when I was offered seconds, I eagerly accepted.  Nick piled the food away, as usual.  Steve ate pretty good, too, but he'd never be able to stand up to Nick in an eating contest.

"Mom, is it alright if I stay at Steve's Friday?" asked Nick while we were helping her clear the table after supper.

"Sure," she said.

"Could you talk to Donna bout it, so Tommy can stay, too?" he asked.

"Well, I don't see why I'd have to, but I will," she said.  "Have you asked her about the party yet, Tommy?"

"I will tonight when she comes home," I replied.

We went up to Steve's room to play cards until it was time for me and Steve to go home.  We played poker, and I surprised them with how well I knew the game.  Steve and I got a kick out of how excited Nick was about my knowledge.  It actually made me feel good that he was so regaled by my playing.  Several times during the game, I saw Steve watching me.  He was probably looking at me so hard to see if he could tell when I was bluffing.

We finally got tired of poker after about an hour or so.  We moved around in the room and watched a television movie that wasn't too bad.  I did notice that Steve was looking at me almost as much as I was looking at him.  Every time I'd catch him looking, he'd snap his eyes away so fast.  I wondered why he was looking at me.

I started to get paranoid again.  I wondered again about what they had said about me that they didn't want to tell me.  Was it true? Did Steve really ask Nick not to tell me for personal reasons, or did Nick ask Steve to lie for him, because he'd outed me? This had to stop.  I couldn't keep this up.  How was I supposed to trust my new friends if I wouldn't even give them a chance.  I just hoped that they didn't give me another reason not to trust me.

Steve must have noticed that his looking at me was making me uncomfortable, because for the rest of the movie, he kept his eyes on the television.  I silently chastised myself again for reading too much into it.  He was probably catching me looking at him.  I was only being paranoid.  I had to stop this, and I had to stop it soon.

Around eight-thirty, I made my excuses and got my stuff.  Nick said he didn't understand why I couldn't just spend the night, and I just told him that I'd been missing my nightly chats with Ben and Andy.  He seemed to take that as a good enough reason for me to go home.  In reality, I just needed a little distance.

"Don't forget," said Steve.  "My house, tomorrow morning, six."

"I'll be there," I said without much conviction.  "See you guys."

"Later, Tommy," said Nick.

I was sitting in the living room, watching television when my mom got home that night.  She seemed surprised to see me, but she didn't comment on it right away.   She just spread her papers out on the coffee table before going into the kitchen to get something quick to eat.

"I'd hoped that you and Nick had settled your differences today," she said, sitting down with a can of Coke and a sandwich.

"We did," I replied.  "Didn't you notice the shortage in sandwich makings?"

"What's that about, anyway?" she asked.  "Nick eats like a horse, but he doesn't eat that much."

"Steve was here, too," I said.  "We got hungry around lunch time, so I made sandwiches. We also went through a bag of chips."

"Well," she said, yawning.  "If Sharon can feed you, I suppose it won't hurt for me to feed Nick. Steve I don't even know, yet."

"You will," I said doubtfully.

"Problems?" she asked, eyeing me.

"One sided, I think," I replied.  "Paranoia."

"Bad sign," she said.  "Need help?"

"Not yet," I said.  "I want to try and cure myself first."

"Well, let me know if you need me," she said, but she was already consumed by her work.  I left her to it.

For the first time in any summer that I can remember, my alarm woke me up at five the next morning.  I cussed it, and I debated about just shutting it off, but luckily, my eyes saw daylight, and it was over.  I got out of bed, threw on a pair of sweat shorts, grabbed a tank top and headed down the stairs to eat something before heading over to Steve's.  I couldn't believe I was actually going to go over there.  I was sure that I was just setting myself up for more attacks of paranoia.

"Well, good morning," said Mom, smiling at me as I walked into the kitchen.

"Morning," I said.  "You're still here."

"Yeah," she said.  "I leave at about quarter to six every morning. Waffle?"

"Thanks," I said as I got a glass of juice.

"So what has you up this early?" she asked.

"I'm going to Steve's to work out this morning," I said.  "Looks like I'll be getting up this early every day if I let him have any say in the matter."

"You're still not sure about him, huh?" she said, sipping her coffee.

"I'm not sure about me right now," I said.

"And why is that?" she asked.

"I think I might be reading things into innocent events that aren't really there," I said, and she frowned at me.  "Like Steve, for example. First of all, he's got to be the best looking boy I've ever seen."

"Better looking than Ben?" she asked.

"Much," I said miserably.

"And the problem?" she asked.

"Well, I like to look at him," I admitted, blushing like crazy.

"He's that pretty?" she asked, smiling at my discomfort.

"Yes," I said, blushing further.  "But last night, I thought I caught him looking at me, too. That started me off on a very bad tangent of thoughts and delusions."

"You think he's gay?" she asked.

"Not even close," I said.  "What I was obsessing about was that he was looking at me over what Nick talked about with him the other day. I even went so far as to wonder if Nick had told him that I'm gay, and that was why they won't tell me what was said."

"Ouch," she said.  "Honey, you know that Nick wouldn't do that to you."

"Yes, I know that," I agreed.  "But that doesn't stop my paranoid mind from going into overdrive."

"So, the final verdict?" she asked.  Always a lawyer.

"I decided that I'm stupid," I said.  "He was probably just catching me looking at him."

"That's certainly a valid possibility," she agreed.  "You're working yourself up over little things that you see that have easy explanations."

"Exactly," I said.

"Well, now you know what your problem is," she said.  "How are you going to fix it?"

"I'm going to just have to face it, I suppose."

"Well, you face it after you clear the table, please," she said, getting up and kissing me on the top of my head.  "I have to get to the office."

"See you tonight," I said.

I put the dishes in the dishwasher and wiped off the table before heading out for Steve's house.  All the way there I kept telling myself not to be stupid and read too much into anything.  I knew it was pointless.  Once paranoia grips you, it usually stays put for a long time.  I was just going to have to face it to make it go away.

"You actually came," said Steve when he opened the door for me.

"You thought I'd stand you up?" I asked.

"Well, after they way you looked at me last night, I wasn't sure," he said.

"About that," I said.

"No, let me say something first," he said.  "Tommy, the only reason that I watched you for most of the night was because I'm really trying to figure you out."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked.

"Well, I get the feeling that there's a particular reason why you are so worried about what Nick and I talked about," he said.  "I'm not going to be rude and ask you what's going on there, but I will try to figure it out on my own. I can't help that, so I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable."

"Well, then I guess I'll just have to try and not let it make me uncomfortable."

Surprisingly, I had a good time working out with Steve.  I had a few awkward moments when he took off his shirt, but other than that, there were no real problems to overcome.  He was serious about his workout, and I got back into the grove pretty quickly.  We met each morning at six.  On Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings, we were going to workout with his weight machines, and on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings, we were going to run.

I didn't do so hot with running on Thursday morning, though.  I got about half way around the park before I needed to sit down, and not much further after that, I had to stop running all together.  Steve told me not to be discouraged.  He said it would take me a little time to get into it, but I'd get there.

After Friday morning's workout, I had all day to dread Wendy's party.  Steve assured me that he'd taken care of Wendy for me, but I wasn't convinced.  I decided to trust him, but that didn't mean that I was going to just be at ease instantly.  My mom even consented to letting me stay at Steve's that night.  We all hung out at my house for most of the day, and as it got closer and closer to party time, I got nervous.