Disclaimer: All the normal rules apply.  Do not read if you'd be offended by material of a sexual nature; if local laws prohibit you from reading this, read no further.  Do not copy or reproduce, in whole or in part, without permission of the author, Nicholas Nurse.  All material is copyright Nicholas Nurse 2003.  All individuals depicted are imaginary, and any resemblance to real persons or events, express or implied, is purely coincidental.

That having been said--enjoy!  And feel free to contact me at viceroy12@hotmail.com.  All flames will, of course, be laughed at and summarily deleted.

Tristan's Redemption
By Nicholas Nurse

Chapter Two: Tire Treads and Crystal

Garrett disappeared inside the house.  I was still somehow rooted to the spot.  The sun hung low in the sky and threw everything into shadow; a slight wind blew through the yard and made me shiver.  Finally, I walked toward the house.  When I entered, Garrett was sitting at the dining room table with his head in his hands.  He wasn't crying; that much I could see.  But he was certainly not in a good mood, either.

"Garrett?"  I heard and hated the hesitance in my own voice.  Garrett didn't look up or respond in any way.  I waited a moment, but the silence was heavy in my ears.  "What are you even upset about, anyway?"  I felt myself getting irritated.  "I didn't even do it to you.  I don't do shit like that to you.  Nobody thinks you're stupid, least of all me—you're my best friend, Garrett.  Jesus, just let it go already."  Garrett still didn't move.  I had had enough.  "You know what, just fucking go home.  If you're gonna sit here and sulk because I made fun of Liza, then fucking go mope around with her."  I got up and stormed out.

I went up to my room and started to change.  Midway through, I caught a glance of myself in the mirror.  Looking into my eyes bothered me.  I knew I felt guilty about something, but I couldn't pin down exactly what I felt guilty about, and I wasn't even sure that I wanted to change anything about myself anyhow.  Still, I had a hard time meeting my own gray eyes.  Instead, I looked over the rest of myself in an effort to get my mind off of what was really bothering me.  My dark hair was starting to dry; normally, I wore it spiked, but right now it was tousled and fell every which way.  I had a narrow nose and face that fit my equally narrow frame.  Many years of swimming and tennis had given me a slender build, but standing naked in front of my mirror I could see the layer of taut muscle and sinew that gave my body definition.  I definitely was not embarrassed to walk around without a shirt on; my arms were thin and defined and my chest had a definite divide between pecs and abdominal muscles.  I too had the v-shaped curve of hips leading to my pubic region.  I was about as hairless as Garrett, really, and what little I had around the base of my cock I kept trimmed back into a tight little bush of dark hair.  Other than that, there was very little hair on my body anywhere.  I liked it that way.  Hairlessness only added to my muscular definition, and since I was about six feet tall and weighed only about a hundred sixty pounds dripping wet, I didn't mind the extra help.  But enough was enough; my meandering thoughts were my way of delaying going back downstairs.  I slipped on a pair of low-rise jeans—all my jeans were low-rise jeans; I much preferred the way they hugged my hips and were tight across my butt.  I walked downstairs and into the dining room.  Garrett was gone.  I dashed to the front door and looked outside; his car, too, was gone, and there were tire marks in the street, past the driveway.  He'd left quickly, then, and angrily, judging by the tire marks.  Well, what was I to do?  If he was going to get all sensitive about something that had nothing to do with him, there was little I could do about it.

Fuck.  I'd pissed off Garrett and was making a fool out of Liza.  My two best friends were both going to give it to me, and give it to me hard.  Well, first thing's first—if I attend to Liza, then maybe I can tell Garrett that I apologized to her and then he'll stop being upset with me as well.  Then everything can get back to normal and we can all go on with our little lives.  With a sigh, I hopped over my car's door—I had failed to put the top up when I got home, figuring I'd be going out again soon—and started the engine.  The drive to Liza's house was a short one, as she lived about seven or eight blocks inland, where the houses were smaller and older.  Liza's parents were both teachers, so they didn't exactly have a lot of money, but I liked the street they lived on—the willows and oak had been planted decades before, and when I drove down the street it was shaded and dark where the branches had grown and crossed and mingled overhead.  Leaves fell as I drove; a few landed on my seats and others were kicked up under the wheels of my car.  They floated about behind me in the exhaust of my passing.  I parked on the street and dashed up the walkway to Liza's house, throwing open the gate and ringing the doorbell.

The door opened; Liza's younger brother, Jared, looked out.  "Hey, Tristan!" he said.  I glanced behind him, toward the stairwell, before looking at him.  There was no one on the stairs.  "What's up, Jared?"  Before he could tell me what might or might not have been up, I added on, "Where's your sister?"

"Ah . . . well, she left a few minutes ago.  I think she might've told Mom where she was going.  Hey, come on inside!  I'll get you a Coke or something and I'll go ask Mom."

"Thanks—actually, water's fine.  I don't drink soda."

"Cool, hang on.  I'll be right back."  Jared flung himself up the stairs.  Inwardly, I seethed; here I come all this way to see Liza and when I get here, she's not even home.  The easiest course of action would be to simply call her cell, of course, but I somehow felt awkward doing that.  I'd rather say what needed to be said in person.

Liza's mother came down the stairs.  I stood up.  "It's nice to see you, Mrs. Luceri," I said.  She stepped forward to take my hand.  Liza's mother was a slender woman, blonde-haired and very motherly in appearance.  I liked her quite a bit; she exuded warmth and comfort.  

"Tristan, how many times have I told you to just call me Mary?  How are you?"

"I'm doing well."  We exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes; behind us, Jared was bustling about.  It looked like he was getting ready to go swimming.  He darted back in a moment later, carrying my glass.  "Thanks," I said.

"Hey, if you decide to stick around and wait for her, I'll be swimming out back," Jared replied.  "I wanted to ask you something, too, if you have a sec, Tris."

"Yeah, sure thing," I replied.  Perhaps I would stick around, if Liza wasn't going to be long.  "So where did she run off to, Mary?" I asked.

"She said something about needing to go down to the park for a bit.  She said she'd be back in an hour, and she left about ten minutes ago.  Go ahead and wait here—Jared'll keep you company."  She was quiet for a minute.  "Tristan, can I ask a favor of you?"

"Of course; what is it?"

Mary looked out the window; Jared was taking off his shirt and setting it on a lawn chair.  He was a thin kid; somehow, Liza had gotten the short end of the genetic stick.  "Jared's starting his freshman courses, and he seems to have all the Honors teachers you did, rather than the ones Liza had.  She saved all of her work, but since you had his same teachers . . . "

I nodded.  "If he ever needs help with assignments or anything, you know I'll do whatever I can to help."

"And I think he wants to be on the swim team, too."  She said it as though she didn't want to push her luck.

I laughed.  "Good!  Well, I can show him what I know.  I haven't joined the team this year, but we can go over strokes and form and stuff like that."

Mary smiled at me.  "I knew I could count on you.  And as far as paying goes, since you'd be tutoring him occasionally—"

"Don't worry about it."

"No, that's unacceptable.  I mean, we might not have as much money as your family, Tris, but we're not scraping by or anything.  Let's say fifteen dollars an hour."

I shook my head.  "Really, Mary, it's no big deal.  Let's say . . . every other day I tutor, you give Liza money to go out to dinner with me.  Nowhere fancy—just a quick bite at some restaurant somewhere.  Fair enough?"

Mary smiled.  "I think I can agree to that, but are you sure you don't want—"

"I'm serious.  My parents give me all the allowance I need, really.  I mean, I won't really have any big expenses until I go away to college, and that's still like two years away."

"If you ever want to renegotiate, don't hesitate to ask, alright?"

"Fair enough."  I grinned.  "Let's say I go outside and see how my charge is doing, eh?"

Mary pulled aide the curtains and looked out the window.  There was a smile on her face—whether out of love for her son or general pleasure at settling things out, I wasn't sure.  I was willing to guess it was both.  "He's a bright boy, Tristan—he might be even smarter than Liza, and God knows she's more than we ever hoped for.  Social, too—all the girls like him."

"I know.  I've seen them at school."

"Yes."  She sighed.  "I just wish Liza could be as happy.  She always talks about that Steve Johnson, Tris . . . "

A wave of guilt washed over me.  "Well . . . I don't know too much about all that."

Mary turned and fingered a portrait of her daughter.  Her face was pensive now.  "She's a pretty girl—you know that, I'm sure—it's just her weight that brings down her self-confidence.  I don't know where she gets it from—even her dad only put on any weight after college."

"It's not like she's all that heavy anyhow.  If she lost, say, thirty, forty pounds . . . "

"Yes, but it's just not that easy.  We try to talk to her, Tristan.  We really do.  But she—she shuts us out the second we even bring it up.  It's not healthy."

"She does the same thing to me, too, you know.  If I even bring it up, she flips.  Same with Garrett, or any of our other friends.  It's like this hugely unmentionable subject, and every time it even sounds like it's coming up, I can see her tense up, like she's waiting for the bomb to drop."

"It's sad.  Help her, if you can.  She trusts you."  Another stab of guilt.  "Between us, between her father and me, you and Garrett . . . perhaps we can do something for her."

"For this, I doubt that giving her dinner money would be the appropriate form of repayment."

"I know I'm asking a lot of you, Tristan.  I'm sorry—you don't have to do any of it.  But I trust you, and you're so mature for your age, and I think that we all can help her if we do it together."

"As the saying goes, it takes a village."

"Quite."  She turned.  "Alright, she should really be home any minute now.  Go ahead and go out back—I'm sure Jared's waiting for you.  He's always excited to see you, you know."

"So noted."  I headed toward the back door.

"Do you want to stay for dinner?  We're having beef and broccoli stir fry."

Since my parents were out of town, dinner here sounded like a nice option, but I didn't want to commit to anything in case Liza and I had it out and I had to leave.  "Thanks, Mary, but I've already laid plans for dinner tonight."

"Oh, alright—anytime, though.  Anyway, go ahead out back, before it gets any darker—that kid'll swim any time of day, even if it's thunder and lightning outside."

I laughed.  "Trust me, I know how he feels."  I let myself out.  Jared was in the middle of a lap.  "Hey you!" I called, sitting near the edge of the pool.  I pulled off my shoes and socks and rolled up my jeans, then stuck my legs into the water.

Jared swam up to the edge of the pool.  His hazel eyes were bright.  "I'm glad you decided to stay," he said.

"Well, your mom said Liza would be home soon, and besides, I wanted to see your stroke."  I raised an eyebrow.  "I hear someone's thinking about joining the swim team."

Jared nodded.  "Liza told me you were on the team for two years.  Are you joining this year too?"

"Well, returning members already had tryouts, and I sat them out this time around."  Jared's face fell.  "But that doesn't mean it's too late, you know.  We'll see what happens.  Anyway, it's irrelevant—if you want to do it, you should go to the new member tryouts in two weeks."

Jared started treading water.  "I don't know if I'll be that good by then."  He was quiet for a moment; the only sound was the twin splashes of my feet and his arms.  "Can I . . . ask you something, Tris?"

"Of course you can."

"I think high school might be harder than I expected.  I, uh . . . " Jared paused.  "Well, I guess I was wondering—I mean, I know you're Liza's best friend and all, and I'm just her brother, but—like, if I needed help with anything, do you think maybe you could . . . give me advice on stuff?"

I liked this kid.  I really did.  I shouldn't call him a kid, either; he's only two years my junior.  Somehow, he was very different from his sister.  "Your mom and I already talked about that, Jared—"

"Oh.  I'm sorry.  If you already told her you couldn't, I didn't mean to ask again—"

"You didn't let me finish.  I said I would."

Jared's smile was like a sunrise.  "You did?  Alright!  I mean, Liza knows her stuff and whatnot, but sometimes she can't be bothered with me, you know?"

"Oh, yes, I know."  I fished in my pocket for a piece of paper.  "Look, Jared, I know Liza has my phone number and email address, but let me give it to you, okay?  You should have your own copy."  I jotted down my contact information on a scrap piece of paper from my wallet.  "But I'm not going to give it to you till you get out of the pool."

"Thanks, Tris.  I really appreciate it, you know?  I mean—okay, well, never mind."  Jared was turning a little red, I noticed.

"What is it?  You can tell me."

"Well, I was kinda hoping we could be friends—you know, you and me, not just 'Oh, Jared, Liza's kid brother.' "

I laughed.  "We're already friends, Jared."

"I mean real friends, too.  Hey, listen, do you mind watching my backstroke really quickly?  It's my weakest stroke—I always end up swimming diagonally."  

I nodded.  "Let's see."  Jared began to swim and as the sun set I corrected him on a few of the finer points, reminding him that in real heats there were always overhead flags to mark one's progress.  Finally, when the sun was just a finger on the horizon and the sky was a dusky purple, Jared got out of the pool.  I mentally slapped myself, but not before I had given his body the once-over; he was cute—Mary hadn't lied—and at fifteen he was hovering somewhere between the body of a boy and the body of an adolescent.  Before I thought too much about that, I looked toward the kitchen and saw Liza standing in the window.  "Hey, Jared," I said as he dried off.  "I'm gonna head inside to talk to your sister.  If you need me, come get me."  I handed him the contact information.  "Copy this in a safe place, alright?  And don't ever think twice about calling me."  I tousled his wet hair briefly and he grinned at me.  "See ya in a bit."  I went inside.

Liza stood in the kitchen, which otherwise was empty.  "You're a shit," she said by way of greeting.

"I know."

"I know you're gonna deny it—what?"

"I said I know.  Look, I'm sorry—I wrote the note, not Steve, and I should've told you right away.  I fucked up.  But, in my defense, I don't think you would've believed me anyway."

"Yeah, Garrett explained your logic to me."

Now it was my turn for the surprised "What?"

"I called her after I left," Garrett said, coming into view from around the corner.  I knew this was going to be bad.  "I told her everything."

I stepped toward him.  "You worthless fuck, I was going to do it myself, thank you very much."

Garrett's hand twitched like he wanted to hit me.  "You're such a fucking handful all the time that it takes both of us working together to deal with the assholeishness that is you."

I was taken aback for a brief moment.  Liza was silent.  Suddenly, a rage came over me, and it was as though everything were made of crystal, designed to shatter at an instant.  And I wanted to shatter them.  "Fuck you all, conspiring behind my back!  What is this bullshit?  It was a fucking apology I left in your locker!  It's not my fault you thought it was Steve—you're the illogical one for thinking so!  What does he have to apologize for—'Sorry, but I don't like you?'  Get off it!"  I turned to Garrett.  "And as for you—what is with you?  Are you on your man-rag or some shit?  Storming out of my house like that?  Gossiping about me behind my back?  Getting all worked up over something that, fundamentally, doesn't involve you?  Who do you think you are?"  I stormed out of the kitchen and headed for the front door.  "Jesus Christ.  I was all ready to make it up to the two of you and you pull some bullshit stunt like this.  Well, conspire together all you want.  I'm out of here, guys.  Thanks for being wonderful and upfront friends."  I slammed the door on the way out.  It occurred to me that I hadn't even given them a chance to speak.  "I give a shit," I said aloud in response to my own thought.

"Are you okay?"  Oh, Christ.  Jared was standing near my car.  God damn it.  That's all I really needed right now—another Luceri to piss me off.

"I'm fine, Jared.  Now move."  I turned off my alarm and opened my door.

Jared stood there.  "I'm sorry," he said simply.  "I know it doesn't mean anything, but I'm your friend, and I won't go behind your back."

In my present mood, I wanted to snap at him that it did indeed mean nothing, but looking into his innocent face, I somehow didn't have the heart.  "Thanks, Jared."  That was all I could manage before I backed my car out of the driveway.  This time it was my turn to leave tire marks on the asphalt.  

This is part two of an ongoing series of indeterminate length.  Tune in soon for Chapter Three, Dreams and Choices.  Any comments or questions can be sent to me via email: viceroy12@hotmail.com.  Please feel free to email me; I love to hear readers' responses!  Thanks for reading!