The following story is for adults and contains descriptions of sexual contact between teenage males. If you are a minor it is illegal for you to read, or if you find the subject objectionable, read no further. All the characters, events and settings are the product of my over-active imagination. I hope you like it. Mail me or if literary analysis interests you visit Eliot's Space.
Laine and Dominic, Saturday, June 4th
Dominic was ripped, Laine reflected with real appreciation. After half an hour of basketball in Laine's driveway it was a natural gesture for the boy to pull his loose jersey off and throw it against the garage door. He paced around the cracked cement driveway as he caught his breath. Dominic's turns were graceful. He brought the image of a panther pacing its cage to mind but there was nothing caged about Dominic. Evan's hair was a tangle of artfully maintained dreadlocks and his pants slid down so dangerously that his constant attention to their imminent collapse made his passable play useless against anyone other than the hapless Peter. Dominic's pants were quite secure and his scalp glistened with sweat. Dominic did not have to worry about his pants. Both hands were either busy with the ball or all over Laine.
"I told you he was good Laine." Laine glanced at Peter and he tried to decide how to respond to this ambiguous comment. Laine ran a hand through his own damp hair pushing the bangs off his face as he considered Dominic. He was an outstanding player and despite Laine's best efforts Dominic was having an easy romp over Laine's game. Evan and Peter were hardly in the game at this point. They were contented spectators. Laine had concluded that the unexpected interest in afternoon basketball was just a ploy to force Laine and Dominic together. Laine was disinclined to complain. Dominic was eye candy.
Very easy on the eyes this one, Laine conceded as he acknowledged Dominic's smile with a slight nod. The game was on again. Dominic and Laine allowed Peter and Evan to fumble around with the basketball for a few minutes. Dominic even let Evan chase after Peter's rim shot. It was as if there were two games happening with one ball or the two athletic boys were simply waiting out a shift change. Evan finally tired of the effort and, tugging at his pants, he passed the ball to Dominic.
Dominic offered Laine a look that seemed to ask him if he was ready to resume the combat. Laine nodded his head slightly and came alert. Dominic's eyes never left Laine's as he began a lazy dribble that Laine knew would eventually shift with blinding speed into an attack that, despite Laine's best effort, would leave him grasping at empty air.
He is definitely flirting with me, Laine concluded as Dominic walked the ball closer. The taller boy had the reach on Laine, but he at least had enough respect for Laine's game to shift the ball away from him as he approached. He was in no hurry though. Laine pressed in and Dominic threw a shoulder between Laine and the ball. Laine put a hand lightly on Dominic's sweaty back. For a time they danced back and forth as Dominic toyed with Laine. The flirtatious dance ended with Dominic's sudden break for the hoop. Laine refused to give any ground so when Dominic charged Laine found himself careening into the garage door. He bounced once and slammed his head. Dominic finished his lay-up and turned back to Laine apologetically.
"Are you okay dude?" Dominic did not bother to apologize and Laine had not expected it.
"Sure thing" Dominic gave him a small shove on he shoulder as he passed by and they continued the combat for another twenty minutes. Even though the end of the game was a foregone conclusion Laine made the other boy work for it. Peter and Evan made moves to leave when the last two points dropped through the old hoop but Dominic lingered. He offered Laine small glances as they strung out a conversation about the party at Barach's house later that evening.
Laine offered a few appraising looks in return. It was always nice to be noticed and Dominic had the sort of strong and athletic body that appealed to him. The honesty of their interest in each other felt good. Unguarded moments came too rarely. Laine could thank Evan for this moment, otherwise caution would have kept the two boys apart. Laine was back in the closet by simple omission and Dominic was definitely not out. Laine assumed that most gay students at Riverview slipped past each other oblivious. Laine wondered how Evan had stumbled upon Dominic.
"Well we are going to take off now. Are you coming Dominic?" Evan's smirk suggested that he expected a negative response. He was not disappointed.
"No I need to get home." After Peter and Evan left Laine and Dominic pondered how to break the continued awkwardness of being strangers. "Hey, mind if I use your hose to cool off?" Dominic moved over to the coil without waiting for Laine's response.
"I can get you something inside."
"No this is good."
Laine kept a safe distance. It came to him that Dominic was reaching for a weapon and if their positions had been reversed Laine might have been tempted to begin a war. It was a thought that reminded Laine of the previous summer's water fight with Greg. That was not a particularly happy memory now. Laine chased it away as he watched Dominic soak the tight nap of his hair. The water trickled down his broad shoulders and soaked his boxers and the fabric covering the depression between his prominent flanks.
"Let me have that for a minute." Laine came closer and held out his hand for the hose. When Dominic turned Laine was treated to a close-up of his wet torso. Small droplets twinkled against the incredible darkness of Dominic's skin. Laine caught a momentary gleam in the other boy's brown eyes and a flash of teeth. Laine raised an eyebrow as the hand holding the hose nozzle seemed to waver. Dominic fought a brief battle and then relinquished the hose with a look that clearly said he expected Laine to honor the truce. Laine quickly soaked his head and squirted a stinging jet of water past his lips.
When Laine turned back from the tap he found Dominic gazing up at the tree fort across the lawn. "That looks pretty cool."
"Yes, I put that together last summer when we moved in." Laine passed it off casually. He realized that Dominic resembled Greg physically. Dominic was solid, but his body had a basketball player's lightness to it instead of the stocky power of a football player. "My little brother uses it mostly. Hey, go ahead and take a look. Do you want a cold drink or something?"
Laine scrounged a couple of cans of soda and a tube of Pringles. Dominic caught it all neatly when Laine tossed them up. Laine climbed the rope ladder to join him on the platform. The tree fort had returned to its leafy isolation above the surrounding yards. Laine leaned on the railing while Dominic inspected the fort. Nichole Boisen lay sprawled on a lawn chair flirting with skin cancer. It was another reminder of that lost summer day. Laine adjusted his position slightly and followed a break in the leaves to the spot just across the fence where his fantasy boy lay on that moon-lit night. Laine set that thought aside and turned back to Dominic.
He knelt examining one of Nick's attempts at outdoor living. Dominic seemed intrigued by the chest Nick had constructed with Laine's help.
"Man this is fine work. Did you make this too?" Dominic raised an eyebrow.
"No, my brother Nick put it together for all his junk."
"Your little brother did this starburst thing across the top? Laine this is too cool. You should have this inside. It is going to get wrecked out here."
"It is not so hard. You just glue the pieces together like a chess board. Just something for us to do during the winter I guess." Laine wished Nick could have heard Dominic's praise. It had been Nick's first attempt. Nick had not quite believed Laine when he told him it was fine work. "There must be six coats of varnish on the top. Anyway, he was just goofing around." Laine watched as the boy opened the lid to examine Nick's treasure. Dominic finally abandoned the chest and sat with his back against the trunk.
They were too far apart so Laine came over and joined him. Dominic invited him to sit beside him by sliding over slightly. There was a silence between them after that. Awkward, Laine reflected. Dominic must have felt the same because he was the first to break the silence.
"Its hard to figure out how to get going isn't it?"
"Yes, a little crazy." Laine replied shifting so he could see Dominic's face. Dominic took it as an invitation. He put a hand on Laine's shoulder and kissed him quickly on the lips. Laine had barely a moment to respond before Dominic turned away to examine the board at his feet. It was an oddly shy gesture from such a powerful person. Dominic chanced a look at Laine's face so that he could read his reaction and then dropped his eyes. Laine pushed his hair back and kissed Dominic's cheek. It earned him a grateful smile. After that first exchange the boys grew bolder.
When they finally parted lips they were both aroused. The wind rustled through the green walls shielding them from eyes below. Dominic twisted around so that he could stretch on his side at Laine's crossed feet. "This is new to me."
Laine nodded his head, understanding the feelings. He found himself staring at the long length of Dominic beneath the boy's shorts. Dominic followed Laine's eyes and laughed self consciously.
"Sorry, I guess you got me got excited."
Laine shrugged at him. It was not a big deal. His own erection was fading, but he still felt the attraction that lay between them. He wanted to see what hid behind the frustrating folds of Dominic's shorts.
Laine could have resumed kissing but Dominic needed to talk. "Evan and Hank are tight, right?"
"Yes I think so." Not so tight that they would not play around with another boy when the oportunity presented itself. "I guess you could say they are going out together now."
"Its kind of hard for me, you know? I mean you guys are the first people I have told. That was seriously hard for me." Laine nodded his head to let him know he was still listening. A door had slammed across the fence. "I didn't think I could let anyone know."
Laine heard voices below and glanced down into the neighboring yard. Greg was looking at some plants with his grandmother. Greg's visits were rare. There were no words between them now. Laine stared a moment and turned back to meet Dominic's brown eyes. "It is hard, I know. You don't have to worry about the guys. They won't tell anyone. Peter dicks around with girls just to be safe. I don't know, maybe he likes girls a little. Lot's of guys are like that. They don't really know for sure." Daniel's face finally surfaced in Laine's mind. "Some guys are bi."
"Not me, the chicks just do not do it for me at all." Dominic's voice was firm. He bit his lip and gave Laine a wistful look. Laine responded to it by leaning forward to meet his lips. Dominic put a hesitant hand on Laine's back and then growing bolder, he pulled Laine against his chest as their kiss deepened. Laine responded by exploring Dominic's hip. Finally Dominic fell onto his back and Laine rested across his hips. Laine's hand trailed around the contours of Dominic's chest and abdomen. Laine was conscious of the erotic contrast between his pale fingers and the rich color of Dominic's smooth skin. Something firm rubbed along Laine's armpit. "That feels good. You're beautiful Laine."
"Your beautiful too Dominic." Dominic had the advantage on Laine. Laine could feel his own skin burn at this frank admission but he could not judge Dominic's reaction to his words. "Okay" Laine drawled out slowly just to ease the tension, "I guess that was seriously gay." The boys laughed together.
"Well is that such a bad thing?"
"No, not at the moment," Laine thought briefly of the boy on the ground below and the friendship that might have been. Greg's voice drifted up to him with the tones of a bored teenager trapped with his grandmother. It brought back the long turmoil of the winter to him. Dominic's voice brought him back and reminded him that he had come through that.
"It is pretty private up here isn't it?" Dominic's hips shifted slightly beneath Laine. Laine sat up next to Dominic. He had an impulse to slide his fingers up the other boy's pants. He wanted this all to be simple. He should be able to just reach out and do it. He wanted to taste Dominic. "Is everything okay?"
"Yes, sure it is."
"I never asked you, are you seeing someone? Peter maybe? Evan thought you might have met someone because he said you don't..." Words failed Dominic at that point and Laine could tell that the inexperienced boy was embarrassed. It was true, Laine hung out with the three boys, and they must have noticed that he had stopped having sex. Sitting beside Dominic Laine felt a little foolish.
Oh God, my Daniel, Laine sighed ruefully. Laine had been so sure of himself after Christmas. No commitments that had been the New Year's resolution play safe. Dominic watched him expectantly.
"There is this guy." Laine slowly conceded.
"You like him?"
"Yes," how to describe this to someone without sounding totally pathetic? "I really connect with him."
"So are you like, together?" Laine could sense Dominic's disappointment.
"Oh, so this is just a guy you crush on." Laine laughed at that a little. The voices stopped below and Laine glanced down past the boughs of summer leaves and saw Greg staring up at him. Laine stared back a second and then turned back to Dominic. He did not have time for Greg.
"We like each other, but he has a girl friend." Nope, no way to make that sound good, Laine thought bitterly.
"Oh man" Dominic's voice was sympathetic. "Well maybe she is a bitch and he will see the light."
"I wish" Laine sighed "From what I can see she is okay." And Daniel fights for her. Laine guessed Dominic was encouraged by this bad news. Dominic remained silent as Laine gazed blankly, lost in his own thoughts. Laine knew he had fallen into two serious relationships in the space of ten months. The first one had ended very poorly for him. Crash and burn did not begin to describe what Arlo had done to him. Mandy Cole's less than subtle match-making might have left Laine ill except for the priceless look of jealous annoyance Daniel failed to conceal each time she brought it up in his presence. He had to remember to keep some perspective on his relationship with Daniel though. Daniel had not yet offered any sort of commitment to him. It was all so like Arlo and Donald, only it was not.
"So is it serious?" A good question, Laine responded. He was glad for the intrusion on his thoughts. Dominic held his eyes. Well, perhaps it was worth testing. Laine could still imagine sleeping with other boys. He was certainly attracted to the handsome basketball player clearly offering himself at his feet.
"Oh, I don't know really."
Laine lay down across Dominic's thighs again and followed his earlier impulse. He slid a hand along Dominic's hip. Dominic encouraged him with a smile that took on a slightly panicked cast as Laine approached his crotch. Laine did not think Dominic was ready for the next step, and truth be told, neither was Laine. He pulled his hand out and twisted over so that he could reach Dominic's lips again.
Sunlight and Shadows, Saturday night
Daniel turned away from the car and looked at the two-story limestone house. Set well back from the street, it rose out of a forest of pines and junipers like a cliff along one of his northern portages. The scent of freshly watered vegetation and cedar chips tickled his memory. Thirteen months and change until he had his first shot at a driver's License. It was a depressingly long time to wait. Mandy would have hers half a year before him. So would most of his friends.
Daniel did not know the house and he did not really know Barak. The search for a location for the house party had involved compromises. The circle had widened by necessity and the desperate fourteen and fifteen year olds had descended on Barak's home, three blocks from Denver's. Barak was a friend of Kyle who had sat with Simon through a long year of Math. The location was not ideal for Daniel because Barak also happened to be an acquaintance of Laine. As Daniel stood in the driveway listening to the sounds of laughter drifting from the back yard he felt a twinge of panic at the thought of juggling Mandy and Laine for two or three hours.
There were extra vehicles in the driveway signaling chaperones. He encountered two dad's relaxed in lawn chairs. Beer cans sweated in their arm rests and he saw the glow of cigarettes before he was blinded momentarily by a flashlight that took in his slender frame and the paper bag he carried. "Name?"
"Daniel Murrell" He waited while they checked a clip board. The flashlight pointed him toward the path around the house. It was after ten. Most people would be well into the party by now. He had worked a long day at the Brass Lantern.
He encountered two small shadows at the gate wistfully watching the activity. "The party is back there." A shadow said unnecessarily. The two boys looked to be about Garrett's age.
"Who are you?" Daniel paused to survey the boys.
"I'm Adam, Barak is my brother. This is Wesley." Barak, or Barak's parents, had clearly banished the pair from the party. They reminded Daniel strongly of a younger Daniel and Arlo hovering around the edge of Arlo's sister's parties. He remembered the feeling of being left out. Daniel dismissed an impulse to offer the boys a drink.
"See you boys." He left them in the dark and pushed through the gate and into the party.
A small smile replaced the sullen frown Arlo had been casting over Laine and Dominic's conversation with Peter. Arlo had been a brooding presence on the lawn opposite Laine all night and Laine was ready to snap. Peter was gamely trying to show interest in the basketball season for their sake. Laine sighed slightly. He was certain that he knew the cause of Arlo's abrupt mood swing. Laine took a pull from the beer Peter had gave him and followed Arlo's gaze to where Daniel stood unconsciously framed between two flickering citrenela torches. Laine surpressed his own compulsion to wave and with an effort turned back to Dominic. Arlo also made an elaborate effort to rejoin the conversation. What a joke. Laine recognized the irony as he listened to Dominic respond to Arlo's sudden ebullient comments on basketball. We both pretend the party just got better because Daniel is here. Laine promised himself that he would keep his distance from Daniel during the party. He gave Daniel another glance and returned his attention to Dominic. Arlo's manic-depressive infatuation for Daniel helped restrain Laine.
"Hey Daniel finally got here." Arlo abruptly dropped the comment into the conversation. "Do you remember Daniel, Laine?" Arlo turned to Dominic and elaborated, "Best friends." Domonic was caught off stride by the sudden switch in conversation, but murmured something polite back to Arlo. "Hey Laine?"
"Arlo, Daniel and I run together." Laine murmured.
"Oh right, my bad." Arlo waved in Daniel's direction but apparently received no response. Arlo shrugged his shoulders and returned to the NBA season without a blink.
Mandy found it hard to imagine a party where there was no threat. She thought the parents a mixed blessing. They were circling the back yard watching the crowd of teenagers like noon hour supervisors, and like students in a cafeteria the fourteen and fifteen year olds ignored them. The more promiscuous or amorous boys and girls chafed at the unaccustomed lack of freedom. Where were you at all the other parties this year? Mandy watched a parent flushed Simon and an unfamiliar girl out of the guest house bathroom. What a guy, she thought. Simon's pants were slightly tented from his all too brief encounter. Mandy hoped Simon's randyness did not rub off on Daniel.
Mandy had been watching the gate with half an eye for the last half hour anticipating Daniel's arrival. He took his new job seriously and insisted he had to work all day. She tuned the conversation out as Daniel surveyed the crowded back yard looking for her. She was relieved to see him holding the Vodka loosely in his hand. She felt guilty accepting drinks from friends. She waited till he turned toward her and waved him over. Her heart jumped as his eyes lit up and a little smile played across his lips. She pointed out where the stash of Sprite sat and tipped over her empty cup.
Daniel brought drinks and sat down beside Mandy. His presence established, Mandy turned back to the girls and tried to pick up the thread of their conversation. Daniel took in the ring of torches that were supposed to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Very primal he concluded. Daniel sat in the cool grass with his legs stretched out glad to be finally off his feet and content to listen to Mandy's voice with half an ear while he checked out the rest of the party. From the edge of the gingerbread guest house Simon gave him two thumbs up, dangling a beer from his finger tips. He was with some girls Daniel didn't recognize.
Chris had found his way to the party, not so nice. If the party's theme was Survivor then Daniel wished someone had voted Chris off the island before he had arrived. Chris was sitting with an unfamilair group of teenagers and Daniel had the unpleasant feeling he had become the topic of their conversation. Daniel guessed he had three more years of Chris in his life, so he might as well get over it. They were in the same learning community, so he would not have a break from the guy for another year at least.
Arlo was hovering around Laine. Daniel caught Arlo's eye and toasted him with his glass. Arlo's face lit up and he smiled broadly. There were times when Arlo was just his old friend. Daniel smiled back. Arlo nudged Laine spilling a drink on the other boy to get his attention. He pointed at Daniel and Laine glanced over.
No fair, thought Daniel. Laine was wearing a tight tangerine t-shirt that advertized his shoulders. Daniel shook a fist in mock rage at Laine just to let him know he had got the point. Daniel and Laine kissed, quickly undressed each other, made hard love and parted in the time it took for Laine to raise a hand to his bang and push it away from his eye. They held each other's eyes a beat too long and then Laine turned back to the beautiful black boy he was talking to and Daniel turned to check Mandy's drink before he headed back to the bottle for a refill. Daniel's body still felt the effects of his lovemaking with Denver the night before. It only served to remind him how nice it would be to end the evening in Laine's arms.
The bar was set up in the guest house. It was presided over by three more fathers who, by the looks of them, were wishing they could have a drink too. As Daniel poured two fingers of Vodka into the bottom of his glass and topped it up with Sprite he eavesdropped on the boozy conversation of two ninth grade boys getting friendly with the dads. He blessed his mother for letting him come alone.
The girl talk bored him to tears so he stood near the table watching the crowd. Simon was dancing, Laine was unavailable. Daniel flashed back to the kitchen in the Brass Lantern. It had seemed so natural coming back to the restaurant to work the next afternoon. With Karl still away Denver had been very busy. Daniel respected the tone Denver had set until the moment Denver had asked him fetch the olive oil. They both burst out laughing and Doris had come back to see what might have happened. There was no explaining it so she left the kitchen confused.
There were others about the back yard he knew. A few football mates were perched on the edge of a silent hot tub and he thought about going over. Azizi pointed a finger at him and he responded with a grin. He glanced back at Mandy and remembered that he had promised to be with her for the night. "Later" he mouthed over to them and pointed at Mandy. Cole Orlo leered and stuck his finger through the circle of his thumb and index finger, giving it a little pumping action. Daniel smiled tightly and turned back to freshen his drink again. Azizi was okay, but Cole was a bit of a turd when it came to girls. He picked his way through the crowd stopping occasionally to say hi to people.
After his third drink Daniel pulled Mandy away to join the crowd dancing on the patio under the watchful eyes of the parents. He liked dancing now. It was one way he could find to hold her close. It was also a moment to talk quietly together. The music was not loud enough and someone was censoring the selections, yet it felt magical to be close, dancing slowly in circle, touching each other in familiar ways. He could even steal a kiss as she ruffled the back of his hair. He slid his hands into her pockets conscious of his groin brushing against her.
"Work go well?"
"Sure. It's not so different, except now I am getting paid under the table by Karl. Mandy, I asked Denver if he would let you have some of my hours." He interrupted her protest. "I know you would like to earn some money this summer and it's hard to find work. I'll be gone for a month anyway. You should do it." They danced for a while in silence before she replied.
"Are you sure you don't mind?" She knew working there was important to him. She also really wanted the chance to earn some extra money. Denver was probably the only person who would hire a fifteen year old girl.
"Sure. I mean, working different times will suck, but it is not that many hours." she hugged him and lay her head on his shoulder.
"Thanks" They danced slowly occasionally acknowledging their friends, contented to be close. He stole a kiss from Mandy and held her a little closer despite the disapproving stare from Barak's mother. When the music got too silly they stopped to return to their drinks and circulate. Daniel examined the vodka bottle with a bit of annoyance. It was going down quickly. He poured three fingers into his own glass and one into Mandy's. He held them while Mandy dropped in the ice and topped up the glasses with soda.
"Arlo looks bummed out; I think he has drunk too much." Mandy's remark distracted Daniel and he glanced over at his friend. Daniel was starting to feel high and he resented the intrusion of his old friend into the evening.
"Arlo always drinks too much."
"You drink too much." Mandy eyed his glass.
"I can handle my liquor, besides Arlo is a sad drunk. He brings everyone down." Mandy rolled her eyes but did not comment. Mandy thought Daniel became more aggressive when he drank. Sometimes a little more than she felt comfortable with, but Daniel never scared her. He was a little too quick to step in and help out if things got rough. It was all about his manhood or something.
"He was happy a while ago."
"Sure and then a black cloud moves in and it's a suicide watch until he passes out." Arlo was probably bummed out because Daniel was dancing with Mandy. Daniel felt like he needed to burn off some energy. He needed to move.
Mandy eyed the group of boys around Arlo silently watching the dancers. "They should be dancing. Laine and Arlo are gay, do you think the others are gay too?"
"I don't know Mandy, what does it matter?" You talk with a gay guy, you must be gay.
"Daniel, what if they want to dance together?" Daniel did not think that was a comfortable thought. "Why don't they dance?" Because a boy's did not always like to dance, responded Daniel silently. "Daniel, let's get them on their feet."
"They don't want to dance Mandy. Not everyone likes to dance for God sake. Anyway if they are gay they probably don't want another reason to get pushed around at school." Daniel was pretty sure one of them was a gay friend of Laine's. There is nobody else, Daniel dropped his eyes to the grass in shame.
Mandy pointed to the patio. "Look, Hannah and Sheena are dancing together." Hannah and Sheena were whales, thought Daniel unkindly; nobody else was going to dance with them.
"They are girls Mandy, it is different." Mandy frowned at him and grabbed his arm. He backed away from the splash of his drink and reluctantly let her pull him in the direction of the boys. "They are not going to do it." Nothing would get him dancing with another guy.
"You dance with Arlo and I will dance with Laine. Once we are out there we'll switch partners. Then we switch again and make them dance with each other." Daniel stalled, forcing Mandy to swing around.
"Just how much have you had to drink? I am not dancing with Arlo."
"Don't be so sensitive Daniel. For gosh sakes what's the big deal? It's not like anyone is going to think you are gay."
Exactly wrong my love, Daniel thought desperately as he watched Arlo and Laine.
"Come on; you fought the freshie fight all year. Put a little time into gay rights. It is going to be freshie year for those guys for the next three years."
Mandy did not get it; but then she had hung out with the gays in her drama crowd all year. She did not understand how uncomfortable he was with the whole idea. It was not his intention to get himself into a gay pride parade. She seemed to assume he would do it and he did not want to fight with her so in despair Daniel caved.
"Look, not a whole dance, okay? You switch to me as quickly as you can. Get some of your girl friends to do it too so I don't stand out."
"You get Simon."
"Hell will freeze over first."
"Okay" She started to leave but he pulled her back with a tug.
"Arlo and Laine don't get along. I'll go for the black guy and you grab Laine." She nodded and rounded up a small group of girls from where he had found her. Lost at the back of the crowd he reluctantly followed her toward the group of boys. Somewhere in the back of his head he could hear the all too familiar crack of the whip along with all the eyes at the party.
It was a predictable scene in which the six boys huddled together shying back from the girls. Their reactions were no different than half the other boys at the party. Mandy and her friend's resorted to physical force to drag the protesting boys onto their feet to a chorus of exaggerated groans. Daniel trailed behind as the girls paired up.
Mandy pushed the black guy into Daniel and then grabbed Laine's hand. The six boys allowed themselves to be driven to the patio where they began an awkward dance together in a circle. Daniel shuffled his feet and glanced around trying to gage the reactions of the other dancers. Nobody seemed to be paying him any attention. He looked back at his partner. "Daniel" he remarked to the boy.
"Dominic" the lanky boy responded. They moved a little closer. "Basketball"
"Football" Daniel contributed. He was uncomfortable. The song dragged out all the more painfully because it was a slow one. Around them couples were holding each other, some awkwardly, others with familiar ease. Laine was holding Mandy and they were talking animatedly. Daniel felt almost ill until he noticed two mothers dancing through the crowd encouraging them all to have fun. People around them stared at the mothers. Perhaps dancing was not the worst thing that could happen to him tonight.
Arlo's mother paused when she saw Daniel with Dominic. "Way to go Daniel! Right on, get down!" She swirled off into the crowd on some magical mystery tour of her own. About time for that suicide watch, thought Daniel glancing at Arlo who managed a sick smile acknowledging his mother's presence. Daniel tried to relax. When he looked around the dance area he realized most people were dancing aimlessly around and it was hard to tell who the partners really were anyway.
"So you know Arlo then?" Daniel responded to Dominic's question with a nod. "So you know Laine too?"
"Sure, a little"
"He's cool" Daniel eyed the tall boy and nodded again. He was not sure if Dominic was gay. At the moment he seemed to be intent on watching Daniel's face. "So is she your girlfriend?" Dominic tossed his head toward where Laine was attempting to jive with Mandy.
When they switched Mandy literally pushed Laine at Daniel before turning with a smile to Dominic. Daniel envied Dominic's smooth style as he and Mandy began dancing. They looked good together and many of the surrounding dancers paused to watch them. Laine and Daniel shuffled in a slow circle alternately looking at each other and the dancers around. The two boys did not speak as Daniel waited out the minutes until the dance would end.
This is my friend, Daniel reasoned, he doesn't deserve to be snubbed. Daniel stepped in closer and held out a hand. Laine looked at it a moment before taking it. Daniel tried to remember some of the jive moves they had learned in gym that year but the first two moves were a complete disaster. When Laine twisted close Daniel heard his low voice in his ear, "You're much better in the sack than on the dance floor."
They had frozen shoulders together. "I'm glad to hear it. Go dance with Dominic." Daniel pushed Laine toward the other boy and grabbed Mandy. As the two boys began to dance together he warned Mandy, "Don't make me do that again."
"It's not sex Daniel; don't you dance with the guys in gym?"
She did not see it. It was sex to Daniel. It was not line dancing. The boys made a dirty joke of it in class to cover their embarrassment. Most dance classes were a shambles anyway. The old dances seemed pointless and the only thing that would have made them worse would have been being asked to do them with the girls. Every boy in his class except Glen Foster had failed that unit gladly. Glen did ballet and modern jazz dancing as he had happily told everyone. Glen was so into his thing he didn't realize how gay it was. Mandy settled his ruffled feathers with a slow dance. She leaned her head on his shoulder, enjoying the beat of his heart. He felt the softness of her breasts and breathed in the scent of her hair.
Two of the boys were dancing with each other. Dominic, Laine and another boy were dancing with girls. Perhaps the other boys were not really gay or perhaps they were not ready to come out. Daniel did not blame them at all. Arlo had returned to his spot on the lawn and seemed lost. Daniel noticed him first and ignored him until Mandy suggested they go over and keep him company. He hated the idea. There was a silence between them before Daniel suggested he would talk to Arlo alone.
He stopped to refill his drink. Someone had been grabbing Vodka from the bottle so he took it along with him. Mandy drifted across the lawn to speak with Arlo's mother.
Arlo watched Daniel as he worked his way around a few islands of chatting ninth-graders. He realized Daniel was coming to join him and his heart lightened. He saw him stop when two small figures intercepted him. Daniel glanced around before splashing liquor into the boy's glasses. The small figures ran commando style back to the gate as Daniel continued on. "Do you remember? The drinks we snuck at your sister's parties? Not so long ago was it?" Daniel asked when he had flopped down beside him.
"We were tight then." Arlo felt a lump. "This party is lame."
"Well all these freshies. I'm used to partying with older guys." Arlo lay back on the grass and took a pull from his beer.
"Me too, but that's us pretty soon. I remember the first party Denver took me to. I was the only ninth grader. Everyone else seemed so with it and cool."
"So you said; must be nice to start out that way." Arlo thought about his first meeting with his senior. "Quinton never bought me Chinese food."
Or found a girl to pop your cherry, thought Daniel. He had not shared that with Arlo. He wondered why, he had always told him everything. The thought of cherries made him glance at Laine and Dominic, now talking quietly on the edge of the dancing. He resented Arlo's self pity. "It wasn't all Chinese food and hot tubs." He did not have to explain that to Arlo.
"I know" Arlo sometimes dreamed that it had been him in the alley with Daniel. In his dream he protected Daniel from attack. The three seniors always raped him and the dream usually ended with an appreciative Daniel thanking him in an intimate way afterward. "Do you think we could have avoided all the shit they put us through?"
"Maybe, no, I don't know." Daniel had worried that bone for months. He could remember times when he might have saved himself if he had done things differently. Maybe if he had had a less obliging attitude at the start. They really did a snow job on you. Get along with the others, everyone has to do it, it is just part of high school. There had been times he did not know what he might have done to shield himself from the abuse. He had come out scarred, but at least he never pulled a gun on someone. He was wiser now, but he did not think he could have done better.
"It's a lame party.'' Arlo returned to his earlier theme. "With parents checking us out all night there isn't much chance for action." Arlo scanned the yard looking for a quiet corner. "This party shuts down at 1:00. What are you doing after that?"
"I'm going home to bed. I've had a long day." Daniel noticed that people were beginning to line dance. With the pressure off to dance with a partner more and more people were joining the action.
"Some friends are picking me up at 12:00. I'm going to take in another party." He caught Daniel's steady gaze. Daniel was still jealous of Donald, Arlo could tell. Daniel broke the gaze and looked off to where Laine and Dominic stood. Arlo studied his profile as Daniel watched the dancers. Arlo wanted Daniel back. They had only been together twice, but that first time; Daniel had shown he understood how to control and dominate Arlo. Arlo needed that. Donald had offered to let him come along in June when he picked up his freshie. Arlo's imagination was fired by the thought of helping a grade nine get used to being a freshie. If he was there it wouldn't be like his first time with Quinton and his friends. It would be cool like Daniel made his sound. It will be best when I have my own freshie. I'll take care of him and love him; maybe find someone who looks like Daniel or Laine. Laine's brother Nick was going to be really cute. Arlo thought it a shame Nick was a year too young.
"Come dance with me Arlo." Daniel stood up and held out his hand to give Arlo a lift. Arlo grabbed the hand and Daniel pulled him into a quick hug before they went over to join the laughing line of people. Daniel squeezed in between Simon and Mandy and she made room for Arlo. They passed the bottle of Vodka back and forth as the line shifted and twirled to the country music.
Dominic watched Laine lying on the grass. Laine lay looking at the sky with a forgotten beer on chest. Dominic picked at the grass between his legs. "That is the guy isn't it?"
Laine was thinking about a different yard on a different night. No moonlight magic for him tonight. He might as well have been back in the tree fort jacking off while the boy of his dreams lay in someone else's arms. Laughter drifted across the yard. Laine sighed, "Yes, that is him."
"He is cute." It was not a particularly helpful observation.
"Do you want to know the really stupid thing Dominic?" Laine did not wait for an answer. "I think I'm okay with all this. He is my friend see? That is what is important. I don't think he knows exactly what he wants, hell I don't know exactly what I want, but he cares about me." Laine smiled at the thought of Daniel. Sharing Daniel was better than nothing by a long shot. "Your pretty cool yourself Dominic. Sorry to dump this on you."
"You know Laine I can see this guy does like you. Do you need another beer? I think we have a few left if that guy Arlo didn't chug them all." Laine peered at the bottle on his chest. It was almost empty so he tossed it over his head into the grass. He turned his head toward Dominic. They shared a smile.
"Nope, I'm good for now."
Laine looked into the branches of the tree above his head. Perhaps there was a boy up there looking back down on him. Laine waved a lazy hand. "So he needs his girlfriend. It is a bit of a compromise see? I've been thinking about it and being with Daniel is safe for me. There is no pressure." Dominic was a good listener. It occurred to Liane that he had probably drank a little too much. "Arlo was so fucked up. Forget that, let us not talk of Arlo. Don't let me get started on the subject of Arlo." Laine paused to clear his head. "The thing is, Daniel is so sweet and he is like fine tempered steel man. You should get to know him Dominic." Laine sighed again. "No commitments... only sometimes when we are together I think it would be safe if we were something more... it feels good with him."
"I think I told you I was going to be an asshole" Daniel dropped to the grass beside Laine. Laine lifted his head and looked around for Dominic. "He is over getting a drink or something. He seems nice."
"I seem to attract good looking guys who are still in the closet." Daniel took the complement without comment. "Hey" he added softly.
"Hey" Daniel echoed back. Daniel's face was close to his. They were lying close enough for Laine to brush Daniel's hip with the back of his hand. "I'm sorry"
"Enough with the sorry's already Daniel. We have been through this right?" Laine wished he could kiss Daniel. "You so do it for me Daniel."
Daniel glanced around the busy yard. The scattered clumps of people sat in a multitude of poses. There were none to concern themselves with two boys on the grass. Daniel planted a very brief peck on Laine's lips before sitting up. "Come and dance with us."
"So Mandy sent you over to get me?" Laine frowned slightly. "I suppose she wants me to slow dance with Arlo."
Daniel stood and offered Laine a hand. "For Arlo she has to make me go. For you, I come for myself. Get up guy, its a party." Laine took Daniel's hand and when he was on his feet he allowed Daniel to pull him into a safe guy-hug.
At 11:30 Daniel's mom phoned to say Ms. Cole would be picking them up. He sat hand twined in Mandy's listening to her excited stream of conversation. He could not follow any of it. The girls seemed to be talking about next year's freshies. Trading names and making predictions about how the year would go for them. He had not thought about old friends from elementary school. As soon as school had started he had felt half way around the world from them. What could he tell them? He had tried to prepare Arlo and it had turned into a mess. No point sharing his horrible experiences with them.
Right boys, watch out for the bathrooms. They like to catch you there. Nothing to worry about, just the usual faggy stuff like French kissing and blow jobs; just practice it over the summer with a friend. Who knows, he might fall in love with you. It's better than getting shit rubbed on your face or having your head pushed into a dirty toilet. Hold your temper boys; otherwise you'll get beat up. Not much point in practicing buggery boys, when they rape you, you won't be ready for it anyway. Couple of stitches in the old bung hole and you will be good as new.
Mandy's conversation and his guilt about Laine took the glow off the party. Daniel squeezed her hand and went off to find the bathroom. There was a cue at the guest house so he headed off to the back corner of the yard where a line of boys were relieving themselves on the bushes. Nobody seemed to be stopping them. He ended up next to Simon. He did not say anything while he dug it out and let his stream play across the already dampened leaves. While he was shaking himself off Simon turned slightly toward him. "So how the fuck are you going to wash your hands now Daniel?"
"Woops!" Daniel replied and they leaned against each other giggling. "Got anything left?"
"No man, I just pissed the last of it away."
"Me too" They stood fumbling with their zippers. "Haven't talked to you tonight; how's it hanging man?"
"Lot's of girls to get to know; thought I knew them all by now."
"Still a week of school and three years after that"
"Sure enough" Simon turned to go. He paused a moment and smiled at Daniel, "Emancipation day Daniel, free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last." Daniel felt suddenly sober.
"Are we?" Simon looked back hesitantly, caught off guard.
"God Daniel it's a party, do I have to think about that shit now? Bro she got to you didn't she? You bought her line and you are going to keep the Denver Hawk crusade alive and limping along. What's it going to be boy, Murrell's Marauders?" Daniel laughed at that. Simon was right, this was not the time.
"No, I think I'll just work my way through the whole girl's locker room next year; be a player like you." Simon gave him a punch.
"No way man, you are married." The smile dropped from his lips instantly and Daniel sensed the mood change as Simon's eyes focused past his shoulder.
"Hey Daniel, look my cock is out, feel like a midnight snack?"
"You are such a dick Chris." Simon pulled at Daniel's arm to get him to join him. Daniel did not need the encouragement. Chris was not going to exist for him anymore.
"Word is your girl friend can suck the chrome off of a trailer hitch. You're lucky she..." Chris did not get to finish his thought. Daniel had turned on his heal and before Simon could stop him he drilled Chris right in the mouth. Chris stumbled back into the wet bushes and collapsed. Daniel stood his ground as Chris struggled to regain his feet, blood smearing his chin.
"You don't disrespect my girlfriend Chris." Daniel was shaking with fury.
"You fucking fag" Chris head butted Daniel pushing him back into the lawn. Daniel fell back before flipping over a group of girls on the lawn. The girls scattered as he rolled back to his feet.
"Walk away!" Simon yelled at Chris or Daniel. Daniel could not be sure as he watched Chris to see what he would do next. He stood his ground as Chris fainted at him then fell back. Simon was right. There was no point in fighting.
"Don't talk to me again Chris." Daniel pointed a finger at him before turning to go back to Mandy. Simon watched Chris for a moment before turning to join him. Daniel stared apologetically at Laine who had come half way across the lawn when he saw Daniel tumble through the girls. Dominic stood a few steps behind him. Laine cried a warning just before Chris slammed into Daniel's back. Daniel fell to the ground then twisted around as Chris flailed at him with clenched fists.
"You bastard, it's your fault," Chris screamed it in a high-pitched hysteria. Daniel was not sure what he was talking about as he covered his face and pushed back at the boy on his chest. Simon and Laine pulled Chris off and he collapsed on the grass just about the time the parents reached them.
"I think it's time for you boys to go home." Someone hauled Daniel to his feet and he shook the person's hand off his shoulder.
"I'm fine, it's okay." He saw Mandy watching. She would be mad at him for fighting now. Daniel cursed himself helplessly.
"No son it's not okay. Just come into the house and we will call your folks." Daniel turned away and headed for the gate. The man did not try to stop him as he crossed the lawn. Mandy sighed with frustration as she watched Daniel stalk through the crowd of partygoers. Laine started to follow him but she caught his arm "Its okay Laine, I can handle him, thanks." Laine looked back at her stubbornly until Simon stepped between them and lightly punched Laine's shoulder to get his attention.
"Chill Laine, its fine." Laine nodded his head reluctantly and turned back to where Dominic waited for him. Simon sighed with relief and turned back to Mandy. "Don't be hard on him Mandy, Chris really set him off."
"What did Chris say Simon?"
"It's not important. Daniel really loves you Mandy."
There was something Simon was hiding and the mystery bothered Mandy. Mandy turned and looked at Chris standing next to the parent. Another boy came up and patted him on the back but Chris shrugged him off with an angry gesture. Mandy recognized him instantly as the boy she had been forced to take and her heart sank. Boys could be such bastards with their story-telling. She turned back and gave Simon a quick hug before moving after Daniel. Daniel had left the yard and she needed to find him. Her boyfriend had a head start and she worried he would vanish.
Daniel had not gone far. He was leaning against the wall in the shadows as if he was waiting for her. She came slowly to him and he wrapped her in his arms. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." He whispered into her hair.
"Its okay, its okay" she whispered back. They stood together in the dark as the sounds of the party resumed behind them. After a time they turned and walked hand in hand out into the night, Adam and Wesley watched them from the shadows next to the gate.
Murrell's Marauders, Sunday, June 5th
"Sweat it out Daniel, you will feel better."
"I'm going to hurl in a minute."
"That's good too."
"How can you smoke a fucking cigarette?" Daniel bent over next to the water fountain and rested his hands on his knees while his stomach rebelled. Simon sucked on a fresh cigarette and leaned against a bench. The park was full of Sunday picnics, chattering children and the distant sounds of traffic and the crowded pool. A light breeze rustled the leaves and carried the rich aroma of grilled chicken and beef. The afternoon's summer celebration was lost on Daniel. His head was pounding and the only moisture in his mouth was bile. Simon waited patiently until Daniel straightened. "Right, let's keep going." Simon took a long drag and silently expelled the smoke through his nose as he considered his friend with a critical eye. "No wait" Daniel remarked and violently emptied the last of the vodka and seven onto the grass along the bike trail. Simon ignored the snort of disgust from a passing couple and dropped his cigarette on the pavement. Daniel moved back to the water fountain and swallowed the arch of water, leaning on the pedestal for support.
"That's right, out with the bad, in with the good." Daniel paused to spit water out and lay his head on the arm that lovingly caressed the cement pedestal.
"Jesus Christ Simon, just fuck off" he finally gasped. He buried his face in the thin stream of water, drenching his sweat-soaked hair before taking a final lap. He turned without further comment and began running down the trail. Simon crushed the wisp of smoke near his foot, took a long pull from the fountain and then headed after him. They had only been running a short time but Daniel's t-shirt was soaked with sweat and his sweat pants clung to his legs. Simon had pulled his pants off and wrapped them around his waist. The air felt good against his legs. He loved running. The lighter slapped against his leg and helped distract him from the throbbing in his temples. He knew he should quit smoking soon. Simon judged Daniel was feeling better. His friend had picked up his pace and he looked like he had finally found his rhythm. Simon pushed himself and closed the distance. The boys jogged on in companionable pain-filled silence drifting apart occasionally to make way for other pedestrians.
Simon followed Daniel's lead and turned away from the groomed grass to follow the trail toward the woods along the bank. As the arch of green closed in above them Daniel slowed to a walk. Simon jogged ahead for a few paces and then gratefully joined him. They walked alone with their thoughts. Daniel stopped abruptly and stripped his t-shirt off. He used it to wipe himself down and then glanced at Simon with a distracted look. "Mandy says I drink too much" he suddenly confessed.
"What, did she give you a hard time about last night?"
"No she was cool" Daniel scrutinized Simon's face "Did you tell her anything?"
"No" Mandy was smart; she had seen something that upset her after Daniel had left. Simon guessed she had figured it out. Girls got upset when you talked about them. Simon would have to watch that in the future. Simon stepped back to let a bike pass. "Don't let it get to you." They were done with it now. Bury the past, Simon wanted to tell his friend. It was rough, but you made it. We made it.
Daniel's face seemed to struggle with something. He brushed the damp bangs off his forehead and grinned at Simon. "It felt good though"
"Drifting Chris" Daniel began walking down the trail and Simon fell into step. Daniel valued Simon's humor and strength. Simon had been there for him. Daniel realized how much things had changed since the lunch room at 7th Avenue School. They had tried so hard to be like each other back then. If you made a misstep and went your own way you quickly covered it and moved back into the group. His friends could not be more different than each other now. He counted fewer friends too. He wanted to tell Simon he was glad they were friends. "Man you should have dreadlocks under that toque."
"I am I man" Simon replied in a voice eerily like Eddie's. Simon flung a glance at a pair of women moving past them.
Daniel chuckled. As Simon watched him the smile dropped from his lips and he became momentarily serious. "Don't go psycho on me, but I want to give you my school jacket." The offer surprised Simon.
"Its too hot today man"
"No seriously, Denver gave me his jacket." Daniel continued in a rush conscious of Simon's sensitivity about money "He got it in grade ten from a friend who was graduating and he decided to pass it on to me. He says they are too frigging expensive to buy and he knows he isn't going to wear it now." As they had been washing each other off in kitchen Denver had commented there was nothing more pathetic than an ex-jock hitting the bars in his high school jacket. Daniel checked Simon's reaction.
"Thanks for the offer" Simon was touched "Dad just bought me one." Simon's dad had given up on the dream of an athletic son. When Simon made the cross country team in the spring he had fallen all over his youngest son with joy, enthusiasm and an atypical shower of money for decent shoes and then the jacket.
"Why you sneaky little jock you, you're coming out of the closet now?" Simon blushed.
"Yes, well Bo and Nathan want us to be twins" Simon had been shy about wearing the coat around school. It had never been his style. "I like that, passing the coat down, that's a cool idea. Thanks for asking me if I wanted it. Would you mind giving it to Laine? He would really like it and his `rents will never buy him one." They walked in silence while Daniel digested the idea.
"I don't know, we aren't really good friends, it might seem strange if I suddenly gave him something." Simon stopped and touched Daniel's arm to get his attention.
"Chill Daniel, I'll just tell people it was my idea, so everyone on the team has one when we go to our last Meet this week."
"What do you mean?" Daniel looked at him uncertainly. Simon met his eyes and answered softly.
"It's okay Daniel. It's what I do man. I notice things, find things out, dig around and listen."
Daniel didn't flinch from his stare. Dig up the dirt, Daniel thought. No not that. Simon had stood his ground in the mall parking lot, he was the one who fought beside him in the bathroom and had found Melissa when Daniel's life was collapsing. Last night he had his back with Chris.
Simon seemed to read his thoughts, "I have your back gay-boy."
They stared at each other while Daniel struggled with his fear. Finally Daniel let the tension ease. He had to face this sometime. If he was going to be himself others would eventually know. The worry about how each person would react would always be with him now like his lingering hangover, but now he could push it aside when he was with Simon. The caution drained from Daniel's face and it was replaced by admiration and gratitude for his scrappy friend.
Daniel stood before him fingering his damp t-shirt uncertainly. Simon studied the subtle play of emotions shifting across Daniel's face. Simon knew Daniel thought he was being discrete but the byplay between the two boys was increasingly obvious to Simon. Daniel kissing Laine in the middle of the lawn, how drunk were they? He knew it was a hard moment for Daniel to face and he wished his friend would trust him more. Daniel finally rewarded him with a smile.
"Its bi-boy. " Daniel turned and suddenly started running again. "Watch my back for a while." Simon took off after him and closed the distance.
"I may have your back, but Laine probably has your ass."
They ran along the trail, their pain and suffering forgotten. The afternoon was glorious and it whispered the freedom of summer. Daniel darted across Simon's path with a quick "follow me." The pair ran down a track toward the river. Simon recognized it and let Daniel lead him to the small clearing by the bank. They heard the voices before they saw them. They stopped and quietly stood watching the three boys on the narrow sand bank.
"That water must be frigging cold."
"Yes it is, but I need to cool off." Daniel dropped his shirt and Simon watched as he yanked off his cross trainers and sweats. Simon sat down as Daniel picked his way to the rushing water. The river had been rising quickly for days.
"You must be crazy."
"It will kill the hangover."
"It will freeze your nads off."
"Pussy" Daniel splashed into the water and the three boys suddenly noticed they were not alone. They turned to look at the older boys with wary expressions and then relaxed. Simon watched as Daniel flopped into the shallow water face first. After a moment he rolled over and lay on his back looking back at Simon on the bank. Simon sighed and decided he was hot enough to join him. The water was cold as it rushed by his legs.
"Fuck oh fuck oh fuck"
"It's not that bad" Daniel laughed as Simon gingerly splashed water on his face and neck. Daniel splashed him and he retreated to the shore line quickly. They had ignored the three boys until one of them called out a greeting. Daniel turned away from Simon and called back.
"Do we know those guys?" Simon asked from the safety of the grass. Daniel stood up and waded back toward him. The water was cold, but his hangover was finally gone. He glanced back at the boys and noticed they were moving back up the sand bank in their direction.
"Um, Ravi Yazdani and Martin Cruz" He sat beside Simon, "I don't know the other kid. Ravi and Marty are going to be freshmen, joined at the hip, their parents work at the university or something." Daniel appraised the third boy, nice. Marty and Ravi were still draped in baggy t-shirts, but the third boy had dropped his along the sand bar next to a pile of shoes. He looked like he had been swimming because his hair was swept back and his shorts were still weighted down by the water. Daniel admired him idly as he bent to retrieve his shirt.
God were we that fresh, Simon thought to himself. He vaguely remembered the boys. He had had little to do with the younger grades. Ravi looked like the kind of chubby nerd who was going to catch hell. The other two looked like they might be faster on their feet. The three boys stopped at the edge of the sandbar and they all looked across the narrow gap of water. "Hey Daniel, how's it going?"
"Same old same old, yourself?"
Ravi shrugged quickly.
Daniel flicked his eyes over the stranger and found the boy staring back "Just about summer hey?" Ravi nodded agreement. Daniel was at a loss for words. There was a gulf between them now and Daniel was not inclined to bridge it.
"Next year in high school together, that'll be rad. Picture day was Friday, what a bunch of fucking assholes." The two ninth graders did not respond. Marty folded his arms and frowned slightly. "I wish I knew who my senior was going to be. It better not be one of the pricks who took pictures." The three boys paused and waited hopefully for a reply from the older boys. Daniel remembered how precious each scrap of information could be. He wanted to move on and leave the boys to their futile speculations. He felt Simon stir beside him and he knew his friend felt the same way. "Hey, this is Neil Lundgren. Neil this is Daniel and ..."
"Simon" Daniel finished for him. He felt sorry for the boys "Yeskem, Denver"
"What?" Ravi looked confused for a minute.
"Do you know the web site?"
"Mark's a friend" Daniel spelled the user name out for the boys and repeated Mark's password. Daniel caught Neil's eye again and unconsciously shifted his position next to Simon.
"This is just what I don't want to watch, you getting gay-squirrelly on me." Simon murmured beside him. "Stop ogling the virgin."
"Like you haven't started a data base of your own." Daniel murmured back out of the side of his mouth. Simon had tried the site in Daniel's room while Daniel was dragging himself out of bed.
"I'm not the one who is married, cheating on his wife and planning to two-time his boyfriend. Jeez and you call me a player."
"Do you see a wedding ring?" Daniel raised his voice and called over to the boys as he started to rise "See you guys around."
Simon started to join him when things became more complicated. They glanced at each other as they heard new voices drifting down the trail. Moments later Donald, Arlo and a smaller boy broke through brush and came to a halt when they saw the two ninth graders. Donald was swinging a home-made paddle loosely in his hand. Donald dismissed Simon and Daniel with a hostile look and turned his attention to the three boys on the sandbar. Arlo ignored Simon and smiled at Daniel.
"You, skater-boy, get over here. You're first."
Simon nudged Daniel, this was all too familiar and he did not need to see it again. He did not get Arlo's interest, but then he did not have the time of day for the fag and the evil looks he shot at Simon every time he stumbled across Simon and Daniel together. Simon realized that Daniel had not moved and cursed to himself.
"You're early. It's not Freshie Day." Daniel crossed his arms and stood between Donald and the boys on the sand bar.
"What's it to you?"
"You're ruining my day. Just take that paddle and go somewhere else. You can beat each other with it, or better yet shove it up your ass." Daniel was not sure why he was doing it. He did not need the aggravation and the possible consequences frightened him.
"Piss off freak; aren't you tired of getting the shit kicked out of you?" Donald stepped a little closer to Daniel. "You want I should paddle you too?"
Simon joined Daniel. "What? So you can cream yourself? What, you think your tough? Daniel and I have had better men than you try to beat us down. Why don't the three of you fags just go back up the trail and beat off where I can't see or hear you. "
It might have been funny watching the little fifteen-year old with the woolen cap smashed down around his wild hair and the sweat pants flapping around his waist. The humor was lost on the circle of boys. The older boy seemed to consider the situation for a minute, perhaps weighing the odds. Finally Donald seemed to make up his mind. He pulled the paddle back quickly and aimed a smashing blow to Daniel's shoulder. At the last moment he checked his stroke and finished with a light tap and laughed as if the joke was vastly funny. He turned away and led the other two back up the trail with a final warning to the three boys that he would see them later.
Daniel and Simon watched them go and then Daniel sank back onto the grass. Simon watched him rest his arms and head on his knees. They were both shaken by the moment. Simon reached for his pack and lit a cigarette before sitting next to his friend. "Good times" he commented absently before taking a long drag. Daniel reached over and took the cigarette from Simon's mouth. He lifted it to his lips with a hand that would not stop shaking. Simon watched him as he pulled at the cigarette and seemed to gaze across the river.
Good times; yes there had been some. Daniel could see Colin's house on the high bluff. Multicolored lipstic staining his underwear. It had been easier to throw them away. What were those three girl's names? He had forgotten, but Raina was a friend still. Past Colin's house Daniel followed the park in his mind to Denver's house and closer he could see the bridge where he had stood mid winter and confronted his feelings about Denver. Good times; yes and here by the river bank where Simon and he had stood together twice now: if you cannot make the times good, you can try to make them right. Daniel took another drag at the cigarette, not liking it, but needing it. He studied the glowing ember and watched the tremor in his hand. "A man can stand up" he whispered to himself.
"Rab died standing up."
"Why Two-bit you literary scholar you" Daniel replied mildly. He took another drag and then crushed the butt into the grass between them. Simon picked up the smoldering butt and flicked it into the nearby water.
"Johnny crisped his ass in the church saving the Sunday school class." Simon reminded Daniel. They both looked at the three boys on the sand bar. Marty and Ravi were having some kind of argument and the other, Neil, stood watching the two ninth graders. Daniel stared back at Neil for a moment.
"But they stood up" he sighed heavily "Let's take off." He got to his feet and held out a hand. Simon let Daniel pull him up. They started up the trail without another word to the three boys. "God I don't know how you can suck on those things."
Simon glanced back at the blond haired boy on the sandbar for a moment, "Funny you should say that, I was thinking the same thing."
"They're following us."
"Yes, I figured they would." There was a definite ring of resignation in Daniel tone.
"Next time we rescue some chicks, deal?"
"I think Neil is checking out your ass." Simon added.
"I can only hope."
(to be continued)
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