By Mark Peters & dabeagle
A collaboration by
Dabeagle and Mark Peters
~ Chapter One ~
Here it is, six thirty p.m. and I'm just walking in the door. The traffic was a bitch, and tonight of all nights!
"Hi, babe," he said to me, looking up from the newspaper he was reading and smiling at me, as only he can.
I walked over and kissed him briefly on the forehead and said, "Darn traffic," then after pulling my coat off and hanging it in the closet I sat down beside him on the sofa.
"Don't make yourself too comfortable there, handsome," he said, folding the newspaper and sitting it on his lap, "we're going out!"
"What? Tonight?" I said, rather incredulously. "But....."
"Ssshh. No buts," he replied, cutting me short, while putting his arm around my waist and pulling me to him. "We're being taken out to dinner by the whole gang. It's their treat, seeing as we made it to the end of year one and none of them reckoned we would get this far. Now they're all excited about it."
I have to admit this came as more than a surprise, knowing our friends as I do, and considering that it meant a change in the plans that I had been thinking about all day, but it was a welcome surprise, nonetheless.
"Who would have thought it, huh? A whole year that we've been together. Man, hasn't it flown?"
"Yeah, it sure has. And it's been the best year of my life."
"Mine too," he replied, leaning over and kissing me full on the lips.
"OK, I need a shower first," lifting an arm and taking a quick sniff of myself.
"That makes two of us," he said, with a wicked grin adorning his beautiful face, then jumped to his feet and held his hand out for me, which I graciously took and was soon dragged to my feet as well.
* * *
Cynthia met us at the door of the restaurant, looking more dazzling than ever, greeting us both with a kiss. She was no longer the dorky teenager we had gone to high school with, she was an attractive young woman, and even I had to admit that.
"So... did Chad give you any trouble, Lover-boy?" she asked, speaking to my companion, while jerking her head in my general direction.
"Nah, he was a pussy cat," he answered.
"That's not what you said in the shower," I said to him, which caused him to blush.
"Hold it right there, boys," Cynthia said, holding both of her hands up in front of her. "I don't need to know any more than that. Come on, let's get inside. Most of the gang are here already."
As we passed her and headed in through the doors of the restaurant, Cyn looked at her watch, then looked back toward the doors through which we had just come.
"What's up?" I asked, holding the next door open for her.
"He's late," she replied, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. "He promised he'd be here."
"Who?" I asked.
She didn't answer me. She just smiled and ushered me through the doorway, where we soon found the rest of our circle of friends seated around a table, with half-filled glasses and open wine bottles sitting in front of them.
They all greeted us warmly, with hugs and kisses all around, and glasses of wine were soon thrust into our hands.
"I hope you guys haven't been waiting too long?" I asked them, after surveying the beginnings of their party.
"Darn guests of honor are always running late," one wise-ass offered, and subsequently received a light hearted belt up the side of the head from Cynthia for his troubles.
"Geez... what kept you guys?" someone else said.
"We thought you'd never make it," said another.
"Sorry, the traffic was a bitch," I answered.
"Well, sit down then," Cyn ordered. "Let's get this party started.
Over drinks and nibblies we caught up with our old school friends, some of whom we hadn't seen in quite a while, and swapped jokes and stories and memories.
After a while I said, "OK, I only want to know one thing though... who won the bet?"
Suddenly the table went silent and all eyes turned my way.
"Well?" I asked.
"Errrrr..... what bet?" someone meekly asked.
"The one about the two of us making it to tonight... or not! You know... a whole year!" I replied, with as deadpan a delivery as I could give.
The two of us had laughed about it from the moment we first heard of it. We don't know if it had been Brian, or Keith, or Ed, or Cynthia, or just who that had dreamt it up not long after we had moved in together, but it certainly didn't worry us. Apparently they had all put fifty dollars into the pot, and nominated how long we would last together, with the last one standing getting to claim the prize.
"Well?" I asked again.
Finally it was Cynthia who broke out in a broad grin. "I guess that would be me," she answered, "at least I had some faith in you guys!"
I raised my glass to her and said, "Thanks, dahlin'. But do we get to find out how long everyone else reckoned we would last?"
"It's probably better you don't know," she answered.
"Try me," I replied, and so, one by one we went around the table and they told us what they thought of our relationship.
"What? Only one month? Oh ye of little faith!" I said to someone I thought I knew better than that.
He just laughed. And so did everyone else.
* * *
The 'clink' of crystal glasses, filled with fine wines, is a lovely sound, but one that I don't hear often enough, I feel.
I guess that's because occasions such as this just don't happen often enough amongst our circle of friends. But when we do find ourselves together like this, enjoying each other's company, celebrating some milestone or another, it just goes to remind me what it is that I have. And what it is that I have to be thankful for.
As I looked around the table at the smiling faces of my friends, and my partner, I realized that these guys have always been there for me.
My only hope is that they always will.
"I would like to propose a toast," Cynthia said, raising her glass into the air in front of her. "Here's to Chad and Lover-boy... and may this anniversary be the first of many more to come."
"Here, here," everyone chorused.
"And now it's my turn," I said, raising my glass. "Here's to friendship."
* * *
"So... how did you two get together exactly?" Rick Mitchell asked us over dinner.
He was a detective, and he was Cynthia's new boyfriend. He hadn't been on the scene for long, but he seemed an alright kind of guy. I liked him, and I liked that he didn't have any hangups about two guys living together, unlike a few of Cynthia's other tryouts.
"Do you really want to know?" I asked him, while noticing Cyn roll her eyes towards the ceiling as if to say 'here we go again.'
"Of course," he replied. "We have all night, don't we?"
"You'll need more time than that," I heard someone say in jest from the far end of the table.
Rick flashed a smile at them and then said to me, "Well, are you going to tell, or not?"
So I took a deep breath and started at the beginning. My sixteenth birthday.
"You'll be late, get up!" my father nagged from the door as he headed back into the hallway, knotting his tie. Mutterings could be heard in the hall as my mother tried to straighten my father's tie, which is a Herculean task because it seems as though he is always tugging at it and jostling it out of place.
"Sweetie?" my mother's voice filtered through the covers. "Honey, get up, we have to get going soon and you'll want to eat first, right?" My mother went back into the hallway, nattering as she went.
"Come on, jackoff, get out of bed," my younger brother's voice carried across the room and the sound of running feet could be heard. Suddenly there was a huge weight on my stomach and I couldn't breathe, the wind having been knocked out of me.
"Get off, you asshole!" I spluttered in between gasps for breath.
He just laughed like the maniacal little asshole he is and ran from the room.
"Mom! Sean was in my room again!" I called out as I disentangled myself from my covers.
"Was not, he's a big, fat, hairy liar!" Sean screamed as he pounded down the stairs.
"Could you two try and get along today? I really don't want to listen to this all day!" my mother fussed as she passed by my door again "Well, at least you're awake, hop in the shower for goodness' sake and do something with your hair!"
I placed my bare feet on the hardwood floor of my room, clad in my tee shirt and boxer briefs, and slowly stood into a stretch. Today I turned sixteen and it also happened to be the day my brother was coming home on leave from the Navy. My brother, the one that has made my life hell for as long as I can remember, is coming home for the first time in two years. I am so looking forward to it.
I walked to the shelving that was built into the wall of my room and extracted a fresh towel, having sent mine down the laundry chute yesterday, and proceeded to the bathroom. I was the last to reach the bathroom this morning, Sean having been up to jerk off at the crack of dawn, I am sure, so at least there is no line.
After showering and 'doing something with my hair' as my mother requested, I went back to my room clad in my towel and looked qt myself appraisingly in the mirror. I was fat, no two ways about it, bubbled at the belly and I can't say I see any definition to my chest. I brushed my long chestnut hair off my brow and studied my face. Yup, terminally uninspiring.
I headed for the dresser and retrieved fresh underwear and socks, suddenly feeling a breeze as my towel disappeared. I whirled in anger and my brother snapped the towel...hitting me in the balls.
"You little FREAK! Get the fuck OUT of HERE!" I howled in pain and humiliation.
"I don't want to hear that language!" my mother called out and my brother beat a hasty retreat from the room, stifling his laughter as I slammed the door shut in embarrassment and anger.
"Little asshole, Jesus, he must be a free ticket to heaven," I thought aloud as I checked my nut sack out to be sure there wasn't any damage beyond the fading sting and ache that accompanies having that area hit. My little brother is the anti-Christ, somewhere there is a tattoo with that famous, or infamous, 666 on it. Probably on his ass.
I pulled on my underwear, albeit a little gingerly, and then sat on my bed to attend to my socks. I pulled out some jeans, my favorite garb, and a long sleeved tee shirt before heading downstairs for some breakfast. Sean raced out the front door, no doubt on his way to school, and I walked into the kitchen to find the mess the little asshole had left. My mother's heels clacked into the kitchen, ticktacking as she went, and my father trailed behind her with his coffee cup, setting it in the sink.
"OK, we are heading to the airport, have a good day at school, honey," my mother said, "and clean this mess up, please," and then they were gone.
* * * * *
"What do you mean, they forgot?" Cynthia asked, stopping her pencil in mid word to yet another love letter to her current boyfriend, and stared at me.
"They walked out and nobody said a frigging word, just 'have a nice day at school, honey', and they were gone," I replied morosely.
"How do you forget your kid's birthday? You're not even related to me and I didn't forget!" she sighed as she finished writing down her undying devotion to her flavor of the week.
I just sat in our homeroom class, totally unhappy with the world in general at the moment.
"Hey, how's everything?" asked Brian Kennedy, a buddy of mine, before taking a seat next to us.
"His 'rents forgot his birthday," Cynthia announced while not breaking her stride in her diatribe to whomever.
I simply nodded glumly.
"Happy Birthday anyways," Brian said, handing me a card. I brightened visibly over this, happy at least my friends didn't forget me
"Movie passes, cool, thanks, Bri," I said, grinning at him.
"No problem, Bro, maybe we can take in 'Star Wars - The Phantom Menace' this weekend, huh?" he said as he leaned back in his chair.
"Sounds like a plan. So, who's the guy this week?" I asked, nudging Cynthia.
"Stan and I have been dating from three weeks, you wanna give it a rest?" she eyed me evilly, "Besides, I got you something too," and so saying, produced a small package from her bag. I felt a little silly, but what the hell, she got me good for once.
I took the package and unwrapped it to find a fine gold necklace wrapped in tissue paper.
"Cyn, wow, you really shouldn't have," I breathed.
"I know, especially with your cracks about my dating habits. Besides, I think Stan is leaning your direction more than mine," she muttered and I froze midway to placing the chain around my neck.
"Cynthia, I thought we weren't supposed to talk about that in public?" Brian asked softly.
"What? It's just us, who's going to hear? Besides, if no one has figured out that good old all- American Chad, here, has had a crush for the last four years on..." she was cut off by Brian.
"Who's gonna hear? Like the whole cafeteria!" he hissed.
I came out to my friends one night over a lot of alcohol, and Brian confessed to it as well, which left Cynthia the lone straight in our triad. Unfortunately, Brian and I really weren't attracted to one another so no match made in heaven there, although it did make our relationship much closer. Gradually Cyn had been pulled into our web and she was a certified fag hag now, though you dare not mention hag around her or she'd probably belt you.
"He's probably just not ready for an aggressive female like yourself," I said as I placed the necklace around the back of my head and latched it, initially feeling the cold as it settled onto my skin.
"He's turning into a wuss," she grumped before looking at me, "Looks nice, you sure you don't want to change sides?" and Brian giggled.
* * * * *
Brian and I walked to our first class together and sat in our usual space in the back of the room. We were chatting about my asshole parents and their forgetting my birthday in all the excitement of their golden boy returning, and neither of us liked Matt. Matt used to practice pressure points on us as kids, take our lunch money, and generally be an asshole.
That was when he walked in and I stopped in mid sentence, forgetting what I was saying. Tanned. Blond, short cropped hair. Full lips. Slim, but defined as the tight tee revealed.
That was my obsession, as Brain and Cyn liked to call him. The movements were graceful as he handed the slip to the teacher, fingers seeming to be far too delicate to actually do anything more than lift paper. He turned away from the desk and moved towards me, and my eyes tracked him as he walked. The torn jeans showing tanned legs through the artful tears in the fabric, and then as my eyes moved up the body to the face...that stopped me dead in my thoughts.
Something I will never understand is 'the face'. Let me state that plainly his face was a delight, smooth tanned skin and a petit face with high, classically beautiful cheekbones. But the face had more than one expression, and the one it held now was the one that made me squirm in my seat as if I had shit on my nose and I was waiting for someone to point it out.
The expression was one of disdain, to be sure, of being aloof and superior, and I felt as if I were shrinking under his withering gaze. I dropped my eyes to the paper in front of me, feeling my cheeks burning and the hot guilt welling like bile in the back of my throat.
There were about six kids out in our school, and for the most part they were left alone. More than a few people wondered about Thomas, better known as my obsession, but he could turn with a great deal of fury so fast...It was always a verbal confrontation, almost never physical, and his words could sting to the bone. I guess your strength was gauged in your ability to not flinch when he gave a hearty fake laugh to show what he thought of your joke, or the sour smile that accompanied something you thought as witty. In short he could knock you down with a look, and that was how I felt at the moment.
"I will never understand your fascination with him, he is so mean," Brian whispered fiercely to me.
I remained silent, there wasn't really that much to say, was there? I guess I was in love with the idea of him more than I was with him, maybe I could admit that to myself. If only he didn't look at me like that.
* * * * *
"Days like this are so depressing," Brian stated flatly as we stood in line for lunch. Out the glass doors the day announced itself as gray, soggy, and utterly somber. It matched my mood as I could do no more than focus on those few moments, that fleeting second when he made me feel so small without any word was ruining the whole day, just how did he do that? More importantly, why did he do that? Did I appear to be some potential danger, like a rabid dog?
"I wonder if he knows how small he makes people feel when he looks at them like that," I muttered distractedly.
"Who? Looking like what? What are you talking about?" Brian asked, more than a little irritated, I might add.
"Thomas," I replied.
"Oh, of course, how silly of me," he remarked sarcastically.
"Ever notice how it's always Thomas? Never Tom or Tommy, always Thomas," I said quietly.
"Yeah, all translates to asshole if you ask me, but if you have to, you can check a dictionary," Brian replied.
"Why is it this rainy weather always comes in blocks, like three or four days in a row? These huge gray clouds just roll in and park themselves like space ships," I mused.
In the drizzle formed a gray curtain outside, shapes moved like shadows in the steam rising from the parking lot. A shape I could see, Thomas striding for the door in that quick stride of his, hair matted to his skull and a look of murderous intent on his face. He was closely followed by Leo, starting tailback for the football team. Thomas paused long enough to draw the door open and Leo caught him by the arm, twisting him around violently. Thomas's shoes lost their grip on the tiled floor, sending him sprawling ungracefully. I began to move forward but Brian caught me by the arm.
"Not your business, come on," he said quietly, urging me towards the line of barely edibles we had to choose from. I shook him off and heard him swear under his breath as I moved to help Thomas stand. He was already scrambling to his feet, shoes scrabbling for purchase on the slick tiles. I reached him as he began to stand, Leo towering over him like a mountain, and I stretched my hand out to him.
"Don't touch me, motherfucker," he spat as he regained his balance and I watched as Leo's large hand clamped on Thomas's upper arm again, and he twisted with a growl of anger and Leo's nails dragged across the skin, raising it quickly into welts.
"I said get off me! I don't need your shit, if you want a boy...," and the words stopped there as Leo lashed out with ham-sized fist, landing it squarely on the side of Thomas's mouth, driving him backward into my shocked arms. Blood had begun to leak from his mouth and Leo stared hard at him, grimacing as Thomas slowly regained his footing, glaring malevolently at Leo. Leo stepped forward and leveled a finger at Thomas, he was a presence that demanded attention, and spoke softly and deliberately.
"You want to remember the last time you wanted to say that, it would be worse this time," he rumbled with the promise of murder in his eyes. Thomas stumbled a bit as he turned from Leo and headed down the hall.
"The fuck you looking at?" Leo grunted as he shoved by me.
"Well, that was fun. Makes you wonder what the hell is up there, huh?" Brian mused as he tugged me towards the back of the lunch line. I allowed myself to be pulled, all the while watching Thomas's retreating back and Leo moving after him, heading towards the locker rooms.
The rest of the day was a blur for the most part, lectures washing past me unheard and unheeded. Brian tried to cheer me up, he always does, but I was somewhere else today. We sat together in last period study hall, in the library, and Cyn was writing again, the scratch of her pencil on the paper a grounding point in reality. They forgot my birthday, Leo tried to kill Thomas, and Thomas landed in my arms. Amazing day, if you asked me, but no one did, sadly enough.
"So, should we like, egg your parents' car or something?" Cyn asked idly.
"I don't think that would jog their memories," I commented sourly.
"It would be great fun though, especially if we got some in the door lock, don't you think?" Brian mused with a cute smile on his face.
"Brian, why couldn't you be my type?" I asked with a smile.
"Because, I don't bitch enough," he commented.
"Hah!" Cynthia snorted, "You're worse than my mother!"
"Oh my god, I wonder what he wants?" Brian said to the table in general, and Cyn and I turned to see Thomas approaching. My breath caught in my throat as he got closer, still obviously damp and his lip sporting a small bump, but otherwise none the worse for wear.
"Hi, Chad, right?" he said as he came to a stop at our table.
"Um, yeah," I said, totally shocked that he even knew my name.
"Stay the fuck out of my business."
All I could do was stare at his retreating back.