W.A.R. Part Two - The Cold Winter

(2nd edition)

Chapter Eight - Snow Battle

by Jeff Wilson

We rested on top of the hill for a few minutes. The snow had stopped for the most part, but it was still very cold and we didn't want to hang out for too long. The wind had died down as well and it looked like if we hurried we might be able to have some fun in the snow when we got back to my house. As we began to start toward my house, we noticed that someone was walking toward us on the trail.

"Oh no," Brett muttered. I squinted my eyes to try to see what he was upset about. I couldn't see as far as Brett could, but I had a good idea of who he was seeing.

"It's Dustin," Brett sighed. "This isn't going to be good."

"Has he seen us?" I asked. "Maybe we could hide."

"Hey!" Dustin yelled. So much for my idea. Dustin stormed up the hill to meet us. He scowled angrily at us.

"Hey Dusty," I said.

"Don't `hey Dusty' me, jerk!" Dustin replied. "What the heck's going on? What are you doing with him?"

"Dustin, calm down," I soothed.

"Oh this is just typical. He punches you in the face and you still don't get it! What are you stupid or something?"

"Don't call him stupid!" Brett defended me.

"Shut up, Reilly!" Dustin snapped. "I wasn't talking to you."

"What's your problem with me, Dustin?" Brett asked. "You've hated me since I moved here. What did I ever do to you?"

"You know what you did, Reilly," Dustin accused. "You stole my best friend!"

Brett laughed, "You think I stole Billy from you? Wow! That's funny. Billy makes up his own mind who he wants to be with. I don't force him to hang out with me."

"You don't have to force him. You've got your fancy video games and your money. You think you're so good! I oughta punch you in the face and see how you like it!"

"I'd like to see you try it," Brett replied.

"Stop it!" I shouted. "This is stupid! You're both my friends. Why can't we just get along?"

"Because I hate him!" Dustin shouted. "I hate his fancy clothes. I hate his `I'm better than everybody because I'm rich' attitude. And I hate him for stealing you away from me! You're all I've got, Billy, and he stole you from me! Then he punched you in the mouth and you're still hanging out with him! I've been nothing but good to you and I don't even get the time of day! It's not fair!"

"So what? I can't have friends unless they get your seal of approval? Now you're just being a dick! And you wonder why I hang out with him more than you? Maybe it's because he doesn't try to tell me who my friends should be."

"Oh please! Why don't you just blow him and get it over with already!" Dustin replied.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that you can go screw yourself, Billy!" Dustin shouted. "Unless that little bastard already did. That would explain a lot."

"You asshole!!" I shouted. I tried to run at him, but in the snow I just looked ridiculous. I don't know what I planned to do to him, but it didn't matter. As soon as I was within reach, Dustin grabbed me by the coat and tossed me aside. I landed face down in the snow and slid down the embankment.

I heard the sounds of the scuffle that followed my dismissal as I tried to pick myself up out of the snow. I kept slipping and sliding further away from them, so that by the time I managed to regain my footing, the fight was over. I climbed back up the hillside and found Brett was gone. Dustin sat on a tree stump bleeding from his nose.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Your bastard friend broke my nose," Dustin explained holding his nose to try to stop the bleeding. I'd seen Dustin take all kinds of bumps and scrapes over the years, so to see him bleeding wasn't really a big deal. But the fact that the much smaller Brett was the one who had done it was shocking.

"Don't call him a bastard," I warned. "Which way did he go?" I asked.

"You're not serious are you?" Dustin asked. For a moment we stared angrily at each other. "You don't get it, do you? He's no good, Billy. He's just a rich jerk who's only going to use you until he gets bored with you. Then he'll throw you away like everything else in his life that he's bored with."

"Which way did he go?" I asked again.

"He punched you in the face. Why do you care so much about him?" Dustin said.

"Dustin!" I insisted.

He pointed toward Brett's house. I started to leave.

"So you're just going to leave me here bleeding?" Dustin asked.

"You started it," I replied. "And you were being a total jerk, calling us queers and everything. If that's the way you're going to act, then I don't want to be your friend anymore." I turned to leave again.

"Billy, wait!" Dustin cried. "I'm sorry! You know I didn't mean it! Please don't leave me all alone! I'm sorry!"

I walked back to him and stood in front of him. I leaned close to him and asked, "If you didn't mean it, then why did you say it?"

"I shouldn't have said that. I know you're not gay. It's just like you shouldn't have said what you said last night about Reilly being a bastard. You didn't mean what you said, either. It's just not fair! I've never been mean to you, not even just once! You're the only friend I've got, but you don't even care. I need you! But you just want to hang out with Reilly. I was your friend first! I love you more than he does! He just uses you because he's bored! It's not fair!" Dustin's face was as red as his hair, and then he started to cry. It was painful to watch. I liked Dustin. I really did! I didn't want to hurt him.

"Aww, come on... Please don't cry, Dustin," I soothed. "I didn't mean it when I said I didn't want to be your friend. You know I love you. We've known each other since we were born. You'll always be my friend. Please don't cry."

Dustin wiped his eyes and sniffled.

"But Brett's my friend too. And you guys have never gotten along. I feel like you're both pulling me apart and I hate it. I only played baseball because I wanted to be with you. I try to do stuff with both of you together, but you guys just end up fighting. I don't mean to leave you out and you know I love you. Why can't I love him too?"

Dustin stood up and wiped his bloody nose on his glove. "Whatever," he said coldly. "It's stupid. We sound like stupid queers talking about love. Don't ever say I didn't warn you. That kid is a spoiled little brat, you'll see. As soon as he loses interest he'll drop you and move on to someone else. Look at me, crying over stupid crap. I don't care what you guys do anymore. You hear me? I don't care! Just go find him and do whatever. Go blow each other if it makes you happy. I don't care. Just don't expect me to be waiting around for you to realize what a jerk he is. You'll see. You hear me? I'm through with you Billy. See you at school."

"Don't say that... We'll hang out before school starts up again," I replied.

"Whatever," Dustin said. "I don't care what you do. I'm tired of this crap. You hear me? I'm not going to wait around for you anymore. Goodbye, Billy."

"Dustin..." I called. But he didn't reply. He walked slowly down the hill toward his house. I felt sick about what I'd done to him. Maybe I had taken his always being around for granted. I didn't want to lose him as a friend. Dustin had always been there for me, but had I been there for him? I hated the way everything had turned out. But I turned my attention to finding Brett.

I ran toward his house the way Dustin had pointed, but I didn't see any sign of Brett. Then it occurred to me that maybe Dustin had been confused after being punched and that Brett hadn't gone that way. So I began backtracking toward the top of the hill. The snow was beginning to fall again and it was starting to get dark. I was worried that I wouldn't find Brett at all. But then I noticed a set of tracks had left the path and had gone in the direction of Palmer Park about halfway down the hill. I slapped myself in the forehead. I could have simply followed the footprints in the snow and saved myself a hike.

I followed the tracks through the woods and emerged near the ball field where I'd spent many a sweltering summer afternoon. The field was barren now, covered with an untouched blanket of white. Only the dugouts and the fences gave any indication that there was an athletic field buried under the snow. Brett's footprints were beginning to disappear beneath the fresh snow that was starting to fall, but I didn't need to see them anymore. In the distance, by the pond I could see Brett was sitting on the bench. It was the very same bench where grandma had sat and fed the ducks. Of course, there were no ducks now. They had gone further south for the winter. As I approached, he didn't turn to see who was walking toward him. He simply stared out over the water. A thin layer of ice was beginning to form near the shore of the pond, but for the most part, it was not yet frozen over. It would take a few more days of freezing temperatures to freeze the whole pond.

I stood behind him by the tree for a minute or so, sort of collecting my thoughts. I was tired from running around trying to find him, and I was worn out from the events of the past few hours and days. Once I'd gathered my strength, I sat next to him on the bench. For a long while, neither of us said anything. We just sat there looking out over the water. Brett had a dark purple bruise under his left eye from Dustin's punch. The park was empty except for us, not even a squirrel could be seen, and they were usually everywhere in the park. Brett sniffled and wiped his nose on the back of his sleeve.

"I'm sorry," I finally spoke.

"Don't be. I'm the one who's sorry," Brett replied, his voice choked by emotion. He was trying very hard to keep himself together, and not succeeding.

"You gave Dustin a bloody nose," I said.

"I know," Brett said hoarsely. "I didn't mean to. But he pushed you down the hill and I just got so angry. I wanted to kill him. I'm so sorry."

"Well, he deserved it," I suggested.

"No he didn't..." Brett's voice wavered. "He didn't deserve it. All he wanted to do was be your friend." His voice cracked as he struggled to control himself. "I don't know what's wrong with me, Billy. I'm so fucked up."

"You're just upset. You heard what he said about us. He hit you too, you know. You've got a black eye."

"That doesn't matter!" Brett said, a tear escaping down his cheek. "I hit him first. I deserved it after everything I've done. I have been a jerk. I don't know why you are even still my friend after everything I've done."

"I'll always be your friend," I replied.

"You don't know that. Dustin's right, you know. I did steal you from him. I know he's jealous of me because my mom's got it better than his family. But I was jealous of him too. I was jealous because you were his best friend. I was just the new kid. But you were the first kid I met here and you were so nice to me and I just wanted to be your friend so much!"

"But that doesn't mean you stole me from him, Brett. It's my decision to spend more time with you than him. That's not your fault. I'm the one who chose to spend more time with you."

"You shouldn't have had to choose, Billy!" Brett cried. "I put you in that position because I didn't want to share you with him. I don't want to share you with anybody! And I know it's wrong, but I don't care. I can't help what I feel. I want you all for myself. And the thought of sharing you with anybody else just makes me so jealous it hurts."

"What are you talking about? What's so bad about wanting to be with me?"

Brett closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then he opened them and looked at me. "Billy... I just... I mean..." He couldn't keep looking at me and looked back out over the water. "What I'm trying to say is... I think I..."

I leaned forward to catch Brett's glance. He looked away, but then he looked back at me. I smiled. "Just say it," I encouraged.

"IthinkIloveyou," he said quickly, looking away from me.

"What?" I asked.

He looked into my eyes. "I said... I... I love you," he repeated more slowly.

"I know you do," I replied. "What was so hard about that? I love you too."

"No," Brett said. "You don't understand, Billy. I don't mean I love you as a friend or love you like a brother. Like, I want to be more than friends with you. I mean, I really love you."

"Oh," I replied.

"Yeah, tell me about it," Brett said, laughing nervously. "I don't know what happened. I mean, I didn't expect this to happen to me either. I guess I've always liked you, but lately... I've just had these feelings and they won't go away no matter how hard I try, you know? Somewhere along the way I just realized that I'm just weird. I mean, you're all I think about. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I think about is seeing you on the bus. And then all day I look forward to when I can see you again. At night, I lie there and I think about you. I'm always wondering what you're doing. I want to call you at night just to hear your voice. This is really going to sound weird, but when I jack off the picture in my head is of that day when we watched your dad's porno. It's you I want to be with. I can't stop thinking about you no matter how hard I try. I'm in love with you, Billy. I'm really in love with you, and I'm sorry."

"Wow..." I said. "This is..."

"Please don't say anything," Brett interrupted. "I understand if you hate me now. I know this has got to be weird for you to hear. I never expected this to happen. I don't know why this is happening to me. I just had to tell you or it was going to kill me. And just the thought of telling you has scared the shit out of me for so long because I don't want to lose you. That's why I've been such a jerk to you lately. I've been so terrified of saying something wrong and then you'd hate me. I'd rather you hated me because I was acting like a jerk than because of this. Isn't that stupid? But I had to tell you, and not like I did the day of your grandma's funeral. This is no joke. I really mean it. I'm not fooling around. I love you so much it's killing me."

"Well that's..."

"No Billy," Brett interrupted again. "Don't say anything. I know you must hate me now, but please don't say it. It'll kill me if you say that. I know this is hard to hear. It's even harder to say, believe me. I understand if you don't want to be around me anymore. I understand, really. But we can still be friends, can't we? I mean, I'm not going to make you gay or anything, you know. It's just the way I am. I mean, I won't try to do anything to make you uncomfortable again like the wrestling thing this morning. I'm really sorry about that. I just got carried away... God that was so stupid! I'm such an idiot! But I just had to touch you. I had to see you naked again after so long. It's just... You're so beautiful, Billy. Your body is beautiful. Every part of you is so beautiful. And if I'm being honest I wanted you to see me naked too. I wanted you to see how much I've grown. I wanted to feel you against me. If you'd have known the things I wanted to do to you this morning... You'd have really hated me. It took everything I had not to explode when I was sitting on top of you. And if you knew what I wanted when you asked me what I wanted to do to you... I wanted to kiss you. I want to kiss you more than I've ever wanted anything in my life! God, I'm so fucking stupid! I understand if you never want to see me again."

"Brett, you don't understand..."

"Yes I do, Billy. It's alright. I understand. I mean, who wants to be friends with somebody like me? You know? I mean, I jack off every day looking at pictures of you, thinking about you... I know you don't want to hear it but I have to tell you how much I love you. I've held it in for so long."

"Brett, would you..."

"Please don't, Billy. I've been going through this for the last few months and I have to get it out. What with my mom, and trying to figure out how I feel about you. That's really what's been the matter with me. I've been falling in love with you and I didn't know how to make it stop so I took it out on you. I'm really sorry about that. Just being around you has been driving me crazy. But I have to be honest with myself and you deserve to hear the truth. Billy, I'm gay. I really am. I'm gay. I know that now. I always have been. I can't help how I feel. You know? Girls just don't do it for me. I've always liked looking at boys and I've always loved you. From the first time I saw you I knew I wanted to be with you forever. You just came walking into my life and you were so beautiful and your hair was so blond and your eyes were that emerald shade of green and you had that cute little gap in your teeth and I... I just fell in love with you right then and there. And then I got to know you and you were even more beautiful on the inside. And the fact that you don't realize just how beautiful you are... I love you so much it's killing me. It'll break my heart, but I'll understand if you don't want to be friends anymore. I just had to tell you. I won't bother you anymore, Billy."

"Brett, would you shut up and listen to me?!?" I exclaimed. Brett looked about ready to cry. He was afraid of what I was going to say. "Everything you said about me is the same way I feel about you."

"Huh?" Brett asked, stunned.

"I love you, Brett. I've always loved you. From the first time I met you until now I've loved you. All that stuff you said about feeling like you're going to explode if you don't say it is how I feel about you. I never imagined that you would feel the same way. I thought it was just me. I love you!"

"But I thought..." I didn't let him even start. I kissed him right on the lips right then and there. I put my hand on the nape of his neck, feeling that soft brown hair of his, and I pulled him toward me while I leaned toward him. I closed my eyes as our lips connected. I think it shocked the crap out of both of us. I'd certainly never done anything so bold, and he had convinced himself that I was going to hate him for how he felt about me. I felt his hand on my cheek. And then I felt his other hand on the back of my neck. It felt like an eternity passed while we kissed each other on that park bench. His warm lips felt incredible against mine. He was so soft and moist, and so gentle with me. It was as if my whole life had been lived just to reach that moment. Nothing I'd ever done before had ever felt so perfect and right.

At last, reluctantly, we separated ourselves. We opened our eyes at the same time. His eyes were so beautiful and blue, like looking at the ocean. I could have stared at them forever. We smiled at each other nervously. Then we both looked away, out over the water. For a long time we sat there, neither of us sure what to say.

At last, Brett finally spoke, "Wow... What just happened?"

"I don't know, but I liked it," I replied.

"Yeah, me too. You don't know how long I've wanted to do that," Brett sighed.

"Me too," I replied.

"You want to do it again?" he asked.

"Yeah!" I replied. So we did. Brett was more than eager to keep right on kissing. When we pulled apart this time, he sucked on my bottom lip just a little. I giggled when he let go and I licked my lip.

"Holy shit, that was so fucking great! So I guess that's what it's like to kiss a boy with braces," Brett smiled.

I laughed, "Yeah."

"I love your braces," he said. "I think they're cool. I love everything about you. I can't believe this is real. You really love me! I guess Dustin was right about us when he said we were gonna go blow each other, huh?" Brett suggested.

"Whoa, slow down there, buddy. Just because we kissed each other doesn't mean I'm ready to suck your dick," I replied. "Maybe I might like to do it someday, but I'm not ready to do anything like that now. I don't want to rush anything. This is all still pretty weird. I still can't believe this is really happening."

"So are you gay or not, then?" Brett asked.

"I don't know what I am," I replied. "I love you because of who you are, not because you're a boy. If you were the same person but you were a girl I'd still love you. Maybe when you find the right person it doesn't matter if they're a boy or a girl. Why should we label ourselves? We're no different than we were before, except now we know we love each other. Who cares what we've got in our pants?"

Brett smiled, "I don't know, dude. I've always kind of liked what you've got in your pants."

We laughed. I sat close to him and put my arm around him. He leaned his head against my shoulder and for a while we just sat there watching the snow fall and the sky darken. This area had already held so much meaning for me, and now there was so much more. I loved Brett so much it hurt. And he loved me just as much. I never wanted to leave that bench and that moment. But eventually it got too dark and too cold and we decided to go home.

They did it! They finally admitted what was obvious to all of us and expressed their love for each other! Yeah! Woo hoo! So, story's over right? Oh no, my friends! We're only just beginning! I've got two more chapters in Cold Winter for you, and then Part Three: The Broken Boy is just around the corner! Will there be enough exclamation points to contain the excitement?!?!?

I welcome, no, I eagerly desire your thoughts! You can reach me at: jkwsquirrel@yahoo.com

Next time, A Tale of Reckless Youth.