K. J. Pedersen


Copyright © 2012 - 2013 by K. J. Pedersen

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Elijah Christoffer Bengtsen



I CAN COUNT THE NUMBER of openly gay boys at Spring Creek High on one hand. There’s my brother and his boy toy, Mattias Tyler Olavsson, who’s cute, I’ll admit, but immature for a seventeen-year-old, college-bound senior. He’s just not my type, I guess (though I wouldn’t turn him down if ever I discovered him belly down on my bed, ass in the air). So, Elisha and Mattias, that’s two. Then there’s Dave, one of Matty’s skater friends, a junior, who is my type, what with that wild shock of black hair, dark golden-olive skin, and hazel eyes. I want to grab a fistful of his mane, push him down onto his knees, and.... Yeah, okay, so Dave’s been star central in more than one fantasy of mine, that’s for sure. He’s hot! And he’s crazy, always pulling pranks and pushing shit right to the breaking point, always trying to see what he can get away with. That’s three. Jarom Wesley, the choir and drama fag, also a junior, makes four. And then, finally, Joseph Hilcox, the kid brother of an ex, he’s number five.

 I guess Joey’s on my mind because one of the girls on the far side of the gym, by the volleyball nets, the pretty, innocent-looking one, happens to be Janie Hilcox, his big sister. I keep catching her looking in this direction—my direction—only to glare at me and turn away again. The girls she’s with, they’re on the girls’ volleyball team at Spring Creek. They aren’t playing at the moment, but stand together in tees and silky-looking gym shorts, talking, and looking fine.

Jason Brentwood, Eric Rijs, Cory Dunford, and I are sitting on the gym bleachers at the South Cottonwood Rec Center, the newest in the Salt Lake Valley; we’re people watching. The four of us usually meet up here Saturday afternoons. The place has awesome facilities and is usually packed. Not today. It’s practically dead. Earlier, the four of us had played a quick game of basketball with four guys we know from our rival school, Millcreek Canyon High, but each of them had other things to do, and had left after a single game. Now there’s an older group of men, most of them probably in their mid- to late-sixties, shooting hoops where we’d played. It’s kind of funny to watch because, for their age, they’re pretty damned good. Other than the four of us and the Geriatric Basketball Federation, there are only the girls we know from school. And that’s where Eric’s eyes are fixed—the boy is practically drooling.

“Janie’s cute,” Eric starts.

“Shut up,” I reply, not wanting to be further reminded of...things.

“Definitely cute,” he whispers to Jason and Cory.

Janie and I were a couple for a while our junior year. I was a jerk, treated her like crap. She dumped me. I thought I’d get even and took it out on Joey with my fists. He was fourteen at the time; I was sixteen. He’s fifteen now, a sophomore, and only out because he was outed, all thanks to another of Janie’s ex-boyfriends. See, Joey’s an average-ish type kid, kind of gawky, extremely shy, and easily intimidated. He’s picked on. I set the precedent. And for that, I’m sorry.

She looks over at me again. Her eyes meet mine for a nanosecond. But in that moment.... Those usually so friendly, pretty eyes, narrow dangerously. Fair enough. I deserve her contempt.

I look away before she does.

“If looks could—” Eric says.

“I told you, shut up,” I hiss.

He claps me roughly on the back. “Check for bleeding, Lije.” He touches my throat, placing his index and middle fingers right over my carotid artery. “Especially here.”

“Screw you,” I say. “That isn’t funny.”

I hear Jason and Cory snicker.

Eric looks smug.

Anyway, out of a student body population of thirty-two hundred, Spring Creek High has five out gay boys (and a few lesbian girls too), but—and this is key—as to how many of us are in the closet, yet unwilling or unable to come out, that’s anybody’s guess. I know only of two for sure, me and Jason. My closeted boyfriend, co-captain of the football team this past season, is also an intensely homophobic coward.

Brentwood is always talking shit about the school’s gay guys, especially Jarom and Joey, who are easy targets. Jase tows the party line, too, no doubt repeating his ultra-conservative Mormon father’s words verbatim, except when Elisha’s around. Only then is he more thoughtful about what he says, knowing that his words might have consequences. Usually, he’s just silent. I would have been okay coming out when Elisha did. My parents were supportive of my bro—even our little sis, Missy, was cool with it—and I wanted to get it off my chest anyway, just as Elisha had. But when I told Jason of my intentions, he freaked, saying there was no way I could admit to being “a fag,” that he’d come under suspicion, too, guilt by association and all that. His dad would find us out, he’d said, and then the shit would really fly. He was angry with Elisha for coming out after he and Mattias started dating last May, saying that, statistically speaking, if one identical twin was gay, then it was probable the other was too, and soon everyone would put two and two together. I stayed in the closet, for Jase’s sake, and continued to date girls, maintaining the reputation I’d earned, that of being a “lecherous, girlfriend-stealing dirtbag.”

“Lecherous.” First of all, that’s a total joke. When it comes to girls, I don’t have a lot of experience. Well, not beyond a series of hand jobs, that is, one that stretches back to when I was fourteen and a freshman at Spring Creek Jr. High. Jessica, Victoria, Paula, Yasmine, Jeri, Gabrielle...that covers it, I think. Oh, and Simone. Can’t forget Simone. She had a nice firm grip. (My first sexual experience was at thirteen, however, with Schuyler, a boy who used to live on our street. Timid Sky gave me my first hand job during a summer camping trip—a miserable, hot sojourn in the scorpion-infested dust at Skull Valley, west of Salt Lake City—the two us sharing a pup tent, a sleeping bag, and the urgent need to get off. Of my memories of our stay, that alone was fun...and a lot better than jerking off alone.) The truth was, most of the girls were as eager as I was to take those first tentative steps into the realm of teenage sexuality, but not all. Junior year, I’d pushed Janie, insisting she stroke it and make me come. She didn’t want to, being a nice churchy kind of girl and all that, but I just kept at it, begging, date after date, until she gave in. Yeah, that’s me, a total jerk. She dumped me the following Monday, then told all her friends I was “scum.” Tuesday, after I left Spring Creek High, I made a date with her little bro, following him home from the junior high school on foot, and introduced him to my fists, the right one first, followed promptly by the left. I left him crumpled on a neighbor’s lawn with a bloody nose, swollen jaw, and a black eye.

And that’s why I won’t meet Janie’s gaze—I’m fucking ashamed.

As for “girlfriend-stealing,” I plead guilty, this time shamelessly. Almost every one of those girls mentioned earlier, I’d peeled away smoothly from their boyfriends. Jessica, my present girlfriend, was Cory Dunford’s girl only last month. What can I say? I’m attractive. I won’t deny it. Besides, false modesty isn’t my style. And even though I’m gay, I don’t mind a girl’s attention, just so long as it’s only flirtatious and superficial. I can play the role of boyfriend well enough, even if my heart isn’t in it.

“Dirtbag”? I know I have more than my fair share of marks against me (evidence, see above), so I won’t go there.

Another girl comes into the gym from the lady’s locker room: Victoria, another old girlfriend of mine. Eric whistles as she crosses the hardwood floor. They’ve dated on and off for about a year now, though never seriously. She doesn’t acknowledge him directly, but adds a little something extra to her step.

“Look at the way she moves, boys,” Eric tells us. “Look at that fine little ass.”

“Nice,” Cory says.

Finally, with Victoria there, the group of girls divide into teams and start a game of volleyball.

“You dated Vickie sophomore year, didn’t you, Lije?” Eric asks mischievously.

“You know it.”

“Was she into spanking then, too?”

Cory’s laugh is sudden, a surprised bark. “Kinky, boys. Very.”

Victoria and I used to go over to her house after school, while her parents were still at work, and mess around, stripping down to our boxer briefs and panties, and exploring each other bodies, thoroughly, with our hands. We were fifteen, simply curious, and playing an erotic game, nothing more.

Still, I nod toward Eric, acknowledge his grin with one of my own, and hold out my palm, cupped, like I’m readying myself to paddle some ass. “She used to like being turned over my knee,” I say. And that’s the truth. Like Cory said, kinky. I thought so, even then, but I liked it (and, yes, I was occasionally on the receiving end).

Eric laughs. “Damn right, she does!”

I laugh, too. This earns me Jason’s elbow in my ribs.


Jason’s not just homophobic, but erotophobic, plain and simple. He’s mad at me, very often surly and silent with jealousy, like he is this very moment, and all because I’ve had girlfriends rub one out for me. He’s been with Megan since he was a sophomore. The sum total of his experience with girls? Kissing. Okay, cool, I get it. He’s gay. But shit, I still can’t see why he’s jealous because a few girls have handled my junk. It isn’t even sex...well, not exactly sex, anyway. Jesus. This is the “funny” part though, he brags he’s had all these girls, half a dozen, at least, suck him off, except for his girlfriend Meg, who he supposedly loves. His explanation: “There are girls who suck cock, and there are girls who you take home to meet your mom.”

Really, Jason, are you fucking kidding?

The closest Jason has ever come to a blow job.... Let’s just say that my seventeenth birthday was a little more exiting than I’d expected, and those perfect white teeth of his, they’re sharp.

“This is getting boring, guys,” Jason says. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Yeah,” Cory agrees. “Besides, I’ve got shit I have to take care of. Homework. I’m way behind. Yesterday, my mom got a call from Mr. Tucker. If I don’t turn things around fast, I’m fucked.”

“History’s boring, and Tucker’s an asshole,” Jason says. “He almost failed me first term.”

“See? He sucks,” Cory says. “C’mon, Eric, let’s get out of here.”

“Jesus, guys, look at her move!” Eric says and bites his bottom lip. He pulls his arm out of Cory’s grasp. He, at least, is having a good time now that the girls are playing, what with the way Victoria’s tits bounce when she spikes the ball.

“C’mon,” Cory insists.

We have to drag Eric away, and he protests loudly as we push him toward the locker room.

Cory doesn’t like me. I’ve always known it. But after Jessica dumped him, and then started dating me, it became pretty obvious to everyone. Fine. I can live with it. But where Cory dislikes me, he hates Jason. It’s a truth unspoken. They’re on speaking terms, they play basketball, and do things together, socially, when it’s the four of us, but deep down, Cory detests Jason. Mostly it’s jealousy. Jason’s a better athlete, more popular, better looking. Anyway.... Sometimes Cory’s feelings come up, almost to the surface. Once we’re in the locker, I sense the tension between them. It’s immediate, like a switch has been flicked.

We open our lockers, retrieve our gym bags and street clothes, and strip to our jockey shorts. We make small talk, nothing important. Then Eric’s bragging about this girl he’s been dating, and how he scammed her into giving him a blow job in the back seat of his car Wednesday night. Then Cory’s bragging, too. Apparently Eric and Cory have both been playing with this girl’s feelings for a while now. Maybe they’re lying. They never mention her name.

Jason shakes his head. “Shit,” he mutters. “That’s nasty, playing with her heart like that.”

I roll my eyes, thinking Jason’s a liar, a hypocrite, and stupid, remembering how even as recently as two weeks ago he was bragging up a furtively received blow job that never happened.

At Jason’s scolding, though, Eric suddenly has a long face, very long. I realize he’d been hoping for Jason’s approval. That’s what the whole story had been for, to impress Jason.

Cory’s snide. “Jealous?” he says.

Jason ignores Cory’s goading, sits on the bench between the lockers and stretches. “My shoulder aches.” He rubs the muscles along his shoulder toward his neck and grimaces. “Must’ve pulled it earlier, when Daryl tried to steal the ball.”

Daryl is one the guys from Millcreek Canyon High we’d played against earlier. He’s one of Cory’s friends, the two having attended a soccer camp together the summer before. Daryl’s athletic the same way Jason is, naturally talented, and fiercely competitive. Whenever Jase and Daryl face off, the game gets serious, and seriously physical, too.

“Hey, let me do that,” Eric offers as Jason continues to rub his neck and shoulder muscles. He reaches for Jason then, massages his shoulder. “This okay?”

“Yeah.” Jason sighs. “Like that.”

Cory shakes his head. “You two look like a couple of fags.”

Jason turns his middle finger up at Cory.


My cell phone rings. I reach into my gym bag and retrieve it from my front pants pocket. It’s Jessica. “Hey, girl,” I say.

Cory looks over to me and Jason is forgotten. He knows I mean Jessica when I say “Hey, girl,” and he sits on the bench across from me, obviously eager to glean whatever he can from our conversation.

I place my hand over the phone. “Guys, Jessica wants to know if we’re coming to the party she’s throwing at her house tonight.”

“What time?” Jason says.

“Starts at eight,” I say.

Jason shakes his head.

“I’ll be there,” Eric says. “So will you, Cory.”


I’m going,” I tell Jason.

He looks at me, as if to remind me we had plans. I shrug, unwilling to budge. “Fine,” he relents. “I’ll call Meg, see if she wants to go to.”

“She’ll be there,” I tell Jason. “Jessie’s already said so.”

Jason glares at me, reiterating silently that we had plans.

“Yeah,” I tell Jessica, “we’ll be there.”



THE PARTY AT JESSICA’S IS already loud—the place must be packed wall to wall—and music can be heard from halfway down the block as Jason and I approach on foot from his house. It’s still early, so the neighbors aren’t enraged enough yet to call the cops, or the National Guard, or to take matters into their own hands vigilante style. Good thing, too, because spending a Saturday night in the holding area of the Holladay City Police Station isn’t my idea of a good time. And I know what I’m talking about, having done it once last summer when Jason, Eric, and I were caught with an open container in the car coming home from a party downtown by the U.

It was Eric’s car, he’d been driving (and completely sober, I must add), but it was Jason who had been caught with the half-empty bottle of Corona. When Eric’s dad was called, it was bad; when my dad was called, it was worse; when Jason’s dad received that fateful call, I was sure a detail would be called up promptly by dawn and my best friend would be shot. It was nasty. Mr. Brentwood has one hell of a temper...and a powerful set of lungs to match. (Oh, yeah, and he’s one of those types who believes in corporal punishment and happens to own a heavy leather belt, too.)

As Jason and I reach my girlfriend’s house, we find Eric and Cory on the front lawn talking to a bunch of girls from school, mostly juniors. I know a couple of them, but not well. Eric’s flirting in that way that comes so easily to him. Cory seems awkward by comparison.

Eric flashes one of the girls his brightest smile, bringing out that little dimple on the right side. The girl he’s focused most of his attention on practically melts right there before him. He runs one hand back through his wavy blond hair and smiles again, continues to flirt, leading her along, and laughing at all the right moments in his practiced fashion. The prick knows he’s beautiful, what with those blue-green eyes and stunning looks, and that, aside from the effect he has on girls, he has more than a few boy admirers, too. He flirts with Jason sometimes. It’s subtle, but I’ve noticed it. I don’t know if he’s curious, or “heteroflexual” (Olavsson’s word of choice, not mine), or whatever, but he admires Jason, that much is obvious, and especially for his athletic abilities.

“Hey,” Jason shouts, waving to them.

They wave back.

Megan meets us at the door, invites us in. “You’re late!” She loops her arm through Jason’s, then, with a quarter turn, scolds me. “Jessie’s been looking for you.”

“We’re only thirty minutes late!” I protest.

“You should’ve been here earlier, on time,” Megan says. “She’s upstairs now, arguing with her mom and dad. Mrs. Adams thinks there are already too many people here. Mr. Adams says the music’s too loud.”

As Megan speaks—I’ve tuned her out already, tired of being nagged by my boyfriend’s girlfriend—I notice my brother. He’s here with Brandt Lyngdal. Great, I think, watching Brandt and that smug, superior look on his admittedly handsome face. His eyes meet mine for a eyebrow quirks up just a bit, and his top lip curls at the right corner in a condescending smirk. What an arrogant prick, I think. Elisha notices me, comes over. The arrogant prick wisely stays back.

“And that’s another thing, Lije,” Megan continues, though I haven’t a clue what that other thing is. “Earth to Elijah.... Elijah? Are you even listening—?”

“No,” I say.

Megan steps on my toes and gives me a fierce look.

“Hey, guys,” Elisha says.

Megan smiles when she sees Elisha, and he gathers her in a friendly hug. He gives her a quick kiss on the tip of her nose. “Nobody’s going to be able to tell you apart!” she says when they separate.

My brother and I are both wearing the same thing, a plain white T-shirt and faded blue jeans. It’s kind of funny, and we both shake our heads at the coincidence. We probably look really stupid to everyone else.

Jason growls at my brother, saying, “What the hell’s Lyngdal doing here?”

“Jessica invited both of us,” Elisha says. “Besides, what do you care?”

Jason starts to answer, his voice hard and unfriendly, but Megan tugs his ear, making him wince. “Enough,” she says. “He’s here. No fighting. Got it?”

Jason rubs his sore ear. “Yeah. Got it, Meg.”

Then Megan leans in and kisses him. “That’s a good boy.” She leads him by the hand out of the entrance hall and into the family room where there must be twenty of our classmates and some other teens I don’t know, friends of Jessica’s from Millcreek Canyon High.

Elisha laughs. “She has him on a short leash.”

“Shorter than you think,” I say.

“I know you don’t like Brandt,” he starts, “but you can be civil.”

“Am I ever anything but?”

“Yeah,” he says. “The name Joey Hilcox comes to mind.”

I give him the finger.

“I don’t know what it is with you, man,” he says, “but you and Jason are among the only guys at school who have a problem with Brandt. It’s bullshit. He’s a great guy, if you’d just take the time to get to know him—”

I change the subject. I don’t care if Brandt’s here or not, really. I just don’t want him anywhere around me. “Where’s your fuck buddy?”

“Mattias is not my ‘fuck buddy,’” Elisha says. “He’s my boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend, fuck buddy, whatever. You still use him to get off,” I say. “So, where is he?”

Elisha glares at me a moment, unamused by my sense of humor. “Matty, Dave, and Cole went to a party on the other side of the valley,” he says. “One of Cole’s friends invited them.”

I see Jessica descend the stairs. She’s looking fine, in skin tight jeans and a sexy top. “Yeah, okay.” I wave my brother off, leave him in the dust, and take my girlfriend my the hand. She barely acknowledges Elisha at all. She thinks he’s just a “bookish nerd” who “sucks skaterboy dick”—her words, once inadvertently overheard.

“Finally here, boy,” she says to me in a mock critical voice. “Took you long enough.”

I roll my eyes. “You’re not going to nag me the way Meg—?”

Jessica shrugs. “Meg’s like that. The way she nags at Jason—you’d think she’s his wife!” She faces me, loops her arms up over my shoulders, placing her hands on the back on my head, then pulls me closer. She kisses me. “Where are Meg and Jase?”

“Don’t know. Don’t care.”

“Want something to eat?” she asks and leads me into the kitchen.

Jessica’s ordered a lot of food: Catered sandwiches and cakes, cookies, brownies, chips, punch, soda, and more. There’s no alcohol, of course, though I’m sure flasks of rum and vodka have been snuck in by now and are being poured surreptitiously into waiting cups of Coke and that already deliciously fragrant punch.

That’s when I see him, as we enter the kitchen. He’s standing in the breakfast nook with a sandwich in one hand, a can of Dr. Pepper in the other. He’s talking to Paula, another old girlfriend of mine, but seems almost annoyed by her attention. Of course, he would have her attention, too; he’s cute. I’ve never seen him before. He doesn’t go to Spring Creek High, that’s for sure. He looks older, like a college boy, what with the facial hair and his mature demeanor. I can’t help but stare a moment. He’s not beautiful the way Eric is, but he’s still good-looking...and sexually appealing. His chocolate brown hair is pulled back in four braids, two on each side, which almost gives him the appearance of an ancient Greek warrior, like Achilles or Ajax, perhaps.

“Who is that?”

I turn to Jessica, startled by her voice. “Huh?”

“That guy, standing there with Paula?” she says. “Who is he? I’ve never seen him before.”

“You didn’t invite him, then?”


The young man is wearing a T-shirt, cargo shorts, and sandals. I almost get that neo-hippy vibe from him, but not quite. He’s unique, with a style all his own. Watching him, I know I want to meet him before the night is through, and to possibly ask his phone number, too.

“Maybe he goes to Millcreek Canyon,” she says.

My mom is a guidance counselor at Millcreek Canyon High, receives a yearbook at the end of every year, and I’ve gone through all the yearbooks, scanning, I’ll admit, for cute boys. I’ve never seen this lad’s picture in the yearbooks.

“Maybe,” I tell Jessica.

“He’s sexy.”

“Probably a frat boy,” I say, “visiting an underage girlfriend.”

“Well,” she whispers and smiles devilishly, “whoever he is, I’m glad he’s here. A little eye candy never hurts.”

“Right. Eye candy.” I give my girl a nice, solid, full-palmed swat on the bottom, the way I do with Jase when we’re alone. “Lucky for you I’m not the jealous type.”



WORDS ARE UNNECESSARY—GREGORY ADAMS doesn’t like me; I know that already; I can sense it in his body language, so rigid, so formal. I’m not surprised that Jessica’s father should hold me in such low esteem. Certainly he’s heard the rumors and speculation—who hasn’t?—that I’m a bad boyfriend, that every girl who has ever dated me for very long came to regret it, and that in the end I’ll just hurt his daughter too. He has nothing to worry about, not really—I’m not interested in taking her virginity. A hand-job on the sly every now and then is already more than enough. Still, every half hour or so, he’ll reappear, coming downstairs to check on us, and the party, to see if things are getting out of hand. He keeps going to the bowls of punch, drinking liberally from them. He may think he’s being keen, saying that it’s “just too good to resist,” but we all know he’s checking for the bitter nip of alcohol.

Well, the punch is too good to resist, and I find the bowl sitting on the granite-topped kitchen island is nearly empty. I fill my cup with the cool scarlet liquid. Mr. Adams does the same, leaving just enough for another cupful. He may not like me, but to my face, at least, he’s polite.

“What are your future plans, Elijah?” he asks.

Of course, he’d want to know. “School,” I tell him.


“The U.”

“You’ve received your acceptance letter, then?”

“No,” I say. “But soon.”

My monosyllabic answers speak clearly; I’m not interested in continuing this conversation. He gets the idea, drains his cup, and says, “Good punch.” He disappears up the stairs again, satisfied that things are still under control.

I walk into the family room to rejoin Jason and Megan, who are sitting on the couch with Cory. Eric is sitting on the sofa’s broad upholstered arm, next to Jason. Jessica is somewhere, being the perfect hostess, flitting about among her many friends, no doubt. Before I get to Jase and Meg, Charlie, a friend of mine from school, comes up to me, dips his chin and lowers his eyes in a secretive gesture. We huddle as he pulls a silver flask from his back pants pocket and tops off my cup of raspberry punch with cheap vodka.

“‘Daddy’ really thinks I’m stupid enough spike the bowl, especially with the way he hovers?” Charlie says with a grin, a reference to the fact that Jessie still calls her father “Daddy.” He takes a slug directly from the flask. “Jason had better lay off though; look at him.”

Charlie’s right—Jason’s had too much to drink. He’s loud and becoming obnoxious. He leans across Megan, arguing with Cory. Even over the music, I can hear their raised voices, if not the words.

“I told you!” Megan shouts at Jason. “No fighting!” She digs her fingers into his arm and pulls him away from the couch and away from Cory.

“Butt out!” Jason wrests his arm away from Megan’s grasp and goes after Cory.

Then Elisha’s there. He slides right between Jason and Cory, separating them. Blessed are the peacemakers, I think, almost entertained by my ever calm, pacifist brother and his diplomatic efforts. He manages to cool things off, though.

Cory disappears and Eric follows close behind.



BRANDT AND ELISHA DON’T STAY long though Brandt is (unsurprisingly) the center of attention. At first, he’d relished it, the easy tributes from admiring boys, and the fawning of love-struck girls, but now seems simply bored with their company. Just before they leave, I see the college boy with the long brown hair and beard growth watching them from a distance. He stares for some time at Brandt, unable to see me watching him as I’m on the side of the room, sort of behind him, and to one side. I see only his profile, and study him carefully, fascinated. I get the distinct impression he knows Brandt. Then Jessica grabs the bearded frat boy by the hand, startling him, and leads him into the kitchen.

Jessica’s found a new toy, I think.

Jason approaches. When he’s within a foot and a half of me, he mutters, “Good riddance.”


“Brandt’s finally leaving,” he says. “Good riddance, Lyngdal.”

Brandt and my brother are in the entrance hall saying their goodbyes and then are out the door.

From behind, Jason leans his weight against me, his chin digging into my scapula, and he drapes one arm loosely over my opposite shoulder. I smell alcohol on his breath.

“I don’t understand why Jessie would invite Brandt,” I say. “She knows how I feel about him.”

“She’s trying to get under your skin, boy,” Jason says. “You know, to irritate you. To make you jealous.”

“I doubt it,” I say. “She knows our relationship is a sham.”

Jason straightens his posture and hands me the cup of Coke he’s carrying. “What makes you say that?”

“She’s not stupid,” I say. “She senses when we kiss that I’m just not that into it. Often, I’ll pull back; she responds, pulling back, too. I think she knows my secret, Jase. In fact, I’m certain of it.”


“I’m tired of pretending—” I tell him.

“Not this again,” Jason cuts me off. “We agreed, man—”

“That I should stay in the closet because you’re scared—”

“I’m not scared,” he says. “Look—let’s not talk about this here.”

Horseshit, you’re not scared, I think, but simply nod and swallow what rum and Coke remains in the plastic cup. “Agreed.”



I CATCH ERIC AND JASON alone in Gregory’s study after ten. Eric has his hands on my boyfriend’s shoulders, pushes him back against the bookcase, clumsily, drunkenly, and then leans in, letting his lips brush against Jason’s. There is no resistance to this. Jason opens his mouth to Eric, to receive his tongue.

I’m not surprised. And I’m not struck by feelings of jealousy, either.

“Carry on, boys,” I whisper, amused by their drunken fumbling. I duck back out of the den, unnoticed, and close the door.



“ELIJAH, HEY—NAME’S NOAH HARTFORD,” the hot college boy says and thrusts his hand toward me. He sees my surprise to this, and explains, “Your girlfriend told me your name. I hope you don’t mind that I asked her. Jessica’s a sweetheart, by the way. Anyway...I was hoping we’d meet up, you and I, so I asked her.”

We’re in the kitchen again, standing together in the breakfast nook, me with my ninety-eleventh glass of rum and Coke, him with a can of Sprite. I pass the drink to my left hand, almost drop it. I’m more than half-drunk and so completely uncoordinated. I take his hand, shake it. He has a firm grip.

“Hey,” I say. “Nice to meet you.”

“Quite a party your girl throws,” he says.

“I’m glad it’s finally winding down,” I admit.

“Why, do have plans for tonight?” he asks, a spark of interest appears then in his eyes. He leans his weight to one side and gives me a once over, grinning. “Is there an after party?”

Buzzed, all my defenses are down. “Not that I know of,” I say.

He steps closer to me. “That’s too bad.”

“Maybe so,” I say, “but I think I’ve already had too much to drink.”

“Drunk, eh?”

“I didn’t say I was drunk.”

“I’m driving. Haven’t had anything to drink tonight myself,” he says. “So...if you’d like, I could drive you home.”

“No need,” I say. “I can walk, even buzzed.” I start rambling. “These are my stomping grounds, you know, this neighborhood. I live about a mile from here, just this side of the creek and woods.”

“Still, I can drive you if you want,” he offers again and I feel the back of his hand brush against mine.

Frat boy is flirting with me...discreetly, but still!

“How did you hear about this party?” I’m curious. “I’ve never seen you around before. Jessica told me she doesn’t know you either.”

“Ah, I see—I’ve been the subject of some speculation, then.” Noah grins. He’s flirting, now openly. He touches my hand more boldly this time, let’s his fingers linger on the back of my hand and thumb, waiting, wanting to see how I’ll react to this. “Well,” he explains, when I don’t flinch away from his touch, “as I was telling Jessica, we have a mutual friend.”

For some reason, I’m not certain I believe this. “From Millcreek Canyon High?” I venture.

“Yes,” he replies instantly.

He’s lying. “You live in Mill Creek, then?” I ask.

“No,” he says. “I live in Salt Lake, in the Avenues, by the U.” He looks into my eyes. God, his are so nice...dark blue and deep. “I’m a senior at University Park High.”

“U. Park? I would have thought you’d be older—”

He rubs his face. “What, the beard?”

“Well, I’m not sure I’d call that a beard; it’s still too fine.”

Noah laughs at this. “Too fine, huh? Are you always so articulate buzzed?”


Noah pauses, considers me a moment; he’s amused, and, judging by his body language, quite probably aroused. I return his body language, reacting to every gesture with a corresponding one of my own as we continue our light banter.

He straightens his posture, clears his throat, and changes the subject. “Brandt didn’t stay long, did he?”

I snort. “Brandt Lyngdal?”

Noah gets this confused look on his face.

“What?” I ask, suddenly confused myself.

He shakes his head. “Nothing. I just....” He shrugs. “Never mind.”

“You know Brandt?” I ask.

“He used to be my neighbor,” Noah says. “We went to U. Park together.”

“He used to live uptown by the U., too,” I remember aloud. “His father’s a professor there. So’s my dad.”

There’s a long beat; this subject’s a dead end. But Noah breaks the ice again with an easy smile. “So....” He meets my eyes, gives me this totally sexy, heavy-lidded look, and bites his bottom lip. “So...what about it?”

“So...what about what?”

“Can I offer you a ride home?”


“I know what you want?”

“What, to see you naked?” I joke.

He tilts his head to one side, smiles. He nods then, if somewhat coyly. “That, and...” He pauses. “We both want the same thing, Elijah.” He leans forward, so close his mouth is just inches from my ear, and whispers, “We both want sex.”



To be continued with Chapter Three....