SUMMARY: At a time of national turmoil, the lives of four boys become connected as each struggles to accept his sexuality and to address the challenges he faces in life. To the extent the boys succeed in coming to grips with those challenges, it may be in ways that prove surprising or troubling. This story is also being published on my blog and you can find a synopsis there. While some events, locations and features in the story have been moved forward or back in time for dramatic and other purposes, it takes place during an era when prejudice against homosexuals is rampant and the gay revolution in America is still in its infancy. Italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
WARNING: While sexual content is not its primary focus, this story is intended for mature audiences only since it includes scenes that depict sex and violence. If you do not wish to read such material or it is illegal for you to do so, please look elsewhere. The story remains the property of the author and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. It is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author, but you may not use this work for commercial purposes. You may not use any of the characters, bars or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon this story in any way.
AUTHOR NOTES: This is my first effort at writing a story. As a general rule, I only plan to publish one chapter a week and you'll always find the latest chapter on my blog initially. However, I may publish more frequently on Nifty during the first month. Comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames will be ignored. If you would like to let me know what you think, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 3, Nolan is forced to spend the morning visiting a tourist site with his parents although he would prefer spending all of his time back at the farm with Josh. After lunch, he and Josh go swimming down at the lake. Nolan tricks Josh into going skinny dipping with him and into applying sunscreen to his naked body before they do. Josh is nervous about doing this and ends up blushing, which Nolan finds appealing. Nolan spends most of the afternoon thinking up ways to get Josh to touch him. When Josh seems to imply that Nolan is cute, the younger boy is deliriously happy. He makes Josh promise to visit the lake again the next day.
Part I - Innocence Aroused
Even as I stared at Josh's butt all the way back to the farm, I kept replaying what had happened that afternoon over and over in my head.
I mean, yeah, sure, I had gotten Josh to go swimming naked with me, just like I wanted. But what did that prove? It wasn’t like it was something he wanted to do. I had tricked him into it over all his objections.
And yeah, I had gotten Josh to touch me and gotten to touch him as well, first by trickery with the sunscreen and later just as part of the fun we were having in the water together. But, again, it wasn’t like it proved anything. During the whole afternoon I had never seen Josh staring at me like I knew I was staring at him whenever I could do so discreetly. It wasn’t like he ever touched me because he wanted to.
As much fun as the afternoon had been, it really didn’t prove anything at all, certainly not that Josh was queer or liked me the way I liked him; or wanted to like him, that is. I mean, the truth is, it was kind of frustrating. I wanted to do stuff with Josh, but had no real idea what I wanted to do exactly. And I had even less of a clue as to what Josh thought about homos one way or the other. But if he was like everyone else, it probably wasn’t very good.
I remember thinking I needed to find out about that somehow. But, then again, did I really want to know? I wasn’t sure about that. What if he hated queers? Would he hate me too? Did he already hate me?
There were so many questions it was driving me crazy and all because I couldn’t keep my hormones under control. Why me? Why now? It had been a really fun day, but now the longer I thought about it, the more depressed I was getting.
Later, after dinner, my parents and I went into town to see a movie. I can’t even remember what the movie was about because I was so anxious to get back to the farm. I was looking forward to sleeping in the tent again that night with Josh and the movie provided exactly the distraction I needed. Once the lights went down, I found myself reflecting on my life up until then.
I had never had a real friend before. Living in the city, it wasn’t like you could just wander around the streets making friends wherever you went. Everything was arranged by your parents when you were younger and whatever friends you made were constantly changing because all the parents were constantly changing the schools they sent us to. They were always looking for the school that would get you into the next better school, then into the best prep school and from there into the best college.
By the time I had gotten to high school there was that other dark shadow, the one I couldn’t share with anyone. Keep a distance I was constantly reminding myself. Don’t get too close. They aren’t like you, Nolan. If they find out, your life will be hell. Not that my life wasn’t hell already, of course. But who wanted to be cast down deeper into the fucking abyss?
And now there was this beautiful boy and it seemed like he wanted to be friends with me. Why couldn’t I have a friend, I wondered? Other people had friends. I mean, yeah, sure, he wasn’t like me. Deep down inside, where it counted, I knew that. But he was nice and he was good looking and he had a terrific body and he was just so fucking hot.
Why couldn’t I have someone like that as a friend, if only for a month, if I could just be myself for a month? Not my real self, of course. He wouldn’t like that. But my better self and then I could pretend for a month we were like each other and we could be friends. It would be so nice to have a real friend.
If I just didn’t screw it up, of course. Somehow I always managed to screw everything up. At least that’s what my parents always told me.
“I’m very disappointed in you, Nolan,” she would say, shaking her head as the words ripped into my soul.
“You can do better than that, Nolan,” he would say. “You’ll need to work a lot harder than that if you’re going to be Governor someday.”
What did they know? They didn’t have a clue what was going on inside me. Who were they to judge?
And that’s what was so great about Josh. He didn’t seem interested in judging me at all. He just wanted to have some fun at the end of the summer. Just like me.
Why couldn’t it be, I kept asking myself? I can do this. I know I can. I just need to stop thinking about sex all the time. Stop being a pervert. Be a good friend instead. That’s all Josh wants, a friend.
It’s not all I wanted, of course, but it was more than I had ever had before. If I could be Josh’s friend for a month, maybe my life wouldn’t be so completely hopeless. Maybe, someday, who knows, I remember thinking? Maybe there really would be someone else out there like me.
We got back to the house later than planned that night. Only the porch light was on and the place was silent except for the sound of the crickets. I kissed my Mom good night, walked down the hill, tugged opened the tent flap quietly, and ducked inside.
The moon was shining pretty brightly and I tried to slip out of my clothes as best I could without causing a ruckus. As I turned to head for my sleeping bag, I hit my foot on something and that caused me to topple over on to Josh. I was worried I might have hurt him, but he just started giggling.
“I wasn’t asleep,” Josh said. “I was waiting for you to get back. And by the way, thanks for that terrific performance, Nolan. You do an excellent strip tease,” he added, grinning at me, “at least for a guy.”
“Screw you, you homo,” I shot back, returning his grin.
“Oh, missing your girlfriend already, are we,” Josh responded? “Well, forget about it, city boy. She isn’t here. Besides, you could use all the beauty sleep you can get tonight with a face like that, sweetie.”
Damn, I remember thinking. So he had heard her say that after all. Why did my Mom always have to call me sweetie? Didn’t she have a clue?
I knew I couldn’t react to the taunt and I didn’t. Still, I had to admit he was pretty good at dishing it out, especially being from such a hopeless place like Vermont. When it came to insults, I usually ran rings around the guys at my school. But Josh seemed to be keeping up with me pretty easily.
Too damn easily!
Later, after I had slipped into the sleeping bag and we had talked about some other stuff, I decided to ask him a question I had been thinking about.
“Do you have a girlfriend, Josh,” I asked?
“No,” he responded. “I don’t.”
“Why not,” I continued, pressing the matter? “Are you a homo or something,” I added, curious to see how he would react to being challenged that way?
“I don’t know why,” he responded, completely ignoring the insult. “Why I don’t have a girlfriend, I mean. What with helping run the farm and all, helping my Mom out in the house, studying to get into college and all the sports I’m involved in, there just isn’t a lot of time to have one, I guess.”
“What about you, Nolan,” he asked? “What’s your girlfriend’s name and what’s she like?”
“I don’t have a girlfriend, Josh,” I said.
“That’s really surprising,” Josh responded. “I mean, it’s just that, well, you’re kind of cute, for a guy that is. I would think all the girls would be chasing after you.”
“They do,” I replied, lying.
“So why don’t you have one, a girlfriend, I mean,” Josh asked, mimicking my own question to him but without the insult?
“I don’t know,” I responded. “Who knows? Maybe I’m a homo,” I added, deciding to see how he would react to that.
I remember silence filling the tent and suddenly being totally embarrassed.
Damn it, I thought. Why did you say that, Nolan, I asked myself?
“Just kidding,” I quickly added. “I wanted to see how you would react if I said something like that. It’s just I don’t have a steady. I guess I like playing the field pretty much. You know how that is when all the girls are madly in love with you,” I added, lying to him once again.
Suddenly, I remember being nervous, incredibly nervous.
You’re screwing it up again, Nolan, just like you always do.
“You really shouldn’t say something like that, Nolan,” Josh finally replied, softly. “Someone might think you weren’t kidding around and that could get you into a boatload of trouble, especially at school. It could hurt your reputation if people thought something like that about you. A lot.”
“I know,” I responded. “Sometimes I’m just totally a doofus for no reason at all. I guess that’s why everyone hates me.”
“I don’t hate you, Nolan,” Josh replied. “I like you. I’m not really sure why. You’re different than most of my friends around here somehow, that’s for sure. I’m still trying to figure that out. But whatever it is, I like it.”
“You know sometimes I just feel totally suffocated by this place,” Josh continued, changing the subject. “Vermont, I mean. Everyone likes the same stuff, the same clothes, the same music, the same movies, the same whatever. Everyone does the same things. Try to be different and everyone gets on your case. You know what I mean? It gets on my nerves sometimes. But you’re different somehow. I’m just not exactly sure how.”
“Well thanks, Josh,” I replied, quietly. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“And, by the way, I know what you mean,” I added. “But it really isn’t all that different in New York, where I come from. Everyone wants to be the same as everyone else. Everyone wants to fit in. It hurts when you don’t.”
The tent fell silent momentarily and I wondered whether Josh wanted to to get some sleep. But then he broke the silence.
“Can I ask you a question, Nolan?”
“You already did, you bozo,” I replied, grinning at him. “But the answer is yes. You can even ask me another question if you want.”
“I mean, don’t take it wrong or anything, but we get a lot of tourists up here from New York City and, well, um, the thing is, the guys at my school are always making fun of them and where they come from,” Josh said, completely ignoring my insult.
“They call New York fag city because they think being homo is a city thing and that we don’t have any homos up here in Vermont. Do you think that’s true? Because I haven’t run across any homos up here so far myself, at least I don’t think I have. And I was just kind of curious whether you had run across any of them in New York City? And what they were like if you had?”
I remember feeling a little uncomfortable right about then. I didn’t know what to say. I wondered if Josh was on to me and wasn’t really sure what to do about it. I wasn’t about to admit the truth to him, of course. I knew he would beat the crap out of me if I did. But I didn’t want to lie completely either. So I decided to stretch the truth a little.
“Well, I know this boy I go to school with that might be one,” I said. “But he’s never actually told me that so I can’t really be certain, I suppose.”
“Why do you think he is,” Josh asked?
“I dunno,” I replied. “I mean, um, to me he’s just a little effeminate, if you know what I mean. He doesn’t play on any of the sports teams at school. He doesn’t have any friends or go to any of the dances at school. He’s always reading some book and doesn’t hang out with the other boys. It makes me kind of suspicious, if you know what I mean.”
I had just finished describing myself perfectly to Josh, but wasn’t about to tell him that.
“So then, that’s what you think they’re like,” he replied. “Not really popular at school. Not into sports at all. I mean, what you’re saying is that none of the guys who play on the sports teams at your school are homos or anything like that?”
“I dunno,” I repeated. “Probably not, but I guess the only thing that really decides whether someone is a homo is whether he likes other guys.”
“Well, what does that mean exactly, Nolan,” Josh asked, kind of exasperated? “I mean, I hear that all the time and it’s not exactly like I hate guys. My best friends are guys. Does that make me a homo?”
“No,” I replied. “Of course not, Josh. You misunderstood me. It isn’t about liking guys the way you like me or your friends at school. It’s about liking guys sexually, being attracted to them, whatever. You know, wanting to have sex with another guy.”
“I see,” Josh said, suddenly cutting me off abruptly. “Well, thanks for helping me out with that, Nolan. I guess it’s pretty hard to understand weird stuff like that when you’re from a small town in Vermont. Up here, everyone is pretty much the same -- white, Christian and definitely not homo, that’s for sure. I think my friends are right. It must be a city thing.”
Like I said, I was confused as to why Josh was talking to me about it at all. Was he suspicious about me I wondered? Or could he possibly be having some doubts about himself? That seemed totally crazy to me, but I remember having lots of doubts about whether I was one when I was twelve and for the longest time after that. No one had been there to help me figure it out. I had to figure it out all by myself.
“Well, on the off chance you were wondering about it, Josh, and I’m not saying you were, I can pretty much tell you you’re definitely not a homo. Not even close. You’re about the most masculine boy I’ve ever met, to be honest. You’re on lots of sports teams. And even though you don’t have a girlfriend right now, I bet all of the girls are chasing after you all the time, aren’t they,” I added?
“That’s true enough,” Josh replied, sighing. “The girls do like me, that’s for sure. And it’s not like I hate them or anything. You know what I mean? They’re fine. I like them okay. I just seem a little more comfortable when I’m hanging out with the guys at school.”
“Oh, that’s entirely normal for someone your age,” I replied, talking like I was suddenly some kind of expert or something. “I wouldn’t worry about that, Josh. You’re so masculine it’s almost sickening,” I added, trying to end a discussion that was making me more and more nervous.
I remember wondering why I was trying to reassure Josh he was normal, not a pervert like me? If I really wanted to get close to him, I should have been planting seeds of doubt in his mind. But here I was trying to reassure him he was normal. Which he was, of course, I knew that. I wondered whether it was because there was still some part of me that wanted to be normal like he was. Or was it just because he needed some reassurance from a friend and I was trying to be one?
“Can I ask you a question, Josh,” I said, trying to change the topic?
“Sure,” he replied. “You already did, you bozo,” he added, grinning at me. “But you can ask me another one if you want.”
“Oh, right, like that’s really original, Josh,” I replied, mocking him. “Remind me to write that one down in the morning, would you? But my question is this. Last night, after we stopped talking, did you do something nasty in that sleeping bag of yours,” I asked?
“What? I mean, um, how could you, umm, I mean, why would you,” Josh stammered, unable to get the words out.
“I mean, why would you think something like that,” he finally continued, able to finish the thought at last? “I mean, no, absolutely not. Why would you even think something like that, Nolan?”
But knowing Josh by then, I wondered whether he was lying and decided to take a chance.
“Well, seeing as how you’re turning as red as a fire engine over there, I guess you can see how I might wonder about it,” I replied.
I couldn’t really tell whether he was blushing, of course, but I figured the chances were pretty good he was.
“But the other thing is I saw a pair of your briefs you were trying to dry up in your room this morning,” I added. “Because, you know, I washed my briefs out too when I took a shower up there. I didn’t want my mother to see what I had done in them last night. So I washed them out and left them to dry next to yours.”
“There’s nothing wrong with it, you know,” I continued. “It’s normal for guys our age. I was just curious. Because I knew I had done it and I’m not ashamed to tell you that. So I kind of wondered whether you had as well. But if you tell me, no, you didn’t, hey, it isn’t a big deal. Like I said, I was just kind of curious. That’s all.”
“I don’t really like talking about that kind of stuff, Nolan,” Josh replied. “I mean, it makes me nervous to even think about it. I don’t want my Mom to be ashamed of me. And the other thing is, well, this is kind of embarrassing, but I’ve noticed you have lots more underwear than I do. Usually I wear mine a couple of days, but I try to wash them out at the end of the day and let them dry overnight. That’s probably why you saw mine up there this morning.”
I didn’t know what to say at that point. I was just totally flabbergasted by Josh’s latest revelation and ashamed of myself for even raising the subject.
“Um, well, you know, you can have some of mine if you want,” I finally stammered. “I mean, some of my underwear. Like you said, I’ve got lots.”
“I’ve noticed,” Josh replied, softly. “And they’re sure a lot different than the stuff they carry in the store around here. Up here you have your basic white briefs and your basic white boxers. That’s all. I’ve never seen colored briefs like yours before. I even tried a pair of yours on tonight when I was upstairs, just to see how I looked in them. But, as for the rest of it, it’s just that, well, you know, I’m just not all that comfortable talking about it like you are. I wish I was, but I’m not.”
“It isn’t really a problem, Josh. And I can appreciate where you’re coming from. It’s just that, well, in New York guys talk about this stuff all the time,” I lied. “And they do more than just talk about it, too. But I apologize. I shouldn’t have brought it up and I’ll try to respect your privacy better in the future.”
“Like what,” Josh asked?
“What do you mean,” I responded?
“You said guys in New York do more than just talk about it,” Josh said. “What else do they do?”
“Oh, jeez, I don’t know exactly,” I replied, suddenly feeling trapped. “I mean, well, I’ve heard some guys do it together and, um, watch each other do it. Stuff like that. I mean, that’s pretty normal, isn’t it? It doesn’t mean they’re queer or anything.”
By then I knew I was getting in deeper than I should and I was pretty desperate. I mean, yeah, sure, Josh was just so incredibly good looking and I wanted to jump him so bad it hurt. But I didn’t want to screw things up like I usually did.
“I don’t know, Nolan,” he replied. “To me it seems kind of weird guys would do stuff like that together. I’ve never, ever, done anything like that before with a guy. To be honest, I haven’t really done anything much at all. Like I said, it makes me nervous even thinking about that kind of stuff. But then I get frustrated when I don’t think about it so I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
“Like I said, just don’t worry yourself to death about it, Josh,” I interrupted. “People figure it all out at different ages. You’re no different than anyone else that way. I won’t mention it any more. I just want us to be friends.”
“I want us to be friends, too, Nolan,” Josh responded. “I was hoping we already are.”
“Me too,” I said, smiling at him, unable to believe what he had just said. “Now go to sleep, you doofus. Otherwise, you’ll be a pain in the butt to be around tomorrow.”
The tent fell silent and I rolled over to catch one final glimpse of Josh. I was ready to go to sleep.
“Good night, sweetie,” Josh replied, grinning over at me.
“I’ll kill you,” I shrieked, scrambling out of my sleeping bag and jumping on Josh’s before he could get himself free. “Don’t ever call me sweetie again, you doofus.”
By now Josh was laughing hysterically, fully aware he had discovered just what a vulnerability that particular term of endearment was for me.
The two of us wrestled for a few moments inconclusively, then Josh just tossed me off him like a rag doll and climbed out of his sleeping bag. It was only a matter of moments before he had me pinned to the floor of the tent.
“Now be nice,” he said, smiling down at me. “Otherwise I’ll have to keep calling you sweetie. But if you’re nice to me, I’ll just call you what you really are.”
“And what would that be,” I asked, wondering whether he knew?
“I wish I knew,” Josh replied. “I sure wish I knew for sure.”
After that the two of us just laid there side by side for a long time. We weren’t exactly touching one another, but we were closer together than I had ever been with a boy before. Eventually Josh rolled over and climbed into his sleeping bag. I scrambled back into my sleeping bag as well. The two of us said our good nights and fell asleep pretty quickly after that.