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The Circle

Chapter 29

Monday Afternoon: All Or Nothing


The grin after the shared shout with Tom faded quickly, even before I stopped my bike. The shout had woken the temple wound, raising it from the constant, easily ignored, dull, throbbing headache centered there, to another pulsing, pinching, wince-causing arc of pain across my brow. I clenched my jaw, biting my own teeth as hard as I could, hoping the sharp agony would go away. I let my bike fall to the driveway and planted one foot in front of the other until I opened the screen door. I had to try several times before my weirdly weaving hand managed to insert the key into the door lock. Once inside, I grabbed the Anacin mom kept in the kitchen and chewed four. I grabbed a cold soda from the fridge and washed the bitter pills down, swallowing more than needed just for that. Belching deeply, I steadied myself on the counter over the sink in case I threw up. I wasn't sure that I was going to, but I knew that I wasn't going to allow myself to black out. I had things to do, important things, and I didn't have any time to spend laying on the floor - even if it was spent with Toby.

I concentrated on my breathing for a while, trying not to think of anything: I was only there, in the cool, calm, safe place inside. My jaw clenched several times before there was a sound inside my head, like two coins clicking together dully, then the pain eased to nearly nothing. The dull headache was still there, but it was nothing by comparison.

Eventually feeling much better, I conserved my energy and walked casually to my bedroom. I cleared off and opened the blue footlocker, and removed the brown envelope once again. For a moment I worried that I was using him to solve my own problems. That thought was short-lived and discarded quickly.

I'm sharing him. Like I should'a done a long time ago! I knew to bring him along to see Tim last night. I know he has something more to say, I can feel it.

I placed the envelope safely inside my coat and returned everything to the footlocker. I looked to the phone and thought of calling, to make sure that there was even someone there. I didn't know who would answer, though, or what they thought, or knew.

I knew I wasn't going to be home before my parents were, even if I rode there and right back as soon as was humanly possible, so I wrote a note and left it on the kitchen table on my way out to my bike. I tried to make it clear I was going to do something important, that needed done, without saying too much and worrying them.

I paused at the door, looking around at the kitchen. I was sure when I saw it next that things would be different; or I would, I just didn't know which.

I sighed and left my house for what felt like the last time. I knew I would be back, unless I was splattered on the highway. I knew things would be different when I got back. I wondered how much it would affect Jeff's mom, my being killed while obviously riding my bike on the highway to their apartment. I hoped that if I did get killed, that she would at least learn her lesson, and let Jeff love someone else - whomever came along next. I just wanted Jeff to be happy.

Why does this have to be? I thought, rolling down my drive, adjusting the precious envelope under my coat, and feeling as if I were about to stick my head into a hungry lion's mouth. Why is Jeff in my life if I can't have him? What's the point of it, God? What was the point of Toby? Why? Why throw something so wonderful at me, then pull it away? That stuff about temptation so you can chose the right path is all bullshit. If that was so, I'd be interested in girls. At least too, so I'd have the ability to chose. But you don't give me no choice. I don't feel anything for girls. I see the tits, the ass, the curves, and it don't seem worth the trouble. Even seems really gross! Why did you make women so gross? I see shapes on a guy, and I want. I see laughing women all the time, and nothing. I see a woman I know or like and she's laughing, I can feel like smiling, or feel happier, but I see Toby laugh, and I had to. And Jeff. Am I supposed to make myself do a girl? Am I supposed to make myself marry someone I don't want to, to make you happy and be like they say you want me to? Is Charlie Derek right, that I should be just like everybody else? How can I pretend and live a lie? If not that, should I make myself miserable and alone, have nobody, to make you happy? Did you make me gay so I would have to choose to live alone and have nobody and go to heaven, or love a guy and be happy here and go to hell after? Am I supposed to pretend I love some woman, pretend I want sex with her, have babies and live a whole life as a lie, so I can go to your heaven? HAH! Then I don't want your heaven.

I want Jeff. He's so beautiful. You did such a great job on him, if you really are responsible. Not a Toby, but as good in his own ways. Better in ways, no match in others. You did a bang-up job with them both. But why tease me with 'em? Hell, I don't think you really have anything to do with it. I think, if you really created everything, if you even exist, that you wound it up and let it go, like a windup toy car, or a spinning top. You let it go where it goes, bump what it bumps, until it winds down. Then you scrunch it all up into a mess and start all over, and let that new one go bouncing off things until it winds down. You do nothing to it. You touch nothing, you adjust nothing, you don't interfere. You build it and just see how it goes. You don't answer prayers, you don't stop catastrophes, you don't reach down from heaven and pluck worthy worshippers from their dooms, or point search and rescue teams to your lost sheep in the wilderness. You watch, you listen, you do nothing. You let everything play out as it will. You might maybe let ideas and thoughts and stuff get through, but you don't affect anything directly by intervening directly. Do you?

We got to do what we think and feel is right. If we do that, we do all we can. And I got to do what I think is right. I think Jeff's mom's morals can go get stuffed. I think her hatred is what's evil, not what I feel for Jeff, or ever felt for Toby. If there was anything evil about me and Toby, then Satan can have my soul. What that was, the way that felt, if that wasn't your feelings, if that isn't what Heaven is, then if that's Hell, then I want to spend eternity in Hell feeling that with Toby. And Jeff. And mom and dad, and my grands, and Tom and the Circle guys. And everybody else who won't hate me because you made me this way. If what I felt with Toby isn't the same and as good as what mom and dad feel for each other, and every guy and girl together feels for each other, than you can keep your Heaven.

I want that feeling with Jeff, and I want to be able to have others know about it. Especially the people I love and like and want to know about me; the people I don't want to lie to and pretend with and hide from. Even his mom. I like her, she's a nice lady. Jeff relies on her for everything. She don't make the real money, but she spends it on the bills, food, shelter, clothing and the few other things for them. She raised him and Todd mostly alone. She'd been a good mother, even I know that in just the short years I known them. It's just impossible for him to tell her and be messing with his support at the same time. But I can be his support. I can be who he gets his strength from. He can lean on me. He knows it, he just has to commit to it. To me. To us.

I don't want it to be secret with him, but he needs it to be a secret to everyone that way. The Circle guys will have to know, but no one else. I don't even want to go announcing it or anything, but I don't want to hide or run from it like it's not true, or it's bad. He's better than that.

I snagged a passing delivery truck and swapped trains of thought. I finalized and polished my speeches, for her and for him, hoping to be able to stick to the calm, reasoned ones in both cases. I worked on the more violent ones, too, in case I needed them. Again and again I went over my words, and what I expected his or her reactions and arguments to be. I countered, parried, and thrust with my arguments, puncturing her armor time after time.

As I figured one thing out, two more popped up, and it seemed almost too easy to knock them down in turn. It was as if I were in a cheap carnival shooting gallery, plinking tin ducks from just twenty feet away with a real ten-gauge.

If she says anything about it being wrong, then blam-plink, then God would have made us like girls too, not just guys, so we could have the choice.

If she goes for the moving away tactic, then blam-plink, there are guy guys everywhere and he'll find someone he loves anyway.

If she tries the gays are evil one, then blam-plink, her own Pope's words; no man is evil to himself.

He's perfect, the word of God on Earth, right? Point, blam-plink, counter-point. Bitch.

I'll have this, or go down fighting for it! I don't care if it's by fate or design or not. I mean, fuck. Am I doing what God's design, or my fate, directs? Or is what I'm about to do go against it? Am I following my course? Or trying to change it? Can I change it, if so? Or should I?

It became moot as I rolled up in front of their apartment building; it had never seemed so tall. Only twenty-two floors, but it seemed to dwarf even the Sears Tower at that moment. And it seemed as if it paused, waiting to collapse onto me, burying me under it's mass, grinding me into the concrete of the streets, ending my worries. I almost wished it would, almost dared it to.

Soon I stood in front of the panel of buttons inside the glass foyer and stared at number four-twenty-eight. The emotional numbness that had been damping my reactions evaporated. I had no idea that such a thing existed, and I certainly hadn't been aware that I had been experiencing it until my entire body began shaking as my emotions began storming through me. They were all there, making their curtain calls, and performing flawlessly. Fear, anger, loss, grief, desire, love, even joy and despair. They capered and danced, kicking over the plants and jumping on the furniture. I had to lean against the wall with both hands and make myself breathe. My body shuddered so badly that I was afraid my legs would simply fold up under me. The urge to puke was there, but without any lunch to launch, all I did was contract and belch thickly.

The breathing exercises saved me, I was sure. I thought only of my breaths, of controlling the muscles around my stomach and moving my lungs. All that mattered was the air traveling through my throat, mouth, and nose.

In deep . . . hold a sec . . . out slow . . . hold a sec . . . in deep . . . hold a sec . . . out slow . . . hold a sec.

Only those thoughts were allowed until my body was under my control again. Then, between the breathing mantra, one other thought at first. Then, as I could, I allowed other thoughts. Soon, I leaned away from the wall.

 What if their mom is home? What if she answers the buzzer? Why didn't I call first? What if Jeff isn't even here? What if he answers and hears me and never answers it again? What if . . .

Just fucking stop it, Alex.

 My finger ran over the edge of the large envelope under my coat. I watched my own hand reach out and buzz their number.

"Yeah?" Todd's voice asked.

"Todd! Cool. It's Alex. Can-"

The door buzzed.

I grabbed for the buzzing door instinctively. My insides felt liquefied as I grew closer to the actual moments ahead. Once upstairs, as the elevator doors opened, I saw Todd leaning out of the apartment door, waving me forward.

"Why are you even home already? And why wasn't Jeff at school today?"

He didn't answer, only waved me inside hurriedly. Once the door was shut I uncontrollably began asking questions.

"Hey, why you home, anyway? You both skip today? You guys sick or something? You're mom home?"

I had looked around the front room of the apartment as I entered, my vision swinging from the right and the hallway to the bedrooms there, toward my left and the kitchen and the rest of the front room, then finally back to the front door and Todd. As I swung around to face Todd with the last of my questions I saw him frantically gesturing for silence, and that his hand was a fraction of a second from grabbing at my upper arm in an apparent attempt to silently quiet me.

Jeff chose that moment to come out of the bedroom. I heard a door open and spun around. Even though the hall was dark, I could tell that he was wearing the baggy-legged, light gray sweats that hugged his butt like they were glued to it. He didn't have a shirt on, and his golden-yellow chest and stomach hair was actually visible as a thin line of light from the window played differently on it than on his smooth, almost too-pale skin.

I wanted to run to him and hug him, and just hold him in my arms.

"What are you doing here?" he finally asked unbelievingly.

"I came to see if we could go somewhere and talk. Maybe go walking around the building, or something. Just talk," I said softly as I walked very slowly toward him.

"I can't leave. She can call. Or come home early. It'd be... "

Bad, I knew, as he looked to the floor, hiding his face from my view.

"We can work on it until end of school. If we can't get her to stay, then we know not to even try for... us. But, if you stay-"

"We ain't stayin'," he said softly, and terribly sadly. "We're movin' sooner, 'cause I told mom."

The whole world threatened to crumble under the emotions in those words as Jeff delivered them. It was obvious it had not gone well.

"She freaked," Todd offered, his eyes wide and darting.


"When you left. She heard the door slam and came out and saw me, and... I, started crying like a baby! I just blurted it out. Like you said to do, only, I didn't mean to... I... it just, I just did it all wrong!"

He was trying not to cry, it was so easy to tell, even though he was standing mostly in shadow and his face was further hidden by his long bangs as his head hung low. That of course created an identical need in me, and I began to slowly close the distance between us.

"What? What did you say?" I choked out.

"I love Alex. I'm gay, and I love Alex."

His voice clearly cracked with the last words. My heart stopped momentarily, actually missing a beat. I even felt the pressure return in my neck as it beat again.

Jeff said he loves me! To his mom! And he told her he's gay! He did it!

"You really did it?" I asked, overjoyed, but knowing as I closed that last ten feet that it was still bad.

His gorgeous blond hair was still in shadow, but I could tell by the silhouette that it was mussed, tangled, and shaggy; the first time I had ever seen it so messed. Then Jeff looked up and I saw that his full, soft lips were trembling, and slightly swollen on his left side. His left eye was slightly darkened on the outside edges, mirroring my own bruised temple.

I began to think terrible thoughts. My elation at Jeff's words, at his his admission, left, replaced with concern and even more anger. I was suddenly near him, reaching out toward his face. He flinched slightly at first, then let me touch his swollen lip and brush across his bruised cheek.

"What, happened?" I asked as flatly as I could. But knowing already, the growing anger came through. He didn't have to answer.

"She slapped me. Hard. A couple times."

I became uncontrollably angry; my face became hot, my hand at his cheek retreated to my side where both hands became clenched fists. My entire body shook, my breath slowed into shaky, hollow gasps.

"Don't, Al. She apologized. And she, she didn't mean it. And this morning she told us we're moving for sure. As soon as dad finds a place out there. Just don't make things worse. She said I could call you later, when she gets home, to tell you we'd be moving and that you aren't welcome here. I'm not allowed to see you. Or call you. Or you me. The same for Todd."

I began breathing faster, and I could feel my own pulse racing in rage. I had never felt so angry in my entire life to that point. I could feel my entire body temperature rise, my skin getting clammy, and the sweat starting. My jaw shuddered, knocking my teeth together until I clamped my jaw tight.

"Oh, my, God!" I hissed through my clenched teeth.

"Alex, she was just raised-"

"It don't matter! I don't care what fucking excuse she's got, it's fucking wrong!" I screamed.

I was raging inside. The very idea of someone hitting or hurting Jeff seemed insane.

The blasphemy! The outrageousness! The unmitigated gall! There can be no God!

"And her own son! What's wrong with her?!"

"Alex! Please! We don't live in a house!" he pleaded, obviously upset at the possibility of someone hearing me. "And besides, it don't matter," he said, looking downward.

I shook as I stood there in their apartment, wanting to punch anything but him. Him I wanted to wrap with my arms and take away to a safe place where we could be happier than any known human beings had ever been before.

The bruise on him, though, mirroring my own, outraged me beyond what I had experienced before, with the exception of my rage against the God that had cursed Toby and taken him away from me. The guilt that I had caused Jeff to be harmed weighed heavily over me in that moment.

And he says it don't matter! How can he expect that to not matter? What is he talking about? Her hitting him? Me being too loud? Him telling her finally? Which what? They all matter I can think of! I could just... just... fuck!

The image of him standing there in the hall, shirtless, his hair mussed so completely, his face obscured by his gorgeous hair as he looked downward, his hands wringing each other near the center of his chest, so obviously deeply upset, was far more than I wanted to see, let alone deal with. During the ride to his apartment I had thought briefly that he might be very down, but I had glossed it over, almost ignoring it, and I had no plans ready for the possibility.

What else have I ignored? I asked myself, trying to put the horror and anger on hold, trying my very best to keep calm and collected, and thinking clearly. I have to stay centered! Keep smooth and shit, like Toby'd say.

I could almost hear his voice, giving me advice.

Remember, he's a first-timer at the love stuff. You've been through the mess once before. And you've missed it and been lookin' for it again. Jeff's just findin' it, and don't know a damned thing to do about it. And he likes being in charge, not the one being led... or the one bein' taught. He's an experienced and natural big brother, maybe because he had to be, but he's a first-timer with this shit. And it can be so much shit! You remember!

I remember, yeah. You don't know what to do, or what would help, or sometimes, most times sometimes, even what you're feeling. Yeah.

"Look, Jeff, we gotta at least talk!"

"Look. We can talk, okay?" he offered quietly, "But you gotta go before mom gets home. We ain't supposed to have any visitors, and you especially! And the neighbors'll be home soon! So be quiet and stay quiet, okay?"

 I nodded, willing to agree to anything so long as I could talk to him.

He sat on the couch, saying, "It don't really matter anyway. Okay?"

I sat down on the other end of the couch, wishing that I could sit closer to him, holding him. I knew from his body language that he would not welcome any contact; he was protecting himself, being defensive, and obviously forcing himself to talk to me. I looked for Todd, but he was gone. I saw the bedroom door was shut.

I can begin, I thought.

"What don't matter is what your mom thinks! It don't matter what other people think! None of it! All that matters is how we feel about it! How did you feel when we was sitting and talking and hugging and stuff? What did you feel? I felt great! I felt like nothing mattered as long as you was there with me! Did you feel anything?"

We were so close, we could do it, if he could face it, and her. If he could take charge of himself.

"Your mom fucking knows! She knows! She's going to be okay with it!"

"Then why does she cry?" Jeff asked, a tear rolling down his cheek as he finally looked at me.

I had seen his face twisted in pain before. Bike falls, bad nut-shots, and the time he had broken his finger working on our bikes together. Other times as well his face had formed that scrunched up, wrinkled, wide-eyed grimace, but I had never seen it while we talked, and never expected to see it then, on his couch, talking about his mother's tears as his own fell.

The reaction inside of me was more than emotional; my heart shuddered, my breathing stopped, some muscles tightened, in my chest and throat for example, and others slackened, like my spine and jaw. My stomach shrunk, becoming a tight, painful knot in my gut. My hands repeatedly slackened and then formed fists.

"She don't act, right. Not really," he continued when I remained silent.

He didn't seem as upset saying that, more uncertain. His face smoothed slightly, enough that I could function again. I took hold of myself, forced several breaths, and focused.

"What's not really mean?" I asked, fearing he was being subtly manipulated by her into regretting things.

He sighed deeply, sniffling, before he carried on. "She, she says she loves me. All the time. And she, it's like she's overdoing it! And she ain't even mentioned the church yet! But when she does, it's gonna be long prayer meetings and freaking counseling!"

"What'd'ya expect? She does love you. She's been getting clues her son's gay, then she finds out, and his best friend is, likes him, he likes him, they, we like each other. So yeah. She kinda knew for a while, or was guessing, like Todd said. Like my parents were! Mom and dad - that speech they did! Oh my gosh! Sheeeez!"

He laughed, making me laugh.

"She's not trying to make you think, bad, or something? Right?"

"No! Not even! I've been waiting for her to start on the sins and the fires of purgatory and perdition and shit. But, like nothing. She, not even Bible quotes. Nothing."

Nothing? Nothing at all? She's not even preaching the sins of the flesh? The evils of homosexuality? Morality?

"So why all the stress? What's the big deal, then?"

He rolled his eyes and his head, signaling frustration, and lots of it.

"Look," I said, taking the envelope out. "This is what I'm gonna show your mom the truth with. If this won't make her see, then, then maybe we can't have her blessing or whatever. But, I think, I hope, I'm sure, he'll do it."

I could tell from his face that he knew exactly what I held, and that he was shocked that I would do it.

"But forget it for now. For now I just want to talk to you. I missed you so much. And I worried so much, too. I know, I think I know, anyway, you're scared. And you don't know what to do. I know you hate that. Like the field trip when they changed it and we didn't know what bus until the time to leave and you were freaking out. And you like to be the one who knows what's next and shit. But there's a first time for everything, man, and this is your first with this. I only got one ahead of ya, but I'm ahead. I've been in that scared place, Jeff. Let me help you with it. Please? I'll be here for anything. And I won't do anything to let you get hurt. And I'll make sure you got me to lean on. It'll be good. I promise. So go for it! I'll be here. I wanna!"

He was softening, and relaxing. His back was no longer hunched and his face was nearly normal, only slightly pained.

He nodded a couple of times and said softly, "I know what you mean. I, I want to, it's... "

"I know, scary. Unknown. Huge. Overwhelming. Lots of words like that. And it's worth it. Go for it. If you want it as bad as I do, I'm not gonna let anything stop me from trying, then go for it with me. I can do anything when we're together. I love you so much, Jeff. I really do. I don't care what anybody thinks, not a fucking bit, not so long as, if we can, as long as we're cool. Even if we're just friends, anything, as long as we're cool. Okay?"

He finally looked up and met my eyes, smiling his cute, shy smile. I grinned back, uncontrollably. I scooted to the center of the couch and waved him over with a swing of my head.

"If we got any chance of having some time as, like, with each other, fuck man, I'm gonna kick and scratch and claw!"

"Great White Hope," he said unnecessarily, laughing a bit and falling sideways into my arms. "If I had known it would be like this I might have given it a second thought. But real life sure isn't like school, there's some lessons that just can't be taught."

"If I had known it would be like this, I wouldn't have given it a second thought. But if someone had told me you'd be here, it's a line that I wouldn't have bought," I paraphrased.

We had sung along with the song the morning after the party, on the couch in Tim's basement, tracing circles and lines on each other's arms. I could feel his tension under my arms, so unlike it had been that morning. He was shirtless against me, and his bare chest excited me slightly, but sex was so far from my mind. I picked up where we had been, drawing my finger along the hairs on his forearm. He sighed slightly, but remained with his arms crossed over his chest which rose and fell with every quickened, shortened breath. His shoulders were like rocks, his back against my chest felt made of marble he was so tense yet. I sensed him shivering, though he wasn't that I could feel.

"You really think it'll be okay? That, we can do this?"

"Nothing's stopping me. I'm going all or nothing here. It won't if I do it alone. You go to do it too. You got to give it all or nothing too."

We were silent awhile, just holding and being held.

"We'll be okay. I will, as long as this is possible. Or at least as long as we do what we can to get what we want. I want this, Jeff. I want this with you. And I want everybody to know it. I don't want to hide it from our folks or the guys. Everybody else can go get fucked and don't need to know shit. But I can't pretend or hide with your mom. Then I'll be okay. You?"

"I think so. Yes, man, I want this too. I want it to be all or nothing. It's, just, so, you know, fucking scary. She might make me leave! Or Catholic school. And dad'll probably not care much, his region boss is gay and he says he likes him pretty well and gets along with him alright. It's mom. And everybody else!"

"Tell me about it! You could still move. Or worse, and I don't even wanna think about that! And if she does kick you out you know where to come to. But, fuck, you gotta seize the day, ya know?"

He began rubbing my arm that lay across his chest. He brushed his fingers across it, tickling the hairs. I felt him relax a bit, and shiver once. A question, a very old question, came again to the fore, insisting. All the many times before that it had come doing so, I had pressed it back, but right then it seemed a good way to fill the quiet.

"Jeff, can I ask, you don't have to answer, but I wanna ask. And I don't mean anything, really. It's just... "

He turned his head to face me as much as was possible.

"All the stuff we talk about and there's something you're afraid to ask me?"

"Not afraid, it's, just really personal."

"What? About, my, uh, skin on my-"

"NO! No, not about that!" I said, stopping him as soon as I understood what he was thinking. "No. I, about your dad."

"What?" he asked, obviously perplexed.

"Is, well, is he your real dad?"

Jeff's head pivoted backward on his neck and he cocked one eyebrow. I giggled.

"Sorry! That's, just, it's cute, that face I mean."

He snickered and shook his head.

"All the stuff we've talked about and that's so hard to ask? Geeze!"

He rolled his eyes, another very cute thing I liked, and I smiled wider.

"Yeah. He's my dad. He, just don't really live with us anymore. His job is going around the country for months at a time at one place, then on to another state for a while going around it. He comes home between when he finishes early, or there's less places to inspect, and some holidays, but until he gets region manager, which is what he wants, he goes around a lot."

"Has it always been like that? Him not around?"

"Nope. Just the last like four years or so. Or some longer. Since Todd started school, really. But he says he should get that region manager spot in a year or two now for sure. Maybe sooner if he does as good as possible now. So he tries as hard as possible now. So he's gone almost all the time."

"Must suck, right?"

"Yeah. I mean, I miss him a lot."

"And you think he'd be better about you being gay? Than your mom, I mean."

He blew out a breath that passed for a laugh, then said, "Yeah. Dad and mom argued once about gays. She said they were abominations, and dad said they were just people. Yeah, I don't think dad'll take it so bad. He gave me that sex talk once, when I was fourteen, and he was going off for another few months. He, uh, you know. The usual stuff, condoms, love, all that. But, he said too, that, well, he basically said sometimes guys don't like girls, and that's okay, and if I never liked girls, he'd understand as long as, well... "

I prodded him onward by hugging him tighter.

"He just said that as long as I knew for sure what I wanted, that he didn't care as long as I knew."

"Did you? Know? Then?"

After a long pause, Jeff nodded.

"I even thought about telling him. But what mom would do, well, that made it, you know."


So his dad wasn't any impediment at all! Well, not much of one, at least. Not like his mom. And everybody else, as he sees it.

"You shoulda told him. If you were real sure. Like I said, seize the day, man."

"Yeah. Memento mori, ergo carpe diem," he nearly whispered.

"Um, where did you hear that?" I asked, suddenly at least as tense as he had been minutes ago.


"I heard it before, from, somebody. But I never heard it said just like that by anybody before or after."

And it means way more than I can even think about sharing yet, I almost said.

"Remember mortality, therefore, seize the day," I said softly, sighing and feeling warmed.

"Yeah, right. Kind of like saying, you're gonna die some day, so, get what'cha can."

"All or nothing, baby."

"What? Not, well, not really, but sure, about the same."

"How did you even know that Latin?" I asked

"Fifth period. How'd you know it was Latin?"

"So that's your mystery class! What's the big deal about that?"

"Latin? So geeky!" he said, laughing and hiding his eyes with his hand.

"Yeah. I like geeks," I said, leaning over to kiss him.

Remember mortality, therefore, seize the day, I thought. Seize it all, all or nothing, baby.

Memento mori, I heard Toby's voice say again. Ergo, carpe diem, I heard Jeff's voice finish, though we were still kissing.

He was still sitting with his back against my front, his head against my right shoulder. My arms swung lower, from around his shoulders to his bare chest, each palm resting on a nipple. I kissed deeply but teasingly, letting him set the pace.

"AHEM!" Todd's voice interrupted us. "I'm going to Mike's. I'll be back before mom gets home," he said, closing the apartment door behind him.

"I forgot! I know he was listening! The little shit!" Jeff said, holding his hands to his face.

"Sure was. Why he left when he did," I said, snickering. "Great little bro."

Jeff laughed softly. He looked up and back at me, and was heartbreakingly adorable. His light blue eyes pulled my soul from me again, down into their dark centers. He came up and kissed me. I leaned down to meet him. We kissed, deeply but slowly. He turned in my arms and drew his body closer to mine.

I felt my insides swirling, tingling, tumbling. My heart thumped and my pulse roared in my ears as we kissed more passionately.

Jeff pulled back, and with one of the sexiest grins that I had ever seen, matching even Toby's best, he said, "All or nothing, right?" then pulled me off the couch by my arm and led me to the bedroom where he closed the door behind us.

He walked me to his bed and sat down, holding me by my hips, directly in front of him as he sat on the bed.

He grinned up at me and asked, "Can I see?"


He wants to, just, see? Oh my gawd! How embarrassing! I mean, I want to see him too, his, I mean, but, gawd! The few times we did anything it was all dark or mostly dark, and I've always wanted to get a real good look in bright light and stuff, but when somebody else wants to, it's so embarrassing!

"You mean, just, let you look? I mean... "

Jeff smirked as he unfastened the button on my jeans and slid the zipper down. He slid my jeans down to my knees, then pushed my briefs down. My erection bounced out and Jeff sat back to take in the view with a wide smile, his braces showing though.

Gosh! So embarrassing! I mean, he's like just, looking at me. At it! And it won't stop bouncing! Oh my gawd! It's the most embarrassed I've felt about almost anything! Why is that? He's seen it before! But in a room at night with no good lights. And he never really looked, I guess. But oh, gawd, he's so cute!

Jeff wrapped the fingers of his right hand around it and squeezed it as he pulled the skin forward. He leaned forward and licked the tip, blocking my view with his head.

I gasped, loudly, surprising myself, as Jeff's tongue made fleeting contact with my sensitive, suddenly almost over-swollen head. When Jeff's soft lips slid around my head, I groaned involuntarily and put both of my hands onto Jeff's head, tangling my fingers into his hair. 

I was ecstatic, overjoyed, on the edge of overload. Powerful tension built between and under my legs, making my erection swell with pressure and sudden, impending release. I had never before been so close to cumming so instantly.

"Shit, Jeff, don't," I said, pushing Jeff's head away before it was too late.

"What? What did I do? Braces?" Jeff asked, looking at my exposed parts.

"You almost made me cum!" I blurted out.

"That's sorta the idea, ain't it?" he asked, cocky and confused.

I laughed gently as I pulled my briefs over my erection. I wanted more than a quickie, more than a fast fuck, or anything along those lines. I wanted the tenderness, the contact, the love. Jeff should be willing, wanting, needing that too. Especially.

"It is, kind of. But, not so soon. I don't want it like that. Like all fast and dirty. That was okay before, but not now. Not now that, that I, that you... we... " I gave up trying to explain.

I didn't regret what we had done before, only that he had run home afterward. I didn't want to regret any of it, and it had been glorious to say the least, but I didn't want that again; I wanted the real thing with him.

Jeff wore an expression of confusion as I had fumbled for words to explain. It became surprise as I gave up the verbal attempts and sat on the bed next to him. I wrapped both arms around his midsection and pulled him into a passionate kiss. After bliss kissing him, I pulled him sideways, down onto the bed. He rolled over me, never breaking contact between our lips. In moments, Jeff was pushing his crotch into mine. I pushed in return.

"I want it like this," I said between kisses as my hands roamed all over his bare chest and back, paying special attention to his nipples.

"Oh, shit!" Jeff said, returning the kisses, the grinding, the roaming touching.

Too much! I screamed to myself. Too fucking much! Don't do anything else unless he moves or shows he wants to do more! I scare him off again and I don't fucking deserve him! You're so hot, soft, solid! This has been so long coming! Gawd! Finally, please!

As he lay on top of me, as we kissed and moaned, panted, ground ourselves into each other, I knew that what I felt, that what emotions and feelings Jeff caused in me, were as evil as a switchblade. It had the potential to harm, to hurt, to be bad, had a terrible reputation, but it could save or harm, exactly the same as sex between men and women. I knew that as long as sex was with someone you felt that wonderful, tingling, thrilling mix of emotions with, that there could be no bad sex. If sex was used to control, to coerce, to dominate, then it harmed, then it was bad, then it was evil.

I abandoned thoughts after coming to that conclusion. My hands slid down Jeff's naked back to his ass. I kneaded and massaged it in his sweatpants for a time, then moved my hands up his bare back, feeling his smooth, warm skin under my hand. I hugged him to me, tightly. We kissed more deeply, the both of us learning and teaching.

My fingers found and played with his nipples, finding them hard and pointed, and obviously sensitive. Then my hands slid down his sides and around his back again, then into the back of his sweatpants. I felt his smooth, soft, slightly fuzzy ass cheeks. They were glorious! My fingers met in the warm crevice and I pulled them apart and pushed them together, kneading his incredible ass. He shuddered several times, his ass clenching suddenly.

"Alex! Alex, wait!" Jeff choked out as he pulled his lips from mine.

NO! Don't do this! I thought in despair.

I realized that it wasn't what I had thought at first when I felt his body shuddering even more over me, and my hands felt his ass clenching tightly. His face was buried against my chest, but I heard faint squeaking noises several times as he tensed and shivered against me. His hot erection pressed and pulsed against my groin. After had he gasped and relaxed from his orgasm, he looked up and briefly met my eyes before hiding them again.

I held Jeff's face in both hands and forced him to meet my gaze.

"Smile, Jeff. That was cool! I'm glad!"

"Glad? That I couldn't wait? Bullshit!"

Jeff clearly didn't believe it, and clearly wasn't happy that it had happened.

"Jeff. It's totally cool! I'm not far! And it only means you're hot about this! It's totally fine! It's a compliment, really, if you get what I mean."

He laughed, apparently getting it.

"They why didn't it happen last time or before?"

"Because this time we're going slower, and it's more, well, hotter!"

I moved my lips back to his for several minutes.

"Think you could go again in a bit?" I asked with a grin.

He smiled and shrugged as he said, "I don't know."

"You ever done it twice? Close together?"

Jeff looked around the room, at anything, as long as it wasn't at me. His smile revealed he wasn't excessively uncomfortable, but I could tell he wasn't happy about what had happened, or the topic.

"Don't worry. We got some time. Let's see what happens, okay?"

I made to roll to my left, out from under him, but surprisingly he resisted, then pressed his lips to mine, entangled his fingers into my hair, and ground himself into my crotch again. I was so surprised at first that I didn't return the motions. I had thought to take a break to let Jeff gather another head of steam, as well as prolong my own arousal time. I thought I'd caress and fondle him to keep the fires stoked, and let my eyes soak him in.

Jeff started moving downward, kissing my tummy as he pushed my shirt up out of his way. He kissed and licked my nipples, then kissed his way down to my jeans. He began kissing his way back down me.

"Jeff, you sure you wanna go there? It, uh, I won't... "

It was too late, Jeff had me in his mouth.

Jeff planted one hand around my shaft and began to stoke it in time with his bobbing head, never relenting in his powerful suction. The sounds proved that he was inexperienced and enthusiastic. I had already tensed my back muscles, arching slightly above the bed. Both hands grabbed handfuls of Jeff's hair and followed his uneven bobbing.

"Jeff! It won't be long!"

That pressure that had only briefly relented, returned even stronger. I could barely breathe as I felt the final stages of orgasm suddenly race over me. Just the effort it took to grunt, "Cum-m-m-m-ing!" prevented me from doing anything else.

Wave after wave of pleasure rolled through me. Each ejaculation seemed to be an entire orgasm in itself. Again and again my groin tensed and relaxed, all my being compressed into a tiny space and shot with terrific force into Jeff's mouth.

It's going on forever! It won't stop! I'll shoot everything at once! Oh, shit! Why won't it stop?

But finally it did slow and end. The long, tugging, drawing sensations relented, the swelling and pulsing taking longer. Soon I was so sensitive that it hurt as Jeff continued to stroke and suck me. I didn't want it to stop. I forced myself to both suffer and enjoy it as long as I could, pounding the bed with both arms and panting loudly between expletives.

"Fuck! Fuck! God! Shit! Jeff! Stop! I can't anymore!" I finally yelled, reaching to pull the soft, full lips off myself.

I looked to his lips, wet with spit and my cum. Smears of both surrounded his mouth and were on his chin despite his attempts to wipe at it. I pulled him up to me and I kissed him, around his mouth, his chin, then back to his lips.

Jeff returned them, then pulled back quickly.

"I'm all cummy! Don't kiss me!"

"I don't fucking care!" I said, pulling him back.

I didn't care, I even liked it. It made me want Jeff's taste in my mouth. I could feel his hardness against my thigh, proving that he was ready again. I rolled over, taking him with me until I was on top.

I copied exactly what Jeff had done; kissing down to his neck, chest, downward to his tummy. My hand had already found the long, warm harness in Jeff's sweatpants. I kissed up to the waistband, then pulled it away from his body and downward. I shoved my face into the briefs before I pulled the sweats further downward and inhaled several times with deep sighs, nuzzling my nose deeper with each one. The smell of Jeff's cum was exhilarating, empowering, overpowering. I pushed his hardness around inside of his briefs with my nose and lips, feeling the large mass' reactions. Once the sweats were out of the way, I played with the wetness in the material of his shorts with my tongue, pushing around and against his hardness as well, and tasting the musky, salty flavor.

My hands moved around his waist, slid up and down his sides as he panted endlessly, interspersed occasionally with a lone, "Oh!" when my nose or tongue moved about his briefs.

I felt the texture and warmth of his skin under my hands again, smelled him again, was reveling in his sounds of pleasure again. My hands slid down his flanks and hips, then his thighs, rolling his sweats further down his legs. I sat back to let him bend his legs and I removed his sweats and briefs completely. Then I settled onto my knees on the floor between his legs. I stared, like he had done earlier at me. I just looked, lightly tickling the hair on both of this thighs. I had stared before, but since he had make a thing about it, I decided to really take my time and soak him in.

He had a wonderful, light, sandy-blond triangle of pubic hair. It was as light as his skin there, where no tan had ever gone. His matching hair on his thighs and arms were nearly visible, but in their shortness and sparseness, not much so. There was matching hair around his navel, and the beginnings of a decent trail south that was simply too light to notice easily. It was the same as on his chest. I ran my hands through his bush, loving the feel and sight of it. It was darker in places, wet and sticky with his cum. What little of his head that was visible was a dark red, most likely from the earlier orgasm and the continued excitement. It was no less than six inches and solidly thick, like him. His foreskin was darker than the rest of his skin, contrasting against it and clinging tightly to the contours of his head which it hid. His cum bubbled and oozed at the tip of his foreskin as I grasped his cock and moved the skin back a bit. The aroma rising from him not only made my stomach rumble, it made me feel lightheaded, drunken, stoned, and dizzy. And more.

It's fucking huge! It's so thick! It's going to be bigger than anybody's. And my gawd! You almost can't even see the tip of the head! And it hurts to make it go back too far, I have to remember that! And his cum is there like milk, like spilled milk that needs cleaned up!

After gently sucking and licking the cum away, making Jeff twist under me, I backed up again to look around more. His head was now purple, dark purple, and the opening of the foreskin was nearly as dark as his head, but still red. Jeff's jewels were nearly as large as mine, and were an awesome handful even though they were very close in to his body, as if he were cold. His sack was fairly tight, pink and smooth. His fine blond hairs were nearly invisible on the sack, but were nicely present next to it out to his thighs. It was all nicely sensitive, as even my tentative explorations caused Jeff's entire body to respond. He gasped and moaned in time to my attentions, and I moaned when I realized what I was doing, and to whom. Again. And with hopes of it being something more, something emotional, something real.

I returned to his hidden head, examining his wonderful construction. His foreskin had a hole at the end that was small, only large enough around for a pinky or slim finger to fit through. When I pushed his skin down his shaft, the opening allowed only the tip of his sizeable head to be exposed, slightly forcing open the end of his urethra. The hole in the foreskin would spread more, I was sure, but I released it, watching a bit of missed cum join the freshly created pre-cum in the circle created by the end of his foreskin, like a small, shallow bowl.

I looked up to his face, but his head was down against the bed with his arm thrown over his eyes. I couldn't see his face or his expression, but I could see that his lower lip was being bitten securely between his teeth, and that his upper braces were exposed.

I'm here! We're doing it! Again! And it could be the start of a real thing! YES! And he's so fucking beautiful! He's so hot! He feels so good! He smells so good! And those little squeaks are so cute! He's tastes great! I want to make him feel so good!

I opened my mouth wide to take him in. My lips closed around his heat. My tongue slid over his skin and his head. There was a strong flavor of Jeff's cum, and more. Musky, thick, pleasant. I felt and tasted small strings of cum as I gently sucked and cleaned Jeff's head and foreskin.

Knowing there were dozens of things I wanted to do immediately, I held them back, knowing it was far better to spread the exploration and discovery out over time. I sucked just the head, keeping the foreskin over it. I sucked it just enough that Jeff should feel just a bit of it. I sucked just enough to clean it, to prevent the loss of a single drop of his cum. I moved his skin with my hand, making sure any trapped cum was captured. I licked, sucked, stroked so gently.

I felt his body trembling and his breathing increase. When he groaned, "Oh fuck, I'm going to," I pulled away.

I took the time to look again at his wonderful construction. I worried that he might be painful to take in the most personal way; it was fairly thick, straight, and was blunt. The way the foreskin didn't expose his head, I wondered if he could even get it in without pain or discomfort for himself. He was wider at the end, behind his head, and thinner at the base, almost like a squat baseball bat.

I stroked him slowly and gently with my right hand, my left fondling with his balls and tickling all around them. I sometimes held his skin back somewhat tightly, just long enough until his cock began to pulse and his breathing caught. I nearly stood up to watch his face. I watched as he was lost in a smiling bliss. He bit at his lower lip endlessly. I worried he might actually chew through it. His braces glinted in the light against his white, straight teeth, and oddly, I wondered again why he wore braces. I watched until he groaned and flung his arm away from his face and looked down at me.

Our eyes met, and our smiles grew a bit embarrassed, but my hands didn't stop as he rolled his eyes upward and his head fell back onto the bed with another slight moan. I heard the squishing sounds before I felt the new wetness at his head. I looked down to see a large amount of nearly clear pre-cum smearing around his foreskin. I returned my mouth to it to clean it up, the taste only making me want more. I sucked a bit, not much, and bobbed a small amount as well. He grunted and pushed his hips upward. I stopped, only stroking again.

I grinned and sucked one of his balls into my mouth, his tight scrotum making it rather difficult. Jeff hissed in pleasure. I licked and sucked, squeezed them both in my mouth, one at a time then together. Jeff squirmed more than ever before. I let them fall out and went back to playing with the main feature.

I wrapped my hand around him, pulling the skin back very slowly and gently. The small foreskin opening spread as it neared the head. As I pulled the skin back further, the foreskin thinned and the opening increased, but only slightly, and only because now the tip of the head was poking through. Jeff sat up, concern on his adorable face. The very tip of the purple head was exposed, just the hole and the skin around it, squeezed upward through the opening in his foreskin. I pushed so gently further, the urethral opening now squeezing open, and Jeff let out a low moan. That moan continued, elongated as I held his foreskin there. His head went back just a bit and his eyes closed. His mouth barely open, he panted tiny moans. He began to vibrate in my hand to a slow beat. Each time it seemed just a tiny bit stronger. With each one he mumbled something inaudible. Soon they became, "Oh mygawd, oh mygawd, ohmygod stop!"

I saw it coming, or rather, I saw him cumming. His body began tensing and my other hand still playing with his pair felt them retracting even further. I pulled them back downward very gently, but increasingly, as I released the tension on his foreskin.

He slowly returned from the brink, shivering a bit, the tension in his body also decreasing.

"Oh, wow!" he panted a few times.

"Feels cool, huh?"


The small portion of the head visible was now dark red and his whole cock throbbed and bounced on its own.

I knew, but I asked anyway.

"Almost makes you cum?"

"So close! I think if you kept that up... " he grinned embarrassedly.

I smiled, then leaned down and licked the exposed hole. Jeff jerked again. I saw it swell and pulse and a another large drop of pre-cum oozed out of it. I licked it away, then stroked him, squeezing upward, trying to pull more from it. I was rewarded with a growing pool of it in the well formed by the foreskin. I licked at it, tasting the warm, salty flavor. I loved it. I put my lips over the head and cleaned it thoroughly with soft suction and licking, squeezing upward with my hand on each stroke.

We got into a rhythm, and we let it dominate. Slow, easy, soft.

Up, down with the hand in time with lips. Don't let the foreskin go back! Lick the hole, suck softly and down further, further, not all the way. Suck and up, licking. Just the head now, just the hole. Suck and lick. Stroke too, keep the rhythm. Soft suction, Alex, don't rush it. Lots of tongue. Push the tongue into the foreskin hole.

As my tongue slipped into the round hole and around the side of the head under his foreskin, a sudden spasm shook his body. I experimentally let my tongue go further between the foreskin and the head, feeling the smoothest, silkiest, most wonderfully luxuriant texture I had ever felt with my tongue. I wondered at the feeling, as if another tongue were pressing my own in matching movements, but an even softer, smoother tongue. Immediately I felt Jeff tense and heard him groan. His cock pulsed and I pulled off him. I held his cock stationary with very little pressure, hoping he didn't cum. It throbbed and bounced for a while, but settled down.

I kissed my way back up to his mouth, our lips and tongues meeting in a new and familiar way. He was panting still, his breaths fast and shallow. I kissed my way back down him again, licking and tasting his sweat. I enjoyed it. I sucked his nipples, now both hard as little pebbles. My fingers brushed though his hair on his chest and down into his bush. My lips and tongue followed slowly, Jeff squirming under me.

Taking hold of his hardness with a hand, I licked heavily around the entire end of him as I stroked him. His groans and moans proved he very much liked it. Once again I ran my tongue around Jeff's delicate head behind the foreskin. I planted my fist around the base, in the hairs there, and stopped sucking as I concentrated on this new way to play. I swirled my tongue around behind the foreskin, loving the feel of the smooth head below.

Jeff shuddered and hissed continually, urging me to continue without using words. His fingers were tightly wrapped into my hair and he pushed my head down further, making my tongue roll around deeper below the foreskin. As I felt the center at the underside of Jeff's head with my tongue, Jeff shuddered and groaned loudly, then arched upward to shove his cock deep into my mouth.

"Oh, my gawd!" Jeff said breathlessly. "Alex! Oh my gawd!"

His body shuddered and his legs swung in and locked straight. He was making louder squeaking sounds, closer together, like a wooden chair under strain. Nearly every rapid, panting breath, another such sound escaped from his lips. He pulsed and swelled in my mouth and I sucked a bit harder, almost normally, and licked at the hole in the tip of his head.

I cupped and squeezed Jeff's balls and felt him swelling and pulsing, vibrating from the rushing fluid as my mouth filled with his cum. I moaned around his cock and cum, swallowing it slowly to relish the flavor, the feel of it. I let it gather before swallowing it, but it kept coming as Jeff shuddered. I counted all six explosive jets, and two or three more less powerful ones, and I was sure there were a couple more. I had only seconds to clean up the warm, sticky, wonderful stuff before Jeff pulled me off.

He literally groaned with every breath as I slid, kissing, up his body. As I lay down, face near his, he put his left arm under me, almost a hug, then attacked my lips with his own. I ran my left hand across his chest, brushing both nipples in passing, and lay that arm over him as we panted around the kisses, Jeff tasting his own cum.

"Oh, shit," he finally whispered, then met my eyes.

"Awesome, huh?" I asked, laying my head on Jeff's broader chest when we finally ended the lip play.

I watched my finger trace Jeff's right nipple as I listened to his breathing and pounding heart slow. Long minutes we lay there, silent, comfortable, content.

We repeated shortly after, sixty-nining again, like two weeks ago. After a long period of play, as I grew close to finishing, I gently massaged behind his sack, causing him to immediately cum in a powerful and grinding orgasm. We did it a third time before it was close to time for his mom and brother to come home. That third time was in the shower.

After the shower, we were dressed and sitting on the couch, cuddling and laughing. Before long, Jeff looked at the clock and tensed.

"I know, we gotta get ready for your mom," I said softly.

Just don't run away this time, I silently begged, hugging him tight.

"How are we gonna do it?"

I grinned at him, touching his face with my fingers, tracing his features. I told him my plan. I told him why I thought it would work, why I thought his mom would see. I told him I had two arguments ready, depending on how she reacted at first. I told him that no matter what, I would leave if he asked me to, if I believed that he really wanted me to, but otherwise, I was there for him.

"I won't do this, or more, or anything, if you say to stop. If you say not to. If you, if you can't, yet, we won't, but... now, okay? Before plans are made and things are done and she thinks it's settled. Okay?"

He nodded, shivering against me.

"Even if you have to leave here, I'll make sure you stay at my house. You know mom and dad will let you. For a while, anyway. And unless she calls the cops, I won't leave unless you want me to. And no matter what, ever, I'll love you. I'll be right here for you. For anything. I'll be here."

He kissed me again, pulling his body against mine.

"I know you love being in control all the time. Knowing what's next, knowing what to do and when, and being able to direct everything. Not like domineering like some people, I mean about yourself. You don't like not being in control of you, your decisions, your actions, whatever. I know that. But sometimes, sometimes you can't be the one in charge. Sometimes, you have to be the one listening, when others decide and do. Sometimes you need to take the back seat. Other times, other times you gotta take the bull by the balls and shake the fucking shit out of it until it moos and gives milk."

He laughed, like I had hoped, and curled into me, hugging me tightly; submissive, comforted, protected - by me.

Sitting together on the couch, holding each other as we shivered in fear and worry, we were ready, we hoped. We had spent as long as possible hugging and holding each other, kissing and talking, relaxed and comfortable, but now we were nervous and scared.

I went over my big speeches, both of them, hoping I could stick with the calm, reasoning one. I fiddled with the clasp-envelope, wondering if I would need him. Jeff didn't ask, but I saw the question in his eyes.

"In case," I offered.

He nodded and returned to pretending to watch "I Dream of Jeannie." So did I.

It wasn't long before we heard the key in the door. We had been holding hands until that second. We both withdrew. We both coughed and shifted. We both looked ready to puke. We forced our hands back together.

When Todd walked in, we both released our breaths in a whoosh of relief.

"You guys makin' out?" Todd asked, beaming, before he noticed our hands. "Holy shit!"

"No! Just watching tee-vee!" Jeff said angrily.

"Sure!" Todd teased. "So? Well? What's the word?"

"We're waiting," I said solemnly.

"For mom?"

"Yup," Jeff said, popping his cheeks with the end of the word.

He hissed his breath inward, shakily, rubbing his free palm against his thigh. I was roiling inside, all my organs liquefied and shifting. I saw his sweat, I felt my own. I felt our sweat between our hands. Jeff and I nodded to each other and retook our agreed positions. Todd sat up nervously.

"You really gonna? Like, that?" he asked, his head cocked at an angle and disbelieving curiosity beaming from his expression.

We nodded at each other in unison. We smiled at each other. We kissed. Todd remained silent, grinning and red-faced, one foot bouncing endlessly. We sat like that, the three of us, perfectly silently, waiting. I don't think that any of us knew what was on the television.

The sound of keys, then the sound of the lock, then the handle.

I swallowed. Jeff squeezed my hand, I squeezed his. Todd began rocking in his seat, his arms crossed and looking frightened.

She opened the door, started a smiling greeting, then froze as she saw me. Her eyes darted at us, around us, noting everything. Her smile had faded slowly, and a grimace of anger replaced it.

"What in the name of our Good Lord is going on in my home? I told you that homosexual wasn't welcome in my home!" she yelled as she slammed the door violently behind her.

She stalked toward us, rage and hatred radiating from her. Her face was twisted in a grimace of loathing and anger that I found as closely related to God as the color red was related to ice water.

"What is wrong with you?" she spat at me as she closed on us.

I saw Todd pull his feet under him, ankles crossed, and curl tightly into himself, only his eyes and the crown of his head visible above his knees, his arms locked across his shins. I expected much the same from Jeff, but he remained motionless, his left arm around me and his right hand in my left.

"You pervert! You dirty little evil pervert ! You won't make my son go to hell! I won't let you make him think he's homosexual!" she yelled, pulling me off the couch by my shirt as I stared at Jeff.

His hand fell from mine, and his left arm fell from around me to lay motionless on his thigh. His head remained hung low, his face hidden. I looked into her eyes and saw the hatred and anger, rage and violence there. I felt it too.

Okay. That version, I realized.

I let if come. I let it build. In the space of one breath, as she held me by the scruff of my shirt front, I relived every event in my life that had stirred the same emotions. Fights, arguments, parent's dictums, unfair grades, having a lisp, stuttering, being teased about my red hair, being gay, learning the truth of Toby's illness, losing him, Jeff. His bruises. Our situation. Her.

"What is wrong with you?" I spat back at her, slapping her hands off myself.

She wasn't allowing the easy way, and I suddenly looked forward to the hard way.

"I love your son! He loves me! You think you can change that?"

"Get in your room, Jeff!"

"I love him!"

"You too, Todd!"

"He loves me! He told you so himself!"

"I said, get in your room, boys!" she demanded, ignoring me.

Neither of them moved. She looked at them both and then back at me.

"You will not drag my son down to the fires of perdition with you!" she screamed at me, her purse swinging wildly with her gestures and emphasis, threatening to bash my brains out at her least effort to do so.

I could see those three words as she spoke them, capitalized and in bold face, even the 'of'. Fires Of Perdition. The words blazed in front of me, in her eyes, which blazed with cold, frightening fire, one that seemed to consume everything and leave nothing, not even ashes to nourish new life. She scared me suddenly, but I was beyond mere fright being able to affect me.

"Nothing you can do will change how we feel about each other! You can move to the moon and it wont change that! I'll still love him and he'll still love me!"

"But I can change whether or not you fornicate with him! And I will ! Jeff! Your room, now !"

She pointed down the hall, but Jeff wasn't looking up.

"Mom, I can't fight with you. I won't. I, I love you, mom, but I love Alex too. And I won't fight with you, I won't, but I'll leave. With him or not. But I'll leave. But I won't stay here and fight with you. I am what I am."

I smiled and pressed again, energized.

"Can you change who he fornicates with next, even if you move?" I asked, spitting the word back at her. "Can you? Can you keep him from loving the next guy? Can you? What're you gonna do when he finds another person to love wherever you move?"

Oh shit! Not that, though! Not that! Here! Stay here! Me! ME

"Then what? You gonna move again?" I asked, nearly screaming. "Are you gonna hit him every time, too? Gonna slap him for feeling love the next time, too? How can you hit your son for being what God made him?"

She stared at me, visibly shocked.

"I won't let you make him a homosexual," she said again, with less verve than before.

"You gonna make him like girls? You gonna beat the gay outta him and force him to have sex with girls when he don't like it? You gonna make him love somebody he don't? You gonna make him live alone for his whole life? You gonna run his whole life for him? Tell him what girl to have sex with? Going to make him miserable as hell just to make you happy?"

Suddenly, Toby's voice...

"God loves. He loves you. He loves me. He loves all.

"It's not like I made him that way! God did! And God loves everyone! And I thank him for making Jeff what he is. He's perfect. His hair, his eyes, his smile!" I began to tear up as I looked to Jeff, noting those very things as I saw them for what I feared could be the last time. "And his cute smirks and grins, and his laugh!" I wiped at my eyes before continuing. "He's gonna have every gay guy in every town you move to chase after him, and you can't change that! So the girls will too! But he's not gonna care! He's gay!"

She was visibly stunned again, obviously unprepared. I latched onto that after seeing her surprise.

"You'll just have to hit him and hit him! Never letting your gay son love. I hope you go to hell for it! The God I hope exists would be so angry at you for this!"

I took my glasses off to wipe my eyes properly so that I could see. Her mouth hung open, her eyes wide. She was motionless. Jeff was standing now, his mouth open and arms crossed, looking scared, but hadn't taken a step away from the couch or me. Todd's eyes were just visible, peeking over his knees. He gave me a tentative thumbs-up.

"What do you think you're doing, young man!" she didn't ask at Todd, apparently needing an easier target.

"He's right, mom! And I've never seen him like this! Ever! I didn't know he could be like that! Father Cooper gets all worked up and all, but Alex could put him outta work!"

She glanced back at me, then back to Todd. She shook her head and concentrated on the center of the wall. She was obviously struggling inside, torn between emotions and thoughts. Her breaths were fast, her eyes were dilated, and the fires there burned lower. Slight changes in her face, twitching brows, cheeks and lips, reflected her silent deliberations.

Grandfather's advice rang in my ears, in his soft, caring voice.

"If you really love Jeff, don't let anything stand in your way. No thing, no person, nothing. Got me?"

For the first time, I began to have real hope.

"I won't gramps," I thought with firm conviction.

"What?" Jeff's mom asked.

I hadn't realized I had said that aloud, let alone loud enough to be heard. I thought of how often that had happened recently, and I made note to think about it some other time. I suddenly also began wondering just how many back burners I could possibly have. I tried to concentrate on what was at hand instead of things to do later. I breathed and readied. I picked up my envelope from the table.

"I loved somebody before. His name was Toby. He meant as much to me as Jeff does now. Most all I thought about when he was here, and all of what I thought about when he wasn't, was how much I loved him. He was religious, believed in God, very much. He was sick. He was going to die, and he knew it. He was born with it."

I paused to let more tears fall, briefly wondering how many I had shed since that time six months ago.

"He never told me he was sick. He knew he was getting too sick to live any longer, so he walked in front of a truck rather than lay sick in bed and die slow and his parents have to feed and clean him."

Todd and Jeff both gasped. Jeff tisked rather than gasped, but it was the same effect coming from him, the way it was done.

Another pause to gather the air and words to continue. I opened the brown envelope. I gently pulled the letter out, and I slowly held it out for her take.

"That is the only thing I got of him. Read it. Read it and tell me Satan had anything to do with it. Or him. Tell me God doesn't love him. You can destroy me, if you want. Just tear it up and destroy it. I'll walk away and you or Jeff or Todd will never see or hear from me again."

"No! Don't!" Jeff yelled pleadingly. "And please don't hurt it, mom!"

I was stone-faced. I didn't understand what I was doing; I was about to put the most precious thing I owned into her hateful hands. I was about to place into her hands a love letter from another homosexual to the homosexual that was befouling her own son. She paused before taking the sheet of paper from me with the air of touching something below her station. As she read it, she sniffed, frowning. 

I prayed she would see it. I prayed God would let her see it. I prayed God would show her; or that Toby would. I knew that Toby was meant to do at least one very important thing with his life's ending, at the very least. I had felt so since coming to grips with it all in the days after the events. I was certain Toby's life, and his death, had several important things to affect. To fix. To right. I wished that if it did only one more thing, it was this.

As she finished, she looked up at the wall again. I saw she was less rigid, her breathing closer to slow and even, and she held her purse at her side, no longer seemingly an imminent clubbing device. Her hand holding Toby's letter shook slightly, only trembling, not shaking in rage any longer.

I was forcing my breath in and out of my lungs. My heart felt as if it were under a heavy boot, slowly being crushed. I swallowed and wiped a lone tear from my cheek.

I pulled out Toby's picture and looked at it briefly before holding it up for her to see.

"Tell me God sent him to hell!" I demanded loudly.

She was stunned and weaved a bit at first, but as she looked at the picture, then back at the letter she still held, a tear fell from each of her eyes.

"Jeff, sit down please. Sit down and tell me something," she said remarkably calmly.

I felt as if my heart gained a respite from that boot that was trying to crush it.

Jeff, seemingly surprised at her change in tone, took one step closer to me, away from the couch; his first since standing.

She noticed, and I noticed, and I noticed his stance.

He's ready to leave here if he has to! And with me!

Now freed entire of that crushing boot, my heart fluttered back into motion.

She looked at his face and sighed deeply before asking, "If I tried to make you never talk to Alex, which way would you go?"

She was staring into her oldest son's beautiful blue eyes, rimmed with red from emotion, as he stepped again, closer to me again, away from the couch and her. He looked frightened, almost seemed to be trembling. He swallowed so hard and visibly that I thought I heard it. He forced himself upright, into a bold, brave stance.

Now lightened by Jeff's decision, my heart leapt into flight.

She handed the letter back to me and said, "Just sit down. You too, Alex."

Her voice was calm, but it still held a threat in it. I had calmed considerably, apparently having burned most of my rage away. I carefully put the letter and picture back into the envelope, thanking God I had them back.

Jeff, Todd, and I shared confused and worried looks, but no words, as we all sat and waited. I felt our turn was done, and now Toby or I could only slightly affect any further changes. I wanted to wrap Jeff in my arms, but I didn't want to press her. I saw him look to me momentarily, and I smiled and nodded, trying to send him as much reassurance as I felt I needed right then. He grinned back weakly, making me feel so much better that I sighed and relaxed a bit.

"Todd, go get dinner," she said, handing him a ten dollar bill from the former formidable weapon that was now once again merely her purse.


"Todd, I need to talk to these two alone, and this is nearly nothing to do with you. I know you want to stay and throw in your part, and I've already heard it all last night. And I know you want to hear everything we say, but it's none of your business right now, is it? Now go get dinner and leave me and them alone to talk. And take your time!"

Todd groaned, got his coat from the wall near the door, and said, "Give her heck again if she don't listen!" to me, then, "Hang in, bro, love ya," to Jeff with a Hawaiian wave.

She cleared her throat and looked to both of us as we sat on opposite ends of the couch.

"Did you mean what you said, Alex, about God, about Jeff, about the things you said, about his, hair, and those things?"

She held her arms across herself, slightly off one foot, watching the television. Her face seemed still and emotionless, except for the twitching of her lips.

"Yes. All of it. And more. I love him, so much," I said, looking only at Jeff.

He looked like a deer caught in headlights; pensive, on-edge, tense with readiness, but stunned motionless, eyes wide open. She sighed deeply and slumped visibly, seemingly only her death-grip on her purse holding her upright. She covered her face with her free hand.

"Jeff? Can you really feel that way about Alex? Do you?"

"Mom. I love him. I really do. He's, I'll leave and go to the police and tell them you hit me and hate me because I'm gay and I want to go to a foster home or one with someone else. I will if you try to make me, if, if you won't see it."

"How did I raise a gay son? What did I do wrong?" she asked, shaking her head, breaking into sobs.

"You didn't do anything wrong! God made him perfect just as he is! Look at how great a kid you raised with Todd. He's got to be the best little bro I know of. And he's smart. Too smart. The little, uh, goofus. And you did as good a job with Jeff! You just taught 'em what all moms teach their kids, good ones anyway. You did a pretty good job. You brought up both of them and only one is gay. Did you treat Jeff different? I know you didn't. So does he. You too. He's smart, nice, honest, caring, all that. Nothing you taught him made him gay. You didn't do anything to make him gay! God did that part. And I'm so glad he did!"

"What makes you such an expert? You're sixteen, and barely that!"

"Expert on what? How you get gay? Ask one. Pick one. Any one. Go ahead. You got two right here!"

She looked up in shock, then to Jeff, and I saw it coming. I looked to Jeff, and I saw that he saw it coming. He looked to me, the fear and horror so evident that it hurt me to see it.

She let the question hang, unasked, as she continued to look at him. Her rage was gone, her eyes now seemingly nearly empty. She shook, just trembling slightly, but enough that the tissue she held reflected it. When I looked back to Jeff, he was still staring at me, horrified. I expelled a short, sharp puff of air, inhaled deeply, and nodded at him.

The communication with Tom had come the same way; suddenly I knew that we could send ideas and information without speaking. I smiled slightly, softened my brows, winked, and mimed the word, 'go'.

He smiled just slightly, almost invisibly. I could see his tension, though, and it didn't seem diminished at all. He inhaled deeply, nodded back at me, then threw on a larger smile for a moment. Then he turned to face his mother.

"I don't know, mom, but it wasn't you. It ain't that dad ain't around, I thought of that. I don't think so. I don't know why. I, I just... " he was looking lost and near tears. He smiled though, then looked back at me and said, "I just love Alex. I feel so good when he's around. I, I love you too, mom, and Todd, and dad, and the family, and, I love other things, but not the same. But, I love Alex like I love, like nobody before. As much as you and Todd and dad. It ain't you. It's me! It's just the way I am!"

He cried, covering his face with his hands and bending over himself. His mother made to go to him, but I was already there, and Jeff threw his arms around me as I sat next to him. I wrapped my arms over and under him and held him tightly to me.

"What do you know about love?" she asked, almost too quietly to be heard. "You're just a baby. Both of you."

I knew that Jeff couldn't answer, even if he wanted to. He was sobbing deeply and unable to talk, as I knew well. Why I didn't join him I have never figured out. Instead, I found more words urgently needing to be spoken.

"I know it makes me think about Jeff all the time. I know it makes me miss him as soon as he leaves. I know it makes me feel like nothing else when I see him. That when he smiles I could do anything, and I have to smile too. That when he laughs, I can see God smiling at the world through it. That when we fought, every one of my friends knew something was wrong with me and they wouldn't let me alone until they found out what. I know it made them have that party, and pull a huge stunt to help us get together. A load of stunts! Every one of them cares about us both and did everything they could to see us friends again. And every single one of them was at the party and know I'm gay, and all of them stayed my friends when they found out a long time ago. Even became better ones. I know when Jeff and I are having some stupid fight, that, that nothing mattered to me. That I kept thinking about him, and how I messed it all up, how I thought he hated me and didn't want me around and I didn't want to even live anymore. Is that enough?"

I watched one of my hands caress Jeff's damp hair as I held his shaking form in my arms while I spoke. Then I looked up at her and saw her astonished face. Her mouth hung open and her eyes were wide.

"How close have you two been?"

"Mom!" Jeff exclaimed in shock as he looked up at her, his eyes and cheeks both red and puffy.

"How close!?" she demanded firmly.

Jeff's expression turned angry for a moment, then he seemed to give up on some thought and could only look down at his lap.

"It was like nothing I've ever felt. And I felt so close to him, like we were one person that finally came together for the first time. I felt safe. It was the best thing there is," I answered.

"Is that how you felt about it?"

He looked up at me, smiling that small, little, soft grin. His eyes, though, radiated his emotions, and I could easily read them; he was joyous over my description, and relieved that he wasn't the only one that felt it.

"Yes. It was like, like some other part of me missing was there. Like life made sense. Like life had a reason to be. There's not much point if I can't have him with me!"

I wondered briefly if my own eyes displayed my satisfaction and relief to him.

"Dear Lord, give me strength!" She stood and paced the apartment.

Jeff and I shared frightened and worried looks, and we both smiled and tried to reassure each other. It was hard when he glanced at his pacing mom, seeing his pained expression and feeling the fear and hurt behind it, but for him I kept my smile on and aimed at him.

"If I'm making a mistake, so be it. And if the fires of Perdition take you both, it will be my fault. But I, I can't force feelings on you, son. I know that. I've known that."

She crossed herself and sat next to Jeff, taking him in her arms as well. I released him to her and he cried on her shoulder.

"Jeff. I don't like this," she said into his ear while stroking his hair. "Homosexuality is a sin. It is. The Bible-"

"Is a confused, jumbled, mistranslated mess! You know it! I saw "The Ultimate Deceit" on your bookshelf. Read, too, by the spine. Didn't you read it?"

She shook her head and said, "Yes," at the same time.

"Didn't you understand it?"

"I don't want to believe it! How can I? It says the Bible is so edited and full of errors! How can that be? It's God's word!"

"Because man done it! Men have edited, lied, changed it! Even the commandments! Anything for gold! For power! For control! The names of the months, the days, all of it! Even the date of Christ's birth celebration was changed from spring to winter to match pagan sun worshiper dates! The Sabbath! Sunday! The day of the sun! So they could have more worshipers and more lands and more power and more control! They give prayers to saints and idols and calls one man the direct mouth of God because he's elected by men! The same men who protect and let priests do those things you see on the news!"

"I know! I know! I knew about those things for years! My grandfather told me some of it," she said, still sobbing onto Jeff's shoulder. "He called the Pope the anti-Christ, and said no church should ever have images of anyone but Christ in it unless it was the Disciples themselves. He said the gold and silver and jewels on God's altar were blasphemy. But I thought it was because of how poor our family was. Jealousy."

"I'm following my granddad's advice. He knows I'm gay. He knows I love Jeff. He said to me, yesterday, that if I loved him, to hold on tight and not let go, not let anyone or anything stop me, that such things are worth fighting for. So if the church is lying or ignorant about so much, then why would God hate gays? Why would He make us gay and then hate us? Then why did He give us love? Why make it feel right for us? Just to make it easy to go to hell? How can He make us like guys and not even find girls even interesting, then expect us to live a life in a lie with a woman? How can that make God happy? Or would it make Him happy if we stayed alone all our life? How can He send us to hell for love, something He gives? He makes me feel happy at the sound of Jeff's voice. He makes me feel happy when he smiles. He makes me laugh when Jeff does. He made us this way."

My voice started warbling with the new tears.

"Why does He make it so I want to cry when Jeff is? Why do I want to tear anything apart that makes him mad? How come when I see somebody giving Jeff a hard time I only want to protect him?" I placed a hand on his shoulder. "And I was so jealous about Sal! When I called you and you said you guys had called it quits, I was happy for a second. And I wasn't even thinking about us being together. It was just that, that she wasn't around you any longer, like I wanted to be. At least she wouldn't be kissing you any, like I wanted to. And I felt so bad about feeling that way."

She pushed him from her, brushed his hair across his forehead as her other hand held his shoulder.

"You tried with a girl?" she asked.

Jeff nodded and I wished I could see his face.

"Jeff, son, I love you so much. Are you sure, you, that you're, that you like, boys?"

"I love Alex," he said into my eyes over his shoulder.

I had wanted to see his face until I did see it. I learned that pain is a tangible thing, and it can be passed from one person to another with just a single look. It may require a close relationship, but it's possible.

He buried his face in his mom's shoulder, "I'm gay, mom," he wailed out.

They held each other for some time. I waited quietly, circling my hand on the back of his shoulder, praying for it to work out, and thanking Toby and granddad for their help.

For a moment, I thought back to the time six months ago that Jeff sat with his hand on my back as I cried over Toby's letter.

When they finally separated after what seemed hours, she handed out tissues and began glancing at me quite often.

"I saw something in you today I never thought you had in you. You've never been anything like that. If you had been, I, I don't know what, but I would have seen it. I didn't know you had such animation! Such, conviction and energy."

I felt suddenly deflated, as if her words, or her tone, had punctured my being, releasing the remaining anger.

"It's not how I usually do things," I said with a small, nervous laugh and a shrug.

"If there is a righteous anger, I believe you just experienced it. You were so angry, but never frightening. You spoke with such conviction, but with no threat. I never felt worried, just, impacted."

"I had help," I admitted, unable to hide the smile the words brought to my face.

She turned back to Jeff, saying, "Okay. If this is how it is. I don't want to move. I like my job and my friends. And the apartment is nice, but we can live somewhere else. And I'm so sick of moving around the country! But, I can't deal with . . . this all at once. I don't want to see you two so much as holding hands. Not, well, just not, yet. Maybe. And nothing goes on in my apartment! Do you understand?"

 Jeff nodded violently. She turned and stared into my eyes. I nodded at her, my mouth open in surprise.

"Y-y-you, you, really gonna s-s-stay?"

Why the hell did I just stammer? After getting all that out clear, I stutter now?

"Yes. God help me, yes. But like I said, I need time to deal with this. So much time... " she said, trailing off and staring at her purse.

"Now, you two get out of here and go do something."

She handed Jeff a ten-dollar bill.

Jeff asked his mother, concern etched deeply into his face, "Why? Are you gonna be okay?"

"Yes, son. Especially after a couple Chevas'. Go to the arcade, or the pizza shack, or something. Be back by eight. Make it nine. If your parents don't mind, Alex! You call them right away and explain. They know, about, you? And Jeff? They've hinted enough, now I know it for what it was. And Alex, if you make him hurt, I'll never forgive you, or let you forget it, do I make myself clear?"

Her face was hard as she said the words while meeting my eyes.

"Nothing you could do would be as bad as how I would feel if I hurt him, ma'am."

Her brows arched a bit at my declaration, and her lips seemed to curl into a small shadow of a smile.

"Then got out of here. I need to think. And pray. And find a way. I know about those gay parent Christian support groups, I guess, I guess I better find out more," she said with a shrug.

"Mom? What about the people at church? What... what'll we tell them?"

"Nothing. My friends will find out when I tell them. If you, when, if they ever need to know, I guess. The rest, the rest will not want us there. And that's fine. I haven't been happy at that church, anyway. I've been putting in extra hours, trying to feel that joy at it again, but it doesn't exist for me there. I'll find another. One with one of those groups."

He collapsed onto her, the last barrier he feared so much now a broken pile of wreckage under his mother's heel.

"And, oh, yeah. They know. My parents. About me. Jeff, too." I saw his shocked reaction. His wide eyes and open mouth made me smile involuntarily, but I went with it. "Not that, he, not that he does. Or did anything. They said it was how I looked around him, and stuff. They don't know he, that he, you know, l-l-l-oves me."

Jeff grabbed my hand and squeezed it briefly before releasing it.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but I gotta have his hand right now," I said, snatching it back.

She watched our hands momentarily.

"And frankly, this isn't such a shock. I mean... " she sighed, at a loss for words.

"Mom! Todd was right?"

She looked puzzled before Jeff elaborated.

"Todd said he heard you telling a friend you thought, I, that I," he wasn't able to say it, but his mother saved him the trouble.

"That you're gay? He listens to my phone calls, does he?" she said, not seemingly angry, but making note of the fact. "And I'll call your parents, Alex. I have a few things to think about first, but I'll call them shortly. We have some things to talk about, I guess."

I saw that she was resigned, but had a lot of work to do. I saw that she was strict, but very forgiving. I saw that she was upset, but very much loved her son.

She stood and straightened herself, then waved us to the door. Neither one of us could talk; we walked in silence to the elevator, rode it down in silence, and walked out into the street, still silent. I didn't know where we were going, and I wasn't even thinking of that. I was still stunned, trying to figure out if what had just happened, had, indeed, actually happened. I wanted to be happy, joyous, something, but was only numb and dumbfounded.

I saw Todd come running up the sidewalk with a large bucket of chicken in one hand, a bag of, apparently, side dishes in the other.

When he saw us, he stopped, his mouth open in surprise. He clapped his mouth shut, then ran toward us, stopping in front of us just a step away, panting, clearly wanting to ask the obvious question, but needing time to recover his breath.

Jeff smiled, at Todd first, then me, then took my hand, right there on the street, in front of everyone.

I was embarrassed and shocked, and grinning from ear to ear.

Todd smiled and whooped and jumped, nearly losing his grip on the food, but obviously not caring.


The money was spent on pizzas and sodas and the table-top arcade games at our favorite pizza shop. We sat at one of the huge log tables and ate, mostly in silence. We almost finished a whole piece apiece; almost. 

"So, how's this gonna work?" Jeff asked, the first words about it.

"You mean, us? Like, being, boyfriends?" I asked, feeling the churning that I knew I would. 

"Yeah. What do we do? Do we tell the guys? Do we hold hands? Do we, you know, kiss when we wanna?"

"When we wanna. And we can hold hands when we wanna. Depends on who's around and what we want 'em to see, ya know? I mean, nothing at school or anywhere. But my house is okay." He returned the embarrassed grin as I continued. "Wonder if she'll let you? What about Circle meetings?" I asked in sudden concern.

"You mean going to 'em? I don't know. She might be thinking it's a sex party now!" Jeff exclaimed with honest horror.

We sat in silence for a few minutes.

"Shit! Man, this so changes everything."

"And it hasn't even started!"

We tried to figure out what to do next. It was an unsatisfying talk, and nothing was resolved in any way. We had more questions and worries after the talk than there had been before.

When nine got close, we set off for his apartment. Their mother was smiling and friendly when we arrived, obviously forcing a bit of it, but trying to deal with it. Todd was seemingly in bed, as she sat alone on the couch as we entered. She asked if we had ate, what, and if we had a good time. She told us she had called my parents and told them she would get me home by ten. We talked about the rules; nothing in her apartment, no hand holding, kissing, or googly eyes, no flirting or anything of the sort in front of her. I nodded, knowing I would hold to her rules if that meant that I could hold onto Jeff.

She told us it was late, and she should drive me home. Jeff asked to go along and she agreed. The drive was awkward, and mostly silent. Once we arrived, Jeff came up to my door with me.

"Just wanted to say, I, that you're, that, oh shit. Come here."

Jeff pulled me to the side, hiding us behind the tall bush on the side of the porch. He kissed me solidly. It took me less than a second to begin returning the kiss.

Oh holy shit! What more could I ask for? The softest, lushest, most best lips on mine! Does the porch light come on? What ends it? I'm not! I hope he don't! I'll stand here and do this all night!

I put my arms around Jeff and pulled him tight through our heavy winter coats. It was the car horn that ended it then.

"Shit. Can't be out of sight long. She knows what we're doing I bet. And we shouldn't push it, ya know?" Jeff said, smiling a new smile, one I liked a great deal; but what other reaction would I have to one of his smiles? Hopping back into probable view of the car, he said, "It's enough right now she's being this cool about it. Know what I mean?"

"Do I?" I said with with an eye roll.

"So. See ya at school tomorrow. Bus?"

"Oh, shit, yeah! See ya on the bus!" I said with the widest smile I had shown for days.

Jeff smiled and backed up, his arms at his sides, flapping loosely. There was a slight bounce in his step, I noticed. He waved goofily, grinning still, then turned and ran back to the car. I stood, watching, as it backed out the drive and headed down the road, taking Jeff away.

Just for tonight, just for tonight, I thought.

When I turned, the light from the open door framed my parents waiting there. They wrapped me in a dual hug and told me to get to bed, that tomorrow would be a big day.

I wondered how long they had been there, and what they had seen or heard. Then I wondered if either of them had ever fought for their reputation, for their safety, the safety and reputation of their friends, and then fought another, harder battle over keeping a loved one, all in one day. I doubted it, and there was a moment when I almost told them just exactly what a big day was.

"Tuesday: The Fires of Perdition"