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  2. droughtquake

    Chapter 12

    I think that Freddie lit a spark in Richie that he's not ready to deal with. He's still grieving Wade and isn't ready to move on with Freddie. He's not even ready to admit he feels an attraction to Freddie. So Freddie not only gets to be a stand-in for all of Richie's frustrations with the sperm donor, but also all of Richie's unresolved feelings! ;–) Thinking about Richie's relationship with his brother, Andrew, I think that he'd probably be better off explaining that he likes boys more than girls while Andrew is still prepubescent. I think Andrew would accept that fact easily at this point. Things will be more problematic when Andrew is going through puberty with all the hormonal impulses and identity struggles. Waiting until after puberty is the usual recommendation, but I don't think that's necessarily true. Richie is already Out at school and it's only a matter of time before an older sibling reveals the fact to one of Andrew's classmates. ;–)
  3. Thanks very much for reading these. I really appreciate knowing your reactions. Some came easily, others not so much. Number 16 owes its repetitive line to an old hymn, but the questions and responses are mine.
  4. Parker Owens

    Chapter 12

    I’m so relieved by this turn of events. I’m counting on a fuller explanation in a following chapter, but for the moment, our friends are reunited and readers can breathe in relief. What was this horrible operation all about? And who of the plotters is still at large?
  5. Timothy M.

    Chapter 12

    So what ? Why does he and Harley butt in on the time Richie was going to spend with his brother ? Why doesn't their mother or the manipulative bastard tell them Richie wants to spend time with Andrew, and they can go to the amusement park together on another day? And Gabe is a useless, bigoted friend who just want to set up Richie with Freddy, so he can keep his distance from the gay boy. As I predicted, Richie is being worn down, but at least he's still living with his new parents. But I bet he'll end up back with his siblings and 'reconciled' with the sperm donor. Please warn me before it gets that far, so I can stop reading.
  6. mfa607

    Rain

    Great chapter! Looking forward to the date!
  7. Onim

    Photoshoot

    More like she'd photoshop the ball right out of the way!!
  8. droughtquake

    Photoshoot

    Do you think she'd market the redactions on her own? ;–)
  9. droughtquake

    Photoshoot

    I knew that Jaymes would strip (at least partially) as his form of support for Nathan! ;–) Will Polly be angry that Nathan and Jaymes are keeping their relationship a secret or will she be jealous that her male cousin got the man she's always wanted? ;–)
  10. Onim

    Photoshoot

    Hmmm....me thinks Arlene having a look at ALL the shots of these unsuspecting "innocents" might be a bit scary for what she could do with them!!!! 🤔 I trust her as much with those photos as I do with Barr having the Mueller report!! Verrrrrrry nice chapter, especially having Jaymes in the "background". 😁
  11. Excellent review, spikey! You are spot on that this story feels like an exciting episode of a sci-fi TV show. Myr does a great job of strapping us in for a thrill ride, and while I know there are other episodes in this universe, I would love to see a continuation of this one, with Bill and Aegis... not nagging... just stating a fact.
  12. droughtquake

    Photoshoot

    You want Nathan to cheat on Jaymes with a Black man? ;–)
  13. Timothy M.

    Chapter 12

    I'm so relieved Nico and Sho managed to rescue D and Ivan, and hopefully the Secretary is in agony. I don't care if Cieran dies, but it would be better if he lived long enough to be questioned. They should make the doctor reverse the blood letting, before they take them all away to hospital. So are the zombies Serai or humans ? Or something else? They don't seem happy to be rescued, but neither do they seem to be in charge.
  14. Today
  15. It is a pleasure to be reading another story by you so soon after your posting of Between the Shadow and the Soul. The first day of kindergarten and the ensuing week arriving at Jace's overnight in Brody's home is thoroughly satisfying, The exchange between Brody and his parents about the advisability of Jace spending the night (especially the back-and-.forth of "Of course we're sure." "Sure of what?" "What?" "That's what I was asking.") is as skillfully composed a cat's cradle as Abbott and Costello performing "Who's on First?", but touchingly weighted with the family's loving and caring teasing. It's wonderful. I admire many details of your imagining. At one point in Chapter 28 of "Between" Greg speaks a monosyllable to Keigan: "It came out on a breath, like a word-flavored sigh." In the following chapter, when Greg locates Kyle leaning up against the house that he and his family are moving from to Florida, "Everything he wore was dark, blue or black from the look of it, and he was no more obvious than air." Umph!
  16. Dabeagle

    Chapter 1

    My beta reader was surprised I used the term - I think he thinks I'm old! I mean, he's not wrong, necessarily, but still! I dind't know anything about P!ATD until the movie Love, Simon talked about the lead. Then I noticed a song on Sirius, High Hopes. Their sound is very unusual, but yes he's quite the looker.
  17. #15 - definitely not balderdash #16 has the feel of old school poets. We don't tend to see ourselves as others do, but it's good to see the positive. #17 makes me want to visit your garden #18 describes April perfectly #19 *fans self* #20 #21 I love seeing our different take on the prompts. Well done, as always.
  18. mfa607

    Photoshoot

    Loved it! I think they should have taken a shot together!! 😜 Thank you for this unexpected chapter!
  19. Caleb lay awake while Wren continued to sleep. The rooster had already crowed a couple of times, but Caleb's black-haired companion stubbornly remained in the world of dreams. Caleb sighed. He had decided, after last night with Wren, that he was very likely gay. He had enjoyed both the physical act of their coupling and the emotional way he felt connected to Wren. More, he also liked the way it felt to lie with his bare chest against Wren's back in the still, slow brightening of the morning. It was warm and comfortable there. It wasn't what Caleb dreamed of when he imagined waking up with another person - it was more. It was beyond what he had dared to hope could be. 'It feels natural.' Caleb smelled the back of Wren's neck. The rooster crowed again, closer this time, and Wren made a sleepy noise. Caleb lay still as Wren shifted. He heard Wren swallow, then there was a sharp intake of breath as his friend woke and realized they were naked and spooning. "G'morning, Wren." Caleb's voice was gravelly and even deeper than typical, thanks to its lack of use. "Hey. Good morning, Caleb." Wren turned so that he faced Caleb, and Caleb put his arm back over Wren's slim waist. Caleb's hand stroked up and down the small of Wren's back. Wren's half-awake cock was warm against Caleb's hip. Caleb looked openly at him. He slid his hand up Wren's back and lightly moved an errant lock of black hair out of Wren's face. Wren blinked slowly as the hand moved over his face. Caleb's eyebrows knit in curious concentration, and he continued to stroke his fingertips over Wren's barely stubbled chin. "Caleb?" Wren's eyes closed under that delicate touch. "Yeah?" Caleb leaned in and smelled Wren's skin. He bore the scent of wood smoke, the lotion they had used, and the muskiness of their lovemaking. Wren breathed quietly, his breaths warm against the side of Caleb's face. "Everything okay? Like, really okay?" The worried tone in Wren's voice made Caleb smile. "Yeah." "Good." Wren's lips pulled into a smile. "Okay." Wren lay still, and Caleb continued to touch him. Wren appeared to struggle to stay awake, yet he was also unwilling to surrender to sleep. He chuckled quietly. "That feels nice." "Yeah?" Caleb wet his lips. "It's okay? You don't mind me doing this?" "I don't mind." Wren sighed with contentment. "Why would I mind?" "I don't know." Caleb's palm lay against Wren's warm jaw. He could feel his friend's steady heartbeat under his fingers as they touched Wren's neck. "I've just never done this. I don't know what's, ah, what's right." Wren's eyes opened, green and vibrant. "How does it feel?" He pressed his body against Caleb's, their groins together. Wren's hand rested on the back of Caleb's neck, while his gaze searched Caleb's face. "Does it feel wrong, being here with me?" Caleb swallowed. "No." His voice was almost a confession. Both of the men's erections lay up along their bodies, pressed between them. "It feels right." Wren leaned in, and Caleb closed his eyes. "Then it's right, Caleb," Wren whispered. Wren gently kissed him, and as Caleb rolled on top of him, he began to believe it. ⤱ A half-hour later, Wren stood naked in the tent. He shivered in the early morning coolness and cleaned his body with a sanitary wipe. He glanced down and saw Caleb as he lay on the cot and looked up at him, an enigmatic quality in that gaze. Wren smiled. "What?" Caleb smiled slightly. "I just," he sighed and the smile remained. "I don't know." Caleb sat up and Wren admired his exposed chest. "This," he motioned back and forth between himself and Wren, "it's new. I don't know what to do with it." He swallowed, and nervousness showed on his face. "I don't know what, ah, what the rules are, or what I'm supposed to do with it." A moment of deep fondness and empathy ran through Wren. He put the used wipe in the trash bag hanging from the center tent pole and sat on the cot facing Caleb. Wren squashed his immediate desire to put his hand on his handsome friend's neck. He wasn't sure what had brought on that urge. Wren just didn't do physical displays of affection outside of trying to convince a guy to have sex with him. "Well, we can clear that up." Wren wet his lips, a little nervous himself. "Do you want to keep doing this with me?" He watched Caleb's blue eyes as he spoke. "I'll just tell you now that I'd like that. I'd like it a lot." Caleb chuckled. "Well," he rubbed the back of his head, scratching fingers through his very short hair, "I guess there's no denying that I like doing it." He bit his lip and shrugged. "So, what would that make us? Are we fuckbuddies now?" Wren grinned. "Well, if that's what you want to call it, sure." Caleb nodded, seemed to consider something then cocked his head. "What do you want to call it?" Wren felt a weird flutter of panic. "Uh, 'fuckbuddies' is fine." He nodded. "Yeah, it's fine." He grimaced. "Uh, but to keep doing things without condoms, then we'll have to keep it just between us. No fucking around." He gauged Caleb. "That okay with you?" Caleb eyed him and weighed Wren's response. He took a breath and nodded. "Yeah. All right. Sounds good. It's not like I've had anything going on, so monogamy works." He motioned for Wren to move and they both got up. Caleb took one of the sanitary wipes and began to scrub himself. Wren hunted around for a clean pair of underwear and Caleb chuckled. "What now?" Wren smirked as he put on his briefs. Caleb wore a mischievous expression, finished with his quick cleaning and tossed his wipe. "I guess touching is back on the table." Wren laughed, stepped close to his still naked friend, and cupped Caleb's furry balls. He grinned into Caleb's face. "Yep. It is." They horsed around a little, touching and playing, while in the back of Wren's mind, he tried to avoid defining what a monogamous fuckbuddy could more easily be called. ⤱ It wasn't long before they were up and dressed. The first item of the day was to get the garden tilled so that they could plant the seeds gifted to Wren by Beecher. The disced earth was a good start, but they needed to break it up with the rototiller, form the rows, and get the seeds in the ground. That was proving difficult. Wren frowned at the rototiller. "What do you think is wrong with it, Caleb?" They had pulled the old workhorse out from under the shed roof and tried to start it. Caleb looked down at the machine and scratched his head. "I don't know. It should run fine. I cranked it up for Beecher once this year." He tried a couple more times on the pull-start. The engine gurgled but never fired up. Caleb knelt to examine it. Wren sighed loudly. Caleb smirked and looked up at him from where he was crouched. "It's fine." He made a motion toward the shed. "Can you grab the toolbox?" Wren moved under the simple little roof of the open-sided shed. Beecher's toolbox was an old, hinged metal beast of a thing, and it was always under the workbench. Wren saw the empty spot where it should be. "Caleb." He raised up so he could see his friend. "Did papaw move it?" Caleb straightened and set his jaw. "No." He stalked over and stood next to Wren. They could both see the imprint of the heavy metal box in the dirt, but it was now gone. The slow fire of anger began. "They took it." Wren shook his head and clenched his jaw. "I swear if I find…" Wren jumped when his phone vibrated. He pulled it out. "It's Mom." Wren answered. "Hey, Mom." "Wren, you'd better get over to the highway, near the mouth of the holler. Ragan just called. A couple of Beecher's cows are loose. Ragan said the fence is down there. He's keepin' them from gettin' hit, but he needs help gettin' em back on the property." Wren made a flabbergasted noise. "We just -" he huffed. "Okay, Mom. We'll go get 'em wrangled." He frowned. "I think when we're gone, something else will happen to the property." Rachel sighed. "Those boys. Do you think they cut the fence, Wren?" "I know they did. The rototiller won't start either. I'm sure they're going to do everything they can to make sure we fail." Wren and Caleb were already on the way to the truck. "Can Charles keep an eye on things while you're gone?" Rachel's voice sounded worried. "Son, I'd come keep watch, but if they're really doin’ this stuff, then there'd be nothing to stop ‘em from wrecking my place too." "No, Mom, you stay out of it." They got into the truck, Caleb behind the wheel. "I'll call Charles. We'll get it handled. I don't know how much use it'll be, but I'm gonna call the police after we're done too." Wren hung up and immediately called Charles. He quickly gave his friend the lowdown. "Shit, Wren. I'm in town shopping with the baby. I wanted to give Tracy a break, so she's the only one home." Wren groaned, then sighed. "It's fine. We'll just try to finish up quick." Charles snorted. "Oh, don't you worry. We'll make sure we keep eyes on your place." Wren hung on to the handle above the door as Caleb drove quickly down the twisty road leading to the mouth of the holler. He frowned. "How?" ⤱ The big, white Dodge truck nosed carefully down Wren's gravel road. It crunched on the rocks, and then jerked to a stop when the driver caught sight of the old, blue Corsica in Wren's roundabout. Tracy strode down the gravel drive, purpose on her face and a twelve-gauge in her hands. She raised the gun, aimed, and the Dodge threw rocks as it reversed. The gun discharged, and birdshot pinged against the metal and glass of the vehicle. Tracy broke down the shotgun, still moving forward, shoved another shell in and whipped the weapon back up, ready once again. There was no need. The Dodge careened backward around the curve, out of sight of the house. Tracy watched the road for a moment, then turned and walked back to her car. She sat on the hood and made sure her cotton dress wasn't showing more to the world than she liked. With a little smile, she waited and enjoyed the sun on her face, the twelve-gauge in her lap. ⤱ Caleb waved his arms. The six-hundred-pound heifer danced, bouncing on her front hooves, trying to find a way around him. "Hey!" he yelled at her, took another step, and she turned. Ragan and Wren kept her from running around the edges of their little blockade, and she finally ran back through the gap in the fence, onto Wren's property. "Thank god." Ragan, the old farmer who had noticed Wren's errant cattle, wiped his weathered face. He looked behind them at the road. It was only a dozen feet from the fence, and the cows easily could have been hit by a car. "I'm glad it went this way." Caleb nodded. "Thanks to you, Ragan. We appreciate the help." He frowned. "You got any pliers? We can twist the fence back together for now, till we can come back and do it right." "Yup." The coveralled man moved to his truck parked on the roadside where he had pulled off when he saw the animals. Ragan returned with a couple of pairs of pliers while Wren guarded the hole in the fence. Wren eyed the cattle as they slowly moved away, deeper into his property. "Thanks, Ragan." Wren took one of the tools. "If Caleb and I pull on the posts, you think you can twist the wire together?" Ragan nodded affably. "Sure can." Wren and Caleb got into position on either side of the gap in the fence. "All righty, go ahead, boys." Ragan started with the top wire while the two younger men strained to bring the posts closer together. The old farmer had strong hands, and he firmly twisted the wires together with the pliers. Ragan stepped back. "Okay, let's see if it'll hold. Careful." Caleb and Wren gingerly turned the posts loose, and the wire tightened. It wavered, but the twisted metal held. Wren grinned. "One down. Three more to go." Ragan stood with them while Caleb and Wren finished the task. Soon the fence was back up, and there was no longer a danger of the cattle getting out. Ragan nodded at the work. "Looks good." He eyed Wren. "Sorry to hear about Beecher, Wren." Wren gave him a pained smile and nodded his head. "Thanks, Ragan. He was a good man." "That he was." Ragan worked his jaw. "So, yer home now?" Wren nodded. "He left the farm to you, didn't he?" Wren sighed. "He did." Ragan looked thoughtful then turned his eyes to the fence. "I was gonna ask how your uncles were taking that, but I reckon now I don't have to." The Hambricks were not well liked by much of anyone in the county, thanks to Wren's uncles. Everyone knew that they were not good men, yet many didn't have a choice except to deal with them. They owned so much property in the area, it was inevitable that other locals would have to interact and do business with the family. Wren shook his head. Caleb knew Wren didn't want to air his family's dirty laundry for the world to see, but it was apparent what had happened. "Yeah. They didn't take it well." They all chuckled uncomfortably. Ragan smiled at Wren, then clapped a hand on Caleb. "Well, looks like you've got some help, at least." "Yes, sir." Caleb nodded. "Wren's letting me put my degree to use on his land." Caleb looked fondly at Wren. "We're partners." Ragan grinned. "Good. You boys are gonna need to look out fer each other." Ragan took his pliers and dropped them into his pocket. "I'm gonna get back to the old lady. She probably thinks I had another heart attack and keeled over this time." He got into his truck and grinned. "Time to disappoint her!" He cackled with a laugh. Wren giggled. "Thanks again, Ragan." The two guys waved as the old, wiry fellow drove away. They got back into the truck. Soon they were on their way back home. Caleb only hoped that they'd find everything just as they had left it. ⤱ Caleb parked, then he and Wren got out of the truck. They both approached Tracy where she sat on her vehicle with the twelve-gauge. Tracy was not a small woman. She was wide across the hips, and similar at her shoulders. Sturdy, hardworking, far from being fat, instead she had a frame used to the rigors of farm life. Wren waved, and Tracy grinned. "Hey, thanks for keeping an eye on things, Tracy. Everything all right?" "Oh, things are just dandy." Tracy slid off the hood of her car, the shotgun pointing up and leaning against her shoulder. She handled the weapon with a comfortable familiarity. Wren grinned at her as they talked. Charles and Tracy began dating in high school, and she had been someone Wren always liked. That only increased as time went on and he got to know her better. "So, there wasn't any trouble?" "Well, trouble tried," her grin widened until most of her teeth showed, "but trouble got peppered with some birdshot." "Hah!" Caleb hooted gleefully. They all laughed, and Caleb patted her back affectionately. "Which one was it? Was it Wade?" She narrowed her eyes and shook her head once. "I don't think so. I would have seen him coming down the hill. No, it was one of the others." Wren couldn't stop grinning at the idea of Tracy shooting at his uncles. "Well, maybe that'll make them think twice before they try anything again." Tracy cocked her head and looked a little disappointed. "Yeah." Her expression shifted, and Wren thought that her smile was just a touch malicious. She gazed up at the tip of the barrel of her gun. "It might make me a bad person, but I sure hope they're dumb enough to try again." ⤱ It was an hour later, and Charles had returned from town. He had taken Oliver to his house and Tracy took over watching their young son. Now he stood by his brother as Caleb took the rototiller apart. He held up the carburetor and a slurry of thick, grainy fuel dripped out of it in glops. "Sugar." Charles tapped his foot. "Guys, I think it's time to call Casey." Casey Keen was the sheriff of Carter County. "Yeah." Wren sighed and straightened. "I'll ring him up tomorrow. I know it's only going to make the uncles change tactics - get even more underhanded." He blew out a breath. "I'm not sure they're going to stop." Wren wrinkled his nose. "Huh. I've not heard from Mr. Roseberry. I figured they would have tried to take the farm through the court before resorting to all this." Charles snorted. "Oh, you can bet they talked to him. But they didn't have a leg to stand on, an' Roseberry knows it." He waved a hand over the rototiller. "So now they're doin' this." Caleb swiped as much of the contaminated fuel out of the machine as he could with an old rag. "They'll stop if it costs them." He looked up at Wren and Charles. "I'm tellin' ya, the second they're caught, the second we can prove it's them, then this is over." "Yeah, but how?" Wren shook his head. "We can't keep watch over everything, all the time. Plus, now that Tracy shot at one of them you guys are in the line of fire too. Not to mention Mom." Wren felt weighed down by all of the worries. "I'm just, I'm not sure how we're going to do this without resorting to the same tactics." "I think that's what they want. They'd love to catch us wrecking their properties." Caleb pulled more parts off of the little engine as he spoke. "But, you're right. We can't keep eyes on everything all the time." Charles was quiet, and Wren looked at him. "What are you thinking?" Charles's jaw worked as he thought. "Well, I was just remembering seein' something at Glen's Sporting Goods that might help." "The place in Grayson?" Wren asked, and Charles nodded. "What? If there's something that helps keep the uncles away, then I'm all for it." ⤱ It neared dinner time and all three of the men were hungry, but they were almost finished with their task. Caleb twisted the screwdriver as Wren and Charles held the ladder against the tree beside Rachel's drive. Once done, he leaned back a bit and found the button on the small, weatherproof camera. Wren made a noise. "Yep, it just sent a picture of your big, goofy face to the app on my phone." Caleb grunted at Wren's description. "Good." Charles grinned. "I didn't know there was an 'app' or whatever, but that makes things real handy. We can see movement in real-time." He jerked and pulled his phone out of his pocket. "Huh. Tracy sent a text. Guess who's on the move?" Caleb climbed down, and they all heard an engine. They watched as Wade slowly drove by, staring over at them. Wren smiled a huge grin and waved. "Go ahead, you son of a bitch," he said through his teeth. "You even turn down our roads now, and we'll know it." They placed cameras near the highway where the fence was cut, at all of the entrances of their private roads, and one at each of their homes overlooking their houses. The little crew also installed additional devices at each of their barns. They were motion activated and instantly kicked on when movement was detected in their field of view. They took pictures every fifteen seconds when something was moving, and those photos were dropped into a folder Wren set up in the app provided by the manufacturer. Wren played with the settings so that he received a notice instantly when any of the ten monitoring devices took a shot. It was an expensive solution. Wren dumped a lot of money into the equipment. Caleb knew they'd be a tempting target for a well-aimed shot from a rifle, so he also screwed thick, steel guards into place beside and under each of them. The only way someone could shoot one down now was to stand right in front of it, right in view of the lens - where it would promptly take the offender's picture. Wade motored on past and the young men watched him go. "Well, I'm sure Wade will tell the other two what we're up to," Charles said as the Dodge disappeared around the curve in the blacktop. "Good." Wren put his phone back into his pocket. "I'd rather they just stay away. I don't want to fight with them, and if the cameras do that for us, then great." Caleb had his doubts. "I don't know." He frowned. "I mean, they're committed to this road now." He made a face. "And Tracy did shoot at one of them." "They deserved it. They were trespassin', whoever it was." Charles considered as they got into Caleb's truck. "Still, I think you're right. I don't think they'll stop, they'll just change tactics." Caleb started the engine and looked over, confused, at Wren. Charles always rode shotgun when they all used the truck. This time his brother sat behind the front passenger seat, and Wren took it instead. Caleb met Wren's gaze, and his black-haired friend smiled and shrugged. "We sittin' here for a reason?" Charles groused in the back. "Uh, no." Caleb put the Chevy in gear. He pulled onto the gravel drive, pointed back up the hill toward Charles's place. Charles had already texted and warned Tracy that he had his hungry brother and Wren along with him. She assured him that she was ready for the assault on their dinner, and even suggested inviting Rachel up as well. They all thought it a good idea, now that they had the monitors in place. Caleb found himself looking forward to the meal. It had been a long time since they'd all eaten together. They got up to the house and Rachel's truck pulled in as they got up onto the porch. They waited while Rachel approached in the fading light of early evening. She grinned at them. "You boys get the cameras up?" "Yep. It's all done, Mom." Wren nodded. "Oh, good." She shook her head as they all went inside. "It's sad you had to resort to this, but maybe it'll help." Caleb instantly smelled coffee, chili powder, and several other spices and herbs he couldn't place as they walked into the kitchen. Tracy was just removing a pork loin from the oven. It looked terrific, coated in a dark, savory rub of some kind. "Lord, that smells good." Charles watched as Tracy removed the meat from the hot cast iron pan. "What kinda rub is that?" "Instant coffee, Italian seasoning, and a pile of other stuff." Tracy grinned at the loin as it steamed on the plate. She waved a hand. "That Bobby Flay, he makes some crazy things, and I had to try it." "Oh, gettin' fancy!" Rachel hugged her while Caleb and Wren found seats. She pushed back and frowned at Tracy. "Now, you didn't go through no trouble for me, did you?" "Well, it has been a while. I wanted it to be special." Tracy waved off her concern. "But it wasn't no trouble." Charles smiled and put a hand on Tracy's back. "Hon, thanks for feedin' us." He patted her. "Sit. I'll serve it up." While the pork rested, Charles served broiled vegetables, mashed potatoes, and by that point, it was time to cut into the pork loin. Soon they all had full plates of food before them and glasses of milk to drink. Caleb looked around the table as Charles settled in. Everybody was happy, hungry, and they all complimented the blushing Tracy on her meal. "This is nice." Wren wiped his mouth and looked at Tracy and Charles. "Thanks for having us." Caleb swallowed and nodded. "Yeah, thanks." Charles cocked his head at Caleb, a little frown on his face. "Well, I think Wren meant him and Rachel, but, sure Caleb." He smirked. "I reckon you forgot that you live here?" Caleb flushed red. Wren too looked at him, a bit of stress on his face. Caleb began to speak, but Rachel beat him to it. "Well, that's good." She glanced around. "Means he feels at home down on the farm." She nodded and cut another piece of pork. "That's how it should be, right?" Tracy nodded. "Yep." She grinned and held up her glass of milk. "To new starts." Caleb felt relief and picked up his glass, then all of them echoed the toast and took a drink. Caleb swallowed the milk, then set his glass back on the table. He felt Wren's warm hand pat his leg and had to stop himself from looking over at his friend. Though he couldn't keep from grinning.
  20. Wesley8890

    Chapter 12

    Richie really is being a dick to Freddy for no reason!
  21. ObicanDecko

    Photoshoot

    Nathan had no idea shooting a naked calendar could be so much fun. Now he's gonna start sending naked selfies to Jaymes every day.
  22. Wayne Gray

    Papaw

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Mac. The gay thing is just one more hurdle for Wren, one that creates problems for him he wouldn't otherwise have. Rachel definitely seems happy to see him, though. His reunion with Charles and Caleb is only a chapter away. I hope you enjoy that as well. Have a great one, Mac.
  23. Ronyx

    Chapter 12

    Things are starting to return to normal- a little. I’ve been back to school for about three weeks. It isn’t as bad as I thought. Most people just leave me alone. A few students stare at me as I walk down the hall, and I can hear a few of their remarks as they pass, but I just ignore them. If it wasn’t me they are talking about, it would just be someone else. Trying to catch up on the work I’ve missed has been a bitch. My counselor summoned me to the office last week and told me that there was a chance that I might not pass this year if I didn’t start applying myself better. How can I ‘apply’ myself with all the shit I’ve been through? But they don’t care. All they focus on is your GPA. There should be some way of factoring in a person’s personal problems. It shouldn’t be based just on class work and test scores. Shouldn’t a student who is going through their own personal hell be evaluated differently than the nerdy boy who has nothing to do at night but stay holed up in his room studying all the time? I’ve come to realize over the past few years that life isn’t fair. Actually, when you come right down to it, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense. There isn’t any continuity to it. You can go along one day and everything is fine. Then bam. You go to a doctor and he tells you that you have the Big C. Like my mother. Or you can go out to dinner and have the best meal of your life. Then anticipate going back and losing your virginity to someone who you’re falling in love with. Then bam. You get broadsided by a car and he’s dead in an instant. Like Wade. I’ve learned that life offers one guarantee- there is no guarantee for life. It can leave your body slowly or it can leave in a split second. But one this is guaranteed- it will leave. I’m fifteen and I already know that. I’ve watched it happen twice. Gabe wants me to join him and the other basketball players for lunch, but I don’t have the time. I come to the library each day to try and catch up on some work. It’s quiet and I don’t have to deal with anyone. That’s something else I’m finding myself doing more and more- withdrawing from people. I don’t think I’m depressed or anything, I just want to be left alone. I’m working shit out in my mind and people just get in the way. Aunt Barbara and Uncle Ray are beginning to realize that. For a couple of weeks, they tried to get me to do things with them, but I’d always refuse. They would sit at the dinner table at night and look worriedly at me. One night I just opened up and talked to them. “I’m all right,” I assured them. “I’m not going to do anything to myself. I just need some time to be alone.” “Perhaps we should find you a counselor,” Aunt Barbara suggested. “Your father has agreed to find you someone.” I bristled at first when they mentioned his name, but I didn’t say anything. I knew he was worried about me. Why, I don’t know. But sometimes I can hear Uncle Ray talking to him on the phone late at night. For some reason, it seems like he is attempting to get me to come back home. But that is something I am determined that I will never do. Even though I miss Andrew and Melinda terribly, I do get to see them almost every Sunday. He drops them off in the early afternoon and they stay until after dinner. Many times Aunt Barbara will take us some place, and I spend the afternoon with just them. Last week we went roller skating at a nearby roller rink. I don’t think I’ve had so much fun in such a long time. Andrew couldn’t stand upright on the skates. Every time he would start to wobble away from me, he’d fall down. He’d pout and I’d roar with laugher. Finally, I held him in front of me while we skated around the rink. By the time we left, he was doing it by himself if he was holding my hand. Then after dinner, I return to my quiet room. I’m doing a little writing. I find that it helps if I put down my feelings on paper. They only problem is, most of the time I don’t know what my feelings are. At times I feel sad. Then the sadness turns to anger, and the anger turns to rage. Then I get mad because I’m angry, and then the sadness returns. I feel like a hamster running around inside a wheel. Everything is going in circles, but I’m running to nowhere. Gabe’s a good friend. The best anyone could have. He rides his bike over almost every night to spend time with me. Sometimes we play video games, but most of the time we just sit around and say nothing. He’s also about the only person who can make me laugh. One night last week, we sat around watching television. Neither of us had said anything for almost fifteen minutes. He looked over worriedly at me and asked, “Would you like me to kiss you again?” I sat up and looked surprisingly at him. “What!” I shrieked. He gave me a goofy grin. “Well,” he responded, “the last time I did it, it made you feel happy. I just want to see you laugh again.” I started grinning. “Thanks, Gabe,” I replied. “You’re a good friend.” He smiled. Then I started laughing and said, “But you’re a lousy kisser.” We started laughing and he pushed me back on the bed. “Am not,” he grinned as he leaned in toward me. “I’ll prove it.” When his lips reached mine, I stuck my wet tongue into his mouth. “Ewww!” He screamed as he raised his sleeve and wiped my slobber from his mouth. “You’re fucking gross!” I lay back on the bed and roared. “I told you that you were a lousy kisser.” “Fucker!” He mumbled as he rushed over to my bathroom and wiped his mouth out with water. I then heard him gargling. I was still laughing when he returned. He sat down beside me and started laughing. “At least you’re happier,” he smiled. “And you’re still a lousy kisser,” I laughed. Good old Gabe. The best friend anyone could have. ******** I looked over when someone sat down beside me at the library table. “Can I sit here?” It was Earl Buckman, the student who had passed me the note when Stephen had spread the news that I was gay. “Free world,” I replied as I pushed by book bag away so that he could have room to work. He fumbled around his book bag before pulling out a notebook and his literature book. He kept looking over at me and smiling as he opened the book and started to read. He turned and looked at me. “Did you do the assignment today?” “Not yet,” I replied. I had been trying to catch up with my algebra assignment. I was going to do Mrs. Livingstone’s assignment when I got home. He read a few more minutes before scooting over towards me. He pushed his leg against mine as he looked over at me. “Do you know what this word means?” When I scooted away so that our legs weren’t touching, a disappointed look appeared on his face. “It means you’re not sincere.” I said as I leaned over and looked at the word he was pointing to. “What?” “Disingenuous,” I said. He looked down at the book. “It means insincere.” “Oh, yeah,” he replied as he wrote down the definition. He looked back and stared into my eyes. “Thanks.” Earl is a cute guy, but he is rather effeminate. Wade had long blonde hair, and he was always brushing it back, but he didn’t look like a girl when he did it. Earl has a habit of brushing his brown hair back as if he is waving at someone. Students sit in class and mock him. Many times I hear a student tell someone that they are “so gay.” The person would act insulted and brush aside their hair in the same manner that Earl would and then reply with a lisp, “I am not.” It usually ends with a round of laughter. I had found myself many times feeling sorry for him over the years. It was obvious when we entered middle school that he was different from the rest of the boys. He instantly became the butt of many jokes. Around that time, I was beginning to question if I too was like Earl. That was one of the reasons I had hidden my sexuality for so long. I didn’t want to become like Earl Buckman. I didn’t want other students to tease and ridicule me the way they did him. Earl is actually a great guy. Besides being cute, he is kind and generous. He is usually the first to volunteer for projects that involved helping other students, especially around the holiday season. He organizes a ‘giving tree’ each year to buy unfortunate students presents for Christmas. Unfortunately, his participation often discourages other male students from becoming involved. Guys are particularly hesitant to participate because they don’t want other students thinking they are involved because they want to be closer to Earl. That is the reason that Earl is usually surrounded by girls. They find him funny and charming, and they feel safe being with him. I could tell he was looking at me, so I turned toward him. He frowned and said, “You never called me, Richie.” “Look, Earl,” I started, but he stopped me. “It’s okay,” he replied sadly. “I really didn’t expect you to. It’s just that you’re a really nice guy. I’ve had a crush on you since the fifth grade.” His face started to redden as he brushed the hair from his eyes. He started gathering his books and quickly stuffed them into his book bag. “I’m sorry, Richie,” he said softly. “I don’t know what made me think...” He got up and looked down sadly at me. “Bye, Richie.” I watched as he walked slowly from the library, pushing his book bag onto his shoulders. I called out his name. “Earl!” He turned and looked at me. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t.” He gave me a big grin and then waved. I waved back as he turned and left the library. ******** “You did what?” Gabe shrieked when I told him about the incident with Earl. We were heading to his house after school. He needed help with a chemistry assignment. Help usually means do it for him while he watches a rerun of a football game on television. “Well he looked so sad,” I replied. “If you could have seen the look on his face.” “But Jesus, Richie,” Gabe said as he looked over at me. “You told him you would go out with him.” I stopped and turned toward him. “What’s wrong with going out with Earl? I don’t plan to have sex with him. Besides, he’s the only other gay boy I know.” “But Jesus,” Gabe stammered. “He’s so..so..you know.” “So what?” I asked angrily. “Gay?” “Well, yeah,” he replied. “Duh!” I turned and started walking down the street. Gabe ran up and grabbed my arm. “Come on, Richie. You know what I’m talking about. I don’t mind you dating a guy.” He gave me a worried look. “But Earl?” “I’m starting to get bored sitting around the house all the time,” I insisted. “I need to go out.” “You got me,” Gabe responded. “Don’t we have a good time together?” “When you’re around,” I said. “But now that you’re dating Teresa, I hardly ever see you anymore.” “I’ve told you,” he reminded me, “that you can go with us.” “Oh, yeah,” I rolled my eyes. “That would be fun, watching you two swap spit all night.” “We don’t swap spit,” he laughed. “Well, maybe.” His face reddened. “When I drop her off at night.” I started off down the street. He ran to catch up with me. “We’re going to the movies this weekend. Why don’t you come with us?” I turned and grinned. “Can I call Earl and ask him to go?” Gabe’s eyes widened. I knew I’d caught him off guard. It was fun watching him try to come up with some excuse why he couldn’t go with us. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders. “Okay,” he said apprehensively. “I’ll tell Teresa tomorrow. I don’t know how she’ll react, though.” I threw my hand around Gabe’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Gabe.” I laughed. “I was just teasing you. I wanted to see what you’d say.” He gave me a look of relief. “So, you’re not going to ask Earl out on a date?” “Naw,” I said as I started to walk away. “Not this Saturday, anyway.” “Wait, Richie!” Gabe said excitedly as he ran to catch up with me. “What does that mean?” I started laughing. ******** “You seem in a happy mood.” My aunt was sitting across from the table smiling at me. I shrugged my shoulders and ate a big scoop of cereal. “Why do you say that?” She frowned. “Don’t speak with your mouth full.” She threw the newspaper at me when I opened my mouth and showed her the contents of half eaten cereal. I started choking when I started to laugh. “Serves you right,” she said as she got up from the table, poured herself another cup of coffee and sat back down. I was feeling in a good mood. In fact, I hadn’t felt so good in a long time. Since it was a Saturday, he was bringing Andrew over. Gabe and I were going to take him to a nearby amusement park. I hadn’t been there since my mother got sick, and I was looking forward to going. When Gabe had suggested it, I asked him if Andrew could go along. He said he would like that, so I had asked Aunt Barbara to ask him if he could go with us. After talking to him on the phone, she said that he had readily agreed. He thought it was a good idea that I wanted to spend time with my little brother. When she said he even volunteered to take us, I told her I wouldn’t go if he did. After discussing it with him, he agreed to let her take us. The phone rang and Aunt Barbara got up to answer it. She returned and handed the receiver to me. “Hello?” “Richie!” It was Andrew. He sounded excited. “I know you won’t like it, but can Harley go with us? He’s sitting in our room crying because he can’t go with us. Can he go, huh? Please?” I looked over at my aunt who was staring at me. I think Andrew had probably said something to her and she had decided to let me make the decision. I had really hoped that Andrew and I could spend the day together, but he wouldn’t have fun if he knew Harley was sitting at home alone and sad. “Sure,” I answered reluctantly. I looked over and saw my aunt smile. “He can go.” “He can?” I held the phone from my ear when Andrew squealed excitedly. “Thanks, Richie!” I started to hang up when he stopped me. “Richie?” “Yeah, Andrew?” I could hear Harley talking to him in the background. Finally, he came back on the phone. “Harley wants to know if Freddy can come with us?” I didn’t mind Harley going, but I was skeptical about Freddy joining us. I still didn’t feel comfortable around him. He and Gabe had become good friends, and Gabe was always trying to get me to talk to him. So far though, I had been able to avoid him. I knew that he wasn’t involved in the decision of moving into my room. However, he was there, and I wasn’t. That was enough for me not to like him. “I don’t think there’s enough room in the car,” I said. Again, I heard Andrew and Harley talking. “Harley says he can sit in my lap,” Andrew suggested. “He don’t mind.” I looked over at my aunt. Even though she couldn’t hear Andrew’s question, I was pretty sure she knew what he had asked me. “Hold on,” I told my little brother. I covered the receiver with my hand. “He wants Harley and Freddy to join us,” I informed her. “Tell him the car won’t hold all of us.” I tried to hand her the phone. “He knows better than that,” she replied. “Besides, what’s the harm of them going?” “I don’t want Freddy to go.” “Why?” she asked. “I don’t see anything wrong with him joining you boys.” “Fine,” I said angrily. “Tell Andrew that they can go. I’ll just stay home.” I pushed myself away from the table and stormed to my room. I pulled out my literature book and started to work on a homework assignment. I was upset because I had wanted to spend the day with my little brother. We hadn’t seen each other for a week, and then we went out with Aunt Barbara and Uncle Ray to the video arcade in the mall. Harley went with us then, and Andrew spent most of his time playing games with him. There was a knock on the door, and then Gabe entered. He sat down on the bed and looked over at me. “Barb said you don’t want to go with us.” I pretended to write and didn’t look up at him. “I got too much work to do.” “But you were excited about going yesterday.” “Well,” I huffed, “I’m not excited now.” I turned and faced him. “Go and have a good time,” I said sarcastically. “Ohhh,” he grinned. “Someone’s in a shitty mood.” “Fuck you, Gabe!” I turned and pretended to write something down in my notebook. Just then Andrew came running into the room and jumped in my lap. “You ready to go, Richie? Me and Harley want to ride on the roller coaster.” “He’s not going,” remarked Gabe as he gave me a snide look. He knew I couldn’t tell Andrew no to anything. “Why?” Andrew looked sadly at me. “I thought we were going to have a good time together.” I pulled him from my lap and stood him on the floor. “You got Harley.” “But he ain’t you, Richie.” Tears started to form in his eyes. “Please go with us. It won’t be any fun if you don’t go.” I looked over at Gabe. “You still got Gabe, Harley and...” my voice turned to a tone of anger, “and Freddy.” I heard Gabe mutter, “So that’s it.” He stood up and walked over to Andrew. He gently led him to the door. “Why don’t you go in the family room and wait for us.” He turned to me with an angry expression on his face. “I’ll try to talk this hard-headed brother of yours into going.” Andrew timidly waved at me before leaving. Gabe slammed the door shut. “Don’t start on me!” I said angrily. “I’m not in the mood.” Gabe walked over and looked down at me. “You’re going to miss having a good time with your brother just because Freddy is going?” “That’s not the reason I don’t want to go,” I insisted as I turned and picked up my pencil. He snatched it from my hand. “When are you going to grow up, Richie?” His expression was more hurt than anger. “Freddy hasn’t done anything to you. He doesn’t like the situation any more than you do. He told me he’d love to leave, but he has nowhere else to go.” “He could live with you,” I replied sarcastically, “since you two are such good friends anymore." “Fuck you, Richie!” He balled up his fist, but then he walked over to the window and let out an exasperated sigh. “Freddy has done everything he can to be your friend, and you treat him like a piece of shit.” “Maybe he is a piece of shit,” I responded. Gabe walked back over and stood before me once again. “You know better than that. If you would give him a chance, you’d find out he’s a really great guy.” I turned and started writing in my notebook. Gabe watched for a minute before turning and heading for the door. He stopped before leaving. “I hope you get your assignments done,” he stated sadly. “I just hope it’s worth missing out having fun with Andrew today. He’s been looking forward to this all week.” I jumped when he left and slammed the door behind him. I didn’t know what to do. I had also been looking forward all week to spending time with Andrew- alone. Sure, Gabe was going, but he understood that I needed to spend time alone with my little brother. Things just didn’t fit anymore. I missed my home, and I missed my room. I missed eating breakfast with Andrew and Melinda in the morning. I missed wrestling with Andrew in the family room as we watched television at night. I missed helping Melinda with her math homework after school. Most of all, I missed tucking them into bed at night and kissing them on their forehead. Now, two strangers had taken my place. Now it was Harley wrestling on the floor with Andrew. Freddy was helping Melinda with her math. He was putting them to bed and kissing them goodnight on their forehead. Tears appeared when I thought about all the times he had put me to bed when I was Andrew’s age. “Read me a story, Daddy,” I would beg, “Please?” He’d ruffle my hair and smile. “Sure, Sport. What story?” I would then get out of bed and grab the book he had been reading for the past few days. Harry Potter had been one of my favorites. “Here, Daddy,” I would say as I jumped back into bed and pulled the covers over me. He would turn the book to where he had inserted the marker, lean back on the headboard and start reading. I would listen for a while before my eyelids would become heavy. After reading a few more pages, he’d close the book, kiss me on my forehead and then turn out the light. “I love you, Son,” would be the last words I’d hear before sleep overtook me. “Damn it!” I sighed as I wiped the tears from my eyes with my sleeve. Just then the door opened, and Andrew entered. After noticing I had been crying, he walked over and climbed into my lap. “It’s going to be okay, Richie.” He too started to cry. “I promise.” I held him tightly for a minute before removing him from my lap. I reached up and wiped his tears away with my finger. He leaned in and hugged me again. “You’re the best brother in the whole world,” he stated proudly. “You are too,” I replied as I kissed his forehead. I stood and took his hand. “Let’s go. You and Harley have a roller coaster to ride.”
  24. mikedup

    Alo Chapter 30

    Awesome chapter, more drama he has a knack of sorting things out very rapidly
  25. Howzat

    Photoshoot

    I can't spot the joins though so you both did a good job! Great chapter though I'm still a bit anxious about the Australian cousin and when he comes into the story in person to see what his plans are and how they'll affect Nathan and Jaymes. And Polly is going to be so livid that neither of them told her about them getting together - but in the same breath she'll be so happy for them both.
  26. April 15 The world is full of melody, the brook, the bird and bumblebee, the poplar creaking on the wind that groans in perfect harmony. Each sings a tune none can rescind: the wolf that howled, the goose that dinned the marshland or the reedy lake cannot be silenced or chagrined. Fall rains which thrum when I awake keep time with every step I take through puddles like the cymbals’ clash, till warmth gives way to ice and flake. Great ocean rollers roar and thrash, then croon to sands which they abash; love’s chorus in cacophony - though you may think this balderdash. April 16 Of what substance are you made, O my soul, O my soul; Of what fabric and what shade, O my soul? Braided fair and woven fine, found in patterns wholly thine, and upon the body laid, O my soul. And of what yarn did you weave, O my soul, O my soul; Of what thread did you conceive, O my soul? Twisted silk and linen new, golden skeins known to but few, blended to your fears relieve, O my soul. But my eyes don’t see it thus, O my soul, O my soul; Only crude twine treasonous, O my soul. You must look as others do, not with mirrors all askew, but with love harmonious, O my soul. April 17 Of all the vegetables I may grow that prosper in the ground, amongst the seeds that the hand will sow Tomatoes wear the crown. They have their infinite multitude of type and cultivar from long, determinate Romas rude to heirloom whites, bizarre. Now one may argue the melon’s case, such is their great demand, or peppers possibly may misplace one’s thinking on the land; but give me Brandywines warmed by sun in August, for my meal and heirloom cherry tomatoes, fun, which grow with untold zeal; The Kellogg’s orange skinned giant orbs September’s breakfasts make, Their juice my sourdough bread absorbs would sweeten any cake. Take your asparagus, it’s quite fine, and beans and parsnips, too; but I’ll take Cherokees from the vine and leave a few for you. April 18 April sings of robins bouncing on green lawns, of fishermen with day-old beards hip deep in icy creeks and tiny daffodils blazing yellow-gold in grass that hasn’t yet caught up; Her voice recalls scents of warm earth, old furrows, uncovered gardens and open water; She sways to the rhythm of the sapsucker’s drumming on cottonwoods, the hiss and patter of raindrops on the roof, and the staccato playing of the John Deere up the hill; April’s tune has no final cadence as with November’s first snowfall, but blends itself into May’s fresh green leaves, Memorial Day lilacs and June’s tang of sun and sweat. April 19 Beforehand he kissed me at the door and led me to that bright sunlit room where with mutual breathless exhilaration he unveiled me, button by button, speaking naked truths on our bare skin. Afterwards, he held me in the hush; in the room’s sudden sated stillness warm breath and dazed kisses on my neck and shoulder bound me closer and tighter to him than all our explosive ecstasy. April 20 Bees buzz, such lilliputian insects procuring sugars complex attired in yellow-black checks facilitating plant sex. Buzz biz, they trip the light fantastic in motions quite stochastic appearing most gymnastic relaying food thoughts drastic. Biz bros, relations in gazillions the offspring of cotillions the queen held with civilians who rode with her as pillions. April 21 I believe that we are made for love; to bless and to receive great blessing, and mend a fractured heart or sustain weary friends with strong arms and spirits that embrace; to breathe compassion and wake to joy.
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