Tom and I went around the house, holding hands, until we reached the front door. I was full of trepidation and I could see he was nervous as well. It was an ungrateful task that he had to do.
I knew how lucky I was that my family readily accepted my sexuality, so of course I felt for Tom for having to go through this with his grandparents.
“I’m glad you’re both here, I want to talk to you,” he announced as we entered the house and found his grandparents sitting in the dining room.
The two of them sat quiet as Tom calmly reminded them that he was gay and that that was not going to change.
“Of course, honey, we know that,” his grandma replied, finally looking him in the eyes. On the other hand, her husband stared at his coffee cup on the table in front of him.
“So, you’re both ok with this?” Tom asked and his grandparents nodded.
“Of course, you’re our boy,” his grandpa said, finally raising his head and looking in our direction. “If you say you… prefer men, we’ll just have to accept it.”
I felt Tom squeeze my hand harder and I returned the squeeze, as if giving him some of my strength and resolve.
“Tom, I’m sorry we didn’t talk about this sooner,” Mrs Claffey added. “And your friend will always be welcome in this house.”
“No, grandma,” Tom was adamant. “Charlie is not my friend. We are dating and he’ll be coming here often. I haven’t brought anyone home in years and now that I’ve met Charlie, I don’t want to have to hide from you and pretend we’re just friends.”
“We understand,” his grandma nodded, a concerned look on her wrinkled, old face. “We’re just worried. Maybe when you’re together in public-”
“What? We shouldn’t hold hands or kiss?” Tom asked, irritated.
“It’s the people here, you know how they are. They’ll say-”
“I don’t care. Let them talk,” Tom shrugged. “They talk about everyone and make things up all the time. That’s not going to change.”
He suddenly seemed more agitated, but I didn’t want to ask anything. Instead, I stayed quiet most of the time, letting them get everything out in the open. In the end, I just thanked them for understanding and Tom took me upstairs to his room.
We were both silent, trying to absorb the conversation. I was sure Tom’s mind was racing with what his grandparents said, and what they didn’t say, but he would tell me about it when he was ready.
I don’t know what I expected, but I was a bit surprised when I entered Tom’s room and saw how nice and modern it was. There was a large bed with a big, wooden headboard and a small nightstand on its right side. The opposite wall was almost fully occupied by a modern, white closet. Below the double windows, there was a desk with a laptop on it. The transparent, cream-colored curtains complimented the sheets of the same color and the small brown carpet.
“I like your room, it’s very nice,” I said, wrapping my arms around his waist and giving him a peck on the lips.
“Thanks,” he said, placing his hands on my hips.
“Just one question - does the door lock?” I winked, wanting to defuse the tension after the conversation from downstairs. It obviously worked, as I was rewarded with a sweet chuckle, and a lovely view of his dimples and beautiful smile.
“It does,” he then said, leaning in to give me a proper kiss.
“So how do you think that went?”
“I’m not sure yet. It’s the same story all over,” he shrugged and sat on the bed.
“What do you mean?”
“They were the same with Donovan - worried about what people are going to say. Like I give a fuck.”
I let out a chuckle and Tom looked at me, smiling.
“I never heard you swear before.”
“Sorry,” he quickly apologized, but the smirk on his face remained.
“So, I don’t imagine you spend a lot of time here,” I said. “Being such an outdoorsy type that you are.”
“Yeah, I guess not. Mostly in the evening.”
“What do you do then? Do you play any games?”
“Not really. I listen to music, watch TV shows… And I love watching animal videos on YouTube,” Tom said, eliciting a delighted laughter from me. “What?! What’s so funny?”
“Nothing, it’s just… You live literally surrounded by nature and animals. I didn’t imagine you’d care much about watching them on YouTube when you can have a firsthand view.”
“But they’re so funny!”
“Oh, I know. I could waste hours watching puppies falling over and cats getting scared of cucumbers.”
So, that’s exactly what we did for the next hour: we sat in front of his laptop and watched funny animal videos until we were both crying with laughter.
When it was time for me to go home, I realized I didn’t really want to. The idea of going back to my empty house, when I could instead be spending time with Tom, was not at all attractive. I never learned how to live alone. I had roommates all through college, so I was used to the noise, someone always being there and talking.
However, considering everything that happened that day, I wasn’t sure me staying overnight would be welcome. Besides, Tom had made it clear he wanted us to take it slow, and I was trying to respect that.
It was just a few days later that we saw each other again. Summer was slowly coming to an end, and I wanted to use the last remaining days of it to soak up some more sun and get a bit of color. I was never big on tanning, and had certainly never visited tanning salons, but I didn’t want the whole summer to pass without getting at least a shade darker.
Even though I could have done some sunbathing in my backyard, I remembered that Tom told me about the nearby river and asked him if he wanted to go there with me. To my delight, he was very keen to go, so I packed my sunscreen, sunglasses, a large beach towel, bottle of water and my turquoise swim trunks and drove over to his house.
The river was about half an hour by foot, so we decided to drive instead. Tom suggested he drive us with his pickup truck because the road to the river wasn’t an asphalt one, but a narrow dirt road.
“I hope you brought your sunglasses,” I looked over at him as we were driving to our destination.
“Yeah, I did. Why?”
“I don’t wanna blind you when I take my shirt off.”
“Oh, come on, you’re not that pale,” Tom giggled. “And I don’t care, you look nice.”
“Thanks. You’re really good for my self-confidence, you know? You always know what to say to make me feel good.”
“I just say what’s on my mind,” he shrugged simply.
That was another thing I admired about Tom. I could count on him to always tell me the truth. It was refreshing to have that instead of guys who play mind games and try to manipulate you. I was aware that he was not as experienced as other guys I’ve gone out with, which meant he was probably more naive and innocent, but that was just another quality of his, not a flaw.
When we arrived at the river, I was surprised to see it was much larger than I remembered it. Admittedly, I didn’t visit it that much when I was a kid, and in my mind it was quite narrow, dirty and overgrown with reed. In reality, it was wide, with clear sandy areas along the coast where the locals tried to make a beach. It was interspersed in several places with bushes, trees and reed. There were ducks and even a few swans peacefully swimming in the water as the warm summer sun shone brightly. I could only see a few people far in the distance, lying on the beach.
“So, what do you say?” Tom asked as we got out of his truck and descended down toward the water.
“Wow, so not what I imagined!” I scanned the area, soaking up the sights.
“Come on, let’s go over here.”
We took our stuff with us and headed left, to one of the isolated patches of the beach. Tall shrubs were blocking the view on both sides. There were no people in that particular area, which meant we would have some privacy.
I spread out my beach towel down on the sand, large enough for the both of us, and started undressing. Tom did the same, and in a few seconds we were both standing there in just our swim trunks. I didn’t have the best body in the world, as I wasn’t a big fan of the gym, but I also wasn’t embarrassed of it.
However, I found it hard to keep my eyes off of Tom. He looked good enough to eat! He wasn’t beefy or ripped, but still had a nice, toned body and a lovely tan that made him even hotter. He had a small patch of hair at the center of his chest, as well as under his arms, which I found very sexy and inviting! Maybe one day he’d let me taste it... He also had a sexy treasure trail leading down to a nice bulge covered by the thin, red fabric of his trunks. I was a bit less hairy than him, with only a thin treasure trail and some armpit hair.
We put sunscreen on ourselves and I couldn’t help but observe Tom as he rubbed the lotion all over his pecs, abs, arms and hairy legs.
As I scanned his body and looked up, our eyes met and we smiled at each other, the knowing smiles that told us more than words could.
“You look really good,” he said, almost a whisper.
“Thanks, so do you,” I stepped closer and put my arms on his shoulders. “You better watch out, ‘cuz I’m gonna jump on you when you least expect it,” I replied in a low voice, wiggling my eyebrows. He just pulled me closer and gave me a peck on the lips.
“I didn’t know you were so naughty,” he chuckled.
“Only when I’m provoked by such cute guys!”
“Come on, let’s do each other’s backs so we can go into the water,” Tom suggested and we sat down on the towel.
I took my bottle of sunscreen, but Tom snatched it away from me. Moments later, I felt the cool lotion on my back, as he started rubbing it all over me. It quickly warmed up, though, and I couldn’t resist letting out a soft moan. I was enjoying it too much, but how could I not? His strong hands were touching my naked back, rubbing circles all over my shoulders, down my spine and almost down to my ass. He took his time and I knew he was enjoying it maybe as much as I was.
When it was my turn, I did the same, making sure to give him the same satisfying experience he gave to me. I squeezed out some lotion in my palm and slowly rubbed it all over his broad shoulders, across his shoulder blades and down to his lower back. As I felt his back muscles relax under my fingers, I started to get hard. I was sure that if I stroked it just a few times, I would’ve come on the spot. I restrained myself, though, and finished rubbing his back.
We swam for a while, splashing each other and just relaxing. The water was nice and warm, as it was a hot, sunny afternoon. If I thought Tom was cute before, seeing him all wet made me realize he was also very sexy. His brown curls now looked almost black; they fell over his forehead and almost into his eyes. As I observed tiny drops of water trickling down his neck and chest, I was overwhelmed with the desire to lick them all and cover every inch of his skin with my tongue.
After swimming around for another ten minutes or so, I closed my eyes and just stayed floating in the river, relaxing and enjoying the sound of the water. Suddenly, I heard a big splash right behind me, which startled me and made me open my eyes in shock. Next thing I knew, strong arms wrapped around me and I felt kisses on my neck and heard giggling.
“Hey! Not fair!” I laughed, trying to wriggle out of Tom’s grip.
“You’re gonna jump on me, huh? See how that worked out for ya!” he snickered and loosened his hold on me a bit. I managed to turn around so that I was facing him, placing my hands on his waist under the water.
Whenever we were that close, we were unable to resist kissing each other. As soon as his lips touched mine, I parted them to allow his tongue to enter. We moaned into each other’s mouths as our tongues grinded in unison. There was no mistaking how much we were both aroused. Our wet, almost naked bodies were pressed together and I could feel his hardness against my own.
We finally broke apart and came out of the water, lying on the towel so we’d continue where we left off. We kissed some more and I was so tempted to pull his erection out and suck it. I wanted to feel all of him. Still, I did not dare go all the way - we were out in the open and the risk of someone walking in on us was still there.
“What are you doing to me,” I sighed as I lay next to him, trying to catch my breath. I had no idea how I was going to endure taking it slow with him.
Tom just let out a short laugh and reached out to grab my hand. He brought it to his mouth and kissed it.
I relaxed and closed my eyes, enjoying the sun.
“Do you miss your home and family?” he asked at one point. It was still warm outside, and we were too lazy to move from our spot on the beach.
“Yeah, sometimes. Not so much my home, though. I haven’t lived there since I went to uni. But I do miss seeing my parents and my little sister.”
“Are you close to them?”
“Mom and I often don’t see eye to eye, but we get along. Kim and I are thick as thieves, though. She’s four years younger and she just started college. We weren’t really that close when we were kids. We used to bicker a lot: who gets the bigger room, who gets to pick the movie on movie nights, stuff like that. But things changed when I came out. I think she was thrilled to have a gay brother. She must’ve thought I’d suddenly become like one of her girlfriends, doing each other’s makeup and talking about boybands. I did none of that, but it still made our bond stronger.”
Tom chuckled as I recounted my experiences growing up. “That’s nice. So they accepted you being gay?”
“Yeah, I was lucky they were all really cool about it. There were some jerks in school, as always, but I didn’t pay attention to them, so they got bored of teasing me pretty quickly. And besides, I had my best friend Jae to support me, so even if someone wanted to pick on me, he’d be there for me. He’s not the strongest guy physically, but you know, going up against two people is much different than facing just one. Then we met Alison and she became the third member of our little party.”
“Is Jae the guy I saw you with at the bar that night?” Tom asked.
“No, that’s Travis. He’s… another friend.”
“Oh. Are you two...”
“No, we never dated,” I shook my head, dispelling Tom’s suspicions. “But we would hook up on occasion. We met when we were both single and got along great, so we’d get together every now and then and have some fun. We both enjoyed it, but didn’t want anything serious, so we thought why not?” I explained. Tom looked ahead of him, as if deep in thought.
“But don’t worry,” I added, stroking his tanned arm, “now that we’re dating, I have no intention of being with him that way anymore.”
“Ok,” he spoke softly and smiled. I leaned in and gently touched his lips with mine.
“You don’t have to share me with anyone,” I reassured him. “Tell me about your friends. The guys you were with at the bar - are you all close?”
“Yeah,” Tom nodded. “Riley, Steve and Matt. Good lads, we grew up together.”
“Do any of them… play for our team?” I smirked.
“Ahh no, they’re as straight as they come. Steve is already married and about to become a dad.”
“And they’re cool with you being gay?” I asked, and Tom nodded in response. “That’s good. I don’t mean any offense, but people in small places are often not as open-minded.”
“That’s true, I guess,” he said. “Like my grandparents.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way,” I looked away, embarrassed.
“It’s ok, I know,” Tom said, his arm finding its way around my shoulders. “I guess they don’t know any better. I don’t think they ever met a gay person in their entire life, other than me and Donovan. And now you.”
“They’ll come around. I can see they love you dearly. What about your sister’s family?”
“They’ve been accepting. Debra was great from the start, but she couldn’t influence our grandparents much. Dave is also cool. I think even Kayla is starting to realize, but she doesn’t care. She’s too young to understand it all properly, I think.”
“Kids are much more accepting these days. I’m sure she’ll love her uncle just as much.”
As we shared stories from our lives, we got to know each other better. Tom opened up a little bit more than usual, and I was happy about that - it meant he was more comfortable around me and trusted me enough to tell me things. He even told me about his parents - something I admit I was curious about, but didn’t dare to ask.
“They knew each other from school, I think it was a case of first love for both of them. When they finished high school, they decided to stay here and get married. Mom was a bit strict, but dad would spoil us rotten. As far as I remember at least. I know mom was always fussing about preparing us for school, but dad would encourage us to go out and play with the animals.”
“I can see whose influence won out in the end,” I observed with a smile.
“Yeah, that’s true. I have some pictures and a few videos of them. One summer, they went on a trip to the East Coast and had a traffic accident on their way back. I was only seven at the time; Debra was eight. Grandma and grandpa would tell us stories about them. I think they were afraid we would forget them, but it only made us cry.”
I put my arm around his back and moved closer to him, leaning my head on his shoulder. I wondered if his parents’ death was the reason he refused to get out of Taernsby and travel. There was no easy way to ask that, so I decided not to. Maybe some other time.
We stayed by the river for a little while longer, until it got chilly, so we got dressed and left. By the end of the day, I felt we were closer to each other.
We said goodbye in front of his house, with a long kiss and a promise to see each other in a few days. I was looking forward to it very much.