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    Altimexis
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Crossroads: Tales from the Heartland - 9. Sizzling Summer

“It’s gonna be sooo much fun living here for the summer,” Brian said with a huge grin as we pulled up in front of my granddads’ house on North Illinois Street.

“I still can’t believe we’re done with high school,” I chimed in as I brought the car to a stop and shut off the motor. “Can you believe we’ve been together nearly four years?” I added.

“It’ll be four years in September, Frankie,” Brian corrected me. “It’s still only June. Let’s not push it, Babe.”

“It’s close enough, don’cha think?” I asked, knowing all too well the answer my boyfriend would give.

“Three years, nine months and two weeks is not four years,” Brian admonished me and I sighed in return.

“Didn’t your math classes teach you about approximations?” I asked. I was the math genius in the family, but Brian definitely did not like to be inaccurate. Yeah, he was a real stickler for details.

With a goofy grin, however, my Brian relented, saying, “You’re absolutely right, Babe, and it is pretty fucking cool that we’re finally gonna be living together, on our own.”

Our lips came together and we shared a brief kiss, savoring the moment until it was shattered by the sound of the front door of our new home crashing open as a couple of young teenage boys came barreling out, one chasing the other.

“Alone, except for sharing it with six teenage boys,” I said with a laugh as we watched the pair of boys chase each other around the front yard as first one and then the other would claim possession of whatever it was they were fighting over. From our vantage point, we couldn’t see just what the object was, but it was obviously something they both wanted.

The two young teens were certainly handsome. One of them was a slim, African American youth with a wiry frame and long dreadlocks that complemented his face nicely. He looked to be about fifteen. The other was an Asian boy with medium length, straight, black hair, a muscular torso and exceptionally long legs. Although muscular, he was fast on his feet and quite adept at dodging his opponent. He looked to be about thirteen or maybe fourteen.

Both boys were barefoot and shirtless, and they had built up a sweaty sheen on their bodies from all the running they were doing. At last, the black boy tackled the Asian boy, bringing them both crashing to the ground. Seemingly out of breath, both boys just lay there for a minute or two, breathing heavily, the Asian boy still in possession of whatever it was they were fighting over, and the African American boy still with his arms around the Asian boy’s legs.

Then, without warning, the African American boy leapt up and came back down on top of the Asian boy, quickly flipping him onto his back and pinning him there. He then slowly lowered himself down onto the Asian boy and their lips merged.

“Remind you of anyone?” Brian asked.

“Yeah, they do,” I answered, thinking of my adoptive dads, Jerry, who was a slight, African American man, and his committed partner Carlos, who was Hispanic. I also thought of Jerry’s adoptive dads, Tyler and Ricky, who were also a mixed-race couple. As if they’d ‘heard’ my thoughts, Ty and Ricky emerged from the front door at that very moment. Although in their mid-forties, they still had a youthful appearance that made them look more like the brothers, rather than the foster parents, of the six boys under their care.

The two men headed right for the two boys in the middle of the front yard, who were still engaged in a lip lock, right in public view. Tyler leaned over and tapped the black boy on the shoulder, and the boy finally pulled away from the boy on the ground. As he did so, Ricky pointed our way, and the young boy looked at our car, then got up the rest of the way and extended his hand to help the young Asian boy up. They both dusted themselves off and headed our way.

Seeing as we had a welcoming party, Brian and I finally decided we needed to get off our asses and we released our seat belts, opened the doors and got out of our car. Walking up to meet the four of them, I went straight for Tyler as he extended his arms and we embraced each other tightly. Releasing Tyler from my embrace, I noticed that Brian and Ricky had similarly been embracing. We switched places and I embraced Ricky warmly.

Although the adoptive fathers of one of my adoptive fathers, I considered Ricky and Ty as if they were my own flesh and blood - they really were my grandparents as far as I was concerned. All of my biological, so-called grandparents washed their hands of me when they found out I was gay. On top of that, they blamed me for my parents going to jail. They really believed that my parents were in prison because I was a faggot - not because my father had been sexually abusing me from when my hands were big enough to go around him, nor because both my parents beat the living shit out of me. No, Tyler and Ricky were nothing like my natural grandparents. Tyler and Ricky knew the true meaning of unconditional love.

“Frankie, how have you been?” Ricky asked as we parted.

“I’ve been good, Ricky,” I answered, then added, “Weve been good. It’s hard to believe we’re really here, you know? After a lifetime in school, it feels good to be done!”

Chuckling, Tyler responded, “Frankie, you’ll never be done. Education is a lifelong pursuit. I do believe you’ll find college to be a lot more enjoyable than high school, though. In some ways more challenging and more serious, but you’ll be able to interact with your teachers, adult-to-adult. It makes all the difference in the world.”

Then, changing the subject, Tyler continued, “Frankie, Brian, I’d like you to meet two of our brood.” Placing a hand on each boy’s bare shoulder, he said, “This is Terrance,” as he squeezed the black boy’s shoulder, “and this is Will,” as he squeezed the Asian boy’s shoulder.

“Boys,” he continued, “this is Frankie,” he indicated as he nodded in my direction, “and this is Brian,” he noted as he nodded in my boyfriend’s direction, “your house parents for the summer.” I just couldn’t relate to the idea of being a parent - we were teenagers ourselves, barely older than the boys and, yet, that’s exactly what we had signed on to be. Hell, I wasn’t even an adult yet - my eighteenth birthday wasn’t until next October.

As I reached to shake Will’s hand, he shifted the object the two boys had been fighting over from his right hand to his left, and I saw that it was a book. They’d been fighting over a book! After shaking both boys’ hands, I asked, “What are you reading?”

Rather than answer, he handed the book to me and I noted that it was one of the books in the Harry Potter series. “I didn’t realize kids still read this,” I commented.

“Do you mean books in general, or the Harry Potter books?” Ricky asked with a laugh.

“Both, I suppose,” I answered.

“Just like my parents,” Tyler responded, “We have an extensive library and it’s filled with classics like the Harry Potter series. It may not make much sense when you can download the entire contents of the public library in a heartbeat, but we’ve always tried to instill in our boys a kind of reverence for the written page in the truest sense. There’s nothing like the feel of turning a real page, page after page. Only by reading real books can one appreciate what it must have been like for the author to have written them.

“And I think you’ll find the Harry Potter books are as popular as ever, even though most boys read them in digital form now… and of course a lot of them just watch the movies.” I blushed at that, as I myself had only seen the movies.

When Tyler spoke of his parents, he was referring to his adoptive parents, Barbara and Rick, who ran a B&B that was located just over a block away on North Meridian Street. Indeed, Tyler and Rick had been squatting in the house that became the B&B when Barbara and Rick inherited it from Barbara’s aunt. The boys had been forced to flee their biological parents, who did not take it well when they caught their sons in a compromising position.

Barbara and Rick could have tossed the boys to the mercy of CPS but, instead, they adopted them and raised them as their own, even as they ran their new enterprise. Now, Barbara and Rick were entering their seventies and planning on retirement. Big plans were in the works for Brian and me to take over the B&B after we finished college, freeing up Ricky and Ty to pursue a new project that was just getting started this summer.

By now we had been joined by the remaining four boys, who were all attired similarly to Terrance and Will, in shorts, barefoot and shirtless. They certainly were a diverse bunch. The youngest, who was introduced to us as Toby, looked to be about ten years old but was actually just shy of thirteen. Much like me, he was a blue-eyed, blond-haired white boy but, unlike me, his hair was long, extending halfway down his back. It had prolly been years since his last haircut, but it looked good on him.

Next were Mustafa, a shy thirteen-year old boy whose parents were Syrian, and Jack, who was one of the best-looking boys I'd ever seen. He was sixteen and well over six feet tall, had a muscular torso and a striking combination of green eyes and reddish-brown hair. As stunning as he looked, I expected him to come across as aloof or standoffish. Instead he had one of the warmest smiles I’d ever seen. As he shook my hand, I could tell that he was genuinely happy to meet us.

Last to greet us was Derrick, a heavy-set, seventeen-year-old African American young man with an attitude that more than matched his physical size. From the way he carried himself and the way he stood apart from the others, it was evident that he was an outsider, even though he’d lived with Ty and Ricky for nearly three years. Within minutes of meeting him, I realized he would almost certainly be our biggest challenge as house parents - to me in particular since we were the same age and I was so much smaller than him. Little did I realize how wrong that prophesy would turn out to be.

“Well don’t just stand there, boys,” Ty said after all the introductions had been made. “Help Frankie and Brian get their things inside!”

Although they might have come from different backgrounds, the boys acted surprisingly as a team as they helped us to unload the car and carried everything inside and up to the master bedroom. Even Derrick helped. As we made our way through the house, I couldn’t help but notice that it was uncomfortably warm inside. It was no wonder that the kids were all shirtless.

Brian wasted little time in kicking off his sneakers and stripping off his shirt, but I wasn’t eager to parade around in next to nothing. For one thing, my back still bore the scars of the abuse I’d suffered as a child. More than that, however, I felt that, as a house parent, I needed to demonstrate some maturity. To me, for reasons not even I understood, that meant keeping my shirt on.

Noticing our discomfort, Tyler said, “Sorry, but the AC's been acting up a lot lately. We’ve had it fixed a couple of times this year already, but it just keeps breaking down. I guess we need to face it. We need to replace the compressor or maybe get a whole new system, but with all the money we have tied up in the new place, we can’t afford it right now.

“At least the house was designed before the advent of air conditioning and with all the windows open and with the ceiling fans going, most of the time it’s not too bad. Today is just a particularly hot, humid day. I guess we’ve all gotten used to doing without the AC when it breaks.

“Ricky and I’ll get someone out to fix it on Monday… again…”

“Don’t worry about it,” my boyfriend replied before I could raise an objection. “It’s not that bad, really. I’m actually quite comfortable. Like you said, it’s rather pleasant in here with the ceiling fans going.”

Then looking over at me, he added, “You can take your shirt off too, you know.”

“No, I can’t,” I responded.

Getting a softer look in his eyes, he replied, “Honey, of course you can. No one’s gonna think anything less of you. If anything, the boys’ll think more highly of you. They all bear the scars of abuse, even if their scars aren’t visible on the outside.”

“It’s not that, Bri,” I countered. “It’s just that it feels kinda different as a house parent, you know? Ricky and Ty have their shirts on… It would feel kinda funny to go parading around the other boys without a shirt. Kinda hard to earn their respect if I look like just another boy. It’s bad enough that I look more like I’m fifteen than nearly eighteen.” Yeah, I was very self-conscious of my youthful looks. I always had been.

Feeling a bit like a jerk for letting the temperature affect me, I replied, “Thanks but, like Brian said, don’t worry about it. It's not that bad, so there’s no hurry.”

I had been hoping that Ricky and Ty would counter that they wouldn’t think of making us put up with broken air conditioning but, instead, Ricky said, “We really appreciate it. With the new place and all the expenses and everything, we really don’t have money to spare right now. We’re pretty well maxed out on our credit, and putting off making repairs for another two or three weeks will make a huge difference. Otherwise we’d hafta go to Barb and Rick for the money so, if you can put up with the heat, we’d really appreciate it.”

“We wouldn’t dream of asking you to borrow the money,” my boyfriend again answered before I had a chance to weigh in. Not that I would have objected, but spending the next few weeks, or maybe even the whole summer without air conditioning was definitely not what I’d signed on to do. We could count on eighty to ninety degree heat with the humidity to match, and I was so heat sensitive. Still, I wasn’t about to take off my shirt.

Ty and Ricky had already cleared out all their stuff from the master bedroom, and the boys helped us unpack and put everything away. With our suitcases stowed away up in the attic, in no time flat it looked like we’d always lived there.

Feeling hot and sweaty, Brian and I decided to take a shower before helping to fix dinner. The master bathroom had been updated nicely, and it had a large shower that easily had enough room for two, so Brian and I stepped into the spray and luxuriated in the freedom of being able to shower together. As we lathered each other up, we took pleasure in the little touches we gave each other as we helped each other get clean.

Looking into my boyfriend’s eyes, I stepped up to him and planted a kiss on his wonderful lips. “Freedom at last,” I said as I gave him another peck while I simultaneously grabbed hold of his hardening member. Not that we hadn’t had our share of sex over the past four years, but finally having the freedom to share our love physically as we pleased was exhilarating.

“Freedom… except that we have a brood of boys to look after,” Brian reminded me, even as he grabbed hold of my own member and started to stroke it. Talk about spoiling the mood! Still, as he continued to minister to my throbbing erection, thoughts of the boys under our care vanished from my mind as our gentle kisses turned to so much more. It wasn’t long before Brian was buried inside of me, his hand wrapped round me and stroking me furiously with each of his thrusts.

I would have loved to have taken my time but we were on fire and, with a house full of waiting boys, we knew we had to be quick about it. In no time at all we were both spent and had returned to washing each other’s hair.

“It looks like we’ll have our hands full for the summer,” Brian began, as he rinsed my hair and began washing my back. “Particularly with Derrick…”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “There’s undoubtedly a story there, and I hope we’ll hear a lot of it tonight.”

“I suspect it’s a lot more complex than that,” Brian countered. “Maybe we’ll understand him by the end of the summer, and maybe not…”

“I guess you’re prolly right,” I chimed in. “The other boys seem real nice, though,” I added.

“That Jack is sure a looker, isn’t he?” Brian stated. “He’s gonna make some boy real happy some day.”

“He certainly isn’t what I was expecting,” I noted. “As good looking as he is, and with him being an athlete, I expected him to be kinda stuck up, you know? But he came off as being genuine. His handshake was firm and he made eye contact as he shook my hand. Not at all like what I’d expect from a jock.”

“Bet he’d make a great lay,” Brian added from out of the blue, surprising me with what I thought was a completely inappropriate remark. After all, we were supposed to be supervising these boys - not bedding them. When I didn’t say anything, Brian asked, “You jealous?”

“Should I be?” I asked in return, with perhaps a little trepidation in my voice. Brian and I had been boyfriends for nearly four years and, in that time, not once had I ever had reason to doubt the sincerity of his love. On the other hand, we grew up in a small town with only a handful of out gay boys in our high school. In Indy, however, there was a vibrant gay community, and we were sharing a house with six out and proud gay boys who were not much younger than we were. For the first time since we fell in love, the possibility that Brian might be attracted to someone else crossed my mind.

“You know I only have eyes for you, Babe,” Brian replied just before kissing me deeply.

When we came up for air, I replied, “That was the right answer.” Still, the seeds of jealousy had been planted and I couldn’t help but worry that my life was about to be upended.

“It’s gonna be a great summer,” Brian went on as I washed his back, and then we both rinsed ourselves off and began to dry each other with our towels.

“That it will be,” I agreed, “and then we’ll be together for the next four years at Purdue.”

“And after that, we’ll have a lifetime together, running the Meridian Manour B&B,” Brian continued. Yes, that was our ultimate objective. Barbara and Rick were about to retire, and Tyler and Ricky were gonna open an even more upscale guesthouse further to the north in the house currently owned by a well-known local pastor, Charlie Slater, and his partner, Keith. The Meridian Manour B&B would then be ours. However, the only experience Brian and I had with running a guest establishment was from our helping out at the B&B during the summers, and even that was limited to cleaning rooms and serving as bellhops.

Whereas Ricky and Tyler had learned everything they knew about the hospitality industry from on-the-job experience, Brian and I planned to get a formal education. We had both been accepted into the Hospitality and Tourism program at Purdue University, up in West Lafayette, where we would start this fall. Not only was it a top-ranked program, but it was just over an hour away from Indy by car, and two hours away from the town where we grew up, where our parents still lived. Although not cheap, the in-state tuition was a relative bargain that would leave us with an accumulated debt we could manage.

Although my dads were willing and able to help me with my tuition, Brian’s were not. His dad was unemployed and his mother was on disability and, hence, it fell upon us to come up with the money for his tuition and expenses. It was in discussing it with my dads that we learned that Jerry’s dads, my granddads, Tyler and Ricky, were desperately in need of help and would be delighted to have us work for them for the summer. As we would almost certainly employ teenagers at the B&B, it would also give us invaluable experience in learning to deal with the problems they often faced.

Exiting the bathroom, Brian and I got out some clothes to wear for the evening. As I expected, Brian threw on a pair of boxers and shorts and nothing else. Although I wasn't about to dress like that myself, as a concession to the heat, I grabbed a pair of boxers, some shorts and a wifebeater, choosing to go barefoot as well. When we got downstairs, however, it was soon evident that all the boys were wearing shirts and, so, Brian made a hasty retreat and grabbed one of the loose-fitting mesh shirts he liked to wear that I thought made him look so sexy. I guess dinner wasn’t so casual that one could get by without a shirt.

Getting dinner ready was very much a family affair as everyone pitched in. Even young Toby helped out, washing and setting the table. On tonight’s menu was a tossed salad, baked chicken, brown rice, green beans, bread and milk, with frozen yogurt for desert. Brian was assigned the task of skinning the chicken breasts and rubbing them with a mixture of herbs that Ricky prepared. I was assigned the task of cooking the rice and green beans.

As we went along, Ricky and Ty explained that, for the most part, the boys would take care of doing the actual work of preparing meals, leaving it to us to do the shopping and planning what to make. They showed us the extensive collection of recipes and meal plans they’d developed over the years, and talked about the nutritional needs of growing boys and how to deal with individual likes, dislikes and food allergies. Brian and I were humbled by how much we didn’t know, but that was one of the reasons we were gonna be going to Purdue.

As we went about preparing the meal, I couldn’t help but notice how the boys joked and teased each other. There was a natural banter that seemed so normal, even though every one of these kids had been abused in some way. I looked forward to hearing each of their stories, but with more than a little trepidation, as I anticipated that each one would touch me and remind me so much of what I had gone though just four years ago.

In no time at all, dinner was ready, and I found myself seated next to Brian at the dining room table, surrounded by the boys, Ty and Ricky. The food was delicious and, as we ate, we began the process of getting to know each other better. The boys were all curious about me and Brian, so we told everyone about our stories. Mine was all too typical. I was the son of a blatant pedophile who’d forced me to jerk him off from the time I was a toddler. Ever since I could remember, he often snuck into my bedroom late at night and fondled and sucked me. If I even looked at him funny, he’d beat me or even hit me with his belt. He beat on Mom too and she, in turn, beat on me.

I never was convinced that takin’ all that shit from my dad wasn’t what made me gay in the end but, fuck, when my parents caught me with Brian, that’s when the shit really hit the fan. Not only did I end up in the hospital, but CPS placed me with a couple who thought they could make a little extra by pimping me out. For more than a month I had to service the johns they hooked me up with, until I finally got away. Even after that, CPS tried to send me back!

Thank Heaven for Jerry and Carlos. Jerry was my math teacher and soccer coach at school and Carlos was his boyfriend. For years Jerry had tried to help me but I just pushed him away, because everything he did just made things worse for me at home. They stood up to CPS, going to the news media and blowing the lid off what quickly became a major scandal. Needless to say, my foster parents went to jail, right alongside of my biological parents, and Jerry and Carlos became my new foster parents.

For four years, my foster dads had given me a warm and loving home. They let me be me. Thanks to all the attention in the press, I was out, so I was out and proud with Brian at my side. Together we started the first ever GSA in our small-town high school and, even though we only had around a dozen members by the time we graduated, at least we were leaving behind a legacy that would help other kids like us feel less alone.

Compared to my story, Bri’s was pretty benign. When my parents caught the two of us messing around, Brian had to flee for his life. Screaming frantically when he got home, by the time he finally calmed down enough to explain that I needed help, he ended up telling them everything. His mother told him, “If you’re gay, you’re gay. We love you just the same.” His father added, “You’re still our son, and we’re proud of you,” and that was that.

By the time we finished Brian’s story, we’d long since finished dessert. The boys’ stories would have to wait for another time. While they made quick work of clearing the table and loading the dishwasher, Ty and Ricky took us aside and Ricky explained, “Tonight is one of the rare times you’ll all be together at the same time for dinner. This being the summer, all the boys except Toby will be working at the B&B, saving money for things they can call their own and, God willing, for college. They’re all hard workers. Thanks to them, Barb and Rick don’t need to hire any outside help during their busy summer months.

“We’ve posted a schedule on the refrigerator with the boys’ work schedule,” he continued. “It’s just easier to have it right there, rather than sitting on a computer or tablet. The younger boys work no more than thirty hours per week and no more than six hours in a shift, including their breaks and lunch. The older boys, meaning Derrick and Jack, work a minimum of forty hours a week, excluding breaks and lunch, and often work more. Jack, in particular, has been working long days to the point that Barb and Rick have had to turn his offers of help down. An eighty-hour workweek isn’t healthy for anyone, let alone a growing boy. Like so many kids his age, however, he’s saving to buy a car.”

“If one of the boys gets sick, however, or more than one as is often the case when a virus sweeps through,” Ty chimed in, “it’s up to you guys to find a replacement or replacements. Barb and Rick are depending on the boys’ help and, if one of them can’t make it for an assigned shift, one of the others will need to fill in, even if it means working extra hours. Sometimes you may even find yourselves filling in at the B&B. It’s part of the job and, if that happens, you won’t be paid anything extra, ’cause we’re already paying you to take care of the boys, full time.

“The one consolation is that even with their work schedules, the boys have their assigned chores here around the house for which they earn an allowance. The money for it comes from the state and it’s not small. As many hours as he’s putting in at the B&B, Jack will likely earn as much money this summer as the two of you combined. So don’t feel guilty in asking the boys to help out around the house and, particularly, to do their assigned chores. They’re responsible for their own laundry, too. They’ll slack off it if they think they can get away with it. They’re teenagers, after all, no offense given.

“With six boys around the house, there should be no reason for you to do any of the cooking, cleaning or yardwork. Never pick up after them… make them pick up after themselves. They’re sure to test you, so don’t let them get away with shirking their responsibilities. You need your time to do the shopping, to plan meals and activities, and to provide direction and discipline. They’re all good boys… all of them. They’ll make you proud.”

“If you need anything at all,” Ricky added, “you have our phone numbers and, in any case, one of us’ll stop by at least once a day. We’re still the boys’ foster parents, after all, and we’re responsible. If you run into a problem you’re not sure how to handle, don’t try to take care of it yourself. You’re not expected to know it all at your stage in life. Call us… that’s what we’re here for.

“We really hate to eat and run, but we have another crew of boys working on the new place. It’s been really hard trying to be two places at the same time. Thanks to you guys, at least for the summer, we won’t have to.”

I smiled as Brian and I wished Ricky and Ty a good night. My adoptive grandparents proceeded to hug each and every one of the boys - even Derrick. As I watched them, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the way they referred to the ‘boys’ working on the new place. Those boys were all our age and older! They were all gay kids who’d aged out of the foster care system. Now adults, the state expected them to support themselves. By and large, however, few of them had the money to afford college or even trade school. Working on the new place gave them a chance to learn practical skills while getting a start on their adult lives.

No sooner had Ricky and Ty left, than Terrance and Will approached us and told us they had to be going, too. The two boys were working the evening shift at the B&B and would taking care of late arrivals, unloading their baggage, checking them in and settling them into their rooms, from seven PM until midnight, Tuesday through Saturday. They were also responsible for assisting guests with dinner reservations and providing other concierge services - a task that kept them surprisingly busy. Tonight they were getting a late start only because of our arrival. Brian and I wished them well, breathed a sigh of relief, and went to check on the other boys. I was surprised to find they were all busy, Toby reading a book, Mustafa and Jack playing a video game and Derrick doing his laundry.

Finally, taking a look at the refrigerator, I was amazed at how well Ricky and Tyler had mapped things out. Terrance and Will were in fact assigned to work at the B&B that evening, it was indeed Derrick’s laundry night and the other boys had free time until ten, which was their bedtime. At first I thought that ten was a bit early for teenagers to go to bed in the summer but, then, I noticed that Jack needed to be at the B&B at six in the morning, and Mustafa at eight. Only Derrick had a day off tomorrow, and of course Toby, who was too young to work at the B&B. Both boys had assigned chores for the day, including working together to mow the lawn and take care of weekly yardwork and gardening.

I quickly made note of the times during the week when the washer and dryer were free so that Brian and I could do our own laundry, and when it would be convenient to do the shopping and run errands. Even taking into account what I assumed to be time to supervise the boys, plan meals and take care of household tasks, it seemed to leave us a lot of free time. As naïve as I was, having never been a parent, I could only imagine the many ways Brian and I could manage to fill it. Brian seemed to be thinking the same thing as he turned to look at me with a twinkle in his eye.

Turning to look at my boyfriend, I suggested, “You wanna maybe sneak off upstairs for a little while?”

Wiggling his eyebrows, he replied with a quick peck to the lips, and then he grabbed my hand and practically ran up the stairs. Stripping out of our clothes, we fell onto the bed and began seriously making out. Our tongues explored each other’s mouth as our hands roamed everywhere imaginable. Yes, there too. In no time at all, I was nibbling on Brian’s sexy toes while Brian gave me the most exquisite rim job imaginable. Yes, it’s possible to do both at the same time. Not long after that, we were engaged in a sensuous 69, enjoying the taste of each other’s precum as we brought each other to the brink, only to back off, over and over again. Neither one of us paid much attention to the noise we were making as Brian entered me and began the long thrusts that would take me over the edge.

After we finished, we took a very quick shower and got dressed in the same clothes we had worn to dinner. After all, we didn’t want the boys to wonder what we had been doing. How naïve we had been. No sooner had we gotten downstairs than Toby began with, “Oh Brian, Brian… yes, yes! Oh Brian, Brian. Yes, please! OH! OH! YES! YES!”

Not to be outdone, Mustafa added, “Frankie, Frankie. Oh my God! Fuck! FUCK YES! YES! FUCK YES!”

I felt mortified, but Brian just shrugged his shoulders and grinned. Suddenly, I had a feeling it was gonna be a long summer, and Brian wasn’t gonna make it any easier. Not one bit.

Sleep was elusive that night as I couldn’t help thinking about how the boys had heard Brian and me making love. The first time in our lives we had total freedom and we’d blown it by making sure the entire household knew what we were up to. Not just any household either, but a household full of gay boys. Gay teenage boys with all those hormones and all that angst. Teenagers we were supposed to be supervising, for Christ’s sake.

On top of all that, the house was still hot as blazes and, even with the ceiling fan over the bed running full tilt, I was perspiring beyond belief. How the fuck was I supposed to sleep when it was so hot? I felt sweaty and gross as I lay there awake. Apparently, at some point, I finally did manage to fall asleep, ’cause the next thing I knew, Toby was bouncing on the bed and letting us know we were outta milk and, since he couldn’t have cereal without milk, he wanted us to fix him something so he could get started on the yard before it got too hot. I felt like I’d hardly slept at all.

It didn’t take me long to discover that Toby was perfectly capable of fixing himself eggs, bacon and toast, which I discovered when Brian and I demonstrated our own lack of experience when it came to our skills in the kitchen. We were soon joined by three other boys as they groggily came down the stairs.

“Where are Will and Terrance?” I naïvely asked, when I didn’t see them, forgetting that they had worked late at the B&B.

“They stay overnight when they work at the B&B and get breakfast there,” Toby explained.

“They’ll show up here around ten,” Mustafa added with a laugh, “After all the morning chores are done.”

As we all prepared and ate breakfast, we began learning about each of the boys and their stories - a process that continued over the next several days.

Naturally, we’d assumed that Toby, as the youngest of the kids, was in elementary or middle school and were blown away when he told us he would be starting his sophomore year at Broad Ripple High School. He was obviously exceptionally smart and had skipped second and fourth grades. His parents had been as proud of him as they could be until he got a little careless and they discovered he’d been visiting gay porn sites on the Internet. At the age of twelve, he might well have been nothing more than curious, but that mattered little to his parents, who were Evangelical Christians. At least they had the decency to drop him off at the halfway house for gay teens that was run by Reverend Slater and his church.

Toby’s parents could have just as easily thrown him out on the street, leaving him to fend for himself. At the age of twelve, and with his good looks, he would have been fodder for the sex trade in no time at all. Instead, Reverend Slater gave him a warm, welcoming place of transition and, in hooking him up with Ty and Ricky, a loving home where he could become the teen he was meant to be.

Mustafa was likewise the victim of religious intolerance. Although his parents were Syrian immigrants, they were not themselves religious, but they were still Muslims with traditional values. At thirteen, Mustafa was just beginning to come to terms with his sexuality when a boy that he barely knew became fed up with all the name-calling he heard at school, and went off on a tirade of his own, outing himself in the process. Not to be outdone and not even stopping to consider the consequences, young Mustafa decided on the spot to support the boy by coming out as well.

Word traveled fast and, by the next day, he got home from school to find his parents waiting for him. They had a message for their son that came across loud and clear - he was not going to be gay. For weeks the arguing escalated to the point that he’d been taken out of school to be home schooled and was virtually grounded for life, and still the arguing continued. Unable to take it any more, Mustafa ended up slitting his wrists while his mother was running errands, expecting to be dead by the time she got home. Fortunately, he underestimated the time needed to bleed to death.

In spite of what had been a serious suicide attempt, Mustafa’s parents continued to insist that their son could not be gay. Although parents have the right to raise their kids as they see fit, that right doesn’t extend to the point that their behavior makes their children suicidal. CPS intervened and Mustafa was placed with Reverend Slater, and then under Ty and Ricky’s care with the hope that, through court-ordered counseling, his parents would ultimately come around. So far, they had yet to avail themselves of the required counseling and so Mustafa remained in foster care.

Jack’s story was much the same as Toby's and Mustafa’s. Two years before, he’d been a star athlete on the Broad Ripple swim team, and an all-around nice guy. But that mattered little to his parents when his father checked his browser history, which Jack had carelessly forgotten to erase. They had only recently removed his parental controls, and Jack had been making up for lost time. Confronted by his parents about his visiting adult gay websites, Jack broke down and admitted he’d known he was gay for more than a year, and that he’d even gone on dates with one of the other members of the swim team.

Thrown out of his home without any warning, Jack headed straight for the place mentioned by more than one of Indy's websites for gay youth. Reverend Slater took him in and arranged for his placement with Ricky and Ty. Although not the oldest, it was apparent that Jack was the one all the other kids looked up to.

Terrance and Will were both fourteen and would be starting at Broad Ripple High in the fall. They’d been best friends since they were in diapers and boyfriends since the fourth grade. Both sets of parents had thought it was cute that the boys liked to cuddle with each other during sleepovers, assuming they’d grow out of it as their interests turned to girls. They didn’t even think much of it when the boys started sleeping together in the nude.

What seemed cute at the age of nine became a cause for alarm by the time they hit twelve, particularly as what started out as simple gestures of affection became full-blown makeout sessions. The final straw came when Will’s parents walked in on the boys engaged in mutual fellatio. Confronted with a couple of sexually active, and quite possibly gay, pre-teens, the parents refused to recognize the obvious - that their sons were in love with each other and had been for some time.

It wasn’t so much a matter of the parents being opposed to their sons’ being gay, but rather that, as working professionals, they weren’t prepared to deal with teenagers, much less a pair of sexually active, gay teens. By the end of the week, the boys were enrolled in the Culver Military Academy, in the northern part of the state. Not surprisingly, they didn’t last long at Culver, as they were much more intent on making love than war. Will and Terrance were thrilled to return home to Indianapolis, until they learned their parents were talking seriously about sending them away to boarding schools out of state - separate boarding schools.

No way, no how were the boys about to be separated if they could help it, so they took it upon themselves to search the Internet for programs for gay kids and quickly stumbled upon Reverend Slater’s halfway house. Printing out everything they could from the program’s website as well as from PFLAG and a host of other sites dealing with gay teens, they went to their parents individually and made a case for being placed under Reverend Slater’s care.

Not knowing what to do, the parents agreed to their sons’ request. Reverend Slater did all he could to try to reconcile the boys with their parents and keep them in their own homes but, when it became evident the parents didn’t know how to handle them nor did they really want to, he placed the boys with Ty and Ricky, who gave them their own room - their own room together. Ricky and Tyler knew from first hand experience that once a child becomes sexually active, there’s no putting the sexual genie back into the bottle.

From their point of view, it was far better to channel all that sexual energy into a loving, stable relationship than watch them fuck around with multiple partners. If the boys wanted to have sex with each other, they would find a way as they did at Culver. At least in Ricky and Tyler’s home, they could do so in a safe, accepting environment at the same time that they were being encouraged to develop their individuality.

Derrick’s story was the most complex - a notion that was borne out as we got to know him in the coming weeks. We soon came to appreciate Ty and Ricky’s patience in dealing with kids in general and, particularly, ones with troubled backgrounds like Derrick’s. In time we learned that Derrick was far from the first boy to have pushed the boundaries beyond what any parent should be expected to endure.

Derrick was a troubled youth who'd run away from an abusive home when he was just eleven. Living on the street, he found shelter with some older teens who protected him from the worst elements, even as they showed him how to earn the money he needed to survive. He was turning tricks before he entered puberty and hooked on heroin before he entered his teens.

The turning point in his life came when, at the age of fourteen, a tainted heroin supply put him in the hospital, as it did a number of youth throughout the city. Lying in a hospital bed in intensive care, unable to talk due to the breathing tube down his throat that was keeping him alive, he’d had a lot of time to think and reflect on the direction his life had taken. He also learned he was infected with gonorrhea, syphilis, Chlamydia, genital herpes and, not surprisingly, HIV.

With herpes and HIV, he knew he could never go back to working the streets. He might be able keep it hidden for a while but he wouldn’t do that. Even as abused as he was, he had the fortitude to recognize that, just because his life was all fucked up didn’t mean he had the right to fuck up other people’s lives, too. He was an angry young man who felt life had dealt him a rigged deck of cards.

With no means of support, and the looming cost of HIV treatment, Derrick knew he was going to need help, but accepting it was another matter entirely. Learning how to accept all the rules that went with living in a home instead of on the street, had turned out to be a much bigger challenge than he’d been expecting.

When his CPS case worker started talking about the difficulties in placing kids like him, meaning older, black, street-wise kids with a history of drug addiction and HIV, he shocked her by responding, “Might as well throw ‘gay’ in there, too.” She’d naturally assumed he was a straight teenager who’d resorted to prostitution out of desperation. He told her he’d always been attracted to boys and that, although it didn’t make it any less distasteful, sex with men didn’t seem so unnatural to him the way it did to the other boys on the street.

Ironically, his being gay did open up opportunities to Derrick that weren’t readily available to straight teens. The caseworker was familiar with Reverend Slater’s program for gay youth, having placed kids in his halfway house before. Derrick stayed there until the fall, at which point, one of Ty and Ricky’s foster sons, who had gotten a scholarship to the University of Michigan, moved out and Derrick moved in.

That Derrick was only one year behind was amazing when one considered that he’d been in the sixth grade when he ran away, and then spent nearly three years on the street. He’d essentially missed all of middle school and had a lot of catching up to do when he came into Ricky and Ty’s lives. Naturally, Derrick expected to attend high school along with the other boys his age. As per city school policy, he should have gone all the way back to the seventh grade and, on top of that, taken remedial classes. He’d been an A and B student, and the last thing he needed was a dumbed-down curriculum. Furthermore, putting a fourteen-year-old, street-wise bully in with kids as young as eleven would have been disastrous for all concerned.

Ricky and Ty thought the best solution was a compromise. They wanted to place him in the eighth grade, just a year behind his chronological level, and a year and a half ahead of where he’d left off. Fortunately, his case worker nixed that idea. Derrick wasn’t ready for eighth grade work, yet he’d been on the street too long and needed to be with kids his own age. He needed an intensive academic program that covered the entire middle school curriculum in the space of a year.

Indeed, what they were looking for was already in the works at Arsenal Tech High School. Arsenal Tech had long served city youth who were looking for a career path leading to a better-than-minimum-wage job right out of high school. With programs that ranged from auto mechanics to cosmetology, medical technology, and graphics arts, they provided a wide range of opportunities for youth like Derrick for whom college was not in the cards.

The main reason for sending Derrick to Tech, however, was a special program designed for street kids trying to re-enter mainstream life. It provided intensive, one-on-one attention to each student, allowing them to make up for lost time in school and, ultimately, to catch up with their peers. The only sticking point was the distance - Arsenal Tech was located on a sprawling campus on the city’s near east side. It was too far to walk, and too dangerous to reach on bicycle, which meant Derrick would have to get there by city bus, changing buses downtown, which put him in direct contact with the streets and a past life that nearly brought him down. However, a good part of Derrick’s development involved teaching him to set his own boundaries and, like it or not, that meant learning to trust him.

That had been three years ago and it had not been smooth sailing to say the least. There were many times that Derrick was late coming home and refused to say where he had been. With Derrick, traditional methods of discipline failed, and Ricky and Ty were at wits end the first time he did not come home for the night, and the first time the school reported him as absent when he shouldn’t have been. On the street, Derrick had been used to coming and going, and doing as he pleased, whenever he pleased. The streets were still there and temptations abounded. So did many dangers, as he found out when a former pimp gave him a savage beating.

That had been yet another turning point in Derrick’s life. Realizing that there was no life on the streets, he made a clean break and finally accepted that discipline was a burdensome but necessary evil he was going to have to accept. That didn’t stop him from being a surly, obnoxious teenager but, for the most part, he obeyed Ricky and Ty, most of the time, without question. It soon became apparent to us, however, that his respect for my adoptive grandparents did not extend to Brian and me. Hell, Derrick and I were the same age - a fact he delighted in pointing out to me, every chance he got.

Like all of the boys, Derrick would be spending much of the summer working at the B&B, returning to high school in the fall. Much to our amazement, Derrick was going to be a junior in the Cosmetology program at Arsenal Tech High School. Being a hairstylist was just about the last thing on earth we would have pictured for a badass like Derrick but, as he put it, it was a field where he could be himself and no one would think anything of it.

Just as we were getting used to our brood of six boys, and they to us, a seventh boy was added to the mix. With three boys to a room, Tyler and Ricky had the space to accommodate up to nine boys at a time, but zoning restrictions limited the total number to eight boys. That left room for two more boys and so, when CPS came knocking, we were hard pressed to turn them down.

Miguel's story was a particularly difficult one as he, his parents and his older siblings loved each other very much. That love continued even after they discovered Miguel was gay. Unfortunately, one of the farmers who’d hired the crew for which they worked didn’t see it that way, particularly when he found Miguel in bed with his own son. Once the harvest was over, an anonymous tip to the INS resulted in a raid and in nearly the entire crew being rounded up for deportation.

Unlike the rest of his family, who were undocumented Mexican immigrants, Miguel had been born in the U.S. and was thus an American citizen. He’d been set on going back to Mexico with the rest of his family to a land he’d never known, but his parents were having none of that. As an American, he was entitled to stay, but he was a minor and could not live on his own. Spending practically everything they had on a top immigration attorney, Miguel’s parents were put in touch with Reverend Slater who, in turn, arranged for Miguel to be fostered by Ty and Ricky. He was going to have the chance to live the life his parents had only dreamed of for him, but at a terrible cost. It was likely he’d never see his family again and, hence, it was a very sad young man of fifteen who joined us on the day of the summer solstice.

The one consolation was that, as one of my adoptive dads was Hispanic, I was fluent in Spanish. I seldom had an opportunity to speak the language, however, and so I welcomed the opportunity presented by the addition of Miguel to our household. It was only natural that the two of us gravitated toward each other.

Unfortunately, the weather only got hotter and more humid as June gave way to July, and what was originally supposed to be two or three weeks without air conditioning ended up dragging on as there were always more important priorities than fixing the damn AC.

Realizing they could get away with it, the boys started wearing only their boxers around the house and even stopped dressing for dinner. I was hard pressed to make them do otherwise when my Brian was dressing the same way. However, I continued to wear a shirt at all times. I still had my pride. I still had my dignity. The heat was taking a toll on all of us, and most of all on me.

Tempers flared often, creating increasing friction among us. We all said things and used language we'd later regret. “Fuck you!” became the official response to every question and every request. Brian and I were saying it as much as were the boys under our care. We were too young to realize how much it undermined our credibility.

Making matters worse, Brian started spending a lot of time with Jack and, to me at least it seemed, less time with me. Actually, Brian spent a lot of time with all of the boys. He’d always had an outgoing, spirited personality, which was a good part of the reason I fell in love with him in the first place. Now, his increased closeness with the gay boys under our care, and what I perceived to be a growing distance from me only served to fan the flames of jealousy that were beginning to burn within me. I’d never been jealous before and these new feelings were making me feel more threatened than I had since my parents put me in the hospital. Not even being forced into a life of prostitution had made me feel so insecure.

Although, in retrospect, Brian probably spent as much time with the other boys as he did with Jack, and far more time with me, I only saw the time he spent with Jack. Maybe it was because Jack was so stunning, or maybe I was just letting my fears get the worst of me. There was no question that Brian and Jack seemed to hit it off right away and shared a natural camaraderie with each other. Unfortunately, in my mind, what was a growing friendship became something much more sinister and, by the end of June, I was convinced the two of them were having an affair. At first I just sulked around much of the day, and I know I snapped at both Brian and Jack far more than I should have.

Truthfully, I was snapping at all of the boys. It was insanely hot in the house and I was always drenched with sweat. My shirt clung to me like a wet sponge, and I was taking out my discomfort on everyone around me. That I was being particularly hard on Jack was something that was only evident to Brian. When Brian confronted me on it, I exploded at him, accusing him of standing up for his boyfriend. More than likely, he thought I meant me and not to Jack, so rather than denying it as I was expecting, he got a funny look on his face, looked at me cockeyed, laughed and then left the room. It was a typical move on his part, but it left me feeling convinced that Jack really was Brian’s boyfriend, and he wasn’t even trying to deny it!

However, regardless of how I felt, Brian and I were responsible for the care of seven boys and we had an obligation to them. The Fourth of July holiday was a chance for all of us to unwind and have fun, even if my life, as I saw it, was falling apart. I couldn’t, and I mustn’t, let my reaction to what I thought was Brian’s betrayal affect the boys’ enjoyment. I needed to put a smile on my face and pretend that nothing was wrong.

The entire downtown area was closed off to traffic for the day and, as the festivities got underway, people would stroll down the streets, buying food from street vendors, enjoying live music from several stages along the way, and take gondola rides on the Central Canal. All the museums were open and free to the public for the day, providing even more reason for suburbanites to brave the hot weather and heavy traffic to spend the day downtown. In the afternoon there was a parade and, as darkness descended on the city, name acts would take center stage in the many sports complexes and arenas that were a prominent part of our skyline.

Capping off the festivities was a breathtaking fireworks display, shot from the rooftop of one of the tallest buildings in town, while the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra played patriotic music from a stage in Victory Field. Those willing to ante up the cost of seats in the stadium would have a spectacular view of the fireworks, but the music would be piped throughout the downtown area and simulcast on the local public radio station. The fireworks themselves were visible for miles - even from our house more than four miles away.

Although the city provided free shuttlebus services from all of the suburban malls to the festivities downtown, a lot of people preferred to park wherever they could, rather than having to wait in long lines to board buses to take them home once the fireworks were over. Hence our street was completely parked up by ten AM, even though it’s a bit of a hike downtown from our location. I couldn’t fathom why so many people would brave the intense heat and humidity for all of the festivities. Certainly I wouldn’t.

No, I would be cooking hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken breasts over a hot charcoal fire in temperatures hovering near a hundred degrees. As much fun as it might have been for the boys, we reasoned that trying to keep track of seven teenagers among the throngs downtown would have been an exercise in futility. Instead, we were gonna have a traditional cookout in Ricky and Ty’s back yard.

In the meantime, the Meridian Manour B&B was full, mostly with out-of-town guests who’d come in from smaller communities throughout the state, seeking to enjoy all the holiday festivities. Rather than taking the day off, Ricky and Ty were spending the holiday working at the B&B, letting the boys have the day off to spend it having fun. Brian and I offered to work at the B&B instead, so that Ricky and Ty could spend the day with the boys, but they insisted that we should be the ones to spend the day partying. We were teenagers ourselves and needed to have fun too, they argued. But at least the B&B had air conditioning!

Of course all of the boys were pitching in with the work of preparing for our barbecue, and it didn’t go unnoticed by me when Jack volunteered to help Brian prepare the potato salad, coleslaw and other side dishes in the kitchen, leaving me to tend the fire outside, where I couldn’t see them. That there were two of the other boys in the kitchen with them, also helping out, didn’t even register in my brain. The jealousy that burned within me was even hotter than the fire, blazing on the grill.

“Hola, Frankie. ¿Hay algo que pueda hacer para ayudar?” Miguel asked me as he approached. I liked that he was volunteering to help me, and that he was speaking to me in Spanish.

“Muchas gracias, Miguel,” I replied. “Porque tengo que atender el fuego, ¿por qué no me traes la carne de la cocina? A continuación, usted puede ayudar a preparar a asar la carne.” Yeah, having him get the meat ready to grill would be a big help.

As Miguel retreated into the house to get the meat, I couldn’t help but notice how handsome he was - and sexy. He was wearing only a skimpy pair of bikini briefs and his ass swayed as he walked. The muscles in his back were clearly visible through his dark, bronzed skin. Although he was more than two-and-a-half years younger than me, if anything he looked to be a bit older. He was arousing feelings I’d never felt for anyone other than Brian before. It left me feeling a bit uncomfortable, and I found myself standing even closer to the grill, trying to suppress and hide my excitement even as the fire made me sweat profusely.

Soon, Miguel emerged carrying a tray with a couple of packages of hot dogs and a large mixing bowl filled with seasoned ground beef. He set the tray down on a worktable next to the grill, smiled at me, and then ran back into the house and brought back a tray with a platter of chicken breasts. As he approached me, his whole face seemed to light up as he again smiled at me with the sweetest of smiles.

“¿Cómo puedo ayudar a que viene?” Miguel asked. He wanted to know how he could help me next.

The chicken would need more time to grill than the burgers or hot dogs and so I replied, “¿Por qué no se cepilla cada pechuga de pollo con la salsa barbacoa, y luego espolvorear algunos de los condimentos en cada uno? Entonces me pongo las pechugas de pollo en el fuego.”

Miguel complied by brushing barbecue sauce on each chicken breast, then sprinkling on the seasonings. As he did so, I took each one and placed it on the grill. While we waited for the chicken to broil, and for Brian and the boys in the kitchen to finish making the side dishes, I asked Miguel, “¿Cómo te sientes, Miguel? ¿Estás comenzando a sentir que esta es tu casa?”

With tears in his eyes, Miguel responded, “Todos ustedes han sido muy buenos conmigo, pero yo extraño a mi familia mucho.” He appreciated all we were doing for him, but he missed his family terribly.

“Be thankful your family gave you love,” I replied, lapsing into English. “My family gave me only pain. My father made me jerk him off, starting when I was just two years old. He touched me in ways no child should be touched… and he and my mother both beat the shit out of me. When they found me in bed with Brian, they beat me so badly that I was in the hospital for over a week. Then CPS placed me with a family that pimped me out. They forced me to be a prostitute for nearly two months, until I finally managed to escape. Thank God for Jerry and Carlos, my adoptive dads. They’re the first real parents I ever had. They’re the first parents who ever gave me love.”

“I had no idea it was that bad,” Miguel responded, also in English, and then he grabbed me from behind and kissed me on the cheek. His hug and kiss felt so good, in spite of the heat, and my dick responded accordingly. I was hard as a rock and was seriously thinking of taking Miguel to bed with me. After all, if Brian could mess around with Jack, why couldn’t I do it with Miguel. Two could play this game.

“You’re burning up!” he noted as he released me, and then he added, “I’ll be right back,” before running into the house. He returned a moment later, carrying two tumblers filled with water and ice - one for each of us, I presumed. How thoughtful of him!

When he reached me, however, rather than handing me one of the glasses, he lifted one of them and poured it over my head. Fuck, that was cold! For a moment I actually shivered. Man, what a relief it was, and it helped take care of the problem I was having in front, too. Miguel then handed me the other glass and I gulped it right down.

“Thanks so much!” I responded with enthusiasm, then continued, “Eres un chico muy serio.”

“De nada,” Miguel replied with his sweet smile.

“So… why do you keep your shirt on, Frankie?” Miguel asked me, speaking again in English. “Not even Brian does,” he added.

“Brian wouldn’t wear any clothes at all if he could get away with it,” I replied with a laugh, which made Miguel giggle right along with me.

“Seriously,” he went on, “even that wifebeater must be hot as blazes in this weather. Why not take it off?”

“Well for one thing,” I replied, “Meat on the grill splatters when it cooks. Trust me, you do not want to feel hot grease on your skin.”

“Why not wear an apron then,” Miguel countered. “At least that way, your back could cool off.”

Cringing, I explained, “My parents used to strap me. My back is covered with the scars from years of abuse…”

“But of course we’d understand,” Miguel interrupted. “You’re not the only one here with physical scars, and most of us have deep emotional scars, you know…”

“It’s not just that,” I countered. “Yes, I’m embarrassed by my scars and particularly by the reactions of people when they see them. The way most people stare at them and then look away, pretending not to see them, but their eyes keep being drawn back to them. I’d almost rather they say, ‘Man, those are some ugly scars,’ you know?

“But it’s more than that, Miguel. I’m supposed to be your houseparent for the summer, yet I’m just a boy myself…”

“You’re not just a boy, Frankie,” Miguel challenged. “You’re way more. You’re more of an adult than a lot of adults I’ve known.”

“So are you, Miguel,” I countered. “It’s hard to believe you’re only fifteen… you seem so mature…”

“I started helping my parents, my brothers and my sisters in the fields when I was seven,” Miguel explained. “I worked alongside them by the time I was ten. The life of a migrant worker isn’t an easy one.”

Shocked, I asked, “How is that possible? You need to be fourteen to get a work permit…”

“And you can deliver papers when you are twelve,” Miguel countered, “or you can babysit, or mow lawns. Farm kids as young as five have their assigned chores. Believe me, I know all about the lives of farm kids. Some of them work as hard as we did.

“Because my family was undocumented, we had no rights. That I was born here didn’t matter. We were paid for the work done rather than by the hour, so the more of us that worked in the field, the more money we made. We were all more afraid of an INS raid than of enforcement of child labor laws.” Then, with tears in his eyes, he added, “In the end, our worst fears came true, and it was all because of me…”

Pulling Miguel into a hug and letting him cry on my shoulder, I responded, “You were not to blame, Miguel. Even if it was you that started flirting, you were only doing what boys have been doing since the start of time. But something tells me it wasn’t you that started it,” I added as I let go.

Shaking his head, he replied, “No, it was Caleb that approached me. Although I’d caught him staring at me while working in the fields for several days before. I should have known better, but he was cute and I was horny.”

Again I pulled Miguel into a hug as I reiterated, “It wasn’t your fault. It prolly wasn’t Caleb’s fault, either…”

“Yeah, but Caleb didn’t have to worry about his whole family being deported.”

“No,” I agreed, “he just had to worry about his parents finding out he was gay…”

“His father’s convinced he really isn’t gay,” Miguel responded with bitterness. “He thinks it was me that seduced his son. That’s why he tipped off the INS. That’s why my family was deported. And Caleb did nothing. He went along with what his father said and let him think it was all my fault.”

Letting Miguel go, I looked him in the eyes and said, “Several of the boys are here because their parents refused to accept that they’re gay or they outright rejected them. At least you had your family’s support. Can you honestly blame Caleb?”

Looking down, he replied, “No, I can’t. I know I shouldn’t blame him, but it’s hard not to, you know?”

Turning back to the grill, I pierced a few of the breasts and determined they were done. I moved them all to the upper rack, then turned back to face Miguel and asked if he’d mind running back inside to find out when the rest of the food would be ready.

During the brief time he was inside, I pondered why I refused to remove my shirt. Was it because of my maturity, or was it really just the opposite? I was short and I looked young for my age and, yes, I had scars all over my back. I was self-conscious of all of these things, yet growing up, I’d known kids with at least as much to worry about who didn’t give a flying fuck what others thought. Their self confidence more than made up for their shortcomings.

Was I strong enough to get over my self-imposed fears? Could I ever be that confident? And what about Brian? For almost four years he had been my rock - my foundation - but now that foundation was shaky as hell. Perhaps it was time to step out from behind my rock - my shield. How would I ever become confident unless I stood on my own two feet? And what the fuck was I doing hiding behind a stupid shirt. How silly it seemed when I really thought about it, as if a skimpy wifebeater could actually protect me.

Did the boys really resphect me because I wore a shirt? Hardly! They respected Brian every bit as much as they did me, if not more so. It was our confidence, our maturity and our authority they appreciated. My shirt had nothing to do with it. So with little fanfare I stripped off my wifebeater, just as Miguel emerged from the house, carrying a large bowl of what looked like potato salad. He was followed by Jack, who was carrying the coleslaw, Mustafa, who was carrying the baked beans, and Derrick, who was carrying a platter stacked high with ears of corn on the cob. Brian finally emerged, carrying a huge watermelon and, as he did, it finally dawned on me that it hadn’t been only Brian and Jack, alone in the kitchen. Was I reading too much into the relationship between Brian and Jack?

When Brian saw me standing by the grill with my shirt off, he whistled, then broke into the broadest grin. Setting down the watermelon on the picnic table, he approached me and said, “Hey there, gorgeous. You are so very, very sexy. Do you have any idea how much I love you?” Then he kissed me long and passionately.

As the kiss deepened, the boys made catcalls and whistled, and then they actually started clapping. All of my fears and pain melted away and I realized what a fool I’d been. I shuddered at the thought that I’d actually contemplated cheating on Brian with Miguel, a fifteen-year-old boy I was supposed to be guiding, not bedding, to paraphrase the thoughts I’d had with Brian a few weeks earlier. Just because I was a minor didn’t mean I was free to have sex with an underage boy. Even if Miguel had been willing, it would have been wrong.

Worse than that, I’d have been throwing away the best thing I’d ever had. Brian had stuck with me through the worst of times, even knowing I’d been forced into a life of prostitution, he’d refused to let me wallow in self-pity, nor to think that I wasn’t worthy of him. How could I have ever doubted his love?

Feeling me shudder, Brian asked, “Are you OK, Babe?”

“I’m perfect,” I replied.

“Still, I can imagine the heat from standing in front of this grill must be getting to you,” he responded. “Why don’t you take a nice cold shower and I’ll take over the grilling. And while you’re at it, please send the lazy bums playing basketball over here to help.

Indeed, Toby, Terrance and Will had been playing a pick-up game while the rest of us had been getting the food ready, so I approached them and, with hands on my hips, called out, “All right, game’s over. Time to get off your lazy asses and help out with the barbecue. Then, noticing the sweat running down their bodies in rivulets, I shook my head and said, “Why in the world you’d play in this heat, I’ll never know. Why don’t you grab some ice water from inside, then you can help Brian with the hamburgers and hot dogs. And someone grab him an apron too.”

I followed them into the house and saw them each grab ice and water from the dispenser in the refrigerator door, and gulp it down. I did the same. Then they grabbed the hamburger and hot dog buns and the requested apron, and headed back outside as I headed upstairs.

The cold shower I took felt absolutely wonderful. Emerging a few minutes later, feeling totally renewed, I put on a fresh pair of boxers… and headed back outside, where I saw that Brian had set up an assembly line, with Terrance and Will preparing the meat, and Brian grilling it. Toby was responsible for placing a hamburger and hotdog bun on a paper plate, onto which Brian placed the meat when it was ready. It seemed that the price for playing basketball while the rest of us worked was that Toby, Terrance and Will would have to wait until every one else had been served.

We all had a blast as we stuffed ourselves on burgers, dogs, chicken, corn on the cob and all the fixin’s, and then finished it all off with watermelon and ice cream. I could barely move by the time we finished. It didn’t help that I went back for seconds, as did all the boys. The real fun didn’t come from gorging myself on all the wonderful food, however. No, the real fun came from being able to be a boy, just a little bit longer, and to spend the holiday with a wonderful group of boys with whom we shared so much in common. Best of all, it was a chance to spend the day with Brian.

After finishing the barbecue, the boys all pitched in and cleaned up, putting the few remaining leftovers in the fridge. Once that was done, we changed into swimsuits and set up a sprinkler and water slide and spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the water like the little boys we still were, deep down inside.

When the sun got low on the horizon, we dressed and walked to the church run by Reverend Slater, which was just over a mile away down North Meridian Street. We then climbed up several flights of stairs in the south tower, to a rooftop terrace that had an unobstructed view of the downtown skyline. Joining us there were the boys and a couple of girls who currently were staying at Reverend Slater’s halfway house for gay youth. As if we needed it, waiting for us was a huge spread of corned beef, pastrami and smoked turkey from Shapiro’s Delicatessen, along with rye bread and all the usual fixin’s. I wasn’t sure where we put it all, but we each managed to eat a couple of sandwiches, along with a slice of Shapiro’s famous cheesecake or a slice of their authentic Key Lime pie. I, of course, had slices of both.

When it got to be dark, we all watched the fireworks as the music of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, playing live from Victory Field, was piped through speakers mounted on the church rooftop. The display was spectacular.

After the fireworks were over, we lingered a while, enjoying yet more food and chatting with Reverend Slater, his partner, Keith, and the boys and girls under their care. I guess I got a bit carried away with talking about how hot it was back in Ricky and Ty’s house, and how they couldn’t afford to fix the AC. I finally got the hint after about the third time Brian put his hand on my knee.

We didn’t return home until well after midnight. We had so much fun, we completely lost track of the time. Unfortunately, it would be a regular workday for some of the boys in the morning, so we all went straight to bed.

The next day, we were dragging, but I didn’t care. We were getting a new air conditioning system! When the workers showed up at the house unexpectedly, I had no idea what was going on until I saw that Reverend Slater was with them. “Frankie,” the pastor explained, “With all the times Ty and Ricky have helped by fostering boys from the halfway house, it’s high time Keith and I did something for them in return.” How sweet!

Man, it sure felt good when the air conditioning was turned on and, before we knew it, the house was a cool and comfortable 72 degrees. I kinda think Brian was disappointed that he couldn’t parade around in his underwear any more, and I’m sure some of the boys missed it too, but I felt great.

The summer seemed to zip by after that, our sore tempers a thing of the past. We picked up an eighth boy toward the end of July, a cute-as-a-button thirteen-year-old named Pete. He’d been raised by his grandmother until a few weeks before, when she had to go into a nursing home because of early-onset dementia. He’d actually been taking care of her for years, paying her bills on-line and even doing all the shopping, cooking and cleaning. Unfortunately, it had reached the point where she couldn’t be left alone during the day, and Pete would soon be starting high school. Besides which, no child should be expected to change their grandparent’s diaper.

At first he’d been placed in a group home, where he faced bullying because of his short stature and the presumption that he was gay. When asked by his social worker if maybe he really was gay, he replied that he wasn’t sure, but that he’d have absolutely no problem living in a house with a bunch of gay boys, and so he was placed with us. As he reasoned, no one would bully him for maybe being gay, nor would they bully him if he turned out to be straight.

Not long after he joined us, he and Toby became fast friends. It wasn’t long before they started holding hands and, soon after that, we caught them making out when they thought they were alone. Naturally, that brought on some serious discussions about love, relationships, sex and being safe. Both boys made it clear they weren’t ready for sex yet, and we assured them that, although we agreed they should wait, we would provide condoms and counseling if they changed their minds.

We also cautioned Pete that straight boys his age often experiment with other boys and that he might even be bisexual, but he assured us he was no longer uncertain about his sexuality. He was 100% gay and head over heels in love with Toby, as was Toby with him.

That wasn’t the only budding romance that formed over the summer either. By the time Brian and I packed up our belongings for the move to Purdue, Miguel and Mustaffa were an item. In the meantime, Brian and I worked through our issues and emerged stronger than ever. I learned to trust Brian and he learned to respect my sensitivities.

We both did a lot of growing up that summer - the first summer of Brian’s adulthood and the summer prelude to mine.

Copyright © 2021 Altimexis; All Rights Reserved.
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