"You're up to something," Greg said with certainty. I simply shrugged my shoulders as my brows were furrowed in concentration. I think I have spotted another member of our 'club' and what's more I was trying to figure out how to get him on the same wavelength with Jesse. The problem? Rich.
Up until now Rich has been pretty quiet, unless there is an opening for him to bust your ass, but now he has this sudden interest in spending time with Jason. Jason should be with Jesse, I think, but how do I go about letting Jason know Jesse is interested with Rich about all the time?
Some would call me silly, not having heard Jason say he was gay or not, but something about him is just speaking that odd language that seems to be ours. I know, I know, not enough evidence to convict, but still.
"Okay, out with it, what are you up to?" Greg asked, poking my ribs. I jumped.
"Asswipe," I said with a grin.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, tell it to the judge," he grinned. "Now what are you up to?"
"Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch," I grinned as I danced away from his fingers.
"Okay, riddle me this, who are you playing matchmaker with?" he asked as he tried to follow my ribs with his fingers.
"Can you keep a secret?" I asked with a smirk.
"A secret? Me? When have you known me to open my mouth?" he asked, to which I just waggled my eyebrows.
"Yeah, well, okay, maybe then," he allowed with a blush. "But who?"
"I wish that I had Jesse's girl," I said.
"Well, duh, but you're not going to try Trevor again, are you? You know he is so stuck on Nick that it's almost stalking."
"Oh no," I replied as I got up from the bed and wandered to the window, "There's a new kid in town."
"You mean Jason?"
"Yes," I nodded.
"You think he's gay? He's with Rich all the time, they are like peas and carrots, Forrest," he said with a smirk while reclining on the bed onto his elbows.
"Jesse," I said firmly.
"Yeah, but Rich seems to have the market cornered on Jason's time," Greg said, "Besides, don't you think Jesse ought to have the balls to do something himself? At least do some nosing around?"
"Everyone considered him the coward of the county," I replied while looking out the window.
"Yeah, but his folks are assholes too, putting him onto therapy and sending him to live with his aunt and uncle, for Christ sakes."
"There ain't no perfect world anyway," I replied while yawning loudly.
"I can't believe you're awake, why don't you go back to sleep?" he said, echoing my yawn.
"Just call me angel of the morning, angel," I replied with a grin as I returned to the bed.
"Angel, yeah, that's you," he said softly.
"You're my angel, you're my darling angel, Closer than my peeps you are to me," I sang softly as I cuddled up to Greg.
"You think maybe Rich and Jason are already, um, experimenting?" he asked suddenly.
I sat up and looked at him in the eye, "You're the devil in disguise."
"Why? 'Cause it throws a monkey wrench into your scheming? Just 'cause Rich rides the fence like a bronco busting cowboy doesn't mean he is landing on our side of the fence," Greg stated.
"Like a Rhinestone Cowboy," I snorted.
"Be that as it may, I think you ought to behave yourself," he said firmly, looking at me. I wiggled my eyebrows.
"Well, not with me anyways," he said drawing me into a kiss.
"Boys, I have breakfast on the…oh my, well, I'll just wait downstairs," my father suddenly burst into the room, and seeing us in bed, and locked at the cranium to boot, turned on his heel and made for the door…and then stopped.
"You guys are using prophylactics, right?"
"Dad!" I fairly screamed, head buried in Greg's shoulder. Was it me, or could I feel heat rising in Greg's body just from the embarrassment?
"Oh, right, I'll wait downstairs," he said while exiting the room, only to enter it again to mumble about closing the door and closing it firmly. There came a small knock and he opened it again.
"Ah, breakfast is ready when you are, ah, done."
"We should get up before he gets the banana," Greg yawned.
"I've got it!" Greg whispered loudly in my ear as the sound of my father's receding footsteps could be heard in the hall.
I eyed him warily.
"Your dad and Jim's dad are one and the same!" Greg roared with laughter as I pummeled him with my pillow. Jim's dad for the uninitiated is from American Pie, rent the movie, then grab your pillow and help me with this schmuck.
Any meal my father prepared was always suspect, because some things aren't meant to be done on a grill, George Foreman or otherwise. We can now add omelets to that list, and the mess is almost indescribable.
But I'll try.
Mushrooms were alternately half burned as sticking to the grill and close to raw where buried in the egg, most of which seemed to be a new addition to the counter. Ever try to get dried egg off something it doesn't want to come off of?
There were bits of unidentified green, which may have been green pepper or green number four, who knows? The red may have been peppers or koolaid, and the egg looked like it needed a shot of yellow #5 to make it look more like egg.
"I put mushrooms and tomatoes," he said and that identified the red, "and of course I put cheese, although I might have burned some of that," he said trailing off into thought.
It certainly smelled as if he had.
"Um, we were supposed to go to brunch with my parents, remember, Mister Tull?" Greg offered.
"Oh, well, brunch doesn't start for a while yet, hang on and try a bit of…hey, where are you, well okay then, see you later!" my father called out as we headed out the back door.
"So what makes you think Jason could be gay?" Greg asked me.
"Feelings, nothing more than feelings," I said quietly.
"But what about Rich? Do you think he could swing both ways?"
"Who knows? The Shadow knows."
"Sometimes you are too cryptic for even me, you know that?"
"Building a mystery," I grinned.
"Dad says there is some big surprise he has to tell everyone today at brunch, I guess it must be big 'cause he has been working since the summer started, here we are two months later and almost time for school and he is ready to make this huge announcement, whatever that is," Greg said as we walked to his parents' house, shoes scuffing on the pavement in a way that irritates his dad. 'Pick up your feet!' he'd say. At least our pants fit us, he'd go nuts if our underwear showed.
Brunch was a ploy, of course, to get out of my father's latest culinary disaster as we had no intention of joining everyone for that meal, unless we really wanted to know what sort of big news Mr. Caspian was going to unveil about the company. We both sat down at the table and had a bowl of cereal before heading out to the family room to watch some videos. Greg was snuggled into me on the couch, snoring softly as the TV showed white snow from there being no input to the screen, the movie having ended a short time ago.
His father walked into the room and turned the set off, then sat in the recliner opposite us, ruffling through the paper until he settled on the financial section I am sure. Greg stirred slightly and ran his hand up my leg, which was intoxicating as well as nerve wracking with his father two feet away. He proceeded to knead my thigh and I moved my hand down to stop him, which he evaded and cupped my crotch. I grabbed his hair and turned his face to his father who picked that time to turn the page.
Can I have a rock to crawl under?
Once we had untangled and Mr. Caspian had set his paper aside he looked at us above the top of his glasses with a somewhat bemused expression.
"I admit that when Jennifer became pregnant with Greg I never really considered that he might be gay, but now that he is what he is and I see you two you look like any other teenage couple," he smiled benignly and continued, "now keep your hands to yourself in front of me, not because you're gay but out of respect for your elders. Suck face in private."
I have never seen Greg so red, but I'll bet I matched him.
"I'm glad you're both here anyway, I have something I need to tell you both," he moved forward in his chair, to the edge in fact, and set his elbows on his legs while setting his chin on his folded hands, "I am telling you this before I announce it publicly out of respect. I want you to know I considered it all very carefully before making my decision, but I have made it and you have the right to know.
"Caspian Software Systems has been purchased for the sum of 1.3 billion in cash and stock by Micro Secure Incorporated. They are owned by Mr. Gates, of course, and they want our new encryption services in the worst ways."
"Well, there are some details you should know about. For example, the company will be moving, and all the administrative personnel go with the company, at least those that desire to retain their jobs," he looked at us pointedly as he waited for the point to sink in.
"We're moving?" Greg asked.
I was stunned into silence, mouth slack and staring at Mr. Caspian while Greg stood unsteadily and stared down his father.
"You have been hiding this? You couldn't ask how I felt, or was the money just too big a temptation?" Greg nearly spat out, all the while the color was rising dangerously in his dad's face, starting down low in the neck and working up, like a cartoon thermometer. I was vaguely concerned what would happen when the color reached the top of his head, but I found it really difficult to care at the moment.
"Don't take that tone with me! I have a business to run and a family to support! This deal is what is best for the whole, and I am sorry your love life will suffer, but that is life, buddy!" he stood from his chair and he and Greg were toe to toe, "and furthermore, I will not have you be disrespectful in my own house!"
"That's right, your house, your business, your kid! Just another piece of property to be used for profit, right? To hell with how he feels! Don't bother asking him," Greg's tone suddenly changed, getting bitingly sarcastic as well as icy cold, "I know I shouldn't blame you, choosing between a dumptruck full of money and your son must have been agonizing."
Greg spun on his heel as his father burst forth with some awfully mean barbs as retaliation while I sat numbly on the couch. After a moment he sat as well and looked at me while his breathing and color slowly returned to normal.
"Jake, you two will see one another again, it's not like you couldn't come for the summer and whatnot," he finished weakly.
"You may not believe it, but I don't believe in miracles anymore," I stood slowly, carefully, and looked straight at his eyes, "I don't believe I ever did for sure. All the things I've said in songs…reality's just black and white," I hesitated, "Or red and black in your case."
"I think you had better leave now, Mr. Tull," he said with barely restrained anger.
I walked stiffly to the door and let myself out.
"Hey, take off your underwear and stay awhile!" Rich grinned at Jason as he came through the front door, "Want a drink?"
"Sure," Jason grinned while Rich grabbed sodas and they made their way down to Rich's basement bedroom.
"What's going on, anyways?" Jason asked.
"I got some of the classics here, all time," Rich deepened his voice and looked at Jason quasi-seriously, "Oscar potential comedies here."
"You? Oscar winning comedies? I just have to know what fits in that category for you!"
"Well, take a seat and you'll find out what gets me excited!" Rich grinned mischievously and Jason laughed at him.
After getting settled in on the couch, shoes off and feet curled beneath them on the cushion, Jason couldn't restrain his commentary anymore.
"This movie is so cheesy!" Jason said with a wave of his hand, dismissing the screen.
"Come on, it is not!" Rich said with a grin, "This is great quality entertainment!" he laughed.
"I'd rather listen to Mike Tyson's Theory on Women's Rights," Jason quipped as he stood and headed for the fridge in his stockinged feet.
"Grab me," Rich paused dramatically while Jason turned to regard him with an upraised eyebrow, "a coke too, would you?" Rich finished with a laugh.
"Pretty forward about your pop, aren't you?" Jason asked.
"Yes, I am," Rich replied in a deep, throaty voice, "and what do you mean pop? Who calls it pop?"
"I do, and if you're not careful I'll lick the top of your can," Jason smiled wickedly.
"Don't take your tongue out unless you plan on using it!" Rich quipped.
Jason responded by exaggeratedly licking his lips while Rich laughed at him. This was the state of their friendship, sexually charged double entendres, some not veiled so well as others, and they laughed all the time.
"What else did you rent?" Jason asked while sitting on the floor and furtively shaking Rich's coke while Rich examined the bag of videos.
"Oh, here's one! Dragnet with…"
"No!" Jason yelped.
"Come on, it's okay, they're pagans!" Rich crowed, reciting a line from the movie.
"You didn't say we were going to watch bad movies all day!" Jason moaned.
"That's a classic! Okay, how about Who Is Harry Crumb?"
"Are you doing this on purpose?"
"That movie is so good, that scene where the bumpers are stuck together and the bad guys are like, 'he's good, he's real good'!" Rich chuckled while Jason winced.
"Man, are you this tough to please in bed, what the fuck?" Rich laughed. Jason replied by handing Rich his coke.
"Thanks," Rich grunted while opening the can, spraying himself with the soda.
"Oh, you got pop all over!" Jason feigned horror.
"I'll pop all over you!" Rich roared as he tackled Jason who was caught off guard. The wrestling didn't last long as a foot stomping from the floor above them could be heard and Rich's mom calling down the basement steps, "Stop it, you! Settle down!"
"Okay, Ma!" Rich called out, while turning to find himself straddling Jason. Jason's locks of light blond hair fell back away from his brow and his slightly upturned nose. Rich could feel himself reddening with the position, but thrilling in it as well as he slightly repositioned himself, and noting a growing hardness beneath him.
"Now you pissed your mum off, let me up!" Jason said with a grunt, bucking and driving his growing excitement into Rich's behind, intentionally or not.
"Easy, big guy, don't get so excited!" Rich said as he held tight to Jason's wrists. "Calm down," Rich lowered himself just a bit, then dropped his chest onto Jason's, soaked shirt pinned between them.
"Look," Rich said while standing and pointing at his handiwork on Jason's shirt, "I got ya wet!" and he was quickly laughing while Jason eyed him murderously.
"Just remember, revenge is sweet," Jason muttered as they returned to the TV.
The clock on the basement wall read 2am and the bottle of wine was almost empty on the card table. The TV was showing a commercial for the ass master workout set while Rich and Jason sat cross-legged on the floor, knees touching, and sipping the last of their wine.
"I am really disappointed this wasn't a larger bottle," Jason murmured as he swirled the red liquid in the bottom of his glass, "it's good stuff."
"I think my mom has some more under the microwave upstairs, why don't we check?" Rich slurred as they both slowly unfolded to standing positions, promptly leaning into one another.
They stumbled up the stairs, shushing each other as they tried to be quiet and not wake Rich's parents. They crept into the dining room where the microwave sat on a cart and opened the door under it to reveal a bottle of wine, among other things.
"Got it," Jason whispered to which Rich nodded and they started back towards the stairs.
"Who is that?" came Rich's mother's voice as the hall light came on. Rich and Jason froze in place, not daring even to breathe as they stood, smelling of wine and caught red handed as they attempted to abscond with a second bottle.
A small whine and the clatter of claws were heard as the dog made its way to the foot of the stairs to wag hopefully up at the top of the stairs.
"Oh for Pete's sake, go lay down!" came from the top of the stairs and the lights went off in the hallway.
Exhaling a collectively held breath, they started back down the stairs.
"Where is the corkscrew?" Jason asked.
"I don't have one, the other bottle was already open," Rich replied.
"Well. We'll need one," Jason informed him to which Rich went back upstairs only to return ten minutes later empty handed.
"I don't know where it is!" he whispered loudly.
"Well, we can't drink through the cork!" Jason whispered fiercely.
"Here, give me that," Rich said with some irritation and he began to tug at the exposed end of the cork, which gave way, shearing itself at the top of the bottle.
"Oh, bloody brilliant!" Jason mocked.
"Why don't you shut the fuck up?" Rich enquired with a grin, "Give me the knife over there."
"Why?" Jason asked while complying.
"To get the cork out of the way!" Rich exclaimed as he began to dig, and growing frustrated, pushed the cork back into the bottle until it was floating in the wine.
"There!" he said with a look of triumph, "we have wine!" Jason merely shook his head and placed the glasses in position to be refilled, which Rich did. They clinked glasses and began to drink. Almost in unison they spit the wine back into their glasses.
"Yuck! What is this shit?"
"This is awful," Jason exclaimed while picking up the bottle. "Idiot! It's cooking sherry!" Rich and Jason looked at one another before attempting to stifle a horrible case of the giggles which lasted so long they ended up leaning against one another for support.
Jason tipped a bit too far, overbalancing and sending them both tumbling to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs.
Call it fate, chance, or merely happenstance, or perhaps a fair dollop of serendipity, but as both sets of eyes focused and brains began to register that eye contact was being made, and that one body was atop the other, sparks or emotion began to be fanned to flame. Encouraged, no doubt, by the vino.
"More wine?" Rich said softly as Jason's head descended to his face.
"Fuck, my head hurts," Rich muttered as the morning sunlight streamed through the windows uninhibited by curtains. He sat slowly and fumbled to the window, drawing the blinds, and allowed his eyes to focus slowly on the room. The wine. Jason. Where was he?
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming…
"Jake? Why don't you come downstairs? I'll make you something to eat, okay, buddy?"
My father was a well meaning bother at this point, but I had no patience or desire to have much to do with anyone or anything.
"Look," he said as he sat next to me on my bed, "I know it hurts now, but time will make it better."
"Some wounds never heal," I muttered.
"I don't wanna talk about it," I spat. My father got up and left the room silently and I sat in the semi darkness and nursing my breaking heart. I don't know how long I sat there, at least until the sun completed its slow arc into oblivion when a small knock came to my door. It opened slowly and Nick poked his head in, illuminated by the light in the hallway.
"Hey, bub, mind if I come in?" he asked as he switched on a lamp and closed the door.
"Your dad says you are back to not talking," he hesitated, "You okay?"
I shrugged in reply.
"I know it doesn't mean much, but I'm here for you if you need me."
I smiled wanly.
"Mind if I sit with you for a while?" he asked and I nodded, scooting over to make room for him. "Um, you want to talk?"
"Did you and your dad fight?" I shook my head.
"Well if you aren't moving…Greg?" he asked with a shocked tone.
"Bye, bye, love," I murmured softly.
"Oh my god, I had no idea," Nick trailed off into stunned silence. He reached for me hesitantly, then pulled me into a hug which I gratefully accepted.
"Listen to my heart break," I murmured.
"I hear it beating, not breaking," he pulled back and faced me, "You have the heart of a lion."
I stood and walked to the window, looking down the street in the direction Greg's house lay in. Somewhere in my mind I had a flight of fancy, I thought maybe Greg could hear my heart calling to him, loving him even as I felt it was breaking beyond repair.
"Jake? You still here?"
"Tell me what it's like, to be in love."
I turned to look at him as he sat on my bed, this friend who I might never have known if it weren't for Greg. I owed him so much, even my friend here in this room who was here to comfort me in my darkest hour. I know it sounds melodramatic, but it hurt and that is real.
"Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed," I looked back out of the window while I continued.
"Some say love it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed," I looked back from the window to the bed where he sat watching me.
"Some say love it is a hunger, and endless aching need," I said while moving to my computer desk and sitting down in the chair, tucking my feet on the legs above their casters.
"I say love, it is a flower, and Greg the only seed." I hung my head and studied my hands as they lay in my lap. I slowly became aware of Nick, and small sobs that he was emitting. I glanced up at him as he looked across the room. He was looking down at his own hands, and weeping softly.
"Nick?" I asked as I slowly unfolded from the chair and made my way across to him, he stood quickly and wiped his hands nervously on his pants.
"I'm sorry, Jake, I came here 'cause I knew you'd listen to me, because I feel comfortable with you, but I didn't know there was something going on for you right now. I'll go," and he turned on his heel to go.
"Please don't go."
"I don't want to bother you," he said while slowing his pace. I guess this is what they call a defining moment, could I bury my own hurt and help Nick? The same Nick that held feelings for me and never let it interfere with our friendship?
"Lean on me, when you're not strong, and I'll be your friend."
"I broke up with her today, Jake, and it hurts," Nick said in a near whisper.
"Tell me why?" I walked to him and took him by the hand and led him back to the bed to sit, which he did, albeit carefully.
"She was so mean, you guys all said it but I guess I was blind to it. She…she was mad at her mom to start with, wanted something, a movie I think or money for the movies and her mom told her she was a little short this week. She threw this huge fit and practically dragged me with her out of the house," he looked up at me, "her mom had this hurt look on her face and then I felt kind of uncomfortable with the way she was acting and felt like I just wanted to go home."
"That's when she started on the gay crap, started in about my friends like you and Greg and how disgusting she thinks it is, god forbid if she knew about Jesse or Trevor. I can only shudder when I think about what she might have said if I had ever told her about that conversation you overheard."
I nodded sagely, or in a manner that I hoped was sage and reassuring.
"I thought she was something else, not that person I saw today, but I think when she didn't get what she wanted she showed what she really was," he gave a sad chuckle, "funny how you saw it right away, I guess I should listen to you more often, huh?" he gave me a weak smile and I leaned into him, encircling him in my arms and letting his tears finish their course.
"I'm sorry, what is all this about Greg moving?" Nick asked as he wiped his eyes.
"So far away," I said wistfully.
"No, I'm here, really."
"He's leaving," I sighed.
"How soon? And where?"
"I don't…" I replied trailing off.
"Listen, um, maybe you should go to Greg, huh? I'll bet he is hurting too. Maybe you guys can find some peace together, huh?"
I nodded slowly at this and stood wearily, tugging on my shoes and a sweatshirt. I turned to go and saw Nick standing somewhat uncertainly and then it hit me, Nick was being my friend above even his own interests. He wasn't taking advantage of my need for companionship, but letting me go. I walked slowly to him and he shuffled his feet a bit before looking at me nervously.
"You better get going," he said softly. I nodded and embraced him tightly, kissed him on the cheek and whispered to him.