The Empty Spaces Between Us - 5. Chapter 5
Rays from the morning sun woke Tyler up from his sleep. As his eyes slowly opened, the sights and smells around him seemed off and unfamiliar. He had a split-second moment of panic before remembering where he was and what he had done in the bed he was in the night before. A small smile creeped onto his face remembering how good of a night he had. The best part of it was discovering his feelings of being inadequate were unfounded. Drake had been a gentle partner, making sure Tyler was always comfortable with whatever they did. He was a little sore, but he would bet Drake felt the same way, if not more so.
He cautiously turned over in the bed and saw Drake’s back facing him. The single thin sheet covering their bodies was pushed down to just below Drake’s waist giving Tyler a very sexy view of Drake’s backside, just covering the lower half of those ass cheeks Tyler had originally found so sexy when they first met. Tyler moved closer to him and put his arm around Drake’s waist, letting his hand slide up to his chest. Giving into the temptation to let his thumb rub over one of Drake’s nipples as he breathed in the scent of his hair.
Drake stirred and an involuntary grunt came out of his mouth as he stretched his body before putting his hand over the one fondling his chest. He smiled as he said in a voice still muffled with sleep, “good morning. Are you ready for round seven?”
Tyler chuckled. “Not just yet. Just feeling good being here with you is all.”
Drake turned around to face him, pulling Tyler in closer to share a soft, languid kiss. “Good. You were wonderful, by the way. You definitely hit a few home runs last night. Once you learned how to properly swing your bat.”
They shared a gentle laugh. “Well, I had a good coach. Thank you.”
“Oh, no. Thank you. I haven’t felt this good waking up with someone else in a long time.” He leaned in to kiss Tyler’s neck. A certain spot he found to be very receptive to the right kind of attention. “We should get cleaned up and maybe have breakfast before we do anything else, though.”
“Do you wanna go somewhere for breakfast,” he asked as he watched Drake get up and walk around the bed. Tyler loved the way his body moved and was a little envious how comfortable he was being totally naked.
“How about you lay there while I shower. When I’m done you can get cleaned up while I make us some pancakes. That way we can be clothing optional for breakfast.” He gave Tyler a playful grin and a wink before walking out of the room.
Tyler laid there alone in Drake’s bed, allowing himself a chance to relax more as he listened to the sound of water running in the bathroom across the hall. A half-smirk lifted his lips as he thought about how both strange and natural everything felt last night in this bed. Drake had him try just about everything they could, and he enjoyed it all. What he really enjoyed most was how liberating it felt to be able to express his sexual side without feeling like he was doing something he shouldn’t. He loved being inside Drake and he loved feeling Drake inside him. The moans and the verbal exchanges between them brought out a primal hunger he never knew he had. He even surprised Drake with his enthusiasm the more comfortable he became.
At first, he wanted to blame the wine for his urges running away with him, but Drake only encouraged him to accept his feelings and to let them out. Towards the end, before they both gave into exhaustion, Tyler felt he was getting too rough. But Drake reassured him, letting him know he was safe to be who he wanted to be. Tyler just hoped this wouldn’t be a one-time thing between them. He wanted to come back and do more. But for now, he was content to just lay there and enjoy the new feelings of acceptance and confidence that was growing inside him. His eyes slowly fluttered closed, smelling their combined scents in the bed around him and remembering everything that’s happened to him in the last twenty-four hours.
Tyler must have dozed off because he didn’t hear the shower stop or Drake calling him. What made him twitch and nearly leap out of bed was a fingernail gently scratching over the bottom of his foot that had been sticking out from under the sheet he was under. As he shot up, yanking his foot away from that touch, he was aware of Drake standing there, still naked, giggling at him and that the sensation in his foot went straight up into his dick causing him to harden slightly. “The shower is all yours, stud,” Drake said as he pulled out a fresh pair of underwear out from his dresser and slid them on.
He smirked, letting Drake have his fun as he crawled out from under the sheet, not bothering to covering himself as he headed into the shower. As much as he had enjoyed the smell of sex for the first time when he woke up, he was relieved to be able to get clean under the warm water. He didn’t want to feel like he was taking more than he should so after using the toilet, he took a quick, efficient shower, making sure everything was attended to before getting out and drying off.
Tyler wrapped the towel around his waist and that’s when he realized he hadn’t brought any change of clothes. He didn’t want to put on dirty underwear after getting cleaned up, so he just kept the towel on as he headed into Drake’s kitchen. When he walked in, he stopped at the doorway staring at Drake who was only wearing the boxer briefs he had put on minutes ago. As he stood there, taking in the sight, he felt a deep feeling of comfort and peace come over him, watching the man he had given his virginity to last night, going through the motions of fixing breakfast for the two of them.
“Uh,” Tyler finally spoke up with a little embarrassment, “I didn’t bring any change of clothes.”
Drake turned and flashed him a smile as bright as the sun coming through the small window. “Go ahead and grab a pair of mine. They should fit you.”
He went back to Drake’s bedroom and opened the top drawer. There was a wide selection of boxer briefs in various colors arrayed throughout next to neatly folded pairs of socks. He wasn’t sure what would be acceptable, so he just went with a green and white pair which reminded him of his old baseball uniform in high school. When he returned to the kitchen, Drake was hard at work carefully pouring batter into a skillet on the stove. Tyler dropped into one of the chairs at the kitchen table, enjoying the sight again of Drake moving around as he got breakfast ready for the two of them. “These are pretty comfortable,” Tyler remarked as he watched.
Drake glanced back at him and smiled. “Keep them. They look good on you.”
“You’re just sayin’ that,” he replied.
“No…” He opened the fridge and pulled out the milk and then grabbed two glasses from a cabinet. “You are one sexy stud. That much I know for certain.” He poured two glasses and set one in front of Tyler. “Don’t drink that too fast.” He moved back to the stove, flipping the pancakes expertly and then waiting for them to finish before starting the next batch.
Tyler stayed quiet as he sat at the small kitchen table watching Drake cooking up sausage links and flipping pancakes with practiced ease. Within a few minutes, Drake had two plates on the table. As they ate, they debated the current baseball season and predictions on who would be winning the World Series that year. They found a common interest in history, movies and their mutual distrust of religion. The longer they sat there the more Tyler got to like Drake as a person rather than just as a sex partner or someone who was fun to flirt with. He liked his open honesty and how easy it was to laugh together. It reminded him of his time in high school with his old friends but with a deeper bond between them. After they finished eating, Tyler helped him with the cleanup. “So…” Tyler began, not entirely sure how to say what was on his mind, “I’ve never had a boyfriend or anything. After what you said last night, I’m not sure if that’s what we are right now or not.”
Drake smirked a little and leaned over to kiss his cheek. “I told you last night that all of that is up to you.” Drake’s easy smile gave him a warm feeling inside him. “I am whatever you want me to be. A friend, a fuck-buddy, a boyfriend, whatever. I’ll be honest with you, I kind of doubt I’m going to be a boyfriend or be one for long with you. There’s a reason why Your First isn’t your last most of the time.”
Tyler thought about it for a moment before he responded. “I dunno what I want, really.”
Drake shrugged. “Then we’re just friends for now. If that changes, then we can talk about it. Don’t worry about putting a label on this right now. Just enjoy it.”
Drake’s words allowed him to relax and let go of all the uncertainty he felt inside him. As much as he liked - maybe loved - Drake, Jacob was still on his mind. With no need to commit on his shoulders, he felt a little more at peace with the shifting interests he had. After he finished drying the last dish and putting it back in the cabinet, Tyler moved up behind Drake, putting his arms around his waist and kissing his neck. “So, when do you need to get to work?”
The older man grinned and leaned his head back against Tyler’s shoulder. “I got a couple hours to kill between now and then. Got something in mind?”
“Yeah. A couple things.” He kissed Drake, letting their passion start to build before taking the initiative and pulling him back to the bedroom.
July’s warmth gave way to the hot humid days of August as Tyler maintained his work schedule and spending most of his free time with Drake. Occasionally, he would join Jacob at the gym on Sundays. Their friendship didn’t seem to change even after Tyler dropped occasional hints about him sleeping with Drake. Jacob’s only comment between reps was that Drake was a decent guy. Tyler also noticed Andy’s continued absence at work which meant seeing more of Jacob. He asked about what was going on with Andy, but Jacob wouldn’t give him any direct answers. Andy did start coming back to work more often after Stacy lost her job at the company. Troy claimed they were eliminating the position but didn’t give a reason why or who was taking on her work in the office. There were a few other employees who left soon afterwards but Tyler was never sure if it was related to what happened to Andy and Stacy or if it was just coincidence.
By the end of work on Friday, before the last weekend in August, Tyler was tired and sweaty but looking forward to Labor Day. He had managed to only make it back to Drake’s place twice in the week with work keeping him busy and usually run down by the time he got home and showered. His mom hadn’t seemed too worried about his new sex life, only going so far as to tell him to take things slow and not get wrapped up in the first person he gets interested in. While keeping most of the details to himself, Tyler let his mom know that he was enjoying things with Drake and wasn’t planning on anything serious just yet. Today, he had promised another night out at the bar with some good food and even better sex later on after the game.
Andy hadn’t been to work all week and Tyler wasn’t inclined to ask about why. With Stacy out of the picture, he imagined he was having a hard time dealing with the breakup of his marriage and the demands of caring for two children on his own. Jacob mentioned that the boys were staying with him and Mr. Howard but was never all that specific about things. Tyler didn’t pry, figuring he’d find out in time what was going on.
After parking his truck, he headed inside the trailer. He wanted to hurry and get cleaned up, so he’d meet Drake at the bar on time. He slowed his stride after he stepped inside, noticing his mother sitting on the kitchen stool with a hand covering her face. “Ma?” He took a few steps towards her. “You alright?”
Colleen let out a breath and looked over at her son. He could tell immediately that something was wrong. No matter what they’ve been through in the past together, she never looked this worried. “We have to find a new place to live.”
“What do you mean? How come?” As he walked up to her, she held out a two page letter she had sitting on the counter in front of her. He took them and glanced over them. Skimming over the pages, that feeling of looking forward to his night with Drake started to sink and fade into the background. He went back to the beginning to read the entire letter, taking in every word as the meaning behind the missive was made clear. “They’re closing the trailer park?”
Colleen nodded wearily. “At the end of the year. They sold the land already. Everyone has to be out by December 31st. Not that there’s many people left.”
He tried to clear his head and think beyond the bad news. “Well, we just need to find an apartment or something.”
Colleen seemed to deflate slightly. “Nothing that I can afford on minimum wage, sweetheart. I don’t even get full-time hours now, so they don’t have to pay me any benefits.”
Tyler suppressed the frustration that was going through him. “Ma, I’m still working just fine. We’ll manage. Just have to find somewhere we can afford is all.”
Colleen sighed and ran her hand over her face. “Sweetheart, it isn’t fair of me to rely on you like that. You’re old enough now and you make good money. You should be looking to get your own place to live, without your old mom slowing you down.”
Tyler wasn’t going to admit to having thought about it the last couple weeks. Living with his mother wasn’t very helpful if he ever wanted to invite a guy over to spend the night. Especially with the thin walls in the trailer. “That’s not important right now. We’ll figure something out. For now, just don’t worry about it. We’ll start looking on Monday.” He didn’t want her worrying herself over what will probably end up being something that’ll have a lot simpler solution than she thinks.
Colleen nodded and offered a sad smile. “Ok, honey.”
Tyler gave her a quick peck on the cheek to try to reassure her before heading to the back of the trailer to grab a change of clothes before heading to the bathroom to shower and shave. While he was in the shower, he did his best to ignore the sinking feeling that his life was taking another turn for the worst just when he started feeling a little hope for the future. Life shouldn’t be like this, he thought to himself as he dried off. He was so tired of working hard for a better life only to have his progress ruined by something that came out of the blue.
He pushed it all out of his mind for now. He wanted to go out and enjoy himself and not worry about something he had no control over. When Monday comes, he’ll deal with it then. Once he was finished dressing, he grabbed his keys and headed for the door. Seeing his mom still sitting there looking morbidly at the letter still, he stopped. “Ma, really, don’t worry about it.”
Colleen looked up at her son and offered him a slightly brighter smile than before. “I know, honey. Go have fun.”
Tyler smiled and nodded before heading out the door. He had to believe that things would work out. At some point, their life has got to get better! After fourteen years living in poverty, dumped by a father who decided he had the wrong family, grasping and clawing his way out of this with no help, he had to believe that it would all be worth something in the end.
By the time he parked his truck in the parking lot of the bar, Tyler managed to put most of the negativity aside and focus on relaxing and enjoying the night with Drake. He saw Drake’s car in the lot as he headed in. Once inside, he went right to their usual spot where Drake was already sitting with a wide smile on his face. “Hey, stud. How was the rest of your week?”
Tyler’s smile was more relaxed the moment he heard that comfortable voice. “A lot better now that it’s over,” he replied as he sat himself down.
Their playful banter continued through ordering drinks and some food to pass the time while they watched the game on the TV in front of them. As always, Tyler felt more and more relaxed as the beer flowed and the company was upbeat and fun as it always was. In public, Tyler was more comfortable just being friends with Drake and not showing any overt affection beyond a pat on the back or side hug once in a while. For his part, Drake seemed to understand and didn’t do anything to make Tyler feel awkward in public when they were together. Occasionally, when they were in a less crowded setting, Drake might grab for his hand under the table or sneak in a kiss on his cheek or his neck which would always give Tyler a stiffening in his pants.
They were halfway into the game and done with their food when Drake raised his beer to lips and asked, “you’re staying the night with me tonight, right?”
He nodded. “Yeah. What’s up?”
Drake took a drink from his bottle and gave him a playful smirk. “Well, it’s the last weekend of August. Was planning on going to go picking tomorrow while some of the earlier trees are in season. Did you bring a change of clothes?”
“Got it in the truck.” Tyler felt a slight sense of unease. He’d been out to the orchard a dozen times but not on a social visit like that or with Drake. “I guess you’re meaning to take me with you, is what you’re saying?”
Drake nodded with a smile. “Yeah. It’ll be fun. I got a basket full last year. We can take it and then go picking whatever we want. I usually make a day out of it. Go about noon, spend about an hour there, maybe shop a little bit and then go home and see what we can make of them.”
Tyler pondered it for a moment and then shrugged. “That sounds fine.” He figured on a Saturday the place wouldn’t be busy. Besides, how many people would go all the way out there and park just on that small driveway they have? “What do you usually do with the apples anyway?”
Drake broke into a wide grin. “Well, I make a pie usually. But I like adding them to other dishes. With pork or chicken usually works best. They make a good apple butter out there I wanna get my hands on too.”
Tyler chuckled and rolled his eyes. “Do I get to sample any of it?”
“Of course,” he replied with a grin. “I like you coming over anyway. Gives me a reason to cook instead of just heating up some pre-made shit from the store.”
Tyler smirked a little. “That the only reason you like me coming over?”
“Definitely not the only reason,” he replied with a laugh.
They went back to watching the game, occasionally making comments on the quality of the teams. At the end, the Pirates lost much to Tyler’s disappointment. They hung around a little while longer, just enjoying the conversation and the atmosphere of the crowd. Drake talked Tyler into a game of pool in the game room and, after a few failed attempts, started to get the hang of the game. The two of them were both feeling a little competitive as they laughed and enjoyed themselves. It ended up keeping them there for another hour as Tyler’s skills improved.
Eventually, they both knew they had to go before the bar closed. They both settled their bill before they walked out together, chuckling together and enjoying the closeness they felt in the moment. Tyler got in his truck and followed Drake back to his place as he always did. Grabbing his bag with his stuff out of the truck, he followed him up to the door and inside.
After Drake closed the door, he turned to Tyler and gave him his usual charming smile as he moved in to kiss him. “That was a lot of fun tonight,” he said as his hands started to wander over Tyler’s chest and then around to his back.
“Yeah, it was.” He smiled and relaxed at Drake’s touch. “Anything else you wanna do tonight before we head to bed?”
“Well, what I had in mind we can do in bed,” he replied. “If you’re up for it?”
“I’ve been up for it since I got in my truck to follow you over.” Tyler pressed himself a little more against Drake.
“Mmm… Same here.” He leaned in to press his lips against Tyler’s to share a warm kiss that slowly became more and more passionate. Without saying anything else, he took Tyler’s hand and lead him into the bedroom.
Jacob was sitting comfortably on the old loveseat in the soft light of his workshop. It was nearly midnight and he imagined everyone in the house was asleep by now. But he had felt restless and pensive which made sleep impossible for him. The last month had been less than ideal for him and his friends. He felt tired but there was no way he was going to be able to sleep just yet with his mind constantly replaying memories over and over.
Once David got involved with Andy’s breakup with Stacy, he was insistent that he and the boys spend weekends at the house. Privately, he’d never been all that fond of Stacy and when he explained what was going on to his friend Sam, she was quietly and quickly removed from her job and Sam had a private word with some of the men at the company and encouraged them to either be honest or get out. Troy was left with the task of finding new employees and would have to wait a few months before creating a new administrative job that had a different title from what Stacy’s had been so the story would stick and keep them out of any legal trouble.
Through it all, Jacob and Troy did what they could for Andy. David kept in near daily contact with him and on one visit, had a long discussion about moving Andy’s firearms to his house “for safe keeping” for the time being. Jacob had thought about calling Brian to tell him the news but Andy’s frown when he mentioned it, dissuaded him from doing it right away. Once Andy made more formal steps towards leaving Stacy, he thought maybe Brian coming back for a visit would be good for him. So, the children and Andy were staying with them for the time being as he and David were gearing up for the Labor Day weekend. Jacob couldn’t put his finger on what was bothering him exactly, but he knew everything just seemed wrong, beyond the obvious.
It wasn’t hard for him to figure out. There were pieces missing. The same pieces that had been missing for years now. That’s why he was alone in his workshop, quietly sketching to pass the time and get the images out of his head. Right now, he was drawing Andy. The way he looked years ago the first time he came home on leave from the marine corps. He could vividly remember the look on his face when he surprised all of them with a visit before he left for his first deployment.
Drawing his face was easy considering how long they’d known each other. He was working to remember the way his uniform had looked on him. The look in his eyes when he first walked in through the kitchen to everyone’s surprise and delight. It had still been the bright, shining eyes of youth before he took his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. It had also been the one and only time all five of them had been together since graduation.
Those were simpler times. They were all so innocent and unaware of how badly things were going to change. He sighed as new images started to crowd out what he was working on. He struggled for a few moments, adding shading to the shoulders of Andy’s uniform and was starting to think about giving up for the night when he heard the door creak open from the other side of the building. The sound of chirping insects on the warm night air drifted into the workshop before the door closed again, replaced by the sound of slow, careful footsteps approaching. Jacob looked up and waited until the silent invader came around the corner from the stacks of cut wooden planks.
Andy appeared around the corner, silhouetted in the subdued light coming from the desk lamp behind him and the old one sitting next to the loveseat where Jacob was sitting. “You’re still up.” He said it more as a statement than a question as he stared at his friend sitting there with the sketchpad in his hands.
“Couldn’t sleep,” Jacob asked. To his eyes, Andy looked like he was lost as he stood there. In the dim light, the green eyes seemed haunted and the familiar smirk was missing on his bearded face. He seemed like he didn’t expect to find Jacob here which made him wonder what he was doing there in the first place.
“I woke up.” He stood there, unmoving. His eyes shifted around almost looking uncertain as to what he should do next.
Jacob pushed his own feelings aside for the moment. “Come sit down,” he said, moving aside to give him space to join him. Andy shuffled over with his head tilted down as he almost reluctantly sat down on the loveseat with him. He watched his friends face as Andy stared blankly at the floor. “Bad dream?”
“Yeah,” he replied in a dull voice.
“Wanna talk about it?”
“Not really.” He sat up a little straighter and sighed, collecting himself before looking over at what Jacob had been working on when he came in. When Jacob saw his eyes settle on the sketch he had been working on, he wordlessly passed it over to him for his inspection. Andy took the pad in his hands, studying the familiar yet foreign face looking up at him from the page. Jacob watched him as a tiny smile fought its way to the surface. “You do good work.”
“Thanks,” he said as he kept his gaze on Andy. “So, have you decided what you’re gonna do yet?”
Andy placed a hand on the page that seemed to tremble for a second. Running a finger over the face in the drawing before he replied in a voice devoid of the happy fun-loving guy he used to be. “I’ll… get a lawyer next week. File the divorce papers and go from there.”
“I’m sorry things didn’t work out, Andy.”
He shook his head slightly. “Don’t be. Things happen.” He passed the pad back to Jacob before looking back down at the floor.
“You know,” He began as he set the sketchbook aside and put a hand on Andy’s shoulder, “it’s not something I’m not unfamiliar with. What you’re going through. What she did to you.”
He shook his head slightly, not wanting to look at him. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“I understand. I never liked talking about it either. And no one else has to know but us.”
Andy was quiet for a moment before he blurted out, “it was all just so fucked up. It was a mistake from the beginning but… when she told me she was pregnant… I just couldn’t walk away and do nothing, you know? She resented me for it, I think. She probably would’ve had an abortion if I hadn’t offered to step up and take care of her.”
Jacob squeezed his shoulder in sympathy. “Doesn’t matter. She had no right to do what she did. Don’t ever give her excuses.”
“I just worry. About what kind of example I’m gonna be for Tanner and Blake.” He closed his eyes, wishing for something he couldn’t have.
"You’ll be okay,” Jacob assured him. “Dad and I will be there when you need help. We’ll babysit and help out wherever you need us.”
“I just…” He ran out of words. The life he’d wanted and the life he’d been given had been so disparate he wasn’t sure how he was going to go on like this. He felt so heavy and lethargic. As if his body was just a shell, holding a shattered soul inside it that he wasn’t sure could ever be made whole again. Visions of swimming meets and laughing with his friends were merging with the sounds of gunfire, screaming and dying until it seemed too much for him to bear.
As if his strings had been cut, his body sagged under the weight of his memories. The energy it took to keep himself upright had run out and he felt his body tilt to the side. Jacob drew him in and guided Andy’s head to rest on his chest. With all the loving care someone else had once shown him when he had felt broken and alone, he leaned back, putting his arms around his friend and let him cry himself to sleep.
Tyler woke the next day feeling groggy and out of sorts. For a moment he thought he was alone until he opened his eyes and saw a fully clothed Drake standing at the foot of the bed grinning down at him. “Come on, sleepy head. It’s nearly eleven. You gotta get cleaned up and eat before we leave.”
He groaned a little as he rolled out of the bed. “Why didn’t you wake me up sooner?”
Drake shrugged. “I tried earlier but you were dead to the world. And you looked so cute I hated having to wake you up. I only did it now because we’re running out of time.”
Tyler went to his bag to pull out fresh clothes. “Sorry. Guess I worked harder than I thought I did yesterday.” He headed into the bathroom, rubbing his eyes and then jumped into the shower, letting the warm water wake him up fully. He realized he was probably going to run into Jacob today with Drake right next to him and wasn’t sure how that was going to play out. Maybe he shouldn’t think about what might happen. He didn’t want Jacob to get the wrong impression, though he wasn’t entirely sure what the right impression might be. Weeks together and Tyler still couldn’t figure out where Drake fit in his life.
He made quick work getting in and out of the shower, so he didn’t keep Drake waiting. There was a disturbing moment as he was just finishing and straightening up his hair. Looking himself over one final time. “Not bad for a guy who’s gonna be homeless in a couple months.” The sudden thought brought a frown to his face and he forced it back out of his mind as he picked up his things and headed out to the kitchen.
Drake got him a quick breakfast to get him started. Standing there watching Tyler for a moment, he noticed he didn’t seem his usual self. “Why so quiet this morning?”
Tyler shrugged. “No reason. Guess I’m still just waking up.”
Drake wasn’t sure how truthful that was but let it drop for now. He went to his closet to pull out some more appropriate shoes for being on his feet all day and then went to the back of the small house where he stored the lesser used stuff that he keeps out of the way. Finding the basket he used the year before, he made sure it was still in good condition before going to put it in the backseat of his car.
After Tyler finished eating, he joined Drake in his car, and they set off to the orchard. As Drake drove, they talked casually, and he let him know what he was looking for. Tyler didn’t feel it was as big of a deal as he was making it sound. What was going to be so hard about picking apples?
Drake turned onto the road leading up the Howard house and Tyler expected the ride to end as soon as they turned onto the driveway leading up to the house. When Drake drove past without slowing down, that’s when Tyler knew something was up. “Hey, you just missed the house.”
Drake glanced over at him curiously. “So? That’s not where we’re going.”
“Where are we going?”
“To the orchard.”
“The orchard is up there,” he said, pointing to the place he usually went when going to Mr. Howard’s house.
Drake chuckled. “Just trust me. I’m not kidnapping you.”
Tyler was confused but stayed quiet as Drake continued down another half mile before turning left onto a road that lead around the orchard. It was another mile or so when he saw the small building and the much larger parking area, filled with cars and people, that was when he realized this was going to be a bigger deal than he anticipated. “Wow.”
“Never knew this was out here,” he asked with an amused tone.
“No,” he said with a shake of his head. Drake pulled into the parking lot and found a good spot near the fence that went around the orchard. Tyler also noted that the fencing around this part of the orchard was much higher and more secure. He followed Drake up to the join other people standing in line waiting to pay their admittance fee to get in. Tyler figured they could get about four dozen apples in the basket he was carrying easily, though what Drake would do with all of them he had no idea.
After paying the entrance fee, they set off down the path that lead through the open gate into the orchard. Tyler had never really been inside the orchard itself whenever he had visited Jacob, so he was unprepared for just how big of an expanse it took up. In every direction he looked he could see rows of trees with their green leaves and little specks of red, yellow or a combination of the two dotting the trees. The sheer size gave the place a grandeur that made his eyes widen in awe. “I had no idea it was this big…”
“Yeah… could get lost in here if you’re not careful,” Drake replied with a grin. “Let’s go ahead and dive in. See if we can find some trees no one’s touched yet.”
“Anything in particular I should look for,” he asked as they started down between the rows of trees.
“Well, he doesn’t have every variety known to man.” He slowed his pace for a moment, looking around to get his bearings. “But I heard rumors they were expanding. It’s mostly honeycrisps, reds and golds out here for now.”
Tyler gave him a side glance. “I didn’t know you knew so much about apples.”
Drake chuckled softly and started moving in a different direction. “There’s a lot to learn out there in the big ol’ world, Tyler. Though, to be honest, I wish he had some Northern Spy apples. I got some once and they were great.”
“An apple is an apple, Drake.”
“We’ll see about that.” He stopped in front of a tree with large, yellowish green apples. Tyler held the basket and watched him as he scrutinized the fruit hanging around him, eventually taking a few and putting them carefully into the basket.
Tyler couldn’t stop himself from laughing quietly as he watched Drake treating each apple like they were fragile objects. “Sorry. I guess this is all just new to me.”
Drake stuck his tongue out at him in response. “You need to just relax and have fun. You worry too much.” He started to trek farther into the orchard with Tyler right behind him.
“What do you mean ‘I worry too much?’”
Drake’s stride didn’t falter as he marched through the groves, confident as ever. “I mean you worry about what people say about you, what people think about you… You gotta stop caring about what everyone thinks.”
Tyler frowned as he followed behind. “Wha… That’s not true.”
“Then you wanna tell me what’s been bugging you today?” He came to a halt and started carefully pulling apples off a tree before turning to Tyler to place them into the basket.
Anger started to simmer inside him. “There’s nothing wrong. What’s the problem with how I act?”
Drake sighed as stopped under a tree and turned to face him, showing no animosity. “I notice things, Tyler. I’ve known you long enough now I can tell when you got something going on in your head. You were a little off last night and then this morning after you got out of the shower. Forget everything else that’s going on. You’re still my friend and I just wanna know what’s bothering you?”
Tyler sighed as he stepped up to him. He realized being angry at Drake was just making a bad situation worse. He hadn’t done anything but show concern for him. “It’s… nothing big. Just something to do with my mom and me. It’s nothing to worry about. We just got blindsided is all.”
Drake frowned a little as he looked in his eyes. “It’s the park, isn’t it? They’re selling it.”
“How the hell did you know?”
He shrugged. “Word gets around fast in a small town. I heard someone mention it at work the other day. I guess it was in the paper.”
“Leave it to them to tell the newspapers first but not the tenants,” he grumbled.
Drake chuckled. “Relax. You got this. Worst case happens, you can move in with me or something.”
“I’m worried more about Ma than myself,” he replied as he pulled an apple off the tree next to him. “I got a decent job, but she’s got it worse. I gotta make sure she’s okay, even if that means having to get a place for the two of us just like the trailer.”
Drake just shrugged. “Sounds like she needs to find a better job then. You can’t help her forever. You have your own life to live.”
Tyler frowned a little. “I can’t just turn my back on her.”
“I never thought you would, stud.” Drake gave him a reassuring smile before taking another apple off the tree and placing it in the basket.
They wandered around the orchard for a while, taking a moment to drink some bottled water that was available at small stands set around the area. Tyler wasn’t sure just how far they had ventured into the orchard by then. When he stopped to look around, he saw only a handful of people against the seemingly endless slopes of the orchard. The sounds of the other people seemed far in the background as he slowly turned to get a real view of the orchard. He glanced over at Drake for a second only to find him looking back at him. “I knew you’d like it out here,” he said with a grin.
Tyler smirked and shook his head. “Just another new thing for me to experience?”
“Exactly,” he replied. “Let’s get moving. I think I still got room for another dozen apples or so.”
They continued together, enjoying the sun and warm air. As the afternoon went on, Drake was satisfied with the apples he’d managed to find to fill the basket and they headed back to the exit. Their progress was slowed as they were within sight of the entrance when a man’s voice called out, “Tyler Brewer?”
They both stopped and turned as an older man, wearing a wide brimmed straw hat that shielded his face from the sun, walked up to them with a pleasant smile on his face. “Mr. Martin. Hi.” Tyler smiled in surprise as he greeted one of his old teachers from high school.
The man stopped, extending his hand. “Wow, it’s been about four or five years since I saw you in my earth science class. What brings you out?” Mr. Martin looked at Drake who stood next to Tyler.
“Oh, uh,” Tyler felt his face redden slightly. “I’m just here… picking apples with my friend Drake.”
The older man nodded and extended his hand. “Drake? Nice to meet you. I’m Pat Martin.”
“Pleasure to meet you sir,” Drake said with a friendly smile as they shook hands. “What brings you out here?”
“Oh, just out volunteering for the weekend,” he replied with a chuckle. “I usually help out with the visitors and stuff when David has the place open for the season. You should remember, Tyler.” He grinned. “Well, maybe you don’t. I usually make it a point to offer the students some extra credit if they come out and volunteer for the harvesting season. Not picking apples, just working at the entrance or out helping out wherever David needs them.”
Drake nodded in understanding, keeping a polite smile on his lips. “That would explain all the young people out here then.”
He nodded. “I’ve been doing this for… oh… maybe fifteen years or so now? Back when his son was a sophomore in my class.”
Tyler was feeling more uneasy the longer they stood there. “Well, we should get going.”
Drake gave him a curious look before saying to Mr. Martin. “Was nice meeting you, sir.”
“Same here. See you later.” The man smiled and nodded as he went on his way.
Tyler and Drake resumed walking. “You looked a little embarrassed back there,” Drake commented.
“No…” he quietly protested.
Drake said nothing else and just kept walking. They hadn’t gotten more than a few yards farther when they heard a pair of children laughing followed by an all too familiar voice. “All right, you little rascals! Someone’s getting tickle tortured!” Tyler turned, groaning inwardly as Drake stopped and looked over at the scene.
Two small children, the older one with blonde hair and the smaller with bright red hair were on the ground laughing as a dark haired man held down the older one tickling his sides. When Drake got a look at the face of the man he blinked in obvious surprise before saying, “Jacob…? Is that you?”
Jacob looked up. Seeing who was speaking to him, his face got a little more serious but didn’t lose his entire smile as he stood, picking Blake up off the ground with him. “Oh... Hey.”
Drake glanced at Tyler, a little surprise and a question in his eyes before turning back to him. “Wow. Those aren’t your kids, are they?”
Jacob seemed to blush a little as he looked down, seemingly caught off guard and making sure Tanner stayed nearby. “No. I’m just babysitting today.”
“Where’s Andy,” Tyler asked as he took a step towards Jacob.
“He’s up at the house. Asleep, the last time I checked. David is out here somewhere working up the crowd, as usual.”
Drake closed some of the distance between them. His smile growing warmer as he looked over him. “You sure look a lot different from the last time I saw you. It’s been, what, two years maybe?”
“Yeah,” he replied, looking a little embarrassed. “I’ve, ah… been working a lot.”
“I can tell,” Drake replied with a chuckle. “You look good. I’ve missed seeing you at the bar.”
“Yeah… Sorry about that.”
Tyler looked from one to the other, wondering how long the two of them were going to stare at each other.
"Don’t be,” Drake said. “You look… good. Real good. If you still have my number, you should call me sometime and we can have lunch or something and catch up.”
“Yeah,” Jacob said as his smile returned a little. “Maybe when I get some free time between babysitting and working, I will.” He turned to Tyler and asked, “how’ve you been holding up?”
Tyler shrugged as he held Drake’s basket of apples in his arms. “Not too bad. You working with us next week?”
“Probably not. Troy asked but I actually have some business of my own to do for a client. That and working out here for the next few weeks while the apples are getting ready to drop is gonna keep me busy most of the time.” He turned his head to the child in his arms and grinned. “And on top of that keeping you out of trouble. How many times do I have to tell you no climbing the trees?” He leaned into Blake’s neck making playful growling noises resulting in a high-pitched laugh from the boy.
Drake chortled watching Jacob. “Well, I guess we should let you get back to your job and be on our way. Hope to hear from you soon.” He waved before they went their separate ways and then turned to leave with Tyler.
“You sounded real friendly just now,” Tyler said with a small smirk.
Drake’s face broke out into another smile. “Jacob is a really nice guy, even if he can be a bit on the quiet side, once in a while. Plus… wow… He looked good.”
Tyler scoffed. “Yeah… tell me about it.”
They walked through the fence and headed back to Drake’s car. When he unlocked the doors, he took the basket full of apples from Tyler and carefully set them in the floor of the backseat. Then he looked back at Tyler and grinned. “You have a crush on him, don’t you?”
Tyler’s face turned bright red. “I haven’t done anything with him.”
“It’s okay,” he said, without losing his grin. “Like I said before, we are whatever you want us to be. If you wanna chase him down, that’s fine with me.”
Tyler went around to get into the car. “Sounded to me like you wouldn’t mind chasing him down yourself.”
Drake laughed a little at that as he got in and started up the car. “He wasn’t half bad in bed last time I was with him. I’m betting he’s a lot better now that he’s lost all that weight he used to have. Plus, his hair is longer now to, which makes him look adorable.”
“So, which one of us has a crush on him?” Tyler shot him a playful smirk.
They both laughed as Drake pulled out of the parking lot and headed back to his house.
You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on. We get it, because we feel it too. Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.
Create an account or sign in to comment
You need to be a member in order to leave a comment
Create an account
Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!Register a new account
Already have an account? Sign in here.Sign In Now