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    Parker Owens
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

A to Z - 33. Chapter 33: Running

Running

No special warnings needed for this chapter.

Go to the A to Z story thread for discussion of questions, issues or ideas raised by this or any other chapter.

November 4

Two days ago, at lunch Wednesday, Terry and Kaz told me about the plan for tomorrow, Saturday.

“So it’s going to be easy,” said Terry leaning forward conspiratorially. “Zander’s going to ride with Kaz to regionals on Saturday. Kaz drives back afterwards, and instead of dropping him off at home or at school, he goes directly to Alyssa’s. Surprise!”

“While we’re running, Terry’s picking up the cake,” added Kaz.

Was it just me, or didn’t anyone else pick out the flaw in this plan?

“Yeah, but won’t Kaz and Zander want a shower before a party?”

“Not a problem,” Kaz had a smug look on his face. “Terry will have a change of clothes for both of us, and we can shower at Alyssa’s after the big surprise.”

I nodded. They seemed to be enjoying engineering a surprise for their friend.

“It’s nice of Alyssa and her parents to host,” I offered.

“Well, Alyssa is Zander’s ex, and they’re still friendly,” Terry explained.

My gut clenched for a moment. Shit. Reality breaking in on fantasy. Somehow, I’d hoped that Zander might like me. As in, like me enough to be more than just friends. I’d deluded myself again, of course. Just like I'd started to fall for Toby Harris last summer. Well, at least if I’ve managed to fall for another straight boy, he hasn’t figured it out yet, and I’m still in one piece. But the whole world seemed much darker, right then.

“When did they…” I couldn’t even finish the question.

“Last spring, before the big Spring Formal,” she said, dismissing the question.

“Oh.”

I didn’t know what to make of that. Zander chose that moment to appear, so the conversation shifted.

So Zander is straight. As I reflected on it later that evening, I thought that the worst part of all this is that I don’t know what to do about it. For the first time, I’ve done well in school. I have a few friends, who sometimes manage to make me smile – laugh, even.

And, damn it all, I can’t help wanting to get close to Zander, even if what I wanted is impossible now.

Of course, I’ve got a funny way of showing it.

Today is Zander’s birthday. I wanted to get him a present. More accurately, I’ve been racking my brains for an idea. I know he listens to music, but I’m not going to get him an iTunes card or a CD or something. That just seemed too – I don’t know – boring. Yesterday, Thursday, I just decided to go shopping in town after school to see what I could find.

It’s getting really chilly now, outside. Because I spend so much of my time inside, I forget this. I turned up my collar on my denim jacket, and crammed my hat farther down on my head. That helped a little.

Just off Main Street, I found an antique shop still open as the sunlight faded. Somehow, it looked inviting. Maybe it’s because I’m used to shopping second-hand. The bell jangled as I entered. An older woman with long grey hair pulled back tightly in a long pony tail sat behind a counter, reading.

She smiled. “Can I help you?”

I shook my head. “Just looking around. Is that okay?”

“Sure thing,” she nodded, and returned to her book.

I explored the cramped little store, overcrowded with relics from other houses, other families, other times. Faceted glass seemed to be a big part of every display. What would Zander want a set of miniature ruby glasses marked ‘cordials’ for? I don’t even know what that means.

There were old toys (definitely out), odd pieces of silver (interesting but useless), shiny brass candlesticks (good if Zander ever loses power or his flashlight) and such like. I took my time looking at everything. At least the shop was warm.

I finally spotted something in the back. It was a small painting, in a simple frame. A young man reclining on a grassy hill, under a tree, gazing out over a wide meadow. The sky reminded me of the late afternoon sunshine at the Whitley farm. Perfect peace. Serenity. This was what I wanted for Zander.

I lifted it off the wall, looking for a price tag. A little square tag marked it as forty dollars. Ouch. That was steep. Forty dollars is more than a week’s worth of eating. I’ve gone hungry often – but I can’t say I enjoy the experience. I hesitated a long time. Something about the little painting told me that this was perfect. A perfect afternoon for a perfect boy, something I wish I could have shared with him – or might share in some cosmically different universe.

Making sure the lady behind the counter wasn’t looking, I set down my pack and reached down into the very bottom. I found my roll of summer money, counted out forty dollars, then stuffed the rest back in the pack. I’ll have to make it work out somehow in the spring.

“Oh, that’s a very nice little painting you’ve got,” the woman said brightly when I brought it up to pay for it.

I nodded.

“Is it a gift for someone?”

“Yes.”

“Let me wrap it up for you, then.”

I shifted from foot to foot while she expertly enclosed my gift in bright striped paper and a lively ribbon. It looked like a real present, now.

I got back to school in time to hide out in the Library.

I know I’ve chickened out over the past two days. Since learning that Zander is straight, it’s really, really hard to face him. I mean, I want to be his friend, but it's hard not to be jealous. I invented an excuse to miss the group at lunch yesterday and today. I just didn’t want to hear about all the party planning and shit. Hell, I’m not even invited. At least, nobody asked me to come.

Really, I’m avoiding Zander. I’m afraid that he’ll find out I’m crushing hard on him, and everything good that’s happened in the last couple of months will come crashing down. That’s the usual pattern.

At home in Carlsberg, it would be a couple of good weeks. That would be just enough time to be fooled by Dad being sober or withdrawn, or to be drawn in by a hot guy or a stupid crush. Then everything would explode again. Dad would find a fault with something, or I'd become someone's target.

Really, I’m incredibly lucky to have gotten this far. If I had any sense at all, I would get out of town now, before the snow flies, and head south. It’s been good for the past two months, but that’s no reason life won’t go all to hell tomorrow or the next day.

I have pondered this proposition seriously since Wednesday. Very seriously. I never, ever, want to be Zander's target. That would hurt too much.

Anyway, at the end of Physics lab, I handed Terry the present for Zander. The paper had gotten a little creased over the course of the morning. It didn’t look quite so nice as it had before.

She looked at me, puzzled.

“Can you give this to Zander for me?” I hurried through my prepared excuses. “I can’t be at lunch again today. Gotta meeting.”

“Sure, I can do that, but what meeting is this?”

“Guidance office.”

“So you won’t be at lunch at all?” plain disbelief on her face.

“No.” Maybe never again. Easy enough to run.

Still looking very unsure, she picked it up, weighing it. We parted, and Terry wore an unhappy expression on her face.

Zander passed by my worktable in Art class.

“Hey, Andy. Missed you at lunch.”

“Yeah. I had a meeting.”

We paused awkwardly.

“Later.”

“Happy Birthday,” I added, and he turned back.

He smiled.

I nearly choked. I want him and I know I’m already too close.

“Good luck tomorrow.”

Good luck with the race. Good luck with the party. Good luck in life, because there’s a fifty-fifty chance I’ll be long gone by Monday.

He smiled. “Thanks.”

 

November 7

So I didn’t leave town this weekend, though I thought hard about it. I don’t know how to break things off before I get in too deep. I’m already too deep, that’s the trouble. How do I know? On Saturday morning, I jacked off in the shower daydreaming about Zander. I had this vision of me, on my knees in front of him, his dick down my throat. And me loving it, taking his every inch and swallowing him down. That got me so hot that I exploded all over the shower stall wall, hand pistoning on my soapy cock, in an orgasm that left me trembling afterwards.

So I stayed because I need to stay close to him. But not too close.

Saturday, while I worked on washing windows and getting the storm windows in place at Mrs. Marjorie’s, I couldn’t stop thinking about Zander. How was his race going? Would he go on to states, like Kaz hoped?

There was no way I could go to the party. For one thing, I hadn’t been asked. For another, I had no idea where Alyssa’s house actually is. I suppose I could have asked, but chances were good I’d get told off if I did. In this tight group of friends, I’m not sure I’m wanted.

Take Kaz and Zander, for example. They’d been great friends – best friends – for years. I felt small and insignificant compared to that friendship. Who am I kidding? I’m just a nuisance kid that Terry adopted for some strange reason.

Another reason for staying in town is my own physical comfort. At school, I get to eat plenty and cheap. Granted, it’s not always the best quality food, but it’s a notch higher than what I got living with Dad. I ate better at Eustace’s, but only once a day. And, as long as I manage not to get locked out of the school building, I am warm every day.

This is not a small consideration. I get cold now, working outdoors for Mrs. M. and the Abbotts. If I were walking – even hitchhiking – I’d probably get a lot colder, especially if I had to sleep rough every night.

And then, there’s the small matter of actually doing OK in school for a change.

In the end, I figured I could handle the humiliation of being the nuisance member of the group until I could find a graceful way to detach myself. Until then, I will have to tamp down my crush on Zander before everything goes to hell.

So what else happened today? Something small, something bigger.

In English, Mr. Warfield made a big announcement about a writing contest. There were categories in short stories, plays, and poetry. There will be actual prize money of up to $100 offered for the best submission in each category.

I wonder if I can write a prize winning story. I doubt it, but I can try. I need the money. I wonder if I can come up with something. The deadline is a long way off – mid January.

After Physics, Terry told me I had to come to lunch. No excuses would be accepted. Reluctantly, I followed.

There was a nervous tension at the table when I sat down with my tray. Zander and Kaz and Terry all traded looks, waiting to see who would get to spring the bad news to me. Was this my moment to get un-welcomed? To get told off?

Finally, Terry nodded to Kaz. “You do it. It was your idea.”

“No, it wasn’t. It was Zander’s idea.”

She looked over to him. Sheepishly, Zander pulled out a big shopping bag out from under the table and pushed it over to me.

“Kaz and I thought you might like these,” he said quietly, not looking directly at me.

Now really puzzled, I opened up the bag. Inside was a smaller bag, and a larger box. I pulled out the bag and peered inside.

Socks. White athletic socks. Great. So now they know how poor I am, they have to buy me clothes? I was about to get angry when Zander interrupted my thoughts.

“Open the box, OK?”

Glaring at him, I took out the box and opened it. Inside, nestled a pair of running shoes. Gray, with bright blue and orange trim. Orange laces. Brand new. Now thoroughly confused, I looked up at three smiling faces.

Kaz spoke up.

“Look, I know you don’t run, but I’m going to need a new running partner. This goofball,” he gestured with his head toward Zander to indicate which goofball he meant, “missed states by seven tenths of a second.”

Shit. I hadn’t even asked how the races went. Now I felt like more of an idiot.

“So now he has to go to swimming practice every day,” Kaz went on. “You said you didn’t have running shoes, so I thought maybe this would convince you to come with me in the mornings. I know you get up early anyway.” The big guy smiled widely.

“But, but…” I sputtered.

How could I accept such a gift? I just couldn’t see it.

“You can’t give me shoes. They’re too expensive!” I finally got out.

“No, really, Andy, it’s fine,” said Terry. “Kaz’s dad runs the shoe store in town. How do you think Kaz manages to keep those big feet in sneakers? He must go through six pairs a year, the way he runs. Anyhow, Kaz didn’t just get a deal on these, he got a steal.”

“Kaz never takes ‘no’ for an answer, didn’t you know that?” Zander laughed.

I’d been set up. I couldn’t use the poverty excuse anymore. Maybe I could claim that I had a lung disease or something.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“How about see you tomorrow morning?” laughed Kaz.

I didn’t see a way out. I guess I wasn’t supposed to. I decided to be graceful in being cornered.

“Fine. But you may regret taking me on. I’m no Zander.”

That got a laugh from everyone, but it was true. I’m not beautiful, or funny, or athletic, or anything like him.

Later, Terry and Kaz took their stuff up and left Zander and me alone for a moment.

“Thanks for the painting,” he said softly.

I turned to him, surprised. “I hope it’s okay.”

He chuckled softly. “I love it. You got it absolutely perfect. I put it in my room. It’s really peaceful.”

Something inside me warmed to know that a teeny, tiny part of me – something I bought for him – would be in his room.

“My mom wonders where I’m getting all this culture from.”

I looked down, but I was smiling. I didn’t want him to see my face flush.

“I didn’t see you at the party on Saturday.”

I kept my head down, ashamed now.

“Sorry. I had to work, and then…”

I decided I could be honest here. No lies.

“I’m not good with parties. With people.”

Zander looked at me with an unreadable expression.

“It’s okay,” he said at length. “I just didn’t want to think you were ditching me. Ditching us,” he added, gesturing toward where Kaz and Terry had gone.

“No, it’s not that…it’s…I’m sorry,” I concluded lamely.

“I forgive you this time,” Zander said, his smile coming out.

And I couldn’t help smiling back, at least a little.

So, tonight I have to remember to get to sleep early and set my alarm sooner. I have to get up and figure out how to dress to run tomorrow morning with Kaz. Zander gets to sleep in, because swimming practices are in the evening for a while.

I am deeply grateful to Craftingmom for her encouragement and tireless editing of this chapter.

Please leave a review. Your thoughts and comments of any kind are really appreciated.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

A beautiful chapter, Parker.

 

Andy fits in with his new friends a little better. He gets more comfortable. Even this little bit is a major accomplishment.
Zander is, he believes, a disappointment for his true desires, but the two are drawn to each other. As time goes on, it'll be more difficult to ever separate.

 

Thanks for this one!!

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I'm glad Andy took the sensible path and stayed away from the party, and that he got the chance to explain to Zander. Runnng with Kaz, now that might be way more dangerous for Andy's secrets than spending time with Zander, 'cause Kaz is both friendly and talkative. :o

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On 11/30/2015 06:32 AM, Timothy M. said:

I'm glad Andy took the sensible path and stayed away from the party, and that he got the chance to explain to Zander. Runnng with Kaz, now that might be way more dangerous for Andy's secrets than spending time with Zander, 'cause Kaz is both friendly and talkative. :o

Thanks for this contribution. Andy must have been scared and torn about going, but surely couldn't have gone. Now running with Kaz is inconvenient, but maybe Andy feels safer with people one-on-one. As you suggest, that has both good and bad points. Now Andy has to get used to Kaz and his ways...ready to get up early and go along? :) Thanks again!

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On 11/30/2015 06:29 AM, skinnydragon said:

A beautiful chapter, Parker.

 

Andy fits in with his new friends a little better. He gets more comfortable. Even this little bit is a major accomplishment.

Zander is, he believes, a disappointment for his true desires, but the two are drawn to each other. As time goes on, it'll be more difficult to ever separate.

 

Thanks for this one!!

I'm so happy you liked this chapter! He found he could make a decision that was good for him, and still keep his friends. As you said, a major accomplishment. Andy can't help wanting to be friends, even if he's disappointed that Zander appears to be straight. That's an accomplishment, too, in its way. Thanks for your thoughts and insights, which are very helpful and encouraging. :)

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So Andy is getting chummy and running with new friends. He picks the perfect gifit for Zander. But thinks he might leave cuz why stay when Zander is straight.
So tell me Andy..what was ur plan if you found out he's gay?? Still leaving? Has he thought about that?
We'll see...
thanks parker
tim

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In spite of him wanting to distance himself, Andy is growing closer to his little circle of friends. He's smiling and laughing, kind of being that kid he should be but on a much lower plane. He definitely can't let his guard down completely, but I'm guessing that even if it's subconsciously, the growing bond had something to do with him not hitting the road as planned. And even as the thought of moving on is in the forefront, he's thinking and doing things that's further in the future.
Running with Kaz, should be interesting and informative. He will have to be careful not to give Kaz an opening..

 

Also, he splurged and bought Zander a really thoughtful gift. Can he just get himself a winter jacket too. I shiver every time he mentions that denim jacket, and if he does get locked out what then..
Nice chapter Parker...

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On 11/30/2015 06:57 AM, Mikiesboy said:

So Andy is getting chummy and running with new friends. He picks the perfect gifit for Zander. But thinks he might leave cuz why stay when Zander is straight.

So tell me Andy..what was ur plan if you found out he's gay?? Still leaving? Has he thought about that?

We'll see...

thanks parker

tim

Andy probably didn't have a plan. That's been part of his way of living - all reactive. Maybe he'll have to change his mind about planning, after all. What a great thought. In the meantime, he seems to be getting closer to the group. It's good to feel that there could be people who can accept you. Thank you for this insight into Andy's mind.

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On 11/30/2015 07:18 AM, Defiance19 said:

In spite of him wanting to distance himself, Andy is growing closer to his little circle of friends. He's smiling and laughing, kind of being that kid he should be but on a much lower plane. He definitely can't let his guard down completely, but I'm guessing that even if it's subconsciously, the growing bond had something to do with him not hitting the road as planned. And even as the thought of moving on is in the forefront, he's thinking and doing things that's further in the future.

Running with Kaz, should be interesting and informative. He will have to be careful not to give Kaz an opening..

 

Also, he splurged and bought Zander a really thoughtful gift. Can he just get himself a winter jacket too. I shiver every time he mentions that denim jacket, and if he does get locked out what then..

Nice chapter Parker...

In spite of himself...that's the perfect alternate title for this chapter! Because that's what's happening to Andy; he's very, very slowly changing. Running with Kaz will be a really new experience - totally new to Andy. And yes, it sure is getting colder! Thank you for a great review and for sticking with the story so far... :)

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Andy has come a long way, with new friends and not running from the least little thing. Zander now is his stumbling block, believing he is straight, although they are still drawn to each other. I think he will learn more from Kaz. Another good chapter.

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I'm thinking Zander confided in his friends finally and they are now working together to get him in their and thereby Zander's lives. I guess Terry was disappointed he didn't come to the party, but they don't know Andy needs an engraved invitation to show up. Perhaps, they are stepping it up by having him make friends with Kaz.

 

Poor Andy hearing about the ex... Must really crush him.

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On 12/01/2015 03:42 AM, Puppilull said:

I'm thinking Zander confided in his friends finally and they are now working together to get him in their and thereby Zander's lives. I guess Terry was disappointed he didn't come to the party, but they don't know Andy needs an engraved invitation to show up. Perhaps, they are stepping it up by having him make friends with Kaz.

 

Poor Andy hearing about the ex... Must really crush him.

Now there is an expression that fits perfectly - Andy does indeed need an engraved invitation. He's so used to being an outsider, so used to being on the margin, that to be included is an alien concept. Terry was probably very disappointed, as you say, Andy stayed, even though crushed, which shows how much he values being part of this small, tight, group. Thanks so much for your very perceptive review. More coming this week...

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On 12/01/2015 03:25 AM, slapshot said:

Andy has come a long way, with new friends and not running from the least little thing. Zander now is his stumbling block, believing he is straight, although they are still drawn to each other. I think he will learn more from Kaz. Another good chapter.

Andy must really feel how important this group of friends is to him, despite feeling crushed by Zander being (as he thinks) straight. All of them are good for him, though, and he sees this. Next time, we get to see if he can actually run. Thanks so much for your reading and your review.

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Wow!

 

I stumbled on this story while looking for something new to read. You had written only 4 or 5 chapters.

 

At first,I did not like it. I liked the themes you were exploring, but not the way you were expressing them. The extreme abuse Stepan suffered seemed unrealistic; especially considering it undetected. It struck me as unrealistic and dramatically un-necessary. I know from personal experience that such extreme abuse is not required to create Stepan's scars. This has been discussed in the forum, so I will leave my criticism at that!

 

But you did create an interesting and likable protagonist, so I continued to read in spite of my initial misgivings. I remembered the words of MT... roughly ... 'truth is stranger than fiction. .... fiction is limited to what is possible' ;)

 

Boy on the run in Pennsiltucky ; easy to believe.

 

In spite of my initial misgivings, this has become one of my favorite stories on GA! I love what you have done with it.

 

Most importantly, you have created a protagonist I care about; I have to keep reading because I NEED to know how he is doing. This is the essence of good fiction.

 

Intentionally or not, you have done something novel and dramatically interesting, you have created a fundamental uncertainty in the reader as to who the protagonist actually is. Am I reading Stepan's story? Eric's? Andy,s? As I read, I must put extra thought into tracking the protagonist's name. This seems to push my own mind to mirror the uncertainty and doubt stepan/eric/andy is writing about in his jouranal. More than a name, you have pushed me to identify your protagonist by the emotions he evokes rather than a precise label of identity, such as a name. By design or fluke, this works very well with this story. I think it is brilliant!

 

I have genuinely enjoyed what you have done with this thus far. I look forward to seeing where you take it!

 

Thanks for sharing your wonderful imagination with us!

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On 12/02/2015 04:15 AM, said:

Wow!

 

I stumbled on this story while looking for something new to read. You had written only 4 or 5 chapters.

 

At first,I did not like it. I liked the themes you were exploring, but not the way you were expressing them. The extreme abuse Stepan suffered seemed unrealistic; especially considering it undetected. It struck me as unrealistic and dramatically un-necessary. I know from personal experience that such extreme abuse is not required to create Stepan's scars. This has been discussed in the forum, so I will leave my criticism at that!

 

But you did create an interesting and likable protagonist, so I continued to read in spite of my initial misgivings. I remembered the words of MT... roughly ... 'truth is stranger than fiction. .... fiction is limited to what is possible' ;)

 

Boy on the run in Pennsiltucky ; easy to believe.

 

In spite of my initial misgivings, this has become one of my favorite stories on GA! I love what you have done with it.

 

Most importantly, you have created a protagonist I care about; I have to keep reading because I NEED to know how he is doing. This is the essence of good fiction.

 

Intentionally or not, you have done something novel and dramatically interesting, you have created a fundamental uncertainty in the reader as to who the protagonist actually is. Am I reading Stepan's story? Eric's? Andy,s? As I read, I must put extra thought into tracking the protagonist's name. This seems to push my own mind to mirror the uncertainty and doubt stepan/eric/andy is writing about in his jouranal. More than a name, you have pushed me to identify your protagonist by the emotions he evokes rather than a precise label of identity, such as a name. By design or fluke, this works very well with this story. I think it is brilliant!

 

I have genuinely enjoyed what you have done with this thus far. I look forward to seeing where you take it!

 

Thanks for sharing your wonderful imagination with us!

Let me say 'wow' in return. Thank you so much for your kind and insightful review. Your critique of the violence done to Stefan at the beginning of the story may possibly be valid. However, I did base those events on factual accounts of real people. Unfortunately, it wasn't entirely fiction. Let me thank you for your perceptive comments on the uncertainty surrounding Stefan-Eric-Andy's name. Because his name is always tentative, he can never be sure of who he is. Can Stefan-Eric-Andy ever find the home and love he deserves without a certain identity? Is that true for any of us? Thank you for pointing this out so articulately. I am so very happy that you find the journal's narrator to be so engaging. I rejoice that you find his story compelling and that you want to follow it. Thank you so very much for staying with the story despite your initial distaste. If it helps to know, there is plenty more to Andy's journey (we will have to call him Andy for now) still to come. I truly hope you enjoy where he takes you.

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Andy has come along way, he didn't run away when things got to much for him. He's liked by the group of friends and now he has a running partner in Kaz.

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2 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Andy has come along way, he didn't run away when things got to much for him. He's liked by the group of friends and now he has a running partner in Kaz.

Andy was sorely tempted to run away, but stayed. He has dealt with pain and harshness for a long time. Perhaps he feels strong enough to deal with this disappointment too. As you say, he has a group of friends, and Kaz as an enthusiastic running partner. Perhaps he'll be in shape to run the next time.

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