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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 - 47. Chapter 47 Is This Normal?

Is This Normal?

No special warnings for this chapter.

Questions and issues raised in this chapter or any other chapter can be discussed at the A to Z story thread here: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/40860-a-to-z/

February 19

The busy-ness hasn’t really let up. Living with a family – especially a family with Zander in it – is exhilarating and exhausting. For one thing, the appointment schedule has been unceasing. How Mrs. Stevenson (I’m still getting used to calling her Monica, like she wants me to) managed to keep it all up, I have no idea. That is, until I discovered she’s been taking time off from work to take me to all these things, and to show up for meetings.

I feel bad that she’s had to do that, but when I mentioned it, she just laughed and told me not to worry about it.

I’m having a harder time getting used to what happens when things go wrong. I mean, I still screw up all the time. Just yesterday, I dropped a glass when I went to get a drink of water. It just shattered into a million pieces, and the crash was loud enough to bring Mr. Stevenson out of his study. My instincts made me freeze. I waited to be punished. I mean, I know that the Stevensons are different, but something made me just stand there, staring at the floor.

“Andy, are you all right?” I heard my guardian ask.

“I’m sorry, I dropped a glass,” I began. “I was clumsy. I won’t do it again. I’ll clean it up,” I started to move, still not looking at him.

I felt a hand on my arm, and I flinched, waiting for the inevitable blow. I deserved to be punished. When it didn’t come, I looked up at Mr. Stevenson fearfully.

“Is everything all right?” I heard Mrs. Stevenson call from upstairs.

“It’s fine, Monica,” he called out over his shoulder. Then he spoke directly to me. “Andy, I don’t care about the glass. I care about whether you’re hurt. Are you okay?”

I nodded. “I’m fine. Just stupid, that’s all.”

“I don’t think you’re stupid. These things happen.” He paused a moment. “Andy, if this had happened back in Carlsberg, when you lived with your dad, would he have hit you for it?”

Hit me for it? Beaten me to a bloody pulp, more like. I nodded slowly.

“Well, it’s not going to happen anymore,” he said carefully. “You’re not getting hit, or beaten or whipped ever again. Not if we can help it.”

I nodded again. Even though he said it, it was hard to really believe.

“But you can get a broom and clean things up,” he continued quietly.

“Okay. Thank you,” I practically whispered. I didn’t want my voice to break.

So where have I had to go this past week? Let’s see – Wednesday, the dentist. The dentist wasn’t too painful, but it sure was awkward. I’m not sure my jaw has recovered. I got x-rayed, a couple of cavities filled, and had my teeth industrially cleaned. Then I got taught how to brush and floss my teeth by a nice, cheerful woman who clearly took her job seriously. All this took far too long after school on Wednesday.

Thursday, the eye doctor, plus another session with Dr. O’Shea. The eye doctor was quick, especially compared to the dentist. My eyes were pronounced perfectly good, and I was told to return in a year. Dr. O’Shea was also very good to talk with. I’m enjoying our conversations so far. We only had an hour on Thursday, and the time went quickly. She pushed me to describe things – lots of things – like the roads I had taken, my neighborhood in Carlsberg, all kinds of stuff. The hardest question she posed for me was asking me to describe Uncle Ray.

I hesitated, deciding whether to put her off or not. I chose to speak. “Uncle Ray is younger than my Dad, and better looking. Brown hair instead of blond, but the same ice-blue eyes. But he’s evil. He gets this look on his face, like you’re a mouse, and he’s the cat. A really hungry cat. If you don’t look at his eyes, he almost looks normal. But watch out for that guy, you know?”

Dr. O’Shea nodded, but didn’t say much, except to ask, “When was the last time you saw your uncle?”

“A few months before the…before I got…before Dad disappeared. I think.” Again the nod, and a few notes written. I thought to ask to look at her notes, but I forgot.

On Friday, I had a meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson and the high school principal. This was not a meeting I wanted to have, but Mr. Stevenson explained that it was necessary to give the school notice of the change in my status, and the reasons for it. His thinking was that if we got the school on our side, they’d actually help me graduate on time.

I hadn’t really thought about graduating. I hadn’t gotten much farther than thinking about what to do when springtime came along, honestly. The principal, Mrs. Vetter, was a much, much nicer person than Dr. what’s-his-name back in Carlsberg. She was courteous and actually seemed concerned.

We all sat together in a group in her office; she and I on a little couch, and the Stevensons in comfortable chairs. When Mr. Stevenson explained the situation – using the barest outline of the facts – Mrs. Vetter looked both concerned and sympathetic.

“Andy, I’ve had a chance to look at your grades since you’ve been at Blackburn High. You’re doing remarkably well here. Straight A’s.” She spoke directly to me, which I appreciated. “But the transcript I have from – let me see, New Salem High School? – am I right in understanding that it isn’t accurate?”

I looked at the floor. “No, ma’am.”

“So, how did we get this document?” she asked.

“I forged it, ma’am. I put in all the class names and the grades I could remember from my old school and printed it out. I’m sorry. I…I just didn’t want to have to leave here.”

I tiny smile creased her lips. Then she frowned professionally again. “I see. I understand your father – now deceased – was abusive. Is there anything physical I or the staff here needs to be aware of?”

I swallowed hard. “There are…scars. Mostly on my back. I don’t take my shirt off for gym class. Not ever. Not that anyone’s ever bugged me about it.”

Mr. Stevenson intervened, “I’m working on obtaining Andrew’s official birth, school and medical records from his original city of residence. You should have this information as soon as I have certified documents for you to look at. We’ve also had Andrew in for a variety of medical checkups and tests; Dr. Wagner will forward you a valid medical form by Monday.”

Mrs. Vetter nodded. “I understand that getting accurate records might be hard. We will need them fairly soon. Should I expect them from you or from Judge Harrison’s office?”

“I’m not sure. But I hope to have what you need within a few weeks. Would that be sufficient?”

“That will work, as long as Andrew’s medical forms from Dr. Wagner come in on Monday.”

Mr. Stevenson had another item. “The other thing is that Andrew is still dealing with issues related to his father’s death and his subsequent homelessness. We’d be very, very grateful if all of this was kept strictly confidential.”

“Of course. Andrew, is there anything you want to tell me, or that I can do?”

I shook my head. “No ma’am. I’m just sorry to be so much trouble.”

“That’s all right. You’re no trouble. But I want you to promise me – here, in front of your guardians – that if there is something you need, you will come and ask me for it. If it is in my power to help, I’ll be happy to do so.”

Again, I nodded. “All right. I can do that.”

That night, Judge Harrison and his wife came to dinner. It seemed like a pleasant social affair, but at least part of the purpose of the visit was for the Judge to check up on me. His ward. The dinner was enjoyable – I am going to have to learn how to cook pork like that, because I couldn’t help eating a lot – but afterwards, the Judge took me into Mr. Stevenson’s study for a few minutes.

We sat in the room’s only chairs.

“So, Andrew, you look healthy, and I’m told your physical and dental checkups went fairly well. And you certainly seem to eat well,” he added.

I blushed at that. “I know, I probably took more than I should have.”

“Nonsense, Andrew. You’re a growing boy. How Garrett and Monica manage to feed you and Zander is astonishing. That you’re hungry is not. Now, how is school going?”

We spent a little while talking about school, my classes and teachers, and that sort of thing. He moved on. "I want you to know I haven't heard back yet in response to my inquiries in Carlsberg."

I sat up straighter and paid attention.

"That doesn't mean you're in the clear, you understand," he warned. "It just means my sources haven't answered my inquiry for information. These things can sometimes take a while if you're asking outside of normal channels."

"So I might still be taken back to Carlsberg," I said.

"Yes, you could," he admitted, "but if you go, I'm sure your guardian will be there with you."

That was slightly reassuring.

Judge Harrison changed the subject. “Do you have chores?”

“Yes, sir,” I nodded. “Mrs. Stevenson gives me and Zander a list for the week. It’s not hard at all. Really. They’ve been so good to me, it’s incredible. And I can still do my running and work…”

“You work after school?” Judge Harrison interrupted.

“Yes, sir. I work shoveling walks and doing chores for Harold Abbott and Marjorie McDowell. I’ve worked for them since September.”

The Judge seemed pleased at that. “You know Marge McDowell? That’s very good.” He paused for a moment. “Well, that’s enough for now. You go on and find Zander. We’ll talk again in a week or so.”

And on top of all the doctoring and meetings and stuff, it snowed on Wednesday, and again on Thursday, so there was shoveling at the Abbott’s and Mrs. Marjorie’s to do. Zander had a swim meet Thursday that I wasn’t going to miss. There was running with Kaz in the morning. And chores. And homework.

All pretty much the same as before. Kaz and Terry know about me and Zander being together, but nobody else does. That's the way we want it. I think it might have gotten out that I'm living with the Stevensons, though. I got that idea listening to passing lunch table conversation. I didn't want to speak up about it and make it obvious, but I don't really mind. People have seen me at Zander's swim meets and leaving school with Zander's mother. We have the same last name, after all. Maybe they think I'm some kind of cousin.

By Saturday, I was more than ready to luxuriate in sleeping late. I can’t believe how much just a week has changed my life. Every day, I drowse happily, held comfortably in Zander’s arms. I haven’t had a single bad dream since we’d started sharing a bed. Zander has been amazingly cool about just being there for me. I love kissing him and holding him, and I’m pretty sure he feels the same way. I get hard when we make out, and I know he does too. I’ve felt it, even though Zander sometimes tries to keep me from knowing. But he has been very careful not to touch me in a sexual way, really. That's probably as much as we can handle right now.

Zander's parents seem to be okay with our sleeping together, at least for the moment. I think they know that I need Zander, and maybe that he might need me, too. I know that Mrs. Stevenson – Monica – checks on us sometimes, because I've heard the door open very quietly once or twice in the middle of the night.

My nightmares seem to have faded, at least for now, replaced by the reality of Zander’s love. I’m beginning to wonder if I could let him in, at least a little.

For now, I’m content to let him circle his arms around me and wonder how I can ever begin to return what he’s given me.

 

February 22

Finally, life is a little bit more normal. Okay, not normal for me, but less busy. My only appointment so far this week was yesterday with Dr. O’Shea. She keeps coming back to my dreams, and about Dad and Uncle Ray. She asked again for me to describe them in more detail, and to talk about the dreams in greater depth. Funny, now that I’ve stopped having them, I dread them less. I can talk about them more. But Dr. O’Shea is really kind, and she hasn’t pushed me too hard about this. I have the feeling that she might do that, one day.

On the other hand, I got pushed this morning on a subject I’d quietly hoped to avoid. Surprisingly, it was Kaz who brought it up while I ran alongside him and Zander in the cold, dark morning air.

We’d finished most of our run and were in the last part of our warm-down before getting to the school and a hot shower. Kaz and Zander, at least, had enough breath for conversation. It was at this point that Kaz spoke up.

“I’ve got a question that’s been bugging me,” he said as he jogged along.

I looked over at him quizzically. I had a bad feeling about the question that was about to follow.

“If your dad died last summer, then that guy at the movie theater last fall – who was he?”

The question shouldn’t have stunned me, but it did. This wasn’t a question I wanted to answer. I avoided it, for what, two weeks, changing the subject whenever there was even a hint of it in the air. Every time, I'd successfully shrugged, shaken my head, made the whole thing go away. But not this time. No luck.

Kaz kept talking, the way he always does while we run together. He didn’t mean anything by it; he just likes to fill the silence with sound.

“It’s been bothering me for a while, now…” Kaz began, talking as if my discomfort wasn’t obvious.

Of course, I hadn’t told anyone about Roger Green Hat. I hadn’t explained to anyone what had happened that night. I’d had such a hard time with it myself. Now I wanted to get away from it.

“…it just doesn’t add up, you know? So I was wondering…” Kaz went on.

I felt so ashamed. Ashamed I hadn’t told them – especially Zander. I hadn’t confided in these wonderful people who I should have trusted weeks, months ago. And I didn’t want to face it. I didn’t want to relive that night, I didn’t want to face my shame, and I didn’t want to face the guilt I felt for not telling Zander about it.

“Who was that guy, Andy?” Kaz persisted.

I wasn’t going to stick around for this discussion. Unconsciously, I put on a burst of speed, pulling away from my running partners.

“Whoa, did I say something wrong?” I heard Kaz ask behind me.

Something just made me want to try to run away from him, away from the awful memory, away from my shame. I ran. I ran like the wind; I ran like the devil was right behind me, like Roger Green Hat was after me again; like I’d run back to the school to hide back in November. I didn’t just pull away from Zander and Kaz. I left them in the dust.

I half expected Kaz to be right behind me when I got to the athletic door at the school, but I was way ahead of them. I was in the shower stall with the water running when I heard them come in. I was out of the shower and off to breakfast before they came out, done with breakfast as they came in. I didn’t see Kaz or Zander for the rest of the morning, and in Physics, Terry looked at me strangely.

At lunch, I decided to hide. I just couldn’t face Kaz. Or Zander. Or the memory of that night. Not for the first time, I crept quietly into my closet in the Library. I sat on a couple of boxes, with my head in my hands, trying to let go of all the emotion – the fear, the shame, the embarrassment from running away and losing control - that I’d been suppressing all morning. I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket.

I fumbled with it for a few seconds – I wasn’t used to it. A text, from Zander.

“Where R U?”

“Alone. Thinking.” I typed back. I had to answer, at least.

There was no response. I figured Zander would let me be for a while. I was wrong. About a minute later, the door to the closet silently opened, and Zander slipped in. He stood there, awkwardly, arms folded across his t-shirt.

“Um, hey,” I tried, softly. I stood.

And before anything else could be said or done, Zander reached out and hugged me tight. Immediately, I felt better.

“Hey, yourself,” he whispered. “I thought you’d be here. Are you OK?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know.” I took a deep breath. “No, I’m not OK. Kaz freaked me out this morning. I’m sorry.”

“Well, he’s freaked out, too. He thinks he insulted you or something.”

I shook my head. “It’s all me. He didn’t do anything. He just asked a simple question. A question I should have talked about a long time ago. Especially with you.”

I didn’t want to have this conversation, but we were going to have it. Right there in the Library closet. I couldn’t look at Zander. I just let him hold me. I thought this might be the last time he ever did that.

“That guy, at the theater last November… He was a guy I met on the road back last summer. There was a day when I got hungry. Really hungry. I hadn’t eaten for days, and I was down to what, maybe eighty five cents? That guy – his name’s Roger…he offered me money and a meal if I’d blow him.” My voice shook, even though I was just whispering. I wiped my nose with my hand. “I did it. He took me back to his truck and I…I sucked his cock for him. Actually, he fucked my face…he…he was pretty rough with me.”

Zander said nothing.

I went on. “And after…he tried to sell me to one of his buddies. He was going to whore me out.”

Zander just held me tighter. He kissed the top of my head. He wasn’t letting go. “But you got away,” Zander stated.

I nodded. “I ran away from the first guy he rented me out to,” I said, through my tears. “It was just bad luck that he was passing through town that night last November and ran into us. He thought I owed him for it. He was going to make me pay him back…and probably something more.”

“So what happened last November?” I heard him ask.

There, in my quiet little closet sanctuary, I decided to tell Zander everything. Every gory detail. He listened as I told him about the gun at my head, about being whipped, stripped and taped up, about shooting Roger’s pillow, about fleeing naked from the truck, and about hiding in that very closet, trying to cope with my stupid emotions. He said nothing the whole time. I didn’t dare look at him.

In the silence, I could hear Zander’s heart beating.

Finally, he spoke.

“He hurt you, didn’t he? That guy, I mean…” Zander interrupted, quietly.

“You saw the cut on my head,” I reminded him.

“No, he hurt you…like…shit, I don’t even want to think about it,” he finally spat out, “and we just let him take you off like that…”

“No,” I said more firmly, “no, he didn’t do anything…to me… that way. I think he was going to, but he passed out drunk before he could.” I paused. “I’m sorry, Zander. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I was afraid you’d hate me,” I sniffed again.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Zander said, very seriously. “Me? Hating you? Not possible. I’m sad – incredibly sad – that this happened to you; sad and frustrated that someone hurt you, and I let it happen.” Zander lifted my chin so our eyes met. It was then I realized he’d been crying, too. “But there is no way I could hate you. Never.”

“But I’m a…whore, and a…” I began.

“No, you’re not,” he cut me off. “You’re strong, and smart and determined, and you’re my boyfriend. You’ve got more courage than anyone I know. The more I know about you, the more I want to be with you.”

We were startled by the bell. Lunch period was over – we’d missed it completely.

Zander kissed me, tenderly. “I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’m sorry I stood by and let it happen. But we’re here, together, now,” he tried to smile at me, “and it’s never, ever, happening again.”

I wiped my face with the back of my hand. “You’re too good to me, Zander.”

“No, I’m not good enough for you. Not yet, anyway,” he said with a real smile beginning to break out. “Come on, let’s get to Trig. Don’t want to be late.”

 

February 24

I wondered what would happen after telling Zander about Roger. The answer was – nothing. Nothing new, that is. Zander and I have kept to our routine: running, work, swim practice/chores, study and writing/drawing time. Sometimes, I can tell that Zander might be thinking about what I told him because his eyes go all sad for a few seconds, but that’s it. No rejection, no shame, no awkward questions. At night, we share a bed – last night, we slept in mine. Nothing happens, unless kissing or cuddling count. There is nothing better than kissing Zander, or being held by him as I fall asleep.

There was one thing about telling Zander the whole Roger Green Hat story – it was easier to tell Dr. O’Shea about it on Thursday. And she helped me think of a way to tell the story to Kaz without him – or me – freaking out about it.

Besides, Kaz had other things on his mind. At lunch on Thursday, Kaz greeted me with, “Shit, Andy, you can sprint!”

I shook my head, wondering what he meant.

“Don’t play all modest on me, pal, I saw you. You left me and Zander gasping. You are way, way, faster than you let on,” Kaz enthused.

“You’re still the fastest guy on two feet,” I tried turning it back on him, “I just surprised you, that’s all.”

“Sorry, Andy, but I know speed when I see it. You’ve gotta try out for the track team this spring.”

Again, I shook my head. I didn’t say anything, but no way is that happening.

Judge Harrison still hasn't heard anything about me from his contacts in Carlsberg. Garrett told me at supper he'd spoken with the Judge this afternoon. Maybe I can hope a little that they forgot all about me.

Tomorrow, Zander has a swim meet out of town again, but I’m not going. He says it’s a dual meet that won’t take long – hardly worth the long drive. He’ll be back by suppertime. I’ll spend the day either working for Mrs. Marjorie or doing chores at home.

Home. I really do like the sound of that.

 

February 25

Zander got out of bed at five in the morning. On a Saturday. When the alarm went off, I was in the middle of a fantastic dream. In the dream, Zander and I were making out, but we didn’t have any clothes on. I could feel him, all of him. I woke up completely hard, totally turned on, latched on to Zander. I didn’t want to let him go, but I pulled away, embarrassed when I realized he could sense me poking his hip.

“Good dream, huh?” he smiled, kissing me. He turned on the lamp.

“Yeah. Sorry about that,” I returned quietly.

“I’m not sorry, Andy. It feels good.”

God, did it ever feel good to me, too. Zander grinned, as if reading my thoughts. He rolled over on top of me, covering my mouth with his. I savored the long, deep, kiss he gave me. I could feel his hardness. I shivered, but not with fear or shame.

Suddenly, it was over.

“I’m sorry,” he said, moving away quickly, “I must taste awful.”

“I don’t mind. I'm not any different.”

Zander grinned, then looked serious. “I don’t want to push you or pressure you, Andy. It’s just that you’re so damn beautiful, I sometimes forget.”

I just shook my head. Beautiful does not describe me.

Zander got out of bed. “I’ve gotta get going. The team bus leaves in half an hour, and I’ve got to be ready to go.” He smiled at me and entered the bathroom.

I may not be very good looking, but I sure am lucky. The sweetest, kindest, hottest boy in the world loves me. He was going to be gone all day, and I was going to miss him just about every second. But he had to go. This was the last swim meet of the season before the state invitationals.

I went downstairs with Zander and Monica to see him off. She is getting more insistent that I call her that, and I’m trying. I still catch myself calling her ‘ma’am’ or ‘Mrs. Stevenson,’ though. Zander and I kissed again right in front of her before he went out the door. We’re both getting more comfortable with that. I hope she is, also, because it's not something I can stop.

I decided that, as long as I was up, I’d get something done. I threw on my work clothes – my oldest, trustiest jeans and flannel button-down – and got out to the barn to muck the place out.

This wasn’t anywhere near the size of the job I had at the Whitley farm, but there was still plenty to do. The Stevensons kept three llamas, a pair of goats, and couple of cats. Until recently, there had been an old horse, but it had died almost a year ago. I enjoyed the quiet work in the barn. I get along with animals. They don’t mind me, much.

I got into a rhythm, shoveling and mucking, moving and stacking hay, and so on. I kind of zoned out. I didn’t hear Mrs. Stevenson get back. I must have worked for a while when she walked in on me as I was finishing up.

“Goodness, Andy, you startled me!” she cried. She looked around. “I was going to do this, but you look like you’re just about done.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I nodded.

“Ooooh, stubborn boys,” she said, smiling. “But really, what are you doing up? Honestly, Andy, you should be back in bed, sleeping late.”

Without thinking, I replied, “I didn’t think I’d get back to sleep without Zander in my bed.”

She raised her eyebrows for a moment. I couldn’t believe I’d blurted that out.

“Let’s go inside,” she said quietly. I put my shovel away, and followed.

In the kitchen, Mrs. Stevenson hung up her old tan barn coat and sighed. “I’m going to make some coffee. How about you?”

Now it was my turn to be surprised. “No, thank you.”

“Well, get some juice or something. And maybe pull out some cereal from the pantry, all right?”

I got some breakfast ready for the two of us, and we sat down. There was a nervous silence as we poured milk and started eating.

“Andy, what you said in the barn…” her words trailed off.

I put down my spoon and looked up at her.

“I mean…oh hell, I just need to know,” she said getting frustrated, “are you boys having sex?”

I shook my head, embarrassed at the question. “No. No, we’re not. I don’t think…I’m not ready.” I paused for a few moments. “I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready.” I kept my head down. Things had gotten a little better since I’d talked some things through with Dr. O’Shea, but I wasn’t anywhere near doing anything with Zander. “We sleep together. That’s it.” I wasn’t going to mention kissing and making out. I didn’t think I had to.

She looked a little relieved. “Oh. I’m sorry, Andy, that’s a hell of a question for me to ask. Please forgive me.” She stirred her coffee. “I didn't think you were, but, I just wanted to…it's just that, as I get to know you more and more, Andy, the more and more I get to like you. I can tell what Zander sees in you. You’re good for him, and I think he’s good for you, too, isn’t he?”

I nodded, feeling warm both from the praise and from knowing how much I loved her son.

“I admit, I’m prying,” she continued, speaking carefully, “but I know it’s going to happen sometime, sooner or later. But I want the time to be right. For you. For both of you. And I just wanted to know because, well, because I want the two of you to be safe.”

“You want us to be safe,” I repeated, carefully.

What was she telling me? That it was all right with her if Zander and I were fucking like rabbits? As long as we were safe?

She nodded, "Yes. Safe. And not just with your bodies, but with your hearts."

I stared at the table.

“Garrett and I have talked about this. You say you’re not doing anything, and I believe you. Really, I'd rather it stayed that way. But one day, I know that’s going to change. Someday in the future, you and Zander will want to start…” her words stalled out again, like a mower choked on too much grass. She was finding this rough going, but Monica started up again. “I mean, Andy, I hate to have to ask, but what do you know about sex?” Mrs. Stevenson inquired bluntly.

“You mean gay sex? Sex with guys?” I figured I could be as blunt with her as she was being with me.

She nodded.

“I don’t know much,” I admitted after a few moments. “I’ve…I’ve done oral sex before. Once.”

She took a sip of her coffee and set it down again. “When was that?”

I decided I could do this. I could tell her. After all, Zander knew, and so did Kaz, at least in outline form. I related the story about Roger Green Hat, and what had happened when I was on the road. I gave her an edited version of my second encounter with him in November. When I was done, Monica reached her hand across the table and took mine. I looked up into her face, full of pain and pity.

“You realize, Andy, that none of this was your fault? You couldn’t help being hungry, and you had the worst luck running into a crazy man a second time. Really. It’s not your fault,” she spoke emphatically.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. I’m not sure I really believed what she said.

“And that’s the only time you did anything with another guy?” she probed a little further.

I gulped. Dark clouds rapidly formed on the edges of my mind. My heart started pinging hard in my chest. There were things I just wasn’t able to talk about.

I stared at my bowl of cereal slowly growing soggy with every passing minute.

“I’m sorry,” Monica said, “this must be incredibly embarrassing for you. Look, as far as…sex…is concerned, I’m pretty sure Zander knows the theory, but I doubt he knows much about how it works in reality. Is that about how it is for you?”

Finally, question I could answer a little more easily. Maybe someday I'd know how it was supposed to be. How it was supposed to feel.

“Yeah,” I nodded, “that’s kind of where I am.”

“You know about sexually transmitted diseases? HIV and AIDS? Hepatitis?” She quizzed me.

This was embarrassing. I nodded again. “Yes. It was almost all my health class ever talked about back in Carlsberg.”

Monica was relentless. Apologetic, but relentless. In a brisk, businesslike way, she tried to explain the mechanics of gay sex. It sounded like a biology lecture, but I got red-faced, anyway. And then she plowed into safety: condoms, lube, dental dams (that was one I’d never heard of) – and the dangers behind the countless infections waiting to lay low the unwary boy. Maybe she was trying to turn me off of sex altogether. Part of me was listening and part of me was thinking about Roger Green Hat. And Uncle Ray.

Suddenly, and not for the first time, I felt really, really filthy.

How could I think of trying to be with Zander? He didn’t deserve this. He didn't deserve me hurting his heart. The familiar panic began to rise. I’d have to run. I’d have to find a new place where I could just keep away from people, to keep from infecting them with my disease.

I hardly heard Monica change the subject.

“The good news is that your blood work from the lab came back from the doctor. They did a really broad range of tests, and everything – and I mean everything - came up negative. You’re squeaky clean.”

I had trouble with that for a moment. “You mean, I don’t have any of that…stuff…in my blood?”

She smiled at me. “No, you’re safe. I just want to keep you that way.” She changed the subject again. “So why don’t we get you a haircut today? It’s about time, I think.”

I blinked.

So I’m clean. I can’t infect Zander. Or anyone. Why do I still feel dirty? This is something to ask Dr. O’Shea, I think.

The last meet of the season before the State Invitationals was brutal. Not because of the competition; there was only one serious competitor there, Greg Earwin, from last summer. He backed up his boasts with real action; that guy could swim. And he was gay.

Aggressively so. He decided to flirt with me from the first moment he saw me enter the pool area. I couldn’t seem to avoid him. Was he trying to distract me? Make me lose a second or two? If so, it worked. Maybe he thought the flirting would unsettle me. It wasn’t his vaguely dirty doubletalk that did it. The truth is that the image of him screwing the coach in the showers last summer messed up my concentration. I wanted you, not him; but the memory of Greg buried in the coach’s ass was burned into my mind.

I lost a relay I ought to have won. Coach was frustrated; I was just mad. Greg didn’t let up; the subtle touching, the arch looks, the suggestive remarks under his breath just kept coming. Finally, after nearly losing the two hundred free to a kid on Greg’s team who had no business getting close, Greg sat down next to me on a bench and started in on me again in a low, smooth voice.

“Hey, Zander, buddy, you’re looking tired. Maybe you need a rubdown after this? I can help you out, you know.”

The aggravation and annoyance had been building hour by hour. Enough. I snapped at him. “Sorry, Greg. Not interested. My boyfriend would object. Can’t wait to get home to him ‘cause his hands are magic.”

For an instant, it was fun watching his jaw drop. He thought he’d been rattling a straight boy’s cage all day. Greg tried to recover. “Boyfriend? Whoa, whoa, you mean you play for my team?” The look on that guy’s face was priceless.

Shit. Well, if I was going to be out, I wasn’t going to apologize for it.

“Let’s just say my guy is back home, waiting for me right now, probably in my room. Maybe even in my bed. And he’s a whole lot cuter than you.”

That last bit is absolutely true, by the way. You are so much cuter than Greg. It left Greg speechless for the first time that day. In my last event, only thoughts of you filled my mind. The way you look when you’re concentrating, the way you breathe when you’re asleep, the smile you save only for me. That’s what I thought of. And I won. I beat Greg himself in the 500 free by a mile. Served him right, dammit.

Back home, the first thing I did was to give you the biggest hug. You looked different somehow. Mom had made you get a haircut; it looked fantastic on you. That night, in your bed, I asked, “Andy? Could you rub my shoulders a little?” Honestly, there was a twinge under my left shoulder. No lie.

It wasn’t hard to sense your indecision. Was it too much to push you that way? Then you said, “Okay. Turn over.” I felt you straddle my back; you weren’t heavy at all. I heard you breathe. And then your fingers and hands started in on me. Even through my t-shirt, your touch on my shoulders really was magic to me. You kneaded the muscles under and around the shoulder blade and up by my neck, and whatever stiffness I’d had fled. Well, sort of. My shoulders were fine, but I was really stiff elsewhere. And I didn’t want that to go away.

I remain deeply indebted to Craftingmom for her unflagging support and tireless editing.

Please leave a review. Your thoughts and reflections of any sort are most welcome.

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

I like the way you keep tension in the story with references to Carlsberg, Uncle Ray and Andy's thoughts on running away. Great use of devices to keep us on the edge of our seats

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Andy wanting to discuss his feelings with dr O'Shea is a major break through! He's thinking about hus reactions and feelings and is learning to handle them.

 

And wow for Zander coming out like that! Honesty will set you free.

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A great chapter Parker!

 

I wonder if his squeaky clean status will help Andy come to grips with Uncle Ray at his therapy sessions. He has to face it before he can move on.

 

Monica explaining gay sex was a hilarious scene! Humor is needed in this story every once in a while. :P

 

Kaz will recruit Andy, for sure. Wow! If he wins a race, it will really do something for his self-esteem!

 

Thanks for this!

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On 01/09/2016 01:31 AM, Zenith said:

I like the way you keep tension in the story with references to Carlsberg, Uncle Ray and Andy's thoughts on running away. Great use of devices to keep us on the edge of our seats

I am glad you sense the tension; there are unresolved issues for Andy, but they will take time to surface and be handled. Thanks for your kind comments and for reading Andy's story.

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On 01/09/2016 02:13 AM, Puppilull said:

Andy wanting to discuss his feelings with dr O'Shea is a major break through! He's thinking about hus reactions and feelings and is learning to handle them.

 

And wow for Zander coming out like that! Honesty will set you free.

That Andy can talk about his life with Dr. O'Shea more and more freely could mean he might actually have a chance to heal. Anger and frustration can loosen someone's tongue; Zander didn't mean to come out, but he sure wasn't going to back down, either. Thanks for this review, and for keeping faith with Andy.

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It is good that Andy is slowly peeling away the horrors of his past. It seems that Monica is still having problems dealing with the boys sexuality. The feeling of flight is still very much in his system although he has Zander to keep him grounded. It seems to be taking a long time to get a response from the authorities in Carlsberg, just hope they don't contact Uncle Ray to inform him of Andy's new home.Another great chapter Parker, can't wait to see how this all plays out!

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On 01/09/2016 02:33 AM, skinnydragon said:

A great chapter Parker!

 

I wonder if his squeaky clean status will help Andy come to grips with Uncle Ray at his therapy sessions. He has to face it before he can move on.

 

Monica explaining gay sex was a hilarious scene! Humor is needed in this story every once in a while. :P

 

Kaz will recruit Andy, for sure. Wow! If he wins a race, it will really do something for his self-esteem!

 

Thanks for this!

Andy was probably too numb or battered or scared to face anything in his dreams until now. Dr. O'Shea has been good for Andy to this point.

 

Monica trying to explain gay sex must mirror the experience of any straight parent trying to come to grips with wanting to love and protect their children, but being unable to speak from experience. Add on the layer of unfamiliarity with Andy, and, well...I tried to feel both her embarrassment and Andy's. I hope it worked.

 

Kaz is unquestionably persistent. He and Terry must get along because they share that trait.

 

I am so very glad you enjoyed this chapter! Thank you for your comments and for keeping faith with Andy.

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On 01/09/2016 03:53 AM, slapshot said:

It is good that Andy is slowly peeling away the horrors of his past. It seems that Monica is still having problems dealing with the boys sexuality. The feeling of flight is still very much in his system although he has Zander to keep him grounded. It seems to be taking a long time to get a response from the authorities in Carlsberg, just hope they don't contact Uncle Ray to inform him of Andy's new home.Another great chapter Parker, can't wait to see how this all plays out!

Slowly, slowly the healing begins. Monica is like every parent who has to accept and deal with their children's sexuality. Not every parent also gets to question their child's prospective partner. You very adroitly point out a big stormcloud still looming over Andy; he must think about exactly what you have mentioned. Thank you for your insight, and for continuing to read with Andy!

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Yes, another great chapter, I can only agree wholeheartedly. I feel with both boys, the progress they are making - their parents are great, too. Looking at Andy's growing support group (the judge, the principal now, too) I cannot help wondering if he will need it and what might have been going on in Carlsberg, where everyone simply wanted either to use and abuse him or to get rid of him. What he will have to be up against and if his progress will make it easier for him to face whatever he has to face from C.
What a wonderful boyfriend Zander seems to be. He sees everything in Andy that he himself cannot see yet. He proves it again, just as in his drawings.
Thank you for your great story

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Thank you for another awesome chapter. It made me smile :) .

 

I agree with Zenith. Dramatic tension is skillfully maintained as the plot advances believably. I also enjoy how the pace allows greater insight into the characters.

 

I REALLY love Monica, flaws and all. Even though she seems to be aware that her conversation with Andy is a little too much for him, even though she knows some of her questions are inappropriate, she persists. She HAS to persist. As much as she likes to exclaim "stubborn boys", it may be time for Zander, and eventually Andy, to take up the mantra "stubborn moms".

 

There is so much significant interaction that it feels wrong to describe the pace as "slow". No wonder Andy feels exhausted.

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Ok Parker, you know I love this story and I'm loving each chapter more and more. You develop Andy's character so well, and I get so impressed with how he's slowly willing to open up and actually tell people about his life. It's crazy to think how hard it has to be for someone who's spent basically his whole life hiding and lying about the horror he goes through, how hard it has to be to unlearn that instinct. To actually tell. The Stevensons are great at helping him feel that safety. Zander is getting to know Andy really well, finding him in his closet like that and just knowing what to do. He's the balm Andy's soul needs.

 

I still wonder about that Monica. Ok she seems to have gotten a lot more sensitive to Andy's treatment and is doing a lot better in that regard, but that was a crazy conversation to have with Andy. Funny to be sure, and somewhat inappropriate. I did wonder though, has she had that conversation with Zander? It almost felt like an ambush with Zander being gone, and Andy left feeling awful about himself by the end of it. She didn't intend that, but she seems to do that a lot regardless of intent.

 

Also, Andy can be a champion sprinter, enough to leave Kaz in the dust. He just has to be running from his past. Interesting thought that is.

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On 01/09/2016 07:12 AM, said:

Thank you for another awesome chapter. It made me smile :) .

 

I agree with Zenith. Dramatic tension is skillfully maintained as the plot advances believably. I also enjoy how the pace allows greater insight into the characters.

 

I REALLY love Monica, flaws and all. Even though she seems to be aware that her conversation with Andy is a little too much for him, even though she knows some of her questions are inappropriate, she persists. She HAS to persist. As much as she likes to exclaim "stubborn boys", it may be time for Zander, and eventually Andy, to take up the mantra "stubborn moms".

 

There is so much significant interaction that it feels wrong to describe the pace as "slow". No wonder Andy feels exhausted.

I am glad you thought so much of this chapter; it went through a lot of rewriting I am glad you smiled. Monica is clearly flawed, clearly trying to adjust to a brand new member of the family who happens to be in lover with her teenage son. She is indeed a stubborn mom. I hope the tensions you perceived don't exhaust you, too. Thanks for reading with Andy and keeping faith with him and Zander.

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On 01/09/2016 08:20 AM, spikey582 said:

Ok Parker, you know I love this story and I'm loving each chapter more and more. You develop Andy's character so well, and I get so impressed with how he's slowly willing to open up and actually tell people about his life. It's crazy to think how hard it has to be for someone who's spent basically his whole life hiding and lying about the horror he goes through, how hard it has to be to unlearn that instinct. To actually tell. The Stevensons are great at helping him feel that safety. Zander is getting to know Andy really well, finding him in his closet like that and just knowing what to do. He's the balm Andy's soul needs.

 

I still wonder about that Monica. Ok she seems to have gotten a lot more sensitive to Andy's treatment and is doing a lot better in that regard, but that was a crazy conversation to have with Andy. Funny to be sure, and somewhat inappropriate. I did wonder though, has she had that conversation with Zander? It almost felt like an ambush with Zander being gone, and Andy left feeling awful about himself by the end of it. She didn't intend that, but she seems to do that a lot regardless of intent.

 

Also, Andy can be a champion sprinter, enough to leave Kaz in the dust. He just has to be running from his past. Interesting thought that is.

I am very happy you have come to love the story as much as I have. As Andy learns to be more open, he gives himself the chance to heal, however long that might take. Unlearning his instinct to hide, which you point out so very well, will surely take time. That Zander loves him, and that Monica and Garrett will let the boys be in love, surely has helped - even as the parents insist on keeping them healthy. On the one hand, Monica is kind of rough in her persistence; on the other, she is a living example of the kind of honesty Andy can expect and learn. Poor Monica is doing her best, but she'll make mistakes. Andy's running has to be improving with al the encouragement Kaz has been giving him. Encouraging coaching is always better than the baiting or goading that sometimes passes for coaching these days. Sorry, my own personal axe just got ground, there. Thanks for your perceptive remarks and for keeping faith with Andy and Zander.

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Love this story...so gut wrenching at times...so sensitive at others!! This was a beautiful chapter... :heart::thankyou:

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I think Monica is doing her best. She's only had Zander to deal with up until now. She's trying to adjust, but keeps underestimating just how different Andy's reactions will be.

 

In a way, Monica has the most difficult job. She hasn't known Andy as long as Zander and she spends more time with them than Garrett. She's bound to fall into hidden traps. Garrett's role is a very different, more traditional one and is therefore less likely to make those kinds of mistakes.

 

Plus she's trying to wedge a decade's worth of parenting into the short time she's known Andy. She has no real idea what Andy needs to learn and they all keep getting surprised by the little things that provoke unintended reactions. Clearly they are all doing everything they can to help Andy adjust.

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On 01/09/2016 09:08 AM, Onim said:

Love this story...so gut wrenching at times...so sensitive at others!! This was a beautiful chapter... :heart::thankyou:

That you love this story makes me so very happy. It inhabits me still. I worked hard at this chapter, so I am glad it came off. You are most welcome, and I thank you for keeping faith with Andy and Zander.

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On 01/09/2016 12:58 PM, droughtquake said:

I think Monica is doing her best. She's only had Zander to deal with up until now. She's trying to adjust, but keeps underestimating just how different Andy's reactions will be.

 

In a way, Monica has the most difficult job. She hasn't known Andy as long as Zander and she spends more time with them than Garrett. She's bound to fall into hidden traps. Garrett's role is a very different, more traditional one and is therefore less likely to make those kinds of mistakes.

 

Plus she's trying to wedge a decade's worth of parenting into the short time she's known Andy. She has no real idea what Andy needs to learn and they all keep getting surprised by the little things that provoke unintended reactions. Clearly they are all doing everything they can to help Andy adjust.

I am glad you see Monica as doing her best in an odd (read: difficult) situation. Andy is bound to be very different from her other two sons. And how to parent in a few weeks what she's tried to instill in Zander over a lifetime? I this she must go to bed knowing the mistakes she made in a give day, and shake her head. She might lose sleep over it - we know she checks on the boys now and then. I hope that she is doing everything in love - at least, I think she is. Many thanks for your perceptive remarks and for keeping faith with Andy and Zanderf.

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I'm still curious about 'Uncle Ray'.
From what I remember from the story, he never actually did anything to Andy (Stefan). Yes, there was a little touching and holding but nothing that rises to the level of molesting.
Is this the anchor that separates reality from fantasy for Andy?

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On 01/09/2016 10:39 PM, Nahrung said:

I'm still curious about 'Uncle Ray'.

From what I remember from the story, he never actually did anything to Andy (Stefan). Yes, there was a little touching and holding but nothing that rises to the level of molesting.

Is this the anchor that separates reality from fantasy for Andy?

Yet we also know that Uncle Ray and Andy's father haunt his dreams and his consciousness, frequently and consistently. You are right to be curious. Thank you for your perceptive reading and review.

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We know Uncle Ray did *something* to Andy. Chapter 2 gives us as much detail as Andy's been willing to share: "I don’t want to think anymore about Uncle Ray – it just hurts to remember." and then "Uncle Ray came to stay at the house for a whole month after Mom went away. He’d come to stay, he said. Said he was there to comfort Dad and his poor, motherless child. I was miserable then, and I don’t want to think about those weeks. Uncle Ray still haunts my nightmares. Then, like Mom, he disappeared one day. No explanation from Dad, nothing. Just gone.
I didn’t see Uncle Ray again until he visited for a couple of nights last year. He looked like he’d had a tough time between visits. He’d kept his ruggedness, but he seemed a lot older somehow. Said he was between jobs or something. Still the same creepy eyes, still looking at me like a tasty piece of meat. I blocked my door with him in the house. You just can’t trust a good-looking man with a nice smile."
I figured the story about Ray would come out one way or the other. I would guess that he molested Andy for that entire month, and his Dad let him. More than anything else, I think, that betrayal and pain is what gives Andy his nightmares.
Like I said in my last review, I think there will be a couple of happy chapters before the Carlsberg / East Akron stuff hits the fan... maybe one more chapter.

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On 01/10/2016 02:18 AM, xleroc said:

We know Uncle Ray did *something* to Andy. Chapter 2 gives us as much detail as Andy's been willing to share: "I don’t want to think anymore about Uncle Ray – it just hurts to remember." and then "Uncle Ray came to stay at the house for a whole month after Mom went away. He’d come to stay, he said. Said he was there to comfort Dad and his poor, motherless child. I was miserable then, and I don’t want to think about those weeks. Uncle Ray still haunts my nightmares. Then, like Mom, he disappeared one day. No explanation from Dad, nothing. Just gone.

I didn’t see Uncle Ray again until he visited for a couple of nights last year. He looked like he’d had a tough time between visits. He’d kept his ruggedness, but he seemed a lot older somehow. Said he was between jobs or something. Still the same creepy eyes, still looking at me like a tasty piece of meat. I blocked my door with him in the house. You just can’t trust a good-looking man with a nice smile."

I figured the story about Ray would come out one way or the other. I would guess that he molested Andy for that entire month, and his Dad let him. More than anything else, I think, that betrayal and pain is what gives Andy his nightmares.

Like I said in my last review, I think there will be a couple of happy chapters before the Carlsberg / East Akron stuff hits the fan... maybe one more chapter.

You have certainly found plenty of places in the text where Andy tells us how much he does NOT want to think about Uncle Ray. Clearly he's a big factor in his running from Carlsberg in the first place. Andy's hope is in the patience and love the Stevensons are showing to him. If he can heal even a little that would be a big step forward.

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Dr O'Shea is definitely helping Andy. But because everything was beaten into Andy by his father, it's gonna take Andy a long time to open up and trust people. Monica is only trying to do the right thing, but she needs to be less forceful when talking to Andy.

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5 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Dr O'Shea is definitely helping Andy. But because everything was beaten into Andy by his father, it's gonna take Andy a long time to open up and trust people. Monica is only trying to do the right thing, but she needs to be less forceful when talking to Andy.

Everyone except maybe Dr. O'Shea is flying a bit blind; the situation of being in a kind, supportive family is wholly alien to Andy. Monica suddenly has a new stepson, one whose needs are not always clear to her because Andy seems to be so self-sufficient and contained. Zander simply loves Andy, and that seems to be exactly what Andy needs.

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