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Discoveries - 3. Chapter 3

Part II Discoveries


Chapter 3 The Party

Actually, the week went by quickly enough. We had a couple of tests on Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday afternoon was basketball practice, and Thursday night we had a game in Escondido which we won, and suddenly it was Friday evening...

The party was supposed to start at 7:30 and my mom was going to drop me off. The plan was that Morgan’s mom would pick up us boys at eleven sharp. The girls were staying for a sleep over. Of course I fussed over what to wear, finally deciding on a dark blue silk shirt with some white trimming that I wore tails out over my favorite Calvin Klein jeans, finishing off with a pair of black suede Vans sneakers that I hadn't even worn yet. I blow dried my hair after a long shower and combed it about twenty different times. I brushed my teeth and flossed and gargled and rolled on the antiperspirant. I even cleaned my ears. Was I ready or was I ready?

Katy’s house was easily twice the size of ours and was only about four blocks away, up the hill. The streets were filled with ghosts, goblins, Hobbits, wizards, and Disney characters. It was a mild southern California night and I just carried my jacket for the ride home.

I had been told to come around to the side entrance to avoid the Trick Or Treaters, and came in through the kitchen, which looked like it belonged in a good sized restaurant.

I think there was only the three people living there now. I knew Katy had a couple of older brothers, but I remember her or someone mentioning that they were both away at college or something. As I walked up the driveway to the side of the house, I heard a dog barking loudly from the (fortunately) fenced backyard.

Katy opened the door before I even had a chance to knock.

“Be quiet, Duke!” she snapped in the general direction of the loud barking, before sweetly gesturing for me to come inside.

There were bowls of chips and dip and even hot hors d’oeuvres on big plates. There were bags of candy everywhere, apparently the evening's supply of Halloween candy. Katy, her reddish blonde hair pulled back into a big bouncy pony tail, was stunningly dressed in a white button down blouse, and a brilliantly autumn colored skirt that still showed her knee stockings and loafers. (At school, the girls mostly wore pants like the boys, although they were allowed to wear skorts if they wanted to, so it was always stunning to see one of them in any kind of actual skirt.) She introduced me to her mom, who was a short energetic woman with curly red hair, a big smile, and just a hint of an Irish brogue.

“I’ll be handling the little Treaters, so you kids just go and enjoy yourselves!” she said cheerfully, filling a big bowl with full sized candy bars of every description. She offered me one and I politely refused. I was too nervous to eat right now.

As soon her mom went back to the livingroom, Katy grabbed me around the arm to lead me to where the rest of the guests were.

“You look great!” she gushed, obviously excited to be hosting this little gathering. “I’m so glad you came, Perry--You don’t have to be shy--I know you’re not really comfortable with a party like this, but we’ll have fun, you’ll see!” Her words always seemed to come tumbling out in long run on sentences and now that I had met her mom, I could see where she got her freshness and vigor. The truth was, I didn’t really feel that shy anymore, not since meeting Jesse, who was the king of shyness. I was generally comfortable with my little class at St. Boniface, having known them for over a year now. It was just that I had never been in such close quarters with some of them before--particularly the girls. Still, if I had to pick four girls from my class to hang out with, I don’t think I could have done better than tonight’s party. Even though Katy was the girl I was the most attracted to physically, Jessica Bainbridge was a stunningly beautiful creature, and Melissa had that gorgeous rack and Dana...Well, she was a little strange, but undeniably sexy in a kinky sort of way, as I’m sure she intended.

Katy lead me to a rec room that was so big, the pool table only took up about a third of it. Morgan and Kyle were already playing a friendly game and brought their sticks to attention as I entered.

“Look who’s here, everybody!” Katy announced excitedly.

I was blushing despite my every effort to control it. Everyone said ‘hi’ in one form or another. The other three girls were gathered around the punch bowl on the buffet table along one wall. Jessica looked gorgeous with her long brown hair tumbling down her shoulders, dressed in a simple red blouse, tight black jeans, and thick soled black shoes. Not surprisingly, Melissa wore a low cut peasant blouse that showed off her attributes to their greatest effect, along with some flared blue jeans with leather cross hatching running down the outsides of the legs. She had some glossy black flip flops on her feet that showed off her nicely painted toes.

Dana had a punkish look, with her short black hair slicked back, some intense eye liner and dark lip stick on her face, big silver ear rings, a tight little black leather jacket over a tight little black blouse, and a really tight little black leather skirt clinging to her curvaceous hips. She wore tall black boots to finish it off. Certainly a change from the ol’ school uniform--she looked closer to sixteen than fourteen!

Morgan was probably the most casually dressed of all, wearing a YMCA T-shirt, baggy jeans, and white Nikes. Kyle was wearing a vintage black bowling shirt with a couple vertical stripes going down the front, snug fitting jeans, and black, square-toed shoes that might have been Sketchers or Kenneth Cole’s.

Dance music was being piped in from ceiling mounted speakers, the volume loud enough that you had to raise your voice a little to carry on a casual conversation.

“Let me show you around,” Katy said anxiously, still clinging to my arm. I glanced nervously at Morgan, but he just smiled and gave me the thumb’s up.

She showed me the den with its really giant screen TV, which was tuned to MTV but with the sound currently off (so as not to clash with the music in the rec room, I guessed) and where the guest bathroom was.

“I’ll show you where to put your jacket,” she said, leading me down a short hall past the den. She opened the door to what looked like a nice sized guestroom, the bed neatly made up with what I presumed were Kyle’s and Morgan’s jackets strewn across it. She took my jacket and tossed it on the bed--and then closed the door...

“This is the first time you’ve been to my house, isn’t it?” she asked coyly, standing in front of the door as if she were afraid that I would try to bolt out--and believe me, the thought had crossed my mind!

I nodded shyly, feeling my heart pounding in my chest. Thank God for the antiperspirant!

“I’ve been wanting to invite you over for a long time,” Katy said, walking past me to sit on the edge of the bed. “But I don’t know-- time flies I guess.”

“With school and homework and sports, I guess I keep pretty busy too,” I answered cautiously.

She patted the bed next to her. I gulped, suddenly feeling like I was ten years old.
She saw my hesitation and smiled warmly. “You’re so shy,” she said, as if it were something she couldn’t quite get a handle on. “But I love watching you play basketball. It makes me feel like I'm close to you.”

What was that about?

“I thought you came to watch Morgan,” I said oafishly.

“Morgan’s nice too--but you look really hot in that jersey and shorts!”

Whoa! Where’d that come from? I decided to pass on that comment. “I think Morgan’s a great guy,” I agreed.

She patted the bed again and I couldn’t think of any excuse not to sit. I tried to keep a respectable distance between us, but she bounced right over so that our hips were practically touching.

“We’re not little kids anymore,” she said, bringing her face close to mine.

“I...I guess not” I stammered, hearing my own voice tremble.

“I always wondered what it would be like to kiss you,” she said quietly, her green eyes staring intensely into my own. I kept trying to avert my gaze but was drawn back. She was pretty, not gorgeous, but real and fresh and clean, like the people you see in those soap commercials.

I just sat frozen, not making a move or backing away. Things were happening way too fast. Katy leaned in...

There was a knock on the door. “Katy, are you in there?” It was Jessica.

“Yes,” Katy answered with obvious annoyance in her voice.

Jessica giggled, probably having a pretty good idea about what was going on in here but considerate enough not to open the door.

“Tom’s here!”

”Okay, we’ll--I’ll be right there!” and Katy laughed at her own faux pas. I cringed when she said ‘we.’ She turned to me again, grasped my neck in her long fingered hands, and pressed her lips suddenly into mine. It only lasted about five seconds, and then Katy pulled back. How did it feel? Not bad, not bad at all, although I was really too nervous to get much out of it at that point. My teeth remained clenched for the duration, and Katy, to her credit, didn’t try to get her tongue in there.

“Mmmmm...that was worth the wait!” she said in a loud stage whisper. She got a tissue from the nightstand and wiped the lipstick from my face, before springing up. She checked herself in front of the dresser mirror before going out, coyly gesturing for me to follow.

I first checked to make sure I wasn’t...er...sporting anything that wouldn’t look appropriate in mixed company (fortunately, my nervousness took care of that), and then got up to follow.

Tom was just entering the rec room, carrying a small autumn themed bouquet. He was dressed rather conservatively (I thought) for a small gathering like this. He was wearing a plaid button down shirt neatly tucked into a pair of dark grey Dockers. On his feet he wore white socks and black loafers. Even with his short curly hair gelled and spiked in front, he looked very boyish and nervous.

Morgan slapped him on the back as Kyle muttered a greeting. It was a little strange that three of us were from the ‘bookish’ group that I considered myself part of, along with Gene and Jesse, and that Kyle was more of a...guy kind of guy. In other words, he got rather questionable grades, was captain and star quarterback of the football team, and was also on the track team. He even played soccer and baseball, but seemed to spend most of his time and energy pursuing one girl or another or talking about pursuing one girl or another. He was one of the older kids in class and looked more like a high school kid than most of us did. He seemed to be closest with Melissa at the moment, although I knew he had some sort of fling with Dana towards the end of last school year. He had that laid back, square jawed, all-American face that made him a natural leader for the guys and a top catch for the girls.

“How sweet of you!” Katy said as she graciously accepted the bouquet from Tom and went to get a vase to put the flowers in. Everyone clustered in little groups, talking or giggling quietly.

“How was the visit to the guestroom?” Morgan asked with a sly grin, still holding his pool cue as he approached me.

I’m sure my intense blushing gave me away. “It was...um...something,” was all I could manage to stammer. I was still shaking from the unexpected experience. I was also wondering if I would tell Jesse about it. Would he be jealous? Were we even expected to be ‘faithful’ to each other? I had never been in love before with a girl or a boy, so this whole thing was new and often confusing for me. Sometimes, it seemed like I spent as much time worrying about it as I did actually enjoying it.

“You are so hot, dude!” Morgan whispered into my ear in a congratulatory way. “You’ve got to start making some moves, exploit your God given gifts before it’s too late and you end up with someone like Regina Harpetian!”

I know that Morgan was trying to compliment me, but I found it in bad taste and was a bit surprised to hear him talk that way. He seemed like such a different person when he was in mixed company compared to when we were at lunch or just hanging out with other guys. Not that Regina was a teenage beauty queen, but she was smart and had a nice smile and shit--she was a human being too! I felt myself bristling a little, but didn’t say anything.

“Hehehe,” was all I managed. Maybe I’d talk to Morgan about all this sometime when we were alone.

“Hi, Tom,” I said, seeing my dark haired friend standing nervously in the doorway. “That was cool, bringing that bouquet-- wish I had thought of that!”

“My mom’s idea,” he muttered sheepishly. He noticed I was looking at his outfit. “This, too,” he added with a silly grin. “Are you as nervous as I am?” Tom suddenly whispered, actually having to get up a little on his toes to reach my ear.

I nodded. “Lucky you didn’t bring a jacket, dude!”

He looked at me with no idea of what I was talking about and I just had to laugh at his confused look.

Just then, Katy breezed back in, Tom’s bouquet nicely arranged in a clear glass vase which she set down on the buffet next to the punch bowl. She turned and gave Tom a quick peck on the cheek.

“Thanks, that was very thoughtful,” she said.

Even though Tom’s skin was a little darker in complexion than the rest of us, there was no disguising the radiant red blush growing on his cheeks.

Dana chortled loudly. “How fuckin’ cute!” she exclaimed, slapping her thigh. That made things even worse, and I thought Tom was going to melt into the floor. Fortunately, Katy took back control.

“First, tell me what you guys want on the pizzas and my mom will call the order in,” she said, picking up paper and pen. After everyone had given their likes and dislikes, the girls quickly conferred and came up with the final order.

“In the meantime, there’s all kinds of chips and hors d’oeuvres in the kitchen,” Katy said. “Please help yourself. I’ll be right back-- then we’re going to play team billiards!”

“Give me a break,” Dana muttered sarcastically. She seemed to be the most out of place in this little group of fairly conservative kids. Her attire and her attitude were more street oriented, even though I knew that she came from a well off family. I had to admit that, other than Jesse, all my friends tended to be middle to upper middle class and that I rarely mixed with the less financially fortunate kids like Jeremiah Oatner who had six sisters and brothers, or Martha Delgado who I think came from the same general neighborhood as Jesse. I don't think it had been intentional on my part, but maybe I was just more comfortable with people who lived in the same area as I did, and had the same material things, and similar lifestyles. Jesse had shown me that it wasn't an insurmountable obstacle.

Katy returned and split us into two teams: Morgan, Tom, Dana, and Jessica on one, and Katy, Kyle, Melissa and myself on the other. Not surprisingly, Morgan was quite good, as was Dana. Surprisingly, I was not too bad myself. I really didn’t play much. We had a pool table back in La Jolla, but I was twelve when it was sold in the divorce settlement. Jessica and Katy were at about my level, but Kyle and Tom were pretty bad. In fact, Kyle lost the first game for us by knocking the eight ball in too soon. I could tell that Tom was very nervous and that was certainly affecting his game. He kept wiping the sweat off his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt.

Morgan and Dana pretty much won it for their team, beating us twice in a row. As a result, their team was allowed to choose the next game, and since Jessica knew the place almost as well as Katy, she whispered the options to her little group. After a few moments, Morgan nodded enthusiastically, although Dana made a disdainful face.

“Tag team Twister!” Jessica announced.

I felt myself shudder. Were they serious? Girls and boys all tangled up and flopping around on that stupid plastic mat? I had heard somewhere that it was a popular party game for teens, but it hadn't occurred to me that I’d actually be participating in one of these things.

“I’m out!” Dana announced. “There’s no way I can play Twister in this outfit,” she explained with a smug look on her face, displaying her tight little skirt and long black boots. “What about you?” she asked, pointing a darkly painted nail towards Katy’s knee length plaid skirt.

Katy boldly lifted the skirt, displaying a pair of standard issue khaki shorts underneath. She stuck her tongue out at Dana playfully, and the raven-haired girl just rolled her eyes.

“So we’ll make three teams, ” Katy decided, undaunted by Dana’s announcement. “Okay, it’ll be Kyle and Jessica...” she began.

“No fair. Winners should pick the teams,” Jessica insisted a bit petulantly.

Katy wasn’t anything if she wasn’t a gracious host, and quietly demurred to her best friend. They obviously had a long and involved relationship that let them be extremely casual with each other.

“Kyle and Katy,” Jessica asserted, pointing her flawlessly manicured finger at each person in turn.

“Let’s see...Morgan and Melissa...and me and Perry! Tom will be the wild card!”

“I don’t really need to play...” Tom began quietly.

“Don’t be a party pooper!” Morgan chided him. Tom cringed. Poor guy. He was really out of his element here. Despite his cute looks, he was really just a bookish nerd, not unlike myself. The only thing that spared us from total nerd-dom was my fairly modest basketball skills, and Tom’s great pitching arm--I had no doubt that he’d be starting pitcher for the school team this spring. Of course the main difference between us--as far as I knew--was that he wasn’t in love! I was willing to endure this nonsense--I had nothing at stake. Besides, I wanted to see what one of these teen parties was really like, and, if I was lucky, this game was going to give me the chance to fulfill Jesse’s request...

Jessica opened the storage closet and had Morgan carefully extract the Twister box out of what looked like a collection of maybe fifty or sixty board games! Jessica opened it and unfolded the familiar mat with its large colored circles, spreading it out on the open area of the room next to the pool table. Dana had plopped herself down in a nearby bean bag chair and seemed to be watching with some interest (she could have gone in the den and watched TV if she really wanted to).

“Everyone take off their shoes!” Katy announced excitedly. Leaning against the pool table for support, Katy daintily slipped off her loafers, leaving her feet in knee high white socks. Morgan stood next to her and toed off his Nikes, his feet also in white socks. (I had seen Morgan barefoot plenty of times at swim meets and didn’t really care for his feet too much--they were too long and kind of ‘tendony.’ But in white cotton socks...I had to admit that Morgan’s feet looked pretty good. )

I tried not to stare as I looked around, watching people remove their footwear, while slowly toeing off my own black Vans. Melissa quickly slipped off her flip flops, leaving her nicely shaped feet bare. Both Jessica and Kyle had to stoop to untie their shoes. Jessica had on short white socks with frills around the ankles. Kyle had on regular white crew socks but with grey patches on the toes and heels. Of the seven of us, only Tom still had his loafers on.

“Don’t you want to take your shoes off, Tom?” Katy asked gently. “Don’t be shy...”

I think Tom spent the evening simply going from one degree of blushing red to the next. It was kind of funny, but I also felt bad for him. I’m not sure what was making him so nervous--I mean, he knew all these people for longer than I had. Reluctantly, Tom carefully lifted one foot at a time and tugged the loafers off by their heels, leaving his feet in a pair of clean white socks.

“Hey, Melissa is barefoot--that’s no fair!” Jessica pointed out. “Everyone knows that gives you better traction than socks!”

“Do you have a pair of socks in your overnight bag?” Katy asked Melissa diplomatically.

“Yeah, but we could all just go barefoot too,” she suggested.

“What about athlete’s foot?” Morgan asked rhetorically. Leave it to the swimmer to think of that!

“Fine,” Katy declared. “Girls barefoot, boys in socks--okay?” She didn’t wait for an answer, but reached down to peel off her knee socks. Jessica followed suit, peeling off her little ankle socks and exposing a pair of nicely shaped feet with long toes and perfectly pedicured toenails painted an attractive shade of pink. Finally, we were ready to start. Katy offered Dana the spinner, but she declined, saying she just wanted to watch.

“That’s cool,” Kyle assured her with one of his patented all-American smiles. Dana sneered back at him as if she didn’t care for the attention, but somehow I sensed that she wasn’t that far removed from the rest of us. Clearly, her whole attitude was something of an act, and the others apparently tolerated it for whatever reason. I’m sure some of the guys found her very sexy, but at the moment, her stand offish attitude wasn’t doing anything for me.

“All right, I’ll spin for now,” Katy announced, and then who’s ever out will have to do it. Does everyone know the basic rules of Twister?” she asked, quickly glancing around the small circle grouped around the brightly colored mat. Everyone nodded.

“What’s the tag team part?” I asked, giving Tom a little wink. He cringed.

Katy smiled at me warmly, and I suddenly felt an echo of the tingle I had felt when she had so abruptly kissed me in the guest room. Blush...blush...blush...

“When you get yourself to a point where you think you're going to collapse or not be able to make the next move, then you call ‘tag’ and your partner has to take your exact position. When someone falls down they’re out like usual, so you have to be quick to make the call,” Morgan explained, his long toes curling deliciously in his clean white socks. “And Tom is the wild card. If you’re on your second person already and feel like you need help, you can call ‘wild card,’ and Tom will have to take your place. If he falls--and he will--then he goes back to being the wild card again.” Everyone but Tom laughed, nodding their heads in understanding.

And so it began. We went in alphabetical order: Morgan, then Kyle, and then me. At first, it was easy, right foot blue, or left hand green or whatever. The second time around, it became harder of course. During the third round, Kyle, who already had one hand reaching back under his leg, had to reach across me with his other hand. He was already having a hard time keeping his balance, so he called in his partner, leaping quickly off the mat and letting Katy worm her way into his position. Suddenly, as Katy reached her hand past me, I was staring right at the front of her blouse. She just smiled sweetly at me. Except for our brief and surprising encounter in the guestroom, I had never been this close to her before. It was somewhat intoxicating. I mean, if there was a girl that I would consider going out with, it was Katy Mulroney. I enjoyed the fresh smell of her flower scented shampoo until it was my turn. I had to get my leg underneath Katy and it was a little embarrassing, which I guess is the point of the game. My knee was now right under her crotch and I prayed that she wouldn’t fall...

Pretty soon, it was Katy, Melissa and me tangled up on the mat. When Melissa got a ‘right hand green’ order, she reached past me, both her bare feet already firmly planted on their designated circles. Suddenly, I was staring right down her gypsy patterned peasant blouse--HOLY SHIT--she wasn’t wearing a bra! I began trembling and slipping, not being able to take my eyes off the stunning sight. Morgan was urging me to call on Tom, but when my mouth opened, no sound came out. Melissa just gave me the weirdest little grin, fully aware of what she was doing to me. She gave her torso an almost imperceptible twist, and I saw her boobs twitch enticingly in tandem...and then I was flat on my stomach!

Melissa sat back and laughed and laughed.

“Perry!” Jessica cried disappointedly, but no one really took it very seriously. Everyone had a good laugh, although I don’t think most of them realized what had caused me to collapse.

I had to admit, I was good to go when we started the second game. This time I was made the wild card as punishment for falling down first. I enjoyed watching the tangle of teenage arms and legs, butts in tight jeans held up in the air, socked and bare feet everywhere.

“Mercy me, you kids!” It was Mrs. Mulroney, standing in the doorway in her apron. The three kids entangled on the mat immediately collapsed into a stunned pile. Everyone looked a little guilty.

“What is it mom?” Katy whined petulantly. “You ruined our game!” She stomped her bare foot in a very cute way that made me smile.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” Mrs. Mulroney apologized sincerely, a look of contrition on her expressive face. “Oh, but the pizza is here! I just wanted to tell you. It’s in the kitchen, so everyone help themselves while its hot. I’ll go back to me Trick or Treat duties now--nevermind me!” and she ran off, shaking her head.

We all laughed, looking at Kyle, Tom, and Melissa lying on the mat with their arms and legs tangled up. Kyle, quite a bit the heavier of the two, had actually fallen right on top of Tom.

”Get off!” the dark haired boy groaned.

“Umph!” Kyle grunted, struggling to his feet.

We all straightened our clothes out a bit. Katy slipped her loafers on her bare feet and Melissa slipped on her flip flops. Jessica was the only girl who remained barefoot. I saw Tom quickly push his feet back into his loafers, but I noticed neither Morgan or Kyle making a move for their shoes. Personally, I was content to schlep around in my socks, but I felt a little sorry for Tom-- he seemed so uncomfortable here. So I stuffed my feet back into my sneakers as a show of solidarity, which I think Tom actually picked up on, because he gave me a little smile of what looked like gratitude.

When I had arrived, I had so many butterflies in my stomach, I thought I wouldn’t be able to eat a bite, but now I realized I was starving. We ended up splitting off into girls and boys somehow, with the guys in the rec room and the girls going into the den with their food.

“Are you glad you came?” Morgan asked me, as we sat at a round game table munching pizza and chips.

At first I shrugged, and then started grinning despite myself. “Yeah, I guess...”

“And what’s up with you, Thomas The Tank Engine?” That was apparently a nickname the class had given Tom years ago, although Morgan and Gene seemed to be the only ones who ever used it now. It obviously annoyed Tom.

The dark haired boy shrugged, stuffing more pizza in his mouth so he wouldn’t have to answer.

“You’ve been acting fucking weird,” Morgan persisted.

“You seem really nervous,” I added, thinking about the strange conversation we had in the parking lot a few weeks ago.

Tom took a long swig of Coke and then paused to belch. “I’m just not used to being around all these hot babes!” he answered with a knowing wink. I could tell that he was acting, and Morgan probably could to, but we were his friends so we just let it go. For a little while, it was just like lunch time, with us talking about books and stuff. Even Kyle chimed in once we started talking about sports and the fortunes of the Lakers.

About twenty minutes later, the girls came back in, carrying their dirty dishes.

“Anybody need anything?” Katy asked as they walked past to go to the kitchen.

“Just some of that booty!” Kyle grinned salaciously. When he tried to reach out and grab Jessica’s passing butt, Dana whacked his hand down--hard! Kyle looked like a little kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar...

The girls all burst into laughter as they considerately took our dirty dishes with them into the kitchen.

“Ouch,” Morgan said sympathetically. Kyle was red with embarrassment. Tom just gave me that look that I knew so well--What an Idiot!

“How about a little dancing?” Katy said, swinging her hips seductively as she returned.

“Get off your lazy asses, boys, and shake those booties!” Dana said in a low sexy voice.

Katy went to a control panel built into the wall and turned the volume up on the music, which was already quite loud. Now it sounded like a full blown discotheque in here! She dimmed the fluorescent lights and then flipped another switch, turning on smaller colored track lights all around the room. Jessica quickly folded up the dreaded Twister mat and set the game aside, then she bounced straight towards me, shimmying and shaking all the way!

I never thought of myself as a good dancer, but it seemed like the main thing was just to keep the beat somehow. What you actually did didn’t seem to matter much. Jessica started gyrating around in front of me, and I just mimicked her. It was fun to feel the energy in the music and then let your body just go with it. I think this was the first time I ever actually enjoyed dancing!

I noticed Morgan and Katy had paired up again, the two of them intently bopping away with Katy’s ponytail flying this way and that as she swung her head back and forth, and Morgan closing his eyes to concentrate on his groove.

Kyle and Melissa, not surprisingly, seemed to be the most accomplished dancers in the group, actually executing moves that looked like they were choreographed. At one point, he swung Melissa around swing dance style even though the music was nothing like that. On a whim, I grabbed Jessica’s arm and spun her. It took her so much by surprise that she came out of the spin off balance, actually falling into my arms like something out of a movie. We just giggled and went back to what we were doing. The next time I spun her around, it worked just fine.

Poor Tom was stuck with Dana, and he was making a valiant effort to keep up with her almost spastic gyrations. She definitely had her own bizarre style and Tom didn’t know what to do but just bounce around a little and try not to get struck by one of her flailing arms or legs. One of Dana’s boots landing in the wrong place could end a guy’s chance at future fatherhood! I gave him a sympathetic look and he just looked at me like he wanted to be anywhere else but here.

The weird thing is that I would have thought that I would be in the same position as Tom--that is, uncomfortable, awkward, and embarrassed, but somehow, it wasn’t like that. I was for the most part enjoying myself. I still didn’t quite know what to make of Katy’s unsolicited kiss in the guestroom, but I promised myself I would tell Jesse exactly how it happened so there would be no chance of bad feelings between us. For sure, Katy was no threat to my feelings for Jesse.

We danced to the blaring music for almost an hour, starting with techno, then hip hop, and then some weird European stuff that sounded like noises from a car factory or something. We all switched partners a few times and there wasn’t much conversation, which wasn’t too surprising considering the high volume of the music. But there was also something about just moving our bodies around, sometimes making contact, sometimes just in our own space, creating a certain vibe where your mind wasn’t on anything but what move you were going to make next, that would have made any kind of idle chit chat seem disruptive.

When the factory stuff finally ended, we were all pretty much exhausted, except for Dana, who seemed like she could go all night. Katy flopped into a bean bag chair and kicked off her loafers. Her smooth, lightly tanned feet were red from all the dancing. Dana and Jessicafor the ‘powder room’ (why girls liked to go to the bathroom together was beyond me), and Melissa went into the kitchen. That left Morgan, Tom, Kyle and me to sit around the game table again, our faces red and glistening with perspiration. Morgan’s dark brown hair was short, and Tom’s was spiked, but my overly long brown hair was uncomfortably matted with sweat, and I was ready for a trip to the bathroom myself.

“Whew, that was a work out!” Morgan said with a grin. It was so strange seeing him in this context. At first, I thought he was a whole different person when he was around girls, but now I was starting to see that it was the same Morgan that I knew, the nice guy, the fun guy, the guy who didn’t take anything (except sports) too seriously. He just enjoyed spending time with the ladies and had a pretty good idea how to ‘play the game.’

“What the hell was Dana doing?” I asked with a confused grin.

“She’s a bit odd, isn’t she?” Morgan said in a dry English accent.

“You’re telling me!” Tom gasped, frantically wiping the sweat from his brow with his sleeve.

“You’re really a good dancer, Kyle,” I said, not wanting to leave him out of the group.

Kyle seemed really flattered by this comment. It was obviously something he had worked at and was proud of.

“Thanks, you’re not bad yourself, Perry,” Kyle replied. “You know,” he said, looking around the table, “I always thought you guys were kinda...geeky, I guess,” he said.

“Hey, fella...” Morgan threatened him facetiously.

“No, wait!” Kyle said. “What I meant to say is, you guys are pretty cool! I mean, Perry, you were moving pretty smooth out there!”

It was nice to have someone from outside our little group pay me a compliment. Dancing was obviously important to him, and I was flattered even though I had no real idea of what I was doing.

“And Tom,” Kyle continued, “you were one brave little son of a bitch, keeping up with Dana like that.” Suddenly his voice got quiet and he brought his head down low so Katy wouldn’t hear.

“I mean, Dana is really hot--but man, she can really be ultra bizarre sometimes, ya know?”

It was Tom who came up with the appropriate response. “Duhhhhhh...” And we all burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Katy called, not yet ready to get out of her bean bag chair.

“Nothing!” Morgan assured her. “Just guy talk!”

Melissa came back with a couple of Cokes and handed one to Katy.

“That looks good!” Morgan said, and he got up to head to the kitchen.

“I’ll come with you!” Tom said, quickly following after him.

“Could you guys bring me a Coke?” Kyle asked offhandedly. He was obviously used to getting his way and gave Tom a little wink of appreciation.

As soon as Jessica and Dana reappeared, I headed off for the bathroom. When I returned, everyone was gathered once again. I was just about to ask what was going on, when Mrs. Mulroney poked her head in.

“Well, I think the Trick Or Treaters are done for this year!” she said with an exaggerated sigh. “I hope everyone is having a good time.”

We all thanked her for having us over and told her we were having a great time.

“That’s wonderful. I’m so glad to see that you kids can still have a nice clean party! The things you see on TV and read in the papers!” She rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I’m going upstairs and start getting ready for bed. Mrs. Kipner will be here at eleven to take you boys home. Katy, I’ll trust you to be a good hostess, yes?”

“Sure, mom! We’re just going to chill out for a bit, maybe watch some TV..."

“That’s fine then. All right--well, good night everyone!” she said, waving as she turned to go.

There was an anticipatory silence as her footsteps faded into the kitchen and beyond.

“Finally!” Dana declared.

“You’re mom’s really nice,” Tom said with the innocence of a nine year old.

“She is,” Katy agreed. “A little too nice!” All the girls giggled at that for some reason.

“So what’s the plan?” Morgan asked conspiratorially.

Katy looked at all of us with big bright eyes, a more than mischievous smile on her sweet freckled face. “Spin The Bottle!” she giggled.

“Spin The Fuckin’ Bottle!” Dana said, as if this was what she’d been waiting for the whole night.

I had never been to party where they played it, but I had heard that it involved everyone sitting in a circle with a soda bottle in the middle. Someone spins the bottle, and who ever it points to (assuming it’s the opposite sex), the spinner has to kiss! It seemed like an incredibly childish game for thirteen and fourteen year olds to get all worked up about.

“It’s girls’ choice!” Jessica said, jabbing a finger into Morgan’s shoulder.

“Okay, okay!” he replied guiltily. “No problemo!”

”What’s going on?” Tom asked shyly.

“You guys sit in a circle. A girls spins the bottle. Whoever it points to, he and the spinner have to go and make out!” Dana explained quickly.

“M...make out?” Tom stammered, his eyes wide with disbelief.

“You can just sit and talk...if you want to,” Katy assured the frightened boy.

I wasn’t quite in the state of panic that poor Tom was in, but the idea of being paired up to make out--whatever the hell that meant--seemed like a violation of Mrs. Mulroney’s trust. Still, I felt a strange but obvious sense of peer pressure, even though Katy had already made it clear that no one was going to be forced to do anything they didn’t want to. I started praying that I would get paired up with Katy, not because I wanted to make out with her, but because I decided that I actually wouldn’t mind just sitting and talking to her for a bit, in private. It would be nice just to get to know each other a little better.

“I’ll take whoever’s the fourth,” Katy said, again being the gracious hostess. They all talked like this was a routine part of their gatherings, and if it was, where had I been all this time? Did Morgan and Kyle always spend their weekends like this? I mean, Morgan talked sometimes...but I just assumed it was mostly just that--talk.

“What order are we going in?” Jessica asked, holding an empty plastic soda bottle.

“You probably want to go in alphabetical order,” Melissa teased, since Jessica’s last name was Bainbridge.

“Sit around the game table, guys,” Katy instructed. We all sat, Tom lowering himself to his seat as if he were afraid it was going to explode.

“Dana, Jessica and Melissa will roll this dice,” Katy said, picking up one of the small dotted cubes in a cubby of the table. “Highest number goes first and gets to choose where they want to go. There’s the guest room, the bathroom, the den, and the rec room--whoever takes the rec room is the official lookout as well.”

“In case mommy makes an unscheduled appearance,” Dana said sarcastically. She could get annoying after a while I thought, and then shuddered, realizing that I might end up ‘making out’ with her in the bathroom!

“How long?” Morgan asked, glancing at his watch.

“It’s quarter to ten now...Let’s say, everyone needs to reconvene in the rec room at 10:45.” Katy decided. “That gives us a little margin in case Mrs. Kipner shows up early.”

These guys really had this down to a science. Despite the butterflies in my own stomach, I had to admit that they all seemed incredibly calm about the whole thing--just as if it were a game or something!

The girls took turns rolling the dice, and Melissa got a six, Dana a four, and Jessica a one.

“Okay, like, let me just say that I think all four of you guys are like, really, really hot, okay?” Melissa said in a hilarious imitation of a so called ‘Valley Girl.’ “So I don’t really even care where the stupid bottle points!” I guess that was meant as a compliment and Kyle gave her a suggestive wink that only he could pull off without looking completely ridiculous.

Melissa set the plastic bottle down in the middle of the round table and gave it a vigorous spin. It was kind of big and clunky and only made about four revolutions before stopping with it’s narrow top pointing towards--Kyle!

“All right!” Kyle shouted with a big grin. He held up his hand for Tom to ‘high five’ him, but the dark haired boy just looked at the confident jock like he was out of his mind. Morgan reached over and gave him his hand slap.

Kyle sprang up, anxious to get going.

“We’ll be in the den if anybody needs us,” Melissa said demurely. She grabbed Kyle’s proffered hand and they disappeared into the next room. I heard the volume go up on the TV. I was surprised that she hadn't picked a more private location.

Dana went next, first giving the three of us a good looking over. I don’t think I did a very good job of hiding the fact that I was somewhat freaked out by her, and Tom looked like he was going to wet his pants. Only Morgan waited impassively to see what his fate was going to be for the next hour.

“Who wants to have the hottest make out session of their entire freakin’ life?” she asked rhetorically. I think Tom was going to answer that he would pass, when she gave the bottle a vigorous spin that sent it tottering around the table.

Morgan laughed. It was pointing squarely at Tom! Poor guy! Whatever it was that was making him so uncomfortable all evening now seemed to reach its climax. His cute, boyish face turned beet red and he stiffened up like a wide eyed mannequin. He looked with terror filled eyes first at me and then at Morgan.

“My god, you look like you’re going to the electric chair!” Dana said, genuinely surprised at Tom’s extreme reaction. Then her demeanor softened a bit.

“Hey, I’ll pick someone else if you want...” Dana offered, for the first time that evening showing some real heart.

Tom seemed to be making a series of quiet decisions, his eyes darting here and there, his lips tightly pursed, his hands clutching the edge of the table. “Would it be okay if we just stayed in here?” he asked meekly, actually looking Dana in the eye.

“Absolutely,” she replied, her voice suddenly sweet and unthreatening.

“Maybe shoot some pool?” he asked hesitantly.

“You got it!” Dana agreed with a surprisingly warm smile.

Morgan gave him a wink and I gave him a thumbs up. Whatever fear he had brought with him tonight had now been shoved into the backseat. Tom’s Spanish relatives would probably say that he really showed some cojones.

He slowly got up and Dana followed him to the pool table, being extra careful to give him his space. I was impressed at how gentle and considerate Dana could be. This was a side of her that she usually kept well hidden behind a cocky, street smart personality.

“Just you and me, bud,” Morgan said with a friendly smile. I guess Morgan was the coolest guy I knew. He was a great swimmer and basketball player, actually enjoyed reading books that weren’t assigned in English class, and enjoyed hanging out with the ladies. You could always count on him in a pinch, and he never took credit for himself if he could help it.

Morgan moved to the opposite side of the table from me so that we were facing each other. Jessica just gave us a tight little smile and gave the plastic bottle a spin.

It pointed to...me! At first I was shocked, having already assumed in my mind that I’d be hanging with Katy. Now I had no idea what I was going to do. I don’t think I had quite the intense reaction that Tom did, but I think I must have looked somewhat surprised.

“You okay?” Morgan asked me, only half facetiously.

“Oh, yeah... sure,” I stammered, trying to get a grip.

“Is the guestroom okay with you, Perry?” Jessica asked sweetly.

I just nodded and got up. Jessica took my limp hand and started to lead me out of the room, giving Katy a little wink as she passed her best friend. We walked through the den where Kyle and Melissa were sitting comfortably on the sofa, each one with an arm on the other’s shoulder, the light of the TV flickering on their faces.

“Way to go, Perry!” Kyle said encouragingly.

“See ya later,” Melissa waved after us as we moved into the short hallway past the bathroom where Katy and Morgan would apparently be locking themselves for the next hour.

Then we were back in the guest room where the evening had started off with a bang. Jessica closed and locked the door behind her and sat on the edge of the bed.

“I’m still hot from all that dancing!” she exclaimed, starting to unbutton her red blouse.

My eyes widened in fear.

“What are you doing?” I asked with concern, hovering near the locked door.

“I told you, I’m hot,” she answered a bit petulantly. She opened her blouse enough so that I could see the middle of her lacy white bra. No question that it was intriguing. After all, she was a beautiful girl with long silky brown hair that reminded me of my mother...Shit! What was I thinking? This was going to be bad! How was I going to get out of this?

“Aren’t you hot, Perry?” she asked, and her voice was very casual and genuine. “You really looked great out there. I don’t think I ever saw you dance before.”

I shrugged modestly. “I was just making it up as I went,” I replied honestly.

“I bet your feet are sore,” she continued, tucking her own legs up so that she was sitting cross legged on the edge of the bed. “That’s why I like dancing barefoot when I get the chance. Otherwise, my feet end up killing me.” She was just talking like we did this everyday, when the reality was that up until today, we had rarely spoken about anything other than school work. Usually it was just a ‘hi’ or ‘what’s up’ or not even that. Jessica had a reputation for being rather stuck up at school.

“Ummm, yeah...” I muttered, not being able to lift my gaze off of the beige carpet.

“I can give you a foot massage if you want,” she offered. “I’m really good at it--ask Kyle!”

I didn’t think that I would be doing that, but I just nodded vacantly, giving her the benefit of the doubt. I felt so guilty being in here with Jessica. The idea of betraying Jesse’s trust terrified me. Even though the girl sitting on the bed was extremely pretty...

“So?” Jessica asked. “Just lie down on the bed and I’ll make you feel like you’re in heaven!”

What?! Was she offering me sex, in Katy’s guest room? Was she kidding? She must have seen some sort of shocked reaction on my face because she gave me a weird puzzled grin.

“The foot massage, remember?”

“Oh...oh, that...” I said with some relief. “That’s okay. I appreciate the offer but...you know...”

“Don’t be shy. I won’t tell anyone,” she assured me, her light brown eyes beaming sweetly at me.

“I think...you wouldn’t want my feet...you know...” I was stuttering, trying to turn her down without offending her. After all, maybe her intention was just to give me a little comfort, but if I let her massage my feet, it would probably make me horny--I mean, really horny, and I didn’t want that.

“If you’re worried that a little foot odor is going to upset my delicate feminine sensibilities, don’t worry about it. I’ve got a big brother, and you don’t know what stinky feet are until you get a whiff of his after a soccer game. I always gave him a foot massage, ever since I was little, and I knew he just lived for it.” Jessica smiled sweetly, a nostalgic look on her face. “He even mentioned it in his last letter from college--he’s at UC Berkley, you know.” She sighed. “I really miss him--he was always watching out for me.”

There was a pause and it seemed like she was waiting for me to say or do something.

“Look, Jessica, it’s really nice of you, but I’m gonna pass, okay?” I guess I was compelling enough to convince her that it wasn’t going to happen.

She looked a little hurt, and I immediately felt guilty. I was really overly sensitive to other people’s feelings. I’m not sure that was a good thing, since I often put other people’s needs and priorities before my own, and later ended up being disappointed or even angry with myself.

I decided that I could at least sit next to her. She was acting quite differently then she did when she was at school. I always thought she was a bit of a snob, playing the rich girl with the perfect hair and perfect clothes, who had her little entourage that followed her around, seeing to her every whim.

She seemed pleased that I sat next to her, even though I was careful to leave a couple feet between her knee and my hip.

“I’m glad that the bottle pointed to you,” she said with a sweet smile. Thank goodness she had a really pretty face so I wasn’t constantly tempted to stare at her partially open blouse all the time--not to say I wasn’t above catching a quick glimpse when I thought she wasn’t looking.

“Really?” That caught me by surprise. She could have been just saying that because she had me here, a virtual captive, but somehow I sensed that she meant it.

“Perry, don’t you realize how cute you are?” she asked with a giggle.

This whole conversation was so weird and uncomfortable. I wanted to glance down at my watch and see how much longer this was going to last, but I didn’t want to be rude.

“I guess I don’t think about it much,” I answered, which was sort of a lie. I did look in the mirror plenty of times, especially since Jesse showed up, but I could never be the perfect person that I wanted to be. I looked at least two years younger than my age, I was skinny, my lips were too big, my hair was too long, and my eyes! Don’t get me started...

“I was hoping you might ask me out sometime,” Jessica continued, happily staring into my eyes when ever I would give her the chance.

“We’re only thirteen, Jessica,” I reminded her.

“I’m fourteen now, and you will be too in a month.” She looked at me intently, seeming to be contemplating something. “You were so shy, especially last year, but you seem a little more relaxed this year,” she said, moving her hand a little closer to mine.

“I was the new kid last year,” I reminded her.

“And this year it’s Jesse,” Jessica replied. “The girls all think he’s really gorgeous, but he seems so incredibly shy...”

I just nodded, trying not to give anything away about my feelings for Jesse. I caught myself starting to smile despite myself as I thought about the folder full of love notes Jesse kept in his locker.

“Some people don’t even know what beautiful blue eyes he has because he’s always looking at the ground!” she said, and I wanted to tell her that she had no idea...

“He’s really got a wicked sense of humor, once you get to know him,” I offered a bit hesitantly. All this talk about Jesse was starting to get me physically aroused!

“Hmmm...figures. Morgan says he sits with you guys everyday, but Jesse hardly says anything… You seem to get a long with him pretty well,” Jessica continued. “What’s up with him? Why’s he so shy?”

I didn’t know what to say. I was afraid I’d give away something he’d told me in confidence.

“I think things were pretty rough for him back in Illinois,” I answered as honestly as I could. “He’s very dedicated to his family; his mom works two jobs and he has to stay home babysitting his younger sister most of the time...”

“That’s so sweet,” Jessica said with open admiration. “I bet he took his sister out tonight! How old is she?”

“I...er...think she’s nine or ten--goes to Sandoval Elementary.”

“But that’s in a bad part of...oh...” Jessica caught herself and blushed for the first time since she had locked us in. “I’m sorry, that was very insensitive of me.” She touched my arm lightly to show that she was being sincere. But I could already tell, by her voice and her face. There actually was a very nice, sensitive girl in there, underneath all the affectations. I felt my defenses starting to weaken just a bit. She was pretty and she did have a heart--what a sucker I was for ‘nice’!

“You’re...different than I thought,” I ventured to say, still gazing more at my knees than at her. I immediately regretted my words, realizing that she might be offended.

“You mean that at school I’m all ‘snotty faced rich girl’?” she asked with a self derisive giggle.

“I didn’t mean...” I stammered awkwardly.

“You’re a very sweet and kind person, Perry. And you’d be right if you thought that. I guess it’s just the persona I put on to get through the day, you know? It’s a way to get people to be my friend, or do things for me...Just a way to get attention, I guess...” She shrugged, feeling a little embarrassed, I think.

“Look,” she said. “It’s Halloween; we’re at a party...We’re, like, supposed to be having fun,” she said with a little hint of regret in her voice. “It seemed like you were having a good time out there...”

“I did, I mean...I am...” I stuttered.

“You didn’t expect to get stuck with me though, huh?” she asked, rolling her eyes. “I bet you were hoping to get together with Katy...”

“Why do you say that?” I asked with surprise.

“Well, I saw how you two made a beeline for this room as soon as you arrived,” she noted.

“But...Katy just dragged me...I mean, brought me here, you know, just to leave my jacket.” I pointed to my jacket lying with a few others near the foot of the bed.

“But I know Katy has a crush on you,” Jessica said teasingly, as if she assumed that I already knew.

“Wh...what?” My big, stupid hazel eyes bulged in my head.

“You didn’t know?” Jessica asked with genuine astonishment.

I shook my head. “I mean, she brought me in here and...”

“And what?” Jessica asked with a suspicious smile.

“Nothing...” I muttered.

“There are a lot of girls at school who have a crush on Perry Thompson,” she said, hesitantly holding my arm.

“I don’t know what to say...”

“We’re teenagers, Perry--we don’t have to say anything!” Jessica said, lightening up. “Don’t you sometimes wish you could just grab the cutest boy or girl in the room and go somewhere private and just...make out?”

“It’s crossed my mind,” I had to admit.

“But I’m just not one of those cute people...right?” Jessica pouted. She was still trying to be light hearted, but I think she really wanted me to like her. I could certainly relate to her having a crush...but why did it have to be on me? It would be wrong to just indulge myself, and then have to face Jesse tomorrow. I was tempted because I was a weak, horny teenager. Jessica was basically offering herself to me, telling me it was okay to just goof around with no long term ramifications. Maybe she could justify things like that in her mind because she wasn’t really seriously in love with any one--but I was.

“Look, Jessica,” I said in a very serious voice. I didn’t want to sound mean or disrespectful in anyway, so I spoke slowly and carefully and looked her right in the eye. “Any guy would be thrilled to be with you--you’re so pretty, I mean--a really, really beautiful girl.” I could see her starting to fidget. She could tell she was getting some kind of blow off speech, but to her credit, she just sat and took it.

“And now that we’ve actually talked a little bit, I can see that you’re also a sensitive, caring person. I love it that you’re being so honest with me,” I added with a knowing smile, “and that you’re not asking for a major commitment or anything. Now that I know you just a little, I have to admit that I’m really tempted to...well, make out...” I felt myself falter over the last part. It sounded clumsy and condescending, but I had to stay focused on what I had to say and hope that Jessica would understand, no matter how awkwardly I phrased my thoughts.

“But the thing is...the thing is...” I repeated more quietly, almost talking to myself, “that I’m already with someone...”

Jessica’s eyes opened wide and her tightly controlled face opened into a big grin of dawning realization. “You’re seeing someone?!” she stated. Suddenly she was looking me over as if I had just told her that I had rescued ten kittens from a burning building. “Perry, that is so cool! I didn’t know!” She grabbed my shoulders reflexively, and then awkwardly pulled back. “How serious is it?” she asked excitedly.

I shrugged, blushing like crazy.

“You’re not...in love?!”

“Jessica...” I started to protest, and then backed off, not knowing how to respond.

“You are! Oh, how wonderful!”

She was certainly perceptive--either that or my stupid eyes were betraying me again. Emotions were starting to get the better of me, and I felt myself starting to tear up. I had actually admitted to someone that I was in love! I felt the sudden urge to embrace Jessica--so I did! Nothing sexual, just two friends sharing a joyful moment. It felt good, but now, things would get a lot more difficult. I had no doubt that word would spread quickly, especially in a small school like St. Boniface. Slowly, I pulled out of the embrace.

“I’m so happy for you!” Jessica said, and it was clear by her voice and expression that she was. “Who is it? Is it somebody from our class?”

This was the part I was dreading, but at least Jessica had inadvertently given me a way out. It would be a lie, but I hoped a harmless and justified one.

“It’s nobody you know, no one anyone here knows,” I told her, and in a way, that was true--no one really knew Jesse except me.

“Is she from Robertson?” she asked, now desperate to know who my love interest was. Robertson was the local public middle school. I also noticed she used the word ‘she.’

“Er...she’s not from around here at all,” I said, finding that the lies came easier after the first one. “She’s from where I used to live before we moved to Santa Corina.”

Jessica nodded, taking the information seriously. She looked a little guilty. “Perry, I’m sorry...I didn’t know--nobody knew...” she began apologizing.

“You don’t have to say anything,” I assured her. “I just wanted to let you know why I was...well...being so dorky...”

“You’re not being dorky at all, and of course, I understand,” Jessica said thoughtfully.

We just sat and stared at each other for several minutes. I was feeling good about having shared at least a little of what I was feeling, and she was just happy for me as a friend, I guess. I think the fact that I had chosen to impart this tidbit of information to her, made a big impression. I knew the gossip mill would start grinding the minute I left the party, but Jessica really was a nice person and I didn’t feel too badly about it. It was a shame that she felt she had to put on airs at school to get the attention she felt she needed--I think people would have responded even better to the real Jessica.

I finally got up the nerve to glance at my watch. “We still have half an hour left,” I said hesitantly.

Jessica nodded. She wiggled her way onto the middle of the queen sized bed, making herself comfortable up against the pillows. I was given a brief view of her smooth and tender soles before she pulled her legs in to sit crosslegged again. She smiled at me and patted the bed next to her.

Uh-oh...Had my message not gotten through to her after all? Then I saw her reach over to the nightstand and pick up a remote. She pointed and clicked, turning on the TV located against the wall opposite the foot of the bed. She gestured again for me to join her.

I slipped my shoes off, and that felt good after all that dancing. I pulled myself up and sat next to her, drawing my legs up to sit crosslegged next to her. I watched as she surfed the channels. They had HBO and the Sopranos were on.

“You like?” she asked sweetly.

“I like,” I smiled back.

After a few minutes, she glanced at me with a sly grin on her face. “I could still give you that foot massage, she said, “no obligation.”

Lord, Oh Lord, it was tempting! But my feet now belonged to another...sigh...and I just couldn’t give in.

“I’m still gonna pass,” I said gently. “But maybe another time, like after a basketball game, when my feet are really stinky...!” We laughed together, and the time passed quickly.

It just so happened that Kyle was the first one to get dropped off, so it was just us three buds in Mrs. Kipner’s minivan, recovering from our Un-Halloween Party. Of course, we had to be careful what we said, but Morgan and I both looked at Tom expectantly, waiting for an explanation of his strange behavior tonight.

“What are you guys looking at?” he asked innocently enough. He sat alone on the middle bench while Morgan I were leaning forward from the back.

“What was up with you tonight?” Morgan asked in a loud whisper. Even though Mrs. Kipner was concentrating on her driving, we had to assume that she could hear everything we said.

Tom just shrugged, looking a little pale (especially after all that blushing!) He gave me a rather strange look though, one that sent a weird vibe through my body. It seemed to mean something to me, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. It was definitely a look he intended for me, because he didn’t even look Morgan in the eye.

“Have it your way,” Morgan said a bit snippyly. We both sat back and now I knew it would be my turn.

“So, you had a good time?” Morgan whispered with a sly grin on his face.

I shrugged. “Better than I expected, I guess.”

“That’s good--I’m glad you came,” Morgan said, seemingly happy with my response. “How did it go with Jessica?” he whispered in my ear.

“It was great!” I whispered back, and Morgan’s eyes just about popped out of his head.

“Yeah, we got all caught up on the Sopranos--she’s quite a fan!” I giggled.

“You bastard!” Morgan cursed under his breath, realizing that we had done nothing but watch TV together.

Mrs. Kipner pulled over to let Tom out. He lived in a modest house in a nice, unassuming neighborhood. I always thought there was a warmth to his neighborhood that was somehow lacking in the ‘fancier’ areas where Morgan, Katy, Jessica, and I lived--I guess the grass was always greener...

“We’ll talk, dude!” Morgan said as Tom hurried out. “Sure...” he said uncertainly, again with the weird look directed at me. It was almost like he was a drowning man and I was the one holding the life preserver. If he had ever looked at me like that before tonight, I hadn't noticed. I kept flashing back to our bizarre conversation about Jesse. I never did figure out what the point of that was, and Tom had never brought it up again . Still, the strange way he was acting tonight...We needed to have a heart to heart at some point, because I sensed that he was looking for some kind of help. And that’s what friends were for, right?

“So, did Katy tell you she had a crush on you?” Morgan whispered.

I glanced forward to see if Mrs. Kipner had heard, but it didn’t seem like it.

“Gees, Morgan, for crying outloud!” I whispered back, blushing and shaking my head. “Anyway, I thought you and her...”

“Yeah, me and her, but it’s like, nothing serious, dude,” Morgan explained in a hushed tone.

“Well, nothing happened anyway,” I said, figuring it was true in the sense that Katy had been the one to do the kissing--I had been just sitting there!

“If you say so, dude,” Morgan said with a grin.

I hadn't truly realized until tonight how far ahead of me Morgan was in this whole boy/girl thing. It just seemed to be another part of his life like playing basketball or going to school or reading books, no bigger or smaller a deal. I wondered briefly how far his dalliances had gone...

When Mrs. Kipner pulled over to let me out, Morgan got out with me.

“I’m really glad you came,” he repeated again, as if it meant a lot to him for some reason.

“Sure, it was...interesting...” I admitted.

“You’re a good dancer,” he said admiringly.

I shrugged sheepishly.

“So, are you going to be around this weekend?” he asked.

“Well, actually, I was going to spend the weekend--or tomorrow at least--at Jesse’s...”

“Oh, cool,” Morgan said, sounding a little disappointed.

“Ummm, but we’ll talk, dude, definitely talk, okay?” I said.

“Sure, and I’ll seez ya on Monday--goodnight, Mr. Travolta!” Morgan got back into the still running minivan, this time sitting in the front seat next to his mom. They both waved and watched as I let myself in through the kitchen door. I almost forgot to reset the security alarm, and then staggered up to my room. My mom was waiting for me at the top of the stairs, dressed in her night gown, her dark brown hair spilling over her shoulders--not unlike Jessica’s...

“Hey, mom!” I said, giving her a quick hug.

“How was it?” she asked with genuine curiosity.

“It was...interesting,” I replied vaguely.

“Ah hah...” my mom muttered suspiciously. “I guess there’s no point in grilling you tonight--but tomorrow, I expect a full report!”

The scary thing was, I could tell that she was only half kidding. I guess I’d have to think of a ‘safe’ way of telling her about the party tomorrow, to set her mind at ease.

“Thanks, I’m really pooped!” And I was.

I had thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before going to Jesse’s. But by the time I undressed, washed up and brushed my teeth, I was only half conscious. I don’t even remember my head touching the pillow...

Copyright © 2011 underthehoodster; 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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This chapter deserves a comment. I guess that it's a little too straight for the majority of readers on this site but I've got a feeling that this is an important part of Perry's development as a teenager. A lot of kids go through this period and the author does well to portray Perry's anxieties and uncertainties over his sexuality. We know that he eventually marries one of these girls but it's probably a mistake. This is a great story.

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