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Choices - 2. Chapter 2

Part III Choices

Chapter 2 Angels And Demons

It was a little strange seeing Tom the next day. In class, he seemed to try and avoid making eye contact with me. I just tried to pretend like nothing unusual had happened between us. Inwardly, I felt knots in my stomach--Tom had told me he was gay! He had told me that he had a crush on me since the first time he saw me. Even though he claimed that he had gotten over me, he had kissed me several times, twice on the lips! And he had wanted to do a lot more...

The only thing that kept me from having a nervous breakdown was thinking about my beautiful blonde angel. I had stayed awake last night, wondering what it would have been like if I had gone to Tom’s sleep over last March, and he had told me his secret, and he had told me he had a crush on me. Surely we would have ended up messing around, maybe calling it an experiment or whatever. I would have had my first sexual experience with Tom! But I also knew that, as nice a guy as he was, and as cute as he was, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with him. There just wasn’t that spark between us. Maybe I would have made up my mind that boys weren’t the thing for me. Maybe I’d be going out with Jessica now, or even Katy...

I noticed Jesse, who seemed to be in an unusually sullen mood all morning, also trying to avoid Tom. I really hoped that we could find some way to get him to open up to Jesse. I just knew I couldn’t handle this on my own. Despite the unease we all felt that day, I was surprised when Tom brought Derek over to sit with us at lunch.

“You don’t mind if Derek eats with us, do you guys?” Tom asked, smiling his usual boyish smile. You could see that Derek made him happy just by the sparkle in his eyes. I couldn’t help but hope that the two of them could get together somehow.

Tom looked around the table, trying to gage everyone’s response. Eighth graders rarely mixed with the other grades at St. Boniface, since we were the highest grade there. Morgan definitely seemed annoyed, although who exactly he was annoyed at was hard to tell. He chit chatted with Jesse and me for a few minutes, reminding me of the basketball practice after school today, and then took his bag lunch and went to sit with his jock friends.

I was also well aware that Jessica and her court were glancing my way, whispering, giggling, and generally carrying on in a conspiratorial sort of way. Still, I always made the effort to be nice to both her and Katy. I had enjoyed getting to know them at the party, and I wanted those relationships to continue. I didn’t need anything from them except for their friendship, but I valued that and hoped we could make things work on that level. But considering the fact that all everyone seemed to think about these days was sex, that seemed highly unlikely.

“Hey there, Derek,” I said as cheerfully as I could. “Come and join us!”

Derek’s eyes practically bulged out of his head. He looked at us like we were gods or something.

“Hey, Derek,” Jesse added in a friendly, but quiet voice.

“Cool!” he said, plopping himself down next to Tom. It was kind of strange with Derek, Tom, and me on one side of the table, and Jesse alone on the other side. I wanted to go sit by him, but I figured it would look strange.

I watched Derek unwrap his ham and cheese sandwich with a big grin on his face. He was obviously proud to be sitting with a group of eighth graders. I could definitely see why he would catch Tom’s eye. Morgan’s thirteen year old brother looked much younger than his thirteen years, had short light brown hair, a cute nose and some very serious green eyes. There was no doubt he would be developing into a very hot looking guy in a few years. While he shared many physical traits with his older brother, Derek was somehow better looking, his features less chiseled, his nose smaller, his eyes bigger and deeper.

“Hey, Derek,” I said cheerfully. “How’s the Tae Kwon Do going?”

Derek seemed flattered that I would even talk to him. “It’s the awesomest!” he said, talking with his mouth full. He had always struck me as kind of hyper, and he tended to talk fast as well. “Tom and I beat four other teams last week in sparring! We totally kicked ass!”

”Wow, you guys must be good!” I said. I could tell by the look on his face, that Tom was proud of their accomplishments as well, even though he didn’t say anything. I could see the way he looked at Derek. There was that sense that the two of them were comfortable with each other, at least as close friends, and now that I knew what was going on, I was sure I could see that look of longing in Tom’s face as well. Maybe I had that same look when I was wishing I could be alone with Jesse. Whether or not it turned out that Derek could relate to Tom on a deeper level, it was clear that they had a strong and healthy friendship going.

“You should join!” Derek said. “That would be so awesome, wouldn’t it, Tom?”

“Yeah, Perry, it’s a lot of fun once you get through the basics.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said, not mentioning that what I really wanted was for Jesse to give me some ‘private lessons.’

“What about you, Jesse?” Tom asked cheerfully. The relaxed way that Tom behaved around Derek was certainly a welcome change from the nervous nelly I’d been dealing with for the past few weeks, really since that day he had met up with me in the parking lot to talk about Jesse. Looking back on that conversation now, I guessed maybe Tom was worried that I was getting too close to Jesse, and maybe he had felt a little threatened.

Jesse shrugged, definitely looking uneasy. I knew him well enough to know that he wouldn’t say anything negative to Tom or Derek, but it also made me a little sad knowing that he couldn’t wholeheartedly support Tom’s cause.

“I used to do that stuff, but I kinda lost interest,” he shrugged.

Tom gave Jesse a rather long look over and I tried to imagine what he was thinking. Surely, anyone who found boys attractive, would have to be blind not to be struck by Jesse’s radiant physical beauty. But Jesse was acting rather glum today, seemingly wrapped up in his own thoughts.

“I’ll see you guys later,” Jesse said, abruptly tossing his half eaten lunch in the nearest trash can.

“Where ya going?” I asked, trying not to sound surprised or concerned.

“Can’t a guy take a leak around here without holding a press conference?” he asked a bit testily.

Derek kept munching blissfully on his sandwich, but followed Jesse with his eyes as he moved off back towards the school building.

”I think Jesse Taylor looks like a movie star,” Derek said with clear admiration, his mouth still half full.

Tom gave me a wide eyed look and then smiled broadly. I wasn’t sure what he was smiling about, but I gestured for him to calm down a little. I also realized that maybe this was a good opportunity for Tom and Derek to talk a little. Besides, I wanted to see what was bothering my sweet angel.

“I’m gonna go catch up with Jesse,” I said, tossing my lunch stuff away.

“Hehehe...Perry’s going to take a leak,” Derek explained to Tom.

I just shook my head and smiled. The boy’s personality was infectious. I discreetly gave Tom a thumbs up, and made my way to the boy’s bathroom.

There were a few kids in there, although nobody from our class. I tried to peak discreetly under the stall doors, but didn’t recognize Jesse’s brown Vans. I went back outside. I knew he had gone this way...

I decided to walk around the back of the building. Usually, one of the staff would blow a whistle reminding you that the area behind the building was off limits, but like I said, eighth graders were treated pretty well at St. Boniface, and even if anyone had seen me, they probably wouldn’t chase me down right away.

There was a strip of sparse grass that lined the back of this part of the school. A fence separated the property from the oak laden hills that climbed up behind the school. Jesse was leaning against the brick building, his head bowed, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jacket. I approached him with some trepidation.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, when I got closer.

“Don’t...” Jesse protested weakly. I saw his shoulders rise and fall as he sighed heavily. He had clearly gone from sullen and moody to just plain upset.

“Please, tell me what’s going on...” I begged him, laying a hand on his shoulder.

He abruptly shrugged me off and turned to face the building.

I got a quick glimpse of his crystal blue eyes glistening with tears. He was crying! I tried to reach out for him, but he quickly brushed me off again. I suddenly felt like crying myself. I didn’t know why, but I always had this sense of Jesse as being so fragile. I knew he could kick the shit out of anyone at school with one hand tied behind his back, but I also knew that there were a lot of dark things lurking in his mind, just below the surface. I suspected that some unpleasant memory had triggered this assault on Jesse’s emotions and my heart bled for him.

I decided to just lean against the wall next to him, forced to remain at arm’s length by his choice, not mine.

“I told you...” Jesse sobbed. “I told you, Perry...that I don’t deserve you...”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, my own voice quavering with barely repressed emotion.

“Your so good, Perry...such an honestly good person, and I'm...I’m so messed up. If you only knew what it was like...” His sobs came now as little spasms, shaking his whole body.

“I’m here now, Jesse. Let me help you...” I wanted so bad to hold him in my arms, to still his sobs, to wipe away his tears.

“Why, Perry? Why are you here? You shouldn’t even be wasting your time with someone like me!” He glanced up at me for the first time, tears streaming down his cheeks, mucous leaking from his nose, his lip trembling.

“I love you, Jesse!” I insisted.

“No, that’s crazy! We’re just kids--you’re just a kid. It’s just a stupid...crush!” He gave me a look of disdain that sent a cold shiver down my spine.

I knew that Jesse was trying to push me away emotionally as well as physically, but I wasn’t buying it. I knew with absolute conviction how I felt, regardless of my youthful naivete. I had never even imagined what truly being in love would be like before I met Jesse, but now I had no doubts.

“It’s not stupid,” I said calmly. “I know how I feel...I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you...”

We just stood there for a few minutes as Jesse let the sobs come up and shake him. Finally, he moved a little towards me and I took the opportunity to move in close and grasp him tight. Not since that night at the mall, after Jesse had fended off those thugs, had I felt such a need to just hold him close. I felt his hot tears land on my neck. I felt him shudder with sob after sob. I felt us melt together into one entity. There was something about Jesse that just made it feel so right. Somehow, we were two parts of the same being. We weren't the same, but we fit together. We made each other whole. It was so clear to me, that I didn’t even think about it most of the time.

“Please love me as much as I love you...” I begged him.

“I do...” he whispered into my ear. “I do...”

I heard the quiet tramping of sneakered feet behind us and I quickly turned. I was relieved to see it was Tom. He had a look of puzzlement on his boyish face as he saw us standing there against the wall, clinging tightly to each other.

“I just thought I’d see if anything was wrong...” he said uneasily. Then when he got closer, realizing that Jesse was sobbing on my shoulder, his mouth opened in astonishment.

“Oh...” he said, his whole expression changing suddenly, and it seemed like he might start crying himself. “I...didn’t know...I just wanted to tell you guys it was time to go to class...” he stammered, stopping about five feet away from us.

“Jesse’s not feeling well,” I said truthfully, refusing to let my sweet angel go. After the initial wave of panic, I decided to just let Tom think whatever he wanted to think. I didn't think he was a threat to us.

“Oh...” Tom said quietly, his concern clearly showing.

“Just tell Mr. Walsh that I took Jesse to the office because he wasn’t feeling well,” I pleaded.

“Sure...Sure, Perry,” Tom said, starting to back up. “Hope you feel better, Jesse,” he said sympathetically before slowly backing off and then turning to disappear around the corner.

“Do you want to go to the office?” I asked, after Tom left.

Jesse seemed quieter now, the sobs having diminished to occasional sniffles. He wiped his face with the sleeve of his jacket.

“Oh God, Perry. I’m so embarrassed...”

“About what?” I asked, holding him firmly by the shoulders.

He looked at me through red puffy eyes, trying to form words. “I...This shouldn’t...Shit...” he sighed frustratedly between sniffles. He looked around, as if realizing where we were for the first time.

“Fuck this!” he said angrily, and dashed over to the chain link fence. He was up and over it in less than three seconds, barely rattling the links as he climbed over and landed solidly on his feet on the other side.

I thought he was going to take off, but he stood there looking at me.

“Aren't you coming?” he asked, offering me a weak smile.

I spent about four seconds thinking that we should either go straight to class or to the office, and then I was climbing the fence. It took longer and I made a lot more noise as I did it, but Jesse helped me get over. He immediately started up the hill and I followed.

After about five minutes of climbing through the scrub and oak trees, I stopped to catch my breath. I was never able to quite catch up to Jesse as he effortlessly navigated the steep and unpredictable terrain.

“Where are we going?” I asked breathlessly.

“I’m not sure, yet,” he said, turning only briefly to check on my progress.

We kept climbing for another five or six minutes, until we got to a flat area thick with ancient California Oaks. Jesse followed the ridge that ran parallel to the back of the school. We could see the flat roof from here. He kept going until we made our way around a small outcropping of bare rock jutting from the dusty earth and dry brush. Finally, with a clear view of the parking lot and the quiet middle class neighborhood beyond the school, he stopped.

We stood silently looking at the view, both of us breathing heavily from our climb. It was a clear, cool autumn day and there were puffy white clouds in the intensely blue sky. The area around the school was almost devoid of traffic at this time of day, and the scene looked peaceful, almost rural. Behind us, the hill continued to climb up at least another hundred feet or so. Jesse sat, leaning against the soft tufts of brownish green grass that sprouted between the rocks. I sat beside him.

“I wish we could just stay up here forever,” he said, as much to himself as to me.

“Whatever you want,” I sighed, letting our peaceful surroundings calm me down.

“There are so many things I should tell you, Perry,” Jesse said, staring off into the sky. “Things that happened to me before I came to California...Life was so different...I never thought I’d be happy again, never...”

“Jesse, if there’s any way I can make you even just a little happy, I want so badly to do it,” I told him earnestly. Again, I felt like reaching out for him, but I just grasped my knees tighter, sensing that this was meant to be a spiritual moment.

“You do make me happy, Perry...very happy. I just don’t know why you bother...” I could hear that little shiver in his voice that told me the darkness inside him was trying to make a comeback.

“For christsake, Jesse--have you ever looked in the mirror?” I asked, trying to stay calm but feeling the urgent need to convey my deepest feelings to this boy, this amazing human being that I loved so passionately. “You’re gorgeous!” I thought of Derek’s cute little remark at lunch. “You’re so beautiful to look at, it makes everyone else look like...like Orcs or something.”

“I didn’t ask to look this way,” Jesse muttered despondently.

Oops, that hadn’t come out the way I intended. “I didn’t mean it that way,” I explained quickly. “It’s just that...uh...that’s how you struck me the first day you walked into class. I’ll admit it, I was physically attracted to you from the moment I set eyes on you.”

“Looks like mine can get you into a lot of trouble,” Jesse said glumly. I could sense he was starting to sink into the quagmire of his past once again, and I felt a tightness in my stomach.

“But it attracted me, anyway,” I explained quickly, wishing that I was better at explaining my own thoughts out loud. “And I’m glad, because it gave me the chance to get to know you for your inner beauty...”

“There is no inner beauty!” Jesse answered rather angrily through grit teeth. He continued to stare out into space, almost as if he were afraid to look at me and know that I was telling him the truth. “There’s just scars, big, black ugly scars, and fears, dark consuming fears. Nothing for a kind hearted, innocent kid like you..." He sighed heavily. "I have nothing to offer you, Perry, nothing...” The words trailed off into inaudibility.

“Oh, Jesse, you’re so wrong about that, so wrong. You can try to deny it, but just look back at the last couple of months and tell me that this is just a physical crush! Look at me and tell me that!” I almost spat out the words. It made me angry to think that Jesse felt like he had nothing to offer. “You fill my life, my thoughts, my dreams,” I gushed. “I’ve been physically attracted to other people before, girls and boys, and I’ve never pursued any of them. The way somebody looks is not enough to warm my heart the way you do. There's so much more to it, and you’ve just flooded me over the past couple of months. Your intelligence, your sense of humor, your stories...It just seems like my life was so empty before all that--can’t you see?”

I was startled to see that Jesse was now staring at me, a sad but thoughtful look on his face.

“I’m so ashamed, Perry. I’m so fucking stupid! I just get so wrapped up in my own little miseries...I do love you, and I know you feel the same and it’s just...sometimes, it’s just unbelievably overwhelming, you know?” He looked right into me with those bottomless, sapphire blue eyes.

I covered my mouth, trying to keep the sobs that were welling up from bursting out of me. I trembled, and tried to contain my feelings, but it was a hopeless battle. I cried tears of joy and relief. Jesse came over and hugged me this time and I felt his tears once again on my neck.

“Look at us!” he said, finally holding me at arm’s length. “Two teenage boys, sitting on a hilltop blubbering our eyes out! What the fuck is this?”

“It’s like our own little soap opera!” I joked, between sniffles.

We both took a few minutes to pull ourselves together, trying to push the tears away. We sat quietly, just contentedly holding hands and enjoying each other's presence.

“Speaking of soap operas...” Jesse said, settling back down against the side of the hill.

“You mean, Tom and Derek?” I asked.

Jesse nodded. “You know how I feel about it, and I’m sorry, but I can’t help but draw from my own experiences...” He swallowed a lump but refused to let his emotions get the better of him this time. He smiled, a thin, almost forced smile. “I do wish Tom and Derek could get together. God knows, people like them--like us, should be allowed some happiness in this life, but there are so many obstacles...”

“But look at us!” I reminded him.

“Us?” he snorted. “We were just a case of ‘love at first sight,’ slam-bam-thankya ma'am!” Finally, a grin broke out on his face, and it was like the sun itself had cast down a special ray of golden light just for me.

We both giggled, knowing it was true. Despite my fears and my own internal struggles, falling in love with Jesse Taylor had been the most natural thing I had ever done in my life. It felt so--right!

“But Tom and Derek...” Jesse shook his head worriedly.

“You’re afraid Morgan will find out and be upset?” I asked, knowing that Jesse had an insight into people that I could never have. It was like I was so naive compared to Jesse, who sometimes seemed almost world weary with wisdom and experience--and not even fourteen years old!

“Morgan is certainly a potential problem, although maybe not an insurmountable one...”

It was encouraging to hear Jesse say that and mean it. It made me feel like there really was some hope.

“Then we should try to help them get together, right?” I asked anxiously.

“If we try and it doesn’t work out, not only would we be risking Tom’s life, but our own. I’m telling you, Perry,” and he looked at me with deadly earnest, “being a gay teenager is maybe one step above having the Plague! At least, if you have the Plague, people would avoid you! But if people even suspect you’re a fag, they’ll hound you every chance they get-- your life is worth shit!” His words were bitter but controlled.

It took me a few seconds to regather my thoughts after Jesse’s outburst. “Granted, we’d have to be extremely careful,” I concurred, thinking about my own fears concerning Jesse and I being found out.

Jesse looked at me, and it was a warm, loving look, but there was also something else, something that spoke to the naivete that he saw and for some reason admired in me. “But I’m afraid there’s an even more immediate problem,” Jesse sighed heavily. “Derek Kipner has a crush on me!”

Of course. Why didn’t that little tidbit surprise me? I repeated to him what Derek had said after Jesse left the table. He just nodded and shrugged helplessly. There wasn’t really anything else to say at this point, so I just stared at the clouds in the sky, thinking of the wonderful, amazing, thrilling times I’d experienced since meeting Jesse. It almost felt like we were starring in our own little movie. I felt the strongest urge to kiss him, but I held back. He still seemed to be in a fragile mood, and I thought it would be best if we just behaved ourselves. Our physical contact almost always pulled strong emotions up to the surface, and we had definitely had enough of that for one day!

After a few minutes of contemplative silence, we headed back down the hill. We came up with the idea that Jesse had eaten some bad egg salad and threw up behind the school. I stayed with him until he felt better. That’s what we told Principal Cardoza, and he seemed to buy it, especially since Jesse looked pretty shaken up.

He told Jesse to go lie down in the sickroom for a while and told me to get back to class. I gave Mr. Walsh a shorter version of the same story and he seemed to accept it, especially since I looked pretty shaken up. Tom looked at me with concern but I gave him a weak smile. Jesse was back for our next class, somewhat subdued but otherwise okay.

We had basketball practice right after school for about an hour and a half. I planned to take the bus home since it would be awkward for my mom to leave work and pick me up and then head back so late. Besides, I had plenty to think about. We didn’t have shower facilities at St. Boniface so the best you could do was to wash up a bit in the bathroom before changing back into your school clothes. When I came out of the bathroom, Tom was leaning against the wall, waiting for me.

“Hey,” I said, surprised to see him and feeling not a little bit awkward after Jesse’s bombshell about Derek.

“Hey, yourself, dude!” Tom said, a smile spreading on his face.

“What’re you doing here?” I asked.

Tom just kept smiling, so I started heading for my locker. But I found it intoxicating and was soon smiling myself.

“What are we smiling about?” I asked, as I opened my locker to get my books.

“Did you hear what Derek said at lunch?” Tom asked in an excited whisper.

“Uh...what are you talking about, dude?”

“You know--he said Jesse looked like a movie star--remember?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said uneasily, heading for the bus stop at the edge of the parking lot. I glanced briefly up the hill, trying to locate the secret spot that Jesse and I had discovered just a few hours ago.

“Well...don’t you think that’s cool?” Tom asked, as if it should be clear to me what the heck he was talking about.

“I don’t get it,” I replied dumbly, not seeing where this conversation was going.

“I know it sounds weird, man, but just think about it--Derek basically was saying that Jesse was really hot, right?”

“I guess...Maybe...” Now I was feeling very uncomfortable, and hoped I wasn’t blushing. What was Tom’s point?

“So that must mean--he likes boys!” Tom concluded excitedly.

I didn’t want to burst his bubble but...

“That may be,” I said uncertainly, “but what if the boy he likes is--Jesse?” I said, stating what should have been obvious even to Tom.

“Derek doesn’t even know Jesse,” Tom said dismissively. “But he and I are total buds! I think everything is going to work out just great!”

Talk about tunnel vision!

“Jesse's been tutoring Derek for about a month now," I reminded him.

"That's probably how Derek developed his crush," Tom explained nonchalantly.

"So you know...er...think, that Derek has a crush on Jesse?"

"Who wouldn't?" Tom admitted with a sheepish shrug. "Believe me, Perry, if you weren't so straight, you'd have a crush on him to. He's like an incredibly hot lookin' guy, and kinda mysterious and..." he shrugged.

"And all this is good--why?" I asked.

"Because," Tom said as if explaining something incredibly obvious to a much younger child, "it means Derek likes boys, and now I can tell him about myself and how I feel about him!"

"And him having a crush on Jesse isn't going to be a problem?" I asked, my head spinning from trying to grasp Tom's odd sense of logic.

"That's right. Jesse's straight, so there's no hope there; but then I'll tell him that I'm totally into boys, and everything will be great!"

I glanced around nervously, making sure no one was in ear shot of our extremely dangerous conversation.
I sighed, finding myself succumbing to Tom's relentlessly positive point of view. "I hope so, Tom, I really do,” I said sincerely. Tom looked happier than I had ever seen him before.

He glanced quickly around, and then grabbed me and my backpack in a big hug. It only lasted a few seconds before he pulled back, still grinning from ear to ear.

“What was that for?” I asked after recovering from my astonishment.

“It’s just so awesome to be able to share these things with someone--especially you, Perry. I still wish it could've worked out for you and me, but now, things are looking great again!”

I had to smile again at Tom’s unbridled optimism. He deserved to have things work out. I wondered if he and Derek could have the kind of relationship Jesse and I had. Or would it just be a passionate, physical kind of thing, with the two of them discovering their own sexuality together for the first time? That sounded like it could be fun! I thought about the deep feelings Jesse and I had for each other, and how easily they triggered intense emotions, both happy and sad. There was no denying that could be draining.

“So, do you still want to get together to work on the Geography project?” I asked, feeling that, with Tom’s heart firmly fixed on Derek, I would be safe from any lingering effects of Tom's former crush on me.

“Definitely!” Tom said.

“How about this weekend?” I knew Jesse would be unavailable all weekend, so I would definitely have some free time. Besides, the project was due on Tuesday, when we would have to give an oral presentation along with whatever visual aides we could come up with.

Tom looked at me disappointedly. “We’ll be at my grandma’s all day Saturday, and Sunday’s church, and then I was planning to hang out at the mall arcade with Derek...”

I guess I could’ve been mean and insisted we get together Sunday afternoon, but that wasn’t my style.

“Well, then, what about Friday right after school?”

“That would be awesome!” Tom agreed. He held his palm up for a high five, and I smacked it heartily, glad to see him in such a good mood. Still, I couldn’t help thinking about what Jesse had said, and about Morgan, and about the whole ‘liking boys’ thing in general. I knew that Tom trusted me implicitly, especially after our Tuesday afternoon get together, so I decided to push it a little.

“Tom, if you value my opinion...” I asked, looking him directly in the eye.

“You know I do, Perry!” he interrupted.

“Then do me a favor--a BIG favor--please?”

“Sure, anything,” Tom assured me.

I saw the bus getting close and I fished around in my wallet for my bus pass.

“Just take things slow with Derek--for now. Can you do that?”

”Take things slow?” Tom asked, a confused look on his face.

“Look, I have to go--but please think about it, at least?”

“Sure,” Tom said with a new smile on his face. “I’ll take it slow...We have time!” He waved as I got on the bus, trying his best to stifle his smile, but only partially succeeding.

Star Trek was a rerun, but we rented a DVD of a film called Adaptation, mostly because my mom was a big Nicholas Cage fan, and it was extremely clever and funny! I wondered why every movie couldn’t be as well written, directed, and acted as that one was. I mean--how hard could it be? Judging from the parade of crappy movies that came out week after week, I guess it was a lot harder than it looked! Still, for a couple of hours anyway, it took my mind off all the crazy things that had happened in the last couple of days.

Earlier in the evening, I had been hesitant about talking to Jesse, still not quite sure what to make of his frightening, almost irrational behavior at lunch today. But now, I felt the need to hear his voice, and maybe share a little of the joy I had gotten from watching the movie. I was sure he would like it as well.

“Yeah, it sounds like a cool movie,” Jesse said after I briefly explained the convoluted plot without giving away too many surprises. “It sounds like the script was really well thought out.”

“Right. That must be the key to a really good movie,” I agreed enthusiastically. “I bet you could write a great screenplay!”

“Hmmm, haven’t really thought about...maybe someday...”

“You know, Hollywood is only a few hours away...”

“Fame and fortune, huh?” Jesse asked rhetorically. There was a long pause, and I knew there were other things on Jesse’s mind. I waited for him to speak first.

“About today...” he began hesitantly.

That’s all it took for me to feel an emotional surge fill my chest and tighten my throat.

“Are you okay?” I asked worriedly.

“Yeah, I’m okay, dude, don’t worry about it. Just me being goofy...” He didn’t sound like he was even convincing himself, but what could I say that I hadn’t already said?

“You know you mean everything to me,” I said.

“I know, Perry...” Jesse acknowledged reluctantly.

“And I’m really sorry I said those things about how good looking you are--I mean, you’re really one butt ugly kid and I guess I was just trying to boost your self confidence!”

That finally got a laugh out of him, and it warmed my heart considerably.

“You know, I was really surprised when you told me that Tom was interested in Derek Kipner,” Jesse said in a more light hearted, conversational way.

“Why’s that?”

“Well, it’s just that, I could’ve sworn I’ve seen Tom making eyes at you since the first day I came to class!”

Damn, he was good!

“Well, er, I guess I didn’t tell you about that part, since it didn’t seem very important at the time,” I explained awkwardly.

“So he told you that he had a crush on you?” Jesse asked, already filling in the blanks.

“Yeah, he said he had weird feelings about me since the first day I showed up at St. Boniface...” I said uncomfortably.

“Hmmm, I have weird feelings about you too, dude! Maybe Tom and I should compare notes!” Jesse teased.

“Not funny, dude,” I warned him. “I feel really bad...and confused...and...I don’t know what...”

“He probably heard that story about you having a serious girlfriend back in La Jolla, and realized he was barking up the wrong tree!” Jesse surmised.

“That’s about right,” I agreed, impressed as always by how clairvoyant Jesse could be. How was it that he could see so clearly into other people, but not himself?

The next day, Derek again joined us for lunch, although he went off to hang out with friends from his own class when he was done wolfing down his sandwich. I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination or not, but it seemed like the kid had definitely made some strides in the popularity department since he started eating lunch with a table full of eighth graders.

Morgan also ate lunch with us, and for a little while, it was almost like old times, talking about books, movies, sports...Tom seemed much more relaxed now, even around Morgan, and I guessed it was a good thing. It didn’t seem like his relationship with Derek had changed any, so apparently he was heeding my advice about taking the evolution of their relationship slowly.

Halfway through lunch period, Katy and Jessica sauntered over. Katy casually rested her hands on Morgan’s shoulders, a brazenly sexual act at a small Catholic school. Fortunately, none of the lunch staff seemed to notice. She just started massaging his narrow shoulders in a way that seemed just so comfortable. Morgan went on chatting about our upcoming basketball game against St. Matt's next week, while Katy made an occasional comment or just smiled that warm fresh smile of hers. I couldn’t help thinking how great it would be if I could walk up behind Jesse like that, in the middle of the schoolyard, and just start massaging his shoulders without anyone taking special notice.

Jessica came and sat next to me on the end of the bench. I could smell the flowery scent of her perfume, and it reminded me of the un-Halloween party, and sitting on the bed next to her, just watching TV and enjoying each other’s company.

“How’s everything going with you, Perry?” she asked, and I knew what she meant.

Apparently, Jesse also caught on quickly (as usual). “Perry’s in love!” he said, dragging out the word 'love' with a teasing grin, and making little kissy faces at me.

I almost spit my oatmeal cookie out when he said that, and quickly started drinking my Mountain Dew to cover my shocked reaction.

“Do you know who it is?” Jessica asked Jesse, her eyes wide with unbridled curiosity.

Jesse shrugged, giving me an annoyed glance. “He’s not telling me--but then again, we’re not that close!”

What a strange sense of humor that boy had...


comments and constructive criticism are always welcome: underthehoodster@netscape.net

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.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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