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Choices - 9. Chapter 9

Part III Choices

Chapter 9 Rummage Sale Part III

Returning to the social hall at St. Agnus, Jesse led the girls back to our table. It was like a quiet island amidst the hustle and bustle of the sale that was going on all around it.

“Just wait here for a minute,” he said, leaving the three of us.

His five foot six inch figure soon melted into the crowd. It was only after I caught sight of Gary’s tall form, that I noticed Jesse was talking to him. And the conversation seemed to be a calm one, with both of them smiling a little by the end of it. Now that was weird!

The two of them made their way over to our table.

Jesse politely introduced Gary to the two girls, and then explained that he was in charge of the junior volunteers.

“I know a place we can go in the basement,” Jesse said quietly, a serious look on his face. “Gary’s going to serve as a sort of lookout. You have your cellphone, Perry?” he asked.

I nodded.

“You and Gary exchange numbers, and we’re all set!”

“Cool,” Clarissa said, obviously impressed by Jesse’s handling of the arrangements, and his ability to get a high schooler for such a menial job.

Gary seemed glad to do it, giving me a knowing wink. Why hadn’t we met under different circumstances--like it had been with Jason? It seemed to me that Gary had a good heart, and had just gotten a little mixed up--looking for peer validation in all the wrong places, you might say. He had also sent some rather confusing signals that indicated he might be attracted to boys. If that proved to be true, it would be interesting to hear about his experiences some time.

“Perry and I’ll go ahead, and you gals can follow in about five minutes or so,” Jesse explained. Jessica and Clarissa seemed to be totally into it. Making out with whatever boys caught their interest seemed to be just another part of their everyday existence, but to me, this all seemed unreal. I kept wondering when Jesse was going to turn around and tell them that it had all been a big joke, that he was gay as a hairdresser-- and that he and I were lovers.

As we got up, I turned briefly and scanned the huge room for any sign of my mom. I felt really weird about all this, and I didn’t want her seeing me sneaking off. Of course, even if she did catch sight of me, she wouldn’t necessarily suspect anything, but somehow, I just didn’t want her to know. Jesse had already taken off, so I hurried after him.

We walked quickly down the long corridor behind the kitchen, the only sound coming from the soft squeaking of our sneakers on the polished floor. We passed the bathrooms and turned to go down the wide staircase that led directly to the main corridor of the basement.

“Jesse, why are we doing this?” I asked, once I was able to catch up with him.

“Why not?” he asked flippantly. “After all that bullshit we went through this morning, don’t you want to do something that’s just...fun?” he asked, barely slackening his pace as we walked briskly down the long corridor. We turned left at the first intersection.

“Of course I do,” I said. “But the kind of fun I’m thinking of, involves only two people--you...and me.”

We now stood in front of the classroom that we knew was unlocked.

“But this is what teenagers do, Perry. Guys and girls--making out. You know that Jessica’s been dying to do this with you--and you can see the look in her cousin’s eyes! I bet if she doesn’t have a guy to make out with at least once a day, she probably goes home and bites the heads off rats or something.”

”That’s not very nice, Jesse,” I said in a slightly chastising way, even though I felt that he might be right. What Clarissa seemed like was a rich, spoiled, ‘gotta have it all the time’ slut. On the other hand, maybe it was just an act, like Jessica’s prima donna routine at school. Then it finally dawned on me.

“You’re just putting on an act!” I said in disbelievingly.

“What do you mean?” Jesse asked uncomfortably.

“It’s an act! Instead of Jerrin, the Boy From Another Universe, you’re playing Jesse, The Teenage Stud--straight and horny!” I said accusingly.

Jesse seemed a little startled by the harshness in my voice, but before he had a chance to answer, we heard footsteps. The girls were coming. I could hear Clarissa’s sharply heeled boots clacking on the stairs. Soon they appeared at the end of the corridor, looked around for a few seconds as their eyes adjusted to the dimmer light of the flickering flourescents stretched along the ceiling, and then waved to us.

“Just enjoy it--for me?” Jesse pleaded before opening the door.

I still didn’t get it. Jesse hadn’t denied that he was putting on an act, but he hadn’t told me why either. But this seemed important to him, so I had to go along with it.

Jesse stepped in, but didn’t turn on the light. He let his eyes adjust to the near darkness before starting to tidy the place up a bit, stacking up fallen textbooks or shoving boxes to one side or the other. I unenthusiastically joined in.

Clarissa walked in and immediately flicked the light switch. About half of the fluorescent ceiling lights slowly flickered to life.

“I’ve seen worse,” she commented, taking in the piles of boxes, old desks, and textbooks scattered across the dusty floor.

Jesse quickly went to close the door, but didn't bother blocking the light leaking out from underneath.

“Gary will ring your phone twice if he sees someone heading for the stairs,” Jesse explained. “If that happens, we’ll need to kill the lights so they don’t bleed into the hall.”

“Wow, you’re a real pro!” Clarissa said admiringly. “And here I thought you were just a cute little virgin.”

Jesse didn’t respond to her comment, but looked at me to make sure I understood his instructions. I nodded, still trying to show him that I didn’t like what was going on. Jessica just stood cautiously near the door, a look of quiet anticipation on her face.

“Well, it ain’t much, but it’s what we got,” Jesse said with an inviting smile, gesturing to the old classroom.

“How’d you find out about this place?” Jessica asked.

“There were some high schoolers goofing around down here this morning. Perry and I kinda followed them, to see what they were up to.”

It was uncanny the way Jesse was able to take the truth and fictionalize it just enough to make a somewhat plausible cover story. I didn’t like the part about us spying on the high schoolers, but I couldn’t have thought of a better explanation.

“I wonder what they were doing down here?” Jessica asked to no one in particular.

“Probably same thing we’re doing--or about to do,” Clarissa said with a hungry smile.

“It was just guys,” he noted.

“I heard they pass keys around to these old classrooms and use them to make out or smoke,” I offered.

Jesse nodded. “Yeah, they were probably smoking.”

Clarissa sniffed. “Well, they did a pretty good job of getting rid of the smell,” she said, a bit skeptically.

“It was early in the morning,” Jesse suggested, “long enough for the air to recirculate--even down here.”

This seemed to satisfy everyone, because Clarissa undid the belt of her jacket and slipped the expensive calfskin coat off. Jesse politely took it and set it on one of the long tables he had cleared off. He also waited while Jessica slipped her jacket off and handed it to him. Clarissa had on a tight, magenta sweater that matched the highlights in her hair and clearly showed off her frontal attributes. Jessica had on a simple buttoned down white blouse with lace on the collar and cuffs, which I found much more appealing than Clarissa’s clingy outfit.

Next, Jesse slipped off his jacket. He was wearing a grey sweat shirt with Gregson (the name of his old school in Evanston) printed on it. While it wasn’t particularly revealing, it did show his slender figure off nicely. I still had my hooded St. Boniface jacket on.

Clarissa wasted no time, launching herself directly at Jesse, who was taken by surprise. Jessica’s cousin, several inches taller than the blond haired boy, especially in her fancy, spike-heeled boots, grabbed Jesse by the front of his shirt and pulled him towards her. She tilted her head and got her lips around his before he could even say anything. I could see the startled look in his bright blue eyes, but soon, it was clear that he had recovered and was holding his own. They remained in face sucking mode for a good minute before Jesse pulled away, breathing heavily.

It bothered me to see Jesse kissing someone else, but less so because it was a girl. I had to smile when I saw that some of Clarissa’s bright red lipstick had rubbed off on Jesse’s deliciously full lips.

“Not bad,” Clarissa said, sounding like a jaded wine connoisseur. She backed Jesse up against one of the cinderblock walls and again pressed her lips against his. This time, Jesse was better prepared and slowly rubbed his hands over her shoulders and down her arms as they kissed.

Jessica slowly came over to where I was standing, staring wide eyed at Clarissa and Jesse. I didn’t even hear her because she was wearing white canvas sneakers.

“Rissy doesn’t like to waste time,” she said with a slightly embarrassed smile.

“I’ll say,” I muttered, making an effort to pull my gaze off of them and direct my attention to the pretty girl standing right in front of me. And she was that: with long shiny brown hair that tumbled over her small breasts as well as her back, thin dark brown eyebrows, long curled lashes, a smooth sweet face that tapered to a small, pointed chin, and just the right amount of rouge and lipstick to enhance her features without overpowering them. Her warm brown eyes seemed to have flecks of gold in them as they stared intensely at me.

“Perry...” she whispered, coming even closer. She closed her eyes and I knew what she was waiting for. The next thing I knew, our lips were pressed together, perfectly aligned. Her lips were much softer than Jesse's, but the lipstick gave them a slippery, waxy feeling that I didn't care for too much. She slowly tilted her head, opening her mouth and forcing me to open mine. Her tongue in my mouth felt different than Jesse’s, but not in a bad way. There was a lightness to our contact, maybe because she was a girl, or maybe because I didn’t feel the passion burning in me the way I did when Jesse and I kissed. But I liked it...I definitely liked it.

“I’ve waited a long time for this...” Jessica whispered in my ear, her hands locked around the back of my neck. I heard the pent up passion in her voice that told me I was treading dangerous ground. Jesse had talked about having some fun, and I wasn’t opposed to that. Just as he had said, this was what teenagers did. Our bodies were raging with hormones, giving us feelings and urges we never had before. Physical contact was as necessary to us as food and water--at least, that’s the way it felt at the time. But I seriously didn’t want to hurt Jessica’s feelings either. At least, by setting up the story about me having an out of town lover that I was struggling to be faithful to, she had to understand that this was just a one time thing--just a way for four horny teens to kill a dreary Saturday afternoon.

Unfortunately, by the end of our second french kiss, I realized I was starting to get aroused, although I didn’t think it was visible through the denim fabric of my jeans quite yet. I glanced over at Jesse and Clarissa. They were well involved now, with Jesse still pressed against the wall, but with both their arms moving, Clarissa's hand moving over Jesse's shoulders and chest, and even down to his lean stomach. It wasn’t until I caught a glimpse of Clarissa’s hands moving to Jesse’s ass, that I became concerned. I realized that I was feeling possessive. Hey lady--that's MY ass! What gave this stranger, this rich slut, this jaded, calculating, sex crazed bitch, the right to touch my boyfriend’s perfectly bubbled butt?

“Wh...what’s the matter?” Jessica asked with concern in her voice. Her hands were still warmly on my shoulders.

“Oh..uh...nothing...I’m just not used to doing...this with other people in the room...er...doing the same thing...”

Jessica started to giggle, and shyly held her hand to her mouth to mask it. It was an endearing gesture and it helped to distract me from my potentially dangerous thoughts. Still grasping me around the neck, she tugged me further into the room. She pulled me between two tall stacks of boxes so that we were hidden from Jesse and Clarissa.

“Better?” she asked, flicking her long eyelashes at me.

Sure it was better. The problem was whether or not it was a good better or a bad better. This was just so messed up. I was actually getting angry at Jesse for setting this whole thing up. That kid was just too damn smart for his own good. He had flawlessly played Clarissa like a fine musical instrument to get the four of us down here alone, and now I was in a predicament from which I saw no graceful way out. Unbidden tears were starting to form in my eyes from my pent up frustration.

“Perry...” Jessica whispered, her eyes filled with concern. “This isn’t working for you, is it?” she asked, disappointedly.

I shook my head. “It isn’t that...I wish it was. I wish I could just tell you that I have another girlfriend who I’ve promised to be faithful to, and that we need to stop...but I can’t...” I felt a sob welling up inside of me. Dammit, Jesse, why did you do this to me?

“I’m sorry, Perry. I let my own brainless desires get in the way of my senses. I know you’re not attracted to me, and yet I keep pursuing you--how lame is that?”

”Not lame at all,” I said, touching her soft cheek with my finger. Then we were kissing again, and this time, it was passionate. There was still no feelings of love there. I wasn’t about to drop Jesse like a ton of bricks and start humping Jessica. It was just that, I knew how she was feeling. For whatever reason, she felt attracted to me, and for me to play around with her feelings, making up stories, telling her that we were just having a bit of fun on the side, those things felt all wrong to me. She was a beautiful young lady, and she had strong feelings for me, and I just had to respond to that.

The result was an extended session of enthusiastic french kissing, with our hands rubbing each other’s bodies through our clothes. At first, it was just safe places: shoulders, arms, backs. I loved the feeling of her incredibly soft, silky hair, and her scent, a complicated blend of shampoo, soap, and perfume that all worked together to make her even more tantalizing. But eventually, her hands were rubbing my butt and mine were against her breasts, which I could feel through her shirt and her bra. Where Jesse was all lean muscle and sinew, Jessica was delicate and soft. It felt good to touch her through her clothes, and I could well imagine what it would be like without any fabric interfering with our contact...

Finally, I had to pull back to catch a good breath, but I was now fully aroused, and I sensed she was too. Dammit, Jesse! What the have you done? I cursed to myself.

“You’re incredible...” I whispered, leaning my cheek against hers. I felt her warm breath on my neck, and her hands slid up and down my sides to my hips. She unzipped my jacket so she could rub her hands against my button down shirt. We were about to launch into another round of passionate kissing, when my cellphone went off. Genuinely startled, I instinctively pulled it out of my pants pocket and got ready to press the button to receive the call.

“Wait!” Jesse called in a loud whisper. “Two rings!” he reminded me breathlessly.

I waited, and sure enough, the phone rang twice and fell silent.

“Be careful--I’m going to kill the lights!” Jesse called from near the front of the room. A moment later, we were cast into near total darkness. The only light was the sliver that seeped underneath the door from the corridor.

We all stood as still as statutes, listening...Soon, we could hear footsteps. It sounded like two people had just reached the bottom of the stairs, way off at the other end of the main corridor. I listened intently as the footsteps drew nearer. Jessica groped for my hand in the darkness, and finding it, squeezed it hard. I heard Clarissa giggling, as if the idea of getting caught in the act, was a turn on for her. I started wondering how far she and Jesse had gotten in their make out session.

It seemed like the footsteps were headed right for our room, but then they started to dimnish slightly. It was clear that they had passed this intersection and were continuing further on. Then there was silence.

I heard Jesse gasp. “Clarissa!” he hissed angrily. I could only guess what that was all about.

As we waited in the dark, trying not to make any noise, Jessica eventually loosened her hand from mine, and leaned her head against my chest. It felt good there, and I stroked her satiny soft hair.

After several minutes, we heard the footsteps start up again. This time, it was clear that they were heading back towards the stairs.

“Wait!” Jesse whispered loudly. “Gary’ll give two rings when the coast is clear!” Another gasp.

“Knock...it...off!” Jesse insisted through gritted teeth. Clarissa just giggled like she was drunk--drunk with lust I guess. I felt like knocking that slut right on her ass!

Jessica and I were startled when my cellphone began to ring again, stopping after the second one again. I felt Jessica release a long held breath, and I did the same. I heard Jesse’s quiet footsteps as he went back and flicked the lights back on. The flickering flourescents, which had seemed barely adequate before, now seemed uncomfortably bright, and I squinted as they came back on.

Jessica was still in my arms, her hands embracing my hips. She slowly moved back, looking at me with a gaze I knew all too well. What could I say to her to let her down easily? I had no clue.

That’s when I heard Jesse say, rather testily, “I think we’re done here! Perry?” he called.

“Yeah?” I asked, my voice surprisingly raspy in my dry throat.

I heard Jesse’s footsteps as he came towards us. Jessica stood back a little.

“Hey there,” he said, poking his blond head around the pile of boxes. I took in a quick breath and held it. Seeing him there, his long silky hair thoroughly mussed up, a few splotches of lipstick visible on his face, I was struck all over again by how beautiful he was. I was clearly reminded as to why I had been so attracted to him in the first place. As pretty as Jessica was, and as much as her strong feelings for me aroused my passion, there was just no comparison. Even though I was angry with him for putting me in such an awkward situation, I couldn’t help but feel bound to him from the bottom of my soul. It was a profound feeling that transcended the petty emotions and thoughts that drove our daily emotional rollercoaster. I would let him know how annoyed I was with him, and I would make him tell me why he had brilliantly manipulated all of us into this, but in the end, I would love him as much or more than I ever had before. I just knew that to be the truth. Besides, for now, he was giving me an easy out with Jessica. Still, I fully realized that it was a situation that would have to be dealt with in a serious way. At some point...but not right now...

Jessica giggled at Jesse’s disarrayed appearance. “He’s sooo cute...” Jessica whispered lightly into my ear. “Like a little Aaron Carter doll!” I figured it was better not to respond to that, especially since I knew Jesse wasn’t that little--hehehe! Jessica gave me one more meaningful glance, before stepping back out into the middle of the room. I followed close behind. Clarissa was adjusting herself in a way that reminded me of the way a cat nonchalantly licks its own fur.

“What a hottie!” she said to Jessica, a big, satisfied smile on her face as she glanced at Jesse. I couldn't help but compare her to Fred Goreski. They seemed to have certain things in common: they were both used to getting their own way and they both had no compunctions about using others to satisfy their own animal lusts.

“I can’t believe it--quiet little Jesse Taylor!” Jessica giggled.

Jesse started straightening out his clothes, glancing at Clarissa in a somewhat annoyed fashion.

“You okay, dude?” I asked, trying my best to sound like a bud and not a concerned (or jealous) lover.

“That’s quite a grip you got there!” he said, scowling pointedly at Clarissa.

“Hey, it’s not like you couldn’t return the favor!” But Clarissa had definitely gotten something she wanted, because she seemed to be in a really good mood. I knew what a great kisser Jesse was, and I felt a twinge of jealousy. Of course, I think I had held my own with Jessica as well--but at least I knew her and cared for her. How Jesse could just make out with a slut like Clarissa--I didn’t get it.

Everyone got there jackets back on and Jesse flicked off the lights before letting us back out into the corridor.

“That wasn’t bad for a warm up,” Clarissa said, as the four of us walked together towards the stairs. “What are you boys doing later this evening?”

“You could come over if you wanted to,” Jessica offered with a nervous smile that suggested she was more interested than she let on.

I glanced at Jesse with something like fear in my eyes that hopefully the girls didn’t see.

“Sorry, no can do,” he answered simply. End Of Discussion.

“Perry?” Clarissa asked, turning around and making us all stop in our tracks. Her eyes again lit up as she gave me a fresh look over.

“Well, I...” I said, desperately trying to think of a polite way to back out.

“You promised to help me set up my computer,” Jesse reminded me petulantly.

Thank you!!!!! “Oh yeah, I almost forgot,” I shrugged apologetically.

Jessica didn’t say anything, but I think she was disappointed. I hated the idea of hurting her feelings, even a little. I gave her a lobsided little smile that I hoped conveyed my sincere apologies. She just nodded and started walking again. I felt like a jerk.

“Jessica, you need to bring these two over to my place, sometime--we’ve got a great guesthouse with it's own jacuzzi,” she said temptingly, addressing Jesse and me directly as we kept walking.

“Wait!” Jesse said, suddenly freezing up.

“Wh...?” I began to ask, just as my cellphone started ringing.

“Shit!” Jesse cursed.

“Should we hide or what?” Clarissa asked in a careless sort of way.

My heart was pounding. Jesse led us back into the side corridor we had just come from, where we held our breath, Clarissa with a silly grin on her face the whole time. She seemed to live for danger, and it wasn't hard to visualize her biting the heads off of those rats...

Soon we heard some shuffling on the stairs. The footsteps were muffled, not like the sharp footsteps we had heard earlier. It sounded like whoever it was, they were wearing sneakers.

“What’ll we do if they catch us here?” I asked, feeling more panic than I probably should have. Jesse didn’t seem overly concerned, and just shrugged.

“Too late anyway,” he mumbled, peaking around the corner. “Who ever it is, must’ve heard the cellphone.” I wanted to grab him back, but he boldly stepped into the main corridor. The rest of us followed, quickly spotting a lean, teenage figure standing at the bottom of the stairs.

“Morgan!” Jessica exclaimed in surprise. She seemed happy to see him and hurried along to meet him. Morgan’s look of surprise quickly turned into one of friendly recognition.

“Whoa, what have I stumbled on here?” he asked with a knowing smirk.

“Hey there, Basketball Boy,” Clarissa said with a little wink, clearing demonstrating that the two of them had already met.

“Hey, Clarissa--what’re you doing with my two buds here?”

“As if you didn’t know,” she laughed, sounding way older than her fifteen years.

Morgan looked at the four of us, somewhat in disbelief. “Whoa, Jesse...don’t tell me you and Clarissa...”

“Don’t let those teenybobber looks fool you,” Clarissa said, nudging Morgan in the arm. “The kid knows what he’s doing. Just a bit touchy is all.”

“Really?” Morgan said, both astonishment and admiration clear in his expression. “Way to go, dude!” he said, holding up his hand for a high five. Jesse gave him a forceful slap, and I knew he was putting more into it than he needed to.

Ow, shit, man!” Morgan said, laughing to cover his surprise at Jesse’s powerful slap. He shook his hand out with a grimace.

“What do you say the five of us head out for the mall or something?” Clarissa suggested.

Morgan shook his head. “Sorry, I’m here on business. Part of the clean up crew.”

I glanced at my watch. It was almost two o’clock. The sale ended officially at three. “Jesse and I have another hour on duty,” I explained, trying not to let the sound of my relief come through too strongly.

“How's it going, Jessica?” Morgan finally asked in a slightly uncomfortable way.

“Oh, you know...same ol’ stuff,” she answered vaguely. “Clarissa’s in town for the weekend and we just came by to check out the rummage sale. Then we spotted Perry and Jesse and...” Her voice trailed off, and I heard the strange mixture of satisfaction and disappointment in her voice.

“Well, it looks like I missed the fun part,” Morgan said with mock disappointment, trying to keep things lighthearted.

“How did you know we were down here?” I asked.

“I knew you and Jesse were going to be here, and I saw your mom, but I couldn’t find you anywhere. So when Father Mike introduced me to the youth volunteer leader, I asked him if he knew where you were.”

“And he told you?” I asked, somewhat surprised.

“Well, not exactly. I had to kind of guess. I could tell he was hiding something. That’s pretty cool though, getting a big shot like Van Driesen to serve as your lookout.”

“Big shot?” I asked.

Clarissa was shifting impatiently from foot to foot. Seeing that she wasn’t going to be getting any more action in the immediate future, she had pretty much lost interest in our conversation. Finally, she tugged on Jessica’s arm. “Let’s leave these boys to their mindless chit chat--the fun part’s definitely over. We can still have a look around before Aunt Helena comes back.” Aunt Helena was Jessica’s mom.

“See you upstairs,” Jessica said with a small wave. She gave me one last look, before heading up the stairs. I felt very guilty, and my irritation with Jesse returned a little.

“Hey, dude, I thought you were saving yourself for some chick back in La Jolla?” Morgan asked, not in an accusing way, but casually, as if it were no big deal.

“Well, I kinda got talked into it...” I said, glaring at Jesse.

“Just seemed like the thing to do at the time,” he shrugged impishly.

“Who would have thought our quiet little Jesse could make such a strong impression on a cold bitch like Clarissa?” Morgan said, shaking his head with a combination of admiration and disbelief.

“What was all that gasping about?” I asked, thinking it would be fun to put Jesse on the spot just a little.

“Gasping?” Morgan asked with a puzzled smile.

Jesse barely flinched. “One time, we got the signal that someone was coming downstairs, so I killed the lights. Then Clarissa came snuggling up to me and just grabbed my crotch--like really hard!”

Morgan and I laughed, and Jesse shrugged if off, just the way a straight kid would’ve. “Thought she was gonna crush my balls!”

“And the second time?” I persisted, realizing that Jesse was too quick for me in every way. Still, I was curious.

“Pinched my ass,” Jesse explained quickly, wincing a little at the memory.

“She’s a real slut, if you don’t mind my saying so,” Morgan offered brashly.

“Sometimes, that’s just what the doctor ordered,” Jesse responded with a knowing wink.

Morgan nodded in agreement, but didn’t go for another painful high five.

“What were you saying about Gary being a big shot?” I asked curiously, as we slowly made our way up the stairs.

“Who? Oh, you mean Van Driesen?” Morgan asked. “I mean, it’s not like I know him personally, but I know who he is. He’s the only junior center for the varsity basketball team at H.T. I’ve seen him play. He’s fast and accurate, no fancy moves, slam dunks like nobody's business--just a real strong player. I can totally get into that!”

“That’s cool!” I said, realizing that I wanted to see Gary play.

“Maybe he’ll even make starting center next year,” Morgan speculated. “Of course, the JV team is going to make those jokers look like a bunch of old ladies once the Kipner/Thompson dynamic duo come to town,” Morgan laughed confidently.

“So, he didn’t try to stop you from coming down?” I asked, feeling like Gary may not have been as good a guy as I thought he was.

“Well, he sorta hemmed and hawed when I started grilling him about you guys. I could tell he knew where you were, but I couldn’t imagine why he wouldn’t want to tell me. Then he finally admitted that you had a couple of girls with you...and he couldn’t stop me after that--hehehe.”

We were at the top of the steps now, in the unadorned corridor that went past the side of the kitchen and led into the main hall.

“How’d you get Van Driesen to act as lookout for you guys?” Morgan asked curiously.

“Oh, we helped him out of a tight spot earlier this morning,” Jesse explained smoothly. “He kinda owed us.”

“Cool,” Morgan said, duly impressed.

“I’ll be right back,” Jesse said, scooting off to the bathroom without looking back.

Morgan and I hung out in the corridor near the bathroom to wait for him.

“ Jesse’s pretty cool,” Morgan said admiringly. “I didn’t know he had it in him. I mean, to go toe to toe with someone like Clarissa...”

And Fred Goreski, I added to myself. “He’s full of surprises,” I assured him.

“I have to admit,” he said in a loud whisper, “when he first showed up at school, he seemed like kind of a sissy boy--you know, teenybopper looks, long hair, blue eyes--and brainy too.”

Funny that Jesse had never seemed like a ‘sissy’ to me. And was Morgan telling me, in his own way, that he thought Jesse was hot? I’d like to see the look on his face if I told him how that 'sissy boy' kicked the captain of the varsity wrestling team’s two hundred and fifty pound ass!

“I also didn’t think you’d be hooking up with Jessica anytime soon,” he said more seriously. The big brotherly tone of his voice indicated that he didn’t exactly approve. When I didn’t respond right away, he went on. “You know she has a pretty serious crush on you--especially since Katy’s party. I know it’s none of my business, dude, but I just wouldn’t want to see her get hurt.”

“I feel terrible about this,” I admitted. “I don’t know why I did it...” My voice was quivering with emotion and Morgan looked like he felt bad for laying into me.

“Hey, chill, bro. I didn’t mean to get on your case. No one likes a little impromptu face sucking more than me. I'm sure Jessica was thrilled to get what ever she got--It’ll be okay.”

”Jesse set it up,” I blurted out, not even thinking about what I was saying. I just didn’t want to accept the responsiblity of hurting Jessica.

“What’re you talking about?” Morgan asked.

“Jesse’s really sharp when it comes to reading people,” I explained quickly. “He could tell what kind of person Clarissa was right away, and he just decided to go for it. I think his plan was to get me together with Jessica...”

“Well, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Morgan said, obviously not able to understand what the big problem was.

“He thinks I shouldn’t be seeing this...girl from La Jolla anymore. She’s part of my past, he keeps telling me. He thinks she’s not good enough for me...” I was trying to get my emotions back under control, but it was hard.

“Well, I don’t know this other chick, but I do know Jessica, and she’s as fine as they come. I know she acts all snotty and stuck up sometimes, but it’s just an act.”

“I know,” I told him. “She’s great--that’s why I hate to hurt her feelings.”

Morgan put a hand on my shoulder. “Maybe I can talk to her later, let her know how you feel. I know she’ll understand.”

I just nodded, feeling like I had said too much already. There was way too much lying going on, and it didn’t sit well with me.

“But you did get a little action--right?” he asked, the teenage studmeister returning to the fore.

Who got some action?” Jesse asked, coming out of the bathroom, his hair neatly combed and the lipstick gone from his face.

“Hey, Ladykiller,” Morgan said cheerfully. “Way to go with Clarissa there. That’s really taking the bull by the horns!”

“Yeah, but those horns are kinda sharp!” Jesse said, comically rubbing his backside.

Then Morgan looked at me and saw that I was still pretty upset. “I think maybe you and Perry have some things to talk about,” he said in a more serious tone. “I’m going to see what I can do to start wrapping things up out there. There should be some tables that are ready to close early. I’ll see you in a bit.”

Morgan left the two of us standing in the cinderblock corridor alone. Jesse looked at me with concern and guilt.

“I’m sorry, Perry. I realize that it was a stupid idea...”

“It’s not right to play around with other people’s feelings,” I said bitterly, for the first time feeling something close to genuine anger towards the boy I loved.

“I know,” Jesse said hanging his head. There was a long silence, which he finally broke. “I won’t make any excuses--I told you I was very selfish when it came to you.”

“How's setting me up with Jessica--and you making out with a slut--being selfish?” I asked, totally confused.

“Well, first I thought that if we made out with those two, it would get around school a bit. You know, give us a reputation. It would give us a little breathing room--I told you how bad it could be if anyone found out about us.”

What he said made sense. Certainly, the kids at school would look at Jesse in a very different way on Monday, once the story of our exploits got around, which I had no doubt it would. And my being with Jessica would certainly be a distraction as well. Still, with those looks and smarts, Jesse could have any girl he wanted to. He didn’t have to pick Jessica and her cousin.

“But you knew that Jessica has feelings for me, and yet you set us up. I don’t care what you say, Jesse. If you can get upset about a big, dumb ass like Fred Goreski getting a few well deserved bumps and bruises, you surely must have realized the situation you were putting Jessica into. I just don’t get it.”

There was another long silence. Jesse only glanced up at me a few times, and I saw his eyes glistening with moisture.

“I want you to be happy, Perry,” he said quietly, his voice choked with emotion. “After this morning, and the thing at the mall, and the crazy way I acted at school earlier this week, you’ve got to see that I’m nothing but bad news. I guess I wanted you to have a chance with someone more deserving...”

My head was spinning now for sure. Could it be that Jesse loved me so much he’d be willing to give me up? Did he have such a low opinion of himself, that he couldn’t see how irreplaceable he was to me?

Suddenly, I found myself laughing--well, chuckling actually, sort of half to myself.

“Are you okay?” Jesse asked, for once thrown a little off balance by my response.

I sighed, a disbelieving smile still on my face. “Jesse, this is all just so ridiculous to me--you are one of the smartest people I’ve ever met--adult or kid, and not only book smart, but street smart and people smart too. You’re martial arts abilities are just totally extreme--I don’t care what you say, I know most people with blackbelts couldn’t do what you do, not in a real life situation against people who don’t give a fuck about protocols or safety or any of that shit. You’re obviously on your way to becoming a great writer with a wild imagination and a totally professional style. You’ve got a really bizarre sense of humor, tons of charm when you want to...And to top it all off, you are the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen in my life, and that includes TV, movies, magazines, everything...Are you getting this at all?” I asked breathlessly. “If you still can’t see why I’m head over heels in love with you, than you’re not a tenth as smart as I thought you were...”

Jesse just stared at me as if I had pulled a gun out of my pocket.

“You’ve got to stop getting so down on yourself," I continued, choking up a little, "...trying to push me away...it’s too much, Jesse, too much for me to take. I’m just a dumb kid stumbling around...I just need you in my life...” Tears were trickling down my face now, and if anyone had come down the corridor, there was no way they couldn’t notice my distress.

Jesse slowly backed into the wall next to the bathroom door, slumping weakly against it as if all the strength had been drained out of him. There was moisture in his eyes, but the tears didn’t spill. He was finally able to look me right in the eye as he spoke.

“Perry, if you just knew how shitty my life was before I came to California...I mean, there was a time that...that..." He struggled to tell me something, but he seemed unable to articulate some dark and horrible event from his past, and I was actually grateful for that. He sighed, letting the thought pass, or at least forcing it back into the far corners of his mind. "As much as you’ve given yourself to me, as much as you’ve made my life completely worth living, it’s just so hard to accept. It’s like being in a dream, except you know you’re dreaming, and no matter how awesome it is, you’re gonna have to wake up sooner or later...” His raspy teenage voice was choked with emotion, but the tears remained in glistening pools at the bottoms of his beautiful blue eyes. He was willing himself not to cry, not to feel sorry for himself.

I got as close to him as I dared, considering anyone could come down that hall at any moment. Our eyes locked together, both pairs welling with moisture. I sniffled and used my sleeve to get the tears off my face. Jesse gave me the slightest hint of a smile, and I felt a warm surge go through me that felt like I had been out in the cold and rain all day without a jacket, and then stepped into a heated room for the first time in hours.

I smiled back, the tears finally stopping. With our eyes still locked together, I reached over and gave Jesse a quick pinch through the seat of his jeans. He stiffened considerably, taken totally by surprise.

“Ouch! What was that for?” he asked, wincing and rubbing his backside.

“I was so fucking jealous!” I giggled.

“Thanks a lot,” Jesse said, a playful scowl on his face. “Between you and Clarissa, I probably won’t be able to sit down for the rest of the day!”

“We should get back,” I said, not wanting to push him too quickly, but worried that my mom might be looking for us.

Jesse nodded, reaching over and wiping the remaining tears from my face. I instinctively backed off when I heard footsteps heading our way.

“Hey, guys--everything work out okay?” It was Gary, and he had a concerned look on his face. “I take it you ran into Morgan Kipner?” he asked guiltily.

“You were supposed to warn us!” Jesse said, sounding more annoyed than angry.

It was strange to see a six foot plus high schooler flinching away from a five and a half foot thirteen year old.

“He was looking for you guys,” Gary explained a little desperately. “I finally told him what was going on and he just took off. I did ring you, man!” he reminded us.

“It was a little late!” Jesse said sarcastically.

“Hey, I’m sorry, dudes. I really tried. I know you’re pissed at me, but...”

"Pissed at you?" Jesse said bitterly. "Gees, just because you were gonna cram your dick down my best friend's throat?" Jesse forcefully poked his finger into Gary's chest and the older boy winced.

I cringed at Jesse's harsh words. While there may have been some truth to what he said, I didn't think it was necessary for him to keep attacking Gary like that.

“Jesse...” I pleaded, wishing he would let up on the guy.

Gary swallowed a lump in his throat. There was moisture glistening in the wells of his dark eyes. His lips were stretched tight, and his chest heaved in his tattered denim jacket. I didn’t understand what was going on in his head just then, but I felt really bad for him anyway.

“Look, Perry,” Gary finally said in a soft voice. “I...I don't know what to say... I’m so incredibly sorry, okay? I just want you to know that.” Then he looked at the two of us again, and it was like he wanted to be our friend but he was afraid to admit it.

“I’m okay, Gary, honest,” I told him. “Don’t worry about it, 'kay?”

He nodded, a tight lipped smile forming on his rough hewn face.

“Let’s go,” Jesse said, and I could tell that he meant all three of us, and I guess that made me feel a little better about the whole strange encounter.

When we returned to the main hall, I immediately looked around for my mother. I spotted her in her usual spot across the length of the room, blissfully chatting away with some other women. Morgan was already helping some other kids starting to fold up empty tables. Clarissa and Jessica were looking at clothes not too far off, but they hadn’t noticed us yet. I immediately felt a wave of guilt as I looked at Jessica, her long, satin brown hair cascading down her back.

"Hey, there's Mario," Gary said, his voice automatically taking on a hushed, secretive quality.

We both turned to follow his gaze. There were a couple of boys hauling a heavy box towards the front door.

"The one with the baseball cap," Gary clarified.

The guy with the baseball cap looked to be a little taller than Morgan, had light brown skin that looked a little rough, along with heavy black sideburns and eyebrows and a sallow face. From where we were standing, it looked like he hadn't shaved in a couple of days.

"Look out for him--he's into some bad shit and he's got a temper," Gary warned. "Pretty good basketball player though, really gets into it." Gary paused uncomfortably. "He's been giving me some nasty looks all afternoon, but he hasn't said anything--I know I'm in his shit house. Just hope Theresa doesn't feel the same way..."

Jesse sighed. "Okay, we'll keep an eye out for him," was all he said.

"And Arnie Hollister, shaggy reddish brown hair--he left with Goreski I guess, but he's kinda--crazy I guess. Kinda impulsive. Sometimes he can be pretty funny, but if he get's pissed..."

Gees, it sounded like he was describing a rogue's gallery of D.C. Comic villains or something.

“I need to get back to work,” Gary said a little tiredly. “Perry, you probably don’t want me calling you, but if you give me your email, I can at least keep you guys updated on the Goreski situation.” Gary pulled out his cellphone.

I gave him my email address and he typed into his address book.

“And you can call too...” I added, “...once in a while.” That seemed to cheer up the high schooler a bit.

“Cool,” he said, his eyes moving back and forth between Jesse and me.

“You know as well as I do that Fred Goreski isn’t going to just slink into the shadows and go away,” Jesse said seriously. “If you hear anything...”

“I’m on it,” Gary said, anxious to please. “Trust me...okay?” He sounded like he was pleading with Jesse. Realizing that there was nothing left to be said, he looked at the two of us uncertainly. “I...uh...hope I see you guys around sometime,” he said, getting ready to move off.

"Hey," Jesse said quietly.

Gary turned around, a puzzled look on his face.

"Don't you want my number too?" Jesse asked, his impassive expression making it difficult to ascertain what he was feeling just then.

Gary looked at me in astonishment, and then back at Jesse. For the first time since I had met him, he smiled tentatively. It really changed the whole appearance of his face. His eyes seemed to light up and he had dimples on his high-boned cheeks.

Jesse gave him the number and Gary quickly typed it in.

"Thanks," he said, and there was a lot of meaning in that simple word as he quickly hurried off. I don't think I would be exaggerating if I said that he had a spring to his step as he wove his way through the thinning crowd.

“That was really cool of you,” I said, feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

"We need him to keep an eye on Goreski and his crew for us," Jesse explained with a slight shrug.

"Whatever you say," I replied with a knowing smile.

While Jesse helped a lady carry some boxes to her car, I asked my mom if I could hang out at his apartment for the rest of the afternoon.

“Haven't you two had enough of each other yet?” she teased with a warm smile.

“I’m going to help him set up his computer, maybe get an internet connection going...”

“I understand, dear,” she said. “Will you be coming home for dinner?”

Mothers-- always thinking about food! “I guess it depends on how long it takes for us to get his computer set up,” I answered cleverly.

She nodded unconcernedly. “Oh, by the way, did you boys have a nice lunch with Jessica and her cousin?” she asked, her question sounding purely innocent.

I forgot that Jessica had informed my mom when she went to tell her own mom where she was going and with whom. “Sure, we went to Herbie’s--it was cool.” Then, as an afterthought, I added, “Jesse sure is smooth with the ladies!” Just a little insurance.

“He certainly has the looks for it,” my mom remarked.

“Yeah, he’s way cool,” I agreed.

“So does this mean you’re going to start dating soon?” she asked. I realized her question was more significant than her light hearted tone might have suggested,

“I don’t know...” I said, blushing and looking down at my feet.

“My little baby’s growing up!” she said, and to my utter horror, reached over and kissed the top of my head in front of her friends.

Mom!” I groaned, scowling malevolently in a vain effort to conceal my embarrassment.

“Go help Mrs. Jenkins. We’ll be ready to leave in less than an hour,” she said, shooing me off.

Before we left, Jesse and I gave Fr.Mike the money we had earned in tips--a total of ninety four dollars! He was nearly speechless. I had also included the ten dollars Goreski had stuffed in my pocket. I figured he owed me at least that much for all the shit he had put us through, and I was more than glad to get rid of it. Of course, Jesse and I still had the ten dollars each that the lady with the Beamer had given us, and I offered mine to Jesse. Of course he refused, pointing out that I had already paid for lunch.

By the time we were ready to leave, Jessica and her cousin had vanished, and I felt another twinge of guilt...and maybe just a little something else. But I was being granted a few more precious hours alone with my beautiful blond angel, and as much as I was worried about Jessica's feelings, I just knew for a fact who my true soulmate was.



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

Copyright © 2011 underthehoodster; All Rights Reserved.
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I get why Jesse did what he did even if it was for stupid reasons but he’s a totally different person when he’s in his acting mode. He keeps using his past as an excuse to not only push Perry away but now it almost seems like he could justify any bad decision by bringing up his past. I get that he has a terrible history that in truth Perry knows little about but he can’t keep allowing it to control his life. What will happen next? I just wonder if he’ll keep trying to push Perry away.

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