You’re reading SAM DORSEY AND HIS SIXTEEN CANDLES, book 1 in the SAM DORSEY AND GAY POPCORN series. The series channel popular movies and TV shows, so expect a lot of references to classic movies of the 80es and 90es. But don’t worry this is not a fan fiction! The stories are 100% original and all the references are made only as a tribute.
This book, SAM DORSEY AND HIS SIXTEEN CANDLES, obviously channels the classic 1984 Sixteen Candles film, directed by John Hughes. It’s an awesome movie and it deserves to have another spin–this time with gay characters!
The year is 1985. The month is April. The day is Monday.
And also, it is my birthday.
Thankfully, I’m not awake just yet. The bright, obnoxiously cheerful morning light is coming through my window, but I’m still there in my bed snoozing away, peaceful and happy; not yet aware that my least favorite day of the year has settled into existence all around me.
I fell asleep watching Sixteen Candles on VHS last night and, as always, it captured my heart. Now I’m blissfully dreaming about Jake…
Only, it’s not Jake from the movie. It’s Jake from my school, Jake Timbers, and just like his fictional namesake, Jake is a jock, the permanent and unrivaled king of Arcadia High. He has an expensive and totally drool-worthy car, a gigantic horde of friends and followers who warship him, and a majorly sexy girlfriend.
I’m not a fan of hers.
Anyway, Jake is jogging across the school’s Football Stadium, which coincidentally has his name plastered on it due to his father’s “charitable donation” a couple years back. I suspect it was more about appearances than charity, but it provides me a nice viewing angle, so I’m cool with it either way.
Jake is the quarterback, an overrated position in my opinion, but he’s definitely good at it—I’d even heard rumors about him being scouted by universities, practically unheard of considering he’s only a sophomore. He’s not as bulky as the defensive players on the team, but he’s still very muscular, lithe and quick, with perfectly toned throwing arms. During the spring, before the weather gets too hot, he often comes out here to jog and warm up after school. Most of these days I am lurking nearby, doing some warming up of my own if you catch my drift.
Luckily he doesn’t know about that.
Sometimes I wish he did though. It’s hard work keeping my feelings to myself all the time. Not owning up to them just makes me feel like I’m telling the entire world one long and continuous lie, ya know? But that lie is necessary; for more reasons than one.
So yeah…no confessions from me, just admiration from afar.
In this particular dream Jake is wearing those standard tiny red gym shorts; the ones that are incredibly aerodynamic and leave very little to the imagination. I don’t know who the hell invented them and made them standard issue, but that person definitely has my gratitude. He’s also wearing a RunAround T-shirt that is becoming increasingly wet as his workout intensifies.
And soon enough, almost like clockwork, he sheds the shirt and begins to cool his heated body in the morning breeze.
I look on, as I often do (in my dreams and in real life), with multiple forms of envy.
Jake is only 16, like I am. But unlike me, he already has the body of a grown man. I guess he has sports to thank for that, or his parents’ good genes, or both. In any case, those muscles he has on his chest are fantastic. I can’t keep myself from staring at them.
Unfortunately, he notices me noticing.
He is headed my way now and my heart is working overtime. Relax, Sam, relax!
He approaches me.
Suddenly I am frozen. I’m like a statue. A statue with a blitz of meaningless mind babble: What’s wrong with me? God, I’m sweating. Is it noticeable? I think I’m paralyzed. What do I do?!
He smiles at me deviously. Then, unbelievably, he takes my hand and puts it onto his chest!
“What are you doing?” I ask, my voice octaves higher than it should be. I can feel the warmth of his skin under my fingertips. His heart is beating steadily beneath them.
No. This cannot be happening.
“I wanted to feel you on my skin,” he says, confident, not at all shy. He’s not angry or ashamed, just smoldering.
“Don’t you like it?” he stares up at me with twinkling blue eyes. The kind you—well I—can’t help but get lost in.
“Yeah,” I breathe out stupidly.
His eyes are locked on mine, a sultry smile playing smoothly across his handsome face.
“Touch me…” he says finally, trailing off in a way that makes my imagination run wild.
“I already am touching you,” I manage to choke out, not willing to acknowledge the sexy notes in his voice, but still hoping they ring true.
“No,” he whispers with a crooked smile. “Touch me there…”
He takes my hand and lowers it right down his torso, my fingertips barely brushing against slick washboard abs until…Oh Lord! That is too much.
No… No… Ahhhh!
“Sam! Get up! You’ll be late for school!”
And just like that reality comes crashing down around me like an eighteen-wheeler.
“Coming Mom!” I shout, trying to shake the memory of skin against skin.
Tentatively, I reach down into my shorts and yep, there’s all the evidence right there—a lot of it too. Ya know, I totally get that a wet dream is perfectly normal and everything, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward, especially factoring in the subject of said wet dream. Sighing and feeling completely less than stellar, I close my eyes, partly ashamed of my fantasy and overall infatuation with Jake Timbers and equally ashamed of my shame. Like, why does everything have to be so weird and messed up and complicated? Why can’t I just feel what I feel and be done with it?
It takes me a couple of minutes to brace myself and get up from the bed. For one thing, there’s an unfortunate amount of sticky goo in my pants that I have to go take care of. And also, I’m not looking forward to today at all. A happy birthday? Not likely.
I reach down into the drawer of my desk and take out a hidden stack of photos. No, it’s not porn! I don’t keep my porn in the drawers. Even I’m not that lame. It’s my own personal collection of ghosts from birthdays past. I keep them here as a reminder of all those truly gag-worthy moments; lest I forget and try to actually enjoy my birthday.
My birthdays have never been happy. Exhibit A: Here is a photo of me when I turned one. I’m such a cute little blue-eyed baby you say? Wrong! The next thing you know that cute baby-boy is gonna fall face-down into his cheerfully-colored birthday cake. Exhibit B: a photo of me turning five. I look so radiant and happy on my new bike you say? Wrong again! Don’t be fooled. There I am a couple hours later with a cast on my left arm. Exhibit C: here is the one where I turned seven with a cast on both my arm and my leg. I don’t even remember how that happened; that’s how used to these experiences I am. But what really takes the cake (pun intended) is the day I turned twelve. My house totally went up in flames, but alas, there’s no picture for that, just one very sad news-clipping.
Most times it doesn’t really bother me. Over the years I’ve just slowly come to the conclusion that this particular day of the year is cursed for me; like my very own personal Friday the 13th. Usually I can just hunker down and make it through the worst of it. But now I am turning sixteen, a relatively “important” number, and I just can’t shake the feeling that something is about to go horribly, wretchedly wrong.
Dressed now, casually as usual in my Run DMC T-shirt and jeans, I make my way downstairs, following the smell of the freshly-cooked pancakes. Ron and Julia, my younger siblings, are perched at the table and shoveling food into their mouths. Dad has already left for work, thank God. Not that I don’t like my old man or anything. It’s just that there’s one less person at the table to wish me happy birthday. Which is definitely a good thing, believe me. My evil birthday gremlins can smell well-wishes from a mile away.
“Well, look who finally decided to show up,” Ron says, glancing up from his plate. He’s twelve now and totally in need of a major chill pill. He doesn’t have a respectful bone in his body.
“Don’t talk to him like that, you dipstick,” Julia says, defending me in her own weirdly inappropriate way. “It’s his birthday!”
“Oh yeah? And what he was doing upstairs so long, giving himself a birthday present?” Ron snaps.
“Shut your mouth you dweeb-o-rama!” she counters and smacks his forehead with her spoon.
“Make me!” Ron lifts up his spoon eagerly, ready to retaliate.
“I will, believe me,” Julia replies, deadly calm.
“Come on, I’m ready for it!”
“That’s enough! Ron, you be nice!” my mother finally snaps at him, effectively shutting down the argument. Must be some super-secret Mom power or something.
“Okay, okay, keep your wig on,” Ron says, getting up to place his plate in the sink. “It is his birthday. I better keep myself away. I wouldn’t want to get my hair set on fire or anything.”
I cringe. Eleven; I’d almost forgotten about that one since it didn’t directly happen to me. That year my birthday candles had effectively turned a six year old Ron into a human torch. Needless to say, there are no longer any candles on my birthday cakes, and now there’s a fire extinguisher in our house. Two actually.
I sit down at the table and wait for the bombs to start dropping. Julia is not much of a threat. She’s not gonna wish me a happy birthday since she knows good and well that I don’t like it, but my mom doesn’t believe in the curse. My muscles tense up in preparation.
It’s already starting. I watch in horror as she abandons her pan on the stove, and approaches me, planting her standard “birthday kiss” on my forehead. The next thing you know the words are gonna leave her mouth... happy…
I brace myself, but suddenly the phone starts ringing, cutting her off midsentence. Thank the sweet lord!
She goes to pick it up, her mane of feathered blonde hair trailing several inches behind her. “Hello?” she answers.
It’s Uncle Jack calling, I’m sure. Their entire family of seven is gonna be moving into one of the houses on our street today. They’ve been talking about it forever, but I never actually thought they would go through with it. The thought of having so many relatives in close proximity is infinitely nauseating to me, but I guess there’s really not much I can do about it. I’m still gonna be coerced into celebrating with everyone tonight—even my grandparents are coming.
And of course they’re all too damn loving and thoughtful to completely forget my birthday even exists.
Immediately I start stuffing my face with pancakes in hopes that I’ll be able to avoid any sort of conversation with my uncle. You see, Uncle Jack is a man of very few words, most of those words being rather unpleasant.
Case in point:
“Sam, honey, Uncle Jack is asking if you could help him move the furniture in this afternoon,” my mom tells me still holding the phone to her ear.
I sigh dramatically, of course he is. It’s not like he has five kids of his own to do it or anything.
I nod sullenly and she relays the information to Uncle Jack. I catch Julia’s eye from across the table and she gives me a sympathetic smile that does manage to make me feel a little better.
Chewing fast, I swallow my last bite of pancake and jump up from the table. I manage to pat my sister’s head affectionately and give my mother a quick kiss on the cheek in one fluid motion and then make a beeline for the door.
“Honey?” she shouts after me, but I’m already outside.
“I’ll be late for the bus,” I shout as the door closes.
As soon as I’m in the clear I indulge myself in a small victory smile.
Mission accomplished! She didn’t say it. Now I have to make sure nobody else does either.
For some reason most of the students at my high school seem to magically acquire cars and licenses the moment they turn the big one six. Sadly though, I am not one of them. Because why actually try to look cool when there’s public transportation that just shows up conveniently at the corner every morning, just a-waitin’ to take you to the most fun-ducational place on the planet?
Ugh. Eye roll.
Anyway, I look out the window as we drive down the suburban street, mostly staying on the lookout for potential birthday catastrophes. But as far as I can see, the world looks sun-shiny and marvelous.
Satisfied, that the bus isn’t gonna hit a rogue scrunchie and then burst into flames, I turn my thoughts inward. This week is shaping up to be pretty eventful. Today is my birthday. Tomorrow it’s the school science fair. Wednesday kicks off a whole day of football practices before a very important post-season charity game—and of course, that means I’m booked as a full-time spectator. Thursday is Joanne McAlister’s party at Jake’s house, to which I’m sort of invited. Not that I’d want to go (Joanne being Jake’s girlfriend and all), but I think my friend Melissa is gonna force me. Then again, Jake is probably gonna be there. I mean, it’s his house. And finally, topping it all off is our annual Spring Fling on Friday.
So yeah, things are pretty crazy right now.
I don’t like it at all. I prefer stability and control, especially this time of year. I just think that whenever a lot of stuff is happening at the same time, you tend to lose perspective and get carried away with the motion. You miss all the important details, the ones that always come back and bite you in the ass. Or at least I do.
The bus stops and I get up from my seat.
Almost immediately I connect with a solid wall of human flesh and completely wipe out.
My books scatter and I flounder, trying to quietly round them up without making a spectacle of myself, which of course doesn’t happen—everyone thinks it’s hysterical.
I look up and see Mitch Blake. So it was him who stumbled against me. He is reaching down to help me up, but I scramble to my feet and push him away. I know he probably didn’t mean for that to happen, but I snap at him anyway, “What the hell, Mitch!”
“It was an accident, sorry,” he says. He is sorry. I can see it in his eyes. He’s surprised by the strength of my reaction. He doesn’t know that it’s not him that I am angry with. It’s the whole birthday thing. I know how it works. This incident is just the catalyst; the one crappy event that will end up ballooning out of control and make my day a living hell and I’m not at all excited to see where my day goes from here.
Mitch sheepishly collects all of my books and I work on calming myself down. He obviously didn’t want to pick a fight with me or anything, so I shouldn’t pick one either. I guess it is just my general reaction towards the straight guys. I jump into defense mode instantaneously. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Or, in my case, better safe than bleeding in a ditch somewhere. People can be such pricks.
I look back up at him. He is not a small guy, Mitch, and a football player too. I shouldn’t have snapped at him like that. He could break me in half like a twig if he wanted to.
But he doesn’t.
“You kinda just walked right into me,” he explains. “It’s not really my fault.”
He’s right. I don’t want to admit it, but he’s right. I just spotted Jake’s cherry red Porsche 944 as it drove past our bus and I was too busy looking at it to notice Mitch. I guess I’m getting a little too obsessed with Jake these days.
Or am I? I mean, I’ve had a crush on him forever. And it’s not just a physical attraction. There’s something about him that suggests a sensitive soul and delicate nature. I’m not making it up, I swear! I’ve been watching the guy for a while now. And I don’t know…all those sweet sentiments just scream gay to me. I suppose that is why I am attracted to guys who have those qualities. It takes one to know one.
So basically, Jake has it all. The only thing I wish he didn’t have is a girlfriend. And no, I don’t feel bad about calling her a thing.
“Yeah, sorry man,” I say, backpedalling to cover up my vast overreaction. “It was an accident.” It’s hard for me to start admitting my fault here after I already snapped at him, but I’m trying to sound friendlier now.
“Yeah,” he responds with an equally friendly tone, “That’s kinda what I said.” He smiles and hands me my books, all animosity replaced by gentle teasing.
“Thanks,” I tell him as we finally leave the bus. I’m still pretty embarrassed, but decide not to dwell on it too much. It could’ve been so much worse.
Entering campus, I scan my surroundings, just as I did on the bus, hoping to avoid more embarrassing screw-ups. At first nothing seems out of ordinary, but after closer scrutiny I pick up on the fact that the majority of the student body seems happy and downright chipper even though it’s a Monday. What the heck? Nobody likes Mondays!
Mitch swings his backpack so that it rests on both shoulders instead of the one he previously had it slung over. “See you around,” he says without sparing me another glance.
I watch him walk away. He’d be pretty cute if he wasn’t so… so… I don’t know. He doesn’t dress all that well. Well, he is a straight boy and they rarely dress well. Also, he has that punk thing going on. And I don’t really like punk rock music. But I think he’s into that lighter “pop-punk” which is actually not terrible. But he does wear tight "drainpipe" jeans and occasionally a leather jacket which is adorned with different band logos and some scary-looking pins and buttons. Also, he has very long and messy hair, which I despise. I don’t think guys with long hair are all that attractive.
On the other hand, he is sweet, and that adds on about fifty points in the cute department. But either way, he is straight and it doesn’t matter anyway because the only person I like is Jake.
Jake is the only thing that makes me hurry to school every morning. He is the reason why that soul-sucking building made of yellow faced bricks doesn’t even look all that bad anymore.
How could I even entertain thoughts of anyone else?
The hallway is crowded, or overcrowded I guess I should say. The students are buzzing about, stopping to chat in large clique-ish chunks that create major roadblocks for the rest of us all across the way. I make my way to Melissa’s locker, using my elbows to part the see of teenagers. Thank God she is already there.
“Hey,” I say, smiling, comforted by her familiar presence.
“Hey,” she responds with a smirk.
My smile dissolves. “Don’t you dare say it,” I warn her.
“Are you sure?” she asks. “I kinda feel compelled.”
“Don’t!” I say as she reaches in and grabs some books from her locker. “I already practically tasted the floor of the school bus this morning. I don’t want a repeat performance.”
She makes a face. “I’m sure it was an accident and that it had nothing to do with your birthday,” she looks at me meaningfully.
“Don’t say that word either,” I say, giving her one of my very best glares. “And it was an accident. I’m not saying it wasn’t. I’m saying if it wasn’t for my… you know what… there wouldn’t have been an accident to begin with.”
She shakes her head. “It’s all in your head, Sam. You are making a bigger deal of it than it actually is.”
“It’s not in my head,” I hiss, ready to defend myself, but then I notice that Jake Timbers is looking at me and all other thoughts cease to exist. He is standing on the other side of the hall, surrounded by jocks and his personal assortment of lackeys. Our eyes meet for a split second—just the briefest of moments—and then he turns away like it never happened, a calm, confident smile plastered on his face. But I know it happened.
Thank God Melissa is taking her time fishing around in her locker. She doesn’t even notice my drool session. And also I’m pretty sure I’m blushing. Jake was looking at me! I feel like doing a happy dance. I mean Jake Timbers is the best gift I could possibly wish for on my birthday. He’s the only gift that I really even want.
Melissa finishes collecting her books and shuts her locker with a distinctive slam that takes me out of my wonderfully treacherous birthday thoughts.
“Come on, we’re gonna be late for the class,” she says and I follow her, mentally chastising myself for even thinking about the B-word. I need to be more careful.
Melissa and I take our usual seats side by side in the back our history class, amid all the angst-y couples trying to get as far away from the teacher’s prying eyes as possible. Some of our less observant peers might lump us right on into that category as well, but we’re just friends. Melissa’s cool with that. She doesn’t know that I’m gay though.
Well, I presume she doesn’t. We never actually talked about it—I mean, the words were never said, but I’ve got this gut feeling that she knows about it anyway. I guess I do make it pretty obvious sometimes. But anyway, she treats me just like a girlfriend, not in a lesbian way but in a best-friend kind of way. And I guess I am technically one of her “girlfriends.”
I don’t think girls talk to straight guys about sex much. And me and Melissa, we do. She also frequently asks my opinion on boys that she likes, and unlike me, she has a lot of them.
Unexpectedly, Mitch saunters in a few moments before the bell and takes the seat directly behind me. I think I’m okay with that, just a little surprised is all. But I guess I shouldn’t be. Mitch has never been mean to me, unlike the other guys on the football team—not counting Jake of course, who is never really mean to anybody unless they mess with him first—and if this morning was any indication, he might actually be someone I could genuinely get along with.
But it soon becomes very clear that Mitch is gonna be listening to his Walkman the entire period and I’m not too jazzed about that. I’m not at all into the kind of music that he likes, well other than the Descendants. I sigh loudly and place my head in my hands. Well, it is my birthday. I kinda expected shitty things like this to be happening. Again, I guess it could be worse.
I look back at him and there he goes putting his headphones on and hitting the play button. I brace myself for a totally awful ear assault when suddenly I hear:
Happy, happy birthday in a hot bath
To those nice nice nights.
I remember always always I got such a fright.
Seeing them in my dark cupboard with my great big cake.
If they were me
If they were me
And I was you
and I was you
If they were me
and I was you
Would you have liked a present too?
Yes, it’s that one song from the movie, Happy Birthday by the Altered Images. Normally I would have loved that tune, me being a fan of the movie and all. But not today! I didn’t even know Mitch listened to that kind of music. My palms are sweating. Oh God, this is gonna be bad. I can feel it. It’s gonna be really, really bad!
Why is he listening to it anyway? Is it on purpose? He couldn’t possibly know it was my birthday. And even if he did, he wouldn’t be that cruel to me, would he? Is this some kind of revenge for me yelling at him on the bus this morning? No, I’m being silly. He wouldn’t have time to prepare that song even if he did want to get back at me. It is probably just another unlucky coincidence, the second one today involving Mitch. Something really weird is happening here.
Melissa nudges my shoulder, distracting me yet again. I glance up at the teacher just as a precaution, but as usual, Mr. Jacobs is busy blabbering away to himself up at the front of the class. The dude’s getting too old for this job—he clearly can’t see or hear much of anything anymore. Almost every student is engaged in some sort of personal conversation at this point.
“Are you coming to the party this Thursday?” she asks. I haven’t really decided yet.
“I haven’t really decided yet,” I say, echoing my thoughts.
“You better decide,” she says, a little annoyed with me. “I don’t want to go by myself.”
“Don’t go then.”
“Don’t go then,” she mimics me. “I want to go, just not alone.”
“Fine,” I say just to get her off my back. Plus Jake is gonna be there and I want to have an extra chance to see him. We don’t have any classes together and the only time I really get to see him is at football practice (or in my dreams of course). Seeing him in another kind of environment would be nice. It’s just that I don’t want to see Joanne very much.
Yes, I am jealous, but it’s not just that. She really is a total bitch.
I seriously don’t get why Jake is going out with her. Yes, she is beautiful and rich and her well-to-do parents “approve” of their relationship. But is it all it takes to win him over? I don’t want to believe that. I mean, he’s not a dumb jock—in fact, I’m pretty sure he made the honor roll last semester. Surely he has to have seen what a truly vile person she is at some point. It’s not like she’s trying that hard to hide it.
“Hey, Sam?” Mitch whispers and taps my shoulder. I immediately put the brakes on my inner monologue and turn around.
“Can I borrow your pen?” he asks. I can see a torn piece of paper in his hand. Apparently he wants to write a note to somebody. But he doesn’t have a pen or a pencil. I mean he wouldn’t be much of a punk if he was carrying around school supplies I suppose.
“Sure,” I say, handing him one of my spare pens. “You can keep it.”
“Thanks,” he says, softly. He is looking at me in a weird way right now. I don’t know what it is. I can’t put my finger on it. There’s something unusual in his eyes, something I haven’t seen before. It’s kinda creeping me out.
“You’re welcome,” I mumble and turn away.
So, where was I? Yes, I was thinking about Jake…
Time for a brief lesson in public high school architecture kiddos. So I already told you that our school has this old center building where we have most of our classes, or at least I meant to—I’m not all that great at focusing, okay? Anyway, the gigantic stadium-sized blob of a building which doubles as our cafeteria is situated just to the left of that. It used to be attached to the main school building a couple years ago, but at some point in the late seventies some rich dudes with nothing better to invest in decided to pay to have them separated.
So basically, now there’s this gap between the two wings. It is small and awkwardly situated so that nothing else fits there. Naturally, that’s where all the “cool kids” hang out.
Well at least it used to be.
Then everybody found out about it and who wouldn’t want to be considered cool, right? So now, at any given moment, it’s practically flooded with a million mindless drones desperate to climb the social latter.
Needless to say, I am one of them.
Melissa and I have managed to stake claims on our own special spot inside the gap, a small, barely perceptible niche in the wall where we can both sit comfortably and remain hidden from the majority of prying eyes. It also happens to be a good spot for me to indulge in my favorite pastime; watching Jake.
He is hanging out with some kids from the football team as usual and also the Ice Princess Joanne. She’s wrapped her possessive claws so tightly around him I’m surprised he hasn’t turned blue from the lack of oxygen to his handsome little face.
“She’s such a bitch, isn’t she?” Melissa says, noting my gaze and accurately guessing my feelings, as usual. “I can’t believe people even like her. She’s just blatantly vile literally all the time. I mean, she has her looks and everything, if you’re into bimbettes, but there’s nothing pretty on the inside.”
“Yeah,” I say shortly. I couldn’t have put it better myself. The way Melissa hates Joanne you’d think she was either jealous or in love with her, but it really just stems from her need to constantly speak her mind. Melissa has no tolerance for silly, shallow people who do nothing but play games, particularly bottle-blondes named Joanne.
Suddenly the hairs on the back of my neck rise to attention and I feel that prickly sensation of being watched. I momentarily tune out Melissa’s prattle about specific peers and their supposed level of bitchiness and turn my gaze back to Jake. Our eyes meet momentarily and I immediately whip my head back around in embarrassment. Dear God! Twice in the same day? It must be some sick birthday joke. Conflicting emotions flood my brain. Do I dare look at Jake again and expose myself? Yes… No? Ugh. This is so complicated!
Casually, I cast my gaze in the opposite direction, deciding to play hard to get on the off chance Jake really is burning a hole into the back of my skull with his rad pair of baby blues.
But my bubble immediately bursts once I see that it’s not Jake, but Mitch who is staring intently in my direction. No, scratch that. He is staring at Melissa.
Well, that’s understandable. Melissa is pretty hot. If I wasn’t gay I’d be all over her—I think. So that’s what’s going on with him, I think, happily putting two and two together. Mitch likes Melissa! That explains why he was sitting behind me in class today, and that note he was writing was probably for her.
Good for him! I shout mentally. At least the boy has better taste in chicks than he does in music. But then I think better of the whole notion and let out a dejected sigh. He doesn’t have a chance with Melissa. Poor sap! Melissa wouldn’t even let him get close enough to make an impression. Mitch is a pretty decent guy, but unfortunately, Melissa doesn’t do well with decent. She’s usually attracted to douchebags.
If only Mitch could lose the long hair and get himself a pair of jeans that didn’t look like they’d been brutally murdered last October…that still wouldn’t help him win Melissa over, but it would probably help him find a nice girl who would appreciate him.
“Sam?” Melissa practically shouts in my ear.
“What?” I ask, guiltily jerking back to attention.
“Are you listening?”
“Yes,” I say, less convincingly than I had hoped.
Melissa rolls her eyes, but mercifully lets it slide. “I’m borrowing my dad’s car this Thursday. Do you want me to pick you up?” she asks.
“Yeah, sure,” I say. “It’s not like my parents are gonna cave and let me get my license anytime soon.”
She snorts, but then immediately returns to her annoyingly blunt self. “You aren’t giving your parents enough credit.”
“And how is that?” I say with an eye roll of my own.
“They love you and they care about you,” she says in her smug I-know-that-I’m-right-voice.
“Well, they don’t love me enough to get me a car,” I mumble under my breath, but I can’t really contradict her nonetheless.
“By the way,” she continues with ease. “I have a present for you.” I give her a warning glare. Presents work the same way as the happy birthday line. The cooler the gift the more it backfires.
“I’m not gonna give it to you today,” she corrects herself. “I couldn’t, even if I wanted to. It kinda has to get here first. But it’s very cool. You’ll love it.”
“Okay, I’m sure I will,” I say, brightening. “Just not today.”
After class I’m lurking around the outskirts of the practice field as usual, reflecting upon my day. After lunch everything was practically textbook. I mean, nothing out of the ordinary at all. Crazy right? But I’m not letting my guard down just yet. I have way too many birthday scars to make that mistake.
Abruptly a bus-sized human emerges on my right.
“Give me that, you asswipe!” one of the football players demands of me as he snatches one of the towels from my stack.
I internally glare at him, taking pleasure in the fact that these standard-issue towels have probably been collecting dust and god knows what else in the school’s supply closet for at least a decade now.
As you may have guessed, I am not athletically inclined. That being said, the only way I can stalk Jake Timbers at practice is if I volunteer as towel boy.
“Thanks!” car-boy says sarcastically and throws his sweaty towel at my face.
Okay, okay, calm down, I tell myself. It’s worth it.
He’s worth it.
With a longing sigh I return my gaze to Jake. The team is only warming up today, so he is not wearing his uniform, which is yellow and white with TIMBERS written on the back in red block letters just above his number, 12. Twelve is his lucky number. Don’t ask me how I know that, it may present some legal issues.
Anywho, I love him in his uniform, but I love him in his tiny red shorts even more. He looks just like he did in my dream this morning; absolutely scrumptious, but this time my pants will remain dry; I assure you.
“This game is very important for the school, I hope you understand that,” I overhear Ms. Anderson, our school’s principal, say to coach Millwood as they move in closer to observe the team. She is really taking this charity game far too seriously. Especially considering we already won the state championship this year.
“Don’t you worry, Principal Anderson, everything’s gonna be as expected,” coach reassures her.
“I certainly hope so,” she says firmly, leaving the phrase for your sake unspoken, but still painfully clear. She is a total hardass, that woman. She’s never been married and she lives alone with her cats (lord only knows how many). She’s got these totally ugly bags under her eyes that make-up, for all of its glory, still can’t seem to hide, and the abundance of wrinkles around them is the result of her reading tons of administrative papers, I’m guessing.
The two of them don’t even acknowledge my existence, even though they are standing about two feet away. I’m not too offended by it. They’re both even bigger wannabes than I am; both hoping to cash in on the team’s success.
Mrs. Edelson, our principal’s assistant, gives me a sympathetic smile though. She is currently our “water-girl” since I am the only volunteer and I’m busy with the towels.
Now, you may be wondering why they can’t just set the towels and water on a table or something. I don’t damn well know the answer to that one, but I’m hoping the thought never occurs to them!
Ignoring everything else, I find Jake among the players and start following him with my eyes. There is so much grace in his movements, the way each one is so smooth and fluid, seamlessly blending right on into the next one. And yet, he never once drops his unquestionable air of masculinity. It really is quite astounding. I’m practically one thousand percent sure that I am the only person on the face of the earth who would ever dare suspect him of being gay.
“Johns! Watch your left arm,” coach Millwood shouts, startling me and several of the players.
“Walovski! Just get out of my sight! That was terrible!” he shouts again.
The coach is obviously laying it on thick so that Anderson will think he’s got everything under control. You see, coach Millwood is a little more into the bottle than the game these days, not that anyone would ever say anything. He’s a pretty cool dude, drinking aside. But yeah, he’s rightfully concerned about job security.
Smirking, I tune back into the game. I watch as someone throws a football to Jake and he catches it easily. As a quarterback, his throwing arm is the real prize, but like I said, he has the total package. He throws it back at whoever threw it at him and repeats the process several times until somebody throws the ball just out of his reach. The ball flies right over his head and falls down on the floor. It rolls in my direction, stopping just a couple feet away from where I stand.
Ridiculously, my initial thoughts are something along the lines of: Oh! Well, hello little football, pleasure to meet you!
I stand stalk-still, stating at the ball with wide eyes because, for all my talk about the damn thing, I’m not usually the one to touch it. I expect Jake to come over and pick it up, but he doesn’t. He is just standing there looking at me expectantly.
I think I’m about to wet my pants after all. Jake wants me to throw the ball back to him. My heart is practically running a marathon. What do I do?! Should I throw it? I don’t even know how to throw it! I glance back up at Jake who’s beginning to look a tad bit impatient. Shit! I have to do something.
So I abandon a good portion of my self-respect, throw the towels down on the bench beside me and grab the ball. I feel it in my hands. It feels nice actually, a little heavier than I expected, emblazoned with dozens of tiny little goosebumps all over its surface.
I suck in a breath, blink slowly and then throw the ball as hard as I can. To my amazement, it flies straight into Jake’s hands. Jake smiles at me and mouths thanks. I smile back. We are looking into each other’s eyes now and the chemistry between us is undeniable. It feels awesome. I wish this moment could last forever…
“Hey, Sam! Catch!” I hear someone shout at me from out of nowhere.
I turn my head to see who it is only to find yet another football is flying in my direction. This time I don’t even have to think about it. I just instinctively reach up and pluck the ball out of midair absorbing the impact with my chest. I’m not as bad at this as I thought.
I see that Mitch is the one who hurled it my way. He is looking at me excited, expecting me to throw it back. As glad as I am to be a part of practice now, I’m desperate to hang onto that moment I just had with Jake, but when I turn back to him he is already throwing the ball back and forth with another guy.
I throw the ball back at Mitch as hard as I can. I can’t help it. I’ve gone into bitch mode.
“I don’t want to play, Mitch!” I shout angrily.
He is clearly taken aback by my reaction, but still not deterred.
“Come on, warm up a little. It’d be good for you,” he says and throws the ball back to me.
I catch it and throw it back even harder. Now I’m seeing red.
“I said I don’t want to play.” The words are pretty much dripping in acid.
“Oh, really?” he shouts, a little angry now too. Why is he getting angry? And then he throws the ball back at me, hard this time, real hard.
I catch it.
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but catching a heavy, fast-moving projectile at a close distance hurts like a bitch.
Livid, I collect all of my energy and throw it back at him as hard as a can. He catches it and I can see by his expression that it was equally unpleasant.
He, of course, retaliates by throwing it back, and I, preferring to keep all of my internal organs intact, immediately dodge left. Unfortunately, this sends the ball flying straight towards Mrs. Edelson, water girl extraordinaire. Lucky for her, the ball finds it in its cold inflated heart to avoid caving in her pretty little face. Not so lucky for us, it does manage to knock the tray of water right out of her hands so that it thoroughly soaks Principal Anderson, who judging by her reaction is closely related to the wicked witch of the west.
Soaking wet, she gives both me and Mitch a piercing look with her enraged raccoon eyes.
“My office, now!” she yells.
And that, my friends, is how you get yourself a week of detention.
I knew I couldn’t possibly get through a birthday unscathed.
I’m in the team’s locker room now, collecting the towels left scattered all over the floor after everybody else is long gone. I’m sure they’d be a lot more careful about where they left their towels if they knew I was constantly watching them, but hey, it’s worth it.
They don’t know I like guys, obviously. Even if they catch me looking at them it won’t be the first thing on their mind. It’s kinda like being a kid in a candy store, a really really fat kid on a diet, but still. If only I could touch those sweet candies and not just look at them, not to mention everything else you can do with candy…
Jake hasn’t made an appearance yet. The last time I saw him, he was walking into the coach’s office. The poor guy was probably in the middle of one of Coach’s lame cookie-cutter speeches about how important winning is for the self-esteem of impressionable youths such as himself. As if the star quarterback with potential scholarships on the line doesn’t already know all about winning.
I’m tempted to go looking for him, but I don’t want to risk running into Ms. Anderson again, or worse, Mitch.
Mitch has practically been stalking me all day, and I know it has something, or everything if I’m being honest, to do with Melissa. He obviously thinks he can use me to get to her. I don’t think I can help in that department, and now I don’t even want to. He probably doesn’t realize it, but he is being a major pain in the ass.
It doesn’t help that his presence seems to bring bad luck.
I finish collecting all the towels and begin hauling them toward the industrial-sized hamper on the other side of the locker room. Damn! They’re heavy. My knees are buckling and I’m pretty sure that I’m gonna collapse beneath a giant sack of athletic sweat, and not in a sexy way.
Someone approaches me from behind.
“Need help with that?” asks a low male voice.
I turn around slowly, not sure who to expect. It’s Josh Wells, one of the jocks. Pretty face, big chocolate-y brown doe eyes, dark, curvy eyelashes, and a lean muscular build—which I am particularly familiar with if you catch my drift.
I have to swallow a few times before answering. “No, thanks,” I say. “I’m cool.”
I continue dragging the bag across the floor. I’m sure that it’s painfully obvious that I do, in fact, need help, but I’d never admit that. Especially around someone like him.
Josh watches on in amusement for a few minutes before taking the sack from my hands and tossing it into the hamper with ease.
He turns back to me and says, “There you go.”
“Oh, thanks,” I mutter, straining to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.
“I’m going to hit the showers,” he says, peeling off his sweaty T-shirt. I gulp nervously. He doesn’t seem to mind me looking.
“Okay,” I mutter again, voice proud and steady despite the erratic fluttering in my chest.
“You look like you could use some refreshing as well,” he says, looking down at me.
I do the same.
It is pretty hot in here and I am sweatier than I’d like. I guess I could take a shower, but I never like to shower at school. I mean, the view would be great, I’m sure, but being naked and exposed before all of those jocks is kinda terrifying seeing as I don’t exactly have great control over one particular part of my body.
“No,” I start saying. “I think I’m gonna wait ‘til I get home.”
“Suit yourself,” he says and takes off his shorts. Dear God! He is not wearing any underwear. He stands completely naked in front of me and, again, he doesn’t seem to mind me looking.
He grabs a towel and goes into the shower room. My eyes follow greedily. I think I’m gonna take that shower after all.
I am so nervous that my legs are shaking. I’m in a shower stall, naked and Josh is in the shower stall opposite me, naked too. This is my first time being naked with another guy in the room, well, unless you count that time when I was twelve and me and my friend Frankie were putting our swimming shorts on in my bedroom. That was a lot less thrilling than this.
It was also a lot less terrifying.
I am practically aching to turn around and look at him, damn all repercussions. Even the thought of looking at him is arousing. I feel completely exposed though. I face the wall. The possibility of watching him shower is taunting me, consuming every rational thought. I wage an intense inner battle for a few more minutes, but then I come to the conclusion that I’m not likely to get another chance like this one anytime soon.
I turn around and, not daring to look at his body, I look at his face instead. Our eyes meet… I think I’m gonna faint now…
But I don’t faint. I watch in stunned silence as Josh winks at me instead.
Oh sweet Jesus!
I turn away at once. That is just too much to handle right now. I can’t even begin to process what is happening. But I gotta look again. I just have to.
I turn around and see him from the back now. I watch as he puts his head under the stream of water for a moment and then starts soaping himself. The sight of his wet body under the stream of hot water is just delightful. Too delightful.
I turn away again. I don’t want Josh to see my boner. Or do I? No, I don’t! I mean, it sounds good in theory, and this could be a good plot for an erotic dream, but this is neither. I can’t predict what kind of reaction I would get. I mean, it’s just us here. It’s not like there’s a girl around. This is just too much for one day. I have to take a break. But there he is, standing right there, a couple feet away from me, naked. Do I dare look at him again?
The thrill I get from this is not something I’m used to. I mean, I have a couple of porn magazines back at home, but those pictures are not alive. It’s not the same as looking at a real boy standing so close that I could theoretically reach out and touch him if I dared.
I look again. I stare at his body this time. He is drying his hair, so I have a few moments to openly gawk. And he has quite a bit to gawk at. His body is just perfect. It looks almost as if it was carved with a chisel. But that is not even the main point of attraction. His tool is right there on display; and it’s hard.
This is a scene straight from the erotic stories book I managed to find in a public library. I mean, if it was a scene from an erotic stories book I would turn around and start touching myself and let him watch. And he would watch me touch myself and he would like it. And then he would start touching himself as well, stroking his big tool. And I would watch. And then he would come over into my stall and… And touch me… And… And… I start breathing hard now and my face becomes distorted as I climax.
I try to hide my sudden orgasm, but my body twitches a little and I can’t do anything about it. I don’t know if Josh saw me. I don’t even dare look at him right now. I didn’t even touch myself. I am sooooooo embarrassed, mortified even.
I put my head under the water, desperately wishing that this was a dream that I could soon wake up from.
About five minutes later I turn off the water, steel myself, and turn around. Josh is already gone. I don’t know if he saw any of that, but I just wanna crawl into a cave and die.
I get dressed with trembling fingers, imaging the hell that will befall me if my secret gets out.
When I enter the designated classroom for detentions, room 409, the first person I see is Mitch. I am so upset at this point that I don’t even say anything to him. I just sit down and cover my face with my arms.
“Aren’t you taking this a little too hard? It’s just detention,” Mitch says.
“It’s not that,” I say without looking at him. “It’s something else.”
Mitch already apologized to me after Ms. Anderson scolded us in her office. I know none of this is his fault, just an awful string of coincidences, that’s all, but I have to blame someone or else I’ll go crazy.
“What is it then?” he asks.
“I don’t think you want to know, Mitch,” I say into my armpit. I don’t really want to talk right now. I’d much rather just die.
“Well,” he says gently. “I have an hour and a half to kill. And it’s not like there’s anything else to do.”
I look up and scan the classroom, which I now realize is completely empty apart from the two of us. I’m pretty sure there’s supposed to be a teacher here, but I guess we did get stuck with detention a little late in the game. As gross as it is to think about, teachers do have lives outside of school. At least I think they do.
“Do you really want to know?” I ask, wondering if straight guys often complain about their problems to other straight guys. I don’t think they do, but I wouldn’t know.
“Sure. Spit it out.”
I chew on my lower lip for a moment while I figure out where to start.
“Mostly my problem with today is that it’s my birthday.”
“It is?” he asks, a smile lighting up his face. “Well, then happy—
“Don’t say that out loud!” I screech.
“What? What did I say?” he looks around urgently as if he expects some authority figure to pop up out of nowhere and admonish him.
“It’s not you,” I explain. “This is exactly why I’m upset. It’s this thing about my birthdays…”
“What’s wrong with your birthdays?” he asks. I look at his face, trying to size him up. From what I can gather, he seems genuinely interested, so I tell him. I tell him about the cake, the broken bones, the house fires. Everything.
He keeps nodding and intently listening the entire time. I don’t think anyone ever took my story so seriously. My family doesn’t believe in it. And Melissa likes to talk but doesn’t really like to listen. I find Mitch’s calm reaction very refreshing.
“Do you think I’m crazy?” I ask when I’m finished. He thinks about it for a moment and then smiles.
“No, I don’t think you’re crazy. Well, maybe just a little bit,” he smiles conspiratorially so that I know he’s joking. “Maybe it’s like a curse? A birthday curse?”
“Is that a thing?”
“It might be,” he says. “There are a lot of people who believe in them, in curses I mean.”
“I think so.”
“Who cursed me then?”
“I don’t know.” He says solemnly. “Maybe nobody did. Maybe you were born with it.”
“Seems like it,” I sigh. “What do I do to lift the curse?”
“You’re just full of questions aren’t you?” he smiles as if he just made the funniest joke ever and then grows serious once again. “I dunno. But there’s gotta be something.”
“I know. I gotta take three feathers from a street pigeon, two ounces of pig’s blood, and a dash of unicorn tears,” I say smiling.
“Yeah, and don’t forget about the rabbit’s feet…and a caldron. You’re gonna need something to mix that in.”
We both laugh.
“Or maybe you’re like Sleeping Beauty and your curse can be lifted with a kiss?”
“Yeah, right,” I answer, trying to smile. Little does he know, much like sleeping beauty I’m waiting for my prince.
Shrugging off my momentary awkwardness, I continue bombarding him with theories as to how to break my curse. We talk more about curses and zombies and vampires and the Creepshow movie from a few years ago that we both loved, among other things. Then one thing leads to another and he’s using the plastic skeleton model to impersonate the undead and I’m running around the classroom trying to escape my gory death until he catches me and “eats my eyeballs.”
“Gahhrr… I am a creature from a planet Gahhh and I am going to eat your facial features,” he growls.
“No, please creature from the planet Gahhh, don’t eat my facial features!” I shriek in my best damsel in distress voice.
“I can’t stop myself, Arrr… Your eyes were delicious and now I have to eat your nose too.”
“No… No!” I scream.
I try to escape again, but he hunts me down and eats my nose as well, causing both of us to collapse into hysterical fits of laughter.
Then, tired and out of breath, we sit down and talk some more. We also share an orange that appears out of the depths of Mitch’s backpack. So that’s what his backpack for. He never has any notebooks or pens or anything, just cassette tapes and questionably obtained fruit.
He says he likes citrus fruits. So do I.
I’m pretty much marveling at how well the two of us get along. An hour and a half of detention passes by in what feels like ten minutes.
“You know, I don’t think I like my birthdays either,” Mitch says as we get back on the subject of my birthday curse.
“Why?” I ask, curious. He seems to have pretty much everything he could possibly ask for, well except for Melissa.
“I never get anything I really want,” he explains. “I mean, my parents give me a lot of cool stuff…”
“Like a car,” I supply.
“Yeah, that, but that’s not really important. It’s not a car that I want.”
I nod and say, “I think I know what you want.”
He looks up at me, surprised. “You do?”
“Yeah, I mean I noticed the way you look at…”
And before I can say Melissa, Ms. Anderson walks in. She gives us both dirty looks and also a stern lecture on how young boys should be behaving at school. She used the word “hooligans” no less than five times.
“Okay then. I will be expecting to see the two of you back here tomorrow,” she finishes. “Dismissed!”
She exits the room immediately as if she has a ton of important work to do, which she probably does.
Now it’s just me and Mitch again.
I watch him get up and put his backpack on. I don’t really want to go home, not today. I wasn’t there to help Uncle Jack move the furniture and I’m sure I’m gonna hear all about it. But most of all, I just don’t want to be celebrating my birthday. Today has been traumatizing enough. I’d much rather spend some more time with Mitch.
“Hey,” he says. I look up at him. “See you tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” I say. “We don’t really have a choice.”
“I don’t mind this detention thing. It was kinda fun talking to you and stuff.”
“It was,” I agree, awkwardly. “I mean I feel the same way.”
He seems hesitant to leave too, and also a little bit nervous. Maybe it’s this Melissa thing? I’m just about to offer him my help with that, but he interrupts me saying, “Bye then. See you tomorrow.”
“Bye,” I say watching him rush out almost as fast as Ms. Anderson.
I turn around and reach for my jacket which I left on the desk behind me and catch a glimpse of a note lying on my desk. I glance back at the door. Mitch is already gone.
It’s probably a note that he wants me to give to Melissa but he couldn’t work up the courage to ask me. He seems oddly worked up over something so simple. Well, I guess I would have been worked up too if I asked someone to give a declaration of love to Jake.
I take the note, vowing to give it to Melissa first thing tomorrow morning. Although I’m pretty sure what she’s gonna say about it. But hey, you know what they say. No harm, no foul.
I enter my house through the back door, hoping to slip in unnoticed.
“Where have you been?” my mother asks, immediately bursting my bubble.
“Detention,” I admit.
“Detention?” she asks, surprised. I’m her “easy child” AKA, not usually one to get in trouble.
“It’s the birthday thing.” I sigh.
“Well, I’m sorry about that, honey. But I’m afraid there’s more bad news.” That is when I start noticing the loud voices coming from the living room. Apparently all of the guests are here and ready to celebrate.
My mother shifts uncomfortably. “Well, when Uncle Jack and your father were trying to move the furniture in, Uncle Jack threw out his back,” she starts, eyes wide with excitement. As a suburban housewife she doesn’t really get out all that much. “We even had to take him to the hospital.”
“Well, that’s bad,” I say, sensing that there is worse news to come.
“The sofa that they dropped after Uncle Jack threw out his back; it made a hole in their living room floor. It turns out that the house is infested with termites.”
“Uh huh,” I say and gesture for her to continue.
“Well, they couldn’t move into the house that has holes in the floor. So we invited them to stay over at our house for the next couple of days.”
“Mom!” I protest immediately. They have five kids, for God’s sake! Couldn’t she see the amount of noise and destruction that would ensue?
“It’s already decided and we are not going to argue about it. The termite problem is gonna be solved tomorrow. The contractor says that it’s gonna take two days tops.”
“Two days?” I whine.
“It’s just two days, Sam. I think we can handle that. Also, your grandparents are not gonna be able to make it today. And taking into account that the Ericsons are not exactly cheerful after what happened, we decided to reschedule your birthday celebration for tomorrow.”
“What?” I practically shout.
“Honey, Uncle Jack just got back from the hospital. You can’t expect him to get straight to celebrating your birthday. And to tell you the truth, he is a little upset that you didn’t show up this afternoon to help him out.”
“It wasn’t my fault,” I protest.
“And your grandparents aren’t here. You wouldn’t want to be celebrating your birthday without them, would you?”
“I don’t wanna celebrate it at all!”
My mom gives me a seething look that say’s exactly what she thinks of that idea. “I’m sorry, honey. We’re just gonna have to reschedule it.”
I can’t believe this. I thought I was done with today, but I guess I was wrong. It looks like my birthday curse is going to carry on into tomorrow. Shit!
“Okay,” I say unwillingly. “Is there somebody in my room?”
“Yes, three of the Ericsons kids are gonna be sleeping in your room tonight.” Double shit!
“I don’t want to sleep with them,” I retort.
“Well then, the laundry room is all yours.”
Thankfully, the laundry room is spacious enough for me to settle into comfortably, and it has an old couch that I can sleep on. I lie down on said couch, cover myself with the blanket my mom brought in, and stare up at the ceiling. This room was not part of the original structure of the house. It’s basically like an oversized shed with a giant skylight in the middle of its slanted roof. Looking up at the stars through the skylight makes me feel slightly better about this whole ordeal. But only slightly.
With a large sigh, the sigh of the century almost, I sink into the cushions, close my eyes and let the soft whirring of the washing machine coax me into sleep.
The first thing I see is an image of Jake. We’re at the gym and he’s throwing a football to me. I catch it, much more confidently than I would’ve in real life, and throw it back. He catches it with a giant smile. I smile too. We continue throwing the ball back and forth, falling into a comfortable routine.
Then I throw him a pass he can’t catch. It hits him in the face instead.
Startled, I shoot up out of bed and try to rid myself of that awful mental image. Stupid dream. Dreams are supposed to show me happy, sexy-time with Jake, not me making a total fool out of myself.
I do just fine at that in real life.
Jake and I are together in the school’s showers.
As per usual, watching him gets me very excited. He smiles at me. He is not angry and I’m not ashamed.
It’s remarkable how relaxed I can be in my dreams. He is looking at me in that adoring way that mirrors the way I am looking at him and I can feel that something wonderful is about to happen….
And then Mitch walks right on in.
I don’t know why I’m looking at Mitch and not at Jake, but Mitch looks good. He’s wearing nothing but a thin white towel around his waist. Who would have thought that underneath all of those punk T-shirts and dirty jeans he had a body like that? He is broad and muscular. He even has a six pack. Everything about him is toned to perfection.
Seeing me looking, Mitch turns away slowly, allowing me a long lingering look at his backside while still keeping a tight grip on his towel. After what seems like an eternity, he reaches up with his taut, rippling muscles and turns on the hot water, dropping the towel at last.
I gotta say, I’m impressed.
Wait just a damn minute, I think to myself. What am I doing? Jake is standing right here in front of me, naked and smiling, ready to have his way with me. Why am I wasting my time looking at Mitch?
I turn back to Jake and he gestures for me to come closer. I get into his shower stall and he presses himself against me. I can feel his hardness against my own and I can hardly keep from crying out.
Jake takes his bar of soap and starts rubbing it along my chest. I’m about to do the same thing to him, but somebody interrupts, touching me from behind. It’s Mitch. He’s in our shower stall now. It’s a hell of a shower stall.
Without even thinking about it, I turn around and let Mitch soap my chest instead of Jake. I don’t know why I’m doing this, but he looks so great and his touch is much softer than Jake’s. I kinda like that. He is checking out my body and the expression on his face is absolutely adorable. He looks like he loves it, just looking at me, touching me.
Wait, wait, wait! Where’s Jake? I turn to find him, but he’s already gone.
“Jake?” I call out, but nobody answers.
“Who needs Jake? We’re good on our own,” Mitch says and lowers his hands way down my torso. He touches me where no other boy has ever touched me before.
“Do you like it?” he asks, his eyes dark and sultry.
Do I like it? I do like it. Oh no, I like it a little too much actually!!!
I wake up, startled by the strange turn of events. Mitch? Why am I dreaming about him? Maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me that Jake is out of my league or something.
It takes me a couple of seconds to notice Andrew, one of my nephews, who if I remember correctly just turned five last month. He is an energetic and curious child, as most of the Ericson kids are, and right now he is sitting on top of the washing machine staring at me. Well, at the big wet stain on my sleeping shorts actually.
“What are you doing here?” I ask, annoyed.
“Did you just pee your pants?” Andrew asks. I cover myself with a blanket and give him a piercing look.
“It looks like you just peed your pants. Only little boys pee their pants,” he says. Ugh. It’s not like I can explain my little problem to a five year old.
“I didn’t pee my pants, okay?” he doesn’t seem to believe me.
“I’m gonna tell my mom,” he says enthusiastically and jumps off the washing machine.
“No, wait!” I shout after him, but he is already out of the room, the little brat. And he’s yelling it out loud as he runs around the house, “Sam peed his pants! Sam peed his pants!”
I’d run after him if it wasn’t for my wet shorts.
I sigh and hide my face under my pillow.
Day two of my birthday curse has begun.
Dressed now, in jeans and my favorite Pac Man shirt, I enter the raucous area formerly known as my kitchen.
“Good morning,” I say to Aunt Carol while trying to ignore all of her kids.
“Well, good morning, darling,” she says sweetly. She is standing in front of the stove, making pancakes. My mother was making pancakes just yesterday morning and we’re not really a pancakes every day type of family; we only have them on special occasions. Aunt Carol clearly doesn’t care about such traditions. Also, she is wearing my mother’s apron and she knows that my mother hates it when she does that. But Aunt Carol wouldn’t care about that either. After all, they are sisters.
I make a place for myself at the table. I wouldn’t mind an extra portion of pancakes actually, but they’re reminding me of yesterday morning and I’m not eager to repeat my birthday shenanigans.
“Sam wet his pants this morning,” Andrew says candidly. Apparently he thinks that everybody is anxious to know about that. I open my mouth, dead-set on saying some very grown up words to a very little boy, but luckily, Aunt Carol interrupts me.
“Oh, honey, I’m sure you didn’t. Andrew is just not old enough to consider the um, alternatives.”
Well, I hope y’all have fun at my funeral cuz I think I just died of embarrassment.
“I’m sorry, honey,” Aunt Carol starts, as if she hasn’t just sent me to my premature grave. “Me and Uncle Jack didn’t get a proper chance to wish you happy birthday last night.”
“That’s okay,” I mutter, cringing a little at her use of the b-word. Hopefully it won’t have the same effect seeing as it isn’t actually my b-word this time.
“Of course, that’s okay because we are going to do it right now,” she says with a smile and approaches me to give me a kiss. I accept it. It’s not like I could run away from it or something. Or could I? Why is it that I never tried? Well it probably has something to do with the fact that I like my face the way it is.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart!” she says. There it is, a birthday bullet to my head, to my lips actually.
“Yes, happy birthday, sport,” Uncle Jack says as he enters the room. He is holding one hand on his back and is barely even walking. It’s more of a shuffle really, but it’s hard to tell with Uncle Jack. We never know how much of it is his actual pain and how much is just an act. He loves to be coddled, my uncle.
“Thank you,” I say. “How are you feeling today Uncle Jack?”
“My back is killing me. I don’t know what they did to me at the hospital, but I think they only made it worse. What are we giving them our money for anyway? Why can’t they just give me something and make this all go away?”
“That is because they haven’t learned how to treat fools yet, dear,” Aunt Carol retorts playfully. He smiles back good-naturedly.
Suddenly I feel like the smallest spec of dirt in the whole entire world. They might be crazy, every last one of them, but the Ericsons are still my family. I shouldn’t have been so quick to dismiss their problems.
“I’m sorry, Uncle Jack,” I say. “I should’ve helped you with the furniture. It’s all my fault. ”
“Nonsense,” he says, making me feel even worse. “Your mother told me that you got caught up at school.”
“Yeah, detention,” I grimace.
“Hey, it happens. Don’t worry about it kiddo. You couldn’t have been much help anyway, seeing that my house is infested with goddamn termites.” He clenched his fist angrily, as if he personally wants to crush every last one of those “goddamn termites.”
“Oh, look on the bright side Hon,” Aunt Carol pats his shoulder. “They’ll get rid of the termites in three or four days. We’ll still be able to move in.”
“I thought the contractor said it was going to take two days tops?” I ask, trying not to sound petty.
“You know the goddamn contractors. They’ll say anything to get into my wallet. I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t done with the goddamn house in two weeks!” Uncle Jack hobbles over to a free chair and carefully lowers himself into it.
“Two weeks?” I gulp.
“Oh, don’t listen to him. It’s gonna be just fine,” Aunt Carol says, moving back to the counter. “Now, here’s a plateful of birthday pancakes for you, sweetheart.” I stare at them longingly, considering the ramifications of consuming the so-called birthday pancakes.
“Thanks, Aunt Carol,” I say and start eating. What the heck, right? If we’re riding the whole birthday express a second time around I may as well take small pleasure in my syrupy stack of carbs.
Ron sits next to me and gets his own plateful of pancakes. He is staring at me, smiling, a fake smile of course.
“There’s our birthday boy,” he says sinisterly.
“Come on, Ron, don’t say that. You know it’s only gonna make it worse, for all of us.”
“Oh, don’t worry. I’m gonna keep myself away from you, birthday boy,” he says, taking his plate and vacating the table.
I sigh and grab the bottle of my favorite cherry syrup to re-douse my pancakes. I’m piling on the sugar in hopes that my brain will start producing endorphins. I could really use some endorphins right about now. Alas, the moment I turn the bottle over the cap slips off and the syrup finds a new home for itself all over my favorite T-shirt.
Ron is laughing up a storm.
“Oh my God, this is classic!” he says. “And I didn’t even have anything to do with it.”
I send my furious brain waves in his general direction, but he has already left.
“Happy birthday!” he calls from the living room.
Did I mention I hate kids?
Due to multiple changes of clothing, I don’t make it in time for the school bus. I have to take out my rusty old bike and pray that it all stays assembled. Naturally, it doesn’t.
When I finally arrive at school, I see that the entire courtyard has been invaded by colorful little booths. Oh, goodie. The science fair. I just love it when the little brats from the neighboring elementary school show up and take over Arcadia High.
We all know how great I am with kids.
I used to really enjoy parading about and showing off my superior intellect to the masses; I even won a blue ribbon back in third grade for my admittedly awesome solar system, but now I have to stay firmly planted in the middle of the social ladder. If I get any kind of special recognition, good or bad, intellectual or athletic, I risk people finding out more about me than I’m willing to tell. So yeah, no geeking out at science fairs and no going crazy at parties either. It’s all about doing just a little bit of everything, but never enough for anyone to base an impression off of.
I search the crowd for Melissa, looking forward to perusing the aisles with her. Her bluntness makes collaborative events like these hilarious. But I can’t spot her anywhere.
Instead, I notice Jake standing by one of the statistics booths. Jake’s not really all that into math, but he’s hanging out with Joanne who is doing her best to draw all of the attention toward her younger brother’s lame looking poster-board. She’s real classy like that.
Jake notices me looking.
Cheeks aflame I turn my head and pretend to be intensely interested in the contents set up around the nearest booth. Absentmindedly, I pick up one of the weirdly shaped rock formations and inspect it.
“What is this?” I ask the kid running the booth.
“Petrified dog poop.” He answers drily.
Immediately I drop the poop and turn away, focusing my attention back on Jake. He seems miserable and out of place among Joanne and her cackling friends. Several of them are trying to entertain him, it seems, while Joanne is busy getting that blue ribbon for her brother. He looks both bored and annoyed at the same time. I wish I could save him from this horror show. I’m sure he wouldn’t be bored if he was hanging out with me. I can be fun.
Casually, he glances up at me and this time our eyes meet.
Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it feels like more than just your average run of the mill eye contact to me; almost as if we are sharing the same unspoken thought. It lasts for about three or four seconds before a hand lands on my shoulder forcing me to turn around.
“Hey Sam.” Mitch says. There he goes distracting me from Jake again. I am annoyed, of course, but Mitch is actually pretty cool. I guess we’re sort of friends now.
“Hey man, what’s up?”
“Nothin’ much,” he says and smiles. He seems a little bit nervous, probably thinking Melissa’s around or something. That reminds me, I almost forgot about his note. I gotta give it to her, if only I could figure out where she is.
“So, how did it go last night?” he asks.
“It didn’t. My family had to reschedule. So it’s my birthday today all over again.”
“Oh my… I bet you’re just thrilled about that.”
I smile. “Yeah, totally.”
“Has it been rough?”
I laugh. “Well so far today I’ve been tormented by a five-year-old, ruined my favorite T-shirt, gotten a flat tire on my bike, and accidentally touched ancient dog shit.”
He raises one eyebrow. “Sounds…interesting.”
I laugh again. “Yeah, that’s one word for it.”
He smiles. “Hey, come with me, I want to show you something.”
I give one last longing look in Jake’s direction and follow him.
“Wow, that’s awesome!” I exclaim.
I am looking at, and practically drooling over, the coolest model of Solar System I have ever seen. Dare I say it, even cooler than my prize-winning one.
“You like it?” Mitch asks.
“Do I like it? I love it!” And I do. The planets are made out of the typical tennis, ping pong, golf balls etc., but the paint job on them is totally off the chain. It’s textured so that you can clearly see the shapes of the mountains each planet has and the depths of its hollows and craters. The planets are also suspended from a huge base using fishing wire so at first glance they appear to be floating in midair.
“I thought you might like it,” Mitch says. “We’ve been working on it for weeks.” He means himself and his little brother, Jim. Technically it’s Jim’s model, but I can definitely see Mitch’s heavy-handed touch. No 10-year-old could make a model that great, no offense.
“How did you manage to make it look so… real?” I ask admiring the level of detail.
“We used silicone paint,” Mitch explains. “My dad got it for us from his friend who works at a movie studio.”
“No way! A real movie studio?”
“Yeah, they do zombies and monsters and stuff.”
“That’s so awesome!” I gush.
I can’t believe Mitch went to such trouble just to help his little brother out with his project. He really is a good guy; remarkably so, in fact. If it weren’t for disrupting my attempts to get noticed by Jake all the time he’d be just about perfect.
We start walking around, chit chatting and sharing our opinions on the other projects. We pretty much agree on all of them.
When we are finally forced to part ways, I am in a much better mood.
Melissa and I eat lunch in the cafeteria today. The place is absolutely crawling with jocks. The entire football team seems to be stuffing their collective mouths with bread and pasta—coach’s orders, I’m sure. Not gonna lie, the visual is pretty gross. Lucky for me, I am busy listening to Melissa ramble on about her new boyfriend.
It’s nothing particularly interesting, just her typical fare; falling for some douchebag of a guy who has too much going on to pay her any attention. Apparently, his sexy lips make it all worth it. They always do, don’t they?
The guy’s name is Tom Riley. Pretty hot, from what I’ve seen. And he’s not just hot. He’s smart too. He’s in student counsel (probably on his way to student body president in a few years) and captain of the debate team. His GPA is astronomical, like Harvard material good. But despite all of that, he is still a grounded person. I don’t know. He seems nice enough I guess. Only time will tell.
Poor Mitch though. He didn’t even have a chance. I can’t imagine how frustrated he’s gonna be when he finds out.
“Can you even believe it?” Melissa asks me. “I was so shocked when he asked me out. I mean, it’s Tom Riley we’re talking about.”
“Yeah, he’s hot,” I say before it even crosses my mind that I probably shouldn’t use the word “hot” in reference to another guy, but Melissa doesn’t notice. She just continues her never-ending stream of chatter—which I, of course, pay the minimal amount of required attention to.
“Hey,” Mitch says, suddenly approaching our table. “Can I sit here?”
Melissa and I stare openmouthed. He is a jock and we’re just commoners. Sitting with us is like social poison for someone like him.
“You want to sit with us?” Melissa asks, suspicious.
“Yeah! Can I?”
“Why do you want to do that exactly?” she asks, eyes narrowed.
“Because Sam is my friend,” he says simply.
“Sure, sit down, Mitch,” I say finally, carefully setting down my fork.
Melissa looks at me and whispers, “Since when are you two friends?”
“Later,” I mouth back.
She gives me a wicked smile that makes my stomach turn with worry. Uh oh. Here we go.
“So, Mitch, you play football, correct?”
“Yeah,” he says brightly. “I’ve been varsity since Freshman year. I love football.”
She looks him over. “I see.”
He gives me one of his rare, genuine smiles. He has a really nice smile.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” Melissa asks, continuing with her screening process.
“No,” he says slowly. “I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“And why not?”
I expect Mitch to get uncomfortable, but he doesn’t. He seems pretty relaxed discussing that subject. Most guys would be offended by that comment, or really defensive; or, if they’re like me, just extremely uncomfortable.
“I don’t want to have a girlfriend,” he says plainly. I whip my head up in surprise. Why would he say that? That’s no way to get the girl you like’s attention.
“Why? What’s wrong with you?” Melissa asks, mouth full of bread.
“Why does there have to be something wrong with me?”
“What, you’re saying that there’s something wrong with the girls?” she sniffs.
“Isn’t there? Girls are bitches!”
I’m about a thousand percent sure that that’s gonna be the last thing he ever says, but to my surprise, Melissa reacts calmly.
“Not all girls are bitches”.
“Most of them,” he says with a shrug.
“Well, maybe you just haven’t met the right girl yet.”
“Yeah, maybe I haven’t,” he looks away shyly.
Now I get it. The sly little devil is playing hard to get. Trying to trick Melissa into thinking she wants to be his girlfriend by saying he doesn’t want one. It’s pretty brilliant.
“Hey, Mitch! Catch!” some jock shouts suddenly and we all turn to see a football hurtling our way. Mitch hardly manages to catch it, but he does.
He lobs the ball back in a perfect spiral. “Cut it out, Dubrovski!”
“The cafeteria is not the place for the football practice,” Melissa says, sounding like a teacher.
“Sorry about that.” Mitch says, cracking his knuckles. “Not a very bright group, those guys—well generally speaking of course.”
“Yes,” Melissa concurs. “Just like how not all girls are bitches.”
“Yeah,” he says, clearly no longer interested in the topic. “So Sam, do you think that birthday curse is still happening?”
At that exact moment another projectile, presumably a football, lands directly on my tray, causing all of my food to revolt and find a new home.
On my face!!!
I shoot daggers at Mitch.
“Sam, I’m so sorry…” he starts to say, but I stand up and run out of the cafeteria before he can finish.
I spend the remainder of my class periods in the bathroom wallowing. I feel like crying. Not just because of the public humiliation. That happens to everyone at some point or another, but I just feel so incredibly frustrated. Like, when am I ever gonna get a break?
Just before the end of last period someone else enters the bathroom. I know instinctively that it’s Mitch.
“Hey,” he says. “Are you okay?”
I nod solemnly, not quite trusting my voice to be as collected as I want it to be.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“It’s okay,” I say tiredly. “It’s not your fault. It’s the—
“Birthday curse,” he finishes.
“Well, I’m sorry anyway,” he says again.
“Thanks. I just gotta be more careful I guess.” I look down at my poor mistreated T-shirt and cringe.
“Hey, I have a T-shirt you can wear,” Mitch interjects unexpectedly.
“You do?” I ask hopefully. I’m really not looking forward to wearing my lunch home with me.
“Yeah,” he says “I was gonna put it in my locker in case I wanted a clean shirt after practice, but you need it more than I do.” He unzips his backpack and fishes out a dark red Atari T-shirt and hands it to me.
I sort of expected it to be all dirty and crumpled like, well…like him. But it’s actually pretty clean and folded even. Also, it smells like oranges.
“We’re not really the same size, but it should be okay.” He runs his fingers through his long dark hair.
“Thanks,” I say and remove the soiled shirt. As you may have guessed, I’m a little self-conscious. But it’s not like I can ask Mitch to avert his eyes or something without seeming absolutely insane so I just remove my own and slip into his T-shirt as quickly as I can.
I catch him looking at me in the mirror while I’m changing. Almost as if he’s checking me out.
I must be hallucinating. It’s all because of that dream, man. I shake my head slightly, as if to clear it.
Our eyes meet briefly in the mirror and he turns away at once. He almost seems, I don’t know, bashful? Strange, but who am I to judge? Straight guys probably do things like that all the time. I mean, naked people do tend to catch one’s attention, regardless of gender.
Mitch’s T-shirt fits alright actually. I’m not as bulky as he is, that’s for sure, but our frames are a similar size.
“Does it look okay?” I ask, settling into the fabric. He looks me over, almost perfunctorily, as if purposefully willing his eyes not to wander.
“Yeah, you look nice,” he says nonchalantly. “Now let’s go to practice, shall we?”
He doesn’t give me time to answer before making a beeline for the door.
“Sure,” I say and follow him out.
I don’t really care about sports. I just care about this particular ball that I hold in my hands. Jake’s hands were touching it a moment ago and now it’s firmly planted in my own, it’s porous surface leaving an indentation on my fingertips. How we ended up practicing together is totally beyond me. It’s not like Jake doesn’t have a dozen teammates way more suited to help him out. I wonder whether it’s because he actually wanted to play with me or if he asked because he feels sorry for me. Either way, I’m not complaining.
Anyway, we engage in the monotonous task of throwing the pigskin back and forth. I’m truly and honestly—to my own shock and awe—holding my own against him. I think Jake is proud of me. I mean, he looks kinda proud.
I throw the ball back to him and notice Mitch prancing about in my periphery. Him again, ruining my moment with Jake. Well, I looked at him so I guess it’s my own fault. Mitch is performing the same mundane drills with another guy a few feet away from us, but what catches my attention is the major bitch face he’s giving us. I honestly have never seen such a display of emotion from the guy. Literally all he ever does is shrug—maybe a grin every once in a while, but he looks positively ready to flip his lid.
Even worse, it’s directed at me.
What could he possibly be angry at me for?
I don’t get it. He was very friendly just ten minutes ago in the bathroom and now he’s giving me the evil eye from across the gym. Maybe he’s heard about Melissa’s new boyfriend? I didn’t think jocks even discussed those kinds of things. Is he angry with me for not telling him about it? I mean, I guess I should have told him. We do have that whole friendly bonding thing going on.
I’ve been looking at Mitch for too long. The football flies at me.
It makes contact!!!
Is that Jake’s voice calling my name? I think it is Jake’s voice.
“Sam?” Jake says my name again. Sweet, sweet Jake…
“Get off of him!” another voice commands. I’m pretty sure it’s Mitch. Only he could be such a buzzkill. I open my eyes and am greeted by his sweet, concerned, buzzkill-y face.
“Hey, Sam? Are you okay?”
“I think so,” I mumble.
I try to get up, but the room is spinning. No, I am most definitely not okay.
Mitch grabs me by my shoulders and helps me up. “Come on, let’s get you to the nurse.”
The nurse says that it’s probably nothing. “Maybe just a minor concussion” are her exact words.
“I’m so sorry about that,” Mitch is telling me yet again. He’s been saying it for the past ten minutes straight, looking like a kicked puppy all the while.
“It’s not your fault,” I assure him, even though it is.
“Are you feeling better?”
“A little bit.” I remove the completely unnecessary cloth from beneath my nose. It’s not even red save for a tiny dot near the center.
Mitch is giving me weird looks again—like he thinks I’m some precious artifact or something. Then again, I am feeling a tad bit concussed at the moment. He probably just feels protective of me, in like, a brotherly way.
“I ruined your shirt,” I blurt suddenly. Where the nurse’s cotton failed in soaking up my nose blood, Mitch’s awesome Atari T-shirt certainly succeeded. It doesn’t really show because it’s dark red, but we both know it’s there. And I feel sorry about it just the same.
“Don’t worry about it. I have other shirts. You can have this one,” he says gently.
“Thanks,” I whisper.
We grow silent for a moment.
“Damn, our detention,” I say, suddenly remembering.
“You’re not going to detention,” he says firmly.
“No, I’m taking you home. You need to rest.” I remember my bike and the flat tire and am immediately grateful for him and his car/license.
“Thanks,” I say.
Is it just me, or are his smiles getting wider?
Mitch tries to cheer me up all the way home. We talk about the Solar System model that he and his brother made which actually won first place—to Joanne’s dismay. We also talk about movies and how cool it is that his old man’s friend works at a studio. He even offers to take me to one of their sets someday.
When the subject of music comes up, as it often does around Mitch, we start talking about The Descendants and Mitch throws in a couple of suggestions for me. By the time we reach my street I’m smiling and laughing again. How is it that hanging out with Mitch always seems to simultaneously ruin and make my day?
“Well, this is me,” I say, regretfully grasping the door handle.
“It’s a nice house.”
“Normally. Right now there are way too many people inside.” Earlier, I told him all about the Ericsons wreaking havoc on my home, accentuating my curse to the fullest degree.
“You’ll survive. So are you celebrating your birthday today?”
“Yeah.” My mood plummets.
“Okay, you better tell me all about it tomorrow,” he says.
“You’ll be the first to know,” I say, reluctantly stepping out of the car. “Thanks for the ride.”
“No problem. See you tomorrow.”
I close the door, step back, and watch him drive away. It’s hard to imagine that we’ve only been friends for a couple of days. It feels like I’ve known him forever.
“Oh my God, honey, what happened?” my mom gushes the second she spots me.
“I caught a football,” I say with a wry grin that causes me to wince. “With my face.”
“Oh my, how did that happen?”
My mind flashes to the whole Mitch/Jake situation. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”
She nods sympathetically and gives me a kiss on my forehead.
“I’m sorry, honey.”
“It’s alright. At least I’ll have another bruised birthday photo to add to the collection.”
“Yeah, about that…”
“What is it now?” I groan.
“Well, it turns out that Uncle Jack’s contractor is not going to be able to have the floors done until Friday. And they also uncovered some problems with the sewage pipes,” she wrinkles her nose at the thought.
“And?” I ask.
“Your grandparents have decided they don’t want to come out here until the house is ready for them to see.”
“We have to celebrate it today, mom. It’s now or never. I don’t think I can take another day.” Much less three of them.
“Listen, honey, all I’m asking for is a few more days. Your father is having a crisis at work and I don’t want to upset him anymore than I have to. He would feel terrible if we skipped out on your birthday, and the situation is already, um…delicate what with your aunt and uncle and the kids here and all.” She looks at me in that way that says: I’m not mad, I’m disappointed and my resolve immediately crumbles.
Damn. She’s good at guilt trips. It doesn’t help that I already feel bad about Uncle Jack’s injury.
“Okay,” I sigh, resolving myself to an entire three days of torture.
“Great,” she smiles, glad to have won the argument. “We’ll celebrate on Saturday after the Ericsons settle in next door.”
Make that four days.
As I am conveniently residing in the laundry room now, the first thing that occurs to me is that I should probably wash the blood off of Mitch’s T-shirt. I turn on the washing machine and then go lie down. I am so tired. Something to do with that mild concussion I’m guessing.
Today wasn’t that bad. I was tossing the ball with Jake. And he smiled at me during the science fair…
I hear the phone ringing in the kitchen, but seeing as I’m about three seconds away from conking out; I don’t pay it too much mind.
Maybe it’s Jake calling to check on me? He seemed very concerned about the whole ball to the face incident. He probably would have taken me to the nurse if Mitch hasn’t pushed him away.
Wednesday morning rolls in, bringing with it my typical sex dream.
This time I’m sitting in the passenger’s seat of Jake’s car. His car is fancy. It’s a Porsche, for God’s sake. And I’m afraid to even touch anything. I feel like my life is worth less than this car, but Jake doesn’t seem to agree.
He wraps up whichever sweet, easy thought he was voicing and we come to an awkward silence.
“So you drive stick?” I finally ask. He smiles impishly.
“I like stick,” he says evenly.
“I never tried driving a stick,” I say with a nervous gulp. Dream me is so ballsy!
“You should try it then,” he suggests. He changes his posture, angling his body in a way that gives me the perfect opening to try um, driving his stick so to speak.
Do I dare?
I swear I’m right about to get my hands on Jake’s stick when somebody suddenly jerks opens the door from his side of a car. It’s Mitch, and he doesn’t look happy.
“Get out of the car, Timbers, now!” he says angrily.
“What the hell, Mitch? What do you think you’re doing?”
“I said to get out of the car,” Mitch growls.
“Are you sure you want me to get out of the car, Blake?” Jake asks. “Because if I do get out of this car I’m not getting back in until your blood is on the pavement.”
“Oh just get out,” Mitch declares, unafraid.
“Guys, I think you need to chill out,” I squeak nervously. They ignore me.
Jake practically jumps out of the car and runs at Mitch. “What the hell is your problem, man?”
“You are my problem!” Mitch says and shoves him backwards about a foot or so.
That’s all it takes. Pretty soon fists are flying and once they manage to knock each other over, they grapple on the ground like a couple of wrestlers.
“Hey, hey! Stop that!” I shout, but neither of them is listening to me. I’m tempted to jump in and try to break up the fight, but I’m pretty sure that I’d just get hurt if I did.
“You’re a fucking asshole!” Jake yells.
“You’re the asshole!” Mitch yells back.
I don’t know what to do. This dream is very weird and it’s not something that usually happens. There is nothing sexy about it.
Oh no, I was wrong about that one. Out of the blue Jake and Mitch start kissing and undressing each other. I don’t know what they’re doing and why, but it’s pretty hot. Way hot. I just stare at them, both dumbfounded and aroused until my alarm goes off.
I wake up with the usual mess in my pants. Ugh. Why am I incapable of self-control?
That was quite the dream though. I’m not really sure where it stemmed from, but I guess I’ve just been experiencing Mitch-overload the past two days. It’s not that I don’t like Mitch, but I don’t want to think about him in that way. He’s a good guy, of course, but he still wouldn’t like it if I told him the dreams I’ve been having about him. Besides, Jake is the one I really like. My brain is only fixating on Mitch because he’s new and exciting. Mitch is a little imaginary fling. Jake is forever.
That being said, it would be a whole lot easier for me to stop thinking about Mitch if he weren’t currently parked in my driveway.
He catches me sneaking out of the house early to avoid contact with rogue Ericson children and apparently he has been waiting to give me a ride to school.
“How ya feeling?” he asks, pulling out of the driveway.
I make myself comfortable and fasten my seat belt. “Better, I guess.”
“Better is good,” he notes, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel.
I nod in agreement.
I look over at him. He is practically beaming. He definitely seems in a cheerful mood this morning. Maybe he’s decided to give that Melissa thing another try. I would love to help him with that, but Tom Riley is a pretty tough competitor. I don’t know though, Mitch has definitely made it on to her radar.
“So did you celebrate your birthday last night?”
“No! Can you believe it?” I reply. “My mom rescheduled it again. Now my birthday is apparently on Saturday. She said I would have a whole birthday week and a birthday weekend this way!”
“Oh, wow! That is bad, really bad,” he says. He is smiling though. I smile too.
“Yeah. I’m not even sure I’m gonna make it ‘til Saturday.”
“Don’t worry,” he says, growing serious for a moment. “I’ll keep an eye on you.”
“Thanks,” I say. We go silent.
“So, do you like Melissa?” I ask out of the blue. I don’t know why I asked. I guess there’s this connection I have with Mitch now, and it kinda makes me comfortable enough to speak my mind.
“She’s alright,” he says. “Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know. Just curious.”
“What? Did she ask about me or something?” he probes.
“Well, kind of,” I say evasively. She didn’t, of course, but he doesn’t need to know that.
“What exactly did she ask?”
Crap. “Well… She asked… She was wondering, um, why you didn’t have a girlfriend,” I mutter. Not a total lie.
He looks at me briefly and then turns back to the road.
“Why is it an issue? Why can’t I just be single?”
“It’s not an issue. It’s just… You’re a jock and you’re, well…you’re good-looking,” I reply tentatively.
“You think I’m good-looking?” he asks, surprised.
I ignore the question. “So why no girlfriend?”
“I don’t know…” he trails off. “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?” he raises his eyebrows quizzically. It’s kinda cute. And also terrifying. Why don’t I have a girlfriend? That is a very good question. I don’t really wanna lie to him, but I can’t tell him the truth either, at least not yet.
“I just haven’t met the right person yet,” I say evasively. I mentally roll my eyes at myself. Yeah, he totally won’t pick up on that one (Insert sarcasm here).
But astonishingly he exclaims, “Me too! I just haven’t met the right person.” He accentuates the word person; I assume to poke fun at me.
I’ll take it. Joking is better than punching.
Mitch pulls into the school’s parking lot. I breathe a sigh of relief, glad to be done with that conversation.
“Are you going to practice today?” he asks me as we come to a stop.
“Yeah, sure,” I say with a smile.
“Great,” he says and we both exit the car. I’m incredibly grateful that Mitch isn’t the pushy type. He could have easily made me say some things that I’m not ready to say just yet, but he didn’t. I’m in the clear. I live to see another sexually ambiguous day!
“Hey, Sam!” Jake shouts at me from across the parking lot, snapping me out of my thoughts.
I stand there dumbfounded, watching him approach me. He looks happy to see me, I think. Or at the very least, he definitely looks like he has something to say.
“Sam, I’m sorry about yesterday,” he starts. “I didn’t mean to—
“Stay away from him!” Mitch shouts, suddenly appearing at my side. He shoves Jake away from me.
“What is your problem, Blake?” Jake yells.
“You are my problem! Just leave him alone!”
Oh God! This is exactly what happened in my dream. I swear to god, if clothing starts coming off I’m gonna die.
I stand paralyzed, waiting for something else to happen, but luckily, the commotion has attracted unwanted attention. Jake visibly calms himself and says, “I just wanted to apologize.” He looks pointedly at Mitch and then back at me. “I’m sorry about what happened, Sam. I didn’t mean for you to get hurt. You know that, right?”
Is he seriously asking me if I’m angry with him? I mean, I probably wouldn’t be angry with him if he chopped my hands off.
“I know. It’s okay. No big deal,” I mutter. I suddenly feel woozy, almost like I’m drowning in the ocean of his eyes.
“Good,” he says, breaking the spell.
“Come on, Sam. We’re gonna be late to class.” Mitch practically starts dragging me away.
“See you at practice!” Jake calls after me.
As we near our classroom I stop abruptly, causing Mitch to slow down and face me.
“What just happened?” I ask him.
“What do you mean?” he won’t look at me.
“I thought you and Jake were friends.”
“We were never friends. We’re just on the same team, that’s all.” There is obviously more to it, but I don’t ask. It’s not my place.
“Just stay away from him, okay?” Mitch adds. “That boy is nothing but trouble.”
“What do you mean?” I ask, flabbergasted. Jake is a good guy. He’s like the opposite of trouble; caring, compassionate, apologetic, polite, athletic, all-American. What’s so bad about that?
“What happened between you two?” I ask him, unable to resist. “Was it a girl?”
“Just stay away from him,” Mitch repeats and then he enters the building, leaving me confused and staring after him.
The big game is today. Accordingly, the school is abuzz with anticipation and excitement. Well, everyone except me. Mitch and Jake are at each other’s throats for some reason, and now I’m kinda in the middle of it. I don’t wanna be in the middle. I’m not good at confrontation.
I think Mitch is trying to keep Jake away from me, but he’s doing it very stealthily. Every time he comes within spitting distance of me some seemingly random misfortune will derail him—I’m talking malfunctioning water fountains, random balls to the crotch, and even one unfortunate announcement regarding his mother bringing him fresh underpants. It’s been happening all day, and I’m almost certain that Mitch is behind it.
It also doesn’t help that Jake is practically the center of the whole entire planet today. Several times he’s approached me, looking as if he has something existentially important to say, only to be lifted up and swept away by admirers enthusiastically chanting his name.
Now he is approaching me yet again and I’m starting to get my hopes up, when BAM! Mitch blocked.
“Come on Sam. We’ll be late for class,” he says, popping up out of nowhere and dragging me away.
I look back and give Jake an apologetic smile. I don’t want him to think that I don’t want to talk to him, but at the same time, I don’t want to be rude to Mitch. I mean, I could have told him to piss off, but, though it might sound crazy, I’ve really started to care about Mitch in the past few days. I don’t want to throw away what could potentially be one of the best friendships I’ve ever had. Also, I really would like if he and Melissa would hooked up. Mitch is a good fit for her. Well, I think so anyway. Then I could hang out with both of them all the time.
Could I ditch him if Jake asked me to? I don’t know. Maybe. But it’d kill me a little bit inside.
“HELLO! Earth to Sam. What’s your damage today? Why are you all up in your head?” Melissa asks as we sit down for lunch.
“It’s Mitch,” I blurt out. Shit. I’m just a mess today. Might as well write the word “Fag” all over my forehead.
“You’ve become very close it seems,” she muses in between bites of tater tots. “What’s it been, like three days? Should I start feeling jealous?”
“No!” I shout, causing people a few tables over to glance up in curiosity. I lower my volume and continue. “He’s just been really nice to me and we have a lot in common.” She looks at me skeptically. “Well there is one other thing…” I admit. “But I’m not gonna tell you about it because I don’t want to embarrass him.”
“Okaaaaay,” she says, squinting at me. “Well, the reason I’m asking is actually Jake.”
I choke on my burger. “What?”
“It seems that Mitch and Jake are not exactly on the best of terms,” she continues.
“Yeah, where are you going with this?”
She coughs, looking as uncomfortable as I’ve ever seen her. “So who is it gonna be, Mitch or Jake?”
I look at her, mouth agape. She is clearly asking me which one of them I have a crush on.
“I mean who do you want to be friends with,” she corrects herself immediately, but the accompanying look she gives me says otherwise.
I look at her sternly, letting her know that I caught her insinuation and do not appreciate it.
“I can be friends with both of them,” I say with a shrug.
“Okay, if you say so.” She hands me a piece of paper. “Here’s a note Jake asked me to give to you.”
“Jake gave this to you?” I ask, staring at the note, then at Melissa, then back at the note. “Jake Timbers?”
“He did,” she says, gaging my reaction with amusement.
“And he told you to give it to me?” I ask, still unable to believe that the piece of paper in my hands is actually from Jake.
“Yeah,” she says drolly. “So are you gonna read it, or just sit there all day with that dumb look on your face?”
I glare at her, but go to open it nonetheless.
My heart is racing as I unfold the paper and smooth the creases. Jake’s handwriting is so cute; very neat and evenly-spaced. I’ve read books about how to analyze someone's handwriting and according to them, neat writing means the person is reliable and good at communication. Check. Also, he writes in small letters, meaning he is shy, but has a good eye for detail. I never would have considered Jake Timbers shy, but I guess it’s possible. I mean, the side of yourself you show off in public can be way different than who you truly are. I know that better than anyone. His letters are also really scrunched up—almost running into each other, but not quite. That indicates that he is artistic, probably loves drawing and being creative. And it slopes to the left, which means that he pretty much keeps to himself.
I’d say he has secrets that he is not sharing. If his handwriting is any indication, he’s just gotta be gay.
“So? What does it say?” Melissa asks, impatient.
“He wants to meet me before the game,” I say. I feel a little lightheaded.
“Are you gonna meet him?”
“Of course.” It’s Jake we’re talking about.
There’s nothing that could keep me away.
After a quick pre-game practice the boys hit the showers and quickly file out until Mitch and I are the only ones left in the locker room. He takes his time in the shower while I muse over ways to sneak off and see Jake without him knowing. Mitch and I are expected to report to detention right after practice, and I can’t exactly ditch him for that. We’re supposed to go together.
Mitch emerges from the showers with a tiny towel wrapped around his waist, and let me just say, the view in real life makes the one in my dreams look positively tame.
“Just give me a minute to get dressed and then we’ll go, okay?” he says, brightly as he’s applying deodorant.
“Sure,” I say, trying not to stare. He looks so good. I really am trying not to think about him that way, but it’s hard. I mean, I am a teenage boy. I have hormones raging and stuff.
“You were pretty good today. You’re getting better,” Mitch says, referring to my participation in today’s practice. I smile at the memory. Feeling lenient and not wanting to overwork the team before the big game, the coach let me take part in a few of the drills, and, surprise, I actually kinda liked it. What I didn’t like was the way Mitch was forcing me to play keep-away with Jake.
“Thanks,” I mutter. I’m still trying not to stare at him. Well, maybe I could stare just from the corner of my eye so he wouldn’t notice…
“Do you want me to talk to coach about getting you on the team?” Mitch asks and, before I am even able to register the thought, he takes his towel off.
His naked body is perfect. Even better than my subconscious mind predicted, and trust me, I have a good imagination. I am just incapable of not looking at it. I mean at him. I am a drooling idiot.
“Sam?” he glances back at me. I turn away as fast as possible. God! I think he noticed.
“W-what?” I stutter.
“Do you want to be on the team?”
“I don’t know. I mean, maybe. I’m not sure,” I ramble. He smiles at that.
“Okay. But you are good at this. You should think about joining.”
He steps into his boxers, and then his jeans and pulls a T-shirt over his head. I’m a little disappointed to see him decked out in his usual baggy ensemble, but I’m also relieved. It gives me an opportunity to calm myself down, both mentally and physically.
“Okay, I’m almost done.”
A pinch-faced, brownnoser of a freshman walks in.
“Mitch Blake?” He asks, looking both of us over distastefully.
“That’s me,” Mitch says.
“Principal Anderson is expecting you in her office, now!” He scurries away.
“Okay…” Mitch replies, eyebrows furrowed. “I wonder what that’s all about.” He glances over at me. “You coming?”
“I’ll be right behind you. I just need to take care of the towels,” I say automatically. I don’t know where the lie came from, but it fits perfectly.
“Okay, see you in a bit then.” He smiles at me warmly. I can’t help but marvel at how unguarded he has become these last few days. I mean, a boy I once thought had the emotional capacity of a brick is now freely smiling at me and getting in passionate fights with his teammates. It’s so strange, but somehow it fits him. He’s not one to mess around with his feelings. He either shows you all of them, or nothing.
“Of course,” I tell him, watching his retreat with a small pang of guilt.
Finally alone in the locker room, I start pacing nervously, waiting for Jake to show up.
I shake out my limbs nervously. I can’t even believe that I’m about to have a secret meeting with Jake Timbers. It’s surreal. It’s a dream come true.
It’s freaking me the fuck out.
I mean, what does he want to talk to me about? Does he know about my crush on him? He must, otherwise why would he be so interested in me all of a sudden? I really hope he’s gay. Scratch that. I really hope he likes me.
“Hey,” Jake says, putting a stop to my mental ramblings. I look up at his gorgeous, smiling face and practically evaporate into a puddle of mush.
“Hey,” I say, unable to come up with anything else.
He comes closer. “I’ve been trying to talk to you all day! I’ve got something to ask you.” The way he is looking at me right now is exactly the way he looks at me in my dreams; big blue eyes sparking with mischief and affection.
“Okay,” I squeak. “What is it?” His eyes are so beautifully clear this close up, almost like the translucent hue of ocean water sparkling as hints of sunlight are refracted off of its surface.
He breaks the spell by leaning back and casually asking, “You were pretty good at practice today. I wanted to know if you wanted to join the team.”
Is that all he wanted to talk to me about? Why couldn’t he have just said that in his note or something?
“What do you say?” he urges. “Do you want to be on my team?”
“Sure,” I mutter, disappointed. He picks up on that.
A crooked smile appears on his face, and he looks me in the eyes again.
“We are on the same team, Sam, aren’t we?” he moves in closer, his posture oozing seduction.
“I guess so,” I mumble softly.
“You guess?” he asks, leaning back.
“I mean, I want us to be on the same team,” I look up at him shyly.
“Okay then,” he says and closes the distance between us.
Jake is kissing me. Jake Timbers is kissing me!!!
Jake’s lips are soft and tight at the same time. His kiss is warm and nice and chock full of all the pent up tension that has been simmering between us for the last few weeks. My erection makes itself known almost immediately.
I would have enjoyed every bit of this kiss, my first kiss actually, if it weren’t for the sudden tingling sensation on the back of my neck. Somebody is looking at us!
I am so disturbed by the idea that I pull away from Jake to take a look. There is nobody there.
“What is it?” he asks.
“Nothing, it just felt like somebody was watching us,” Jake looks over at the entrance.
“There’s nobody here. It’s just you and me,” he says, practically purring.
“Did it really happen?” I ask, stupidly. Jake smiles.
“Did what really happen?”
“You, you were just, I-I mean, did you just kiss me?” I eke out through trembling lips.
“No! Where did you get that idea?” he says with a wry smile. “It must have been your imagination, Sam.”
“It must have been,” I return his smile.
He leans in and kisses my smiling lips, this time more deeply. This is not happening!
When he finally breaks away he leans in and whispers, “I wish we had more time.”
He definitely means it. I can feel the hardness in his pants at this point. That is an impressive hardness. It’s Jake’s hardness. It’s not easy for me to wrap my head around the idea of me actually being the cause of it.
“Coach is expecting me,” Jake explains. “He wants to talk to me before the game.”
Well, that’s understandable. Jake is one of the key players. Another key player is Mitch. And now I am firmly planted between the two of them, but let’s not dwell on that.
“It’s okay,” I say, still trying to regain my breath.
“Meet me after the game?”
“Sure,” I reply. He smiles and gives me a short kiss again, more of a peck on my lips. I can’t stop smiling.
“Wish me luck.”
“Not that you need it,” I say and he grins.
He gives me one last sweet, intimate kiss before exiting the locker room, leaving me alone and staring off into space like an idiot, but a happy idiot nonetheless.
I don’t know how long I stand there in stunned silence before I finally remember my detention and rush out.
When I enter classroom 409, I see a couple of students sitting around, but no Mitch.
I sit at a random desk and wonder where he is. I keep getting the feeling that it was him who saw me and Jake kissing in the locker room. I don’t know why I feel that way, but I’d be willing to put money on it, well, if I had any. I don’t think Mitch would tell anyone about my secret. He’s is too nice for that, but that being said, he probably won’t want to talk to me for a while—maybe not ever considering I just made out with his new worst enemy.
“Hey! Sam, right?” Asks the guys behind me, tapping on my shoulder.
“Yeah,” I say defensively. “Who’s asking?”
“I’m Kenan Raffalovich,” the boy says. “We have Geometry together. I heard you were practicing with the football team today. Are you like, on the team now?”
“Well, sort of,” I say, scratching my head uncomfortably.
“Yeah, I’m not sure yet. I mean nothing’s official,” I explain.
“Oh, okay,” he says. “I just thought you were cool. You throw like a bad-ass.”
“Thanks,” I beam. That’s quite a compliment considering I’ve never even touched a football prior to this week.
“So you’re not gonna be at the game tonight?” he asks.
“I’ll be at the game, but I’m not gonna be playing.”
“Too bad,” he frowns. “I’d like to watch you play.”
Cue awkward silence. I cough a few times and then make up an excuse about catching up on some homework.
“Okay, that’s cool,” he says. “I mean, I get you.”
He gestures to a variety of notebooks he has laid out in front of him. He is actually catching up on his homework, unlike me. I dig out one of my own notebooks and scribble in it.
My thoughts immediately turn back to Mitch. What if he thinks that I’m disgusting now? A lot of straight guys do. When he was becoming my friend, I don’t think he expected me to be gay. It’s like my dirty little secret. I don’t think it’s in any way dirty though; I think being gay is as normal as being blue-eyed, but non-gay people usually don’t think like that.
The thought of Mitch hating me makes me nauseous. For some reason I’ve grown attached to the guy. I like the way he is always nice to me—nicer than any practical stranger has any right being. He makes me feel like I’m normal, a regular guy with regular problems and a regular good-ol’ guy friend. Our friendship is new, yes, but it just feels so right.
The door opens and I look up. Mitch stands there sullenly, almost as if summoned by my thoughts.
He spots me and hesitates in the doorway. I study his face, but I can’t tell if he’s angry, sad, or something else. He comes in and claims the desk directly in front of me. He says nothing.
“Where you’ve been?” I ask, finally, unable to stand the tension.
He turns to me. This is the moment of truth. I can feel the spiteful words on the tip of his tongue. Something like, “Bag your face, you faggot!” or “Gag yourself with a spoon, homo!” but I don’t see anger in his eyes, only hurt.
“I went to the principal’s office, but it turned out that she didn’t want me there. She didn’t ask for me to come,” he explains.
“That’s strange,” I say, putting two and two together. Jake must have set the whole thing up so we could have a moment alone.
“Yeah,” Mitch says without breaking eye contact. If I didn’t know better I’d say he is almost about to tear up.
“What’s—” I start, but he turns away at once.
“I don’t really want to talk, okay? I have a really bad headache,” he folds his arms on the desk and then hides his face in them.
“I’m sorry,” I say.
I wanna tell him that I’m sorry about Jake making him go to the principal’s office for no reason and about his headache, and about the Melissa thing, because she chose another guy over him. But I don’t say any of it. I don’t want to invade his privacy at the moment. He looks like he doesn’t want to be disturbed.
I can’t take my eyes off of him though. He looks like a sad puppy that you just want to cuddle and hold in your arms and take care of forever. I want to make him feel better with every fiber of my being.
I just don’t know how.
Sighing, I put my head down on the surface of my desk, the same way he did, and inch towards him.
My face is so close to his back now that I can catch the smell of his deodorant. Or is it just him? He smells nice. Jocks typically smell like some rank mixture of old sweat and new sweat, but not him. He smells like an island breeze. I love tropical scents. Just one more thing we have in common I guess.
I close my eyes and keep inhaling his scent. It calms my nerves and I eventually doze off.
The game starts at seven, so we still have about half an hour to kill. Me, Melissa and her new boyfriend, Tom Riley are scouting for good seats in the stadium. Normally, I wouldn’t care much about the view, but today it’s not so much about observing the game as it is about watching Jake and Mitch interact on the field.
As soon as we sit down, Melissa sends Tom off to get us some snacks. She’s just dying to discuss him with me. She’s practically giddy.
“So what do you think?” she asks, bobbing up and down impatiently. You know, I think she does know I’m gay. A girl wouldn’t ask a straight guy his opinion on her new boyfriend.
I glance over at his retreating form. He’s every bit as hot as she described. Fit, toned, and filled to the brim with this brainy sort of confidence. He’s like a male version of a sexy secretary.
It also doesn’t hurt that he has a really nice ass.
“He seems like a nice guy,” I say indifferently.
“He is,” she says, excited, despite my undescriptive answer; I honestly think she would be just as excited if I said I thought he had herpes. “And he is gorgeous!”
I can’t say I disagree.
By the time the game starts I find myself sitting alone, well, as alone as you can get surrounded by hundreds of people. That kid, Kenan, from detention is sitting next to me, but I don’t really mind. He’s easy to ignore.
Melissa and Tom are long gone at this point. Straight guys may love football, but they love making out with cute girls more.
I listen mechanically as Kenan regales me with the not so riveting tale of the fall of Hoover High. Apparently, they have been struggling to regain their crown since their back-to-back state championship wins back in ’54 and have been consistently losing to us ever since, including this year. That’s what this game is about more than anything. They’d just love to knock us down a peg, even if it’s just a meaningless match for charity. Well it’s not meaningless to the charity, but you get the idea.
“That was awesome!” Kenan shouts as Jake runs in a touchdown all by himself—I told you; he’s not your average quarterback. Hoover still leads 28-11 though.
Mitch and Jake have been staring daggers at each other the whole time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the real reason Jake is being such a ball hog is that he doesn’t want to throw the ball and risk relying on Mitch to guard his blind side. I keep trying to catch one of their eyes, I mean, the stadium is large, but it’s not like we’re suddenly in the NFL. They can still see me.
What makes it even worse is that Jake keeps blatantly looking at Joanne and completely ignoring me. I understand that they’re supposed to be a couple and everything, but it still stings.
“So who do you think is better, Mitch or Jake?” Kenan suddenly asks.
It takes me a couple of seconds to realize that he is talking about the game. I just shrug.
“I mean Jake is the captain. He is a great quarterback,” Kenan continues.
I nod in agreement.
“He is strong and he has a fast reaction time,” Kenan adds.
Yep, I think, remembering his erection.
“He has a perfect technique.”
He has a perfect technique when it comes to kissing.
“And he has great footwork.”
I’ll bet he’s great with his hands too.
“And then Mitch, he’s a great defensive end,” Kenan says amicably. “He’s got a powerful body.”
Very powerful indeed, I think. Also very beautiful.
“And he’s one of the fastest runners we’ve got,” he continues, oblivious to my running commentary.
Yes, and he’s always quick to offer you help when you need it…
What am I doing? I can’t go through life comparing boys. Both of them are sweet, and both of them are hot. As long as Mitch is my friend and Jake is my…well, whatever he is, why can’t I have both?
“So who’s the better player?” Kenan asks, finally finishing.
“I don’t know. They’re both great.”
“But if you had to choose,” he prompts.
“I don’t want to choose, okay?” I say, getting a little bit angry.
“I’d pick Mitch,” he adds, half-whispering. I raise an eyebrow at that, but don’t comment any further. What the fuck is with everyone at this school talking in cryptic riddles all the damn time? Do I look like some kind of mind reader?
Melissa and Tom come back. By the looks of it, they have been doing a little bit more than just kissing. I don’t feel comfortable about that. Not at all.
I have to suppress my urge to shudder.
“So, what did we miss?” she asks.
“We’re losing it seems.” I mutter wryly. I don’t think there’s anything Jake or Mitch could do at this point, even if they did start cooperating.
“Oh,” Melissa replies, clearly a little bummed. “Well, I don’t care about the stupid game anyway.”
Melissa wraps herself around Tom and I abruptly look away, right into Jake’s blue eyes. He’s looking at me! I’m ready to start jumping up and down with glee until I see Mitch has cast his gaze in the same direction. No! I don’t want him to see Melissa with Tom like that. I can barely stand looking at the two of them.
That kicked-puppy expression rears its ugly head again, but only for a moment. Mitch’s sadness quickly evolves into anger and he turns every ounce of it on Jake and then charges!!!
The two collide with sickening thud, audible even way up here in the stands. I cringe as Jake, caught off guard, starts swinging. An all-out brawl breaks out right there in the middle of the field and all else comes to a stop.
Our team gathers around them, egging them on while the kids from Hoover look on in confusion. Mitch gets in a good punch and Jake’s nose starts spewing blood. The crowd, well those close enough to see the stream of red, eat it up.
They grab each other and start to grapple, cheered on by the spectators, teaching staff included.
I have to put a stop to it, but the thought of hurting either of them robs my lungs of air.
I practically jump up from my seat and start running. I have to get out of there. I have to get out right now.
“Sam!” Melissa shouts after me, but I ignore her.
I run and run until my abdomen starts to hurt. I really do need to exercise more. Mitch was right about that one.
It’s getting dark and I head for the school’s parking lot where my mom is sure to be waiting for me.
My mom drives a Jeep Cherokee XJ, 4x4. Any other day I would have been begging her to let me drive home, but not today. I just get inside, plop onto the front seat and sigh. She looks at me.
“Did you have a good time tonight?” A hopeful smile blossoms on her face.
I give her a look.
“Does it look like I had a good time?” I snap.
The smile fades and her eyes grow cold. “What happened?”
“Nothing Mom, I’m sorry. It’s the birthday thing. I swear.” I lean forward place my head in my hands. Ugh. All of this drama is giving me a headache.
“You gotta stop saying that, Sam. It has nothing to do with your birthday. It’s all in your head. As long as you believe in it, it will keep on happening.” Her face relaxes into its natural state of compassion and kindness once again.
“Let’s just go home, okay?”
“Okay,” she replies. One thing I love about my mom is that she never pushes me into doing anything I don’t want to do.
She starts the engine and tries to pull out of the parking lot, but something is wrong. We make a tiny bit of jerky progress and then come to a halt.
“What is it?” I ask.
She hops out of the car to check on the tires, and sure enough, there is a shard of glass firmly wedged into the left rear one.
“Still think that my birthday curse is just in my head, mom?” I ask smugly. She just shakes her head in a reproachful way.
“Do you know how to change a tire?” she asks me.
“You don’t even let me drive! How am I supposed to know how to change a tire?”
“That is exactly why we won’t let you drive.”
I restrain myself from pointing out the errors in her logic and instead ask, “So, we’re stuck here then, right?”
She glares at me, but says nothing.
“Going home by foot it is then,” I quip, much to my mother’s dismay.
Headlights flash from across the lot as a vehicle slowly approaches us.
“Need help?” a voice asks. It sounds familiar, but I’m not sure until he steps out of the idling car and into the light.
“Mitch?” I ask, stupidly.
“Flat tire?” he asks, ignoring me and taking a look at said tire.
“Yeah,” I mumble. “Birthday curse...”
Mitch smiles weakly at that. “Well, I can’t do anything about the curse, but I can help you with the tire.”
“Could you? That would be so sweet of you, dear,” my mom gushes.
“Mom, this is my friend Mitch. Mitch this is my mom.”
“Nice to meet you,” Mitch says warmly.
“Nice to meet you too dear,” she shakes his hand. She’s grinning from ear to ear, already in love with him.
“Okay, that’s enough with the pleasantries. Let’s just deal with that tire,” I interject, unable to handle the sappiness.
Mitch changes the tire in ten minutes flat. He obviously knows what he’s doing and I’m honestly not that surprised. Mitch is good with his hands; like a craftsman of old times. I suddenly can’t stop picturing him standing in a barn beside an old-fashioned furnace forging metal or something. The image is kinda hot. I catch Mitch’s eyes and he notices that I am staring at him. I turn away, embarrassed. I think this is becoming a pattern between the two of us.
After Mitch is done changing the tire and saying goodbye to my mother, I walk him to his car.
“Thanks,” I tell him. “That was really nice of you.”
“No problem.” He’s clearly trying to avoid looking at me. It could be for any number of reasons, but I’m not sure which.
“So what happened with the game?” I ask tentatively.
That’s not what I meant and he knows it.
“I’m sorry,” I say, trying to figure out a way to ask him about the fight without upsetting him.
“Are we still friends?” he asks suddenly.
I can tell that he expects me to say no, that I’ve chosen Jake over him and that’s that. I probably should.
“Of course,” I say instead.
My words seem to reassure him a little bit and some of the sadness leaves his eyes. Eyes, that I’m just now realizing change alongside his mood. Just a second ago they were a deep, dark green and now they are several shades lighter.
He smiles down at me as he starts up his car. “See you tomorrow?”
“See you tomorrow.”
The moment I lay my head down on a pillow, I know that sleep will overtake me. I am too exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Today was a bit much for little old me, and as much as I want to spend those last few precious moments before falling asleep thinking about my kiss with Jake, my last conversation with Mitch is all I can recall.
I’m walking up the stairs at Jake’s house. I don’t know how I know this, considering I’ve never been to Jake’s house, but I do. I also don’t really know what I’m doing here, or whether or not I am trespassing, but I am brave in my dreams and unconcerned about such trivial matters.
The house seems to be empty and I decide to look around. It’s a nice house. The décor is pretty much traditional, but almost everything is a refurbished antique. The living room is practically dripping with authentic Persian rugs and Asian ornamental vases, some of which are about as tall as I am. Some of them are quite beautiful, but there are far too many in the room to appreciate those lovely few. Also, the floral-print upholstery doesn’t help the situation, but I digress.
Feeling uncomfortable surrounded by such opulence, I ascend to the second floor.
Again, as if guided by some mystery force, I seem to know exactly where Jake’s room is: up one flight of stairs, down the hallway, last door on the left.
I want to knock first or call Jake’s name, but decide against it. I get down on my knees and peek into the keyhole instead—something I would never do in real life by the way. I may spy on cute guys in the locker room, but even I have my limits.
Jake is sitting on the edge of his bed. I don’t see his face because his back is to me. I see his hands moving though. I stare at him excitedly, already getting pretty excited. Forget all common courtesy; my face is staying glued to that keyhole!
I bite into my fist as he slowly starts undressing. First he lifts up his arms up, shoulders bulging as he deftly slips off his T-shirt. His pants soon follow, leaving him there in solid white briefs that leave very little to the imagination.
If only the sunlight coming in through his window wasn’t so bright! I have to pull away for a moment and blink tears from my eyes. While I’m doing that, I check that the hallway is still empty. It is, or course. I don’t think Jake would be doing what he’s doing if his parents were home. That being said, I probably wouldn’t care that much even if they were.
I peer back into the keyhole, tuning in just in time to see him remove his last article of clothing. Having removed all of his clothes now, he stands there in all of his glory. I feel like I’m constantly saying this, but Jake is large and in charge, and I can’t get enough.
He keeps on touching himself. Normally, I would cum right about now, but instead I resist the urge. The show’s not over just yet.
Jake starts stroking himself rhythmically. I can only see his arm moving, but that alone is enough. I think the poster of a masculine football player hanging on his wall serves as his inspiration.
I want very much for him to change his pose or turn toward me or something so I can see. Just as I’m thinking the thought, he does, in fact, turn to face me.
All of a sudden a body appears in front of the keyhole blocking my view from the inside. The newcomer bends down to look at me and I see one large, intense green eye.
I wake up. The finale of my erotic dream wasn’t erotic at all, but I still came all over myself. I sigh. This is getting out of hand, no pun intended.
I get up, get dressed and try to force the memories from the previous day from my mind. My efforts prove unsuccessful, so I go downstairs, hoping to distract myself with some food.
“Good morning,” I say to Aunt Carol and Uncle Jack as I pass them on the way to the table. All five of their children have beaten me there. I always marveled over the fact that every one of their kids is exactly one year older than the last. The oldest is Jason, who is eight. Then Amanda, Thomas, Andrew—you’ve already heard all about him—then Timmy, and the youngest is Alice at a mere three years old. After her, Aunt Carol said she was done, and there haven’t been any more kids since then, but something tells me that they aren’t finished yet. Now that they have a new house, there’s room for their family to start growing again. Speaking of which…
“So, have the workers fixed the floors yet?” I ask, after pouring myself a glass of milk and politely refusing the messy eggs Aunt Carol is frying—in my mother’s frying pan, by the way.
“Oh, the bastards are dragging it out, making it look like there’s more work to be done than there actually is. They’ll do anything to get into my wallet,” Uncle Jack seethes.
“The floors will be fine,” Aunt Carol interjects. “If worse comes to worst, we’ll just spend another week here. Aren’t you thankful for my sister’s hospitality?”
“Yes, I’m sure she will be happy to hear about that, right Sam?” Uncle Jack says knowingly. We share a chuckle, but good-naturedly. I would never let him know just how badly I want him gone. I mean, we had termites years ago, along with rats and leaky pipes, but we never moved out because of it.
“I mean, the poor guy is forced to sleep in the laundry room, for God’s sake,” he adds. I force a tight-lipped smile. That one hit a little closer to home.
“It’s okay. I don’t mind.”
“And these little monsters are cozying up in his room upstairs,” he says and points to his litter of children, none of whom seem to be listening.
“Well, it’s not my fault you wanted to have five kids,” Aunt Carol retorts.
“I never wanted to have five kids,” Uncle Jack says. Aunt Carol gives him an angry look.
“I wanted to have seven,” he adds and starts laughing.
“Oh, that is not going to happen! Over my dead body!” She shouts.
“Come on, only two more. You pop them out like popcorn, what’s the big deal?”
Ooh. Even I know that was a stupid thing to say.
“Oh, that is so typical for a man to think! Do you know how much effort it takes to carry a baby?” she shouts. I’m pretty sure she would’ve used different words if her children weren’t present.
“I think I’m late for school,” I mutter, not wanting to stick around for the spat.
“See, you’re making the boy uncomfortable, in his own kitchen!” Uncle Jack says.
“I’m just late for school,” I insist and inch my way towards the door.
“Don’t you change the subject, you cranky old fool,” Aunt Carol says. “Are you really expecting me to have another baby?”
In my haste to make it out of the kitchen I nearly collide with my mother.
She takes one look at my face, and then another at the kitchen door.
“I wouldn’t if I were you,” I tell her and run out of the house as quickly as possible.
I exit through the back door, resigned to hoof it today since I already missed the bus when, lo and behold, Mitch’s car catches my eye. Immediately, I duck down low and hide myself in the bushes. It’s so incredibly sweet of him, and it’s not that I’m not grateful and everything, but I was hoping that I could just sort the whole Jake thing out today and deal with Mitch later.
I look around the yard, hoping to find inspiration for a clean getaway. Leaning against my dad’s old weathered shed are two bikes, my brother’s and my sister’s. Mine is probably still chilling on the bike rack back at school seeing as I never bothered dragging it home and nobody in their right mind would want to steal the piece of crap.
Sighing, I grab my sister’s bike, which is pink and fully equipped with rhinestone handlebars—I’d totally rather look like a fool than risk the wrath of my evil little brother—and hoist it up over my head. It’s heavier than it looks. God, how much do little girls weigh?
The bike falls to the ground in the neighbors’ backyard on the other side of the fence. They aren’t the friendliest people, our neighbors, but it’s either this or ride to school with Mitch, and I’m so not looking to repeat yesterday’s fiasco.
So I push myself up.
Luckily, there’s a tree that I can grab onto while I’m climbing and I successfully make it over the fence. Getting up was actually a lot easier than I anticipated.
Getting down? not so much.
My leg gets caught in some branches and I plop to the ground with about as much grace as my sister’s bike, which I just barely miss.
I check myself for major injuries. There’s nothing, just a couple of bruises. Mission accomplished, not very tactfully, but accomplished.
I start pedaling down the street, feeling free and determined. I inhale the fresh morning air and smile. Things are looking up.
I arrive at school and unfalteringly head for Melissa’s locker. I don’t know if Mitch is already here, but I don’t want him to see me, so I wade through the crowd stooping and ducking to keep myself as invisible as possible.
“Hey,” Melissa says as soon as she sees me.
“Hey,” I nod back, eyes scanning the crowd.
“You’re acting weird,” she proclaims. “Why?”
“I’m not acting weird,” I protest, still looking around like a crazy person.
“What is it? Tell me!” I sigh, knowing there’s no way for me to shake her off. I mean, it’s Melissa we’re talking about.
“You are asking way too many questions this morning,” I grumble.
“Don’t change the subject.”
“I just don’t want to be seen, that’s all,” I admit.
“Why? And what the hell happened yesterday? You disappeared so suddenly I didn’t know what to think.”
“You seemed to be doing okay without me,” I sneer. “You were all over that poor boy.”
She stares daggers at me.
“I just needed to take a breather.”
“Was it because of the fighting?”
I nod. “Mitch is mad at Jake for some reason and I don’t want to be in the middle of it. I just want to be friends with both of them.”
“Well, Sam. You have to understand one thing,” she starts saying, but is suddenly interrupted by a huge scene breaking out around us.
I look over to see that Joanne is the cause of this scene, no surprise really, but this time she has dragged Jake into it. They are having a fight.
“Why can’t you just tell me what the hell happened last night?” she shrieks.
“It’s none of your business!”
“Well, as long as you are my boyfriend it is my business.”
“Well, that we can take care of,” he says venomously. My heart suddenly leaps with joy.
“You take that back!”
“No,” he declares and starts walking away from her. As he walks past me, I kinda expect him to sneak a glance or something, but he doesn’t. That is the moment I notice Mitch’s red T-shirt in the distance. I can’t let him find me, not right now.
I urgently turn to Melissa and grab onto her hand.
“We need to get out of here, now!” I hiss.
“What are you talking about? We have a class in five minutes.”
“Can we just skip this class? Please,” I ask and look into her eyes, full-out begging.
“Okay, okay,” she says, face alight with surprise and worry, and we start down the hall, away from school, and away from Mitch and Jake.
“So what is going on?” Melissa asks me as we sit down in our niche between the buildings. Nobody is here during class so it’s nice and private.
“Nothing,” I mumble, blatantly lying.
“This is getting ridiculous, Sam. Spill!”
I mime zipping my lips and throwing away the key.
“So you’re not gonna tell me?” she asks, miffed. “You leave me no choice but to start guessing then.” I raise one eyebrow, but encourage her to continue.
She puts the fingers of her hands together in a sinister way and starts postulating.
“Does it have something to do with the yesterday’s game?” she asks.
“Okay… Does it have something to do with the fact that we lost that game?”
I shake my head.
“No? I mean half the school looks so depressed today. It’s as if somebody died. I can’t believe they actually put so much value into some stupid little game. Are you sure it’s not that?”
I roll my eyes.
“Then it’s about that fight between Mitch and Jake.”
I nod once again. I pretty much already told her as much.
“Were you the reason for that fight? I mean, were they fighting because of you?” she asks a little more tentatively.
“No!” I say, shocked. “Why would they be fighting because of me? I don’t know why they were fighting!”
“Okay, okay,” she puts her hands up defensively. “You’re not supposed to be talking.”
“I’m not talking,” I say stupidly.
She ignores me. “So you didn’t like the fact that they had a fight and now you are making me skip first period because…?”
“I’m avoiding Mitch, okay?”
Melissa looks shell-shocked. “Why are you doing that? He is such a great guy and he is so sweet to you and he likes you!”
He likes me as a friend, yes, but he doesn’t like me the way Jake does. I’m sure he doesn’t want to kiss me on the lips or feel my boner brush against his leg. I mean, this is real life here, not one of my erotic dreams.
“Just because,” I say, looking at her pointedly. “I don’t want Jake to think that I would rather be friends with Mitch.”
“Oh, so it’s a Jake thing…”
When she says stuff like that, I feel pretty sure she knows exactly what is going on between the two of us. She doesn’t know all the details of course, but I think she has figured out the basics. She’s a lot more observant than I give her credit for.
“Let’s just not talk about this. I’ll figure it soon. Okay?”
“I’m sure you will.”
She looks at me in a way that makes me wanna squirm and hide under a table, and then she does something she rarely ever does.
She leans in and gives me a hug.
“I’m sure you will,” she repeats into my ear.
I hold in my tears and hug her back for a few moments until we break away and start talking about other things.
Melissa refuses to skip any more classes with me, but I remain determined to keep avoiding Mitch. Naturally, I seek refuge in my favorite place in the entire school; the library.
Like I said before, I’ve always been kind of nerdy. A lot of those habits dulled once I became concerned with keeping up appearances and remaining under the radar, but I never lost my love of reading, and our school library, like most of our facilities, is one of the biggest in the state. The stacks are positively overflowing with everything from ancient tomes about the Roman Empire to vegan cookbooks.
I browse the aisles, aimlessly picking things out, but I’m not really in the mood to read any of them. I read one or two pages tops and then my mind will start wandering, usually in the direction of Mitch. I don’t understand how Jake, the man of my dreams and person I’ve been crushing on for years, can be eclipsed so easily. Especially after that kiss.
Mitch is like a fungus, I decide. A really really sweet fungus, but a fungus nonetheless.
“Sam? Hey!” my friend Emily says to me, passing by with a giant stack of her own. I met Emily freshman year back when I came here almost every day, but I kinda stopped talking to her after I met Melissa.
“Hey!” I smile, happy to see her.
“Didn’t think I was going to see you here anymore,” she says, setting down her mountain of books.
“Yeah, I’m sorry about that,” I tell her, genuinely meaning it. “I’ve been kinda busy. I almost forgot how great this place is. I’ll have to stop by more often.”
“Oh, good,” she says and sits down next to me. “I’ve been seeing you with all those jock guys lately and I thought that you decided to turn to sports and abandon your brain.”
I laugh, happy for the distraction. “Nah, I still love my brain. I just kinda fell into the whole football thing on accident. Besides, a little physical activity is never a bad thing.”
“Oh, okay,” she replies. She is not the kind of girl who values her body much. She doesn’t seem to care about how she looks either, or what others might think about her appearance. She wouldn’t judge a book by its cover, that’s for sure.
“So what are you reading?” she asks, scanning the haphazard mass of books scattered around me.
“Oh, nothing in particular,” I say. “Just trying to distract myself.”
“Is it about the game? I swear, all the jocks look like they’re in mourning today.”
“Yeah, it was pretty bad,” I concede. If she wants to think that I’m having a hard time dealing with the loss so be it. It’s better than her knowing the truth, though it is a little disconcerting that she seems to think of me as one of those “dumb jocks” now.
“When I was walking here I saw some jocks giving that Mitch guy a hard time,” she says softly.
“What?” I say, not sure I heard her correctly.
“I mean, I heard he started a fight with Jake Timbers, but I can’t believe it. He’s usually so nice. One time he carried me to the nurse’s office after I fell down the stairs; I was fine, of course, but he didn’t want to risk letting me walk in case I had broken some bones.”
I nod, reminded of my own injury from a few days ago. “So guys were giving him a hard time about the game?”
“That’s what it looked like anyway.” she scowls. “I don’t think he deserves it.”
As much as I don’t want to think about Mitch at the moment, I can’t help but agree with her. I mean, yeah that game was kinda important, pride-wise anyway, and Principal Anderson was all up the team’s ass about it this morning, but shit happens. And I don’t think it was just Mitch’s fault. The team was losing anyway. Mitch starting a fight with Jake was just the last straw in a series of crappy events.
“So you and him are on the team then?” Emily asks, breaking the silence.
“I guess so. But I’m not officially on the team yet.”
“Are you friends?” She seems to be really interested in Mitch.
“Yeah, we are,” I say, hoping it remains true as I simultaneously continue to avoid him.
“Maybe you could show him around the library sometime. I’m sure we could have helped him pick out a couple of interesting books,” she says, face brightening like a tomato.
Well, aside from the fact that her reasons are selfish, that isn’t a bad idea at all. I should show Mitch around the library sometime; there are quite a few books I think he’d like.
Damn, There I go thinking about Mitch again.
I think my next book should be a self-help book.
After all of those agonizing classes that I couldn’t be bothered with are over, I head for the locker room. There is no practice today since it’s not really football season and there are no more special events on the team’s calendar, but I want to find Jake, and that seems like as good a place as any to start.
Also, I’m pretty certain that the locker room is going to be a Mitch-free zone today. He wouldn’t dare show his face in here fresh off of last night’s loss. He’s a tough guy, but nobody can stand against an entire team of buff guys. Well, depending on the circumstances…
Anyway, Jake is in fact in the locker room. He’s sitting on a bench with his head in his hands looking as dejected as I’ve ever seen him. Jake is a pretty positive guy—well at least I think he is. I’ve been obsessing about him for so long that it can be hard to remember that I don’t actually know him all that well.
I think he would be happy to see me though. I mean, why wouldn’t he? We had a sexy make-out session yesterday and he certainly seemed to like that. Maybe I can cheer him up.
I edge closer to him. I don’t really feel any of that closeness I felt yesterday. I feel like Jake is a complete stranger now. I need him to look up at me, look into my eyes. I need him to validate my feelings.
He looks up at me and my heart sinks. There is no compassion in his eyes, only anger.
“Hi,” I whisper.
He stands up, abruptly, and walks over to where I’m standing. My heart is beating so fast that I think it’s about to jump right on out of my chest and book it to the Bahamas or something.
He stops directly in front of me.
“I’m sorry about what happened yesterday,” I say, trying not to let my nerves show.
He says nothing.
“Are you angry with me?” I ask after a few moments of silence.
His face finally softens. “I’m not angry with you, Sam.”
I breathe a huge sigh of relief.
“I’m angry with that stupid asshole, Mitch!” he practically shouts at me.
“Yeah. I mean, he totally shouldn’t have done what he did,” I blurt out. “But I still don’t really know what this whole thing between you guys is about.”
I shake my head. Does he know what Mitch’s problem is? I mean he must. He knows Mitch better than I do.
“I can’t believe you haven’t figured it out yet,” he says with a smirk.
“Haven’t figured out what?” I ask, feeling embarrassed and a little bit hurt.
“Mitch is…” Joanne enters the room.
“Oh, there you are!” she shouts as she careens across the room in her ridiculous shoes.
“I’ve been looking all over for you.” She looks and sounds royally pissed. Not that she doesn’t always, but usually I’m viewing her wrath from a safer distance.
Jake steps away from me at once and gives Joanne a small nod of acknowledgment. Joanne comes closer to him. Jake doesn’t seem willing to talk. Unfortunately for him, Joanne is not the kind of girl who gives up something that “belongs” to her. She’ll try every trick up her sleeve (read up her skirt) to get him back. Only now, I know that he’s not really interested in the kind of things she has up her skirt.
Suddenly her focus switches to me. “I need to talk to my boyfriend. Alone!” I look at Jake kinda expecting him to say something. I mean, if I had a girlfriend (and there would need to be one hell of a reason for that) I wouldn’t let her talk to him like that. He just stands there silently without looking at any of us.
“Well? Are you retarded? Go away!” she says, impatient. I glance one final time at Jake. Not a peep.
“Sure,” I say and exit the room.
For about the billionth time this week I feel the urge to cry. I press myself against the wall and let my body slide down to the floor, unable to hold myself together both physically and mentally at the same time.
When I walk into room 409 to serve my very late detention, which I honestly think Ms. Anderson has forgotten about at this point anyway, I practically barrel right into Mitch. He’s been waiting for me, pacing in front of the door even.
“Sam!” he exclaims, looking up at me.
I hardly even recognize him. He cut his hair.
He didn’t exactly cut it short, but it’s definitely shorter than it was. It kinda suits him.
“What happened to your hair?”
He smiles. He actually looks happy to see me, despite my complete refusal to acknowledge his existence all day. I wish when Jake saw me today, he had in his eyes what Mitch has in his eyes right now.
“I cut it,” he says shrewdly.
“Why did you cut it?” I ask with a smile. It’s hard not to smile when he’s around. Why on earth would I ever avoid him? Well, other than because I’m an idiot.
“I don’t know. I was feeling crappy last night and I just wanted to do something to snap myself out of it.”
“Well you look good,” I say. He smiles at that too and blushes a little. Unsurprisingly, it’s adorable.
“Were you avoiding me today?” he asks, face growing serious.
Well about that…
“What? No! of course not,” I lie.
“It kinda seemed like you were.”
“I wasn’t. I swear,” I say, choosing his feelings over honesty. Hey, I never claimed to be a role model, okay?
“So we’re still friends?” He looks me dead in the eyes.
“Of course,” I say, though my heart is clenching under his intense gaze.
“So, I heard that the guys were giving you a hard time about the game,” I change the subject.
“Yeah…but screw them!” He doesn’t seem the least bit upset. “I’m okay, as long as I have you.”
Despite the cheesiness of the line, I smile happily. Is that something straight guys say to each other? ‘Cause it sounded kinda gay.
No! No, no, no, no! Mitch is not gay! I can’t allow myself to start thinking that. It will just open a whole new can of worms. Besides, there are so many variables at this point; me, him, Jake, and Melissa. Nope. Not gonna happen, brain, not gonna happen.
“So what are you doing after we get out of here?” Mitch asks, oblivious. “Do you wanna go grab some pizza or go to the movies or something?”
“That sounds like fun, but I can’t. Melissa is forcing me to go to Joanne McAlister’s dumb party,” I say, lying once again. Well, only technically. Melissa is not forcing me to go there, not anymore. I mean, now that she has a boyfriend, she couldn’t care less about partying. We’re only going because I want to see Jake.
“Oh,” he says, growing quiet for a moment. “I could give you a ride then.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea…”
For one thing, I don’t want him to see Melissa and Tom again. He might get into a fight, with Tom this time and also, I don’t want him to be there when I’m trying to talk to Jake.
“I mean, the guys are pissed at you as it is. I don’t think showing up at Jake’s house is such a great idea,” I ad lib.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” he admits. “But I could still give you a ride. I don’t have to go inside.”
“Melissa is gonna give me a ride.” It’s actually Tom who’s gonna give me and Melissa a ride, since neither of us have a car, but I don’t say that.
“Oh, okay then.” He turns away from me and looks at the wall.
“We can hang out tomorrow,” I say just to cheer him up.
“At the dance?” he asks with a half-smile.
Damn, I forgot all about the dance.
“I mean, it’s not like either of us will be bringing a girl, right?”
That is an accurate observation. I, for one, am not going to be bringing a girl, other than Melissa that is. It’s kinda nice to know that Mitch is not planning on bringing a date either.
“Sure, sounds like fun.”
“Yeah, why not,” I say. If Jake breaks up with Joanne today, then he probably won’t come to the dance tomorrow. That means I can go and keep Mitch company.
“Awesome,” he says, on cloud nine.
Seeing the way his eyes light up lifts my spirits and we talk animatedly for the rest of hour, never once returning to those unsavory sad topics.
Tom, Melissa, and I are on our way to Jake’s party. Well, technically it’s Joanne’s party, one she wanted to throw in order to celebrate the victory of our football team, but since there is no victory to celebrate it’s just a get-drunk-and-forget-about-it kind of party.
Tom makes space for himself among the dozens of haphazardly-parked vehicles, a dead giveaway of a high school party. Other distinctive features include: the loud music blasting from the wide-open front door, the sea of empty beer cans clanging beneath our feet, and the toilet paper streamers billowing from the trees up above.
We head inside, passing several staggering peers and even more puddles of vomit along the way. The house is very nice—almost exactly as I dreamed it would be—and I quickly come to the conclusion that Jake's parents are out of town since I highly doubt that they would consciously allow a mass of slavering teenagers around their copious material wealth.
I let Melissa and Tom mingle. I, myself, don’t waste time with such pleasantries. I need to find Joanne. If I can keep track of her, then I can seek out Jake without having to worry.
I can’t find her anywhere though. A small part of me hopes it’s because he’s decided to finally dump her once and for all, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. As for Jake, everyone says he’s in his room upstairs and he doesn’t want to be disturbed.
There is only one thing for me to do now. I go upstairs and start looking for Jake’s room.
I have the strongest sense of déjà vu I can ever recall having as I make my way down the hallway toward the room I instinctively know is Jake’s.
I put my hand up intending to knock, but then I stop myself. My eyes automatically flick down to the large, old-fashioned keyhole. Do I dare to live up to the fearless version of myself from my dreams? Is it even such a big deal? Feeling nervous, guilty, and slightly aroused, I get down on my knees and take a peek.
Bingo! I see Jake. He is sitting on the edge of his bed and, oh my God, he is touching himself through his jeans. I can’t believe it. I must be some kind of psychic or something. Maybe I should enter the lottery.
He takes his T-shirt off. His body is gorgeous, as I already knew.
He stands up and takes off his jeans. He doesn’t need jeans for what he’s about to start doing. Actually, the fewer clothes he has on, the better. He doesn’t take off his underwear just yet though. He sits down on the edge of his bed again, still touching himself. He is looking at something, presumably the poster I saw in my dream but I can’t really see it right now.
The sight is fantastic. The bolder, stupider side of me wants to rush on in there and offer him my assistance, but the rational side of me tells that side to shut the heck up.
Jake finally slips out of his underwear, revealing his glorious dick. He starts stroking it. He licks and bites his lip a little, and then he touches his chest with his hand.
I just have to stop looking for a moment and take a breather lest I cum right there in my jeans. I try my best to relax. Breathe in, breathe out. Yeah, now that’s better.
Once I feel more in control, I get back into position. What the hell?! Somebody is blocking the view now. What is it? Is that somebody’s butt? Is that Mitch?
No, it’s not Mitch.
It’s Joanne!!! Gak!
“I’m so sorry about today, babe,” she says as she approaches him. “I didn’t mean to yell at you.”
“I’m sorry too,” he replies.
She bends down and gives him a kiss on the lips, practically smothering him with her huge tits.
“I love you,” she whispers before getting down on her knees and placing her head strategically between his legs.
“Oh, I love you too, babe,” he mutters, which soon turns into a groan. “Yeah, keep going. It feels so good!”
I think I’m gonna be sick…
I push myself away from the door. I’m suddenly wobbly on my feet. I’m suffocating. I need air, now!
I launch myself down the hallway and run downstairs. The music is so loud and there are so many people having fun that nobody even notices me. My stomach is turning maliciously. I am barely able to make it to the kitchen sink before I hurl.
I hear some people laugh behind my back, but I don’t care. I don’t care about anything at this point. My head is spinning.
“Hey dude!” somebody says to me. “This party is bitchin’!”
After I’m done emptying my stomach into the sink, I slip out into the backyard and gulp the fresh air, but it does nothing to ease the pain in my chest. I scurry as far away from other people as I can and sit down under a large oak tree. Tears stream freely down my face. For the first time in years I let myself sob.
I was wrong about Jake. I don’t know if he is gay or bi or whatever, but I can tell you for sure that he is a jerk. He never had feelings for me. He’s just interested in fooling around, I guess; a little homoerotic side-piece. I’d say he just wanted me to do what Joanne is doing right now. I’m an idiot for not seeing it sooner.
During the breath portion of my sobs I hear gross sucking noises coming from behind me. I turn and see a tangle of limbs that solidifies into a couple passionately making out. I shoot to my feet immediately. Nope. Not doing this again.
I go back into the house.
I try to find Melissa and Tom so I can make an excuse to leave, but I can’t find them anywhere. In my overly distressed state I convince myself that they’ve left without me and start panicking.
Reigning in my crazy emotions, I head back outside to check if Tom’s car is still in the driveway. That is a logical thing to do. Logic is a step in the right direction at least.
Now, if only I could do something about that rage spilling out from my insides. It’s been simmering for a while now; I mean, this whole week has been a mess, and the only thing helping me get through it was the thought of Jake Timbers actually giving two shits about me. Now that the illusion has been shatter all I feel is suck. Like, way too much suck for any one human to handle.
I reach the curb and immediately scan the area for Tom’s car. I don’t see it.
I do see Mitch though.
He’s parked in exactly the spot Tom had been before he oh so tactfully ditched me. When he sees me his face lights up. His expression is so pure and happy and carefree.
I hate it.
“I told you not to come here,” I yell.
He is rendered speechless for a second. He freezes in his tracks. I can see that he is trying to figure out if I am joking or being serious.
“What the fuck are you doing here? Can’t you see that you are making it worse?!” I shout at him, not even caring about making a scene. My anger needs an outlet, and Mitch is the only one here. Why shouldn’t he feel as crappy as I do? It’s not fair. I honestly think I would yell at my own mother if I stumbled upon her right now.
As I am trying to justify myself and rationalize my rage, I see a single tear slide down Mitch’s cheek and my heart sinks. He has this look on his face like he just got stabbed in the heart. I can’t believe I did this to him with one single sentence.
“Fuck you, Sam!” he states with as much dignity as he can with his voice quivering. “Fuck you!”
He rushes into his car and slams the door. He barely manages to pull out of the driveway without hitting anything more substantial than a garbage bin and a lawn ornament. A flamingo loses its head over the incident.
I want to run after him, but I don’t think I can. Not only I am a loser, I’m also a coward. A stupid, clueless, inconsiderate, angry, gay, coward.
“Hey,” Kenan says to me. He sees me sitting on the porch steps, my head in my hands. I’m sure my eyes appear red, even in the semi-darkness. I have been crying non-stop for the past half hour. It would have been hard to hide that anyway. I’m not gonna be trying to hide anything. I have no energy for that. Not anymore.
“What happened?” he asks simply. Kenan is such a chill guy. Sincere, but never overly concerned.
“I’m just having a shitty day,” I say, but my nose is running and it comes out more like, Mmm jos haffin ga shit d they.
“Come on, tell me,” he urges and sits down next to me.
I just start crying again.
“I’m so stupid… I’m an idiot… How could I…? I mean, if only I… It’s all my fault,” I get out through the tears. “I’m worthless… How could I not see…?”
Suddenly Kenan takes my head in his hands and makes me look at him. I see his face, but not much else though the tears. He pulls me in and plants a kiss right on my lips.
That makes me stop sobbing. That would make an excellent cure for the hiccups because I am completely shocked into silence. I pull away and give him a questioning look.
“You were becoming hysterical. I just wanted to snap you out of it,” he explains.
He doesn’t seem the least bit concerned about his actions. Does he go around kissing guys like that all the time?
“Thanks. It helped,” I admit and start wiping at my tears.
“I’m glad I could be of assistance,” he grins.
“Are you gay?” I just have to know. It’s about time I got a straightforward (no pun intended) answer from somebody around here.
“I’m not really into labels,” he says and then, upon seeing my disappointment, he clarifies “But I guess I just made it pretty obvious that I’m not exactly straight.”
I smile weakly at that.
“Well, I’m gay,” I say. I didn’t expect it to come out so easily. I gotta admit it actually feels good saying it out loud.
“Yeah, I know.”
“You do?” How is that even possible? I work so freaking hard to keep it a secret and apparently it’s been written across my forehead this entire time? What the fuck universe. Not cool.
“Yeah, I mean, that whole Mitch-Jake situation,” he grins.
“How do you know about that?” I huff indignantly.
“Well, it’s not really that hard to tell. I mean, I don’t think anybody else picked up on it but it’s pretty obvious when you know what to look for.” he flat-out winks at me. The little shithead!
I suddenly remember the way he forced me to compare Mitch and Jake at the game last night. I should have followed his advice and chosen Mitch. He’s been such a good friend to me, maybe even more…but now that potential is gone.
I’m pretty much cried-out at this point, but that thought still brings with it a sniffle.
“So is it really that bad?” Kenan asks.
“It’s pretty bad.” I scratch my arms absent-mindedly. “Jake is an extreme douche-bag and I essentially just told Mitch to fuck off.”
“Also, Melissa left with my ride so I guess I’ll have to call my mom,” I cringe at the thought. Having your mom pick you up from a party is like the ultimate level of lameness. Even lamer than sulking around and crying all night.
“I’m sure it’s gonna get better. It always does,” Kenan says scrupulously. “And as for right now, I know I can help you with at least one of your problems.”
“I can give you a ride home,” he says with a vibrant smile. “See, it’s already getting better.”
When I get home, I try to sneak past my mom unnoticed, but she is waiting for me in the living room. I’m really not in the mood to talk so I beg her to let me off the hook until the morning and she concedes. I head to the laundry room, hoping for a nice long dreamless sleep, but my brain doesn’t want to shut off. So I lie there, looking up at the stars visible through the glass of the skylight. It’s so calming and beautiful. I start counting the stars, as stupid as it may seem. It’s a wonderful distraction.
I am startled by a knock on the door. My dad peeks in.
“Can I come in?” he asks.
“Sure,” I say. I’m still not in the mood to talk, but I can’t tell that to my dad. Besides, he’s been working a lot lately. I miss him.
He sits down on the edge of my bed and I sit up.
“I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to talk much this week, Sam. A lot of things happened.” He pats my knee fondly.
“It’s okay,” I say. Honestly, I have been too self-absorbed here lately to give it much thought, but at least I’m not the only one dealing with a bunch of crap.
“So your mom tells me that you seemed upset about something,” he continues.
“I’m okay,” I respond automatically.
“Sam, I can see your eyes,” he says. “You look like you did when you were six and your goldfish died—I mean, ran away.” I smile a little bit. My dad always knows how to lighten the mood.
“What happened?” he asks, serious.
“You don’t want to know, trust me.”
“So it’s a girl problem,” he says. “You know, you are sixteen now. You’re gonna start having those.”
“It’s not a girl problem,” I mumble quietly. Me and my dad, we have always been best friends, but I really don’t want to talk to him about this. I’m terrified that he’ll be disappointed, or worse, angry.
“It’s not a girl problem?” he asks. “Are you having trouble at school? Have you failed a test or something? Does this have something to do with the detention thing?”
“No!” I almost shout. “I’m fine. Everything’s fine.”
He stares at me for a moment.
“So it’s about a boy then,” he says. It wasn’t a question.
I blush and hide my face in a pillow.
“Sam, it’s okay,” he says. “I’m not angry with you. I’m just a little concerned.”
I don’t dare look at him.
“Come on, look at me,” he urges gently. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s me who should feel ashamed. I should have talked to you about that a long time ago. I just didn’t want to make assumptions.”
I look at up at him, feeling scared and vulnerable; a little boy seeking his father’s approval.
“You’re okay with me being gay?” I ask as tendrils of hope start pooling in my heart. I didn’t think people would accept me for who I am, but I guess I was wrong. I was wrong about a lot of things.
My dad looks at me reassuringly. “Yes. You’re my son,” he says simply.
“Are you sure?” It’s kinda hard for me to believe that my dad is okay with my homosexuality. I mean, most parents wouldn’t be.
“Oh Sam, it’s nothing compared to what we were doing in the 60’s, believe me,” he says and we share a laugh.
“So do you want to talk about that… boy?”
I shake my head. “I’ll figure it out.”
“Are you sure?”
“Okay then,” he says, squeezing my hand. “And if you need my help or advice on anything, I’m always here, okay?”
“Thanks, dad,” I say softly. It is the most sincere thanks I have ever given in my entire life. My dad is the best dad in the whole world. He leans over and gives me a quick hug before exiting the room and leaving me to my thoughts
After my dad leaves, I fall back onto the couch, ready to continue with my struggle to fall asleep, but the shifting of my weight disturbs my backpack which is perched on the shelf directly above me and causes something to fall out and hit me in the face.
I rub my forehead and look down at the offending object. It’s one of my notebooks, luckily not one of the heavier ones. I lift it up to return it to my bag when a small, folded piece of paper slides out.
Instantly, I recognize Mitch’s note. I never gave it to Melissa because there was really no point in doing that after she started dating Tom Riley and I never opened it myself either.
I unfold it slowly and my heart starts racing. I don’t even know why, but I have to see what it says…
I can’t believe it! I think my eyes are fooling me for a moment, but there it is, a giant heart drawn in ink. That means he likes me! He likes me in a non-friend way, more-than-a-friend way actually. Oh my God!
I carefully refold the paper, stick it back in my notebook, and lay back down.
Kenan is right. It was obvious. I’ve just been too selfish to notice.
I’m in the boys’ locker room. This place seems to be the magnet for my sexual fantasies, a good choice if I do say so myself. I’m not wearing anything but my underwear, which is not something I would normally do. In real life I’d be too scared of getting a boner.
I turn the corner and look behind the lockers. I kinda expect to see Mitch there, half-naked as well. That would be nice. But there is nobody.
I walk around, checking the other aisles. There is nobody there either.
I wander aimlessly, confused about the direction of this wet dream. Then I notice steam coming from one of the showers. I assume that Mitch is the culprit. I decide to join him.
Shedding my underwear, I head into the stall.
“Mitch?” I say. Nobody responds. It’s steamy as hell in here. I can’t see anything.
“Mitch?!” I shout. Still, nothing.
I walk around the impossibly giant shower stall in this manner for what seems like an eternity. I can see the water running, but there is nobody there. I’m alone with a thick and suffocating wall of steam.
I wake up. No interjections or exclamations. No Ahhs, no Ohs, no nothing.
I check my pants and they are most definitely not wet. That is exactly what I wanted, isn’t it? But somehow I am not too happy about it.
Fully dressed, I make my way into the kitchen. I am a little taken aback by the lack of noise. It’s just my mom standing over the stove just like any other typical morning,
“Where are the Ericsons?”
“Oh, they moved out last night, honey. Their house is fine now. No more termites, no more holes in the floor, no more leaking pipes.”
“Really?” I ask, thinking it’s too good to be true. Maybe the curse is finally coming to an end.
“I would have told you about it last night, but you didn’t want to talk to me,” she says snidely.
“I’m sorry about that, mom.” I give her a hug.
She softens and hugs me back. “I’m glad you’re feeling better today.”
She pulls away and looks at me seriously, hands placed firmly on my shoulders.
“I love you no matter what, you know that, right?”
I nod. Of course, dad has told her all about what we were discussing last night. I’m actually kind of relieved that I don’t have to.
“Well, there’s somebody else who loves you too,” she says with a mischievous grin. “Get ready,” she adds and looks to the door.
Right on cue, my grandparents walk in.
“Grandma and grandpa arrived last night,” my mom says. She is smiling, but it’s a sarcastic smile. I love my mom!
My grandparents are coming towards me with wide smiles on their faces and open arms. I surrender myself to their fawning.
“Oh, sweetheart, happy birthday!” they say in unison. I cringe a little at first, but then I stop myself and just smile. There’s no point dwelling on the curse. Besides, this week has been just as good as it has bad. I mean, I came out to my parents, something I never thought I’d have the courage to do, I had my first kiss, made some new friends, caught up with some old ones, and maybe, just maybe I can fix things with Mitch.
“I’m sorry we weren’t here to wish you happy birthday on the actual day,” my grandma says kindly.
“It’s okay. I’m glad you’re here.” And I really do mean it.
“We already chipped in for your birthday present,” my grandpa throws out there.
“What birthday present?” I look at my mom. My parents are usually more into quality time than presents, but this year I’m having a whole birthday week so I suppose I am entitled to receive adequate compensation.
“It’s not here yet. It is being delivered, and if everything goes well, it’s gonna be here tomorrow morning.” She’s got on her very best poker face.
“Okaaaay,” I say, skeptically.
“So, since grandpa and grandma are already here and your aunt and uncle have sorted out all of their problems, I was thinking we could finally celebrate your birthday today,” my mom adds.
That’s not something I planned on, but I guess the sooner I move past the birthday thing, the better.
“I have a school dance to go to,” I say, suddenly remembering.
I never thought I’d say this, but forget all this birthday nonsense! My top priority is Mitch. I need to use every opportunity I can to win him back. That is, if it’s not too late.
“Oh, that’s okay. We can have a dinner at four,” my mom says amicably. “That is the time your grandparents are usually having dinner anyway,” she whispers into my ear.
I hold back a laugh. “Okay. That’ll work.”
“Then it’s settled. Happy birthday Sam.”
After that, I finally leave the house, not even realizing how badly I’m hoping to see Mitch’s car in the driveway until I see that it’s not. There are so many things about him that I’ve taken for granted. I am, however, able to catch the bus today. A stroke of luck.
The ride to school gives me some time to think up my game plan. I need to find Mitch as quickly as possible and apologize for what I said last night (among other things). I don’t want him to stay away from me. On the contrary, I want him as close as humanly possible.
Upon entering the building, I head straight for Melissa's locker as usual, but it’s not Melissa, but Jake who is waiting there for me.
I can’t even look at him. He is disgusting. I mean, he is as beautiful as he always was, of course. But the insides; those are about as rotten as they come. I don’t have anything to say to him. And I certainly don’t want to listen to whatever he has to say to me. I walk right by.
I stop and give him an impatient look. “What is it?”
“Sam, I’m sorry about—
“Jake, please don’t waste your arrogant and overrated breath on me,” I interrupt and then walk away, feeling empowered. I don’t even have to worry about the repercussions seeing as we don’t share any classes. Mitch and I, on the other hand, do.
That being said, when I settle into my desk for first period he is nowhere to be found. I do see Melissa though.
I give her a dirty look.
“Hey,” she says brightly. I scowl. How dare she be in a good mood.
“Hey yourself! Thanks for ditching me last night.”
“We didn’t ditch you!” she says adamantly. “Mitch was there and he told us he was gonna to give you a ride.”
Our teacher, Mr. Greenwood, starts the lecture and everyone quiets down so we continue our conversation in whispers.
“Well, it didn’t work out exactly like that,” I say, softening.
“Why? What happened?”
“I told him to stay away from me,” I admit, guiltily.
“What? Why would you do that?”
“Because I was upset!” I say a little too loudly. Other students give us a look, but Mr. Greenwood keeps on spewing facts.
“Why were you upset?” she asks, inching a little bit closer.
“I told Mitch that he was only making it worse and that he should just stay away from me, but then I read the note and I—
“A note that Mitch gave to me to give to you. I mean, I thought that it was for you because I thought that he had a crush on you,” I explain.
She stares at me for a moment. “Are you crazy? Of course he doesn’t have a crush on me.”
“I know that now,” I say miserably. Mr. Greenwood glares at the two of us, so we distance ourselves for a few agonizing moments.
“Okay, so what was in the note?” Melissa asks after an appropriate amount of time. I dig it out and hand it to her. She beams.
“Oh my God, Sam, he likes you!” she exclaims far too loudly. People look at us again.
“Can you please keep it down? I don’t want the whole school to know about it,” I whisper urgently.
“Yeah, sure, whatever, but it’s so exciting!” she squeals.
I cringe. “It would be exciting if I didn’t fuck it all up. He’s avoiding me now,” I say, gesturing to the rest of the classroom.
“Oh,” she sighs.
“Yeah.” I look over at his usual spot. “I don’t blame him though. I treated him like dog shit.” I slink down into my seat.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find him,” Melissa says, trying to reassure me. I nod perfunctorily.
“So, does this mean that you’re okay with me being gay?”
“What do you think?” she asks with a signature eye roll. “I’ve known for a while. I was just waiting for you to be comfortable enough to tell me.”
“Yeah, I wasn’t ready,” I say wryly. “I kinda sensed that you knew though.”
“I was trying to let you know that I supported you. You’re my best friend, even if you are a bit thick sometimes,” she says with a teasing smile.
“Thanks,” I whisper.
I can’t wait for class to be over. There is no way I can concentrate on learning right now. Unfortunately for me, time drags when you’re not having fun.
After class Melissa and I split up and start looking for Mitch. I am simultaneously trying to avoid Jake Timbers. He’s like a leech all of a sudden, an attractive leech, but still.
I stumble upon a group of students throwing water balloons at each other in the hallway. I don’t even bother trying to duck or hide. Me getting hit with a water balloon seems pretty inevitable at this point.
Like clockwork, I see a big green one flying in my direction. I prepare myself mentally, thinking about where I could get a dry T-shirt now that Mitch isn’t around to supply me with one, but my efforts prove to be unnecessary. The balloon misses my face by a couple of inches and splashes into some guy behind me instead.
I am delighted to be dry, and when I hear a familiar voice cry out from behind me, I’m even more delighted.
“What the hell?” Jake yells. I turn around and see him standing in his own personal puddle. He’s about to make some sort of angry remark, but then I start laughing at him. I don’t really want to be mean, but I can’t help it. Then other people join in and Jake retreats to the bathroom, embarrassed.
In the midst of his departure, Melissa approaches me.
“Did you find him?” I ask hopefully.
“He’s not here,” she says. My face falls. “But I did manage to sneak over to the middle school and talk to his brother. He said that Mitch wasn’t feeling well.”
“He’s avoiding me.”
“Probably,” Melissa agrees “But…” she holds up a small piece of paper with a wicked grin.
“But I got you his home address,” she says and hands me that paper.
I smile. This is why Melissa and I are best friends. I never would have thought of something so simple. Now I can just march on over to his house and apologize. I’m ready to get down on my knees if I have to. Well, I would be ready to get down on my knees even if I wasn’t feeling guilty, but that’s a different story.
But then I remember.
“Shit! I still have detention.” There is no way I could squeeze him in between detention and my birthday thing at four. I guess I could blow off one or the other, but I’m sure that’d come back to bite me in the ass.
“Well that’s unfortunate,” Melissa comments.
Suddenly the PA system comes screeching to life. The speakers whine for a moment, then comes the sweet, soft timbre of Principal Anderson’s assistant: “Attention all students, due to the emergency sanitation of all classrooms this afternoon, all classes will be canceled for the remainder of the day.
Everybody cheers. I’m not sure yet if that’s good for me or not.
“Please reconvene with us this evening for our annual Spring Fling Ball which shall commence as scheduled,” Mrs. Elderson adds. More cheers erupt from the crowd.
I wait and hold my breath.
“All afternoon clubs, activities, and detentions are cancelled as well. Have fun!”
I’m on the move before the speakers even click off. “See you at the dance?” I shout back at Melissa.
“Sure!” she calls back. “Good luck!”
I’m standing in front of Mitch’s house.
It took me about 45 minutes to get here by foot. I was so busy thinking through exactly what I was going to tell him that I barely even noticed how much time had passed until I found myself creepily pacing outside his front door.
I want to knock, but I can’t quite bring myself to do it. I’m much too nervous all of a sudden. I can’t figure out what to say and everything that pops up in my head is too silly or stupid, or overly dramatic.
This is getting me nowhere. It’s like when I was learning to swim for the first time. If it wasn’t for my instructor pushing me into the pool, I never would have learned.
So I take the plunge.
My heart is fluttering erratically as I hear the doorbell’s echo resonate through the inside of the house. Nobody answers. I ring the bell again, but still, no luck. I didn’t expect that. I mean, the thought never even crossed my mind. I guess I just assume everyone’s a home body like me.
I keep ringing the bell for a few more minutes before I finally give up.
I sit down on the porch steps and rethink my strategy. Okay, what do I do now?
A note! I can write him a note.
I take out a notebook from my backpack and tear out a piece of paper. I can’t think of anything else to write, but a short…
I fold the note and slip it under the door. I don’t say that I’m sorry. He’ll know that when he reads it. Besides, that’s something I should really say in person. I want him to know that I appreciate his birthday note, and his kindness, and well, him. Now it’s up to Mitch to decide what’s gonna happen next. If he is ready to forgive me, then he will hopefully come to the dance.
I will be there waiting for him.
To my surprise, my birthday celebration at home goes exactly as planned. Nothing bad happens even though I am being wished happy birthday like every five minutes. My parents are there, my grandparents, and the Ericsons. We all crowd around the kitchen table and eat and catch up. It’s actually pretty fun, but I can’t stop thinking about Mitch.
After dinner, I go upstairs to my room—my room, not the laundry room, thank God—and start getting ready for the dance. I spend about half an hour rummaging through my closet trying to pick an outfit. Nothing seems to fit. Nothing looks as good as I want it to look.
My mom shouts from downstairs that I have a phone call. I run to my cordless set and pick it up.
“So did you see him?” Melissa asks immediately
“No. Nobody opened the door.”
“Oh,” she sighs. I swear, she’s just as troubled by my love life as I am.
“I left him a note though.”
“Well, I’d still prefer an actual conversation to a note, but if that wasn’t an option, okay, a note will do. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. Are you getting ready for the dance?”
“Yes. I’m hoping Mitch will show up.”
“He’d better,” she says. “And you better be looking hot too. I don’t want any more brooding from the two of you. At least not for the next fifteen years.”
I can’t help but smile at that. “I gotta go. I’ll see you in bit, okay?”
“See you,” she says. “Stay calm. Don’t freak out, okay?”
“Okay,” I say and hang up.
Filled with a new sense of determination, I pick out the best outfit I can manage, jump in the shower—twice actually, and spray myself with my dad’s cologne. I commence with combing my hair and slicking it back in what I hope makes me look like a demure, sexy young man from a spy movie.
Melissa and Tom arrive shortly thereafter and, you guessed it, we go to the dance.
We arrive at the gym exactly on time. It is well-decorated. I don’t know what the theme is, but the two prevailing colors are a deep blue and shimmering gold. There are blue linens hanging on the walls and from the beamed ceiling like some sort of surreal curtains and there are some decorative golden palm trees strewn about to represent a beach. It’s not exactly seasonally appropriate, but I still think it looks nice.
I start looking for Mitch in the crowd, but quickly come to the conclusion that he is not there. I move on to monitor the main entrance.
Melissa, solid as a rock, stands by my side for all of three minutes before going off with Tom. I don’t mind though. She’s been supportive all day and she deserves to have some fun. Just because I’m not having any doesn’t mean everyone else should suffer too.
So I stand alone and wait.
I listen carefully and analyze the music to pass the time. Currently, If You Were Here by the Thompson Twins is playing. It does nothing to cheer me up or lift my spirits. It’s a great song and everything, just not very upbeat. I start getting kind of emotional listening to it.
If you were here
I could deceive you
And if you were here
You would believe
My thoughts exactly; well, except for the deceiving part. I don’t want to hide my emotions from Mitch. I want to tell him the truth, but I’m scared shitless. I’m gonna do it anyway though. If only he were here. Ten minutes go by, and then twenty and then thirty…
I’m not ready to admit it, but I don’t think Mitch is going to show.
A hand lands on my shoulder.
I turn around and find myself face to face with Jake.
“Can we talk?” he asks. By the look in his eyes, I can tell that he is feeling pretty guilty tonight as well.
“Talk,” I say, resigned. It’s not like I have anything better to do.
“Here?” He slips a finger under his shirt collar.
I shrug. “What’s wrong with here?”
“Can’t we talk somewhere more private? I want to talk about some, uh, stuff. Plus the music is kinda loud.”
“I’m not leaving this spot,” I insist.
“Okay then. I really am sorry, Sam.”
I just nod. I’m not sure if he knows that I witnessed his romantic escapade last night, but he definitely knows that I know something shady about him, and whatever he thinks I know is bad enough for him to feel guilt over.
“I dumped Joanne.”
I figured as much when she didn’t show up. A girl like her practically lives off of this kind of social event so it’d take something pretty devastating to keep her away.
“Good for you,” I say sincerely. I wouldn’t wish Joanne on my worst enemy. I lean into him just a smidgen. “Look, I’m not interested, okay? I like Mitch.”
“I know,” he nods solemnly. “He likes you too. I knew that he liked you for a while actually.”
I give him a questioning look.
“I saw the way you were looking at me,” he continues. “I mean for months now. It would have been hard not to notice.”
My eyes widen. How is it that all of these things I work so hard to keep a secret are practically common knowledge?
“I liked you too, but I was afraid,” he lowers his voice to a whisper. “You must know what it feels like.”
I would be lying if I said I didn’t. I was afraid too, I still am, but it’s not about the actual fear, I’m learning. It’s about acknowledging it, embracing it, and moving on with your life.
“It’s a terrible thing to say and I’m sorry about that, but I kinda thought you were mine. And then Mitch came along.”
Dear God, I’m an idiot, I think, as my brain finally clicks.
“I noticed the way Mitch was looking at you and I just got jealous.”
So that is why he started paying attention to me right after I became friends with Mitch. It makes such perfect sense.
“But you did have me,” I blurt out. “Up until yesterday I thought that we belonged together.”
“I know. And I screwed up,” he says sadly. “After the game I was so upset and I was feeling like I was about to lose everything.”
“And you weren’t ready to sacrifice your way of life because of me?” I finish, finally understanding.
“I’m sorry,” he says and I can see that he means it. He is not a bad guy after all. He just made a mistake. We all make mistakes sometimes. I am intimately familiar with the concept.
I tell him as much.
“But I still like Mitch,” I add on quickly.
“I know,” he says scratching his golden blonde hair. “I mean, it kinda shows.”
“Can we be friends?”
“Sure,” I say, amused by this turn of events. Also, in a sick sort of way, I kinda hope that if I can find it in my heart to forgive Jake, then Mitch can find it in his to forgive me. “But you have to apologize to Mitch.”
“That is if he shows up,” I add glumly.
Jake gives me an appraising look. “He’ll show up. Mind if I wait with you?”
“No,” I say. Actually I’m happy to have the company. Waiting is lonely business.
Mitch doesn’t show up.
Not even when the last person besides me and Jake files out of the gymnasium. Tired of standing, Jake and I are sitting on the hard wooden floor. It’s not exactly comfortable, but it’s better than standing.
“I’m sorry,” Jake says, cracking his knuckles out of boredom.
“He’s gotta come to school on Monday,” he adds. “It’s not like he’s gonna switch schools or anything.”
That thought makes my heart drop. I certainly hope that he wouldn’t go as far as changing schools, but he’s obviously pretty upset…
“Do you want me to give you a ride home?” Jake asks.
I abandon my hopes of seeing Mitch today and reluctantly let Jake drive me home.
When I get there, everyone is asleep except for my mom. She usually stays up and waits for me at times like this. It’s not that she doesn’t trust me, but I think she has a hard time sleeping until she knows that all of her kids are safe and at home.
“Hey,” she says, looking up from her novel. “Did you have a good time at the dance?”
“No, not really,” I admit.
I sigh. “I got what I deserved.”
“Oh, honey, I’m sure everything’s gonna work out. Just go to bed now and have a good night’s sleep. Everything will be better in the morning.”
And so I do.
I don’t have any erotic dreams that night, or any other dreams for that matter. I think it has something to do with exhaustion. I’m so mentally and physically drained that it’s not even funny.
Regardless, I am rudely awakened early the next morning because some idiot is honking outside of my window. Why is it that some people think that it’s okay to honk on a Saturday morning? I mean, I get it, you have a car and you like to honk. But some of us don’t have cars, or horns, or the ability to hibernate.
“What the hell?” I mutter crawling out of my bed.
I pull on a T-shirt and go outside, determined to tell that person exactly where they can stick their stupid horn.
But the first thing I see is not your average, run of the mill, neighborhood asshole. It’s Mitch.
He is casually leaning against a car parked outside of my house. It’s not his car though, and the idiot who’s honking is Melissa.
I blink a few times. Unsure if I’m even awake.
Wearily, I step closer. Melissa climbs out of the car and exchanges a look with Mitch.
“What on earth is happening?” I croak, voice marred by sleepiness.
“Happy birthday!” they shout in sync.
I stare at them blankly. “What?”
“This is your new car, dummy,” Melissa says, patting the hood affectionately.
“What?” I manage to ask again.
“Your parents gave us the money to get you a car, a nice one, one that you would like,” she clarifies.
I’m rendered speechless. Like I said before, my parents are really big on gift giving, and that beautiful hunk of metal is one hell of a gift.
“They did?” I ask. Apparently I am only able to manage one syllable words this early in the morning.
I sense a presence behind me and turn around. My mom and dad are standing in the doorway, smiles as bright as the morning sun.
“It’s not new, but it’s in a pretty good shape,” Melissa says. “And look how pretty it is.” She does her best impression of a Price Is Right model.
It is beautiful. It’s a Volkswagen Golf GTI, a green one, the kind I always wanted. It’s the perfect starter car; one that can handle all of the scars that come along with the whole learning process and still manage to look cool.
I look at Mitch then. He doesn’t seem to be angry with me anymore. He is actually smiling.
I take him aside.
There are so many things I want to ask him at this point, but, “Are we still friends?” is the first thing that comes out.
He shakes his head and takes one step closer to me. I can’t really tell from his expression what he’s feeling. “We never were friends, Sam,” he says quietly.
My heart clenches. Then, just when I think I’m about to cry, he leans in, grabs hold of my hand and looks me dead in the eyes. “We, we are so much more than that.”
And then he kisses me.
I can hear Melissa whooping with glee in the background, but I don’t even care. All I can do is smile like the idiot I am.
“Happy birthday,” he says, sliding his arms around my waist. “Or do you still believe that saying it out loud makes it worse?”
“You know,” I say, looking into his beautiful, kind green eyes. “I think that you wishing me happy birthday actually makes it better.”
“You do realize that I’m gonna need you to wish me happy birthday every year now, right?” I ask with a smirk.
“Count me in.”
And then we kiss again. I’m sure my parents are looking, but I don’t care. I don’t feel embarrassed anymore. Not about this. I know they are happy for me. More importantly, I am happy for me. And that is all that matters.
Well, that is the ending. It’s a happy one if I do say so myself.
We take my new car for several long spins. We pick up Tom and go to the movies and then for pizza. Not a single bad thing happens. Quite the opposite, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
Mitch comes over on Sunday and I properly introduce him to my family. Obviously, they love him. I mean, it’s pretty hard not to. Even my grandparents love him. Although, I’m not sure they pick up on the fact that we’re together.
And then Mitch and I share a cake, a huge chocolate one with the appropriate number of candles.
And then we seal it with a kiss. And another. And another.
I think you get the idea.
Happy birthday to me!!!
Well, that’s all for now folks, but stay tuned. Next year I’m turning seventeen and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!