This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. A big thank-you to my editor, Michael, who finds the errors I miss, ensures clarity, and keeps me from straying too far from reality. Any remaining errors are my responsibility.
The letter had arrived in Monday's mail. It was unusual for Benji to receive mail of any kind, let alone something from the Conboy Lake Conference Center - with a wax seal on the back, even.
He'd opened it promptly, and found an invitation to an eighth-grade graduates' retreat - to help new freshmen adapt to high school. He'd been sponsored by Hunter Russell, and if his parents had any questions they should contact Hunter at the phone number provided.
Hunter was a high school wrestler Benji admired. From afar, Benji had followed the older boy's progress all year. He'd attended all the high school wrestling meets, and even wangled a ride with his eighth-grade coach to watch his hero, only a sophomore, win the state championship in the one-hundred-sixty-pound weight class.
They'd met, not exactly by chance, on a warm, spring day a couple of weeks earlier. Benji had been out in the woods near his rural home, lying in the sun on a large, mossy rock, enjoying himself the way he knew best. Guided by information artfully gleaned from Benji's best friend, Hunter had altered his training run to pass by that location.
After soliciting an invitation to join the boy, Hunter revealed that he'd followed Benji's eighth-grade wrestling with as much interest as the younger boy had followed his, and saw great potential. Their mutual admiration segued into seduction, during which Hunter taught the younger boy moves which had nothing to do with wrestling. Benji had lost his virginity, but he'd found a good friend.
Benji pondered the invitation for the rest of the day. He thought it might have to do with wrestling. But if that were the case, why hadn't it come from his eighth-grade coach, or the high school athletic department? Was it a hoax?
That evening after dinner, he was alone in his room when his mom shouted down the stairs.
"Telephone call for you, Benji."
Benji and his friends communicated a lot via the Bell Telephone Company, so an evening call was a normal event. He dashed upstairs and picked up the receiver.
"Hi, Benji, this is Hunter. How are you?"
Benji's pulse rate quickened.
"I'm fine, thanks."
"Did you get the invitation?"
"Yeah, I did."
"Do your parents have any questions?"
"I haven't shown it to them yet."
"It would be a good idea if you did. Will you be able to attend?"
"Yes. If they let me."
"I can pick you up at four o'clock on Friday, if that's okay."
"That will be okay."
"Cool! I'll see you then. And, Benji, it isn't a secret society or anything like that, but it would be best if you didn't tell your friends about this yet. If your parents have any questions, have them call me."
Benji's mom had been listening to his side of the conversation.
"What was that about?"
"Just a minute."
Benji retrieved his invitation from the basement and handed it to his mom.
"Hunter. Is he the wrestler you were so interested in last year?"
"Yes, it is. He's the only guy from our high school to ever win a state championship."
"And you watched him win it?"
"Yeah, that's the tournament I went to with Coach Wilson."
"I think this retreat sounds like a good idea. Do you want to go?"
"Yes, I do. Hunter will take me if it's okay."
His mom handed him the invitation.
"Have a good time."
The retreat center was an old hunting lodge on a lake in dense forest, built near the turn of the century by the captains of industry for their own enjoyment. A two-story structure, it had been updated with modern plumbing, including a small bathroom for each of the sixteen rooms - four downstairs and twelve upstairs. In addition to the lobby, the first floor also provided a dining room and a conference room, which could accommodate up to two dozen people. For the 1960's, it was considered upscale. A family owned and operated facility, it maintained a low profile and was regularly used by the rich and famous for private family or business gatherings.
As he and Hunter got out of their pickup, Benji stared up at the imposing log structure. Hunter smiled.
"Impressive, isn't it?"
"It sure is."
"This is the third time I've been here. It's a fancy place, but don't let it intimidate you. The staff will make us all very comfortable without overdoing anything."
As they entered the lodge, the young front desk clerk greeted them warmly. His name tag introduced him as Randy. He smiled at them.
"Hey, Hunter, good to see you again."
"You too, Randy. Still working for your dad?"
"Yeah, he pays me well and the tips are good. It'll put me through college."
Hunter smiled. "It's a good opportunity for you. This is my friend, Benji. Do you have reservations for us?"
Randy presented their keys. "Hunter, you're in room 201. Benji, you're in room 202 across the hall from Hunter. Will you need help with your bags?"
The question was a formality. With nothing but an overnight bag each, the two fit adolescents would have no problems. Hunter grinned.
"I think we can manage."
The boys found their way to their second-floor rooms. Hunter unlocked his door and turned to Benji.
"I'll meet you in the lobby in ten minutes."
Hunter grinned. "Randy was checking you out."
Benji smiled. "So I noticed. I checked him out too, and I definitely liked what I saw."
Benji's room was rustic but very comfortable. The furnishings were tasteful but not ostentatious. With one queen bed, it seemed he would be the only occupant. He put his bag on the rack supplied, used his private bathroom, and then sat down on the bed to think.
He still didn't know what this was all about. Hunter had not been forthcoming with information, and Benji hadn't asked. He'd find out when he needed to.
Not wishing to be late, he got up and went back down to the small lobby. Randy smiled at him and watched as he sat down in one of the two comfortable easy chairs. He looked around, wondering more and more how it happened that he'd been selected to participate in this activity.
The front door opened and his best friend Eric came in with Nick, an older boy Eric sometimes hung out with. Eric and Benji smiled at each other, both pleased to recognize someone in their peer group. As Randy handed the boys their keys to their first-floor rooms, he gave Eric the same careful scrutiny Benji had received.
Hunter showed up and led Benji to the conference room that occupied the other half of the lower floor and opened the door. Walking into the room, Benji looked around. Drinks and snacks were available on a small table near the entrance, but Benji's eyes went immediately to the occupants.
He knew Matt and Ryan, twin brothers from his eighth grade class. He knew Hunter, of course, but the other half dozen boys, all high school students, he knew only by name or by sight.
Martin, the student body vice president, came over and introduced himself. Benji found it odd that the three eighth-grade graduates in the room were outnumbered by older boys two to one. He also found the diversity of the older boys interesting. He knew some were into sports, others music, and a couple were noted for being on the honor roll with regularity.
Eric and Nick arrived, and after they picked up refreshments, Martin got everyone's attention.
"Let's gather around the conference table."
The new freshmen, mostly for their own comfort, sat near their sponsors. The others seated themselves randomly. Martin asked the four younger boys to introduce themselves. Then the others provided their names and a brief synopsis of their activities and interests at school. When everyone had taken their turn, Martin paused for a few moments.
"Now that we know each other, I'd like to talk about the purpose of this group. We've discussed our diversity. I'd like to ask you incoming freshmen to identify what we have in common."
Benji looked at his three peers, all of whom he knew well. Matt and Ryan were clueless. Eric looked like he got it but was reluctant to speak. Benji took a few moments to gather his courage.
"We're all gay."
Most of the older boys nodded their heads slightly. Martin smiled at him warmly.
"Congratulations, Benji. You're absolutely correct. Some of the others may have figured it out, but you had the balls to say it. I think you're vice-presidential material. I'd yield the chair, but you'll have to wait three or four years to qualify."
His remarks had the intended effect. Everyone laughed, and a few exchanged comments with their neighbors. Martin waited a few seconds before resuming.
"The purpose of this seminar is to give the four of you an opportunity to learn how to cope with high school while being gay in a straight world. More than cope, to excel. Your sponsors, or more correctly your mentors, are excellent examples. Nick has been on the honor roll every semester. Hunter is a state champion wrestler. Matt's mentor, Steven, is president of the junior class. Ryan's mentor, Anthony, was selected for All-Northwest Orchestra last year, as a freshman. That's an achievement not to be discounted, especially for an oboe player."
"A couple of things I know you're curious about. First, this event is sponsored by an anonymous benefactor. Of this group, only I know who that person is. Next year, one of the juniors present will find out, and take my place."
"The other thing you'll want to know is how you were selected. Although you're not out of the closet, you were known to be gay by your mentor or our benefactor, or both, and as such an appropriate attendee. It isn't an exclusive club, but it is a secret one - out of necessity."
"I just got a signal from Randy that dinner is ready. After dinner, we'll return and continue for an hour or so, making use of the couches and chairs at the other end of the room. There are no planned topics. We'll talk about whatever you want. And we hope you'll be candid with your peers. What is said here goes no further. Understood?"
There were nods all around.
"Later, the evening is yours to swim, take a canoe out on the lake, or walk in the forty acres of woods. Or go to bed if you feel overwhelmed."
With more laughter, the meeting broke up. Benji turned to Hunter.
"I have to ask. Was I recommended by you or by our anonymous benefactor?"
Hunter smiled. "I'm guessing both. When I approached Martin, you were already on his list."
During dinner, the younger boys had a chance to get to know some of their older companions better. They learned that almost all had been there initially as sponsored eighth-grade graduates, and now returned to share their experiences.
As the group gathered in the conference room, Benji approached Martin.
"I have a possible topic for discussion. Are you taking suggestions?"
"Sure. What is it?"
"How do you tell your parents?"
Martin smiled. "A good one. Well start with that. Thanks for the suggestion."
When all of the boys were there, Martin stood up. The leadership he radiated produced immediate silence. He skipped the preliminaries.
"How many think you have come out completely?"
No hands were raised.
"How many of you have told your parents you're gay?"
Eric and most of the older boys raised their hands.
"How did you go about it?"
Eric spoke up. "I just told Mom one evening. I didn't really think about it in advance. I figured she'd either be okay with it or not, and I was tired of being stressed out about it."
"How did it work out?"
"She wasn't excited about it. She was concerned about how it would affect my life. But she already suspected, and accepted it, and it made things more comfortable for both of us."
Martin nodded. "Thanks for sharing that, Eric." He looked around. "Anyone else have a comment?"
Nick leaned forward. "I do. I waited for the right time, and it never came, until, one evening, my parents raised the general topic of being gay. I was quiet, and finally Dad asked for my thoughts. So I told them. It turns out they were paving the way for me. There were a few tears, but they're very supportive. My only advice is do it sooner rather than later."
Several other boys had ideas and suggestions, and Benji, Matt, and Ryan listened carefully. It was an issue they would all have to deal with.
That topic took most of the hour, and a lot of emotional energy. Martin's comment about becoming overwhelmed wasn't far off.
At seven o'clock, Martin adjourned the meeting. The boys split into smaller groups for recreation.
Benji and Eric went for a walk in the woods. They hadn't seen each other for a while, and they had some catching up to do. Benji related his encounter with Hunter. By the time he was finished, they both had wood that threatened to find its way out of their pants. Eric looked at Benji's bulge and smiled.
"You need to get laid."
Benji laughed. "So do you. I'd be scared to do it at this fancy place."
"Why be scared? Rich people screw too. I bet that hot desk clerk could tell a few stories. You should do it in your room with Hunter."
Benji looked thoughtful. "I'll think about that." Then he grinned mischievously. "Or maybe that hot desk clerk would provide room service."
Eric laughed. "I doubt it, but it's tempting."
The temptation grew. As they entered the lodge, Eric waited until Benji was on his way up to his room and then approached Randy at the front desk.
"Working late? It seems like you've been here all day."
"Split shift today. This half ends at nine."
Eric's smile, which he wanted to be seductive, was forced and nervous instead.
"Could I get room service at that time? I'll leave my door unlocked."
Looking at the clock, Randy replied in his most professional manner.
"I'm sorry, the kitchen closed at seven."
Eric turned red with embarrassment. What a stupid idea! He should have known better.
Disappointed with himself and the results of his plan, Eric went to his room. After a shower, he dropped onto his bed. Putting his hands behind his head, he thought about the day. He was glad he'd been invited. Though he was a year older and already out to his mom - and more sexually experienced than the other three freshmen - he still had a lot to learn.
There was a light tapping at the door.
It was probably Benji playing a joke. Eric leaned up on his elbows and spoke softly.
The door opened and closed quietly. The lock clicked ominously.
A chill of excitement ran down Eric's spine as a figure in a white bathrobe silently moved towards the end of the bed. The robe fell to the floor leaving only a dark shadow in its place, a shadow resembling the front desk clerk. Randy's voice broke the silence.
"It seems room service is available after all."
The mountain air was brisk when Eric dove into the lake. Swimming to the diving platform, he sat on the edge, shivering in the early-morning sun, and thinking about his sexual experiences to this point. He'd had fun bonking his buddies, but a night with an experienced boy a couple of years older had been awesome.
Diving back in, he returned to the shore and grabbed his towel. Turning towards the lodge, he found Benji walking in his direction, ready for the same activity.
"How's the water?"
"Colder than fuck, of course. How did it work out with Hunter?"
Benji frowned. "It didn't. He and everyone else went to bed early - and alone."
Eric smirked. "Not quite everyone."
Benji gave him a piercing look. "Come on. Cough it up."
Eric replied modestly. "It was nothing really. I just got some more education."
"Sure. What kind of education?"
"I learned how awesome a really good blowjob can be."
"As well as the size of Randy's cock."
Benji laughed. "You sly fox."
Eric grinned. "More lucky than sly. Thanks for the room-service suggestion. When you're done with your swim, maybe we can go find some food. I seem to have worked up an appetite during the night."
"So, who got laid last night?"
That was Martin's opening comment. He'd been rather formal the evening before, but apparently this morning's session was going to be more casual. He looked around the group, seated in a loose circle on couches and easy chairs. No one responded.
"Not one of you? You're away from home without adult supervision and not one of you got laid?"
Benji smirked, and Martin noticed.
Benji smiled at him. "Not me."
"But you know something?"
"Yeah, and I'm not telling."
Martin smiled. "Good. That's the point I wanted to make. The less we gossip, the less ammunition the haters have. I hope we can be more open in the future. The straight guys can brag about their conquests - we can't. It's a way of life. If you need to share, do it quietly with a close friend, and be sure it stops there."
The morning was spent discussing several topics. Most were based on experiences the older boys shared. The younger ones learned which teachers to trust, who the bullies were and where they hung out, and how to avoid problems in general. It was practical knowledge, specific to their situation.
The event continued through mid-afternoon, at which time, Martin made a few closing remarks.
"I'd like to thank the older guys for continuing to support this annual event, and the younger ones for participating. Next year, you'll have the opportunity to be mentors and to share your own experience, and I hope you'll take advantage of that. And each of you should remember that your mentor is your friend. Talk to him about anything that concerns you. Being available to help you sort things out is part of the commitment a mentor makes. Take advantage of it, and be prepared to do the same for others. Now, we need to check out and go home. I wish all of you an awesome school year."
"So, whose secret are you protecting?"
Hunter and Benji were on their way home, and Hunter was curious. Benji smirked.
"I'm not telling."
"Come on, buddy. You can tell me. I'll keep it a secret."
Benji was serious. "Nope. I'm taking Martin's advice and not telling."
Hunter smiled. "That was a test, and you passed. But I had a conversation with Randy before we left, so I know."
Benji looked out the window, deep in thought, and disappointed with himself. He'd been aced out by Eric. Being a year younger, he always seemed to live in Eric's shadow. Hunter looked over at him.
"Penny for your thoughts."
"I wish I'd had the balls to do what Eric did."
Hunter smiled. "If it's okay with your parents, you could stay overnight, and I'll try to make up for what you missed last night."
Benji grinned happily. "That sounds like an awesome idea."
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