"Dan, I'm not stupid, and just looking at Evan had always made me horny. Truthfully, he was making me feel horny right then, too, but also really uncertain. I still didn't know him. He didn't know me. Why would he want to jump right into anything—OK, enough talking around it—why would he want to have sex with a stranger? Yet he was taking me to his house, where he'd said no one was home. What else could he have in mind? If he just wanted to talk, we could have done that where we were."
Dan was done with cleaning off his desk. He walked over to the bed and sat down on it and turned toward me. I got up, nervous about being so close to him, then realized I needed to sit down, too. Talking to him when he was seated and I was standing just didn't feel right. I think he saw the expression on my face, because he patted the bed. I went and sat. We were both turned, facing each other, but both had one of our feet on the floor. Sort of uncomfortable, but sort of close, too.
"So what did you do?" he asked.
"I let him lead the way, and we hardly spoke walking to his house. He did tease me about having a hard-on. He thought it was funny. But he liked that I had one. He kept looking at me, and the look in his eyes was pure lust. He hadn't been hungry for food at the restaurant, but he was hungry then. For me. Or just for sex. I had no idea which."
Dan was still expressionless. Either he was indifferent about what I was saying, or he was hiding his interest. I, on the other hand, was so nervous I was afraid I'd start sweating any minute.
"We went to his house. He was right; no one was home. As soon as we were inside, he stopped and turned to face me. I was sure he was going to kiss me. It felt like that, but that wasn't what happened. Instead, he stepped closer, then reached down and rubbed my hard-on through my pants. I wasn't ready for that and stepped back, but he followed me, rubbed it again, then said, 'Come on,' and he led me upstairs."
I stopped, remembering, then shuddered quickly and resumed. "Then he took my hand and led me down a hall to his bedroom. You can imagine what happened then. Or maybe you can't. He got mostly naked. He got me mostly naked. Then we were on the bed and were naked. He sat on the bed and pulled me down, too. We were both excited, moving around, one after the other on top of each other. He asked, 'Have you done this before?' I felt jittery. It wasn't that I didn't want to do anything. My body certainly was ready. But my brain was telling me whoa in no uncertain terms. This wasn't what I had expected for a first date. Or for a first sexual encounter with anyone, either. But my body was overriding my brain."
Dan was finally showing some interest. But not what I thought he'd show. He wasn't grinning eagerly. His eyes weren't shiny and eager for me. His brow now had a small wrinkle in it. And his lips—well, I'd swear he was frowning. He wasn't saying a word, however.
I was already into this, and was going to finish it. I had been getting closer and closer to giving him all the details. Now I changed my mind. He looked eager and turned off at the same time. I went with what I thought he wanted. "Dan, we did a lot of stuff. But in the end, I got kind of grossed out, both with what we were doing and with him. I guess he was expecting me to do everything he wanted, and I simply wasn't ready. In the end, I simply walked away. And felt bad. Actually, what I felt like was I wanted to talk to someone about it."
I stopped and looked at the floor. "Actually, I wanted to talk to you."
Dan sat up straighter. "You mean you stopped. Right in the middle?"
I nodded. "Well, sort of in the middle. We did some things, and he wanted to do more. I did like doing what we did, but eventually my mind got back to controlling me instead of my hormones. What we were doing wasn't what I'd expected. It was too much. Kissing him was all I'd thought could happen. You know what? We never did kiss. He said kissing was for people in love, and he wasn't in love with any of the people he'd had sex with. He said kissing was what gay boys did, what boyfriends did, and he wasn't into any of that. He was just into sex.
"That just turned me off, Dan. He just wanted sex. I wanted a boyfriend. I wanted a boyfriend who'd love me and one I could love. One I could talk to, who'd talk to me. We'd do things together. We'd each have a partner we could count on. Sure, sex would be part of it. But only part of the intimacy we'd feel with each other. Sex was the only thing that interested him, though. None of the rest of it did."
"So what happened then?" Dan was looking me in the eyes now.
"What happened is I got up, told him I'm sure I'd regret it, but that I was leaving, that he and I wanted different things. And I walked out."
"Just like that? I'm not sure I'd have been able to do that."
"Sure you would," I joked. "It was a boy, not a girl."
He looked away from me for a moment, then said, "Well, sure. You know what I mean." His voice, though, wasn't the same. His voice was more tentative.
We were still sitting on the bed. We were close enough now that I could have touched him if I'd have let my fingers do the walking. I didn't, though. I wanted to, wanted to badly. All the time I'd been walking over to Dan's house, I'd been thinking. Thinking how I'd been turned on by Evan's looks, but when I got to know who he was, his personality didn't match those looks. He definitely wasn't what I was looking for. Sure, I wanted sex. But not with a will-o-the-wisp, not with a gadfly. I wanted it with someone solid and real, someone I felt some chemistry with.
And walking to Dan's house, I'd realized how much I did have chemistry with him. I'd never thought of him as a partner, a boyfriend, because he was straight. But now, thinking of him, I knew he'd be perfect for me in that other role, too.
I also thought about the time we'd spent together. To the looks I'd seen him throwing at me when he didn't know I could see them, to the way his body moved when we were close, moving so we'd brush against each other. I thought of how he looked in the pool, and in the park—how much I liked that look. How he related to the people around him, his family, his friends. How much I liked everything I knew about him.
And right now, on that bed, I thought of him frowning when he expected I was about to recount a sexual adventure with Evan.
I thought about all that and really looked at him sitting next to me and saw how nervous he was all of a sudden. I shifted my weight ever so slightly, moving an inch closer to him. He didn't move at all, but his eyes . . . his eyes were growing wider.
They were expressive, but with what? Was it excitement, lust, or fear? I couldn't tell. As expressive as his eyes usually were, I couldn't read them at all right then.
I moved again and now was right next to him, our knees touching. His face was alive, and I'd swear he was trembling slightly. What he wasn't doing was moving away. Of course, he wasn't moving closer, either. That was all me, taking the risk of my life. I moistened my lips, then moved my head forward. It didn't have far to travel. I closed in on his lips—
"Dan, get down here! Emergency!" The urgency in his mother's voice was unmistakable.
Dan jerked up away from me, stood up, and was out of the room in a flash. I was right behind him. As we neared the kitchen from where her voice had come, I began to smell something. Something nasty.
Dan's mother was there, facing out the back door, which was closed. I didn't see any blood, and she wasn't screaming, but when she heard us, she turned quickly. I expected to see panic on her face. Instead, she was laughing. Well, trying her best not to laugh and not entirely succeeding.
"Tyler," she said. "And Andrew. You have to help them. I'm not going to. They need to strip off and be scrubbed, and 12-year-old boys don't want their mother, or in Andrew's case their friend's mother, doing that. Get some of our cleaning rags and old towels. I'll make up a deodorizing solution. Not that it'll help much."
I had no idea what was going on, and Dan could see that and told me succinctly. "Skunk. They got sprayed. Can't you smell it?"
"Is that what that is? I never smelled a skunk before."
"Now you have. You'll never forget it. And Mom hasn't even opened the door. That reek is just sneaking in the cracks. Come on, you've got to help. This is a two-man job."
I watched as Mrs. Haskett mixed together half a large bucket of a solution of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dishwashing detergent. She saw me watching and said, "This won't really fix the stink, but helps. It's better than the tomato juice people used to use. They'll still smell after washing in this stuff, just not quite so badly. When you're through with them, give them towels to protect their modesty and have them come in and shower again with scented soap. Then put their clothes in the bucket with what's left of this stuff and swish them around some. After they've soaked a bit, I'll run them through the washing machine."
Dan came back with the rags and towels and we walked out into the back yard. The smell was much worse outside. "Strip off, you two," he declared, "and come over here by the hose. Mom can't see you over here."
Tyler was already pulling off his shirt. Andrew was watching, obviously more hesitant about getting undressed. "Strip off everything," Dan said. "Mom'll wash your clothes, and you two can shower inside when we've done what we can out here."
Tyler wasn't having any problem getting naked. Andrew was taking his time. Tyler was down to his undies before Andrew even had his shirt off.
"How do you want to do this?" Dan asked me. "I can do Tyler if you want to do Andrew."
"Screw that!" Tyler said in the voice I always heard him use when he was teasing around with his brother. "You've just been waiting to get your gay hands on my sweet bod."
I laughed, enjoying more the banter I'd become used to hearing from them, then looked at Dan, and he was looking like someone had socked him in the stomach. He saw me looking, and immediately said, "Good one, Ty."
Tyler had seen the look on Dan's face the same as I had. He stopped laughing immediately and appeared deeply chagrined, almost looking like he was going to cry. Dan reached out and squeezed his shoulder and said something to him that I couldn't hear, then spoke in his normal voice. "That's a good idea. Let Jess help you out, and I'll take care of Andrew." Then he turned to the other boy. "Hey, Andrew, come on. No one but Jess and I can see you. No reason to be so modest. We were both your age not long ago."
By then Tyler had removed his socks and undies and was standing looking at me, waiting. I turned on the hose and wet him down. "Yow! That's cold!" he exclaimed, then grinned at me. "I was just goofing with Dan, you know?"
I dipped a rag in the bucket and began rubbing the deodorizing solution all over him. All over except I never got close to the essentials in the middle. I figured if any of those parts needed destinkifying it was best to leave them for him to deal with.
Andrew was finally naked and had his hands covering himself. During the washing, I caught a glimpse of why. Tyler had started puberty's inexorable changes, but Andrew was still very much a little boy. I'm sure he was embarrassed that we could see. No one made any remarks, however, except Dan about how skinny Tyler was, which was funny because Tyler wasn't skinny at all.
We finally got the boys as washed off and deodorized as we could, and I put their clothes in the bucket and swished them around a lot as Dan's mom had asked. The boys, wearing towels, headed into the house. I took the bucket in for Dan's mother, then told Dan I needed a shower, my clothes now reeked, and I should go home to take it.
Dan was having a hard time meeting my eyes. "No," he said. "No. You said you were sleeping over. I want . . . I'd like you to." He sat down on his bed. I decided this wasn't the time to sit next to him. I grabbed his desk chair, turned it to face the bed and sat on it.
He was staring at his knees. I felt like moving over and laying a reassuring hand on one of those but didn't. I sat and waited.
"I'm gay," he finally said, his voice so small, so sad, so meek. "I guess maybe you knew even before Tyler said that." He stopped and took a quick look at me before dropping his eyes again.
"I didn't," I said, speaking softly but not a bit weakly. "It was more hoping than knowing. I hoped a whole lot, especially when we almost kissed before being rear-ended by a skunk." I almost laughed but didn't because he looked so hurt. "Then, the way you looked when Tyler misspoke, I was pretty sure. But Dan, so you're gay? We're well into a new century, and why the anguish? You're gay. So am I. And to me, this might be the best news I've ever had."
"I'm not out," he said. "I can't be out. I'd never have been made the starting quarterback on our team. I love playing football. I can't be out."
"Sure you can! We're almost twenty percent into a new century. It's a more tolerant century. Things are different, better. You can come out. You'll be accepted!"
"Hah! So says the guy who was so afraid of being out he didn't want to tell a boy he was gay, a boy that he liked!"
That stopped me. He was right. Telling someone else to come out was so much different than doing it yourself. Coming out, no matter when or the personal circumstances, certainly took courage. It was entering the unknown, always a scary proposition.
"You're right, Dan. I'm sorry. I thought I had good reasons to hide who I was. You thought the same, and who can say we weren't right?"
Dan was still looking sad. I felt I had to do something about that. I was feeling wonderful; I now thought I had a chance with Dan. Because of that, I was feeling great. He was feeling the opposite.
"Dan, I'm so over Evan. The guy's messed up. But you and I—come on! We can be together now. If you want to be."
I stopped for a moment, hoping to give him time to reconsider his pain, but his eyes continued down, his shoulders slumped.
"Hey," I finally said. "It's not the end of the world. If you don't want me to tell anyone, you can take my word for it, no one'll hear it from me. But, look, I tried to kiss you. You've known I'm gay and trying to kiss you should tell you I like you. I like you a lot, actually. More than a lot. I thought I liked Evan, but I discovered he's a jerk and that we have no chemistry at all. I didn't get to know him till after I was attracted to him. What a mistake that was, to think I liked him just because of how he looked! You, I've gotten to know, and maybe you don't feel it, but I certainly do—feel the chemistry between us. Why are you looking like the world's come to an end, anyway?"
He looked up then. "I've hidden it forever. Linda's been helping me. She and my family are the only ones who know. No way could I ever play football if the guys on the team knew. Well, not with the ones on it you got kicked out. I love playing football. So I can't be out. But, but . . . you know what? Telling you I'm gay? That actually feels good."
He actually sort of smiled then. I grinned back at him. "See? That's what having a boyfriend does. It helps you! And that's what I want. I want you to be my boyfriend."
"That's something else. See, I like you, too. Way, way too much. I'd like us to be boyfriends as well. I've had dreams about it. When I'm awake, too. But it'd have to be a secret. I don't have your courage. I don't want to be out."
"You wouldn't have to be. If you like me like I like you, we could hide that part, but no way do I want to hide that we're friends."
"But people might suspect. Because they'll know about you, because you liked Evan! People must have picked up on that, and he won't have any compunction talking about it, talking about you. Another notch on his belt."
I shook my head. "That won't be a problem. Look at me. I know how to scare someone. I can just tell him that I don't want anyone knowing I'm gay, and it's way, way to his advantage to keep it that way. And perhaps he knows that already: he never did tell me who any of his former partners were; he hasn't told anyone about our date, either. I'd know if he had. But hey, I just realized something else."
Suddenly I was feeling bad for him. "Oh, God! Dan, it just occurred to me. I was always talking to you about him, how much I wanted to be with him, scheming with you about getting with him. Damn, Dan, I'm so sorry! That had to be painful if you were feeling anything for me like I was feeling for you. You had to deal with that. But you know, I was no more dishonest than you were. Because even while still fantasizing about Evan, I was getting to know you and getting to like you a lot. But I didn't tell you because I thought you were straight. If I'd been honest with you about how I felt, I'd never have gone on that date with Evan."
"So, what now?" he asked. "I still don't want to be out."
"That's not a problem with me. If you want to be a secret boyfriend, I'm down with that. And I don't think anyone will know I'm gay, but if they do, so what? Lots of gay boys have straight friends. No one will think you're gay because of it. You? No way."
He was looking up now. I even thought there might be some hope in his eyes. So I continued.
"So we can be friends, but secret boyfriends. Eventually, you'll be willing to drop the adjective, but for now, that's fine. You mean . . . " I stopped. I couldn't quite believe it. "I mean, will you be my boyfriend?"
He got a smile on his face, blushed, and nodded.
"Wow! You will!" I was grinning too, and then I moved next to him, looked for and found acceptance in his eyes, and I kissed him. It was a first kiss and so a little tentative and a little uncertain, but it was a kiss, a kiss with a boy I was starting to love, and it was wonderful. No skunk interrupted us this time.
When we pulled apart, he seemed to have a lot to say. Things he'd been holding onto. He straightened up on the bed but kept hold of my hand. "I liked you, too. I'd finally decided not to keep it a secret from you. I was going to kiss you back. I was going to admit I liked you. I don't know if I'd have been brave enough to admit I was gay, but I was going to kiss you. I've been going over and over it in my mind, whether I dared. I finally gave in. That's why I invited you for dinner—and the sleepover."
"You were going to tell me when we were in bed?" He had a king-sized bed. I was sure we'd both be in it. Sleeping bags were for sissies.
"Yeah," he said. "I don't know what would have happened then. Now that I've heard how you want to go slowly, I'm sure that nothing would have happened. Will happen, I guess, as you're still sleeping over."
"Hey, wait a sec. I told you I had no chemistry with Evan. I told you I did with you. I told you I didn't know him at all. I know you pretty well, and I like everything I know about you. I could make you a list! With Evan, it was rushing way too fast. With you? It doesn't feel like it would be rushing at all. For me at least. It would feel natural. It would feel right. I don't have any reservations with you. I still want to go slowly, but doing nothing? No, that wouldn't work for me." I wiggled my eyebrows, supposedly seductively, and he laughed. Laughed and moved toward me.
This time he was the one who kissed me. It was a long and passionate kiss. We were getting better at it! I'm sure we both boned up. I know I did. But, the mood changed when we pulled apart.
"Eeww," he said, when we came up for air. "You do need that shower. I think I just kissed a polecat."
"Another word for a skunk. Hey, why don't you take a shower where the boys did? I'll use my parents' shower. We don't need to start off as boyfriends stinking each other up."
I felt like it was Christmas and my birthday and my best day ever all at once. I was so happy and excited I got a bit spacey. He showed me the bathroom and where the towels were, then took off for his parents' room, already pulling off his shirt.
I took a really thorough shower, hair and all, washing three times until I smelled only like Irish Spring soap and whatever the shampoo was. Then I dried off and wrapped the towel around me. I hoped Dan would lend me some clean clothes to wear. A faint odor de skunk still permeated mine, and I'd only been close to the two boys.
Dan was coming down the hall, perhaps thinking the same thing. He was also wearing just a towel.
We got into his room and he closed the door, then turned to look at me. I was looking at him, too. Then I grinned, probably a strange-looking one because of all the emotions I was feeling. He was looking at me the same way, but then the grins became more real as we both saw the same thing. Each of our towels was beginning to move out a little.
"I've never done anything with anyone. Not Linda because that wouldn't have been right, and she knew, anyway. Not with any boy because I didn't dare. I was like you were, wanting what I couldn't have."
Then Dan got a look in his eyes I'd never seen before, but one I hoped to see often.
He kept staring at me, and my heart started beating faster and faster. Then he grinned and dropped his towel.
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