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Like Dust in the Wind

by Jack Lynch

Chapter 2

The Lighthouse.

A year later. July.

"Two adults? That's twenty-four."

Entering the fee and swiveling the tablet around, the man swiped his credit card and signed the screen. Flipping it back, he saw that the man had added a twenty per cent tip. Sweet! Toby thought to himself.

Cripes it was hot! Midsummer of his sixteenth year, he'd taken the job at the Tybee Lighthouse after burning out as a stock clerk at Chu's, the local convenience store and gas station.

The upside: he was outside for the summer. The downside: enduring long days dispensing tickets out of an un-air conditioned hut next to the parking lot.

Pulling two green wristbands off the roll, he motioned for the woman to come forward first. Toby deftly pulled the pressure sensitive tab and neatly wound it around her wrist. Next, the man. After attaching the wristband, he gestured to the rack of brochures on the counter.

"Help yourself."

Officially, it was called the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, Georgia's oldest and tallest lighthouse. But, to Toby and all the other locals, it was just Tybee Light. Three light keeper's cottages comprised the museum part of the site. Display panels describing the lighthouse lined a path near the door.

The lighthouse was the real attraction, though. Almost everyone made a beeline to the light, challenging themselves, old and young, to troop up the 178 steps to the top.

The job was mostly a no-brainer. Once in awhile, he'd have to tell someone they couldn't bring a backpack or a tripod onto the site. A couple of weeks ago some jerk had insisted on bringing a holstered firearm in with him.

"I gotta license to carry," the guy bellowed.

"Don't matter. These are the posted rules. No weapons!" Toby said firmly, pointing to the sign. He got stink eye but even though he was just a kid, the asshole backed down.

"Switch," Wendy said as she entered the hut through the open side door.

When it was really hot and humid like today, they rotated jobs. Slipping off the stool, Toby stopped at the bathroom next to the gift shop to take a whizz and wipe the sweat off of his face.

Toby grimaced at his reflection in the mirror. Oh, well. Long black hair, mostly covering his ears and down on his neck, impossibly pale complexion, light blue eyes. Like an Irish ghost. Clear skin with a few small black moles here and there. Pink lips. So pink they looked like he was wearing lipstick. Plain and boring. He wished he could be anything other than Irish like everyone else he knew. Italian or Spanish, maybe, or Black. He'd love it if he had chocolate or olive colored skin and dark eyes.

After spending thirty minutes or so ringing up t-shirts and toys, he was back selling admissions. He took some pride in being able look at a group of people and instantly calculate the price without counting. Before him now, a family.

"Sixty-four." He said.

The man pulled a credit card out of his pocket. Toby smiled to himself. Yup! Two parents, a senior, probably a grandparent, two kids, and a teenager lagging behind. Sixty-four bucks. After ringing him up, he pulled wristbands from the piles in front of him. One by one, they came forward. Blue ones for the adults, green for grandma. Leaning over, he attached the yellow ones on the wrists of the two kids. As they turned away, the teenage boy came forward, extending his wrist.

Toby's jaw dropped. Standing before him was perhaps the most beautiful guy he'd ever seen. About his age, maybe 15 or 16, Toby thought. Slightly built and fine boned. Slender, about 5'7" or 5'8." Olive toned skin, nice tan. Medium brown hair, natural highlights, straight and parted down the middle. Long, it fell just past his shoulders. Almond shaped brown eyes, long nose, high cheek bones, thin lips, and full eye brows.

Toby purposely kept his eyes down as he wound the yellow band around his wrist, noting the fine dark hairs on the boy's tanned forearm. Turning around without a word, Toby watched him begin to follow the rest of the family as they strolled to the lighthouse. The boy suddenly veered off and headed toward the other exhibits. As he did, he turned with a sneaky smile and gave Toby a quick wave.

Shit! He wasn't even with that family! Toby grimaced as he realized he'd been duped into charging the man for someone who wasn't even part of his group. He thought about going after him but was interrupted by a couple asking about the ticket prices.

Busying himself the rest of the afternoon, he blew the whole thing off. He'd made that mistake once before. Toby vowed not to make it again.

Five-thirty. The end of the day hadn't come soon enough. Hot, tired, he put everything away, closed the ticket window and locked the hut. As he turned to walk toward his car in the parking lot, he noticed Betty still standing in the doorway leading to the lighthouse stairway.

"Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine," She counted out loud.

"What's up, Betty?" Toby asked as he approached her.

Betty, one of the Tybee Light's most dedicated volunteers, regularly handed out and collected entry cards to the lighthouse. That's how they controlled how many people could safely be on the stairs and roaming around the catwalk at the top. Betty gave each person entering a card which she, in turn, collected when they came back down. If all thirty cards were handed out, no one was admitted until someone else finished descending the steps.

"We're missing a card," she said with a worried look on her face.

"No big deal. Someone accidentally walked off with one."

"Not on my watch!" Betty said emphatically.

"Well, what do you want to do?"

"Someone is going to have to go up to the top and check."

She looked at him.

"Aw right."

Betty was probably in her eighties. Even though he was sweaty and tired, he was also only sixteen.

"I'll check it out. Go ahead. I'll lock up."

Toby trudged up the steps. At least the thick walls and dim light kept it somewhat cooler than the air outside. Every twenty-five steps or so, he came to a landing that led to a small window. He glanced at each one as he went up the stairs, just to make sure no one was lurking in a corner.

When he finally reached the top, he pulled the heavy iron door open and stepped out onto the catwalk surrounding the lamp house. A breath of cooler sea air hit his face. Refreshing, he thought. Seeing no one, he decided to check the far side of the lamp house, the side facing the setting sun.

It was him.

He stood there with his arms crossed over the top rail, one foot up on the bottom rail, looking out to the western horizon. Toby's breath caught in his throat.

"It's nice up here."

Toby tried to think of something clever to say.


"You found me."

Found? What did that mean?

Collecting himself, "Ya know, we're closed."


"And you didn't even pay."

He smirked.


Toby was tongue tied. As he looked at the boy, he realized that he had completely unbuttoned his shirt. It flapped open in the breeze. Tanned skin, smooth. A slight definition to his chest, one perfect brown nipple visible. Flat stomach. Tiny treasure trail below his belly button.

"Nice place to watch the sunset from. Kinda romantic, if you're with the right person."

Toby squinted at the sun.

"Well, the sun isn't gonna hit the horizon for a couple of hours."

"I got time, if you got time."

Toby's heart was racing. He had no clue what was going on or what to say. Finally, he cleared his throat.

"Ya. I can't leave you here and I kinda havta get going."

The boy turned to face Toby. He slowly brought his hand up, reached over, and lightly brushed the hair off of Toby's forehead. Moving to the side, he rearranged it placing some of the hair in front of his ear and tucking a piece behind it. Finally, he softly twirled his finger around the outside of Toby's ear. In an instant, Toby was hard.

The boy sighed.

"Ok," he said in a soft, almost whispering raspy voice.

Toby was clueless. He wasn't equipped to react to what just happened. Silently, he pointed toward the door. Ushering the boy to the ground level, he locked the door to the lighthouse. When Toby turned to him, he was just standing there, looking at him. Shirt open, lips slightly apart. Shit! He looked hot!

A moment passed.

"Well, then…"

What was he supposed to say?

They walked silently to the front gate. Toby locked that one, too. They started to walk through the parking lot. The only car left was his old rust trimmed light tan Versa. Not his really but the one that belonged to his parents and was loaned to him for going to and from work.

"Where's your car?"

"I got dropped off."

"Well, how are ya gonna get where you're going?"

"I dunno."

He looked at Toby.

"Oh, c'mon," Toby said with a sigh. "I'll give you a lift."

When they got in the car, Toby started it up and rolled the windows down.

"My name's Toby. What's yours?"


"Bell? What kind of name is that?"

"Well, Campbell. But, it's…Bell."

"Ah, a wee bit o' the Irish, then," Toby said in a faux Irish accent.

Bell smirked.

"Nah. Scottish, I guess. I dunno."

"Where to…Bell?"

Toby hit the "B" hard with more than a hint of sarcasm.

"Chatham. River side."

Naturally, Toby thought. The rich side of the island.

As he drove, they shared some basics. Bell was also sixteen. They were both going into the 11th grade. Toby was returning to Johnson High School in Savannah.

"I go to Smythe Friends."

He looked at Toby for some acknowledgement.

"Am I supposed to know what that is?"

"Nah, probably not. So, are you a Bee?"

Bee was what Tybee Island locals called themselves.

"Ya. All my life."

Bell just smirked. Toby looked at Bell.

"You're kind of a jerk, ya know that?"

"Ya, but I'm a cute jerk, aren't I?"

With that, he let his his shirt fall open so his entire chest and stomach were visible.

It was Toby's turn to smirk.

"Cute wasn't the word I was thinking."

Of course, the house Bell's family had rented was the biggest and fanciest on a block of the most expensive beach rentals on the island. Four stories, contemporary, lots of windows and balconies, and that was just the street side. The other side, the river side where it emptied into the Atlantic was probably even grander. As in maybe twenty grand a week in high season, Toby speculated to himself.

"You work tomorrow?"

"No. We're closed on Tuesdays."

"Wanna hang out?"

Toby mentally ran down a list of things he had to do on his day off.


"Let's meet at the beach in front of the battery."

Bell was talking about an old military battery meant to protect the island from invaders in the 1800's. It was just across the road from the lighthouse.

"Ok. What time?"

"Ahh…like two?"

"Ya. Ok."

It was settled. After exchanging digits, Bell jumped out of the car. Leaning into the car window he looked at Toby with a half smile.

"Have a nice night."

Then he was gone.

Kind of a prick, Toby thought. What an attitude! He didn't even thank him for the ride.

Later, as he lay in bed naked and jerking off, Toby thought about the way Bell had caressed his ear. This was only the second time he'd ever gotten off while thinking about another guy.

The first time was after he watched some porn with one of his friends. The video was about this hot chick hooking up with a bunch of guys. She was sexy but Toby couldn't keep his eyes off of one of the hunky guys she screwed. A blond Adonis, ripped chest and stomach, and a huge cock. He didn't dare mention it to his friend but that guy was major 'bate bait for Toby.

That had been six months ago and the memory of that vid had mostly faded. Now this. Bell's hair, his smooth chest and stomach. That look in his eyes. Kind of a bored "fuck you" expression on his face.

Toby came in great gobs of cum all over his stomach. Grabbing his briefs from the floor, he wiped himself off. God! It stunk! Why did his have to smell that bad? I bet Bell's probably smelled a lot better, Toby thought. Amazingly, he started to get hard again.

The aroma of frying hamburgers was intoxicating. The cheese sandwich he'd nibbled on before he left home wasn't nearly enough. Past the busy food concession at the battery, Toby walked down onto the beach. Glancing to the right where most of the people put out their chairs and towels, he looked for any sign of Bell.

"Tweet!" A loud whistle from the other direction. Looking to the left, he saw Bell giving him a quick wave.

Toby immediately felt self conscious in his old faded swim trunks with the Tybee YMCA logo on the leg. Bell wore a bright tri-color pair of board shorts and a white tank with the Olympic logo on the front. Very cool, very expensive.

"Over here!"

Bell gestured to him. He'd already laid out a towel and a small cooler in the shade against the dunes and the wall of the battery. Toby was grateful for that. His pale complexion was highly susceptible to sunburn. The location Bell had chosen was shady and fairly secluded. This part of the beach was mostly empty.

When he joined Bell, Toby threw his towel on the sand. As he bent over to spread it open, he was hit on the butt. Bell had thrown a miniature football at him. Chuckling, Toby lofted it back. They immediately engaged in a robust game of catch with a good measure of murder ball added in.

Laughing and out of breath, they jogged back to the towels. Toby flopped onto his towel. Bell, still standing, reached down, grabbed the bottom of his tank, and pulled it over his head. He tossed his hair letting it fall perfectly across his shoulders. He looked at Toby to make sure he was watching.

Toby was watching all right. More like staring. God damn! How could someone be more perfect looking? Bell's shoulders were narrow, small biceps, a flat chest with a hint of definition, small brown nipples. Not a hair, mole, or zit on him. His skin was like velvet. Just that tiny treasure trail below his belly button. His swim trunks, low slung, revealed his hip bones and the top of the "V" leading to his crotch.

The worst part? He knew what he looked like. And, he was flaunting it.

With a small chuckle, Bell dropped down to his towel. Head supported by his arm, he lay on his side and looked at Toby. Likewise, Toby was on his side, facing Bell, his head supported by his hand.

Bell cracked open a couple of sodas. They talked for awhile about mostly nothing in particular. School, life, video games. Conversation dwindled to silence. They just looked into each other's eyes.

"Take your shirt off," Bell said in a quiet, but firm voice.

Toby didn't want to. He was embarrassed by his scrawny body and white skin. Nevertheless, he sat up, jerked his t-shirt at the neck, and pulled it over his head. Blushing deeply, he lay back down while sweeping the hair out of his eyes.

Bell stared at Toby's chest making him blush even more deeply.

"Your nipples are the same color as your lips!" Bell laughed.

"So what, dimwad!"

Chuckling, "No, I think it's kind of cute."

He got more serious. Reaching out, he softly put his hand on Toby's chest, tweaking one nipple with his thumb.

Toby's breath caught in his throat. His dick stiffened immediately. He cleared his throat as he looked up to see if anyone was around. The beach in front of them was still empty. Bell looked intently at Toby, almost without expression.

Wordlessly, Bell reached down and untied the front of his swim trunks. Pulling the laces apart, he shrugged his hips, jerking the suit down until the tip of a large and erect cock appeared. Seeing no objection from Toby, he lifted his hip off the towel and maneuvered the swimsuit down to his thighs, kicking the trunks off once they reached his ankles.

Toby could hardly breathe. He couldn't keep his eyes from what was the most magnificent cock he'd ever seen. Thick, long, light brown. The head was…amazing. There was no word to properly describe it. He was completely smooth; no pubic hair at all. Bell took Toby's hand and placed it on top of his cock. He didn't know what to do. Should he wrap his fingers around it? Stroke it? He just held it, feeling the heat coming off of it, silky and warm to the touch.

When Toby looked at his face for some kind of sign, Bell's gaze was locked on the front of Toby's swimsuit. When he looked down, he realized it was totally tented out. A small circle of pre-cum stained the front. OMG, how embarrassing, Toby thought.

"Take it off," Bell whispered in a raspy voice.

Toby flipped on his back, pulled the waistband of the suit open, and swept it off in one motion. Turning on his side to face Bell again, he looked down at his own stiff cock. It was a pathetic version of Bell's. Much thinner, pink, curving up toward his belly button, throbbing in rhythm with his banging pulse. A small tuft of dark kinky pubic hair sat above his cock.

Bell reached over, putting a hand on Toby's hip. Applying some pressure, Bell tried to turn him onto his stomach. He resisted. Bell pulled harder. Toby stiffened his resistance.

"No." Toby said.

He didn't want Bell back there. He was afraid he might not be clean and, well, he didn't want him back there.

Moving over, now closer to Toby, Bell reversed the pressure and pushed him onto his back. Looking down at Toby for a moment, he wordlessly climbed on top. They proceeded to crush their cocks together, Toby thrusting his hips up to Bell; Bell, likewise, pushing down against Toby. Toby didn't know where to put his hands at first but they eventually came to rest on Bell's sides. Grunting and gasping, they humped each other until one, then the other, came to crushing orgasms.

Spunk was everywhere. Bell rolled off onto his back, giggling. Their stomachs and chests were covered in goo. Toby blinked back tears, squeezing his eyes shut, throwing an arm over his face. Why was he so emotional? What was he feeling?

Eventually, he propped himself up on his elbows and looked around. Miraculously, no one was near them. The only sounds were those of the sea gulls and the surf.


Bell stood up suddenly and grabbed Toby's hand. Pulling him to his feet, they both ran naked to the water, running in far enough to dive under. The water was freezing but the shock of it felt good. After splashing and dunking each other for a few minutes, they bobbed in the water while they waited for a few people to pass by. Water dripping, they ran back out of the ocean and collapsed breathless onto their towels. Toby lay on his stomach as flat as he could, half to get warm, the other half to be as inconspicuous as possible.

Still naked, Bell stood up, legs spread proudly, and shook the water out of his ears. Not only did he not care if someone saw him, he was game to show off his stuff. He used his fingers to swipe them through his hair. Even though it was still wet, his hair magically fell into place. His cock and balls waved hypnotically as he shifted his weight from one hip to the other. Sitting down, he reached over to Toby. His hair, on the other hand was a mess, plastered all over his face and neck. Bell took his time, getting it neatly organized. It was a nice moment.

"That is one white butt!" Bell said as he caressed Toby's behind once and then slapped it.

"Ouch!" Toby laughed.

"C'mon. Let's go!"

They put their swimsuits back on, gathered their stuff, and started walking toward the beach exit. Bell took Toby's hand in his. It felt so weirdly natural. As they reached an area where the crowd started to thicken, Toby shook his hand free of Bell's. For some reason, now it suddenly felt creepy. He looked to see if anyone was watching, but no one was.

When they hit the parking lot, Toby was ready to offer Bell a ride. Instead, he just ambled away.


Toby watched him walk away. He went a short distance along the road. All of a sudden, a Volvo station wagon appeared and stopped next to him. Bell got in and they drove away.

Wednesday. Another hot boring day at work. He mostly kept yesterday's encounter in the back of his mind. But, at moments when he least expected it, Bell's face, chest, cock, all of him bubbled up in his mind. Toby just kept working, collecting money, attaching wristbands, a painful erection in his shorts.

About mid-afternoon, a text.



"Come over."



A pause. Toby didn't have to think.


Five-thirty couldn't come soon enough. He zipped home and jumped in the shower to wash the sweat and stink of the day off. Just before he finished, he grabbed a razor, got down on his knees, and ran it around his anus. No way was he going to let Bell near that spot. But, just in case.

The door was answered by a tall young woman with long honey colored hair. She looked at him quizzically.

"Umm…I'm here to see Bell."

"Oh, hi! Come on in. I'm Harper, Bell's sister."

As he stepped through the door, Toby struggled to connect the two of them as siblings. As slight and short as Bell was, his sister was an Amazon. Tall, maybe 6'2," big boned, pink freckled skin, blue eyes.

Harper led Toby into a spacious great room, lavishly appointed. The room faced the river with the ocean in the distance. It featured a gourmet style kitchen, wall to wall windows, a large swimming pool just outside, surrounded by a fenced in deck.

A tall good looking man was packing a bottle of wine and glasses into a soft sided cooler. He looked at Toby with a big smile.

"Hey! I'm Tucker, Bell's dad." Big booming voice.

Waving, "Toby."

"That's Reggie," Tucker said, pointing to a tall, slender Black guy.

He organized cheese, crackers, and some store bought containers of spread on an expansive kitchen island.

"Hall-oo," he said.

British accent. Harper went to Reggie immediately, put her arms around him, and kissed him on the side of the head.

Bell strolled in, eyes hooded, a kind of bored look on his face.


"Hey!" Toby said.

"Bell, we're heading to the beach for sunset. You guys wanna join us?" Tucker asked.

"Nah. That's ok. I think we're gonna just hang."

Before Tucker could respond, a woman breezed into the room. Obviously, Bell's mom, it was if he had been cloned from her; same complexion, hair color, and eyes. Petite.

"Ding Ding! You have a friend!" she said in a high almost falsetto voice, a big smile on her face, brown eyes twinkling.

"Mom, this is Toby."

Extending his hand, "Nice to meet you, Mrs…"

Before he could finish, she grabbed his hand and said, "Oh. Just call me Wheezie."

"Babe, Bell and, uh, Toby, is it?" Toby nodded. "Are gonna stay here." Tucker said.

"Ok! Ding Ding, you have a good time with your new friend."

Wheezie continued in her high airy voice.

"Toby. Stay for dinner."

"Oh, gee, Mrs…I mean, Wheezie…"

"You have to! This is only one of two times a year Tucker cooks. The other time is New Years Day chili. Isn't that right, sweetie?"

"Ya. Grilled chicken and shrimp on the bah-bie. You're welcome to join us."

Toby just smiled.

In a New York minute, they were all gone. Picnic basket, chairs, beach hats, and all. They trooped out onto the deck and down to the beach through a gate on the side.

Toby looked at Bell. "Ding Ding?" He asked, a wry smile on his face.

"Fuck you."

A pause.

"Let's go for a swim."

As they walked out to the swimming pool, Toby protested.

"I didn't bring a suit."

Bell only smirked. Standing at the edge of the pool, he stripped off his polo shirt and dropped his shorts. Just like that, he was naked. Apparently, he'd been going commando. Without waiting for a reaction, he dove into the pool.

Toby shrugged his shoulders. He kicked his shoes off. The rest of his clothes came off quickly. After he dove in, just as he came up for air, he was plunked on the head with a small volley ball. A spirited game of catch ensued thoroughly water logging both boys in the process. As their play wound down, they got closer and closer. Fingers wound around each other's, they tread water in the middle of the pool as they faced each other.

"So, tell me about your family," Toby said.

"Dad's an investment banker, drinks too much. Mom is clueless and she spoils me rotten. My sister is gonna be a sophomore in college. That's it."

"And Reggie?"

"Oh. Harper snagged him when she ran away to Europe last semester."

"Why did she run away to Europe?"

"Because she found out I did it with her boy friend."

Toby looked at Bell in disbelief. Then he threw his head back and broke out in raucous laughter.

"That's rich!" He laughed. "You're a slut, you know that?"

Bell smirked. And then broke out into a giggle himself.

Eventually, they floated into the shallow end where their feet touched the bottom. Bell brought his hands up, holding Toby's head, as he leaned in to give him a kiss.

Oh God! I'm kissing another guy, Toby thought. Immediately, he thought of his breath. I hope it's not bad. Bell tasted, Toby tried to think of a word, sweet. He allowed Bell's tongue to invade his mouth. Their tongues swirled around each other.

As Toby felt his back nudge against the side of the pool, he brought his hands down to Bell's sides. Still kissing, he dropped one hand down to grab onto what was now a large and very erect cock. Bell pulled his lips away, still close to Toby's mouth, and looked at him long and hard, a kind of blank expression on his face. He moved the hand that had been holding the back of Toby's head around to his shoulder. With a bit of pressure, he tried to nudge him to turn around.

"No," Toby said softly.


"No," in a whisper.


Giving in, Toby allowed Bell to turn him around. He put his hands up to hold onto the side of the pool. Bell's cock scraped along his hip finding a place between Toby's butt cheeks. He pulled Toby's hips back a bit. Bell's cock touched his asshole. It must have been the water or something else that greased the skids. Just like that, he was in.

Toby winced, trying not to cry out. The pain was intense, burning. One slow thrust followed by another. He felt himself starting to open up. It hurt bad but there was something else. He felt an amazing rush. He embraced the pressure. The thrusting continued, one against the other, until Bell stopped. Grunting, he orgasmed, his cock pulsing inside Toby.

They stood there in the water for awhile. Bell placed soft kisses on the back of Toby's neck. Eventually, they both climbed out of the pool. Bell grabbed several towels from a basket, throwing one at Toby. He laid two of them out on nearby day beds. They both collapsed down, Toby on his stomach, Bell on his back.

After resting for a bit, Toby turned on his side and looked at Bell. Bell stared straight up at the sky.

"Can I ask you something?"


"Are you gay?"

Bell smirked.

"I don't even know what that is."

"You know what I mean."

"I dunno. Does it matter?" Not receiving a response, "I just do what feels good."

"Mmmm. Well…" Toby tried to think of what to say. "This is a first for me."

Bell chuckled. "I bet!"

"I mean, not just that. I mean even kissing someone."

"You've never been kissed?"

"No. Never. Well, not since Lori O'Toole behind my garage when I was 5 years old."

Bell turned on his side and looked at Toby. He brought his hand up and lightly brushed Toby's hair out of his eyes and off of his forehead.

"You're sweet," Bell said.

His hand dropped to cup Toby's balls. His cock immediately sprang to attention. Pushing him onto his back, Bell moved over, contemplated Toby's cock for a moment, and slowly lowered his open mouth to swallow it.

Toby could have never imagined what this felt like. Bell's tongue swirling around his cock, alternately sucking, his joint coated in Bell's saliva. He grasped Bell's hands tightly in his, trying to hold on for dear life. He dug his heels in, thrusting his hips up to Bell. The orgasm was nothing short of incredible.

Afterwards, Bell fell back to his own towel and rested again on his back. Toby kept his eyes closed as his respiration returned to normal. He was drained. Literally.

Next thing he knew, Bell was shaking him.

"Wake up, beautiful. The fam is coming back."

When Toby opened his eyes, he realized it was almost dark. The lights around the pool were on, the sky turning azure. Bell was already back in his clothes. Toby got up and quickly got dressed just as the sound of Bell's family could be heard coming up the steps from the beach.

Dinner that night was one of the best meals Toby had ever eaten. Tucker's recipes and grilling technique yielded flavorful chicken and shrimp. They all sat around a big table eating and drinking. The conversation was wide ranging and fun. Toby found himself laughing with gusto at the glib comments and jokes. Wheezie even let Bell and Toby each have a half glass of wine. Toby thought it tasted sour but, what did he know? He wasn't exactly a wine connoisseur.

During part of the meal, Bell held Toby's hand under the table. It felt so good. And so right.

When it was time to leave, Bell walked him to the door.

He had that bored look on his face again. Eyes hooded.

"Thanks for coming over."

Toby looked back at him trying to see if there was any kind of message. Nothing, but a blank stare. They said their good-by's and that was it.

Another boring day at work. Hot. Humid. Well, it was July, after all.

Around 3:00, Toby picked up his phone for the umpteenth time to see if Bell had messaged him. Nothing.

Finally, Toby tapped, "Hey."

Moments later.


"Hang out?"


"Y not?"





"We left."

"Where r u?"


"Gonna miss u."


"I like u."


Toby paused. This was going to be really difficult. He took a deep breath.

"I luv u."

No response. Waiting. Toby just stared at the screen. Eventually, it dimmed and his phone went to sleep. He could hardly believe it.


Toby looked up. Four people stood in front of him.

Scanning them quickly, he said, "That'll be forty-four."

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