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Everything But Love

by Joel Young

Chapter 5

The Sleepover

After Mason forced me to jack him off, I went to the bathroom and washed my hands for so long that my skin hurt. I went to bed and laid awake much of the night. I was angry at Mason, disgusted by what I had done, and deeply disturbed to realize that I had become aroused while stroking his dick. I had never even touched myself like that, and the whole experience with Mason made me extremely uncomfortable. I couldn't share a room with him anymore. I had to make a change.

The next morning, I heard Mason turning over in his bed. I immediately got up and put on some clothes. I went to the bathroom, and then I headed downstairs. I was not ready to face Mason again.

I hoped that no one would be up yet. But of course, Aunt Gretchen was already busy in the kitchen. "Morning, James," she said to me.

After what had happened the previous night, I wasn't ready to talk with anyone. I felt ashamed, and I just wanted to be alone.

"Morning," I said. "I'm going for a walk. I'll do my chores when I get back." Aunt Gretchen started to say something, but I didn't listen. I just left.

It was still early morning, and the sun was just starting to rise. I headed out to Butterfield Highway. I couldn't turn off my thoughts as I walked alone.

I decided that I had to go home to Connecticut. I'd call Mom and persuade her to give me another chance - not that I believed that I had done anything wrong in the first place. But being exiled to Arkansas was cruel. I tried to convince myself that she couldn't tell me I was unwelcome in my own home! If I could just get her to understand how miserable I was, Mom would have to reconsider.

Twenty minutes later, I turned around and went back to the farm. I did my chores without going back into the house. Then, I went into the barn and found a place to hide until I could call my mom. If I were lucky, I'd be on my way home before diner.

About 10:00 a.m., I tried to sneak into the house. I heard my aunt talking on the phone in an animated voice. She sounded giddy with excitement. "I was so worried!" she said. "Thank the Lord that Jean and the baby are okay? Did you name her Elizabeth – like you talked about?"

"Well," Aunt Gretchen said. "I love that name. But let us know as soon as you decide."

I didn't know if Mason was still in our room, so I didn't want to go upstairs. I was hungry, but I thought Aunt Gretchen would be mad if I started eating after I had missed breakfast. I went out and sat in a rocking chair on the front porch. I couldn't stop thinking about how much I hated my life!

I was startled when Aunt Gretchen knocked on the window and gestured for me to come inside. "Jean had the baby!" she said when I went into the living room. She was grinning from ear to ear. "It's a little girl. I think they're going to name her Elizabeth – after my grandmother. And now, I'm a grandma!"

Suddenly, Aunt Gretchen grabbed both of my hands and swung me around with her in a circle. Her excitement was contagious, and I couldn't help but smile.

"Congratulations," I said when we finally sat down and my dizziness started going away.

"And you're an uncle!" Aunt Gretchen said. I thought back to my genealogy class at the Bridgeport Academy. "I think I'm the baby's first cousin once removed," I thought to myself. But I let it go.

"When do you get to see the new baby?" I asked.

"Well," Aunt Gretchen said. "I guess I have to go to Texas to meet my granddaughter. Hal said the earliest they would be able to come to Arkansas is next summer. And I can't wait that long. I'll take Mason with me, and we'll get on the road as soon as we can. Your uncle has to work, so he'll be here with you. You can put the eggs inside the screened porch each morning. I'll get one of the neighbors to pick them up."

I hesitated to bring it up, but I thought it might be a good time to ask. "Since Jean and Hal won't be here for months, could I please move into her room? I promise I'll keep it neat, and I'll move out anytime they're here."

I still planned to call Mom to see if I could go home. Asking for Jean's room was just a way to hedge my bets.

"Well, I was hoping they'd come home for Thanksgiving," Aunt Gretchen said. "But since that's not going to work out, I guess it would be okay for you to stay in Jean's room – for now."

"Thank you!" I said. "I really appreciate it!"

"You're welcome," Aunt Gretchen said. "Just give me a day to make some room for your stuff. I don't want all of Jean's things shoved into the closet!"

That afternoon, I made the call to Connecticut to talk to my mom about coming home. The housekeeper answered the phone. She told me that Mom and Dad were in Mexico and wouldn't be back for a month. I was very disappointed, and I had no choice but to put my plans to go home on hold.

Mason and I completely ignored each other that day. I couldn't wait until he left with Aunt Gretchen the next morning. My aunt said they'd be gone for about two weeks. I was surprised that she would pull Mason out of school for that long, but I was thrilled to have a long break from him.

I moved into Jean's old room as soon as Mason and Aunt Gretchen left for Texas. As I was packing up my things, I saw some Playboy magazines sticking out from underneath Mason's bed. I took a quick look at them, focusing mainly on the centerfolds. I had never seen female genitalia before, except for some generic drawings in a sex education class at Bridgeport Academy. I certainly had never seen full-color, close-up, glossy photographs of the real thing!

The double bed in Jean's room was much more comfortable than my cot, and I was thrilled to have some privacy! I was so pleased not to share a room with Mason that the pink and white striped wallpaper, French provincial furniture, and canopy bed in Jean's room didn't bother me a bit.

Uncle Nathan worked double shifts almost every day for the next week. That meant he wasn't home from about 3:00 in the afternoon until around 7:30 the following morning. Then, he'd go to bed until it was almost time for him to go to work again. I only saw him in the mornings as he was getting home and I was leaving for school. So, I was alone almost all of the time. But that was fine with me. I was used to spending lots of time by myself from my years at home.

That first week when I was mainly by myself, I managed to keep busy. I did my chores, made my own meals, cleaned up after myself, and went to school. Sylvia didn't live far from the farm, so her mother gave us a ride each way. By Friday, however, I was feeling lonely and sort of lost. The thought of a weekend totally by myself was depressing. And it wasn't as if I could distract myself with homework. My class assignments were about as challenging as finding an elephant hiding in the chicken coup! I would have loved to practice on a piano, but Aunt Gretchen and Uncle Nathan didn't have one. I complained about my situation at lunch on Friday with Mark and Sylvia.

"You wanna have a sleepover at my house tomorrow?" Mark asked me.

That sounded really good to me! But I had chores to do each morning and after dinner every night. I had come to feel responsible for the chickens, and I couldn't leave them hungry and with no one to care for them. So, I told Mark why I couldn't stay over at his house.

"Maybe Mark should stay over with you," Sylvia suggested. "He could even help you with your chores."

"Would that be okay, James?" Mark asked. "It sounds like fun to me."

"That would be great!" I said enthusiastically. "I'll have to check with my Uncle Nathan, but I'm pretty sure it will be okay. I'll call you in the morning to let you know for sure."

The next morning was Saturday. I made sure to get up before Uncle Nathan went to bed after his shift at the dam. I asked him if Mark could stay over that night. "That's fine," my uncle said. "I've felt guilty about leaving you alone so much. I'm glad you'll have some company." I thanked Uncle Nathan and called Mark to let him know that he was welcome to stay over.

Mark's dad dropped him off at the farm about noon. "Have you had lunch yet?" I asked. Since he hadn't eaten, I did my best to make lunch for us – grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbell's tomato soup. It was a very simple meal, but Mark seemed to enjoy it.

We had a great afternoon that day. Mark was a big fan of college football, so we watched the Arkansas State Indians game on television. Mark was thrilled that they beat Georgia State. Later, we went for a long bike ride. And we just hung out enjoying each other's company. I really liked Mark. He was a lot of fun, and we talked easily with each other. I was completely comfortable around him.

About 7:00 in the evening, Mark and I were hungry again. So, I ordered a pizza to be delivered. He helped me do my chores while we waited for the food. After the pizza came, Mark and I sat on the living room floor and played board games while we ate. We continued to play games until it was time to head upstairs to bed.

"You can have the bed in my room," I told Mark. "Sorry about all the pink. It used to be Mason's sister's room. I'll sleep in Mason's room."

"I don't want to put you out of your own bed," Mark said. "I'll just sleep on the floor in your room."

"You're my guest," I said to Mark. "You're not sleeping on the floor!"

"Well, could we share the bed?" Mark asked. "It's a double; there should be room for both of us."

I'd never slept in the same bed with another person before. But I agreed. We both stripped down to our underwear and got into bed.

"Are you going to sleep now?" Mark asked me.

"Well, I'm not really sleepy yet. Why? Do you want to stay up for a while?" I asked.

"Sort of," Mark answered. "If that's okay. Maybe we could just talk for a while. I'd like to know more about why you moved to Tellico Falls - unless that's too personal."

I had not shared with Mark anything about the problems I had with my family. I was too embarrassed. So, I gave him the condensed version while skimming over the more uncomfortable parts of the story. Even so, I couldn't avoid talking about how my parents had sent me away against my will. But I blamed it on all the traveling they had planned this year.

"Wow," Mark said. "I'd freak out if my parents made me go live with relatives. Are you okay with it now?"

"Sometimes," I said. "I really don't like Mason, and sharing a room with him was a nightmare! He's mean, and all he thinks about is sex. I even found a stack of Playboy magazines under his bed."

"Really? Did you look at them?" Mark asked.

"A little," I admitted.

"Did you see pictures of naked girls?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. "They even have a two-page spread in the middle of the magazine showing totally naked ladies – spreading their legs apart for the camera. I couldn't believe it!"

Mark was quiet for a while. "Can I see some of them?" he asked hesitantly.

"You want me to go get some?" I asked.

"Only if you want to," Mark said. "But it would put some fun in our sleepover, don't you think?"

"Geeze!" I said. "You make it sound like playing Clue and eating pizza with me was a big bore! See if I ever invite you over again!"

"Sorry," Mark said. "I didn't mean it like that."

I smiled at Mark. "I know. I was just kidding with you. Do you really want to look at the magazines?"

"Please!" Mark begged. "If I get all worked up, I promise I won't hump your leg or anything."

I went into Mason's room and brought back two Playboy magazines. I handed one to Mark and kept one for myself.

"Let's look at them together – at the same time," Mark said. "It'll be more fun that way." I threw the magazine in my hand down on the end of the bed and sat next to Mark. "Are you ready?" he asked.

"What is this - a race?" I joked. "You want a countdown - like ready, set, go?"

"No," he said, sounding a little embarrassed. "It's just that I'm kind of nervous. I've never looked at dirty pictures before."

I took the magazine out of his hand and opened it up to the centerfold. I held it up so we both could see it.

"Whoa!" Mark exclaimed. "Are those real?"

"What?" I asked - as if I didn't know what he was staring at.

"Those!" Mark said, pointing to the girl's breasts. "Her … ah, you know – her boobs."

"I think they're real," I said. "I mean, I've never seen a girl who looked like she might be anywhere near that big, but I don't think a magazine would publish fake pictures."

Mark continued staring at the centerfold. I saw him lower his eyes. "Is that what they call her pussy?" he asked.

I decided to try to shock Mark. "Yeah," I said. "And you won't believe how it feels when you put your fingers up there!"

Marked gasped. "You've done that?" he asked. "With a real girl?"

"Of course!" I lied. But then, I couldn't stop myself from breaking out in laughter, and it became obvious that I wasn't telling the truth.

"You lair!" Mark said as he gave me a fake punch on the arm. "I bet you've never even kissed a girl!"

"Well, no," I admitted. "But I bet you haven't either."

We looked at the second centerfold, and Mark just stared at the naked girl lying on a white, bear-skin rug. She had a finger in her mouth, and it looked like she was sucking on it – as if it were a lollypop. Then, I realized that sucking her finger suggested that she wanted to suck a dick.

"Remember when I said I wouldn't hump your leg? If we look at any more girls like that, I might have to break that promise," Mark said.

I assumed he was joking. 'Why?" I asked. "Are the pictures making you horny?"

"Hell, yes!" Mark said. "Aren't they making you hard?"

My dick was hard. But it wasn't the pictures of naked women that were getting me excited. It was being close to Mark while talking about sex.

"Well, yeah," I answered, pretending to be more interested in the pictures than I really was. "What guy wouldn't get a boner looking at pictures like that?"

"I gotta go to the john," Mark said. I watched while he got up and headed toward the bathroom. His undershorts couldn't hide his obvious erection.

I started thumbing through one of the magazines, and I found a section called Playboy Party Jokes." I read the first joke and broke out laughing. Then, I read the second joke, which was just as funny as the first. "Hey," I thought to myself. "I can use some of these with Justin and The Pack."

I was still laughing when Mark came back into the room. "What's so funny?" he asked.

"There's a whole section of dirty jokes in here," I said. "Want to hear one?" Mark nodded his head as he laid back down on the bed.

"Okay," I said. "What's the difference between the Circus and the Playboy Mansion?"

Mark looked like he was trying to figure out the answer. But finally, he said that he had no idea.

"Well," I said. "The Circus features a cunning array of stunts, and the Playboy Mansion features a stunning array of cunts."

Mark and I both began cracking up. "That's really dirty," he said. "But, oh my God, it's so funny!"

Mark took the magazine away from me. "Let me read some to you!" he said. He read a few jokes out loud while we both laughed up a storm. Then, we traded off, and I read a few more jokes to Mark.

Mark and I laughed ourselves silly before we finally settled down a bit. Then, Mark got quiet. "Have you ever done anything with a girl?" he asked.

"No," I said. "Have you?"

"I kissed Sally Metcalf on the playground in the fifth grade," Mark said. "Does that count?"

"I don't know," I said. "Did she kiss you back?"

"Sort of, but then Miss Benson saw us, and Sally ran away. I was sure I'd be in trouble," Mark said. "But nothing ever happened."

"Well, that's more than I've done," I told Mark. "So, yeah. I think it counts."

"Are there any girls at school that you want to make out with?" Mark asked.

"Sure," I said, lying through my teeth. I avoided providing any details - like the names of any girls in our class. "But nobody would want to make out with me. I'm too much of a nerd."

"No, you're not!" Mark said.

I adjusted my glasses so that they were crooked on my face. I grinned so that my braces showed. Then, I looked at Mark and twisted my face into a silly expression. "Aw, shucks," I said in an exaggerated southern drawl. "You think all them girls wanna go'a kiss'n on me?"

"Wipe that stupid expression off of your face," Mark directed. I did as he said.

"Close your mouth," he said. Again, I did what Mark had told me to do. Then, he reached for my glasses and slowly slid them off my face. He set my glasses on the nightstand next to me. "Now, smile," he said.

By this time, I was feeling self-conscience and quite embarrassed. But I smiled at Mark. He leaned in close to my face.

"James," he said. "You're not a nerd. You're beautiful."

I felt a knot forming in my stomach. I thought maybe Mark was going to kiss me! But before I could find out, I heard a terrible sound coming from outside of the house. Mark looked startled. "What the Hell is that?" he asked.

"The chickens!" I hollered when I realized that the sounds were coming from the coop. "Something is trying to get at the chickens!"

Mark and I practically jumped into our jeans and shoes. We ran downstairs to the back door, and I turned on the floodlights that lit up the yard. Mark and I ran outside. All of the chickens were squawking loudly; it sounded like they were terrified!

I grabbed a metal rake that was leaning against the coup, and I cautiously opened the door. I reached for the battery-powered lantern that was kept just inside. I handed it to Mark. He turned it on and held it up.

We saw a fox inside of the coup. "Get out of here!" I yelled as I swung the heavy part of the rake at him. The fox picked up one of the chickens and ran toward the door that opened to the pen. The fox managed to crawl under the door, dragging the chicken with it.

The chickens were still franticly running around the coup and flapping their wings. "How do we calm them down?" Mark asked.

I was very anxious and scared, and I yelled at Mark. "How the Hell should I know? What do I look like? The chicken whisperer?"

Mark looked hurt, but I pretended not to notice. We looked around the coup and found six dead birds. I got a galvanized-steel trash can from the barn. I picked up the dead chickens using the rake, put them in the metal container, and placed the lid on it. "I'd better call Uncle Nathen," I said.

Mark dragged the trash barrel with the dead birds and placed it outside of the coup. I closed the door to keep the chickens inside. As Mark and I walked back toward the house, I started to calm down just a little. But then, the ordeal of the whole thing hit me, and I began to tear up. "I'm sorry I yelled at you," I said. Then, I broke down and cried.

Mark turned and took me in his arms. "It's alright, James," he said. "You were just upset. I know you were mad at the fox and not with me."

"I don't know what I would have done if you weren't here with me," I said as I tried to quit crying. "I was so scared!"

"Me, too," Mark said.

We went into the house, and I got the phone number to the dam from a list magnetized to the refrigerator door. I called, and one of Uncle Nathan's co-workers answered the phone. I asked to speak to my uncle, and the guy hollered at him to come to the phone.

"I'll be right there," Uncle Nathan said when I explained what had happened.

When Uncle Nathan got home, he checked out the coup and the chicken pen. He found a hole in the fence around the coup. "That's how the little bugger got in," my uncle explained. He got some fencing out of the barn and patched the hole. "I'll clean all this up and replace that section of fence when my shift is over. But right now, I've got to get back to work."

As Uncle Nathan walked toward his truck, he turned toward Mark and me. "You guys did a good job tonight. Without you, every one of those chickens would be as dead as a doorknob!"

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