"Good morning," he said cheerfully.
"Good morning," I said in a very soft voice. He ran his hand through my hair. He wasn't mad about the dream I had the night before.
"Your hair is very soft," he said.
"Thanks," I opened my eyes again; he was still staring at me. He stopped and got up out of bed. I lay there a little longer, not wanting to get up yet. I must have drifted back to sleep. I woke up again, this time James was dressed sitting on my side of the bed stroking my hair with his hand. James was a strong guy, at least to me he was, but his touch was so soft, so gentle. I loved the feeling of his hand in my hair. I couldn't remember a more peaceful feeling ever before in my entire life. It was like the peace you feel on Palm Sunday, standing in the church yard, the sun thawing out your body after the long winter, listening to the birds singing, and seeing the trees starting to bud, signaling the emergence of spring. Those events in that succession always brought peace to my mind, a peace never equaled before until now. Even though he was running his hands through my hair the feeling went clear to my toes.
"Time to wake up sleepy head."
"I know. What time is it?"
"You have just enough time to get dressed, brush your teeth and hair and get to work on time." I got up while James went back to the kitchen. "Got to go to work," James said as he came into the bedroom. He walked up to me and gave me a big hug. "Hope you have a great day."
"Thank you," I said. "Hope you do too." He was off. Wish I had his energy in the morning. I finished getting ready for work. When I got to work, I was very awake, feeling good about the day.
"Hi Lisa, how are you doing."
"Aren't you bright and cheery today."
"Guess so, hadn't noticed," I said.
"Got enough to do today?"
"Sure Lisa, plenty."
"Good, I'm going to be tied up in meetings today, might catch you later. If you got any questions come find me."
"Thanks, hope you have a good day."
"Well thank you Shawn. How very nice of you to say, hope you do as well." Maybe James was starting to rub off on me. I was never like this before first thing in the morning. As I worked I was able to concentrate and get a lot accomplished. Not that I was trying to stay busy this time, just wanted to. Work went fast before I knew it was lunch and shortly after that time to go home. James wasn't home yet, and I was tired from work, so I changed into some more comfortable clothes, put on some music and lay down on the couch. The sky was beautiful, clouds were floating by, the sun still high for five thirty in the afternoon but it was summer. My eyes were tired, I closed them and began to relax. The couch seemed to have arms that held me down. I felt a hand stroking my hair, I opened my eyes, it was James.
"How long have you been home?" I asked.
"Long enough to get changed is all. We worked late today."
"It must be late, the sun is starting to get low in the sky. Guess I fell asleep."
"Hard day today?"
James was still stroking my hair feeling it, running it through his hands. "Not so much a hard day, just that I worked hard and got a lot done."
"That's good, you lay here as long as you need I'm going to get dinner ready." He was off to the kitchen. I was enjoying his touch, the way he ran his hand through my hair. It wasn't so much him just doing it, more like he adored me. I decided to get up and talk to him, keep him company. James was busy looking around for different things, probably trying to get some ideas for supper. Something must have come to him, because he started getting things out on the counter, and checked the refrigerator twice. He looked at me, "how about beef stroganoff?"
"That's a great idea."
"Only need one thing, would you mind running up to the corner store and getting some Philadelphia cream cheese?"
"I can do that." Never heard of the stuff but if it made James happy, then I would get him some.
"Good, look in the refrigerated sections, it needs to be cold."
"Be right back." I grabbed my keys, and while driving, noticed the sun was sinking; the clouds were starting to get some color to them. People were outside enjoying the cooler part of the day. I had the top down and the wind was blowing at me, putting the day's events behind me, leaving me to think about only one thing, James. I couldn't get him out of my mind, didn't want to. Once inside I finally found what he told me to get and headed back home. How was it that I had feelings for a boy then? Not that I was in love with him, at least I didn't think I was, just that he was close, very close. I've had friends before for years and never felt this close to them. James and I seemed to share everything. I've shared stories with others before. Triumphs were easy, disappointments mostly kept to myself. Feelings never. With James it was so easy. I returned to the kitchen, and handed James the package.
"That's the stuff," he said, setting it on the counter and turning back toward me. I walked toward him, he stood still, and then I placed my arms around him and gave him a hug. He did the same, and we stood there for a few minutes. I didn't want to let go but I knew he needed to, so that he could get our dinner ready. I released him, and went to go sit down at one of the stools there at the counter. He had some hamburger meat in a pot on the stove. It was a big chunk of meat, as he turned it I could see it was still frozen. He went back to the cutting board where he had some onions already cut and a few more to go. He worked happily, almost in his own little world. The setting sun with its yellow and orange light reflected off his hair. His hair seemed to sparkle as the sun danced around. There was a glow to James, as if he were an angel. The sun was playing tricks with me. I wish he would turn to look at me, so that I could look into his eyes. He was cutting up mushrooms now, still trying to get the beef de-thawed as well. James put the onions in another pan on the stove, started cooking them, and turning the hamburger over getting it thawed out. He was standing there with his back to me going back and forth from the meat to the onions. I could see streaks of yellow from the top of his head as they blended into the darker brown along the back of his head. Nice broad shoulders but not too wide. He had a small waist but not as small as mine. Actually he probably looked better than me, I was too thin. His legs were well tanned, in good shape, and they lead up to his small and rounded butt. Everything about him was perfect. I admired his appearance, his manners, his grace and his eyes. I wish I could be more like him I thought. I suddenly felt the urge to be near him, to touch him. I couldn't fight it anymore and walked over to him, placed a hand on his shoulder.
"How's it going?"
"The onions are cooking just fine, and in a few minutes I think I'll get this beef thawed out enough to start browning it." He looked up at me, I saw the eyes that I longed to look into. They were full of peace, and joy. Mostly I think they were full of love. They had a look to them like no other. He was looking past my eyes now, at the top and sides of my head.
"Your hair sparkles in the sun," he said placing his arm around my waist. I was standing between him and the sun. It must be coming through the window behind me. Had to tell him what I saw.
"Funny I saw the same sparkle in your hair just a few minutes ago. There was a glow around you, I think you're an angel."
"Me? You're the angel. There is a glow around your head now."
"It's just the sun," I said, as I moved my hand from the shoulder closest to me to his far shoulder, drawing me closer to him.
"Just a few days ago I was lost, drowning in the rain, no where to go, and stranded in a way. You brought me to your house offered me shelter, a shower, and a warm meal. Then you offered me your home and would not take no for an answer. You offered me more. Your love and compassion. Your the angel not me." He took hold of my hair, pulling down to the top of my shoulders. He did that about three or four times, then threw his arms around my shoulders and pulled me tight. I had both my arms around his waist, as he pulled me into him. I heard those quick short breaths, gasping for air, and I knew he was crying. I took one of my hands and stroked the back of his head. I ran my fingers up through his hair, splitting it apart, then back down with the palm of my hand smoothing it back out.
"It's okay James, I'm here, we are together here, just you and me. You can cry if you need to. It's okay." He was still gasping for air, I felt him quivering as he fought to hold back a violent sob, and he must of fought hard because he kept gasping for breath and quivering, with an endless supply of tears. His heart was troubled, and I had no idea what was on his mind.
"Its okay James, just let it out. Let it go." I continued to stroke his hair and sooth him. He pulled even tighter on me as if we could get any closer. He kept struggling for air, as I rubbed his back with both hands and arms, hoping he could breath again. He didn't loosen his grip on me one bit. If anything he pulled tighter. He was very strong, and I could feel his strength in his rigid chest and his arms squeezing my body tight against his. He still was gasping for air, but less so.
He was trying to breath normal, and loosened his grip a little. I stroked his hair again, and told him over and over "it was okay, everything is going to be alright."
He pulled back a minute so he could talk, "I'll, be, okay," he said in-between his gasps for breath. He put his head back on my shoulder and held me tight. I wonder why he is crying like this. Maybe he'll tell me in a minute. At least his breathing was returning to normal. He backed away again, had his head down. I put my hands up to his face and wiped away his tears. "Is everything okay James?" He nodded his head yes, still not looking at me. "James, what's the matter?" He wasn't answering me, and kept his head down. "Look something's wrong, and I want you to tell me."
"Nothing's wrong," he said quietly, and still no eye contact. James went from looking down to looking over at the stove.
"James please tell me if something is wrong. I'm your friend remember. Please don't shut me out like this, if there is something wrong you need to tell me." I grabbed both his shoulders, he was almost dead weight, "okay," I shook him slightly, "James." I let go and backed off from him. "Do you need some room?"
He looked up rather sheepishly, "yeah I guess so," I caught his eye for a second, and then he looked back down again. He was looking at his feet, he scuffed his foot across the floor. "I want to tell you," then looked me square in the eye, "I need to tell you, but."
"Are you okay?" I asked quietly
"Are you mad at me?" I asked him.
He looked up, caught my eye, appeared to look right through me, "nothing could be further from the truth," and he said so rather strongly, then in a quiet voice he said, "I'm not mad at you, okay."
"I'll give you all the time you need James. Anytime you need to talk to me you can. Okay?"
"Okay," he said as he looked up at me for a nana second. I took the two steps back to him, gave him a hug, and told him, "I'll always be here for you."
"Thanks Shawn." I gave him one last squeeze and released him. I went to the living room, while he resumed cooking. I laid down on the couch looking out the window at the sky. I wonder what was up with James. No one cries like that without some reason. I hope it wasn't me. I don't think I did or said anything wrong, but for some reason he wouldn't talk to me. I felt like I needed to talk to him too. It was my feelings for him. I didn't understand them completely, nor did I understand what was happening to my feelings for Shelly. How was it that I cared for her so much, and now I felt like those feelings were slipping away? I was sure I could talk to James about that, but not so sure I could talk to him about the feelings I had for him. If he heard me talk like that, he would probably think I was gay, and I wasn't that. Couldn't be. I thought about Shelly again, but she was too far away from me, and that distance between us was growing, as I thought more about my new friend. He was telling me a happy story, so why didn't he want to talk to me about it. I'll just give him some room like he asked. I got up to take my shower, and picked out my sleepwear for the night. The water felt great, getting clean felt even better. I put on my bedclothes, even though it wasn't time yet, and wondered back out to the kitchen.
"Smells good in here."
"Oh, hey there Shawn." He looked up only briefly then went back to the stove for a minute. He appeared in thought because he didn't stir a thing just stood there in front of the stove.
"I'm sorry," he said as he turned around toward me, and walked over putting his arms around me.
"No need to be sorry, there's nothing to be sorry about." He was rubbing my back.
"I just feel bad about the way I acted."
"James it's okay, you can tell me what's on your mind when you're ready to."
"I know." His voice kind of trailed off as he said it.
"When is supper ready?"
"Another ten minutes."
"I can hardly wait, it smells so good." Those ten minutes were agony. Not just in anticipation of eating but also watching James. He was smiling less, didn't say anything the whole time. I wanted him to talk to me, but he wasn't talking.
"James, everything okay?"
"Yup. Should be ready in another minute. Just waiting for the noodles to finish." Not exactly what I was referring to, but I decided not to push it. He continued to stir things, then got out some plates, dumped the noodles into a colander, got a big spoon out and turned off the stove.
"Ready to eat," he said.
"I'm there." We both put plenty of food on our plates, then sat down to eat.
"This is really good. You have out done yourself this time."
"Thanks. Glad you like it," he said and continued to stuff his face, and so did I? Didn't say another thing till I was done.
"There's more, if you want some."
"Yes I do, that was so good." I proceeded to get seconds, and sat down, James did the same. "So how was work today?" I asked
"Kind of boring."
"Why what did you do?"
"Not so much what we did, more like what we didn't do. I thought we would get done with the boundary we were on. Instead my boss spent a lot of the day on the phone. Just as we were getting something done the phone would ring. Then he would have to call someone else. What about you? How was work?"
"It went real well. Lisa said I was bright and cheery this morning."
"From what I've seen that would be a major accomplishment."
"I know, I think you're rubbing off on me."
"Lets hope I don't rub off too much."
"What makes you say that?"
"I don't know, you just don't want to be like me is all."
"Not true, you're practically my idol."
"You have a much better life ahead of you than I ever will," he said in a rather monotone voice.
"Don't say that. There's nothing wrong with you."
"Yeah, you don't know the thoughts going on inside my head."
"I guess you're right, I don't, but I don't care, I know the kind of person you are."
"You have a lot to learn Shawn. You don't know the world like I do. You are still young and innocent."
He had me there. I didn't know half of what he did. "Will you be my guide then?" He just looked at me not saying a word and went back to eating. Couldn't see the point in continuing. He was just down on himself and wouldn't let me cheer him up. I finished my plate and took it to the sink. I started to clean up the kitchen. James finished while I was washing the pans up. He set his plate down without a word and went off to the bathroom. I finished in the kitchen and went to go sit down and watch the sun set. I could hear the water running, James was taking a shower. Not much left of the sunset. There were no colors at all, just a dim light coming from that direction, and soon it would be dark. I watched TV for a while waiting for James to come out. He was taking forever. I know the water ran for a long time. Then silence. I waited for almost an hour. I went to go check on him and everything was dark. I wasn't interested in the TV program I was watching anyway so I turned it off, and did my before bedtime routine. I crawled into bed, next to James, as he lay there asleep. I felt sorry for him. I wish I knew what he was going through now but he wouldn't talk to me. He was lying on his side, facing away from me. I laid on my side facing the same way he was and moved over to him. I put my arm around his waist and hand up to his chest. I lay as close to him as I could get. My chest to his back, my crotch to his butt, the front of my legs to the backs of his legs. I wanted to comfort him, to make him feel better about himself. I couldn't believe the heat there between the two of us, and I was getting a little warm but refused to let go. Instead I lay there thinking about him, wishing life would be better to him. He needed someone special in his life. To soon for a new girlfriend. Maybe I could find someone to introduce him to. You know to let him know at least there are other people in the world. He could find another girl easy, but would it be the right one is another question? If that was what he wanted? I was hoping not. Somehow I wanted him, didn't want to share him with anybody, but if wanted a girlfriend, then for his sake, I hoped he could find one. Slowly my thoughts I departed from me, my grip on James became more relaxed, but I stayed close to him. I felt the world slip away as I drifted off to sleep. I woke up sometime during the night, James still next to me laying on his back now. I still had an arm across his chest. The front of my legs pressed up close to the side of his. It didn't take long and I was back asleep. When I woke again, it was just getting light, but still dark, just a soft gray light. The kind of light that let you make out the outlines of things, but no details were visible. This time I was lying on my back, James was laying on his front, one arm crumpled up to him, sound asleep. I turned over and lay on my front as well, getting up close to him, close as I could and placed my arm across his back, hand down near his hip. I closed my eyes, and in a very soft, whisper, I prayed. "God take care of this boy, watch over him, and keep him safe. Guide him today to find that peace within himself. It's there, I've seen it, help him to rediscover the good within him. Help him to find love today, show him the world does care and that I care. Help him to see that, just how much I care about him, maybe that will help. Watch over him and take care of him. Amen." I lay still and silent next to him. A single tear left my eye and rolled down my cheek and nose. I looked over at him, still asleep, motionless, peaceful, dreaming happy dreams I hope. "This world would not be the same without you in it James Ryan," I said in a soft, gentle voice. He stirred a minute, then went back to sleep. It wasn't time to get up yet and when I woke again, it was much lighter outside. I felt this weight upon me. James was still laying on his front, partly on his side, I was still on my front. He had one of his legs across my two legs, part of his chest against my back and his arm across my shoulders. He had his head buried in my hair, I could feel his breath on the back of my head. I moved my arm and drew it close to me. I felt his hand, very gently stroke my hair. Barely touching as not to bother me.
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