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What We Are II

Summer Heat

by Richie Ryan

Chapter 19: Breaking the Pact

Moving zombie-like, his mind in turmoil with thoughts of coming out to his family, Richie slowly stripped out of his clothes, dropping them into the hamper as he did. When he was naked, his thoughts still taking precedence over concern for his current task, he moved mechanically into the hallway on his way to the bathroom. His inattention quickly became evident to him when he nearly walked into his mother at the top of the stairs. It would have been a toss-up as to who was embarrassed the most by the confrontation as they stood face to face in shocked silence, but it was Richie that broke the unexpected standoff. Frantically trying to cover himself, he quickly retreated into his bedroom where he scooted behind the door to hide his nakedness.

"Um, Mom!" he said as he peered around the edge of the door. "Um, sorry about that. I guess I wasn't thinkin."

"I guess not," said his mother, amused now that the shock had worn off. "You may well save yourself some unnecessary embarrassment if you remember that you're at home now, and not up north with your friends."

"Yes, ma'am, I'll remember that."

"Good, then hurry up with your shower. The Lindstroms will be here any minute now," she said over her shoulder as she made her way down the hall.

Closing his door, his cheeks still burning, Richie sat down heavily on the edge of his bed.

'Whoa,' he thought. 'Focus, dude.' Reminding himself that no matter what happened when he came out it wouldn't be happening tonight, he did his best to put all thoughts of it out of his mind. He knew his mother was especially attuned to his behavior patterns, so he had to be extra careful not to do anything to give her cause to question his state of mind. If she thought something was bothering him, that something was on his mind, it was almost a given that she would bombard him with questions until he gave her a satisfactory explanation. When he was confident that he was once again able to focus on the here and now, he dug a pair of boxers out of his hamper and stepped into them before leaving his room for the second time. Noticing that his mother was no longer in the hallway, he stopped at the linen closet for a clean towel, then went into the bathroom to take his shower.

Fifteen minutes later, showered and dressed in a clean pair of cargo pants and a white T-shirt, he took a final look at himself in his mirror before heading back downstairs. About half way down, he heard the familiar double chime of the front doorbell.

"I'll get it!" he hollered as he leaped over the few remaining steps to land in front of the door. He knew it would be the Lindstroms. This thought caused him to think how weird it was to be letting them in the front door. Like Lindy, the rest of the Lindstrom family always came to the back door. Tonight was a special, if not more formal occasion, however, and that called for a front door entrance. Smiling at how silly this seemed, he pulled the door open to admit his guests.

"Hey," he said to the four member family as he stepped aside to let them in.

"Happy birthday, Richie," said Alice Lindstrom before leaning past the birthday cake she carried to give him a kiss on the cheek.

"Thanks, Mrs. L," he said without embarrassment at the expected kiss. "Hey, Mr. L," he added as he reached out to shake Frank Lindstrom's hand.

"Hi Richie," answered Lindy's dad before moving on into the house. Behind him was Lindy's brother, Brad, who gave him the obligatory 'Hey' with an unenthusiastic nod of his head before following his parents.

"Hey, bro," said Lindy as he moved inside so Richie could shut the door.

Just as he pushed the door closed, the phone rang. Since most of the phone calls to the Andrews household were for Richie, he and Lindy waited in silence for a moment to see if he'd be called to answer it. Sure enough, almost immediately Richie's mother leaned into the living room with the kitchen cordless in her hand, and a look of curiosity on her face.

"Richie? There's a TJ on the phone for you."

'Yes!' thought Richie. "Thanks, Mom, I'll take it in my room."

"OK, but don't be too long, you two," she called out as Richie and Lindy bounded up the stairs. "Dinner's almost ready," she quickly added, raising her voice slightly in hopes of catching them before they closed the door.

Once behind the closed door, Richie snatched up his phone from the night-stand before sitting on the edge of his bed.

"Thanks, Mom, I got it," he said. As soon as he heard his mother hang up the phone downstairs, he spoke again. "Hey, TJ. What up? You guys in town yet?"

"Yeah. We got in about five minutes ago. What're you up to?"

"Aw, the usual. My mom invited the Lindstroms over for dinner to celebrate my birthday, so I'll have to call ya back later. OK?"

"Sure, dude, no prob. I'll be here all night."

"Cool, I'll talk to ya later, then."

"See ya," said TJ before the line went dead.

Reaching over to return his phone to its home on his night-stand, Richie picked up the purple envelope containing the tickets. Before he could do anything more, though, Lindy snatched them out of his hand and sat on the bed next to him. Carefully pulling them from the envelope, he fanned them out to look at them more closely.

"These are awesome, man," he said thoughtfully. "Have you told the rents about 'em yet?"

"No. I haven't had a chance, yet." Then, resting his elbows on his knees, he cradled his chin in his upturned palms while staring at the floor between his feet.

"What's the matter, bro? If I ever got a cool present like this, I'd be like dancing a jig or somethin. You worried about what your parents are gonna say about 'em?"

"Nah, not really," said Richie without looking up. "Oh, for sure they're gonna tell me they're way too expensive for a gift, but I can handle that OK. It's just that..."

"It's not the tickets that's got your mind messed up, is it? You're still torturing yourself over coming out to them, aren't ya?"

"Well, duh!" said Richie, sounding meaner than he wanted. Realizing this, and knowing his problems weren't Lindy's fault, he quickly apologized. "Sorry, bro, I didn't mean to bite your head off. This thing's really got my head fucked up right now, is all. Hell, I don't even know how or when to do it. It seemed like such an easy no-brainer before, ya know? Now that its time to do it, I'm like so unsure." After a moment of silence, Richie looked up to Lindy and said, "Look, bro, we gotta eat now, but would you mind hanging around a while after? I need your help on this one."

"Sure, Rich, no prob," said Lindy as he returned the tickets to the night-stand. Then, with a classic Lindy twinkle in his eyes, he added, "Hell, I'll stay all night if I can have some more of your Mom's awesome peach pie."

"You got it, bro," said Richie before sending them into their slap-tap.

"C'mon you two, dinner's on the table!" came the call from Richie's mom at the bottom of the stairs.

Dinner was very pleasant, and as usual, the food was delicious. If a stranger were to observe this gathering, he surely would have thought the eight of them were all one family rather than two. Of course, the bulk of the table conversation was taken up with Richie's and Lindy's shared account of their five day trip to Gull Lake. Since the birthday party was of primary interest to their audience, they recounted that first without, for obvious reasons, bothering to mention some of the finer details. Among these omissions was any mention of the tickets. Although Lindy couldn't understand why Richie was keeping quiet about them, since to him they were most important news of all, he managed to keep his mouth shut. After all, they were Richie's tickets so it wasn't Lindy's place to steal his thunder.

They were nearly finished eating, and the two mothers had begun to clear away the dinner dishes to make room for dessert when the boys began to tell of TJ's rescue.

"TJ?" asked Richie mom while she distributed clean plates for the cake and ice-cream. "Is that the boy who called earlier?"

"Yeah," said Richie. "His real name is Terrence Jerome Allison III, but everybody calls him TJ. They live in Arlington Heights and his dad owns a cabin on the north end of the lake."

"Whoa, Arlington Heights," piped up a rarely heard from Brad. "Must be rich to live over there."

"Yeah," said Lindy, unable to keep from boasting about the wealth of their new friend. "Think Allison Motors when ya hear the name."

"Really?" asked Lindy's dad with surprise. "We do some overflow work for Allison Chev when they get backed up."

Moments later, Alice Lindstrom emerged from the kitchen with Richie's birthday cake. It was a three layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting adorned with sixteen brightly lit candles. While the rest of the group sang Happy Birthday, Richie smiled when he noticed the extra candle. He didn't know if other families followed this tradition, but whenever one of their own had a birthday, the extra candle was always present. It was his grandmother that introduced it, and when he was little she explained it as being 'one to grow on'. Remembering this gave him a new thought concerning his coming-out - how would his two sets of grandparents react. Before he could dwell on it, however, he was brought back to reality when the song ended and his mother encouraged him to make a wish and blow out the candles. Richie hadn't believed much in birthday wishes since grade school, but with all he had on his mind right now, he found himself wishing for the obvious - an easy coming-out.

During a lull in the dessert conversation, Lindy's brother casually mentioned the fact that most of the NFL teams would be starting training camp in a week.

"I read where the Vikings are pretty high on the new running back they picked up in the draft," said Richie's dad.

"Ain't gonna do 'em any good," said Brad, who like his brother, was a staunch Packer fan. "They don't have a defense that's worth a hoot, especially in the secondary. Favre is gonna pick 'em apart like a leftover Thanksgiving Day turkey... and I'm gonna love every minute of it." He made the last part of his statement while giving Richie a smugly superior look.

Even though Lindy agreed with his assessment of the Vikings defense, the fact that his little brother was taking a shot at his best friend made it impossible for him to keep quiet. "Yeah? Well, little bro, while you're sitting in front of the TV for those games, me and Rich'll be sitting in the third row on the fifty-yard line."

"Yeah?! So what're you gonna do, sneak in?"

This was more than Lindy could stand. Before saying anything, however, he turned to Richie, his look pleading for him to say the words that would shut his little brother up.

Richie, too, found it hard to keep quiet any longer, so after giving Lindy a subtle wink, he pointed his finger at Brad and said, "Sit tight, little dude, cause I've got something to show you."

With Lindy grinning like a Cheshire cat, Richie raced up to his bedroom to retrieve the tickets. When he returned, he carefully slipped them from the envelope and held them out for Brad. Having no idea what it was that Richie held, Brad began to reach for them.

Batting his hands away at the last second, Lindy said, "Don't touch them with your sticky fingers, numb-nuts, those are worth more than you are."

"Kenneth Lindstrom! You watch your mouth, young man," said Lindy's mother.

"Sorry, Mom," said Lindy as he wiped his hands on his napkin before taking the tickets from Richie. "But he'll just get 'em all sticky or drop 'em into his ice-cream or somethin." After a quick look himself, Lindy fanned them out in front of his brother's face. "OK, tell me what you see, little bro... and take special note of the seating when you do."

"Whoa!" said Brad, so shocked that he could say no more.

"C'mon, little big-mouth, tell me what you see," said Lindy, thoroughly enjoying the moment. When his brother continued his silence, Lindy handed the tickets to his dad while he said what his brother couldn't. "That's right, dipstick, they're four tickets for each game... and in case you missed it, they're all in the third row on the fifty-yard line."

"I'll bet those cost somebody a pretty penny," said Lindy's dad before handing them back to Richie.

Still smiling at the look on Brad's face, Richie passed the tickets on to his father who looked at them thoughtfully while his mother gazed down at them from over his shoulder. After a moment, he handed them to Richie's brother, Carl, then looked over to Richie with fatherly concern.

"Mind if I ask where you got these, son?"

"No, not at all," said Richie, fully expecting the question. "They're sort of a birthday present from TJ. Actually, they're from both him and his dad. See, his dad has season tickets for both the Vikings and the Packers. So, when TJ suggested he give them to me as a birthday present, his dad thought it was a great idea. He kinda wanted to give us something for pulling TJ out of the lake so I guess that's why he gave me all four."

"Awfully expensive birthday present, don't you think?" asked Richie's mom.

"Yeah, for us they would be, but not for TJ's dad. Besides, how could I turn them down when he wanted me to have 'em so much? It would've been kind of rude, don't ya think?"

"That's true," said his mom in agreement. "Even though they are a bit expensive, it was a very nice gesture. I sure hope you thanked them properly... both TJ and his dad... and I'll expect you to send them a thank you note as well."

"I did," said Richie as he took the tickets back and returned them to the envelope. "Matter of fact, I probably thanked TJ so much he got tired of it. I thanked his dad the next day, too, but I'll still send him a note."

When Richie began to look for a safe place to put the tickets, Lindy reached out for them. "Here, bro, let me have another look at those bad boys."

Having so much fun at his brother's expense, he spread the eight tickets out in the middle of the table in front of him. "So, what d'ya got to say now, Bradley."

"Cool," he said with a shrug of his shoulders as he returned to finishing his ice-cream. Although his brother put on a good act to hide his jealousy, Lindy knew he was fuming inside and he loved every minute of it.

Amused that Lindy was having so much fun with his little brother, Richie's attention was interrupted when Mrs. Lindstrom tapped him on the shoulder to hand him a birthday card.

"There aren't any front row tickets in here, Richie, but maybe you can pick up a souvenir T-shirt or jersey with this when you go."

When he opened the card he found a crisp new fifty dollar bill tucked neatly inside. "Whoa, this is great," he said. "Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. L. For sure I'll be putting this to good use."

"Here, sweetheart. From your father and me," said Richie's mom with a smile as she handed him another card. "You won't find any tickets in here, either, but I think you'll be able to make use what we got for you."

The first thing Richie noticed when he opened the envelope was that the card inside was homemade rather than purchased from a card shop. He knew his mother had made it herself with the aid of the family computer when he saw one of his baby pictures adorning the cover. Below it was a beautifully handwritten two word phrase that read 'From this'. When he opened it, he looked at another picture on the inside cover that was taken last Christmas. Smiling, he remembered when his mother took it. It was just before they left for church on Christmas Eve and his mother wanted to capture the rare occasion when Richie was dressed up in a coat and tie. Beneath this picture was another handwritten phrase that read 'To this'.

Lying along the fold of the card, and covering up what was written on the back cover, was a business card from the ESSE Driving School. Flipping it over to read the rest of the card, a lump began to form in his throat.

"What is it?" asked Lindy.

"Oh, um, it's driver's training," said Richie as he handed the business card to Lindy. Then, to his parents, he said, "Thanks, guys, this is really cool."

"You're welcome, Richie," said his dad. "You also have an appointment with the DMV on Thursday to take your written test, so you better dig out your driver's manual and review it. If you pass, which I fully expect you to do, you can call the number on that card to set up your class schedule. We didn't want to do that for you because you'll want to fit it into your work schedule. It's all set and paid for, though, so all you have to do is work out the details."

"Whoa, dude, that is like so cool," said the always upbeat Lindy. "I know what I want for my birthday next month, hint, hint," he added for the benefit of his parents.

Richie was thrilled with his parents' gift. He'd always assumed that he would have to wait to take Driver's Ed when school started in the fall, but now he would be starting school with his learners permit proudly tucked within his wallet and at least a few hours of behind-the-wheel experience. With these thoughts in mind, he gave his mother a huge hug and an affectionate kiss on the cheek.

"Hey, what am I, chopped liver?" asked his dad in good humor.

Smiling, Richie leaned over to give him a hug as well. "Thanks, Dad, that's like the best present ever."

As soon as both birthday cards had made their way around the table so everybody could read them, Richie took them back as he signaled Lindy with a sideward nod of his head to follow him upstairs.

When Lindy began to pick up the tickets, Brad looked up to catch Richie's attention just as he was leaving the room. "Hey, Rich. If something should happen to my brother on game day... like a terrible accident or somethin... could I come with ya, instead?"

"Oh, you'd love that, wouldn't ya, dorko," said Lindy as he punched his brother not so lightly in the arm. Wanting to get in one final shot before he left, Lindy held the tickets just inches from his brother's face, and said, "Take another look, little bro, cause it's the last time you'll ever see 'em."

"Kenny!" said his dad, finally tiring of Lindy's treatment of his sibling. "I think you've made you point, now give it a rest."

With his face flushing from his father's words, Lindy ignored the smug smile on his brother's face as he tucked the tickets into the envelope on his way to catch up with Richie. When he got to his room, he found his best friend sitting at his desk and staring out the window while he casually turned his parent's card over in his fingers. Dropping the purple envelope onto the night-stand, Lindy moved up behind him to give his shoulder a gentle squeeze.

"Might be a dumb question, bro, but what's on your mind?"

"This," said Richie as he held his card above his shoulder for Lindy to take.

Opening it, he tossed the red and white business card onto the desk before reading the birthday card from cover to cover. When he was done, he thought it was really nice and couldn't understand why it should have Richie in such a somber mood.

"This is pretty cool, bro. So what's the problem? Am I missing something here?"

"Read it again, Lindy."

Thinking that a second reading would reveal no more than the first, Lindy did as Richie asked and read carefully.

Dear Richie,

Fifteen years have passed between these two pictures, and you have grown into a fine young man that any parent would be proud to call their son. You're no longer the baby on the cover, nor the handsome young man in the coat and tie. Even in the six months since the last picture was taken, you've grown beyond our expectations, and you've done it so quickly we've barely been able to keep up. Although we will always love and cherish your first fifteen years, and miss the little boy you used to be, we look forward to the next fifteen with just as much love and pride. No matter what happens in your life as you continue to grow, we want you to know that we love you and we'll always be here for you.

All our love, Mom and Dad

"Sorry, man, but I still don't see what you're talkin about."

"I think they know, Lindy, or at least they suspect something."

"And you think that because of what's in this card? C'mon, Rich, it's just a typical Mom and Dad birthday card. What's the big deal?"

"I don't know. It's just not something they'd say, ya know? Especially the last sentence. What if they're trying to tell me they know? You know, trying to let me know it's OK that I'm gay. Like maybe they're trying to encourage me to come out to them."

"Yeah? Well, I spose you could read it like that... or you could read it for just what it says, too. I think you're just being paranoid or something. How could they know, anyway? They sure weren't acting any different tonight."

"I know, but that don't mean anything. They're too cool to let it show if they knew."

After a moment of thought while Lindy reread the card, he said, "OK. Let's say they do know... which I'm not so sure I agree with... then that's a good thing, right? If they already know, then telling them is cake."

"Yeah, I suppose so... I mean it should be... but if they know, how did they find out? Not only that, but how long have they known... and if they know, who else knows?"

"Whoa! Easy, dude. Now I know you're making way too much out of this. Ya know what Kyle would say, don't ya? You're overanalyzing the whole thing... and all you're doin is messing up your mind more than it already is. There's only one way you're ever gonna find out, ya know, and that's to tell 'em"

Just then, they heard the muffled voice of Richie's mother calling up to them from the bottom of the stairs. "The Lindstroms are about to leave, Richie."

"Think she's tryin to tell us somethin?" asked Richie.

"Yup. Looks like it's time to put on your 'thank you, thank you, thank you' face for my parents."

"Hey, bro, your parents as much as gave me a new Vikings jersey tonight, so yeah... you bet I'm gonna thank 'em."

Before anything more could be said, there was another call from Richie's mom, this time it showed her impatience. "Richie! Your guests are leaving now!"

Jumping to their feet, they raced down the stairs to find the rest of Lindy's family by the front door saying their good-byes to Richie's parents.

"Thanks again for the card and the money, Mr. and Mrs. L. I'll be sure to model my new jersey for you when we get back from the first game."

"Oh, you're welcome, Richie," said Mrs. Lindstrom before giving him another hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"You coming with us, Kenny?" asked Lindy's dad.

"Nah," said Lindy while he looked to Richie for confirmation. "I'm gonna hang around here for awhile and have another piece of Mrs. A's awesome pie."

"OK, sweetheart," said his mother. "There's a few pieces of cake left, too, if you boys are hungry enough."

"Don't stay too late, son. We have a big day at the shop tomorrow, so I want you to get to bed at a reasonable time tonight," added his dad as he stepped onto the front porch.

"No prob, Dad, I won't be long."

With that said, Richie thanked his guests once more for coming before he closed the door against the heat and humidity. When the boys got to the kitchen, Carl and Richie's dad were already drooling over the four remaining pieces of pie. It was Richie's mom who answered any question they may have had as to who would finish them off.

"You four dig in. I've already had my allotment of calories for one day."

"Alright!" exclaimed Lindy. "You spose there's any ice-cream left to go with 'em?"

"Already on it, bro," said Richie as he opened the freezer door.

While Richie added a generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream to each of the plates that his mother laid out, Carl made idle conversation.

"Those are some pretty awesome tickets you got there, sport."

"Yeah, they are. I'm just worried that my best bud's gonna wear 'em out by takin them out of the envelope to look at 'em so much."

"That TJ sounded like a nice polite boy when he called. I'd like to meet him sometime," said his mother.

"Oh, you will, I'm pretty sure of that," said Richie. "Which reminds me, I gotta call him back," he added as he returned the ice-cream to the freezer.

"Don't you stay up too late tonight, either, son," said his dad. "I want you to cut the grass tomorrow, and if you want to get it done before it gets too hot, you'll have to get up before noon."

"Got it covered, Dad," said Richie as he and Lindy left the kitchen, shoveling pie and ice-cream into their mouths as they went.

It was almost nine-thirty when they returned to Richie's room. Sitting on the edge of the bed, they remained silent for the next five minutes while they enjoyed their snack. It was Richie who finished first. While he waited for Lindy, he placed his empty plate on his desk, then pulled the slip of paper TJ had given him from his wallet. Snatching up the cordless from his night-stand, he sat back down again and began programming TJ's phone numbers into his speed dial. By the time he was done, Lindy had finished eating and picked up the slip of paper from the bed where Richie had discarded it.

"Whoa, I still can't believe this dude has his own private phone number plus a cell phone."

"Don't ya think we could, too, if our dads made that much money?" asked Richie after punching in the code for TJ's private number.

"You shittin me? My dad could be a bazillionaire, and he'd still think it was a waste of money."

Between the second and third rings, Richie heard TJ's voice come on the line. "Yo, Rich, what up dude?"

"I'm guessing you have caller ID, right?"

"Well, yeah," said TJ. "Doesn't everybody?"

"No. We didn't have it until I got my own phone... and the only reason we have it now is because my dad got tired of answering it so much when it's usually for me. Now all he has to do is look at the caller ID and holler at me to get it."

"You must be a popular guy. This phone hardly ever rings, so I was pretty sure it was you even before I looked at the caller ID," said TJ, sounding a little down. Before Richie could answer, though, he went on in a brighter tone of voice. "So, how was your second party?"

"It was cool, but it was more of a family thing than a party. What're you up to?"

"Aw nothin. You wanna come over and check out the pool tomorrow? As hot as it's gonna be, I can't think of a better place to hang out."

"Oh, for sure. Thing is, I have to cut the grass in the morning, and I'm sure my mom's got something else planned for me to do afterwards. By the way, she said you sounded like a nice polite boy when you called. Says she wants to meet you."

"Yeah? Now there's a first."

"TJ, man, you gotta stop putting yourself down like that. I'll make a deal with ya. You help me work on my tan and I'll help you work on your self-esteem."

"Deal. From the way my mom's been talkin, we'll be in town all week. So if ya can't make it over tomorrow, there's always the day after. How bout next weekend? You wanna come to the lake with me?"

"Love to, bro, but I doubt the rents would let me go. You know how it is. Somethin about them wanting to see me around here for part of the summer."

"Sure, I understand. Maybe some other time," said TJ with obvious disappointment.

Hearing this, Richie made an attempt to raise his spirits. "Tell ya what, bro. I'll get my ass up early and cut the grass, do whatever else my mom may have up her sleeve, then give you a call when I'm done. If I work things right, I should be able to come over to your place sometime in the afternoon."

"Yes!" said an enthusiastic TJ. "I'll be waitin by the phone."

"Cool. Talk to ya tomorrow, then."

"See ya," said TJ to end the conversation.

"Whoa, you goin over to check out his pool tomorrow?" asked Lindy.

"Yeah, I guess. Kinda depends on what my mom wants me to do around here."

"Shit. Well think about me when you're splashing around in the pool and I'm sweating my ass off at the shop."

"Oh, you poor baby. I'll think about you just like you think about me when you cash your paycheck every week."

Still holding TJ's list of phone numbers, Lindy noticed his email address. "Whoa, check out his email, bro. It's Must be through his dad's company server."

"Really? I didn't notice that before. I wonder if I shouldn't have him get a Hotmail account. I'm not so sure he'd want me to send him gay stuff through his dad's server."

"Good point," said Lindy as he handed the slip of paper back to Richie. While Richie tucked it into his wallet, Lindy stretched out on the bed to make himself comfortable. "So," he said with a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face, "what was it like last night between you and Kyle?"

"Fantastic, man."

"Yeah? So give, man, and don't leave nothin out."

"Listen, Lindy. I'll give you the short version, but I hope you don't mind if I leave out some of the finer details."

"That's cool, bro. As long as it's as good as the short version you gave me at the pond, I'm all ears."

"That's just it, Lindy. Something happened last night that makes some of what we did too personal to tell even you about."

There was a short pause as a cloud of disappointment began to show on Lindy's face. Finally, with a shrug of his shoulders, he said, "Sure, that's cool, Rich. You don't have to tell me anything if you don't want to."

"But I do want to tell you, just without so much detail, is all." Seeing a look of confusion on Lindy's face, Richie went on to explain. "Look, let me tell you what happened, then I think you'll understand."

"Shoot, Luke," said Lindy, eager to find out all he could.

"OK. Actually, it wasn't much different from what happened last winter except that our positions were reversed. Kyle got me ready and loosened me up the same way I did him, only I gotta tell ya, bro, I was so horny I was ready to skip the prep thing and get it on. Man, was I ever glad we didn't skip it. When he first started to put his dick in me, it hurt like hell... even after he had me all lubed up. God, I can't believe how much it hurt. Talk about ripping a new one.

"Anyway, as much as it did hurt, just like Kyle said it would, it went away after a couple of minutes... and once it was gone, it felt great. He started out just like I did with him, too - real slow and easy like - and every time the head of his dick touched over my prostate, I got closer and closer to coming. Well, as horny as I was, I wanted more - it was like doing hard drugs or somethin cause I couldn't get enough. I wanted him to hit that magic spot just as much and as fast as he possibly could, so I told him to do it harder. Oh man, Lindy, pretty soon he was slamming into me just like I slammed him, and it was unbelievable. It didn't take either one of us long after he started doin that, either, I'll tell ya. Before I knew it we were both comin at the same time.

"And ya know what? When we came down after? He was still inside me and we were both still hard as a rock. Matter of fact, we would've done it again if it wasn't for the damn lightning."

"Lightning?" asked Lindy. "What lightning? Why would lightning make ya stop."

"The lightning from the storm, dummy."

"Yeah? So? I guess I must be dumb, cause I still don't see the connection. Why would..."

Suddenly remembering that he'd left out one important piece of the story, Richie interrupted Lindy in mid-sentence. "Oh yeah, I forgot to tell ya, bro. We did it in the lake just when the storm started to move in. That's why we couldn't do it again cause Kyle was afraid it would be too dangerous to temp Mother Nature with all the lightning around us. So, we had to get out of the water. Course, then it started to rain so we went up to the cabin, built a fire and talked for a while.

"We talked about a lot of stuff, but mostly it was about us and how good we are for each other. I guess that's when we realized that what we did was real personal - something that was special between us. When I told him that I loved getting fucked, but that I only wanted to do it with him, he told me the same thing. See, we know things - sex things - about each other now that we want to keep for ourselves. I guess what it comes down to is that we're not as broken-up as we thought. Does that make any sense?"

When Lindy didn't answer, Richie looked over to find him in deep in thought.

"Lindy? You with me, bro?"

As if coming out of a fog, Lindy said, "You guys did it in the lake?"

"Hah," laughed Richie, "Yeah, man, we did. I mean, it's not as if we were in nine feet of water or nothin. We were in shallow where it was just deep enough for me to bend over the dock. I'm telling ya, man, as horny as we were there was no way we were gonna make it up to the cabin, first. You shoulda seen us, bro. There was lightning and thunder all over the place, and there we were, me hanging onto the dock and Kyle slamming into me like a jackhammer."

"Whoa! That is like so wild, man. I'd woulda loved to be a fly on the light pole to see that, and that's for real."

"Really? You'd really like to watch us do that?"

"Well, yeah... I mean no... What I mean is, I wouldn't want to like pull up a chair in the bedroom to watch or nothin, but if I was like passing by and saw you in the water like that... yeah, I'd stay for the show. Wouldn't you?"

"Yeah, I spose I would. I know TJ got a kick out of watchin me suck Kyle's dick."

"Say what?! When the hell did this happen?"

"Friday night, after you and Kevin left us on the beach. TJ couldn't sleep so he came out to see if I was still up and just happen to come out when I was giving Kyle a blow-job on the dock. No big deal really, though he felt bad about hanging around to watch us. Kyle wasn't to crazy about it when I told him, either, but he was OK when I explained that he didn't do it on purpose and how bad he felt for stayin. Anyway, you understand what I meant about what me and Kyle did being so personal, now, don't ya?"

"Say what?"

"Whoa! You really were hung up on that lake thing, weren't ya. Didn't you hear any of what I said about our talk after?"

"Oh, yeah. About how you guys decided to keep anal sex to yourselves? And how you don't think you're as broken-up as you thought you were? Yeah, I heard ya. Tell the truth, I never saw any difference in you guys, anyway. I think you're probably as much of a couple now as you ever were."

"Yeah? Well, almost the same I guess, but not quite. For one thing, I'd have never sucked yours or Kevin's dick if we were exactly the same. But even so, after last night I think we're even closer than we used to be. Kinda weird, huh?"

"I don't know that it's weird," said Lindy with a devilish grin on his face. "I think it's pretty cool, if ya ask me... it sure was cool at the pond." A moment later he became serious again when he asked, "Did you ever tell him about you and Kevin on the raft?"

"Yup, and he was cool with it. I even told him about TJ at the pond."

"TJ at the pond?! You and TJ did it at the pond?! You never told me you guys did anything at the pond."

"Hey, what can I say, bro? I never had a chance till now."

"Whoa!" said Lindy. "All this sex goin on around me and I never had a clue."

"I wouldn't say that, bro," said Richie with a grin as he gave Lindy's thigh a gentle squeeze. "I'd have to say you got your share, don't ya think?"

"True that," said Lindy, smiling again at the thought. "So what was that like? What did you and TJ do up there?"

"Not much, really. I was hoping to get into a little BJ action, but there was this black bear that had other ideas. Did I tell you he's not cut?"

"No. So like what else haven't ya told me?"

"God, Lindy, I don't know. A lot of stuff happened last week. I can't remember if I told you every little thing or not."

"Yeah, I spose... a lot did happen up there." After a thoughtful pause, a look of worry came over Lindy's face. "You didn't tell Kyle about me and you at the pond, did ya?"

"Nope. I told you I wouldn't."

"Well, yeah, but... I know he wouldn't tell anyone else or anything, it's just..."

"Not to worry, bro," interrupted Richie. "That was just between me and you and that's where it'll stay. OK?"

"Thanks," said Lindy. "So, do you think you'll be cool with it the first time Kyle does somethin with another guy?"

"Yeah, I think so. As long as they don't fuck each other, I'll be cool with it. I kinda look at what we did last night as more than just sex. I look at it like we were making love, and that's like way different from swapping blow-jobs just to get off. What do you think? Does that make sense?"

"Yeah, sounds perfect to me, but I doubt that Nancy would see it that way."

"Well maybe girls are different than guys when it comes to sex," said Richie. Almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth, another thought occurred to him. "Oh my God! Lindy, you sly devil, you!" he exclaimed.

"What?" asked a shocked Lindy.

"You guys did it last night, didn't ya?!"

"What? Us? Me and Nancy? In my dreams, maybe... but we did talk about it, finally... and I'm pretty sure we'll be doin it before too long."

"Alright, dude!" said Richie to send them into their slap-tap. "So tell me, what did ya talk about? What did she say, man?"

"We talked about a lot a shit, but at least I found out what her problem's been. She's scared, Rich."

"She's scared? Of you? C'mon, bro, how could anybody be scared of you?" said Richie with a huge grin on his face.

"It's not me she's scared of, Rich. She's scared of doin it. She's a virgin, bro."

"Well, duh. So what? So are you."

"True, but she's dated other guys before. I don't know... I guess I just thought any chick that's gone out with more'n one other guy must've done it with at least one of 'em."

"That's what you thought? After all this time going with her, you still thought she'd done it?"

"Well, yeah. I told you we never talked about sex before, remember? So how the hell would I find out?"

"Good point, I spose," said Richie. "I hope you told her you were a virgin, too."

"Oh yeah," said Lindy. Then with a touch of macho pride in his voice, he added, "She didn't believe me at first, either."

"No shit? Looks like both of you are in for a learning experience. You'll tell me about it, won't ya?"

"Oh, for sure, but I might just leave out some of the details," said Lindy with a smile.

"Hey, that's cool. I hope it's as special for you guys as it was for us." After a short pause, another thought occurred to Richie. "Course, I can't give you any pointers about having sex with a chick, but ya might want to talk to Kevin about it first. I'm betting that Stephanie was a virgin when they started sleeping together, so he might be able to give you some advice."

"Ya know what?" said Lindy, the expression on his face brightening. "That's not such a bad idea. Thanks, bro, I'll do that."

After a quick glance at the clock, Lindy swung his legs off the bed and stood to straighten his clothes. "Well, I better get home before my dad comes lookin for me. I'll give you a call when I get home from work tomorrow."

"Cool," said Richie. Then, as an afterthought, he pulled the list of TJ's phone numbers from his wallet. After scribbling all the information onto another scrap of paper, he handed it to Lindy before dropping the original onto his night-stand. "Here, take these with you. If I'm not home when you call, try me over at TJ's"

Just as Richie was about to open the door to show Lindy out, Lindy grabbed him by the arm. "Look, Rich, I um... well I didn't have a chance to give you my present yet."

"Your present? Oh, man... I thought we made a pact when we were like ten or eleven years old not to give each other birthday presents. What're ya doin, breakin the pact, now?"

"Maybe. But this is kinda special for a special occasion."

Reaching out to take Richie's hand in his, Lindy slipped his other hand into his pocket. What he pulled out, he placed firmly into his friends upturned palm, then folded his fingers around it.

Richie didn't need to open his hand to know what it was that Lindy had given him, the feel of it told him everything. It was heavy and smooth, and about the size of a chicken egg.

"Whoa, bro, you brought it back with ya. No wonder I couldn't find it when me and TJ were up there." Opening his hand, he looked down on the red and white speckled magic skipper. After a brief moment of thought, he looked up and said, "Dude, I can't take this."

"Look, Rich, I know this probably sounds stupid, but... well, we both know there's no way that this puppy should've skipped across the pond, right? So it's like gotta be magic or somethin, right? Well if it is magic, then maybe it'll work some of its magic when you come out to your family."


"Now just hear me out, OK? Like I said, maybe it's a stupid idea, but take it anyway, would ya? I can't explain it, but for some reason I think it's right for you to have it right now. I mean, like why not, right? It's not like it takes up a lota room or nothin."

Seeing the pleading look in Lindy's eyes, Richie quickly came to a decision. Slipping the rock into his pocket, he said, "OK. I'll hang on to it for a while... but just for a while, though, cause it really belongs to you." Pulling Lindy into an affectionate hug, he whispered into his ear. "Thanks, man, you're the best."

Feeling the weight of the magic skipper in his pocket, Richie gathered up their dirty dishes before escorting his best friend down to the back door. Once Lindy was on his way home, Richie headed back to his room. Seeing that the rest of his family had already gone up to bed, he turned out the last of the lights in the living room as he went.

When he got back upstairs, he noticed TJ's list of phone numbers lying next to his wallet on his night-stand. Since he didn't feel sleepy, and it wasn't very late, he decided to add TJ's email to his address book before going to bed. With the piece of paper in his hand, he made his way down the hall to the converted bedroom that served as his dad's office and home to the family computer. When he pushed open the door, he was surprised to see his brother, Carl, sitting in front of the monitor.

"Whoa! Sorry, big bro, I didn't know you were in here."

"That's OK, sport, I'm just about done, anyway. What's on your mind?"

"Aw nothin. I just thought I'd put TJ's email address into my address book while I was thinkin about it. What're you up to?"

"Registering for school. Man, this on-line registration is so much easier than going all the way down to the school to do it."

"Yeah, I spose. Well, I won't bother ya. I can do this tomorrow."

"Up to you, but I'll be off here in about thirty seconds if ya wanna wait."

Thinking 'why not', Richie sat in the chair next to the computer desk. Looking over the piece of paper he held while he waited, he recalled something that Kevin had told him at the lake. Even though he hadn't planned on this encounter with his brother, he wondered if now wouldn't be a good time to come out to him.

"Bingo!" said Carl as he tapped the enter key. "All set. She's all yours, Rich, just don't forget to clean up your files when you're done." he added as he stood to leave.

"Thanks." Just when Carl was about to step through the door, Richie spoke again. "Um, Carl?"

"Yeah, Rich?"

Looking up to his brother, he suddenly had second thoughts. "Um, nothin... thanks."

"Sure," said Carl. He didn't leave right away, though. Thinking that his brother had something on his mind, he prodded him a little. "You OK, little brother? You sound like you got somethin on you mind."

"That could be called the granddaddy of understatements, Carl, but it's OK... I'll figure it out."

"OK, if you say so. Just remember, you know where to find me if ya think I can help."

"Thanks, Carl, I'll remember that. Good night."

"Night, Rich." With that said, Carl stepped into the hall and pulled the door closed behind him.

'Smooth move, Andrews.' thought Richie as he slumped into the chair that his brother just vacated. 'How the hell am I ever gonna be able to do this. I just had the perfect opportunity and chickened out. God, I am such a wuss.'

Trying unsuccessfully to think of other things, he logged on to the computer and went right to his email handler where he carefully added TJ's address to his address book. He was about to log off when he decided that since he'd been gone for a few days, he'd do a quick check of his in-box for new messages. While expecting to find nothing more than the usual boat-load of spam, he clicked the send/receive button. True to his expectations there were about a dozen messages that he was sure were all advertising porn sites or low interest mortgage rates. With a couple of mouse clicks he deleted them 'en masse' before checking his Hotmail account. He seldom used this account, and the only reason he'd even set it up was that it was free and a safe place to have gay related material sent to him. Not surprised, he found a deluge of spam filling this in-box as well. He was about to delete them as he had done previously when something caught his eye at the last minute.

Looking closely at the contents of his in-box, he paid particular attention to one message tucked in among the spam. 'Yes!,' he thought, 'TJ, dude!' Remembering that this was the account he'd given TJ, he quickly opened it, surprised, but also excited to see a message from him so soon.

yo rich just added you to me address book so i thought i'd make sure i had it right. let me know. btw - do you have msim? if you do, give me a shout. use my hm address as contact. teege

Richie didn't spend much time on-line. As a matter of fact, until last winter when he started to do gay related research, he'd only used the Internet as an aid for school projects. Because of this, even though his friends at school constantly talked about chatting with each other using an IM program of some sort, he never bothered to install one for himself. Smiling at TJ's message, however, made him rethink his decision. Clicking on the reply button, he typed in a short message.

Hey Teege, Got your message. I don't have any IM installed but I will download MSIM as soon as I have time. I'll let you know. BTW - Is the shift key on your computer broken? :) Call ya tomorrow. Rich

Clicking on the send button, he waited a minute or so, then shut down his Internet connection. When he right-clicked on the task bar to open the properties window so he could clear out the documents folder, something Carl said before he left suddenly sprang up in his mind. "Don't forget to clean up your files when you're done", he'd said. Unable to recall when Carl had ever reminded him to do this before, caused a feeling of panic to grow within him. 'Why would he say that,' he wondered. 'Did I forget to clean these out before? Did Carl see some of my research material? Oh, God, did he see some of the porn I was looking at?' As hard as he tried, he couldn't remember when he could have been so careless. Thinking he was probably overreacting again, he cleared the documents folder, then logged off and shut down the computer.

Stifling back a yawn, he stretched his aching and still slightly bruised muscles before gettin up to return to his room. Flipping off the light in the office, he stepped into the pitch black of the hallway. Putting his hands into his pockets, he began to saunter slowly through the dark to his bedroom. When he passed Carl's room, he noticed the glow of his light piercing the darkness from under his door. Feeling Lindy's gift in his pocket, he tried to muster the courage to knock on his brother's door. After a brief moment, he decided against it and continued on to his room.

After placing the magic skipper next to the tickets on his night-stand, he stripped down to his boxers, flipped off the light and crawled into bed. While he waited for sleep to overtake him, he recalled the wonderful time he'd had with his friends at Gull Lake. These happy thoughts were soon replaced by ones concerning his coming-out. Tossing and turning, he ran a number of scenarios through his mind trying to figure out which would work the best and be the easiest. Soon, no closer to an answer than before, he fell into a restless, uneasy sleep.

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