Jack in the Box

Chapter 53

Michael Waters - Arlington Road : December, 2000

The plane wasn't that full. I guess not many people fly the day after Christmas, so Annie and I had a row to ourselves, and Paulina and Tony had the one just behind us. This was a non-stop flight, too, so nobody else would be getting on.

Tony was being a lot more vocal about his first flight than I'd been, and he had everyone within hearing range amused by his excitement. I wasn't exactly an old hand at flying, and the takeoff was still a thrill, but once we were up there wasn't much to look at. This was a daytime flight and things on the ground were hard to distinguish.

I was still thrilled, though, heading back to Davy's. We'd cooked up the idea at a last get-together my parents had on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. They did it in late afternoon, because my relatives were going to drive home to Virginia overnight. They'd asked Dave and Tim and the remainder of their visitors to come over, and they put together leftovers from both houses for a kind of eat-what-you-want party, which was really eat anything you’re lucky enough to find.

I'd been in an odd mood that afternoon. I was all relaxed from my time with Annie, angry with myself for missing the chance to say goodbye to some people, and feeling like an idiot for how I'd talked to Pat Anderson about sex.

I don't usually beat around the bush, and when Annie and I went back to the barn house, I found myself alone with Pat when we both volunteered to take some trash into the barn for Tim.

I sure didn't know how to approach the subject, so I asked, "Where'd you and Lissie disappear to last night?"

"Her room."

I was right behind Pat, and thought I saw his ears redden. "Oh," I said. "That's nice."

"It was nice." He turned his head to see me, "It was too hot by the fireplace."

I agreed, "Yeah, it got hot in there, I gotta admit."

Jesus! What was I supposed to do, ask if he scored with my thirteen year old sister? I did get bolder. "Must have been pretty hot in Lissie's room, huh?"

He didn't give. "Yeah, warm enough, I guess."

I rolled my eyes, "You had fun though?"

Pat dropped the bags he was carrying and turned around. Even his fat eye was a slit through the glasses. He looked suspicious more than anything, and said, "Yeah, we had fun. Want to know what we did?"

I dropped my bags and put my hands up, squeaking, "No! No, Pat, I'm not tryin' to pry."

He stared at me, "I'm not sayin' you are. I just thought you were askin' a lot of questions, so you must be curious or something."

I picked up the bags and indicated the barrels, so Pat grabbed his and we dumped them in, and we faced each other once again. My brain finally found my mouth, and I said, "Look, Pat. I don't care what you and Lissie do together, I really don't. She's my sister, though, and I don't want to see her gettin' hurt." Pat opened his mouth to say something, but I added, "Or pregnant."

Pat and I both blushed enough to heat up the room when I said that, but it was out, so it was his turn.

He stared at me and said, "Jesus, Mike!" He shook his head and got angry. "Dammit, you just said she's your sister. You're the one who might show some respect."

I was taken aback, to say the least, and only grunted.

"You don't really think I had sex with her, do you?"

"Calm down, Pat. You're fourteen. All I meant was you could; I mean you're able to. That's not what I mean. What I mean is you're capable."

Pat saw my embarrassment and smiled, "You calm down. I might be capable, but Lissie ain’t givin' it out; that much I can promise you. Where'd you get that idea?"

I said, "Um, Angie..."

Pat growled, "That little…" then looked me in the eye, "Angie has sex on the brain, Mike. Try askin' her what it's about sometime. She thinks holding hands is sex. She sees us kissing and says we're going all the way." Pat made a little circle around his ear with his finger. "She's nuts, Mike." He grinned, "You thought we had sex?"

I was still blushing, and starting to sweat a little, even though the barn was cold. I just stared at Pat, wondering about why I always jump to conclusions. I finally said, "Um, sorry. I only meant to say you should be careful, if you know what I mean." I sighed, "I suppose now would be a good time to ask what you did do."

Pat smirked, "None of your business."

I stared at him and said, "You might grow up to be a real dick, you know that?"

Pat drew back a little, then smiled, "Oh yeah? You can be a pretty good dickhead, too, Mike. Have you ever heard the word tact? That's t-a-c-t, not t-a-c-k. It ain't your business what I do with Lissie, and..."

I interrupted, "Damn, Pat! That's all I was trying to say. It ain't my business, and I won't worry about what you two do, as long as you treat her well, and use, um...precautions."

Pat giggled, "Precautions? You mean condoms?"

I nodded, and Pat said, "I'm not old enough to buy condoms. I never even saw a condom. I'm not even sure what they are, exactly."

I stared at Pat. I'd bought condoms, but they'd never left the package. I didn't know what they were, either, and it was funny enough to make me laugh. "I'll admit, I never actually saw one myself. I bought some once for...um, nevermind."

* * * * * * * *

I laughed out loud, and Annie nudged me. "What's so funny?"

Suddenly I was back on a northbound airplane, headed for Davy's and a week in some real snow. We'd had a cold winter so far. Some of the snow that had fallen at Thanksgiving was still there for Christmas, at lest in the woods. It was all ice by then, but it passed for a white Christmas anyhow, and we'd gotten used to it being on the ground.

I leaned into Annie, "Sorry, I was just thinking."

She smiled and patted my shoulder, "Well, you should just cut that out." She stuck her tongue out at me, "You think entirely too much! We're on vacation now."

I giggled, "I think too much? Well, sorry, but my brain just don't quit sometimes."

Annie smiled, then leaned over and kissed me. I saw Paulina opening the overhead and pulling out her bag, then in a minute she was handing us sandwiches, smiling, "They're all the same egg salad. I hope you're not allergic, because otherwise it's tiny little pretzels."

I thanked Paulina sincerely, remembering my near-starvation on my first plane ride, and started undoing the wrap. Tony leaned over from his window seat and called, "Mike, You were right. It's just like a flyin' school bus," to which all the people around us had a chuckle.

Paulina said, "You can stand up, you know." She turned back to Tony as Annie and I undid our seatbelts. She held her hand out to him, "C'mon, Ace. You won't fall off."

Tony looked at her as he undid his belt, "Okay."

The second he started to stand up, the plane lurched, then again, and the pilot came on telling us to all get our butts back in our seats and get buckled up. I was annoyed, because I felt that Paulina knew something I didn't, like you didn't have to just sit there on a plane, you could use the aisles.

We were chastened back into our belts, and after cuddling with Annie for awhile, I found myself looking out into the nothingness of the clouds beneath us again, daydreaming, maybe. Remembering.

That last night with Davy, knowing nothing would happen. It didn't matter anymore to me, because a lot had happened with Annie earlier.

We decided to sleep in my room, thinking that a bed would feel nice after all those nights on a floor. I was content after a pretty good day, but Davy was apologetic. "Mike? You still awake?"

"Yeah, I'm awake."

"Are you mad at me, Mike?"

I leaned up on my elbow, "No. Why?"

"You know...the sex thing."

I lay back down and sighed. "I can't get mad at that, can I? Don't even think it, Davy. I love you." I paused and thought, "We're like twigs from opposite sides of the same tree. Um, do you know what a divining rod is?"


"It's a forked twig, and you use it to find water...only if you know how. I've seen it done, and I think it's real. You hold both ends, like if you were holding me by my legs and pointing my head forward. When you get near hidden water, the head end dips down and points at it." I got up on my elbow and looked over at Davy, who turned his head to me. "That's what you are, Davy. You're my divining rod." I giggled, "You came here, and that first night you pointed me in the right direction," my giggle turned into a laugh, "and now I truly believe I've found water!"

Davy stared at me, "Annie?"

I mumbled, "Yeah, Annie. I love her, Davy, so much it hurts! But sometimes I love you too, and it gets me confused."

He sighed, "I know. The truth is, it didn't feel wrong when we...uh...got together. It didn't feel right, either...just...uh, it just felt..." he smiled, "pretty good, actually."

I smiled over at him, "You serious?"

Davy took his time, then said quietly, "I'm serious. It felt real good, but that didn't make it right." He propped himself up on his elbow to look at me. "Look at it this way, Mike. You love Annie. Don't you think that gives her some rights? Like to expect that if you're fooling around, it's only with her?" He thought for a moment, "I don't know, I think you're forgetting about devotion, which ought to go right along with love."


He smiled, "I'm not finished with this idea. I've never had a friend like you, and you have to know by now that I love you. I've never felt about another girl like I do about Melanie, either, so I think I have to take a side in this myself, and it's her side. I'm not a preacher, and I'm not your boss, so all I can control is myself." He smiled, "If you seriously think I don't want you over here, then you can think again, but I don't think Melanie's fooling with anyone else, and for damn sure Annie isn't. We're big boys, Mike. It's time to behave ourselves."

I just stared at Davy, his little smile exactly as shy as Jack's would have been right then. I was startled, to say the least. He'd kind of just given me the dickens, and he was completely right about everything. I wasn't offended at all, so I returned his smile, and his widened in relief. I said, "Thanks, Davy." I started grinning when I saw his relief, and said, "I needed that, I mean I needed to hear it."

He asked, "I didn't piss you off?"

* * * * * * * *

"You could never piss me off," I mumbled.

Annie said, "What? Wake up, Mike. You're talking in your sleep again."

"Huh?" I looked over at her. "What did I say?"

"You said I could never...um, get you angry."

I smiled, "I could think of a few ways you could, but I know you wouldn't. I was just thinkin' about how much I really love you."

"Ooh," she said, as we snuggled up together. The ride had smoothed out, and the Captain came on saying he'd turned off the seatbelt light, so we were free to move about the cabin.

I thought it came out funny, and asked Annie, "Wanna move about the cabin?"

She laughed, "I've been waiting. I just love moving about the cabin," and undid her belt.

Paulina and a very excited Tony were up before us, and Paulina led us to the back near the 'galley', as she called it. It was also near the toilets, and we had fun yakking while we waited in the short line. Tony was clearly as thrilled by his first plane ride as I'd been by mine, and he kept leaning over people to look out the window.

One guy got a little annoyed, but he didn't say anything. Everyone else seemed to be delighted by the eagerness of the boy with big eyes, and leaned back so he could see, even offered him their seats for a few minutes.

I thought it was amusing at first, then I was touched to realize I was seeing something of the young Tony that I'd missed all my life, and that idea tugged sadly at me. I could have been there all along and I wasn't, and just because Tony was different. I felt full of regret that I'd ignored Tony the way everyone else did. I couldn't even compare it to what Jack and I had gone through, because we certainly weren't being ignored.

I decided that I needed to talk that out with Tony someday. I wanted to know what it had been like, to feel his feelings, to share that loneliness with him so I could understand it. I was lonely when Jack died, but that was from missing him. I had people around me who cared, who tried to engage me. I wasn't having any of that, but it was always there. I basically fit in, even when I tried to stay away.

Tony had never really fit in, and now he did...just like that. It didn't take a lot to make it happen, really. A nudge from Joe Goldman, a push over the edge from Dave Devino, and I was friends with Tony. Anton. After that, it was as sudden for me as for Tony that we both had lots of friends. We'd gotten ourselves into the same position in completely opposite ways.

Tony always wanted friends, but didn't know how to make them. I connected with people okay, but didn't know what a friend was, never took that last step, never said that last word. In most ways, Tony and I knew what we knew now about friends because of each other, and I knew it was as important to him as it was to me.


That startled me, and I looked at Annie's curious expression. "You are such a space shot today." she giggled. "The bathroom's open. I thought you needed it."

I smiled embarrassedly, "Yeah, okay. Thanks."

I went in and peed, then washed up a little, straightened out my clothes. The second I came out, Tony took over in there.

When he came out, after half the plane heard the monumental rush of the toilet flushing, he was ecstatic. "When I get a house, it's havin' a shitter just like that one." He grinned, "No turd could jam that thing, did you hear it? I don't care...Klondike, Godzilla, whatever...it's goin' down."

I laughed out loud while Paulina and Annie made believe they didn't know us. Some of the men sitting in the back laughed with me, but all the women around us seemed to be suddenly occupied with other things. I had never been witness to Tony's particular peculiarity, but it always struck me funny.

Paulina and Annie were going back to their seats, so Tony and I followed them. Annie took the window seat and I sat on the aisle, leaving the seat between us empty, though it gave us a comfortable spot to hold hands.

I'd been much more comfortable with Annie since that last night with Davy. I'd heard his words, and decided to put them to work for myself.

Devotion! That was a simple enough concept, and an easy one to put into practice. Annie mattered to me. Lots of people mattered to me, but I didn't love them in the way that I loved Annie, and making her happiness paramount to mine made me about as happy as I'd ever been. I wasn't catering, not telling her I'd do everything she wanted; I was just trying to be consistent and reliable.

Well, it worked! A consistent me gave consistency to the whole relationship, and our love deepened while our friendship took on a whole new level. Annie was my lover and my best friend, bar none, and it was fun to be like that. We were more relaxed, talked more, laughed way more. I was able to sit with Annie talking about things for hours now, in person, without interference from my crotch region, even sometimes when we talked about sex.

It probably makes me weird, but Annie was ready and willing to go the last mile, and I wasn't. Not that I didn't want to, I just wanted some time behind my faithfulness to her before we took that step. I was armed and ready for when the time came, though. I'd been stocking up on condoms whenever and wherever I saw them for sale, and had been hugely amused when I bought some interesting looking ones right under my mother's nose at the supermarket. They were right in aisle three, next to shaving cream! Who knew they sold them in grocery stores?

I'd even tried one, thinking I'd figure them out in advance, and it was the singularly most sexy time I'd ever had by myself. Sick? Most likely, but I never claimed to be the creative type. A condom, a toilet roll, and a giant glob of Crisco sure made for an interesting half-hour, and one that I won't soon forget!

The rest of the rubbers were in a filing cabinet in Jack's room that Tim had picked up. Heh, along with almost a quarter million dollars. Davy had sent me home from my last visit with fifty thousand, now I had another two hundred thousand for what Ken called 'social experimentation'. I'd used up some by sending extra money to my 'regulars' to buy Christmas gifts with.

I gazed over at Annie, thinking I should say something, but she'd dozed off. We were all tired from Christmas excitement, and excitement about the trip. I hadn't had much sleep, and I'd eaten way too much, so when I tried to nap, the one new problem in my life was what kept me awake.

Phil Angstron, Jr. Already known as Phil the Pill. He was the oldest of Jason's nieces and nephews. Jenna and Shem, his younger brother and sister were fine, but Phil was the kid from Hell. They'd come up to spend the holidays, as they had nowhere else to go. We'd all been told to be nice to them, because they'd been through a lot with the death of their mother, and the fact that their father was going to be in a rehabilitation facility for a long time.

We'd tried, we all had. I mean, we knew what was going on with them, that they had problems, and we'd have to be careful what we said. Jenna and Shem were fourteen and fifteen respectively. Phil was seventeen, going on eighteen.

The younger kids did things with us. We all knew they were hurt, sad, and confused, but they got along with people and joined in.

Phil sat on his butt. He rebuffed every single attempt anyone made toward friendship. He was weird, too. He didn't take care of himself, to begin with. Sometimes you could smell him in the room, even when he wasn't there anymore. Beyond that, he looked weird, with this short haircut, kind of brown hair, but it had this long peak at the front that was sometimes yellow, sometimes purple. He had a ring through one eyebrow, a ring through his lower lip, and two rings in each ear, plus his right ear had something that looked like the Nike swoop at the top. And he wore these little, black rimmed, oval glasses that so mis-matched his face you just wanted to rip them off and stomp on them.

He didn't shave, either, nor did he really have whiskers. There were all these little hairs coming out of his face, soft and reddish things that disgusted me, and made Annie want to scream.

The worst part, beyond his looks, was that he was unfriendly always, downright surly a lot of times, and sometimes just dismissive, like we were a bunch of bugs he wanted to stomp on.

They were staying with Andy and his wife for the holidays, so spent a lot of time with us, either at our house or Andy's.

God, we tried! Me, Annie, Tony and Paulina, James Green, Clay. Even Dave Devino tried, and he spent a lot of time with Phil, Jr., but got nowhere.

If Phil couldn't gross you out with his negative attitude, couldn't stink you out with his odor, he'd just tell you to get lost, because you were bothering him when he was 'busy'.

I'm not used to not liking people, but Phil was too much. I could deal with that, but once everyone used up their next-year vacation, there was a chance that those kids would move to Morton. A few weeks was one thing, but Phil was so bad that Tony had drawn him in a cage, suspended over a cliff from a crane arm, far from anyone who could bother him.

It was a cruel drawing, maybe, but I think it fulfilled a lot of people's designs on Phil's destiny. He wanted to be alone, and we’d learned to oblige him.

I guess I dozed off myself, because the next thing I knew, the flight attendant was telling me to raise my seat back and tray, that we were ready to land.

I'd been at some level of excitement all along, but now it was real. Davy! His name rang through my head like music. Davy Loomis! I don't know why, but Davy gave me something nobody else did. Not Annie, not my family, not Tony or any of my other friends. It was something cosmic, like with Jack, like our friendship was destined to happen. How else could it be, anyhow? If Jack hadn't died, his house wouldn't have been for sale, I'd have never met Tim and Dave, and Davy wouldn't have brought them their furniture.

Tim had asked me to show Davy around, and I intended to, but something else happened that week, and it was still happening. I'd thought of it before, but I was getting Jack back, piece by piece. I had him in Annie's love, in Davy's smile, in a whole lot of ways, and the parts thing didn't freak me out anymore.

When Davy came that first time, I'd just gotten connected with Tony, talked to Annie for really the first time. None of it had made any sense at first. I was supposed to not like Tony, not care for girls, then Davy showed up, and we talked. He made something major in my head move to take over, and that centered me, made me realize that I had something going for myself, made me believe for the first time that I was an equal.

There was something beyond that, and I can't put my finger on it. Davy made me feel alive, I guess, like a real, valuable person, and he didn't spend a lot of time doing it. I think he validated me to myself...better than my parents ever had, better than my shrink could, certainly better than I could myself. He challenged, poked and prodded, but as one kid to another, just trying to satisfy his own curiosity. He was no authority figure, just a kid sitting on my porch with me, and that made a huge difference in what came about afterwards.

Davy aroused a sexual interest in me at first, and at the time it was a comfort, because I was totally confused about my new feelings for Ann Nettleton.

I can't say that Davy set me right about all that, because he didn't. What he did was let me know that confusion wasn't something to be ashamed of, something nobody else had. Over time, really, he kept me confused about sexuality by doing things with me, by understanding that I still liked guys, him in particular, and not getting weird about it.

All that had come earlier, and it was Davy who helped me sort out my feelings of love for Annie. I could love a lot of people, and gender didn't matter. Annie mattered, though, and she meant everything to me. I'd always like guys, it was part of me, but I could be true to Annie. Other girls were attractive and sexy to me, too, but I'd no sooner go with them than I would with Davy. Or Tony, or James, or Guy, or Dwayne!


The bump of the plane hitting the runway was a relief. It seemed to take forever to get to the gate, but we got there. I was anxious as we waited for the door to open, but soon enough we were in the arrival area, and Davy was waiting for us, a huge smile on his face.

I ran up and hugged him, then let Annie and Paulina have a turn. Tony shook hand his hand, and we went to pick up our luggage. We talked while we waited for the bags to show up on the carousel, and learned that Paul was outside with a big van that would fit us all.

I think my destiny was already decided in the minds of my parents, because one of my Christmas gifts was a slick suitcase with wheels and a handle, and it held a lot. Paulina's dads had gotten Tony something similar, so neither of us looked like bums when the luggage came.

We walked outside and waited for Paul, who Davy said was just circling until he saw us instead of paying for parking. There was snow on the ground, but it wasn't all that evident at first, all plowed up and blackened. It wasn't any colder than at home, either, but the weather that was abnormal for Morton was what's expected in Connecticut, and Davy said it was the time of year when they got their coldest weather.

I was cold enough. Annie's teeth were chattering, and Tony's were positively rattling. Paul's van showed up pretty soon, and a guy I hadn't met got out of the passenger seat while Paul went around to open up the back.

It was hurried. Paul's friend was Seth, and he was tall, which was about the only impression I got. Seth and Davy grabbed luggage and started shoving it in the back, while Paulina and Tony opened a door and climbed into the truck. Paul came around, took a hesitant look at Annie, then held his hand out to me, looking a little nervous.

"Hi, Paul," I said. "This is Ann Nettleton. Annie, this is Paul..." Shit! "I, um...don't remember your last name, sorry."

Paul smiled shyly, "Wysocki," then turned to Annie. "Hi, Annie. I'm glad to meet you."

Annie shook his hand, then Paul turned to me, a question on his face.

I answered it with a smile, saying "We're okay."

Paul's eyebrows went up and down quickly, then he smiled for real. "Get on the bus, then. It's f... it's cold out here!"

Annie said, "Thank you, Paul. It is cold," she flashed me a wicked grin, "colder than a witch's tit!"

I laughed, following Annie into the van, while Paul gave me a surprised look. I just said, "That's Annie. Get used to it."

The van was kind of old and cruddy, but I guess it wasn't really dirty. It just looked it, and you could smell gas a little. Once we got rolling, conversation picked up.

Davy said, "My folks went skiing with Ken and Mary. We have the house to ourselves for a few days." He grinned, twisted around the way he was, "I'm thinking party, but if your religious convictions..."

I laughed out, "Screw you! If you're thinkin' party, then party it is!" I looked at Annie, "Our religious convictions allow parties, don't they?"

She smiled, "Oh, yes! Parties are encouraged, required even. Um..." She blinked her eyes at Davy, "There won't be a stripper, will there?"

Davy looked pretty helpless, "Only if you want one, Annie. I'm afraid to ask Mike." He flashed me a little grin, and Annie snapped her face to mine.

I smiled, "He's kidding," then looked at Davy, "Tell her you're kidding!"

Davy smirked, "Or?"

I laughed, "You want 'or’'? How 'bout I describe our particular technique for making long good-byes?"

Davy blushed like a tail light, but recovered quickly. "You mean talking all night?"

I let it go, afraid I’d embarrass both of us. "I told everyone about the pizza here."

Annie added, "The way Mike talks it up, it sounds too good to be true. I hope I'm not disappointed."

It was funny when everyone but Tony chimed in, "You won't be!"

The ride to Davy's was nice, with everyone talking about things. Traffic made the going slow, but talking about the holidays got us halfway there, and planning what we'd do with our time took up the rest of the ride.

Tony, Annie and I all turned a little green when Davy said he wanted to take us skiing, but the enthusiasm he, Paul, Seth and Paulina had for the sport got us lined up in agreement soon enough. I commented on the apparent lack of snow, and Davy said, "Don't worry. The ski areas make their own snow, especially down here."

Tony said excitedly, "Joe made snow Christmas Eve! That was really fun!"

Davy snorted, "He has a snow maker?"

Paulina said, rather dryly, "He does now. He made a decent toboggan run, then turned the thing on his front yard." She giggled, "Now he's in demand. Everyone wants their own snow!"

That made everyone laugh, and caused Seth to ask, "Who is this guy? I think I'd like to know him."

All the Morton eyes kind of rolled, and Paulina said, "You should choose your friends, Seth. Joe does many things, and making snow is just the latest. I'm not sure you'd like all of them."

Tony said quietly, "Joe's a good guy. He always believes in people...he always believed in me."

That quieted Paulina, and she snuggled with Tony, whispering something I couldn't hear. Then we were at Davy's, and it was a small production getting things from the truck to the house. Davy announced, "You girls can have my parents' room. Tony can stay in my brother's room with Mike, and..."

Annie said, "No way!" and looked at Paulina, whose eyes were suddenly lit up. "No way are those two sleeping together!" Annie smiled at me and took my elbow. "That's a formula for trouble! Mike sleeps with me."

I looked at her all startled and kind of amused, hoping this was it. I could see Tony's helpless look as we both remembered the last time we slept together. Paulina pulled him in close to her, and whispered something that made him smile like I'd never seen.

Davy shrugged, "Okay, whatever. Sleep where you want."

He led the way to the bedrooms, and he gave his parents' room to me and Annie, where we stayed while he led Tony and Paulina to his brother's room.

I stood there looking at Annie, so surprised by the turn of events that I was speechless. Annie smiled at my confusion, and stroked my cheek gently, smiling. She said softly, "This is a nice room, Mike. Let's enjoy it, okay?"

I didn't know what she meant, so I just nodded, filled with apprehension and anticipation about what might happen when we slept in the same bed together. I smiled, "So, now what?"

Annie smiled back, "Let's get unpacked and get ready for a party." She reached out and pulled me to her for a little kiss, "You can relax, Mike. We can share a bed and just sleep, it'll be nice." She put her hands on the back of my neck, "I love you, Mike." Her voice dropped to a whisper, "When the time is right, babe, right for both of us...that's when it will happen; that's what will make it perfect."

I kissed her, saying, "You're so smart." We fell into a warm, wordless hug, then took care of our bags, and took turns in the bathroom cleaning up.

I cleaned up first, then sat on the bed waiting for Annie, my thoughts both lascivious and loving. I could smile at the thought that it was going to happen, smile again that it didn't matter when, as long as it was right. My dick said anytime would be very wonderful, and tonight was possible. For once my brain was trying to lead. Possible didn't equal right, and there were other things to do. Annie was exactly right. When we were both ready at the same time, when the only reason to do it was for love, then we'd do it. My dick could try, but it wasn't leading the parade anymore.

Of course, I changed my mind when Annie came back. Oh, Lord! I'd never thought of an ass as a sexual thing, not once. That may have come from my constant avoidance of Jack's, but Annie's appearance in some jeans that were faded almost white changed my thinking on that subject. Encapsulated as it was, it seemed like a whole other sex organ. Whoa, it was like a course in instant ass appreciation for me!

I gulped, "Annie...you look good!"

She smiled sweetly, "Why, thank you." She arched her eyebrows a little, "You look really fine yourself, Mike. Would it be rude to forego this party?" She took her chin between her thumb and forefinger as if she was thinking it over, then answered her own question. "Of course it would!"

I smiled hopefully, "Later, then?"

Annie nodded and giggled, and we went downstairs. Paul and Seth were joking in the living room, so we went in there. They looked up when we came in. Paul gave Annie a brief but thorough scrutiny. To my astonishment, Seth did the same to me, checking me out from head to toe until Paul noticed and said, "Cut it out, Seth. Mike's taken."

Seth blushed a little, and turned his eyes to Paul. "I know," then he looked back at me. "Sorry, man. I don't know what I was thinking." He smiled, "Well, I know what I was thinking, I just..." He slapped his own face pretty hard. "Ouch! That'll teach me." he grinned.

Annie asked suspiciously, "Alright, what's going on?"

Paul laughed, "The punishment Mike gave me for my bad behavior was for me to make a gay friend." He pointed a finger at Seth while still looking at us, "This is him. My very own personal gay friend."

I took a closer look at a momentarily embarrassed Seth. He wasn't really good looking, but he had a pleasant enough face. He also had black hair and blue eyes, which you don’t see often. Otherwise, he was lanky and seemed to slouch. He smiled at Annie and me, "Don't take Paul literally, I don't belong to him." He turned a bright smile to me, "You, though. I owe you, Mike. Since Pauly started hanging around with me, I've made lots of new friends. My life is a lot more fun now."

I said, "Don't thank me, Seth. I can only change my own mind. Paul changed his all on his own."

Seth looked a little startled, then turned a smile to Paul. "Yeah, I guess you're right."

Annie settled on the arm of a chair, and I sat in its seat. She asked, "Is there a long story here?"

Seth looked at her, "No, not long at all. I go to school with Paul, and he forever avoided me, like all the other guys, after they learned I'm queer. Then, out of the blue, he sits with me at lunch one day and announces that he wants to be my friend again. I'm like 'yeah, right' but Pauly launches into this story about what happened with Mike."

Paul interrupted, "It was funny in a way. Seth and I go way back, and there I was, suddenly trying to be friends again. He didn't buy it, not one little bit, so I was in the lunchroom trying to convince the one kid that everyone knows is gay, that I really, really want to be his friend again."

I chuckled, then Seth did, too, and he went on, "I guess it was kind of funny. At least it is now. I didn't know what to think, so I kind of shrugged it off. Then Pauly starts calling me on the phone, stopping over, asking me to go places." He grinned, "Well, I think you can guess where my thinking was." He laughed, then nudged Paul with his elbow, "I was pretty sure he was trying to hit on me, that he must be some kind of closet case."

Paul said happily, "It didn't take long to figure that out. I guess I lost a few buds in the process, but I don't care if the whole school thinks I'm queer. My real friends don't care, and now Seth's part of our group. A good addition, if you ask me."

Seth grinned at Paul, "Hey, I think I'm just what you needed." He turned back to us, smiling evilly, "Now Pauly has to fight off the girls."

Paul smiled, "It's true! Now I'm sensitive and caring. Girls eat that shit up." He suddenly put his hand over his mouth, and looked guiltily at Annie.

Annie had heard swearing before, and she usually said something, and I know she couldn't help it this time.

She smiled sweetly at Paul, then said gently, "Oh, yes. You're clearly the model of sensitivity, Paul, and your respect for women shows right through with your choice of words. Indeed! The moment we spot a sensitive boy, we immediately lap up his shit. I believe the operative word in this situation is bullshit, but we've only just met, so I won't split hairs." Her smile brightened innocently.

Seth gasped and laughed out loud. Paul turned the color of a fire engine, and I just rolled my eyes.

Annie smiled until Seth gagged out, "I'm starting to like girls all of a sudden." He pointed a helpless finger toward Annie, "This one, anyhow."

I giggled, "See that, Annie? Another one!"

She looked at me, puzzled, "Anoth..." then she got it and started that merry music that was her laughter.

Even Paul got caught up in it, and it was a laughing bunch that Davy, Tony and Paulina walked in on.

Davy asked, "Uh, oh! What did we miss?"

"Oh, nothing," I managed to squeak out, before laughing again.

Annie squealed, "I should go into business..." then she giggled.

Paulina, rarely patient, tapped her foot about three times before saying, " Tell me, Annie! You're in Connecticut for two hours, and you suddenly have the entrepreneurial spirit?" She gently kicked my toe, "What, Mike?" She had no clue what was so funny, but started laughing along, as did Davy and Tony.

Oh Lord, it seemed funny. We eventually quieted down, and took turns relating what had set us off like that. It was funny all over again, but we'd quieted when the doorbell rang.

Davy went to answer it, and then the Morales brothers were there. I almost cringed when Davy introduced Guy, who kept smiling at me, but Annie was friendly and gracious with him, as if she knew nothing about his little history with me. Juan nearly crushed me with a hug, and he kissed my cheek, then it was Guy's turn.

I was in trouble. When I hugged Guy, that scent was there again, and my dick seemed to develop a special interest in sniffing it out. Not only that, his body still felt exactly like Jack's. I could tell that he sprung hard as fast as I did, and I was extremely thankful that I was pointing downward at the time.

I still managed to smile, to feel good about seeing Guy again. I whispered, "Find anyone yet?"

He sighed, "Not yet."

I asked, "What about Seth?"

Guy stiffened, "He's a senior."


"He doesn't know about me. Nobody does, really."

We broke our hug, which we'd held entirely too long anyhow, and I whispered, "You could change that here, you know. Nobody's gonna care, and who knows? You might get lucky!"

Guy chanced a glance at Seth, and kind of made a face.

Oh, well.

Other people showed up over the next half hour, and it was fun for me to see Vinny and Tom again. They were both with girls this time.

We had fun talking to them for a few minutes, and Melanie showed up at the door. I'd only seen her once for a few minutes, and I thought she was cute then. Now, dressed casually and not bundled up for a football game, I could see that she was a very pretty girl.

I had to smile. She was smitten with Davy, that was obvious, and he was hooked too. They were fun for me to watch...so comfortable with each other, even though Melanie was shy with everyone else. At least until Paulina latched onto her. Paulina had her ways, and in less than five minutes those two were talking and laughing like old friends.

When Davy left to pick up the pizzas, Tony went for the ride.

I don't know why, but I was kind of excited about that little get-together. It was fun catching up with the guys I'd met the last time I was here, and the new people were all friendly and having a good time. Annie and Paulina charmed the locals, of course, both male and female, and seemed to be having fun.

I saw Guy sitting alone, and went over to sit with him. "What's up?" I asked.

"Me," he said sullenly.

I giggled nervously, "Yeah, I was too. Um, Guy?"

He looked at me with a question on his face.

I said, "I'm being good, Guy, just so you know. I'm in love with Annie, and it's not in me anymore to fool around on her."

Guy smiled sadly, "I know. Davy told me, so don't worry." He made a little pout, "I don't know, Mike. I joined the GSA at school, and there's not one guy in it who'll come out and say he's gay." He smirked, "I could fix Annie up with a nice lesbian or two. Would that help my cause?"

I laughed, "I don't think so. Is it all that important right now?"

He slumped back, sighing. "Yes and no, I guess." He glanced at me, "Annie's really nice, by the way. You're lucky."

"I know, but let's talk about things. I don't think I told you, but there's another gay kid in my school. He just came out a few months ago, and it's no big deal. I know a bunch of gay men now, I mean older guys, and they're all pretty cool. You know about here, Guy, and I don't, but I don't think it's anything important to most people. I can see that you're not interested in Seth, but I think you should talk to him."

Guy asked, "Why?"

I said, "No real reason, but you know he's gay like you. That's something in common, Guy, just like if he was another soccer player. He's really funny, too, just like you."

Guy just looked at me, so I poked him near his belly button, which caused him to jump and laugh. I laughed too, "Get a life, Guy! Maybe he's got a little brother!"

Guy smiled sheepishly, "You think?"

I smacked his hair gently, "I don't think anything except you should go find out!"

Guy sat up straight, smiling. "His name's Seth, right?" and as he stood I heard him mumbling, "Who names their kid Seth?"

Guy headed directly for Seth, and I found myself hoping the older boy and he would at least get a conversation going. I felt a little unsettled watching him walk away from me, and couldn't shake the idea that if things were different, if we lived closer, there might have been something there. He was a nice looking kid, with Jack's body and a scent that knocked me out.

I had to look at Annie to get my real life back, and it only took a second. Annie was beautiful, and obviously having fun joking with Tom and his girlfriend. I chanced a glance at Guy as I headed to join them, and he was standing with a surprised looking Seth. I smiled at his back and joined the others.

In a few minutes, Davy and Tony were back, announcing loudly that they had pizza.

There was a mad rush, and I grabbed Annie's hand and tugged her so we were close to the head of the line. There was a lot of pizza, some of which I could identify, some of which I couldn't. I knew there'd be a bacon and onion one for me, but it was down the line. I looked at one that didn't have any sauce, and asked, "What's this one?"

"White clam," someone said. "Try it, it's good!'

The next one was also white, but looked different. My question got Vinny to answer, "Garlic and oil, Mike. That one's mine, but help yourself."

I looked at Annie, and she put a slice on her plate. I took one too, thinking that matching breath might be handy. Finally, with bacon and onion for me, sausage and mushroom for Annie, we took our plates and sat down.

I watched as Annie took her first bite, and the look of pure pleasure that she put on confirmed what I'd thought about Connecticut pizzas. She swallowed with a dreamy look on her face and said, "This is wonderful!"

My thoughts exactly! I devoured what was on my plate, then went back for more for both of us. Oh man, they were all good, and I got some plain cheese and a slice of pepperoni for me, another clam one and a slice of meatball and pepper for Annie. We ended up eating five slices each.

It was funny while we were eating. Every time Tony answered a question, somebody would ask, "What?" and I realized they couldn't understand his accent. Tony spoke more slowly every time he opened his mouth, trying to get his thoughts across, and I felt bad for him. I could understand him now, but the hill accents add a lot of syllables, which Northerners obviously couldn't compute.

Not wanting Tony to be embarrassed, I held up my hand and said, "I can translate!"

That made a lot of people laugh, including Tony, who said, "Translate this! This is the best pizza I ever tasted!" He grinned, "Let's just talk Italian, then nobody will know shit."

It was funny. To Tony, shit was a two-syllable word, as werethis and best, for that matter, but everybody understood shit, the way he said it, and it was cause for more laughter.

I was so proud of Tony right then. His accent was a trait of his upbringing, no more, and he knew he had it. It didn't bother anyone, really. They all seemed interested in what Tony had to say, even though that wasn't much, and Tony seemed to be having fun trying to say words the way they'd understand.

Eventually, Seth said to Tony, "You're quite the artist, man. Davy showed me some of your things, and I think they're beautiful!"

Tony smiled shyly, "Thanks."

There was a pause while Seth waited for a longer answer, but it wasn't forthcoming. Tony noticed Seth looking at him and said, "I brought some with me for Davy. Wanna see 'em?"

Seth nodded, and several people responded positively. Tony looked at Davy, "It's your Christmas present. You want it now?"

Davy was surprised, "Really? Uh...sure! Bring it down."

Tony grinned, "Okay!" then Paulina grabbed him.

"Maybe you should wait," she suggested, taking a quick glance at me. "Oh, never mind. Go get them."

When Tony walked out she looked back at me and asked, "You aren't carrying a gun, are you?"

A question started to form in my mind, then I got the picture and tore out of there after Tony. Anton Wolfe was a fantastic artist, a wonderful person, and a great, good friend. But he could be demented with that fantastic art, and I truly dreaded what was in those pictures.

"Tony! You stop your ass right where you are!" I screamed as I ran up the stairs after him.

I knew everyone heard me, because I could hear their laughter fading as I got farther away. I knew which room, and when I got to the door Tony was coming out with a nicely wrapped gift, all shiny red paper with a slightly crushed bow on top. I stood in front of him blocking his way, and asked, "What's in the box, Tony?"


"What's in that box?"

Tony could do innocent as well as anyone, and he tossed me a completely innocent look, "It's Davy's present, Mike. I wanna give it to him now."

I could tell he was trying not to laugh, I could just see it. Still, absolute idiot that I was, I bought it and let him go by. By the time I thought better of it, he was halfway down the stairs, and I chased after him. When I got to the rec room, he was handing Davy the gift, saying, "Merry Christmas."

Davy took it with a smile, as I slumped down next to Annie, certain that I was dead. I wondered about Southwest's early return policy while Davy eagerly, but carefully, removed the wrap. I grabbed Annie's hand for comfort, then Davy opened the box and took out one picture after another.

He was smiling at them, then passing them along to 'ooh's' and 'ah's' from the others.

I knew it would happen; I just did. Davy looked at the next picture, and his eyes bugged! Then he clutched it to his chest and burst out laughing without even a second look. His solo laugh became solo hilarity and I had to act. I was on my feet in a second, took a scant second to point at Tony and say, "You're dead meat, art boy!" and scrambled to get to that picture.

I did, but Melanie had already taken the next one out of the box, and it was her turn for bugged eyes. I snatched it from her, fought Davy for the one he was holding, then grabbed the box and ran into the kitchen.

When I looked at what I had there, I knew that Tony was dead for certain! Ooh, I'd tie him down and take him apart piece by piece!

The picture I'd snatched from Davy had me on my tiptoes on Paulina's deck, looking backwards...bent backwards...trying to see the potato that Tony had so cleverly drawn to look like a load in the back of my girly pants!

I could give him points for accuracy, but he still had to die! The one that I'd taken from Melanie had Annie, a significant bulge in the front of her jeans, reaching ever so casually into the back of mine.

Just then, I noticed Annie hesitantly hanging by the kitchen door. "Go away." I hollered. "Wait, I'msorry. Do me a favor. Go kill Tony, then come back. I still want you."

Oh Lord, I was worked up. Annie laughed, asking "What is it?"

I held out the offending pictures and looked around the kitchen, hoping for an easy death by blender or something.

To my surprise, Annie laughed out, "That little shit!" I looked at her kind of stunned, and she said, "Find the knives! Tony, and whoever else has seen these, all have to die." She giggled, "Then I'll kill you, and you can kill me after."

"Um," I said, thinking that might not work out, at least not in that sequence.

The fuck of it all was that I did look like a girl in those pictures, at least like some twisted version of a girl. I looked like a girl with a dick, who just shit her pants big time.

I grabbed Annie's hand, snagged the box and the loose pictures, and hurried us into the garage, where I laughed until I cried. It was too funny, even though I'd make Tony pay somehow.

I wouldn't really do anything, and I knew it, but we still looked through the remaining pictures and decided the rest were okay for public viewing. If Tony weren't so photographically accurate it would be one thing, but you can take realism just so far.

Annie was looking at the picture of me and smiling. She looked at me and said, "You know, I really love your expression in this one...all the surprise and humor on your face. It's really a work of art."

I looked at it again, and she had a point. I wondered if Tony could erase out the potato and do that part over, at least weaken the graphic. Annie was smiling, "Don't hide it, Mike, Tony put some real love into these. Be a little humble and let people see them."

"No way."

Annie suddenly seemed serious, and reached out to touch my cheek, "Please, Michael? Tony worked hard on these pictures, and he wanted Davy to have them as a gift. It's not up to us to hide them away."

I looked at Annie's earnest little smile and relented. "Okay, I guess I don't care."

As we headed back into the kitchen, Annie muttered, "We can slay him in his sleep!"

I looked at her and laughed, "What? Let him have his golden moment first?"

"Exactly. We should wrap this again, it's not right this way."

I stopped in my tracks. That's exactly and precisely what my mother would have said. Like if you steal somebody's already-opened gift and decide to give it back to them, it should be newly wrapped. I started giggling while Annie looked for something, and thought to myself that there was way more than one difference between boys and girls.

Annie found a paper grocery sack in a cabinet, then some tape, and she wrapped the box pretty neatly. Not finding any fancy ribbon, she made some from a carrot, curling a continuous strip out from the peeler that amazed me.

Inspecting the end result, she said matter-of-factly, "This looks okay." She held it out to me, "You should give it to him. It was you who stole it, after all. Don't forget to apologize."

I could only stare at her until she shoved the package at me and said saying evenly, "Well?"

I gaped at her and realized how real my love was. It was perfect girl logic, I guess. I'd torn Davy's gift away from him, now it was re-wrapped, had a new edible bow, and it was time to give it back to him, even knowing the personal humiliation it contained for me, and I was confronted with a "Well?"

I was holding the box, so I couldn't very well throw up my hands without getting carrot stains on the ceiling, so I said, "Yeah, well...let's go." I smiled, "You'll take care of Tony later, right?"

Annie looked down, "Well, okay, if you still want me to," then she looked up and smiled happily, "Get going!"

We walked back into the other room, and everyone seemed normal, various conversations and joke telling going on. Davy was in the middle of kissing Melanie a little when I nudged his shoulder with my elbow.

He turned, and I held the box out. "Davy, this is for you from Tony, and I apologize for stealing it before." Davy stared at me, his eyes wide. I added, "If you don't mind me sayin’, this ribbon looks pretty good to eat, so don't just toss it, okay?"

I couldn't hold my laugh in anymore, and suddenly I couldn't even stand up, so I plopped on Davy's lap, tipped over both his chair and Melanie's, and we all ended up on the floor. We weren't hurt, but I was the only one who thought it was funny, and I guess it should have been an embarrassing moment for me, but it wasn't.

I got to see something I may never have otherwise, which was Davy's concern for both me and Melanie. He was pretty much on top of her, but on his back facing up at me. He asked, "Damn, are you okay, Mike?" I nodded, then he pulled himself out from the middle and checked Melanie out. "Are you okay, Sweetie? Please say you're not hurt!"

It hurt me not to laugh for once. "Sweetie?" Wasn't that the term that so embarrassed him with his parents? I couldn't believe he called her that, and I reached out blindly, landing my hand on his ass.

Well, I guess that was no-no land. Davy jumped about a foot, yelping, and landed right on Melanie again, who squealed herself. This time they were front to front.

Paul laughed and said, "Davy, I think you two should seek out some privacy right about now."

Davy got to his hands and knees, straddling a very embarrassed Melanie, and he turned his head to Paul. He said levelly, "It's my house, Paul." He turned back to Melanie and smiled, then kissed her quickly, and mumbled, "I think I know what I'm doing. I hope I know what I'm doing."

Melanie's smile told me that Davy was on the right track, and they eventually managed to get up and seated again, this time with Melanie across Davy's lap.

Yes, the pictures got passed around, including the subject pictures. Yes, there were comments and questions. Yes, people laughed where I was dressed like a girl. Yes, I saw both Guy and Seth trying to steal those, and I should have let them have the stupid things, but they belonged to Davy so I opened my mouth to prevent the crime.

I got through it somehow, mostly by envisioning Tony's coming punishment. I couldn't mess with his hands or his head; that would prevent future art. A vision of him with tree stumps where his legs used to be didn't bother me much, though, even when they were way fatter than his former legs, and held on with duct tape over his shoulders, just like suspenders. There! Scamper now, you little traitor!

After awhile, embarrassing even easy blushers like me wears thin, and conversation finally turned to other things.

It was a nice night, and when people started leaving, the pictures of me in girly clothes seemed to be forgotten. Well, not by everyone. I'd shook hands with some, got hugs from a few, but when Guy was hugging me he whispered, "I'd like to get your next potato out down there."

I giggled and whispered, "The potato was just a cover story, Guy, dreamed up to save me future embarrassment. It was the real thing."

I started snickering, and he pulled away, then shoved me while he laughed. "You're a pig, you know that?"

I laughed, "I know, and I'm glad you noticed." I screwed up my face, " Oink!"

Guy left laughing and shaking his head, and he went with Paul and Seth instead of Juan.

We all helped to clean up, though most of it was already done. Davy invited us to watch tv or a video with him and Melanie, but we all decided we were too tired and headed upstairs.

I went to the room, while Annie held back with Paulina for awhile. I was done in the bathroom and under the covers when Annie came it. I asked, "What'd you talk about?"

She said, matter-of-factly, "Melanie; who else?" as she headed into the bathroom and closed the door behind her. I was almost asleep when Annie came out, but I'd had my own thoughts laying there.

Melanie was pretty, very pretty. There was no getting away from that. She was also at least as shy as Tony, and shyness wasn't something I usually connected with really good looking people. I mean, she talked, but like Tony did. If someone asked her something, she'd answer, but she didn't seem to try to get things going.

I could see Davy's happiness with her though, and I remembered his comments to me about choosing her side over mine. I guess it's all about personal honesty in the end; I could see where Davy was coming from, and it made me smile. It was a lesson well learned, a lesson from a friend that displaced him as my best friend.

Annie held that position now, and as she slipped into bed with me, clad in a Dr. Denton that I couldn't determine the color of because it was dark, I could only think about being true to her, being faithful.

Guys turned me on, some of them. They intrigued me. I could make a list of them, but I won't, because it's not important.

Annie fascinated me!

Oh, God! I was in love all over again, and when Annie slid into bed beside me for the first time ever, I was overwhelmed by my feelings. Her Dr. Denton's told me what not to expect love-wise, and I didn't mind a bit. I was wearing sweat pants and an undershirt to sleep in, pretty much what I wear all the time.

I turned on my side to face Annie, then kissed her, hoping my garlic breath wasn't breaking any rules. Annie smelled great, and she joined the kiss, so I guess I was okay. When we pulled our faces apart, she asked, "Did you notice the bathtub?"

I giggled out my surprise because those were words of plumbing, not words of love. "The bathtub? Do I smell that bad?"

Annie laughed and kissed my nose, "No, silly! It's a Jacuzzi. A two person Jacuzzi, at least if we scrunch up a little."

I snickered, "You wanna scrunch with me?"

We kissed again and she said, "I think scrunching up with you would be a wonderful way to start the day. What do you think?"

"Me? I'd like to spend the day like that, the heck with just startin' it."

Annie smiled, "Now, that's a nice romantic way to put it. Kiss me again and let's get some sleep."

We kissed, and I doubted I'd get any sleep. Annie eventually turned on her side with her back to me, and I cuddled up behind her, feeling her warmth and softness through her fuzzy pajamas as she drifted off.

I didn't fall asleep right away, because I was trying to register my feelings for all time. I'd never slept in such a big bed, such a comfortable bed. I'd never felt such warmth and softness all around me. I'd never slept with a girl before, and this was Annie.

I never felt so complete before. Not ever.


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