Discovering Love

Written by Rick Beck

Chapter 13

Ever After

The days had been growing warmer as we got deeper into spring. I left Greg's house. The feel of the crisp morning air stimulated me. There was a clean smell in the undisturbed air of the new day. I walked along Old Highway until I came to El Rancho where I intended to waste some time before I walked home. I didn't want to arrive so early that it brought suspicion to my parents.

Blazing new trails had made me less secure with what was happening inside me. Feeling drawn back to Greg in spite of knowing better and pledging not to let it happen had me angry with myself. Greg wasn't the kind of guy I even liked and yet, every time I got close to him, I could not resist his arrogant charm. This was the most confusing piece of the equation. What was it about Greg that kept him coming back to mind?

My brain whirled around a thousand miles a minute in school Monday. I skipped the shower after gym, realizing that every time Greg came to mind, my mind gave rise to other things. I once again resolved to stay away from Greg, but I already doubted that I could. If I stayed away from him than I had to stay away from Doug and I didn't want to stay away from Doug. I didn't know exactly what Doug thought about me, but I thought he was something else, and I couldn't figure out why I didn't have the thoughts about Doug that I had about Greg. I liked him more than I liked Greg. I wasn't sure I liked Greg at all.

I left school Monday and went right home. I was surprised to see Doug and Alfred walking toward me as I went down the street to my house. I stood and watched as they came toward me.

"Hey, long time no see," I said.

"He wanted to know where you lived. I brung him over," Alfred said. "Boy I was drunk the last time I saw you."

"A little," I said.

"You wanted to know where I lived?" I said delighted, looking into Doug's sleepy blue eyes.

"Yeah, you know where I live. I figured knowing where you lived was cool."

"You never came over before," I said to Alfred.

"Never thought you wanted me down here. It's not like we've been butt buddies or anything."

"No, it's not like that," I said. "Want a Coke?"

"Yeah," Doug said. "You sure it's okay?"

"Me too?" Alfred asked.

"Of course you too. I'm glad you came over," I said to Alfred. He looked at me funny like he wasn't sold on that one and he waited for me to look back at Doug. I was glad he had brought Doug over.

We all sat in the kitchen where my father would prepare dinner in another hour. I wanted them to stay but I knew I had to get them out of there to avoid complicating my life. Our conversation didn't exactly flow.

"Your parents get home okay?" I asked.

"Yes," Doug said.

"Everything was okay. The house wasn't too messed up?"

"It's always too messed up after we're there alone for a few days. Mom does the recreation room and I clean up the television room. Greg has to get all the booze and his buddies out of the house before they come home. He dumps the booze bottles and empties across the street at the Episcopal Church."

"Nice touch," I said.

"Convenient of them to put the dumpsters near the road."

"Let's go up to El Rancho. I need a chili fries fix. I ain't et since lunch," Alfred said.

We worked our way up the gravel road and turned onto Old Highway. It was three quarters of a mile to El Rancho and a quarter mile back to Doug's. I bought the Cokes on account I didn't have an appetite at lunch and saved my two bucks. Alfred ordered the house special, chili fries, and he sat at the counter to talk to Joe.

"Did Greg say anything about me?" I asked, wanting to know if I was in trouble with the king.

"You! He doesn't know you're alive, Martin. You don't want to get started with my brother. You'll be sorry if you do."

"I know," I said. "I just wondered if he had said anything."

"You're too nice to be taking up with him. There are lots of nice guys you can like. I don't know what anyone sees in my brother? He's a total asswipe most of the time."

"Yeah, he is," I said.

"Timmy's nice."

"Yeah," I said. "Tommy."

"Lost cause. He's more fucked up than Greg."

"How's that?"

"Doesn't want it and can't leave it alone. He's Catholic."

"What's that mean?"

"He doesn't want to go to hell."

"I should hope not."

"He's got this thing he's doing with Timmy. I don't know why Timmy puts up with it. He comes over to his house and they always end up doing it. Then Tommy blames Timmy for making him do it. A few days later he's back crying on Timmy's shoulder about the way his old man treats him."

"Bummer," I said.

"Timmy says they're friends and he can't stop seeing him."

"Maybe they are," I said. "Maybe you just don't understand their friendship. Everyone isn't like everyone else that way, you know," I said, philosophizing as best I could and sipping on my Coke as I stared at his face.

"You're right. Timmy's like you. He's too nice. People use him."

"That why you are warning me about your brother?"

"Yeah, I know how he fucks with new guys, Martin."

"No, I mean on account we're friends?"

My fishing expedition was crude. Doug stared at me for a few seconds. I think he was going over our conversation. He sipped his Coke while we looked at each other.

"I suppose that's right. We don't know each other real well, you know, but I'd say we are friends. I asked you to come with us next weekend. I don't usually ask anyone because of my asshole brother. Kent used to come but he doesn't now."

"Greg going to like me coming along?"

"Oh, that's what you meant about him saying anything. I thought you meant...."

I waited for Doug to finish but that was it. I didn't know what he thought I meant and I wasn't sure I should confirm it for him. I let it go for the time being.

"I ask who I want. He asks who he wants. It's all good. We don't get into each other's friendships."

"Why doesn't this Kent go any more?"

"I'm not sure. Something happened one time. Greg and Kent won't stay in the same room together now. Neither one of them will tell me what's up with that. When I ask Kent to come along, he just says, no thanks."

"He a good friend of yours?"

"The best. He's Herbie's brother," Doug said, glancing at me to see my reaction..

"Your best friend is related to Herbie? I was hoping he was an only child."

"He's nothing like Herbie. Everyone likes Kent. He's like Herbie but he isn't. Kent's handsome and he knows when to quit."

"Herbie doesn't?"

"That's an understatement. I mean Herbie's like totally cool, but some times enough is too much if you know what I mean. He knows how to get what he wants and if it don't work right off, he just keeps at you if you know what I mean."

"I think I do," I said.

"I'm not sure you do but it's not something I want to talk about."

"Your parents mind you dragging kids along?"

"They want to know who we're running around with. This way they get to see them over a period of time and they know if they want me hanging with them or not."

"What if they don't?"

"They say so."

"Does that mean you can't hang with someone if they say so?"

"No, it's not like that. If they don't like someone they'll say not to trust them or to be careful not to let them talk me into something I know better than to do."

"What do they say about Greg?"

"He is the Prince, Martin. How do you think he got that way? They encourage him. I mean he is cool in a lot of ways, it's just that him and Herbie's got on this sex kick, and they just encourage each other. Greg isn't like a total perv. He usually knows when enough is enough if he don't drink too much."

"Herbie?"

"Herbie hasn't stopped since the first time he found his pee-pee," Doug said, shaking his head.

"I like him," I said.

"Everybody does. That's the curse. Sooner or later he'll work up to it. You don't know these guys, Martin. You think you're in control, but sex can be a powerful attraction once you try it."

"What makes you think I haven't already done it?" I asked.

"I just have a hunch on it. You're way too innocent for one thing."

"...And what do your parents think about you?"

"I'm the apple of their eye. I don't have any ranking in the kingdom but my parents love me best. Greg sucks up most of the spotlight but it isn't my thing. It has never been my thing. I prefer being the strong silent type. I stay out of trouble that way."

"You are," I said.

"I are what?"

"The strong silent type. You observe everything and you pretty much know what's going on. You don't try to make anyone else see it your way. That's cool."

"Yeah, and if I don't want to get in trouble I better start home. I got to do potatoes and carrots before supper time."

"Do them?"

"Peel them. I'll see you later, Alfred," Doug said, standing and moving toward the door.

"Yeah, Alfred, good seeing you. Come around any time," I said, following Doug.

We walked out onto the main road. A horn blew in my ear as we got on the south side of the highway. I waited for the noise to stop but the baby blue Ford Galaxy jerked onto the shoulder of the road directly in front of us. Doug took off running toward the car.

"Come on, Martin. It's my mom."

I didn't come on but they didn't move until I got up beside the car.

"Get in. I shall take you home, Doug's friend," she said in a delightfully friendly voice not like any other mother I'd ever known.

"I'm Martin. You don't need to do that. Just drop me in front of your house. I live just across the highway."

"Yeah! He lives in the Heights. Up the gravel road and then the second right," Doug said as though she'd know where it was.

"Okay. Come on. You can get off at our house," she said, and we were on the way in a flash and before I got the door shut.

"How's your day, Douglas?" She said just as delightfully as before.

"Fine, mom. Just walked up to El Rancho with Martin."

"How's Kent, Douglas. We don't see much of him any more."

"Fine. Busy as usual."

"How's Herbert? I noticed all the Pistachio ice cream was gone. He must have spent the weekend, huh? "

"Yeah! Crazy as ever, mom. Boy's a walking spaz attack, looking for a place to happen. I wonder if he'll ever grow up."

"Cut it out, Douglas. Herbert's just a little uncoordinated and immature. He's fine. He'll grow out of it one day."

"Right, mom. Just like the Hunchback of Notre Dame grew out of his hump. Herbie's defective. You know they all have that gene."

"Judge not less you be judged, my dear little one. That gene will come in handy when those boys get married. They're just too young to know what to do with it right now. That's all. They'll grow out of it and they'll both grow into fine young men."

"Either that or sex fiends," Doug said.

"Here we are, Martin. Won't you come in for a Coke? I'm sure we have some Coke hidden somewhere so we didn't run out. That okay by you, Douglas? Can Martin come in."

"Sure. Martin's cool. He goes to school with Gregie."

"Oh! You mean Greg has some normal friends? Is this the one going with us this weekend?"

"Yeah, he's the one. I think that maybe Martin and I are becoming friends. Martin hasn't gotten around to worshipping his kingship yet. I don't think he's too impressed."

"Well good. At least there are some nice people at that school, and Greg is easiest when taken in small doses, Martin. He can be a bit much but he's a good boy."

"A bit, mom," Doug said as we got out of the car.

Greg passed the kitchen as Doug and I talked near the fridge.

"What's he doing here?" Greg said without any particular fondness in his voice.

"Mom asked him? She picked us up on the highway. She rode us home."

"You didn't get enough of a good thing this weekend, Martin," Greg said, staring at me as I was checking out his body. He had on a tight pair of dark blue silk shorts and no shirt and from the looks of it, no underwear. He came in and opened the door of the fridge and reached in for a plastic bottle. His thigh was touching my crotch as I stood fast with his shoulder in my face. I inhaled and remembered his smell. There was the smell of sex on his skin.

He looked awesome and his smile dazzled me in a way that made me lose track of where I was. He stayed pressed against me as Doug leaned on the sink and watched our dance. Greg's eyes stayed on mine while he drank.

"It's my kitchen," he said unyielding, moving me away from him with his elbow and I could see the front of the shorts starting to poke out. My mouth went dry and my eyes were fixed on the rising silk.

"Yeah," I said, looking at the cut of his chest before finding his eyes again.

I nervously wondered if he had any memory of what I'd done to him. He put the bottle up to his lips again. I remembered our first kiss. They had been my first lips. He offered me the bottle before and when my eyes went back to his crotch, his fingers pulled the silk around the bulge as he watched me watch him play with it. I just stood there like some dufus, taking anything he gave me. I handled the bottle back to him after I took a drink.

"You get enough?" he asked, and I wasn't sure he meant the water.

"Yeah, hit the spot," I said, feeling the heat building in that small space where the three of us stood."

"At least you don't leave teeth marks on the bottle." Greg turned his back on me and started to walk toward the dinning room. Doug stared at me and an inquisitive look came over his face.

"And why haven't I met Martin before, Gregie," their mother said as she passed the doorway as he was coming out of it.

"Careful planning, mother dear," Greg said. "We're not close. Martin's different."

"Maybe you should be close. He's a nice boy. Better than some of those characters that follow you around. I don't think Martin would follow so easily."

"You just don't know about a thing like that," Greg said. "Some guys you just never know about, but that's why doors have locks."

I wondered if she had any idea the affect Greg had on the boys that followed him around or what he did to them? He turned toward the television room when he left the doorway. I tried to see the front of his shorts as he moved but he was too fast for me, and I was left to face Doug. I knew there was a blush in my cheeks and a rise in my jeans, but it wasn't like I had given away anything he didn't already know or strongly suspect.

I liked Doug a lot but I wanted Greg even more than that. I don't know why but his scent was still in my nostrils and he smelled just like fresh sex. I wondered what he had been up to while I was with Alfred and Doug. I wondered who had been there before we got there.

"Don't take him too seriously. He takes care of that himself," Doug said. "Want something to drink besides his private water? I got to get started on the peelin' if I don't want to catch it."

"I've got to get home anyway," I said. "Thanks Doug."

"For what? I didn't do anything."

"You came over. We went out this afternoon. I enjoyed it. You're cool."

"But not as cool as... me too," he said, digging in the cupboard under the sink and loading a pan with potatoes. "Maybe I'll catch you tomorrow."

"That would be okay," I said, watching him walk onto the back porch and plop down on an old rickety looking kitchen chair.

"Bye" I yelled as the backdoor slammed. Mostly it was for his mother but I hoped Greg heard me too. I checked the windows for any sign that he was looking at me and tasting his lips, wondering about Saturday night. I still wasn't sure he knew or just suspected.

I couldn't believe how openly Doug talked to his mother about Herbie. What did she know? I wondered if she knew he was talking about Herbie's sexual appetite. As much as I didn't like parents, she was about the best mother I'd met up until then. I was also wondering about Kent. I'd been hearing about him for some time, but I hadn't met him. He was just one more mystery that revolved around the boys in the house near the end of my neighborhood.

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