Discovering Love

Written by Rick Beck

Chapter 32

Life's Little Surprises

Kent called me twice Sunday evening after I'd gone home to do my homework. His deep and sexy voice recounted the highlights of our weekend of bliss. He was on the phone again Monday morning half way between brushing my teeth and packing my lunch. He had to hear my voice. He sounded happy but in pain because of our parting. I knew the feeling. We agreed to meet after school. I'd wait for him at the pillar in front of Doug's. My entire day was spent counting the minutes until I could once again catch sight of him.

I arrived first because the senior-high got out a half an hour ahead of the junior-high. It was also half as far to the senior-high. I sat my books down next to the pillar and sat on them. Summer was fast-approaching and Kent and I could see each other every single day. I was lost in thoughts when the car passed and I heard the yell.

"There goes the fucking neighborhood," Greg screamed, hoisting himself out the window of the car so he could sit on the window frame to look across the roof at me. He was smiling from ear to ear. He seemed happy and ever so pleased with himself, but Greg was always pleased with himself. As they turned the corner onto his lane I could see his eyes sparkling as he faced the sun. I cringed but there was still that dip that hit my stomach as all my feelings for him rushed back on me. I watched him until he went out of my view. I looked up the street for Kent but I knew it would be awhile yet before he came. Why couldn't Greg have ignored me or not seen me at all. I'd never have seen him if he hadn't climbed out of the car and that would have been easy on my insides.

I sat there watching the cars pass. The sense of pleasure I'd felt over my life when I sat down there was now gone as I tried to keep Greg out of my brain. Was I always going to feel this way when I saw him?

I jumped two feet when he spoke to me from just beside the stone pillar.

"Hey, stranger, what's up? What are you doing sitting out here?"

The sun was just behind his head and there was no way to see his face. I knew the voice like I knew my own heart. I saw the cutoffs and realized how high they had been cut off. I tried to look at his face but I just got blinded by the light. I did so want to see those beautiful blue eyes one more time since he was there.

"Nothing," I said, looking to where my hands were holding each other in front of my knees. I wanted him to go away.

"You don't have to sit out here. You can come in if you want."

"I'm waiting for someone," I said as if he hadn't figured that out.

"My hopeless little brother no doubt," Greg said.

"Yeah, I think he'll come along pretty soon. I don't want to interrupt you and your friends."

"Oh him? New guy from Kansas if you can believe that. He wanted to see where I lived. He didn't stay. He's still a bit shy."

"Oh, they won't expect me to be inside," I said.

"They'll never find you here. They cut across the front yard at the far corner. Come on in and wait. You can have a Coke. My mother just loaded the cupboard with all the soda she had coupons for."

"Root Beer?" I asked.

"Hires or A&W."


"Come on," he said, turning and walking back toward the horseshoe drive.

I followed him and I looked at how broad his shoulders were. I couldn't resist following them down to his narrow waist and the top of those low hung cutoffs. His ass shifted suggestively as he walked but I wasn't foolish enough to think this was done with me in mind. Greg always walked in a manor that attracted the utmost attention to his well-developed body.

He held his arms out away from his body, more strutting than walking, now that I give it some thought. He carried himself like he was still the king and I followed him like one of his subjects, unable to think of a good enough reason why I shouldn't. I suppose I would have followed him anywhere in that moment if he had only asked, but he didn't and so I only followed him to the house.

The side windows in the dinning room were wide open and the sheer-white curtains were partially blowing outside the confines of the house. The screen that gave access to the awkward and uneven back porch stood wide open as did the door to the kitchen. I followed him up the steps admiring his ass as I was closing the screen door behind me. I could see the hair under his arms when he leaned into the freezer for the ice. I watched his arm and part of the right side of his chest flex as he reached above his head for glasses.

He filled two glasses with ice and poured one full of Coke and one full of Root Beer. He sat at the table looking up at me as I stood unsure of how long the invitation would be good this time. There was an easy smile, no sneer, and those damn eyes that had the ability to suck the air out of both of my lungs at the same time. I held the back of the wooden chair considering my options.

"How's it hanging, Martin. I've never seen you look so..., so... content. You and my brother doing the wild thing these days? You can sit down if you like. I've already had lunch. You're safe for the time being."

"No, it's too difficult being friends with Doug and knowing I'm going to piss you off every time I come around," I said. "We don't hardly see each other much any more."

"But you were meeting him, I thought," he said with curiosity in his statement. The smile disappeared and the cockiness never arrived, right-away anyway. "You were sitting outside the house. Who else but Douglas?"

"No, I'm supposed to meet someone he'll be with," I said, sipping and looking at this thigh poised two inches from where my thigh had come to rest next to the tiny table in the narrow kitchen.

"Oh, I thought.... Never mind that. I asked him where you'd been. I figured he'd say something to you."

"No!" I said, getting caught in his eyes for an instant longer than I intended. "We hardly see each other. He probably forgot but the time we did."

"He should have told you. I didn't want you think I still held a grudge."

"Greg, I was told not to come here. Doug is your brother and he believes if you don't want me here and it would therefore be wrong for him to keep inviting me. That's what he told me. I agreed. I don't specialize in pissing people off and it's all I do when ever I'm around you."

"Oh that. You know I didn't mean what I said. I get pissed-off way too easy when I don't get my way. I say stuff all the time I don't mean. Most guys just don't pay much attention to anything they don't want to hear from me. You aren't like most guys, Martin. I got to spell everything out for you. Yeah, I get pissed off and I get over it pretty quick. I'm not a total jerk. Well, usually I'm not. Nobody listens when I tell them not to come around."

"Kent?" I asked.

"Kent?" He said, his eyes flashing with anger for a second at the mere sound of the word. "Kent what?"

"Never mind. It's not important."

"It was important enough for you to say it. That who you're meeting?"

I sipped my drink and listened to the ice jingle against the glass. He watched my drinking technique without bothering to smile. I squirmed and somehow our thighs were pressed together and heat was pushing past the icy contents of my stomach and into my face. I was turning red and I knew it and I wanted to leap up and get away from him, but I didn't.

He smiled once he noticed the red tint on my cheeks and then he noticed our legs touching ever so slightly. I got hotter when he let his entire leg straighten out so it rested against mine from out ankles to our thighs. He smiled and he still seeming quite pleased with himself.

"We've got fifteen minutes. We could shoot a little pool. I've only got my shorts and sandals. We'll hear him come in."

"I don't think I should."

"Sure you should," he disagreed.

"We'll just end up arguing. No matter what we start out doing we end up arguing about it. I like you and I don't want to argue with you any more. Let's just leave it be."

"Oh we will not. We can be friends if you want. I shouldn't have said what I did and I'll be more careful. You pay less attention to what I say and it'll all work out just fine. Come on, Martin. I want to play with you.... Pool!" He said, standing to reveal the bulge running down to near where the right leg of his shorts ended way too soon for any pretense of modesty.

He checked to see if I had found his excitement and of course I was looking there first. He then reached down to scratch his crotch so that the leg would lift to expose just enough of him. "Come on. I'll take off the sandals and all you got to do is win one. I really want you to win this time. To make up for me acting like an asshole, okay? We won't argue. Let me make things up to you."

He continued to shift the material in his shorts as long as my eyes stayed transfixed there. His smile grew and the twinkle in his eye made them sparkle.

"What do you want, Martin?" He said once I hadn't responded.

"Hey Greg, you seen Martin," Doug yelled as the screen door slammed.

Greg flopped back down into the chair as Doug appeared in the door of the kitchen.

"Oh, there you are. We thought you'd be out front," Doug said. "You two aren't fighting?"

"You're timing is always rotten, Douglas," Greg said, gulping Coke and pushing himself away from the table before heading for the living room. "You know where I live, Martin. The offer is good any time. Don't be a stranger."

"Yeah, whatever," Doug said, answering for me. "Come on, Martin. He's like a bitch-in-heat out there. He thinks you stood him up. What have you two been up to anyway? He won't tell me anything and he tells me everything. What are you doing with my brother? I thought you two hated each other or something. I can't keep up with you three."

"He invited me in," I said, getting up from the table and looking to see if Greg was still around so I could get a final glance.

"Hey, that's great. You can come to the mountains with us this weekend. Both Van an' Augie asked when you were coming back. My mom asked me too! I told her you was busy.

We can go fishing. I found this really neat spot," Doug rambled excitedly.

"I think I have plans this weekend," I said.

"Kent, no doubt!"

I smiled. Kent was true-blue. I followed Doug out to the tree in the middle of the driveway. Kent was leaning against the tree in the shade and he smiled at me as soon as he saw me come off the porch.

"I thought you forgot," Kent said, reaching for my hand and this caught Doug's eye.

"I see that look in your eye, Kent. You said you were through with love."

"I lied," Kent said, never taking his eyes out of mine. "I'd kiss you but there are too many people watching us. We don't want to give them the wrong idea."

I looked up and there was Greg, leaning with his hands on the dining room windowsill, glaring out at us. His expression had changed and the anger was back on his face. I didn't figure I'd ever understand him but I felt bad I'd pissed him off one more time. I guess he wanted what he wanted when he wanted it and he was used to getting it. He certainly knew he could get me any time he wanted and I regretted that because I knew I was powerless around him. He was dangerous to me and to anyone I would ever like. I made up my mind to stay away from Greg. Kent was as good as it got for me, and I would be fine with him. At least he cared something about me.

"You coming with, Dougie?" Kent asked, holding both of my hands and not looking at Doug.

"No, you two go ahead. I can see I'd only be in the way and Herbie's always busy with someone."

"We're just going to talk," Kent said.

"Yeah, right! I know you better than that."

Kent and I met every day after school through Wednesday. We talked on the phone each night and talked about what we would do the next day after school. We started talking about what we would do during the summer vacation. On Wednesday night no one answered the phone and he didn't call. On Thursday Doug showed up alone after school and he said Kent hadn't been there that day. I tried to call thinking he was sick, but there was still no answer. Doug and I walked to his house and it was locked up tight and no one was there.

We started walking back to his house when the baby blue Galaxy screeched to a stop just behind our legs.

"Hello, Martin," Doug's Mom said in that little girl voice of hers. "We are quite disappointed you haven't joined us at the weekend house."

"I've been pretty busy," I said, trying to get my mind off Kent.

"We're going this weekend if you want to come along," she said, wheeling the sedan back onto the road.

"I'm busy again. I'm sorry."

"Never be sorry. As long as you are busy doing good things."

"Besides, the king gives him hell most of the time," Doug said. "That gets old fast. None of my friends want to be around him any more."

"Timmy is always going with us," she reminded him.

"He goes to be around Greg, Mom, not me. He just hangs with me because he wants to be around him is all."

"Martin, if you are staying away because Greg is being difficult, I shall have a talk with my first born son and set him straight."

"That'll be the day," Doug said.

"It's not that. Greg's okay. Please, don't make a big deal about it. I don't think he likes me very much and if you say something, well, it can only get worse."

"Greg is too busy liking himself to know a good friend from a loser," she said, turning her head to smile at me reassuringly as I sat in the backseat feeling bad.

Doug grabbed the door tightly and shouted, "Mom, drive on the road please. I want to live to see the tenth grade. I've dreamed all my life about going to high school. Don't take that away from me when I'm so close."

"Oh, Douglas, you're such a ninny. I drive fine," she said, glancing at me a little quicker than the last time.

"You drive fine when you keep the wheels on the pavement."

"Oh, hush," she objected, making the quick turn onto their lane and then jerking the car into the nearest end of the driveway.

"Mom!" Doug objected.

"You shall come in and have some soda with me," she said. "Root Beer I believe."

"Yes, ma'am, I can't stay long. I have to be home for dinner."

"I can drive you if having a soda makes you late," she offered.

"No, ma'am. That's not necessary. I have time for some soda."

The three of us sat around the small kitchen table. Doug's Mom laughed and joked with us and wasn't anything like a parent. She seemed happy and she enjoyed life and us. I liked her more and more each time I was with her.

Greg came to the door after some particularly loud belly laughing about one of Doug's misadventures as a boy.

"Oh, it's him. Where's Kent? I'm sure he's waiting for you, somewhere. We wouldn't want to keep you two apart," Greg said with no warmth in his voice for me or for Kent.

"Greg!" His mother said firmly. "I've invited Martin to join us this weekend. He seems to think you'll have some objection to his presence and I've assured him that if you were smart, which I know you think you are, you'd have no objection whatsoever, would you?"

"No, ma'am," Greg said, glaring at me. "No objections."

"I'm going to be busy, I think," I said.

"With Kent? Me thinks not," Greg said, looking at me,"Kent and Herbie are on their way to California as we speak. He didn't tell you. How careless. Just can't trust that boy," he continued sarcastically.

"What?" I said in shock.

"Oh yeah, Herbie called me from the airport a little while ago. Their old man is going to Asia on TDY for three months. He's dropping them off at his parents for the summer. Didn't Kent tell you any of this? Of course it was sudden. Herbie didn't even have time to pack. He won't be busy this weekend, mom, don't let him lie to you," Greg said, walking away from the door even more pleased with himself than usual.

"Well, whether you are or you aren't, you're welcome to come with us any time you like. Greg will not be a problem," she said.

"Thank you," I said, having already told my parents I was going to be away for the weekend and giving them the impression I was going with the people that I was now actually going with since my life had been destroyed.

"Since Greg doesn't mind, maybe I will," I said loudly so he would hear. I hoped I pissed him off as much as he pissed me off.

"I didn't say I didn't mind," Greg said even louder from the hall by the television room.

"Excuse me, Gregory," his mother said, speaking louder yet.

"But I should have," Greg finished, once his mother had made her opinion clear to him.

"You see, he'll be no trouble at all," she said confidently.

"Right Mom, he's just going to be on his best behavior whenever you're around," Doug said.

"Now you cut it out, young man. Your brother is a bit self-centered is all. He simply needs guidance. Martin can rest assured I'll give it to him if there are any problems. Your father will enjoy seeing Martin again. He thought you were a fine young man."

"Yes, ma'am," I said, unable to get too excited about my fate. Spending the weekend with Greg seemed even too cruel for my rotten luck.

I called Kent's house constantly until we left Friday after school for the mountains. Doug tried to cheer me up but had little luck and Greg tried to make me feel bad but he couldn't make me feel any worse. I wondered, if I might ever meet someone that I could stay with just for a little while? I wasn't sure what I had to do at sixteen to have someone to depend on, someone to end my loneliness for good.

The weekend was fine. I mostly hung with Doug and we swam and fished and took a canoe down to the rapids and succeeded in bruising all four of our knees when we hit a rock and went head over heals into the water. Luckily the canoe went to the shore so we didn't lose it down the mile of rapids. That would have been a bummer. We mostly pulled it back because even the river ran against me.

As we finally got the canoe into the calms near the back of the house Greg was standing near the shore and waded out to help us secure the canoe once he saw how beaten up and exhausted we were.

"Mom was worried about you two. You took it into the rapids didn't you? You know better, Douglas, they're dangerous for amateurs."

"Yeah, yeah. When did mom start worrying about us? And if she was really worried about us, why did she send you?" Doug inquired curiously.

"She just told me to look out for you is all. She knows how helpless you are. Don't mention it to her and I won't say anything about the dents."

"Yeah, right," Doug said, tying the rear off so it couldn't drift. "What dents?"

"Look at the nose on that puppy. What did you hit, a bridge? You really need some lessons, brother of mine."

"I think it was a rock. We didn't get a lot of time to look at it. We were mostly swimming right after that," Doug explained. "Did you see what we hit, Martin."

"You're lucky it didn't get loose down the rapids. We'd have been chasing it for a week. It could end up in the Potomac, you know."

"It was a rock. Big sucker that the water was running around. I could only see a little of the top," I said.

"You saw it and you didn't warn me to steer around it?" Doug asked.

"Steer! We were hurtling so fast I barely caught a glimpse before we ended up flying out of that thing."

"You okay, Martin?" Greg asked in a voice I didn't recognize.

"What do you care. Just get off my back, okay," I said, moving toward the shore and away from them. "I wasn't driving the fucking thing."

"He's heartbroken. Don't mind him. I can't even get a smile out of him," Doug said.

"Maybe you don't have what he wants is all," Greg said as their voices faded behind me.

I hauled myself up the rope and met Greg's father at the garden.

"Martin, come help me pick some tomatoes. You're a mess boy. You can take me up for me and get a shower. Let the Mrs. Look at those knees. Went down the rapids, huh? They're tricky."

"They're green," I advised him as though he were in a different garden.

"Yeah, perfect for frying. You like deer, Martin?"

"I don't really know. What's it taste like?"

"Oh, are you in for a treat. Get a couple of those big ones in the middle. They'll be getting ripe soon. By the end of June they'll be big and juicy and ready to eat off the vine. Doesn't your father hunt, Martin?"

"I don't think so," I said.

"What do you do together?" He asked.

"Nothing," I said.

"You don't go to ball games or play golf, nothing at all?"

"No, sir. He keeps pretty busy. Mostly I try to stay out of the way."

The man looked at me carefully and gone was the broad smile and the infectious laugh. I guess I had that affect on people. That weekend no one was smiling when I left. I think Greg tried to be nice to me any number of times but I didn't trust him. I knew what he wanted because there wasn't anyone there but Doug and me. By Sunday he steered clear of me every chance he got. I don't know if we weren't speaking again or not, but we didn't.

Augie and Van had left about the time we got there. They were double dating Van's girlfriend and her sister down where Van lived. I thought about how I had met them and gave up on trying to figure people out. The double dating had been going on since the last time I was up there but Van and Augie had stayed close friends. I wondered if they were still dating each other too but they only got back Sunday afternoon about the time we were leaving.

It was nice seeing people that were still together a couple of months after they'd first started seeing each other but it wasn't the way I expected it should be. Maybe guys could date both guys and girls and I was weird for only being interested in guys. I didn't get long to ask questions because we had to go before we had much time to talk but they both said they were glad to see me and they wanted me to come back soon. Greg came back in the back of the truck with us but he slept all the way.

On Tuesday I got a postcard from Kent. He said he was sorry and that he didn't know until his father packed them up the morning they left and I was already at school. He would have called school but he knew they'd never call me to the phone. He had gotten a postcard and a stamp on the run through the airport and he didn't sign the postcard but he did do something even better.


For the first time in almost a week I smiled, holding the card to my chest and trying to remember what it felt like being in his arms.

A letter came the next day and he reassured me he was going to be back by the start of school no matter what and he'd be back sooner if he could figure out a way to get back to me. I started feeling like my world maybe wasn't coming to an end after all. Then I got the same kind of surprise from my father as Kent's father had given him. It was two days before the end of the school year when my father broke the news.

"Your grandparents want you to come down for the summer," he said at the breakfast table on Wednesday morning.

"They do?" I asked, trying to think of some reason why I absolutely couldn't go away.

"Me and your Uncle Joe will be driving you down after school tomorrow afternoon. Pack what you need tonight when you get home from school. We won't be stopping at the house after we pick you up."

So much for trying to think of reasons why I absolutely couldn't go away. My summer was ruined. My grandparents lived on some backwater near the Gulf Of Mexico on the panhandle of Florida.

My final day of school was spent mostly in trying to figure out my life. It seemed to be beyond my control. It came in spasms and reached feverish highs before crashing down beyond the beyond. Even my final minutes before being whisked off to Florida were just another spasm that confused my life even more.

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