Rules of the Road
by Geron Kees
©2016 by Geron Kees. All rights reserved.
School ended, summer vacation began.
In the weeks since Brian had found Jeff, they had become close. Brian found himself spending as much time with the other boy as possible, and finding it difficult to explain to his other friends.
Ed at first took his explanations at face value. Family things come up, shit just happens. But that didn't work for long, and Ed started to look at him like he knew something was up, that there was something important going on that Brian just wasn't talking about.
"Dude," he began, one sunny, warm evening, when Brian had willed himself to stay at home, after having told Jeff that he had to see some other people now and then or the sudden change in his life would get too noticed to explain away. Jeff had nodded, understanding, but there had been an obvious disappointment in his eyes that Brian could not fail to see.
"What the fuck is going on with you?" Ed finished.
In the days or evenings that Brian stayed at home to hang with his friends, he was aware he was distracted - not really all there for the people he was with - and that they noticed. Ed was looking at him with concern though - to be expected from his best friend.
Brian looked over at him. He had the hood up on the Bee and was polishing the valve covers. Ed had the basketball and was shooting hoops - or had been, until the silence between them had grown too long for comfort.
Brian had been thinking about Jeff - when wasn't he thinking about him now?
He smiled at Ed. "What do you mean?"
Ed rolled his eyes. "Stupid don't look good on you, dude."
Brian nodded. "Sorry. I was just thinking about something."
"That's all you're ever doing anymore - daydreaming. What are you thinking about?"
Brian had known this was coming, and still hadn't figured out anything he could say. He'd known Ed too closely now for him to lie to the guy and get away with it, and he didn't want to lie to him. Ed deserved better, and so it was a standoff between Brian and himself. No win, either way.
Ed came over, tossed the basketball into the grass. "Did I say or do something to piss you off?"
Brian looked at him, shook his head. "No. You know I'd say something if that had happened."
"Yeah. I do. You'd say something if anything happened. But you haven't said shit. So where does that leave us?"
Brian looked at him. "I can't tell you. I'm sorry."
Ed leaned closer. "Are you in trouble, Brian? Can I help?"
"No," Brian said, shaking his head, "I'm not in trouble. And it's not something where you can help. I'm sorry, man. That's just the way it is."
He looked up into Ed's eyes, saw the caring there. Ed was a good friend, and Brian felt like shit shutting him out. But what could he say?
Well, you know that guy that drives that hot Camaro? Me and him are lovers.
Brian raised a hand and rubbed one eye. All this crap was wearing him down. He didn't want to lose Ed as a friend, but he couldn't tell him what was going on, either.
"This all started with that Camaro dude," Ed said, and Brian felt his heart skip a beat at the accuracy of his friend's analysis. "It has something to do with him, doesn't it? With that Kennedy bunch?"
Brian shook his head. "No."
Ed's eyebrows went up. "No? I don't think I believe you, Brian."
Brian just looked at him, unable to say anything else. "I'm sorry."
Ed nodded. "Me, too. Guess I'd better go."
Brian shook his head. "Don't. Please."
Ed looked at him. "Don't?" He sighed. "Brian, you're the best friend I ever had. But this worrying shit is getting me down."
"There's nothing to worry about, Ed. I already told you that."
Ed looked at him a long moment, and then smiled. "Yeah. Ya did. Okay. Then shoot a few baskets with me."
Brian grinned, closed the Bee's hood, went and retrieved the ball. "Try to keep up," he said, darting around Ed and going for the basket. Ed whooped and gave chase, but Brian scored a point and Ed grabbed the ball, grinning. "That's more like it."
They played until dark, and Brian had a blast, just for once placing the boy with the Camaro in the back of his mind.
When the street lights came on and the stars came out, they went into the garage and got a couple of Cokes out of the fridge there, and kicked back in the grass and looked at the sky.
"I see Mars tonight," Ed said, tilting his head back and pointing at the twinkling dot, which somehow managed to still look red across all those millions of miles of space. "Wanna go?"
Brian laughed. "I did once, but not anymore. When I was little I thought it was the coolest place in the solar system."
Ed grinned, his teeth flashing in the darkness. "What happened?"
Brian smiled, then laughed. "I found out that Earth was pretty cool, too."
Ed took a deep breath of the night air, listened as an owl called somewhere off in the woods, nodded. "Yeah. Fuckin' right it is. It's where the people are, you know?"
That was the truth. Once, Brian had looked to the stars to supply him with excitement and mystery in his life. But as he had grown older, and had found Chris, the words excitement and mystery had taken on new meanings for him. The stars were grand, yes, but they were also far away, and they weren't sharing their secrets.
Here on Earth, secrets were everywhere.
Brian sipped his drink, enjoyed being with Ed, enjoyed the night, and - for the first time in some time - enjoyed a little peace.
"Wanna do something tomorrow?" Ed asked, looking at him.
"Day or night?"
Ed sighed. "Does it matter?"
Brian winced, and the moment of peace fled. "Um - I have something to do during the day. But we can cruise tomorrow night, if you want."
Ed was quiet a moment, watching him. Then the other boy looked away, turned his gaze back to the sky. "Sure, I'll take the night."
Brian nodded, "I'll call you, okay?"
Summer days have no names. Once school is done the need for them vanishes, and each new day blends into the last, and the next, in no particular order.
Brian had his little lawn care business, his regular customers, and things to do. Normally, once school was over for the summer, Brian would actively seek new customers, expand his business, make as much money as he could before school rolled around again and took his days away from him.
But not this summer. Not so far, anyway. His regulars kept him busy three mornings a week, four hours each day, with the occasional afternoon thrown in for extra orders like fertilizing or seeding. He made more than enough money to keep the Bee happy with gas, to have a little pocket money, and to put some away in the bank.
He talked it over with his dad, who smiled and said it was his car summer, and that he understood better than Brian could know. His dad said there was always later to work and earn money, always next year, and next summer, and the future after that.
"You're sixteen, Brian," his dad said, by way of ending the conversation. "Enjoy it."
And he did. He talked with Jeff, too, and they arrived at a certain peace about time. Brian needed to maintain his other friendships, to be seen and heard and remembered. He needed time for Ed, and the car crowd, and even though he suggested that maybe Jeff could join in with some of that, the other boy was uncomfortable with the idea, and it hadn't happened.
In that way, Jeff saddened him. Jeff had his car, and he had a group of guys he associated with at school related to cars ; but he didn't have friends, and once school was out, Jeff spent much of this time alone. He had his own little lawn care business, and that kept some of his days occupied; but his free time was totally free, because he simply would not allow himself the close company of others.
Jeff was standoffish, as Tim the GTX guy called him, which Tim thought sad, because he liked Jeff and thought most of the other car crowd at his school did, too.
Brian and Tim had become good friends, often hooking up on Friday night cruises and hanging together a little, and Ed liked him, and if Ed liked you, you were gold. Jeff came through sometimes in his Camaro, always by himself, and would actually stop and talk with them, even if he never got out of his car. At those times he seemed friendly but neutral towards Brian, acting as if they were acquaintances, and no more.
So the time they spent together seemed somehow more important, because for Jeff it meant companionship as well as affection, and for Brian it meant those things, and also the knowledge that he was keeping Jeff from his loneliness. That Jeff had been this way a long time now Brian had come to realize, and that Jeff's basic avoidance of social interactions stemmed from a great underlying fear of having his homosexuality discovered - and turned against him. And having his father learn of it, which probably was even worse.
These were formless fears, not well thought out; and Brian understood them because he had had them himself before learning to deal with them. Brian had tried to reason with Jeff on that subject; but Jeff had been hiding for so long now it was second nature. Prying a turtle from its shell is never an easy experience, and Jeff's shell had grown particularly hard and resistant over time.
So the summer progressed peacefully, more or less, with Brian a little overextended in order to keep everyone happy.
Ed had stopped asking things about where Brian spent his other time - the time where he went off and none of the regular crowd saw him. But Brian had noticed Ed watching him >speculatively at times, and he understood that suspicion had simply paused in Ed's mind, but not gone away altogether.
And, at the times they were out cruising and ran into Jeff, Ed seemed to watch the two of them closely, as though looking for some kind of underlying tensions or hostilities. He acted like he thought they were there, and that Brian was somehow concealing them. Ed didn't know - couldn't know - that at those times Brian and Jeff were concealing their feelings - but it was not hostility by far.
But, things were mellow enough, even if Brian found his time often stretched thin, and so he began to relax, and stopped paying so close attention to the looks he occasionally got from his friends.
So that's how he was found out, one particularly pleasant summer day.
He and Jeff had spent a wonderful morning together having particularly passionate sex in the bed inside the Winnie. Jeff's grandparents were travelling again, and the house by their side seemed used to being empty.
After they were done they showered together in the tight little shower unit inside the motor home, which was a pretty arousing experience all by itself, and engendered another round of naked kissing and holding back in the bed once they were through. Jeff never seemed to get enough of being close, and Brian allowed him all the closeness he wanted, because, for real, Brian thought the more the merrier, and seldom felt he'd had enough of it either.
The Winnie had an air-conditioning unit, but where it was parked in the shade of the trees the motor home seldom grew warm, and the boys just dealt with the summer humidity, which was actually pretty easy, as they spent most of their time together naked.
They were rolling around in the bed, laughing, playing grab and pinch, and kissing.
"My left tit is going to turn purple if you get it one more time," Jeff said, in a lightly accusing tone.
"I believe it was you who violated the no-tit clause first," Brian said, looking at Jeff pointedly.
Jeff pouted a little, then smiled. "Yeah. Guilty as charged. How about a truce?"
Brian rubbed his own tit, which was feeling more than a little abused. "I'm good with that. How about a kiss to seal the deal?"
Jeff grinned, snuggled closer, delivered a very nice kiss, with tongue support thrown in free of charge.
They looked into each other's eyes - a favorite pastime these days.
"I told you I'd be in love with you eventually," Jeff finally said quietly.
Brian smiled, examined the other boy's face. But there was no indication that Jeff was playing this time.
Brian had been feeling pretty strongly about Jeff, too, as the months had gone by since their first evening together. He knew he could love Jeff, but hadn't made up his mind that he in fact did. But looking at him now, he could not imagine not having Jeff in his life. If that wasn't love, it was the next best thing. Brian decided he'd settle for the definition, and not worry about the subtleties of mere words.
He licked his lips. "Is that what you're telling me?"
Jeff gave a slow nod. "Uh huh."
Brian couldn't help but to smile. He leaned close, kissed Jeff, and nuzzled the other boy with his face. "I love you, Jeff."
Jeff squeezed him hard, an intense hug loaded with powerful things. "I love you, too, Brian."
They clung together tightly for several minutes, and then slowly relaxed.
Finally, they let their faces come apart, and Jeff smiled at him. "That wasn't as hard as I imagined it was gonna be."
Brian was touched. He laughed. "You thought I would bite you or something?"
Jeff considered, shrugged. "I thought you might not feel the same way."
Brian nodded. "I do. I can't imagine not being with you. I don't want to not be with you."
Jeff closed his eyes. "I never thought I'd get this far. I never thought anyone was going to care about me like this."
That was sad. Brian tightened his grip around the other boy, pulled him a little closer. "You're a pretty special guy, Jeff. If you and I had not come together, someone else would have found you. You're going to be loved your whole life by someone, because you're too special not to be. You remember what I said, okay?"
Jeff nodded, buried his face in Brian's chest. Brian squeezed his own eyes shut, felt just a touch of damp in the corners.
Yeah, it was love. Brian was pretty sure now.
They lay together, talking, kissing a little, for another hour, until the afternoon grew long. Brian had promised to get home early and call Ed, so that they could plan out their evening. It was a trade-off: Jeff had the day, Ed had the evening, Brian got both.
The car crowd was having a little get-together in the shopping center parking lot in Alna - general bullshit session with girlfriends allowed, a little beer, a little music, maybe a little smoke. Brian and Ed had said they would be there.
"I'd better go," Brian finally said.
Jeff nodded, got up out of the bed with him. It was warm, humid, not particularly comfortable. They both put on their underwear and shorts, but Brian just picked up his tee-shirt and shoes and carried them as they went out into the driveway.
They walked over to the Bee, and Brian opened the car and rolled down both front windows, and tossed his shirt and shoes on the floor of the passenger side.
Jeff came up behind him, put his arms around him, gave him a squeeze. Brian smiled, turned inside the other boy's embrace, hugged him back.
"I love you, Brian," Jeff whispered.
"I love you right back, Jeff," Brian said. They kissed.
Brian turned them, eyeing the house. He knew it was empty but still always felt like someone could be watching from the windows. The last thing he wanted was to give Jeff's grandparents an eyeful of their grandson kissing and hugging another guy.
Jeff had his chin on Brian's shoulder. He suddenly tensed. "Oh, fuck."
Brian pulled back, looked at Jeff. The other boy's gaze was aimed over Brian's shoulder.
Brian turned to see what had Jeff's attention.
Someone was standing there, watching them.
No - it wasn't someone. It was Ed.
Brian felt his whole world crash down, a tinkling, glass-like shattering of everything safe in life, as the inside of his head came apart and fell in splinters into his legs. They became momentarily wobbly before managing to go back to supporting his weight.
Brian let go of Jeff, turned around.
Ed was stock-still, his lips parted in what could only be shock and surprise. He stared at them a moment longer, then suddenly turned and took a few steps back down the driveway.
Brian suddenly found his voice somehow. "Ed, wait."
Ed stopped, and Brian saw him raise his fist and knock it against his head.
"Wait here," Brian said softly to Jeff, who nodded.
He went to Ed, cautiously walked around him, looked into his face. Ed had his eyes squeezed shut.
The other boy took a deep breath, sighed it out, opened his eyes. "Hey."
This was not what Brian had expected. He'd expected hostility, condemnation, a sense that Ed felt betrayed. These were all the things he'd always imagined seeing and feeling from his friends if they ever found out that he was gay.
He'd expected to be shunned.
But Ed grinned, a little crookedly. "Man, I feel stupid, dude. I'm really fuckin' sorry."
This wasn't at all what Brian had expected either. "You're not pissed at me?"
Ed frowned. "Should I be? Man, you should be pissed at me for not takin' your word, and me pryin' into your private shit. I was thinkin' just now you'd never talk to me again."
Brian closed his eyes, reopened them. "What the fuck is going on? Did you or did you not just see me and Jeff?"
Ed bobbed his head. "Sure, I saw that. It just wasn't what I expected to find."
Brian felt completely confused. "What did you expect to see?"
Ed gave a kind of exaggerated shrug. "Fuck if I know. I thought your Camaro buddy and the Kennedy guys had some kind of crazy hold over you or something. I don't know what I thought." He managed a grin. "This is a lot better than what I was thinking, anyway."
Brian was stunned. "It is?"
"Oh, fuck yeah. You know, I thought I'd find you working on their cars for them or some weird slave shit. I didn't know what to expect. But I thought it had to be some crazy shit to make you act the way you been actin' lately." He reached out and gave Brian a gentle nudge. "You dog. You were in love the whole time, weren't you?"
Brian stepped back, looked at Ed again. He knew Ed too well to know that Ed was anything but totally serious. "It doesn't bother you?"
Ed squinted at him. "You mean you guys kissing and shit? No, it doesn't bother me." He grinned. "You forget I grew up in Frisco? This ain't the first time I've known someone who was a little bi."
Bi? Brian actually opened his mouth to say he was gay, not bi, when a giant hand of caution oozed out of the backside of his brain and slapped his speech center silly.
Shut up! Go with it!
Ed grinned at him. "What? Dude, I've seen you and Annabelle eyeballing each other. Shit, I've seen you and Marianne Davis eyeballing each other. I know you got some straight in there someplace, even if you don't."
Brian laughed, a release of fear and anxiety. "I don't believe you, Ed."
Ed came a little closer, put a hand on his shoulder. "Brian, you're the best friend I ever had. You were thinking I'd drop you or something because of this?"
Ed frowned. "Aw, man, I'm sorry as shit. I was just worried about you, man. I followed you to see what was going on." He leaned closer. "I just wanted to help."
Brian stared at Ed, unable to believe how this was turning out. Without even thinking, he stepped forward, put his arms around his friend, and hugged him.
"Whoa," Ed said, laughing. "Hey, this is the closest I've been to another body in a long time, dude. You'd better step back before you make me horny or something."
Brian laughed, but stepped back. "You are kidding?"
"Yeah. But it did feel pretty good." He gave Brian a fake swipe with his fist. "I'm so glad this didn't bust our friendship, man. I'd have had to go punch my own lights out for stupidity."
They both laughed.
Ed turned, looked briefly over his shoulder at Jeff, who was still standing there, watching them anxiously. "You want to introduce me to your boyfriend? I mean, I've seen the guy before, but I didn't give him no respect then, because I just thought he was another Kennedy clown. But if he's important to you, he's important to me, you know?'
Brian shook his head, just amazed at Ed. The joy he was feeling now was better than anything he could remember experiencing of late other than actually finding Jeff.
"Yeah, come on over."
Brian took Ed by the arm and they started back towards Jeff, who watched them come with a mixture of fear and incredulity.
They came up to Jeff, and Ed smiled and gave him a little wave. "Hey."
Brian grinned. "Jeff, this is my good buddy, Ed."
Ed stuck out his hand. "Any boyfriend of Brian's is a friend of mine."
Brian laughed, but Jeff just stared. "Is he serious?"
Brian nodded. "Yeah, he is. Go on - shake."
Jeff hesitantly stuck out his hand, and Ed took it and shook it gravely. "I'm really sorry to scare you, dude. I was just worried about Brian."
The whole thing came out. Ed's disbelief that the sudden change in his friend's way of life was anything but sinister, weight for that opinion added by Brian's refusal to answer questions and seeming complete distraction when dealing with his normal life. Ed's decision to find out what was going on, and his attempts to follow Brian to wherever he was going when he vanished.
"This is my third try," Ed said, grinning. He turned to Brian. "That goddamned Super Bee is tough as shit to follow, man. You drive it like an Indy car, half the time."
Brian squinted at him. "Yeah, how the hell did you follow me?"
Ed led them around the screening fir trees, and back down the drive, to where a little blue car sat in the driveway. Brian and Jeff just stared at it.
"Okay," Brian said, looking at Ed, "what the heck is it?"
"It's a Datsun B210," Ed explained. "My old man's girlfriend's car." He kicked one tire solidly. "Fucking thing won't get out of it's own way. I lost you the first two times I tried to follow you. This time you caught a bunch of lights, and I managed to keep up."
Brian looked at the car, which was best described as unimpressive. "You followed me in this? Wow."
Ed laughed. "I had to beg Shelly to loan it to me after the second time. She wanted to know where I was going in it, and I just said over to a friend's house. I almost didn't make it here, dude."
Brian had mixed feelings about that, and admitted so. Jeff also looked at Ed, then at the Datsun, and Brian could almost read Jeff's mind.
Goddamn car. Why couldn't you have been even slower?
Ed shook had head. "No, Brian, this needed to happen. A lot of people are worried about you. People talk, you know. You've been actin' a little nutty for awhile now, and everybody has noticed. You can't just make such a big change like you did and get away without explaining it, dude."
Brian nodded. "Well, you can see that we couldn't just tell people. We wanted to be together. But it's fucking hard as shit trying to do that and keep all you guys happy, too."
Ed grinned. "I'm gonna help fix that."
Jeff looked disbelieving. "How do you expect to do that?"
Ed looked at him. "Easy. We make you an honorary Proctor car guy."
Jeff blinked. "Huh?"
Ed nodded. "You know, just because you guys are in love don't mean you can't hang out together with our crowd. Just don't make goo goo eyes at each other in front of the others, and everything will be cool."
Jeff let his mouth hang open, and looked at Brian. "Is this guy for real?"
Brian nodded. This went back to what Brian himself had been doing - trying to get Jeff to come out of his shell.
"The idea isn't bad," Brian admitted, watching Jeff.
Jeff looked at him like he was crazy, too. "No."
Brian went over, put his arm around Jeff's shoulders. Jeff flinched, obviously uncomfortable with that being done in front of Ed. Ed just nodded like it was something he saw everyday.
"Jeff, it's time to join the world," Brian said softly.
Jeff looked annoyed, and Brian squeezed him gently. "Please."
The annoyance turned to shock, and Jeff glared at him. "Aw, you rat bastard."
Brian looked into the other boy's eyes, still smiling, tried to show him how he felt. Jeff looked back, and Brian actually witnessed the walls crumbling. Jeff looked resolute, and then doubtful, and then resigned, and then a little surprised at himself. But he nodded.
He looked at Ed. "You sure you trust this guy?"
Brian just sighed. "What do you think?"
Jeff opened his mouth, closed it again, looked over at Ed, finally smiled. "You know the guys at McClellan Road will be pissed at me if they think I've defected."
Ed shook his head. "No they won't. Shit, Tim hangs with us all the time and no one is giving him shit."
Jeff smiled at Brian. "Yeah, but Tim drives a Mopar. No one cares about that, anyway."
Brian nodded, couldn't help smiling back. "Yeah? Wanna race, speedy?"
Jeff laughed. "I deserved that." He looked at Ed. "So you're just saying I should drop by that little shopping center in..."
"Alna," Ed supplied.
"Right." Jeff nodded. "You're saying I should just drop by while you guys are hanging out and get to know the crowd?"
"And what if they don't like that?"
Ed looked at Brian. "You're our buddy, ain't no one gonna say a thing."
Brian nodded. "They're good guys, Jeff. You saw how they stood up with me with the thing with Mahowsky."
Jeff nodded, then smiled. "Yeah. I forgot to tell you - Tim told Mahowsky after that happened that you were the guy that knocked Frankie Owen senseless at the intramurals. Well, Frankie put Mahowsky on the ground a couple of times, and now Mahowsky isn't much interested in tangling with you, either."
It was Brian's turn to gape. "What? That guy makes two of me."
Jeff nodded. "Yeah, but the quickest guy usually wins." He pointed at the Bee. "Need I say more?"
Brian nodded, getting it. "I'm still not interested in messing with Mahowsky. But if you say not to worry about him, I'll believe you, because I want to believe you."
Jeff nodded, looked at Brian, then at Ed. "And I'm going to believe you, because I want to believe you. You guys going to be at that shopping center tonight?"
Brian felt a wave of excitement pass throughout his body. "Yep."
Jeff nodded. "I'll be there."
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