by Grasshopper

Chapter 13

"Happy birthday to me," Wes muttered. There had never been presents or cake, so he wasn't expecting anything, but it hurt like hell not to have Cole wish him happy birthday on his eighteenth. But, Wes had made his choices and he wouldn't go back. He owed so much to Cole and the least he could do was let him go. He and Mercy celebrated with a box of doughnuts from the shop.

Cole sat staring at the Apple iPhone he'd ordered for Wes' birthday. He was sitting in the cave hoping that Wes would come, knowing how much Cole would want to wish him a happy birthday. Wes was eighteen now and Cole could bury him in gifts, but he'd walked away. Wes had walked away from him. Cole waited and waited.

When Wes passed his driver's test that afternoon, he and Mercy paid the last payment on the Chevy Camaro to Mr. Hill and drove to Terry Collom's station to fill it up.

"Well, lookee here," Karl Jr. grinned as he sauntered over to the car. "My baby bro has himself a set a wheels. Hey, baby sister," he sneered at Mercy, looking her over. "You're lookin' mighty fine. I think I'll come out to the house one night and visit."

Wes turned the engine back on and shoved the car into drive. "You come near Mercy and I'll kill you," he snarled. The car spit up dust as it roared out onto the road.

Mercy had her hands over her face. Wes reached over and patted her shoulder, "It's gonna be okay. He won't bother you. He'd have to come through me. Hang in there, Mercy. We'll be gone soon."

School was intolerable. Cole and Wes spoke, but not about anything private or anything that would change Wes' mind. It hurt really bad to keep seeing each other and passing in the hall, knowing that there was so much unsaid.

All the kids noticed the difference right off. The whispers were loud and clear.

"What's going on with Wes and Cole?"
"God, they aren't joined at the hip anymore."

"What happened, Callie?"

If she'd heard that once, she'd heard it a hundred times. "I don't know. I guess they finally had enough of being friends." This was going even better than she'd hoped. Coley was spending a lot of time with her now. Perfect!

Lily showed her one of the photos from the video. Callie's conscience screamed at her, but she had gone this far. There was no turning back. She'd have Wesley Straihan and she'd show him just how much better it would be with her than with a boy, even if the boy was her own brother.

Something kept dancing around in the back of Callie's head; just a tiny thought, something she couldn't put her finger on. It was right there on the tip of her tongue ...........

...........and when it finally decided to whisper what it was, it jumped out and danced a frenzied quickstep on her bed when she woke up the next morning. "Oh....My....God!!!!!!! My period!!!" Callie choked out. She thought back to last month and counted frantically on her fingers. "I always start on the 4th of the month!! Like clockwork!!" Today was the 9th. "Oh God! Oh God!" she babbled, jumping out of bed and pacing the floor.

"It's probably all the stress," she mumbled to herself. "It can't be anything else. Oh God!" Callie ran back to her bed, crawled in and pulled the covers up over her head. It didn't help.

"I've got somethin' for you, Sugarpie," Lily purred in Cole's ear. He'd been trying to avoid her at school after the party last Saturday. Danged if he could remember anything that went on after he started drinking. He was just keeping his fingers crossed that he hadn't made an ass out of himself. Callie said she didn't see him do anything weird, so he'd figured he was okay.

Lily slid down on the cafeteria bench beside Cole and pulled a photo from her back jeans pocket. Turning it face down, she slid it across the table top with one long red painted nail. Holding it steady with her fingernail, she said, "Come to my house tonight. We can watch a video in the theater."

"I don't think so, Lily," Cole replied, "I've got a lot of studying to do for exams." He turned the photo over, staring at it for a few seconds, not believing his eyes, then slammed his hand down over the images. "What the fuck?? How did you get this?" He grabbed her outstretched arm and squeezed hard.

Lilly licked her lips and repeated, a slight smile on her face, "Come to my house tonight." She arched one brow in his direction. It wasn't an invitation anymore; it was a command.

Cole looked around. No one had noticed. He searched for Wes, but he hadn't been in class this morning and wasn't in the cafeteria now. "Lily?!? What the hell is this?"

"Just say 'Yes', Cole. I'll show you the whole video if you like. It's hot."

He had no choice. If Wes ever saw this picture .... And she said there was a video! Fuck! "Yes," he answered, "But you'd better have some answers."

"Oh, I have answers. I have the questions and the answers. You just wait and see."

Cole watched her walk away and then tore the photo into a million tiny pieces, knowing full well she probably had a big stack of copies. Shit! Why didn't he remember this? How could he have done that and not remember?

Wes would never speak to him again. Who the fuck was that guy?

Callie watched the whole scene from the table where she sat with her friends. Lily hadn't shown her the video, just one of the photos. In truth, Callie didn't want to see it. She knew, in her heart, that she had gone way too far and now, with the horror of her missing period, Callie was feeling huge remorse. It was God punishing her. Her whole world was crumbling, but she still blamed Wes and Cole. It was still all about her.

Cole handed Whistler's reins over to the Campbell's stableboy. "I won't be here long," he said, "Just get him warm. Thanks, Jimmy."

Lily walked out to meet him as he cut over by the big pool. "Hello, Cole, I'm so glad you could make it," she smiled. She tried to take his arm, but he jerked out of her reach. Lily frowned, but led him to the poolhouse. "I thought we could talk more easily here." As they stepped into the small building, Lily flipped a switch and the video tape began to play on a large screen that had rolled down from the ceiling. Cole could only stare at the screen, his face set in a tight grimace.

"Turn that blasted thing off. Is this blackmail?" he asked in a tightly controlled voice. "I don't have much, but ....."

Lily squealed with laughter. "Cole, that's totally hysterical. My daddy has more money than god and you think I want some piddly little amount from you."

"What then? Why did you do this? I know I didn't do this willingly. Who is that guy? I've never fuckin' seen him before in my life." Cole paced, in long hard strides from one side of the room to the other, punching the walls each time.

"Whoa, cowboy, don't knock my house down."

"I don't give a shit about your house, Lily. Just tell me."

She sighed, "I don't suppose you want a beer?" Cole started toward her, fire in his eyes. "Okay," she grinned, "I guess not."


"Let's just say that someone doesn't want you and Wesley Straihan together."

"What? Me and Wes? Who? Why?"

"Now, I'm not ratting on my friends. Just suffice to say that your little secret isn't as much of a secret as you thought it was."

"Fuck!" Cole yelled at her. "I don't even know that guy. It's this room and it had to have been at your party, but who is that guy?"

"A friend. He was happy to get the money I paid him and when he saw you, he was thrilled," she laughed.

"But, I was ..... And he was ......," Cole felt the frustration choking him. "I would never ......" He was so confused. Who would do this? Who hated him this much? Oh God ... Wes. If he ever saw this. "What do I have to do to make this go away?"

Lily smiled her cat-like grin. "Like I said, I did it for a friend, but my payment is that you'll take me to the prom and we'll be a couple until graduation. You'll make it clear to Wes Straihan that you're over him."

Cole shut his eyes and tried to think. Make Wes think he didn't care anymore? How could he ever do that? What would be worse; to hurt him that way or to have him see this film and believe he had done that? Neither was acceptable.

"So, if I don't agree, you'll do what?"

"I'll invite Wes over for a beer and, while I'm at it, I might as well invite your parents. After all, they're going to be seeing a lot of me soon."

Cole knew he couldn't fight this; not here with her. His mind was working in overtime to think of answers. He needed to get away on Whistler and think all this through. He needed Wes .... But that was a dead end right now.

"I'll have to say okay for right now, but you're a total bitch and whoever your friend is that wanted this done ...... I hope they rot in hell."

Lily laughed loudly, tears running down her face. "I imagine we'll all be toasting buns and roasting weenies with Beelzebub before it's all over," she spluttered. "See you tomorrow at school, Lover."

Cole slammed the door on his way out. He stomped to the barn, grabbed Whistler's reins, threw the wool blanket to the ground and flung himself into the saddle.

"My God!" Cole couldn't even imagine the look in his mom's eyes if she ever saw that video. And his dad! Shit! It was just a given that Wes would never see any of this. Cole couldn't convince himself that Wes would be able to believe him when the evidence was right in front of his eyes.

Who would want to hurt him like this? He thought about confiding in Callie, but then he'd have to tell her about Wes and him and she wasn't ready for that yet; sweet, naïve Callie. He racked his brain, but couldn't come up with one name. Maybe it was just Lily doing her rich bitch girl thing. God, he wanted to talk this out with Wes.

Sweet, naïve Callie was standing in her bathroom staring wild-eyed in the mirror. No period! No cramps! No nothing! What was she going to do? There was no one she could talk to. She'd never felt so alone. But then, a tiny thought bumped into her frantic head. Hold on! Maybe she could work this to her advantage. She didn't want a whining, smelly baby but she did want Wesley.

Cole grabbed Wes' arm as they passed in the hallway after third period. "Stop right now!"

Wes wanted nothing but to curl up into Cole's arms right in the middle of the hall. "I'm stopped."

"We can't act like this. I can't not talk to you. So you want to go find out what happened to your mother. So you want to go without me. Okay! I can't say that I understand, but as long as you tell me you'll come back, then let's stop all this not talking crap."

"Fine by me," Wes sighed in relief. "I can't get anything done without you anyway."

"That doesn't mean I'm not gonna keep telling you not to go."

"And that doesn't mean I'm not going and that you're not going to college just like you planned."

Two stubborn guys, but too much in love to stay apart.

"I have your birthday present in my locker," Cole said softly.

"I thought you forgot."

"Yeah, right. Forgot you're eighteen and can leave anytime you want. Not likely, big guy." He smiled up into those silver eyes.

The photo Lily had just showed him was crowding his mind, but he just couldn't tell Wes about it. It might be just the last straw. He couldn't throw another problem in their lives. Wes was delicate when it came to his confidence in the love they shared. Cole decided he could work this out by himself. He'd find out who was behind Lily's video and beat the livin' shit out of him. Tentatively, he said, "I told Lily I'd take her to the prom. Is that okay?"

A stupid stab of jealousy shot through Wes. 'NO! It's NOT okay. I don't want you touching anyone except me,' his heart screamed. "Sure, you go and have fun. It's not like you could take me anyway, I guess."

"I'd take you in a second. You know that. It's just that .......," Cole trailed off.

He wanted to say flat out that Lily was blackmailing him, but then he'd have to explain and he couldn't bear to see the look in Wes' eyes. There would be doubt and hurt and ...... well, he'd solve this himself. When he found out who, there'd be hell to pay.

Callie was weird and tired and hiding in her room. She hadn't been sleeping very well, her appetite was gone and she looked like crap, her long blonde hair tangled and lank, her skin without its usual rosy hue. As she stood in the bathroom holding the small white cardboard stick with the little window in it, she read the directions one more time. "Okay, I pee on this stick and then it'll show me that everything's going to be all right. I can't be pregnant. It won't turn blue. I love blue; it's the color of the Wyoming sky, Cole's eyes, my favorite dress, the flowers in mom's hothouse room. I love blue, but not on this thing. All I have to do is pee and everything will be okay," she babbled outloud.

She counted the days one more time: "I went to the Blue Moon on the 30th, thirty days hath September, April ..... 31, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. At least there's no school tomorrow ....... Oh, God! That makes today Friday. It's Friday the fucking 13th."

Callie peed on the strip, laid it carefully on the counter, washed her hands, and then stared at her face in the mirror, terrified to look down. Finally, she closed her eyes tight, tipped her head down and peeked out. There it lay. The strip that could change her life forever.

She stared at it for a few minutes without taking a breath, then raised her head to look in the mirror. The strip was as blue as her clear blue eyes.

Karl Jr. drove by the doughnut shop and pulled the truck over to the curb. Sauntering in, the little bell rang and he watched his sister limp out from the back. "May I help ........," Mercy started and then stopped as she saw who had entered the shop. "What do you want?"

"Just some sugar," he sneered. "Want me to drive you home tonight, little sister?"

"No! Go away! I don't want you to come here. Wes comes for me."

Oh, right, Mr. Perfect. Well, I can show you a much better time than some little queer. You like real men, right little sister?" He turned on his heel and Mercy could hear his laughter long after he'd gunned the engine and driven away.

Mercy leaned against the counter, breathing heavily. Why would anyone like Craig Harold ever want anyone like her? She was dirty and didn't know how to scrub herself clean.

Cole looked into the eyes of everyone he passed in the halls and everyone who sat in his classes. There was just no one, no one who hated him like that. God, this was just so wrong. He couldn't tell his parents because the Campbell's were their best friends. He couldn't tell Callie because there was too much backstory about he and Wes. And the damn sure couldn't tell Wes.

Late that night, unable to close his eyes to sleep, saddling Whistler, Cole rode out to Cutter's Bluff. He felt like crying with frustration. Who? Why? Who would want to hurt he and Wes like this? He climbed down off Whistler and paced along the bluff edge, kicking loose rocks down into the deep ravine below. The moon was almost at the full, shocking the cliff into a stark black and white relief.

Wes woke with a start, jerked out of a deep sleep. Something was wrong with Cole. He was in a bad place. Jumping out of bed, Wes pulled on the clothes he'd thrown on the floor last night, grabbed his keys and headed for the stairs. He tapped on Mercy's door, stuck his head in and whispered, "I've gotta go to Cole. Something's wrong. Lock this door and stay put til I get back." He heard her "Yes" and "Be careful" as he ran down the stairs.

Whistler whinnied, sensing someone coming down the road from below, pulling at his rope until he got a whiff of Wes. That quieted him down. Wes had parked at the bottom of the path and run up to the cave. Rubbing Whistler's ears, he didn't see Cole in the cave. "Where is he, boy?" Whistler jerked his head, eyes probing the darkness, over toward the bluff.

"Cole?" Wes called, as he ran along the familiar trail to the top of the bluff. He stopped dead when he made out the lone figure standing way too close to the edge. "Come away from there, Cole." He held out his hand, calling, "Cole, come here."

"You came."

"Of course I did. You called me." Wes grabbed hold of the back of Cole's jacket and pulled him from the edge. Cole's boots knocked rocks off the edge and the whole section of bluff where he'd been standing gave way.

Cole turned into Wes' arms and they just stood frozen waiting for their hearts to slow down.

"What's wrong?" Wes whispered as if noise would make more of the cliff fall. "Come away from here." He took Cole's hand and they headed back to the cave.

"Something bad is happening."

"Tell me. I'll fix it," Wes said strongly.

"I ... I can't. Not yet. I need you to trust me that I can fix it and that I love you more than anything in this world."

"I know you love me. I trust my life on that, but Cole, I can help. There's nothing you can't tell me." The hurt look in Wes' eyes made Cole cringe, but he couldn't tell him. Not until he found out who was doing this to them.

"Promise me ....Promise me that you won't leave without telling me. Promise me that you won't go forever. Promise me, Wesley."

"I promise. I want to be with you forever. Come here and let's just be quiet. You need to relax and slow down. You tell me what you need to and I'll be patient. Lord knows I kept enough secrets from you all these years." Wes sat down at the back of the cave, leaned against the wall and opened his arms. Cole melted into them and they lay still, each thinking their own troubled thoughts:

"Who asked Lily to make that video?"

"Why did my mother leave us?"

"Why does Wes have to leave?"

"What secret is Cole holding back from me?"

"Does he love me enough to come back?"

"Does he love me enough to wait?"

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