Fallow's Creek

by Grasshopper

Chapter 1

Portland, Oregon
May 13, 2005

I got another email today. It was from the same address as the others. I showed Asher and he said to delete it; just some jerkoff with nothing better to do with his time. It's hard to forget the words even though I had no idea what they mean:

To: Lindsay Fallow
From: palerider666@gmail.com
Subject: The Apocalypse

It's your time.

That's all. I've gotten four counting this one. Checking back, they come the 13th of every month. I don't know, for the life of me, what this means, but for some reason, it's been making me dream about Jesse and home. Even holding onto Asher as tight as I can, can't stop my mind from going home, back to Fallow's Creek.

Bufford County
Harlton, Alabama
May 13, 2005

It was always the same for Jesse. When he felt the world pressing down, he would go to 'their' place....the place where he and Lindsay had shared their first kisses, their first clumsy explorations; where they had giggled and dreamed and held on as if they had forever.

On this warm spring night, it was no different......the air was full of the scent of night blooming jasmine, the sound of the cicadas rose and fell and Jesse sloshed his bare feet in the warm mud of Fallow's Creek. He smiled sadly, remembering how close this spot was to Lindsay's house, how close they had been to his father's anger. How scared they'd been and yet the hint of forbidden had made it all the more delicious.

Jesse Killough was always the smart one, the quiet one, the one who could be counted on. He had made a promise to Savannah and he had kept his word. She had always been his best friend, not counting Lindsay, and as much as he had suffered with this secret over the past eight years, he would keep it. The old saying, 'No good deed goes unpunished' repeated over and over in his head and Jesse wanted nothing but to turn it off and feel Lindsay's arms hold him one more time.

He pulled the cheap silver beaded chain out of his shirt front and pressed the half sun to his cheek, remembering the day he and Lindsay had seen the funny little charms at the county fair.

"Buy one for your sweetheart," the guy in the booth had called out, "Half for her and half for you."

Lindsay's devilish eyes had sparkled, "Give me that one right there," he pointed, "And an extra chain." He had pocketed the little items and later that night had put half the sun on one chain for himself and the other half for Jesse.

Jesse didn't hear the footsteps; he was so deep into his memories. When the rock smashed into his forehead, his only thought was of Lindsay. As he felt rough hands push him face down into the gently bubbling water of Fallow's Creek, hold him until he couldn't breathe, he realized that his good deed was, at long last, being punished.

A hand reached down and jerked the silver chain from his neck. The last thing he felt was the pinch as the chain cut into his skin. His hands stopped their struggle; Jesse Killough's last breath was a sigh, a soft whisper of a name.

"Time to pay the piper, faggot," a voice, slightly mad, definitely cruel, filled the night air and the cicada held their breath. "My emails weren't enough, but this will bring him back," the voice giggled. "Oh, yes it will. I'm playing all the cards now, dear Lindsay." A hand slid something into the pocket of Jesse's shirt and disappeared into the jasmine-scented night.

The News
Portland, Oregon
June 2, 2005

"Lordy, I'm so glad to be home," I called out as I hitched the front door shut with my foot. Balancing a grocery bag in one arm and my books in the other, I listened for Asher. I knew he was home, I could feel him. We'd been together now for almost four years but I still got the tingles every time I was anywhere near him. He had taken me into his life and grateful was just one of the many words I used to describe how I felt about him.

"Hey, Sugar," I grinned when he came around the doorway in to the narrow hall of our apartment. "Good day?"

Asher's brown hair was messy, as usual. His wire rims were perched on top of his head and he was pinching his nose where the glasses usually rested. Rumpled clothes and an open book in his hand, that's my Asher.

"I'm glad you're here," he said, his face lighting up like it always did when he looked at me. "I'm starving and yes, it was a good day. Better now that you're home."

I set the groceries down, tossed my books on the counter and reached up to fling my arms around his neck. His mouth angled down and he showed me how much he'd missed me.

He cooked dinner, grilled chicken and baked broccoli, while I checked my email. I was expecting my grades to be posted this afternoon. Three ads for penis enlargement, one for Cialis, no grades yet, but a happymail from my baby sister. Thank god there was no Apocalypse mail, but this wasn't the 13th.

I read the email from my sister, Glory, skimming as usual, looking for any news about Jesse or Savannah. Even though I'd been gone for almost eight years, the feelings were still in my heart and always would be. We'd made our choices and were living our lives, but just his name could bring up the memories, fresh and clean.

The email had started out so like Glory. My baby sister just rambles, everything and nothing, all scrambled together in one long stream of consciousness babble. Her bright red-fonted mail had rambled on about her new haircut (totally mag), the new vomit-green wall-to-wall Mother had put down in the TV room (gross), her lack of an immediate boyfriend (male population's loss), the junior prom coming up soon (lack of date), Jesse Killough died down at Fallow's Creek (he was your friend, right?), Hank Barron's truck got stolen, Bouncer's doghouse needed a coat of paint.........

My eyes quit reading after the word 'friend' and the question mark. My brain quit functioning after the words 'died'. My world fell apart because I knew it was true. I had felt it for days. Something had gone out of my life. I hadn't known what it was, and now I knew I couldn't get it back.

When I read that, when I found out Jesse died, I tried to act normal. I rinsed the dishes, loaded the dishwasher, and walked into the den. We watched the news; Ash, absorbed in the words, and me, I just stared at the screen, trying to hold it in. I watched his eyes dart from right to left as he followed the dancing images on the screen. The tears were right behind my eyes, burning. All I could think was that Jesse's beautiful gray eyes would never see anything ever again.

I wanted to hide myself in sleep. Sleep would give me peace until I could make this all disappear. I peed, brushed my teeth, fake-yawned widely and pulled on my old threadbare sweatpants, the ones I wore when I wanted to feel ugly. Ash watched me from his side of the bed, not commenting on the sweats, but knowing that I was silently telling him to keep away.

I desperately wanted to turn the computer back on and check that mail one more time. Maybe I misread it. Maybe it wasn't 'Jesse Killough' she had written. Maybe it was someone else entirely. I rolled to pull myself up, but then just fell back onto the bed.

"Are you going to tell me?" Ash said, his voice full of worry and concern.

"I can't," I mumbled. I hadn't ever told him about Jesse, how could I now? No one would ever understand. I curled up in a tight ball on my side of the bed, my eyes wide open, my mind banging into walls. I could feel Ash staring at me, but, right now, there was nothing he could do.

I felt Ash slide over and pull me into his arms. He pressed up against my back and just held me softly. I knew I was scaring him. I was scaring me too.

"It's not you," I managed to say.

"What then? I want to help."

Sweet Asher, always wanting to help. Always there. From his slightly myopic brown eyes framed with wireless glasses, to his heart that gathered lost puppies and homeless people. Ash was the perfect person everyone dreams of finding, but manages to throw away without realizing it.

"I know you do." Closing my eyes tightly, as if to squeeze away the brightness of the hurt, I murmured, "I know you do. I don't think you can this time. Can you just hold me?"

I felt his breath exhale as if he'd been holding it, and his arms tighten around me. His fingers splayed out across my skin, their warmth trying desperately to warm me. I felt so cold.

"I have to go home," were the first words out of my mouth when I woke up. I was tangled in Ash's arms, the intoxicating smell of his skin easing me out of sleep. Part of me wanted to burrow deeper, forget the words I'd read.

No questions, Ash replied, "I'll get the tickets."

The hardest thing I've ever said........No, not the hardest thing, much harder had been the words I'd spoken to Jesse almost eight years ago; but close, "No, just me. I have to go home."

I saw the hurt in his eyes. I'd never been home since I met him and he knew how I felt about ever going back. He knew, my sweet Asher, he knew that I had left Alabama for a lot of reasons, some good, most bad. He knew that there was something important I'd left behind. He knew that if I went home, I might never come back. But, he'd let me go, no questions. That was the way he was.

Some people saw Asher Kirkland as passive, but I knew that he felt things deeper than most. He just believed that life has to play out and we all have to give it the time. He's laconic, making the people he works with at the bookstore very uncomfortable at times, his single word answers making them have to think. He makes me crazy when we argue.

An argument with Ash is like standing in front of a tall Redwood tree and being very angry, trying to get the tree to be angry too. All you get from the 'fight' is another ulcer and the terrible feeling that you made a fool out of yourself as you postured and fumed, while the tree just remains stoically rooted in place. The worst part, after soul-searching, you know he was right.

"I'll call and get your ticket then," he said carefully, "How many days?"

"I don't know," was all I could answer. How long would it take me to......to what? To visit the grave? To visit my mother? To try to talk to my father? To pay my respects to the Killoughs? To go see Savannah? How long would it take me to visit my past?

He sighed, "I'll leave it open-ended then." Clicking a few keys, he entered the date and destination, then turned back to where I was still curled up in the bed. "Expedia can get you a Delta flight to Birminghom, connect in Atlanta, leaving at 8:10. Want it?"

Did I want it? No. Did I have to go? Yeah, I did. I had to know what happened. I didn't know who could tell me, but I had to know. "Yes," I answered, and the look on his face said it all.

The ride to the airport was quiet. Ash was hurt, and I didn't know quite what to say to make it any better. I hadn't ever told him about Jesse, and I couldn't say any of it now. I knew I was hurting him, he knew me better than anyone ever had, but I just didn't have any words.

"Trust me, Asher," I said, as we stood at the base of the escalators, knowing he couldn't go with me to the gate. I twined my fingers in his and pressed his hand to my belly.

"I'm trying," he said, his voice full of the hurt of not knowing.

"I'll be back in a few days and I'll explain." I rose up on my toes and kissed him. "I just can't now."

Asher reached up and pushed his glasses back up his nose. They always slid when I kissed him. He was taller than me, rather like that Redwood tree. He hugged me and touched my lips with his fingers. "Take care, Lindsay. I love you very much." He unlaced his fingers slowly and watched me walk away.

I settled into the window seat, the couple beside me on their way to Ft. Worth. I wanted to sit in total silence, but people won't let you on airplanes. I wanted to think about Jesse, about what had happened, about Savannah and the decisions we'd all made when we were too young to make them.

"You going to Dallas?" the cute, obviously new husband asked.

"No, just stopover."

"Where're you bound?" he asked, not really interested, but being polite.

Sighing, I replied, "Alabama."


"No, family stuff."

"Oh," the pretty blonde squeaked, "You're from the south. I can tell. Say something else."

"Patty, you can't ask someone that," the husband grinned.

"But, I just loved Steel Magnolias," she bubbled.

I just smiled, shook my head and looked out the window, thinking about how every time we watched Steel Magnolias, Ash had to hold on for dear life while I cried. Seems I had to have a dose of the south every once in awhile.

He always called me Truvy when I started up, not for any resemblance to Dolly, but because I slid back into my slow southern drawl for hours. I called him Clairee because his dry western words seemed to always knock that drawl right out of me. "You can take my boy out of the south," he'd laugh, "But you can't take the south out of my boy."

Leaving Alabama
Portland, Oregon

When I'd first come to Portland, leaving Bufford County on my eighteenth birthday, driving my beat up Chevy pick up as far away from Alabama as I could, two hundred dollars to my name, just wanting to be where I wasn't alone, I found myself all alone.

I don't know what I expected, that maybe some friendly available gay person would just appear and teach me what I needed to know. I only knew how I felt and I had seen enough to know it wasn't in Alabama, but might possibly be here. I had left a huge chunk of my heart back there, but the decision had been made and I couldn't stay and watch it play out.

The two hundred went pretty fast, even sleeping in the truck. I loved the noise, the friendliness of the city, the River Walk with all the vendors and children laughing. . I loved the dampness, the gray days and foggy nights, all so different from where I came from. I watched men walking, holding hands and laughing and wanted that, wanted the freedom to be like that.

I got a job busing tables at a friendly little café on the Walk. I'd only been with one boy in my life, but the loneliness soon overcame my high expectations, made mockery of my dreams. I bumped with a few pretty boys my age, no strings, no promises. It wasn't what I wanted, but it stopped the itch. I thought about Jesse, but he had made his choices.

One afternoon, two years into my new life, six months after I had been promoted to an outside waiter, I stopped at a table by the edge of the patio. Dressed in my usual outfit of tight ass black jeans and a bellybutton-riding skinny tee-shirt that read 'Mocha Loco Café' in gold on a burgundy background, I handed the customers each a menu and pulled out my order pad.

"What can I get for you nice gentlemen today?" I asked in my slow Alabama drawl.

"How about a ham and cheese and a side order of you?" a really attractive lawyer type, dressed head to toe in money, tossed at me.

"That'll be ten dollars extra," I grinned. "I come with ketchup."

"Oh, I'll just bet you do," he joked.

These guys were always flirts and they loved the waiters on the patio. We got good tips and didn't hook up unless we were interested. I generally wasn't.

"And for you?" I asked, turning to the other man.

"Turkey on rye, no mayo," the other man said, his voice holding no hint of the teasing note I'd gotten from his friend.

I looked up from my order book and into the brownest pair of serious eyes hiding behind oval wireless glasses. "And, to drink?"

"I'll have a margarita with lots of salt along the rim," money guy said, raising one eyebrow.

He was cracking me up. I decided to think of him as "not so subtle guy".

"I'll have a Scotch rocks," pretty eyes said.

"Comin' right up," I smiled and took their order to the kitchen. As I took other orders and refilled wine glasses, I glanced at their table, not at 'NSSG', but at the other one, the serious one. He was elbow deep in papers, showing 'NSSG' something, trying to convince him about something obviously important. I could feel his frustration as I moved around the patio. I could see it every time he pushed those glasses up on his nose. 'Not so subtle guy' was too busy cruising the waiters to pay much attention.

Lunch hour over, the café cleared and the two men at the far table signaled for the bill. I handed it over to 'NSSG', smiling at them both. I zapped his credit card, noted his name, Charles Gatewood, and walked back with the receipt for him to sign. He took out a business card and slid it in the little black case along with the café copy.

"In case you want to play with condiments when you get off duty," he said.

I picked up the bill, my eyes taking in the fifty dollar tip. I grinned, "Thanks for choosing Mocha Loco Café and be sure to come again."

He got in a last zinger about coming again and again and I noticed 'pretty eyes' just sighed, and gathered his papers and books.

As they walked onto the sidewalk, 'pretty eyes' turned back and looked at me, a look of quiet puzzlement on his face. He reached up, pushed his glasses up on his nose, and I smiled.

Somewhere over Wyoming

Bringing myself back to the present as I stared out the plane window at the clouds below, I found myself smiling about Ash, about the first time I'd ever seen him, trying so hard to make that guy listen to him and wondering why he couldn't take his pretty eyes off me, and how we'd gotten involved in each other's lives.

Tucking him into a corner of mind for now, I knew I had to drag Jesse out into the daylight. Before I got home, I had to reopen old wounds and get ready.

Bufford County, Alabama

Jesse Killough and I had been 15 when we met at Marshton Consolidated High School. It served seven small Alabama towns in Bufford County. He had gone to grade school in Rollins Wells and I was from Harlton. There weren't enough kids to warrant high schools in the 'blinking light' towns, so we all got bused to Marshton.

The bus groaned to a dusty coughing stop on the highway, the dirt from my road choking up in swirls as I swung my bookbag up the steps, to calls from my friends, waving me to a empty seat. My ballcap on backwards, my jeans new and scratchy and my pullover bagging around my chest, I must have presented a picture of sex personified to all the lovely ladies snickering and whispering. I strutted along the aisle toward my bunch of loud obnoxious friends doing my imitation of cool. I'd never had a date in my life; at fifteen, no car, no money, what would you expect? I sprawled down into the sticky bus seat beside Brad Klein, flinching when he reached out and frogged my arm...hard.

"Damn, Klein, get off me, you fag," I shot out at him.

Brad laughed, "Takes one to know one, homo."

We spent a lot of time, at fifteen, proclaiming what we were and what we weren't. I was just like the other guys, all macho and disgusting, spitting and scratching and flippin' boogers, only interested in one thing....getting in Cindy Garlon's pants by the end of the school year. That's how you played the game in Marshton, Alabama in 1995. There were no queers in Bufford County.

The girls all giggled and we postured and flexed farm-hardened muscles. We thought we were hot snot and crude remarks flew around the bus.

We got closer to Marshton and new faces began to climb aboard. Some became good friends, others I never knew. At one stop, at the end of a paved road, her father standing guard over her beside a big white Cadillac, we were introduced for the first time to Savannah Willis. Until I knew her better, I wondered why she rode the bus with us mere mortals. Savannah didn't climb on the bus, she sort of glided and sat in a seat alone at the front. My friends were in varying stages of pre-orgasm.

Brad nudged me, "Who is THAT?"

I had no idea, and truth be told, she didn't do much for me. I was used to oogling the girls I'd grown up with. It was just what we did. She was pretty, long blonde hair held back by a piece of yellow ribbon the same color of the lacy t-shirt she wore with cream colored jeans. She reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. All my buddies were scrabbling to get a better look and generally making asses out of themselves, as usual.

"Cindy Garlon, move over," Freddy Zifer sighed, as if he actually had a ice cube's chance in hell with either of them.

We didn't even know her name, but I had a feeling that this girl was going to play some role in my life. I sat quietly watching her as she turned her head one time only, to glance at the kids sitting behind her. The glance was friendly, a bit shy, and I think, from the sounds he was making, Harold Loomis creamed his shorts.

The bus wheezed to another stop and a kid a little smaller than me struggled to drag two backpacks full of books onto the bus. Mr. Pugh, the bus driver, had run out of patience about ten miles back when Tim Rufus threw Penny Hotoy's new Trapper Keeper out the window and he had to back up to let the hysterical girl gather it up. He yelled, "Hurry up, kid. This ain't no limo."

The boy raised frightened eyes toward the big man and tried to pull faster. Amid catcalls and laughter, the boy seemed to shrink. I swung out of my seat and offered a hand.

"Gimme that one," I muttered, grabbing the bigger of the bags. I dragged it to the first empty seat and threw it down.

"What the hell you got in them?"

The boy sighed. "I borrowed a lot of books from the library in Marshton to read over the summer and I've got to return them now."

I looked at the bags stuffed with books. I looked at the boy. "I'll help you when we get to school."

"Thanks," he almost whispered.

Knowing I was gonna get it when I got back to my seat, I ignored him and faced more of Brad's punches and a pile of teasing about how helpful I was.

When the bus finally pulled up to Marshton Consolidated that September morning in 1995, I didn't know that two bookbags full of books would change my life forever.

I grabbed the bigger bag again and threw it over my shoulder. "This may be books, but it feels like cement blocks," I groaned.

"Maybe they're heavy because they're good books," the boy said, seriously.

The pretty blond girl glided off the bus and walked over to where I was standing with book boy. My friends were drooling and making rude gestures with their hands as I ignored them.

"Jesse, did you read them all like you said you would?" she asked, her voice a soft southern drawl.

The boy, Jesse apparently, nodded his head shyly.

"Thank you for helping me," he said, his gray eyes big and round, staring at me. "I'm Jesse Killough and this is my friend, Savannah Davis."

Savannah smiled at me and my heart should have gone all fluttery. It didn't.

"Uh....Lindsay Fallow.....that's me," I stuttered, not used to having to introduce myself.

"We better get moving, or school will start without us," Savannah laughed. "I hope I see more of you, Lindsay Fallow." She smiled and ran off to find her friends. Jesse Killough and I stood staring at the mountain of 'good' books.

Sighing, I hoisted the bigger bag over my shoulder again and headed for the front office. "Let's leave your books up here til after school, then I'll help you tote them to the library, k?"

Jesse's face lit up and he smiled, his gray eyes turning the color of the Gulf on a stormy day. When Jesse smiled, my heart shouldn't have gone all fluttery. It did.

Gruffly, I turned and left him, not understanding the feelings his big gray eyes, and his smile that captured the sunshine, had made me feel. I could feel his eyes following me as I walked quickly away to find my friends and get my life back where it belonged.

That afternoon, after the horror that is your first day of high school, I figured we had twenty minutes to get those damn books to the public library before the bus left us. My dad would not come pick me up if I missed the bus, so I knew I needed to put a hustle on it.

Jesse's eyes, when he saw me come through the doors, lit up again and he sighed, "I didn't think you'd remember."

"Let's move 'cause I can't miss that bus," I replied roughly, not wanting to consider why it made me feel good to know he was waiting there for me.

We made it to the library in under seven minutes at a fast jog and I rolled my eyes when Jesse had to stop long enough to check out a returned book lying on the counter. "C'mon, Jesse, I can't miss that bus!"

Mr. Pugh was just shutting the door and that whooshing noise was louder than our yells. I pounded on the door and Jesse beat on the side of the bus.

The door opened and we clambered on.

"Don't make no habit outta bein' late, Fallow," Mr. Pugh said sourly. "Your daddy ain't gonna like it if you miss your ride."

Everybody knew my daddy. Ezekiel Fallow was a fair man, honest and hard working, and he expected the exact same from others, even kids. There was no time for laughter or play when there was work to be done. If I had to stop him from plowing or mending fence to come pick me up, there'd be hell to pay. I sure as hell never wanted to miss that bus.

After that, our days began the same way, I got on the bus, messed around with my friends, flirted with the girls and waited for Jesse. I never sat with Jesse; I just waited for him to become part of my day. He would get on and sit down beside Savannah. I'd watch them go over their homework and laugh about something they'd see in a book Jesse was reading. I wanted to sit with Jesse. On that bus, I couldn't.

The guys were all talking about a movie they'd watched called 'Stand By Me'. It was an old movie, but we all liked it 'cause it was kinda like we all were, nowhere, doing nothing, looking for a way out and knowing there probably wasn't one.

"I'd peed my pants, that guy, Ace , holdin' a gun on me," Freddy Alberts cringed.

"But, Gordie had to stand up to him. I think he'd a taken the bullet. Brave dude, scared shitless, but brave," Brad said loudly.

I looked at all my friends, thinking, not for the first time, that most of them were like Vern. They'd grow up to be good ole boys, get married, have kids, get fat and watch a lot of TV. Maybe a couple would turn out like Teddy, a total whackjob, but I wasn't sure if there was a Gordie or a Chris on our bus.

In my really quiet moments, when no one was looking, I watched that movie and loved the feeling that passed between those two. I wasn't sure what it was, but I wanted another boy to look at me with respect and that depth of admiration that those boys had. I'd never tell anyone that I cried at the end when I found out Chris had died.....and I never quite believed that Gordie had gotten married and had kids. It didn't feel right.

Jesse and I went our separate ways our sophomore year. He, smiling at me every time our eyes met, and me, nodding my head and wishing I could be his friend. Somehow, we knew we could count on each other, but there was just something blocking our path.

He won prizes in the Science Fair and won a ribbon for the most books read (no surprise there). I went out for football and hung around with Cindy Garlon. Everyone thought we were doin' it and I didn't do much to change their minds. Exactly where would have been a good question because I had to make that bus every afternoon. She wanted it; I didn't. Time was running out on me and I didn't even know it.

School let out for the summer. I had to work on the farm all summer and boys just don't call each other, so I just hoped Jesse was having a good summer. I knew he spent time with Savannah, going with her to the movies, and I felt these little ripples of jealousy, wishing it was me that had time to go to the movies with.....him.

I had a huge growth spurt and when school cranked back up, I was sixteen, 5'8 and 160 pounds of solid tanned muscle. When the bus ground to a halt at Jesse's stop, I waited. I hoped he looked the same. I hoped I looked good.

I took a deep breath, muttered something about asking Savannah about math this year, and moved to sit by her in the front of the bus. She looked up and smiled at me as I sat down beside her.

As soon as Jesse climbed the steps, his eyes found me. I saw him take a breath and that smile broke out across his face. He had missed me too. I saw that he had grown, filled out, his hair a little longer. He walked to the seat in front of us and threw his backpack across.

"No bags of books this year?" I asked.

"Nah," he grinned. "I know you can't miss this bus."

Our junior year flew by, me playing football, Jesse winning every trophy and award in the county. We had different friends, different interests, different lives. The one thing we had in common was a feeling, just a feeling that, if we weren't very careful, something would change and our friends and interests and lives would be nothing compared to what we really wanted.

Jesse came to all the football games and I went to all the science fairs and book award ceremonies that were held during school time. Savannah would always come with Jesse and she'd hold his hand or my hand, whichever hand was nearest. Guys would ask me if I was getting any from her and I'd tell them to shut the fuck up. Savannah was a lady.

After the game against Monroe, our victory 21-3, I was showering off the sweat and grime and doing the usual 'counting the number of seeds in the seed bags' thing I did to not watch naked guys. I realized that I was gonna have to control this or I'd get the shit beat out of me. I thought about Savannah and the joke she told that morning about goats. It was scary knowing that all I had to do to not get a hard-on was think about the most beautiful girl I knew.

That night, alone in my bed, my hand slowly stroking, I thought about Savannah. I tried, but nothing much happened. I switched gears and brought Jesse's beautiful eyes up in front of me. It watched them go from soft gray to stormy and I watched the pulse in his neck begin to pound when I stood close to him. My hand moved faster and I shot like a geyser. Oh, shit! I was in trouble.

What do you do when you know? What do you do when you can't do anything about it? What do you do when the only person you want is impossible? I don't mean hard to get, I mean imfuckingpossible!! I wasn't even sure Jesse felt the same way. Maybe he just likes me for a friend. Maybe he likes Savannah.

I did the only thing I could......I avoided him. I took back to sitting with my buddies on the bus, playing cards, poker for pennies and Slam, and I eased off from the science stuff. He asked me once and I said I was just so busy with school and all. He got this really hurt look in his eyes, but he said he understood and he never let his eyes meet mine anymore. I missed those beautiful gray eyes. The only time I saw them the rest of that year was at night, alone in my room.

Summer came and went and I got an old Chevy pick up, no radio, no AC, but it ran. I wasn't gonna drive it to school much cause I couldn't afford the gas, and when that old school bus chugged up at the end of my dirt road that first day back, I was standing there. I was seventeen, 5'10, solid, with long curly black hair tied back with a rubber band. My brown eyes were hidden under the bill of my ballcap as I climbed those steps. I didn't expect to see Savannah or Jesse. I figured her daddy would give her a new car and Jesse would catch a ride. I didn't expect to see Jesse.

I sat slunk down in my seat, dreaming my dreams of escaping as soon as graduation was over next June. I didn't know where I was going, but my truck would take me there. Anywhere where I could be me. I just needed to get through 180 days of school and I'd never have to see Marshton or those gray eyes ever again.

The bus pulled to a stop and Savannah got on. She stood at the front of the bus aisle, then squaring her shoulders, she marched back to me and sat down.

"I wasn't gonna ride this smelly bus anymore, Lindsay Fallow, but I needed to talk to you and since you spend all your time avoiding us, I decided to do it where I had you trapped."

Can I just say....huh? I sort of eased back. Savannah was angry and I had no idea why. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"Wrong? Do you or do you not have a thing for Jesse?" she asked in a sharp whisper.

"Thing?" I said feebly, knowing where this was going.

"Don't pull that tone," she growled. "You need to talk to him, Lindsay."

"About what?" I asked stupidly.

"Oh, lord," she sighed, "Boys! Why do I even bother?"

The bus roared to a stop and I could see the top of Jesse's brown hair. "Now? You want me to talk to him now?"

Savannah made a rude noise and moved to the other side of the aisle.

Jesse climbed the steps and stood uncertainly looking from one to the other of us.

Jesse had grown. He'd filled out really good. His hair was longer and he was taller. I know Savannah was a beautiful girl, but the only person I could see on that bus was Jesse.

I looked at him, into those gray eyes, into that smile. There was no way. There was no way we could........................I sighed and nodded my head. He raised one eyebrow and I realized that Jesse, my Jesse, wasn't a little boy anymore. He was asking with that one quirk of his brow what exactly I wanted.

It took approximately one minute to realize we were thinking the same thing when we looked at each other. When his smile broke across his face, I felt a matching one and my whole body seemed to sigh.

He sat down beside me and his shoulder brushed mine. We both jumped, then he sort of snugged carefully into the seat so that his shoulder just grazed mine.

"Jesse, I didn't mean to.......," I started.

"Well, you did," he said quietly.

"I........," I couldn't get the words out.

Jesse, sweet Jesse, the tough little guy with the big bags of books, just laughed and said, "It's okay, Lindsay. Just as long as you do."

We didn't say too much more. It was all kinda new and nothing had really changed. We thought we could handle it and just go on like before but every time I saw him, every time we passed each other in the halls, we knew it wasn't gonna be that easy.

Jesse was taller now, his jeans rolled at the cuff, and tighter than God allows. His longish brown hair would fall over his eyes and he had the cutest way of flipping his head to throw it back. Of course, it fell right back into his face again. As always, it was his eyes that caught me, all gray like a stormy sky. There were flecks of gold as if someone had thrown confetti and it had landed to shine in the gray. I tried never to look in his eyes at school. My body would just go all kaflooey, nipples burn, dick jump, chest begin to pump. No, Jesse's eyes could make me bite my bottom lip til it bled.

He told me it was my smile that caught him that very first day. He loved my black wavy hair that never behaved. He said that he would sit in class and nearly cum staring at my hair, wayward curls poking out of that hole in the back of my Razorbacks cap. I wasn't as tall as Jesse, his six feet to my five ten, but I didn't mind. We fit anyway.

It took us three weeks to work up the courage to do anything about it. We ate lunch together for a couple of weeks, not looking at each other, but just hoping that somehow our legs would touch under the table.

We met that first time under the football bleachers, shuffled our sneaker toes in the dirt and tried to say what we both wanted. It was agonizing because neither of us could see beyond this feeling of heat that rose up. I had never been so hard in my life and when he finally touched me, I thought I would just break off in his hand. He dropped to his knees there in the old football programs and empty soda cans, fumbled open my jeans and reached in. Pressed against the railings, I closed my eyes, my head fell back and I felt another boy's mouth on me. This was what I had been dreaming about for two years, ever since Jesse Killough had looked at me.

There was not much time to see each other away from school. We kept riding the bus just to have a little while together. We had to make time, skip lunch, anything to have this feeling one more time. It was like an addiction, a forbidden addiction, that demanded it be fed.

The consequences, of what we were, of what would happen if we were found out, were huge. We both knew what they'd call us...fag, queer, butt fucker...and we knew what they'd do. They still tarred and feathered in the dark of night. Anything they didn't understand, they hurt. They humiliated. They destroyed. There were no homosexuals in Bufford County.

Somewhere over Missouri

Sitting in my seat on that Delta flight heading toward Atlanta and on to Birmingham, all the old fears and feelings of shame flooded back to me. I hadn't felt them since I left home at eighteen. I had left home in tears, Jesse's name on my lips and in my heart. I had felt, at the time, that what he'd done was so wrong, but, over the years, I'd come to realize that it was just Jesse. He could have done no different. I had hoped never to feel these feelings again. I didn't want to go home. I didn't want to know how Jesse had died; that maybe he had finally given up, maybe ended his own life. I didn't want a lot of things. But, I was going to find out. I pulled an old tarnished chain out of my pocket where I had shoved it before I left the apartment. I stared at the half sun, willing it to tell me why Jesse was dead. It didn't answer.

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