Just Hit 'Send' - The High School Years

by Grasshopper

Ch. 16

Jordan clicked off the cell phone, set it on the table and stared down at his hands, suddenly embarrassed to look at Easy, his mind flooded with Danny, Danny's voice, his smell, the way his hands felt on Jordan's body. He breathed out a soft sigh.

"Earth to Jord," Easy giggled. "How soon is loverboy gonna get here?"

Jordan blushed. "It'll take maybe...three hours cause he's gotta meet up with Griff."

"Griff?" Easy asked.

"Yeah, Griff's my best friend. He'll bring Danny the rest of the way."

"You're losin' me here, dude. Uh, Danny, he didn't live where you live?" Easy's eyes crinkled at the corners as he filtered the confusing info.

"It's a long story," Jordan smiled.

"Um..we got about three hours, man. Spill," Easy grinned. "But, let's vacate these premises 'fore we get tossed out," he said, as he slide from the booth and stood, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

Jordan stuffed his cell in his pocket, taking the last swig of Dr. Pepper, his straw slurping at the last drop, screeching out that stupid noise. "We just gotta be back here in plenty of time."

"Don't worry, Jord. I'll deliver you to Dan the Man. I gotta see this dude! He must be somethin' to make you almost take a header into the bay," Easy teased.

As they opened the door, Jordan saw Easy look over at the elderly man standing behind the counter and raise his head. No words exchanged, just a slight smile and that nod. The two boys walked out into the early graying dawn light.

As they walked along the broad sidewalk that edged the pillared seawall, Jordan felt the weight of the days behind him and the day in front settle like a blanket down over his shoulders. Nothing was different. Nothing would change...nothing except his entire world. His mind began to filter through all the possible things his daddy would say:

"No fag will live in my house."
"You aren't my son."
"Now both my sons are dead."
"You can't have that computer."
"You can't see THAT boy anymore."

One tiny little voice whispered, "You're my son. I love you and that will never change."

"Yeah, right..........and pigs fly," Jordan sighed.

"What, man? Pigs fly? You on somethin', dude?" Easy broke into his thoughts.

"Nah, just thinkin' about what my dad's gonna say," Jordan answered honestly. "I'm scared to go home. Everything will change. I was safe as long as they didn't know; as long as I was quiet and good and daddy had Adam. He's so disappointed already. I'm just hurting him worse and worse, just for being..........alive." His voice wavered and he felt tears well up. Opening his eyes super wide and sniffing them back, he reached for the seawall and swung himself up onto the ledge.

He felt Easy climb up beside him and press gently against his arm. "Dude...

Jord. You got some can a worms inside that head of yours, huh? It's more than the gay thing, right? Talk if you wanna, man. Easy'll listen."

Jordan stared down into the murky water. "Nah, the pain's in the telling. No point anymore. I.................," his voice was cut off by the ringing of his cell phone. Digging eagerly into his pocket, he clicked on the 'go' button. "Danny?"

"I got Griff. He's mad as hell but he's on the way. Dad and I are about ten minutes out of town. We're gonna meet Griff at that Perkins there at Hwy 27 and I4, remember? Griff says the least he gets outta this deal is a blueberry muffin." Danny's voice was rushed and high pitched. Jordan felt the guilt of what he'd put him through.

"Dan, I'm sorry," he whispered.

The phone was silent for a second and then Danny answered. "Jordy, if you're okay, that's all that matters. I was so worried that I'd lost you." He wanted to say, 'I love you' but his dad was sitting right by him.

Jordan wanted to say 'I love you' but Easy was sitting right next to him. He mumbled, "Hurry, Dan."

"Will do," Danny smiled. "Stay put."

"Staying," Jordan laughed, just the sound of Danny's voice giving him strength. Clicking off, he heard Easy chuckle.

"What?"

"You got it bad, dude," he giggled.

Jordan grinned, then asked, "Why are you being so nice? People aren't very nice these days." He looked over at Easy as the sun began its slow rise; really looked at him for the first time, taking in the weary hazel eyes, the crinkles left from smiles and frowns in the corners of his eyes, the scar that cut through his full top lip. Pulling himself out of his self-involved prison, Jordan asked, "Who are you?"

Easy looked away, toward that still flickering red light way off at what looked like the end of the seawall, what seemed to be the place where the rainbow hides its pot of gold........the place you never reach as hard as you may try.

"Nobody," he murmured. "Just Easy E."

"Nobody's nobody," Jordan said quietly, his voice breaking with pain and exhaustion. "You saved my life last night. I owe you. That makes you somebody special." Hesitating for a moment, he reached over and laid his arm across Easy's shoulders, sadly registering that he could feel the skinny boy's shoulder blades through the thin, ripped jersey. "You need to go home? I can wait for Danny by myself."

He felt more than he heard the sobs start, the slight movement of Easy's shoulders as he tried to hold them in. Easy jumped quickly down from the seawall, his back toward Jordan. "What? I'm sorry," Jordan cried. "I just owe you so much, man. I don't even know where to start. Want me to walk you home?" Jordan wasn't good with tears, especially boy's tears. He'd cried oceans of his own, but what do you say when a friend cries? And Easy was his friend.

"Walk me............? Nah. I can do that myself. I just live down where that red light blinks in that big white house. My mom and dad will be worried. They love me a lot, you know. We do bunches of stuff together; go to the movies and the park. My dad takes me to ball games and to the...the aquarium. He loves the sharks. I was just out...um.....I was out here thinkin' last night. Glad I could help you. You be okay now?" he asked, as he began to back away down the pavement.

Jordan knew this was wrong, but he didn't know how to stop him. "I want you to meet Danny and Griff. Please stay till they get here."

"Wish I could, Dude, but breakfast is callin'. My mom always makes me pancakes and I sure don't wanna miss that. She puts special syrup on them, just for me. I'm glad you're safe, bud." Easy stopped and put out his hand. Jordan stepped over to him and took the boy's slender fingers in his. Easy slide his hand around so that they were pressing their fingers together. "Jord..........live it, dude. Take what you got and live it. Go home and face up. Hug your mama and make your daddy understand. You're gold, Jord. Pure gold. Don't let anybody tell you different. I won't forget you." He whirled around and ran as if the devil was chasing him toward the red light.

Jordan watched him go, knowing he should have stopped him....not knowing why........just that this was wrong somehow. He felt the phone vibrate in his pocket and pulled it out. "I love you," he sighed breathily.

"Well, I DO NOT love you right this minute," Griff's voice rumbled across the miles. "Damn it, Jord. What the hell?"

Jordan groaned. He had a lot of fences to mend.

***

He sat outside the MickeyD, on the curb, all forlorn and miserable, looking for all the world like a kid who'd lost his best friend. Jordan Lawrence had to grow up. He had to grow up now. He didn't want to. He wanted to go back in time to that tree house, grab Adam as he dove toward that doorway, giggle and wrestle him to the floor. He wanted to tell his daddy he was gay, that he liked............that he loved Danny Trainor and have his daddy hug him and tell him that he loved him no matter what. He wished Easy was sitting here by him, not home having those pancakes and laughing with his parents. He was soooo sleepy, his mind was closing down and he had lost his Kicker; the Kicker Adam had given him. He reached in his backpack and tugged out the old faded red ribbon.

"I'm sorry, Adam. I didn't mean it. I didn't mean to lose the Kicker......I didn't mean to......hurt you." He felt his eyes closing and all he wanted was to just lay down and sleep forever.

"Hey, Kiddo....you can't sleep here." The voice sounded far away. Jordan tried to pry open his eyes. "Huh? Oh, sorry. I'm just sooooooo," he started to drift back off.

"You'll get hurt sitting there." The voice was kind, the hands that lifted him were gentle. "Come in here. You need to go home, son."

"I got friends comin'" he murmured, as he settled into the booth and laid his head on the table.

Abner stood over the boy, looking down at the tousled hair, the purple smudges under his eyes, the red ribbon clutched in his hand. "Why doesn't anyone love these kids?" he muttered. "All these kids just tossed out." He pulled Jordan's jacket out of the backpack, tucked it under his head and left him to sleep.


David paced the living room. "Why can't I go get him?" he bellowed at Claire for the hundredth time. "He's my son."

"David, let Danny and Griff get him. We know he's safe, that's all that's important right now. They'll bring him home. You need to think about what you're going to say to your son. Think hard, David. This will be the only chance you have. Everything depends on you."

David stared out the window at the sun rising through the oak trees and hiding in the Spanish moss. He let out a deep breath. He had to get it right.


"Jordy, Jordy." Jordan felt himself being shaken gently. He felt soft warm lips on his cheek. He felt warm hands touching him. He felt Danny. DANNY!! His eyes jerked open.

"Oh Dannnnnnnyyyyyy!!" he sighed and was buried in warm arms, kisses falling all over his face. He giggled sleepily as he turned his face and found himself being kissed totally. Mouths open, tongues pressed together, Danny tried to crawl inside Jordan's skin, to warm him and just become part of him. Whispers, sighs. "Are you okay?" Are you okay?" Danny kept asking.

"I'm okay," Jordan sighed, "Now." He sat up and curled himself into Danny's arms.

"And Hello Griff," Jordan heard a sarcastic voice muttering from the aisle. "So glad you could drive all this way to get me, little prick that I am."

Jordan raised his eyes up to the level of Griffin's and saw hurt, saw anger. "Hey, buddy," he said quietly. He held out his hand and, after a moment's hesitation, Griff slapped it and squeezed it hard.

"You dickweed. You coulda told me. What the hell was this all about? You scared the shit out of everyone." Griff slid into the seat opposite and stared at his best friend.

"I know. I had to leave. I'm not sure why now, but I had to." He waited a half a heartbeat and then whispered," Is he really mad?"

No question who Jordan was talking about. Griff answered, "You're gonna have to straighten this one out, Jord. I spent a lot of time with him looking for you. The man was ballistic."

"It'll be okay," Danny jumped in. "You'll see. My parents know. Your parents know. It'll be okay," his eyes pleaded with Jordan's to believe it.

"Let's go home, Jord," Griff said, standing up. "I'm gonna get some food and then we're outta here. Big cities give me the creeps."

Jordan sat still while Griff ordered burgers and fries and drinks to go. Danny held his hand tight and smoothed his hair out of his face. "I lost Kicker," Jordan mumbled.

Danny soothed, "You can get another one. It's just a board, Jordy. You're safe. That's all that matters."

"NO! That's not all that matters, don't you see?" Jordan cried out in his exhaustion and fear. "Adam gave me that board. It's all I had. Now it's gone. Another one won't do. The Kicker was the only thing I had." His voice trembled and broke. "All I had."

Danny didn't know how to comfort him, didn't know what to say. This went too deep. "Griff," he called. He nodded his head toward Jordan and Griff ran over.

Abner watched the three boys, so close, so together. He wished all boys had this hope, this affection. He wanted to tell Jordan. He was torn.

Danny scooted out of the booth, grabbed his braces and straightened up. "Let's get you home, baby. You need to sleep. You can put your head in my lap and sleep all the way home."

The three started toward the doors. As Jordan put his hand on the bar, he stopped. NO! This wasn't right. Something wasn't right! Through the fog of pain and sleeplessness, Jordan saw a face. A face that said one thing and meant another. What had he meant?

"Excuse me?" Jordan said politely to the old man behind the counter. "The boy I was with last night.....do you know which house he lives in? I want to say goodbye."

"House?" Abner asked,

"Yeah, Easy. He said he lived in the big white house down toward the red blinking light. You seemed to be friends. Do you know which one? They all look big and fancy," Jordan asked.

Abner stood still. For once, could he help? Would this help? He thought of all the times Easy had come in, battered and hungry. All the times he'd fed him and tried to make him go home. How brave and alone the child was, his beautiful hazel eyes brimming with tears.

"Easy..........he doesn't live in any big white house, son. Go to the end of the seawall. Go to the bridge. Find Easy. I know you got trouble...........he does too." Abner watched the expressions fly across this gentle boy's eyes.

"Thank you," Jordan sighed. No what do you mean.........No you've gotta be kidding.........just 'Thank you'.

"We've gotta do something before we can leave," Jordan said as he walked through the door that Griff was holding open. Both boys looked at Jordan, questions in their eyes, but Jordan seemed to be coming back to life and, if whatever this 'something' was would help, then they'd do it.

Griff's car nosed its way down to the end of the seawall, the grand houses disappearing and overgrown vacant lots and the shells of long empty stores taking over.

"What's down here?" Griff asked. "This isn't a safe place to be."

"A friend," Jordan answered softly. He saw the rise of the bridge and he said, "Stop here. I gotta do this alone." He looked at Danny and smiled. "Be right back." As they watched Jordan climb over the rubble of broken bottles and thrown away lives, Griff opened the door and started slowly after him, calling back, "Stay put, Danny. I'll watch his back" and under his breath, 'Like I've always done'.

Blinking in the darkness, his eyes getting accustomed to the dim light, Jordan looked at the sadness that people called their lives when they had no where else to go. Walls made of old sheets, carpeting, whatever had been thrown away. He felt his heart cramp as he realized that Easy was here, somewhere in this frightening hell. This was the big white house with the pancakes; this was Mama and Daddy who loved him. This was Easy's world.

He felt someone close behind him and heard the familiar voice, "What the crap, Jord?" Jordan leaned back until he could feel Griff's warmth; he had suddenly gotten so cold. Just knowing he was with him made him feel safe. Jordan understood now. He had so much.

"I have to find someone," he spoke in a whisper. "He's a boy I met last night. I can't leave it like this." He walked toward the cluster of six or seven little shelters, finding the first two empty. In the third, curled up under a dirty blanket, torn Lakers jersey all askew, Easy slept.........and clutched in his arms, a board.............not any board............but the Kicker.

As Jordan stood silently, looking at this boy who had saved his life last night, as Griff tried to understand what the hell was going on, Danny spoke. "Never leave me out, Jordy. I can do anything I need to. Please don't leave me out."

Jordan jerked around and moved to steady Danny, his arms around him, his hands over Danny's on the brace bars. "I'm sorry. He saved me last night. I owe him more than I can ever repay."

"Why is he here? What can we do?" Danny asked, his heart going out to the frail little boy in the clutter of cast off 'treasures'.

"Not sure yet," Jordan replied. He made sure Danny was on solid footing and then walked into the tiny cubicle made of old newspapers and boxes, sitting down beside Easy.

"Hey," he whispered, stroking the soft brown curls, "Hey, Easy. Surface, man."

Easy's eyes popped open, fear widening them. He scuddled backwards until his back was pressed against the wall of the bridge. "Jord.........dude.........I thought...............," he trailed off, his eyes darting from Griff and Danny to the Kicker and back to Jordan. "I didn't steal it.....I didn't. I thought you were gone. I was keeping it for you." His big eyes filled with tears and his head fell forward.

Jordan crawled over and leaned against the cement wall. "Shhh. I know. I understand." He slid his arm around Easy's hunched shoulders and pulled him close. "Shhh. You're my bud."

Jordan could feel Griff's questions, Danny's waves of love as he sat there holding onto this lost boy. What now? Who could leave a beautiful boy under a bridge? He wasn't a puppy that no one wanted and just dumped on the side of the road. Someone must miss him. He must belong somewhere.

His own problems shoved to the back of his mind, Jordan did what Jordan always did.....he began to solve someone else's problem. After all, he was much better at that than solving his own. "Easy.......I don't know why you're here. I don't know what brought you to this place, but I do know that you aren't staying........not one minute longer."

"Hey," a soft voice broke in. "I'm Danny. This is Griff. We're Jordy's friends."

Jordan looked up at Danny, his eyes shining. "Danny's my boyfriend, Easy. Griff's my best friend. And I guess you're my newest friend." He felt Easy lean into him slightly and he smiled. Suddenly, mind made up, he said, "Come home with us. We'll fix whatever is wrong."

Griff snorted, Danny shook his head at the way Jordan just knew this could be fixed, but Easy froze. "No," he said plainly.

"No?" Jordan questioned.

"I'm not like you. I've done things.........bad things. I...........you..........you shouldn't touch me." He scooted away across the blanket.

Griff motioned to Jordan. Danny sat down clumsily and reached for Easy's hand. Jordan climbed up and walked over to Griff.

"You got more than enough on your plate right now, Jord," he said quietly. "I'm not sure your dad can handle a street kid too."

"I'm not leaving him here," Jordan replied.

"We'll get everything else sorted out then we'll come back," Griff tried to reason.

"Oh, yeah........like he'll be here," Jordan muttered. "No, my dad preaches about kindness to others........the golden rule. Let's see him put his values to the test."

Griff knew when to stop....when Jordan's stubborn mind took hold of something and wouldn't let go like a pitbull with a bone. "Okay, but I hope to God you know what you're doing."

Danny was talking softly to Easy, the younger boy relaxing as Danny's sweet soft voice told him about Jordan's animals; the golden cocker Jerimiah, the badass cat named Kissy, his horses and all the fun they had. All the while, Danny's mind was furious. Who had let this happen? His hands stroked and soothed as he let his voice wash over the frightened boy.

"Easy?" Jordan said, his voice full of the sunshine that made both Danny and Griff smile. "Sk8er Boi.....Please come to my house. We'll try to help. My mama will. She can fix anything."

"Your daddy?" Easy asked, trying not to hope, trying not to care whether he went or not, trying to understand if it could really be this easy.

Jordan's face went stark, his eyes darkened. "He will understand. He will have to understand." He knew in his heart this was for Adam.........this boy held onto Adam's Kicker. This had to be right.

A street boy, who'd sold his body for a BigMac, who had nightmares when he was wide awake, had a glimmer of hope. Maybe...............

"Do you have anything you want to bring with you?" Danny asked softly.

"Just this," Easy said quietly and reached over to pick up a crumbled dirty photograph. No one asked and he held it close to his chest. Griff grabbed up the Kicker, felt how wet it was and knew it was ruined. Jordan held his hands out to Danny, pulled him up and held him for a minute.

"We'll be okay?" he asked, his voice a whisper.

"We're always okay," Danny answered. "Let's go home and help Easy. I have faith in your daddy, Jordy. You're his son after all." Jordan handed him his braces and then held onto him tight as they picked their way through the littered path to the car.

Four boys, different backgrounds, with faith in each other.

Three boys, close, love on different levels, trusting each other.

Two boys, in love as only first love can be.......

One boy, frightened, alone for so long on dark and dirty streets, hoping for a miracle and seeing it in bright green eyes.

One boy, going home to face his father.........to try one last time to make him see that he was as valuable as Adam.

The sun was shining, the day was beautiful, a Florida day, a day made for surfing and skating and the sun warming away any dark memories, any dark fears. Griff turned on the radio and Avril sang:

"Isn't anyone tryin' to find me?
Won't somebody come take me home?
It's a damn cold night
Tryin' to figure out this life
Won't you take me by the hand
Take me anywhere new
I don't know who you are
But I....I'm with you."

Easy sat shotgun with Griff, staring out the window as the city swept away and the trees turned to orange groves and the stretches of green widened, his mind overwhelmed by Jordan and the way life changes in the blink of an eye.

Jordan slept, his head in Danny's lap, no dreams, just a feeling of peace as Danny's fingers ran through his hair and caressed his face. Jordan was going home.

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