Charlie

by Hamen Cheese

Part Two of Four

Chapter 8: A Birthday Surprise

High school should be the most exciting time in any teenager's… teenage life. It is a world of firsts where one experiences things left and right, up here and of course, down there. My High School life was not different from any other ordinary high schooler's – except of course that mine was extraordinary. Unlike others who would whine about the unfairness and uncertainties of life, I got everything I wanted.

Well, almost anyway.

Now, I know you're busy *ahem* so I'll get on with it.

I told you earlier that it all started in senior year. Before I get to that, I'll give you a background on a few things.

First, just like in middle school where I was the star of the only important sport in the world – basketball – I was also the star of our high school varsity teams. There were four varsity teams, one for each year. I was captain for each of the years I was in. My reputation as an all star athlete preceded me and the High School sports committee had no qualms with Coach Henry's suggestion (who by the way also transferred to the High School after the stellar performance of his Middle School varsity teams – attributed solely to my performance in case you didn't know) of allowing me to hand pick my line up. Of course I already knew who I wanted to be on my team since most were from my Middle School varsity team. I put Luke in second string. He wasn't too happy about that. To be honest, I would have placed him in tenth string if there was such a thing.

Second, we would win every divisional competition in our bracket. I would be the proud captain of each of these winning teams throughout my high school years – well, except the last.

Third, high school was the advent of sexual discovery. You remember Melissa Albright? The only girl I had eyes for? Well as it turned out, my eyes liked to roam the different curves of other unknown territories after I explored hers. No, we didn't go all the way. I deserved more than someone like her. I wouldn't say she was my girlfriend either. It was more like mutually understood partnership. Yeah, I got to tap some bases and she got to bask in my glory. Perfectly acceptable arrangement.

Fourth, Rebecca Hastings became the bane of my high school existence. Wait! Before you say anything, let me explain. Remember I said that I tapped many bases? I'm not saying I tapped hers. No. In fact, I think that was the problem. By the start of our senior year, I wasn't even at first base yet. Hell, I wasn't even on the plate – no kind friendly hugs, or even remotely bashful flirtatious looks. No, all I got were death glares. And well, admit it. You know it. I know it. That woman has a death glare that can petrify Dobermans. I think the hostility in her actions if anything made me even more curious, more attracted. She was a mystery waiting to be solved. A ball of string waiting to be unraveled.

Fifth, I became senior batch president. Of course the political powers of such parties are quite limited as they are often just a competition on who was more popular or who can promise better things and then make the student body later forget that he actually promised anything. However, this coupled with my reign in the courts of basketball affirmed one thing: that I was the most popular teenager in all of Southmore High.

Sixth, a king, err, a popular student cannot be complete without the perfect royal steed. And yes, you guessed it. I'm talking about my 1996 Camaro V6 3800 Series 2. My dad gave it to me as a pre-graduation *slash* birthday gift for me when I turned eighteen. Oh the things I'd like to do in that car…

Seventh, after that night in The Spot with Charlie, neither of us called each other by any special name other than what we were born with. Charlie was Charlie to me. And I was Derek to him.

Lastly, Charlie was perfectly normal after that, smiling, laughing, being cheerful. He was still my best friend and I was his. Yep, perfectly normal – except he was gay.

That's right. Gay, gay, GAY!

But I wouldn't know about that till much later. Maybe he was good at keeping secrets or maybe I was just blind to it but for whatever reason it didn't occur to me. Apparently it occurred to other people easily enough. Well they certainly suspected it if not knew with certainty. In my case, I didn't know and I found out in perhaps the most horrible way. Horrible because it would eventually ruin my life.

But I'm getting ahead of myself again. It really is difficult to explain when I don't know where to start.

I suppose my car is a good enough place to start my story. Yes, I think that would be great place to start.


It was a Saturday and I was being kidnapped.

"Okay. What is this about?" I laughed as someone blindfolded me. I was awakened by several hands groping me in an unfortunately non-erotic way. Then again, considering the giggles that came afterwards, I was glad that it didn't arouse me because that would just have been wrong.

"We've got you right where we want you," I heard Charlie's distinct voice overhead. His voice had gotten deeper over the years but it still hinted easily of his youth. It had at that moment a mischievous, or rather devious, tone to it that just told you he was up to something no good. He must have been holding my hands which pretty much meant I could break free any time I wanted to. Of course, I didn't want to though.

You see, it was my birthday. My eighteenth birthday to be exact and I had been looking forward to it knowing that Charlie and my mom had been planning something in secret. They think they were so sneaky whispering to each other when they thought I wasn't looking. But they didn't realize that I was in my own way observing. Always observing. Always watching. Always seeing. Nothing got by me.

"Happy Birthday, sweetheart," my mom said. From the gentle and soft fingers that brushed against my face, I knew it was her hands blindfolding me.

"Thanks mom," I blushed. As you should know by now, I often just slept in my boxers so it was a bit disconcerting knowing my mom was sitting next to my nearly naked (but nonetheless perfect) body. I looked up to Charlie as though I could see him clearly. "Charlie, you could have warned me to wear a shirt going to bed last night. Give me one reason I shouldn't smack you after this," I laughed.

"Now, now, be a good boy and do as you're told," I heard Mrs. C's faux stern voice somewhere in the room. Even without her talking, I would have known she was there since I could smell the very distinct aroma of coffee which meant she was standing somewhere nearby with a cup in her hand.

"Just go with it Derek," my mom squealed. It was my birthday and all but she sounded more excited than even me.

"Charlie," I said as I turned my head trying to figure out where he was standing. "Buddy. My friend. You're going to tell me why I'm being manhandled like this right?"

"Sorry, Derek," he said with just a hint of malice, "I'm outnumbered two to one."

"With the two of us together, we're just evenly matched. I'll take care of my mom. You take care of yours." I hesitated and then frowned as something dawned on me.

Apparently, Charlie hadn't sensed my unease. "Hey," he whined, "how come you get the easy one." He yelped suddenly as though he was pinched while the adults laughed.

"Perhaps we should put some clothes on him first," Mrs. C said amusedly. I was glad that I had taken care of myself in the middle of the night so nothing was poking up.

"Here's your pants," Charlie said with a voice dripping with pretend disgust. When he saw what must have been an odd expression on my face he asked, "hey, what's wrong?"

I looked to my side hoping I was facing the right person. "Mom, where's dad?"

In the silence, I could hear the hesitation clawing at her throats. The laughter had died down to be replaced by a solemn burial hymn for the hope I had been nurturing a few weeks before that day. Her voice took on that soothing tone it always did when she knew I was upset or going to be upset. "I'm sorry, honey. He really tried to be here. But he had a meeting across the country. You know your father."

I sighed heavily and I wasn't even trying to sound dramatic. "Yeah. Always busy. I guess I shouldn't have expected anything less huh? Especially since he did the same thing last year. And the year before that the only reason he even saw me was he had us fly out to him. And even then we only saw him for an hour before he had to go back to his meetings." I tried but I couldn't keep the hurt from my voice.

"Hey Derek," Charlie said, his grip loosening on my wrists. "We're here."

I liked that about Charlie. He wouldn't say he wanted to be here or he tried his best to be here or if there was only a way he could come, he would. He wouldn't say any of those things because he didn't know any of them as a truth. Rather, he would make you focus on what is known. He made you look at the silver lining of the clouds overhead rather than what the weather of that day could have been.

"You're right," I smiled. It's not exactly like my dad didn't care about us. He did. He loved us. I just knew it. He was just… busy. "You're right. I'm sorry I'm ruining the mood."

"It's okay dear," Mrs. C said solemnly. "It's your birthday. You can ruin it all you want."

At least that got everyone laughing a little.

"Okay, where are we going?" I asked as I put on the pants Charlie had handed me. It was a little difficult not being able to see the holes and all.

"Just nearby, honey," my mom said as she handed me a shirt. After a while Charlie handed me socks and shoes.

"These better match," I warned Charlie as I blindly put on the socks, "or else there will be hell to pay."

"Language young man," Mrs. C said but everyone else just laughed.

"Oh, they match for sure," Charlie said. Something about his voice told me he was up to something.

"Okay now," my mom said excitedly, "let's get going."

They dragged me down the hall and out the house, giggling the whole way. I would have glared at them but of course that would have been useless blindfolded.

"Where are we going?" I laughed as I smelled the fresh morning dew. They simply answered with their own unsuppressed laughter. I expected them to bring me to the garage to get into one of our cars but as far as I could tell, we were heading away from garage, away from the house even and towards the road. We never parked our cars in the road. It wasn't allowed. "Are we going to your house Charlie?"

"Nah," he said simply.

"Not getting into a car?" I asked perplexed.

"Nah," Charlie said again. "It's not very far."

"Oh, we're walking?" I had nothing against walking but walking far blindfolded wasn't exactly comfortable.

"Were," my mom said as she stopped. "We're here."

"Oh."

"You can take off the blindfold now, Derek," Charlie said with a little humor in his voice.

"You blindfolded me for that short a trip," I laughed while trying to sound as menacing as possible. My voice died though when my brain caught up with what I was seeing.

My heart froze, melted, and froze again as I saw what was before me. It was grey. No, not grey. It was silver. Hell, it was gold! It was a Camaro convertible with an older but not too old F-body platform with two doors and two plus two seating. It had a forward nose that dipped down to slice through the air as most sports cars did and headlights that looked out like two menacing robot eyes straight out of sci-fi movies. I ticked off out loud each of the characteristics I observed, my eyes bulging with each one.

"Close," Mrs C. said which surprised me. I figured she had no idea what I was talking about. "But the year's off. It's a 1996. A 1996 Camaro V6 3800 Series 2 to be exact except it's been slightly remodeled and refurnished with newer parts. Your father believes that vintage models are classier than the more recent ones. As much as he wanted to stick to all the classic parts though, some of them just didn't make sense today given there were just better parts now."

"My dad?" I asked, my voice shaking. "This is his gift? To me?" I felt speechless.

"Well, you can't say your father isn't working for nothing," my mom said. Although she sounded like she was making a joke, I thought I could sense just a little bit of anger in her voice. I wondered if she was just as… I dunno… disappointed at my father's frequent absences.

I loved my father. I wanted him to be there more than some expensive gift. We weren't poor. On the contrary, I knew my father was rolling in dough from all the work he did. However, we tended to live modestly, something I learned my mother had been insisting since they got married. So this car though special for our apparent lifestyle was unlikely outside the realm of possibility for my father. Of course, I'd rather him be there than all the money he had and would make from being away all the time. But come on. I was eighteen and this was a car. And not just any car. It was a cool, awesome, and definitely expensive car. Hell, it was probably worth more than all the cars of my classmates combined.

"This is… amazing," I said unable to feel the sadness of my father's absence anymore. "This is… my car…." I went back to caress my car all around before earnestly humping her from behind.

"Derek!" my wide-eyed mother declared. "The neighbors!"

Apparently everyone else had different opinions as Charlie doubled up laughing. Even strict Mrs. C seemed mildly amused and tried hiding her smile by sipping into her coffee cup. It was then that I noticed my shirt.

"My other car is a Kia?" I asked as I read my shirt upside down. "I'm not gonna wear this! People are going to thinking I'm some kind of conceited, self-absorbed showoff."

The three of them blinked at me a few second before breaking down and laughing.

"What?" I asked glaring at them.

"You are going to wear that today, young man," my mom insisted between giggles which was odd for her normally controlled demeanor.

"Yeah, I picked that for you," Charlie said as his eyebrows undulated. "I figured it would fit." I doubt he was talking about the size.

"What's with the socks?" I asked as I finally noticed them too. One was a bright yellow one with green stripes. The other one was red with little toy trains going choo-choo, speech bubbles and all. I glared at Charlie. "You said they matched."

"And they do," he said bawling with laughter. He lifted his own pants and indeed he was wearing the same odd combination.

"Okay. Now there's hell to pay," I declared as I ran towards Charlie. He wasn't quick enough to react as I got his head in a headlock. He wasn't athletic enough to break away from my grip either as I gave him a noogie.

"Derek! Stop it! I'm too old for this" he laughed.

"You're never too old for a noogie!" I declared as I pulled him around. Although I no longer frequently woke him up with a noogie (we had already decided a few years before to sleep in our own rooms), some habits were still hard to lose. It was fine though cause he just laughed harder.

"Now, now," my mom said in a you've had your fun voice. "You boys go out now. Here's some birthday money. Get yourselves a special breakfast. But remember Derek, the four of us have dinner reservations tonight at seven. I want you back here and ready an hour before."

"Yes, my liege," I mock saluted and set Charlie free. He was heaving and his face was flushed. My mom wasn't trying to get rid of us or anything. I knew she would spend the whole day with me if that's what I wanted but I think she knew better than to restrain two teenagers all day, especially with an awesome car in our hands. "Come on Charlie. Let's take this baby out for a spin. Breakfast's on me!"

Charlie just rolled his eyes.

"You might want to pick up your girlfriend first," my mom suggested. "I know she'd want to see your new car. Anna right?"

"Mooooom," I drawled. "Anna was last month."

"Jenna?"

"Last week."

"Who's it this week?"

"No one," I said. "I've decided to be single. Life's too enjoyable to get tied down."

Now, my mom wasn't exactly the nosy kind but I sort of knew why she was fishing. I knew my father always wanted to be kept up to date with my relationships. He took special interest in me in that way. He may not show up for my birthday but I had a feeling that he would at least be there for my wedding. We'd probably have to reserve a conference room adjacent to the reception though so that he can meet his clients afterwards.

Charlie laughed. "Actually, that's not quite true. He's after this girl except she pointedly ignores him."

I melted Charlie with my eyes.

My mom shook her head. "Okay, you can tell me all about this new mystery girl tonight at dinner. You boys go on now. We actually have to get to work." She pointed her fingers back and forth between herself and Mrs. C as though it wasn't obvious who she was referring to. Knowing them though, it was just an excuse for them to talk all day, like they didn't do that all the time.

She hugged and kissed both of us before heading for the house. Mrs. C, always the less affectionate of the two women, simply nodded. She followed my mom into our house but not before pointedly staring at her son. "You be careful now."

"We will, ma," he said as he rushed shotgun into my brand new car. I got into the other side and relished the feel of the warm leather beneath my butt.

"This is nice," Charlie said nodding several times as he looked around like he was taking in every detail.

"Oh, Charlieee," I whined. "This is not nice. This is hot. This is cool. This is awesome, sexy, and the shitz. It is not just nice."

He smirked. "Okay then. This is so nice. There. Happy?"

I swore to the heavens. "One day. One day I will break you into the habit of adding a few curse words to your vocabulary."

"You know my mom would kill you if you did," he laughed while buckling up.

"Yeah. She'd probably have you bury the body too," I said with little doubt in my mind. I turned the key on the ignition. The engine went from a silent purr to an orgasmic roar beneath my fingers. "Oh my god… I just shot my pants."

"Keep it together stud," Charlie chuckled. "I need to eat and I don't have any money with me. No way am I reaching into your pockets now."

I gave my brand new Camaro a little more gas making that audible vroom-vroom echo across the neighborhood.

"Okay, enough really," Charlie laughed after the sixth or seventh vroom. "We better go before our folks call the cops on us for disturbing the peace."

"Hang on!" I screamed as I released the clutch and my Camaro surged forward. "Woohooooooo!!!" I yelled out my open window as we passed familiar houses and envious glares from people we knew. Charlie just shook his head at me.

"Where do you want to go?" Charlie asked.

"I feel like having a milkshake."

Charlie gave me a devious grin. "You know, I know this really nice place across town where they make some low-fat yoghurt shake that you'd like."

"Nah, I don't feel like being healthy today."

"Right," Charlie said stretching the vowellong enough to make it obvious that he didn't believe me. "Like you've ever said that in the fourteen years we've been best friends."

"What?" I asked as I turned left at a road, the red light turning green just as I reached it. A few pigeons pecking in front of a bakery went flapping as we roared through. "I just feel like having a good, old-fashioned, American milkshake."

"This good, old-fashioned, American milk-shake wouldn't happen to be found at Casey's would it?"

"Why, that's an awesome idea Charlie," I said enthusiastically. Casey's was this classic diner that had been around since the early seventies. The place actually looked like it was yanked straight out of the seventies. The food choices consisted mostly of mealtime favorites of that era but they were particularly known for their breakfast menu. Frankly, they had some of the greasiest, fat-filled, and oversized dishes in town. It still makes me cringe when I see some fat dude biting down into one of their burger patties. "I'm glad you suggested it."

"Right," he said again in that same knowing way. "And it wouldn't happen to have anything to do with the fact that she works there in the mornings on weekends?"

"She does?" I said in mock disbelief. "I did not know that." I turned down another road with my tires screeching on the asphalt. A few small kids on skateboards yelled excitedly at us and tried chasing us but they were easily left in my dust.

Charlie shook his head. "Face it Derek, you've got it bad." He became quiet for awhile and I wondered what he was thinking. Before I could ask though, he continued. "She's really nice you know."

I shrugged. "I wouldn't really know. She ignores me half the time and when she doesn't, she glares at me." I shifted the gear as we turned down the road where Casey's was without slowing down. The light was green. The light was always green for me. "You two are the friends, really. I'm sure you two talk about all sorts of things."

Charlie looked out the window, smiling. "Okay, aren't you going to ask me yet?"

I gave him a sideways glance. "Ask you what?"

"You know what."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," I said as I slowed down to enter Casey's parking lot. I made sure the vroom-vroom of my engine could be heard at least two blocks down. This early in the morning, it wasn't hard to find a parking space close to the diner's entrance.

"You were going to ask me what she thinks of you."

"You've been talking about me behind my back?" I asked with my aghast voice. "Charlie. Charlie. Charlie. We're best friends, dude. Now, you have to share what she's been saying about me."

"I didn't say we've been talking about you," he grinned.

"But you have," I said more as a statement than a question.

He shrugged. "Why don't you just ask her?" He pointed towards the diner glass window.

There she was standing in a pink and white short-sleeve, striped polo. Every button was buttoned except the topmost one, revealing just enough of her slender neck (no shirt beneath). The sun glinted slightly on the gold flower pendant around her neck. Her wavy, brunette hair was tied neatly behind her back. She had a little notebook in one hand and a blue plastic pen in the other. A white, crisp apron, likely pressed to perfection covered her bosoms. Several colorful bracelets that just screamed the seventies wrapped themselves around her slender wrists like a tight condom.

Yep, there she was – Rebecca Hastings.

It would have been the perfect sight, except her lips were clasped tightly and she was glaring in my direction.

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