My Freshman Experience

by Joel Young

Chapter 11

The Freshman Fifteen

Right before Thanksgiving break, I pre-registered for my next semester's classes. I was pleased with my new schedule, and I was looking forward to being free of my Religion and Chemistry classes.

After the pre-registration period, everyone was preparing to go on Thanksgiving break. Because Oberlin had students from all over the country, we had a five-day break instead of the customary four days. I was so excited to see my parents and the relatives who were coming to our house to celebrate the holiday!

Adam, however, was not excited. His parents were in Europe, so he was going to his grandparents' house. He didn't get along with his grandfather. I offered to let him come home with me.

"That's really nice of you, Joel," Adam said. "But, I need to go see my grandmother. She's not well. So, I'm cooking dinner for the family."

"You know how to cook?" I asked. "For a large group?"

"I do alright - overall. But, my stuffing and pumpkins pies are fabulous! My grandmother taught me how to make those," Adam said.

Adam and I made love twice on that Monday night before Thanksgiving. Our intimacy and physical contact were wonderful – both exciting and comforting. We knew it would be almost a week before we would see each other again, and we were both kind of sad. But somehow, the sadness added an urgency and intensity to our sexual desires and pleasures.

"Feel free to change your mind about coming home with me," I said. "You can share my room."

"Maybe sometime over the Christmas break," Adam said.

On the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, my dad picked me up at Oberlin. I hadn't seen him since move-in day. I knew that I was excited to see him, but I was surprised at how emotional I became when I saw him walking toward Pilgrim Hall. I ran out and threw my arms around him. And, I got teary-eyed. I didn't care if the whole college saw me hugging my dad. I loved him, and I had truly missed him – more than I had ever imagined I would.

My dad wasn't a hugger, nor was he someone who seemed comfortable showing much affection. But when I ran to him, he took me in his arms. "Hey, Sport!" he said. "It's good to see you!"

I talked almost non-stop on the drive home. Dad asked lots of questions about college life, and I think I shared every detail – except for my romantic relationship with Adam, of course. I did mention that my friend Adam was facing a difficult holiday, and I had tentatively invited him to stay with us if things got too bad. Dad said that he and Mom would be okay with that.

The house was a welcome sight to me as Dad turned into the driveway. I went in to find my mom. I gave her a big hug.

"I'm so glad you're home, Joey!" she said. "I missed you!"

I hated being called 'Joey,' and she knew it.

Mom pulled back and said, "Let me get a good look at you!"

I didn't like being inspected.

"Have you put on weight?!?" she asked in an accusatory tone. "Did you forget what I told you about the 'Freshman 15?' I wasn't making that up. It's a real thing!"

My entire mood changed. I had been away from my parents for nearly three months – the longest I had ever been away from home. And yet, it had taken Mom about a minute from the time I walked in the door before she started to irritate and criticize me. I was hurt.

"Joanna!" my dad said. "The boy just got home! Give him a break. Besides, he looks healthy and fit to me."

My dad was about the only person I knew who could get my mom to back off – even a little. "I'm sorry," she told me. "Your dad is right. Besides, we can get you back on track while you're home."

"What does 'back on track' mean?" I asked in a snarky voice. "Are you saying I only get one slice of turkey and a salad for Thanksgiving dinner?"

Dad immediately chastised me. "Joel!" he said. "Don't speak to your mother like that!"

"Of course you can have a balanced Thanksgiving dinner, Joel," Mom said in her snippy voice. "I'll just send the leftovers home with our guests so that you – I mean we - won't be tempted."

Mom's comment cut to the quick. "In other words," I thought to myself. "I eat too much and can't be trusted if there's food in the house." I turned around and went to get my stuff out of the car. I went up the back staircase to take everything up to my bedroom.

Despite the homecoming kafuffle with my mom, it was nice to be back in my own room. I decided to take a shower – a private shower - in my own bathroom.

After I dried off, I weighed myself on the bathroom scale. Had I really gained a lot of weight? At 5 foot 10 inches tall, I was 145 pounds when I left for college.

I got on the scale. I weighed 147; I had gained two pounds. "Give me a damn break!" I thought to myself. I resented that Mom had made me feel bad about myself over gaining two lousy pounds.

"If that's how she wants it," I grumbled to myself. "Fine! By Christmas, I'll make sure she's complaining that I look too thin!"

The next morning, I called Jim, my best friend from high school. He wasn't home from Michigan State yet, but his mom said he and Sara would be there for dinner that evening. She invited me to come over and eat with them. I checked with my mom, and she said it was okay. So, I gladly accepted the invitation.

I knocked on the Roberts' front door about 6:00 p.m. It opened almost immediately. There was Jim, grinning from ear to ear. I stepped inside, and we gave each other a big hug. It felt good to be with someone I'd known since kindergarten – someone with whom I had grown up, and someone I knew would always have my back – no matter what.

I heard Sara call out from the kitchen. "Is that Joel?" She came running to the doorway. I went directly from hugging Jim to hugging Sara.

I said "Hi" to Mrs. Roberts and thanked her for inviting me to dinner.

Jim, Sara and I went into the living room while Jim's mom continued working in the kitchen. "So, how's State?" I asked.

"We love it there," Sara said.

"Our dorms are in the Brody complex, and they're right next to each other," Jim said. "I got a job at the front desk of my dorm. It's not always busy, so they said I could study - on the job!"

"Wow!" I said. "You get paid for studying?"

"Uh-huh!" he said. "Sara has a night class on the two evenings I work. We don't see each other much on those days, but at least we're both busy at the same time. The dorms don't enforce the visiting hours so she can stay with me, or I can stay with her, whenever we want."

"Your roommates don't mind?" I asked.

"They're never there!" Sara answered. "They both sleep over with their boyfriends."

"My roommate is openly gay," Jim explained.

There was a momentary awkwardness in the conversation. "Might as well get everything out in the open," I thought to myself. I didn't think Jim and Sara would be surprised about my relationship with Adam.

"I sort of have a boyfriend, too," I said. "His name is Adam; he's a junior."

"That's great!" Sara said. "Go on – dish! We want to know all about him."

"Well," I began. "Adam is an art major, and his drawings are amazing! He plays guitar, and he has a beautiful singing voice. We met briefly at church on the first Sunday at school. But then I went to a talent show he was in on campus, and he sang directly to me while he was on stage. It sent chills up and down my spine! Oh, and he's got the most beautiful eyelashes I've ever seen on a guy."

Jim was never one to mince words. "I thought you switched to girls last year," he said. "You told me sex with Komiko was great. What happened?"

Sara jumped in. "Joel," she said. "You don't have to answer a question like that!" She looked at Jim, giving him the evil eye. It was obvious she considered his question to be an invasion of my privacy.

Jim didn't back down. "Are we still best friends?" he asked me.

"Of course," I said. "Best friends forever – no matter what!"

"Exactly," he said. "Now, is there anything you and your best friend can't talk about?"

"I guess not," I said.

"So, what happened?" Jim asked. "What turned you off girls?"

"I'm not 'turned off' of girls! I loved Komiko," I said. "I really did. And I would have stayed with her. But you know we broke up when I didn't get into Princeton. I started dating a girl at Oberlin, but she broke things off after a few weeks. She wanted to date other guys."

"It sounds like you wanted to do the same thing," Jim said.

"Geeze, Roberts!" I complained. "You could be a little more tactful!"

"Sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to pull your chain. I was just giving you 'the business.' You know I love you – in a brotherly, best friend kind of way."

"I didn't go looking for a guy," I said. "It just happened. Adam seemed a little enamored with me, and I sort of became smitten with him."

"Enamored? Smitten?" Jim mocked in a joking manner. "Do people still talk like that? I mean - people who weren't born in the 19th century!"

"Fine," I said. "I'll rephrase using the 20th-century slang you understand." I paused for a moment while trying to craft a crude retort.

"Okay, here's the scoop," I said. "I saw Adam checking me out, and I thought he was some totally awesome eye candy. We got the hots for each other and ditched school to make out in the hot tub at his parents' cabin. We 'sealed the deal' in front of the fireplace. Since then, we've been joined at the hip."

Sara started laughing, and Jim threw up his hands to indicate that he was conceding. "Tell you what," he said. "I'll stop with the personal questions if you promise to spare us anymore – unnecessary - details."

I responded by challenging Jim while pretending to be confused. "I thought you said best friends could talk about anything!"

Fortunately, Mrs. Roberts called us to dinner. I was hungry, and the food looked great. But, I reminded myself that I had decided to lose weight so that my mother wouldn't be ashamed of me anymore. I served myself very small portions, and I skipped the potatoes and dessert. When Mrs. Robert's asked why I wasn't eating very much, I lied and said my Mom had made me a big lunch.

After dinner, Sara, Jim and I bundled up and took a walk. We had such a good time! We made plans to get together again on Friday evening. We had a group hug before I got in my car to go home. I felt such a close connection with Jim and Sara, but something was missing. It didn't take me long to figure out that I needed David in order to recapture all the joy of being home again with my closest friends.

I got up early on Thanksgiving morning to help my mom get ready for the guests. We actually had a good time together. I admired her gift for gracious entertaining. And, she liked my precision in setting up the serving and eating areas.

Mom had planned something more like an 'Open House' rather than a traditional, sit-down holiday meal. Still, the buffet included slices of roasted turkey breast in a light and tangy cranberry glaze. There were tiny little sweet potato puffs; celery, walnut and tofu stuffing; two kinds of hot vegetables; and trays of fresh fruit lightly drizzled with dark chocolate. Mom also made pumpkin parfaits so that pie crust wouldn't be necessary.

The party turned out great! People seemed to enjoy the company, the food, and the holiday music. Everyone commented on the fabulous Thanksgiving decorations. Seeing all of my aunts, uncles and cousins was so much fun. I had a true sense of family all day long. For that and for many other blessings, I was truly thankful.

My cousin Mike was there. He was four years older than I, and he had been my first teenage crush. He was also the one who got me interested in Princeton, where he was a graduate student. He spent a lot of time with me that afternoon. I told him how disappointed I'd been when I wasn't accepted at Princeton. He reassured me that I was certainly smart enough, but that admission was really just a numbers game. Whether that was true or not, I appreciated his kindness. He put his arm around my neck. "Don't put yourself down," he told me. "You're still my favorite cousin! And don't forget. Someday, it's going to be up to you and me to keep this family together."

Mom and Dad had invited their friends Darren and Kelly McAndrew – David's aunt and uncle. I hesitated before approaching them, but I had to see if I could find out any news about David. They greeted me politely but seemed a little distant. Mr. McAndrew said he hadn't heard from his brother in a while. I was very disappointed.

Later, when the guests started to leave, I saw Mom packaging up food and encouraging people to take it home with them. "Please!" she said to almost everyone. "The three of us can't possibly eat all of these leftovers. And even if we could, we shouldn't!"

I was standing off in a corner by myself, watching and listening to her. "You don't need to worry, Mom." I thought to myself. "I wouldn't have eaten all the leftovers. I can control myself. Didn't you notice that I ate nothing during your party?"

Mom went Christmas shopping with friends the next morning. Dad and I didn't expect her home until late in the evening, so he and I hung out together. We went for a long, chilly run in the morning. In the afternoon, he took me to a new action movie he wanted to see. We both enjoyed the film, and we talked about it all during dinner. I ate one of Dad's great homemade tacos. He talked me into a second one. I loved being with my Dad; he always took such good care of me. I was happy and blissfully full when dinner was over.

I was expecting Jim and Sara about eight o'clock that night. As I was doing the dishes, I heard the phone ring. Dad picked it up.

"Joel, it's your friend Adam," he said.

I quickly dried my hands and went to get the phone. "Hey, Adam," I said. "How are you?"

Adam didn't respond. Then, I heard him crying softly. "Adam, what's wrong?" I asked. "Are you okay?"

Adam pulled himself together enough to ask, "Can I still come and stay with you?" He broke down again. "My grandfather kicked me out."

I guess my dad realized that something was going on. He looked at me and said he'd be in his den. He left the kitchen, and I heard the door to his study close.

"Babe!" I said to Adam. I surprised myself when I called him by that name. I usually hate terms of endearment. "Of course you can stay with me. I'd love to see you - and hold you, and take care of you!"

"Really?" Adam asked. "It's okay if I come to your house?" He sounded like his soul was wounded, and I wanted nothing more than to make everything okay for him.

"Of course!" I said. "I'll be thrilled to see you! When can you get here?"

"Whenever you say; I'm already in Detroit," he answered.

I was very surprised. "What? How…"

"When I left my grandparents' house," Adam explained as he tried to stop sniffling. "I just started driving. And then, I thought I'd come and surprise you. But a few minutes ago, I realized that barging in unexpected wasn't such a good idea."

"Adam, either way, I just want to see you," I said. "Do you have a pen? I can give you directions."

"That's okay," he said. "I've already driven by your house three times."

I wanted to run outside, drag him out of his car, and hold him in my arms. But, I had to think. I took a deep breath.

"Can you give me ten minutes?" I asked. "I need to tell my dad you'll be staying over. And, you need to pull yourself together before you meet him. And, no touching each other! There'll be time for that later."

Adam had calmed down a little, and he was starting to sound more like his usual self again. "Can I still sleep with you?" he asked.

"Who else would you sleep with?" I asked. I meant to tease him, but instead, I sounded sarcastic. I guess I deserved his answer to my rhetorical question.

"Your dad, maybe?" he said in a provocative tone. "I've only seen his muscular arms, but if the rest of him is as cute as you are, I'm willing to be flexible."

"Over my dead body!" I said.

I knocked on the door to the den, and Dad told me to come in. I asked if it were really okay that Adam stayed over for two nights before we both went back to school. "It would save you having to drive me back. I could ride with Adam," I said.

"Of course he's welcome," Dad said. "But, I need to know why he's not with his family."

"His parents are in Europe," I explained. "So, he went to his grandparents' house for the holiday. He doesn't get along with his grandfather. I don't know exactly what happened, but he's in Detroit. He'll be here in a few minutes – if it's really okay."

"Do you know this boy well?" Dad asked.

I had to be careful answering that question. I couldn't share how close Adam and I really were. But, I had to say enough to convince Dad that Adam was a good guy.

"I met him in the campus chapel the first Sunday of school," I said, deliberately playing the church card. "We've hung out, and I can vouch for him. He's a good guy. You'll like him."

Dad looked a little skeptical. "Will your mom like him?"

"Oh, yeah!" I said. "He's polite, and he goes to church regularly. He plays guitar, and he's got a great singing voice."

"You know she's going to make him play for us," Dad said. "Will he be okay with that?"

"I think so," I said. "But, I'll make sure Adam knows he has to sing for his supper."

A few minutes later, Adam rang the doorbell. I welcomed him in, and my father came out to meet him.

"Mr. Young," Adam said as he extended his hand. "Thank you so much for letting me stay with you!" We chatted for a moment, and then Adam went back to his car to get his stuff. Dad gave me the thumbs up sign to let me know that he liked Adam.

"I'm going to put him in my room – in the sleeping bag," I told Dad. "No need to make Mom clean the guest room after we go back to school."

Dad didn't say anything, so I knew he didn't object. I showed Adam to my room. I pushed the door almost closed, leaving it slightly open so that it wouldn't appear like we wanted to be alone.

Adam set his stuff down and reached for me. We pulled each other in for an embrace. I couldn't resist kissing him. It felt more like I hadn't seen him in a month rather than just a few days.

"I love you," Adam said. "And, thank you for letting me stay here! I was feeling a bit abandoned. But, I'm much better now. There's no place on earth I'd rather be than here with you."

We kissed again, and I got pretty worked up. I had to pull myself away before I lost control.

"So, what happened with your grandfather?" I asked. "Why did he kick you out?"

Adam hung his head. I wasn't sure he wanted to tell me about it.

"It's the gay thing," Adam said. "Ever since I came out to my family, Grandpa wants nothing to do with me. That really hurts. We used to be close."

I put my arms around Adam. "I'm so sorry your grandfather treated you like that," I said. "You don't deserve it. And, you did the right thing coming here. I'm going to shower you with so much love and affection that you'll have no choice but to feel better."

"I'm so lucky to have you," Adam said. "You always make me feel better."

"Unfortunately, we'll have to wait a while before I remind you of how good I can make you feel," I said. "My friends Jim and Sara are coming over any minute."

I had told Adam quite a bit about my high school friends. "These are the ones from your debate team?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. "I told Jim and Sara about us. I hope that's okay."

"No problem," he said. "I'm looking forward to meeting them."

Adam and I were talking in the living room when Jim and Sara arrived. I opened the door and quietly explained that Adam was here. "Oh, good!" Sara said. "I want to get a look at those eyelashes!" We went into the living room.

"Adam," I said. "Let me introduce Jim and Sara. Guys, this is Adam."

Adam stood up and shook hands with Jim. When he turned to Sara and offered his hand, Sara said, "Joel speaks so highly of you that you get a hug!" Adam seemed genuinely pleased to be welcomed so warmly.

My dad came in to greet Jim and Sara. He asked about college, and we all talked briefly. Soon, Dad said, "Well, I'm going up to watch the game. Your mom should be home soon."

Once my dad left, we sat down. Adam and I were on the love seat; Jim and Sara sat on one of the sofas. Adam put an arm around me. "Joel's told me a lot about you guys. It's a real pleasure to meet you."

I didn't think Jim was completely comfortable with Adam yet, but Sara certainly seemed to be. "He's told us quite a bit about you, too," she said. "And, he's right. You really do have great eyelashes."

Adam looked embarrassed. "Thank you," he said humbly. "Some people think they're fake. But, they're not. That's just how they grow."

I heard the garage door opening. I excused myself to see if Mom needed any help with the bags from her shopping trip. Most years, she bought all of her Christmas gifts the day after Thanksgiving. Mom and I got the packages out of the car. We took them up the back stairway to her crafts room where she did all the gift wrapping.

"Mom," I said. "Jim and Sara are here. And a friend of mine from Oberlin is here, too. His name is Adam, and his parents are in Europe. He spent Thanksgiving Day with his grandparents, but, his grandmother isn't well. And, he doesn't get along very well with his grandfather. It was best that he leave."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Mom said.

"He called earlier today," I explained. "I asked Dad if Adam could stay with us. Dad said it would be alright. I hope it's okay with you, too."

I could always count on my mom to be a gracious hostess. "We should always help our friends in need, Joel," she said. "I'm glad you invited him to stay with us. I'll go make sure the guest room is ready."

"We were planning to have him stay in my room - in the sleeping bag you bought. You know, the one that's so thick and comfortable," I said. "That way, Adam and I can talk. I think he wants to tell me more about what was is going on with his grandparents."

Mom said that was fine, and we went downstairs so she could meet Adam. Mom greeted Jim and Sara first. Then, she turned toward Adam. "You must be Adam," she said. "Welcome to our home. I'm pleased to meet one of Joel's college friends."

"Thank you," Adam said. "Joel never told me he has such a lovely sister."

I'm sure Mom knew that Adam was deliberately trying to charm her, but she liked it anyway. "Oh, you stop that, young man!" Mom said, not meaning a word of it. "Flattery will get you nowhere!"

"Yes it will," I thought to myself.

"Joel," Mom said. "Didn't you offer your friends something to drink?"

"We just sat down, Mrs. Young. Joel was offering us drinks when you came in," Sara lied. She knew how upset I got at my mom's subtle criticisms, and I appreciated how both Jim and Sara had my back.

"We've got cold, sparkling water in the fridge," Mom said. "Who wants a lemon slice with their beverage?" Everyone asked for the lemon, and Mom went to the kitchen.

"Joel," Adam said. "May I speak with you for a moment?" He looked concerned about something.

"Sure," I said. I told Jim and Sara we'd be right back. Adam and I went into my dad's den.

"Are you friends with an Asian girl?" Adam asked.

I found his question disturbing. I had told Adam about having a girlfriend last year, but I had never mentioned that she was Japanese-American.

"Komiko, my girlfriend last year, is part Asian," I said. "What makes you ask about her?"

"She just pulled into your driveway," Adam explained. "She wants to see you."

"Oh, great!" I said, believing in Adam's premonitions for the first time. "That's the last thing I need right now!"

"What do you want me to do?" Adam asked. "I don't want to make things awkward for you. I could beg off and say that I'm tired and need to go to bed."

"No. Stay," I said. "Just don't get jealous if my mother tries to get Komiko and me to set a wedding date! Remember – Komiko and I have a history, and we were in love. But now, I'm in love with you! You are more important to me than anybody."

The doorbell rang, and I decided to let Mom answer it. I heard screams of excitement when Mom and Komiko saw each other. "Joel! Joel! Look who's here!" Mom yelled.

Adam and I came out of the den. He went back to the living room. I went into the hall to greet Komiko. As soon as I saw her, I was overcome with emotion. I went over to her, and she wrapped her arms around me. "Oh, my God!" I thought to myself. "I'm still in love with her!"

We held each other for what seemed like a long time. When the hug ended, we were both teary-eyed.

"Why don't you two go in the family room for a minute?" Mom suggested to me. "I'll entertain the guests until you're ready to come into the living room."

Komiko and I went to the family room. I explained that Jim, Sara and a friend from Oberlin were here.

"I've missed you, Joel," she said. "Princeton is everything I hoped it would be. But, without you, it's less than what it could be. I hope I'm not intruding. I just had to see you." She came over and tried to kiss me.

When I stopped her, she seemed surprised. Actually, I surprised myself. I really wanted to kiss her, and I could have easily done a lot more than that.

"Komiko," I said. "I'm seeing someone at Oberlin."

"So?" she said. "I'm dating a guy at Princeton, but it's not serious. I've known him only a few weeks."

I knew where the conversation was headed, and I didn't want to talk about us getting back together – if only for the holiday weekend.

"Come on," I said. "I want to introduce you to my friend Adam. And, I'm sure Jim and Sara want to see you."

We walked toward the living room, and Komiko reached for my hand. I was uncomfortable holding hands with her, but I didn't want to offend her by pulling away.

As soon as we entered the room, Adam noticed that Komiko and I were holding hands. He looked surprised, and it was obvious that he didn't like it.

Jim and Sara gave Komiko a warm welcome. The three of them had become good friends during our senior year, even though Komiko and I went to a different high school.

I introduced Komiko to Adam. They greeted each other politely. Adam sat back down on the love seat.

"Adam," my mother said. "Come sit on the chair. Let Komiko and Joel have the love seat."

Adam moved to the chair, and Komiko and I sat down on the love seat. Sara gave me a fleeting glance, and I could read her mind. "Awkward!!!"

"Komiko," my Mom said. "Tell us about Princeton."

"Well," she answered. "I'm still a piano performance major. But, there are so many pianists at Princeton who are much more talented than I. I'm thinking of changing majors. I haven't discussed it with my parents yet, so nothing is final."

"Do you like your classes?" Mom asked.

"Yes," she said. "But, they are very competitive, and I'm either practicing or studying almost all the time. But, so far, I'm enjoying Princeton and doing well."

"So, Adam," Komiko said. "Is your family here in Michigan?"

"No. They live in Kentucky, but they're in Europe right now," Adam explained. "I spent Thanksgiving Day with my grandparents. Joel and his family have been kind enough to let me stay with them until we go back to school."

There was a pause in the conversation, and Mom jumped in to grease the social wheels. "Let's put on some music!" she said. "The girls and I heard Christmas music in the malls today while we were shopping. The carols got me into the holiday spirit!"

"Would you like me to play, Mrs. Young?" Komiko offered.

"Oh! That would be lovely!" Mom said. "Maybe we can sing along."

"Certainly," Komiko said. "If you know the lyrics, feel free to join."

"May I play my guitar?" Adam asked. "Joel loves to hear me play. I'll go get it."

Adam headed upstairs to get his guitar, and Komiko went over to the grand piano. When Adam got back, they talked about some selections – each assuring the other that they knew all of the holiday standards.

We sang "We Gather Together," in honor of the Thanksgiving weekend. Everyone knew the hymn from church, and we sounded pretty good.

We moved on to some Christmas songs – "Silent Night," "Away in a Manger" and "White Christmas." I could see that Adam was impressed with how well Komiko played the piano. And, she seemed surprised at Adam's guitar playing – and his voice.

"Mr. Criss," Komiko said. "Let's do a last piece together. Do you know this one?" She played a few bars of a song that I didn't recognize.

"Of course," Adam said, sounding a little defensive.

"That's the Huron Indian Carol," Jim said. "Sara and I sang it in choir last year."

"I don't think I've heard it before," Mom said.

"It's a Canadian Christmas hymn," Adam explained. "It was written in the native language of the Huron people. Later, it was translated into English."

"The melody is from a French folk song," Komiko added, sounding just a bit superior. "And Mr. Criss is correct. It was translated into English in 1926 by Jesse Edgar Middleton. Mr. Roberts, Ms. Hinman – please come up. Mr. Criss, you will sing lead – without guitar. I'll accompany you." It was clear to everyone that Komiko was the musical director for this piece.

Komiko began playing the introduction to the "Huron Indian Carol," and then Adam sang in his beautiful and rich baritone voice.

T'was in the moon of wintertime

when all the birds had fled,

that mighty gitchi Manitou

sent angel choirs instead;

before the light, the stars grew dim,

and wondering hunters heard the hymn:

"Jesus, your King is born, Jesus is born,

in Excelsis Gloria.

Everyone seemed stunned at Adam's amazing voice and his compelling singing style. Komiko's accompaniment was perfect, of course. Jim and Sara harmonizing in the background added depth to the music.

My mother seemed mesmerized, but she turned to me and said, "I bet now you wish you hadn't quit your music lessons."

Outwardly, I didn't react to Mom's dig at me. Inwardly, I was pissed! But, I focused my attention on my best friends, my former girlfriend and my current boyfriend making beautiful music together.

Within a lodge of broken bark

The tender babe was found.

A ragged robe of rabbit skin

enwrapped his beauty round;

but as the hunter braves drew nigh,

the angel song rang loud and high.

Oh, children of the forest free,

Oh sons of Manitou,

The Holy Child of earth and heaven

Is born today for you.

Come kneel before the radiant Boy

Who brings you beauty, peace, and joy.

When the song ended, Mom and I clapped enthusiastically. Jim and Sara clapped too, in recognition of Adam's and Komiko's talents.

After singing carols, we talked about our Christmas plans. And, we shared some funny stories from past holidays. A little later, Mom said goodnight and went upstairs to bed.

Soon, Sara said that it was getting late. Both she and Jim were going out of town to see relatives all day Saturday, and they were going back to school early Sunday morning. They got up and said goodbye to Komiko and Adam. They got their coats, and I walked them out to their car.

"I wish we could have more time together!" I said. "But, I guess there's no choice but to say goodbye until Christmas."

"Well," Jim said. "You do have one choice tonight."

I was confused. "What choice is that?" I asked.

"Komiko - or Adam," he said. "They're both competing for your attention. Let us know which one wins."

I gave Jim a dirty look.

"Come on, Jim," Sara said. "Joel, I'll take him home and get him out of your hair!"

I went back into the house. Adam, Komiko and I talked for a while. Then, Adam excused himself to go upstairs to bed.

Komiko and I were alone on the loveseat. We talked for almost an hour. Then, she leaned into me, resting her head on my shoulder and rubbing her hands over my chest. She obviously wanted to get physical. Very unfortunately, so did I.

We sat close together for a while. I was enjoying feeling her touch, but I was feeling guilty at the same time. I loved Komiko, and it felt good to be with her again. But, I was committed to Adam.

Then, Komiko tried to kiss me. I wanted to kiss her back - I really, really did! But, I resisted. "Komiko," I said. "I will always love you. But, I'm with someone else now. You and I broke up so we'd be free to meet new people at college."

She turned and kissed me on the cheek. "So sad," she said.

We stayed cuddled together for a few more minutes. Then, Komiko caught me completely off guard. "Did you know that Adam is in love with you?"

Her words startled me. I felt extremely embarrassed; much like when I was fourteen and Dad caught me masturbating in my room.

"No lies; no full disclosures. No lies; no full disclosures," I told myself over and over again. Finally, I decided on a diversionary tactic - respond to her question with a question.

"Oh, good Lord! What would even make you think that?" I asked.

"The best way to know people's real thoughts and feelings is to observe their eyes, and watch where they focus their attention," Komiko said. "Adam's eyes were on you the entire evening. And when your mom asked him to move so that we could sit next to each other, I saw anger in his eyes. Oh, he pasted on a polite smile, but he never took his eyes off of us. If I touched you - even a little - it drove him crazy."

"Adam's been going through some tough times, Komiko," I said. "He just needs his friends right now."

"Well," she said. "He may need his friends, but be careful. He wants more than friendship with you."

"I'm always careful," I said. "Now, can we change the subject? It's making me uncomfortable."

"Consider the subject closed," Komiko said. "Now, give me a kiss, and then I have to leave. It's getting late." She put her arms around my neck and pulled me in for a kiss.

I gave in. I wanted to kiss her. And, since Komiko had just raised the topic of Adam having feelings for me, I wanted to show her that I was a 'real' man. I kissed her back but tried to keep it as platonic as I could. I wasn't fully successful.

"Ummm. My memory is correct," Komiko said. "You are a great kisser."

We got up, and we walked toward the door. I got her coat from the hall closet and helped her on with it. I walked her to her car.

"Let's get together at Christmas," she said. "Maybe we'll both be unattached then." Komiko got in her car. She smiled at me and backed out of the driveway.

I went inside and took the beverage glasses from the living room into the kitchen. I used the downstairs restroom, and then I turned off the lights and went upstairs to bed.

I noticed that the light in my room was still on. I went in and saw Adam in the sleeping bag – awake. I closed the door.

"Did you make love with her?" Adam asked.

"No. Of course not!" I said.

"Did you kiss her?" Adam asked.

"Yes," I said. "Just once. It was a goodbye kiss."

"Nothing more?" he asked.

"No," I answered. "She wanted more, but I told her I was seeing someone at Oberlin."

Adam continued with what felt like an inquisition. "Did you tell her it was me?"

"No," I answered. "But, she thinks you're in love with me."

Adam's demeanor changed. He looked rattled. "She saw me looking at you, didn't she?"

"Yeah. But don't worry. It won't be a problem," I said. "You're not mad that I kissed her goodbye are you?"

"Well," Adam said. "Right now, she's the last one you kissed. I think I'll feel much better once that's no longer the case."

I gave Adam a devilish smile, and I lay down on my bed. "Well,if that's true," I said. "Then why the hell are you still down there in that sleeping bag?"

Our intimacy that night was wonderful - but a bit confusing. At one point, I thought Adam was going to move our lovemaking to the next level - to include intercourse. But then, he backed off. Still, I think we both felt emotionally and physically reunited.

As we were about to fall asleep, I said, "Adam, if there is ever any doubt in your mind, I want you to know - I choose you."

"Thank you," he said. "I really needed to hear you say that." He pulled me into a tight hug, and we drifted off.

On my last day at home before going back to school, I showed Adam some of the sights in Detroit. I took him to see the General Motors Building, the Fisher Theater, Greek Town, and Hudson's Department store. I took him to lunch at Joe Muer's – one of Detroit's most famous restaurants. Adam loved the seafood there, and my salad was excellent. I was still hungry, however, when we headed back to my house.

My mom had planned a family game night. She gave Adam his choice of any game that we had on the shelf. He chose "Monopoly." I had played it too many times to be excited about the game. But, it was one of Adam's and my mom's favorites. The game went on for hours, and I wound up having a good time.

I was anxious to head back to school on Sunday morning, but Mom wanted Adam and me to go to church before leaving. I tried to beg off, but Adam said that he'd like to stay and see my home church. Mom complimented Adam. "You, Mr. Criss, are a fine young man. I'm so glad you came to visit," she said.

Of course, we also had to stay for brunch after church.

It was late afternoon when we were finally able to start back to Oberlin. Adam and I said our goodbyes to my parents, and we set off in Adam's car.

It was a cold day, but the sky was clear. We drove along, thinking quietly to ourselves. I liked how we could enjoy being together – even if we weren't talking – or having sex.

About an hour into our trip, Adam said, "You'd really pick me over her?"

"I've already picked you, Adam," I said. "I'm in love with you, and you're the one I want to be with. You're the one I want to make love with."

"Does it bother you that I haven't been as free as you are?" he asked. "I mean in bed."

"Adam, we've talked about this," I said. "I love doing what we do. Really, everything is fine for now."

I cringed when I heard myself say, 'for now.' I realized that I had just put pressure on Adam to move things along – perhaps sooner than he wanted. He said nothing for a few minutes.

"It's not because I don't want to," he said. "It's just that I haven't been able to …" He hesitated to finish his sentence.

"Been able to what?" I asked.

We were driving down the road, and he was looking straight ahead when he answered my question. I was shocked!

"I haven't been able to - - get over being raped."

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