Matt and Tim

by Small Town Guy

Chapter 2

Matt slapped his hand on the alarm clock.

"Oh! Shit!..........That has got to be the worst sound in the world! I don't dare say that to Dad anymore!.........'Now, Matt........You have to get used to that. You'll be hearing that sound every day for the rest of your life....until you retire!'.........Fuck! I'm sure getting a clock that doesn't have quite such an irritating buzzer sound!"

Minutes later, he entered the kitchen. He knew his father would already be at work.

"...Morning, hon..."

"...Morning, Mom.........What's to eat?"

His mother stood at the electric range in a housecoat. Her brown hair appeared a bit dry and lacking luster. There were two streaks of premature gray through it.

She gave him a wry smile. Matt's 'What's to eat?' phrase, was an inside joke for the family.

"I've got scrambled eggs and bacon."

"Oh! Not scrambled!"

"...Honey, we had three eggs left........I was half asleep here and broke the yolks. I know you like over easy but..."

She continued to stir the pan with another wry smile. It was another 'inside joke.'

"...Oh! Just go ahead and say it Mom! I know you want to!"

"...This isn't BURGER KING!......You get it MY WAY or you don't get it AT ALL!"

They both laughed as she filled his plate. She sat opposite him at the kitchen table with a mug of coffee before her.

"...Mom, why do you always have to sit there every morning and stare at me eating? Wasn't it you who told me that's rude?!"

"...Awh!......When you turned fifteen.....I.....I think I took it hard. You're turning into a young man now. It's like it was yesterday I took you home from the hospital."

"Ohhhh!......Puhleezzz, Mom. No baby stories!"

"I worry about you," she said softly, "You need to be a bit more sociable..."

"Oh, not the Loner Routine again, huh?..."

"...Well, it's not psychologically healthy!........You've got to learn to be more of a mixer! You'll have a very difficult time later in life if you don't learn at a younger age."

Matt pushed a piece of egg onto his toast.

"...Ummm.......we got The New Kid yesterday."

"Well, I certainly hope you at least welcomed him to the school. That can be very difficult for some kids.......starting a new school without any friends."

"...Ummm......well, not exactly. But I said 'Hi' to 'im. And we talked a bit. And we laughed some.........He blushes a lot. I think he's kinda shy too..."

"Well, all the MORE reason to include him."

"Ummm........what else can I tell her about him?.........His shiny, coal black hair? His beautiful eyes that just cause me to melt?........His cute little round butt?.........and how he smells all 'dryer sheet' cute?! Or his sexy, pouty lips that I just ache to kiss?..."

"....EARTH to Matthew!........EARTH to Matthew!..." he heard his mother.

"Huh?....Ummm......ummm......Oh! I was just daydreaming about Timmy!"

"Timmy?"

"Yeah, The New Kid!.......He's ummm, got braces."

"Oh! I'm so sorry to hear that!"

"No! Not like his legs or that!.......His teeth! He hates 'em."

"Well, I can understand that. It's difficult. Kids can tease."

"Yeah, but I told 'im braces are IN! Ohhh, they're just so CU....COOL!"

"SHIT!.......OHHH....MY.....GAWD! I ALMOST SAID CUTE AGAIN!"

".....Yeah, we ate lunch together. An' he told me he was kinda happy I was there with him."

"...Well see! There you go! I'm sure it's very difficult for him. Especially if he's shy like you say. Put yourself in his place. You should try to make friends with him. Maybe it would be good for the both of you!"

"...Ohhhh, yeahhh!........I....I could comb my fingers through that black shiny hair. I could put my arms around that thin little neck and press my nose into his shoulder and, and just get high on that cute dryer sheet smell. Ohhhhh, I wonder if his neck smells cute. I'll bet it does! And I could sorta just move my mouth over his cheek. I'd....I'd hold his head in my hands. I'd push his lips open with my thumbs and......and just press my lips against those shiny, gorgeous silver braces!..."

"...EARTH to Matthew!..."

"Huh?!.........Oh!.......I was just thinkin' again. I got....like stuff on my mind."

"I hope you don't get all spacey like that in class! You have to focus more....pay attention...

"...And I think I should make an appointment for you to get a haircut."

"No!.....No!......Not yet!"

"Mathew..........You're hair is covering your eyes! You're trying to hide your 'CARTOON EYES' aren't you?..........Honey, they're soooo cute! So big and deep blue. You should show them off! They aren't the least bit silly looking! You're just going through that awkward stage where you think nothing's right about you. We all went through that! Yes, you're....... clumsy right now. You're lacking that dexterity most people have. That'll go away in a bit..."

Matt stepped off his front porch, his pack over his right shoulder. He hung his head. He glanced along the sidewalk. It was obvious the temperature hadn't dropped below freezing overnight. The puddles of the previous day which had been frozen were not only melted now but some had evaporated. Only dark muddy spots remained on the walk. His thoughts returned to Tim.

"I really gotta get there a bit early. I gotta tell 'im that I didn't ditch him yesterday. OH! I wonder what he's thinking. I soooo hope I didn't hurt his feelings! I just could never do a thing to hurt him! I'd like to just hug him!..........Yeah! And kinda put my chin over his shoulder and kinda stare at his neck.........And sniff more of that dryer sheet aroma!...

"OH SHIT!"

He jumped and spun in a circle.

"I've gotta make another........'Pocket Adjustment' here!......WHEN are they gonna make some kind of MEDICATION for this?! Oh this is sooooo embarrassing........walking around with a stiffy pokin' out!

"I really gotta stop thinking about Timmy like that! I mean, what are the chances? Like one out of ten? That's like ninety percent against me! Shit! I talked to him like forty five minutes yesterday?.........I just met him! How can I be so instantly in love with him?! I can't help it!..........Everything about him is just so drop dead GORGEOUS!......He even SMELLS cute!"

It was here he saw a figure ahead of him. It had a white hooded jacket, blue pack and black and white sneakers.

"No! It can't be!" he mentally gasped the words.

"I wish he didn't have that hood up! I can't see his hair. I think that's a 'HE'! Yeah, that's a 'boy walk'..........Girls don't walk like that!...

"I'll just sort of hang back here a bit. Maybe he'll turn around or something."

It was precisely here the figure seemed to drop several coins and squatted to gather them up. As he gradually turned through half a circle, Matt saw the unmistakable black hair.

"TIM!......YO!"

The figure looked up.

"WHOA!....MATT!"

Matt quickly trotted up to him.

"Wow!........I didn't know for sure if that was you!"

"Yup!........Hey, you live around here?"

Matt turned, took several steps in reverse and raised his arm.

"...Sixth house right there."

"Wow!........I can't be more than five blocks up the street here."

Matt got right down to business.

".....Ummm......About yesterday. I was stuck in the boy's room after seventh period. I was sure hopin' you didn't think I ditched you."

"Oh no!.........My mom sent me a text message in seventh. She got out early and said she'd pick me up out front........I, ahhh........sorta waited around your locker for three or four minutes to tell you and.........ummm........Well, you know how I don't like standin' around..."

"Yeah........so anyhow, the night before, I ate this bag of liquorice. The REAL stuff! It's not artificial........Those big chewy chunks. It's some gourmet stuff. I should know better. That stuff goes right through me!.........Well lots of stuff goes right through me! I think that's why I'm such a retard.........I'm always shitting my BRAINS out!"

Tim laughed loudly as he stumbled forward several steps. He turned to Matt with a large smile, all his braces clearly visible. He seemed to suddenly notice his stare and clamped his lips shut.

"Tim.........Don't DO that!"

"Do what?"

"You know what I'm talking about!........Scrunchin' your mouth shut to hide your braces! I keep tellin' you braces are IN!"

He didn't reply as they continued along. Matt took frequent glances at him. He continued along, tight-lipped and silent.

"My cousin got braces some years ago," Matt began, "...I guess she had lots of trouble with them........Do they hurt a lot?"

Tim shook his head slowly from side to side as though he were about to say 'No'.

"...Awwhhh!......You wouldn't bleeve how much they hurt!........Especially that first week. I had a fever. I had chills. I didn't want anything but ice water. I wasn't hungry.......I kept throwing-up for like three days!.........I won't lie......I was cryin' and just beggin' Mom to have 'em taken off."

He became silent again. Matt could nearly hear Tim thinking of the memory.

"...But it doesn't look like you even need 'um. You teeth look perfect!"

"....Well........my teeth aren't actually crooked," he began through the tiny opening in his mouth, "They're kinda like....twisted. The orthodontist said in a few more years, my teeth won't mesh right.........I'll have trouble eating........ chewing..."

Matt glanced down at Tim's arm at his side. He wanted to put his palm to Tim's and interlock fingers. He wanted to lean his head against his shoulder. He thought the action would somehow "draw" any pain from him. He was lost for words.

"I hate this!........I can never think of anything to say....And when I do....it all comes out weird 'n' stupid 'n' wrong!"

He glanced over at Tim again. His lips were relaxed now. He wasn't drawing them out tight. His hair stuck out from his hood. Several strands blew across his mouth.

"Oh wow..........If I had hair like that, I think I'd be constantly running my lips over it. I'd be kissing it!.........Oh, I'm such a wienie!...

"Well shit, Matt!.......Think of something to say!"

"...So..........You gotta cell, huh?"

He simply nodded.

"I've got one too!.......I didn't really want it. What am I going to do with a cell phone? And I'm always worried about losing it or breaking it. I'm surprised I haven't broken it yet for as many times I fell on it! I think it's just so my mom can check on me!"

Tim drew his lips tight again. The tiny 'hole' opened.

"...Yeah!........Same here........MY MOM'S idea! I mean........I've got so many contacts in it, the menu ran out of memory!"

He threw his arms out in front of himself.

"...I'll just never understand how I'll get all those hundreds of people squeezed into my busy social schedule!"

Tim happened to glance at Matt. He was holding his open phone at chest level.

"...Soooo Tim..........Do you think you could delete one of those contacts and make room for mine?"

He gave a slight smile. It was large enough for Matt to see a bit of his braces.

"Come on.........Give me your number an' I'll give you mine."

Tim recited his number slowly, taking his cue to continue after each 'beep'.

He drew out his own phone and opened it.

"Okay, what's yours?..."

"Just a minute!........I'm going to my phone info..."

"You don't know your own number?"

"...Well why should I?........I never call myself!"

A minute later they continued on in an uncomfortable silence. Matt could see a deep concern on Tim's face. He seemed worried, pale.

"...Ummm..." Tim began.

"...Yeah?........You were gonna say something?"

"....OH GEE!.........I don't wanna do this!..."

Matt instantly felt a sudden pull in his stomach.

"Do what?!"

Tim seemed to begin breathing fast. It almost appeared a panic.

"....Ummm.........This morning........I was in the bathroom gettin' ready for school. I don't think they knew I was up yet.........I heard my mom talkin' to my dad...

"She was starting in on all that psychology stuff again.........you know?.......About me being The New Kid.........About us moving.........About me bein' shy and having no friends. About me having a complex about my braces........I mean, it all made sense. I can see how she's worried about me.......Dad too! But holy shit! I.......I really don't like that psychology stuff!"

"...AND?..."

"........Ahhhh.........well, I'm shy about meeting kids.........meeting adults is ten times worse! And well, you probably feel the same way, right?...."

"...Well, I guess so.......Yeah..."

"Oh!.......Oh gee......I can't ask you to do this!..."

"...Do WHAT?!"

".........Ummm....Ummm....Remember yesterday when we met your friends in the hall?..... Rick and Greg?........And you introduced me? Well, we didn't hardly talk much. And I think all I said was hello to 'em. I don't think it took thirty seconds!"

Matt was beginning to get impatient.

"...AND?....AND?!"

"...Well, umm I kinda lied to my mom about all that! And I really think she knows it. I mean, she's a doctor! She's no idiot! And dad.........He works for some navy contractor with all that brainy engineering stuff. I can't bullshit him either!..."

"...And?.....So?..."

"....Well, I kinda told my mom that...ummm we....we were like all friends. She's knows better than that!..........She knows it takes me like months to make a single acquaintance! She knows I don't go to a new school and end up with three friends in......in one day!"

Matt became totally frustrated. He suddenly stopped walking and held Tim's arm.

"Tim........You're really getting freaky here. You want me to do something for you? What is it you're getting at?!"

"...Ohmigod! I just can't ask you to do this for me.......It's not fair to you!.......I'm just so scared I'm gonna be sent to a shrink."

Matt took hold of Tim's shoulders and shook him.

"....TIM!........Now you're really gettin' weird here........In fact, you're startin' to scare the shit outta me!..........What do you want me to?........Name it!"

"...Well, I.......I was kinda hopin' you could kinda.......ummm.....come over to my place after school today and.......ummm......Just sorta hang out with me for a little while. See, then my mom will know you're umm.....real!......And I'm not just making you up to make her feel good."

Tim saw Matt's face close to his. His bushy blond hair hung over his eyes, yet did nothing to prevent him from seeing the brilliant blue seem to grow brighter. His smile grew until it seemed his entire face was smiling.

"...You....you want me to come over and hang out with you?" he asked carefully, trying to be sure he understood correctly.

"Would you?.......I'll owe you big time!"

It took several seconds for this to register with Matt. He stomped his foot on the ground.

"WOW!.........AWESOME!........I'LL BE THERE!"

"REALLY?!"

"YOU BET!...

"Oh! I'd better text my mom. I'll tell her I'll be a little late."

"You think she'll be okay with it?" Tim asked cautiously.

"Are you kidding?!..........She's always calling me a loner. She'll be happy!"

Matt stood still on the walk as he carefully pressed keys on his phone. By his peripheral vision he could see Tim making his way toward a tree. It stood in a narrow grassy area between the walk and street. His feet crunched through a couple inches of snow at its base. He seemed as though he were limping. He leaned his shoulder into the trunk. His pale face began to gain color. His body language seemed to suggest deep relief.

Matt slipped the phone back into his pocket.

"Come on Tim!........And don't ever do that to me again! You scared the fuck outta me! I'm not lyin' here!"

They walked in silence waiting for the answer to his text. Although Tim had regained his color, his face remained apprehensive. Again he rolled his lips into his mouth and bit down on them. He wondered what tone the phone would produce when the text came through.

"Awh come on Timmy!........What's the big thing here? I'm serious. I really want to come over. I have no idea why you were so scared to ask!"

"Well, we just met yesterday! I mean we talked a bit during lunch but that was about it. It would be different if it was a week or two later. It's kinda sudden. It's just I'm getting scared about this whole psychology thing! I didn't wanna wait too long. Once my mom sees you're real, maybe she'll back off a little...

"Yeah........I'm shy!......I'm admitting it. And I really hate it sometimes. But I just wanna do this on my own, at my own pace. And I really didn't want to put you through meeting my parents and all. That's gotta be really scary for you..."

Matt saw Tim walking closer to him. His arms were rising.

"Is he gonna hug me?"

He felt a hand on his left shoulder and another on his upper right arm. He was close beside him, his head tilted down.

"...Anything you need, you got it! I really........really owe you for this."

"Tweep!......Tweep!"

Matt pulled his phone out. Tim suddenly straightened, his arms at his sides. He seemed as though he were holding his breath. Matt flipped the phone open and pressed a button.

"...Look!........I told you she'd be okay with it."

Tim didn't bother to look at the screen. He exhaled deeply. He appeared totally spent, yet his day hadn't even begun.

Matt gazed at the house ahead. It was growing larger as they drew closer. Matt hadn't passed his own home as he'd suggested a shortcut. It had been an alley which ran diagonally with the streets for the last several blocks. Tim could see it was merely two gravel ruts with a mound of grass between them.

It was a rather large yet modest home with an attached two car garage. With Tim's mother being a doctor and his father some engineer, he was expecting a much more opulent home. At the parallel approach, he could see the backyard. It was obvious there was no tennis court or concrete pool. He thought he'd seen a rather lavish patio, yet he wasn't too sure due to the snow. Although not opulent, it was large with brick facing and a large front bay window.

"I should never have texted my mom," Tim said, "but she gets kinda pissed if I don't. Well, she don't exactly get mad. She just gets hyper when people come and she's not ready."

Matt glanced over to his right and saw Tim's face. His eyes were fixed to the ground only several feet ahead of them. The weather had warmed. Tim had his jacket unzipped. Matt thought had it been colder, he'd see vapor puffing from his mouth.

His mouth was open in a rather large oval shape, his upper braces visible. He was indeed 'puffing.' It was here Matt saw his large, black eyes. Again they weren't attractive, they held fear.

"...TIM!.........HOLY SHIT!........I think you're more nervous than I am!"

He didn't look at him. He continued panting.

"Ohmigod!........I'm so nervous!........Wad-I-do?....Wad-I-do?.......... Oh!........My stomach!......Umm.....Oh!....I think I'm gonna be sick!"

He stepped closer to Matt and placed his left hand on his left shoulder. With his right, he gripped his upper right arm. Matt turned slightly toward him.

"...TIM!........Will you CHILL OUT?!"

Matt felt them stop walking. He felt Tim's forehead rest against the side of his head. His warm breath rushed over his neck.

"He's breathing on my neck!

Matt trembled slightly as he felt another electric shock pass through himself. He saw Tim's chest through his tight shirt. It was heaving as though he'd been running several miles.

"...I.....I......I think.....I really think I'm gonna pass out here, Matty."

"HE CALLED ME......MATTY!......Oh!.....that's so keeuuutt! There I go, getting all girly again."

He slowly reached out and touched Tim's chest, rubbing it gently. He allowed his hand to go to his side and lightly squeeze the thin ribs he felt through the shirt. They expanded and contracted rapidly. He felt guilty.

"Great!.........Your friend's havin' a......a panic attack here and you're using it as an excuse to FEEL 'IM UP!"

He drew his hand away and put it on the outside of Tim's jacket. He gave him a short, clumsy, yet firm hug.

"...Come on, man........We kin do this!.......Just chill a little, huh?"

Tim drew his arms back as he took several short, slow steps. Matt glanced at his face.

"...I don't see any.........signals there. He doesn't look all shy 'n' blushing.......He really looks scared.

"I really wonder if I should go to one of those GSA meetings.........They must have some.......some sort of 'signals' or 'signs' for each other to watch for. HA!....ME at one of those meetings?....Get real!"

Although Matt had become nervous during last period, he felt rather calm now. He knew Tim wasn't exactly a "Rich Kid," yet his parents must be a bit......dignified......formal, conservative.........perhaps even a bit too "sober." He had no idea how to conduct himself in what he called a "Fancy House."

"......Oh!........I don't care! I'm more worried about Timmy........Oh, he looks so scared! His face is as white as a sheet!.......He looks like a ghost!.......No!.....A pale zombie! He doesn't even look cute right now! He looks scary!"

Tim seemed to take shorter and slower steps as they neared the door, as if trying to stall off the inevitable. He opened the door to a large, beautiful dining area. There were two dark wood buffets along the walls. In the center stood a dark oak table, without linen. There were two shiny brass candelabra a bit from center, with partially consumed candles still in them. Between them was a centerpiece of wax fruit in a large clear glass bowl.

Matt suddenly gripped his stomach.

".....Ohhhhh.........This is a Fancy House!.......With Fancy People! Oh, my stomach! I sure hope I don't shit my pants!"

Tim closed the door revealing a small, shallow alcove behind it. It was without shutters. It obviously was used for coats and footwear.

"Here....gimmy your pack. We'll set it right here...

"Your jacket too?..."

Matt noticed there were only six items hanging. The hangers were spaced along the bar at what seemed precise, equal distances between each.

A tiny tan Chihuahua came running in and sat before Tim. The left ear stood erect, the right ear folded forward half way up.

"...Hey, Yipper!"

"...Yipper?" Matt asked

"...Yeah.........You'll see why we call her that. I won't pick her up right away."

The dog sat for a moment, then stood, making a turn to her right. Again she sat for a moment, then took another turn to her right.

"...We call this 'spinning.' She does that to get your attention."

The dog sat up, her bottom flat to the floor, forepaws hanging.

"...Awh, how cute!"

"...YIP!........YIP!........YIP!YIP!"

It hadn't been a shrill, loud, high pitched, Chihuahua bark. In fact it had been rather weak in volume.

"...YIP!........YIP!........YIP!YIP!"

"Awh, don't tease her!"

Tim scooped her up and held her to his chest. The dog wiggled and whined as she licked his mouth and nose.

It was here Matt heard a feminine voice from the kitchen. It was obvious it was a telephone conversation, yet much too "young" of a tone to be Tim's mother.

He caught the shortest glimpse of the top of a head and eyes of someone bending to the side to look out the doorway.

"...Oh!........Shoko! I gotta run! Tim brought a friend home!..."

There was a short pause before the voice continued in a subdued volume.

"...Yes!........Can you believe it?!......And after only two days at a new school!"

Matt's jaw dropped to the floor as MOM appeared at the kitchen door.

She was a statuesque Asian woman. She wore a lime-green shift. The hem fell barely halfway down her shapely thighs. Her legs seemed extremely long in proportion to her body. Her hair was a shimmering deep black. It was straight and hung nearly to her waist. Her face was round with high cheekbones. Her mouth was tiny, with the upper lip forming a graceful arch. Her eyes had a delicate, diminutive slant, yet were large and almond shaped. As Tim's, they were coal black.

"...Hi Mom," Tim said, "Hey, this is Matt from school..."

Matt audibly gasped. He thought he was looking at the face of an exquisitely crafted porcelain doll. He drew both his hands to his chest.

"...Oh!....WOW!.........For a second there, I thought you might be Tim's older sister!"

She already understood from Tim that Matt was a bit shy himself. She smiled and entered the doorway. She leaned on her right forearm and placed her right hand on her hip. It was as though she were striking a pose for a fashion magazine.

"Well, hello Matt!........That's so sweet of you to say."

"...You're so.........young!"

"Great asshole!........Start flirting with his MOM!"

"...I mean.......I mean........Not that I thought you were going to look like an old lady or anything!........It's just......I mean.......Ohhhh! I'm sorry! I soooooo don't know what to say here!"

He covered his pink blushing face with his hands.

"Just fuckin' beautiful!..........I can't wait to see your encore, shithead!"

She quickly walked up to him and pulled his arms down.

"...Now come on!........Tim already told us you're a bit shy as well....

"Now we don't stand on lots of formalities around here. Don't go getting yourself one step ahead of a fit. We aren't exactly into Emily Post around here. In fact....we don't even have any of her books!"

"...Oh!........I'm so sorry ma'am.......It's just....Wow....You're so pretty!"

"Oh honey........That is just so sweet of you."

She straightened up and looked toward the living room, her voice rising.

"...When you've been married as long as I have, you don't hear too many COMPLIMENTS ANYMORE!"

A deep masculine voice replied from an adjacent room.

"...Oh, honey!....YOU'RE RAVISHING!"

She placed her hands on Matt's shoulders as she bent over.

"Let me just get a good look at you."

She ruffled his hair.

"Ohhhh!........That bushy blond hair is just so cute! You see a lot of that out in California."

She seemed about to straighten up again but something drew her back. She slowly brushed the hair from his eyes with her fingertips. She gasped.

"Honey!.......You've just got to cut this hair in front here. You just can't cover those.... those cobalt blue.........MAGICAL ORBS!..........Oh....my....God! You can't hide eyes like that!"

She took him by the shoulder and began to guide him into the kitchen. He noticed Tim placing Yipper into her bed. It was designed as a tiny Conestoga wagon, complete with "canvas" top and wooden wheels. It sat before a furnace register.

"...Ken!......We'll be out in the kitchen!"

"Ten minutes!"

"Now I set out a snack in here for you boys.......A nice hearty helping of milk 'n' cookies!"

Matt entered the huge kitchen. He thought he'd stepped onto the set of a gourmet cooking show. To his left was the sink, dishwasher, electric range and refrigerator. All were a spotless, shiny stainless steel. The range had a stainless steel exhaust hood over it. Only large aluminum salt and pepper shakers were on the raised back. After the sink was a long wooden counter. It contained the usual canisters, knickknacks and automatic coffee maker. Above them were cabinets. Beneath one hung a microwave, beneath another, what seemed to be a radio. One third of the way from the sink was an island. In it's center was an odd looking lazy Susan for large ladles, assorted spoons, whisks and measuring cups. Opposite the doorway they entered, against the far wall was a breakfast nook. The small table was flanked by bench seats. Beside it was a window, with brilliant white, starched curtains. Before this was a larger table which seemed to be made of a heavy plastic. The legs were a tan color, the surface a bright white. On it was an insulated pitcher, two glasses, two saucers and a large plate of cookies. Nowhere was there another fork, spoon, plate, bowl, cup, glass or kettle seen.

Matt was steered to the closest chair. Tim took the chair opposite, his mother to Matt's left.

"...I think I'll join you, but I'm having coffee."

She glanced over her shoulder to the nearly filled carafe on the coffee maker.

"...Ken!" she called out, "Please?!"

"...FIVE MINUTES!"

"My husband eventually left the navy. It didn't give us too much time to see each other while we were dating. Now he's into government contracts, and the navy still doesn't give us much time to see each other..........He spends sixteen hours a day at work. When he's home, he's in front of that damn computer half the night!..."

She nodded her head sadly.

"Yeah, listen to me.........I'm a doctor. Sixteen hour days are routine to me."

The coffee maker began to make a gurgling noise.

She rose toward a cupboard.

"...Well, Ken and I at least try to sorta adjust our days off so we can be together a bit."

She opened a door and reached up for a cup. Her short dress rose up her thighs.

She filled the mug and returned to the table. Setting the mug down, Matt noticed the ugly green color. It also had several chips along the rim and on the handle.

She looked at him and sighed.

"...Matt.........Don't sit there like your lost! I told you we're very informal here. Pour a glass of milk!......Grab a handful of cookies. Chocolate chip 'n' peanut butter!.....I like the chocolate chip..........I'm a woman and all women love chocolate!"

He poured a glass of milk from the insulated container.

"...We've got chocolate milk in the 'frig if you'd like that."

"Oh, no ma'am. White's fine."

"Matt I really don't care for the 'ma'am'. You're so polite and it is proper, but it makes me feel so......old!........Just call me Ayumi."

"Oh, shucks........I....I really wouldn't feel comfortable with that."

"Well, my friends back in college called me Kipi.........How's that?"

"Ahhh, I don't think so..."

"Well, we'll think of something you can be comfortable with..."

"Ohmigod!..........What was Tim's last name?!.......I saw it right on his schedule!....

Umm....Umm....It reminded me of a book....a dictionary?.....Roget!.....No asshole! That's a thesaurus ya dork!......Webster! That was it! I'm such a GEEK!"

Matt paused with a cookie in his hand.

"...Ummm......I guess it's bad manners to dunk, huh?" he shyly asked Ayumi.

She broke a cookie in half as she gazed at it.

"...I hear it is........And on formal occasions......it's very poor manners."

She then dunked her piece of cookie in her coffee. Placing it in her mouth she spoke.

"...But it's absowootly deeliscious!"

She laughed as Matt eagerly dunked his cookie with a smile.

Mr. Webster entered the kitchen. He was literally a hulk in his dark t-shirt and sweatpants. His hair was in a crew cut and bright white.

"Soooo.......Yer Matt?!"

"Yes sir..."

"Well, might I suggest psychology as your major. I think you're about the only person who got anywhere with Timmy there...

"It's not good Tim. You really gotta get out there! You've gotta get used to working with people.........It's important in life."

"Coffee's ready, hon..."

"I don't want coffee........I want milk........chocolate milk!"

He headed for the refrigerator and returned with the entire gallon plastic jug. He gazed at Ayumi.

"What are you all dolled up for?"

"...I had that stupid, totally boring meeting this afternoon."

"You left today?" he asked surprised, then a grin broke out.

"Oh....If I could reach that far, I'd slap you for that!"

He sat and poured a mug of milk, reaching for the cookies.

"Yup!......Milk 'n' cookies.......All my life I've liked it!"

He'd drew his chair out on Matt's right. He didn't squarely face the table. He angled the chair to be slightly facing him. It hadn't made him nervous as it was done with a slight 'aside.'

"....Yeah, boys........It's....it's a bit rough growing up. Hey we all went through it. I had to be the clumsiest, wiry little thing. I thought my feet were too big!.....My ears!.....My arms were too long........Then I hit seventeen.... eighteen.....and everything else sort of caught up with me...

"....And I had to be the shiest kid in school........Hell, right into my twenties!"

He munched a cookie as he glanced at Ayumi.

"I was in the navy when I really caught a nasty cold."

"That wasn't a simple cold.........You had pneumonia!......You were delirious! You had a temp of a hundred and five!......That can cause brain damage you know!........Ummm, yeah! That explains it!..."

Matt couldn't resist a giggle here at their friendly exchange.

"Ohhhhh yeah!.........I remembered waking up.........I thought I had died!.......I thought I was in heaven!........There was this beautiful angel looking down at me!"

"...Oh yeah......(cough, cough)."

"I'm serious, hon. One look at you and I was in love, ass-end over teakettle!"

Matt noticed Yipper had entered. She lie a distance from him, right ear bent forward. Her large, bulging eyes flicked back and fourth between him and Ayumi.

"...She's scared right now," Ayumi put in, noticing him, "She'll warm up to you."

"Yeah," Mr. Webster continued, "I had to turn over in that skimpy hospital gown so Ayumi could stick needles in my bare butt!"

He folded his arms on the table and dropped his head onto them.

"Ohhhh! That was just sooooo embarrassing for me!"

Matt giggled again.

Ayumi opened her eyes wide here.

"That's supposed to be the nurse's job!"

"....Well, you weren't exactly a doctor yet!"

"It doesn't make any difference.........I didn't want those little bitches checking out your cute little tushy!"

Matt covered his mouth as he giggled. It came out as more of a snort through his nose.

"MOM!....DAD!......Knock it off! Yer embarrassing Matt!"

Matt waved his hands before himself.

"No! Hee, hee, hee.........It's not really funny but.....hee, hee, hee.....It's FUNNY! Ha, ha, ha!"

Mr. Webster looked at Matt.

"You see what we're getting at boys?"

He had said "boys" once before, yet he was looking at Matt. He understood that Tim must have heard it all before.

"It all works out in the end. I'm so glad you made friends with Tim. I think you'll both complement each other."

"Isn't that exactly what Principal Emerson said?"

Mr. Webster suddenly looked up at Ayumi.

"Where's Mom?"

She placed her elbow on the table and covered her mouth with her hand.

"I'm sorry hon..........It's my fault. I got excited and kinda let it slip that Matt may be coming over. You know her..........She had to run out to the little market down there to buy treats for the boys!"

He stood up rubbing his head.

"Ohhh!........Let me get my shoes. She'll go out for a box of raisins and come back with six bags!"

He left the room.

Matt already noticed Yipper 'spinning.' Soon she sat up begging.

"Oh!........You're breaking my heart, you know."

Ayumi gave a cast-off gesture.

"Oh go give her a piece of cookie. We all feed her at the table. Just make sure it's chocolate chip..........She'll just sniff at the peanut butter...

"She really took to you quickly. She usually takes a couple days..."

Matt looked over at Tim. He had his lips rolled into his mouth again. That day in lunch, he'd mentioned his "Linus Mouth" and encouraged him to smile openly more.

"Timmy!........You're doing that Linus Mouth again!"

"Well, you're always hiding yer Cartoon Eyes!"

They had to quickly explain their terms to Ayumi.

She first glanced at Matt.

"You do not have Cartoon Eyes! They're beautiful!"

"No!.........They look like something you'd see in an animation! They're so big they look goofy!"

"Well, yes they're big! But they're beautiful not goofy!"

"And I keep tellin' Tim that braces are in! They're so..."

"His mother is listening! Don't you even say CUTE, dickhead!"

"...just sooo cool!"

She turned to Tim.

"And Matt's right about your braces. They are a fad today. When you close your mouth so tight and cover it with your hand, you're just making it more obvious."

She glanced at Matt.

"And if you have any ideas of following Tim with those Mouth Jewelery sites on the Net, check with me first, please. Oh!........Back in San Diego we had the cutest little fourteen-year-old girl in there. She bought those fake braces off the Net and they had lots of toxic metals in them. She died three days later. Oh! What a waste of life for a fad! Please, give them to Tim or bring them to me. I'll check them out in the lab!.......And any of your friends too! I won't charge a dime!"

It was here they heard the door open. Matt heard an elderly female voice. It wasn't raspy. It seemed to have a slight, cute schoolgirl tone to it.

"...When you an' Ayumi invited me over to stay....I promised I wouldn't be a burden on either of you."

"MOM! Driving you to the store isn't a BURDEN!........Those walks still have ice on them in places!..........You carry all this shit and you can fall and really bust yer ass!"

"...KENNY!........Watch your language!"

(Slap!)

"Ouch!....MA!....That HURT!"

"GOOD!"

The boys were giggling. Matt glanced at Ayumi.

She had one elbow on the table, her hand over her mouth. Her eyes were squinted shut yet her entire body was shaking in silent laughter. She gradually recovered and placed her fingertips on Matt's wrist.

"She's really sweet........but she can be a little HELLER!"

Ken entered with a sheepish grin. He carried two plastic grocery bags in each hand. Ayumi noticed the handles were stretched, indicating a heavy load.

"MOM!......These bags look like they're twenty pounds each! I'm buying you a shopping cart!"

"LIKE HELL!........My checks get deposited into the bank and they just sit there! You won't let me help with the bills!..........You won't let me help with food! I don't need anything! I can buy my own shopping cart. MY STARS!........I could just see myself draggin' one of those carts down the street!........Why....why I'd look like a....a LITTLE OLE LADY!"

Everyone continued to snicker silently.

It was here she made it to the kitchen door. Matt saw a tiny lady with wisps of white hair surrounding her head.. It almost appeared there was a brilliant aura about her face. She seemed to glow with a radiance of love.

"WOW!........Now that's a GRAMMA"

"Oh!....Oh!" she suddenly said, her eyes falling to Matt. She approached with her index finger pointed toward him. It hadn't been pointed straight, it had a curve to it as though she were indicating Ayumi.

"...And you're......you're..."

"Matt," he put in.

"Yes!....Matt!....Oh my stars! I went to the store for you and Timmy and already I forgot your name."

She smiled warmly as she reached out to brush his hair from his eyes. Her gnarled fingers were soft and gentle on his forehead.

"Oh, you BOYS today! Why do you have such long hair? Why, I was standing in line at the market looking at two kids ahead of me.........Why, I couldn't tell if they were girls or boys!

"Oh!....Oh look! Oh, MY STARS! You have got such handsome, deep blue eyes. Why do you want to hide 'em?!"

Matt simply nodded shyly.

"Thank you, ma'am..."

She drew her hand away quickly. She shook her crooked finger close to his face.

"...And I don't wanna hear anymore 'ma'am!..........You call me GRAMMA!"

Matt blushed.

"Okay....Ummm......Gramma."

Her smile spread over her entire face as though she'd received ten thousand compliments. She placed her her palm to his cheek. Matt could nearly feel love radiating from her soft hand.

"...And....and I can smell.......vanilla......and, and....COOKIE DOUGH! Yeah, this is what a gramma is!"

"Oh, honey you're sucha little doll!"

Her attention was drawn to Ken as he emptied bags on the island.

"Kenny! I'll take care of the groceries!"

"MOM! This will take me all of five minutes!"

She walked up to him from behind faster than Matt knew she could move. She had to stand nearly on her toes to reach. She slapped the back of his head.

"OUCH!......MA!"

"Did that HURT?!'

He rubbed the back of his head as he turned.

"...As a matter of fact.....YES IT DID!"

"GOOD!...

"Now get back there and sit down and visit with your boy!"

Matt, Tim and Ayumi all covered their mouths as they giggled.

She suddenly turned with a serious expression. Her gaze went out to some distant point far away.

"My Daddy was a workaholic," she whispered, "As a little girl......I hardly ever saw him. Hardly even knew him........Of course with all us kids he really had to work. We didn't have a whole lot.......but......but we really didn't know it!....... We were happy..."

She returned to the bags as Ken allowed his shoulders to slouch. He returned to the table.

It surprised Matt as he spoke up.

""Wow!..........You people are the COOLEST PARENTS around!"

Ken sat with a mock shocked expression.

"Wow!...........That's quite a compliment coming from a teenager today!"

"I'm really serious about that, sir!"

Ken gazed down at a cookie he was holding. He broke it in half, shaking the crumbs onto the table before him.

"...Well, like mom was mumbling there.........We don't get to spend a whole lot of time together as a family........We.......we try to make the time we have together, quality time."

He nodded toward Tim.

"It's just with this.......hermit here.........it gets a bit difficult at times."

He reached out and squeezed Matt's fingers for a second.

"...I'm so glad you made friends with Tim so quickly.........Maybe you can get him outta his shell!"

"Wow!.........I guess they were worried about Timmy! He must have it a hundred times worse than me! I'm starting to really believe him! I think they were going to send him to a shrink!"

It was here Ayumi stretched her arms across the table, bending forward. She gripped Ken's fingertips for a moment. She turned her head to Matt.

"When Ken and I started dating........Well, both our families were very.........well traditional. Especially mine. They came over from Korea. They didn't even speak English........It was rough for them........They worked hard for what they had. They preached school to me! They never stopped! School, school, college.......learn.......education....... homework......STUDY!"

She paused and reflected for a moment.

"...Yes, I know it sounds awful........I just didn't understand at the time that they wanted things to be so much better for me than it was for them!.........Yet that wasn't it exactly. It was the "Old World" traditions that irritated me. Ohhhh, gee! To this day I can't stand as much as the smell of tea!"

She gazed into Ken's eyes.

"...We never called our parents stupid! It was just they were so stuck in their ways. They were so........so OLD! We made a promise to each other that we'd never be that way! We promised each other we'd never grow up!"

She slowly drew her hands back and straightened up with a shy smile. She placed her palms on the surface of the table and moved them in small circles for a moment.

"Oh Matt!........I'm not getting all Peter Pan on you here. What I mean is, we want to stay modern!.........in thought! We don't want to get stuck in the past. We want to remain progressive. We want to keep modern!.......Think modern! We want to change with the times! I guess that gets a bit difficult as you get older..."

She placed her elbows on the table with her mug in both hands. She didn't sip at the coffee. She seemed to stare over the mug.

"Ohhhhh..........All those parents that come into the hospital........The people I meet. Always bitching and complaining about their asshole kids!...

"I'm sorry, Matt but that's just how I feel about it. How I'd like to clean up after a teenage party on a Saturday night. I'd love to feel potato chips and popcorn crunching under my feet. I'd love to hear kids laughing and giggling during a sleep-over.........Hear the muffled voices coming out of a tent during a backyard camp out. I'd love to cook up hotdogs an' hamburgers. I'd never get tired of it. I'd never complain! And............and years down the road, we could take out all the photos and videos. Oh wow! We could watch 'em and laugh. Almost like it was happening all over again..."

She seemed to run out of words here. For some reason they all turned their attention toward Tim. He held a cookie in his hand with a bite taken out of it. His eyes were closed as his head nodded back and forth.

"...EARTH TO TIMMY!" Ayumi shouted out.

He jumped in his chair.

"Hee, hee, hee," Matt chuckled, "My mom always does that to me too!"

Tim blinked his eyes and looked around.

"No....no I wasn't daydreaming..........I was kinda noddin' off there. I didn't get much sleep last night."

Ayumi seemed to have an understanding expression on her face.

"Yes, I know..........New Kid in town....New School....no friends....as usual!"

She slapped her palms to the table.

"Okay you two!..........Down into the family room! Get to know each other better. You can be silly. You can be as awkward and clumsy as you want. Nobody's gonna see you! And Matt..........We don't stand on any ceremony around here. Don't worry about all that Emily Post as I told you before."

She swung her arms with her palms forward as though shooing chickens.

"Come on..........Go watch movies or play video games. Go machine-gun the monsters or whatever-you-do to save the world..."

Tim was still half-asleep as he staggered down the stairs. From fourth to the bottom step, his foot pressed to a clear, empty CD case. It slipped, sending him sprawling. He held his knee.

"Ouch! Ow! Ow! Ow!........Damn! Shit!"

Matt rushed down, striking the same case and he too went tumbling. He held his elbow.

"Ohhh! Ow! Ow! Ow!"

They lie on their backs on the carpeted floor and looked at each other.

"I told you that you'd see me make a dork of myself sooner or later," Tim said.

"Yeah?......Well I fell at school!"

He pointed up the stairs.

"...and I fell down the stairs too!"

He sounded as though he were proud of it.

"...Sooooo.....I'm still one-up on you in the GEEK DEPARTMENT!"

They began to giggle at the irony of it. Soon they were laughing out loud.

Ayumi was lifting a saucer from the table. She smiled as she gazed out the window near the breakfast nook.

"Oh, hon.........That's........that's music to my ears!"

She gazed at Ken. He smiled.

"....Mine too!"

The boys got to their feet. It was here that Matt took a look around. There was a dim track lighting over an old couch. Opposite it was a large plasma screen. Directly before the couch was a homemade wooden container for various games, remotes and controllers.

He quickly paced back and forth several times, eyes large, unable to speak. There were game units under the screen. There were rack after rack of disks.

Tim went to a cabinet for a video disk.

"This place is set up just the way I had it out in California."

Matt still couldn't speak. He tossed his arms out, shook his head and stomped his foot on the floor.

"OH!...........OH! (Gasp!) OH!.......WOW!.......COOL!........I....I MEAN FUCKIN' AWESOME!..........OH!........OH GEE!........If I had something like this I'd NEVER LEAVE HERE! I'd be just totally FONGOO NUTSO!"

He saw Tim turn from the player. His eyes were tired and serious.

"...Yeah," he began quietly, "It's fun..........LOTS of fun!........For about two months! Then........after that........it just isn't fun anymore."

His head fell. His shoulders dropped. Matt could clearly hear the implication.

Tim made his way to the couch and pressed a remote. The screen came on with an introduction of some science fiction movie.

Tim nodded to the screen.

"I've seen this movie about two hundred times!"

He lowered the volume a bit.

"I just put it on to make some noise," he said, glancing up at the kitchen.

He sat on the couch. Placing the remote on a small, battered coffee table there, he hung his head. His elbows were on his knees.

"...I......uhhhh......I'm really no good at talking. You already know about that...

"I....ahhh....I didn't talk too much up there today..."

Matt ran over and dropped to the couch beside him.

"Oh shit!........I was a total dork, right?"

Tim's head shot up, surprised.

"NO! No, not that!.......I mean, you were cool! They don't have to say stuff to me to understand them. I know they like you!......Lots!.........Ummm.....I wasn't talking much 'cause I was....ummmm........thinking..."

He hung his head again. His hair shifted forward, blocking his face from Matt.

"I.....I was thinking of what to say to you........What to tell you."

Matt glanced down. Tim's thigh was only a fraction of an inch away from his. Even though both wore jeans, Matt could feel heat radiating to his leg in the cool basement. He wanted desperately to gently place his hand on it but couldn't raise the courage.

"....I......uhhh......When I told my mom I didn't sleep too well last night.......I kinda lied."

Matt couldn't understand Tim's direction.

"...The fact is........I didn't sleep at all last night!.........I'm trying to understand...

"...Ahhhh.......a lot has happened in just the last two days!.......Ummm ....things I don't understand..........I've....ahhhh........well, never really had a friend........And....and it's my fault! I understand that part. I know I don't make it easy for people. I just....wanna be left alone.... and....Oh shit! No! That's not it either! I just don't know what I'm saying here!"

He drew up his knees, folded his arms across them and dropped his head on them.

Matt reached forward and placed his hand in Tim's shoulder. He allowed it to fall and ran it up and down his back.

"Oh this poor little guy! I can feel his spine! I'll bet he's been nervous for a long time. He probably hasn't been eating well........I hope he isn't like those girls that starve themselves skinny. I can't think of the name of that right now........I've never heard of boys doing that! Well, I gotta admit, I kinda like his skinny ribs. Ohhhh, to just squeeze his chest in both my hands. That would feel sooo good! Oh! He's just soooo keeuuutt!.........Oh shit! I hate it when the girls say that! I've been saying that a lot lately.......Well, thinking it.

"Ohhhh, I can feel him shivering. It is a bit chilly down here, but he's from California. He probably just isn't used to this weather. I gotta do something...... say something to make him more comfortable."

"...Ummm, gee Tim.........I don't know where you're headed here.......You're thinking? ......You're not understanding stuff?........Talk to me!........I....I think I can just feel you wanting to say something important here..........Hey, were friends, right?"

He suddenly collapsed backward, looking closely at Matt.

"Oh shit! I just can't find the words! I'm just no good at talking! Dad's right! It's affecting me socially. I can't keep this up......all my life!..."

He looked down at his cuff of his sleeve. He began twisting at a loose thread.

"...My first day at school. I told you I got there early just hoping that nobody would be there yet. When I saw you there.......I almost went into a panic attack!........I mean, well the school where I'm from..........The popular kids usually get there a bit early........You know. And they sorta get together 'n' socialize 'n' stuff...........The kids that aren't so popular.........They come in right under the wire and head for class!..."

He glanced over at Matt for a moment and gave a large silver smile for just a second. He returned to twisting the thread on his sleeve.

"...I saw that........that fluffy blond hair of yours........I mean, not all emo and weird...... just, just kinda cool, you know.........And I thought if you weren't the most popular kid in class, you had to be somewhere in the top ten!"

"OH!.......(cough, cough!)"

"Hey, don't knock yourself! I really thought that!"

He paused for a moment, still twisting at the thread, then continued.

"........Then......I saw your eyes!..."

"...Oh shit!........Don't start on my goofy CAR..."

"And don't start callin' 'em CARTOON EYES, ya DICKHEAD!"

He suddenly looked up, fear in his eyes.

"Oh!" Matt began, "HA! HA! HA! HA! Oh, shit! Timmy!.....That was PRICELESS! HA,HA,HA,HA!"

Ayumi had just placed the last glass into the cupboard as the laughter came upstairs. She turned quickly and faced Ken. He sat at the breakfast nook, sipping a coffee.

"HON!........JUST LISTEN TO THAT!..........Isn't that WONDERFUL?!"

"...Sure is.........But I think that's Matt..."

"I don't care!"

She wondered to the island and leaned forward on it. She gazed at the utensils in the lazy Susan. Both were stalling, while "eavesdropping" for more information.

"Oh! I'm-so-sorry, I'm-so-sorry!.....I didn't mean..."

"Timmy! Will you lighten up?! That was great!........Now don't go scrunchin' yer mouth shut 'n' hiding your braces with you hand!..........I told you, even if they weren't all cool today, I'd still like 'em!"

He hung his head, lips tightly closed.

"...Oh, you have no idea how I hate these fuckin' things!"

"Don't be like that!......Please?!......I really think they're cool!........Come on......let me see 'em!"

Tim tried to overpower a smile coming on.

"That's it! Come on. I wanna see yer SILVER SMILE!"

"Cut it out!'

Matt grabbed Tim's jaw in one hand and squeezed his cheeks!

"Lemme see!.......Lemme see that SILVER SMILE!"

"Matty!"

They began to playfully wrestle on the couch.

"OHMIGOD!........NO! NO TICKLING! HA, HA, HA! Oh that kills me! STOP! Oh SHIT!.........HOO,HOO,HOO!...HEE,HEE,HEE!"

Ken looked over his mug. Ayumi still leaned on her arms at the island. They both clearly heard the laughter come up through the floor. She was turning the lazy Susan for the second time, rearranging the large spoons and ladles.

She quickly made her way to the counter. Reaching under a cabinet, she tore off a section of paper towel. She leaned forward on her elbows as she folded the square in half, pressing it to her eyes.

Ken didn't have to question her as he blinked his own misty eyes.

"Oh....my....GOD! Please don't tickle me like that," Tim said as he sat up again, regaining his composure, "I'm not kidding. I'm worse than a girl when it comes to that!"

He placed his hands on Matt's shoulders and pushed him against the back of the couch.

"...Now just sit here for a minute.........You didn't let me finish here. I got something to say..."

He sat beside Matt, his arm over the back of the couch behind him. The full length of his thigh pressed against Matt's.

"Ohmigod!....Ohmigod!.......I can't breathe here! His THIGH!....It's so....so..."

"...Now like I was sayin'..........I didn't sleep at all last night. I just new the 'rents were planning something. You kinda know that stuff, you know?.......And I kept thinking if I invited you over.........well, they'd see you were real!"

His arm dropped over Matt's shoulders. His hand fell to his shoulder.

"...HOLY FUCKIN' SHIT! Hold on! Don't pass out! Listen to what he's sayin'!"

".....I just felt so damn......GUILTY.........It wasn't like I was inviting you over 'cause we were friends.........you know......to hang out 'n' play video games 'n' stuff. It felt like I was, ummm.......like kinda using you! It wasn't right. I just didn't want to get sent to some asshole psychologist! So I asked you over to cover my own ass!"

Matt felt Tim's hand move from his shoulder to his neck. An electric shock passed through his body. He tried his best not to jump.

"Oh SHIT!..........In about two minutes, I'm gonna start pissin' my pants!"

"..I'm just soooo sorry I did that, Matt........but I......I was just so scared, you know!"

Matt felt Tim's hand suddenly rise to his head, as though wanting to push it down to his shoulder. Matt hadn't taken it as an advance. He felt the apologetic gesture.

"Come on asshole!........Open mouth!....TALK!"

"...Awhhh, don't feel like that, huh?.........I mean it's not like we've been friends for like years 'n' years. We just met! But I know where you're coming from here. That would have scared the shit outta me too!........Shit! I'd have come over that very first day if you'd have asked!"

"REALLY?!"

"Hell, YES!"

Tim leaned his head back on the couch. His eyes closed. His mouth opened slightly as an audible rush of air escaped in a deep sense of relief. Matt stared at his mouth. His upper lip formed a high arch. The opening looked as though it were triangle shaped. On the screen, spaceships were waging battle. The explosions and flames caused bright flashes of light through the dim room. They reflected from Tim's upper braces. He rolled his head back and forth several times.

"Oh Matt!........I sooooo hate being this shy. At my school.....kids I've known for a year or two.........I tried........I really tried to talk to 'em. My.......my stomach gets like all squiggly and gurgley. It's like........Like it's shrinking up! Like it's scrunchin' down to the size of a fist! It makes me feel like........like I'm gonna just HURL! And my hands get all sweaty and my fingers shake.........My GUTS!........My intestines start gurgling like I'm gonna shit LIQUID!

"I could just see me walking around school with a big, brown splotch of smelly shit on the ass of my jeans!"

Matt giggled here.

"...I'm sorry."

"...Yeah........well, I just keep thinking of all this embarrassing shit happening...... and ....and it just makes things worse! Then I start gettin' even more nervous! And.....and it just doesn't END! It just keeps gettin' worse 'n' worse!...

"I know I've got a real problem here, but I wanna take it at my own time.....Do it my own way.

"Yeah, when I met you........I was scared shitless!.......But in just a couple minutes of talking with you, I was fine. Something about you is really ummm.......cool."

"What does he mean by that? Ummm......I don't think I'm gonna ask right now."

"Yeah, we're both shy," Matt put in, "........I thought I was bad but I think you've got it ten times worse! It must be really awful. How'd you like to come over to my place tomorrow?"

"Really?"

"Sure!"

"Awesome!"

"Hey, maybe we could get on the Net and see if we can find something to ummm......... DE-GEEKIFY ourselves."

"Yeah, good luck in finding something for me!"

He settled his head back.

Matt glanced over at his face. His eyes were closed. His mouth was still in a little "triangle shape." The features on his face weren't only relief, but total exhaustion.

Matt glanced down and noticed his hand on Tim's thigh. His eyes popped!

"HOLY..............FUCKIN'.............SHIT!...........I'M HOLDING TIM'S LEG! When did I do that?! How long has it been there!..........I don't even remember wanting to do that!"

He drew it back slowly and placed his hands in his lap.

Tim suddenly stood and stretched. His shirt rose up, exposing his bare belly. Matt saw his tight, flat stomach. He didn't have the "six pack" often talked about. It was just smooth and narrow. He reached for the remote and switched the movie off.

"...We aren't paying any attention to this. Come over here and choose a movie. Something you haven't seen!.......I've seen 'em all!"

Matt's eyes fell over hundreds of disks. He quickly scanned the titles.

"Hey!........Vampires! I've seen this series! Oh wow! Volume four! I haven't seen this one yet!"

"You like vampires?"

"No!........They scare the shit outta me!.........But it's fun!"

"Hee,hee,hee..........Wait'll you see this one!.......The make-up and special effects are just awesome!..........Hope you got your Depends on!"

As Tim inserted the disk, Matt saw a strange unit beside the player.

"What's this? Some kind of new game system?"

"Nah!......That's an option for the TV........If you don't do anything for fifteen minutes, it shuts down the whole system. Dad put that on. I'm always falling asleep!"

Matt sat on the edge of the couch wide-eyed. The introduction had just begun.

"...BOYS?!......BOYS?!" Ayumi's voice sounded out.

Matt saw the shapely legs descending the stairs. She held a tray which contained a plastic bowl of popcorn and assorted sodas.

"Ohhhh," she sighed, "Making snacks for Tim and his.......friend!.....Oh! Yeah! I'm feeling all schoolgirl silly. I told you Matt, I really miss this!"

She set out the items on the old coffee table. Matt gave her quick, polite glances and nods, yet he returned wide-eyed to the large screen.

"Now........I've got just all kinds of soda here! I didn't know what your favorite was, Matt. Just leave the others. I can put them back in the 'fridge."

(Sqweeeek!)

She looked up to see Matt with his hand over his mouth, eyes wide, pointing at the screen.

"...That....that woman!.........She's gonna git bit, right?"

Ayumi smiled and continued.

"Now you're probably expecting me to say not to make a mess. You just leave everything right here and I'll clean it up later..........And love EVERY MINUTE OF IT!"

"Baaahhhh!" Matt yelled as he jumped back. The cushion nearly rebounding him. He pointed vigorously at the screen once again.

"I.......I kin see the shadow behind her!........That's the vampire, right?"

Ayumi glanced at the screen. It was the usual graveyard scene, complete with the drifting ground fog. She turned to pick up the tray.

"Aaaaahhhhh!" Matt screamed. He'd jumped back on the couch his feet up on the cushion, hands over his eyes.

"Holy shit! That scared me!"

Tim giggled.

Matt's hands fell from his eyes to his mouth as he looked at Ayumi.

"Oh! EXCUSE ME!"

Ayumi only laughed.

"I have no idea why you kids watch these movies that scare the daylights out of you."

Matt looked at her questioningly.

"...Ummm......because it's fun?"

She shook her head, giggling as she made her way back to the stairs.

Within the next five minutes, Matt had located a ripped, worn old blanket on the back of the couch. He now wore it over his head.

"Come on Matt!..........You're missing the best part!"

"No I'm not!..........I kin hear that weird music!.........That's that...... something's-gonna- happen music!.........They play that just before the vampire jumps out at the camera!"

"HEE, HEE, HEE!"

"It's not funny! I'm fartin' right now, and I think the next one's gonna be wet!"

"HA,HA,HA!"

"Not funny!"

Ayumi silenced the television in the living room by the remote. She glanced toward Ken in his recliner.

"Oh HON!.........Listen to that! That's Timmy laughing!.......I never thought I'd hear that!"

He glanced at her, yet held an expression of deep thought.

"I think that little Matt is awful shy as well. I still say they were made for each other. They can identify with each other. I think they'll actually be good together. They'll be better for each other than any ten psychologists!"

"Oh.........I so hope you're right!"

Tim was pulling the blanket from Matt's head.

"Gimme that security blanket!"

"No fair!..........You saw this movie before. YOU know when the vampire is gonna jump out!"

"Yeah! Hee, hee. I like to watch you jump!"

Matt held his hand to his chest.

"Oh wow! I don't know how they got his fangs to look so reeeaal!"

"Told you the makeup was great...

"I'll let you know a few seconds before he jumps out again, kay?"

An hour later an navy action movie was playing. It held Matt's attention but he saw Tim's head nodding again.

"Hey, Tim.........You're beat! You need some sleep. Why don't I just go home and..."

"No!........Please? Just stay for awhile longer, huh?......I.....ummm......Oh shit! I just can't find the words again....

"I've known you like.........four hours now and......and it just seems like it's been so much longer, you know?..."

"Yeah! I was just thinking the same thing!.......Like it's been years!"

"Yeah!" Tim gasped with a somewhat more original grin.

"Oh! I just love it when he shows off his braces like that!"

"Hey, lemme just get like a short nap in here, huh? Wake me when the movie is over."

He reached across Matt and jammed a cylindrical sofa pillow against the arm of the couch. He lie across Matt's legs, his head on the pillow, shoulders on his lap. It had been done in such a natural manner, it seemed Tim wasn't the least aware of what he was doing.

"Oh!.......Oh shit!......Oh!......WOW! He's.......he's layin' on my lap! He's gonna take a nap on my lap?!........What do I do with my hands here?!"

He placed his left palm on the arm of the couch. He allowed his right arm to gently drop to Tim's chest.

"Oh! He's so......so warm 'n'........cuddly! I don't think he knows what he's doin' to me here!..........Watch the movie!........Here come the jet fighters!......Big battle here!"

He tried to get interested in the movie. At one moment he was the pilot, trying to get the gun sight on the enemy aircraft. At the next moment, he became all too aware of the warm body in his lap.

"Don't......don't think about Tim!........Watch the movie! Watch the movie!"

It was here he became more aware of the fantastic sound system. A jet would scream in from the left. He could literally hear it as though it were in the room. It approached in perfect synchronization with the movie. It would roar past and disappear to the right with its exhaust whistling. The camera rapidly switched from pilot to pilot. They wore white helmets with tinted visors down. The ribbed oxygen hoses of their masks would tug from side to side as they pulled maneuvers. "Watchit Jim!....Watchit Jim!....You got one on your tail!" Matt felt he was nearly in the cockpit.

"Oh wow!......Awesome!......What I'd give for a system like this! It's like......like bein' in a movie theater!"

The battle ended and the planes returned to the carrier. Their wheels smoked and screeched as they touched down. Their arresting hooks engaged the cable.

With the excitement of the battle over, Matt looked down again.

"Awhh.......He's really sleeping.......He....he looks so........tiny again. We're about the same height. I wonder if I look that little. But he's kinda skinny.......sorta. I sure hope he wasn't sick.........or have that....that anorexia!.......Yeah, that's what it's called. I wonder if boys get that...

"Oh those pouty pink lips!..........If I could bend over that far........I'd kiss him! Yeah! And he'd wake up.........and push me away and call me a queer or a fag! And we wouldn't be friends anymore!

"He seems to be giving me all these little........well.......signals......sorta..... like......But I don't know how to understand them! How do I tell him?!.......'Oh, by the way Tim......I'm gay! Are you?!' Yeah! Real cute! I'd never have the guts to tell 'im!........Well, unless he told me first!"

He continued to gaze up and down the figure in the dim light.

"Awhh........His shirt pulled out of his jeans. There's that little strip of bare skin showing."

He carefully placed his fingertips along the waist of Tim's jeans.

"...Oh, it's so........soft."

He worked his fingers and hand under the shirt.

"Gee, his skin is so smooth 'n' warm. His belly is so flat 'n' tight! His hip! It kinda sticks out.........it's a bit.......boney, but it makes his waist feel so tiny!"

He ran his hand under Tim's shirt and up onto his chest.

"I can feel his breastbone! I really don't think he's been eating well........Then again, his braces..........He says they make 'im sick...........And he was awful nervous about bein' The New Kid. And he felt bad about inviting me over to show his parents. Oh! The poor little guy! He's gotta be exhausted!"

He allowed his hand to run over the side of his chest.

"I just love to squeeze these skinny little ribs...

"Yeah! Shit! Wait 'til your friend falls asleep and go feel him up! I think I'm just gonna grow up to be a dirty ole man er something! But I can't help it! He's just so cute! I gotta TELL him!.........No! Not first. At least.......right now......I can enjoy these little...... moments!"

Tim stirred. His eyes fluttered open for a moment and closed again. Matt froze. He was scared to quickly draw his hand away. He was scared to move. He was scared to breathe! Tim's arms rose up. His hands grasped Matt's forearm, as though holding it in place.

"Oh shit!.........NOW what do I do?!"

He forced his attention toward the movie again. A radar screen indicated blips. A klaxon sounded. Pilots scrambled across the deck for their aircraft. Another battle? Matt had lost interest.

"This is crazy!..........I can't be in love!........I just met Tim two days ago! Maybe it's just the excitement of it all..........Maybe I'm just ......in like!......... And.......and.......Holy shit! Junior isn't even awake!..........He should be stiff enough to be pokin' a hole in Tim's back! What's goin' on here?!...........I really don't understand any of this! It's.....it's exciting but..... well........it's not......... ummm.......sexy!.......It's kinda........well.......contenting.......Yeah! That's the word I'm looking for! Oh shit! I just love squeezing these skinny little ribs!"

Ayumi rose from the couch and stretched.

"Well, I guess I should go down and check on the boys. It's getting late and Matt's mom may be worried."

"Why don't you just have him stay for supper."

"Supper?!..........After milk 'n' cookies?.........After popcorn 'n' soda?.......Yeah! I know! If Timmy had done that by himself I'd be bitchin' at him!.......I just couldn't help myself! I miss this sooooo much!"

A minute later, she returned.

"Ken!........Ken!........Where's the camera? I need the camera! Now! Quick! You just won't believe how cute this is!"

They entered the family room. The timer had shut the system down. The only light was from the dim lamps in the track lighting over the couch. Matt's head was tilted back. His hand was still under Tim's shirt. Tim's hands still gripped his arm. Both had their eyes closed.

Ken saw flashes of light as Ayumi took pictures from several angles. She suddenly seemed to sober a bit. She reached for his shoulder, her elated expression quickly changed.

"...Ohhhh dear.........I'm suddenly thinking that maybe this isn't as.......as cute as I thought it was a minute ago."

He continued to gaze down at them with a smile.

"...Hon........I think I know what your getting at.........One way....or the other......I don't care! As I said upstairs........They were made for each other!"

Talk about this story on our forum
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily. Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]