Matt and Tim
The next day, Matt sat before Tim in the cafeteria at their usual table. They'd been unable to walk to school that day as Tim had an orthodontist appointment. Tim leaned forward.
"...So how did it go last night?"
"...Nobody said a word about anything!"
"Wow. So, do you think you're in trouble?"
He shrugged again.
"...I don't know!"
"Well, I think my mom and dad saw your dad go into the kitchen last night. He really shot out of there fast! I think they brought it to Principal Emerson's attention..."
"Yeah......He talked to me. He really sounds like he's on my side...
"I wasn't going to lie about it, Timmy......I'm tired of it! I'm tired of keeping this all locked up......All closed away. We're out now! We're both out now!"
"Well, I keep getting a creepy feeling about all of this."
"We'll just have to hang in there. I don't know what's going to happen..."
They began to eat in silence when they noticed a figure in their peripheral vision. A girl with long blond hair with a black stripe off to the side sat beside Matt.
"Oh Matty!......Your presentation last night was sensational!......I loved it."
She was without a tray or even a notebook. She gazed off at nothing in particular.
"...Well look guys......I'm sorta making my rounds today and apologizing for last night. I....umm....Well, I was really pissed, okay?..."
"You got nothin' to apologize for......None of us can take the hate. We're all reaching our own breaking point...
"...Umm......I came out to my dad last night..."
"...You?!......You're gay?! I would never have guessed!"
Tim glanced over at her.
"...We're both out!"
Matt looked at Tim and returned to Rachel.
"...We're umm....boyfriends now..."
"You?!....and Tim?!......I would never have guessed! I mean you're both cute....You're little dolls!......I just would never have guessed in a million years!"
"...Umm....Ray," Tim began, "...We don't all wear rainbow shirts and pink nail polish!"
Rachel sobered and nodded her head.
"...Yeah....stereotyping again, huh?......And the girls wear motorcycle jackets! Sorry."
"You've got nothing to be sorry for," Matt continued, "And don't worry about last night. The kids understand......Hell, I think lots of the parents understood! You'll probably never get them to admit it though! No Ray, you didn't do anything wrong! We're all behind you! In fact....I think that woke lots of people up."
"...Well, I don't know how this is going to work out. I'm living at my aunt's place right now. My parents are sooo pissed! Right now they don't even want to talk to me. I don't know what's going to happen."
"...Well, neither do we..."
"So how did your parents take this?....Are they pissed?....Did they freak?"
"Tim's parents are cool with it. They just worry about the bullies out there...
"My mom......well, she's going through that stage of denial right now. She doesn't think I'm old enough to understand all this. She thinks it's just a stage I'm going through......Dad? I really don't know. He hasn't said anything. I just told him last night. Well, he asked me last night!......I'm not going to hide it any longer, Rach......I'm just sooo tired out!"
Rachel put her hand on Matt's shoulder.
"...Well, we're all behind you. And I'm joining the GSA! I'll probably be disowned for it. I just can't take it any longer...
"You do know Michelle and Angel, right?......Well, I'm not gay......I always sort of had the idea they were......Well, not with each other. I hear they're an item now......We go all the way back to first grade! The teachers called us the three musketeers!......What's that saying?......'Two's company, three's a crowd'....... Never! Oh, we had our differences, but nothing major....nothing serious!
"...Well, I don't know how my parents found out, but they don't want me with them any more."
"...You're gonna catch something?!"
"...No. They don't want me associating with degenerates! Their words, not mine. Until the church changes its views....my parents are just going to follow along..."
"Well, anyhow....you have nothing to apologize for. We all back you for last night."
"...Well I never even had that planned!......I just sort of snapped! All those pictures just scared the shit outta me!...
"...Well, let me make my rounds to the other tables. And good luck....for the both of you!"
It was here that little Toby approached shyly.
"...Tob! How's it goin'?"
Toby simply nodded his head as he set his tray down and sat.
"...Well?" Tim asked, "Any news?"
"...Nah! Nothing!......I don't know what's going on."
Matt reached over and squeezed his shoulder.
"...Well Tob......Me 'n' Tim are both out!"
Toby was about to fork a piece of meat into his mouth from a plate of thick stew. It slipped from his hand and fell to the tray. He suddenly looked up at the both of them, his face chalk white.
"...Oh shit!......Oh shit!..."
"...Well, umm....Tim's parents are all right with it......It's mine! And I don't know where I stand either!"
"...Did they go crazy?!..."
"...No. Not even that. I don't know what to think. Mom's in a state of denial. And Dad?......I don't know what he's thinking......You ever hear the phrase, 'The calm before the storm?'......Well, I think this is it! I don't know when, but I think it's about to happen."
Toby retrieved his fork and wiped his tray with a napkin.
"...Umm......Do you think they're gonna split you up?"
"...I sure hope not. They're going to be in for a lot of trouble if they do...
"I don't know how you 'n' Scooter do it! I don't know how you get by!"
Toby chewed for a moment and swallowed. He was already looking for the next item to spear on his plate.
"...Well, I guess we just do!......It really get's hard at times too..."
He speared a piece of carrot and drew it through the thick gravy.
"...Remember that sun catcher that Scoot had to give back to me?..."
"Yeah. You said you hung it in your window."
"Not any more!......I had to take it down. Every time I looked at it, I wanted to cry. In fact a few times....I did!...
"I keep remembering the day I gave it to him. It's cheap. I got it at some novelty shop at the shopping center......They aren't even there any more. He kept telling me how much he liked it. He just kept huggin' me and kissin' me. I think he was trying real hard not to cry! He was so happy that day! We both were! That was about the time we both......well......kinda started figuring out what was goin' on between us......Know what I mean?"
Matt felt his stomach tighten. He reached over and rubbed Toby's back. He could feel the individual vertebra of his spine through his thick sweatshirt.
"...Umm......I don't think that's a good idea taking it down, Tob. I mean, as long as it isn't depressing! I think I'd keep it hanging up......And every time I looked at it, I'd think of the day I'd be giving it back to him. I'd try to look at it as something positive!"
Toby chewed again and gave a slight smile.
"...Yeah! Okay!......I think I'll do that!..."
It was a Friday night and Matt and Tim sat in Tim's family room. They'd tried to play video games but kept losing interest. After several attempts at movies, they turned the TV off. They sat at opposite ends of the couch, their feet up on the coffee table.
"...Well, Matty......At least your parents are letting you spend the night."
"...Yeah......but it's the way they're doing it! They still haven't brought up the subject. I'm starting to think they're both living in a state of denial!"
"...So what?......It's been too long since I held you all night..."
"...Sure has. I bet I'll sleep like a rock!...
"I don't know what it is, but I keep thinkin' about Scooter 'n' Toby. Oh shit! That's gotta be so tough. How do they wanna go on for one....more....day?!"
"I guess you just do it! It's just something you have to do! I'd guess you'd get used to it."
"I'd never get used to not seeing you anymore! I mean even the river and the park? Never being able to touch you? Never being able to even talk to you? I'd go nuts! I really would, Timmy..."
"...Umm....I know its been a while but......Matty, don't take this the wrong way......I don't really feel like, umm......doing anything tonight..."
Matt nodded as he smiled. He rubbed Tim's foot with his own on the coffee table.
"...I think I know exactly what you're saying. I was tryin' to kinda bring that up myself. I mean I wanna be with you tonight......I don't feel like......doing anything either."
"What's so funny?"
"Two teenaged boys......and we aren't even interested in doing anything! Nobody would believe that! Hee,hee..."
"Well, hey......I really enjoy our......times together......but it's like I said, I don't want us just loving the sex part!"
"It's never gonna happen Matty! I'm quite content with just holding you. That's the word!....Content! I was trying to think of the word and I'd already said it! I just love us up close together....hugging....touching......And I don't mean down there!"
"Seriously Matty! I just can't explain it. When I wake up during the night and feel your arms around my neck....I just feel......drugged! And sometimes I wake up and I'll be hugging your neck. And I can just feel the heat coming from your cheek. I gotta kiss it! No matter how tired I am....I gotta kiss your warm cheek..."
"I gotta ask you something..."
"That morning in the tent......When I first kissed you......If you had been straight, would that have been the end of us together?..."
"Never!......First off, I probably wouldn't have let you get that close to try. But we'd been through a lot together. I seriously don't think that would have changed anything......I mean with being friends! I could never have just pushed you out of my life. You helped me too much. In fact I think I could still say I loved you....but it would be a different kind of love, huh?"
"Oh shit!......Timmy......I was just so scared to try that!......That's why I kinda took my time. I thought any second you were going to turn your head....or push me away...
"Oh Timmy!......I'll just never, never forget our first kiss. I thought even if you were gay, that I was going to klutz it all up! I thought I was going to do everything wrong!"
"Never!......I'll never forget it either. And I keep tellin' you......I was just too shy to make the first move. I'm so glad you did!"
Matt seemed to reflect for a moment.
"Oh the ways I'd daydream of our first kiss......But when you dream, everything is perfect. Everything goes just as you planned. And most of all, you don't turn away!...
"Yeah, I was really scared of that first kiss. I just kept seeing your eyes and your mouth and those beautiful, silver braces! I....I just lost it, Timmy....I couldn't hold back any more. And you didn't push me away! In fact, your arms just kinda snapped around me!..."
"Oh yeah! And I told you I had to run my hands under your shirt. I had to feel your bare back, your ribs, your bare skin! I was soooo scared I was dreamin'! I was so scared I was going to wake up and find myself hugging my pillow! I wanted to know it was really happening!"
"...Huh!....That was kind of a strange way of coming out, wasn't it?"
"...Nah!......Not really. Well, you weren't actually saying the words......Oh how you tried!......I could tell. And I was sooooo scared you weren't going to go through with it..."
He reflected with a smile for a moment. He pushed his foot against Matt's on the coffee table. Their white socks were dirty along the bottom.
"...I thought for sure you were going to change your mind at the last second. Really! I didn't want that to happen...
"...I've thought about this a lot......I mean, well I'm nowhere near as shy as I used to be. But even now!......I still don't think I could come out to you! Not being the first. I think you'd still have to be the first to say it..."
It was here Ayumi opened the door at the top of the stairs. It seemed she was deliberately making noise as she rattled the knob.
"Oh....Boys?!....Boys?!..." she began, as she descended the stairs.
Her eyes fell to the two of them still at opposite ends of the couch. Their demeanor and simple body language indicated they hadn't suddenly moved into this position. It was obvious they were having another one of their serious moments, as Ayumi had referred them.
"...It's okay Mom!......We aren't....doing anything!....You can walk in anytime you want."
Ayumi gave a shy grin.
"...Well....we were just talking to Gramma about your awards......Your science projects....Tim's tutoring....Your presentation at the GSA meeting!......Well we told Gram that was for depression and suicide. And that's not lying. We did not show her the photos though!
"...Well, don't you know....She put two of her famous apple pies in the oven! They're done! And we've got ice cream and chocolate milk. Just a little celebration..."
Matt quickly got to his feet.
"...Gramma's apple pie!....Wow!....Let's go Timmy!"
They entered the brightly lit kitchen. There was a warm, humid, spicy atmosphere which surrounded them. The aroma of clove, cinnamon and hot apples filled their heads. Matt and Tim slid into the bench seat. Ken slid in the seat opposite. Ayumi steered Clara in beside him.
"Oh no! I want to sit with my boys!"
"Mom!....Sit here!....I don't want you on the outside where you're going to keep getting up and waiting on us!"
"Oh my stars!......You know how much I enjoy all this..."
"You made the pies!....That's enough."
Matt cut into his slice of pie and noticed steam rise.
"Oh! Gram!....It smells so good I can taste it!"
She simply smiled as she looked at them. She suddenly noticed a more mature air to their appearance. They were the same boys she had doted over the entire summer, yet they seemed to be giving her a sudden realization they were still growing.
"...Oh my......You boys are growing up so fast! And all these awards and certificates! We're all so proud of you!"
After their snack, Ayumi got to her feet and began sliding dishes off the table.
"...Ayumi! Now you let me clean up here. I just soooo enjoy this!"
"No Mom. You spent enough time on your feet. I'll take care of this. You go watch your news and weather. It's not even Thanksgiving and they've got snow forecasted!"
Clara started for the living room.
Tim got to his feet.
"...Everyone go watch the news! Me 'n' Matty can take care of a few cups 'n' saucers."
"Well, isn't that sweet of you!......And volunteering Matt as well!"
Matt only smiled as he remained seated. He began stacking the saucers.
"...Tim knows me well......He'd never volunteer me for anything he knew I didn't want to do in the first place."
Ken remained in place at the nook. Ayumi sat on a stool near the island. Both smiled at them.
Tim and Matt looked toward one of them, then the other. Tim suddenly sat beside Matt again, letting a handful of forks fall to the table with a clatter.
"...Okay!......What's all the silly grinnin' about?!"
Ken seemed to blush slightly for a moment, yet smiled.
"...We're really proud of you two little guys......You know that?"
"That's right," Ayumi put in, "You two met last March. It's been eight wonderful months! Tim's been tutoring whole classes......Matt, you've been giving reports at you meetings. You've both won awards for your science projects. For such shy, quiet kids, you've both come a long ways. You're still young, but you've both survived all your klutzy years. Have you noticed how your both so much better coordinated?...
"...Oh Matty....I felt so bad for you that night you tripped into the donuts."
"Oh shit!....That was embarrassing....Did I say that?....Excuse me!"
Ken and Ayumi laughed.
Tim held the back of Matt's hand on the table.
"...No big thing, Matty....We still ate 'um!"
"Yeah but the jelly ones were squished all over. That was kinda messy..."
"...Uh huh, and we ate those too!"
Ken continued to grin for a few more seconds before he spoke.
"...I still say you two were made for each other! We're just soooo glad you two met...
"...Well, we'll be honest here. We really thought Tim was trying to pull one over on us. He said he met you on the first day of school, Matty......He never made friends after years of school out in California! That just wasn't him! He was too much of a loner. I don't get on Tim much about anything......His grades are up there. He's never been any trouble. It was just that he was such a hermit! That's the only thing I was concerned about! Both you boys! It's that social activity you've worked on. That's very important in life. I know all about it! I've been there! Ask Gram!......I was awful shy right into my twenties. I got over it. Okay, it took me a bit longer than you two. But gradually got easier every time."
"I got you out of your shell!" Ayumi shot out to him.
"...Oh yeah! Mom had lots to do with it! Your gorgeous beauty overpowered my shyness!..."
Ayumi gave a fake cough.
Tim suddenly looked down at the table for a moment in thought. He looked up again.
"...That's just what I was tellin' Mom!......I was soooo scared of going to a new school. And right at the end of the year too!......Yeah, I was awful shy, but when I saw Matty there I think I tried lots harder......He was just so cute!"
Matt quickly pulled his hand from under Tim's and covered his face.
Ken and Ayumi chuckled.
Ken sobered quickly.
"...That's quite all right Matt. I know exactly what Tim's saying...
"...We, umm......never knew!......Tim....I've told you before. You should never have gone through all this alone. I really thought you understood us better than that!..."
"...Well shit, Dad!......That's not something I could just come right out with!"
"You read all those coming out stories on the Net and found all those kids being kicked out their homes?......Did you really think your mother and I would do something like that to you?! That hurts Timmy! Haven't you heard us freely talking about the gay community? We don't have any problem with that."
"...Well, it's like I told Matty......You're lots more open-minded than most parents, but isn't it a bit different when its your own kid?!......I didn't want Mom telling you 'cause you'd think you'd raised a sissy!"
"...Tim....How many times have I told you?....It's what you are not what you become!"
"Put yourself in my place, Dad. I was in denial to myself until a little over a year ago! I didn't want to be like this! And neither did Matty! We both talked about it."
"That's not something you have any say over. I just really wish you'd have come to us sooner. You were just such a....a recluse over all this. It would have helped us to know about it. We didn't know what was going on in your head. You never talked to us....about anything!"
"Well me 'n' Matty have had lots of talks. And not just about us. We talk about all kinds of things. And Matty here with his thinking all the time!"
"And what's wrong with that?" Ken asked.
"Oh he bugs me sometimes! He was always alone too. Anytime he tells me stuff about being alone, I can tell he didn't mind it. He go to the river or lake or park....and he'd sit there and think about stuff!"
He turned to Matt.
"...Don't you ever run out of things to think about?!"
Matt only chuckled.
"...You both think a lot! It's not just you get quiet....I can see you each have this certain expression on your face. I can tell when you're thinking about something. I don't like to barge in on your private thoughts, but I always keep wondering if there was something I could explain to you. I feel like you're both struggling to understand something. Me and your mom are always here to listen......You'll notice I didn't say lecture! Both our parents did that and it didn't do any good! Kids don't listen to their parents when they lecture! And I'm not talking about you two! I'm talking about your mom and me. It didn't do any good. We went our own way in life. Sure we made mistakes along the way. And we corrected them. And we're very pleased at how our lives are today...
"...Tim!....Matt!....You both think a lot! And that's something good! I see so many asshole kids out there today who just don't think! You two are way ahead of your age group in maturity. Maybe being loners for a bit actually helped the both of you. You read a lot. You sat around and thought a lot. You've got the Internet today! Being alone, that's probably all you two had.
"I've picked up on lots of things you two say....You were out at the river talking about something....You were at the park thinking about something....You go out to that lake and lay on that rock as you call it, and discuss things. Kids don't do much of that today! They want to be entertained! There are so many diversions today. You boys never overdid that. Sure you play videos and have battles....but not constantly! You've both taught yourselves moderation. You don't watch DVD's or television constantly. We think you boys are the greatest!"
Ayumi slid from her stool and sat beside Ken again.
"...Matt....Remember the first time you were over here. Ken and I were telling you we'd made a pact that we'd never grow old?......We weren't joking about that. We remember what it was like being a teen. We vowed we'd never raise our kids like we were. We want to be open to you...
"I keep thinking about your two friends you met out at the river. That.... Scooter and Toby. You wanted to help them. I understand why. What I don't understand is why you didn't come to us right away. You thought Scooter was going to commit suicide! My God! I was so hurt you didn't come to us about that. That's serious stuff! What did you two think you were going to do to help him?!...
"...And Matty......Those reports of yours......The bullying, the beatings, the suicides. And....And those awful....awful photos! Yes! I wanted you to show them to the parents at the meeting!"
She turned to Ken and placed her hand on his shoulder.
"...Kenny here had talked to Principal Emerson......He told him what was going on. That's why Mr. Shelby and Mr. Ace were there......and your parents too, Matt. We wanted them to all see what was going on with the gay community ....the discrimination....the awful hatred! And I knew those photos would wake some people up!"
She turned toward Matt and placed her hands on the table.
"...Matt......Those photos were very gory. But I've seen those things first hand! Now California is considered very progressive in gay rights. But I'm talking legally here. That doesn't change people. That still doesn't stop the hatred...
"...Frankly Matt......Those photos really did scare me....but for different reasons!
"...Now be honest with me......Would you ever try something like that?...... Would you even think of doing something like that?!"
Matt's face seemed to pale. He picked up a fork and began to play with the remaining pie crust on his plate. They could see him thinking.
"....I......don't know," he replied softly, thoughtfully.
He dropped his fork and gazed at Tim. He put his hand on Tim's shoulder and rested his head against it.
"...If......if I couldn't see Timmy anymore......well, what would be the point of even going on?! You say we complement each other?......We breathe for each other! We live for each other! If I couldn't see Timmy anymore....I....I really don't know what I'd do......What do you do when the very reason your living....is taken away from you?! I....I really don't know what I'd do. I don't like even thinking about it!"
A small tear ran from each of his eyes.
"...I told my dad at that meeting I was gay......He asked me....and I told him! I just didn't want to keep going on like this. I didn't want the acting, the lying, the hiding anymore. I can't change what I am just to please them."
Ken tossed a paper napkin before Matt.
"...We know that, Matt! Any more than you can make yourself six feet tall."
Matt wiped at his eyes with the napkin.
"...I'm just so scared! My dad hasn't said a thing to me about any of this! In fact, he hasn't said anything to me! He hasn't even talked to me since that meeting."
"...Matt," Ken began, "I don't think there's anything to be scared of......I called him earlier tonight..."
Matt and Tim both looked up.
"...This is all new to him, Matt. I told him Tim's gay too!......And I told him it doesn't mean anything to me one way or the other. I asked him to look at you two. I told him to think about all the progress you've both made in less than a year! I told him how proud we are of the both of you!...
"...Well, the fact is......I thought I was going to have a bit of trouble to get him to see things from my point of view......I didn't have to!..."
He grinned as he slouched down in the seat. Matt saw his feet being placed on the bench seat beside him from under the table.
"...I'm sorry Matt that I ever thought if it. I already apologized to your father for it. Yeah! I thought he was going to be one of those macho types. I figured that he was going to think he'd done something wrong along the way......Well, I guess lots of parents think like that. And I wanted to show him he wasn't alone. I wanted to tell him you're just the same person you always were!"
He reflected for a moment.
"...He didn't exactly tell me so, but I noticed in his talking that he'd been on the Net. I'm familiar with the sites. I could hear that he was trying to understand things. I could almost give you the names of the sites he'd been on just by what he was saying...
"You're going to have to give him time, Matt. This is all new to him. He grew up thinking this was wrong! Now all of a sudden, he's learning other things. You have to give him time to well......do his homework. I'm sure he'll be talking to you. Right now he needs time to think about all this. He's probably got all kinds of questions. Give him time to do a little research on this."
Matt wadded up the napkin and dropped it on his plate.
"My Mom's still not talking about it either!......Well, she just keeps saying it's a stage and that I'll grow out of it!"
"Just give 'em time Matt. Hopefully they heard your report at the meeting....saw your photos. I'm sure they must have talked to other parents there. It'll take time..."
He dropped his feet to the floor and sat up.
"...We umm......really didn't want to talk about this with Gram here. She's older. She's been very set in her ways for years and years. Let's just keep this under wraps. She'd never understand this. She's just so proud of you boys...... Well, we are too!..."
He slid against Ayumi, bumping her hip. She stood. He followed, standing up with a long stretch.
"...Well Hon....We gonna watch that movie tonight?..."
"I'd love it..."
Tim and Matt rose and began clearing the table. Tim hesitated for a moment and turned to Ayumi.
"...Umm, Mom......If you need to come down into the basement tonight ....you don't have to rattle the knob and stomp your feet down the stairs. Me 'n' Matty aren't going to be umm...... doing anything!"
Matt snickered as he blushed.
Ayumi smiled but couldn't hide a blush of her own.
Tim put his arms around Matt from behind.
"...Well, umm......You might catch us kissin!"
He quickly kissed Matt's cheek.
"Timmy! Knock it off! You're embarrassing me."
"...Well, I worry about you two being cold down there. Turn up that thermostat."
The boys sleeping bags were still on the floor. They both grasped Tim's larger bag and fluffed it up.
"...Wanna watch any movies, Matty?..."
Matt remained on his knees and looked at him with a smile.
"...Nah!......I just wanna lay here and hold you. I told you that before...
"...And umm......Seeing as I never really use my sleeping bag......Why don't we slip it under yours?......It'll make for a bit more padding..."
"Yeah, great idea."
They slid the other bag under. Tim opened the flap and sat down. He removed his shirt as he glanced up at Matt.
"...Come on Matt......Shirts off! You know how we both like that."
Matt removed his shirt and lie down on the open bag. Tim drew up the flap and slid in beside him, placing his arms around his neck.
"...Yeah, a bit chilly yet, but we'll warm the bag up."
Matt circled Tim in a deep hug, yet he seemed preoccupied.
"...What is it Matt?......You're holding me so nice but I can tell your thinking about something......I keep telling you....you think too much!"
"I'm sure he knows about us. I mean I tell him I'm spending the night. I think he knows we're umm....together. Even if he doesn't think we're sleeping together, I'm sure he knows were well....hanging out....you know?......I'm sure he realizes were huggin' 'n' kissin'...
"I don't understand why he's letting me!......I thought he'd turn into someone like Scooter's dad. I really thought he'd go nuts! When he asked me if I was gay at that meeting....I wasn't even scared to say yes! I don't know why. I guess I was just all tired out......Tired of all the acting!......Tired of the lies....Tired of pretending to be something I wasn't!...
"I just keep thinking what I'd do if I were in Scooter's place."
Tim felt a sudden tenseness in Matt's arms.
"...Holy shit!......I really don't know what I'd do......When your mom asked me that, I kind of thought about when I was doing that article......Even then I didn't know what I'd do. I don't know for sure if I'd commit suicide......I'd sure think about it though!"
It was here Matt felt Tim's arms tense around his neck.
"...Matty....You scare the shit outta me when you talk like that."
"Well, I'm bein' honest here. I really, really don't know what I'd do! Maybe that's what scares me the most......The indecision! Lots of parents think their kid is coming out of his depression as he has this period of what seems to be happiness. It's because he's finally made a decision to go through with it. They don't intervene at the most critical point. That's what confuses lots of parents. They think he's coming out of his depression."
"I think your presentation reached lots of people, Matty. Lots of 'em tried to make believe everything was all right, but I could see lots of 'em crying."
"...Really?!......I was too focused on the topic. Well, I guess I got a little teary too. I mean, I heard all the gasps when you rolled those bulletin boards along. I hope I reached just one parent out there."
Tim raised his head and gazed lovingly at Matt. He kissed his cheek, his lips pausing for a moment.
"...I think you reached lots more than that!......Don't worry about getting a little emotional up there. I think that actually helped! I believe you got lots of people thinking that night. And it was those pictures that really did it! As you said....it puts meaning into all the dry figures up on the board. You showed they were real people and not just numbers!"
Tim felt the tension ease in Matt's arms. He felt Matt rubbing his back and kissing his neck.
"...Oh I love this, Matty!......I just feel all......relaxed....sleepy. I hate to admit that..."
"...Because we're sixteen with ragin' hormones! We should be horny all the time!"
Matt understood Tim was being melodramatic in a humorous vein.
"...Maybe there's something wrong with us," Matt said with a slight laugh.
"I don't care. I like this......Just holding each other. I just like being close to you. I like it when we can just hug 'n' touch....'n' kiss."
Tim placed a deep kiss on Matt's mouth. It was soft, indeed romantic, yet lacking any passion. They both felt weak and content. Tim rested his head on Matt's chest as he squeezed his ribs.
"...Yeah, I wish this didn't make me so tired, Matty......I want to just hold you. I hate it when I fall asleep so quick. I want to stay awake and enjoy this a bit more. Let's think of something to talk about for awhile. We usually always find something to talk about..."
He felt Matt stroking his waist and hips. He seemed in deep thought again.
"...Matty!......I said talk not think!"
"...Mmm....Yeah. I do that a lot, don't I?..."
"...Yeah......I know I joke with you a lot about it but it's different this time. You aren't just thinking....you're serious thinking. That scares me. I never know what it is that you're thinking about."
"...Oh I was just thinking about yesterday when little Toby ate with us. Remember he told us he'd taken down that sun catcher?......Remember he said it just made him cry?......I told him to put it back up!......Well, that's something I would have done! Maybe I shouldn't have told him to do that. What if it's just depressing him?......That poor little guy. He's got it bad enough without having that thing up constantly reminding him of Scooter! I keep thinking I shouldn't have told him to do that."
"...I don't think you gotta worry about that. You kinda told him to think of it as something positive. You told him to keep thinking positive. You told him to think of the day he'd be giving it back to him. I thought that was kinda nice of you. I was going to mention that to you later but I forgot about it..."
"...Yeah, well......I wanted to bring him up a little. Now I'm not sure I should have done that..."
It was the following Wednesday. The next day was Thanksgiving. Tim and Matt sat on the couch in the basement again. They put up their controllers and shut their game off.
"...That sure was nice of your parents to take us all out to dinner again tonight!"
"Well, I think my dad kinda wanted to talk to your dad......After you mentioned that your dad wasn't talking to you..."
"Really?......I thought it was for our latest certificates of achievement."
"Well, that too......And both our parents having to work on Thanksgiving. I think they felt bad there wasn't going to be any home cooked meal..."
"...Umm......Tim?......I know we both did kinda good over the last couple weeks. I mean with you tutoring that whole class. And I got recognition for my presentation at the meeting, but that really isn't schoolwork!"
Tim looked at him strangely.
"...Well, why do you think Mr. Heath had you give that presentation in class?!"
"I thought he was just giving me a break. Everyone else had to look up a current events topic....Mine was already done!......Well I had to compress it down to like five minutes, but I think I got the message across!"
"Well, he'd already heard your presentation at the meeting. I think that's why he had you do it in class......for credit!"
"...Yeah....I think you're right but...
"...Tim......I know this school......Lots of kids get certificates. But they get three or four in a year!......We got three in three months! I don't think that's possible!...
"Principal Emerson keeps saying we were made for each other. Your dad says the same thing. And I guess we've really helped each other out. We aren't that shy anymore. Well, not real bad. I mean, we're just about out in school now. I keep thinking that Mr. Emerson is kinda doing this on purpose! He saw my dad run out at the end of the meeting. He knows about us. And he was filled in about Scooter and Toby. I keep thinking he's pulling for us somehow. I think he's trying to show my parents not to break us up! You know, like we're supposed to be together."
Tim's jaw dropped.
"...I think you're right, Matty..."
"...And....umm....Well, my dad is kinda talking to me now. Well, not about being gay or anything. Just school stuff. I keep listening about hints but he doesn't seem to have any. And your dad is right. My dad's been on the computer. Well, he goes on for the latest news and weather and stuff like that. He's got a few other electricians and mechanics he contacts. They help each other out when they run into a tough problem down at work. I don't think he knows a whole lot about computer maintenance. I deleted that utility that cleans up the history. I don't need it on there anymore. He's been posting on blogs. I think he found out there are lots of gay kids out there. And I think he's reading about other parents out there."
"...Well, it's gotta be good, huh?......I mean he's letting you stay here again."
"...Well, I'm not so sure he knows about the......sleeping arrangements, huh?..."
"You didn't say anything, did you?!..."
"...No. In fact I'm really surprised your parents are letting us do this!"
"...Well, they told me why..."
Tim blushed slightly.
"...Well, my dad said it would be different if you were a girl. Plus......They don't want us running off to some flea-bag hotel......And they don't want some dirty ole man inviting us over to his house for some privacy!"
Tim laughed as Matt pretended to shiver.
"...Like we'd actually do that?..."
"...Boys?!....Gramma's pumpkin pie is ready!" Ayumi called from the stairs.
Both boys broke into a run up the stairs.
Matt smiled at Clara as he rubbed his stomach.
"...Gram....I can taste it already!"
She gave a large smile and patted his head as he sat at the breakfast nook.
"...Oh! How I just love spoiling my boys!"
Each sat down to quarter sections of pie. Matt reached for the can of whipped cream. He shook it up and began squirting it on his pie. The pie slowly disappeared under the mound of cream which nearly ran over the edge of the dish.
Ayumi watched, amazed.
"...Umm....Matt?......Would you like some pie with your cream?..."
"Leave 'im alone," Ken put in, "They're growing boys!"
He looked at Clara.
"...Remember me, Mom?......I could put it away!"
"...Oh my stars!......You didn't have a hollow leg......You had two of 'em!"
Ayumi sighed as she slid onto the seat.
"I was soooo hoping we'd have the day off tomorrow. I could have put on a very traditional dinner. It's just so pleasant around here without Tim hibernating in his room all the time."
She gazed across the table at him with her chin in her hand.
"...You've come a long ways Tim......Isn't it better to have friends?"
"It sure is..." he replied.
Seeing Clara wasn't looking his way, he reached over and quickly squeezed Matt's hand for a second.
"...So," Ken began, "What do you two have planned for the weekend?"
Both boys simply shrugged their shoulders.
"Well, take a look out the window here!"
The patio lights were on and the boys saw snow falling thick. Huge clumps were already on the windowsill. They already had four inches on the ground from days previous.
"Wow!......Neat!" Matt yelled out.
Ken pointed his fork toward the utility room.
"Out in the garage you'll find a brand new toboggan on the workbench all waxed!"
"Wow!" Matt yelled again.
Tim seemed much less interested.
"...Don't get too excited about it, Tim," Ken put in with a smile.
Tim drew his arms around himself and pretended to shiver.
"...I told you," Ken continued, "when the snow started, you're going to get acclimated to this weather. You two get out there tomorrow!......There's an empty lot just three houses down on the next street. It's got quite a steep slope into it. I saw some kids out there yesterday sliding on cardboard sheets. They were having the time of their lives!"
Tim seemed to shiver again, this time more natural.
"...Oh! Rolling around in snow! And they call that fun?!"
"Sure is, Timmy," Matt put in enthusiastically, "Well, you gotta dress for it. You kinda let style slide and dress for warmth! It's really fun! Long as you stay active, you'll stay warm!"
"You froze your ass off in California!"
"Dad!....The Pacific is COLD!......I went swimming in the lake and river here and it was warm! Ask Matty. I didn't freeze ever."
"Well I don't bitch much......I just want you out there starting now. What are you going to do in January when it's twenty below?!"
Tim's eyes shot open as he snapped his head toward Matt.
"...Does it really get that cold here?!"
"...Well, not all month......Maybe five or six days it'll get really cold."
Tim shivered again.
"I think I'll find a cave to crawl into and sleep 'til June!"
"Tim," Ken said seriously, "I really want you to get used to this cold. Ease into it. Your body will adjust to it. You'll be sick all winter if you don't adjust to it..."
He reflected for a moment.
"...Why I was on the North Atlantic iceberg patrol for three months! That little ship of ours bobbed around like a cork! The spray would freeze to everything! The ship would gradually get top-heavy and we'd risk a capsize!......We had to get out there with wooden baseball bats and pound the ice loose! The bow of that ship would just sink out of sight as we plowed into a wave. The props would come right out of the water and go over speed. Then the bow would rise and all the spray would freeze on again...
"I was in the mess hall watching my coffee tilting in my cup. Then all of a sudden we'd get hit broadside. Why the gaskets in those hatches would just blow out! Spray would come in and look like steam!"
Matt leaned forward as he listened with interest. Tim continued to shiver as his fork went into his pie.
"...Yup, more than one night I was tossed right out of my bunk!"
Matt hesitated with his fork as he looked up.
"...Umm......I think I'd be sick for the whole trip!"
He glanced at Tim.
"...Umm....I don't think a little snow is quite so bad. In fact, lots better than ice water waves crashing all over you."
Tim shivered again. Everyone laughed.
Later the boys insisted on clearing the table. Ken had to nearly carry Clara out to the living room. Matt set the saucers into the sink and started the water.
"I'll wash, you dry," he said to Tim.
Tim grabbed a dishtowel at each end and began spinning it into a thick rope. With this, he snapped it toward Matt's bottom.
Matt leaned over the sink and thrust his bottom out.
"...Now you gotta kiss the boo-boo!"
Ayumi heard the slight disturbance and glanced into the kitchen.
Tim tossed the rolled towel over Matt's head and behind his neck. He drew on the towel, pulling his face close and kissed his lips lightly for several seconds.
"...Now....Does that make it all better?"
"I guess that'll have to do."
"Well, I'm not gonna kiss your ass, you perv!"
"....Why not?....I'd kiss yours!"
"...Matty! I keep tellin' you that's supposed to be an insult!"
Matt held Tim's shoulders.
"...Well, I wouldn't be insulted......I'd be in heaven!"
He kissed Tim's lips quickly, then turned back to the sink. Tim shook his head.
"...Matty, you're going to grow up to be a dirty ole man!"
Matt glanced over his shoulder with a smile.
"...That's exactly what I plan on doing!"
Ayumi covered her mouth to prevent a snicker from coming out as she returned to the living room.
After the dishes had been finished, Matt and Tim returned to the breakfast nook, sitting opposite each other. They gazed out the window at the snow falling heavily.
"...I don't know Matty......I just can't see me rollin' around in that."
"If you dress warm and keep relatively dry, it's great! It'll be fun. You'll see."
Minutes later they lie in the oversized sleeping bag in the basement. Matt held Tim's face gently in his hands.
"...Tim....We get along kinda nice, huh?"
Tim give one of his large silver grins.
"We sure do."
"...Umm......I've been thinkin'..."
"Stop with your thinking!"
"...No! When are we gonna have our first argument?"
"...When?......You want to schedule one?!"
"No!......I mean we get along nice, but we're kinda different too. In fact, in a lot of ways, were opposites!"
"...Well, a few places maybe, but we're aren't that different!"
"...I just wish I had more brains like you."
"...Huh?......More brains?......You're the one who's always doing all the thinkin'!"
"...Yeah, but your good at math. And you can get ideas across to others. You can take some very complicated things and explain them so clearly. I wish I could do that..."
"...You do Matty!......Okay, maybe it's not advanced calculus, but I think you really reached lots of people at that last meeting! I think you really got your point across. I looked at Scooter's dad. He was really thinkin' about the stuff you said up there. I could tell just by his expression."
"Oh shit! That was some meeting...
"You know what Timmy?......It never really hit me until I got home that night. Yeah, I had told my dad I was gay. And I was worried about that......but I started thinking about the meeting! Wow! It was all over with. And I kept thinking I'd been talking in front of all those parents!......I got the shakes after it was all over with!"
"...You're shittin' me!"
"No. I'm serious. I mean, when I was actually up there....I knew I had something to say! And I wanted those photos to have an impact on parents. I was worried about Scooter and Toby. And in the back of my mind......I was worried about us! I guess I was thinkin' my dad already knew! I don't think Mom had anything to do with it. I think he figured it out by himself. I really believe he just asked me to assure himself......I wasn't going to lie, Tim. I've known about myself for two or three years now. They haven't bugged me about having a girlfriend. Well, I had no friends! We both have lots of friends now! Well, maybe we don't exactly all hangout together, but I mean around school...
"I still really don't know how many gay kids are in the school......I mean outside of the few that are just way out! I keep thinking of Scooter and Toby. I guess in my mind they remind me of all the others we don't know about. There's got to be thirty or forty more! Minimum! As far as percentages go. Maybe even more! They're just scared to come out.
"...Yeah, Tim......I was scared to come out to myself at first. After that, I just figured nobody has to know. There were cute boys in school. Yeah, I looked! That's as far as it went. I was just too shy to do anything."
He held Tim a bit tighter and looked at his face.
"...Well......Until you came along. I think it was the same as you. My shyness was just a tad lower than my wanting to get to know you. Oh! Timmy! When I took one look at you, I had everything I could do to keep my legs from giving out."
Tim's expression was one of reflection, as though he were recalling the day himself. He smiled.
"...Matty......I never told you this before. I was just too shy. And I was awful shy the first time we met at our lockers. I really didn't know what to say......I....I though of just grabbing you and kissing you!......And then just see what your reaction would be."
"Yeah, for awhile there I was almost less shy to do that than to try to think of something to say."
Matt gave a sly smile.
"...And what would you have done if I didn't fight it?....if I kissed you back?..."
Tim held his face gently in his hands, rubbing his thumbs over his cheeks.
"...I'd have probably passed out!......I'd have dropped right there on the spot!"
Matt's gaze seemed to go distant for a moment.
"...Okay....Now what are you thinking about. I can tell when you're thinking."
"...Well, about coming out to you...
"I keep wondering if that couldn't have been better somehow..."
"What are you talking about? It was great! I keep tellin' you, I'd never been able to do that. You had to do it first!"
"...Yeah but......In a cold, damp tent?....In a thunderstorm? I'm starting to wish that could have been in a bit more....well, I'll say it!....A more romantic setting..."
Tim placed one arm around Matt's neck and the other under his arm, pressing his hand to his back. He drew him close and ran his lips over his cheek.
"...Matty......That couldn't have happened under any other conditions that would have made it better!......That was....perfect! I can't even think of a better way it could have happened. I still keep thinking about that night in the tent. I'll never forget it!"
"Yes! Everything was perfect. It couldn't have been better."
Tim looked closely at Matt's face. His fingertips ran over his cheek. He gave a shy grin.
"...You wanna umm......do it?"
Matt pressed himself up against Tim's thigh.
"Does this answer your question?" he said with a mock seductive tone.
Tim's eyebrows raised. He pressed up against Matt's hip.
"...I never knew you were......getting excited. We weren't even doing anything..."
Matt squeezed Tim's ribs for a moment then wrapped his arms around this back.
"...I like it when we take our time. I don't have to do it six times a day!"
"Oh shit, Matty!......I don't think I could do six times if I wanted! I keep tellin' you....I've got hormones....but they sure aren't ragin'! I really like it when we just lay here and hug 'n' kiss. I like it when we're all scrunched up against each other. I keep trying to just get closer to you......Don't you think our bodies just fit perfectly together?"
Matt ran his hands in circles over Tim's back.
"...Oh yeah! I love it when we sleep in each others arms. I just sleep so sound. And sometimes I think what it would be like if I didn't have you there!"
"Oh shit, Matty......Let's not even think about that stuff."
"...I can't help it! I keep thinkin' about poor Scooter 'n' Toby. I....I really don't know what I'd do!"
"Matty, you're thinking too much again. Let's not think of any bad stuff. Let's just think about right now! Let's just enjoy being together."
They kissed and cuddled for a few minutes more as their kisses became deeper and more passionate.
"Sweats off, Matty! I want us bare-assed! I want to feel you from your head to your feet!....All of you!"
Minutes later, they dried off with paper towels. Tim tossed the roll back onto the coffee table. He stuffed their sweats down into the sleeping bag.
"Hey!....Gimme my sweats!" Matt called out.
"No!...We aren't gonna wear 'em tonight! We're sleeping bare-assed!"
Tim nearly tackled Matt in his sitting position, knocking him to his back. He gazed closely into his eyes.
"...Now I'm gonna tell you something Matty......I love this just as much! I love this feeling we have now. We're all satisfied and tired out. I don't know what it's called..."
"...Afterglow?" Matt asked, with a shy smile.
"Yeah....whatever," Tim's voice was slightly muffled from against Matt's neck.
They stroked each other in silence for a moment before Tim looked into Matt's face again.
"...You're thinking again!......I can tell just by your expression."
Matt squeezed Tim's ribs.
"...Umm......Yeah. I'm umm......I'm still like kinda shy about this. We've been together for like eight months! I shouldn't be like this any more."
Tim held his face in his hands.
"...So am I Matty. And don't change. I just love it when you blush. You're just so cute!"
"...Umm....Should we worry about your mom coming down here in the morning? I mean, she might want us to have breakfast er something..."
"Nah! They'll be up way before the sun! She'd never wake us up that early......Neither would Gram."
"I don't know......I just feel so....so naked! Okay? I'm awful self-conscious about this."
Tim pressed up against the full length of his body and threw a leg over Matt's hips.
"...Yeah, me too......but just give it a few minutes. Pretty soon we'll start getting all sleepy. It'll get to the point where it just won't make any difference any more..."
Tim kissed his cheek and buried his face into his neck, kissing it as well.
"...I love this Matty......I love this weak, sleepy feeling we get. In fact I like this just as much as....well, doing it! I just feel so close to you. This is soooo nice."
Matt squeezed his ribs again and stroked his sides.
"...Yeah......I know what you're saying. I like it too. I'm just so self-conscious about bein' bare-assed! I know I shouldn't feel that way. It's not like this is our first time."
"We weren't bare-assed our first time, hee, hee."
"...Oh shit, don't remind me of that......Ohhh, that was just sooo embarrassing for me! I....I wanted to stop....I really did......But then you yelled out Darling! Wow! That was it!"
"Oh shit!....Do you have to keep reminding me about that. I think that was the most embarrassing thing for me!"
Matt reflected on the moment for a bit with a smile.
"...No. I'm not teasing you about it. I keep telllin' you....That was hot! I just wanted to yell out that I loved you."
The next morning the boys entered the kitchen. Again there was a warm, humid, spicy atmosphere to the room. A kettle simmered on the range, it's lid partly slid back.
"...Are you up, boys?"
"Yeah, it's us Gram."
She entered the kitchen.
"Well now, I peeled some apples and I'm stewing them in the saucepan. You can have hot oats this morning with warm applesauce and hot chocolate. My stars it's chilly today. And it's still snowing!"
Both ran for the breakfast nook and each kneeled on a bench seat as they looked outside.
The patio was covered with at least a foot of snow. The tables and furniture had been put up for the winter. The planters were covered with a thick layer of snow. Only dry twigs of plants stuck out. Although there appeared to be no wind, the snow continued falling in large clumps of flakes which gathered together.
"...WOW!" Matt yelled, "Are we gonna have fun in this!"
Tim let go of the curtain and pretended to shiver.
"Oh you little wuss!" Matt said, "We'll dress for the weather! You'll see. We'll be warm. And when we start climbing those hills, I'll bet you'll actually start sweating!"
Clara shook her curved finger at Tim.
"...Your folks said I'm to get the both of you outside today! No basement, no games, no computer, no TV!"
Tim seemed despondent.
"...I'm gonna freeze to death out there, Gram!"
Clara sat on a stool next to the island. She reflected with a pleasant smile.
"...Ohhh....I remember when I was a little girl. Daddy built us a sled out of wood. Yup! Even the runners were wood!....Wide!....Even wider than skis! And it had a bar on the front where the front runners could be steered!......Well, to a certain extent...
"The neighborhood kids laughed at us!......Don't you know they all had store bought sleds with the metal runners. Well, now they were great for ice and well-packed snow, but they were utterly useless on the deep snow! We decided to challenge the other kids to a race down the hill. Don't you know, we had those wide wooden runners with ski wax on 'em! We only sunk in a few inches on that snow. My stars! We shot down that hill so fast I think we were all about to have a heart attack. We didn't let on to them how scared we were. We laughed at 'em as their sleds just sunk in. And the plastic sleds? Oh they moved all right, but we were at the bottom before they were half way down the hill.
"...Don't you know we became awful popular that winter. Everybody wanted to use our sled! And we'd tip over and roll off into the snow. And we'd laugh!"
She pointed her curled finger at Tim.
"...And Timmy......I don't recall ever being cold! Well, as long as we kept active of course. And all the parents in the neighborhood would take turns serving hot chocolate and cookies. Oh yes, times were different back then. People were still sociable back then. And everyone just knew everyone!"
Minutes later Matt came from the shower. Tim was already at the breakfast nook. His wet hair seemed thin and stick to the sides of his head. Matt missed the ripples he'd seen when it was dry. He continued to gaze out the window.
Matt slid into the opposite seat and drew back the curtain.
"...It's not all that cold if you dress for it, Timmy. Okay, maybe we'll look a little dorky, but warm supersedes style in weather like this! And don't worry about it. Everyone looks the same!....We'll have fun. You'll see."
Clara had gone for the oatmeal and hot applesauce. She placed them on the table as she went for the microwave. Drawing out two mugs of hot chocolate she returned to the table. Matt was pouring the hot apple slices into his oatmeal. Tim looked at him.
"Hey, Matty....That looks good. I'm gonna try that."
"Oh yeah! Oatmeal with hot apple slices!"
The steam rose up with a scent of maple and cinnamon. Moisture was condensing on the window nearby.
Matt looked up.
"...Umm, Gram?......Do you have any brown sugar?"
Matt stood up quickly.
"No. No. You just sit there and tell me where it is. I can go get it!"
"Well it's in the doors of the island here but I'm afraid my stool is in the way."
As they ate in silence for several minutes, the phone rang.
"Now you boys just sit! I'll take care of this."
She reached for the phone on the wall and settled back onto a stool that was there just for that purpose.
"...Margaret!....It's so nice to hear from you!........Oh dear......Oh my......Is that so?!
"Well, don't you know I'm with the boys today!..."
"Gram, what's up?"
"Oh dear, Margaret is with without her lights! It scares her something awful!...
"Just a minute Margaret."
"She wants me to go over and sit with her. She's very frightened without electricity, even in the daytime!"
"Gram, tell her to come over here or call social services! She'll freeze over there!"
"...Well, now she has a lovely wood stove in her sitting room. Her house isn't all that large."
"...Well, go keep her company for a bit. Shucks Gram, we're gonna be gone anyhow. We aren't little kids."
"...Ahhh, Margaret?......The boys say they'll be fine. They're going out today to play in the snow. I'll have plenty of time to catch the bus before it's next run......Oh dear, yes! I forgot it was Thanksgiving!......Well, I'll simply call a taxi!......Oh no! It's no trouble at all! And we haven't really got together for months! We'll have so much to talk about."
Minutes later the boys stood at the sink, finishing up the dishes. Matt glanced at Tim's hair which was still wet.
"We gotta dry your hair! You can't go out with wet hair!"
Within a minute Matt returned from the bathroom with a styling comb. He plugged it in at the counter and drew up a stool.
"Matty! I can dry my own hair!"
"...Yeah, but then I wouldn't be able to touch it....and feel it!"
Matt hopped up onto the counter and indicated the stool between his legs. Tim reluctantly sat. Matt switched on the comb and began running it through Tim shiny black hair.
"...When you came down the hall in school that first day......Even at a distance, I could see your hair shine. Oh! I wanted to touch it sooo bad!"
"Really?......You never mentioned that before..."
"Oh, it was so shiny! No lyin', Tim. Wow! The hall lights were just reflecting off it! You've got such shiny hair! I've never seen such dark hair shine so..."
Matt continued to comb through it with his fingers to keep it fluffed for the comb.
"Oh! You've got such silky hair......I love touching it!...
"Oh shit!....Oh shit!"
"I'm getting a stiffy just touching your hair."
"Oh yeah!....Shurrr you are," Tim said, holding up his hand in a disbelieving gesture.
Matt reached for Tim's arm and placed his hand on his crotch.
"Wow!....You really do..."
"Now boys," Clara began, entering the kitchen.
Tim quickly drew his hand back and leaned back on the stool to block Matt. He placed his elbow on Matt's knee. Matt turned off the noisy comb.
"...I want both of you out-of-doors today. I promised your folks. No sitting around inside. You've got to get used to this weather."
"Yeah, sure Gram," Matt put in quickly, "Umm....That's why I'm drying Tim's hair. I was just telling him not to go out in weather like this with wet hair. That's a good way to get really sick!"
She smiled at them.
"...Oh I'm sooo proud of you two boys! You're so concerned about each other. You help each other out. You never fight or argue. I'm just so pleased you met each other...
"Well I'm going out onto the porch to wait for the cab..."
"Okay Gram. And we're really going out! I've never been tobogganing before!"
They both puffed out their cheeks with a sigh of relief.
"...Oh! That was close!" Matt put in, "...Thanks for....umm....blocking me!"
Tim tilted his head back against Matt and grinned. He began to move his head back an forth, rubbing against him.
Matt quickly pushed his head away.
"Eeeee!....Don't do that!"
They microwaved another hot chocolate and Tim returned to his stool. Matt turned on the comb and continued to dry his hair. Within minutes, he shut it off. Tim turned to look at him. The ripples in his now dry hair fluttered down past his face.
"Oh Timmy!......You just don't know what you do to me!"
After stepping into insulated rubber boots, they donned large, puffy insulated nylon jackets with hoods. Tim held his arms out from his sides.
"Well?......Do I look totally geek?!"
Matt gazed over his figure.
"...Well, the only thing I don't really like is the boots. They make your feet look too big. And you've got such cute, tiny feet. But I just love the hood on that jacket! And the way your shiny hair hangs out!"
He drew him close and kissed his lips lightly.
"...Shit, Timmy......You can be my little snow bunny any day!"
Tim blushed as he pushed him away.
"...Cut that out, huh?!"
It was here that the phone rang.
Tim answered the phone in the kitchen and stretched the long wire out to the island. He hopped up on it, drawing his hood down.
"Mom!....What's up?........He is?!......Well, I don't know. He likes to hangout at the river lots. He's got lots of happy memories there........Well, sure Mom....We can check it out.......Oh yeah! We both got our cells with us. Okay....bye."
Tim held the receiver in his lap, his eyes large and frightened.
"What is it Tim?..."
"...Umm....It's Scooter......He's been missing since last night! The police can't do a missing person on him 'til he's gone for twenty four hours. I just suddenly thought if he went out to the dam......would he....Would he walk out on the ice?......Is it safe enough yet?..."
"No way! I don't think he'd even try something like that! He knows better than that in the dead of winter! The water around the dam is moving too swiftly. It doesn't freeze all winter!"
Tim's eyes seemed to go twice as large. Matt would have enjoyed staring at them if it wasn't for their baleful appearance.
"...Shit Matty!....Do you think he....he went through with it?!"
"Oh Timmy! Don't even think like that!"
They both stood frozen in fear for several seconds. Tim suddenly hopped from the island and hung the phone up. He suddenly shivered with a chill.
"Oh Matty....I'm gettin' that weird feelin' again. Let's get out there and take a look around!"
They both rushed for the door.
They tramped along in the deep snow. Snow continued to fall and the wind began to rise. Tim began to breathe heavy. Already he was learning that walking through heavy snow was not easy. They had to draw their feet up to their knees to clear the surface in order to step down again.
"Oh Matty! You're right. I'm sweating already."
"Oh shit Timmy! We gotta slow down some. I'm not used to walking in this deep snow either. We gotta pace ourselves."
As much as they tried to slow their pace, they seemed to quicken it again within minutes. Both were breathing heavy. There were huge clouds of fog before their faces. They soon reached what had been the grassy knoll. From this high point, they scanned around. No footprints could be seen. Both strained their eyes along the river. A light crust of ice had formed some distance from the dam and supported the snow. With their hoods up, they couldn't hear the water spilling over the dam but they felt it in their feet through the frozen ground. Tim gazed at the dam.
"...This place was so happy for all of us this summer," he said, "...Now.... now it looks a little spooky! Oh shit! I'm gettin' that creepy feelin' again."
They continued to scan along the riverbank. On the low side of the dam they seemed to notice a small speck of blue on the ground.
"What is that?" Tim asked, "A trash bag?....A blanket?....A....a jacket?!"
They both tried to run to the spot. The snow hampered them and they fell frequently. Nearing the blue object, they found it indeed to be a jacket.
"It's Scooter!" Matt shot out.
Tim got to his knees and pulled his gloves off. He gently pressed his fingers to Scooter's neck.
"...He's still got a pulse but it's awful weak..."
He began to feel of his arms and legs through his clothing.
"...I don't think anything's broke...
"Oh shit!....His face is a mess!"
Matt walked around to where Tim was kneeling. He looked at Scooter's face. Blood ran down from his head over his face. His lip was cut and swollen. His right eyelid was purple and swollen.
"His head's bleedin' Timmy!"
"I see that Matty....but I don't think that's all that's wrong with him....Help me turn him over....Careful....He could have other injuries..."
Tim reached out to grip Scooter's hip. He quickly drew his hand back. His entire palm was coated with shiny, brilliant red blood.
"...Ohmigod!......He's been shot 'er stabbed 'er something! Call 911 Matty!"
Matt called for an ambulance and gave a brief description. He was told to remain on the phone until the medical team arrived.
"...Umm....Yes sir....The north side of the dam. Umm....It's like really deep snow back here. I don't know if they can make it all the way back here......Yes sir..."
The dispatcher listened from his station.
"Matty!....Help me turn him over! I've gotta stop this bleedin'!....Oh my God! There's blood frozen into the snow here!"
Matt sat his phone onto a nearby rock which still jutted up from the snow.
They eased him to his back. Tim raised the bloody jacket and shirt underneath. He clearly saw what he understood to be a knife wound. He quickly scooped up snow with his bare hands and pressed it to the wound. Matt ran for the phone.
"...Umm....We got him on his back! We think it's a knife wound! It's not a circle like a bullet. It's kinda long and slanted......Timmy's holdin' snow against it! Could you hurry please? I think he's bleedin' to death! He's been missin' since last night! Oh my God! There's just blood everywhere here!......Yes sir......Yes sir."
Matt turned to Tim.
"...He said the snow is good."
They already heard the distant sound of the siren. Matt watched as Tim grabbed Scooter's wrist.
"Oh shit!....Oh shit!....I don't feel anything..."
He reached up to Scooter's neck and shook his head.
"...Awful weak....Awful weak."
"His pulse is awful weak!" Matt shouted into the phone, "....Yeah!......The service road just off the highway!......It's right across the road from that old abandoned gas station. When they get to the fork, they gotta turn to the right. It'll bring them right out to where we are!"
Minutes later the boys saw the large firehouse rescue truck drive through the trees. The siren quit but all the emergency lights remained on. The two in the cab jumped out, followed by a medic from in back.
They crowded around Scooter as Tim stepped back. He gazed down at his bloody hands. His face blanched as he fell to his knees. Matt knelt beside him.
"...You okay Timmy?"
"...Umm....Yeah....Just a little dizzy. I'll be okay."
They answered the medic's questions as best as they could. They had no idea of his phone number or address. They told him he was Jerry Shelby but went by 'Scooter.'
"...Umm," Matt began, "He's been missing since last night. I think his father called the police on it. They might have more information."
Scooter was strapped to a stretcher and loaded into the ambulance. It seemed only seconds passed as they had just arrived. Once to the highway, they heard the siren again.
Matt continued to kneel beside Tim, holding his shoulders. Tim gazed down at his bloody hands and jacket sleeves.
"...I gotta wash this off, Matty!......I can't take it!"
He began to lean forward and fell into the snow. Matt could hear him crying. He reached out and rubbed his shoulders.
"...Scoot will be okay now. We got him help."
Tim had pulled his hood down and pressed the side of his face into the snow.
"...No Matty. He's gone!......He's been layin' here all night!....Bleedin'! He's hardly got any pulse! I really, really don't think he's gonna make it!"
He began to sob uncontrollably. Matt could only rub his back and fight back tears of his own.
An hour later, Tim hung his bloodstained jacket in the entryway. He still stared down at his hands. He'd been brushing them against the front of his jacket their entire walk back.
"...Oh Matty!......I'm so sick!......I gotta take a shower. I gotta get this BLOOD off me!"
He began to cry again as he stumbled to the shower.
Matt entered the kitchen. He glanced around at it's modern appearance. For some reason it appeared twice as large, almost cavernous.
He made his way to the refrigerator and drew out the chocolate milk. He pulled two cups from the cabinet. Filling only one, he placed it in the microwave.
"I'll wait for Tim's chocolate. I have no idea how long he'll be."
Minutes later, he sat at the breakfast nook.
"Gee, Tim was awful professional there......Well, why shouldn't he be? His mother's a doctor! He had to have picked up something...
"Ohhh, poor Scooter......All that blood!......Poor Timmy......I had no idea he was that close to him. He was so worried that Scoot was going to try something.
"He really kept to it while he was needed. After the medics got there....he kinda broke down. I didn't know what to do,....what to say!"
A half hour later Matt walked into the bathroom without knocking.
"Tim!......That's enough! You aren't going to get any cleaner!"
He heard the water shut off.
"...Yeah......I ran out of hot water anyhow..."
"Come on. I got you a hot chocolate in the kitchen."
"Be right there!"
Matt returned to the kitchen. Again it felt large, nearly echoing his footsteps.
He glanced out the window. Wind was driving the heavy snow sideways.
"When is this going to end?!"
He slipped Tim's chocolate into the microwave. He noticed the radio hanging there under the cabinet and switched it on. It was already on the local station, playing easy listening. He returned to the nook and looked out the window again.
"Shit!......If it took a couple more hours, we'd never have found little Scoot! He'd be buried! I wish that music would quit! I wanna hear a weather report! If it keeps up like this....this little town is going to be at a standstill! Nothing will be moving!"
Tim entered, still toweling his hair.
"Why'd you wash you hair again?!"
He sat opposite Matt.
"...'Cause I feel so......I don't know......I can't call it dirty! Scooter doesn't have dirty blood! He's sweet. He'd never do anything bad to anyone. I....I think I'm trying to wash the problem away!...
"Matty....You know that was those bullies he was talking about! You know it!"
"Yeah......That was the first thing I thought! I don't know who they are! I don't even know what they look like!"
Matt held his finger up as the radio announcer came on. He reported more snow and high winds until the following morning. He began to read off a list of closings around the town, even though few were open on this holiday. Matt stood and switched it off. He drew out the chocolate from the microwave and placed it before Tim.
Matt noticed that Tim had placed his phone on the table and was staring at it.
"You tried to contact your mom, right?"
"I texted her. She'll see it sooner er later."
"Maybe you should try to call Gram."
He went to his contacts and highlighted her number.
"...Umm....Yeah. Gram! Is everything okay over there?......Well sure we're okay! We were worried about you! We've got electric.......Oh the wood stove! Good. I was scared you were freezin' over there..."
Matt saw his eyes begin to dart around.
"...Umm....Yeah. We went tobogganing. We didn't stay out too long. We....umm....got scared when the snow started coming down real hard. I'm not real good at walking in this stuff. I kept falling down! Hee, hee......Oh yeah. You were right, Gram. I was really warm. I'm sure I'll get used to this weather...
"Well, we just wanted to know you were all right......Oh no! We aren't going back out into this! We'll go out tomorrow when it's all over.......Okay Gram......Love you too!....Bye!"
He closed up his phone and sighed.
"...I should have rehearsed that first. I didn't want to tell her about Scooter 'n' blood 'n' bullies and all that crap! She'll just worry about it."
They walked into the living room and Tim switched on the TV. Neither paid it much attention as they were both wrapped up in their own thoughts. Tim suggested the basement. Again they tried to watch a movie without interest. Tim switched on the video game console. They played several games nearly one for one. Tim suddenly tossed his controller on the coffee table.
"Oh fuck!....I wish Mom would call er text er something! I can't take this waiting!"
Matt could see Tim's intense attempt at holding back tears. He threw his arm over his shoulders and drew him close. He rubbed his thigh with his other hand. He hadn't intended it as an advance and he knew Tim hadn't understood it as such. Matt pressed his mouth and nose into his hair. He could smell the familiar vanilla scent. Tim slowly reached out and held Matt's waist. Both were silent for several minutes, both absorbed in their own thoughts.
Tim threw himself forward and madly grabbed for his phone. Opening it up, he pushed the volume slider to high. Matt put his ear near it as well as Tim.
"Mom! How's Scooter?!"
There was an uncomfortable pause here. There were obviously noises of a hospital in the background. They heard wheeled carts, the PA system, bells, chimes and gongs. There was a steady drone of voices.
"...MOM?!" Tim gasped with a slight sob in his voice, a heartfelt pleading.
"...Honey......He's alive!....but just barely......If it hadn't been for the cold last night, he'd have never survived until morning. The cold kept his bleeding a bit under control...
"...Now I'm not going to lie to you and get your hopes up. He's bad....very bad. And he has that AB negative blood. Now you know that's only about one percent of the population. We've put out a call to all the local TV and radio stations to run banners asking for blood. But that's not the only problem......It's the weather! Nobody could drive here in this awful blizzard.
"...Now the state police have their helicopter on standby to give people a free flight. Yet......there's still the weather to consider. They can't fly under certain visibility conditions.... Not even in an emergency!......We'll just have to hope for the best.
"...Now he's out of surgery..."
"Honey....that was only for a precaution. No vital organs were struck. It's just his blood volume. As I say, we'll just have to hope for the best...
"...Now I know you're concerned....but please don't call me. I'll call you. Call me only if there's an emergency. We're swamped today with all the frostbite, car accidents and hypothermia. All these weather related accidents along with the usual. We're awful busy. I promise I'll call you as soon as I find anything new.
"...Now I want you two to stay inside! I know we told you to go out for exercise today, but not in this!....Don't you even go to the corner convenience store!"
It was here the PA system came on with a gong.
"...Doctor Webster....ER......Doctor Webster....ER."
"...Oh honey, I've gotta go! I'll call you when I find out anything!" (Click).
Tim slowly closed his phone. Matt saw the tears run down his cheeks. He could no longer hold back himself. He drew Tim on top of himself as he lie back on the couch. Both boys hugged each other tightly as they began to sob.
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