Seeing Stars

by Will S

Chapter 8

"I can't believe they let us do this," Wright was saying.

"Yeah, I know," Chris muttered.

Despite the fact that it was just the two of them, in some ways it felt as if both their families were in the car with them. First off, they were in the Donnelly's SUV. For one thing, Chris's folks didn't want him driving his rattletrap of a car on the interstate for two hours. It also let the boys pack everything they needed. In addition to clothes for two days and the standard toiletries, they were taking sleeping bags. The camp had its own private beach, so swimwear and beach towels got loaded in, too. There was also a lot of food to pack. Seems their two moms had conspired to be sure their sons would have plenty to eat while they were away. And of course, there were Wright's tools. But the big reason was that the SUV was loaded with lumber. Chris had mentioned that his folks wanted to get a new picnic table since the old one had collapsed in a heap sometime during the winter.

"No, problem," Wright had said. "I can build one. I've got plans for one. We can get it done in two days!"

The Donnelly's were all on board. Wright showed them plans for a standard six foot table and an eight-sided table. They liked the octagonal design. In addition, when given a choice they opted to go with cedar for wood. It would be lighter, Wright explained, but it would last longer, with less warping and rot. It would be more expensive, but when Wright had worked out the cost, Chris's dad was thrilled. "That's about what the standard one with spruce two by sixes was going to cost. And this is going to be much better."

They moved quickly, and on Thursday, Wright and Chris went to the lumber yard and bought the materials. In Wright's backyard, they laid out the wood, and cut most of the pieces. That would speed things up at the camp.

"How d'you know all this stuff?" Chris asked.

"Just doing it," I guess.

That was all Chris needed; he gave a Wright the telltale look. Wright shook his head and rolled his eyes. This was going to good, and he already had an idea the direction Chris was heading. "Yeah, just doing it," Chris repeated. "Guys learn a lot that way…know what I mean? He made a fist and mimed the age old movement all boys learn from "just doing it." And Chris was not disappointed. Wright blushed right up to his temples.

It was almost funny, but suddenly it took a super uncomfortable turn. From behind them, they heard the soft boy voice of Zach, Wright's little brother asking, "Just doing what?"

Wright spun around, and when he glanced over at Chris, he saw his friend blushing almost as much as he was.

"Chris was asking me how I knew how to build all this stuff, and I was saying you learn just by doing it. Isn't that right, Chris?"

"Yeah, man. That's it exactly," Chris mumbled. "Sort of like batting, ya' know?"

That seemed to satisfy Zach, and he settled in to watch them for a while, but then got bored and headed inside to play on the computer.

Wright gave Chris a look. "Geez…that was awkward."

"Ya' think. Hey, man, sorry about that," Chris said. "He just snuck up on us. Scared the shit out'a me."

"Welcome to my world," Wright replied.


By 4:20, Chris and Wright were turning onto a narrow dirt drive. It was bumpy and Chris had to be careful not to stray too far to the left or right. Doing so would ensure scratches on the sides of the Ford Escape. Rounding a bend, Wright saw the Donnelly's camp for the first time.

"This is awesome!"

"Yeah," Chris said quietly. "It's pretty cool."

"You're right on the water!"

"Yeah."

"And there's a dock!"

"Yeah, not much of one, but yeah, a dock."

"And a boat!"

"Yep."

"Awesome," Wright summed up.

"Well…we could sit here in the car for the next two days…"

"Okay, okay," Wright muttered. "I get it."

The two boys got out and began unloading the Escape. Some stuff they piled up on the low porch on the front of the cabin.

The wood for the picnic table they moved off to the side.

Food went inside.

The cabin was small. There was a loft which was accessible by a steep set of stairs, more like a stepladder than a stairway. The main area was a family room that doubled as a dining room. In one corner was the kitchen and on the opposite wall was a fireplace. Opposite the main door, was a short hallway, and off one side was a small bedroom which was Chris's. Beyond his door was the door to the bathroom. On the other side of the hallway was the "master" bedroom.

Chris headed for the circuit breaker box at the far end of the little hallway and snapped on the master switch. Instantly, the refrigerator began to hum and elsewhere there was another mechanical whirring sound.

"Pump," Chris explained. "It'll shut off as soon as the pressure builds up."

They filled the refrigerator with the food from the cooler, and the rest went into cabinets.

"I'll take my folks' bedroom, and you can have mine." Chris hesitated just long enough to get Wright curious.

"What?"

"Ah, nuthin'"

"What?"

"Well…since you insist, I was gonna say it'll be okay, 'cause I think I've got all my porn stashed safely away."

Wright blushed after the word, "porn."

"See," Chris complained. "I really wanted a bigger reaction, but I should have known it was gonna be just a blush."

"Am I that predictable?"

"Nah….well…yeah." Chris smiled and Wright just shook his head. He was predictable, no denying that.

"So…you…you…don't really have porn, do you?"

Chris tilted his head skyward, adopting a near-angelic pose. "I'll never tell," he breathed.

"You're somethin' else."

"Yeah, that's me, Mr. Somethin' Else!"

All that Wright could muster was a silly grin and another shake of his head. He'd been folding up sheets that covered the furniture in the house, and now he took one and threw it at Chris.

"Help! Help! I'm being attacked!" the dark-haired boy yelped, and suddenly Chris tackled his friend, and together they tumbled onto the sofa where they both dissolved into a fit of giggles.

They lay there holding onto each other, and suddenly Wright seemed to realize that they were actually embraced, and in an instant, things moved from silly to serious. This was too dangerous for Wright, and he quickly pulled back. "Ahmm...maybe we ought to tackle that door." Chris had seen the change in Wright. It was almost as if the blond-haired boy had become a different person: one minute he was fun and alive and open, and the next, he'd become distant and almost afraid. It left Chris feeling confused and oddly vulnerable, but even so, there was no way he could say anything, and so in the end, he simply muttered, "Sure. Bring it on!" He smiled, but in that moment, it wasn't quite working.

Wright was now all business. Using his 18 volt drill, he backed off the remaining screws, and Chris lifted the screen door away. In no time, Wright had taken his pry bar to remove the damaged trim piece. He then cut the new PVC 1X4, to length and had it nailed in place. Then he pulled off the other pieces of trim around the door and replaced those as well. Then it was time for the door. It was a little bit of a balancing act, but soon, with Chris's help, he had the door lined up and holes drilled in the new trim piece and the door reinstalled. "Good as new!" He opened the door to demonstrate.

"Damn," Chris exclaimed. "Better than new! And I actually helped!"

"Yeah," Wright agreed. "Chris Donnelly: Human door stop!" He offered a crinkly-eyed smile and Chris muttered a faux-outraged, "Hey!" He gave his own look, adding, "Why, I ought to…"

But both boys were on their guards, not wanting to risk another uncomfortable moment, so instead of any kidding threats that might lead to more awkwardness, both boys just offered a nod and a grin. "Hey," Wright said, happy to be shifting their attention to something else. "Hey, we promised we'd text our folks when we got here." And that's exactly what they did, including a photo of them standing in front of a fully functional screen door.

"Awesome," came the speedy response from Chris's dad.

By then, it was 5:30, plenty of time for a swim before they ate. In no time, they'd changed and were diving off the dock, swimming, and generally horsing around. It was really the first time they had seen each other in the water and Chris was impressed with Wright's skill.

"You're a great swimmer," he said.

"Thanks. So are you," Wright responded.

"How come you're not on the swim team." He knew immediately he hit a sore spot.

Wright shrugged. "Not enough time to do both. Running won out."

Chris wasn't sure that was the whole story. And he was right, but his friend would never be able to tell him it was just too risky being around all those nearly-naked guys. Someone like Chris would never understand.

When their skin began looking as wrinkled as a prunes, they climbed out and went inside.

"The lake water's pretty clean, but you may still want to shower," Chris said, as he stepped inside the cabin. Once beyond the door, he stripped off his wet swimsuit and moved into the shower. He wasn't in long, and after a three or four minutes, got out of the way for Wright.

As Wright stepped under the shower, he tried to make sense of his emotions. Something felt different here. Chris seemed different, more relaxed, less "on show." He smiled as the warm water rained down on him. He also thought about how he'd reacted earlier, how he'd pulled away—how he was always pulling away. And slowly an idea crept into his consciousness.

When he stepped out of the bathroom, Wright had to walk only a few steps to see Chris at work at the kitchen counter. Lincoln High's star athlete was back to, wearing just a pair of shorts. Wright continued to dry his hair. He trembled. He felt so vulnerable. He'd been worried all of this might have caused him to harden, but he was so terrified, that wouldn't be a problem. As casually as he could, after clearing his throat, he began to speak. "Ahm, what's for dinner?"

"Well…the spaghetti and meatballs looks good, but…" Chris turned and his thoughts seemed to evaporate. His gaze bore in on the blond boy who had suddenly frozen him on the spot. "...but not as good as you," Chris breathed. Not having shorts or underwear or a towel covering him changed everything. Like iron to a magnet, Chris's eyes were drawn to that part of Wright he had never seen before. OMG, thought Chris. He's incredible! He's a statue! Unlike Wright, Chris had no impulse to hide his interest. This is just too much for him. He stood dumbstruck.

Wright Steinbeck had never posed in the nude for anyone, but now it felt as though that was exactly what he was doing. He stopped drying his hair and let his hands and the towel drop down to his sides. For one of the few times since Wright had been hanging out with him, Chris Donnelly seemed unable to speak. That brought a smile to Wright's face. Turnabout's fair play, he told himself.

Chris studied the boy standing less than ten feet from him. Just looking at his body had his heartbeat ratcheting up to a quarter again its normal rate. He saw the uncertainty in the boy's face. He felt the energy that seemed to flow from Wright's body to his. As he continued to stare, Chris offered a little nod and a smile.

He approves, thought Wright, and now he seemed to relax a little. Instead of holding himself as if any breath he might take could cause him to explode, he now sucked in a breath and let his shoulders ease down. A hint of a smile began to form on Wright's face.

"So…I…um…" Chris swallowed hard. "…I notice you're not wearing…um…any clothes."

Wright's eyes widened. "W…what!" He looked down at himself. "Oh my gosh! I was so focused on meatballs, I guess I forgot!" He grinned.

"Yeah, right," Chris muttered. "Dinner's gonna be good, but not that good."

Now Wright grew more serious, the smile fading. "It…" His voice was soft, even softer than usual. "I dunno, it just seemed like it was time. I wanted to," And inside, he was thinking, I wanted to because you wanted me to. It was just that simple. In that moment, he would have done anything Chris had asked him to do.

He looked for a moment longer into Chris's eyes, and then he turned and began to walk back to his room. Wow! thought Chris. His junk is so…soo hot…but his butt…OMG… And as he caught a last glimpse of Wright before he disappeared into his room, he felt himself achingly hard.

Chris Donnelly was not the only one having an OMG moment in that small cabin. In the privacy of his room, Wright was thinking, Ohmygod, what did I just do! What was I thinking! And yet in the same moment, he realized it had worked out just as he'd imagined it would. Still it was an experience that left him trembling, but whether from fear or excitement or both, he couldn't begin to figure out. All he knew was that he'd done it, and Chris hadn't rejected him.

In a way, that only added to Wright Steinbeck's confusion. What did it all mean? Why would Chris Donnelly react that way? Was there something about straight guys that Wright didn't get? Do they like checking other guys out, too? If that was true, he'd wished he'd learned that lesson years ago. But in the same instant, he had another thought: Is it different if a straight guy is checking you out? Because it sure wouldn't be okay for a gay guy. It was just all so confusing, but one thing wasn't: Things had changed between them. And it was exciting. And it was scary. Wright continued to towel down his body, wondering what it all meant.

At dinner he was waiting for Chris to make some sort of wise crack about what he'd done, but it never came. After they ate, they cleaned up and laid out their sleeping bags. There was no cable, and the only internet was through their cellphones. So for a while they went outside, sat in a couple of Adirondack chairs, and just talked. They talked about running, they talked about movies, they talked about school. It seemed as if nothing was off-limits, and yet for Wright, there was something he wanted in the worst way to talk about, but if he did, if he even hinted at his sexuality, he knew everything that had become so important to him might fall apart and it would all be destroyed. And so they talked, and talked—about everything except the one thing that really mattered.

It got a little chilly after the sun went down, and so they went inside and built a fire in the fireplace. It was nice. One of their moms had thought to put marshmallows in their food pack, and so once the fire had died down a little, they sat in front of the embers, and like little kids, toasted marshmallows. Later they listened to a little American Authors, the indie rock group that was a favorite of Wright's. It was nice just to be together and not having to do anything. Still, when 11 o'clock rolled around, Chris announced, "I'm tired. Think I'm heading for bed."

"Sounds good." Wright mumbled. By 11:15 Chris was sound asleep. Wright was not. He still struggled with all the feelings and emotions that swirled around him. His life had never been so good since he'd started running with Chris. Being with him here just felt so right. So why was he so uncertain? Why did he fear he was about to make some terrible mistake? Those were the questions that had, like some evil incantation, made him doubt everything. When he finally did fall asleep, he slept fitfully, tossing and turning, haunted by the feeling that something wasn't right.

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