by David Lee

Chapter 15

Christmas break passed entirely too rapidly for most everyone concerned. It seemed that in no time at all, kids and teachers alike were dreading the fact that they had only one more day off.

Ben was actually happy at the prospect of being back in school again. He loved the free time spent with his lover and their foster fathers, but he would welcome the busyness of school activities to help take his mind off of his parents. He supposed that his mother had meant well to try to patch things up, but it was either too early, or maybe impossible. What had been good intentions on her part had turned out to be like a knife in the gut for him. He had gotten over a lot of the hurt and anger in the past year. Now, he'd have to work through some of it again. Fortunately, Travis had been very receptive to his going to counseling again. Adam was there for him at every turn. He even planned to accompany Ben to therapy sessions since there were feelings that they both had to deal with.

Bryan's parents were surprised at his eagerness for school to take up again. He was doing much better in all subjects than he had in middle school. He seemed to be able to balance his school work with his activities and his social life. He was growing up. They wondered when he would start dating. Todd had dated several girls before the end of his freshman year. Bryan was certainly as good looking and personable as his older brother.

A number of activities geared up in the New Year. There were wrestling matches, of course, and there were tryouts for the spring musical. This year the school would be putting on West Side Story. Upper classmen would probably get the major roles; but the younger kids could be cast as members of the opposing gangs. They would have lots of chances to sing and dance even though their speaking parts would be small.

Adam had convinced Ben to try out for the role of Tony. Ben was blessed with a great sense of pitch as well as a good range. He could hit the high notes that would be needed without having to shift to falsetto. The problem was to get him over his fear of performing before a large crowd.

Both Bryan and Zeke decided to see if they could get minor roles. They would be helping to build the sets and make the props, but they also wanted a chance to be on stage. The spring musical was always a favorite with the community at large, as well as with the staff and students. It was a great honor to be in it.

In the meantime, one of the big social events of dreary winter was Sadie Hawkins' Day. It was one of the few times when girls were encouraged to ask boys out. Girls arranged the date, paid for dinner, and took their guys to the dance that followed. Some of them took their dates to bed, if truth be told.

Guys like Zeke and Bryan were dreading the whole thing. They had successfully side-stepped having a real date with a girl. They didn't feel right about giving someone false hope. It wasn't nice to act like you were interested in a girl just to give yourself cover. It was hypocritical at best. Yet, they couldn't think of a legitimate excuse to turn down a date if someone asked.

The announcement about Sadie Hawkins' Day was made in homeroom on a Tuesday morning. By the time language arts class was over, Bryan and Zeke found themselves waylaid by Heather and Melissa. Melissa asked Bryan while Heather asked Zeke. The inexperienced boys were agreeing to go before they knew what hit them.

"What the Hell happened back there just now?" Bryan wondered aloud.

"Darned if I know!" Zeke replied.

"I think we're stuck with going on our first date, unless we can come down with a fatal disease between now and then. Well, at least we'll be going as a double date. There's supposed to be strength in numbers."

In fact, it was going to be a triple date. Melissa's friend, Rachel had wanted to get Sam interested in her for some time. So, she had snagged him during the same passing time. Before any other girls had a chance, the trio had put their brands on whom they thought were three of the hottest boys in the freshman class.

At lunch, Ben and Adam chuckled at the obvious discomfiture of two of their lunch companions. The young ladies who had asked them to the dance felt free to move in and sit with them at the boys' table. This displaced a few of their usual companions.

Of the freshmen, only Sam seemed genuinely delighted with the attention he was getting from Rachel. This might be a budding romance. Ben and Adam were just as happy to be viewed as being off limits. Rumor had it that they were lovers. This was one of the few times when high school gossip was undisputedly true!

The cast list was posted on Friday morning. Zeke and Bryan were thrilled to find their names on the list as "Jets." Adam was cast as "Ricardo." Ben had been picked for "Tony." Now all he had to do was to convince himself that he was up to it. He wondered what had he gotten himself into.

Adam, ever the faithful helpmate, reminded Ben that he was already performing in concert choir before large audiences.

"Yeah, but I'm in a whole group. I don't stand out. It doesn't depend on me!"

"But," Adam countered, "you have sung solos and have been in the spotlight more than once this year. And think; you even get to 'kill' me."

Ben shuddered.

"Don't even say that, Adam. If something happened to you, I don't think I could go on living. I certainly wouldn't want to."

Adam smiled sweetly at his lover.

"Don't ever assume you're gonna get rid of me that easily!"

The winter months were also busy at Grace's house as Craig and she made plans for their wedding. Both were sure this was it, and that there was no reason to wait any specific length of time. If people in the community thought their union was hasty, let them!

Craig was also working on a design to finish the upper story of the house. He figured there was enough room for a spacious master bedroom, a good-sized bath, and another small bedroom which could be used as a nursery. He hoped they'd be able to get more than one use out of it. He had found his place and purpose in life. Now he wanted to have several kids as well.

Because of their project, Grace Ann and Craig were destined to spend lots of time at Menard's and Home Depot with an occasional run to Lowe's. Zeke and Bryan could be enlisted to help with the building when they had free time. Craig would pay them for their work, but their participation would have to wait until wrestling was over.

Wrestling season was in full swing. Zeke was doing his best to maintain his weight class, but it was beginning to become a strain. Bryan had already moved up one weight class. Coach Carney wasn't particularly pleased with him but couldn't make too much of a fuss especially since Bryan's mother was on the school staff. Word got around quickly in a school of that size. There would be hell to pay if a coach were suspected of disregarding the health of his team by starving them into a lower weight class.

The problem for both boys was that they were experiencing the growth spurt some kids had had in 7th or 8th grade. Bryan was already four inches taller than he'd been in September and Zeke was about three. Their bodies demanded more food and more sleep to keep pace with the expansion.

The following weekend was not one for catching up on rest. Friday night was a wrestling dual followed by work at the store on Saturday and dinner and dance on Saturday night. If they lived through all of that, there was the anthem on Sunday that the youth choir was singing. School on Monday was going to look like rest-time!

Friday's match was an unqualified success. The team won easily thanks in part to the fact that Zeke pinned his opponent early and Bryan won over his opponent by the judges' decision. All were ecstatic as they showered in the locker room. Shrek (Rusty) was very proud of his little buddies. Despite their growth spurt, he could easily pick them up and proceeded to do just that. There was a lot of towel-snapping, ass-grabbing, and other horseplay among the team members. They were all psyched up. Some of the upper classmen thought they should initiate the freshmen into the "golden club". That meant standing in a circle around them and pissing on them while they knelt on the shower room floor. (Bobby had gotten the idea started.)

But it wasn't going to happen as long as Shrek was around.

"Bobby, you make one move on my guys and you'll be drinking their piss and mine for the next month. I drink lots of Mountain Dew and I'll have a nice Big Gulp ready for you."

Remembering the encounter after gym class in the fall, Bobby backed off; however, the idea having three guys piss on him WAS kind of exciting.

Saturday was busy at the store, so the time went entirely too fast. Neither Zeke nor Bryan was looking forward to the evening. They were like condemned prisoners walking the last mile. For appearance sake, they had to keep a cheerful exterior.

At lunch Zeke complained.

"My stomach is full of butterflies."

"Mine too. I guess we can get through this together. I hope we can forget all this pretending someday and be ourselves!"

Evening seemed to arrive more quickly than usual. Kids all over town were slicked up in their best clothes, looking well scrubbed and angelic. Some of the little angels had condoms in their pockets hoping to get to use them. Others were jittery fearing that they would make fools of themselves at dinner or on the dance floor. Most were looking forward to an evening of fun.

Melissa's father, Jim pulled up to the Stillwell house in his large van. He wasn't sure about the wisdom of his daughter's dating one of his employees, but he certainly approved of her choice. Melissa got out and went to the door to escort Bryan. It was done with a formality which bordered on the comical.

Heather and Zeke were already in the far back seat. She had staked out her territory to have more privacy. In the dark, who could tell where things might lead?

A triumphant Melissa seated her trophy in the row of seats just ahead of Heather and Zeke. , leaving Rachel in the bench behind the driver.

The trip to Sam's house took several minutes and the girls talked non-stop all the way. They gushed about last night's wrestling win and gossiped about other kids in their classes.

With Sam in place beside Rachel, the drive to the restaurant began. Once there, the three couples were seated at a table which Jim had reserved. Most of the eating establishments didn't like to give reservations to kids because they were often loud and obnoxious. They also tended not to leave very good tips.

Such was not the case with this group. These boys were used to eating in respectable places and knew how to act. Being dressed up didn't hurt their demeanor either. The girls' fathers had instructed them about leaving generous gratuities.

Dinner passed pleasantly enough. The only glitch was when Zeke nearly choked on his water. He had been in the midst of taking a drink when Heather had put her hand on his thigh.

At the dance, the girls thoroughly monopolized their dates. If another girl tried to cut in on the dance floor, she was quickly put in her place. Some of the chaperones feared a "catfight" at one point.

On the way home from the dance, Heather tried some heavy making out in the far back seat. Zeke was polite, but removed her hand from his crotch.

Heather was miffed. Most boys not only liked her roaming hands, but always reciprocated. More than one boy had gotten his fingers sticky between her legs.

"What's the matter with you? Don't you like girls?" Heather hissed.

"I don't like being molested." Zeke countered, in a whisper.

"You probably wouldn't mind if Bryan was doing it."

"Maybe I wouldn't. He's not a slut."

The sharp crack of Heather's hand across Zeke's face resounded in the van. Jim pulled over to the curb and turned on the dome lights.

"Okay, what is going on back here?" he demanded.

"Zeke was getting fresh with me!" Heather insisted.

"Zeke, you come up and ride 'shotgun' till we get to your house."

Zeke walked to the front with his head down while Heather smirked. Jim glanced in the mirror too quickly for her to wipe the grin off her face.

When they got to Zeke's house, both he and Bryan got out since Bryan was staying over.

Melissa walked Bryan to the door while Zeke hung back.

"Have fun sleeping over," Heather cooed. "Don't do anything I wouldn't."

Jim walked up behind Zeke who jumped when he felt the man's hand on his shoulder.

"I think I know you and Heather well enough to assume that it wasn't you who got fresh with her."

"Yes sir."

"I'm going to have a word with her father. I'm NOT happy with the way she's acting. I don't want her leading my daughter into trouble."

Zeke was noncommittal when Gran asked him about his date. Bryan was fairly tightlipped too. She suspected that something was not right. After a bit of probing on her part, the story came out. Bryan had overheard the exchange and stood up for Zeke on every point.

"Boys, there are girls like that out there. I'm pleased you were a gentleman, Zeke. You may both suffer some fallout from this. Other kids may tease you about being such close friends. You've been through lots of things together. I expect you'll always be there to look after each other."

Zeke bit his lip, drew in a deep breath, looked Grace Ann in the eye, and plunged in.

"You know, don't you?"

Grace Ann smiled slightly and nodded her head. Then she moved forward and embraced both boys. Tears were shed all round.

Ever the gracious hostess, Gran fed the boys sandwiches and hot chocolate before sending them to bed with a reminder that they had choir in the morning.

"Don't keep each other up too late," she cautioned.

Then, realizing how it might be taken in light of the earlier revelation, she blushed as she made her exit.

Cuddled under the covers, Zeke was too wound up to go to sleep quickly.

"Am I dreaming or did I just come out to my aunt and did she take it okay?

"Man, you're right on both counts!" Bryan replied. "I hope it goes that well at my house when I face it."

"Do you think it'll be all around school by Monday? I mean how I wouldn't go to third base with Heather. Or do you think she'll say I tried to get into her pants?"

"My guess is she won't admit that you could resist her. And no one would believe she'd be offended if a guy put a move on her. If Melissa and Rachel don't say anything, I think it could all blow over."

"I hope so. I love you, but I hate to think of the crap we could get if the kids knew about us. Even Shrek would probably turn on his 'little buddies' if he thought they were gay."

"Zeke, come over here and show me what Heather was doing to you. Let me see how I'd react."

Bryan showed Zeke how he would react and Zeke responded in kind. A few minutes later, a more relaxed Zeke was grabbing handfuls of Kleenex for cleaning them both up in order to keep from becoming glued to his sheets.

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