Everything But Love

by Joel Young

Chapter 12

Gossip, Shame, and Betrayal

When I first arrived in Arkansas, Sylvia Turner told me that everyone in a small town like Tellico Falls knows your business. But she never mentioned anything about how judgmental and mean those same people could be. My darkest family secrets were exposed for everyone to read in the newspaper, and almost everyone had an opinion about my situation. The consensus seemed to be that my presence in their community made the town look bad to the rest of the world.

While we were still in Pastor John's office that Sunday morning, he asked me if the headline in the newspaper was true. I didn't think my parents were 'hiding me' in Tellico Falls, as the headline said, but that wasn't the point of his question. "Yes, Sir," I said.

"Son of a bitch!" Mason exclaimed. "I guess you were right when you said your parents hate you."

Mason's words cut through me like a sharp knife. Aunt Gretchen began scolding Mason. I teared up while trying not to break down completely. I turned around and left Pastor John's office. I ran to the front door of the church and down the steps. I had to get away from everybody! I headed in the opposite direction from the farm, having no idea where I was going.

I half expected someone to come looking for me and try to take me back to the church. But no one came. I saw a gas station that was closed. The fact that it wasn't open didn't surprise me; no businesses in Tellico Falls were open on Sundays. I went around the side of the building and tried to get into the men's restroom that opened from the outside. It was locked, but there was a window that was open a crack. I managed to raise the window and climb in. I closed the window, sat on the stool, and cried my eyes out.

At that moment, it seemed that the whole world was against me. I hated my parents for how they had ignored me and then discarded me like yesterday's trash. I was still upset at Aunt Gretchen for how she treated me when I first arrived in Tellico Falls. I couldn't stand being around Mason. He was a heartless, mean-spirited, self-centered jerk! I remembered the pain I felt when Mark ended our friendship. I felt betrayed by Justin for accepting a blind date with a girl. And I cursed the unknown person who had contacted the Jonesboro Examiner and exposed my family secrets to the whole world.

Then, I felt ashamed. "I must be a terrible excuse for a person to have so many people treat me like dirt," I thought to myself as I wallowed in self-pity.

After about an hour in the gas station restroom, I was able to regain some composure. I had no choice but to accept that I would have to put up with the cruel things people were going to say about me. I decided that I should buy a copy of the Jonesboro Examiner and read the whole story. I knew it would upset me even more, but I needed to see what everyone in town would know about me. I crawled out of the window, closed it, and went around to the front of the gas station. There was a newspaper vending box near the front entrance. All of the copies of the Sunday Jonesboro Examiner were already sold. "Great!" I thought to myself. "My story is a must-read best seller!"

I walked back toward the church. Services were still going on, so I waited in Aunt Gretchen's car. When people began coming out of the building, I saw Mark and his family. I wanted to talk with Mark, so I risked getting out of the car and calling out to him. He immediately walked over to me. "Come on," he said. "Let's get out of here." He hollered to his family that he'd be home later, and he led me to a bench behind the church. He put an arm around my shoulder. "I'm so sorry," he said. "That paper had no right to do what they did."

"Thanks," I said. Then, I asked if Pastor John had said anything to the congregation about the article in the newspaper.

"Not directly," Mark answered. "But he did talk about members of the church supporting each other during hard times. And he cautioned us not to judge others. Everyone knew what he was talking about."

"What did people say after services?" I asked as I looked Mark in the eyes. He got a pained look on his face. "Just tell me," I said. "I can take it."

"Some people in our congregation aren't very understanding," Mark said. "You shouldn't listen to what they say. You have just as much right to live here as anyone else. It's not your fault that your parents – did those things."

I leaned into Mark and tried not to break down. He took me in his arms. "It'll be okay, James," he said. "I'm here for you – just like you've been there for me. Everything's going to work out. As it says in the Bible, 'This too shall pass.' Remember that."

I didn't mean to be a contrarian, but I corrected Mark anyway. "That's not in the Bible," I said. "The phrase is from an old Persian fable."

Mark didn't argue with me. He just looked at me with a quizzical expression on his face and asked, "How do you know these things?!? Are you some kind of genius or something?"

"Not really," I said. "I'm only a genius at making people hate me."

"That's bullshit!" Mark said. "Lots of people like you. I like you – a lot."

"Thanks," I said. "I like you, too. And I'm so glad we're friends again!"

Mark and I walked back to the church parking lot. "There you are!" my aunt Gretchen said to me. "I was worried sick! Let's go home, and I'll make us a nice lunch. Mark, do you need a ride? Can you stay and eat with us?"

Mark wound up having lunch with Aunt Gretchen, Mason, and me. Everyone seemed to be making an effort to be extra nice. Of course, Mason didn't say anything supportive, but at least he didn't call me names. I guess that was his way of trying to be congenial.

While Mason was clearing the table and doing the dishes, the rest of us went into the living room. "I think we ought to talk about school tomorrow," Aunt Gretchen said. "I'm afraid some of the kids may say mean things to you, James. And I don't want you getting into any fights."

"I'm not going to get in a fight with anyone," I said. "I've been bullied for most of my life. I know how to pretend that it doesn't bother me."

"I'll watch out for him, Mrs. Dwyer," Mark said. "And I'm sure Justin and his friends will, too. We'll make sure nobody bullies him."

"Well, okay," Aunt Gretchen said. "But I don't want you guys getting into any fights either!"

"Promise!" Mark replied.

After Mark went home that afternoon, Justin called. "Can I pick you up? We need to talk," he said. I really wanted to be with Justin, so I quickly agreed. He said he was on his way and would be at my house in a few minutes.

I went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and rinsed my mouth with Listerine – just in case Justin wanted to do more than talk. I also borrowed a small jar of Vaseline - because I hoped Justin wanted to do more than talk.

Justin drove us to Lookout Point near the Falls. He parked the car and reached over to take my hand in his. "I'm so sorry," he said. "Did you go to church this morning? Were people nice to you?"

"Pastor John showed us the paper. I was so ashamed that I had to leave," I answered. "But Mark told me that there were a lot of people who said mean things about my family and me. I'm trying to brace myself for school tomorrow."

"James," Justin said. "You have nothing to be ashamed of. You did nothing wrong. You can't help who your parents are or what they did. What can I do to help?"

"Just hold me," I said.

Justin put his arms around me and held me tight. "I hate to see you go through this," he said. "It's just not fair!"

As Justin held me, he started to rub my back. I think he did that as a way of comforting me. But it had a different effect. I became aroused. I turned my head and kissed him passionately. He kissed me back, and pretty soon, we were both short of breath. Justin broke our kiss and turned on the car. "It's too public around here," he said. "I'll find someplace with more privacy."

Once we were parked out of view behind an abandoned manufacturing plant, Justin and I started to make out again. After all the stress from earlier that day, I craved having someone to love me.

While still in the front seat of the car, we practically attacked each other. We started to undress, barely allowing our lips to separate as we struggled to remove our jackets and shirts. We exchanged sensual kisses and hugs, and we nuzzled against each other in unrestrained passion. I lowered my head and began kissing and sucking on Justin's nipples. He moaned, and it sounded so sexy! I moved from one side of his chest to the other, alternating between licking and sucking on the prominent nubs at the centers of his areola. He stroked the top of my head and ran his fingers through my hair. I loved feeling Justin's hands on me. I loved the intimacy we shared as thoughts of the outside world and all of its problems disappeared from my thoughts.

I continued to suck on Justin's nipples as I reached down and cupped his dick through his jeans. He was already hard, and I felt his cock start throbbing as I stroked and massaged it slowly and sensuously. Then, I kissed my way down his chest. I unbuckled his belt, undid the snap of his jeans, pulled down his zipper, and slipped one hand into his pants. I found the tip of his dick sticking up from the top of his briefs. Pre-cum was already collecting on the slit on the head of his cut cock. I started to pull his jeans down. Justin lifted his butt off the car seat and helped me slide his pants and underwear down to his knees. I ran my fingers lightly around his testicles as I stared at his beautiful, ridged dick, pulsing in time with every beat of Justin's heart.

I leaned down and breathed in the spicy, musky aroma of his manhood. That gave me a fluttery feeling in my stomach, and it made my cock go from firm to as stiff as tempered steel! Then, I took just the head of his dick in my mouth. I swirled my lips around as I explored the structures of his hard penis with my tongue. I loved the feel of the taut skin of the glans and the ridges on the base of the head. I could feel the spongy firmness of the frenulum on the underside, just below his slit. I knew this area was one of the most sensitive parts of the male body, so I made sure to put pressure on it as I ran my tongue over it. Whenever I did that, Justin reacted with soft sighs of arrousal. I loved it when he did that. It turned me on to think that I could give him so much pleasure!

Slowly, I let my mouth slide down his stiff shaft. I was almost able to engulf its full length before pulling up and latching onto the head. Justin was squirming and groaning. He placed his hands on top of my head, encouraging me to continue. I went a little faster on my up and down movements. We established the perfect rhythm, with Justin's hips slightly rising on my downward strokes and lowering on my upward strokes. I didn't understand why, but I loved sucking and licking Justin's hard cock. It was just so intimate, so exciting. I got lost in pleasuring him, and I thought I could go on forever. But soon, he stopped me.

"Your turn," he said. He helped me lower my jeans and underwear. He guided me to lie down with my back against the passenger side door. I spread my legs and gave him easy access to my cock - which was almost painfully hard and leaking pre-cum. He placed his lips on my shaft and kissed his way from the base to the tip. It felt incredible!

I closed my eyes and concentrated on the wonderful sensations of oral stimulation. Justin took my dick in his mouth. I savored the feeling of ecstasy I experienced as Justin made love to my rock-hard cock. He stopped momentarily. "Do you like that?" he asked. "Should I continue?"

I thought that was just about the stupidest question anyone had ever asked me. And I almost made a sarcastic remark in response. But the quickest way to get him back to sucking my dick was to answer quickly and honestly. "I love it," I said. "And I love that it's you who is making me feel so good. "Don't stop!"

"Then, let me make you cum," he said. "Just like this. Don't hold back. Let it happen." He put my dick back in his mouth and continued to drive me crazy.

I knew Justin had just given me permission to cum in his mouth, and I found it very tempting. I hated interrupting the overwhelming joy of orgasm by having Justin switch from sucking my dick to jacking me off. But still, I wasn't sure – until I realized I was building up to an explosion of sexual glory. "I'm gonna cum," I said to warn Justin that I was about to shoot my load. But he didn't stop. Instead, he increased the pressure around my shaft as he went up and down on me even faster. I couldn't hold back, and I reached climax. Justin swallowed all of my semen. When I finally descended from my emotional and physical high, Justin laid his head on my abdomen. "I love you, James," he said. "I love everything about you."

I reached down and pulled him up. Our lips came together as if drawn by strong magnets. I could taste my cum as we kissed. The taste wasn't bad, and the fact that we were sharing it was highly erotic! I wanted Justin inside of me more than ever. "Let's get in the back seat," I said. We wriggled out of our jeans and underwear, which were already half off. As we sat up, I took the jar of Vaseline from my coat pocket. Justin smiled, and we both scrambled to climb over the front seat.

As soon as Justin and I were comfortably in the back seat, he got on top of me. We pulled together and began kissing and rubbing our bodies against each other. The feeling of our engorged dicks, each making love to its 'twin,' was incredible and so... masculine. Soon, I reached for the Vaseline and scooped out a generous portion. I slicked up Justin's dick and applied some on myself as well. We looked into each other's eyes as Justin lined up his fully erect cock and pushed against my opening. It felt glorious, and I wanted nothing more than to feel him all the way inside of me.

He slowly entered me in one continuous movement until he filled me up completely. He began a sensual in-and-out motion. I could feel his balls slap against me on every inward thrust. Each time he reached my prostate gland with his magnificent manhood, every nerve ending in my body lit up! The intense and profoundly satisfying pressure radiated from deep in my pelvis and into my whole dick! I started to feel another orgasm building up inside of me.

Justin continued making love to me as both of our libidos took total control of our movements. I craved every stroke of his cock. He seemed driven to satisfy his most carnal desires. I took hold of my cock and stroked it until I felt the ultimate joy of climax for a second time. With my eyes closed, I saw little flashes of light in my field of vision as the semen spurted out of my throbbing dickhead! I lingered in a heavenly state. Soon, I heard Justin moan as his impending ejaculation intensified. He let out a muffled scream as he shot his load into me. A few moments later, he collapsed onto my body.

One of my favorite parts of sex is lying quietly with my partner after orgasm. I loved the fact that Justin liked that, too. No 'cum and go' for us! The backseat of his car wasn't the most comfortable place for us to hold each other while lingering in our physical intimacy, but that didn't matter. I would have lain on jagged rocks if it meant that I could feel Justin's arms around me.

"This may be the worst timing in the world," I said. "But how was your blind date. You never told me about it."

"We went to see Ship of Fools at the Strand. It was a pretty good movie," Justin told me. "I wouldn't mind seeing it again if you'd like to go."

"No, thanks," I said a little sarcastically. "I don't want to recreate your date with whatever her name was."

"Cecelia," Justin said. "But everybody calls her 'CeCe.' You're not jealous, are you?"

"Of course, I am!" I admitted. "And unless you tell me she's a horse-faced hunchback with bad breath, I'll probably try to make you feel guilty - for months!"

"James," he said. "She's a sweet girl and very pretty. But I don't want to be with her. I want to be with you. If you're jealous, I won't go out with her again. My brother and Babs want us to go bowling with them next Friday, but I'll tell them "No."

"Babs?" I asked. "Who's she?"

"She's my brother's girlfriend," Justin answered. "Babs is short for Barbara."

"I think you should take me out on a date next Friday," I said. "And I'll tell 'CeCe' to go pound sand!"

'Please don't do anything like that," Justin said. "She and Babs go to your church, and if you say anything, it'll just cause problems. I won't go out with CeCe anymore, James. I promise. There's no reason to be jealous."

"They go to my church?" I questioned. "What are their last names?"

"Why do you want to know that?" Justin asked.

"Just curious," I answered.

"I don't remember CeCe's last name," Justin said. "But it's Barbara Carter. Her parents and grandparents are members there, too."

'Oh my God!" I said. "I know her grandmother, Elaine Carter. That woman hates me! She told Pastor John that I was a heathen just because I grew up in the Unitarian church. And she's the one I got into an argument with about the origins of 'Michael Row the Boat Ashore.' She'd happily hang me out to dry if she ever had the chance."

"Well, just steer clear of her and her granddaughter. They don't need to get any ideas about you and me."

I smiled. "But wouldn't it be fun to see the looks on their faces!" I joked. "Mrs. Carter would have a heart attack, and poor Babs would probably pee her pants!"

Justin took me home in time for dinner. I had calmed down about the newspaper story by that time, but I just wanted to be alone. I ate dinner with the family and did my chores before heading upstairs to my bedroom. I took a quick shower and then tried to get some sleep. I kept waking up in the night worrying about what would happen the next day.

Uncle Nathan drove me to school in the morning. "I want you to ignore any comments people make to you about what they read in the paper," he said to me. "Every family has skeletons in the closet. You hold your head up and don't let the other kids get under your skin!"

I had barely entered the school before the teasing began. "Hey, Love Child," a girl I didn't know said to me. "Are you coming out of hiding?"

"Show us that Miss America walk, Sissy," a guy standing with a group of his friends said. I ignored his insult and tried to stand tall without moving my hips as I walked away.

I tried to get to my locker without drawing any more attention. But before I got there, I heard some guy snipe at me. "Darren McCoy is an asshole who can't sing shit. I guess all he can do is fuck and make a bunch of little bastards like you."

I went to my locker to get my books for the morning and headed to my first-hour class. "Why don't you just leave," a girl in my class said as we both entered the classroom. "Nobody wants somebody like you here." The teacher gave me a dirty look as I took my seat in the back row.

Halfway through class, a girl passed me a note. I unfolded the paper and read what she had written. "Can you introduce me to your dad? I love his music, and he's so dreamy!"

I was not in the mood for any more people prying into my life, so I wrote back. "Sure, but bring protection. My mom said he's frequently not prepared." I handed her back the note. She read it, and her face turned bright red. She didn't look at me again for the rest of the class.

I suffered dirty looks and rude comments for the rest of the morning. At lunchtime, I hurried into the cafeteria to find Justin and "The Pack." Just as I had hoped, they surrounded me as we went through the food line, and they led me to our regular table. "No one has bothered you, have they?" Justin asked.

"Just a bunch of teasing and insults," I answered. "Nothing I can't handle."

"I'm putting an end to this right now!" Justin said. To my complete surprise and embarrassment, he got up on top of the lunch table and spoke to the whole room. "Alright, you idiots," he hollered. "Listen up. James Covington is a member of 'The Pack,' and we look out for each other. If you have a problem with one of us, you've got a problem with all of us! Got it?" He looked around the room, daring anyone to challenge him. Then he got back down off the table and looked at me. "If anyone disrespects you again, just tell us. I guarantee they'll regret it."

"Thanks, guys," I said. "I'm really glad that you've got my back."

For the rest of the week, everyone except for members of "The Pack," Mark and Sylvia ignored me. It seemed that Justin's threats had scared everyone. People wouldn't even look at me. That was fine, but I knew they were still talking about me behind my back.

I went home on Friday afternoon. I was reading Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 in the living room when my aunt and uncle came in. They both looked upset. I felt a knot forming in my stomach.

"James," Aunt Gretchen started. "We need to talk. Your uncle got some information today at work that I think you ought to know. He found out who called the Jonesboro Examiner with the story about your parents."

I was shocked. I closed my book and set it down on the sofa. I looked at Uncle Nathan.

"It was Elaine Carter, from church," Uncle Nathan said.

"How did she know about it?" I said as anger began to build up inside of me. "Who told her?"

"I guess she found out from her granddaughter. Mrs. Carter's grandson works on the maintenance crew at the dam. He told me all that he knew," Uncle Nathan explained. "He said their whole family goes to our church, and there's a lot of gossip going on."

The synapses in my brain started firing. "Did he mention the granddaughter's name?" I asked.

"He may have mentioned it," Uncle Nathen said. "But I don't know the girl, and I can't remember her name."

"Was it Barbara – or Babs?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "That was it."

"I know Barbara Carter," Aunt Gretchen said. "But I swear! I never said a word to her about any of this!"

"I know you didn't," I said. "Barbara Carter is dating Justin's brother, Tom."

I didn't want to give voice to my next thoughts, but I did. "Justin knew the whole story. He was there with me when I met my real dad in Jonesboro." My hands started shaking, and I felt sick to my stomach. "Justin promised me he wouldn't tell anyone."

"You think Justin told his brother, and his brother told Barbara Carter?" Aunt Gretchen asked. "Justin seems like such a nice boy! I can't believe he would do that to you! I never thought he'd betray you like that!"

"I never thought so, either," I said as I started to tear up.

Aunt Gretchen stood up and walked over to the sofa where I was sitting. She sat down and put an arm around my shoulder. "Do you want me to call Mrs. Pennel and get to the bottom of this?" she asked.

"No thanks," I answered. "I'll talk to Justin tomorrow."

Then, I ran upstairs to the bathroom, and I threw up.

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