Six Friends

by Rob Warr

Chapter 1

I found this story on a flash drive I was cleaning up and reformatting and read through it and decided with a little work it would make a nice short story. It's basically a story about friendship and acceptance with a little romance thrown in. The original story was one long story, but I have broken it down into three chapters to make it easier to read.

As you might guess, this story is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons living or dead is, well...just darn good luck. It is basically a no-sex story, so no warnings are necessary, unless you don't like sappy teenage boys in love. Thanks to Tim and all my readers at IOMFATS, and now...let the reading begin.

My dad once told me that friends were the most important thing a man could have. He said that if a guy could make six friends who would stick around long enough to be pall bearers when he died, then he had accomplished something. Ironically, when my dad died he had dozens of friends willing to carry him to his final resting place, but then he was only 35.

Do you have any idea what it's like to be alone? Maybe you do, maybe you're old and everyone you loved or who loved you is gone. Maybe you were kicked out of your home because you were gay, and you're all alone. Maybe life has just handed you a bag of shit your whole life, and now there's no one to share even the trouble with. I don't know, but when you're 14, and don't have a single friend to call your own, life really sucks.

My name is Gregory Albert Gains, yeah...GAG, but fortunately no one calls me that. Well, at least not anyone who matters. Certainly not my mom, or my older sister Beth, who I guess you could call my only friend, except she's 19 and in college and not around much.

So, you're probably wondering, how did things get so bad with me, and what happened to my dad? Well, keep your shorts on, I'm coming to that part.

I was born in December during one of the biggest snow storms of the century in Chicago, Illinois. My dad was just 21, my mom 20, when the stork flew through the howling snow and dropped me down in the maternity ward at Chicago General Hospital.

Fortunately, my parents had the foresight to go to the hospital before things reached critical mass, and I was saved the trauma of being born at home, or God forgive, in the backseat of an automobile.

My parents both agreed that if I was a boy I'd be Gregory, and Albert was my grandfather's name, and they thought it complimented my first name royally. I guess they never gave much thought to what my initials would spell out, but every smart ass in middle school sure did.

My dad was fresh out of college, and my mom worked part time at Kmart up until a few days before I was born. My dad worked construction, hoping to eventually go back to school and finish getting a degree in architecture. Unfortunately it was a dream that never came true for my father.

Now, some parents might have made an unplanned child like myself feel unwelcome, or blame him for all the hardships and disappointments of their lives, but not mine. No, from day one I was loved, and nurtured, and sheltered, and made to feel as if I were the most important person in the world.

You're probably also wondering how, if I was the first born, that I have an older sister. Well, Beth is adopted. She was twelve and I was seven when her folks were killed in a car accident, and my mom and dad stepped in and provided her with a home. We all fell in love with her, and it didn't take us long to know we wanted her as a permanent member of our family.

I love my sister Beth as much as I would have if she were blood kin, and in fact I don't even think of her any other way. We were close as we grew up and I knew that no matter what, I could count on her to be there for me.

Maybe that's why she was the first person I came out to. Yeah, I'm gay. Get over

So, you're thinking, oh, yeah, no wonder he doesn't have any friends, he's gay. Well, that's only part of the problem, because really, even though there were rumors at school, no one really knew for sure that I'm gay. At least not back when all this started.

Oh sure, maybe the fact that I didn't date girls might have been enough to give some kids a reason to wonder about me, but I don't date boys either, so there. I mean, I could just be shy, or maybe from one of those religious families for all they know, but of course there's more to it than that.

Anyway, I was talking about coming out to my sister Beth. It happened shortly after I turned 13, so yeah, about a year ago. Now if you're a guy you know what it's like going through puberty, and I was having an especially hard time of it.

I had known I was different for a long time but when I began the changes associated with puberty it all became so clear to me. I began to notice the boys at school, never the girls, and especially in the showers after gym class.

At first I was terrified that some of the other boys would notice my stares and call me out on it, but then I noticed that a lot of other boys were staring, too. I guess even straight boys are curious, and I continued to stare, but of course I was careful.

However, being careful didn't keep me from getting into trouble. One day a kid name John Langley caught me staring at his dork and called me out on it. The only reason I was staring was because John had the biggest one I'd ever seen, and it was hairy too.

I might have gotten into real trouble over that one, except some of the other boys made a joke of it, calling him deformed, and big-dick, and stuff like that, and he forgot to be mad at me. I slunk off while they were harassing him, and after that I was a bit more careful.

That was the day I told Beth that I was gay.

My sister Beth is a pretty girl, and I'm not just saying that cause she's my sis. She's the kind of girl that causes straight boys' hearts to flutter and no doubt a stirring down lower, but she was too much into her studies to worry much about boys. She said that when the right boy came along she'd know it and she'd give him all her attention, but for now she just couldn't be bothered.

She was 18, and in her final year of high school, and looking forward to college, having been awarded a full scholarship to OSU in Norman. We had moved to Tulsa when I was five, and so we were reasonably close to where Beth would be attending school, but I knew I was still gonna miss her something awful.

After dinner, I approached my sister and asked her if we could talk. As expected she agreed, and we went off to her room so we would have a bit of privacy.

As best as I can remember, this is how it went down.

"So what's up doc?" Beth was always funny like that.

"I...have something I need to tell you," I said settling down beside her on her bed.

I remember there were dozens of stuffed animals all around us and I picked up a teddy bear and cradled it, rubbing my face on it's fuzzy head as I thought how best to approach the subject.

"Did you break something and you're afraid to tell mom and dad?" she laughed.

"No, nothing like that," I said frowning. My heart was beating fast, and I felt like a little kid again, ready to start bawling at any moment.

"You look pale, Greggy, what's wrong?" she said, looking concerned now.

I sighed and buried my face in Mr.Teddy's fur and steeled myself for what I thought would be the hardest thing I ever had to do.

"I...I'm sorry," I said as the tears started to flow, "but you're the only one I can tell this to. You've always been so cool with me and I feel like I can trust you."

She moved over and pulled me into a hug then, "You know you can trust me with anything. It can't be all that bad though. Just tell me and you'll feel so much better."

"I can't," I sobbed, "it's too awful. You'll hate me," I said, immediately hating myself for being such a cry baby coward.

"Shhh...nothing is that bad, and I could never hate you. I love you, you're my baby brother...always and forever."

"It's bad," I said, pulling myself together just a little, "I...I know...I'm...I'm," but I couldn't say that word.

"You're what, buddy?" she said hugging me tighter and kissing the top of my head.

"I...I like boys," was what I finally said, hoping she'd understand.

"Greg, are you trying to tell me that you're gay?" she said sounding amused, which caused me to give her a stern look. It was one thing to hate me, quite another to make fun of me.

"Yes," I said wiping at my eyes and pulling away some, "I knew you'd hate me."

"Hate you?" she said smiling, "Greg, I'm your big sister and I love you, and besides, I've always thought you might like boys more than girls. It's no big deal, really. Poor baby, you've been carrying this around, thinking there was something wrong with you. Well, let me tell you this, there is nothing wrong with you. You're not broken, and you don't need fixing. You are wonderfully made by God just the way you are, and I for one would not change a thing, and I bet mom and dad will feel the same way too."

"No! You can't tell them," I said in horror.

"I won't, sweet boy, but you need to. This will continue to bother you till you do. They love you, and they will still love you when they know your deep dark secret," she said smiling.

She was right of course, and in fact mom and dad seemed delighted that I had chosen to confide in them my deepest darkest secret, as Beth called it. My mom hugged me and kissed my face and the tears soon dried up as dad joined the hug, and afterwards we all went out for pizza and ice cream.

Wow, is all I can say to that. I'd been worrying for so long about my being gay, and suddenly everyone that mattered not only knew, but approved and accepted me as I was.

Unfortunately my happiness was soon to be shattered by yet another tragedy, the death of my wonderful father.

It's only been a few months since we lost dad, and the pain is still there like an open wound, and sometimes when I look at mom or Beth, or see something that belonged to dad, it's like someone poured salt into that open wound.

At the time dad was the supervisor of a large construction company which was working on a new high-rise downtown. Maybe dad never fulfilled his dream of being an architect, but he was well liked, respected, and he'd risen to the top at his company and was finally making the big bucks.

Like I said, he was supervising the construction on the building downtown and watching as one of the crane operators lifted a load to take to the top floor.

One of his men, a guy named James, was signaling the crane operator and everything seemed to be going fine. Dad looked down to check something on the clipboard he constantly carried around and that's when it happened.

James told us later that he heard a loud snap and a ripping sound, which was the sound of a cable unraveling, and then all hell broke loose. The load of metal and wood the crane was lifting began to fall and James was right in it's path.

Dad took one look at the situation and never hesitated, according to James and the others who witnessed the incident. He threw down his sacred clipboard and bounded toward James and pushed him out of the way of the falling load of building materials.

When the dust cleared, they began to dig dad out of the mess, but it was no use. He'd been killed instantly. He had died doing what he loved doing and had saved another human being, but I still felt cheated and angry that he had chosen to save someone else over living and staying with us.

Attending his funeral was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life, and I still have nightmares about it. Fortunately his face was saved the ravages that his body endured, and there was no need for a closed casket funeral, so at least I got to say goodbye and kiss him one last time.

I'm sorry, but right now I'm crying too hard to go on. I'll finish this later.

There was an investigation and it was determined that the cables on the crane had rusted and given way and the insurance company wound up paying mom 200k for dad's death. 200k isn't much for the loss of a father and husband, and a life time of pain and suffering for those left behind, but at least mom didn't have to worry about paying the bills or what would happen to us.

She continued to work, but she paid off our house and car, and put a big chunk of money in investments for our college education. Well, mine anyway, since Miss-smarty-pants-Beth earned a full scholarship.

I'm mostly over the sadness, but like I said, at times something will trigger a memory of my dad and I'll break down again. I usually go to my room or leave the house if mom is home, cause I sure don't want to add to her suffering. I guess losing a husband, the person you love more than life itself, is way tougher than losing a parent, and I try to be careful around her.

Beth took it really hard too, but she's the kind of person who is a rock when it really matters. If not for her I'm not sure I would have gotten through the ordeal of dad's death, and I still turn to her when I'm feeling sad, and she's always there for me.

Enough sadness, well...that sadness anyway.

When dad died, most of the kids at school were more kind to me, especially the girls, but that only made it harder. Why couldn't they have been that kind before? Why now, was it pity, or were they just happy it wasn't them?

I did have one run-in with a kid named Mike Morgan. He said something catty about my dad, and I went off like a keg of dynamite. I beat that boy so bad, and by the time a teacher dragged me off of him I was a bloody mess and so was he. Fortunately, there was no lasting damage, but I did earn three days suspension and probably would have been expelled if not for the other kids having backed me up.

Mike came to me a week or so later and apologized, and ever since then he's been civil to me, even if we're not pals or anything. I don't hold grudges, and I respected him for being man enough to admit he was wrong, but it still hurts when I think of the mean things he said about my dad.

Beth buried herself in her books after dad's death, determined to continue to make dad proud, even though he was watching from Heaven now. She even made me believe in Heaven, and up until then I had sort of been on the fence when it came to all that Heaven and Heck stuff. Now, I like to think that dad is up there watching over us, and sometimes I talk to him and it helps to soothe my pain.

I suppose if I had tried harder I could have made a few friends, especially after dad's death when kids were nicer to me, but at that time I was too busy feeling sorry for myself. There were a few kids who even tried to befriend me, but years of being rejected made me cautious and I never let them get close. I guess my walls were just too high for anyone to climb at the time.

So there I was: 14, friendless, and having just lost my dad, and floundering with all the feelings associated with puberty and being gay. Then something happened that changed everything, HE came into my life.

HE, was the cutest boy I'd ever seen. His name was Jaden, and he was from California. His dad was the Manager of a big Sporting Goods store that had just opened in Tulsa, and he was joining us midterm.

He was blond and blue-eyed, and the perfect example of what a surfer boy would look like. Long slender legs that were muscled, a warm tanned glow to his skin, and a chest, that if not a six-pack, was certainly a four-pack. On top of that he was drop dead gorgeous with a smile that could melt even the coldest heart, and all the girls were gaga for him after day one.

I first saw him in my English Lit class and after the teacher introduced him to the class, and he shared his killer smile with us, he took the only empty desk in the room, the one next to me.

I groaned internally, it was hard enough just seeing this young Adonis from afar, but this close to me I could actually smell his unique scent and I wondered how I would ever be able to concentrate on my studies.

"Hi," It was him of course, Jaden, and he was talking to me, a soft whispered greeting with that sweet smile parting his lips. And oh what lips, soft and red, and oh so inviting.

"Hey," I said trying not to sound as flustered as I was.

"I'm Jaden," he said offering a fist to bump.

"Greg," I bumped back, oblivious of anything and anyone, even the teacher, until she cleared her throat to get our attention. I blushed, after all I was a good student and never gave any of the teachers any flack, and well...since my dad had died they were all even nicer to me.

"Boys, you can visit later. Right now, please pull out your textbook and turn to chapter seven, page 201."

I made it through class, but just barely, and I don't remember much of what was said, but my frustration didn't end with the bell.

"Hey, wait up," It was Jaden again and he was almost chasing me as I hurried to my next class.

"Uh, what's up?" I asked stupidly.

"I was wondering...since I'm new and stuff, if you could like...maybe show me around? We could eat lunch together and then you could take me on a tour," he added with a chuckle.

"I uh," how could I refuse to help this new kid without coming across as a dick? No, there was no way out, but once he saw how lame I was I was sure he'd dump me anyway, so there was no real danger in helping him this once, "Uh, sure. What lunch period do you have?"

"11:45, you?" he said frowning.

"Same, so I guess we're okay then. Uh, what class do you have just before that?"

He dug out a schedule and handed it to me, Algebra...D. Williams instructor. I moaned inside myself, we shared another class. What were the odds?

"What's wrong?" he asked noticing the look on my face.

"Oh, nothing. It worked out well, I guess, I have Algebra that hour too."

"Awesome," he said offering me a high five. Was the kid for real?

"I gotta get to class," I said after awkwardly slapping his open palm as he held it up for me.

"Oh, yeah...totally, me too. Uh, where's room 210?"

I groaned internally again, "Come on, it's on the way to my class."

On the way to class, Jaden quizzed me about the school, the town, and then he told me about how things were back in Cally. I had to admit it was interesting to hear about his life near the ocean, and all the cool things he and his family did there. I also learned, that like me, he had an older sister, but he also had a younger brother, Tyler, who was ten. He talked fondly of his family and I found myself liking him, despite my misgivings about getting too close to him, considering how physically attractive he was. Given the fact that I was gay, and that he obviously was God's gift to females, I just couldn't see us ever being more than casual acquaintances.

"Well, here we are," I said, pointing to his classroom and hoping to make a quick getaway.

"Okay, great so, I'll see ya later then, in Algebra class...Uh, Greg, right?

"Yeah, room 215," I said looking back and almost melting when I saw that killer smile of his directed at me.

My knees went weak and I almost fainted. This can't be happening, I moaned to myself, Don't fall in love with a straight boy, it will only cause more pain.

In History class all I could think about was Jaden and that smile. I was so preoccupied that I didn't even hear the teacher, Mr. Blankenship, call my name, and only after a few kids giggled did I look up to see him staring at me expectantly.

"Sorry sir, what was the question?" I managed to mutter, and somehow after that I managed to keep my head in class.

Algebra class was somewhat easier because Jaden was forced to sit in the back row between two girls that kept eyeballing him like he was a piece of meat. Not that we didn't lock eyes occasionally, and after a while I realized he wasn't really paying much attention to the girls on either side of him, and that made me wonder. Was he gay, or just shy around girls? Or was it just that he didn't like outward shows of adoration like the girls were heaping on him?

When the bell rang, Jaden was at my desk before I could even stand up.

"Ready? I'm starved. Is the food any good here? I didn't bring my lunch today, but I probably will from now on. Do you eat here or bring your lunch? Is the cafeteria big? Are there any places to eat outside?" All of this in one long sentence, without a breath of air being taken between words.

I laughed, I actually laughed, and God it felt good after all the sadness in my life lately.

"Yes, kinda, sometimes, yes, and yes," I said, answering each of his questions as I remembered them.

He laughed too, and that smile...oh my God that smile, filled his face, and despite my warning to myself, I fell in love.

Lunch was a disaster. I sat looking at him the whole time, barely answering when I was spoken to, and by the time we threw our half eaten lunch in the trash and stowed our trays I fully expected him to leave me staring after him as he ran for the hills.

However, once outside he took my arm and steered me to a spot away from the other kids milling around.

"What's wrong?" he asked softly, compassion filling his blue eyes.

"Nnnnothing," I stuttered, so why were my eyes suddenly brimming over with tears.

"Awww...something is. What is it, you can tell me."

"I..." I hadn't intended to tell him about my dad or anything about me really, but suddenly the words just came flying out of my mouth, and when it was all over, I was crying for real.

His arm around me was unexpected, and oh so warm and comforting. He was obviously a very sweet and caring boy, and that made it even harder to deal with the fact that there was no future in our friendship.

"I'm really sorry man. That totally sucks. My dad works a lot, but I love him and I'd miss him terribly if he wasn't around. My mom is cool too. Did I tell you she's a teacher...yeah, she teaches third grade at Bouvers."

"Really?" I said wiping my eyes, "that's cool. Sorry for being such a cry baby," I said blushing.

"No way, I'd be worse than that. Sorry if I pushed ya too hard though. Sometimes I'm a little hard to take," he laughed, "my sister says I have a toxic personality, but once a person finds the antidote, I can be taken in small doses."

"I think you're way cool," I said, immediately regretting my candor.

"You do? Well...I think you're way cool too," he said, delivering that killer smile once more.

"Aww...well, you're probably the only one then." Why did I have to say that? Why tear myself down? He'll figure me out soon enough.

"Then they're all idiots," he said frowning, "Come on, you were gonna show me around."

And just like that we became friends. In the days and weeks that passed we discovered that we had more in common than we would have guessed. We liked the same video games, movies, and music, and believe me when I say: my musical tastes are pretty varied.

We ate lunch together every day and roamed the halls together, laughing and talking and getting the strangest looks from all the other kids. No one could figure out why a kid like Jaden would waste his time with a loser like me, and I think that may have hurt his popularity some. Not that he cared, he still made plenty of friends, male and female, but despite his insistence, I had yet to befriend any of them.

"Got a ton of homework, wanna come over and study together?" Jaden asked after our last class that fateful day.

It was totally out of the blue, and not something I'd ever planned on being faced with, but the more I thought about it, the more appealing it sounded. I'd come to know Jaden as a person, and not just a body, and seeing where he lived would fill in some of the missing pieces. It was odd, I guess, that up until now we had never met outside of school, but we had finally progressed to that place in our friendship, and this was the next obvious step.

"Sure, why not? I'll have to call my mom, but I'm sure she'll be cool with it."

"Call her now, you can ride home with us if it's okay," he said sounding excited.

"Okay, okay," I said laughing, "don't be so needy," I teased. That was another thing I liked about Jaden, we could be catty with each other and neither of us ever got mad.

"She says no," I teased, "that you might be a bad influence being from California and all, and that she didn't want me getting involved with a beach bum like you," I said after I made the call.

"Right...come on, I know she said yes, I can see it in your eyes," he laughed.

"Yeah, but she's picking me up at five thirty. Will that give us enough time?"

"For what?" he teased, "studying, or making out?" he laughed, throwing me totally off balance.

"My mom was right, you are a bad influence," I teased back, "besides, I don't make out on the first date."

"Oh, so this is a date?" he said looking serious.

"Well, duh, a study date," I said wanting to say more, but not daring.

"Yeah, sure...okay. Well, there's mom now. Come on and I'll introduce you."

His brother was there too, and I was shocked to see that he didn't look anything like Jaden, in fact, he was Asian. I mean, I knew he was adopted, but Jaden had failed to tell me that his brother was Asian, and super cute to boot.

"Ty, this is Greg. Greg, this is my brother from another mother, Ty."

"Hi, nice to finally meet you," I said politely.

"Yeah, you too. I got to put up with this one," Ty said grinning, but I could see the love in his eyes for his big bro, "How do you stand him? He's so crazy," Ty laughed.

"Oh, you know? We're both crazy, so I guess we fit together just fine," I said, then blushed.

Something in Ty's look said he was reading more into that than I intended, but before I could repair the damage, Jaden's mom spoke up.

"So nice to finally meet you, Greg," Jaden's mom said, looking back and smiling. She was beautiful, and it was obvious where Jaden got his good looks.

"Thank you, ma'am," I said politely, "It's nice to meet you too."

"We've heard a lot about you," she said as she started the van up and looked back to begin moving out of the parking space, "I was very sorry to hear about your father, that must've been very hard on you and your family."

I didn't know whether to be angry at Jaden for telling his family about my loss, or flattered. Instead, I just did what I usually did when someone started the pity party, I changed the subject.

"Thank you ma'am, Jaden says you're a teacher at Bouver's. I used to go there when I was younger. It was my first school here."

"Really, that's interesting. I love it there. The faculty is so laid back, and all the kids are wonderful. Ty really likes it too, don't you sweety?"

"It's cool, lots of cool kids, and they don't make fun of me cause I'm small."

"You're not that small," I said trying to boost his ego some, "when I was ten, I was a real runt, then when I turned 12 I shot up practically overnight." It was true too, just one of the mixed blessings that came with puberty.

"Really? Cool. I hope that happens to me, but let's face folks were midgets and I probably will be too," he sighed.

"They weren't midgets," his mom scolded, "but Asian people tend to be smaller built. Doesn't mean they are any less human, or less important. You're perfect just the way you are, dear, and you need to learn to be proud of who you are."

"I am, sorry mom," Ty said smiling, "it's just that I wanted to be a basketball player," he said seriously.

At first I thought he really was serious, then his mom and Jaden broke up laughing and I joined in. It was obvious that Ty and Jaden shared the same killer sense of humor and I found myself liking the little cutie right away.

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