My Best Friend

by Victor Thomas

Chapter 11

Later that evening I was invited to a big barbecue and camp fire over at the Summers' farm, Mark's place. Todd, Brendan, Robert, and other members of the team were all going to be there. I was hoping that Mark's cousin Brian, the totally cute boy I'd been drooling over earlier, would be there as well. Mark had a huge pile of brush that needed to be burned and he thought it would be cool to just hang out, eat and watch the flames. I had been invited a week or so ago, before everything had happened with Allison, and I'd came to the realization that I was gay. To be honest, I was not really looking forward to it, but I couldn't very well not show up, especially after I had said I would be there earlier when Mark had reminded me. Besides, it might distract me from my problems, or just add to them if Brian was there, even though I hoped he would be.

I also thought about Brendan and Robert again. They seemed to be really tight here lately; where one was so was the other. I wondered again about those two, especially after what I'd witnessed at the river earlier.

I really didn't want to be near Todd at all. I'd been a little uncomfortable around him ever since I'd started having sexual thoughts about him. Now that I was certain of how I felt, I knew I'd be more uncomfortable around him than ever. Part of me just didn't want to see him ever again. Of course, part of me couldn't have lived with that. I loved him; he was my best friend and I couldn't imagine life without him. Tonight, however, I was hoping that he just wouldn't show up.

Mark had the fire going by the time everyone started arriving. I did love the sight of a big fire blazing away. The heat from it was fierce and we had to keep our distance. I loved the smell of the wood smoke. It reminding me of camping.

I helped Mark move the grill out near the fire and he lit the charcoal to get it ready for later. There was nothing better than food cooked outside. The very smell of the charcoal was making me hungry.

Even though I enjoyed hanging out with my friends, cooking outdoors and all that, my troubles were still with me. They sure weren't going to disappear in a day, nor in a hundred days. I knew that everyone had problems and I felt a little silly at times for wallowing in self-pity. Then again, my problems were a whole lot worse than those that most people had. I knew there were those even worse off than me, but that didn't mean that my life wasn't a total fucked up mess. I'd been slapped in the face with the realization that I was gay. I was the kind of boy that everyone made fun of, that everyone called names, that everyone hated. I knew I had to hide what I was, or face the consequences.

The whole situation terrified me. I felt powerless at times. I was willing to do just about anything to keep my secret. I'm not naïve. I knew what happened to boys when they were outed. It didn't matter how popular I was, or how much people liked me, if I was outed it would be all over. I just couldn't stand the idea of being ostracized. I was popular, at least somewhat, and I didn't think I could handle losing that. If my friends and classmates found out about me, it would be a hard, fast fall. I'd go from popular to outcast overnight.

The rest of the guys started showing up, including Brian. Mark and I went into the house to gather up some junk food and other supplies while the rest made their way over to the fire. I saw Mark through my new eyes, the eyes of a gay boy. He was very attractive. I'd noticed that before, of course, but I looked at him without denial clouding my vision. For the first time I could see him and admit to myself that I found him sexually attractive. Mark was sizzling hot!

His dark hair and eyes made me breathe just a little faster. His well-formed torso, developed by all the farm work he did, as well as working out for the football team, made my breath come faster still. His hard muscles tensed and flexed with his slightest movement. He was toned to perfection. He was wearing a pair of tight shorts that highlighted his hot butt and just about drove me crazy. I was definitely in lust.

I took a deep breath and tried not to let such thoughts consume me. I was trying to take in too much too quickly. I was like a dehydrated runner that was trying to drink too fast after a race. I had to fight my impulse to gulp. I had to take in my new world just a little at a time.

Him and I took a couple of big trays filled with potato chips, dip, brownies, cookies and just about everything else one could imagine out to the bonfire. He went back in for some chicken while the other guys moved a big picnic table out by the grill. By the time he returned, everything was set out and everyone was having a great time. He tossed the chicken on the grill and started brushing it with barbecue sauce. I had enjoyed many cookouts over the years at the Summers' farm and I knew that Mark was a master with grilling. His barbequed chicken was extremely good and would be quickly devoured.

Everyone sat around the fire, talking and laughing, while gulping soda's and munching on junk food. It had grown dark, but the boys kept throwing brush on the fire and it lit up the whole area like it was day. The golden light lit our young faces, making us look like we belonged to some lost tribe. I loved the feeling of companionship that was in the air. There was just something special about being with friends.

Brian was laughing along with everyone else and was having a great time. All the other guys were friendly with him, acting like he'd been one of us all along. He didn't go to our school, but everyone seemed to like him and I could see why. He was friendly, kind, funny, and he was always smiling. And did I mention that he's extremely cute? Mark kept watch over the chicken, dowsing flames when they got too high and brushing on just the right amount of barbeque sauce. His duties as cook didn't keep him from joining in the fun, however. It was great to have a night with the boys.

Being in a crowd helped me deal with Todd. If we'd been alone together, I know I'd have been very quiet and withdrawn. I just didn't know how to react around him. The realization that I was in lust and love with him fell on me like a ton of bricks. Our relationship had totally changed overnight. He knew nothing of that, of course, but I had a whole new world of things to deal with where he was concerned. Things could never be the same again.

In the crowd I could, more or less, avoid direct contact with him. He was just one of the group and nothing had to get personal between us. I think he sensed something was up. I had trouble looking him in the eyes and I wouldn't even get too near him. I was so bewildered by my own thoughts about him that I just didn't know how to interact with him anymore. It was almost as if he were a different person and no longer the boy who'd been my best friend for so many years.

Todd was one of the very first friends I'd made when I started school. He just kind of latched onto me and became my friend. In no time at all we were hanging out together all the time. He was the best friend I'd ever had.

I wondered what he would think if he found out what was going through my mind. How would he react if he found out I was in love with him? What would he do if he knew I dreamed of kissing him? What would he do if he learned of the other wild things I wanted to do with him? I shuddered to think about it. I pictured him shrinking from me in revulsion. He was my best friend, but I knew that friendships could end in a heartbeat over such things. Most guys just couldn't deal with it. More likely than not, he would retch if he knew the things that went through my mind.

I looked at all my friends laughing and joking around. Would they be my friends if they knew? What would they think if they found out I was gay? Would they suddenly make sure they never took their shirts off around me? Would they be uncomfortable if I touched them? Would they even want to be around me?

I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I'd be banished from my circle of friends if they ever found out about me. They were great guys, but that didn't mean anything. Gay boys were hated with a vengeance at our school. There was no worse insult than being called a fag, no greater put down. Being gay would cast me down to the very bottom of the social hierarchy. I'd be worse than nothing. I'd be one of those.

I recalled an incident three years ago, when I was just a freshman. One of my classmates, Oliver Triplett had been found hanging in the small forest behind the football field. Although he had never actually came out, a lot of people had suspected that he was gay, and speculated that was the reason that he had been lynched. Then, not six months later, another boy, a junior, had been found hanging as well in the same area as Oliver. Bryce Mackenzie had been a hot shot football player and an arrogant dick, who thought he was god's gift to women. There was no way he was gay, but I guess that didn't matter. He had managed to piss off enough people that someone finally got tired of dealing with him apparently. The cases still remain unsolved to this day.

The smile faded from my lips. I felt like such a fake, hiding what I was from my friends. I wished that I was still hiding it from myself. That way I wouldn't have to know I was an outsider. I wouldn't have to know that those boys were only my friends because they didn't know the truth about me. I was friends with boys who could well hate me if they knew what I was. I suddenly felt like I had no friends at all.

I looked at Todd. He was smiling and happy, but what would happen if he found out? Everything in my life was so uncertain. Were any of my friends really my friends, or would they become my enemies if my true self was revealed? I felt like I no longer knew any of them, or even myself. I felt like I'd lost touch with the whole world.

The more I thought about it, the more apprehensive I became. If one of them found out, he could expose me. What would happen then? Wondering about that gave me greater anguish than I could possibly express.

I felt a little foolish for being so paranoid, but were my fears really so unreasonable? I didn't know how any of them would react if they found out I was gay.

All these thoughts going through my mind took the joy out of the evening. How could I have fun with my friends if I suspected they might turn on me. How could I laugh and joke with them when I knew that they might all hate me if my secret was ever revealed.

I walked away from the circle of light and the laughter of my friends. I was overwhelmed by sadness and consumed by despair. A sob welled up in my throat and tears flowed from my eyes. I walked across a field of soybeans in the darkness, feeling as if my world was at an end.

In the dark, I could cry without anyone seeing me. In the dark, I could hide my feelings from my friends. In a way, I felt like I'd always be in darkness, always hiding my feelings, always concealing the real me. I was living with a secret that no one could know. It made me feel more isolated and alone than I thought was possible.

"Scott, are you all right?" asked a voice in the darkness behind me.

It made me jump. I didn't know anyone was nearby. It was Todd. He'd followed me.

I wiped my eyes on my shirtsleeve before I turned around. I tried to steady my voice before I spoke. I was not successful; it trembled, betraying me.

"I'm okay," I lied.

What could I do but lie? I couldn't share my pain with him. He was my pain, at least to a large extent. I couldn't let him know what tormented me.

He put his hand on my shoulder and peered into my eyes. I turned away from him so he could not read the pain there.

"Scott, somethings wrong, somethings very wrong. I'm your friend. Let me help you."

Those words just about made me bawl. How long would he remain my friend if he knew? How long would he care about me then? I wanted to die.

"Just leave me alone!" I snapped at him. He jerked back like I'd struck him. I was immediately sorry for yelling at him. It was anger he didn't deserve. I looked at him, sorry for hurting him. "Look, Todd. I appreciate you wanting to help, but you can't. Just give me a few minutes alone and I'll come back, okay. I just need some space right now."

I could tell he didn't want to leave me alone. He wanted to help. I could see the hesitation. I know he nearly refused to leave. Then he thought better of him.

"Okay," he said quietly and walked back across the field.

I watched him disappear into the darkness, hating myself for hurting him, hating him because I loved him. I fought to reign in my emotions. I pulled myself together, slapped a fake smile on my face, and returned to the bonfire.

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