“Good morning, my sweet love.” Griffin snuggled close to Nicholas and tried to wake him up. Griffin kissed Nicholas on his neck and chest. “Rise and shine, Boo.” As much as Griffin wanted to just lie there and cuddle with Nicholas, he knew they needed to get going. Time for the morning routine and then head out on another adventure. Griff headed into the shower and left Nicholas lying there thinking.
Nicholas thought about how much he loved Griffin. He wanted time to slow down. He was not ready to leave Griffin at school. Nicholas heard the always spunky Griff singing loudly in the shower and probably shaking his booty. He laughed as he heard Griff yell out ‘I’m too sexy for my body, too sexy yeah, yeah, yeah’ which was Griff’s version of the song by Right Said Fred. Nicholas couldn’t help but peek in and yell, “You got that right! But need to work on that voice a bit, Griff!”
“I’m just about done anyway. It’s your turn, Nicky-poo.” Griff said, teasingly. “Hurry up. We have a lot to see at the Smithsonian Institution today.”
“Stop with Nicky crap. You know how much I hate that!” Nicholas quips.
As Nicholas is drying his hair with a towel, Griff smacks Nicholas hard on the butt. “Hehe. Look at that booty. You can dance for me anytime but get your booty in gear.” Griff said.
“Smack me on my booty again, and I’ll show you who the boss is. We will just stay here all day and skip the museum.” Nicholas said.
“Is that a threat or promise? I’d rather stay in with you anyway.” Griff said.
Nicholas leaned in for one last kiss, and the boys headed out to have a full day of fun at the Smithsonian.
Once at the Smithsonian, they headed for the Air and Space Museum first. “Look at that model of the Wright Brothers’ plane. Can you imagine what was going through their minds? Yet they accomplished so much!” Griff said.
Nicholas said, “Look at this exhibit on the different crafts used in space. It’s so awesome, but also sad to read about disasters like the Challenger and the Colombia.” The boys wander through looking at different material and things until they come to the Hope Diamond and rubies and all the other beautiful gems. “With any luck maybe someday you will have a diamond on that finger of yours,” Nicholas says jokingly.
Griff drifted into daydream land thinking about that possibility. “That would be a dream come true for me,” Griff said. He grabbed Nicholas and planted a kiss on him when nobody was looking.
They headed over to the American History Museum next to check out some TV, movie, and music history. As they looked around, both boys got very excited when they saw all the pop culture items. Nicholas kept a lookout for anything music-related, while Griffin was more interested in the television and movie history.
As they started walking around, they saw huge displays of some of the greatest music of all time. They saw display cases of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Janis Joplin. Nicholas got lost in the section about Woodstock. He read all the placards that told the history of the event and the musicians who attended.
Griffin went towards the television and movie history exhibits. The display cases he enjoyed the most were the ones about Howdy Doody and some of the other old shows. He saw Fonzie’s leather jacket from Happy Days, the Conner’s couch from Roseanne, and a display case with stuff from the A-Team. Griff read the history placards containing trivia about Leave it to Beaver, and I Love Lucy. Griff needed a quick bathroom break and motioned to Nicholas where he was heading. While he was using bathroom, Griff looked down and noticed a wad of cash on the floor. He picked it up and ran out to find Nicholas to tell him what he found. “Nicholas, look what I found in restroom! We need to find a security guard.”
“There was one just down the hall. Who knows, maybe they’ll let you keep it!” Nicholas said, and they took off to find the nearest security desk.
“Excuse me, sir. Good day to you. I wanted to turn this in to lost and found. I found it in the men’s bathroom by the tv exhibits.” Griffin said, setting the money on the security desk.
The security guard smiled. “Thanks for turning it in! Too many people think they can just take it, but if we catch them, we call the cops. The good news is,” the guard said while sliding a piece of paper across the desk to Griffin. “if you fill out this form and then no one comes for it, we can mail it to you thirty days from now.”
“That sounds fair. I won’t be at the address I’m writing down, but my mom can forward it to me when I know my address at school.” Griff finished up the paperwork, and they were on their way again.
“Ready to stop and get a bite before we head over to see wildlife and dinosaurs exhibit at the Natural History Museum?” Griff asked.
“Ok I am hungry, and we need to eat, I guess.”
The guys stopped and grabbed cheeseburgers, fries, and milkshakes. “Omg, babe, I am having so much fun with you today I don’t want this to stop,” Griffin said. “It is so fun and special talking about all these amazing things that we are seeing. I love sharing this adventure with you.”
The boys got up and walked, hand in hand at times, other times with arms around each other’s waist. One time Nicholas slipped his hand right into the back pocket of Griff’s jeans and Griff quickly returned the favor, smirking at his boyfriend. They looked so happy as a couple, and everything just felt so right.
“Let’s look at this new exhibit on Planet Earth, Nicholas.”
“Sure thing, Peaches. It’s getting late though, so let’s hurry.” The information on the oceans being polluted by garbage was hard to read about. The video clips were disgusting. Now, there were current live reports of the fires in the Amazon Rainforest, and reports of some of the most massive icebergs melting. “This is so sad, Nicholas. Won’t there ever be a time when people wake up?” Griff said, almost crying. “We are killing Mother Earth more every day.”
“At least now, some politicians are listening to the younger generations, and we are educating people. So, I do see one day soon when a better life for our planet may happen, and climate change can begin to be dealt with.” Nicholas said, trying to put a positive spin on it.
“I hope you’re right, Boo,” Griff said as they shared a tender kiss and headed out of the Smithsonian.
Back in the RV, they picked out a movie on Netflix and cuddled together on the couch to chill out after their long but fun day. They spent more time laughing and giggling at the funny things that had happened that day, than actually paying attention to the movie. They were just enjoying some quiet quality time together.
“Man, I’ll be glad when your poison ivy is all cleared up,” Nicholas said with a grin.
“I will be too and not just to get rid of the itchiness, but to actually be able to do whatever we want without worrying about a nasty rash!” Griff leaned in for a kiss, and then they started to discuss their trip to the National Zoo the next day. They turned off the TV, stripped down and went to bed. Nicholas lay there thinking about leaving Griff at college. There wasn’t anything he could do about it, so he rolled over and pulled Griff close to him. He needed the closeness and comfort of his boyfriend right now. He lay with one arm draped across Griff’s chest and their legs entwined, and that’s how they both fell asleep.
Since they didn’t have to be out of their camping spot until 1 pm, the boys slept later than usual and then spent a leisurely morning lazing about. Slightly obsessive-compulsive Nicholas did do a bit of tidying up but, since both boys were pretty neat by nature, there wasn’t much to tidy up. Over lunch, they discussed the next leg of their journey.
Studying his RV Campground guide, Nicholas discovered a pretty basic and inexpensive RV park practically on the beach at Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. “This would be perfect, Griff. No bells and whistles but everything we really need. Plus it’s 35% less if we book it for a week. I think that’s a good idea, don’t you? We’re in no hurry, and there’s tons of stuff to do in the area. There’s even a bus that runs into DC so we can take at least a couple of day trips to the National Zoo, the Smithsonian, and anything else we might decide we want to see.”
“Righteous! Gnarly! Kowabunga, dude! Yep, I will also most definitely have you on a surfboard before the week is up! Write that down in your little diary.”
“It’s a JOURNAL! A travel journal!” Nicholas clarified yet again. “Hate to disappoint you, though … Chesapeake Beach is actually on Chesapeake Bay, not the ocean. We’ll get to the ocean after that, I promise! Anyway, it looks like Hwy 301 will take us across the Potomac River and within about 10 miles of Chesapeake Beach. We can avoid all the I-95 traffic going into DC.”
“That’s great since it’s my turn to drive.”
Happy that it was Griff’s turn to pilot, Nicholas got comfortable on the sofa with his Kindle. Strapped into the captain’s chair, Griffin fiddled with the tunes until he found what he was looking for. Ever the playful jokester, he chuckled as he turned the volume wide open before punching play.
“On the road again
I just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.”
At the blast of the first notes, Nicholas rolled off the sofa and almost filled his shorts. “What the what!?!?”
“I know you love all those oldie goldie songs. Thought you’d appreciate my consideration, Boo!”
Shaking his head, Nicholas picked himself up slowly as Griffin turned the volume back to a reasonable level and began to croon along with Willie. Of course, Nicholas had to join in … how could he not?
“On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
Here we go, on the road again
Like a band of Gypsies, we go down the highway
We’re the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turnin’ our way
And our way is on the road again
I just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again, break free
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.”
“Maybe we can find a few gigs along the way covering ‘oldie goldie songs’ to cover the cost of Griff’s theme park bucket list,” mused Nicholas to himself.
It was after 7 by the time the boys had checked in, parked, and hooked up the RV. Famished, they asked the young lady in the office where they could find some good eats, preferably within walking distance. Soon they had located a quaint hole in the wall restaurant that they would surely have missed if Casey had not given them excellent directions.
While devouring the delicious array of appetizers they’d chosen, a strangled noise came from behind Griffin. A puzzled look crossed his face, but as Nicholas looked up, he realized immediately what was happening and sprung into action. He jumped around the table to the elderly man sitting behind Griff, grabbed him around his chest with both arms, and gave a quick, firm squeeze to the man’s abdomen. The culprit, a small popcorn shrimp, went airborne and landed three tables over in a half-full mug of beer.
Much to Nicholas’ embarrassment, everyone around began clapping and cheering. Checking to be sure the gentleman was OK, he sheepishly sat back down and tried to make himself as small as he could.
“Damn, Nicky! That was awesome!” Griffin gushed. “You did that almost before I even realized what was happening! How did you know what to do?”
“I had to take some classes a couple of years ago when I thought I might want to get on as a lifeguard at the pool … before I changed my mind. That’s the first time I’ve actually done that.”
“Well, note to self … be sure to have Nicholas close by if I ever decide to choke. Seriously, though, that was so awesome, and I’m so proud of you!”
After settling down to enjoy the best meal they’d had since they left home, the boys headed back toward the campground. They snatched a couple of brochures in the restaurant lobby to look through and plan out their week in Chesapeake Beach.
After getting caught up with the most recent episodes of ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Flash,’ the boys stripped and crawled into bed to go through the brochures. They were quite surprised to see how many fun activities were available in the area.
“OH! We have GOT to go to the Chesapeake Beach Water Park! It’s only about a mile up the beach. We can walk there,” said Nicholas, pointing at the brochure in his hand.
“I’m with you and look … here’s a Surf Art Gallery and Museum. Since we can’t surf here, seeing as how we’re actually on a bay, this will be fun.” Griffin had been a bit disappointed to discover that they weren’t on an ocean beach, but Nicholas promised him that their next stop would be Rehoboth Beach, which was very much on the ocean.
“Look … windsail cruises around the bay. You could get some awesome pics, Griff!”
“Here’s a place we can rent jet skis … almost as fun as surfing! They’re expensive, but we’re saving so much on this cheap RV park, we can splurge!” Griffin practically bounced in his excitement. They were like two six-year-olds the night before Christmas.
“This brochure has bus schedules. I think we should plan on at least two days in DC. One at The National Zoo and another at the Smithsonian. Let’s mix those in with the water days.”
“This is gonna be a great week, Boo!”
“Yep! Now shut up and kiss me like you mean it, Peaches!”
Leo rolled over and turned off his alarm clock two minutes before the alarm would have buzzed, 5:03am. He was about to get up, but then he realized that he shouldn’t run this morning, just in case. Two dizzy spells yesterday were more than enough to convince him to take it easy for a couple of days. Leo slung his arm over his eyes and relaxed. No running meant he didn’t need to get up and into the shower for at least another half hour. He let his mind wander over the events of the previous day. A lot happened. His morning run ended with a dizzy spell, then the fight with Matt and Charlie rescuing him. Then, Charlie taking care of him at the lighthouse, the panic attack at the mall, and finally meeting up with Charlie again. He thought they were about to kiss, just for a moment, but then it didn’t happen. Maybe next time!
Today was the first day of senior year. He supposed that he should hunt down Jasper and talk with him about Matt once he was at school. Leo really didn’t want to talk with Jazz, but the harassment and fights had to stop. He also thought about the possibility of trying out for track and pushing Kameron into trying out, too. Most of all, Leo was just thinking about getting through the school day, getting back home, and hanging out with Charlie.
All of this replayed in Leo’s mind as he lay there in bed. He glanced at the clock again, 5:42. Time to get up and get ready for school, or as his best friend Brandon called it, prison.
Leo looked at the lock screen on his phone as he left Starbucks, 6:52. He still had plenty of time to catch the bus. He peered over at Kam. “You ready for your first day of high school, little bro?”
“Yeah. For sure. I mean, maybe a little nervous, but excited too. Are we still trying out for cross country or track or whatever?”
“Yeah. I think Brandon knows someone on the team. I’ll find out about tryouts and text you.”
The two brothers strolled up to the bus stop and joined the small group of kids from their neighborhood. Leo spotted the new boy he met last night and waved. He was about to go over and say hi, but the bus pulled up. Then, the boy was lost in the crowd of kids. Leo sat down on the bus next to his brother and looked around for the new boy, but he didn’t see him. Kam arched an eyebrow at his brother. “Who is he? Obviously not your tourist friend since he’s on the school bus.”
“No. Just a guy I met on the beach last night. He was lost and asking for directions. He lives on Spruce Street. I guess he just moved here.”
Kam smirked. “Maybe you should rethink your tourist crush. Why bother with someone who’s only gonna be here a few days when you got a new cutie to set your sights on.”
Leo sighed. “I know Charlie is only here for a few days, but I really like him, Kam. I don’t know anything about this other guy other than the fact that he just moved here. He’s probably straight. Who knows.”
“I just don’t want to see you get your heart broken again so soon after Jazz. Be careful, bro.”
“Totally. I will. We’re here. I’ll text you after I talk to Brandon. Have fun.”
Leo spotted Brandon in the parking lot as soon as he got off the bus. He jogged over to catch up to his friend before he reached the building. “Hey, buddy, what’s up? Didn’t see much of ya this summer. How’re things with Brett?”
Brandon clapped Leo on the back. “Great, my friend, just great. Sucks he’s going to school so far away, but I’ll still see him on weekends. The perils of dating a college boy, I guess! Now we need to find you a boyfriend.” Brandon smirked.
Leo chuckled. “I’m kinda working on that myself.” He blushed and smiled.
“Really?” Brandon turned and looked at his friend. “Whoa! What the hell happened to you?” He said, seeing the bruises for the first time.
“Matt,” Leo said with a grimace. “I’ll tell you all about it in between classes. There’s a lot to the story. Good things and bad.”
“He needs a good ass whipping. Want me to sic Brett on him?” Brandon asked.
“No. Matt already got his ass whipped. That’s part of my story.” Leo grinned.
“You beat up Matt?” Brandon asked, surprised.
“No. Not me. My guardian angel did.” Leo grinned.
“Now, I’m interested! You better tell me the whole story! I want juicy details!” Brandon laughed. “See you at lunch.”
Leo grabbed his lunch tray and piled some food on it. Lost in thought, he wandered up to pay for his food. He heard a familiar voice behind him say, “What’s safe to eat around here? Everything at my old school tasted like salted cardboard.”
Leo turned his head and saw the boy from last night. “Ah. We meet again. Reese? Right? They have pizza almost every day, and it’s edible. I’ve got the spaghetti today. I’m hoping it’s as good as it was last year. Overall the food isn’t great, but it’s ok.”
“Yeah, I’m Reese. Thanks for the directions last night and the culinary suggestions today. I promise that I won’t only talk to you when I’m in dire need of help.” Reese grinned.
“That’s quite alright. You can talk to me anytime. Do you want to sit with my friend and me? He’s waiting for me over there.” Leo pointed to where Brandon was sitting.
“I would, but there’s this girl that I’m supposed to be meeting up with.”
“A girl? I suppose that is more important. Have fun.”
“No… uh… not like that.” Reese blushed. “I need to find out the details for cheer tryouts. I was on the cheer squad at my last school, and it was fun. I wanted to try and do that here too.”
“A cheerleader. I would have guessed you for a lacrosse star.”
“I tried that, but I like cheerleading better. I also play baseball in the spring.”
Leo heard Brandon calling his name. “Sounds fun. I gotta go before my friend starts chewing on the table.” Leo laughed. “The cheerleaders usually sit over there.” He pointed across the cafeteria. “See you later, Reese.”
Reese smiled and headed in the direction that Leo had pointed, and Leo walked over and sat by Brandon.
“It’s about time you got here! That’s the last time I wait for you for food.” Brandon reached over and took one of the trays from Leo. “Now spill the tea. Who was that hottie you were talking to, and was he the guardian angel you hinted at this morning?”
“ He is Reese. I met him last night on the beach. He’s not my angel. He’s just a new boy. Sounds like he’s trying out for the cheer squad. My angel’s name is Charlie, and he and his mom rented the cabin by the old lighthouse while they are exploring our glorious little town. That’s why he happened to be on the beach yesterday.”
“Wait? Exploring? Please tell me that you didn’t fall for a tourist, Leo!”
“Yes, he is a tourist, but you didn’t see him. You didn’t talk to him. Bran, I haven’t even thought about anyone else since the whole thing with Jazz. I planned to just get through this year and maybe start over in college, but when I looked up into Charlie’s brown eyes, I fell.”
Brandon rolled his eyes. “Maybe he’s hot. Maybe he’s fun. But how long is he staying, Leo? You’re just going to get hurt again.”
“He’s staying until the end of the week, I think. Who knows what can happen between now and then. Maybe he’ll stay longer. Maybe we can do a long-distance thing. I felt a strong connection, Bran. I know he did, too.”
“We’re not done with this discussion. Spill the rest of the story. The fight with Matt and this angel saving you.” Brandon said, eating his lunch and waiting for his best friend’s story.
In between bites of his lunch, Leo relayed to his friend all the previous day’s events. The run with his brother, the argument and fight with Matt, and finally, the rescue by Charlie. He even confided in him about the second dizzy spell at the mall. He finished up by telling him about the second meeting with Charlie and the near-kiss.
“Wow. That was quite a day. I don’t think that much happened to me all summer! First off, how are you feeling today? Any dizziness or headaches. That sounds serious, bro. You gotta tell Kam or me every time it happens, even if you don’t want to tell your mom yet, tell us.” He reached over, putting a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“Ok. Ok. I promised Kam already. I promise to tell you, too. And I will tell my mom if it keeps happening. I’m not an idiot.” Leo rolled his eyes at Brandon.
Brandon smirked. “Now on to the good stuff. When are you going to see your hot little tourist again?”
“Today after school. He wasn’t sure what his mom had planned. I figure if he’s not busy, I’ll meet up with him and give him the grand tour. Maybe show him the Village and get some junk food for dinner.” Leo laughed. “Mystic Village fried dough should win him over.”
Brandon rolled his eyes. “With all the running you’ve been doing, I don’t know why you continue to put that crap in your body.”
Leo laughed. “It’s the best! It is my biggest weakness, diet-wise. I’ll just run an extra mile tomorrow. That reminds me. Aren’t you friends with Max? From the track team? Kam wants to try out, and I was thinking of joining him.”
Brandon looked at his phone. “We have to get to class. I’ll talk to Max and find out about tryouts, then I’ll text you the details. If I don’t see you later, have fun and wish Kam good luck for me!”
The two boys put away their lunch trays and headed towards their next class.
The first day of senior year finally behind him, Leo walked towards the gym to meet up with his brother and look for Max. According to the multiple texts from Brandon, cross country tryouts were today. Now Leo was glad he skipped the morning run. Brandon said that Max would meet Leo and Kam at the track. Leo got to the gym and found Kam waiting for him. The two boys headed toward the track to look for Max. Leo spotted Max waving to him from the infield of the track. It looked like Max and a bunch of other boys were doing some pre-run stretching. Leo and Kam walked over and joined them.
“Hey, Leo! I was surprised when Bran told me that you were interested in running this year. Aren’t you a senior? And is this your brother?”
“Yeah, I’m a senior. I just started running this past summer, mostly as a way of burning off anger issues.” Leo chuckled. “This is my brother Kameron. He’s a freshman, and he’s the one who suggested trying out for the team. I’m kinda along as support.”
Max stuck his hand out to both brothers. “Nice to meet both of you.” He glanced at Leo. “Running is an excellent choice for a mood enhancer, and it looks to me like you have the body of a runner already.” Max grinned. “Brandon mentioned track. You guys know that we’re trying out for Cross Country today, right? Indoor Track will start in November and Outdoor Track in late March.”
“Yep. We’ll try our hand at Cross Country first. I think I’ll prefer the long-distance stuff better anyway. Little bro is the one who is looking forward to the shorter, faster events in track.”
“Ah-ha! So, Kameron is our speed demon, then?”
“Yep!” Kam laughed. “I outrun Leo all the time short distances. I’ll need to build up my endurance to run the longer races. I’ve only just started putting any effort into running.” As Kam was speaking, other boys started showing up at the track. Some were stretching, others jogging around the track to warm up before the tryouts began. Leo, Kam, and Max started running a warm-up lap. By the time they completed one lap, the coach had arrived, and everyone gathered around to listen to him speak.
Coach Stevens spoke loudly and paced back and forth in front of the boys. He was a middle-aged man but tall and incredibly fit. The coach could easily pass for forty instead of his fifty-two years. He spoke of past championships and future goals. He welcomed back current runners and thanks to new boys for showing up at tryouts. After his speech, Coach separated the boys into two groups. One group ran laps around the track, and the other group ran around a small modified cross country track. After each group finished, they swapped until both groups had run on both tracks.
Everything went well for Kam all through the tryout, except for one thing. Kam decided to run a little too fast on the cross country track, which was a failure. An epic failure, to be honest. The kind of fail that could have gone viral if only it had been caught on camera. Kam turned a corner and failed to see a giant mud puddle. By the time he finished sliding through the mud on his belly, he was covered head to toe. Kam glanced over to the bleachers and saw that Tommy had arrived and was laughing hysterically. He also saw the new boy. The guy that Leo said he met last night. The boy was sitting near the top of the bleachers, by himself, watching the tryouts.
After the tryouts, the coach pulled Kam aside and told him that he would be on the JV team. He patted Kam on the back and said to him that he expected him to do well if he trained hard and showed the speed that he showed today. He also encouraged Kam to try out for the indoor track season in November.
Kam ran over to the bleachers to fill Leo and Tommy in on what the coach said, then they all walked back over to Max. Max made team captain, as expected. Kam made JV, and Leo made varsity. Max’s girlfriend joined the four boys as they left the track field. As they walked across the field, Leo turned back and saw Reese still sitting in the bleachers. He raised a hand and waved. Reese smiled and waved back, then Leo turned and continued walking off the field.
“Becca, you remember Leo, right? This is his brother, Kameron, and,” Max trailed off, looking at Tommy.
Kam spoke up. “This is my bestie, Tommy. Nice to meet you, Becca.”
Becca walked with Leo as they headed for the school parking lot. “Leo, are you still going out with Jasper Anderson?”
“No. We broke up last year.”
“You’re better off without him, in my opinion. He’s a jerk and a stoner. You’re the one that dumped him, I hope.”
“Yes. He was the biggest mistake of my life, and I’ve moved on from all that.”
Becca looked Leo up and down. “You’re hot. I know three or four boys and half a dozen girls who would fight to go out with you. Forget that asshole. Anyway, do you guys want to go with Max and me? We’re going to go to get ice cream to celebrate.”
Kam answered for all three. “Definitely!”
They got to the ice cream shop, and all got their cones. Leo and Max shared stories about Brandon and wondered how all three of them had never hung out together. Leo noticed that Kam and Tommy were off in a corner booth, whispering. He thought it was a little strange but put it out of his head. Leo himself was distracted thinking about meeting up with Charlie later.
Becca noticed Leo keep looking at his phone.
“Hot date later, Leo?” Becca smirked.
“Um, no. Well, sort of.” Leo blushed.
Kam yelled over. “Don’t let him fool ya. It’s a date. Loverboy can’t stop gushing about the guy.”
“Shut up, Kam.” Leo rolled his eyes at his brother.
Becca leaned towards Leo. “Tell me more. Is he cute?”
Leo sighed. “He’s not just cute. He’s totally dreamy. I met him out on the beach yesterday. I told him I’d text him after the cross-country tryout.” Leo said, while looking at his phone again.
Becca stood up. “Well, let’s get you home then. Come on, Max, let’s go.” Becca led the way out of the shop, and they all followed. Max dropped Leo, Kam, and Tommy off and continued towards his own home.
Leo was out of the car and sprinting towards the house almost before the car even stopped. He took the stairs two at a time, rushed into his room, and quickly picked out a change of clothes. He darted out of his room and into the bathroom. Leo jumped into the shower before Kam was even in the house. After the quickest shower of his life, Leo got dressed and texted Charlie to find out where he was. Leo started blow-drying his hair, and did his best to make his hair as presentable as possible in as short a time as possible, then ran out of the house. Glancing down to check for a reply from Charlie. He ran towards the fence but then thought better of it. His body was still too sore for jumping. He turned and went around the fence and onto the beach.
He looked up and down the beach and then spotted Charlie down at the water’s edge. Leo walked up and stood next to the other boy, not saying anything for a minute or two. Then Leo looked over at him. “Sorry I took so long. A guy from the team took my brother and me out for ice cream to celebrate. We both made the team. I made varsity, and Kam made JV.”
Charlie turned towards Leo and reached out and grabbed both his hands. “That’s awesome! I’m so happy for you both!” He leaned in and hugged Leo.
Leo hugged him back before saying, “Thanks, Charlie. I’m happy that Kam and I are doing something together. I think running will be perfect for both of us.” Leo put his hand against Charlie’s face. “You’re so gorgeous, Charlie.” He smiled shyly.
Leo begrudgingly pulled his hand away from Charlie. “We better stop now, or I may decide to try for more,”
Charlie smiled. “You can try, but I’m not sure how far I’d let you get.” He winked.
Leo cleared his throat. “Anyway, what did you do today? I wouldn’t want to suggest doing the same things you already did.” Leo asked.
“We went out on a boat from the aquarium down the street and went on a whale watch. That took up a few hours. It was pretty out on the water, and we did see a few whales. Then mom went shopping, and I walked around town for a while and then came down here.” Charlie took out his phone and showed it to Leo. “Here are the pics of the whales.”
“Let’s walk this way.” Leo held out one hand until Charlie took it. Then he started walking up the beach, away from the direction of the lighthouse. “There’s a small carnival up here. It’s only here in the summer. This is the last week that it will be here until next May. There’s a Ferris wheel, a few other rides, carnival games, and junk food! You want to go? Have you eaten yet?”
“That sounds fun! No, I haven’t had dinner, and carnival food sounds perfect! Let’s go.” Charlie squeezed Leo’s hand even tighter, looked over at him, and smiled a huge smile as they walked up the beach towards the carnival.
By the time they had been at the carnival twenty minutes, Leo was clutching a giant stuffed panda bear that was almost as big as he was.
“I can never win at these carnival games. Thanks for winning this for me, Charlie. I love him. I’m going to name him Charlie. Charlie the Panda.” Leo laughed, leaned over, and kissed Charlie on the cheek. “Let’s go ride the Ferris wheel before it gets too dark, so I can show you my town from up high.”
The Ferris wheel line was short, and the boys were in a seat in just a few minutes. They waited as the worker made sure they were buckled in, and then he locked the safety bar in place. The ride began to slowly turn, stopping and starting at first while other passengers got on or off. When the Ferris wheel neared the top, Leo pointed out some of his favorite spots in town.
“One of the things I love the most is that we’re at the ocean, but just a couple miles away, we can swim and fish in the river.” He pointed off to their left. “Just past where the coastline bends in is the little spot where the town gets its name, Pebble Cove. Named that way because the beach there has more pebbles than sand. The cove is pretty, the water is great, but the beach itself is terrible.” Each time the Ferris wheel went up, Leo pointed out something different to Charlie. He showed him the Seaport Village, where they had the old tall wooden ships on display. He showed him the shops that were set up to resemble a colonial village, and he showed him many other sights.
Charlie grabbed Leo’s hand. “You really love your town, don’t you?’
Leo turned his head to face Charlie. “I do. I mean, I get annoyed by the crowds in tourist season. Most tourists are jerks who don’t care about anything but themselves. They leave trash everywhere. They drink. They fight. I hate that part. But the actual town I do love.”
“So, you hate tourists, huh?” Charlie huffed out a laugh.
Leo blushed. “Cute tourists with hot Australian accents are the exception to my rule.” Leo turned in the seat so that he was facing Charlie, and he leaned in. Charlie was so nervous that he was nearly shaking, but he went for it. Eighteen years was long enough to wait for his first kiss. He wasn’t about to wait one minute longer. Charlie grabbed the front of Leo’s shirt with both hands and pulled him close. Their lips met, tentatively at first. Charlie’s lips parted, and Leo’s tongue darted inside. Leo leaned back against the side of the Ferris wheel car, pulling Charlie down on top of him. The seat strap dug into Charlie’s chest, so he ducked under it, freeing himself. Leo ran his hands up and down Charlie’s broad, muscular back. Charlie had one hand braced against the seat to stop himself from falling, and his other hand on the back of Leo’s neck, pulling him even closer as the kiss deepened.
Clang! A loud metal bang rang in both boys’ ears, and they looked up, eyes wide. The ride had stopped. Their car was at the bottom, the metal bar swung open. The carnival worker was looking at them with a look that was half scowl and half smirk.
“Get off my Ferris wheel, you two! Take that somewhere else.” He waved off in a direction away from the ride. “And you,” he pointed at Charlie. “If I ever see you on my ride again without the safety strap in place, I’ll kick you off permanent!”
Charlie mumbled. “Yes, sir. Of course, sir.” Then he grabbed Leo’s hand, and the two boys ran off as fast as they could away from the Ferris wheel and the line of people that had been standing there and watching the entire thing.
As usual, Griffin woke first but remained in bed, snuggling close to Nicholas. Soon, Nicholas slowly woke, too, enjoying the comforting feel of Griff’s arm around his chest.
“Good morning, Peaches,” Nicholas whispered. “I think I could stay just like this forever.”
“Nice thought but we’ve got places to see and things to do!”
“I’m glad you decided to give the park another try yesterday. You didn’t let the bullies ruin the day for us. I’m proud of you!”
“Yeah, I think I can deal with a lot if you’re walking beside me. We can’t let the demons win!” Griffin said emphatically. “I think we got our money’s worth and the fireworks were a great way to end the day!”
“We will definitely be looking for more theme parks as we travel. That was a great idea you had!” Nicholas agreed.
“Oh, I have a ‘Theme Park Bucket List’!”
“Well, of course you do!”
Griff walked out of the bathroom, drying his hair with the bath towel. “Did you decide which place we’re going to go to first?”
Nicholas glanced up at Griff, then his eyes darted down and back up again, “Looks like your rash is drying up a little. Uh, anyway, we…”
Griffin interrupted, “Thanks for noticing!” he said with a smirk.
Nicholas rolled his eyes. “You’re standing right in front of me in your birthday suit. Besides, I’ve always noticed everything about you, even if I never actually said anything.”
Griffin threw the wet towel in the hamper and looked at Nicholas. “That’s one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said to me.”
“I have my moments. Now put on your boxers, Dr. Rashenstein.”
“You’re so dorky sometimes,” Griff laughed as he put on his boxers and sat at the table. “There. I’m not naked anymore, and yes, the rash is improving, but it’s still itchy. Now, please continue. Where are we off to today?”
Nicholas leaned over, giving Griff a quick peck on the lips. “You do know that you are always irresistible, not just when you’re naked. You could be wrapped up like an Eskimo, and I’d still stop and stare.” He blushed and grinned. “Anyway, the plan of action that makes the most sense is to get breakfast in town and hit the Poe Museum as soon as it opens at ten o’clock. Then on to Belle Isle for a few hours, and last but not least, the “kidnapped” scenario of the escape room at Breakout Games. They have one starting at six. Hopefully it’ll be a good, fun day without any drama!”
Griffin had a huge grin on his face. “To be honest, you lost me at “irresistible,” but I trust your planning. And, yeah, drama-free would be excellent, but yesterday did have it’s good points, thanks to you. Now, let’s get started with today’s adventures!”
“Ok. You finish getting dressed, and don’t forget the Caladryl! I’ll go unhook the bikes.”
After a short bike ride, they arrived outside the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. They looked around, and Nicholas pointed across the street. “That looks like a good place for breakfast.” They locked up their bikes in front of the museum and jogged across the street.
Inside the diner, they sat at a table in the corner and placed their orders. “I love these local places. They are so much nicer than the big chain restaurants.” Nicholas said.
“The chains are usually cheaper, though.”
“Sometimes, you get what you pay for. I’d rather have good food than cheap food any day.”
“Good point,” Griff said, absently scrolling on his phone.
“Whatcha looking at?”
“Twitter, mostly. Did you remember to follow Lorenzo and Olivia? ’Zo sometimes even lets Gustavo post stuff on his account. That kid is hilarious!”
“Yeah, I followed. ’Zo is a great photographer, especially for his age.”
“Truth. He posted pics of Hershey Park this morning. It looks amazing! I have to add that to my bucket list. Hint hint.” Griff grinned at Nicholas.
“If you keep adding theme parks to the list, you’ll need to find a freaking job!”
“Very funny. I’m finished. You ready?” Griff said, pushing his plate to the center of the table.
“Yeah. Time to start today’s adventure!”
By the time they finished breakfast, it was ten o’clock and time to head to the museum. “This should be cool, but it looks small. I hope it’s worth it,” Griffin said.
“It’s supposed to take less than an hour to see everything, but it should be an interesting way to kill some time until we’re ready to head over to Belle Isle. Plus, I love Poe.”
“Just remember, ‘All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream,’ my dear Nicholas.”
“Yeah. Yeah. You love Poe, too.”
“Well, ‘I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity,’ as you well know.”
“You’re not going to speak in Poe quotes the whole while we’re in here, are you?” Nicholas laughed as they walked to the next exhibit.
“Just one more. You know what my favorite Poe quote is, right?”
“Yes. And you know that my opinion of religion and Poe’s are complete opposites but go ahead.” Nicholas motioned for Griff to continue.
“I fall somewhere in between the two of you on the subject, but it does perfectly describe the televangelists. ‘All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry.’” Griff bowed theatrically. “I’m done now. Aww! Where did they come from?” Nicholas was kneeling on the garden path, petting two black cats.
“I read about them on the website. Their names are Edgar and Pluto. They live here.”
“That is so awesome and so fitting. The ‘Enchanted Garden’ is beautiful. I think we’ve seen everything now. You ready to go?”
Nicholas stood. “Yeah. Next stop: Belle Isle.”
The boys pedaled their way across the suspension bridge, enjoying the view of the James River below them. Nicholas yelled over to Griff to be heard above the sound of the raging river. “I see now why the website says the rapids are too dangerous for swimming.”
“That’s for sure. You wanna hike or hit the bike trails?”
“I signed us up for rock climbing lessons!”
“Yeah, really!” Nicholas grinned. “I think you’re turning me into an adrenaline junkie like you!”
“Don’t forget the surfing lessons! You promised me at Kitty Hawk and then plans changed.”
“I haven’t forgotten. I’ll do it. We’ll probably hit a beach again in Maryland.”
“I’m gonna hold you to that! So, do we have a scheduled time for this, or do we just show up?”
“Noon. So, hurry up! We have ten minutes to find it.” Nicholas laughed and pedaled faster.
“I can’t believe you went up so fast the second time. That was amazing, Nicky-poo!” Griff said as he collapsed onto the grass beside Nicholas.
“You’re lucky my arms are so tired, or I’d wallop you. I’ve told you to stop with the ‘Nicky’ crap.”
“You secretly love it almost as much as you love me.” Griff kicked Nicholas’ foot.
Nicholas kicked back. “Maybe.”
“I thought we’d hike, but it’s later than I thought it would be. Let’s get lunch then head back. By the time we shower, it’ll be just about time to go to Breakout Games.”
The boys walked out of Breakout Games nearly jumping for joy. “We did it!” Griff yelled. “Booyah!”
“That was awesome! We will have to do another one sometime. I’m sure we’ll find some more in plenty of the cities we’ll pass through.”
“Too bad there was a timer. Without it, I may have let you stay in those handcuffs a little while longer.” Griff winked.
“Maybe I’ll let you buy a pair.” Nicholas’ blue eyes twinkled in the fading sunlight.
“I think I like this new naughty Nicholas.”
“You’ll like me even better when this,” Nicholas lightly caressed the front of Griff’s jeans, “isn’t covered in spots and Caladryl.” He stared up at Griff, his eyes glazed over in lust.
Griff leaned down, and their lips met in a brief but passion-filled kiss. “You are such a tease. I love it!”
Nicholas’ eyes turned a little sad, “I am having the absolute best time of my life, Griff. I don’t want this trip to end.” His eyes glistened, but he refused to let a tear fall.
“Let’s not think about that yet. I don’t want it to end either. There’s a lot of fun to be had before New York, and a lot of thinking that I have to do.” Griff took Nicholas’ hand, and they strolled back to their bikes.
Griff bounced up out of bed and looked at his phone. It was only 6 am. “Yes! Today is the day! Yes! I get to ride the roller coasters with Nicholas, who is dead asleep still.”
He was itching and burning from the poison ivy rash all over his playground, so he decided to go shower and put more Caladryl on to soothe it. He pulled up the Spotify app and selected “Top Hits Today,” playing it through the Bluetooth speakers. As the warm water began flowing into the shower, he started blurting out the song’s lyrics. He quickly got lost in the song and started swaying his booty back & forth and all around in the shower.
“Mmmmm…. can you please keep the noise down,” Nicholas mumbled. Then, he immediately started laughing as all he could see was Griffin shaking his booty in the shower. He yelled but got no answer, so he knocked on the shower door loudly.
A startled Griff opened the door. “Hey, good you’re up.”
As hard as it was for Nicholas not to laugh, he was still giggling at Griffin. “Now keep it down in here. I’m trying to sleep, but you have some sexy moves in there.”
“Omg!” Griff said. “I’m sorry!” he answered, red-faced and embarrassed. “You saw me dancing. I’m just excited about going to King’s Dominion today with you.”
Nicholas started to head out of the bathroom, and Griff asked him if he could give him the Caladryl off the sink. “Thank you. I can’t believe I got this poison ivy on me in the worst possible place!”
“You’re welcome. I hope it clears up fast!”
After Nicholas had also showered, both the guys got dressed and grabbed a bowl of Lucky Charms. While eating, they talked about their plans together for the day.
“Let’s go, so we’re the first in the gate,” Griffin said eagerly.
“Sure thing, Peaches. I’m coming.”
Walking down the road, cars started passing by, honking at them and waving. “This is gonna be so fun,” Nicholas said.
The guys got to the gates at King’s Dominion and music was playing over the loudspeakers with voices telling them about all the different and fun things to do.
“Hey, Nicholas, we should get the passes that let us go to the front of the lines.”
“I already got them for us online. I thought it would be very special.”
Griffin grabbed Nicholas and kissed him deeply while hugging him tight.
A group of guys yelled at them to stop. “That’s disgusting! We don’t want to see that!”
“That’s kinda intimidating, Nicholas, sorry.”
Nicholas said, “It’s ok, don’t worry about other people. It’s our day.”
The gates opened and the boys headed for the roller coasters first. The first one they found was a mix of steel and wood.
“I’m so excited! We’re in the very front section! Give me a kiss as GoPro is rolling,” Griffin said.
They kissed as they get buckled into their seats, and they heard yelling. “You guys are gross! We told you to stop that!”
Nicholas and Griffin ignored the yelling, and they were off.
“Wow! That was exhilarating!” Griff exclaimed. “I gotta pee, so you get souvenirs from the shop, maybe t-shirts or caps or both, while I use the restroom.”
Griffin headed to the bathroom and was followed by the four redneck bullies.
They blocked the doors and grabbed Griffin, warning him to stop acting gay around them, or next time it would be a lot worse. They dunked his head in the toilet bowl and flushed. “Got it? Last warning!” They shoved Griffin to the ground and left.
“Hey there. Why are you so wet? What took you so long?” Nicholas asked.
“Oh, it was nothing. Let’s just go to the next coaster.”
After riding most of the coasters, both boys decided to play a few games.
“Hey, Nicholas, your favorite animal! I’ll try to win you one.”
A friendly family, parents and a young son and daughter, sat down beside them to play, too. They smiled and said, “Hello.” Then two of bullies sat down and started talking junk to them.
Ignoring them, Griffin won the game and animal for Nicholas and Nicholas, out of pure joy, hugged and kissed Griffin. “Thank you so much! I love it, and I love you!”
The two guys jumped up yelling and cussing at both of them. The parents jumped up, too, and got right in the boys’ faces.
“Leave them alone! They have the right to love whoever they want to love. If you don’t like it, don’t look!”
“Shut up, lady! They’re gonna get their faces beat in! Get out of the way!” Griffin was shoved down to the ground, scraping and cutting up his legs, arms, and hands.
“That’s it! Leave them alone, punks, or you’ll be dealing with a lot more trouble,” the dad said. “I’m tired of people like you putting down guys like them. All they want is to be treated equally, and they’re not hurting anybody. So, stop, or the police will be called.”
Nicholas had also jumped up yelling, “Leave Griff alone! He doesn’t deserve this! I’m not letting you hurt him!”
Griffin was just lying there, trying to hide his tears and not talking to anyone. He got himself up and sat down on a bench. Park security showed up and dispersed the crowd.
“Are you ok, young man?” the mom asked.
“Griffin, please say something, babe,” Nicholas implored.
“I’m ok, just sad that hate is still so prevalent in this world. I didn’t tell you earlier that they held me down in the bathroom and gave me a swirly. They threatened me and shoved me down. It brought back memories of the high school bathroom and getting picked on and threatened. I want to be treated normal just like everyone else, but I guess that day won’t come.”
“Come eat with my family and me, guys,” the dad said. “We want to buy your lunch. Please?”
“We accept and thank you for standing up for us. We don’t get that much.”
They ate lunch together and chatted about what happened and about their family life. They believed that everyone has a right to love who they want. Richard, Susan, Ethan, and Jenny said their goodbyes and exchanged information.
“Griff, weren’t they a sweet family? Griff? Earth to Griff, are you ok?” Nicholas asked.
“No, sorry, I’m not,” Griff started crying. “I’m going back to the RV. I can’t stay here. I want you to stay and ride more. I’ll be waiting for you back at the RV, ok? I need some alone time.”
″Ok, Peaches. Be safe, and I’ll be there in a little while. I won’t leave yet, only because you asked me not to. I love you, babe,” Nicholas said reluctantly, as he watched Griffin walk away.
Back at the RV, Griff sat on the bed crying and remembering being teased in school, and now he was embarrassed about what happened in the park. “Why couldn’t I stand up for myself” Why do I shut down?” Griff blasted some Metallica and drank a soda, calming himself down some. The music changed to Shawn Mendes and, yes, an old Justin Bieber song.
Nicholas, unable to enjoy himself without Griffin, soon arrived back at the RV and sat down next to Griff. He didn’t say a word, just held him tight. Nothing needed to be said. Just being in that moment, holding each other close, seemed to make everything feel safe and right again.
“Tommy, no one’s there. Stop fooling around and help me bring these boxes in the house.”
“Now he left. I think he’s mad.”
When Tommy walks into his new bedroom, he sees Lucas sitting on his bed, and says, “I thought you were gone for good.”
Lucas stretches out on the bed. “Nope. You’re stuck with me. This is my room, but I guess I can share.”
“Mom can’t see you. “
Lucas laughs. “Good catch.”
“So, you lived here before? What happened to your family?” asked Tommy.
“Dad deserted us when I was real young. He used to hit mom and she cried a lot. We were both happy when he left.”
Tommy opened a box full of clothes and began putting things away.
“Where’s your mom?” asked Tommy.
“We were in a car accident,” said Lucas. “A drunk ran a red light and t-boned us. Mom died immediately and I was taken to the hospital. I died in the emergency room. Now I can’t find mom, so I came back here.”
Tears welled up in Tommy’s dark brown eyes.
“Please, don’t be sad Tommy,” Lucas said as he began to phase in and out then disappeared.
“Lucas, where did you go? Please come back.”
Lucas reappeared then explained, “Sorry about that. Sadness drains my energy field.”
“You can bet as soon as my energy recharges I’ll be back,” Lucas said.
Tommy asked, “Can you please tell me what’s going on with you?” There was a silence that seemed to go on for what seemed like forever, and then can the loudest boom and everything shook violently.
Tommy’s mom yelled from the other room, “Tommy! What was that? Are you ok?”
“I’m ok, mom! I’ll be right there!” Tommy looked at Lucas. “What was that?”
“He’s coming! Get out! He can’t find you in my room!” Lucas looked scared and used his energy to nudge Tommy towards the door.
In the hall, Lucas held onto the doorknob, while Tommy cringed at the loud, angry voice booming from inside his bedroom.
“Lucas! I can smell him. If you’ve shown yourself again, I’m going to kick your friendly Casper ass!”
“W-W-Who’s that?” asked Tommy, backing down the hallway away from the bedroom door.
“Someone you never want to meet,” cautioned Lucas.
Tommy suddenly backed into a body and he thought that thing, that monster, whatever it was had escaped the room.
Two hands grabbed Tommy’s shoulders.
“Tommy! What was that loud noise? What are you doing?”
Tommy was never so happy to see his mom. He grabbed her and hugged her tight.
“Oh, my God, Mom! You literally scared the sh__” he caught himself, “livin’ daylights out of me!”
Tommy looked as white as a sheet as he continued to shake with fright.
“You look like you have seen a ghost, son.”
“Duh, Mom. That’s what I have been trying to tell you.”
“Stop being silly. There are no such things as ghosts.”
Suddenly, all of the walls started shaking pictures flew off walls and the lights flickered! “Mom, see that it’s the mean one he’s messing with us now!”
Mom said, “That’s utter nonsense. It’s either a jet flying over or an earthquake. “Go to your room and stay there. You will scare your brother.”
Tommy made a move as if to re-enter his bedroom. A cold force stopped him. “No, Tommy, you can’t! Please don’t go in there!” Lucas wailed.
Tommy looked from the ghost back to his mom. Tears of anguish stung his eyes, “Mom, I’m sorry,” and he rushed past her and down the hall.
Sobbing loudly, Tommy bolted wildly out of the house, down the street, and into a public park. He slowed and threw himself on the grass near a picnic table.
As he used his tee shirt to wipe his eyes, he felt guilty about leaving his mom alone.
“You run pretty fast, Tommy.”
“Lucas? You followed me? That thing in my room has got to go. Mom and I can’t live there like that,” said Tommy.
Tommy sniffed and wiped his nose on the arm of his tee shirt.
“What is that thing?”
“I don’t have all the answers,” said Lucas. “I haven’t been dead long enough.”
“I wish there was some kind of instruction manual for dead kids,” said Lucas. “Maybe we could find something at the library.”
“The LIBRARY?” yelled Tommy. “We can use my iPhone.”
“Your what-phone?” questioned Lucas.
“Hey! Just exactly how long have you been dead?”
“I really have no idea. I can’t feel time pass at all. I remember playing Galaga at the arcade next to Blockbuster video store yesterday.” Lucas answered.
“The arcade? Blockbuster? They have been closed for years. l can play games and watch movies on my iPhone.” Tommy explained.
Then all of a sudden, the phone rang. It was Mrs. Winslow his next-door neighbor. “Tommy you need to hurry home. Something has happened. Your mother said to call you and tell you to rush right home.”
“I’m on my way. I’ll be there soon as I can.” Tommy hung up phone and ran home quickly.
Tommy slowed as he got home. His mom and brother were out front with a cop. His mom waved him over. “Why didn’t you say there was someone in the house? I didn’t see him, but he pushed your brother!”
Tommy’s younger brother, Brandon, scowled right at Lucas. “Who’s he, Tommy?”
“I’m Lucas. I met Tommy at the park. Right, Tommy?”
“Uh, yeah. Right. We met at the park.”
“Hello, Lucas. I’m Tommy’s mom.”
Tommy looked from his mom to Lucas. “Mom, you can see Lucas?”
“Of course, dear. Really, I don’t know what’s gotten into you!”
“0kay,” said the cop. “Why are you pretending there’s some invisible kid there?”
“Wait, you can’t see him?” asked Mrs. Mills.
“See who?” asked the cop.
“Him!” she said, pointing at Lucas. “That boy! Right there!”
“Look lady, do you want to report a crime?”
“Ma’am tell him no,” said Lucas.
“Errrr, I’m sorry, Officer. There’s been some sort of mixup,” said Mrs. Mills.
The cop mumbled something under his breath and returned to his car.
“What’s going on?” asked Tommy’s mom.
“No human can see me unless I let them,” explained Lucas.
Tommy, Brandon and their mom walked back into their house. The air in the living room became as cold as ice. A loud crash came from inside Tommy’s bedroom.
“It must be that thing again!” Tommy yelled. “We really need to find out what that thing is, Lucas.”
As Tommy slowly moved to his bedroom door he was sweating profusely and couldn’t calm his breathing. “Are you coming Lucas?”
“No. I can’t, Tommy, be careful!” Lucas said.
Tommy opened his door and stepped inside. His stuff was floating around the room and bright lights shined out of the closet.
Before he could take another step, Tommy felt a cold breeze and Lucas was there in front of him. “I can’t let you face him, Tommy. He’s my problem.”
“Who…” Tommy started to speak but was cut short by all of his stuff crashing to the floor.
“There you are, boy. Daddy is home.”
Tommy was scared but he just had to know who or what was behind this. He finally got his nerve up enough to speak.
“WHO ARE YOU?” Tommy shouted in his most demanding voice.
A disembodied voice shouted back.
“SILENCE YOU LITTLE HUMAN TWERP OR YOU’LL JOIN MY SON IN DEAD LAND!”
“Dead Land?” Thought Tommy.
Now it began to make sense. Lucas’ dad treated him bad in life, and now he must have died and is hunting him down in the afterlife. Tommy had to help his new friend… somehow… no matter what it took.
Tommy yelled, “SHUT UP YOU BIG BULLY!”
The demon inside of Lucas’ dad had completely taken control of him in the afterlife. Its eyes were now glowing bright red. Lucas floated in front of Tommy to protect him.
“Ah, there you are Lucas boy! Looks like you found a new boyfriend. You filthy freak!”
Suddenly, with a sudden upward motion Tommy was lifted off his feet with force so strong he blacked out. Lucas screamed at the demon that his dad turned into, “Stop! You want me, not Tommy. Please! He’s just my friend and I don’t want nothing to happen to him. Please, oh no!”
Brandon raced into the room and knelt by his brother. He shook Tommy, trying to wake him. Lucas growled, blasting a wave of energy at the ghost of his father.
“Just as much of a sissy now as when you were alive. How many of your little boyfriends am I gonna have to kill, boy?”
As Brandon was shaking Tommy, trying to get him to respond, his eyes focused on an object hanging on the wall. It was a large religious cross. He remembered seeing a movie where a cross was used against evil.
Brandon jumped up and grabbed the cross from the wall.
He raised it high above his head until he could reach no higher. Brandon yelled at the top of his lungs.
“I COMMAND YOU IN THE NAME OF CHRIST… LEAVE THIS HOUSE AND LEAVE US ALONE!”
The demon inside Lucas’ dad turned into mist and flowed out through the air duct. His ghostly shell was left laying on carpet, unconscious. The cross and incantation also made the ghost of Lucas light up like a Christmas tree. He too collapsed onto the floor.
Brandon yelled for his mom. “Mom! Hurry!”
Slowly, mom walks into the room with an evil laugh, “Hahahaha! You think you can get rid of me that easily little boy?” With a gust of air, the cross was chucked out the window. “Awe, what’s a matter, son? Mommy is gone for a while!”
Lucas’ energy levels fluctuated then stabilized just in time to hear what the boys’ mom said. “Brandon, help Tommy get up. I have to get you guys out of here quick. We’re in double trouble now that the demon and my dad have separated!”
The ghost of Lucas’ father began to move.
Brandon helped Tommy to a standing position and as Tommy’s senses started returning, he saw his mom standing there.
Without knowing, Tommy instinctively ran to his mother’s waiting and protecting arms.
Brandon made a grab, but Tommy slipped through his fingers.
Simultaneously Lucas and Brandon yelled to Tommy.
As Tommy reached his mom, the evil within her possessed body grabbed him and pulled him close, their bodies melting into one large evil entity.
Meanwhile, the ghost of Lucas’ dad awoke. He saw Lucas and said, “I’m so sorry for what I did and said to you son. The demon took over. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Lucas’ dad lunged at the demon possessing Tommy and his mom. “Take me!”
The demon used his powers to take Lucas dad and send him away from the house to the netherworld! “Now, as for you, little boy, we have plans for you.”
Lucas stood in front of Brandon and said. “You will leave him alone! What if I take his place?”
“No! Lucas, you can’t I won’t let you!” Brandon screamed.
The demon hesitated and almost split back into two. Lucas took the opportunity to fling it against the wall. A path to the front door stood clear.
“Brandon, come on! We need to get outta here and come up with a plan!”
With a final glance at the demon, Brandon followed.
Lucas ran out the front door and just as Brandon reached it, he noticed his Super Soaker Water Canon in the top of an unpacked box. He grabbed it without stopping and continued out the door.
“Lucas!” he yelled, “Look!” Brandon held up the water gun for Lucas to see.
“That’s only a toy,” said Lucas.
“Yeah, but what if we filled it with… Holy Water?” suggested Brandon.
“It could work,” said Lucas.
They stood out in the middle of the street, looking one way, then the other.
“But where are we going to find Holy Water?”
Brandon thought for a minute then said, “We could order holy water on Amazon or go into that church across the street. They have it for baptisms.”
“Going to the Amazon is too far.” Lucas replied.
“Not that Amazon,” Brandon giggled. “Forgot this is all new to you.”
“Well we can’t just go into the church and get it,” Brandon said.
“I know. I can’t enter the church. I’m dead and it is a barrier to me,” Lucas said.
Then all the sudden a lady in white came floating down the road with beautiful flowing blond hair and emanating light all around her.
Lucas’s voice trembled as he watched his mother float towards him. “Mom! I looked everywhere for you! Where were you?!”
“I was stuck in an in between place. I tried to get to you, but I couldn’t. Your father freed me and said you needed help!”
Brandon watched, mouth agape.
Lucas and his mom hugged, creating a bright, white halo around them. Brandon was frozen in awe at the miracle he witnessed.
“Mom, I want you to meet Brandon. He’s a human. His family is being possessed by an evil entity. We need to find Holy Water… quick.”
The mother spirit glanced around and saw the church nearby.
“Brandon,” she instructed, “You need to run inside that church and yell for help. If no one hears you, look for a stone structure that looks like a wishing well. That’s where you’ll find Holy Water.”
Brandon opened the heavy, oak church doors and stepped inside. He looked around but didn’t see a soul. He did however see a bird bath looking thing with water. “This must be it.” Brandon thought to himself. He hastily filled up his super soaker then ran back outside.
“Now that I have my super soaker filled with holy water, I’ll see what I can do.” Brandon thought to himself. Then out of nowhere a swarm of mayflies started descending towards him. Brandon started to run as fast as he could, but when he turned down the alley, a pack of wild dogs chased him to large fence.
Brandon backed against the fence at the end of the alley and raised his super-soaker. He had to try something, and it was the only weapon he had. He shot at the cloud of mayflies and each one that was hit by the holy water burst into flames!
Now the dogs were closing in.
Brandon aimed carefully at the lead dog and squeezed the trigger. It was a direct hit and the dog howled as it burst into a small fireball and disappeared.
Brandon smiled and quipped, “Yes!”
This was just like a video game and he was good… really good at games.
He looked down the barrel of his super-soaker and kept his eyes focused on the sights.
Each time he aimed and pulled the trigger, he uttered, “Pow!”
“Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow!”
Every shot was a hit. Every hit destroyed its target. Finally, he stood alone, his heart beating hard.
Suddenly, the demon possessing Tommy and his mom appeared.
Brandon yelled, “Get out of my mom and brother now!”
He pulled the trigger on the super soaker, but it was dry. The demon smirked.
“Lucas, help!” Brandon screamed as he too was taken into the demon.
As Lucas watched Brandon be taken in, he felt so defeated. After all he was just a simple little boy ghost. “What am I to do? I brought this on this family.” He thought. In an instant he had idea. “I will go sit outside the church and leap into the priest when he comes out. He can help me figure this out!”
The priest exited the church and walked down the steps. Lucas leapt forward. Just before he reached the priest, a blast of cold power pushed him aside.
Lucas’s mother stood on the sidewalk. “You were always an impulsive teen, even when you were alive. There are other ways.”
The priest stopped suddenly as a cold shiver ran through his body. He looked around, but saw no one.
“Hello! Is someone there?”
He got no answer, so started on his way.
He stopped again and turned around. Slowly, out of thin air, a young boy started materializing.
“Sir, we need your help. Please. My human friends and their mom are all possessed by a terribly evil spirit.”
Suddenly Lucas’ mom’s spirit materialized next to Lucas and confirmed what he said.
“It’s got three humans and grows bigger and stronger with each passing minute.”
Another spirit appeared next to Lucas and his mom. It was his dad who had been freed of the demon. He hugged his family saying,
“Love you both. I’m sorry for the bad things I did in life. We must stop the demon from destroying another family. Can you help us priest?”
“I don’t know if I can,” said the priest. “but I can try to do my best and assess the situation. I will consult with God and see if he can help me out.”
Meanwhile, the demon was trying to talk with Satan. The demon snarled, “This is not just my battle, it’s the ultimate evil vs good!”
The sidewalk cracked under the demon’s feet. Smoke and the odor of sulfur filled the air. The priest uttered a frightened squeak and fled back into the church.
A voice bellowed from the crack. “It is not your place to question me, demon. Collect the souls, especially the boy!”
The demon headed toward Lucas, but Lucas’ dad jumped in front of him.
“LEAVE HIM ALONE!” yelled the dad spirit, as he made the form of a cross using his arms and held them up in front of the demon’s eyes. “I COMMAND YOU TO LEAVE!”
The action did nothing but annoy the demon.
“GET OUT OF MY FACE,” bellowed the demon. “Satan wants the boy’s soul and he shall have it.”
The demon swatted at the dad spirit, knocking him off his feet, then grabbed at Lucas.
Lucas saw the evil claw-like hand coming at him and bolted for the church door.
Lucas’ mom and dad continued to fight the demon as its clawed hand grabbed Lucas’ head. The memory of his death rushed back to Lucas. He recalled his dad yelling at him in the arcade, running into the basement and falling down a shaft. The same shaft he saw in Tommy’s basement.
Lucas remembered he came face to face with Satan before. He was told that one day they had plans for him and that he was the chosen one to lead them to victory over the forces of good. But remembers that something was told to him by something else but he can’t focus on what.
Lucas felt himself being absorbed into the demon. His parents continued to fight but it did no good. Then the church doors flew open and the priest stood there holding the biggest balloon that Lucas had ever seen. The priest threw it at the demon’s face. Water sprayed everywhere.
The Holy Water spilled down over the demon and its skin began burning and smoking. It released its hold of Lucas’ soul and Lucas slowly returned to the Holy Spirit that he had been.
The Demon becomes transparent and the human bodies of Tommy, Brandon and Mrs. Mills are released.
The six of them stood there with the Priest looking on, thinking the demon had finally been defeated.
The ground suddenly rumbled, feeling much like an earthquake and the small crack that had opened previously got wider.
A netherworld voice trumpeted from the depths of hell.
“Spirits back to limbo where you belong!”
Huge vines grew out from the crack, wrapping around Lucas, his mom and dad slowly dragging them underground.
“Tommy, you will find our bodies in the shaft. Give us a proper burial so we can finally be at peace!”
“I will Lucas. I promise!”
As Tommy made his way back home, he thought about all that had happened he was still shocked to know ghost and demons existed he made a promise to himself right then and there that he would always help kids and families being haunted or possessed by demons. He headed for his basement.
As soon as they reached home, Tommy’s mom and brother collapsed on the couch and fell asleep. The ordeal inside the demon wore them out. Tommy was too restless and was determined to find the bodies. He went downstairs and located the opening to the shaft and peered inside.
It was pitch black inside, but Tommy could see that the shaft went down a short way, then cut its way back into a tunnel. A rickety wooden ladder was attached to the side of the shaft’s wall.
He climbed onto the ladder and carefully made his way down to the tunnel.
He peered into the tunnel.
‘Hello… Hello… Hello…’ only an echo answered.
Tommy pulled his iPhone from his pocket and turned on the flashlight. He pointed it into the tunnel but could see only a few feet ahead.
He cautiously entered the dark, damp space.
Tommy was glad to be on solid ground. He thought to himself since he almost slipped off the ladder a few times coming down, “I’ll bet that when Lucas’ parents came looking for him, they fell to their death climbing down that rickety old ladder.” He shined his phone’s flashlight on the floor and saw three skeletons. He carefully collected the bones in the three canvas bags he had brought with him.
Before he could start climbing back up, Tommy heard a loud booming voice, “You Can’t Have Them! A swift glowing red hand snatched the canvas bags out of his hands. They belong to us and now so do you! You will never be able to get out of this portal to Hell!
Something grabbed Tommy’s legs and pulled him deeper into the tunnel.
Tommy kicked at the claw that held him, but he couldn’t get free. In desperation, he yelled into his cell. “Text Brandon. Help! I’m in the tunnel! Found bones but the demon got me!”
The one bar he had on his phone disappeared so he tossed it behind him, hoping it would be found.
Brandon and his mom had been sleeping upstairs, but Brandon had found the urge to pee. As he stood at the toilet relieving himself,
He pulled his phone from his pocket and clicked on messages, seeing what Tommy had just wrote.
He zipped up and ran back to his mom.
“MOM! WAKE UP!”
Brandon showed the text to his mother. Mrs. Mills jumped up and the two of them hurried to the basement.
They found the uncovered shaft entrance but couldn’t see or hear anything.
“Brandon, run upstairs and get flashlights from the kitchen.”
Brandon quickly got the flashlights and ran back into the basement. He and his mom were right under where the arcade was years ago. They shined their flashlights down into the dark shaft and yelled,
“I’m going down.” Brandon said.
“Be careful honey!”
He was getting scared as he made his way deeper and deeper, it was so dark. He got to a spot that was so hot that he was sweating badly and was hearing screaming and very loud voices. “Boy, how dare you come down here. You can’t help your brother. He’s mine now. Replacing Lucas in my army! Roar!”
Brandon recognized the voice of the demon. The same demon who he had just recently escaped from. He stopped and picked up his brother’s iPhone. Further along, he found the three canvas bags. He wondered to himself, “If I bury the bones, will they be free to help me again?”
He grabbed the bags and quickly made his way back to the basement.
“Mom, these are the bones of our three spirit friends. I think we need to bury them to lift this curse and get Tommy back.”
“I think you’re right, son. Take them to the church yard and hallow ground. Hurry!”
Brandon grabbed his folding Boy Scouts shovel and ran to the church. His mom had phoned ahead, and the Priest was waiting. He quickly led Brandon around back to the cemetery.
“Dig right there,” said the Priest, pointing. “Make it deep enough so we won’t ever have to disturb it.”
Back in the tunnel, the demon had Tommy pinned to the wall and was ready to consume his soul. Suddenly, a brilliant white light flooded the tunnel. The demon screeched then disappeared as three angelic beings appeared. It was Lucas with his mom and dad.
“Our souls have been freed.”
Tommy was then greeted by an angelic figure. The angel spoke, “You are the guardian of good here on earth. I am bestowing you with special abilities to help you in your journey of fighting evil demon spirits and protecting souls from evil. Do you accept?”
Tommy grinned. “Yes! I will gladly accept. Thank you! I am ready.”
Tommy looked at his mother. She nodded, knowingly. He faced the three spirits. “As Guardian I can release you to Heaven.”
Lucas blurted, “I wanna stay with you!” As Lucas’ parents agreed they shimmered and were gone. Tommy took Lucas’ hand and Lucas became a live boy once more.
Tommy led Lucas into his bedroom, hand in hand. “I’m so happy that mom got all the paperwork sorted to let you live here. I even started cleaning out the spare room to make it into your bedroom.”
“Don’t you mean your bedroom? This is my bedroom.”
“Very funny. This is my bedroom.”
“It was mine first. I guess we’ll have to share it.” Lucas smirked and winked.
Tommy blushed a bright red. “I wish. Mom would never go for that, though.”
Lucas sighed. “Ok. Ok. Let’s go check out this new bedroom.”
Back down under the arcade, the tunnel began to glow with an orange light again. Heat and the smell of sulfur poured forth. A clawed hand appeared out of the darkness pulling its owner forward. The demon’s eyes flashed with Hellfire. “I’m not done with you yet, boy. I’m coming and Hell is coming with me.”