Running Toward Love (Chapter 4)

Chapter 4

They slowed down when they turned a corner and entered a different part of the carnival. Charlie spoke up. “Hey, do you want to grab something to eat?”

“Yum junky carnival food sounds great!” Leo chuckled. “Let’s go find some deep-fried chicken and onion rings, and when we’re done with that, some fried dough for dessert!”

Charlie rolled his eyes at the choices but followed as Leo led the way to the food booths.

After they ate what passed for dinner, the two boys walked through the carnival midway finishing their fried dough. Leo glanced over at Charlie and smirked. He stepped directly in front of Charlie and looked up at the taller boy, then he reached up and pulled Charlie’s face down to his own. As Leo leaned in close, his tongue darted out, and he slowly licked just to the side of Charlie’s mouth on both sides, then pulled back.

“What was that for?” Charlie beamed, his eyes burning with desire.

“Powdered sugar. I love it. I didn’t want to see it go to waste.” Leo shrugged and grinned and started walking again. They were passing through the carnival games when Leo suddenly stopped.

“I want to try and win something. This looks like a fun game. You won the panda for me. Now I want to win something for you.” Leo was hugging his giant panda as he spoke.

“Awe. I’m glad you like your panda, but you don’t have to win me anything. It’s sweet of you to want to, though.” Charlie replied.

“I know I don’t have to. I want to. Now hold onto Charlie, Jr.” Leo handed the panda to Charlie. The game had six big metal milk jugs, and the object was to toss a baseball into one of the pitchers—two dollars for three baseballs. Leo won four times and traded up to the prize he wanted. Sixteen dollars later, he handed a giant stuffed dolphin to Charlie.

“A dolphin to welcome you to our little fishing town.” Leo leaned in and kissed Charlie.

“Should I name him Leo?” Charlie smirked. “Nah. I won’t copy you. Pebbles for Pebble Cove.”

“That’s perfect.”

Charlie pulled Leo close and kissed him before pulling back and looking down into his eyes. “There are too many people around right here. Let’s walk somewhere else.”

Leo’s eyes lit up, and a devilish grin spread across his face. “Absolutely brilliant plan. Let’s go!”

The two boys headed towards the carnival exit, but then Leo pointed in between the fence and the Ferris wheel. “Back there. Behind the Ferris wheel. No one will ever go back there.” He pulled Charlie along by their linked hands until they were just outside the reach of the carnival lights. Now in near darkness, Leo turned and faced Charlie. He placed one hand flat against the older boy’s chest and firmly yet gently pushed him up against the fence. Leo freed his other hand from Charlie’s grasp and slowly ran both hands up Charlie’s body until his hands were at the collar of Charlie’s light blue button-down shirt. Leo pulled on the collar, and Charlie was forced to bend down slightly. Leo leaned in, and the two met in an open-mouthed kiss. Charlie was older. Charlie was taller. However, Leo was in charge this night. Leo broke away from Charlie’s mouth and started licking and kissing Charlie’s jawline and then up to his ear. After nibbling on Charlie’s ear, Leo began to kiss his way down the older boy’s neck.

Leo let go of Charlie’s collar, and his hands found their way to the top button of his shirt. He unbuttoned the top button and kissed the newly exposed skin. His fingers shaking just a bit with nerves, he undid the next button and then the next. He kissed and licked his way down with each button he released. Lower and lower. He was about halfway down Charlie’s chest when he felt the other boy run his fingers through his hair and grip the top of his head.

“Yeah. Oh my God, Leo, that’s amazing.” Charlie said as he gently applied pressure, urging Leo even lower. Leo was on his knees in front of Charlie now. More buttons unbuttoned—more kissing and licking. Leo finally released the bottom button on the shirt and spread the shirt open. Leo’s tongue darted out and into Charlie’s innie belly button. Charlie moaned and gripped Leo’s head even tighter. Leo rubbed up and down the front of Charlie’s khaki board shorts, feeling just how into this Charlie really was. Charlie moaned even louder. “Leo. Oh, God, Leo. Wait. Stop.” Charlie grabbed Leo’s shirt and pulled him back to a standing position. Charlie’s eyes were glazed over with lust, and he was breathing heavily. He took a deep breath and began to speak before Leo could cause him to change his mind. “We have to stop. I want you so bad, but not here. Not now.”

“Why? Did I do something wrong?” Leo had a worried look in his eyes.

“No. Oh, God, no. Absolutely not. It’s just that I,” Charlie hesitated and blushed before speaking again. “I’ve never done anything like this before. Hell, the kiss on the Ferris Wheel was my first ever kiss.” He put his hand up to stop Leo from interrupting. “I know we’ve just met, but I do think I want more of my firsts to be with you. Not here, though. Not in a muddy field behind the carnival where anyone could,” As if on queue a loud noise interrupted them.

Crash! Bang! “Hey! You two! What are you doing over there?! You don’t belong back here! The carnival is closed!” A voice yelled.

Both boys nearly jumped out of their skins. Leo spun and looked towards the yelling and saw a carnival worker. The man was emptying trash into a bin and had seen the boys. Leo grabbed Charlie’s hand, and they ran off into the darkness. They ran through the exit and out onto the beach. They never even slowed down until they were near to the path leading to Leo’s house, where they finally stopped.

They were both beet red and sweating. Leo and Reese looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“Oh my God, Charlie, that was… I don’t even know. Exciting. Frightening. Embarrassing. But all in all, one of the best nights of my life.” Leo grabbed Charlie’s shirt, which was still hanging open, and pulled him close. He ran his hands up Charlie’s smooth, bare chest and wrapped his arms around his neck. Leo leaned in and gave Charlie another kiss. After a few minutes, Leo pulled back and leaned against the fence. “I wish I’d known that you hadn’t been kissed. I would have planned something more romantic.”

“God, Leo. On top of the Ferris Wheel with you. On a beautiful night like this. It was something I’ll never forget. And the rest. I’ll never forget that, either.” Charlie blushed a bright red.

Leo’s smile nearly split his face in two. “When you’re ready, we need to pick up where we left off. I’ll think up where we can go. Make some plans. How does that sound?”

“It sounds heavenly. I want to do that again, for sure. I’m sorry I got nervous, but we would have been interrupted anyway. We’ll talk about it. I don’t need candlelight and roses, just something better than a dirty, smelly field.”

“You deserve the best, especially for your first time. No more talking tonight, though. Unfortunately, it is very late, and I should have been home an hour ago. I have to go, but I fully expect to pick up this conversation again. I don’t have any plans after classes are out tomorrow, so I should be out here around three. What about you?”

“I have no idea what my mom has planned for us to do tomorrow. I’ll text you as soon as I know, and I’ll text you again when I’m here and waiting for you. We can definitely pick up this conversation again. I want to pick up where we left off. It was awesome. You are awesome.” He leaned down and kissed Leo. “Goodnight, Leo. See you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, Charlie. I’ll look for your text tomorrow. See you then.” Leo turned, smiling a huge smile. He ran past the fence and continued toward home.

————————————————————————————————————

Leo was halfway between the edge of the beach and home when he heard a voice in the darkness. “So, we meet again. Is it destiny or just a small town?” Reese said.

Leo stopped and turned toward the voice. “Probably just a small town. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.” He said with a smirk.

“I think there were more kids in my last school than people in this town.” Reese laughed.

“Where are you from? We haven’t managed to get past directions and cafeteria advice in our conversations so far.” Leo chuckled.

“Just outside D.C. Mom got tired of the big city. She works in hotel management, so it was easy for her to stay working in the same company and transfer here. Half your town is hotels.”

“Yep. Our town triples in population in the summer. Stupid tourists. Well, most tourists.” Leo blushed.

Reese motioned toward the beach. “Were you out running again? Didn’t you get enough at school today?”

“No, I was on a date.” Leo grinned.

“With the guy from last night?”

“Yep. His name is Charlie. I actually just met him yesterday morning.”

“That’s awesome. Does he go to our school?”

“He… he’s from out of town. That’s why I corrected myself and said most tourists.”

“How long is he in town for?”

“Just a few days. I really shouldn’t expect much out of this, but I really like him. I don’t know what will happen. I’m going to take this one day at a time and hope for the best.”

“Good luck, Leo. You seem cool. I hope it works out for you. Anyway, it’s late. I was just out for a stroll. I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”

“This is my house right here.” Leo pointed at his house. “I should get inside, too.” See you tomorrow, Reese.” Both boys turned and went their separate ways.

————————————————————————————————————

Leo reached over and turned the loud, buzzing alarm off. He rarely needed it to wake him up, but he stayed out late last night and then couldn’t get right to sleep. Thoughts of the night before, again, brought a smile to his face. Leo pushed those thoughts away and got out of bed. Time to run. He peeked into Kam’s room and saw that the bed was empty. Good. He was already up. Leo changed into his running gear, put on his sneakers, and went downstairs to look for Kam.

“Leo! I’m in here.” Kam yelled from the kitchen, in between gulps of orange juice. “You must have had fun last night. I’m never up before you.” Kam smirked at his brother.

“Not as much fun as I almost had.” Leo blushed. “I’ll tell you all about it on the run. Let’s get going. We’re already behind schedule.” Leo took a quick drink of orange juice and went out the door, quickly followed by his brother.

“I can’t wait to hear this story,” Kam said as the two boys crossed the street and jumped the fence onto the beach.

Leo looked out onto the beach, glanced in both directions, then looked back at Kam. Round trip to the carnival gate today. We’re running late.”

“Wow,” Kam said in mock astonishment. “Late sleeper and short run. What’s next? Skipping classes?” Kam laughed as they started their run.

Leo told his brother about the night before, leaving out only the most explicit parts. The brothers didn’t keep secrets from each other. They told each other all the secrets they’d never utter to another soul.

“Holy crap, Leo. I guess you did have a fun night! Behind the Ferris wheel? Really? You’re lucky they didn’t call the cops! Dad would have flipped out. His first kiss, though, that’s really special. Something he’ll always remember. Does he know that it wasn’t your first?” Kam laughed and clapped his brother on the shoulder. They had reached the carnival gate and now started on their return trip.

“I’m telling you out here, so there’s no chance of being overheard. I know how dad is. And yes, I’m almost certain he knows that it wasn’t my first, but we haven’t had that conversation yet. I’ll tell him my limited history when we discuss plans to continue what we started behind the carnival. I think I’m in love with him already, Kam. I think I fell for him the moment I saw him on the beach Sunday morning, after the fight with Matt.” Leo’s face was bright red, a combination of exertion and blushing.

“You’re an idiot, Leo, but I’m not surprised. You wouldn’t do what you said you did if you didn’t care about him. You’re not that kind of guy. Do you guys have plans for tonight?”

“He wasn’t sure what his mother had planned for them to do today, but yes, I do hope to see him tonight.” Leo jumped the fence and headed towards the house, looking back over his shoulder. “If you’re ready first, heat me up some oatmeal, please. We’re still a little behind schedule! We don’t want to miss the bus!”

————————————————————————————————————

Leo barely had time to get his Starbucks and still make it to the bus stop on time. He didn’t even stop in the cafeteria; he just ran straight to his first class, calculus. Leo saw Brandon on the other side of the room, but there were no empty seats nearby, and class was starting. He cursed his bad luck and opened his textbook.

After class, the two best friends met up in the hallway. “You have Bio next, right?” Leo asked.

“Yep. Aren’t you heading for Creative Writing?”

“Yes. Damn. Opposite directions. Make sure to get to the cafeteria on time today. I have a story to tell you!”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can. That sounds promising! Just what did you do last night?”

“I’ll tell you at lunch!” Leo said as he turned and went to class.

————————————————————————————————————

Leo walked into the cafeteria and glanced around. He saw Brandon at their usual table, but Max was waving at him from the other side of the room. He got Brandon’s attention motioned for him to walk to Max’s table. “What’s up, Max?” Leo said with a smile when he got to the table.

Brandon walked up just behind Leo and whispered in his friend’s ear. “Why are we over here? What about your story?”

Leo rolled his eyes at Brandon. “Later!”

Max smiled. “I hope that I’m not interrupting anything important. I just wanted to invite you… and your friend to sit with us.”

“It’s nothing that can’t wait. We’d love to sit with you guys.” Leo said. Brandon grudgingly agreed, and they both sat down.

“You know everyone, don’t you? Oh wait, Becca, isn’t there a new guy on your squad?” Max turned to Leo. “Becca is the head cheerleader.”

Becca looked around. “Yeah, he was sitting right there.” She pointed at the empty seat. “I’m not sure where he went. He just moved here from somewhere down south, I think.”

“He’s from Washington, D.C., actually. I met him. He seems nice.”

One of the other cheerleaders spoke up. “I’m not surprised you’ve already met Reese.” She huffed out a laugh. “Why are all the hottest boys in school gay?” She said to no one in particular.

Max laughed. “Hey! I’m almost offended by that comment!”

“Oh, shut up, Max. You know you I’d jump your bones if you weren’t dating my best friend.” The girl retorted.

“You’d jump anything on two legs, Julie. Just stay away from my man.” Becca snickered.

“You girls are rough,” Leo said. “But, no, it’s not like that. I’ve barely met Reese, and I’m seeing someone anyway.”

“Someone from school? Who is he? Spill the tea!” Julie squealed.

“He’s not from around here,” Leo said softly.

“He’s falling for a tourist,” Brandon said, rolling his eyes. The entire table of teens started talking all at once. Some advised against dating a tourist, and others urged him to ‘get a little’ and move on. Leo scanned the cafeteria for an escape. Maybe he’d spot Reese and go talk to him.

Then Leo spotted Jasper. He decided it was time for the talk that he had been avoiding. Leo walked over and sat across from Jasper. Matt was sitting at Jasper’s right. Leo folded his hands and looked right at Jasper, ignoring Matt completely. “Jasper, I know our break-up was messy, but the physical and verbal harassment from your boy,” he motioned towards Matt, “has to stop. What happened between us was just that, between us. Rein him in.”

Matt interjected. “Screw you, Kennedy! You have a problem with me, deal with me. Not Jasper.”

Jasper put a hand on Matt’s arm. “Chill, babe.” Then he spoke to Leo. “Looks to me like Matt’s the one with the worse bruises. Maybe I should be telling you to leave him alone.” Jasper stood up and leaned in towards Leo. “Get over yourself, Leo. You couldn’t keep me, and you won’t keep whoever that other guy is. Matt will do whatever he wants. I don’t care. All you were was a willing mouth to me.”

Leo stood up, angry. The chair tipped over behind him. He was about to start yelling at Jasper, but suddenly, the whole cafeteria started to spin, and everything started going dark. Leo felt himself getting dizzy and begin to fall, then he felt arms around him and a sweet soft voice in his ear telling him to sit. It didn’t matter what the voice said though, the whole room went dark, and Leo felt himself being guided to the floor.

Leo heard voices around him, but everything was dark, and the voices sounded far away. The first voice, the sweet voice of Reese, yelled, “Brandon! I need some help over here!”

Brandon: “I’m here, Reese. What happened to Leo?”

Reese: “I don’t know, but I plan to find out. Hold on to him, please.”

Brandon: “Reese, don’t do anything stupid.”

Reese: “What the hell did you do to him?”

Jasper: “I didn’t touch him. He passed out.”

Reese: “That better be the truth, or you’ll be on the floor next.”

Matt: “I don’t know who you think you are, but you better shut your mouth.”

Reese: “I think you two better get lost while you still can.”

Jasper: “I didn’t do anything to him. Honest. Matt, let’s go and leave them alone.”

Reese: “Brandon, I’m back. Help me get him in a chair.”

Leo felt two strong arms lift him from the ground and sit him in a chair. Two warm, soft, yet strong hands gripped his own. He felt knees against his knees and a forehead pressed against his. Reese’s soft, sweet voice started talking to him, soothing him.

“Leo, it’s ok now. They’re gone. You’re safe. I know we’ve just met, and we’re only just started getting to know each other, but I’ll make sure you’ll always be safe with me around. Come back to us, Leo. I don’t know what happened or what’s wrong, but I’m here, and you’re safe. I’ll stay right here as long as you need me.”

Leo heard Brandon say, “Reese? Should I call 911? He’s had these spells before. There’s more going on than you know.”

Reese responded, “His breathing is relaxed now. I think it was an anxiety attack. Give him just a few more minutes before you call anyone.”

“You got there pretty quick. I didn’t even have a chance to get out of my chair.”

“I happened to be looking their way and saw it happening.”

Leo blinked his eyes, and things were still dim but not black. The attack was passing. This boy’s voice really calmed his nerves. That southern accent just melted his heart. Leo blinked again and made out his face. “Reese? I was just looking for you. Now here you are. Your voice brought me back. Thank you.”

 “My pleasure. It was my turn to help you. You’ve helped me twice already. Maybe someday we’ll be able to just sit down and chat. You can fill me in on who those two jerks were, so I can make sure to stay far away from them.”

Leo sat back in his chair and then realized he was still holding Reese’s hands. He let go and blushed. “That is a brilliant idea. How about on the beach near where you saw me walking from last night? After school today, well after practice. Maybe at four o’clock?”

“It’s a date.” Reese blushed and corrected himself. “Well, not a date. You know what I mean. I’ll see you at four!” He turned and nearly ran out of the cafeteria.   

 Brandon smirked at his bestie. “I think you have two stories to tell me about last night. No wonder you were almost late this morning.”

“Do you need me to tell the coach that you’re not feeling well, Leo? I’m sure he’d let you out of practice.” Max said.

“I’m fine. I’m looking forward to practice. It was an anxiety attack. I’m ok.”

“I’ll be over there, finishing my lunch if you need anything,” Max said, looking at both Leo and Brandon.

Leo stood but was still a little shaky on his feet. He sighed and looked at Brandon. Brandon kept a hand on Leo’s lower back for support without needing to be asked and walked him over to a table. Leo was still a little dizzy but managed to finish his lunch. As the two boys walked out of the cafeteria, Brandon said, “That was more than an anxiety attack, wasn’t it?”

“To be honest, Bran, I’m not sure. It could have been an anxiety attack. You know I’ve had them that bad before, but it also could have been more than that. I promise that I’ll keep you informed.”

“You better,” Brandon said as they walked down the hall to their next class.

————————————————————————————————————

Leo got through the rest of the school day without feeling any more dizziness, so he convinced himself that it was an anxiety attack. He pushed through the locker room doors, jogged across the street to the athletic field, and joined the rest of the team. It was the first day of practice. Both the varsity and junior varsity squads were there.

Kam walked over and joined his brother in their pre-run stretches and warmups. “I heard about lunch. You ok, bro?”

“I’m fine. I still have to finish my conversation with Jazz, but other than that, I’m fine.”

“What about the dizzy spell?”

“Anxiety. It’s been an exciting couple of days.” Leo shrugged.

Kam looked thoughtful. “I’ll buy that for now.” He smirked at his brother. “I also heard that the hot new kid was there.”

Leo rolled his eyes. “Give it a rest, Kameron. I’m going to see Charlie again tonight. But, hey, since when do you refer to guys as hot?”

Kam blushed and looked away. “I said that for your benefit, not mine.”

Leo was about to say something else, but the banter between the brothers was cut short. The two coaches arrived and split the boys into their respective varsity and junior varsity teams. The first cross-country practice had officially begun.

————————————————————————————————————

After practice was over, Leo hung back. Kam stopped to see what his brother was doing. “What’s up?” Kam asked.

“Go on ahead. I’ll be right behind you.”

Kam followed his brother’s gaze and smirked. “Ah! I understand now. You’re gonna check out the cheer practice. Didn’t you say that you were meeting Charlie tonight?” Kam snickered.

“Yes, I am. Reese watched our tryouts. I want to be just as supportive. Besides, we mentioned meeting up after school. I want to make sure we’re still on, so I know what time to tell Charlie that I’ll meet up with him.”

“Wow. All of a sudden, my big bro has a full social calendar. I’m impressed.”

“Shut up, Kam.” Leo grinned. “Go catch up to the team. I’ll see you at home.”

————————————————————————————————————

Leo waved to his brother and started walking across the field toward where the cheerleaders were practicing. He hadn’t gone far when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement from behind the bleachers. He turned, and there stood Jazz. Leo nervously looked all around. Jazz stepped closer and spoke. “Matt isn’t here if that’s who you’re looking for.”

“Matt is exactly who I was looking for. Your boyfriend is a bully with a mean streak, Jazz.”

“I’m sorry, Leo. I’m truly sorry. For everything.”

“Wait… what? You mean everything that Matt did, right?”

“No, Leo. You know what I mean. I’m sorry for everything. I screwed up bigtime. I hurt the person that I love the most in the whole world. When I saw you pass out today, it brought back so many memories and reminded me of all the promises I made. God, Leo, I realized that I still love you. Can you ever forgive me?”

Tears stung Leo’s eyes. He wasn’t sure if they were tears of sadness, hurt, or rage. He clenched his fists at his sides to restrain himself from striking out at Jasper. “No, Jazz. I do not forgive you. After all this time, after all you did, how can you even ask? I mean, hell, wasn’t cheating on me bad enough? But then you outed me to the whole school. That’s how my parents found out that I’m gay! From the school, not even from me! The entire last year of my life has been a living hell, and it is all because of you!”

“I… I’m so sorry, Leo. I lashed out. I didn’t want to take the blame. I…”

“Shut up, Jazz. I’m not done talking. You started this conversation. The creep you cheated on me with beat me up. Because you suddenly remember that we were madly in love and promised each other to always be there, you want forgiveness? You ripped my heart out, spit on it, and threw it in the trash. Now, you say that you still love me? Stay away from me, Jazz. Go back to Matt. I will never forgive you.”

Leo felt a presence behind him. He looked behind him and was greeted by the sparkling emerald eyes of Reese.

Jazz tried to keep talking. “Leo, come on, let me explain.”

Reese stepped in between the other two boys. “Dude, he asked you to go away.”

“Who even are you? This is between Leo and me.”

“This is the second time today that I’ve asked you to get away from him. He doesn’t want you here. Don’t make me ask you a third time.”


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