Nicholas and Griffin and Mason decided to have a wonderful last day in New York City. They planned to spend the day in Manhattan. “Hey babe, how about we visit the King Kong building this morning and then hit up a few museums and the 9/11 tribute monument to pay our respects. Later, we can go to Times Square and see the wild and crazy nightlife with all the bright lights, and we can end our night with a concert outside of the MTV studio. Imagine Dragons will be there!” Said Griffin.
Mason chimed in and said, “Wow! That sounds like an amazing day!”
Nicholas retorted, “Ok, but we have to be back earlier than usual because we have some traveling ahead of us tomorrow.” The guys ate breakfast, showered, and got ready to set out on their day’s adventure. While Nicholas was in the shower, Mason approached Griffin because he noticed tears in Griff’s eyes. “Griff, are you ok? I mean, you look so sad. What’s up? It seems like you guys have a rather good thing going here.”
Griff looked up and said softly. “I don’t want to leave Nicholas to go to school. I’m really loving our time together, and if I leave now, he might find somebody else. He’ll forget me and move on, Mason.”
“Do you really think that? There’s no way in hell that I could see him doing that to you. You guys love each other so much. I can see that in just the short amount of time that I’ve known you!” Mason said while hugging Griff.
“I know you’re probably right. Thanks, but I can’t help feeling sad. Just don’t let Nicholas know, please. I want him happy all the time for as long as possible.”
Mason glanced up and said, “My lips are sealed.”
About that time, Nicholas walked in. He looked hot and smelled delicious, Griff thought. Nicholas was singing “Radioactive” and leaned in and kissed Griff. “Let’s go, y’all. Full steam ahead.” Nicholas said.
The guys hopped on the subway headed towards Manhattan. First stop, what Griff referred to as the King Kong building, the Empire State Building. They had gotten tickets ahead of time, so they took the elevator up as high as they were allowed to and gazed out at the New York skyline. It was an exhilarating feeling, seeing everything so huge look so small. It took their collective breath away.
Next up, the guys stopped at a building that has always had Nicholas in awe of how it was built. It was called the Vessel. It was a marvel to behold and had a fantastic view from the top.
Next on the agenda was a quick stop at J.P. Morgan’s massive library. They browsed the library and read about how J.P. Morgan had built it and allowed people to visit and use the library for free until his death. After an hour, the three boys decided to move on to the next item on their list for the day.
The guys stopped and took a quick snack break. They ate the sandwiches they had packed in their backpacks and washed them down with some bottles of water. “I want to thank you both for taking me along on your adventure today. I’m having so much fun with you guys!” said Mason.
“You are more than welcome. We are enjoying your company, too.” Nicholas said enthusiastically.
“Ok, next up a quick stop to look around Grand Central Station, and then on to the 9/11 monument!” Griff said. “Let’s get a move on it. We have a schedule to keep!”
“The utter majesty of this place is unbelievable, and it is so freaking busy! I can’t see how they keep everything running so smoothly!” Mason said.
“Great observation, but we can’t stay long. We need to get to the 9/11 monument.” Griff said, touching his watch.
“Well, we are on hallowed ground, and you know it brings back so vividly how, even though we live in America, we are safe, but anything can happen in the blink of an eye! Life as we know it can change instantly!” Nicholas said to the other two boys.
“That is such a deep thought, babe,” Griffin said with tears running down his cheeks. “Too many beautiful people died needlessly that day, and we, as a nation, will never forget it.”
Then Mason said, “Let’s pause for a moment of silence for us to honor the dead and the many still affected by this awful tragedy.”
The guys then stopped at Central Park. It is such an iconic park. Crowded with people and their pets, as well as joggers, bikers, and skateboarders. So many great sites to see! Trees, lakes, and flowers lined bridges and walkways. So much to take in such a short amount of time! The guys stopped to rest for a few minutes. Mason sat quietly while Nicholas took notes in his journal, and Griff took photos for their RV Chronicles page on Instagram.
“Kiss me, babe, so I can say we kissed in Central Park,” Nicholas said, grinning slyly at Griff.
“Gladly,” Griffin said with a smirk as he moved in. The kiss was long, deep, and passionate.
Mason chimed in, “You guys are so lucky. I hope one day soon, I can have that with somebody. You are so good for each other, and you can just see the love in your eyes. Wow!”
Blushing, Griff said, “I think that you are a great guy, Mase. You’ll find someone special one day.”
“Thanks, Mason. I do love him very, very deeply.” Nicholas said.
They walked to Times Square next. It was dark out now, but the whole area was lit up like it was the middle of the day. “Can you imagine being here at Christmastime? Or New Year’s Eve?” Griffin said excitedly.
“Yeah!” Nicholas yelled. “Even now, look at all the big screen TV’s and people dressed up as different cartoon characters!”
“It’s hard to stay focused on any one thing! There’s so much going on. I bet that because of the free outdoor concert tonight, it is even more packed than usual!” Mason added.
The hustle and bustle of bright city lights were overwhelming the guys. “We are right up by the stage. Awesome! We got here early enough to get great spots! You can see the ABC News studio right over there, and look at MTV! Wow, it’s even more packed over there.”
“Right after Imagine Dragons performs, we will head back to the RV, so we can get some sleep before we head out tomorrow.” Nicholas reminded the other two.
The guys bought drinks and food and then the show started. The whole crowd yelled and screamed the entire time. It was a fantastic show. As the guys headed back home, Griffin lagged behind. Now that the hustle and bustle of day was over, he was filled with sadness again, just thinking about leaving the love of his life to start college. “I really want to go to school, but at what cost? Do I really want to abandon this awesome adventure with the one person who I love the most in all the world?” These thoughts and many others crossed Griff’s mind as he shoved his hands into his pockets and hurried to catch back up to Nicholas and Mason.
While devouring a scrumpdeliliciomous (“It’s a word … look it up!” insisted Griffin) breakfast prepared by Mason, the boys filled him in on their plans for their third day in New York City.
“We’re going to stroll around Greenwich Village this morning and then visit Alphabet City after lunch. You don’t have to come with us, but you’re certainly welcome to,” Nicholas offered. “We realize you’ve probably seen all of these places already. If you’d rather just Netflix and chill here, that’s fine.”
“If you’re serious and really don’t mind a third wheel, I’d love to tag along,” Mason smiled enthusiastically. “I went to school in Upper Manhattan, Columbia University, and never made it down as far south as Greenwich and Alphabet City. I always meant to but just never got around to it. It seems like you always think you have plenty of time to do things like that … then you don’t.”
“Well, alright, then. You hit the showers while Griff and I clean up breakfast and we’ll head for the subway.”
“Which way?” Griffin inquired of Nicholas, as he was the most qualified navigator amongst the threesome. They had emerged from the subway into a bright, cloudless day. Nicholas had his cellphone GPS while Griffin had his camera at the ready.
“You two are quite the pair,” chuckled Mason. “Two halves of a whole if I’ve ever seen it!”
“Oh, we work well in tandem on so many levels!” Griffin agreed.
“Okay, let’s head that way. Just up the street a couple of blocks is the Stonewall Inn,” Nicholas directed. “As I’m sure you both know, that’s pretty much where the Gay Civil Rights Movement started.” He pulled up a website and began to give some background history as they walked.
“The Stonewall Inn was a bar known for serving gay and lesbian patrons. In 1969, serving alcohol to gay men and women was illegal in 49 of the 50 states, including New York.”
“Unbelievable,” mumbled Griffin.
“The Stonewall didn’t care about the law because it was run by the Mafia,” Nicholas continued. “The gay community around Greenwich Village was growing tired of their oppression. The local police were increasing the number of raids on bars who served gay patrons. On the night of June 28, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn. As the patrons left the bar, they didn’t disperse as ordered by the police. They stayed outside, and a commotion began. Patrons from other bars and residents from the neighborhood gathered to see what was happening. Tensions built, and at one point, people, gay and straight, who were gathered around the Stonewall, began throwing pennies at the police because pennies are made of copper and “copper” was a derogatory term for the police. NYPD Riot Police arrived and confronted the crowd and arrested protesters. The next night, people showed up to see what was going to happen and emotions flared again into another night of rioting, as well as the next night. The riots got a lot of attention in the news. Leaders of the gay and lesbian community were finally able to find widespread support for organizing the fight for their civil rights. A year later, on June 28, 1970, the first gay civil rights parades were held in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.”
“Obviously, that’s why June is now Pride Month,” Mason added, “with Pride Parades all over the world.”
Following their visit to The Stonewall Inn, the boys strolled up Bedford Street to view the building used for the exterior apartment shot of Nicholas’ favorite sitcom, “Friends.” Of course, there is no actual ‘Central Perk’ on the ground level, but there is a restaurant called ‘The Little Owl.’ Several pics were taken to post on their Insta page.
Approaching an intersection as they continued their stroll, Griffin suddenly shouted, “Bleecker Street!”
“What the what?” a startled Mason stuttered.
“Care to explain yourself, Peaches?”
“I just remembered that AJR live in Chelsea, which I think is just north of Greenwich and got their start performing in Washington Square Park which is right around here somewhere,” Griffin attempted to explain while looking around as if he could see the park from where they were standing. “One of my favorite songs is ‘Growing Old on Bleecker Street,’ and I’ve read there’s a lot of history on this street.”
“Who and/or what is an AJR?” a perplexed Mason inquired.
“AJR is Griffin’s favorite band. They’re three brothers, Adam, Jack and Ryan, and they have really fun, perky songs. They’re awesome,” Nicholas filled in. “We’ll listen to some tonight when we get back home.”
Griffin had Mason take his pic while standing under the street sign as Nicholas pulled up the Wikipedia page for Bleecker Street to see if there was anything of interest to see. Of course, Griffin insisted that they walk at least a few blocks up the street.
“This says Robert DeNiro grew up on Bleecker and Herman Melville lived here as a boy, too. John Belushi and Alicia Keys have also lived here,” Nicholas said. “Washington Square Park is just a couple of blocks that way, Griff. Let’s head in that direction.”
So the guys spent the remainder of the morning sightseeing and people watching, especially the many street performers in the park until Griffin’s belly rudely informed everyone that it was time to locate sustenance. They chose to head east from the park towards Alphabet City, where they planned to spend the afternoon and found themselves at the campus of New York University.
They decided to lunch at Phebe’s, and while waiting for their orders, Nicholas continued his ongoing research and background history narration. “So we’ll spend the rest of the day in Alphabet City which, of course, is called that because Avenues A, B, C, and D run through it. It’s part of the larger East Village.”
“That’s where the Broadway musical ‘Rent’ takes place, right?” asked Mason.
“Yeah, Nicholas and I have always wanted to see that live, but when the touring show came through North Carolina, the tickets went on sale the week Boo’s dad died and sold out in a couple of days,” Griffin solemnly explained. “We do have the DVD of the movie version, though, and we both know every word of every song.”
“That’s really my primary reason for wanting to walk around Alphabet City,” Nicholas continued. “The plot and many of the characters in ‘Rent’ are based directly on characters from Puccini’s opera, ‘La Boheme,’ but it’s a rock opera set in the East Village and Alphabet City in the late 1980s during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It’s basically about young artists and performers struggling to survive and pay their rent to keep from becoming homeless.”
The discussion continued as the boys’ food arrived, and they scarfed down every morsel. Nicholas took care of the bill and they headed out into the bright midday sunshine continuing their eastward trek across Lower Manhattan.
During his research, Nicholas came across The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space located on Avenue C, which he thought would be interesting to investigate. The threesome casually strolled around Tompkins Square Park, the site of another famous riot in 1988 when police attempted to remove the many homeless people that had begun squatting there. The park was quite crowded due to the beautiful summer weather, and Griffin was able to take many nice pictures to add to their Instagram travel journal.
“So what exactly does a Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space have that people would want to see,” inquired Mason.
“Well, what I get from their website is it educates about the history of the area. Apparently, during the recession in the 70s, most of the buildings were abandoned by their owners even though many people were still living in them and had businesses in them. Many of the artists, musicians, and activists, like are depicted in ‘Rent,’ refused to leave and, instead, reclaimed the spaces. They repaired the buildings the best they could and continued living in them. They made community centers for the artists and performers, too. Their site says it was created ‘to preserve the history of New York City’s Lower East Side and promote the local communities that came together in order to make the neighborhood a cultural icon.’”
They spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around East Village, including a stop at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop and perused the many eclectic shops. As they strolled up East 7th Street, Griffin noticed a shop called East Village Hats and instantly got such a brilliant idea he nearly peed his pants! However, he needed to ditch Nicholas first.
Fate was smiling on him as Nicholas said, “Let’s pop in here. They’ve got some really cool stuff in the windows.” He was referring to what looked like a punk rock apparel shop called Trash and Vaudeville.
“Uh, yeah … you guys go ahead. I was just thinking I need to find something for my mom’s birthday next week so I can get it in the mail. I’m going to check out this place across the street, AuH2O, and see what they have. Text me when you’re done, and I’ll meet you back here.” Griff started across the street towards AuH2O, glancing behind to watch Nicholas and Mason head into Trash and Vaudeville. When he was confident they were out of eyesight, he veered towards East Village Hats.
He was quickly able to complete his mission and had not heard from Nicholas, so he discretely scooted next door into AuH2O and browsed for something for his mom, as her birthday really was next week. He found a beautiful bracelet, and the clerk said they would be glad to wrap it and ship it to his mom for a small fee. This thrilled Griffin but he inquired if he would be able to get one of their shopping bags to conceal his East Village Hats bag in. After explaining, the clerk agreed to his unusual request.
Griffin emerged from the shop, carrying his AuH2O bag, as Nicholas and Mason were crossing the street towards him. “I just thought we’d meet you over here rather than texting you. I figured you were still shopping since you hadn’t texted us,” Nicholas shrugged and nodded towards Griffin’s bag. “I see you found something for your mom.”
“Yeah, she’s gonna love it,” Griffin said. “I’ll show you later.”
The boys began to make their way towards the subway terminal that would lead them home. They grabbed Polish sausages from a food truck to tide them over until they got home. Mason had promised to whip them up a great dinner in exchange for their including him in their day’s activities and buying his lunch.
That evening, after an amazing dinner prepared by Mason, all three boys relaxed in the living room with Nicholas and Griffin, of course, wrapped together on the sofa. Soon, however, Mason fell asleep in the bean bag chair, so Griffin suggested they move to their bedroom and get more comfortable. “I’ll show you my package,” he winked and giggled.
As Nicholas flopped on the bed, Griff pulled out a perfectly wrapped box from his shopping bag and handed it to him.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Open it and see,” Griffin replied.
“It’s your mom’s birthday gift. Why would I open it? Just tell me what it is.”
“That’s not her gift. The shop is wrapping and shipping her gift directly to her.”
“Then what is this?” Nicholas asked again, though he had a suspicion that Griffin was on the same train he was.
“It’s your anniversary gift, Boo. Happy One Month Anniversary!” he answered before planting a huge kiss on Nicholas’ grinning lips.
“You remembered!” Nicholas exclaimed as he tore into the gift and pulled out an exquisite black fedora with a dark purple ribbon band. He jumped straight up in the air, almost hitting his head on the ceiling. “Jiminy Christmas! It’s perfect! I love it, Peaches!”
“I know you’ve been wanting one ever since you became obsessed with James Bay and his iconic hat. When I saw the shop today, the idea hit me. I really did need to get my mom a gift, so I used that as a cover when I saw the hat shop.”
“I love it more than you will ever know!” Nicholas gushed. “Now, you sit down right here. I’ve got a little somethin’-somethin’ for you, too.”
A surprised Griffin sat and accepted the wrapped box that Nicholas pulled out of his bag. When he opened it, his eyes showed his delight.
“Happy Monthiversary, Sweet Peach,” Nicholas whispered as he softly kissed Griffin on his delicious lips. Griffin slowly pulled out a leather belt with a sterling silver infinity love symbol buckle, a matching leather bracelet with the same symbol, and a sterling silver infinity ring.
“They’re beautiful and perfect. My love for you is for infinity and beyond,” Griffin glanced up at Nicholas with tears in his eyes. “One month down and infinity to go! Now close that door, so we can get naked and end this month and start infinity with a bang!”
“If we do this right, we should be able to manage several bangs!” Nicholas cracked.
Nicholas jumped out of the Uber and raced around to Griffin’s side of the car. He put his hand out to help Griff out of the vehicle. Griff took his hand but rolled his eyes. “My leg is feeling fine so far this morning, babe. Thanks, though. You’re the sweetest boyfriend ever!”
“Did you take your pain pill?”
“Yes. I’m good to go. Stop worrying. The wound is healing just about like the doc said it would,” Griffin’s phone rang. He looked at it and smiled but shook his head. “It’s my mom. Again. I better answer.” Griff sat on a nearby bench and answered his phone.
“Hey, mom. We’re still in New York. Yes, I’m taking it easy. No, we’re not just hanging out in the RV. Of course. If anything, he’s more overprotective than you are. We’re always careful, mom. Yes, I’ll take plenty of rest stops. I love you, too. Bye, mom.” Griffin slipped his phone back into his pocket and got up. “Are we ready to attack the day, captain?”
“Yeah. I was just reviewing our plans for the day. First stop, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” Nicholas took his boyfriend’s hand, and they walked up the steps into the museum.
After they paid their admission, Nicholas grabbed a map of the museum. “Looks like our first stop will be the ‘Art of Native America’ exhibit.” Hand in hand with Griff, Nicholas led the way into the exhibit.
“It’s sad how mean and downright brutal humans can be to each other,” Griffin said as he stared at a depiction of a battle scene.
“Yeah. It was bad enough that the native tribes were sometimes at war with each other, then the Europeans came over and nearly wiped out all of them,” Nicholas said.
“These paintings are so beautiful. Mankind has lost a lot of culture for stupid reasons, and what makes it worse is that it’s still happening.”
“I agree. Our generation needs to step up and do better than those before us. We need to stop all the senseless war.”
“It’s not just the wars. Kids younger than us die in their classrooms and at the mall, and those that survive all of that will probably be underwater in thirty years if we don’t get a handle on the climate crisis!”
“Are you sure you want to be a youth counselor? You’re starting to sound like a politician. Did you switch your major to poli-sci?” Nicholas grinned.
“No. My passion is helping kids and teens who are in trouble or at risk, but we all, as a society, need to be more involved in the political process to make sure we don’t elect the wrong people. I don’t want someone in charge of our country who I wouldn’t trust to be in charge of a dumpster!”
“You’re right, Peaches. This is one of the many reasons that I love you so much. You are passionate about everything. You never do anything halfway. You throw your whole heart and soul into everything you do.” Nicholas leaned in and gave Griff a quick kiss on the cheek as they walked into the next exhibit area.
“Those baseball cards were super cool, Boo, don’t you think so?” Griff nearly gushed.
“The uniforms back then left a lot to be desired. I can’t imagine young players today wearing stuff like that,” Nicholas laughed.
“Fashion, even in sports, has come a long way! Where to next, oh mighty captain of my heart?”
“Our next stop should be a good one and it’ll be our last stop in the museum. It’s called ‘The Last Knight.’ I can’t wait to see all the armor and swords!”
“Oh! I see the entrance right over there.” Griff pulled Nicholas by their near constantly joined hands and led him into the exhibit.
“This armor is impressive! I love the time of the knights. The time of chivalry and romance,” Nicholas said with a dreamy look in his eyes.
“Take a break from the travel journal and write a story about Sir Griff the Brave saving the handsome Prince Boobaloo from the evil giants and their pet dragon,” Griff said with a smirk.
“Don’t laugh. I just might do that,” Nicholas said, looking thoughtful. “Anyway, are you ready to go?”
“Yep. What’s next?”
“St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It shouldn’t take long to see, and I figured you could get some amazing pics of the stained-glass windows for our Instagram. The fans need new content,” Nicholas winked.
“I can’t believe over two thousand people are interested in our travels.”
“And that number grows every day.”
“I’m shocked. I thought we’d be lucky to get a hundred followers when I started it.”
“I think we got half of them from your shirtless surfing pics,” Nicholas grinned.
“Nah. It’s all you, babe,” Nicholas said as they exited the museum. “Let me sit for just a few minutes before we go to St. Pat’s.”
“We’ll take as many breaks as you need, Peaches.” Nicholas reached into his backpack. “Do you want a granola bar?”
The two boys exited St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Griffin scrolling through the many photos that he had taken. “Some of these came out awesome if I do say so myself!”
“Let me see.”
“Here. Look. The light coming through the stained-glass was perfect. We came at just the right time of day, and there isn’t a cloud in the sky today.”
“The statues were beautiful, too. I can’t even imagine attending a mass here. It must be like a once in a lifetime experience every single time.”
“Definitely,” Griff said, putting his camera back in its case and the case back into his backpack. “What’s next?”
“Rockefeller Center. The food court first. I’m starved.”
After chowing down on burgers and cheesy fries, the two boys were ready for more exploring. Their first stop was the Channel Gardens. They wanted to be able to stroll the gardens before they got bogged down with any purchases that they may make in the shopping mall.
“This place is gorgeous. All the flowers and the statues and the fountains, it’s breathtaking. This is exactly the kind of set-up I want for our wedding,” Griff said as he pulled Nicholas in close.
“Wedding?” Nicholas said with a raised eyebrow. “I think we have about five years to plan out the details, my love. I can’t imagine my life without you in it, and I do want to marry you, but we have lots of other boxes to check off first.”
“I didn’t mean tomorrow, Boo, but yeah, I do want to get married, maybe even adopt a kid or two.”
“I do, too. I’m glad we’re on the same page with that. Let’s get you graduated from college first and get my future woodworking business up and running. Then we find ourselves a nice permanent home, though we’ll always keep the RV. Then we can talk about marriage and kids!”
“Perfect plan from my perfect planner. I love you so much, Boo. To the moon and back a billion times over.” Griff leaned down and gave Nicholas a tender kiss.
“I love you, too. More than I ever thought I could love anyone.” Nicholas returned the kiss. “Now, let’s move on before we get kicked out.”
“Yeah, if my career is going to be working with minors, I definitely don’t want to be arrested for public sex!” Griff laughed. They left the Gardens and headed for the elevator. Next stop: Top of the Rock on the seventieth floor.
Nicholas and Griffin walked out of Rockefeller Center with only a couple shopping bags of stuff between them. There was, after all, only a limited amount of storage in the RV, and they planned on making many more stops on their journey. “That was an amazing view, but are you sure you don’t want to also hit up the Empire State Building? Isn’t it supposed to be the best?”
“It is taller, but from everything I read, Top of the Rock has a better view. I mean, you saw it, right? You could see all of Central Park and basically the whole city. It was amazing! The new World Trade Center is taller than Empire State anyway. The World Trade Center and Ground Zero Memorial are definitely higher on my New York bucket list than Empire State.”
“Good point and I wholeheartedly agree. We’re off to the library now, right?”
“Yep. Last stop for the day, other than dinner, and I was thinking of just grabbing a quick dinner from a food cart in Central Park.”
“Sounds perfect to me, Boobear.” It was only a ten-minute walk to the New York Public Library, but Griff did stop once along the way to sit down for a few minutes and get a bottle of water out of his backpack.
“We’ll take a bicycle-taxi back to the park. I don’t want to overtax your leg, babe.”
“I’m fine, Boo. Let’s go inside. I’m excited to see this library! First, I need selfies with the Lions!” Griff laughed and raced over to one of the stone lion statues at the entrance to the library. “This is going on our Instagram for sure!”
After an hour or so, browsing the enormous library, both boys were ready to leave. Nicholas called the cab company, and a bicycle-taxi was waiting for them at the curb. In the blink of an eye, they were dropped off at the edge of Central Park, and they went in search of food.
“The library was so cool, don’t you think so, babe?” Griff asked.
“I could have spent the entire day in there just looking around! I’m glad we went!”
“For sure. Hey, that cart over there has pizza. It smells delicious, and I’m hungry. You wanna just grab some pizza for tonight?”
“Sounds good to me,” Nicholas said, and they got in line at the cart. There was only one person ahead of them, a young guy who looked about their age, maybe a couple years older. The guy sounded like he was pleading with the cart owner.
“Come on, Dave. You know I’m good for it. Just a slice or two. I haven’t eaten since yesterday!”
“How do I know that you’re good for it. You still owe me for the last two times that I was a nice guy. Get outta here, Mason. I have actual paying customers behind you.”
“Please! Hire me to work for you again. I know you need the help, and you know I do a good job.”
“Mase, I’m sorry. I wish I could, but I’m barely making enough to scrape by on my own. I can’t afford to hire an employee right now.”
“Come on, Dave! I swear I’ll pay you back!”
“Mason, I don’t want to, but if you don’t leave, I’ll call the cops.”
Nicholas looked at Griffin and nodded towards the guy in front of them. Griff knew, just by the look in his boyfriend’s eyes, what he was thinking, and he nodded his head to give Nicholas the go-ahead. Nicholas stepped up to the order counter. The other guy, Mason, started to back away. Nicholas lightly grabbed Mason’s forearm. “No. Stay.” Nicholas’ head swung toward the cart owner. “Good afternoon, sir. I would like six slices of the pepperoni pizza, three of those hot pretzels, three large lemonades, and add on to my bill whatever my good friend Mason owes you.”
Mason pulled his arm out of Nicholas’ grasp. “I don’t know what you expect from me in payment, but you don’t have to do that. I… I’ll be ok.”
“I don’t expect payment at all. It sounded like you needed help. I’m helping.” Nicholas shrugged.
“No one does something for nothing,” Mason said with a wary look on his face.
“Nicholas does,” Griffin said, stepping forward. “Hi. I’m Griffin… or just Griff… and yes, this wonderful man would give you the shirt off his back even if it meant that he would freeze. It’s one of the many things that I love about him.”
Nicholas turned around with his arms full of food. “Well, are you two gonna help me carry all this stuff, or will I just have to eat it all by myself?”
Mason still looked wary, but he picked up the tray of drinks and followed the other two boys to a picnic table.
“You didn’t have to do this, but thank you. I… I can’t pay you,” Mason said, looking across the table at Nicholas.
Griffin held on to Nicholas’ hand and replied to Mason. “I already told you. He… we don’t care about being paid back. We just wanted to do something nice. Pay it forward someday.”
“You told him that you hadn’t eaten since yesterday? Do you have a place to sleep?” Nicholas asked.
Mason shrugged. “Sometimes, I stay in one of the shelters. If they’re full, I do the best that I can.”
“How long have you been on your own? What happened?” Griff asked.
“I …” Mason started to say.
Nicholas interrupted. “If we’re too nosy, just tell us. You don’t have to answer anything that you’re not comfortable with.”
“No, it’s ok. I’ve been in between addresses ever since the last semester at college ended about a month ago. I was staying in the dorms, but when my dad cut off payments to the school, the school kicked me out of the dorm.”
“Why did he cut you off? Can’t you go home?” Nicholas asked.
“No. I can’t go home. I’m not welcome there anymore. My dad made a surprise visit to the dorm for my birthday back in April. I was celebrating with my boyfriend. Dad knocked, and my Harry answered, wearing just his boxer briefs. I wrapped myself in a sheet, but dad could tell that I was wearing less than Harry was. He left without saying a word. I found out from the school that he canceled all his checks. I didn’t have enough of my own money to cover what I owed the school, so they kicked me out of the dorm. I have nowhere else to go. My whole family disowned me,” Mason said through tears.
Griff had tears running down his own cheeks. “What about your boyfriend? Couldn’t he help? Maybe not with money, but a place to stay?”
“As soon as he found out that I was kicked out of school, he broke up with me. I guess I wasn’t worth the trouble.”
Nicholas was also wiping away tears. “You’re not sleeping on the streets tonight. Come back to our RV. It’s not much, but it’s home.”
“I just met you guys. You seem awful nice, but how do I know I can trust going back to your place with you?”
“Shouldn’t it be us that’s nervous inviting a stranger into our home?” Griff chuckled.
“True. Ok. I’ll go. Lead the way,” Mason said. Nicholas ordered their Uber, and soon they were on their way back to the RV.
The next morning, Nicholas woke up early. He tossed and turned all night, worrying about their decision to take yet another stray into their home. Then he smiled and nudged Griff awake.
“Uh. What’s wrong? What happened?” Griff started to get up, and Nicholas laid a hand on his chest to stop him.
“Nothing is wrong. Take a whiff.” Nicholas grinned.
“Huh? Ohhh… is that coffee and bacon I smell?” Griff asked.
“It sure smells like it to me. Maybe we made the right choice, after all. Let’s go see what else our new guest has prepared for us!” The two boys slipped on shorts and t-shirts and walked out of the bedroom to see what Mason was up to in the kitchen.
‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ sounds off, waking Nicholas up as his alarm loudly blasts a funny set of jokes from the movie. Sleepy eyed, he wandered through the RV. Griffin popped out of nowhere, with the sound of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ in the background. With one click of a button, the music changed to Frank Sinatra. Griffin grabbed his top hat and sang along with Ol’ Blue Eyes, “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere! New York, New York!” Griffin danced and grabbed Nicholas.
They danced around a bit, and Griffin pulled Nicholas close and planted a big kiss on him. “I know it’s cheesy, but we are in the biggest most beautiful city in the USA. I wanted to make it special. Hurry up and get ready. We’re going to have a private breakfast cooked for us by Bobby Flay at his restaurant,” Griffin said.
“Awe. Oh my God, silly. You make every day special for me, Peaches. How did you arrange for that?” Nicholas asked.
“Well, one of the chefs that works with Bobby is a friend of mine from surfing, and he arranged it for us. We’re gaining a big following on our RV Instagram, and Bobby Flay actually follows our journeys!” Griffin said excitedly.
“Ok, but just remember we have to take it easy today, so you can take care of your wound, Peaches. We have to get you better.”
The guys hurried around to get ready and left for breakfast. They were greeted by Griff’s friend, Roger, who escorted them to their table.
“Hi, guys. Your breakfast is almost ready, and Bobby said that he hopes you enjoy it and apologizes for not meeting you, but he has a few meetings at the Food Network studios today,” Roger said.
“Thanks, buddy. I appreciate it,” Griff replied.
The boys ate a big spread and everything tasted delicious. They finished up and thanked the staff. Griffin hugged Roger and told him to call him sometime to go surfing.
“Well, babe, it’s time to go look around in Chinatown. We’ll take in all the sights, and then we will eat at a world-class Chinese restaurant this afternoon for lunch,” Griff said.
The guys hopped on the subway, which was a whole different world in itself. “Look at all the street performers. They all have such unique entertainment qualities. I could listen and watch all day,” Nicholas said.
“Yeah, I know, but we have to get to the temple and look at the artwork and giant Buddha statue,” Griff said intently.
They hurried onto the subway train and saw a wide variety of cultures. It truly showed how diverse the races are here in New York. They disembarked from the train and climbed the steps, and were greeted by a sign that said, “Welcome to Chinatown.”
“Alright, now let’s head to the temple and look around, but we have to go slow. My leg is starting to hurt a little bit,” Griff said with a painful face.
“Aww. No hurries, Peaches. We can go at your pace. I want my babe to feel okay and be able to have fun,” Nicholas said.
On the way to the temple, the guys stopped and shopped at the markets. There were so many and both Nicholas and Griffin bought a lot of stuff from food to shirts to toys. Everyone was so cool and very polite. Nicholas got a bike cart guy to transport them around so they wouldn’t have to carry a lot of stuff and so Griff could take the pressure off of his hurt leg.
“Aww. Sweetie, oh my God, that is so sweet of you. You’re always thinking of me,” Griff said with love shining brightly in his eyes.
They went the many blocks to the temple and, when they arrived, they got to see the monks put on a show with dancing and mock fighting that included lots of flips and tricks. It looked like something out of the movies. “Wow, this is awesome, Boo. I really enjoy watching good group choreography, even with monks,” Griffin said.
“My mouth has been wide open, especially with how well they fly around and how fast they are. The show is done. Let’s head into the temple now,” Nicholas said.
“These things are carved out of ivory. I’m astonished and amazed at how talented these guys are,” Nicholas said excitingly.
“Let’s go grab lunch at the 5-star Chinese restaurant, Wo Hop. I put the address in my GPS. It’s at 17 Mott Street. I hear it’s possibly the best in New York City,” Griffin said.
“I’m all for it, Peaches,” Nicholas said. They rode over to the restaurant and were seated right away. Griffin had called ahead to make a reservation.
They ordered appetizers of dumplings and pot stickers. Both guys devoured them, but also fed each other and snuck in a few light kisses. It was time for their main course and, boy oh boy, they brought lots of food. Griffin had Angus beef fried rice and Angus steak and broccoli. Nicholas had the orange chicken noodles and strawberry chicken egg rolls. It took them a little while, and they couldn’t finish the food, so they took to-go boxes. The guys both shared cheesecake and took turns feeding each other again. Yes, it was quite pricey, but it was the best Chinese food they had ever eaten. They got some souvenir chopsticks to take home.
Now it was time to read their fortune cookies. Griffin opened his up. It said, “The time is coming where you have to make an important decision. Use your heart to decide the answer.” Griffin shrugged his shoulders and looked over at Nicholas. Nicholas read his out loud, “The road is short and narrow with changing paths. Choose wisely because your destiny awaits.” Nicholas was confused but liked the fortune.
“Wow. These fortunes are really deep. Usually, I just get cheesy ones,” Griff said.
“On to SoHo to do some shopping and sightseeing,” Nicholas said.
“Plus, I got us on the list to go to a nightclub party from the party promoter at Entertainment Weekly. There are supposed to be some celebrities attending!” Griff said.
“Way too cool, but no alcohol for us,” Nicholas said.
The guys headed toward SoHo. When they arrived, they rented a locker for all the stuff they bought in Chinatown. The guys were now ready to go have some fun.
After a full day of sightseeing, Griffin’s leg started to hurt, so they stopped and redressed the wounds, and he took a pain pill. They got nice clothes out of their locker and changed for the VIP party. “Tao Club is where it’s being held. Let’s go!” Griff said.
“Hey, look, they even have a red carpet set up! Fancy! Let’s see if we fit in or if we are out of our element,” Nicholas walked up to the security guy at the front door. “We’re Griffin Roberts and Nicholas Daniels. We should be on the list,” Nicholas said.
“Let me look. Yes, you are. Go on in,” the security guard said as flashbulbs flashed, and people took pictures of the boys.
As they entered the club, they saw news people and celebrities mingling about, and both boys felt intimidated. Some of their favorite stars were nearby. Jon Bon Jovi waved at the guys. Then Bette Midler walked by looking so divine. After watching lots of people and eating snacks and desserts and drinking water and soda, the boys danced for a while. Then Griff’s leg gave out and he had a little bit of leakage through the bandage, so both guys agreed to leave and head back to the RV. Nicholas let Griffin put his arm around him and helped him out. Then as they were leaving, Robert Downey, Jr. approached them and said, “Let me get my driver to take you guys home. He looks like he’s hurting.”
“Sure, thanks man! I appreciate that,” Nicholas said.
They arrived back at the RV and talked about their day, and Nicholas helped to clean and medicate Griff’s leg. Griffin was so happy he kissed Nicholas and pulled him close. After Griff was rebandaged, they relaxed on the couch and snuggled and cuddled while they watched TV.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way but right here and right now in this very RV with you in my arms!” Griffin said with a twinkle in his eye.
“That’s so sweet, Peaches. I love you, too,” Nicholas said lovingly.
“Our adventure in the big city continues tomorrow, Babe. Let’s get some rest so we will be refreshed to continue exploring the Big Apple!” Griffin said as they clicked off the TV and ambled to their bedroom.
A stunned silence fell over the scene as the shocked musician stopped playing, and the audience processed what had just transpired. However, Nicholas was beginning to get used to Griffin’s tendency to instantly react to a situation without taking the time to think it through. With a comedic eye roll and exasperated sigh, he took off after his boyfriend with the superhero complex.
As he pushed through the crowd, he caught a glimpse of Griffin rounding the gift shop on the street corner. Following him, with little hope of actually catching up to Griff, Nicholas could just make out the thief almost a full block ahead. Griffin appeared to be slowly gaining ground on the less-fit culprit. The foot chase crossed the street and continued down the next block when, suddenly, the thief made a hard right down an alley.
The unexpected move caught Griffin by surprise, and his feet nearly slipped out from under him as he attempted to slow his momentum enough to follow. Pinwheeling his arms to keep his balance, he managed to navigate the turn and headed down the alley in hot pursuit.
As Nicholas approached the entrance to the narrow lane, he heard shouting, and it sounded like several angry voices battling to be heard. A chill ran up his spine, and fear gripped him as he viewed the scene down the alleyway. Griffin’s back was to him, and, beyond Griff, he could count five less-than-friendly bodies advancing on him.
Nicholas grabbed his phone to call 9-1-1 as Griffin slowly began backing up with his hands raised in front of him. Nicholas could barely control his panic and keep his voice sufficiently steady to coherently explain the situation to the emergency operator. The operator assured him that someone had already called in the theft, and law enforcement would be arriving at any moment. GPS identified the exact location of the alley where the escalating confrontation was unfolding.
Nicholas started to call out to Griffin that the police would be there any second but then thought better of that. He didn’t think it would be wise to alert the gang to that fact, which may cause a violent response. Every second felt like an hour, but then Nicholas, out of the corner of his eye, glimpsed the blue and white pulling up to his left. He just pointed down the alleyway as the officers approached with their guns drawn.
“Move behind our vehicle,” one of the officers ordered Nicholas.
“On the ground! NOW!” the other yelled down the alleyway.
As the gang members realized they had unwanted company, four began running toward the opposite end, but the apparent leader, wielding a wickedly evil knife, jumped towards Griffin. Acting, as usual, on instinct, Griffin kicked out with his right leg and connected with his assailant’s abdomen. As the attacker’s arm came down, the knife sliced across Griffin’s thigh, opening a vicious gash.
Griffin dropped to the ground as a shot rang out. The police officer continued yelling for the attacker to drop his weapon, which he reluctantly did, raising his hands in the air as the officers rushed in. The other four had almost reached the far end of the alley when another police car pulled up to seal their escape. Realizing their predicament, they all froze and put their hands on their heads.
One officer quickly cuffed the attacker as the other called for a medical rescue response for Griffin. The lack of profuse bleeding assured him that the laceration had not severed Griffin’s femoral artery, which would have been quite serious. He used his belt as a tourniquet above the wound, and Griffin pulled off his t-shirt to press against the cut.
After the gang member was not too gently deposited into the back seat of the police cruiser, the officer got the full story from Nicholas. He assured Nicholas that Griffin would be fine with about a dozen stitches and allowed him to go to Griffin and wait with him until the medical emergency responders arrived. They could both give their statements at the hospital later after the officers had the gang members secured and witnesses had been interviewed.
The doctor had told Griff that he was very fortunate that the knife had sliced him at such an angle that it didn’t cut deep enough to hit the femoral artery. The flap of thigh meat was secured with 14 dissolvable stitches and bandaged with instructions given on changing the bandage regularly.
“You’re going to have quite a scar to show off,” the doctor informed him. “From what I hear, you will also have quite a story to go along with the scar.”
“I’m telling everyone it’s from a shark bite!” Griffin chuckled. “It’ll kinda look like one.”
While Griffin was being sewn back together, one of the police officers from the scene had arrived and was taking Nicholas’ statement. He was then brought into the examination room to get Griffin’s side of the story. After having the boys sign their statements and securing their contact information, the officer allowed the boys to head home for much needed rest.
Since it was well after midnight by the time the boys made it back to the RV, they decided to stay in the next day and make plans for their stop in New York City. Griffin also needed to stay off his wounded leg for as long as possible to speed the healing. He would not be up for much walking for a couple of days, at least.
Nicholas located and made a 5-night reservation at Liberty Harbor RV Park in Jersey City. There would be plenty to interest and occupy them in New York City for several days. “Check this out, Griff,” Nicholas pointed at his laptop screen. “It’s right on the harbor, and you can see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty from the park. We can walk to the ferry landing and ride over to Manhattan or walk a little further and take the subway over.”
“Yeah, less walking and more riding for a few days sounds good, Boobaloo. Crutches are a pain, and I’m NOT doing Manhattan on crutches! Short walks and cab rides will be best for at least a couple of days.”
“Well, you are going to stay off that leg all day today. Your humble servant is going to wait on you every second,” Nicholas winked while dramatically bowing. “Your every wish is my command, Your Royal Peachiness, and I give my solemn vow that you will not be disappointed by the gifts I shall lavish on thee.”
“Ooooo … I think I’m going to like staying in today!”
The boys spent the rest of the morning researching things to do for four days in New York City. “There’s no way we can possibly do everything we want to do, so we’re going to have to make some tough choices,” Nicholas sighed. “I wish we could stay here for a couple of weeks but, if we do, we won’t have time to see the rest of New England and get you to Ohio in time for your orientation at Ohio State in six weeks.”
“I’m sure we will be back, but you’re right. It’s going to be tough,” Griffin agreed. “I can think of at least a dozen things right off the top of my head.”
“Okay, we’ll make a list and then whittle it down. Although I’d love to visit all the boroughs, I think we need to focus on Manhattan for this trip. How about 2 days in Midtown and Upper Manhattan and 2 days in Lower Manhattan?”
“That makes sense, and we have to see a couple of Broadway shows, too, if we can snag tickets. So, let’s start with Lower Manhattan. What’s there that we want to spend two days enjoying?” Griffin asked.
“OH! There is SO much culture there!” Nicholas gushed. “There’s SOHO, Chinatown, Alphabet City and the East Village, the Flatiron District and Chelsea, Little Italy and Tribeca, and Washington Square Park. We’ll try to plot out a course to see as much of it as possible in two days. I think that should be the last two days, and, hopefully, your leg will be healed enough to do the walking.”
“Perfect. So, the first two days, we will focus on Midtown and Upper Manhattan,” Griffin responded. “Broadway, Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, The Museum of Modern Art, and Central Park.”
The boys’ list grew rapidly as the morning passed quickly and they decided to take a break for lunch. Afterward, they shifted gears and found a movie to watch, but both were fast asleep before ‘Panic Room’ reached the halfway point. The rest was very much needed after the stressful night they had endured and the fitful sleep they had after returning home.
Following their long afternoon naps, the boys worked out plans for their four days in The Big Apple, and then Nicholas left Griffin working on his ‘RV Chronicles’ Instagram page while he went in quest of dinner. Returning a little over an hour later loaded down with several Boston Market bags, Griffin laughed as Nicholas stumbled through the door and into the kitchen. “Expecting company?” he giggled.
“I couldn’t make up my mind,” Nicholas blushed. “We’ll have plenty of leftovers for several lunches, though.”
Having fully sated their appetites, the boys were a bit restless and not the least bit tired, so they did what two young men very much in love do. Nicholas helped Griffin onto their bed and slowly began to peel his boyfriend’s clothing from his body, kissing and savoring each exposed area as he went. Once an obviously excited Griffin was completely bare and twitching, Nicholas tapped his Spotify tunes a couple of times, and, as the sultry selection began to play, he gave Peaches a seductive show that guaranteed to ripen his fruit. Nicholas swayed more than danced and so very slowly removed his shirt and then worked his way down as Donna Summer crooned …
“When you’re laying so close to me
There’s no place I’d rather you be than with me, uh
Ahaaw, I love to love you, baby
Ahaaw, I love to love you, baby
Ahaaw, I love to love you, baby
Do it to me again and again
You put me in such a awful spin, in a spin, in
Ahaaw, I love to love you, baby
Ahaaw, I love to love you, baby
Ahaaw, I love to love you, baby … ”
Nicholas was up early the following morning to shower and scarf down some breakfast as he would have to pack up the RV for road travel by himself. Griffin had to practically be tied to the bed frame to prevent him from trying to help, but Nicholas begged and pleaded with him to stay put and give his leg another full day of rest so he would be in better shape to explore NYC tomorrow.
Having secured everything and double-checked the checklist, as well as planting Griffin in the bean bag on the floor with the laptop, Nicholas climbed into the captain’s chair and punched the coordinates for the Liberty Harbor RV Park. It would be a fairly short trip up the Jersey Shore, and it was a beautiful day for a leisurely drive. Contemplating musical choices, he decided quickly on Jersey’s native son, Bruce Springsteen. As the Boss’ gravelly voice began to belt from the speakers, Nicholas couldn’t help but join in …
As they passed the road sign that read “Now Entering Atlantic City,” Nicholas grinned and pushed a button to change to a different Spotify playlist. Kenny Rogers came through the speakers singing “The Gambler.”
Griffin rolled his eyes. “You’re such a dork. Why do I love you so much?”
“Because I’m good in bed?” Nicholas snorted with laughter.
“Well, you are, but I’ve been in love with you since before I ever saw you naked. It must be something else.”
“My charming personality and sense of humor?”
“Hmm. Let’s go with that.” Griff couldn’t stop smiling as he stared at the man that he just knew he would love forever.
“Have you looked at my notes on things to do here yet?” Nicholas asked.
“Yeah, but I didn’t see spending all day gambling at a casino as an option on any of your lists. Did you forget?”
“No, I didn’t forget. You have to be twenty-one to get in any of the casinos. My dad made notes about the best casinos to play poker in, but right next to those notes were lists of things to keep me occupied while he played.”
“How stupid is it that we can vote and go to war, but we can’t drink or gamble. The adults trust us to choose the president and defend the country, but they don’t trust us to play cards. I don’t understand that at all.”
“You’re right. I agree one hundred percent, but there’s nothing we can do until we elect President Griffmeister into office.”
“That has a nice ring to it, and so does First Husband Nicholas Boobear.”
Nicholas got a dreamy look in his eyes. “Husband has an even better ring to it than President does.”
Griff leaned over and kissed the side of Nicholas’ neck. “Just don’t drive us off the road, future husband of mine.”
Nicholas’ smile nearly split his face in two. “Anything for you, Peaches.”
“But back to your list, I’m thinking the best thing, since we’re not starting until noon, is to hit the Atlantic City Boardwalk. There’s food, games, arcades, and rides. Plus, there’s a giant ferris wheel that has temperature-controlled gondolas instead of regular seats. It’s two hundred and twenty-seven feet tall! The gondolas seat six people each. We absolutely have to ride that!”
“That all sounds great. The Boardwalk it is!” Nicholas said as they pulled into the RV park. Nicholas got out and headed to the office to sign in, while Griffin went about the, now automatic, tasks of hooking up the RV to the proper connections in their assigned spot.
The boys got off the bus and walked the remaining distance to their destination. Just as he stepped foot onto the historic Boardwalk, Nicholas looked at his watch. “Not bad. I wanted to be here between noon and twelve-thirty, and it’s twelve twenty-five.”
“Awesome. Now, where’s the closest pizza joint? I’m starved.”
“You do know that the RV is fully stocked with food and snacks, right, Griff?” Nicholas laughed.
“Yeah, but I googled the Boardwalk, and I was drooling over all the food choices all morning. Now come on. Pizza first, then funnel cakes for dessert.”
Nicholas shook his head and followed his boyfriend up the Boardwalk in search of pizza.
With his face still covered in powdered sugar from the funnel cake, Griff grinned. “That was delicious! I’m ready to be entertained now. What’s next?”
“The next thing you need to do is wash your face, or I’ll have to call you Sweet Peach instead of Peaches.”
“You’re a funny guy, Boo. I’m sweet enough without the sugar. I shall return.” Griff turned and ran into the bathroom to wash up.
When Griff returned, Nicholas smiled at him. “Perfect. Let’s go.”
Griff put a hand over his heart and said dramatically, “You mean there’s a time when I’m not perfect?”
Nicholas leaned in close. “Never. I would have licked the sugar right off your face, but I didn’t want to cause a scene.” He lightly bit Griff’s earlobe before he pulled away.
“Plus, we would have ended up back in the RV, and I do want to see the Boardwalk,” Griff said.
“True enough. How about some carnival games while we digest our food, then the rides afterward?”
“Excellent plan, Captain Nicholas. Let’s win us some prizes!”
After a couple of hours of water pistols, throwing darts at balloons, throwing basketballs into hoops, and playing tic-tac-toe with beanbags, both boys had won prizes they were happy with. Nicholas won a stuffed monkey that was carrying a surfboard for Griff, and Griff won a giant stuffed penguin for Nicholas. “I sure hope we don’t lose these on any of the rides. I love this penguin!” Nicholas said.
“Surfer Monkey shall not be lost!” Griff laughed. “Let’s hit the ferris wheel first, it’s right here.”
There wasn’t much of a line at The Wheel, so the ride operator let Nicholas and Griffin have the six-person gondola to themselves. There were a lot of starts and stops on their way up to the top while other passengers got on and off the ride. The two boys stood at the side of the gondola and stared out over the city. “This is an amazing view!” Nicholas said.
“You can’t even see that the dock is under us. It’s like we’re right out over the water!”
Nicholas stood behind his boyfriend and rested his chin on Griffin’s shoulder. Nicholas wrapped his arms around the other boy. “The view is even more beautiful because we’re here together.”
Griff turned to face Nicholas, still wrapped in his arms, and looked into his lover’s eyes. “Anywhere would be the most beautiful place on Earth as long as I’m in your arms, Boo.” Griff leaned down just enough for their lips to meet. Nicholas slid his hands up Griff’s back, and he wrapped his arms around Griff’s neck, pulling him deeper into the kiss. It seemed like no time at all passed, but then they heard a noise and heard someone clear their throat. They turned towards the door to the gondola and saw the ride operator standing there with a goofy grin on his face.
“This isn’t a hotel room, boys. The ride is over. Time to go.” Nicholas and Griffin both blushed bright red and fled the gondola. They spent another hour riding more rides and then decided that it was time to go in search of dinner.
“I want something a little more substantial than pizza and funnel cakes for dinner.” Nicholas laughed. “Let’s head back to the main street and look around.
“Yeah, a nice dinner does sound good. It’s been an awesome day, Boo.” Hand in hand they left the Boardwalk and started searching for a restaurant. Griffin was scrolling on his phone, trying to find a restaurant, when music caught his attention. He looked up and standing on the street corner was a young guy, maybe a few years older than he was, playing a guitar and singing. The guy had a hat out on the sidewalk for tips. Griffin stopped, Nicholas felt Griffin stop, and he stopped also and looked around.
“What’s up? Why’d we stop? Did you find something?” Nicholas asked.
“No. I wanted to listen to him for a few minutes,” Griff said, stepping closer to the musician.
“Oh, wow. Yeah, he’s good,” Nicholas said.
The musician noticed the two boys, and he also saw that they were holding hands. He winked at the boys, and then he stopped the song that he was singing and started a new one. Griff recognized the song right away and smiled. It was “Young and In Love” by Ingrid Michaelson.
“We’re young and in love
And we’re running like the wind, we got it all
We’re never alone
If we got each other, we can save the world
Explosions in the sky, I see colors fly
It’s like the Fourth of July in your eyes
Old enough, old enough, old enough to know that
We are young in love, young in love, young and in love
You and me, we can see, time will stand still
If we stay young in love, young in love, young and in love
Yeah, we are young and in love
Yeah, we are young and in love
Yeah, we are young and in love (oh, oh)
Yeah, we are young and in love
Yeah, we are young and in love
Yeah, we are young and in love (oh, oh)
We’ll turn it up
Play the music loud so we can sing along
And teach me all the words to your favorite songs
The young musician was into his song and playing right to Griff and Nicholas. Someone walked out of the crowd that had formed and went as if he was going to put a tip into the hat. Instead, he reached down and grabbed the hat, and took off running. Griff noticed right away and yelled out, “Hey! Stop!” The man didn’t stop. “I’ll be right back!” Griffin yelled to Nicholas and he took off after the thief at top speed.
“Hey, we’re here. Let’s go by the Ranger Station and pick up the information pamphlets and start our tour of Gettysburg. This is going to be an excellent day! We are about to see history up close and personal,” Griffin shouted happily at Nicholas.
“Yes, babe, I’m excited. My dad wanted me to see it and experience where the historic battles took place. I’m happy I get to share this experience with you.”
“Surprise, Sugar Britches, our uniforms are all ready for us. I arranged for us to be a part of a battlefield reenactment today for the first part of our tour of Gettysburg.”
“What? When did you do that? This is so awesome, babe, thank you so much!” Nicholas said happily.
“Now we need to change into our uniforms and get ready to reenact the famous battle. We have to hurry, though, Nicholas.”
“Wow, you look hot in your uniform. I will always follow your lead, Captain,” Griffin said with a wink.
“It’s so neat getting to portray real soldiers in the Civil War and try to imagine what they must have felt in the moments leading up to it,” Nicholas said. “It took place on July 1-3, 1863. In three days of fighting there were high casualties.”
“General George Meade led the Northern Army to try and stop General Robert E. Lee from taking the Southern Army further north. General Meade’s army had over seventy thousand troops to General Lee’s one hundred thousand plus. The armies fought at different sites on the Gettysburg battlefield,” Griffin said. “It is so awesome that the smaller army was able to win the ultimate battle.”
“Well, let’s go meet some people before we start the reenactment, Peaches.”
The two of them got all the details for the battle and they were getting into position when a younger boy of 13 came up in uniform. “My name is Mick,” he said. “I’ve been doing these reenactments since I was ten years old.”
“It’s so hard for me to picture that kids so young were here on this sacred ground fighting for the country and a lot of them died that day,” Nicholas chimed in.
“Yes, I know. In most cases, the younger kids joined up because their families were killed in battles elsewhere and they were doing it to avenge their deaths,” Mick said. “It’s a pleasure meeting you guys. Have fun!”
As Griffin and Nicholas waited for the first cannon to go off to signal the start, they couldn’t help but feel nervous and anxious. “Can you actually imagine how the troops felt while waiting for the enemy to engage them, Boo?” Griffin said nervously.
“If it’s anything like I feel now, even knowing it’s not real and we won’t die, then I think they were fearful and super anxious.”
The cannons went off to signal the start and the bugles and drums all started playing. Then Nicholas shouted out, “Charge!” The loud cannons going off and the sounds of bullets flying were overwhelming. The reenactment was intense. The ground was littered with ‘dead’ and ‘severely injured’ troops. After some very dramatic moments, the guys came across a familiar face pretending to be dead, their new friend Mick. Nicholas and Griffin both burst into tears even though they knew he was fine. The feelings were still very real.
“Can you imagine the friends that became family to each other finding their dead bodies? I just can’t imagine how truly horrific it all was,” Nicholas said, sadly. “This feels so real and changes how I will see this battle from now on. I see now why my dad wanted me to do this with him and I’m glad I did it with you.”
“Yes, it was definitely an eye-opening experience to me, too, Boo. I never really thought of the implications of this battle and war before. It truly had brothers fighting against brothers and friends fighting against friends,” Griffin said, surveying the scene.
“When all was said and done, the final number of dead was over twenty-three thousand for the North, and for the South, between twenty-three thousand and twenty-eight thousand. It was probably the bloodiest battlefield ever.”
“We are done now, Boo. I guess we can go mingle and chat with the others for a while,” Griffin said.
The guys mingled with other reenactors for a while, and then walked around and looked at the different battlefields. Soon, it was time to head back to the RV and change and get cleaned up to go out and eat at a local diner.
“I’m glad that we got to enjoy this with each other, Peaches. It’s not every day that we get to be a part of history,” Nicholas said as he grabbed Griffin from behind and hugged and kissed him.
“It was very inspiring and enlightening for me. I am glad I got to be with you,” Griffin said with a smile.
The guys decided to go to a diner in town to eat dinner. Most of the buildings, including the diner where they were eating, were buildings still intact from the 1800s. They ordered steaks and potatoes and corn and talked about what it must have been like back in earlier days. The diner’s menu stated that it was on the ghost tour. Griffin flipped through the pamphlets that they had. The information said that Gettysburg is amongst the most haunted places in the United States. There were tales of ghost soldiers and women and children. Tales told of apparitions and things moving on their own, even in the basement of the diner they were eating in right now.
“Hey, sweetie, I want to do this tour. It’s not too late, is it? I know we want to get going early tomorrow to get to Atlantic City by lunchtime. Can we please do this? You know how much I like reading and watching stuff about the paranormal,” Griffin asked excitedly.
“Only for you, my precious Boo. I love you so much I could never say no.” Nicholas said with a huge smile.
“Thank you so much, my love. You’re so sweet to me. I love you very much,” Griffin said as he leaned his head across the table to kiss the love of his life.
They signed up and paid for the tour and headed down into the basement with flashlights and meters to get readings. They were given instructions not to touch anything. They were taken to a room to watch a short film about events that took place, and they were amazed at the history of the township.
The guys were part of a small group that was taken to Jennie Wade’s house. This was where a lady named Jenny Wade was killed by a bullet while she was kneading bread. The stray bullet, shot by soldiers during a battle, went through a thick door. It was said that her ghost, as well as many soldiers’ ghosts, came and did many different things in and around the house. The bullet holes were still in the door. The tour guides said everything was left as it was. Nothing was happening at the moment, so they all started to go. Then things began to move on their own in the kitchen, including a rolling pin rolling as if someone was kneading dough. This was about the most exciting thing that happened on the tour, although there were other light anomalies and mists on the battlefields. Also, they heard talking and saw campfires that weren’t really there, but overall the Wade House was the highlight of the tour.
“Well, see, Peaches, nothing really happened, but it was worth going, and it gave me a reason to hold your hand,” said Nicholas.
“Thank you, Babe. I had fun even if we didn’t see any ghosts. We saw historic houses and heard interesting stories, plus I loved holding your hand and cuddling,” Griff said excitingly. They headed back to the RV and went inside, already stripping each other of their clothes on their way to the bedroom.
Both boys were up early, anticipating a full day of once-in-a-lifetime fun and excitement. While the coffee brewed, they quickly performed their morning bathroom rituals and ablutions, somehow managing to keep their hands to themselves. Settled at the table, coffee mugs in hand, and Special K in bowls, they discussed their itinerary.
“So … Your Royal Booness, what’s the game plan for this special day?” Griffin inquired. “I know you have every minute of our Independence Day celebration choreographed minute-by-minute, huh?”
“I certainly do, Peachy Cheeks!” Nicholas replied. “It will be tight in a couple of spots, but if you can manage to keep your hands off me while we hoof it between events, I think we can get to each one in time to partake of the festivities.”
“If I behave myself, may I partake of you later tonight? I’m kinda loving that we are now partaking of the RV all by ourselves! I’m thinking we can set off some fireworks of our own, hmm?”
“Yes, you may … and I agree … and BOOM!” Nicholas winked. “Okay … let’s go through this. Our first stop is a birthday party for America at the Independence Visitor Center, complete with a five-tier cake and 2,500 cupcakes arranged in the shape of an American flag. They even have Betsy Ross leading everyone in ‘Happy Birthday’!”
“Well, she’s gotta be looking the worse for wear by now, but, hey, you had me at cake, so I’m in.”
“Next, we work off the calories by racing ourselves to Independence Hall for a presentation, a reading of the ‘Declaration of Independence’ and music by the Philly Pops Band. Then we have to get to Chestnut Street by 11 o’clock for the start of the ‘Salute to America Independence Day Parade.’ That’ll last a while since it has over 4000 participants!”
“Sounds exciting! Oh, please tell me more, Boomeister!”
“Okay, then. I’m sure by that time you will be famished, having not eaten in many minutes, so we will move on to the ‘July 4th Community Picnic in the Park’ at the Valley Forge National Historical Park. That will take us to mid-afternoon, and we can make our way to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the ‘Party on the Parkway’ which ends with the ‘Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert & Fireworks’ this evening.”
“This is going to be EPIC!” Griffin gushed. “I have an empty memory card in my camera ready to record every minute for our posterior!”
“Uh … you mean posterity?”
“Yeah, sure .. that, too!”
With both phones and Griffin’s ridiculously expensive digital camera fully charged and backpacks stuffed with anything and everything they felt they might need, the boys headed out into the 70 degree early morning sunshine for the half-hour walk to the bus stop where the Philly Phlash would deliver them to the Independence Visitor Center to begin the day-long birthday party. As they walked, Griffin soon noticed that Nicholas’ earlier exuberance seemed to have waned considerably, as he was unusually quiet.
“Feeling a bit anxious?” the always perceptive Griffin gently probed.
“There’s going to be like a gazillion people everywhere,” Nicholas answered. “I’m trying really hard to not think about that, Griff, but when we get there, it’s going to hit me full on. I don’t wanna ruin this or embarrass you by freaking out with a panic attack.”
“First, you won’t embarrass me,” Griffin quickly assured him. “Second, we both know how to deal with it. It won’t be the first time it’s happened. If you start feeling dizzy or out of breath, just look me in the eyes and stay focused on me. Shut out everything and everyone around us. We’ll get through it just like we always do, and you know, after the first attack, you’ll be fine.” Griffin squeezed Nicholas’ hand firmly to punctuate his words.
“Thanks, Griff. I already feel better. You’ve always been my rock, and you always know what to say and do.”
An hour later, when the Philly Phlash spit them out in front of the Independence Visitor Center, Nicholas just stood tensely on the sidewalk gripping Griffin’s hand tightly. There were at least as many people as he had feared there would be, no doubt due in large part to the beautiful weather. “Look at me, Boo,” Griffin said, and Nicholas focused on his green eyes. “Now just breath slow, in and out, in and out.”
Nicholas began to feel the blood flow back into his legs, and the trembling faded away. As his labored breathing began to ease, he tentatively began to look around and take everything in. The anxiety retreated back into the far corners of his mind, surely to return again another day but, for now, defeated. With Griffin by his side, he was ready to not only face the crowds but enjoy this once in a lifetime experience … America’s birthday in the birthplace of America.
The boys slowly made their way through the swarm, following Griffin’s cake radar until each had a cupcake in their free hand and receded back toward the less crowded fringes of the lawn. Eventually, a rather robust looking, for roughly 250 years old, Betsy Ross made her appearance and enthusiastically began to belt out ‘Happy Birthday’ with the throng of celebrants quickly joining in.
With the sugar infusion, the boys easily found the energy to race each other to Independence Hall. Of course, Griffin arrived first, but he made sure to keep an eye over his shoulder to ensure that Nicholas was close behind. They arrived just as the guest speaker, one Morgan Freeman, arrived center stage and began the recitation of ‘The Declaration of Independence.’ Both Nicholas and Griffin were blinking back tears by the end of the surprisingly moving rendering. As Mr. Freeman stepped down from the dais, the Philly Pops Band immediately blasted out the first notes of the national anthem, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ The chorus of voices that joined in raised goosebumps on both boys. They listened to other iconic tunes such as ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy,’ ‘God Bless America,’ ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag,’ and ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ before finally tearing themselves away from the awe-inspiring concert to make their way to Chestnut Street for the start of the parade.
Following the almost two hour parade, of which Griffin took a plethora of snapshots, they consulted their GPS and found their way to the Valley Forge National Historical Park for the community picnic. Not at all surprising, the party boys were quite peckish as both their cereal and cupcakes were little more than a distant memory at this point. Brandishing plates that were all but overflowing and bottles of water, they found a spot on a low brick wall surrounding the park to rest, ingest, and imbibe.
After inhaling their food and drink, the boys sprawled out on the manicured lawn in the shade under a massive Red Maple tree. “Come here, Boo. I’ve held out as long as I can,” winked Griffin. “I need to partake of you right now!”
“You don’t need to beg, Sweet Peach, but remember this is a family event,” Nicholas teased as he pulled Griff into his arms. “Hands above the waist at all times. Whoa! Is that your camera lens in your pocket, or are you that happy to get your hands on me?”
After enjoying the beauty of the perfect summer day for an hour, as well as the beauty of their new relationship, Nicholas and Griffin rose, discarded their plates and water bottles in the recycling bins, and began a leisurely stroll, hand in hand, toward Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the evening concert and fireworks show.
Thinking that this day couldn’t get any better, they discovered that they were wrong. The concert was exhilarating, and the fireworks display was beyond either of the boys’ expectations. Happily exhausted, they located the closest bus stop and waited for the Philly Phlash to arrive. Nicholas set up an Uber pick up at their bus dropoff so that they would not have to make the walk back to the RV. Not only were the boys quite tired but they were a little nervous about being out walking at that time of the night in an unfamiliar area.
Remarkably, freshly showered and lying in bed by midnight, both boys were too zapped to do anything more than cuddle and smooch. After a half-hour of blissful togetherness, they separated themselves. Griffin transferred his pics from his camera to his laptop and began to play with them, discarding some, editing others, while Nicholas retrieved his journal and began to record their day’s excitement.
“Remember my dad’s maps that I found the other day with the markings and notes he made about places he wanted to visit and take me to?”
“Of course, I do.”
“Well, I was thinking … it’s out of the way a bit, but one of the places he had circled was Gettysburg. I know we’re heading toward New England, and Gettysburg is actually west of here, but I think we’ve got time to go there for the weekend. I’m pretty sure they do Civil War reenactments on the weekends, and that would be really awesome to see! Then maybe we could head back east towards Atlantic City. What do you think?”
“I think … no, I know … I would follow you to the ends of the Earth!”
Nicholas closed the door firmly behind himself, then started to walk toward the rear door. Griffin reached over and grabbed his hand. “Nicholas, we’ve checked all the doors and windows three times. Everything is locked up tight.”
“Should we just stay here today? We’re gonna leave by one or two anyway.”
Griff leaned down, so their foreheads were touching and stared into Nicholas’ blue eyes as he spoke. “No. Let’s stick to our plans. Whether it was some kid looking for money, or something more sinister, I think if anything were going to happen, it would have happened yesterday. Don’t let it ruin our fun.”
Nicholas leaned in for a kiss. “You truly are my rock. I don’t know what I would ever do without you. Let’s go have some fun.”
“I guess your idea of fun is eating my dust on the go-kart track!” Jamie said with a smirk.
Casey rolled her eyes. “Come on, children. Let’s get moving if we want to do this. There’s no sense wasting our last day together.”
Nicholas leaped out of the go-kart almost before it stopped moving. He pumped his fist in the air and yelled, “Total victory is mine!”
Griff and the two girls got out of their go-karts and walked over to Nicholas. “You were lucky! I was just settling into a good groove. A couple more races and I would have caught you,” Griffin said.
“We agreed on the number of races and point system before we started. Don’t be a sore loser, Peaches!” Nicholas retorted.
“At least I tied with you,” Jamie said, poking Griffin in the side and laughing.
“Can we not talk about who finished where, and just agree that we all had fun?” Casey asked with a grin.
Jamie spun and faced her sister, “That’s only because you finished last, sis!”
Casey shook her head, “Oh, please. I took it easy on you guys because I knew I’d destroy you all at mini-golf.”
“That sounds like a challenge! Come on, let’s go!” Griffin shouted and led the group away from the go-kart track and under the sign which read ‘Fire Mountain Mini-golf.’
By the time that they played seven holes, Nicholas and Jamie saw that the game was going to be a battle between Casey and Griff, so they conspired together to try trick shots to get hole-in-ones and attempt to gain some ground. “Nicholas! No! Don’t hit it yet.” Jamie ran up to Nicholas just before he hit the ball. “Don’t hit it through the loop-de-loop. Angle it off to the left and ricochet off the wall. If you do it just right, it should go right into the hole.”
“Ok, I see what you’re trying to do. I’ll try it that way.” Nicholas said and shot the ball. The ball went just like Jamie said it would but stopped a few inches short of the hole. On Jamie’s turn, she hit it harder than Nicholas had, but the ball flew past the hole, missing it by only an inch or two.
On the sixteenth hole, Griff and Casey were tied for the lead. The obstacle to the hole was a windmill. They had to hit the ball through the hole in the mill and avoid the spinning blades. Griff lined up his shot perfectly and hit the ball. The spinning windmill blade swooped down and covered the opening just before his ball arrived. Griff’s golf ball smacked into the blade and caromed off backward, almost back to where it started. Griffin cursed his bad luck and finished the hole in five shots. Casey’s shot went perfectly under the windmill and stopped just a couple inches from the hole. A light tap into the hole, and she was now three shots ahead of Griffin.
Griff kicked at the turf. “Great shot, Casey. I still have two holes to catch up, though!” Griffin’s comeback was not to be. They played even on the last two holes. In total, the course was a par fifty-four. Casey ended with forty-four, Griff with forty-seven, Nicholas with fifty-one, and Jamie with fifty-six.
Just as they were about to leave Fire Mountain, a teenage boy who looked to be about sixteen or seventeen ran up to Jamie. “Hey, baby. These two,” he motioned toward Griff and Nicholas, “don’t look like they’re paying a hottie like you enough attention.” He held up a hand in front of Jamie and was rolling two golf balls around in his hand. “Why don’t you come over here and play with my balls for a while.”
Griff started to step forward, but Jamie raised a hand to let him know that she could handle it. Jamie gave the other boy a sweet smile and placed her hand flat against his chest. “You’re such a charmer. I bet you get all the girls with witty lines like that, don’t you?”
“I do ok.” he gave her a cocky grin.
Jamie took another step closer, still smiling. “I bet you don’t. I bet that Junior,” her eyes flicked down toward his crotch. “has never even seen a girl in his life.”
The boy’s eyes grew wide. “Why you little b…” whatever else he was going to say never made it past his lips. Jamie’s smile grew even wider as she lifted her knee and planted it firmly in his groin. The boy screamed and fell to the ground, his hands clutching at his injured family jewels.
Two other boys ran up and knelt down by their friend. As they helped him to his feet, one of them said, “Dude, you’re such an idiot. We told you not to try that.”
“Shut up, Wyatt! You’re supposed to have my back.”
“I do, but you totally deserved what you got.” The rest of their conversation died out as they walked away.
Jamie spun back toward her sister and the boys. “Well, that was fun. Are we ready to go now?”
Nicholas strapped himself securely into the captain’s chair and picked out a playlist to send them on their way. He looked behind him and grinned at Jamie. “As we roll outta Delaware and move on to Pennsylvania, let’s honor Jamie’s fallen suitor.” His grin widened as he hit play. They left Rehoboth Beach to the sounds of Queen.
Oh, let’s go
Steve walks warily down the street
With the brim pulled way down low
Ain’t no sound but the sound of his feet,
Machine guns ready to go
Are you ready, hey, are you ready for this?
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I’m gonna get you, too
Another one bites the dust
How do you think I’m going to get along
Without you when you’re gone?
You took me for everything that I had
And kicked me out on my own
Are you happy, are you satisfied?
How long can you stand the heat?
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I’m gonna get you, too
Another one bites the dust
Oh take it
Bite the dust
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust oww
Another one bites the dust hey hey
Another one bites the dust eh eh
Oh shoot out
There are plenty of ways that you can hurt a man
And bring him to the ground
You can beat him, you can cheat him
You can treat him bad and leave him when he’s down
But I’m ready, yes, I’m ready for you
I’m standing on my own two feet
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
Repeating to the sound of the beat oh yeah
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I’m gonna get you, too
Another one bites the dust
Oh shoot out, hey hey, all right.
They arrived at the RV park just outside Philadelphia at four twenty-five, pretty much right on schedule. “I’ll be right back. I just have to run to the office and sign in.” Nicholas said as he climbed out of the RV.
“What time is your aunt getting here?” Griff asked Jamie.
“I’m texting her right now,” Jamie answered.
“Don’t bother. She just texted me. She’s here.” Casey said. All three of them exited the RV and walked toward the parking area near the office. Griff chatted with the girls on their way to the parking lot, but then he noticed that they both stopped dead in their tracks.
“Hey, what’s wrong? Not quite ready to part company with me yet?” He said and flashed them both a smile. His smile evaporated when he saw the look of fear on both of their faces. “Seriously, girls, what’s wrong?”
“Look. It’s him. It’s been him following us all along.” Griff looked where Jamie pointed, and he saw an older man and an older woman in what looked like a heated argument. The man was leaning against a beat-up red pickup truck.
“That’s your stepfather? Is that your aunt that he’s talking to?” Griffin asked.
“Yes. That’s Aunt Bev. I guess we better get over there and get this over with.” Casey said.
“I’m sure your aunt will take care of everything,” Griff said, trying to sound cheerful. As they got closer, they overheard the conversation between Aunt Bev and stepdad Roger.
“Those girls owe me! They’re coming back with me until they pay off my hospital bills. They left most of their stuff behind anyway. They probably want it back.”
“They aren’t going anywhere with you, Roger. I tried to get my sister away from you, and I tried to get the girls after she passed away. Now that both of my nieces are out of that house and over eighteen years old, there’s no way they are ever going back.”
“Listen, bitch, they’re coming with me, or I’ll call the cops and have them arrested for assault.”
Griffin spoke up. “Dude, I saw their bruises. You were beating them, and you probably beat their mom, too. You’re a child-abusing bully. Go ahead and call the cops. I dare you.”
Roger reached into the back of his pickup and pulled out a baseball bat. “Look, Jamie, I brought your favorite toy.” Then he glared at Griffin. “I don’t know you, boy, but if I can’t get my money, I’ll sure as hell get some revenge.”
“There’s four of us here. You don’t want to do this, Roger.” Casey said. Bev had distanced herself from Roger and was on the phone with 9-1-1.
“Get behind me,” Griff said to the girls. Then, when Griff looked back at Roger, he saw Nicholas walking across the parking lot behind the older man. Roger raised the baseball bat and started stalking towards Griffin, Casey, and Jamie. Griff was about to yell out to Nicholas to go get help, but then he saw his boyfriend lower his head and charge. Nicholas hit Roger like a linebacker sacking the quarterback. Roger’s arms flew up, and the bat went sliding across the parking lot. The two hit the pavement with a thud, Nicholas’ landing cushioned by Roger’s body.
Griffin raced over and helped Nicholas to his feet. “That was amazing! Are you ok, Boo?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. I came out of the office and saw the red pickup. Then I saw that guy raise the bat and walk toward you guys, and I just reacted. I take it that he’s the stepfather?”
Casey and Jamie had joined the boys and had Nicholas in a double bear hug. They each kissed him on the cheek, and Jamie said, “Yes. That’s our stepfather, and you are our absolute hero!”
Roger groaned and rolled onto his back. He started to get up. Bev looked down at him. “Just stay on the ground, Roger. The cops are almost here.” In fact, at that moment, they all heard the sirens getting closer.
Back in the RV, the two boys flopped down on the couch. “I can’t believe that just happened,” Griffin said.
“Which part?” Nicholas chuckled.
“All of it! You’re a bona fide hero, Boo!”
“Aw! You would have done the same thing, Peaches.”
“I’m just glad the girls are safe and with family now.”
“I’m going to miss the hell out of them, but some alone time with you will be nice,” Nicholas said, laying his head in Griff’s lap and swinging his legs up onto the couch. “Pass me the remote, please, Peaches.”
“Here you go, hero,” Griff said as he passed Nicholas the remote and leaned down for a kiss.
Nicholas turned on the TV and started up Netflix. “What do you feel like watching tonight?”
“Something fun. No more drama for me tonight.” Griff laughed.
“Hmm. It sounds like a night to continue binging ‘Grace and Frankie’ then.”
“Excellent choice,” Griff said, and they settled in for a relaxing night of comedy after their adventurous and drama-filled day.
Nicholas woke up earlier than Griffin for once. He could barely contain his excitement to finally get out into the ocean and see just how much of the surfing lessons that he’d retained. Having the love of his life by his side as his surf mentor was a definite added bonus. He went into the bathroom and started getting ready for the big day ahead.
Griffin woke up and felt around for Nicholas. He got a little worried when he wasn’t there. “Where in the world is he? He never gets up this early,” Griff thought to himself. Puzzled and confused, he jumped out of bed only to hear “Surfin’ USA” playing, and to his surprise, Nicholas was singing to the Beach Boys hit. “Mmmhhhmmm, Nicky-poo, you had me worried, but seeing you in here singing and dancing in the shower tells me that you’re excited about today.”
“Cool observation, and don’t call me Nicky-poo. You know I hate that, but you are correct,” Nicholas popped off. “I’m really ready to try to surf out on the real ocean and, with you out there, I’m not scared at all.”
“I’m so happy that you’re excited about surfing,” Griffin answered back.
“I’m going to finish getting ready and then you should shower before we wake the girls up.”
“Fine, you got a deal, babe.”
Griffin showered and got ready for the day and then went back to the bedroom to get his bodysuit on. He couldn’t find Nicholas again, so he opened the front door to the RV and, lo and behold, Nicholas was outside getting his board ready for the day at the beach. “Hi, honey! Boy, you really are excited. You keep on doing what you’re doing and I’ll get the girls up and cook breakfast. I love you, babe,” Griffin said happily.
Griffin walked into the living room and saw both girls still sprawled out on the pull-out sofa. “Rise and shine, ladies! It’s time to get up and get ready for the beach.” After a few groans from the girls, Jamie darted into the bathroom, so Casey sighed and picked up her cell phone to check her messages while she waited for her sister to get ready. Griffin went into the kitchen and started making pancakes and bacon. He also got out some fruit for pancake toppings. He turned the music on as he was cooking and selected a playlist. Bruno Mars’ “Count on Me” started playing as Griff began cutting up the fruit.
After about 45 minutes, Nicholas came back inside and, along with the girls, now dressed in their bikinis, sat down to eat.
“This is so good, Griff! Thank you for yet another great breakfast,” Nicholas said with a grin.
The girls both complimented Griffin on breakfast, but then Jamie, as usual, had to tease Griff. “Nicholas is so lucky. You will make a good wife for him one day.”
“That’s so funny, but don’t quit your day job any time soon. Oh, wait, you don’t work, little miss comedian,” Griff said with a laugh.
“Alright, we’re ready to go. Let’s head to the beach now to make sure we get good spots,” Nicholas said.
They all grabbed the stuff they needed and they headed out to the beach. They were quite the sight, two guys carrying surfboards and backpacks and wearing bodysuits and two girls in bikinis. They arrived and picked out good spots. The boys set up down close to the water, while the girls chose to set up close to the lifeguard shack. The girls set out their beach towels and started checking out the groups of guys that were playing frisbee on the beach.
Nicholas was eager to get out on the water, but Griffin cautioned him to wait a bit. Griff said that the waves would start getting bigger soon enough, and until then they talked about their plans for the day.
“Mom is going to just love that I did this today and conquered one of my fears, and it’s all thanks to you, Peaches,” Nicholas said proudly.
“Aw shucks. It’s you that will be doing it all, and I’m proud to share this moment and day with you.” Griffin said, blushing. They looked over at the girls and saw that they were already having fun flirting with all the guys. Casey was hanging all over one of the lifeguards, feeling his muscles, and Jamie had joined in with one of the frisbee games. The guys bust out laughing, and they went back to talking about surf and conditions.
“Okay, see that section over there? Try not to get into the currents and let the waves carry you into that rocky bluff area. Turn away from it if you can and do tricks going away from it. Also, see that part there? If you get into that area it has a lot of stinging jellyfish and other fish which could attract sharks. So, avoid that,” Griffin said.
“Avoid crashing into the rocks and avoid getting eaten by sharks. Those are the best two pieces of advice that I’ve ever gotten,” Nicholas said, laughing. “Seriously, I am paying attention to everything, Peaches. Thank you.”
“Can I continue now?” Griffin grinned and rolled his eyes. “Anyway, if you get into some big heavy waves, fall off your board, but remember to grab your board and hold onto it, so it can help keep your head above water. I know you got this, babe.”
Time passed by, the winds picked up, and the waves increased. “Let’s do this! It’s time to paddle out and see if we can catch some waves, Boo,” Griffin said with a huge smile.
Both of the guys got on their boards and paddled out. “It’s your turn, go for it, babe,” Griff told Nicholas.
With great anticipation, Nicholas caught his first wave and balanced well on his board. He rode the wave doing some minor tricks, and shouted out with glee, “Awesome, I did it! Wow! What a feeling of exhilaration!”
“Woohoo, I am so proud of you, babe,” Griff said as he paddled over to Nicholas and kissed him.
“Now show me what you got, Griff, don’t hold back. Show me how it’s done,” Nicholas said, smiling ear to ear.
“I forgot to tell you, I recorded you with my GoPro cam so you can show your mom, and I can upload it to our Instagram,” Griff said.
Griffin caught a great wave and did a lot of tricks, jumps, flips, and rode the tube really well. He was excited and told Nicholas, “You’re up next. I bet you do even better than before.”
The boys rode many waves throughout the day and only took short breaks all day long. They met some local surfers and made lots of friends. As a matter of fact, the girls were hanging out with a few of the surfers they met. They all agreed to meet at a bonfire on the beach later in the evening. The guys decided to call it a day after surfing and just hung out with all the local surfers.
Nightfall came, and they all headed over to the area of the beach where a huge bonfire had been lit. Nicholas was in awe of how cool it was to be a part of the surfing community and was just kinda speechless at first. “Hey, Griff, I now know why you’re so cool and love surfing so much. Everyone is so down to earth and friendly. They give you pointers and don’t really judge you that much. It seems like a close-knit family atmosphere, and it’s a welcome change,” Nicholas said.
“That’s for sure, babe, and everyone wants to see you succeed. You see, that’s what I have been telling you all these years. It’s really cool to be a surfer. Don’t get me wrong, you still have the arrogant douche bags, but overall it’s family,” Griffin said with pride. The two girls were still flirting with some of the local guys. Jamie was adding everyone on Snapchat and Twitter. Griffin and Nicholas made their rounds, sitting with different groups and telling their surf stories. Griffin let Nicholas do most of the talking, as it was his special day. Griff beamed with pride as Nicholas told everyone about his first time surfing out in the open waters.
Hours went by, and they were all tired and decided to head back to the RV. When they arrived, the door to the RV was wide open. Someone had broken in. Without hesitation, Nicholas dropped his board and ran inside to look around. “Nothing seems to be missing or damaged. The biggest thing is whoever it was dumped everything out of both girls’ backpacks and threw everything all over the living room. Casey, Jamie, check and see if anything is missing.” Nicholas said.
The girls picked up all their stuff and whispered nervously to each other before returning to Nicholas. “Nothing is missing. Why would someone do this, Nicholas?” Casey asked.
“I don’t know. This is so strange, but there’s no need to call and report it to the cops since nothing’s missing. We just need to double-check that we lock up tight when we leave. We may have left it unlocked by mistake,” Nicholas proclaimed.
“I agree, but we also need to keep an eye out for trouble or anything suspicious. Now let’s all get ready for bed. I, for one, am ready to crash,” Griffin said.
The girls changed into their pajamas and pulled out the sofa bed. “Goodnight, boys.” They both said practically in unison.
Griffin and Nicholas talked in bed about their day, and then after a few goodnight kisses, Nicholas wrapped his arms around Griffin, snuggled in close, and they both fell quickly asleep.