Nicholas looked up from his phone and pointed out the window. “The RV park I found is the next road on the right. I think I’ll get us a full hook-up for the night so we can leave North Carolina with an empty septic and fully charge everything else.”
“Make it at least three nights. That park with the hang gliding looks totally rad. There’s a lot more we can do.”
“I can’t believe that neither of us has ever been to Kitty Hawk and we’ve both lived in North Carolina our whole lives!”
“That’s why we’re adventuring now, my dude. We have a lot of boring years to make up for.”
“That’s for sure!” Nicholas brushed an unruly lock of blonde hair out of his eyes and looked back at his phone. He browsed through the RV park’s website double checking prices and pulled up the map of the campground, so he’d know where the main office was located. He was still scrolling when he felt the RV come to a stop.
Griff was dozing on the couch when Nicholas banged on the side door and yelled, “Saddle up, buddy. I got us a spot. Let’s go.”
Griff groaned and stretched on his way back to the captain’s chair. “Ok. Ok. Which way?”
“Go past the office, towards the beach. They said our spot is on the left, five spots up from the beach.”
“There it is, I see it.” Griff carefully backed into the parking space and turned off the engine.
“I know its too late to do anything there, but I wanna check out the other campground before we settle in for the night. Unhook the bikes while I hook up the RV. Its only five miles or so. It’ll be good to go for a ride anyway.”
Griff went around to the back of the RV and took their bicycles off the rack and checked the tires to make sure they were ready to go. By the time that Nicholas was ready, Griff was waiting. They followed the beach road and just over thirty minutes later they saw a sign for Kitty Hawk Kites.
“Man, this place is huge. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Yeah, Griff, let’s check in at the office and make sure what we have to do or if we need to bring anything or whatever.”
They walked into the office just in time to hear the receptionist say, “I’m sorry, ma’am, the discount only applies if you sign up for five people not three.”
Nicholas recognized the people at the counter, it was little Gustavo and his family. The mom sounded stressed as she responded to the girl at the counter. “But I was specifically told three on the phone.”
“I apologize, ma’am, but whoever told you that was incorrect.”
Nicholas stepped forward. “Hi. Excuse me a moment. Is this for hang gliding lessons.”
“Wait your turn, sir.” The girl said sarcastically.
“Hold that thought.” Nicholas said to the girl, then turned to Gustavo’s mom. “We met at the gas station, remember?”
“Oh, yes. Hello.”
“Well, my friend and I were also gonna sign up for lessons. If you’re signing up for tomorrow morning, how about we do it together and we’ll have five?”
“Oh! Thank you so much! Yes, its for tomorrow morning.”
After they were all signed up, they made plans to meet at the training center at ten the next morning. Walking out of the office, Griff leaned into Nicholas’ shoulder. “You are the absolute sweetest guy in the world. You know that, right?” Nicholas blushed and kept walking to the bikes.
By the time they got back to the RV park and ate dinner it was already seven o’clock. Ironically Gustavo’s family was staying in the same park, just four spots down on the other side of the road. With such a big day planned for tomorrow, Nicholas and Griffin decided to just relax and watch tv for the night. Morning would be there before they knew it.
BANG! BANG! BANG! Nicholas shot out of bed and nearly tripped over Griffin, still asleep on the couch bed, on his way to see who was knocking on their door. He flung open the door and there stood Gustavo with two coffee cups and a bag of donuts. “I brought you breakfast!” The young boy grinned.
Gustavo’s mom ran up, “Honey, I told you to wait until you saw them come out of their RV!” She looked sheepishly at Nicholas. “I’m so sorry if he woke you. He’s super excited for today.”
Nicholas wiped the sleep from his eyes. “No trouble at all.” He ruffled Gustavo’s jet-black hair. “Coffee is good.” He took the coffee and the donuts from the boy. “Thank you so much. This was very nice of you.”
Gustavo smiled. “Ok! Great! See you at the park!”
Two hours later, after an hour-long instructional video inside the hot training room, Nicholas, Griffin, Gustavo, Gustavo’s fourteen-year-old brother, Lorenzo, and his sixteen-year-old sister, Olivia followed their instructor up the tallest dune. “Now I know everyone wants to fly but understand on this training flight you’ll only be going like ten feet off the ground and landing at the bottom of the dune.”
They all groaned in unison, but they said they understood. Lorenzo went first, then Olivia. They did just what the instructor said. They flew ten feet off the ground and landed a little way away from the dune. It was Gustavo’s turn next. After he was strapped in, he ran to the edge of the dune and took off. The wind gusted and instead of floating to the bottom of the dune, Gustavo was picked up and flew up into the sky. At the bottom of the dune, Lorenzo was cheering and waving, and Olivia was recording it all on video.
Griffin was immediately concerned. “Hey, Mr. Rudolph, I think you better call this in. Get a lifeguard out to the beach.”
“No. He’s not heading for the water. Don’t worry. He’ll land any minute.”
Griff turned to his friend, “Nicholas, go to the training center,”
“But, Mr. Rudolph said,”
“Nick! I study the winds, so I know where and when to surf! Do you trust me?!”
“With my life. I’m on my way.” Nicholas turned and ran toward the training center to get help.
“That’s not,” Mr. Rudolph started to say.
“You’re useless. Shut up!” Griff yelled, kicking off his flip-flops and then took off as fast as he could toward the beach. He ripped off his tank top and threw it behind him as he ran.
As the wind died down, Gustavo’s hang glider started its decent. His yells of joy became screams of terror when he noticed that he was no longer over land. He was on a sharp dive into the Atlantic Ocean.
Nicholas had to practically drag the on-duty lifeguard out of the training center. “Where? I don’t see any… oh my…” The lifeguard took off running as he spotted the hang glider bobbing in the ocean fifty yards offshore. Nicholas left his flip-flops and shirt behind and ran after the lifeguard yelling Griffin’s name.
Nicholas got to the shore and scanned the water for his best friend, extremely concerned at this point. Then he saw something moving in the water, Griff’s strawberry blonde hair and tanned shoulders surfaced. He had one arm wrapped around the smaller body of Gustavo and he was swimming toward shore. He waved the lifeguard away and swam in. Griffin stumbled out of the water with the ten-year-old in his arms and collapsed on the beach.
The lifeguard took the boy from Griffin and Nicholas knelt down to check on his friend. “Hey. You ok?”
“He couldn’t get out of that damn thing, Nicholas. It was sinking with him in it.”
“You saved his life, Griff. You’re a bonified hero.” Nicholas brushed the hair out of Griff’s face and kissed him on the cheek. “Let’s forget about these lessons and get you back to the RV.” Nicholas helped Griffin to his feet.
Before the boys had even taken a step, Gustavo’s mom and siblings rushed up to him. “You saved his life they said!” Gustavo’s mom, Emily, said.
“I did what anyone would have.”
“You saved my little brother’s life. You are my blood brother forever.” Lorenzo said.
“We can never repay you, Griffin.” Emily said through tears.
After many hugs, Nicholas and Griffin made it back to their bicycles and headed back to the RV.
Ethan stood on the front steps of his new home and watched his father pull away from the house in the, now empty, rental truck. Ethan sighed and raised his hand in a half-hearted farewell. Ethan’s mom and little brother walked up the steps and joined him. His mom looked over at him. “We’ll be ok, Ethan. The move was for the best.” She said.
“I know, mom. I’ll miss my friends more than I’ll miss him.” He said, still staring at the U-Haul as it disappeared.
“We’re only an hour away. I’m sure you’ll see them, Ethan. Plus, you’re starting college in two weeks. You’ll have a million new friends before you know it. I’m going to find my pots and pans and make us some dinner. You boys start unpacking the stuff in your bedrooms.”
“Aw, mom! Can’t we order pizza for tonight?” Donny piped in. “You know you don’t wanna cook tonight!”
Susan ruffled her ten-year-old son’s hair. “Ok. Ok. Pizza it is. You boys still need to get started on unpacking, though.”
“Ugh! Ok!” Donny said as he disappeared into the house.
“I’ll be in in a few minutes,” Ethan said, sitting on the front steps.
“Ethan, everything will work out. I… I needed this fresh start. This place is a lot closer to my new job, and I won’t have to see your father with… her… every day.”
“I know. I know.” Ethan said. “I understand.” His mom went into the house, leaving Ethan alone on the front steps.
Ethan felt a cold breeze despite the hot August sunshine. It felt like someone touched his shoulder. He shivered and turned to see if his mother or brother had come back outside. There was no one there. Ethan shrugged and stood up. He needed to get started unpacking anyway.
Ethan walked into the bedroom that he had picked as his. Before he could even close the door, it slammed shut behind him. He was pushed back against the door. He wanted to struggle, but there was nothing there to struggle against. Then he felt a cold pressure against the side of his neck. It felt like a kiss, but only if the person’s lips were made of ice. A voice whispered into his ear. “You belong to me now, boy.” Ethan’s eyes went wide, and he tried, without success, to move away from the door. Then a shout rang out.
“Victor! Get out of my room! You do not belong here!”
The pressure holding Ethan against the door immediately disappeared. Ethan looked toward the shouting and saw a boy approximately the same age as him. Jet black hair partially obscured the boy’s face. Ethan took a step toward the other boy. “Who are you? What just happened? How did you get into my room?”
The boy gave Ethan a shy smile, his blue eyes nearly luminescent in the fading light. “My name is Jake, and this is my room, not yours.”
The bedroom door opened, and Ethan’s mom poked her head inside. “Ethan? What was that yelling? Are you ok?”
Ethan turned toward his mom. “Yeah. It was weird, but it was…” He stopped mid-sentence as he started to point toward Jake, but there was now no one there. He looked all around the room, but the only two people there were him and his mom.
“Is everything ok, Ethan? His mom asked again.
Ethan held up his phone. “Yeah. Sorry. It wasn’t yelling. I was picking out some music to play, and I had the volume too high. Sorry, mom.”
“It’s ok, honey.” Susan shook her head and left her son alone again.
After his mom left, Ethan sat on his bed, confused. Then he heard a voice from right next to him. “People can only see me if I want them to.” Ethan turned and saw Jake sitting right next to him on the bed.
“Man, that was an interesting way to spend the morning, Nicholas.”
“No, I really wish we didn’t have to waste our time here but it’s all over and done. I was so stupid, falling for that scumbag, even for half a second.”
“Well, I see it this way. It’s over with! Now, let me get into my captain’s seat and take off for our next location, which you said was my choice. Oh, by the way, my turn on the tunes. I’m trying to decide on Imagine Dragons or Panic at the Disco, maybe, or just go all pop like Bruno Mars, my ultimate iconic singer, with a little Lady Gaga and Katy Perry thrown in. Get in and buckle up. We’re on our way, Nicholas!”
So, as they headed out on the highway, tunes blaring, cars passing by, Nicholas couldn’t help but sit back and wonder why he felt so alone and that nobody wanted him. Yes, he fooled around with a few of his friends a bit over the years, even Griff a lot, but the encounter on the beach really got to Nicholas. “Am I just not good enough? Am I ugly? Do I not deserve anyone? Maybe I’m meant to be alone always,” were some of the thoughts running through Nicholas’ head at the moment.
“Hey! Earth to Nicholas!” Griffin yelled.
“What? Damn, you don’t have to yell at me, Griff.”
“Well, I’ve been trying to talk to you, and you’ve got your head so far up your butt you can’t answer me back.”
“Sorrrry! I’m ok. What do you want, anyway?”
“I was just telling you where I was taking us. We are heading to Jockey’s Ridge State Park at Kitty Hawk so you and I can do some hang gliding together. We’ll have a righteous time, dude! We’ll feel totally free, floating through the air, looking at all the amazing sites below our feet! How does that sound, dude?”
“Whatever you think, Griff,” Nicholas mumbled.
Griffin saw a service station ahead. He was getting a little concerned about Nicholas and wanted a drink, anyway, so pulled in.
“Look, Nicholas. We’re going in here to get snacks, so get your ass in gear. First, though, tell me what’s on your mind because this is supposed to be fun trip.”
“Ok, you’re right. Sorry, I got distracted in my own self-pity. Let’s get something to snack on,” Nicholas dodged Griffin’s probe.
As they entered the truck stop, they ran into a nice family from Florida. The youngest boy struck up a conversation.
“Hi, there! My name is Gustavo and I’m ten and we’re headed to the state park to camp. Is that where you’re going?”
“Why, yes. That is where we’re going,” Nicholas said.
“Awesome! I think it’ll be so much fun there! I hope we will see you there,” Gustavo enthusiastically replied.
Sodas and energy drinks, chips, cookies, donuts, all the typical junk food, of course, was collected and paid for.
“Hey, Griff, do you think I’m good enough to find somebody one day, to be with me forever?”
“Um, I don’t know, dork. You’ve got a lot of complexities, but you know I love you, moron!” Griff answered with a nervous laugh. “Let’s get going.”
They pulled out onto the highway and drove another hour or so, arriving at the campground mid-afternoon.
Strolling down the beach, Nicholas was beginning to feel not a little apprehensive as he and Cody moved further away from the comforting bonfire into the darkness. Sensing Nicholas’ nervousness, Cody took his hand, threading his fingers through. Cody needed to calm Nicholas, but subtlety had never been one of his attributes. He suddenly stopped and not so gently pulled Nicholas down onto the still-warm sand.
“Uh … what? Why are we stopping?”
“So, I can do this,” Cody purred as he took Nicholas’ soft, sun-tinged cheeks into each of his rough palms and leaned in.
As unfamiliar as this was for Nicholas, he simply could not resist the lure of Cody’s delicious lips. He closed his eyes, silently giving permission, and felt the pleasure of sharing his lips with another. Nicholas never knew that one could actually feel a kiss throughout his entire body, but this intimacy was creating tingles and stirrings all over and it was quite pleasant, to say the least!
As Nicholas was wondering how he’d managed to graduate high school without ever experiencing such exquisiteness, Cody slid his right hand slowly underneath the hem of his t-shirt while cradling the back of Nicholas’ head with his left, never backing off and, actually, more forcefully devouring Nicholas’ willing mouth. The insistent battle playing out with their tongues had Nicholas thanking the sea of stars above that it was relatively dark, as his compass was pointing due north.
Cody broke the lip lock just long enough to free Nicholas’ shirt from his body before diving back in for more. Nicholas felt Cody’s hand slide back down the side of his neck to rest on his left pec, fingertips playfully teasing his nipple to attention. OH, JIMINY CHRISTMAS … that felt good! The juices were starting to flow as Cody continued his trek south, bypassing the belly button, on a non-stop trek for the south pole. As Cody’s hand slipped beneath his waistband, Nicholas suddenly shoved Cody back and jumped up in one quick motion.
“What the fuck?”
Breathing heavily, Nicholas tried to make sense of all the emotional chaos that was tripping through his head. Why had he done that? It felt heavenly, like nothing he’d ever felt before … but something just wasn’t right.
“Uh, … I’m sorry!”
“I thought you were into this. You were definitely giving as much as you were receiving and, by the looks of that, you were quite up for more!”
“I … uh … just need to slow down a bit. I mean we’ve known each other for a hot second and … I don’t know … just slow down, OK?”
Not the least bit interested in “slowing down”, Cody grabbed Nicholas by the shoulders and had him down on the sand before Nicholas realized what had happened. With one hand firmly on Nicholas’ collarbone, he made quick work of Nichalas’ swim trunks and underwear with the other. Nicholas struggled to free himself from Cody’s grasp, but the shorts around his knees were working against his efforts. Nicholas cried out as a shadow flew across his limited vision and suddenly Cody’s weight disappeared.
As he quickly pulled his trunks and underwear up, Nicholas realized that the “shadow” was his best friend in the world, Griffin and Griffin was now tumbling and pummeling Cody with every ounce of adrenaline-fueled energy he possessed. Vicious snarls and grunts, along with a few choice words were loudly emanating from the melee, as well. Nicholas was screaming for the two combatants to stop when two more participants dove in, severely tipping the scales against Griffin. Unable to just stand by and watch Griff be mauled by the other three, Nicholas weakly and cluelessly began to lash out at them, too, but they all froze in place at the sound of the gunshot.
“OK, boys. Now that I have your attention, how about you three plant your asses down right there,” the Sheriff said, pointing at Cody, Mason, and Marcus. “You two step over there with my deputy.”
Shaking visibly from the events of the last three minutes, Nicholas and Griffin followed the deputy about 15 yards away from the others.
“Relax, guys. We’ve been on the trail of those three for over a week now. They’ve been spotted on security cameras in at least six different businesses permanently borrowing items without bothering to pay for them. Unfortunately for them, when they parked their camper in the Wal-Mart parking lot this afternoon, the security camera had a clear shot of their license plate and it was easy enough to check local campground registrations to locate them.”
“A-are we getting arrested?” Griffin stammered.
“No, you were seen very clearly on the store cameras, as well. We know that you had nothing to do with the larceny. I am curious, though, as to how you ended up brawling with them tonight.”
“Mason said they followed us when we left Wal-Mart. Then they invited us to a bonfire beach party, got us separated and … well … things got out of hand, you could say,” Griffin explained.
“Well, it’s late but we need both of you to come down to the station in the morning to make statements.”
Nicholas, finally finding his voice, said, “We’re traveling, actually, and were heading north up The Outer Banks tomorrow. Do we need to stay after we make our statements?”
“No. We’ll get your contact information, but the case against those three is iron-clad. I’m sure your signed statements will be more than adequate. Then you can be on your way.”
“So … uh … can we go now?”
“Of course, and please be careful about who you hang out with. You got lucky this time.”
As Nicholas and Griffin headed slowly back up the beach, Griff smacked Nicholas solidly on the back of the head. “What the what was that for!?!”
“What the hell were you thinking wandering off with that guy? The deputy was right. You got lucky. That could’ve ended very badly!”
A tear made its slow descent down Nicholas’ cheek as he thought about what could have happened. “No one’s ever paid attention to me like … that … before. It was flattering. It felt good … until it didn’t. Thank you, Griffin.”
Griffin put his arm around his friend, and they made their way home.