“Good morning, my sweet love.” Griffin snuggled close to Nicholas and tried to wake him up. Griffin kissed Nicholas on his neck and chest. “Rise and shine, Boo.” As much as Griffin wanted to just lie there and cuddle with Nicholas, he knew they needed to get going. Time for the morning routine and then head out on another adventure. Griff headed into the shower and left Nicholas lying there thinking.
Nicholas thought about how much he loved Griffin. He wanted time to slow down. He was not ready to leave Griffin at school. Nicholas heard the always spunky Griff singing loudly in the shower and probably shaking his booty. He laughed as he heard Griff yell out ‘I’m too sexy for my body, too sexy yeah, yeah, yeah’ which was Griff’s version of the song by Right Said Fred. Nicholas couldn’t help but peek in and yell, “You got that right! But need to work on that voice a bit, Griff!”
“I’m just about done anyway. It’s your turn, Nicky-poo.” Griff said, teasingly. “Hurry up. We have a lot to see at the Smithsonian Institution today.”
“Stop with Nicky crap. You know how much I hate that!” Nicholas quips.
As Nicholas is drying his hair with a towel, Griff smacks Nicholas hard on the butt. “Hehe. Look at that booty. You can dance for me anytime but get your booty in gear.” Griff said.
“Smack me on my booty again, and I’ll show you who the boss is. We will just stay here all day and skip the museum.” Nicholas said.
“Is that a threat or promise? I’d rather stay in with you anyway.” Griff said.
Nicholas leaned in for one last kiss, and the boys headed out to have a full day of fun at the Smithsonian.
Once at the Smithsonian, they headed for the Air and Space Museum first. “Look at that model of the Wright Brothers’ plane. Can you imagine what was going through their minds? Yet they accomplished so much!” Griff said.
Nicholas said, “Look at this exhibit on the different crafts used in space. It’s so awesome, but also sad to read about disasters like the Challenger and the Colombia.” The boys wander through looking at different material and things until they come to the Hope Diamond and rubies and all the other beautiful gems. “With any luck maybe someday you will have a diamond on that finger of yours,” Nicholas says jokingly.
Griff drifted into daydream land thinking about that possibility. “That would be a dream come true for me,” Griff said. He grabbed Nicholas and planted a kiss on him when nobody was looking.
They headed over to the American History Museum next to check out some TV, movie, and music history. As they looked around, both boys got very excited when they saw all the pop culture items. Nicholas kept a lookout for anything music-related, while Griffin was more interested in the television and movie history.
As they started walking around, they saw huge displays of some of the greatest music of all time. They saw display cases of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Janis Joplin. Nicholas got lost in the section about Woodstock. He read all the placards that told the history of the event and the musicians who attended.
Griffin went towards the television and movie history exhibits. The display cases he enjoyed the most were the ones about Howdy Doody and some of the other old shows. He saw Fonzie’s leather jacket from Happy Days, the Conner’s couch from Roseanne, and a display case with stuff from the A-Team. Griff read the history placards containing trivia about Leave it to Beaver, and I Love Lucy. Griff needed a quick bathroom break and motioned to Nicholas where he was heading. While he was using bathroom, Griff looked down and noticed a wad of cash on the floor. He picked it up and ran out to find Nicholas to tell him what he found. “Nicholas, look what I found in restroom! We need to find a security guard.”
“There was one just down the hall. Who knows, maybe they’ll let you keep it!” Nicholas said, and they took off to find the nearest security desk.
“Excuse me, sir. Good day to you. I wanted to turn this in to lost and found. I found it in the men’s bathroom by the tv exhibits.” Griffin said, setting the money on the security desk.
The security guard smiled. “Thanks for turning it in! Too many people think they can just take it, but if we catch them, we call the cops. The good news is,” the guard said while sliding a piece of paper across the desk to Griffin. “if you fill out this form and then no one comes for it, we can mail it to you thirty days from now.”
“That sounds fair. I won’t be at the address I’m writing down, but my mom can forward it to me when I know my address at school.” Griff finished up the paperwork, and they were on their way again.
“Ready to stop and get a bite before we head over to see wildlife and dinosaurs exhibit at the Natural History Museum?” Griff asked.
“Ok I am hungry, and we need to eat, I guess.”
The guys stopped and grabbed cheeseburgers, fries, and milkshakes. “Omg, babe, I am having so much fun with you today I don’t want this to stop,” Griffin said. “It is so fun and special talking about all these amazing things that we are seeing. I love sharing this adventure with you.”
The boys got up and walked, hand in hand at times, other times with arms around each other’s waist. One time Nicholas slipped his hand right into the back pocket of Griff’s jeans and Griff quickly returned the favor, smirking at his boyfriend. They looked so happy as a couple, and everything just felt so right.
“Let’s look at this new exhibit on Planet Earth, Nicholas.”
“Sure thing, Peaches. It’s getting late though, so let’s hurry.” The information on the oceans being polluted by garbage was hard to read about. The video clips were disgusting. Now, there were current live reports of the fires in the Amazon Rainforest, and reports of some of the most massive icebergs melting. “This is so sad, Nicholas. Won’t there ever be a time when people wake up?” Griff said, almost crying. “We are killing Mother Earth more every day.”
“At least now, some politicians are listening to the younger generations, and we are educating people. So, I do see one day soon when a better life for our planet may happen, and climate change can begin to be dealt with.” Nicholas said, trying to put a positive spin on it.
“I hope you’re right, Boo,” Griff said as they shared a tender kiss and headed out of the Smithsonian.
Back in the RV, they picked out a movie on Netflix and cuddled together on the couch to chill out after their long but fun day. They spent more time laughing and giggling at the funny things that had happened that day, than actually paying attention to the movie. They were just enjoying some quiet quality time together.
“Man, I’ll be glad when your poison ivy is all cleared up,” Nicholas said with a grin.
“I will be too and not just to get rid of the itchiness, but to actually be able to do whatever we want without worrying about a nasty rash!” Griff leaned in for a kiss, and then they started to discuss their trip to the National Zoo the next day. They turned off the TV, stripped down and went to bed. Nicholas lay there thinking about leaving Griff at college. There wasn’t anything he could do about it, so he rolled over and pulled Griff close to him. He needed the closeness and comfort of his boyfriend right now. He lay with one arm draped across Griff’s chest and their legs entwined, and that’s how they both fell asleep.
Since they didn’t have to be out of their camping spot until 1 pm, the boys slept later than usual and then spent a leisurely morning lazing about. Slightly obsessive-compulsive Nicholas did do a bit of tidying up but, since both boys were pretty neat by nature, there wasn’t much to tidy up. Over lunch, they discussed the next leg of their journey.
Studying his RV Campground guide, Nicholas discovered a pretty basic and inexpensive RV park practically on the beach at Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. “This would be perfect, Griff. No bells and whistles but everything we really need. Plus it’s 35% less if we book it for a week. I think that’s a good idea, don’t you? We’re in no hurry, and there’s tons of stuff to do in the area. There’s even a bus that runs into DC so we can take at least a couple of day trips to the National Zoo, the Smithsonian, and anything else we might decide we want to see.”
“Righteous! Gnarly! Kowabunga, dude! Yep, I will also most definitely have you on a surfboard before the week is up! Write that down in your little diary.”
“It’s a JOURNAL! A travel journal!” Nicholas clarified yet again. “Hate to disappoint you, though … Chesapeake Beach is actually on Chesapeake Bay, not the ocean. We’ll get to the ocean after that, I promise! Anyway, it looks like Hwy 301 will take us across the Potomac River and within about 10 miles of Chesapeake Beach. We can avoid all the I-95 traffic going into DC.”
“That’s great since it’s my turn to drive.”
Happy that it was Griff’s turn to pilot, Nicholas got comfortable on the sofa with his Kindle. Strapped into the captain’s chair, Griffin fiddled with the tunes until he found what he was looking for. Ever the playful jokester, he chuckled as he turned the volume wide open before punching play.
“On the road again
I just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.”
At the blast of the first notes, Nicholas rolled off the sofa and almost filled his shorts. “What the what!?!?”
“I know you love all those oldie goldie songs. Thought you’d appreciate my consideration, Boo!”
Shaking his head, Nicholas picked himself up slowly as Griffin turned the volume back to a reasonable level and began to croon along with Willie. Of course, Nicholas had to join in … how could he not?
“On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
Here we go, on the road again
Like a band of Gypsies, we go down the highway
We’re the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turnin’ our way
And our way is on the road again
I just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again, break free
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.”
“Maybe we can find a few gigs along the way covering ‘oldie goldie songs’ to cover the cost of Griff’s theme park bucket list,” mused Nicholas to himself.
It was after 7 by the time the boys had checked in, parked, and hooked up the RV. Famished, they asked the young lady in the office where they could find some good eats, preferably within walking distance. Soon they had located a quaint hole in the wall restaurant that they would surely have missed if Casey had not given them excellent directions.
While devouring the delicious array of appetizers they’d chosen, a strangled noise came from behind Griffin. A puzzled look crossed his face, but as Nicholas looked up, he realized immediately what was happening and sprung into action. He jumped around the table to the elderly man sitting behind Griff, grabbed him around his chest with both arms, and gave a quick, firm squeeze to the man’s abdomen. The culprit, a small popcorn shrimp, went airborne and landed three tables over in a half-full mug of beer.
Much to Nicholas’ embarrassment, everyone around began clapping and cheering. Checking to be sure the gentleman was OK, he sheepishly sat back down and tried to make himself as small as he could.
“Damn, Nicky! That was awesome!” Griffin gushed. “You did that almost before I even realized what was happening! How did you know what to do?”
“I had to take some classes a couple of years ago when I thought I might want to get on as a lifeguard at the pool … before I changed my mind. That’s the first time I’ve actually done that.”
“Well, note to self … be sure to have Nicholas close by if I ever decide to choke. Seriously, though, that was so awesome, and I’m so proud of you!”
After settling down to enjoy the best meal they’d had since they left home, the boys headed back toward the campground. They snatched a couple of brochures in the restaurant lobby to look through and plan out their week in Chesapeake Beach.
After getting caught up with the most recent episodes of ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Flash,’ the boys stripped and crawled into bed to go through the brochures. They were quite surprised to see how many fun activities were available in the area.
“OH! We have GOT to go to the Chesapeake Beach Water Park! It’s only about a mile up the beach. We can walk there,” said Nicholas, pointing at the brochure in his hand.
“I’m with you and look … here’s a Surf Art Gallery and Museum. Since we can’t surf here, seeing as how we’re actually on a bay, this will be fun.” Griffin had been a bit disappointed to discover that they weren’t on an ocean beach, but Nicholas promised him that their next stop would be Rehoboth Beach, which was very much on the ocean.
“Look … windsail cruises around the bay. You could get some awesome pics, Griff!”
“Here’s a place we can rent jet skis … almost as fun as surfing! They’re expensive, but we’re saving so much on this cheap RV park, we can splurge!” Griffin practically bounced in his excitement. They were like two six-year-olds the night before Christmas.
“This brochure has bus schedules. I think we should plan on at least two days in DC. One at The National Zoo and another at the Smithsonian. Let’s mix those in with the water days.”
“This is gonna be a great week, Boo!”
“Yep! Now shut up and kiss me like you mean it, Peaches!”
Leo rolled over and turned off his alarm clock two minutes before the alarm would have buzzed, 5:03am. He was about to get up, but then he realized that he shouldn’t run this morning, just in case. Two dizzy spells yesterday were more than enough to convince him to take it easy for a couple of days. Leo slung his arm over his eyes and relaxed. No running meant he didn’t need to get up and into the shower for at least another half hour. He let his mind wander over the events of the previous day. A lot happened. His morning run ended with a dizzy spell, then the fight with Matt and Charlie rescuing him. Then, Charlie taking care of him at the lighthouse, the panic attack at the mall, and finally meeting up with Charlie again. He thought they were about to kiss, just for a moment, but then it didn’t happen. Maybe next time!
Today was the first day of senior year. He supposed that he should hunt down Jasper and talk with him about Matt once he was at school. Leo really didn’t want to talk with Jazz, but the harassment and fights had to stop. He also thought about the possibility of trying out for track and pushing Kameron into trying out, too. Most of all, Leo was just thinking about getting through the school day, getting back home, and hanging out with Charlie.
All of this replayed in Leo’s mind as he lay there in bed. He glanced at the clock again, 5:42. Time to get up and get ready for school, or as his best friend Brandon called it, prison.
Leo looked at the lock screen on his phone as he left Starbucks, 6:52. He still had plenty of time to catch the bus. He peered over at Kam. “You ready for your first day of high school, little bro?”
“Yeah. For sure. I mean, maybe a little nervous, but excited too. Are we still trying out for cross country or track or whatever?”
“Yeah. I think Brandon knows someone on the team. I’ll find out about tryouts and text you.”
The two brothers strolled up to the bus stop and joined the small group of kids from their neighborhood. Leo spotted the new boy he met last night and waved. He was about to go over and say hi, but the bus pulled up. Then, the boy was lost in the crowd of kids. Leo sat down on the bus next to his brother and looked around for the new boy, but he didn’t see him. Kam arched an eyebrow at his brother. “Who is he? Obviously not your tourist friend since he’s on the school bus.”
“No. Just a guy I met on the beach last night. He was lost and asking for directions. He lives on Spruce Street. I guess he just moved here.”
Kam smirked. “Maybe you should rethink your tourist crush. Why bother with someone who’s only gonna be here a few days when you got a new cutie to set your sights on.”
Leo sighed. “I know Charlie is only here for a few days, but I really like him, Kam. I don’t know anything about this other guy other than the fact that he just moved here. He’s probably straight. Who knows.”
“I just don’t want to see you get your heart broken again so soon after Jazz. Be careful, bro.”
“Totally. I will. We’re here. I’ll text you after I talk to Brandon. Have fun.”
Leo spotted Brandon in the parking lot as soon as he got off the bus. He jogged over to catch up to his friend before he reached the building. “Hey, buddy, what’s up? Didn’t see much of ya this summer. How’re things with Brett?”
Brandon clapped Leo on the back. “Great, my friend, just great. Sucks he’s going to school so far away, but I’ll still see him on weekends. The perils of dating a college boy, I guess! Now we need to find you a boyfriend.” Brandon smirked.
Leo chuckled. “I’m kinda working on that myself.” He blushed and smiled.
“Really?” Brandon turned and looked at his friend. “Whoa! What the hell happened to you?” He said, seeing the bruises for the first time.
“Matt,” Leo said with a grimace. “I’ll tell you all about it in between classes. There’s a lot to the story. Good things and bad.”
“He needs a good ass whipping. Want me to sic Brett on him?” Brandon asked.
“No. Matt already got his ass whipped. That’s part of my story.” Leo grinned.
“You beat up Matt?” Brandon asked, surprised.
“No. Not me. My guardian angel did.” Leo grinned.
“Now, I’m interested! You better tell me the whole story! I want juicy details!” Brandon laughed. “See you at lunch.”
Leo grabbed his lunch tray and piled some food on it. Lost in thought, he wandered up to pay for his food. He heard a familiar voice behind him say, “What’s safe to eat around here? Everything at my old school tasted like salted cardboard.”
Leo turned his head and saw the boy from last night. “Ah. We meet again. Reese? Right? They have pizza almost every day, and it’s edible. I’ve got the spaghetti today. I’m hoping it’s as good as it was last year. Overall the food isn’t great, but it’s ok.”
“Yeah, I’m Reese. Thanks for the directions last night and the culinary suggestions today. I promise that I won’t only talk to you when I’m in dire need of help.” Reese grinned.
“That’s quite alright. You can talk to me anytime. Do you want to sit with my friend and me? He’s waiting for me over there.” Leo pointed to where Brandon was sitting.
“I would, but there’s this girl that I’m supposed to be meeting up with.”
“A girl? I suppose that is more important. Have fun.”
“No… uh… not like that.” Reese blushed. “I need to find out the details for cheer tryouts. I was on the cheer squad at my last school, and it was fun. I wanted to try and do that here too.”
“A cheerleader. I would have guessed you for a lacrosse star.”
“I tried that, but I like cheerleading better. I also play baseball in the spring.”
Leo heard Brandon calling his name. “Sounds fun. I gotta go before my friend starts chewing on the table.” Leo laughed. “The cheerleaders usually sit over there.” He pointed across the cafeteria. “See you later, Reese.”
Reese smiled and headed in the direction that Leo had pointed, and Leo walked over and sat by Brandon.
“It’s about time you got here! That’s the last time I wait for you for food.” Brandon reached over and took one of the trays from Leo. “Now spill the tea. Who was that hottie you were talking to, and was he the guardian angel you hinted at this morning?”
“ He is Reese. I met him last night on the beach. He’s not my angel. He’s just a new boy. Sounds like he’s trying out for the cheer squad. My angel’s name is Charlie, and he and his mom rented the cabin by the old lighthouse while they are exploring our glorious little town. That’s why he happened to be on the beach yesterday.”
“Wait? Exploring? Please tell me that you didn’t fall for a tourist, Leo!”
“Yes, he is a tourist, but you didn’t see him. You didn’t talk to him. Bran, I haven’t even thought about anyone else since the whole thing with Jazz. I planned to just get through this year and maybe start over in college, but when I looked up into Charlie’s brown eyes, I fell.”
Brandon rolled his eyes. “Maybe he’s hot. Maybe he’s fun. But how long is he staying, Leo? You’re just going to get hurt again.”
“He’s staying until the end of the week, I think. Who knows what can happen between now and then. Maybe he’ll stay longer. Maybe we can do a long-distance thing. I felt a strong connection, Bran. I know he did, too.”
“We’re not done with this discussion. Spill the rest of the story. The fight with Matt and this angel saving you.” Brandon said, eating his lunch and waiting for his best friend’s story.
In between bites of his lunch, Leo relayed to his friend all the previous day’s events. The run with his brother, the argument and fight with Matt, and finally, the rescue by Charlie. He even confided in him about the second dizzy spell at the mall. He finished up by telling him about the second meeting with Charlie and the near-kiss.
“Wow. That was quite a day. I don’t think that much happened to me all summer! First off, how are you feeling today? Any dizziness or headaches. That sounds serious, bro. You gotta tell Kam or me every time it happens, even if you don’t want to tell your mom yet, tell us.” He reached over, putting a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“Ok. Ok. I promised Kam already. I promise to tell you, too. And I will tell my mom if it keeps happening. I’m not an idiot.” Leo rolled his eyes at Brandon.
Brandon smirked. “Now on to the good stuff. When are you going to see your hot little tourist again?”
“Today after school. He wasn’t sure what his mom had planned. I figure if he’s not busy, I’ll meet up with him and give him the grand tour. Maybe show him the Village and get some junk food for dinner.” Leo laughed. “Mystic Village fried dough should win him over.”
Brandon rolled his eyes. “With all the running you’ve been doing, I don’t know why you continue to put that crap in your body.”
Leo laughed. “It’s the best! It is my biggest weakness, diet-wise. I’ll just run an extra mile tomorrow. That reminds me. Aren’t you friends with Max? From the track team? Kam wants to try out, and I was thinking of joining him.”
Brandon looked at his phone. “We have to get to class. I’ll talk to Max and find out about tryouts, then I’ll text you the details. If I don’t see you later, have fun and wish Kam good luck for me!”
The two boys put away their lunch trays and headed towards their next class.
The first day of senior year finally behind him, Leo walked towards the gym to meet up with his brother and look for Max. According to the multiple texts from Brandon, cross country tryouts were today. Now Leo was glad he skipped the morning run. Brandon said that Max would meet Leo and Kam at the track. Leo got to the gym and found Kam waiting for him. The two boys headed toward the track to look for Max. Leo spotted Max waving to him from the infield of the track. It looked like Max and a bunch of other boys were doing some pre-run stretching. Leo and Kam walked over and joined them.
“Hey, Leo! I was surprised when Bran told me that you were interested in running this year. Aren’t you a senior? And is this your brother?”
“Yeah, I’m a senior. I just started running this past summer, mostly as a way of burning off anger issues.” Leo chuckled. “This is my brother Kameron. He’s a freshman, and he’s the one who suggested trying out for the team. I’m kinda along as support.”
Max stuck his hand out to both brothers. “Nice to meet both of you.” He glanced at Leo. “Running is an excellent choice for a mood enhancer, and it looks to me like you have the body of a runner already.” Max grinned. “Brandon mentioned track. You guys know that we’re trying out for Cross Country today, right? Indoor Track will start in November and Outdoor Track in late March.”
“Yep. We’ll try our hand at Cross Country first. I think I’ll prefer the long-distance stuff better anyway. Little bro is the one who is looking forward to the shorter, faster events in track.”
“Ah-ha! So, Kameron is our speed demon, then?”
“Yep!” Kam laughed. “I outrun Leo all the time short distances. I’ll need to build up my endurance to run the longer races. I’ve only just started putting any effort into running.” As Kam was speaking, other boys started showing up at the track. Some were stretching, others jogging around the track to warm up before the tryouts began. Leo, Kam, and Max started running a warm-up lap. By the time they completed one lap, the coach had arrived, and everyone gathered around to listen to him speak.
Coach Stevens spoke loudly and paced back and forth in front of the boys. He was a middle-aged man but tall and incredibly fit. The coach could easily pass for forty instead of his fifty-two years. He spoke of past championships and future goals. He welcomed back current runners and thanks to new boys for showing up at tryouts. After his speech, Coach separated the boys into two groups. One group ran laps around the track, and the other group ran around a small modified cross country track. After each group finished, they swapped until both groups had run on both tracks.
Everything went well for Kam all through the tryout, except for one thing. Kam decided to run a little too fast on the cross country track, which was a failure. An epic failure, to be honest. The kind of fail that could have gone viral if only it had been caught on camera. Kam turned a corner and failed to see a giant mud puddle. By the time he finished sliding through the mud on his belly, he was covered head to toe. Kam glanced over to the bleachers and saw that Tommy had arrived and was laughing hysterically. He also saw the new boy. The guy that Leo said he met last night. The boy was sitting near the top of the bleachers, by himself, watching the tryouts.
After the tryouts, the coach pulled Kam aside and told him that he would be on the JV team. He patted Kam on the back and said to him that he expected him to do well if he trained hard and showed the speed that he showed today. He also encouraged Kam to try out for the indoor track season in November.
Kam ran over to the bleachers to fill Leo and Tommy in on what the coach said, then they all walked back over to Max. Max made team captain, as expected. Kam made JV, and Leo made varsity. Max’s girlfriend joined the four boys as they left the track field. As they walked across the field, Leo turned back and saw Reese still sitting in the bleachers. He raised a hand and waved. Reese smiled and waved back, then Leo turned and continued walking off the field.
“Becca, you remember Leo, right? This is his brother, Kameron, and,” Max trailed off, looking at Tommy.
Kam spoke up. “This is my bestie, Tommy. Nice to meet you, Becca.”
Becca walked with Leo as they headed for the school parking lot. “Leo, are you still going out with Jasper Anderson?”
“No. We broke up last year.”
“You’re better off without him, in my opinion. He’s a jerk and a stoner. You’re the one that dumped him, I hope.”
“Yes. He was the biggest mistake of my life, and I’ve moved on from all that.”
Becca looked Leo up and down. “You’re hot. I know three or four boys and half a dozen girls who would fight to go out with you. Forget that asshole. Anyway, do you guys want to go with Max and me? We’re going to go to get ice cream to celebrate.”
Kam answered for all three. “Definitely!”
They got to the ice cream shop, and all got their cones. Leo and Max shared stories about Brandon and wondered how all three of them had never hung out together. Leo noticed that Kam and Tommy were off in a corner booth, whispering. He thought it was a little strange but put it out of his head. Leo himself was distracted thinking about meeting up with Charlie later.
Becca noticed Leo keep looking at his phone.
“Hot date later, Leo?” Becca smirked.
“Um, no. Well, sort of.” Leo blushed.
Kam yelled over. “Don’t let him fool ya. It’s a date. Loverboy can’t stop gushing about the guy.”
“Shut up, Kam.” Leo rolled his eyes at his brother.
Becca leaned towards Leo. “Tell me more. Is he cute?”
Leo sighed. “He’s not just cute. He’s totally dreamy. I met him out on the beach yesterday. I told him I’d text him after the cross-country tryout.” Leo said, while looking at his phone again.
Becca stood up. “Well, let’s get you home then. Come on, Max, let’s go.” Becca led the way out of the shop, and they all followed. Max dropped Leo, Kam, and Tommy off and continued towards his own home.
Leo was out of the car and sprinting towards the house almost before the car even stopped. He took the stairs two at a time, rushed into his room, and quickly picked out a change of clothes. He darted out of his room and into the bathroom. Leo jumped into the shower before Kam was even in the house. After the quickest shower of his life, Leo got dressed and texted Charlie to find out where he was. Leo started blow-drying his hair, and did his best to make his hair as presentable as possible in as short a time as possible, then ran out of the house. Glancing down to check for a reply from Charlie. He ran towards the fence but then thought better of it. His body was still too sore for jumping. He turned and went around the fence and onto the beach.
He looked up and down the beach and then spotted Charlie down at the water’s edge. Leo walked up and stood next to the other boy, not saying anything for a minute or two. Then Leo looked over at him. “Sorry I took so long. A guy from the team took my brother and me out for ice cream to celebrate. We both made the team. I made varsity, and Kam made JV.”
Charlie turned towards Leo and reached out and grabbed both his hands. “That’s awesome! I’m so happy for you both!” He leaned in and hugged Leo.
Leo hugged him back before saying, “Thanks, Charlie. I’m happy that Kam and I are doing something together. I think running will be perfect for both of us.” Leo put his hand against Charlie’s face. “You’re so gorgeous, Charlie.” He smiled shyly.
Leo begrudgingly pulled his hand away from Charlie. “We better stop now, or I may decide to try for more,”
Charlie smiled. “You can try, but I’m not sure how far I’d let you get.” He winked.
Leo cleared his throat. “Anyway, what did you do today? I wouldn’t want to suggest doing the same things you already did.” Leo asked.
“We went out on a boat from the aquarium down the street and went on a whale watch. That took up a few hours. It was pretty out on the water, and we did see a few whales. Then mom went shopping, and I walked around town for a while and then came down here.” Charlie took out his phone and showed it to Leo. “Here are the pics of the whales.”
“Let’s walk this way.” Leo held out one hand until Charlie took it. Then he started walking up the beach, away from the direction of the lighthouse. “There’s a small carnival up here. It’s only here in the summer. This is the last week that it will be here until next May. There’s a Ferris wheel, a few other rides, carnival games, and junk food! You want to go? Have you eaten yet?”
“That sounds fun! No, I haven’t had dinner, and carnival food sounds perfect! Let’s go.” Charlie squeezed Leo’s hand even tighter, looked over at him, and smiled a huge smile as they walked up the beach towards the carnival.
By the time they had been at the carnival twenty minutes, Leo was clutching a giant stuffed panda bear that was almost as big as he was.
“I can never win at these carnival games. Thanks for winning this for me, Charlie. I love him. I’m going to name him Charlie. Charlie the Panda.” Leo laughed, leaned over, and kissed Charlie on the cheek. “Let’s go ride the Ferris wheel before it gets too dark, so I can show you my town from up high.”
The Ferris wheel line was short, and the boys were in a seat in just a few minutes. They waited as the worker made sure they were buckled in, and then he locked the safety bar in place. The ride began to slowly turn, stopping and starting at first while other passengers got on or off. When the Ferris wheel neared the top, Leo pointed out some of his favorite spots in town.
“One of the things I love the most is that we’re at the ocean, but just a couple miles away, we can swim and fish in the river.” He pointed off to their left. “Just past where the coastline bends in is the little spot where the town gets its name, Pebble Cove. Named that way because the beach there has more pebbles than sand. The cove is pretty, the water is great, but the beach itself is terrible.” Each time the Ferris wheel went up, Leo pointed out something different to Charlie. He showed him the Seaport Village, where they had the old tall wooden ships on display. He showed him the shops that were set up to resemble a colonial village, and he showed him many other sights.
Charlie grabbed Leo’s hand. “You really love your town, don’t you?’
Leo turned his head to face Charlie. “I do. I mean, I get annoyed by the crowds in tourist season. Most tourists are jerks who don’t care about anything but themselves. They leave trash everywhere. They drink. They fight. I hate that part. But the actual town I do love.”
“So, you hate tourists, huh?” Charlie huffed out a laugh.
Leo blushed. “Cute tourists with hot Australian accents are the exception to my rule.” Leo turned in the seat so that he was facing Charlie, and he leaned in. Charlie was so nervous that he was nearly shaking, but he went for it. Eighteen years was long enough to wait for his first kiss. He wasn’t about to wait one minute longer. Charlie grabbed the front of Leo’s shirt with both hands and pulled him close. Their lips met, tentatively at first. Charlie’s lips parted, and Leo’s tongue darted inside. Leo leaned back against the side of the Ferris wheel car, pulling Charlie down on top of him. The seat strap dug into Charlie’s chest, so he ducked under it, freeing himself. Leo ran his hands up and down Charlie’s broad, muscular back. Charlie had one hand braced against the seat to stop himself from falling, and his other hand on the back of Leo’s neck, pulling him even closer as the kiss deepened.
Clang! A loud metal bang rang in both boys’ ears, and they looked up, eyes wide. The ride had stopped. Their car was at the bottom, the metal bar swung open. The carnival worker was looking at them with a look that was half scowl and half smirk.
“Get off my Ferris wheel, you two! Take that somewhere else.” He waved off in a direction away from the ride. “And you,” he pointed at Charlie. “If I ever see you on my ride again without the safety strap in place, I’ll kick you off permanent!”
Charlie mumbled. “Yes, sir. Of course, sir.” Then he grabbed Leo’s hand, and the two boys ran off as fast as they could away from the Ferris wheel and the line of people that had been standing there and watching the entire thing.
Griff bounced up out of bed and looked at his phone. It was only 6 am. “Yes! Today is the day! Yes! I get to ride the roller coasters with Nicholas, who is dead asleep still.”
He was itching and burning from the poison ivy rash all over his playground, so he decided to go shower and put more Caladryl on to soothe it. He pulled up the Spotify app and selected “Top Hits Today,” playing it through the Bluetooth speakers. As the warm water began flowing into the shower, he started blurting out the song’s lyrics. He quickly got lost in the song and started swaying his booty back & forth and all around in the shower.
“Mmmmm…. can you please keep the noise down,” Nicholas mumbled. Then, he immediately started laughing as all he could see was Griffin shaking his booty in the shower. He yelled but got no answer, so he knocked on the shower door loudly.
A startled Griff opened the door. “Hey, good you’re up.”
As hard as it was for Nicholas not to laugh, he was still giggling at Griffin. “Now keep it down in here. I’m trying to sleep, but you have some sexy moves in there.”
“Omg!” Griff said. “I’m sorry!” he answered, red-faced and embarrassed. “You saw me dancing. I’m just excited about going to King’s Dominion today with you.”
Nicholas started to head out of the bathroom, and Griff asked him if he could give him the Caladryl off the sink. “Thank you. I can’t believe I got this poison ivy on me in the worst possible place!”
“You’re welcome. I hope it clears up fast!”
After Nicholas had also showered, both the guys got dressed and grabbed a bowl of Lucky Charms. While eating, they talked about their plans together for the day.
“Let’s go, so we’re the first in the gate,” Griffin said eagerly.
“Sure thing, Peaches. I’m coming.”
Walking down the road, cars started passing by, honking at them and waving. “This is gonna be so fun,” Nicholas said.
The guys got to the gates at King’s Dominion and music was playing over the loudspeakers with voices telling them about all the different and fun things to do.
“Hey, Nicholas, we should get the passes that let us go to the front of the lines.”
“I already got them for us online. I thought it would be very special.”
Griffin grabbed Nicholas and kissed him deeply while hugging him tight.
A group of guys yelled at them to stop. “That’s disgusting! We don’t want to see that!”
“That’s kinda intimidating, Nicholas, sorry.”
Nicholas said, “It’s ok, don’t worry about other people. It’s our day.”
The gates opened and the boys headed for the roller coasters first. The first one they found was a mix of steel and wood.
“I’m so excited! We’re in the very front section! Give me a kiss as GoPro is rolling,” Griffin said.
They kissed as they get buckled into their seats, and they heard yelling. “You guys are gross! We told you to stop that!”
Nicholas and Griffin ignored the yelling, and they were off.
“Wow! That was exhilarating!” Griff exclaimed. “I gotta pee, so you get souvenirs from the shop, maybe t-shirts or caps or both, while I use the restroom.”
Griffin headed to the bathroom and was followed by the four redneck bullies.
They blocked the doors and grabbed Griffin, warning him to stop acting gay around them, or next time it would be a lot worse. They dunked his head in the toilet bowl and flushed. “Got it? Last warning!” They shoved Griffin to the ground and left.
“Hey there. Why are you so wet? What took you so long?” Nicholas asked.
“Oh, it was nothing. Let’s just go to the next coaster.”
After riding most of the coasters, both boys decided to play a few games.
“Hey, Nicholas, your favorite animal! I’ll try to win you one.”
A friendly family, parents and a young son and daughter, sat down beside them to play, too. They smiled and said, “Hello.” Then two of bullies sat down and started talking junk to them.
Ignoring them, Griffin won the game and animal for Nicholas and Nicholas, out of pure joy, hugged and kissed Griffin. “Thank you so much! I love it, and I love you!”
The two guys jumped up yelling and cussing at both of them. The parents jumped up, too, and got right in the boys’ faces.
“Leave them alone! They have the right to love whoever they want to love. If you don’t like it, don’t look!”
“Shut up, lady! They’re gonna get their faces beat in! Get out of the way!” Griffin was shoved down to the ground, scraping and cutting up his legs, arms, and hands.
“That’s it! Leave them alone, punks, or you’ll be dealing with a lot more trouble,” the dad said. “I’m tired of people like you putting down guys like them. All they want is to be treated equally, and they’re not hurting anybody. So, stop, or the police will be called.”
Nicholas had also jumped up yelling, “Leave Griff alone! He doesn’t deserve this! I’m not letting you hurt him!”
Griffin was just lying there, trying to hide his tears and not talking to anyone. He got himself up and sat down on a bench. Park security showed up and dispersed the crowd.
“Are you ok, young man?” the mom asked.
“Griffin, please say something, babe,” Nicholas implored.
“I’m ok, just sad that hate is still so prevalent in this world. I didn’t tell you earlier that they held me down in the bathroom and gave me a swirly. They threatened me and shoved me down. It brought back memories of the high school bathroom and getting picked on and threatened. I want to be treated normal just like everyone else, but I guess that day won’t come.”
“Come eat with my family and me, guys,” the dad said. “We want to buy your lunch. Please?”
“We accept and thank you for standing up for us. We don’t get that much.”
They ate lunch together and chatted about what happened and about their family life. They believed that everyone has a right to love who they want. Richard, Susan, Ethan, and Jenny said their goodbyes and exchanged information.
“Griff, weren’t they a sweet family? Griff? Earth to Griff, are you ok?” Nicholas asked.
“No, sorry, I’m not,” Griff started crying. “I’m going back to the RV. I can’t stay here. I want you to stay and ride more. I’ll be waiting for you back at the RV, ok? I need some alone time.”
″Ok, Peaches. Be safe, and I’ll be there in a little while. I won’t leave yet, only because you asked me not to. I love you, babe,” Nicholas said reluctantly, as he watched Griffin walk away.
Back at the RV, Griff sat on the bed crying and remembering being teased in school, and now he was embarrassed about what happened in the park. “Why couldn’t I stand up for myself” Why do I shut down?” Griff blasted some Metallica and drank a soda, calming himself down some. The music changed to Shawn Mendes and, yes, an old Justin Bieber song.
Nicholas, unable to enjoy himself without Griffin, soon arrived back at the RV and sat down next to Griff. He didn’t say a word, just held him tight. Nothing needed to be said. Just being in that moment, holding each other close, seemed to make everything feel safe and right again.