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.
“Are we there yet?” Griffin hollered exactly six and a half minutes after Nicholas pulled out of the RV park.
“Don’t make me pull over, young man!”
“Ooooo … whatcha gonna do? Spank me?”
“Well, maybe later … but not in front of the children,” Nicholas winked. “Seriously, though … we should be in Rehoboth Beach by 7. I’m thinking we grab a couple of pizzas and stay in after we register and get the RV hooked up. The weather forecast says storms are supposed to roll through this evening and we don’t want to be caught somewhere and have to walk back in the rain.”
“Sounds like a game night. I hope it clears out by tomorrow … I have to get you on a surfboard in the actual Atlantic Ocean!” Griffin said, emphatically. “How long are we staying there?”
“I reserved the spot for two nights so we can head for Philadelphia on the 3rd to meet up with Casey and Jamie’s aunt,” Nicholas replied. “We can stay there a couple of nights so we can celebrate the 4th of July in the birthplace of the United States.”
Nicholas was beginning to believe that Spotify was telepathic as Bruce Springsteen began to growl …
“Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
End up like a dog that’s been beat too much
’Til you spend half your life just covering up
Born in the U.S.A
I was born in the U.S.A
I was born in the U.S.A
Born in the U.S.A … ”
The timing was perfect, as the pizza delivery arrived just as they finished hooking up the RV. Everyone washed up and settled in the living room to eat, with Jamie and Griffin occupying the sofa while Casey settled in the recliner and Nicholas sprawled out on the floor in the beanbag. Occasional flashes of lightning and thunder rumbling in the distance punctuated the conversation.
“So, any great ideas for how we should entertain ourselves tonight?” Casey asked.
“TV or games, maybe?” Nicholas suggested. “OH … I know! Pin the tail on Griffin!”
“Or …” Griffin had that glint in his eye that everyone was quite familiar with. “What about … ‘Strip Truth or Dare’?”
“I am NOT stripping in front of you boys!” Jamie exclaimed.
“Oh, fiddle dee dee,” Casey replied in her best Scarlett O’Hara voice. She was a bit too infatuated with the ‘Gone With the Wind’ novel she’d borrowed from Nicholas. “They are not the least interested in anything you may have to put on display.”
“Besides, you can choose ‘truth’ or ‘dare’, instead,” Griffin added.
“Well, okay. If Casey’s on board, I’ll go along,” Jamie conceded.
They played ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ and Nicholas won. He called Casey, who responded, “Dare.”
″ I dare you to …” Nicholas thought a few seconds. “I dare you to …”
With the lightning strike, the RV was plunged into utter darkness with Griffin squealing like a seven-year-old girl. “Everyone stay where you are,” Nicholas said. “I’ll get the flashlights.” He stumbled his way toward the front where the flashlights were kept in the emergency kit. Returning to the living room, he handed one to Casey. “I’ll hook up the generator if the power doesn’t come back soon.”
As everyone settled back down to continue the game, they heard a shout. Several more shouts followed, and soon the sound of many frantic voices motivated all four to run for the door and outside. A steady rain had begun, but they were oblivious to it as they saw people running south towards the road. A glance in that direction immediately let them know why all the commotion had commenced. They saw smoke streaming from the roof of a building, victimized by the earlier lightning strike. They joined everyone else pouring out of parked RVs up and down the campground and ran to see if they could be of assistance.
By the time they reached the road, sirens could be heard approaching. In such a small town, the fire department must be close by. The building, now engulfed in flames, appeared to be a large and, apparently, rather old beach house based on how quickly the fire seemed to be spreading through it. No one in the growing crowd acted terribly distraught, so it was probably currently unoccupied or, at least, whoever was staying there was not at home. Everyone retreated to the RV park side of the road to allow the trucks to approach as the rain began to pour more heavily, aiding the firefighters in their efforts.
As the blaze was brought under control, Nicholas, Griffin, Casey, and Jamie headed back home to change out of their uncomfortably wet clothing. As they reached the RV, the power returned, and the entire campground lit up instantly. If any one of them had been looking behind them at that moment, they would surely have noticed the man that dove behind a row of trash barrels along the dirt road and in front of the RV parked across from theirs.
After stripping off their soaked clothes, drying off, and redressing, everyone plopped back down in the living room to finish off their now cold pizza. Nicholas reheated his in the microwave, but everyone else was content with the room temperature food. No one, except Griffin, was in the mood for Strip Truth or Dare, anymore, so they began to browse Netflix for a good thunderstorm movie and settled on the classic, ‘Poltergeist’. Casey was more interested in ‘Gone With the Wind’, however. Jamie chose to stretch out on the floor with the bean bag, which allowed Nicholas and Griffin to cozy up on the sofa to get their cuddle on.
Griffin, with his head in Nicholas’ lap, gazed up into his boyfriend’s blue eyes and smiled. Nicholas looked down and grinned back. “What?”
“How did we get here?” Griffin asked. “I don’t mean Rehoboth. I mean you and me, here … with my head in your lap and head over heels in love with you.”
“I know what you mean,” Nicholas responded. “I’ve been thinking the same thing the past couple of weeks. We’ve been best friends forever and even enjoyed learning about sex with each other, but it kind of feels like we’ve just met.”
“Yeah, it’s like we became different people, in a way, when we left home. Like we went from kids to adults, and our feelings changed from a kid friendship to an adult relationship, and now we’re getting to know each other all over again.”
“So … how long have you known each other?” Jamie asked, then sheepishly apologized. “Sorry, I couldn’t help overhearing. I mean you’re right there.”
“It’s okay, Jamie. We’ve been friends since Kindergarten,” Nicholas answered. “By middle school, we both realized we were gay, so we’ve been pretty tight since then.”
“Yeah, we kind of figured it out together and .. well … tried different stuff,” Griffin attempted to explain. “We didn’t know any other gay guys our age and were too afraid to ask anyone. We trusted each other, so it was a great way to learn!”
“Oh, yeah! More fun than algebra, for sure!” laughed Nicholas. “My mom couldn’t figure out why we suddenly started spending so much time in the treehouse my dad built for me when I was eight. We usually told her we were studying, just not WHAT we were studying!”
“The fact that the house wi-fi signal reached to the treehouse definitely aided the educational process, too,” Griffin winked and chuckled.
“Okay, okay! I get the picture!” Jamie waved her hands around her head in a feeble attempt to stop the images attacking her mind. “So, you were just friends, though … not boyfriends?”
“Yeah, uh … I guess I kinda started having those ‘feelings’ for Nicholas when we were about 13 or 14, but I didn’t really know,” Griffin admitted a bit awkwardly. “I mean didn’t know what ‘falling in love’ was all about, anyway. I just knew that I wanted to be with him all the time, but I was afraid he’d get sick of me, and I’d lose my best friend. So, I just kept it to myself.”
“I would never get sick of you! I can’t imagine my life without you in it every single day. I really wish you’d said something then, but it all worked out. Obviously, we were meant to be together, and now we are. I love you so much, Peaches … don’t you ever doubt that for a second!”
“I love you more, Boo,” Griffin whispered as he went in for a kiss to emphasize the sentiment.
“OH! Get a room, you two!” Jamie teased.
“Well, you started it, if I recall correctly,” Griffin fired back, “but that’s a great idea! Let’s go, Boo!”
“By the way, Casey and Jamie, be sure to let your aunt know that we will be in Philadelphia the day after tomorrow,” Nicholas said as Griffin was practically dragging him to their bedroom in the rear of the RV. “It would be easiest if she could meet us at the RV park. I’ll give you the address in the morning.”
“Say goodnight, Nicholas,” Griffin urged.
“Goodnight, Nicholas!” he shouted back as Griffin threw him on the bed and kicked the door closed behind him.
Griffin woke up and sleepily rolled over to get some good morning cuddles, but all he found was a cold, empty bed. “Wow. He’s up early,” he thought to himself as he got out of bed and pulled on a t-shirt. Griff padded out of the room looking for Nicholas. He got to the kitchen and saw Nicholas at the table. The two girls were on either side of Nicholas, each with an arm wrapped around him. Griffin was a little puzzled, so he walked over and wrapped his arms around Nicholas from behind. He rested his chin on his boyfriend’s shoulder. “Hey, Boo. What’s up? You’re awake early. What are you looking at? Are you making more travel plans?” Griff asked as he saw all the maps spread out on the table.
Nicholas looked up at Griff with tears blurring his normally crystal-clear blue eyes. “Hey, Peaches. I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and started organizing some of the cupboards and drawers that we hadn’t gone through yet.”
Griffin nudged the girls out of the way and spun Nicholas’ chair sideways, so he could kneel in front of him. “Baby, what’s wrong?” He gently reached up and wiped the tears off of Nicholas’ cheeks.
“Nothing’s wrong. I’m not even sure if these are happy tears or sad tears. Look what I found.” Nicholas motioned toward the maps spread out on the table. “These are all my dad’s travel maps! He marked off routes and circled places that he wanted to take me. There are even notes in the margins in his handwriting about what he wanted me and him to do at some of the places. I thought mom cleaned everything out of here when she put the RV into storage. This… this is like a gift from my dad!”
Griff leaned forward and kissed the fresh teardrops from the corners of Nicholas’ eyes. “I’m so happy for you, Boo. This is amazing! We’ll add these in with the ones that you made, and we’ll know exactly where we want to go.”
Nicholas’ lips curled down into a frown. “Yeah. At least until I drop you off at college.”
“Don’t worry about that right now. There’s plenty of time before that happens. So much has changed for us in the last couple of weeks, who knows what will happen before we get to Ohio.”
“You’re right. Sorry for being so emotional. Go take your shower, and I’ll fix breakfast.”
Casey stepped forward and put a hand on Nicholas’ shoulder. “Organize your dad’s maps. Me and Jamie have breakfast covered today.”
“Yep. Chef Jamie and her fabulous assistant, Cookmeister Casey, at your service!” Jamie giggled.
Griff pulled Nicholas to his feet and wrapped him in a tight bear hug. “No apologies necessary. I know what your dad meant to you. He was an awesome dad.” Griff kissed Nicholas on the forehead. “Finding those maps was a sign that we are doing exactly what we should be doing right now, and we have your dad’s blessing.”
“You’re right. He loved you a lot, Griff. I know he’d be happy for us. Ok, let’s get this day started. Go get in the shower and I’ll finish up here. It smells like the ladies are already fixin’ us some breakfast!”
Nicholas’ hair whipped around his face, damp from the spray of the water. He let out a whoop and pressed down as hard as he could on the jet ski’s gas pedal. Only one more to pass and he’d be in the lead. The nose of his jet ski was now even with the tail end of Andy’s. Just as they reached the predetermined finish line, Nicholas pulled into the lead. He slowed the engine and glided to a stop at the dock. Nicholas danced and jumped his way down the pier and onto the beach where Griff waited, still taking photos.
“Did you see that? That was amazing!” Nicholas cheered.
“Not only did I see it, but I also recorded it! Your victory will be immortalized on our RV Instagram account, Boo!”
“I still can’t believe you have over a hundred followers in two days! Maybe we will go viral!” Nicholas laughed.
“Yeah, maybe we can be the next Alec in WILDerland!”
Andy strolled over and pointed up at the jet ski rental office. Ian is taking care of the paperwork. Are we ready to go get lunch?”
Jamie bounced over with her nearly perpetual grin, “Definitely! I’m starved.”
“I’m glad you chose this place,” Ian said. “It’s my favorite restaurant of all the ones that we’ve been to here in Chesapeake Beach.”
“As an added bonus,” Griffin chuckled, “the owner, Peggy, gives Nicholas a free piece of pie every time he comes in for saving that dude’s life earlier this week.”
“Wait… what? You have to tell us that story!” Jamie squealed.
So, as they ate, Griffin told the story of the Heimlich save. Nicholas retaliated by telling the story of Griffin saving Gustavo in the hang glider accident. Then, Griffin told the story of Nicholas’ tackling him in the mud to save him from the runaway RV.
Ian glanced at his watch. “Time to finish up here, guys and gals. Andy and I have to hit the road.”
As Andy stood from the table, Jamie nearly tackled him with a hug. “You have my number and all my socials, you better stay in touch, boy!”
Andy grinned and kissed her on the cheek. “Of course, I will. You’re my favorite girl.”
“Where are you heading next?” Jamie asked.
“Virginia Beach. Then on to my hometown of Savannah, Georgia.” Andy said.
“Post plenty of beach pics,” Jamie said with a wink.
Andy blushed. “For sure.”
Goodbyes were said all around, and then Ian and Andy left on their way south.
Griffin raised his kayak paddle in the air and whooped in victory. “Oh yeah, baby! That’s game, set, and match! We win four to two!”
Nicholas and Casey shook their heads. “Should we ask for best of nine instead of best of seven?” Casey asked.
“Nah. Look at those two already dancing on the beach like they won the Olympics. Let them enjoy it.”
“It’s three-thirty anyway. You said that we should leave by four.” Casey said as she got out of the kayak and helped Nicholas pull it onto the beach.
“Yeah, let’s get these things signed in and get back to the RV.” Nicholas and Griff pulled the kayaks back to the rental shed and rejoined the girls for the short walk back to the RV.
While Nicholas was double-checking all the RV hookups and gauges to make sure they were ready to leave, Griffin noticed both girls kept looking down the road and whispering together. He walked over and put an arm around each girl. “Ladies, what’s wrong? And don’t you dare say nothing.”
Jamie looked up at Griffin then at her sister and finally back up at Griffin. She sighed, “I can’t lie to you, even if I wanted to. I’m not sure that anything is wrong, but I think I saw Roger’s beat-up red pick up parked out by the exit to the park. As soon as I saw it, it drove away, but I’ve seen it drive by two times since then.”
“Roger is your stepfather, right? The one who abused you both?”
Casey frowned. “Yes,” she swore under her breath, “I knew we shouldn’t have gone to Sarah’s party last night. If it is him, that’s how he found us. Some blabbermouth told him we were there!”
Griff ran a hand through his hair. “You two are both over eighteen, right? Those weren’t fake ID’s? Why would he track you down?” Nicholas had joined the group and was listening intently.
“We are both of age. He just thinks that he owns us. Plus, he’s probably pissed that I knocked him out with the baseball bat. He tracked us down because he’s a psychopath.” Jamie said.
“Well, you’re not sure it’s him, but regardless, even it is him, the sooner we get on the road, the sooner we leave him behind,” Nicholas said as he herded everyone into the RV. Once they were all buckled in, Nicholas started up his road trip playlist, and they pulled out of the park to the sounds of Aerosmith.
I’m back in the saddle again
I’m back in the saddle again
Ridin’ into town alone by the light of the moon
I’m lookin’ for old Sukie Jones, she crazy horse saloon
Barkeep gimme a drink, that’s when she caught my eye
She turned to give me a wink, that’d make a grown man cry
I’m back in the saddle again
I’m back in the saddle again
Come easy, go easy, all right until the rising sun
I’m calling all the shots tonight, I’m like a loaded gun
Peelin’ off my boots and chaps, I’m saddle sore
Four bits gets you time in the racks, I scream for more
Fools’ gold out of their mines, the girls are soaking wet
No tongue’s drier than mine, I’ll come when I get back
They slowed down when they turned a corner and entered a different part of the carnival. Charlie spoke up. “Hey, do you want to grab something to eat?”
“Yum junky carnival food sounds great!” Leo chuckled. “Let’s go find some deep-fried chicken and onion rings, and when we’re done with that, some fried dough for dessert!”
Charlie rolled his eyes at the choices but followed as Leo led the way to the food booths.
After they ate what passed for dinner, the two boys walked through the carnival midway finishing their fried dough. Leo glanced over at Charlie and smirked. He stepped directly in front of Charlie and looked up at the taller boy, then he reached up and pulled Charlie’s face down to his own. As Leo leaned in close, his tongue darted out, and he slowly licked just to the side of Charlie’s mouth on both sides, then pulled back.
“What was that for?” Charlie beamed, his eyes burning with desire.
“Powdered sugar. I love it. I didn’t want to see it go to waste.” Leo shrugged and grinned and started walking again. They were passing through the carnival games when Leo suddenly stopped.
“I want to try and win something. This looks like a fun game. You won the panda for me. Now I want to win something for you.” Leo was hugging his giant panda as he spoke.
“Awe. I’m glad you like your panda, but you don’t have to win me anything. It’s sweet of you to want to, though.” Charlie replied.
“I know I don’t have to. I want to. Now hold onto Charlie, Jr.” Leo handed the panda to Charlie. The game had six big metal milk jugs, and the object was to toss a baseball into one of the pitchers—two dollars for three baseballs. Leo won four times and traded up to the prize he wanted. Sixteen dollars later, he handed a giant stuffed dolphin to Charlie.
“A dolphin to welcome you to our little fishing town.” Leo leaned in and kissed Charlie.
“Should I name him Leo?” Charlie smirked. “Nah. I won’t copy you. Pebbles for Pebble Cove.”
Charlie pulled Leo close and kissed him before pulling back and looking down into his eyes. “There are too many people around right here. Let’s walk somewhere else.”
Leo’s eyes lit up, and a devilish grin spread across his face. “Absolutely brilliant plan. Let’s go!”
The two boys headed towards the carnival exit, but then Leo pointed in between the fence and the Ferris wheel. “Back there. Behind the Ferris wheel. No one will ever go back there.” He pulled Charlie along by their linked hands until they were just outside the reach of the carnival lights. Now in near darkness, Leo turned and faced Charlie. He placed one hand flat against the older boy’s chest and firmly yet gently pushed him up against the fence. Leo freed his other hand from Charlie’s grasp and slowly ran both hands up Charlie’s body until his hands were at the collar of Charlie’s light blue button-down shirt. Leo pulled on the collar, and Charlie was forced to bend down slightly. Leo leaned in, and the two met in an open-mouthed kiss. Charlie was older. Charlie was taller. However, Leo was in charge this night. Leo broke away from Charlie’s mouth and started licking and kissing Charlie’s jawline and then up to his ear. After nibbling on Charlie’s ear, Leo began to kiss his way down the older boy’s neck.
Leo let go of Charlie’s collar, and his hands found their way to the top button of his shirt. He unbuttoned the top button and kissed the newly exposed skin. His fingers shaking just a bit with nerves, he undid the next button and then the next. He kissed and licked his way down with each button he released. Lower and lower. He was about halfway down Charlie’s chest when he felt the other boy run his fingers through his hair and grip the top of his head.
“Yeah. Oh my God, Leo, that’s amazing.” Charlie said as he gently applied pressure, urging Leo even lower. Leo was on his knees in front of Charlie now. More buttons unbuttoned—more kissing and licking. Leo finally released the bottom button on the shirt and spread the shirt open. Leo’s tongue darted out and into Charlie’s innie belly button. Charlie moaned and gripped Leo’s head even tighter. Leo rubbed up and down the front of Charlie’s khaki board shorts, feeling just how into this Charlie really was. Charlie moaned even louder. “Leo. Oh, God, Leo. Wait. Stop.” Charlie grabbed Leo’s shirt and pulled him back to a standing position. Charlie’s eyes were glazed over with lust, and he was breathing heavily. He took a deep breath and began to speak before Leo could cause him to change his mind. “We have to stop. I want you so bad, but not here. Not now.”
“Why? Did I do something wrong?” Leo had a worried look in his eyes.
“No. Oh, God, no. Absolutely not. It’s just that I,” Charlie hesitated and blushed before speaking again. “I’ve never done anything like this before. Hell, the kiss on the Ferris Wheel was my first ever kiss.” He put his hand up to stop Leo from interrupting. “I know we’ve just met, but I do think I want more of my firsts to be with you. Not here, though. Not in a muddy field behind the carnival where anyone could,” As if on queue a loud noise interrupted them.
Crash! Bang! “Hey! You two! What are you doing over there?! You don’t belong back here! The carnival is closed!” A voice yelled.
Both boys nearly jumped out of their skins. Leo spun and looked towards the yelling and saw a carnival worker. The man was emptying trash into a bin and had seen the boys. Leo grabbed Charlie’s hand, and they ran off into the darkness. They ran through the exit and out onto the beach. They never even slowed down until they were near to the path leading to Leo’s house, where they finally stopped.
They were both beet red and sweating. Leo and Reese looked at each other and burst out laughing.
“Oh my God, Charlie, that was… I don’t even know. Exciting. Frightening. Embarrassing. But all in all, one of the best nights of my life.” Leo grabbed Charlie’s shirt, which was still hanging open, and pulled him close. He ran his hands up Charlie’s smooth, bare chest and wrapped his arms around his neck. Leo leaned in and gave Charlie another kiss. After a few minutes, Leo pulled back and leaned against the fence. “I wish I’d known that you hadn’t been kissed. I would have planned something more romantic.”
“God, Leo. On top of the Ferris Wheel with you. On a beautiful night like this. It was something I’ll never forget. And the rest. I’ll never forget that, either.” Charlie blushed a bright red.
Leo’s smile nearly split his face in two. “When you’re ready, we need to pick up where we left off. I’ll think up where we can go. Make some plans. How does that sound?”
“It sounds heavenly. I want to do that again, for sure. I’m sorry I got nervous, but we would have been interrupted anyway. We’ll talk about it. I don’t need candlelight and roses, just something better than a dirty, smelly field.”
“You deserve the best, especially for your first time. No more talking tonight, though. Unfortunately, it is very late, and I should have been home an hour ago. I have to go, but I fully expect to pick up this conversation again. I don’t have any plans after classes are out tomorrow, so I should be out here around three. What about you?”
“I have no idea what my mom has planned for us to do tomorrow. I’ll text you as soon as I know, and I’ll text you again when I’m here and waiting for you. We can definitely pick up this conversation again. I want to pick up where we left off. It was awesome. You are awesome.” He leaned down and kissed Leo. “Goodnight, Leo. See you tomorrow.”
“Goodnight, Charlie. I’ll look for your text tomorrow. See you then.” Leo turned, smiling a huge smile. He ran past the fence and continued toward home.
Leo was halfway between the edge of the beach and home when he heard a voice in the darkness. “So, we meet again. Is it destiny or just a small town?” Reese said.
Leo stopped and turned toward the voice. “Probably just a small town. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.” He said with a smirk.
“I think there were more kids in my last school than people in this town.” Reese laughed.
“Where are you from? We haven’t managed to get past directions and cafeteria advice in our conversations so far.” Leo chuckled.
“Just outside D.C. Mom got tired of the big city. She works in hotel management, so it was easy for her to stay working in the same company and transfer here. Half your town is hotels.”
“Yep. Our town triples in population in the summer. Stupid tourists. Well, most tourists.” Leo blushed.
Reese motioned toward the beach. “Were you out running again? Didn’t you get enough at school today?”
“No, I was on a date.” Leo grinned.
“With the guy from last night?”
“Yep. His name is Charlie. I actually just met him yesterday morning.”
“That’s awesome. Does he go to our school?”
“He… he’s from out of town. That’s why I corrected myself and said most tourists.”
“How long is he in town for?”
“Just a few days. I really shouldn’t expect much out of this, but I really like him. I don’t know what will happen. I’m going to take this one day at a time and hope for the best.”
“Good luck, Leo. You seem cool. I hope it works out for you. Anyway, it’s late. I was just out for a stroll. I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”
“This is my house right here.” Leo pointed at his house. “I should get inside, too.” See you tomorrow, Reese.” Both boys turned and went their separate ways.
Leo reached over and turned the loud, buzzing alarm off. He rarely needed it to wake him up, but he stayed out late last night and then couldn’t get right to sleep. Thoughts of the night before, again, brought a smile to his face. Leo pushed those thoughts away and got out of bed. Time to run. He peeked into Kam’s room and saw that the bed was empty. Good. He was already up. Leo changed into his running gear, put on his sneakers, and went downstairs to look for Kam.
“Leo! I’m in here.” Kam yelled from the kitchen, in between gulps of orange juice. “You must have had fun last night. I’m never up before you.” Kam smirked at his brother.
“Not as much fun as I almost had.” Leo blushed. “I’ll tell you all about it on the run. Let’s get going. We’re already behind schedule.” Leo took a quick drink of orange juice and went out the door, quickly followed by his brother.
“I can’t wait to hear this story,” Kam said as the two boys crossed the street and jumped the fence onto the beach.
Leo looked out onto the beach, glanced in both directions, then looked back at Kam. Round trip to the carnival gate today. We’re running late.”
“Wow,” Kam said in mock astonishment. “Late sleeper and short run. What’s next? Skipping classes?” Kam laughed as they started their run.
Leo told his brother about the night before, leaving out only the most explicit parts. The brothers didn’t keep secrets from each other. They told each other all the secrets they’d never utter to another soul.
“Holy crap, Leo. I guess you did have a fun night! Behind the Ferris wheel? Really? You’re lucky they didn’t call the cops! Dad would have flipped out. His first kiss, though, that’s really special. Something he’ll always remember. Does he know that it wasn’t your first?” Kam laughed and clapped his brother on the shoulder. They had reached the carnival gate and now started on their return trip.
“I’m telling you out here, so there’s no chance of being overheard. I know how dad is. And yes, I’m almost certain he knows that it wasn’t my first, but we haven’t had that conversation yet. I’ll tell him my limited history when we discuss plans to continue what we started behind the carnival. I think I’m in love with him already, Kam. I think I fell for him the moment I saw him on the beach Sunday morning, after the fight with Matt.” Leo’s face was bright red, a combination of exertion and blushing.
“You’re an idiot, Leo, but I’m not surprised. You wouldn’t do what you said you did if you didn’t care about him. You’re not that kind of guy. Do you guys have plans for tonight?”
“He wasn’t sure what his mother had planned for them to do today, but yes, I do hope to see him tonight.” Leo jumped the fence and headed towards the house, looking back over his shoulder. “If you’re ready first, heat me up some oatmeal, please. We’re still a little behind schedule! We don’t want to miss the bus!”
Leo barely had time to get his Starbucks and still make it to the bus stop on time. He didn’t even stop in the cafeteria; he just ran straight to his first class, calculus. Leo saw Brandon on the other side of the room, but there were no empty seats nearby, and class was starting. He cursed his bad luck and opened his textbook.
After class, the two best friends met up in the hallway. “You have Bio next, right?” Leo asked.
“Yep. Aren’t you heading for Creative Writing?”
“Yes. Damn. Opposite directions. Make sure to get to the cafeteria on time today. I have a story to tell you!”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can. That sounds promising! Just what did you do last night?”
“I’ll tell you at lunch!” Leo said as he turned and went to class.
Leo walked into the cafeteria and glanced around. He saw Brandon at their usual table, but Max was waving at him from the other side of the room. He got Brandon’s attention motioned for him to walk to Max’s table. “What’s up, Max?” Leo said with a smile when he got to the table.
Brandon walked up just behind Leo and whispered in his friend’s ear. “Why are we over here? What about your story?”
Leo rolled his eyes at Brandon. “Later!”
Max smiled. “I hope that I’m not interrupting anything important. I just wanted to invite you… and your friend to sit with us.”
“It’s nothing that can’t wait. We’d love to sit with you guys.” Leo said. Brandon grudgingly agreed, and they both sat down.
“You know everyone, don’t you? Oh wait, Becca, isn’t there a new guy on your squad?” Max turned to Leo. “Becca is the head cheerleader.”
Becca looked around. “Yeah, he was sitting right there.” She pointed at the empty seat. “I’m not sure where he went. He just moved here from somewhere down south, I think.”
“He’s from Washington, D.C., actually. I met him. He seems nice.”
One of the other cheerleaders spoke up. “I’m not surprised you’ve already met Reese.” She huffed out a laugh. “Why are all the hottest boys in school gay?” She said to no one in particular.
Max laughed. “Hey! I’m almost offended by that comment!”
“Oh, shut up, Max. You know you I’d jump your bones if you weren’t dating my best friend.” The girl retorted.
“You’d jump anything on two legs, Julie. Just stay away from my man.” Becca snickered.
“You girls are rough,” Leo said. “But, no, it’s not like that. I’ve barely met Reese, and I’m seeing someone anyway.”
“Someone from school? Who is he? Spill the tea!” Julie squealed.
“He’s not from around here,” Leo said softly.
“He’s falling for a tourist,” Brandon said, rolling his eyes. The entire table of teens started talking all at once. Some advised against dating a tourist, and others urged him to ‘get a little’ and move on. Leo scanned the cafeteria for an escape. Maybe he’d spot Reese and go talk to him.
Then Leo spotted Jasper. He decided it was time for the talk that he had been avoiding. Leo walked over and sat across from Jasper. Matt was sitting at Jasper’s right. Leo folded his hands and looked right at Jasper, ignoring Matt completely. “Jasper, I know our break-up was messy, but the physical and verbal harassment from your boy,” he motioned towards Matt, “has to stop. What happened between us was just that, between us. Rein him in.”
Matt interjected. “Screw you, Kennedy! You have a problem with me, deal with me. Not Jasper.”
Jasper put a hand on Matt’s arm. “Chill, babe.” Then he spoke to Leo. “Looks to me like Matt’s the one with the worse bruises. Maybe I should be telling you to leave him alone.” Jasper stood up and leaned in towards Leo. “Get over yourself, Leo. You couldn’t keep me, and you won’t keep whoever that other guy is. Matt will do whatever he wants. I don’t care. All you were was a willing mouth to me.”
Leo stood up, angry. The chair tipped over behind him. He was about to start yelling at Jasper, but suddenly, the whole cafeteria started to spin, and everything started going dark. Leo felt himself getting dizzy and begin to fall, then he felt arms around him and a sweet soft voice in his ear telling him to sit. It didn’t matter what the voice said though, the whole room went dark, and Leo felt himself being guided to the floor.
Leo heard voices around him, but everything was dark, and the voices sounded far away. The first voice, the sweet voice of Reese, yelled, “Brandon! I need some help over here!”
Brandon: “I’m here, Reese. What happened to Leo?”
Reese: “I don’t know, but I plan to find out. Hold on to him, please.”
Brandon: “Reese, don’t do anything stupid.”
Reese: “What the hell did you do to him?”
Jasper: “I didn’t touch him. He passed out.”
Reese: “That better be the truth, or you’ll be on the floor next.”
Matt: “I don’t know who you think you are, but you better shut your mouth.”
Reese: “I think you two better get lost while you still can.”
Jasper: “I didn’t do anything to him. Honest. Matt, let’s go and leave them alone.”
Reese: “Brandon, I’m back. Help me get him in a chair.”
Leo felt two strong arms lift him from the ground and sit him in a chair. Two warm, soft, yet strong hands gripped his own. He felt knees against his knees and a forehead pressed against his. Reese’s soft, sweet voice started talking to him, soothing him.
“Leo, it’s ok now. They’re gone. You’re safe. I know we’ve just met, and we’re only just started getting to know each other, but I’ll make sure you’ll always be safe with me around. Come back to us, Leo. I don’t know what happened or what’s wrong, but I’m here, and you’re safe. I’ll stay right here as long as you need me.”
Leo heard Brandon say, “Reese? Should I call 911? He’s had these spells before. There’s more going on than you know.”
Reese responded, “His breathing is relaxed now. I think it was an anxiety attack. Give him just a few more minutes before you call anyone.”
“You got there pretty quick. I didn’t even have a chance to get out of my chair.”
“I happened to be looking their way and saw it happening.”
Leo blinked his eyes, and things were still dim but not black. The attack was passing. This boy’s voice really calmed his nerves. That southern accent just melted his heart. Leo blinked again and made out his face. “Reese? I was just looking for you. Now here you are. Your voice brought me back. Thank you.”
“My pleasure. It was my turn to help you. You’ve helped me twice already. Maybe someday we’ll be able to just sit down and chat. You can fill me in on who those two jerks were, so I can make sure to stay far away from them.”
Leo sat back in his chair and then realized he was still holding Reese’s hands. He let go and blushed. “That is a brilliant idea. How about on the beach near where you saw me walking from last night? After school today, well after practice. Maybe at four o’clock?”
“It’s a date.” Reese blushed and corrected himself. “Well, not a date. You know what I mean. I’ll see you at four!” He turned and nearly ran out of the cafeteria.
Brandon smirked at his bestie. “I think you have two stories to tell me about last night. No wonder you were almost late this morning.”
“Do you need me to tell the coach that you’re not feeling well, Leo? I’m sure he’d let you out of practice.” Max said.
“I’m fine. I’m looking forward to practice. It was an anxiety attack. I’m ok.”
“I’ll be over there, finishing my lunch if you need anything,” Max said, looking at both Leo and Brandon.
Leo stood but was still a little shaky on his feet. He sighed and looked at Brandon. Brandon kept a hand on Leo’s lower back for support without needing to be asked and walked him over to a table. Leo was still a little dizzy but managed to finish his lunch. As the two boys walked out of the cafeteria, Brandon said, “That was more than an anxiety attack, wasn’t it?”
“To be honest, Bran, I’m not sure. It could have been an anxiety attack. You know I’ve had them that bad before, but it also could have been more than that. I promise that I’ll keep you informed.”
“You better,” Brandon said as they walked down the hall to their next class.
Leo got through the rest of the school day without feeling any more dizziness, so he convinced himself that it was an anxiety attack. He pushed through the locker room doors, jogged across the street to the athletic field, and joined the rest of the team. It was the first day of practice. Both the varsity and junior varsity squads were there.
Kam walked over and joined his brother in their pre-run stretches and warmups. “I heard about lunch. You ok, bro?”
“I’m fine. I still have to finish my conversation with Jazz, but other than that, I’m fine.”
“What about the dizzy spell?”
“Anxiety. It’s been an exciting couple of days.” Leo shrugged.
Kam looked thoughtful. “I’ll buy that for now.” He smirked at his brother. “I also heard that the hot new kid was there.”
Leo rolled his eyes. “Give it a rest, Kameron. I’m going to see Charlie again tonight. But, hey, since when do you refer to guys as hot?”
Kam blushed and looked away. “I said that for your benefit, not mine.”
Leo was about to say something else, but the banter between the brothers was cut short. The two coaches arrived and split the boys into their respective varsity and junior varsity teams. The first cross-country practice had officially begun.
After practice was over, Leo hung back. Kam stopped to see what his brother was doing. “What’s up?” Kam asked.
“Go on ahead. I’ll be right behind you.”
Kam followed his brother’s gaze and smirked. “Ah! I understand now. You’re gonna check out the cheer practice. Didn’t you say that you were meeting Charlie tonight?” Kam snickered.
“Yes, I am. Reese watched our tryouts. I want to be just as supportive. Besides, we mentioned meeting up after school. I want to make sure we’re still on, so I know what time to tell Charlie that I’ll meet up with him.”
“Wow. All of a sudden, my big bro has a full social calendar. I’m impressed.”
“Shut up, Kam.” Leo grinned. “Go catch up to the team. I’ll see you at home.”
Leo waved to his brother and started walking across the field toward where the cheerleaders were practicing. He hadn’t gone far when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement from behind the bleachers. He turned, and there stood Jazz. Leo nervously looked all around. Jazz stepped closer and spoke. “Matt isn’t here if that’s who you’re looking for.”
“Matt is exactly who I was looking for. Your boyfriend is a bully with a mean streak, Jazz.”
“I’m sorry, Leo. I’m truly sorry. For everything.”
“Wait… what? You mean everything that Matt did, right?”
“No, Leo. You know what I mean. I’m sorry for everything. I screwed up bigtime. I hurt the person that I love the most in the whole world. When I saw you pass out today, it brought back so many memories and reminded me of all the promises I made. God, Leo, I realized that I still love you. Can you ever forgive me?”
Tears stung Leo’s eyes. He wasn’t sure if they were tears of sadness, hurt, or rage. He clenched his fists at his sides to restrain himself from striking out at Jasper. “No, Jazz. I do not forgive you. After all this time, after all you did, how can you even ask? I mean, hell, wasn’t cheating on me bad enough? But then you outed me to the whole school. That’s how my parents found out that I’m gay! From the school, not even from me! The entire last year of my life has been a living hell, and it is all because of you!”
“I… I’m so sorry, Leo. I lashed out. I didn’t want to take the blame. I…”
“Shut up, Jazz. I’m not done talking. You started this conversation. The creep you cheated on me with beat me up. Because you suddenly remember that we were madly in love and promised each other to always be there, you want forgiveness? You ripped my heart out, spit on it, and threw it in the trash. Now, you say that you still love me? Stay away from me, Jazz. Go back to Matt. I will never forgive you.”
Leo felt a presence behind him. He looked behind him and was greeted by the sparkling emerald eyes of Reese.
Jazz tried to keep talking. “Leo, come on, let me explain.”
Reese stepped in between the other two boys. “Dude, he asked you to go away.”
“Who even are you? This is between Leo and me.”
“This is the second time today that I’ve asked you to get away from him. He doesn’t want you here. Don’t make me ask you a third time.”
After devouring every morsel of Nicholas’ scrumptious fixin’s, Ian and Andy made convenient excuses and departed, leaving Casey, Jamie, and the boys to clean up. They determined to leave the beach area in the same shape as they found it, if not better. Griffin and Nicholas continued their flirtatious banter with the girls matching them with their teasing barbs. Finally, Nicholas surveyed their beach spot with his meticulous eyes and decided that it passed muster, so they all headed home.
While taking turns showering, Jamie claiming first dibs, they each became absorbed in their own quiet space. Casey had discovered the cache of books that Nicholas had brought along, his “Top 20 Novels” collection, as he referred to it. She squealed when she came across ‘Gone With the Wind’ and begged to borrow it. Nicholas graciously consented, always eager to share his literary treasures with an enthusiastic audience, and she settled onto the sofa to dive in.
Griffin sat at the kitchen table and began to browse the photos he’d taken during the day, mostly on the cruise around Chesapeake Bay, editing them a bit as he went along. It suddenly occurred to him that he should set up a separate Instagram page from his personal page to chronicle their RV excursions and adventures, like Nicholas’ travel journal. Maybe one day they could even combine the two into a book!
Nicholas, ironically, had stretched out on their bed to update his journal with the events of the past several days. He’d not had the time since before the unexpected arrival of their traveling companions. In fact, he’d not even taken the time to talk to his mom and tell her about Casey and Jamie. He and Griffin both needed to make sure they called home tomorrow morning before heading out. Both their moms were good about giving them space and not expecting daily updates, but after three days, texts and voicemail messages would commence at an alarming rate!
Jamie emerged from the bathroom, and Griffin told Casey to go ahead, as he was in the middle of setting up his ‘RV Chronicles’ Insta page. Grabbing the remote, Jamie began to browse Netflix and stumbled across ‘The River Thief,’ which starred her very most favoritest actor, Joel Courtney. Her stepmonster had killed their Netflix account after their mom died so this was a sorely-missed luxury for Jamie. Casey could have her books, but Jamie needed visual entertainment.
A couple of hours later, Casey and Jamie had crashed on their sofa bed while Nicholas and Griffin were finally enjoying some intimate togetherness in the comfort of their bedroom and testing the memory of their foam mattress. Both boys felt they were dangerously close to bursting, in more ways than one. Griffin came up for air long enough to turn on the bedside bluetooth speaker and scroll through his Spotify app to locate an appropriate playlist to fit the mood and provide some cover to the tunes emanating from the bed.
“Let me see that,” Nicholas demanded. He always knew just the right song for the moment, and this was no exception. Almost immediately, Exile began their sultry accompaniment, and Nicholas crooned right along with them …
“When you get home babe, gonna light your fire
All day I’ve been thinking about you babe you’re my one desire
Gonna wrap my arms around you and hold you next to me
Oh, baby wanna taste your lips I wanna be your fantasy
I don’t know what I’d do without you babe don’t know where I’d be
You’re not just another lover no you’re everything to me
Every time I’m with you baby can’t believe it’s true
When you’re laying in my arms, and you do the things you do
You can see it in my eyes I can feel it in your touch
You don’t have to say a thing just let me show how much
I wanna kiss you all over, and over again
I wanna kiss you all over
Till the night closes in.”
“Damn, Boo, do it!” Griffin moaned. “Kiss me all over! Take me now!”
Not having to be told twice, Nicholas did just that. Detaching his lips from Griffin’s, he began an excruciatingly slow tour down Griff’s body with the ultimate goal of kissing, tasting and savoring every square inch. With hands roaming wherever they could reach, both boys writhed, attempting to press as much flesh together as physically possible while also trying to keep their vocal responses at a volume level that would not attract the attention of their guests.
Nicholas caressed a hip with one hand, ran the other through Griff’s hair and licked, nibbled, and nipped at his nips causing Griffin to arch his back in ecstasy unlike any he’d ever experienced. Yes, the boys had enjoyed sex with each other in their past “friends with benefits” lives, but this was a whole different, and new, world. They were blissfully discovering the difference between sex and making love.
Griffin’s hands were not idle, either, with his left hand squeezing Nicholas’ buttcheek and his right roaming his Boo’s inner thighs, discovering much to explore there. When he finally grasped Nicholas’ rigid boyness, all Nicholas could do was growl, “YES!” Four firm stokes later and Nicholas, with an “Oh, Griff!” released too many days worth of pent up sexual frustration all over Griffin’s playground.
Pausing just long enough to catch his breath, Nicholas quickly navigated down Griffin’s quivering belly to return the favor. Nicholas had always had an oral fixation, and he was not about to rely on his hand to return the favor. Within seconds, Griffin’s eyes rolled back in his head, and Nicholas had to seal Griff’s mouth with his hand to squelch the stream beginning to emerge while another stream began to emerge into Nicholas.
The boys melted together while coming down from highs unlike any that either had ever experienced. But their “first night” was only beginning. They had quickly and easily succeeded in taking the edge off, but then the real love-making began … slowly, intimately, beautifully, perfectly. For the next two hours, they loved each other deeply, both more invested in providing the other with as much pleasure as was physically possible and expressing their love for the other in every way they could conceive.
Finally, exquisitely exhausted, Nicholas and Griffin managed to summon enough energy to tug the sheets off the bed and toss them in the corner. Dressing the mattress with a fresh fitted sheet, they fell back on the mattress and threw a cotton sheet across themselves and were asleep almost by the time their heads hit the pillows. The last thoughts they each had were pretty much the same. It was a night that neither would ever forget and both hoped to repeat many more times.
Griffin, as usual, woke first and bent towards Nicholas to wake him with a kiss, not the least bit concerned about morning breath. “Hmmm … good morning, Peaches,” Nicholas whispered. “I had the most beautiful dream.”
“We will be having that dream many more nights, Boo!” Griffin promised. “I wonder if the girls … uh … noticed anything.”
“I honestly don’t think I care. I was worried a bit about that before, but now, I’m just not. It was beautiful and perfect.”
After pulling on shorts and t-shirts and putting the bed and room back together, the boys went to see if Casey and Jamie were up. They were still out cold, so Griffin headed for the bathroom while Nicholas went to see what was available for breakfast. Discovering the rations in extremely short supply, he made an executive decision that they would be heading back to the diner they enjoyed their first day in Chesapeake Beach for breakfast.
While he was bopping around in the kitchen, both girls rose from their slumber and offered weak “good mornings.”
“Good morning,” Nicholas responded a bit warily. “Uh, how did you sleep?”
“I haven’t slept like that in months!” said Casey. “I didn’t even realize how tired I was.”
“I slept really well, too. How did you sleep, Nicholas?” Jamie asked, with a slight smirk. “Or did you sleep?”
Griffin chose that moment to stride out of the bathroom, hair reaching in every possible direction, in time to hear Jamie’s inquiry. “Oh, we slept. Believe me when I say … we were exhausted!”
“SO!” Nicholas quickly jumped in. “Who’s ready for some breakfast and a fun day at the Chesapeake Beach Water Park?”
“We made it just in time!” Nicholas said, nearly collapsing onto the picnic table underneath the sign that read: “Chesapeake Windsail Cruises.”
“Yeah, it definitely takes longer to get ready when you have to wait for two girls to get out of the shower!” Griffin rolled his eyes and grinned at Casey and Jamie.
“You totally took longer than I did!” Jamie gave a good-natured shove to Griff’s shoulder.
“I’ll set a stop-watch next time.” Griff laughed.
“Besides, you two overslept from all your partying last night!” Jamie retorted.
“Are those the guys that we’re meeting down by the boat?” Casey asked.
“Yes. That’s them. Let’s go. We’re supposed to leave in five minutes.” Nicholas got up from the picnic table and led the way down to the docks.
Andy waved to them as they approached. “Hey, guys. I’m so glad you invited us along! This looks cool. I wanted Ian to go on this, but the minimum number of passengers was four, so we weren’t gonna do it.”
“Well, we have six now,” Nicholas said. “Andy, this is Casey and Jamie. Girls, this here is Andy, and over there talking to the captain is his boyfriend, Ian.”
“Are ALL gay guys hot?” Jamie groaned.
“Behave, little sis.” Casey chided.
“Like you didn’t think the same thing.” Jamie retorted and stuck her tongue out at her sister.
“Well, I’ll take the compliment. But to be accurate, I’m bi, but I’m also taken.” Andy winked at Jamie.
“Good to know. If your status ever changes, snap me.” She grinned.
Ian ran over. “Hey, guys…err… and girls. The captain says we’re ready to go.” They all picked up their backpacks and got on the boat.
About an hour into the cruise, Griffin tuned everything else out and took photos of the beautiful scenery. He was so focused on what he was doing that he nearly lost his balance when the boat hit some choppy waves and bounced around a bit. He grabbed the rail and kept a tight grip on his camera. Griff was just about to refocus his camera when he heard a scream. He looked around for his companions and met Jamie’s eyes.
“It’s Andy! He fell overboard!” Jamie yelled to Griffin as she grabbed a life vest and jumped overboard.
Nicholas raced to the side of the boat, “Andy! Jamie!” He turned toward Griff. “Griff go get…” The rest of his words died in his throat as he witnessed Griffin also dive overboard, life vest in hand. “Crap!” He yelled and sprinted toward the captain.
In the water, Griff swam up beside Jamie and Andy. “Are you guys ok? Can you both swim? I brought an extra vest.”
Andy spit up more water. “I can swim but not very good. Jamie probably saved my life!” He said while he struggled to put on the life vest. “I should have been wearing a vest from the start, but I wanted to look cool for Ian.”
“Life vest or no, you look hot, not cool,” Jamie said.
“Do you ever stop, girl?” Griffin laughed.
“Sorry, not sorry.” She stuck her tongue out at Griff.
“You’re pretty hot yourself, Jamie. If I were single, I’d definitely snap you.” Andy grinned.
“Thank God they’re coming back for us. I wouldn’t want to puke on the two of you.” Griff rolled his eyes.
Ian and Casey were already at the captain’s side by the time Nicholas arrived. The captain slowed the boat and turned back toward the lost passengers. All three rushed to the side of the boat to yell directions back to the captain. “Stop! We’re right next to them!” Yelled Ian as he tossed a rope overboard.
Andy was the first one up the rope, and Ian grabbed him in an enormous bear hug and pulled him down into the yacht’s seating area and checked to make sure he was ok. He asked him numerous times if he needed to go back and go to the hospital. Andy reassured Ian that he was perfectly fine.
Jamie was the next one up the rope and was greeted by her sister. Andy ran over and hugged her. “Casey, your sister saved my life! She’s a hero!” He kissed Jamie’s cheek and ran back over to Ian.
Casey smirked. “Don’t you go getting a crush on him, little sis. He’s in a relationship.”
“I know. I know. He’s so freaking cute though!” Jamie gushed.
Griffin came up the rope last. Nicholas grabbed him around the waist. “You’re determined to save everyone on this trip, aren’t you?”
“Hey, I’m not the one who saved the guy from choking in the restaurant.” Griff laughed.
Nicholas ran his fingers through Griff’s wet, strawberry blonde hair. He laced his fingers together and pulled Griff’s head down, and their lips met. Griffin’s eyes opened wide in surprise, and his lips parted as he started to say something. Nicholas’ tongue darted into Griff’s open mouth and deepened the kiss. Griff’s hands slid down Nicholas’ body and rested on his slim hips. The sounds of whistles and cheers reminded the boys that they weren’t alone and they grudgingly parted. “Don’t keep scaring me, Griffin. Now that we’re together, I don’t ever want to lose you.”
“You won’t ever lose me, Nicholas. I’ve loved you since we were five. I’ve probably been in love with you since we were thirteen. You’re stuck with me forever.” Griff blushed and turned away to look for his camera.
The rest of the cruise was fun but uneventful. The six friends arrived back at the dock right at noon, and they walked to the Rod’n’Reel Restaurant where they had lunch reservations set up through Windsail Cruises. Lunch was spent in equal parts congratulating Jamie and Griffin on their quick thinking and teasing Griffin and Nicholas about their toe-curling kiss. “Next topic, please,” Nicholas said, as his cheeks burned a bright red.
“What’s our plan for the afternoon? Are we still hanging out?” Andy asked.
“We are spending the afternoon and evening at Breezy Point Beach. You and Ian are more than welcome to join us.” Nicholas answered.
Griffin got out of the water and sat on the sand, waiting for Jamie to catch up to him. She was a fast swimmer, but Griff was faster. He looked to his left and saw Casey, Ian, and Andy tossing a frisbee around. Then he looked off to his right and saw Nicholas at the barbecue grill. Griff’s stomach rumbled as the odors from the barbecue wafted close enough for him to smell.
Jamie plopped down on the sand next to Griffin. “Wow. I thought I was a good swimmer, but you killed me out there. You’re amazing!”
“You should see me on my board.” Griff winked. “You’re an excellent swimmer. I’m just out there as much as possible. I have been since I was like ten years old. I love swimming. I love surfing even more.”
“It shows. Whenever you guys settle down, it should totally be on the ocean. It would be such a shame for you to not be out there doing your thing. I could see you as a lifeguard on a California beach.” Jamie giggled. “Like that old show Baywatch. You totally have the bod for it too.”
“Thanks,” Griff laughed. “You ready for dinner?”
“OMG, yes! Whatever Nicholas is cooking over there smells heavenly!”
“He mixes a lot of spices into his burgers. Back home, they’d be fresh from his mom’s herb garden. Out here, we have to settle for store-bought dried herbs.”
“Whatever it is, it smells delicious. I’ll go get Casey and the other guys. I’ll see you back at the picnic table.”
Griffin sauntered over to the barbecue grill. “That smells delicious, Boo. Jamie said the same thing. Is it just about ready?”
“Yeah. Maybe five more minutes. Can you hand me those plates, please?”
Griff turned and grabbed the stack of plates and placed them on the table next to the grill. “Your plates, sir.”
Nicholas looked up at Griffin with a thoughtful expression. “Griff, you said earlier that you’ve been in love with me for five years, ever since we were thirteen!” His face got a look of intense concentration. “How come you didn’t say anything sooner?”
Griffin smiled a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “You weren’t ready. You are now. Now is our time. If I had told you back then, it might have ended our friendship. I took what you were willing to give. I would have waited forever for you, Nicky. I love you with all my heart.”
Nicholas nearly melted right where he stood. “I’ll let you get away with that ‘Nicky’ because, what you just said, that was beyond a perfect answer. I love you too, Peaches.” Nicholas leaned in and gave Griff a quick tender kiss.
“Aww! Look at them again! You two are the cutest couple ever!” Jamie squealed.
“Thank you, Miss Jamie. Now it’s time to sit down and eat those delicious burgers.”
Nicholas grabbed Griff’s arm and held him back while the others took their seats. “How’s the rash?”
Griff’s eyes widened, and then he blushed. “It’s gone, but now we have guests.”
“We’ll figure something out one of these nights. Soon.” Nicholas grinned.
“Definitely, lover boy, but for now let’s eat.” Griff took Nicholas’ hand and led him to the picnic table to join their friends for dinner.
Griffin awoke with a jerk and sat straight up. Not sure why he was suddenly on high alert, he listened carefully but heard nothing except Nicholas’ deep breathing beside him. He’d had to practically drag him to bed when he woke up in the living room with Nicholas’ head in his lap. Had he dreamed the noise or had it been … NO … there it was again, definitely real! It sounded like it was just on the other side of the wall behind the bed’s headboard, the back end of the RV. He not so gently nudged Nicholas. “Nicholas, wake up!”
“Huh? What is it?”
“Shhh … listen. Something’s happening outside on the other side of this wall.”
Practically holding their breaths, the boys listened and, again, a sound like metal on metal and then a thump and a mumbled curse.
“Someone’s out there! Our bikes!”
Nicholas was the first to spring into action, but Griffin was right behind him as they jerked their shorts on and quietly padded to the door. They both grabbed the flashlights kept in the storage compartment beside the door and then looked around for something to use to defend themselves, if necessary, but came up with nothing. Nicholas quietly unlocked the door and began to ease it open as Griffin quickly scooted over to the kitchen to grab the largest knife he could find.
The boys tiptoed along the side of the RV, Nicholas in the lead, with flashlights pointed at the ground. As they neared the rear of the RV, they could make out frantic whispers. Holding up a hand to stop Griffin, Nicholas motioned that they would jump out on “three”, then held up three fingers and began to lower them one at a time. As the last finger went down, Nicholas jumped out and screamed “FREEZE!” with Griffin stuck like glue to him. A duo of yelps erupted simultaneously, and the boys hit the source of the yelps with their flashlight beams.
“Please don’t hurt us! We’re sorry!” Standing frozen in their beams were two boys appearing to be roughly the same age as Nicholas and Griffin, with the shorter one cowering behind his buddy.
“What are you doing?” Griffin asked.
“Uh, well … we … uh, we’re trying to get to Pennsylvania and we saw your bikes this afternoon and we thought maybe you didn’t really need them since you have this nice RV and all and we don’t have anything and Pennsylvania is a long way to walk and we’re so sorry and we’ll just leave and we won’t bother you …”
“Whoa, just slow your roll, OK,” Nicholas said, raising his hands. “Who are you and why are you trying to walk to Pennsylvania?”
“My name is Casey and this is … uh … my little brother, Jamie. Our mom died last year and our stepdad is a monster so we left home and we’re trying to get to our mom’s sister in Pennsylvania. We mostly travel at night and we spent yesterday in those trees behind the campground. We saw your bikes and waited until we thought you’d be asleep to come get them. We wrote down your license number so we could find you and send you money for the bikes after we got to our aunt’s house, honest! See?” He held out his hand with the number written on it.
“Look, let’s go inside and talk before one of the other campers call the cops. Of course, that option is still on the table,” Nicholas said. “Drop your backpacks on the ground first.”
All four sat on the living room floor, drinking Snapple, as a much calmer Casey explained their situation. They had snuck out of their house four nights ago after their stepdad had come home drunk and wasted and, once again, became verbally abusive and then physically abusive. When he knocked Casey across the room, Jamie had managed to grab a baseball bat and hit him hard enough to knock him out. They had stuffed some clothes in their backpacks along with all the money they had and could get from their stepdad’s wallet and took off.
“Wow,” an empathetic Griffin said, “that’s awful. You hear about this kinda stuff but, honestly, I’ve never known anyone in that situation. I never realized until now how fortunate I’ve been.”
“Yeah,” agreed Nicholas, “me, too. How old are you guys?”
“I’m 18 and Casey just turned 20,” answered Jamie, speaking up for the first time.
“Well, it’s only 3:30 so why don’t you guys stay here and we’ll talk more in the morning and figure something out. You can sleep on the sofa bed. The bathroom is over there.”
“Thank you for being so nice after what we tried to do … stealing your bikes and all.”
“It’s alright. Desperate times, desperate measures and all that. I get it,” Nicholas nodded. “You will still be here in the morning, right?”
“Definitely!” they both stated emphatically.
Griffin and Nicholas laid in bed, discussing the situation. Both agreed that they couldn’t just put them out but neither was completely ready to totally trust them, either.
“Well, assuming they’re still here in the morning, we’ll talk more with them and decide then what to do,” Nicholas decided. “Let’s try to get some sleep.”
Griffin fell asleep almost as quickly as he’d awoken an hour ago. Nicholas struggled a bit to calm his mind but, eventually, he also drifted off.
As usual, Griffin was the first to wake and, less enthusiastically than was typical, he made his way to the bathroom. Fortunately, halfway across the bedroom, he remembered their guests and pulled his shorts on. Opening the bathroom door to the sound of a squeal, he froze in place.
“OH! I’m sorry … what the … !” Griffin just stared.
Grabbing a towel, Casey wrapped up but not before Griffin got a very clear and very unmistakable look at everything that made Casey undeniably … a girl … uh … a woman, actually!
He stumbled backward, pulling the door closed with him, and just stood there … processing.
“What now?” Nicholas thought as he quickly came out of the bedroom to see a shook and wide-eyed Griffin standing rigidly in front of the bathroom door, just as it opened.
Casey sheepishly emerged and Griffin whirled around. “Lucy, you got some ’splaining to do!!”
“What the hell is happening?” an only half-awake and quite confused Nicholas asked.
“He’s a she!”
“Please! I can explain,” Casey pleaded. “We thought it would be safer to travel if we pretended to be guys. That’s one of the reasons we travel at night. We’re both pretty tall and … ”
“Wait! We?” a now completely awake Nicholas stuttered. “Jamie is … ”
“My little sister, not my little brother.”
Nicholas and Griffin collected clean clothes and performed their morning ablutions, while Casey dressed in the living room and woke Jamie. She explained to Jamie that their subterfuge had been exposed … quite literally … and they both fretted that they would be booted out to fend for themselves again.
Over breakfast, they discussed the situation more. Nicholas and Griffin talked it over while making their bed and straightening up the bedroom as Casey and Jamie did the same with the sofa bed and living room and washed the breakfast dishes.
“So … we’ve talked about it and this is what we’ve come up with,” said Nicholas, coming back into the kitchen with Griffin trailing close behind. “First, do you have ID?”
“Why?” asked Jamie. “You don’t trust us?”
“Uh … a few hours ago we caught you trying to steal our bikes! Trust has to be earned,” Griffin declared.
“He’s right, Jamie,” a more pragmatic Casey responded. “Yes, we have our driver’s licenses.”
“Good. I’m not wanting to get arrested for kidnapping or transporting minors over state lines or anything like that,” Nicholas explained. “If you are, in fact, over 18 you may join us in our travels and we will get you to your aunt’s house in Pennsylvania. That is, if you want.”
“But, we are taking our time and it will probably be a week or two before we get there. We thought we might try to make Philadelphia by July 4th because … well, that would just be a cool place to celebrate Independence Day,” Griffin added.
“OH, WOW!! Yes!!” an elated Casey burst out. “That’s a lot sooner than we could’ve gotten there walking!”
“Or riding bikes,” quipped Griffin.
“There are conditions, though,” a serious Nicholas interjected. “First, you will stay with us wherever we go. We are not comfortable leaving you here in the RV while we’re out for the day … at least not yet. As Griffin said, trust has to be earned.”
“Absolutely! Agreed! Right, Jamie?”
“Definitely! You guys are angels, aren’t you?”
Nicholas and Griffin just looked at each other, blushing, and said in harmony … “He is!”
David let the hot water cascade over his body. He watched the shampoo and soap mix with the reddish-brown water as it all swirled down the drain. He wracked his brain trying to remember where he had been tonight. His last clear memory was of Sky. They’d had dinner and then they went to the park and then… what? Had he hurt Sky? He couldn’t remember. Texting Sky would be the first thing he did when he was out of the shower.
Three nights, three blackouts, and three times waking up covered in blood. Matt’s idea was ridiculous and impossible, but it was also the idea that ran through his own head. Skylar told him not to think that until all other possibilities were ruled out. It looked like that time was now. A werewolf. Was it too late to convince Matt that he was just trying to fit his own nightmares into David’s reality? How much did Matt know? He’d have to have a long talk with Matt when he got out of the shower. He just couldn’t have that conversation standing there naked and covered in blood.
David stepped out of the shower and toweled himself dry. He slipped on a pair of sweats and went back into his room to talk to his brother.
As soon as David closed the door, Matt leaped to his feet. “David, you have to listen to me. I never told Brad that the wolf in my dream had blue eyes and now he says he has seen a blue-eyed werewolf and has pictures of it! And I know that it was a wolf and not a dog that bit you in the backyard. Add that in connection with what’s been happening with you and how can it be anything else?”
“Matt, werewolves don’t exist outside of stories. I can’t explain my lost time, and yes, I am very concerned about waking up covered in blood. But a werewolf? Come on.” David sat on his bed while Matt paced back and forth in front of him.
Mat stopped directly in front of David and held up both hands clenched into fists. He raised one finger with each point he made. “Gramps’s stories. My dreams. The wolf biting you. Your lost memories. The blood. The animal attacks in the park. And Brad seeing the blue-eyed werewolf.” Matt shook seven fingers in front of his brother’s face. “What more proof do you need, David?”
“I…” David sighed. “Ok. I have considered it. I’ve even talked it over with Skylar. I didn’t want to worry you. There has to be another more rational explanation.”
David sighed and looked up at his brother. “Stay with me tomorrow night. Record me all night. Brad too. Even if I’m not a werewolf, I may be dangerous in my sleep. The blood worries me most of all. Especially with the deaths in the park. I don’t want to believe that I’m responsible, but I guess we have to be sure. Will you do that for me? You and Brad record me all night?”
“Of course, I will, David. It’s kind of scary. We should do it somewhere else though. Not here. Somewhere safe just in case I’m right. Don’t you agree?” Matt asked.
“Yeah. I’ll meet you guys at the abandoned warehouse down by the school at six. Okay?” David ran a hand through his still damp hair, concern evident on his face.
Matt’s brow furrowed while he considered the meeting place. “That’s as good a place as any I guess.” Matt glanced at the clock. “It’s almost morning. Thank God it’s Saturday or it would be almost time for school. I’m going back to bed. I’ll see you in a few hours, David. Try and get some sleep. You look exhausted.” Matt turned and left the room.
David flicked off his light and lay down on his bed. He stared at the ceiling and thought about everything his brother told him. He was anxious to see the photos that Brad took, even if they were super blurry. David did not want to even consider the possibility that he was a werewolf. Not only was it ridiculous, but if it was true, then that meant that he had killed two or, more probably, three people. That was just unthinkable. There had to be another explanation.
Considering the hour, he doubted that Sky would be awake, but he couldn’t fall asleep without sending his boyfriend a text. He was just too afraid that he possibly hurt Sky. He knew he would never be able to live with himself if that happened. He didn’t expect an immediate response, but he sent it anyway.
David: Hey. I need to hear from you as soon as you get this. I don’t care what time it is. I had another blackout. The same thing happened. I woke up the same way again. My brother found me this time. Please call. The last thing I remember is I was with you. I hope I didn’t do anything to you, Sky. I love you.
David set his phone on the nightstand and closed his eyes. He tossed and turned, trying to force himself to fall asleep. He nearly jumped out of bed when the text alert on his phone notified him of a new text message. He glanced at it. The message was from Sky.
Sky: I’m ok. I haven’t been able to sleep all night, though. I’m not hurt, but there is a lot that we have to talk about. I’ll be over your house in a few hours. Try and get some sleep. I’ll text you when I’m on my way. Good night, David. Or morning or whatever it is. Haha. See you soon. I love you, too.
David could tell that something had happened, but at least Sky was ok, and he was coming over to talk. David closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep.
After Matt left his brother’s room, he went to his own room to try and sleep. Before drifting off, he sent Elias a text.
Matt: I just found David outside in the bushes. He was covered in blood, dirt, and what looked like chicken feathers. We were right. He’s not ready to openly admit it, but even he knows that something is seriously wrong. I guess he’s already been talking to Skylar about it. He’s had blackouts and memory loss three nights in a row. I have to see Terrie first, but I’ll meet up with you later for sure. Things are starting to happen quickly. More and more people are figuring this out. Brad has pics, but I guess they are super blurry. I’ll see you soon. I miss your touch on my skin. (Blushing emoji) (Heart emoji)
Less than a minute later, Matt’s phone beeped with a text alert from Eli.
Eli: Wow. Things are happening quicker than even I expected. We can’t let word of this get out to the wrong people. We have to handle this ourselves. It’s almost morning. I’ll just get up now and get to the research. I miss you, too. See you soon. (Hug emoji)
Matt put his phone back on the nightstand, turned over, and tried to sleep.
Fresh out of the shower and still fiddling with his hair, Matt went downstairs and into the kitchen. David was already sitting at the table, eating a bowl of cold cereal.
“Where’s Aunt Nancy?” Matt asked.
“She’s in her home office. I think she’s going to go pick up Brad soon.”
“Did you get ahold of Sky last night?”
“Yeah. He was a little mysterious about it. I’m going to meet him in about an hour.”
“He was cryptic in his texts to me, also. He might have seen you transform. I know you’re not ready to admit what we both know you are yet, but too many pieces are falling into place. We have to decide what to do before the moon rises tonight.”
David sighed, his eyes downcast. “I know. I know. Let me talk to Sky, and then we will both meet up with you and discuss everything.”
“That sounds like a good plan. You talk to Sky, and I’ll find out exactly what Brad knows. I also have to meet up with Terrie and have a completely different kind of stressful conversation.”
“Everything ok, little brother? Trouble in paradise?”
“I…” Matt sighed, looked down, and blushed a deep scarlet. “I almost kissed Eli last night.”
“What?! I thought we always told each other everything. I didn’t know you were bi! What happened?”
Matt rolled his eyes. “You know I hate labels. I don’t think bisexual would fit me anyway. I’ve never been attracted to any other guy in that way. I mean I’m not afraid to admit that a guy is attractive, but I’ve never been interested in touching them or kissing them or whatever. There’s just something about Elias. The attraction is intense. He touched me and it felt like my whole body was on fire. I wanted him more than I’ve ever wanted anyone, more than I’ve ever wanted any girl, even more than I want Terrie. I guess, if you have to put a label on it, I’m pansexual more than bisexual. I want him because he is Elias, not because he is a guy.”
“And you’re going to tell Terrie?”
Matt shrugged. “I have to be honest with her. Hell, I don’t want to break up with her. I really like her a lot, but I really like Eli, too.”
“Good luck with that, little bro. I doubt that either one of them will let you date them both. I know I wouldn’t stay with Sky if he was dating someone else!”
“You’re probably right. I’m just going to talk with her, be honest, and tell her everything. I’ll see where things go from there. There’s other stuff that I need to tell you about Elias. He is deeply involved in all this werewolf and curse stuff. When I meet up with you and Sky later, I’ll tell you both at the same time. I might even bring him along.”
“It feels like we’re living in a movie. I can’t believe this is all real.”
“What movie are you boys living in now?” Aunt Nancy asked as she walked into the kitchen.
“Not sure what we’ll name it yet, but I’m ready to change the channel.” Matt quipped.
Nancy laughed. “Do either of you need to be dropped off anywhere? I’m heading over to the Hanson’s to pick up Bradley.”
Matt stood up. “I need to talk with Brad before I meet up with Terrie, so I’ll go with you.”
“I’ll just hang here and chill. I’m meeting Sky in an hour.” David said.
“How much trouble is Brad in?” Matt asked his aunt just as they pulled into the Hanson’s driveway.
Nancy’s expression grew thoughtful. “I’m not making a decision on that until I talk to the sheriff and see those alleged werewolf photos, but regardless, he’s in big trouble for running off and putting himself in danger without telling anyone.
“Such a crazy story.”
“People deal with tragedy in a lot of different ways.”
“I get that. So much has happened in the last six months. I can barely wrap my head around it.”
Nancy put a hand on her nephew’s shoulder. “If you ever need to talk, I’ll listen. You know that, right?”
“Of course. Thanks, Aunt Nancy. Anyway, we’re here. Let’s go get him.” Matt smirked.
Matt knew he’d get more information from Brad alone, so, while Aunt Nancy marched straight into the den to talk to Sheriff Hanson and Brad, Matt snuck off into the kitchen to find Terrie.
Terrie jumped up from the table as soon as she saw Matt enter the room. She rushed over and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Hey, you. I didn’t expect to see you for another couple of hours.”
“I came with Aunt Nancy to pick up Brad.” Matt rolled his eyes. “I didn’t even want to witness that reunion, though. I’m excited to hear about what he saw last night, but I’ll talk to him when we’re alone.”
Terrie huffed out a laugh. “You should have just waited for him at home then. Less chance of getting caught in the crossfire.”
“He texted me. He’s going to have her drop him off at the library. He plans to tell her it’s for a school assignment, but it’s for more werewolf research.”
“I still have a hard time believing that we’re seriously considering the possibility of werewolves. Did you find anything out from Elias last night?”
Matt couldn’t hold back from blushing. “I… yeah. A lot happened last night. We’ll talk at lunch. You’re still meeting me down by the lake at noon, right?”
She smiled up at him. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world! It’s our first real date.” She ran her fingers through his hair and pulled his face down to hers. Their lips met in a kiss that started tender and quickly turned passionate. The sound of someone clearing their throat from the kitchen doorway caused Matt and Terrie to separate and look guiltily toward the sound.
Brad stood there, grinning. “You ready to go, Matt, or do you need a condom and another twenty seconds?”
“Shut up, perv.” Matt rolled his eyes. “Ignore him, babe.” Matt said, turning back to Terrie. He leaned down for one more quick kiss and then left with his cousin.
“The library closes at three on Saturday. You better be home before three-thirty, Bradley.” Nancy said just before the boys got out of the car.
“Yes, mother. I’ll go straight home when I’m done with my research.”
The boys sat down on the front steps to the library, and they both sighed. Matt looked over at his cousin. “You didn’t just lie to your mom, did you?”
“Nope. I said I’d be home when I’m done with my research. I never mentioned the library or what type of research.”
“Clever. So, I have a lot of news to share, but I want to hear about your close encounter first. Do you have the photos with you, or did you leave them with the sheriff?”
“I gave my thumb drive to Sheriff Hanson, but you couldn’t see much anyway. Just a big brown blur with two little blue blurs for eyes. Let’s wait on the story until Nate and Devon get here, so I don’t have to tell the same story two or three times in a row.” Brad laughed.
“That’s fair.” Matt said with a grin. “I feel the same way about my news. We really need to get everyone together. So much is happening so fast.”
“It’s so crazy. I can’t believe it’s real.” Brad looked at his phone. “Nate and Devon should be here any minute.”
Just then, Devon walked around the corner and up onto the steps of the library. “Are you using my name in vain again, Holliday?” He smirked.
“Every chance I get. It’s about time you got here.”
“Looks like I beat your boyfriend here, so shut your face.” Devon’s smirk turned into a wide smile. “Hey, Matt, what’s up?”
Matt looked surprised. “Boyfriend?” His head swiveled from Devon to Brad and back again. “I thought I only missed updates on research. What’s this about a boyfriend?”
“He’s not my boyfriend. At least not yet.” Brad blushed.
“Who? Who isn’t your boyfriend yet? What did I miss?”
“Well, duh! He’s the only other person who isn’t here yet.” Brad rolled his eyes.
“You mentioned someone named Nate.” Matt shrugged. “Have I met him? Does he go to our school?”
“No. That’s true. You probably haven’t met him. So much has happened, it seems like you’ve been here forever, and not just a few days.”
“So? Who is he?”
“He’s the assistant librarian now. He’s older than us. He graduated last year.”
“Did you guys ever date? Were you friends? Two years older isn’t really that much.”
“I barely knew him. I mean, I knew who he was, but we weren’t close. Now shut up, here he comes!”
Nate walked up and smirked at the three boys waiting on the steps. “Gee, I’m not used to so many eager faces waiting to get into the library on a Saturday morning.” His gaze stopped on Matt. “You must be one of the Montana’s. Matt I’m guessing. I’m Nathan or Nate. I’ll answer to either.” He stuck out his hand toward Matt.
Matt shook the offered hand. “Nice to meet you. We were just talking about you. You are everything that I expected.” Matt winked.
Nate shot a look at Brad then grinned at Matt. “I hope you were only told good things.”
Brad piped in. “I barely had a chance to tell him your name before you showed up. He’s exaggerating as usual.”
Nate winked at Brad as he finished climbing the steps. “It’s good to know that I left enough of an impression to be talked about.” Then Nate unlocked and opened the library doors. The other boys followed Nate into the library, and they all settled in at the same table in the research room.
“I may need to be out front from time to time, but I should be able to help in here again, too. What books do you need me to find today?”
Brad spoke up. “Anything you have on werewolves. Specifically related to this area if there’s anything, but werewolves for sure. They exist. I saw it again last night. Possibly a different one, I’m not sure. I took pics, but they are super blurry. The sheriff might try and get them cleaned up for me.” Brad looked right at Matt. “Johnny Hanson was there. He saw it, too.”
“Sky came home from his date early last night, and he was acting weird. He went right to his room. Matt, how was David acting last night after he got home? Did they have a fight?” Devon asked.
Nate was practically jumping up and down. “You saw a werewolf again? Did it attack you? How did you get away?”
“Loud music and yelling. He ran off. I probably got lucky; I don’t know for sure. I think it was a different wolf than the other one that I saw, but I don’t want to believe that there’s one, much less two!”
Matt sighed. “There are two. The monster that bit my brother, and my brother himself.”
All eyes turned to Matt. Brad spoke first. “Do you know for a fact that David is a werewolf? Have you seen him change?”
“I haven’t seen him change, but I dreamt about it.”
“A dream? Come on, Matt, that isn’t proof!” Devon said.
“Elias helped guide my dream last night. It was very vivid. Then, later, I found David outside our house in the bushes. He was nearly naked and covered in blood and what looked like chicken feathers. I’d like to think that the blood was chicken blood, and that my brother isn’t eating people. We need to find out exactly what is going on, and we need to do it fast!”
“Elias was in your dreams?” Brad asked, one eyebrow arched.
Matt blushed. “You were right. I was blind. There’s… something more there. I hope that’s ok with you?” Matt said, looking pleadingly at Brad.
“Oh, wow. I figured that he liked you. I didn’t expect you’d like him back. Yeah, it’s fine with me. No big deal. Terrie might have a different take on it though.”
“I will be having that conversation with her today.” Matt said with a worried expression. “Anyway, I did find out a lot from Eli last night. The curse is real. Eli’s magic is real. That’s where you guys should focus your research, in my opinion. Try and find out as much as you can about the witches. Elias will do research at his house, but the town records and newspapers may say things about the witches that they wouldn’t say about themselves. Knowing both sides is always best.”
Devon looked totally confused. “You’re gay? And you like his ex?” Devon pointed at Brad when he said “his.”
“I am not gay, but I’m not straight. I’m dating Terrie Hanson, at least for now, but I do have strong feelings for Elias Carrier. Call me bi, call me pan, call me whatever you like. I hate labels. I like who I like. That’s good enough for me, and it should be good enough for everyone.”
Nate stood and clapped. “Here, here! Great speech! Everyone should feel that way. I mean labels do sometimes make people comfortable, but if you don’t want a label, society shouldn’t force one on you.”
Matt cleared his throat. “Thanks, but right now the labels that matter are werewolf and witch. There’s a lot more that I need to share with you guys, but there’s also people missing that need to be told. It would be easier to tell everyone at once. For now, you guys research the witches. In particular the coven that lived here. If you happen to find anyone named MaryAnne Carrier, find everything that’s available. Eli’s ancestors were a big part of this. I’ll go have a talk with Terrie about everything. Obviously, I’ll have to talk to her about the Eli stuff, but also, the monster stuff. We need to find out if her father has found anything. I hope she’ll still help us after we talk. Hell, I hope she’ll still date me!”
Nate gave Matt a sympathetic look. “Figure out what you want,” he tapped Matt on the chest with one finger, “before you let other people’s decisions affect what you do.”
“I want them both, but I know that’s unrealistic.” Matt blushed.
“I wouldn’t agree to that, but hey, you never know!” Nate huffed out a laugh.
“I’ll cross all my fingers and toes.” Matt laughed. “Ok, I’m gonna take off. You guys get to the research, and I’ll try not to get murdered by my girlfriend.” He looked at Devon. “Sky was going to meet up with David. If you hear anything, let me know. I’ll do the same if I hear from David. Later we all have to meet up somewhere and share all of our various stories.”
“Definitely, dude. Call us if you wanna bring you girlfriend back here or your boyfriend or both or your brother or whatever!” Devon giggled hysterically.
“On that note, I’m outta here!” Matt said and turned and started toward the door.
“Bye, Matt!” Devon yelled.
Matt turned just before he was out the door. “Later, guys. Good luck with the research!”
David was nervous and pacing in the kitchen when he heard the soft knock on the door. He raced over and yanked the door open. “Sky! David wrapped his arms around Skylar. “I’m so happy to see you! What happened last night?”
Sky hugged David tight, and then he stepped back. He looked at David with a worried expression. “You don’t remember anything?”
“It’s just like the two nights before. I only remember up until a certain point and then nothing. The last thing that I remember, I was with you. That’s why I was so worried and texted you.”
“You were with me. I know what happened. I know why you are losing time. Our worst-case scenario is true, David, you’re a werewolf!”
David slumped into a chair and took a long drink of water. “I kinda knew. We both did. I guess there’s no denying it now.”
Sky huffed out a laugh. “No. You can’t deny it now. Not only did I witness the transformation, but you also bit me!”
“I bit you? I thought you said you were ok. Sky, I’m so sorry! Are you hurt?”
“I’m fine. At first, I thought you were being a little too aggressive. You barely drew blood. We were kissing, and you bit my lip. I pushed you backward, and I was going to scold you for being too rough, but then I saw you transform. It was scary as hell!”
“I can never apologize enough. I don’t think Hallmark has a “I’m sorry I turned into a werewolf and bit my boyfriend” card. Now I guess I have to worry even more that I may have killed people.”
Sky sighed. “Even after seeing you change; I just don’t think that you would kill anyone no matter what form you were in. Have you checked out the news yet today? We know about the deaths from the other two nights, we should find out if there’s anything else today.”
The two boys walked into the family room and turned on the tv. They sat on the couch, shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip. They sat like that for a few minutes, not speaking, just watching the local news reports. David nervously drummed his fingers on his thigh and kept casting furtive glances at Skylar. Sky smiled and turned toward David then clasped David’s hand within his own. “It’s ok. I’m fine. We’re fine. I know you didn’t mean me any harm.”
“I could have hurt you, though. I could have killed you.”
“I honestly don’t think you would have. You said that your brother found you this time. Was there anything else different? Did Matt notice anything that you didn’t?”
He found me outside in the bushes underneath my bedroom window, so that was different. He also said that Brad took blurry photos of a blue-eyed werewolf. I guess people are starting to piece things together. I’m really scared, Sky. The only relatively positive thing that I’m holding onto right now is that this time, even though I was covered in blood again, there were lots of feathers around. Matt and I think they were chicken feathers. We hope that the blood was also from chickens.”
“See! It’s still possible that I’m right. Maybe all three nights all you did was raid farms and kill animals.”
“I guess so. We can hope. Hey, wait a minute. Let’s listen to this. The sheriff is on tv.”
The boys listened to Sheriff Hanson talk to the local news. He was standing in front of the park which was almost completely roped off with yellow crime scene tape now. The sheriff looked into the camera and began to speak. “Citizens of Roxbury Falls, it is with a heavy heart that I am speaking to you today. For the third night in a row there has been a vicious animal attack in the park. A third teenager is dead. For now, we are not releasing any names. We are giving the families time to grieve. I am extending the 8pm curfew indefinitely. We believe that there is a rogue bear coming into the park at night to hunt. We ask that you do not go and hunt this animal yourselves. We are searching for the bear, and we are confident that it will be found and destroyed very soon. If you spot a bear, or anything else suspicious, please report it to the sheriff’s office immediately. Thank you for your time.” The sheriff turned, ducked under the crime scene tape, and walked into the park.
“A third teenager is dead! There was an attack last night. What if it was me, Sky? What if it really was me?”
“You said that Matt has more information, and Brad has photographs, why don’t we chill here and try not to think about it until we hear from them. My brother is with Brad at the library, so I’m guessing that he’s in on the research. There’s more than just the two of us to figure this out, David. We’ll help you get through this.”
“Matt has been talking to some kid named Elias about this, too. I guess his family is also tied in with the story of the curse. A week ago, I would have laughed at the idea of a witch, but, hell, now I’m a werewolf. Witches probably exist, too.”
Sky pulled David in close and gave him a quick, tender kiss. “Let’s ‘Netflix and chill’ until they text us.”
David smiled for the first time since the new report. “That is a fantastic idea.” David slid his arm around Sky’s waist and snuggled in close to his boyfriend.
Sky leaned down and softly kissed the top of David’s head. “We will figure this out, babe. I promise.”
“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.