Pete stood up slowly from the seating position he had been in for the last two hours. Wiping the dirt off from the back of his pants as he walked, he maneuvered his way through the darkness toward one of the many trees that surrounded the clearing. After reaching one of the taller ones, he felt around its trunk until he found an etching that had been placed there. "P.C. loves T.L.," he whispered to himself as he traced the carving with his left forefinger. He then followed the heart shape perimeter that surrounded the letters, and as he did his thoughts drifted back to the night that he had put them there.
It was a particularly hot day that afternoon, and as usual Pete was waiting for Tyler to get finished with football practice. He sat in the second row of bleachers, writing in his journal that he almost always had with him. "Why do you always write in that thing?" Tyler would ask, whenever he happened to catch Pete scribbling something down.
"Because," Pete would answer, "someday I might forget who I am, and if I have this then I'll always know." Then both boys would "oohh" and "aahh" as if Pete had said something quite profound, followed by laughter erupting from each.
As Pete sat writing in his journal he could hear the coach's whistle in the distance, signaling that practice was over for the day. He quickly finished his sentence and closed the book, sticking the pen in its spiral binder. It wasn't long before he saw Tyler jogging across the field, followed closely by Kurt, one of the other football players. Kurt was tall for his age, almost six and a half feet, with short spiked blonde hair and a smile that often betrayed his devious nature. Pete didn't particularly like Kurt, or trust him for that matter, but he was a friend of Tyler's so Pete tried his best to at least tolerate him.
Tyler was hollering before he reached the fence that surrounded the field. "Hey, did you see that pass?"
Pete picked up his books and got down off of the bleachers. "No, I was studying," he answered as he approached the fence.
Tyler and Kurt arrived at the fence at the same time, both of them almost out of breath. "Well," Tyler said in between deep breaths, "it was probably the best I have ever done. Don't you think so Kurt?"
"Maybe," Kurt answered, equally out of breath. "But it wasn't even close to the one I did." He smiled as he spoke, but it was that same smile that Pete had seen before, the one that made him wonder if Kurt was really kidding. As Kurt reached down to unlatch the fence he noticed the green spiral-bound notebook that Pete was holding. "So, I bet that's what contains all of the collected works of the great Peter Edward Carmichael," he said, pointing towards the notebook and with a noticeable trace of sarcasm in his voice.
"This?" Pete answered as he looked down at his journal. "Nah, just homework. Besides," he continued in the most convincing voice he could, "I don't ever bring my stuff to school anyway."
"Yeah," Tyler joined in, "what if someone was to find out where you kept all of those great masterpieces and stole them? What a price they would fetch!" Tyler grinned at his obviously sarcastic remark.
"You know it." Pete grinned as he carried on the joke on himself.
"Whatever," Kurt said, his tone a bit irritated. "Hey," he said turning toward Tyler, his tone suddenly changing, "you want to come over and help me with that video game? I think I almost have it down pat now, but I need to kick someone's tail just to be sure." Not wanting to appear to be ignoring Pete he then added, "You can come too, if you want." He was less than convincing.
"Nah, Pete and I were planning on going camping after practice, weren't we Pete?" Tyler said as he took off his football helmet.
"Yeah, I reckon," Pete answered. "But whatever you want to do."
"Why don't you come with us Kurt?" Tyler asked.
Kurt was already outside the fence gate, and jogging toward the road that led away from the school. "Nah", he called back. "I got better things to do." Then he increased his pace as he reached the road, and headed for home.
Pete waited for Tyler to close the gate, then walked along side him as they headed towards the road. "Why did you tell Kurt that we were going camping?"
Tyler didn't answer at first. After he removed his shoulder pads he said, "Because, we are." He then smiled his signature smile. "Besides," he continued, "I didn't want to go over there with him anyway."
Pete thought for a moment as they walked. "Thanks for backing me up about my journal."
"No problem," Tyler answered. "None of his business anyway", he said protectively. "Hey, I'm going to my house to change clothes, and I'll meet you in the clearing in about an hour, ok?"
"Sure, ok," Pete answered. "Hey," he called to Tyler, who was already heading for the road, "what should I bring?"
"A sleeping bag, and something to eat." Tyler's voice started to get fainter as he jogged towards his house. "And bring some of your stuff, I want to hear some of it."
As Pete approached his house he noticed that, as usual, there were no cars in the driveway. As he walked up the sidewalk that led to front door he could hear music coming from inside. "Ryan's home," he thought to himself. The elementary school was also within walking distance of their house, and it was not unusual for Ryan to beat Pete home in the afternoons, especially since Pete usually lingered after school for football practice.
As he opened the door the music got louder. "Ryan!" Pete almost had to yell to be heard over the din of music. Approaching the hallway he again yelled, "Ryan! Turn that down!"
The volume suddenly diminished to nothing, allowing Pete to hear the giggling of what sounded like at least two, maybe three young boys voices, coming from Ryan's room at the end of the hall. Pete headed for the kitchen, and as his habit was he walked over to the refrigerator to see what was inside. Inspecting its contents, he noticed a half-full can of Gatorade, lime flavor, left over from last night's dinner. He reached inside and with one hand he grabbed the can, while with the other he shut the door. He turned around just in time to see Ryan coming up the hallway, followed by his two friends.
Ryan was about four feet tall, with strawberry blonde hair and hazel eyes that always seemed to glisten in any light. He had recently lost two of his front teeth, and since his permanent ones where slow in coming he had a very noticeable gap in his smile.
"Don't you think that was a bit loud?" Pete asked as he turned up the can to his mouth.
Ryan pretended not hear him. "Was that the last can?" he said, sliding in his socks across the kitchen floor toward the refrigerator. He caught the handle as he almost lost his balance.
Pete then pretended not to hear him. "Where's mom?"
"What do I look like, her secretary or something?" Ryan was obviously trying to impress his friends with his sarcasm, and they giggled in unison at his remark. Ryan continued searching for another can in the refrigerator.
Pete finished off the can of Gatorade and tossed it into the closet where the garbage can stood. "I'm going camping tonight. Tell mom when she gets home I'll be back sometime tomorrow," he said as he closed the closet door.
Having found a pitcher of freshly made tea, Ryan was on his way to the table where his two friends had already sat down. One of them resembled Alfalfa from the "Our Gang" series, with a sprig of hair that stood straight up from the crown of his head and more freckles than any one boy deserved. The other boy, on the other hand, was noticeably attractive, with dark brown hair that was parted in the middle and draped his tanned face like well made curtains. In spite of himself, Pete couldn't help but stare briefly as the young boy smiled at him, every tooth perfectly set in place.
"I bet you're going with Tyler aren't you?" Ryan said in an almost accusative tone of voice. Pete realized he was still taking in the sight of Ryan's tanned friend, and Ryan's words sounded like they were coming from somewhere far off. Quickly, Pete diverted his gaze back to Ryan, who was pouring his friends a glass of tea a piece. Ryan's friend continued to smile at Pete.
"What?" Pete asked, suddenly snapping back to the present.
"You heard me," Ryan continued. "I bet you're going camping with Tyler aren't you?"
Pete was beginning to feel very uncomfortable all of a sudden. There was something about the tone that Ryan was using, and still his friend kept looking at him. Pete tried to sound undisturbed. "Yeah, so?" was the best he could do.
"Well," Ryan said as he and his friends got up from the table, "you're always either at his house or he is over here one. Don't you two ever get tired of each other?" Ryan pushed his chair under the table. "Or," he said sarcastically, "are you two planning on getting married someday?" He giggled, and "Alfalfa" and his other friend joined in as well.
Pete could feel his face start to turn red, but he didn't know if it was from anger or embarrassment. His little brother had touched a nerve, probably unknowingly, but still Pete could feel his insides quiver. He didn't have time to answer though, because Ryan and his friends were already heading back down the hall towards his bedroom, each of them laughing at the joke. Pete stood leaning against the bar, his color gradually returning to normal as the sound of very loud music once again filled the hallway.
Pete went to his room and gathered up his sleeping bag, some extra clothes in case they decided to go swimming, and stopping by the kitchen he got a full pack of hotdogs, a bag of chips, and a two liter Coke. He stuffed the groceries inside his sleeping bag and rolled it up tightly, slinging it over his shoulder as he shut the living room door behind him. Then, remembering Tyler's request, he went back to his bedroom, picked up a blue spiral notebook, and after he had gotten back outside to the front porch he stuffed in into the roll he had made of his sleeping bag.
He could still hear the music from Ryan's bedroom as he walked down the driveway, but his thoughts were elsewhere. He all of a sudden felt sick, like the feeling you get from being caught doing something wrong. But he was going camping tonight with Tyler, and it would be just the two of them. That was enough to cheer him up as he started on the trek towards the clearing a couple of miles up the road.Next Chapter Previous Chapter