My thanks to Cia for editing.
Coach blew his whistle and started barking at the other end of the field. He'd broken us up into two teams so that we could practice, but there were some who always played too hard for practice. A talented freshman had just performed an impressive slide tackle, which was dangerous and Coach was, even now, screaming at him to save it for a game. I stretched my arms above me and tilted my hips, trying to stay loose.
“Hey, Noel. What's he yelling about? I missed it.”
I turned to regard the speaker, Jerry Pinman, a senior defenseman.
“New guy did a slide tackle,” I replied.
“Oh. Dumbass,” he commented and shook his head. As coach continued to tear strips off the new guy, Jerry wandered closer to me. If coach caught him out of position when he blew his whistle, he'd get a taste of the tongue-lashing that was going on at the other end of the field.
“So, Lyle leaves this week, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied, trying to keep my voice neutral.
“Well, listen...I'd love to hook up after he's gone.”
I tilted my head to regard him. “Excuse me?”
“You know,” he said with a knowing look and a shrug. “For the last year he's been telling me what a sweet ass you have. Be a shame to let it go to waste with him at college and all that.”
I boiled inside. “Get an eyeful, Jerry. It's as close as you'll ever get.”
“Oh, come on, we both know you need a regular plowing,” he scoffed. Coach had turned to stalk for the sideline but suddenly remembered something else he wanted to scream about and turned back toward the demoralized players.
“Fuck off, Jerry,” I replied, feigning boredom.
“Hey, your kinky ass cost me fifty bucks. You owe me,” he laughed unpleasantly. I ignored him, but that didn't really matter as he continued. “I mean, who knew you'd let him do you in your parents bed? That's just fucked up!”
I felt my face flush, but I refused to give him the satisfaction of an answer to his statements. Coach blew his whistle and screamed for us to take our positions. He was going to drop it in the middle of the field so I fell back a tad into my sweeper role. My play wasn't good enough to keep coach's temper away, but I got through the practice. When the final whistle blew I headed to the bench and tossed my things together, only taking the time to put my street shoes on.
There was enough of a crowd that Jerry wouldn't say anything else, but his words had hit close to home – a still fresh wound. Lyle, my boyfriend of the past year had just dumped me as he was going to college. The sad part was I hadn't seen it coming, nor any of the stuff that came afterward.
The conversation had been short and I'd been left dumbfounded. His parents had been out and we'd just gotten done making love in our usual way – hard and fast. It wasn't really comfortable, but I kept wanting it to be. Anyway, he pulled out and wiped off and then sighed, not bothering to help me finish. His words deflated me as fast as a bucket of cold water, though, even though I was only at half-mast as per usual.
“That was a great way to finish,” he sighed. “On last piece of that sweet ass to remember you by.”
“What?” I asked dumbly, not understanding – or not wanting to.
“Oh, come on,” he said, laying his arms on the back of the couch and spreading his legs open as if he were on display. “I'm leaving for college. Don't get me wrong, you were good – very good. But, I've had you. Time for something fresh.”
“Something...fresh?” I repeated, my mind trying to catch up and find something besides the ugly truth of his words to latch onto. My feet came down on the fabric of the couch and I struggled to sit.
“Careful!” he said, pushing me backward. “Let me put the towel down. Don't want lube and cum on mom's couch,” he said with a chuckle.
“Lyle...you're breaking up with me?” I'd said, uttering the unreal.
“Well, I wouldn't call it that,” he said, pushing the towel across the seat. “I mean, we sort of were dating, I guess. The second I saw you on the field, I had to tap that ass, you know?”
He shrugged, “I mean, when I come home on breaks I can give you a ride, if you want – hey, I'm sure I'd enjoy it too. But, it's time for me to spread it around. There will be lots more out guys at college than there are in high school. Nothing personal, Noel. You were a nice piece of ass.”
“All this...all this time you just wanted to fuck me? You didn't care?” I said, growing numb with the simple idea of how naive, how dumb I had been. How could I not have seen this?
“Well, yeah,” he grinned. “And I did, too.”
Speechless I'd pulled on my clothes and, with a 'fuck you', I'd headed for the door. He'd chuckled behind me.
That was a week and a half ago. Lyle had been making regular trips to the campus and was moving in this week, but he'd known he'd have no more time for...us. Since then I'd been in a funk. I wouldn't exactly call it depression but neither was there anything like relief. I felt like a fool, that others had been right – I'd been dazzled as a sophomore to be asked out by a senior. They'd been right, he'd only wanted one thing.
I'd wanted it too, I'd thought. But sex with Lyle wasn't anything like I'd dreamt it would be. He wasn't loving or gentle. There was very little afterglow and no cuddling. So why did I stay? Partly because in dating Lyle, I'd left everything else I'd had behind. My friends, who'd disapproved, were lost to me. If I'd given up on Lyle I'd have lost even that, little as it really was. I'd had such high hopes! He'd picked me up and we'd gone out for burgers, saw movies. There was a brief time when we'd hold hands in the theater, but that quickly turned into me jacking him off in the dark.
Even then, I was fine with that. Sure, it was a little faster than I'd wanted, but at the same time I was touching my hot boyfriend's dick! It was so risque, so scandalous to do in public! It wasn't until much later than I began to note that I always gave the hand job, the blow jobs and got bent over. If I grew too petulant there'd be flowers or something else to make it up to me, but it wasn't enough. The whole relationship hadn't been enough. It was a joke.
If I needed further proof, Jerry's words were it. As I tied my shoes I wondered how many other guys Lyle had told about our sex life. Did he tell them I was easy? Jerry obviously thought I was, somehow, addicted to being fucked. Well, he was never getting me, that was for sure.
I shouldered my bag and crossed the lot to my car. Tossing my bag in the back seat I keyed the ignition and headed for home. Fucking Jerry.
Once home I stretched and then went out for a late afternoon run. Coach runs informal practices before school starts. Rules say you can only have so many formal practices before the season starts, but there isn't enough time to get them all in before the first game so we started a few weeks before the new school year began.
I was planning to be the sweeper this year, and to do that I'd need my stamina and speed. Tonight I was working my stamina, because our practice didn't give me that much of a workout. Popping in my headphones I headed down the street, my steady pace eating up block after block. In my mind I turned over the mistakes I'd made in the past year – the friends lost, the number of unsatisfactory times we'd had sex. We'd had it as regularly as any teenagers who had to sneak around did, too, and it just wasn't that good.
Sex is always held out to be this Holy Grail, this brass ring we should all be reaching for from the time we figure out the other thing our peckers can do besides pass water. I'd watched porn, and those guys sold it like it was practically good enough to live off of. That shit where the guy pulls his dick out and then shoves it back in? In real life, it's not cool, not comfortable and definitely not fucking sexy. I was pretty disillusioned by sex and guys, even though I still felt the attractions and the desire for sex to be that bowl of phenomenal it was held up to be.
But it was more than that, I admitted to myself as I checked for traffic before darting across the intersection. Lyle hadn't wanted to hold hands, we only kissed when he was drunk and there was only take with him. I wasn't really his boyfriend, I was a fuck toy. Not even a friend with benefits because we weren't friends. I stumbled to a stop and bent over, my hands on my knees as a wave of depression hit me and my eyes started leaking.
I struggled to get my emotions under control and then scrubbed my face to wipe away the stupid tears and started running again. Lyle wasn't going to control me, not anymore. In a way, I was actually free, now. Before, with Lyle, there really was no future that I could see. I had been drifting, certain only that I'd left all my friends behind and all I had to show for it was Lyle and everything that went with him. I went to parties with him and, I'd thought, it'd be cool to hang out with the upperclassmen. Instead they were nearly as dumb as the underclassmen, who fervently dreamed of being where I was. I guess Lyle dumping me was the smack in the face I needed to get moving again. The only problem was, I didn't know which direction to move in.
Once back home I cleaned up and spent the evening with my folks. We watched a movie, something forgettable and I went to bed before ten. The next day found me walking the track to loosen my legs up before practice started. Cars were arriving as players were dropped off or arrived on their own. A few straggled across the fields having walked from home. I finished my warm up and retrieved a bottle of water from my car.
I glanced in the sound of the curse and saw yesterday's slide-tackler holding a few inches of shoelace in his hand. I sat on the bench and stretched my legs out and finished off my water. The freshy was cursing as he tried to pull what was left of the shoelace out and re-lace enough to hold him through practice. It wasn't going so well.
“Did you wear sneakers?” I asked. It took him a moment to realize I was talking to him. He turned, the sun hitting his dark hair and studied me with wide, blue eyes.
“Seems like those laces would be long enough, then,” I said. I stood and walked to the water fountain on the side of the building and refilled my container for later, then made a pit stop at the bathroom. By the time I returned the coach had arrived and guys were pairing off to kick the ball back and forth.
“Hey. Want to warm up?” It was he of the broken shoe lace.
We staked out a space and began to kick the ball back and forth. His kicks were frequently not sending the ball to me and I watched his feet, noticing he was using his toe.
“Hey, try using the side of your foot to kick. It gives you more control,” I told him as I demonstrated. He frowned slightly and gave it a try, not doing that much better than he had with his toe.
“You have to bend into it a little,” I told him, demonstrating again. “Bend at the hip.”
“It feels weird,” he said as he tried it, stiffly.
“Yeah, it's a different motion than the one you're used to. Check out some you tube video's, you'll see a lot of folks use the side of their foot. It's flatter than the top or tip of your foot, so you get better control,” I explained as we kept the ball moving.
“I get it,” he said, focusing on his kicks. Coach blew his whistle and the team began to gather in. We ran various ball control drills, rotated into shots on goal to let the goalies have some work and then it was sprints. The thing I hate about our sprints is coach makes us reach down and touch the lines on the field. When the heck are we going to bend like that in a game? Finally it was time for some actual play time. Jerry ended up on the opposite end of the field, so I was spared his witty observations. Instead I found myself moving quite a bit from offense to defense. The groups were far more even today and I squared off more than once with the shoe lace kid.
He was frustrated with his kicking.
“Relax,” I told him. “It's practice.”
“Dude, fuck off, okay?” he growled as he stalked back into his position. I shrugged – he wasn't anything to me and if he didn't want to listen, well, not like I was a captain or anything, right?
Once practice wrapped up I sat on the bench drinking water while the coach droned about what needed to improve. I didn't listen much because a lot of what he was saying was what he always had said over the last two years – ball control, keep your head, be aware of yourself and your teammates positions. It was all good advice, of course, I'd just internalized it a long time ago.
With a dismissal I grabbed my bag and headed for my car.
I glanced around, not sure if I was the person being addressed, and finding the shoe lace kid looking at me with a frown. I paused, raising an eyebrow at him.
“I'm sorry,” he said, forcing the words out.
“No worries,” I replied with a shrug. “Just trying to help.” I turned and walked to my car, tossing my bag in the back. I was a little surprised to find him trailing behind me.
“I was – am – a little frustrated,” he stated.
“Dude,” I said, “I don't care. I'm not your captain or your counselor. I promise, no more advice, okay?”
“No, wait a second – please.”
I paused, the door to my car hanging open. I still had an afternoon run to do before I could shower and spend time brooding to myself about what a fool I'd been with Lyle. Sighing I looked back at this kid who so obviously didn't want to talk to me, and yet was doing it.
“What?” I asked.
“I suck at this and I don't want to. After my epic fail yesterday, lots of kids have kind of backed off from me like I have some loser stink. I felt like a dork on the field trying to learn how to kick with the side of my foot,” he looked up and scowled. “I want to make the team. I need help, though.”
I chuckled, “You can start by not telling people to fuck off.”
“I apologized,” he protested. “I'm just frustrated.”
“Hey, no offense? But I'm not your friend or your brother or whatever. I tried to help you and you acted like a dick,” I shrugged. “I'm not under any obligation to help you.”
“I know,” he said and the scowl eased as he glanced downward. “You're the only person that isn't just waiting for me to do my next stupid human trick, though. Please?”
I sighed. “Be here an hour early, we'll do some stuff.”
“Really?” he said, scowl gone and a hopeful look spread across his face. “I'll be here!”
“Don't forget to replace your shoe laces and carry a spare set in your bag,” I told him as I started my car. “I'm no soccer genius, but I also won't give you a bunch of chances. Blow me off, I won't show up to help you again.”
“No problem! I promise!”
I shook my head as I drove off, wondering how long it'd take before he cussed me out again and I told him just how many fucks I actually gave about him. After my afternoon run, which I managed to do without crying this time, I showered and helped my mom with dinner. After some video games I fell asleep reading.
Lace Boy was waiting for me when I pulled up, and he was actually ready to go. We walked the track for a few laps while I explained why the stuff coach was talking about, while sounding like stupid motivational crap, was actually useful come game time. After a few stretches we did a simple drill of passing the ball going up and down the field.
“You have to keep an idea of where I am in your head. While we run this drill, keep me in your peripheral vision and kick to anticipate where I'll be,” I told him. He wasn't yet comfortable with the new kicking style, it wasn't automatic and the fact that he was thinking about it was making it more difficult for him. But, he was making progress, and that was good to see. He cussed himself a lot, and I finally stopped and glared at him.
“Stop calling yourself stupid and all that cussing. It's not helpful.”
“No, seriously,” I said, putting a hand on my hip. “I'm not saying you should crap sunshine; be realistic about assessing your progress. Yeah, you're struggling but it's new. Give yourself a little credit and keep working – getting down on yourself is destructive.”
“Good work today,” I said, awkwardly. I wasn't any good at this mentoring kind of thing. The players were arriving and today there was also some girlfriends taking a seat in the bleachers to watch their boyfriends show off their physical prowess. Likely they'd end up bored, unless staring at us is their idea of fun. Come to think of it, I can see it being entertaining for a little while...
Today was the same as yesterday, but Lace Boy seemed more comfortable moving the ball. Not by a great deal, mind you, but I could tell. He was on my team today so I could afford to pay attention to him when he moved the ball instead of working to stop him. One thing I'll give him, he was quick and that would be an asset as a forward. Jerry was behind me again and he was making the odd comment where he thought no one could hear, but I ignored him and he largely shut up.
The practice wound down and, as I sat to drink, Lace Boy came running up.
“How'd I do?” he panted.
“Improved,” I said with a nod.
“Hey, looking to repeat history?” Jerry asked as he slapped Lace's butt. The kid yelped and whirled to face Jerry.
“What's your problem, dicknose?”
“Easy, princess,” Jerry grinned. Before either could say more coach was bellowing at us to settle in for his after practice ass chewing.
I tuned him out as I drank my water and stared off at the trampled grass on our field. We played on a different field for games, probably so it didn't look all chewed to hell when friends and family showed up. My teammates cheered, coach must have wrapped up the practice, and I set about changing my shoes and gathering my stuff.
As I walked to my car, the kid fell in beside me. “What was that guy's problem?”
“Jerry's just a dick,” I said, shrugging.
“Yeah, for slapping my ass. But he seemed to be talking about you, what was that all about?”
I threw my bag in the car and turned to lean against it with a sigh. “What's your name?”
“No, the guy standing next to you.”
“Oh, right,” he grinned. “Leighton, but everyone calls me Leigh.”
“All right, Leighton. What you asked is sort of personal, but since you're going to find out anyway, I'll just tell you,” I said, and then glanced away towards the fields. “Last year I started dating a senior-”
“No way! How hot is that?”
I turned toward him and continued, “His name was Lyle. He was using me and now Jerry wants to take over where he left off.”
“Wow, he really is a dick then, huh?”
“Yeah.” I pushed off from the fender and opened my door. “Anyway, see you, Leighton.”
“Tomorrow morning, right?”
I glanced at him, wondering if he was fucking with me. He waved and walked away, cleats clicking on the parking lot. I watched him go, for a moment, his coltish legs supporting a thin body and just shook my head. I decided it didn't matter if he showed up the next day, I was going to be here regardless. Still, I thought as I drove off, I found his lack of a reaction curious.
I pondered on that as I went for my afternoon run and then even more as I waited to fall asleep that night. I just couldn't get past the non-reaction to any of it. The gay angle, the 'he used me' angle or the fact that, since I told him he'd hear it anyway, some of the other guys looked down on me for getting suckered in and becoming what I had.
The next day he was waiting, and I was mildly surprised. We started with a walk around the track, a smaller warm-up before jogging, and Leighton decided to talk. It just wasn't what I was expecting him to talk about. For instance, he could have said thank you for taking the time to work with him one-on-one. He could have talked about his being uncomfortable with Jerry and his having slapped him on the ass the previous day. Hell, he could have even come out. So when he started our morning by asking if he could ask me a question, I was prepared for all that.
“Do you think I should just quit the team?”
Instead of answering him with the obvious – no – I asked him if he thought he should quit.
“I've been thinking about it since yesterday. My cousin plays soccer and he is totally into it. He had a ripped body from doing all the workouts and the conditioning and I was wanting that, too, you know? A guy can only be called stick-man so long before it gets even the best of us down.”
“Stick-man?” I asked. “You're not that thin.”
“I know! I mean, I've been working all summer to build some muscle and stop the jokes. I figured if my cousin could do this, then I could. But...I think I suck.”
We increased our pace to a jog and turned his words over. He wasn't a great player, in fact he was a raw talent that needed time to develop. But I didn't want to say he didn't suck because he might assume that he didn't need to work to improve. I decided to try and lead him to this conclusion himself.
“Do you like soccer?”
“It looks kind of fun, but I've never played before,” he replied, confirming my suspicions.
“Was your cousin good at soccer?”
“Was? He is. He's on vacation with my aunt and uncle, that's the only reason he's not here yet. His school is closing down so he has to come to public school, now.”
Our breath was coming a bit harder, now, and talking was getting a tad more difficult. I was curious about who this, allegedly, talented player was. More importantly I wondered what role he'd fill on our squad since he was missing all these practices.
“So?” Leigh asked, interrupting my train of thought.
“You think I suck?”
I grinned, which felt unusual to me lately. “You need a lot of work, but you have potential. I think you can be as good a player as you want to be. Put in the work, we'll see what happens.”
“But will it help me get girls?”
“How many you want?” I laughed at him.
“What do you mean?” he frowned.
“You want to go from girl to girl? Date more than one at a time?” I chuckled.
“You can do that?” he giggled.
“Not if you want to keep your nuts,” I replied. “Oh, and get a bad reputation on top of it. Come on, Romeo, passing drills.”
One advantage to working out with Leigh was that I could get more passing drills in. As a sweeper I was not only tasked with defense, but I could cross the mid-line and be part of the offense as well. As the days went by his passing while on the move progressed to the point he began to notice it. It was about the same time that he started to speak positively about the team. This may have had something to do with coach yelling at him less as well.
At our last practice Leigh was extra...Leigh-like. He was talking a mile a minute about his cousin and how he'd be there today for practice, having returned from vacation with his parents and siblings.
“Did he talk to coach before he left? Coach usually wants everyone here for practice,” I said as we rounded the track.
“Yeah, he did,” Leigh replied. “It was important he go, I guess. His oldest brother is going to France on a work visa for a year as a translator. The next oldest, Mandy, is starting college so they won't be seeing each other for a while.”
“Accomplished family,” I commented.
“Yeah,” he shrugged. “They're nice, though.”
“So you going to try and show off for your cousin today?”
“Yep. But he knows if I screw up it's all on you,” he laughed. I glanced at him, my mouth curling into a smile.
“How's that?” I asked.
“I told him you taught me everything, so he says,” Leigh affected a deep tone of voice, “the student is a reflection of the teacher.”
“Whoa, whoa,” I said, bursting out into laughter and coming to a stop. “First, who says shit like that? And second, I'm not your teacher!”
“You didn't want to, but you are,” Leigh said grinning insolently. “And now I can kick like I'm supposed to and people don't look at me so weird.”
“Trust me, people still look at you weird,” I laughed and he shoved me, giggling. We did our ball control drill and, as per usual, our teammates straggled in. It took me very little time to spot the new guy and, although he didn't look like Leigh, he was the only new face. Leigh bounced over to greet him and he smiled down at his younger cousin.
He was five ten or so, short blond hair with brown eyes. He was wearing compression shorts with regular shorts over them and a loose tee. He looked lean and quick and I began to worry I had competition for my chosen position.
I think Leigh was trying to get his cousin to follow him over to introduce us, but coach's bellow stopped him short and were were broken up for drills. I tried to pay attention to the newcomer, attempting to figure out if his skill set lent him to a sweeper role but I couldn't pay close enough attention and still do my own work competently. I'd be pretty pissed to have to split time with someone who was not only new to our system but who'd missed practice while I'd done the work.
We were separated into practice squads, Leigh was on my team and his cousin was on the other. Turns out his cousin was a goalie and he was all suited up to hang out in the other teams net. Leigh came over to talk to me while coach was chewing someone's ass.
“Hey, I want you to meet my cousin after practice, okay?”
“Yeah, sure,” I said distractedly. I was watching Jerry introduce himself and, as if on some kind of cue, he turned to point out towards where Leigh and I were standing. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out he wasn't telling this fellow what a great guy I am. I could see the new guy tilting his head, as if he was having a hard time believing what he was hearing.
“Noel? Did you hear me? Hello!” Leigh waved his hand in front of my face.
“Huh? Yeah, yeah. Get into position.”
It didn't take long to realize Leigh really was trying to show off. He had a few pretty good shots on goal, too. I'd imagine scoring on his cousin would have been worth some bragging points. As it was, his cousin stopped him and wagged his finger in an 'ah, ah, ah!' gesture. Leigh may have flipped him off.
Afterward, coach launched into his rant and I tuned out again, drinking my water and feeling myself let go if the little part of me that had actually enjoyed spending some time with a person that wasn't Lyle. I figured Jerry had dumped my secret and, if this cousin was half as cool as Leigh seemed to think he was, he wouldn't want me around his cousin anymore.
Once coach dismissed us I swapped shoes and grabbed my bag. I was a little surprised to find Leigh before me and his cousin beside him. I stood, now a bit uncertain, but Leigh acted as if nothing were amiss.
“Noel, this is my cousin, Chris,” Leigh said, beaming proudly like one of us was his newborn. Chris extended his hand and smiled.
“Thanks for helping my cousin out. He says you've been working him pretty hard.”
“Not really,” I said, “just some extra in the morning before practice.”
“Still, he says you got him to kick the right way – if I'd known he was going to go out for the team I'd have taught him over the summer, but he kept it to himself.” He ruffled Leigh's hair and Leigh shoved him in response.
“Anyway, thanks again. See you in school?” Chris said as he waved and he and Leigh departed.
Now that was curious, I thought to myself. What had Jerry actually said that made Chris respond positively to me? I puzzled over that for the entirety of the weekend, so much so that by Monday morning it was all I could do to stop myself from searching for Chris, shaking him by the neck and screaming 'what did Jerry say?'
As it was, I managed to restrain myself, but it was a near thing. It was just as well since I didn't see either Leigh or Chris until fourth period, when Chris dropped into the seat next to me.
“Finally, a familiar face!” he grinned.
“Hey,” I replied, returning a ghost of his smile. “No one else from your old school here?”
“I saw a few in the hallways, but my old school drew folks from a few different districts so...” he shrugged, “Besides, I'm sure some people switched to another Catholic school.”
“Oh, that kind of private school,” I commented.
“You don't like religious people?” he asked.
“I don't like people,” I said with a wry grin.
“Ah. Well, I'm not a religious guy. My folks thought I'd get a better education but, once the school closed? I was ready to fight to go back to a regular school.”
“Those schools don't really like guys like us,” he said. The bell rang and the class started, but I was pondering the conversation we'd had. So obviously he was gay and knew that I was. Also, he didn't seem to - wait. Jesus, if I only knew what Jerry had said! If it wasn't the meanest, nastiest thing he could think of, then what? Or was Chris planning on thinking I was easy, too? I glanced at him. I guess he was kind of cute, but that was no reason to spread my legs and invite him to impale me. I would not be used again.
After class it was time for lunch and, again, Chris appeared.
“You have no idea how glad I'm you're in my lunch session,” he said.
“Have you ever seen folks when they can't find anyone to sit with? Then they awkwardly invite themselves to sit with people they don't know? At least I can awkwardly invite myself to sit with someone I know,” he grinned and picked up his hamburger.
“Point,” I replied and took a drink.
“So,” he said before pausing to finish chewing. “How big of a douche is Jerry whatever his name is?”
I shrugged. “I suppose it goes on a sliding scale. Why do you ask?”
“He was talking shit about you at practice last week. Pretty amazing stuff, actually.”
“Amazing? Not usually a word you associate with a douche,” I replied, smiling faintly. Okay, at least I'd know what Jerry'd said.
“He said you were trying to get into Leigh's pants.”
“He what?” I exclaimed.
“Yeah. He said something about you having been in a relationship with an older guy and now you wanted to recreate it or something with you as the older guy.” Chris watched me as he resumed eating his burger.
I was boiling, searching the room in case the soon-to-have-his-ass-kicked Jerry Pinman was in the room. Not seeing him I slapped the table and growled uselessly.
“So Leigh says you're pretty amazing, too,” Chris said neutrally.
“I'm not trying to do anything with him,” I growled.
“I know that,” Chris smiled. “Leigh was pretty descriptive about what you guys talked about. If I believed Jerry at all, and trust me I wasn't leaning that way, Leigh definitely wiped away all doubt. Plus, I think he has a little man crush on you, anyway.”
“Jerry? He wants to use me, like my last relationship,” I muttered. I put a hand to my forehead. “I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that.”
“It's okay,” Chris said quietly. “But I was talking about Leighton.”
“What?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah. I guess you're, like, the most amazing guy ever for helping him out,” Chris snickered.
“I-I don't know,” I stuttered, “I just...he asked and...I was working in the morning anyway.”
“Yeah,” Chris put his burger down and regarded me with a steady gaze and his lips curling just a touch. “You know how it is, though. Younger guys look up to the older ones, especially one that gives them a little respect. He said you didn't bullshit him and were honest but fair.”
I didn't know how to respond to that, so I stuffed some of my lunch in my mouth and chewed to stall for time.
“Don't worry, it's innocent,” Chris snickered again. “He's just really impressed. You know, a little hero worship.”
“I don't know what to say to that,” I replied. “This has never happened to me before.”
“It's a cool feeling, actually,” Chris confided. “I'm the youngest in my family, so usually Leigh looks up to me. It's okay, though, I can share him with you – he's exhausting sometimes.”
“I don't see him that much, so I wouldn't know.”
The conversation kind of died down from there, but I was kind of glad that Chris seemed so cool about things. Unfortunately, after Lyle, I also wondered what Chris wanted from me.
I had Chris in one more class, later on, and then didn't see him until practice. Coach informed us all that we'd have the first week and a half of after school practices before cuts and we'd better stop screwing around. Practice was more focused, or at least the people were. Some were confident they'd make it, like me. Then there were guys like Leigh who were really motivated. We didn't have enough funding for two teams, like a varsity team and something less. So there was just the soccer team and you made it or you didn't.
We practiced hard that week, and I noticed Leighton looking to myself or Chris for approval, frequently. It gave me conflicting emotions because I was so used to having only Lyle as a teammate, since the rest of them largely ignored me. Yet, I was pleased that someone valued my opinion of them so much. Friday afternoon Leigh asked if I'd be working out that weekend.
“Yeah, running, mostly.”
“Can I join you? I'd like to work on my stamina but it's hard for me to set a pace running by myself,” he said.
“Sure. Where do you live?”
“Oh, rich part of town,” I grinned.
“I guess. Would you meet me there and we can run from my house? I don't have a car so I can't meet you.”
“Sure. See you about ten,” I told him.
Driving home I turned the past weeks worth of conversations over in my head. I'd seen Chris every day at lunch and, somehow, Leigh always came up. Now, it might just be we didn't have many topics to discuss yet and the fact that I was quiet enough, now, to be nearly anti-social. My problem stemmed from the fact that the more time I spent with Chris, the more interesting he became.
On Tuesday he'd told me about his extended family and how important that was to him. I, by contrast, was an only child and we had no close family. My paternal Grandparents had moved to Arizona and we only saw them every other year or so. My maternal grandparents had both passed away. I had an uncle in Indiana and an aunt in Wisconsin. We couldn't visit the uncle because he was a jailbird in a biker gang, according to my father, and my aunt was an alcoholic according to my mother. So, no family events with a butt-ton of people.
On Wednesday he told me about his last few boyfriends.
“So, my first boyfriend was John. He was really tall and, I think the word I want is lanky?” He held his hand out, palm up in question. “He was a basketball player and he wanted to date me privately but for everyone else to see, he was dating some girl. Well, at first I thought I could deal with it because hormones, you know? But it got old really fast.”
“Yeah, that sounds like it would suck,” I replied.
“Were you out when you dated?”
“See? I wanted that. So it took a while, but then I dated Patrick. Jesus, what a basket case! He was a germophobe and would make me use sanitizer before we could hold hands!”
“No way!” My jaw dropped.
“Way! Then, if we went out to the movies or something? If I used a public bathroom he'd whip out the hand sanitizer. He used to wipe down our seats if we went out to eat – it was nuts.” He waved his hands for emphasis.
“Damn, that'd drive me crazy,” I shook my head.
“Did you guys go out much?” he asked.
“Some. Nothing special.”
“Well, my third boyfriend – the last one – his name was Troy. Now he was nice and I really liked hanging out with him, but he confessed to me that he wanted to transition to female,” Chris said with a sigh.
“Really? I've never met anyone like that.”
“He's super nice – she, I should say – and I still like her, but I like guys, you know? Physically things weren't going to work for us.”
“Yeah, I can see that.” Quietly, I was impressed he'd been so forward thinking as to have accepted the situation with grace. It said a lot about him.
Thursday was some funny stuff he'd gotten into with Leigh growing up. Apparently they lived close to each other and had been best friends. Friday we talked soccer and just random things – but as you can tell, it was really Chris carrying the conversation, not me. I was just a secondary participant because all I could think of was that he wanted something from me. He knew I was gay and he wanted something.
The next morning I drove over to Leigh's. Yeah, he can downplay it all he wanted, but there was some bucks in that house. It was a sprawling affair with a double garage and, probably, a pool out back. There was a lot of trimmed bushes for privacy and no weeds growing through pavement cracks or anything. The house looked like it had been recently cleaned or painted on the outside and there was a Jaguar in the driveway.
I rang the bell and Leigh opened the door, still pulling a shirt on over his thin chest.
“Morning,” he greeted me, “Come on in, I'm almost ready.”
“I can wait out here,” I said.
“Nah, my mom wants to meet you anyway. Come on!”
His mom was in the living room and seemed dressed kind of nicely for being at home. She stood and extended her hand as we exchanged greetings.
“So how did Leighton coerce you into running with him?” she asked with a wide smile.
“He's paying me,” I deadpanned.
“I'm way cooler than him, he just wants to be seen with me, mom,” he said from the floor as he laced up his sneakers.
“You're the one he's been working with before practice, is that right, Noel?”
“Yes, ma'am. But I was doing it already, he just joined me.”
“I'm sure he invited himself,” she said with a knowing smile.
Leigh dragged me out and we started at a walk to warm the muscles before stretching. Then we started jogging and alternating short sprints. I was drenched in sweat and so was he. I was kind of impressed how well he kept up and more so that he didn't complain. We stopped at a convenience store and I bought us each a water.
“So, are you going ask Chris out?” Leigh asked.
I choked on my water. Coughing anew each time I tried to take a breath, my eyes watered and through it all Leigh was giggling at me. I tried to give him a death-glare, but it was hard to be effective in the state I was in.
“Why the hell would you ask that?” I asked, once I'd recovered.
“Well, he thinks you're cute. Don't you like Chris?” he asked, his head tilting in confusion.
“Leigh...it's not really that simple,” I replied.
“Partly because people bring...baggage. I have baggage. I don't know if I'm up for dating,” I replied, saying more than I really wanted to but falling prey to his curious expression.
“You're nuts. If he wasn't my cousin, I'd date him,” Leigh stated confidently.
“What? I thought you were playing soccer to attract chicks?”
“I need fruit flies. That's what Chris says. Do you have any?” he asked. It was asked so honestly that I burst out laughing. I was laughing hard enough that it made me about as useless as when I was choking on the water.
“What's so funny?” he asked, suspicion lacing his voice. “Was Chris jerking me around again?”
“I...I just...” I snorted and giggled but had a hard time gaining control until I looked away from Leigh. I can't believe Chris pulled that on him!
“I'm going to kill him,” Leigh said, shaking his head and smiling. “Seriously, though, Chris's single and so are you. Don't you like him?”
“Leigh,” I said with a sigh. “Like I said, it's not that simple. Just being gay doesn't mean we'd be compatible and my last relationship...wasn't good.”
“Yeah, I heard some rumors that were pretty...hard to hear. I'm sorry,” he said. “You're an amazing guy, seriously. When Jerry told me to watch out, that you might be after me? I was kind of hoping he was right.”
“No. No, no,” I said, shaking my head. “You don't understand. Fuck, when I was in your grade, I didn't understand either.”
“Understand what, exactly? Aren't I good looking enough? What is it?”
“Leigh...” I licked my lips and ran a hand over my face and through my hair. “Look. It seems like a cool idea to date someone older than you. That was part of the reason I dated Lyle. But he was taking advantage of me – sometimes willingly, I admit. But I lost all my friends and then he broke up with me. It's not all it's cracked up to be.”
“But you wouldn't do that. Right?”
“Leigh...you don't know me. You should find someone your own age, really. Listen,” I said, putting an arm around his shoulder, “I'm flattered in a huge way. You're a great guy. You brought me out of my funk and I owe you for that. But we're not going to date because I'd be taking something away from you and you'd hate me for it later.”
He thought in silence for a moment and then said, softly, “Do you hate what Lyle took from you?”
“Yes. Yes I do.” I hesitated and then said, “I'd hate myself if I did that to someone else, but it would bother me more if it was you since we're...friends.”
“Well...” he smiled at me, a mischievous expression, “If you're sure...I still think you should be talking to Chris about dating.”
“Why are you trying to hook me up with your family so bad?” I asked, driving a finger into his ribs. He laughed, twisting away, but never did answer me.
The following week Leigh made the team and he was wildly excited. Practices got a bit more focused now that the team roster was set and I was spending my time in the sweeper spot, which pleased me to no end considering it had been my goal. Chris and I continued to hang out at lunch and talk while on the field, even though he still did most of the talking. I was largely content to listen to him and let things develop slowly, whatever that might be.
We had our first three games and we were 1-2, competitive but not elite. Leigh was still looking to score his first goal, but he was given credit from coach for looking for the open man instead of taking unwise shots on goal. I was doing all right, but I was focused on trying to do better. Chris was very strong in goal, but his defensive guys were letting him down and allowing too many situations for him to be overwhelmed.
The first week in October rolled around and it had yet to give us our first cold days. That Saturday Leigh and I went for our run and when we stopped for water, as per usual, Leigh wanted to chat.
“I think all this running is going to make my ass and legs look great, don't you?” he asked while trying to look over his shoulder at his reflection in the glass windows of the store.
“You're obsessed with your ass,” I teased.
“Hey, gay guys will notice it, right? It has to look good.”
I grew pensive for a moment, long enough that Leigh noticed. I knew he was going to prod me, so I decided to just tell him.
“Look, Leigh...I know you want to have a boyfriend and kiss and get into sex and all that – most guys do, I think. I know I did,” I said. Hesitating, I looked at him from the corner of my eye. “Look, I don't know if this will do any good for you. I know I didn't listen when my friends tried to tell me, but I hope you'll think about it really hard. Take this seriously.”
Leigh's face was all business and I was encouraged by that.
“Sex isn't always what it's cracked up to be. There is such a thing as bad sex – when you have it with the wrong person and the wrong reasons. Instead of being what everyone talks about, it's like a prison, one you lock yourself into.”
“I'm not sure...” he said, but I cut him off.
“I know because I was there. My ex, Lyle? We did it. More than once. It wasn't like anything I hoped or wanted it to be. Um,” I sighed and then continued, “Look, Leigh, I can't tell you what to do and I don't even know if you'll listen to me. But, as your friend, please take your time. Find a good guy and just...you don't need to rush things.”
“Okay,” he said, “but just so we're clear, I'm just trying to get someone's attention. I'm not ready to, you know, have someone do that to me.”
“Well, that's part of what I'm trying to say, Leigh.” I put a hand on his shoulder and looked into his eyes. “You're a really cute guy and, yes, your legs and ass are coming along nicely,” I held a finger up at him as a grin spread across his face. “The problem is there are guys, like Lyle, who will only see your ass or your legs or your mouth and just want to shove it in you. They don't care about you, they won't care if you're feeling good – you're just a good looking place to to put their dick.”
That wiped the smile off his face. He looked at me oddly, and then a sad expression crossed his face and he was hugging me. Fuck, was I crying? I was. God damn it, Lyle. I clung to Leigh and cried the way I probably should have when I finally let myself acknowledge just how much I'd lost and how much I'd let myself be used. I'd had little crying jags, little bouts of self-pity but here was someone who would let my cry myself out – and that felt good.
Leigh patted my back awkwardly and slowly released me. I wiped my eyes and excused myself, going to the store bathroom to blow my nose and wash my face off. When I gathered myself up, Leigh was waiting out front with a look of mild concern.
“Fine, yeah. Sorry...I know that was awkward.”
“It's okay, I didn't mind. Hey,” he said, that mischievous glint flashing in his eyes, “can I count this as a cuddle?”
I pursed my lips, trying to keep a smile from forming, but it was impossible. “You're incorrigible, Leighton.”
“Yeah,” he said sunnily, “I am.”
We turned for home and made good time. We were both drenched with sweat and winded by the time we sprinted the last block and a half to his front yard. We collapsed on the green grass, laying on our backs and trying to regulate our breathing. Leigh rolled up on his side and supported his head in his hand. I glanced at him and then turned to follow his gaze behind me to find Chris walking up to us.
“Wow, you guys look hot,” he said with a grin.
“Dude, that's your cousin!” I exclaimed.
“I mean you guys were all sweaty from your exercise. Jeez, what a dirty mind!” Chris laughed. I blushed and joined the two of them in their laughter.
“Chris, has your dad closed your pool yet?” Leigh asked. “My folks closed ours two weeks ago.”
“Are you kidding? My dad's still going in it, and will until you can see your breath outside. Want to jump in?”
“Yes! Come on, Noel!” Leigh was on his feet and yanking on my arm. I reluctantly joined them, still not entirely comfortable with all the dynamics I felt myself dealing with. Leigh was kind of forward, both in telling me he liked me and in pushing me at Chris. Then there was his admission that he'd date Chris if they weren't related. Add to that I was sure Leigh and Chris were talking about a lot of this – I distinctly felt like I was being maneuvered somehow.
Chris's house was only a few doors down and was similar in style to Leigh's. We walked into the backyard and Leigh toed off his sneakers, stripped off his tee shirt and socks and took a running jump into the pool. Chris followed suit and I was left feeling like an idiot. If I didn't join them, I was intentionally not participating in something social. If I did, was I playing into whatever game was going on?
I decided to just to go with it, since I did feel pretty disgusting in the sweat soaked tee shirt and cooling off would be nice. So I stripped down to my shorts and jumped into the pool. We splashed around and there was some wrestling. Chris and I traded off picking Leigh up and throwing him in the water, which he seemed to delight in. My fears and worries drifted away as we just had some silly fun.
A man poked his head out of the house, holding open a sliding glass door, and called out to Leigh.
“Your mom want's you home, Leigh.”
“Aww! Okay, thanks Uncle Joe.”
We threw him for another ten minutes before the door opened again and Chris's dad told him to get moving. Reluctantly he climbed out of the pool and gathered up his stuff. He said goodbye and walked around the house to go home.
“Well, I guess I should go, too,” I said to Chris as we stood in the shallow end of the pool.
“You'll get your car seat all wet,” he pointed out. “Why don't we hang out on the patio and dry off, at least? Or are you in that much of a rush to get away from me?”
“I'm not...why do you think I'm trying to get away from you?” I demanded. I was also wondering if this was him manipulating me or if I really was just being rude. It was true the dynamic was different without Leigh, whom I felt comfortable with now. And Chris was in just shorts, wet skin looking...Jesus.
“I'm just saying you don't have to rush off just because Leigh had to go,” he said with a shrug. “I know you guys are friends, but I thought we were, too.”
“I'm sorry if I seem...rude,” I said, looking down and running my fingertips across the surface of the water. “I have issues.”
“Yeah,” he said as he sank into the water, kneeling on the pool floor. “If half of what Jerry keeps saying is true, then I guess you do.”
“What's that asshole been saying?” I asked.
“Well, I told you what he said about you and Leigh,” he started.
“None of that's true,” I said quickly. “Leigh's been asking and I've said no.”
Chris laughed, “Has he, now? I guess his man crush was a little more than that, huh?”
I felt myself blush and I shrugged. “I don't think he really knows what he wants. I just know I'm not the guy to give it to him.”
Chris tilted his chin up and moved his arms in sweeping motions under the water. “I appreciate that. He's such a cute little fucker, guys could take advantage of him.”
“I know,” I replied as I sank into the water, matching him. “It happened to me.”
“I figured it was something like that,” Chris replied softly. “I was a little worried when Jerry first opened his mouth, I admit. Leigh was so...I don't know, effusive about you? I was a little worried for him. But after I met you, I realized the things Jerry said were maybe a percent true and 99% bullshit.”
“What did he say?” I asked with a sigh.
“He said that your ex used to plow you most nights of the week, that you were a complete cock-hound. I told you what he said about why you'd befriend Leigh. He told me he and half the team had done you.”
“He what? That slimy, no good, dickless, spineless, cock-biting...fuckwit!” I punched the water repeatedly and then glared at Chris. “Lyle was the only guy I was ever with and I wish I hadn't. I'd never, ever let Jerry touch me.”
“I told you, I could tell 99% of it was bullshit,” Chris said, waving his hand and my anger way. “I don't know what his end game was. For instance, he had no idea Leigh and I were close, just that we were cousins and plenty of those don't get along.”
“Maybe he was hoping you were a 'phobe,” I mumbled. “Then you could be an instant hero for fighting off the predatory fag.”
“Well, it backfired. Leigh has a good friend who is willing to share his time and knowledge and I trust you are looking out for him, even if you didn't intend to. It's funny how he weasels his way in, isn't it?”
“You know, I was thinking something like that, recently,” I said and shivered. “This water is getting cold.”
“Come on, let's lay out in the sun,” Chris suggested. He walked to the edge of the pool and I watched him, following him more slowly. I was kind of glad the water was getting cold, and I worried about that a little. I still had a nagging feeling Chris was after something and I was afraid of giving into him, especially if it was for the wrong reasons. I'd been lonely, even while dating Lyle, but it had been painful once he'd dumped me. Leigh coming along had been a real shot in the arm.
But now, as we climbed out of the pool and I noted the way Chris's shorts clung to him, I was concerned that I'd give in to Chris because I was lonely and that was no way to build anything good. We lay on our backs in gravity chairs, letting the sun warm our skin and I shivered when a slight breeze brought goosebumps to my skin.
“So, you were about to tell me how Leigh wormed his way into your life?” Chris prompted.
“Yeah,” I replied. “It was kind of weird. I was totally in my shell after Lyle dumped me and wasn't even very nice to Leigh. But he was quietly persistent and, more importantly, he listened and followed through. Spending time practicing really let us get to know each other. I was kind of afraid to like him, I think.”
“Were you afraid you'd fall for him or something?”
“No, not really,” I said. “He's cute, but I just don't see him that way. I was more concerned about letting him in and liking him and, eventually, what people like Jerry would insinuate was going on. Until recently I thought Leigh was straight.”
“I think Leigh is still figuring some of that out. He talks a big game, even gets a little cheeky about it,” Chris chuckled. “But he's got a ways to go before he nails down what he likes.”
“I don't know, he was coming on to me and telling me he'd date you if you weren't related,” I chuckled.
“He did?” Chris looked at me and laughed. “That little shit.”
We fell silent for a few minutes and then Chris suggested we turn over as his front was fairly dry and we adjusted the chairs so we could lay flat on our stomachs.
“So why would Jerry try to turn people against you?” Chris asked.
I sighed. “He wants to hook up with me. I guess Lyle was telling stories about us and made it sound like I was easy.” I swallowed and then said softly, “I guess I was, in a way.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“I do and I don't,” I admitted. “When I started to date Lyle, my friends weren't very supportive.”
“Of you being gay?” he interrupted.
“Oh, no, they didn't give a shit about that,” I assured him. “It was that Lyle was a senior and I was a sophomore and they said he just wanted to sleep with me. At first, I was just like, they must be jealous, you know?”
“Because an older guy was interested in you?”
“Exactly,” I confirmed. “Lyle would take me to a movie or something and I was so full of myself that I pushed my friends and their advice away. I mean...I was as horny as any other guy and when Lyle pushed, I didn't put up that much of a fight. I kept hoping it would get better...and it didn't. But by then I felt like I had no place to go back to – no friends or anything if we broke up. So I kind of figured being alone was worse that dating Lyle, than sleeping with him. I was pretty wrong, though.”
“So, Jerry wants you for himself and he does this by tarnishing your rep with others?” Chris asked. “What a douche.”
“I know, right? Like that's going to make me want him or something.”
“Did you ever express that you might be interested? I mean, you'd have to think there are better ways to try and get in someone's pants, right?”
“I never did,” I protested. “I think he thought he'd pick up where Lyle left off and just use me. I knew I didn't want what I had to continue, even though it took Lyle breaking up with me to realize that.”
“I get not wanting to be alone, but,” Chris hesitated.
“I know, I'm fucked up,” I said for him. “I've asked myself before why I didn't leave Lyle, but the truth is I was lying to myself about the whole thing. Some of it was a front, for my old friends, to show them I was happy and making it work. It was all a sham. You know what he told me?”
Chris shook his head and I plowed onward, exposing my hurt to him. “He told me that as soon as he saw my sweet ass on the field he knew he had to tap me. He broke up with me because he'd had me and wanted something fresh.”
“That's fucked up.”
“Yeah. It is,” I replied. “You know, I think I'm going to head home. My shorts are just damp, now.”
“Okay, yeah. But listen,” Chris said as he sat up. “I admit I befriended you to make sure Leigh was going to be okay, but I actually like you. A lot.”
I paused. I looked at him as he sat on his chair. I recall thinking before that he was kind of cute but guarding myself, fearing he would just try and get me into bed. Looking at him now, his smooth skin and nipples standing hard in the breeze...his long legs exposed and the tiny hairs stirring with the air I felt that initial attraction slam into high gear.
“I'm kind of fucked up,” I replied.
“You had a bad relationship,” Chris corrected. “So have I, even though it sounds like yours was way worse.”
I looked at him, not wanting to follow my emotions this time but finding it hard to be objective about someone who seemed to actually like me. Chris had never made a comment about my looks, everything had always been about how I treated Leigh, references to my character. Could he actually like me as a person?
“What do you want from me?” I asked softly, not much more than a whisper.
“Just a chance to see if there could be anything between us,” Chris said. “I don't know if you are interested in me. Are you or could you be?”
I felt a flush and my stomach trembled. “I like you. You make me nervous, though.”
“Do I make you want to throw up?” he asked, grinning.
“Not exactly,” I said, giving him a weak smile in return. “I just don't know what I'm ready for, what I'm good for.”
“I don't want to push you too hard, too fast,” Chris said. “Sexually you've been farther than I have and even though I want to, I can wait for it to be right. If you've taught me anything so far it's that adults aren't kidding when they say you want to share yourself with the right person.”
Voicing my earlier thought I said, “Lyle always complimented my looks, but you only talk about me as a person. Are you...attracted to me?”
“Are you kidding?” Chris grinned. “You are completely my type. If you'd asked me out, I wouldn't have been able to say yes fast enough.”
“Really?” I asked quietly. I felt some misgivings again, memories of Lyle's comments. “You think I have a great ass?”
“I think you have a great heart,” Chris replied. “Noel, you've told me the things Lyle said about your body and he wasn't wrong. I know beauty and attraction is all subjective, but I think you're a waking dream. I won't apologize for finding you physically attractive – I'm just thrilled you're a sweet guy on top of it. So yes, you do have a great ass, beautiful, kissable lips – a total package.”
I stared at him and he smiled and shrugged.
“Sorry, but that's the way I see it. I mean, you.”
“Uh. I don't know what to say.”
“Well, how about you say you'll see a movie with me tomorrow?”
I thought back to jerking off Lyle in the theater and a dark cloud felt like it moved across my face.
I looked up at Chris and let out a big breath. “Lyle liked me to go to the movies, in the beginning, so I could jack him off. When we progressed to...more, we stopped going. I told you, I'm kind of fucked up.”
“Well, how about if we watch the movie here? My folks will be here and maybe Leigh will come over since he's kind of been our facilitator.” He paused, “I'd rather it were just us, though.”
I looked at Chris, his face open and his attitude one of reasonable patience. I was attracted to him and he wasn't pushing, he was even willing to modify plans just to accommodate me and my neurosis. It was worth a try, right?
“Okay,” I said. “Just you and me.”
I used to get nervous before going on 'dates' with Lyle. I was always worried he'd want to take me that night, that I'd buy into the foolish hope that it would feel good this time and that he'd hold me after or try to make me feel good. I was such a stupid fuck. But now I was nervous in a different way. I knew Chris wasn't going to try and have sex with me, wasn't going to hurt me. Yet I worried that my past was going to continue to interfere in my desire to move on with my life.
How much would Chris put up with? I mean, eventually he'd want to have sex with me, right? What then? Do I just close my eyes and grit my teeth or bite a pillow like I'd done with Lyle? Was that all there was for me at the end of that path?
I pulled up in front of his house and walked slowly to the door. I'd dressed normally, making sure I didn't overdo it like I was trying to impress him. I didn't want to send out signals that I was trying for more – we were just going to watch a movie, spend some time together.
And yet I'd been careful with my hair, shaved and put on a dab of cologne. I wore a soft long sleeved tee and comfortable but very presentable jeans. I rang the bell and Chris greeted me at the door, wearing cargo shorts and a tee shirt. His eyes flicked up and down, taking me in.
“Hey,” he smiled. “Come on in and officially meet my parents.”
“Okay,” I said, stepping into the entryway.
“Kick off your shoes, mom doesn't allow shoes in the house,” Chris directed me. I did as he said and followed him to a sitting room where his parents were both seated and reading.
“Mom, Dad, this is Noel Robideau from my soccer team,” he said. “Noel, these are my parents Joseph and Sandra Licardi.”
“Pleased to meet you,” I said, walking over to shake their hands.
“Nice to meet you as well,” his father said. “Weren't you here yesterday in the pool?”
“Yes, sir,” I replied.
“I thought so.”
“Heading for the TV room?” his mom asked.
“Yep,” Chris confirmed. “We'll just make some popcorn or something and watch a movie.”
“Okay, have fun,” his dad said and returned to his book. His mother watched us long enough to see Chris take me by the hand and lead me out of the room.
It felt odd to hold his hand. Not bad, in fact it was exciting. Lyle had never held my hand as we walked anywhere and this was exactly the kind of intimate thing I'd hoped for. So I just enjoyed it until he let my hand go once we'd entered the kitchen.
“Popcorn sound good?”
“Yes, works for me.”
“I don't drink soda,” I replied.
“Oh, okay. Um, water, seltzer, or we have some juices.”
“Just water is fine, thanks.”
He tossed the popcorn bag into the microwave and then sat on the counter to wait. His shorts rode up his legs a little and my eyes flicked to his thighs and then up to his face.
“So I have to ask,” he said. “I know you have some bad memories and I want to be respectful of boundaries – things that will make you uncomfortable.”
“I appreciate that, but...”
“So I want to apologize in advance if I say or do something that triggers something for you. I'd appreciate it if you could tell me things as they come up and cut me some slack if I do something that puts you in a bad place.”
I smiled at him. “That's sweet of you. I'm okay, really. I won't break.”
“Well, I just want to get that out there. Because I know, from what you've said, Lyle complimented you physically a lot. Does that mean I shouldn't?”
“I'm not sure I understand...” I replied, even though I kind of did. If he told me I had a sweet ass, I'd probably feel uncomfortable.
“Like, you are just so darned cute,” he grinned. “And I'd like to be able to say things like that to you. I also have a plan to cuddle with you on the couch that I hope is okay. I mean,” he lowered his head and tilted his eyes up to look at me, “I really hope that's okay.”
“Uh. Yeah,” I blushed.
“But please, Noel, you have to tell me no when it's not okay, right?” He hopped off the counter and crossed the floor silently in his socks. “I don't want to chase you off because I did something unintentionally. I want to be able to talk to you and for you to talk to me. I want to snuggle with you and...I just don't want to make you uncomfortable, okay?”
I nodded and cleared my throat. “I promise, I'll talk to you if there's a problem.”
He watched me for a moment and then smiled and nodded his head. “Good.”
We took the snack to the TV room and settled in on a couch. We decided on an action movie and polished off the popcorn in no time. Then Chris pulled my arm so I lay behind him as he stretched out on the couch and pulled a light blanket over us. My head was on the armrest and he was resting his head against my chest. He pulled my hand around him and held it in his own.
I forgot about the movie entirely as the scent of his hair filled my nose and the warmth of his body slowly let me relax. He molded himself against me and it gave me an odd sense of both being comfortable and in control. I didn't think I'd feel as relaxed if he'd been behind me, but this was good. We lay like that through the movie and then got up at the end to take bathroom breaks. When I returned he'd refilled the drinks and was on the opposite end of the couch.
“My back feels weird, I have to lie on the other end,” he said with a smile.
“Why didn't you say you were uncomfortable?” I asked.
“Are you kidding? I was snuggled into you!” he giggled and I smiled at him. I climbed under the cover with him as he started up a romantic comedy. Instead of being completely behind him, I put my head on his chest and he played with my hair.
Now this was the kind of intimacy I craved so badly. Hand holding, playing with my hair, snuggling. This was what I'd been missing, what I'd wanted. Right in this moment I felt like I mattered to Chris. Not just his pleasure or his desire, but that he was just as concerned that I was happy and that was a great feeling. We wiggled around a little as we got comfortable, with him on his side and his arm around me as I put my head back down but closer to his hip.
Tentatively I put a hand on his calf and left it there, feeling the heat of his bare skin. He had been stroking the skin of my neck with his thumb and paused when he felt my hand, but then resumed. I took this as a good thing and began moving my hand, stroking the skin of his leg and not absorbing a damn thing about the movie.
All I could think about was how nice his skin felt in my hand, how comfortable I was laying on the couch with him. I thought about how considerate he was and how he asked for communication, specifically about making me comfortable. As I relaxed and enjoyed the feel of him pressed to me, I thought about how I'd gotten here, the weird path I took to get to Chris, through Leigh. Facilitator? Hell, Leigh was a damned miracle worker.