Bridges

BridgesCover_LG

 

 

Brooklyn Thorn and I met for the first time in third grade. It was nothing short of cataclysmic. I suppose it was inevitable for things to happen that way, like a clash of Titans maybe. After all, his parents named him Brooklyn, mine named me Dallas–yeah, I’m still working on forgiving them. Truth is, with names like that we could either be best friends or hate each other on sight.

We chose hate. At least he did. But believe me, I was happy to fall in line.

On that very first day we met on the playground. He was surrounded by his cronies, I was the new boy in town who only had one other scrappy not so popular kid named Jeffie to back me up (we met in class that morning and he offered me half of his Fruit Roll-Up at lunch. In my book that was friendship).

Brooklyn stood all close to me, like I was supposed to be intimidated by his hugeness. He clearly had never been to public school in Newark. Please. I just walked right up and got in his face, even if it was a few inches above mine. What did some kid from the butt crack of nowhere think he was going to do to me anyway?

“So you from Dallas, Dallas?” He asked with a sneer. Like I’d never heard that one before.

I rolled my eyes. “Jersey.”

“That right? Well, then you don’t belong here, Yank.”

I didn’t know what Yank meant at the time but it didn’t seem like anything good. I also had no idea what his problem was with me but I wasn’t going to let him get away with being a jerk. Years later I figured that it probably had something to do with my dad coming in and taking over as management for the local Honeypot Snack Cake factory instead of one of the local workers like, uh, Brooklyn’s dad for example. At the time I didn’t really care.

“I don’t want to be here either, Brooklyn.”

I made sure that his name sounded like an insult. He’d already pissed me off. Plus it was the truth. Sugarcreek, Texas was the last place I wanted to be. I missed my old friends and my backyard, I hated how the sun felt like it was boiling my brains, and I missed downtown being more than a block and a half of ugly old buildings (with no decent pizza place). It sucked the big one.

“If you want to leave so bad then why don’t you take your dumb dad and get out?”

That question was paired with a punch to the eye that came flying out of nowhere. It was my first and not a very strong one. But it took me by surprise–so much so that I didn’t manage to punch him back until he was halfway turned to strut away, victory in hand. My fist caught his jaw sideways on a half punch-half uppercut, and he reeled backward and sat hard on the cement of the playground.

“What’d you do that for?” He yelled at me. I noticed his lip was bleeding and he had his hand cupped around his jaw.

“You hit me first! What did you think I was going to do? Cry?”

“I don’t know. Run away like a yank. My dad says you’re all pansies.”

“Your dad doesn’t know shit!” It felt cool to swear. I knew my mom would ground me if she heard me talk like that. Good thing she wasn’t listening. Unfortunately the playground supervisor was. She’d walked over to see what the commotion was and found Brooklyn on the ground bleeding and me swearing up a storm and rubbing at my rapidly swelling eye.

“You two!” She yelled out. “Follow me.”

And that was the beginning. Enemies for life.

 

 

* * * *

 

 

Our next blow up was a few years later.

We’d managed to avoid each other completely, despite getting stuck right beside each other in every yearbook, classroom, school field trip…I cursed whatever quirk of fate made his last name Thorn and mine Thomason. Even with the forced proximity, the cold war had been in force for nearly four whole years, since that day in the beginning of third grade. We managed to maintain icy silence punctuated only by glares and the occasional insult. By then we’d moved on to middle, school, where I was hoping to never have to deal with him, but wouldn’t you know the shit was actually smart so we were in the same advanced classes together.

All. Day. Long.

In math I got to sit next to my own friends, at least the ones who were in the same classes as me, but my language arts teacher had been brilliant enough to figure out that the only person she could sit the loquacious Brooklyn next to if she wanted him to shut up was me. Of course. So she put him with me in early October and he hadn’t moved since.

I hated that woman with a passion that I’d before only reserved for Brooklyn Thorn himself.

 

It was spring of sixth grade when things boiled over. The sun wasn’t quite brain melting hot yet but it had reached uncomfortable and was heading toward unbearable pretty damn quickly. The heat always made me pissy. I’d never quite gotten used to it. I was walking into my two hour language arts and social studies block with a sigh. Last class of the day. Two fun-filled periods of Brooklyn Thorn. I hated him. I did. Even though it was hard to remember why sometimes. That was until he glared at me or kicked me under the desk and I glared back and I remembered that he was an asshole.

I sat in my desk and hunched as far away from him as I could. The teacher was handing out packets for a combined history and literature project. Combined not only with the two subjects but by the fact that we had to work with our desk partner. When I got to that part on the packet I lost it–quietly of course. I didn’t want to end up in the principal’s office. My parents hadn’t taken it very well the last time.

“Looks like we’re working together, Blondie,” He muttered at me.

Since when had I gone from Yank to Blondie? I wasn’t even a real blond anymore. Just kinda sandy. Oddly enough his voice didn’t sound as confrontational as it usually did on the rare times we talked. It didn’t really register with me. I was too busy seething.

“Fantastic,” was my only answer. I’m sure I sounded pretty bitchy. Too late, I looked up to see that his face had matched his voice. He looked like he might be ready for a truce or at least a temporary detente. That was until I talked. Then he whipped his face back until he was staring at his packet. I could see his jaw clenching, teeth grinding. I wondered if I’d actually managed to hurt his feelings.

“Just do your part and I’ll do mine. Think you can handle that, Yank?”

At least we were back to something familiar. I felt a little bad though. A little. I mean, it would’ve at least been easier to get the dumb project done if we weren’t sniping at each other.

“I think I can handle it. I’m not…stupid.” I looked him up and down slowly as though I thought he might be. He knew what I was implying, and it clearly wasn’t true or fair but I’d managed to guess correctly that it was one of his insecurities.

“Fuck you, Yank,” he muttered under his breath. “Let’s get this over with. We can divide the work and do it with as little talking as possible.”

“My name’s not Yank.” Not like that had stopped him at any point since third grade.

“Whatever.”

“Seriously, call me Yank one more time and I will take you down.” All five two of me. I think the heat had made me go nuts.

“You and your prissy little friends can go ahead and try, fag boy.”

I choked. Fag boy?

I knew it was a generic insult, based on my size and general lack of jock-ness, but it felt in that second like he could see into me, see what I was starting to realize–that while all my friends were crushing on girls, talking about their growing boobs and how good they smelled I was noticing how much I liked to look at boys. Like, really liked to look at boys. I liked their smooth chests, the way their legs were muscular and dusted with hair. I wanted to kiss them and see if their lips felt as nice as they looked. I thought about it all the time. I also knew I wanted nothing to do with those feelings. In places like Sugarcreek, they were enough to get you dragged behind a car by a rope.

I slouched silently in my seat. There was no way I was going to answer that taunt.

 

 

We worked diligently, but silently, on our project for a day or two. Both of us were smart enough that we’d managed to divide up the work and somehow convince the teacher we were cooperating. We’d spread the books out on our table so that she couldn’t see how we’d separated our bodies so the largest amount of empty air possible was in between. She was oblivious to our glares, or at least she pretended to be. I thought we had a pretty good scam going.

Oops.

“Can I please see Mister Thorn and Mister Thomason?”

We looked at each other. I was too worried about getting in trouble to be bothered glaring at him. I stood, nearly knocking my books onto the ground. Brooklyn followed me up to the teacher’s desk.

“What are you two doing?” She asked quietly.

“Working on our project, Ms. Geppart.”

The teacher took her glasses off and rubbed her eyes. “I didn’t see a lot of cooperation going on.”

“But–” I could see the injustice I was feeling written all over Brooklyn’s face.

“No buts. This is a combined effort.”

“Ms. Geppart,” I tried to sound reasonable. “You know we don’t get along.”

“There’s more to school than just learning facts,” She answered.

I gave her a blank stare. “So what are you saying?”

“I’m saying I want to see you two working together. Starting tomorrow after school. I want to see a new topic and I’m going to watch and see that you actually work together. Your project won’t get graded if you don’t.”

Of all the–I was pissed. I’m sure he was too.

 

Pissed or not, Brooklyn Thorn and I reported for what amounted to detention the next day right after class. He told me years later that he’d had to explain to his soccer coach why he was missing practice, and got a blistering lecture about getting along with other kids and being a role model. I’m sure that made him love me even more.

I didn’t get in much trouble. My parents were too busy shouting and calling each other names to really notice that I’d given them a slip to sign saying I’d be held after school. Most of the time I tried really hard not to hear what they were saying.

Our teacher lectured us that first day on how part of growing up was learning to work with people you weren’t necessarily compatible with. That probably would’ve worked perfectly if a pissed off and still smarting from his soccer coach lecture Brooklyn hadn’t muttered something like:

“Yeah, just like my dad has to put up with your asshat father every day.”

I didn’t have much love for my father either, he was always gone at work and he was the reason I was stuck in this stupid ass town after all, but I couldn’t have Brooklyn Thorn talking shit about my parents. Before I knew it, my fist was connecting with his nose and we were rolling around on the ground under desks trying our best to remove facial features from each other’s heads–with knuckles, nails, anything we had. It was actually kind of brutal. I don’t know if the fight was really about my dad, or his dad, or us, or how much I needed to prove that I really wasn’t a fag boy who loved looking at guys and I could stick up for my own–with my fists if necessary. What I do know is I pounded him with every muscle I had, pure rage battling against someone who was considerably bigger and stronger. And I know that every time he punched me it hurt like hell.

We didn’t stop until the principal, who Ms. Geppart must’ve frantically called, came in and hauled us apart. We ended up the same way we had that day in third grade; with our asses parked in the principal’s office while he tried to get a hold of our parents to come pick us up. We were suspended. Both of us. Three days. At least my teacher learned her lesson. She didn’t move us apart in class but we were each allowed to complete the project on our own.

I didn’t say a word to him the rest of the year.

 

 

* * * *

 

“Dallas Thomason.”

It was kind of a shock when they called my name. I was graduating. Graduating  . It felt really weird. In a few short months I had my one way ticket (and it was going to be one way, damn it) out of Sugarcreek, away from Brooklyn Thorn, away from my squalling in-the-middle-of-a-divorce-parents. Just…away. The folks hadn’t gone for the idea of an out of state school, at least not if they were paying, so I’d set my sights on Baylor and thank God I’d gotten in. I’d nearly cried with relief. The school was good, and even more important it was at least a three hour drive from Sugarcreek; far enough that I wouldn’t be required to visit often.

I stuck out my hand and took the diploma from our principal before I shook his hand. “Congratulations,” he said perfunctorily. He didn’t know me. Which was good. He’d been the first principal I had in Sugarcreek who wasn’t well aware of me and my continuing battle with effing Brooklyn Thorn. And wouldn’t you know, that’s who was next. The announcer called his name, and he met the same pleasant applause as I did. It was decidedly less enthusiastic than it had been back at the beginning of the alphabet. People were getting tired of listening. I wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of there.

I had an interview the next morning, stocking and doing inventory at the grocery store. I really, really wanted the job. It would get me some cash for the fall and give myself something to do other than listen to my mother bitch about not having enough money for her own place. Apparently, she’d been out of the job market so long, no one would hire her. I wasn’t sure if she was blatantly blaming my father for that or subtly blaming me. All I knew was I needed a break from her rants before I went nuts. Hopefully stocking shelves at Salvatore’s Market would be enough of a distraction.

The next day, freshly graduated and ready to take on the world, or at least my very first job interview, I biked the two and a half miles from our housing development to the little grocery store that was right downtown. There was a big Tom Thumb down the highway a ways but most people would still go to Salvatore’s for small things, fresh fruit, milk, bread, and then go to the big store on the weekends to stock up. My mom did it herself. The store was sleepy and quaint but Mister Salvatore’s back had been hurting and he couldn’t do it himself much longer.

I was nervous when I walked in the store. Even more so when I saw someone else standing there in khakis and a polo shuffling from one foot to another. Shit. He has another applicant. I was suddenly not guaranteed my summer of distraction and easy cash.

The other guy turned when he heard me approach the manager’s office where he was standing and I nearly groaned out loud. Should’ve effing known. Brooklyn Goddamned Thorn. Was there no escape? That jerk would probably get the job too since he’d been on the soccer team and the football team with all the other town heroes and I was just a (scrappy) little bookworm guy with floppy hair and glasses (at least until I’d gotten contacts the year before). No one is ever recognized all over town for being good at schoolwork.

I nearly turned around to leave when Mister Salvatore called us both into his office at the same time. I had a flashback to elementary school, middle school, when we’d be ushered into some office glaring at each other and deciding silently who was going to throw the next punch the second they left us alone. It wasn’t much different this time. Brooklyn didn’t exactly glare at me, but he didn’t smile either. He let me go first (oddly polite) and then entered the room himself.

Mister Salvatore asked us a series of questions; why did either of us need a job? (college, both of us), could we work late nights or weekends in the stock room? Yes, please anything to get me out of that house. Brooklyn simply said yes just like I did but I could see the same need to escape in his eye. The rest of the questions were simple. We both answered, and both managed to keep our claws out of each other’s skin for the first time. It had been nearly four years since our last big blow out. Perhaps we’d grown up a bit. I still hated the bitch. Salvatore said thank you to both of us for coming and that he’d call later when he’d made his choice. I smiled winningly and tried to look like what I thought the best candidate would look like while I shook his hand, then I turned walked to the front door where my bike was chained to the rack.

It was hot outside. Godawful hot, and heavy and humid and everything that made me hate Texas in the summer. I unwound the chain from my bike and went to swing my leg over the bar.

“You wanna lift? I can put your bike in the back of my truck.” Brooklyn Thorn just offered me a ride. What the hell?

I looked over at him, unable to mask my suspicion. I didn’t think he’d do anything irreversibly violent towards me, but I couldn’t be sure. After all our entire relationship had been conducted by fists so far.

“Dude, just get in. It’s brutal out here. You can worry about stabbing me in my sleep another day.”

“You’re the violent one,” I grumbled. He didn’t answer. I chose to take my chances with Brooklyn, though, and tossed my bike in the back of his truck before I climbed into a cab that was on its way to being blissfully air-conditioned. He was messing with the dials on his stereo. Soon, the distinct guitar style of one of my favorite alternative bands was pouring through the speakers.

“What? No Taylor Swift? Brooks and Dunn?”

Brooklyn shuddered. “Naw, man, I’m not into that stuff. Besides, that Swift chick—she’s a Yankee.” I looked over at him. He was grinning. Oh my God. Brooklyn Thorn is teasing me…not torturing but honest to god teasing.

I smiled back hesitantly. “Can’t trust us Yanks, can ya?”

“Yeah, you’re all trouble.”

We rode in silence after that, but it wasn’t horrible and awkward, neither one of us glared or plotted, just listened to the music until he pulled up in front of my house. I didn’t ask how he knew where I lived. It was a small town, and I was still the new kid even after all the years I’d been there.

“Hey, you know…good luck next year, wherever you are.”

“Yeah, you too.”

It was weird as hell. He’d actually been nice and I’d been nice back. I had no idea what alternate world I’d entered where we could both be grown-ups with each other. It was a bit disconcerting. I reached into his truck bed and pulled out my bike. I waved goodbye as I wheeled it down the sidewalk and into the shed where I kept it.

 

 

Salvatore had hired both of us to work nights, stocking, pricing and doing inventory. Wouldn’t you know? Me and Brooklyn Thorn stuck together again. What a shock. Mister Salvatore said he needed someone who was good at cataloguing and calculating inventory and someone to be the brawn to lift boxes.

I shook my head as I hung up the phone, irritated by those categories on both our behalves.

I wondered if Brooklyn ever got tired of being categorized as brainless muscle outside of school. I knew I got sick of being cast in the opposite role. I almost told the grocery store manager that Brooklyn was actually pretty good at math–he’d gotten a better grade in calculus than I had, which still kind of irritated me. But that might have been talking myself out of a job and my only excuse for getting out of the house. There was no way I was going to do that, injustice or not.

All I could think about was the smile he’d given me as I shut the door of his truck earlier. It changed his face completely. Maybe it was time we tried to get along with each other. We’d kind of have to anyway. I could just picture the carnage if we got up to our old stuff, rolling around and punching among jars of spaghetti sauce and cartons of milk. It would be a disaster.

The next night I showed up for work a few hours after dinner. I’d tried to take a nap in the afternoon, but my body was still wide awake so I made myself a giant pot of coffee and hoped that it would last until we got off early in the morning. Brooklyn was waiting when I got there, sipping nervously at his own iced coffee courtesy of the one coffee drive-through in town.

“Hey, Yank. Looks like it’s you and me again, huh?”

He didn’t seem to be hostile so I gave him a small smile. “As usual,” I answered.

“Do you think we can manage to last the summer without hitting each other?”

He looked kind of concerned so I laughed. “I think so.”

It felt kind of strange but for the first time since we’d met I didn’t look at Brooklyn and see the biggest asshole in the universe. I just saw a regular guy and it was kind of a relief.

 

 

We waited in congenial silence for Mister Salvatore’s night manager to come back and start our training for the first night. When he did show, he had a long list of chores for us: lifting, hauling, stocking the shelves, using the thrilling price sticker gun to put tags on all sorts of items. It was exhausting and the coffee started to wear off after a few hours–probably right around the same time as the exciting newness of the job did.

We worked quietly that night, taking in everything that Jesus, the night manager said. I didn’t have enough time, or energy, to worry about whether or not Brooklyn and I could get along. I was definitely ready to go by the time he handed us our schedules for the next two weeks and let us go.

The sun wasn’t quite up, but it would be soon. I was hoping to get home before then so I’d have a decent chance of falling asleep. Of course I was so tired that it might happen pretty easily anyway. Brooklyn simply took my bike, after I unlocked it, and loaded it into the bed of his truck. I hadn’t really wanted to peddle the whole way home anyway, even if the early morning was the nicest part of the day, so I tiredly climbed into the cab of Brooklyn’s truck and laid my head back against the seat.

“Long night, huh?”

“Yeah.” I couldn’t help sighing. Hopefully it wouldn’t take long to get used to my new sleeping schedule.

We were quiet again until my street. He turned on his music quietly, just to a level that it would be pleasant in the background. I nearly fell asleep in the truck, with the windows down and the dawn breeze floating over me, but I managed to peel myself up and grab my bike when the truck rolled to a stop. A wave and a ‘see ya tonight’ were all I had the energy for before I locked my bike in the shed and went inside to pass out.

 

 

* * * *

 

 

“Hey, Dal, you got the Heinz over there?”

I checked the boxes that were surrounding me and saw the ketchup bottles, red and squished into a box in square military precision.

“Yeah, I got it,” I called back. “Two boxes.”

“Sweet! I’ve been looking for that. Can I have it?”

I scooted the two boxes of ketchup bottles over to where Brooklyn was busily checking inventory. We’d gotten into a comfortable routine the past week. We worked, mostly in quiet, but with more and more comments every night–some regarding work but other times they were random. We never brought up the subject of how we’d hated each other for nearly ten years. It would’ve made everything awkward when it was actually going pretty well between us for the first time ever.

Brooklyn chuckled to himself when he started counting ketchup bottles.

“What?” I asked. I was always a bit worried that he was still laughing at me.

“Oh, this one time, back when my mom was still at home, I dropped a full bottle of ketchup on the kitchen floor and that shit splattered everywhere. My mom tried to be pissed but we both ended up laughing forever. I swear we were cleaning ketchup out of little cracks and crevices for weeks.”

His smile was huge and engaging. I couldn’t help but catch my breath. The last thing I needed was to notice that the guy who’d been my nemesis and sparring partner for more than half of my life was, well,      hot. I tried to smile back casually and act like the world as I knew it hadn’t just been dumped on its head.

“Um, your mom is gone?” Good work, dork. Bring up something painful.

“Yeah. She left when we were in eighth grade.”

Come to think of it, he’d been quieter than usual that year. I’d noticed it since, of course, we were in all the same classes like we’d been the two years before.

“I, uh, think my mom is about to fly the coop too. Her and my dad are in the middle of getting divorced and it’s getting more awkward and painful by the day.”

“Sorry, dude, that sucks.”

I shrugged. “I’m kind of over it. They’ve been fighting for years. I just want her to be happy, you know? My dad is kind of a douche–you were right all those years ago.” Brooklyn smiled sympathetically. “Besides, I’ll be out of here at the end of the summer anyway.”

Brooklyn nodded in exaggerated agreement. “Me too. I can’t fuckin’ wait.”

“Where are you going?”

“Baylor. I liked their sports medicine program.”

I choked. “You’re going to Baylor?” I looked up cautiously from where I’d been regarding the ketchup with unnatural concentration.

“Yeah.” He started to laugh. “Don’t tell me.”

I nodded. “You already know.”

“Hey, at least we’ll have different majors, right?”

“And we won’t be in all the same classes.” I was laughing along with him.

“Watch we end up in the same classes anyway.”

He had a point. If it was possible, then somehow it would happen. “Yeah, there’s gonna be some cosmic university mix up.”

We were both laughing by then. “Aww, shit. I lost count on the ketchup bottles.”

“I won’t say anything until you get them counted. Promise.” I crossed my heart with my finger and made a dumb face.

Brooklyn grinned at me. “You know…”

“What?”

“Never mind.” He looked down at the ground and kicked at the box of ketchup bottles.

“No, really. What?”

“It’s just, I actually…like you. It’s too bad we were never friends.”

I couldn’t help smiling. “Yeah. I know.” I shrugged. “We can be friends now–especially since we’ll probably be sitting next to each other, uh-gain, in all of our accidentally scheduled classes next year.”

He chuckled again then nudged me with his shoulder. “Quiet, you. I need to get these stupid bottles counted.”

I made a locking motion on my lips and threw the invisible key over my shoulder. Then I went back to my own shipping box of spaghetti noodles and began a count of them. I had to tally, since I wasn’t as good at keeping numbers in my head, but I did get them counted correctly and stamped with a price sticker ready for the shelf.

Jesus, the night manager, poked his head in the back room right when I was finishing and reminded us to take our lunch. I sat down at our little employee picnic table and pulled out the container of pasta salad I’d made earlier that day. Brooklyn had a somewhat anemic looking peanut butter sandwich and an apple that had seen better days. From what I could tell they were both barely edible.

“Uh, you want some of this?” I asked. He looked at it suspiciously.

“What’s in it?”

I shrugged casually. Same stuff I ate most of the time. “Pasta, basil, tomatoes, grapes, feta, olives, olive oil…spices.” I petered off before he looked at me like I was an even bigger alien.

“What’s feta?” Oh yeah. He lives with his dad. They probably eat peanut butter and Easy Mac every day…and HoneyPots. Gross. I hated those damn things after all the years of my dad bringing home samples all the time.

“It’s good. I promise. Here, try.” I loaded some of the pasta salad onto my fork, making sure to add a little of everything, and held it out to him. Brooklyn steadied the fork with his hand, fingers brushing against mine just barely. Then he opened his lips (when did they get to be so perfect and soft looking?) and took every last crumb off of the fork. He got a bit of feta on his lip and snaked it up slowly with his tongue.

I had to hide my shudder. Watching him moan and chew was like porn.

He closed his eyes and swallowed. “I’ve never had anything like that. What did you do to it?”

“I just like to cook, that’s all.”

“Can I have another bite?”

I chuckled. “Go get one of those forks from by the microwave. You can have half.”

“Really?” He shoved his sandwich aside and booked it to the microwave cart for a fork. I couldn’t help grinning and feeling a little sorry for the guy at the same time. There weren’t a lot of options for good food in Sugarcreek other than barbecue (which I hated). The rest of it was pretty lame. I shoved the Tupperware into the middle of the table and we spent the rest of our break happily sharing my pasta. It was weirdly intimate.

I liked it way too much.

* * * *

The doorbell rang as I was scrambling to get my shorts zipped and my flip flops on after a hasty shower. Brooklyn and I had actually decided to go through with our decision to hang out (don’t think the complete and total weirdness of him and I becoming friends was lost on me). My mom and dad were at one of those marathon meetings where they paid lawyers like a million dollars an hour to watch them fight. I had no idea what was taking so long with the divorce. It seemed like they both wanted the hell out so in my opinion they should just go for it and skip all the torture.

At least I got some benefit from the meetings. I knew they’d be gone for a few hours at least, then dad would go back to work and mom would come home and sulk in her room. Brooklyn and I would have the house to ourselves for hours.

I pounded down the stairs from the main level to the front door. Opening it let in the brightness of late afternoon on a wave of punishing heat. I swear I could see mirages on the sidewalk, like we were in the middle of the Sahara–more like the humid, sticky weed crusted Sahara that was my front yard.

“Ugh, it’s awful out there. Come in, come in.” I ushered Brooklyn through the door. “Downstairs is mostly my area. If you wanna go chill for a bit I’ll get lunch.”

“You made lunch?” Brooklyn looked excited.

“Sure. Gotta eat.” I smiled at him. “I’ll be down in a second and we can decide what we want to watch, okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Um, you want soda or apple juice?”

“Juice please.”

I chuckled. “So polite.” Then before he could answer I booked up the stairs to grab the grilled sandwiches I had warming in the oven and chips, grapes, brownies, and the jug of apple juice.

Brooklyn smelled appreciatively when I put it all on the table. “This is way better than what I would’ve had.”

“Mac n’ cheese?”

He blushed. “Yeah, probably.”

“It’s okay. Here..” I looked at the middle of the sandwiches. “This one’s yours.”

“How is yours different?”

I hesitated. “Um, no meat on mine.” I waited for judgment. In Sugarcreek, vegetarianism was probably just about as popular as gayness.

Brooklyn only shrugged. “That pasta you made last week was awesome. If you don’t like meat, you don’t like it.”

 

 

I sprawled on the couch next to him with my eggplant and grilled mushroom sandwich. It had marinara and cheese just like his, just no meatballs. I watched Brooklyn take his first bite, listened to those damn porny chewing noises that made me so hard, then realized I had to distract myself with my own sandwich before I made a fool out of myself by drooling or something.

We decided on Shutter Island and I hopped up and closed all the blinds and curtains to block out the sun. I liked it there in the dark with him. It was comfortable and cool in our downstairs, we had tons of snacks, a creepy movie, and when he leaned back and crossed his ankle over his knee his leg brushed against mine. He probably didn’t notice, but I did. Heat ran up my neck and I had to concentrate on looking casual when all of a sudden all I wanted to do was hold his hand.Oh, shit. Where did that come from? Watch the damn movie.

Shutter Island turned into a Lost marathon, which eventually just became background noise as we played speed on the coffee table and gorged ourselves on my mint brownies. Our feet and knees kept bumping and fingers rubbed when we were gathering up the cards. My body was on edge waiting, wanting, hoping for something it wasn’t going to get.

Brooklyn looked up and smiled as he dealt another game. My stomach dropped. Part of me wondered if it would be easier if I still hated him.

“Ready?” He asked, hand poised over the first card to flip.

“Yep.” Let’s start this game. Distract me before I do something insane like kiss you.

We were in the middle of that hand when I heard the front door slam open and running steps on the stairs towards the upstairs of the split level house. My mom. I looked uncertainly at Brooklyn.

“Go,” he said quietly. “I’ll wait unless you want me to leave.”

“Can you stay for a little bit?” Oddly enough he was the first person I wanted to have near me.

“Of course I’ll stay.”

I gave him a grateful smile and sprinted up the stairs to see what was happening. My mom was in her room (which used to be the guest room) slamming things into suitcases and muttering words like asshole and fucking jerk. Based on her vocabulary choices, I imagined that the meeting went even worse than the ones that’d come before it.

“Mom?” I nearly whispered.

She looked up, startled. “Dallas. I didn’t know you were still here.”

“Yeah, I don’t work tonight. I have a friend over watching movies.”

She looked embarrassed. “Is it Jeffie?”

“No. It’s, um, Brooklyn Thorn.”

That was enough to get her attention, even in the middle of her rant against my father. “You can’t be serious. You two have hated each other for years.”

“I know, but he’s cool now. We work together. Doesn’t matter anyway. What’s going on, Mom?”

“I can’t do this anymore, hon. I’m going to go stay with grandma and grandpa until I have the money for my own place.”

My grandparents couldn’t take Sugarcreek, but they’d moved to Houston from Philadelphia to be closer to their only daughter and her family.

“What do you want me to do?”

“It’s up to you. I know you’re leaving soon and you have a job. You know grandma and grandpa would love to see you before you go off to college but it’s totally your choice.”

I didn’t want to go. Things were different. “I don’t want to be irresponsible, Mom.” It had come out of my mouth easily but while I could kind of lie to my mother about my reasons for staying, I couldn’t lie to myself. It wasn’t the job. It was Brooklyn. And I was the biggest idiot in the world.

“When are you leaving?”

“Now. I don’t want to be here when your father gets back. You have my number and your grandparents’ number. If you change your mind and want to come for a little while…”

I nodded. It might happen if I managed to make a fool out of myself and do something stupid. I watched her pile clothes into bags and cases, my stomach getting more and more heavy. My mother was leaving. No matter how much I wanted to be out on my own, I hadn’t felt so much like a little boy in years. She must’ve been able to see it in my face.

“Darling.” She gave me a long hug and I could feel the splash of tears on my neck. “You know I love you. This isn’t ever going to be about me leaving you. I’ll have a home for you to come to at Christmas. I’m not going to get a place without a room for you, okay?” That helped.

“Okay. Just…just let me know when you get in. I’ll be up.” I tried to sound so mature but it sucked.

The reality hadn’t hit me until I saw her mountain of bags packed, zipped, and ready to go all in a matter of minutes. I helped her carry them to her car. I didn’t ask what happened at the meeting. Figured I probably didn’t want to know what was said. It had to be pretty awful for her to be taking off like she was. We got her car loaded, piled with remnants of her life with my dad and I, a life that was ending after nearly twenty years, and I waved as she pulled away. It was so surreal. I didn’t realize I hadn’t moved until I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“C’mon. Let’s go inside.” Brooklyn’s voice was gentle. I followed him mindlessly until we were back out of the sun and in the relative cool of my downstairs TV room. He pulled me into a hug, and unlike my mom, who was smaller than me, I felt enveloped by his big strong arms, comfortable, safe even. “It’ll be okay eventually. It just sucks a lot right now,” he whispered into my hair.

The hug lasted for another minute or so before we did the awkward bro back pat and separated to sit on the couch. Lost was still playing, and I stared, unseeing, at the screen for a few minutes. Eventually, Brooklyn nudged me with his knee.

“You’ll be okay. Really.”

I thought about it for a second before I nodded.

“I know.”

* * * *

It was hot. One of those nights where it never cools off, even when it’s almost morning. The heat from the day had been rising out of the baked ground for hours, turning the stockroom into an unbearable sauna. Brooklyn and I had been taking turns going and standing in the refrigerators to cool off. I guessed that since they had nice freezers and fridges for the perishables they didn’t much care if the boxes of pasta and crates of gatorade melted. It sure as hell felt like we were going to.

Finally, Jesus took pity on us and had us come up to the front of the store and stack items onto the shelves. Brooklyn got the lucky job of loading ice cream into the freezer, but even shelving in the regular aisles was better than being stuck back in the oven of the stock room.

About two hours into our shift, after the store closed, Jesus announced that he was starving and he was going to drive to Sonic for burgers. The closest Sonic was at least twenty minutes down the highway, but he bribed us with offers of takeout to keep quiet about his long break. There weren’t going to be any customers anyway and I knew we could handle shelf stocking on our own. I asked for a milk shake and tater tots but Brooklyn got a deluxe burger and all the sides. I grinned at him and poked his hard stomach.

“You better keep playing soccer next year. I’ve never seen anyone who loves to eat as much as you do.”

He chuckled. “I will if they take me. I’m going to try out for the JV team.” Then he poked me back, hard, and jumped out of the way. I punched at him, but ended up swiping air. Jesus rolled his eyes and headed for the glass door. He opened it and then locked it behind him. Brooklyn managed to pinch me and slip out of my reach again. He laughed and I lunged at him again. Jesus knocked on the glass.

“Don’t be assholes. I’ll be back in an hour.” He called through the window.

We nodded. I put on my most angelic face. As soon as his car pulled away though, it was on. The weird part was that it was so much like how we used to be but nothing like it at the same time. We pinched and poked and even punched at each other just like always, but we were laughing our asses off the whole time and running up and down the aisles of the deserted store. I managed to get Brooklyn good, pinching him hard on the side before taking off down the snack aisle, bags of chips and bottles of soda blurring past me as I tried to run and laugh at the same time without wiping out. Too bad Brooklyn’s midfielder legs could take me in a heartbeat. Within a third of the aisle, he had me pinned against the Fritos and was poking at my clavicle as hard as he could. I could barely catch my breath from laughing, and I choked a little. He stopped and looked at me.

“Okay?”

I panted a little and nodded. “Yeah, okay.”

I tried not to notice that Brooklyn hadn’t moved. At all. He was still right on me, pushing me back against the crinkly bags of chips, hand poised over my chest. His fingers touched me, and I swear to God I could feel them, warm and a little tingly, through my shirt. Was he leaning closer? I licked my lips and watched him.

We were silent, the piped in muzak in the background was all of a sudden excruciatingly loud. I looked at Brooklyn, couldn’t stop looking at Brooklyn. His eyes were dark and slanty, hooded like he was thinking of kissing me. Was he going to kiss me?

I’m sure he could feel my heart pound in my chest where his fingers were still touching it.

Kerthunk, kerthunk, kerthunk…

More silence.

Thunk….Thunk…

He leaned closer, his lips were right against my cheek, I could feel his breath go down the side of my neck and I cleared my throat trying to hide a deep shiver that had nothing to do with cold and everything to do with being suddenly more turned on than I’d ever been before.

There was no one in the store. No one coming….

The phone rang, shrill in the quiet only broken by instrumental Matchbox 20 playing in the background, back to being barely loud enough to hear. Brooklyn sighed and pushed back from the shelf. He gave me a small smile that left me reeling. What the hell just happened?

“Uh, I better get back to the ice cream before it melts.” His voice sounded hoarse and uncertain.

Didn’t he already put it all away? I let him walk away, quickly escaping our weird moment and all that it may or may not have implied. It’s not like I knew what to say anyway.

 

The rest of the night was kind of weird. Less awkward than I’d have thought it would be after that miss kiss, and yeah, after a little bit of thinking I knew that’s what it had been. It wasn’t a mistake, he sure as hell wasn’t inspecting the Fritos behind my head. We’d almost kissed and I had no idea what to do about it.

No idea.

I had even less idea what to do about the fact that it maybe, just maybe, Brooklyn Thorn wanted to kiss me…and I really, really wanted to kiss him back. He tossed my bike in the back of his truck like he always did, and we rode home in the predawn heat, tired and still a bit electrified. I could feel it between us, different than it had been–not uncomfortable exactly, but not the same ease that had grown in the past weeks. I tried to ignore it. It seemed to be what Brooklyn was the most comfortable doing.

Maybe that kiss just wasn’t meant to be. Yet. Or ever.

 

* * * *

 

“Shit! I thought that pole went across like that. Here, try it from your side.”

Brooklyn’s face was frustrated to say the least. He was holding a pole from his tent, which we were setting up on top of my trampoline. It was a nice night, coolish outside but still stuffy in our houses. He’d suggested camping on my trampoline, which surprised me, but of course I’d agreed.

My house had been bleak since my mom had left. It was nice to have someone around other than my father, who I didn’t know how to talk to. He wasn’t really there all that often anyway, especially since I was usually only home when he was at work. That way was fine with me. We’d never been close.

So, yeah, both the idea of company, and of course because it was Brooklyn, had me jumping at the prospect of having him over. He showed up with his tent, a camp light, a ton of comics, and enough junk food to have us spinning for hours on a sugar high. I added some homemade macaroni and cheese, strawberry lemonade (spiked with some of my dad’s rum), and marshmallows for us to roast over our little outdoor fire grill. We’d set everything else up, but were struggling to put his tent together. I’d have scrapped the tent part all together but getting eaten alive by bugs wasn’t my idea of a good time.

“Oooh, wait. I remember how it goes now. Here, give me your pole.”

Brooklyn held his hand out expectantly. I couldn’t help it. I started laughing. It was dumb and I knew it, but the giggles, once they started couldn’t be stopped until I was rolling around on the surface of the trampoline muttering ‘pole’ every time I could take a breath. Brooklyn shook his head at me, but he laughed too. “What are you? Twelve?”

“Must be.” I handed the tent pole to him and lay there on my back, looking at the deepening purples and blues of twilight with a chuckle bubbling out every few seconds until I calmed all the way down. “It’s a nice night.”

“Yeah it is. Thanks for having me over, by the way. I’m glad you thought this was a good idea.”

“It was a good idea.” I leaned over and snagged the bag of marshmallows, ripped it open, and popped one in my mouth.

“Hey! You can’t eat those until we get this thing set up.”

“Maybe some of my lemonade will help.” I’d already told him that it was a bit stronger than the usual stuff.

He chuckled. “I’m thinking we’d definitely better save the lemonade for later. Here, hold the pole and I’ll finish sliding the fabric over it. Then we’ll be good to go.”

I snickered.

 

The tent was set up and we were lying on our stomachs with half our bodies in the tent and our arms hanging over the edge of the trampoline roasting marshmallows on the grill that we’d rolled right up close so we could be lazy and not get down. It was probably good we didn’t have to do too much hopping up and down anyway, since we’d already drunk about half of the lemonade. I’d poured a bit more rum into it than I originally thought. Either that or both of us were pathetic lightweights.

Brooklyn rolled onto his back, flaming marshmallow held up over his face.

“Hey,” I laughed. “You’d better be careful with that thing or it’ll end up falling on you.” He blew it out and popped it in his mouth. “No, no, no…that’s not how you do it. You have to take the crunchy part off and eat that then roast the next layer, like this.” I demonstrated, pulling off the charred layer of sugar and licking it off my fingers. Brooklyn watched me intently with a slightly wavering gaze.

“Dal? Can I ask you something?” He’d been calling me Dal for a few weeks. I liked it.

“Sure. ‘Sup?” I tried not to slur. He sounded serious all of a sudden.

“Are you gay?”

Oh, shit. Suddenly I was completely sober. My stomach clenched and I squeezed my eyes shut trying to stop the wild spin my head had just started to do. I didn’t want to lie but I didn’t want him to hate me either, not when we’d gotten so close. I cared what Brooklyn thought of me more than anyone else. I didn’t know when it had happened but there it was.

“Hey, I just want to know. Don’t freak out.”

I turned over and looked at him. The truth, then. Damn it. “Yeah, I am.” And there it was. He was the first person I’d ever told.

Brooklyn reached over and took the marshmallow stick from my hand. Then he slowly laced his fingers through mine, watching our hands intently the whole time.

“Uh, Brook, what are you doing?”

“This…” He pulled on the hand he was holding until I toppled over, halfway sprawling on his chest. Then he used his other hand to thread into my hair, cupping the back of my head and pulling gently. “I wanted to kiss you so bad the other night in the store.” His nose rubbed against mine.

My heart, my poor little heart, couldn’t take much more. It was trying to beat its way out of my chest. “Me too.”

His hand rubbed its way through the hair along my neck, until he was tipping my chin up so my lips could meet his. And then right there, in a tent on the trampoline I’d had since I was ten years old, Brooklyn Thorn kissed me. He was tender and sweet, hands touching my face, tongue barely tasting my bottom lip. It felt wonderful and perfect, not too much, left me wanting so much more. He sighed.

“What?” I asked quietly, all of a sudden worried.

“Nothing. It’s just…it’s exactly how I thought it would be.”

“Okay?” I needed more information before I started panicking.

He let go of the hand he’d been holding the whole time and wrapped his arm around me. “Not okay. Amazing.”

I was still kind of freaking out. “Brook, you just kissed me. You said you wanted   to kiss me. Are you gay too? What’s happening here?”

Brooklyn gathered me closer and scooted us further into the tent and onto our pillows. He nuzzled another small kiss on my lips.

“I don’t know. I’m not completely straight. I’ve known that for years.”

“Years?”

“Yeah.” He smiled. “Sixth grade at least–when I looked over at this boy who I used to hate and realized that he had the prettiest lips I’d ever seen and more than anything I wanted to kiss him.”

I choked. How was I supposed to react to that? He wanted to kiss me? I was reeling. “Sixth grade?” It was the only thing I could think of to say.

Brooklyn nodded. “It scared the hell out of me. I mean, you’ve gotta understand that.”

“I do. This isn’t the best place to be gay.”

Brooklyn shuddered. “And my Dad. He’d skin me alive if he knew.”

“Mine probably would too.”

We both sighed, heavy with the knowledge of what it was like to hide.

But it had been necessary. Still was. With that in mind, I covered the grill up and zipped up the tent. We had Brooklyn’s camping lantern turned on low, so there was a glow in the tent, barely bright enough to see by. It was warm and intimate and the light looked gorgeous against Brooklyn’s skin, shining off the halo of tiny hairs on his arms too fine to see in the day and burnishing his golden brown curls until he looked like Apollo or some other bronzed god reclining in his bower. He arched his back and pulled his tank top off. I gulped.

“This okay?”

“Uh, yeah. If you don’t mind me looking.”

He took my hand and put it on his chest, covering it with his own then kissing me lightly. “I definitely don’t mind.” I was nervous all of a sudden.

“Uh, Brook?”

“Don’t worry. I’m not gonna try anything.”

I was relieved and achingly disappointed. “It’s just that I’ve never really done much with anyone before, closet door screwed shut and all.”

“Me neither. The girls at our school really didn’t do anything for me and the guys…well, you know that story. What exactly do you mean by not much?” I just looked at him. I was sure my pathetic inexperience shone bright and clear. “Was that your first kiss?”

“Yeah.”

His forehead wrinkled up. “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing?”

“I would’ve made it better, more special or something.”

I smiled and boldly reached up to touch his caramely curls. “It was perfect.” A quick tug and my shirt was off too and I cuddled my bare chest against Brooklyn’s, sighing at how damn good it felt.

Perfect was a good word.

 

* * * *

 

My dad was gone like he always was. I couldn’t even say when I had seen him last. This time, he was on a trip to California for some food expo. He’d left the night before and was supposedly going to be gone for a week. It was a relief to tell you the truth. We’d never really gotten along and I guessed that once I left for college there wasn’t going to be much contact between the two of us. I talked to my mom most days on the phone. She’d urged me to come spend my last weeks of summer in Houston at my grandparents’ house, and even told me I could bring Brooklyn if I wanted.

I’d finally told my mom–in an awkward stilted phone conversation with a lot of crying (her) and a lot of trying to spit out what I needed to say (me). At the end she told me that she’d love me no matter what, and she’d work on my somewhat conservative grandparents. She also cautioned me not to tell my father. I hadn’t been planning on it. I had the same instinct about how he’d take it.

 

Brooklyn and I were driving home from work in the usual dark of predawn. I was sitting close to him on the bench seat. It was safe to be close when there was no one out on the roads. He had his hand on my thigh and I was laying my head on his shoulder. He’d cut his hair a few days before, caramel curls snipped close to his head. I missed his halo, but he said he’d grow it back when we got to school. His dad had told him he looked like a homo and rather than stir up any trouble he’d just cut it off. Brooklyn lifted his hand from my thigh and draped his arm across the back of my shoulders. I scooted even closer and scrubbed my face against his neck tiredly. He trailed his fingers along my arm and up into hair that had turned all bleached out and surfer cool after half a summer of me not bothering to deal with it.

“You wanna just come to my house and crash? My dad’s gone till the weekend.” I should’ve been nervous just asking that out of nowhere. It wasn’t a small thing. It felt easy though, like the way it should be.

“Yeah?” Brooklyn sounded a little surprised, buy pleasantly so. I nodded against his shoulder. “Well, sure then. Why not? My dad’s already left for work anyway. He starts the ovens up first thing.”

We pulled up to my house and Brooklyn parked. I didn’t want to even move, but I managed to drag my bike to the shed then walk with Brooklyn, hands loosely linked, to the front door. We had a few moments of staring awkwardly at each other before I gestured him towards the stairs down to my room. He’d been in the TV area a few times by then but never all the way back to the end of the hall where I slept. I took his hand again and pulled him behind me until I could close the door of my bedroom and lock it…just in case.

I closed my blinds and curtains so we wouldn’t get woken up when the sun rose right outside my window in less than an hour, then kicked off my shoes tiredly.

We stripped to boxers and climbed into bed, instinctively spooning together under my light coverlet. I was sleepy but I hadn’t slept in Brooklyn’s arms since that night in the tent, so my tired body was immediately on alert. I could feel every velvety inch of his chest against me, the lightly furred expanse of his shins against the back of my legs. My breathing quickened. Brooklyn dragged me up against his chest even closer and kissed the back of my neck. I covered the hand he had on my stomach with mine, curling my fingers around his. I lay there quietly for a while, but my mind was racing.

 

“Are you asleep, Brook?”

He dropped another kiss on my neck. “No. Just thinking.”

“About what?”

“Us. This.”

I tensed. “You don’t want to do it anymore?” I felt like I needed him. Maybe since everything was so different at home.

Brooklyn squeezed me tighter. “Why would you think that?” He wrapped his top leg around mine and held me. I loved it.

“I guess I didn’t. This’s nice. I wish we could do it every day,” I muttered, tired enough that my filter was off.

“I was thinking the same thing. I mean, I know that we’ve still got like a month of summer left, but later do you think we could do this for real?”

“You mean when we get to school?”

I could feel him nod against my neck.

“I wanna be your boyfriend, Dal. I like being yours.”

“I like being yours too.”

“So, yes?”

I turned, careful not to knock his leg off my hip. “Yes. Of course, yes.”

I kissed him then, our first kiss since the trampoline that didn’t have to be furtive and hurried. I relaxed into his touch, returning it with my lips, my curious fingers. It felt really good, different somehow, knowing that he was mine and it wasn’t all just a whim that he’d wake up from some morning wondering what the hell he’d been thinking.

Our kisses turned sleepy and before I knew it, we were nodding off, mumbling tired goodnights as the sun started to bake the ground outside. I couldn’t help but to smile, as tired as I was and snuggled up against Brooklyn’s strong chest.

How could you blame me for smiling? It would’ve been impossible not to.

 

* * * *

 

“Brook, you sure about this?”

I reached out and ran my finger down his chest. God, he was beautiful. And then he smiled. My stomach flip-flopped. That smile…it killed me. Didn’t matter how many times I saw it.

“Yeah, I think so. I mean, aren’t you?”

I nodded. “I want to. In a few weeks we’ll both have roommates. No privacy.” I returned his smile tentatively. “I’ve never, you know, before…I want it to be with you.”

“Me too, Dal. I want you to be the first.”

That would’ve surprised me back when we’d been in school together. He seemed like just one of the many oversexed asshole jocks. But after the summer, after getting to know what he was really about, the fact that he’d waited wasn’t surprising at all.

Brooklyn leaned forward and kissed me, slow and hot, inching his fingers up under my shirt until he could stroke my spine. The touch made me shiver. I couldn’t help it. Brooklyn knew exactly how I liked to be touched. I pulled my annoying shirt up and over my head. We’d kissed shirtless lots of times. It was one of my favorite things to do and I was already craving the contact. I needed to feel his skin on mine. He crawled over me until I was lying back on my comforter, knees up and cradling his hips. We kissed and kissed, touching and memorizing skin. My hands slipped under the waistband of his shorts, finding more smooth skin and sexy muscles. Brooklyn mumbled against my lips. I couldn’t understand him, so I broke away.

“What?” I’m sure my voice sounded as dazed and kiss-drunk as I felt.

“Off,” He groaned. “Take them off.”

I couldn’t help grinning at him. “Yours or mine?”

I got a growly chuckle in return and a pair of desperate hands at the zipper of my shorts. “Both,” he finally answered and moaned in approval when I wriggled my hands between us to work on his buttons.

It was awkward and cramped but neither of us wanted to move, to lose contact. Finally he sighed and rolled off of me after a long kiss so he could shimmy out of his cargo shorts. My jeans came next along with the little black briefs I’d taken to wearing that summer. He didn’t say much but I could see it in his eyes, in the way that he ran his fingertips along the warm patches of sunlight that reflected on my skin from the open window.

He thought I was beautiful. I thought he was too.

I wanted to touch, needed to feel him up against me. I scrambled awkwardly to my knees and pulled him up with me until his arms were wrapped around my waist, mine looped over his shoulders. We were touching then, thighs, chests, and oh God, his cock was right up against mine. It felt better than I’d ever imagined it would.

“We’re really doing this, aren’t we?” I whispered. I couldn’t help smiling, but I buried my face in his neck all the same. I couldn’t control the flutters in my stomach.

“Only if you want to,” Brooklyn answered. His voice was low and strained. He put his fingers under my chin and lifted it until I was looking at him. “Dal, babe, what’s going on?”

“I want to.” I moaned and held him tighter. “I really want to. I’m just nervous, I guess.”

“C’mere” He kneeled and turned me so I was sitting between his bent legs, my back up against his warm chest. He ran his hands over my stomach, down my thighs, back up my flanks. “Your skin feels so good.”

I cupped my hands around his knees and closed my eyes. I loved his touch on me. When he wrapped a strong arm around my chest and pulled me closer I sighed happily. “You feel good too.”

And that’s when I felt it. One of his big work calloused hands wrapping oh so gently around my already so-hard-it-nearly-hurt cock. I shuddered, eyes opening. I had to watch.

“Is this okay?” He asked. I could hear the catch in his voice. I loved that it was as important to him as it was to me.

“Yes.” It felt so good. His hand tightened and stroked firmly. I wanted more. “Brook, can I taste you?” I felt him shudder against my back.

“You don’t have to ask.” He unbent his legs and lay back as I turned. His hair was warm and gorgeous against my white pillows (even if I did still miss the length), his skin glowed golden from the summer sun. I wanted to touch every part of him.

Brooklyn held out a hand and I grabbed it. He pulled until I was sprawled out on top of him, giggling. He let go of my hand to thread his fingers in my floppy bangs and push them away from my face.

“I would’ve never believed it,” he murmured, lifting his head a few inches to nuzzle my lips.

“Hmmm.” I wasn’t really paying attention to anything other than getting more kisses.

“If someone had told me, even just a few months ago, that I would fall head over heels in love this summer I’d have said they were crazy.”

I was still intent on getting more kisses. “MmmHmm, I kno–” It was then that I really heard what he’d said.

“You…love me?” It came out as a whisper. I was almost afraid to say it out loud.

Brooklyn nodded. His eyes looked big and wet and uncertain.

“Brook…I–”

He put his fingers over my mouth. “You don’t have to say it just ‘cause I did.”

I pulled his fingers away. “But I feel it too. I mean we hated each other for so long but now…I can’t imagine a day without touching you, without hearing your voice.” I laughed softly. “Shit, I’m cheesy.”

“No. I mean, I need to be with you too. Like all the time.” He ran his palms down my spine until his hands were cupping my ass and pulling me up against them. “And touching you?” He moaned. “It’s kind of addictive.”

“Brooklyn?” He looked up. I hadn’t called him that in weeks and it must have surprised him.

“Yeah?”

“I love you. I just wanted to say it.”

“I love you, too.”

I gave him a long serious kiss, then a big grin. “Can I suck you now?”

Brooklyn burst into laughter. “Yes, please!”

“Just tell me if I’m doing it right.” I licked and kissed my way down his chest, trying to tease him but really torturing myself just as much. I wanted to try it so bad, see what it tasted like, how hard it felt against my tongue. I sucked on his hip bone, leaving a red mark on the skin. I could smell him, all salty from the heat. It was sexy as hell.

“Dal, babe, please.” Brooklyn was right. It was time. I tried to hide the shaking in my hand when I gripped his hard cock in my hand. I wanted to look confident and sexy, not like a scared kid who was in over his head. My first taste was hesitant, but as soon as I realized how good he tasted–like warm skin and sweat and sex–I wanted more. I took him into my mouth, tasting, feeling the thick hardness of his cock against my tongue.

“God, that feels so…” He made a choking sound when I took him in deeper and sucked as hard as I could. “Fuck.”

I hummed happily around his cock, not even thinking about how that would increase the sensation. Brooklyn made a frantic choking noise and pulled out of my mouth. I felt awful.

“What did I do wrong?” I knew I couldn’t have hurt him. I’d kept my teeth as far from his skin as I could.

He looked like he was concentrating on breathing. “Nothing, babe. Just didn’t want to lose it so quickly.”

“From me?” I was surprised. I had no idea what I was doing, other than from, well, lots of research…and by research I mean the kind where you have to erase your internet history when you’re done so your parents don’t see it.

“Yeah. Come back up here. I wanna kiss you.”

I wriggled back up his body, feeling his cock wet and hard and insistent against my stomach. Brooklyn kissed me and stroked my skin until I squirmed against him so I could increase the pressure of his cock against mine.

“Dallas?”

“Yeah?” My full name got my attention too.

He reached onto the floor and rummaged through the pockets of his shorts. He pulled out a small bottle of lube. “I want you. Only you. I don’t want there to be anyone else, not now, not when we get to school…just not.”

“I don’t either. I’m not looking for a million guys. I only want one. One who’s real.”

“Me?”

I laughed. “Of course you.”

Brooklyn chuckled too and gave me one of those big goofy ass grins that I’d learned to love so much. Then he flipped me over on my back, which startled the hell out of me and made me giggle nervously.

“Your turn. I wanna make you feel so good.”

I didn’t think it was going to be a problem. Just the thought of his hands on me, his mouth, had me arching my back in anticipation. Reality was so much better. I’d already learned to love his lips on my neck, sucking and biting just a little. That same bite-y kiss on the inside of my thighs made my belly quiver.

It was hard not to beg, but I felt like I was holding my breath, waiting, waiting to feel the wet heat of his mouth where I wanted it most. He teased me like I had done to him. Circling around the point but never quite getting to it. Finally when I was arched off the bed and nearly to the place where I was going to start screaming from being so frustrated, he finally, finally took me into his mouth, deep and slow. I grabbed at the blanket and his hair and squeezed my eyes shut.

“Oh, God, God,God.”

It was…holy wow. Yeah. Wow. I could barely breathe from the heat, the suction, the wet pleasure. So good. So damn good. He used his tongue in ways I hadn’t even thought of, those long fingers too, curling and massaging and driving me out of my ever lovin’ mind. I was going to lose it. I knew I was. Brooklyn must have sensed it coming because he gave me one last long licking tug with his mouth then let my cock slip free.

“Good?”

I huffed out a breathless laugh and pushed my head into the pillow. “You’ve gotta ask?”

He smiled up at me from his position between my legs. “I guess not. I wanna try something else, babe. Okay?” He had the lube in his hands. I gulped. Yeah, I was ready. Maybe. Yes? I nodded anyway. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Touch me, Brook.” I spread my legs further to give him any access he needed.

The lube was cold at first against my skin, and the pressure of his fingers felt foreign…but still good in a weird way. I liked how he rubbed against my skin and pushed softly. The Brooklyn that I used to think he was for so long was nothing like the gentle lover kneeling between my legs. When he had me nice and relaxed, loving his touch and not worried about what might come next, he slid two long fingers inside.

My breath caught at the unexpected stretch, but Brooklyn leaned over to kiss me and whisper in my ear.

“I can’t wait to be inside you. You’re gonna feel so good–all hot and tight.” And then he rubbed against what had to be my prostate ‘cause I just about lost it all together. My whole body shivered and I moved my hips to try to get more pressure. It was that freaking amazing.

“Yeah. I wanna try it.” I rubbed my foot on the back of his calf.

“I’m gonna go slow. Kay?” He withdrew his fingers. It felt weird not having him in my body. I nodded when part of me wanted to tell him to go for it. As hard as he could. Slow was what I needed. I knew that logically. What I wanted was all that delicious pressure, the full body shiver, the pounding consuming pleasure.

The desire turned to a bit of nerves when Brooklyn was poised in between my legs, ready to move. But I swallowed the nerves and lifted my knees to his sides. He pushed, gently and hesitantly at first, but then with more pressure until he was stretching me out so far I thought I’d rip in half. My eyes watered.

“Babe, you okay?” Brooklyn looked concerned. He started to pull out. “I’m not going to do this.”

“No, Brook. I want it. Just…hold on for a second.” I shifted and rolled my hips a little, pushing up onto his invading cock. It wasn’t as bad as it had been at first. Weird and full but not so painful. “Try more.”

Brooklyn pushed again, sinking further into me. He changed his angle and the tip of his cock nudged against my prostate. Oh, yeah. That’s what I’m talking about. It still hurt, but the pleasure nearly drowned it out.

“Do it again. Right there.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes, Brook. Now.”

He started moving, and I lifted into it. If only he could maintain that same angle then he’d keep hitting me in the perfect spot again and again and again. It was driving me crazy. It felt so good but it just wasn’t enough. I groaned and rolled my hips to increase the motion. I dug my heels into the bed and pushed up as hard as I could so he could hit it again, again…again. Ohhh. I wanted more.

“God, you’re sexy,” Brook moaned. I opened my eyes to see him watching me, cheeks flushed, mouth open. His eyes were heavy and lidded, the usually golden brown turned deep and melty.

“Feels so good…I need.” I couldn’t come up with the words to ask for it. Only the motions. I pushed to get him deeper and rubbed my achy cock against his stomach, I grabbed at his ass needing him closer, more, touching me everywhere. “Love you, Brook.”

“God, I love you too, Dal.”

He hooked his elbow under my knee and pulled it up flush with my side, opening me up more for his body. I swear he slid even deeper, rubbing against me oh so perfectly the entire time, back and forth, torturous and beautiful. I never wanted it to end, but I couldn’t keep going much more before I burst into tiny little pieces. I could feel the explosion coming. I started to shake hard.

“I need to come, babe. I’m going insane.” My words came out like hoarse pants, breathless and squeaky. I was teetering on the precipice of something far more vast and intense than I’d ever felt before. The power was swirling through me tighter and tighter by the second.

Brooklyn reached between us and wrapped his wonderful roughened hand around my cock and pulled. I shook even harder from the combined touch of his hand on my throbbing cock and his hard desperate presence in my body. It didn’t take much longer, my poor inexperienced willpower couldn’t hold out. Before long, I was screaming and trembling and wrapping my arms around Brooklyn’s muscled shoulders while I came, hot pulsing rushes of pleasure seeping from my body. He plunged deep a few more times before I felt the new sensation of wet heat filling my body. Brooklyn held still over me, breathing hard and trembling himself. Then he lowered his forehead to mine and slowly slid out of my body.

I felt…odd, and wet and loose, joints all jiggly, skin still tingling with the aftermath of my orgasm. It wasn’t unpleasant, though. The whole thing had been so much more than I expected, but less at the same time. Less awkward, less foreign than I’d thought it would be. It had felt good to be with Brooklyn that way. Right, you know? I didn’t have any regrets.

And I felt the same mostly inside, but still somehow a little different. Maybe I was just unsure of what was to come. I needed Brooklyn’s skin next to mine, needed him to hold me and make me feel like everything wasn’t going to be totally weird between us. I was kind of annoyed at myself for being such a wuss about it. That was until Brooklyn pulled me into his arms, still breathing hard and shaking himself.

“I can’t believe we just did that.” His hoarse whisper was right up against my ear. I shivered and wriggled closer.

“Good disbelief or bad?”

He tightened his arms. “Amazing. How could you even ask? I want to try it again, and again.”

“And again?” I chuckled.

Brooklyn tickled my belly. “Love you.”

“I love you too.” Another thing I still wasn’t used to. But I could get used to it. Easily. “Can we stay here for a while? I don’t want to move.”

“Your dad’s really gone till tomorrow?” Brooklyn’s forehead crinkled. I understood his worry. Hated it, but understood. Getting caught by my dad (or his parents for that matter) would cause no end of trouble. It was easier just to wait till we were gone, somewhere else. When we visited my mom the next week in Houston, we’d be able to love on each other all we wanted. She’d already told my grandparents who surprisingly didn’t care at all. A week away then when we came back we’d be getting ready to go to school. We were both looking forward to it.

I nodded. “Yeah. It’s fine. He’s gone, had to check on the shipping center over in Amarillo or something.” I didn’t matter. He was always gone. Some days I wasn’t even sure he’d been there at all the night before. The house seemed empty and unloved. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. If it hadn’t been for Brooklyn I’d have left weeks before.

It would be so easy when we were in college. Or after. When we could go anywhere, do anything, that we wanted. I knew I shouldn’t presume; that we’d stay together, that he’d want to make serious plans with me. Even after what he’d said, nothing was certain. I wanted it, though. All of it. I guessed I could only wait to see what the future held.

Brooklyn tugged on my hair. “Hey. You wanna walk to the DairyFreeze and get a frosty cone?”

I had to smile. “Are you hungry again?”

“Yeah.”

He was always hungry. “Okay. Give me twenty minutes to relax and collect myself and then we’ll go.”

* * * *

“Next in line please!” I felt like I’d been standing there forever, right behind Brooklyn in the “p-t” line at registration. We were picking up our class schedules, our dorm assignments, everything that would shape our lives for the next few months at least. My stomach was a little fluttery. I hoped my roommate was cool with everything. I wasn’t going to go back to Sugarcreek, literally or in any other way. Brooklyn turned around holding his packet in his hands. He looked a little nervous too.

“Hey, I’ll meet you at the tree over there.” He pointed to a big oak about fifty feet away.

I nodded and went up to get my papers. After I had the thick envelope in my hand, I ripped it open and shuffled through the schedules and orientation pamphlets, looking for what I was worried about the most—my dorm assignment. I hoped it didn’t suck.

Please don’t let it suck.

Martin Hall. Room 208. It was a freshman dorm, not the nicest but it was in a good part of campus. I wouldn’t have to walk a million miles to get to class every day. That was a relief.

“Hey, babe. What dorm did you get?” Brooklyn was looking over his papers.

“Martin.”

“Me too! Nice. I’m in two—“

I caught a glance at his paper and snorted. I couldn’t help smiling. He saw my grin and he already knew.

“You’re in two oh eight too, aren’t you?”

I nodded, then I started laughing. Brooklyn joined in, laying his head on my shoulder and reaching down to thread our fingers together without even glancing around to see who might be looking. We weren’t in Sugarcreek anymore. That much was for sure.

It figured that we’d been stuck together again. Why not? We always were. I was starting to wonder if me and Brooklyn Thorn might just be stuck together for life. I have to say that was fine with me.

I could think of far worse things.

 

 

 

Comments are closed