Over the next couple of weeks I began to get my bearings in the community.
I spent Saturdays and Sundays working for my Uncle Carl on his boats. I guess it’s in my blood because I took to running them like a fish to water. By my fourth week out I already knew how to pilot them in and out of the harbor and guide them into their slips with barely a bump. Even working the sonar and navigating to the best fishing grounds wasn’t too difficult.
I liked the Sorsha Lynn best; she responded easier, and the other three men employed as crew members when we took out fishing charters were young and easy to get along with. They all had connections to some good-quality weed and sometimes bought it for me behind Carl’s back. For a man who used enough herb himself, he took exception to me getting high, maybe because he was afraid I’d be careless or do something that would reflect badly on his business. I like to think it was because he cared about me.
Outside of the work that was giving me a taste of the real world and earning me some pocket change, there was school where I was holding my own. It was my grounding point where I could see Jesse every day.
He had met me at the front entrance of the high school the morning following our first movie date. Lifting to reach my mouth, he tried to kiss me and I backed up, startled. The chill that swept over his face pierced me, and he said in a low voice, “What’s wrong?”
I felt ashamed of myself but this wasn’t something I could do in front of the student bodies, even if there were only seven hundred of them. I had always been a very cautious guy, and still with the care I’d taken to keep my bisexual side hidden look what had happened in Rancho Martinez. I wanted to trust Jesse, but this was such a new and different situation I was all kinds of afraid.
“I like you, Jesse,” I said slowly, gazing around carefully to make sure nobody else was listening in. “But I can’t do shit like kiss you in public.”
He hitched up an eyebrow. “Seriously, Shane?”
“Please don’t judge me,” I begged. “It is very hard for me to trust people.”
“Last night you were acting a lot like you wanted to be with me,” Jesse did a half-turn and crossed his arms in disdain. “Was that playing me?”
“No,” I exclaimed in a rush before he lost all belief in me. “No, it wasn’t. But my last… my last boyfriend, um… it ended in a bad way. Lots of drama that was too out there to handle.”
The harsh set of his face told me that he needed more convincing. “I’m not embarrassed about being with you. I think I just need time, okay? Please give me time.”
He studied me for interminable seconds while I bit my lip. “I really do care about you,” I whispered, fiercely hoping to convince him. “I want to try to build something between us because the spark is already here.”
I put my hand over my heart and the edges of his mouth curved upwards, like he was fighting a smile. “You are such a sap,” he muttered with a leer. Finally he came to a decision. “Alright, we’ll do it your way for now. Friends at school, boyfriends or whatever you call it everywhere else.”
“Outside Calberia,” I amended, and he rolled his eyes. This was such a small town that gossip would travel from one end to the other with the force of a tornado.
“Fine,” Jesse grumbled, and we walked through the front gate like the best of friends.
I thought I had a fairly good self-image… well, apart from how my parents made me feel. Now I was beginning to doubt myself. My discomfort in talking about them carried over into those early days, and I found myself doing the same thing with Jesse that I had with my friend, Gordie. I ran circles around the real reason I was living with my father and tried to make light of it. But I had to tell him something because we were saw each other every day; whereas, Gordie was just a long-distance friend… well, something like that.
“Moving to Calberia is more like me coming home,” I explained. We were back in the library working out the newest details on our English term paper a couple days after our first date. “My mom and dad both grew up in town, and I was born here.”
“Hmm, I wonder if they know my family,” Jesse excitedly mused.
“I doubt it,” I answered scornfully. “Mom wouldn’t admit to being from Calberia in a million years, and my father doesn’t spend enough time with his head out of his ass to know anyone local except his girlfriend, my uncle and a couple poker pals.”
“Who is your uncle?”
“You know Carl Weatherby, the guy who rents out his big boats to take people out on the ocean to fish and dive?” Jesse nodded, placing his binder in his backpack, and my eyes snapped in pride. “He’s my mom’s brother. I work for him on the weekends.”
“So how did you end up moving away?”
I shrugged. “My parents split up when I was really little. Most of what I remember of my early life was them constantly bickering with each other. Not having enough şişli escort money and stuff. Anyway, one day when I was three and a half my mom just put me in the car and we left. We ended up in Rancho Martinez and moved in with Whit, my step-dad. Mom must have been having an affair with him for a long time before she ever left Dad.”
“Where’s Rancho Martinez?”
“Orange County, northeast of Disneyland.”
Jesse got a huge smile on his face. “Disneyland, huh? My mom and sister took me there three years ago. We stayed for two days and had so much fun.”
“Yeah, well try going nine times in one year.” I rolled my eyes. “Whit bought us all annual passes when I was thirteen, and every time relatives came out to visit we went to Disneyland. It got old after awhile.”
“So what happened with you and your mom?” Getting back to my story.
I laughed ruefully. “She was already pregnant with my twin sisters when we left Calberia. Whit’s their bio dad. Of course that’s the real reason Mom left my father. She and Whit got married after her divorce was final. Plus, he’s some trust fund baby so he could give Mom a lot more than my dad could financially.”
“Oh, I see now.” Jesse’s eyes lit up in understanding while his brows flew into his hairline. And he probably figured he did, based on what I’d told him about my constant squabbling with Roxie and Suzie.
When I started seeing Jesse, what consciously began to run through my head was how lucky I was to be his choice for a boyfriend. I was knowingly falling in love with him and it was a scary confession for me to make. I didn’t think I’d ever been in love before. Crushes yes, but not love. Certainly not with Owen and the other boys I’d fucked in Rancho Martinez, and not even with any of my former girlfriends.
I wished there was a way I could be be with Jesse all the time, and there was even a part of me that realized how much easier my life would have been if he was a girl. I hastily stomped on that thought and focused on how amazing he made me feel when we were together and how I wanted to be a better person for him.
His was perfection I never got tired of looking at. Five-foot-ten and built like a beanpole, but there was nothing weak or slack about him. Dancing made him graceful, and he seemed to be all leg. His nose had just the barest of hooks on the end that gave his face character, and with his olive coloring his cheeks shone more peach than pink when he blushed. Huge golden eyes edged in the thick blackness of his lashes and those soft, full lips. Jesse was made to be loved.
He was a big part of helping me through the rough spots in the coming days as he introduced me to students he knew and they decided to befriend me for his sake. Most of them were in the drama or music department; they weren’t the most popular students at Calberia High, but they were nice enough. I truly appreciated Jesse trying to integrate me into some sort of social set. I told myself it was only for three months anyway.
We completed the Brontë sisters English project and got an A on it which surprised him a lot. He’s very smart, but he had an undiagnosed dyslexia problem as a child that kept him from understanding the material he read and it wasn’t discovered until he was in seventh grade. In school, it’s all about comprehension, and he’s been struggling ever since to catch up. Getting such an exceptional grade was like a ’10’ on the Richter scale for him.
He lived with his mother, his grandfather, an older sister named Jenna and her three-year-old son close to the freeway on the other side of town. Sandra Capps, his mom, had given birth to her older child while still in her teens and never had the advantage of a college education. She worked two, sometimes three jobs to pay the bills, mostly because his grandpa was a retired Vet who had been severely wounded in Vietnam. His injuries did not require nursing care, but he couldn’t work and it made him peevish to feel useless.
Jesse’s sister was trying to balance a job and her sophomore year at UC Santa Barbara with motherhood. They were native to the area and he had a large extended family, including a cousin named Chad who was in his early twenties and his best friend too. Chad was the only one of his relatives who knew he was gay.
As Jesse described it, he wasn’t afraid of making his mother angry; he simply didn’t want to disappoint her. She had never stinted in her love for him and lived for her two children. His grandfather, however, was another story. A career Marine, he had an old-fashioned view of what made a man a man and gay was definitely not okay. He would never do anything to hurt Jesse physically, but he had a temper and a sharp tongue, and his caustic remarks would be difficult to live with.
Jesse and I were totally simpatico. Like there were so many things we shared in common it was rather scary. We loved The Offspring, the native Californian punk rock band that has been around mecidiyeköy escort for almost thirty years. I had to admit that my zeal wasn’t as fanatical as Jesse’s, but I admired his style. He had t-shirts from all the major tours, some vintage. He knew the lyrics to all the songs by heart. He owned every studio and greatest hit CD and DVD they had ever put out as well as vinyls of both Smash and Ignition. Neither of us could afford tickets for their Days Go By tour, but we both had the CD and agreed that Americana was a far better album.
Of course, we both wanted the current marriage laws to reflect that love didn’t depend on gender so we were both registered Democrats. Money wasn’t important—okay, we didn’t want to be destitute, but being happy and feeling that we were making a difference in this world counted more than being rich. Honesty, even blunt honesty, won out every time over lies spoken in false sympathy. What we liked to wear, favorite sports teams, what we construed as humor… we should have been twins.
Let’s see. We both hated chocolate icecream. Our favorite soft drink was Dr. Pepper, and we tried to stay away from processed foods. Neither of us could have pets because I was allergic to dogs and his face swelled up around cats. Our favorite color was blue. We had lived all of our lives without grandmothers; Mom’s parents resided in Florida and refused to budge, and my dad’s mother died when I was a baby. Jesse had no idea who his father was which nixed the grandmother role, and Sandra’s mother was also long gone.
We started meeting up at the far end of the cracked asphalt lot after the school day where we took to parking our cars next to each other so we could talk intimately without being overheard. After noticing that no one was really paying attention to us, I stopped minding him standing so close that our bodies touched.
“Can you come over tonight?” I asked quietly a couple days after our first date. “My dad goes directly from work to see his girlfriend in the evenings so I’m alone at home.”
His eyes darkened dramatically, like he was contemplating the two of us in the house without supervision, and he nodded. “Let me go home, do my homework and get something to eat.”
“I’ll cook dinner for you,” I offered. I was tired of thrown-together food out of boxes and having nobody to talk to. It also meant Jesse would arrive sooner.
His eyes sparkled with the promise. “I’ll get permission from my mom and text you.”
Getting excited at the prospect of showing off for him, I asked, “What do you like to eat?” My dad had a freezer in the garage that was stuffed with all sorts of meat and delicious fixings I rarely indulged in because it wasn’t worth the trouble to do for myself.
He shrugged. “I like everything.”
Taking a chance I reached over and brushed my fingers over his hand. “Okay, text me and let me know.”
An hour later found me rushing around the kitchen, my hair sticking up in damp clumps as I timed pots of food on the stove with a small chicken roasting in the oven. By the time Jesse arrived at 5:30 I had mashed garlic into the fluffy potatoes, prepared the nearly lumpless gravy to go on top, baked a pan of cornbread and steamed some frozen broccoli.
“Cool,” he pronounced in appreciation when I led him into the house fragrant with the smell of my cooking. “I’m starving.”
We fell upon the food ravenously and wolfed down almost all of it in no time. “You’re a good cook,” he told me later after the dishes were stacked in the dishwasher and the kitchen cleaned up. “You’ll make someone a fine wife some day.” I threw the sponge at him.
We sat down to watch Red on DVD, which he had never seen, and ended up cuddling on the couch. He had his head in my lap and I watching him in profile, running my fingers through his wavy black hair and feeling the way the soft ends tickled my hand. He would get this little scrunched-up line between his eyebrows when the action in the movie turned intense but my hand on his head seemed to relax him. It was kind of nice just being with him here like this, quiet and not saying anything but comfortable.
The film ended and Jesse sort of roused himself, so maybe he’d begun to doze off. He rolled off the couch to land on his feet. When I tried to get up my legs had fallen asleep and I stumbled. Jesse grabbed me to save me from a fall against the glass-edged coffee table, and there I was, in his arms again.
I took advantage and kissed his forehead, then that squiggling wrinkle between his eyes, the tip of his nose until I reached his mouth. Brushing just the corner, I gave him small pecks until I could take his bottom lip between my teeth and nibble on it. By that time we were staring deeply into each other’s eyes, and I saw want burning there. The fire that flitted across his face warmed my trembling body.
He cupped my head in his hand and began to kiss me over and over. I grabbed him hard istanbul escort by the shoulders, pressing my lips into his firmly. Starting out with us just fitting our mouths together, it was setting off sparks of excitement inside. He opened his lips and let my tongue in, and we moaned, licking, tasting and pushing back and forth. A whole new flood of emotions began to overwhelm me as his insistence surged into my mouth. Holy shit, this boy really knew how to kiss!
At last he drew back, a strange mixture of delight and bewilderment warring with determination. His jeans were bulging at the crotch like mine were, and he blew a rapid puff of air out that lifted his bangs off his forehead. I saw a bead of sweat trickle down the side of his neck.
“I don’t know what it is about you, Shane, but you make my emotions go crazy,” he laughed ruefully, running his fingernails softly down my cheek.
I shivered and tried to joke back. “I can’t even think straight when we’re together.” I captured his hand in mine and kissed his chin. “You make me want to get naked with you and take you to bed so we can be alone. I would make you feel so good.”
Jesse’s eyes went dark and his cheeks turned a beautiful shade of apricot, but all of a sudden he frowned. “I want the same thing, but we shouldn’t rush this. I… I, um… don’t do that kind of thing… not unless I know… for sure, you know. We would have to be, um… together- together. I’m not into casual hook-ups.”
That brought me up short because all of my hook-ups had been exactly that, casual. This was a switch in my plans I wasn’t sure I was ready for. Commit to one person and be loyal to him. Me- faithful? Never had tried that, and never had wanted to either.
But with Jesse? He would be so worth it. The trouble was, there were emotional risks to consider before I could make up my mind and doing so would require far more time than I had at present standing here holding Jesse’s hand.
When I didn’t speak Jesse lowered his latte-shaded eyes which was a shame because they were too gorgeous to hide. I could tell he was slightly hurt I didn’t offer instantaneous vows of devotion, and once again I found myself having to placate him and squelch a misunderstanding in the making. I stepped up and tipped his chin up with my finger. I lay one gentle kiss on his lips.
“Give me a chance to think,” I pleaded. “This means too much already and I don’t want to mess with you. I think I know where it’s going, but I need time to decide on the together- together so I don’t hurt you, okay?”
He smiled slowly. In my defense I wasn’t trying to lead him on or make false promises I had no intention of keeping, and I hoped he recognized that I was attempting to be worthy of his trust. Being exclusively with a person, especially another guy, was a whole new animal to me. Fucking it up would not only ruin this growing bond between us, it would damage Jesse too. For the first time in my life, I was actually putting someone else first and not just thinking of myself.
Jesse kissed me goodnight and went home a little while later. I sighed, preparing for another night of jacking off in my lonely bed but knowing I was doing the right thing.
Over the next couple of weeks Jesse got two new notes from his stalker, but I didn’t find out about the first one right away. He tried to keep it from me which made me aware that he was more somber about the being threatened than he was willing to own up to. I just happened to see it peeking out from under his textbooks in his locker and when I asked he shrugged and said it had been pushed through the vent around the end of February. He handed it to me: ‘I h8 little fairies.’ Then he tried to pretend it didn’t bother him.
Walking into the parking lot after class one afternoon a few days later I spied the newest threat taped to his driver’s-side window. I didn’t even let him get to it first; I ripped it from the glass before he had a chance to touch it. “It’s EZ 2 h8 queers like U,” I read out loud, exploding in anger. “Damn it, Jesse.”
“What do you want me to do?” he asked defensively, scuffing the toe of his boots on the tarmac. “You act like this is my fault.”
I tried to calm down because it wasn’t fair to take this out on him. “It isn’t that. I’m just worried. This has gone on long enough. You need to talk to an adult.”
“Nobody is really threatening me,” he pointed out. “It’s just ugly words. Probably someone like Mark trying to scare me.”
“So far,” I scowled. “What if it isn’t just some bully?”
“Come on, Shane,” Jesse cried soothingly. “It has to be a student. All the notes have been in my locker or on the car. Who else could it be? I don’t know anyone, including Mark, who hates me enough to hurt me.”
I let myself be convinced because I didn’t want to look like the overly-panicked baby who was jumping at shadows. So I didn’t point out to him that the school operated like small-town middle-America and had an open-door policy where anyone could get on campus to stick something in a locker without being caught. The parking lot wasn’t fenced either. Jesse’s stalker didn’t have to necessarily be a student, but he was unwavering in his assumption that we shouldn’t worry.