Authors: J. Roman
I scrolled through my contacts until I found what I needed.
Hey Kev, can you give me a ride to my house after school? J is meeting me there
Don’t know. He seems off but idk
Don’t have sex with him
That gave me pause. What the hell kind of advice was that? He was my boyfriend, and if we wanted to, no one, Kevin included, would stop us. It brought me back to the thought I’d had over the weekend. Maybe we shouldn’t wait. Maybe that was what we needed to take things to the next level. My body was certainly keen on the idea. Jason was gorgeous, and he knew it. His deep green eyes and pretty, plush lips beckoned anything with a pulse. He was a sexual creature, and I was seventeen. If everyone could give me the excuse of teenage hormones, I could give myself the same excuse. Jason had asked me to wait, and I had respected him. But if he changed his mind, I would oblige him.
I didn’t reply to Kevin’s message. I figured I didn’t need to. Besides that, I had arrived at my classroom, and if Mrs. Fox saw me with my cellphone in my hand, she would give my ass detention, and that was something I couldn’t afford today.
didn’t mention anything about his message when he met me in the quad after class. I had decided in sixth period that Nathanial Hawthorne was a long-winded prick for writing
The Scarlet Letter
and torturing generations of students with its tedium. Everything he said could’ve been said in about ten pages minus all his stupid nine-page descriptions of the rose petals and curtains. I still had no idea what was going on in my seventh period Spanish class, and I made a mental note to ask Uncle Charlie, who spoke Spanish and French fluently, to help me with my homework. Coach had seemed disappointed when I’d swung by his room to tell him I wasn’t coming to the last practice before our meet, but he let it slide since I hardly ever missed and just told me to feel better.
Kevin and I walked silently to the jammed parking lot where his ’69 red Corvette sat off to the side, away from most of the regular cars in an effort to protect it. Angelina’s electric blue VW convertible bug was parked beside it.
“When you see him, tell him to call me,” Kevin commanded, unlocking the driver’s side door before crawling in and unlocking my door.
“I will,” I promised. “You could come in and see him, you know.”
He shook his head. “He doesn’t want me. He called you. He’s avoiding me because he knows I’ll kick his ass for leaving something good for whatever dumbass reason he’s come up with. So I’m relying on you to do it for me.”
“You really care about him, huh?” I tried not to let the spark of jealousy I felt enter my voice, but I don’t think I managed it.
He cranked the engine. “He’s my brother. I would move hell for him if I could. He’s just not easy to do things for. My parents would take him in a heartbeat if he’d put aside that pride of his and let someone help him. I don’t want him like you do, man. When we were younger, I tried to like him like that. I think he maybe wanted it to be like that between us at one time, but I can’t be gay any more than he can be straight. We’re friends, closer than blood, but still just friends.”
Reassured, I nodded. I could understand that. Rick and I hadn’t been nearly as close, but we’d been in that moment of “Could you? Could I?” at one time. Turned out we couldn’t any more than Jason and Kevin could’ve.
The drive home was blessedly short, and I started anticipating Jason’s mood. From his texts, it wasn’t an easy job to do. Would he be playful or moody? It was always a toss-up with him.
Capricious, thy name is Jason Strummer
. Kevin parked by the mailbox at the end of my driveway and shook my hand as I gathered my backpack from the floorboard.
“Take care of him, Tommy,” Kevin said.
“I will.” There was nothing else to say, and I imagined that Kev was probably late for football practice. I got my bag, opened the door, and then stepped out onto the drive. My footsteps clicked at a quicker-than-normal pace as I went around to the back of the house where my uncles left a spare key hidden in a ceramic turtle beside the back porch steps. I looked at my phone to check the time. It was three forty. Jason should be here by now. I bent to check the turtle and found it empty. He was waiting inside.
I climbed the steps and opened the door that went into the kitchen. Everything was familiar and in place. “Jason?” I called. Maybe he was in the living room. It was then I noticed my bedroom door was shut.
. My heart started to pound with the implications of that.
“In here,” his muffled voice came through the door, and I hesitated only a moment before I turned the knob and pushed the door open. The sight that greeted me sent my pulse into overdrive. A very shirtless Jason was lying on his back on my bed, hands behind his head like something out of a movie. He gave me that smart-ass smirk he used when he was playing.
“Welcome home, Tommy boy. Miss me?” He cracked up. “I always wanted to say that.” He sat up. “Glad you’re here.”
My mouth was impossibly dry all of a sudden. “I did miss you.” My eyes raked him, snagging on the planes of his abdomen and continuing down to his jean-clad legs.
An almost predatory glint came into his eyes, and he rolled out of bed and came at me. “Yeah? How much?” He reached for me, and I didn’t resist it when he pulled my head down for a kiss. I groaned without meaning to and wrapped my arms around his muscled body. My mind blanked, completely devoid of any thought as our bodies merged where our mouths met.
I couldn’t help my wandering hands as the intensity shifted to something more than it had ever been before. Kevin’s warning rang out in my head suddenly as Jason tugged me down to my mattress and we began the grinding dance we’d done many times before.
Don’t have sex with him
. Did this count? I couldn’t remember why it was a bad idea or why I had ever considered it a bad idea.
“Tommy?” Jason asked, tugging on my shirt in an effort to get it off. I reared back and pulled it over my head before tossing it to the other side of my room.
“What?” I wanted him in the worst way. I wanted him more than I had wanted anything in the history of people wanting things. It was damn close to “needing.”
“You unpacked your mom’s stuff,” he said. It wasn’t what I expected him to say, but I wasn’t in a position to care about the shift. I kissed him and let him work the buckle of my pants as our tongues tangled.
“Yeah.” What did that have to do with anything? His hands cupped the most intimate part of me through my boxers, and I groaned.
. How was I supposed to have a conversation now?
“Does that mean you’re ready to let her go or something?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess. Maybe.”
“Okay.” Then he was kissing me again, and somehow we both managed to get one another’s clothes off down to our underwear. Green eyes looked at me under half-lowered lashes. “Tommy, I want you.”
“Want you too, Jason. Always.” I swallowed as everything in my body grew frantic with need.
“I love you, Tommy. I think I’m ready for more.” The sentence didn’t penetrate my fogged mind for a good ten seconds.
Jason shifted and looked almost nervous when he next spoke. “I want all of it. I think, you know, that I’m ready to go on now.”
I swallowed. Kevin had said—
. This was about Jason and me. We’d been through a lot in the time we’d been going out, and we’d waited later than most people at our school to take things to the next level. I nodded. I was ready too.
He grinned up at me like he’d won the lottery, and I knew I’d made the right choice. We stripped one another down to nothing and laughed as I fumbled the condom in my shaking hands. I didn’t tell him, but I’d never gotten this far with anyone else I’d been with, and I was nervous as hell that Jason freaking Strummer would be my first. I never felt so powerful as I did in the moment he wrapped his arms around me and whispered breathy encouragements in my ear. This was heaven, and Jason was my angel.
I came apart at the seams a moment later, and I didn’t even care if the jagged edges ever fit back together. Being broken by Jason was the best experience of my life.
on my back with Jason curled on my chest, sweat-slicked and drowsy. Every fiber in my body was completely and utterly relaxed, and I felt a giddy high unlike anything I’d felt before. I didn’t want to move. I just wanted to bask in this. Jason made a sound, and I thought it was a sigh at first.
“That was great,” I managed to say. I was supposed to say stuff like that after, right? He didn’t answer, just held on tighter. I frowned. “Wasn’t it?” I didn’t have much to go by, but Jason had orgasmed. I saw it.
“Yeah,” he whispered. “It was great, Tommy boy.” The rough note didn’t set well with me. I tipped his head and looked down in bewilderment. Tears glittered in those pretty green depths. “What happened? Did I do something wrong?”
“No,” he said, the tears spilling over to streak down his cheeks. “I’m sorry. I just needed… something. I—” He shut his mouth, his jaw ticking in some unnamed emotion. My moment of euphoria vanished.
“You went back to your house,” I said, knowing it was true and sick to my stomach to know it was true. His whole body started shaking. I knew then that he’d used me. I’d been another drug he’d used to numb himself. This hadn’t been about us. It had been about his stepdad. I felt sick.
“I told you I needed you,” he managed to say in a broken voice. I shook my head, denying the fucked up situation. “He was going to the cops, Tommy. He said he was going to come after your family. I had no choice.”
“No. Fuck that! You had a damn choice, Jason. You chose to go back to that place and be used by that….” I couldn’t even come up with a good name for what his stepdad was. Anger twisted my insides into knots. “I can’t do this. I can’t.” I pulled away from him and got to my feet. I deposited the condom in the trashcan with a disgusted grimace and started pulling on my clothes. Kevin had been right. I shouldn’t have slept with him.
“Tommy, no. Don’t say that. I love you. I mean, I really love you. I can’t do this by myself, please—”
“Stop talking! For God’s sake stop talking!” I snapped, unable to bear the sight of him. “You won’t let anyone help you, and I can’t live like this. I won’t.” I pulled on my shirt, the final piece of my wardrobe, and turned back to him. He had pulled my covers up to his chin and was crying softly. “Get your shit and get out, Jason. I will
be a booty call for you. I’m trying to heal, and you are a knife that keeps cutting me open.”
He took a deep breath, and I saw the transformation come over him. Like a fisherman reeling in his gear, his mask slid back into place. Silently, he gathered his things and pulled on his shoes. He paused at the door as he went to leave. “Please, don’t, Tommy. I’ll be better.”
I sighed. “No you won’t, Jason. You know you won’t. You won’t be better until someone makes you be better, and I’m not strong enough to do that.” I’d finally reached my limit with him. I didn’t know how strong my resolve was, but it would have to be strong enough. I loved him, but in this instance love wasn’t enough to make things all better. This wasn’t a fairy tale and I wasn’t Prince Charming, or if I was, my Cinderfella sure as hell wasn’t letting me slay the dragon.
He swallowed and nodded before walking out the door and out of my life. I heard the kitchen door close and let myself mourn the second most devastating loss in my life.
passed, and my life became one of habit. I went through the motions of life but couldn’t bring myself to really enjoy it. I finally conceded to Uncle Mark’s pleas to talk to someone, so I started doing some counseling with the same guy Dean went to every Tuesday and Thursday, unless I had a wrestling meet. I trained like a crazy person for swim season and improved my time by a full five seconds by the time Thanksgiving rolled around. And if that could be a measure of happiness, I suppose I considered myself pretty content.
Jason resumed his normal routine, from what I’d seen in the few moments I’d glimpsed him at school. There were times when I caught his eye and thought I saw lingering love and pain, but I couldn’t be sure. He hadn’t dated anyone after we broke up, and I hadn’t heard any whispers about who he was sleeping with. It made me wonder if he was sleeping with anyone.
I went back to hanging out with my other friends, and the pond barely rippled as I was welcomed back into the fold of my old lunch table. I missed Jason like I missed summer break in the long spring semester before school let out. He was right there but unattainable, and it hurt to be away from him. Kevin hadn’t talked to me since that day he’d dropped me off at my house to meet Jason, and I couldn’t say I really cared. Let Kevin stand by while Jason killed his soul little by little and day by day. I couldn’t take watching him do that to himself.
It was only two days before Thanksgiving break began, and I was looking forward to having the week off. I knew Uncle Mark and Uncle Charlie were planning a picnic up to Pisgah National Forest the Friday we got out of school. It was cold, but the sunshine would make a high-noon picnic bearable. The last of the leaves still clung to the trees, but it wouldn’t be as pretty as it had been during September and October in the height of leaf season. The rolling mountains were pretty even without the display of gold, red, and orange leaves. My mom loved this time of year. I’d have to ask my uncles if we could drop off a bouquet on our way there. I hadn’t done that since the funeral, and I really wanted to.
The bell rang, and I came out of the contemplation of my Thanksgiving plans to the sound of Mr. Pressley instructing us on what problems in our book were due by Friday while handing out worksheets for the cumulative Algebra II exam after the break. Having math class right before lunch sucked. I could never pay proper attention, and I had the sneaking suspicion I would barely scrape by with a C by semester’s end. I closed my notebook and stuffed it and my pencil in my backpack before standing up from my desk and heading toward the door.