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Authors: Jordan Nasser

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BOOK: Home is a Fire
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Fuck it. Now or never. My heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest as I leaned up slowly… and kissed him softly, once, on the lips. He didn’t kiss back, but he didn’t push me away, either. I pulled back, my heart pounding.

“Derek, I…” he started to speak, but stopped and just looked at me, with an air of sadness in his eyes.

“I’m sorry. I just. I don’t know,” I sputtered. “I’ve just wanted to, and I thought, well… I just did it. I’m sorry. God. I’m really sorry. I should go.” I sat up in the grass quickly, ready to act on the urge to run away.

“No. Hey. Don’t freak out. It’s cool,” he said, reaching out to place his hand on my arm, keeping me there. “If I were to be honest with you, I’d say… I’m glad you did it. I mean, I never would have. You kept your eye on the prize, right?”

“Wait. What?” Did I hear that right?

“I’m glad you did it,” he said, quietly. “Made the first move. I was too chicken, Derek.”

I stared at him, dumbfounded. I wasn’t crazy! It wasn’t all in my mind!

“Wait. What?!”

“You said that already.” And he laughed, reached up with his hand and placed it on the back of my neck, and pulled me into him. The second kiss was soft and gentle, but the fireworks in my head were anything but.

We pulled apart, slowly, and I couldn’t help but stare into his eyes as he looked into mine. “Holy shit,” I whispered. “Luke
Walcott just kissed me.”

“I’d like to do more than kiss you, but we’re kind of hiding behind a tree in a public park, and I’m about to freak the fuck out,” he said. He was serious. I could see the mix of fear and lust in his eyes, and I remembered that emotion all too well. I could taste his sweat on my lips, and I wanted more, but I knew he was right. We needed to hightail it out of there.

“Yeah, sure, I get that. Let’s get out of here,” I said. We got up off the grass and walked slowly towards the parking lot. He kept his eyes towards the ground, but I could feel myself grinning for every gay boy on the planet who pined after that elusive man they always dreamed of but thought they could never get.

“So… you wanna hang out?” I asked. I hoped. “Do something? Move in together? Would you prefer a spring or fall wedding?” I didn’t want this moment to end.

He laughed at my attempt at humor. “Slow down there, buddy. This is all kinda new to me, remember? No marriage proposals yet, okay?”


“I was thinking we start with something small. How about dinner this week?” he said. “I know a quiet place we can go, and the chef’s pretty good. My place.”

“Sounds great,” I said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

“Listen, I hope you understand. I don’t think I can go
yet. Dinner at my place is a good start, but can we take it from there? And sorry, but I have to be ‘that guy.’ Can you keep Bammy out of this? I’m not a greyhound like you. I need to
take this one pretty slow. Cool?” He looked over at me, his jaw muscles clenching and unclenching. I remember that fear of the unknown, and of course I had to respect his wishes.

“Absolutely. No Bammy,” I said.

“What’s this?” he said, as he pulled the note from the windshield of the pick up truck.

“Are you driving this?” I said. “But you have a Jeep?”

“It’s in the shop. Scooter is replacing the alternator. This is my father’s truck. What the fuck? Someone left a note that says ASSHOLE.”

“Really? Huh. I wonder why?” Oh, shit. Oh, shit, Derek. Are you really going to screw this up before it ever begins?

“Some psycho wrote this rambling note that says I parked over the line. What a jerk! I had to. When I pulled in, the guy next to me was over the line, and I had no choice. It was the last spot,” he explained.

“Oh, wow. Yeah, I get that.
. Wonder who could have left that note? What a jerk,” I said, in what felt like my most unconvincing voice.

“Whatever. I’m not going to let some douche ruin my day. Not when I feel as good as I do right now.” With that, he winked at me, opened the door to his borrowed car and hopped in. “Catch you soon, buddy. And uh, thanks.” And with that, he was off.

I watched his car slowly drive away and my knees began to give out underneath me. I couldn’t believe that all just happened. Am I breathing? He just kissed me and asked me out on a date. Luke just kissed ME. I floated down the hill on my wobbly legs and climbed into Willie.

Every fiber of my being was shaking with the full force of my emotions. I was a volcano about to erupt! And I promised Luke I would not tell Bammy anything.

But I didn’t say a word about Kit…

■ ■ ■

I raced home from the park, pulled into our driveway and stepped into the living room. Uncle Barry was watching
Dancing With The Stars
while perched in his easy chair with his feet up on an overstuffed ottoman and a bowl of popcorn in his lap. Mom was in the kitchen checking on something in the oven.

“Hey guys, what’s up?” I said. I was smiling. A lot. Perhaps too much?

“Well, someone’s all a sparkle,” Barry said, one eyebrow raised, hand reaching for his cocktail.

“Hi, sweetie,” said Mom. “I wasn’t sure if you were here for dinner tonight. I have enchiladas in the oven. Want to help me with the salad?”

“Cool. Do I have time for a quick shower? I’m heading out after dinner to meet Kit,” I said.

“Sounds good. Be quick though, will ya? The enchiladas are basically ready.” Mom liked us all to eat together, like a family. I think it was the one good constant in her life. She wasn’t fond of dinners in front of the television. She preferred to have us sit around the table so we could catch up on our day. It was nice, actually.

I ran up to my room, sat on the edge of my bed and let out a little happy scream. It was so hard to not let myself get carried
away, but this feeling was too intense to ignore. I had been right. I was really right! But then again, so many of the “right” ones in the past turned out to be total emotional breakdowns. Breathe, Derek, breathe. Maybe I need to ignore this one just a bit? Take it easy, and by all means, do NOT pressure him.

I was in and out of the bathroom in ten minutes and then down to the kitchen counter to put the salad together. Uncle Barry was setting the table as Mom placed the enchiladas in the center and I plated three quick side salads. Those days spent in restaurant service during college were proving a lot more useful than that chemistry class I hated so much.

“So, you seem to be in a super good mood. Is it the job? We’ve barely seen you around here, honey,” said Mom.

these enchiladas smell good!” I said, heaping my plate with food and hoping to avoid the
why are you so damn happy?
question. Quick. Get them talking about something else. “Work’s been great, actually. Kind of strange to be back in that building, of course, but I’m getting used to that. I think in some ways you always feel like a kid in school, no matter how old you get.”

“Stay young as long as you can,” said Barry. “Trust me. The alternative isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

“How’s Bammy?” asked Mom.

“Oh, she’s awesome. It’s so good having her there to help me out. And I’m catching up with Kit and Tommy a lot, too. I didn’t realize how much I missed them. I mean, they were always on my mind in New York, but coming back, it’s like I never left. It’s just so easy to get back in stride with old friends, you know?”

“Have you made any new friends?” She paused. Here it comes. “Anyone special?”

“Um, yeah. Sure. A few.” How does she know these things? I swear she has magical powers.

“Well, you’ve got quite a bounce in your step tonight, so I was just wondering.” She looked at me with those
eyes and I just smirked.

, gossip? Do tell!” said Uncle Barry, dropping his fork and reaching for his glass of wine.

“Hey. Stop.” I looked at them both. “I don’t need you two ganging up on me. All in good time, my loves! All in good time.”

“There’s something you’re not telling us. But as long as you’re happy, that’s all I care about, sweetie.” And with that, Mom seemed to let it go.

“Oh, wow, wouldn’t ya know?” I said, unconvincingly. “Look at the time. Gotta run. Kit is expecting me at her place. Thanks for the food, Mom!”

I walked my plate over to the sink, grabbed the keys, checked my look in the mirror and hit the road.



Sunday night was the best night to hit the strip club, and Kit and I were on the guest list, thanks to Scooter’s girlfriend, Tammy. It
good to have friends in low places, I guess.

Chesty Cheese was Parkville’s premiere “Gentlemen’s Club,” but let’s be honest; there weren’t any gentlemen there. Chesty Cheese started out as a Chuck E. Cheese’s franchise. Part pizza parlor, part kiddie arcade, this particular location took an economic dive in the early 90s with the advent of home gaming systems, and then the franchise owner passed away in a decidedly non-family way. He had a heart attack in the bed of his girlfriend, a local stripper named Peaches.

Peaches had a great sense of humor, obviously, and Chesty Cheese was born. It didn’t matter if you were straight or gay, young or old, rich or poor, black or white, everyone was welcome at her club. There were no judgments and very few rules.
Fridays and Saturdays were full of out-of-towners looking for a thrill they couldn’t find in their own Bible Belt town, so we locals preferred our own night for fun. Chesty’s was our place to be on a Sunday night. Plus, they had really good pizza.

Kit was decked out in a tribute to Wynona Ryder, circa
, complete with midnight blue pillbox hat and black zig-zag tights. Very Parkville. Not. But that’s why I adored her.

“Aren’t you excited?” she asked. “We’re gonna have
So. Much. Fun!
” Kit placed emphasis on Every. Single. Word. “I stopped by the bank and picked up a hundred in singles, so you get ready to party, Mr. New York.
There’s a table upfront by the best pole. Let’s grab it, quick!”

“I adore you,” I said.

“I know.” She marched straight ahead, full of purpose.

“The ‘best’ pole? You crack me up.”

“Baby, it’s like the movies,” she explained. “You don’t wanna sit too far towards the edges. It messes with your sight line.”

“Wow. I get ya. Does Shawn know you have strip club attendance broken down to a science?” I said.

“Who do you think taught me?” She grinned and flagged down a cocktail waitress. “Hey, Charlotte! You look so good tonight.
your hair! Two vodka martinis, please. And tell Bobby we want ‘em very dry. You know the drill. Just tell him to open the bottle of Vermouth, think about pouring some in there, then change his mind. Three olives, no twist. And keep ‘em coming.” She turned back towards me with a smile. “It’s a martini night, baby. We have to show these rednecks how to party in style.”

“Here’s to us!” I said.

“Now, Derek, I can see on your face that something’s up. You can’t hide anything from me! You are
too happy, and I love that. I totally do. But I don’t want to see you crash. ‘Cause I’m the one who’s gonna have to pick up all the pieces.
Tell. Me. Everything

But before we could get started, we heard the opening bars to “Stand By Your Man,” by Miss Tammy Wynette. That could only mean one thing. Our very own Tammy was on her way to the stage! Her act was flawless, and she really got the crowd going. Twirls, batons and enough pole action to make even the toughest fireman blush, she finished with a full split downstage center in front of our little table, pasties twirling and hands extended to the heavens. I’m surprised she didn’t figure out a way to incorporate sparklers, but maybe she was saving those for later?

“Hey, y’all! So glad you could make it,” said Tammy as she climbed off the little stage. “Mind if I take a seat? These killer heels are killing me.”

“Tammy, you were awesome! How the hell did you learn all that pole action?” I said. “I am so impressed.”

“A gay guy complimenting me on my way with a pole?” Tammy laughed. “Well, that’s the best compliment I’ve had in years. You can come by anytime, sugar!”

“Don’t make me blush!” I said. “You know what I mean. I’m just impressed.”

“Well, thank you,” she gushed. “Listen, I’d love to catch up with y’all right now, but I need to get going while the going’s hot. I’m still fresh on their minds, you know?”

There was a group of men starting to crowd in, hungry looks in their eyes and twenty-dollar bills at the ready.

“Jeez, Tammy, there’s a line forming!” said Kit.

“You’re kind of popular,” I said.

“Yeah. I know a lot of guys. It’s kind of like one of them clown cars. Don’t tell Scooter too much, though. He loves me. He does. And he thinks it’s awesome to show me off, but he’ll get his knickers in a twist if he thinks I’m too popular. I’ll catch y’all later. Momma’s gotta work hard for the money.” And she was off to the lap dances.

“She is a firestorm,” I said. “I honestly don’t remember her being that fun in high school.”

“She kinda blossomed after her chest caught up and then surpassed the rest of us. Cheers to Tammy’s tits!” With that, Kit raised her martini glass to mine.

“To Tammy’s tits!” I laughed and took a sip of pure chilled vodka and three olives.

“Now, baby. Spill,” said Kit. “What’s up? Or rather…
up? It’s gotta be a guy. I’ve seen that face before.
I. Know. You. Well
.” She smiled, warily.

I sighed. Honestly, I was a bit nervous and a bit scared, all at once. I promised Luke I wouldn’t say anything to Bammy, but now I was about to violate that trust on a technicality.

“Ok, here goes,” I started. “But you have to promise me. Pinky swear. Honor bright, snake bite. What I’m about to tell you, you can not tell another living soul, okay?”

“Yes! Spill!”

“You have to swear.” I looked at her with as much seriousness as I could muster.

“I swear! Honor bright, snake bite. You have my word. Jeez. The build up. This had
Better. Be. Good

BOOK: Home is a Fire
4.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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