Aaron, doing what he did often—sitting by himself and thinking—had confirmed his decision: he wasn’t going to quit camp. He’d decided that abruptly in Harry’s office, then resolved it in his cabin. A lot of things went into his decision. He concluded he didn’t need friends at camp. He was as self-sufficient as any boy his age could be. He was used to being by himself. What did he have back home to go to? Harry had told him his mother was still going back and forth with her tests, sometimes in the hospital, sometimes home; he knew he’d probably be sent off to his aunt’s if he returned now. No, the best thing for him was to stay where he was. So what if no one would talk to him? He wasn’t all that eager to talk to them, either.
But it did bring up another thought. If he wasn’t going to quit, what was he going to do with the time he had? That took additional thinking.
The first thing, he decided, was to go swimming. If the other kids didn’t want him there, screw ’em. He got up from his cot, put on his bathing suit, grabbed a towel and then walked to the beach. It was mid-morning and the place was crowded. He stripped down to nothing and walked to the water. Richie got to him before he waded in. “You need a partner,” he said.
Aaron scoffed. “You think anyone’s going to agree to that?”
Richie’s perpetual smile was absent. He looked around and saw the kids around him were looking at them now, but no one was volunteering anything. In fact, most of the kids turned around after their first glance so they wouldn’t be invited to help out.
“Okay,” Richie said finally. “You can swim on your own. I’ll keep an eye on you myself.”
Aaron got in the water and swam to the float. By the time he’d climbed onto it, it was deserted; all the kids on it had jumped off while he was wriggling his way up. He sat on the edge, dangling his feet in the water; what he was doing was making a point. He wasn’t going to let the other kids’ attitudes bother him.
He stayed there for a few minutes, then swam back to shore, dried off, pulled his bathing suit back on and walked away. He went back to his cabin and read his book till it was lunchtime. There, Shaun joined him, coming to the table he’d chosen and where he was eating alone.
“You don’t have to do this, Shaun,” he said.
“You’re right. I don’t. But I’m going to. You don’t deserve this, although in a way you do, because you refuse to let anyone know what happened was an accident. It’s like you’re testing them and finding them wanting. But they aren’t. They’re waiting for you to come to them. If you do, they’ll listen, and they’ll understand. They don’t want to dislike you. You’re forcing their hand.”
“I’m okay without them,” Aaron said stubbornly. They ate the rest of the meal mostly in silence, but Aaron thanked Shaun when they were done.
“Dinner,” Shaun said as he picked up his tray. He smiled at Aaron and walked off.
That left Aaron to figure out how to spend the afternoon. He didn’t feel like reading. That didn’t leave many options, but he didn’t need many. He knew what he wanted to do. He was going to explore the woods. Hiking. It was the best way he could think of to enjoy being alone.
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Dylan had always enjoyed every aspect of his counselor’s job at the camp. He enjoyed the down time he had, too. Monitoring the younger kids, while delightful, took a lot of energy. It was tiring, and he needed the days he had off to recuperate, to regenerate his spirit. What he often did on those days was take an Optimist dinghy out by himself to spend time on the far reaches of the lake without any clatter of kids calling for his attention. There were a couple of small islands where he could stop to rest, eat the lunch he’d packed for himself and swim without young kids climbing all over him and vying for his time. He loved the kids, their personalities and antics, but loved being alone, too, and away from any responsibilities for a short time. He’d had responsibilities all his life and now soaked up the time without them like a dry sponge needing water. Dylan hadn’t had much time to be simply a kid with nothing being asked of him.
The other thing he loved doing was saddling up his horse and going out on the trails in the woods. He’d ride far off from where any campers would go. He’d found several glades where he could rest and enjoy the beauty around him, some of them overlooking the lake, some back in the quiet wilderness.
It really wasn’t all that quiet being alone with nature in the woods. If he’d sit still, quite soon he could hear the forest noises. There was an incredible amount of life around him. He enjoyed becoming one with it.
He’d been very lucky last year when he’d found someone to share his quiet time with. A 13-year-old camper had been there for two weeks and had managed to attach himself to Dylan, even joining him when he was with his young charges. The kid was only a few months younger than Dylan, and Dylan found his apparent interest in him flattering.
Who knows why there’s chemistry with some kids and none with others? Dylan found this kid’s attachment to him an ego boost. He’d never had anyone take such a personal interest in him before.
The kid, whose name was Micah, had a different reason for his ubiquity: he was gay and found Dylan sexy. Then too, the kid wasn’t a bit shy. He told Dylan early on he was gay. He told him he had a crush on him. He told Dylan he wanted to fool around with him.
Dylan was pretty sure he too was gay. He’d never done anything sexual with any boy, but the urges were certainly there. Especially in the spring and summer, and Micah’s presence made him horny enough to think about what they might do together. There were certainly places for it. Like those islands. Or the woods.
But he also knew if he did anything with a camper and Harry found out, he’d be toast—burned toast to be sure—and he treasured his summers at the camp enough not to risk them by doing anything with a camper, no matter how much he’d have liked to.
Micah wasn’t easily deterred. He’d spoken to Harry, and he’d convinced him to allow him to return the next summer to be an unpaid apprentice to Dylan. He’d told Harry he’d like to come back as a counselor the year following his apprentice year. Harry had accepted the offer, which had allowed Micah to spend all his time with Dylan this year. And it had allowed Dylan to lose his resolution to not get involved with Micah. Micah was no longer a camper. He was a counselor-in-training; the rules, the unwritten rules of the camp, were much different now.
They had fooled around, and they’d both enjoyed it. Micah’s personality was much different from Dylan’s, but that didn’t make much difference as far as fooling around went. Sexual interludes were just that, sexual, and had little to do with anything else. Micah was clingy and loquacious. Dylan was the opposite in both cases, and other than the sexual aspects of their relationship, he wouldn’t have had much interest in Micah. But Micah was here, cute and available and doting, and he was just as randy as Dylan was if not more so. They were learning about boy sex together.
Of course, there was still risk. No doubt Harry would be greatly upset if he found out what they were doing; there was no predicting what he do, but it wouldn’t be good. They had to be careful.
Dylan wasn’t sure Harry would sack him if he did find out. He and Harry were very close. Dylan felt he’d probably get chewed out up one wall and down the other, but that would be it. Therefore, he felt the risk was worth it. He really didn’t think he’d get caught; he was very careful that he wouldn’t be. What that meant was he and Micah hadn’t had nearly as many opportunities as they’d have liked to do what they both wanted to do. They’d only managed to be alone where they couldn’t be caught a few times this summer. If the two of them disappeared alone for much time together with all those boys’ eyes on them, it would be too suspicious.
Dylan had two places where he knew they wouldn’t be seen. Once, he’d taken Micah to an island that was out of sight of the camp, and there’d been a couple of times when they’d ridden off together into the far woods. There was a place deep in the woods that Dylan knew was very private.
He’d been feeling especially horny this day. It had been over two weeks since they’d had a chance. He would take Micah out in the woods again today. He knew Micah would be ready.
It was a small clearing far from camp, far from the kids, far from Harry. Dylan loved this spot. It was off the beaten path; he’d never seen anyone else this far from camp—ever—and the place looked untouched by man. It had a mossy floor, ferns grew in abundance, it was surrounded by white, paper-birch trees, and glimpses of the lake could be seen through them in the far distance. Sunlight filtered in dapples through the overhanging leaves above. No sounds from the camp, not even the shouts of happy boys swimming and playing ball and doing their other activities, reached the seclusion of the clearing. This place was perfect for just sitting still, listening to the noises of the woods and lake, and also for what he would be doing with Micah.
It was the second time in the clearing for Micah. Dylan led the way up a narrow trail that he himself had made. He’d ridden on it enough to make it visible, but only to the knowing eye. Dylan’s heart was already starting to beat faster, thinking about what was just ahead of him.
He decided that this time, instead of throwing off their clothes as soon as they dismounted, he was going to let the tension and anticipation build. He’d delay the main feast with appetizers, let the engine warm up before revving it. He grinned at the mixed metaphor. Not that he’d ever tell anyone his thoughts.
What he’d do this time, he decided, was to slow Micah down, just sit with him while they absorbed the ambience of the place, and then talk. When they were together, Micah was always talking, Dylan rarely. Perhaps they could switch that around today. Micah knew very little about Dylan. How could he when Dylan rarely spoke? Dylan would like having the chance to talk about his thoughts, his feelings, his life.
When they’d been in the glade the first time, they’d been able to investigate each other, learn what sex with another kid was like, become excited together, and to rest afterwards in complete peace and privacy—then do things again. What they hadn’t done was talk. Dylan saw this as a chance to speak of intimate things. No one knew of his fears, his disappointments, his embarrassments, his home life, his family, his childhood. He never spoke of such things. But the mood of the glade, he knew, made him introspective, and maybe Micah could listen for a change and maybe, just maybe, Dylan could get to feel something more for the boy than sexual eagerness. There had to be more to Micah than just that. He hoped so, at least.
Dylan began by telling Micah, who’d only agreed to this delay in the action because Dylan had insisted, about his life on a rural farm. Micah was a city boy. He came from an affluent family; Dylan didn’t. “We just make ends meet, and sometimes not even that. Because it’s a hardscrabble life, we do most everything ourselves. We only hire help with harvests, and even then, mostly we assist the neighboring farmers and they assist us. Farmers are self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-sustaining.”
Micah was actually listening; he was smart enough to know he had to if he was going to have the chance to do what he’d come here for. He needed to show Dylan he was interested in what he had to talk about, even though he wasn’t, really. Micah liked Dylan’s body a lot and was more or less indifferent to his mind. At 14, he wasn’t much different from many other boys that age.
He needed to show his interest, so he asked, “You work on the farm alongside your dad? Isn’t that hard work? And you have school, too? Isn’t it too much?”
Dylan laughed. “And chores. I have chores, too. But farm boys are all like that. I’m nothing special. And if you allow yourself to be part of it, there’s a joy in hard work. Joy in accomplishment. No, I don’t have the things you do, hanging with friends, playing video games. I have chores, and during the school year, homework, too, along with regular farm work. I have to get up early and so need to go to bed early. Nothing like your life. But I wouldn’t trade you.”
“How did you get time off in the summer for camp?”
“I’ll be back home in time for the harvest. In the meantime, the two and a half months I’m here, I get paid. Harry doesn’t pay a lot, but it’s more than I could make getting a job in our small town. There isn’t much I could find there anyway, and probably not full-time employment. Plus, my mom really wants me to get away when I can. She says a boy needs what I can find here, not only the activities but also rubbing shoulders with other kids, all kinds of kids. She’s right, I do like it here, and it’s like a vacation even if I’m working and responsible for all those young boys. But why I’m able to do it at all is the money. That goes right to my dad, and it helps; we don’t have much income in the summer. I’m not needed at home so much then, either. Spring and fall are the busy times, and I am home then.”
“But don’t you want the things we have in the city? Being able to go to movies, and go out for burgers with friends? Dating? Shopping? Sports at school?”
“I like what I have, Micah. I’ve grown up with it and I’m content with it. No, I don’t have those things. But I do have some things. I’ve told you before about having my own horse. How many city kids have a horse? And about having the upstairs of our house all to myself. I’m happy enough there. My life is a lot different from yours. I work a lot, but when you’re doing something you like doing and can do it without anyone telling you how to do it or when to do it, it’s something you can feel good about. Like the landscaping I did and then the maintenance of it: when people say how good it looks, that makes me really proud.”
Then Dylan listed some of the things he knew city boys did and pooh-poohed them mockingly, at the same time showing Micah with his expression and body language that it was in jest, that in fact he did miss out on having some of those things and felt some regret about that.
Micah was getting restless. They were sitting together on a fallen tree. He could care less about Dylan’s homelife. The work the boy did wasn’t something Micah would ever understand liking, and he didn’t care about it at all. They were very different people, but what did that matter? He scooted over next to Dylan and let his hand rest on the boy’s thigh. He let it slide higher.
Dylan was a serious boy, but he was a boy, and he knew what they’d come here for. For that, they didn’t need clothing. They both were bare moments after Micah’s hand had reached the nexus which had been its aim. Then the two boys were on the blanket that Dylan had brought with him, fully engaged in the pleasures they’d come for. There’d been no more talking after that.
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Aaron had walked far into the woods, enjoying being by himself. Out here, there were no cold shoulders, no campers making incorrect assumptions about who he was or what he’d done. Out here, it didn’t matter if no one wanted to have anything to do with him. Aaron was mostly a loner at home; being snubbed at camp hurt, but he could get past it better than others who didn’t have his background. At home he was alone mostly because of his need to be there for his mom but also because of his thin skin and quick temper. He was not an easy boy to be friends with, and so being alone had become his default position.
If staying at camp was going to mean spending time out in the woods, so be it. He’d make the best of it just like he always did. It was better to be in the woods than in his cabin listening to all the happy cries from the boys having fun with each other.
He knew he was justifying his situation, but there was truth in what he was thinking, and he was finding tramping farther and farther away from camp along a trail that was getting progressively fainter more satisfying than he’d imagined it would be. The trail was just inland from the lake, and as it meandered, he’d catch flashes of water now and then through the trees. This was comforting because he knew he couldn’t get lost as long as he knew where the lake was.
He stopped for a rest and was soaking up the atmosphere and quietude when, to his surprise, he heard the sound of horses, a whinny, and then voices. The sounds had come from some distance away. He knew the path he was on wasn’t one of those the camp used for trail rides; it didn’t show that much use, and it was too distant from the camp.
Not sure who it was or how many people were coming or why they’d be in this area, he decided to keep himself out of sight till he knew more. The trees weren’t crowded together here, and he could see for some distance, but this meant he too could be seen unless he hid. He moved off the trail and found an oak tree large enough to conceal himself. He got down on the ground behind it, staying on the side away from where the voices had come. Then he waited.
It wasn’t long before, peeking out from his hiding place, he saw two horses come into view. Dylan and Micah were on them, Micah seeming to be doing most of the talking. Aaron stayed crouched down, not moving, only watching, not wanting to be seen. He didn’t like either of the two boys and saw no reason to present himself to them. But he was curious why they were so far from the camp, and he decided to follow them.
When they’d taken a side trail and were well past where he was hidden, he slipped out from behind his tree and followed. He saw them reach a place he hadn’t known existed, a remarkable clearing in the woods. He saw them sit down and talk.
He wanted to get closer but realized that he didn’t have sufficient cover to do that. He had to stop farther away than he wanted, far enough where he could only catch fragments of what was being said. It appeared Dylan was the one speaking now. Aaron hadn’t heard the boy say much except when he was yelling at him after the disaster with the horses. He was curious about what he was saying now, looking so serious.
It was annoying and frustrating that he could only hear snatches of their conversation. He heard something about Dylan having his own horse, something he’d heard before in the shower building. Aaron wasn’t sure, but he guessed the boy was talking about how well off he was. Bragging again. And he was mocking city kids. That was clear enough. Probably because most of them weren’t rich and couldn’t afford to live where he lived. It all just fortified what he already knew of the boy. The boy was rich. He was smug. Aaron already knew this. Aaron hated rich kids.
What happened next shocked him. He could barely make out the two boys between the trees. They’d been sitting on a horizontal tree trunk, but suddenly they were up, Dylan was spreading a blanket that had been behind his saddle, unrolling it and spreading it on the ground. Then he saw the two boys get naked. He saw them lie down together. They began moving together, rolling around together, then one would get on top of the other. They were moving, squirming and making sounds Aaron had only heard before the few times he’d looked at porn, trying to figure out why it didn’t excite him.
Aaron was transfixed. He saw everything, what they were doing, their erections, how they excited each other with hands and mouths, even getting a glimpse of the ultimate result of what Micah was doing to Dylan which was accompanied by a deep, primal moan. He saw Dylan do the same thing to Micah with the same result.
While the two were resting after that, Aaron quietly backed away from his hiding place and began the long trek back to camp, hoping if the two he’d watched returned soon, he’d hear them coming with enough time to hide before they reached him.
They never appeared before he reached the camp. He’d spent the time walking back considering what he should do about what he’d seen.