of the Wicked Boys
“So, you feel like a swim?”
Rafael gave Jeremy a nervous smile as the two followed Gloria into the house after Grayson Harrison dropped them off at the house. He stepped aside to allow Jeremy to enter first.
“Yeah,” Jeremy replied with an equally nervous smile, “but, I don’t have a swim suit.”
“I’m sure I have an old one that will fit,” Rafael replied as his mother headed directly for the liquor cabinet.
Jeremy nodded and smiled at him, and as Rafael left the room, the younger boy approached Gloria as she prepared a drink.
“Mrs. Hampton, I want to thank you again for your kindness and generosity.”
“Think nothing of it, Jeremy,” she replied as she dropped a hint of tonic in her glass of vodka.
“You don’t understand. I was about to kill myself Tuesday night when Benji stopped me,” Jeremy admitted. “I had my Boy Scout knife ready. I was going to do it and my cousin stopped me. But, if you and Rafael hadn’t come to my rescue Wednesday, I would have made certain there was no one who could stop me the next time. You saved my life. Really. You’ve kept me from killing myself.”
The woman looked down at Jeremy was embarrassment and sympathy. She pressed her lips together and looked into the boy’s eyes before she asked, “Do you know or do you think... has Rafael ever felt that way before?”
Jeremy gave her a look of surprise as he asked, “Why would Rafael want to do that? He has everything. He’s talented, he’s good looking, he has a mother who supports him. He’s one of the best dancers in the country. He’s got it all together. I’ve never met anyone who’s more together than Rafael. Why would he want to kill himself?”
Gloria put a gentle hand on the side of Jeremy’s face. She inhaled deeply and softly said, “He’s lucky to have a friend like you.”
Jeremy cocked his head slightly in curiosity, but before he could say anything, Rafael appeared holding a swim suit and declared as he approached, “I think this will fit you, Jeremy.”
The younger boy turned and nodded as he took it and replied, “Thank you. I’ll go down and change now.”
“I’ll meet you in the pool,” Rafael replied before he turned. He glanced back over his shoulder toward his mother, who was watching him with a sad look on her face. As Jeremy left the room, Rafael stopped and turned around.
“Are you okay, Mom?”
She took a drink of her vodka and tonic and sighed as she said, “You’ve had a hell of a life, haven’t you, Rafi?”
Rafael was taken aback and replied, “You haven’t called me Rafi in years.”
“No, I probably haven’t. Believe me when I say I didn’t know how bad it was for you. I admit that I didn’t want to know, but I swear, Rafael, if I had known, I would have stopped it. I admit that I can be a callous and unfeeling bitch, but...”
She looked at Rafael with appealing eyes and said, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Rafael’s eyes became moist. He started to smile, but his mother suddenly turned and declared in a more normal voice for her, “Well, I’ve got to get ready. I’m going to the dinner at the Busbys’ tonight. You and Jeremy be careful in the pool.”
Rafael watched as she hurried out of the room. Claretta, who had been standing in the kitchen, slowly appeared. She smiled and sniffed before she said, “I been prayin’ for this, Rafael. I been prayin’ and the Lord answered my prayers. I think Jeremy’s been the reason for your Momma seein’ the error of her ways. Uh, hum. I sure do.”
Rafael smiled and nodded before he turned and left the room.
Jeremy was unaware of what was transpiring between Rafael and his mother upstairs as he undressed by the bed in the studio. Naked, he turned and looked at himself in the mirror. He became partially erect as he gazed at his reflection. He would be seeing Rafael in only his swimsuit in just a few minutes. Would he be able to hide his erection? Rafael had already told him that dancers get erections and to pay no attention to it, but that was when they were in their dance belt and tights, not in swimsuits in the swimming pool. Would he think something about it if Jeremy were visibly hard in a non-dancing setting?
Jeremy bowed his head. He couldn’t live like this, constantly being afraid of showing how he truly felt about Rafael. Should he say something? Should he just come out and tell him the truth? Surely Rafael had encountered other gay dancers. For goodness sake, he was at one of the top ballet schools in the world. Of course he had encountered gay dancers. What would his feelings be? Was he disgusted by them? Did he ignore them? He seemed so sensitive and understanding, but that kiss the previous evening... he had seemed on the verge of freaking out.
He quickly pulled his swim suit on and then grabbed a towel from the stack Claretta had earlier placed on the table by the stereo. Holding it in as casual a way as he could in front of him, he ran barefoot up the stairs and into the kitchen.
Claretta was busy with her account book for the kitchen expenses as he ran by. The woman smiled knowingly and called, “No running by the pool, now, Jeremy, or I’ll come out there and swat your butt!”
Jeremy gave her a grin as he slid the door open and disappeared outside.
It felt wonderful to walk through the hot, summer air and to feel the sun on his bare skin. He stood before the pool and felt a sudden elation over his new freedom. He almost felt as if he had been pardoned from a jail sentence, but he reminded himself that he must not do anything to return to jail. He couldn’t afford to ruin things by disgusting Rafael with the truth, the disgusting truth.
He could hear the sliding glass door open and he looked over his shoulder to see Rafael appear in his tight swim suit. The teenager looked even more beautiful with only the swimsuit than he did in his leotard and tights. Jeremy quickly scanned the young man’s body and then turned. He jumped into the pool before Rafael had a chance to see his rapidly inflating erection.
The teenager smiled as Jeremy emerged from the water at the other end of the pool and he remarked, “You swim as well as you dance.”
Jeremy smiled as he shook his head and tossed the water from his hair. “We had a pool at home, too. I used to swim all the time.”
Jeremy forced himself to look away from Rafael. He could understand why he was called “The Gazelle” at Ballet Academy of America. He was slim, but strong and beautiful, delicate and yet masculine. Jeremy dove under the water and began swimming back toward the other end. He was surprised when he ran into Rafael, who had jumped into the pool and was standing in his path. He popped up out of the water and shook his head as Rafael grinned at him and immediately dunked him before Jeremy could react.
The younger boy escaped from Rafael’s grip and swam away before reappearing above the water.
“Two can play that game!” he warned.
“Idle threats,” Rafael replied with a yawn.
Jeremy raised an eyebrow and in his best imitation of Bugs Bunny declared, “You realize this means war?”
Rafael rolled his eyes as Jeremy crossed his arms with determination and then dove under the water again.
Rafael was standing with his legs spread. Jeremy swam to Rafael’s right, but at the last second, shot to the left and in between the older boys legs. Rafael squeezed his legs together, trapping Jeremy’s head, but the younger boy immediately pushed back and Rafael lost his balance, falling forward into the water. He recovered quickly however, grabbing Jeremy’s feel under the water as his friend tried to twist around out of his reach. Rafael lunged forward beneath the surface and grabbed at the waist band of Jeremy’s swim trunks and, as the redhead struggled and kicked to free himself, Rafael yanked them off. Jeremy’s struggles, however, served only to help Rafael and when the older boy held them up under the water in triumph, Jeremy lunged forward, only to have Rafael jump up and hold them out of his reach.
Jeremy ran out of air and had to surface, crying, “Pervert! Give me those shorts back!”
Rafael grinned wildly and tossed them out into the grass about ten feet from the pool.
Jeremy suddenly lost the grin on his face.
“What’s the matter, Jerm?” Rafael taunted. “Not so cocky now, are you. Or are you, cocky? Is that the problem, Jerm? Are you feeling... cocky?”
Jeremy was standing with his hands covering his front and he looked at Rafael with humiliation and betrayal. The triumphant grin of the teenager’s face immediately faded and he said, “I’m sorry, Jeremy. I was just having fun with you.”
“I hate being called ‘Jerm!’” the boy replied. “That’s what Brian called me when he was bullying me. Now, go get my trunks!”
A voice from behind Jeremy, however, said, “I will.”
As Jeremy turned and Rafael looked up, Brian Fenwick, in Madras shorts and an oversized yellow tee-shirt appeared in the sliding doors from the house. Jeremy looked at him in surprise and Rafael nodded to him as he crossed the patio and walked out into the grass to retrieve his younger brother’s swim trunks.
“Brian,” Jeremy muttered with confusion. “What are you doing here?”
Brian reached down and then tossed the trunks to his brother. Jeremy caught them and immediately pulled them under the water and slipped them on.
“I thought I ought to come check on my little brother and see what was happenin’,” the young man replied as he stood by the pool with his hands in his pockets. “I uh, I heard about Uncle Jimmy. I guess he’s not gonna be goin’ anywhere soon.”
“Yeah,” Jeremy replied softly.
“I went over to see Aunt Jane and Benji,” Brian said. “Jane said she’s gonna let you go to New York and dance at that ballet school.”
Jeremy nodded, adding, “If I can get in.”
“Yeah, well, you’ll get in,” Brian said. “You’re the best. You’ll get in.”
There was an awkward pause during which Rafael climbed from the pool, the erection he had gotten playing with Jeremy in the water having mostly deflated, and said, “I’ll, uh, leave you two to talk. You want anything to drink, Brian?”
The older teenager shook his head and replied, “No, thanks. I’m cool.”
Rafael nodded and walked toward the patio. Claretta had brought a couple of towels out and left them on the table. Rafael dried himself off and went back inside the house.
Jeremy had slowly inched his way to the side of the pool and now lifted himself up and out of the water. His own erection had deflated, but it still tented the front of his trunks out. Brian looked up at the boy’s face and asked, “So, how are you doin, Jerm?”
“My name’s Jeremy,” the younger boy replied coldly.
A flash of anger crossed his brother’s face before Brian could suppress it. He took a deep breath and then said, “I’m sorry, Jeremy. I didn’t mean to be disrespectful just then. That’s was just my nickname for you. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
Jeremy nodded and turned to walk toward the patio, replying with his back to Brian, “I’m okay. How are you?”
Brian said nothing until Jeremy approached the pool furniture with a towel and sat down on a lounge chair. Brian followed and sat down. He replied, “Well, I’ve been better. This whole thing’s been... rough.”
“Yeah,” Jeremy replied contemptuously. “I can tell.”
Brian looked up at the boy, once again suppressing an angry response until he sighed again and looked down. After a long moment, he said, “Look, I can understand if you hate me. We lost our parents, you got stuck with our crazy uncle, you had to give up the thing you love most in life, and I turned my back on you.”
Jeremy nodded and said, “Yeah, I guess that pretty much sums it up.”
Brian sighed and looked away before adding, “I pretty much abandoned you. I’ve just spent the last two months gettin’ fucked up and... well...”
He turned to face his brother. Jeremy was looking at the pool, unable to look at Brian. After a moment, he asked, “Did you even think of me at all?”
“Yeah. All the time,” Brian replied. “I just couldn’t face you. You remind me too much of Mom and Dad and... how much of a fuck up I am.”
“Yeah, right,” Jeremy muttered. “I don’t believe you. You never thought about me. Ever. You’ve always been wrapped up in yourself. You were always the one Mom and Dad bragged about. You were always the one who was so good-looking. All the girls, all the guys, all the grown-ups, everyone always loved the great Brian Fenwick. You were always so popular and so famous.”
Jeremy’s voice was growing husky and stronger as his emotions grew. “No one ever said they were proud of me,” he declared. “No matter how hard I worked, how good I danced, how good my grades were, nothing! Nothing! No one ever said they were proud of me! It was always you! Just because you were the oldest! Just because you were first!”
He paused a moment and then added bitterly, “And, I was the fag.”
Jeremy stood up and declared, “I hate you, Brian. I always wanted my big brother to be proud of me and all you ever did was laugh at me and put me down and make jokes about me. Your little fag brother. The dancing fairy. Little queer Jeremy. And, now look at us! I’m going to New York to dance at the best ballet school in the country and... you’re...”
He turned his back on Brian. His eyes were moist and his fists were clenched again. He was almost ready to fight his brother again and might have had Brian not said what he did next.
“I was wrong, Jeremy.”
The younger boy stared off at the roses growing beyond, breathing hard and still clenching his fists.
“And you’ve got it all wrong about Mom and Dad, Jeremy.”
The boy turned around and with narrow eyes, replied in a warning voice, “What about Mom and Dad?”
“They were proud of you, Jeremy. They were. You were the one they were proud of, not me. They always acted proud around other people because everyone else was always fooled by my act. I was always the popular guy who looked good and who could talk to anyone, but you know I made shitty grades and I was shit when Dad took me hunting and I was always partying.”
“Don’t lie to me,” Jeremy said. “Don’t lie to me about Mom and Dad. I know. I know Dad was ashamed of me. I heard him! No matter how hard I tried, how good I danced, no matter what I did, Dad was never proud of me. I heard him, Brian! I heard him! He called me a queer! A queer! My daddy called me a queer!”
Jeremy was crying now and he collapsed on the lounge chair, repeatedly sobbing, “He called me a queer!”
Brian rose and stepped over to the lounge chair. He sat down beside the boy and put his arm around him. Jeremy did not respond and Brian softly said, “You’re talking about that night you overheard Dad talkin’ to Mr. Barnett. Well, he was pretty pissed off at me for what I said to you and when he got you calmed down, he took me into the study and gave me what for. He told me how ashamed he was of me and how proud he was of you. You never knew, Jeremy, ‘cause, I guess, Dad just wasn’t the kind of guy who said stuff like that to you, but he told me. He let me know that night just how proud he was of you and how disappointed he was in me.”
“I don’t believe you,” Jeremy replied tearfully.
“I’m telling you the truth, Jeremy. Dad said to me that he couldn’t understand why I didn’t have the motivation you had. He said that you had backbone, you had gumption. He said he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t be more like you.”
Jeremy looked at his brother through tearful eyes and asked, “You aren’t lying to me?”
“No, man. I’m not lyin’ to you. He was proud of you. He always bragged to people about you being in Nutcracker. Always. Yeah, he thought you might be queer, but he said to me that there was nothing he could do about it. He said you were probably born that way and we all just had to get used to it.”
Jeremy stared at his brother is shock.
“No way,” he replied. “I know you’re lying.”
Brian shook his head sadly and said, “No. Dad loved you. He was proud of you. Man, they were going to pay for you to go to that school in New York. You think they’d do that if they weren’t proud of you?”
Jeremy looked down, but said nothing. He shook his head, but Brian hugged him and said, “Dad loved you, Jerm. He loved you. He was proud of you. So was Mom.”
He paused a moment and then added, “And, so am I.”
Jeremy slowly looked back at his brother and Brian nodded. Jeremy frowned and asked, “Are you drunk? Are you messed up?”
Brian smiled sadly and said, “A little, but I’m not lyin’ to you, Jeremy. I wouldn’t do that to you. I know you were suicidal. I know you were in hell, and I know this is your chance to make it and to be happy. I just want you to take it, man. I want you to make it. I want you to be happy. And, I want you to know that Mom and Dad loved you and were proud of you. They were proud of you, Jeremy. They were. Yeah, Dad may have wished you were putting that same effort into baseball, and he may have wished you might give him some grandkids, but he respected how hard you worked and how dedicated you were. He respected you, Jeremy. He did.”
The boy looked into Brian’s eyes and saw that his brother was telling the truth. He suddenly burst into tears again and fell against Brian, sobbing as hard as he ever had, as hard as when his parents died. Brian held him tightly and rocked him back and forth and he softly said, “I’m so sorry I’ve been such a shitty brother, Jerm. I’m so sorry. I promise I’ll be better. I promise. And, I want you to know, man... I’m proud of you, too. I am, Jerm, and I respect you. I know it takes a lot of work and effort to do what you do and to do it as good as you do. I’m proud of you, Jeremy. I am.”
Jeremy continued to cry until his sobs began to subside. He looked up at his brother and asked through the dying sobs, “Dad was really proud of me?”
Brian nodded and smiled. “Yes, Little Brother. He was.”
“And, you? You really are? You aren’t just saying that?”
Brian sighed and nodded. “I swear to God, Jeremy. I’m proud of you. I am.”
The older teen looked down at the concrete and said, “After Rafael’s visit Wednesday, I started thinking about things. I had always hated you because you were everything I wasn’t. You were motivated, you got good grades, you were good at something. I was so jealous of you. But, you’re my little brother, Jeremy. You’re all I have left. I’ve lost Mom and Dad; I can’t lose you, too.”
Jeremy sniffed and wiped his eyes and nose with the back of his wrist. Rafael emerged from the glass doors in shorts and a tennis shirt, saw the two brothers hugging and Jeremy crying, and turned. He went back inside and a moment later, reemerged with a box of tissues which he carried out to the two brothers. Brian looked up and smiled as he took the box, responding with a soft, smiling, “Thanks.”
Rafael nodded and smiled before he stepped back.
“Is everything... all right, now?”
Jeremy nodded and smiled as Brian said, “Yeah. Thanks for everything you’ve done, Rafael. I appreciate it.”
He looked down at Jeremy and added, “I want my little brother to be happy and I want him to live the life he wants.”
Jeremy sniffed and softly responded, “Thanks, Brian.”
The older teenager nodded and Rafael asked, “Would you like to stay for dinner? Claretta’s fixing a good, healthy dinner of baked chicken, rice, and steamed vegetables.”
Brian nodded as Jeremy smiled at him. “Yeah, that would nice.”
Jeremy stood up and said, “I’ll go inside now and change. I’ll be back in a minute.”
Rafael nodded and when the boy had disappeared back inside the house, he turned back to Brian and asked, “So, everything’s cool now, between you two?”
Brian nodded and said, “I told him how proud Dad was of him. He really didn’t know. I can’t believe that he didn’t. I guess that was a real problem for him.”
Rafael nodded and said, “Madame Pulchova told me that it was one of the reasons he was a good dancer and that it was one of the things holding him back, too. He worked so hard so he could get your parents’ approval, but, she said, he was ashamed of being a dancer because he thought your parents didn’t approve, so it was this tug-of-war going on in his head. I think now, he’ll really be able to shine as a dancer. We’ve been working downstairs. I have a studio down in the basement and he’s really good. He actually amazing. Your brother’s a hell of a dancer.”
Brian smiled and looked down. “Yeah, I guess he is. I’ve seen him dance a few times. I don’t know anything about ballet, but even I could see he was real good.”
“Your approval means a lot to him. You’re really the only family he’s got. I mean, Jane’s going to keep custody and let him go to New York, but you’re the only close family member he has. When he thought you didn’t care, it really hurt him.”
Brian nodded and looked down with shame.
“I’m... I’m going to try to be a better brother. I’m trying to cut down on the drinking and the getting stoned and... make something of myself. I want Jeremy to be proud of me.”
He snorted and said, “Ironic, isn’t it? The big brother trying to make the little brother proud of him.”
Rafael smiled and said, “It won’t take much, Brian. Jeremy loves you. I promise that when we get to New York, I’ll have him call you regularly and write. Maybe you can come up sometime if he has a performance or just to visit. You’re welcome to stay with us."
“Yeah, I’d like that,” Brian replied.
Rafael squirmed uncomfortably and added, “I have to warn you about my Uncle Teddy, though. He’s really... well, he’s... You’ve heard of Teddy Cochran?”
“The writer? Isn’t he like friends with Andy Warhol?” Brian asked dubiously.
“Not anymore,” Rafael replied with a grin. “They had a falling out over soup cans.”
Brian looked confused and Rafael simply smiled and shook his head, deciding not to explain that Teddy thought Warhol’s painting of the can of Campbell’s tomato soup was trite.
“So, he’s a f... he’s...”
“Yeah,” Rafael said with a grin. “Very.”
“Don’t worry. He’s harmless and it’s not contagious. And, I can promise you that Jeremy is safe.”
“Oh, that’s okay. If Jeremy is, he is. If he isn’t, that’s cool, too. I just want him to be happy.”
Rafael took a deep breath and said, “I don’t know if Jeremy’s gay or not and it doesn’t matter to me if he is, but there are a lot of gay guys in ballet and I have to admit that I get the impression he’s really sensitive about people thinking he’s gay.”
Brian nodded and said, “I think that was because he was upset about what he thought Dad thought about him dancing. To be honest, I mean, the way he was always talking about you and how good a dancer you are and how good-looking you are, I think he probably is, even if he isn’t ready to admit it, but I told him how proud Dad was of him. I let him know that Mom and Dad both loved him and were proud of him. That’s why he was crying, because that’s been his one big thing, making Mom and Dad proud of him. I think if he can get over that... well, he’ll be okay with everything else.”
Rafael nodded and looked away thoughtfully. Brian grinned and said, “He really does think you’re hot as shit.”
Rafael blushed and simply muttered, “Well...”
The three ate their dinner on the patio and Jeremy and Brian were quite animated in their conversation. Rafael was quiet, watching, listening, and thinking.
Jeremy seemed so relaxed as he laughed at comments Brian would make. He was happy and quite obviously worry-free. As Rafael watched him, he felt a warmth growing inside him for the boy as well as a conflict in his mind. Should he keep his feelings for the boy to himself or should he let Jeremy know how he felt? If he did, would Jeremy feel an obligation to react in a certain way simply because of what Rafael was doing for him? In no way did he want Jeremy to feel obligated, yet...
Rafael couldn’t believe he was feeling this way. He had never felt this way. Of course, he had experienced adolescent crushes on dancers at Ballet Academy and in Ballet of America and had passionate and intense flings with several, but they had lasted only a few days or weeks before the flame died, burning fast and furiously until it was extinguished and they had each moved on to their next experience. What Rafael felt for Jeremy was quite different. It wasn’t a burning hunger and desire; it lacked the almost painful intensity he’d felt before, yet was far greater in other ways. It was more than sexual, though Jeremy was certainly cute enough and sexy enough. There was something about Jeremy, his personality, his character, as well as his physical presence, that drew Rafael to him. It was clear the boy was unaware of it and might not even remotely feel the same way for Rafael.
There might be a way, however, to find out. There was something Rafael had wanted to discuss with Jeremy, something the boy definitely needed to think about in his dancing, which might somehow give Rafael a clue as to Jeremy’s thinking on a romance between the two, on whether the relationship developing between the two was moving in one direction or another.
He would have to be careful in how he approached it, diplomatic, respectful, cautious. One careless word could ruin everything.Everything could depend on the next few hours.