LEAST OF THESE...
CHAPTER 11 - New Beginnings
Monday morning, I saw Mom off on her longest business trip yet - a whole week at a trade meeting. “You're almost 16,” she reminded me. “You know how much I trust you, Michael. Just be careful, alright?” She patted my cheek. “I'm going to trust you to take care of yourself and Davey.” Then she winked. “But both Maggie and I will be keeping tabs on you.”
“Relax, Mom. Have a great time. Everything will be perfect here” I promised, resolving to make sure nothing would happen while she was gone. Well, nothing bad at least. We planned for Davey and me to sleep over together some at each of our houses. I was excited because I really liked - make that needed- to sleep with Davey, sex or no sex. It promised to be a great week. It promised to be a great Monday.
Then at lunch, Larice pulled me out of the line in the cafeteria. “I've gotta talk to you,” she said.
She was visibly upset. Concerned, I followed her out to a quiet bench among the campus oak trees. After we sat down, she looked sternly at me. “Did you notice that Amy isn't here today?”
“No, I didn't,” I replied. “Is she sick?”
“Only in the mornings,” she answered, watching me expectantly.
“Only in the mornings?” I asked, puzzled.
Larice rolled her eyes. “Men are so dense!” she cried. “Don't you get it? She's pregnant, Michael! Almost four months pregnant. She wanted to hide it until the end of school, but she's not gonna make it.”
“That's not very funny, Larice,” I said with a sour chuckle. “You still trying to get Davey away from me?”
She glared at me. “Some genius you are. Didn't you ever hear of condoms?” she said, angrily.
Obviously Larice was serious. I rocked back in my seat. “We used condoms, Larice,” I mumbled, trying to think. “Well… except for the first time, and a couple of times when Amy said it was safe to not use them. Dammit, Larice. She was going to get the pill.”
Larice sadly shook her head. “You were so stupid - both of you! Why the hell didn't you wear them every time?”
“Because,” I said, looking away angrily. “We liked how it felt without them.” I thought back to the last time Amy and I were together in January. That must have been the time.
Larice snorted derisively. “This is exactly the kind of thing I warned you about, Michael,” she snapped. “Amy should've known better.”
“Well, I sure thought she knew what she was talking about when she said it was safe,” I said, suddenly feeling angry with Amy.
Larice wagged a finger at me. “Now don't you go blaming Amy! Both of you were stupid. You had to know you were taking a risk.”
Begrudgingly, I nodded. “You're right.” I clutched at the bench, trying to think. “But it didn't seem risky at all, and it was sort of exciting doing it without anything… well, between us… I know. Stupid.”
I got up and paced in front of the bench. “Why hasn't she told me about the baby?” I asked. Then I looked hopefully at Larice. “Maybe it wasn't me.”
“Oh, it was you, alright,” she said and leaned back on the bench. “The only reason Amy didn't tell you was because you broke things off - remember?”
“Shit,” I said, my mind reeling. “What do I need to do? Does her family know?”
“Of course, her family knows! Your name must be shit around that house.”
I sat back down on the bench beside Larice. “I guess she's decided to have the baby, huh?”
She shrugged. “I only found out myself this weekend. But she sounded like she never even thought about....” she lowered her voice, “an abortion.”
I ran my fingers through my hair. “What's she going to do with the baby then?” I asked.
“What can she do? I imagine she'll put the baby up for adoption.”
“Adoption?” Yeah, I supposed that'd be easier, all around. But strangely, I felt a pang of regret, thinking I might want to see the baby before they gave it away.
I sat, elbows on knees, trying to think. More and more students walked past, but I didn't see anybody. All I could think was that just when I thought my life was going to be alright again, this had to happen! Talk about totally screwed up…
Larice put her hand on my back and gave me a friendly rub. “You're really cute, Michael. Girls aren't always smart when they're around guys as cute as you are.” Then she smiled and shook her head sadly. “If you were straight, you could do some real damage.”
I felt overwhelmed. “What should I do, Larice?” I mumbled. “What am I going to tell Davey? Oh shit - what am I going to tell my mom?”
Larice took my hand. “Davey and your mom both love you, Michael. You're not the one I'm worried about; I'm worried about Amy. It's not like she has many friends and that family of hers is screwy. She needs us. The first thing I think you need to do is to call Amy.”
* * * * *
At least with Mom out of town, I had some time to figure out what to say to her. Davey was a more immediate problem. I had no idea how he'd feel about all this.
On the way home from school, our shoulders brushed as we walked and Davey told me all about his day. He was happy and animated. I waited until he wound down and we were almost to my house.
“Davey,” I watched him from the corner of my eye. “I have something serious to tell you.”
We came to a stop, and I took a deep breath. “Larice told me today that Amy is pregnant. She's going to have a baby, Davey.”
His face was blank, uncomprehending.
“I'm the father,” I said.
“Amy's… having a baby?” he asked. His eyes suddenly widened.
“Yeah,” I said, watching his face. “It's from January, when we got together the very last time… Davey, I haven't done anything with her since. I promise.”
“Are you OK?” I asked, worried.
He nodded, sadly, and turned away from me.
“I'm sorry, Davey,” I said, pleading. “I'm so sorry! Things had been going so good for you and me lately…”
“It's ok,” he said, quietly.
“You sure, Davey?”
He shrugged, and forced a grin. “It sorta made the… happy feeling… go away.”
“Yeah,” I said with a sigh. “Exactly.”
We continued walking in silence until we got to the front door of my house, and he turned to me. “What's Gloria… gonna say?”
“I don't know what Mom's gonna say,” I said, as I unlocked the door and stepped into the living room. “I just know that I don't want to tell her.”
As we made our way into the kitchen, Davey put his hand on my shoulder. “You have to… tell her,” he said.
“Yeah, I know,” I told him as we spread the books out on the table. “And there's someone else I need to talk to.”
He sat down and looked up expectantly at me. “Your Grandpa?”
“Oh, damn, Davey,” I said, groaning. “I hadn't even thought of Grandpa Bentolli.” I leaned against the table. “No. I need to talk to Amy. I'm going to go in the living room and give her a call. OK?”
Settling into the couch, I dialed the number and hoped Amy would be the one to answer the phone.
“Hello,” her mom answered.
“Hi, Mrs. Sullivan. Ummmm... could I speak with Amy?”
“Hi, Michael,” she said and sounded almost friendly. “Hold on.”
When Amy answered, she sounded tired. “Hi, Michael.”
“Hi, Amy,” I said, and then tried to think what to say next. I twisted the phone cord and took a breath. “Look, I talked to Larice today… She told me about… well, about everything.” I took another deep breath. “I'm sorry. I really am. And I wanted to tell you… I've been thinking all day, and I just wanted to say… what you're doing, having the baby and all, is really… well, I think you're doing the right thing.”
She gave a tired little laugh. “You don't think I should have gotten an abortion?”
“No. I don't believe in those.”
She was quiet a moment. “I guess I'm a little surprised. I thought you might even be mad that I didn't end the pregnancy, Michael - I forgot you're Catholic.”
“Oh,” I quickly said. “It's not that I'm Catholic, cause I'm really not. I guess I just don't like abortions because of something…” I lowered my voice so that Davey wouldn't hear. “something that Davey's mom said once. She had friends who wanted her to get an abortion when she was pregnant with Davey, because she'd gotten so sick and they were pretty sure it messed Davey up.”
“Someone wanted her to abort Davey?”
“Yeah,” I whispered. “I'm just real glad she didn't.” I couldn't think what my life would've been like without Davey; it was impossible to even consider that.
I shifted on the couch. “Look, Amy,” I continued. “I'm sorry. I was really stupid and selfish. I should have always used a condom. I know it's too late for saying that I'm sorry, but whatever you want me to do, tell me and I'll do it.”
She was quiet a moment. “It took two of us Michael. I was pretty stupid, too. More stupid than you know.” She sighed. “I really loved you, you know. I still do.”
Oh, Geez, I thought. What do I say to that?
“I wanted to hate you, Michael,” she said, with a sigh. “But I don't. Maybe having a baby is doing something to me. I'm sort of…” Her voice trailed off for a moment, then she cleared her throat. “Michael, I want the baby.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “It's sort of… wonderful.”
“Really?” I asked, disbelieving.
“Yeah,” her voice became more animated. “Michael. I got a sonogram this afternoon. I saw the baby… They didn't think they'd be able to tell this soon, but they're sure - it's a boy.”
My mouth fell open. “A boy?” I said. “The baby is a boy?”
“Yes. They're certain.”
I didn't say it, but I thought, a son. And somehow, that thought seemed suddenly amazing to someone who never had a dad. It was sort of wonderful, like Amy said. “Amy,” I asked. “Are you putting the baby up for adoption?”
“No,” she said quietly. “I don't want to. I'm trying to see if my parents can help me with the baby until I'm through school. Mom's more willing than my dad.”
“What do you want me to do, Amy? I want to do whatever I can to help.”
“Thanks, Michael. You saying that helps.”
“I mean it. I want to help… Is your family ready to kill me?”
“Well, they're not real happy with either of us.”
“Should I stay away?”
“No. Please, I'd really like you to come by. Don't worry about my family.”
I thought about her Dad and older brothers. “Give me a day or two, OK?”
“OK, Michael. Oh, listen - they gave me a picture of the sonogram. If I can make it to school tomorrow, I'll bring it and show it to you,” she said happily.
“Do you have a name yet?” I asked her.
“No. But I don't think my family will let me name the baby Michael.” She giggled.
I waited till she was quiet. “Actually, I did have one idea,” I said. “And since it might be the only chance I ever get to suggest a name for a baby, can I tell you?”
“Go ahead,” she said cautiously. “What's your suggestion?”
“Well, my dad was named after his dad's brother, who was also his best friend.”
“You aren't going to suggest I name the baby Davey, are you?”
“Yeah, I guess it was a dumb idea.”
She was quiet a moment. “Michael. Do you know what my dad's first name is?”
“No, I'm not,” she said, thoughtfully. “Maybe he'd be more willing to let me keep our baby if I named him David.”
That sounded so weird - `our baby.' Would she really name him David?
When I didn't say anything, I heard her take a breath. “So what should I make David's middle name?”
“Anything your dad would like,” I told her.
We said our goodbyes, and I returned to the kitchen in a daze. Davey watched me take my seat at the end of the table, and then returned to his books. I opened my own books and tried to concentrate.
I was still in a state of shock. My talk with Amy hadn't been at all what I thought it'd be. A little name-calling was more what I thought I'd get. Suddenly, I was going to be a father! And I was going to have a son, and I wasn't even 16 years old. The world seemed to be spinning…
I glanced over at Davey, and he quickly lowered his eyes to his books. I sort of expected Davey to be mad at me, too.
Things had been so good with him lately, but now the “happy feeling” had gone away. I stole another glance at him. He was still glued to his books.
But I caught him watching me out of the corner of his eye. What was he thinking?
Then I thought of Mom. What would she think? Oh, shit. What would she do to me? Or Maggie? Or Grandpa Bentolli? Or Brandon… well, Brandon and Chase would both think I'd just been a totally stupid fuck-up. But what about Chase's dad? Or Mr. Weishamer? Or everyone at school?
I spent several minutes considering every ugly scenario that came to mind; only ugly scenarios came to mind. When all of your life, people have thought well of you, told you that you were a cut above the rest, it's hard to lose that esteem - very hard, even if that loss, as yet, is only in your fearful imagination.
My hand on my text book trembled. That hadn't happened in a while. I tucked my hand under the table, and tried once more to concentrate on my books.
I wasn't even aware that Davey had gotten up until he stepped over my lap and sat down astride me. He put his forehead to mine and took my face in his hands.
“Hey, Old Man,” he said gently. “Don't be sad.”
His deep blue eyes filled my vision. “You OK, Davey?” I asked.
Davey lifted his forehead from mine and let me see his smile. “I'm OK, Mickey… I got the… happy feeling… back.”
“You did?” I asked. “How'd you do it? Because I can sure use mine back.”
Davey moved his hands from my face to my shoulders and grinned. “You did it.”
“Your happy feeling?” I asked.
He nodded, still grinning.
“How'd I get your happy feeling back for you?”
He put his forehead back onto mine. “I got my happy feeling… lookin' at you. I always… get a happy feeling… with you, Mickey.”
I grinned. “Always? You're stretching it, Old Man.”
“Always.” He said.
I gave his back a vigorous rub. “After what I've been through today, I'm surprised I didn't dry your happy feeling up completely.”
Davey laughed, and his package jiggled pleasantly on mine. “No, Mickey,” he insisted, as if I was completely missing the point. “When I look at… you. When I'm,” and here he pushed his pelvis gently forward, pressing our crotches together. “When I'm here… with you,” he said. “It's not how… you feel. It's how I feel… cause I'm with you.”
He pressed his nose to mine so that his two, intent, blue eyes looked like one. “I like looking… at you. That gives me… a happy feeling.”
I dropped my hands down to his butt and slid my butt slightly forward to enjoy his weight more directly on my crotch. “I think I'm getting a happy feeling,” I said, smiling.
Davey giggled and rubbed himself over me.
I held his butt firmly and started to grind myself back up against him, but then paused. “Davey,” I asked. “What happens if you quit getting a happy feeling when we're together?”
He stopped rubbing and gave me a long kiss. “I'll always get a… happy feeling with you… Mickey.”
“But what happens,” I asked quietly, “if I do something stupid and make you quit wanting to be with me? What if I get bossy again?”
Davey sat up on my lap and his face screwed up as he searched for words. Then he took my face firmly into his hands and looked at me intently. “I love you… no matter what… Mickey.”
Davey blurred as my eyes suddenly watered. I sat up more in the chair, and wrapped my arms tightly around him, burying my face into his neck.
Davey laid his cheek against the side of my head. “It'll be OK… Mickey,” he said, patting my back. “You'll see.”
At fifteen-going-on-sixteen, Davey spoke not from wisdom, but from his indomitable good spirit. And at fifteen-going-on-sixteen, all I knew was that I was unspeakably grateful for him.
Davey bent to my ear. “Can we… go to your room?”
I wiped my eyes dry on his neck, forced a smile and nodded. Davey took my hand, and led me from the kitchen.
* * * * *
There's nothing faster than a rumor through a high school. By mid-week, word had evidently gotten around. I knew from the whispered conversations when I went past, and the eyes that quickly turned away. And yet, the reaction from some girls really surprised me. Some seemed suddenly more interested in me than before.
Chase caught me after our first class together Wednesday and pulled me aside. “Geez, Bentolli,” he said. “Haven't you ever heard of a condom?”
“Fuck off, Chase.” I started to walk away.
“Hey, Bent!” he called, and then jogged up to me in the hallway. “C'mon, man. I'm sorry. Don't get pissed at me.”
I stopped. He came around in front of me. “So what happened, anyway?” he asked in a whisper, glancing around at the students walking nearby.
I shrugged. “We liked how it felt without a condom and she said it was a safe time of month.”
“She could've gotten the pill, you know,” Chase said, as if I were incredibly stupid.
Well, maybe I had been. But I hated being patronized. “She was going to, you asshole,” I snapped. “She just hadn't gotten it yet.” I started to walk away, but Chase grabbed my arm.
He looked around. “You know what Janie thinks?” he asked quietly.
I shook my head.
“Janie thinks Amy did it on purpose… maybe not like a conscious thing, but still kinda on purpose, ya know?”
“Why the hell would she do that?”
“I think it's a girl thing,” Chase said with a shrug. “Janie tried to explain it all. She says Amy's dad is always focused on her brothers and hardly pays any attention to Amy, and her mom's a bit of an airhead. Anyway, Janie says Amy isn't appreciated much - you know, at home.”
“So?” I asked. “How the fuck is getting knocked up going to help?”
“Well, that's the girl thing, I guess,” Chase said, shaking his head. “Janie says, a baby got Amy's sister lots of attention. And a baby… well, a baby is someone who'd love Amy back.”
It almost made sense, in a strange sort of way. “I suppose Janie could be right; Amy wants to keep the baby,” I told him, and then shrugged. “But what's done is done, man. I just have to figure out how to handle it.”
“Have you told your mom?”
I winced. “No. And I don't want to think about it; she won't be home till Friday night.”
“Shit, Bent. You better tell her. She's gonna hear about it from somebody eventually.”
We resumed walking toward our next classes and Chase clapped my back. “At least one good thing's come out of this,” he said.
I looked at him and waited to hear what that would be.
He smiled. “It ought to kill the rumors about you and Davey.”
My blood turned cold. “What rumors?” I managed to ask.
“Just stupid stuff, Bent,” Chase said, reassuringly. “People don't understand what good friends you guys have always been. There was a rumor that you two are…” he made a limp-wristed gesture and then clapped my back again. “You sure as hell showed them! Like I said, this isn't all bad.”
Poor Chase, I thought. Trying to be such a loyal friend. I hated deceiving him.
Mr. Weishamer's look when I walked into the class, said it all. He looked at me like I was the most pitiful screw-up he'd ever seen.
When class was over, he pulled me to one side. “Michael. Is it true? What I heard about you and Amy?” he asked quietly.
He cocked his head, studying me. “Did I misread you back in January? Is this what you were so down about?”
I didn't know what to say. I thought about lying, but he didn't give me time.
“No, I was right back then,” he said, watching my face. “Damn, Michael! You just go from one crisis to another. Look, if there is anything I can do to help, please let me. OK?”
I nodded. “Thank you,” I said. “I'll work it out.”
“Well, tell your mom, too. If there's anything I can do to help, just let me know.”
“Thank you, sir,” I said, with genuine gratefulness, and left the room.
Geoff cornered me unexpectedly in the hall. My sixth sense was not working that day. He came up from behind and spoke over my shoulder, even before I knew he was there.
“There's the new daddy,” he said, sarcastically.
I stopped in my tracks and he bumped into me. His breath on my neck made me shudder, and I resumed walking down the hall - faster. But he caught up. I could feel him behind me.
“I know the truth, Bentolli,” he said softly in my ear. “I know you really love cock.” He patted my back and walked on past. “Anytime,” he called back.
I could almost feel the handprint he left in the middle of my back. I wanted it off. I wanted a different shirt. Fucking creep.
* * * * *
Mom came home late Friday night. When she called from the airport to say she was on the way, Davey headed home so I could be alone with her, and I got supper on the table.
She told me about her trip while she ate, and I barely heard a word. Under the table, I pressed my hands between my legs to keep them steady, and rehearsed what I had to say, a dozen different ways. After supper, when she sat down to relax in her chair in the living room, I sat on the couch and tried to build up my courage. Finally, I asked her to look up from her book, and I told her about Amy and the baby.
I'm not sure I'd ever shocked my mom before. I certainly never remember seeing her jaw drop like that or her look of surprise or her anger.
“And you say Amy wants to keep the baby,” she asked, repeating what I had just said.
I nodded. “She had a sonogram, Mom. It's… it's going to be a boy.”
Mom's look softened, almost imperceptibly and she stared off for a moment. Then she looked at me angrily once more.
“I can't begin to tell you how disappointed I am in you, Michael,” she said. She opened her mouth to say more, but nothing came out and her eyes filled with tears. She closed her mouth and looked away. I watched the muscles working in her jaw.
“I'm really sorry, Mom,” I said quietly.
She waved away my words with her hand. And took a deep, shuddering breath. She started to speak, stopped, took another breath - “It's a lot of things, Michael.”
She pulled a tissue from the box on the table next to her chair and wiped her eyes. She glanced at me, and then looked away. “Maggie and I have been worried about you and Davey…” She shook her head, not finishing her statement, and then smiled sadly. “I wondered if I'd be a grandmother, I…” She waved her hand once more, as if this was all too much and then stood up from her chair. “I'm really tired tonight, Michael.” She wouldn't look at me. “Right now, I'm going to bed.”
No hug, no kiss; she just left for her room, and shut the door.
I waited until it was really late and I was really sleepy before I locked up the house and turned out the lights, hoping I'd be tired enough to sleep. But I lay in bed, wondering, thinking. From what Mom said, I wondered if she and Maggie had guessed about Davey and me, or at least had strong suspicions. What did I need to do? Did I need to come out to her? After what I'd told her tonight, this couldn't be the time for that.
My hands began shaking under the covers, and it seemed harder to breathe. I had to get up.
Putting on some shorts and shoes, I opened my window and stepped out onto the porch. I quickly ran out to the street and jogged up and down the block, trying to clear my head; trying to take deep breaths.
It was a moonless night and the street was dark except for light from a couple of porches. The air was cool, and it felt good to run.
When I began to calm, I stopped at Davey's house and quietly walked back to his window, tip-toeing on the gravel of his driveway.
I didn't want to wake him; at least not to make love. I just wanted to be with him. Their house was pier-and-beam construction; his windows were chest high at the base. Crossing my arms on the bottom of the frame, I laid my head down and wished I could be with him. But, there was no sense waking Davey. There really wasn't anything he could do.
“The sadness” came on me then, and tears formed in my eyes. I thought of Mom's anger and the rumors at school. I worried that my life would get tangled up with Amy now, and I wanted to be with Davey. I thought about how screwed up my life was and sobbed. When I did, there was a movement in the yard next door. I jumped when a dog barked.
He kept barking and so I retreated back down Davey's drive. Even dogs conspired against me. I returned to my porch and lay down on the couch there.
It was after dawn when I awoke and returned to my room. I slept until I smelled breakfast.
* * * * *
That weekend, I learned about how unpredictable women can be - including your own mother.
When I came into the kitchen that morning, Mom was abrupt. “Get dressed,” she said. “I've talked to Amy's parents. We're going over there right now.”
“What?” I asked incredulously.
“Just get dressed, Michael.”
I shuffled off, feeling like I was heading to my own execution.
Mrs. Sullivan answered the door. She was surprisingly friendly and led us back to the kitchen where Amy was already sitting. What they say about women becoming beautiful when they're pregnant is certainly true of sixteen year-olds; at least it was certainly true of Amy. She almost had a glow about her; a new richness to her beauty.
I sat uncertainly beside her at the table. She leaned over and gave me a hug, then took my hand. When Mr. Sullivan came in, it was hard not to cringe. He threw one angry look in my direction, and then sat down at the opposite end of the table.
The first few minutes were spent with the adults agreeing that this was all so very unfortunate. When they all agreed that as parents they were partly at fault, I hoped for a softening of my sentence. Then they talked about the baby.
The Sullivans seemed to be leaning toward keeping the baby even though Mr. Sullivan complained that raising a child was expensive. I offered to mow more lawns, or to get a job to help with the expenses. When I did, he looked at me speculatively, and then stood up.
“Whether we keep the baby or not,” he said, “won't depend on simple economics.” He looked at me sternly. “I've always liked you Michael, and I appreciate your offer to help with finances, but you're not really in a position to do that.” He came around the table to me. “I don't appreciate what you did. But I do appreciate you wanting to make it right.”
I think he was about to offer me his hand. He stood there for a moment, and then left the room. “I'll let you ladies talk about baby things,” he said on the way out.
Baby things? I wondered. And then I watched the strangest transformation.
In the space of only moments, Mom and Mrs. Sullivan went from lamenting this tragedy to being unmistakably excited about the baby.
By the time we left, they had talked about how Amy would finish school; how the baby would be cared for; and even who would buy which baby clothes and supplies. Mom repeatedly offered to help any way she could.
Oh, I was still in the doghouse, but Mom had a grandchild on the way, and there were more important things to deal with.
And Amy? Her attitude was the most amazing of all. She didn't treat me like a lover, but she definitely treated me like her partner in the baby business. She wanted me to be happy about the baby, and when I was, she wanted to talk about the baby even more. It sounded like Amy wanted us to spend more time together again. It would be hard to decline her.
* * * * *
The next day, at Chase's house, Ed insisted I do the cooking. Each week, he taught me more about grilling, which he said was over open flame, and barbequing, which he said was slow cooking. But this Sunday, I would rather have run off with Davey and Hunter to toss a ball, or maybe to sit with Chase and Janie in front of the TV; I was worried that Ed might have heard about Amy and the baby.
When he acted like he hadn't heard anything, I felt bad about hiding it from him. But how do you tell your friend's dad about that sort of thing? “Oh, Ed, by the way, I knocked up a girl… does this steak look done to you?” No, there just wasn't an easy way to bring it up.
So far, he'd taught me to barbeque brisket and spare ribs. And he'd taught me how to grill burgers and chicken. Today the stakes were higher… as in rib-eye steaks.
“Close the lid,” Ed instructed. “The important thing now is to leave `em alone. You keep the fire low and just let `em cook. It's the old `watched pot never boils' kind of thing.”
We sat down on two lawn chairs. “Now tell me, why does Dr. Meyers want us to get together?” he said.
“Actually,” I answered, “it was me that suggested you, Ed. Dr. Meyers just wanted us to find someone to give us a little business advice. He thinks we might be able to sell some computer software that Davey and I have written.”
Ed lifted an eyebrow.
“I suggested you,” I said, “because you told me you're a CPA and you obviously know all about business. But I know you're busy,” I quickly added. “If you don't have the time, that's fine.”
“Sure I have the time,” he grinned. “You and Davey find out when he can get together with us and set up a time with my secretary.” He turned toward the grill and inhaled deeply, and smiled. “That meat sure smells good, doesn't it? Makes you want to take a peek.”
“Uh, uh, uh,” I cautioned. “No peeking! My grill instructor says so.”
He grinned conspiratorially, and we both got up at the same time to lift the hood. The steaks were sizzling and the aroma billowed up out of the grill. Ed took a sip of his beer. “Of course,” he said, “in Texas, the tradition is for the guys to stand around the grill drinking beer. We'll have to wait until you're old enough to complete the tradition.”
“I like beer,” I said. At least the kind Brandon and I had the night we got blitzed.
“You're too young to be drinking beer, Michael,” he said, carefully lifting a steak with the tongs to peek underneath. “What kind of beer do you like?”
I shrugged. “Beer's beer, isn't it? Or do you mean what brand?”
“Here,” he said, holding out the dark brown beer bottle from which he'd been drinking. “Take a sip and tell me what you think.”
The bottle was cold, and I was thirsty so I took a good swallow. The taste was complex and rich, but smooth. “Oh, this is good,” I said, enthusiastically. “Really good.”
Ed nodded and walked over to one of the patio cabinets. “It's a German import. One of my favorites.” He reached up and took down a glass, and coming back, took the bottle of beer from me. He poured half into the glass and handed it to me.
“Tradition, you know,” he said, winking.
* * * * *
I looked in the mirror again and pulled at the uneven strands of my hair. It looked terrible. Davey, scissors in hand, watched anxiously from over my shoulder.
“It wasn't bad for your first haircut, Davey,” I said, reassuringly. “Maybe it just takes more practice… Mom can help you trim it up when she gets home.” I held up a few more strands on the other side. “Maybe we should have had let her show us how to do this before trying it on our own.”
Davey dusted more hair off my bare shoulders and looked at me apologetically in the mirror. I smiled. He smiled. I smiled wider. He broke into a huge grin. We both burst out laughing. Davey wrapped his arms around my shoulders and hid his face behind my head.
I looked again at my hair and laughed harder. Davey's reflection peeked at me from behind my head. “If we're going to live off you doing hair cuts,” I gasped in between laughs, “you're going to need a lot more training.”
He leaned back and looked again at my hair. “And a lot… of practice,” he said, grinning.
Mom refused to trim up my hair until after Maggie had a chance to see it, and Maggie insisted on getting her camera.
Her first picture was of us laughing with Davey standing behind me, holding a pair of scissors up next to my hair. We were still laughing after she took the picture, and Davey threw his arms around my shoulders. Maggie quickly snapped a second picture. In this one, I was leaning forward in Davey's arms, laughing, and Davey was laughing over my shoulder. It instantly became my favorite photograph.
* * * * *
I was not looking forward to Grandpa's next call. I figured I better tell him about Amy myself, before Mom did.
He let me fumble around trying to explain until he finally got the gist of it.
“So you're saying you got Amy pregnant?”
“Yes, Grandpa. The baby's due in October - it's a boy.”
There was silence at the other end of the line.
“I'm just thinking,” he said. “You're too young to marry Amy. But Michael, a child is a life-long commitment, whether you get married or not. You weren't too young to make a mistake. Now you have to make good on it.”
He cleared his throat. “For as long as you live, Michael, you have a responsibility to help with your child in whatever way you can, including being around as much as you can. You know yourself what it's like to grow up without a father.”
“I know, Grandpa,” I said. “I'm sorry. I was stupid.”
“You certainly weren't smart. But what matters is what you do now and for the rest of your life. Men make mistakes, Michael. It's how they correct them that matters. And that's your job now. You have to think about your son.”
My son, I thought. It still sounded crazy.
“I personally believe,” Grandpa said, “that the news of a baby is always good news. No matter how you feel about it, Michael, it's important for your Mom and Amy that you choose to be happy for the baby. And when the baby comes, welcome him.” His voice trailed off softly as if he remembered some other time, some other baby. “It will be important,” he said.
* * * * *
By the time we had our first meeting with Ed Armstrong, Dr. Meyers had researched patents, existing software, and even contacted a couple of software houses. When Ed ushered us into his office, Dr. Meyers carried a full portfolio.
Ed's office was spacious, but Davey and I were immediately drawn to the spectacular view from the twenty-fourth floor. From there, we could see our neighborhood, though not our houses.
Dr. Meyers cleared his throat, calling our attention back from the window, and Davey and I quickly sat down next to him. Ed leaned forward expectantly.
Dr. Meyers outlined the opportunity as he saw it. “We've benchmarked the sort and it's fast - very fast,” he said. “I've talked to a couple of database vendors. They're interested in licensing the technology. I believe the boys can make good money off this.”
“How much is good money?” Ed asked.
“That depends on who we license to, and how many customers. Potentially, tens of thousands of dollars. And, Ed,” Dr. Meyers said, “the boys need to look long-term. Any licenses could last for a few years, and already, the boys are coming up with new ideas.” Dr. Meyers nodded at me. “Tell him, Michael.”
I cleared my throat and sat forward on my chair. “We've been thinking,” I said. “Data is the big thing. The amount of data being stored on computers is mushrooming. And that means two critical needs: First, performance. Everyone is into relational databases. But a relational database isn't the only way to store data, and not necessarily the fastest. Davey and I are working on some ideas. The second big need is security. It's a big issue, and Davey and I have some ideas on how to make data much more secure.”
Ed smiled broadly and turned to Dr. Meyers. “Is Michael as good as he sounds at this?”
“Both of them are very good,” Dr. Meyers said. He winked at Davey. “Davey has a remarkable brain.”
Ed scratched his chin. “Sounds like you guys need to set up a little company. Maybe a little S-Corp.” He began thinking out loud. “We can put the ownership in trusts until you're of majority, and we can run income and expenses through the corporation for tax purposes. We can even set up your trust funds to pay for college.” He glanced at Davey. “That is, if you want to go to college.”
“The boys could do pretty well at this, Ed” Dr. Meyers said. “They might actually be able to make a good income and form a real company.”
“Well, if they suddenly make millions,” Ed said, grinning, “we can always convert from an S-Corporation. It won't be expensive to set up the corporation, and it really isn't hard to switch over.”
He made notes on a pad on his desk. “I can handle the paperwork myself. The trusts will be a little more involved and I may need some legal help. I'm thinking we'll want two trusts, one for each of you boys. Ownership of the corporations is something to be worked out. Will it be all three of you?” he asked, looking at each of us.
“No,” Dr. Meyers was quick to say. “This is strictly the boys' thing. Besides, I don't want my employment at the University to muddy up ownership of the software. In fact, I've had the boy's paying me token amounts for computer time at the school. We need to make that somewhat more official so that the school can't come after their work.”
“Easy enough to do,” Ed said. Then he turned to me. “So how do we divide the ownership?”
“Equally,” I said. “Of course.”
“Well, you'll both own stock. But we need to divide the ownership between you so that somebody has a majority. Are you the one who's done most of the work, Michael?”
“Yes,” Davey said quickly.
“No,” I said. “The ideas have been Davey's too. Fifty-Fifty.”
Ed shook his head. “It really shouldn't be a fifty-fifty split. Fifty-five, forty-five is OK. Michael, I suggest we give you fifty-five and Davey forty-five. And, Davey,” he said looking at him, “that's mainly because you have a little impairment. Legally, it would be better if the competency of the corporate decision maker can't be questioned. Of course for now, your Moms will be trustees.”
I watched him make more notes and decided I needed to say it again. “It needs to be fifty-fifty, Ed.”
He glanced up at me, surprised at my firmness, and then nodded. “OK, maybe we can put equal ownership in some vehicle, a trust, a limited partnership, and make you the trustee or the managing partner, Michael; when you're old enough. Let me think on it. I'll see what we can do about making minors, which you are, officers of the company, too. I'm not sure of Texas law on that. By the way,” he said, looking back and forth from Davey to me. “Do you have a name for your company?”
“I do,” I said, glancing at Davey. “Carlson - Bentolli.”
Davey grinned. “Bentolli- Carlson,” he countered.
“No, Davey,” I said. “I've thought about it. Bentolli - Carlson sounds like a law firm.” I winked at Ed. “I like Carlson - Bentolli better. It just sounds more like a professional engineering company.”
“Actually,” Ed said, “it's better to give the company a name that indicates what the company's about. Big corporations pay huge bucks to come up with a catchy, descriptive name.”
I shook my head. “A name isn't going to sell what we're going to have. We'll make the name. I like Carlson - Bentolli.”
Ed leaned back in his chair with a lopsided smile. “Are you sure you need my help? You seem to know pretty much what you want already.”
“Yes,” I said, scooting forward on my seat. “We need your help. We don't know anything about trusts and corporations.” Then I drew a deep breath. “And if you're talking about locking up all the money in corporations and trust funds, there's something I need to tell you, something I haven't wanted to tell you about.”
Ed's brow knitted and he sat back up. “What's that, Michael?”.
I looked from him to Dr. Meyers. I was pretty sure Dr. Meyers didn't know either. “I, ummm… there's this girl. We, uh… we're going to have a baby, a boy.” I watched Ed's face freeze. “It's not like we're getting married or anything,” I quickly continued. “But if we make any money off the software, I need to help her out, you know. So like, the money needs to not all be all tied up… not my half of it.”
The room was quiet. Then Dr. Meyers shook his head. “Geniuses! Stupid!”
Ed slowly leaned back.
“I'm sorry,” I said, embarrassed. My face felt hot. “Dr. Meyers is right; I was stupid.”
Ed nodded. “Yeah, Michael. It sounds like it. But it also sounds like you want to do the right thing. That's not something to worry about right now. Later, if you make money, you can always look at making a will, or even contributing some sort of child support. Who's the girl?”
So I told Ed and Dr. Meyers about Amy and the baby.
When I was done, Ed nodded, thoughtfully. “Michael, I appreciate that you want to be responsible and help out Amy and her family. But there is no sense counting your chickens before they hatch. You make some money, then we'll figure out what we can do for Amy, alright?”
I agreed, hoping I'd make lots of money.
* * * * *
When mom left again for an overnight business trip and rode to the airport with a coworker, the car in the driveway was way too much of a temptation; especially with our sixteenth birthdays and driver's tests coming up.
Both Davey and I had begun driver's ed at school. What harm could there be in a quick ride around the neighborhood? We waited until that afternoon, then slowly backed the car out of the drive.
I took my turn first, driving around the block several times before we switched and Davey took over driving.
“You're driving way too slow, Davey,” I kibitzed, watching the speedometer, which hovered well under 20.
“Stop… bossing!” he snapped.
“I'm not bossing. I'm backseat driving. That's perfectly legal.”
“You're in the front seat… with me,” he corrected. “It's still bossing.”
“Alright, alright,” I said, exasperated. “I won't say anything. I'll just wait to scream and yell when someone is about to drive up our ass cause we're STOPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD,” I yelled, then gave him a smart-ass grin.
We rounded the block a second time and Davey gunned the engine, throwing me back in the seat. “Oh, too fast,” Davey said, smiling and hit the brake, throwing me forward.
“You OK?” Davey asked grinning, and then he began to swerve from side to side, laughing as I bounced around on the seat.
“Cut it out, you doofus!” I yelled, also laughing. “Or I'll hit the driver eject button!”
That's when we heard the whoop of a police siren.
Davey glanced in the rear-view mirror and actually screamed - a guy scream, but a scream nonetheless.
I looked behind us to see a squad car, and quickly turned back. “Act natural,” I yelled, trying to keep my eyes straight ahead to pretend that everything was cool.
“Do I pull over?” Davey asked, frantically. And that's when the cop turned on his lights and gave us a second siren blast.
“Aaaaugh!” Davey yelled.
“Oh, shit, Davey,” I said. “Don't panic! Just pull over.”
Davey looked around frantically, and then moved the car towards the side of the street. I winced when the tires scraped against the curb, but was relieved when we finally stopped.
The two of us sat facing forward, cringing as the policeman walked up to Davey's door. Davey lowered the window and we looked out at the smiling face of Officer Thomas Richardson of the San Antonio Police Department.
He looked at Davey and then at me, grinning. “Davey,” he said. “I believe your learner's permit requires an adult in the car. Michael's going to need a fake beard to pass.” Then he laughed. “You boys just circling the block?”
We both nodded.
“Driving a little erratically, aren't we?”
“Ha!” I cried out.
Davey frowned at me.
Tom reached in and mussed Davey's hair. “Better take it home, cowboy. And park it, until you have an adult with you.”
“Hey, Tom,” I said. “You're an adult. Davey could drive your car for you.”
Tom laughed and slapped the side of the car with his hand. “Take it home, boys,” he said, and started to walk away. But then he returned to Davey's window. “Tell ya what, boys,” he said, leaning in. “Would you two like to ride with me in the squad car to get some floats?”
Davey and I looked at each other. “Yeah!” we said at the same time.
Tom followed us back to the house to leave the car before taking us to DQ. The root beer floats were great and he never told Maggie or Mom about Davey and me joyriding.
* * * * *
Dr. Meyers and Ed moved things with Carlson-Bentolli along quickly. Besides pushing me to get the sort written for platforms other than DEC, especially IBM and Wang, Dr. Meyers loaded me down with books on encryption and data base designs.
“Do you understand calculus?” he asked, handing me a college text on the subject.
“Yeah, I guess I understand it OK,” I answered, taking the book.
Dr. Meyers nodded at the book. “Then teach it to Davey.”
“Teach Davey calculus?” I asked, incredulously.
“I thought you were smart,” he said, and winked at me. “And we both know that Davey's damn smart at math. Give it a shot. Didn't you tell me his specialist said not to assume any limitations?”
I tucked the book under my arm and turned to leave. “Dr. Kazan can figure out how the hell to do this one,” I grumbled to myself. “We'll see about limitations!”
* * * * *
Davey had been with Hudson and me for every practice up until the last one before the recital. That practice was a Saturday morning and Davey had slept over the night before at Hunter's to play some new game Hunter had gotten.
Mom walked into the living room where Hudson and I were setting up, shaking her head. “That Pachelbel piece was really pretty the first one hundred times,” she said. “I liked it better when you and Davey just played music. No offense, Hudson, but Michael's been playing that Canon till I'm ready to throttle his neck.” She bent over me and kissed my cheek. “I'm going shopping, Michael. I'll be back after lunch.”
When she left, I smiled at Hudson. “Well, she's given away my secret. I wanted you to think I played effortlessly. Truth is, I've been practicing a lot.”
Hudson smiled. “Probably not as much as me. I wanted to make sure that if either of us screwed this up, it wouldn't be me.”
“Gee, thanks, Hudson,” I said in mock displeasure. “A real friend would be sure to screw up just a little more than me so that I won't be embarrassed.”
He grinned, and began tuning.
Hudson had a way of playing that I enjoyed watching. He got so into the music that his concentration was total. Sitting bent over his guitar, all intent the way he did, always made me feel a little guilty for my more relaxed and fluid style.
Though our styles were different, we played well together, and we both enjoyed it. There's a bonding you can get through playing duets, and I soon felt that more than our music was in harmony. Hudson and I were attracted to each other.
I liked his small frame and delicate features. Yet his movements and carriage were definitely masculine, even if his face was more pretty than handsome. And somehow, his shyness only added to that attractiveness. Yet neither of us said anything to each other to indicate anything other than friendship.
That is, until we were finished practicing that Saturday morning.
When we were done, I brought us Cokes and we sat together on the couch to drink them. “So, uh... how long have you and Davey been boyfriends?” Hudson asked.
I turned to face him, backing myself into the arm of the couch. When I did, my legs separated and I noticed Hudson's eyes drop to my crotch. “Davey's been my best friend since first grade,” I said. “But we didn't start messing around until a couple of years ago.”
“A couple of years?” he asked, surprised. “How did you two start?”
I spent a few minutes telling him. As I talked, he turned to face me on the couch, just as I was facing him. When his legs separated, it was obvious that for a little guy, he had a nice package. It was especially obvious when he got hard as I described Davey and me learning about rubbing. When I told him more about rubbing and learning other things, I couldn't help but notice Hudson's cock point up his lap, and I felt mine travel down my leg.
“So that's how Davey and I became such good boyfriends,” I said. Then I smiled proudly. “He really is incredible.”
I was tempted to tell Hudson a lot more about how terrific Davey was, but then realized that wasn't very thoughtful if Hudson didn't have somebody. “Do you have a boyfriend?” I asked.
He shook his head sadly. “No. Not yet.”
“But you've been with another guy before, right?”
He shook his head. “No, never,” he said. Then he looked at me nervously. “I've been wondering how to ask you to, umm…” He looked away, and then cleared his throat. “Uh… to be my first. You know - first time. If you want to.” He glanced back at me.
I gulped, and my cock grew even harder. For a moment, I really thought about it. But then I remembered Davey. I was not going to screw up again. “Sorry, Hudson,” I said. “You have no idea how much I'd really love to do that, but I can't… you know - boyfriend.”
He nodded. “Thanks for saying you wanted to.” His face flushed red.
“Listen, Hudson,” I said, putting my hand reassuringly on his knee. “You're a hot dude. I really would love to get together. But you'll find somebody. I'll help you, if I can.” Then I became conscious of just where I'd put my hand, especially when Hudson looked down at it.
“Sorry,” I said, and yanked my hand back.
Our recital was the next afternoon. It was my first public performance. We must have done well because Knox wanted to pair us up for more. I still got the feeling that Knox was thinking about us doing more than just making music together, but as long as Davey and I were together, that would never happen.
* * * * *
END OF SCHOOL
Dr. Meyers arranged his schedule to have some time to visit with different database and software houses the first couple of weeks after the university spring semester ended. So while Davey and I finished the school year, mowed lawns, and rejoined the summer swim team, Dr. Meyers set out to help make our fortune.
Knowing that Mom might have suspicions about us, Davey and I planned to each sleep in our own bed at night. But since I declined another life-guarding job, we would have our afternoons together.
But the very first Monday after school ended, just after Davey and I had made love, I got a phone call. “Hello,” I answered.
“Hey, Bentolli, I've been thinking about how to have fun this summer and I thought of you.”
I froze. I knew the voice immediately; it was Geoff. I thought I'd be free of him all summer and now, here he was, invading my home. I suppressed a groan. “You are so fucked up, Geoff!” I finally managed to say. “Don't ever call me again.” I started to hang up.
“Wait, Michael! I told you I was sorry. Don't be like that,” he said. “Please?”
“Sorry won't cut it, Geoff,” I said. “Sorry is never going to cut it.”
Davey heard me say `Geoff' and sat up, still naked, on the couch. He watched me, concerned.
“Look, Michael,” Geoff continued. “I really wanna be friends; I mean, how many other guys do you know in our school who love cock like we do? Besides, you know I've always liked you.” He lowered his voice. “I'd like to make it up to you - I'd like to really make love to you, the right way. In fact, um…” Geoff hesitated.
I wanted to hang up, and yet, wondered what he was up to this time.
“I was thinkin' about maybe comin' to your window tonight,” he said. “If… if it's okay with you, that is.”
I sat heavily into Mom's armchair.
“Michael?” Geoff's voice asked.
“Forget it, you creep,” I snapped. “I have a gun.”
“I'll call the cops.”
“Yeah, cops love queers. Look, if you don't open up your window for me, that's fine. I'll just walk on over to Davey's house. I'm sure I can get in there.” And he hung up. I heard the click.
I slammed the phone back onto its cradle.
Davey came and knelt between my knees and placed his hands on top of my thighs. “What'd he say?” he asked.
I told him.
“I can spend the night… here,” Davey offered.
“What if he goes to your house when I don't open up?”
Davey moved forward between my legs and wrapped his arms around me. “He won't… get in,” he said. “Mom will be…OK.”
I worried about my Mom being suspicious of us again with Davey sleeping over. I worried about her trying to look in on us. But I worried more about Geoff. I nodded. “Yeah. Spend the night with me.”
That night, I had trouble sleeping, even with the comfort of Davey's naked body nestled to mine. He, however, slept soundly. It was late when I heard footsteps on the porch, followed by a tapping at my window.
Davey slept on, even though my body went rigid and the tapping seemed as loud as gunshots. I could barely breathe, and I started to tremble.
The tapping came again, a third time, and I worried that Mom would hear it. But there was no way I would get up to answer it. I clutched Davey more tightly to me and he snuggled closer in his sleep.
Then I heard footsteps retreating.
It was several minutes before they returned and there was another tapping at my window. I began to worry that he'd persist all night. But after a few more tries, he went away.
Sleep did not come to me until almost dawn.
Only after swim practice, in the safety of daytime, was I able to sleep. I'd told Davey about Geoff, and he stayed in the room with me while I slept.
I felt much better afterwards, though it kept us from our usual afternoon lovemaking. So that night, when I went to Davey's to sleep over with him, we both were horny. As soon as Maggie went to bed, we charged back to Davey's room where we stripped and wrestled into bed. We were definitely wilder in our lovemaking than was usual for us. Yet we still got to bed early enough to have the room dark and quiet just in case Geoff came around.
I slept better in Davey's large, comfortable bed.
The next day was Davey's birthday. We were getting ready to go to a movie and Davey was in the john when Geoff called again. “Hey, Bentolli. You sure sleep hard.”
I hung up.
He called back and I almost didn't answer it.
“Look, Michael,” he said quickly, “I was out walking last night and stopped by Davey's house.”
My blood ran cold.
“I like doggy position too. Davey sure likes fuckin', doesn't he? Of course, it looked like you enjoyed gettin' it, too. You've got a hot body, Bentolli. I still say you have the best butt in school.”
My hand trembled on the phone and I almost yelled in frustration.
“I didn't interrupt you guys, ” Geoff said, as if he'd done us a favor, “ but sometime, you have to let me show you how good it can be.”
“Please,” I said quietly, suddenly feeling very, very tired. “Please leave me alone.”
It was quiet on his end. And then the line went dead.
For a long time, I simply sat and stared at the phone. I felt numb, and unable to think. Maybe, if we knew Geoff was outside, we could call the police about a prowler. Maybe I could get a gun. Maybe I could shoot the prowler. No. Not really. Maybe a knife.
When I told Davey about the call, it was the first time I'd seen him really angry. He wanted to call Geoff back.
“No, Davey,” I argued. “The guy's weird. He doesn't understand the word `no.' He'll just try to get you to fuck with him.”
“It won't work!” Davey said angrily, picking up the living room phone.
“Then neither will calling him,” I said.
Davey looked at me, and set the phone back in its cradle. “What are we going to do?” he asked.
I rubbed my forehead, trying to think. “I don't know, Davey. I really don't.”
He put his arm over my shoulder.
I smiled at him. “At least we can make love in the dark,” I said. “And under the bedcovers, or up on the bluff at night.”
“And,” he said, hugging my shoulder. “We can go to a… movie.”
* * * * *
I'd gotten to where I hated answering the phone. But I was alone that Friday when it rang, so I answered. It was Geoff.
“Hi Michael, I just wanted to tell you why I won't be around this summer.”
Not around? “Why?” I asked suspiciously.
“I've got a job. My cousin called. He works at a summer camp and one of their counselors was in a car accident. They need somebody. And I'm the guy. It's in New Mexico, so I won't be back for awhile, but Michael…” He lowered his voice. “I'm not giving up on you.”
“What kind of camp?” I asked, hoping he wasn't going to be working with boys.
“A boys' camp. Anyway, Michael, look. I know you're still angry with me, and I don't blame you. But I've tried to tell you I'm sorry, because I really want to be friends. Good friends. I know deep down you like me because you told me so, before Davey and I got together.” He paused, and then spoke as if thinking out loud. “It's funny, but I just seem to want to be with you more the longer we're apart. You wait. This fall, I'm going to win you over, Michael, no matter what it takes.” He took a deep breath, and then spoke very quietly. “I love you, dude, and I want us to be together. I'll do what ever it takes - honest.”
I didn't say anything. Geoff always fucked with my brain. I just needed to remember that I hated him. And that he was going to be gone all summer; that was a great thought.
He seemed to be waiting for an answer, but my mind drifted on to another thought; I hated the idea of what he might do to the boys he would be working with. Then I had a hopeful thought, maybe he'd get arrested for trying something. Then I felt guilty and wondered whether there was anything I could do to warn the camp. Hell, I didn't even know which camp.
“I'll miss you, Bentolli,” he finally said, and then hung up before I could reply the way I wanted..
“I won't miss you, Geoff,” I said to the dial tone.
I put down the phone and curled into a ball on the couch. I just wished the guy would go away forever. Why was he so obsessed with me? What had I ever done to encourage him?
Later, when I told Davey about the call, he was excited to hear Geoff would be gone all summer. I didn't tell him what Geoff said he planned for the fall - why bother him with that now?
* * * * *
A week later, when the phone rang Friday afternoon, I was still answering somewhat cautiously. It was Dr. Meyers.
“Michael, are you sitting down?”
I sat back down at the kitchen table beside Davey, stretching the extra-long phone cord from its wall mount. “Now I am.”
Dr. Meyers sounded wired. “NBase has run their own benchmarks on your sort routine. Michael… they're even better than our own. They want an exclusive, Mr. Chairman. And they'll pay for it - a hundred and seventy-five thousand a year for three years, plus a bonus of three hundred thousand up front for exclusive rights, provided we can have it ready for their next release.”
Davey watched my jaw drop and put his hand on my shoulder.
Meanwhile, on the phone, Dr. Meyers was waiting for me to reply. “Michael... Michael?”
“When's their next release?” I asked in a daze.
“In two months. But what's to get ready? You're almost ready on the other platforms, right?”
“Well, not exactly,” I confessed, “I didn't know you were going to sell the sort so fast. I mean, what with my recital and finals… and we've only been out of school a week. But I'll work on it. Honest. I've got IBM about done, and it shouldn't take long for Wang and Honeywell.”
“Well get ready then. We cannot screw up this deal. Look, Michael,” he said. “Giving NBase an exclusive is really the best way to go, a lot less work than trying to sell it around. And besides, the more we expose the software, the more likely it is that somebody is going to reverse engineer us.”
“Look,” he continued. “NBase is big. They won't mess us around, especially since this gives them a real leg-up on every other database out there... and they're interested in your other ideas, Michael. This could be a very productive partnership.”
Every neuron in my brain seemed to want to fire in a different direction. I picked a thought at random. “I've gotta tell Ed,” I said.
“I already did.”
“What'd he say?”
“He's calling his lawyer friend to work up the contracts. You're going to have expenses, Michael. So don't go resting on your laurels. You and Davey get the Carlson-Bentolli sort ready for other platforms and then get on those other ideas you have. A hundred and seventy-five thousand a year isn't going to be enough to pay you guys and me, too. And I do plan to work for you. This is a lot more fun than teaching. Oh, and you owe me for some plane tickets, hotel, and meals. I had to wine and dine some of these guys.”
“Sure,” I replied, still dazed. Davey leaned close as he rubbed my back and watched my face.
“And Michael,” Dr. Meyers continued. “NBase is interested in any upgrades to the - they're calling it the `CB sort'. They want first right of refusal on any upgrades and they'll pay for it. Ed's going to call you if he has any questions. Gotta run now. We can talk more later.”
“Dr. Meyers,” I said quickly.
“Thank you. Thank you very much!”
“Michael, don't thank me. I'm having a blast, and you're going to pay me back. We can talk later. Bye.”
I turned to Davey, still in awe as I hung up the phone. “We're rich,” I told him.
He looked at me curiously.
“Dr. Meyers has a contract for us, with lots of money.” I smiled, and then whooped. “A lot of money!”
After I explained Dr. Meyer's phone call to Davey, I called Ed.
“Congratulations, Michael!” he said as soon as he came on the line.
“Thanks. I guess it's still sinking in.”
“You've got a winner in Dr. Meyers. You owe him, Michael.”
“That's why I was calling. I wanted to know how to take care of that. And we owe you, too.”
“Don't worry about me, Michael. We're friends. Remember?” Then he became serious. “Michael, I told Dr. Meyers not to say anything to anybody about this. I don't think you guys want word to get out about this until you have to. It'll affect the way people treat you - at school, in town. Even your relatives.”
“OK,” I agreed. “Say, Ed?”
“Do you think Davey and I can have some of the money to get a car?”
“Hell, you can each get a car!”
I considered that. “I think one car for now is fine. And if we're supposed to keep being rich a secret, it doesn't have to be a really good car.”
Ed laughed. “You aren't that rich - not yet, anyway. But you're wise to be careful. We need as much as possible for seed money for your new venture… your software house. But a car is OK. Are you sixteen yet?”
“Davey just turned sixteen, and I will in a couple of days.”
“Well, I think you ought to throw one hell of a party,” he laughed.
“Yeah, maybe I will,” I said, “Wednesday's my birthday anyway. We can celebrate then.” My mind was racing with ideas. “I have a lot of lawn-mowing money I was saving for a car. I could sure throw a `hell of a party' with that, and you could come with your family and Dr. Meyers could come with his wife. How `bout it? Can we do the celebration Wednesday night? Can you guys come?”
He laughed. “Good timing for a double birthday gift of a few hundred thousand, huh? Sure, let's do it. I'll have Debbie and the kids there.”
“We need to make sure Maggie - that's Davey's mom - can get off that night, and there's one other thing. Ummm…” I hesitated, and then plunged ahead. “I don't know how to set something like that up… you know, at a restaurant. Could you help me? I can bring the money to pay for everything, but like reservations and all… can you do that?”
“Sure, where do you want to go?”
“Well, I always wanted to go to The Barn Door. Everybody says they have the best steaks in San Antonio,” I answered. “Well, except for the steaks at your house.”
He laughed. “They have great steaks. I'll set it up. How about seven o'clock? You clear it with your moms and invite Dr. Meyers. He should be back in town tomorrow.”
“Sure… Ed. Like, how soon do you think the money will be coming in? Because we really could use a car, and I know you're really busy and all and I sorta hate to ask another favor, but I…” I had to take a breath - it was like everything was happening too fast. “I don't even know how to buy a car. When the money comes in, would you help us?”
There was a definite smile in his voice. “Sure. I figured I'd have to. If it's a company car, then your CPA should have a hand in selecting it, right? You have a preference?”
“No. But Davey likes jeeps… the open, GI Joe-kind, I guess. Wait,” I said. Davey was tugging on my arm. I covered the mouthpiece and looked at him.
“Camaros. I like Camaros,” he said.
“You do?” I asked, surprised. “You never told me that.”
I took my hand back off the mouthpiece. “Davey says he also likes Camaros, but I guess that would be too fancy. People would wonder about us having a Camaro.”
“A Camaro isn't that fancy. Just don't tell Davey about Porsches,” Ed said, and laughed reassuringly. “Look, I've gotta run. We can talk more later.”
I called Mom. Davey called Maggie. And then we tried to think who else we could tell without everyone finding out who wasn't supposed to find out. I called Grandpa. But then everyone else we knew lived in town.
There was Brandon in California. As a rule, I never said much about Brandon around Davey, but I thought he might enjoy having someone else to call with the news.
“Hey, Davey. You want to give Brandon a call? And tell him?”
His face darkened. “No.”
“Oh,” I said, realizing that hadn't been a good idea after all. “OK. Maybe we can think of somebody else you can call.”
Davey knelt up on the couch next to me and rubbed my shoulder. “Will you be… mad at me… if I ask… something?”
“No,” I answered uncertainly. “Of course not.”
Davey crawled astride my lap and buried his face in the side of my neck. I rubbed his back, wondering what could be so serious.
“Will you… for me…” he asked in a small voice. “…don't talk to… Brandon so much.”
I was stunned. “What do you mean, Davey? I only talk to him every week or two. If we talked less, it'd be almost not at all.”
He nodded his head on my neck.
“But, Davey… why?”
He just shook his head.
“Davey,” I asked quietly. “Are you jealous?”
“Look, Davey,” I explained. “Brandon and I were barely together at all last summer. And now we're just friends - good friends because he's been there when I needed him. But he's just my friend.”
“But not… mine,” Davey said softly.
“He is, Davey. He told me even last summer to be there for you when you broke up with Geoff, and he's the one who told me to talk to you after… what Geoff did to me.”
Davey lifted his head and put his forehead to mine, keeping his eyes downcast between us. “How would… you feel, Mickey… if I still talked… to Geoff… all the time?”
I gasped. “I can't believe you put Brandon in the same category as Geoff!”
“Brandon snuck in,” he said. “In your window… when you were supposed to be… my boyfriend.”
I sighed. “Well back then, Davey, you sure didn't seem to care about how many boyfriends you had.”
Davey climbed off my lap and sat beside me. “You still… love him,” he said sadly.
“Well, of course I do!” I exclaimed. “I told you - he's my friend.”
“He was your… boyfriend… And Geoff was… mine.”
“It's not the same, Davey,” I said, pounding my thigh. “It's not. How can you even make the comparison? You could never be friends with the guy who… attacked me!”
Davey sat quietly a moment, and then turned to me. “You said… when we made love… on the bluff… you said… you'd trade the whole world… for me,” he challenged.
“Oh,” I snapped. “And now you want me to trade Brandon in for you? Why should I? Why can't I be friends with him and still be your boyfriend. Why not? It's not like he and I are sleeping together.”
He looked at me sadly. “Because,” he said so quietly I could barely hear him, “I asked.”
I leaned my head back on the couch. “Well, dammit,” I said with a deep sigh. “I will trade the whole world for you. I just didn't expect to be asked.” I rolled my head to face him and took his hand. “It's really important to you?”
I wondered- why would it be so important? Because I confided in Brandon? Because I had loved him and still treasured those ten days we had together? Because I still loved him?”
In my heart of hearts, I had to admit. I loved Brandon as more than just a friend - I loved him a lot. And Brandon was a part of my life I wanted to hold on to, a relationship I would never think of trading. Did that make Davey jealous?
Davey squeezed my hand, and looking down at it, sighed. “I always wanted to come to your window… at night… like Brandon did.” He glanced up at me and then looked down. “I thought it sounded…” He grinned at our hands. “Hot. But,” he squeezed my hand more tightly. “That was what Brandon did, I…”
“No sloppy seconds?” I asked.
He looked up at me, not understanding.
“I think I understand, Davey. You didn't want me thinking you were just imitating Brandon. You didn't want me thinking about him?”
He nodded, “Sorta… but,” he put a hand on my chest. “How can I…” he searched for the word, “compete with him…” He patted the middle of my chest. “… in here.”
I sighed. “You don't need to compete with him. You never needed to. He was never competition for you. Not in here,” I said, taking his hand and patting my chest with it.
He frowned. And I remembered suddenly how hopeless I felt whenever I thought about competing with Geoff or his memory. There was only one choice to make.
“I'll tell him I won't talk to him at all, if that's what you want,” I said.
Davey frowned and shook his head. “You don't have to… Mickey,” he said sadly and put his hand on my cheek. “Just… call me, instead of Brandon… when you want to… talk about important…stuff.”
I smiled. “Yeah. I'll do that. In fact,” I said, putting my own hand on his cheek, “I want to do that. Is it alright if I call Brandon tonight to let him know what's going on?”
Davey looked down and nodded.
“Hey,” I said, lifting his chin. “Thank you.”
Davey looked surprised.
“You really do love me, don't you?” I grinned. “Jealous, huh? Have you really wanted to come to my window at night?”
His smile widened.
I laughed. “Well just don't do it when I'm worried about `Geoff, the creep' showing up.”
Davey's smile disappeared and he shook his head. “Course not,” he said, and then looked thoughtful. “I'll tap like this…” And he tapped three times on the back of the couch, followed by a pause, and then two taps.
I grinned. “A code? Cool.” I winked at him. “Maybe I'll use it when I come to your window.” I took him by the shoulders. “But you know how I really want to celebrate our new fortune?”
“How?” he asked.
“By running back up to the quarry bluff again some night - just you and me.”
“But not tonight,” I said. “Tonight, I have a promise to keep. I have a phone call I have to make.” And I hoped by then I'd have the right words for Brandon.
With both hands, Davey brushed the hair back off my forehead. “Thanks… Mickey. Maybe we can… you know? Tomorrow night?”
“Yeah, maybe,” I said, and then gave him a quick kiss. And then I thought of something else. “I told Amy I'd stop by after swimming tomorrow. Do you want me to not see her either?”
He leaned back from me. “No.”
“Why not?” I asked, genuinely curious.
“Because you didn't… love her… like Brandon,” he said.
He did have a point. And then I felt a rush of affection flood over me. As hard as it would be to do what he asked about Brandon, Davey did mean the whole world to me. I looked at him with his blond hair and downcast eyes and had to embrace him. When my arms were tightly around him, I kissed him beside his ear. “Would you like to go with me tomorrow? She probably wants to talk about little Davey… Oh, but we can't call him that. We need to call him David.”
He leaned back in my arms, grinning. “Can I… can I come… with you?”
“Sure, Uncle Davey.”
After Davey was gone that night, I waited until Mom was watching TV and told her I was going to call Brandon to tell him the good news about our software sale. I called from the kitchen because I didn't want her to hear the other things I had to talk to him about.
Brandon sighed. “I wanna say that's shit, Bentolli. But I guess I can understand him askin'. We still get to talk, right?”
“Well maybe not so often; not for a while.”
He was quiet a moment. “What if I need to talk to you about something important?”
“Yeah, Brandon. That's OK, but not regular calls for a while. Just give Davey and me time to work through this.”
“Yeah, I think I need time to work through this.”
“Brandon, he knows I still love you, a lot. I appreciate you cutting us some slack.” I twisted the phone cord. “Brandon… I'll never forget last summer. Never.”
There was silence at the other end of the line for a very long time. Then I heard Brandon take a ragged breath. Then the phone went dead.
A few minutes later, the phone rang again. It was Brandon.
“I'm breakin' your rule about not callin' you,” he said with a forced chuckle; then his voice grew serious. “I'm sorry I hung up, Michael. I just couldn't talk. It sorta hit me all at once that I've really lost you. I could always hope before.” His voice trailed off.
I waited for him.
“I love you Michael. You're the first guy I ever fell in love with - hell, you're the only guy I ever fell in love with. But I'm happy for you and Davey. I can't be there to love you. But he can. Tell him he better take good care of you or I'll come beat his ass.”
“Brandon, I…” I really didn't know what to say.
“I love you, Bent,” he said again. “Hey, maybe I'll have some emergency I can call you about soon.” He laughed, and then sighed. “Bye, Michael.”
I called Davey. “Well, I did it,” I said. “I called Brandon.”
“Thank you,” was all that Davey said.
So much for that, I thought.
Later that evening, as I lay trying to sleep, the sadness came over me again, hard. The ache ran deep; deeper than Brandon, deeper than worrying about outing myself to Mom, deeper than worrying about outing myself to Chase and my friends, deeper even than my terror of Geoff. I cried and didn't fight the tears. I'd read about pathological depression and wondered now if I had it. If so, I would fight it, but not until the morning. Right now, I was too sad and hurting inside to fight.
And then there was a tapping at my window. I froze, momentarily terrified. The tapping came again; three taps followed by a pause, then two taps. Still shaking, I got out of bed, quickly dried my eyes, then leaned over and pulled back the shutters from my window.
Davey was on the other side of the glass, smiling. I opened the window, grinning as much from relief as happiness at seeing him.
“I didn't know you meant tonight?” I whispered.
He stepped in through the window and took me into his arms, pressing his shorts-clad body to my naked one. “I had another… idea… how to celebrate,” he whispered into my ear as he slid his hands down to my butt. He was hot and hard and aggressive. His fire instantly set off one of my own.
I wrapped my arms behind his back and pulled our bare chests together. We kissed, and our kiss became very, very hungry - very, very fast.
Davey and I pushed down his shorts together. We pressed our mouths and bodies tightly together while we ground against each other's hip. Together, we made an awkward, humping, four-legged migration toward the bed, and we were still trying to hump when we fell onto it, loudly.
We froze and listened for any sound of Mom. But it was quiet. Davey giggled
He had landed on the bottom and wrapped his legs and arms over me. I ran my fingers into his hair and held the sides of his head as I probed deeply with my tongue into his mouth.
We humped hard, fast, and louder than normal. I worried about mom hearing, but just couldn't stop. She didn't know Davey was in with me; maybe, if she heard anything, she'd think it was a wild JO session.
Both of us were hot to the touch, and sweating. And we were getting hotter. I pressed my hips down hard on each thrust so that Davey's butt sank into the mattress and he bounced up each time I raised my hips.
There was almost a fierceness to our lovemaking. Maybe Davey had a feeling of freedom after banishing Brandon's ghost. I just wanted desperately to forget all my ghosts and think of nothing; just this, just Davey under me. I wanted him. I needed him - now!
With his legs up, our balls pressed together, as well as our cocks. We both liked making love that way, and I made sure each of my thrusts pressed my genitals firmly down on his.
He started moaning and I rubbed my cock against him in small circles as I humped, which rubbed our balls even tighter together and pressed the back of his scrotum down against his perineum. I knew what I was doing; I knew what he liked.
His hands slid to my butt and he grabbed me by both cheeks. His back arched and Davey made a gurgling noise. I opened my mouth on his neck, sucking and licking.
Davey's fingers dug into my butt and he whimpered as he sprayed semen between us. When I felt it, I pumped faster, coming soon after him.
Our grinding slowed to almost a stop. Davey, gently stroked over where his fingers had dug into my butt, and he opened his legs just a little wider for me to settle in. “That was… great!” he whispered against my ear.
“Oh, yeah!” I agreed. I lifted my head to look down at him. “I'm going to wanna go again.”
He nodded, put his hands behind my head, and pulled my mouth down to his. We kissed and I stayed mostly hard. I spread my knees so that the tops of my thighs pushed up under the backs of his legs. “I want in,” I whispered hoarsely. “I want in you, Davey. I want us to be joined together.”
He pressed his lips against my cheek and lifted his legs higher. I shoved a pillow under him and applied spit to his ass and my cock. He was tight against my cockhead as I tried to push in; and because I was still `semi', I had to hold my shaft stiff. But then I was inside him and his tightness traveled slowly down the length of my cock as I settled onto him. I felt my cock grow rock hard inside Davey.
I pushed down with my hips, pushing all the way in, and when my pubic bone came up hard against his perineum and my balls rested on his crack, I wrapped him in my arms as he wrapped me. Our lips met, and we worked that kiss while I slowly pumped my hips until I was hot again, and ready to come.
I pushed up on my hands and looked down at him, pumping faster. His eyes were closed tightly, his mouth was open, and his head rolled around on a pillow made silver by his hair. I lowered my open mouth until my lips just brushed his and our hot breath mixed.
Davey opened his eyes and we watched each other as I lengthened my stroke, slowed, and then, finally, gasped. I pressed my cock in all the way and stayed deep as my seed pulsed out into him. He smiled up at me when he felt it, and ground his butt against my loins.
I could do without the rest of the world for this.
Slowly, I lowered my chest down onto him and Davey wrapped his arms loosely over my neck. “Did you come again?” I asked in a whisper.
He shook his head.
“Cum inside me Davey,” I said and kissed his neck. He kissed the side of my head.
I held him tightly and rolled onto my back, bringing him with me. When he was on top, I pulled out of him and opened my legs. Then I watched Davey's body in the dim light as he lubed, scooted forward to my butt, and then entered me. We both sighed as he slid all the way in.
When his crotch was firmly against my butt, he settled down onto me, and running his forearms under the back of my shoulders, he grabbed on. I ran my fingertips lightly down his back, over his butt, and back up his sides in slow circles as he moved so slowly in and out of me that it drew my attention to our joining.
Davey teased my mouth with his several times before kissing me. His kiss heated and he gripped my shoulders tightly while pressing his cock in. He held both the kiss and the thrust until my cock throbbed back to hardness between us. Then he moved his open mouth to the hollow of my neck, where he sucked as he continued to move incredibly slowly in and out, making it good for me too.
I stroked my fingertips up his back from the bottom of his butt to the top of his neck, one hand after another like I was playing a harp, and spread my knees wider out to the sides so that his firm belly rested on the underside of my cock and massaged it as his hips did their work.
Davey purred into my neck.
“Having fun?” I asked softly.
“Uh-huh,” he murmured. “It feels good.”
“For me, too,” I whispered, and then squeezed my butt. “But I think your cock has gotten thicker.”
“Yours too,” he whispered back. “I'm the one… who should… complain. It's big.”
“Sorry,” I said, giggling softly. “I'll start using only half of it.”
“Oh, no you don't!” he whispered loudly and thrust hard into me. He bit my neck and left his teeth on my skin while he pulled slowly out and pushed slowly back in. I never stopped stroking his back.
He licked my neck, and then kissed softly where he'd bitten me. Then he pressed his cheek to mine. “Mickey?” he asked. “We'll be rich enough… right… to have an apartment… when you go to college?”
“Oh, hell yes,” I whispered. “Maybe I'll even wait a year to go to college and just hide out and make love to you the whole time.”
“Good,” he said, and licked into the hollow of my throat with his tongue.
We lay like that a long time, with me stroking his back, and Davey licking on my neck while his hips moved slowly, so very slowly. But then his back became over-sensitive from my light stroking and he began to shudder with pleasure. He quickened his pace.
Davey pushed up to a kneeling position and lifting my right leg, he passed it in front of his body to rotate me on his cock to my side. When he lay back down to spoon me, he wrapped my body with his body and devoured my shoulders and neck with open-mouthed kisses. His hand roamed the muscles of my chest and belly before he grasped my cock and began to stroke me as he ground his pelvis into my butt.
When he was close to cumming, he pushed me onto my stomach, the pillow under my crotch so that I humped the pillow, butt high while Davey pumped into me. He grabbed my shoulders again, lifting himself, and we made a rapid `whop-whop' sound as his belly slapped my sweat-dampened bottom. I chewed the sheets and humped the pillow as he came.
“Don't stop,” I gasped. “Keep moving. I'm almost there.”
And he did, pressing deeply into my butt until I came on the pillow. And then we slowed and stopped. Davey kissed the back of my head and continued to grind into my butt while the good feeling lasted. I could hear him sniffing my hair and then he kissed over the side of my face. Then he stopped and his breathing slowed. He slipped out of me and his body slid to the side, leaving a leg over my butt and an arm over my back.
He ground his softening cock against my ass. “I love your… butt,” Davey whispered.
I chuckled and wiggled my butt back against him. “Matching rubbing spots, huh?” I said.
Davey pressed his lips against the hair over my ear. “Your whole body… matches my… rubbing spots,” his softly said.
I turned my face to his and brushed back my hair so I could see him. Our eyes met. “Davey,” I whispered. “I think our hearts have matching rubbing spots.”
He got up to leave before dawn, but I held him at the window, reluctant to let him go. He held my face with one hand while he lightly traced my lips with a fingertip. Then he kissed me softly and wrapped his arms around my neck.
We pressed our foreheads together. “Old Man,” I whispered. “I don't want to let you go.”
He nodded against my forehead. “When we have our… apartment,” he whispered, “we won't have to… go home.” He swallowed hard. “We'll be… home.”