At school on Monday, after eating his lunch, Philip excused himself to go to the bathroom. Kevin was engaged in a lively conversation with Terry and barely looked up, then went back to whatever he was saying.
Despite the strides he'd made since meeting Kevin, Philip was still a little shy, and preferred using a stall to the urinals. He had just closed the stall door and started to relieve himself when he heard the bathroom door open and then voices.
"Yeah, the bet was he had to make friends with a nerd for 30 days to join the group. Not that that group is so hot to begin with," a voice Philip didn't recognize said.
Philip continued to relieve himself not really giving much thought to what had been said until the next words came forth.
"Yeah, I heard he picked that nerd Philip McKinney. What a loser. Boy, imagine how surprised he's gonna be when the other kid drops him like a hot potato once the 30 days is up. I wouldn't want to be that kid's folks, he'll probably need therapy or something," the other boy laughed.
"Yeah, imagine that nerd thinking anyone really wanted to be his friend," the first boy laughed, "Nerds are so lame, and have you heard the way he talks? He's like a walking dictionary, no one wants to be around someone like that"
"Yeah, no way is that kid Kevin really interested in him. It's all just part of the bet. And when the 30 days are up, you can bet that kid will go running for the hills." More laughter, the flushing of the urinals, then the door opened, and then only silence.
Philip stood holding his limp member, not even able to bring himself to shake off the last few drops of pee. Somehow he managed to get himself put away and zipped up and found himself at the sink washing his hands and staring into the mirror.
So that was it? Kevin had made friends with him on a bet, just to get into the group at the table. How had he been so stupid? He wondered, He had always known Kevin was out of his class, and too cool to want to be friends with someone like him. It had always been about Kevin getting into the group, and he was his ticket in, that was all he was.
He felt so foolish, so...so used. He wanted to cry, but tears wouldn't come. He didn't know what to do, but one thing was certain, he could never face Kevin again. After drying his hands, he wandered out into the hall and then headed to the nurse's office.
One of the advantages of being a good student was that the teachers and faculty accepted everything you said at face value, and so when Philip told the nurse that he was feeling ill, she didn't doubt him. After taking his temperature and questioning him a bit, she finally decided to call his mother, who agreed that if Philip felt the need to see the nurse, then he must indeed be ill, and she agreed to come pick him up as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the bell rang ending lunch period, and only then did Kevin realize that Philip had not returned. Assuming he had to do number two, and knowing how shy Phil was, Kevin just assumed that he'd gone on to class afterward and didn't worry too much about it. That is, not until he walked into the class they shared after lunch and he wasn't there.
Approaching the teacher Kevin tried to be nonchalant as he asked about Phil's absence.
"Mr. McKinney is ill. His mother came and got him during lunch period," the teacher said, giving Kevin a wane smile. He knew the two boys had been hanging out lately and thought it was surprising at first, but eventually she had come to accept that sometimes opposites did attract.
Kevin found it hard to concentrate the rest of the day and when the final bell rang he was out the door and grabbing his cell phone out of his backpack as he ran.
Once outside, he punched in Phil's number and waited for him to answer, but all he got was voice mail. He left a brief message, begging Phil to call him, and then went out to wait for his bus.
At home Kevin tried again to reach Phil, and again reached his voicemail. So, after having downed the snack his mom had prepared for him, he asked permission to ride to Phil's house.
As he peddled his bike there he tried to keep calm, but he just couldn't shake the feeling that something was terribly wrong. Little did he know, that was the case all right, but it had nothing to do with Phil's health.
Philip's mother answered the door on the second ring, but she looked less than friendly and that worried Kevin even more.
"Is Phil okay? I tried to call him, but he didn't answer," Kevin said quickly.
"Philip is fine," she said, giving Kevin a serious look, "Something apparently happened at school today that has upset him greatly, but he won't tell me what it was. Do you have any idea what it could have been?"
"No ma'am, we were having lunch, then he went to the bathroom..alone. I mean usually I go with him, but I was talking to a friend..." Kevin rattled on, not thinking how it might sound that he always went to the bathroom with Philip.
"I see, well...perhaps after he's had some time to think about things he will open up to us."
"Maybe I can find out what's wrong, if I could see him..."
"I'm afraid not. Philip doesn't want to see you right now."
"He..he said that?" Kevin said, feeling more hurt and pain than he had in ages.
"Yes, in no uncertain words. I'm sorry Kevin, but my first responsibility is to my son, and if he says he doesn't want to see you, then that's the way it is...for now. I'm sure he will come around eventually, but for now..."
"Yes ma'am, will you give him a message for me though?"
"I suppose," she said giving him a little smile. She liked Kevin and thought his influence had been a positive one, and sympathized with him at the moment.
"Tell him...tell him, that I meant what I said, and I'm not confused anymore. He'll know what I mean. Will you tell him that for me?"
"I don't understand, but I shall tell him. Now, I must go check on him again. Perhaps you can talk to him tomorrow at school."
"Yeah, thanks," Kevin said turning to go, "Be sure to tell him...okay?"
"I promise," she said shaking her head in dismay. What on earth did that cryptic message mean?
"Philip dear, are you feeling better?" She said as she checked on Phil a few minutes later.
"I'm fine mother," Philip said, looking up from the book he'd been reading.
"Kevin was here..."
"What did he want?" Philip asked stiffly.
"He was concerned about you dear, that's all. That's how friends are."
"He's not my friend."
"Philip, is there something you'd like to tell me?"
"No," Philip sighed, "What did he say?"
"Funny you should ask. He was very adamant that I give you a message, let's see...he said, to tell you that he meant what he said and...and that he wasn't confused anymore. Yes, I believe those were his exact words. Do they mean anything to you?"
"No, nothing," Phil said softly, "I think I'll take a nap now mother. I'm very tired."
But sleep wouldn't come. The words his mother had relayed to him kept coming back. He meant what he'd said and he wasn't confused anymore. Was this just another lie to hurt him, or was he wrong about Kevin? Perhaps those boys in the bathroom had been lying. What if they had known he was there and intentionally meant for him to overhear their conversation just to hurt him?
But it did make sense, what they had said. Why else would someone like Kevin make friends with him unless their was some ulterior motive, for instance earning the respect of the group. He was so confused and hurt, but his intellect finally took over and he decided Kevin deserved a chance to explain. If it was true and Kevin admitted it, then he'd deal with that, but if it was a lie, then he'd apologize to Kevin and things would be fine again. However, he doubted things would be that simple, and that he was probably in for a lot more hurt before this thing was over.
He barely touched his dinner that evening, and though his father tried to pull him into the dinner conversation, his answers were usually monosyllabic. Dr. McKinney didn't like to pry unnecessarily into his son's life, but somehow he thought this might have something to do with the talk they'd had. He made a mental note to discuss it with his wife later and see if she had any insight into what was going on.
After dinner, Philip excused himself to his room, and while Mildred cleaned up the kitchen his parents retired to the den and talked over a glass of wine. When Philip's father heard about Philip coming home early from school and his reaction to Kevin's coming to see him, he put two and two together. Was it possible that Philip had a crush on this boy Kevin and he'd been rejected or perhaps exposed at school? It worried him, not that his son might be gay, but he knew that other children and society in general could be cruel and unaccepting, and Philip was not the kind of boy who could handle their ridicule well.
"I think I'll have a little chat with him, maybe check him over, just to make sure he's okay. He might have a touch of the flu or something," Dr. McKinney, said using Philip's excuse of not feeling well as a reason to talk with him.
"Yes dear, I think that's an excellent idea, but I can't help but think this has something to do with his new friend, Kevin." Then she told him about the message he was asked to deliver, and Dr. McKinney knew there was more to the story than he understood.
"Come in father," Philip said looking up from his desk where he'd been trying to concentrate on his homework.
"Hello son. Are you feeling all right now? Your mother says you took ill at school and had to come home. I hope it's nothing serious."
"No sir, I think it may have just been an upset stomach. I feel fine now."
"Well, just to be safe I thought I'd give you a once over," Dr. McKinney chuckled, "I may be a surgeon, but I still know a thing or two about medicine."
"If you think it's necessary father..."
Dr. Mckinney took Philip's temperature with an ear thermometer and then his blood pressure, which understandably was a bit high. After all it was obvious the boy was in some sort of emotional distress. But a look down his throat showed nothing but healthy tonsils and sound straight teeth.
"Lift your shirt son," Dr. McKinney said and when the boy did he was surprised at how muscular the boy's chest had become as of late. He felt bad for not paying enough attention to his son, and he knew he was growing up fast and maturing and soon, well soon he'd be a young man.
After listening to his son's heart, he felt a little teary eyed and emotional. This was the child he had created, and he felt as if he should share his son's pain.
"Would you like to talk about it son?"
Philip knew his father well, and he knew not much escaped him, and he knew there was no need pretending nothing was wrong.
"I'd rather not father, not yet. I have some thinking to do, and then...I need to talk to someone and make sure I understand what's going on before I act."
"I see, and this someone, would his name be Kevin?" his father asked grinning.
Philip nodded, "Yes sir, but I really don't want to say much more about it."
"I understand son, but I want you to know that whatever the problem is...that I and your mother are here for you...no matter what. Our love is unconditional."
"I know," Philip said as tears stung his eyes, "and mine as well."
In an uncharacteristic move the Doctor hugged his son to him and kissed his hair, "I love you very much Philip, and your mother and I are very proud of you. No matter how this turns out, you need to know that you are a wonderful young man, and someday you will make someone special very happy."
The tears came then and for a while Philip just allowed his father to hold him and soothe him as he cleansed his soul. When at last he sat up and wiped at his eyes, he felt a little embarrassed.
"I'm sorry father, I didn't mean to fall apart. I guess...I guess I'm just tired."
"You're twelve years old son, you're entitled to break down occasionally. In fact, we all are. Sometimes tears can be good for a person. Now, I believe you have homework to finish, and I've left your mother wondering what's become of me," he said giving Philip one last hug, "Remember son, if you need us, we are there for you...always."
Philip was too overcome with emotion again to speak, so he simply nodded, and gave his father a return hug.
"Well, you were gone a long time...is he all right," Mrs. McKinney asked with concern.
"Physically our son is fine, emotionally...well...not so much." and then he explained as best as he could about what he thought was going on with Philip.
"I've known for sometime that Philip was different, perhaps gay but I wasn't sure how you'd react," Mrs. McKinney said, not expecting quite the reaction she received from her husband.
Laughing and shaking his head Dr. McKinney managed to squeak out, "And I was afraid of how you would react. Oh, my. I guess we need to talk more often."
They both had a good laugh then, but when it was over the seriousness of their only son's situation mellowed them out.
"Poor dear, do you think that he has a crush on this boy and it's not mutual?"
"Well, that message didn't sound like that. I'm not sure what's going on exactly. Perhaps it's Kevin who's crushing, and Philip is not sure how he feels about the situation."
"But he seems so happy around this boy and he's always talking about him, Kevin this, Kevin that."
"I'm afraid until Philip is willing to share with us, all we can do is guess. But I think it's important that we be united in this. Now that I know you are accepting of Philip's possible persuasion, I think he needs to know we are both supportive of him and his relationship...if one exists."
"He's so young..."
"He'll be a teenager in a few months, and it doesn't take a doctor to tell you all hell is about to break loose."
"Oh dear...I'm not sure I'm ready for that..."
"You're a good mother, you'll figure it out."
"Thank you dear, and you're a good father and a good husband. What say we go upstairs and praise each other for a while."
Dr. McKinney laughed, "Why dear, are you horny?"
Mrs. McKinney blushed and didn't reply, instead she took her husband's hand and led him off to the bedroom.
"Something is going on with Phil," Kevin whined to Terry as they entered the school building that next day, "He'd left early yesterday and when I went to his house he wouldn't see me."
"Did you guys have a fight or something?"
"No way, we never fight. I'm worried. What if...well, what if he feels bad about what we did, and he doesn't want to be with me anymore? He wasn't on the bus today either, but I saw his mom dropping him off a few minutes ago."
"Calm down, the kid adores you. Just talk to him, there he is now..go..go and make up," Terry laughed as he gave Kevin a gentle push in Phil's direction.
"Uh hi, how are you feeling today?" Kevin said as he approached Phil.
"I'm fine, thank you. How are you?" Phil said, looking and sounding a little uncomfortable.
"Look, Phil...if I said or did anything..."
"No, it's not that," Phil said, not quite sure how to start, "We need to talk, alone...perhaps after school."
"Oh, okay...sure, but I hope it's not bad news," Kevin said feeling him out a little.
"I'm not sure. I guess we'll find out. Right now I have to go to the office and check in and give them a note from my parents. I will see you at lunch."
Kevin stood watching him walk away and sighed.
Meanwhile, Terry had been waiting nearby and he rejoined Kevin. Then slipping an arm around Kevin he leaned in and whispered, "Well, what'd he say?"
"That we should talk...after school," Kevin said numbly, "I just don't understand. Everything was going so good, and then bam...he's like...mad, or upset, or something, and I don't know why."
"Hmmm...well...I guess you'll have to wait till after school to find out. Or...I could try talking to him for you.."
"NO! Definitely do not talk to him. This is between him and me. I mean I appreciate it and all, but Phil feels uncomfortable enough about us as it is."
"Gotcha, well, see ya at lunch lover boy," Terry laughed as they split up to go to their lockers.
By lunch time Kevin was eager to see if Phil had softened any, and after grabbing his lunch bag from his locker he headed to the cafeteria. The usual gang was already seated, and as he slid in across from Terry he gave him a wry smile. Terry gave him a knowing look, then went back to whatever it was he was saying to Roger, who was being his usual grumpy self.
"Hello everyone," Philip said when he finally slipped into the seat Kevin had reserved for him.
"Hey Phil, how's it hanging?" Roger said grinning lewdly. He'd heard about what happened in the bathroom the day before, and even though he'd had nothing to do with it, he was glad someone had taken the initiative and put the nerd in his place.
"Fine," Phil muttered opening his lunch bag.
"Hey, what did Mildred send today?" Kevin asked, trying to act as if there was nothing wrong.
"Umm...roast beef sandwiches and potato salad, and some cookies. I'm not very hungry would you like to share?"
Well, that was encouraging, Kevin thought, at least he's sharing his lunch and being friendly. Maybe it was nothing serious and they could talk it out.
After lunch, Kevin walked Phil to his locker and thanked him once again for sharing his lunch, "Tell Mildred it was yummy," he said smiling warmly, "Um...I was wondering, do you want me to come over after school?"
"I was thinking...well, perhaps we could meet in the park by my house."
"Oh, okay. I can ride my bike over then. Should I come right after school?"
"Meet me there at 4 o'clock."
"Okay, 4 o'clock then. Well, I guess we should head to class..."
This was the only class that he and Phil shared, but little was said on the way there, and when they settled at their desks Phil pulled out his math book and all but ignored Kevin. Kevin wanted to say something, but he managed to bite his tongue, and soon class began and he tried to concentrate on the lesson.
Kevin hurried out the door after the final bell and was the first one on the bus that day. He waited for Phil, then gave up when he saw him get in his mother's car and drive away. What was that all about? He wondered.
When he arrived at home he grabbed his after school snack and ran to his room, and between bites he changed out of his school clothes and into his favorite jeans and an Atlanta Braves tee shirt. He finished his snack, peed, and brushed his teeth, then grabbed his Braves ball cap and ran downstairs.
"I'm going to the park to meet Phil," he yelled to his mom, "be back by dinner time."
"Be careful..." she admonished, then smiled. She loved that Kevin had found such a good friend, and she had a feeling they'd be seeing a lot more of Phil in the future.
On the way to the park, Kevin let his mind wander, but he was still no closer to figuring things out by the time he arrived. As expected, Philip was already there, sitting on a park bench and feeding bread crumbs to the ducks.
"Hi," Kevin said riding up and parking his bike, "Looks like you came prepared."
"Yes, I enjoy feeding them, it's very relaxing."
Sliding in beside Phil he reached into the bag between them and grabbed a handful of bread crumbs and began feeding the ducks as well.
"Thank you for coming," Phil said after a while, "I thought we should talk somewhere quiet and where we could be alone."
"Okay," Kevin said, the feeling of dread washing over him once more.
"Kevin, is it true?" Phil said jumping right into things before he lost his nerve, "Did you become my friend simply to be accepted into that group of boys at the lunch table?"
"What no, sort of..is this what this about?" Kevin said feeling relieved, then confused, then worried.
"I overheard some boys talking in the boys room yesterday. They said you became my friend simply as a dare...to gain admittance into that group of boys. Is that true?"
"Look Phil, it's not what you think. At first that was all it was. Remember I said that I was trying to make some new friends...that I didn't want to go into Junior High without friends? So, that was how I found out about the group...and I thought I'd see what I had to do to join them. So, then see...they said all I had to do was make friends with...with well, someone...like you."
"A nerd," Phil offered.
"Yeah, but I don't think of you that way. Okay, maybe at first, then after I got to know you..."
"And you found out I had a pool..."
"No, that had nothing to do with it. Phil...please, you gotta believe me. At first it was just a dare, but then...then when I found out how nice you were, and how much fun ,and all the little things about you...well, I really started liking you."
"I see. But you didn't call off the bet...did you?"
"Well, no...but I think everyone knows by now that I really like you and the bet doesn't mean anything. I know Terry knows, cause we talked about it and Thomas is cool."
"And Roger, what does he think?" Phil said looking away, unable to look into Kevin's eyes for fear he'd lose his resolve and just cave in.
"Who cares what Roger thinks? Roger is a jerk, even Terry and Thomas admit that, but they've all been friends a long time..."
"And now you're one of them. Oh wait, not quite...the 30 days isn't up yet, so...it looks like you lose after all," Phil said standing, and then before Kevin could react, Phil was walking quickly away.
"Hey, wait..." Kevin said jumping up and running to catch up, "You've got to give me a chance to explain. I'm sorry. Look, I don't need those other guys. As far as I'm concerned I don't want to be part of the group anymore. All I want is to have you for my friend."
"You should have told me what was going on Kevin. I feel like I can't trust you anymore. I'll have to think about this. I'm not sure I can forgive you, but I promise I'll give it all the thought it deserves."
What did that mean? Kevin wondered, Was it worth any thought at all to Phil? Had he already made up his mind? Was this the end?"
"Phil!" Kevin all but shouted, causing Phil to slow, but not stop completely.
"Don't walk away from me, please. I...I love you and I can't imagine losing you, not now, not ever," Kevin said, baring his soul and opening up his heart to the boy.
Phil closed his eyes and only then did he realize he was crying. He loved Kevin too, but he was hurt and scared and he felt betrayed. He wanted to give in and forgive him, but he had to be sure.
"I love you too, and I think that's why this hurts so much. I have to be sure I do the right thing and I'm too emotional right now to know what's right or wrong. Like I said...I'll think about it. Now, please...go home and let me have some time to myself."
"All right," Kevin said wiping at his eyes, "I understand. I'm really sorry about not telling you, but I didn't want to hurt you, and now...now you did get hurt, and I feel awful. I just want us to be together, like we were...no, not like we were, I want us to be...to be closer...like, well...you know. But I know you need to think about it. So take your time, cause I want you to make the right decision. Meanwhile I got to do something..."
"Kevin, don't do anything stupid..." Phil warned, seeing how emotional the boy was.
"I won't. I promise. Phil...I...I love you," Kevin said, then before he broke down completely, he grabbed his bike and rode off across the park, heading home.
Phil watched him till he was just a speck on the horizon then wiped at his eyes again and headed home. His mother called to him as he came in but he excused himself to his room and fell across his bed and had a good cry.
"I need to talk to you and Thomas and Roger," Kevin said after calling Terry.
"What's going on?" Terry asked sounding worried.
"It's important, is there any way we can all three meet outside of school?"
"Well, you're in luck, Roger is at my house and I'm sure Tommie will come if I call him."
"Good, umm...what's your address?"
After calling Thomas, Terry called Kevin back, and it was arranged for them to meet at Terry's house in a half hour. It was a long bike ride for Kevin, but it gave him time to think and calm down some, and by the time he arrived he felt he was ready to face the three.
"Come on in," Terry said leading Kevin inside his modest house.
Terry was dressed in soccer shorts and a sloppy tank top and was barefooted, and Kevin noticed his toe nails were painted blue.
"Leave your shoes at the door, okay? My folks don't allow shoes in the house."
"Oh, okay..." Kevin said toeing off his shoes.
"My folks won't be home for an hour or so, the others are upstairs in my room, come on."
Roger was lounging on a big brass bed surrounded by stuffed animals and throw pillows, and as Kevin looked around the room he thought it had a feminine look to it. There were posters of teen heart throbs and a few of expensive cars, but no sports posters or anything of that nature.
"Hey Kev, what's up?" Thomas said from his seat at a desk that held a lap top that was opened to FaceBook.
"Hi guys, sorry about this, but I need to talk to all of you."
"This about nerd boy?" Roger smirked.
"What do you know about Phil?" Kevin said looking accusingly at Roger.
"Oh, nothing. Just heard he's upset or something," Roger said trying to look innocent.
"Yeah, well...somehow he found out about the bet, and now he's upset, and he's not sure he wants to be my friend anymore."
"Well, the 30 days is almost over, I think we could probably let you in anyway..." Roger said grinning.
"Roger, Kevin was in a long time ago," Thomas said giving Roger a mean look, "What's important now is helping Kevin fix this thing with Phil."
"Yeah, it was a dumb bet anyway," Terry said giving Roger a harsh look, "Kevin is in, and as far as I'm concerned so is Phil."
"Yeah, I feel the same way. Hey, maybe if you told him that he'd feel better about things," Thomas suggested.
"Wait, hold on. Don't I get a say in this?" Roger protested.
"NO!" Both Terry and Thomas said at once.
"Just shut up for once Roger," Terry said sitting down beside Roger and cuffing him gently, "or you might be the one on the outside for a change."
"Hey, I was in from the start...."
"Don't remind us," Thomas scoffed.
"Fuck you guys then," Roger said starting to get up.
"Lay back down," Terry said, jumping on top of his old friend, "We still love you, we just aren't going to put up with your bullshit."
"Get off me fag," Roger said, but he didn't sound mad, nor did he resist too much. Truth was, he liked having Terry's body pressed against his.
"No, I'll sit on you if I have to. Now, Kevin, what can we do to help?"
"I...I don't know. I actually called you together to tell you I didn't want to be part of the group if it meant losing Phil, but...but you've made me see that maybe I can have both."
"Yeah, thanks to these two bleeding hearts," Roger grumbled.
"Do I have to gag you?" Terry warned.
"What with?" Roger said lewdly.
"Just you never mind, but it would gag you, that's for sure."
Roger laughed, despite the situation he was enjoying sparring with Terry.
"We can talk to Phil, if you think that would help," Thomas offered.
"Yeah, we knew right away that you really liked Phil and weren't hanging out with him just to get into the group," Terry added.
"I...I don't know. I'm so confused," Kevin said falling down into a straight back chair near the door.
"You in love with that nerd or something?" Roger said sounding more curious than accusing.
"I..." Kevin blushed, "I don't know," then taking a deep breath he went on, "Yeah, I am. I've got to quit denying it. I'm not ashamed of how I feel, but it's all so new to me..."
"I've known all along," Terry said smiling, "and he feels the same way. Now, if we can just convince Phil that your intentions were good."
"Damn, me and Thomas are gonna be outnumbered now," Roger groused, "Three fags in our group..."
"Shut up Roger," Terry said digging into Roger's ribs and causing him to squirm, "You're not as straight as you think you are. Look at that tent in your shorts..."
Roger blushed but couldn't think of a witty comeback. Truth was, he liked Terry a lot, always had, and the fact that he was openly gay was not only intriguing but exciting. He liked it when Terry touched him, but he still felt the need to protest. In fact if Kevin hadn't called this meeting he'd had hopes that he and Terry might have done more than just touch.
"I guess I'll just have to wait and see what Phil says, but thanks guys. This means a lot to me. I feel bad about accepting the dare, but I'm sure glad I met you guys."
"It was a stupid dare," Terry said again, "forget it. Now, as long as we're all here, how about we play some video games?"
"Naw, I really need to get home," Kevin said frowning, "but thanks."
"Yeah, me too, come on Kevin. I'll walk with you and leave these two alone to torture each other," Thomas laughed.
Since Thomas lived in the same direction as Kevin, they rode side by side on their bikes and talked a bit.
"You know what's going on with those two...right?"
"Ummm..those two? Oh, you mean Terry and Roger?"
"Yeah, what's it called...sexual tension? Terry wants Roger so bad it hurts, and Roger wants something too, but he's too stupid to know what."
"That seems so strange. I mean Roger seems so homophobic."
"Well, you know what they say? Most homophobes are just struggling with their own sexual feelings. I think if Roger would just give in, he'd find out it's nothing to be afraid of."
"Uh, none of my business, but...have you ever...you know...with a guy?"
"Sure, and it was fun, but I think I like girls better. I don't stress over it though. If I met a boy I liked a lot I think I could go that way and not sweat it. But I'm not lookin' for either right now."
"You're a nice guy, you and Terry both, but I have to admit...I'm a little afraid of Roger."
Thomas laughed, "He's harmless...all mouth. But...I can't help but wonder...well, how did Phil find out about the bet?"
"You don't think Roger told him...or had someone do it?"
"Don't know, but I intend to find out. Find out all you can from Phil, and let me know. If Roger had anything to do with this...well, we'll deal with him then if we have to."
"Surely he's not that mean..."
"I hope not. Well, this is my turn off...see ya tomorrow at school. Oh, and Kevin...don't worry. I think Phil will come around. I can tell that he really likes you. You're a nice guy too."
Kevin thanked Thomas, and all the rest of the way home he kept thinking about Roger. What kind of person enjoyed hurting other people? He just couldn't imagine being that way, and he wondered if Roger's confusion about his sexual identity had something to do with it.
Roger and Terry take a tumble
"You really want that nerd in the group?" Roger asked as he and Terry sat side by side playing a video game.
"I like Phil, maybe more than I like you," Terry said elbowing Roger roughly.
"Ow, that hurt. You're pretty rough for a fag."
"I can whip your sorry ass any day."
"Oh yeah, wanna try?" Roger said pausing his game.
"What? You serious?"
"Yeah, put your money where your mouth is."
"Okay, you're on, but not here. Too crowded. In the family room."
"What about your folks?"
"They won't be home for another hour, maybe more. Come on chicken."
Roger followed eagerly, his heart beating fast and his palms sweaty as he anticipated what lay ahead.
"Take off your shirt," Terry said, stripping off his tank top to reveal his slim smooth upper body. His nipples were pierced and each held a small gold ring, "and no grabbing the nipple rings."
Roger laughed nervously, "Okay, when did you do that?"
"I asked my folks and they said no...but what they don't know won't hurt them."
"What if they find out?"
"Well, what's done is done. Now get that shirt off and let's get at it."
Get at it? Roger went hard at those words, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Terry who just smiled. He too was hard and was looking forward to their wrestling match.
They stood facing one another, a look of nervous anticipation on their faces, then Terry feigned a move and Roger countered. Suddenly they came together, hands locked as they pushed their arms up high, each trying to dominate the other.
"Ugh, you're arms are strong," Roger said through gritted teeth, "is that from beating off so much?"
"If that was true, you'd be ten times stronger," Terry countered.
"How do you know how much I beat off? Been fantasizing about me?"
"Well, I just know you don't have a girlfriend or a boyfriend, and I never see you with anyone really, except us..so, I assume you jerk a lot. What boy doesn't?"
"Do you, or do your boyfriends take care of that for you?" he grunted as he tried to push Terry's arms down and get a better grip on him.
"Nope, never been with another boy, well unless you count those times you and me and Thomas fooled around."
"We were just little kids, I don't think that counts," Roger said blushing.
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Cause back then I didn't know for sure that I liked boys that way."
"When did you figure that out...um, that you were gay?"
"Oh, I guess when I turned 10. Boys were all I thought about then," Terry said grinning.
"Did you ever...you know, think of me or Thomas that way?"
"Can't tell ya'," Terry said going in for the kill, and suddenly Roger was on his back on the floor with Terry atop him.
"How...did you...do that?" Roger asked between ragged breaths.
"I took some martial arts classes last year...you know, us gay boys have to be able to defend ourselves, what with all the homophobes running around."
"Has anyone been messing with you? Cause if they have, just let me know, and I'll take care of it."
"My hero," Terry laughed as he lowered his face to within a few inches of Roger's.
Roger was still breathing hard, in fact you might say he was breathless from being so close to Terry. He looked up into Terry's cute face and bit his lip.
"You...smell nice," he muttered before he could stop himself.
Terry seemed surprised, then pleased as he smiled down at Roger, "I use body spray," he said blushing.
"Is that your? Are you?" Roger said, suddenly aware of something hard poking his thigh.
"Sorry, this is the most physical contact I've had with someone in a long time," Terry said grinning, "but I think you have the same problem," he said letting his knee rest against the bulge in Roger's shorts.
"Ugh...stop or I'll make a mess."
"Wouldn't want that," Terry laughed as he moved his knee back where it was as he straddled Roger, "Do you give?"
"No, no way. I can beat a fag," Roger laughed as he suddenly grabbed Terry and reversed their positions.
Now it was Terry who was flat on his back staring up at the grinning face of the much bigger boy.
"Now, who's in charge?" Roger laughed.
"You are, you big stud," Terry grunted, "Take me, I'm yours," he added laughing.
"You wish," Roger scoffed, not knowing if Terry was serious or just funning.
"Yeah, I do," Terry said softly.
Roger kept his position straddling Terry, his arms supporting his upper body, as he tried to think of a witty comeback. He'd always liked Terry, and the gay thing hadn't bothered him at all, even though he did give him shit over it just for fun, but this was getting way too intense.
"Terry," Roger began, but suddenly Terry reached up and put his arms around Roger's neck and began pulling him toward him.
At first Roger resisted, but just a little, and then he gave in and suddenly his lips were being smothered by Terry's. As kisses go this one wasn't that outstanding, but to Roger, who's experience with kissing was limited to pecks on the cheek, it was the most amazing thing he'd ever felt.
"Why...why did you do that?" Roger stuttered as he finally pulled away.
"I don't know, I just did. Do I need a reason?" Terry asked, trying not to sound as scared or vulnerable as he felt at the moment.
"I guess not. I guess it's what fags do...right? Kiss boys?"
"Not just any boy. I have to like the boy first."
"You, you like me that way?"
"I'm sorry," Terry sighed, "I always have. I know it's a waste of my time, but I can't help it."
"No, it's okay," Roger said trying to sort out his own feelings, "but I think we should talk about this some."
"Okay, but first...can I kiss you again?"
"I guess, I mean you already did it once...so why not?"
This time the kiss was better, softer, wetter, toe curling in fact, and both boys were breathless and panting when it was over.
"Oh shit," Roger suddenly said jumping up and running off toward the bathroom.
Terry sat up and watched him retreat as fear washed over him. What if Roger freaked out and didn't want to be friends anymore? He moaned to himself. Why couldn't he keep his stupid feelings to himself.
He stood, and was about to go back to his room when Roger reappeared looking flushed and sheepish.
"Sorry, I'm so stupid...I made a mess in my shorts after all," Roger lamented.
"Oh, that," Terry said sounding relieved, "Well...so did I," he added, pulling out the waistband of his shorts and peering inside.
They both laughed then and Terry went off to clean up.
"Good morning Kevin," Phil said as he approached Kevin who was digging in his locker.
"Oh, hi Phil," Kevin said, hoping Phil had good news for him.
"I've given this thing a lot of thought," Phil began, "and I've decided that you deserve a second chance."
"Oh, wow, that's great. Thank you so much," Kevin said, trying to control his emotions. He wanted so badly to jump on Phil and hug and kiss him, but he knew this wasn't the time or place.
"You're welcome, but we still need to work some things out. Can you come over after school today?"
"You bet, I'll be there. This is so great," Kevin gushed, "You won't be sorry...I promise I will never lie to you again."
"All right, well...I'll see you at lunch then," Phil said, trying to hide his own excitement. He guessed he'd known from the start that once Kevin explained and apologized he'd forgive him, but he felt like he had to make Kevin suffer just a little.
At lunch Kevin was bubbling over with joy and the others noticed right away.
"So, did lover boy forgive you?" Terry teased.
"Yeah, he said I deserved a second chance," Kevin said smiling as he glanced toward the door waiting for Phil to arrive.
"I told you the kid was crazy about you," Thomas said, "but we still need to find out how Phil found out about the bet. Any ideas Roger?"
"What, no...why would I? Hey, you don't think I told him do you?"
"No, I don't think you're that stupid, but I do know you sometimes tend to run your mouth and maybe someone else heard about it and let it slip."
"Hey, I can't control everyone, just myself," he said glancing at Terry nervously.
"Roger didn't know, I'm pretty sure..." Terry offered, though he didn't go on to explain why he felt that way.
"Well, someone let it slip and I want to know who," Thomas said looking grim.
"Hey, it's over and done. Why can't we just forget it," Kevin suggested, "Oh, there he is," he added excitedly as he stood and motioned Phil over.
"Hello everyone," Phil said dropping a huge paper bag in the middle of the table. From it emanated the most delicious fragrance and within seconds everyone's mouth was watering, "I had Mildred make a special lunch for us to share. There is fried chicken and potato salad and baked beans and her homemade rolls."
"Screw this cafeteria food," Roger said reaching for the bag and soon all the containers were out on the table and everyone was digging in.
As they ate they talked about school and all the things that interested kids their age, but nothing was said about the bet and the consequences of Phil finding out about it.
After lunch Kevin walked Phil to his locker.
"That was really nice of you to bring lunch for everyone. They're really a cool bunch of guys and they like you a lot already, but now I think they love you," Kevin joked.
"All except Roger perhaps," Phil said stating the obvious.
"I don't know, today he seemed different. I think he's trying Phil, we just gotta give him a chance.
"I suppose. I was wondering though, is there something going on with Terry and Roger?"
"Why do you ask?" Kevin said completely clueless.
"Well, I couldn't help but notice that they kept giving each other little looks...you know...sort of like we do sometimes," Phil said blushing.
"Oh, well..now that you mention it. You know Thomas sort of hinted that the two might have the hots for one another, but I just figured Roger was so straight and all..."
"Or in the closet perhaps. You know a lot of homophobic people are simply in denial of their own feelings."
"I've heard that. Well, I guess we'll know soon enough, cause I don't think Terry is very good at hiding things like that."
"Yes, well I wish them luck."
They walked to class together then and talked till the bell rang and then turned their attention to the lesson and forgot about all else till the period was over.
At the end of the day Kevin was relieved to find Phil waiting for him on the bus and as he slid in beside him he let his hand rest on his leg.
"Hi, glad you're back to riding the bus."
"I just didn't feel like facing you yesterday. I'm sorry."
"That's okay, everything is fine now...right?"
"Yes, we'll talk more about it later at my house."
As soon as Kevin got home he checked in with his mom and grabbed his bike and was off to Phil's house. On the way over his stomach was tied up in knots. What did Phil still need to talk about? He wondered. Hadn't they pretty much said all that needed to be said?
"Hello Kevin," Mrs. McKinney said as she let him in, "Philip is waiting in his room. You can go on up, he has snacks for the both of you up there."
"Thank you ma'am," Kevin said feeling some better.
"You're welcome Kevin, and I just wanted to say....thank you for being Philip's friend. You've no idea how important you are to him...and to us."
"I think I do, but thank you for saying that. Phil, uh...Philip is important to me too."
She nodded and went about her business, and Kevin plodded upstairs taking two steps at a time. When he got to Phil's room the door was open and music was playing. Kevin recognized it as Sia's Chandelier and he smiled. He'd introduced Phil to that kind of music and he'd liked it a lot.
"Hi party boy," Kevin teased.
"Oh, hello Kevin. I have some of Mildred's homemade burritos and a soda for you."
"Yummy, so I guess what you want to talk about must not be too bad, cause you're feeding me," Kevin joked.
"Not bad, but important," Phil said, closing his door and looking serious, "first we eat then we talk."
"Yes sir," Kevin said saluting.
"So, I been thinking about Terry and Roger," Kevin said after a bite of the huge delicious burrito that barely fit in his hand. He went on to explain how he had called the group together and that Terry and Roger were already at Terry's house, alone, and then how they had left them there later, still alone. "So I guess they could be...you know seeing each other or whatever. I mean Terry is pretty lovable and I could see Roger giving in to his charms."
"Well, I hope if he does he doesn't wind up hurting Terry."
"Well, Terry is pretty tough. I think he can handle Roger. They've been friends since they were little kids...Thomas too."
"That must be wonderful, to have friends that stick with you that long."
"Yeah, well...I thought I did, but you know how it is? People change and move on..." Kevin said sadly.
"But we won't, will we?" Phil almost pleaded.
"Not if I can help it," Kevin said laying down his burrito and putting an arm around Phil, "I've never felt this way about anyone, and when I thought you might dump me over this stupid bet thing...I, well, I just felt so hopeless and lost."
"I don't think I ever really considered dumping you, but I was just so unsure of what you really felt. Did you really like me, or was it all about the bet?"
"Wanna hear something funny? I forgot about the bet about the second day after we met. It didn't mean anything anymore. In fact being in the group really didn't matter anymore, cause I'd found the friend I wanted to hang out with."
"Do you mean that?" Phil said looking very emotional.
"Yeah, once I got to know you I didn't care about anyone else."
"You said you loved me..."
"I do, but gosh...Phil, we're only 12. What do we know about love? I mean I guess no one is too young to love someone, but all I know is that I want to be with you almost all the time, and you're all I think about, and if I ever lost you...well, I don't know what I'd do."
"I would say you have described love rather well," Phil said grinning.
Heartened by their conversation, Kevin picked up his burrito and tore into it with a grin, "Tell Mildred she's the best cook ever," he mumbled.
After their snack, Phil suggested they go for a swim, and even though Kevin still felt a bit self conscious wearing the skimpy swimwear Phil provided, Kevin enthusiastically accepted the offer.
"You look good in those," Phil said grinning at Kevin in his bright red Speedos.
"You look like a real fox," Kevin said leering at Phil's slender swimmer's body.
"Come on, before we forget what we were going to do," Phil laughed as he led the way to the heated pool.
"Boys, slow down," Mrs. McKinney admonished, but she was all smiles seeing how happy Philip was with his friend. It had been too long since she'd heard this much laughter in their house.
"Do your mom and dad really like me?" Kevin asked as he floated near Phil after they'd tired of doing laps.
"My parents think you are wonderful Kevin. My mother surprised me most however. I didn't know she was so concerned about me having friends until I met you. She said she was afraid at first that you would hurt me...my feelings, but then when she got to know you better, she decided you were a nice boy, and she approved 100 percent."
"Your dad seems nice, what little I've seen of him."
"My father is very open with me and we have an understanding. I can come to him with any problem without being judged."
"And...did you go to him with this problem...the bet?"
"No, I saw no need to worry my parents when I was sure I could work things out on my own."
"And you did, we did," Kevin said letting his hand graze Phil's thigh under the water and out of sight in case Mrs. McKinney might peek out at them.
"I'm afraid I'm quite hard now," Phil giggled.
"You and me both buddy," Kevin leered, "what do you think we should do about that?"
"Well...nothing for the moment, but later when we shower the chlorine off, who knows what might happen?" he said swimming off and leaving Kevin to stare at his cute behind as he broke the water.
"You're killin' me Phil," Kevin laughed then he swam off after his boyfriend.
In the shower later, there was a lot of kissing and touching, but nothing too serious. Sex was still new to the two, and they were still a little shy in initiating things.
"We could...just jerk off," Kevin suggested.
"That would be fine, or...we could help each other out," Phil suggested, suddenly feeling rather naughty and bold.
"Yeah, that would be better," Kevin said grinning, "but it's not gonna take much."
"For me either," Phil said reaching for Kevin's rampant member and giving it a squeeze, causing Kevin to moan softly.
Then returning the favor, Kevin moved a bit closer until they were in the perfect position to pleasure one another. When it was over and they had spilled their young seed on the shower floor, they kissed and pressed together as they came down from their orgasmic high.
"That was nice," Phil cooed.
"Very," Kevin agreed, "Boyfriend..."
"I like the sound of that," Phil said happily, "Boyfriend."
"Come on, we should get dried off and dressed before your mom comes looking for us," Kevin teased.
"Oh, I don't think there's any danger of that, but I suppose we can't stay in here all evening."
Once dressed again, Kevin reluctantly said it was time for him to go, and after saying goodbye to Mildred and Mrs. McKinney, Phil walked him to the door. Mrs. McKinney had disappeared and Mildred was safely in the kitchen so Phil decided it was safe to give Kevin a hug and kiss.
As they pulled away, Dr. McKinney was just coming through the door from the garage and when he saw the two he smiled.
"Well hello Kevin, how are you young man?"
"Fine sir," Kevin said blushing. Had Dr. McKinney seen them kissing?
"Are you staying for dinner?"
"No sir, I have to go home now, but thanks for asking."
"Some other time then, well goodbye Kevin, it was nice seeing you again."
"You too sir," Kevin said, and then when he had left Kevin whispered to Phil, "Do you think he saw us kissing?"
"Probably not, but don't worry either way. My father is a very open-minded man."
"It's still embarrassing..."
"I'm not embarrassed at all," Phil said grinning, "In fact I've never felt more proud or happier." Then leaning in he kissed Kevin once more.
"Uh, I better go," Kevin said blushing.
"Okay, say hello to your parents for me," Phil said bubbling over with joy.
"I will. Well, see you at school tomorrow."
"Will you text me later to say goodnight."
"Yeah, I will," Kevin said grinning, "and I might send you something else too."
"Oh, I can't wait to see what that might be," Phil said grinning just as wide.
At lunch the next day, Kevin couldn't help but notice there was something different about Roger. For one thing he wasn't his usual surly self and he didn't seem to even notice the others at the table. Terry seemed different too, quieter maybe, and he kept looking over at Roger and smiling shyly from time to time.
Thomas carried the bulk of the conversation that day, as Phil and Kevin listened with feigned interest as they sat with their legs touching beneath the table where no one could see.
"Damn, is anyone listening to me?" Thomas chuckled, "You guys are looking all starry eyed at each other," he sighed, "First Kevin and Phil, and now, these two," he said, making a sweeping motion toward Terry and Roger.
"You're just jealous," Terry said grinning, "We'll have to find you someone to stare at."
"Thanks, I'm fine," Thomas said rolling his eyes.
"Wait a minute," Kevin said realizing what Thomas had just said about Roger and Terry, "you two are...?"
"He's still in denial," Terry said softly, "but yeah, we're together now. I finally turned him to the gay side."
"I'm not gay," Roger mumbled, "but my boyfriend is."
Everyone laughed, then Thomas said, "Well, it's about time you finally figured that out. Seriously, I'm happy for you guys."
"Yeah, that's great, really great," Kevin agreed.
"I hope you're as happy as Kevin and I are," Phil said smiling.
"You...mean that? Even after all the crap I gave you?" Roger said sounding surprised.
"Yes, I mean that sincerely. I don't hold grudges."
"Oh, okay...well, if it means anything...I had nothing to do with you findin' out about the bet. I know who the guys were who were talkin', but they didn't even know you were there till later. They told me all about it later and I...felt sort of bad about it."
"Oh, well...in a way it was good to find out. That way Kevin and I were able to clear the air and put that behind us. But thank you for telling me."
"Welcome. I'm sorry...sorry about that...and about being a jerk. As far as I'm concerned you're part of the group too."
"Thank you Roger, I feel welcome here," he said looking at Kevin with those cow eyes that lovers get.
"Well, maybe you guys can double date," Thomas sighed.