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Peter draws a breath and lets it go, adjusts the desk lamp, fidgets a bit, and then reads the scene for the third time; and he still cannot recall a single thing about Othello. He closes the book and rubs his neck, then once again steals a sideways glance across the shadowy room at the clock on the nightstand. His study partner is almost twenty minutes late, and young Pete is beginning to wonder if this guy is going to show at all.
Maybe he should try calling him. After all, he is new in town and uncommonly shy. Maybe the kid took a wrong way turn on his way over, got himself lost, and is now out there driving around in endless circles, afraid to call his cute new friend from English Lit and ask for directions because he doesn’t want to look stupid. Pete sighs. He knows this explanation is complete crap because Jeremy lives only a few blocks away and once even dropped Pete off on his way home.
There is no getting around the fact he really likes this boy. If asked, Pete would be hard-pressed to explain exactly why. Though Jeremy has a certain sweetness about him and a not unappealing look—tall and rangy with a ready smile and a mop of sandy hair falling in his face—he will never turn heads. Pete knows a dozen guys who are better looking, sexier, more athletic. The fact is he’s already messed around with some of those guys. But that misses the point. He is attracted to Jeremy precisely because he is not anything like them.
The boy is now more than twenty minutes late. For Pete what had been worry is now quickly turning into despair. He reminds himself that this was only s study date, not a real one, but he can’t shake the feeling of being stood up. It took him weeks to work up the courage to ask Jeremy for this much. How will he ever be able to ask for anything more?
“Have you seen my phone?” asks the tall blonde girl as she comes bursting through the door. “I left it on the coffee table only a minute ago and now it’s gone. I know people in this house steal my stuff.”
“Dang it, Jan! What’s the matter with you?” snaps Pete jumping to his feet. “How many times have I told you to knock before coming in? I could’ve been naked in here for all you know. And no, dangit, I didn’t take you stupid old phone.”
“What’s bugging you?” The girl, Pete’s middle sister, stands framed in the light from the hallway. “OK, OK. I’ll be sure to knock next time—happy now? What’s the big deal? It’s not like I haven’t seen you in the shower before.”
As she backs away and begins to pull the door shut behind her, something she said triggers a single terrifying image in Pete’s mind and he lunges for the door. His poor sister barely has time to scramble out of the way, yelling after him as he shoots past her and makes for the turn down the staircase.
“Sorry!” he shouts over his shoulder as he bounds down the stairs, tears through the house and bolts out the back door. The growing murk of evening aided by the shadowy overhang of several large trees obscures just about everything in the back yard, and it takes a moment for Pete’s eyes to adjust to gloom. But even before he sees it he know it’s there, parked in the driveway in front of the creaky old garage; and, sure enough, there sits Jeremy’s small car. Pete glances up and then without hesitation begins climbing the line of wooden steps on the side of the garage that lead to the small efficiency apartment situated on top. At the landing he pauses just long enough to suck in his breath, then with a look of grim determination he pushes through the door.
He zeroes in on the old sofa bed at the center of the room—nothing there—and then begins to scan around the dimly-lit, elongated space until his focus settles on the narrow enclosed kitchen area on the far side. And there he finds them: fair-haired Jeremy and his older brother Rick, locked together in a clenched embrace. Rick, already shirtless and shoeless, his muscled form taut and dominating, poised and ready to strike.
Pete finds his voice. “Oh, God, I knew it! It was you . . . all along!”
The two split apart as an audible gasp fills he room. Jeremy, in shock, mortified, stumbles around the counter to face Pete. Then, in a panic, he makes a break for the door as his friend tries to stop him.
“No, Jeremy, stop!” Pete attempts to wrap his arms around the boy. “I didn’t mean you.” But the desperate attempt to stop him backfires when Jeremy snatches up featherweight Pete by the shoulders and slams him to the floor, grazing the boy’s head on the edge of the door. As Pete lies still, momentarily dazed, the bigger boy leaps over him and makes his escape through the door. He is down the stairs and into his vehicle in seconds. As Pete struggles to sit up, he can hear the car being fired up, revved and gunned, its tires screeching wildly in the street below.
Pete attempts to stand up, but grabs his head and sinks back to the floor amid a kaleidoscope of swirling colors and dancing lights, and then an even brighter flash of pain sends the whole room spinning. Moments later he feels himself bursa escort being lifted to his feet by his big brother who guides him over to the well-worn sofa and sits him down. While the light show has begun to fade away, the ache in Pete’s head is showing no signs of abating, so he boy drops his head to his knees and buries his face in the crook of his arm.
“What say there, buddy boy? How’s that head of yours doing?”
“How do you think it’s doing?”
Rick bends over and examines a spot on the top of Pete’s head. “Oh, yeah, you’ve got a real beauty coming up here. Bet it hurts. Sit tight. I’ll dig you up some aspirin and something to wash it down with.”
Moments later Rick reappears and presses two pills into his young brother’s hand and then sets a can of beer in front of him.
Pete stares at him incredulously. “You’re giving me beer?”
“Best thing I know for an aching head. Trust me. And besides, you can use the can to ice down that bump.”
Pete takes a few sips of the beer, and to his amazement he does start to feel oddly better—if no less angry. “You really are pond scum, Rick—you know that? Why are you doing this to me?”
Rick shakes his head and has a good chuckle as he strolls back to the refrigerator to retrieve a beer for himself. With beer in hand he settles into a small leather recliner next to the sofa.
“To you, Petey boy? You got it all wrong, bro. You see, the idea was to stick it to your little pal—not you.”
“Shut up, Rick!” says Pete incensed. “Why should I believe a word you say when you’ve done this exact same thing before.”
Rick’s cool vanishes in a snort of disgust. “That again? Let me ask you something, bro: How long are you gonna beat that drum? I’ve told you before I didn’t know the little punk was your boyfriend. How was I supposed to know? You didn’t tell me. You don’t bother to tell me much of anything anymore.”
“I don’t trust you. You’re up to something. And besides, why should I when I know you’ve got eyes and ears all over this town . . . even at my school. I don’t know how, but you found out about me and John, just like you found out I like Jeremy. And you set out to ruin it for me both times.”
“That is just about the wildest thing I’ve ever heard. Can you spell paranoid, little brother?” asks Rick, regarding his younger sibling with just the hint of a smile behind his scruffy mustache. “It’s not a good look on you, Pete. Why would I give a flying fuck who you’re diddling these days? But, listen, if you really want to know, here’s how it all went down that night: I was out celebrating. You might recall I had a big part in our win over Arizona that year. Anyway, a bunch of us headed downtown after the game to have a good time.”
“I bet I know what that means.”
“Do you, Sister Mary Tightass? OK, sure, I knocked back a few—so what? Like I said, the whole point of the evening was to have a good time. Do you even remember what it’s like to have a good time? I bet you don’t. Anyway, we wound up at the bar in the bowling alley. For some reason that place was really hopping. On the way back from the john, I got completely turned around and ended up in the arcade. Even that was crowded. I was making my way back to the bar when I came across this kid really going to town on one of the video games. I mean, he was really throwing his whole body into it. He had great technique so I stopped to watch, just for a sec. I was watching him, he started watching me—really giving me the eye, if you know what I mean. The next thing I know we’re talking. Connecting. I say to him, ‘Why don’t you come by my place later for a beer?’ So he did. One thing led to another. Bing, bang, boom. End of story.”
“Yeah, the end,” says Pete dejectedly. “He wouldn’t so much as return my calls after that.”
“Are you really into little boys like that? Seriously, dude, don’t you get bored?”
“So where’s your girlfriend, Rick? It’s Friday night. Don’t you usually spend your weekends with her?”
Rick smiles coyly, takes a sip of his beer and kicks back on the recliner. Not only is he in no hurry to reply to Pete, he seems to genuinely enjoy the game of cat-and-mouse that is slowly unfolding between them. Pete, on the other hand, is a bundle of nerves and his impatience is showing. After making him wait, Rick glances over at him and flashes a wolf’s grin.
“Oh, I don’t know, Petey boy. Didn’t bother to call her.”
“Didn’t she call you?”
“Told her I was busy with my buds. Took the night off. Heck, I’m entitled to a night off every once in a while—dontcha think? You know, it’s like steak. You can really dig steak—and, man, I do love me a nice hot juicy prime rib—but if you have it every night, you’re liable to get bored with it. That’s the way it is with me. I’m a real steak lover, one of the best around, but every now and then I get a taste for something different. Sometimes, I even get a taste for a little chicken on the side.”
“You really are a slime bag, Rick.”
Rick has a hearty laugh bursa escort bayan as the disgusted frown on Pete’s face. “No, dude, just a little more honest than most. And come to think of it, that’s what happened that night at the bowling alley. Yeah, I recall it now: It was just like tonight: all of a sudden I had a yen for chicken.”
Pete clams up, but not before snatching up his beer and downing a big swig of it. As he sits there on the sofa glumly avoiding the smug gaze of his brother, he can feel his initial anger receding, and being replaced with other, more confused feelings.
Rick is the oldest of six children in the Morse household and the first to go to college. He is also the most impulsive and hotheaded of the lot, and the one most likely to land in trouble. Considering his record, his dad Mike, a prominent architect, had to pull a lot of strings to get Rick admitted to the local university, though the young man’s outstanding record on his high school varsity football squad didn’t exactly hurt either.
Pete has always looked up to his big brother and wishes he could be more like him. Rick seems to have it all, good looks and an athletic body, popularity, and enough charm to seemingly get just about anything he wants. Pete has never been like that, and not just because he’s gay. The boy can never bring himself to use people in the callous way that Rick does, nor ignore the consequences of his actions. If Rick has a vulnerability, Pete has yet to figure out what it is.
“Just tell me this, Rick: why them? They’re not even your type.”
“So now I have a type?” scoffs Rick.
“Don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean. You don’t look at anyone, boy or girl, unless they look like they’ve just stepped out of a sports car ad. The only reason you went after Jeremy was to get back at me. So now that you’ve had your fun, why not just leave him alone?”
“What do you want, little brother?”
“Jeremy. Can’t you just back off and let me have him?”
“Dammit, bro, now see, there’s your problem right there. You need to stop begging and learn how to fight for what you want. You’ve been so protected that you don’t know what it means to go after what you want. If that scared little rabbit that just ran out of here is what you want, then go get him. And keep him. And don’t ask anybody’s permission.”
“How do I do that?” asks Pete meekly.
“It’s not rocket science,” says Rick, a note of exasperation creeping into his voice. “But if you really want to know, I’ll teach you.” Rick kicks back again, reclining in the chair and propping he feet upon the scuffed up little locker that serves as a coffee table.
“But before we get into that, tell me about yourself, buddy boy. It’s been a long time since you’ve come up here just to visit your ol’ bro. You used to hang out here all the time. What happened? Did you suddenly get busy or something?”
“Well, yeah,” says Pete still avoiding his brother’s probing gaze. “Mostly with school stuff. Since this is my senior year, I’ve been taking a bunch of electives, including some college prep classes Dad signed me up for. He says it’ll look good on my application.”
Yuck, nerd stuff. Sounds like Dad. Listen, if you want a social life, you’re gonna have to give up some of that. Get out of the house, find some time for yourself. Speaking of house, how are you surviving life with Dad’s new family—or, as I like to call them, Momma Alice and the Three Wicked Stepsisters?”
“It’s not so bad once you get used to it,” says Pete giggling at the joke. “You should give them a chance, Rick. They’re always asking about you. Bobby too. He misses having his big brother around.”
“Yeah, well, I miss Bob-o too. But the rest of that brood is a real problem for me, little brother. I can’t stand a house full of screeching females, and that particular bunch is just about the worst I’ve ever seen. The way they fight, you’re likely lose an eye or a limb if you came between them.
Pete laughs out loud in spite of himself. “It can get pretty crazy in there sometimes.”
“What I don’t get,” says Rick, “is how a good-looking dude like our dad got roped into that blonde disaster. I know for a fact that a couple of my girlfriends would’ve gone for him in a heartbeat. Anyway, if you or Bob-o ever feel like escaping the henhouse, then just climb up here to the ol’ treehouse. You can hang out with me as long as you like.”
Rick polishes off his beer and climbs to his feet. “Seriously, man,” he says, resting a hand on Pete’s shoulder, “I’m glad you’re here. I’m going for another. What about you? Ready for round two?”
“Jeez, Rick, I’m barely half-way through this one!”
“Drink up, slowpoke.”
His headache all but forgotten, Pete chuckles as he watches his big brother trot back to the fridge in his bare feet. San his shirt the college man easily impresses with his broad muscular shoulders, well-defined pecs, and generally powerful build, the result of years of work in the gym and on the football field. Even though escort bursa all three boys inherited their father’s dark good looks—hazel eyes, black curly hair, olive complexion—none shows it to such fine effect as Rick. His years of play in the sun have left him with a permanent bronze tan, a skin tone so dark that it would be easy to mistake him for Latino. His looks have brought him a lot of attention, an advantage Rick has not been shy in making use of, in securing girls . . . and the occasional guy.
“Say, kid, I guess you recall who gave you your first taste of beer.”
Pete giggles, a bit giddy. “It was you, you big moron.”
“Damn right—and don’t go forgetting it. Do you recall the occasion?”
“Yeah, it was one of those football games you took me to.”
“Yeah, but which one?”
Pete tries to remember, but considering how long ago it was and the fact he is now enjoying a nice beer-induced buzz, he finally shrugs and gives up. Rick, still on his feet, flashes him a strong look of disapproval.
“How do you forget the biggest fucking game we had that year? It was the end of the season. Oklahoma State came down and kicked our asses 45 to 21, thanks mostly to the fact I had to sit that one out with a sore ankle. I took you along since I couldn’t play, and we had great seats right down on the fifty-yard line. I snuck you a taste of my beer, and then had to buy you your own can because you liked it so much.”
“I remember. It was fun.”
“Damned right. We always had fun,” insists Rick, watching his brother out of the corner of his eye. “I gave you your first taste of beer. Do you recall who gave me my first taste of chicken?”
Pete snatches up his beer and hastily downs the last of it before getting to his feet. “Wow, I can’t believe how late it is. I really have to go now.”
He takes only a few steps in the direction of the door before stumbling, his head suddenly spinning again. His brother firmly takes his arm.
“You’re not going anywhere. You take a header down those steps and Dad’ll have my hide for it.”
“Maybe you’re right,” says Pete, who pauses where he is. “Jeez, I can’t believe how lightheaded I am.” He rubs his head, trying hard to clear the cobwebs out of his brain.
“I recall another time you were lightheaded—though feeling no pain might be a better way to put it. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten that. It was that exact same night.” Rick lets go of Pete’s arm, but continues to hover very close to him. Pete is steadier on his feet now, but doesn’t move as he listens to Rick reminisce as he slowly walks in a circle around his younger brother.
“As I recall, it was pretty late by the time we got in from the game. By then, you’d finished one whole beer and most of another; and, let’s face it, you were pretty far gone. A cheap drunk if I ever saw one. Remember that? I do. I remember everything. You kept babbling on. You begged me not to send you up to the house, because, as you put it, we were having so much fun and you wanted to bunk down up here with me. So, being the big ol’ softie that I am—as well as considering the hell I would’ve caught if Dad had seen you in that state—I said sure, kid, why not, you can stay. I let out the pullout bed and we snuggled in there until you fell asleep. Never could say no to you, buddy boy.”
It is as if Rick’s quiet steady tone is exerting a kind of hold over Pete, who continues to stand still and listen. Rick finally comes to a stop and stands just behind Pete’s left shoulder. He is now so close that Pete can feel his brother’s warm moist breath collecting in his ear and along the nape of his neck as Rick goes on talking.
“I was out like a light the second my head hit the pillow, and so were you—or so I thought. But you weren’t asleep, were you, Petey boy? You weren’t asleep at all.”
Rick slips his arms around Pete’s waist and settles the boy back into the warm cavity of his body. Pete closes his eyes and lets it happen, releasing a great long sigh.
“When I woke up a little while later, damn, but I couldn’t figure what was going on. I discovered you down under the covers, chowing down on my joint like it was the biggest, sweetest stick of candy you ever had. I still can’t figure out how you managed to get my boxers down my legs without me feeling a goddamn thing!”
Rick turns his brother around. Looking anxious, Pete avoids his gaze, but Rick watches him intently as he trails his big hands down the length of the youthful torso, grasps the edge’s of the kid’s t-shirt, and pulls it off over his head. Once this happens Pete stops being so passive. He steps closer to his brother and touches the bold tattoos Rick has imprinted on his biceps, then draws his fingers across the dusting of fine black hair that covers Rick’s pecs and abs. For his part Rick seems perfectly content to let this process unfold, watching as the boy explores every contour of his upper torso, and satisfied for now to just press on with his recollection.
“I have a confession for you, Pete. That was my first time giving it up to a cocksucker—not that I hadn’t had plenty of chances before, mind you. But it was just the idea of my own little bro doing it that got to me. But answer me this: were you even wasted that night, or not?”
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