Taking Off the Mask
Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without
and know we cannot live within.  -James Baldwin
Chapter 14
I was in the clouds the rest of the week. After kissing Dion in his bedroom, we were
growing much closer. He sat with us at lunch each day, and he would come by my locker
after school and ride home with us. The Three Musketeers were now the Four.

On Wednesday night, my mother and I ate dinner alone. Janet was at a friend’s house
and wouldn’t be home until late. As I was making a salad, my mother looked over at me
and smiled.

“Someone is in a good mood,” she said happily. “What’s that tune you’re humming?”

I hadn’t realized that I had been humming. I had to stop and think, and then I realized
that it was the song that Dion said he liked when I asked him earlier in the day what
kind of music he listened to.

“Just a song Dion told me he liked,” I responded. She looked over and gave me a
puzzled look. I then remembered that I had never mentioned Dion to her.

“And who is this Dion?” she asked. “Is he the reason you’ve been walking around with a
smile on your face all week?” I could feel my face begin to blush. It only made her laugh
louder. She placed the food on the table, and we sat down.

“Spill it,” she insisted after we began to eat. “Who is Dion?”

As we ate, I told her about Dion. She was happy he was Nurse Dorothy’s son. She
became worried when I told her about how he had been affected by his brother’s death,
but she seemed satisfied when I told her about my discussion with his mother.

“He sounds like a wonderful young man,” she said after I told her about him. “When do
I get to meet him?”

“Friday,” I replied. “Nurse Dorothy invited us to a barbecue.” I told her about our
invitation to dinner. She was going to call Dion’s mother later and see if there was
anything she could bring.

“So you like him?”  

“I think I more than like him,” I replied. My face began to redden. It seemed strange to
be discussing liking another boy with my mother. I knew she accepted me being gay,
but I wasn’t sure if she was prepared for me taking the next step and having a
boyfriend.

“I want you to be careful, James,” she warned. “You two are very young. Don’t jump
into anything you’re not prepared for.”

“I learned my lesson with Donovan,” I replied. “This time I’m not making any mistakes.”

She looked at me and smiled. “Have I told you lately how happy I am that you’re my
son?”

“Not in the past couple of days,” I laughed. “But it’s still always nice to hear.”

After cleaning up the dishes, I went upstairs to my room to work on my homework. An
hour later, my mother knocked on the door and entered.

“I called Mrs. Carter,” she informed me. “It’s all set for Friday. I’m making a peach
cobbler.”

“Peach cobbler!” I said excitedly. “You haven’t made that in ages.”

“I also invited Dion for dinner tomorrow night,” she added.

“But we’re going there Friday,” I replied. “You’ll meet him then.”

“I know,” she said. “But I want to meet him without a lot of people around.”

“You want to interrogate him,” I replied angrily. “I told you he’s not like Donovan.”

“I just want to be sure you’re not jumping into anything too fast.”

“I’m not, Mom,” I insisted. “You have to trust me.”

“I do trust you, James.” She patted me on my leg. “There’s nothing wrong with me
wanting me meet my son’s boyfriend.”

“Promise me you won’t say or do anything to embarrass me,” I begged.

“I’m your mother,” she laughed. “Of course, I won’t.”

“I’m doomed,” I moaned into the pillow. She laughed on the way out the door.

I didn’t see Dion the next day at school. I passed his locker several times, but he didn’t
show. I was beginning to worry about him because I thought he might have gotten sick
and couldn’t come to school.

“What’s wrong with you?” Jackie looked across the table at me as we ate lunch.
Interestingly, Roy hadn’t joined us either.

“Have you seen Dion today?” I asked worriedly. She shook her head.

“Where’s Roy?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I haven’t seen him all day, either.”

Just then, Roy and Dion came walking into the cafeteria. Roy had his arm around Dion’s
shoulder, and Dion was smiling broadly. His eyes lit up when he saw me.

“I did it, James!” he said excitedly. “I think I’m going to make the baseball team.”
I laughed as he did a little dance beside the table.

“The coach was really impressed,” remarked Roy. “We stopped by his office after second
period, and he took us out to the baseball diamond and had Dion try out.” Dion sat
down closely beside me.

“He thinks I can be a starting pitcher.” Dion was hardly able to contain his excitement.

“Coach Weaver thinks he has one hell of an arm,” exclaimed Roy. “With me catching,
we’re going to make a good team.” He reached over and fisted Dion.

When Dion and Roy went to the cafeteria line to get a bite to eat, Jackie looked over
and smiled.

“I can’t believe the change in Dion,” she said. “He’s nothing like he was a week ago.”

“I know,” I responded. “Can you believe it?”

“Yes, I can.” Jackie smiled warmly at me. “He’s really in love.”

“No he isn’t,” I said embarrassedly.

“Are you kidding?” she exclaimed. “His eyes light up every time he sees you.” She
reached across the table and held my hand. “I guess we both found our someone
special.”

“Yeah,” I replied. “I guess we did.” We looked across the cafeteria as Dion and Roy
stood in the cafeteria line talking animatedly to each other. Jackie squeezed my hand
tighter.

After lunch, I walked Dion to his fourth period class. I hadn’t seen him all day, and I just
wanted to spend a little time together.

“Are you still coming to dinner tonight?” I asked.

“I guess,” he replied. “I’m nervous, though. You sure your mother won’t mind?”

“Are you serious,” I laughed. “She’s dying to meet you. I told her all about you last
night.”

“You did?” He looked questioningly at me. “What did you tell her?”

I looked around to see anyone was listening. “I told her you’re my boyfriend.”

He grabbed my arm and stopped me. “She knows you’re gay?”

“Yes,” I replied. “She’s known for about two weeks.”

“And she doesn’t care about us seeing each other?”

“No,” I insisted. “She’s happy for us.” He gave me a disbelieving look.

“I have an idea,” I said. “Why don’t you spend the night?”

“I can’t. Tomorrow’s a school night.”

“So? You can walk to school with me and Jackie.”

“I’ll have to ask Momma,” he responded. I handed him my cell phone. He took it and
walked away a few feet. I could hear him trying to persuade her to let him spend the
night. Finally, he hung up and walked back over to me.

“She said it would be all right as long as your mother calls her later.” Just then the bell
rang. We ran to Dion’s class. He entered just as the teacher was closing the door.

“I’ll call her,” I said excitedly as I tore off down the hall. I was going to be late for my
class, but I didn’t care. Dion was spending the night with me!

We all met up after school and headed to Mickey D’s for something to eat. When I told
Jackie that Dion was spending the night with me, she raised an eyebrow. I began to
blush, knowing what she was thinking.

I suggested that she and Roy come over after dinner and we’d play a game. Roy said he
would pick up a movie at Blockbuster. We argued for ten minutes on what we would
watch. Jackie insisted on a love story, but we wanted a thriller. Jackie sulked when we
voted on it. Of course, she lost. She tried to make Roy feel guilty by not siding with her,
but he said that guys had to stick together.

He dropped me and Dion off at Dion’s house. Nurse Dorothy said she would drive us
back to my house. She was looking forward to seeing my mother again. As soon as we
walked through the door, I heard the pitter patter of feet bounding down the stairs.

“James!” Marky shouted. I opened my arms and he jumped into them. “You wanna
throw a ball?”  

“Sure,” I said, much to his delight. “We’ll throw a ball while Dion gets his things
together.”

“Where’s he going?” Marky asked.

“He’s spending the night with me,” I said. His face lit up.

“Can I stay at your house, too?” He asked excitedly.

“Not tonight.” His smiling face immediately turned to a pout. “But maybe the next time.”
I placed him on the ground and started tickling him. He squealed and tried to get away.

“Stop, James!” he screamed. “You’re making me pee my pants.” Dion and I started
laughing when he stood up and had a wet spot in the front of his shorts. Tears started
to well up in his eyes. I reached out and took him back into my arms. I put him down
quickly when I felt the front of my shirt getting wet. Marky started giggling.

“My pee’s on your shirt.” He pointed out the wet stain and started laughing. Dion
laughed and grabbed Marky’s hand, leading him upstairs.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” he stated. “Momma’s in the kitchen if you want to go see her.”

Nurse Dorothy was happy to see me. We chatted casually while waiting for Dion to
come back downstairs. After a few minutes, it dawned on me that she was interrogating
me like I’d warned my mother not to do with Dion. I guess she was trying to make sure
that I was a good match for her son as well.

Dion came down a few minutes later with a bag containing his clothes. Nurse Dorothy
questioned him about what he’d packed. When she was satisfied that he hadn’t
forgotten anything, we went outside and got into the car.

Dion started to climb into the back seat with me, but Marky jumped in first and plopped
down beside me, wrapping his arms around me. Dion laughed and got in the front seat.
Sitting in the backseat with a five year old for a twenty minute drive across town can be
an experience. He had me sing every song he’d learned in the pre-school he attended.
Surprisingly, many of them I remembered from when I’d attended years earlier. I guess
some things never change.

When we arrived at my house, he ran into the kitchen where my mother was fixing
coffee. “Are you James’s mommy?”

“Yes, I am,” my mother replied while she knelt down to speak to him. “And who are
you?”

“I’m Marky,” he said proudly. “Do you have any milk and cookies?” Nurse Dorothy
started to scold him, but my mother said it was all right. She poured three glasses of
milk and set out a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Marky grabbed a handful and started
eating.

My mother and Nurse Dorothy headed into the living room with Marky in tow. I grabbed
the two glasses of milk and the plate of cookies.

“Come on,” I said to Dion. “I’ll show you my room.” I led him upstairs and into my
room. He walked around and stared at the posters on the wall. He then looked over the
books I had in a bookshelf. He stopped when he came to my computer.

“This is yours?” he asked. I nodded my head. “Cool.”

I walked over to the door and closed it. I then leaned against it. “Come here.” I held out
my arms. He walked across the room and gave me a hug.

“Why are we over here?”

“I don’t want Marky running in and seeing us doing this again.” I leaned in and kissed
him. We kissed passionately for several minutes. My cock was hard as a rock when I
pushed it against Dion’s body. He responded by pushing back. We stood grinding our
erections into each other.

I reached down and started stroking him through his pants. He moaned into my mouth,
and then he reached down and grabbed mine. I thought I was going to erupt.

“Hey, let me in!” Marky tried to open the door, but our weight prevented him from
entering. “What are you guys doing?”

“Damn!” exclaimed Dion. He kissed me one last time before walking across the room
and sitting on my bed. I watched as he rearranged his cock. I did the same before I
stepped away from the door and let Marky enter.

“Why wouldn’t you let me in?” He bounded into the room and started looking around.
Dion looked over at me and smiled. Marky found the small basketball and a hoop which
attached to the wall. Soon we were playing a game of HORSE.

“Marky!” Nurse Dorothy hollered up the stairs. “It’s time to go.”  

He begged her to let him stay, but she told him he couldn’t. I felt so bad when he
grabbed me around my waist and started crying. I promised him that he could come
back and spend the night some other time. He stopped crying and cheered up.

“Promise?” He asked.

“I promise.” I said. He gave me a final hug and then ran down the steps and into the car.

Mom went all out to prepare dinner. Janet was eating dinner at her friend’s house again,
so it was just going to be the three of us. For once, I wished that Janet was with us
because it would have prevented my mother from embarrassing me.

Dion and I set the dining room table while my mother finished up in the kitchen. I
couldn’t believe all the trouble she went to just to impress Dion. She had prepared a
pork loin in a pineapple sauce, asparagus tips, scalloped potatoes and homemade rolls.
We only ate like this at Christmas. She also announced that she had made an apple pie.

The interrogation began as soon as we sat down. She wanted to know everything
about him. She asked questions about his family, his growing up and his school work.
She was pleased to find out that he was an excellent student with a high GPA. In a way,
I was glad she had questioned him. I learned more about him during dinner than I had
in the month we had known each other.

She didn’t mention his brother who had been shot. I had told her the night before that
it still bothered him and that he didn’t like to talk about it. He became embarrassed
when she asked him when he knew he was gay. I choked on my milk when she boldly
asked him if he was still a virgin. However, I did wait anxiously for him to answer the
question. I was relieved when he finally confessed, after much prodding by my mother,
that he was.

I guess in fairness to Dion, she related my rather uninteresting history. She told him
every embarrassing story about me since I was born. Dion was amused by her
narratives. He had to stop her several time because he was laughing so much.

By the time we had finished the pie and ice cream, we both knew about each other
pretty well. In a way, I think it was her intention. She was making us see the other
person, and then realize if we were interested in what we saw. In her own subtle way,
she had both of us remove our masks and let the other see what was behind it.

After dinner, she went to her office, leaving Dion and me to clean up. I enjoyed the
closeness of working with him. We would rub up against each other, or reach out and
gently touch as often as we could. I remembered back to the first time we spent
together during detention just a few weeks earlier.

I looked over at Dion and watched him putting dishes in the dishwasher. Tears
appeared in my eyes. He looked over and stopped.

“What’s wrong?” he asked worriedly.

“It’s more like what’s right,” I responded, wiping the tears from my eyes. “I think I’m
falling in love with you.”

He walked over to me and wrapped his arms around me. “I love you, too,” he whispered
in my ear. I pulled back and kissed him gently.

“Hrrumph.” We jumped apart when we heard my mother clear her throat behind us. I
know my face was turning a scarlet red. She looked at me and grinned. “I thought you
two were being just a little too quiet in here.”

“Mom!” I screamed. “I think you sit around all day trying to think of ways to embarrass
me.” She walked out of the kitchen, laughing all the way back to her office.

After cleaning up, we went into the living room to watch television until Jackie and Roy
arrived. Dion sat closely beside me, resting his head on my shoulder as we watched a
program on MTV. I closed my eyes and enjoyed his warm body next to mine. I
wondered if my life would always be as happy as I was now feeling. Mr. Wilbur said that
he and Paul shared twenty six years together before Paul died. I hoped that Dion and I
could do the same.

One thing still puzzled me, however. It had bothered me for weeks, and I wasn’t sure if
Dion would want to talk about it.

“Can I ask you something?”

“I guess.”

“There’s something I don’t understand. When we had detention, you were there for
stealing food from the cafeteria. You never did tell me why.” After witnessing the look
on his face, I realized that I may have been wrong in asking him. He sat up, and I
thought he was going to move away. He sat quietly for a minute before speaking.

“As you’ve seen, Momma doesn’t have a lot of money. There are still four of us at
home, and then there’s Marky. He’s my older sister’s boy. Momma takes care of him
after he gets out of preschool until Cheryl picks him up at seven and takes him home.”
He paused and I wasn’t sure if he was going to finish telling me.

“When he would come home in the afternoon he’d always be hungry. Sometimes I fixed
him a bowl of cereal or something, but most of the times there would be nothing for
him to eat.”

“So you took food for him?”

“I know it was wrong, but I couldn’t stand to hear him cry because he was hungry. Each
day  I’d manage to take something- an apple one day, a banana the next. Then one day
Mr. Marshall caught me.”

“So you ended up in detention?” He nodded embarrassedly.

“He was going to suspend me, but after talking to Momma, he just gave me a week’s
detention.”

“Was she mad at you?”

“No.” I watched as tears formed in his eyes. “She felt bad because she didn’t know that
Marky would come home hungry. She said I should have told her. After that, she has
always made sure we have cookies and milk after school.” I took his hand and squeezed
it tightly. After a long kiss, we rested our bodies against each other and continued
watching television.

Jackie and Roy arrived around six-thirty. We sat on the living room floor and played a
game of Monopoly. Like he was when we played Sorry with Mr. Wilbur, Dion was
ruthless. I thought he would help me out, but he didn’t. I begged him to sell me some
property, but he refused. He landed on Broadway and Park Place, and within an hour he
had wiped all of us out of money.

We next decided to play a game of Spades. He and I were partners. Roy was a good
player, but Jackie sucked at bidding. I thought by about the fifth hand, they were going
to break up. It was comical to watch them argue back and forth. They soon started
kissing every time they made a bid. After a while, Dion and I started kissing, even if we
lost. It felt good to be able to show him affection without worrying how someone would
feel about it.

Jackie and Roy left around nine-thirty. Mom came out of her office and we went into the
kitchen for another piece of apple pie. She kept looking at us and smiling. I think she
was genuinely happy to see us together. I considered us two of the luckiest boys in the
world. Both our mothers knew we were gay, and they both approved of us being
together.

We kissed my mother goodnight, and then we headed to my bedroom. Dion looked
around the room; I think he was trying to figure out where he was going to sleep.

“You can sleep with me,” I suggested. “The bed is big enough for both of us. Or I can
make up the couch downstairs, and you can sleep there.”

He hesitated a moment, and then said, “I can sleep with you.”

“You don’t snore, do you?” I kidded.

“No,” he replied. “You don’t pee in the bed, do you?” We both laughed.

“If you feel something wet, it won’t be pee.” I sat on the bed and laughed hysterically.
We joked around a few more minutes until Dion asked if he could take a shower before
going to bed. I told him the bathroom was across the hall.

He surprised me when he began to undress in front of me. I watched intently while he
removed his clothes and folded them over the back of a chair. Soon, he was standing
before me in just his boxers. My dick was throbbing inside my pants.

His body was beautiful. His dark skin was illuminated by the light of the lamp at my
computer table. He had a light dusting of hair on his chest with a nice trail going from
his belly button to the top of his underwear. His legs were hairy and muscular. He had
the body of an athlete, although he had never played sports.

“Damn,” I said admiringly. Our eyes met and the world seemed to stop. I let my eyes
continue to roam over his body before looking back into his handsome face. He just
stood and let me enjoy him. Finally, he turned and disappeared from the room.

I wanted to pull out my cock and jack off while he was in the shower. He had turned me
on, and I was in desperate need of relieving myself. I decided to wait, though. I was
hoping that maybe we could masturbate together after we got in bed. All I had to do
was get him as turned on as he had gotten me.

I heard him turn the shower off, and a few minutes later he walked back into the room.
I was hoping that he would be naked, but he had put his boxers back on and was
toweling off his wet hair.

He walked over and sat down beside me, letting our legs touch. “Are you going to take
a shower now?”

“Yeah,” I responded nervously. I knew he was waiting for me to undress in front of him,
like he had done for me.

I stood up and removed my shirt over my head. My heart was pounding inside my
chest. Dion was staring at me. I could see the anticipation in his eyes. He stared intently
as I unbuttoned my shorts and let them drop to the ground. Unlike Dion, I wear tighty
whiteys, so I knew he could see my erect cock poking out through the material. I looked
over and he was staring at it. His erection was poking through the opening of his
boxers.

Finally, I took a deep breath and pulled my underwear off. I was now standing naked
before him. I watched as his eyes roamed over my body. I could tell by his reaction, that
he was pleased with what he saw. I reached down and stroked my cock a couple of
times, and then turned and walked across the hall to the restroom.

Once inside, I leaned against the wall, trying to catch my breath. My heart was almost
beating outside my chest. I couldn’t believe I had just stripped naked in front of Dion.
My cock was still throbbing. When I showered, I had to be careful not to wash it too
vigorously for fear of cumming.

After toweling off, I tip-toed back to my room. I had the towel wrapped around me
because I’d left my underwear lying on the bedroom floor. When I entered, Dion had
turned off the lights. A candle was burning on the bookshelf. I squinted my eyes and
reached for my underwear.

“Don’t put them on,” he whispered. I looked and saw him lying naked on the bed. His
cock was hard and extended almost to his belly button. He opened his arms, and I
walked over and lay on top of him. He wrapped his arms around me and held me tightly.
Our cocks were grinding into each other, and I could feel him breathing heavily into my
neck.

“Do you want to do this?” he asked nervously. I leaned back, looked into his eyes, and
kissed him. He moaned and thrust himself into me. We kissed passionately for a few
minutes, and then he rolled me over onto my back, while he lay beside me. He kissed
me again, and then he began to run his tongue down my neck.

I let out a soft moan when he started nibbling at my nipples. He licked around them, as
he reached down and wrapped his hand around my stiff cock. I grabbed his hand and
stopped him.

“I’m almost ready to cum,” I warned him. I had been edging ever since he had stripped
in front of me. I knew it wouldn’t take much to make me cum.

He leaned down and engulfed my cock into his mouth. He gagged slightly at first, but
then he continued to suck me. I threw my head back on the pillow and reveled in the
wonderful sensation I was feeling. Several minutes later, I felt my cum begin to rise
from my balls. I reached down and lifted his head off my cock.

“Oh, God!” I moaned as the first volley of cum shot out. Soon, several more blasts
erupted onto my stomach. Dion continued to gently stroke me until I was drained. He
brought his mouth to mine and kissed me deeply.

Afterwards, he took a towel and cleaned the cum off my stomach and cock. I couldn’t
move. I remembered back to when my mother had asked what it feels like when two
people have sex. There was no way I could possibly describe what I was feeling at the
moment.

As Dion lay beside me, I could feel his cock poking into my leg. I reached down and
wrapped my hand around it. He turned and lay on his back while I stroked his large
cock. My cock is about six inches long and average width. His was about an inch longer
and much thicker.

Wanting him to feel the pleasure he gave me, I leaned over and started licking his chest.
I loved the feel of his hair against my tongue. Unlike my smooth nipples, his had a small
amount of hair circling them. I rolled my tongue around them as he squirmed on the
bed. His eyes were tightly shut as he enjoyed what I was doing.

I ran my tongue down his chest, nibbling gently at the hair. I let my tongue travel the
thin trail leading to his black, thick pubic hair. He moaned and gently grabbed the side of
my head, placing my mouth to his stiff cock. Like me, I knew he probably was close to
cumming. I stroked his cock several times, and then I placed my mouth on his cock
head. I could hear him moaning softly, as I got used to its thickness. I slowly sucked
him deeper. After several minutes, I could feel his cock swell inside my mouth.

“James,” he whimpered. “I’m going to cum.” I started to pull off, but he erupted into my
mouth. He lifted his body and shoved his cock deeper as he continued to cum. Realizing
I liked the taste of his cum, I began to swallow quickly. He soon relaxed, and his body
went limp. I knew he was feeling the sensations that I had felt earlier.

With my hand still stroking his cock, I scooted my body beside him, leaned in and kissed
him gently. He pulled me on top of him and kissed me passionately, shoving his tongue
into my mouth as he tasted the remains of his cum.

After a minute, I pulled away and lay my head onto his shoulder. He continued to wrap
his arms tightly around me. “I love you,” he whispered softly into my ear.

“I love you, too,” I whispered back. We must have lay there about five minutes holding
each other, saying nothing. We didn’t have to. We had removed our masks and were
laying completely exposed to each other. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I started
crying into his neck.

“What’s wrong?” He lifted my head and looked into my eyes.

“Thank you,” I replied tearfully, “for taking off your mask.” He tightened his arms
around me and didn’t say a word. I think he somehow understood what I was saying.

After several minutes, I got up and crept across the hall to relieve myself. On the way
back to bed, I handed Dion his underwear to put on. I was afraid my mother might stick
her head in the door in the morning, and I   didn’t want her to see us lying naked in bed
together.

Once in bed, I lay on my side. Dion wrapped his arm around me and pulled me into him.
I relaxed his arms and fell asleep. We must not have moved throughout the night,
because when my alarm went off, we were still in the same position.

I guess my mother figured she had impressed Dion with the dinner the night before,
because for breakfast we had a bowl of cold cereal and orange juice. I tried to avoid eye
contact with her, because I was afraid she would be able to tell that Dion and I had sex
the night before. I also wasn’t sure if she had peeked in the room and saw us spooned
together in bed. If she did, she didn’t say anything.

On the way to school, Dion and I walked side by side with our arms touching most of
the way. Jackie kept looking over and staring at me. I knew her well enough to know
that she had something to say; however, she was holding back because Dion was with
us.

I didn’t have to wait long. As soon as Dion headed off to class she pulled me aside. She
looked into my face, which made me feel uncomfortable.

“Something’s different about you,” she said. “I can’t put my finger. Wait!  I know!  
You’re in love. Look at you. You’ve got it bad!”

“Shut up, Jackie,” I said embarrassedly. She grinned and studied me some more.

“You and Dion had sex last night!” she shrieked excitedly. I looked around to make sure
no one had heard her.

“Would you shut up, Jackie, before someone hears you.”

“So you don’t deny it?” She grabbed my arm and pulled on it.

“Jackie, I can’t tell you when Dion and I have sex.”

“So you did!” she squealed. “I knew it!” She grabbed my arm and led me down the hall
to my first period class. She kept looking over at me and giggling. I know my face was
as bright as a Christmas tree bulb.

We met after school to go to Dion’s house for the barbecue his mother had planned.   
I could tell by the way Roy kept looking at us, that Jackie had opened her big mouth
and told him about me and Dion having sex.

Roy dropped us off at my house. Since my mother and Janet were going, we decided to
ride with them and show my mother how to get to his house. Roy was going to wait for
Jackie while she ran in and changed clothes. He said they would meet us there.

Marky came running out to the car as soon as he heard the car doors slam. “James!” he
shouted as he ran out and jumped into my arms. I picked him up and gave him a big
hug. When he noticed my mother, he ran over to her.

“Did you make me some more cookies?” he asked as she bent down and gave him a
hug.

“I made you something even better,” she replied. “How about a peach cobbler?”

“What’s peach cobber?” he asked. We all started laughing. Dion picked him up and we
headed around the house toward the backyard.

Nurse Dorothy was already at the grill, barbecuing chicken and ribs. My mouth started
watering when I got a whiff of the smoke rising from the grill. I looked around and saw
Mr. Wilbur sitting in his wheelchair under a shade tree. I walked over, knelt down, and
hugged him.

“I am so glad you’re here,” I said excitedly. I hadn’t expected Nurse Dorothy to invite
him.

“It’s good to get out of that damn room for a change,” he huffed. “Besides, Dorothy
wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re here.” Just then Dion walked up and wrapped his arms around my
waist.

“Hello, Mr. Wilbur,” he said. Mr. Wilbur noticed his gesture and then looked up into my
eyes.

“Hello, Dion,” he replied. “It’s good to see you boys together.”

“Dion!” Nurse Dorothy shouted from the back porch. “Would you come help me bring
out the tea?” Dion gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.

“I’ll be right back,” he said as he trotted off towards the house.

“I’m not imagining what I just saw, am I?” Mr. Wilbur asked after Dion left. I sat down
on the ground in front of him.

“What did you just see?” I knew what he was talking about, but I thought  I’d tease him.

“Two boys in love,” he said wistfully. “It’s written all over both your faces. It reminds me
of two other young men a long time ago.” I leaned in and gave him a hug.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I spoke softly. “He did it, Mr. Wilbur. He took off his
mask, and I’m in love with the boy behind it.

THE END

Write:  ronyx@themustardjar.com  to comment on 'Taking Off the Mask.'