I spent most of the practice watching Austin walk around and talk to the coaches and my teammates. Every time I would look at him, he would be standing and jotting something down in his notebook. Occasionally, he would look over at me and smile.
A few times, he walked over and tried to take a candid picture of me. When I saw him with his camera pointed at me, I would stop and try to pose for him. He would put the camera down, giggle and walk away. Later, after I’d run a race and was bent over trying to catch my breath, he would be standing off to the side with camera in hand. He would give me an evil grin, then a thumbs up and walk away.
There was something about his demeanor on the track field. When he was at work, he didn’t seem shy and uncomfortable. He appeared at ease as he walked among my teammates and asked them questions. I watched him as he talked to Marty for about fifteen minutes. He seemed completely relaxed and appeared to be enjoying himself. I couldn’t understand why he felt so nervous when he was around me.
Coach called us to the center of the field and had us sit down. He gave his usual pep talk about the meet in a couple of days. “You guys have trained hard,” he said as he walked around us. I laughed when I saw Austin following him, taking pictures of me as I sat amid my teammates. He put the camera down and frowned when I started making goofy faces at him.
“Our first meet is in two days. Marty has scouted some of our competition.” He looked over and nodded at Marty. “If you guys perform Saturday as well as you have in practice, then we’re sure to win the meet.” The guys started cheering and giving high fives all around. When we finished, Adrian was standing off to the side with his camera pointed directly at me. He giggled when I flipped him off. “Now go hit the showers.” We rose and ran screaming as we ran toward the building.
Austin walked beside me as we headed toward the gym. “So, what do you think?”
He looked up at me and smiled. “I think I’ve got enough on you to write a book.”
“I hope it’s all good,” I laughed as I nudged him in his side. “Just don’t use any quotes by Solomon. He and I have had this thing going since about the fourth grade. You can’t believe a word he says.”
Austin opened his pad and read something. “Then you don’t want me to use his quote about you being one of the most dedicated athletes he’s ever met? He says you’re the team’s greatest inspiration.”
“Okay,” I laughed as he gave me a coy grin. “You can scratch what I said about Solomon.” I put my arm around his shoulder as we continued to walk.
Suddenly, I dropped my arm from around him. I realized that since we had met up after school that I always seemed to be touching him. Every time we walked, I would put my arm around him. Strangely, he seemed to like it. He would step closer to me and even press his body against mine. When I dropped my arm, he looked up and gave me a questioning look as if he had done something wrong.
When we got to the locker room, he again stopped and leaned against the wall. “I’ll wait for you out here.” I rolled my eyes, grabbed his hand and pulled him inside the door.
He sat and watched me undress, but this time he was careful not to stare. His face burnt a deep red when I removed my running shorts and stood naked in front of him. I was enjoying teasing him because it made him feel uncomfortable. I laughed when he grabbed his book bag and placed it in his lap.
“I’ll be back,” I said as I walked away naked. I wanted to turn around and watch to see if he was staring at my thin ass. It didn’t bother me to be naked in front of the other guys. We had grown up seeing each other’s bodies. However, Austin seemed embarrassed by it.
When I returned, he had his head down and was reading his notes. I grinned when I saw him trying to look furtively at the naked bodies around him. “Miss me?” I laughed as I approached him. His gaze immediately dropped to my cock. “Remember what I said,” I whispered. “It’s okay to look, just don’t stare.” He nodded and pretended to read his notes, but I could see him glancing at me while I dressed.
I was putting on my shoes beside him when Sticks Johnson walked out of the shower area into the locker room. He was toweling his hair as he approached. Sticks is actually Brad Johnson, but everyone calls him Sticks because he’s so skinny. He runs the long distance events for our team. Everything about him is skinny except for his cock. In the ninth grade, we called him Donkey Johnson because of the massive piece of meat between his legs.
Austin let out a gasp when he looked up and saw it bouncing as he walked. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped. I quickly nudged him in his side, trying to divert his attention away from Sticks. “So, when do you want to finish this interview?” He blinked his eyes several times as he looked at me.
“What?” He looked blankly at me. I waved my hand in front of him.
“The interview,” I laughed. “You know, that thing you were going to write about me.”
“Oh, yeah.” He glanced quickly over to where Sticks was standing.
“Down, Boy,” I giggled. I leaned in toward him so no one could hear me. “You should see it when he gets hard. It must be a foot long.”
Austin looked astonishingly at me. “No shit?”
“Yeah,” I said softly. “You should be here on a day he soaps it a little too much and gets an erection. He does it about once a week.” I laughed when Austin looked quickly over at Sticks who by now was dressed and talking to another runner.
I stood and put my hand out to him. “Come on,” I laughed as I pulled him to his feet. I looked quickly at the front of his tented pants. “I think you’ve seen enough for today.” His face reddened as I pulled him toward the door.
As we were walking down the hall, the baseball team entered. Kenny was leading the group and he was laughing. He seemed in a better mood than in previous days. I leaned down and warned Austin, “Don’t make eye contact with any of these guys- and don’t look down at their dicks.” He nodded and we moved to the other side of the wall while they passed. Kenny looked at me, but he didn’t say anything.
He followed me to my truck. We leaned against it and chatted for a few minutes. Most of it was about school and teachers in particular. He was a senior and we talked about graduation.
I looked at my watch and realized it was getting late. Mom would be calling me soon and telling me my dinner was getting cold. “When do you want to finish this interview?”
He took out his note pad and flipped through it. “Your trainer, Marty, had a good idea.”
“What?” I laughed. “If it’s Marty’s idea, it’s probably not good.”
“No, really!” Austin said excitedly. “It is. I don’t know why I’ve never done it before.”
“Follow you around for a few days,” he said. “Like you said earlier, shadow you. He says it will help me understand better what it’s like to be you.” He looked at me and grinned. “Good idea, huh?”
I looked back toward the gym to see if Marty was coming out onto the parking lot. If he was, I was going to flip him off. I knew what he was doing. He probably suspected that Austin was gay and it would be a good way to get us together. The only problem- I wasn’t looking for a new boyfriend. I had just lost one, if you could even call him a boyfriend. My experience with Omari had taught me that I wasn’t ready yet to replace Adrian.
“So, what do you think?” he asked hopefully. “Can I?”
I looked at him and forced a smile. “Yeah, sure.” For a minute I thought he was going to start dancing around the parking lot.
“Cool,” he said. “I’ll meet you before school tomorrow and we can work out how we want to do this.”
“You’re going to follow me around to my classes, too?” That’s all I needed was to have another boy following me around everywhere I went.
His smile turned to a frown. “No,” he said as he put his note pad back into his book bag. “Maybe it wasn’t a good idea.” He turned and started to walk away. I rolled my eyes and grabbed his arm.
“Okay, Austin.” He started to smile broadly. “But only for one day, okay?”
“Okay, promise,” he said happily. He then turned and started walking away.
“Hold up!” I shouted out. “Are you walking home?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “Mom’s at work right now and can’t come get me.”
I walked around to the passenger side of my truck and opened it. “Get in. I’ll take you home.” He smiled, trotted over to the truck and got in.
Since I had arrived home late for dinner, I had to eat alone. Dad came into the kitchen while I was eating and sat down at the table beside me. “How’s everything looking for Saturday?”
“Good,” I mumbled as I tried to swallow a mouthful of meatloaf. “I think Marty has been a great addition to the team this year. He’s really helped me a lot.”
“I think he’s been a big help to you, on and off the field,” he said rather sadly. He reached out and touched my arm. “Look, Zac, I know I’m not the best father in the world.”
I looked at him disbelievingly. “Are you serious?” He seemed surprised by my outburst. “I couldn’t ask for a better dad. You and Mom have always been there for me. I love both of you more than I can ever tell you.” I reached out hugged him. We both pulled away with tears in our eyes.
“Thanks, Zac,” he smiled. “I needed to hear that. I was starting to worry that Marty was beginning to take my place. You seem to run to him when you have a problem.”
I hugged him again. “No one will ever take your place. And the next time I have a problem, I’ll come to you.”
“It’s a deal,” he said cheerfully as he started to get up from the table.
“I do kind of have a problem I need to talk about?” He looked worriedly at me and sat back down.
“What is it?”
I buried my head in my hands and pretended to be upset. “I’m in a really big jam.”
“What’s happened?” he asked worriedly.
“Well, you know Saturday’s the track meet?” He nodded his head. “And I was kind of hoping that I could go out with some of the guys afterwards.”
“Okay,” he said as he gave me a questioning look.
“Well, I kind of spent my allowance money this week.” I pretended to start crying. “And I’m broke, and if I don’t have any money I can’t go out with my friends, and if I can’t go out with my friends they will hate me, and then when I see them next week they won’t talk to me, and then I will feel bad…”
Dad sat back in his chair and roared with laughter. “I get it, Zac,” he laughed. “These are the kind of problems I get to handle?”
“Yeah,” I grinned. “So?” I held out my hand. “Can you help me with the problem?”
“What problem?” He laughed as he got up from the table. “When I was your age I never had any money and it didn’t bother me.” He turned and grinned.
“That’s because you didn’t have cars, so you didn‘t have to buy gas,” I quipped. “All you had to do was give the horse a little bit of hay.” I laughed when he flipped me off and left the kitchen.
I stopped suddenly when I entered my bedroom. “Not again!” I moaned as I tried to tiptoe over the mess strewn on the floor. Billy, Lonnie and Dwayne were sitting in the middle of it trying to figure out how to assemble the science project they were working on.
“This piece goes here, Asshole,” Billy shouted as he snatched a piece of tubing from Lonnie’s hand. Lonnie looked over at a diagram Dwayne was holding, and then grabbed the tubing from Billy.
“It does not, Bitch.” He looked once again at the diagram and tried to shove the tubing into a hole in a slot on the aquarium. Dwayne looked at me with pleading eyes. I shook my head and sat down at my computer.
I listened to them argue for about ten minutes when Billy begged, “Please, Zac, you gotta help us.”
I turned and looked down at them. “I told you I won’t. It’s your project and I’m not doing it for you.”
“Please?” he begged. “Just this once and I won’t ask you to help me with anything else ever again.”
“No!” I stated adamantly. I got up and left the room.
I heard Billy holler out, “Bitch!”
As I was going downstairs, I had a great idea. I went out onto the deck and dialed Valerie. “Hey!” I said when she answered her phone. I then explained to her the problem Billy and his friends were having with the project. “Do you think you can help them?”
“I’m working on one myself,” she said. “I don’t have time to help your brother with his.”
“Please?” I whimpered. “For me?” She hesitated a minute before responding.
“All right,” she sighed.
I threw up a fist and silently whispered “Yes!” I then asked, “Do you think you can come over tonight? They’re about ready to kill each other.”
“I’ll have to ask my mother,” she said. I waited for several minutes until her mother came on the phone. I had to explain to her why I wanted to come get Valerie and bring her to our house. She insisted on calling my mother. After about thirty minutes, I was in the car and on my way to her house.
“Thanks,” I said as she got in the car.
“I should get my head examined,” she replied. “Your brother hasn’t spoken to me all year, but here I am going to help him out.”
I looked at her and tried to force a smile. “You won’t regret it, I promise.”
“Sure,” she said as she sat back and looked out the window.
Billy’s eyes almost popped out of their sockets when I walked into the room with Valerie. He jumped up from the floor and shouted, “What’s she doing here!”
Valerie turned and started to leave. “I told you this wasn’t a good idea.”
“Wait!” I grabbed her arm and pulled her back into the room. I then walked over and stood before my brother. “She’s here to help you,” I said angrily. “You have the same class together.” I looked down at the mess on the floor. “The way I see it, you need her.”
Billy looked at Lonnie and then Dwayne. They looked at Billy and shrugged their shoulders. “We could use the help,” Dwayne said as he looked up at Valerie.
“All right,” Billy said dejectedly. He looked at me. “If she makes me feel stupid, it’s your fault.”
Lonnie started giggling. “You don’t need any help feeling stupid.” Billy leaned down and smacked him on his head.
Valerie sat down on the floor between Lonnie and Dwayne. When I left, Dwayne was showing her the diagram and explaining their project.
I was sitting in the kitchen talking to Mom when Billy came running downstairs. She had just gotten home from work and was drinking a cup of coffee. “Hey, Mom,” he said excitedly. “Can you fix us up some snacks and maybe some sodas?”
She grabbed his hands and examined them. “Are your fingers broken?”
He gave her a puzzled look. “No, Mom.”
“Then why don’t you do it yourself,” she said as she threw his hands down.
“Aw, Mom, please?” Billy whined. “I got to get back upstairs and help.”
I rose from my seat and walked over to the refrigerator. “I’ll do it. Give me a few minutes.” After thanking me, Billy hurried from the room.
I made a big bowl of microwave popcorn, and then I poured some chips and pretzels into another bowl. I opened four sodas and carried them items upstairs. When I entered the bedroom, Valerie and Dwayne were still sitting on the floor piecing together the project. Billy and Lonnie were at the computer bouncing to a video on Youtube.
“I thought this was a joint effort?” I remarked sarcastically as I set the food on the floor in front of Dwayne.
Billy looked at me and sneered. “They said me and Lonnie was getting in the way.” I looked down at Valerie and Dwayne. They were sitting closely together with their legs touching. Valerie gave me a shy smile when she saw I’d noticed. She seemed even more embarrassed when I gave her a knowing wink before leaving.
An hour later, Valerie came downstairs with Dwayne. I had almost fallen asleep in a leather recliner while watching television. Josh was curled up asleep beside me with his head on my shoulder. “Can you take me home now?” she asked politely.
“Sure.” Josh grumbled something as I attempted to move him so I could get up.
“May I get a ride home, too?” Dwayne asked as I yawned and stretched my body. My back had stiffened up from the position I was in so that Josh could be comfortable. I noticed the shy eye contact between Valerie and Dwayne.
Dwayne was cute. He was about 5’9” tall, slender and well built. I figured he was probably one of Billy’s basketball buddies. I had also assumed that he was gay because he was hanging out with my brother. Seeing him flirting with Valerie, though, I knew he wasn’t. Then I became filled with guilt because I realized I had unknowingly stereotyped him as gay just because he was friends with my brother. If I could do it, then I quickly understood how Adrian or someone else might receive the same reaction if they associated with me.
I dropped Dwayne off at his house first. “I’ll call you tonight when I think you’re home,” he told Valerie as he got out of the car. We drove in silence for a few minutes until I couldn’t stand the suspense any more.
“What’s this about Dwayne calling you?” I looked over at her embarrassed face.
“He just wants to talk some more about the science project,” she answered nervously.
“Yeah, sure,” I laughed. “The science project.” We drove in silence another minute before she sat up and looked over at me.
“Can you believe it?” she said excitedly. “I think he likes me!”
“What’s not to like about you?” I replied. “You’re very pretty and bright.”
“That’s just it,” she said. “The kids at school have always shunned me because they think I’m too smart.”
“Dwayne didn’t seem to shun you,” I kidded her. “In fact, he seemed to really like you.”
“I know!” she shrieked. “God, I don’t know what to say when he calls tonight.”
“Just be yourself,” I said. “He seemed to like you just the way you are.”
“What if he asks me for a date?” she asked nervously. “I’ve never gone out with a boy before.”
“Then say you’ll go,” I offered. “It will be fun. Maybe you can go with Billy and Lonnie.”
“No!” she said quickly. “I don’t mean to offend you, but your brother is a little too weird for me.” I started laughing loudly.
“Billy’s a little too weird for me sometimes,” I laughed as I pulled up in front of her house. Her mother came to the door and waved as I was pulling away.
Austin was waiting for me when I arrived. He was standing on the curb and approached my truck after I had parked.
“Hey,” he said smilingly. “I didn’t know if I’d see you today, so I thought I’d meet you here.”
“Austin,” I laughed as I put my arm on his shoulder as we walked toward the building. “We’re in the same class second period.”
“Oh yeah, right,” he remarked. “But you sit with your friends on the track team. I wouldn’t want to interrupt you.”
We walked down the hall to my first period. “So when do you want to go around with me?”
“How about tomorrow?”
“I don’t know,” I replied skeptically. “Saturday is our first meet. I’ll be too nervous for you to interview me.”
“That’s what I want.” He stopped and turned toward me. “I want to experience what you feel before a meet. I want to see how you get psyched up before you run.”
I looked down at him and laughed. “You may be disappointed. I’m not much fun to be around.”
“Good,” he smiled. “I’ll okay it with Mrs. Jarvis and my teachers.” The bell rang and he ran off to class.
Something happened on the way to the cafeteria for lunch that was very unexpected, but I’m glad it happened. I was hurrying down the stairs and I accidentally bumped into Rachel. I quickly apologized before I realized who it was.
“It’s all right,” she said and then turned and noticed it was me. “Zac?”
“Um, hi Rach,” I replied nervously. “How are you?”
“I’m all right.” She didn’t seem upset to see me. In fact, she kind of smiled. Not a big smile, but her mouth did slightly curl. “How about you? Ready for the meet tomorrow? Everyone’s talking about it.”
“You know me,” I responded with a laugh. “Those dreaded nerves before a meet.”
“Yeah, those dreaded nerves.” Her smiled quickly turned to a sad expression. “I remember those.”
I don’t know why, but I reached down and took her hand in mine. I was surprised when she didn’t pull away. “Can we go somewhere and talk?” When she hesitated to answer, I asked, “Please?” She thought for a few seconds before nodding her head. I continued to hold her hand gently as we exited the building and headed for a park-like area on the south side of the school. Once there, we sat down on a bench. She pulled her hand away and watched a couple kissing on a nearby bench.
“You don’t have to say anything,” I said as she turned toward me. “I just want you to listen. Okay?” She nodded her head. “I never meant to hurt you, ever. You have to believe me. Everything started to happen so quickly, and I did some things I shouldn’t have.” I took her hand and held it. Again, she didn’t pull it away. “I’m sorry.” Tears started to appear in her eyes.
“You’ve heard all the rumors?” She nodded her head. “It’s true, Rach, I’m gay.” She pulled her hand away and looked down at the ground. “But I didn’t know I was when we were dating. You have to believe me. I never tried to deceive you.”
She looked up tearfully. “Then what happened?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know. Things just started to come together. It wasn’t easy.”
“Did you ever love me?”
“Oh, God! Yes Rachel.” I leaned in and hugged her tightly. I pulled away and looked tearfully into her eyes. “I still love you. I always will. The one thing I regret about all this is that I hurt you so much.”
“Yeah,” she said as she wiped tears from her eyes. “You did. I really hated you.”
“You had every right to,” I replied. She smiled slightly and nodded her head. We sat silently for a minute before she looked at her watch.
“I’ve got to go,” she said. “Alise is probably wondering where I am.” When I held out my arms, she stepped toward me and let me hug her.
I kissed her on her forehead. “Thanks,” I whispered softly in her ear.
She pulled away and looked at me with tears in her eyes. “I hope you do well tomorrow.” She then turned and walked away.