I don’t know why I agreed to let Austin follow me around. Tomorrow is THE big day, the first meet of the season. Once I get out onto the track and kneel down to wait for the starter’s gun, I am completely focused. However, the twenty-four hours leading up to that moment is a nightmare. I get so nervous that I have been known to run to a nearby restroom and get sick.
Kenny used to be able to calm me down. His crazy antics had a way of taking my mind off things. He is the opposite of me. He gets nervous, but acts silly to mask the fact he is nervous. Since our events usually fell on the same day, we kind of complimented each other. When he got too carried away, I could calm him down. When I got too serious, he could bring me up. I missed that. I wondered if he did too.
As soon as I got out of my truck, Austin was waiting with a huge grin plastered to his face. I laughed when I noticed that he had even tried to dress like me. He had on running shorts, a white tee shirt and a pair of Converse shoes- the black high top kind. He looked really cute as he approached. He was wearing a red baseball cap with a swoosh across the front.
“Hey!” he said cheerfully. “You ready for this?”
I quickly scanned his body. I think it was the first time I had really noticed him. Usually, he wore a dress shirt and beige Docker pants; however, today he appeared attractive in casual clothing. The tight tee shirt showed his strong, developed chest and the shorts showed off his muscular, hairy legs. Since my legs were so smooth, I always found hairy legs somewhat exciting. He smiled when he saw me looking at him.
“What?” He giggled as his face began to turn red.
“I don’t know,” I laughed. “You look, I don’t know, kind of cute today.” His face turned a deeper red.
“Cute?” he asked astonishingly. “Me?” I scanned his body again.
“Do you play any sports at all?” I asked. “You’ve got an athlete’s body.” My gaze once again focused on his hairy, muscular legs.
“Not school sports,” he said. “I’ve been taking judo lessons since I was five.”
“Judo?” I looked again at his muscular legs. That would explain why they looked so developed. “Remind me never to mess with you.”
He started to giggle. “If you do, then I have to warn you.”
I gave him a puzzled look. “Warn me? About what?”
“I have a black belt.” He seemed embarrassed to tell me.
“Are you shitting me?” I said excitedly. I had seen some martial art movies over the years, but I had never actually known anyone who participated in the sport. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I just did,” he laughed. “Besides, it’s not exactly something I go around telling people.”
“Why?” I asked. I know if I had a black belt I would be telling everyone.
He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s no big deal. My dad got me involved and it’s just something I’ve always done.” I looked at him with a stunned look on my face.
“I think it’s neat,” I said admiringly. “So you can literally kill someone if you wanted to?”
“No,” he replied quickly. “Judo teaches us not to hurt anyone. We are taught how to control our emotions so we don’t react and hurt someone intentionally.”
“But you could if you wanted to?”
Austin shrugged his shoulders. “I guess.”
“Cool.” I approached him and threw my arm around his shoulder. We started to walk toward the school when I suddenly tried to throw him to the ground to see how fast his reflexes were. He grabbed my arm and before I knew what happened, I was on the ground staring up at him.
Austin knelt down and looked at me worriedly. “I’m so sorry, Zac.” He looked like he was ready to burst into tears. “I wasn’t expecting you to do something like that and I just acted instinctively.”
“I’m all right,” I moaned as I got up and brushed the dust from my clothes. “Remind me never to try that again.” He started brushing my back. I froze when he started slapping some of the dirt from my ass. I looked back and raised my eyebrows. He jumped back with an astonished look on his face.
“Jesus!” he apologized. “I’m sorry.” He looked down at my ass as his face started to redden.
“It’s all right,” I laughed as I put my arm around him. “I’ve never had a guy feel my ass before.”
“I wasn’t feeling your ass,” he stammered nervously. I laughed louder as we headed through the school door.
When we got inside, he grabbed my arm and stopped me. “Zac,” he said worriedly. “About that judo thing, I would appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s just something private,” he said. “I’d rather others didn’t know about it.”
“Okay,” I assured him. “I won’t tell anyone.” I looked down at him and grinned. “I won’t tell them you tried to feel me up in the parking lot, either.”
“I...didn’t...feel...” I laughed at the astonished look on his face and walked away.
We had to report to the office to get a special permission slip for Austin to show my teachers so that he could attend my classes. As the secretary was filling it out, Mrs. Jarvis walked out of her office.
“Zac,” she smiled. She looked over at Austin. “Austin. I’m glad I ran into both of you. Come into my office for a second.”
We entered and sat down in the same seats that Kenny and I had sat in a week earlier. She looked across her desk with a wide smile. “I think this is an excellent idea. I can’t wait to read the article in the newspaper.”
“I’ll do my best, Mrs. Jarvis,” responded Austin as he quickly looked over at me. “It will be something different for the school paper.”
Mrs. Jarvis gave him a puzzled look. “No one has spoken to you yet?” She looked over at me as I looked questioningly at her.
“About what?” Austin asked.
“The local newspaper is going to run the article also,” she informed us. “I thought Mrs. Reynolds would have told you. We discussed it yesterday afternoon.”
“No, Ma’am,” Austin replied. “I have her class fourth period and I won’t be going to class today since I’ll be with Zac.”
“Then let me be the first to congratulate you,” she smiled. “From what Mrs. Reynolds told me, a Marty Gillespie called the paper and told them about the article you were writing on Zac. He suggested that they might want to run it also. I got a call yesterday morning, and after discussing it with Mrs. Reynolds, we agreed to let it appear on the front page of the sports section on Monday.”
“Monday!” Austin exclaimed loudly. “I can’t have the article ready for the paper on Monday.”
Mrs. Jarvis sat back and looked at him. “I don’t know why not,” she said. “You’re an excellent writer and you’ll have all the information you’ll need after today, right?” Austin quickly looked at me and nodded his head.
“All you will have to add is how well Zac does tomorrow at the meet.” She looked at me and grinned. “You are going to do well, right?”
“I hope so,” I responded. “I’ve done pretty good in practice all week.”
“I know,” she said. “I’ve watched you a couple of times before I went home. In fact, the entire team looks impressive. I’ll be expecting some great results tomorrow.”
“We’ll do our best,” I assured her. Just then, the bell rang and she looked down at her watch.
“You boys better head to class. Ask Mrs. Jennings to give you a late pass.” After stopping at the secretary’s desk, we headed for my first period class. Austin seemed deep in thought and I was afraid to say anything as we walked through the empty halls.
“You all right?” I finally asked.
He stopped and looked up at me. “I don’t know,” he said worriedly. “I haven’t even formally interviewed you for the article, and then there’s the meet tomorrow. That only gives me Saturday night to write it and get it to the sports desk by two on Sunday.” He looked up and frowned. “I don’t know if I can do it.”
“Sure you can,” I assured him. “I can give you two good reasons why.”
“One,” I said. “You are an excellent writer.” I looked at him and grinned. “And two, you have me to write about.” He giggled when I stepped back and made a stupid pose. I was surprised when he held up the camera he was carrying and snapped a picture.
I thought it would be fun to have Austin attend my classes with me, but we didn’t even get a chance to talk during the first two periods. I had a test in both of them, and he spent most of the time writing. I think he was writing the article on me; but each time I would try to take a peek, he would put his hand over the paper.
I had a substitute third period. Mr. Jacob, my advanced biology teacher was close to retirement, so it wasn’t unusual for him to take Friday’s off. He once told us he had so many accumulated sick days that if he didn’t take them, then he would lose them when he retired.
The sub handed out some stupid math game that we were to turn in at the end of the period. The class immediately began pulling their desks together to work on it and the room soon became rather rowdy. The sub, an elderly man who appeared to be in his seventies tried to restore order, but after a while, he sat down and started reading the newspaper.
I approached his desk and told him that Austin and I were working on a special project for class, and I asked if he would excuse us to go to the library. He readily agreed. To him, it was two less students he had to deal with.
“I thought we were going to the library?” Austin asked as I started heading toward the exit.
“Naw,” I said. “I want some coffee. Let’s go to Starbucks.”
“Starbucks?” He exclaimed excitedly as he followed me to my truck. “We can’t leave school grounds!”
“Sure, we can,” I laughed as I opened up the passenger’s side and Austin got in. “Kenny and I used to ditch classes all the time. No one will notice as long as we’re back in time for our next class.”
I smiled as Austin glanced quickly at his watch. “We only have twenty six minutes,” he said worriedly.
“I have lunch next,” I informed him. “It won’t matter if we are a few minutes late. Besides, I have to eat lunch with the guys today.”
“Okay,” he replied as he rested his head on the headrest. “But if we get in trouble, it’s your fault.”
“Relax.” I looked over at him and smiled.
We didn’t say anything on the way to Starbucks. In fact, there seemed to be some kind of tension between us. I felt that Austin was holding something back from me, but I didn’t know what it was. Occasionally, he would look over and smile, but then he would let out this little sigh and look back out the window.
After ordering our coffee, we sat down at a table. Austin took out his notepad and a pen and looked over at me. “You want to do the interview now?”
“Now?” I took a sip of my coffee. “I just thought we could relax for a few minutes. I really don’t want to think about track right now.”
“Okay.” He put his notepad and pen away. “What do you want to talk about then?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. I then leaned forward and rested my chin on my folded hands. “Why don’t we talk about you?” He had been with me for several days and I knew little about him, other than he had a black belt in judo.
“Me?” A started look appeared on his face. “I’m supposed to interview you.”
“What do you like to do when you’re not in school?”
“Zac,” he said emphatically. “I don’t want to do this.” He sat back, crossed his arms and frowned.
“I’m not very interesting,” he replied with a sad tone in his voice.
“Sure you are,” I insisted. “You’re smart. How many other guys could write an article for a newspaper?” He rolled his eyes. “Plus, you’re cute and athletic. You already told me about judo.”
His eyes widened in amazement. “You think I’m cute?”
I looked around to make sure no one was listening to our conversation. “Yeah, sure. Don’t you think you’re cute?” He glanced quickly at his watch.
“Don’t you think we should get back to school?”
I laughed, “You’re trying to change the subject.”
He frowned. “I said I don’t want to talk about me.”
“I do,” I said as I leaned toward him. “You know all about me and I don’t know anything about you.”
“I told you,” he said in an irritated tone. “There’s nothing to tell you.”
“Okay, then. Here’s an easy question.”
“Why do you write about guys like me?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know.”
I laughed. “Sure you do. Why not write about something else? Why do you write about athletes?”
“The truth?” I nodded my head. “I just find athletes interesting. Take you for example. You spend long hours practicing just to run a sprint that takes only a few seconds to complete. Why do you do it? What motivates you?
I shook my head as I thought for an answer. “I don’t know. I just do it.”
He smiled at me. “That’s what I try to get out of you. That’s what I want others to know. That’s why I write.”
“Damn,” I said admiringly. “That’s the neatest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say.” I laughed when his face reddened. We sat quietly for a minute drinking our coffee. I looked over and grinned.
“Are you single?”
I rolled my eyes. “Are you dating someone? A girl?” He shook his head. “A guy?” He rolled his eyes.
“Okay,” he said angrily. He reached into his bag and pulled out his notepad and pen. He then opened it to the page where he was taking notes about me.
“Are you dating?” He gave me a smug smile.
“No.” I said. “Now you. You dating anyone?” I pretended to open a notebook and write down his response with a pen.
“No.” He stared into my face. “You like someone?”
His question caught me off guard, but since I had started the game, I decided to be honest. “Yes,” I replied. He seemed surprised by my answer.
“What about you?” I asked. “You like someone.”
He hesitated a moment before answering. “Yes.”
“Really?” His answer surprised me since I couldn’t remember ever seeing him with someone. “Who?”
“I didn’t ask you,” he replied. He stared intently into my eyes before looking away.
“Fair enough,” I said. I studied him as he looked out the window and watched a man and woman walking past the coffee shop holding hands. I thought that by getting away from school I could learn more about him. Now he seemed more a mystery than he had before.
He looked at his watch, got up and looked down at me. “We better get back. Lunch starts in five minutes.” He turned and headed out of the shop. We drove back to school in silence. Occasionally, he would look over at me and then sigh slightly before looking back out the window.
The cafeteria was filled with loud and rowdy students when we arrived. Teachers were roaming around trying to get students to get quiet, but it only seemed to make them worse. After going through the food line, Austin followed me over to the table where the track team had congregated.
I became suspicious when I noticed that four of the guys were standing shoulder to shoulder grinning at me. When Rory stepped aside, I saw Justin standing with a large water balloon in his hand. When he tossed it, I ducked. It went directly towards Austin. I turned just as it hit his head and exploded. He looked like a drenched puppy after its first bath.
I tried not to laugh, but I grabbed my mouth and roared with laughter. In fact, the entire cafeteria erupted into laughter. Two teachers came over and began asking students who tossed the water balloon. Even though Austin had seen Justin throw it, he told the teachers he didn’t know who did it. I think at that moment he became one of the guys, instead of a reporter for the school newspaper.
“Come on,” I said as I put my arm around his wet shoulder and led him through the cafeteria. “Let’s get you dried off.” Several students gave him high fives as he walked with water dripping off him.
We walked toward the gym. Since his clothes were so wet, I knew he would need a change of clothing. I could find something in my locker that would fit him.
“Here,” I said as I handed him a basketball jersey that I had gotten from a friend who had played on the team. I took out a pair of shorts and quickly smelled them to make sure they weren’t too dirty. He took them and then stared at me.
“Get your wet clothes off,” I laughed. “Put those on. They should fit you.”
“Here?” he asked nervously as he looked around the locker room.
“Yes, here,” I laughed louder. “I see guys changing every day.” I covered my eyes. “If it makes you feel any better, I won’t watch.” He rolled his eyes and removed his shirt.
“Wow,” I said as I saw his bare chest for the first time. I was surprised to see so much muscle tone. It was obvious that he probably lifted weights.
“I thought you weren’t going to watch?” He quipped as he pulled the jersey over his head. He laughed when I covered my eyes with my hands but left just a small space that I could peek through my fingers. I watched as he removed his shorts and let them fall to the ground. I stared at his hairy, muscular legs. Most track members had smooth, hairless legs. If they did have hair, they would often shave it off.
Austin pulled at his wet, white briefs. “Do you have anything that’s dry?” I stared at the conspicuous bulge showing through the material. His face started to redden when he noticed me staring at him.
“Um, yeah,” I replied huskily as I got up and rummaged through my gym bag. I pulled out a scant pair of striped bikini underwear and held them up to him. He took them and frowned.
“I can’t wear these.” He placed them against his body. “They’re too small.”
“Sure you can,” I replied with a grin. “If I can get into them, then so can you.”
He started laughing. “You wear bikini underwear?”
“Well, yeah,” I replied as my face reddened. “I guess.” Seeing him hold the thin piece of material in his hand did make me wonder how I managed to pull them onto my body.
“I’m going to have to put that in my article,” he laughed as he walked away and stepped into the nearest stall. I fell onto the floor and laughed uproariously when he stepped out a minute later wearing the striped bikini underwear. He kept his hands folded in front of him as he quickly walked over, picked up the shorts and put them on. I watched as his nice, muscular ass disappeared over the blue athletic shorts. He turned and posed for me.
“Where’s your camera?” I laughed as I searched his book bag. After finding it, I took his picture as he posed once again.
“You’re an idiot,” he smiled as he took the camera from me. “I’ll make a copy and give it to you when you win the state meet.”
“It’s a deal,” I laughed as I picked up his book bag and handed it to him. I threw my arm around him as we headed out the locker room. When I pulled him tighter to me, he sighed and seemed to melt into my side.
Austin’s soaking was the topic of conversation amongst the track team the rest of the day. I think most of the guys were nervous about the upcoming meet and it was a nice distraction. Austin was a good sport and seemed to enjoy all the attention he was receiving from my friends.
I had to take a test in sixth period, so Austin asked the teacher if he could be excused to go talk to Mrs. Reynolds, his newspaper advisor. I looked for him after school and was disappointed when he didn’t show up to walk with me to practice.
“Where’s your shadow?” Rory joked as we were changing clothes.
I shrugged my shoulders as I looked toward the door. “Don’t know.” I sat down and began to tie up my shoes. Rory sat down and scooted next to me.
He looked around the room before speaking softly. “I know this isn’t any of my business,” he whispered, “but is something going on between you and reporter boy?”
“Austin?” I gave Rory a puzzled look.
“Yeah,” he said as he once again looked around the room. “The guys have been wondering if you two are like...a...couple?”
“What?” I shouted loudly before Rory told me to quiet down.
“It’s okay, Zac,” he replied. “We don’t care. We were just wondering is all. You two seem to really be getting kinda close.”
I finished tying up my shoes and stood up. “We’re not a couple, okay?” He looked up at me and nodded his head. “He’s just doing an article on me for the paper, that’s all.”
“Whatever you say, Zac,” Rory replied as he put his arm around my shoulder as we headed out onto the track. “Whatever you say.” I pushed his arm away and trotted out to the track.
Austin appeared on the field about an hour into our practice. As usual, he walked around and interviewed some of the other track members. I noticed him taking pictures of me when I prepared to run against some of my teammates. At the end of one race, I was holding my sides and gasping for air. When I looked up, he was about four feet away aiming his camera at me.
“Can’t you wait until I’ve caught my breath?” I managed to wheeze out.
“Then it wouldn’t be authentic,” he replied as he took another picture. I weakly raised my hand and flipped him off.
“Put that in the paper,” I said as he giggled and walked away.
At the end of practice, Coach had us sit in the middle of the track field while he paced around giving us our pre-event speech. With the exception of a few sentences, it hardly changed from week to week. I think he was superstitious, and if he said anything different, he felt we might lose.
“Now go hit the showers!” He hollered. “And remember, be at the school at 9:45. The bus leaves at 10:00.” As I got up, I noticed Austin huddled off to the side with Rory, Justin and Carson. Rory looked quickly at me before bumping fists with the others.
Austin ran up to me as I entered the locker room. “Are you going to shower now?”
I looked down at him with a suspicious look. He knew I always showered after practice. Something was up. I could sense it. None of the guys had yet undressed and gone into the shower.
Suddenly, my arms were pulled behind me and Rory stepped up behind Austin and handed him something behind his back. He grinned mischievously, brought his hand from behind his back and then….
He hit me directly in my face with a pie pan filled with shaving cream! The room burst into loud laughter as I stood wiping the mess off my face. Austin was laughing harder than anyone else.
“Now we’re even!” He roared with laughter. “You thought it was funny when I got hit with the water balloon.” His smiling face turned to panic when he watched as I struggled to get free from the two guys still holding my arms.
“I’ll get you!” I screamed as he tore off across the locker room into the restroom area. My friends were shouting and laughing at our antics. I chased Austin as he ran into a bathroom stall and attempted to close it. I pushed it open, entered and then…