As I was leaving the locker room, Coach Templeton peeked out his door and motioned for me to see him. When I entered his office, another student was sitting in a chair off to the right. He was holding a large book bag in his lap.
I recognized him, but I couldn’t recall his name. He was the sports editor for our school newspaper. He had interviewed me a few times last year. One of the articles had been so well written, the local newspaper asked to print it. I had received a lot of attention after that. Many people had even stopped me in the mall and asked if I was ‘The” Zac Barnes they had read about.
Coach pointed over to the boy. He sat nervously, twirling a pen in his hand. “You remember Austin Winger, don’t you?”
“Yeah, sure,” I replied as I walked over and shook his hand. His palm was wet, but his grip was strong. He looked up into my eyes before dropping his gaze to the floor.
“He wants to interview you for the school paper,” Coach stated. “I don’t know if you have the time now.” Coach headed to the door and opened it. “I’ll let the two of you work it out.” He then left the office, leaving us alone.
I looked down at Austin. I was surprised by his meek behavior. Last year when he interviewed me, I remembered how animated he had been. I had enjoyed the interview because we spent most of the time laughing and making jokes.
Now as I looked down at him, I couldn’t understand his nervousness. He seemed too upset to conduct an interview.
I sat down in the chair beside him. “Would you have a problem if we did this thing another time?”
He looked up at me. “No,” he stammered. “It’s fine.” He started to get up, but I grabbed his arm.
“You don’t have to rush off,” I laughed. “I want to do the interview, but I just got out of practice. I’m kind of beat.”
“It’s okay,” he smiled nervously as he brushed back his long, brown hair. Austin was cute, but not one of those guys who you would probably notice right away. He had an average build, but it was hard to tell what he looked like under the dress shirt and slacks he normally wore to school. It appeared he had put on some weight since last year.
He also seemed to be a loner. I remember asking him last year what he did when he wasn’t writing a story, and he shrugged his shoulders and responded, “Not much.” I sat back in my chair and yawned.
“How about we do it tomorrow before practice?” He smiled and nodded his head. “I’ll meet you in the locker room right after school.”
“In the locker room?” he asked nervously.
“Yeah,” I laughed. “The room that smells like sweaty boys and dirty jock straps.” I laughed again when his face reddened. “I thought you were a sports writer?”
“I am,” he stammered nervously, “but I’ve never interviewed anyone in the locker room. It’s always been on the field or in the library.”
I stood and patted his shoulder. “Bring your camera,” I laughed. “I may give you a shot that’s never been seen before in the newspaper.” I roared with laughter when his eyes dropped to my crotch and his faced reddened.
He stood and looked up at me. “Maybe I should just interview you on the track.” I watched as his eyes quickly scanned my body. His gaze stopped at my long legs. He then looked nervously at me. “I gotta go.” He clutched his book bag tightly and rushed from the office.
Dinner was ready when I got home. I was surprised to see Jimmy and Tamara sitting in the family room. “Hey!” Tamara rose from the sofa and gave me a big hug. “I haven’t seen you in ages,” she said as she hugged me tighter.
It seemed like old times at the dinner table. Jimmy was in a particularly good mood. He and Josh got into a spirited game of knock-knock jokes until Josh told one his friend at school told him. It involved a guy named Justin. When Jimmy said, “Justin who,” Josh responded by saying, “You’re just in time to wipe my ass.” Dad tried to suppress a laugh while Mom scolded him and ended the game. Jimmy roared with laughter and gave Josh a high five.
After dinner, Mom made Josh, Brenda and Billy do dishes. Naturally, Billy did more whining than cleaning up. Jimmy challenged me to a game of horse. We went outside and started shooting the basketball around.
“So, how are things going?” He threw me the ball and laughed when I missed an easy lay up.
“What do you mean?” I tossed him the ball and watched as he stepped back about six feet, turned his back to the net and tossed the ball over his head. I watched it go into the net without even hitting the rim. “Lucky shot,” I quipped.
“You know,” he said as he tossed me back the ball. “School, track,” he looked at me and grinned, “Guys.”
I walked over and sat down on the grass and crossed my legs. Billy came over and joined me. I looked him in they eyes and asked, “Have you ever been in love?”
He started laughing as he looked up at the house. “Well, duh. I think I’m kind of in love with Tamara.”
“No,” I said quickly, “I meant when you were my age.”
He grabbed his chest and pretended to have a heart attack. “God, Zac,” he laughed. “I’m so old here.”
I pushed him and he playfully fell over. “I’m being serious. Did you ever fall in love with a girl in high school and she didn’t feel the same way?”
“Just about every week,” he laughed. “I think by the time I graduated every girl in my senior class had broken my heart at least once.” He stopped laughing and looked worriedly at me. “So what’s wrong?”
“I don’t know,” I replied as I got up and grabbed the ball. Jimmy followed me back out onto the driveway. He grabbed my shoulder and stopped me.
“Boyfriend problems?” I nodded and threw the ball at the basket. It went over the backboard and Jimmy had to chase it. When he returned he tossed me the ball.
“Want to talk about it?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Not much to talk about. I like this guy, no, I think I love this guy, but it’s all wrong.”
“You mean being gay?” He walked back and sat down.
“No,” I said as I sat down beside him. “Not that.” I then confided in him the problems I was having with Adrian. I told him how Adrian was reacting to me being outed at school and how afraid he was that his father would discover he was gay. Jimmy didn’t even react when I told him about having sex with Adrian and the feelings I had for him.
He bit his lip as he looked at me when I finished. I could tell he was trying to find the right advice to give me. Finally he spoke. “I know you’re not going to like what I have to say.” His tone reminded me of my father’s when he was giving me advice. “But sometimes things just don’t work out.”
“That’s it?” I asked sarcastically. “Things just don’t work out?”
He grabbed my arm and squeezed it. “I mean it, Zac,” he said firmly. “Sometimes it’s best to just walk away from a relationship that is only going to tear you up. Believe me; I’ve been in those one-sided relationships. They only end up destroying you.”
“But it isn’t one-sided,” I insisted. “He says he loves me, too.”
“And I’m sure he does,” he assured me, “But does he love you enough to go through for you what you went through for him?”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about what he’d said. Adrian would never come out, at least right now. I knew that deep down he would rather avoid me than attempt to be with me. That was how deep his fears were.
Jimmy touched my arm again. “Zac,” he said softly. “There will be other guys.”
“Maybe I don’t want any other guys,” I replied. “One guy already wanted to date me, but I told him I couldn’t.”
“It’s going to take time,” Jimmy said. “First loves are always the hardest.”
I lay back and looked up at the sky. “But it hurts.” Jimmy lay back and edged closer to me until our elbows were touching.
“Of course it hurts,” he replied. “Any time you give a piece of yourself to someone else, it’s going to hurt. Just be glad it’s only been a few weeks.” He sat up and looked down at me. “Remember Gina?” I nodded my head. Jimmy had dated her for almost two years before they broke up. “I was really in love with her.”
“What happened?” I sat up and faced him. I’d always wondered what happened between them. They had dated their senior year of high school and continued to date for about a year after graduation. As far as I knew, he’d never told anyone why they broke up.
He looked around to make sure no one was listening. “You promise you won’t tell anyone?” I pretended to spit on my palm and held it up to him. “All right. I came home from work early one day and found her in bed with Monroe.”
“Your best friend?” He nodded his head. He and Monroe had been best friends like Kenny and I had been. Throughout high school they were inseparable.
“Yeah,” he looked around again. “I walked in the bedroom and he was fucking that bitch like crazy.”
My eyes widened. “What did you do?”
“What could I do?” he asked somberly. “My first thought was to get a gun and shoot both their asses, but it wasn’t worth it. I just slammed the door and walked out. I haven’t seen either of them since.”
“Damn,” I hissed. “That must have hurt like hell.”
“Yeah,” he laughed as he lay back. “I was a tore up mother fucker for a while.”
“But you got over it?” I asked as I lay back down beside him.
“Eventually,” he said. “But if I ever see that fucking Monroe again, I’m going to kick his ass.”
“What about Gina?” I raised myself up onto my elbow. He rolled his head toward me.
“She got hers,” he laughed. “She’s living in a trailer park with this dumb ass drunk. I heard he beats the shit out of her all the time. She’s also got two kids.”
“Must have been rough,” I sighed thinking about what happened to Jimmy.
“It was.” He lifted himself up on his elbow and looked at me. “But what I’m trying to tell you is, things do get better. I could have ended up marrying Gina and she would have fooled around on me behind my back and made my life miserable. I’m now with Tamara. I trust her with my life.” I was surprised to see tears in Jimmy’s eyes. I don’t think I’d ever seen him get emotional.
“You’re lucky,” I smiled.
“Yeah,” he replied with a grin. “I am.” His face softened. “You will too, Zac. Someday Mr. Right is going to come galloping up on a white horse and carry you away.” I fell back on the ground and roared with laughter.
When was able to catch my breath, I looked over at him. “Do you realize how fucking corny that sounded?” I fell back and laughed again. “Mr. Right on a white horse!”
He punched me on my arm. “Shut up, Fucker,” he laughed. He then rolled over on top of me and we started wrestling around on the ground. We hadn’t done that since I was about nine years old. After several minutes, we called a truce, lay back and tried to catch our breath.
“So,” I asked, “You really love Tamara?”
He looked thoughtfully at me. “Yeah,” he smiled. “I do. In fact,” he looked around to see if anyone was listening. “Promise me you won’t tell anyone what I’m going to tell you.” I pretended to spit on my palm and held it up to him. “I’m going asking her to marry me soon.”
“Yeah,” he said. “And I want you to be my best man when we do.” I felt emotion sweep over me, but I refused to let Jimmy see me cry again.
“You do?” I was able to choke out. “You sure you don’t want Dad?”
“Nope,” he assured me. “You’re my best bud. I wouldn’t want anyone else.” I couldn’t keep the tears from appearing in my eyes.
“So, you haven’t asked her yet?”
“We’ve talked about it,” he informed me. “But we always end up arguing.”
“She wants to get married in a church.” He frowned.
“Isn’t that where most people get married?”
“Yeah,” he replied, “but I want to get married in Vegas?”
“Yeah, sure,” he said excitedly. “I saw this show on television a few months ago. They have this little chapel where this guy who looks like Elvis Presley will marry you and then sing a couple of songs. I thought that was so cool.”
“Elvis!” I shrieked. “Didn’t he like die fifty years ago?” Jimmy shrugged his shoulders.
“Beats me,” he replied. “I just thought it would be cool to be married by this guy in a blue suit, black hair and long sideburns.” He then leaned in and grabbed me and started singing, “Love me tender...” I pulled away and started laughing.
“You’re an idiot,” I giggled. “I don’t blame Tamara for not wanting to marry you in Vegas.”
“She will,” he said confidently. “I’ve almost got her convinced. But remember, you’ll be there as my best man, right?”
“I don’t think I could sit through that old Elvis guy singing.”
Jimmy grabbed me again and started singing into my ear, “Love me tender, love me, dear.” I started giggling and pushed him away.
He stood and held out his hand to help me up. “Thanks, Jimmy,” I said as I smiled at him. “You’ve made me feel a lot better.”
“Hey!” He winked at me. “That’s what big brothers are for.” We got up and brushed the dirt from our clothing. He put his arm around my waist as we headed for the house with him singing a very off-key version of You Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog.
I was walking to my third period class with a couple of my track buddies. We were getting psyched up for the meet on Saturday morning. A few people stopped me briefly and asked me how my practice times were. I assured them I was ready; in fact, the whole team was. I suddenly stopped when I saw Adrian approaching.
He was holding hands with Latoya Ellison, vice president of our senior class. She was an extremely pretty girl, and it was no secret that she’d been trying since the ninth grade to get Adrian to date her. He whispered something to her and she covered her mouth and giggled. When he saw me staring at him, he pulled her to the other side of hallway, held his head down and passed without saying a word to me.
“What the hell?” I thought as I turned and watched them walk away holding hands.
“Come on, Zac.” Rory grabbed my arm and pulled me away. “We’re going to be late to class.”
I sat in third period in utter disbelief. I didn’t hear a word what was going on. I couldn’t believe Adrian was going to completely deny that he was gay, and he was now going to attempt to date Latoya. At least when I dated Rachel, I wasn’t aware then that I was gay.
However, he knew he was gay, and now he was going to live his life as a straight man. It just seemed all wrong. It was never my intention to deceive Rachel, but what he was doing was a sham. He submitted to the pressure of his father and he was now going to be someone he wasn’t. When I realized I was gay, I accepted it. He was going to deny it.
By the end of the class, I was furious. Adrian loved me. He told me he did. He told me he’d always love me. Then why was he walking down the hallway holding hands with Latoya? It didn’t seem fair. Sure, we’d never be able to show any display of affection in public, but did I have to watch him show her the attention that should have been mine? To make matters worse, he was intentionally making an attempt to ignore me.
When I went to the cafeteria at lunch, I passed the table where he and Valerie usually sat together eating. She was sitting alone. After a quick glance around the room, I saw him sitting at a table with Latoya and a couple of other girls. They were giggling at something he said.
After going through the lunch line, I joined my teammates at our table. From where I was sitting, I could see Adrian and Latoya. She kept looking into his eyes and smiling. Occasionally, she’d reach out and touch his arm. Once he put his arm around her narrow waist, then leaned in and kissed her on the check. She giggled and then rubbed her hand gently across her face.
“Did you hear me, Zac?” I looked over at Tommy Zimmers.
“I heard Austin Winger is going to do another article on you?” I nodded my head.
“Yeah,” I replied. “He’s meeting up with me after school. I think he wants to interview me on the field.”
“More like his bedroom,” muttered Justin Stevens. All the guys at the table started laughing.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I couldn’t understand why they were laughing.
“Jesus, Zac,” responded Rory. “Do you live under a rock? Every athlete knows the only reason Austin is the sportswriter is so he can scope out the guys.”
“You mean?” The guys started laughing when they saw the astonished look on my face.
“Yeah,” laughed Justin. “Let’s just say he plays for the same team as you.” Again, the guys started roaring with laughter. Our conversation soon returned to the meet on Saturday. We were to gather in the parking lot at nine -thirty and a school bus would take us to the meet. I wanted to drive my truck, but Coach Templeton was adamant about the team riding together to the meets. He thought it boosted team morale. Even though I would have preferred to drive, I did agree with his logic.
I looked over at the table where Valerie was eating alone. She was nibbling on a sandwich as she read a book. I got up, walked over and sat down across from her. She appeared surprised to see me.
“Hey,” I said nervously. I wasn’t sure if she wanted to speak to me after the way I’d treated her lately.
She looked up and then continued reading. “Hi, Zac.” I sat watching her read until she finally let out a deep sigh and closed the book. “What do you want?”
I looked over to the table where Adrian and Latoya were sitting. “Do you know what’s going on?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Not really,” she said with a tone of anger. “He won’t talk to me anymore.”
“You, too?” She looked at me and frowned.
She looked over at her cousin. “My aunt says he’s asked Latoya to go to the prom with him next month. From what I can tell, they’ve become an item.”
I looked around to see if anyone could hear me before leaning toward her. “Does she know he’s gay?”
I leaned away when she started laughing loudly. She stopped and said softly, “Zac, Adrian doesn’t even know he’s gay now.” She looked over at him and frowned. “I guess his father won.” Adrian looked angrily over at us. It was as if he knew what we were saying.
“This really sucks,” I said angrily.
Valerie sighed deeply. “Tell me. He’s got to be miserable.” Just then we heard him let out a loud laugh. Latoya giggled and then slapped him gently on his shoulder.
“Doesn’t look like it,” I said as I continued to watch them.
“Sometimes looks can be deceiving,” replied Valerie knowingly. She held up the novel she had been reading when I sat down. “You can’t always judge a book by its cover.”
“Guess not,” I said. The bell rang and we got up and followed Adrian and Latoya from the cafeteria. She reached down and held his hand as they exited. I could hear a loud door slamming shut inside my head.
Austin was waiting for me when I came down the hallway toward the gym. He was clutching his book bag and pacing nervously back and forth. He stopped and smiled when he saw me approaching.
“Hey, Zac.” He looked up and smiled briefly before looking away. I really wasn’t much in a mood to be interviewed. I was still upset with Adrian. I was having trouble thinking straight and I was afraid I might mess up the interview.
“Hi, Austin.” I put my hand over his shoulder and started to lead him toward the gym. “Do you think we could do this thing some other time?”
He pulled away from me and stopped. “Yeah, sure.” He seemed hurt that I didn’t want to do the interview. “If you don’t want to, I understand.” He clutched his book bag tighter, dropped his head and started to walk away.
I reached out and grabbed his shoulder, turning him toward me. “No,” I insisted. “I want to do the interview. It’s just that it’s been kind of a shitty day.”
He looked up at me with a concerned look. “You want to talk about it? I’m a pretty good listener.”
I looked down at the pad and pencil he was holding. “I don’t exactly want this to appear in the paper.”
“No!” He said quickly. He stuffed his pad and pencil in his book bag. “Anything you tell me will be off the record. Honest.”
I looked down at Austin and laughed. He seemed so concerned about me. There was a certain innocence about him. I really can’t explain it. I think that is what made him such a good writer. Most of the stories he wrote about athletes weren’t about their athletic abilities, it was about their personalities. He could write about a chess player and the article would make you want to attend the chess tournament. Last year when he wrote about me, most of the article focused on my dreams and aspirations rather than the times I had run in my meets.
I reached out and put my hand on his shoulder. “I’ll tell you what.” He looked up and nodded. “Why don’t you just go with me when I practice? You can watch me; maybe even take a few pictures. Then tomorrow we’ll sit down and talk. Okay?”
“Sure,” he said as he reached into his book bag and pulled out a camera. “I can do that.” I kept my hand around his shoulder as we entered the gym.
When we got to the locker room, he moved away from me and stood against the wall. “Aren’t you coming in?
“Um, no,” he said nervously. “I better not. I’m not supposed to be in there.”
“Sure you are,” I laughed. “You’re with me. We’ll just tell everyone you’re shadowing me for an interview. The guys already know about it.” I walked over and put my arm around his shoulder again. He resisted when I tried to lead him toward the door.
“I don’t know,” he insisted. “I’ve never done an interview in the locker room before.”
“You’re not going to be interviewing me,” I reminded him. “Just hang around while I change, then you can follow me out to the track.”
“Why don’t I just meet you there?” He started to pull away, but I tightened my grip around his shoulder. I found it strange that he was so resistant to going into the boys’ locker room. He was the editor of the school newspaper’s sports section. I would have thought he would have been a regular visitor.
“Nonsense,” I said as I opened the door and pushed him inside. He reluctantly followed me over to my locker and sat down on a nearby bench. His eyes darted quickly around the room. The guys were in various stages of undressing. I removed my clothing and reached into my locker for my running shorts. When I turned to put them on, Adrian looked down at my cock and let out a short gasp. His eyes widened as he stared at my limp cock.
I quickly looked around the room to make sure no one was watching him staring at me. “Austin?” I whispered softly. His eyes traveled up my body until he was staring absentmindedly into my eyes. “You gotta be careful.” I quickly scanned the room again.
He nodded his head and whispered an embarrassed, “Sorry.”
I pulled my shorts up and his eyes widened again as my cock disappeared inside. “Don’t stare.” I warned him. I sat down on the bench beside him and started to put on my shoes. I now understood why he had been hesitant to join me in the locker room. I guess the guys joking about him being gay were true.
“Take quick glances,” I instructed him, “but don’t stare at any one guy too long. They don’t mind if you’re gay, but you don’t want them to think you’re perving over them.” His face reddened as he looked at me and nodded.
When I stood, my cock was at eye level to him. He looked at it and gulped. “Remember what I said,” I couldn’t help but giggle. He looked like a little boy in a candy shop. When he stood up, I noticed his pants had developed a rather large bulge. He quickly put his book bag in front of him.
“Ready?” He looked up and nodded. He held up his camera.
I looked at him and started laughing. “You didn’t take any pictures of me dressing, did you?”
His eyes widened. “No, honest!” he said excitedly. “I swear I didn’t.” I thought he was getting ready to pass out.
“Relax, Austin,” I laughed. “I was just kidding.” I put my hand on his shoulder and started to lead him out of the locker room. “Well, maybe next time.”
I fell against the door and laughed uproariously at the astonished look on his face. “Come on,” I said as I pulled him out the door. “You can watch as Coach Templeton wears my ass out.”