“God, Austin,” I shouted as I stepped from the stall and wiped my mouth. “I didn’t mean to do that.” He didn’t say anything. He just stood wide-eyed and stared at me. Finally, he blinked several times and raised his hand to his mouth.
“It’s okay,” he said as he stepped out of the stall. “Really.” He walked over to a sink and turned the water on. He then splashed some water on his face. After grabbing a handful of paper towels, he looked at me in the mirror as he wiped his face dry. I gave him a puzzled look when he started laughing.
“You’ve still got shaving cream on your face,” he giggled as he grabbed another handful of towels and wetted them. “Here.” He handed me the towels. I went over and looked in the mirror as I wiped the creamy mess from my face. I noticed him still standing behind me with a wide grin on his face.
“You’re not mad at me?” I asked as I turned to face him.
“You’re the one who should be mad,” he laughed. “I got you good.” When I playfully jumped at him, he instinctively brought a knee up and hit me square in the nuts.
“Awwww!” I moaned as I bent over and grabbed my crotch. Just then several guys entered to see what had happened. They began dancing around the room and laughing when they saw me holding my nuts.
Austin came over, grabbed my arm and led me through the throng of guys. Several asked what had happened, but I was too embarrassed to tell them that Austin had kneed me in my nuts. He sheepishly sat down on the bench in front of my locker as I began to carefully undress.
“You know I’m going to get even with you?” I looked at him and scowled as I pulled off my shirt.
“Yeah,” he replied nervously. “It’s not going to involve needles is it? I hate needles.”
I grinned evilly, “Thanks for telling me that.” His eyes widened when I pulled off my track shorts and underwear. I quickly grabbed a towel and covered myself.
“You’ve been bad today, so you can’t see Little Zac,” I giggled as I tooted my ass at him and walked away. As I showered, I thought about what happened with Austin. Why did I kiss him? I couldn’t find an answer to that question. When I chased him into the stall, I had no intention of doing that. I wanted to tickle him, but he looked so innocent as he turned with a scared look on his face. I think he thought I was actually going to hurt him. So I kissed him.
I’ll never forget the surprised look on his face. I know he didn’t expect it anymore than I did. The only problem was… did he like it? He did walk over and wash his face. Was he trying to erase the kiss? And after the guys walked in, he acted as if it never happened.
So... Did he like it? More importantly… Did I?
Austin was gone when I entered the locker room. I asked a couple of guys if they had seen him leave, but no one had noticed. After dressing, I went outside to see if he was waiting for me by the truck, but he wasn’t. I started up the truck and headed home.
Dinner was ready when I walked into the kitchen; but as usual on the day before a big meet, I couldn’t eat anything. I left the room as my mother ranted about me being too skinny.
I lay on my bed listening to my Ipod, but it was hard to concentrate. Billy came in and got some clothes and grinned mischievously when he told me he was spending the night at Lonnie’s. I’m sure Mom and Dad would never allow him if they knew what they were doing. They probably assumed that Lonnie’s parents made them leave his bedroom door open as well.
Billy walked across the room and sat down. He turned and smiled at me. “What?” I asked. I knew that smile. He wanted something- probably some money.
“Um, um,” he mumbled softly. He then looked over at the door to see if anyone was looking in. “Do you still have…that…um…”
“Have what?” I asked with an irritated tone.
He peered across the room at the open bedroom door before leaning in and whispering in my ear. “That condom you bought and never used.” His face was a beet red.
“What do you want with that?” I whispered back.
“Me and Lonnie...” he hesitated as he face grew even redder.
“No!” I shouted loudly as I jumped from the bed.
“Shhhh!” He put his finger to his lips to silence me. “Mom and Dad will hear you.”
I sat back down and whispered to him. “You guys are too young to be doing something like that.”
“No, we’re not,” he insisted. “He wants to try it, and he says he’s afraid of getting poop on his dick.”
“Jesus, Billy!” I said disgustedly as I jumped from the bed once again. When I looked down, he appeared hurt. He felt he could trust me and I had let him down. I knew he and Lonnie were too young to be engaging in sex, but I also knew they would do it with or without my approval. At least I could make sure he had protected sex, even if it did mean more embarrassing trips to the bowling alley.
“I’m going downstairs,” I told him as I appeared to be angry. “You better not touch that thing under my socks in the top left drawer of my dresser.” He looked up and grinned.
“I won’t,” he smiled. As I was closing the door, he jumped from the bed and headed toward my dresser.
Since I was a bundle of nerves, I decided that a jog around the neighborhood might do me some good. I hadn’t gone a block when Mr. Walters, who had a daughter in my senior class, stopped me.
He reached out and shook my hand. “You going to do well tomorrow?”
“I hope so, Sir,” I replied.
“I’ll be there,” he responded. Mr. Walters had been attending almost every sporting event for the past four years. His daughter, Cindi, was a head cheerleader. He’d die if he only knew that the word ‘head’ cheerleader had two meanings. According to Kenny, she had given blow jobs to several members of the basketball and baseball team. When I asked him if she’d ever given him one, he wiggled his eyebrows.
“She’s not as good as Alise, though,” he finally admitted when I kept pressuring him.
I’d run about fifteen minutes when I came to a familiar street. It was the one where Austin lived. I had dropped him off at his home several times the past week. Even though it was beginning to get dark out, he was in the front yard mowing the grass. He had his shirt off, and his body was glistening with sweat. He shut the mower off when he saw me approaching.
“What are you doing here?” He seemed upset to see me.
“I was out jogging,” I explained. “I just happened to come by your street.”
“Yeah, sure,” he answered skeptically. I kept letting my eyes wander over his naked torso. He walked over to a shrub where his tee shirt was laying across, wiped the sweat from his forehead and pulled the shirt over his head. I felt disappointed because it was as if he didn’t want me looking at him.
“I gotta lot of work to do before it gets dark,” he said as he took the handle of the mower and began to start it. Just then, a woman in a wide straw hat came around the side of the house. She stopped suddenly when she saw me standing beside Austin.
“Oh,” she said as she looked questioningly at me and then at Austin. “I didn’t know you had company.”
“He was just leaving,” Austin said sharply as he started the mower and began mowing.
She walked up to me and extended her hand. “Hello,” she said politely. “I’m Austin’s mother, Mrs. Winger.”
“Zac,” I replied. “Zachary Barnes.” She looked at me and smiled.
“So you’re Zac?” She looked me over as she held my hand tightly. “I’ve heard so much about you.” She looked out over the lawn to where Austin was mowing. He peered over and gave us an angry look. “Austin has hardly stopped talking about you all week. You’ve made quite an impression on him.”
“Thank you, Ma’am,” I replied, unsure what to say. For someone who had been talking about me to his mother, he seemed rather upset that I had appeared at his house.
“Please, Dear,” she smiled. “Call me Mrs. Winger. I feel so old when someone calls me a Ma’am.”
I could understand why she would get upset. She looked more like Austin’s sister than his mother. She appeared to be young, but she must have been in her thirties. I knew she wasn’t as old as my mother who was forty three. Austin looked amazingly like her. She had brown hair which was pulled behind her head in a ponytail. Her eyes where brown, like his; and her skin was free of wrinkles, unlike my mother’s.
She reached down and grabbed my hand. “You can help me in the backyard,” she said. “When I heard the mower stop, I thought Austin was finished and I was coming to get him.”
“What do you want me to do?” She led me to a wheelbarrow filled with dirt. “Would you push that over there?” She pointed to a flower bed located off to the left. There must have been about twenty plants still in the pots lying nearby. I lifted the wheelbarrow and took it to the flower bed and dumped it where she indicated.
“You’re so sweet,” she said as she got down on her knees and began pushing the soil around.
“Is there anything I can do?”
“As a matter of fact, there is,” she replied. She pointed to the garage. “Would you go get me a rake from the garage? Not the leaf rake, but the one with hard prongs.”
“Sure,” I said as I headed toward the garage. Austin gave me a puzzled look when he saw me looking around inside. He stopped the mower and approached me.
“What are you doing here?” His voice had a tone of irritation.
“I told you I was out running.” I picked up a rake with a long handle. It didn‘t look like it was for raking leaves. “Is this the one your mother wants?”
“Probably,” he responded as he took the rake from me. “I’ll take it to her.”
I grabbed it back from him. “She told me to get it.” We struggled for a few seconds before he finally released it and walked back over to the mower and started it. I watched as he walked across the lawn and began mowing where he had stopped earlier.
I couldn’t figure out why he seemed upset with me. Perhaps, he was upset for me kissing him in the stall. He didn’t seem upset at the time, but maybe now that he had time to think about it, he didn’t like it. I watched him mow for a minute. Not once did he look over my way. It was as if he was trying to ignore me. I shrugged my shoulders, and then walked around to the backyard.
“Is this it?” I asked as I held it up. Mrs. Austin stood and wiped the dirt from her hands.
“Yes, Dear,” she said as she took it from me. She then began to rake the dirt I’d dumped from the wheelbarrow around.
“Let me do that,” I insisted as I took the rake from her hands. We began to work together as she instructed me where she wanted the dirt to be placed. After fifteen minutes, the ground appeared smooth and ready for planting.
We worked quickly for the next hour to get the plants into the ground before it got dark out. When we were through, we both stepped back and inspected the work we’d done.
“It looks wonderful,” exclaimed Austin’s mother. “You should be a landscaper.”
I looked at her and laughed, “Or not.” I giggled. She took my hand and led me toward the house. Austin was sitting in a patio chair. I hadn’t realized that he had been watching us. He looked away as we walked past him.
I followed his mother into the kitchen. She had me sit at the table while she poured me a glass of milk and placed a plate of chocolate chip cookies in front of me.
“I can’t eat anything,” I told her. Just then Austin came through the door and sat down across from me.
“Why not, Zac?” His mother asked.
“I get an upset stomach if I eat before a meet.”
She turned to Austin, “You should put that in your article.” He didn’t say anything as he took a bite from a cookie.
I looked over at him. “How is the article coming? Have you written it yet?”
He shrugged his shoulders slightly. “I guess. All I need is your results tomorrow.”
“Can I read it?” His mother grabbed her stomach and started laughing.
“Are you kidding?” she laughed. “He doesn’t let anyone read what he writes until he turns it in. He won’t even let me proofread it for him.”
“I’m not a child, Mother,” he said angrily as he got up from the table. “I do know how to write.”
“I didn’t mean to imply you didn’t,” she said apologetically.
“I have to take a shower,” he announced as he left the kitchen. His mother gave me a puzzled look.
“What’s wrong with him?” she asked. I shrugged my shoulders. She poured a cup of coffee and asked me to follow her into the family room. She took a seat while I gazed around the room. One side of the room contained a bookcase. It was adorned with trophies and ribbons. I walked over and looked at them. Some were from ten years ago; others were more recent. Mrs. Austin stepped up beside me.
“Did he tell you he competes in judo tournaments?”
“No,” I said as I picked up a large trophy that he had won just a month earlier. “He told me he knows judo, but he didn’t tell me he competes.” I continued to walk down the line of large trophies.
“He doesn’t tell anyone,” she said sadly. “I’m the only one who ever attends.”
“Doesn’t his father go?” I looked at her as her expression saddened.
“His father is dead.” She picked up a yellow ribbon. It looked old and faded. “This is the first ribbon he won,” she said emotionally. She picked up a picture. It was Austin when he looked about six years old. There was a man with his arm around him. I assumed it was his father.
“What happened?” I didn’t know if she would tell me because she seemed to be upset looking at the picture.
“His father, my husband,” she said, “was a state trooper. His station sponsored a martial arts tournament each year. He took Austin when he was four. Even though he was too young, his father taught him some of the basics. When he turned six we enrolled him in a martial arts school.” She picked up another ribbon, this time a first place one. “He took to judo like a duck takes to water.”
I looked down the row of ribbons and trophies. “He must be good.”
“He is,” she responded proudly. “He’s one of the best in this area.”
“Really?” I picked up a recent picture of him holding a large trophy. It was the same one on the case before me. Looking at Austin, one would never know that he was such a skilled athlete. He went about school interviewing and writing about other athletes, but he was probably a better athlete than anyone he wrote about- including me.
I picked up the picture of Austin and his father. “What happened to his father?” She walked over to the sofa and took a sip of her coffee. I hesitated before going over and sitting down beside her.
“He was on a late night call,” she explained. “A couple of guys had left a filling station without paying for the gas. He spotted them speeding down the road and followed behind them. They eventually pulled over.” She stopped and took another sip of coffee. I didn’t know if she could complete the story.
Finally, she sighed deeply. “When my husband approached the car, the driver raised a gun out the window and shot him in the face. He died instantly.” I looked over and noticed tears in her eyes. “It happened over twelve years ago, but it seems like just yesterday when a friend of his on the force came to the door and told me.”
By now, I was trying hard to hold back tears. No one close to me had ever died. I couldn’t imagine how Austin must have felt losing his father at such as young age.
She looked over tearfully at the bookcase. “Austin continued to train. He was determined to give it everything he had. His instructors even tried to get him to go slow, but I think he wants to make his father feel proud of him.” She reached for a Kleenex and wiped her eyes dry. She smiled at me and handed me one.
A few minutes later Austin entered the room. He stopped and looked down angrily at his mother. “You told him, didn’t you?”
“Honey.” When she stood and reached for his arm, he pulled it away. “He saw your trophies.” He walked into the kitchen with her following behind. I could hear them arguing softly.
I couldn’t understand why he was so upset. Looking at all the ribbons, medals and trophies, I thought he would be proud if someone saw them. After a Saturday’s meet, I always wore my ribbon around my neck to school on Monday so people could see how well I did. I didn’t understand why he wanted to keep his achievements a secret.
A minute later, they came out of the kitchen. Austin went to his bedroom while his mother sat down beside me. “He’s upset,” she informed me. “Please promise me you’ll not tell anyone about his awards.”
I gave her a puzzled look. “I don’t understand.”
She reached out and took my hand. “Austin is a very private person. He enjoys writing about other people, like you, but he just doesn’t want anyone to give him any attention.”
I nodded my head. “I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”
“Good.” She reached down and patted my hand before standing. “Why don’t you go say goodbye to Austin.” She looked over at the clock. It was after ten. “I can give you a ride home since I am the reason for you being out so late.”
“I can walk home,” I insisted.
“No,” she responded. “You have a big meet tomorrow and I don’t want to be the one responsible for you being tired.”
I started laughing. “Okay,” I said as I turned toward the hallway where Austin had walked down earlier. “Give me a couple of minutes.”
“Zac,” she grabbed my arm and stopped me. “Austin doesn’t have a lot of friends. I hope tonight isn’t the last time I see you.” Once again, tears started to well up in her eyes.
“It won’t be,” I replied. She gave me a hug and then I tried to find Austin’s room.
He was lying across his bed writing in his notebook. He quickly closed it when I approached and sat down beside him. “Writing about me?” I joked.
He rolled his eyes. “There are more people in the world than you,” he replied caustically. He got off the bed and walked over to a chair across the room and sat down.
I looked over at him. “Are you mad at me about what happened?”
He started to chuckle. “Why would I be mad? The great Zac Barnes kissed me in a stall in the boys’ locker room. I should be flattered,” he said sarcastically.
I pressed my leg against his. He scooted his legs away from me. “Why are you acting like this?”
“Acting like what?” He got up and walked over to a window and looked out. “I’ve written my article on you. I submit it on Sunday to the newspaper. After that, we both go our separate ways.”
“I thought we could be friends,” I said as I put my hand on his shoulder. He moved away, turned and spoke.
“Look, Zac,” he said sadly. “We travel in different worlds. I just don’t fit in yours. I know you’ve tried hard to include me all week, but I’m still just an outsider. I don’t want to go around being your shadow.”
“Is that what you think you are?” I had enjoyed the time I’d spent with Austin. I had even forgotten that he was writing an article on me. He had seemed more like a friend than a reporter.
“I don’t know what I think,” he replied sorrowfully. He walked over to the door. “You’d better go. It’s getting late and you have to be at school early.”
“Will you go with me?”
I stepped in front of him. “I’ll pick you up at a quarter to nine. You can ride with me on the bus to the meet.” I grinned at him. “You can see me at my worse.”
“I don’t know,” he said hesitantly.
“Good,” I replied as I leaned in and gave him a quick hug. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” I then left the room before he had a chance to refuse to go with me.
The ride home with Mrs. Winger was entertaining. She is a reference book for all the corny elephant jokes. My sides were hurting from laughing so much.
It began when we were driving in silence. I could tell she wanted to say something, but she probably found it awkward talking so someone my age. I didn’t know what to say to her, because, well, she’s over thirty. What can you possibly say to someone over thirty?
She cleared her throat, looked over at me and asked, “Why did the elephant wear dark sunglasses?”
I gave her a puzzled look before responding, “Um, I don’t know.”
She grinned and said, “So he wouldn’t be recognized.” I smiled politely, wondering what she was doing.
She then asked, “What did Tarzan say when he saw the elephant coming over the hill?”
I shook my head and guessed, “I better get out of here?”
She started laughing. “No, Silly. He didn’t say anything because he didn’t see the elephant. He was wearing dark sunglasses.”
By the time we pulled up in my driveway, she must have told me about fifty. A couple I’d remembered from grade school, so I was able to give her the right answer.
Before I got out, she leaned over and gave me and embraced me. “You’re a wonderful young man,” she said. “I do hope you and Austin become better friends.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Winger,” I replied as I got out of the car and leaned down. “Tell Austin not to forget I’ll pick him up at 8:45.” She nodded her head and backed out of the driveway. I waved to her as she pulled away.
Mom and Dad were watching television in the family room. Josh and Brenda were asleep on the floor. Josh was curled up holding one of the pillows off the sofa. Brenda was nestled into him with her head on his side. Mom put her finger to her mouth when she saw me at the door.
I sat down and Dad whispered, “Did you have a good run?”
“Yes,” I replied. “I went over to Austin’s house.”
My mother raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Isn’t he the boy doing the article on you?”
“Yes,” I laughed softly. “And no.”
“No what?” She gave me a puzzled look.
“No to what you are thinking.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” I laughed, got up from the chair and headed to my bedroom. The last thing I needed was to be interrogated by my mother about a boy on the night before a big meet.
I was surprised when I entered the room and found Billy asleep in his bed. He moaned, stretched out and looked up at me.
“I thought you were spending the night at Lonnie’s?”
“He’s mad at me,” he responded as he rolled over on his stomach.
“Oh,” I kidded him. “Did you have a lover’s quarrel?”
“Kind of,” he said sadly. I walked over and sat down on the side of his bed.
“Want to talk about it?”
He rolled over on his side and looked up at me. “He got mad because I wouldn’t… you know.”
“You know, what?” He pointed to the wrapped condom on my dresser. “Oh,” I said as I looked back down at him.
“I like Lonnie and all,” he said. “He’s a good friend, but he’s not...I don’t know.”
“When I showed him the condom, he wanted to use it on me.” He let out a loud sigh. “But when I thought about it, I didn’t want to do it.”
“Were you afraid it would hurt?”
“No,” he said quickly as he sat up. “I just didn’t want Lonnie to be my first, you know? I mean, I like him and all, but when I do it, I want it to be with someone…” He stopped and looked at me sadly.
“With someone you love?” He nodded his head.
“I mean, you only give up your virginity once,” he said. “I just want to make sure it’s with the right guy.” He looked at me with misty eyes. “Do you think that sounds stupid?”
I leaned in and gave him a big hug. “Have I told you how glad I am to have a little brother like you?” I felt him melt into my body as he returned my hug.
“Thanks, Zac,” he mumbled into my chest. “I love you.”
I kissed him on his forehead and then got up. “We’d better get some sleep, although I doubt I’ll get much.”
He gave me a mischievous grin. “You could jack off like you always do before a meet to get to sleep.” He started laughed when my faced turned a bright red.
“Like you don’t,” I quipped as I turned and started taking off my shirt.
“Not when you’re awake,” he laughed.
I turned back to him and pretended to masturbate. “Don’t bet on it.” It was his turn to blush.
“You’ve seen me?” He pulled the covers tightly against his body. I roared with laughter, pretended to masturbate again and walked across the hall to the bathroom.
I laughed louder when he shouted out, “Zac! What did you mean by that?”