“You weren’t his first.” He had promised himself he would never tell Race, but he felt compelled to. Maybe this way, Race would move on. There was the possibility that it would blow up in Jojo’s face, but he had to try. He had to tell him the truth. Even if it meant the summer would end the way it began.
At the beginning of the summer, Jojo De La Guerra felt terrible. He and his best friend Racetrack Higgins had gotten into an argument and during that argument he’d brought up Albert, which was a rarity. He knew how Race felt about the subject and how much pain came with it, but there was no doubt in Jojo’s mind that Race needed to change the way he thought about love.
They’d had fights before which resulted in them not talking for weeks. Jojo was prepared for that. He knew he’d probably end up apologizing or Race would climb up to his window to tell him about some new guy he’d hooked up with. They were best friends. Practically brothers.
But their fight didn’t last that long. It didn’t even last a day. The night of their fight, Jojo was alone at home sulking in his own misery. The thought of drowning his sorrows in alcohol simmered as he tried to think of what else he could do. Then the doorbell rang. He went downstairs, curious as to who it was. He half hoped it was Spot. He needed a friend.
But when he opened the door, there was Race. One of his eyes was swollen, and he looked like he was in pain. “Sorry, I couldn’t go up to your window. Hurt too much.”
Jojo let him in, horrified. “What happened to you?”
Jojo’s nostrils flared in anger. “I’m calling the cops on that asshole.”
“No. Jo, don’t. You know they never do anything. They’ll just say it was a minor dispute between a father and a son.”
Jojo pointed at Race’s face. “This? A minor dispute? This looks like he was trying to kill you.”
“And he probably would have if I hadn’t slipped away.”
Jojo scoffed and bobbed his head in confusion and shock.
“Can I stay here for a while?”
“Yes. Of course you can. I don’t want you going back there.”
An apology was at the tip of Jojo’s tongue. He considered it for a second before asking, “What happened?”
“I uh...I came out to him. Told him his son was a big ol’ gay. A big ol’ gay bottom. That I’d had so much meat inside me, I was like a steakhouse.”
“Race...What did you hope to accomplish with that?”
“I don’t know. I was just tired of hiding it from him.”
“You don’t think he already knew?”
“If he did, he would’ve killed me sooner.”
“Race...Did you want him to?”
“No. Obviously not. I just...I wanted to know I had the option. If I wanted it. I guess I didn’t want it.”
“You worry me.”
“Good. I gotta keep ya on your toes, Jo.” He smiled at Jojo, giving a wince at the pain he felt when moving his facial muscles. Jojo smiled back, but he made a mental note to watch over Race like a hawk.
Over the next few weeks, Jojo made sure Race was well taken care of. He personally went to Race’s house while his father was at work to get clothes for him. He told the maids and cooks that were in and out of the house that Race was his guest and to get him whatever he needed. He never worried about his parents saying anything since they knew Race and practically treated him like family. Race in turn treated them with respect, at least to their faces.
Jojo was spending more time with Race than he ever had. He even agreed to a bet with him to see who could hook up with the most guys over the summer. They’d go out to local bars using their fake IDs or use hookup apps. They were pretty evenly matched. Race had a lot of charisma, but Jojo had a bubble butt. Still, Jojo never felt any type of connection with any of the guys he talked to, and always sent them home without Race knowing. He never felt bad about it though. Sending them home meant he had some alone time. He loved Race, but he needed at least some time away from him.
In August, they were both invited to Sarah and David Jacobs’ 17th Birthday Bash. Race suggested they take liquor, but Jojo knew it wouldn’t be that kind of party. Sarah and David’s family would be there so they’d have to be on their best behavior.
At the party, Jojo saw several faces he hadn’t seen all summer. First off were the birthday twins, dressed very fancily, almost prom-like. David’s boyfriend, Jack Kelly, was also there, with their best friend, Crutchie Morris, who usually tagged along. Katherine Plumber, a friend from their school’s LGBTQ+ Club was also there, looking uncomfortable when she wasn’t conversing with either of the birthday twins. And then there was Spot Conlon, who looked just as uncomfortable as Katherine.
Jojo had texted Spot throughout the summer, but it had been hard to meet up. Spot didn't want anything to do with Race, and Jojo had no choice but to watch over Race, so it had never happened.
He approached the shorter guy with a smile and they hugged familiarly. They talked for a bit, catching each other up on the past few weeks. Jojo had almost forgotten about Race, until he came up to them.
“Hey there, stranger…” he said to Spot.
“Hey…” Spot replied. Jojo could tell there was still something there. He could tell Spot wasn’t over Race, and that Race still wanted Spot. Jojo was still rooting for them. “Oh look, someone better to talk to.” Spot walked away, waving at Crutchie.
“Well, you royally fucked that up,” Jojo said.
All Jojo could do was nod.
For the rest of summer, it seemed that Jojo wasn’t the only one who needed his space. Jojo felt that Race wasn’t as much of a danger to himself as before, so he left him alone some days and drove out of town for a few hours.
When school started again, Race started talking about going back home, and Jojo worried. One night, they were in the bathroom brushing their teeth, getting ready for bed. Race’s tactic was to bring up controversial subjects before bedtime. Sometimes they would stay up and talk about it and other times they’d sleep on it and talk about it in the morning.
“I gave him all summer to cool off. If he’s still heated, I’ll come back here.”
“Race, he’s a massive asshole. You were able to get away last time, but what if he succeeds in killing you this time? I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you like that…”
“Look, I say just stay here and move on with your life. Move forward, don’t move back. You have it good here. Don’t fuck it up.”
“Why are you so obsessed with moving on?”
“Because otherwise we’re stuck. And being stuck makes life unbearable. You’re already stuck in your lovelife. I don’t want you to get stuck with anything else.”
“I’m not stuck in my lovelife. I get a healthy amount of dick. Don’t judge me when you’ve been hooking up just as much as I have.”
“Jo, we have an even score on our summer bang-a-thon bet.”
“No. You’re winning. I haven’t...I send every guy home before we do anything.”
“I’m sorry. I just...I can’t hook up with randos like you can. I need to...feel something.”
“Put their mouth on your dick and you’ll feel something.”
“You know what I mean, Race.”
There was a minute of silence before Race spoke. “What else have you been hiding from me?”
Jojo sighed and another minute of silence followed. “I went...to visit Albert. Multiple times this summer.”
Race’s breath went shaky. “Oh. How uh...how is he?”
Jojo rolled his eyes. “He hasn’t changed. But you haven’t seen him since...”
“Nope. I haven’t.”
“Maybe you should.”
“Weren’t you just talking about not moving backwards?”
“Yeah, well maybe you need to see him and talk to him so that you can realize that you’re better off with someone else.”
“Jo stop.” Race’s eyes filled with tears. “He was my first. And I was his first. You don’t know what we had. It was special. It was something I don’t want to have again with anyone else. It hurt. But I also know that...he’s the one. The one. If not with him, I don’t want to make it with anyone.”
Jojo hated that Race put Albert on such a pedestal. He may not have been Albert’s boyfriend, but he shared the same bond with Albert that Race did. And Jojo knew that the way Race was thinking was toxic. He knew Albert wasn’t a saint. And he needed Race to know it too. “You weren’t his first.”
“You weren’t his first,” Jojo repeated. “He wanted you think you were. He wanted your first time to be perfect. But he wanted the practice. And I was willing. We were both horny teens. Both gay. I mean, I wasn’t in love with him, but when he touched me, I went with it. Out of curiosity. Out of lust. Hell, who knew if I was even his first? But he was mine. And that was his excuse. He wanted to practice to make it a great first time with you. He made me promise not to tell you. I made myself promise not to tell you. But...you had to know.”
Race remained quiet, tears falling down his face. It was as if Albert had broken his heart all over again. “Well, Jo, if you were trying to convince me to give love another try, you’ve failed. Now you’ve convinced me the love I had was never real to begin with. Thanks for that.” He walked to his room, closing the door behind him.
Jojo worried, but didn’t know what else to do. He decided to give him some space. The next morning, Race and all his stuff were gone. No note, just empty.
“You know, you’re cute. Are you single?” Was she being flirted with? There were a lot of emotions going through her at that moment and she couldn’t focus in on which one to believe.
At the beginning of summer, Sarah got her first real kiss. She’d kissed others before. There had been Spot and Jack and even some girls before she had come out as trans, but she’d never really felt anything for them. It had been a shock but a relief when she found out Spot also hadn’t felt anything for her. Except, it had been easier on him, because he knew he was gay and that was the reason why. Sarah, on the other hand, didn’t know why.
When Katherine kissed her a few weeks before summer break, she’d felt it. It felt right, because it was Katherine. She was her best friend and deep down she’d known that she’d had a little crush on her. She thought it was just a girl crush though. Sarah had always had girl crushes and boy crushes that she knew didn’t mean anything. So in feeling something with Katherine, she got scared.
During the weeks that followed, they didn’t talk about the kiss. Neither girl brought it up, and Sarah hadn’t told anyone. Every time they hung out, she’d brought David along. If she couldn’t, she’d tell Katherine she was busy and couldn’t hang out. She knew it was weird that she’d spent so long trying to get close to Katherine and now that she’d gotten romantically close, she was backing off. She just didn’t know how to process those feelings because they were so new.
Did it mean she was gay? Did it mean she only felt that way for Katherine? It scared her to think that boys were off the table, because she had made up a future in her mind where she ended up with a man. Now she was questioning that future. She tried to envision herself with Katherine and in her head, it completely changed the future she had thought of before.
So for the entirety of summer, Sarah kept their relationship strictly business. When they hung out, it was to talk about Katherine’s blog. Sarah and David would be consultants and potentially write articles whenever they could. Katherine was still in that mindset of writing a school newspaper, so the twins would be there to remind her that it could be anything. That it didn’t have to be a specific format or follow any of the school rules because it wasn’t run by the school anymore. Katherine felt uncomfortable with the idea and wished her old lackeys, Bill and Darcy, were there to help her.
Talking about Bill and Darcy remind them all that there were people from school they hadn’t seen a lot throughout summer. Katherine joked that the twins should hold a summer party to get everyone together. Immediately, Sarah and David looked at each other and smiled. “Well, our birthday is coming up…” Sarah replied.
Weeks later, Sarah and David were enjoying their birthday party with all their friends. Sarah looked around the back yard where everything had been set up and saw all the people that had been able to make it. She couldn’t believe all these people knew that she was trans and didn’t care. She couldn’t believe she was able to openly be herself. She felt really lucky.
Sarah and David had decided to make the party casual dress, while dressing formally themselves. So when Katherine arrived wearing a gown and a little bit of makeup, there were a lot of stares in her direction. For Sarah, it was different. She was entranced and her heart was racing a mile a minute. It was like seeing her for the first time all over again.
“I seem to be overdressed,” Katherine said as she approached Sarah. She handed over a small box with a bow on it. “Happy birthday.”
“Thanks.” She opened it, seeing a gift card to Jacobi’s.
“I wasn’t sure what to get you, but I know you like Jacobi’s.”
Sarah did like to go there a lot so she wasn’t wrong. She had just hoped for something a little more personal. Still, the fact that Katherine got her a gift at all was sweet of her. “It’s perfect, Kath. Thank you very much.”
“Of course. You’re welcome.” Katherine went over to give David his gift, but Sarah just stood there, feeling slightly embarrassed at her lack of words. She went to her room and looked in the mirror, seeing how red she was. If she wasn’t convinced of it before, she was sure now. She had feelings for Katherine.
She heard a knock behind her and looked into the mirror to see Spot standing at her doorway. “You okay?” he asked. Sarah gave him a weak smile and shrugged. Spot took this opportunity to walk inside the room and close the door. They both sat on the bed and then Sarah plopped the rest of her body down. “What’s wrong?”
Sarah sighed, but decided if she was going to confide in anyone, Spot was just as good as her at keeping secrets. “I think I like someone.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“I’ve never liked anyone. Not like this. It’s new. It’s different. It’s...scary. I’m not sure if I like it.”
“You never even had those feelings for me? When we were together?”
“Nope. I liked you and I thought you were hot but...You didn’t make my heart flutter. Or whatever.”
“I’d say ouch, but I guess I didn’t ever really feel that way about you either.”
“I’m sorry. This must be a real downer at a party. My own party nonetheless.”
“No, it’s your party. You can cry if you want to.”
They laughed and then Sarah shook her head. “I don’t know what to do. I’m not brave.”
“You’re the bravest person I know, Sarah. I mean, you’ve had to be brave your whole life. You’ll have to keep being brave your whole life.”
“Having feelings for someone is different though. It’s not something I’m one hundred percent sure about.”
“What are you not sure about?”
“What if I feel things now but later on...I don’t? Or what if she changes her mind about me?”
They remained quiet for a few seconds and then Spot spoke up. “They always say it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, right?”
“I’ve loved and I’ve lost. And I’m still here. I’m still kicking. And I’m willing to keep on trying. Honestly, as long as you’re here for me, Sarah, I’m golden. And I can promise you I’ll be here for you no matter what.”
“Thanks, Spot.” She squeezed his hand and smiled at him. Even though she still felt nervous about her feelings for Katherine, having Spot there did help.
Back outside, she couldn’t keep her eyes off of Kath. She tried to distract herself by dancing with her friends or eating snacks. Then a slow song came on and she felt awkward when people started coupling up. Jack even pulled David onto the dance floor. Sarah went to get a drink and just watched. She wished she had the courage to ask Katherine to slow dance with her. But she didn’t do it.
Sarah had always been the brave one, and David had always been the timid one, but now it seemed like it was the other way around. Maybe it was because everything felt so real now, that she didn’t know how to behave. Before, she’d felt like she was faking it through life. Now that she was out and she knew her feelings for Katherine were real, she didn’t have a script to go off of, and she didn’t know what to do. So she didn’t do anything at all.
When school started up again, Sarah told herself this was her year. She was out, she had a supportive group of friends, and she had nothing to lose. Spot had even convinced her to ask Katherine to the Homecoming Dance. However, doing the actual asking was harder than anything else.
A couple of weeks in, she got up the courage to finally do it. She knew Katherine spent a lot of her lunches in the computer lab because old habits died hard, though she wondered if she worked on her blog while she was in there.
Sarah walked in and saw the back of Katherine’s brown hair. She took a deep breath and walked over to her with confidence. Then, she noticed another girl sitting next to Katherine. She was sitting awfully close to her. Sarah didn’t like it. Had Katherine met someone new? Had the months of not talking about the kiss and Sarah keeping her at a distance inevitably made Katherine move on?
Before she could turn around and walk away, Katherine turned to see her. She smiled and waved Sarah over. Sarah had no choice but to approach.
“Hey, Sarah, I want you to meet someone.” The girl next to Katherine smiled at her. She was really pretty, with long, dark hair and bright green eyes. She couldn’t tell what ethnicity the girl was, but that only added to her beauty. Sarah hoped Katherine wouldn’t introduce the girl as her girlfriend. “She calls herself Sniper. Sniper, this is my best friend Sarah.”
“Nice to meet you,” Sniper said. Sarah extended her hand, but instead of reaching out, Sniper whipped out a camera and took a picture of her. “Gotcha.”
Sarah didn’t know what to think about that and dropped her hand. “You’re a photographer?” she asked.
“Yep, and a damn good one. That’s why they call me Sniper.”
“She’s gonna help me get pictures for the blog,” Katherine said. “She didn’t know the school paper was defunct so she came up to me asking if she could join. I told her about our blog so...she’s our new photographer!”
“That’s...awesome,” Sarah said. “Glad you can be part of the team.” She turned to Katherine. “Speaking of, when are you putting up your first post?”
“Not sure yet.”
“You’ve been putting it off for a while. We would’ve even had a few issues of the paper up by now.”
“I know, I know. I’m just a perfectionist. I have to have the perfect story to start off this perfect blog.”
“It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be you. You’re what brings the perfect.”
“Well, find me a good story then. The sooner I have one, the sooner I can have this blog up and running.”
“I’ll try. In fact, I should go ask around right now.” She knew she had to get out of there. She wasn’t going to ask Katherine to the dance with an audience. Sarah turned back to Sniper and said, “It was nice to meet you,” despite the sentiment not being exactly true.
“Take her with you,” Katherine said. “Maybe she can get pictures of whatever you find.”
“Oh...uh…” Despite Sarah’s hesitance, Sniper grabbed her stuff and got up. “Yeah, okay, let’s go.” They exited the computer lab and began walking toward the cafeteria. “So uh...you’re into photography. Why not go for, say, the yearbook committee?”
“Didn’t sound as fun as the school paper,” Sniper responded. “I read the last issue and...I thought it was interesting.”
Sarah knew she’d been the subject of the last issue of the school paper. She’d been the reason it was no longer part of the school. “Interesting, huh?”
“Yeah.” Sniper stepped ahead of Sarah and took a bunch of quick pictures of her. “You know, you’re cute. Are you single?”
Sarah was about to ask the girl to stop taking pictures of her, but the question caught her off guard. “I...yes. But I’m not looking.”
“Okay,” Sniper said, unaffected. “So where are we going?”
Sarah didn’t know what to think about this girl. She was quirky for sure, but she couldn’t tell if she was a threat to her or not. Luckily, she’d spend enough time with her to eventually find out.
“I’m going to give him my virginity.” For most of the summer, David felt like he was faking his way through life. Technically, nothing was wrong. He had a boyfriend who he loved, and he’d told him he loved him. He had a best friend in Crutchie, who was supportive and kind. His relationship with his family was perfect. He had nothing to wish for, really.
Except, he felt wrong. He’d confided his feelings in Crutchie, and Crutchie had tried his best to reassure him, telling him that he only felt something was off because he was living in constant fear that something would go wrong. It wasn’t a lie. David always felt like his happiness was bound to end sooner or later.
But it wasn’t just that and he tried to explain that to Crutchie. “I don’t know. I feel like Jack’s been kind of distant all summer.” It was as if ever since he’d told him he loved him over voicemail, everything with Jack had slowed down. He thought it would bring them closer, but he felt that Jack had done everything possible to get away from him.
“He’s taken you out like every week though,” Crutchie replied.
“Yeah, but...I mean, we don’t really talk about anything. I feel like we used to talk, like really talk. But now it’s all like...white noise. And he spends a lot of time at work.”
Jack hadn’t even told him he was going to get a summer job until he’d already started. David didn’t think much of it then, but now it felt weird.
“Well yeah, he has to be able to afford taking you out every week.”
“Okay, true, but…”
“Has he told you anything? Like, anything to indicate that he’s...unhappy?”
“No. He constantly tells me he loves you and that he loves spending time with you. I mean, he spends more time with you than with me and we live in the same building…”
David knew he could trust Crutchie. The more time he spent with him, the more David felt more confident about their friendship being real. When they’d first started hanging out, he’d felt Crutchie was only his friend because Jack was. Then, when he’d found out Crutchie was in love with Jack and proceeded to get with Jack, he’d always thought Crutchie resented him. But over the summer, David felt more connected to Crutchie than he’d ever felt. He could even tell the difference when Crutchie was being his real self and when he was putting on his fake happy-go-lucky persona.
“You know, we never really talked about when Jack and I got together.”
“You said some words, but we never really had a discussion about it.”
“I mean, we didn’t have to, did we?”
“I don’t think we were close enough then to have a legitimate discussion about it.”
“But now we are?”
David scoot closer to Crutchie and leaned his head on the shorter boy’s shoulder. Jack was always showing affection for both boys physically, whether it was a hug, or a loving caress, or a soft kiss. It was easier for them to give back to Jack. As for each other, it was rare. Any physical affection between David and Crutchie was a bit awkward, but they knew the more they did it, the easier it would get.
Crutchie smiled and rested his head on David’s. “So I guess you want to talk about it.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Are you still in love with him?”
“I’ll always love him. I’ve made peace with it. Am I jealous of you? No. It kind of goes...beyond jealousy. I like you two together. I ship Javey...Or whatever your ship name is.” They both laughed. “Anything else?”
“Did you...Did you feel like I betrayed you when I got with him, even though I knew you were in love with him?”
“A little. I didn’t really know you then. I thought you’d be like the others. You’d be there for now but…”
“Eventually we’d break it off.”
“Yeah. And then I got to know you and...I wanted you to stick around.”
“I love you, Crutch.” It was the first time he’d said it to him. And it came out naturally. He hadn’t worried for weeks about saying it. He hadn’t tried to dissect what it meant. He hadn’t thought up a list of possible consequences. He’d just said it and didn’t regret it.
“I love you too, Davey.” Even though he couldn’t see Crutchie’s face, he heard the smile in his voice.
That night, they continued talking, sitting together in one of the lawn chairs in the Penthouse, what Crutchie and Jack had dubbed the roof of their building, until Jack came home from work.
The night of Sarah and David’s birthday party, David felt nervous. He’d never co-hosted a party before, mostly because he’d never had any friends to invite. Things had changed a lot over the past six or so months they’d been living there. But he had nothing to worry about. The party went off without a hitch.
He had been worried that Jack wouldn’t be able to take the night off, but as soon as Crutchie arrived, he was kept distracted enough to forget about it until Jack did arrive.
“Oh he’s finally here!” Crutchie yelled as Jack came running toward them in a grease-stained t-shirt.
Jack went to hug David, but David pushed him away a little. “Sorry,” David said. “I don’t want your shirt ruining my outfit.”
Jack smirked before quickly retorting, “Your outfit don’t need my shirt to ruin it, bud. But since it’s your birthday, how ‘bout I just give you a kiss.”
“A kiss would be nice.”
Jack leaned in and placed a soft simple kiss on David’s lips. “Happy birthday, babe.”
“Babe? Mmm, you just ruined it.”
“Fine, take this instead.” He handed David a wrapped cylinder and the birthday boy knew immediately that it was one of Jack’s drawings.
“Jack, you didn’t have to…”
“Yes I did. Open it.”
David carefully took off the wrap and then slowly unrolled the drawing. It was a picture of the three of them. David was in the middle with his arms around Jack and Crutchie, all looking like they were having a good time. “This...is perfect. It’s just what I wanted. Thank you.”
Jack gave Crutchie a grateful smile before glancing back at David. “You’re very welcome.” They shared another kiss before Jack went to give Crutchie a hug. Crutchie pushed him away too. “Oh what, you don’t want me ruining your outfit either?”
“No,” Crutchie said with a grin. “I just wanted to see what that felt like.”
“Ass.” Jack then pulled Crutchie in trying to rub his shirt all over him, while David watched with a smile on his face.
David tried to mingle with as many people as he could at the party, and he couldn’t help but notice that Jack would hang back and mingle with other people while he did this. Was Jack going out of his way to not spend time with him? At his birthday party? He tried not to think about it too much.
“Hey,” he said when he got back to him.
“Hey,” Jack responded. “Where’s Crutchie?”
David shrugged, looking around. It seemed to David, they functioned better with Crutchie around. He scanned the back yard and finally saw him. He pointed the out the boy with the crutch. “He’s talking to Spot Conlon.”
“Oh.” There was something in the way Jack said it that sparked David’s interest.
“Yeah, oh. I didn’t know they talked.”
“That’s ‘cause you’ve been working all the time. But yeah, they talk. They’ve been talking. Crutchie thinks he’s hot.”
“Does he?” There was minimum reaction in Jack’s face, but his voice hinted at something else.
“I mean, I’m not gonna say he’s not attractive. And he’s a nice guy.”
“Aww, you’re not jealous are you?”
“...Of Spot. Because I think he’s attractive.”
“I’m always jealous of anyone you lay your eyes on.”
David smiled and tried not to let his imagination get to him. “Well, I think you’re the most attractive person here.”
“Nah, you are.” They shared another kiss.
“I think it’s good that Crutchie and Spot are talking. I ship it. What would their ship name be? Crot? Eh. No. Maybe...Sputchie? That sounds kinda cute.”
“I’m gonna uh...go pee. Be right back.” Jack gave him a pat in the back and ran off, leaving David by himself. The birthday boy went to go mingle some more, pushing all his bad thoughts to the back of his head.
When the slow music came on, Jack walked over and without saying anything, pulled David onto the dance floor.
“How romantic,” David whispered as they danced. There were so many things Jack was good at that always surprised David. Drawing, speaking, kissing, flipping burgers, and now dancing.
“I’m your boyfriend. I figured I’d act the part.”
“Crutchie told you to come get me, didn’t he.” David wasn’t really asking, but was saying it more out of amusement.
“I mean, it was either this or he was gonna dropkick my cheeseburger.”
“You work with cheeseburgers all day. Aren’t you tired of them yet?”
“You can never get tired of cheeseburgers. Cheeseburgers are life.”
“Hmm…” They continued dancing in silence for a few seconds. “Do you ever feel like Crutchie ships us more than we do?”
Jack chuckled at that. “You know, I think he does.”
It wasn’t exactly the answer that David wanted to hear. Sometimes he worried Jack wasn’t in love with him. Even if Crutchie said he had nothing to worry about, it was still in his head. Even more worrisome was the thought that maybe...he wasn’t in love with Jack either.
The more he worried, the more he thought of ways he could better their relationship. When school started up again, he thought of the perfect solution and wondered why he hadn’t thought of it before.
Which brings us back to, “I’m going to give him my virginity.”
“What?” Crutchie sounded both shocked and amused.
“For his birthday. I mean, we’ve been together for almost four months and...I think it’s time. I’m seventeen, he’s going to be seventeen. He’d like that, wouldn’t he?”
“I mean, yes. But...as an actual gift? I thought you’d write him a poem or something, not...Your body.”
“Well, I could write the poem on my chest.”
“That sounds hard.”
“You could write the poem on my chest.”
“You could write the poem on a paper. And leave it at that.”
David knew that it sounded like a stupid idea. But he couldn’t think of any other way to keep Jack around. He thought maybe that was the reason he’d been spending less time with him. If they were having sex, they’d at least have fun again. The last time they were making out, he’d even considered letting Jack touch him below the belt.
He didn’t want to be afraid of sex. It wasn’t even the act that scared him. He just wanted it to be perfect. Or at least, he wanted his first time to be perfect. And he knew Jack would be perfect. It was probably another thing he was good at.
“Are you...ready to lose your virginity?” Crutchie asked, curiously.
“I mean, is there such thing as being ready?”
“Yes. You need condoms, lube, a location.”
“Oh, I thought you meant emotionally.”
“I’ll be ready.”
He had to be. Because if that didn’t fix his relationship with Jack...He wasn’t ready to think about that.
“Better than Jack.” The words rang in Crutchie’s head as he went back over every detail of summer. He’d kept his own word of doing whatever he could to keep Jack and Davey together. Not that Jack was making that easy for him. He’d been there all summer to reassure Davey that everything was fine with Jack, even though he wasn’t at all sure that was the case. Davey wasn’t the only one to notice how odd Jack had been acting, and the fact that he seemed to be avoiding both of them concerned him.
Still, it meant that he got to spend more time with Davey when they both waited for Jack to get off work. The more the weeks passed by, the more the Penthouse seemed to become his place with Davey instead of his place with Jack. The closer he got to Davey, the more his feelings went through a change. He hadn’t lied to Davey. He would always love Jack. But Crutchie began to realize that Jack wasn’t the only one taking residence in his heart anymore. That concerned him even more.
One night, Crutchie got on his phone and opened up a gay dating app. He wasn’t stupid and knew that most people used them for sex. Ever since he’d lost his virginity, he hadn’t gone on the app because his sexual cravings had been satisfied. Besides, Crutchie only ever really opened up the app when he was feeling lonely and bored.
He looked through the older men and the messages he immediately received, but no one caught his interest. It seemed pointless to have the app downloaded if he still wasn’t going to hook up with anyone. Then he saw a familiar face and he smiled to himself. It was Spot Conlon. He decided to message him.
“What are you into?” he sent.
“Not this app.”
“Then why are you on it?”
“Cause it’s part of the gay experience, right?”
“Meh. I can show you the gay experience. If you want.”
“Pick me up.” Crutchie sent Spot his location and got ready, putting a few condoms and several packets of lube in his pocket. He didn’t know how many he would need.
Spot picked him up in a red Jeep, which he couldn’t help but think was cool. The thought of having sex in it was cooler.
“Hey,” he said to Spot as he got in.
“Hey,” Spot repeated. He seemed tense, giving him a quick smile and barely looking Crutchie in the eye. “Where are we going?”
“Just go straight, I’ll tell you where to turn.”
Spot laughed nervously. “Heh, straight.”
Crutchie led them to the parking lot of Mush Park. He knew there was a hiking trail that went up the hill behind the lot, but he’d never gone because of his bad leg. However, the reason they were there was because Mush Park, or at least the parking lot, was infamous for breeding stories about lost virginities and virus-swapping.
“Wait...I know this place,” Spot said as he turned off the engine. “This is that place where people come to make out.”
“You ever been here?”
“Yeah. I mean, no. Not to make out. Just to go on the hike up the hill. Maybe to see what the big deal was. Just a bit curious, you know. It was when I was younger. I came with...my best friend at the time.”
“You can say Jack. He’s told me everything about what happened between you. He always tells me everything.”
“Every gritty detail.”
“And you don’t think I’m a horrible person?”
“Nah. We all make mistakes. And don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.” Spot nodded guiltily. “So you were curious about this place, huh?”
“Well yeah, when you’re a kid, you wanna know what the older kids are doing.”
“And uh...are you still curious?” Crutchie gently put his hand on Spot’s leg. They both looked at each other for a few seconds and then they started kissing.
It only lasted about a minute before Crutchie reached down to Spot’s pants and Spot pulled them apart. “Wait, wait, wait. I didn’t...I didn’t come here to do this.”
Crutchie furrowed his eyebrows. “What do you mean? You said you wanted the gay experience.”
“I thought...I thought you were gonna show me the gay hangout spots or something.”
“So you don’t want to have sex with me?”
“I don’t...not want to. I mean, you’re good looking. I’m just not into...casual sex or whatever.”
“You were on a gay hookup app…”
“I was on a gay dating app. Trying to find a date. But I guess I shouldn’t be on there anyway, since I’m too young.”
Crutchie smiled. “You’re just a goody two-shoes, aren’t you? And here I thought you were a badass scary wrestling dude.”
“Is it so bad being a goody two-shoes?
“I guess not. Just feels like false advertising.”
“Well, you’re not as innocent as you seem. That’s false advertising too.”
“If you’re all smiles all the time, people don’t really try to get to know you. They think they have you all figured out, so you don’t really have to get close to anyone.”
“Same if you’re all frowns. No one wants to get close to you.”
“I guess it all depends on who you let in.”
“Or who lets you in.”
They stared at each other for a few seconds again and then Spot looked away.
“So you want to date, huh?” Crutchie finally asked.
“Yeah, that’s the plan.”
“I guess I can show you the gay hangout spots. Maybe you can find a nice goody two-shoes boy to go out with.”
“I’d like that.”
Crutchie and Spot met weekly after that and they would go to spaces that Crutchie considered at least queer. They’d arrive and Crutchie would try to find a seat to himself, telling Spot to go flirt with a guy. Spot, however, would mostly stick with Crutchie, talking to him and trying to get to know more about him. Crutchie almost felt sorry for him, but he didn’t want to outright tell him that he didn’t want to date him.
Eventually, they would get physically closer during their outings and end up going back to Spot’s car to make out. Spot would stop it before it got too far, and Crutchie would try to end the night as soon as it was over. That way, they both felt like they hadn’t gotten anywhere with the other.
School time came and they saw each other less. Crutchie thought it was for the best. Spot wanted something he was never going to give him, and vice versa. Spot was a nice guy, but he just didn’t have feelings for him. Things would have been easier if he had, and he knew that, but he wasn’t going to force himself to be with someone that wouldn’t make him happy. Having already tried that with Jojo, he considered himself lucky it ended civilly.
One day in September, however, Spot insisted they hang out. Crutchie didn’t particularly feel like going out, so he invited him to his apartment. His foster parents had gone out on a date night, so the two were all alone.
At first they just watched a movie. Crutchie loved horror movies and Spot hadn’t watched many so he decided to educate him with Scream. Unfortunately, Crutchie was more interested in the movie than Spot was. He kept catching him staring at him. They were in close proximity so Crutchie could tell Spot was nervous. Maybe it was because they were both home alone in his bedroom. He supposed he wasn’t nervous himself because it was his space. And the two other guys that had been on his bed were just friends and would always just be friends.
But Spot was different. He was in that in-between zone. They had made out so many times, and Crutchie considered him a friend, but he wasn’t his best friend, and he wasn’t his boyfriend. He stared right back at Spot, before stating, “Fuck it.”
There was something different about being in his bedroom versus being in Spot’s car. For one, they had more room, and being on a bed, it was more comfortable. Crutchie was able to pull Spot on top of him as they kissed, and later push him over and climb on top of him when he needed to unbutton his pants.
The sex was just as hot as Crutchie had hoped. Jojo had been too worried about hurting Crutchie, so his first time had been underwhelming. But with Spot, it was like his instincts took over. He’d been worried at first, but Crutchie assured him he was fine. As he finished, he collapsed on top of Spot, breathing fast, their heartbeats in sync. Spot wrapped his arms around him, caressing his back gently.
“Was I good?” Crutchie asked.
“Better than Jack,” Spot said with a quiet chuckle.
Crutchie lifted his head to look at Spot. “What the fuck?”
“Sorry, that was a stupid thing to say. I don’t know why I…”
“Wait...you were serious.”
“I...well, yeah. It wasn’t a lie, but I still shouldn’t have…”
“When did you and Jack have sex?”
“At the beginning of summer…? I went to his place to apologize and then one thing led to another...I...I thought you knew. You said you knew. You said he’d told you everything.”
“Yeah, about when you used to be friends. How he tried to kiss you and you beat the shit out of him. That’s it.”
“So...not anything recent.”
The two boys separated and sat at opposite ends of the bed thinking for a few seconds. Crutchie’s initial instinct was that it was a lie. Jack would never do anything like that to Davey. And even if he did, he would have told him.
But then he started to think about how Jack had been avoiding both Davey and him all summer. If it was the truth, then there was some sense in it. There would be no reason for Spot to lie, but there would be a reason for Jack to feel guilty enough to want to see his best friend and his boyfriend as little as possible.
Spot began gathering his clothes and putting them on. Before leaving, he turned to Crutchie and said, “I’m sorry.” But really, it was Crutchie who was sorry, because now he had a really difficult decision to make.
“Would you like to come in?” Jack asked. “Catch up?”
He hadn’t expected any of what was happening. When he found Spot Conlon at his door, he was half afraid he was there to beat him up again. Except this time, Jack would give back as much as he got. But Spot had been there to apologize. So he invited him in.
“Sit down. You remember where the couch is, right?” Spot nodded and walked over to sit on the living room couch. Jack went into the kitchen and got each of them a glass of water. “So, catch up. What’s been going on with you since...we stopped talking?”
“Honestly, not much. Most of the changes in my life have happened in the past few months. After I...stopped talking to you, I knew I had to find a better outlet for my aggression so...wrestling it was. And turns out I’m good at it.”
Jack returned with the water and sat down next to Spot. “That’s good that you found an outlet. I always say art’s a good outlet but I guess sports work too. They’re kind of like an art.”
“Yeah, I mean, wrestling is practically yoga with a partner.” They laughed.
“So, how did the whole gay thing come about?”
“Oh, well...I guess you can say wrestling wasn’t enough of an outlet. I tried to suppress it. Even got a girlfriend…”
“Yeah. But that didn’t work out. I met this guy. He was really insistent and annoying and...I couldn’t resist him.”
“Do I know him?”
“He’s in your gay club. Racetrack.”
“Ah, yeah,” Jack replied with an air of familiarity. “Race was my first gay experience too.”
“He’s a little hottie. And you’re right. He’s irresistible. But also unacquirable.”
“I learned that the hard way I guess.”
“You’ll find someone else.”
“Maybe. What about you?”
“What about me?”
“What have you been up to since we stopped talking?”
“Hooking up with Race. Starting the gay club, as you call it. Dating people I shouldn’t have.”
“But your boyfriend now? David. You’re good with him, right?”
Jack shifted in his seat, not wanting to let on that maybe things weren’t perfect. But his silence said a lot anyway.
“Or not good?”
Jack drank his water, trying to think of how to word it. He knew Spot meant well. He’d always been a good guy other than when he beat him up. But he also knew he was close to Sarah and that anything he said about David might get back to her.
“Sorry,” Spot spoke after a second. “I shouldn’t have asked. It’s none of my business.”
Jack put his glass down and sighed. “I love him. I just...don’t think I’m in love with him. And I don’t think he’s in love with me either. I...I’m gonna have to break up with him and set us both free. There’s not point in going further since...I don’t think we can. I just don’t want to hurt him.”
“I see. I suppose it’s better to let him know so that neither of you have to spend more time pretending there’s something there that there isn’t.”
“Yeah, I mean, why waste his time and mine? The person I’m meant to be with could be...right in front of me.”
Spot and Jack met eyes and quickly laughed it off, though Jack could see a slight redness reach Spot’s cheeks. Of course, he’d been talking about Crutchie. There had always been something between the two of them. But he could never be with Crutchie. Then again, before Crutchie, there was Spot. Jack had always wanted something to happen between them until that day he’d tried to kiss him.
A thought went through Jack’s head. If things were truly over with Davey, and he could never work things out with Crutchie, maybe he and Spot could pick up where they’d left off.
“Guess we’re all caught up, huh?” Spot said, before taking a sip of his water. “I should be off.”
Before Spot could move, Jack put his hand on his arm. “Wait. Don’t...don’t leave. I...missed you.”
Spot looked down at Jack’s hand. “Jack…”
“Please...call me Cowboy.”
“Cowboy…” Spot looked up at Jack’s eyes again and Jack could feel the other boy’s heart beating faster. “Really, I think I should go.”
“Please...stay.” Jack begged with his eyes. Spot looked at each of them, going back and forth.
Finally, he said, “Okay.”
Jack took that as a sign and leaned in. Their lips touched and immediately there was a fight for dominance. It was something they both had wanted for a long time. And they wanted to make up for lost time. Clothes started coming off as they made their way to Jack’s bedroom. Each of their heads hit a wall at least once before they finally got into bed.
They finished quickly, and then lay there for a few minutes before they began kissing again, starting once more. Their second time was slower, but just as passionate. It was something they both had to get out of their system.
Before they could go at it a third time, however, they heard a knock at the front door. They stopped and remained quiet. Jack’s phone began to vibrate and when he picked it up, he saw Davey was the one calling. He didn’t answer, but let it go to voicemail.
He didn’t need to listen to it to realize he had just made a mistake. He looked at Spot who looked just as guilty. Their temporary moment of bliss was gone.
The two got dressed slowly before making sure the coast was clear outside the apartment. “Can we keep this between us?” he asked Spot. The shorter boy nodded. Jack ran his fingers through Spot’s hair and down to the back of his neck, pulling him in for a soft, quick kiss. “I really did miss you.”
“I missed you too, Cowboy.”
Spot left seconds later, and Jack went back to his phone. He listened to Davey’s voicemail message and frowned. Davey told him he loved him. It would’ve been easier if Davey had never said it, because at least then Jack would’ve broken it off with him knowing he wasn’t as invested in the relationship. But now that he’d heard the voicemail, he knew he couldn’t break up with him. He knew he had to stay with him. At least for a while.
Over the next few weeks he got a summer job at Jacobi’s, thinking that maybe spending less time with Davey would assuage his guilt, as well as Davey’s feelings for him. He tried spending less time with Crutchie as well. He knew if he spent too much time with him, he’d end up telling him about Spot. And if he told him about Spot, he might be compelled to tell him his other secrets. As for Spot, he couldn't see him again. Not that Spot tried either. Whatever they had, was gone again. Hearing from Davey that Spot and Crutchie were talking was devastating.
He focused all his energy on his job and on trying to work things out with Davey. It was the least he could do after everything that had happened. Even if he wasn’t in love with him, he could learn to be. Besides, they were happy. And when school started again, they were reminded they were the school’s it gay couple.
Jack still worked a couple hours after school at Jacobi’s since he liked having money. He still spent a minimum amount of time with Crutchie and Davey, having gotten used to it after a couple of months. So it was a bit surprising when he got a text from Crutchie to meet him up in the Penthouse. It felt like it had been forever since he’d even gone up there.
When he went, Crutchie was waiting for him in their favorite lawn chair. Jack sat next to him, putting his arm around him. “What’s going on, buddy?”
Crutchie immediately threw off Jack’s arm and got up, turning around to face him. Jack was shocked. In all the time he’d known Crutchie, he’d never acted that way towards him. He didn’t know what to say or do. “You and Spot.”
Jack instantly knew what he was talking about. Jack had thought about it all summer. He’d felt guilty about it all summer. He’d fantasized about it all summer. “There is no me and Spot.”
“No. But there was.” Jack just nodded, putting his face in his hands. “Why didn’t you tell me, Jack?” Jack shook his head and threw up his arms with a shrug. “Why did you do it?”
“Because I make poor choices.”
“I thought...I thought you loved Davey. It...it doesn’t make sense to me. Why would you do that to him?”
“Because I’m a fuck up. Because I always ruin relationships. Because...I thought Davey didn’t love me. So I thought...maybe I’ll break up with him and save us both time and effort. And then…”
“Then he told you he loved you.”
“Yes. And so I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t break up with him. And I couldn’t keep seeing Spot. And I couldn’t tell you.”
“Why? You always tell me everything.”
“No, I don’t. I don’t, Crutchie. I don’t tell you everything. That’s why. I can’t tell you everything. I love you, but I can’t.”
Crutchie was silent for a minute and then he sat back down next to Jack. Jack looked at him, wondering what he was thinking. Was their friendship over? Would he help him out and keep this secret from Davey? He was worried, but he was also glad someone else knew now.
“You have to tell him.” Jack’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “You have to tell Davey. You have to tell him that you cheated on him.”
“You have to tell him or I will.”
“Before your birthday. You’ve caused enough damage, Jack. And I won’t let you cause more. Before your birthday.” With that, he got up again and hobbled off.
Jack sat there for an hour thinking about what he would do, but he still had no idea. All he could hope for was that his year wouldn’t get any worse. Unfortunately, it would.