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The Seventeenth Summer (Ch 12)

A time for sun, surf and self-discovery . . .

By Mark 'Ponyboy' PetersPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 19 min read
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Original image by Janan Lagerwall on Unsplash.com https://unsplash.com/photos/8NuDsZegIpQ

Chapter Twelve

Danny was already awake the next morning when Jake finally opened his eyes. He had been lying there beside him, propped up on one elbow and watching him sleep, trying to figure out just how he had managed to end up in bed with such a beautiful young man. Well, not exactly in bed, it was more like on the bed, as that was how they had fallen asleep the night before.

‘Hey,’ Jake said, as his eyes focused on the young man lying next to him.

‘Hey, yourself. How are you feeling this morning?’

‘Oh, I’m fine . . . I think. Though my mouth feels dry and my head is throbbing a little,’ Jake replied, as he looked around the bedroom, as if trying to remember just where he was. ‘How are you?’

‘Never better,’ Danny replied.

‘No ill effects from your little experiment with the wild side last night?’ Jake probed.

‘No, I don’t think so. I kind of expected there to be some . . . but . . . but I feel fine.’

‘Well, that’s good.’

‘And what about you? How’s your face . . . and . . . errrr . . . everywhere else,’ Danny enquired.

‘All a bit tender . . . but I have some Vincent’s powders some place, which will take the edge off, and some cream for, well, you know. They’ll both do me some good.’

‘And another joint as well, don’t forget . . .’

‘Oh, no, I won’t forget that,’ Jake chuckled. ‘But I think I’ll save that for later.’

‘Well, at least the swelling around your eye has gone down, but you’ve got a beaut shiner!’

‘I just bet I do,’ Jake acknowledged. ‘So, how long have you been awake?’

‘Long enough. You looked so peaceful sleeping there . . . and so . . .’

‘So, what?’

‘I was going to say beautiful . . . but I didn’t think it sounded right.’

‘What? Even with a face like this?’ Jake chuckled.

‘Yeah, even with a face like that. I like your face . . . and your hair . . . and everything else below that,’ Danny replied, as he reached out and brushed Jake’s fringe away from his face, then ran his fingers through his long blonde locks. ‘I know that might sound . . . I dunno, silly, but that’s just how I feel.’

‘I don’t think it’s silly. I think it’s sweet. And I think you’re sweet . . . and . . .’

‘And what?’

‘And I’m going to miss you when I go home.’

‘But you said you’ll be coming back,’ Danny said, with his voice suddenly sounding alarmed.

‘Of course I will.’

‘And after that?’

‘Let’s just take it one day at a time, eh?’

Danny glanced away, and for a few moments, as he studied the curtains framing the window he sucked on his bottom lip. He wasn’t sure what Jake meant by that. There was so much he wanted to ask him, and say to him, and so many adventures he wanted to share with him, but he just wasn’t sure where to start.

For Jake’s part, he could see the confusion that now clouded Danny’s expression. He knew that there must be quite a lot going on inside the young man’s head, but he too wasn’t sure where he should start. How could he tell him that even after having only known him for such a short time he was falling in love with him? How could he tell him that he wanted to take him away from this place, but given his tender age there was just no way that he could do that; at least not just yet. Would Danny be able to handle hearing something like that without going into an emotional overload?

Eventually Danny turned back to face Jake. ‘You could always take me with you,’ he quietly suggested.

What was this kid, a mind reader? Jake wondered.

‘Oh, Danny, one day I would love to do nothing more than that,’ Jake responded. ‘I would love to take you with me and show you the world outside of Thompsonville. This country is such an amazing place . . . and it’s changing so fast.’

‘Then why can’t you do that? Don’t you love me, like . . . like I think I’m . . .’ he said, before cutting himself short.

Jake raised his eyebrows questioningly at Danny.

‘What I was going to say was . . . like I think I’m beginning to love you . . .’

Jake smiled up at him.

‘I’m beginning to feel the same way, my beautiful boy . . .’ he said, as he reached up and cupped Danny’s cheek in one hand. Danny placed a hand over Jake’s and turned his head slightly, kissing the palm of Jake’s hand. ‘But how can we be sure it’s love? Have you ever been in love before? I’m pretty sure I haven’t . . .’

‘Then what else could it be? We want to be with each other, don’t we? What else matters?’

‘And what about your family . . . and your friends? And what about the fact you are still only sixteen? The risks are so great . . . for both of us. I’m sure you don’t want to see me in jail . . . just as I don’t want to see you locked away in some boy’s home until you’re twenty-one.’

‘It’s just so complicated, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, mate. It sure is.’

‘I . . . I just wish we could find a place, some utopia, where we can be together? Where it won’t matter that I’m only sixteen and you’re only twenty . . . and where people won’t care if we’re in love, or if we’re having sex, or know anything about us!’

‘Oh, God, if only such a place existed,’ Jake replied.

‘It has to. I’m sure it must be out there.’

‘And if I found it, would you really want to come with me?’

‘Do you really need me to answer that?’ Danny replied with a shy grin, before leaning over and placing his lips over those of Jake.

They stayed inside the cabin until mid-morning, and Danny couldn’t remember ever have felt so comfortable around another person, other than perhaps Nate. With every gentle touch from Jake, as they moved around the small cabin, he was growing more and more accustomed to being with him.

The desire to take their relationship to that next level was strong for both of them, but they knew that the risk was too great, so they were careful in everything they did.

Eventually Danny said that he would have to get going, as he would need to see Nate and make sure that he had covered for him, just in case his mother had checked in on him. He was also a little worried about what Nate might think about his not going around there last night, so he wanted to make sure they were still cool.

‘So, what are you going to tell him?’ Jake asked, after Danny told him of his fears.

‘I dunno . . . maybe just that we sat up all night, talking.’

‘And don’t forget the bit about smoking dope,’ Jake added.

‘Oh yeah, I guess we did do that too, didn’t we?’ Danny chuckled, as he started pulling on his clothes.

‘I wouldn’t be too worried if I were you. I think Nate’s a pretty cool character. I also think he’s a pretty open minded kind of guy, despite his occasional protest, and one who takes in a lot of what he sees around him. I also think he’s a guy who doesn’t judge people just for who they might be, but instead it’s what they do, and how they treat him and his friends. Cause grief for him or his friends and he’d give back as good as he gets, so if he found out one of his friends was gay I think it wouldn’t bother him that much at all . . . at least not once he got over the initial shock.’

‘You really think so?’

‘Yeah. I’m sure he’ll be fine with anything that you were to tell him.’

‘Well, I hope so. I just hope he doesn’t start asking me if we’re fooling around or anything.’

‘You could always try the truth. You might just be surprised,’ Jake responded, before reaching out and pulling Danny into another kiss before he left him. ‘Have a little faith in your friend. He reminds me a lot of my best friend from school, James, and he was amazing when I finally got up the courage to tell him I was queer.’

‘What did he do?’

‘He simply hugged me and said that it didn’t matter.’

‘And what did you do?’

‘I cried. After agonising for weeks over the decision to tell him, when he finally said that I just couldn’t help it. The relief was like, I don’t know, a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders.’

‘And are you still friends?’

‘Yeah. We are. He’s studying at university in Sydney now, though, so it’s not very easy staying in touch . . . especially with me, you know, travelling about and such.’

‘I’d like to meet him one day,’ Danny replied.

‘And you shall. I will make sure of it. Now, you better go and see your friend, and make sure your alibi is airtight!’

‘Okay. I’ll come around again later, okay.’

‘I’m looking forward to it already!’

Before parting, Danny kissed Jake once more, then in an instant he had the door to the cabin open and was ready to leave.

‘Thank you . . . for everything,’ Jake said to him.

Danny simply smiled, before saying, ‘Shouldn’t it be me thanking you?’

‘Let’s just call it even then, shall we?’

‘Just until later, then maybe we’ll try and figure it all out again?’

‘I think I’d like that,’ Jake remarked.

Before he’d even had a chance to blink, Danny was gone. Jake heard him as Danny picked up his bike outside the door, then watched through the window as Danny rode away. It had been a long time since Jake had felt this way about someone else, and it was a feeling he welcomed. A feeling of joy, of finally connecting with someone who he could call a kindred spirit . . . someone who shared his passions, but also someone who understood him, without his having to explain every thought or feeling he had.

They had both even talked about the “L” word. Was it too soon for that, Jake wondered?

After leaving Jake behind, Danny sped off toward town. He intended going straight to Nate’s place and so as soon as he reached the main road he swerved between the traffic and crossed over, before swinging into the street that would take him there.

All the way there he kept going over in his mind what Jake had said to him about Nate. It was true that Nate hadn’t been too worried about finding out about Jake, but would his reaction be the same if and when he was to find out about him? Would their friendship be strong enough to pass that test, should it ever eventuate? Danny wasn’t sure about that, but the one thing he was sure about was that he didn’t want to put it to the test in that manner. At least not . . . well, at least not until he really had to.

The only thing that Danny was sure of was that he hadn’t ever felt this way about anyone ever before. It was new territory for him and, by the sound of it, for Jake as well. No matter what happened it would mean that things in his life were changing rapidly, and by the end of this summer he could see that he would be leaving his childhood behind. Whether that meant leaving his family and friends, and even this town, behind him, well, he would cross that bridge when he got to it. He just had to make sure that he started to prepare himself for that eventuality.

When he reached Nate’s house he turned into the driveway and rode straight down alongside the old weatherboard building and dropped his bike beside the back steps. There was no sign of their family car, or Lachie’s car for that matter, so he figured that everyone must be out.

Jumping up the steps he banged on the back door and called out, ‘Are you home, Nate?’

At first there was no answer, but just as he was about to bang on the door again he heard a noise coming from inside, then moments later the back door opened.

‘Hey, mate. Where the hell did you get to last night?’ Nate asked him as he stepped aside and allowed Danny to come through the door.

‘I was at Jake’s cabin. We ended up sitting up and talking nearly all night . . . oh, and smoking some dope,’ Danny answered, while sporting a huge grin.

‘You sly dog. My mate, Danny the pot head! Oh, the guys are just going to love this!’

‘Not a word! Especially not to Thomas and Pat! Remember, we both know where it came from . . . but I’ll just tell everyone I got it from you!’ Danny threatened.

‘Well, at least they’ll believe you, with a brother like mine!’ Nate replied, while he grabbed a jug of orange juice from the refrigerator and then poured them both a drink.

‘Yeah, I suppose they would. And what about him? Any news?’

‘He didn’t come home last night, so we haven’t seen him since yesterday. I guess we’ll find out soon enough though if anything happened.’

‘Yeah. I guess.’

‘So, what was the dope like? Did you like it? Did it make you feel crook or anything?’

‘It was okay, I suppose,’ not wanting to actually admit that at first it had made him want to throw up. ‘So, did anything happen here? Did you have to cover for me for last night?’

‘Nah, no one asked after you, if that’s what you’re worried about.’

‘That’s a relief.’

‘And how’s Jake?’

‘Better than yesterday, that’s for sure,’ Danny replied.

He noticed Nate studying him carefully over the rim of his glass of juice and a stab of fear suddenly grasped at him. There was no doubt in his mind that a question was forming in the mind of his friend. Was he about to be asked the big question? He hoped to God that wouldn’t be the case, but what if Nate did ask him about his spending so much time with Jake? What would he say?

Thankfully, however, that moment never came, as just seconds later the sound of a vehicle could be heard coming along the driveway.

‘Great! That’ll be Lachie,’ Nate said with some confidence.

Both boys were now wondering the same thing; had anything happened with Frank Thompson yet?

They looked at each other as they waited, listened to the sound of the engine being shut down, then the sound of the car door being opened and closed.

‘He probably wouldn’t even tell us if anything did happen,’ Nate said, in a voice that was just above a whisper.

‘Probably not . . . but I still want to know either way,’ said Danny.

‘Yeah, me too!’ Nate added, just as the sound of boots on the back steps could be heard.

Both boys turned and looked at the back door in expectation as it opened and Lachlan stepped inside, stopping suddenly when he saw the two boys staring at him.

‘What the fuck are you girls lookin’ at?’ Lachie demanded.

‘Well? What happened?’ Nate asked. ‘Did you mess him up for us . . . and for Jake?’

‘Mess him up for you? Do you know how weird that sounds, you little freak?’

‘You know what I mean! We want some payback, that’s all.’

‘Well, no, I can honestly say that I haven’t laid a finger on him . . .’

‘But?’ Danny asked, sensing that there was more to come.

Lachie just shrugged. ‘I don’t know what you mean . . .’ Lachie added.

He was grinning like a fool as he crossed the kitchen and pulled a can of coke from the refrigerator, but despite their pleading and urging he didn’t say another word to the boys before heading back outside into the morning sunshine.

‘The bastard!’ Nate spat as the screen door slammed shut.

‘He’s done something . . . or he knows that someone else has!’ Danny declared.

‘But there’s no way in the world he’ll tell us,’ Nate pouted. ‘I know how stubborn the prick can be.’

‘Well, maybe . . .’

‘Maybe what?’ Nate demanded.

‘Well, maybe he’s just trying to protect us, you know, by not admitting to anything . . . if he doesn’t tell us, then we can’t know about it!’

‘Oh, Jesus, that sounds like something out of Homicide, or Hawaii Five-0 now!’

‘Well, it’s just a thought.’

‘So how do we find out if he’s done anything . . . I’ve got to know.’

‘Yeah, me too . . . and then I need to tell Jake if we find out anything. We’ve got to come up with a plan.’

‘C’mon, let’s go down town. If anything’s happened maybe Thomas or Pat might have heard something,’ Nate suggested.

‘Yeah. That’s a good idea.’

It was only a short while later that Nate and Danny were heading into town on their bikes. The sun was shining, the hot wind was in their faces, and they were on a mission. By the time they reached the main street they both had a faint sheen of sweat covering their tanned bodies and their hair was soon plastered to their brows and the side of faces.

Nate had pulled his t-shirt over his head even before they had left his house and had shoved one end into the elastic of his shorts, leaving it hanging down beside him. Danny couldn’t help but take a good look at his friend, marveling at how his body had changed over the past couple of years, from the skinny kid he had once been. Nate was definitely filling out, becoming more muscular. He had noticed it previously, of course, but now that he had been hanging around with Jake so much this summer, he seemed to be taking more notice of just about everything around him.

He had also noticed the changes in his own body over that same period of time, and thought it was little wonder that Jake had wanted to paint them both. In a way it felt quite strange to him, after all it wasn’t a sexual feeling or attraction that was going through his mind when he looked at Nate, even though he loved the guy in a way that he found difficult to comprehend; it was something else entirely. It was that he was finally seeing what Jake had meant when he spoke about the glory and the beauty of youth; something which Danny hadn’t really appreciated before today.

Summer was a great time on the coast. It made you feel like you were alive. But today the boys had things other than their usual summer fun on their minds. They had tried to phone Thomas and Pat before they had set off, but there was no answer at either of their homes, so they decided to simply hit the road.

‘Keep an eye out for them,’ Nate said to his friend as they cruised along the quiet streets.

‘We better try the lake, and the beach,’ Danny suggested.

‘And the milk bar and the boardwalk too,’ added Nate. ‘They could be any fuckin’ where.’

‘Yeah, they could be, but they’ll show up eventually,’ Danny reassured him.

They rode on in silence after that, with Nate soon standing up on the pedals and going for all he was worth. Danny could only sigh, then chase after him. This was becoming a habit, but Danny knew that he would follow Nate anywhere, just as Nate knew that Danny would always be right there by his side.

They came to the entrance to the gravel car park beside the lake and without any warning Nate swerved in there, narrowly missing a car that was coming out. He rode for where he could see groups of people close to the bank, but there was no sign of Pat or Thomas amongst them, so he kept riding, now heading straight for the boardwalk.

Danny tried calling out to him once, but Nate either didn’t hear him, or had ignored him. He got like that sometimes when he was truly determined about something.

When Nate stopped near the start of the boardwalk and dropped his bike on the grass Danny thought he might have a chance to talk to him about what they were doing, but Nate didn’t give him a chance.

‘Just watch my bike for a sec, will you? I’ll go and check the shops along here and come back.’

‘Nate . . .’ Danny had begun to say, but he was gone in an instant, leaving Danny standing guard over his old maroon-coloured Malvern Star.

Danny could only watch as Nate jogged along the timber boardwalk passing his eyes over the interior of each of the small eating houses along there, while his feet echoed on the rattling boards with every step. When Nate reached the end and started jogging back, he knew that the search had been a washout.

‘Where next?’ Danny asked, as Nate rejoined him.

‘The main street, then the beach, I suppose.’

‘You know, you can slow down a bit, don’t you?’ Danny suggested.

‘No I can’t. We need to find out. We need to know what happened . . . if Lachie gets in trouble it’ll be my fault,’ Nate said.

‘Is that what you’re worried about? Do you really think it’s going to make any difference whose fault it is if Lachie gets caught? Anyhow, you said yourself he can handle himself . . . and he knew what he was getting into . . . and if it’s anyone’s fault it’ll be mine . . . I was the one who got us involved with Jake, wasn’t I?’

‘But . . . he’s my bro . . .’

‘And he’s my friend as well. And I want to make sure he’s going to be okay, just as much as you do! So let’s see if we can find Thomas and Pat and see if they’ve heard anything . . . then we’ll worry about whatever else we need to worry about after that. Okay?’

‘Yeah . . . I guess.’

‘Good. Now, next stop is the main street. Then the beach. Then after that, if we need to, we’ll go and check out their houses . . . and if we have to wait for the useless bastards to come home we will.’

This time it was Danny who set the pace as they pushed off and started along the creek that led away from the lake and toward the sea, before then turning down Main Street.

Being mid-week there wasn’t a lot of traffic about, thankfully, just the usual lot of holiday makers. The big influx would come on the weekend, after the city workers finished their nine-to-five jobs and came looking for an escape. With the influx of tourists in Thompsonville, summertime weekends were quite often a good time to actually get away from the town and go bush, or maybe even head into the city if you wanted to go and see or do something different.

A couple of their school friends called out to them or waved to them as they rode along, but they didn’t bother pulling up for a chat. What they did pull up for, however, was Danny’s mother, as she stepped out from the curb in front of them and ordered them to stop.

‘Oh, shit,’ Danny said under his breath, just before he slammed on his brakes and came to a stop, just inches from his mother.

‘Hello, boys,’ Mrs Anderson said to them, standing there with her arms folded in front of her, then before either of them could answer she asked, ‘Now do either of you two want to tell me what it was you were doing with Sergeant Bailey yesterday?’

Nate and Danny glanced at each other. How the hell could she know about that already, they wondered?

‘Do you have any idea what it’s like being stopped in the street and asked by someone what your son was doing being spoken to by the police?’ she continued.

Neither of the boys were surprised. It was still a small country town after all, and any hint of a scandal was always quick to be spread about.

‘It was nothing, mum, I swear!’ Danny pleaded. ‘It was us who called him. We went out to see Jake at Hidden Beach and we found him having been bashed up by someone, so we got the Sarge to come out. You can go and ask either of them if you don’t believe us!’

‘Is that true, Nate?’ Mrs Anderson asked.

‘Yes it is Mrs A. Honest.’

‘And what were you up to last night?’

‘He was with me,’ said Nate. ‘We went to see Jaws at the movies.’

Danny’s mother eyed the two of them suspiciously, not sure if she could believe everything she was hearing.

‘And just where do you think you are you off to now?’ she asked.

‘We were looking for Thomas and Pat,’ Danny offered.

‘I think, Danny, you and I need to have a chat. I don’t care what you think you are going to do now, I want you at home in ten minutes. Is that understood?’

‘But mum . . .’

‘Ten minutes, Danny! Or else!’ she threatened, before turning to Nate and saying, ‘I’m sorry, Nate, but you’ll have to catch up with him later.’

Danny had never felt so humiliated in his life. He was almost seventeen after all. It wasn’t that unusual for his parents to go all Jekyll and Hyde on him, and he was tempted to just ride away and ignore her, but in the end he thought better of it. He knew that if his mother told his stepfather and then he started in on him when he got home, then things would likely blow right up. No, it was best to cop whatever it was that was on his mother’s mind and then just hope things settled back down. At least he should have a couple of days before the old man was back in town.

He watched his mother walk away before then turning to Nate and saying, ‘Sorry about that, mate. Looks like you better go and see if you can find them on your own.’

‘Don’t sweat it. I’ve got a mother too, you know!’ Nate grinned. ‘Anyhow, I’ll come around later and see you after I find them, okay.’

‘Sounds cool. Thanks.’

‘Now get going, man, or your ten minutes will be up!’

‘Smart arse!’

Young Adult
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About the Creator

Mark 'Ponyboy' Peters

Aussie, Queer & Country

LGBT themed fiction with an Aussie flavour, reviews, observations and real life LGBT histories.

W: https://ponyboysplace.wordpress.com/vocal-media-index/

E: [email protected]

https://www.facebook.com/mark.p.peters/

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