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The Seventeenth Summer (Ch 15)

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

By Mark 'Ponyboy' PetersPublished 5 months ago 19 min read
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Original image by Janan Lagerwall on Unsplash.com https://unsplash.com/photos/8NuDsZegIpQ

Chapter Fifteen

As he headed toward the centre of town, down darkened, tree-lined streets, Danny’s head was a jumble of emotions. He was excited by the thought of seeing Jake again, even if he was still concerned about the way in which he had been acting when they had left him earlier. He was also worried about what his mother had been saying about his stepfather being home tomorrow.

How had life suddenly become so complicated, he wondered?

He was still turning all this over in his mind when he rode through the entrance of the caravan park and made for the cabin Jake was staying in. What he wasn’t prepared for, however, was the sight the greeted him when he arrived . . . that of Jake packing his belongings into his van.

‘What’s going on?’ Danny asked as he dropped his bike beside the roadway and stood watching Jake.

‘I’m sorry, mate, but I’m heading out,’ Jake replied, while barely skipping a beat.

‘You’re what? But why?’ Danny pleaded. ‘I don’t understand.’

For a moment Jake stopped and looked at Danny, taking in the defiant stance and the quivering bottom lip of the boy he had come to care so much for in such a short period of time.

‘I thought you . . . I thought you loved me . . .’ Danny said, almost in a whisper.

‘It’s not about that,’ Jake replied, as he nervously glanced about to see if there were any prying eyes or ears around.

‘Then what is it about?’ Danny snapped at Jake, with his voice suddenly raised. ‘What is it that is so fucking important that you would sneak out in the middle of the fucking night, without even saying goodbye?’

‘Dan . . . just take it easy. It’s not like that . . . let’s go inside and talk about it. It’ll all make sense when I explain,’ Jake replied, as he placed a gentle hand on Danny’s shoulder.

Immediately Danny pushed Jake’s hand away, then backed away a few steps. ‘All I know is that you’re packing up and pulling out . . . that isn’t too fucking hard to understand.’

‘Dan . . .’ Jake repeated, as he took a step toward the boy. All he wanted to do was wrap him up in his arms and hold him, but Danny wanted none of that. He stepped backwards yet again, the pain on his face clearly evident, then before Jake could even react Danny turned and ran, leaving his bike where it lay, with one wheel still spinning.

‘Fuck!’ Jake quietly cursed, as he watched Danny get swallowed up by the night.

He could see that Danny was heading toward the path through to the beach, so he set off after him. Jake didn’t think that he would get very far before running out of steam, and so he let him go, just following along at a slower pace, knowing that sooner or later Danny would run himself out and Jake would find him on the beach, alone and angry, and waiting for an explanation.

When Jake reached the beach he could see the silver outline of waves crashing upon it, illuminated by the faint light coming from the sliver of a moon and the stars. The beach itself was dark and a cool wind was now blowing in, but as he looked up and down its length he could see a dark shape slumped upon the sand, not too far away from him, so he headed toward it, quietly confident that it would prove to be Danny.

Once close enough he knew he was right. It was Danny, and he was sitting on the beach, with his knees drawn up to his chest, while sobs could be heard in the lull between waves crashing onto the beach.

Without saying a word Jake sat down on the beach beside Danny, then placed an arm around the boy’s shoulders and pulled him closer.

‘I know you’re probably mad at me, but it’s not what you were thinking, Dan. It wasn’t you I was running out on,’ he said quietly.

Danny said nothing, so Jake continued.

‘After what happened to Frank’s car, I just can’t stay here right now . . .’

For a while nothing more was said, but eventually Danny lifted his head and gazed at Jake.

‘Why not?’ he asked. ‘It’s not like the sarge, or anyone else, knows it was Frank who attacked you. So you’re not likely to get in any trouble. So what difference does it make?’

‘But Frank and his mate know who it was they attacked, and what they did, and now it’s painted up the side of Frank’s car . . . so who do you think Frank will blame for it?’

‘Oh, fuck!’

‘There’s no telling what might happen if I hang around here, so it’s probably safest if I just clear out early and head home to see the folks, at least for a while . . . until things blow over.’

‘But you’ll be coming back, won’t you?’ Danny pleaded.

‘Of course I will.’

‘But when?’

‘Just as soon as I find something,’ Jake replied.

‘Like what?’

‘Utopia,’ answered Jake.

For a few moments Danny looked up at him in the near complete darkness, feeling confused, but then he recalled one of their recent conversations and it finally dawned on him.

‘I’ll be right here waiting for you,’ Danny cried, as he threw his arms around Jake.

‘You bloody well better be,’ Jake replied, before cupping Danny’s face in his hands and kissing him.

It was near midnight when Jake finally pulled out of the caravan park, after having finished the packing of his van and spending some time chatting with Danny, all the while holding him close in the darkness, inside the front of his panel van. Not wanting a big, emotional scene – for either of them – he had sent Danny away after one last kiss, but not before handing him a small package.

‘What’s this?’ Danny asked, while struggling to hold back tears.

‘I heard that your birthday wasn’t far away,’ Jake replied. ‘Open it after I’m gone.’

Danny hadn’t wanted to go, of course, but Jake insisted. ‘It’ll be better this way,’ Jake promised.

‘For who?’ Danny demanded to know.

‘For both of us. Now, I want you to go home, and I want you to remember that I’ll be thinking of you every single moment until I come back for you.’

As Jake climbed from the vehicle to return to the cabin one last time, so too did Danny. He watched as Jake opened the cabin door and disappeared inside, but not before turning and saying, ‘Please go home, Danny. Have a great birthday and Christmas and I promise I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.’ Then he closed the door between them.

Danny couldn’t know it, but as he walked a few unsteady steps across to where his bike was lying, Jake was standing with his back against the inside of the door, with tears streaming down his face. Jake didn’t want to go, but for his own safety and the safety of the boy he loved, he felt that he had no choice.

Reluctantly, Danny picked up his bike and threw a leg over the bar, before perching himself on the seat. As he sat there staring at the cabin door, struggling to understand why Jake wanted it this way, he was having difficulty holding back his own tears.

‘Maybe it’s because Jake is feeling the same way?’ he silently wondered.

After a few moments of thought he decided that he needed to do what Jake asked of him, and so he shoved the package he was holding into the waistband of his shorts, then turned away from the cabin and started pedaling along the roadway. Danny passed beneath the street lights that were set at intervals along the roadways within the caravan park, riding past cabins and caravans that were in darkness, past the house and the shop just inside the main entrance and on either side of the roadway, before eventually then turning onto the street outside the caravan park. It was here that he rode around in a circle on the road, contemplating for one last time whether he should continue on home, when he heard the motor of Jake’s panel van start up, shattering the quiet night with its deep sound.

Danny stopped where he was, which was in the shadows cast by a leafy tree not far from the entrance, and listened as Jake’s van made its way toward the entrance.

Across the road a dog barked, startling Danny, then he saw the car’s lights splash out onto the road just in front of where he stood, hidden, before soon passing through the entrance way and turning left, directly in front of him. He saw Jake for one last time and held his breath, wanting Jake to see him, but at the same time hoping that he wouldn’t. Then all of a sudden it was too late for anything, as Jake put the accelerator down. The very air around Danny felt as if it were trembling as the sound of the big motor reverberated off every surface, and as he watched the tail lights grow smaller, and heard the sound start to fade away, a fresh wave of tears came to him.

For a few moments he simply stood there, letting the darkness and the quiet of the night swallow him once more, as he thought about what to do next.

In the end he decided against going home. Instead, he turned around and started riding north, parallel with the beach; his destination the lighthouse, whose white walls he could see gleaming in the pale moonlight.

In his almost seventeen years on this earth, Danny had never seen the sun rise. Not once.

Until today, that is.

Somehow he had managed to sleep through most of the night, after finding a park bench near the lighthouse, which looked out over the town, but when that cold, pre-dawn shift came through he was soon awake, hugging himself as he tried to keep warm, but failing miserably.

In the end he started walking around the headland in the pale light and as the eastern sky began to lighten, turning all sorts of different shades and colours, he ended up sitting with his back against the lighthouse wall, spellbound by the show that was playing out before him.

God how he wished he would one day be able to paint that, and actually do it justice.

It was then that he remembered the package that Jake had given him, which was currently still sticking into his sides, so he pulled it from the confines of his shorts and studied it, turning it over in his hands and feeling the shape of it.

It felt like it was a book. But there was also something else inside the package.

‘Stuff waiting until my birthday,’ he said to himself, as he tore open one end, before taking a look inside.

He was right; it was a book, but he could also see a piece of leather thong sticking out, and when he pulled on that he was rewarded with a shark’s tooth necklace.

Holding it up in front of him the silver clasp that held the shark’s tooth flashed brilliantly as the first rays of sunlight struck it.

‘Very nice,’ he said quietly to himself, before quickly pulling it over his head, not bothering to put it inside his t-shirt.

Turning his attention back to the parcel he ripped the paper away, to reveal a paperback style book.

The Art of Colour and Light, the title read, and as he flicked through the pages, starting at the back, by habit, as he often seemed to do, he found it to be filled with methods and tips and ideas to help create the perfect painting.

When he reached the title page at the front of the book he found an inscription, which stopped him cold.

‘For Danny,’ the inscription began. ‘The most beautiful boy in the world. Inside and out. Happy Birthday. With lots of love, from Jake.’

He knew then that he wouldn’t be able to let anyone else see that inscription . . . especially not Nate, or his parents . . . yet he also knew that he wanted to keep these gifts close to him. Forever.

‘So there you are! I’ve been searching everywhere for you,’ the voice said, startling Danny from his reading. He looked up to see Nate making the last short climb to the top of the headland.

‘Well, I guess you found me,’ Danny replied.

‘I saw the sun reflecting off something up this way,’ Nate said, answering the question that had begun to form in Danny’s mind. ‘And when I saw that Jake had cleared out, well, I figured I should check it out and see if it was you.’

Danny simply shrugged as Nate sat down beside him.

‘So, what’s happened? And how come you didn’t go home last night? Your mum is worried as all get out, she called home this morning all in a panic, but I told her I’d try and find you . . .’

Danny couldn’t answer him. He could only shake his head, unsure if he was going to be able to trust his voice.

‘Are you okay? He didn’t try something with you, did he?’

At that Danny’s head shot up and he looked Nate square in the eyes.

‘He’s gone home, that’s all,’ Danny replied, in a voice that even to him sounded defensive.

‘But why the rush? Something must have happened.’

‘I’ll tell you what happened . . . Lachie happened!’

‘Huh? What do you mean?’

‘The stunt with Frank’s car . . . nobody would think to connect Frank with what happened to Jake . . . or at least, nobody but Frank would! So, who do you think will be the first person Frank would have thought of when he saw words like rapist plastered up the side of his car? Who would know that’s what he was . . . apart from the person who got raped?’

‘Oh, Jesus! So that’s why he left in a hurry?’

‘Yeah, he didn’t want to run into Frank again, you know!’

They both fell silent, as they contemplated what it all meant.

From where they both sat, with their backs against the wall of the lighthouse, they could see the town spread out below them, looking like a picture from one of the postcards that could be bought in the local news agency. The white sandy beaches, the sapphire blue waters of the ocean and the lake and the harbour beyond that, and the deep green forest on the far side of the lake coming down from the mountains were picture perfect.

They let the silence stretch out, preferring to just take in the morning, not wanting to ruin the moment by talking, but eventually it was Nate who broke the silence.

‘So, did our mystery man say if he was coming back?’ he asked.

‘He’s visiting his folks for Christmas and then he said he wanted to check out a few other places, but he was coming back sometime after that. A couple of weeks, maybe. I’m not sure,’ Danny replied.

‘Well, it’ll sure seem quiet without him.’

‘Yeah, it will,’ Danny sighed, in an empty tone that spoke to Nate of something other than just Jake being missed. He had noticed it a few times lately when they had been talking about their new friend, and he had a suspicion as to what it meant, but it was really none of his business, so had remained silent. If Danny wanted to tell him anything more, that was up to him.

As he answered Nate, Danny moved his hand up to the shark’s tooth that was now around his neck. It was an action that didn’t go unnoticed. Nate also took note of the wrapping paper sitting on the ground between them, and the book that was sitting face down upon it.

‘What’s that around your neck?’ Nate asked his friend. ‘Since when did you start wearing a necklace?’

At that same time Nate reached for the book. Danny went to stop him, but was too slow, and when he saw Nate open it to the first page he felt a cold shiver go right through his entire body, while his guts shriveled up into a tight ball.

Nate read the inscription, then flicked through the pages, before placing the book back where he had picked it up from.

At first he said nothing. Danny was waiting for it . . . the accusations . . . the hatred . . . everything that a guy like him could usually expect, but none of it came. Instead, Nate just bumped shoulders with him and said, ‘He’ll be back.’

‘I guess,’ Danny replied, not quite knowing what else to say.

‘He’d be mad not to,’ Nate added. ‘I mean, just look at the place?’ he said, as he waved a hand toward the town.

‘Yeah, I suppose, but . . .’

‘But, what?’

‘Well, do you think it’s a place worth coming back to? I mean, don’t you ever wonder what else is out there, just waiting for us?’ Danny asked. ‘There’s got to be so much more to the world than just what’s around this town, don’t you think?’

‘Well, yeah, I guess there is.’

‘So, don’t you wish you could get out of this backwater and see it for yourself?’

‘Maybe someday,’ Nate replied.

‘Well, that’s what I want to do . . .’

‘Who with?’ Nate asked sharply.

Danny looked at his friend. He so wanted to tell him everything, but he was still afraid. Afraid that his best friend wouldn’t understand. Afraid that his best friend would hate him for what he needed to tell him.

‘With Jake?’ Nate eventually asked.

Danny nodded slightly, but inside his stomach was turning somersaults and his heart was feeling as if someone had reached inside his chest and just squeezed.

Nate could see the pained expression on his friend’s face and it looked as if his suspicions were about to be confirmed. He guessed that something like this could happen one day, but even then it still came as something of a surprise. And as he sat and thought about it, though, everything really did start to make sense. The amount of time that Danny and Jake had been spending together . . . the fact that Jake had hung around for so much longer than he had originally intended . . . and how happy they both seemed when they were together.

It didn’t bother him like he had once thought it might if something like this did actually happen. In fact he smiled to himself at the thought of the two of them together. They actually made a cute couple, he found himself thinking, although he also knew that their other friends may not quite see it the same way.

‘So, Jake’s your ticket out of here, then?’ Nate eventually asked.

‘I guess you could say that . . . he wants me to go with him.’

For a minute or so nothing more was said

‘And is that all he is to you?’ Nate enquired.

For a long time nothing more was said, as Nate sat studying his friend, searching his face for some sign.

‘No,’ Danny eventually replied, as he shook his head from side to side. He didn’t know how he could tell his best friend that he was in love with a guy, even if Nate had already worked that part out for himself, had accepted that guy as a friend and shown no hint of ever having a problem with someone being homosexual.

‘Yeah, that’s what I thought.’

More silence followed as the two friends studied each other. Nate was the first to break out into a grin. Danny soon followed.

‘So, you’re not mad at me?’ Danny eventually asked.

‘Fuck, why would I be mad at you? You’re my best friend . . . probably the best friend I’ll ever have . . . I love you, man.’

‘Even if I’m queer, just like Jake.’

‘Even then.’

‘And even if I go, and I leave you here all alone in this miserable place?’

‘It’s not really that miserable,’ Nate pouted. ‘And besides, I’ll still have Thomas and Pat!’

‘Oh, please!’ Danny chuckled.

‘I might be a bit jealous though,’ added Nate.

‘Jealous? What of?’

‘Yeah, man. Jealous . . . of you! You’ll be seeing parts of the country that I’ve only ever dreamed of seeing. You’ll be a Sandman, living the life, doing stuff you love doing . . . and you’ll definitely be getting more sex than me. You’ll have it made, and I’ll still be stuck right here!’

‘It won’t be forever though,’ Danny said. ‘And I’ll come back . . . and maybe you can come visit and stay with us or something . . .’

‘Yeah, maybe,’ Nate replied, but Danny couldn’t help but pick up on that hint of sadness in his friend’s voice.

After getting to his feet he held out a hand for Nate and he pulled him to his feet as well. The two of them just looked at each other for a long time, smiling, before Danny reached out and pulled his best friend into a hug.

‘No matter what happens . . . I’m never going to forget you, you know,’ Danny whispered as he held Nate tight for a long time.

‘As if you ever could,’ Nate replied with a laugh, before then surprising Danny and kissing him on the cheek.

To be continued...

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I am continuing to upload this story with new chapters, but if you don't want to wait that long you can always purchase the completed novel in print, or as an e-book, here . . . https://books2read.com/u/mg1dyv

Thank you for your support! :)

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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