Happy Trails

Chapter 5


His eyes widened and he stared at me—shocked, most likely. My mouth closed with an audible snap and he looked away from me, blushing. "Sorry," he said sheepishly. "I shouldn't have pushed you like that."

"No," I drawled, "it's fine. Really."

He looked back up at me, guilt written all over his face. "I really am sorry. Do you…you know, want to talk about it?"

I gave him a look that showed what I was thinking: How stupid could you get? "Yeah, Mitchell, I want to spill my poor, abused soul out to you; how's that?"

His eyes turned sharp and he said, "I was only asking. God, Tony, lighten up."

I rolled my eyes and turned back over so he couldn't see my face. "I liked you better before."

"I pitied you more before," he threw back. I didn't bother with a response, instead closing my eyes and preparing to go to sleep. I heard him get up and turn off the light, then hover near the door. I wondered why he wasn't climbing back into his bed when I felt my own go down with his weight.

"Tony," he said quietly, "I'm real sorry, ok? I didn't mean that—what I said a few minutes ago—I was just frustrated. I don't like not knowing what happened, not knowing how to help you. Understand that, kay? You don't gotta say anything, but I don't want you to go to sleep without knowing that."

I rolled over onto my back and looked up at him. I could make out his face, his features, in the moonlight streaming in through the window. "I know, Mickie."

He smiled and brushed a hand over my head, combing my hair back from my face. "Night, you goof."

"Hey," I said, grabbing his hand. "I'll tell ya if you want me to."

"You sure?" He asked carefully. "I don't want to make you."

"You're not, don't worry." He nodded and scooted back on my bed so he could lean against the wall. I sat up and propped myself up against the headboard so I could face him. "So, like, there was this counselor at my Junior High named Daniel Perkins. He…he helped me out a lot, ya know? What with my dad and all. He understood that I needed a dad and he was one." I smiled, remembering hanging out with him, baseball games and midnight pig-outs. "We'd hang out all of the time: weekends, evenings; I even spent the night a few times since my mom was ok with him and all. But when I turned fourteen and was heading into high school, he…invited me over and…" I trailed off, unsure how to continue. I felt the bed shift as Mitch scooted towards me.

"It's ok; go on."

I took a deep breath and continued. "I was going to watch some movies; it was the Saturday before school started back and it was about eight that night. We'd just sat down to watch an old Batman movie when he…sat down right next to me and started…touching me." My voice cracked on the last word and I couldn't keep talking.

Mitch picked up my hand and squeezed it. "I'm so sorry, Antony."

"I know you are." I couldn't focus on the fact that my hand was in his or that I was leaning on him or that I could smell him or that this was the closest I'd ever been and would ever be to him. I could only picture the night Perkins touched me, his hand sliding into my lap much as Mitch's had—but he wasn't grabbing my hand.

I could see, clearly, how I'd jumped up in surprise and he'd calmed me down with his slick words, how he'd gotten me back on the couch and convinced me it was ok to do what he wanted. How he'd persuaded me to undress until I'd felt too uncomfortable and tried to pull them back on. Then he'd forced me into the sofa cushions and would have made me go all the way if the doorbell hadn't rung with the pizza delivery.

Then I'd been able to get dressed and run out of the house, past the confused delivery guy, and all the way to the closet pay phone, two miles away in town. I could remember every word of my conversation with my mom, how awkward and hard it'd been to lie and tell her we'd finished the movies early and I needed to be picked up.

No, with all of that running through my head I couldn't focus on the amazing guy next to me. But, slowly, I was able to. As I was, I came to realize just how close we were. "Mickie?" I whispered.

"Yeah?" I didn't answer, instead sliding down the bed until I could lean my head against his shoulder and hold his hand and fall asleep with the man I loved even though he didn't know it.


The next morning, I woke up with Mitch's arms around me, my back to his chest. I carefully, so as not to wake him, reached up and rubbed my eyes so I could see the clock. It was only seven. Since breakfast wasn't for another hour, I closed my eyes and relaxed in his arms, enjoying the feel of them.

Despite the evening before, I was calm, happy even. I had moved on since that time five years ago and had decided quickly not to let it affect me. When I'd finally decided I was gay, I realized I'd always have the aftermath of that hour impressed on my life, but I figured it was to make me remember what had happened—as if I could ever forget.

Mitch shifted and rolled onto his back, yawning. "What time is it?" He asked tiredly.

"Seven-fifteen," I answered quietly.

"Oh. Good morning," he said, surprised to find himself in my bed. "Um. I'm going to go get a shower, I guess. You ok?"

I glanced over my shoulder at him and smiled. "Yeah, I'm fine. Go get your shower, kay?"

He nodded and left, grabbing some clothes before walking into the bathroom, the door closing soundly behind him. As I lay there, I considered what today would be like. Obviously Mitch and I had grown closer; I'd achieved my intended goal of bringing us closer together through our past. But now that I'd had the affect I wanted, I was unsure how to proceed. Would we be better friends, or was there a possibility that I could confess I was gay and win his love? Would he even care if I told him, or would he care a lot—say, enough to love me back? But, no, I told myself, he probably wouldn't. Why would he? I was a pretty messed up package, complete with a history and a rather unlikable personality; would he be able to see past that?

I sighed and got up. It wasn't worth worrying about now.


That morning, while at the pool with our cabins, Mitch was standing next to me, trying to convince me to swim. "I'll save you if you drown," he promised.

"Great," I drawled, "now my life's in your hands."

"What, you don't trust me?" He asked, obviously offended.

"Of course I trust you; I just don't trust your skills as a lifeguard."

He looked scornful as he said, "You think I'd let you drown?"

"Not on purpose," I said that 'duh' tone of voice. "But maybe, yeah."

He turned away from me and watched the kids as they swam laps, played water Frisbee, and lay out in the sun. "You could use floats."

"God, Mitch," I said, "what am I, five?"

"No," he snapped, "but you're acting like it!" My mouth snapped closed at that and I glared at him. He sighed and reached out a hand to pat my arm, but stopped before it touched me. "Sorry—that was uncalled for."

"Whatever."

"Tony, listen to me: I will save you if you go under. Please believe me." He was begging me now; I could hear it in his voice. But I couldn't seem to make myself trust him. Water was scary, especially when you'd never been able to swim and you knew you'd drown if you were pushed in.

"I want to," I finally admitted. "But it's…scary." I mumbled the last bit and he had to lean forward to hear it.

"Scary?" He said, half-grinning. "Well, I promise you, swimming with me is not scary—it's fun!"

I looked at him skeptically. "Whatever." He continued to stand there; he wouldn't go in if I wouldn't. I suddenly felt bad for making him stay when he obviously wanted to go in. "Fine," I sighed. "I'll go in."

"Yay!" He cried, grabbing my arm and dragging me into the cool water. "Hey, guys!" He yelled. "Tony can't swim so I'm gonna teach him; make sure ya'll don't pull any crap while he's trying to learn, kay?"

I glared at him while the boys nodded, a few sniggering behind their hands. "You had to announce to everyone that I couldn't swim?"

He grinned sheepishly and shrugged. "You ready?"

I looked at the deeper water and sighed. "Ready as I'll ever be to die." He ignored my comment and slowly led me in until it was up to my stomach.

"Kay, now here's what you do. When you pull your feet out from under you," he demonstrated each move as he told it to me, "you kick your feet back and forth while pushing up and down with your arms; this keeps you afloat and doesn't move you. Understand?"

"Do I look retarded?" I snapped.

"Then try it." I did as he said, but when I pulled my feet out from under me, my head went under the water and I started to panic. I kicked my feet and pushed my arms and did everything he said but the water was still over my head and in my mouth and up my nose. Frantically, I planted my feet back on the floor of the pool and pushed my head out of the water. "What the heck?!" I exclaimed while coughing.

"Sorry!" He said, "I thought you'd get it if I just gave you a second. Try again, ok? And this time I'll help you keep your head above water so you don't panic."

"I wasn't panicking," I grumbled, even while I tried to think of a way out of this. I couldn't, though. Mitch came over and held my arms as I pulled my feet back out from under me and started kicking my legs. He let go and I pushed my arms and floated in the water, my knees bent up since we were still in pretty shallow water.

"Hey, you're doing it!" Mitch exclaimed, excited. "Awesome! Let's go deeper." He showed me how to swim, demonstrating the way you stroked your arms and pushed with your legs. I easily got it and soon we were floating in the deep end at six feet; it was only a couple of inches for him to reach the bottom, but it was a good five or six for me.

"This is so cool," I breathed, amazed that I was actually swimming.

"Sorry you didn't learn sooner?" He asked, grinning.

"Yeah."

"Well now you can do it; maybe not well, but good enough to get in a pool."

I smiled at him and said, "Thanks for teaching me."

"You're welcome." He said, then asked, "Do you trust me now?"

I considered it for a second, then nodded. "Yeah, I think I do."


A/N: I am so sorry for the late update! Please forgive me! Thanks to those who reviewed and please leave a review and let me know what you thought of this chapter! Thanks :)