It was the weekend that I had been waiting for since the middle of winter. I was finally out of school and I had a week until I started my summer job as a lifeguard. I was sitting on the deck overlooking Cape Cod Bay, staring aimlessly out at the water, letting the repetitive crashing of the waves hypnotize me. Maybe later I'd make my way down to the beach. The summer crowd had yet to hit the Cape, so there wouldn't be many people there.

About an hour later, I found myself being awakened from my dazed, half-asleep state by two cars pulling into the gravel driveway of the house next to us. The owners rented it out for the summers, and it looked like our summer neighbors were here early. I hoisted myself out of the deck chair that I had been occupying and groggily padded inside the house. My mom was sitting at the table looking through the mail and my dad was out in the back yard, planting grass that would grow in the sand. I hated the stuff. It was rough and it felt like razors against your bare skin when you walked through it in the sand, but it looked nice, so I guess that's why he wanted it there.

I poured myself a glass of lemonade from the pitcher that was sitting out on the counter and sat down at the table across from my mom. "Our new neighbors just pulled in to the house next door," I said.

"Why don't you go over and help them unload?" she said. "You could use something to do." She looked up and smiled at me.

"Very funny, mom. I think I'll just go out on the deck and sleep some more."

"They might have a girl your age. A summer romance might be fun," she added, jokingly.

"Right, mom," I said, shortly and took my lemonade out on the deck. I tried to be inconspicuous as I glanced over at the people unpacking the cars. There was a middle aged man and a middle aged woman with a younger girl, probably about twelve. Another figure made its way down the shadowed staircase from the front door, and when it appeared in full light, it turned out to be a teenaged boy, about my age. Well, now that there was the potential of not having to drive all the way out to the mainland to meet up with my friends from school, maybe my summer would be a little more interesting.

Just as I had begun to ignore the new people next door, my little sister came bounding out onto the deck, her blonde hair bouncing in her ponytail.

"Danny, Danny! Guess what!" she exclaimed, happily.

Taking the bait, I answered. "What?"

"We have summer neighbors!" she said, loud enough so that the adults unloading the car smiled and looked up at her, and the boy a few seconds after. I met his eyes, but quickly turned away to my sister.

"Shhh...not so loud, Ker."

"They have a girl my age," she whispered excitedly.

"Why don't you go over and see if she wants to play? I'm sure she'll be happy to see someone her age," I suggested, sounding all too much like my parents.

"Okay. I'll see if the boy wants to be friends with you, too."

I smiled, "Okay, you do that."

I watched her bound down the steps and run over the grass to the gravel driveway, which she painstakingly crossed in her bare feet. As she boldly introduced herself to our new neighbors, I made my way back inside the house to avoid being the topic of conversation for my sister.

"Kiera's already introducing herself to the neighbors," I announced, as I shut the sliding screen door.

My mom laughed, but then said, "You should have gone with her. I thought I saw a boy about your age. You two could go into town together and meet all the girls in for the summer. They'll be looking for guys."

"Mom, why are you all of a sudden intent on me meeting girls? I thought you didn't want me to date."

"All your friends are dating, and they've been dating since the beginning of the year. I didn't really expect you to follow my rules," she replied.

I shook my head. "Whatever. I don't want to talk about this."

I made my escape quickly, avoiding anymore conversation. I let myself out through the basement and wandered down the gravel driveway, gingerly picking my way through the sharp pebbles in my bare feet. I reached the street and walked along the side of the road where sand covered it, the only protection from the worn, hot asphalt underneath. I was at the familiar entrance to the beach in less than five minutes and the sand and dried seaweed were just a happy reminder of the summer to come. I ran down the sandy hill to the cliff of huge rocks, with more summer homes on top, the long grass waving in the wind. I picked a rock and sat down on it, letting my feet dangle into the waves rolling in and out. The tide was coming in, and the water would cover the rock I was sitting on in less than a half-hour.

What seemed like only a few minutes later, I heard someone else come down the sandy hill. I looked up, a little annoyed at not having the beach all to myself. My eyes met those of the boy who was staying at the house next to us. I should have expected as much, besides our house, that one was probably the only other occupied one. Most summer vacationers didn't move in until late June, when everyone from everywhere was out of school.

I decided to be friendly, since I'd most likely be stuck with this guy as a neighbor, possibly friend, for the next three months. "Hey. You part of the family that's staying in the house next to us?"

He smiled, obviously a little relieved at not having to introduce himself right off the bat. "Yeah. All summer. Till the third week in August, I think."

The sea breeze ruffled his brown, spiked hair that had a little bit of a cleaner cut than my messily gelled, blonde hair. "I'm Danny," I said, moving over on the boulder to offer him a seat.

"Matt. You from here?"

"Yeah, I'm hear year-round. Everyone else just seems to come and go with the seasons. How about you? You're not one of the regular summer visitors. We know pretty much everyone who comes around for the summer season."

"My uncle works with the guy who owns the house, and told my parents that a summer out here would be the best vacation that they've ever taken. We're from Rhode Island," he said, with a small smirk. "I don't know how it could be much different, I mean, it's still the Atlantic Ocean, and it's still the East Coast, but hey, they took his advice, and here we are."

"You have your license?" I asked.

"Yeah. Got it a few months ago. Why? Are there exciting places to go around here?"

I laughed. "Some people like to think so. It is interesting, and I can't say I don't like it, because I love it. From here you can go to Eastham, which is closest, or Orleans, or Chatham...they're all relatively close. If you want, there's a minor league baseball game going on tonight in Orleans. You want to go?"

Matt smiled, looking relieved again that he didn't have to force anything. I didn't know why I wasn't being my usual distant self. I usually didn't hit it off too well with summer visitors, male or female, but there was something about Matt that just made me want to be friendly. "That would be great," he said. "After six or seven hours in a car with my mom and sister, I'd give anything to get away from my family."

"Six or seven hours? From Rhode Island?"

"We got lost. And rest stops. Lots of them."

I laughed. "Well, meet me at my house at seven, bring a sweatshirt, blanket, and lots of bug spray. You'll need it, and if you don't, everyone sitting around you will use it for you."

"Okay." Matt jumped up as he heard a noise behind us and recognized his dad.

"Oh, hey dad, " he said. I stood up and made an effort to look angelic. "This is Danny, he lives next to us."

"Hi, Danny."

"Hi, nice to meet you Mr...." I trailed off, realizing I didn't know his last name.

"Just call me Mark. It's nice to meet you, too."

I smiled, and let him talk to Matt quickly. I heard Matt mention the baseball game, and Mark seemed fine with him going.

Matt approached me again and said, "Well, I have orders to go unpack and get settled into my room, but I'll see you at seven, then."

"Okay. See you then."

"Bye." He took off with his dad, who was animatedly talking about the fishing he was planning on doing the entire summer.

That night I was cleaning out my Jeep and throwing things that I'd need for the baseball game when Matt appeared and stuck his head in the trunk beside me. "Hey. Sorry, I'm a little early, I was a little anxious to get away from my family. They're all tired and my sister is starting to whine."

"Speaking of your sister, did she meet Kiera?"

"The blonde bombshell that came bounding over as soon as we stepped out of the car?" he said with a laugh. "Yeah, they met and talked for hours. They were trying to act like real teenagers, laying out in the sun in their swimsuits trying to get a tan and talking about cute boys. You were being mentioned. Apparently Jenny thinks you're hot stuff."

I laughed. "Well, I'll make sure to make a few shirtless appearances, just to make her happy."

"Oh, please, don't encourage it," groaned Matt. "She'll latch onto anything teenage, tan, and male. Unfortunately, you fit all three."

"Well, if it helps any, I'll try not to encourage it, but I wouldn't be surprised if Ker has ulterior motives for wanting you and me to best friends so you can hang out around our place and she can ogle."

I pulled my head out of the trunk and motioned for Matt to put his stuff in it. "Looks like we're in for the attack of the pre-teen girls all summer, huh?" he said, shutting the trunk.

I made a face. "Not if I can help it. My mom is determined to get me a girlfriend this summer, which means the more I'm out of the house, the better. Well, looks like we're ready to go. I just have to grab my keys. Wanna come inside and meet the parental unit?"

"You make it sound like I'm your date in need of interrogation," Matt mused.

"Well, just a forewarning," I replied with a smirk.

He followed me up the stairs into the lit up kitchen where the smells from dinner were still lingering. I grabbed my keys, hoping for a quick exit. "Hey mom and dad," I said. "Matt and I are going now. Matt, these are my parents. Mom, dad, this is Matt."

"Hi, Matt," my mom said, from the table. "You can call me Jane." Matt went over and shook her hand and my dad's.

"Hi, Matt. Nice to meet you. I'm Robert. Are you staying for the summer?"

"Nice to meet you too, Robert. Yeah, we're here till late August."

"Well, hopefully you'll meet plenty of people to hang out with around here. The rest of the summer crowd should be coming in about another week. You boys had better get going though if you want to make it to the game on time."

"Right, dad. Okay, well, we'll be back around ten or eleven," I said, and nearly shoved Matt out the door to avoid any more conversation with my parents, who seemed intent on getting me to socialize with anything breathing and female over the age of fourteen.

"Nice parents. I think our families are going to get along almost too well," Matt commented.

"As long as none of your female cousins or friends come to visit, my parents will be normal. Teenage girl shows up and they will bind her and gag her, throw her in the front seat of my car and make me take her to the movies," I said, as I started the car and backed out of the driveway.

"Why are they so intent on getting you hooked up? Are they trying to marry you off already?"

"No." I hesitated before continuing. "My dad's youngest brother just announced that he was gay, and I think my parents are terrified that I'll be, too, although I don't quite understand their thought process."

"Are you?" Matt asked, a little uncomfortably.

"Not as far as I'm aware," I replied, adding a joking tone on to lighten the mood. He relaxed a little and I decided to change the subject.

"So do you play baseball?" I asked.

"Nope. I run track. Do you?"

"I used to. Now I swim and I used to dance," I said, knowing what the first thought that popped into Matt's head would be. He didn't seem too fazed when he gave his reply.

"Dance? Really? What kind?"

"Irish dance."

"Is that like Riverdance?"

"Yeah. There's more boys involved in it than you might think. I met one of my friends there, but we go to different high schools now," I said. "I stopped when I got into high school because I was too self-conscious about it," I paused a second and added, "You're actually the only person besides this girl that I know that knows that, so if you ever meet any of my friends over the summer, keep it quiet."

"It's nothing to be ashamed about. I think anyone who can move his or her feet like that is really talented. I have this strange notion that I'd trip and fall flat on my face."

"I've seen it happen, and I've done it myself once or twice."

"You'll have to show me sometime," he said, sounding sincere.

"Really? You want to see?"

"I think it's cool, don't I? Of course I want to see. Do you still have the shoes that make the noise?" he asked.

"Yeah, I'll have to find them and see if they still fit. If not, I can dance in tennis shoes. Give me a few days and I'll re-teach myself the steps."

"So I can expect a one-man Riverdance show at the end of the week?"

I laughed. "Sure, if you want to call it that."

We moved on to another subject and by the time we reached the baseball game, we had covered what there was to do where I lived, past relationships, school, sports, and we had made plans to hang out for the rest of the summer. I couldn't help but wonder if there was something different about Matt that made me want to open up to him like I did. Even with the friends I had now, male or female, I had never had a long conversation about anything with them; it was just the way we were. The girls talked incessantly amongst themselves, but when it was me with a few other guys, there wasn't too much said. Matt, whom I had just met earlier in the day, sparked a half hour long conversation that would continue throughout the baseball game. He wasn't judgmental at all, and he seemed interested in everything I had to say. On the flip side, he was an interesting person himself, and, I admitted to myself, quite attractive.

As I lay in bed that night, I wondered where and when that thought had made itself acceptable in my head. It was probably my artistic side noticing aesthetic beauty...and it wasn't like there was any attraction to him. He was just attractive, and that was that. As I drifted off to sleep listening to the waves, the new thoughts battled with my common sense, forming an issue that I would probably spend hours thinking about the next day. When I wasn't around Matt, of course.

My resolve to not think about it when Matt was around didn't last long. I didn't see him every day once I started lifeguarding, but a couple weekends after we had first met, we spent the whole weekend together, and I couldn't help but start to wonder what exactly my thoughts two weekends ago meant.

Matt and I were lounging on the beach in t-shirts and swim trunks under an umbrella, watching our little sisters play in the water. My dad and I had put our boat in the weekend before, and this summer I was able to take it out all by myself. My sight drifted to where it was anchored in the water, quite a ways out, but not an unsafe distance. I looked over at Matt, only to find him watching me. I smiled at him and noticed two girls staring at us, only a little distance from our spot.

"We have stalkers," I said.

Matt looked where I was looking and replied, laughing, "They're free to look. It's just flirting...nothing harmful in that. I don't know about you, though, but I'm not really interested."

"Me neither," I replied, and then dared to venture a little farther. "I don't get it. According to my parents, I should be a walking hormone and drool over anything female. And I don't, and I don't want to. I mean, I find some of them attractive, but that's it." I shrugged and added, "Guess I'm just weird like that."

Matt laughed. "No, don't worry, I know what you mean. You wanna go in the water?"

"I have a better idea," I replied, standing up and dusting sand off myself. I held up a set of keys and said, "I'll race you to our boat."

Matt looked like game as he replied, standing up, "Which one?"

I pointed into the bay at a white boat with a navy blue cover. "That one. You ever been out on Cape Cod Bay?"

"Nope, but it looks like I'm going to be," he replied, and started running toward the water.

We both ran, splashing, into the salty water, and started swimming as soon as it got deep enough. I shouted to Kiera what we were doing as I passed her, and she shouted that she'd let my parents know. Matt and I raced, swimming, out to the boat. He almost beat me, but my lifeguard training gave me a little bit of an edge.

Laughing, I hoisted myself up onto the boat and dropped down the ladder. Matt climbed up and I gave him a hand so he wouldn't slip on the deck.

"Would you mind pulling the cover back? I have to get this running."

It took about ten minutes, and then we were all ready to go. Matt smiled, and said, "Here, I'm assuming you're going to want a life preserver? I don't know about your boating skills...I'm thinking I might need this when I get catapulted overboard."

"Ha ha ha, funny, Matt. But put it on anyway. Sit down here by me, and later you can sit in the front. That's the most fun. I think we're-"

I was interrupted by Kiera shouting at me while swimming to the boat. "Mom says you have to take us out, too," she said, climbing on deck and helping Jenny up the ladder.

I rolled my eyes where she couldn't see and sighed. "Okay, both of you put on a life vest and sit down up front and hold on," I said, as friendly as I could manage. Leave it to my mom to not trust me with Matt. I wasn't even gay, and she somehow thought we'd end up putting the moves on each other in the middle of Cape Cod Bay. Although, I had to admit, he looked pretty cute at the moment. Pushing the thought out of my head, I started the boat and sat down in the driver's seat. Matt sat in the co- captain's seat, seeming mesmerized by the endless blue expanse stretching in front of us. Looking over at him, I said, "Ready to go?"

He turned to face me and flashed me a big smile, "Yeah, I can't wait."

"Ready up there, girls?" I called.

"Yes!" they chorused.

I started the boat and started off at a slow speed for Jenny's sake, since she was up front and I assumed that she hadn't been on a boat before. Pretty soon the two girls were shouting for me to go faster, so I did. When we were clipping along at a fairly swift pace, I sat back, keeping an eye on Kiera and Jenny to make sure they were both alright.

I spared a glance at Matt, who was staring out at the water. "You okay?" I asked. I didn't need him getting sea sick.

He turned to me, seeming a little troubled, but definitely not physically. "Yeah, I'm fine. It's really pretty out here. And there aren't too many people out right now, either."

"Yeah, I like it out here. It's really peaceful on the weekdays."

We were shouting over the wind, but the girls couldn't hear us, and they were oblivious to anything that might have been said. Matt seemed to study me and he turned away again, lost in his own thoughts. That was fine with me. We had hit a patch of big waves and I had to concentrate on getting through them without flipping the two girls over the front of the boat.

After about fifteen minutes, I turned to Matt, who had been strangely quiet, and said, "I think we should head back. We can take it out again later, I just don't want to make your sister sick."

"Okay. She seems fine, though. She's checking you out," he said, cracking a smile.

I gave him a mischievous smile and said, "Steer for a second, would you?"

He stood up and reached across in front of me as I let go of the wheel. Trying not to laugh, I said, "Gosh, Matt, is it just me, or is it hot in here?"

He shook his head in defeat and had to bite his lip to keep from laughing as I stripped off my shirt and made a big show of moving around adjusting things. Jenny's eyes nearly bugged out of her head, and Matt was fighting a losing battle with laughter at his sister's expression. But he played along.

Letting me steer again, he replied, "Why, yes, I think it is, Danny. Too hot to be wearing a shirt and all." With that, he pulled off his shirt and threw it on the floor next to mine. It was obvious that the girls could have cared less about the boat ride now. We were having a hard time not laughing the entire way back to where we would drop anchor.

When we finally had the anchor in place, I walked up front and said to Kiera, "Okay, Ker. The fun's over. Matt's putting his shirt back on. Sorry you can't enjoy the view."

She blushed and stuck her tongue out at me as she and Jenny jumped off the boat and swam back to shore. Matt and I were left to recover the boat, but that was fine. My mom wasn't about to risk a Kiera tantrum and ask her to come help me.

When they were finally out of hearing range, Matt and I both broke into laughter that we had kept contained the whole way back.

I tossed both of our shirts onto the uncovered deck and climbed up to the front to take the cushions off the seats. Matt stood up and called, "Do you want help with anything?"

I looked over at him and replied, "Not at the moment. You can just sit down and chill." I considered putting my shirt back on so that he could, too, but part of me was enjoying the view and the other part of me was hoping I wouldn't get too turned on by it. Those thoughts went quickly into the "Don't think about it" section of my brain, but they just kept coming back. Matt had a similar expression on his face that I could imagine was on mine. I just didn't know if he was thinking what I was thinking.

After a few minutes of silence, Matt timidly spoke up. "Hey, Danny?"

"Yeah?" I replied, swinging back down to the middle of the boat, curious as to why he was acting so weird all of a sudden.

"Can I ask you something?"

Oh boy. This wasn't going to be a light conversation topic. "Sure, go for it." I started snapping the cover back into place. Silence followed my answer, and I didn't press for a reply.

I crawled into the little space where we kept the life preservers and seat cushions and I heard Matt ask, "Have you ever...strayed from a...heterosexual way of thinking?"

I slammed my head into the doorway on my way out. "I-don't-uh-I- what?" I stuttered. Talk about hitting the nail on the head. Two weeks I had known him and he was already inadvertently reading my mind.

"Sorry. I shouldn't have asked."

"Well...maybe...once..." I answered, refusing to meet his eyes. He was definitely the only person I would admit that to, even if he was the one who I was having less than straight thoughts about. "Why, do I seem like I have a questionable sexuality?"

"No, not at all," Matt said, quickly. "I was just wondering if I was out of the ordinary."

Ah, so that was it. Oh, how the struggle for supposed normalcy sucks.

I went to sit by him and fiddled with a snap on the plastic cover. "Is that what's been bothering you?"

"Thanks for noticing," he replied, not giving any details. "What does that make"

"Absolutely nothing," I replied. "So you've thought about how attractive a guy is or something like doesn't make you gay. Gay is just a label that gives most people a stereotype of a group of people that usually isn't true. But I can't say I haven't thought about how acting on something would totally change my life. My uncle's life and relationships have been changed forever, just because he likes guys." I stared out at the water, thinking about how cruel and heartless some people could be.

Matt stood up and rubbed my back for a second before he went to retrieve his shirt. I realized at that point that any kind of physical contact wreaked more havoc on my hormones than looking at him half naked. I grabbed my shirt, put it on inside out and backwards, and jumped over the side of the boat into the freezing water.

Matt peered over the side at me. "A little anxious to abandon ship, aren't we?"

I smiled and wiped water off my face. "Just a little." I was definitely thankful for the cold water.

Matt climbed down the ladder and lowered himself into the water, then flipped the ladder back up onto the boat. We swam back to shore and I dropped the keys on my towel. Matt looked around and said, "Hey, you won't say anything to anyone about what we discussed on the boat, right?"

"Wouldn't mention it to a soul."

He seemed relieved. "Thanks. And...thanks for listening. It's been on my mind lately."

"Well, join the club."

We began to gather our towels and I took the umbrella as we made our way down the street to my house.

"They're having fireworks at the beach for the fourth of July. Maybe, if my family doesn't mind it, we can hang out on the boat and watch them. That way our parents won't be breathing down our necks."

Matt looked over at me, and gave me a warm smile. "Thank you so much for suggesting that. My parents would really start to get on my nerves."

"The fireworks are really good. I remember when Kiera and I were little, my parents would tell us that they put pennies in the fireworks and that when we woke up the next morning, pennies would have landed on our deck. So every morning after the fourth, Ker and I would run out on the deck picking up pennies that they had scattered all over."

"Oh, how cute!" Matt teased.

I laughed, and gave him a little shove off the side of the road into the sandy bank. He shoved back. And then we ran down the street, chasing each other into my backyard, dropping the umbrella, towels, and keys on the wooden porch as we ran by. I ran down the sandy embankment as the sea grass whipped at my legs. Matt was close behind me, so I ran down the steep, sandy hill, and dropped to my knees to stop myself. Matt, not knowing that there were bushes, didn't stop and tripped over a root and fell into one. I was laughing hysterically as he disentangled himself from it and tackled me in the sand. I stood up and regained my footing as we proceeded to chase each other back up the hill. I grabbed the garden hose and cranked up the water and aimed a stream of freezing cold water at the already damp Matt.

In turn, he grabbed the outside shower head, took it down from where it was hooked up and turned on the water, spraying me with it. A water fight ensued, and it only stopped because my mom walked out onto the deck, took one look at us, and walked right back inside.

We turned off the water and sat down in the sand. Not only were we wet, but we were covered in wet sand, quite literally from head to toe. I peeled off my shirt and slung it over the railing above me to let it dry so I could shake the sand out of it. Matt did the same, and we washed as much sand as we could off of our swim trunks.

Matt smiled. "Well, I can't say I've done that on a regular basis. Flipping into a bush and all."

I laughed, remembering the scene. "That was pretty funny."

We spent the rest of the day together, until my mom insisted that I come in for dinner. After that, I spent the rest of the night wondering that if Matt had been thinking about guys the way I had been thinking about him, maybe I had crossed his mind at one point in time. July 4th was starting to sound more and more like a date to me, which was why I wasn't about to mention it to my mom until I had cleared the use of the boat with my dad. She was already so paranoid that she didn't need to know that I'd be spending even more "quality time" with the boy next door. Then again, if I acted innocent about it, like I just wasn't mature enough to care about girls, then she might not read into how much time I was spending with Matt. We did go into town, and, for my sake, we had come home and told my parents about girls that we had met. They weren't lies, because we did meet girls, but nothing ever came out of it, and I was beginning to see why.

I put off asking my parents about using the boat for July 4th for a week or two. When I finally did bring it up, I was setting the table for dinner and my dad was cooking in the kitchen. My mom was in the library, reading, so I was hoping she wouldn't hear.

"Hey, dad?" I asked, trying to sound casual, even though the importance of getting the boat for that night was becoming more and more important to me.


"Can I have the boat for the fireworks July 4th? Matt and I were going to watch the fireworks from it."

"Sure, I don't see why not. You can take it out, too, as long as you don't go too fast. We'll probably be doing all the boating during the day."

"Great. Thanks, dad."

My mom chose that moment to walk into the kitchen. "What's going on?" she asked.

My dad answered for me. "Danny and Matt are going to use the boat July 4th to watch the fireworks." He laughed a little and added, "I think it's smart, because I'm sure they'll both be tired of hanging around their little sisters and parents all day."

I didn't have to look at my mom to know her reaction. It was all becoming so predictable. "Danny, don't you think-"

I couldn't stand to sit through another lecture about meeting girls, so I just cut her off. "Don't I think that I should meet some girls and spend July 4th with them? No, I don't, because it will be tense and uncomfortable and it won't be fun! I know I'm at least guaranteed to be comfortable hanging out with Matt. And I'm tired of you telling me to meet girls! I'm not gay, and I know you're paranoid about that. But even if I was, you can't change it by making me meet girls. People are who they are and if you don't like it, I'm sorry, I can't do anything to change it! So yes, I am spending my July 4th with Matt so I can have fun, because that's what I want to do, and I quite frankly don't care if you have a problem with it!" I didn't stick around to hear her say anything else as I slammed the last plate down on the table and walked out of the house, grabbing my car keys on the way out. I had just pulled out of the driveway when Matt came running down the street. Talk about convenience.

He signaled for me to stop, and I did, rolling down my window so that I could talk to him.

"Hey, Dan. What's wrong? I heard you shouting about something."

I suddenly didn't want to talk about it. Ever since we had had our conversation on the boat we hadn't touched on it again, and I didn't know if I wanted to bring it up.

I shrugged, and he got the message. "Sorry, I don't really want to talk about it. Let's just say that my mom and I had a little bit of a falling out. You wanna join me on my escape from a family dinner?"

Matt smiled. "Sure." He hopped in the passenger's seat and shut the door. "So, where are we going?"

"I don't know at the moment. I was just planning on driving for awhile. And blasting music. I'm a little pissed off at the world right now."

"I'm up for it," Matt replied. He switched the station to rock music and turned up the volume for me.

"Thanks!" I shouted.

Matt just smiled and got comfortable as I drove around aimlessly for awhile before finally pulling into the parking lot of an ice cream shop.

"So," I said, "do you want strawberry or chocolate ice cream for dinner?" as I turned off the car.

Matt laughed and got out. "I'm thinking strawberry," he said as he headed toward the counter.

Once we had settled back in my car, Matt said, "You still need to dance for me."

I laughed and said, "You have no idea how suggestive that sounded. But I know. I found my hardshoes yesterday, and they still fit. I was tapping on my bedroom floor, and that brought back quite a bit. I remember practicing up there for competitions. I completely wrecked the floor, so my parents don't really care what I do up there anymore."

"So do you miss dancing?" Matt asked, eating a spoonful of his ice cream.

"I don't really know. I'd have to start practicing again and see if I still love it like I did. It still means a lot to me, though, so I'd have to say yes. Tell you what; tomorrow if you come over around two in the afternoon no one will be home, and I'll show you some steps."

Matt grinned and I suddenly noticed how tan he had gotten. He looked even nicer with a tan. I didn't even bother to ignore the thoughts about him anymore; it was becoming a pointless pastime. Just because he was attractive didn't mean I had to do anything about it. I could think about him in a more than friendly way and not let it get in the way of our friendship or make things uncomfortable. As long as that continued, I couldn't see a problem with it.

We finished our ice cream in silence, each lost in our own thoughts. After we threw out our cups, I drove Matt home and walked into my own kitchen to find my dad doing dishes.

"You missed dinner," he said.

"That was kind of the point," I replied.

"Danny, this thing with your uncle has really thrown your mom for a spin. She was brought up in a strict Catholic family and she wants to accept him, but her faith makes it hard for her."

"I just don't understand why it has to even involve faith. He's a person first and anything else second. Who he dates and loves and what he does with his personal life doesn't have to be any of her concern, but she can still treat him like she always has. He's always been gay, so nothing's different except for the fact that she knows he is. I just don't understand why people have such a problem with everyone else's sexual orientation. It's as ingrained in them as their personality, or at least that's what I think."

"Those are wise words, Danny. You've obviously come to that conclusion on your own, since we've never broached the issue with you. I'm glad you're growing to be an open-minded individual. But I would like to ask you something."


"Is Matt gay?"

I looked at him, not about to break my word to Matt and say anything about our musings on the boat. "No. Or if he is, he hasn't said anything to lead me to believe that. Why, are you trying to keep me from hanging out with him?"

"No, not at all. Your mom and I have talked about this more than you think. Now, can I ask you if you think you're gay?"

That question definitely threw me for a curve. It was one thing answering questions about everyone else's sexuality, but answering for yourself is a totally different thing. "No, I don't think so," I replied, as nonchalantly as I could.

"Okay. But Dan, don't ever think you can't talk to us about any of this, because even though it's taken a little while to become accustomed to it, your mom and I are learning how to accept it willingly. So if you ever need to tell us something, don't worry about our reactions."

"Okay, dad. Thanks for the vote of confidence," I said, a little less worried about the whole situation. Things seemed to be going well, and I was glad my parents weren't going to alienate my uncle.

I walked upstairs and sat down on my bed, picking up my battered pair of hardshoes from the bedside. I put them on and cleared an area on the floor of my room to practice. I opened the windows and turned on a traditional Irish music CD and turned it to the track that I needed. For the next hour, I lost myself in the clicking and tapping of the hardshoes as all the dance steps I had learned slowly came back to me.

The next day, I heard Matt run up the steps to the front door exactly at two o'clock. I opened the door even before he knocked and let him into the house.

"Well, here's your own private showing of an amateur Riverdance," I said, leading him down to the basement where I had set up the music and my shoes. "Hold on a second while I put on my costume."

Matt laughed. "You really went all out for this, didn't you?"

I reappeared, pulling a black t-shirt over my head to match the black pants from my dance costume. "Yeah, I couldn't help it. I really got into it last night. No one's watched me dance in over two years, so you get to see something quite rare."

"Well, I have to say, your costume looks really cool. The all black really works on a dancer."

"Yeah, that's thanks to my dance teacher. He knew how self-conscious we could get in our silk blouses," I said, laughing.

Matt smiled as he sat down in a chair. "Okay, show me some dancing," he said.

I pressed play on the CD player and got in position in the middle of the floor. Pretty soon the familiar music started to play and I didn't even think about the fact that Matt was there because I was so lost in concentrating on the steps. I had lost my flexibility, or whatever flexibility I had had, over the couple years that I hadn't danced, so my kicks weren't as high as they used to be, but other than that, everything was exactly as I had remembered it. And I realized that I had missed it a lot more than I thought. I finished the three dances that I had prepared and took a bow to Matt's clapping. The awed expression on his face really told me that it was sincere, and the look in his dark eyes was one of amazement.

"That was amazing, Danny. I can't believe you stopped dancing."

"Now that I think about it, I can't believe that I did either. I miss it a lot now. I really want to go back, now," I said, almost wistfully. Matt came and sat down beside me as I took off my hardshoes and bent them in half and secured them with elastics, exactly like I used to do.

Matt squeezed my shoulders and said, "Can you teach me something easy?"

I smiled and stood up. "Sure. I can teach you a ceili dance. Those are all the basic steps combined into formations, pretty much. We'd need more people, four at the least to do this, but I can teach you the steps."

Matt seemed to catch on pretty quickly to the first couple steps. I was relearning the dance as I taught it to him, and realized that there was a partner spin in it at the end. Smiling to myself at the irony of it, I started to teach him that part.

"Okay, this is the spin, and they decided that since it's so incredibly simple that the way the two people hold hands was going to be incredibly complicated. I can simplify it because it takes a bit of practice, but just try it first."

"Sounds good. What do I do?" Matt asked.

I shifted a bit uncomfortably. "Okay, let me move your arms for you, because I have to figure out how this goes again. Let's see...I think this arm goes around your partner's waist, and then this one crosses over and grabs your partner's hand like this..." I rearranged our arms a few more times until it looked right and we were holding each other around the waist and had linked our hands in a criss-cross fashion. "There we go. Try getting into this position in virtually less than a second."

Matt laughed and said, "I think I'd trip over my own feet while trying to figure this out. What's the simpler one?"

"Just crossing your forearms and grabbing your partner's hands, like this," I said, and demonstrated, getting farther away from Matt in the process.

I finished teaching him the dance and said, "There you go. You're an Irish dancer now."

Matt smiled and said, "Hey, I'm cool with that."

"Well, I think I'm going to change back into my shorts and a t-shirt, because I'm dying in this," I said, pulling off my shirt.

As I was in the bathroom changing, I remembered the verdict for July 4th. "Hey, Matt, I got an okay on using the boat for the 4th," I called through the door.

"Hey, that's great! I was really hoping you would. I asked my parents and they were okay with me escaping after all the family activities," replied Matt.

"Yeah, so were mine. I'm so relieved. The thought of spending an entire day watching my sister gawk at you in a swimsuit isn't exactly my idea of fun."

"Yeah, you know you'd rather do the gawking."

"Oh yeah, because you're so gorgeous," I replied in a sarcastic tone.

I finished changing and threw the sweaty dance clothes on top of the washing machine and hopped over the back of the couch to sit by Matt, who had turned on the television. There was a breeze floating through the screen door, carrying the sea breeze throughout the house. I leaned back against the cushions and stretched out my legs. "Oh, wow, I have to remember to stretch before I do that again," I said to myself as my muscles begged me to stop moving them.

Matt smiled and flipped through the channels again, only to discover for a second time that there was absolutely nothing on at the moment. "Yeah, I can imagine how your legs would hurt after that."

He finally decided on MTV, but we only used it as background noise as we started up a new conversation about the upcoming July 4th festivities.

I went to bed late that night, having spent hours talking to Matt in the dark on our deck after watching the sunset. He finally began dozing off and I made him go home and get some sleep, even though both of us couldn't seem to stop talking to each other.

As I was lying in bed, listening to the crickets and the waves, my thoughts drifted to Matt and how glad I was that we had met. He was smart, funny, a great listener, and tons of fun to be around. On top of that he was attractive, and I couldn't stop that thought anymore. He was attractive, and I was beginning to believe that I was attracted to him. I remembered his eyes the most, and how our gazes would meet and then we'd quickly look away, as if something we didn't want revealed would be communicated through our eyes. Taking an objective look at my thoughts, I realized how ridiculous I was being about this. I had a crush...damn, now I was admitting it to myself. I had a crush on Matt. I made myself admit it a few more times, but it still seemed so...unreal. So out of reach. And yet, thinking back to the past few weeks, how I would catch him looking at me...he just seemed to care. I sighed and flipped back the covers and climbed out of bed. I wasn't going to get to sleep anytime soon.

My parents had long given up on getting out of bed to ask me what I was doing up so late, so I knew that I had the downstairs to myself. I poured myself a glass of milk and walked out onto the deck in my boxers and a t- shirt, and leaned against the railing. My gaze drifted to the house next door and Matt's figure in the dimly lit empty kitchen. I sighed and returned to staring at the stars overhead, getting lost in my own thoughts.

I didn't know how long I had been out there when I heard footsteps. "Okay, okay, I'm coming in," I mumbled, assuming it was one of my parents.

It wasn't. "Danny?"

"Matt? What are you doing here?"

"Sorry. I probably shouldn't have come over, but you looked really depressed. Am I intruding on you?"

"No,'re not. I just...couldn't sleep. Too much to think about," I replied. I knew I was just begging him to ask about it, only knowing that I couldn't tell him.

He joined me at the railing at my side. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked.

I sighed. Yes, I did want to talk about it, but that didn't mean I could. I settled for a question. "Have you ever known what you wanted but have been so confused by it that you've denied it to yourself? Only to have it come back again and again?"

Matt gave me a funny look. I had to admit, it was a weird question unless you knew the situation, which he didn't. Or if he did, it would probably take him awhile to figure it out. He surprised me with his answer.

"Yeah. I have. And I haven't done anything about it, yet, anyway. It sucks to feel that way."

I looked at him for a second and caught his gaze, something that we had avoided doing. Nothing exploded, there were no fireworks or marching bands. But I felt a click, like a puzzle piece sliding into place, and everything seemed all right for a second. Matt tentatively reached out and put his arm around my shoulders for a few seconds in a comforting manner. He seemed to know exactly when I needed something like that.

I was about to hug him back when my dad walked out the door, bleary-eyed with sleep and said, "Danny, you've been out here an hour. Go back to bed, please. Good night, Matt. We'll see you tomorrow."

"Good night, Robert," Matt replied. He turned to me as my dad walked inside and shrugged. "Sorry."

"It's okay. I'll see you tomorrow, then, I guess. Only a couple more days until July 4th," I said, smiling.

"Yeah, I can't wait. Good night, Danny."

"'Night Matt."

Matt walked back over to his own house and let himself back in and I walked inside, only to find my dad waiting for me. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, because a midnight rendezvous with the boy next door wasn't looking very innocent at the moment. But, to my surprise, my dad didn't even acknowledge the fact that Matt had been out there. "Try to sleep, Danny. If you can't, just go watch TV, but if you go outside, you're going to keep your mom and me awake."

"Okay, thanks dad."

"Mmmhmm," he mumbled, and made his way back to bed.

I sighed and climbed the stairs up to my room, tired, still confused, and incredibly frustrated. Still, when I climbed into bed, I managed to somehow fall asleep.

The next day I came home from lifeguard duty sunburned and exhausted. I had actually had to do something instead of just sitting there and watch girls try to flirt with me. I flopped down on the couch in the basement and recognized the scent of Matt's cologne on the pillow I was laying on from the other day. I stood up and walked out of the room, not needing any more temptation to think about him. Frustrated, I strapped on my hardshoes and turned up my dance music and began pounding away on the cement in an unfurnished corner of the basement, ignoring the fact that it hurt my legs to be pounding that hard on it. After I had sweated out all my frustration, I sat down and grimaced as my legs began to protest against the sudden strenuous activity. I took off my hardshoes and threw them into the corner and limped up the stairs to go take a shower.

I opened all the windows in the airy blue bathroom and let the breeze drift into the room. As I undressed, I gazed out at the water. The tide was out, and there was an expanse of sandy brown and then above it dark blue water on the horizon. I stepped into the shower and cringed as the warm water rained down on my sunburn. After I turned it down to a cooler temperature, I relaxed a little bit and was even able to keep from thinking about Matt.

I dressed in a white t-shirt and khaki shorts after I got out of the shower. I didn't bother to do anything to my hair but I did put on some cologne and wandered into the kitchen to get something to eat.

Kiera wandered in as I was eating some cold pasta salad and walked by me. "Gee, Danny, did you meet a cute girl at work or something? Getting all gorgeous for a hot date?"

I rolled my eyes. Kiera was always interested in my love life, of which there really wasn't one. "No, I just took a shower. I was dancing."

"Dancing? Since when have you started practicing again?"

"Since a few days ago," I replied.

She sat down at the table with me. "What girl thought you'd look sexy dancing?"

I sighed. "No girl did. I mentioned that I used to dance to Matt and he wanted to see something. So I showed him a couple dances and I realized that I missed it. So I decided to start practicing again."

"So Matt thought you looked sexy dancing."

I almost choked on my food, but I exclaimed, "No! Matt doesn't think I’m sexy!"

"Yeah I do," came a teasing voice from the doorway.

I looked toward the door and smiled as I saw Matt. "And you're just so hot yourself," I teased.

"Whoa there, boys," said Kiera. "How about just friendly hellos for the virgin ears over here?"

Matt laughed as he let himself in the screen door. "Yeah, you know we're just friends, Ker."

"Yeah. I do. You both need girlfriends," she said and walked outside, probably to find Jenny.

I shook my head and finished eating. "You want something?" I asked Matt.

"No thanks. You get sunburned?" he asked, looking at my face, which was pink.

"Yeah, at work. I just took a shower and put on some lotion to keep it from hurting, though, so it's okay. You wanna play a game of pool?"


We clambered down the stairs to the basement to the pool table. I turned on the radio to the local rock station and picked up a cue and retrieved the balls from the pockets.

We started playing and, of course, talking. I was winning and when I was about to make a shot, I felt a cool stream of air on my neck.

I turned around and Matt stood right behind me, giving me an angelic look. I laughed. "What the hell, man? Trying to screw me up or sexually molest me?"

Matt shrugged and gave me a look with a glint in his eye. "Maybe a little bit of both," he replied.

I laughed and turned back to make the shot. And he continued to blow air on my neck. I turned around and bopped him on the head with my cue. He returned the favor. I decided to give up on the pool game and perched on the edge of the table, my legs hanging over the edge. I leaned back on my hands and Matt faced me and rested his hands on either side of my legs.

"So, our families are still getting together for the fourth?" I asked.

"As far as I know," Matt replied. "Do we still get the boat?"

I smiled, "Yup. Starting when the fireworks start for however long we want."

"Can you take it out on the bay at night?"

"Yeah, we just can't go fast. Why, you want to get as far away from your parents as you can?"

"Pretty much. I have a feeling we'll both be sick of our families by the end of the day," he replied.

"Same here," I said. We were close enough so that I could smell his cologne, and I was glad that I had taken a shower. There really was no reason for us to be this close, but neither one of us made any move to change positions.

We lapsed into silence, quietly and covertly observing the other. We were almost at eye level, even though I was sitting on the pool table. Matt was taller than I was, by a couple inches. His dark hair was kind of spiked and his dark eyes kept looking at me and then looking away.

I noticed the necklace he was wearing and reached out to touch it. "Cool necklace. Where'd you get it?"

"At some little shop in Chatham," he replied.

"Can I see it?" I asked.


I decided to be a little bold and I reached around his neck to unclasp it. It was that moment that Kiera and Jenny came scampering down the stairs. Matt quickly jumped away from me and I slid off the pool table. We were a good five feet apart when the girls reached the bottom of the stairs.

We looked at the girls, trying not to look guilty. Matt finally asked, "Why are you guys here?"

"Cause we wanted to come over," Jenny said. "Is that a problem?"

Matt muttered something that sounded like "yes" under his breath, but I covered for him and said, "No, it's okay. We were getting bored with the pool game anyway." We definitely weren't getting bored with each other, though.

Matt looked at me, sensing my thoughts. "You wanna go out to Chatham and walk around a little? There are lots of little shops that have really neat stuff in them. My parents took Jenny and me the other day and it was surprisingly a lot of fun.

"Sure," I replied. "We can pick up stuff for the fourth while we're out. You want anything special, girls?" I asked.

They gave us a short list of food that they wanted, which I wrote down on my hand and made a mental note to remember to pick up on the way home.

After spending a few hours walking through Chatham, Matt and I decided to head back to the house. Over the course of the day, it seemed a lot of tension had mounted between us, but it wasn't because we were mad or frustrated with each other. It was unspoken and unprovoked, and it still seemed like it was hanging over our heads. Every little glance that we stole at each other, every accidental brush of our hands---it was all becoming more frequent, more blatant, but we never said anything to each other about it. I didn't even think about broaching the subject…there was too much risk involved. Risk of losing a close friend, a confidante, and stability. I assumed Matt felt the same way, because he never said anything. On the drive home, both of us were nearly silent, lost in our own thoughts, probably about the same thing. Still, I couldn't read his mind, and with my luck, he was probably thinking about something totally different. We still hadn't really mentioned anything about our conversation on the boat that one day to each other at all since then, but I hadn't really expected Matt to bring it up again.

I dropped him off at his house and said, "Hey, that was a lot of fun. But I have to go home, so I'll see you tomorrow."

"Okay. Thanks for the ride," Matt replied and hopped out of the car, shutting the door behind him.

I was home a minute later, and I dumped the bag of food that the girls wanted on the kitchen table and went downstairs to see what there was to do.

Jenny and Kiera were occupying the television, so I couldn't watch that or dance. The pool table was just a reminder at how close physically Matt and I had come earlier that day, and I was beginning to get tired of thinking about it. If nothing was going to happen, then I wanted everything to just go away, but if something was going to happen, it had better be soon, because it was really grating on my nerves. I sighed loudly and sat on the couch by Jenny, who looked over at Kiera with wide eyes. "I picked up the food you two wanted," I said, and edged away from Jenny a little bit.

"Thanks," mumbled Kiera, and turned back to the cartoons that they were watching. I returned to staring aimlessly at a wall, despite the giggly whispers that erupted spontaneously from the two girls next to me.

Finally, Jenny spoke up, a little timidly, "Um, Danny?"


"Do you have a girlfriend?"


"Do you have a crush?" she pressed.

I thought about it and decided to tell the truth. "Yes."

Her eyes widened, and looking past her for a second, I saw Matt appear at the screen door, probably to get Jenny for dinner.

"Who do you like?"

"I can't tell you that. It's a secret."

Matt walked in and said, "Jenny, you should really stop asking him questions. It's obvious he has a crush on me."

For a second, I thought he was serious, but then I saw him bite back a smile. My heart started beating at a regular tempo again. Then he came over and straddled my lap.

I tried to laugh, but it was completely unconvincing. All of a sudden, things got really warm. Warm to the point of where really not good things start to happen. Matt's playful expression suddenly turned more serious, almost a reflection of what I'm sure was on my face. He suddenly stood up, the joke completely forgotten and said, "Jenny, dinner."

The girls were still laughing, which I was thankful for because that meant that they had probably missed our uncomfortable exchange. "Bye Matt," I said. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yeah, bye, Dan," he said as he followed Jenny out the door.

I stayed seated on the couch, trying to compose myself, still a little dazed at what had just happened, as Kiera sat back down and continued to watch television. I resumed staring at the wall with something completely new on my mind.

I liked being touched by him…I liked being near him. It was physical contact that we both wanted disguised as a joke, I could see that much in his face, or at least I thought I did. I didn't want to even start to think about the connotations of what was happening. Did it mean I was gay? What about Matt? Maybe he was always like this, and I was just interpreting it differently. I had nothing to compare it to. More doubts flooded my mind as I continued to think, my stream of consciousness continuing until we were called up for dinner.

I went to bed that night with thoughts of July 4th swimming in my head. Part of me couldn't wait for it, but part of me never wanted it to come.

The next day I woke up and took a shower and got dressed and then wandered downstairs to see what the rest of my family was doing. They were putting together food to take over to Matt's house for dinner and I was quickly given something to do.

I stepped outside to put a cooler on the deck and saw Matt setting up a boombox on his deck. He waved and turned up the radio. I smiled and waved back, then returned inside to keep packing food.

We finally made it over to their house around lunchtime, after we had all eaten. My parents and Mark and Matt's mom, Diane, were all talking like old friends within the first five minutes as we headed down to the boat. The girls wanted to go out first, so my parents and Matt's parents went with them, leaving Matt and me on the shore in silence. We had both returned to a purely platonic way of behaving and talking, ever since the previous day's little event.

The rest of the day had its highlights, sand football being one of them and a water fight being another. Being around our parents most of the day, Matt and I didn't really have time to talk to each other about anything at all. Over dinner there was the typical excitement over the fireworks that would be exploding over the bay in a few hours and lively conversation over the upbeat music of the local top forty radio station. I was really enjoying myself, even though being in the constant presence of Matt and not being able to catch his eye or talk to him like usual was a bit unnerving. As dinner was finishing up, Matt's dad said, "Matt, why don't you do the dishes? Jenny will carry them in."

My dad promptly offered Kiera and me up for help. I would have probably joined Matt in doing the dishes anyway, though, so I didn't complain.

I joined him at their kitchen sink a few minutes later and offered to put the dishes in the dishwasher if he rinsed. Matt quickly agreed and started with his task. There was a tense silence for a few minutes, the laughter of the adults filtering in from outside on the deck. Kiera and Jenny were outside in the backyard, talking, which left us all by ourselves.

Finally, after the hollow clanking of dishes became too little noise to fill the silence between us, Matt spoke up. "Danny, can I tell you something? I don't know if you want to hear it or how you'll react, but it's really important that you keep it a secret."

I looked up at him as he handed me a plate and I replied, "Yeah. What is it?"

Matt hesitated and didn't reply. I didn't push him to tell me and continued putting plates in the dishwasher.

"Danny…" he began, then stopped again. "I'm gay," he finally said, in almost a whisper.

It shouldn't have shocked me, but it did. I almost dropped the plate I was holding, but I managed to set it down on the counter. I was rendered speechless for a few seconds until I found my voice. "Oh-okay…that was a little unexpected…" I said slowly, the implications of what he was saying just starting to sink in.

I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what reaction Matt was expecting from me or what he wanted me to say, but it was a little late to change everything.

Matt didn't say anything, but he didn't look mad as he turned around and walked away, upstairs to his bedroom. We had almost finished the dishes, so I didn't mind finishing up, especially since it meant I got a little bit of time to think.

What might result from Matt's confession was just starting to formulate in my head. My head was still spinning with disconcerted thoughts when the banging of the screen door knocked me back to reality. I turned back to the sink where the water was still running and made the pretense of rinsing the plate that I had set on the counter.

Mark walked in and immediately asked, "Where's Matt?"

I had to think quickly, something I didn't particularly have strength in. I managed to come up with what I hoped was a passable and hopefully somewhat truthful excuse. "Um, Matt said he wasn't feeling well--a headache or something--and I told him to go lie down."

"Okay. Well, tell you what, I'll finish the dishes and you can bring him some Advil."

Mark found a bottle of Advil in a cabinet and handed it to me. "You know where his room is, right?"

"Yeah. Thanks, Mark." I took the Advil and walked up the stairs, really not sure if I should be intruding on Matt at the moment, but not really having a choice.

I knocked cautiously at his door and was surprised when he answered. "Come in."

I opened the door and stepped in, still being careful and not quite knowing what to say. "Um, I told your dad that you said you had a headache and he gave me Advil to deliver to you."

Matt gave me a half smile from where he was seated on his bed. "Thanks."

I couldn't take the tension anymore and sat down on the bed by Matt and said, "I'm sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn't know how to react and it caught me by surprise and I'm completely in support of you and nothing has changed. At all," I finished, looking at him and waiting for his reaction.

Matt gave me a genuine smile and turned to face me. I held out my arms and he accepted my offer of a hug, holding me tightly for a couple seconds before letting go.

"So are you still up for the boat tonight?" I asked.

"Of course. I wouldn't miss it."

I smiled, genuinely relieved. "Okay, great. I think I'm going to go home and take a shower. I still have sand in my clothes from the football game. I'll be back here in a couple hours."

"That sounds like a good idea. I'll see you then."

I went home and showered, thinking about Matt's revelation the entire time. Suddenly I doubted myself a lot less, and a lot of my confusion was gone. Matt obviously felt something towards guys, and even though the societal consequences could be terrible, it somehow made me feel better about my own thoughts towards him. If anything, his confession had only proven to draw us closer, and help me realize more about myself.

I stepped out of the shower and looked out the window, an air of excitement floating through the window. Maybe it was the atmosphere of July 4th, or maybe it was my personal experience, but there was something a little more special about the sunset tonight and about the pending events.

I walked down the hall to my room and dressed in khaki shorts and a pale blue shirt, grabbing a sweatshirt to take with me on the boat. I walked back into the bathroom to brush my teeth and do my hair. I knew that in the back of my mind I was more concerned about my appearance now that Matt would potentially be interested, but I tried not to focus on it. I gelled my hair so it would keep its messily spiked style and grabbed a beaded hemp necklace that one of my friends had made for me off the bathroom counter. I fastened it and tried to find the nearly empty bottle of cologne that was somewhere on the cluttered bathroom counter. I finally found it and put some on, hoping that my judgement of "just enough" was accurate. I grabbed my sweatshirt and headed downstairs. It was getting dark, since it was after sunset now. I heard the music still playing outside at Matt's house and I heard voices drifting through the air.

As I slipped on my sandals, I could hear loud laughter from the adults over at Matt's house and concluded that they had overdone it a bit on the wine and margaritas. I smiled and headed over to Matt's house, leaving the dim kitchen lights on so Kiera wouldn't be scared to come home when it was dark.

He saw me before anyone and tried to inconspicuously walk down the steps to greet me. As he got within a close distance, I could smell the faint scent of his cologne and judging by his change of clothes and hair, it looked like he had showered as well.

The temptation was there to hug him upon greeting, but the fear that someone would see was greater than the temptation. He seemed to feel the same way as we talked quietly, making our way back up to the deck.

"I think the third margarita really did it for them," Matt whispered in my ear. His breath on my neck sent chills down my spine, which seemed to be his goal. I looked over at my parents and his parents, starting to sing an oldies song from the fifties, loudly and somewhat off-key.

I laughed quietly, and whispered in his ear, "Yeah, I think I’m going to have to agree with you there."

He smiled at me, and edged towards me so we were walking a little closer together. He laid his hand lightly on my back and replied, "When they start table dancing, I think we'll have something to be worried about. Until then…this might be better for the girls and us. You know, no responsible adult supervision."

He was certainly being a little more openly flirtatious without being embarrassed about it. It was different, but I couldn't object to any of it.

"We should probably start heading out to the boat, otherwise it will be too dark. I can ask my dad to take the row boat and take us out there so we don’t have to wade through the water."

I could see Matt smile in the dim light, the shadows on his face making him appear even more attractive and mysterious. When we finally convinced our parents to walk down to the beach, it was almost time for the fireworks to start. The two girls were skipping down the street with boxes of sparklers in their hands ahead of us, and our parents were walking behind us. Matt and I had each brought along a box of sparkers and a lighter to use on the boat.

I managed to convince my dad to row us out to the boat, which he did without too much prodding. Matt had the bright idea to bring a few cans of soda and some blankets in case it got really cold later in the night, which it had a tendency to do out on the water, even in July. So, stocked with our sparklers, soda, sweatshirts, and blankets, we let my dad row us out to the boat, drop us off, and row back to shore.

I climbed onto the deck and gave Matt a hand up, a sense of freedom making its way into my head. He seemed to feel the same way as he set down the blankets on a seat and walked over to where I was standing.

"It's a really good night for fireworks," he commented, coming up behind me, his breath on my neck sending chills down my spine again. I wanted to turn around and do something--anything--to make him feel the same way.

I didn't, but tried to calm my racing heart with a few deep breaths and replied, "Yeah, and they should be starting anytime. You want to light the sparklers while we're waiting?"

"Sure. You want a soda?" Matt asked.

"Yeah. Why don't you get those and I'll find the lighter and the sparklers," I suggested.

I went about my task, keeping tabs on Matt the entire time, stealing glances at him while I emptied the boxes of sparklers onto a seat. I picked up a few and carried them over to Matt. I handed him a couple and gave him the lighter. He lit one of his sparklers and touched it to one of mine. When both of ours were lit, we waved them around, enjoying the childish feeling. I pointed to the beach, where the faint glow of sparklers could be seen being waved around by Kiera and Jenny, and maybe even our parents.

A soft breeze was blowing across the bay, one that chills you even though it's not that cold. It gave a peaceful feel to the silence that had settled over us as we lit another set of sparklers and watched them burn. We wrote words in the air with them and spun around in circles with them and then as we got down to the last ones, we just watched them sparkle and glimmer until they were reduced to a soft, orange glow. When we had extinguished the last of them, the fireworks were just starting. I took one of the blankets and spread it out on the deck so we could sit on it.

We had almost completely forgotten about our drinks until I noticed them sitting open in two cupholders. I carried Matt's over to where he was sitting on the blanket and handed it to him. They ended up being relegated to another set of cupholders closer to where we were sitting and remained untouched. I sat down by Matt and leaned back on my hands, my hand accidentally brushing by his. It shouldn't have been a big deal, but the familiar tension was starting to develop again, except this time I realized that there was something I could do to stop it.

I spent the first few minutes in silence, watching the fireworks explode overhead. Matt broke the silence when he reached into his pocket and said, "I have something for you."

I looked at him curiously, more than a few dirty thoughts racing through my head. I tried to ignore them and concentrate on answering. "Oh? And what might that be?"

He withdrew his hand from his pocket, holding something. "Remember that story that you told me about your parents scattering pennies on your deck the day after July 4th fireworks?"

"Yeah. What about it?" I asked, curious as to why he was bringing it up again.

"Well, I figured since they don't do that anymore, I'd bring you some pennies," he said, dropping about ten of them in my lap.

I started laughing and gave him a playful shove. "You have way too good of a memory," I said.

He nudged me back, but in the midst of the playful shove, our eyes met. His face was lit up by the fireworks that were erupting overhead and I suddenly realized I was watching him lean in closer to me.

Without giving it a second thought, I helped him close the small distance between us, our lips meeting each other's halfway. I had only kissed a girl once in my life, on a dare at a party, and it was nothing like this. The sensation was electrifying and completely new to me. Matt seemed to feel the same way, because we remained unmoving for a few seconds. I felt him draw back for a second, but I initiated the kiss the second time. This time, Matt teased my lips with his tongue until I opened my mouth and met his tongue with mine. We had unconsciously shifted closer and his hand began to slide up my leg. I let him assail my senses a few more seconds before drawing back. I watched him catch his breath for a few seconds before meeting his eyes again.

When we did look at each other, we smiled, the tension between us having been eased by the wordless affirmation we had just made. Despite the summer being half over, we had both just discovered the beginning of something brand new.