Copyright © 2017 Tyler Christopher. All Rights Reserved.
"Shitshitshit!" I cursed, seeing my car swerving, and then crashing.
"Hahaaa!" Isaac laughed in victory, having won the race.
I tossed the PS4 controller onto the carpet and said, "You're cheating, I swear, bitch!"
Dean called from his desk, "Nah, Scott, you just suck at Need For Speed."
"Can we go to Northgate now?" Leanne groused, bored.
Delia agreed, "Yeah, c'mon, guys. Let's go."
As we descended down the staircase, my mom, asked, "Where you guys off to?"
I grabbed the car keys and answered, "We're going to Northgate, mom. That okay? I'll be home around six o'clock."
"Alright," my mom replied as she went back to mixing whatever muffin batter. "Careful, Scotty-babe."
Then my dad's voice called from the living room, "Hey, Scott!"
He came running out to the foyer and I asked, "'Sup, dad?"
He handed me a bill and asked, "Mind picking me up another iPhone charging cable thing?"
I drove the Forester, following behind Delia and Isaac. While Dean was in the middle of bitching about Coach Holbrooke making him do laps yesterday, my cell phone rang, causing the music to automatically stop playing. I looked at the touchscreen multimedia on the dash, not recognizing the number.
Accepting the call on speaker, I answered, "Hello?"
"Hello?" an unknown yet pleasant male voice responded. "Scott Nelson? Hi. It's Jackson Ambrose from two doors down."
"Oh, hey. What's up, Jackson?"
"Hey. I called your house, but your parents said you were out with your friends so they gave me your number. I'll make this quick. I have a date tonight, but my sitter is sick. Would you mind babysitting Kevin tonight?"
"Oh," I said in surprise. "What time? And what time do you expect to be home?"
"Victor, my date, is picking me up six-forty-five. It's a dinner and coffee date, so I'll be home around nine-thirty, maybe ten o'clock. I'll pay you sixty bucks."
"Okay," I agreed. "I'll drop by around six-thirty."
Thank you!" Jackson said excitedly. "Man, I thought I was gonna have to cancel my date. You're a lifesaver, Scott."
After ending the call, Leanne asked, "Who's this Jackson Ambrose?"
I answered, "He lives two doors down from me. Single dad because his college girlfriend didn't want kids. He's, like, twenty-five or something. Hates being called 'Mr. Ambrose'."
Leanne asked, "S'he bi or whatever?"
"Yeah," I replied. "He's never dated a guy before, though. Only slept with a couple, from what he's said."
Intrigued, Leanne asked, "S'he hot?"
"Yes!" "Yes!" Dean and I answered at the same time.
"How old's his kid?" Leanne asked, ever curious.
"Kevin is two...?" I answered, uncertain. "Maybe three...? I don't really know. I sat him once a few months ago. Good kid."
After a moment of silence, Dean said, "Submitted my applications to Princeton and Harvard. Fuckin' A, right?"
I smiled happily while grabbing his hand and replied, "I hope we both get accepted, babe."
I sipped on a caramel frappuccino from Starbucks while following Leanne and Delia into Forever 21. Dean and Isaac had gone to- somewhere, bored with clothes.
While thumbing through a rack of tops, Delia asked apprehensively, "So... what are the- chances of... a girl getting pregnant on the pill?"
Leanne whipped around from a table of jeans and said loudly, "You and Isaac didn't use a condom!?"
Delia threw a folded shirt to Leanne furiously and demanded, "Sshhh! Of course, we did! But the fucking thing broke!"
I quickly said, "Okay. Okay. Calm down. The chances of pregnancy while on the pill are, like, one in a thousand. Nine hundred and ninety-nine of Isaac's condoms haven't already broken previously, have they?"
Delia snorted in amusement and answered, "I lost count at eight hundred."
I handed my bags from American Eagle and Gap to Delia and asked, "Mind keeping my bags? I wanna go get my hair cut."
Two hours later I made it home with bags from American Eagle, Gap, Sunglasses Hut, Footlocker, and Best Buy. It was also taking me a while to get used to my new hair. Light brown in colour, it was once long fringe, but now was an undercut and the top French braided.
After setting my bags in my room, I grabbed a small box from the Best Buy bag and went back downstairs. I tossed the plastic box to my dad, who was sitting at the island playing gin with my mom.
"Did Jackson call you?" my mom asked.
I grabbed a muffin from the platter and answered, "Yeah, I'm heading over there right now. Later."
"Hair looks great, son!" my dad called as I made for the front door.
Jackson answered his front door pretty quickly after I rang the doorbell. He smiled and commented, "You're early. Come in."
It's true, I was early. I told him I'd be there at six-thirty. I got there at six-oh-four. Little Kevin, the adorable blonde, was sitting at a kids table with Avengers printing on it.
"Thanks for doin' this," Jackson said easily from the kitchen, cutting a slice of homemade pizza into tiny pieces.
"Yeah," I replied. "Money's money. Hey, Kevin. Remember me?"
Kevin's bright brown eyes looked from his iPad mini to me. He smiled and replied, "Hi, Stotty! Daddy said you babysit me today! Look! I'm watching Lion Dard!"
I chuckled fondly at his adorable was and ruffled his mop of black hair. I then turned my attention to the iPad, the cartoon reminds me of watching The Lion King when I was his age.
"You ready to roar with me?" the lion cub character asked.
I noticed a decibel scale in the top corner of the screen, so I said, "Rawrrrr!"
Little Kevin looked at me with excitement in his brown eyes and called, "Daddy! Daddy! Stotty sounds just like Tion!"
"He does!" Jackson agreed as he carried a plate over. "I wanna see this plate empty when I come back down from a shower, okay?"
"Otay, daddy," the toddler answered as he speared a piece of pizza. Or tried to. The little pieces kept sliding around the Spider-Man print plate.
I held my hand out with a smile, and Kevin handed me the fork.
"Help yourself to pizza, Scott," Jackson told me as he strode to the stairs and I fed his son. "There's Sprite, Diet Coke, and OJ in the fridge."
Within minutes, not at all distracted with the cartoon before him, Kevin ate the entire serving of pizza and asked, "Ten I have some more, Stotty?"
I cut up another slice for the kid and carried my own plate as well. I didn't sit in the other kids chair, but sat cross-legged beside Kevin. The toddler, deciding he was now grown up, fed himself.
Jackson was quite the cook, it seemed. The pizza he made was delicious! Thick, soft crust. Perfect sauce. An exquisite combination of ham, salami, peppers, and mushrooms, and cheese.
I laughed at Kevin. I couldn't help it. He was a mess! Even with the tiniest of sizes in which his pizza was cut, his face was just filthy! Smears of pizza sauce littered his cheeks and chin. I snapped a photo of him on my phone and showed him.
Kevin laughed and said, "Holy tau!" in that adorable way.
I found a baby wipe dispenser from a nearby shelf and studiously cleaned the boy. But there was also sauce on his shirt, so I asked him to lead me to his bedroom to change.
There was already a set of pyjamas laid out on Kevin's bed, so he changed himself as I busied myself with scrolling through Instagram, seated on the floor in the hallway.
Kevin quickly strode out of his bedroom carrying his iPad and said, "I wanna watch pirates in my daddy's room before he doe."
"Wha- Kevin!" I said urgently as I got up to my feet. "Wait! Buddy, your dad is dressing-"
I stopped talking because the little guy had already opened his dad's bedroom door and went inside.
Jackson was standing at his tall chest of drawers, feeding a black leather belt through the loops of his tailored pants. And he was shirtless.
"I- sorry," I apologized. "He got away from me."
I could hardly not notice the small patch of black fur in the middle of Jackson's well-defined chest. There was also a dark happy trail leading down into Jackson's pants. But his stomach was not as toned, a sign of his parental responsibilities, possibly.
"It's fine," Jackson replied, unfazed, still sliding the belt in place. "Perfect, actually. Gives me more time to go over rules. It's been a while since you babysat for me. Kevin's bedtime is seven-thirty, so at seven-twenty-five just help him brush his teeth and he'll go down all by himself. He's not allowed to eat or drink anything else for the rest of the night. iPad gets turned off at seven, and he winds down with books until bed. He sometimes wakes up, but if you just lay him back down and kiss his forehead he'll go right back to sleep. My cell is written on the fridge. But if, for some reason, my phone loses signal, the numbers for the restaurant and the cafe I'll be going to are also written on the fridge."
"Got it," I stated with a smile as I joined Kevin on his dad's unmade bed.
Now wearing a white wife beater and holding a plum polo and a Heather grey button-up, Jackson asked, "Which one?"
"The polo definitely makes your icy blue eyes really pop, Jackie."
Jackson stopped removing the clothing hanger from the shirt and looked at me unimpressed. "Don't call me that."
Following Jackson's rule, I asked Kevin for his iPad and set it down on the coffee table. The little guy ran over to a small bookshelf and came running back to the sofa with arms full of book. While reading the third book, I noticed Kevin's weight leaning on my arm. I looked down and, sure enough, the little tyke was fast asleep. Adorable doesn't even begin to describe his sleeping form.
The time was eight-oh-eight when the front door opened. I looked up from my phone, having been scrolling through Tumblr when Jackson entered the house.
"You're home early," I stated, unsure.
"Victor was an ass," Jackson said with a small edge to his voice while hanging his coat on a hook by the door.
I put my phone down on the sofa and asked, "Wanna talk about it?"
"Not really," Jackson answered, slipping out of his shoes.
"Aww, come on, Jackie. Talk to Good Ole Scotty."
Jackson laughed on his way into the kitchen. "Well, Victor didn't even tip the valet. He was rude to the host. And he whistled to summon the waitress. I thought, 'Hey, maybe he's just having a bad day. Maybe he's not always a douche.' But nope. He said the poor girl was an idiot because the chef didn't cook his steak properly and it was her fault for not writing the order properly. So I walked out. Hey, you cleaned the kitchen. Thank you."
I shrugged and replied, "Putting the dishes into the dishwasher hardly counts as cleaning. Where'd you meet Victor?"
"At the university," he joined me on the sofa, a bottle of Corona in his hand. "I work with his sister there. Kevin was okay? Oh, here's your money."
I waved my hand at the bills in his hand and said back, "No, you don't need to pay me. I hardly did anything."
Persisting, Jackson said, "Come on. You watched my son. And you cleaned the kitchen."
"Seriously, if I take the money I'll probably just slip it back into your coat pocket on my way out."
"Scott, just take the money. I'm sure you could've been doing something a lot more fun on a Saturday night than watching cartoons with a three-year-old."
Still not accepting the payment, I answered, "Kevin fell asleep while I was reading to him and I carried him up to bed. So he didn't brush his teeth. Sorry."
Jackson huffed about the money, slipping it back into his pants. "That happens sometimes. His teeth won't suffer for missing one brushing."
"What do you do, anyway?"
"I'm a microbiologist at Washington State. I teach a couple classes but I mostly research virology and immunology."
I nodded slowly before asking, "That's, like, studying viruses and how they affect us, right?"
"Yeah, that's right."
Surprised, I asked, "And you're only twenty-five-years-old?"
"Twenty-six," Jackson corrected by way of answer. "I graduated high school at sixteen, got a scholarship to Brown, graduated at the top of my class at twenty-four. Now here I am."
"So Kevin wasn't planned?"
Smiling, Jackson replied, "No. Definitely was not planned. Kristina wanted an abortion. I couldn't live with that, so I asked her to birth the baby, and give me custody with her parental rights terminated."
"She doesn't have anything to do with Kevin?"
"No. Haven't seen or heard from Kristina since the day Kevin was born. Not even a birthday card to Kevin. Her parents, though, are a different story. They fly out from Sacramento for Kevin's birthday, and to Denver to spend Christmas with my family."
"Kristina can't be too pleased with that."
"Nobody cares about that."
"So why Seattle?"
"WSU offered to pay me the most. The average salary for a microbiologist is sixty to sixty-seven thousand. WSU pays me seventy-five thousand. Couldn't turn that down. What about you? Your parents tell me you're graduating in June. What are your college plans?"
"Dean and I applied to Princeton and Harvard. I also applied to Yale and Berkeley. I want to be a paediatrician."
"Dean is your boyfriend?"
I shrugged and answered, "I guess. I mean yeah, he is."
Smiling with intrigue, showing off his perfect teeth, Jackson said, "That sounded convincing. What's up there?"
I shook my head while bringing the bottle of Sprite to my lips.
"Aww c'mon!" Jackson said with a chuckle. "You made me talk about Victor."
"Okay," I relented. "Dean is- kind of a douchebag. And he never initiates PDA's which makes me wonder if he really loves me. Like, even if we're in the privacy of my bedroom and there's someone with us, he won't lean in for a kiss or grab my hand or tickle me like he usually does. I know he's not afraid to show PDA's when I initiate it, but why can't he initiate it every now and then?"
"Hmm," Jackson hummed. "How else is Dean an ass?"
"He mouths off at teachers with no provocation, he's not afraid to tell someone they look weird in something including me, and he can be mean to his little sister."
"So why are you with him?"
"He's hot. And he knows just how to fuck me. But I'm getting sicker and tired-er of his douchebaggery. No matter how many good days we have together, his other side becomes too much to handle."
"Do you want to break up with him?"
I shrugged half-heartedly and replied, "Most days, yeah."
"Do you love him?"
"Yeah. You don't date somebody for eight months and not have love for them. But love doesn't always mean a good relationship."
"I hear that," Jackson agreed before taking the last sip of his beer. "Can I getcha another Sprite?"
"Don't mind having my company?" I said with a smile, watching Jackson go into the kitchen.
Opening the refrigerator, Jackson responded, "Well, you won't accept money, so I'll pay you by being your therapist for the night. Sprite?"
"Sure. And you really don't need to pay me. I was here, like, an hour. And Kevin was no trouble at all."
Jackson sat down and handed me the bottle of soda. "Seriously, what did you miss tonight to babysit?"
"Nothing," I answered truthfully. "Just an evening in bed. I was a little hungover today."
"Big party last night? You part of the popular crowd at school?"
"I'm not. I just know people who know people. But it was a big party. My legs actually got tired from dancing."
"Wanna know something that- most likely makes me a dork? I had my first taste of alcohol when I was twenty-two, a couple months after I started dating Kristina."
I reached over and delivered the man a punch to the shoulder and said, "That is dorky. But you were busy being a goody-two-shoes, so it's not surprising."
"Har har. How often do you and your friends go out to parties?"
"I drink, like, twice a month, I guess. I go to parties every weekend, pretty much, but I don't always drink."
"Yeah? Why not?"
I shrugged, "I'm not a fan of hangovers. I might have a beer, just to loosen up. But that's it."
"Once," I replied with a chuckle. "Not into being high. The high that I can experienced was trippy as fuck. I imagined doing something like bouncing on a diving board and diving into a swimming pool, and the high made me feel like I really was doing that. And I imagined running track, and my legs really felt like I was running. Freaked me out. You?"
"Not anymore," Jackson answered with his free hand combing his dark hair from his face. "Not since Kristina found out she was pregnant. I quit because she quit. I didn't want her to have to be around someone who was high and smelled like weed. I used to toke up five or six times a week to help with the stress of school. For the past week or two I've been craving a hit."
"You stressed?" I asked. "What's stressing you?"
Jackson sighed heavily before replying, "A few things, actually. Work's been crazy with final exam preps. I love Kevin, I can't imagine not being a parent, but doing it all alone is tough. And I miss having someone to give me massages or ask how my day was, or make out with, or fucking hold my hand just because."
I quickly reached my over, rubbing his elbow soothingly and said, "Hey, hey. It's okay, Jackie Boy. I'm sure you can take a week or two off work when finals are done. And raising a kid will be fucking worth it. And I'm sure you know that. As for the girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever, you're a regulation hottie. Anybody would be lucky to have you."
Jackson scoffed, "Sure. Thanks."
I wanted to say more to hammer it into his brain that he was sexy as all hell. But something told me that he wouldn't believe me. So I scooted over. This made Jackson turn to me, his green eyes shining with question. I reached my hand up and swept a lock of his dark brown hair sideways.
Almost breathless, Jackson whispered, "Scott. Don't. You're too young."
I slid the backside of my finger along Jackson's smooth, perfect face and told him, "I'm eighteen."
Before Jackson could say anything else, I leaned forward. Our lips touched questioningly. The kiss started as uncertain, soft. But it was turning me on to no end.
Jackson tore his lips from mine and said, "Scott, we can't."
I swung my leg over both of Jackson's, straddling his hips. I gently held his neck between my hands and brought our lips back together. This kiss was a lot more heated, more passionate. His tongue darted out first, brushing against my lower lip.
Jackson softly pushed me away and said, "Scott, you're still in high school. We can't do this."
I smiled sultrily at Jackson and observed, "I don't feel you pushing me off. In fact, your hands are holding my ass pretty tightly."
Jackson suddenly removed his hands from my behind. But he didn't push me off of him.
"You really eighteen?" Jackson asked.
"Birthday's February twelfth."
I quickly dove my head back down and reinitiated another steamy make-out session. I smiled, loving the sensations of his hands roaming inside my shirt and all over my back.
"Waitwaitwait," Jackson whispered. "What about Dean?"
I gave Jackson a chaste kiss and replied, "What about Dean? I already told you that I'm not exactly happy with him."
Jackson gently pushed me off of him and told me, "No more until you break it off with Dean."
"Done," I agreed immediately.
"But... you do it gently. He may be a douchebag, but nobody deserves to have their hearts ripped out of their chest."
"I love him. I wouldn't just hurt him more than necessary."
Jackson nodded. "And, after you end things with Dean, we get your parents' permission. If they are uncomfortable with us dating, I'm ending it."
"But--" I tried to protest.
"No. No. I mean it. Your parents don't like it, I'll get a restraining order if I have to."
"Jackson, I'm eighteen. It's my choice."
"But you're still in high school. To me, I don't care that you're legal, you're still your parents' kid. It's your parents' approval or wait three months until you graduate."
Giddy, I said, "Okay, let's go!"
"'Go'? Go where?"
Trying to pull Jackson up on his feet, I answered, "Go talk to my parents."
"No!" Jackson didn't move. "Not until you break it off with Dean. I was serious. No more until Isaac is gone. And no more until we get your folks' permission."
"Okay. Fine. You know, I'm a little jealous of your level of self-control."
Jackson laughed, rising from the sofa. "Wanna hang out, though? I'm thinkin' to watch a classic Disney. Beauty and the Beast. Or Mulan."
Jackson was opening a bag of microwave popcorn when I grabbed his hips and turned him around. I raised myself up to my toes and touched out lips together. Surprisingly. Jackson didn't protest. We kissed passionately for a moment before I lowered myself.
"Rain check?" I asked, still holding his hips. "I have a bit of homework to do. Dean is expecting me tomorrow afternoon, so I'll break up with him then. Tomorrow evening, I want you to come over."
"Tomorrow?" Jackson asked, now visibly uneasy.
"Yeah. That's how antsy I am. G'night, Jackie."
I was already halfway out the door when Jackson called, "Don't call me that!"
'You can do this,' I thought to myself, sitting in the car. 'You got this. You got this.'
Shakily, I got out of the car. While walking to the Pelegrino's front door, I thought to myself, 'Jesus Christ, don't be a fucking pussy. You're not exactly happy with Isaac. Christ, quit talking to yourself!'
Mr. Pelegrino opened the door not long after I rang the doorbell. We smiled at each other, mine being a bit (or a lot) forced.
"Scotty my boy," Mr. Pelegrino said with a chipper voice. "How are ya, son?"
I entered the home at Mr. Pelegrino's move aside and answered, "I'm fine, sir."
"Good to hear. Well, Dean's up on his room."
I ran up he staircase two steps at a time and didn't bother to knock on Deam's bedroom door, as per norm. The blonde was lying in his bed with his forearm covering his eyes. He looked when he heard me close his door, his eyes wet and red with tears.
Panicked, I asked, "Dean? What's wrong? Why're you crying?"
Dean quickly sat and stood from his bed, rushing toward me. "Scott- Scott, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."
Worried, I held Dean close by the loops of his belt and asked, "What? Dean, what is it? Why are you sorry?"
"I- umm-" Dean sniffled and wiped at his teary eyes. "I- so last night we- we went to Ashley's party, right? I- umm- I kissed Bobby Corwin."
I smiled at Dean, relieved. "You kissed Bobby Corwin? He's pretty hot."
"What?! I kissed someone else, Scott. You should be- you should be- I dunno- pissed or something!"
"Do you like Bobby?"
"What?" Dean said, definitely looking confused as all fuck.
"Do you like Bobby?"
"I- yeah. But I love you."
"Dean, I love you, too. I'm breaking up with you."
Shocked, shaking his head, Isaac demanded, "What? Scott! Just because I kissed--"
"No. That's not it. Dean, we love each other. We care for each other. But we're also not as happy as we could be."
"I don't- I don't make you happy?"
"You do, Dean. You do. Just like I make you happy. But we both could be happier. You, probably with Bobby."
"And- and you?"
"Me, possibly with Jackson Ambrose."
"Jacks- your neighbour? Your thirty-year-old neighbour?"
"He's not thirty," I responded with amusement. "And I'm eighteen anyway, so it's perfectly legal."
Aghast, Dean asked, "You guys fucked last night, didn't you?"
I finally released my grasp on Isaac's belt loops and answered, "Of course not. We just kissed."
"Oh. You know what's funny? We both kissed other guys on the same night."
I snorted, highly amused. "You and your belief in fate."
"Well now you can hardly refute the evidence!" Dean said victoriously. "It's staring you right in the face."
I rolled my eyes before retorting, "Or maybe we're both just horrid people."
Dean laughed boisterously, throwing his head back. His laugh, I absolutely loved it. It came from deep in his chest, and was always genuine. It was deep, like his voice, and beautiful.
Dean then asked, "We can still be friends, right?"
Affectionately, I placed my hand to the back of Dean's neck and pulled him into me. We embraced warmly, and I pressed my lips to Dean's forehead.
"You're still my best friend," I told the blonde. "Go ask out Bobby later, okay?"
Dean smirked at me and asked, "Why are you rushing me, Scott Jeremiah Nelson?"
"I'll tell you on Monday at school."
Lying in bed, I texted Jackson, 'Can you come by soon?'
Within seconds, Jackson texted back, 'You broke up with Dean? How'd that go?'
'It was amicable. Turns out he likes someone else, too. We're still friends :)'
'Be there in a few minutes. Kevin is coming, no sitter.'
Excited, and nervous, so fucking nervous, I went downstairs. My parents were in the kitchen, both chopping chicken and vegetables for dinner.
"Mom, dad, Jackson and Kevin are coming over."
My mom looked up from the chopping board and asked, "Ambrose? Okay. What's going on?"
Feeling the anxiety kicking in a hundred fold, I answered, "Long story short, I like Jackson and he likes me. Dean and I broke up today because of it, and Dean likes someone else, too."
"You-" my mom said, her eyes wide and shocked. "What?"
My dad jumped in, "Jackson? Jackson Ambrose? Scotty, he's too old for you."
I was quick to retort, "Dad, mom's nine years older than you. Jackson is eight years older than me."
"Scott," my mom sighed, "you're still just a high school student."
"So?" I demanded. "You always tell me that I'm more mature than half your friends anyway."
My dad then asked, "So... what? What if we don't approve? You gonna run away? Live two doors down?"
I sighed heavily before replying, "Wouldn't matter. Jackson refuses to be in a relationship with me if you guys don't like it."
"Scotty," my mom said with her own big sigh, "he has a son. He's a parent. He will always put his responsibilities before anything else. That includes you. Do you think you're ready to pursue a relationship with a single parent?"
"I wouldn't be standing here asking your permission if I didn't think I was. Jackson is hot, and funny, and sweet, and so caring. Kevin is the cutest, most well-behaved kid I've seen his age. And he likes me. I honestly, honestly do believe I want this."
My dad asked, "What about what other people think? You are eighteen, but you're still in high school. People will think he's a predator."
"Okay. If Jackson cares about that, then he's not the man for me. Of course I understand if he does feel that way, I don't wanna create any unnecessary stress for him that way."
My dad carried on, "And what about college? You've applied to Harvard, and Yale, Princeton, and Berkeley. Do you think you three can make a long distance relationship work?"
"'Three'?" I asked, perplexed.
My mom clarified, "Kevin will be a part of this as well, son."
"Right. Well there's no guarantee I'll get accepted to any of those. I'll apply to WSU and SU."
"So what if you do get accepted to Yale?" my dad asked softly. "It's your dream school, Scotty."
I agreed, "It is, dad. I'll go there if they accept me. If Jackson doesn't mind a long distance relationship, then we'll do that."
"And if he does mind?" my mom pressed gently, worry in her golden brown eyes. "What if Jackson doesn't want long distance?"
I opened my mouth to respond. But I shut it quickly. I didn't know what then.
"Talk with Jackson about that," my dad told me sternly.
And then the doorbell rang. I looked to both my parents, five billion times more anxious than I was before.
My dad waved his knife once, signalling for me to answer the door. Walking toward the foyer, I wrung my hands, trying to stave the nerves.
"Hey!" I greeted the man as cheerily as I could.
This didn't cause Jackson's apprehensive facial expression to lessen. He offered a smile, but it was transparent.
I looked down and said, "Hey Kevin. How are you?"
Kevin, beaming, said back, "Hi Scotty!"
I grabbed Jackson hand, hoping my facial expression told him that I was happy he was there, and led him inside. My parents had resumed chopping to prepare dinner, but stopped when we three entered the kitchen.
As warmly as she could, my mom said, "Hi Jackson. Hi Kevin."
"Hi," Kevin's adorable little voice greeted neutrally.
Jackson replied, "Aaron. Melissa."
We had stood stiffly at the entrance of the kitchen. I was still holding Jackson's hand, both our grips a little too tight, I think.
Jackson carried on, "I- I suddenly feel like I should be calling you Mr. And Mrs. Nelson."
Jackson tried to chuckle. But it died in his throat.
My dad said to me, "Scott, mind taking Kevin up to your room? Your mother and I would like to have a word with Jackson for a minute."
Jackson's hand in mine gave a firmer squeeze. I didn't know if that meant he was yet even more scared or that it was alright. So I raised our joined hands and planted a sweet kiss to his knuckles. I then held my hand out for Kevin.
In my bedroom, Kevin said excitedly, "Hey, my dad likes dem!"
He was looking at a poster of the music group Fall Off the Earth.
"They have awesome music, don't they?" I asked the boy. "Wanna watch cartoons on Netflix?"
Perplexed yet intrigued, Kevin asked, "Netflex?"
I laid myself on my bed and opened my laptop, "Netflix is a website that allows you to watch many movies and TV shows."
Kevin tried to climb up onto my bed, but it was too high for his two-and-a-half-foot frame. It made me chuckle at the utter cuteness of it.
Ten minutes into an episode of Winnie the Pooh, I turned my head from the computer screen to my open bedroom door. I wanted so badly to go back downstairs and see, or hear, what was going on.
Kevin's peel of laughter caught my attention back. So I turned my head back, watching the cartoon with the toddler that had his head using my arm as a pillow.
Kevin laughed again and told me, "Tigger is so silly!"
"He is, isn't he!"
"Hey," Jackson's voice said.
I turned back to the door. Jackson was standing there, his face impassive and his hands stuck in his pants pockets.
"Hey," I said back nervously. "Wanna come watch Winnie the Pooh with us?"
"Your parents said you had something to talk to me about?" Jackson asked instead.
"Yeah," I replied before turning.
I slowly slid my arm out from under Kevin. Free, I got up off my bed and went over to my desk, beckoning Jackson to join me. I leaned back, resting my ass against my desk while Jackson sat in the black leather chair.
Uneasily, Jackson told me, "So your parents asked me about my intentions toward you. They asked me why I was interested in you. I told them that you seemed to care for Kevin a whole lot, and I wouldn't intentionally hurt you. I'm interested in you because you're affectionate, and you make me warm all over."
I smiled at the sensation of my heart soaring to the high heavens. But then my smile dropped.
Jackson, seeing my smile disappear, asked, "You had something to say?"
My right foot was hanging in the air in my position. So I jutted it out, using my toes to stroke up and down Jackson's shin.
"Do you want to try dating?" I asked softly.
Jackson sat his hand on my knee and replied, "Yeah. Of course. Scotty, you are beautiful."
"I think you're a hundred times more beautiful than I am," I said with a ghost of a smile. "But what about after I've graduated high school? I graduate in three months. My dream college is Yale."
"You're right," Jackson said with a growing smile. "Graduation is three months away. That's plenty of time to get to know each other alone. And if you do go to Yale, that won't be for another two or three months til you move. I won't be starting a relationship that definitely has an expiration date, and I'm guessing you won't either, so it's my conclusion that if you move to New Haven you want to continue this long distance?"
"Would you be okay with that?" I asked, my stomach doing flips. "Really long distance? Seeing each other in person only during Thanksgiving and Christmas and spring break and summer break?"
Jackson smiled at me and gave my knee an affectionate squeeze. "There's Skype and FaceTime. I'm willing to give it a try."
Happy, giddy, over the moon, I got up from my desk and sat on Jackson's lap sideways. He gave a laugh of surprise, and adoration. He then slid his hands to hold, one hand holding my hip and the other holding my knee.
I loved that Jackson was so much taller than my five-foot-six frame. It allowed me to comfortably lean the side of my body against Jackson's front and lay my head to his shoulder.
After about a minute of chair snuggles, Kevin laughed loudly. I looked over to my bed, seeing Kevin still watching Winnie the Pooh on my laptop. So I stood from Jackson and grabbed his hand, leading him to my bed.
"Piglet is so small, daddy," Kevin said with humour in his little voice as he felt me snuggle in behind him.
Jackson snuggled in behind me and replied to his son, "But he is strong isn't he?"
Kevin instantly answered, "Just like me!"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The bell rang, signalling the end of third period.
Mrs. Ammison quickly told the class, "Midterm is mainly focusing on chapters two to eight! So study those like your lives depend on it!"
Lana, walking out of the classroom with me, asked, "So that's why Dean was totally all over Bobby Corwin this morning? Why'd you guys break up?"
"We both like other guys," I replied. "He's evidently with Bobby now, and I'm with Jackson."
"You said he's your neighbour. Which one is he?"
"Dark hair, green eyes. He had a kid on his hip at my parents' Fourth of July barbecue."
"The one with the little boy? Oh, he's hot. I didn't know you were into older guys."
"Hardly," I responded with a roll of my eyes. "He's only twenty-six. He could pass for twenty-one anyway."
"There's Dean," Lana said, gesturing with her head toward lockers. "Shamelessly making out with Bobby already."
Indeed they were. Bobby had Dean pressed against his locker and looked like they were playing a game of tonsil hockey.
This was perfect. This fit into my plan that I'd cooked up over the weekend. Lana walked ahead, her locker being on the other side of the school, I stormed over to the two and aggressively grabbed the back of Bobby's shirt and tore him away from Dean.
"What the fuck is this?" I said loudly.
"Wha-" Bobby said when he caught his footing. "I thought you said you guys broke up!?" Bobby demanded, furious.
Dean rolled his eyes before punching my shoulder in a friendly manner.
"Fucker," the blonde said. "We are not together."
"Okay," Bobby said awkwardly. "I'm going with Troy and Lamar to Taco Bell for lunch. You coming?"
Dean shook his as I went over to my locker, which was beside Isaac's. "I hate Taco Bell. Thanks, though. Still up for a movie tonight?"
I heard Bobby and Dean kiss before Bobby answered, "Yeah, pick me at seven."
Now carrying my insulated lunch bag to the cafeteria, I walked down the halls. Dean ran to catch up and asked, "Mind if I- uhh- mind if I still sit at the table?"
I smiled over at Dean and wrapped my arm around his neck, despite him being six feet tall, and answered, "You and I agreed to be friends, Dean. And they're your friends, too. Might be a bit awkward at first, but I love you."
"Love you, too," Dean said back with a smile. "You know you're a bitch for that prank back there."
"Meh," I responded with a shrug. "He'll live."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I was in the middle of proofreading an essay for AP biology, my phone buzzed in vibration. It was a text message from Jackson.
'Picnic at Green Lake Park. You in?'
I smiled and typed back, 'Yeah, I'll be over in a bit.'
I got up off my desk chair and walked over to chest of drawers. I took the tiny black bars out of the jewelry-cleaning solution and dried them using a Kleenex. I was already bare-chested so I gripped my pink nipple and inserted the bar into the piercing and screwed the end on. I had pink little pink nipples that were always erect. I liked them because their hard state made it so easy to insert jewelry.
Now dressed in Heather grey jeans and a red tee, I went downstairs into the living room and asked, "Mom, can you French braid my hair?"
As I planted my ass onto the floor between my mom's feet, she asked, "You goin' out?"
"Yeah," I replied as my mom began working on the hair that hung down the side and back of my head. "Jax invited me to a picnic at Green Lake."
"Mm," my mom hummed. "If Jackson wants time alone with you, I can watch Kevin."
As my mom continued to tug at strands of my hair, I texted Jackson, telling him that my mom was willing to watch Kevin if he wanted.
I walked into Jackson and Kevin's home without knocking, always welcomed. Kevin was lying on the carpeted floor of the living room with a colouring book splayed out before him and a purple Crayon in his hand.
The toddler looked, a smile instantaneously forming, and he said, "Hi Stotty!"
I laid down on my stomach and asked, "Whatcha colouring there, little guy?"
Kevin looked down at the colouring book and answered, "Diss is Zach and diss is Tuack."
"Ohhh," I said. I then pointed at the drawing of the duck and asked, "Is this Zach?"
Kevin chuckled and answered, "Nnooo! Dat's Tuack! Diss is Zach!"
Of course, being a toddler, Kevin wasn't colouring fully in the lines, but I said, "It looks like a nice colouring, buddy."
Jackson was standing at the island when I walked into the kitchen, his back to me. I slid my hands around his hips, holding him tight, pressing my forehead to the middle of his shoulder blades.
Jackson remained texting as he said, "Hey Scotty."
I responded by pressing my lips to the cotton of his grey tee in an affectionate kiss.
Jackson put his phone down and put his hands on mine, which were pressed against the belt that secured his blue jeans. "Hope I didn't take you away from anything."
"Mm-mm," I said. "Needed a break from homework. Haven't seen you in a couple days."
Jackson gently peeled my hands away and turned around in the embrace. He then turned us both and lifted me by my underarms.
Damn, his strong arms always turned me on.
He sat me on the island and stood between my legs. We smiled softly as he leaned in. He gave me a few sweet pecks on the lips, and I couldn't help but to wrap my arms around his neck.
"Daddy!" Kevin called, making his way into the kitchen. "I finisheded my tolouring! I toloureded it for Stotty!"
I reached down, smiling at the little guy, and told him, "Wow! It looks so pretty now that it's done! Mind if your dad hangs it on the fridge? That way, whenever I come over, I can see it."
Kevin jovially agreed, his smile beaming with pride.
As Jackson secured a magnet to the paper, he said, "Basket is ready. You guys ready to head out?"
At the park, Kevin sat on the ground trying to get his Thor kite into the air by running. This venture proved unsuccessful because Kevin was running while holding a large section of the string, the kite just dragging along the grass.
After helping Jackson spread the cliche red and white checkered blanket on the ground, I approached the little blonde toddler.
Dejected, Kevin said to me, "Stotty, it tan't fly. I sink it's broten."
Softly, I said to the boy, "It's not broken, Kev. Want some help?"
Kevin responded physically, nodding his head up and down. I grabbed the kite string, putting a two foot distance between my fingers and the plastic kite frame.
"Hold on tight to this, okay?" I instructed with a smile, handing the spindle to the little guy. "And run with me as fast as you can, alright?"
Nodding enthusiastically, Kevin agreed, "Otay, Stotty!"
"Okay, ready?" Kevin nodded furiously, grinning in excitement. "One... two... three GO!"
While running I allowed the kite to glide further from my grip slowly. Because of the light winds, I didn't have to run very fast or at all far. I ran about eleven feet before allowing the string to completely escape my fingers as the kite climbed to about eighty feet into the sky.
I crouched down to one knee behind Kevin to help him secure the string and asked, "Wow, isn't Thor high in the sky?"
"Sank you for helping, Scotty!" Kevin said happily. "Daddy! Stotty helped me make Sor doe really high!"
From the blanket, which was twelve feet away, Jackson called back, "Yeah, I saw that! Scotty is a pro kite flyer, huh?"
Jackson was just finishing up emptying the contents of the picnic basket out on the blanket when I joined him. I grabbed my iced vanilla latte from the Starbucks drive-thru and leaned back, supporting my weight on one hand.
Jackson finished unloading the basket. He grabbed his vanilla bean frappuccino and sat himself between my widespread legs, with his back toward me. When he laid his back to my chest, I sat my drink back down and began scraping my fingernails along his crew cut hair.
Together, all cuddly, we watched Kevin. The blonde boy tugged on the spindle, and ran to and fro.
"Oh, no!" Kevin cried when the spindle escaped his grasp.
The little boy ran for the spindle. It wasn't windy enough for the kite to fly away fast, so Kevin caught it pretty quickly. Jackson and I just laughed softly.
After a few more minutes of watching Kevin, I asked, "Whatcha thinkin' about, Jax?"
Jackson gently lifted himself off my chest and turned around to face me. He leaned in close, and rested his forehead against mine.
"Today is our third month anniversary," Jackson said softly, affection evident in his voice.
Shocked, happily shocked, I smiled and replied, "That's right. How could I forget."
"You are so good to me," Jackson told me, awed. "To Kevin. You make me feel free. I feel safe with you. These past ninety-two days with you have made me so happy."
I smiled and slid my hand to Jackson neck and said breathily, "Jackson."
"I love you, Scotty," Jackson said, both unease and joy lacing his tone. "I'm in love with you. I am madly in love with you."
Happy, overjoyed with happiness, I captured Jackson's thick, luscious lips in a heated kiss. Our lips grazed against each other's, audible smacks resounding during the nanoseconds in which our lips separated.
Mid kiss, Kevin's voice rang, "Stotty! I'm hungry!"
I bowed my head slightly, my temple against Jackson's sharp cheekbone, chuckling. "Okay, Kev! Come and eat!"
Jackson turned back around but remained seated between my legs. He reached out and Kevin handed him the spindle.
"Whaddaya wanna eat, kid?" I asked the boy with a smile. "Your dad made Greek salad, turkey or chicken sandwiches looks like, potato salad, grilled chicken, and for dessert we have, I think these are red velvet cupcakes."
Bright-eyed, Kevin said, "Ooooh, I wanna have a tuptake!"
"Nope," I told the little guy with a smile and a shake of my head. "You can't have cupcakes for lunch. I promise you can have two cupcakes when you've eaten something proper."
"Dood," Kevin said back with conviction. "Maybe I'll have sree tuptakes."
Jackson handed a plate to his son, filled small helpings of potato salad, Greek salad, and grilled chicken.
While filling my own plate, I asked, "How's work been, my love?"
Jackson's gaze shifted me instantly, shocked. A happy smile formed on his lips before he kissed me again. Understandable. It was our first times saying the 'L' word.
"Work's been busy," Jackson answered, resuming the task of filling his own plate. "I'm analyzing a new pharmaceutical drug made by Johnson & Johnson that was designed to strengthen the immune system of patients going through chemo."
"Yeah?" I asked, not even faking the curiosity. "How's that going?"
"Well, Immuloken, that's what they're calling it, is just in its baby steps. Been studying the drug for- three days now. Johnson & Johnson has a few hiccups to rectify. Immuloken attacks the white blood cells of B negative samples. Other than that, it looks promising."
"So what makes this- Immuloken so special to chemo patients?"
"It has high concentrations of allicin, which is a natural cancer cell combatant. But it also has iron for red blood cells, and low doses of antibiotics. Anyway, how's school? Grad's in, what, nine days?"
I nodded, swallowing a bite of penne noodle of the Greek salad. "Yeah, nine days away. School's okay. So goddamn glad that finals are done and over with. Just got a couple assignments due by Monday. They're both done, don't worry, just gotta proofread and email them."
Kevin turned his head to us and complimented, "Daddy, diss bedado salad is so dood. Ten I try your white slushie?"
With a warm smile, Jackson handed his Starbucks drink to his son.
"Mmmm," Kevin hummed satisfactorily, sipping from the green straw. "I love you, daddy."
Jackson ruffled Kevin's mop of blonde hair and replied, "Love you, too, buddy."
Kevin, unabashed, turned to me and said, "I love you, Stotty."
My emotions went all over the place. It was so genuine and even more so unexpected. I wrapped my free arm around Kevin's tiny shoulders and kissed the top of his head.
"I love you, Kevin."
Jackson smiled at us, pride and adoration shining in his green eyes.
After lunch, the three of us relaxed. Kevin laid his back to my stomach with my phone in his hands. He was playing Kids Glow Puzzle as his dad laid on his stomach. Jackson had cleaned the blanket, put the dishes back into the basket, with the leftovers and disposable dishes in a trash bag.
"I dunno how," Kevin complained, not unhappy.
I was watching him trying to solve the puzzle, and told him, "You almost got it, Kev. Just keep trying. Don't give up."
And he didn't give up. He made a line connect twice, which means you have to retry. But he solved the puzzle on the next try.
Two minutes later, my cell phone died. So I grabbed the frisbee off the blanket and asked Kevin to play with me. He tried to jump to catch the red disk as it whizzed through the air, but the little guy was too short. The frisbee flew just an inch higher than Kevin's fingers reached.
Jackson, with a glint in his eye, said to Kevin, "Race you!"
Kevin let out an excited and high-pitched peel of laughter before making a mad dash for the red disk. I loved the way Kevin ran. His tiny feet moved in a flurry, and his little legs took the biggest strides they could (which weren't big, at all), and his arms swung almost wildly. God's definition of adorable!
I watched as Jackson and Kevin ran the fifteen feet to the frisbee, Jackson running slowly, clearly letting his son win.
"Awww!" Jackson whined good-naturedly. "You beat me!"
Kevin laughed as he held the frisbee high in the air and said, "I'm fastest den you, daddy!"
"You are, buddy," Jackson said stroking the boy's blonde hair. "Now throw the frisbee to Scotty."
Kevin stood sideways, with his feet obnoxiously far apart. He held the disk way far back, and swiftly threw. The frisbee flung through the air diagonally, eventually hitting the ground and rolling a few feet.
Kevin laughed in amusement and stated, "It didn't fly, Stotty!"
Jackson told the boy, "It's okay, Kev. You're just learning how to do it properly. When Scotty was your age, I'm sure he didn't know how to play with a frisbee either."
Brightly, Kevin ran for the frisbee and said, "Otay, daddy!"
Kevin once again stood sideways. This time, however, he didn't hold the frisbee too far back. And the frisbee glided gracefully, climbing gradually. Downside is the disk whizzed through the air, flying about thirteen feet to my side.
The three threw the frisbee around for, maybe, twenty or thirty minutes before Kevin ran toward me after I threw the frisbee to Jackson. I held my hands out, and Kevin jumped. I grabbed the kid by the underarms and twirled us both.
"Stotty?" Kevin's little voice said uncertainly.
Feeling Kevin lay the side of his head to my shoulder, I asked, "Yeah? You feeling tired, buddy?"
"Uh-huh," Kevin replied in the middle of a huge yawn.
Within seconds, the little tyke was fast asleep. And Jackson was at my other side, softly brushing blonde hair from Kevin's forehead.
"I wasn't expecting him to tire this early," Jackson said softly, adoring his son. "His nap time should've been around an hour from now. Want me to drive you anywhere?"
"Pacific Place?" I asked, walking and Jackson quickly gathering our things. "Supposed to meet Dean and Mia there in an hour. I know I can just go home first and get my car, but parking at Pacific can be such a bitch. Hey, I'm spending the night."
"Okay," Jackson replied, grabbing my hand and lacing our fingers together. "I- umm- I have to go buy condoms."
Smiling, hopefully sultrily, I told Jackson, "Don't bother. I think 'I love you' warrants raw love."
Jackson, wide-eyed, growled slightly and said, "If my son wasn't asleep in your arms I'd jump you."
I laughed softly, then asked, "You're getting hard right now, aren't you? Well, no touching yourself until tonight. I want it all inside me."
Halfway out of the park, two teenage girls were walking toward us. They saw us, Jackson holding the basket and me carrying a sleeping Kevin, and they both Aww'ed and muttered about cuteness. I smiled sheepishly at them, while Jackson nodded once in greeting.
"Here is your card, sir," the waiter said, handing the black leather cheque book to Jackson.
"Thank you, Paul," Jackson replied with a gentle smile and grabbing his wine glass. "So you seem distracted tonight. What's on your mind?"
I offered Jackson an apologetic smile, "I- umm... I'm not looking forward to leaving you."
Jackson reached across the table for my hand and responded, "You're not leaving me, Scotty. I'll be right here, waiting. And we can fly to see each other on some weekends. In fact, I wanted this to be a surprise, but I'll tell you now to make you feel better. I've booked two tickets to Cambridge for September twenty-second, so Kevin and I will be seeing you that weekend."
I placed the palm of my hand to my eyes and crowed, "Oh my god! You have no idea how happy that makes me!"
"Well, I did it for selfish reasons. Kevin won't be able to wait til Thanksgiving to see you again after you leave for Harvard."
Smiling with amusement, I asked, "Just Kevin, huh?"
"Yeah. Kevin. I won't miss ya too much. I can spend lonely nights with the mould of your ass that were making tonight."
I couldn't help but laugh uproariously. "Well, you like to cuddle up with my butt more than anything else anyway."
Jackson shrugged, wearing an exaggerated smile, and replied, "What can I say, it's a nice butt. It's all warm and firm yet soft, and it never fails to bring me pleasure."
I snorted before saying, "Let's go, or we won't only miss the previews but the actual movie, too. And I am not missing the opening scenes of Wonder Woman."
While waiting for the valet, I fidgeted with the bow tie around my neck. I normally hated wearing ties and bow ties, but wore them once in a while during date nights.
"Bow ties are cutest on you," Jackson stated, taking over the adjusting of the bow tie. "Especially when you wear your glasses with 'em."
While driving, I told Jackson, "Oh, hey, I was offered a job yesterday in Cambridge!"
"Yeah?" Jackson asked cheerily. "Where?"
"Courtyard hotel. Room service mostly, but bellhop when necessary. At least I'll be making tips on top."
"That's great, Scotty! Have you paid your tuition yet?"
"Not yet. I just got approved for the seventy-thousand dollar student loan, so I'll pay my tuition on Monday."
"Did they tell you who will be your dormmate yet?"
"Yeah. Guy from San Diego named Gordon Waller. I just hope he's not a homophobe asshat."
"Well, if he is-"
Just then, as I was driving through a green light at an intersection, Jackson was illuminated by a light behind me.
"Scott, look ou--"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Pain. That's what I woke up to. All over. Pain all over over.
And grunting in my ear. And huffing. And my feet dangling.
"Ow," I let out. "Wh'happened? Dad?"
"Scott?" Jackson voice asked, strained and emotional.
I could feel him sitting down and my butt on his lap.
He continued, "Scotty? Can you hear me?"
It was then that I could feel myself drooling. Warm liquid seeped out of my mouth, cascading my chin and neck and chest.
"Jax, wh-" ~cough and more saliva fell down my chest~ "wh'happened, Jax?"
Jackson was crying. Why was he crying? Why was I so tired? I took a nap unintentionally this afternoon, so I shouldn't have been the least bit tired.
A strange woman's voice said, "You gotta lie him flat on the ground, son."
Jackson gently lowered me down and said, "Scotty, it's okay. It's gonna be okay. Okay?"
"Jax, wha' happened? S'that sirens?"
The same woman then said, "Let me cover him with my jacket."
"Scot- Scotty, just hang on, okay?" Jackson said desperately, grasping my hand. "It's gonna be okay. I'm right here, alright?"
I finally was granted the strength to open my eyes. My head was cradled in Jackson's arm. Tears created lines of tan skin against red and black painted cheeks. Blood.
"Jax, what happened?"
Jackson sobbed as he softly stroked his finger on my face. "The ambulance is coming. Just hang on, okay?"
"Jax, I'm sore."
"Okay. Okay. The EMT's can fix that when they come, alright?"
"Jax, I'm scared. Wh'happened?"
"A- a drunk driver ran a red light, Scotty. But it'll be okay. Just stay with me. You hear that? You hear those sirens? The ambulance is on its way. Just hang on another minute, okay?"
Trying to fight off the sobs, I said, "Jax, I wan- wanna go home. M'so cold, Jax. Please take me home."
"I know. I know you do, baby."
"Jax-" I sobbed, and coughed. "Jax, I'm scared. Ca- can you bring me home? I wan' go home."
Jackson's lips trembled heavily before he replied, "We- we can't, baby. Just let the EMT's patch you up, alright?"
"You will be," Jackson quickly answered. "You will be, Scotty."
"I- I start college ne- nexx month. I- I'm driving to Cam- Cambridge in couple weeks. Can't- can't miss-"