Fort Worth, Texas
David rolled out of bed and pulled on his jeans as Madonna sang about life being a mystery. The song was one of his favorites, but he’d been listening to “Oh Father” more lately, as he’d been thinking quite a bit about Jesse Blackthorn, his blood father. David sang along with the song as he reached for the vest hanging on the hook on the back of his closet door. The multicolored paisley vest went over the buttoned-down white shirt he would don as soon as he brushed his teeth and fixed his hair.
A knock came on the bathroom door, his mother’s voice calling through the wood, “Davy, you better hurry, sweetheart! You’re gonna be late!”
“Almost done!” David answered before rinsing his mouth out. He ran wet fingers through his long blonde hair and checked his reflection in the mirror. Satisfied, he hurried out of the small bathroom and back into his room to slide into the shirt and vest. Rolling up the sleeves to his elbows, he gazed at himself in the mirror hanging on his closet door as he pushed his feet into black penny loafers. Reaching for the lip gloss he’d spent part of his allowance on, David put it on and rolled his lips together. Unable to quell a smile, he muttered under his breath, “Hope you like what you see, babe!”
Claire poked her strawberry blonde head through the crack in his door, a grin on her face as she stretched one finger out to touch the slight mark she saw peeking out from just under his collar. “Well, Sunday couldn’t have been all that bad.”
David blushed and tugged up his collar to cover the evidence that Sunday had really happened… the evidence that Jonathan had really told him he ranked over David Bowie. The mark on his neck, however slight, proved to him they’d actually kissed until they heard Elisha calling their names. Because neither of them could be certain how Elisha would react, David had suggested they pretend like they were fighting, since they both had tears on their faces. Jonathan had agreed and so, for the first time since he’d met Elisha when they were babies, David lied to his whole-life best friend.
“Ground control to Major David. Ground control to Major David. What’s it like where you are?”
David laughed at his mother. Claire got along famously with Jonathan due to her extreme state of attempting to fit in, and she had fallen in love with David Bowie through constant exposure to his music via Jonathan. David’s merry blue eyes met her teasing set and he shook his head as he mumbled, “You are so weird, Momma.”
“And you are so happy right now! Did you even realize that the world was blurry without your glasses?” She walked over to his nightstand and picked up the black plastic lenses to hold them out to David. “Oh, and don’t forget that you have an eye doctor appointment this Wednesday. I’ll be picking you up from school at two.”
“No biology with Mr. Bottoms! Yay!” David cheered, taking his glasses and putting them on before turning around to pack his backpack.
“Hey… don’t forget to blot the gloss so it’s not so shiny. Your dad’s still here and… and I don’t want you to cause undue attention at school, my pretty, pretty boy.” Claire sighed, moving across the room to wrap around David from behind, hugging him tightly. “I never want to get that call again, okay?”
David shuddered at the memory from seventh grade. Coming out of Mr. Ford’s math class, three of the school bullies had jumped him and dragged him from the portables to the bathroom in the main building. They had exposed themselves to him and forced him to do terrible things. When he’d refused initially, they’d almost drowned him by shoving his head repeatedly in a toilet. If it hadn’t been for Elisha, David wouldn’t even be breathing. Supposedly, it was all because he’d worn a shirt adorned with colorful glittery butterflies on the front.
The attack had happened at a completely different school than the one he attended presently, but the students that had hurt him had transitioned to the new high school with him. David shook it off, prompting his mother to hug him a little bit tighter in silent apology.
“Okay, that’s the door. Get your stuff, and don’t forget to hide your journal, sweetie. Remember what happened last time your dad found your journal! You were grounded for a month!” She kissed the side of his head and slipped out of his room.
“I still maintain that thinking about doing something is not the same as actually doing it!” David called after her, shaking his head as he heard his mother’s laugh echo down the hallway.
David smiled as he crawled onto his bed with the green leather-bound book he’d gotten for his birthday. Opening it, he read over the poem he’d written before he’d gone to bed, feeling the lump in his throat swell—he’d felt the same lump as he’d written it.
We’re strangers now.
A bridge lies between us.
I didn’t see it coming.
I don’t want to end this.
We’re strangers now.
I hate to see us part.
If there be a fork in our road,
I’ll hold you here… in my heart.
We’re strangers now.
I know I’ll love you still the same.
I just don’t feel the energy.
Not so bright now shines our flame.
We’re strangers now.
Someone—anyone, save me!
I don’t want us to end.
I don’t want these words to be!
David crossed out the last verse, scribbling over it until the last four lines were a jumble of black swirls and jagged lines. Slamming the book closed, he squeezed his eyes shut and clutched his journal to his chest.
“It doesn’t have to be,” he hissed to himself. “It doesn’t have to be… you’re my best friend!”
Footsteps in the hallway outside his door sent him into panic mode and David hid the book. He swung his legs over the side of the bed as he leaned down to pick up his backpack and sling it over his shoulder. Elisha appeared in the doorway, one hand rumpling his curly black hair as he leaned against the jamb. David’s lips spread in a wide smile at his friend. “Hey! We got time to stop at Diamond Shamrock for drinks?”
A few days later, David opened his locker and smiled at the little blue box topped with a white bow, sitting on top of his books. Opening the gift, he found a cassette tape labeled, More Bowie for you! A quick read of the track listing sent him cackling. His two favorite songs from the movie Labyrinth were on it, and since his step-father forbade him from buying anything with “a magic theme” to it, finally possessing “As the World Falls Down” and “Within You” was amazing! Closing the tape, he looked down into the blue box, seeing what looked to be gray and pink stripes.
Hands slid over his shoulders, startling him until one long-fingered hand dove into the box as a beloved voice murmured next to his ear, “I know you’ve been looking for the right tie for this vest, so when Mom and I went shopping, she found this great deal on ties and I saw this one and thought of your vest. Turn for me.”
Whirling around to face Jonathan, David hushed, “Thought you were supposed to be in class!”
“A little birdie told me you were soon to leave for the eye doctor, and I wanted to see you one more time. Note in my front pocket.” Jonathan waggled his eyebrows at him, making David giggle.
They had come up with logical ways to touch each other. “Accidentally forgetting” they’d stuffed a note in their back or front pocket meant that a hand could surreptitiously slide over a butt or squeeze a hip. They could belong to one another and act like it, but only people in the know—which, of course, was absolutely no-one—would know. Jonathan’s hands maneuvered the tie into a loose, haphazard Windsor as David dug the note from the other boy’s front pocket.
“There you are, babe,” Jonathan whispered before pulling David into a tight hug. “See you at church tonight? Maybe we can sneak away, just you and me.”
David held closer to him. “I hope so. I just wish we could—”
“Me, too.” Jonathan pressed a kiss to David’s hair.
The bell rang, and they broke apart, Jonathan leaning against the lockers as David put away the books he didn’t need. Kids poured from the classrooms around them and Elisha joined Jonathan in his slouch against the lockers.
“So your mom’s taking you to the contact appointment, yeah? You getting new glasses, too?” he asked, hip-checking Jonathan when a girl harrumphed, signaling she needed access to her locker.
David nodded as they bookended him. “Yep. I’m hoping to be able to get colored contacts, but Momma said it depends on how much they cost. Something about insurance will only pay a certain amount.”
“Colored? Why?” Jonathan retorted, furrowing his brow.
“Duh, man. Can’t believe you don’t know that our Davy here has always wanted hazel eyes! If they have hazel, he’s going to become our pretty little wolf!” Elisha crowed, hooking his arm over David’s neck.
David elbowed him in the solar plexus, knocking the wind out of his friend. “Really? What are you trying to do, Eli? Get me killed?”
“Sorry! Didn’t mean—”
“Well, you did, and your voice carries.” David threw his homework into his backpack, but was careful not to smash the box he put in the top as he yanked the ties to close it. Looking up at Jonathan, he set his jaw as he shut his locker and spun the combination. “Walk me to my mom’s car?”
“David, I’m really sorry,” Elisha called after him, shoving a hand through his hair. “I didn’t mean—”
David turned to face his friend. “I’ll talk to you tonight. I gotta go.”
“See you at church?” Elisha confirmed.
“I’ll be there.” David turned back around, shoving a note from his own back pocket into Jonathan’s, growling, “You’d think he’d remember seventh grade. It’s been barely four years.”
“I know that I’ll never forget it,” Jonathan muttered, angrily. “I couldn’t sleep for days, worrying if you were going to be all right.”
David whirled around, seeing Travis Capulet hurtling towards him. Travis was in his theatre class, but other than that, the captain of the baseball team and David had nothing in common. Coming to a stop at David’s side, Travis grinned, nodding a greeting at Jonathan. “Shea.”
“Cap.” Jonathan smiled at his teammate.
Travis shifted his weight to his left leg as he turned a friendly gaze to David. “Hey, man, I know we don’t talk much, but I was wondering about the homework for Mrs. Sanchez. You and me were drawn out of the hat, and that improv scene… man, I don’t know. It’s hard for me to work over in my brain. I know you go to church tonight, but I was wondering when you get out of service?”
“Well, I got an eye doctor appointment right now that I gotta get to pretty quick, but service doesn’t start until six-thirty, so if you want, we can meet in the auditorium here around four and work on it until six?” he suggested, unwilling to give up stolen time with Jonathan.
“Cool. See you then!” And with a grin and a wave, they watched as he maneuvered the hall to the stairs.
Jonathan took David’s backpack and slung it over his own shoulder. “Think your mom would be cool with me coming with you to the eye doctor?” he asked as they made their way to the stairwell at a slightly less urgent pace.
“You know Momma likes you. I don’t think she’d mind, and I know she’d be glad to know that someone could drop me by the auditorium afterwards. She always has stuff to do between me getting home and us all getting to Wednesday night service.” Jonathan’s hand came to rest between David’s shoulders as they made their descent to the ground floor. The heat from his palm radiating out to the rest of David’s body… including his dick.
Jonathan leaned close to whisper against David’s ear. “I didn’t want to give up any time I could get with you.”
David grinned. “I didn’t want to, either.”
David ground his teeth. “Veronica again?”
“Man, I don’t know what to do to make her understand that there is never going to be a me and her,” Jonathan groused. “Or that I hate the name Jonny.”
David snorted, throwing a sidelong glance at the taller boy. “Not always.”
A playful tug on his hair ended in a quiet, “Well, you don’t always hate the term pretty, either.”
A long gaze was shared between them as Veronica met them at the bottom of the stairs, one Jonathan broke by snapping at the girl, “I’m not trying to be mean, but it will never happen. Never, Veronica.”
Veronica waved off his words. “Daddy wants you to take me to Homecoming,” she stated, batting her eyes at him.
“I don’t care. I’m not up for sale. I told you that on Sunday at church. If I even go to Homecoming at all, it’ll be with my friends.” His hand never moved from David’s back, and he pushed them both past the girl, shaking his head.
“People like her—” David began, stopping suddenly. “I don’t know why she thinks that she can have whatever she wants.”
“Preachers’ kids usually are one of two extremes, but one thing that ninety-nine percent of them seem to possess is a sense of entitlement,” Jonathan replied, pushing open the big glass door to allow them exit. “Veronica is no exception to that rule.”
“Pastor Beals is such a nice guy, though. I hate that she’s such a hag.” David smiled as he saw his mother’s silver 1987 Nova by the curb. Turning to face Jonathan, he looked up at him as he took his backpack from him. “Thank you for the gifts and I will read the note as soon as I get in the car. Question?”
Jonathan nodded, tugging the tie from his thick brown hair and running his hands through it before he reaffixed it back in its usual ponytail. “Answer.”
“Why did you get all grumpy gus on me when I said I might get colored contacts?” he asked, glancing around to make sure they were alone.
Jonathan did the same before he stepped closer to him, his words only audible to David. “Because your eyes are my favorite color. To change them, to hide their beauty from me, would be a sorrowful day.”
David stood on tiptoe to hug him. Hugs were something he was glad they’d started when they were small, because it made the embraces commonplace for the kids at school and church. Pushing his face into Jonathan’s neck, he breathed him in, his words torn from him, “I never liked their color until just now.”
Jonathan chuckled, placing his hand to David’s back and biting his lower lip. “So let’s get to your mom’s car and see what she thinks?”
Pastor Beals’ sermon was on the friendship between Jonathan and David, and for once, neither boy could be distracted from the preacher’s teachings, mixed as they were with current day anecdotes. David took notes about the story, determined to research what he could about their relationship. Three passages in the first Book of Samuel in particular caught his attention, and he highlighted them in his King James:
18 1 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.
David loved the idea of making a covenant, and of loving someone as his own soul. How intense their relationship must have been! David, son of Jesse, and Jonathan, son of King Saul; two of the most unlikely people to ever meet, let alone become friends, yet they made a covenant. They loved one another as their own souls, which gave David pause. As much as he loved Elisha—his own best friend—he wasn’t certain he could share everything with him, nor could he be so intimate with him as to call him his own soul. It also led him to wonder about the passage in the second Book of Samuel, when David found out that Saul and Jonathan had been slain.
1 26 I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant hast thou been unto me. Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
David pondered those verses even as he paid careful attention to the end of the sermon, wondering as to the meaning of the phrase “passing the love of women.” As the music played and they rose at the end of the service, Jonathan’s hand grabbed his own briefly and he tipped his head towards the side exit of the auditorium. David nodded, touching his mother’s arm. Claire turned her face to his as he pointed to the exit, asking him, “You guys going to hang out while Jonah and I go to our class?”
“Yeah, Momma. We’ll keep out of trouble, promise! Oh, and thank you for asking us to come to this sermon instead of going to our class like always. The subject matter was fascinating!” David hugged his mother. “We wanna go outside so we can discuss it!”
Jonathan leaned around David to nod his agreement. “Yeah, thanks so much!”
Claire touched their faces. “If anybody ever would understand the Jonathan and David from back then, I’d think it’d be my David and Jonathan.”
David pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Love you, Momma!”
Minutes later, they climbed up the jungle gym into the castle top, not breaking words until they were snuggled against one another in the corner farthest from the entrance. As Jonathan wrapped his arms around David’s slim shoulders, David finally voiced his thoughts.
“Do you think that David and Jonathan from the Bible are like you and me?”
The chest he leaned against shifted and David lifted his eyes to find Jonathan smiling as he gazed down at him. Lithe fingers threaded through David’s blonde hair as Jonathan’s quiet words touched his ears. “Do I think that they loved each other? Is that what you ask?”
David nodded, resting his hand over Jonathan’s heart as his own pounded in his chest. He felt Jonathan’s heart beating steadily beneath his palm as he waited with bated breath for his love’s answer.
“I think it’s reminiscent of the Alexander and Hephaistion story that came much later, y’know? And we’ve talked about what we thought happened with those two men—”
David pressed a kiss to Jonathan’s chest, laying his cheek back on it as he curled more into Jonathan’s side. “I keep thinking about the thesis I’ll need to write at the end of the year. I want to write about men like David and Jonathan, and Alexander and Hephaistion, men whose whole history appears to have been intentionally rewritten. I mean, what does that say about the historians?”
“That they’ve not changed their minds about two men loving each other since the B.C.’s.” Jonathan’s words, full of bile, stung his heart.
“Agreed.” David stretched up to press his lips to Jonathan’s in a soft kiss, sharing a soft moan of delight when Jonathan opened his mouth wider to deepen the kiss. “Jonathan… my Jonathan…”
Jonathan tugged David into his lap, burying his hands in David’s warm hair, breaking the kiss to answer in kind, “Yes… your Jonathan to my David! Let them write songs of our covenant!”
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