To Move Forward Excerpt

TMFFRONTCOVERwebChapter Four

Riding the Waves

“Hey Patrick, I have an idea…” Ben began enthusiastically, “You remember my parent’s house out on the lake? They’re away, visiting my uncle, let’s head out there. What say you?” He sounded hopeful.

“Bit of a drive, don’t you think?”

“Keep close, there are new roads now and I know some shortcuts.”

I wasn’t sure about how I felt about the change in plans. Going to his place was one thing, but this? The house was on a lake: private, semi-secluded, romantic, and heartbreaking.

During our last year of high school, Ben’s family bought the lake-side property and we spent some of our most intimate moments in and around it. Although we weren’t able to spend as much time together as we would have liked, our last summer was spent mainly at the lake, alone, together. When the summer was over, Ben headed off to college and out of my life.

 

Another memory came to me.

I was seated on the long metal dock with Ben.

“Do you have to go?” I asked through tears of total remorse.

“I’m not leaving forever. It’s just school.”

“It’s like you’re going away forever, Enge.”

“I’ll be back with every opportunity, I promise.” He took my hand and kissed it. “Now stop crying, you’re breaking my heart.”

“It just… just feels like this is it. You know. A part of me is going away and… and I don’t know… it just seems so final.”

He kissed my hand again and wiped the tears from my eyes.

“I love you. I know that’s final.”

He never did come back.

I felt the hurt even now, as we headed to that same place.

 

The sun was setting as Ben led me onto a smaller road and headed around to the lakeside community on the northern shores. The road narrowed again and wove past the vacation cottages that, over the years, had become year-round homes.

The house was dark as we pulled into the driveway. Ben climbed out of his car quickly, came around to my driver’s side, and opened the door. He pointed at my bag in the back seat. I picked it up and, silently, we made our way to the front door. Once in, I could see through the windows; the last rays of the sun setting behind the trees along the shores of the lake.

“Want a drink?” he asked. I nodded. “Beer? Soda?”

Going down the few steps into the family room, we paused and faced the large windows; the rays of the sun fractured through the trees making irregular shadows on the water. I, again, felt a comfortable silence between us, only the occasional breath or sip of our drinks breaking the silence in the house.

“I forgot how nice it was here.” I started.

“It’s been a while,” Ben said gently. “I’m glad you… we, came.”

I could feel him wanting, the way he stood close to the sliding glass door. He looked with longing at, what looked to be, a new wooden dock slowly vanishing into the darkness.

“You wanna go out?” I asked quietly. “Still warm enough.”

“Let’s sit out on the end like we used to.” His voice was calm and almost dreamy.

We walked across the yard and out onto the dock. The foundations were old but the metal decking was new. It extended a long way out over the shallows and into the cove. No lights came from the distant houses on the shores.

We passed a motorboat raised up at the side, safely out of the water, life vests and float toys left on the seats. We stood out on the edge, looking out over the dark waters. It wasn’t as painful as I had thought it would be, standing here with Ben, my Enge.

“What do you think?” he asked quietly.

“Better than I remembered it.”

He bent over, set down his beer, and pulled off his shoes and socks.

“What are you doing?”

He sat down and hung his legs over the side and into the water.

“Not cold yet,” he said. “Here, sit with me.” He gently tugged my drink out of my hand as I followed suit, pulling off my shoes and socks. The water was soothingly cool in the warm air.

We sat close in the growing dark. My heart beat loud in my ears; I didn’t want him to hear it, it sounded like desperation to me.

“Why did you bring me here?” I didn’t mean it quite so rough, but it was out there now.

He took a moment before answering. “My place is lonely. Here, there are memories… from when we were happy.” He placed his can on the deck and leaned back on his hands. We sat quiet for a few moments.

He chose to break the silence gently.

“Do you remember when we woke up together after that time, the last night we… ah… were intimate?” He was so cute, trying to be delicate with his words.

“We came out onto the old dock early in the morning and watched the sun come up while splashing around, all naked.” He paused before going on. I wondered what his next choice of words would be to describe what had happened next. “Then going back in for another round.”

I smiled into the growing darkness. The memory washed over me. He was so nice about it, no detail. As I recalled, it was passionate and energetic and youthful. I wanted to feel that way again. I wanted to be happy and in love again, right now. I stood up quickly.

“What’s wrong?” He sounded alarmed and sat up straight. I started pulling my shirt off over my head, trying to not be self-conscious.

“Come on,” I said dryly. I tugged at his shirt sleeve.

“You’re joking….” He sounded shocked. I began unbuckling.

“Let’s swim out to the shallow spot. Straight out ahead, right?” I think he realized I was serious when he heard my pants hit the metal deck.

“You’re serious….” He chuckled.

“Hurry up,” I hissed. He made me wait in my boxers, and I listened for him to make a move. I hoped I hadn’t made a huge mistake.

“You’re on!” he said. I could just make him out standing up and tugging at his shirt.

I stepped over my pants and, at the boat, retrieved a few of the float toys. Before returning, I heard his clothes fall to the dock next to mine.

“Underwear or nekkid?” He giggled. I hadn’t considered it.

“Commando,” I said, thanking God it was darker.

After handing him one of the floats, I shucked my shorts, quickly slipped into the water, and paddled quietly out into the lake. He swam up behind me.

Although it was farther than I remembered, I found the shallow area. I used the toy under my chest to float in place, leaning forward, while nudging the sand under my toes. He drifted in beside me. We were far enough from the shore and trees that I could now make out a few stars.

“I can’t believe you!” he chuckled. I could only laugh.

We floated there, suspended in the water, looking at the sky. He bumped into me.

“So…” He drew the word out expectantly.

“So, what?”

“So, are you going to tell me or not? What were you thinking about?” He nudged me.

What was I thinking about? A little of everything. Where would I begin?

“Nothing really, just relaxing.”

“You promised…” he pushed on me harder, making more body contact. I lost touch between my foot and the bottom. I had to kick once or twice to get back and crashed into him. Now it was his turn to paddle back, laughing as he did.

“You hit me on the ass!” he laughed.

“You started it!” I splashed in his general direction and he promptly splashed back. I reached out to splash again and touched his arm. I grabbed hold. He splashed at me with the other a few times before I could grab on to it.

“Ok, ok, I’ll stop.” He laughed hard. I waited for him to calm down before gently releasing him. He gently held my arm.

“Seriously,” he said earnestly, then, quieter, “what did you think about when we were at the fair?”

“You were going to tell me first.”

“I did… the last time we…” Ben hesitated. “…were together. Here.” I heard him pull back in the water.

I was a little surprised. That was the memory he went to? He said it still made him smile after all these years. Was that why he had brought me here? I felt warmth flood through my body. Then I remembered what I had actually thought of. I was even more embarrassed.

“Umm… well… ah… honestly… the first time we jacked off together.” I didn’t use the tactful choice of words he had.

A short silence was followed by a hearty burst of laughter beside me. I giggled nervously.

“You are such a perv!” he said. “I was nice and romantic and you’re in the gutter!”

I punched him on the arm. “Cut it out! This is why I didn’t want to tell you!” I was still giggling. He laughed even harder.

I nudged him with my foot, pushing him away. He paddled back while bringing his laughter under control and placed his arm around my shoulders.

“Come on, perv, I’m getting cold, let’s find something to eat.” he said, swimming toward the dock. I followed right behind, guided by his snickering.

Thankfully, it was dark enough for me not to be completely embarrassed about being naked in front of him. I pulled on my boxers and scooped up all my clothes before catching up with him on the way to the house.

The stray light from inside caught Ben’s naked form. Sure, he was older, we both were. His body did indeed have a few extra pounds, not too many. He filled out well and in proportion from what I could make out. I stared at him, thinking about how much I would like to feel and touch all the familiar places and caress the new.

Inside, he pointed to the bathroom without turning around. “We’re hooked into the city water now. You can rinse off and grab a towel. I’ll see what’s in the kitchen.” He turned and alighted the stairs, his bare ass flexing. I couldn’t look away even if I had wanted to.

In the shower, I calmed down. If he were teasing me, he was doing a good job. On the other hand, I was the one who wanted to go swimming. What did I expect to happen? As much as Grant told me I was in control, it didn‘t feel like it. I felt like I was on a collision course, unable to slow down or turn aside.

I was toweling off when the door opened a crack.

“You done?” he said through the opening. I wrapped a towel around myself.

“Yep, you can have it now,” I said casually. He opened the door and quickly crossed behind me into the shower. The foggy glass obscured any further exploration of his body.

“Throw your bag in my old room. I ordered a pizza. Just sign for it if it gets here before I‘m out.” I could see from his movements he was soaping up. I had to leave before my towel wouldn’t stay snug against me any longer.

His old bedroom had changed. A larger, adult sized bed had replaced the small, single one. Pictures had replaced posters. It had become a mature man’s room, not a horny teenager’s. I put on shorts first; foregoing underwear then turned and saw Ben at the door. I stepped back in surprise.

He blushed. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.”

“It’s ok.” I quickly pulled on a shirt. I hated being exposed. He passed by me to the closet and I stepped back to let him by and as he loosened his towel, I returned to the kitchen, leaving my socks next to my bag and dirty clothes on the bed.

I found a soda in the fridge and wandered into the family room. Except for the stars reflected in the water, it was completely dark outside. Leaving the lights off inside, I sat on the couch. It was new but in the same space where Ben and I would sit and watch movies. Maybe we could watch one before going to bed. Something fun and distracting. Something so I didn’t have to think or let my mind wander into hoping.

The doorbell rang followed by Ben calling down he would get it. Shortly after, he carried the pizza in and set the plates on the coffee table.

“It’s so dark,” he said, turning on a single lamp. Like me, he was barefoot, wearing shorts and a tee shirt.

“Dig in,” he said as he flopped himself down next to me.

We sat crossed legged, leaning back on opposite arms on the sofa but facing each other talking, easy and relaxed. I was able to look him over and not feel self-conscious about it.

“So, tell me about your friends,” he said taking a sip.

“Well, there’s Alec. We met years ago. He works in the offices across from me. At first, I was intimidated by him. Alec is so different to me. Now, he’s like a little brother. Grant’s cool, keeps Alec under control.”

“Grant?”

“His husband.”

“Alec and Grant are married?”

“2009. In Iowa. Jake and I were witnesses.”

“Jake. The guy who called you.”

“Yep, like I said he’s real cool. He even threw them a Bachelor party.”

“And he’s straight,” he said.

“Definitely.”

“Does that mean you’re definitely gay?”

It had been a while since I had been asked directly but it still made me as uncomfortable as the first time. I looked down. It had always been my size, I think. People assumed I was straight because of how big and tall I was. I had always wondered how many potential lovers I never had a chance to lose because they were too afraid to ask. I decided to answer the question the same way I had before.

“I thought you knew already,” I said quietly.

“Well, I thought so… you never actually told me. You never mentioned anyone… I’m glad you did.” He was so quiet and warm at the same time. I didn’t say anything right away.

“Anyone else? Anyone… special?”

I shook my head.

“Are you ok?”

“Fine.”

He put his hand on my foot.

“I’m happy you have good friends,” he said, changing the subject slightly.

“Me too.”

I noticed he didn’t pull back his hand; in fact, he was gently rubbing my foot with his thumb. It felt so good. I looked into his eyes. A grin spread across his face and a blush crept over me.

He reached out with his other hand and took mine in his.

“I missed you,” he said softly.

“I missed you too.” I finally confessed. If I had said it before, I didn’t remember, but it felt good to finally say it now. There were so many other things I wanted to confess but I didn’t want to interrupt the mood. I reached out and stroked his calf. He looked more playful, a little smug even. There was indeed more I needed to say.

“I want to be with you,” I could hear myself say, “…always wanted to be with you.” He positively glowed, eyes sparkling. “There are a lot of years in between. We are different. I’m different. I need to take this slow.”

He nodded. I took my hand off his leg and stopped him from rubbing my foot. I held both his hands in mine as I gazed into his eyes, lost in his beautiful smile. I’m not sure how long we sat like that, staring at each other.

We seemed to decide to get up at the same time. I slowly walked across and up to the main floor. I could hear him turning off the light. I made it into the bedroom. My clothes were neatly stacked with my bag on his dresser, my shoes next to his by the door. He came in behind me and nuzzled into my back. He reached around, brought his arms across my chest. I held them tightly as he pressed up against me and felt another reason to say something.

“Before we do anything,” I said, realizing we already had, to a certain extent, “I just want to hold you. I want to be happy to be with you. I want that memory first.”

I pulled him around to look at me. He had a small pout on his face.

“Just give me tonight.”

He nodded back with a sigh. “Whatever you want,” he said quietly. “I’ve waited this long, I can wait for you to be ready.”

I leaned down and kissed him firmly on the lips.

Maybe he thought he could convince me to “go all the way” later, maybe he would. Right now, I wanted to hold him tightly and not let go, the way I had been dreaming about for so long.

He moved first, tugging at my shirt, wanting to pull it up. I gently pushed his hands away.

“Why?” he whispered.

“Slow, I just want to hold you,” I whispered. “Let’s lie down.”

I lay on my back and he snuggled in beside to me. I pulled him close, wrapping my arm around him. He immediately tugged at my shirt and I stopped him.

“What?”

“I’m so out of shape.”

“Stop it. We all have a gut. You look great.”

I opened my eyes and the light blinded me for a moment. He must have noticed. He easily slipped away from me, and turned the light off.

I could see his shadow taking off its shirt before returning to me. I pulled him in close and kissed him on the forehead as he settled once more at my side. This time, he was a little more forthright about wanting to touch me. He reached under my shirt, stroking my chest and abdomen. He caressed me so genuinely, so carefully. We cuddled and caressed, holding each other, kissing all night.

I woke up first. The sun had risen and the room was lit up. I could hear him breathing lightly beside me. Being careful to be gentle, I rolled onto my side facing him.

He was resting peacefully, his face and body relaxed. The sheet had drifted off his chest and I reached over, gently gliding my hand over the black hair, like he had done to me last night. It was so soft. I noticed a gray hair and almost giggled out loud. I noticed a few others, not too many yet. We were both older and that was okay; he, however, had the evidence growing on his body. It was beautiful.

I pulled the sheet off the lower half of his body to see what I hadn’t last night. I felt like a kid again. I felt now like I had then, the first time I got to see one that wasn’t my own. It rested peacefully; unlike mine.

I heard a ring then realized where it was coming from. Ben grunted as I reached over him to grab his phone and silence it. He coughed when it rang again. I had the phone in my hand and could see who was calling.

“Who is it?” he asked sleepily.

I handed him the phone without saying a word and stood up feeling numb. Why would Rob be calling him? Now? He looked at the phone and answered.

“What do you want?” He sounded sleepy.

He glanced at me, then answered. “None of your business.”

I pulled on my pants.

“…Why? So you could check on me?” He sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed, facing away. His movements broke the remaining spell.

“…You don’t own me,” he shouted into the phone.

I grabbed my bag.

“…Trying to keep me under your thumb!”

I finished putting on my clothes.

“…My mistake was trusting you!”

I picked up my bag and headed for the door.

“…What I do is not your problem, Rob!”

I headed down the stairs.

“…This has nothing to do with you!”

I opened the front door. How could I have been so stupid? Rob and Ben. No wonder we didn’t go to his flat. Ben had definitely moved on. Rob had tried to warn me but I had been blinded by my heart and ignored all the warning signs.

I opened the car door and threw my bag in back. Time wasted. I started up the engine. All these years. As I buckled my seatbelt, I noticed the cowboy hat on the passenger seat. He can give it to Rob. I opened the door and tossed it out onto the lawn. After backing out cautiously, I pulled out roughly.

I wasn’t going to look, but I did.

Ben was out on the front lawn in his underwear waving frantically.

 

 

 

 
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