Forbidden Fruit – Chapter 6
“Isaiah, did you get your floor cleaned and vacuumed like I asked?”
Isaiah let the bedspread fall into place on the bottom bunk as he gathered up the dirty sheets, “Yeah. I even vacuumed the living room floor like you told me to.”
He nearly bumped into Amanda on his way to the laundry room. Her eyes went to the sheets in his hand, “Who are you, and what have you done with my son? Changing the sheets on your own bed without being told. It’s a miracle.”
Isaiah shook his head, “I wanted the lower bunk clean for Adam.”
Amanda put a hand on her hip, “We’ve talked about this. This is a temporary thing while Adam finds a place closer to campus. There’s nothing wrong with the couch, sweetie.”
Isaiah clasped his hands, dropping the sheets in the process, and gave his mom his most pitiful expression, “Come on, if it’s only for a few days, then why can’t we treat it like a sleep-over? I haven’t had one since…”
His voice trailed off. Thinking about Josh made him sad. And it explained other things, as well. With uncertainly and fear in his voice, Isaiah said, “Is it because of Josh and what happened? Do you think I’d try to…”
He couldn’t figure out how to say ‘kiss him.’ Part of that was because he thought about if Adam’s lips would be softer than Josh’s. Part of that was because he didn’t want to lose Adam, and if that meant never kissing him, then that was a price he’d pay.
Amanda’s cheeks were the color of a Valentine’s Day rose. “Um, I don’t want to see you get hurt again.”
Isaiah squared his narrow shoulders, “I won’t, Mom. But Adam’s my best friend and best friends have sleepovers, stay up late watching movies and talk until moms come in and tell them it’s two AM and time to go to sleep.”
Amanda’s eyes softened, “I know, baby. But Adam isn’t Josh. He’s a good deal older than you.”
What did that have to do with anything? Adam was his friend, and that was all that mattered. Then, thinking back to conversations they’d had when he was much younger about stranger danger and good-touching and bad-touching, his eyes narrowed, and his nose flared, “Mom, he’d never touch me like that. God, how could you even think that? He’s freaking Adam. You know what he’s like!”
Amanda drew back a step at his outburst, “It’s not like that, Isaiah. If I thought he was dangerous to you, I’d not let him come over at all.”
Dangerous? Adam. Never. Although in the dark, silent moments before sleep lately, his mind drifted back to that day at the water park when he had briefly seen the young man’s junk. Isaiah wondered what it felt like. It was so much bigger than his own. Then, there was the thrill of Adam seeing him naked, when they’d stood next to each other in the showers. It was wrong of him, Isaiah knew it, but that didn’t stop him from wishing the impossible was possible. But his mom didn’t need to know anything about that.
“Then, why can’t he sleep in my room?”
Amanda shrugged, “I…I don’t know, sweetie. I saw how upset you were when Josh rejected you. I’m your mom, and I know you better than anyone else, and I know you feel the same way about Adam. Maybe even more so.”
It startled Isaiah that his mom knew how he felt about Adam. He thought nobody else could see how deep his feelings for the young man ran. But that didn’t change anything. Not really. “Then you know I’d never do that to him.”
Amanda shook her head and reached out a hand and ran it across his cheek, “You think so, baby. But I’m not so sure. I don’t have that kind of self-control. Are you sure you do?”
Isaiah wanted to tell his mom he had that kind of control. Since the trip to Six Flags, he’d thought about Adam. A lot. And the better he grew to know the young man, the more he liked him. He had told himself he would be strong. He’d never cross that line again. He told himself those things because he had to. Otherwise, Adam would reject him. But thinking about it, he really wanted to be strong enough never to try to kiss Adam, but he wasn’t sure he would have the will power with the young man staying with them for a bit.
“I…I don’t know, Mom. I thought I could. Jeeze, if I screw up and did try to kiss him like I did with Josh, he’d end up hating me.”
Amanda shook her head, “I think you know him better than that, Isaiah. Like you, I’ve gotten to know Adam too. I don’t know if he feels the same way about you, but he would never reject you over a kiss.”
Hearing those words from his mom, Isaiah realized how badly he had misjudged Adam, based upon his experience with Josh. Sure, he had a hard time imagining Adam wanting his kiss, but the young man wouldn’t reject him. If Isaiah had listened to his heart, he’d have known that. Still, what did his mom mean about how he liked Adam?
“H-how I feel about him?”
Amanda picked up the sheets, “Yes. Are there any girls you want to kiss like you do Adam?”
Isaiah had wondered about that the entire time he’d been friends with Josh. Other boys had talked about how gross it would be to be gay. And even when he’d stolen a kiss on Josh, he’d told himself that it really wasn’t gay to try to do that. But it was. And in truth, girls just weren’t interesting to him. Not the way Adam was or Josh had been.
He shook his head, “I guess not. Am I gay? I don’t think I want to be.”
Amanda turned, “Come on; let’s get these sheets in the dryer.”
When they reached the small laundry room, just beyond the kitchen, as his mom loaded the washing machine, she said, “No matter how you feel about boys or girls, my love for you will not change. But it’s one reason why I think you should have some space while Adam stays with us. Time to figure out how you feel. Time to maybe tell him what you’re going through, but only if you want.”
As Isaiah pulled some dry clothes from the dryer, he understood his mom’s reservation. As much as he liked Adam, he wasn’t sure he was ready to tell the young man he was attracted to him. After all, Adam was his church leader. At least he had been. And Isaiah was pretty sure being gay was still a sin. “Do you think I should tell him? I mean, it’s a sin, and God hates it. Adam might be disappointed in me, even if he is my friend.”
Amanda helped him fold the clothes from the dryer, “Don’t sell Adam short. I don’t want you to feel pressured to tell him, but I don’t think he’s going to think less of you for it.”
He had just peeled a sock from a pair of pants when the doorbell rang. Isaiah dropped them and bolted toward the front door. “I’ve got it!”
He threw open the front door. Adam stood in the entryway, a duffle bag slung over one shoulder. He wore the T-shirt the church had gotten for the vacation Bible school and a pair of khaki shorts. A broad smile split Isaiah’s face as he closed the short distance and threw his arms around the young man’s torso and hugged him tightly, “You’re here! Come on in!”
With a crooked grin on his face, Adam came in and set the bag next to the couch, “Sorry about running late. I had to wait for the movers to get Ryan’s stuff out of the apartment.
Seeing his best friend standing in the living room, Isaiah left the bag alone but decided he wasn’t finished talking his mom into letting Adam stay in his room.
After his mom fixed a lunch of chili hot dogs, she said, “Can the two of you clean up after dinner? I need to go into the office this afternoon for a few hours. I’ll pick up some pizza on the way home. What kind do you like, Adam?”
Adam fished his wallet out and handed over some money, “I don’t want to be a burden, Amanda. Let me help out with that.”
Amanda held up her hand, “You’re our guest. Guests don’t pay.”
The young man kept holding the money out, “Please. I don’t know how quickly I’m going to find something else, and I want to pay my own way.”
There was reluctance in Isaiah’s mom’s eyes as she took the money, “You don’t have to do this, Adam. Whether this is a few days or a couple of weeks, Isaiah and I are happy to have you here.”
Once his mom was gone, Isaiah said, “What do you want to do?”
Adam waved at the TV, “What about a movie? You ever seen the extended edition of Lord of the Rings?”
Isaiah hadn’t seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies. “Extended? Does that mean even longer?”
Adam laughed as he pulled a small USB from his bag, “Don’t knock it until you watch it. Does your TV have an HDMI connector?”
A few minutes later, Isaiah settled onto the couch, next to Adam, as the narrator droned, “The world is changed. I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air.”
By the time the story unfolded on the screen, Isaiah had picked up Adam’s arm and moved it so that he could rest his head on his friend’s chest. He even ignored the rhythmic thumping of the heartbeat as the story on the screen drew him in. He’d never imagined a show so lengthy captivating him so completely. Frodo’s every action with the ring gripped his heart and stirred his imagination.
By the halfway point, Adam had shifted, lying on his back along the length of the couch. Isaiah lay on his side, between his friend’s body and the seatback cushions. The way Adam’s right arm curled around him, drawing him to the young man’s chest felt good. The boy’s right leg rested atop Adam’s. For the first time, he felt like he could tell Adam about his feelings and not worry about rejection. Of course, not now. Not when Gollum crawled across the screen, intent on killing Frodo and taking back the ring.
By the time Isaiah watched Frodo and Sam descend into the valley leading to Mordor, Isaiah was hooked. He hadn’t realized the afternoon had disappeared until the front door swung open, and his mom came in with a couple of pizza boxes in her hands while the theme music played over the rolling of the credits.
Amanda set the boxes on an end table as Isaiah felt her eyes take in the movie and him and Adam lying on the couch. She reached over and tousled his hair, “You boys look comfortable. Is that Lord of the rings?”
Adam pulled his arm back as he shifted away from Isaiah so that he could sit up, “Yeah. All three and a half hours of the extended version.”
Amanda shuddered. “Better you boys than me. Give me a good Hugh Grant movie any day.”
Adam said, “Becky liked Notting Hill. I’ve got it on here somewhere. I can put that on for you.”
Opening one pizza box, Amanda said, “I might take you up on that later. But you boys enjoy your movies.”
Isaiah fished a slice of pepperoni from the box, “Cool. Can we watch the next Lord of the Rings movie now?
Adam stretched, “How about tomorrow? They’ll take most of the day. Have you ever heard of Bill and Ted?”
When the boy shook his head, Adam pulled up Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and hit the play button.
Four hours, two empty pizza boxes, and an empty two-liter of Dr Pepper later, Amanda got up from her seat next to Isaiah, “I’d forgotten how corny those movies were. Alright, Isaiah, it’s bedtime.”
The boy had thoroughly enjoyed the first night with Adam staying there. Sure, Bill and Ted’s antics were great, but even though his mom had sat on one side, he’d still enjoyed leaning against Adam for much of the evening. The more time he spent with Adam, the closer he felt to the young man. Also, he strongly suspected his mom was right about Adam.
“Aww, Mom, can’t I stay up and watch another movie?”
Amanda scooted forward to the edge of the couch, “There’ll be time enough for that tomorrow. Now, give your old mom a kiss before bed.”
Hearing the finality in his mom’s voice, there was no point in protesting. The boy knew he could only push so far with his bedtime, “Fine.”
He crawled off the couch and came over and sat on his mom’s knees, and leaned in for a quick kiss. “Love you.”
Amanda rubbed him on the back, “I love you too.”
When Isaiah moved off his mom’s lap, he grinned at Adam. The boy would never have dreamed of letting his mom kiss him in front of Josh. But with Adam, it felt different. Even better. Enough so, he wondered if the young man would be willing…
His thoughts drifted away as he stepped over to Adam, “Um, can I give you a kiss goodnight?”
Despite the look of surprise on Adams’s face, Isaiah felt a thrill at the young man said, “Um, sure.”
The boy sat down on his friend’s knees and threw his arms around Adam’s neck. His heart raced as the young man’s face was as close as it had ever been. Then, Isaiah leaned forward until he felt Adam’s soft lips against his own.
It wasn’t quite what the boy had expected. Adam hadn’t puckered up his lips and passionately kissed him in return. Worried he’d made a mistake, Isaiah pulled his head away, “I…I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”
He felt like a fool. He should have listened to his mom. God, why did he do something so stupid?
Then he felt Adam’s hand on his back, “No. It was nice. Thank you.”
Adam turned away from the hallway down which Adam had just gone. He felt his cheeks go scarlet at Amanda’s quip. Or perhaps it was from the shock of Isaiah kissing him. Expecting to see storm clouds on the young woman’s face, he was confused by the bemused expression she wore.
Uncertain about how to respond, Adam said, “It killed me to see the look of hurt on Isaiah’s face after he kissed me. I didn’t want him to think he screwed up.”
Amanda got up, “I’ve got a couple of wine coolers in the fridge. Now that you’re no longer the youth pastor, do you want one?”
Apart from a few stolen sips of alcohol, Adam had never had a drink. But after the kiss and the riot of emotions running rampant through his mind, he nodded, “Um, I guess so.”
In the kitchen, Amanda handed him one as she took a seat at the small dining table. After a long pull, she said, “Do you know why Isaiah lost his last friend?”
Adam twisted the lid off the cooler, “No.”
“He kissed the boy. Josh didn’t react like Isaiah hoped. They haven’t spoken since then. I could tell by the way he looks at you, and how he talks about you, he felt the same way about you. I told him I didn’t think he should kiss you. But my son listened to his heart instead of his mom. Go figure.”
Smiling wryly, Adam took a sip. Unlike the bitterness of beer, this had a fruity, bubbly taste. Even though wine coolers were considered girly drinks, he decided it wasn’t bad. “Isaiah’s got a good heart, Amanda. I certainly wasn’t expecting a kiss, but it comes from a good place.”
A look of relief passed over Amanda’s features, “He really does. Isaiah’s an amazing boy. I hope this kiss doesn’t change how you see him, Adam. I know I’ve said it before, but he adores you. Did you know he begged to let you sleep in the bottom bunk? The reason I told him no was because I was afraid he would try to kiss you when you were asleep.”
After a long sip, Adam set the half-empty bottle on the table. The problem with the kiss was it did change things. The touch of the boy’s skin on his was electrifying. Sitting next to him, watching movies all day long had been heavenly. Now, knowing Isaiah liked him enough to kiss him damaged Adam’s resistance. He had just about gotten himself convinced he could keep his relationship with Isaiah from going down the same path as his relationships with Clint or Jacob. That was gone, blown away on the winds of a kiss.
There might come a time when he would tell Amanda how he struggled with same-sex attractions, but there was no way he could say to her that attraction was for Isaiah. No way, no how. Instead, he said, “I’m still his friend. That won’t change.”
Amanda drained the cooler, “It pains me to say it, but I think my boy is gay, Adam. It won’t change how I see him, no matter what the church tells me. Can you handle that?”
Adam was right behind Amanda, draining the last drop of the wine cooler. Part of him wanted to tell her he knew exactly what Isaiah was going through. It was the same road he was traveling. “Yeah, I can. God doesn’t love your son one bit less because of who he’s attracted to, and neither do I.”
No, he thought, it only made Adam love the boy even more. “I feel bad, Amanda. Isaiah’s first kiss was rejected. And now, the second time, I froze, making him fear rejection again. I wish I could go back and make that kiss special for him.”
Amanda put a hand over one of his, “That girl who dumped you was an idiot. I don’t know hardly anyone who is as thoughtful as you. Even now, you’re worried about Isaiah.”
Even though the alcohol was slowly working its way through Adam, he needed to figure Amanda out. “W-what about tomorrow? If he tries to kiss me again, I don’t want to hurt him.”
Amanda’s eyes lost their focus. For a moment, she seemed a thousand miles away. When her eyes came back into focus, she said, “It really didn’t bother you?”
“No. Not after the shock of it.”
Amanda used a finger to worry at hair, “I worry if I tell him not to kiss you again, that it’ll break him. He’s really sensitive about his feelings for you right now.”
She leaned back in her chair, letting a loud sigh escape, “My head is telling me to let you stay the night and then get you out of here tomorrow. That Isaiah isn’t ready for a relationship with you. Even if you don’t share the same feelings he does. But my heart…”
Adam stared at the table, trying to process what Amanda shared. “What about your heart?”
The young woman shook her head, almost in disbelief, “That you’re good for Isaiah. That I should find a way to have you stay with us, and not just for a couple of days. That part of me believes you could be the best thing to happen to us.”
Stunned by Amanda’s admission, Adam stammered, “Wow. Which of those are your listening to?”
Amanda got up, took the two empty bottles, and dropped them in the trash bin, “Make Isaiah’s third kiss the one by which all others are measured. Come on, let’s get the couch made up. After playing hooky half the day, I’ve got an early morning tomorrow.”
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