Confession of a Boy Lover – Chapter 7
“Jack! It’s Jem. I’ve missed you a lot.”
“Hey, bro. It’s been too long. How’re you and your mom doing?”
“Okay, I guess,” The enthusiasm in Jem’s voice fled. Shortly after that last weekend we shared together, his dad moved out and a couple of months later, the house went on the market and Jem and his mom moved back to Denver. Donna and I were still friends. But an hour’s drive might as well be a hundred when you can’t see or be with the people you care about.
I saw them briefly at Christmas and we had even promised we would have another sleep-over. The time before had been at his eleventh birthday. I glanced at the wall-calendar in my office. Had that really been a year ago? I shook my head at how time had flown. The periodic phone calls were nice, but they just weren’t the same.
“What about you, Jack? How’re you?”
Even though Jem still spoke with the same cherubic voice, every time we talked, I noticed more awareness of the world around him and a growing maturity. I said, “Hanging in there. Work keeps me busy. I’ve found a few more clients to buy my market research.
“Cool.” He lowered his voice. I had to strain to hear him, “Earlier this spring, I told mom I’m gay. I was afraid she was going to shit a brick. But she actually was super chill about it.”
For those few moments of Jem’s childhood when we had been together, he had kept his promise. It remained our secret. I said, “Oh, did you meet a boy?”
While his giggle was a bit lower than I remembered, it was still beautifully high-pitched. “No. I got sick of her trying to point out girls she wanted me to go talk to.”
“I’m proud of you, Jem. Telling your mom had to have been difficult. So, is there anyone you’re interested in?” I said.
In a whisper, he said, “N-, nobody new.” Then his volume returned to normal, “Next year, I’m going to take art class, Jack. Mom bought me an easel. You should see it. I’m getting pretty good with it.”
In the background, I heard Donna’s voice. She hadn’t tried hitting on me since the divorce, and that made being friends easier. Jem came back on, “Hold on, Jack. Mom wants to talk to you.”
“How’s my favorite gay financial guy?” Donna never stopped reminding me she knew my secret. I wanted to laugh at how wrong she was. But hearing her call me gay had stopped bothering me a long time ago.
I said, “Wheeling and dealing in finance. You guys got Jem’s birthday planned yet?”
Donna snorted, “You know what that asshat Wes went off an did? He and Cindy are traveling to Hawaii the week of Jem’s birthday. God, I’m so glad to be rid of that man-child. Of course, he does it at the start of the summer, right when it’s supposed to be his summer with Jem.”
The way she talked, I could hear her breathing change as she walked around with the phone. I said, “Let me know the plans, Donna. It’s not every day a young man turns twelve. I’ve missed you guys since Christmas, I don’t want to miss his big day.”
Donna’s voice lowered, as though she wanted to make sure Jem couldn’t overhear her conversation. “Actually, that’s why I had Jem call. He’s been badgering me for months to let him come stay with you for a weekend. And with school about to end and his birthday the next week, I had been thinking maybe it was about time.”
Her voice grew even quieter, “Also…”
Donna whispered, “Jem came out to me, Jack.”
I acted surprised, “Oh, really? How’d you take it?”
Her voice modulated in volume, “I’ve been waiting for it, to be honest. I’ve been trying to get him to tell me for a while. I kept pointing out pretty girls, trying to get him to ask them out. I guess he finally figured enough was enough.”
I wasn’t sure where she was going with this. “I can’t imagine Wes has been helpful with this. It’s a lot for a single mom to take in, especially at Jem’s age. If there’s anything I can do to help, you know I’m there for you and Jem.”
“I know, Jack. Thanks,” Donna said, “I’m trying to do right by Jem and I just feel adrift.”
I waited, sensing Donna was trying to say something. She finally continued, “I was going to let Jem come and stay with you for the weekend of his birthday. It’s the weekend before Wes’s turn.”
Uncertain where this was going, and feeling a sense of foreboding, I said, “And?”
She sighed, the note of uncertainty returning, “I was talking with him about the boys in his class, trying to figure out which one he was interested in. I guess I pushed him kind of hard. He blew up at me and told me he didn’t like any of them. I pushed some more, and he told me he’s had a crush on you for a little while.”
I let out a sigh of relief. Still probably not the best of news, but a lot better than what it could have been. I said, “Oh. Really? It’s really cool that I’m his first crush. Um, Donna, you know I’d never do anything to hurt Jem. You guys are the most important people in my life.”
“I know, Jack. And that’s why I’m struggling with the right thing. In the midst of all this, Jem really wants to see you, and I can’t blame him.”
I leaned back in my office chair, staring at the ceiling. Who could have imagined this phone call? “What’s your heart telling you?”
Another sigh, “To trust you and Jem.” There was a brittle laugh “It’s messed up, I know, but I had this little fantasy of Jem coming to me at sixteen, maybe eighteen and coming out of the closet then. In this little fantasy, the two of you get together and live happily ever after.”
I chuckled at the image. While I cared deeply for Jem, I didn’t know how I would feel about him beyond his teen years. I said, “That’s an interesting fantasy, Donna. If you’d rather, we can meet somewhere for his birthday in Denver. Have a nice party.”
“No, Jack. It would hurt Jem. He really wants time with you, and when push comes to shove, I really do trust him with you. Plus, Wes doesn’t know Jem’s come out, and I think if he hangs out with you, maybe it’ll make it easier for him to tell his dad.”
My heart soared at the news. We made arrangements. She would bring him by the Friday after school was out. It was his twelfth birthday.
I kept looking at my watch, staring as the big hand slowly ticked toward the appointed time. It was foolish to be on pins and needles. How could I not be? More than a year and a half had passed since Jem spent the night with me last. It was completely silly to wonder if he’d still like me. After all, I had celebrated Christmas with Donna and him six months before; Even then, I could still feel that little spark we shared. What if Donna decided she couldn’t trust me after all? What would happen then?
The eighth, or was it the ninth time I looked out the window, I finally saw Donna’s car pull into my drive. Like some giddy schoolgirl, I was out of my chair and hurrying toward the front door. Jem stood next to the passenger side door and the way his face lit up when he saw me, all my doubts melted away. Jem was the same as before. Except that he wasn’t. He was taller. Just short of five feet. His beautiful strawberry blonde hair had been cut short, and I think some part of me mourned for those gorgeous locks of hair. His smile though, it was frozen in time, the same beautiful lips smiling at me, just like before.
I stepped onto the porch and saw Donna climb out of the driver’s side door. She was tired and worn. She was still the very attractive woman I met five years before when her family moved in, across the street. But she looked like she needed her own vacation.
When I came across the lawn, Jem ran toward me, throwing his arms around my neck as he spun me around, “Jack, I’ve missed you so much. We’re going to have so much fun. Can you believe it! I’m twelve!”
Seeing Donna’s weary smile, I gently patted the boy on the back as I guided him over to his mother. Detached him from my neck so I could hug her. I said, “Donna, it’s so good to see you. You really look like the wrong Nelson went on that vacation.”
Jem said, “That’s what I told her too. She should take a vacation. Go somewhere to have fun.”
Donna patted Jem, “Gotta be here for you, my little man.”
Jem poked a thumb at me, “Jack would let me stay if you went on vacation, right Jack?”
This was the first I’d heard this, but from the way Jem and Donna verbally sparred, this sounded like a resumption of some ongoing conversation. Donna yawned, barely covering it with a hand, “You don’t want to impose on him, Jem. Right, Jack?”
I let go of Donna. How she managed to still push her breasts against my chest, I’ll never understand. I said, “You know, if you need more time to recharge your batteries, Jem can stay here for a bit. Maybe until it’s time to take him to Wes’s.”
Donna put a hand on my shoulder, “You’re too sweet, Jack. On the way over here today, this little heathen begged me to let him stay with you for the whole freaking summer. Can you believe him? Can’t do it, anyway, Wes would shit a brick.”
My eyes shot wide open in surprise. “Three months?”
Jem nodded, “Come on, Jack. We’d have fun. No bedtimes, movie nights, and lots of pizza. Dad doesn’t really want me underfoot. He’s more interested in Aunt Cindy, anyway.”
I chuckled at his pre-teen antics. My boy was growing up. I said, “I bet. I’m not sure your parents would approve, buddy.”
Donna shook her head, “That’s the entire summer, Jem. You really need to spend some time with your dad.”
The boy smiled cheekily, “Yeah, right. All I do is crowd him and Aunt Cindy. He doesn’t want me around. You know it too.”
Donna said, “It’s not really up to me. Your father has a right to have you stay with him for the summer.”
Before Jem could push Donna further, I said, “Let’s focus on the here and now. Donna, you still have your friend in Aspen?”
Donna nodded, “Yeah, was actually planning on talking to her this evening. See if she wanted to do a girl’s weekend.”
I said, “So, if you trust me to take care of him for the weekend, do you trust me to take care of him for, say… the next week or so? Go turn that girl’s weekend into a full week.”
I could see Donna was torn. Deep down, she worried about Jem’s safety. She said, “Jack, promise me I can trust you.”
Before I could say anything, Jem stepped between me and his mom, “Jeez, Mom. Is this because I came out to you? Now you can’t trust my best friend? I thought you said you were cool with it.”
Surprised at how assertive Jem had become, I waited. Donna said, “Oh, no, sweetie. I trust Jack. I know he’d never hurt you.”
Jem crossed his arms, “Really? You just asked if you could trust him. What you really mean is that because we’re both gay that we’re going to do sex stuff with each other because that’s what gay boys do. Is that it?”
Donna wore a mortified look. You’ve seen it before when someone calls someone out correctly. “No, sweetie, that’s not… I respect your…”
Jem put his fists on his hips, “I told you about being gay because I thought you would support me, Mom. That you would be okay with my friendships. You remember that?”
Donna stammered, “I, I do, Jeremy.”
“You know I like Jack. I mean really like him. I told you that because I thought you’d understand. But do you? You know he’d never hurt me. Ever.”
Weakly, Donna said, “I do trust Jack, truly, Jem. It’s just if something happened between you, he could get in a lot of trouble, and I don’t want that for him or you.”
Jem shook his head, “Then trust us. It’s not going to happen, Mom. Not if I stay the weekend. Not if I stay the week. Not even if by some miracle you and Dad let me stay the summer.”
I stepped in, “Donna, I’ll protect Jem. You know that. Let’s see how this week goes. Okay? Go set up that girl’s week. Maybe when Wes is back from his vacation, he and I can work out a deal for Jem to stay here a bit, as long as you’re okay with it.”
When Donna nodded, I knew we had won. After Jem hugged his mom, the boy went and grabbed a much larger backpack than he used to have. There had to be a couple of weeks’ worth of clothing in there. Say what you will about my boy, but he certainly planned ahead.
We stayed on the driveway and waved at Donna as she pulled away. Then, I helped Jem with his backpack, pulling it into the living room. Once we set it down, Jem turned and grew shy as we stood toe to toe. A lot of time had passed since we were last alone together. From only coming up to my lower chest to now nearly reaching my collarbone, Jem had grown a lot. I ran my hand through his short hair, “I miss your locks.”
His smile was sad, “Mom finally caved to Dad. It’s okay, easier to comb now.”
Jem took half a step forward and stretched his arms around my neck. He tilted his head up, seeking my eyes with his. I lowered my head until his lips found mine. The kiss, the first since August nearly two years before, was warm and soft. He had forgotten nothing he had learned. When our lips separated, he said, “I’ve missed you so much, Jack. Please, help me talk Mom into letting me stay. I need this summer with you.”
We had secured a week. Now holding my love in my arms, I found my head nodding. I would do what I could to talk Donna into letting him stay.
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