The Treehouse – Chapter 3

I washed the cereal bowl before setting it on the drying rack. Mom and Granny were still asleep. Mom had been working the lunch and supper-until closing shift. She usually slept until she had to get to work. Granny wasn’t much better. She gets up just early enough to catch the first of her soaps. As long as I didn’t make a mess, they didn’t give a damn what I ate for breakfast, so long as I didn’t disturb them.

I closed the door and started across our overgrown front lawn. It was early, not even eight in the morning, and I hoped Erin would be at the treehouse. We hadn’t managed to connect over the weekend, but this was the first official day of summer and I hoped we could hang out. Despite how early it was, the sun kissed the earth with a promise of another hot day. I wasn’t too worried about that; I was ready. I wore a red and white striped tank top and an old pair of jeans, which I had cut the legs off a few inches below the inseam. Short shorts were all the rage that summer. They were tight, being leftovers from last year, but they still fit. My Keds were dried out, and I was back in them, sporting a pair of knee-high white socks. They were perfect for traipsing through tall grass.

Even though it took less than ten minutes to walk to the treehouse, my face was red and sweaty and my long hair was plastered to my forehead. The place was quiet and looked deserted. My chest was tight, and I worried Erin wouldn’t be there. Still, I had walked the whole way. I wasn’t about to turn around and leave without at least calling for her, “Erin!”

A moment later, one of the shutters on the treehouse opened and Erin poked her head out, “Hey Bryan! You made it. Come on up.”
By the time I reached the platform, my hands were sweaty. I still didn’t care for the narrow walkway around the treehouse. It was a long fall, and I had no interest in breaking any bones. I opened the door and went in.

Erin sat at the table with a box of Pop-Tarts. She wore the same thing she wore the previous Friday. Just her underwear. One of the sleeping bags was unrolled and had a slept in look to it. It was hard not to stare at her, now that I knew those puffy little nipples belonged to a girl, but I tried, “You slept out here?”

She nodded, handing me a foil-wrapped package of Pop-Tarts. “Yeah. If you’re hungry, these are good. I liked sleeping out here. The treehouse gets a pleasant breeze at night. You should come over tonight, we could play board games and hang out all night. It’d be cool to the max.”

“Wouldn’t your mom care?”

Erin shrugged, “She’s too stoned on her booze to care. She knows where to find me.”

Try as I might, I couldn’t keep my eyes from returning to the puffy buds on her chest. Still, I tried to look elsewhere, “What do you wanna do today?”

She swallowed a bite of a Pop-Tart, “What about going canoeing?”

I had never been canoeing. “C-, canoeing? How?”

Erin stood up. It almost felt like she was enjoying giving me another opportunity to stare at her panties, and pointed toward the house in the distance. “My dad’s old canoe is up by our house. You and I can haul it over to the river. It’s only a couple of hundred yards away. Then we can paddle it down to the reservoir.”

I tore my eyes away from Erin’s body. Six hundred feet? That was a long way to haul a canoe. Still, if that’s what the girl wanted to do, I could no more deny her than I could stop breathing. “Okay.”

Erin flashed me a smile as she stood and grabbed a pair of shorts that looked like they had been made the same way mine had. There wasn’t a lot of leg on my shorts. There was even less on hers. Her tank top was a solid baby blue and once she had it on, the slight rise on her chest was almost impossible to see. Once she pulled on her own Keds, she said, “We can make some sandwiches at my house, then we’ll get the canoe.”

It only took a few minutes to walk to Erin’s house. The canoe lay against the side of the house. The green painted hull was made from aluminum. She walked past it and headed toward the house’s back door. Her mom kept the house cool. Almost cold. Compared to my Granny’s place, it was downright arctic. The sweat cooled from my face almost instantly when we stepped inside.

Even though we were between the kitchen and the dining room, the house felt large. At least a lot bigger than the single-wide I lived in. Even the dining room table could easily seat six. A bar with green linoleum separated the kitchen from the dining area, and Erin hurried around it and grabbed a loaf of bread.

“Peanut butter and jelly okay?” she asked.

I nodded. PB and J wasn’t my favorite, but it beat having to go home and beg some food from Grandma. As Erin made the sandwiches, a noise from elsewhere in the house drew my attention. A moment later, a woman with disheveled hair the same blonde as Erin’s came into the kitchen. Her eyes were red and her feet shuffled more than walked.

“I thought I heard a noise. How’s my pumpkin?”

Erin’s eyes pierced into the woman, “Mom. Really?”

Her mother shuffled over to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of Lone Star beer, as she twisted off the top, her eyes fell on me, “Oh, who’s your little friend, Pumpkin?”

Erin shook her head, much to my amusement. Her mother wasn’t what I expected. Except for the booze. The girl huffed, “This is Bryan. He’s my friend. We’re going to take dad’s canoe onto the river.”

The woman took a long pull on the bottle. She smacked her lips, “Fine. Don’t break your daddy’s shit if you use it. Don’t forget to put some sun screen on. You don’t wanna burn… Pumpkin.”

She turned and shuffled back into the living room, leaving my friend furious, “I hate that fucking name,” she muttered.

I shook my head, “Are you sure our moms aren’t related?”

She gave me a look that silenced me while she finished making the sandwiches. She disappeared down a hallway and returned with a small red and white Igloo cooler and a brown plastic bottle of Coppertone.

She grabbed an empty two-liter glass bottle with a Coca-Cola logo on the side and filled it with tap water and added it to the cooler too. Still upset, she grumbled, “That should do. Come on, let’s get the fuck out of here.”

Back at the canoe, Erin put Igloo in the boat’s bottom, and grabbed the front, “Come on, Bryan. Now you see why I like hanging out in my treehouse.”

That canoe was a heavy son-of-a-bitch. I was seventy-five pounds soaking wet. My muscles were more of a promise at that point and helping Erin carry it to the river was the most physical activity I’d ever taken on in my eleven years.

Struggling under the weight, somehow, I kept my end of the canoe off the ground until I couldn’t hold it anymore. When I set it down, I could see the river. We were less than a hundred yards away. “How many times did you and your dad do this?”

Erin wiped her brow, “Dunno. We only got to go out a few times last summer. He was getting sick by then. I don’t remember it being this heavy.”

The last thing I wanted to do was second guess my only friend, I said, “I’m rested, I think. Let’s try again.”

With every step, the canoe felt heavier, but the sight of the brown water of the Angelina River gave me just enough motivation to make the last few dozen steps. Erin set her end into the water, as I barely avoided dropping my end.

I stretched and rubbed my muscles, “You know we’re gonna have to haul this back to your house too.”

I laughed when Erin sent me a sour smile and flipped me off. But she laughed when she raised her middle finger. Once we had the canoe resting most of the way in the water, she pulled the Coppertone bottle from the Igloo, “We’ll get a lot of sun today. We should put this on or we’ll bake like lobsters.”

We rubbed the sweet-smelling sunblock on our arms and legs. Then she said, “Turn around. I’ll get shoulders above your tank top.”

I complied, and I felt the cold lotion drop on the top of my shoulders before Erin’s fingers rubbed it into my exposed skin. She even spun me around and rubbed the lotion onto the exposed part of my neck and collar.

She handed me the bottle, “Can you get my back too?”

She turned and offered me her back. I had to reach up higher on her back than mine. My fingers tingled as I rubbed lotion into her shoulders. Even though there wasn’t anything sensual about putting sunscreen on each other, the butterflies in my stomach fluttered and flapped. By the time I finished rubbing sunscreen onto Erin’s collar and shoulders, my penis was painfully erect. I’d never been happier for tight fitting shorts.

Once she returned to lotion to the Igloo, I came around and looked inside the canoe. There were four bars evenly spaced, but no seats. “Um, Erin, where are we supposed to sit?”

The girl came over and grabbed a paddle, “Don’t sit on the thwarts,” she pointed at the bars. “I’ll show you how it’s done.”

Erin climbed in the canoe and knelt at the back while facing forward, on her knees, resting them on an orange life jacket. “We sit like this. When we get tired, we can use the life jacket as a seat.”

She climbed from the canoe and I helped her push it in the rest of the way into the water until only a foot or two of the canoe rested on the riverbank. She pointed toward the front, “You’ll sit up there and paddle. I’ll be in the back, paddling and steering.”

I had seen Disney movies of people canoeing and they all looked like they were having a great time. “Why can’t I steer? It looks like fun.”

Erin grinned at me and thrust a paddle into my hands. She stepped even closer until her shoes touched mine, “I’m the stronger canoer, so I’ll steer the canoe. Do you even know how to steer this thing?”

The fact that she was several inches taller and probably a lot stronger than me kept me from saying something I would have regretted. Instead, I shook my head.

“Boys,” Erin’s voice was full of exasperation and scorn. “Once you have the hang of it, maybe we’ll trade places.”

Bowing to her experience, I knelt in the front of the canoe as Erin pushed off from the river bank, nimbly stepping over the rearmost thwart and sitting down without getting wet. The watercraft rocked gently from side to side as she dipped her paddle into the river and sent us downstream.

After twenty minutes of instructions as we let the languid current do most of the work taking us down the river, I figured out how to paddle without pissing Erin off too much. Turns out, it’s easier for the person in the canoe’s front to splash water onto the person in the rear. After floating under the bridge I’d tried to jump from, the current lessened as the river widened and fed into Lake Rayburn. We had to paddle in earnest to send our canoe gliding across the water. I could see the shoreline on either side of us. But straight ahead, the lake seemed to go on forever.

“How far are we going?”

Erin rested her paddle on the canoe’s gunwales. “Let’s find some shade along the shoreline. I’m getting hungry.”

By the time we paddled under an overhanging tree, I was winded too, “Going back’s going to suck.”

Erin snickered, “Yeah. And once we’re back in the river, it’ll all be upstream.”

I shook my head. I was hard-pressed to understand why I let her talk me into this. Then, as Erin jumped from the boat into the shallow water up to her shins, she tied the canoe to a tree, “Come on, Bryan. We’ll eat lunch on dry land.”

When we sat on a grassy spot under the tree, Erin’s knee brushed against mine as she rummaged around in the Igloo and pulled out a couple of sandwiches wrapped in wax paper. When she gave me one, I remembered why I let her talk me into this. She had saved me and wanted to be my friend. I realized as I accepted the sandwich, I would follow her anywhere.

It had been months since I had been out on the river, let alone the lake. My muscles were sore, and I was just as glad as Bryan to stop along the shoreline for lunch. After we ate, I stared across the lake, “Dad used to bring me out here. Before he got sick. He’d always pack a picnic lunch, and we’d sit under a tree just like this one and eat. Sometimes we’d spend the entire day picnicking, canoeing, and swimming. It was so much fun.”

I missed my dad so much at that moment. Bryan surprised me when he reached over and rested his hand on my knee. There was genuine affection in his voice, “Your dad sounds like he was super cool.”

My stomach was all aflutter. The well of emotion that swept over me almost caused me to lean over and kiss him. I barely restrained myself. It was lame, but all I could come up with was, “Thanks, Bryan. I miss him so much but I’m glad you’re my friend.”

The words weren’t enough. In that moment, I realized whatever I had felt for Wendy, I felt something stronger for this beautiful eleven-year-old boy. All I could come up with was a lame thanks. He deserved better. Unable to contain my emotions, I leaned over and hugged him. I could feel our chests against each other and wondered if he could feel my tiny buds through our shirts. I sure could. They tingled something fierce as I hugged him.

The way he responded, returning my hug, made my heart soar even while the fluttering in my stomach was nearly too much. How he didn’t feel the pounding of my heart was a mystery. Finally, we ended our hug. It had only lasted a moment, but the smile on Bryan’s face was enough to suspect he felt similarly.

We both muttered, “thanks,” and “that was nice.” Not wanting to dwell on my emotions anymore, I reclined on the grass and said, “I’m going to take a little nap. You should too. It’ll make us feel more rested when we head back.”

He lay down beside me and before long, we were both asleep.

I awoke to a hand on my arm, shaking me, “Erin, Erin. Wake up. The weather!”

My eyes fluttered open at the same time I became aware of a chill on my skin. Wide-eyed, Bryan pointed to the sky. Dark storm clouds blocked the sun. My brain tried to wake up, “Shit! Where’d the sun go?

Bryan was already on his feet and offering his hand, “Don’t know. I woke up because I was getting cold.”

A glance at my watch and I swore again, “Shit, it’s almost four. We slept the whole fucking afternoon.”

I felt a burst of adrenaline shoot through me. I didn’t want to be on the lake when the skies open up. When we threw the Igloo into the canoe, the sleep really had helped. I felt refreshed and ready to get to paddling. We hadn’t gone far before the first splatters of rain hit. We redoubled our effort, pulling toward the mouth of the Angelina River in the distance.

The drops were falling all around us by the time we reached the mouth of the river. And that’s when the storm hit. The wind hit just before sheets of rain lashed at us, drenching us to the bone. Bryan was flagging by the time we were inching our way up the river. I had to shout to keep the wind from ripping my words away, “We’re not far, Bryan. The sooner we get back, the sooner we can get out of our wet clothes and get dry.”

If there was anything positive, it was the wind blew from the southwest, pushing against our backs as we paddled upstream. By the time I steered toward the riverbank, a couple of inches of water filled the bottom of the canoe. When the bow dug into the shore, Bryan lept into the water and, with my help, dragged the canoe fully onto the shore, where I tied it to a nearby tree.

I was cold and miserable. But also thankful we made it home safe. I had feared what might become of us had a lightning strike hit close to our aluminum canoe. I felt relief as I shouted, “Come on! Let’s go to the treehouse. We can ride out the storm there.”

I grabbed Bryan’s hand as we dashed toward the treehouse. We beached the canoe a couple of hundred yards behind my house. The treehouse was several hundred yards further into the dense thicket of trees. We only made it halfway before my legs ached and I slowed to a walk, not letting go of Bryan’s hand. We weren’t going to get any less wet by wasting any more energy. With the wind whipping our hair and clothes, and driving rain pelting us, we walked the rest of the way to the treehouse.

As soaked as we were, I didn’t want us bringing our wet clothes inside. We’d only get everything inside wet. So, I pulled at my tank top, and throwing it at the base of the tree. The look on Bryan’s face was one of pure confusion.

My cold fingers fought the button above my pants zipper as I said, “Take your clothes off. I don’t want us dripping water all over the place.”

I wrestled the button loose at my waist and showed him what I meant by pulling my shorts off. Even though I’d seen him in his underwear the previous Friday, I wasn’t sure how compliant Bryan would be. I glanced his way; his shirt was off and he was tugging his shorts down.

When he tossed his shorts on top of mine, his hands reflexively went to cover his crotch. He was gorgeous, soaked to the skin, in just his underwear. “This good?”

Even though I had only known him for a couple of days, I felt more comfortable with him than anyone other than my dad. And that included Wendy. That’s why I decided to test our boundary. I shook my head and hooked my thumbs into the waist of my panties and pulled them off too. The look of shock on Bryan’s face was worth it. But I hadn’t done it to shock him. I really hated getting water on the floor or the mattress.

His eyes fixed on my puffy slit between my legs. Wendy had never teased me about how badly I lagged the other girls in my grade. She was sweet like that, even though she had a nice patch of dark pubic curls and I was as bare as a little kid. I prayed I wasn’t making a mistake with Bryan.

Another blast of wind blew against us, and I decided not to push the issue and turned and climbed the ladder. When I reached the top, I looked below. Bryan stood at the bottom of the ladder and tossed his underwear onto the pile of our clothes before following me.

He was halfway up the ladder when I turned and hurried into the treehouse. On the far side of the mattress, I had left a bath towel from an earlier sleepover and I grabbed it and finished toweling myself dry when Bryan’s silhouette was in the doorway. The room was dark and even though it was clear he was naked, I couldn’t see anything but his form. But I didn’t need to see his features to know he had to be miserable. I finished with the towel, so I held it out, “Come on in, Bry, and dry off.”

His hands were covering his groin when he came over. There was a long moment of awkward hesitancy before he finally reached out and took the towel. I couldn’t help myself. I chuckled, “Dude, it’s too dark to see anything. Get dry; you’ll feel better.”

What would make me feel better was getting into one of the sleeping bags. The storm had brought a chill and even though I wasn’t dripping water anymore, my skin was chilled. While Bryan dried off, I climbed into one of the sleeping bags. His teeth were chattering by the time he dropped the towel and unrolled the other sleeping bag.

I still felt some chill, so once he was in the bag I said, “Come here. We’ll warm up faster if we cuddle together.”

Copyright 2021 – Caliboy1991
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