I met him when I was six years old, my best friend, Chris Stanford. My family had moved from San Antonio to Longview in the middle of nowhere east Texas. I was a young boy and didn't care where my parents lived; my whole world consisted of my favorite stuffed dinosaur Sabertooth, our dog Sparky, and my parents.
Our house was on the outskirts of town, down a long dirt road, and our only neighbor about sixty feet away from our new home. Both our houses looked roughly the same, except ours needed a new paint job. I didn't know this of course. I remember seeing an enormous two story brick house, sitting in a patch of tall weeds and next door the same style house, but with no weeds in the yard. I remembered weeds because bugs lived on the grass, the biting kind.
Standing on the front porch of the nice house next to ours, was another boy around my age. I remembered thinking, "Wow someone to play with," I barely noticed the unexplained bruises on his arms. The excitement of seeing this new home of mine consumed my attention for the next week. During that time I didn't see any of my next door neighbors. My mom and dad refused to let me go outside until the grass was cut. They said snakes might be hiding in it. That was enough explanation for me.
Kindergarten started soon after the weather cooled down. I met him there; we were in the same class. Even then, kids liked him. I guess he must have looked cute with those blue eyes of his and curly black hair. Or maybe it was how he always tried to include everyone in all the games they played. I remember being so nervous, but he told some of the boys that I had moved next door to him and that we were friends because of that. It made sense at the time. I didn't even know his name, nor did he know mine.
Chris and I had plenty of time to get to know one another. He became my best friend. We spent afternoons hiking in the woods, going to the lake, and just being kids. Except for the times Chris was quiet and aloof.
My childhood seemed far removed the night everything had gone horribly wrong.
That night we planned to watch videos while my parents were out of town for the weekend to go to some kind of convention in Dallas. Chris showed up early, favoring his right leg.
"Are you okay?" I always asked him this, even though I already knew the answer.
"Yeah, of course." A mad glint entered his eyes, almost scaring me, over the past year Chris had grown another foot and now towered over everyone at six feet.
With a maniacal smile and an arm around my shoulder, he spoke, "So what movies did you pick for tonight?"
I forced myself to smile, playing along, pretending that Chris's father wasn't a drunken abusive bastard. "Well I figured Terminator and Aliens. I have the director's cut for Aliens."
"That sounds fine." There was a strange catch to his voice and I glanced at his eyes to see if he was going to start crying. I hoped not. There was nothing worse than seeing a man cry. I'd let him cry on my shoulder if he needed to. Hell he did the same for me when Sparky died one year ago.
I ran my hands through my shoulder length auburn hair. Chris needed to cut my hair again before my mom decided to play barber.
"How about popcorn?" I asked.
Rolling his eyes, Chris headed for the kitchen. "Come on Derrick, you're the nacho man tonight."
Whining about cooking him dinner, I set about making nachos, nothing fancy, just cheese and chips and hamburger meat. We joked and played around in the kitchen snapping the dish clothes at each other. His longer reach helped him win every time; my ass was smarting by the time we returned to the living room with our burden of food and drinks.
Looking back, I wonder if this evening would have turned out normal if we never heard the knocking on the door or if Chris didn't have such a temper. He'd been sent home plenty of times for picking fights with the guys who tormented me for being so short. At only five and half feet I felt like a midget compared to Chris and his other friends. Sometimes he'd turn his temper on me but I was good at calming him down. Not this night though.
At first we didn't notice the knocking, we had the TV on the surround sound speakers and had turned up the volume. "Pause the movie!" I told Chris jumping over the couch and running to the front door. I flipped on the porch light and opened the door.
Chris's dad stood there, his face angry red and reeking of cigarettes and alcohol. "Derrick go get Chris." So used to obeying grown ups, I turned to yell for Chris but he was already in the hallway.
"Umm... here he is." I stepped aside so Chris could talk to his father outside. I wanted to give them privacy but I didn't know what Mr. Stanford was capable of and I wanted to be close by in case I needed to protect Chris.
Brushing past me, Chris opened the door and stepped outside, into the cool September air. The stars had already come out and dotted the sky with their brilliant colors. It was a full moon and I could see my parent's old car sitting in the dirt driveway.
"What is it sir?" Chris asked quietly staring intently at the floorboards under his feet. He never stood straight up when his father was around.
I never even saw Mr. Stanford raise his arm. The action took me so by surprise I stood paralyzed in shock even as Chris fell to the ground. "I will not have my son turn into a faggot! Did you think you could fool your old man! I found the pictures in your room today! If you want to whore your faggot ass you can go to Austin but I'd be damned before I let you stay one more night under my roof! " Then Mr. Stanford picked up a black bag and dumped the contents out onto Chris who was still sprawled on the porch as if waiting for the other shoe to drop and in a sense it had for him.
Papers floated down, the wind picked up some and tossed them against the wooden railing. Chris clutched at the ones on his chest and slowly sat up, trying not to face his father. "You can come back when you're willing to beg for my forgiveness until then I already told your mother that I'd beat her raw if she so much as looks at you. I also recommend you get rid of your girly friend, he only seems to encourage you." Mr. Stanford's eyes glared at me as he raised back his foot and delivered one last kick to Chris's outer thigh, before storming back out into the night, leaving two very stunned boys behind.
I opened the door and rushed to Chris's side, I'd seen the old man threaten my friend with violence but never had a seen such hatred in one man's eyes. I knelt next to Chris and tried to gather up all the sheets of paper. I turned one over to see what was on them and was shocked to see my image drawn on it, along with a few lines of what looked like poetry.
"Give me that!" Chris snarled and snatched the paper out of my hand. I groped for another paper and it was another image of me, Chris was trying to gather them before I could look at any more, but I was on a mission, and I was faster than he was. Plus they'd blown everywhere with the wind. Both of us were breathing hard, when he'd grabbed the last drawing out of my hands, one of me naked obviously just finished swimming. "God damn you, Derrick. These were private!"
This made me more than a little angry. "Those are pictures of me! Why are you drawing pictures of me, naked?" I didn't know I was screaming until I heard my voice echo.
We were still outside but had moved away from the porch. With little thought to his strength, Chris grabbed my arm and half picked me up and started dragging me back to my house, still clutching those damned pictures in one hand. I dug my feet into the ground and tried to hold my place. "Damn it! Let me go!" I yelled uselessly. Chris's dead expression was carved out of granite. No matter how hard I struggled against his grip I couldn't break free, until he deposited me in the living room on the couch. Aliens were still playing, and he turned off the TV. I was panting and sweating from my exertion while Chris looked like he barely broke a sweat. Why did he put up with his asshole father, I wondered?
"Why are you drawing pictures of me Chris?" I demanded again, ignoring the warning signs of Chris about to lose control. My friend was furious with his father or me. I didn't care. I wanted to know why my best friend was drawing pictures of me. I didn't even know he could draw.
"Shut up Derrick! You don't know anything do you? God, don't you know?" Chris leaned towards me until my back was pressed against the sofa cushions, his face too close to mine for comfort. His arms blocking both escape routes; I could see the light dusty freckles on his arms they were so close to my head.
"Don't you know?" Chris closed his tortured blue eyes and leaned his forehead against mine. I couldn't think so I sat still and stared into my friend's pale face and waited.
"I love you." Chris whispered after a long pause. Before I could make a smart aleck remark to break the awkward moment, Chris's lips covered mine. More stunned than before, I let him kiss me. I didn't react until I felt his tongue enter my mouth. Then I felt like I had all the fury of hell in my body as I pushed him away and ducked under his arm. His hand grabbed my hair stopping my escape attempt, and his arm wrapped around my waist hauling me back against him, trapped on the couch.
"Damn it! Let me go! Let me go!" I screamed at him using all my strength to elbow him in the side, but he used his superior height and weight to bear me down to the couch on my stomach. I could see the interlacing fabric; my eyes were so close to it.
I continued to fight against him, scared of how vulnerable he had made me. The heat of his chest against my back was oppressive. I was crying but didn't realize it.
"God Derrick. I can't let you go. I love you. I see the way you look at me. You're just too scared to admit it, but you love me too." Fingers fumbled at the buttons of my jeans and I was glad I hadn't changed into my boxers yet.
"I don't love you, freak!" I said wondering if it was true or not, but he wasn't listening anymore.
I felt his lips at the nape of my neck, my hands were trapped under my own body and I wondered how far this would go. I'd always made jokes about prison but it never occurred to me that Chris would be doing this to me. We were best friends.
I couldn't breath; all my energy seemed to be going to staying conscious. My lungs felt crushed as he kept all his weight on me. My Levi's were stripped from my body and I sobbed with helpless frustration. "Please Chris, let me go. If you do this you'll regret it." I panted and sobbed hopefully loud enough for him to hear me. I knew under normal circumstances, Chris would never rape anyone or condone rape, but these were anything but normal.
"You don't know how long I've loved you Derrick, do you? I think the moment I knew for sure was when you came to me when Sparky died. You came to me out of everyone else in the world and you cried on my shoulder." He kept up the dialogue as he stripped off his own jeans. For a moment, the weight on my chest became unbearable as he kicked off his jeans. I felt like I was in a surreal funhouse, and I kept waiting for the dream to end.
It didn't, instead it grew worse. The coffee table with all our food was less than a foot away from the couch. Our plates of nachos and popcorn sat on the floor where we'd left them. I saw Chris's arm reach for the Aloe Vera gel bottle I'd left on the coffee table over a week ago when I used it on my sunburned face. Innocently, I didn't know why he'd picked up the bottle until I felt his finger probe at my opening, slick with the gel. It hurt, and when the weight left my chest, I barely had time to appreciate it before Chris thrust into me. The pain robbed me of my breath to scream, but Chris paused. I thought I was going to die, but gradually the pain decreased and my body relaxed.
Over the roar of my blood in my head, I could hear him whispering above me, muttering loving endearments. At some point he started thrusting, I tensed in anticipation for the excruciating pain I'd first experienced, but he took his time, and he rubbed against some spot inside me that caused my breath to catch and the blood to rush to my groin. I moved back against him instinctively, hating it but unable to stop. He paused and pulled me to my knees before resuming, and I cried out in a mixture of agony of pleasure. I didn't understand how something could hurt so much and feel so good. Now able to move my arms I clutched at the cushions near my head. I was crying but not sure why anymore. His hand around my dick felt great and I knew I was going to come soon. Maybe that was Chris's plan. Make me enjoy it so I couldn't say he raped me. When I came, I couldn't even sob anymore at my body's betrayal. I hated Chris for showing me that he could control my whole body, but I couldn't get rid of the image of him lying on my porch where he'd fallen when his father punched him
I knew Chris had finished when he collapsed on top of me sobbing with exertion or regret, I couldn't tell. I was on my knees so I gathered my strength and flipped him off my back. He hit the coffee table with a loud thud, while he tried to figure out what happened I was trying to pull my pants back up. All my muscles ached but somehow I managed to run to the bathroom and lock the door. I stood against the wall, refusing to look in the mirror, trying to hold back my tears. I watched the door for what felt like hours before Chris knocked on it.
"Derrick! Please come out of the bathroom. I promise I won't hurt you. I'm sorry!"
"Fuck off! I don't want to see you ever again." I yelled. My voice felt clogged.
"Please, Derrick we can't leave it like this. I thought you were enjoying it?"
A sob almost escaped my lips, but I bit them until I tasted blood. "Please, Chris if you were ever my friend, just go away. You had no right to..." I tried to say 'rape me' but I couldn't, instead I said ineffectually, "Just go away." I hated begging but I didn't know what else to do.
"Okay I'll give you time to yourself. But please don't do anything drastic."
I could hear his footsteps moving away from the door, but I stayed where I was, even when I heard the front porch open and close an hour later, I didn't open the door. Unfortunately, I was in the half bathroom. I had a toilet and a sink and barely any floor room. I'd never felt so exhausted in my life, but I couldn't let down my guard. I started sobbing when I looked at my watch and saw it was three in the morning. I should have been in my bed sleeping, not stuck in the bathroom too terrified to leave and in too much pain to sleep sitting on the floor. The cold seemed to seep into my bones and feet as the hours passed.
When my watch said it was 7:00 I gathered all my courage and unlocked the bathroom door and peeked out into the hall and towards the living room. Both were empty. Shuffling, too sore to move fast I made my way to the front door and locked it. I shuffled around the whole house making sure Chris wasn't hiding somewhere and locked all the windows and doors. Only then did I feel safe enough to take a shower.
Blood caked my thighs and made taking my jeans off painful. While I stood in the shower I thought of all my options, the number one to that entered my head was suicide. I even held the razor in my hand and touched it to my wrist, but when a small bubble of blood welled up on my wrist, I gagged, almost throwing up. I dropped the razor and climbed out of the shower stall.
I looked in the mirror, wondering if I'd look different. Would people know what happened to me by looking at me? My nose was bright red, and dark shadows surrounded my eyes, making my appearance rather haggard. I had pale skin to begin with and now I looked ghoulish, my red hair hung limply against my neck. I had a few bands of bruises on my arms where Chris gripped them hard enough to turn them numb.
Trembling, I put on my boxer shorts and went back downstairs to make sure everything was locked before I attempted to sleep.
The living room was still a mess and the tape had popped out of the VCR having played to the end. The food looked disgusting but I didn't want to deal with cleaning it up. The cushions of the couch were array; one looked like it was about to fall off, and the other had a small bloodstain on it, all to visible because the cushions were white. Paper towels lay on the coffee table wadded up. I didn't want to think about what they were used for and the Aloe Vera Gel was back in the basket on the coffee table.
Refusing to cry again, I went to my room closed and locked the door, before passing out on my bed.
I didn't see Chris again for a week. I stayed in the house the rest of the weekend, avoiding the living room, entering it only to clean the mess. When my parents returned Sunday night I knew they could tell something was wrong, but I couldn't tell them my best friend raped me, in the room we spent hundreds of hours watching movies, playing battle, cards, and one Christmas helping my mom set up the tree decorations. My parents' thought of Chris as their second son, he even called my mom, Mom. Instead of answering any of their questions I retreated to my room and went to bed. I think I slept the whole weekend. I just didn't want to wake up to the memories. Because the more I remembered of that night the more I remembered all the good times we had.
I tried staying home from school, afraid to see Him there, but without a valid excuse to stay home, I couldn't hide out in my room for another day. I didn't know whether I was relieved or disappointed when he didn't show up that day. Four days with him not coming to school, my fear and anger turned to worry. What if his father killed him? Or what if Chris killed himself?
All these thoughts ran through my head, Monday morning, when Chris showed up again. We both must have looked like we'd been through a war, because all last week people kept asking what happened to me and then what happened to Chris. Like everyone expected me to know where he'd gone off. People stepped aside when he walked through the hall. Although he was only a junior, he was big, as I knew from first hand experience. I shuddered and hurried away before he spotted me lurking near my locker.
In class, I knew he was watching me almost as much as I watched him. I missed his company. I hated myself for that, but he was my world for the longest time. No one else understood me without words.
Walking home from school that day, I took my time. Normally, I'd go to the football field after my student council meetings were over, and do my homework while waiting for him, but today I decided to skip the meetings, they were stupid anyway.
Through town I walked on the sidewalk, it wasn't until I was half a mile from town did I come across the dirt road leading to my house and Chris's. He was waiting for me, near the large oak tree at the bend in the road, where once we'd tried to build a tree house. My first instinct was to run, but I was also very curious. What would he try to say to me, to make up for what he did? Was there anything anyone could say after raping a friend?
He walked next to me for a moment before saying anything. I kept my eyes straight ahead. Afraid that if I had to look at him I'd go mad and run screaming into the wilderness. Okay Texas wasn't exactly a wilderness anymore. I just needed to keep control.
"I'm sorry." He whispered. I could hear the shame in his voice. "There is no excuse for what I did, none. Will you ever forgive me?"
In some ways, I already forgave him. I didn't answer him. If I started talking to him, I would have cried. He walked me home. Neither of us said another word to each other.
The next day he was at the same bend in the road waiting for me. Perversely I was happy that he still wanted to see me. We walked home in silence again. I didn't speak to him and he stopped trying to convince me to speak after the first week. I'm not sure if we'd continued the same pattern for the next eight or nine months, if it weren't for what happened the first weekend of October.
It was Friday night and I had gone to bed early after watching some movies with my parents. Again they asked why Chris didn't spend the night; I looked at the TV in my room with disgust. Chris and I used to play video games until four in the morning. After tossing and turning for over an hour, I threw back my covers, climbed out of bed, and quickly dressed.
It was the beginning of October the night rather humid and warm. Sneaking out of the house, I headed for the watering hole behind my parent's property. I made sure I wore jeans and good boots because we didn't cut the grass often. Of course Chris and I wore a path to our spring feed pond, but nature always seemed to eat the trail during the fall and winter months, when it was too cold for swimming. Tonight was ideal for a midnight hike and swim. A full moon shone overhead and it wasn't too windy.
I knew the way by heart and reached the watering hole within fifteen minutes, however someone had beaten me to it. My breath caught in my throat when I recognized Chris swimming naked in the pond. My first instinct was to run back the way I came but something stopped me. Maybe it was the thought that this was my property and had every right to swim in my own pond, or maybe it was the stubborn refusal to run away from my fears. All I know is that I must have stood there too long, because finally Chris noticed me.
He stopped swimming and stayed were he was treading water in the middle. I could turn and run around right now and neither of us would mention it again. However, Chris would know I was still afraid to be alone with him. I stood up straighter and made my way to the sandy shoreline. (Chris and I, along with my father must have carried hundreds of buckets of sand to create a beach effect) I stripped off my shirt and pants, without a pause. I impressed myself. Then before the night air chilled me I jumped into the freezing water and swam towards the middle. I hated the slimy feel of mud and weeds touching my feet. My teeth were chattering when I finally drew close to Chris. The moonlight cast strange shadows over everything and made the hallows of Chris's cheeks deeper and more sinister. Or maybe I was just imagining them because then he grinned and shook his head before disappearing under the surface.
I swam a little bit away waiting for him to try and pull me under water. When his hands closed around my ankle, I was ready I held my breath and let him pull me under. Our slippery hands made it difficult to hold onto each other long enough to push the other person under water. I was exhausted after twenty minutes, so I headed for the shore. Chris followed behind me. I didn't have a towel, so I just lay on the sand and let the air dry me off. Chris flopped down beside me. I loved swimming at night especially when there weren't any clouds blocking the stars.
Neither of us spoke for a couple of minutes. I didn't have anything to say and still needed to catch my breath. He spoke first his words surprised me. "I didn't think you'd join me..."
"I almost didn't." I admitted.
"Oh." A brief pause "I didn't think you'd ever talk to me again, after what I did to you." His voice sounded strained and bleak.
I sat up and hugged my knees to my chest. All of a sudden I couldn't breathe. I buried my head in my arms and concentrated on taking one deep breath at a time. Why did he have to bring this up while I was sitting next to him naked? I was conscious of how much bigger he was compared to me. He could easily overpower me again, I realized uneasily. Water dripped down my back causing me to shiver. His hand settled on my shoulder and patted me tentatively. Just trying to comfort me.
"Yeah well I forgot I wasn't speaking to you." I said, gloomily, still ashamed for being afraid.
"Do you want to know what happened after I left you in the bathroom that night?" I turned my head and looked at him in disbelief. Why was he bringing this up now of all times? He didn't wait for me to reply, probably taking my silence as a go ahead. "I went back to my house. I was insane I think. My father was drunk and watching TV on the sofa chair. I could have killed him if I had a gun. Here I'd just destroyed the one good thing in my life, and he was just sitting there! Nothing changed for him!"
"Maybe if it wasn't for all the shit he put me through, I would not have lost all control that night. I never wanted to hurt you. Normally when I'm frustrated I would play harder at practice, I wouldn't care who I hurt. I know I have a short temper, but after he dumped those pictures all over the place. I knew everything was over. You'd know my secret; know that I've been in love with you for years. You were so pissed off I thought you'd never speak to me again. I tried justifying my actions to myself even as you told me 'stop'. But by then I couldn't. It was insane and horrible. It wasn't until I could hear you crying in the bathroom, did I realize how seriously I screwed up, and I blamed my father." His voice caught on that last part, before he continued his voice strangely soothing.
"I wasn't thinking when I returned home. He would have killed me if my mom didn't return home from her night shift. I went up to him and punched him, and told him that 'this was my home and he couldn't kick me out. And if he ever hit me again, I would kill him.' He didn't agree."
"I forget that we're about the same size and he also has muscle. My rage made it possible for me to fight back and I did manage to hurt him before he picked up the fireplace poker and walloped me across my chest. He'd beaten me before, but never so badly. Mom somehow managed to stop him from killing me."
This time I comforted him, his shoulders were hunched over and he clutched his knees to his chest. His wet hair was plastered the back of his neck and some of the dark strands stuck to his face. I almost spoke up to say some nonsense words, that my mom always used for me when I hurt myself, but he continued. "She took me to the hospital. He broke two of my ribs and I was pissing blood for three days." I looked at his chest trying to find the bruises, but it was too dark outside. "But after we came home my father avoided me and has ever since. Oh, he still tells me I'm worthless and after what I did to you, I could believe it. While I was at the hospital I swore that somehow I would make it up to you. I've never been so sorry for anything in my life. And seeing you at school with that look of fear in your eyes, directed towards me hurt more than anything my father has ever done." Chris broke down crying; his shoulder's shaking his pale back gleaming in the moonlight.
I had tears in my eyes too. I stared up at the sky the stars blurry from tears. I wondered if anyone else would understand this feeling...I didn't understand it myself. How could I love someone so much when by everyone else's standards I should hate him? Maybe pity him. He raped me. Yet I couldn't bear to see him so...so...devastated? Wrapping my arm around his shoulders, I whispered, "Everything's going to be fine. Just give it time." Maybe if I said it enough both of us would believe it.
"You'll never love me the same way...the way you like girls will you?" Dead was the best way to describe his voice.
I floundered around for the best answer. I didn't know. I never considered guys until after that night. It just wasn't an option, I'd never even thought about it. I settled for the truth, "I don't know. Even if I was gay. I don't think I would want to be with someone who would hurt me the way you have. You're too aggressive. Any time you get that look on your face, I'll probably freeze, just waiting for you to drag me off and rape me." A sob burst from my lips but I quickly bit them closed and squeezed my eyes shut. I was not going to cry. I regained control after a few minutes. I shivered and reached for my shirt. It had sand on it so I brushed it off. I wrapped it around my still wet shoulders. It kept the night air off my back, which was enough for now.
"I'm so sorry. I swear I never meant to hurt you. I'll do anything to make it up to you." He whispered. I could hear the shame in his voice. "You can hit me if it'll make you feel better?"
I almost laughed at the offer. "Chris..."
"No really I deserve it."
"Yeah you do, but I couldn't. Your dad hit you enough to last a lifetime. If I started I probably wouldn't want to stop. Besides, I think it'll hurt me more than you." I said, thinking of the last time I punched him, my knuckle hit bone and my hand felt numb the rest of the day.
"You're probably right." He admitted and slowly stretched his legs out and leaned back, using his arms to support his upper body. His face tilted up towards the sky. We'd spent hundreds of hours on the shore side talking, making sandcastles, and sleeping, or in my case reading comics.
"I just want things to be the same again!" I complained rather loudly. Now upset with Chris for ruining everything.
"I don't think that's going to happen. We could pretend nothing happened?" He suggested. His voice sounded doubtful.
I sighed loudly.
"So you really love me?" I asked
"Why? It doesn't make sense. Why didn't you tell me? Why the whole ugly scene in my living room? Do you know what that did to me?" I wrapped my arms around my knees and squeezed my eyes shut. It didn't prevent the hot flow of tears from escaping and sliding down my cheeks. It was the first time I cried since that night in the bathroom.
His arm wrapped around my shoulders and pulled me toward him. I let him cradle me until I cried myself out. I could feel his lips at my temple, softly kissing and murmuring words of comfort. I was limp in his arms, too tired to even pull away from him. Why did he have to feel so comfortable and safe? The crickets chirping was the only sound for the longest time.
I finally pulled away, "I have to go." I said quietly and grabbed for my clothes. I donned them more quickly than I discarded them.
"Wait! Do you forgive me?" Chris asked also grabbing his clothes.
I sighed exasperated with him and quickly rolled my socks on. I shook out my shoes before putting them on my feet. I was smiling though. The first real smile in what felt like months. "I don't know." I answered, lacing my shoes.
"Derrick, you can't leave with an answer like that."
Oh yes I can, I thought. But seeing him nude in all his glory, his hurt eyes searching mine, made me pause. I think I really did love him. "Look I just don't know. Do you know how close I was to calling the police?" My parents would have freaked. But I couldn't bear the thought of Chris going to jail. "It's going to take time." I continued sadly.
"How much time?" He asked resigned.
"I don't know but you'll be first to know." I stood up.
"How will I know?" He asked. Still shaking out his pants.
I debated on the wisdom of my actions, but for once, I just wanted to surprise him. Quickly before I had the chance to chicken out, I reached up pulled his head down and kissed him, thoroughly.
I let go of him and headed to the trail, leaving him too stunned to speak. Before I let the darkness hide me completely, I turned and said; "You'll know when I kiss you like that again." Whistling quietly, I returned home.