See Jake and Dylan Fall In Love
The next day was Independence Day. Jake used Pat’s cell phone to call his mother early, wish her a good day and ask after her welfare. Carolyn sounded great to his ears. Strong. Happy. Sensible. She told him that his father had settled down somewhat and accepted that, at least for now, Jake had gone into hiding. He still ranted about his homosexual perversions at times, but he was acting less aggressive. This was not to say that Jake should consider it safe to return, but Carolyn didn’t feel as if she was in any danger from him.
She had filed for divorce from George, and the papers were to be served the next afternoon. In the meantime, she had rented a tiny apartment in Fresno which was actually closer to her job. She had begun to slowly but surely prepare to move out, and she wanted a complete severance from her old life. Once the split was final, she wanted to relocate to southern California so she could live close to her children. Jake was eager for her move because she deserved the same happiness and peace he’d achieved from leaving his father behind.
Jake was a little hesitant bringing Dylan up because he still wasn’t positive where his mother stood, but he told her he had a boyfriend. Carolyn went quiet at that news and let his enthusiasm bubble forth from him without interruption. She asked two or three questions and ended the conversation with a wish to meet him the next time they all got together. Jake felt that was the best he could expect from her, realizing she was still working out her issues, but at least she was trying.
With it being a holiday, the teenagers were worried about large crowds at all their favorite spots, but the Caldwell twins saved the day. Jake had no sooner hung up from talking to his mother than Spencer sent out a group text message about a change in beach plans, explaining that his Aunt Roz wanted to throw an impromptu party at her house where they could relax in privacy and the indoor/outdoor venue would serve multiple purposes. Parking would not be a problem in her cul de sac, people could come and go as they pleased and the ban on public alcohol wasn’t in effect on her secluded beach. They decided to give up better surfing on one of the breaks further south in lieu of a shady place to kick back in the heat of the day with free food and beverages. Sweet!
The day turned out much like Dylan and Jake imagined it. Surfing in the morning to their heart’s content with no fighting for good barrels since the only ones sitting the lineup were the seven of them and Sage and Spencer’s older brothers. Roz kept up a steady stream of food and drink, turning down offers to help set up. Jake and Dylan spent an hour in the mid-afternoon taking a long walk down the beach with their hands clasped together, playing in the shallow waves, and nobody did anything more than give them a few ugly glances.
That evening soon after their arrival at Roz’s place, the Moores were astonished when their son walked up to them, hand in hand with Jake Nielsen, Marcus Walker’s cousin, and told them that he was his boyfriend. Erin had smirked at their entwined fingers, and the parents had been typically warm, although somewhat surprised since Dylan had said nothing about dating. Then the Moores drifted off to talk to the Walkers and get to know them better, specifically to find out what kind of young man Jake was and be reassured of his good qualities. Typical parents, the boys smiled at each other.
The boys over-ate but turned down beer in place of Coke, the favorite drink of both of them. As the sun went down over the Pacific Ocean they sat on a blanket on the still-toasty sand, Jake cradled into Dylan’s larger body to patiently await the fireworks show as if nobody else was there.
“Oh god, they are so disgusting,” Marcus heard from his right and, getting ready to angrily protest the prejudice, turned to observe Erin Moore grinning at the couple. “I mean, my brother is already so perfect, and now he has to find a perfect boyfriend too? Life just isn’t fair.”
“Hey, that’s my favorite cousin you’re bitching about,” he answered teasingly, aware that she was jeering in fun. “But their total oblivion to all us peons is pretty hard to put up with, isn’t it?”
“It certainly is.” She giggled and punched him lightly in the arm. “I remember you from the Catalina trip, and you used to hang out with my brother all the time,” she stated pleasantly. “You’re Marcus, right? I’m Erin, sister of Saint Dylan.”
Marcus wanted to grimace at the ‘used to’ label but gave her an only slightly-pained smile. “It’s nice to meet you, formally I mean, because we already know each other, sort of. Yeah, Dylan is nicely matched with our paragon of virtue, Jake.”
Erin fell into a fit of giggles at that, and they joked a little while longer about their emotionally-tethered relatives and moved on to general topics. Her upcoming senior year at Aleppo Park High, and his imminent fifth semester at UC-Irvine where he was majoring in Communications. The first colored explosion lit up the sky.
“Do you surf, Erin?” Marcus asked.
“I like the beach,” she said hesitantly, wondering if the conversation would get back to her brother. “I asked Dylan to teach me when I turned twelve, but he was always too busy.”
“So, would you still like to learn?”
She laughed, her blonde hair bobbing. “Hell, yes. Is that an offer?”
“Sure, I’m game.” Marcus’ eyes sparkled. “Knowing Dylan, I’m sure he has at least one of his old boards in your garage. I’ll ask him about it and see what I can do.”
“That sounds good to me,” she grinned, and they turned around to watch the fireworks display.
For the next half-hour the groups of revelers were treated to multi-colored burst of incendiary lights in all shapes: large balls of stars called peonies which could have every shade of the rainbow in them, spiders that exploded in bright coronas before jetted bursts radiated outwards in all directions and horsetails with their falling streams of fire. Each explosion brought a loud boom, followed by the crackle of sparks, and sulfur-laced smoke began to drift with the breeze. The five-minute finale of golden, green and pink showers and, of course, the colors of the flag took the viewers’ breaths away.
By that time Jake and Dylan weren’t even paying attention. Taking advantage of the crowd’s loss of focus on them, they were entwined in each other and had another, perfectly legitimate reason to stop breathing.
“Revolting,” Erin quipped with a sigh, and Marcus chuckled his agreement.
It was after ten o’clock, and most of Roz’s guests were still waiting around in small chatting groups before attempting to leave. The fireworks show always pulled in a crowd, and the heavy beach traffic caused disorganized chaos on the narrow coastal lanes that took awhile to clear. Dylan and Jake were in her front yard looking at the stars when Marcus walked up to them, the keys to his Mustang in hand. “Are you going to make sure he gets home safe?” he asked his best friend.
“I can, sure,” Dylan answered, a little mystified. To soothe Marcus’ hurt feelings Jake had agreed to ride back and forth to the beach with him instead of having Dylan pick him up.
“Thanks then, bros, catch you all later.” Marcus bumped first Dylan’s fist, then Jake's and moved off.
Jake’s mouth dropped open in irritated surprise. “Now hold on a second.” He wasn’t angry about riding with Dylan, he was upset about being treated like some damsel in distress.
Dylan silenced him with a long kiss, as much to ward off an outburst as to show affection. “Ready to go, Jake?” he panted, holding on to the younger man and gazing at him as if he was the most tempting dessert.
But the smaller boy was having none of it. “I’m not some weak girl either of you have to protect.”
Dylan slid his arm around Jake’s shoulder. “I know you aren’t, but I’m not going to just leave you here either. Besides, I am bigger than you so get used to it.”
He was about to add more in the way of peacemaking when he saw Marcus escorting Erin through the front door, and his face went stony. Jake noticed it at the same time and burst into laughter which didn’t help his boyfriend’s mood.
“If he so much as touches Erin…”
“It’s Marcus,” Jake reasoned, putting his hands on Dylan’s arms to restrain him from marching through the gate after the pair. “You know as well as I do that he isn’t going to be stupid with her, especially because she’s your sister.”
“Yeah, well…” Half an hour later Dylan was dropping Jake off at his door but he didn’t stay long. He wanted to hurry back to his house to make sure Marcus was behaving himself. Letting himself inside, Jake sighed at how, once again even without meaning to, his cousin had managed to screw up his evening with Dylan. Family!
Jake and Dylan didn’t have much time to spend with each other over the next couple of days except lunch during day camp. To appease their friends, they scheduled a fun day at Boomers, a local fun park, for the following Saturday and Dylan told Jake he would pick him up around 9:30. Marcus didn’t make waves because Erin was his date and they’d be going together.
Dylan was feeling the pressure. Although neither boy had said anything about love yet, he was pretty sure he was. Totally in love with his hot but virginal baseball player, and it was as if they existed in the clouds. When they were apart, it was all Dylan could do to make his brain focus on the tasks at hand. Sometimes during day camp sessions he found himself standing completely still and silent in the pool with six children looking up at the dreamy expression on his face and giggling as if he'd lost his senses. When he was with Jake, he couldn’t keep his mouth and his hands off of him, and he felt like bursting at the seams. In the past, he’d been terrified of intimacy with another man, but now he craved it like a drug and wanted to move things along. He just wasn’t sure how or even if Jake was on the same page.
On Saturday he got up early and drove to his uncles’ house in Dana Point. He knew they’d be home because he’d texted his Uncle Chris the night before, and he volunteered to fix him breakfast. At eight o’clock he was standing outside their yellow stucco and gray clapboard Cape Cod ringing the doorbell.
“Hi, Uncle Chris,” he greeted his father’s youngest brother.
Christopher Moore was in his late thirties, his once-towheaded blonde hair darkened to sandy and his brown eyes like latte fire against his tanned skin. He and his husband of four years were software developers who had begun a business right after the younger man, Bruce, had graduated high school, and they were quite successful. The five years in age separating them made no difference at all, and they had fallen in love almost immediately. When a short-term window had opened up in California state law in 2008 that allowed them to wed, they took advantage of it. They were well off financially and the happiest couple Dylan had ever met.
“Well, hi Dylan?” Chris reached for a hug. “I don’t think we’ve seen you much this summer.”
“No, I guess not,” Dylan murmured, feeling as if he’d been neglecting them. “I’m sorry I haven’t stopped by, but it’s been a busy summer. I’ve been working at the rec center teaching swimming.”
“From what your dad tells me, that’s not all you’re doing.”
Dylan looked confused and wondered if anything was said about Jake. “Well, I’m surfing, but…”
“And saving a kid’s life, I hear.” Chris had been quite proud when his brother had shared that tidbit- how Dylan had been the first to notice the missing boy before diving into the waves and bringing him to the surface. He had used CPR to restore his breathing too.
“Oh, that.” Dylan grinned in relief. “He’s a friend and took a bad spill off his board. It was nothing really.” He paused. “Actually, I need to talk to you guys about him.”
Chris glanced at him in surprise. “I’m not sure I understand. What could we tell you about a friend of yours? Unless we know him…”
“No, you don’t.” There was a longer pause this time, and Dylan ended it with an explanation. “The boy I saved; his name is Jake. Jake Nielsen. He’s Marcus Walker’s cousin.”
Chris and Bruce were familiar with Dylan’s best friends, Marcus and Noah. The three spent the latter half of their high school years inseparable even with Noah attached to the hip of his girlfriend, and Marcus was a nice kid. However, that was the past, and Chris waited to see what else Dylan had to say.
“Anyways, Jake moved back to Aleppo Park this summer,” Dylan said quickly as if trying to get the whole sequence out in one long sentence. “He used to live here but moved up to central California the year before I met Marcus. Jake even goes to Long Beach State, but I didn’t know it. He’s gay, and his dad is a homophobic asshole, so Jake is sort of hiding out from him.”
Chris looked at Dylan in concern. “Is this Jake kid asking you to do anything illegal or does he need our help…?”
“Oh no,” Dylan was quick to correct. “He’s fine that way. He’s really nice and wouldn’t ask me to do anything wrong.” He cleared his throat nervously. “Uh, Jake is my, um… boyfriend.”
Christopher’s eyebrows arched before he broke into a slow smile. “Your boyfriend, huh? Well, congratulations.”
Dylan relaxed. “It’s kind of a funny story. I met him at the end of May and we’ve had our eyes on each other but didn’t realize it. He didn’t know I was gay and he was worried about saying anything.”
Chris laughed, remembering his own inept teenage years, faulty gaydar and the awkwardness of figuring out prospective boyfriends from the rest of the population. “So is there a point to this story? Not that I want to be rude, but I’m assuming you’re going somewhere or you wouldn’t have brought Jake up.
Dylan cleared his throat again and blushed. Chris was, after all, his uncle- his older uncle, and he had the natural reticence of most kids his age discussing certain things with that generation. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to get through this conversation without intense mortification.
“Well, um, it’s like this.” He stared down at the porch as if the slats were the most interesting thing he’d seen in a long time. He suddenly felt very warm, much hotter than the day warranted. “Jake and I… I mean, we… it’s just that… um, well he’s a virgin, and I…”
All of a sudden Christopher comprehended exactly what Dylan was trying to say and he turned as shiny red as his nephew was. “Bruce?” he bellowed in through the screen door behind him. “You need to get out here.”
The thirty-two-year-old came on a run, spying Dylan on the porch with his husband. “Hey, Dylan, how’s it going?”
Chris looked at him expectantly. “Dylan has a boyfriend.”
“Really?” Bruce, knowing how careful and inconspicuous Dylan was, acted surprised but pleased. “That’s great.” He scanned the red faces of both men. “So what’s the problem? Is there a problem?”
Chris gave Bruce a relieved smile and clapped him on the back. “Yes and no. If I’m reading this situation right, Dylan is here to ask about initiating sex with his Jake. Neither boy has any experience, and since you’re younger and can relate to him better, I’m going to leave the conversation in your capable hands.”
Bruce tried to smile at Dylan and failed. He did succeed in shooting Chris an 'I’ll-get-back-at-you-for-this-later’ look, but their nephew was looking so woebegone he took pity on him. “Well, come in Dylan, and let’s see what you need to know. Now, about your new boyfriend, when you say he’s inexperienced, are you talking about him being a virgin or…”
Dylan was right on time when he swung on to Jake’s street sixty minutes later. His face still felt flushed and melty from discussing sex with Bruce, and even Chris had joined in to give him some valuable information. Except for teaching some of the basics, they advised against porn, even the gay sites, as useless because most of it was faked, and their depictions of reality were skewed.
Not to mention that, compared to the smooth ability and unnatural attributes of the films’ stars, a newbie was sure to come away with performance anxiety. Sure, they might need pointers on the mechanics, but there was nothing out there that could teach them when the right time would be for moving forward. Love would guide them naturally, and it was important that neither boy rush the other into something he wasn’t comfortable with.
The most important element in all this, his uncles assured him, was trust, and with it came responsibility. Both boys needed to get tested unless Dylan was willing to take Jake’s word for it that he was a virgin. In most cases it wasn’t wise to simply accept the other’s vow, but after watching Jake suffer through the telling of his fight with that Madera kid, Dylan had absolutely no doubt that Jake was. He planned on bringing it up anyway and presenting his own health portfolio, seeing as how he hadn’t been with a female since high school and knew he was clean. Beside, participation on college sports teams included testing, but until they were both satisfied about their safety, it was important to use condoms for everything.
Dylan picked Jake up and drove to Irvine for a day of fun at Boomers, an entertainment park known for its speed rides and game arcade. It was a place that catered to letting adults act like children with the crew racing around the go-kart track and racing each other or battling it out on bumper boats. Like any dating couple Dylan and Jake targeted each other with the water cannons and got soaked to the skin, and it didn’t help that the rest of their friends seemed to conspire against them as well. Hoping to dry in the hot sun, they moved to the miniature golf course.
“Let me show you how it’s done,” Spencer crowed. They were on the fifth hole, and he placed his ball in the far left divot to tee off. The object of this round was to hit it hard enough to completely circle a loop-de-loop and drop it into the cup ten feet on the other side. As successful as he had been all morning, he managed to sink it in two shots.
Noah, on the other hand, was having a rotten day. His father had taught him how to play regulation golf, and he expected to clean up, but the game was kicking his ass. His first putt was too soft, and the ball stopped halfway through the loop and rolled backwards. It took him three shots over par before the ball finally found the cup, and by then he was almost ready to throw the club.
“Calm down,” Sage told him sternly. “It’s just a game, and you’re being a poor sport.” Of course, she had nothing to sing about, seeing as how she was just as competitive as her arrogant twin, and what she wanted to do with her club- wrap it tightly around Spencer’s neck, might land her in jail.
Jake and Dylan told the crowd to play on and let them get ahead of them while they laughed over silly shots and groaned about the various water hazards that Dylan frequently had to retrieve his red ball from. He admitted the reason he chose the bright color was because it was the easiest to locate. Jake found the windmills distracting, almost always misjudging his timing to hit one of the blades, and between their lazy play and taking time out to snuggle, the rest of the gang played an entire round of laser tag before they finished the course.
Erin and Sage opted out of climbing the rock wall in lieu of getting better acquainted, and everyone agreed that Dylan’s sister was a lot of fun and a snappy with the come-backs, especially when he was her target. The kids ended the day in the arcade playing games for tickets that they traded in for prizes and Marcus had enough to get Erin a small stuffed cat. Dylan and Jake purchased silly glasses and enough candy to last for a week.
“So are you okay with Marcus going out with Erin?” Jake asked on the way home.
Dylan grunted, turning down the air conditioning as the outside temperature cooled off. “I suppose so. Like you said, it’s Marc, and I know he’ll treat her right. He asked if he could teach her to surf and use one of my old boards.” Unsaid was the fact that if Jake’s cousin had someone else to focus on, maybe he’d leave them alone.
“I went to see my uncles this morning,” Dylan announced, his cheeks turning pink again just remembering the conversation. “You and I haven’t had a lot of… uh… practice with being, you know… well… together. Sex, I mean…”
Jake smiled stiffly, blushing just as hard. “That must have been embarrassing, going to them for advice. I mean, I love Uncle Avery, but I could never talk about sex with him.”
Dylan chuckled. “Yeah, Uncle Chris- he’s my dad’s brother- turned me over to Uncle Bruce because he’s younger. But they both gave me good suggestions. They said we need to get tested.”
Jake bit his lip. “We can do that if you think it’s important. I told you I’ve never… um, been with anybody. I think my university health paperwork is at Aunt Pat’s if you want to see it. I’m sure you were tested at school last year too.”
Dylan nodded as he eased his Honda across the interstate to take the exit for Aleppo Park. “I suppose safety should tell me to go to the clinic with you this week, but I trust you.” His smile was mischievous. “Hell, you’re so cute when you try to tell a fib, with that squinty line you get in the bridge of your nose, I’d know if it wasn’t the truth.”
Jake kept his eyes straight ahead and bit back his frown. Dylan wasn’t teasing him, not really, but the longer they were together, the more sensitive he became about his virgin status. It wasn’t that he didn’t yearn for the physical part of being one with his boyfriend, but the technicalities looked daunting, and he was a wuss with pain. It was beginning to worry him that Dylan was so much more experienced, even if it was with girls. He wondered what would happen the first time they tried to get together and how he would even know what to do without looking like a fool.
Dylan glanced over at him quickly, reading his mind. “It’s no big deal, Jake. We can put it off for awhile. You tell me when you’re comfortable.”
Yeah, but how long was awhile, Jake asked himself, before Dylan got tired of waiting for him to grow up.
A new week was upon them and the third session of the day camp began. For Jake it was becoming routine. He still liked working with the children, but he didn’t have to think much when he was teaching them baseball skills. Throwing, catching, running and the base positions were all second-nature to him.
Coach Abel approached Jake as the boys from the morning session were gathering their gear together in preparation to leave. “I would like a word with you,” he said grimly.
Jake followed him into the small building which they had been using for an office. It was a bright blue, single story structure that housed the broadcaster’s booth and separated the home bleachers from the visitor’s stands. Once inside the door, the coach indicated for him to take a chair, and Jake squirmed before his steely gaze.
“Jake, I’m going to make this brief. I’m not here to meddle in your personal business, but we’ve had some complaints from parents about you and your… friend.”
“Excuse me?” Jake wasn’t sure he’d heard right, although he could guess what Coach meant. The fact that he wasn’t able to grit out the word ‘boyfriend’ was offensive.
Abel looked annoyed at having to repeat himself. “The boy you hang out with here at the center, the one who teaches swimming? Some of the campers’ parents told me they saw you… well, kissing him. This needs to stop immediately.”
Jake gasped at the unfairness of his request. He seriously doubted any of the parents of his baseball players even knew he had a boyfriend. The small parking lot where the boys left their trucks was close to the pool on the other side of the recreation center, far from the one by the fields where the boys were dropped off and picked up. Their kissing was discreet, not during camp hours and they were careful not to embrace anywhere except there. The park next door didn’t belong to the center. Not to mention that there were at least two heterosexual couples employed by the center in other sports who snuggled freely and walked around the fields hand in hand in front of everyone.
“Coach, I don’t think you’re allowed to do that,” Jake said stoutly. On the outside he looked calm, but under his uniform he was sweating bullets.
“Don’t tell me what I’m allowed and not allowed to do, Jake,” the man snapped. “You don’t run this camp. The rules you agreed to when you signed up as an assistant are clear. They state that you will refrain from doing anything to cause embarrassment to the program or the department.”
Jake was beginning to get just as angry, but he kept his voice calm. “I understand, Coach, but if that’s true, why is it okay for everyone but Dylan and me? There are two soccer assistants who do nothing most of the day except stand behind the net holding hands and flirting with each other. Or, how about the tennis coach, Mr. Shoals, and his junior instructor? Everyone knows about them. Dylan and I aren’t hurting anyone, and we’re doing our jobs.”
“I am not responsible for the soccer or tennis programs,” Coach yelled. “Rules are rules, and you will follow them or be terminated. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir.” Jake looked mutinous. He knew exactly why the coach was up in his face over Dylan, and it had nothing to do with regulations and everything about being a bigot. With a huff of irritation, he ran out the door.
Jake found Dylan in the parking lot waiting by his truck. When his boyfriend bent down to kiss him, he stepped back, his eyes clouded by guilt and despair. Without a sound Jake pulled their lunches out of the cab of the Ranger and led Dylan across through the bushes to their picnic spot.
Dylan could feel fear wrap around him like a coat, and ten different possibilities assaulted him. He wracked his brain to try to remember if he’d done or said anything that might set up an argument, but they had parted with smiles that morning.
“What’s wrong, Jake?” he asked quietly once they unfolded the blanket, took a seat and began to lay out the food. He held his breath.
“The coach wanted to talk to me about us,” Jake complained, angrily giving him the abridged version of the conversation.
“I don’t think this is any of his business,” Dylan grumbled when he finished, accepting a Sprite from Jake. “Not if we aren’t kissing or holding hands in front of the kids. It’s discrimination, and like you pointed out, there are other couples working here who do the same thing out in the open. I’ll bet nothing has been said to any of them.”
“Abel claims he has no authority over the other programs,” Jake scowled. “He says the rule comes from a clause in our contract. Something about being held up to the community as an example to properly reflect on the P and R department.”
Dylan shook his head. “I didn’t see any such thing, and I read the contract carefully when I was hired. Not for this reason,” he added when Jake gave him a funny look. “But my Uncle Chris taught me to read the fine print on everything I sign.”
“I think Coach just has it in for me,” the younger boy shrugged, already mourning their loss. He had come to value the little hugs and kisses he received from Dylan before and after work.
“Hey, come here.” Dylan always seemed to know just what Jake needed and could talk him out of his bad moods better than anyone else. He pulled him over to sit in his lap and gave Jake a kiss on the temple, rubbing the tension out of his shoulders. Jake relaxed into him and planted a light peck on his throat.
“I could check with Mr. Towers, the director,” suggested Dylan. “He’s the one who handled the hiring and set up our paperwork, and he could tell us if you’re being bullied just because you’re gay or if what Abel says is true.”
Jake snuggled into Dylan’s embrace, appreciating the comfort he provided. Not to mention being the sexiest man he’d ever met. “So what do I do for now? I know he can’t keep us from these picnics because we aren’t on the center property, but…”
“I don’t want you to get in trouble, Jake. Maybe we better save the affection for home and here.”
“I sure am going to miss this in the morning and afternoon,” he sighed as Dylan nuzzled his hair. “And if what Abel says is true, I don’t want to get you fired either.”
“Does my boy need a big hug and kiss to make him feel better?” Dylan teased.
Jake smiled in spite of himself. “It might help a little.”
They spent a couple minutes quietly embracing, each lost in his own thoughts, but Jake had missed most of the lunch hour, and they didn’t have time to waste. They quickly ate their sandwiches and went back to work.
(To be continued...)