My parents were journalists, and we traveled all over the world when I was a kid. There were years when my schooling was done by a tutor/babysitter in a hotel or house my parents had rented while they were out on assignment.
While this was terribly exciting for a young boy, it also meant that I didn’t spend a lot of time with other boys my age. The tutors were invariably young women, and so I learned to socialize with them much more than with other boys. I passed into my teen years in a rented flat outside London, receiving a day trip to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich as my birthday present.
The following year, when I had just turned fourteen, we were in Dallas to cover some story regarding a defense contractor. My parents never spoke much about their assignments, but I read their articles with fascination when they were finally published. The Vietnam War had ended three years before, and the political fallout from the defeat was still foremost in the public’s mind.
It was then that my parents received an assignment to travel abroad for six weeks, and they deemed it too dangerous for me to go. I was to stay in the rented house with the nanny they had hired. It was summer, so there was no point in enrolling me in school. I was just as glad to not be subjected to yet another school. I still had exams, though, since I was enrolled in a correspondence school.
So, for the next two weeks, I studied and worked on the exams. I also took to going to the local park, where many kids my age also went. There was an athletic field with a baseball diamond, a soccer field, and other activities. I was a rather poor player, so I rarely participated in these types of games. I would walk around, watching the games in progress, and sometimes strike up conversations, mostly with the girls.
One sunny afternoon, I decided to visit a hot dog cart on the far side of the park, near the nature walk in a small wood next to the park. As I approached the cart, I noticed that a group of boys had surrounded another, smaller boy and were taunting him. I wasn’t big for my age, but I was taller than most of the antagonists.
The taunts had turned into shoves when I walked up behind the apparent leader of the group. “Hello, what’s going on?” I said loudly.
The leader turned, and his surprised expression turned to a sneer. He was white, blond, about my size, and looked as dumb as a mud brick. “Get lost,” he advised me.
“You are the only one stupid enough to get lost out here,” I replied with a smile.
A moment later, I found myself the center of attention for the seven boys; their prior victim forgotten. The leader smiled like a wolf that had just spotted the lone elk at the back of the herd. “You just fucked up, boy.”
The fight was a blur. I didn’t wait, and I landed a solid punch right in the leader’s face. My world dissolved into a flurry of angry faces, punches, and kicks. I managed to rake another boy’s shin with my foot, and I landed an elbow strike on someone who grabbed me from behind. After that, it was their turn. I tried to stay on my feet, but I was swarmed and thrown to the ground. I curled into a ball and covered my face while they tried to stomp me to death.
The next thing I clearly remember was a middle-aged man helping me to my feet. He was one of a platoon of adults who had waded into the juvenile dogfight. “Are you okay?” he asked me as he handed me a towel.
I took a brief inventory. My nose was bloody, my lip was split, and I was sore all over from the blows. But, everything worked and I wasn’t in the kind of pain that says ‘you need a doctor’. “I’m fine,” I said through the terrycloth towel.
“Where are your parents?”
“They are at home,” I lied. I didn’t want to have more trouble, and I didn’t want to have to explain my family life to a stranger. “I can make it home, I will be fine.”
“Okay,” the man said as he turned at a woman’s call. “I need to go, but you can have the towel.”
I nodded and sat down at a nearby picnic table. I was examining my nose when someone stepped up to me. “I said I was fine,” I began, and then the person registered. “Oh.” It was the boy I’d ‘rescued’.
He was about two inches shorter than I, and about twenty pounds lighter. He had shaggy brown hair that reached to his collar, and the bluest eyes I had ever seen. His features were, in a word, perfect. Full lips, high cheekbones and a prominent chin framed a flawless tanned complexion. He wore a now tattered sleeveless T shirt and shorts that showed his toned physique.
I had never thought of myself as gay, although I had traveled enough to see more of it than most American kids. But, this guy was stunning. I gaped stupidly at him past the bloody towel I held near my face.
“Thank you,” he said in a gentle voice that made my pulse race. “You got hurt trying to help me, and I appreciate it. I am sorry you got beaten up, though.”
“Uh, yeah, it’s fine. I mean, no, it’s okay,” I stammered.
“May I sit down?” Those blue eyes, filled with concern, gazed back at me.
“Uh, yeah, sure.” I scooted over a bit to make room for him to sit.
“I’m Daniel,” he said, offering his hand.
“Brian,” I said as I took his hand. His grip was strong, but his skin was soft and warm. I held his hand, and my breathing quickened at his touch. Dammit, what was wrong with me?
He smiled a bit and retrieved his hand after a long moment. “Are you okay?”
I nodded. “I think so. They didn’t hurt me too much, and the adults broke it up pretty quickly.” I took a breath. “Why were they hassling you?”
“Oh,” Daniel shook his head. “They think I’m gay.”
“Are you?” The words were out of my mouth before my brain could trip the circuit breaker.
He smiled sadly. “Would it matter to you if I were?” Those blue eyes were searching mine, looking inside me in a way I’d never before experienced.
“Uh, no,” I said quickly. “I mean, I’ve known a lot of gay people.”
“You’re not from here, then, are you?”
I shook my head. “No, why?”
Daniel laughed softly. “Gays are all going to hell. At least that’s what the people say here.”
“I’ve never heard that,” I said, watching him closely.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said as he stood. “Let’s get something to eat. I came here for a hot dog.”
My stomach reminded me that we hadn’t eaten. “Me, too.”
Daniel and I bought our hotdogs and drinks, and we began to talk about anything and everything. We finished the meal, and we ended up on the nature trail, just walking along slowly as we conversed. He had traveled, too, and we swapped stories about New York, London and Tokyo as we navigated the path through the trees.
Finally, we reached the end of the trail, and Daniel looked at his watch. “I have to get home. My little sister will be home from school soon, and my mom works late.”
I turned to face him, and my heart thudded in my chest as we stood face to face. “Um, okay. What are you doing tomorrow?”
“Getting beaten up again. You want to come?”
Daniel grinned at me. “Just kidding. Nothing much. Why?”
“I want to see you again. Uh, I mean, I enjoyed walking with you...” I slithered to a halt and looked down in consternation.
He placed his hand on my shoulder and shook me gently. “It’s fine, and yes, I’d love to see you tomorrow.”
I looked back up at him, my face flushed with emotions I couldn’t even name, and his blue eyes just bored into mine. “Okay,” I managed. “I’ll see you at noon?”
He smiled again. “At noon. Yes.”
~*~ True to his word, Daniel was there when I arrived. We got hotdogs, and we walked in the woods until it was time for him to go home. On the fourth day, I walked up to him as I’d done before. “Hey, do you want to come visit me? My nanny is out for the afternoon, so we’d have the house to ourselves.”
“Sure.” His smile was back, and I returned it. He fell in beside me, and I led the way to my house.
“Wow, this is nice,” Daniel said as we stepped in out of the Texas sun.
“I’ve seen better,” I replied with a shrug.
“Well, yeah, but this is pretty good for something that isn’t three hundred years old.”
“True. Over here.” I placed my hand on his arm as I ushered him into the kitchen. “Do you want something to drink?”
“Since we’re in America, I guess its soda,” Daniel said with a smile.
I reached into the wine cooler built into the base cabinet and brought out a bottle. “My parents don’t mind if I drink. A little, that is.”
“Okay, sure.” Daniel’s grin turned to a laugh. “I sure wouldn’t want you to drink alone.”
.... There is more of this story ...