1975 – Sandmen Ch07

sandmen-hdr
Sandmen  –  Chapter Seven

The answer was yes, of course. It only took Danny about three seconds to decide, before throwing his arms around Jake and kissing him. Three seconds that he knew would change his life forever.

Jake’s plan was for them to leave on the Sunday, just three days later. For Danny it didn’t seem that far away, but at the same time it was way too far away. Part of him was wishing they could just start the car and leave right now, but there was still so much he wanted to do, and needed to do, before finally leaving, so having the few days up his sleeve would be kind of handy, he figured.

When Jake dropped him home that evening it was just after sunset. The western sky was dark, yet still filled with fire, and the evening was still quite hot and humid. The two of them sat in the car, in the shadows of one of the many trees which lined the street, a couple of doors down from Danny’s place, watching the colours in the sky change in the distance.

‘Where are you going to stay tonight?’ Danny asked.

‘You don’t have to worry, I’ll just go to the caravan park,’ Jake answered.

‘I’ll come and see you in the morning. I need to go downtown tomorrow to get my money out of the bank so I can take it with me, as it’s the only day the bank will be open before we go, so I’ll come around after that.’

‘Okay. And is there anything else you need to do before we leave?’

‘Not really . . . just have to sort out what I want to pack and take with me, I suppose, like some clothes and my painting kit.’

‘And you should pack some photos of your family . . . you’ll want to take some memories with you . . . and your birth certificate, if you know how you can get your hands on it.’

‘Birth certificate? What do I need that for?’

‘It’ll just make things easier for when you go to get your driver’s license, or a passport, or things like that, that’s all.’

‘Okay . . . I hadn’t thought about that. I think I know where mum keeps that stuff.’

‘That’s good.’

They chatted for a few minutes more and when they finally parted they managed a passionate kiss, taking advantage of the fact they were in the shadows, before promising to meet the next day.

After getting out of the car Danny stood on the footpath and watched as Jake started the vehicle then pulled out onto the road, and it wasn’t until Jake turned the corner at the end of the street that Danny set off for his home. He wasn’t sure what he would find when he got there, or what might be said to him, but at least he could see that his father’s truck wasn’t there, so that was one less thing he had to worry about.

When he walked in through the back door he found his family – minus his father – all just sitting down to dinner. The three of them looked at Danny, their faces showing a mix of emotions.

‘I wasn’t sure if you were going to make it home or not,’ his mother said to him. There was no hint of anger or emotion in her voice. ‘There’s some meatloaf in the oven for you.’

‘Thanks, mum,’ he replied. ‘I’ll just go and wash up.’

His mother said nothing as she watched him leave, but he could see the questions in her eyes. Where have you been? What have you been doing? And who have you been doing it with?

When he returned to the kitchen a few minutes later his dinner was waiting for him on the table, so he sat down and started eating, being careful not to even look at his mother, lest he might give something away.

‘Looks like you’ve had a good day,’ his mother said to him.

‘W-w-what?’ he replied.

‘You have a little something on your neck,’ she answered, offering him a knowing smile as she did so.

As Danny instinctively moved his hand up to cover what he knew must be there, Pete giggled, but a sharp look from his mother quickly silenced him.

‘Don’t worry, Dan. It’s all a part of growing up,’ their mother sighed. ‘Sometimes, though, I think you kids grow up far too quickly these days.’

Unsure what he should say, or even if he should say anything at all, Danny looked down into his plate. He could feel the heat rising in his cheeks and knew his face must by now be bright red.

‘Your father will be away again until the weekend, so I’d like you to do a few things around home tomorrow please . . . if you can tear yourself away from your friends for a little while . . .’

‘But . . . ummm . . . we’ve made some plans . . .’ he started to say, but soon cut himself short. He realised that he couldn’t say no without having to explain what those plans might be.

‘It won’t hurt you to mow the lawn again, Dan,’ his mother interjected. ‘And it’s not like we’re asking for something that’ll take you all day . . . a few hours work is all it will take you . . . then you can go and do whatever it is that you’ve been doing lately . . .’

‘O-okay . . . I guess . . .’

‘Good. And while we’re on the subject of whatever it is you and your friends have been up to lately . . . I hope you’re being careful . . .’

‘W-w-what?’ Danny stuttered, feeling embarrassed and confused as he wondered what she was getting at, but then it dawned on him . . . the hickey that must be on his neck . . . the knowing looks from his mother . . . she obviously thought there must be a girl involved! That thought almost made him laugh, but he thought better of it.

What he couldn’t help, however, was to grin to himself before picking up another piece of meatloaf on his fork, and judging by the expression on her face and the knowing looks, the nods of her head, it seemed to confirm his suspicions of what his mother must be thinking.

Thankfully he was able to finish his dinner in peace, before eventually excusing himself and retreating to the relative safety of his bedroom.

As he closed the door to his room he leaned back against it, chuckling quietly to himself about what his mother must be thinking. If he had thought earlier that she must have figured out the secret of his sexuality, after tonight’s little episode he was now thinking otherwise. If only she really did know the truth, he thought.

Crossing the floor of his room he quickly dropped to his knees and pulled out the canvas overnight bag he kept beneath his bed. It was the one he always used for when he was going away, and while it wasn’t quite as big as the suitcase that was also stored there, it would do the job he wanted it to do. Next he went to his wardrobe and pulled out his backpack from where he usually kept it. Currently it held his painting kit and a few other items he liked to carry with him, like a pullover and windcheater. He reasoned that whatever he wanted to take with him would need to fit into these two bags, so he knew that he needed to plan carefully.

Grabbing a note pad off his desk he started writing a list, beginning with the two things that Jake told him to pack, his birth certificate and some photos.

*     *     *

The following morning, Friday, Danny was roused from his sleep once more by his little brother, who jumped on his bed and then dived straight under the blankets with him.

‘Jesus, Pete! What the fuck are you doing?’ Danny hissed. The kid had been making a habit of this lately, ever since Christmas morning. He suspected that it probably had something to do with the fact that Pete was growing up, and about what they had spoken about on that day, but Danny was trying to discourage him from doing this too often.

‘What’s wrong? Can’t I spend time with you?’ his brother answered. ‘I can’t help it if I like it when you hug me.’

‘It’s not that,’ Danny replied. ‘It’s just . . . well, sometimes a guy just needs a little privacy, you know?’

‘What? Oh, you mean . . .’ Pete said, his eyes growing wide.

They were talking in whispers, trying not to let anyone else in the house hear them.

‘So, how did you get that thing on your neck?’ Pete asked, changing the subject. ‘Did something bite you? Mum thought it was a bit funny last night, like she knew what it was, but she wouldn’t tell me when I asked her.’

‘And so she shouldn’t have either,’ Danny chuckled.

‘I bet you’ve got a girlfriend and I think that’s who did it.’

‘Is that so?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Well, if I did, do you really think I’d tell a nosey little shit like you about it?’

‘Probably not,’ Pete chuckled.

‘When you’re old enough you’ll be able to figure out by yourself all about this sort of stuff . . .’

‘But won’t I just be able to ask you?’

‘Well, what if I’m not around then? I mean, when you’re my age, and that won’t be until another five years time, I might have moved away somewhere . . .’

‘What? You’re not going to leave us are you?’ Pete asked, his face suddenly filled with uncertainty.

For a moment Danny was taken aback. He knew he had to be careful how he answered this.

‘Well, one day I might leave here. I might have to . . . I mean, I might need to go and get a job somewhere else away from here . . . or I might go away to university, or something like that.’

‘I hope you don’t,’ Pete pouted.

‘Mate, we never know what might be around the corner, and sometimes we have to do things like that. But just promise me if that ever happens you’ll remember that no matter where I am, or what I’m doing, I’ll always love you . . . even if you are an annoying little brat sometimes . . .’

‘I’m not a brat . . . I’m too big to be a brat now.’

‘Yeah? Who says so?’ Danny asked, as he pulled his brother close and started tickling him, while at the same time he clamped one hand over his mouth to try and muffle the shrieks he knew would quite likely wake everyone else in the house.

When the squirming little demon finally settled down Danny hugged him close once more, and just as he had done on Christmas morning he quickly kissed his brother on the cheek. In response there was no feigned disgust this time, there was simply another kiss that he received in reply, before Pete then rested his head on his brother’s chest.

‘I hope you don’t ever leave,’ Danny heard Pete whisper.

Thankfully, Pete couldn’t see the tears that came to his older brother’s eyes.

*     *     *

Danny managed to get the lawns finished in near record time that morning, after his mother had left to go downtown, taking Danny’s brother and sister with her. She said that she wouldn’t be long and so he raced around the yard like a man possessed, wanting to make sure it was well and truly finished by the time she returned.

The one thing he knew he couldn’t do was go downtown while his mother was away from the house, but he figured if everything was done by the time she returned he would be able to get away soon afterwards and she would never know that he had been anywhere near the bank. At least that was his plan.

As it turned out, his planning worked out perfectly and by the time his mother returned the lawns were mowed, he had showered and was almost ready to go.

It was while he was getting dressed that he heard the car drive down the driveway beside the house, so he hurriedly finishing pulling on a t-shirt and some shorts. Then he retrieved his bankbook from his room and shoved that into the waistband of his shorts, being sure to pull the t-shirt out to cover it over, before heading for the kitchen; just in time to see Pete coming through the back door.

‘Hey, kiddo,’ he said to Pete. ‘How was the shopping?’

Pete just looked at him and rolled his eyes.

‘That good, huh?’

‘It was boring . . . except for when we saw that orange panel van that you and Nate were drooling about a while back.’

‘You did? Where did you see it?’

‘It was at the service station being filled up with petrol. Nice wheels, don’t you think? I want to get a car like that one day.’

‘And did you see the guy who was driving it?’ Danny casually enquired, trying not to let his grin become too obvious.

‘Yup. I bet he must have lots of money to own a car like that. Does he? Mum said that you and Nate know him.’

‘Yeah, we know him, but I don’t know how much money he has. And it’s rude to ask.’

It was just at that moment that their mother walked in.

‘Did Pete tell you we saw your friend?’ she asked.

‘You mean Jake? Yeah . . . I didn’t even know he was back in town,’ Danny replied.

‘I wonder if he’s come back to finish off writing his story?’

‘Huh?’

‘The one he was writing for the newspaper . . . remember?’

‘Oh yeah . . . I’d almost forgotten about that,’ he answered. ‘Anyhow, I’m going to meet up with Nate, so I’ll see you guys later,’ wanting to change the subject as quickly as he could.

‘Okay . . . and Danny . . .’

‘Yeah?’

‘Please remember what I said last night.’

‘Yes, mum,’ he answered, before giving her a peck on the cheek and hurrying toward the back door.

‘Hey, mister!’

‘Yes, mum?’

‘Don’t you want your pocket money for mowing the lawn?’

‘Oh, yeah. That’d be great, thanks.’

Dipping into her purse Danny’s mother pulled out a five dollar note, then handed it to him, then dipped back in and found a couple of one dollar notes as well.

‘Don’t spend it all at once,’ she warned.

‘I won’t,’ he promised, before finally heading out the door.

The ride from Danny’s house to downtown Thompsonville didn’t take long and he soon found himself pulling up outside the local bank, which was located in a small brick building in the main street. It was one of those local banks with only the one local office, and wasn’t affiliated with any of the larger national banks. This meant that Danny wouldn’t be able to access the few hundred dollars he had in his savings account from anywhere other than right here in Thompsonville, so if he wanted to take his savings with him it was important that he get there today to withdraw all that he could.

All morning he had been wondering what he would say if they asked him anything about wanting to close his account, so he decided he wouldn’t do that. Instead he settled on taking almost everything out of the account and leaving just a few dollars in there, and if anyone asked him what he was going to do with the money he would tell them he was buying a motor bike, now that he was almost at the age when he could obtain his learner driver’s permit. It seemed like a reasonable plan to him. He just hoped that he wouldn’t run into anyone he knew, or more importantly, anyone his parents knew, who might end up saying something to them.

After leaning his bike against a street sign and securing it with his chain and combination lock that he usually had wrapped around the post of his seat, he stood up and looked at the front of the bank. He could feel his t-shirt sticking to him thanks to the fine sheen of sweat that seemed to be covering his body, although he wasn’t sure if that was from the warm, sunny morning and the fact he had just been on his bike, or if it was from the nerves he was feeling; after all, he was about to draw out almost four hundred dollars from the bank. This was almost his entire life savings, made up of birthday and Christmas money and some saved pocket money over the years. He had never held that amount of money in his hand before in his life, and doubted if he would do that again for a long time to come.

As he noticed a woman coming out of the bank with money in her hand it was then that he wondered just what he was going to do with his savings once he did have it, as he had no pockets in his shorts, nor did he carry a wallet. The woman, who was someone he didn’t know, caught sight of him looking at her at her and hurriedly pushed her hand and her cash into her handbag safely out of sight.

It didn’t take long too for Danny to decide on what he would do with his wad of cash. He would ask the teller for a rubber band and roll it up, before shoving it into his jocks, at least for the time being. He knew, however, that he wouldn’t be able to keep it there for very long so he would need to come up with another plan, and quick.

After standing on the footpath outside the bank for what seemed to Danny to be a very long time, he finally steeled himself and walked to the door, pulling his bank book out from under his t-shirt as he did so. His hands were shaking when he pulled the door open.

‘Come on!’ he whispered to himself. ‘It’s not like you’re trying to rob the place! It’s your money you’re here for!’

As soon as he entered he noticed that it was much cooler than it was outside, and it also seemed to be quite dark. That was probably due to the prevalence of dark stained timber paneling on the walls and the old style serving counter.

There were no other customers and the woman who was behind the counter looked up and saw him standing there, looking as if he wasn’t sure what he be should be doing.

‘Can I help you?’ she asked.

She was middle aged and looked a little like his mathematics teacher, Mrs Osborne, he thought.

‘I . . . errr . . . want to take some money out of my account, please,’ Danny said to her, after crossing the floor and going to her counter. He placed the bank book down on the counter in front of her.

‘Of course, dear. First you will just need to fill out a withdrawal form and sign it,’ she said to him, as she picked up a slip of paper and handed it to him.

‘Ummmm . . .’

‘Here, let me show you how,’ she said, while picking up his bank book and opening it to the current page of entries. ‘How much did you want to withdraw?’

‘Ummm . . . all of it, oh, except ten dollars, please. Leave that in there.’

‘Buying something special?’

‘Errr . . . yes, a motor bike.’

‘That’s so nice to see . . . someone so young saving up to make a big purchase like that. That’s a very responsible attitude to have,’ the woman said as she continued filling out the form for him. ‘Now, you just sign at the bottom there, then I’ll just check your signature matches what we have on file . . . I won’t be a moment.’

When she left him Danny was confused. He had no idea if that’s what they usually did when a withdrawal was made. He wondered if maybe she was in the office ringing the cops to let them know there was a kid trying to steal someone’s money. He looked down at the dark topped counter and could see his perspiration from his hands leaving a mark. He was wiping it off using the bottom of his t-shirt when the woman returned moments later, all smiles, then opened her drawer and started pulling out some notes.

He stared at them and silently counted as she placed them on the counter in front of him. Fifty. One hundred. One fifty. Two hundred. Two fifty. Three hundred. Three fifty. Three seventy. Three eighty. Three eighty-five.

Three hundred and eighty five dollars. And with what he still had left over from what he had been given by Jake, as well as the few dollars he had just been paid by his mother, that would mean he would have more than four hundred dollars to take away with him.

With all that cash he would feel like a king.

‘There you are, Daniel. Three hundred and eighty-five dollars, and your bank book,’ the woman said. ‘And you still have ten dollars in your account. I hope you have fun with your motor bike. Ride safely now.’

‘Errr . . . thank you . . . and I will,’ Danny replied. ‘And, errr, would you have a rubber band I could have please?’

‘Certainly,’ she answered, before handing over a thick rubber band she pulled from her desk drawer.

She watched as Danny somewhat awkwardly rolled up his bundle of notes, before managing to wrap the rubber band around them twice and finally securing them together.

‘Don’t lose that now,’ the teller said as he turned to leave.

‘Not a chance of that,’ Danny replied, as he flashed her a smile. ‘Thank you.’

As he left the bank, feeling like the richest person in Thompsonville, the morning heat hit him once more. He quickly unlocked the combination lock on his bike and unchained it, before wrapping the chain back around the seat post and re-locking the chain.

Before long he was riding down the main street once more, and heading for the caravan park. He couldn’t wait to see Jake and tell him that he had set things in motion.

*     *     *

Danny spotted Jake’s panel van as soon as he rode through the gates of the caravan park. It was parked outside the same cabin that Jake had stayed in the last time he was in town, so he quickly sped down the road and pulled to a stop outside the cabin, dropping his bike on the grassy verge.

‘Are you there, Jake?’ he called out, and before he had even reached the cabin door it opened, to reveal Jake standing there with wet hair, and wearing only a towel. A few drops of water were still dripping down his torso and the few strands of hair in the centre of his chest, along with those marking the treasure trail which disappeared beneath the top edge of the towel, were matted together and seemed to stand out more than usual.

‘Hey, Danny. I thought you had forgotten about me,’ Jake gently teased, as Danny looked him up and down, before allowing his gaze to settle on the bulge that was hidden beneath the soft fabric. ‘Sorry about this . . . I’ve just been over for a shower.’

‘What are you sorry for? You look hot!’ Danny replied. ‘Now, are you going to invite me in, or what?’

Obligingly Jake stepped aside, allowing Danny to pass, then slapped him on the bum as he did so, which caused Danny to yelp in surprise and spin around. As Jake swung the door closed Danny backed himself up against the small dining table which stood along one wall. He had some idea of what was about to follow and offered Jake a shy smile, which only turned into a slack-jawed expression of surprise when Jake let his towel drop to the floor.

‘And how do I look now?’ Jake enquired.

‘On a scale of one to ten?’

‘If you like,’ Jake replied, as he started getting closer.

‘About a twenty!’ Danny giggled. ‘But I need to warn you about something . . .’

‘What’s that?’

‘My mum thinks I’m up to something . . . I think that she thinks I must have a girlfriend, or something . . .’

‘Is that so?’ Jake said. He was standing right in front of Danny now. Danny could feel Jake’s hot breath on his face. He could feel Jake’s erect penis prodding at his own. ‘And why would your mum be thinking that?’

‘Because of this!’ Danny said, as he twisted his head to one side and pulled down the neck of his t-shirt.

‘Hmmm . . . impressive. Do you want another on the opposite side? Or will your girlfriend get jealous?’

‘I’ll risk it,’ Danny replied, before quickly pulling his t-shirt over his head and tossing it through the open doorway of the bedroom. Immediately Jake lowered his lips onto the teens’ bare neck, kissing him up and down, before settling on one moist spot, while he let his fingers roam over Danny’s smooth body. Danny shiver at Jake’s touch. ‘Oh, God. I’ve been waiting for this for weeks now . . .’

‘So have I,’ Jake replied.

‘Been thinking about it every day.’

‘So have I.’

‘Been wondering what it might be like to take the next step . . .’ Danny said in a coarse whisper.

‘Do you think you’re ready for that?’ Jake asked, as he tugged on the elastic of Danny’s shorts with just one finger.

‘Probably not,’ Danny whispered in reply. ‘But there’s only one way I’m going to find out now, isn’t there?’

‘And what will your mum think?’

‘What she doesn’t know about won’t hurt her.’

‘You know that if we do this . . . there’s no going back . . .’

‘I’m not going to get you in trouble, Jake. I love you and I want to be with you. And no matter what anyone else might say about it being right or wrong . . . it’s what I want, more than anything in the world right now.’

‘Well, if you’re sure about what you want, who am I to argue with you?’ Jake responded, before hooking his thumbs in Danny’s shorts and bobbing down, pulling them and Danny’s jocks down as he went, and being more than surprised to see a wad of cash fall out as he did so.

He looked up at Danny and saw him smiling.

‘That’s my life savings,’ Danny chuckled.

*     *     *

It was the middle of the afternoon when Jake and Danny were woken by the sound of someone banging on the cabin door. They sat up and looked at each other, not knowing who it might be.

For a fleeting moment Jake was scared it might be the cops, but then they heard a voice call out, ‘Hey, are you guys in there?’

It was Nate, who had obviously managed to track them down.

‘Fuck!’ Danny swore.

‘Just relax,’ Jake said. ‘He’s cool about the two of us being together, remember?’

‘But like this?’ Danny hissed. ‘And my shorts are in the other room.’

‘Well, I’ll throw them to you before I answer the door.’

‘And what will you be wearing?’

‘I guess a towel will just have to do.’

‘Oh, man. This is just . . .’

‘Just relax,’ Jake said, as he put an arm around Danny and hugged him close. ‘It’ll be fine. Trust me.’

Suddenly Danny looked scared. He and Nate may have shared a lot together, but this was taking it to the extreme, he thought.

Before he could say anything though, Jake was gone, leaving him sitting on the bed, stark naked, as the knocking on the door continued.

‘Hold your horses!’ he heard Jake yell out, just moments before his shorts and jocks came flying through the bedroom door, landing beside him on the bed. Picking them up Danny started pulling them on, but before he was even half way there a grinning Nate came barging into the small bedroom.

‘Hope I’m not interrupting anything?’ Nate announced, only to be stopped short at the sight of Danny with his shorts at half-mast and his bare arse facing the door.

Danny wasn’t quite sure which of them was the more shocked, he or Nate, whose jaw instantly dropped and his eyes seemed to bulge wide in surprise when he saw Danny half-naked and struggling with his clothes. Instantly he started backpedaling, trying to get back out past Jake and through the door, but all he succeeded in doing was bumping into Jake and dislodging the towel that he had loosely secured around his waist.

‘Oh, Jesus . . .’ Nate cursed as he rushed through the doorway. ‘You guys are just too much!’

Danny and Jake looked at each other. At first Danny wasn’t sure what was happening, or how he should react, but when Jake’s face broke out into a grin Danny’s soon followed.

When they emerged from the bedroom a few moments later, both now wearing shorts at least, they found Nate sitting in one of the chairs in the small lounge room, looking as if he had just seen a ghost.

‘You’re a pair of bastards! Both of you!’ Nate spat. ‘You were doing it, weren’t you? And I walked right in . . .’

‘Well, not quite,’ Jake replied. ‘You actually woke us up.’

‘But you were doing it! Why else would you both be naked like that?’

‘What’s wrong with you?’ Danny chuckled. ‘That was hours ago! Anyhow, you keep telling us you’re okay with us . . . so what’s your problem?’

For a long while Nate just looked up at them from where he sat on the lounge, as he tried reconciling things in his own mind.

‘I . . . I know I said that, and really, I am happy that you guys are together . . . it’s just . . .oh, shit, I don’t know what it is . . .’

‘I think,’ Jake offered, ‘you might have just gotten a bit more than you bargained for by barging in like that.’

‘Way more, I’d say,’ Nate replied, while managing a faint smile. ‘I guess I should take my mother’s advice and learn to knock!’

‘That mightn’t be a bad idea,’ Danny chuckled, before crossing the room and sitting down beside Nate.

‘Well, sorry about that,’ Nate replied. ‘So, apart from you guys havin’ a good old roll in the hay, what else have you been doing? Have you started making any plans?’

Danny and Jake looked at each other. That was just it, they hadn’t really made many plans just yet, other than Danny agreeing to travel with Jake to Nimbin, and that they were leaving Sunday.

‘Nate, please don’t take this the wrong way, but what would you say if I suggested that we don’t tell you where we are going . . . at least for the time being?’ Jake responded.

‘Why the hell not?’ Danny immediately asked, jumping in before Nate even had the chance to respond.

‘Because, if Nate knows where we are, then he might just spill the beans, even if it is accidental. And who knows what sort of things could happen if the cops, or even your parents, knew that first off, you had run away with me, or secondly, where we were.’

For a few moments the boys thought about that, before Nate slowly nodded.

‘It’s like, if I don’t know where you are, then I can’t tell anyone, is that what you mean?’ he asked.

‘Exactly. Does that make sense to you?’

‘Well, now that you put it like that . . .’

‘But . . . how can we still stay in touch with each other?’ Danny pouted.

‘I’m not sure yet, but we’ll figure it out somehow,’ Jake answered.

‘You do know where you’re going, though?’ Nate asked.

‘Yeah, mate. We do. I found a place amongst people just like us. It’s not far from the beaches, so that we can still spend as much time there as we want . . . and it’s a beautiful place where we can both work on our art.’

‘It already sounds nice.’

‘Oh, it is. Trust me,’ Jake answered.

‘So, can I come too?’ Nate enquired.

‘Once we’ve settled in there, and things have settled down here, we’d love for you to come and visit,’ Jake replied.

For a few moments Nate looked crestfallen, at least until Danny placed one hand over his and an arm around his shoulder.

‘I hope you understand?’ Danny said to his friend.

‘Yeah, I do . . . it’s just that . . .’

‘Yeah, I know, mate,’ Danny whispered, as he hugged his best friend close.

*     *   *

By the time Nate left the cabin at the end of the day, leaving Jake and Danny together, plans for their escape were all in place. It was now Friday afternoon, and within forty-eight hours his friends would be leaving Thompsonville behind; quite possibly forever, and no matter what he might have said to them about being cool with what they were planning, there was a part of him, a part that he couldn’t quite understand, which still found it difficult to accept that he would soon be losing his best friend.

There was also a part of him that felt uneasy when he saw them together. It wasn’t anything he could put a finger on . . . just a niggling feeling that he also didn’t understand . . . but he knew he could never say anything about that to either of them. They were his friends, and even if they were leaving him now, he wanted them to always be his friends.

Between the three of them they had discussed everything that they could think of; from how many and what kind of belongings Danny would be able to take with him, to where they would load it up and leave from, and when. They even worked out how Danny and Nate would be able to stay in touch with each other, with the plan being to use Jake’s family’s address in Newcastle, or that of another relative in Brisbane who Jake was particularly close to. The boys would write to each other using those addresses as the contact points, with the letters then being forwarded to and from there. He much easier could it get?

As he rode his bike home he felt grateful that his friends had included him in discussing their plans with him, but it was then, even though he had known about it for almost two weeks now, that the realisation of what was about to happen finally began to sink in.

Danny really was going.

And there was nothing he could do about it.

*     *     *

Back at the cabin, following Nate’s departure, Danny and Jake retreated to the bedroom once more and in the fading afternoon light they picked up where they had left off earlier in the day. Danny was relishing the new experiences which Jake was providing him with, as he explored his sexuality and his newfound freedoms.

There was no turning back now. This truly was the beginning of his new life; and he was loving it.

When he finally left the caravan park it was well after dark, and he figured that he should get home before it was too late, rather than risk another scene with his mother. It would be for the best, even if he believed that her reaction, now that she suspected what it was that was on his mind of late, wouldn’t be as dramatic as it otherwise might have been. He had no idea whether his father would be at home, but that didn’t concern him greatly; as he now believed that he had the edge over him if anything came up.

Despite the fact that time was ticking by, Danny chose to walk home, pushing his bike, instead of riding it, as he re-lived every moment of his afternoon. He knew that Nate would laugh at him if he knew the real reason why he was pushing his bike, but Nate wasn’t around to see his discomfort, so it was something which, thankfully, he would never need to explain to him. Or at least that was what Danny hoped.

And now, as he strolled along the quiet streets, letting a cool ocean breeze wash over him, he knew that he was alive. He hadn’t really known what to expect when he and Jake had done what they did, but Jake proved to be the most gentle and patient lover one could imagine and he was so glad that it was him with whom Danny had been able to share his first time. The experience would be one that he knew would live with him forever.

When he finally reached his home Danny was relieved to see that his father’s truck wasn’t there. He pushed his bike down the driveway to the rear of the house, where he found the outside light on, illuminating the back yard and the garage a short distance away from the house. After safely stowing his bike away he walked across the lawn to the house and let himself inside, where he found his mother filling up the sink to start washing the dishes.

She looked up at him as he entered, giving him a smile.

‘Did you have a nice day?’ she asked.

‘Yeah, I did. Thanks.’

‘I thought so,’ his mother said, before grinning at him. When he shot her a confusing glance she reached up and patted her own neck, which immediately told Danny what she was inferring.

Once again Danny felt his face flush with embarrassment.

‘It’s okay, Dan. I think I’m finally understanding that you are growing up,’ she said with a sigh. ‘Now, there’s some pizza in the oven for you,’ she added, before picking up a clean plate from the sink and drying it, then crossing the floor and handing it to him. As she did so she put a hand around the back of his head and leaned forward, giving him a quick kiss on the forehead. When she was done she straightened up and studied him for a moment, giving him what he thought was an odd look, as if she were trying to figure something out.

Did she just turn her nose up at something, he wondered.

‘What’s wrong?’ Danny asked.

‘Nothing, darling. Get yourself some pizza before it gets too dried out from being in the oven too long.’

‘Thanks. I will.’

As he took the cardboard take-away box from the oven and set it on the table, then began dishing out his dinner, he glanced at his mother a couple of times. Each time she seemed to sense it and looked back over her shoulder at him. A kind of wistful, almost sad expression seemed to come over her. It worried him, but the last thing he wanted was to tempt fate by saying anything to her, so he simply sat and ate his meal, while wondering just what the next few days would bring.

When he had finished eating Danny walked over to the sink and set his empty plate on the sink, giving his mother a peck on the cheek as he did so, before turning to leave the room.

‘Danny,’ his mother said, stopping him in his tracks before he could get through the door.

‘Yes, mum?’

‘You would tell me if there was something bothering you, wouldn’t you?’

‘What makes you think there’s something bothering me?’ Danny asked.

‘I’m your mother, Danny. Mothers have a tendency to pick up on these things,’ she said, as she crossed the room and stood in front of him.

‘There’s nothing wrong, mum. I promise. In fact, I don’t think I’ve felt happier in a long time . . . I’ve . . .’

‘Met someone?’

‘Yeah, something like that.’

‘Hmmm . . . so I’ve noticed,’ she said with a smile, as she reached up and gently brushed her fingers across the bruises on his neck, causing him to shudder. ‘I just hope you’re being careful, that’s all. I’d hate to see my baby with a broken heart!’

‘MUM!’

‘Well, whoever it is, they must be doing something right. But just remember I’m always here if you need to talk, okay?’

‘I will, mum. And thanks,’ he replied, before once again giving her a quick peck on the cheek.

‘Now go and have a shower. You stink!’

Now that he had been totally embarrassed by his mother, Danny retreated down the hallway to his room. She obviously knew something was going on, and with someone, in fact he himself had admitted as much to her; but just how much did she know? Or had she figured out?

As he sat down on his bed he started replaying the conversation in his mind.

‘Well, whoever it is . . .’ she had said.

Whoever it is . . . whoever IT is, she said. Not whoever SHE is . . .

And she had also said earlier that she had seen Jake in town that morning.

FUCK! Had she put two and two together already? Did she really know who it was?

As he started stripping and looking for some clean boxer shorts for bed, he also started to wonder just what it all meant, and where it was all leading.

Growing up sure seemed to be making life complicated, but he felt sure that the promise of what was to come would make it all worthwhile.

*     *     *

Despite the impending upheaval in his life, and the many new experiences he was enjoying, Danny was asleep almost before his head had hit the pillow, with thoughts of erotic adventures soon filling his mind.

At some time during the night he woke to find his bedroom flooded with light, which was coming in through his window, accompanied by the familiar rumble of his father’s prime mover. For a few moments he watched as shadows danced across the walls of his bedroom and he listened for any other sign of activity, before finally the diesel engine was shut down. That was quickly followed by the lights being cut, then came the slamming of the truck’s door and the scrunch of boots on the gravel driveway. He knew what would come next . . . his father would come through the back door, probably get himself a beer from the refrigerator, stomp down the hall, take a shower, and then crawl into bed beside his wife.

Now that Danny knew what he knew about the man, just the thought of him touching his mother was enough to make him shiver, let alone imagining them actually having sex.

For what seemed like a long time he waited for the tell-tale sounds of his father going through the motions, then when he eventually heard the sound of the water being turned on in the shower and the bathroom door being closed, Danny slipped out of bed and crept down the hallway. He didn’t want to hear the sounds of what he knew would surely follow, so he grabbed a drink from the refrigerator himself, then quietly headed outside into the night, where he sat on the edge of the verandah, leaning with his back against a post, and gazed up at the stars.

The night was a warm one, but not an unpleasant one. There was very little traffic in town and the sound of the nearby surf could be heard, while the smell of the sea breeze filled his nostrils and an orchestra of insects serenaded him. He wondered what it might be like living on the farm, in the commune that Jake had told him about, and guessed that it would be quite a bit different to what he was used to. There was much that he was going to miss about this place, with Nate being foremost in his mind, but what lay ahead of him was an adventure that couldn’t be missed, and he was growing more and more excited about it. He knew it wouldn’t be long now.

Closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the verandah post he thought of the rolling green hills that Jake had described to him and the crystal clear creek which ran through the property. He thought of them making love on the grassy banks of the creek, of digging a garden and growing their own food, and even of building their own place in which to live, and their own studio in which they could work.

How many other guys his age would ever get to live such a dream, he wondered?

Danny was woken from his reverie by the sound of a door being closed somewhere inside the house. The ritual had begun.

As try as he might, he found it almost impossible to push from his mind what he knew must be happening right now in the room next to his bedroom. The only thing that eventually helped him do that was the almost endless supply of suicidal mosquitoes that seemed to have found him, and so, for the next twenty minutes or so, he waged war with them, swatting them on his skin whenever he felt them settle upon him.

When he eventually decided that he had spent enough time outside listening to the insects and the surf, he ventured back inside and down the hall to his bedroom. All was quiet in the house and by the time he slipped beneath the sheets on his bed he could hear the sound of soft snores coming from his parents’ room.

He wondered what would be going through his mother’s mind right about now. Would she be lying awake, staring into the darkness and wondering why she let her husband do what he did, or would she be already sleeping, satisfied that her husband was home and with having provided him with the loving he deserved.

It wasn’t exactly a question her would ever be able to ask, he thought, but still, it was one he was intrigued by, especially now that he was entering into a relationship of his own. And it was with that thought on his mind he eventually drifted off to sleep.

*     *     *

When morning came Danny woke to the sound of loud snoring, which continued to come from the room next door. He lay there straining his ears, listening for any other sounds in the old house, and when he eventually thought he was all alone, as far as being the only person awake, he climbed out of bed and padded out into the hall, heading first for the bathroom, and then for the kitchen.

‘Good morning, dreamboat,’ his mother said to him as he entered the room, startling him.

‘Errr, morning, mum,’ he managed to reply. ‘I didn’t think anyone was up.’

She was sitting at the kitchen table holding a mug of coffee with both hands.

‘Well, you’re certainly up early for a Saturday.’

‘Stuff to do,’ he replied. ‘Me and Nate were thinking of going fishing this afternoon and camping out tonight.’

‘Your father will probably want to take us out to dinner, or go and have a barbeque or something, while he’s home.’

‘Count me out. But you and the brats can go,’ Danny replied.

‘Danny!’ she scolded.

‘Well, aren’t I old enough yet to make up my own mind?’

‘He’ll be disappointed . . .’

‘I don’t really care,’ he replied, as he quickly crossed the room to where the electric kettle stood on the bench and pressed the button to turn it back on.

‘I wish you would tell me what . . .’

‘I can’t, mum. I just can’t.’

‘Dan, don’t you think I know what he’s like . . .’

‘Mum, please, can we not have this conversation? There are things . . . well, I just don’t think he’s the person you think he is . . .’

‘And don’t you think I deserve to know what makes you think that?’

‘I don’t think you would understand . . .’

‘You could always try me.’

Danny simply shook his head, just as the kettle switched itself off, allowing him to turn his attention back toward making a cup of coffee.

His mother watched him from behind as he worked on what he was doing, noting his broad shoulders and nicely tanned torso, do doubt from all the summer activities that Danny and Nate and their friends had been getting up to. Her son’s body was no longer that of a boy. Danny was becoming a man, and it was little wonder that someone had taken his fancy, and vice-versa. With a guilty smile on her face she remembered that summer when she and Danny’s father had been sixteen. That summer had been one of discovery. The following summer had been the one during which Danny had been conceived, even before they had become engaged to be married.

‘So, did I hear you go outside last night, after your father got home?’ his mother eventually asked.

‘Yeah, I did.’

‘How come?’

‘So I . . . so I didn’t have to listen . . .’ Danny said quickly.

‘Oh,’ his mother replied.

For what seemed like quite a long time they studied each other over the rims of their coffee mugs.

‘Why do you let him . . . you know . . .’

‘What do you mean?’ his mother asked him, while continuing to study him.

Danny just rolled his eyes.

‘Oh, right . . . I keep forgetting, you’re not a little kid any more,’ she said, while offering him a wry smile.

They both took a sip from their coffee mugs.

‘Well? Are you going to answer me?’

‘We can’t help who we love, Danny . . . even if they sometimes do things that we would ordinarily be turned away by. You may not understand that right now . . . but I suspect that it won’t be long before you do.’

‘And how do you know when you do love someone?’

‘Oh, honey . . . you’ll know it. You’ll feel it, right in here,’ his mother replied, while placing a hand over her heart and drumming her fingers upon her own chest for a few moments. ‘Is that what you’re feeling?’ she prompted.

‘I . . . I don’t quite know what I’m feeling . . . I guess, maybe . . .’ he stammered, while feeling himself blush.

‘I see. And are we going to meet this person who has so captured our son’s heart?’

There she goes again, Danny thought. She said ‘this person’, and not ‘her’.

What does she know?

‘Maybe one day,’ Danny eventually replied.

‘Well. I hope we meet him before you get swept off your feet and the two of you run away together, or something,’ his mother responded, leaving Danny staring at her, his mouth agape.

He had totally missed the reference to ‘him’, of course. All he heard was the part about running away together.

‘Wh-w-what do you mean?’ he stammered. ‘Why would you say that? Why would I be running away?’

‘It’s something that all young lovers talk about at some stage . . . running away together . . . usually to avoid mum and dad’s disapproval. Your father and I talked about it . . . right after we found out that you were on the way. We weren’t married then, of course . . .’

Once more Danny was floored, as he stood there staring at her with his mouth agape; at least until she told him to close his mouth, or he might swallow a fly.

His mother never ceased to amaze him.

His mother, of course, had her suspicions as to just who Danny’s suitor might be. At first she had thought there was a girl involved, but after having been told by one of her friends that her son had been seen climbing into the panel van of that city boy who had been hanging around town these past few months, well, she was now thinking otherwise. No matter what, though, she was determined that she wasn’t going to say anything to him about it. Sure, it had stung at the time, at least for a short while as she came to the conclusion that there might not be any grand-children coming from her first born son, but then she realised that it really wasn’t any of her business who her son might fall in love with. All she really wanted was for him to be happy in life, and if that meant that the person he settled down with was a man, then so be it.

Her only wish now was to somehow be able to let him know that it was okay, if that’s what he wanted out of life, while at the same time trying not to let slip that she already thought she knew his secret.

To be continued . . .

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