Brae
by Kieron Connors

 

Chapter 1

I groaned aloud as the first rays of morning sun blasted through the window harassing my heavy eyelids and making a sticky, smoldering mess of my bed. My sweat-drenched legs threatened to become tangled in the already damp and dirty-feeling sheets, and despite numerous position changes I was unable to find any cover from the daylight’s assault on my senses.

‘It just figures my room would fucking face east.’ I groaned inwardly as I teased one eye open into a squint to re-orient myself to the unfamiliar room. The empty bed across the room taunted me from its shady corner, a tempting prospect, one that was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

“Oh fuck it!” I grunted as I threw back the top sheet and extricated my legs from their entanglement. I took a quick inventory of the state of the room, trying to determine if the benefits of moving my stuff to the other side would outweigh the inconvenience. While the majority of my clothes were unpacked, I hadn’t made any real progress beyond that, and I figured five minutes of shuffling clothes across the room was preferable to a year of sleep deprivation. I decided to undertake the chore immediately as my roommate’s arrival was presumably imminent.

I stripped the sheets off of my bed and threw them onto the other one, officially marking my territory in case I should be invaded upon by my future roommate. I proceeded to the dresser and seized an armful of socks and underwear and transported them across the room to the far dresser, leaving a trail of white cotton droppings behind me. The room was old and lacked air conditioning, but it was a decent size with charismatic wood paneling and cabinetry, high ceilings and lots of windows, mostly clustered around the newly abandoned bed. The first thing I’d noticed upon entering the room was the phenomenal view it had over the central square of campus. The almost fluorescent green of the lawn and its perfectly manicured shrubberies, enclosed by the old, majestic stone buildings that comprised the campus was a truly breathtaking sight. Somehow, upon seeing that view for the first time, the reality that I was now a college student had finally hit me.

As I carried an armful of Speedos across the room I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror above the dresser. I paused a moment to make a face at myself.

‘Good god I’m really here, what am I going to do now? I guess it’s too late to back out at this point.’

My cerulean blue eyes stared back at me from the glass, the morning sunshine making them almost alarmingly bright. I studied my reflection as thoughts raced through my mind. My mother always teased me about vanity when she’d catch me spacing out into the mirror, but I’ve always found it therapeutic. Calming even. Sort of like having a private conversation with myself, a way to collect and process my thoughts. Of course the reflection that stared back at me was exceptional. A perfect face for a perfect life.

I’d had a charmed upbringing on the Upper East Side complete with a Hamptons “cottage”, private schooling at the illustrious Vance Academy, an exclusive country club membership in Westchester and, finally, a place on the varsity swim team at Carrington College, one of the oldest and most illustrious of the Ivy’s. My father is CEO at one of the top consulting firms in the country and yet he never let anything get in the way of enjoying his family and it was always clear that we were his top priority. My mother was a NY socialite-turned-fashion model-turned-NY socialite, who lived for nothing more than doting upon her only child.

Yet beneath the perfect façade of my Park Avenue existence, underneath the perfectly coiffed dirty blond hair, the rich bronze tan, the strong square jaw line complimenting my rather delicate features and large blue eyes, I’ve hidden a torturous secret that threatens my idyllic life.

‘You, Braeden Christopher Davenport are a fag. A cock-sucker. Homo.’

“Gay.” I said aloud. No matter how much I went over it in my mind or said it to myself, it somehow just didn’t seem real. Up to this point in my life it hadn’t really meant that much. My experimentation had never gone beyond a little fooling around with my Hampton’s neighbor, Rhett, and we’d never discussed the ramifications of our dalliances. What did seem real were the possible ramifications if my secret were ever to get out. Despite growing up in socially-liberal New York, my fear of exposure had always kept me from acting upon my feelings. What would this year behold for me? While Carrington provided a safety buffer from home, the fear of ostracization and taunting was still palpable, especially being a varsity swimmer.

I continued to ponder what the year might have in store for me as I finished moving my stuff to the shadier side of the room. My daydreaming was interrupted by a sudden knock at the door. I jumped at the disturbance and was surprised, upon looking at the clock on the wall, to see that it was almost ten o’clock.

“Coming” I yelled as I put another stack of jeans into a drawer and made my way over to the door expecting to find my parents waiting to take me shopping outside. I pulled the door open to reveal a gorgeous strawberry blond man, almost bowled over by the weight of the duffle bags he was supporting.

“Oh, umm, hi,” I managed, barely able to disguise my surprise.

“Hey, roomie” he grunted as he struggled to push into the room with his bags.

I watched him, transfixed for a second, before I regained control of my faculties enough to help him support one of his bags.

“Here let me help you.”

“Thanks, but I’ve got it. I managed to lug these suckers all the way from the airport to here, so I think I’ve got it.”

He dropped his bags on his side of the room and took a second to assess their condition. I took his moment of distraction to do a little assessing of my own. He was tall with a lean muscular body and a deep golden tan. His short strawberry blond hair was childishly cut and carelessly arranged yet it complimented his childlike face and sparkling pale green eyes. I was transfixed. It was all I could do not to drool at the stunning man before me. He turned towards me extending a hand, his grin bearing a perfect white smile.

“Hey, I’m Skip. Skip Henderson. Great to finally meet ya, roomie” he offered with a slight drawl.

It took me a second to spit out my words. “Braeden. But everyone just calls me Brae,” I stumbled, taking his hand.

His handshake was warm and welcoming and I immediately felt a stirring, like a jolt of electricity, in my groin.

“Oh, uhh…” I stammered, suddenly realizing that I was standing in just my briefs, “Sorry, I guess I should put on some clothes.”

“Hey, don’t feel like you have to do it on my account.”

I immediately perked up, confused and exhilarated by his comment. I stammered, again, for a moment before he jumped in, seemingly sensing my discomfort.

“I mean we are going to be teammates and roommates. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you in less. I may as well get used to it now. Besides it’s not like you’ve got anything to be ashamed of.”

“Oh, uh, thanks. My parents should be here any minute though so I should probably pull myself together,” I managed, thoughts racing through my mind. ‘Is he coming on to me?! What does this mean?’ Uncomfortable, I tried to steer the conversation towards less arousing topics. “So, what event do you swim? Where are you from? Where are your parents? I couldn’t find you on Facebook,” I gushed embarrassingly, wishing I could recall the endless stream of questions that seemed to spill out of my mouth beyond my control.

Skip laughed, “And people usually say I’m chatty. Umm, I swim the 1000 and the mile. I’m from Kentucky, and I don’t have a computer which is why I’m not on Facebook.”

“You don’t have a computer?!” I choked in total disbelief.

“Nope. There were a few I could use at school when I needed one, but there wasn’t really money for one at home. Besides, I’m usually pretty busy with swimming and then my chores around the farm. I’m getting one now though. My scholarship covers it.”

“Wow, you live on a farm?” I was shell-shocked. I don’t think I’d realized that people still farmed; I’d certainly never given it any thought.

“Yeah. Tomatoes mostly, some fruit and a little dairy.”

“Oh wow, that’s really… interesting” I managed, as I groped for some topic of conversation. “So, where are your parents?”

“They’re at home. They couldn’t really get away from the farm and my siblings. Plus the plane tickets would have probably been too expensive.”

“Oh.” I had never encountered anyone like Skip in my privileged life, and as much as I desperately wanted to befriend this gorgeous man, I kept drawing blanks. He was smiling at me again with those dazzling teeth, clearly waiting for me to actually contribute to the conversation, to offer something of myself, and here I was dumbstruck.

“So, where are you from?” Skip finally asked, throwing me a bone.

“Manhattan, uh, New York.” I stuttered, feeling myself reddening from the embarrassment of my tongue-tied warbling.

“Oh awesome! No way! I’ve always wanted to visit New York! So, you’re from like the city?”

“Yeah. Upper East Side.” His face drew a blank. “Yeah, I’m from the city. It’s pretty awesome. I dunno how I’m going to survive up here, this is practically the wilderness compared with what I’m used to.”

Skip chuckled, flashing a winning smile and bringing his childlike dimples to my notice. My heart fluttered and I felt another twitch from beneath my briefs. I picked up a pair of shorts and began pulling them on while Skip continued questioning me.

“So, do you have siblings?” he asked.

“Nope, it’s just me. You’ve got a spoilt only child for a roommate. I don’t share and always expect to get my way. And first dibs on the bathroom.”

Skip chuckled god naturedly at my crack. “Well having six siblings… let’s just say I’m used to having to wait for the bathroom.”

“Six! Fuck, I don’t know what I’d do with myself! I think I’d go nuts from lack of privacy or something.”

“You get used to it,” he smiled, “plus it gets to be fun. You’re never lonely and I think having a lot of kids makes your family more closely knit. Everyone sorta knows everything about everyone. It’s cool. Usually.”

“I can’t even imagine it.” I said, pulling a white polo shirt on. I took a quick glance at myself in the mirror, liking the way that the snug shirt hugged my chest, and broad shoulders and the way the gleaming white offset my deep summer tan. When I returned my gaze to Skip, our eyes locked and I shuddered, knowing that he had caught me inspecting my reflection. I felt another blush rise to my cheeks, ‘God, why can’t I keep it together around this guy? How am I going to get through a year like this? Was he checking me out? Maybe?’

“I like your shirt. It’s mighty fancy.” He said eagerly. “Are you going somewhere nice?”

“Fancy? I wear polos almost everyday. Although I guess they wouldn’t really be proper attire on a farm,” I said, suddenly feeling sheepish and sort of entitled.

“Nah, they wouldn’t at all.”

“I’m not going anywhere special. My parents were just going to take me over to Target to buy a few things for the room, like some extra shelves and bins for my stuff and a TV, fridge, and air conditioner.”

“Oh geez, that sounds really expensive.” He said, looking a little panicked. I was immediately panged by a tinge of guilt and jumped in to try and calm his nerves.

“No, no, not really. Besides, I’m an only child, my parents would consider it a favor if you let them splurge on me and our room,” I offered to his disbelieving gaze.

“Really? No, I couldn’t let them do that. I’d have to pay for half of the stuff,” he said willfully.

“Skip, seriously, my dad can afford it, it’s really not a big deal.” I hated the words as soon as they left my lips, and I hated Skip’s stunned reaction even more. After a second he turned towards his bags on the bed and began to open them, leaving my comment unaddressed. I didn’t know what to say. I hesitated there for a moment then I moved slowly towards him, extending an arm towards his shoulder.

“Listen Skip, I’m sorry. That was a really rude and unnecessary and insensitive thing to say and I’m very sorry. I guess my privileged upbringing has gone to my head a bit,” I said softly, hopefully.

Skip turned with a small and hesitant smile on his lips. “It’s ok Brae, I guess if that’s all you know and are used to, I can’t expect you to know what to do with a poor country yocal like me.”

His grin widened, setting my mind at ease and melting my heart. ‘God,’ I thought. ‘I could really love this guy.’ Although I’d only known him for a quarter of an hour there was something about his presence that was already warm and reassuring. College and swimming suddenly seemed a little less daunting now that I knew I’d be sharing the experience with Skip. I sat down on the edge of my bed and watched as Skip moved around his side of the room, quickly and efficiently unpacking his duffle.

The morning sun reflected brilliantly off of his fair hair and the lean muscles that rippled beneath his deep summer tan. I smiled to myself at the thought of what Skip’s tanline situation might be, amused at the possibility he might have a redneck farmers tan. He caught me smirking and shot me a devilish grin.

“Do I amuse you, Sir Davenport?” he queried mockingly, a playful, almost flirtacious, glint in his eyes.

“Oh, uh, no…” I stuttered, caught off guard once again. “I was just thinking about something else.” ‘This guy is going to think I am functionally retarded with a stutter’ I moaned to myself, lamenting my dismal lack of social poise and confidence in his presence.

Skip smiled forgivingly. “Well why don’t you make yourself useful city boy and come over here and help me unpack my things.”

“Ok!” I yelped, despite myself, painfully overeager. Skip laughed and I felt the humiliating warm tingle of blood rushing to my cheeks for the umpteenth time that morning. ‘Ok, this has gone far enough. I’m a grown man capable of expressing myself in an eloquent manner and this needs to stop.’ “Listen, Skip,” I started as I moved over next to him.

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry I’ve been such a spaz this morning. You probably think I’m a total nut job at this point, but I promise that I’m generally an OK guy, capable of intelligent conversation. I’m just really nervous about this whole college thing and I really just wanted to make a good impression with you. I’ve never shared a room before so this is an entirely new experience for me. And, yeah, hopefully you won’t write me off as a lunatic just yet, although this speech probably isn’t helping. I’d just really like it if we could be friends…” My words trailed off and the relief I’d expected to feel at laying my cards on the table didn’t come. In fact, the sting of humiliation crept upon me stronger than ever. I was ready to all but sprint out of the room when Skip put a hand on my shoulder and sat me down on the bed next to him.

“Brae,” he said, flashing a comforting smile, “I am just as, if not more, nervous than you are. I mean look at me. I’m a country farm boy, I’ve only been out of my home state twice before, for swim meets. This is just about the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and on top of that I’m rooming with Carrington’s newest swimming star.”

“Oh , please,” I groaned.

“Hey, I did a little snooping on you. I know you’re one of the hot recruits this year and that Carrington expects big things from you. I was sorta convinced that in coming here that I was going to be stuck in your shadow and nobody was really going to notice me. And, I sort of expected you to be a total asshole,” he grinned.

“Hope I haven’t disappointed!” I said sarcastically, nudging him hard with my shoulder.

“Not at all,” he shot back. We erupted into a fit of laughter, and as his shoulder leaned in to brace himself against me, everything felt perfect.

As our laughter subsided into a comfortable silence, Skip leaned back to look at me and our eyes locked in a moment of exhilarating bliss and nerves and confusion. I was captivated by this man and couldn’t bear the thought of breaking from his captivating gaze. And yet, the more I grew to like him the more I became terrified of how he might react if he knew about the truth about me. We held the stare a few moments longer when suddenly my phone went off in my pocket. Actually, ‘erupted’ would be the better term, as Skip and I both bolted upright and then smiled at each other over our startled reactions. I looked down at the screen on my phone. ‘Mom’ flashed across the LCD, with a photo of my mom from her 40th birthday, her elegant form bent over a birthday cake as she held back her long blond hair, the reflection of the candles glistening in her eyes.

“It’s my parents. They’re probably downstairs. Wanna come shopping with us?”

Skip smiled and shook his head, “Nah, I’m going to hang out here and unpack for a bit. That way when you get back I’ll be all done and we can hang out.”

“Oh, that sounds great,” I said, painfully conscious of the wide smile that was plastering itself across my face. I flipped open the phone and heard the warm and refined sound of my mother’s voice on the other end. I promised her that I’d be right down, told Skip I’d catch up with him later, and then headed out of the dorm.

As I made my way down the hallway towards the stairwell, I couldn’t shake Skip’s glowing image from my mind. Never had I found myself so completely taken by anyone. There was something about Skip that made me immediately feel safe. I’d always feared being used, exploited or even blackmailed, and that had kept me from ever pursuing a relationship or being truly intimate with another man. But there was something different about Skip. He was so genuine, with an almost childlike eagerness and sensitivity that made me trust him instantly. Not to mention he was beyond gorgeous. He was a perfect physical specimen.

‘Brae, stop getting ahead of yourself. You don’t even know if he’s gay!’ I said to myself while rounding a landing on the stairwell. ‘But there was something there, when he looked at me. I could feel it.’ I skipped down the remainder of the stairs two at a time. ‘It may just be wishful thinking; you’re not thinking straight. Shake it off Brae.’ As I pushed my way out the front door of the dorm, I was instantly blinded by the glare of the morning sun. I raised an arm to shield my squinted eyes and gazed across the courtyard, looking for my parents. I spotted the Lexus on the road across the green and jogged over.

The black Lexus RX 400 had been purchased the day before I arrived in Carrington. It was meant to be my high school graduation and beginning college present. While it was clearly an excessively grand gesture, I accepted it as graciously as I could and took comfort in the fact that at least at Carrington it shouldn’t draw too much attention. I felt a pang of guilt for a moment as I approached the car, thinking of Skip and his situation. ‘I’ll let him borrow it whenever he wants,’ I told myself. ‘I mean its not as though I was given any choice in the matter, other than the color,’ I told myself as I reached for the rear door handle.

While I was the only child, I was also aware that that hadn’t been the plan. Although it had never been discussed, I could remember at least three occasions growing up where my parents sat me down and told me to expect a new sibling that had never materialized. Being young I never really put the pieces together at the time, but as I grew older and came to realize everything that my parents must have gone through, I began to feel almost obligated to let them spoil me to excess. Clearly they had desired more outlets for their parental love and attention, and I couldn’t help but feel that they had been stuck with just me. That was why I hadn’t been able to tell them I was gay. I’d never been able to disappoint them, and I was sure that they would find that announcement absolutely devastating.

As I yanked at the passenger door handle, the driver’s door swung out and my dad, in a pristine white polo, seersucker shorts and Sperry topsiders popped out.

“Why don’t you drive Brae? It’s your car!” he beamed, his flashing white teeth contrasting against his deep tan and light brown hair. “Give your mother a chance to coddle you for a little bit. She’s nervous about you having a car up here,” he muttered at me as he passed by.

“Ok Dad, no problem,” I said as he patted me on the shoulder and slipped into the back seat. While I was already 18, I had only had my license a few months and my only real driving experience had been mostly didactic in nature, cruising around private roads in the Hamptons with my father.

I climbed into the front and leaned over to give my mother a kiss. She looked as impeccable as my father in her white sundress. She was tall for a woman at almost 5’11”, and had a lithe, lean figure. My lips brushed her smooth pale skin and a stray strand of her long blond hair tickled my neck. While long hair sometimes looked bizarre on adults, my mom’s was thick and silky and complimented her youthful appearance. While she had just turned 40, she could easily have passed for her early 30s.

“How was your first night, sweetheart? Were the sheets ok? We could get you lighter ones if they were too warm. And what about the mattress? We could get you a new one, or I really think we should at least get you a mattress pad! I don’t want you to wreck your back. Oh, and has your roommate showed up yet?” I smiled despite myself, and I felt my dad’s strong hand reach up and squeeze my shoulder. I navigated my mother’s questions and worries for the twenty minutes as we headed towards Target. My mom, ever curious, was incredibly anxious to hear everything and anything about Skip.

“I mean I’ve only known him for like an hour, but I think he’s really going to be a great roommate. He’s really, really nice. And, he’s from a big family so he’s used to sharing a room and stuff.”

“That’s great. What event does he swim?” my dad chimed from the backseat.

“He swims distance. He’s on full scholarship, so I’m guessing he’s really good.”

“Oh how great,” my mother gushed. “Are his parents nice?”

“I haven’t met them,” I answered. “Skip came out here on his own. His parents didn’t have the money to come out with him, plus Skip grew up on a farm so I think it’s hard for them to get away with there being so much to do.”

“Oh, wow. A farm?” my mom looked at me in wide eyed disbelief.

“Yeah, he doesn’t even own a computer.”

“How is he going to be able to do his schoolwork without a computer?” my mom asked, concern painted across her face.

“He gets a laptop as part of his scholarship. Plus there are computers that you can use in the library and all over campus.”

“Obviously, we expect you to share your stuff with him if he ever needs anything.”

“Obviously mom, I’m not socially retarded.”

“I know honey, I just wanted to be sure. It’s not as though you’ve ever really had to share anything before,” she said.

“If you’re implying that I’m spoiled, you only have yourselves to blame.” I smiled jokingly at them as I pulled into the car park.

Spoil me they did. We stocked up on everything a college student could ever conceivably need, and a lot of stuff I was sure I’d never use. In addition to two full carts of bedding, towels, storage units, school supplies, countless small appliances and enough snack food to last my entire college career, my parents loaded up a dolly with an air conditioning unit, the most conspicuous flat screen TV they could find, a not-so-mini-fridge, the most intimidating printer I’d ever encountered and a deluxe office chair that my mother insisted on since she’d decided that the one provider by Carrington would “absolutely destroy” my back.

We rolled up to the check out counter like a caravan of gypsy travelers and to the dirty looks of the other customers around us. It was clear we were going to be monopolizing register seven for the immediate future. The sales girl was about my age, pretty with brown hair and a delicate porcelain face. Her large blue eyes bulged as we approached her counter. She offered a hesitant, intimidated smile before bravely starting on our items, my mortification rising every time she was forced to maneuver over the counter and our piles of stuff to scan the items that were too big for the belt. As the total started rapidly approaching the cost of a semester’s tuition, I excused myself to head to the bathroom to escape the stares and shocked looks of the other patrons.

I entered the bathroom and went directly over to the sinks. I ran some cold water and splashed it over my face. The cool splash was both refreshing and it somewhat alleviated my flushed complexion. I paused over the sink for a moment. ‘They mean well. Really they do.’ Nobody could ever fault my parents for being anything but generous. I’d been offered a full scholarship to swim at Carrington and my dad had waived it on the condition that it would go to someone who wouldn’t be able to attend otherwise. The significance of this generosity had increased exponentially since meeting Skip. And while my parents were certainly out of control out there. But they weren’t hurting anyone and their hearts were in the right place. I resolved to get over my embarrassment and enjoy the rest of our time together. I took a moment to compose myself in front of the mirror and then headed back to the register.

It took the three of us and two store employees to get the car all loaded up, and I began to wonder how we were ever going to be able to get all of this new stuff up to my room on the fifth floor. My dad insisted on driving since the back window was almost entirely obstructed by stuff. I didn’t even have a real seat since we’ve been forced to fold down the back rows of seats to fit everything in. My mother had been adamant that I should get a taxi back to the dorm, but my father and I eventually convinced her that I could squat safely enough in the back. She consented on the condition that she could buffer me with the various pillows and bedding items she’d just purchased, and so we headed back towards campus with me in a cocoon of down. We discussed our plans for Thanksgiving and the possibility of meeting at our Massachusetts ski house for a few weekends throughout the year. Despite our planning it still didn’t quite register that I was about to be separated from my parents for the first time ever, and while I was by no means dependent, it was still going to be a huge adjustment.

***

While the dorm faced out onto a green, my parents were able to pull the car up to a service entrance. We grabbed as many of the lighter bags as we could possibly carry and made our way into the building. I felt a big like the Michelin man, trying to squeeze through the doors to the elevator, yet somehow we all managed to cram ourselves in. I led the way to my room and gave the door a feeble knock with the toe of my shoe hoping that Skip was still inside and I could spare myself the effort of putting down everything I was carrying to dig my key out of the pocket. I smiled despite myself when I heard his cheerful “coming!” from inside.

Skip started as he opened the door and I (for all intents and purposes) exploded into the room with my bags and bags of stuff. My parents were right behind me with just as heavy a load. Skip’s eyes looked ready to fall out of his head as he feebly tried to assist my mother with her bags, then scooted out of the way when he realized he wasn’t actually being of much assistance. As soon as everyone had unloaded and put everything down, I went about introducing my parents to Skip.

I had thought that Skip might be a little intimidated, especially considering the spectacle we had just made, but he was both confident and charming. My parents responded to his warmth immediately. After all the basic civilities had been exchanged my father enlisted his aid.

“Skip, we’d really love to get to know you better, so if you’re available we’d love to take you out to dinner tonight. But in the mean time I’m parked in a loading zone, so if we could get your help with unloading the car we’d be really grateful.”

“Oh yeah of course,” he replied. “I can’t believe that there’s still more stuff!”

“Oh, this isn’t the half of it,” I groaned. “You don’t know what you’ve just gotten yourself into.”

Skip laughed and the four of us headed down to the car, chatting idly about Skip’s life on the farm as we walked.

“Wow, great car!” Skip exclaimed as we exited the building.

“Thanks, you can borrow it whenever,” I said.

“Wait… this car is yours?!” Skip looked dumbstruck.

“It was Braeden’s graduation present. We just picked it up yesterday,” my mother said as non-chalantly as if she were talking about a new outfit.

“We’ll get your name added to the insurance policy Skip, so you can drive it whenever you like,” my Dad smiled.

“Gosh, thanks. You really don’t have to do that.”

“It’s no big deal, Skip. Besides you never know when it’ll come in handy,” I said, as Skip suddenly grabbed my arm and froze. We’d just gotten close enough for him to see everything that was crammed into the back of the car. His mouth hung open, after a few moments he mustered the presence of mind to speak.

“All this is for our room?!”

“Yeah, just the essentials,” I said sarcastically, throwing an arm around Skip’s shoulder and steering him towards the car and shooting my parents an ‘I told you so’ look.

It took three trips and over an hour before we finally got everything up to the room. Skip was bowled over by everything, especially the ridiculously large flat screen. My dad didn’t seem to understand that our room wasn’t really large enough to properly enjoy a 46” screen. While my dad mounted the television on the wall and installed the air conditioner in the window, my mom assembled the many layers of padding that now constituted my bed and hung the blackout curtains that, in a moment of guilt for sticking Skip with the sunny side of the room, I’d picked out. Skip helped me set up the wireless router and printer my parents had picked out, and put together some of the storage and shelving units we’d picked up.

We worked steadily for about an hour, then my parents excused themselves to freshen up for dinner. They promised to pick us back up in two hours then headed out on their way. Skip and I collapsed on our beds, utterly exhausted.

“Ughhh, I never want to move again,” I groaned.

“I know,” Skip chortled. “I’d wanted to check out the pool today, maybe get in a workout, but that sure ain’t gunna happen now. I am dead to the world.”

“Thank god for air conditioning,” I said brushing off the beads of sweat that had clustered on the bridge of my nose and forehead with the back of my forearm. “Ughh,” I moaned melodramatically as I dragged myself off the bed and across the room to turn on the A.C. unit.

“I’ve never had an air conditioner before,” said Skip as he pulled himself up into a sitting position on his bed.

“Really?!” I exclaimed as I fidgeted with the series of knobs on the device, trying to adjust the settings to a comfortable temperature.

“Yup,” I heard Skip reply behind me. “Shit gets pretty hot in Kentucky, but we never had it growin’ up. Nobody really did.”

“God I think I would die without it,” I said turning. I was surprised to see Skip shirtless, and stripping off his shorts on his bed. “Ohh!” I yelped, trying to avert my eyes, yet unable to keep myself from drinking in the site of this shirtless god.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle ya. I’m going to take a nap for an hour, before I get ready for dinner,” Skip said lazily, stretching out his muscular arms. His body was lean but unbelievably muscular, without an ounce of fat. His muscles rippled beneath the dark, golden tan of his skin, shimmering with perspiration.

“That sounds like a great idea, I’m beat,” I said, wondering how I could successfully disguise my sudden state of arousal. “Uhh, I’m just going to go to the bathroom first real quick,” I muttered.

“’Kay,” Skip smiled, as he sprawled out on his bed, the outline of his flaccid cock just barely visible under his white boxer briefs. It was too much. I scurried into the bathroom to regain my composure. I shut myself in the bathroom and turned on the faucet, hoping that the stream of water would drown the noise as I paced the small space.

‘God, what a body, he’s fucking perfect,’ I thought as I found myself absent-mindedly squeezing my throbbing erection. I contemplated whipping it out and taking care of it. I certainly had the inspiration to get a load off easily enough, as images of positions I’d one day like to find myself in with Skip flashed through my mind. ‘No, not now. He might hear you. Pull yourself together, you can take care of this later.’

I splashed some water on my face and took a few moments to compose myself. I began to undress and decided to tuck my erection into the elastic of my boxers, hoping that would do the job in disguising it. I took a deep breath and then headed back into our room. Skip was now sprawled on his stomach, already unconscious. His steady breathing resonated across the room. It was a soothing sound and it soon lulled me off into a deep, dreamless sleep.

***

The piercing shriek of Skip’s alarm jolted me back to consciousness. I looked around, disoriented, trying to get my bearings. It took me a second to register that I was in my dorm room, as the room still seemed foreign and new. I rubbed my hands over my face, trying to dispel the sleep from my eyes. Coming out of my sleepy haze, a blur of movement caught my attention on Skip’s side of the room. I looked over, and nearly jumped out of my skin at the sight of Skip peeling down his underwear. My heart dropped into my stomach and my cock instantly spring hard at the sight of the firm round globes of Skip’s snow-white ass, beautifully contrasted against his deep golden tan. I sputtered audibly and Skip jumped upright, grabbing a towel off the bed and pulling it to his crotch before turning to flash me a sheepish smile.

“Sorry! Did my alarm wake ya?” he looked at me apologetically.

“Nah, it’s fine. I had to get up anyways. Are you going to take a shower?” I asked, trying to keep my eyes fixed on Skip’s face and look anywhere but at his lean, ripped, muscular frame and the towel barely covering his groin.

“Yeah. Do you mind? Were you going to shower?” he asked awkwardly.

“No, go ahead. I like to shower before bed. There’s a waterproof radio in there, courtesy of my overzealous parents. Feel free to give it a test run.”

“Oh, cool,” he said as he turned towards the bathroom, once again his exposing his taut, firm, muscular ass as he padded off to the bathroom. I watched, mesmerized, my cock painfully hard. As Skip disappeared into the bathroom, I grabbed my organ and gave it a squeeze.

‘Jesus, he’s so fucking hot,’ I thought to myself, salivating. I gave my dick another squeeze. ‘That was quite the show he put on for me just there.’ Thoughts raced through my head. ‘Could he be…? Was he trying to…? Was that meant to be a sign…?’ I lost myself in thoughts about Skip and whether he might or might not be gay. ‘Could he have been trying to send me a sign? Ugh, I need to stop. I don’t even know if he’s gay. And even if he is, would he be interested in me? He’s so gorgeous.’ I heard the shower shut off in the bathroom and jumped up to pull myself together before Skip came out of the bathroom.

I pulled a light blue polo and nice jeans out of the dresser and pulled them on, liking the way that the snug jeans hugged my ass. I stepped in front of the mirror to fix my hair. I was almost immediately rewarded with the reflection of Skip stepping out of the bathroom, towel tied around his waist, resting snugly beneath his rippling 8-pack and the firm “V” of his lower abdominals. I licked my lips and ran my fingers through my hair, focusing on Skip’s reflection as he made his way over to his dresser.

“Have a good shower?” I asked, without turning around, still fixated on his glorious reflection. “How was the water pressu–“ I nearly choked and my jaw dropped open as Skip dropped his towel in front of his dresser, giving me another glorious reflection of his ample ass. There was still a sheen of water on his body, and water droplets ran down the curve of his lower back and disappeared between his beautiful ass cheeks. ‘God, I’d love to get my tongue in there’ I thought, rapt at his reflection.

Skip pulled open a few of his drawers and rifled through them for a second before turning towards me, bringing his organ into view for the first time. My heart nearly stopped for a moment and my eyes practically bulged out of my head as his cock swung — yes, literally swung — into view. He stood there with his hands on his hips and his beautiful cut cock hanging a soft six inches, looking expectantly at me. It took me a second to realize that he was speaking to me.

“Uh… sorry. What?” I managed to stutter, my eyes still glued to his reflection in my mirror. I managed to run my hands through my hair so I at least looked occupied. But truly, I couldn’t look away from his beautiful organ. It contrasted beautifully with his dark brown thighs and culminated in a large pink head.

“What should I wear?” he repeated.

“What?”

“To dinner. What should I wear?” he asked with a worried expression spread across his face.

“Oh, whatever you want. It’s going to be a casual dinner. You’re fine in jeans and a polo,” I gulped.

A worried look spread across his face. He looked around hopelessly then turned back his dresser. ‘Shit, I wonder if he has anything appropriate to wear. I wonder if he’d be insulted if I offered to let him borrow something of mine?’

“Skip?” I started, taking a second to adjust my aching boner, which was threatening to erupt out of the waistband of my jeans. “Do you want to borrow something of mine?” I turned around as he pulled on a pair of boxers. I took a breath of relief, and sat down on my bed hoping it would help hide my excited condition. “You’re welcome to whatever you want,” I continued.

“Ohh, thanks.” He replied, as he pulled a navy polo out of his drawer and held it up for inspection. “Will this do though?” He gave me an eager look.

“Yeah!” I replied enthusiastically. “We’ll practically be dressed like twins.” We both laughed. Skip pulled himself together quickly, and I watched doing my very best not to openly salivate. My phone suddenly went off, announcing my parents’ arrival.

“You ready?” I asked.

“Yup.”

“Ok, let’s get going then,” I said, leading him out of the room.

***

Dinner went swimmingly. My parents had picked out a casual ‘mom and pop’ type Italian restaurant that had food to dream about without the stuffy and pretentious aura that one might expect. In a way it perfectly personified my parents — paragons of quality and taste without the intimidating or superior personas that many members of their set cultivated. Conversation flowed easily and continuously as my parents responded wonderfully to Skip’s warm and open personality. Inevitably, the conversation swung around to the impending swim season. Both my parents, in their dedication to supporting me in whatever I pursued and, I suppose, after years of sitting through endless hours of swim meets, were extremely fluent in all things swimming.

“So, when do you boys get in the pool?” My dad asked, lightly swirling his glass of white wine. “This is good,” he said to my mother. She nodded her approval, a slight smile on her lips.

Skip spoke up eagerly. “Well we have our first meeting with the coaches tomorrow, I think that’s just for us freshmen. An’ then we start practicing with the rest of the team on Tuesday.”

“How many freshmen recruits do they have this year? Have you boys met any of them yet?” my mom asked.

“There’s supposed to be 12 of us this year,” I answered.

“But we may get some walk-ons the first week,” Skip piped in.

“Yeah, that’s possible I guess. I haven’t met anyone else besides Skip yet. Have you?” I asked looking over at Skip.

“Nah, our hall seems totally deserted. I haven’t seen anyone yet,” He smiled.

“Are you not all placed in the same hall then?” my dad asked.

“I dunno,” I said. Skip and I gave each other puzzled looks.

“Maybe they try to separate you so that you’ll intermingle more with other students. As it is, you’re going to be spending so much time together in the pool…” My mom’s articulate voice trailed off.

“Dunno, that makes sense I guess. Hadn’t really thought about it,” Skip replied thoughtfully.

“You’d think that they’d put them with non-athlete roommates then. Or at least non-swimmers,” my dad chipped in. “No offense to you Skip, we like you a lot. We’re just tossing out hypotheticals here.”

“Well regardless, I can’t wait until there is some more activity on our floor. Frankly, I think it could get real creepy real fast if people don’t show up soon.” I laughed and everyone else joined in.

“So any big hot shots we should be watching out for at meets this year?” my dad asked.

“Aside from your son?” Skip asked with a huge grin on his face.

“Shut up!” I blushed, giving him a soft air punch to his shoulder. I knew I was going to come under heavy scrutiny the next day at the team meeting as one of the hottest recruits and I was already dreading it.

“Well, its true, but whatever,” continued Skip. “There’s Drake Brewer. He’s a freestyle sprinter, and one of the best in the country.”

“He’s also a huge asshole. I met him at trials last year, and really am not looking forward to having to deal with him this year,” I said, the image of his burly obnoxious figure still burned into my mind from the summer before.

“Language Braeden,” My mother said quietly.

“Sorry mom.” I smiled sheepishly. “He’s a great swimmer, but one of the least pleasant people I’ve ever met.” My parents were oddly sensitive to profanity. If I stubbed my toe on a desk I was free to swear up a storm, but as soon as my profanity had a specific target they took issue with it. I looked over at Skip and smiled an embarrassed smirk at having been chastised in front of him. He shot me back a wide grin and barreled on with his highlights of our freshmen roster.

“Then there’s also this French kid, Tate Vallette. He’s a butterfly specialist mostly. He swam in the Olympics last year and made semi finals. Apparently he’s a pretty big deal over there,” Skip continued.

“Oh a French boy?” My mom perked up immediately. “Brae, your French is so rusty. This could be a great opportunity for you to work on it.”

I barely had time to groan a response when Skip piped up. “Actually I met him last spring at a regionals meet. I think he was trying to let all the recruiters know he was planning to go to school in the States. He was really quiet. Seemed kinda full of himself.”

“Oh well, if he’s French, maybe he’s just a bit nervous about being in America,” suggested my dad.

“Maybe, but he was born here. His parents are both American. I dunno, he just sorta rubbed me all wrong, you know?” Skip asked almost apologetically.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” I said, trying to sound reaffirming.

“Well you’re certainly entitled to your own opinion dear,” my mother said quickly, obviously anxious to move conversation along to another subject. My father followed her lead.

“So anybody else to watch Skip?”

“Well Brae, the Brewer kid, and Vallette are definitely the hot shots heading into this year.” I groaned and he flashed me a look. “But you never know I guess.”

“What about you son, don’t you think you’re being a little bit modest?” My dad smiled back at him, trying to goad him into speaking about himself.

Skip grinned wide. “Well I’m just happy to be here mostly. I dunno. I’m solid I guess, nothing to write hope about. Hoping to make a few ‘B cuts’ this year if all goes well.” He gave a modest shrug.

“Well that’s great Skip. I’m sure you’re going to have a great year,” My mom said enthusiastically.

“Let’s hope! Gotta earn my keep!” he smiled impishly.

The rest of the evening went well. My parents all but fawned over Skip and the more time I got to spend with him, the more remarkable I found him to be. We headed straight back to the dorm after dinner. My parents had a seven o’clock flight the next morning and I had to be up at 5am to take them to the airport. I was a little annoyed that I was going to have to get up so early on the last day before we started morning practices, but my dad wanted to try and salvage at least a half day in the office.

“I think I’m going to take a long shower and then get to bed ASAP since I have to be up so early tomorrow morning,” I said to Skip as we got back to our room.

“Ok, I guess I’ll go to bed than too.”

“Oh, you don’t have to,” I quickly blurted, worried that he’s interpreted my plan as some sort of demand that he too should go to bed. I grabbed an eye mask off of my bedside, “My mom, thought of everything,” I said, holding the silky black mask up for his inspection. “You can stay up as late as you want. It won’t bother me.” I smiled at him. “In fact,” I continued, reaching into one of massive shopping bags on the floor that I’d yet to sort through, and digging around until I felt a second silky mask. “My mom picked one up for you as well,” I said, tossing him his own mask.

Skip reached over and caught it adeptly. He looked down at the navy blue mask for a moment, fingering the cool silky material before looking up at me with an achingly sincere look on his face. “Your parents are so nice.” He sounded like he was choking up. “Really they are just the nicest people.”

I felt a little uncomfortable for a moment, and yet touched by his unexpected outpouring of emotion. Skip sat down on his bed, his head sunken and his rusty blond bangs obscuring his face. “I mean they have gone so out of their way to make me feel welcome and to be thoughtful,” he continued, looking up at me, “I mean look at everything they got for this room. My parents couldn’t even be bothered to bring me up here.” He held up the night mask. “This is more than my parents did for me.”

Skip looked as though he was about to burst into tears. I crossed the room and sat on the bed next to him. I hesitated for a moment, uncertain, then I gently put an arm around his shoulders and pulled him into me. “Skip, I’m sure they wanted to bring you out here. Like you said before, they’re really busy with the farm and your brothers and sisters and stuff. I’m sure they’d be here if they could. And as far as all this stuff goes,” I said, indicating to the assortment of fancy new objects all around us, “it’s just stuff. It doesn’t prove anything, or mean that my parents are any better or more loving than yours,” I said gently, trying to comfort him.

I felt him inhale deeply before he started talking softly again. “They could have come if they’d really wanted to. They just couldn’t wait to get rid of me.” Skip’s fists were clenched so tight they were white. I gently squeezed his shoulder, trying to let him know that I was there for him.

“What do you mean they want to get rid of you?” I gently probed. He jumped up off the bed, disengaging from me.

“Never mind. Forget I said anything.” He said with his back to me. “I’m going to go brush my teeth before you shower, if that’s alright. I’m tired and I wanna be well rested for tomorrow.”

“Ok.” I said soothingly, not wanting to press the issue further. As Skip trudged off to the bathroom, thoughts started racing through my mind as I set my alarm for the next morning and got myself ready to shower.

‘What did he mean his parents couldn’t wait to get rid of him? What reason could they possibly have? Skip is just about the nicest guy ever! Geez, I never would have thought that under that happy-go-lucky demeanor he was actually hiding something like this.’ And, inevitably my mind wandered over to whether or not Skip’s estrangement might have something to do with his sexuality. Obviously I knew that it was totally wishful thinking on my part, yet I couldn’t shake the suspicion that Skip might be gay.

Skip practically bounced out of the bathroom, his usual chipper demeanor restored as he danced around the room.

“I’m so excited for tomorrow! I just wanna get going you know?” He asked, looking as though he was struggling to contain this sudden burst of hyper energy. He literally leapt into his bed and burrowed his face into his pillows. I watched, perplexed, was this really the same guy who looked ready to have an emotional break down just a few minutes ago?

Skip and I said our goodnights and I went into the bathroom to take my shower. I savored the feeling of the stream of hot water against my back, releasing the tension in my back muscles. I hadn’t realized just how exhausted or sore I was, all I wanted was to collapse into bed. I quickly finished my shower, brushed my teeth and climbed into bed, anxious for what the next day had in store.

 

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