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SUMMARY: Two boys growing up together in an idyllic beachfront community share a passion for baseball. One excels at the game and plays it with reckless abandon; the other, less talented, studies the game and those who play it, hoping someday to share what he learns with others. Best friends since childhood, the two have seen how baseball can bring them closer together. Now, having just graduated from high school, it’s about to show them a crueler side of the game. Baseball is about to separate them even though neither wants that to happen. You can find a longer synopsis of the entire story here. Please note that italics are typically used to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself.
WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Unless otherwise indicated by context, all of the characters, leagues, stadiums, teams and clubs portrayed or mentioned in this story are fictional, not depictions of real people, leagues, stadiums, teams and clubs. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting that you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.
NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters, leagues, stadiums, teams, clubs, or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.
NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there is something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so.
When I woke up the following morning, I peeked out the window. Down below I could see two officers from the local police department standing in front of our house. As best I could tell, no one from the news media was around. That surprised me.
And yet even if there had been, it looked like they were going to have problems getting anywhere close to our place. The officers had positioned their vehicles so that anyone who tried to park in front of the house would be violating the local ordinances and subject to towing. If they tried to park on the opposite side of the street, they would also be violating the law.
I remember smiling to myself.
I guess Mom does have some friends in this community after all.
I could hear my mother down in the kitchen so I dressed quickly and joined her. I figured I could shower and shave later.
“Good morning, Ethan,” she said as I walked into the kitchen. “I’ll be leaving for church in a couple of minutes, but I just wanted to remind you to stay away from the windows. So far, so good; there doesn’t seem to be anyone around from the media.”
“I did walk up the street earlier to pick up a copy of the Washington Post. It’s on the couch in the living room. The story about you starts below the fold and continues on page 16. If I ever meet that reporter, I’ll be giving him a piece of my mind. In any event, what are your plans for the day?”
“You could probably slip out now if you want. I don’t know if any reporters will show up here later, but I do know the chief has instructed his officers to tell them that any statement will be coming from where I work. I’m going over there after church and Mr. Hill and I will hand them out if anyone does show up. The point is, you’ll be alone here for most of the day.”
“I don’t have any plans, Mom,” I replied. “I’m not real keen on hiding inside all day, but I’m not sure what I would do if I was outside either. Most people spend Sunday with family. I’m too old to ride the bumper cars at Funland even if it was still open and too young to be playing checkers down at the park with the older men.”
“What about that beach up the road, that Doggy Beach?” she asked.
“Poodle Beach, Mom,” I corrected her, smiling. “And what the heck do you know about Poodle Beach?”
“Unlike you, I’ve lived here my whole life, Ethan,” she replied. “So I know a thing or two about this community, including a few you may not know anything about. I may not know the exact name of that place, but I know who hangs out there. Go down and make yourself some friends for the day.”
“Mom, stop!” I protested, surprised she had even suggested the idea. “Besides, I can’t imagine anyone would be there at this time of year; at least I don’t think so.”
“You weren’t very successful arranging my social life back when I was in high school,” I continued. “I don’t expect you’ll have gotten any better at it in the years since then.”
“I didn’t have any success back then because I was trying to set you up with all the young girls in town,” she countered. “If I had been a little smarter, I would have set my sights on the boys for you.”
“Mom! Stop! You’re embarrassing me.”
“Oh, never mind, I’ll stop,” she said. “You never did listen to me back then; besides, there’s a picture of you and some young man on the front page of the Post and some reference to him apparently spending some time at your place, at least in the past. He’s a very good looking young man, Ethan. When you were planning to tell me about him?”
“Um, well, I don’t know, Mom,” I replied. “He, ah, well . . . I dunno; let’s just say we’re friends, but he’s not my boyfriend. I don’t have one of those. But I’ll be sure to let you know when I find someone special. You’ll definitely be the first to know, Mom.”
“I hope I will,” she said, softly. “I want you to be happy, Ethan, just like everyone else. I know how much strain playing baseball puts on personal relationships. But I want you to be happy and that’s what you should want as well. It’s all well and good to be making lots of money; to be a big star. But if you’re not happy, none of the rest of it counts for much.”
She left for church after that and I went back to bed for a couple of hours. When I finally got up for good, I remember spending some time thinking about what she had said.
I didn’t know how that story in the Post was going to affect my career exactly, but by most measures people would consider me a success. I was part of a small elite playing professional baseball. People looked up to me; at least they had up until now. Like most guys who played in the minors, I had struggled financially. But now I was making great money. I didn’t have any complaints on that score.
And yet my mother was right. Something was missing.
It wasn’t sex. At first, after I met Riley, I thought it had been sex and realized I had ended up clinging to him for the sex. The sex was good. I enjoyed it. I wanted to experience it again. But it wasn’t the main thing that was missing.
Friendship? I suppose that was part of it. It seemed like the higher I rose in professional baseball the harder it became to make new friends or to sustain the ones I already had. I was determined to get my priorities right. I was going to be seeing more of Zachary, D.W., Brady and Mark. But something more was missing.
I had been thinking about it even before the story came out. Companionship, love, call it whatever you will; when Riley and I made love, it was great. But after the lovemaking was over, it seemed like some kind of invisible curtain divided our bed in two. We shared the bed, but somehow we didn’t share one another except when we were having sex.
I remember sighing.
None of this is going to do you any good, Ethan. You can spend all day thinking about this stuff, but it’s not going to change anything. If you want things to change, you have to make them change.
With nothing better to do, I checked my phone. There was a message waiting from Lee so I called him back. He said Jack wanted to talk to me so I hung up and dialed his number.
He answered the phone promptly.
“Tell me something I want to hear,” the voice on the other end prompted.
I had to laugh. Jack seemed to have all these trite little phrases he used to get a conversation flowing.
“How about something like you’re an idiot for not playing Ethan Williams last night,” I replied. “Is that something you’d like to hear?”
He snorted out a half laugh.
“Well, well, if it isn’t young Mr. Williams himself,” he said. “Finally got the message I see. Well, no matter; but I have to say I’m a little surprised here, Ethan. There really haven’t been many reporters nosing around the stadium this morning. And it’s not like the phones have been ringing off the hook here either. We’ve had maybe twenty or thirty calls and most of them have been supportive of you and angry at me for sitting you out.”
“Like I said, I’m a little surprised. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but maybe I was wrong; maybe times have changed after all. Ten years ago I think we would have heard from a lot more people if a story like that came out. But it seems like a lot of people just don’t care anymore.”
“Does that mean I can come back up there and play tonight?” I asked. “I’m getting a little bored down here.”
“Not tonight, Ethan,” he said, “and probably not for the rest of this series assuming it goes all five games. I suspect it will. But soon; I think you can come back soon, at least sooner than I had expected. Who knows? Maybe I can bring you back for the next series if we advance or perhaps the World Series if we get that far.”
“When we get that far,” I said, chastising him. “It’s just that I’m getting real antsy sitting around the house here, Jack, especially knowing I could be making a difference.”
“Do you have a lot of reporters hanging around up there?” he asked, changing the subject.
“No,” I said. “Like you, I’m surprised. Maybe it’s just the calm before the storm.”
“Or maybe the storm broke before it could get itself organized,” Jack countered. “I guess we’ll see in the next 24 to 48 hours.”
“Yeah,” I responded. “I guess we’ll see.”
“Listen, kid, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. I’ll call when I have something to say.”
“Thanks,” I responded. “I’ll try to forget you hardly ever have anything to say to me.”
“I love you too, Ethan,” he responded; “just not that way!”
Then the line went dead.
I tried to find things to keep myself busy the rest of the day, but it was hard. I think I read just about every story in the Post that day, then those in some of the magazines my mother subscribed to. By the end of the day I was getting restless so I was glad when my Mom finally got home. At least I would have someone to talk to.
Joining her in the kitchen, I tried to help make dinner for the two of us. While she made the main course, I made a salad to accompany it.
We didn’t talk about very much over dinner, but I think she sensed how restless I was.
“You need to get out of this house for a while, Ethan,” she said. “Aren’t you bored just sitting around?”
“Absolutely,” I responded. “I’m totally bored. But what am I going to do? Even though there doesn’t seem to be anyone around, I’ll bet a bunch of reporters will come out of the woodwork the minute I step out the front door.”
“Well, go out the back way then and cut through Mrs. Johnson’s backyard like you used to when you were little,” she said. “She didn’t mind back then so I’m sure she won’t mind now and there’s no way the reporters will see you if you go out that way; assuming there are any reporters around. We only had one or two show up at the office. Waiting there all day was a complete waste of time.”
“Okay, that makes sense,” I replied. “But where do I go once I’m clear of the house?”
“My goodness, Ethan, do I have to figure out everything for you like when you were three or four? Do what you always do. Go for a walk on the boardwalk. Go to that Poodle Beach. Maybe you’ll meet a nice boy there.”
“Mom,” I pleaded. “Please stop with all the social advice.”
But it wasn’t a bad idea, at least the part about taking a walk on the boardwalk. It was something I liked to do whenever something was bothering me. I don’t know why exactly, but hearing the waves crashing against the shore always had a calming effect, as did staring far out to the point where the sea and the sky merge.
“Okay, here’s what I’ll do,” I said. “I’ll go for a walk, probably on the boardwalk. But I’m not going to Poodle Beach. Okay? I don’t know how long I’ll be out, but keep the lights on. I’ll be back when I get bored with walking.”
With that I went upstairs, changed into some shorts and a t-shirt, and then headed back downstairs. I opened the back door and peaked in both directions. Satisfied no one was around, I slipped out and quickly made my way through the bushes that separated our yard from Mrs. Johnson’s.
I had done this a million times as a kid, but now for some reason the opening that led into her yard seemed much smaller and narrower. But I was able to get through and once I did it was clear sailing. I turned north and followed the street for several blocks, then east until I reached the boardwalk.
As best I could tell, no one had seen me. Truth be told, there was hardly anyone out there at this time of year. I turned and headed south toward Poodle Beach. I wasn’t going to go there, but I knew the chances of running into anyone at all would get even smaller the further south I walked.
It didn’t take long to realize I had been wrong. Someone was following me. Turning around, I spied a boy who was maybe sixteen or seventeen years old. When he realized I had spotted him, he stopped, sat down on a bench and tried to pretend he hadn’t been following me at all.
Walking over to where he was sitting, I looked down at him.
“Is there some reason you’re following me?” I asked.
He looked away, as if trying to figure out what to do next.
“You’re Ethan Williams, aren’t you?” he asked, looking up at me.
“I am,” I responded. “And you are?”
“Jake,” he said. “Jake Clarke. I’m a reporter for Viking Ventures, the student news site for Cape Henlopen High. I don’t want you to think I’m stalking you, but I’ve been watching your house most of the day. I thought there might be a chance you would show up in town after the story in the Post this morning.”
“When I saw you leaving your house, I was surprised and decided to follow you on the spur of the moment. I apologize for that, but I was wondering if maybe I could interview you and post it on our news site, Mr. Williams. It would mean a lot.”
“Why?” I asked. “Why would it mean a lot?”
“Um, well, you know; because the Washington Post had that story on you being gay today and it’s kind of timely what with the Warriors trying to make it to the World Series and all. I mean, you’re the first gay baseball player, at least the first one anyone knows about; and being from Rehoboth Beach and going to Cape Henlopen High School like you did, that makes it even more special.”
“I don’t know, Jake,” I said. “The Warriors have been after me to stay away from reporters for the time being, at least until the playoffs are over; and I’ve been out of school for years now. I doubt anyone would remember me or care about me anymore.”
“I would,” he said.
“That’s because you’re a reporter looking for an interview,” I replied.
“That’s part of it,” he said; “um, but there’s more to it than that. I mean, well, the thing is, I’m gay too, but not out of the closet yet and I was thinking maybe interviewing you might make it easier for me to come out to people at school.”
I remember being surprised. I would never have guessed the kid was gay. But that was the point after all, wasn’t it? Not many people guess when you hide in a closet and keep yourself hidden away.
Coming out is harder and I sensed Jake was trying to find a way to come out. It reminded me of that boy I had seen on the boardwalk so many years ago and how he had tossed me a lifeline when I was trying to figure everything out.
Maybe it’s time to pay it forward, I recall thinking.
Maybe it’s your turn to help someone else, Ethan.
“Okay,” I said. “If you really want it, you can have the very first interview I’ve given since being outed, Jake. I’m not sure whether anyone at the school will be interested, but I like the idea of giving my first interview to someone who knows what it’s like to be gay and in the closet.”
Sitting down on the bench next to Jake, I spent the next forty-five minutes answering his questions as honestly as I could. He was clearly excited about getting the scoop and I wondered whether it would make his own journey easier.
When he was finally out of questions, I gave him my e-mail address and asked him to send me a copy of the story before he posted it online.
“It’s your story and you can do whatever you want with it,” I said. “But if it was me, I might hold on to it until the moment was right. Who knows? Maybe the Warriors will make it all the way to the World Series. That would make it an even bigger story and I won’t be talking to any other reporters before then so you can be sure you’ll still get the scoop.”
“But, like I said, do whatever you want.”
“This is probably the biggest interview I’ll ever get in my life,” he responded. “I appreciate it, Mr. Williams. I really do.”
“Glad to help, Jake,” I said. “And I’d appreciate it if you called me Ethan, not Mr. Williams. You’re making me feel really old.”
“In any event, I’m going to be spending a lot of time back here in Rehoboth after the season is over. If you ever need someone to talk to, give me a call,” I added, writing my number down and handing it to him.
“Thanks,” he responded. “It would be good to have someone to talk to.”
We stood up and shook hands and then he marched off in the direction from which we had come. Looking around, I decided to go in the opposite direction and headed south.
Eventually I reached the end of the boardwalk and sat down on one of the benches. I just stared out at the sea. I don’t know why, but for some reason just watching the sea reassured me.
I sat there for what seemed like ages just going over everything that had happened to me over the years; the fun times I had experienced growing up as a boy in Rehoboth Beach; the confusion and uncertainty that had followed as I began to realize I was different from the rest of the guys; all the different ball teams I had played for, starting with t-ball and then one after another until I was finally called up and playing major league baseball.
It seemed to me I had enjoyed the game more when I was younger, when it was just about playing a game and then going out with friends to have an ice cream cone, not about 1000 mile bus trips from one small town to another or contracts, signing bonuses, and all the rest of it.
Life had been less complicated back then. You got up, went to school, played with your friends, had dinner, played some more, studied and went to bed. It wasn’t very complicated. How everything had gotten this complicated was beyond me.
By now the sun was beginning to sink and darkness was creeping in. Looking north, I saw a solitary figure approaching.
Oh great, I remember thinking. Some fag on his way to Poodle Beach at this hour. Don’t those dudes ever give it a break?
Aren’t you one of those dudes, Ethan? Aren’t you a fag?
Maybe the dude is lonely like you. Cut him a break for crying out loud!
On the figure came, becoming larger and larger in the shadows; and then at some point I realized who it was.
I didn’t know what to do. Part of me wanted to get up and run away, but which way; south to Poodle Beach, toward the ocean itself or west toward town? I just sat there frozen knowing there was no escape and eventually he was standing in front of me.
“Hunter,” I said. “What brings you here tonight? I thought you and Zachary were up in Newark this weekend visiting that friend of yours, Cameron.”
“We were,” he responded. “But your Mom called this afternoon and told me what was happening so Zachary and I decided to come back sooner than planned. When we got here, we talked with your Mom. She told me where I would find you.”
We just stared at one another for a moment. I was embarrassed he knew the truth about me. I didn’t know what to say.
“So were you ever going to tell me?” he asked.
It was a fair question, one that deserved an answer.
“I, um, well . . . there was one time I tried to tell you, but I didn’t have the courage to follow through. And then after you told me about you and Mary Ellen Meehan getting it on, I, uh . . . I didn’t think it was important because, you know, unlike me, you were into the ladies.”
“I mean, yeah, there were other times I wanted to tell you as well, Hunter; but every time I started I would chicken out. I mean, um, you were my best friend, my best friend in the whole world, and, uh, well, I didn’t want to lose your friendship. I didn’t want you to hate me.”
“Why would I have hated you, Ethan?” he said. “You were my best friend too. I looked up to you. I admired you. Why would you think telling me would change anything?”
“I don’t know,” I responded. “Knowing someone is gay turns a lot of guys off, at least that’s what I thought at the time. It would have been even harder with you.”
“Why?” he asked. “Why would it have been harder?”
I could have lied, I suppose, but I didn’t want to lie anymore.
“Because I wanted to be more than just best friends, Hunter,” I responded. “I, um, I liked you so much, but I knew it could never be and I didn’t want you freaking out and ending our friendship because I had a crush on you.”
“Unbelievable, Ethan, just unbelievable,” he replied. “Why would you think something like that?”
“Because you’re straight and I’m not,” I said. “I mean, like I said, when you told me you had slept with Mary Ellen, I was crushed, Hunter, totally crushed. Because it confirmed what I already knew deep down all along; that we were different and there was never going to be anything between us except friendship.”
“And that was hard for me to accept given how strongly I felt about you. But I wanted to at least keep the friendship, Hunter. I didn’t want that ever to change. So there was no way I was going to tell you the truth.”
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing, Ethan; I really can’t,” he said. “You decided I was straight because I had sex with Mary Ellen and told you that? Unbelievable; I mean, the reason I told you was because I didn’t want you to get suspicious about me. I mean, I’m gay, Ethan. I’ve probably known I was gay since I was fourteen, but I did a great job of hiding it from everyone, including myself, until last fall when I met Cameron.”
“I didn’t want to believe it. That’s why I had sex with Mary Ellen in the first place; and the other thing is I’ve always been a little jealous of you. You were always the best at whatever we did. You didn’t think I knew you threw those matches when we wrestled; that you let me win at the video games? I liked being known as a ladies man because it made me feel like maybe there was something I was better at than you.”
“And I figured maybe I wouldn’t be gay if I had sex with a girl. But, the thing is, I couldn’t get off with Mary Ellen until I closed my eyes and started pretending I was having sex with you, Ethan. That’s the only way I was able to get off. And when I told you about the whole thing you were like congratulating me, telling me what a big stud I was. It killed me to hear that because I knew you weren’t gay like me.”
“You’re joking about all of this, Hunter,” I responded. “You’re telling me this because you think telling me you’re gay too will somehow make me feel better about myself. You don’t have to do that you know. I don’t hate myself for being gay. It’s just that it doesn’t help for you to mislead me. It only rekindles something I put to rest a long time ago.”
“You’re an idiot, Ethan,” he said, “an incredible idiot. You actually think I would tell you I’m gay to make you feel better about yourself? I’m telling you I’m gay because I love you, Ethan. I’ve loved you my whole life and I know for sure I’ve loved you ever since figuring out I was gay. And I still love you even though I know my chance for that is over.”
“I just want you to be happy, Ethan, and for you to know I support you and your boyfriend and I’ll be there if the two of you need me to help in any way. I saw the picture in the Post. He’s a very cute guy. I should be so lucky and maybe someday I will be.”
“He isn’t my boyfriend, Hunter,” I responded, shocked by everything he had told me. “He’s a guy I met in a club one night when the loneliness was killing me; and, well, I’m not proud to tell you, but we went back to my place and had sex and I liked the sex and invited him to live with me because my need to feel close to someone was so overpowering.”
“Sorry to be so blunt, Hunter, but I’m human and I needed someone.”
“Everyone needs someone, Ethan,” he said. “I need someone as much as you. It’s just that I’ve never met anyone who could measure up to you. You were the standard I was always measuring other guys against and they always fell short; except for one maybe and he loves someone else.”
“Well, now you know, don’t you, Hunter?” I responded. “I’m not the person you thought I was after all.”
“That’s not true,” he said. “You think my opinion of you is going to change just because you’ve had sex with another guy. You must not think very much of me, Ethan. You must think I spend my life judging other people. I’m not perfect. I am who I am, and what I am is someone who still loves you and that isn’t going to change no matter what you say, no matter what you do. So you can forget about that.”
“And just so you know, dude, you’re not the only one here who’s ever had sex with a dude. I have as well.”
We spent the next couple of hours just talking to one another in a way we had never talked to each other before. It seemed like we covered every day of our lives growing up; and then, when there were no more tales to exchange, we talked about what life had been like for each of us since leaving Rehoboth.
I learned a lot about Hunter that evening, especially about what had happened that summer and how he was bagging groceries at the Safeway until he could land a teaching job somewhere else. And there were other things he told me I would have never guessed in a million years.
They brought back all of the old feelings I had for Hunter. They had just been lingering there under the surface all the time we were apart.
Finally, around midnight, I realized we had been talking for hours.
“This has been the best night of my life, Hunter,” I said, “the absolute best. If I never have another night like this, it’ll still be worthwhile knowing I had this one with you. But it’s getting late. I don’t want to keep you up all night so I guess I should be going home.”
I reached over and embraced him to let him know what I was feeling, then quickly backed away so I wouldn’t embarrass him if someone was watching.
“You think I’m going to let you go back to your Mom’s place alone tonight?” he said. “You actually think I’m going to settle for a ten second hug, Ethan?”
“No fucking way,” he said, staring into my eyes. “I’ve been waiting all my life for tonight, Ethan. Before I came down here, I reserved a room at the Highlander hotel. It isn’t much because I don’t have a lot of money. But that’s where we’re going tonight, Ethan, at least that’s where I’m going. I can’t force you to come with me, but I’m hoping you will because you’re not the only one with needs.”
I remember smiling.
“And what were you going to do if I told you I did have a boyfriend, Hunter?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I don’t have the answer to every question. All I know is I’ve been waiting a long time for you, Ethan, a really long time. But I’m tired of waiting. So now you have a choice. You can go back to your Mom’s place and spend the night alone. Or you can come with me and spend it with someone who loves you.”
“That doesn’t seem like a tough choice to me, but you’ve always had a way of overthinking stuff in real life, at least everywhere except on a baseball diamond. That’s what makes you so great on the field, Ethan. You don’t think. You trust your instincts and go with them. You ought to try that off the field sometime.”
“Okay, I will,” I responded. “I’ll go back to the Highlander with you. But I should probably call my Mom and let her know I won’t be home tonight.”
“You don’t have to do that, Ethan,” he said. “We talked before I came over here. Your mother said to tell you it was fine with her if you stayed out all night; that we could even stay there in your room if that’s what you wanted to do. But I wasn’t sure you’d be comfortable with that. I mean, Zachary wants to see you, but he’s willing to wait until tomorrow if you’re not comfortable spending the night with me in your room.”
“I would be except for Zachary,” I replied. “He’s such a little perv. I imagine he would be recording the whole thing for posterity.”
“Zachary’s changed a lot since you last saw him, Ethan,” he said. “He’s matured, especially now that he and Cameron are boyfriends. They’re holding off on the sex for now and he told me to tell you he’ll be sleeping downstairs if we go back to your place. He figured you’d be worried about him spying on us, but he won’t.”
“Like I said, he’s a lot more grown up than you and I were at the same age. So it’s up to you, Ethan. We can do the Highlander or go back to your house.”
“You little shit,” I said, smiling at him. “You set all of this up with my Mom and Zachary, didn’t you?”
“Damn straight, I did,” he said. “And they’re happy about it too. They know how good I’ll be for you, Ethan. Now you just need to go with your instincts and find out for yourself.”
He placed his hands on the sides of my head, leaned forward and kissed me.
Neither of us looked around. Neither of us cared if anyone saw.
And neither of us broke that kiss until we decided it was finally time to go back to my house and spend the first night of the rest of our lives together.