Thursday, July 02, 2009

No. 1: The Kings of Framingham

“I can’t believe that in five years, the town still looks the same,” Stephen Branner said as he turned off of the narrow country highway and onto Framingham’s main street, Tecumseh Avenue.

Stephen’s girlfriend, Michelle Arnold, chuckled. “You really expected it to change? You’ve said that the town never changed in the eighteen years you’ve lived there.”

“I can’t believe your sister and her husband would actually want to move to Framingham,” Stephen sighed.

“You’re the one who wants to go to the high school reunion this weekend,” Michelle said.

“Yeah, to get reacquainted with my old friends, not because I like it.”

Stephen turned onto Arapahoe Street and pulled into the driveway of a small house. “Well, we’re here. You sure your sister won’t mind us staying with her for the weekend?”

“Nah. Besides with me there she gets an extra hand with the baby,” Michelle said.

“Yeah, because everyone automatically assumes you want to help take care of someone else’s baby,” Stephen sighed.

“I do want to help take care of it,” Michelle said.

“But you didn’t specifically say you did, did you?” Stephen smiled.

“No but…shut up,” Michelle groaned.

They walked up to the front door and knocked. They heard some shuffling on the other side of the door before the door opened to reveal Michelle’s sister, Gretchen and her husband Michael. Michael was holding the baby girl in his arms.

“Oh, she’s so cute. Hi, Anna,” Michelle gushed as she took Anna from Michael and cradled the baby in her arms.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Stephen said as he passed carrying the suitcase. Michael led Stephen to a guest bedroom and Stephen tossed the suitcase on the bed. “How you doing, Mike?” Stephen asked and shook Michael’s hand.

“Doing good. You?”

“Got promoted to operations manager at work. Kind of nervous about this high school reunion though. My best friend and I got into a huge fight towards the end of school and I’m not sure if I’m ready to see him yet,” Stephen said.

“It was high school. What could possibly be that bad?”

“I told him to quit being gay,” said Stephen.

“Well, I guess there’s worse things to tell someone. I’m sure he’s forgotten all about it. Everything will be fine. Now come on, dinner should almost be done. We can set the table.”

“I didn’t agree to that,” Stephen pointed out as they left the guest bedroom.

Most of the population of Framingham commuted to work. The only place to work in Framingham, aside from the local grocery store, was the energy center. A massive power plant that produced electricity for the entire northern half of the county. The energy center also polluted the air and water near Framingham. Stephen’s mom used to work at the energy center until she moved away. She abandoned her life and moved somewhere in Texas.

Framingham was not kind to Stephen. Stephen was neither popular nor unpopular—he was just there—but spent most of his time there alone. His only friends were Shawn LeCompte and Brian Danvers. Starting in their sophomore year, Stephen began dating Nicole Peterson. Nicole was a tall brunette with, what Stephen would later put in his descriptions of her, a small mouth. Her hair was usually up in a ponytail and Stephen had only seen down a few times. In their senior year, they had planned to get married after graduation and Stephen his money—which was hard in Framingham to come across—and bought an engagement ring. Two days before graduation, Nicole revealed that she was moving to Massachusetts to be with former upperclassman Aaron Kimball who had graduated a year before. She left Framingham but more importantly, she left Stephen.

Brian didn’t date anyone in high school except in his senior year when Alison Phillips asked him out. Alison was a little wilder than Brian was comfortable with but somehow they worked together. Alison had made plans with her best friend Vanessa Kueffer to move to the city and pursue the same career. Suddenly, after three months together, Alison disappeared. She didn’t tell anyone that she was leaving. When Brian went to her parent’s house they told him that she moved in with her grandparents. Brian seemed to quickly get over it but Vanessa has been nomadic since graduation, after having been kicked out by her parents.

Shawn didn’t date anyone in high school. Halfway through his senior year, Shawn came out of the closet and everyone accepted it which kind of surprised everyone but Shawn figured no one cared because he was neither popular or unpopular. He, like Stephen and Brian, was invisible. At the beginning of May, before graduation, Shawn began seeing a guy named Alan who lived thirty miles away in another small town. Just about every weekend, Alan, a good couple years older than Shawn and slightly more experienced, would drive to Framingham, pick up Shawn and they would spend the weekend together. Alan would return Shawn Sunday evening. The relationship would last through the summer and Shawn would lose his virginity to Alan but Alan would dump Shawn by August and would be just a memory.

After school, Stephen moved to Kansas City, a good hundred miles away to go to school and get a decent job while Brian got a job in the nearby city of Watson and bought a house in Framingham. Shawn moved in with him and started working at the energy center in Framingham which was really the only place to work in Framingham. Stephen honestly felt that his old friends would not be at the reunion.

It was almost midnight. Shawn was at home in bed with tonight’s conquest, Rodney Tatum, a sexually confused 17-year-old who drove halfway across the state to meet with Shawn. They were lying on their side having sex in the spoons position with Rodney’s penis thrusting into Shawn. He kept a steady rhythm until the orgasm. Rodney pulled out and came on Shawn’s leg.

“You should’ve stayed in,” Shawn panted. “I like feeling it fill me.”

“Sorry,” the boy replied. Shawn rolled over and the boy took him into his mouth and within moments Shawn was ejaculating into the boy’s mouth.

Shawn gasped a couple of times. “Oh, that was good,” he breathed heavily. They both spent the next several minutes wiping up and catching their breath. “Are you spending the night?”

“I had planned on it since I drove halfway across the state to get here,” Rodney said.

“Okay. You’re not a cover hog are you?” Shawn asked.

“I don’t think so,” he shrugged.

Shawn appeared to eye the boy up and down then got out of bed and wandered, still naked, out of the bedroom. Rodney was alone for a couple minutes when Shawn came back. Shawn got into bed and covered up. Rodney followed suit and the two lay in the dark, the boy more uneasy than Shawn. Shawn fell right to sleep while Rodney lay uncomfortably in the bed for the next hour before finally drifting off to sleep.

The next morning, Brian was brewing coffee in the kitchen when Rodney came downstairs. Brian and the boy barely made eye contact and the boy had a look of shame on his face. Shawn came downstairs nearly a minute later and placed his arm on the boy’s shoulder. “Drive safely,” Shawn said. “I’ll send you an email later this evening to see if you’re okay.”

The boy nodded. “Okay,” he said, almost reluctantly. Shawn almost just pushed him out the back door. Brian tried not to let it show but he casually observed the whole thing.

Shawn gave the boy a quick peck on the cheek and watched him walk to his car, get in and drive away. Shawn turned away and noticed Brian. “I know what you are thinking and don’t worry,” Shawn began. “I don’t really plan on sending him an email later this evening.”

Brian smiled a little and poured himself a cup of coffee. “This one looked a little young,” he said.

“17. Age of consent,” Shawn said and began looking through the refrigerator.

“Does the age of consent extend to sodomy in this state?” Brian asked jokingly.

“You knew I was a slut when you married me.”

“Yeah. Don’t ever say we’re married,” Brian said and sipped his coffee.

“You ready for the reunion?” Shawn asked.

“I can’t believe you’re going to that. I’m gonna curl up in the den with a good book and some Mozart. A nice, quiet evening alone.”

“How on earth did you ever lose your virginity?”

“I like to believe in the ‘everybody gets one’ theory,” Brian said and turned to leave the kitchen.

“You have to go to the reunion, man! It’s the perfect time to brag about yourself to people who mocked and shunned you in high school and then try to have sex with them,” Shawn explained.

“Yes! That’ll show Zach Johnson!” Brian said enthusiastically. “No,” he shook his head.

“Okay, fine. I thought you’d want to see Alison Phillips but I guess I thought wrong,” Shawn shrugged.

“You lie. Alison’s not gonna be there,” Brian said. “Alison’s not the reunion type.”

“She is now,” Shawn smiled.

“Fine! I’ll go but if she’s not there you are so dead!” Brian threatened.

John grunted loudly into Vanessa’s ear as he ejaculated inside her. He panted heavily in her face as she attempted to push him off of her. “Happy birthday, Ness,” John said as he climbed off. Vanessa pulled her legs up to her chest and John sat on the couch they had just had sex on. “Nothing like birthday sex,” John got off the couch and pulled up his underwear.

“And that’s from all of us,” Liz said, poking her head in from the kitchen.

Vanessa smiled politely. This was her life: sharing a house with seven other people. She slept on a couch in the front room that was divided in half by a sheet. Half the room was hers, the other half was John’s. Today was her 23rd birthday and John woke her up saying he was going to give her his present. They then started to make out and soon were having sex. With four guys and three girls, the house was filled with raging hormones. With this morning, Vanessa had now slept with all the guys she lived with. So had all the other girls though.

She wasn’t a slut and never really enjoyed the sex but she enjoyed the closeness and the physical side of it. Despite being surrounded by roommates everyday, Vanessa was lonely. Her plans had changed drastically after high school. She originally planned to go to college but that fell through when Alison Phillips moved away. Alison was her best friend and while they tried to keep talking, Vanessa was really upset when Alison vanished, leaving her and Brian like she did. With Alison’s departure, Vanessa became doomed to living the lavish lifestyle she’s been in for the last five years.

Vanessa slipped on her underwear before a couple other roommates emerged from the hallway. “Liz? I can still have the car today, right?” Vanessa asked.

“Oh, yeah. You’re going to Farmingham tonight aren’t you?” Liz asked.

“Framingham, and yes. You said I could take your car.”

“Sure, no problem. Just be careful. And happy birthday,” Liz said and she and another girl went out the front door.

Vanessa sat on the couch wishing things would change but knowing that they probably wouldn’t.

Shawn and Brian stood near the stage in the auditorium of the high school, next to the refreshment table. The crowd was respectable but still pretty scant. Brian took a sip of his punch, a delightful concoction of lemonade and Cherry 7-Up, and sighed. “I’m going to kill you.”

“What?” Shawn looked at Brian.

“Alison’s not here. You said she would be. I said if she wasn’t, I’d kill you. I now have to kill you.”

“It’s only been two hours. She’ll show,” Shawn tried to convincingly say. “In the meantime, look what just walked in.” Shawn pointed over to the door where Stephen and Michelle just walked in.

“Oh my God, Stephen?” Brian said. “How long has it been?”

“Well, let’s see. I came out five years ago, he called me a dirty faggot five years ago, and we graduated high school five years ago so I’m guessing five years,” Shawn said.

“Let’s see if he’s mellowed,” Brian said. “That’s a gorgeous girl he has now. In five years he’s gotten over Nicole.”

Brian, along with Shawn, walked over to Stephen and Mariah who were getting their nametags. Brian breathed in deeply then exhaled, “King Stephen, how’s it hanging, sire?”

Stephen turned toward the voice and actually smiled. “Hey!” he exclaimed and proceeded to hug Brian who hugged Stephen back. “I was wondering if you’d be here. God, you look good.”

“H—Hey, Stephen,” Shawn cautiously said.

Stephen eyed Shawn up and down. He continued smiling then took Shawn’s hand in a massive handshake. “King Shawn. It’s been too long your majesty,” and the handshake turned into a hug. They parted and Stephen eyed Shawn up and down again. “You’ve been with a man haven’t you?”

“Many times,” Shawn grinned.

“This is my girlfriend Michelle. We met at college. Michelle, these are old friends of mine. Brian Danvers and Shawn LeCompte.”

“Nice to meet both of you,” Michelle said. “What’s with the royal greetings?”

Stephen laughed and Brian started to explain. “When we were in junior high and high school, we deemed ourselves the Kings of Framingham. We were young and stupid. We soon realized that no self-respecting king would want to rule this dump burg.”

“Come on, let’s get something to drink and do some catching up and Shawn?” Stephen said, then got eerily quiet and took hold of Shawn’s shoulder. “I am so sorry for everything five years ago. I just felt like you had betrayed me but instead of shunning you and making you feel like a…freak, I should’ve been supporting you. Again, I apologize.”

“Accepted but no harm done. Let’s get that drink,” Shawn, Stephen, Brian and Michelle all headed toward the refreshments table. “I hope Cherry 7-Up and lemonade is okay.”

They all got cups filled with the punch concoction but as there were no places to sit in the gymnasium-auditorium, they leaned against the stage and talked. “So what has everyone been up to?” asked Stephen.

“I am currently in the process of giving my soul away to the government as I am a production manager for that government call center in the city. But they’re paying for my college so after I get my Master’s I’m only owned by them for three years so it’s not all bad,” Brian said.

“I work at the energy center. It’s not very exciting so let’s move onto what you do,” Shawn said.

“I’m the person you give your work to if you don’t want to do it. You’d be amazed how many people don’t want to do their job,” Stephen said. “I’m hoping to be promoted but I don’t know…”

“Oh, once he gets out of this pseudo-intern job and gets promoted he’ll be moving up lickety-split,” Michelle said.

“’Lickety-split’, huh? I knew this guy that called something that,” Shawn said.

“Not now,” Brian nudged him.

“If not now, when?”

“So,” Stephen began, looking around the auditorium, “any old girlfriends here?” he asked.

“None that I was promised anyway,” Brian punched Shawn in the upper arm who laughed and took a drink of his punch. “More people are here than I thought, though. Mainly people who loved this town though.”

“Then why are we here?” Stephen asked.

“I don’t really know,” Brian said. “I had originally planned to listen to Mozart in front of a fire place while reading. I wonder what happened to that idea, Shawn!”

“You didn’t have to come but you just had to see Alison.”

“Alison Phillips? Was she here?” Stephen asked.

“Of course not. Shawn just used her to get me to come to this stupid reunion.”

“And I see it worked,” Stephen said, smiling at Brian who just shook his head.

The four of them walked over to the stage where the refreshments were set up. Stephan poured himself and Michelle some punch. “So Stephen, how’s everything really been with you?” Brian asked.

“It’s been really good,” Stephan replied. I’m slowly making my way through college but Mariah here graduated quickly and is shooting up the corporate ladder.”

“School was never your thing, Steve,” Shawn said. “You missed a lot of days and it sometimes seemed like graduation was only a pipe dream.”

“School still isn’t his thing,” Michelle interjected. “He’s brilliantly smart but actually getting up and going to class is a chore like none other. That’s why it’s taken him so long to get this far.”

“I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I originally wanted to be a writer, then a lawyer, then a journalist, then a pilot, then a writer again. I don’t know what I want to be. It’s very frustrating.”

“I know, sweetie,” Michelle rubbed the back of Stephen’s head. “But I’m still here to support you.”

“I understand the feeling of not knowing what life has in store for you,” Shawn began. “Before I came out I didn’t know what was going to happen and then when I did, I still didn’t know. Coming out didn’t change anything for me. It just caused me to lose my best friend.”

“I’ve already said ‘I’m sorry’,” Stephen whined.

“Actually, no you didn’t,” Michelle smiled.

“I really like her,” Shawn said.

Vanessa walked through the doors of the gym and picked up her name tag and placed it on her chest just above her right breast. She recognized everyone but saw no one she cared to see. She timidly walked through the sparse crowd until she saw Stephen, Brian and Shawn in the back corner. She walked up to them and said, in a quiet, barely audible voice, “Hi.”

All four turned toward the girl and saw a face they all loved. “Vanessa!” the three guys all hugged her, Brian harder than the others.

“I thought you vanished off the face of the earth,” Shawn said. “Both me and Brian tried to find you but we got nowhere.”

“I’ve been bouncing around, living with different people and such. It’s not the life I would’ve chosen but I don’t have much choice.”

“Why not?” Mariah asked.

“My parents abandoned me and I was supposed to live with my best friend…”

“Ah, yes. You were supposed to move in with Alison,” Stephen interrupted.

“…but she ran away, abandoning me and…”

“…Breaking my heart,” Brian interrupted. “I think she made a lot of people mad. But that should all be in the past, now. Moving on…”

“Speaking of moving on, what do you say we all head to the city and have our own reunion? Get some alcohol flowing and see how big of an orgy we can have,” Shawn suggested.

“I’m up for that,” Stephen said, looking at Michelle.

“Me too. Vanessa?” Brian invited.

“Sure,” she said, still extremely quiet.

“I think I will just go back to my sisters. I’m not in the mood to drive all the way to the city. You go have fun though,” Michelle pecked Stephen on the cheek and rubbed his arm.

“Then it’s settled, we’ll leave the cars at our place,” Shawn planned, “then we’ll all pile into a car and head out.”

“All right, let’s go,” Brian said and took Vanessa’s arm in his.

The bar the four of them went to was crowded but they were able to score a table near the center of the establishment. Vanessa had trouble climbing into the tall bar stool and had to be helped by Brian, who was more than happy to help the cute girl. A waitress suddenly appeared and placed four coasters in front of them.

“Do you know what you want?” she asked them.

“I do,” Stephen said. “Whiskey and Coke.”

“White Russian,” Shawn said.

“Just bring me a bottle of beer,” Vanessa said quietly.

“A glass and a bottle of Jack,” Brian said. Everyone “ooh”ed at Brian and he smiled. “What?”

“You asked for your very own bottle of Jack Daniels?” Stephen asked. “Since when do you drink that heavily? When I knew you, you barely had anything stronger than herbal tea.”

“Things change. I like to enjoy my drinking. I find it enjoyable,” Brian shrugged, fiddling with his coaster.

“So what things have changed with you, Shawn?” Stephen asked.

“Nothing really. I have sex with men now,” he answered. “But I guess you knew that from when I came out of the closet. Other than that, everything is the same. Brian and I have been living together since graduation and it’s been pretty good so far.”

“You and he are…?” Vanessa began but Brian quickly interrupted her.

“No, no! We just live together. I bought a house after graduation and Shawn needed a place to stay. We have a huge old Victorian house at the end of Oak Street so it suits us just fine.”

“That’s really cool that you own your own house. And you got it right after graduation?” Vanessa asked.

“Yeah. With my scholarships and grants and my awesomely amazing job, I guess I was considered a good credit risk. You should see it sometime,” Brian invited.

The waitress returned with everyone’s drink. Everyone immediately took a drink and then watched Brian pour his Jack into the glass. “So,” Shawn turned to Vanessa, “what have you been doing, Ness?”

“I’m getting a lot of experience being a nomad. I’ve been living with a group of people the last few months. Every five months or so it seems like I’m moving. But I guess it’s better than living on the street,” Vanessa explained.

“I’m sorry to hear that. Well, you can always move in with Shawn and me. We have plenty of room so if you ever need to move again, give me a call,” Brian offered.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Vanessa went back to being quiet.

Stephen sat up in his stool and began trying to look across the bar. He stood up and craned his head over to look between a couple of people standing halfway across the bar.

“What the hell are you doing?” Shawn asked him.

“Is that Nicole over there?” Stephen pointed to a long haired blond girl standing at the bar.

Everyone turned to follow Stephen’s finger. “Nicole Peters?” Brian asked.

“Yeah. I’m pretty sure that’s her,” Stephen got off the stool and slowly began walking over to her. “I’m going to go get a closer look.”

“A closer look? She’s not an animal in a zoo, Stephen. She’s the girl who broke your heart. She moved more than halfway across with some guy she was emotionally cheating on you with,” Brian said. “Why would you even want to acknowledge her existence anymore?”

“Because no matter what happened between us, we still loved each other. I’m just going to say hello. Order me another drink,” Stephen walked off and meandered his way through the crowd and came up behind Nicole.

She still beautiful long blond hair and the same eyes, made up with the same eye shadow she wore back in high school. Stephen cleared his throat and tapped Nicole on the shoulder. “So what brings you to a place like this?”

Nicole turned around and smiled when she saw Stephen standing behind her. “Oh my God! I am so glad it’s you!” Nicole got off of the stool and hugged Stephen. “I was going to come to the reunion but decided against it at the last minute.”

“Why?” Stephen asked.

“Honestly, I thought I’d see you and I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to. Are you here for the reunion too?” Nicole asked.

“Yeah. I came here with Brian, Shawn and Vanessa. We were at the reunion for about an hour when we decided we wanted some alcohol with our reunion. We’re sitting over there, come join us.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want to impose,” Nicole said quietly.

“Nonsense. We’re just talking and getting reacquainted. Come sit with us.”

“Okay,” Stephen led Nicole over to everybody who politely greeted her. Nicole sat next to Stephen and he kept his hand on her leg.

“So Nicole, you still live in Massachusetts?” Brian asked.

“I do. I love it there. I was a little nervous at first being so far away from my friends and family but I quickly got adjusted,” she said.

“I’m sure having Aaron Kimble’s dick around helped a little,” Shawn said in a whisper as he brought his drink to his lips.

Nicole looked over at Shawn but ignored him if she heard him and turned to Vanessa. “So why are you in the boy’s club, Vanessa?”

“I’m not really sure. I’m not even sure why I went to the reunion but I’m kind of glad I did. I didn’t run into anyone I didn’t want to see and I met up with these guys who have been a lot nicer than just about everyone else in high school,” Vanessa said.

“They were pretty good guys back then. I’m glad to see that hasn’t changed.”

“Speaking of changed,” Shawn began. “Whatever happened to Katie Goldberg? After graduation she just fell off the face of the planet. She’s still alive right?”

“Maybe,” Nicole said. “It’s not like I kept in touch with classmates after graduation. I kind of kept to myself when I moved to Massachusetts.”

“So Aaron’s kind of like a Scientologist,” Brian said, kind of under his breath but still loud enough for the table to hear.

Nicole gave Brian a death stare then turned to look at Stephen. “So what have you been doing since high school?”

“Mainly working and going to school,” Stephen stopped himself before he mentioned Michelle. “It’s been slow going but I should be done by next year.”

“I’ve tried starting school a few times but I can’t seem to make it past the first semester so I’ve stopped trying. Maybe I’ll go back someday,” Nicole said.

Everyone just looked at her but Stephen looked as if he was genuinely interested. “So where do you live in Massachusetts?” he asked.

“I live in Boston. It’s wonderful. You should visit.”

“I make it a rule not to go someplace that would have you as a resident,” Shawn said.

Brian and Vanessa stifled their laughing. “Hey, Ness, let’s take a look at the jukebox.”

“Ok,” she shrugged and smiled confusingly at Brian. He calmly took her hand as they walked away from the table.

The table got quiet and Shawn looked back and forth between Stephen and Nicole. Nicole obviously wanted to be alone with Stephen but Shawn wouldn’t budge. “So what have you been doing, Shawn?” Nicole finally asked her.

“I work at the energy center in Framingham. I live with Brian and I have sex with men,” Shawn answered.

“Wow, didn’t need to hear that. So you and Brian live together, are you two…” she wagged her index and middle finger up and down.

“No! God, no. Brian is straight. It’s his house, he bought it a few years ago. I just live there and help with the bills.”

Now disinterested with Shawn’s life, Nicole turned back to Stephen. “Stephen, are you seeing anyone special?”

Shawn eyed Stephen and raised his eyebrows. “Hey, uh, Shawn? Could you leave Nicole and me alone for a couple minutes?” Stephen asked. “I want to talk to Nicole.”

“Okay…” Shawn replied skeptically. “But don’t do anything naughty.” Shawn got up from the table and headed toward where Brian and Vanessa had disappeared.

“I’m kind of glad that we’re alone,” Nicole said. “I kind of want to apologize for what I did.”

“What did you do?”

Nicole blushed and lowered her head. “You know what I’m apologizing for,” she said.

“And you’re only kind of apologizing?” Stephen smiled.

“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you but I know I did,” Nicole said. “It’s not exactly the way I would’ve handled it if I had the chance to do it over again.”

“You’d do it again?” Stephen smiled, Nicole angrily glared at him. “I’m kidding. So where are you staying?” he asked.

“At the hotel down the street,” Nicole answered. “Why? You want to come over?”

“Maybe…” Stephen said with a huge smile.

Brian and Vanessa were standing at the bar, her hand was resting on the bar with Brian’s hand resting on hers. Shawn was looking through the music on the jukebox. Stephen came up to Brian and gave him a fifty dollar bill and his car keys.

“What are you doing?” Brian asked him.

“I’m going to Nicole’s hotel room,” Stephen winked. “Try not to tell Shawn and definitely don’t tell Michelle.”

“You know I won’t but I’m pretty sure Shawn will figure it out,” Brian said.

“As long as Michelle doesn’t know. I’ll come by sometime tomorrow and get my car. Thanks, Brian.”

“No problem. But I don’t approve,” Brian said, squeezing Vanessa’s hand.

Stephen bounded off with Nicole and they left the bar. Shawn came over and pointed toward the door. “Where’re they going?” he asked.

“Stephen’s going to cheat on Michelle,” Vanessa said.

“Ness!” Brian said.

“He told you not to say anything. Never directed anything to me.”

Brian smiled at her then looked at Shawn. “I am really falling for this girl,” he said to him, trying not to let her hear him.

Brian and Vanessa stood at her car door. Brian leaned down and kissed her. Vanessa reached up and held the back of his head. Their lips parted and she looked at him with an innocent look and then smiled. “I should go. I didn’t mean to spend the night,” she said.

“I’m glad you did. I slept so well last night,” Brian said.

“I had a good time last night. Thank you.”

“Have a safe drive. Call me when you get home so I know you’re okay.”

“Okay, Brian. Talk to you soon,” Vanessa got into the car, started it up and began pulling away. Brian waved at her until she turned the corner then he went back inside.

“So what did you two do last night?” Shawn asked.

“We slept,” Brian said as he poured himself some coffee. “That’s all we did.”

“Really? Man, I had you down as getting some last night,” Shawn said disappointedly.

“She didn’t want to rush anything because she really liked me so we just cuddled as we slept.”

“Aww,” Shawn mocked. “So you gonna ask her out?”

Someone knocked on the door before Brian could answer. “That’s probably Stephen,” he said. “And I will probably more than likely ask out Vanessa. I think she compliments me pretty well.”

Brian opened the door. Alison Phillips stood at the base of the steps and looked up at him. “Hi, Brian,” she said sweetly.


“Alison!?” Shawn shrieked and leapt toward the door. “Exes are just coming out of the woodwork. Like gross, disgusting termites.”

“Shawn!” Brian snapped. “Alison, what are you doing here?”

“I got cold feet before the reunion and chickened out but I really wanted to see you. I’ve missed you,” she said.

Brian stood silent, not knowing how to respond.

“How are you doing?” she asked.

“Doing fine, I guess. And you?” he stammered.

“I’m doing good. I’m a hair stylist. I really like my job,” she said. “Look, I hate to intrude but would you like to have lunch with me or something so we can talk? I’d really like to you,” she eyed Shawn peeking over Brian’s shoulder, “alone.”

“Sure, I guess. I’m not really hungry but we can have a cup of coffee or something,” Brian turned to Shawn and shrugged. “I’ll be back as soon as possible. Stephen’s keys are on the counter when he gets back.”

Stephen arrived back at Michelle’s sister’s house a little after noon. Stephen found Michelle in the guest bedroom holding her sister’s baby. Stephen sat down next to her. “Why are you back so late?”

“I got a little tipsy so I stayed in the city. Didn’t want to chance driving home,” Stephen replied.

“Ah,” Michelle said. “Did you have fun?”

“I did, yes. I do have something really important to tell you though,” Stephen had been thinking about what to say since getting in the car with Nicole. He’d fine-tuned it while she drove him back to Framingham. “I’ve told you about my ex-girlfriend Nicole Peterson right?”


“Well, we ran into her at the bar last night.”

“Really? Was she at the reunion?” Michelle asked.

“No. She had intended to go but decided not to. But we got reacquainted at the bar and I went back to her hotel with her,” Stephen said. This wasn’t the way he had planned but his stomach was twitching from the nervousness.

“What do you mean?” she asked, even though she already knew.

“I had sex with Nicole and I know I shouldn’t have done it because I do love you and want to be with you but Nicole was someone who I thought I would be with forever and I don’t regret what I did but I also want to stay with you so you need to be okay with what I did. Okay?” Stephen smiled hopefully but saw Michelle’s face as a sign that she wasn’t happy about it.

“How can I be okay with it?” she asked. “You slept with your ex-girlfriend then you come back and tell me that you need me to be okay with it? How can you even think to suggest that?”

“It came out much better when I rehearsed it,” Stephen said, trying to lighten the moment.

“I’ve put up with a lot in the relationship, Stephen but this is it. I love you too but I can’t have you running off with ex-girlfriends then asking me to be okay with it. That’s not the way a relationship works. I think,” Michelle’s voice lowered and her breathing became more controlled, “we should take a break. I can get a ride from Gretchen back home and we can discuss this more when you come back to the city.”

“Michelle, I…”

“When we get back to the city,” Michelle said.

Stephen sat alone in the bedroom for about five more minutes when he bolted up off the bed and dashed out the door. “Where’s he going?” Gretchen asked Michelle.

“He’s probably going over to Brian’s. Hey, Gretch, I need to ask you a favor…”

Stephen drove back to the city and knocked on Nicole’s hotel room door. She answered it and looked surprised to see him standing there. “Stephen, what are you doing here?”

“I have to tell you something about last night,” Stephen began. “I have a girlfriend, well, I had a girlfriend. I cheated on her with you last night and I told her about us.”

“What? Oh, Stephen, you shouldn’t have did that.”

“I wanted to because I needed to see if she would stay or not.”

“I mean the cheating. What are you talking about?”

“I wanted to know which girl is right for me and it’s you. Michelle broke up with me and we reconnected. I can handle you abandoning me now because we were meant to be together. Forever. Just like I had always thought,” Stephen gushed.

Nicole held her face in her hands and sighed heavily. “Stephen, I didn’t want to tell you this but I am still with Aaron. I love him and I’m not going to leave him,” Nicole said.

“But you had sex with me? We made love…”

“For me, it was closure. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t making a mistake with Aaron and after last night I love Aaron more than ever. I’m never going to tell him about this but because of last night I know that Aaron is the man I want to marry and whose children I want to have,” Nicole said looking at Stephen.

“I’m so glad I could help but I…how can you cheat on Aaron if you love him so much?” Stephen asked, his voice and body defeated.

“Because I knew what the outcomes would be. I would either love him more or realize that I shouldn’t be with him. It was easier for me because those were the only options and I knew what I was doing. You didn’t. If you had told me or hinted to me that you were seeing someone, I never would’ve led you on. I am so sorry, Stephen. I am so sorry for hurting you again.”

“It’s…no problem. I’m getting kind of used to it. I’m gonna go now,” Stephen stood up and briskly walked out the door. Stephen left the hotel and looked around the neighborhood. He found the bar he and his friends were at the night before and went in.

Brian rolled off of Alison and she panted heavily, still clutching the pillow she was laying on by the sides. Brian scooted close to her and put his arm on her, just under her breasts and held her tight.

“Was it good?” he asked her.

“Mm-hmm,” she sighed. “Well worth the wait. I ran into Vanessa Kueffer earlier today. She said that she was coming from your house, is that right?”

“Yeah. We met up at the reunion and me, her and a couple of other people went to a bar to talk and reminisce. She then spent the night at my place,” Brian explained.

“She mentioned something about there possibly being something between you two?”

“I don’t know. She’s a nice girl and I know we both like each other but whether that will lead anywhere or not, I don’t know.”

“Stay away from her,” Alison suddenly said.

“What?” Brian asked, confused.

“She’s just a little slut who gloms onto any boy she can so she doesn’t have to be alone. She did that in high school, when I broke up with a boyfriend, she would immediately be there for the rebound. I’m shocked she didn’t bag you five years ago when I left you,” Alison said

“She’s a nice girl who’s very sweet and intelligent,” Brian argued.

“But she’ll jump on any male who has a working penis,” Alison said. “I told her before I went over to your place to stay away from you. That you didn’t need her pitiful sluttiness around and that you’d be better off if you never saw each other again.”

“You said that to Vanessa?” Brian stood up and began putting his clothes back on.

“Only to protect you,” Alison said. “Now come back to bed,” she purred.

“No. You’re crazy. You abandon me and your best friend and disappear then you come back, practically sleep with me first thing—which was something you carefully avoided five years ago—and threaten the girl who used to be your best friend! Something’s wrong with you Alison and I think you need help. You disappeared for five years and everyone got along fine without you so maybe it’s time to disappear for even longer,” Brian finished dressing them stormed out of the apartment, slamming the door behind him.

Shawn answered the door to an inebriated and wobbly Stephen standing on the porch. “I need a place to shtay,” Stephen said and walked into the house.

“I guess you can stay here. Brian’s not back from his lunch date with Alison but I know he won’t mind,” Shawn said.

“Lunch date? It’s…” Stephen held his left close to his eyes and squinted. He wasn’t wearing a watch but he didn’t let that stop him. “…twelve past three? Damn, it took me over an hour to drive here?”

“You drove here? You should be glad you weren’t in a wreck!” Shawn said. “Come on, let’s get you to bed.”

Shawn helped Stephen out of his clothes, leaving on only his boxers and placed him into bed. “Let me tell you what happened,” Stephen began. He was still drunk but he wasn’t as wobbly and didn’t slur his speech as much. “I screwed Nicole and told Michelle then I went back to Nicole who’s still with Aaron!” Stephen wheezed.

“Really? What a bitch!”

“I know! I told her how I feel and she said that she just used me to see if she loved Aaron enough. I lost Nicole. I lost Michelle. Hell, right now, I don’t even have Brian. But I still have you, Shawn. You’re not like those women, causing all these problems and that’s why I like you, Shawn.”

“Thank you, Stephen,” Shawn smiled and was surprised when Stephen leaned up and kissed him on the lips. Shawn intended to pull away but Stephen quickly moved his hand to his head to keep it in place. Stephen then began rubbing Shawn through his pants softly and slowly.

Stephen parted lips with Shawn and breathed near his ear. “Do it.”

“Are you sure?” Shawn was nervous.

“I want to feel…something different.”

Brian was in the kitchen pouring himself some coffee when Shawn and Stephen came in. Brian noticed that look in both their faces and rolled his eyes. “Oh my God, Shawn, you’ll boink anything won’t you?”

“This was completely different,” Shawn tried to explain. “Stephen was drunk and I was…Hmm, I guess I will boink anything.”

“It was my fault, Brian. I’m having major girl problems and I just wanted something to get my mind off of them. It worked.”

“So the world is officially coming to an end. We all had sex last night,” Brian said.

“No way! Even you?” Shawn asked.

“Yep,” Brian held up his cup of coffee in a kind of salute.

“With who? Vanessa?” Shawn smiled.


“Oh, Brian. How could you?” Stephen jeered. “You’re better than that.”

“I know. She’s a horrible little person. She threatened Vanessa to stay away from me and she deliberately had sex with me to try to keep me under her thumb.”

“What a bitch,” Shawn said.

“I know!” Brian replied.

“Well, Nicole also turned out to be a bitch,” Stephen said. “She slept with me only to see how much she loved Aaron.”

“She’s still with him?”

“I’m so glad I’m gay,” Shawn said. There was a knock on the door and Shawn went to answer it. He opened the door and saw Rodney standing on the top step with an angry look on his face. “Rodney? What are you…?”

Rodney pulled a gun from behind his back and shot Shawn point blank in the chest. Shawn flew back and landed, blood spilling out from the wound just an inch or so from the chest plate on the left side. Stephen ran to his friend while Brian called 911. Rodney dropped the gun, fell to his knees and vomited. Police arrived about twenty minutes later and arrested Rodney. Paramedics declared Shawn dead at the scene…

A week later, Brian and Stephen were at the bar they were all at the night of the reunion. Stephen had stayed with Brian throughout the week to help him with Shawn burial since Shawn had no family who would care enough to bury him. They sat, practically silent, with their bottles of beer and pondered.

“So are you going back this weekend?” Brian asked.

“Yeah. I’m going to try to patch things up with Michelle. I called after Shawn was shot and told what happened. She seemed pretty receptive to taking me back but I know I’m going to have to work for it.”

“Is she worth working for?”

Stephen smiled and nodded. “I think she is. I think she’s the most perfect girl I know,” Stephen took a drink and sighed. “What about you? You gonna call Vanessa?”

“Right after we leave here,” Brian said.

“You going to the ten year reunion?” Stephen asked.

“Are you kidding? I didn’t even want to go to the five-year reunion,” Brian chuckled.

“True dat,” Stephen agreed. “It was a good weekend though.”

“It was.”

“To the Kings of Framingham,” Stephen raised his bottle of beer in tribute.

“To the Kings,” Brian clinked his bottle against Stephen’s.