Allen slammed the door to his bedroom, knowing even as he did it that it wouldn’t win him any points with his mother. Even so, it slammed with a satisfying thunk hard enough to rattle the pictures on the wall.
Throwing himself on his bed, he wished he had a time machine, that he’d go to sleep and wake up nine months in the future, that he was already in college where he could actually start his life and do something. High school and living under his parents’ thumbs was getting harder each day.
Without warning, his door opened and his mother stood in the doorway, her face red. “Allen Matthew, if you slam this door one more time, not only will you be grounded for a week, but I’ll lock you out of your computer.”
He seethed, wanting to scream that he was eighteen, that he had bought his computer with money he had earned, that she didn’t have the right to do anything to him anymore. In the end he remained silent, knowing anything that he said would set her off again. He’d asked to skip the annual Christmas visit to the grandparents in Pennsylvania, but she had hit the roof. “Okay, Mom. I won’t slam it anymore.”
“Thank you. Please pick up your room before you go to bed. It looks like a pig sty.” She slammed the door on the way out. Not the satisfying loud thunk he’d managed, but enough to make a point. It was her house, and she could do as she wished.
Allen saw his laptop sitting on his desk and pushed himself off of his unmade bed to pick it up, kicking the dirty clothes that littered the floor under the bed. His mother would see the difference, but he wasn’t really doing what she’d asked. He’d dig out the clothes someday and throw them in the laundry.
He logged on and started to e-mail Dusty about Christmas but pulled out his cell instead.
“Hey, what’s up? What’d your Mom say?” Dusty sounded excited, and Allen hated to disappoint him.
“No go, man. I got a lecture on family responsibilities, and she was all ‘the grandparents are getting older’ and ‘they’re not going to be here forever’ and ‘I could give them one week out of my busy, important year’.” Allen built up a good head of steam, telling his best friend all of the things that he wished he could have said to his mother. He continued without allowing Dusty to say a word, “You know what, though? It’s not just a week! It’s every holiday, every summer. I miss everything here while we’re in fuckin’ Pennsylvania.”
Dusty said, “That bites. I’ll tell my Mom you can’t come. Real sorry, man”
“In less than a year, though, we’ll be away at college and won’t have to worry about it.” He wished that they would be going to the same college, but even if they had been best friends for most of their lives, they had different interests. Dusty would be going to art school while he would be going the University of Virginia to study Chemistry.
“So what do you do up there, anyway?”
“Nothin’ much. We used to go out and play in the snow and build snowmen and all that shit, but there aren’t many kids there anymore. And who wants to build snowmen, anyway? It’s all old people there, and they just sit around and look at old pictures and talk. No broadband. Boring. As. Shit.”
Dusty, ever the optimist, said, “You can always take your laptop and hide in your room and watch movies.”
“Yeah, maybe. Listen, man, tell your Mom thanks for me, okay? I gotta get this paper finished before tomorrow.”
“Sure. Later, man.”
Instead of working on his English paper, Allen logged onto Facebook and checked to see if Greg had added any new pictures. Once part of the group Dusty and Allen had played with when they were younger, Greg had drifted away when they got to Junior High. While Dusty concentrated on art and Allen had set his sights on science and math, Greg had tried out for the football and baseball teams and excelled. He was too busy with his jock friends, college scouts, and local media reporters to spend time with his geeky childhood friends.
Allen clicked on one of the new thumbnails and was so lost in the tanned skin, blue eyes, and blond hair that he almost missed the chat invitation that popped up at the bottom of the screen. Expecting Dusty, he clicked without looking to see who it was.
GregHarmon: Allen, u there?
Allen stared at the tiny picture in the chat window and felt his heart race. Greg. Did he know that Allen was staring at his pictures? How did he know? He stared at the screen and fought the urge to close his laptop and pretend he hadn’t seen. Greg really couldn’t see that he was looking at his pics, right?
GregHarmon: Hey, Allen, u there?
AllenSchneider: Yeah, what’s up?
GregHarmon: Missed Physics today, u have the homework?
Allen was disappointed that it was only a pedestrian request and embarrassed that he had built the tenuous contact of an instant message into something more. He had hoped that maybe—maybe—Greg wanted something more personal.
GregHarmon: Still there?
AllenSchneider: Yeah, sorry. No homework. Study chap 16 for a quiz tom.
Allen sent his response and clicked on the next thumbnail, showing Missy—just as perfect and blond as Greg—kissing his cheek as Greg smiled into the camera. Allen had to find a way to get rid of this ridiculous crush and move on.
Expecting that that would be the end of the conversation, Allen clicked on the next picture and immediately right clicked to save it. Greg was standing in the sun, looking directly into the camera, blue football jersey thrown over one shoulder, freckles just visible over his chest and cheeks.
GregHarmon: So, what’re u up to?
AllenSchneider: Nothing much. Family shit.
GregHarmon: Still go to Pennsylvania for Christmas?
AllenSchneider: Yeah. That’s the family shit. Wanted to stay home this year.
GregHarmon: Hey, college next year, right? Almost there, bud. Where in PA?
AllenSchneider: Salemville. Your family still go to PA too?
GregHarmon: Yeah, Altoona
AllenSchneider: That’s only half an hour away from Salemville
GregHarmon: Yeah? Which way?
AllenSchneider: Go to New Enterprise and take a left. Saw your game last week. Great TD.
GregHarmon: Thanks! The team was great. Makes me look good.
AllenSchneider: Going to play basketball again?
GregHarmon: Yeah. You should try out. You’re almost as tall as I am.
AllenSchneider: Takes more than being tall, though. Think I’ll stick with Chemistry :)
GregHarmon: Baseball? You used to be pretty good. Our last year, dude! Try out for the team and it’ll be like old times.
AllenSchneider: Yeah, maybe.
GregHarmon: Go for it! Hey, I gotta study. What’s your cell?
Incredulous, Allen typed out his cell number and signed off. He rolled to his back and ran his hand idly over his chest and belly, his fingers passing over the ridges of his ribs. He wished those ridges were the hard muscles of his abs. Greg was right; he had grown a lot the last year and had passed six feet, but no matter how much he exercised, how much he ate, he couldn’t gain any bulk. He looked like a scarecrow with his wide shoulders and skinny limbs.
He closed his eyes and saw the last picture of Greg looking directly at the camera—at him—and moved his hand lower, imagining it was Greg’s hand, hovering over the growing bulge in his jeans. Imagining their bodies meeting, grinding together, he rolled his hips and pressed harder, letting it build. He heard the snick of the door just as he was sliding his fingers under the waistband of his jeans and managed to roll over before his mother stuck her head in the door. “Mom! I told you to knock!”
She ignored him and looked around the room. “Not perfect, but better. You didn’t add your schedule to the calendar. Are you working tomorrow?”
“Yeah. Sorry, I forgot. I’m working tomorrow and Tuesday.”
“We’re leaving for Pennsylvania at noon on Wednesday. Did you make sure they know you’re not available for the next two weeks?”
Allen rolled his eyes. “Yeah, they know.” He paused, “Mom, please reconsider! We’ll be going up again in the spring, and I can see everyone then.”
She shook her head, “No. Our decision’s final. You’re still part of this family. Like it or not.”
Once she had shut the door, Allen set his alarm clock for early in the morning, undressed, and crawled into bed. Eyes closed, visions of Greg playing across his mind, he moved his hand lower to finish what he had started earlier. His English paper could wait until morning.