I WAS a freshman when eighteen-year-old senior Peter Urban transferred to Clover Valley High School.
Originally from Chicago (which was roughly two hundred miles east), Peter humbly explained he had moved to Clover Valley to assist his aunt while she recovered from her hip replacement surgery.
“A nurse is at the house 24/7, but the family wanted a blood relative on hand, and everyone else is tied down with jobs and other obligations, so I offered to come and stay with Aunt Sadie.”
Naturally, everyone who heard Peter’s story found themselves utterly impressed with his selflessness and his willingness to give up graduating with his lifelong friends to be there for his elderly aunt. It was amazing. Wonderfully generous. Incredible. I heard at least a dozen different adjectives used to gushingly describe Peter’s benevolent character. Added to his “amazing compassion,” Peter’s vibrant blond-haired, blue-eyed good looks propelled him to instantaneous and unparalleled popularity. People loved him. Period. Students. Teachers. The little old lady that managed the school cafeteria. Peter’s unofficial fan club boasted a rather wide assortment of devoted followers: jocks, theater geeks, cheerleaders, nerds. Everyone seemed to want Peter Urban to look their way, and he certainly had a pretty allocation to select from. So massive shockwaves were created when Peter’s eye seemed to settle on the one person at Clover Valley who hadn’t fallen immediately for his undeniable charm.
Honestly, no one was more surprised—and suspicious—than me when Peter started to pay special attention to me, because I wasn’t exactly the type of guy seemingly perfect Peter would gravitate toward. Not even close. I wasn’t a jock. I wasn’t a “pretty” boy. I was the odd kid in class, a Goth fan with naturally black hair, naturally pale skin, pierced ears, an eyebrow and tongue piercing, a skull and crossbones tattoo on my hip (that my mother obviously knew nothing about). My five-foot-seven-inch frame was lanky, not what I considered attractive, and personality-wise, I wasn’t remotely similar to Peter. Night and day difference. Peter was all confident, carefree, and outgoing, while I was intensely reserved, borderline withdrawn. I had no interest in sports or partying, my idea of “a good time” involved music, movies, and books filled with wildly intricate science-fiction plots, and all I had to do was look at Peter, oh-so-perfectly put together and presentable, golden-blond hair never out of place, and it was totally clear to me we wouldn’t ever discover common ground.
Whenever Peter approached me, before or after class or at my locker, he kept conversation casually friendly, but I wasn’t stupid. And while I wasn’t overly experienced when it came to dating, I was smart enough to recognize lustful looks when I saw them, and I saw undeniable lust reflected in Peter’s bright blue eyes each and every time he looked at me. It was somewhat unnerving and unsettling.
“I don’t know why he keeps coming up and asking if I’d like to go over to his house and hang out, because seriously, I’m not interested in being Pretty Boy’s dirty little secret.”
I wasn’t certain what to think or do, and naturally my thoughts were shared with my best friend and fellow Goth, Lucy Hayes. To my surprise and confusion, Lucy actually suggested I consider maybe giving Peter a real chance to prove himself. What would be the harm? Maybe he was nice. What if he was in some internal struggle to come to terms with possibly being homosexual, and if that was the case, he might need a friend….
Lucy made several logical arguments (damn her), and I finally relented and agreed that next time I was approached by Peter, I wouldn’t reject his seemingly friendly and possibly unselfishly motivated overtures.
Two days after that conversation with Lucy and two months into the new school year, I was at my locker when Peter approached and stood there, the picture of casual grace, and for once, I returned the smile he flashed.
“My aunt and her nurse are spending a few days at a rehab center to undergo some new therapy training, which means I’m stuck in that house by myself, so I was wondering if maybe you’d come over and hang out for a while.” Once again, he made it sound like a casual invite of the “hey, let’s be friends” variety, but once again, what I saw in his eyes told me that this invitation, like all the others before, wasn’t based on a desire to just be friends. But because of my promise to Lucy and maybe because I was a little curious, I accepted Peter’s invitation. Why not? As Lucy had said, there was a chance Peter was struggling with his sexuality, and maybe he needed someone to provide comfort, someone capable of honestly understanding his confusion. While I wasn’t the only openly gay teenager at Clover Valley, I was the one Peter had decided to approach, and whatever happened, I would find out what exactly Peter’s interest in me involved. Friends? More? If it was more, then there would be a lot of thinking for me to do, because I meant what I had said when talking with Lucy. I wasn’t even remotely interested in providing Peter with some clandestine affair, but if Peter was attracted and not ashamed to act on that attraction, there was a possibility we could maybe explore something beyond friendship.
Naturally, I cautioned myself not to put the proverbial cart before the horse as I arrived at Peter’s aunt’s house.
Sadie Urban lived in a beautiful, updated, and well-maintained Victorian-era home, set prettily at the end of a secluded, tree-enclosed cul-de-sac. It was a stunning structure, painted a brilliant white and trimmed in forest green, and the little cobblestone walkway was lined with white and red flowers.
“Nice place,” I commented with a smile when Peter opened the door. Stepping inside, I realized someone had worked tirelessly to maintain the interior original floor plan and décor with hardwood floors, but Peter only shrugged, indicating the house was of little importance. I realized then he was likely homesick. Clover Valley was certainly a decent-sized town, but compared to Chicago, it didn’t offer much in the way of entertainment and options for those looking for a dose of genuine culture. Peter likely felt he was stuck in some sort of Hicksville, and realizing that softened me toward him considerably. I finally cast aside the last of my misgivings as I followed Peter up the towering staircase and down a rather long hallway into his bedroom.
It was a large room. The walls were painted a pale blue, a desk with a computer sat in one corner, several standard bookshelves housed various trophies (track and field, baseball, football—Peter was clearly an accomplished athlete), and a large, unmade bed and a fairly impressive entertainment center completed the room.
“I didn’t bring too much with me when I made the move.” Peter shrugged again. “I really didn’t know what Clover Valley was like, and honestly, I’d hoped there would be more of a nightlife. A club. Some place to dance and chill out with friends, but….” He trailed off with a rather sheepish smile, and I laughed, relaxing more as I sat down on the edge of his bed. Peter dropped down beside me with a few inches of space left between us, and I was grateful for that. Just sitting on his bed felt too intimate. But the room didn’t have chairs, and I was finally admitting to myself that, yes, Peter Urban was attractive, so if he did decide to try to kiss me, maybe that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Actually, kissing Peter might prove a pleasant experience, but again I cautioned myself against rushing things, even within my own mind.
Peter excused himself, and when he returned a few minutes later, he had sodas and chips, and we settled down in front of his entertainment center to play several rounds of video games. While we played, we talked pretty freely.
“My mother works with a lot of charities, and my dad is a federal judge, but he still has interests in several other businesses my grandfather and great grandfather founded.”
It confirmed the general theory that he came from a wealthy background, but when he talked about his family and their various accomplishments, it didn’t come across as bragging, nor did I get the impression Peter was trying to impress me with typical “I have this and I have that” boasting. We were just two guys hanging out. It was nice. I didn’t have many male friends. Once I became more and more open about being homosexual, the guys I had known all my life suddenly seemed uncomfortable around me, while Lucy stood by me in a display of stubborn and devoted loyalty. In the interest of complete disclosure (and on the very off chance that Peter honestly didn’t know I was gay), I explained to him why I didn’t buddy around with other guys from school.
“I came out to my mom when I was twelve.” I didn’t glance in his direction. “She was pretty cool with it, but when I told my dad, his new wife, Abby, pretty much had a meltdown, and she told my dad that she wouldn’t have me coming for the usual holiday and summer visits because she didn’t want my ‘sinful ways’ to corrupt her kids.” Three years later, that was still a painfully bitter pill to choke down. “Some kids at school get pretty freaked out if I’m around, and a few won’t even be in the locker room whenever I am, which is so stupid, because I’m not gonna jump them or something ridiculous.”
Finally, all of that out, I looked at Peter, who was actually smiling, and again there was something in his eyes that made me wonder, especially when he placed his hand on my shoulder in a touch that didn’t feel casual or friendly. In fact, it was almost intimate the way that hand lingered, and I tugged at my bottom lip with my teeth, something that Lucy called my “way-nervous gesture.” I realized in that moment I was more than a little nervous, because Peter was so close that I could feel the heat from his body, and I held my breath.
“I knew when I asked you here that you were gay,” Peter assured me. “It’s sort of along the lines of common knowledge.”
I laughed at that as the hand on my shoulder slowly moved to cradle the back of my neck, and there wasn’t any denying that I knew what was about to happen, but I didn’t attempt to stop Peter from leaning in and covering my lips firmly with his in a kiss that told me right away that he was certainly experienced. And confident. He knew just what he was doing, licking teasingly at my lips until my mouth opened, allowing his tongue to dip inside. When it did, I wrapped one arm around his shoulders, because the kiss had me feeling rather lightheaded and overwhelmed. It wasn’t my first kiss. I had suffered that during a summer vacation the year before, but this was different. Despite all my previous reservations and my determination to not find Peter Urban attractive, this kiss was consuming and meaningful. It was exactly what kisses were indeed meant to be, and by the time it ended, I felt flushed and warm all over. Peter smiled at me in a way that confirmed it was the same for him, and that made everything more intense.
“I’ve wanted to do that since the first moment I saw you.”
Sure, he had just kissed the daylights out of me, but damn, I was still shocked by Peter’s admission, and worse, I wasn’t at all certain what said admission and aforementioned kiss actually meant.
“When I found out you’re gay, and that you’re actually open about it, I was… well, I was amazed and seriously impressed, and I knew I had to get to know you.”
His hand was still resting on my neck, his fingers gently tugging and playing with the ends of my dark hair, and wow, but that felt sort of nice and it was intimate, in a soothing sort of way I found I really liked.
“Look, I’ve got to be honest with you about a few things, Micah.”
Just the tone of his voice was enough to throw some seriously cold water on my growing feelings, and with a sigh, I pulled away from him, putting some distance between us, because I knew exactly what was coming, and I cursed myself as fifteen different kinds of fool for even being in this position. Damn it. I should have listened to my original instincts. It was obvious that Peter—experienced and talented as he might be when it came to kissing—was locked up inside the closet, and hadn’t I always told myself that getting involved/interested in guys who were closeted created drama that I simply didn’t want or need in my life? I couldn’t change my mind about that. No way. No how. Right? Self-respect dictated that I stand strong and not compromise myself.
Rolling my eyes at my own inner dialogue, I stood, and as I did, Peter’s expression seemed almost hurt, but I looked away from him because focusing on his possible hurt would result in me doing something utterly stupid, like allowing him to kiss and hold me again.
“Let me guess.” I raked a hand through my hair in annoyance. “No one knows you like guys, and you can’t allow anyone to know you like them, because it’s complicated and you’re sure no one will understand.”
“Not exactly. I mean, I’m not exactly in the closet. But I haven’t been totally honest with people about my reasons for moving to Clover Valley, and honestly, my parents would so shit themselves if they knew I was even thinking about telling anyone the truth….” He looked so forlorn that I found myself moving to sit down beside him again. “See, I’ve known for a while that I’m into guys, and back at my old school in Chicago, I ended up getting involved with an older guy named Quincy Emerson, and I…. Well, he was older, like I said, and he kind of swept me off my feet from the word go. I really liked Quinn. I liked him a lot. But despite being older and all, Quinn was still in the closet, and he made me swear that I would never tell anyone we were involved, but like some fool, I confessed everything to my best friend, who blabbed to a girl at school, who blabbed to someone else….”
I was surprised when actual tears came to his eyes, and I reached for his hand because I felt overwhelmed with the need to comfort him. He gripped my hand like it was the lifeline holding him in place. “Anyway, Quinn found out I had confided in my supposed friend and that word was out about us, and he got really pissed about it and… well, he beat me up.”
“It was bad. I ended up in the hospital. Broken ribs. Concussion. Doctors thought they might have to remove one kidney, ’cause it was really bruised bad, but luckily, I recovered from all the physical wounds.”
“What happened to Quinn?”
“His dad pulled a lot of strings and convinced the court he needed some time in a mental hospital rather than prison, and because my parents just wanted the scandal to go away, they didn’t push it.” He shrugged. “Honestly, I was sort of relieved I didn’t end up sitting in front of a courtroom filled with strangers, telling them how Quinn hurt me, but my parents decided that I needed time away from Chicago, and when word came that Aunt Sadie needed help….”
Again, he shrugged casually, clearly trying to play off the emotional devastation and trauma, and my heart broke for him in that moment as I pulled him into my arms. I wanted so much to comfort him, and Peter leaned into my embrace. With a deep sigh, he rested his head against my shoulder while I stroked a comforting hand down his back. It was unfair, everything he had been through, and frankly I thought his parents were a couple of shitheads because they clearly cared about their precious public image more than their emotionally shattered son, and Peter deserved emotional support.
“I’m really sorry I jumped to conclusions,” I whispered into his hair.
“It’s okay. Seriously. I just wanted you to know that when it comes to being open about relationships, I’ve had some really bad experiences, and I really like you, Micah, and I know you would never hurt me.”
“But you need some time to adjust to the idea of us before we let anyone know we’re interested in one another.”
He lifted his head and looked at me with tear-damp eyes. “I know it’s asking for a lot, but I just need to be more comfortable with myself.”
“It’s okay. Really. I can understand why you need time, and I’m willing to give you as much time as you need.”
“I’m not sure what this is, or what will happen between us, but we can take some time and see where things go.” I brushed a lock of blond hair from his face. “You’ve been through a lot, and this might work better if we take things slowly.”
I found it difficult to believe Peter had fully processed everything that had happened with his previous boyfriend, and I didn’t want to see him rush into anything with me or anyone else. Sure, he was physically healed. But I didn’t doubt that his emotional injuries were still fresh, and jumping into another relationship likely wasn’t wise. I didn’t want to throw my heart on the line only to have Peter decide later I was nothing more than some rebound relationship and unimportant. Maybe it was a little selfish to worry about myself ending up heartbroken when Peter clearly needed me, but I reasoned a little sense of self-preservation wasn’t unexpected, given the circumstances and the newness of our attraction/relationship. In fact, it was smart. Very smart. Or it would have been if any and all common sense and self-preservation didn’t fly right out the window and into the great beyond the moment Peter kissed me again. The delicious sensation of his oh-so-talented tongue sliding expertly into my mouth had me clinging to him, and when he gently pushed me back onto the floor, I went willingly.
Looking back, I’m not sure how it happened, how I went from being logical and reasonable and determined to take whatever existed between Peter and me slowly to moving from the floor onto his bed.
“Just relax” was whispered several times, and somehow I was suddenly naked. Peter’s hands were everywhere all at once, and soon I was incoherent with desire unlike anything I had imagined possible. I completely lost control. Hell, I lost all sense of myself—something that would become a tragic trend, where my relationship with Peter Urban was concerned—and magically, everything evolved into an intense whirlwind of devouring pleasure marred by only the briefest moment of pain when Peter pushed into me for the very first time.
I lost my virginity that day, and by the time I showered, dressed, and walked home, I was like everyone else in Clover Valley: I was completely captivated by Peter Urban. But unlike the others, I was more than merely captivated or fascinated. I was utterly addicted. It seemed Peter, with his easy smile and talented hands, had broken down my walls. My emotions were tangled into an unrecognizable conglomeration. I wanted Peter. Learning what he had suffered made me feel sorry for him, but despite the wanting and the natural pity and, yes, despite the burning and almost soul-consuming lust, some little voice burned deep inside and kept whispering to me that I needed to proceed with caution. Don’t fall in love. Don’t want too much. Don’t expect Peter to keep every single promise he makes… don’t… don’t… don’t…. Usually I listened intently to all the inner voices and instincts, but when it came to Peter, I found myself simply shrugging aside any and every nagging doubt.
I didn’t realize right away, of course, what was happening—that I was being pulled into Peter’s orbit completely.
“We’ll spend every moment possible together, and as soon as I’m more comfortable, we can tell your mother and all our friends.” It was a promise Peter made often.
I was at his aunt’s house nearly every day, following school, but he never introduced me to his aunt, because she was always tired or sleeping or working with the physical therapist, and I saw no reason to question him. Why would he lie? After all, he seemed truthful about everything, at least in regards to our relationship, and whenever we ended up in bed (or on the floor, or in the shower) the sex left me utterly satisfied but always wanting more and more. Peter really was an addiction. Everything about him drew me in, steady degrees at a time, and by the time school went into break for Christmas holiday, others began to notice changes in me. Naturally, the first person to confront me about it was Lucy, who demanded to know exactly why she never saw me anymore.
She was angry and hurt, and I apologized for blowing her off, but she gave me a look that told me she wasn’t stupid. “Maybe you should share with me exactly what is going on between you and Peter.”
We were sitting in my bedroom, and I looked at her, startled and sort of uncertain, trying to figure out how I could dodge the question. But Lucy wasn’t someone who allowed any question she asked to be dodged.
“Please, Micah, it’s so obvious you two are more than friends. Come on! You’re together all the time. He’s always watching every move you make, and I have to wonder why you aren’t being open about the relationship.”
She flopped down on my bed with a dramatic flounce, her eyes curious, and I sighed and sat down beside her. She was my best friend, the person who stood by me when others turned their backs, and I knew I owed her the honest and unaltered truth about what Peter and I shared. But more than I owed her, I wanted Lucy to know. So I finally told her. All of it. I explained that Peter and I were indeed in a relationship and of course I hated not being honest with everyone (especially her and my mom), but Peter’s previous relationship made it difficult for him to officially come out of the closet at Clover Valley High. When everything was finally laid out in the open, Lucy looked more troubled than relieved.
“Micah, I love you more than words can say, and I want you to be in a wonderful relationship, but something about this feels sort of off to me, and I need you to promise me you’ll be careful.”
I was touched by her concern but, naturally, I brushed off her fears. Lucy left a short while later, and that night I went to Peter’s without calling first. To my surprise, when I arrived, the nurse Maggie opened the door, and there was something in her eyes that resembled pity.
She muttered that Peter was upstairs in his room, and I made my way there, knocking once and not waiting for his invitation before I opened the door. There, on the bed—the bed where skillful Peter had taken my virginity—was Peter, completely naked, wrapped around an equally naked and clearly shocked head cheerleader, Robin Norton.
“What the fuck?” Robin recovered first from the interruption, and her eyes flashed fury in my direction, but I could only stare at Peter, who didn’t appear remotely apologetic or guilty. “Peter, what the fuck is the fag doing here? Could you get him out of here!” Again Robin was snapping, and I shook my head, looking at her as she lay there, naked, no longer trying to cover herself, because hey, I was (as she had harshly declared) a fag, and really, it didn’t matter if I saw her naked. Hysterically, I looked back at Robin with disdain.
“What am I doing here, Robin?” I laughed, and as I did, Peter’s chilly mask of indifference faded, and he began looking seriously furious. But frankly, in that moment, I didn’t give a damn what Peter felt.
“Micah….” There was an edge to Peter’s voice that I had never heard before, but I felt confident simply ignoring it.
“Well, Robin, usually I’m the one Peter fucks in this room, but since it looks like he’s a breasts man suddenly, I’ll take my leave so you can get back to whatever this is.”
Robin looked suddenly pale as I returned my attention to Peter. “If you ever come near me again, asshole, I’ll tell everyone in school what a fuckin’ hypocrite you are.” As I made the threat, I knew I wouldn’t keep it, mostly because I didn’t want anyone to ever know how Peter had played me for a fool, and something told me that Robin wouldn’t reveal what I’d told her because she worried far too much about her own precious reputation. No chance in hell would Robin admit she had played second choice to a “fag”, and after flying down the stairs and out of the house, I ran all the way to Lucy’s house. There I burst into tears, and Lucy held me while I sobbed frantically against her shoulder.
I felt like a fool. I had totally sacrificed my ideals, my beliefs, myself, to be with Peter, and I had bought into every single lie he’d uttered.
“I think everything he told me about himself was a lie, and I…. God, Lucy, how could I have been so stupid?” I started crying again, while ignoring my ringing phone because, damn it, I didn’t want to hear anything Peter had to say. Once some of my tears were finally under control, Lucy explained that, after leaving my house, she’d called an uncle of hers who worked for a police department in Chicago. It was in the area where Peter’s parents still lived and where Peter had lived before moving to Clover Valley to take care of his recovering aunt. But what Lucy learned from her uncle further proved that Peter was an expert at crafting incredible lies, and I was astounded and horrified as Lucy related to me what her uncle had told her.
“Yeah, Sadie Urban did have hip surgery, but Peter’s not here to care for her.” Lucy held my hand while revealing horrible truths. “And what he told you about a guy named Quincy Emerson being his boyfriend and beating him up after Peter told someone? Well, it was actually the other way around.”
“Peter beat Quincy so badly he went into a coma, and according to my uncle, he’s only alive because of life support.”
“Peter’s father pulled strings, and Peter spent two weeks in a mental hospital and then the summer in Europe before coming here with his sweet story about being a wonderful nephew. And now… well, now he’s involved with you.” Lucy looked terrified, and the reality of what she was saying had me springing from the bed and into the bathroom, where I threw up until my stomach cramped. Lucy knelt beside me, pressing a wet washrag to my forehead.
“I know all of this is a shock, Micah, and I am so very sorry, but none of this is your fault. And now that we know what Peter is about, you really need to be careful.”
Despite my shock, I understood why Lucy’s concern was legitimate, and after taking some time to collect myself as best I could, I told Lucy I needed to get home. I needed to share everything with my mother. She didn’t know about my relationship with Peter, and if Peter was dangerous, she needed to be made aware. Lucy made me swear I would call her as soon as I was home.
She hugged me before I left, and, still in a daze—hurt, confused, angry, bitter—I walked home. By the time I made it there, I was physically and emotionally drained.
“Mom, I need to talk to you,” I called out as I stepped into the house, where I was greeted by a silence that was uncommon in our house. Usually the television was blaring one of the horrid reality television shows my mom loved, or she was singing way off-key from the kitchen. Silence wasn’t something my mother considered golden, and since it was Thursday, I knew she wasn’t working late, so I wandered into the kitchen. If she had gone out for some reason, she would have left a note, but the moment I stepped into the kitchen, the world as I knew it crashed and burned because there on the kitchen floor, surrounded by a pool of blood, my mother’s body lay crumpled in such a fashion I instinctively knew she was dead. She was just lying there, her eyes open, her face and chest covered in blood. The white satin blouse she had worn to work that morning (the one I had given her for her birthday three months earlier) was stained crimson, and I wanted to scream, but no sound came out as I stumbled forward.
Crying, gagging, I dropped to my knees, trembling, falling into shock, and wanting to latch on to denial.
The sound of footsteps echoing from behind had me turning, and standing there, towering over me with a bloodstained knife gripped in his bloodstained hand, Peter Urban smiled coldly. Suddenly he didn’t appear remotely handsome or charming. Standing there, appearing so very calm, covered in my mother’s blood, I saw the truth. I saw the evil that had always been just beneath the surface.
“One rule. We had one rule, Micah. Right? One rule. All you had to do was keep your pretty, cocksucking mouth shut, but you couldn’t do that, could you?”
I stood, aware the inner voice I had previously ignored was screaming at me to run, damn it, run, but I couldn’t move from that spot as Peter moved closer and closer, his eyes locked on me and seemingly holding me in place.
“I’d really hoped I could keep you around for a while.” He shook his head, and fresh, terror-born tears came rushing to my eyes. “Oh well. Easy come and easy go. And Micah, I’ve got to admit, you were easy….” His laughter sounded cold, mechanical, and he waved the knife in my general direction. “One sob story had you stripped naked! You’re just a slut at heart. Just another worthless fag, willing and ready to take any cock that wants to have a go at that tight little ass….”
What he said was vile, disgusting. He was insane, and I knew it as I stood there with my mother’s body feet away and the guy responsible for her death—my lover—advancing with obvious intent.
“Don’t bother begging,” Peter snapped. “You’re gonna die, but before you do, I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t have a little more fun with you. Because when all is said and done, you’ve belonged to me from the first moment I thoroughly fucked you.”