Aaron is always ready to fight.
Perhaps a summer spent in a less stressful atmosphere will allow him to relax.
When Aaron walked into the dining hall that evening, the place didn’t quiet down, nor did he draw the eyes of everyone there. It had been a few days since the boxing match, and as was usual with kids, they’d moved on. To actively shun someone took a lot of energy, and they had new things to engage them now.
But then there became a different sound to their chatter; they’d all seen Dylan walk in right behind Aaron, and then actually sit down with him. That caused some raised eyebrows and questions among themselves. Then they shrugged and the two were ignored.
Aaron and Dylan had a lot to talk about. Both had experienced hard times at home. In both cases it was the circumstances of their lives that caused the problems. Neither family had much money. That caused both boys to have greater responsibilities than most kids had. However, how they handled those responsibilities had been different. Dylan had accepted his lot and had endeavored to do the best he could, learning all there was to learn about what he was doing so he could do it the best way possible. By doing that, he’d developed self-confidence and skills. Aaron, on the other hand, had become angry with the world and had transferred that anger to most of the situations and many of the people he encountered.
Aaron was a smart kid. He recognized that his knee-jerk response to everything, his anger, wasn’t a successful way to approach life. But it was instinctual by now, and he wasn’t sure how to change. He did know he needed to, however.
He was fascinated by how Dylan had found a better way to navigate through his own shoals. They talked about what they’d been through, and Aaron could hear the triumphs in Dylan’s recitals, just as Dylan could hear the pain in Aaron’s.
Aaron told Dylan about how camp had been a chance for him, a totally unexpected and special chance, and how he’d hoped from the start he’d be able to set his anger aside for the summer. How happy he’d been with Frank and Dewey. How his mistaken interpretation of Dylan’s actions had aborted what could have been a much more successful vacation.
Dylan, as he frequently was wont to do, kept trying to inject humor into the conversation, trying to make it lighter. But when Aaron spoke about his horse running away from him, Dylan saving him, and what happened next, Dylan dropped the humor and apologized.
“I shouldn’t have yelled at you while you were on the ground. I did it because I was scared. You were my responsibility, you almost got hurt, and I was scared. I took that out on you and I was wrong.”
Aaron said, “I was mad because you didn’t seem to be paying any attention to the back of the line. I just wanted to tell you that you needed to because we were falling farther and farther back.”
“Yeah, I was paying too much attention to Micah talking to me. He never shuts up! But also, Harry had led me to believe you were a decent rider. I didn’t think there was any need to check up on you.”
“I was scared, too,” Aaron said, remembering it. “Terrified, actually, when my horse took off. I wasn’t ready for it and almost fell off. You saved me! I never even thanked you for that! But walking back to camp, I just grew angrier and angrier. I never gave a thought to how you’d rescued me. I let my anger control me again. That led to the boxing match.”
“Hey, yeah. The boxing match. You looked like a windmill gone crazy! I’d never seen that approach before.”
Aaron was surprised. He’d thought mentioning that would allow Dylan to express anger to him. Instead, he was making a joke again. Well, regardless, Aaron now had the opportunity to apologize. “You know, I didn’t mean to hit you where I did. It was a total accident. I was just swinging. I couldn’t see anything but a blur. Harry took my glasses.”
“I sort of wondered about why that happened. The way you were swinging so wildly, I didn’t think you were trying to hit me where you did. But let me tell you, that hurts! The pain goes away, though, and there was no lasting damage.”
It was Aaron’s turn to tease, something he found he now was relaxed enough to do, just sitting and talking to Dylan. “Yeah, in the woods, I saw!”
Dylan’s mouth dropped open, and then his eyes sparkled. “You know, I was hoping you had a sense of humor. You haven’t showed it much.”
“I’ve been too uptight. I feel much better now, here with you. I hope we can be friends. I know that’s asking a lot. I’ve been horrible to you. But just talking to you now, the way you sound, how calm you are—I can see why all the campers like you. And I’m really, really sorry for getting you so upset before.”
“I can get you back for that, though.” Dylan was teasing, and his tone of voice clearly showed it. “Remember? I’m going to teach you how to sail. There’ll be lots of opportunities when we’re out in a boat. You don’t know anything about the boom and how it swings, do you?”
He laughed when he said it. Aaron did, too, although he had no idea what a boom was; Dylan’s laughter simply evoked his own. While laughing, he thought about something else. He was going to learn to sail! And Dylan would be teaching him!
He couldn’t wait.
» » » »
Aaron was steering the boat as Dylan directed. They were nearing one of the far-off islands in the lake, and Dylan had Aaron bring the boat to the far side where there was a small cove. This was one of Dylan’s favorite places when he wanted to be alone.
When they were nearing shore, Aaron reefed the sail without being told. He’d taken to sailing like a newborn puppy to its mama’s nipple. He’d become quite competent in only a week’s time. He’d become very close to Dylan in that time, too.
Dylan jumped out and pulled the light boat partly up on the beach, and Aaron brought the anchor ashore and tied the boat fast.
“I love this spot,” Dylan said. “We can swim here without all the kids back at the camp.” He was already throwing off his clothes. In seconds, he was naked. Aaron stood watching.
“Coming?” Dylan asked.
Aaron hesitated, then said, “You do that so easily; it’s not that easy for me.”
“I’ve been doing it here for years,” Dylan said. “Why? What’s your problem?”
“I’m fine with you doing it. But you look good naked. I don’t. I still look like a little boy, and it embarrasses me.” While saying that, he was undressing. If he was going to talk about this, it seemed appropriate he be naked so Dylan could understand what he was talking about.
“Why? So you just aren’t very far into puberty yet. Nothing to be embarrassed about. Everyone goes through that at their own pace.”
“Yeah, I keep hearing that. But until it happens . . . it’s still embarrassing—looking like I do. And there’s something else.”
Aaron was conflicted but also in need of talking about what bothered him, what was constantly on his mind. Dylan was the perfect one to speak to. “It’s more than just how I look. I don’t feel what other guys feel. I don’t get a lot of crushes. I don’t even get hard very often. I don’t think about girls naked. Boys, either. I think there’s something wrong with me.”
Dylan walked over to Aaron and put his arm around the smaller boy’s shoulders, then said, “Let’s sit down.” They sat on the sand. Then Dylan moved so he was facing Aaron, their knees, with their legs crossed, now touching. Dylan spoke softly. “I don’t know much about all this. I guess I was normal in that regard, getting crushes, getting boners, jacking off, all that, but it was boys that always turned me on, even from a young age. So I was different in that respect. I decided not to let it bother me. I was who I was, and I liked how I was. One of your problems is you’re not very happy being who you are. That probably makes everything else worse. But, tell me, you jack off, don’t you?”
Aaron shook his head. “I’ve tried that a few times. It doesn’t feel bad, but nothing really happens. So I just stop. I’m not interested in sex. I think I might be asexual.”
“Is that likely?”
“Well, no, not likely.”
“I don’t think you’re ready yet, that’s all. Maybe your hormone levels are low. What you should do rather than worry about it is see a doctor. They can tell you what’s what, and there are treatments for almost everything these days.”
“That’s what Shaun told me. But it costs money.”
“Yeah, but it should be covered. We’re poor, but we get medical insurance because of that through one agency or another. My mother could tell you. Your school counselor should know, too. What you have to do is simply ask. You need to take charge of yourself, Aaron. Now, we’re wasting a perfectly good day. Let’s go swimming.”
So they swam. When they were done and were lying on towels on the sand to dry off, Aaron was surprised when Dylan sat up, looked at Aaron to be sure he was watching, and then began touching himself. It didn’t take long before he was hard, standing up straight.
“What are you doing?” asked Aaron, not trying to hide his surprise.
“Trying something. I’m going to jack off in front of you. Tell me how it makes you feel.” He started stroking, and in a few minutes began making noises in his throat; almost immediately, he stiffened and reached his climax. When he finished, he looked at Aaron who was watching him.
“Hah,” Dylan said.
“What, ‘hah’?” Aaron asked.
“Look.” Dylan pointed at him, Aaron looked down and saw he was hard.
“That tells me you’re wrong in saying you have no interest in sex. You just watched something sexy and got hard. Did you feel anything? Anything at all, watching?”
“Well, I guess. Not much, but my heart is beating faster.”
“Did you touch yourself when you felt it getting hard?”
“I don’t know. I never do.”
“Well, do. You’re missing a lot of fun. Look, you’re still hard. Rub it.”
Aaron looked at him, then down, then rubbed the heel of his hand on his boner.
“No, not like that. Like I did. Here,” and he reached over and wrapped his thumb and one finger around Aaron’s erection and stroked up and down. Aaron grunted.
“That feel good?”
“Well, yeah.” Aaron blushed, then giggled.
“Now you do it.” Dylan moved away, and Aaron duplicated what Dylan had been doing. Before long, his breathing got faster. He stopped.
“Why are you stopping? No, no. Don’t stop!”
“But I was starting to feel funny . . .”
“That’s what’s supposed to happen. Once you understand, you’ll enjoy that funny feeling and want more of it. Here, let me.” Dylan moved so he was sitting next to Aaron and their legs were touching. He reached over and began stroking Aaron again, and when Aaron quite quickly began to squirm, Dylan didn’t stop; he sped up the pace.
It didn’t take long after that. Aaron had his first climax, and it wasn’t entirely dry. A few drops accompanied the spasms and groans. Aaron’s eyes were wide open, a look of dismay on his face.
“That was—.” He stopped, fighting for breath, his chest heaving. He took a moment, then finally, when he was breathing more regularly again, said, “Oh, golly, wow, is that, is that what it’s all about? I’ve never—.” He stopped, not having the words to express what he’d just felt, what he was still feeling.
“Nope, nothing wrong with you other than inexperience,” Dylan said, laughing. “My guess is that’ll change, starting right now. Welcome to the world all boys share, and one of the best parts of it.”
Aaron was marveling at what had just happened. Dylan watched him for a short time, then got up and said, “Come on, let’s cool off again,” and headed for the lake. Aaron slowly got up and followed him, still in the grips of a first-time, mind-blowing experience. They swam for a few minutes, all the time Dylan seeming just as he’d always been, relaxed, loose and happy, while Aaron was still shaken and coming to accept the fact that everything seemed a little different now, and that there was a dimension of the world he’d had no idea was there.
When they were sailing back to camp, Aaron had the tiller and Dylan was in the prow, basking in the wind coming into his face. Eventually he turned and studied Aaron, whose face was serious as it so often was. He had the boat running hard, running as swiftly and sure as she could be run, and he was controlling it with a steady hand.
Aaron looked up and saw Dylan watching him. A small grin appeared on Aaron’s face, and he called out to his friend, “What?”
Dylan moved so he was closer to Aaron and could be heard in the wind. “I was just thinking. About you, you and the future. You live your life like you sail this boat. Fiercely. With passion. I think someday, you’re going to find someone, and you’re going to love them just as fiercely as you do everything else.” He stopped for a moment, looking wistful. Just as he was rising, just as he was going to turn and head back to the prow, he said, more to himself than to Aaron, “I wish—”
“Coming about,” shouted Aaron, beginning his tack, and Dylan had to duck swiftly. Then his back was to the stern as he moved forward. His wish, if it was ever articulated, was lost to the wind. But Aaron would think of that incident often. And each time, he’d swear to himself that Dylan had been blushing.
When they were back at camp, Aaron told Dylan he was going back to his cabin. He didn’t say why. Dylan told him he had things to do, but would see him later. Aaron nodded and went back to his cabin where he sank down on his bed. He didn’t pick up a book. What he did was rehash in his head the past few hours. He couldn’t believe what had happened. Thinking about it, he got hard again, and this time, when he touched himself, everything was different. His body responded. As his hand moved, the feelings that came were the same as he’d felt on the beach but even stronger now, perhaps because he knew what to expect.
He tried different motions with his hand, different grips, even different positions sitting and lying on the bed, and found they all changed the feelings he was having.
His climax came to him suddenly, and it almost overwhelmed him. He sank back onto the bed, entirely spent, and was still lying that way when Shaun entered. He took one look at Aaron, more at his face than anything else, opened his mouth to speak, then saw Aaron looking a little aghast that he’d walked in and seen him. Shaun thought better of saying what he’d intended. Instead, he smiled, nodded and winked at him, gave him a thumbs-up, then simply turned around and walked out again.
Aaron ate dinner that night with both Shaun and Dylan. Because both his tablemates were popular kids in camp, it hadn’t taken long, after kids noticed that Aaron and Dylan were spending time together now and seemed to be friends, before a other kids began joining them. That had seemed to break the ice with the other campers. It had marked the beginning of a new time at camp for Aaron.
Kids accepted him now. Dylan still had responsibilities and couldn’t spend all that much time with Aaron, but Aaron was able to get with kids who now ate with him. He was no longer alone during the days. He had kids to hike with, to swim with, and best of all, to sail with.
He spent what time he could, though, alone with Dylan, What had happened on the beach wasn’t repeated, much to Aaron’s regret. Aaron asked if they could go to the island again, and Dylan said they could, but they couldn’t do what they’d done before because it wasn’t appropriate, it was against the rules, and he respected Harry too much to violate his trust. He’d done what he’d done the one time, and he wasn’t sorry he had; however, if he ever had to, he could explain what he did and the reason for it and Harry would almost certainly accept it. But going back and doing it again, or again and again, couldn’t be explained innocently because it wouldn’t be innocent. It would be doing something that would probably get Dylan banned from camp permanently and would show Harry he wasn’t trustworthy. He never wanted Harry to think that.
They did spend what time they could together. They became closer. They both had had many similar disappointments in their lives. They both had difficult home lives. Talking about these things helped their bond grow tighter.
As they were tending to their horses after taking a ride together one warm afternoon, sponging them down after running cool water from a hose over them, Dylan asked a question that floored the boy. Aaron had realized that Dylan was smart. He simply didn’t show it much. His question did.
“You know I like you, don’t you? And I can tell you like me now. We like being together. It seems so strange that we’d go from hatred to friendship not only so quickly, but so strongly, too. It makes me wonder. Do you think maybe some of the reason for that early hated also explains why we’re such good friends now? That there’s some sort of chemistry between us and we just didn’t understand it before? But that it was there all along?”
“You didn’t hate me,” Aaron said. “You’re gilding the lily. It was all my fault.”
“Well, yeah,” Dylan said, then impishly finished with, “but I didn’t want to prick that thin skin of yours.” Then he laughed and started running, with Aaron chasing close behind, getting ready to throw a sopping sponge at him, laughing as well.
» » » »
The ride back to the train station in Bakersville started out in silence. Harry was hoping Aaron would want to talk about the summer, the camp, the people he’d met, what he’d enjoyed, and hadn’t. He thought it best to let Aaron expound. What Aaron was doing instead was looking out the side window and not saying a word. It finally became too much for Harry.
“So, it’s back to the South Bronx. Looking forward to getting home, seeing your mom?”
“Seeing my mom and sister, yeah. The rest, not so much.”
Harry wanted more. “This was your first time away from home, wasn’t it?”
Harry ground his teeth. He was about to ask something else, but just then Aaron turned toward him, a broad grin on his face. “You want to know what I thought about camp, don’t you? Why don’t you just ask?”
“I don’t like to be intrusive.” Harry grinned, too. “But I like the grin, Aaron. You weren’t doing much of that on the way here. Now I see one; I’ve been seeing them regularly the last couple of weeks, and I like it. I think it’s telling me what you’re not saying out loud.”
“It was an amazing summer, Harry. The best ever. I learned so much. I did a lot. And I met a lot of new people.”
“What did you learn?”
“I learned that I need to change some things about myself. And that while I may not be able to change everything I don’t like in my life, some of it I can. I need to be in charge of my attitude, for one, instead of letting my circumstances dictate that. Dylan showed me that. He’s no better off than I am, but he’s happy. I have to find out how to do that, but I know I can. He gave me the basics. It’s up to me to use them.”
“You got close to Dylan, didn’t you, at the end?”
“He’s the best friend I ever had. It hurts, leaving him.”
“Well, about that, I’ll have a job open next year. I’ll need another trainee counselor. Micah has graduated; he’ll do Richie’s job next year. If you accept, you’ll be a trainee. I always let the trainee learn under our best counselor, and that’s Dylan. The job is yours if you want it. If you can keep that famous temper of yours under control.”
“Really?! You’ll have me back. And it won’t cost anything?”
“You won’t pay me; I’ll pay you. A salary. It isn’t much, but it’s something. You’ve earned the offer. I’ve never seen a boy change as much as you have.”
Aaron couldn’t believe it. He was coming back! He’d be spending more time with Dylan! He fought to push his joy down so he could answer Harry soberly, more consistent with how he thought a counselor should behave. “I still have a long ways to go. I’m going to ask the guidance counselor at school about an anger-management program for kids. That’s the first thing I need to work on.”
“So, you want the job?”
“Do I want the job?” Aaron couldn’t believe it. First he laughed, then he just beamed. He couldn’t push his joy down far enough to speak soberly any longer. So he didn’t answer. All he did was nod his head with all the eagerness a 13-year-old could muster, over and over, laughing all the while.
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