Derrick-Jake-Nick by Cole Parker


Cole Parker

Nothing’s been easy for Derrick. Even now with a big change occurring, nothing is certain.

Chapter 6

Sunday morning, Jake was awakened by the clatter of a lawn mower engine.  He tried to ignore it, but the racket kept getting louder and softer as it moved closer and farther away from the house.  Even then, had the intervals been regular, setting up a rhythm, he may have been able to set up a similar rhythm in his head and so invite the noise into a dream.  But for some reason, the intervals of soft and loud were entirely without a pattern, and as he found himself paying more attention to the racket than his pillow, he knew it was hopeless.

He looked at his clock: 8:30 AM.  Damn!  Way too early for a weekend.  His last weekend before beginning school, too!  Double damn!  Then he thought again about where he was, and where he’d been.  11:30 back there.  This wasn’t too early at all.

He pulled himself out of bed and journeyed to the bathroom.  After dinner he’d taken another swim and then showered after that and saw no need for one this morning.  Besides, his nose was telling him there was something cooking in the kitchen, and he had the strong suspicion in was breakfast.

He dressed and went to see what his nose was so inquisitive about.  Mr. Scott was at the stove and had a loaf of bread open and was whisking some eggs and milk together.  “French toast,” he said.  “You might get the maple syrup out of the refrigerator and warm it for 40 seconds in the microwave.  But hold off on that.  Jeremy will eat with us when he’s done mowing, so I’ll do the toast; you can warm the syrup when he comes in.  In the meantime . . .”

He faded off, and Jake asked, “What?”

“Let’s sit down for a moment before Jeremy comes in.”

Jake pulled out a kitchen chair from the table, and Mr. Scott joined him.  When both were seated, Mr. Scott reached out, touched Jake’s hand, then pulled it away.  “Jake, I thought about this name change we discussed yesterday.  You said you’d think about it.  Have you?”

Jake nodded.  “Yeah, and I think it’s a good idea.  No downside and plenty of up.  I even thought of a name.”

“Oh.  Good.  I gave it some thought, too, and think you’re right.  Even though I think we can trust WITSEC completely, this just adds another level of safety.  So, what did you come up with?”

“I like the name Nick.  I’ve always liked it, and it has a little bit of the sound of my real name, Derrick.  I’m really Derrick Winters which is very American.  So I thought I could switch to an ethnic name that isn’t American and thought Nick Karras would sound Greek.  Aren’t most Greeks dark-haired?  All the kids of Greek ancestry I’ve known are.  So, I could probably pass easily as being of Greek descent.  No one should question it.”

Mr. Scott smiled.  “Sounds good to me.  I’ll try to find time to get into the school computer student profiles today and make the changes, and no one will know.  I know on Monday I’ll be swamped at school as usual.

“Now all we have to do is figure out what to say to Jeremy about the name.”

“No problem,” Jake replied.  “I know how to do that.  I’ll tell him over breakfast.  Call me Jake until then.  This’ll be more of a problem for Jeremy than for me.  But I will have to remember it.  I think I’ll continue to think of myself as Jake.  I really like that name.  When we’re alone, you can call me Jake as well.  But, for everyone else, it’s goodbye, Jake, hello, Nick.”

=  =  =

Mr. Scott set plates of French toast on the table in front of the two boys.  Jake looked at the side plates of bacon and sausages and shook his head.  He wasn’t at all used to eating like this.  Corn flakes with milk was what he’d normally had when he could get it.  Often he’d had nothing.

Jeremy, on the other hand, looked at the table eagerly but as if something were amiss.  Mr. Scott noticed.  “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“You forgot the powdered sugar,” he said.  “I’ve always had powdered sugar on French toast.”

“Really?”  Mr. Scott looked surprised but suddenly grinned.  “You, my friend, are in for a treat.  Try it with maple syrup.  If you don’t like it that way, I’ll get you some confectioner’s sugar.  But a delectable combination of butter and maple syrup is what I’ve always put on my French toast, and that’s what the discriminating among us always use.  How about you, Jake?”

Jake opened his mouth to answer, then closed it.  He dropped his eyes to the table for a moment, then looked back up to see the other two staring at him.  “You know, you calling me that, Mr. Scott, well, I’m going to ask you something.  You see, Jake isn’t my real name.  Well, not my given name.  It’s what I was called by my grandmother, and it kind of stuck.  It was my grandfather’s name, and my parents made it my middle name to honor him. My grandmother always called me that, and I lived with her for a time, long enough that everyone got to calling me that.  But my first name is actually Nicholas.  Nicholas Jacob Karras.  I’ve never really liked the name Jake or being called that.  I don’t know why, but maybe because it isn’t the name I was supposed to be called, the one my parents preferred for me.  And now, now that I’m living here where no one knows me, it just seems like if I’m ever going to lose the name Jake, this is where and when I should do it. 

“So, from now on, do you think you could call me Nick?  Please?  And introduce me to people that way?  Maybe I can lose the Jake forever and start being Nick.”

Mr. Scott looked at him and grinned.  What a perfect way to get Jeremy to go along with the name change!

Jeremy agreed, but was too busy marveling at how much better French toast was with butter and syrup than powdered sugar.  By keeping his mouth full of the sweet eggy mess, it came to pass that for once he wasn’t talking much.

Jake himself had qualms but thought this would be best for him.  He’d still think of himself as Jake.  He liked the name, he liked how he felt when Mr. Scott called him that, and going from Derrick to Jake to Nick in such a short time, well, it seemed too much.  So he’d been happy to become Jake and in his mind, he was going to remain Jake.  To others in this town, while he was here, he would be Nick.

=  =  =

“It’s hot out there,” Jeremy said after taking in half a glass of milk.  “We’re going to be sweating up a storm, riding bikes around town.  But that makes swimming even better when we come back.  You do swim, don’t you, Jake?  Or, mm, Nick?  I swim all the time here.  The pool is great, and this time of year, the water’s really warm.  I can’t get Mr. Scott to swim with me, but maybe you can?  It’s much more fun with two.  I hope you swim.  Do you?  We can even go now if you want.  I’d like that.  I’m still sweaty from mowing.  And—”

Listening to Jeremy run on gave Jake the opening he’d been hoping he’d get.  Now it would be plausible.  “Jeremy,” he said, interrupting, making his voice serious, “slow down.  I’m worried about something and need to talk to you about it.  I’m sure you recognize that you have a habit of starting to say something and then not stopping for a while even after finishing what you began with.  What I’m worried about is what we just talked about.  If you’re running on like that, I don’t know if you have time to think.  And if you don’t think about it, you’re likely to use the name Jake.  I really, really don’t want you to do that, because it doesn’t take much for a bunch of kids to latch onto a name another kid doesn’t want to be called.  I’ve been called Jake too long, disliked it too long, and don’t want people here to know that or to somehow pick up that I don’t like it and so use it.  You know how kids are.”

Jeremy was looking down at the table.  Jake felt sad for him, but he had a point to make, and knew he could quickly buck Jeremy up when he was done making it.  This was the perfect opportunity to get it across to him that he didn’t want the name Jake used, and to do it in a way that the problem became Jeremy’s, not his own.  So, he continued.  “Tell me, are you going to be able to keep from just spitting out the name Jake when you’re doing one of your verbal eruptions, you know, like you just did?”

Jeremy was still looking down.  Jake stopped.  He stood up and cleared the table, then got more milk and sat down again, waiting for Jeremy to answer.

Eventually, he did.  “I didn’t think you were going to tease me, too.  I thought you’d be nice.”  He said it so softly Jake could hardly hear it.

“I’m sorry, Jeremy.  I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.  I wasn’t teasing you.  I won’t do that, ever, unless I’m joking, and you know it’s a joke.  I’m just worried about the Jake name getting out.  I lived with it way too long.  But you know, actually, I like the way you talk.  It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it’s perfect for me because I don’t like to talk much.  With you around, I don’t have to!  I haven’t talked much for quite some time.  I think I’ve spoken more in the past few days than the entire month before this.  I’m going to try to do better on that, but until I can, I hope we get to be close friends, and you can do most of the talking.”

Jeremy looked up.  Slowly a half-smile formed on his face.  “You mean it?  You like the way I talk?  No one likes it.  I hate it, but I can’t stop.”

“Yes, I like it, and I like you.”

“Wow!  Okay then.  And I’ll be careful about not calling you Jake.  So, you’ll come swimming with me?  Now?”

“Sure.  That’ll be fun.  I’ll go change.”  He got up, and Jeremy said, “No need.  We can just shrug out of our clothes on the patio.  I do it all the time.  Come on.”

“Uh, Jeremy?  I’ll feel more comfortable in a bathing suit.”

“Oh.”  Jake saw Jeremy’s smile fade.  “Okay then.  It’s because I’m gay, isn’t it?  But, do you care if I don’t wear one?  Swimming’s much more fun without.”

“No, that’s fine.  You’re used to swimming nude, and I’m not.  It has nothing at all to do with your being gay.  I’m fine with that.  So, go ahead, strip off.  I’ll be with you in just a sec.”

When Jake came out, Jeremy was already in the pool.  Jake dived in and began swimming laps.  Jeremy wasn’t going to have any of that.  He wanted to have fun, not exercise.  So, when Jake was past the deep end, Jeremy jumped on him, forcing him under, then swam away, laughing.  Jake came up, sputtering, saw Jeremy laughing, and yelled, “You’re getting it, now!” and took off after him.

Jeremy squealed and swam away.  Jake caught him fairly easily and the two boys wrestled in the water, dunking each other.  Jake was considerably larger, and he took it easy on Jeremy, allowing himself to be manhandled to the same extent he was doing it to Jeremy.

They finally stopped.  They’d worked their way to the shallow end.  Both were breathing hard.  That wasn’t the only thing hard in the pool.  Jeremy, standing in the shallow end, was noticeably aroused.  He saw Jake looking and blushed, covering his erection with his hand.

Jake saw and quickly said, “Hey, you don’t have to do that.  And don’t be embarrassed.  We were rubbing against each other, you’re nude, and you’re gay.  I’d be shocked if you weren’t hard.  I don’t mind.  And you certainly have nothing to be ashamed of.”

“You don’t care that I got hard rubbing against you?” Jeremy asked, obviously surprised.  “Straight boys are supposed to get mad.  That’s how they act in all the stories I’ve read.”

“Why should I get mad?  Getting hard is just what happens when boys our age wrestle like we were.  Doesn’t mean anything; it’s just a physical reaction.  If I were naked like you, I’m sure I’d have gotten hard, too.  And look.  Even if you got hard for more than physical reasons . . . I mean, well, because you’re gay, why should I get mad?  If it meant I turned you on, that would be a compliment, wouldn’t it?  No reason for me to get mad when someone found me attractive.  That would be silly.”

The boys swam for another half hour, and finally Jeremy said, “Let’s get out and go bike riding before it gets too hot.  Then we can come back for lunch and swim again in the afternoon.”

“Mr. Scott feeds you on the weekends?”

“He’s lonely, I think.  And, besides, he’s the only friend I have; he has a swimming pool, too, and I think he’s glad it gets used.”

Jeremy was silent for a moment, and then continued in a more reflective voice.  “My parents didn’t really want me around after I told them I was gay.  They sent me here to live with my aunt.  She doesn’t have much money.  They told her they’d send some each month to cover my expenses, but they’ve never followed through with that.  I’m always hungry.  Mr. Scott seems to like having me here, and when I’ve tried to tell him he’s doing too much for me, he laughs it off and asks if I’m worth it.  He wants me to say, ‘Yeah, I am’.  I think he’s trying to build my confidence.  Anyway, I spend as much time here as I can.  And eat here a lot.”

Jeremy said this with no self-pity in his voice.  He spoke softly, but matter-of-factly.  He was just explaining how life worked for him.  Jake could relate.  He tended to think of his own existence in much the same way.  Things were just what they were, and he’d learned to deal with that, not to expect things to be better than they were, and to rely wholly on his own abilities and attitudes to get by.  He hadn’t thought of Jeremy being in the same boat, but now, knowing what they had in common, he felt himself warming up to him in a way he hadn’t before. 

He also wondered a bit about Mr. Scott.  His house was nice, but in no way did it give the impression that the man who owned it was rich.  Yet he was going more than an extra mile for Jeremy.  That was something to think about.  He was pretty sure Mr. Scott wasn’t interested in Jeremy sexually.  He didn’t give off any vibes like that, and he hadn’t shown any interest in Jake that way, either.  He just seemed to be a very caring man.  Were there really people like that?  If so, Mr. Scott was the first one Jake had met.

=  =  =

The boys got out of the pool and went back into the house.  Jeremy showered first.  While he was doing so, Jake had thought about what had just occurred.  He’s been swimming with Jeremy, and Jeremy had been nude and gotten aroused.  The boy actually was kind of cute; possibly the fact he looked younger than he was played a part in that.  What Jake was thinking about was the realization that Jeremy’s arousal hadn’t affected him at all.  Yet he remembered seeing the boy in the mall who’d helped Jeremy to his feet after being bullied, and he remembered how just the sight of that boy had stirred him. 

He’d been disappointed then—or maybe upset would be more accurate.  He’d hoped he’d grown out of the feelings he’d had about other boys when he’d been younger.  What he’d felt, seeing that boy in the mall, meant that he hadn’t.  Now, with Jeremy, there’d been no reaction.  It was all a bit puzzling.  It seemed that maybe he still was attracted to other males—just not all males.  That he was more selective now.  Maybe.

It had been a while since he’d felt that sort of visceral attraction to anyone, but thinking about it, his life had been very unusual the past couple of months, and he’d not been close to many boys his age.  Couple that with the fear and uncertainty that had been part of his existence during that time, and he felt it made sense that he’d felt no sexual attractions in that time.  Now, he was more relaxed and becoming more comfortable.  That may have played a part in his reaction to the boy in the mall.

The fact that Jeremy and his arousal hadn’t had any effect on him simply showed that Jake was more discriminating now than he’d been earlier.  He knew straight boys weren’t aroused by every girl they saw.  Just some of them.  He grinned, thinking that, and wondered if it were true of gay boys, too.  And if he were one of them.  He’d been trying hard not to be.

=  =  =

The two boys rode their bikes, Jeremy pointing out things to Jake.  They rode past the high school, and Jeremy told Jake it was better to ride his bike there than take the bus, that there wasn’t any bullying to put up with that way.

They were passing a city park, and Jake said, “Let’s stop here a moment.  We could use a break.”

They found a bench in the shade, dropped their bikes on the lawn, and sat down.  “Tell me about the bullying,” Jake said.

“It’s not really that bad.  It’s more teasing about my ADHD than being gay, and I can ignore that.  I’ve heard it all for years.  I try to laugh it off, and that works pretty well.”

“So, no real bullying.  Like at the mall?”

“Not on the bus.  That guy in the mall?  His name is Grady Thoms.  He is a bully.  I told you about him.  I just try to stay away from him.”

“And no one stands up for you when he’s around?”

“Well, that one kid you saw, Gary, tries to, but everyone’s afraid of Grady.  He’s got a temper and a quick trigger.  I was sure I was going to get it in the mall until you guys showed up.”

Jake was shaking his head.  “And he leaves you alone at school?”

“He doesn’t want to get kicked off the football team.  Fighting gets you suspended or expelled depending on the circumstances— and also banned from any athletic activities.  So, he’s careful there.  He’ll bump me in the halls if there are no teachers around and say things, but that’s about all.”

Jake smiled.  “Maybe I’ll have to have a talk with Mr. Thoms.”

“Nick, no!  He’s too big and too mean and loves to fight.  You’ll get hurt.”

“Maybe.  But maybe your school needs to be a safer place for you.  We’ll see.” 

=  =  =

When they got back to Mr. Scott’s house it was past lunchtime.  Mr. Scott was gone.  He’d left a note saying he’d be back before dinner.  He’d also left some sandwiches and chips on the table for the boys.

After eating, Jeremy asked, “Nick, swimming again?”

Jake nodded.  This time, he didn’t bother with a bathing suit. 

=  =  =



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