13-year-old Neil Swenson has lived a life of restriction, sadness and denial.
Now, he's moved to Mississippi and is hoping things change.
Tory was amazed things had progressed to where they were. He’d been so reluctant, afraid really, to tell Neil how he felt, but doing so had felt good, and the result was more than he could ever have hoped for. Neil had the same sorts of feelings he did!
But he knew he couldn’t rush into doing the things he wanted to do. Neil seemed a bit like a timid butterfly to him. Tory had to be careful. He could tell; when he told Neil that he didn’t want to just let their enthusiasms take control, that they should go step by step with each being in control, not letting their urges run the show, Neil had relaxed. And he himself thought that was good, too. He was as new to this as Neil was, and while he felt he was more prepared for this adventure, perhaps even more eager for it, how could he be sure?
“Who wants to go first?” Tory said, and then giggled. Not that it was funny, though there was a tinge of humor involved. No, it was more a giggle of excited anticipation.
A brief hesitation, and then, “You can,” Neil said, his shyness fully evident in his voice.
Tory didn’t need to be asked twice. With both boys on their backs, it was easy for Tory to reposition himself slightly, then lean so his face was over Neil’s. In the dim light coming through the window, Tory looked into the boy’s face, seeing his fear, his excitement, and Neil’s singular appearance that affected him so. Then he focused on Neil’s lips, fuller than his own, redder, softer-appearing. Tory slowly lowered his head, bringing his own lips closer and closer.
Then they touched Neil’s, and there Tory stopped. He held steady there with his lips just against Neil’s. He waited for a few seconds, then made a tiny puckering and kissing motion with them, and pulled back, looking into Neil’s eyes.
What he saw was the fear leave Neil’s face and be replaced by wonder. Which increased Tory’s ardor tenfold.
He moved down again, this time licking his own lips to moisten them before contact. When they touched Neil’s, he again used no pressure at all, but this time slowly rotated his face so his lips moved around on Neil’s.
Neil inhaled sharply. Tory increased the pressure of his lips on Neil’s slightly, then actually kissed him, fully pursing his lips, sucking in gently, encompassing Neil’s lips with his. He held this for a moment, then pulled back. He started to lift the upper part of his body from Neil’s when he realized he had allowed himself to partly slide onto the smaller boy, pressing Neil down onto the bed. But he found simply lifting himself up wasn’t possible. As soon as he started to pull back, Neil’s arms snaked around him and held him fast.
Tory grinned. Neil was enjoying this as much as he was.
Tory wet his lips again and touched them to Neil’s, who sighed in satisfaction. Tory shifted his lips again, touching all surfaces of Neil’s lips smoothly and sensuously. After doing that thoroughly, he quickly withdrew from Neil’s lips, kissing other parts of Neil’s face, only to immediately return to his lips.
Then he got bolder. While again kissing Neil’s lips, he flicked out his tongue and touched it to Neil’s lips, pulling it back as soon as it made contact. Then he did it again. And again.
Neil was writhing under him now and making small mewling sounds. This writhing was causing his body to move more and more underneath Tory’s. Tory had been hard ever since the kissing had begun, and now Neil had managed to slide entirely under him, Tory having to prop himself up on his elbows to allow this. That meant both boys now could feel the hardness of the other against his own.
Tory’s tongue was dancing on Neil’s lips; Neil did what came naturally: he opened his lips wider. Tory didn’t need more encouragement than that. He plunged his tongue inside Neil’s mouth. It was warm and wet, and Tory thought he’d gone to heaven.
Tory moved his tongue in and out, in and out, and suddenly realized his and Neil’s hips were mimicking the motion. It was as though every nerve in Tory’s body was alive and feeling things he’d never felt before, as though his body had taken over from his brain.
Tory stopped the in-and-out with his tongue and began to explore instead. He slid his tongue gently down in front of Neil’s lower teeth, feeling how smooth they were, and the bumpiness of his gums where they met his bottom lip. He tested the roof of Neil’s mouth, the hard palate and the soft and then explored the area between Neil’s upper teeth and his gum, clicking the hard webbing at the top by moving his tongue rapidly back and forth against it. Then he circled all around Neil’s upper teeth. He pressed against both cheeks, then used the flat of his tongue to feel all around the insides of both.
All the time, Neil kept moving his hips against where Tory’s hips were pressing against his. His thrusting was beginning to feel more urgent to Tory. Tory removed his tongue, then rolled off Neil. He found that he was panting. His lips felt sensitive, and he was harder than he could ever remember being.
He heard Neil moan, sounding almost in anguish. “Why did you stop?” Neil asked. He was panting, too.
“I didn’t want to,” Tory said. “I wanted to keep going, just like you did. But if I had, you know what would have happened. And then, you might have regretted it and not trusted us to do things like this—controlled things—again. Not right away at least. We had a plan, remember? We were going to do one thing at a time. We were going to learn what kissing was all about. I guess we both learned that it’s a whole different thing than when someone kisses us on the cheek!”
Neil nodded, still out of breath, and then, as if realizing Tory wouldn’t see that, said, “It was amazing. And you’re right, we weren’t going to do more than kiss. It was like I wasn’t able to stop myself. It felt like…like…” He took a deep breath, then sighed. “I never felt anything like that before.”
“Me, too,” Tory agreed. “But, you know what?”
“Now it’s your turn.”
Tory knew almost as soon as Neil was on top of him why the boy had been moving his hips as he had. Tory too found himself unable to resist the need to do that. And since his focus was on what Neil was doing with his tongue, it was basically an automatic response. He didn’t fight it; he moved his hips, forcing himself against Neil just the way Neil had done to him.
Neil was experimenting with his lips, and Tory lay back in wonder. Soft, firm, open-mouthed, closed, with tongue, without, Neil was keeping Tory busy with new sensations every second. Neil even discovered something Tory hadn’t. He took Tory’s lower lip between his teeth and pulled on it, then gently shook it.
At that point Tory became a less passive kisser than Neil had been. He began using his tongue, sometimes battling, sometimes caressing Neil’s tongue as it entered his mouth. It was a whole different feeling and just as exciting as everything else they were doing.
When Neil’s tongue was exploring his mouth, Tory made his lips into an O-shape and gently sucked. Neil squealed, then pushed his tongue even farther into Tory’s mouth, and his hips ever harder into Tory’s hips.
Tory made a sound, an urgent and impassioned sound, and Neil stopped, then rolled off. Both boys were again panting. There didn’t seem to be enough oxygen in the room.
They were quiet for several moments before Tory spoke. “When we had sex ed, the teacher said that masturbating is normal, that basically all boys do it. My dad talked to me about it when I was nine when I didn’t even know what it was and told me not to, saying that the Bible preached it was wrong. But at school they said boys do that, that it’s normal, and I decided my dad was wrong. Well, maybe old fashioned. That’s a nicer way to put it. But, either way I say it, I knew he was wrong, and I’ve been doing that. I need to do it now. I have to do it now!”
He paused, and Neil was silent. He’d hoped that Neil would talk about this, but even in the state he knew Neil was in, the boy’s shyness prevented that. OK, he thought, I’ll just do the talking.
“What I want to know is, do you do that? Jerk off? We call it jerking off here. We could do it together, or not, but…I need to, and I’ll go into the bathroom if it would embarrass you. I don’t want to embarrass either of us. But I need to do this, and if we keep kissing like we were, pretty soon now there’ll be more than kissing happening.”
He stopped then and waited. He wanted to know what Neil was thinking but didn’t want to force him to talk. So, he waited.
Neil finally spoke. “My father says sex is evil and I should resist having anything to do with it. But I’ve been deciding more and more that I can’t live by the things he believes. I have done that, what you just said. Not very often because I can’t get everything Father says out of my head, but sometimes… Sometimes it seems like my body just has to, and then I do it. I need to do it now, too. As much as you do.” He giggled. “Maybe more!”
Tory felt greatly relieved. “OK, then I’m going to. Is it all right if I do it here? Right here? Next to you?” Without waiting for Neil’s answer, he pushed down his boxers, then lay back.
Neil was right next to him. Tory saw Neil look at him, seem to look again, and then tug his briefs down and off.
Both boys took hold of themselves, lying next to each other, and did what boys do. It took both boys less than a minute to finish. Tory got a pair of sweat socks from his dresser, gave one to Neil and used the other himself to clean up. They both pulled their underwear back up, then lay back down. Tory said, “I guess we didn’t entirely follow our lesson plan, huh?”
Neil giggled. “No, but I still think that was a good idea. We should continue using the plan. Maybe when we do other stuff—learn about other stuff—we’ll probably end up doing this, too. So, maybe we should modify the plan to include this! Teachers probably change their plans according to the needs of their students.” He giggled. “That’s what this was, fulfilling the students’ needs! But, this was good. Maybe doing this after the other things each time will help me get over being so shy. Right now, I don’t feel shy at all! Anyway, I hope you feel as good about what we did tonight as I do.”
“Maybe more,” Tory chuckled. “Now I’m ready to sleep.”
“Me, too,” Neil said, and then rolled over so his back was to Tory. Tory was surprised at this and couldn’t help but feel disappointed, until Neil wriggled back and pressed his back against Tory. Then Tory smiled, rolled over so his front was against Neil’s back and draped his top arm over him. They both were asleep almost immediately.
Tory and I came down late for breakfast, something Father probably would have spoken to me about rather sharply, but he wasn’t back yet, so nothing at all was said. Tory’s dad was off to work, and his mother just smiled at us and made pancakes with butter and warmed syrup and tasty little sausages and tall glasses of cold milk.
I might just like staying here! All I ever had had in Sala was cold cereal.
My father came back early in the afternoon. He said he’d been hired! The bishop had liked him and told him they needed a man as a roving, fill-in pastor and that the people in the various churches he’d be working in needed some shaking up, that there’d been a lot of backsliding going on. Not all the pastors were strict enough, in the bishop’s opinion, and my father would fit in just fine.
I liked the idea. The more he worked around the area and away from the house he was renting, the more time I could spend with Tory. And spending time with Tory was something I was really looking forward to. A lot.
And I don’t just mean in bed. But that was pretty nice, too.
Tory showed me around the area where he lived. There were open fields and pretty farms and pastures. I saw lots of horses. Seemed to me Tory was a horse nut, because he walked up to many of the fields where I could see horses grazing. Often, some of the horses came over to greet him and be petted. Tory had brought a sackful of carrots with him this time, which I’d thought strange when he loaded it up in the kitchen, but then I saw why he’d done that. When the horses came over to him, he broke the carrots into smaller pieces, then held his hand out with a piece of carrot in it, and the horses snuffled them up. I was scared at first, thinking about those huge teeth and how much it would hurt if they’d take his hand, too, along with the carrot, but they didn’t.
I watched this a few times, and then he said, “You try it, Neil.”
I wished he wouldn't keep doing that, pretending to think I was brave like he was. He knew I wasn’t. I’d only been with him a day and a half, but he knew a coward I was. He had to have seen that. Why did he keep asking me to do things like this?
“I can’t,” I said, and after I said it, I could see the compassion he seemed to feel so often when talking to me.
“Can too,” he said. “You trust me, don’t you?”
“Of course, Tory.”
“Then you know I wouldn't ask you to do something that would hurt you. I want you to stop being afraid of these guys. I want them to be your friends. Look, just do what I do. Hold your hand flat, fingers out straight in front of you, not curled up. She’ll put her nose, actually her lips, down onto your hand to get the carrot. Her lips will touch your hand and tickle. Don’t pull your hand away! Some horses then will try to get the carrot before it disappears. Just hold your hand steady, and she’ll take it. She takes it with her lips, not her teeth. Come on! You’ll like it, once you do it.”
He fed another carrot to the horse, which seemed gentle and patient. She made a loud munching sound, though, chewing that carrot, and I could imagine it being my fingers she was munching.
Tory gave me a challenging stare, then smiled, a smile I couldn’t resist, and so I tried it. The smile was my downfall; I think I’d do anything for that smile. I screwed up my courage and held my hand out, fairly sure it would be bitten. The hardest thing was holding it there without jerking it away, because the horse’s lips did rub against it. But she took the carrot, and didn’t bite me at all. And he was right. It was pretty cool.
The second carrot I fed her, I didn’t even flinch.
We kind of wandered around. We walked to Roselle, where we found some boys playing a pick-up game of basketball. Tory knew them, and they wanted us to play. Tory looked at me, and I shrugged. So we joined the game. I’d played basketball just a little bit in Sala, and these boys were better than I was, but it didn’t make any difference. They were just having fun, and Tory and I did, too. When they saw I wasn’t very good, they didn’t even try to block my shots. They let me shoot, and I even made a few baskets. Not often, not many, but I really did make some. Tory cheered when I did, and, surprisingly, so did the other boys. I blushed. I couldn’t help it. But I was happy.
We found a shop that sold ice-cream cones, and we each had one. I got vanilla. Tory got strawberry ripple and chocolate-mint surprise. Well, he was a lot more adventurous than I was. Maybe next time I’d try something with chocolate in it.
When we got back to the house, we’d missed lunch, but with the ice cream, and having had pancakes for breakfast, I didn’t mind at all. Father was there and told us about getting the job, and the bishop wanting him to start right away filling in at a church up north a ways. I tried not to look too enthusiastic about him being gone, but it was hard to keep from showing my emotions. This meant I could remain at the Edgertons’ house! Mrs. Edgerton said so! She told Father I was no trouble at all, that I loved her cooking, and that they’d be happy to have me whenever he needed them to look after me.
Father thanked them, then told me to come with him, he’d take me back to the house he was renting and I could pick up all my clothes so he wouldn't need to be dragging me back and forth all the time; he said it looked like maybe I’d be spending more time with the Edgertons than with him.
I tried to look unhappy about that. I don’t think I did a very good job, but he was driving and not looking at me, so it didn’t make any difference. He told me to remember everything he’d taught me and continue with my prayers and Bible studies. That advice didn’t make any difference, either, but I didn’t tell him that.
Touching. That was the lesson we decided on that night.
Getting undressed was still embarrassing but not nearly as difficult as the previous night. We both knew what to expect now and both of us were hard before our pants even hit the floor. But Tory was grinning at me, and I was grinning back. Already I was breathing fast, almost panting.
I was to take the lead tonight. He’d gone first with the kissing and said I should go first with the touching. He’d said he wanted us both to know what the rules were we’d be following and asked if I wanted to keep the touching above the waist, or did anything go?
I really wanted to say the latter, but was too embarrassed to, and it sort of scared me, so I said above the waist, and he said that was fine. Even his eyes seemed accepting. I was afraid I’d disappoint him, but I didn’t see that in his face at all. I only saw how excited he was. His cheeks were flushed. And he was breathing fast, too.
We lay down in the bed facing each other, and I told him to lie on his back. Bossy me. He grinned and wriggled flat.
His boxers were pushed way out, but I stopped looking down there. I looked at his beautiful neck and shoulders and chest and stomach instead. And his arms and hands. I reached out and ran my fingers down his arms, feeling the skin, marveling at what he felt like.
He shivered. I laughed.
He stopped when I touched his shoulders before I flattened my hands against the skin of his chest just below his shoulders. I softly rubbed, feeling its texture, and slowly moved down so both hands were covering his chest but just barely touching it, brushing it, putting barely any pressure on his nipples. I then pressed a little harder, let up and then pressed again. Then I took my hands away and with my fingertips just rubbed only the nipples themselves, which grew larger and harder. He groaned.
I slowly moved to his stomach, softly brushing the skin, doing what I wanted to do and what excited me. The skin there was soft and appealing. I brushed it and then moved my hands up his sides, feeling his ribs, then continued up to his armpits. There was just a little soft downy hair starting to grow there. I played with it a moment, then went back to lightly touching him all over. Above the waist.
He was sort of raising and lowering his hips now and moving his head back and forth. His eyes were closed. I saw that and moved in and, when his face was dead center on the pillow, put my lips against his.
I kissed him, deeply, my hands roaming over his chest and stomach. He moaned louder.
Then he sat up suddenly. “My turn,” he said, and it was almost a growl.
“Did I do OK?” I asked, surprised by his sudden movement.
“If you’d done it any better, I wouldn't have had to do what comes last,” he said, and I broke out laughing, the way he sounded. He was so serious, so turned on, and I’d done that, just touching him. I’d done it. Me. I loved it!
Then he did it to me, and I understood. It was as much a turn-on as the kissing. Then, after touching and patting and petting and rubbing me with all kinds of different touches, he began kissing me and…wow!
Tory thought of something that hadn’t occurred to me. He ran his fingers through my hair and then leaned down and put his nose into it and sniffed. He did that again and again and moaned, telling me he loved how my hair smelled. Then he sniffed my chest and neck and told me how my smell turned him on. My smell! I could hardly imagine, except I liked his, too!
He combined the kissing with the touching after that. He’d rub a nipple, then kiss it, using a lot of tongue action. He’d lightly use his fingertips on my stomach, then kiss where he’d touched. He’d trail his fingers up my side, then kiss all the way up, too.
I now knew what his words meant when he’d suddenly sat up. We’d got to that point too quickly and not quickly enough. We were both panting, and then, when we did what we both had a desperate need to do, it was incredible.
He kissed me, and I kissed him back before settling down to sleep. I slept even better than the night before, I guess. I know I felt safe and loved, and those were two things I’d missed ever since Mom had died. I didn’t feel scared at all.
At breakfast, a week later, Tory kept grinning at Neil. He saw Neil catch him at this and just grinned more broadly. Mrs. Edgerton had made them ham-and-cheese omelets, accompanied by hash browns and crisp bacon, and Neil kept raising his head from his food to see Tory’s eyes steadily focused on him.
“What?” Neil finally asked, and Tory thought he was choking back a laugh. Tory loved the effect he could tell he had on Neil. The boy would look so happy when Tory simply smiled at him! Tory had to work hard not to be constantly breaking out into laughter, seeing this. But he knew it would just make Neil blush, just as he knew that the boy was ashamed of his blushing. “What?” Neil repeated.
“What we’re going to do today,” Tory answered. “Just thinking about it makes me smile.”
“What is it?” Neil asked, his voice conveying suspicion. Tory often heard that suspicion, that self-doubt. He wondered what Neil had experienced in his life to cause him such uncertainty, such reserve, such worry.
Tory sat back in his chair, taking away any reason for Neil to be suspicious because of his body language. “I made a telephone call this morning while you were in the shower. We’re all set.”
“Set for what?”
Tory, being secretive, tended to drive Neil crazy, as Tory well knew by now. Tory was careful not to do this very often, as he didn’t want Neil scared about dealing with what was going on around him. Tory had witnessed Neil being nervous when he didn’t know what was coming, when he had no control over what was happening at all. He wanted Neil to trust him. One way Tory could encourage that was to tell Neil what was planned so he could prepare himself for it. Tory was a spontaneous sort of kid. Neil was not. But Tory wanted today to be a surprise—hopefully, a delightful one.
“I don’t want to see,” Neil said. “I want to know in advance.”
Tory frowned and shook his head. “We’ll have fun. You need to trust me.”
Neil frowned, too, but Tory ignored it. Tory had been consistent: if he wasn’t going to tell something in advance, he wasn’t. Neil simply had to get used to that. So far, it had worked out fine.
They finished breakfast, and Neil thanked Mrs. Edgerton, asking if he could help with the dishes. She’d been cleaning up the kitchen as the boys had been eating and talking. She’d listened in as she’d been doing all week. Every now and then, she’d smile, making sure her back was to Tory.
“No time for that, Neil. We’ve got to go.” Tory was already at the door. “See ya later, Mom. We’ll be at the Towneses.”
He was impatiently holding the door open. Mrs. Edgerton grinned at Neil. Tory couldn’t help but be happy for the way she treated Neil. She seemed to really like him. “That’s OK, Neil. Go have fun. That’s how summers are supposed to be for boys your age—a time for fun. But thanks for volunteering.”
They left the house, immediately feeling free, immediately managing to bump shoulders as they walked away from the house. Tory was unaware that his mother was watching them and remained doing so till they were out of sight, or what the expression on her face was.
They walked out into the late-morning sun. Tory yawned, and then Neil did, too.
“Get enough sleep?” Tory asked, his amusement not well-hidden in his voice. They’d been up late the previous night reviewing lesson plans.
“Plenty! I’m not used to getting as much sleep as we’ve been getting,” Neil said. “I never was able to sleep as much as I do with you. My father always got me up just because he himself was up. It never made any sense to me, but that was my father’s way.”
“You’re freer here than back in Sweden, aren’t you?” Tory was looking at Neil as he often did—with compassion in his eyes.
“I love it here,” Neil said.
Tory was loving his own life now, too. He suddenly had what he’d wanted since he’d been ten: a boy to share his feelings and passions with. He was now sure he was gay. He’d thought so for some time, but now he was sure. And he was pretty sure, too, that he was falling in love with Neil. He knew he was young—they both were—and knew both their fathers would do everything they could to separate the two boys if they found out, but he didn’t have much control over anything in his life at 13 and so didn’t worry. He’d enjoy what he had while he had it, and if there was any chance for it to last, he’d fight as hard as he could when the time came to do so. In the meantime, Neil was the best thing that had ever happened in his life.
But there was something that was puzzling Tory. His parents. His mother, but especially his father. He’d been so strict for years, but maybe because Neil had been with them, the man seemed to have softened. He spoke now without the rebuke in his voice it had usually carried before, and even the looks he gave Tory were more even-tempered. It all seemed strange, but Tory was a confident and not overly introspective boy and so just accepted it as something good without giving it too much thought.
“Where are we going?” Neil asked after they’d been walking down a country road for some time.
“To the Townes’ place.”
“Who are the Townes?”
“They’re a family that runs a stable where they give riding lessons, let people who own a horse or horses keep them there for a fee, and have horses for people to rent for trail rides.”
“So why are we going there? You know how I am with horses.” Tory could easily hear Neil’s old friends, his nerves, rearing their ugly heads.
Even though he’d got Neil to be able to feed horses standing the other side of a fence from him, he knew the boy was still nervous around them.
“They have six sons,” Tory replied, “and one of them, Marcus, is my friend. And I need to tell you something. Marcus is gay. His parents know and don’t care at all. Marcus is our age, and he has a boyfriend named Conner. Conner seems to be there all the time and even sleeps over a lot. Both of them are good guys. You’ll like them.”
They walked along in silence for a few minutes and then, suddenly, Neil looked up and said, “Hey. You didn’t answer my question!”
“Sure I did.” Tory’s protest sounded very innocent. “I told you where we we’re going and who we’ll be meeting.”
“Yeah, right. But you didn’t answer why we’re going there.”
Tory shook his head but was grinning. “OK, OK, you got me. We’re going there because today, you’re going to get on a horse.”
“What! No way!”
“You are. They have quite a few horses, and they’re used by people who haven’t ridden before. Marcus and Conner will select a very tame and gentle one for you, and you and I and those two will mount up. We’ll be right next to you, right at the start, and when we’re walking. It’ll be scary at first because it looks like you’re pretty high off the ground when you’re in the saddle for the first time, but you’ll get use to that, and you’ll have fun. We all will.”
“I can’t do that! I’ll be too scared, and those guys will see it and laugh at me!”
“Neil, they won’t! Do you think I’d put you in a situation like that? You know I wouldn’t. You’re going to like these guys, and you’re going to enjoy yourself. All you have to do is relax as much as you can and give it a chance. I’ll be right there with you. You’ll be OK. Trust me.”
Tory knew that Neil did trust him. Still, Neil was scared, Tory had known he would be and had decided simply to accept that. Tory knew Neil was used to being scared, and when he’d been scared before with Tory there, things had turned out OK. So, Tory decided this was just going to be one of those times, and that in the end, Neil would be happy. It was the best Tory could do.
Soon they were passing a broad pasture covered in dark-green grass that had several horses grazing in it. It was surrounded by white-railed fencing. Up ahead there was a large ranch house with stables off in the back. As they neared the house, they heard barking, and then a pretty beagle came bounding out and jumped up and down, barking her head off at Tory.
“Hey, Fritter,” Tory said, laughing and stooping down to pet the dog, which immediately rolled over on her back, inviting a belly scratching.
“Come and pet her, Neil,” Tory said.
“I don’t know. We never had a dog.”
“Well, you’ll like this one. She’s smart and can do a lot of things you tell her to do. And if you rub her belly, she’ll be your friend for life.”
Hesitantly, gingerly, Neil knelt down.
“Let her sniff your hand first. That’s always the way to meet dogs you don’t know.”
Neil stuck out his hand and let Fritter sniff it. She did, then licked it but at the same time wiggled some more, staying on her back. It was clear what she wanted.
Neil laughed. “She is friendly, isn’t she?” he said and then rubbed Fritter’s belly.
While he was thus engaged, he didn’t appear to notice two boys his size walking up to meet them. “I see she’s made a new friend,” the one in front said. His face was friendly and welcoming, helped by his short, reddish-blond hair and broad smile. “Hi,” he said to Neil. “I’m Marcus, and this is Conner, my best friend.”
Conner said hi, too. He was larger than Marcus, had dark, longer hair that looked like it had never met a comb, and his smile was just as warm as Marcus’s.
Conner, who was the largest of the four boys, threw his arm over Tory’s shoulders and said, “Tory hasn’t been here in a few days, which isn’t like him at all. He kinda lives here in the summer. He said we need to pick a real gentle horse for your first time up on one. We have the perfect one for you. Her name is Fescue. You’ll see how nice she is when you’re on her. She’ll take care of you. We all will.”
Tory could see curiosity in Neil’s eyes about why Conner was being so solicitous. He knew how sensitive Neil was, how worried he was about what people thought of him. Neil would be worried that Tory had told these boys about his fear of horses and would worry over what they’d think of him because of that.
Marcus seemed to be reading Neil’s thoughts, too. He said, “Everyone’s first ride is a little scary. Even men who haven’t ridden before feel nervous. Horses are big, and most everyone is a little intimidated by them at first. But because we get a lot of newcomers here, we’re used to helping people overcome that feeling. And in all the time we’ve been doing this, not one of them has ever had a problem. I think you’ll love riding. But, come on, the horses are saddled and waiting.”
I really was scared at first. Even though Fescue was as gentle as they said and stood perfectly still when they got me on her back, I was still really nervous. But when she started walking, it was as though she was paying attention to how I was sitting, and she adjusted her walk to keep me centered in the saddle and comfortable.
The other three looked so natural on their horses, I just knew they spent a lot of time there. What really impressed me, however, is that even though I could tell they were really good friends and loved to ride, they didn’t leave me for a second. They stayed right with me, and we all walked slowly together, and soon I forgot all about being scared. This was fun! I was high up, Conner had been right about that, but as I didn’t seem likely to fall off, I got used to it really fast, and it was cool.
They hadn’t said we were doing anything but riding, not going anywhere special, but our horses had been moving in the direction of the trees that bordered the back of the pasture. Eventually we arrived there, and Conner moved his horse, Peaches, out in front of the rest of us. I saw there was an opening in the trees and he had Peaches head for it. They entered the woods, walking on what turned out to be a well-used trail, and the rest of us followed. Fritter had come with us and raced ahead along the trail. She seemed to know where we were going.
It was cooler in the woods; I could see that’s what this was, not just a few trees on the edge of their pasture. The day had got hot—Mississippi in the summer was a lot hotter than Sweden—and being in the woods felt good. We walked for maybe ten minutes, and then I was surprised to see us come out of the woods with a lake in front of us. It was either a small lake or a large pond. I wasn’t sure what they called it. We had hundreds, probably thousands of these, in Sweden. This one was as pretty as any of those.
As I watched, the boys dismounted, and Tory walked over to me. “Do you need help getting down? By the way, you rode very well! Fun, isn’t it?”
I grinned at him. “Yeah, I wasn’t scared at all after we got going.”
“Good. And now, another surprise. Something else I didn’t want you worrying about.”
“What?” I asked.
“This,” he said, and pulled off his tee shirt.
I looked and saw the other two boys doing the same. Although, actually, they were further along with the undressing. Conner was already naked, and Marcus achieved that state as I watched. Then with a whoop, they both raced to the lake and jumped in.
“When I phoned them this morning, I asked if they wanted to go skinny-dipping. It was a rhetorical question; they always are ready to go skinny-dipping.”
He could read the expression on my face and softened his voice. “Neil, if you don’t want to go in, you don’t have to. But just like riding a horse, this is a lot of fun. More fun than the horse ride, even. And, nothing’s going to happen other than swimming and then lying in the soft grass while we dry off. Nothing. I know you’ve never been naked with other boys before, but you’d never done any of the things we’ve been doing, and I know you’ve liked what we’ve done. New things can be wonderful. Are you willing to try?”
I felt a little shocked and a little bit like I’d been ambushed. But I saw the other two boys in the lake, splashing each other and laughing, and then there were Tory’s eyes, imploring me to join in, and I thought, what’s the worst that can happen? Someone laughing at me? And somehow, I didn’t think any of these boys would do that. They seemed way too nice for that.
Tory asked, “You do swim, don’t you?”
“I’m from Sweden,” I said, and started taking off my clothes.
It was great! I had so much fun, I couldn’t believe it. Marcus and Conner were so friendly, it was like I’d known them for years. The water was much warmer than the lakes in Sweden, and swimming naked was so, so liberating! Being outdoors naked was the same. To think, other boys enjoyed this all over the world. I’d never even thought about it. It was wonderful.
My father would have told me I’d go to hell doing this. I pushed him out of my mind. I’d been doing that a lot lately. It was getting easier to do all the time.
There was an old rope swing that was wrapped around a thick branch of a tree that overhung the lake. The boys would run along the bank and swing out over the water and drop in, seeing who could get the highest in the air before letting go.
They had an inner tube, too, that they could float on, and when one would be happily drifting in it, the others would try to sabotage him. But mostly we just swam or floated in the lake, enjoying the water and the day and each other. When finally we were tired, we sat or lay in the grass on the bank and let the sun dry us.
Then I got another surprise. Conner walked back to his horse and took off the saddle bags he was carrying and brought them to where we were lying. He opened them up and started laying out containers. Turned out that they’d brought a picnic lunch for us! They had sandwiches and deviled eggs and chips and bananas and boxes of fruit juice.
We sat there on the grass and ate and joked with each other, and I couldn’t believe it: I was naked with three other boys, and it didn’t seem wrong at all. Not one of us was even hard! It seemed natural and not even something to think about. Of course I looked at them, and they probably glanced at me, but we were just four boys, all thirteen, and we looked like what we looked like, and that was that. For a boy who’d been protected from any and everything of this sort, it was a wondrous, amazing experience. How anyone could think what we were doing was wrong was beyond me.
The horses had been turned loose when we’d dismounted, and all of them were still there, munching the grass and drinking from the lake. We mounted again, eventually, me with a little help, and walked them back to the ranch house. As we passed the horses in the pasture, they lifted their heads to watch us pass, and one of them whinnied at us.
I’d been scared when I’d learned I’d have to get on a horse. Now I’d again been shown that another of my fears was senseless. Now, sitting on Fescue, with two new friends and totally free from any worry at all, the day seemed absolutely perfect.
The lesson that night was touching again—or Tactile Exploration of the Male Adolescent Form, Advanced Studies—according to Tory. The Advanced Studies part meant that this time, there’d be no restrictions about anything below the waist. I was still shy, but it didn’t take me long to forget all about that. I couldn’t believe the feelings I had with his fingers touching me, stroking me, massaging me, all over. He touched a lot more than my private places, but he touched me there, too, and the combination of it all was incredible. This was the sex my father said was so wrong. To me it felt so right!
I don’t know what was better, him touching me or me learning what every inch of his body felt like and how excited I could make him. Both giving and receiving the pleasures I discovered that night were things I doubt I’ll ever forget. We didn’t spend nearly as much time reaching the point where we each needed our release, but this time, we didn’t stop after that; we continued with our lesson. I don’t know how we lasted as long as we did, but I was so exhausted when we stopped that I fell asleep before even cleaning up. Tory told me in the morning that he’d done that for me and then had fallen asleep, too, and almost before he’d finished cleaning himself.
We both slept later than usual the next day, though I got up early in the morning to pee. On the way out of the room, I saw the door wasn’t totally closed, which was strange because Tory was always careful about it. By the time I was back in bed, I’d forgotten all about it and was back asleep in no time at all.
We were awakened by his mother knocking on the door, which I saw shut, telling us she had waffles ready and to come eat them or she’d feed them to the pigs. They didn’t have any pigs, but they did have two very awake teenagers because we didn’t even have the sheet drawn over us.
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