(Takes place during the months of October to December 1992)
The third time started during a fire drill. The school was almost completely evacuated when Travis jerked his arm, nodding towards the parking lot. Jonathan arched an eyebrow, asking, “You want to skip school?”
He glanced over at Chad, who stepped closer to them, saying quietly, “Tomorrow’s a teacher in-service day. Ain’t none of ’em gonna give us a test today. Let’s go hang out at Travis’ house, have a beer, watch some football.”
“I can’t. Who would be here to watch out for David?” Jonathan scanned the crowd, looking for a beloved gold head.
Travis laughed. “He’ll be watched out for, Shea. You got my word.”
“How?” Jonathan demanded to know, but his friends took hold of his arms and backed out of the crowd to join the others in the student parking lot. Once they got to his car, Travis grinned at him, calling over his shoulder, “Follow me to my house!”
Jonathan rolled his eyes, unlocking his door and opening it only to stop dead in his tracks. David laid stretched out across the seat, his head propped on the palm of one hand. Jonathan shook his head, unable to fight the pull of his heart. Getting into the car, Jonathan reached for his boyfriend, elated when strong fingers grabbed both sides of his jacket and yanked him down for a hard kiss. David’s hoarse words struck Jonathan’s heart as those incredible blue eyes found his amber ones and held them captive, “I feel so lost… so adrift… without you. I need you.”
A horn honking lifted Jonathan’s spirits, and his lips in a wicked grin. “Wanna be bad?”
David’s shiny lips curled in a lazy smile. “I only ever wanna be bad with you.”
Stealing another kiss, Jonathan sat up and nodded at Travis as he jammed the key into the ignition, turning over the engine. Glancing down at David, he whispered, “Stay down.”
David nodded, playing with his hair as he watched Jonathan. “I can’t believe we’re actually living a Romeo and Juliet kind of life, can you?”
“No,” Jonathan groused, following Travis and Chad. “I really can’t. We’ve never been parted like this before and I swear to you, babe, I will never let something like this happen to us again.”
“Remember the kisses at Wesleyan?” David shifted in his seat, carefully wriggling until he’d completely switched ends and leaned his gold head against Jonathan’s leg. “I’ve been thinking about that night with you so much these past few weeks.”
Jonathan slid his hand into David’s warm hair as his smile grew wider. “I keep thinking about falling asleep with you, our bodies still slick from lovemaking, and I can feel your heart pounding next to mine.”
David pressed a kiss to Jonathan’s leg, rubbing it with one hand. “I can’t wait until the day you never have to take me home.”
Jonathan sighed. “Me, either. Looks like we’re almost to Cap’s house.” He ran his fingers through David’s hair as they pulled into Travis’ driveway. The four of them exited the vehicles and hurried into the house. Minutes later, Jonathan laid David back on the couch in Travis’ media room and tugged a blanket over them as he fell into his arms. He knew he couldn’t stop kissing David if his life depended on it… and when it naturally progressed into a powerful lovemaking, Jonathan memorized the feel of their bodies sliding against each other, the taste of David’s tongue, the friction caused by David’s dick rocking against his own.
“I’m here—oh, please don’t stop!”
Jonathan pressed his face into the crook of David’s neck, biting down as he sped up his pace… and seconds later, lost in an ever-deepening kiss as David cried out in his mouth. His boyfriend’s nails dug into his hip and back as he arched, breaking the kiss to gasp as he hit hard. His tremors became Jonathan’s own as release neared and Jonathan clung to David as sacrosanctum crashed over them—
Day Before Thanksgiving
Jonathan tugged his knees up to his chest, holding close the precious gift given to him at school. He’d started to pour through it the second it had been transferred to his hands via the Mail Drop. Chad, like both their coach and Jonathan’s mother, had noticed Jonathan’s weight loss, and decided he and Travis had to help. They created a Mail Drop using Travis’ locker (he shared Chad’s on the second floor since most of his classes were on the second floor). After lunch, Chad spent much of his time on the third floor, so he’d check his locker for Jonathan’s morning love letters and put a book or two in there to cover the pick-up. He’d pass the letters to David in the halls and by the end of the day, Jonathan would have his replies.
David’s written words and poetry were all that really sustained him since Elisha had told Jonathan’s dad about the last time. Everything in his life had become affected since that trust had been severed: his grades were slipping, his guitar sat on its stand collecting dust, and his appetite left entirely. Disallowed the privilege of driving the Suburban, his mother now picked him up from school, but he made no conversation on the drive and from the moment he arrived home, Jonathan made a home in the silent dark. He showered by the light from the bathroom window, then went to his room and laid down on his bed, and he never joined them at the table. He didn’t sleep well, and oftentimes when he did find rest, his dreams centered on David and ended in a nightmare made up of his worst fear: David always died at the end.
Jonathan was never able to get to him in time, always reaching him as he took his last breath.
Closing his eyes, he focused on the words given him that day, unaware at first that his door opened. His mattress shook, and Jonathan lifted his head to see Cody crawling onto his bed. Reaching an arm out, Jonathan gathered his little brother close, kissing his blonde head.
“Mama and Daddy fighting?” Jonathan asked Cody, who nodded.
“I’m sorry, little brother. This is all my fault… all of it.” Jonathan sniffled, ruffling Cody’s hair. “I wish I could fix me, make me better, but—”
“You wouldn’t have David if you did that, and you know it. That’s not septical, Jonny.” Cody rolled onto his side to face his big brother. “You and David would be torture-ified. It’s not right and it’s not fair. You just love him like Mama loves Dad. How’s that bad?” Cody pushed his face into Jonathan’s chest, breaking down into tears. “What if Dad hates me because I end up liking a boy?” he whimpered.
Jonathan curled around Cody, tears for his brother mixing into the tears he cried for himself and David. Cody was right: it wasn’t acceptable to feel this way. Not for him, and definitely not for his little brother. He held Cody tightly, pushing his own face into the boy’s shoulder, whispering, “Dad could never hate you, Cody. Nobody could. It’s like Dave says all the time, you’re the stuff sunshine’s made of!”
“He also says that you’re the bee’s knees, baby boy,” their mother said from the door, a smile on her face. “It’s because my boys are the best and most wonderfulest people in the whole world.”
Cody launched himself from the bed into her arms and Abby caught him, rocking him as she shushed and reassured him. “Love my Cody-bug. Ain’t nobody ever going to be able to not love my Cody-bug.”
“Love you, too, Mama!” Cody tugged his head from her neck to say something, and Abby took the opportunity to cover his face in kisses, making him giggle, the familiar mirth his mother elicited from his little brother giving Jonathan’s heart a lift.
“Whyn’t you go get your shoes on and I’ll get your brother up and we’ll go get an early dinner and dessert from Stardust?” Abby suggested, both she and Jonathan startling at the squeal of excitement bursting from the wriggling boy in her arms. She laughed as he ran to his room a moment later and she moved across the room to sit down on the edge of Jonathan’s bed. “Baby boy… my heart hurts as I watch you stumble through each day, and I know your pain is raw, but Jonathan, you have to start eating. You can’t keep doing this to yourself. It’s not good for you and how does it benefit David if you weaken yourself?”
Jonathan shifted in his bed, putting his head in Abby’s lap. “Don’t we have church tonight?”
“Don’t change the subject on me. Your dad is going to a deacon’s meeting, but I have pies to make for Thanksgiving tomorrow. If you remember, your cousins and aunt and uncle are coming tomorrow afternoon.” She ran her fingers through his hair. “I want you to ponder on a message I came across during my daily devotion this morning, okay, baby?”
He nodded against her leg. “Yes, Mama.”
Her voice softened as she murmured words of hope from Paul the Apostle. “Second Corinthians 4:16-18 is its physical address for your reference later. Paul has this to say about hope in his letters to the Corinthians: Therefore we do not lose heart. Outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly, we are renewed each day. For our light and momentary troubles achieve for us an eternal glory which far outweighs them all. We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what can be seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
“He’s not talking about love, Mama. He’s talking about Christ—”
“Jonathan Abraham Shea, he’s talking about struggle, about pain like you’ve never known—pain like yours—and he’s saying that it will get better. Don’t lose hope. This isn’t the end. This house arrest won’t last forever—”
Jonathan lifted his face, looking up at Abby. “Mama, he said ‘my son will never date another boy.’ I do believe he’s thinking about making it last forever.” He sighed heavily. “I didn’t even get to see David on my birthday. Heck, he wouldn’t even let me have a birthday party for my one and only eighteenth birthday.” Jonathan laughed, but the sound held no joy. “I didn’t even get a birthday card from him. I mean, I guess I should be grateful that he remembered to wish me happy birthday when he dropped me off at school that day.”
She cupped his face. “What do I always tell you, baby? What do I always say when things get rough?”
“This, too, shall pass. You always say it’s from the Word, and I always tell you that Confucius said it,” Jonathan answered, blinking back tears.
“Whoever said it, baby boy, it’s true. It won’t always be like this. It won’t always hurt so bad that you think you won’t withstand it, because if you and David are meant like I think you are, like you think you are, like he thinks you are—if you are, then you’ll look back at this dark time and you’ll realize then how strong I know you to be now.” Her dark eyes searched his amber ones. “How strong he knows you’ve always been.” She smiled, pushing his hair over his ears. “Can I point something out to you?”
“Ever wonder why David wanted to change his eye color to the one you told me?” Abby smiled softly, tracing his ear with a fingertip.
“All the time. I can’t understand why he’d wanna change that gorgeous blue to anything else. It’s still my favorite color,” Jonathan answered, his voice hoarse.
“I’ll tell you why, baby, and it’s going to blow your mind.” Abby pressed a kiss to his temple as she pulled him into her arms. “Because your eyes—the ones you got from your grandpa—they’re his favorite color. He wanted to see the world through your eyes.”
Jonathan pushed his face into her soft chest as the pain became too much for him to contain, and he broke a little more. Abby held him tightly, whispering, “I know she’s not your favorite singer, baby boy, but the girls at work listen to her album all the time—Sheryl Crow? They played this song today, and it was called “I Shall Believe”. I bought the album on the way home from work just so you could listen to the words.” Pulling back to look at his face, tears slipped down her own cheeks. “Oh, baby… hold on for me. Just a bit longer. I have faith that He doesn’t give us more than we can handle. I have faith that you are strong enough to weather this, and I have faith that David can weather this storm with you.”
Jonathan sniffled, dragging the heels of his hands over his eyes. “I will listen to it and Mama, I’ll do better. I promise.”
Tuesday Night Music Club would remain forever the only Sheryl Crow album Jonathan would ever own, and only two songs on the album would ever be played. “Strong Enough” would be David’s song for him later on, but “I Shall Believe” was Jonathan’s song for the remainder of the time they were kept apart.