Finally, after all this time, after all of the pain and lonely nights, they were together. In that fleeting moment, they faced each other as they never had before. Their hands tightly interlocked. They struggled to hold onto their only prized possession. The world slowly faded away and they only saw each other. That kiss, that one rebellious and liberating kiss, set them free.They were both strangers in a new land when they first met. Both of them were pushed by their parents to move to Ohio for their freshman year at the renowned Archbishop Moeller High School. Chris came from the small harbor town of Searsport, Maine where Chris' mother owned a small crafts store. His father had died, when he was a newborn, in a capsized fishing boat caught in a surprise storm. Instinctively, Chris became everything to his mother, so she didn't hesitate to sell her business and move to Ohio when Chris was awarded the Catino Family Scholarship which provided full tuition to the elite high school. Chris was extremely bright and would be able to pursue any dream he had, especially acting, since the Moeller Theatre Department was the cream of the crop.Devin was the product of a sports obsessed, Silicon Valley CEO. Devin's father, John, was a star linebacker at Penn State University and was projected to be drafted in the first round of the National Football League draft until he broke his leg in the final bowl game of his senior year. John spent every free moment living vicariously through his son, relentlessly pushing him to have the career that he missed out on. When Devin was recruited to play for one of the best high school football programs in the nation, John never asked Devin's opinion, he quickly sold the stock in the sports website company that he founded and shipped the family out to Ohio. John even paid well over market value to purchase a home at the end of Timberknoll Drive, so that the back yard of his home overlooked the Moeller Crusaders football field. When Chris and Teresa, Chris always found it ironic that his mother was named Teresa because to him she was just as miraculous as her name sake, pulled up to their new home in their small U-Haul rental, a pristine moving company truck was just pulling out of the neighbor's house."We are finally here and it looks like we are not alone in being new to the neighborhood, baby," Teresa commented."We are not new to the neighborhood, Momma, we are always home, the neighborhood is new to us," Chris replied."I couldn't have put that any better myself. I love you Chris; this will be great for us.""Yeah, Yeah, I know. Let's see how we feel after unloading all of this stuff by ourselves."When they had all of the small boxes unpacked, it was time to move on to the big items. Chris, being all of 5'2" and 100 pounds (soaking wet), and Teresa, all of 5'5" and 110 pounds, struggled to muscle the couch down the ramp. Chris backed out of the truck and missed stepping onto the ramp, the couch crashed to the floor and Chris crashed to the driveway."Chris, are you okay honey?"Chris was dazed and struggled to focus his vision. A man stood over him, laughing innocently. Chris looked up, speechless, as he searched inside himself to explain his emotion."Do you think I can give you a hand with that, or do you like falling from the back of moving trucks?" said the boy, who wasn't a man after all, but sure had the physic of one."Oh, um, no, yes. Yes to the hand, no I don't like falling out of trucks," Chris said as he gripped the boy’s powerful hand."I'm Devin." Devin had the face of a fifteen year old, but a lifetime of being John's avatar created a body unlike any other fifteen year old. Devin stood almost a foot taller than Chris and was more than twice his weight, but even less body fat. Chris knew that he never really had an interest in girls; he assumed that was because he just wasn't ready for that. Now that he looked at Devin's bright green eyes, freckled high cheekbones, ridged jaw, and dimpled chin, an entirely new explanation was obvious.“Oh, um, hi, I’m, huh, I’m Chris, and this is my mom, um, Teresa.”“From somewhere up northeast with that accent, I guess,” said Devin.Teresa chimed in, “Why yes, the northeast, Maine to be exact, it’s nice to meet you Devin, and yes, we would love your help.”“Chris here looks a little too pretty to be moving furniture around. Just kidding Chris, you’re not pretty, cute, would be more accurate, cute like a chipmunk,” Devin said cheerfully.“Ha, ha, not funny,” Chris replied, with a grin that barely contained a smile.The move went much faster from that point on. They all bonded instantly, they liked Devin and Devin liked them. Chris spent the rest of the move discussing the loss of his father and why they moved from Maine. Devin spent the time listening to Chris and eventually opening up about why he moved from California and his father’s dreams of him being a football player. As it got dark and the moving truck was emptied, Chris and Teresa quickly finished up a pizza. They invited Devin to join them, but he insisted that pizza was not in dad’s diet plan. They went up to their rooms to organize the furniture so they could get some sleep. Chris dragged his desk around the room, attempting to find a place to his liking. He looked out of the window, across to Devin’s house. Their windows faced each other and Chris could see Devin in his room, moving furniture around as well.The choice became obvious and Chris moved his homework desk to face the window so it only took a slight glace to inconspicuously look across to Devin’s room. Devin looked out and saw Chris moving the desk to the window, waved at Chris, and held up a finger. Devin turned, walked out of view, and returned dragging his own desk to the window. Devin looked across and returned the beaming smile of Chris. The next morning, Chris was startled awake by an obnoxious yelling outside of his window. Devin’s father stood in the yard shouting for Devin to “push it, dig for it,” and a myriad of other things. No wonder Devin was so big. Chris stared with mischievous guilt for at least a half of an hour at Devin exercising, shirtless and sweaty. John had set up a painful looking course. A rubber belt was attached to the house with markings as to how far Devin powered through the resistance. A four foot tractor tire that after the 55th time that Devin flipped it, John beamed that it was almost his old record. Devin attached himself to a parachute and ran through the field, over and over. Devin put on odd looking shoes to squat jump and hit a tower that marked the height. At six in the morning, Devin was being run through a gauntlet, but he was like a machine, never once complaining or grimacing in pain. When John yelled, “time,” Devin picked up the hose and inhaled the water. He held the hose over his head and let the water run down his face to cool his body. Devin got that feeling that someone was watching him and looked up to see Chris gazing from his window. Chris didn’t realize it until Devin rolled his eyes, and smiled, but he was touching himself through his boxers as he watched Devin. As Devin continued to shake his head, Chris turned red, and dropped like a rock to hide below the window, like hiding could erase his embarrassment.Devin went back into his house and while mixing his protein shake, he wondered why he wasn’t the slightest bit bothered by what he had just caught Chris doing. He wasn’t quite sure why, but he was fond of the petite boy next door. Devin correctly assumed that Chris must have been hundreds of times more embarrassed then he was and decided to let Chris know it was okay. Devin went to the bathroom and took a picture with his cell phone in the mirror. He sent the picture to Chris’ cell with a note “Here’s a picture, it will last longer, :-), no worries, it’s all good.” He told himself that it was just a joke, but inside he knew it was a bit of a come on.Until football practice started, Devin and Chris were the best of friends. They opened up to one another like they never could with anyone else. Devin would talk about how his father was obsessed with sports and would treat Devin and his mother harshly whenever they spoke of Devin doing anything else. It was enough for John that Devin had become a running back instead of the linebacker that John was. Devin never wanted to move and attend Moeller, but his father never considered how his mother or he felt about it. Chris would talk about growing up without a father and the contrast to Devin having his father involved in every aspect of his life. He would confide in Devin his love of drama and how it got him constantly picked on and even beat up in middle school. Devin thought Chris was extremely lucky to have a parent that supported his dreams and cared about his wants and needs. Devin assured Chris that his days of being picked on or beat up were over, he would protect him.Football season and school quickly changed everything. During football, John would not allow Devin to be focused on anything not football. Chris would watch from his window as John went over game tapes with Devin in his room. Devin would occasionally turn to see if Chris was there and he always was. When Devin wasn’t studying football, he was with the other players or working out.In school, they did not have any of the same classes because Devin took easy classes to focus on football and Chris took college prep classes and drama electives. Devin was true to his word from summer and while they only had brief moments to talk between classes, he ensured that no one ever laid a hand on Chris. Devin couldn’t be there to always prevent the teasing, but everyone knew not to touch him.Almost every student at Moeller was involved in some sort of extracurricular activity, so the place was always busy. Often, drama club would end early and Chris would sit quietly in the bleachers watching Devin practice. He even went to every game for the off chance that Devin would play. Devin was the only freshman on the varsity team, a senior got most of the playing time except for when the Crusaders were winning handedly. Devin always noticed that Chris sat alone, in constant silent support, and would glance back to acknowledge that he noticed.It wasn’t until the next summer that they did anything together. Devin began to spend a few nights at Chris’ house when John was being too much to deal with. They played video games until sunrise and fell asleep side by side. They would go on walks, taking turns teaching each other their contrasting interests.It was on one of those walks that they discovered what became their “spot.” The far side of the school was a five story addition to the original school. Devin noticed that with a hop onto the dumpster they could pull themselves up to the overhang of the adjacent one story building, then work up to the roof of the addition. Up there, they would sit on the edge, above the parking lot, and watch the sunset.Their closeness that pre-sophomore year gave Chris the confidence to trust in his gut and address the tension in the air that was always around them. On the night before football practice would begin again, Devin spent the night playing video games with Chris. Devin loved playing Madden football and while he had all of the football knowledge, the quick button skills of a computer kid were tough to contend with. Chris scored a last second touchdown to win their final, winner take all, game of the summer. Devin tossed his controller in the air and pulled Chris into a headlock.“Ahhh, I can’t believe you would do that to me!” Devin laughed while dragging his knuckles across Chris’ hair in the classic “noggie.”“All of those muscles don’t make you better than me, pal,” Chris retorted, smothered by Devin’s arms.“I just don’t get it. I called the right defense; you don’t even know what the formations are. Ahhh, and you know I have a fragile ego, but you just go and treat me like that? I thought you loved me!” Devin said as he let Chris back up.Chris laughed and could not recall ever being happier at any moment of his life. He tossed his controller to the ground and looked Devin in the eye. “Dev, if there is anything in life that you should know without a doubt it is that I do love you with all of my heart.” Everything felt right, Chris mustered his courage and faith, and moved to press his lips to Devin’s as his body trembled ever so slightly from the intensity of the butterflies flapping in his stomach.Devin jumped back so hard that he fell from the edge of the bed with a resounding thud upon the floor.“Chris,” is all Devin could say as he looked up sheepishly.“I’m sorry. I don’t…” Chris was unable to say anything as his head fell along with his tears, “Just go Devin, just go.”Devin slowly collected his belongings and headed to the door. He turned and they spent a minute just looking at each other until Devin walked out of the door. When he plopped down on his bed, he looked out of the window, expecting to see Chris looking back, but the lights were out and no one was there. Devin felt as if just moments ago, he too had never been happier in his life, but now, through his own decisions, never felt more alone.Sophomore year came and went without a word between them. Devin became the pride of the school, the star running back. The senior had graduated and now all of the attention was on Devin. It seemed as though every game he was breaking another school record.Chris still made every practice that he could and never missed a game. He sat in the same far corner of the bleachers, next to the scoreboard, for every practice and every game. Devin would do nearly the same as he sat alone and watched every theatre event from the back row. When summer grew closer, they both hoped for and expected the silence to end.Instead, the silence persisted. Chris was still too embarrassed to speak with Devin and Devin was still too ashamed to seek forgiveness, while being too afraid to confront who he really was. Chris returned to watching Devin from his window and Devin found a certain level of comfort in knowing that he was still able to show off for Chris. It seemed as though things just never could return to the way that they were and they both missed the bond between them.Pride is a powerful thing and it kept them from doing the logical thing of confronting the issue and moving past it. Devin fell into the trap of being who everyone expected him to be. He soon found himself hanging out with the football team in almost every hour of the day. He played the part of the popular high school football star well. Devin for most popular, Devin for prom king, Devin for most likely to be famous, Devin meeting with the college scouts, Devin on T.V., Devin, Devin everywhere. Chris watched as all of this took place, as Devin changed his persona into the fake representation that Chris knew he despised. Theresa was able to set up a new craft store in town so Chris retreated into his safe zone, into the people and things he loved and loved him back. Whenever there was not a theatre event or a football game, Chris spent every moment helping his mother in the store. He had to fend off the occasional question from his mother about what happened with Devin, but other than that, Chris enjoyed giving back to the mother that had given so much to him.It wasn’t until the day before Devin’s last high school football game that anything changed. Devin’s father had arranged for a huge party at the McCloud residence. The football team, coaches, students, college scouts, and even the mayor were all there. Anyone who was anyone to Moeller football was there. The big event was the airing of Devin’s ESPN interview.Devin was rated the number one high school football player in the entire nation and everyone was clamoring to convince him to commit to their college. ESPN was even planning to televise his commitment choice live. Devin only needed a handful of yards and one touchdown to break just about every high school running back career record. It was huge publicity for the high school and they ate it right up.Chris watched the party from his window and the ESPN interview. There was something in watching Devin that made Chris decide to talk to him before it was too late. He was further convinced after painfully watching the pretty little cheerleader, with her phony smile, fake hair, and caked on make-up, kiss Devin long and hard after the party ended.Chris waited until after the final game where Devin got his records and the school celebrated for hours after the game. Most everyone had gone home when Chris came down from the back corner of the bleachers. Devin sat on the bench with a few players left hanging around. Chris walked up from behind, placed his hand on Devin’s shoulder and said, “Devin, it’s been too long, it’s time for ...” Chris was interrupted by the cheerleader who jumped into Devin’s lap and loudly said, “Back off, sweet hips, Devin’s all mine.” She then looked over to the group of players, “Hey boys, don’t you have a rule about, sally boys, being on your field?”The group turned and one said, “Yeah, no fags on the field, Sally.”They approached in unison before Chris could react to protect himself at all. They shouted just about every insult they could; Chris was thrown to the ground, punched, kicked, and slapped by all six of them. As the last of them stood over Chris, he looked to Devin and said, “Last day with the boys and last day on this field, protect your turf.”Devin turned and felt nothing about what the players were saying, but in that moment he blamed Chris for all of the pain that he still felt inside and gave a final kick to Chris’ stomach then walked away with the group. As Chris sat clearing the tears from his eyes, the dirt from his mouth, and the blood from his nose, he did not feel any of the pain of the beating, only the broken heart. He brushed himself off and went home to clean up. Chris still cared whether he wanted to or not, so when Devin still wasn’t home at three in the morning, he went looking for him in the only place he could be, their “spot.” He pulled himself up to the roof and saw Devin sitting on the edge as they used to do.“I thought I might find you here. It was nice being up here, wasn’t it?” Chris said startling Devin, who was deep in thought or maybe no thought at all, but he was somewhere else for sure.“Yeah, it was. It still feels like you are up here though.” As Chris sat next to Devin, it was clear that Devin had been up there for quite awhile. His face was crusted with wind dried tears that blended into fresh ones as Devin looked at the cuts and bruises on Chris’ face and hands. “I have been coming up here ever since we stopped talking. I have no idea how to apologize to you.”“You don’t have to. I know you didn’t really mean it. We can just sit here together.”“What was the first thing that I ever promised you, Chris?”“I don’t know. That I wouldn’t be picked on anymore?”“Yep, and not only did I break that promise, I hit you myself. I am so sorry. I have come to hate myself and I took that out on you.”“It’s hard to deal with. I understand that, especially with all of the pressures on you and the expectations that everyone has of you.”“I can’t do this anymore, I don’t even feel human.”“You are still you, still the you I love. Do you know how I know that?”“No.”“I watched that story about you with your interview last night and that’s what made me finally come talk to you. They made a big deal about your humility with success. They said that you were like Barry Sanders because whenever you scored a touchdown, all you did was hand the ball to the referee and look up at the score board. But, I know they had it all wrong. You never looked at that scoreboard, did you?”“Nope.”“That’s where I sat for every game. You were looking at me, weren’t you?”“Yep. Every time, just to see if you were still there and you always were, without exception.”“That means a lot to me and it let me know that you still care.”“Of course I care. Everyone sees me differently. I am being pushed in every direction to go to this college or that college. My father is constantly in every aspect of my life, molding me to be him, without a care about who I am. None of them care who I am, only you ever have. All they care about is what I can do on that football field. I just want out. I more than care about you Chris, I love you, always have.”Devin stood up and reached his hand down to Chris, who took Devin’s hand and was pulled up with ease. Devin gently brushed the back of his hand across Chris’ cheek and slid around to the back of his neck. He gripped the back of Chris’ hair in his fist and pulled Chris to him. Their lips met as all of the oxygen drained from the air in a release of the years worth of pent up passion. Chris felt Devin’s biceps quiver along with his entire body just like his had done years ago. “I love you Chris. I can’t be me and I can’t be what they expect.” Devin was barely able to get the words out as he struggled to breathe and tears streamed down his face. He held Chris’ hand softly, then let go. He never let his eye’s unlock from Chris’ as he stepped backwards off of the rooftop.Chris didn’t let out a sound as he stepped to the edge and saw Devin’s blood pooling under his head. There was only one place to be. Chris turned and slowly stepped backwards off of the ledge, landing next to Devin. There was no pain, as love consumed everything and they were free to try again in another life.
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