The Circle

 

Chapter 5

Toby's Leaving

 

six months ago

 

 

Toby and I had spent almost the entire week alone in that bedroom at his aunt's house, hiding in the cold confines against the summer heat outside. We occasionally left for various reasons, mostly for food to keep our energy up, but generally stayed in bed. I made sure Toby ate well, and too much, especially deserts. 

We did leave to go see "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "Things Are Tough All Over," and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" came back to play again and he got to see it. I had seen Raiders with Tom and Eric when it first came out, but seeing it a second time, and with Toby, was a non-decision. There was one theatre where Toby lived, about 80 miles away, so he hadn't seen a movie since last summer with me. And surprisingly, Toby's aunt or parents were always willing to drive us anywhere at about any time. They also made sure we never had to spend our own money.

We spent most of our days at my house, with my parents away at work. I would play the synthesizer and he would play his guitar, just as we had the previous summer. Styx was our favorite, and we spent hours playing and singing between sex and meals. We would often leave before my parents came home, braving the summer heat to return to his aunt's house for dinner. We would sometimes spend the evening and the night hours alone and isolated in that guest room.

By the cookout Wednesday evening, the dark circles around his eyes had lightened a bit, and he smiled and laughed very much like the Toby I remembered. At times he was muted and remote, so I just quietly held him, or let him hold me. 

The cookout was a success, and everyone had a good time. Toby's aunt had invited some of her card-playing friends, so the adults sat down to play after the meal had finished. Toby and I played our usual games upstairs, feeling even more naughty with two sets of parents, an aunt, and several strangers downstairs, all oblivious.

We had always been loving during sex, and now had made our mutual feelings quite clear in many ways. "I so love you" was bantered back and forth between us quite often. We took to staring into each others eyes during "our songs," and had started finishing each others thoughts and anticipating each other in many ways.

That night, as I was crawling back into bed from using the bathroom in the middle of the night, I noticed Toby was having the nightmare. I very carefully tried to put a comforting arm over him, but as my arm came to rest on his, he jerked awake and fumbled out of bed. After he had stood and weaved on his feet for a few seconds, brushing himself, he staggered backward and sat down on the bed. 

"Sorry," I offered, reaching for his near arm.

"S'okay, Lexy. Just don't touch me when I'm havin' it. 'kay?"

"Yeah. I won't. Again, I mean. I mean, I just thought ... "

"Yeah, I know. But the touch jus' makes me feel it more in the dream s'all. So don't. 'kay?"

"Not again," I said, stroking his arm. "Come back to bed now?"

As he wordlessly lay down, I threw the blankets over us and spooned myself up against his back. As I cuddled in, he cuddled back into me, letting me know it was okay. I put my arm over him and grasped his hand in front of his chest. He curled both his hands over mine, intertwining the fingers in our special way. My mouth and nose were at his left ear, and I whispered the four words to him.

"I so love you, too. Like then, like now, like always."

***

Thursday we saw "Dragonslayer," and then we messed around at the mall for hours until "The Wall" started. It had returned to play in the evenings and twice on Saturdays, and we thought it would still be playing when school started. He had never seen anything like it, and we both marveled at it.

There was nothing like the mall near where Toby lived, either, and the entire place was new and exciting to him. I had a ball taking him to the places I liked. Spencer's Gifts had him red and ducking his head constantly! We snickered at the dildos and other sexual objects the most, but all the stoner things got plenty of attention too. I took him to Waldenbooks, but he wasn't too impressed there. The arcade was another story. We played Defender, Galaxa, and Tempest, then several games of Asteroids against each other. The best moments were when we got into synch on Joust, making it further than I had with anyone before, or ever would again. Money wasn't a problem; not only did his aunt and parents hand him money every time we left the house, Toby had plenty, and claimed he had more, and he didn't care to take any back with him.

Thursday night we found our synch in bed as well, sixty-nining each other to simultaneous orgasms before cuddling to sleep. That night Toby woke, but less violently. I heard him moaning as usual, and I was woken up by that. He jerked awake, but he seemed to barely shudder before rolling closer to me and spooning in tighter with me, sighing, then falling back to sleep.

Friday we saw "Friday the 13th, Part Three." It was playing in 3-D in a theater near the Hillside Mall, and I wanted to see it with Toby so badly. It looked scary, and it was. It was slow to start, but by the end, we held hands often enough, and jumped in our seats often enough. We agreed that if it hadn't been in 3-D, it would have been the worst of the three, but we loved it anyway because we had seen it together.

Friday after supper, Toby's aunt asked him to help her with something in the kitchen, leaving his parents and me at the dinner table. As soon as they had left, Toby' s parents started grilling me: It was the third degree to the third degree. They wanted to know if Toby had told me anything surprising... if Toby had mentioned why he had wanted to come see his aunt... if Toby said this, did Toby say that? My head was spinning, and I still hadn't taken a sip from the glass I held at my lips, waiting in shocked silence since the questions had started.

"Wait, wait, we're scarin' him. Slow down honey," Toby's dad said, taking hold of her hands that she had been waving around at me while she asked question after question. "Look, Alex, it's like this. We been worried 'bout Toby fer a while. He ain't well. Did he tell you anythin' 'bout that?"

"No!" I said with more anger than I expected over the top of my glass. Not anger at the two in front of me; at Toby. "He said he wasn't sick. He just wasn't eating good 'cause he didn't have much appetite!"

"He don't eat well. Or much. He aint' got no appetite. Had. He's ate more here 'n the last few days than the whole last month. And he's happy 'gain. And he laughs... " his father said, clearly starting to choke up. 

"What are you saying?" I asked. 

I was furious at Toby, in addition at myself, for believing him despite the signs. The smell of the soda in the glass was suddenly sickly-sweet, like rotting meat or some disgusting chemical. My stomach turned as the meal there was suddenly a leaden, cold, unwelcome presence.

"We just wondered if you had any idea why he's happy now. Here. He said he would be if we visited his aunt one more ... again, and he was right. We thought maybe there was somethin' here that he wanted ta see, or do, or somethin'."

I was still holding that glass of soda. I occasionally made note of the tingle from the bubbles and the too-sweet syrupy smell. I took a sip; a long, slow sip. I wasn't thirsty; I just had to have time to think. It tasted like sugary acid.

Time to put the puzzle pieces together, I thought to myself, hoping no one could read my thoughts on my face. I concentrated on the dark, bubbly fluid in the glass I still held to my mouth.

Toby's dad slipped with that, "again." Yeah, there's something even more sinister behind that slip. Toby is ill! Was the coach story just a cover? Or was that real? It had to be real! Unfortunately! Maybe that's why he's happier here? He's far away from all that. Or is there something here that makes him happy? Happier, anyway. What do I say? Oh, shit, oh shit, oh shit! That place! Toby didn't want to go back to, "that place." 

"He hates it there."

"The school?" his father asked.

I grabbed that and ran with it.

"Yeah. And the town. He says it sucks. He hates it. He wants out of there. Ask him."

I felt able to breathe again. I sipped the poison disguised as soda that I still held up to my mouth.

"I don't blame 'im. He made a couple a friends, but one's so gay it's scary. Nowhere for him t'go, no car, nothin' t'do 'round the house. Thanks, Alex. Really. We won't tell him you said anythin', 'kay?"

"Thanks, appreciate that," I said, finishing my glass of soda in one long, many-swallow swig. 

That was a fucking narrow one! Toby, you are so gonna get it! You bastard! Not your fault, though, was it? Still! And ... wait! Toby had a gay friend at home? Another thing to bring up soon! But he won't talk about it. But there was something about his health ... 

"What is it?" I asked, wanting to know.

"What's what?" Toby's dad asked. 

His mom looks worried. Yeah, there's something, and they ain't gonna tell me. Gonna protect the kid, aren't they?

"I don't know what you mean? Toby's fine," his dad lied, and I knew it.

Okay, that game. Fine, I thought. The quick looks between Toby's mom and dad made me feel certain that I had put the puzzle pieces together correctly so far.

"He's really okay?" I asked, putting on my scared little kid face.

"Yes, he's, he's fine," his mom lied.

Yeah, sure.

"I'll go let Barb know it's alright now," she said, putting her tissue in a pocket, patting her husband on the shoulder, then heading to the kitchen.

Now maybe I can get something out of his dad, alone, I hoped. Man to man. As if. But I can try.

"Do ya think it'd be a good idea fer Toby t'move here? Stay with his aunt? Get him outt a there? Maybe I can get his mom t'stay fer a while, too. She can find some work up here while I finish things down there, then I can come up."

My heart started pounding with excitement, and I could feel the blood rushing through my neck and hear it roaring past my ears. 

Toby living here! Al-fucking-right! Yes! 

I was dancing in my mind, cavorting over the possibilities.

"Don't say a word ta Toby, promise? Not even a hint? If it can't be done, and we ain't even talked ta his aunt 'bout it a'tall, he'd be even more disappointed, ya see?"

I did.

"Yes, promise, not even the smallest hint! Dangle it and take it away? No way! When would you know?" I asked all a-tingle.

"We can talk to 'er 'fore we leave Monday. We got yer phone number, we'll let ya know after we figure some things out. We'll talk ta Toby after we get home. Feel him out 'bout it, 'kay? No hints. She might not even want ta have him here, ya know."

"Okay, promise. Nothing. But I think it's what he wants. When you ask him you'll see," I said as seriously as I could.

We heard them coming back, so we stopped our private conversation. I regretted not getting to grill Toby's dad further, but I was pretty sure it would have been pointless- they were protecting the little boy.

All through the remainder of supper I threw stares at Toby, letting him know there were going to be words later.

As we were getting ready to head to the twins' house for the Circle meeting, I finally figured a way I could ask him. We had been talking about the twins, so that Toby would know a bit about them before he met them. When that topic was covered, we sang along to some songs by The Who, lamenting their farewell tour, and as out of the blue as I could make it, I asked him. 

"So, Tob, what's with all the sick talk?"

He shot me a startled look, which rapidly turned angry. When he spun his face to the floor, he shook his head.

"Don't know what'cha mean," he lied.

"Tob, man, your parents ain't dumb, but they ain't good at hiding stuff, either. They didn't say it, but I figured it out."

Toby looked up at me, met my eyes, and lied to me.

"There ain't no sickness. Mom and dad think I'm sick because I ain't told them about the coach and shit. Okay? See?"

He grabbed my shoulder and squeezed it tight, still looking into my eyes.

"Okay, Alex?"

I felt like slugging him. He was lying right to my face, eye to eye, and I could tell he was lying. He probably knew I could tell, too. I was so angry, so hurt. I knew he was lying, so I knew he was sick, so I knew it was serious. And I suddenly knew he didn't want me to know.

The realization showed on my face, I knew, and I nodded and said, "Okay, I get it." 

I felt as if he had cut a piece away from me, as if I were less than I was, or thought that I was, before he had lied to me. That he had lied and wanted to continue the lie only hurt that much more. I didn't understand why he couldn't tell me. If it was serious, I felt I deserved to know. We'd said we loved each other, wasn't that enough?

But his look, his gorgeous green eyes, begging me to drop it, were irresistible. Even without the entirety of the rest of him, those eyes alone could control me. I relented, but I didn't like it.

***

The meeting of the Circle went without a hitch. It was a bit dull with only Eric, the twins, Toby and me, but the twins had some neat stuff to play with, including the latest games, so it was, overall, a good night. 

Toby and I fell asleep on one of the huge couches, next to each other. I wondered if the other guys were suspicious, or even if they were thinking about that. I had done something with all of them by then. The guilt over messing around with them was fairly heavy that night. I had thought that Toby was in my past, or at best, someone I would get to see again some long off day. The sex with the Circle guys had never been cheating before. Then, it seemed to be.

The next morning, Toby had made it clear he had to be back by lunch, though he and I both knew that that wasn't exactly true. We left the twins' house by noon, and ate lunch with Toby's parents and aunt downstairs. Shortly after lunch, we were alone upstairs again.

After a night and a morning with the other boys around, the sex that afternoon was intense. Both of us had built up a libido through the night and morning, and we burned it off in a hot session, mixing everything together, finishing each other several times.

The entire event we moaned and hissed loudly, even whispering words of adoration and appreciation to each other. It seemed we both were what the other wanted, and needed. If one of us wanted to change position, all we needed to do was begin moving and the other would know where to move immediately. When one of us neared orgasm, but the other wasn't ready, we both knew to slow down or stop until we caught up, if possible.

As Saturday evening wore on, the fact that the week was coming to an end was reflected in our moods. We laughed less and sat in silence more often. We had wanted to go see the "Star Wars" double feature at the theater nearby. "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back" were playing back to back on Saturdays only, but neither of us were in the mood. Instead, we played and sang along to the slow songs of Styx , especially "Babe." Those songs took on lifelong meanings that afternoon.

We made love all evening and night. We had sex even after the point when neither of us actually came anymore. We touched and hugged, cuddled and spooned constantly. We had been undressed since dinner, and didn't get dressed again until breakfast.

On Sunday, we were sullen and morose. Sex had become almost a ritual. We literally explored every square inch of each other, licking, kissing, tasting, touching, and memorizing. We talked about music, movies, games, and anything else those topics led off to. 

Sunday night, even though we enjoyed the movies that we had rented, especially the new, "The Thing" with Kurt Russell, we were in a funk. The Sunday night PBS shows were as funny as ever, but we rarely laughed out loud, even at Benny Hill and Monty Python, merely sharing grins and soft sighs of laughter. Doctor Who was still new to Toby as well, and he liked it nearly as much as I did, and as the Doctor battled Davros and the Daleks yet again, we watched in silence. Tomorrow morning, Toby and his parents would be leaving; it was our last night together. 

After the PBS shows we lay on the bed, listening to Alan Parsons' Tales Of Mystery and Imagination, arms around each other, smoking a joint. The stereo in his room wasn't as good as mine at home, and the speakers weren't nearly centered, but it sounded great to us. The final song, "To One In Paradise," seemed to weld us together. I sung lower than Toby, and we matched well along with the song.

We ended up having sex, of course, while the tape played yet again. Our efforts were increased or decreased, depending on the mood being set by the music of each song. We managed to cum nearly simultaneously as, "To One In Paradise" played again.

Later, as Journey's most recent album, Escape played, the conversation weaved through many topics before I swung it to the coach and Toby's situation at home: I had to talk of it with him one more time. We were still naked, and had been since being downstairs the last time hours before. Our clothes had been on only on when we had left the room all week.

"I wish I could help somehow, with that bastard," I said softly, brushing my fingers over Toby's left forearm.

"You can't. No one can. Just forget it. Nothing squared is infinity, ya know? Okay? I'm not goin' back to that school, and I'm not going to jail or the Army. I'm not going back there, period."

His warm voice had turned cold again, distant, emotionless.

"Where you going then?"

"To a better place," he said simply.

"Where?"

"Just somewhere I know. Get hold of you after a while, meet up sometime."

There was truth in his voice.

"Just how you think you're gettin' there?" I asked, noticing I was beginning to pick up Toby's accent, and loving it.

"Got it all worked out."

"You ain't gonna trick your way?" I asked, sitting up and facing Toby with a half angry glare.

"Maybe, if I half to. But I don't think I will. Don't worry 'bout it," Toby replied, not meeting my gaze.

"How can I not worry about it? You asshole!"

"Don't worry 'bout it," Toby declared, crossing his arms across his bare chest and pulling his knees to meet them.

"Okay," I said softly, placing my hand firmly on Toby's arm. "I got a good feeling you won't have to go back to that school anyway. Really," I offered, trying to give hope.

"I know I ain't," Toby replied, staring at his feet.

I pulled him onto his back again as I said, "Okay, fine." 

I rolled over and placed my left arm over his chest, and my left leg over his legs. I rested my head on his chest, square between his nipples. He moved his arms, putting his left around me, and his right on my arm that lay across his chest.

It felt so good to be there, just being there, cuddled and comfortable up against Toby. I wished that was how we could spend our entire lives. I thought about all the other boys I had had sex with, and how none of them were the same as Toby, or even comparable. Toby was special. He was gay, and loving, and he was more expressive during sex, enjoying it. Our sex was even special; it was actual sex, not playing around. Real sex with hugs, kisses, touching, and cuddling. We switched between top and bottom at whim and will, finding it comfortable to do so. All that added more to the relationship with Toby, and I loved those additions.

Toby kissed the top of my head and brushed his lips through my hair. I brushed my fingers through the almost invisible treasure trail and downward.

"It might be our last time, I want it to be special," I said. "What do you want to do?"

"There ain't nothin' we ain't done. And it's all awesome. It don't matter. We could jack ourselves and it would rock," Toby said, his voice coming to me through his chest then belly as I slid my head and face down his form.

That's true, I thought. We had done everything, multiple times. Toby had learned to like being fucked again, just so long as it was careful, slow, lovingly done. I had managed to take the entire length of Toby's cock, and that had taken some time and effort; Toby really had grown there. While I could now tolerate him past my tonsils, I was unable to do so and still breathe and produce much suction at the same time. It was a trick that continued to elude me.

"You're somethin' else, Alex. You love me, don'tcha?" Toby asked, running his fingers through my hair .

"Yes! I told you so!"

"Yeah, ya did. You do. Wow."

"Did you think I was lying?"

"You could'a just been sayin' it. Guys do, ya know. Even to other guys."

"I meant it," I said, firmly kissing his head. "Love me?"

"Love you so much."

"All of me?"

"All or nothin', baby!"

We made love yet again, and continued kissing, touching, and tickling long after the sticky mess was mostly gone.

Toby said, "Cuddle me."

"Okay, if you want," I said teasingly, as I lay up along side him, taking a position laying half over his warm body.

We didn't speak, just gazed at each other, touching, tickling, and smiling.

I was wrapped up with Toby, one last night. Toby's serene, sleeping face was the last thing I saw as I drifted off to sleep.

*****

I was jolted awake by the whimpers of Toby's nightmare, again, as I had been each and every night.

This worries me more than anything else, maybe, I thought, lying still as Toby jerked slightly and fought the demon that plagued him each night. Does he really never remember it?

As I had learned, I didn't hold or touch Toby, as much as I wanted to; it always woke him violently. 

Toby was still face to face with me from earlier, and I watched Toby's brow furrow one moment, his lips grimace the next. Having to watch him suffer through it was more painful than the memories of the story Toby confided in me. I had no choice though, but to lay and watch as Toby muttered incoherently, twitched and jerked his limbs until he woke with a mild sweat and a frightened face.

That time, Toby opened his eyes directly into mine, and his face immediately changed from the usual fright upon his waking to a smile. Then suddenly that smile was replaced with sadness as he lashed out and wrapped me in his arms. He immediately started crying, setting me off as well in sympathy.

"I so love you," he whimpered into my ear. 

I returned the words, ten fold, again and again, kissing Toby's hair, caressing his back with both of my hands, offering as much solace and comfort as I could, or knew how to.

He fell asleep again, quickly, tightly wrapped in my arms. I didn't sleep for a very long time.

*****

I was woken again, though this time it was a more pleasurable wakening. I had been dreaming about sex with Toby when I realized that I wasn't dreaming! The transition was smooth and seamless: One second I was sixty-nining with Toby in Tim's van at night, then I was on my back in bed and the faint, early light of dawn was across the bed as Toby was giving me a wake-up blow-job. I returned the favor, and we finished nearly together.

Afterward we lay together for several minutes in silence, only gazing and kissing.

"I really do love you," I said softly.

"Shut up," Toby said semi-seriously, breaking away and rolling onto his back.

"Sorry." I offered, sensing the sudden breaking of the usual, happy, contented, post-sex bliss.

"You know it's over now, don't you?"

"W-w-what?" I stammered. 

My chest felt like it had just caved in. I knew it was over, but only for a year at worst, maybe only for a month. 

If only I could tell him that him he might be moving there soon!

"It's over. No matter what happens, we won't ever see each other again," Toby said, rolling to face further away from me.

He shouldn't be feeling this way! That was insane to say! I screamed inside. He should be happy for what we just had, what we just shared! I don't like that he's leaving either, but why be this way our last hours together?

I scooted over on the big bed and put my hand on Toby's shoulder, where I felt the trembling; I knew Toby was crying.

"You never know what might happen in the future! Something great could happen next week! You never know!" I pleaded, spooning up behind Toby, embracing him.

"You never know," Toby said, unconvincingly.

I held him for a long time, joining him in tears almost immediately. It was a long time before the crying ended. 

After a longer while, the intercom beeped, then Toby's dad's voice came over it, asking if anyone was awake yet.

Toby sighed deeply, broke the hug, and got up to answer without bothering to dress or cover himself. He told his dad that we would be down in a while. His dad gave him an hour and reminded him of the long drive ahead. Toby agreed to an hour and came back to stand by the bed.

"So, guess I should pack shit up," he said sadly, standing naked there in front of me.

He looked a bit better, maybe, or I was only wishing it were so. I felt my heart sink, not only in imminent parting, but also in admiration of Toby. He was still thin, too thin, but he was Toby.

"Yeah, guess so. Me too," I replied, almost choking on the words. 

I reached out and stroked Toby's near arm before I gripped it and pulled him down onto the bed.

"Things could change overnight, you know," I offered hope yet again, sliding up and putting my chin on Toby's left shoulder.

Everything inside me felt as if it had started dying off. Just holding my head up on my neck seemed to demand constant attention. I wanted to curl up into a ball with Toby forever, never needing food or water, or anyone else. Just us, together, as one, forever.

Instead we were getting ready to part for another year of loss after only a short time together.

"Yeah, sure. Ya never know," Toby said, still not sounding convinced, looking at his hands in his naked lap. "Memento mori, ergo, carpe diem," Toby whispered with a strange grin.

"Ooo! Sounds sexy!" I said, knowing that it at least had something to do about seizing the day.

"Remember mortality, therefore, seize the day," he said, leaning down to kiss me very nicely; deeply, but teasingly.

"Yeah, right. Kind of like saying, you're gonna die some day, so, get what you can. How did you even know that?" I asked

"Read it somewhere," he said absently. 

"Latin? So geeky!" I said, giggling about our private joke. 

"Yeah. I like geeks," he said, leaning over to kiss me again.

"I'll be back in a few, gonna shower," he said before he stood, got clean clothes, then went into the bathroom. 

I lay back, worried. I wanted so badly to tell Toby that his folks were considering moving there! It would make him so happy! If his aunt didn't like the idea, or they couldn't move for some reason, it would be crushing to Toby in addition to me. Worse than if he hadn't known it was possible to begin with.

I repeated the Latin phrase to myself, wanting to memorize it.

Wait. Read it somewhere? Latin? Where? Still, seize the day? Then why am I out here? I asked myself.

I got some clean clothes from my pack and went in to shower with Toby. We had shared a few before, and the idea seemed inviting right then. I memorized every color and curve again, how it looked and felt in the warm, cascading water, wanting them written in marble for all time in my memory. Both of us got semi-hard, but we weren't interested enough; we were too sad and too depleted. 

I memorized it all. I burned him into my senses; visions, smells, touches, tastes. When we climbed out of the shower and got dressed, our hour was nearly up. We raced to pack things, looking everywhere for lost items. I took the opportunity to plant several surprises for Toby in his luggage when he wasn't looking.

As we rushed around the room, he said, "Alex, thanks, you know, for makin' me tell you about him. It hurt, I was afraid a that. It felt great after, and I probably could never have told anyone else ever about it. And, I want ya t'know, I loved what we did. 'Specially this trip. It was special. Don't ever think I, that I didn't. 'Kay? Or that I don't love you."

I felt the same, and at that moment I thought my heart might break. Toby was in his pale jeans, worn so much that the knees were almost see-through. The bright blue shirt seemed to make his pale complexion and hair glow. His slim form and long limbs looked perfect, as usual. His clothing hid just how thin his body had become. If I had been asked to draw or paint the perfect man, and I had the skills, I would have painted something very like what was in front of me.

"Nothing squared equals infinity," I almost had to choke out. I cleared my throat and continued, "Yeah. You mean more to me than anyone else!" I said, rushing across the room to hug him tightly.

"Yeah, well, nothing squared isn't infinity, sometimes. I just wanted to say that about that stuff, because I needed someone to make it good, one more time."

His voice seemed near breaking, and I knew that tears were too close.

"Oh, going all abstinent, now, are you?" I laughed, or tried to, my head against Toby's upper chest and shoulder. 

I could only hope that he loved me so much that he wouldn't have anyone else until he came back to me. His life at home was always a topic he avoided since the day I met him. He only gave me brief glimpses into it when the mood struck him, describing places or things, but never people or his daily life.

I truly hoped he meant that, but I wanted him to know that I did.

I cleared my throat, and said, "I won't even look at another guy until you're back."

I hoped he would respond in kind, even before I had said it. 

Instead, he shook his head and said, "If you get a guy to be with, go for it! I mean it. Okay?"

"No way! Nobody else could even-"

His lips on mine stopped my rebuttal.

"I mean it," he said when he pulled back. "I really do! It'll be a whole year, Lex. If then. So, listen to me. Don't pass up on being with somebody, ya hear me? I really mean it!"

His eyes were nearly glowing with his intensity. I could almost feel a Wall of Will spell emanating from him, forcing me to do as he bid.

I knew then that he had someone at home. His reluctance to reveal his life there was one piece, but that piece proved it to me as nothing else short of visceral proof could have. My heart sunk a bit lower, but I smiled anyway. I had suspected since I met him. He was far too cute and attractive to not have someone back there. He probably loved him as much as he did me, and I didn't doubt that he did love me. Suddenly it didn't matter much if he did or not. I had his love for what time he was near me, and it was all I could expect to have. If he had someone back home, I wished him well with him. But I wanted him in the long run, and I'd accept no competitors.

I felt somewhat released from my burden of Jeff, Tom, and the others. I could love Toby with all I had to give, but that didn't mean I had to sacrifice the rest of my life for just the week or so once a year we could be together. Maybe later, after school, when we could be together, then we could devote ourselves to each other.

That thought surprised me an incredible amount. So did the prospect of really living with him.

Fucking shit! Living with Toby! Making a life together! We should have talked about that! He would graduate a year ahead of me and could come live here with his aunt! We should have thought of that! 

I knew it was far too late now, and I made a mental note to bring it up during the first call. Another matter that we had neglected came to mind as well, and I had to mention it immediately.

"Shit! Toby, we gotta call each other all the time! And write! You hear me? Not like last year! Okay?"

"Yeah, sure," he replied as we embraced.

I hugged him as tight as I could, hoping to force my own will onto him for a change. Several loud, booming rolls of thunder broke the silence we shared as we kissed for a time. I leaned back and looked up and smiled at my wonderful Toby. He smiled one of his half-smiles, then we locked eyes, then his smile became a great big one. He hugged me harder, holding onto me for several long minutes. 

He sniffled, let go, and said, "We gotta go, so, don't forget anything."

"Okay."

This is it. He's going again! I can't do this! But I have to. What else is there to do? I don't want to wail and scream and have hysterics! But I don't want him to leave me! Ever! Why is life like this?

I felt how heavy my heart was as we joined hands, our luggage in our other hands, and we kissed again. A long, slow, deep kiss.

My heart was in my throat as we walked downstairs where the adults were sitting and talking in the large room by the front door. Seeing us enter, Toby's dad slapped his own thighs, and standing up, said it was time to go.

A few hugs and byes before we left the house, and I was suddenly helping to put Toby's bags in the back of the truck, telling him there was a surprise in his small suitcase as the thunder rolled closer. He held his fingers as if holding onto a small object and brought them to his lips with a questioning look on his face.

I smiled and winked. Then we hugged again, like guys in public, before he got into the back seat. I pushed the door shut, wanting so badly to kiss him one more time. When our eyes met, his were red and swollen, his lips trembling, his face red and puffy. I knew he wanted that last kiss as much as I did, and that this was killing him, too.

"The Four Bells" was playing loudly from the truck as I watched it roll away down the long driveway, seeing Toby's face as he stuck his head out the window and waved back at me. 

I felt most of my soul leave me as I stood there, watching that old, muddy, gray Suburban roll away, taking Toby away from me, again.

The threat of rain, the rolling thunder, the flash of lightning on a cloudy afternoon had never seemed more fitting for any moment in my life.

chapter six
Chapter Six

Tuesday Evening: Big Birthday Surprises

The Circle - Chapter 5