I professed my love for Jordy when I was seventeen. He was leaving for his last year of medical school after working another summer at my family’s Banks Lake resort in the Pacific Northwest.
Desperate for him to know how I felt even though he was my older brother’s best friend, and fearing that he wouldn’t return after that summer, I decided to take the plunge and admit my feelings while I had the chance.
As the adult in the situation, Jordy wisely chose to discount my confession as simply a teenage crush. But my last spoken words to him were that I’d wait patiently for him.
And I always kept my promises.
I’d been away from my small hometown for nearly five years. Life and a stressful medical residency had kept me busy, but I finally returned to fulfill my best-man duties for my best friend’s upcoming wedding.
His younger brother, Trey, was a sweet, sensitive kid when I left years ago. The shy, lean teenager who’d tearfully professed his love for me my last summer there had grown into a sexy, confident man. I was intrigued by what I saw, though I probably should have walked away again.
Had he actually waited for me to return? Did I hope he had? He was nine years my junior and my best friend’s little brother. But he could be so much more.
After five long years, it was suddenly last summer.
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Five years ago
“Where is he?” I asked, setting the final packed box on the counter.
“Probably down at the dock,” Mrs. Barnes answered. Her back was to me as she finished with the dinner dishes.
“You think he’ll come up to say goodbye before I have to leave?” I couldn’t see him but knew he was most likely securing the resort’s watercraft for the night.
She wiped her hands on a dish towel, tossed it on the counter, and joined me at the sliding glass door overlooking the lake. We watched her youngest son while he busied himself at the dock. “He’s hurting, Jordy.”
I let out a small laugh but not because I was being insensitive. “Just like every other summer, isn’t it?” I asked.
“It seems worse this summer,” she said. “Since you and Brock started college, he hates the coming of September. I guess it’s too quiet for him with just Mom and Dad around.” Mrs. Barnes took a long breath in before sighing deeply. “Imagine how he’s going to feel when you graduate medical school this year and he finds out you won’t be able to help us out any longer?”
“I’ll be back,” I defended. “Are you saying you don’t need my help next summer?”
“You’ll be starting your residency after this year, son. I expect you’ll have to move to wherever that is next summer.”
“Let’s hope that happens, Mrs. B” I turned to face her, expecting a hug. “I haven’t received a hospital matching letter yet,” I added. “It’s competitive trying to get my first choice, so hopefully I’ll know where that is in a few months.”
“You are the single brightest kid I know, Jordy. Don’t be so modest,” she said, wiping something off of my shirt and fussing like mothers tend to do.
Mr. and Mrs. Barnes had been my surrogate parents ever since the accident, and I missed mine terribly.
“You better not let Brock hear you say that,” I said.
She giggled. “Even Brock knows that.” She glanced back toward the lake. “Can you check on him before you leave, son? I think he’s twice as upset today’s the day you’re leaving. You’d think he’d be missing his actual brother more than you.”
“I’ll head down after I load that final box.” I headed for the back door and the driveway before remembering an important rule. “Oops!” I turned back and found her scowling at me. “You know I wouldn’t leave without one of your hugs, Mrs. B.”
“As I thought,” she said, arms open wide for me.
We embraced and she kissed my cheek as a diversion while stuffing her hand in my shirt pocket.
“A little something for your trip.”
I knew better than to fight her about what I knew was additional money. I didn’t need money but she didn’t know that. “You guys already paid me out for the summer, ma’am.”
“Don’t ma’am me, mister!” She dragged her finger across her throat like she planned to slit mine.
“I love you,” I whispered and went in for another hug.
“I love you too, Jordy. Now please go say bye to Trey before you leave.”
It’d been another amazing summer on Banks Lake. My best friend, Brock, and his family owned a resort on the shores of the manmade body of water. This was possibly my last summer working at the general store/gas station/boat rental/RV park resort. Brock had already headed back to California. He was finishing law school and had relocated away from our shared apartment in Palo Alto. He’d also started a new part-time job and they needed him early. I’d stayed back and helped the Barnes’ finish up the summer. After Labor day, things slowed down in this ‘barely there’ town in Eastern Washington, so they’d manage fine without the extra help once I left.
It was strangely quiet as I walked downhill to the dock, trying my best to dodge the evening sprinklers. The bulk of the last tourists of the season was gone. Two motorhomes and a couple of tents were all that were left in the park area designated for campers. The cabins along the shore had no guests in them while a couple of the larger resort houses were still occupied.
I spotted Trey at the end of the main dock where all the rental watercrafts sat idle after a busy summer. He was in one of the larger pontoon boats, sitting under the canopy out of the late afternoon sun. It was still hot here in September and I knew he’d had a long day cleaning and securing the watercraft. His back was to me and he only noticed he had an intruder to his thoughts when I stepped off the floating dock and onto the boat, causing it to rock gently. He turned toward me and then looked away quickly.
“What?” I asked. “Not talking to me anymore?”
There was no response as he held his gaze across the water, avoiding mine. Trey was Brock’s younger brother. A terrific young man and very loving, but he wore his heart on his sleeve. Nothing like his older brother who was arrogant, sure of himself, and warm to few people. I was one of the people he was warm to, so we got along fine. Brock and I had been best friends since elementary school and inseparable ever since. College and post-graduate years were hurting that closeness, but the best friends tag still stuck.
Once away from Electric City and attending college at Stanford, I’d come out. It wasn’t a surprise to Brock as he’d known since sophomore year. He was straight but always said if he wasn’t, I’d be his guy on that front. Oddly, even though he was hot, I never saw him that way. Just not my type. Brock was too short, too dark, and too brooding.
The summer had been good for Trey. He was his usual end-of-summer, golden-skinned, self, with a mop of sun-bleached blond hair. He was smooth, lean, and possessed a naturally athletic build that had really come on the past two summers as he approached eighteen. We’d just celebrated his seventeenth over the fourth of July.
“I’m talking to you, kiddo,” I said a bit louder.
“I’m not a kid,” he whined, sounding exactly like one.
I moved to his side and rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m heading out,” I said. “Just wanted to make sure to say goodbye to my best little buddy.”
He swatted my hand from his neck. “Brock’s your best friend,” he stated, still avoiding eye contact.
I sat beside him on the wide boat seat and slid into him, forcing him over so I could invade his space and be close. I stared at the side of his angelic face while he continued to ignore me. Trey was a beautiful young man and had a heart of gold. Sometimes people easily dole out the expected compliments when describing attractive people, but Trey had earned his in spades. The kid was blessed in the looks department but had no clue. He was heartbreakingly attractive. But, he was still a kid and he was also my best friend’s younger brother, so I kept my heart’s opinions about him to myself. My feelings were curious concerning the attraction I felt toward him. He was a kid. I was an adult. Those were the facts and I’d decided to stick to them.
“Yeah, he is my best buddy, but I like you a lot too,” I answered, leaning forward and resting my elbows on the tops of my thighs, turning to see if he was looking at me.
Thirty seconds went by before he turned to me. He was tearing up.
“Hey now, buddy. What’s all this?” I put an arm around his shoulders and pulled him in tight. “I’ll be back. I promise I will.”
“No you won’t,” he mumbled, wiping at his eyes, clearly embarrassed about the tears. “Mom already told me you’re not going to be able to help us out next summer.”
“I might not become a doctor if I don’t work harder, so it’s not for sure, Trey. Besides, I’d never forget about you.”
“You’ll be the best doctor and you know it. You always get everything you want. Heck, even Brock says you’re the smartest guy he knows.” He hiccupped as he fought the full-on cry he was desperately trying to avoid. “Then you’ll just go off and I’ll never hear from you,” he said quietly, trying to shrug out of my hug.
I held him tighter so he couldn’t.
“Shit, even Brock doesn’t come around much anymore and now you’ll go away forever too.”
“That’s just not true, Trey. Come on. Why are you acting like this?” I moved my hand from his shoulder and held the back of his head, mussing with his sun-drenched hair. “We had a great summer didn’t we?” I asked. “I had a blast working and hanging out with you again.” His head slumped forward and I attempted to steer his neck my way trying to get him to look at me. He wouldn’t budge. “You don’t really believe I won’t be back, do you?” I asked.
He was silent.
“Look at me,” I said, nudging his side.
Trey turned toward me and had heavier tears streaming down his face. “You . . . you . . . you don’t get it, do you?” he asked.
He shuffled his feet and tugged at threads hanging from his tattered jean shorts. “I love you, Jordy.”
“I know that, kiddo. I love you too.”
“Not like that,” he protested. “I love you, love you.
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About the Author
Michael Robert is an author residing in Seattle, Washington. The Crow Flies Free is his debut novel. Michael enjoys traveling and he aspires to visit the locations of his upcoming novels so as to provide vivid and accurate descriptions of them. He enjoys tennis, road trips and fast cars. Please look for his future projects, the next story coming soon.
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