Kyle Meeks stirred from a sex dream, vaguely aware of a ringing phone.
"Kyle!" his mom's voice called from the hall. "It's Jason."
Blinking at the summer morning sunlight, Kyle grabbed the receiver on the nightstand and cleared his throat. "H-hello?"
"Hey, Sleeping Beauty!" replied the boy from his dream. "Wake up!"
Kyle had met Jason four years earlier, on the first day of high school. Kyle had jostled through the crowded halls, lost, till Jason helped him find his homeroom. But not till senior year, when Jason stepped into a gay youth meeting, did a chain of events unfold that led to their becoming friends and falling in love.
"You'll never guess what's happened," Jason now announced, rattling out something about going to high school in Los Angeles. "You know I've always wanted to see the Pacific Ocean."
None of it made any sense to Kyle's groggy brain, especially since they'd graduated high school two months earlier. Not to mention that they lived in the suburbs of D.C., three thousand miles from L.A.
"Huh?" Kyle yawned and rolled over, wishing Jason were in bed beside him. "What're you talking about?"
"We need to talk about our camping trip," Jason replied.
Kyle sat up against the headboard, accidentally bumping his head. He was suddenly wide-awake. "Our camping trip?"
He'd been looking forward to that trip for weeks, hoping for at least a little magic with Jason in a summer that had somehow gotten eaten up by a drudge job at Chicken Little Rotisserie, boring family obligations, and freshman orientation at Princeton.
Both Jason and he had been so crazy busy they'd barely had time for romance. ("Hey, I just got home from work. My mom and dad went out. Come over, quick!")
The camping trip would be their last chance for quality time together before separating for college. Was Jason now canceling?
"Hurry over here and I'll explain," Jason told him before hanging up.
Kyle immediately speed-dialed his best friend Nelson, whose turn it was to drive them to work. "Hey, can you pick me up at Jason's? I think he's bailing on the camping trip."
"But you had your heart set on that."
"Tell me about it," Kyle grumbled and jumped out of bed.
Jason Carrillo hung up the phone with Kyle, grabbed the basketball from atop his dresser, and raced to the driveway, hoping a few hoops would help him figure a way out of his dilemma.
"Here's the deal..." Jason wiped the sweat from his forehead as Kyle strode up the driveway. "I got a call from this new high school for gay and lesbians kids in L.A. They heard about my coming out last semester."
In the spring, when Jason had come out to his coach and basketball team, the news had raced through school, and because of his varsity athlete status, he'd been interviewed on local TV. That story reached the Web and the entire country.
"The school wants me to give a speech at their opening ceremony. They'll fly me to L.A., pay my hotel, and everything!"
"Jason, that's awesome!" Kyle high-fived him, leaping into the air.
"I know!" Jason agreed, relieved to hear Kyle's enthusiasm. "Can you imagine? Seeing the Pacific Ocean? Movie stars? I'm so psyched. Except...it's the same time as our camping trip."
"Oh." Kyle's smile fell.
Seeing Kyle so downcast, there was no way Jason could bail on their camping trip. "I'll tell them I can't do it."
"But you've got to go!" Kyle protested. "It's too important."
"So is our camping trip," Jason argued.
"We'll go the weekend before," Kyle suggested. "I'll switch my work schedule. I'm not going to miss our camping trip."
Jason smiled, thinking how Kyle always brimmed with support and enthusiasm. "You really think I should take them up on it?"
"Jason, they're inviting you to California!" Kyle gazed across the driveway at Jason, his hazel eyes full of encouragement. "I just wish I could be there to see you."
"I wish you could too." Jason suddenly wanted to kiss Kyle right there in front of his house beneath the basketball hoop. And he sensed Kyle felt it too.
But as the two boys moved toward each other, a car horn blared. Jason turned, instantly recognizing the figure behind the steering wheel pulling into the drive. He only knew one person nutty enough to dye his hair flaming pink the same shade as stomach medicine.
"You like it?" Nelson Glassman beamed, loving the stares on his friends' faces at his new pink hairdo.
"It's different." Kyle gazed into the car at Nelson.
"Yeah." Jason nodded slowly, as if stunned. "Definitely."
Nelson glanced at himself in the rearview for the millionth time, reveling in their reactions.
"Well..." Kyle checked his watch. "We'd better get to work."
Nelson popped open the passenger lock, but Kyle made no move, instead gazing at Jason. Nelson watched. Were they about to kiss?
Jason's eyes darted toward Nelson and noticed him. Turning red, he stepped away from Kyle and began dribbling his basketball. "Thanks for coming over," he told Kyle. "Catch you later."
"So tell me what happened!" Nelson asked Kyle as they pulled out of the drive. "Did he bail on your camping trip?"
As Kyle explained about the school in California, a wave of anger rose inside Nelson. Was he hearing right? "Whoa! Miss Teen Closet-Case finally comes out during his last days of senior year and for that he wins a free trip to Hollywood?"
The injustice of it galled him. "How unfair is that? I've been out since kindergarten. Where the heck's my expense-paid trip?"
Kyle failed to respond, gazing out the windshield with a faraway look. "I'd give a million dollars to be there with him. It'll be a huge moment in his life."
Nelson stuck a finger into his throat, pretending to gag, though it hurt to see Kyle so forlorn. Then suddenly an idea crashed into Nelson's brain.
"Hey! Why not ask the school if..." He snapped his fingers as a plan sprang into his mind. "If instead of an air ticket they'll give Jason the cash so the three of us can drive cross-country? Can you imagine how awesome that would be?"
"Drive to California?" Kyle turned from the window. "You serious? With what car?"
"This baby!" Nelson patted the dashboard of the Ford Taurus. It had been his mom's car till summer's start, when she'd bought herself a new one. "Kyle, it would be a blast! You, me, and the world famous basketball fag."
Kyle frowned but stayed silent, as if pondering the idea. "First of all," he finally said. "Like your mom's going to let you take her car cross-country? I don't think so."
"Kyle, it's my car. She gave it to me."
"Secondly..." Kyle shook his head. "You know how long driving to California would take?"
"We have time." Nelson shrugged. "You don't start school for three weeks."
"Yeah, but I have to work. I need the money for when I'm away."
"Hmm." Nelson emitted a loud, meaningful sigh. "I guess being in California with Jason isn't really worth a million dollars after all."
Kyle narrowed his eyes at Nelson. "Look, you realize how much hotels would cost?"
"Forget hotels! Weren't you going to camp anyway? Camping's cheap. We'd just need money for gas and food. Besides, I've saved money from my job."
Kyle shifted in his seat as they turned into the mall's parking lot. "Nelson, it wouldn't work."
"Why not?" Nelson insisted. He wasn't about to let go of the idea that easily.
"Because..." Kyle's mouth hung open as if to say something, then he quickly shook his head. " It just wouldn't work."
"But why not?" Nelson persisted, pulling the car into a parking space.
"Nelson, think about it." Kyle's voice became agitated as he flung open the door. "The three of us? Together? Camping? By week's end you'd toss each other out of the car window."
"We would not." Nelson followed Kyle across the scorching asphalt. "I've grown to like the old hoop-head."
"Forget it." Kyle flashed a scowl over his shoulder as they approached the mall. "Crazy, bad idea."
But Nelson sprinted ahead and swung open the glass door for Kyle, determined to convince him.
Copyright © 2005 by Alex Sanchez