A Fish Out of Water

A Novella by Altimexis

Posted January 23, 2010

Danny's House

4. Sixteen

After returning from our trip to New York, I corresponded with David by IM, chat, e-mail or to the extent that I had minutes, by cell phone, pretty much on a daily basis. We talked about everything, and about nothing, but no matter what, except on Shabbat, we corresponded every day. Neither of us had dared use the ‘L’ word yet, but I was feeling it more and more, especially when I lay in bed and satisfied myself while thinking of David. Then I’d realize that we were nothing more than the best of friends and my thoughts would change. However, it sucked that we couldn’t see each other, but we were inseparable, nonetheless.

The weeks that followed our trip to New York were some of the longest in my life. For one thing, it took more than a month for Beth Israel to even offer the job to my father, and even after that, the negotiations that followed on the terms of his contract dragged on forever. It seemed as if we were never going to reach a deal that would lead to a move to New York. I felt as if I were trapped in purgatory.

My sixteenth birthday was at the end of May, and the move to New York was still far from a done deal. School was still in session, but there was no way I was going to spend it without David. My birthday was on a Thursday, and since Fridays at the Yeshiva were only a half-day anyway, because of Shabbat, we all decided it would work out best for David to take the train down on Thursday afternoon, right after school, so we could spend Friday and the rest of the weekend together. My Dad and I met him at Penn Station in Downtown Baltimore, late on Thursday night. By then it had been weeks since the last time we’d seen each other, and I was practically bouncing off the walls.

We got there about an hour early, I was so anxious to see David. I must have checked the Arrivals Board at least a thousand times, making sure his train was still on time. I know I drove my poor father absolutely crazy, but I was just so excited. Finally, his train arrived and I began scanning the platform.

“Geez Danny, you’d think you two hadn’t seen each other for years the way you’re acting,” Dad said. “You’d think you two were married or something,” he chuckled.

‘More than you know, Dad,’ I thought to myself.

It seemed to take forever for him to emerge, but in reality it was probably no more than a minute, and then, there he was. There was no mistaking my David, with his Hasidic clothing and his flaming red hair. To most people here, he might appear strange, but to me, he was handsome - maybe even beautiful.

As soon as I saw him, I ran to him as fast as my legs would carry me and when I reached him, I threw my arms around him and hugged him with all my might.

“Danny, please,” he said. “If you’ll let me put down my luggage, I’d like to hug you back!”

We both laughed as I released my grip on him long enough for him to set his suitcase, guitar and skateboard down. No sooner had he done so, than our arms were wrapped around each other tightly.

“Danny, I missed you so much,” David said, and then he kissed me on the cheek. Then he really shocked the hell out of me by giving me a quick peck on the lips. When his eyes registered the shock in my own, he said, “I’m sorry, Danny, I shouldn’t have done that.”

“It’s OK, David,” I said as I pulled away, but gave him a reassuring squeeze to his shoulder. “I love you, too, bud. I just don’t want my dad to get the wrong idea.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” David said. “It’s just that I’ve never had a friend like you before. It’s been horrible, being apart all these weeks.”

“I know. I feel the same,” I agreed, “but we’re gonna have an awesome time together for my birthday.”

“Speaking of which, happy birthday!”

“Thanks, David,” I acknowledged, just as my father finally caught up to us.

“Welcome to Baltimore, David,” Dad said. “Is this your first time in our fair city?”

“It’s my first time outside of New York State,” he admitted a bit sheepishly.

“Wow, not even to go to Israel?” I asked.

“Not even to go to New Jersey,” he said with his trademark, infectious laugh that I loved.

“Well, compared to New York, Baltimore’s a foreign country. It’s The South, man,” I said. “It has a whole different feel.”

“Shall we, boys?” Dad asked.

“Sure, Dr. Weiss,” David said as he picked up his suitcase, his skateboard and guitar.

“Here, let me,” I said as I took them from him, and Dad immediately took the suitcase from me, while David continued to wear his backpack. When we got to the curbside, Dad had us wait with the luggage while he went to retrieve the car from the garage where we’d parked it. Soon, we were on our way home.

“Boy, this is different from New York,” David said as we drove along. “The downtown is so compact. Five minutes and we’re already out of it.”

Chuckling, Dad said, “Baltimore only has a metro population of 2.7 million people, compared to 19 million in New York. But we have our charm, and we have a vibrant Jewish culture that should make you feel right at home, David.”

David smiled at that, but I knew that inside, he probably wanted to get away from the stultifying environment of his home life. If nothing else, I hoped I could show him a good time during his brief visit to our home.

It only took us about fifteen minutes to reach the Upper Park Heights neighborhood, and as we drove, I pointed out important landmarks along the way, including the larger synagogues. I think David was surprised that there were so many large synagogues located so close together. I also pointed out the different schools, including my Yeshiva.

“Here we are!” I said as we pulled up in front of our house. “It’s not much to look at from the front, but we’ve added on a lot in back,” I added.

“This looks just like Brooklyn,” David commented with a smile as we got out of the car, which we parked behind our minivan. Dad popped the trunk and we took David’s luggage with us to the front door, which opened even before we reached it.

“David, it’s nice to see you again,” Mom said as she held the door open for him.

“Thanks, Ms. Weiss,” David answered as he entered our house. I noticed that he called mom ‘Ms.’ rather than the more traditional ‘Mrs.’ that most Hasidic youths would use. I liked that he was bowing to our more modern ways.

“Danny, why don’t you help David stash his things in your room, and then you boys can come back down here for a little late-night snack before bedtime,” Mom suggested.

“That sounds great,” I said. When wouldn’t two teenage boys like to eat?

“Come on, David,” I said as I picked up his suitcase and guitar, and motioned with my head. “I’ll show you my room.”

As is typical of the older houses that populate Upper Park Heights, the living room was small and located in the front of the house, with a stairway leading directly off it, straight across from the front door. Because we’d added on to the back of the house, however, my parents had a whole new master bedroom suite, leaving the old master bedroom and bathroom to me. There was one bedroom shared by the younger girls, one shared by the older girls and one shared by my brothers. There was also a guest bedroom, but that was strictly off-limits to the boys - it was for adult guests and girls only.

Although I had a bedroom and bathroom to myself, my bedroom had twin beds, and I was expected to share my room whenever we had a boy visitor, whether it was a friend of mine, or one of my brothers had a visitor. When Shimmy had a guest over, for example, Izzy would stay with me. I guess the arrangement was fair, but it sure seemed my brothers had overnight guests a lot more often than I did.

How sweet it was, then, that I was finally having my best friend from New York staying with us for an extended weekend, and for my sixteenth birthday, no less!

“Hey, you have your own bathroom. That’s cool,” David said as he explored my room, after we put his luggage down.

“Yeah, it was the original master bedroom for the house,” I explained, then went on to explain how we added on and enlarged the house.

“This is a neat room,” he continued. “I like the built-in bookshelves, and that you have a lot of books, just like me… a lot of the same books, too,” he went on to say.

Next, he started going through my extensive CD collection, taking out CD after CD and examining each one closely. Finally, he said, “Very nice music collection,” but he had a hint of sadness in his voice. Sighing, he continued, “My father only lets me listen to classical music in the house, which really limits what I can buy for myself. Not that I’m crazy about some of today’s music, but groups like The Fray, Kean, OneRepublic, Coldplay, Snow Patrol… their music speaks to me. I spend hours learning to play it on my guitar.

“I’ve been hinting that I’d like an iPhone or an iPod for my sixteenth birthday. At least then I could buy the music I love and listen to it in privacy,” he lamented.

“If your parents don’t get you one,” I told him, “I’ll get you one for your birthday.”

“Danny! I could never ask you to do that. They’re expensive.”

“I’d rather buy a few less CDs for myself than think of you doing without,” I said, “and besides, we can always share my CD collection between the two of us on both our iPods.”

“That would be awesome!” David beamed.

“Let’s go down and get that snack my mom promised us,” I suggested.

What Mom called a snack was more of a light supper. She served us tuna salad on rye bread with potato chips, coleslaw, and a large slice of leftover birthday cake. We weren’t going to go to bed hungry - that was for sure. The younger kids were already in bed, but Izzy and Sarah joined us. Throughout the time, I got the disturbing sense that Sarah was trying to flirt with David, but even more disturbingly, Izzy seemed to be doing everything he could to dissuade her from doing so. What the fuck was that all about?

Finally, we told everyone ‘goodnight’ and headed back upstairs.

“Do you want to shower tonight, or wait until morning?” I asked David when we reached my room.

“I’m kinda pooped,” he answered. “Would you mind if I waited ’til morning?”

“Not at all… morning’s good,” I related. “Do you need a toothbrush or anything?” I asked.

“No, I’ve got everything I need, but thanks,” he answered with his killer smile.

“Why don’t you go ahead and get ready,” I suggested, “while I get undressed.”

“OK,” David said as he slipped off to the bathroom.

While he was in my bathroom, I stripped down to my boxers, but I then faced a bit of a dilemma. Since the age of twelve, I’d been sleeping in the nude and I generally felt constricted sleeping any other way. Pajamas now made me feel like I was sleeping in a winter coat, but I didn’t want David to get the wrong impression. As a compromise, I decided to put on a robe over my boxers. I would then remove the robe after turning out the lights, but leave the boxers on.

David exited the bathroom, literally, just as I was getting my robe out of the closet. He got a good look at my body in the process, and seemed to make no bones about doing so, either.

“Pretty good skater’s physique,” he said with a smirk.

“And I’m sure that’s all you were looking at,” I chided him.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” he said as he grinned. “Your turn in the bathroom,” he added.

After washing up and brushing my teeth, when I came back out, I noticed that David was already under the covers, but he had his shoulders exposed, and they were bare. Clearly he wasn’t wearing pajamas, so I wasn’t going to make any pretenses. I removed my robe and hung it up, and then slipped under the covers before I turned out the light by the side of my bed.

“Thanks again for inviting me, Danny,” David said from across the room. “You don’t know how much this means to me.”

“Are you kidding?” I responded. “You’re my best friend, David. I’d never think of not inviting you for my birthday. None of my other friends mean anything compared to you.”

“God, I hope you guys move to New York,” David said.

“Me too, bud… more than you know.”

Changing the subject, I added, “We’re going to have so much fun over the next few days, David. It’s going to be awesome. We’ll both play hooky tomorrow, and go to this park near here where we can skate. We can spend the whole day skating, and maybe I can show you a little more of the neighborhood, or we can play a little music together, you and I.

“After we get back from services, we’re gonna have this big Shabbat dinner, or excuse me, Shabbos dinner,” I said, using the Ashkenazi pronunciation he’d be used to, “and a huge Oneg at our house, and we’ve invited a bunch of my friends for my birthday and all. It’ll be a blast.

“On Saturday, I thought we’d spend more time after services either skating in the park, or maybe practicing making music together. Then we have nearly all day Sunday to do something special, like to go to the Inner Harbor, or the National Aquarium… that is, unless we decide just to sleep in.”

“Wow!” David exclaimed. “That all sounds great… Danny… I just can’t get over how much we have in common,” David said quietly - so quietly, it was barely more than a whisper. “It’s almost like we’re meant to be together, but the thought of that scares the shit out of me.”

Did David just imply what I thought he did? This was new and uncharted territory for both of us. Was it time to talk about our relationship? Was I reading more into it than was really there? We’d known each other for such a short time, and yet it had seemed like a lifetime together.

Swallowing hard, I hoped I wasn’t about to cost myself a dear friend. At the least, I knew David didn’t feel homosexuality was wrong, and I knew he didn’t hate gays, but the dynamics of our friendship would be forever changed from now on, whether he was gay or straight. I decided it was time to talk to him about what was on my mind.

“David, I consider you my best friend, and I think you consider yourself mine,” I began.

“Beyond any doubt,” he interrupted.

“Do you think that maybe we’re a bit more than best friends?” I asked hopefully.

“Just to clarify, Danny, are you asking me if I’m gay?” he asked.

David always was the more direct one of the two of us.

“In a way, I guess I am, but it’s more than that… I think much more,” I added.

“Before I answer that, Danny, could I ask you if you’re out to your parents?”

Whoa - I guess I had inadvertently, albeit unintentionally, outed myself to David. When I didn’t answer right away, David added, “It’s not like I didn’t already know, you know. In fact, I’ve pretty much known from the very beginning.”

Embarrassed, I still didn’t say anything, and then he went on to say, “It’s not anything obvious, if you’re wondering, and don’t try to deny it, either, especially to yourself. So are you out to your parents, or your family?” he again asked.

“No way!” I finally answered.

“I didn’t think so,” he said. Even in the dark, that killer smile of his was apparent. “Now to get to your question, it’s not so easy for me to answer you, Danny. I mean, I do know the answer, but being gay and Hasidic opens up a whole set of issues that could be incredibly difficult for the both of us. In many ways, it would be much easier on us to just postpone the issue entirely and remain best friends for another couple of years.

“Look at it from the standpoint of what would happen if one of us was a girl. If either of us was a girl, we couldn’t even touch, let alone kiss or have any kind of a physical relationship. Forget about sex. Sex is not permitted in any form until after marriage. That’s why most Hasids marry right out of high school, or even earlier. They’re just too horny to wait!

“But as best friends, it’s quite acceptable for us to touch, to hug each other, to kiss each other on the cheek, and even to see each other naked. No one would even question these things. These things are natural for best friends. We could have all of the intimacy normally associated with being married… except, of course, for having sex.”

“So what you’re saying,” I summarized, “is that you want us to act like a couple of straight, best friends for the next couple of years, until we’re both eighteen and on our own?”

“It’s not like we have a choice, Danny, but if my father were to find out about me, he’d probably keep us apart. He might even send me away, hoping to cure me. When it comes to homosexuality, the ultra-orthodox Jews are no better than the Christian Fundamentalists. As long as we keep our relationship above board and platonic, there should be no reason to generate suspicion.”

And with that, I realized, David had come out to me. There were no longer any pretenses. We were definitely more than friends - more than even best friends.

“At least you don’t have to worry about pressure to date girls,” I noted.

Laughing, he said, “Speaking of which, it was so funny how Sarah was flirting with me tonight.”

“Yeah,” I said, “I noticed that.”

“But I think Izzy is onto us, Danny,” David added. “I mean, he seemed to be heading her off at the pass the whole time. We really have to be careful.”

My eyes opened wide with fear as I realized that David was right. If my brother could see that David and I were in love, then others could, too… wait a minute - did I just use the word ‘love’ to describe my relationship with David? It only took me a nanosecond of thought to admit it to myself - I was hopelessly in love with David.

At that moment, I really, really wanted nothing more than to make mad, passionate love to him, but that wasn’t going to happen for a long time. Instead, I settled for saying, “Goodnight, David. You know I’m in love with you.”

“I love you too, Danny… more than you can imagine.”

Hearing those words from David gave me the strength I needed to accept a relationship based on our close friendship - one in which any sexual exploration would have to wait until we were adults - that is until I awoke during the night to find an arm wrapped around me that wasn’t my own.

“David?” I asked.

“This doesn’t change the way the rest of the world must see our relationship, but I had a dream,” he said. “I dreamt that there was another terrorist attack, and I didn’t know if you were alive or dead. Danny, something like that could happen without warning. As a young boy, I saw the twin towers come down. We must never take our lives for granted. I don’t want to die without knowing what it’s to make love to you.”

God, I could hear him crying. I could feel his tears running down onto my shoulder and my neck. It was breaking my heart.

Slowly, I turned around in my bed so that I was facing him, but I wasn’t prepared for the look I saw on his face. Instead of the confident, somewhat cocky smile I was used to seeing, what I saw was a frightened little boy.

Hugging him tightly, I said, “Of course we’ll make love, but this isn’t right, and I think you know it. Now isn’t the time, but I promise, there will be a time, and very soon. I want nothing more than to share everything with you. I want nothing more than to make love to you, David, but I want to do it when we’re both wide awake and ready.”

With that, I gave him a slow, closed-mouthed kiss on the lips. David kissed me back, but he didn’t keep his mouth closed, and after teasing me with his tongue for a minute, I not so reluctantly opened my mouth to him. To say the feeling of his velvety tongue in my mouth was the most wonderful sensation I’d ever felt would have been a gross understatement. Now, I knew I loved David more than I could put into words and by his admission, he loved me every bit as much. I was insanely aroused and from what I could feel of him poking me in my thigh, he was equally aroused.

It took every bit of restraint I had to keep from pushing things further, and to keep David from pushing things further, but now really wasn’t the time. He was vulnerable, and I just knew that sex is not something that should be shared during a moment of vulnerability.

“Turn around, David,” I told him. “Turn around and lets try to get some sleep. Maybe after Shabbat, we can continue where we left off,” I said with a sheepish grin on my face. Even in the dim light of my room, I could see he was grinning, too. There wasn’t much room in my narrow twin bed, but David turned himself around and spooned back into me. I wrapped my arm around his chest and pulled him even closer to me. To say we were comfortable would have been a lie, but feeling his heartbeat under my hand was somehow reassuring, and after a lot of squirming, we did eventually fall back to sleep.

The next think I knew, bright sunshine was filling my room, I was still spooned up against David’s back, and my dick felt like it was going to burst from my morning piss as it stood straight up, right between the cheeks of David’s ass. I guess that maybe I’d heard a noise, but I wasn’t yet fully awake to process it when I heard it again - kind of a tapping noise.

“Danny? David?” I heard my brother say through my closed door. That got me to sit bolt upright in bed, but I was too late - when I failed to answer, he opened the door a crack, and on seeing both David and me in the same bed, decided he’d better enter my room and close the door behind him.

“Have a good night’s sleep?” Izzy asked with a smirk on his face as he sat down on David’s unmade bed across the way.

“Izzy, it’s not what it looks like, I said as I threw off the covers to reveal, much to my horror, that David was completely in the nude.

“Hey!” David practically shouted as he attempted to regain at least some modesty by covering himself from the waist down with the sheets as he sat up next to me.

“OK, so maybe it is what it looks like,” I backtracked, “but seriously, nothing happened last night. Nothing at all. David and I haven’t done anything. Nothing more than, well, kissing,” I tried to explain.

“Danny, don’t freak out on me, man,” Izzy tried to reassure us. “It’s cool. I may have said some bad things in the past, but that’s completely behind me. I don’t care that you’re gay. Actually, I’ve kind of known for a while, and with the two of you making goo-goo eyes for each other, it’s been so obvious.

“But Izzy,” I stated yet again, “nothing happened, nor will anything happen for a long time between us. Maybe not for another two years.”

“My father can’t find out I’m gay until I turn eighteen,” David added. “Seriously, he could keep Danny and me apart, or even worse. He might even send me away to try and cure me.”

I won’t say anything,” Izzy assured us, “but you really need to be less obvious in public, guys, and you might want to talk to Shimmy and the girls to make sure they don’t talk.”

“If Sarah ever stops flirting with David,” I laughed.

“Yeah, that was sooo funny last night,” Izzy agreed. “Sometimes, she can be so dense.”

“Are you gonna tell Mom and Dad?” I asked fearfully.

Rather than say anything, Izzy gave me a ‘don’t insult my intelligence’ sort of look that left me wondering if he meant that he wouldn’t tell them, or if he meant they already knew. SHIT!

“Mom said to tell you guys that breakfast’ll be ready in a half hour… well, make that twenty minutes, now. Meantime, I gotta head to school. Laterz, guys,” he said as he left the room.

“Shit, David,” I said, “we’re gonna have to be much more careful from now on.”

“You ain’t kidding,” David said with the most serious expression I’d yet seen on his face. “But in the meantime, I gotta pee something fierce!”

He then threw off the covers and streaked across the room to my bathroom and didn’t even bother to close the door as he let loose one hell of a stream. Damned if it didn’t remind me just how much I needed to go!

After we each showered, David actually got dressed in board shorts and a tee shirt. He still had his side curls and - shit, more than just a little - peach fuzz on his face now, and of course he wore a yarmulke, as did I, but he looked good. It was nice to see him dressed as a regular teenager, for a change.

Mom made us blueberry pancakes for breakfast; they were awesome. I helped her clean up before David and I headed out with our skateboards for the day. Because it was a school day, we practically had the park to ourselves. It was sunny and warm, and we quickly worked up a sweat and stripped off our shirts. One thing was certain - to avoid staring at David’s nicely muscled torso was not going to be easy!

Like David, I didn’t have any real skating buddies in the neighborhood that I would consider as good friends - nothing more than people I occasionally met up with to skate, really. Skating with David was a whole other matter. He challenged me to be a better skater, and vice versa. When he showed me a jump, I had to try to do him one better, and then he had to try to one-up me again. This went on all morning until we stopped for lunch, and then again all afternoon.

More important, however, was the friendly conversation we had throughout the day. We talked about everything imaginable, from the Arab-Israeli conflict, to why my dad feared government-run health care, to whether or not people should be allowed to have as many children as they pleased. Yeah, David and I single-handedly solved all the world’s problems that day. We had the time of our young lives.

As the sun started dropping low in the sky, we reluctantly headed back home to shower and change - David back into his traditional Hasidic clothes and me into a sport coat and tie.

Compared to David’s schule, our synagogue was actually quite large, but not as large as the one Uncle Mortie and his family attended on the Lower East Side. We belonged to a branch of Orthodox Judaism called Young Israel, a somewhat more liberal branch that allowed a bit more latitude than many other groups. It was still much too literal for my taste, but a hell of a lot better than the Lubivitchers - by a long shot.

At least the women weren’t banished to the balcony - they were behind a partition on the other side of the bimah, or pulpit, that let them see everything on an equal footing with the men, while we men could pray without the ‘distraction’ of seeing the women, as the partition did a pretty good job of hiding them. Still, women were not allowed on the bimah itself during the regular prayer service, which really sucked as far as I was concerned. Not only couldn’t women become Orthodox rabbis or cantors, but also for the girls to be bat mitzvahed, they had to wait until after Shabbat services, and only then could they read their Torah portion and prove they were every bit as capable as the boys. My poor sister, Shoshanah, suffered that indignity when she turned twelve, the age at which girls undergo the ceremony.

But as all of this was going through my head, it suddenly dawned on me - Shimmy would be having his bar mitzvah in a matter of weeks - just three weeks to be precise. I wondered if David, as my best friend in the world, would be interested in coming down for my brother’s bar mitzvah. Hell, he’d probably use any excuse to spend more time with me, and so I turned to him and asked, “Guess who’s turning thirteen in three weeks?”

Being as perceptive as he was, a broad grin quickly spread across his face as he said, “Shimmy? Shimmy’s getting bar mitzvahed in three weeks?”

“Three weeks from tomorrow,” I answered him.

“Am I invited?” he asked excitedly.

“From now on, you’re invited to all our family events,” and then I whispered in his ear, “after all, you are family.”

Giggling, David responded, “I’ll have to ask my father of course, but I don’t think he’ll mind, seeing as we’re best friends and all.”

“That’s great,” I agreed.

The Shabbat evening service itself wasn’t all that different from the one at David’s schule. Of course, we were extra careful walking home, given what had happened to poor Aaron Rosenblatt and his mother. We knew our neighborhood wasn’t exactly safe, but there were plenty of us walking home from schule, and there was strength in numbers. We all made sure that no one walked home alone.

Soon my friends started arriving for Shabbat dinner and the Oneg that was to follow, which was also my birthday party. As each new guest arrived, I introduced them to David, and vice versa.

Because the dining room was part of the original part of the house, it was kind of small, and so we set up a buffet line there and set up places for all of us to eat in the huge family room that we’d added on to the house in back. Before we could start, however, we had to say all the Shabbat blessings. First, as the sun was just about to set, Mom said the blessing over the lighting of the candles, and then my father asked David, as our guest of honor, to chant the Kiddush - the blessing over the wine. Lastly I, as the birthday boy, ‘broke bread’ and said the Motze - the blessing over the bread. Mom really outdid herself; all the food was fantastic.

After we all enjoyed yet another birthday cake, Izzy led us in chanting the Birkat Hamazan, the traditional after-meal blessing, and then it was time to open my presents! Because it was Shabbat, we couldn’t have candles on the cake, but I'd made my wish and blown out sixteen candles on Thursday already. Also, my gifts couldn't be wrapped because you can’t unwrap things on Shabbat. Instead, most guests brought my gifts in fancy bags. By agreement among our group, gifts were limited to $25 or less, which pretty much meant things like video games, CDs, movies and the like, but I’d forgotten to tell David that, so I certainly hoped he hadn’t gone overboard in buying me a gift.

The gifts were pretty much the usual assortment, except for one very special gift from Mom and Dad - enrollment in Driving School! YEAH! Then there was David’s gift - a gold friendship bracelet - it had to have cost him well over a hundred bucks. Although I swore I was going to lay off the displays of affection, I couldn’t help but hug him. Gay or not, he was still my best friend.

Our Oneg Shabbat, my birthday party, didn't end until well after midnight. We straggered into Shabbat services the next morning and then returned home to partake of a brunch of smoked whitefish, bagels and lox from a nearby deli, picked up the day before.

“Not as good as what you can get in New York,” David made a point of saying, as if to remind us of what awaited us, should we move, “but more than delicious.”

After going to services, David and I spent the entire day skating again. It wasn't exactly proper for Shabbat, but we didn't care. We returned home only when it was time for dinner and then Havdalah, the traditional service ending the observance of Shabbat.

After Havdalah, David asked me if I’d be willing to join him on my recorder and give the family an informal concert in the family room. I was a little bit nervous, since we’d never even practiced together, but seeing his cute smile, how could I refuse?

David sang and played the guitar while I played my recorder, improvising a harmony to complement the melody David was playing. At first we stuck to traditional Jewish songs - Shabbat Shalom, Hava Nagila, Am Yisrael Chai and the like, but then Izzy asked David if he knew any popular music. I guess that was what David was waiting for.

“All right! Let’s get rocking. I don’t get much opportunity to play this stuff at home and usually have to practice it in nearby parks, so if I sound a bit rusty,” he said, “that’s why.”

Slipping into the most beautiful falsetto, David started to sing:

Beautiful dawn,
Lights up the shore for me.
There is nothing else in the world,
I'd rather wake up and see with you.

I immediately recognized the tune as High, by James Blunt and Ricky Ross (copyright 2005, Atlantic Recording Corp, US and WEA International, Inc., elsewhere), and joined in, improvising harmony on my recorder as David continued to sing:

Beautiful dawn,
I'm just chasing time again.
Thought I would die a lonely man, in the endless night.

But now I'm high!
Running wild among all the stars above.
Sometimes it's hard to believe you remember me…

I was in a trance while David continued singing, but when he stopped and I put down my recorder, and when everyone broke into a thunderous applause, I almost got tears in my eyes. His singing was so beautiful, and I knew he was singing that song to me.

“I can’t believe you two never played together,” Mom said. “That was fantastic!

“Please,” I said with obvious emotion in my voice, “I just played along. David’s the one with talent.”

“Don’t be so modest, Danny,” David said. “It wouldn’t have sounded half as good without you backing me up, and I can’t believe you were able to improvise the way you did. I could never do that.”

“He’s right, Honey,” Mom agreed. “The two of you make great music together.”

Talk about double meanings! I’m sure I must have turned beet red, the way that came out.

“You guys want to hear some more music?” David asked, and everyone hooted and hollered that they did.

David started plucking away at his guitar and I didn’t even need to hear any lyrics to know he was gonna sing Coldplay’s Life in Technicolor ii (copyright 2008, EMI Records, Ltd.). I immediately started in with my recorder, and then David started to sing:

There's a wild wind blowing
Down the corner of my street
Every night there the headlights are glowing

There's a cold war coming,
On the radio I heard
Baby it's a violent world

Oh, love, don't let me go
Won't you take me where the streetlights glow
I can hear it coming
I can hear the siren sound
Now my feet won't touch the ground…

This was such a fun song, and pretty soon, everyone was up and dancing - even Mom and Dad. You just couldn’t help but dance to a song like this. When we finished, again, everyone hooted and cheered. It felt great to be making music with David, and what a versatile voice he had!

We sang and played song after song by well-known artists such as Keane, Sara Bareilles, Snow Patrol, Ben Folds and The Fray, and by some I’d never heard of before, like Blind Pilot, The Benjy Davis Project, and Tina Dico.

Later on, we put on some recordings my parents had by Jewish folksinger Beth Schafer and by Israeli superstar Noa, and David and I continued to sing and play along. I was surprised David had any voice left by the time we headed upstairs for bed, and my lips were sure chapped at that.

It was a bittersweet time that night as we headed to my bedroom, knowing that our time together was short. I’d never had a better birthday, ever - all too soon David would be returning to New York. At least he’d be back in a few weeks, but only for a brief visit, and we’d be very busy with Shimmy’s bar mitzvah. Still, at least I had that to look forward to.

Since we had taken showers after returning home from skating, we headed straight to bed after brushing our teeth and washing up. There was something surprisingly intimate about standing next to David at my bathroom sink, me in just my boxers and David in a wife beater and briefs. I couldn’t help but notice that we were both tented.

“You were fucking awesome,” I said as I finished washing my face. “You can really play the guitar, and you have a great singing voice.”

“Like I said earlier, Danny, I wouldn’t have sounded half as good without you backing me up. Even on songs you’d never heard before, you managed to improvise a perfect accompaniment. Not many people can do that,” he said. “We make a pretty good team, don’t you think? A ‘fucking’ good team, as you put it so eloquently,” he added with a smirk.

“I wouldn’t mind the ‘fucking’ part, either,” I agreed as I wiggled my eyebrows, causing poor David to blush.

“Actually, I was thinking I would like to continue what we started a couple of nights ago.” Turning so he was facing me, David looked into my eyes as I did the same and said, “I really, really want to make love to you, Danny. I don’t want to take a chance that something might happen and we might never get the chance.”

“That shouldn’t be the only reason, do you think, David?” I asked. “That would be like having sex to have sex. I mean, I know I love you, David. I love you with all my heart. I love you so much, it hurts, but I wouldn’t want to do anything that might jeopardize what we already have. Even if it weren’t for your being a Lubavitcher, or your father being a rabbi, I’d still want to take it slow. I’m scared shitless, aren’t you?”

“Danny,” David answered, “Don’t ever doubt my love for you. When I sang High today, I was singing it just for you.”

“I knew you were,” I replied.

“You mean the world to me. Yes, we need to be careful, but I really, really want to make love to you.”

“David,” I asked, “come to think of it, have you even jerked off before? I mean, I’ve heard that the Hasidic think that it’s even a sin to jerk off, you know?”

Laughing that wonderful laugh of his, David said, “If I waited until I had a wet dream, I’d go fuckin’ crazy, man. I’ve been jerkin’ off since I was thirteen. And since we met, the only thing I think about when I jerk off… is you.” David turned red as a beet when he said the last part. It was so cute!

Continuing, he said, “Of course I’m horny, Danny, but more than anything, I just want to be a part of you… if you want it too. I’m not saying we should go all the way, Danny… in fact, we probably shouldn’t, but I just have a physical need to be with you. I can’t explain it… it’s just there, you know?”

“Yeah, I do know, David. I can see it in your eyes,” I told him just before I closed my eyes, and tilted my head. Before I could even explain what was happening, our arms were around each other and David’s tongue was in my mouth. The feeling of our tongues sliding against each other and of our lips making contact was almost enough to send me over the edge alone, but we were in contact from head to toe. I could feel his erection poking me, as mine was him, and even the thin fabric of his wife beater seemed too much to have between our torsos.

“Let’s remove our undies and get into bed,” I suggested.

David looked back at me with the sweetest smile and a look on his face that could only be described as one of awe.

The feeling of skin against skin as we slid under the covers was amazing. I could feel every inch of my boyfriend beside me, nestled up against me. It was like nothing I’d experienced in all of my sixteen years.

Running my fingers through his silky red curls, I brought his face back to mine and began making out with him anew as my hands roamed freely over his body, experiencing the smooth texture of his skin for the first time in earnest as he did the same with me.

As if by instinct, we were humping each other as our mouths and tongues began to explore our faces, our ears, our necks and nipples. Our humping speeded up and became more intense as the making out became more feverish, and the exploration with our hands more adventurous. I cupped his balls, held his ass cheeks and even teased his ring, but no more than that - not tonight. This level of intimacy just felt right. Later on, as our relationship progressed, our mouths might stray lower, and there might be actual penetration, but not tonight - maybe not for a long time.

I could sense that David was getting close, and the tightening of his balls and arching of his back told me his release was imminent. Feeling his wetness spread between our bodies was all it took to send me over the edge as well.

The next thing I knew, it was morning, bright sunlight was streaming into my bedroom, and Izzy was in the room with us, gently trying to shake me awake.

“Shit, Izzy,” I said groggily as I tried to bring myself out of a deep sleep and to extricate myself from David, with whom I seemed to be thoroughly entangled. For what it was worth, David himself was squirming as he tried to awaken himself as well.

“You could have knocked,” I admonished my brother, once I was more able to think in a coherent manner.

“I did,” he claimed sheepishly, “three times, the last one pretty loudly, too, before I decided to just come in… and judging from the way it smells in here, you must have had quite a night, too. I’d definitely suggest opening a window and leaving the door closed before you go downstairs… unless you want the whole family to know what you were up to,” he added with a smirk.

“Oh God,” David said as he sat upright in bed. “We are definitely not doing a very good job of keeping our relationship under wraps, Danny.”

“You were the one who wanted to make love, David,” I reminded my boyfriend, “but maybe next time, we should set the alarm clock so we can get washed up before we’re discovered.”

“Sound’s like a plan, guys,” Izzy said, “and by the way, brunch will be ready in fifteen minutes, so you don’t have much time to get ready.”

Shit!” we both exclaimed at once, before throwing off the covers and streaking to the bathroom. As we did so, I distinctly heard my brother say, “I so didn’t need to see that.”

David and I showered together and quickly, not for fun but because we had to out of necessity, to get downstairs without raising suspicion. We dressed in record time and, as we finished, I noted that Izzy had not only opened the window for us, but he’d also mussed David’s bed to make it look like it had been slept in. At least someone was looking out for us.

After a wonderful Sunday brunch prepared by Mom, David packed up his things and said his goodbyes, and we headed out with Dad to the Inner Harbor. We decided to spend what remained of David’s time with us doing a little sightseeing downtown.

David and I spoke to Dad about David coming back for Shimmy’s bar mitzvah in three weeks. Dad reminded me that I’d already be sharing my room with Izzy and Joshie to make room for Shimmy’s friends. I’d forgotten about that, but I argued that if Joshie could sleep on an air mattress on the floor, then so could I, and so it was agreed, David could come! As David put it, “You guys are family, now. I wouldn’t want to miss the little twerp’s special day.”

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to spend at the National Aquarium to make it worthwhile before David had to catch his train. We therefore settled on browsing some of the shops and just hanging out together. We both practically cried when it was time for David to board.

By the time Dad and I got back to the car, I did totally lose it. I just couldn’t help it.

“I know it’s hard, Danny,” Dad said as we started driving home, “but he’ll be back in only three weeks. It’s tough when your best friend in the world lives so far away. Something tells me, though; it will be even harder on the two of you if and when we live in the same city.”

What was Dad saying? Was he saying what I thought he was saying? Was this an invitation for me to come out? Not that I thought my family would have a problem with it, even though we were Orthodox, but coming out was a big deal, and I was scared shitless.

I just wasn’t ready, and so we rode in silence.

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David of Hope in editing this story and Low Flyer in proofreading it, as well as the support of Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for hosting it. I would also like to thank Rigel for correcting some of my errors with respect to traditional Orthodox Judaism. This story was written as part of the Gay Authors 2009 Novella Writing Contest.

Disclaimer: This story is fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals is purely coincidental and unintended. Although a number of the locations, businesses, institutions and residences described in the story are real, the author in no way implies the actual behavior of the owners, managers or other individuals at these establishments. Some of the characters in the story may discuss or engage in homosexual acts, some of whom are underage. Obviously, anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of story where they live. Opinions expressed in the story are those of the characters and they do not necessarily reflect those of the author, nor of the hosting website. The author retains full copyright, and permission must be obtained prior to duplication of this story in any form.