To Everything a Season
Chapter 1: A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
The Bible: American King James Version
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.
Brian followed behind Jake Daniels trying to take in all of the instructions he was being given, but his mind kept wandering. He thought about the fact that his name was almost Jack Daniels, and wondered if he actually drank that or if he had been teased so much as a kid that he hated the shit. Brian was certain he drank something because he reeked of alcohol. He was thinking about how old and ugly the man was and then he wondered how long it had been since he got laid, because really, who gives a fuck about the mixture of fertilizer to soil ratio? Besides, all this shit was in the meticulously kept binder that the man had given him the day before.
“Now Brian, each week I’ll have a list of chores that need to get done and I’ll expect you to work with Jose and Raul to get them done,” Daniels went on. They had arrived back at the gardener’s shed, which Brian thought was more of a barn it was so big. “One last thing: the boys up at the school… they sometimes are about while you’re working. You are not to interact with them at all. Most of them will simply ignore your presence, but there is always one or two who are looking for trouble or attention. Stay away from them if you want to keep your job.”
“Right,” Brian agreed. He wasn’t concerned with the schoolboys. These little rich fucks didn’t interest him in the least.
“Alright then,” Daniels said with a short nod. “I’ll leave you to get started.”
Brian looked at his list for the week. They had to mow the lawns every week but they were to clear some of the undergrowth out of the orchard and plant the pallets of fall flowers in the beds in front of the main school building this week as well. Sounded easy enough. He sent Raul and Jose to the orchard and he went to the huge riding mower in the barn. He checked the fuel level before starting it up and heading across the campus to the south lawns. He’d mow from the lacrosse field over to the greenhouses this morning, check on Raul and Jose, have lunch, and then do the greens by the dormitories that afternoon. The courtyard would have to be done on Saturdays, when the boys weren’t in class.
In the summer, the school hired a few college kids to keep up with the extra work, but the fall winter and spring was just Daniels, Brian, Jose and Raul—to whom Daniels refused to speak. Since Brian hadn’t seen any evidence that Daniels actually did anything but drink all day, he was pretty sure that he’d be the one doing most of the work and supervising the other workers as well.
As he rode the mower in the unusually hot September sun, Brian thought about how lucky he had been to get this job. Daniels certainly wouldn’t have hired him. But Brian had been doing lawn care around some of the suburbs since he was old enough to catch a bus on his own. If he wanted money for clothes or new shoes, or even school supplies, it had to come from somewhere, so Brian had started knocking on the doors of the rich people—people he now knew were just middle class but they seemed rich to him at the time—and got some regular customers. He used their mowers and trimming equipment, but he was good at what he did and he worked hard for less money than the big companies.
One of those customers, Larry Chase, was the Assistant Headmaster of the St. James Academy for Boys. It was a boarding school for the truly rich. They needed a new assistant to the groundskeeper and Mr. Chase had thought of Brian. The pay was great, the work was year round, not just the summer months, and Brian could still take night courses at Carnegie Mellon. He’d just graduated from high school that June and he loved the fact that he could finally get the hell out of his parents’ home. He also loved the fact that he was finally learning something useful. There was no way he wanted to be cutting grass for the rest of his life. He had plans that didn’t include sweating his ass off every day.
In the meantime, he’d do what he had to succeed, including put up with a drunk boss and snotty rich boys.
Brian knew that some of the boys watched him work. He wasn’t surprised, He was fucking hot and in a school of two hundred boys there had to be a few fags—not to mention a few boys horny enough to experiment with whatever was at hand. Two weeks after starting at St. James, however, he began to feel like one particular set of eyes were on him more than the others. He hadn’t yet been able to pick out which of the little rich boys was stalking him, but he knew that eventually the little fucker would show himself.
It was while he was replacing some of the cracked and broken flagstones on the path between the greenhouses and the main school that Brian knew his stalker was about to introduce himself. He never stopped working, but Brian did glance over at the corner of the greenhouse where a blond head was peeking at him. Brian’s first impression was of that shockingly light blond hair shining in the sun like a halo and luminous blue eyes that seemed to glow with an inner fire. Brian caught his breath at the boy’s beauty.
“You can come out,” Brian drawled, not letting the boy know how much he affected him. “I know you’ve been watching me.”
The boy, who couldn’t have been more than twelve, stepped slowly out into the open and Brian got his first full look at the boy. Brian could tell even from twenty feet away that the boy was small for his age. And painfully shy. But he looked good in his school uniform and Brian could see that he was going to be a heartbreaker someday.
“What’s your name?” Brian asked. He set the flagstone in place in the sand base he’d laid earlier and used a level to make sure it was flat. Once that was done, he looked up at the boy, who was still silent. “Well?”
“J-Justin,” the kid stammered out.
Brian nodded and took a drink of his large bottle of water. He grabbed his discarded shirt and used it to wipe the sweat from his face.
“I’m Brian,” Brian told him. “You aren’t supposed to be out here are you?”
Justin shook his head and looked guilty. “I’m supposed to be in gym class. But I suck at soccer and they never let me play, so I figured I’d just…”
“Stalk me,” Brian finished with a smirk.
“No!” Justin denied with more vehemence than Brian had expected. Then he blushed and was back to stammering. “I-I mean… I was drawing you. For art class.”
Brian raised his brow and looked at the kid. He seemed sincere. “Let me see.”
Justin bit his lip nervously, but walked over to Brian and held out the sketchpad in his hands. Brian took it and looked at the drawings of him. The page was filled with small detailed sketches of parts of his body and face. They were good—much better than Brian would have expected from a kid his age. He’d seen college art majors who weren’t this good. He flipped the page and found a drawing of him standing with his arms outstretched and his face turned into the sun. He was bare-chested and his jeans showed every lithe muscle in his legs. Even his cock was faintly visible through the tight denim. Brian knew that he often stretched like that when he had been weeding or working in the flower beds for too long, but the way the kid had drawn it, he looked like both a religious icon and a sexual predator. It was amazing.
He flipped through the pages and there were dozens of pictures of him along with places and other people around the campus. None of them compared to that first picture of him. He turned back to it.
“Can I buy this?” Brian asked. “I want to own an original when you grow up to be a famous artist.”
Justin frowned. “My art teacher hates that picture. He says that it’s…pornographic.”
Brian chuckled. “Your art teacher doesn’t know dick about pornography. Or art. I’ll give you twenty bucks for it.”
“I can’t…” Justin shook his head and took his sketchpad back. “I have to go.”
And then he was running away and headed for the main building. Brian shrugged. He was disappointed. He had really liked that picture. And the kid hadn’t been half bad either.
Two days after meeting Justin for the first time, Brian found the drawing he had offered to buy rolled up and tied with a red ribbon in his locker in the barn. He never asked Justin how he had gotten it there, but he did thank him the next time he saw him around campus alone. Justin had blushed and rushed off to class.
Brian took the drawing to a framer and used part of his hard earned money to get the drawing mounted and framed. He hung it up in the bedroom of his shitty little apartment and stared at it every night before he went to sleep.
Fall was a busy time for Brian. Not only did they have to collect the leaves from the grounds, but they had fruit to pick from the orchard and spring bulbs to plant. There was fall pruning to be done and preparations for the winter months to be made. On top of that, Brian was finding out that working full-time and going to school full-time was not as easy as he had hoped. He had more schoolwork than he had ever had before. By December, however, Brian had found a way to cope. He found that if he was meticulously organized and worked ahead on assigned projects and readings he could keep up. Then winter came, slowing his hectic work schedule just in time for Brian’s finals.
Brian had seen Justin sitting with his sketchbook often in the months since their first meeting. He smiled and waved at him whenever he noticed the younger man. Justin always blushed, but he waved back to him. Lately, however, more and more of Brian’s time was being spent in the barn, doing maintenance on the equipment and making plans for the spring plantings. In fact, Brian realized on the Saturday after his final exams that he hadn’t seen the kid around for a couple weeks.
Still, it wasn’t until Christmas Eve that he spoke the kid again.
There was snow and ice in the forecast for Christmas Day and Brian knew that if he didn’t get some salt down on the many sidewalks and paths around campus that it would be a bitch to try and clean them after. Daniels was off on vacation, presumably visiting his grandkids in Ohio, but Brian had his doubts. Brian had given Jose and Raul the day off for religious observances and was reluctant to call them in if he could do the job himself. So he gassed up the four-wheeler and hooked up the small trailer. He loaded the trailer with bags of salt and sand and the salt spreader, and soon he was off.
It was fucking freezing, but Brian spent most of the day preparing for the storm. It wasn’t until afternoon, when he was finishing up the walks out in front of the dorms, that Justin came out to see him. He was looking shy again and had another rolled up paper in his hands, tied with red and green ribbon this time.
“Merry Christmas,” Justin said with a shy smile.
Brian grinned back at him. “Merry Christmas to you too. What are you doing here? I thought all the boys had gone home for the holidays.”
Justin shrugged. “Most do. Sometimes parents aren’t around to take their kids home, though. Sometimes they have to stay.”
“Are there other boys here?” Brian asked.
“Just me this year,” Justin said. “Last year there were two other kids and the year before that there were five of us.”
“Don’t you ever spend Christmas with your family?” Brian asked. He pulled out his thermos of hot coffee and poured some into the lid cup. He took a sip and then handed the cup to Justin. The blond took a sip and smiled.
“That’s good,” Justin said. “They won’t let us have coffee at school. I usually have to wait until there’s a shopping weekend and they take us to the mall.”
“Well, you’re welcome to share my coffee,” Brian said. “You didn’t answer my question.”
Justin stared into the cup of dark liquid and said quietly, “I spend all school breaks here. I haven’t been home at all since my dad got remarried. His new wife doesn’t like kids.”
“What about your mom?” Brian asked.
“She died when I was five,” Justin said. “Dad sent me here right after that. I went home for holidays the first two years, but then he met Amber and… He always sends lots of gifts, but I think he has his secretary buy them.”
“Fuck,” Brian muttered. “I’m sorry.”
Justin nodded and handed back the cup. Then he held out the paper in his hand with a flourish. “I made you a gift.”
Brian smiled down at the kid. “I didn’t get you anything.”
“That’s okay,” Justin said. “I’ve got loads of stuff. I don’t really need anything. Open it!”
Brian pulled the ribbon off the thick paper and unrolled it. “Wow.”
This time Justin had made a made a watercolor portrait of him. The fall leaves colored the background in splotches of reds and golds and greens. In the foreground, he had portrayed Brian in very simple lines, using subtle shading to give life to the two-dimensional picture. There was an effortlessness to the piece that was deceptive. He used the suggestion of color and shape to indicate clothes, and the trees in the background, but Brian’s face was captured with a simple clarity that let the viewer see him as the artist saw him. Brian was smiling and had a carefree look on his face that he didn’t recognize. The entire piece was at once modern and timeless.
“I did it for you,” Justin said when he sensed Brian was going to give the picture back. “So you can’t not accept it. That would be rude and hurt the poor little rich kid’s feelings.”
Brian laughed at that and Justin’s face lit up with a smile that could rival the sun. “Thank you, Sunshine.”
Justin giggled in the way that only a boy his age could get away with. “Sunshine?”
Brian shrugged and smiled. “It fits you.”
“Does that mean I get to call you Stud?” Justin asked flirtatiously. “It fits you.”
Brian laughed again. “I don’t think so, Sunshine.” He let Justin have the last sip of coffee before taking the cup back. “You should go inside. It’s freezing out here, and I still have some work to do before I can go home tonight.”
Justin’s face fell. “Yeah. I guess you’re right.”
“Wait,” Brian said before Justin could walk away, “what do they have planned for you tomorrow?”
Justin gave Brian a wary look. “The dorm mother is the only one who’ll be here. I’ll open my presents in the common room and then she’ll make lunch for us. Then her grandkids will come spend the afternoon with her in her rooms and I’ll probably try to find space in my room for whatever junk my dad sent.”
Brian rolled his lips between his teeth indecisively. Then swore, “Fuck it.” Justin looked at him intently, waiting for whatever Brian had to say. “I always spend Christmas morning with my friend Mikey’s family. It’s just him, his mom and his Uncle Vic. We’ll do dinner, but then… Well, if you think you can get away, we could hang out in the barn for a while.”
Justin was nodding enthusiastically before Brian had even finished his offer. “Yes! I’ll be there. I promise. What time?”
Brian chuckled. “How’s three sound?”
Justin nodded again and let his bright smile out once more. “I’ll see you then. Merry Christmas Brian.”
“Merry Christmas Sunshine,” Brian said to his retreating back. As the blond disappeared into the almost empty building, Brian wondered what the hell he thought he was doing.
Brian brought lots of food from Debbie’s when he returned the next day. He also brought a small gift he had picked up from the store after his talk with Justin the night before. When he had gone home the night before, Brian had studied the watercolor Justin had done and was amazed all over again at the talent this kid showed at his age. He had brought the little tree that Debbie had snuck into his apartment a couple weeks ago and he set his present for Justin under it. The radio was playing Christmas carols softly in the background and he had just set the coffee pot brewing—he had brought it in right after he started working there because he needed the caffeine—when he heard the quiet knock n the door.
“It’s open,” Brian called out and seconds later Justin was walking through the door. His hair was damp from the ice and snow that was falling outside and he shook his head to clear some of it away before he shrugged out of his winter coat.
“It’s gross out there,” Justin said.
“I know,” Brian said. “I had to catch a bus in that shit to get here.”
“I’m glad you came,” Justin said with a smile. “Merry Christmas.”
Brian chuckled. “Merry Christmas to you too, Sunshine. Get over here by the space heater and get warm. The coffee should be done soon.”
Justin sighed and took a seat on the ratty old sofa that the grounds keepers used for their breaks. Brian thought it looked like one that might have once been in the dorm’s common area, but he couldn’t be sure. At least it was comfortable, and with the space heater right there, he knew that Justin was warming up quickly. Brian came over with two cups of coffee and joined the kid on the couch. As soon as he sat down, Justin’s face flushed and Brian could feel the space heat up even further.
“Here,” Brain said as he handed Justin the cup he’d brought for him. “I don’t have cream or sugar. It’s too hard to keep around here.”
“That’s okay,” Justin said. “I’ll take coffee however I can get it. Thanks.”
Brian nodded. “So how was your morning? What did your dad send?”
Justin sat back and laughed. “It was just like I told you it would be. I opened gifts while Mrs. Norris watched and then we had lunch together. My dad sent a new laptop, but he sends one every year. Hey, you want my old one? It’s still good as new, really.”
Brian, who had to use the computers in the labs at school, was not dumb enough to turn down the offer. “Sure. I could use it for school.”
“Where do you go?” Justin wondered.
“Carnegie Mellon,” Brian said with some pride. “I got an academic scholarship to cover tuition, but I have to pay for my own housing and shit. That’s why I work here. It’s tough going to school and working, but it’s worth it if I don’t come out on the other end owing a shitload of money that I might not be able to pay back.”
“I can’t imagine you not succeeding in whatever you try to do,” Justin told him. “You are going to be rich and successful someday. I know it.”
Brian shrugged and smiled. “I hope so. I’m studying marketing and business. I want to go into advertising when I graduate.”
“I want to be an artist,” Justin said. “But I bet you already knew that.”
Brian chuckled. “I did suspect.” They both drank their coffee in silence for a while. “There’s food. Debbie, Mikey’s mom, is crazy about never letting me go home without shitloads of food.”
Justin got up and looked over some of the dishes. “Wow. She sent all of this? Just for you? How much did she cook, if this was only a portion of the leftovers.”
“She’s Italian,” Brian said. “She always makes way too much food.”
Justin put a few things on a plate and went back over to the sofa and began to eat. “Mmm. This is… Wow.”
“Glad you like it,” Brian chuckled. “I’ll pass on your approval to Debbie. She’s always looking for new mouths to feed.”
“The cafeteria here is supposed to be really great,” Justin said. “All the brochures talk about the gourmet dining. That’s such bullshit. The food sucks. But this… Yeah, this would be worth sneaking out for.”
“Well, there’s dessert in the fridge too,” Brian said. “I’m still stuffed from dinner, but you can have as much as you want.”
They talked for a little while about inconsequential things like politics and their favorite subjects in school. But eventually, Brian asked, “So, how old are you, anyway?”
“Thirteen,” Justin said. “And before you say it, yes, I am small for my age. There are only two guys shorter than me in my grade. Bet you never had that problem. How old are you?”
“I’m eighteen,” Brian said.
“Have you ever…?”
“Have I what?” Brian asked.
Justin blushed a fiery red. “Have you ever had sex?”
Brian smirked. “Yes. A lot actually.”
“I can see that,” Justin said thoughtfully, his blush still heating his face. “I mean, you’re really hot.”
Brian laughed outright then. “Thanks. You’re not so bad yourself.”
Justin shrugged and toyed with the remnants of his third plate of food. “Maybe. Not that I’d know.”
Brian touched his knee and said, “Hey. Trust me. When you get out of this place you’re going to have people panting over you, boys and girls both.”
Justin’s face lit up. “Thanks. I’ve never had a boyfriend.”
“I’ve never had a boyfriend either,” Brian admitted.
“But you said…”
Brian gave Justin a small smile. “Fucking and love aren’t the same thing. I’ve done plenty of the former and don’t want to do the latter.”
“Why not?” Justin wondered.
Brian looked down into his coffee and frowned. He got up and found the bottle of bourbon he’d stashed for later and poured a healthy dose into his cup. Justin held his cup out and Brian rolled his eyes as he poured a small portion.
“I’m corrupting a minor,” Brian mused.
“Answer my question,” Justin said.
Brian took a gulp of the potent brew and nodded. “Okay. Love doesn’t really exist. At least not like the fairy tales that the media tries to sell us. All love really does is open you up to get your heart trampled on. The people who are supposed to love you… Well, just look at you and your dad. He’s a fucking maggot to treat you the way that he does. And my dad… No. I don’t want any part of that.”
Justin let his words sink in and thought about them for a few minutes before speaking. “I can see where you’re coming from. A part of me hates my dad for just dumping me up here. And a part of me is hurt by it. But I know that just because he is that way, doesn’t mean I have to be.”
“I’ll never be anything like my father,” Brian swore.
“And neither will I,” Justin said. “But that doesn’t mean that I can’t love and be loved. I mean… look at you with your friend Mikey and his family. They love you. I can tell. No one sends that much food with someone they don’t love. And you love them too. I can see it in your face when you talk about them. It may not be romantic love, but it’s not that far from one to the other. The risk is still the same. If you open your heart to anyone—friend, lover, family—there is always a chance that they will hurt you. But isn’t it worth the risk for the right person?”
Brian thought about Justin’s words and wondered at how the kid could be so smart and still so young. “I’ll let you know if it ever happens. In the meantime, I’m enjoying myself and fucking as many men as I can.”
Justin looked a bit saddened by that, but he let it go. “I used to have someone who loved me. Besides my mom, that is. I suppose she still does, though I haven’t seen her in eight years. The best gift I got today was from Nelly, my old nanny. My dad fired her when he sent me here, but she writes to me a few times a year and sends a new scarf for Christmas every year. She knits them herself. The other boys like to tease me because my scarves aren’t fashionable or expensive, but those scarves… that’s how I know that someone out there still loves me. That makes them the most valuable thing I own.”
“I brought you a gift,” Brian said almost shyly. “It’s not something I made, just something I thought you’d like after our talk last night.”
Brian got up and grabbed the box out from under the small tree and handed it to Justin. Justin stared at the messily wrapped present with the same ribbon he’d used to tie Brian’s picture tied around it. He looked like he was going to cry.
“Open it,” Brian said.
Justin swallowed hard and tore at the paper to get it off and then open the white cube shaped box carefully. Inside, he found a travel coffee mug and what looked to be hundreds of packets of…
“Is this coffee?”
“It’s that new instant shit that’s supposed to be as good as real coffee,” Brian said. “I tried some at the store and it was good, I got a bunch of different flavors and blends. You just need hot water and you’ll be all set. And they won’t be able to see what you’re drinking if it’s in the travel mug.”
“This is… so wonderful,” Justin said, and there really were tears in his eyes this time. “Thank you.”
Brian shrugged. “I just thought you’d like it.”
Justin leaned over and gave Brian a big hug and Brian couldn’t help but hug him back. The kid felt great in his arms and Brian just reveled in the sensations. It wasn’t sexual, but it was something more than platonic. And when Justin leaned forward to kiss him, Brian didn’t even think to stop him. It was a relatively chaste kiss compared to the things Brian had done in his life. But it was probably Justin’s first kiss and Brian wanted it to be special. He took his time and slowly introduced his young partner to the delights of kissing.
But when Justin became too bold and tried to move things to the next level, Brian had to pull back and set the blonde away from himself. Justin looked lost and hurt and Brian just wanted to kiss his suffering away but he couldn’t do that.
“I can’t be your boyfriend, Sunshine,” Brian told him gently. “I could lose my job, not to mention go to jail. But I want to be your friend.”
Justin stared at his hands in his lap and seemed to think that over before looking up at Brian with a small smile. It wasn’t nearly as bright as the one that made Brian give him his nickname, but it was brighter than Brian had thought he would see.
“I’d like to be your friend too.”