Wow!! Look at the time of the year!! But what a great time to read a story about nature and human life than in the greatest time of the year...spring!! Yes, this was for the Arbor Day challenge but I don't care. Still show your appreciation by commenting and liking the story. Special thanks to WayneSB for spending his time and effort on making this story better.
It had been three years since Eric entered Grand Oak National Park's very own Camp Otsego. Six years too soon, he kept saying to himself. He knew it was a bad idea from the get-go, but he still felt he needed to do it. He wanted so much to be back there, to return to where he found his true love. He wondered how it would turn out, and he knew damn well it would be difficult.
He drove toward the campgrounds where the tourists and visitors were to stay. There were four main lodges, named after the four Great Lakes that touch Michigan. He loved the landscape and the breathtaking view of the mountains of the Upper Peninsula, but now he could think only of Erie Lodge.
Eric loved Camp Otsego in the springtime. One reason was that the place had that special spring vibe when the flowers bloom, preparing their life-giving seeds for a new year. The birds return from their migration and their songs enliven the place. Bears and other mammals wake up from hibernation, making the landscape even more alive. Sure, the area was well known for its winter and summer resorts, plus the colors of autumn, but springtime made Grand Oak National Park a place to die for.
Another reason was that it means Earth Day is just around the corner. The park always had a big Earth Day celebration. Festivities will be staged during the week leading up to Earth Day, followed by the popular "All Green-All Day" Earth Day event. That was part of what brought Eric back this year. His sister was the events planner for the "All Green-All Day" celebration and invited Eric to be a volunteer counselor for the "Go Green" children's trek.
Laura knew that Eric loved children, and what better way for him to have some fun than to lead the children's group around the national park? Of course, there would be the hassle of preparation, ensuring that every kid had the supplies necessary to enjoy the trek, and he would need to be patient with the little tykes for them to have any fun. Finally, he needed to have a first aid kit handy, just in case. Even so, he was sure it would be a great experience.
While all this seemed great, Eric knew the real reason he was returning. It was the same reason he could not look at Erie lodge without remembering the great times he had enjoyed there. He was grateful he didn't have to stay in that lodge, because he knew without a doubt that all the great memories would trigger the most horrible nightmares of his twenty-four years.
Eric stepped out of his car and took a good look at himself in the rearview mirror. Nothing much had changed physically since he first set foot here six years before. His black hair still shone brightly, the luminous sun giving it a distinct blue highlight. He reminded himself to shave when he was able because his five o'clock shadow was starting to show.
"Hey little brother, you're here, and narcissistic as ever!" Eric jumped at the shrill voice in his ear. Standing at only 5' 8", his sister was still able to give him a crushing hug.
"Hi, Laura, how's it going?" he gasped, struggling for air while trying not to show his pain from Laura's bear hug. "Oh, fine. Just getting ready for the Earth Day celebration," she said, releasing his gasping body. "You're such a wimp, lil' bro'," she said playfully while stroking his black hair.
"Yeah, it's been a while," was all he could get out before an awkward silence descended. It really had been quite a while since Eric had last seen his sister Laura, or his family for that matter. Eight months to be exact. Eric knew that whatever the reason Laura brought him here, it was due in part to her finally being able to break away from the Holden household and be independent.
She broke the silence with "Here, let me take you to your room," and took his suitcase. Eric took the two remaining bags from his trunk and followed. Not much had changed since his visit here three years ago: Same lodges, same amazing scenery, same cheery camp counselors and park rangers. Normally, all the positive energy would make him happy. Instead, he was morose.
"Remember students, all of you have been assigned a room. Please be respectful and follow lodge rules at all times. Curfew is at 10:30 p.m., so make sure you get to your rooms by then. We don't want these great counselors and park rangers to waste their time finding teenagers in compromising positions late at night."
Eric had already learned the guidelines when Mr. Gillen handed them out back at Marquette Academy. Now he was just tired and impatient. He really just wanted a quick nap before heading to the waterfalls.
Part of his grumpiness was due to the fact that he was assigned to room with a total tree-hugging nerd and the Erie Lodge were full of geeks, while Huron Lodge had the kind of people he hung with the most. He hated Mr. Gillen for assigning him to Erie, he hated that Advanced Life Science had turned out not to be a class he could just blow off for senior year. He also hated the fact that he was stuck with none other than Kevin Miller, science nerd as roommate.
Kevin preferred to be called an intellectual badass, but most of the jocks and their respective "baits" called him science fag. Eric hated him, mostly because he was valedictorian and his senior schedule was filled with classes that the college-bound love to take.
With AP and Honors courses thrown all over the place, Kevin was ensuring himself the best chance to make his mark at an Ivy League school. Kevin would usually call people who taunted him with "science fag" haters, but deep down it hurt.
As soon as Mr. Gillen gave them permission to go to their assigned rooms, Eric took off, hoping to be the first one there, lock the door, and have a good afternoon nap before heading off to the waterfalls with his crew. He was too late, for Kevin had beaten him to the room. "This is going to be the longest four days of my life, thanks to this fag," he muttered under his breath. He knew without a doubt that Kevin had heard, and he felt bad, a little.
The antagonism was mostly due to the uneasiness he felt whenever Kevin was around. Eric admired Kevin's amazing reddish-blond hair and slim physique. He shook those visions out of his head and immediately tended to business.
What is his problem? Kevin wondered. They had been together in their room for a mere thirty seconds before Eric dropped the f-bomb. It was just too much for a guy to take. Kevin had been so happy and excited to finally get here. He had been waiting for this trip ever since he dropped his AP Macroeconomics course to take this class.
He had anticipated it all year long, the only event he had really looked forward to, much more even than Prom or Graduation. With High School nearing its end, he was certainly looking forward to never seeing many people's faces after this was over, that's for sure.
He knew most of the hurt was because the word came out of the one and only Eric Holden. He had thought he was excited about the field trip, but he had been ecstatic when he learned Eric Holden was to be his camp roomie.
Sure, the minute they were acquainted and had all their stuff stowed away, they would go in different directions, but he wanted to cherish those few moments. Now the trip had soured when he heard the first f-bomb thrown at him, and from none other than Eric Holden himself. He sighed deeply.
I hate being so emotional, he thought to himself, as his eyes brimmed with tears. He tried his best to make it seem he was looking out the balcony window, refusing to let Eric see tears in his eyes.
He regained some strength from a blue jay that landed on his balcony and then flew off to its flock. Kevin was determined to look out the window until he was sure Eric was gone. After twenty minutes, he heard the door open and slam shut. The tears finally came, and he threw himself onto his bed, crying his eyes out.
"Fuck you Eric Holden! Fuck you," he screamed at the top of his lungs, his mouth covered by the pillow. Why am I in love with such a douchebag, he thought to himself. He should have known it was bad news the first time he heard Eric call him a fag during sophomore year, but even then, he could not stop worshiping the ground the man walked on. He even had a little fantasy that they would grow up together.
It would be Eric Holden the Super Bowl-winning quarterback and Nobel Peace Prizewinner Kevin Lockhart, married with three kids. He knew it was a dream, but he didn't give a damn. Kevin felt those dreams become more unrealistic every time Eric and his crew expressed their feelings about Kevin by calling him "Kevin Miller, aka science fag."
He felt sleepy and grabbed his iPod, switched shuffle mode to his "Pop Divaz" playlist and listened, calming himself, his body jiving to Madonna's Express Yourself. Somehow, he always felt that the powerful ode to femininity cheered him up. His eyelids grew heavier and heavier by the minute, finally closing, and the last image, as always, was Eric's beautiful lips meeting Kevin's own.
"Who knew Earth Day week needed all this help?" Eric asked as he and Laura pushed their way through the crowded cabin for employees and volunteers, where everyone was trying to move to their own rooms.
"I know, it seems like a lot, but the Earth Day weekend is the busiest time for the park. You of all people should know that, wimp," Laura said in her cheery mood, trying to lighten the atmosphere. Eric seemed uncomfortable; it was the third time he had accidentally stepped on some poor soul's foot.
As they finally arrived at his room, Laura warned Eric not to make a face. "I don't care if you are my baby brother, you are getting the same treatment as everyone else up here." She threw the suitcase onto the small bed and opened the curtains, making the dark room bright with the afternoon sun. Eric liked the sun, but not when the rays were shining directly into the little room he now had to live in for a week.
"It's fine; really, I just have to get used to all the light." He then carefully placed all his other bags inside the little closet that each room had. The good thing was that every room had its own little heater; the bad thing was that showers were communal. He did not really want to share showers with people he did not know. "Also having to wake up early if I want to take a shower, but other than that it's all good."
Then the awkwardness returned and silence filled the room until Eric said, "Hey want to go have lunch together? I really missed you." Laura answered with a sheepish grin and grabbed Eric's hand.
He wondered how a petite little hand like Laura's could bring such a warm and loving feeling with a touch. He was tired. Driving all the way from Washington D.C. to the U.P. was no easy thing, but for his big sis, he would do anything.
She nodded, but warned him that the food in the camp had not improved. Eric laughed and pushed his darling sister into the hall. "Let's go, I want to catch up on everything, for old time's sake." He felt bad, really bad, about Laura. It wasn't her fault, the falling-out he had had with his parents or the tragedies in his life.
She was the only person in the whole family who accepted him the way he was, and that really made him tear up. Then why did he feel so awkward and unsettled with Laura? He had no real animosity towards her, but the fact that she still clung to Mother and Father Holden really ticked him off. He shrugged those feelings away and followed her to the mess hall.
Okay, things have changed after all! Three years ago, the mess hall at Camp Otsego had contained benches made of real wood that seemed to constantly shed vast quantities of painful splinters. Now they were made of plastic, the only real change. He wondered what had become of the wooden benches.
They each grabbed a tray and got a small sampling of the day's menu: Chipped beef and coleslaw. At least the drinks had not changed much: Grape, orange or apple juice. He remembered how the first time he had eaten the chipped beef here he had thought it would be his last.
"I still don't get how the chipped beef can smell so good but keep me in the bathroom for so long," he mused as they sat down in the counselor corner.
They joined three of the other counselors and volunteers who were "enjoying" their portion of food as well. Eric met John, the Superior Lodge supervisor, an average-looking thirty-year-old; Shelly, who volunteered for the "All Green-All Day" festivities; and Mark, a volunteer who be Eric's partner leading the tyke trek.
"So you volunteered for the little monsters, too," Mark quickly joked. Eric was trying to enjoy his chipped beef. "Yeah, I love kids," he said, while he washed down his first mouthful with a big gulp of apple juice. "Do you have children?" asked Mark, trying to keep the conversation going. "No. I would like to someday, but no."
Eric's stomach dropped. He did not feel like eating anymore. When Mark asked if there was something wrong, Eric didn't answer, but just grabbed his tray, took it to the dishwasher station, and ran off.
He didn't care where he went, but just ran farther and farther away. It wasn't until he felt a tug on his arm that he realized Laura had caught up to him. "Eric, I'm sorry for all of this. I shouldn't have forced you to come here. It was too soon." He did not say anything, but just hugged her, holding on as if she was his last lifeline, crying.
"No, it's not your fault. I chose to come here. Remember, it was my idea." They held each other for a long time, Eric basking in the warm feeling only his sister could bring. He began to wonder, is it too soon?
"For the first day you will be partnering up with your roommate and you both will go through the list of specific flora and fauna I have compiled. Find them and notice their characteristics; notice their traits; and most of all notice their habitat. Please, for the love of God, do not, and I mean do not, disturb the creatures.
Do not take flash photography. I do not want to report a death just because someone thought it was cute to take a picture of someone with their hands in the air making it seem as if they are holding a bear. You have all day for this challenge. Please, I want you to stick with your roommate partner through this. Do not switch partners. Now, go! Go!"
Just fucking great! Kevin was going to be stuck with his longtime crush for a whole day. One part of him, the horny side, was ecstatic that he was going to spend a whole day with him. The other, the rational side, was nervous, fearing that there would be more f-bombs like last night.
Kevin looked at Eric, but then wished he hadn't. Eric's nostrils were flared and he was scowling. Eric did not like this idea at all, so Kevin tried to hide his happiness.
Kevin already annoyed Eric with his assorted snow hats that he wore each week, even during the warmer months. This week it was a light green beanie with two big lazy eyes, a small tongue at the center and two small ears protruding at the back of the head.
It was Gir from Invader Zim. What a geek! Kevin was cautious, but nonetheless led the way on their expedition. They had gone a quarter of a mile when Kevin stopped.
"Why do you guys hate me?"
"What?" Eric showed his discomfort.
"Don't play dumb with me! You and that blonde bimbo and your football cronies came to our room yesterday, complaining about your rooming with the fag." Eric's face changed from a glorious shade of tan to a stricken pale. "What are you talking about?"
"I just said don't play fucking dumb with me! You know, it's one thing to talk shit about someone behind his back, or when you think he's listening to music, but it's quite another to actually make sure he's there before you assholes start ranting about how you should be careful about sleeping in case the fag decides to molest you and tries to suck your cock."
There was a deafening silence. Eric could not say anything nor could he look into Kevin's pained eyes. Finally, "I'm sorry," escaped his lips, and even he knew it was lame.
"Save it, really! Your pathetic apologies mean nothing to me." Kevin resumed walking the path to their first task, to find the Canada Mayflower. It had been a long thirty minutes before either of them spoke again.
Kevin mused, "People wonder why I love animals so much, and why I'm so in touch with nature. It's because animals and nature cannot hurt people. Only people can hurt other people." Then Kevin sighed and the two of them continued their quest. Eric felt so bad that whenever he dared to look at the walking figure five feet away he felt his heart breaking.
The weird thing is that I wasn't worried about Kevin jumping me in my sleep; it's the other way around, Eric thought. He knew he couldn't keep his feelings from the smaller man much longer. He hated himself every time he called Kevin a fag. He knew deep inside that the only reason he used such words was that he was tormented by his own sexuality.
Sure, he loved the curves and feel of a woman's body, but he would rather feel the body of a Mr. Kevin Miller. That was why he was annoyed that he was stuck with Kevin as his roommate. He suspected that it would not be long before he jumped Kevin's sweet, tight body. Somehow, he had to make things right.
Kevin felt the larger figure loom near, but decided to ignore it. When he felt a tug on his arm, he became alarmed. "I said I was sorry, Kevin," Eric said, pain in his eyes. "And I told you I don't care," Kevin spat, while removing the hand and walking toward a spring.
Let's see if he likes it when the tables turned! Eric heard a zipper being pulled and then saw pants being pulled down to reveal a perfect pair of pale legs. "Kevin, what are you doing?" The answer was Kevin's purple shirt flying into his face. "What does it look like? I'm gonna have a good old-fashioned skinny-dip." He took off his socks, followed by his briefs.
Damn, what a body he has! Eric could really see Kevin's figure for the first time. Not bad, really, for such an eco-geek. Just that one look at Kevin's tight little bubble butt had Eric gasping for air and fighting to control the tightening in his pants.
He was shocked and just stood there in silence as Kevin dove into the spring, head first. Kevin quickly wondered if maybe he should have considered things more before acting. Damn it, it is fucking cold!
"Well are you just gonna stand there and look hot?" shouted Kevin as he pretended not to be effected by the cold water. Eric just shook his head and told him he shouldn't have jumped into the water headfirst.
"Why the hell would you care? Come on, chicken! I thought football players were supposed to be strong and brave! Don't tell me a dinky little spring has got you scared." Wow, he really knew how to push Eric's buttons. "Alright you little fuck, turn around. I don't want you getting all aroused by my gorgeous body."
Kevin mimed "Oh, please!" Nevertheless, he was aroused at the mere mention of Eric's hot body. I hope the fulfillment of all my fantasies of playing with that beautiful body is a mere skinny-dip away! Quickly, Eric took off his long-sleeved shirt, sweater and jeans, followed by his socks. He did not dare to take his boxer shorts off before jumping into the pool. What the fuck?!?!, was his reaction to the chilly water.