tagRomanceBy My Side

By My Side

byBurntRedstone©

Author's Notes:

'By My Side' is a sweet little story that was intended to be a stand-alone short story. I had no luck in keeping it short. Now I'm thinking of sequels... if time allows.

All characters engaging in sexual relationships or activities are 18 years old or older.

********

Chapter 1

"Hurry up in there!" Gary barked through the bathroom door.

He was going to be late for school if he didn't get some time in the bathroom to wash off the sweat and grime from doing his morning chores.

As he leaned up against the wall outside the washroom he mentally went through the list of tasks he had to complete every morning for his dad. He'd gotten through them all so he breathed a sigh of relief. If he'd missed something his dad would be sure to get in his face about it. Lately they'd been... less than friendly.

Gary had no desire to be a farmer, following in his dad's footsteps, as the job was just an endless amount of work that gave him no satisfaction but did give him endless body aches.

He was only 18! He shouldn't feel this sore every morning, should he?

Frustrated, he turned back to the door. "I'm gonna be-"

The door opened and his younger brother Dale stormed out, giving him an angry glare.

Gary ignored him and went inside to have his shower.

Their farm house was large but old and the bathroom was on the smallish side for a family of six.

Naturally there was no more hot water by the time he got his turn in the bathroom. With his mother, two sisters, and his brother all getting in before him he always got a cold, and fast, shower.

He shampooed, soaped, and rinsed in record time. He quickly shaved and brushed his teeth as he really was going to be late. He rushed out of the bathroom with his towel wrapped around himself and bumped into his little sister Sarah.

"Ewww! Get your sticky skin away from me!" she squealed.

He scowled at the twelve year old and brushed past her to go into his room, closing the door behind him. He swore his siblings were getting weirder by the day. He glanced at the clock and swore quietly.

Pulling on his worn but clean jeans, fresh socks and his favorite short sleeve plaid shirt, he quickly checked himself out in the mirror on his door.

He wasn't a big man like his dad. While the head of the Truman family was 6', Gary was 5' 9" with a slimmer build thanks to his mom's side of the family. However, his muscles were hard and there was very little fat on his body so he was proud of that. The whole family had lean builds though his father was more heavily muscled. Dale was showing signs of inheriting his dad's build.

He rushed downstairs and grabbed a slice of bacon from Dale's plate, ignoring the sixteen year old's angry yell as he grabbed his truck keys and kissed his mom's cheek. She'd made him a lunch so he picked up the bag and thermos and headed for the front door.

"When are you going to be home? I need you to do the back ninety," his father asked him as the big man entered the house.

Gary groaned. "Why don't you get Dale to do it? He's fully capable of driving the big machine."

"I know he is but I'm asking you," the man frowned at him.

"I'm going to be late today. I have to stop at Mr. Fitzgerald's place on the way home," Gary explained.

"Maybe we need your help more than Wayland Fitzgerald," his father snapped back.

Gary's frustration surged. "But helping him will look better on a resume!"

His father's eyes narrowed in anger and he stormed past towards the kitchen. Gary shook his head and pulled his cowboy boots on. He picked up his backpack, glanced back and saw his mother standing in the hall watching him, making sure he was ok. They shared a small smile and he left.

His old pick-up truck was parked next to the barn so he rushed over to it cursing how late he was. He was about to get in when he spotted someone running down the old laneway between the farm fields. He had to pause and watch.

The sun was still low in the sky so Emma was backlit and Gary smiled. His neighbor and childhood friend always got a lift to and from school with him. This morning he was late so she was coming to meet him.

He had to admire how well she ran. She was a track and field champion at school and moved with the grace and power of a gazelle. She also had the lean muscles of an athlete and amazing long legs.

Gary looked away in embarrassment as he caught himself admiring his best friend's rockin' hard physique.

She trotted up to the truck with a smile on her face, her red pony tail swinging from side to side.

"Couldn't decide which panties to wear this morning?" she panted with a grin, her button nose wrinkling cutely as she watched for his response. She had the bluest eyes and a splash of freckles crossing her cheeks and the bridge of her nose.

He smirked at her teasing comment and pointed to the passenger door as he opened his own. Chuckling to herself she made her way around the truck and got in.

Gary nursed the old engine back to life and they buckled in before he got them moving down the long driveway to the main road.

"Can you believe how close graduation is?" Emma gushed.

"Yeah, it feels weird that all those years have passed," he agreed.

He thought back about that and realized they'd been neighbors their whole life. As long as he could remember the Patricks family had lived in the farm house just a half mile down that back lane. He and she had walked that distance more times than he could count. They'd been best friends their whole lives as well. They played as kids in these very fields. Walked down the lane together and took the bus to school together every day as well. Went to mostly the same classes too.

Last year when he'd made enough to buy the old truck, and pay for his own insurance and gas at his dad's insistence, he'd started driving them both to school and to events with their friends. The old truck had expanded their social lives, letting them go to parties in town with their friends.

Not that they were dating or anything. That would be weird. They'd known each other far too long and they were both too comfortable with their friendship to jeopardize it.

He glanced over at her smiling face and grinned as well.

The truck also let him take a job in town doing something he was really good at and enjoyed. He did part time bookkeeping for a couple of businesses in the small community. Namely Monaghan's Flower Shop and the Fitzgerald Funeral Home. Which made him think of his new girlfriend, Marlene Fitzgerald, daughter of the owner, Wayland. She'd taken interest in him when he began working for her father.

Marlene was a knock out and one of the most popular ladies in school. Tall with long blond wavy hair she was a goddess with generous curves. Gary was stunned when she approached him at her father's business and asked him out on a date. After that first night he was smitten. She was a very good kisser.

"You're getting that dreamy look in your eye. You're thinking of Princess Boobs-O-Plenty again," Emma teased him.

"Hey! I haven't teased you about Tarzan Todd in days. I thought we had a cease fire!" he complained.

She held up her hands in surrender. "Mea culpa."

He glanced over at her in confusion and she grinned at him. "Such a country boy," she sighed.

"Well I'm dressed for the part!" he said and she grinned as it was true. All he needed was a straw cowboy hat and he'd be the poster boy for the cowboy culture.

"Now, what's it mean?" he asked.

She smiled as she knew he had a voracious hunger for new words and phrases. Which was why she'd had the habit of surprising him with new ones and had looked up this term just this morning. "It means 'through my fault' or more simply, I'm guilty."

He nodded and tried it out quietly a few times to get the feel of it. He was unaware of Emma's smile as she watched him.

"So, are you taking her to the Prom?" Emma asked.

He glanced over at her but the question was asked sincerely so he answered. "I- uh, haven't asked her yet but I plan to do it today."

"What is it about men putting these important things off to the last moment?" Emma huffed.

"Tar- I mean, Todd hasn't asked you yet either?" he said in surprise.

"No, he hasn't asked me yet! Typical male!" she griped.

"Hey! Don't lump him in with me! I swear he's a different species! Maybe a throwback to the Neanderthal era."

"Hey!" It was Emma's turn to complain.

"Mea culpa," he responded with a grin.

She pouted at his comeback but couldn't keep the grin off her face for long. He'd found a way to use his new phrase right away.

Truthfully, Gary wasn't pleased with Emma's choice of boyfriend. He understood how they'd met and their common interest in fitness and sports was a good compatibility indicator but Todd Gramby?!? He'd been held back a year- twice! He was twenty and all reports were that it would be a miracle for him to graduate this year. Emma was so smart. Todd... was not.

Todd was hot shit on the football team, not the quarterback but some other position Gary didn't know the name of. With his height, his large muscular body, and long blond hair he had a number of girls at school willing to date him. Why did it have to be Emma? He shook off the annoyance. She was free to choose her own boyfriend but he knew she could do so much better.

They rode on in silence, each contemplating the imminent end of their school careers. It wasn't long before they were pulling into the parking lot behind the high school. Gary backed his truck into a spot and just shut off the engine when Emma socked him on the arm and jumped out of the truck.
"That's for the Neanderthal comment!" she called out with a grin then sprinted off towards the door.

Gary just rubbed his arm and smiled as he shook his head. He locked up the truck and made his way inside. A number of his friends were still in the hall and he took the time to say hello as he made his way to his locker. He spotted Marlene with a group of her friends and in his mind he heard Emma's disappointment in Todd's lateness. Pulling his shoulders back he walked up to Marlene with a smile on his face. She spotted him coming and her expression wasn't as delighted as he'd hoped.

"Hi Marlene!"

"Gary."

He swallowed and did his best not to look nervous. "I was wondering if you would be my date for the prom?"

Her friends burst into giggles and he looked at them in surprise. Marlene looked at the girls around her and they silenced themselves.

"This really isn't a good time for me to talk about that, Gary. Could you come back during the lunch break? I'll be in the cafeteria." Marlene asked sweetly.

"Oh! Oh, ok sure. I'll... see you then," Gary said as he backed away.

"Thanks, Gary," Marlene said with a smile as she pushed her long hair back over one shoulder.

He remembered how incredibly soft that hair felt. He nodded and continued on his way to his locker listening to the fresh burst of giggles behind him as his face burned with embarrassment.

"This is why guys put off asking for so long!" Gary griped to himself.

Emma made her way to her locker and put her book bag inside. She was still smiling about how she'd tagged Gary this morning. His arm had been surprisingly hard when she punched it. He hadn't even flexed as her punch was completely unexpected. Working on the farm does a cowboy's body good! She grinned again.

Her first class was gym so she bent over and picked up her bag of gym clothes.

Hands grabbed her ass and she shrieked as she spun with her elbow cocked to strike the culprit.

"GARY!" she growled.

"OWWW! FUCK!" Todd howled as her elbow caught him right in the eye. Stunned, he fell back on his ass with a thump.

"Oh my god, Todd!" Emma gasped when she saw it was him.

"What the fuck did you do that for?!?" he yelled holding his hand over his injured eye.

Emma frowned. "You grabbed my butt while I was bending over getting stuff from my locker. Even had I known it was you, which I didn't, you don't get to do that!"

"I thought I was your boyfriend!" Todd complained.

"You are! That's just not something a boyfriend should do," she explained and he frowned. "I'm sorry I hurt you," Emma said to make it up to him as she helped him back up to his feet.

"I'm not so much hurt as surprised. I've been hit by guys bigger than you!" he boasted and she smiled. He suddenly frowned. "Wait a minute! Why did you yell Gary's name when you hit me? Does... does he touch you?" he growled protectively.

"No! No, he doesn't touch me!" She blinked in confusion as she recalled yelling his name. "I- I don't know why I thought it was him. He'd never do something like that. Maybe it was because I punched his arm this morning for something he said and thought he might be trying to get revenge?" She frowned again as that didn't sound like him either. She shook it off and looked at Todd who still looked like he wanted to punch Gary. Better defuse that.

"It was just a brain fart on my part," she grinned up at the big man who was developing quite a shiner. He chuckled when she said fart and smiled back at her. He dipped his head down for a kiss.

"Mr. Gramby. Ms. Patricks. Just what do you think you are doing?" said a cold voice from the doorway behind him.

Emma and Todd sighed simultaneously and smiled at each other. Mrs. Kennedy, the Physics teacher, was watching them with narrowed eyes. She was such a prissy woman.

Emma looked at the woman around Todd's large body. "Nothing, Mrs. Kennedy. I was just apologizing to Todd for accidentally bumping his eye with my elbow. I have to get to class." She grabbed her gym bag, locked her locker and slipped away as Todd turned to face the woman.

"Don't you have a class to be in Mr. Gramby?" the teacher asked.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Then get to it."

"Yes, ma'am," Todd said and walked away in the direction of the nurses office. He needed some pain killers as his eye was killing him. He spotted Gary ducking into a classroom and decided he'd have a few words with the twerp after school.

Gary leaned back against his truck waiting for Emma. He saw Marlene walking home with some of her girlfriends. He didn't bother waving as she was deep in conversation with them.

He'd found her at lunch and had to endure the ordeal of asking her once more in front of her giggling friends. This time she gave him an answer.

"Of course I'll go to the prom with you silly boy. You're my boyfriend, remember?" she teased but her words were mostly for the girls around her who burst into giggles.

"Great! Great, uh I'll pick you up at 7pm at your place?"

"Make it 8pm and we'll be out late so I hope you don't have a curfew," Marlene said with eyes full of promise and just a little amusement.

"No problem. 8pm it is and late is fine," he replied.

"Bye, Gary." Marlene said with her sweet smile and he realized he was being dismissed. He nodded to the group with a smile and quickly escaped. He did try to look casual as he left.

He was feeling a little out of sorts with the whole thing. His brain got all confused around Marlene. He was concerned that little head was doing the thinking when it came to her. He looked up when he heard footsteps and saw Todd approaching.

"Woah, Todd! Who gave you the shiner?" Gary asked with a smile.

Suddenly Todd shoved Gary back against his truck with a thump.

"Ow! What the hell, man?" Gary barked.

"What did you do to Emma this morning?" Todd accused.

Gary's eyebrows went up. "Emma? Nothing! Is she ok?"

His concern just made Todd angrier. "You stay away from my girlfriend!"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Gary asked in bewilderment.

"She told me you said something to her that made her punch you!" Todd blurted as his anger was running out of steam.

Gary's surprised reaction was... unfortunate.

A snort of suppressed laughter wasn't the best way to defuse Todd's anger.

Gary found himself on his back beside his truck with his head ringing and Todd standing over him.

"TODD! STOP! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

The big man turned to see Emma rushing towards them. He was still angry but looking at Emma's outraged expression he got the idea that he may have over-reacted.

"Why did you hit Gary?" Emma yelled as she knelt next to her friend.

"You- you said he- I heard you say he made you mad this morning," Todd said, stumbling over his words as he scowled down at Gary who was gingerly touching his cheek.

"So you decided to beat him up?" Emma gasped.

"No! It- it just happened that way. I told him to leave you alone. He laughed at me." Todd grumbled beginning to feel really uncomfortable. "I was trying to protect you!" he finally blurted.

Emma looked at the big man and realized he really thought he was, in his own way. She smiled and touched his arm. "Ok, I get that but Gary didn't do anything wrong and I don't want you beating people up... especially Gary, even to protect me."

Todd was feeling a little better now that she touched him but his annoyance flared again when she protected the little twerp. "I can protect you against men who make moves on you."

"Gary didn't do that! He has a girlfriend. Marlene Fitzgerald," Emma said in her most reasonable tone.

Todd huffed in a deep breath to calm himself. "Ok. I'll see you tomorrow." He leaned in and gave her a kiss but she pulled back almost as soon as he'd started. He looked at her and she gave him an awkward smile. He turned to glare at Gary who had gotten back to his feet and was leaning against the truck glaring back at him. He walked away and felt his anger start to bubble back to the surface. Gary just got under his skin as he acted so smart and calm all the time. Dating the school's hottest girl too. Then Gary had Emma, who was supposed to be his girlfriend, protecting him. Something had to be done.

Gary watched the jock storm off and touched his cheek once more. When Emma's soft fingers joined his he jerked back from her touch. He stared at Emma incredulously.

"What?" she asked.

"Are you trying to get me killed? He's going to see that and come back to stomp me!" Gary barked and moved to get behind the wheel of his truck. She rushed to get in the other side.

Once they were buckled in Gary got them heading home. He'd drop her off and head back into town to do his review of the books for the florist and the funeral home. His cheekbone throbbed causing him to touch it.

"Does it hurt?" Emma asked quietly.

He glanced over at her with a frown. "Yes. When a gorilla punches you in the face, it hurts."

"Todd isn't a gorilla! He's just... protective," she said defensively.

Gary snorted and shook his head.

Emma frowned at Gary and wondered once more why he was so critical of Todd. She'd picked up right from the start of her relationship with Todd that Gary disapproved. He kept his opinion to himself, mostly, but she could feel his criticism of her choice for a boyfriend. Seeing him shake his head at her now pushed her past her limit.

"Why do you hate Todd so much?" she blurted.

Gary gave her a wide eyed look then turned back to the road. "Hate him? I don't hate him, even after he just knocked me down. I wouldn't give him a moment of my time if he wasn't your boyfriend."

She heard his disapproval clearly and her anger flared. "At least he doesn't make me publicly grovel in front of his friends like I heard Marlene made you do at lunch!"

Gary's face flushed with humiliation as he bit back his response because... he didn't really have one.

He pulled off the highway into the Patrick's driveway and stopped the truck. Emma looked over at his stony expression. His jaw muscles were jumping and he wouldn't look at her so she got out of the truck. Once the door was closed she watched him back out of the drive and pull away.

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