Out on a Limb


"You had also better get used to him hanging around in lingerie. He has a tendency to do that and if you are not prepared for it, it can scar you for life."

Derek spit out the coke he had been drinking. "No kidding?"

"No kidding."

"Jeeze. No offense, but I'm glad I don't have to room with him."

"That's okay. I'm glad I don't either!"

I think my heart actually stopped when he stood and took off his shirt, going over to close the door. "Well, I suppose I should get a good nights rest, too. Got to get up early tomorrow morning."

Sitting up in bed, I'm ashamed to admit I watched eagerly as he stripped down to his boxer-briefs. Had I not been clenching my jaw so tight, I would have been drooling. Every part of his body was just as my dreams said it would be. And the parts his underwear cradled left very little to the imagination. The boy was packed!

Giving my shoulder a friendly pat, he launched himself up into his bed. "Nite!"

"N-night." Needless to say, I didn't sleep well that night.

Morning rose disgustingly bright and cheerful. I'd only fallen asleep two hours previous when Derek jumped down onto the floor. "Wake up, man. Class starts in an hour. If we hurry, we can catch some breakfast first."

Grumbling, I rolled out of bed onto the floor. Curious as to why my legs didn't work the way they should have, I looked down to find them mummified in the sheets and proudly sporting a boner the size of Tokyo Tower. Shit! Grabbing my sheets tightly around my waist, I tried to rise only to find the damn sheets were wrapped tighter around my legs than I had thought.

"You okay, man? Didn't sleep well, did you?" Derek looked down at my sheet encased legs. Bending down, he gave a sharp tug to the sheets. "You were moaning those last couple of hours. Nightmares?"

"Yeah, something like that." Truth be told, they were some of the most erotic dreams I think I've ever had. Once my legs were free, I jumped up and ran for the door. "Gonna grab a shower first, I'll be right back!"

And so, this is how my life started at college. Derek thought I was a little obsessed about the morning ritual of showering, but I could deal with that as long as he didn't realize I was going to jack off.

Four months into the school year, he and I became really good friends. I went to all of his football games; he was a lead quarterback. We hung out all the time, even with Jose. My crush wrapped around my heart with barbed wire and began to tighten painfully.

I found myself falling for a straight guy that had a girlfriend. Now how screwed up is that?

Derek had no idea the feelings I had for him. Since I was a drama major, I was a fairly good actor, so I liked to think that played a good portion for his obliviousness. He liked to tease me all the time about things. My good looks, my morning showers, my oblivious nature to all girls, my fear of heights. Anything he could find. He never did it out of meanness, it was all in fun and if I really couldn't stand something, he wouldn't tease me about it anymore. One of his favorite games was to go out on the limb of the tree outside our window and pretend he was going to lose his grip. Freaked me out every time, even though I knew he wouldn't fall. But for me whose afraid of heights and knowing we were on the third floor, I couldn't help but beg him to come back in. During one of those begging sessions was how he got me to write his mid-term paper.

Derek had even confided in me that he didn't love his girlfriend. He was with her because they had been expected to be together all through high school. He was fairly positive she had cheated on him countless times, but they liked to keep up appearances. Both of their parents always said they looked like the perfect couple. But looks were often deceiving. When I asked him why he didn't just dump her, he told me that he didn't like to be alone and he didn't really have an interest in anyone else at the moment so he just kept her around the same way she kept him around.

He talked about breaking up with her eventually. He was just bored with her and their whole relationship. He just wasn't sure when he wanted to do it or if he even would.

It was sad, really. It was like he was content with the way things were, like he was in a rut that he didn't have the gumption to get out of. But worst of all, I had wanted to tell him to dump the twit and date me instead. Yeah, right, as if I had the guts to do that. Even if I did, he would probably think it was a joke.

The last football game of the year is tonight and I told him I'd be there. It's not like I've missed any of the games, but tonight he made me swear I'd be there. He said it was for luck. Apparently, I had become a lucky charm to him when he was playing, just knowing that I was there watching and cheering him on.

Standing before the mirror in our room, I shook my head at myself. Down at my feet attacking my toes was a small grey kitten with white feet, hence named Boots. Granted, animals were not allowed in the dorms, but the poor thing had looked like it was starving and it would have frozen to death, so I took it in about two weeks ago. The whole floor knew about it, but they had all fallen in love with the little bundle of fluff, so no one ratted me out. Derek had just laughed at me and ruffled my hair the morning I brought the cat in, saying that was so like me to try and save the kitten. While wiggling my toes for the amusement of Boots, I glared at my reflection. My brown hair never seemed to understand the idea of what a brush was for. Oh, I tried to tame it, but my hands couldn't resist running through it so it constantly had this mused look about it that Jose said was sexy. I say it's just sloppy, but I work with what I've been given. Not willing to spend the sixty dollars it would cost to get that naturally sun kissed look that Derek's hair had, I was stuck with dirt brown just sitting there on top of my head like some unruly beast. Where Derek had that ruggedly good looking almost needs a shave, but not quite look, I had a damn baby face! I tried saving before there was really anything to shave and what happened? My face got smoother. I don't even have peach fuzz to be proud of. Curse my luck. Steel gray eyes staring back at me, I stuck my tongue out at my reflection and bent to save my mangled big toe from the ferocious Boots.

"I'm out of here, okay? You've got milk in the corner and I'm warning you, don't even think about eating my homework. I'll leave the window open a crack so you wont die of stale air. Now be good." Dropping the kitten on my bed, where it sat there and meowed at me, I grabbed my scarf and headed out the door.

The game was fantastic. That's all I can say! Derek actually had the ball and ran eighty-five yards for a touch down! The crowd went wild at that. Jose even got up on an over hang (giving me a mild heart attack) and started the wave with his pompoms and cheerleader skirt. How he managed to get a hold of one of the skirts shall ever remain a mystery. Our head kicker could have been kicking for the pros, he was so good. When we scored the winning points, the crowd poured out onto the field to congratulate the team and to wreck havoc in general.

Jose and I followed down to the field looking for Derek and Tim, Jose's current boy toy. Jose ruffled his pompoms and shouted over the crowd. "Oh, honey, there is my man. I'll see you later, okay?"

I nodded, but Jose was already leaping himself into Tim's arms. I moved forward, still looking for Derek when I saw him at the end of the field by the goal posts. A pretty little red head I recognized as April, his girlfriend, was hanging on his arm as the school's journalism club took pictures of them. Any joy I had at the game disintegrated in a horrible mass of stomach acid. Bile stung my tongue as I glared at the happy couple. I couldn't help it, really. I've had Derek to myself for the last several months without hardly a phone call from his so-called girlfriend and now here she was soaking up the limelight in all his glory from a spectacular play. I easily could have swung her around by her hair just for pleasure, but I didn't. That would have looked like jealousy.

"Ethan! We won, man!" Derek disengaged his arm from the leech and ran over to me grabbing me in a bear hug. "We did it! We won! Did you see that run I made?"

Stepping back from his embrace, I blushed. "Yeah, I saw it. You were fantastic."

April glared daggers at me, stalked over and grabbed Derek around the neck only to plaster her slobbery mouth all over his luscious lips. All I can say is it's a good thing I was not armed at that moment or she would be toast. "Honey, who is your friend? I'm April Trovko, Derek's girlfriend."

Her sneer almost matched mine. Even Derek wasn't so blind as to see the explosion of dislike between us. "Ethan Chambers, his roommate. Funny, he doesn't talk about you much."

April's face almost matched her hair in that spectacular moment. "You prick!"

"Hey, be nice, man. She's my girlfriend," Derek said with a strange mixture of anger, confusion, and embarrassment.

"Oh, you mean the one you are shackled to by obligation and are fairly certain is having numerous affairs on you? That girlfriend? Well, April, I must say it is an honor to meet you." I did a mock semi bow.

"You arrogant bastard! You slimy filth!" April was screaming now, and attracting quite a gathering of curious on lookers.


Derek looked at me for a split second before his fist shot out and decked me in the mouth. My head whipped to the side and I tasted blood, but I deserved a whole lot more than that, I knew. Derek would have every right to kick my ass from here to tomorrow and I wouldn't stop him.

I could hear April laughing now. People had gathered around and were murmuring. Shame rose up in me; I thought I would die right then, but I couldn't give April the satisfaction.

Wiping the blood from my mouth with my sleeve, I looked down at the ground. I had to leave, I couldn't stay here. I had crossed an unspeakable line and I knew it and so did Derek. I couldn't face him. Without looking up, I think I muttered something close to an apology and turned to walk away. I had to fight to get through the crowd and when I did, I broke into a run. I couldn't seem to go fast enough, I could still hear April laughing behind me.

What have I done? Derek would never talk to me again and I wouldn't blame him! I lost a friend because I was jealous of a girl, but not just any girl. His GIRLFRIEND!!!

How could I have been so stupid?

It wasn't long before I found myself in my dorm room scrounging through our mini fridge for something cold to put on my mouth. Grabbing a Sprite and a Kleenex, I dabbed at my mouth and then started sucking on the can of Sprite. My mouth hurt like hell, but my heart hurt worse. I was so stupid I could kill myself right. I had never been more tempted to slit my wrists than I was right then. I was such a fool.

What I really needed was some cuddling. Jose was out, he had Tim to keep him occupied and I had no desire to walk in on him ridding Tim. Looking around I called out for Boots, but couldn't find him. "Boots?"

A tiny meow drifted to me. I looked under the bed, in the clothing piled around the room, near the trunk and still couldn't find him. Calling out again, I realized with a horror where the meow was coming from. Running to the window I opened it wide. There, out on the thick limb of the tree, was Boots huddled next to the trunk. Seeing me, he started to meow louder.

"Oh, Jesus, no. Boots, come here kitty. Come on, kitty! Please, Boots, come back this way." But the cat wasn't coming. Poor little thing looked frightened to death, not that I blamed it. Running out into the hall, I looked around for anyone that would be able to reach the cat, but they had all gone to the game. The halls were empty.

Taking a deep breath, I walked back to the window with tears in my eyes. "You stupid cat, look what you've done. I hate heights. They scare me worse than anything in the world and you go out on to a tree limb three stories above the frozen ground. You little fur ball, I should leave you out there."

Tears streaking down my face, I crawled up onto the window sill. Willing myself to not look down, I edged my way out on to the tree limb backwards, choking back a sob. Whereas fear made most people tremble uncontrollably, I stayed very calm, body wise that is. Emotionally, I was nearly paralyzed with fear, but I couldn't leave little Boots out there to starve, freeze, or fall to his death. Inch by inch, I scooted farther until I was completely free of the window. Boots meowed at me and took a step forward only to scuttle back towards the trunk of the tree again in terror. "You stupid, stupid little fur ball. I hate you more than I can say at this moment, you have no idea." Slowly I inched closer until the only thing between me and the trunk of the tree was Boots. Reaching behind me, I grabbed Boots around the middle, careful not to crush his fragile frame and to not fall off the tree. Leaning back against the trunk of the tree, I hurriedly stuffed him in my jacket and zipped it up higher so he couldn't fall out. He cuddled around my middle, savoring the warmth.

"It's okay now, Boots, I've got you," I sobbed, holding to the tree limb so tight my fingers were numb. "Don't worry, your safe."

"Ethan? You in here?"

It was Derek. He was looking for me. Choking back terror at being out in the tree, I debated whether or not I really wanted him to find me out in the tree, or if I should just stay silent. He took that decision out of my hands when I saw his hands reach out and close the window.

"NO! PLEASE DEREK, OPEN THE WINDOW!" If I wasn't terrified before, I was now at the thought of being stuck in the tree with no escape.

"What the hell?" The window opened again and Derek stuck his head out. "Ethan, Jesus, what are you doing out there?"

A tiny meow escaped my jacket.

"Boots?" Derek opened the window wider as he realized what had happened. "Come on, Ethan. Get back in here before you fall."

He couldn't have said worse words. The words fall automatically make you think, How Far Up Am I, which then leads to looking down. Something I had been trying so hard to avoid for obvious reasons. A whimper rose in my throat and I gripped the tree harder.


I shook my head the tiniest bit, afraid if I shook my head too hard I would loose my balance and plummet to my death. "I - I can't. I c-can't move."

"Jesus, okay. I'm coming, just don't look down, okay? Stay right there and don't do anything." Derek disappeared from the window. For a split second, I was afraid he was so mad at me that he would just leave me there, but within moments he returned. He had stripped off all of his football gear and thrown on a sweatshirt. Slowly, he eased himself out onto the tree limb, making me whimper again when it moved. "It's okay, just breath, okay Ethan? Breath for me. Look right at me. That's right, look at my eyes. I'm not going to let you fall, okay? You are going to be fine. Why the Hell did you go out here?"

"There was n-no one in the hall. I couldn't leave Boots out here and there was no one around, so I came out."

"But you are terrified of heights! You don't even like getting on to my bunk bed!" Derek edged himself carefully out to where I was huddled against the trunk, trying not to make the branch move to much for fear I would lose my grip and fall. He sat there and looked at me. "Now that I have you somewhere you can't run away, want to tell me what the hell went on down on the field?"

"Can't we talk about this inside?" I cried with distress.

"No, we can't. You have this knack for disappearing when you don't want to talk about something and I don't feel like chasing you all over this damn campus. Now talk."

"Derek . . . I . . . we could fall," I said weakly. Boots meowed again and stuck his head out by the zipper of my jacket to look at us.

"I'm not going to let you fall, but I'm not going to get you inside yet, either, until I know what the hell happened down there. That was a pretty nasty thing you did and I think I deserve an explanation."

"Please, don't make me do this. I'm sorry, okay? I shouldn't have said those things, it was wrong. You can beat the shit out of me if you want to, I'll let you, just let me go back inside," I pleaded. I could feel my hands and legs going numb. Visions of my premature death ran through my head like a sick slide show.


"I just . . . I was jealous, okay? I hated her for hanging on you and kissing you when she hasn't been here for the last four months and I have. She's called you all of twice, right? She doesn't give a shit about you, she cares about her image and what you can do for that. It made me sick. And I hated the fact that you didn't have enough guts to get rid of her years ago."

"Ethan, what are you saying?"

"I'm saying I like you, you son of a bitch! I'm gay, okay? I'm gay and I like you! I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to look at me the same way you look at Jose, like some kind of freak who amuses you, but nothing more." I leaned my head back against the trunk and stared up into its bows, tears falling freely. "You can hate me for that or not, I don't care. You can beat the shit out of me like those football players did back at the water park, I just don't care. Please, please, just let me go back inside now."

Derek was silent for a long time. The first snow of the year began to fall down around us, not yet able to penetrate the dense bows of the tree.

"Come on. Move slowly, okay, I'm right here, I won't let you fall." Slowly, he eased us backwards until he reached the window. Lifting himself in, he slid across the desk top. Reaching out, he grabbed my wrists. "Come on, you're almost there. Just a little farther. Your going to have to let go of the branch to come inside. No, don't panic on me, come on. There we go, that's right."

I may never remember how he did it, but somehow he got me back into the room. After I slid across the desk, I collapsed onto the floor, cradling Boots in my jacket. Rocking back and forth was all I could do, just sit there and stare at Derek's feet. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

Derek didn't say anything, he just turned and walked out of the room.

Within half an hour, I grabbed a blanket, the bag of kitten food and was banging on Jose's door. I could hear moaning on the inside, so I banged harder. Before long, Jose was opening the door in a very small and revealing robe. I didn't even let him speak, just pushed my way into the room and threw my blanket and kitten food on the empty upper bunk. Looking over at a disheveled Tim, I pointed for the door. "Out."

"What the fuck? You can't tell me to leave."

"OUT!" Tears stung my eyes again and I turned away.

Jose rushed over to Tim. "Honey, can't you see my little tiger es wounded? Now, go on, I'll catch up with you later."

Tim gathered up his clothes, throwing on his pants and headed for the door, grumbling all the way.

"Baby, what's happened? Why all the tears?"

Holding Boots close with one hand, I grabbed Jose with the other. I buried my head in his neck and began to cry.

"Oh, Baby. Come sit down and we'll talk."

Sitting down on Jose's bed, Jose patted my shoulder as I hid my face with my scarf that was still wrapped around my neck. "You tell Mamma all about it."

With a hearty sniff, I came up for air. Letting Boots down to wander around the room, I stared at the wall blankly. "He hates me. I told his girlfriend he wanted to dump her after she had been smooching on him and he hit me. Can't blame him, I would have done the same thing. So I went back to the dorms only to find Boots out on a tree limb. I couldn't find anyone else so I c-climbed out." A gasp from Jose. "He found me stuck there and crawled out after me. I was terrified. Everywhere I looked there was this empty air just waiting for me. I couldn't move, could barely breath."

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