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I’m in love with a boy

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{September, 1981}

The pink & blue tiles framed the spot of the floor in which Beaver had spilled his soda in a nice diamond shape.

Moon-Park Mall was about the closest shopping center to Derry (that didn’t just house dead Sears) and even it was a few miles outta the way. But the rush of after-school energy always made the trip worth it for most Derry-students.

The ceilings were lined in neon-light stripes which matched the tiles--minus the new huge fizzy-brown stain--and shined down a dewy haze of color on every customer. And the plastic trees littering each corner really enhanced the consumer paradise with a soft atmosphere comparable to a pretty sunset...that just happened to be over a ‘Frost-Bite’s: Ice Cream’.

Henry liked it well enough and the gang was far too rowdy to walk up-and-down the aisles of Derry’s finest pharmacy, Mr. Keene could only take so much.

Beaver had been trying to find a speaker to stand under when he bumped right into Pete’s side and unleashed his refreshment all over those dusty tiles.

“Fuck me Freddy.” He shook out his tiny palm and sprinkled a few extra droplets around. “I spent my last bit of cash on that shit.” His frown was genuine but the pout which followed was far exaggerated. Old ladies with baskets curled in their elbows, spared them a few glares as they strolled by.

“The forbidden drink...” Pete licked his lips and stole Beavers useless straw and made a forward gesture, as if about to suck the brown puddle up through his teeth. Jonesy kicked him.

Pete just chuckled and sat back down on the tiny bench by one of those plastic trees. He was still in his cross-country clothes; Derry Tigers stamped shorts and a matching red-and-white jacket. “No use in crying over spilled cheap-generic soda, Beav.” Henry rubbed behind his ear & bumped his glasses.

“Easy for you to say. You still got twenty-bucks left.” He scoffed.

“Oh, a, oh.” Pete echoed the song playing over the loud-speaker without even thinking about it.

“Yeah, and I’m spending it on one of those crappy hot-dogs from the food-court.” Henry stuck out his tongue.

“Oh, a, oh” This time, Jonesy joined in.

Beaver rolled his eyes but nonetheless, the four of them burst into a united annoying chorus with more of a casual expression rather than excited.

“I met your children
Oh a oh
What did you tell them? Video killed the radio star
Video killed the radio star...”

With no obvious tell of their musical moment, “Get some paper-towels from Mr. Harper at the Pretzel place, Beav.” Jonesy lightly tapped the tiny mans back and ushered him to start in that direction.

As he took off, the others lazily plopped down on the bench and stared forward at the puddle, past their dirty sneakers. “Don’t forget we have to stop at the video store.” Pete laid his head on Henry’s shoulder and sighed.

For a moment or two, the three friends watched people pass them by with hoards of bags. They had laughs on their lips or kids at their hips but most of all, they just looked rushed. “We have to watch the movies at your place tonight cause Beav broke his VCR, remember?” Jonesy laid his head on Henry’s other shoulder for easier communication.

Pete’s nose wrinkled.

“We could always do something else.” Beaver butted in as he flew past them with crumpled up towels. He crouched down on the floor and began wiping the liquid away while Henry hummed. “We are Seniors after all--Pardon my big-boy talk, Pete. Some of us are Seniors.” He stuck his thumb over to him and Pete rolled his eyes.

“Interesting to hear big-boy speech coming from you, Beaver. What are you 5′3 now?” Pete chuckled and was rewarded with a face-full of soda drenched towel. “Ow, fuck.” He whipped it back to Beaver.

“Hey Pete, C’mere.” Henry flicked his tongue and gestured for Pete to come in close. He mumbled a few words into his friends ear in a whispered tone and both giggled.

“What are you telling him?” Beaver laid the towel over his arm and came at them like a tiny ball of fury.

Pete blinked a few times and leaned into the whisper before smirking. “Your credit-card number.”

“So?” Beaver shrugged, not seeing how that could possibly be a big deal.

“I’m gonna register you for that Modeling contest downstairs.” Pete could barely get the words out before laughing madly and hopping out of his seat. Running down the length of the 2nd floor before Beaver even started after him. He was that fast.

Jonesy craned his neck to watch them go and laughed quietly, hearing their annoying teases from way down the halls. “Where do you think they’ll end up?” he asked as the two of them slowly got up from their seat.

Henry hummed again, rolling his shoulders back. “Either the Food Court or Spinners.” Spinners had become one of Beaver’s favorite places ever since he first stepped into the aisles of records. “We better run after them, huh?”

Jonesy chuckled. “Oh, let’s get a move on.” He nodded and the two of them started to slowly stroll down the Mall, whistling.

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{Stupid Cupid by Connie Francis playing over muffled speakers}

Pete set his chin in the middle of his palm and watched Beaver aimlessly flicker through records. Sometimes he’d pull them out and stare for twenty or thirty seconds and then slide them back inside their bins.

Spinners sat in a nice little corner of Moon-Park which had a very convenient fry-stand nearby.

“What’s Randy doin’ today?” Pete asked, with a mouthful of salt-and-peppered garlic fries. He followed Beav with loose interest.

“Most likely making out with his girlfriend to something shitty like Jessie’s Girl.” Beaver shrugged, not much into whatever the hell it was that his older brother was doing on this fine day. “Why?”

Pete shrugged and swallowed some food. He breifly made eye contact with a passing dude in a white t-shirt that read; ‘I Love a Rainy Night’. “Remember when he used to chaperone us whenever we came here?”

Beaver took a few fries and smiled. “Yeah. Jesus-Christ-Bananas, time is kicking our asses.” He frowned and Pete pursed his lips, shrugging himself. “We’re gonna be graduating and then what?”

Pete felt a tug in his chest at the thought. He’d been doing his best all summer to pretend like they were all going to stay-together after the school year even though he knew better. “You’ll leave me behind.”

Beaver smacked the back of Pete’s head. “We say some stupid shit, don’t we Pete?” He gestured between them and Pete smiled with genuine warmth and fondness.

“We know what we are.” Pete frowned again but it was more mocking than anything and stuck out his hand. He’d been genuinely sensitive over the fact that he appeared to be a total moron compared to Henry and Jonesy ever since the start of their friendship. He was aware that outsiders recognized that fact as well. But the Beav always made him feel better because ,Hell, anyone would look dumb next to Gariella & Henry.

Beaver smacked it with joy.

“Smart enough to figure out who the villain is in Scooby-Doo-”

Pete rolled his eyes. “Be serious, idiot. It’s supposed to be something you’re actually proud of. This routine was your dumb idea anyway.”

Beaver chuckled. “Smart enough to pass Mr. Landon’s Algebra test.” He compromised and tipped his chin.

“Smart enough to get an A on that science test.” Pete smiled smugly and accepted Beavers distant yet proud whooping as he paraded once again around the aisles of Spinners.

‘I Love a Rainy Night’ guy went past Pete again with something like an interested look before pulling out a few records.

Pete turned around and nailed his back against the row of bins that Beaver was currently browsing. “Who sings that song again, Beav?” He tried to subtly point to the dude with his head.

Beaver glanced up over his glasses. “Oh, um...shit it’s-...Rabbitt.” He snapped his fingers a few times. “It’s like Joey Rabbitt or something, crap.” He mumbled a few names to himself.

Pete was pretty sure the last name was right anyway, so he slowly walked on over to stand next to the guy. “Rabbitt fan, huh?” Pete smirked.

The man nodded, looking eerily ready to play this little game. “Yeah. I am. Why?”

Pete hummed and ate another fry. “Well, you know the phrase ‘screwing like rabbits'? I think you and I can do better, want to try?”

Beaver nearly choked on his own spit as he watched the encounter. It wasn’t technically uncommon for him to see Pete do something so bold. The two boys had confided in each other (and each other only) shortly after puberty had told them that bisexual thing might apply to their horny-teenage selves.

It wasn’t exactly an accepted thing so they’d managed to keep it to themselves for a long time before they’d accidentally got drunk and maybe kissed each other to experiment. Their hypotheses were right in that they liked boys but the experiment failed in a sense because the kiss was gross. But it’d only been because the two of them were never meant to swap spit like that. Only when sharing sodas.

But this was an extremely bold move that Beaver wasn’t a fan of. If the dude happened to take offense to the ‘accusations’ that pick-up line held-

The Rabbitt fan just smiled and looked Pete up and down. “I’ll see you around.” He shook his head and strolled off.

Pete looked after him and chuckled to himself as he walked back over to the Beav who was uncharacteristically pissed.

“That could’ve been a real fuckarow, asshole.” He shook his head and took in the fact that he may have well been the ‘responsible’ one in this situation.

Pete leaned against the display again and frowned. “Sorry. But he was checking me out. I wouldn’t have said anything if I hadn’t been 100% positive, Beav.” He poked Beaver’s arm and looked mighty sorry. “I think he thought I was cute, at least?”

Pete’s voice was bright and giddy. Beaver had to giggle at the idea of an actual person having feelings for one of them. Between the four of them, none of them had ever had a real girlfriend or any meaningful sexual encounters.

{Peace Of Mind by Boston slowly transitions onto the muffled speakers}

Jonesy and Henry quickly cut off their stream of the giggles when they entered the store and happily came over.

“They didn’t take him. Too short.” Pete pursed his lips and mocked sadness, taking Beavers little arm-punch like a champ.

Henry rolled his eyes. “Beav you’re going with Jonesy to buy those dress-shoes he needs.” He gestured to the far end of the mall. “Pete, you’re coming with me to get those dang hot-dogs I want so fuckin’ bad.” He chuckled and playfully reached to grab Pete’s arm. Pete had no complaints.

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The neon pink hues from the lights were bleeding into Pete Moore’s hair and blushing against his cheeks. Henry bit down on his sleeve and watched his friend messily dig into his own paper plate of food.

His mind briefly filled with memories of their childhood, he could almost taste the sweet candy that Beaver used to steal from his brother. As they grew, candy became weed. Henry chuckled to himself and swallowed a bit of hot-dog.

“Don’t laugh, I know I probably got food everywhere.” Pete rolled his eyes and took another large bite.

“No-I wasn’t laughing at you.” Henry giggled.

“Convincing, That’s what we tell Beaver when he does impressions in public-”

Henry shook his head and curled his fingers together under his chin. “Nah, I’m serious. I was just...thinking.” He rolled his lips together and felt oddly alive at the sight of Pete’s warm smile in this damn commercial building.

“What about?” Pete hummed, interested.

Henry wasn’t sure what exactly he had been thinking about. Just that it was...nice to look at Pete. To be with him. “Remember when Randy took us to the mall and you blew chunks?”

“Yeah, I was eating my weight in junk back in those days. Now, I’m all healthy and shit.” Pete wiggled his leg and gestured to his sports jacket. Henry lingered his eyes on his friends greasy tray and hummed.

“Time flies.” Henry shook his head and stole some fries off of Pete’s plate. “Soon we’ll be adults...” he widened his eyes for a few seconds while Pete seemingly paused mid-action. “I can’t imagine us like that.”

Pete swallowed and pulled his hands into his lap, leaning back casually. “I can’t imagine living past twenty-one...twenty-five, tops.” He chuckled, like it was funny but Henry felt hot anger.

Moderate traffic could be heard through the large windows and past the echoes of the thick sounding music playing over the loudspeaker. Henry picked a small collection of crumbs from between his teeth and let the neon wash over him for a second. “It’s forty for me.” He frowned, scooting closer and laying his elbows on the crusted table. “I just don’t know--...sometimes I think I was meant to be thirty...a comfortable adult, y’know? But forty?”

Pete hummed. “That’s a long time to try and stay happy.”

Henry blinked. “Yeah-...that’s...” He nodded his head and leaned back again. “That’s exactly what I think when I-...y’know?” He shook his head and sighed. They both turned towards the windows and silently observed the new falling rain, which tapped lightly.

“You’re gonna be with me though so...forty won’t be so bad.” Henry made sure to add that with the sincerest of looks. Pete made slow eye contact and dragged it out farther as he gently rested his chin on his elbows which were curled on the table. Smiling all the way like...well-...like he was looking at his best friend.

“Randy bought me a ginger-ale and walked me to the bathroom.” His chuckle was muffled as he hid his smile in the crook of his arm. “I thought that was the shit, H.” He giggled again which ignited a bit of confusion in Henry. “My best friend’s older brother was paying attention to me, y’know?”

Henry slowly copied his friends position, lowering his chin and resting it like he was falling asleep in class. “He had a Grateful Dead t-shirt on...and I thought he was the coolest guy.” Pete lazily smiled, looking a little whacked-out with charm as he always did when he was joyful. It was contagious. Especially to Henry.

He’d always been softly fond of Pete Moore.

“I gotta pee.” Pete made the move to get up.

“Hold it.” Henry smirked, teasing him slightly but also not wanting to break whatever this fun little moment was.

Pete cocked his head as if too amused with that comment to actually speak it into words.

“-I’ve seen enough brown puddles today, go to the bathroom.” Beaver cut in from behind them and happily bounced over to the table. Jonesy just bounding over from the escalator.

“He has to pee, Beav. You sick freak.” Henry stole Jonesy’s coke and took a long sip as Pete pushed little man’s shoulder on his way to the bathroom. Beaver broke out into hysteric laughter and ate the leftovers on Pete’s tray.

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{A muffled version of Help Is on It’s Way by The Little River Band playing over those loudspeakers}

They’d managed to split up in all possible pairs before Henry and Pete landed together again.

Pete was strolling along the shiny pink railings and dodging large plastic leaves from the potted plants as he walked the length of the floor. Henry just followed behind him and occasionally next to him if he was able to catch up, that is.

Pete was a little in his head and had been that way since their snack break. But it didn’t stop him from roaming around the Mall as if he hadn’t been coming there since they were kids. He’d unzipped his sports jacket and revealed his old NASA t-shirt that was littered with faded stars behind a long rocket.

Henry was quietly enjoying the next time he ended up able to match Pete’s speed when he noticed some guy in a ‘I Love a Rainy Night’ shirt just down by the anchor store of their wing.

The guy seemed to be observing someone behind them with an expression of interest. It was only when they were in talking distance that Henry noticed the man was looking at Pete, who was far too deep in that mind of his to notice.

Henry wondered if they’d have to jump-start Beaver’s car to get outta the parking-lot this time.

The dude glanced down at Pete’s T-shirt just as his friend came-round from his little daze and halted.

“I think you might be a star, because I can't stop orbiting around you.” Eddie Rabbitt’s fan flicked his tongue and Pete’s cheeks no longer needed the mall light’s to glow pink. He seemed uncharacteristically at a loss for words.

Henry had to blink himself out of his own daze. He’d never seen a man so bluntly try to ‘pick-up’ another man...let alone Henry’s friend.

“Ha...” Pete looked at the patch of odd carpet they were standing on and scratched at his neck.

The man seemed to notice something that Henry didn’t and nodded his head. “Sorry, look...I thought you were someone else..” He mumbled awkwardly and went to walk off. He was a little ways a way when he turned back and gestured out behind him. “Can you tell me where the Sears is?”

Henry opened his mouth but Pete shuffled over and pointed off.

As Pete approached, the guy’s face quickly became apologetic. “Hey, look...I’m such an idiot. I didn’t even think about the fact that you might not even be um- out to your friend over there.” He frowned, in a whispered tone.

An odd flash of strong emotion punched Pete in the stomach. He blinked towards the floor and grouped his hands together, pressing them against his lips...a nervous little tick. “It’s...-” He flicked his hands out. “It’s fine.” He broke them apart and shrugged.

“Hey, man...” The man sighed. “I know this can be a lonely...and scary thing but it ain’t because of the thing itself.” He ran his hand down his face. “It’s the situation. “I know that it feels heavy to you right now and you’re scared to lose your friends or be ridiculed for just being...who you are.” Eddie Rabbitt’s fan gestured and Pete widened his eyes a little.

Henry was beginning to get antsy, wanting to know why it took so long to tell him where the Sears is.

“But you don’t need to settle for people who are going to treat you differently for that. There will always be people who love you for who you are and anyone else isn’t worth your time. You don’t need to hold this shit in just because you’re afraid to lose people who ain’t worth shit anyway.” He rolled his lips together.

“It’s the fuckin’ eighties man...I’m hoping a more accepting time is coming.” He looked around the people passing them. “I didn’t mean to come on so strong with that support, buddy. But y’know, there isn’t much of that going around for us.” He playfully slapped Pete’s frozen arm.

“Fuck man, I never really thought much of it.” Pete finally spoke.

“I admire that.” He nodded.

“Beaver giggled with me today...over a boy-...you that is.” Pete chuckled nervously.

“Beaver-?”

Pete waved his hand. “Oh it’s a nickname...for my other bisexual friend.” He laughed again. “He taught me the words.” He nodded to himself. “He taught them to me but I never really...appreciated them beyond...” He waved forward again. “Nodding along and rolling with it. Happy enough with the go-ahead that I could have more fun fooling around.”

The guy smiled and opened his mouth.

“Though to be honest, I haven’t been ‘getting any’, y’know?” Pete chuckled. “I’m only a Junior in High-school...I mean, I kissed the Beav but that was just a tester. And Julie Winters and I made-out during spin-the-bottle once.” He spoke in a rushed tone. “I think...I may have feelings for this guy but....Jesus-Christ-bananas, Henry is gonna figure out I’m not just telling you where Sears is, huh?” He frowned.

“Pete, by the way.”

“Senior. Trevor.” He stuck out his hand which Pete shook.

“My...” Pete looked back to Henry, who wiggled his nose to push up his glasses and shot him a nervous grin. “Best friends love me.” He bit into his lip but still managed a genuine closed-mouth grin, which was honestly more sincere than his toothy-smile sometimes. “And Sears is over there at the left end.” Pete happily snapped and flicked his fingers out.

“Thank you, Pete.” Trevor mocked a salute and was off in just a few seconds.

As he walked off, Henry strolled over and gave Pete an odd little curious face. He puckered his lips in a cute way and crossed his arms. Semi-distracting, in Pete’s opinion.

He opened his mouth but Pete quickly jumped in with something smart-

“I’m holding in my pee.” He blurted out and instantly regretted it.

Henry raised his brows and smirked.

“I just mean-...” Pete sighed. “I wanna talk. An hour ago, I feel like we were having this great conversation and I tried to get out of it by peeing.” He gestured back to the food-court. Henry only smiled, rubbing his curled finger against the tip of his nose. “But I won’t this time.”

“I don’t want you to burst, Pete.” Henry chuckled.

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The bathrooms were no escape from the neon lights and colors, though they were an exclusive club for painted fish wall-decorations.

Henry was observing the way the colored bulbs bounced light over the fake scales of a miserable angelfish, one eye opened & his head cocked, while Pete’s stream of pee flowed behind his view.

“So, we left off on Randy?” Henry leaned his head back on the tiny wall which separated the mirrors from the row of urinals.

The stream turned into a trickle and then faded off with a zipper finale. Pete stood in-front of the urinal for a few seconds and listened to the muffled version of Fleetwood Mac playing throughout the Mall, just outside the doors.

He hummed and leaned back on the same wall, just behind Henry’s side. “Yeah. We did. Remember the ginger-ale?” Pete playfully reached over his shoulder to tap wherever he assumed Henry’s arm was resting. Henry hummed back.

Fleetwood Mac transitioned into a quiet Zombies song...’She’s Not There’...

The vocals seemed to bounce off those ugly yellow-plastic chairs which filled the sitting area outside. Henry turned so that his temple was what was resting on the wall and crossed his arms again. “I liked everything about Randy. He was older and cooler than us...” Pete spoke much softer. “The first time we went cruisin’ in his old car, his cup-holders were all sticky from coke residue and we were all singing along to ‘Stand by Me’...and that was my favorite fucking day ever.”

Henry watched Pete come ‘round from behind him and plop down onto the counter, covering the ‘No Smoking’ sign. “Douglas was there and he was singing with us. He kept repeating the same lines and it was way damn better than the actual song.” Pete chuckled at the memory.

Henry nodded, smiling too.

“I somehow thought Randy was responsible for creating that day and making it so special. It had been his car, after all? And he’d looked so fucking cool driving with the sun-set and shit. But it was the five of us, really. That was my real favorite part.” Pete gestured between them. “But...I was kinda gone on Randy back then, just didn’t really know it. Probably why I experimented with Beaver when I first recognized my feelings for dudes, huh?”

Henry pursed his lips. “Maybe. Subconsciously.” He nodded and Pete was expecting more from him. “I didn’t know you had feelings for dudes...” He coughed awkwardly.

Pete nodded, that shy smile came out again. “Yeah. Me and The Beav both.” He shrugged, looking up at the fish painted above Henry’s head.

Henry pushed his glasses up his nose and smiled, softly. “So, are you-?”

“Bisexual is the term that Beaver taught me. Means I’m into boys & girls. Same with him.” Pete narrowed his eyes in thought and hopped off the counter. He started to stroll out of the bathroom and back out to the brighter world of the Moon-Park Mall.

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{A muffled version of Thirteen by Big Star playing over the loudspeakers}

Pete and Henry silently glide down towards the first floor by way of escalator, music playing but no words exchanged.

“By the way, my-’not talking in thirty minutes’-is a show of support.” Henry playfully yet awkwardly bumped their arms together just before they hopped off and dodged the play-train as it rolled past. Pete chuckled and shoved his fists deep into the pockets of his Derry Tigers jacket.

“I figured.” Pete shook his head with a smile. “Process it, H.” He shrugged.

Henry nodded. They walked towards the video-store and exchanged a few nervous glances.

“You experimented with Beav?” Henry blurted as they past a few quarter-swallow’s, as Beaver called the little machines which popped out gumballs and shit. Pete nodded and Henry hummed for the millionth time. “But it wasn’t good?”

“Nah. We’re not like that.” Pete stuck out his tongue in disgust. “That Randy thing is long-gone too. Just so you know.”

Henry pursed his lips. “Cool.”

Pete stopped walking and gave him a little-look. “Cool?” He raised his brows and Henry smiled.

“Cool.”

Pete did a little mini-shrug of surprise and giddiness. “Cool.” He repeated, more to himself.

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Beaver was making Jonesy tie his shoe for him and glancing around at the videos on the shelves, a smile on his face.

“Do you ever get the feeling that horror films are becoming far too cliche?” Jonesy mumbled as he finished tying. They were standing in-between the horror aisle and the classics. “I think they need to make something crazy. Fucking aliens or some shit coming to earth and killing you from the inside-out.” He chuckled.

Beaver shook his head. “Oh, you are so the boy for me.” He chuckled, knowing all-too well that Jonesy didn’t hear a thing.