Lima, Ohio 1959
On the top of Winter Hill, on one of the last, few hot days of the summer, he watched the sun slowly sink behind the horizon, bathing everything in a warm, orange glow, and thought about love.
You see, Winter Hill was one of those cliff-side lookout points that teenagers were always using as a place to make out in all those books you read and films you watched; the ones with steamy windows and creaking backseats. The kind of place that love struck kids go to relieve their passions, through clumsy mouths and fumbling hands or worse; and here he was, waiting in his father's Chevy and nervous as hell.
/We got some clouds movin' in from the west but as long as you're listening to WHMQ you'll know what to do. We're gonna open tonight with a little number from The Penguins.../
He wound down a window to let the cool, light breeze brush his face, William would be here soon and then it would be okay. They had been doing this all summer and it still didn't stop the butterflies in his stomach or how his hands trembled, they wouldn't quit till he saw the door swing open and that face staring back at him.
Anyway, William had said sundown and he would wait till then, staring into the pink and violet skyline and humming along to Earth Angel on the radio.
/The time is 8:09 and we're gonna get you feelin' fine! /
The sky was an inky blue and the radio had turned into background noise when he finally heard the car pull up next to him and shut off its engine.
His stomach clenched.
He heard the door slam shut.
His pulse was racing.
The muffled sound of footsteps.
Under his arms prickled uncomfortably.
Hand on the car door.
Oh God, his face was burning. When did it get so hot?
All at once he felt his chest get tight and his heart leap into his throat. There was that smile that made his head swim, the self-conscious way he ran his hand through his golden-brown hair that made—oh he'd better start speaking before he looked like a fruit loop.
"Hey." He said, rather hoarsely. He noticed the specks on the shoulders of Billy's letterman jacket. "Are you wet?"
"It's starting to rain. Only a little." Billy cleared his throat and slid into the passenger seat, closing the door behind him.
It was always like this, awkward small talk that didn't really deserve the name because you had to be making coherent sounds for it to be recognised as talking. After a few uhms and ahs and nervous laughter he finally blurted out
"I can't stop thinking about you."
Billy smiled and slid his hand on top of the other boy's, "I can't stop thinking about you either," he admitted softly. "It's driving me crazy."
"School's going to start back soon... what are we gonna do?"
Billy pulled a face and looked out the window, taking his hand away and shoving it in his jacket pocket.
"I- I don't know, I need time to think about this you know? I've got to think about college and my Dad and..." He trailed off and shook his head, "sometimes I think this is such a bad idea..."
"No, don't say that! Why would you say that?" He gripped Billy's elbow and tugged him closer, bringing his hand up to turn Billy's face towards him. "Don't you like being with me?"
"Of course I do," Billy sighed.
"Then what's the problem?" He stroked Billy's cheek with his thumb softly. Billy caught him gently by the wrist, drawing his hand away.
"Why do you always call me William? Everyone calls me Billy, you know that."
"Mmm, but only when you're with me are you William."
Billy looked perplexed, "But I still feel like the same person..."
The other boy's face split into a wide grin, "You're so stupid, d'you know that?"
He leaned forward and pressed his lips to Billy's cheek, pulling back with a frown as he felt him stiffen.
"I have to tell you something."
"Tell me what?"
Billy chewed on his lip and stroked the arm of the other boy's shirt distractedly. He looked so nervous.
"Is something wrong?"
A flicker of panic darted across Billy's face, but he still didn't make a sound.
Billy's blue eyes softened and he stopped chewing on his lip and gave his boyfriend a small, lopsided smile.
"I love you. Honest I do, and...and I never want to be apart from you. I'd never leave you, I promise. I want to be with you till the day you die." Billy let himself breathe.
"Only till the day I die?"
"Forever." Billy said solemnly. "When this is all sorted out, once they understand and don't... we can tell people we're going steady. But not now, not till then. I'm sorry, I love you."
He felt like his heart was about to explode into a thousand tiny, sparkling pieces. He didn't care about any of the rest of it. Billy loved him. Him. His William.
"I love you too; and I understand, okay? It's the same for me. It's not wrong, how could it be? They'll have to understand." He closed Billy's hand in his own. "I can wait. I will wait, forever."
He unfurled Billy's hand and pressed the palm to his chest. "Can't you feel my heart beating? That's because of you." His voice was barely a whisper.
/You're listening to WHMQ Radio, hoping all you late-night lovers aren't caught in the storm. Now here's a little ditty from the city.../
Billy's mouth collided with his in a bruising kiss, fingers running through his hair and curling round his jacket, pulling him closer.
There was an octopus in his belly, he was drowning, he felt a million electric shocks explode out of his fingertips and he couldn't stop the trembling of his body or the twitching of his hips. He kissed along the curve of Billy's jaw, a tentative hand creeping under the hem of his shirt making Billy groan into his ear. Carefully, he shifted his weight to slide his knee between Billy's legs.
"Watch the gear stick." Billy warned.
"I'm trying, this is really hard."
"Mmm, I bet it is." Billy nuzzled into the other boy's neck with a grin, making him giggle and roll his eyes.
"You know this is kind of...inappropriate music for making out." He nodded towards the radio which was playing an upbeat Buddy Holly song.
" You gave me all your loving, all your turtle doving, " Billy sang, smiling, and kissed his neck. "All your hugs and kisses."
He murmured into the open throat of the dark haired boy's shirt who was pressed tight against him, legs tangled into his, moaning into Billy's hair.
Then someone was wrenching him backwards, Billy's jacket slipping through his fingers with a yelp. Rough hands dragged him under his arms from out the car and threw him heavily to the wet ground.
"The little sicko's got a boner! What a perv!"
He knew that voice, but before he could say anything a boot connected with his ribs, winding him.
"Leave him alone!" He heard Billy yell as he gasped for air against the mud.
"Shut up, Billy! It's for your own good!"
"Can't you see what this little fag has done?"
"He's infected you! You're sick!"
He wiped the rainwater out of his eyes with the back of a trembling hand and blinked up, Billy was being held by two jocks from the football team, his hair plastered to his face. Standing above him, however was Chuck Peterson. He was in trouble. Chuck Peterson was a brick shithouse of a kid, a Wide Receiver with a neck as thick as his thighs. There was another kick to his stomach, not as hard this time.
"Get up, shithead."
A glob of spit landed next to him as he pushed himself to his feet.
"What do you want, Peterson?" Even he was aware just how pathetically small his voice sounded, half drowned in the downpour. He could barely stand, still half-bent, clutching at his ribs and spitting water from his face. There was an ominous rumble of thunder.
"We're gonna give you a good dose of medicine and then maybe you'll stay the fuck away from my friend." A crack of lighting lit up the sky, illuminating Peterson's face an eerie shade of blue. "Poisoning his mind, you're one sick fuck." Stonefield had his hand over Billy's mouth and both he and Lipczynski held back Billy's arms as he struggled.
This wasn't happening, he wouldn't let this happen.
"Why don't you take a running jump, creep!" he sneered.
Peterson's hand was on his shoulder then, tight and crushing as he punched one, two, three times into the boy's stomach. The whole world went yellow and black. To his credit, he didn't fall but bent over double and vomited on his shoes. An amazing technicolour yawn. Peterson dropped his grip on him, jumping back away from the vomit.
"He's had enough." He spat disgustedly.
"You think you beat the fag outta him?" That was Stonefield.
"Dunno, the fucking pervert probably liked it from what I saw when we first got him outta the car." He could hear the smirk in Peterson's voice.
That was it, he snarled and pulled himself up, and bringing his arm back he ran at Peterson and swung with all his might. He felt his fist connect with bone, the shock reverberating through his arm all the way up to his shoulder, but he didn't stop. He just kept bringing his fist back and down, back and down. He heard Billy shout out as Stonefield and Lipczynski dropped him to help out Peterson, he heard his name, over and over again his fist hit Peterson.
"Get the fuck OFF ME." Peterson roared, grabbing his jacket and pushing him back with full force.
He felt his heels connect with wet, muddy grass.
He heard the frantic shouts of Stonefield and Lipczynski.
He felt his feet scrabble for balance on the slick ground.
He heard a roar of thunder as if it were underwater, drawn out and far away.
His heel struck the edge of the cliff.
He heard the chorus on the radio.
His legs flew out from under him.
Suddenly the stars were even further away, his hands grasping at thin air.
The last thing he heard was his name.