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|Here, after a long overdue hiatus, is the ultimate version of JP. There are over 100,000 words split into about 36 chapters, so it is somewhat long. But it all begins with the first chapter. Enjoy!
Note: Parts that have previously been posted may have been deleted, expounded upon or heavily changed. But the main part of the story has been kept intact.
|Have you ever been in love?
I don’t mean the type of love that many teenagers find themselves in, numbly holding hands with their partner, their arms awkwardly draped around each other’s shoulders, every once in a while pecking one another on the lips. No, I’m talking about real love.
A lot of people say it doesn’t exist, that there’s no such thing as the perfect mate, but that’s only because many of them haven’t experienced it like I have. They’ve never felt that sense of complete security lying in the arms of the person they know will always protect them. They’ve never looked into someone’s eyes and known from every pore of their bodies that this is the person with whom they were meant to spend the rest of their lives. Real love is the love that consumes every part of you, so much so that you can’t possibly concentrate on anything else, the love that makes you feel nervous, excited, giddy and relaxed all at the same time. This is true love.
Before my sophomore year of high school, I used to be one of those people who didn’t believe in real love. I just didn’t understand how there could be that one perfect person somewhere out there for me. Frankly, like many 15-year-old high school students, there were a lot of things I had trouble understanding. But unlike most 15-year-olds, a lot of my confusion stemmed from a secret that was locked up inside of me.
You see, ever since middle school, I knew that I was gay. Unfortunately, my family was rather conservative and I feared that they wouldn’t look favorably on my homosexuality, so I kept that fact to myself. I mean, I didn’t “seem” gay. I didn’t speak with that stereotypical lisp, have a fashionable sense of clothes or sing Broadway showtunes, so no one ever actually downright asked me if I was. But that’s what haunted me. I hated lying to those I cared for. I hated having to make up stories as to why I didn’t have a girlfriend and feigning interest in a hot girl while hanging out with my friends.
I admit I got a few glances from some of the girls in my class. I was fairly good-looking, according to my friends. My mom was German, my father Scandinavian with a little bit of Italian on his mother’s side, so I inherited round, blue eyes, dusty brown hair and strong cheekbones. I had once been told that I probably could make a good model, making me blush. I didn’t agree. My slender 5 foot 11, 140 pounds was tall enough, but I always thought I was kind of plain-looking, my thin shoulders and narrow waist doing little to help the size of my wiry, unremarkable frame. I secretly envied all the jocks in my school, with their large, sculpted bodies and chiseled torsos.
I didn’t necessarily want to be like those guys, mind you. In fact, at the time, I didn’t know what I wanted. There was something missing in my life, but I could never put my finger on what. Surely it had something to do with my self-confidence, which was lacking, but there was nothing I could do to fill that void. I was a good trumpet player, an ok student and even a decent rower, having been on my school’s crew team for a year. But none of that helped. I still felt like I was incomplete.
I also wished that I didn’t have to hide the fact that I was gay. I so badly wanted to tell someone, to confide in them, but there was no one I completely trusted. As I grew older, I began to assume that this was how I was going to play out the rest of life. I would have to live some sort of charade, never really being able to let out the truth. Sometimes, I would find myself praying that my life would change. Well, I got my wish, but I just never dreamed that my life would change the way it did.
It started on the first day of band camp, my sophomore year, and I remember it vividly. It was a warm, sunny day as, one by one, the marching band rookies arrived at the parking lot where we practiced. (The football coach would never let us use the real field). Since the band program at my school was not very good, I was already the best trumpet player in the school by my second year there, so even though rules prevented me from being section leader, I still felt like it was my section. Therefore, I was present during “rookie week,” the first few days of camp when the new band members were taught the basics of marching. Frankly, it was a bitch, having to endure the hot August sun beating off the black asphalt, yelling at the little freshmen to stand up straight. We all hated it.
So there we were, the other upperclassmen and I, sitting in the back of the band room, eyeing all the freshmen as they walked in, wanting to establish our power right away. That’s when I saw him for the first time.
He was the typical freshman, or at least seemed like the typical freshman: short, about 5 foot 4, skinny, couldn't have been any more than 100 pounds, and not very noticeable…at least to other people anyway. There was something about him that made me keep looking back at him. His boyish, round face was dominated by a pair of glowing blue eyes that twinkled brightly as they darted about the room. His golden brown hair, shining in the fluorescent light, was styled in a childish bowl cut, making him look younger than his fourteen years. He was cute, adorable, the kind of kid whose cheeks would get pinched by grandmothers. But there was more to him than just that. This may sound tacky, but the kid reminded me of an angel. As I looked at him, I felt an unexplainable sense of ease drift over me.
His eyes continued scanning the room until they came to me. He stopped for a split second and then smiled, flashing a perfect set of white teeth. There was definitely something different about him, I thought to myself. Unlike nearly all of his classmates, he didn’t seem intimidated by his new surroundings. In fact, he almost seemed eager to start, like he was waiting for something.
I was so lost in thought, I barely noticed that the band director had called us into his office to give us instructions. As I headed out of the room, I looked around for another glimpse of the boy, but I had lost him in the crowd of freshmen.
We didn’t run into each other until later when we had all re-gathered outside. Or rather, he came up to me and immediately introduced himself.
“Hi,” he greeted cheerfully, offering his hand. “My name’s JP Maloney.”
“Um, hi,” I shook his hand, a little startled by his forwardness. I was taken aback a little by the strength of his grip for a kid his size. He was probably just really excited, I told myself. But I recovered quickly, wanting to make sure he knew that I had the upper hand. “I’m Matt Andersson and I’m a sophomore.”
“Good,” he returned without missing a beat, “I wanted to make friends with an upperclassman right away.”
I looked down at him. (After all, he was more than half a foot shorter than I was). He wore a bright green Green Bay Packer T-shirt that was obviously a size too big for him, hanging loosely from his narrow shoulders. In his hand, he carried a shiny trumpet that looked like it had recently been polished. I hadn’t noticed the instrument back in the band room, but somehow it didn’t surprise me that he was going to be in my section. The kid had “trumpet player” written all over him. He had a definite air of confidence and you could tell that he was ready for anything and everything we dealt him.
“So what does the JP stand for?” I asked, attempting not to allow an awkward pause enter our conversation.
“My parents named me after John Paul Jones,” he answered proudly.
“You mean, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin?” I laughed.
“No, John Paul Jones the naval hero,” JP rolled his eyes as if this were the millionth time he had heard the mis-reference. “My dad went to the Naval Academy.”
I wanted to question him further, but at that moment, rehearsal was beginning.
“Nice to meet you,” he said as he flashed a cherubic grin at me. I could do no more than smile back.
I chuckled inwardly. JP was only a little kid who was just happy to finally be out of middle school. But a small part of me felt differently.
I couldn’t help but smile every time I was around him. He may have been a skinny little thing, but his personality could fill the room. No matter how often my own problems kept me down, even a short conversation with JP would pick me back up. His beaming self-confidence, his charming personality and his bright sense of humor allowed him to be like a little brother to us upperclassmen. I mean, being superiors to him in band, we would beat up on him a little bit, but he was a tough kid and took it well.
As the school year started, JP began to establish himself among his fellow classmates. He was a decent trumpet player, probably one of the better of the freshmen, and he seemed to be incredibly smart, in a “dorky cute” sort of way. A lot of girls found him adorable, at which he would just smile and blush. He wasn’t big on being in the limelight too much. In fact, it wasn’t until one day in early November when he finally started “showing off.”
We were outside on the bleachers in the football stadium during a break in our marching band rehearsal, one of the few times we were even allowed on the field. It had been an unusually warm day for November so most people were wearing short-sleeved shirts. A group of my friends and I were for some reason talking about gaining and losing weight. (Some of the “band sluts” always stressed about that). I confessed that I had gained a little weight over the summer because I was no longer on the crew team.
“In fact,” I said, “I used to have a six-pack during crew.”
Well, that was a little lie. True, I had been more fit during the rowing season, but I never really had a six-pack.
Suddenly, JP piped up: “I have a six-pack!”
We hadn't even noticed him come over to sit by us and we were a little surprised that this usually-quiet freshman was trying to butt into our conversation. We all looked at him weird.
One of my friends said, “A six-pack?”
“Yeah!” he answered back almost braggingly. “I have a cut six-pack!”
A few of us were laughing to ourselves. There was no way in heaven that a freshman his size could have a six-pack. The kid was really skinny. During marching band season, we musicians were constantly changing in front of everyone else due to time constraints, so we all saw JP shirtless on more than one occasion. He had an incredibly tiny waist, maybe 25 or 26 inches around, and a flat stomach, but that was solely because he had no fat at all, much less muscle. The outline of every rib and bone was visible through his thin, pale skin and his chest was barely wider than his hips. His bony shoulders seemed like they were just plopped on top of his stick-like upper arms and his forearms were even narrower. What made him appear skinnier still was his pencil neck that looked like it was just able to hold up his head. All skin and bones was how you would describe JP. He was definitely not like one of the “freaky freshmen” who were bigger than most seniors, flexing their huge biceps in front of the other freshman girls every chance they got. JP hadn‘t even started going into puberty yet.
“Well, let's see it,” one of the girls said.
“Ok,” JP answered and lifted up the bottom of the green Packer shirt that hung loosely from his undistinguished shoulders.
I couldn't help but look and laugh at the freshman. He was asking for it. I mean, his stomach was completely flat; not a single bump of ab muscle could be seen.
“Go on, touch it,” he invited one of the girls. She pushed in gently against his stomach, just above the belly button.
“It's pretty firm.” she contested. I couldn't tell if she was being serious or just joking around, but it was probably the latter.
JP put his shirt down and said, “By the time I'm a senior, I'll have muscles so big, no one will be able to recognize me from my freshman picture.”
We all couldn't help but laugh out loud at JP's bold prediction. I didn't think much of this incident because he was like any other silly freshman, thinking they're all that. In fact, I nearly forgot about that episode, until mid-February. I had to stay after school for a concert band rehearsal, so I was eating a snack outside the band room. I had just finished eating and was packing up when JP came over. He was carrying a half-liter bottle of water and two foot-long subs: a rather large meal for someone my size, much less his.
“Is all that food for you?” I asked him.
“Yep!” he said confidently, “I gotta get big for wrestling.”
I couldn't believe what I heard. “Wrestling?”
“Yeah, my appetite‘s getting really big,” he said. “I want to be really good at it so I have to bulk up.”
When he said “bulk up,” he made sort of a mock most-muscular pose and let out a slight grunt. I chuckled to myself. The thought of the little kid grappling around with some guy on a mat made me laugh.
“Well, you can't just eat to get big,” I said. “You also have to do a little bit of lifting weights, too.” I may not have been a jock, but I knew at least that.
“I am!” JP assured me. “Every day.”
My eyebrows went up a little. “Really? Do you go to the weight room?” I imagined JP bench pressing the bar only, grunting and straining just to lift it a foot.
“Well, no.” he said. I smirked. Then he said: “I have a weight bench in my basement that I work out on every night. It's my brother's, but he lets me use it.”
My eyebrows went up even further. What, I thought to myself, he owns a weight bench? Even I don’t own one of those.
JP continued: “I haven't been doing it very long, only since the summer, but I'm getting stronger and stronger.” I had never heard him say so many words at once. “I may only be in the 103-pound weight class, but soon, I'll be the biggest wrestler in the school.”
Despite the initial shock of knowing that JP worked out, I still found it amusing that he just “knew” he was going to be a monster.
“In fact, I already have some muscle. Wanna see?" I then remembered back to November when he showed us his “six-pack” and laughed to myself.
“Alright,” I said. Why not make the kid satisfied?
“Check it out!” JP said roughly, as he turned with his left side facing me, lifted up his left shirt sleeve, (JP was a lefty) bent his arm, and flexed.
My eyes must've widened or something because he smiled. He did have a skinny arm, but as soon as he flexed, a small but very noticeable bump jumped out. It wasn't very big, but it was definitely a very nicely developed bicep. It was as if someone stuck a golf ball in his arm and part of it was pushing out the skin. Of course, there was not an ounce of fat on this kids' body, so the muscle fibers in his arm were clearly visible and they twitched a little bit just before he unflexed it again. I couldn't believe that this was the same kid that I had laughed at a few moments earlier. JP opened one of his sub wrappers and took a huge bite out of it.
Then, he made another prediction: “I'm going to be so big, I'll be able to bench press you like you were nothing.”
With that, he walked back into the band room.
I just sat there blinking for a minute. Someone else may have blown off that conversation as just freshman pride, but a part of me thought otherwise. I had always known that there was something different about JP, but I could never put a finger on it.
Questions swam through my head. How did he just know he was going to get big and strong? Who was his brother? What gave him the motivation to be huge?
I quickly got my senses back together, threw my trash in a garbage bin and hurried after JP. As I entered the band room, there he was, sitting calmly on a chair, tearing at the sub like he hadn’t eaten in weeks. He noticed me standing there in front of him. I bit my lip thinking how stupid I must look right now, staring at the kid chowing down on his dinner.
“You know who my big brother is?” he said through a mouthful of bread, meat, lettuce and tomato. He asked the question almost as if it were a rhetorical one.
I blinked. How did he know what I was going to say, I thought to myself. I shook my head and gulped. He swallowed his food and gave me a toothy grin.
“My brother is Ryan Maloney,” JP beamed. “You heard of him?”
Heard of him? Anyone in Central High School who had never heard of Ryan Maloney had to be an idiot. I suddenly felt weak in the knees and I could tell by JP’s smile that my eyes must have been as wide as saucers.
It had never occurred to me that the two had the same last name. It just didn’t seem possible that someone like Ryan would have a little brother in band. Things like that just don’t happen.
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