Like the Taste of Summer by Kaje Harper - Read Online
Like the Taste of Summer
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When Jack ended up at college in a small town in the middle of the Iowa cornfields, September 1981, he figured it would at least be better than being home. He had no idea. Sean was on the opposite side of the town-and-gown divide, but attraction knows no boundaries. And when personal tragedy brought them together, it was the beginning of something extraordinary.

This story was written for the Goodreads M/M Romance Hot Summer Days event and appears in the second volume of the group anthology.

Published: Kaje Harper on


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Like the Taste of Summer - Kaje Harper

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I could do that.

What time?

I thought hard. My brain was full of mush. What day is it?

It’s Tuesday, Jack.

Tuesday. So Wednesday, then. I had Chem lab in the morning, and English at two. Nothing after that, although there would be three days of missed classes to make up. Fuck it. Three o’clock. I’ll meet you at the gates.

I can get off early for a change. I’ll be there.

At the dorm he dropped me and my bags in the parking lot, took my check for the tire, and pulled out like a bat out of hell or a spy getting out of enemy territory. Andrew came toward me as I was humping my cases to the sidewalk. Jack, you’re back. Here, I’ll get one of those, man. Who was that in the truck? Looked like some townie.

Just a guy. Gave me a ride from the bus. Jesus, I need a night’s sleep. I followed Andrew toward the dorm without glancing back.

He was there waiting when I hit the gates at five past three, panting from having run all the way from the quad. The weather had warmed up, and I was sweating all over my freshly-showered skin and clean shirt. Sean reached across and swung open the passenger door. Get in.

I looked over at him as we pulled away. His hair was clean and silky, and looked newly cut. He wore a black Led Zeppelin T-shirt and khaki pants, with running shoes over bare feet. I was caught again by the line of his neck, the curve of his shoulder. My breath came shorter.

Hey, I said. It’s my car. How come you’re driving?

Because I figured you didn’t want people watching us changing seats at the gate. And because I know where we’re going.

Where are we going?

He grinned at me. Now I’ve been scouting this out for years. Just in the hope, mind you. Because when you live in a place that is as flat as a pool table and has about the same number of trees, finding a hidden spot that every other teenager in town isn’t using as a make-out zone takes some doing. We’re going to drive for a bit.

I rolled down my window and let the sweet spring air flow over me. After a few minutes it got cool enough to put it up halfway again. I could see what Sean meant. We were ten miles out and heading away from town, and with the corn barely in the ground you could practically see all the way to the movie theater.

Now there, Sean said eventually, pointing, is Sand Creek. A few trees, a few bluffs, a scenic pull-out or two. And a hetero couple necking in every single one once the sun goes down, and maybe before.

I dared to say, Necking sounds good.

Sean laughed. Patience, Grasshopper. All will soon be revealed. He drove another five minutes, and then took a dirt road to the left. It climbed a slight rise, between scrubby fields high with weeds that hadn’t seen a plow this season. Then the road topped the rise and started down again. In the little depression that no-one would dignify with the term valley, there was a tumble-down house. The boards were weathered silver, with streaks of the original light blue. The roof sagged down into the middle of the front room like a giant had put a careless foot on it. Beside the house, the flattened remains of a barn had become a heap of bleaching boards, presided over by the base of an old stone silo.

You see here the closest thing to privacy to be found within twenty minutes of Carterville, Sean said. There are some other abandoned places with the barns still standing, that the high-schoolers use. But the road down here sucks. My car bottomed out in a rut, as if to emphasize his words. And this one doesn’t have much of anything. Except…

He pulled my car around the side of the old house, and there the collapse of walls and roof had created a snug space, just big enough to take one vehicle in it. With an ease that spoke of practice, Sean swung the Corolla in a three point turn and backed it into the space. He shut off the engine.

The world was quiet. Somewhere off to our right, a redwing blackbird called twice. The metal of my car pinged, cooling. Sean turned to me. We don’t have to do anything, you know. We could just talk.