Episode 27 – New Friends

Later, as Pearl locks up, I thank her for hiring me…and giving me a chance. She smiles. “My pleasure. See you tomorrow, Hunter!” Heads off into the night.

Everything feels new and exciting…like I’m a totally different person…free of the bullshit. The sidewalk’s still crowded…. people of every size, shape and color. My wild outfit attracts stares. Normally, I’d love it, but in Harlem, in my new life, it seems tactless to advertise newbie status..suddenly, remember my clothes…Fuck! I left them in the shop. What a numb nuts! Consider running back, but realize Pearl’s long gone…have zip to change into. Detour into a shop with floor to ceiling tees, hoodies and shorts. Figure I can get by with the hemp slip-ons, but not the other stuff.

An old guy asks if I need help. I say, “yeah, gotta buy some normal stuff.”

“Why? You look cool,” he says. “Where’d you get those fancy duds?”

“I started working at Peal’s, a couple doors down.”

“No kidding. That’s a classy shop…spruces up the neighborhood.”

“Yeah, I like working there, but I’m staying overnight with Pearl’s mom, and don’t want to act like a fashionista or something.”

“Her mom’s probably used to seeing trendy clothes.”

“Maybe, but I’m new around here…don’t want to stick out.”

“Whatever you say. Slim guys like you look good in almost anything. You want silk shorts or plain?”

“Plain, I guess, and a normal tee shirt.”

The guy heads to the back of the store. “You might like the new shorts we just got in. They’re like jean cut-offs, but skinny. We’ve got black and white…try black first…since you want to blend in. What’s your waist size?”

“28.”

He sends me to the dressing room with the shorts and a couple tee shirts…Mets and Yankees. No way I’m gonna wear Yankees. All the jocks at school go nuts over them…so I’m about to.

To me, dressing rooms evoke this private, sexy vibe. You can do almost anything…with only a half-door or curtain between you and curious eyes…I’m dying to jerk off, but decide against it with the guy waiting. What the fuck would he think if I didn’t come out for an hour? I pull off Pearl’s clothes…too warm for Summer anyway. Feel better immediately. Check myself in the mirror. Holy shit! The whole crazy day I’ve been wearing the same tighty-whities and they’re gross as shit. Think of free balling, but decide against it. Figure I’ll wash ’em in the sink at Pearl’s mom’s. Still, I slip ’em down a notch…hot weather makes everything long and low.

Lose track of time. Suddenly remember the poor guy outside….quickly dress and step out. The shorts are tight as shit…but being an exhibitionist is kind of my thing.

He looks me over. “I like that outfit. You’ve got the build for it, but they look tight? You want a larger size.”

“No. they feel good.”

He laughs. “All the ladies’ll like them.”

I glance down. “Do they look bad?”

He smiles. “Don’t listen to an old man. Wear them if that’s what you like.”

I end up buying them…plus a Mets tee and some running shorts. Stash my Pearl clothes in a shopping bag and head out. See a deli down the block and buy some daffodils… want to put my best foot forward. No way I want to get exiled from my adopted neighborhood the first day.

I follow Pearl’s directions and, in no time, I’m looking up at the brownstone. It’s typical New York, reddish stone, with front steps leading to the door. I stare at the buzzers…realize I don’t know Pearl’s last name! Fuck! Puzzle over the four nameplates. Two are foreign names, but the others are possibilities, Baker and Darnell. Try to figure out which name Pearl goes with. I’m such a fucking dummy…never actually looked at the cards I gave out. Finally decide Baker’s the most logical…though Darnell could work. Impulsively push the Baker buzzer.

“Hello???” A voice says. “Who’s there?”

“Hunter Hooker.”

There’s a pause, then the voice says: “We don’t need no hookers here.”

“Sorry, false alarm,” I say. So, it is Pearl Darnell! What the fuck do I know?

Push the other buzzer and the door clicks open. I start up the stairs and a woman’s voice calls down. “Hunter?”

I look up to see a pretty lady leaning over the railing. She looks a lot younger than my mom.

I wave, leap up the stairs two at a time. Hold out the flowers.

“My goodness!” She exclaims. “How sweet! You’re not what I expected at all.” Extends her hand. “I’m Grace Darnell, Pearl’s mother.”

“You look too young to be her mother,” I say. Figure a compliment can’t hurt.

She seems relieved, smiles. Leads me to her apartment. “Hunter, the way Pearl described you, I thought you’d be in rags.”

I’m not sure what to say. Don’t want to play up the orphan thing. I hate deceiving people.

Their apartment is spacious and comfortable…beautiful curtains, tasteful furnishings. I see a lot of Pearl in the color combinations.

“My younger daughter lives with me,” Grace explains. “Jasmine, come meet our guest!” No response. “Jasmine! Pry yourself away and come in here!” Turns to me. “She’s addicted to Reality Shows. I watch sometimes. A lot of the girls are from the clubs.”

“I watch sometimes,” I confess. “Can’t get over the transformations…all the incredible clothes and plastic surgery.”

“I’m surprised you watch. You’re an unusual boy. Do you like sports?”

She’s obviously wondering if I’m gay (I’ve pretty much concluded I’m not). “Sports are great!” I reply. “I’m addicted to running. Been doing it for years.”

She looks me over. “You’re slim, but I can see those strong legs.”

“I run every chance I get. Probably run tonight for a little while.”

“My goodness! You certainly are dedicated. I like your outfit. It fits like a glove.”

“Thanks, I just bought the shirt and shorts. The shoes are from Pearl’s. I took off the rest so it stays fresh…and it was attracting too much attention.” I open the bag and show everything. Feel a need to explain further. “It’s awesome stuff, but a little too unusual for wearing around.”

Grace looks me in the eyes. “But, honey, that’s the whole point of wearing it…to advertise the store.”

I blush.”True, but people don’t know me here and I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. After a few days, I’ll wear ’em more.”

Grace nods. “I understand.”

She calls Jasmine again. “Honey, get in here!” Shakes her head. “Where is that girl?” Asks me if I want a drink.

“No ma’am,” I say. “I’m fine.”

We sit and wait. I steal glances at Grace who’s older, but sexy with amazing chiseled features, frosted hair. She’s not tall and sleek…but has huge breasts and a serious booty. She’s hot…but in a classy way. At that moment, I hear light footsteps and Jasmine walks in. I’m stunned. She’s the hottest of all…huge dark eyes, upturned nose and sensual lips, wow! Plus, she’s slim with long legs, straight hair and perfect breasts…scrumptious! And I’m a breast guy.

She waves sheepishly. “Hi!”

“So, baby,” Grace says. “Is this boy what you expected?”

She shakes her head, laughs. “No way!”

“We thought you’d be black,” Grace explains, “especially with a name like Hunter, but we were wrong. Tell us about yourself.”

I give them my bullshit story about my dead parents…hate myself for doing it. Wish I could be honest with them like they are to me.

Jasmine takes it in, nods. Gives me a shy smile. I like her immediately. “So, which housewives are you watching?”

“Atlanta. The trouble is they keep interrupting with bulletins about some boy who disappeared on the Upper West Side.”

I freeze. Could that be yours truly? Had no clue my whereabouts would ever make news. “What happened?” I ask. All the police activity a few hours earlier pops into my head. Holy shit!

“I wasn’t really listening, but evidently he was attacked on a school bus by a bunch of bullies, and ran off. They’re afraid he might jump in the river or something.

“Wow!” Is all I can manage. My stomach’s churning. Realize I’m facing serious shit when…and if…I go home. I’m totally unsure what to do. My fantasy escape’s turning into a nightmare. Guess I never realized my parents would be so worried. My mind’s spinning. Gotta get away so I can think.

To be continued…Read next episode!