Nancy was puzzled by Molly’s statement, “I wish we didn’t have to go back home.”
“Honey, do not want to go home because you’re having a good time?” Nancy asked.
“I’ve never had so much fun in my life,” Molly said. “We only get to go to church or maybe a football game. You and Allen let us have fun, but my dad is always yelling at us.”
“Some parents parent different than others,” Nancy said. “I’m sure he loves you.”
“He is just mean,” Molly said. “I can’t wait until I’m grown and can leave home.
“When the time comes to leave home, leave for the right reasons,” Allen said. “Don’t just leave to get away from home.”
“What do you mean?” Molly asked.
“Some young girls get pregnant and get married just to get away from home,” Allen said. “That’s a wrong reason. A good reason would be to go to college, or to marry someone you really love.”
“I want to go to college, but Dad said that he wouldn’t have the money to send any of us,” Molly said.
“Do you have good grades in school now?” Nancy asked.
“Yes we all do,” Molly said. “I think we all got our looks and intelligence from Mom. I know we didn’t get them from our Dad.”
“Keep up the good grades and you’ll get a scholarship for college,” Allen said. “What your scholarships don’t pay, Nancy and I will help with the rest.”
“Allen, that’s a great idea,” Nancy said. “That goes for your brothers too. You can get an excellent college education by staying at home and going to NSU.”
“But, that wouldn’t help,” Molly protested. “I’d still be at home.”
“The scholarship offer includes room and board” Allen said. “You could always live in the dorm.”
“You will be eighteen then and you can live anywhere you wish,” Nancy added. “Our home will always be your home too.”
“That goes for your brothers too,” Allen said.
“Gosh, that’s going to be like six years,” Molly said.
“It will be here before you know it,” Nancy said. “I remember when I first learned that I was pregnant with Jeremy; I thought it would be forever before he was born. Now look at him. He’s almost grown now.”
“I know,” Molly said. “Just look at those muscles.”
“He wasn’t born with those for sure,” Nancy said. “He got those from working out and wrestling.”
“We will be landing in Tulsa soon,” the flight attendant said as she walked by picking up drink cups. “Would you finish your dink please? I’ll be back shortly to pick up your cup.”
“I’m finished,” Molly said.
The weather was a surprisingly pleasant late summer evening when the group arrived in Tulsa. After stopping at Los Cabos in Broken Arrow for dinner the party was soon on their way back home in Tahlequah.
“We have to start back to school in two days,” Scott groaned as they were within a couple of mile of home.
“At lease we’ll have a vacation to talk about,” Molly said.
“I hope everybody had a good time,” Allen said.
“We did,” Cody said. “Thank you for inviting us.
“Yes, thank you,” Scott and Molly agreed.
In view of the fact that Jeremy’s driver’s license was restricted to one passenger, it was decided that either Cody or Scott would ride Rocky Horton. Rocky’s license was also restricted to one passenger, but he did live near Cody and Scott.
“Hey Jeremy I need a ride today too,” Cody said as he rushed to catch up with Jeremy and Scott in the student parking lot on the third day of school.
“What happened?” Jeremy asked. “I thought you were riding with Rocky.
“I was, but he got sick and left school early,” Cody said.
“I’m not supposed to have more than one passenger, but I guess it will be okay this one time,” Jeremy said.
As usual, Jeremy drove the speed limit home. The last thing he wanted was to lose his driving privilege until he was eighteen. Jeremy turned off the highway onto their road only to see an Oklahoma Highway Patrol roadblock checking for driver’s license and insurance.
“Shit,” Jeremy said when he saw the roadblock. “If they ask, tell them you’re both my brothers.”
“May I see your driver’s license and insurance verification,” the trouper said.
Jeremy nervously pulled his license out of his wallet, and then gave it and the insurance card to the trouper. “Here you go, Trouper Fielding,” Jeremy said as he read the name on Trouper Fielding’s name badge.
“This is a graduated license, what relationship are your passengers to you?” Trouper Fielding asked.
“They’re my brother’s,” Jeremy quickly answered.
“I’m not,” Scott said from the back seat.
“SCOTT,” Jeremy and Cody both said.
“Well, you’re always telling me that I’m adopted,” Scott said.
Trouper Fielding’s expression changed from a serious frown to a grin and then a loud laugh. “I guess you boys will not say that to him again,” he said as he handed Jeremy his license and insurance verification and walked away still laughing.
“Scott, you scared the shit out of me,” Jeremy said as he put the car in drive.
“I was just trying to distract him from asking too many questions,” Scott said. “It worked didn’t it?”
“Yeah it worked, and I almost shit my pants,” Jeremy admitted. He and Cody broke into a loud laughter. “Are you guys coming over to work out this evening?” Jeremy asked after the laughter had subsided.
“I’ll be over after I do my homework,” Scott said.
“What about you, Cody?” Jeremy asked.
“I have a date with Allison,” Cody said.
Jeremy looked in his rearview mirror and saw Scott roll his eyes upon hearing Cody.
“Scott, I’ll see you later,” Jeremy said. “Cody, enjoy your date.”
“I plan on it,” Cody said.
Once again Scott rolled his eyes, and then said, “I should be there soon. I only have algebra homework, and it shouldn’t take long.”
Jeremy was at his computer typing up his English paper when Scott sat on his bed and asked, “Are you about finished?”
“Almost finished, why don’t you go down to the kitchen and get us something to drink,” Jeremy said.
“Thanks,” Jeremy said as Scott handed him a bottle of water. “All I have to do is print this and then we’ll go workout as soon as we finish our drinks.”
Scott sat on the bed and mumbled something that Jeremy didn’t understand. “What did you say?” Jeremy asked.
“What’s with you this evening? You seemed pissed about something.”
“Nothing really, I’m just irritated with Cody.”
“What did Cody do?”
“He pisses me off that he is using Allison.”
“Why do you think he is using her?”
“You and I both know that he’s gay. I don’t know why he can’t just admit it, at least to himself. He’s not the same as he used to be. He’s becoming a bitter miserable person.”
“I hadn’t noticed that.”
“You don’t live with him. I see it every day. He was more like his old self when we went with you on vacation to California. I know he is uptight around Dad. I gave up on ever pleasing Dad. I agree with Molly, I can’t wait until I can leave home.”
“Is he abusive to any of you?”
“He used to take a belt to Cody and me. So far he just yells at Molly, but if he ever hits her, I’ll kick his ass. He still yells at Cody and me, but I just tune him out.”
“If he ever lays a hand on any of you, get out of there and come here. Mom and Dad will see that you’re safe.”
“I don’t think he will try anything. If you haven’t noticed, Cody and I are both bigger than he is. The last time he got his belt out to use on me I gave him a look that I think intimidated him. I could tell that he wasn’t sure what I would do.”
“What about your mom?”
“Mom is a good mom when it comes to seeing that we have a clean house, clean clothes, and food on the table. She probably will never stand up to Dad though.”
The workout for Scott and Jeremy was intense. It was as if Scott was taking his anger out on the exercise equipment and pushed himself to the limit. Of course Jeremy wasn’t going to let Scott outdo him.
“Jeremy, may I ask you something?” Scott asked as he was tying his shoes following their shower.
“Sure,” Jeremy said while detecting seriousness in Scott’s voice.
“Do you like me?”
“Of course I like you, you’re a great friend.”
“No, I know that you like me as a friend. What I’m asking is if you like me in the same way you liked Cody before he lost his mind.”
Jeremy giggled at Scott’s sense of humor, and then said, “Scott, you’re probably my best friend now. Casey and I are still friends, but he’s in California. Cody is still my friend, but as you say he’s lost his mind. Yeah, I like you. I like you a lot, but you’re straight. Aren’t you?”
“Yeah, I’m straight. I just find it hard to believe that we’ve become such close friends. You don’t treat me as your ex-boyfriend’s little brother. You treat me like one of your friends. I admire you.”
“Why would you admire me?”
“Jeremy, you have it all. You’re parent’s have enough money to give you anything you want. They are parent’s who not only love you, but also respect you. I often lay in bed at night thinking about what it would be like to be your brother.”
“Scott, you’ll always be my little brother. What brought on this conversation anyway?”
“I noticed how you’ve been looking at me lately. I didn’t want you to get any ideas that there could ever be anything between us.”
“I know that. You’re hopelessly straight, but you’re also very hot. I can’t help but look at you.”
“Okay you can look, but you can’t touch,” Scott laughed. “We’ve got to find you a boyfriend though.”
“If it happens, so be it. But, I’m not looking for a boyfriend. I’m hungry; let’s go see what Mom and Dad have for dinner.”
“Hi, what’s for dinner?” Scott jokingly asked when he and Jeremy entered the kitchen.
“Nothing until you boys set the table and pour the drinks,” Nancy laughed. “Allen and I are having pot roast. You may have some too if you’ll behave yourselves.”
Dinner conversation was light hearted with Allen teasing the boys and both dishing it back. After dinner Allen said, “Jeremy, you and your brother can load the dishwasher and clean the kitchen since your mother and I cooked dinner.”
“Brother?” Jeremy asked with a puzzled looked.
“He may be adopted, but he’s still your brother,” Allen said while trying to suppress a smile.
“How did you know about that?” Jeremy asked while Scott had that ‘deer in the headlight’ look.
“I ran into Tom Fielding at Wal-Mart today,” Allen said.
“Who is Tom Fielding?” Jeremy asked.
“Tom and I were in high school together,” Allen said. “He’s a trouper with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol now. Is there something you would like to tell us?”
“Oh that,” Jeremy said. “Rocky went home from school sick and I gave Cody a ride home too. When we turned off the highway onto our road there was a check point for drivers’ licenses and insurance. I sort of lied and said that Cody and Scott were my brothers.”
“I don’t think Tom bought it,” Allen said. “He was smiling when he asked me about my sons. Were you going to tell Nancy and me about this?”
“I wasn’t trying to hide it, Dad,” Jeremy said. “I really wasn’t. I couldn’t leave Cody at school without a ride.”
“You could have called one of us and we would have picked him up,” Nancy said. “It isn’t that far out here so you could have taken Scott home and gone back to get Cody.”
“Does this mean that I lose my driving privileges now?” Jeremy asked while hoping that he wouldn’t.
“Do you think you should?” Nancy asked.
“Probably,” Jeremy admitted. “I hope I won’t though.”
“For the next week you’ll not be allowed to drive,” Allen said. “After that you may drive again. I know you were helping out a friend, but you have to think of the consequences the next time.”
“Next time I’ll just put Scott in the trunk,” Jeremy joked.
“Shut up,” Scott laughed. “I think I’d better go home before I get into trouble.”
“Good night, Scott,” Allen said. “Remember that I’ll be driving you two to school for the next week.”
“Yes sir,” Scott said.
The next week seemed to never end for Jeremy. He hadn’t expected to miss the freedom his car had given him. He did have to admit to himself that his punishment had been reasonable, and that it could have been much more severe.
Jeremy’s workouts with weights and wrestling training were beginning to pay off. He was now a “hunk” according to Molly. Jeremy would never be interested her as a girlfriend even if she were older. Her brothers however would be a different story. Molly wasn’t the only girl that was showing interest in him. Kerri, a pretty brunette in his English class flirted with him openly. He was tempted to out himself just to get her to stop, but he wasn’t sure that would be wise. Sure Tahlequah was a university town and more liberal than most, but it was still in the Bible belt.
It was homecoming week and Kerri had been hinting that she didn’t have a date for the dance. Jeremy of course played dumb. Finally by Wednesday she just asked came out and asked him.
“I’m sorry Kerri, but I’m not going to the dance,” Jeremy said.
“Everybody goes to the homecoming dance,” Kerri argued as she put her had on his leg.
“I’m not,” Jeremy said.
“Why not, are you Baptist?” Kerri asked.
“No I’m not Baptist,” Jeremy answered. He laughed at her remark while thinking that more than half of the kids there would be Baptist and they would be dancing. “I can’t dance, so I see no reason to go.”
“Bullshit, everybody can dance,” Kerri said. “All you have to do is get on the dance floor and shake your bootie.”
Before Jeremy could respond the bell rang, and he was out of the room in a flash and headed for the parking lot and his car. “Why were you in such a rush to get out your classroom today?” Jeremy asked as he buckled his seatbelt.
“I was trying to get away from Kerri,” Jeremy said. “She’s trying to get me to take her to the homecoming dance.”
“Kerri Welch? Man she’s hot. What I wouldn’t give to take her out,” Scott said.
“Well ask her out,” Jeremy said as he started the car.
“She wouldn’t go out with me,” Scott said.
“Why wouldn’t she? You’re hot.”
“Yeah I am, but I’m just a freshman and she’s a sophomore.”
“Besides, my dad wouldn’t take me to pick her up.”
“I could drive you.”
“No you can’t, remember you can only have one passenger.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that. My dad could drive you.”
“Do you really think he would?”
“Of course he would. He thinks of you as my little brother.”
“I don’t know. I’ll think about it.”
“Okay, I’ll see you later when we workout.”
Jeremy finished his homework and went into the den to visit with Annie who had arrived for dinner with the family. While visiting and waiting for Scott to arrive for their workout the phone rang. “Hey, you’re late,” he said expecting a call from Scott.
“How did you know I was going to call?” The female voice that Jeremy recognized as Kerri’s asked.
“Sorry, I was expecting Scott to come over to lift weights with me.”
“You disappeared from school so fast that I didn’t find out if you’re going to the dance or not.”
“No, I already told you that I can’t dance. Why don’t you get Scott to go with you? He thinks you’re hot.”
“Scott is just a freshman.”
“He may be a freshman, but he has the body of a senior.”
“How do you know that?”
“We workout together.
“Is the real reason you don’t want to go to the dance with me is because you really are gay?”
“Why do you think that I’m gay? Jeremy was surprised that she asked such a question.
“Allison said that you were.”
“How in the hell would Allison know that?”
“I don’t know, but she is telling everybody that you’re gay.”
“That bitch,” Jeremy said. He was completely surprised and wondered at Allison’s motive for telling everybody that he was gay.
“I have to go now,” he said while thinking he needed to hang up before he said something he would regret. “Bye.” He hung up the phone without giving Kerri an opportunity to even say goodbye.
“What was that all about?” Nancy asked.
“Allison is telling everybody at school that I’m gay,” Jeremy said.
“Why would she do something like that?” Allen asked.
“I don’t know, but when Scott gets here I’ll ask him,” Jeremy said when he realized Scott was more than an hour late.
“Where is Scott anyway?” Allen asked
“I don’t know,” Jeremy said. “He said he would be here. I guess I’ll call him.”
“Hello,” Mitch Downing answered the phone when Jeremy called.
“Mitch, this is Jeremy,” Jeremy said. “Is Scott there?”
“Don’t be calling here you little faggot,” Mitch yelled. “You’re to stay away from my family. Do you understand, fag? From now you’re not welcome here and they are to stay away from you.”
Jeremy hung up with tears in his eyes and was obviously shaken.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” Nancy asked when she saw how upset her son was.
“Mitch called me a fag and said I was to have nothing to do with his family and they were to have nothing to do with me.”
“That son-of-a-bitch,” Annie said out of anger. “I’m sorry, but that man is such a hypocrite. May I use your phone?”
“Of course you may,” Nancy said as she handed the phone to Annie.
“Hello Mitch,” Annie said. “I’m over at the Morgan’s and you need to come over here so we can talk.”
“Oh yes you will come over Mitchell Downing. You know that I know things about you and I don’t think you want me to come to your house and say what I have to say in front of your family. We will expect you in five minutes.”
When Mitch arrived it was obvious that he hadn’t left his attitude at home. “Let’s get this over with,” he said.
“Come in and have a seat,” Allen said with a less than friendly tone.
“We’re not having this conversation with the fag in the room,” Mitch said.
“You will not use that word in my house, and this involves Jeremy and he will be here,” Allen said with a voice that said his decision was final.
“What is this about your not allowing your family to have anything to do with Jeremy?” Annie began.
“I just don’t want them associating with a fa..., with a gay person,” he said.
“Mitchell Downing, if I remember correctly you’re the one that got caught with Harold Brockway’s lips around your penis when you were fifteen,” Annie said with a smile when she saw the surprise on Mitch’s face.
“He wanted to suck it, and that doesn’t make me gay,” Mitch argued.
“Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t, but it happened none the less,” Annie said. “Now what is the real reason you will not let your family associate with Jeremy?”
“According to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin,” Mitch argued.
“Then you’re the sinner too,” Annie countered. “People like you make me sick. You take the Bible to prove you point, but ignore other parts. Doesn’t your Bible teach you not to judge?”
“I’m not judging, he is a homosexual,” Mitch said.
“And how do you know this?” Annie asked with a smirk.
“Allison told us,” Mitch said.
“And how in the hell would Allison know that?” Allen asked knowing that she was just spreading rumors. It just happened to be a rumor that was true.
“Well I happen to believe her,” Mitch said while showing he wasn’t really listening. “Homosexuality is an abomination and I won’t have my family associating with him.”
“And fathering a child out of wedlock and then abandoning the mother and child like you did isn’t a sin?” Annie sneered as she watched Mitch turn white.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mitch said in a not too convincing tone.
“I think you do,” Annie said. “When you were eighteen you got Connie Duncan pregnant and then ran out on her to Oklahoma City. Luckily for her and the boy, she married a good man who adopted your son.”
“How do you know he was mine?” Mitch asked.
“You signed away your parental rights so that Connie’s husband could adopt your son,” Annie said. “You didn’t think I knew that, did you? I know plenty about you that I’m sure you don’t want your family and church to know. Now are we in agreement that you will do nothing to stop the friendship between Jeremy and your children?”
“I guess not,” Mitch conceded. “I’m going now.”
“One more thing before you go, Mitch,” Annie said with a tone of voice that even made Jeremy shudder. “If I ever hear of you abusing one of your children either physically or verbally I will hurt you, and trust me I will hear of it. Do we understand each other?”
“Yes ma’am,” Mitch meekly answered. His demeanor reminded Jeremy of a naughty schoolboy who had just been reprimanded by his strict teacher in front of the entire class.
Before going to bed, Jeremy had one more task to take care of. He picked up the phone, dialed the number and then said, “Hi Cody, I’m sorry about calling this late. I just called to tell you that you had better shut your girlfriend up or she will have more to talk about than just me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I think you know what I mean. I don’t know what the bitch has against me, and I really don’t care. I’ll still consider you to be my friend, but keep the bitch away from me. Good night Cody.” He hung up the phone and went to bed exhausted.
Jeremy picked Scott up for his ride to school as usual the next day. Scott was grinning when he got into the car and asked?” What happened at your house last night?”
“Nothing much,” Jeremy said not knowing how much Scott knew.
“I know something happened,” Scott said. “Dad came back home and said that we could still be friends after all and then he went into his bedroom slamming the door and then went to bed.”
“Annie had a little attitude adjustment talk with him is all.”
“Oh man, I wish I could have been there.”
“No you don’t. When she was done with him I was even frightened.”
“After you called last night Cody called Allison, and I heard them arguing. He told her that either she stop the rumors and tell everybody that she lied about you or they were done.”
“I guess we will find out if it worked when we get to school.”
Kerri was waiting for Jeremy in her car next to where he normally parked when they arrived. “Jeremy, Allison called me and said that she just made that up about you. She said she did it as a joke. So if you’re not gay why won’t you go to the dance with me tomorrow night?”
“I told you that I can’t dance,” Jeremy said as he turned to see Scott stand beside him.”Kerri, you know Scott don’t you?”
“I’ve seen him around,” Kerri admitted as she was clearly checking him out. He was wearing a t-shirt that showed off his muscular teenage body. “Since Jeremy won’t go to the dance with me, why don’t you go with me?”
“Sure,” Scott said in an excited voice.
‘Hopelessly straight,’ Jeremy thought.