….The sound of shattering glass from the living room shocked me out of my reverie, and I followed Meric out there to see what was wrong. Lying in the middle of the floor, among a pile of broken glass, was a large stone, with a note tied around it. Reaching down, Meric picked it up slowly, taking the note off and reading it. Sighing, he handed it to me.
"Faggots don't belong here," I read aloud, turning to look at Justin, a tear running down my cheek….
I had gotten the sense that Justin had calmed down a bit since our showdown with Jennifer in the driveway, but after I read the note, he looked more scared than ever.
“Mistake,” he half-whispered before collapsing to sit on the floor, his face buried in his hands. I walked over and knelt down in front of him. I slowly peeled his hands away from his face and lifted his head up once again. Tears were streaming down his face. I looked into his eyes, trying to impart strength to him.
“Being gay is not a mistake,” I said. I held up the note. “The people that did this are stupid and bigoted. It took a lot of bravery to come here tonight and I’m very happy that you did. Because now, we won’t have to face those people alone. We’ll have each other.”
“Don’t forget me,” said Meric from behind me. I definitely hadn’t forgotten him. I knew that he would always be on my side. I had to be careful not to take him for granted, though. As I turned around to smile at him, Striker let out a couple barks and jumped over to Justin, knocking him onto his back.
“And apparently we shouldn’t forget Striker, either,” grinned Meric. Justin finally was able to sit up, and I could see that he was smiling. It’s hard to remain sad when an adorable puppy is licking your face. We sat in silence for what seemed like close to half an hour, just digesting everything that had happened in the past few hours. At least, Justin and I did. I think Meric was just being polite and offering support.
I was thinking of how to tell the Kinney’s what was going on, very much aware that as nice as they had been, I was still new to this house, when the front door opened.
“Did you know that there’s a hole in the front wind-,” said Mr. Kinney as he walked out of the front hallway into the living room to see the three of us sitting on the floor. “I’ll take that as a yes.” Mrs. Kinney walked in behind him, holding a closed umbrella. Striker’s lack of normal exuberant greeting left their entrance feeling empty.
“Let me put my stuff down and I’ll be right back,” said Mr. Kinney. Mrs. Kinney nodded and followed him into the kitchen. They returned shortly and took a seat on the couch.
“Would you like to introduce us to your friend?” asked Mr. Kinney, looking at Justin, who, if I he had thought it was physically possible, would have tried to escape through the chimney.
“Oh, uh…sorry,” I stammered. “This is Justin Benton.” Mr. Kinney nodded. “From school.” Duh, that was awfully stupid to add. Of course he’s from school.
“And does Justin sitting on my living room floor have anything to do with the hole in my window?” asked Mr. Kinney.
“Well, kinda,” I said. I explained that I was supposed to have gone out with Jennifer, but Justin showed up. It was hard for me to talk about what had happened out in the rain, mostly because I realized Justin was still very uncomfortable with what was going on. But, I felt that it was very important that I be completely truthful with the Kinneys. Mr. Kinney only nodded on occasion, letting me tell the whole story. When I finished, he rubbed his eyes wearily with his hand before standing up.
“Well, I’ll go call the police,” he said.
“W-what?!” said Justin, the first words out of his mouth since the Kinneys had gotten home. “What for?”
“Well, to report the vandalism and the threat, of course.”
“Please let us try to resolve this before the police get involved,” I said. “I have a good feeling I know who did this and he’s going to pay for it on Monday.”
“I really don’t think that’s a good idea, Brandon,” said Mrs. Kinney. “Frankly, I’m shocked that someone in this area would do something like this. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to antagonize them further.”
“I agree,” said Mr. Kinney. “But, I do think it best that you attempt to resolve part of this on your own. I’m still going to call the police, but I won’t mention the threat part. Just the brick through the window part.” He looked to his wife, who didn’t seem overly happy, but nodded her agreement.
We sat in silence once again as Mr. Kinney called the police. A squad car arrived shortly after that. The officer inspected the window, took some notes and asked us a couple questions. We didn’t mention the note.
“Well, I’ll see what I can do, but I’m not sure there’s anything we’ll be able to do about it,” he said. “If you’d like, we can have a car on the street for the next couple nights to see if they come back.”
Mr. Kinney nodded and took the card the officer gave him.
“Call me if you remember anything else,” he said. We all nodded and he left. Mr. Kinney went into the kitchen to try to call someone who would be able to fix the window.
“Justin,” said Mrs. Kinney. He looked up at her. “I just wanted you to know that no matter what happens, you can always come over here. It’ll take a lot more than some stupid kids throwing bricks to make us scared.
“Thank you, Mrs. Kinney. You have no idea how much that means to me,” Justin said, his voice still only barely above a whisper, and his eyes having trouble staying locked on anything but the floor.
“Do you feel all right going home for the night?” she asked.
“I’ll go call your mother and see if she would let you spend the night here.” She must have seen the fear in his eyes because she added, “Don’t worry, I won’t tell her anything that happened. Though I think you should tell her at some point.” Justin could only nod as she walked out of the room.
“Well,” said Meric, looking at me after another block of silence, “things certainly have gotten more interesting since you got here.”
“Unfortunately interesting isn’t always better,” I said.
Mr. and Mrs. Kinney came back into the living room from their respective phone calls.
“Your mother didn’t have any problem with you staying here…she seemed excited about it, almost,” said Mrs. Kinney, taking her seat again on the couch.
“I don’t really have many friends,” said Justin, a sarcastic half-smile on his face for a moment.
“Well, you’ve got some now!” said Meric, standing up and stretching. “Let’s go play video games.”
“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, right now Meric,” said Mr. Kinney. “Maybe it’s best if we just have a quiet night.”
“Can I talk to Justin for a bit?” I asked. “Alone?” Mr. and Mrs. Kinney looked at each other, having the silent conversation that most parents seem to always have when they are making a decision in front of the kids. Who knows, maybe you learn telepathy when you get married.
“Well, just as long as it’s just talking,” said Mrs. Kinney.
“Moooom!” said Meric, rolling his eyes. “Gross, ok?” I just grinned as we all stood up and headed from the living room. Justin thanked Mr. and Mrs. Kinney and Meric again for everything, gave Striker a quick pat on the side and followed me into my room. I took a seat on the chair at the desk, pointing Justin to bed. He sat down heavily, sighing and putting his face in his hands. I gave him a moment to absorb everything that had happened. Having been through what I had, it was a bit easier for me to accept what was going on, especially knowing that I had the Kinneys, all of them, completely behind me. It was amazing. For the first time, I felt comfortable being who I truly was and all it had taken was the love and support of three people. But now I had to help someone else find that peace.
I looked over at Justin, and could see that he was softly crying. I got up from the chair and walked over to him. He looked up at me, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.
“Sorry, I just still can’t believe everything that is happening. It’s just…before tonight, I had given up. Every day at school was a nightmare. It’s like I was alone every day even though I was walking through a hallway full of people. And even at home I knew that my parents would never let me stay if they knew who I truly was. And then…”
Tears were now streaming down his face. I couldn’t bear to see him like this. I sat down next to him on the bed and put an arm around his shoulder.
“Shhh…” I whispered, trying to be soothing. I realized pretty quickly I didn’t really know how to comfort someone, but I knew that just being there for him had to mean a lot. “It’s all right. You don’t have to finish.”
“No, I do,” he said, almost violently. I jerked back a bit, surprised. When I looked back over at him, he was looking me right in the eyes. “And then I saw you in the office that day. I don’t know what it was, but there wasn’t this anger, or disgust…just curiosity. Maybe it was because you were new and didn’t know me. I don’t know.”
I sat there, stunned that he had even noticed me that day. He had looked so angry. He faltered a bit, but I caught his eyes and tried again to give him strength.
“Whatever it was, you were different. I kept running into you and then we got stuck together on that project and I couldn’t believe it. I had heard everyone talking about the new kid at the school, the rumors flying around about where you had come from and all the girls saying how cute you were. Of course I agreed, but I couldn’t say anything.”
I nodded, still listening intently, letting him take the time to make his point.
“And then you kissed me. I had dreamed about that moment for a very long time. Usually it was with some anonymous boy, someone I had never met, but ever since I saw you that day in the office, the face was you every time. But when that dream actually came true, I was terrified. I didn’t know what you had kissed me, couldn’t imagine any reason you would want to. Were you just doing it to mess with me, or to try to get me to kiss you back, so the whole school would know finally that I really was gay?”
I felt so bad for him, then. To have to live in such fear, that when a dream comes true, you question it so much that it becomes a nightmare?
“I tried to just put it out of my mind, because I was convinced nothing good would come of it. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, no matter how hard I tried. I had to know, so I walked over here…in the rain. And I found you.” He smiled at me then, and my heart melted. I started crying, some tears of sadness at everything that Justin and I had been through separately, but also tears of happiness of everything that we would share together from now on.
I scooted closer to him on the bed, leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips. He put his hand on the back of my head, pulling me in closer and pressing his lips harder against mine. I finally broke for air and smiled at him.
“I need to tell you something, but I really really have to use the bathroom,” I said. He nodded, grinning, as I rushed into the bathroom. After relieving myself, I looked in the mirror. Was I really as good looking as he thought I was? There had to be plenty of other guys better looking than me out there. I wonder what it was he saw in me? I pulled the collar of my shirt down a bit, looking at the scar on my chest. I wasn’t totally sure telling him about what had happened to me right now would be a good idea, as I knew he was still scared, but I also knew that I had to tell him about this, so he knew where I had come from. Especially after he had just shared so much about himself with me.
I stepped out of the bathroom to find him laying on his side in my bed, facing away from me.
“Justin…?” I said quietly as I walked toward the bed. I came around the other side and saw that his eyes were closed, and his breathing was deep and rhythmic. I was positive that he hadn’t had such a peaceful look on his face while he slept in a very long time.
I tip-toed to the door, and slowly opened it, not wanting to wake him. I headed out to the dark living room and lied down on the couch. I drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face.
A knock at the door woke me and I glanced around quickly, feeling disoriented. Justin, kiss, couch, window…window. I rolled over to see Mr. Kinney walk through the hallway to the front door. I heard voices coming from the hallway before the door closed. Mr. Kinney walked into the living room and smiled at me as he saw I was awake.
“Sorry to wake you,” he said. “But we have a window that needs fixing.” Behind him, a man in his mid-30’s with a ball cap covering a head of black hair in disarray walked into the living room and headed over to the window to inspect it. I sat up, yawning and looked over to the clock on the wall to see that it was just past 9:00 in the morning on Saturday.
I suddenly remembered that I had left Justin asleep on the bed in my room and stood up quickly from the couch.
“He’s already awake and in the kitchen,” said Mr. Kinney before turning and heading over to the window to watch the repairman. I walked into the kitchen to see Justin eating a bowl of Cheerios and reading the newspaper.
“What are you, like 30?” I asked, grinning as I grabbed the Lucky Charms.
“I think it’s important to know what’s going on in the world,” he said between bites.
“Too depressing,” I said while chewing on a mouthful of half moons and rainbows.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” said Mrs. Kinney as she walked through the kitchen still in her robe, refilling her coffee mug from the pot on the counter. I nodded, grinning around the marshmallows as Justin looked at me and smiled.
“So this is what a normal house is like,” he said, smiling.
“So what’s the plan for today?” asked Meric as he came into the kitchen, apparently fresh from his run. “Ugh, it’s hot in here.” He took off the sweatband from around his head, putting it on the floor next to a chair. Reaching behind his head, he grabbed his shirt and pulled it up over and off, the sweat from his run making it stick to the middle of his back. He struggled with it, comically, half his torso showing, the stomach muscles clenched as he fought to pull the shirt all the way off. I just laughed at his antics, pretty sure he was making the effort appear much harder than it actually was. He finally got it off and dropped it next to the sweatband. He sat down with a sigh and reached over to grab the Lucky Charms box.
From across the table, I heard a rattling sound. I looked over to see Justin’s spoon tilted to the side and a pile of Cheerios on the table. His mouth was hanging open as he stared, wide-eyed, at Meric sitting at the table half naked and sweaty. I started laughing, knowing full well that this was the reaction Meric was looking for. The laughter must have shocked Justin from his dream, as he looked down quickly picking up the cheerios and putting them back in his bowl, a deep blush growing in his cheeks. Oh wow. He was cute when he blushed! Meric just shook his head and chuckled.
“It’s all right,” I said. “Meric did the same thing to me when I first came here. He likes it when people stare.”
“And drool,” said Meric, grinning and looking up at Justin.
“I wasn’t drooling!” said Justin, trying to appear angry, but failing miserably as a smile crept onto his face.
“Back to the whole plan thing,” I said, wanting to get off the topic of drooling, before Meric brought up my own reaction to seeing him in only a pair of boxers. “I think it’s best if we just lie low for the rest of the weekend, and deal with school on Monday.”
Meric and Justin both nodded agreement, with Meric saying he would head to the video store to rent some movies for us to watch. I still had to tell Justin about why I was here.
After breakfast, Meric showered and headed out with Mrs. Kinney to the store and Justin and I retired once more to my bedroom.
“I really don’t want to ruin the day, but I really need to tell you this, especially since you opened up to me so much last night,” I said, taking a seat on the bed. Justin sat next to me and put a hand on my shoulder. I told him what my life had been like back home, about having to live in fear of someone finding out who I really was and then, not being able to take it anymore, coming out to my parents one morning. He was on the edge of his seat waiting to find out my parents reaction, but I could tell he knew that it wasn’t a good one. I stood up, letting his hand from my shoulder fall to his side, and pulled my shirt off my head, still a slightly awkward process, as I couldn’t really lift my arm all the way up over my head. As I stood there shirtless, Justin’s eyes took in all of my chest, before stopping to focus on the scar. He reached out, stopping his fingers an inch away from the scar, looking up at me for permission. I nodded.
“W…what happened?” he asked as he touched the scar.
“My father shot me after I told him I was gay.” He drew his fingers away quickly, his jaw dropping in disbelief.
“You’re going to be all right…right?” he asked. I nodded.
“It isn’t as bad is it looks. I should be 100% in a couple weeks.”
“I…I’m so sorry,” he said, a tear sliding down his face. Moving closer, I wiped the tear away.
“Shhh. Nothing’s going to happen to you. The Kinneys are awesome people. You’ve got nothing to worry about.” I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that my father had shown up looking for me. I didn’t want to scare him. I knew he was still very unsure about everything. He nodded and attempted a smile. I smiled back and leaned in to kiss him once again. He pressed back against me. I could definitely get used to this.
“I got Galaxy Que-” came Meric’s voice as he walked through the door into my room. Justin and I quickly stepped away from each other. I was very much aware that I wasn’t wearing a shirt. “Couldn’t keep your hands off each other, huh?”
“That’s uh…” I started to say.
“We were just…” said Justin at the same time.
Meric nodded, obviously not believing anything we were going to say. I reached down quickly and grabbed my shirt. Slipping it on, I walked over to Meric to look at the movies he had gotten.
For the rest of the day, we sat in front of the TV, occasionally eating something, watching one movie after another. Justin and I sat next to each other, but were definitely aware that it wouldn’t really be appropriate to do anything else. We weren’t even officially boyfriends, but I guess it had been such a long time that we had both been alone that we wanted to spend every minute in contact with each other.
Justin had to head home that evening. Needless to say there were many tears at the parting, but also words of strength. He was going to be alone for over 36 hours until school started, which terrified me. He had our phone number, and I promised him I wouldn’t leave the house, and that he could call me at any time.
“I’ll see you on Monday,” I said with a hand on his shoulder. I gave it a squeeze and smiled at him. He only nodded before heading out the door to his mother’s waiting car. As the car pulled out of the drive, I stood in the doorway, getting one last look at Justin. From inside the car, he was staring back at me.
Monday morning came way too quickly. I was dreading this morning, knowing that it wasn’t going to be pretty. But, I had made a promise that I would always support Justin, and no matter how hard it was going to be, I would keep that promise. He had called me a couple times over the weekend, and we talked for about a half-an-hour each time. It just wasn’t the same, though, as being there in person.
As we pulled up to the school that morning, everything seemed normal. I got out of the car with Meric and we headed into the school. The first thing that alerted me to the fact that it wasn’t at all normal was that no one talked to me. Since news had spread about my role on the football team, everyone had wanted to be my friend. Now, only a few people nodded at me and it seemed that they were trying to be covert about it. I was looking everywhere for Justin, and I finally found him waiting for me at my locker. He was nervous, his head spinning around as if he expected people to jump out of the lockers and attack him. He smiled when he saw me, but didn’t leave his position.
“Morning,” I said, trying to sound happy as I walked up to him. He nodded back and smiled at Meric as well, who was making his own surveillance of the area. Everything seemed calm. “Have you heard anything?” He just shook his head.
“Not yet, but I have a bad feeling about this,” he said. I nodded. “You know where my homeroom and first class are, right?” He nodded. “I’ll see you in English and you come get me if anything goes wrong before then, ok?” He nodded again before turning around and walking down the hall, keeping his right shoulder against the lockers, no doubt trying his hardest to blend into the wall. I looked and Meric and managed a smile before heading to homeroom.
As I took my seat, I noticed that Jennifer wasn’t here yet, for which I was thankful. I knew that I was going to have to deal with her at some point, but the longer between now and then the better, as far as I was concerned. As far as I could tell, word was slowly spreading. No doubt the story had evolved into me and Justin having hot sex in the middle of the driveway while I told Jennifer to “go fuck herself.” People were hearing rumors and it wouldn’t be long before everyone knew what was going on. Maybe by lunch.
Nothing really happened through homeroom and math. Jennifer never showed up, for which I was glad. As I walked into English, I saw Justin sitting in his normal seat at the back of the class, now trying to blend into his desk. He smiled when he saw me, and Meric and I sat down next to him.
“Anything?” I whispered. He shook his head. “Let’s make sure we stick together at lunch.”
As we headed out to the bench to eat our lunch, I heard my name being called from down the hall. I spun around, and saw Bryce, one of the wide receivers from the team, jogging down the hall and waving to me. I stopped, as did Meric and Justin.
“Hey, been looking all over for you,” he said as he stopped a couple feet in front of us. “Coach Thomas needs to talk to you.” I looked into his eyes, and didn’t really see any deceit there. I turned to Meric.
“Go outside with Justin. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Meric nodded and headed outside with Justin, as I walked into the school towards the gym with Bryce.
“Any idea what he wants to see me about,” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “Jack sent me to go get you.” Uh oh, alarm bells going off. There wasn’t much I could do as we were already entering the locker room. Being lunchtime, it was pretty much empty. As we got back by the football team’s lockers, which were right next to the coach’s office, I saw Jack leaning up against his locker. He stood up fully as Bryce and I stepped in.
“Thank you, Bryce,” he said. “That’s all.” Bryce looked from Jack to me and back. I could tell he wasn’t sure that everything was all right. I placed a hand on his shoulder and nodded to him. I turned back to face Jack as Bryce left the locker room. I didn’t have to turn around to know that there were several other people behind me that had been hiding just around the corner. I could hear their footsteps as they formed a semi-circle around me, cutting off my escape.
“I knew there was something wrong with you the first time I saw you,” said Jack.
“The brick was a nice touch,” I said. I wasn’t going to show weakness in front of him. He and I both knew that I was the better player and whatever happened to me here today wasn’t going to change that. Unless they crippled me. Jack just smirked.
“There is no way a faggot is going to lead my team.”
“I was under the impression that the better player leads the team. I didn’t know anything else mattered.”
“Yeah well, it does. And we’re going to make sure you don’t have the chance.” Jack stepped closer to me, and I could feel the others closing in on me. Was Tom one of them? Which members of my team would be willing to beat the hell out of me because I liked guys?
“What exactly is going on here?” I spun to see Coach Thomas standing by the door to his office, with Bryce at his side. Thank God for him.
“Nothing,” said Jack. “Just a team meeting.” I could tell Jack was upset at being interrupted, but it wasn’t going to stop him from trying something like this again.
“Bullshit,” said Coach Thomas. “I heard everything you said today. All of you are off the team.” I heard a couple of them start to object, but Coach cut them off. “You’re lucky I don’t do something worse, but I know this will ruin a lot more for you than a suspension or something stupid like that. And good luck explaining this to your parents. Now get out of my locker room.” As they boys left, I got a good look at who they were. A couple players from defense, one of my offensive linemen, a couple second-stringers, and Jack. Nothing that couldn’t be replaced.
I walked over to Bryce and shook his hand.
“Thank you,” I said, smiling at him.
“Whatever you do off the field is your own business,” he said. “Just make sure you get that ball in my hands.” I grinned and nodded to him.
“Can I see you in my office, Brandon?” asked Coach Thomas. I followed him inside, but not before asking Bryce to tell Justin and Meric that I was all right and would join them in a couple minutes.
“Our first game is this Friday night. I just lost 4 starters, including my quarterback. This is not good,” said Coach Thomas as he sat down at his desk. “Will you be able to play by Friday?”
“I don’t know, Coach. I’ll have to check with my doctor.”
“Well, it’s more important that we have you for the season. If you get hurt in the first game, we’ll be in trouble. We’re playing Moore, so it should be an easy game. I’ll have Grant QB if you can’t do it for the first game. Might as well see how the running game stands up.”
“Sounds good to me,” I said.
“What concerns me more is how the rest of the team will take your…news. No matter what I say to them, it’s going to come down to whether or not they respect you on the field. You’re going to have to make them. I can’t kick the entire team off the team.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Let’s just hope it’s good enough, or this season will be over before it even starts.”
I left the locker room and headed outside to where I knew Meric and Justin would be eating lunch. They both jumped up as I came out, Justin running over to make sure I was all right. I smiled at both of them, quickly telling them everything that happened.
“So what are you going to do,” asked Meric after I had finished talking.
“I’ve got to get the football team on my side,” I said. “If they’re with me, the rest of the school will fall in. Problem is, I have no idea how to go about doing that.”
“Just tell them the truth,” said Justin.
“Do what?” Justin, advocating coming out to the football team? I glanced at him, making sure it actually was Justin.
“I’m sick of hiding. Whatever happens, I just want, for once, to be who I really am.” I nodded slowly. If Justin had the strength to do something like that, why couldn’t I?
“All right, I’ll tell them at practice today,” I said.
Well, here ends Chapter 7. Only been what…6 months since the last installment? About on par for me, I guess. It’s been bothering me for a long time that this has been sitting dormant, and I finally had time to do something about it.
As always, any and all comments can be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I try to reply to all e-mails I get. Who knows when the next chapter will be out, but I seem to have a renewed desire to write.