“That was amazing!” Robin panted as we finished making love.
“Way better than number 17,” I agreed as I snuggled close to him and pulled the blanket tightly around us.
“That book is the gift that keeps on giving. I gotta think of a way to thank Alec for giving it to you.” Robin laughed.
“Forget it,” I snorted, “He’s impossible to shop for.”
“Maybe it’ll warm his heart to know how much joy it’s brought us,” said Robin, a wicked grin played across his lips.
“Sure and I’ll just tell Kale that your cum tastes sweeter after you’ve eaten fruit.” I giggled.
“Ok, I think I see your point.” Robin laughed. “No torturing our brothers with the secrets of our sex life.”
“Not unless you want to go back to the days of them thinking we’re sex fiends.”
“Hey, we aren’t the ones who had a gang bang over the summer.”
“Oh God, I never thought to call it that,” I exclaimed.
“Can you imagine the look on Kale’s face?” Robin snickered.
“I think he’d kill us!” I laughed with him.
“True, alright, no teasing the brothers.”
“I have to admit, I never thought we’d use the van like this but it worked out nicely.”
“Well part of our problem was never having a place to do it,” said Robin. “It took me a little time to get past the bad jokes and realize the answer was right in front of us all along.”
“You’re right and I could kick myself for not thinking of it sooner. There is one drawback though.”
“I don’t know about you but now that we’re done, I’m freezing!”
“Yeah,” Robin laughed. “Me too. Let’s go home.”
It took us a moment to find our underwear in the dark but once we had them we dressed quickly. It was Valentine’s Day and after a nice dinner in Binghamton we’d pulled over on a deserted country road to satisfy our raging hormones. Lately I’ve craved the feel of Robin inside of me more often than usual but tonight it was my turn to make love to him and it was just as wonderful as it always has been.
The only bad part about doing it in the van was the weather. We’d been fine while having sex but with as much snow as we’ve had this winter, as soon as we were done the chill took hold. Once we had our clothes on we climbed into the front seat and fired up the van. We were just outside of town and we’d be home, well, back at Robin’s house, in no time.
“You’re so damn cute,” Robin exclaimed as I pulled back onto the main road. He leaned across the gap between our seats and playfully nipped at my neck.
“Quit it!” I laughed. “You wanna get us killed? That’s more distracting then texting.”
“Can’t help it. Your neck tastes like candy,” said Robin as he leaned back into me. “Nom, nom, nom.”
“Robbie,” I giggled.
“Ok, I’ll stop.” Robin smiled and pulled back.
“You’re bad!” I rolled my eyes then turned them back to the road. Robin and I saw it at the same time.
“Jesus, Lucien, look out,” Robin shouted.
There was a figure lumbering across the road and I jerked the wheel when Robin shouted. We swerved just in the nick of time and I slammed on the brakes, nearly losing control of the van.
“What the hell was that?” I panted once we were stopped.
“I don’t know,” said Robin. “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I stuttered, still shaken up. “You?”
“I didn’t wet myself so I guess so,” said Robin. “What are you doing?”
I’d put the van in gear and was turning around, pointing it back in the direction we’d come from.
“It happened so fast; I don’t know what it was we almost hit but I want to make sure it’s ok. Do you see anything?” I had the lights facing the right direction now. There wasn’t anything directly in the road so I flipped on my high beams for an expanded view.
“Over there, in the snow bank.” Robin pointed.
I put the van in neutral, applied the parking brake and hopped out. There was something lying in the snow on the side of the road but we couldn’t make out what it was. Robin hopped out with me and took my hand as we walked towards whatever it was.
“Shit, Lucien,” Robin exclaimed as we got close, “It’s a kid.”
“Oh my God,” I scoffed as I let go of Robin’s hand and we knelt beside the body.
“Hey, are you ok?” said Robin. He placed his hand on the figures shoulder and gave him a gentle shake.
“Ohhh,” the figure groaned.
“Are you sure we didn’t hit him?”
“Positive, I swerved in time and there wasn’t any impact.”
“Ok, help me turn him over,” said Robin.
It only took a second to flip the figure onto his back and we gasped collectively when we saw his bruised and battered face.
“Jesus, Robbie, it looks like someone beat the shit out of him,” I exclaimed.
“Stay with him, I’m going to grab my cell and call 9-1-1,” said Robin as he stood and sprinted back to the van.
I took the figures hand and held it to give him comfort. I didn’t know what else to do so I reached up and brushed the brown hair off his forehead. He looked so familiar but with all the injuries to his face I couldn’t quite place him. His hair was short and brown, it was combed neatly or at least you could tell it had been. He’d gelled his hair sometime earlier in the day and it stood out now that his hair was messed up. He had two black eyes and a busted lip, his cheek was bruised and there was a cut above his left eyebrow. He must have been out in the snow for a long time, he was practically blue.
He wasn’t wearing a coat, which was strange in this weather, and his clothes were preppy enough I could picture Kale wearing them. I went back to studying his face, his name was on the tip of my tongue but I couldn’t get it out. I started putting the information I had together, the haircut, the preppy clothes, the petite shape and slender feautres, he looked like he was the same age as me and Robin. I could only think of one guy at Columbia High that fit the description. I squeezed his hand and whispered, “Griffin, is that you?”
“Help me,” the figure moaned.
“Ambulance is on its way,” said Robin as he returned and dropped down next to us. “Has he said anything?”
“It’s going to be alright.” Robin patted his chest. “Help’s on the way.”
“Robbie, I think he’s Griffin Douglas,” I stated. Robin’s eyes widened in surprise.
When the paramedics arrived they dug through the boy’s pants and found his wallet. The driver’s license and Columbia High ID card confirmed his identity as Griffin Douglas. The medics placed him on a gurney and loaded him into the ambulance; Robin and I followed them to County General Hospital.
“Ok, I talked to mom, told her what happened and where we are headed,” said Robin as I concentrated on the road ahead.
“Good, do you know Griffin’s number?”
“No, I really don’t know him that well,” said Robin.
“Someone needs to call his parents.”
“The hospital will take care of that. They may have done it already. I’m sure the ambulance driver called it in on the radio.”
“Yeah, ok.” I sighed.
“Hey, he’s going to be ok,” said Robin, putting his hand on top of mine where it rested on the gearshift.
“Are you ok? You’ve got that look,” said Robin.
“He could have died out there, Robbie, if we hadn’t…”
“Almost hit him?” Robin teased.
“That’s not funny.”
“I know; I’m just trying to help you chill out. Yes, he could have died out there but we found him. He’ll be ok now.”
“You saw how beat to shit he is. Who does that to someone?”
“I don’t know but I’m sure the police will find out,” Robin assured me.
“Yeah, I hope so.”
I regretted not knowing Griffin Douglas or rather not knowing him well. Griffin and his sister, April, transferred to Columbia High last March having moved to Sanitaria Springs from California. April was a senior and despite the school year being almost over when she arrived, she quickly settled into the upper echelon of the schools hierarchy. Griffin was a different story. Initially he’d been popular; he was really cute with his preppy clothes, brown hair and natural blond highlights, and eyes so blue they rivaled the Kirkwood boys. The girls in our class descended on him like locusts but quickly lost interest when rumors began to circulate that he was gay.
We should have reached out to Griffin. He seemed like a natural fit for our group of friends but he was quiet and shy and with so much going on in our own lives, Griffin sort of fell through the cracks. All I really knew about him was that he liked to read and draw. I’d see him around campus, alone at lunch, with a book in his hand or a sketchpad on his lap. I should have gone over and said hello. I should have asked him to join us for lunch but the thought never occurred to me. The last thing I remembered hearing about Griffin was that he was dating a boy from the baseball team named Royce McGuire.
When we got to the hospital we followed the ambulance as far as the emergency bay but had to break off to park.
“Can I help you?” asked the nurse at the front desk when we ran into the ER lobby.
“They just brought in a boy named Griffin Douglas…” Robin started.
“Are you family?” the nurse interrupted.
“No, we found him,” Robin explained.
“Well since you aren’t family I can’t tell you anything about his condition however if you’d like to take a seat the doctors might have some questions for you.”
“Ok, uh, thanks,” said Robin as he guided me to a seat in the waiting area.
It must have been a slow night as the lobby was near empty. We sat quietly and I snuggled up to Robin. I hoped Griffin would be ok. A half hour after we arrived a doctor came out and asked us if we knew how Griffin had gotten so beaten up and how long he’d been in the snow. Robin did the talking and explained how Griffin had wandered across the road and we’d almost run him over. We didn’t know how long he’d been in the snow but we’d called for help as soon as we found him.
We weren’t talking long when an elegantly dressed middle aged couple ran up to the front desk. The man wore black tie and his wife was in an evening dress. They spoke to the nurse and she pointed in our direction.
“Doctor, I’m Steven Douglas, this is my wife, Anna, you’re treating our son, Griffin?”
“Ah, yes, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas,” the doctor acknowledged. “I’m Dr. Carter, Griffin’s attending physician.”
“What happened?” asked Mrs. Douglas, her voice brittle as glass. “Where’s my baby?”
“Mrs. Douglas, I’m treating Griffin for injuries associated with blunt force trauma and possible hypothermia…” Dr. Carter started.
“Oh dear God!” Mrs. Douglas’s mouth fell open and she covered it with her hand.
“How did this happen?” asked Mr. Douglas.
“That’s what we’re trying to ascertain,” said Dr. Carter. “These boys found your son and called 9-1-1.”
“Do you know what happened?” Mr. Douglas asked us.
“No sir. We were driving home when something stumbled across the road,” Robin began. “We almost hit him and when we turned around to see what it was we’d almost hit we found Griffin lying in the snow.”
“I’m not accusing anyone but boys, if you hit him and…” Mr. Douglas started calmly.
“Mr. Douglas, Griffin’s injuries are consistent with a beating not a traffic accident,” said Dr. Carter. “It’s lucky these boys came across your son when they did. Griffin is safe here in the hospital and will fully recover from his injuries; a few more minutes in that snow and we’d be talking about a very different situation.”
“Of course, as I said I wasn’t accusing anyone I just wanted to get some facts,” said Mr. Douglas, apologetically. “May we see our son?”
“Certainly, if you’ll follow me,” said the doctor, then he turned to us. “Thank you for your help boys.”
“Sure doc,” Robin replied.
“Thank you,” said Mrs. Douglas, gently reaching out and touching my cheek, then Robins. “Thank you.”
The Douglas’s followed the doctor through the swinging doors and back into the ER.
“Can you believe that guy?” asked Robin. “I think he was trying to suggest we hit Griffin with the van and lied about it.”
“His kid’s been hurt and he’s lying in a hospital bed, Robbie. I don’t think he was being a dick, I think he was scared.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Robin agreed. “Poor Griffin.”
I sighed my agreement with that sentiment and snuggled back against Robin. A short time later we shared our story with a police officer and then he sent us home. He told us he was sure the family appreciated what we’d done but it would be best if we called it a night. There was no point in our sitting around the lobby so Robin and I walked out to the van and drove home.
It hurt to open my eyes. It hurt to take a deep breath. Hell, there wasn’t much that didn’t hurt. When I woke up I found my parents by my side. My dad was asleep in one chair with his jacket off and his bow tie undone. My mom was in another chair holding my hand and resting her head against the mattress like a pillow. The harsh florescent light and the steady beeping of some unseen monitor told the tale, I was in a hospital.
“Griffy?” said Mom. She’d woken while I was looking around the room and noticed my movements.
“Hey,” I groaned.
“Oh, honey,” said Mom as she stood and hugged me gently. “I was so worried about you.”
“I’m sorry mom.” I whined.
“Steven, Steven wake up,” said Mom. “Griffy’s awake.”
“Griffy, he’s awake.”
“Jesus son, you gave us quite a scare,” said Dad as he got up to hug me too.
“I’m ok,” I whispered. My throat was so dry.
“Do you remember what happened?” asked Mom.
“I was…no. No, I don’t remember.” I shook my head.
“But Griffin…” Dad began.
“Ah, we’re awake,” said a smiling man in scrubs and a white lab coat as he strode through the door. “I’m your attending physician, Dr. Carter.”
“Oh,” I replied.
“He just woke up,” said Mom. “We were talking about what happened, he doesn’t remember.”
“That’s interesting,” said Dr. Carter. He produced a small penlight and shined it in my eyes. He leaned in and examined them closely then stood back and studied my face.
“What is it, doctor?” asked Dad.
“You say you can’t remember what happened to you?” asked Dr. Carter.
“Is that unusual?” asked Dad.
“Somewhat. His injuries aren’t sufficient for memory loss and his motor responses seem fine…” said Dr. Carter.
“What about trauma?” asked Mom.
“The human brain is a mystery, I suppose it’s possible,” Dr. Carter stated. “How do you feel, Griffin?”
“I have a headache and I’m a little sore,” I admitted.
“I expected as much, the nurse will bring you some Tylenol in a moment,” said Dr. Carter.
“Tylenol, is that all?” asked Mom.
“We were lucky, he wasn’t out in the cold long enough for hypothermia to set in and his other injuries may look bad but they’re consistent with a fight. It looks like someone beat him up and left him out in the snow,” said Dr. Carter. I couldn’t help but notice Mom took Dad’s hand and wiped a tear from her eye.
“And that’s good news?” asked Dad.
“It is, Mr. Douglas. There isn’t any sign of internal bleeding. Most of the injuries are superficial.”
“When can we take him home?” asked Mom.
“I’ll sign his discharge papers within the hour,” said Dr. Carter. “I’m going to order a couple of day’s bed rest but he should be able to return to school on Tuesday.”
“Excellent,” said Dad.
“There is one other thing. As you know, the police were here last night. What’s happened to Griffin is a crime, assault and battery, they are going to want to speak with him,” said Dr. Carter.
“When?” asked Mom.
“I’ll recommend they give him a few days, let him rest up. They’ll probably visit you at your home one day after school next week,” the doctor explained.
“That’s fine,” said Dad. “We want whoever did this found and prosecuted.”
“Alright then, I’ll get that discharge paperwork ready and you can get out of here,” said Dr. Carter.
Mom stayed with me and sent dad home to get me some clothes. Evidently the things I’d been wearing the night before were covered in blood and still damp from being in the snow.
“Honey, what’s the last thing you remember?” asked Mom. We were just sitting there waiting for Dad to get back and she was trying to jog my memory.
“I remember you guys leaving for the concert. I remember talking to Royce after you left.”
“I know you were upset we didn’t let you see him last night…” Mom started.
“It was Valentine’s Day, he is my boyfriend,” I replied testily.
“I know you don’t understand but you’ve been spending so much time with him lately. Your father and I thought it was getting out of hand,” said Mom.
“Whatever,” I mumbled.
“Did you go out with him after we said no?”
“No, I called him but he made plans to hang out with his friends after I told him I was grounded,” I explained.
“Do you remember anything after you spoke to him?”
“I watched some TV, then…nothing.”
“Mom, can we leave it for now? I’m trying to remember but my head hurts,” I whined.
“Ok, I’m just trying to help, sweetie.”
“I know; I want to remember, I promise I’ll try.”
“My poor boy,” Mom sighed and kissed my temple.
Dad returned a short time later with some track pants, a hoodie and the blue Columbia High baseball cap Royce had given me. I’d gone to one of his games last season and he hit a homerun. He gave me the cap later because he said I was his good luck charm.
I was a little dizzy when I got out of bed but I shook it off and got dressed. I didn’t want to give the medical staff any cause for concern so that they could keep me. I wanted to go home, crawl under the covers and pretend this never happened. Mom and Dad didn’t say anything beyond casual small talk on the ride and when we got home I went straight to bed. They went to bed too; they hadn’t slept much the night before. We were all exhausted.
Mom woke me up and brought me some soup at dinner time. She sat with me for a while, asked if there was anything I needed and then let me go back to sleep. The next morning both of my parents checked on me before they headed off to work. I assured them I’d be ok on my own and sent them on their way. A couple of hours later I felt the call of nature and headed into the bathroom to relieve myself. I’d been to the bathroom a couple of times since my parents brought me home but I’d avoided the mirror until now.
After I finished peeing I ran my tongue across my teeth and felt like there was carpet growing on them. I hadn’t brushed my teeth since Saturday night and my mouth was gross. I grabbed my toothbrush and looked in the mirror. My eyes stood out as islands of bright blue surrounded by a sea of black and purple. My bottom lip was puffy and swollen and the cut above my eye looked nasty. I was a hideous mess and I couldn’t help crying especially since it was my fault. I’d been lying to my parents from the moment I woke up in the hospital.
“But why can’t I go out with Royce?” I demanded while my parents finished getting ready for their night out. They were going to dinner, then had tickets for the Binghamton Philharmonic, and always dressed up on Valentine’s Day.
“Griffy, we’ve been over this a dozen times. You’ve been spending too much time with Royce and your grades have been suffering. You’re an honor student but last week you brought home a D on your history test. That’s not like you and until your grades improve you’re not going out,” said Dad.
“But that’s not fair, it’s Valentine’s Day for Christ's sake,” I complained. “Can’t you make an exception just for tonight?”
“I’m sorry pal but the matter is closed,” said Dad.
“This is bullcrap!” I shouted and stormed out of the room.
I went downstairs to the living room and flopped down on the couch. I crossed my arms over my chest and pouted like a petulant child. Royce would be so angry. All he wanted to do was take me out for Valentine’s Day, is that so much to ask for?
“Alright, Griffy,” said Mom. “We’re heading out now, there’s money for pizza on the kitchen counter.”
“Whatever,” I rolled my eyes.
“Do try and understand, sweetheart,” said Mom as she tried to kiss my cheek but I turned away from her. “Well, we’ll see you in the morning.”
It was only a few minutes after my parents left that my phone rang. I didn’t have to look at the caller ID to know it was Royce.
“Hi,” I answered.
“Hey, Bunny,” said Royce. “What did they say?”
“The same thing they’ve been saying all week, no.”
“That sucks,” said Royce, anger clear in his tone of voice.
“I’m sorry, it’s my fault. That stupid fucking test,” I lamented.
“You shouldn’t have let your grades slip,” Royce agreed.
“I know, it’s just I was spending so much time with you I’d get home late and then I was too tired to study…”
“Oh, so now it’s my fault?” Royce demanded.
“N-No of course not, that’s not what I meant,” I spluttered.
“So anyway, what are we going to do?”
“I don’t know.” I sighed.
“You should come out anyway,” said Royce.
“I can’t, I’m grounded. If my parents find out…”
“You said they were going to be out late, right?”
“So come out, I’ll get you home early, they’ll never know,” said Royce.
“Royce, I don’t know…”
“So that’s how it going to be?” Royce replied, a touch of menace in his voice.
I thought about it for a moment and made a snap decision. Disappointing my parents was a better option than disappointing Royce. There would be fewer consequences.
“Fuck it, come get me,” I replied.
“Awesome,” said Royce happily.
I got a text from him twenty minutes later saying that he was out front. I grabbed my heavy coat and scarf then trotted out to his Jeep. He reached over and unlocked the door for me and I hopped in beside him.
“Hi, Bunny!” Royce smiled and kissed me.
“Hi.” I smiled back. He’s so beautiful with his golden blond hair and big brown eyes. He was tall and muscular, strong and…frightening.
“I’m glad you decided to come out, I was so disappointed,” said Royce.
“Yeah, me too. What did you have planned for the evening?”
“Some guys from the team are throwing a party out at the Tower Farm,” said Royce.
“Oh.” It seemed like all we did was hang out with his baseball buddies.
“Is that a problem?” he asked testily.
“Of course not, sounds fun.”
“Good.” Royce smiled and held my hand.
He talked about the week, how he’d missed me while I was grounded and I wished that were true. Well, I’m sure it was partially true. I’m sure he missed having a place to park his dick besides his right hand. Before long we were at the farm and I was following him inside. I hung up my coat and Royce led me into the living room. The party was in full swing when Royce leaned in close and said, “I’m gonna grab a beer, you want anything?”
“Back in a minute,” said Royce.
I’d been hanging out with Royce’s friends since we started dating but I didn’t really know any of them. You’d think being gay that Royce would be a little more enlightened but he was just as much of a pig as his straight buddies. I was a trophy to him, something he could show off like the Jeep his parents bought him for his birthday. As a result his friends treated me like shit, I was just a “girlfriend,” what did anything I thought matter?
I stood in the corner by myself and some girl started making eyes at me from across the room. I couldn’t help it, the attention made me blush and when Royce returned he followed my eyes and saw the girl flirting with me.
“Come on, I want to show you something,” said Royce.
“I wasn’t doing anything,” I replied in a panic. “I don’t even know who she is.”
“That girl, I don’t know her, I don’t like her.”
“I just want to show you the barn, silly. I used to play here when I was a kid.” Royce smiled.
“Oh, uh, sorry,” I mumbled.
“Come on,” said Royce. He extended his hand, I took it, and then followed him outside.
“Should I get my coat?” I asked as we stepped through the doors leading out to the backyard and the pasture beyond.
“We won’t be that long, I’ll keep you warm,” said Royce, putting his arm around my shoulders and pulling me close to him.
We walked across the field and I drew warmth from Royce. He reached up and stroked my cheek a few times as we walked. It was a tender gesture, they weren’t totally foreign to him, and it gave me hope that somewhere inside of him lived the man I hoped he could be.
“So you used to play here?” I asked as I stepped into the barn and he closed the door behind us. I turned to face him and that’s when he slapped me.
“Ahhh,” I yelped.
“Why do you make me do that? Huh?” he demanded.
“I wasn’t flirting with that girl, she…” I started.
“Liar!” Royce shouted and struck me again.
“Royce, please, I love you,” I cried.
“I wish I could believe that.” Royce sniffled and then hit me again. “Why do you like to hurt me so much? And on Valentine’s Day too.”
“I didn’t mean too,” I wept. “Please, Royce, don’t…”
But he hit me again. This time his fingers were curled into a tight fist. He hit me over and over again; worse then he’d ever done before.
“Please,” I spluttered, blood running from my busted lip, some of it spattering his letter jacket as I collapsed to the ground.
“I love you so much, Griffin.” Royce sniffled, the bastard was actually crying. “Stay out here and think about that for a while.”
I finished crying and pulled myself together. I knew I had to tell my parents the truth, it was the only way out of this relationship that had gotten so far out of my control I didn’t know what else to do. What’s going to happen the next time I upset Royce? Look what he’s done to me already; is he capable of killing me? I shivered at the thought but then the doorbell rang and I was grateful for the distraction. I went down stairs as the bell rang again and thought I’d find the UPS man on the front step, it wasn’t him.
“Royce, what are you doing here?” I panicked.
“Lunch break,” he replied. “My little Bunny disappeared the other night, didn’t call me yesterday, and wasn’t in school today. I was worried.”
“I-I’m ok,” I spluttered. I hadn’t expected to see him. I didn’t know what his state of mind might be or what that would mean for me.
“Can I come in?”
“Yeah, uh, sure, come in. My mom will be home soon though.”
“Oh Griffy, we both know she’s at work.” Royce giggled and sent a chill up my spine. “Honestly, you’re so silly sometimes.”
“Yeah, you know me, always the jokester,” I replied as he crossed the threshold and came into my home.
“My poor Bunny, look at your pretty little face,” said Royce as he cupped my face in his hands and gently kissed me on the forehead. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s ok, it wasn’t your fault,” I whispered.
“I know that,” Royce snapped. “You’re the one that hurt my feelings.”
“I-I didn’t mean too,” I sputtered.
“It’s ok, I forgive you,” said Royce. “And I’m sorry I hit you. I just, I love you so much Griffy and when I see you looking at another guy or flirting with some girl, it makes me crazy.”
“Of course I do.” What other choice did I have?
“And you aren’t going to tell anyone what happened?”
“No, I told them I can’t remember.”
“That was smart, you’re so smart.” Royce smiled.
“I don’t want you to get in trouble.” I lied.
“You’re so sweet, come here you,” said Royce.
He took me in his arms and kissed me. Somehow we ended up in the living room and the next thing I knew my pajama bottoms were gone, his jeans and underpants were around his ankles. He picked me up and sat me on the armrest then pulled my legs around his waist and entered me as roughly as usual. He fucked me without concern for my needs or for the fact that he’d bruised and battered my body. He was totally without remorse.
“I love you,” said Royce when he finished.
“I love you too.”
He smiled, kissed me on the forehead and then pulled up his pants and left. Thank God he’s always been quick and the encounter didn’t last long. As soon as he was gone I collected my PJ bottoms and took a shower. I couldn’t get his stink off of me fast enough.
The rest of the weekend was a total wash; all I could think about was poor Griffin. I couldn’t recall ever seeing him with any friends; I knew he had a boyfriend but I’d never seen them together and then Robin and I found him beaten and left for dead in the snow. How could my heart not go out to him? The part that made me feel really bad was that he was a member of our tribe. The rest of us had all found each other, gravitated towards each other and built something stronger then friendship. We’d found the family we were meant to have. Why was Griffin left out? What made him the brother we’d left behind?
“Babe, it’s not our fault,” said Robin. It was Sunday evening and we were hanging out in his basement.
“You were staring off into space again.” Robin grinned. “I know you’re thinking about Griffin but what happened to him, it’s not our fault.”
“Oh, I know, it’s just, I feel so bad for him.”
“I do too, it’s terrible,” Robin agreed.
“I know it’s not our fault, what makes me feel bad is he’s alone when he should be our friend.”
“Lucien, you can’t force friendship on someone,” said Robin.
“I know but we could have reached out an olive branch. I feel like he should be part of our group, but we left him behind.”
“You’re such a softy.” Robin teased and tickled my ribs.
“Quit it.” I squealed.
Robin tickled me until I threatened to pee on his couch then he pulled me back into his arms.
“So what are we going to do to make you feel better about this?”
“I want to be his friend. Promise me that when he comes back to school we’ll make an effort?”
“Absolutely,” Robin agreed. “Maybe you’re right, maybe we did leave him behind but there’s no reason we can’t change that now.”
“Thanks.” I smiled and nuzzled his neck.
I felt better after that. I knew Robin didn’t see things exactly the same way I did but the fact that he was willing to help me befriend Griffin told me a lot about the special boy who stole my heart. We went back to school on Monday just like any other day but Tuesday got interesting when Derek and Hamster sat down for lunch. We’d told them about our Valentine’s Day experience the day before and I’d roped them into my plan too.
“Hey, have you seen him yet?” asked Derek as he took his seat.
“Griffin,” said Derek.
“He’s back?” I exclaimed. That was a surprise.
“He was in art at second period,” Derek confirmed.
“How the hell is that possible?” I asked. “The last time we saw him he looked so bad I figured he’d be out for weeks.”
“Maybe his injuries looked worse than they were?” asked Hamster.
“Sure, I guess it’s possible.”
“I don’t know what he looked like when you saw him but, well, it’s not pretty,” said Derek.
“Hey guys, sorry I’m late,” said Robin as he took his seat and leaned over to kiss me on the cheek.
“Robin, Derek says Griffin’s back,” I informed him.
“The proof’s right over there.” Hamster nodded across the cafeteria.
There he was, a single solitary figure sitting at a table with a book in his hand, his hood pulled up to hide his face.
“Come on,” I said as I stood up and pulled Robin with me.
“You want us to come too?” asked Derek.
I chewed on my bottom lip and thought about it for a second before saying, “Not this time, we don’t want to overwhelm the guy.”
“Good luck,” said Hamster. My friends knew this was important to me.
Robin and I walked over to Griffin’s table and stood there for a second. He didn’t notice us as his hood blocked his peripheral vision.
“Hey, do you mind if we sit with you?” I asked.
His head popped up and he scanned the cafeteria like a nervous rabbit scanning the woods for a wolf before making his move.
“I, uh, I guess so,” he replied and we took our seats.
Derek was right, it wasn’t pretty. His lip was still puffy and there was a scab where it had been split. His eyes were so black and blue you could almost feel the pain for him and the cut over his eye looked raw.
“I’m Lucien Kutsenko and this is my boyfriend, Robin Kirkwood…” I started.
“I know who you are,” said Griffin. It wasn’t rude or impolite, he almost sounded scared. “What can I do for you?”
“After Saturday night, I just wanted to make sure you were ok,” I stated.
“You were there?” asked Griffin. His eyes grew wide.
“You, er, saw what happened?”
“No, no.” I shook my head. “Robin and I found you and called 9-1-1.”
“Oh, it was you guys,” said Griffin, exhaling a relieved breath. “They told me some guys from school found me but they didn’t say who.”
“You were wandering across the road, we almost hit you,” said Robin.
“Thank you, most people probably wouldn’t have stopped,” said Griffin.
“Ah, sure they would.” I smiled at him.
“I don’t know.” Griffin sighed.
“Do you know who did that to you?” asked Robin, gesturing at Griffin’s face.
“I-I don’t remember.”
“Does it hurt?” I asked.
“A little, it’s not so bad,” said Griffin.
I reached out and patted Griffin’s hand in what I thought was a comforting manner but that frightened rabbit look returned to his face. He looked around the cafeteria again and then bolted out of his seat.
“Griffin…” I started.
“I, uh, I’ve gotta go,” said Griffin as he started to walk away.
“Griffin, wait.” I called after him.
“Yeah?” he replied as he stopped and turned to face us.
“I, we, would really like to be friends. Do you think maybe you could have lunch with us tomorrow?”
He chewed on his bottom lip hesitantly, looked around the room again and said, “Maybe,” and then he was gone.
“Ok, that was weird.”
“I don’t like this,” said Robin.
“What do you mean?”
“Did you see how he kept looking around as if he thought someone might be watching him? How scared he was?” asked Robin.
“Well yeah but someone beat the shit out of him and he has no idea who…”
“I’m not sure I buy that,” said Robin. “I think he does know who it was and he’s scared he’s going to run into him again.”
“So what do we do?”
“I think you’re right, he needs to be our new buddy.”
Damn it, I swore to myself when I made it to the bathroom and hid in a stall. When I got to school that morning most people took a look at my face, crinkled up their noses and then went back to ignoring me. I didn’t expect Lucien and Robin, or anyone else, to sit with me at lunch. The moment they stepped up to me I was afraid someone would see and report back to Royce.
We moved to Sanitaria Springs from Sacramento, California, last March so that my dad could be the Director of Public Works for the City of Binghamton. I’m shy and wasn’t very good at making friends but then I met Royce. He was big and strong and handsome and at first he’d been so sweet and kind. He was my very own Prince Charming. I didn’t realize what I was getting into with him, I walked straight into his trap and before I knew it he’d alienated me from the entire school. He was so jealous, anytime I even looked at anyone else he’d get angry. The…punishments as Royce called them, started soon after we became an official couple.
It was a warm day in May and we were at his house. He was sitting on the end of his bed with his shirt off and I was straddling his lap. I was wearing his baseball cap, backwards the way he liked it, while we made out.
“You were a naughty boy today,” said Royce when he stopped kissing to take a breath.
“Oh yeah, how’s that?” I giggled as I nuzzled his neck and rubbed his firm pecs.
“You were talking to Cathy Peterson,” said Royce.
“Oh yeah! God, what a slut,” I replied and kissed him on the lips.
“She’s got a reputation,” said Royce.
“I’m not surprised, she came up to me and right out of the blue asked to suck my dick,” I snorted.
“It’s not funny, Griffy,” said Royce. “I can’t have my boyfriend seen with a bitch like that.”
“Royce, nobody cares if…”
“I care!” Royce shouted.
“Ok,” I replied. I was confused. I didn’t know what the big deal was. I wasn’t interested in her; I shot her down and laughed in her face. I didn’t understand why Royce was so upset but I loved him then and so I said, “I’m sorry baby.”
“I’m sorry too,” said Royce and then he swatted my bottom.
“Royce!” I laughed. I thought he was being playful.
I’ve never been more wrong about anything in my life. He jumped to his feet and I fell off his lap and onto my butt. He yanked me up to my knees then bent me over his bed. I was so afraid, I didn’t know what was going to happen, he’d never touched me in anger before. Before that moment, he’d been so gentle, I didn’t think he’d hurt a fly.
“Royce, what are you doing?” I asked, my voice quivering.
He said nothing. He pushed one hand between my shoulder blades to hold me in place and then I heard the distinct sound of him opening his belt and pulling it off.
“What are you doing?” I asked again, my fear growing.
The only response from him was the crack of his leather belt as it came down on my behind. I screamed, more out of shock at first, then in pain as he hit me over and over again. I was crying when it was over.
“See what you made me do?” Royce demanded.
“I-I’m sorry,” I cried. “I-I didn’t m-mean to do a-anything.”
He stormed out of the room and left me there, sobbing on his bed. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I was so angry at him, how dare he do that to me! Who the hell did he think he was? I got up and was about to leave when he came back into the room. It was like someone had flipped a switch on his back or maybe it was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, either way, his mood had completely changed.
“Griffy, I’m so sorry,” said Royce as he took me into his arms.
“Why did you do that to me?” I sniffled.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I just love you so much and when I saw you with that girl, I can’t help it. I got jealous,” he sighed.
“I love you Royce, all I want is you. I don’t care about some bimbo,” I cried against his chest and he stroked my back lovingly.
“I know; I shouldn’t have done what I did. I promise; it’ll never happen again. Can you forgive me?”
“I don’t know, Royce, I…”
“Please, Griffy?” he pleaded and kissed the top of my head.
“Swear it’ll never happen again?”
“On my life,” Royce promised.
“Ok.” I sighed. “I forgive you.”
I was a damned fool. That was only the beginning and after a couple more incidents I was trapped. I was too afraid to leave him and I let my fear of him keep me from reaching out to anyone else. I was scared to death when Lucien and Robin sat with me but, I wanted what they were offering too. I knew them by reputation, everyone talked about how nice they were; them and their friends. I wanted that for myself and resolved that if I were ever going to get away from Royce, this was a start. If I had friends to support me, maybe, just maybe, I’d find a way out.
The bell rang shortly after I reached my decision and I went to class. That night at home my parents asked me how my day went and I told them it was ok. I got several texts from Royce telling me how much he missed me and they made my skin crawl. I was grateful to my parents for grounding me. Royce still didn’t like it but even he understood there was only so much I could do and that kept me away from him for the most part.
The next day at school I was nervous. I really wanted to try making friends with Lucien and his group but in the hours since lunch the day before, my resolve faded some and fear set in. I didn’t know what I was going to do until I stepped into the cafeteria. Last year I had lunch with Royce and his buddies; it was easy for him to keep tabs on me. This year I had lunch by myself and didn’t think I shared it with anyone who knew him. When I walked into the cafeteria I saw Lucien. He smiled and waved me over to their table and after one last look to confirm none of Royce’s goons was there to see me, I walked over.
“Hey Griffin,” Lucien greeted me with a warm smile. “Glad you could make it.”
“Thanks,” I replied and sat down.
“Do you know everyone?” asked Robin.
“I think so,” I replied.
“Well, just in case, that’s Derek and the Hamster and down there on the end, that’s Gavin and Sophie, they’re our fag hags,” said Lucien.
“Oh, you wish,” said Gavin.
“Hamster?” I asked, turning to the gorgeous blond boy seated next to Derek. I knew Derek from art class and I’d seen the blond boy, who was clearly his boyfriend, around campus but not in any of my classes.
“His name’s Austin,” Derek smiled and ran his hand through his boyfriend’s hair. “But everyone calls him The Hamster because his last name’s Hamilton and he’s soooooooooooo fuzzy.”
“Quit it Der-bear,” said Austin as he blushed then pecked his boyfriend on the cheek.
“Cute.” I giggled.
“It’s nice to meet you, Griffin,” said Austin as he shook my hand.
“Yeah, nice to meet you too.” I smiled at him.
“So, you’re looking better today,” said Robin.
“Thanks, I feel better,” I admitted. When I woke up that morning and looked in the mirror I noticed that the swelling in my lip was gone and the bruising around my eyes had faded a little. Soon the bruises would blend in with my natural olive skin tone. I didn’t even bother with a hoodie that day, just a pair of sunglasses. “I wanted to say thank you again, Robin, to you and Lucien. I mentioned you guys to my parents last night and they said you pretty much saved my life.”
It was a little embarrassing to say in front of all of their friends but they deserved it. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them and I’m grateful for that.
“Thanks Griffin,” said Lucien, “But really, we’re just glad you’re ok and that you could join us today.”
I smiled back at him and it was just that simple. That was the end of the conversation about my injuries and I quickly blended into the conversations around me. It was so easy and by the end of the lunch period I felt like I belonged. The guys even invited me to join their evening study group. I told them I’d think about it and Lucien gave me his address, he said if I decided to join them to just come by his house at 5:30 and make myself at home.
I wanted it bad. I’d eaten up the conversation at lunch; it was so nice to be among people, cool people, who shared not only my orientation but also my interests. I wanted to spend more time with them but I had to think of a way to keep Royce calm. It was one thing for me to be grounded but if he found out I was spending my evenings with other guys he’d shit a brick. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do and I was deep in thought when I went to my locker after school.
I sorted through my books, grabbed what I needed for the evening and when I closed the door, Royce was standing there.
“Hey, Bunny,” said Royce.
“Jesus Christ,” I swore as I nearly jumped out of my skin.
“Not happy to see me?” He frowned.
“No, no it’s not that.” I panted, catching my breath. “I just didn’t expect to see you. I thought you had practice?”
Baseball practice started a week ago. There wasn’t much they could do with all the snow but they’d been working on strength training and endurance in the gym. Royce was wearing his blue t-shirt and the tight gray baseball pants he wore for practice. He was so big and tall, so muscular and strong, he would have been perfect if his beauty wasn’t hiding the monster that lived inside of him.
“Coach let us out after gym. He’s got a dentists appointment or something so it’s your lucky day,” said Royce. “I get to give you a ride home.”
“Oh, cool,” I replied.
We stopped by Royce’s locker so he could grab his letter jacket then he put his arm around my shoulders and walked me out to his car. It’s crazy how quickly his moods can change, and it keeps me on my toes, but there are moments when he can be so loving and tender. We climbed into Royce’s Jeep and he chatted animatedly about his day while I sat quietly.
“What’s wrong?” asked Royce when he noticed I wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying.
“Hmmm? Oh, just thinking about something.”
“About what?” he inquired.
That’s when it hit me. I didn’t like it, I knew I’d feel bad about it later but I wanted to be part of that homework group and I did know one way to get things I wanted from Royce.
“Pull over and we can talk about it,” I replied.
My house was in a neighborhood on the opposite side of town from school and the fastest way to get to it was to take a road that ringed Sanitaria Springs. Most of the drive was rural and we were right near the ruins of the sanitarium from which the town draws its name. Royce pulled over next to the ruins and parked.
“So what’s on your mind?”
I leaned over the center console where I unbuttoned and unzipped his tight fitting baseball pants. Royce is a big boy and filled out the pouch of his jockstrap nicely as I reached over and fondled him.
“Ohhh, Griffy,” he moaned contentedly. “That feels so good.”
“You deserve it baby,” I stated, holding back my urge to retch over the lie. “I’ve missed you.”
He reached into his jock and pulled his cock out. I pretended the large firm erection belonged to a nice boy, one who cared about me and would never hurt me, as I licked it and then went down on it. Royce is quick to get off when he fucks me but it took longer when I blew him and when I finished, he was completely relaxed.
“That was great,” said Royce as he did up his pants.
“You know me; I just like to make you happy.” I smiled a fake smile.
“You’re so good to me,” said Royce as he leaned over and kissed me. He even licked at the corner of my mouth; believe it or not the arrogant prick likes the taste of his own cum.
“So listen, I wanted to talk to you about something,” I began.
“Sure Bunny, what’s up?”
“Well you know how my parents won’t let me see you until I pull up my grade in history?”
“Yeah, it’s so unfair.” Royce sighed.
“I know, but anyway, my mom signed me up for an evening study group.”
“Oh,” said Royce. It was a neutral “Oh,” and I hoped if I explained things properly it would keep him from getting upset.
“I know, what a pain in the ass, but look on the bright side, I’ve got a test in a week, if this study group helps and I get my grade back up then I’m all yours.” I smiled and reached out to rub his package.
“You know what that means.”
“Yeah.” Royce grinned at my touch. “So who are you going to be studying with?”
“Oh, you know, probably just some nerds,” I lied.
“Alright, if it helps get your rents off our back I guess it’s a good thing. You’ll be a good boy, right?”
“Royce, you know I only have eyes for you.”
“I know, Bunny, I trust you,” said Royce as he leaned in for another kiss.
“Hey, you made it!” I was surprised to find Griffin standing on my front step. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do when he left us at lunch but I was glad to see him and gave him a friendly hug.
“Yeah.” Griffin smiled then turned and waved at his dad. Mr. Douglas was waiting to make sure Griffin had the right house before he drove off.
“Come in,” I said and then led him into the dining room. “Hey guys, look who made it.”
“Hi, Griff,” said Robin.
“Hey, Griffin.” Derek smiled.
“Hi.” Hamster nodded.
“Hey guys,” said Griffin.
“So Griff, this is your first night with us, let me explain how it works,” I started. “This is a pretty serious group, see, I’m doing 10th and 11th grade work because I got held back a little when I went into the foster care system so I’m trying to catch up and graduate with Robin.”
“Wow,” said Griffin.
“He just likes telling people that so we can’t complain about our workload without sounding like slackers,” Derek teased.
“Whatever.” Lucien giggled. “Anyway, what we do, since we’re all taking pretty much the same classes, is compare assignments, set a schedule and then help each other with whatever.”
“Cool,” said Griffin.
He took his books out and spread them on the table. We all had a math assignment and history to read and then Derek and Griffin both had to sketch something for art. We started with the hard stuff and then as I was finishing up the reading for English, yeah, I’m the only one who got stuck with an English assignment, I noticed that Derek and Griffin both had their sketchpads out.
“Hey, Derek, what are you drawing?” I asked.
“Books.” Derek shrugged his shoulders and showed us the pencil drawing he’d done of the stack of books in the center of the table.”
“Wow, that’s bold,” Robin teased.
“Hey, not all art is art you know?” said Derek. “Sometimes it’s just homework.”
“Uh huh,” I nodded my understanding. With all the other crap we have to do I didn’t blame Derek for picking an easy subject for his drawing. “How about you Griff, what did you draw?”
“Oh, uh, it’s nothing,” said Griffin. That, of course, piqued everyone’s interest.
“Come on, I showed mine,” Derek whined.
“Well, ok,” said Griffin shyly as he held up his drawing.
“Whoa,” I exclaimed.
“Dude, that’s awesome,” said Robin.
“Holy crap,” said Derek.
“Nice.” Hamster smiled.
While Derek had chosen to draw the stack of books, Griffin had drawn Hamster and Derek. They’d been reading their history assignment and Derek had rested his head on Hamster’s shoulder while Hamster put his arm around him. They were so cute together and Griffin had captured the moment in pencil.
“It’s not that great.” Griffin blushed.
“Dude, it’s really good,” said Derek. “I know it’s your homework but can I have it when you get it back?”
“Take it now.” Griffin smiled and tore the page from his sketchpad.
“Oh, no I couldn’t…” Derek started.
“It’s ok, I have other’s I can turn in for class,” said Griffin as he flipped through his sketchpad. It was full of drawings. “I just like to draw.”
“Cool, thanks.” Derek smiled.
“Anytime.” Griffin smiled back.
“So tell us a little about yourself, Griff,” said Robin, ending the homework portion of the evening.
“Well, there really isn’t much to tell,” said Griffin.
“You transferred in late last year, right?” asked Hamster.
“Yeah,” Griffin confirmed.
“Where did you move from?” Hamster followed up.
“California,” said Griffin.
“That explains the tan,” I teased.
“Oh, no.” Griffin shook his head and grinned. “My mom’s side of the family is Italian, I have her skin tone.”
“Pssh, my family is Italian, and I still look pasty as hell in the winter,” Derek scoffed.
“That’s because you grew up here on the tundra, Der-bear,” Hamster smirked.
“What part of California?” asked Robin.
“Well I was born in L.A. and then we moved to Sacramento when I was about ten,” said Griffin.
“Cool, I’ve been to L.A.” said Robin. “My parents took us to Disneyland when were little.”
“That’s actually in Orange County,” said Griffin. “But close enough. It’s so close together it’s like one big city.”
“What brought you out here?” I asked.
“My dad worked for Cal-Trans…” Griffin started.
“What’s that?” asked Hamster.
“California Department of Transportation,” Griffin explained. “Anyway, he’s an engineer by training, grew up out here and went to Rensselaer, and so when the City of Binghamton offered him a job as Director of Public Works, he jumped on the opportunity to move back.”
“Hey that’s cool. That’s where you want to go, right Robin?” asked Derek.
“Yeah, I’d love to pick his brain sometime,” said Robin, excitedly. “Do you think he’d talk to me?”
“Sure, I bet he’d like that,” said Griffin.
“Awesome.” Robin smiled.
Just then someone honked their horn.
“That’ll be him.” Griffin rolled his eyes. “I told him to text me when he picked me up.”
“It’s no big deal,” I assured him. “Tomorrow night we’re meeting at Robin’s house. You can catch a ride with us after school and I can take you home.”
“Are you sure? I live way over off of Whitney,” said Griffin.
“Griff, dude, there’s no such thing as way over in this town,” Robin joked.
“Derek’s only a few blocks from Whitney so it’s no big deal,” I explained.
“Ok, sure.” Griffin smiled. “See you guys tomorrow.”
“Hey, Dad.” I smiled as I slid into the passenger seat.
“Hey, pal, did you have a good time?”
“I did, it was a lot of fun.”
“Get your homework done?”
“Sure, we did that first and then sort of hung out,” I explained.
“Great, your mom and I are glad you finally found some nice kids to hang out with,” said Dad as we drove across town.
“Yeah, me too,” I agreed.
Robin was right, there really was no such thing as “way over,” in Sanitaria Springs and we were home before I knew it. Dad and I walked into the house and as I was about to head upstairs to put my books away, Dad put his hand on my shoulder.
“Griffy, before you go upstairs, your mom and I want to talk to you about something.”
“Oh, sure Dad, what’s up?”
“Come in and sit down, sweetie,” said Mom, calling to us from the living room. I walked in and sat between them on the couch.
“What’s going on?” I asked nervously.
“Honey, the police called this afternoon, they want to come and speak to you Friday after school,” said Mom.
“Why? Can’t you just tell them I don’t remember anything?”
“About that,” said Dad. “You heard what Dr. Carter said, you shouldn’t have any memory loss from your injuries. Mom talked to Dr. Simkins and he agrees.”
“What are you getting at? Are you calling me a liar?” I demanded.
“No one’s calling you a liar, Griffy, but if you’re scared…” Mom started.
“I-I’m not scared, I just don’t remember,” I said, getting agitated.
“Griffin, calm down, there’s no reason to get upset…” Dad began.
“I’m not upset, I just don’t remember.”
“If that’s true then we’ll stand behind you. You can tell the police and that will be the end of it, but…”
“But what?” I interrupted.
“But,” Dad continued, “someone hurt you and you don’t deserve that. We want to protect you and see this person put in jail…”
“I don’t remember who did it,” I insisted.
“Ok, it’s ok,” said Mom, patting my hand.
“Can I go upstairs now?”
“Sure son, go ahead,” said Dad.
I practically ran up to my room and threw myself down on the bed. Fuck, what am I going to do? My parents didn’t believe me and if I couldn’t convince them how was I going to convince the police? Sure, I wanted Royce punished, I dreamed about it, great dreams about his butt and red hot pokers, but I was afraid. It’s not like they’d haul him off to prison for beating me up, he was a kid, he’d probably get a slap on the wrist and then he’d come after me.
Life is so unfair. Why did I have to be so pathetic and small? I was no match for Royce, I couldn’t fight him off. If I even tried he’d just hurt me that much worse. It makes me feel so dead inside to feel like I’m just some Dobermans chew toy. What kind of man accepts that as his fate?
I lie on my bed until I heard my parents come up stairs and close their door. I waited another twenty minutes to be sure they were asleep and then crept downstairs and into the study across the foyer from the living room. I sat at my dad’s desk, took a deep breath and pulled the gun from the hidden compartment in the bottom left drawer, the gun my parents didn’t think I knew about.
I put the gun on the desk blotter and stared at it for a long time. Part of me thought about taking it to school and blowing Royce’s sick twisted head smooth off but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take a life, not even one that belonged to someone as evil as Royce, and even if I could, my life would be over. That thought sparked another idea.
I reached for the gun, felt the cool steel on my fingertips then pulled away. It wasn’t a toy, it was real. It could be my way out if I wanted it to be. I reached for it again and this time my fingers curled around the revolver’s plastic handle grip. I felt the weight of it in my hand. I let out a deep breath and pressed the barrel to my temple, that’s when I started crying.
“It’s just not fair,” I wept.
I didn’t want to die; I wanted a release from pain and torture. I wanted what I’d seen at lunch and at the study group. I wanted friends and a good boyfriend who loved me and cared about me and who would never hurt me. I wanted what Lucien and Robin, Derek and Austin had, I wanted to be happy. I dropped the gun on the blotter and backed away from it like it were a poisonous snake. Suicide was not the answer, there had to be another way, I just had to think of what it might be.
The guys took my mind off my problems when I got to lunch the next day. We laughed and joked around and I felt so much better as we walked to class after lunch. We were coming out of the cafeteria together, I was laughing at something Lucien said and then I saw him, Greg Baxter. Greg is Royce’s best friend and I was sure he saw me. Fuck, I just can’t catch a break.
All throughout the afternoon I worried about what was going to happen. Greg isn’t as big an asshole as Royce but he’s big enough. I knew he’d snitch me out the first chance he had and I knew that would come at 7th period when they met for gym and baseball practice. When the bell rang at the end of the day I lingered behind, slowly putting things in my bag until most of the student’s had headed for the parking lot or the buses. I knew Royce should be at practice now but if he’d talked to Greg, I was sure there would be no way he’d calm his rage, he’d come find me.
I was careful as I made my way to my locker and stuck my head around the corner before heading down the hall it was on. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t waiting for me. Fortunately the coast was clear and I quickly went to my locker to gather the books I needed. I had my back turned and that’s when he hit me. Royce came up quietly behind me and slammed me into the bank of lockers like a hockey player checks his opponent into the glass wall. He was so big, so powerful; it was like getting hit by a truck. I slid down the bank of lockers and collapsed on the floor.
“Get up you little bitch,” Royce hissed. He grabbed me by the collar and hoisted me to my feet, then slammed me against the lockers just because he could. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
“Royce, I didn’t do anything,” I panted, he’d knocked the wind out of me.
“I heard about your little lunch buddies. Do you think I’m stupid? Did you think I wouldn’t find out? Answer me damn it,” Royce demanded and slammed me into the locker again for emphasis.
“They’re just my friends. We were…”
“Bullshit! Are you sucking their dicks? Giving them a piece of that little ass?”
“Royce, please, I…”
“Take your hands off of him,” said a cold, threatening voice.
Royce and I turned our heads and there stood Derek and Austin. I’d forgotten I was supposed to meet them after class and then head out to the parking lot to catch a ride with Lucien. They must have come looking for me.
“Turn around and go back the way you came. This is none of your business,” said Royce.
“You made it my business when you put your hands on my friend,” said Austin as he broke Royce’s grip on my collar and forced his way between us.
“Back off.” Royce threatened and shoved Austin, pushing him into me.
“You back off.” Austin shoved him back.
I was amazed. Austin is short like me but he was built, strong and powerful. Royce towered over us but that didn’t stop Austin from staring him down. Royce, for all his many, many faults, isn’t stupid. He sized Austin up, then looked over at Derek and finally at me. He was a tough guy when it was just me but he’d be in trouble if he had to fight three of us and he knew it.
“I’ll deal with you later,” said Royce and he stalked off.
Austin stayed protectively in front of me until Royce rounded the corner and disappeared. That’s when Derek ran up and put his arm around me.
“Holy shit,” Derek exclaimed. “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, I’m alright,” I sniffled and tried to fight back the tears but couldn’t.
“It’s ok, we’re here and we’re not going to let anything happen to you,” said Derek, bringing me into a full hug. He, they, were so kind, so gentle. Why couldn’t Royce be like that? Why did he like to hurt me?
“Come on, let’s get him out of here before that ape comes back,” said Austin.
They led me out to the parking lot and before I knew it they were helping me into Lucien’s van. I refused to let Derek go, I know it was Austin who saved me but Derek felt so good in my arms and I felt so safe in his.
“What the hell happened?” asked Lucien as Austin slid the door shut and jumped in the passenger seat.
“That asshole, Royce McGuire, roughed him up a bit,” said Austin.
“But…that’s his boyfriend,” said Lucien.
“I know, Lu,” said Austin.
They must have traded a knowing look but I couldn’t see it with all the tears in my eyes. The next words out of Lucien’s mouth were, “Oh, shit.”
“Yeah,” Austin agreed.
“What do we do?” asked Lucien.
“Let’s take him to Robin’s as planned,” said Austin. “We can talk about it there.”
“Yeah, good idea,” said Lucien as he put the van in reverse and backed out of his parking space.
“It’ll be alright,” said Derek, giving me a squeeze.
We were at Robin’s in a matter of minutes. Lucien shut off the van and then the guys helped me out. It was hard to do while still clutching on to Derek but he was my security blanket in my time of need and I wasn’t ready to let him go. We somehow made it up the front step and no one knocked, we just walked inside.
“Hey guys, how…” Robin started then he saw my condition. “What’s going on?”
“Is your mom home?” asked Lucien.
“She’s upstairs,” said Robin. “Jamie and Sean are over at Scotty’s.”
“Let’s take Griffin down in the basement. I don’t think we want parents around just yet,” said Austin.
The guys led me down more steps and then I was sitting on a couch. I could sense everyone gathered around me and I started to compose myself. I loosened my hold on Derek but when he started to pull away I stopped him.
“Don’t go,” I whined.
“I’m right here,” said Derek. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’m here too,” said Austin, I could feel him take the seat on the other side of me. I felt safe between them and I was able to sit up while Robin and Lucien pulled up chairs and sat across from us.
“What is going on?” asked Robin. Austin and Derek quickly filled him in on what happened in the hall. “Royce McGuire? But I thought he was your boyfriend.”
“He is.” I sniffled. “But he gets so jealous…”
“I get it now,” said Robin, ice in his voice. Then he gestured at my remaining injuries. “He did this to you, didn’t he?”
“Yeah,” I nodded. There was no point in denying it now. After what Derek and Austin saw, they weren’t stupid, even if I didn’t tell them they’d put two and two together. “He took me to a party on Valentine’s Day and when he went to get a drink some girl started flirting with me. Royce saw and he just…”
“It’s alright,” said Austin, putting a protective hand on my shoulder.
“He just went crazy.” I sniffled.
“Was that the first time it’s happened?” asked Lucien.
“No.” I shook my head.
“How long has it been going on?” asked Robin.
“Almost a year.” I hung my head in shame.
“It’s not your fault,” said Derek. I thought I detected a hint of a sniffle when he spoke.
“It is. I let him do this to me. I am so fucking pathetic and weak. I let him abuse me.”
“Don’t talk like that, Griff,” said Lucien. “He’s bigger than you, stronger, he bullied you.”
“I thought he loved me. I was so lonely when we first moved here and then I met Royce and he was so kind…”
“I’m sorry, Griff, I’m so sorry,” said Lucien. “I should have reached out to you when you moved here, I should of…”
“Babe, it’s not your fault,” said Robin as he moved close to his boyfriend and put an arm around his shoulder.
“I know but…” Lucien began.
“He’s right,” I said. “I didn’t see this coming, there’s no way anyone else could have. You can’t blame yourself for living your life.”
“Still.” Lucien sighed.
“It’s ok,” said Robin as he kissed the top of Lucien’s head.
“I’m alright,” said Lucien. “I don’t have any business feeling sorry for myself right now. Not when this is happening to Griffin.”
“It’s ok, it’s just nice to know someone cares,” I stated.
“We all care,” said Derek.
“Listen, I, well, it’s none of our business but how did this start?” asked Lucien.
“I never saw it coming. We were making out at his house one day. It was nice, he had his shirt off and he’s so strong, I just felt so safe in his arms. He started talking about this girl I’d run into, do you guys know Cathy Peterson?”
“Oh Jesus, leave it to the fucking Hoover,” said Robin. “She offered to suck your dick, right?”
“How did you know?”
“Because she tries to suck everyone’s dick. She asked if she could suck mine once,” said Robin.
“Mine too,” said Austin.
“And she succeeded in blowing my baby brother,” Robin added.
“Baby brother?” I asked, how nasty was that bitch?
“His little brother, Jamie’s a freshman,” Lucien clarified. “That’s not important anyway, what happened.”
“Well, I guess Royce knew her reputation and he didn’t like her talking to me so, well, he spanked me. I thought he was playing at first but then he beat me with his belt.”
“Holy shit,” said Lucien and the group let out a collective gasp.
“This can’t continue,” said Robin. “My dad’s a judge, if we tell him he…”
“No,” I interrupted.
“He’ll help you, Griffin,” said Robin, gently. “He’s helped my friends before.”
“It’s not that, it’s just, if you tell a judge he’ll tell the police, I think he has to by law. The cops are already coming to my house tomorrow after school to talk to me about what happened Saturday night. Please, let me tell my parents first,” I pleaded.
“Ok, I don’t like it but I guess it’s not up to me.” Robin sighed.
“Thanks,” I said and wiped some tears from my cheeks.
“What do we do in the mean time?” asked Derek. “It’s a long time between now and tomorrow afternoon. What if that asshole comes after him?”
“We’ll cancel study group tonight,” said Austin. “Well drive Griffin home so he can talk to his parents and tomorrow we’ll pick him up for school. We’ll form a ring around him, anywhere he goes at school we go with him and then we’ll take him home so he can talk to the cops.”
“You guys don’t have to do that. Royce is an asshole, I don’t want any of you getting hurt, please,” I pleaded.
“Fuck him,” said Austin. “He doesn’t scare me.”
“Me either,” said Derek.
“He fucks with me or Lucien and he’ll have the whole wrestling team on his ass,” said Robin.
“You guys are too much.” I smiled for the first time since lunch. “It’s been so long since I’ve had friends I forgot what it felt like.”
“Well, you’ve got us now,” said Lucien as everyone took turns hugging me.
“Let’s get you home,” said Austin.
We piled back into the van and Robin came with us for the ride. After a few minutes we pulled up to my house and I said goodbye to my friends. I walked up the path and felt their eyes on me as I approached the front door. They were watching my back, making sure I got safely inside. The house was dark when I walked in but there was enough light coming from the window that when I dropped my house keys on the foyer table I spotted a note my mom left for me. I flipped on the table lamp and read:
Since you’ve got your study group tonight, Dad and I decided to go out for dinner. We’ll bring you something back so you can eat when you get home.
I swear; I don’t know why my parents are so against texting. I put the note back on the table and stepped into the living room. I felt something crunching under my feet and when I flipped the light switch I saw it was broken glass.
“What the hell…” I started, but that’s when he struck.
Royce tackled me to the ground and rolled me on my back. I saw his fist as it came towards my face. His knuckles were already bleeding from breaking the window to get inside. His first punch stunned me and he used the time it bought him to grab my wrists and pin me down.
“Please Royce, don’t hurt me,” I pleaded.
“Oh, I’m gonna hurt you, Bunny,” he snarled. “I’m gonna fuck this little ass and then I’m going to beat the fuck out of you until you understand who you belong to. Then I’m going to go find that little blond fucker and his boyfriend. I’m going to teach all your buddies a lesson.”
“I-I won’t let you hurt them,” I stuttered.
“There, you see that? You see what a bad influence these guys have been on you?” asked Royce. “My Bunny knows better than to talk back.”
I don’t know where I found the courage but I rammed my knee into his crotch. Royce roared in pain and I used the opportunity to try and crawl away. He grabbed my ankle and pulled me towards him and that’s when I heard the voice of my salvation.
“Hey, Griffin, you forgot your backpack…” said Austin. He’d come into the foyer and then turned towards the living room where he saw me struggling with Royce. “What the hell is going on?”
“Austin, help me,” I screamed.
Royce launched himself at Austin and the two collapsed to the ground snarling and swinging at each other. They rolled around the living room each struggling to gain the upper hand but finally Royce’s size bought him an advantage.
“Thanks for saving me the trouble, mother fucker,” Royce panted as he slugged Austin in the gut. “I’m going to fuck the shit out of both you little bitches.”
“Royce, stop this,” I shouted. “Let him go!”
“Stand there and shut the fuck up,” Royce ordered. “If you’re a good boy I might not kill you when I’m done.”
I knew what I had to do. Royce was too big for me, I couldn’t pull him off Austin but I couldn’t let him hurt my friend either. I had no other options; I ran across the foyer and grabbed the gun from my dad’s desk. I raced back to the living room and found that in the time I was gone Royce had knocked Austin unconscious. He’d rolled him onto his stomach and was trying to pull his pants down.
“I’m going to enjoy this,” said Royce as he got the pants down and exposed Austin’s underwear.
“Get off of him,” I hissed.
“I thought I told you to stand there and shut the fuck up?” said Royce as he unzipped his jeans.
“I said get off of him,” I repeated and fired a shot into the ceiling for emphasis.
“What the fuck?” Royce shouted as he leapt to his feet.
“You touch me or my friend again and I’ll blow your fucking head off,” I hissed.
“You haven’t got the balls, bitch,” Royce grinned.
“Wanna take that chance?” I asked as I cocked the hammer.
Royce looked at me in stunned surprise. Then I heard footfalls running up the steps.
“Are you guys alright, we thought we heard…” Robin started as he, Lucien and Derek raced in to find me holding a gun on Royce.
“Oh my God, Austin,” Derek whined when he saw his boyfriend. He started towards him but Robin held him back.
“Wait,” said Robin. “Lucien, call the cops. Griffin, give me the gun.”
“I told him if he moves I’d blow his fucking head off. I want him to move, Robin.”
“I know you do Griff and I don’t blame you. That’s why you need to give me the gun,” said Robin.
I stood there and continued to hold the gun on Royce. I don’t think he’d ever seen resolve on my face before but his cocky smile was gone and he looked scared.
“He’s not worth it, Griff. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you and this piece of shit is going to jail. Don’t throw your life away.”
“He was going to rape us, me and Austin, then he was going to come after you guys.” My voice quivered with rage. “He told me if I was good he might not kill me. He was going to fucking kill us!”
“He was but you got him, he’s not going to do shit now,” said Robin.
“Oh, what happened?” Austin groaned and started to sit up.
I was distracted by Austin. I was so relieved he was ok. It bought Robin a moment to step close to me and gently put his hand on the gun. He was right, as much as I wanted to shoot Royce, I didn’t want to give up my life. I let him take the weapon from my hand.
“Good,” said Robin. “That’s really good, Griff.”
He put his arm around my shoulder but continued to hold the gun on Royce as we heard sirens in the distance.
“Pussy,” Royce scoffed at me.
“Hey, asshole,” said Robin. “I want to shoot you too so why don’t you do yourself a favor and sit down and shut up until the cops get here?”
“Oh Austin,” said Derek as he finally pushed into the living room and went to his boyfriend. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I think so,” he groaned as Derek helped him to his feet. “Why are my pants down?”
“He was… that son of a bitch was…” Derek spluttered. “Ugh, I can’t even say it but its ok, Griffin saved you.”
The cops arrived and the first thing they did was take my father’s gun from Robin. He seemed relieved to give it up and I don’t blame him. I didn’t like how I felt with that gun in my hands, it’s like it had a power over me. I wanted to pull that trigger so bad. Royce didn’t say anything. I quickly told the police how I’d come home and he’d jumped me. There were signs of a struggle all over the living room, not to mention the broken glass from where he’d smashed the window to get in, plus four witnesses.
The police hauled Royce away and then sat the rest of us down to take our statements. Robin called his dad, the judge, and he was on his way over. My parents got home first; they saw the cop cars in front of our house and raced inside in a panic.
“Griffy, oh my God, are you ok?” asked Mom as she pushed past a policeman to get to me. She hugged me and I hugged her back, I was so happy to see her and dad. I was ready for them to know everything, ready to unburden myself.
“I’m fine, Mom, I’m ok,” I replied and for the first time in a long time I meant it.
“What happened here?” asked Dad, after he got his hug too.
“Mr. and Mrs. Douglas, can I speak to you in the other room please?” asked the lead officer.
“I’d like to speak to my son,” said Dad.
“I understand sir, but your home is a crime scene and I just need to speak with you for a moment. I promise it won’t take a minute.”
“Fine,” said Dad, annoyed.
He and Mom stepped into the foyer with the police and for the first time since the cops arrived I was alone with my friends.
“Is everyone ok?” I asked.
“I’m a little shaken up but ok,” said Derek.
“Yeah, me too,” said Lucien.
“Robin?” I asked. He had the burden of disarming me, I know that must have been tense and I was sorry for it.
“I’m sorry about this, guys. I’m sorry I put you in this position.”
“Bullshit,” said Austin. “That fucking asshole broke into your home and was going to hurt you. You saved me, maybe all of us. Thanks man.”
“Yeah,” Derek agreed. “You’re a hero, Griff.”
“Robin’s the hero. If he hadn’t pulled that gun out of my hands…I don’t know.”
“What I did was easy,” said Robin. “I knew you wouldn’t hurt me, you were trying to protect all of us. What you did took courage.”
“Thanks.” I blushed.
“How do you feel?” asked Lucien.
“Free. For the first time in a long time I feel free.”
It was about that time that Robin’s father arrived. He spoke to us briefly and then to the police. He assured them that we would all cooperate with the investigation then said he was taking the boys home. My parents and I followed the group out onto the porch while the police continued to collect evidence from our house. We had a lot to talk about but I was ready. I love my Mom and Dad, holding this secret in, keeping it from them, it hurt my soul. I was ready for them to know, ready to let them love and protect me again.
“See you at lunch tomorrow?” asked Lucien as he stepped off my porch. All of the guys stopped and turned to look at me.
Thank God for friends. Thank God I had the sense to let these boys into my life.
“Yeah, count on it.” I smiled.