“I still can’t believe you kicked that little twerp’s ass.” Griffin chuckled.
“You mess with the bull, you get the horns,” Devyn signed.
“Who knew you were such a tough guy?”
Griffin and Devyn were enjoying a leisurely Sunday morning lying on Griffin’s bed. Griffin’s parents, well, his mom, liked to spend Sunday mornings antiquing, his father was more like a hostage. Devyn had walked over shortly after Mr. and Mrs. Douglas left to find his boyfriend lounging around in his pajamas. Though the fight happened Thursday the boys hadn’t really had a chance to be alone until now.
“Phil knows,” Devyn signed.
“Damn right he does, you rocked his world,” said Griffin as he kissed Devyn then sucked on his bottom lip, careful to avoid where it had been split in the fight, though Griffin thought his boyfriend’s battle scar was sexy. “I think you deserve a treat.”
Devyn raised a questioning eyebrow and Griffin replied by reaching for his zipper and pulling it down. Finished with the zipper he moved to the button when Devyn grabbed his wrist.
“Don’t you want me to?”
“Yes,” Devyn signed. “But not because you think you owe me for what happened with Phil.”
“Devy, I think it’s sweet that you beat the shit out of that doucher for me but you didn’t have to. I could have taken him if I had to, you just beat me to it and you don’t get a treat for that,” said Griffin.
“But then…” Devyn started signing but Griffin grabbed his hands and stopped him.
“You get a treat because I love you, because you’ve been so patient and understanding with me, because you’re just the best boyfriend I could have ever hoped for, and because I choose to,” said Griffin. “It’s my choice, we’ve waited long enough and I’m ready.”
“Really?” Devyn mouthed the word as a smile spread across his face.
“Yeap,” said Griffin as he finally got Devyn’s jeans open. “I love you from the tip of your itty bitty nose to the tips of your itty bitty toes to the tip of your…oh, that’s not so itty bitty, is it?” Griffin grinned as he reached into Devyn’s jeans and felt him up through his briefs.
Devyn turned beet red but his wheezing laugh was music to Griffin’s ears.
“So, can I take these jeans off now?” asked Griffin. Devyn nodded his head as Griffin sat up and pulled his pants off then took hold of one of his ankles. “You know, I don’t know what’s cuter, your little feet in these pink socks or those little tighty whities.”
“Please, like you’re so much bigger than me,” Devyn signed.
“Big enough.” Griffin smirked then pounced on his boyfriend. They kissed and giggled at first before it turned more passionate. Griffin ran his fingers through Devyn’s shaggy blond hair, Devyn played Griffin’s elegant spine like the keys on his flute. Devyn had just reached down to untie the drawstring in Griffin’s pajama bottoms when they heard the doorbell.
“Aren’t you going to get that?” Devyn signed when Griffin ignored the bell and started to suck his neck.
“Nope,” said Griffin. “I’m not expecting anyone and I’m not giving you up for some damn Jehovah Witness.”
Devyn smiled, they went back to kissing and the doorbell rang again.
“Griffy,” Mrs. Douglas shouted up the stairs a moment later.
“Shit,” Griffin exclaimed, his eyes growing wide at the sound of his mother’s voice.
Devyn signed frantically but it was too fast for Griffin, he didn’t understand.
“Slow down, it’s terrible when you stutter.” Griffin smirked.
Devyn rolled his eyes, shook his head and signed, “When did they get back?”
“I don’t know, I was preoccupied,” said Griffin, giving Devyn a little grope. “I’ll be right back.”
Griffin climbed out of bed and padded to the door while Devyn sat up and started looking for his pants. Griffin had been in such a hurry to get them off that he’d just tossed them aside and now there was no sign of them.
“Uh, yeah mom?” said Griffin, sticking his head out the door.
“Door’s for you, honey,” said Mrs. Douglas as she disappeared into the living room.
“Uh, ok, I’ll be right down,” said Griffin. He turned back to Devyn but found him on his hands and knees looking under the desk for his jeans. Griffin smiled at his cute butt then padded down the stairs. He wasn’t expecting any company and the last person he ever thought he’d find on his doorstep was Philip Ashmore but there he stood, eyes down cast and clutching a brown paper grocery bag to his chest.
“What do you want?” Griffin asked coldly.
“Here,” said Phil, his voice brittle as he thrust the bag into Griffin’s arms.
Griffin raised an eyebrow at Phil but Phil still wouldn’t look him in the face. He looked in the bag and found his missing underpants, an undershirt, and three socks, all clean and neatly folded.
“I washed everything,” Phil started as a tear leaked from his eye and rolled down his check. “I-I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I should never have done that or left you that note.”
“Thanks,” said Griffin, taken aback by the apology.
“I’m sorry,” Phil repeated himself and wiped his eyes as he turned to walk down the steps. “I should go.”
“Phil, wait,” Griffin called after him.
“Yeah?” asked Phil, pausing on the step and turning nervously towards Griffin.
“Why, tell me what you’re sorry for, what made you come here.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt you or anyone. I just…oh shit.” Phil’s eyes went wide and his mouth twitched nervously.
“What?” asked Griffin. He was confused by the panic on Phil’s face until he looked over his shoulder.
Devyn had finally found his jeans and once he had them on he came downstairs expecting to find Griffin chatting with one of their friends. When he saw Phil Ashmore on the steps his blood boiled and he charged across the foyer, quiet as a panther, in his pink socks. Griffin turned just in time to catch Devyn as he lunged for Phil. Phil held his hands up in surrender but that didn’t calm Devyn. He grunted and hissed and struggled to break free from Griffin but Griffin had a solid hold on him.
“Stop, Devy…stop,” said Griffin, turning the embrace from one of restraint to one of love as he pulled his boyfriend into a hug. “It’s alright; he’s not here to hurt me.”
“Then what does he want?” Devyn signed once he calmed down enough for Griffin to release him.
“Look, he brought my stuff back,” said Griffin, handing Devyn the bag, in part so he could see the contents and in part to keep his hands occupied and off of Phil. “He says he’s sorry.”
“I am! I swear I am. God, I was so stupid. I’m such an asshole,” Phil swore and shook his head, shamed by his own behavior.
“You were about to tell me what brought you to this revelation before Fists of Fury here showed up,” said Griffin, winking at his boyfriend and pulling him into a side hug. “I’d still like to know.”
“I, well, I had a talk with my mom…” Phil began.
“Lousy fucking midget,” Phil muttered as he stormed into the house nursing his busted lip. He’d ditched the rest of his classes after the fight and wandered around until it was time to go home. “Fuck him and his piece of ass…”
“Philip, is that you honey?”
“Yeah, mom,” he replied as he entered the kitchen for an ice pack.
“Don’t get comfy. I thought we’d go into Binghamton and…” Mrs. Ashmore began but then she saw her son’s face and blood soaked t-shirt. “My God, Philly, what happened to you?”
“I got in a fight at school,” he fumed as his mother pushed him down in a chair and examined his injuries.
“Just hold still, let me get you something to clean up your face with,” said Mrs. Ashmore.
She got the first aid kit from the closet and an ice pack from the freezer. She sat across from Phil and started to swab the dried blood from his face with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol.
“Who did this?” she sniffled, distraught at seeing her youngest in pain.
“Some fucking midget,” Phil swore.
“Philip.” She sighed, annoyed at his language at first but then decided it was more important to get information at the moment rather than chastise him for his mouth. “Does this boy have a name?”
“Yeah, Devyn Kennedy.”
“Do I know his mother?” Having raised her boys in such a small town, Mrs. Ashmore was accustomed to knowing most of the parents of their classmates.
“How should I know?” Phil retorted in frustration.
“Wanna watch the attitude, mister?”
“Sorry.” Phil sighed.
“I don’t recognize the name,” said Mrs. Ashmore as she continued to clean up his face. “Anyway, why did this boy hit you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Philip, don’t give me that. He just walked up and hit you? It was your turn? You just had that one coming?” she asked sarcastically.
“He was just pissed because I sent a note to his butt buddy.” Phil rolled his eyes.
“And what did this note say?” she sighed.
“What’s it matter? He hit me!”
“Ok, fine,” he grumbled, “All it said was ‘I like a man who knows how to take it like a bitch,’ or something like that. I don’t see what he’s so pissed about, it’s not my fault the whole school knows he fucks like a…”
Mrs. Ashmore felt her whole body fill with anger and shame. She couldn’t stand to hear her son, her sweet little boy, say one more ugly thing. Her hand shot out almost of its own accord and struck him across the face.
“Mom,” he exclaimed and raised a hand to the sting in his cheek. She’d never hit him before.
“How could you do a thing like that? What is wrong with you, Philip?”
“All I did was write a note! He hit me and…”
“Oh, you just wrote a little note? You didn’t think telling someone’s boyfriend you wanted to treat him like a…a…bitch was going to come back to bite you?”
“Whatever, I saw something I wanted and went for it. Dad would have been proud of me…”
“And that’s what you want? To be like your dad?”
“Well, I…” Phil started.
“Do you know why your dad and I are getting a divorce?”
“Yeah, you got that promotion and he couldn’t take it, I guess.”
“Partly,” said Mrs. Ashmore, tearing up, “but the main reason is because he’s a…a…fucking pig! I put up with his shit for years because I thought it was important you boys have two parents but I started to realize if I didn’t get away from him you’d end up just like him. The things you say, Philip, the way you treat people, I think it might already be too late and that breaks my heart.”
“Mom?” For all his faults, and there were many, Phil loved his mom. He hated to see her cry.
“You think that’s how it works, you can just send a nasty little note like that to some poor kid because that’s what a man does, takes what he wants?”
“Well, I thought that…”
“Do you want to know why I married your father in the first place?”
“I…I don’t know,” said Phil, suddenly afraid of what she might tell him.
“We started dating in high school. He played football and baseball, he was big and strong, a real man’s man and I liked that. The night of our senior prom, I wasn’t ready but that didn’t stop him, he wouldn’t take no for an answer…”
“Wait, what?” Phil exclaimed.
“I wouldn’t call it rape, not exactly.”
“Oh my God,” said Phil, he felt like he wanted to throw up. “Why did you marry him after that?”
“Because, I was pregnant. I told my parents and your grandpa insisted we get married.”
“So you mean, Gavin came from…”
“No, I had a miscarriage, we lost that baby but it was too late. We were already married.”
“Why did you stay with him?”
“Because I thought things would get better, because I was stupid. Abusers always tell you they’re going to change but they never do.” She shook her head in disgust. “Eventually he gave me you and Gavin and you boys have been my saving grace until now.”
“I…I don’t know what to say.”
“I’m ashamed of you, Philip.”
“I’m sorry, mom, I…”
“Next week we’re going to see a family therapist, you, Gavin and me. For now I want you to go up to your room and think about what you’ve done.”
“Mom, I’m sorry.”
“Upstairs, Philip, I don’t want to look at you right now.”
“So you only came because your mom made you feel guilty?” asked Griffin.
“No,” Phil shook his head. “I went up to my room like she said and all I could think about was the shit she’s been through, the shit my old man put her through and the shit I’m putting her through now. I started thinking about the things I said about you, the things I put in that note and the things I heard happened to you. It made me sick to my stomach.”
“It should have, you stole my underwear and that note, do you have any idea what really happened to me? Do you know how bad that note scared me?” asked Griffin, his voice rising while Devyn glared at Phil.
Phil’s shoulders sagged and he looked to be wiping a tear from his eye. “I have a pretty good idea. Robin told me a few things.”
“I told him, God, that I thought you’d be a good lay because you had experience,” said Phil, looking down in shame.
“Experience,” Griffin shook his head in disgust.
“He tried to set me straight and I didn’t listen.”
“I don’t know what to say, Phil,” said Griffin.
“I’m not asking you to forgive me,” said Phil, “I just came here to tell you I’m sorry I hurt you and that you don’t have to worry, I’m never going to bother you again.”
“Was your mom serious, are you going to see a therapist?”
“Yeah, she already made the appointment with some guy, Dr. Freeman.”
“He’s good, if you’re honest with him he’ll help you,” said Griffin.
“You see him?”
“After what Royce did to me…yeah, I see him.”
“I…I’m sorry,” said Phil.
“All I can say is if you’re serious about getting help, trying to be better, I wish you luck,” said Griffin.
“Thanks, it’s nice of you to say that. I better get home.”
Griffin watched Phil start down the steps before he closed the door. When he turned, Devyn had his arms folded over his chest, giving him the evil eye.
“You were too easy on him,” Devyn signed.
“Hmmm, you want me to chase him down, kick him in the balls?” Griffin smirked.
“No,” Devyn signed, “I’ll do it.”
“How about if you just give me a hug instead?”
Devyn shook his head but couldn’t keep a little smile from spreading across his face. He loved Griffin and while they weren’t on the same page about Phil, he wasn’t going to let that ruin their day together. He walked up to Griffin and enfolded his arms around him.
“Everything alright, honey?” asked Mrs. Douglas as she walked into the foyer and found the two boys wrapped in a warm embrace.
“Fine, mom,” said Griffin as he released Devyn and held his hand.
“Daddy and I are going out to lunch; we thought we’d see if you and Devyn wanted to join us?”
“Oh, thanks mom but we have plans.”
“Alright, we’ll see you when we get back.” She kissed Griffin on the cheek and patted Devyn on the shoulder. She loved Devyn for how happy he made her son. She and Mr. Douglas heard all about the fight and after everything Griffin had been through she was glad he had a boyfriend who cared enough to protect him.
“Come on Dev, let’s go back to my room.”
Devyn followed Griffin upstairs and once the door was closed he signed, “We have plans?”
“Yeap.” Griffin grinned wickedly and pulled Devyn’s zipper down.
Back at school on Monday Griffin and Devyn decided to join their friends in the cafeteria rather than eat in the band room with their buddies from Sahara. It was just as well, Devyn thought he’d have a hard time concentrating on his flute after the events of the day before. He was still surprised he and Griffin had sex. The way things were going he figured he’d be waiting a while longer but was delighted to have misread the situation. He didn’t know what he’d enjoyed more, being blown or blowing Griffin, but both of them were looking forward to doing it again.
Devyn had his iPad out; Griffin had his arm around him and rested his head on his shoulder as they tapped out goofy little love notes to each other. They were both grinning like idiots and it didn’t go unnoticed.
“What’s gotten into you two today?” asked Lucien.
“Huh?” Griffin replied, sitting up in his seat.
“You guys are a little more lovey dovey then usual,” Lucien pointed out.
“Oh, uh, I don’t know,” said Griffin.
“Something’s up,” said Derek with a raised eyebrow.
“Is not,” Griffin replied lamely while Devyn blushed and hid behind his tablet.
“Oh my God,” Lucien covered his mouth, his eyes about to bulge out of their sockets.
“You guys did it, didn’t you?” asked Robin with a sly grin.
“Maybe, what of it?” asked Griffin. Devyn was embarrassed and rested his head against Griffin, turning his face away from the group.
“Awww, that’s so cute,” Austin snorted.
“Quit it, you guys are embarrassing my baby.” Griffin giggled and rubbed Devyn’s back.
“I’m shocked,” said Lucien.
“How do you think I feel?” Devyn sat up and tapped the message out on his iPad.
“The Griffster ‘sprung’ it on you huh?” Robin grinned wickedly.
“He was all over me,” Devyn signed and Griffin translated with a grin of his own. The rest of the guys had all picked up a fair amount of sign language but Griffin had really devoted himself to it so he’d be able to communicate with his boyfriend.
“Wow Griff, I didn’t know you had it in you,” Derek teased.
“What can I say; look at this cute little face, I couldn’t help myself.” Griffin laughed as he held Devyn’s chin and shook it. Devyn slapped his shoulder with one of his wheezing laughs.
“So, was it good?” asked Austin, leaning in conspiratorially to hear the story.
“What do you think this is, Nifty? I’m not telling you our sex story,” said Griffin.
“Awww, come on, I told you all about Derek,” Austin whined.
“Yeah he…wait a minute, what?” asked Derek, turning to glare at his boyfriend.
“I was trying to help Dev out, put Griff in the mood,” Austin teased.
“Yeah, it’s no big deal, Derek.” Griffin smiled. “I mean it’s kind of weird that you can’t do it unless Austin is wearing a cowboy hat but…” Griffin didn’t get to finish his joke, everyone was laughing too hard.
“Alright, alright that’s enough about Derek and the butt sex rodeo,” Robin snorted, “I’ve got something important to say.”
“What’s up, Rob?” asked Austin.
“If you ask me, we’ve had a pretty rough semester what with everything that happened to Griff and then Lucien’s mom…” Robin began.
“I prefer bio-mom or egg donor,” said Lucien.
“Whatever.” Robin patted him on the back then took his hand. “My point is I think we’re entitled to relax and have a little fun. I talked to my parents and got permission to have a pool party this Saturday. We can lounge around the pool, toss back a few burgers and celebrate making it through this semester in one piece.”
“I love it,” said Derek.
“Yeah, great idea,” Austin added.
As the guys talked about the party Griffin caught sight of Phil. He was just sitting there alone pushing his food around with his fork. He looked miserable. Griffin let out a deep breath. Not so long ago he’d been sitting like that, at a table by himself, feeling hopeless and alone. He’d listened to Phil, heard him out and accepted his apology but that didn’t mean he forgave him. What Phil did to him, stealing his underwear like some kind of pervert and leaving him that note, it was twisted, but Griffin thought the apology was a cry for help. He pondered it for a few seconds before making his decision, than he interrupted the conversation around him.
“Robin, would it be alright if I brought a guest on Saturday?”
“Well, sure Griff, who did you have in mind?” Robin replied.
Their eyes met and Griffin glanced at Phil.
“Lucien, am I having a stroke or did Griffin subtly ask if he could bring Phil Ashmore to my house?”
“Look, guys, I know what Phil did was fucked up. I know it better than you, I mean it happened to me,” Griffin started. “But he came to my house yesterday and apologized for what he did. He even brought my clothes back.”
“Really?” asked Lucien.
“Yes, we had a little talk and I’m not saying I totally forgive him but I think his apology was sincere,” said Griffin. “Right Dev?”
Devyn wasn’t sure what Griffin was up to but he had to be honest. He let out a sigh and signed, “Yes, his apology seemed sincere.”
“Ok, I get that,” said Robin, “but why invite him to a party where there are going to be a bunch of guys he’s made shitty comments about running around with their shirts off?”
“Because, look at him,” said Griffin, nodding at Phil.
“What are we supposed to be seeing?” asked Austin.
“A couple months ago that was me, sitting by myself, feeling sorry for myself, and then you guys took me in and everything has been better since then,” Griffin explained. “I look over there at Phil and I see an opportunity to help someone.”
“Griff, he’s not like you,” Robin shook his head.
“No, he’s not and that’s even more reason for us to help him. The things Phil says are things guys like Royce actually do. Aside from Elliot and Colby and some freshmen, every gay guy in our school is sitting at this table. If Phil continues to be isolated what’s to stop him from becoming another Royce? We’re not just helping Phil we’re helping anyone he might victimize one day if he doesn’t change.”
“I hear you, Griff. He needs help, my heart goes out to him for that but I just don’t know if he can be trusted, apology or not,” said Robin.
“He told me yesterday that he’s going to see my therapist, Dr. Freeman. That’s a good start but I speak from experience when I say he’s going to need good friends to support him if he’s going to make a real change in his life,” said Griffin.
“You think that’ll really help, letting him hang out with us?” Austin sighed.
“That and calling him on his shit. He was pretty whipped when he came to see me yesterday but that doesn’t mean he won’t slip up from time to time. I think we need to offer our friendship but the moment he says something nasty we have to stomp on it and let him know it’s not ok,” said Griffin.
“If that’s how you feel, considering you were his victim, so to speak,” said Robin, “Then I guess I’m ok with it. My only concern about having him at my house is Sean and Jamie. He said some pretty crude things about them too.”
“Robin, I’d never put your brothers in a position where they could get hurt. If Phil puts one toe out of line I’ll sic Dev on him so fast he won’t even know what hit him.” Griffin smiled.
“You up for that, Dev?” asked Robin.
Devyn raised an eyebrow threateningly while punching his right fist into his left palm.
“Ok, I guess that’s settled,” Robin snorted. “As long as Phil can behave himself, he can come Saturday and we’ll try to help him out. Everyone in agreement?”
There were nods around the table.
“Thanks guys, I can’t tell you how much this means to me.” Griffin smiled.
Griffin waited until the bell rang to speak to Phil. He caught him just as he was getting up to go to class.
“Phil, can I talk to you for a second?”
“Oh, uh, yeah, sure,” Phil sputtered as Griffin and Devyn approached him.
“How are you doing today?” asked Griffin.
“Fine, I guess,” said Phil. Griffin noticed Phil was having trouble meeting his gaze. “Did you need something?”
“Yeah, actually, I was wondering what you’re doing Saturday.”
“Robin’s having a pool party and Devyn and I thought you might like to come, right Dev?”
Devyn hesitated for a moment but couldn’t help noticing the earnest smile on Griffin’s face. He nodded yes.
“Robin doesn’t want me at his house.” Phil sighed and looked down at his shoes. “I don’t blame him.”
“I talked to Robin; he said it was ok if you came.”
“Really?” asked Phil in stunned surprise.
“I wouldn’t have invited you without talking to him first,” said Griffin.
“Well, ok, I guess I could come,” said Phil.
“Great,” Griffin smiled. “Now Phil, there’s just one thing, Robin’s brothers are going to be there, probably some of their friends too, and I understand you made some comments about them?”
“Uh, yeah,” Phil blushed. “I uh, told Robin they were cute and that I wanted to…”
“I get it,” Griffin chuckled holding up his hand to stop Phil from finishing his sentence, “and you’re right, they are cute but they’re also straight and off limits, got it?”
“Yeah, I understand,” Phil nodded.
“Good, because if you slip up I’m going to unleash Dev on you.”
Phil’s head snapped up in shock but he relaxed a bit when he saw Griffin laughing.
“I’ll be on my best behavior, I promise,” said Phil.
“Cool, then Dev and I will pick you up at noon on Saturday, see ya Phil.”
The next afternoon Griffin walked into the cafeteria alone. Devyn had a dentist appointment so his mom picked him up after third period and Elliot and Colby were going off campus for lunch so he didn’t eat with them in the band room. He saw his friends sitting at their usual table and he spotted Phil once again eating alone. Griffin was adamant; Phil needed a support network if he was going to change so Griffin reached out.
“Hey Phil, whatcha doin?”
“Just having lunch,” said Phil, looking down at his tray.
“Yeah, I figured.” Griffin rolled his eyes and smiled. “Why don’t you come eat with us?”
“I don’t know…”
“Come on, it’s ok,” Griffin insisted.
“Oh, because you stole my underwear and everyone knows it?”
Phil looked up at Griffin, his mouth hanging open in shock. Griffin couldn’t help laughing.
“Look, you should be embarrassed, that was a weird thing to do but, I’m not going to mention it and no one else is either. Besides, you’re coming to the party Saturday so better to get over your nerves now, right?”
“I guess, but, well, what if I say something shitty?”
“Here’s an idea, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Pretty simple, right?”
“It sounds that way but I don’t even know if I can tell the difference.”
“Phil, you’re killing me here, it’s just lunch, it’ll be ok,” said Griffin. “You can just sit quietly if you like but I want you to come eat with us and I want you to come Saturday.”
“Why? Why are you being nice to me after what I did?”
“Because you came and said you were sorry. Even if you didn’t mean it, and I’m not saying you didn’t mean it, but even if you didn’t, that took courage. I figure if you’re brave enough to bring my clothes back and come say sorry for what you did then you’re worth saving, so get off your ass, grab your tray and come eat with us,” Griffin ordered.
“O-ok,” Phil agreed.
“Hey guy’s, look who I found,” Griffin chirped as he took his seat.
“Oh, hey Phil,” said Lucien.
“Phil,” Robin nodded.
The greetings from Austin and Derek were just as subdued. Everyone had a history with Phil, none of it was positive, and though they’d agreed to help Griffin with is crazy plan to change him, no one was sure exactly what to say either.
“H-hi,” said Phil as he took the seat next to Griffin. He put his tray on the table and kept his eyes down. The way he was sitting it was almost as if he were trying to make himself invisible.
Phil had been full of internal turmoil ever since the heart to heart he’d had with his mom. He was ashamed of himself for making her cry, for being the kind of person that said the things he said but at the same time he couldn’t help his urges. He really didn’t want to be an asshole, he wanted friends, he wanted a boyfriend, and he knew those things would never be his if he didn’t change, but that didn’t make it easy.
“Is it just me or was that pop quiz in trig uncalled for,” asked Griffin. He wasn’t oblivious to the discomfort around the table, in fact, he was hyper aware of it. He didn’t blame his friends, given Phil’s past, and figured the best way to get them to loosen up was to behave as normal.
“There ought to be a law,” said Lucien. “It’s one thing if you have time to study but who in the hell is prepared to answer trig questions on the fly? I’m sure I bombed.”
“Oh come on, math is your best subject, you probably set the curve,” said Robin, patting Lucien’s back.
“Or blew it like last time,” Derek snorted. “Thanks for that by the way.”
Griffin smiled to himself. One little question and his friends were back to normal. The conversation continued and while Phil wasn’t taking part, that was ok, he’d need time to adjust to interacting with the guys on the same level. Griffin turned to glance at Phil, to see how he was doing. He found Phil’s eyes locked on Austin’s stomach.
Austin was leaning back in his seat which had caused his t-shirt to ride up exposing the soft, taut skin below his belly button and the V-shaped lines of his torso that disappeared into his underwear which were sticking up from his jeans seductively. When Austin felt a draft on his stomach he pulled his shirt down and Phil’s eyes returned to his tray. It happened a few more times during lunch and Phil looked like he was starting to sweat. Griffin couldn’t really blame him for that. Whether Austin chose to acknowledge it or not, he was model sexy, easily one of the cutest guys at Columbia High.
When the bell finally rang at the end of lunch, Phil bolted from his chair and practically ran from the cafeteria.
“What was that all about?” asked Robin.
“Probably just didn’t want to be late,” Griffin shrugged his shoulders.
The group broke up as everyone had different classes after lunch, everyone except Austin and Griffin who were in history together.
“So, the shirt thing, were you doing that on purpose?” asked Griffin when they stopped at Austin’s locker.
“Oh, you noticed.”
“Kind of hard not to, you were putting on a good show,” Griffin teased. “That’s not like you though, Mr. Modest, so what’s up?”
“I don’t trust him, Griff.” Austin sighed.
“That note he left in your locker, imagine getting texts like that several times a day, changing your number and still getting them. It freaked me out,” Austin admitted.
“I’m sorry,” said Griffin, putting his hand on Austin’s shoulder. “I didn’t think about that when I asked you guys to help me out with him. If he makes you uncomfortable then I won’t bring him to lunch again or the party.”
“No, you don’t have to do that.”
“Hey, you’re important to me, if it bothers you that he’s around, I’ll think of some other way to help him,” said Griffin.
“He passed my test,” said Austin. “I knew he was looking at me, that’s why I did it, but he didn’t say anything.”
“Um, judging by how he ran away at lunch, I think he jizzed in his pants,” Griffin snorted.
“Maybe,” Austin laughed. “But he didn’t make any of his shitty comments. If he’s trying that hard to be better I guess I can give him another chance.”
“Thanks, I love ya bud,” Griffin smiled from ear to ear.
“Yeah, speaking of,” Austin began, putting his arm around Griffin’s shoulders as they walked to class, “Are you sure you don’t want us there tomorrow?”
“I’m sure,” said Griffin. “I love you guys for wanting to be there but I have to do this myself. I don’t want you guys to hear all the things he…”
“We already know all that though,” said Austin.
“You know a lot of it, sure, but there are some things, things too private, things that would hurt too much if my friends knew.”
“We’re more than friends though, we’re family.”
“We are and it’s having all of my brothers in my life that’s giving me the strength to face this thing tomorrow,” said Griffin. “I’m not scared, I can handle it and Devyn will be there.”
“Oh, the little guy gets to come.” Austin smirked.
“Is there a part of the word boyfriend you don’t understand?”
“No, I get it. I guess we’ll just have to settle for being there in spirit,” said Austin.
“Are you nervous?” Devyn signed.
“Nope, not even a little,” Griffin smiled reassuringly.
“It’s ok to be nervous.”
“I know but I’m really feeling confident. I just have to go in there and tell the truth. It sucks and it’s going to be embarrassing to talk about in front of all those people but being nervous isn’t going to make it better. I’m on a mission; he’s going to pay for what he did to me. If I have to be uncomfortable for a few hours to make that happen, well, I’ve dealt with worse,” Griffin explained.
“I’m proud of you.” Devyn smiled.
“Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be feeling this good if it wasn’t for you, my parents and the guys,” said Griffin.
“Everyone loves you. The guys would be here in a heartbeat if you called them. You know that.”
“Yeah, everyone’s been so supportive,” Griffin snickered. “Even your dad.”
“Oh God, what did he do?” Devyn rolled his eyes.
“Nothing, it was sweet, you know, for him.”
“What did he do?” asked Devyn, shaking Griffin dramatically by the shoulders to get an answer.
“Alright, alright, I’ll talk,” Griffin laughed. “He was leaving for work when I got to your house this morning, you were still primping. He slapped me on the back and said ‘Go get’em, Sparkplug.”
Devyn hadn’t always had the best relationship with his dad but things were getting a little better. Mr. Kennedy seemed to like Griffin though and had taken to calling him “Sparkplug” ever sense he’d stood up to Devyn’s Uncle Ted.
“Well, I guess that’s not so bad,” Devyn signed.
“How are you holding up, honey?” asked Mrs. Douglas. She and Griffin’s father had been down the hall talking to their lawyer while the boys sat on a bench outside the courtroom.
“I’m good, I was just telling Dev I’m ready for this.”
“We’ll be right there with you, son,” said Mr. Douglas.
“I know, dad, really, I’m ok. I…”
“Griffin Douglas?” said a bailiff, sticking his head out the door.
“That’s me,” said Griffin as he rose to his feet.
“They’re ready for you now.”
“Ok,” said Griffin, taking a deep breath.
“I’ll be right here waiting for you,” Devyn signed.
Griffin leaned down and gave Devyn a kiss, shot him a wink and went into the courtroom with his parents and they’re attorney. Mr. and Mrs. Douglas took their seats while Griffin was led to the witness stand. As he took his seat he saw his ex-boyfriend, Royce McGuire, for the first time since his arrest.
It annoyed Griffin that he was still able to see Royce as attractive. He was tall, blond, had beautiful eyes and a body an Abercrombie model would kill for. It was his soul that was the problem. His soul was black and ugly, cold and cruel and that’s what Griffin focused on as he prepared to give his testimony. As he looked at Royce he no longer felt scared or intimidated, he drew strength from his friends and family and a small smirk played across his face. You’re going to learn a whole new meaning of the word bitch when they lock you up you twisted pretty boy fuck, Griffin thought to himself.
“Place your right hand on the Bible,” said the bailiff. He waited for Griffin to comply before continuing. “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
“So help me God.” Griffin nodded confidently.
Phil didn’t see Griffin at school on Wednesday and didn’t feel comfortable eating with the guys without him. The day before had been hard for him. Austin’s shirt kept riding up and all Phil could think about was taking that gorgeous guy, bending him over the table, and fucking his brains out. The only thing that kept him from speaking out and saying something inappropriate was Griffin. For whatever reason, Griffin was being nice to him and Phil didn’t want to throw that away with his foul mouth.
When Phil got home that day he’d jerked off three times while picturing Austin on his hands and knees begging for it. When he’d finished, when his sexual energy was spent, Phil laid there and cried. He felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for what he’d done and what he thought about doing. He knew it was wrong, he couldn’t treat people like that, but the desire wouldn’t go away. All he could think about was there was something wrong with him, that deep inside him lived a monster and if it got out…
Phil tried to shake the thought from his mind as his mom drove him and his brother Gavin to their father’s house after school. Phil Senior got to see the boys on Wednesdays and then he drove them to school the next morning. Phil’s mom was going into Binghamton to have dinner and see a movie with some friends. She dropped the boys off with a hug and a kiss before sending them on their way.
“Hey, if it isn’t Broke Dick Dog,” Mr. Ashmore greeted Gavin.
“Dad,” Gavin nodded then went straight to his old bedroom and slammed the door. He had a lot of anger towards his father, blamed him for his parents pending divorce and resisted these visits as much as he could. He also hated the nickname his father had given him in regard to the incident with Sophie. It was embarrassing enough without his own father rubbing it his face.
“What’s up his butt?” asked Mr. Ashmore.
Little Phil just shrugged his shoulders. He’d always liked his dad, they were buds, but he’d learned a lot in the past week and he was scared of him now. Scared that he was just like the old man and seeing how that was fucking up his life he had good reason to be afraid.
“Whatever, give me a hug, bud,” said Mr. Ashmore.
Phil walked over to his father and let the man embrace him but didn’t hug back.
“Something wrong with you too?” asked Mr. Ashmore.
“No, just tired I guess. Can I go watch TV?”
“Yeah sure, knock yourself out.”
Phil went into the living room and flipped on the TV. Just being around his dad after the things his mother had told him made him feel uncomfortable in his old home. There was no arguing where Phil’s attitude and objectification of other boys came from, as he sat there his mind cataloged event after event from his child hood where his father’s example should have stood out as what not to do.
Eventually his dad joined him in the living room. He started in as soon as the first commercial featuring a buxom blond eating a hamburger popped up on the screen.
“God damn, son, the only regret I’ve got about you being queer is you’ll never know what titty fucking is like,” said Mr. Ashmore.
“Dad, seriously?” Phil rolled his eyes.
“Hey, just sayin, boy’s not a man till he’s slipped the wood between a pair of hard tits.” Mr. Ashmore laughed.
“You, you shouldn’t say stuff like that,” said Little Phil.
“Bitches like that,” said Mr. Ashmore, gesturing at the TV, “That’s all they’re good for. Probably got boys like that too, you tagged any ass yet?”
“Dad come on,” Phil whined.
“What, your momma got you whipped now, huh?”
“No, I’m just trying to, I don’t know, change a little.”
“Oh, are you going to turn into one of those big ole sissified sensitive faggots on me?”
“Fuck off,” Phil grumbled as he stood up to leave.
“The fuck you say to me, boy?” Mr. Ashmore demanded as he yanked Phil by the arm, pulling him back into the living room.
“I-I didn’t say anything.”
“What the fuck’s wrong with you, Philly?”
“You!” Phil spat.
“You are what’s wrong with me, dad.”
“Watch it boy,”Mr. Ashmore threatened.
“No dad, I’m sick of this. All my life I’ve looked up to you and all it’s done is turn me into an asshole!”
“Ah that’s just your mom talking.”
“No dad, I stole a boy’s underwear, I left him a note in his locker telling him I knew he liked to fuck!”
“Atta boy, get yourself some.”
“No dad! That boy, someone beat him up and forced him to have sex…”
“He probably wanted it as much as that bitch in the commercial…"
“Oh yeah sure, just like mom wanted it when you date raped her?”
For a split second you could have heard a pin drop in the Ashmore’s living room then all hell broke loose.
“What the fuck did you say to me?” Mr. Ashmore grabbed Phil’s collar, yanked him close and slapped him hard. Phil’s head snapped back, the sting hurt like hell but he was too furious to notice just then.
“I know what you did, I know what you are, I hate you. I fucking hate you!” Phil screamed defiantly.
“You ungrateful faggot,” said Mr. Ashmore as he slapped Phil again even harder.
“I HATE YOU,” Phil roared and shoved his father forcefully enough to break his hold. Mr. Ashmore stumbled backward and crashed into an end table sending the lamp crashing to the floor.
“Come here you little son of a bitch,” Mr. Ashmore growled. He reached for Phil but wasn’t quick enough.
“What the hell is going on?” Gavin demanded as he stepped into the living room. He’d been listening to his iPod and hadn’t heard the argument until the lamp shattered on the hardwood floor.
Phil ran straight into his brother and Gavin wrapped his arms around him protectively.
“We’re not done yet, you get back here, faggot,” Mr. Ashmore snapped as he reached for Phil.
“Don’t even think about touching him,” said Gavin, moving Phil defensively behind him.
“Oh yeah, and what the fuck are you going to do about it?” Mr. Ashmore demanded, poking his finger in Gavin’s face.
“Stick that fucking finger in my face again and you’ll find out,” Gavin glared down on his father.
Gavin was a tall, athletic kid. He’d been on the varsity wrestling team since his freshman year and, pissed off as he was, Mr. Ashmore wasn’t fool enough to pick a fight with him.
“I want that little bitch out of my house. You can go with him for all I care.”
“With pleasure,” said Gavin. He put his arm around his brother’s shoulders and steered him towards the door. “Come on, Philly, we’re out of here.”
Phil’s body was shaking simultaneously from fear and rage. He couldn’t believe he’d stood up to his dad like that, he also couldn’t believe his dad hit him like that. When his mom slapped him, he had to admit, he’d deserved it and with her it had come from a place of love. She’d done it because she loved him and he’d pushed her too far. His dad, he hit because he was a coward, he meant it to hurt.
Gavin tried calling his mother and would find out later her phone had slipped between the console and her seat. She didn’t notice it was missing for several hours. The boys walked home and Gavin tried to comfort Phil but he didn’t know what to say. They’re father hadn’t rubbed off on Gavin as much as Phil but he still had trouble expressing his feelings. Phil needed someone to talk to, he didn’t know where his mom was, why she wasn’t answering her phone, but he couldn’t wait for her to get home. He got up and ran out of the house, ran all the way to the one other person who treated him with kindness.
“So what happens now?” asked Griffin. He’d spent hours giving testimony and was pretty tired as he and Devyn climbed into the back of his dad’s SUV.
“It’s a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for a trial. Mr. Clark says it’s just a formality. Unless Royce accepts a plea bargain there will probably be a trial this summer,” Mr. Douglas explained.
“That’s it then; all we can do now is wait.” Griffin sighed, Devyn hugged him tight.
“I’m so proud of you, Griffy,” said Mrs. Douglas as she blew her nose.
She’d done a lot of crying in the courtroom. Listening to her only son recount a year of physical and sexual abuse hurt more than words could express. Mr. Douglas was just as affected but in a different way. He’d welcomed Royce into his home, trusted him with his son and look what happened. He wanted to rip Royce’s throat out, it was all he could think about as he pulled out of the parking lot, his knuckles white as his fingers dug into the steering wheel.
“I’m ok mom,” said Griffin, reaching up to squeeze his mom’s shoulder.
They ate a quiet dinner in Binghamton before returning to Sanitaria Springs. They dropped Devyn at home and after another powerful hug and a soft kiss, Griffin jumped back in the car.
“Griffy, isn’t that the boy that came over the other day?” asked Mrs. Douglas. There was a solitary figure sitting on the front step as they pulled into their driveway.
“Yeah, that’s Phil,” said Griffin. His dad parked the car and his parents went in through the garage, Griffin ran around to the front of the house to find out why he had company.
“Phil…” Griffin started, then Phil looked up and he saw his tear stained cheeks. “Hey, are you ok?”
“I had a fight with my dad,” Phil sniffled. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know where else to go.”
“Hey, it’s ok,” said Griffin.
He dropped down next to Phil and put a hand on his shoulder. Phil practically leapt into his arms, his body shaking with sobs. Griffin was shocked, he didn’t know what he was supposed to do but he instantly thought of Robin and Lucien, what would they do?
“Hey, it’s alright,” said Griffin. He hugged back and rocked Phil in his arms until the sobbing stopped.
“Thanks,” said Phil when he stopped crying and stood up. “I should go.”
“Whoa,” said Griffin, grabbing his wrist and yanking Phil back down beside him. “You think you can just get up and go after all that? Um, NO! What happened?”
“My dad, he’s a fucking pig, a worthless, shitty bastard, a no good mother fucking…”
“Ok, I get it,” said Griffin, “What did he do?”
“We were watching TV and he started saying all this shit about some girl and it turned my stomach.”
“Well, that’s kind of a good thing…”
“No Griffin, it turned my stomach because…because…” Phil started panting.
“It’s ok, just calm down,” said Griffin, rubbing his back soothingly.
“It turned my stomach because the things he said, I was thinking the same type of stuff about Austin.”
“His shirt kept rising up at lunch yesterday and, God, he looked so good I just wanted him and I kept thinking about it and thinking about it…”
“It’s not right, I know that now but I can’t stop thinking like this. Listening to my dad, I finally saw him for what he really is. We argued, it got heated and he hit me a few times.”
“Are you alright?” asked Griffin, taking Phil’s chin in his hand and tilting his face to look for signs of an injury.
“He just slapped me around a little. Gavin stopped him before he could do anything worse.”
“I always knew I liked Gavin.” Griffin offered a weak smile. “Speaking of, where is he now?”
“He’s at home. We were supposed to spend the night at dads but he threw both of us out when Gavin protected me so we walked back to moms. He tried to help but he’s all thumbs when it comes to, you know, feelings.”
“So I’ve heard,” Griffin snorted, generating the slightest hint of a smile from Phil. “Now, what’s this about seeing your dad for who he really is?”
“He’s a pig, Griffin, he says terrible things about people, just like me, I’m just like him. Fuck, I’m even Phil Junior.”
“Oh, I thought everyone called you Little Phil because you’re short.” Griffin smiled.
“I wish that was it.” Phil sighed.
“Your dad, he goes by Phil?”
“Ok, easy fix, you’re Philip from now on, I’ll never call you Phil again.”
“Thanks, can you fix the rest that easy?”
“No, no I can’t but you’re on the path, Philip,” said Griffin. “You’ve had a pretty rough week but you’re just getting started. You can’t change overnight. You didn’t get like this overnight; you can’t just snap your fingers and make it better.”
“What do I do?”
“Have you seen Dr. Freeman yet?”
“You’ll like him, he’s a good listener. Talk to him, Philip. Be honest with him. Own your feelings. He will help you.”
“You don’t think I’m beyond redemption?”
“No, Philip, I don’t. No one is beyond redemption, not even Royce.”
“Really?” asked Philip, taken by surprise.
“Hey, I’m not saying I’ll ever forgive him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t redeem himself. The difference is unlike you, he hasn’t taken responsibility for the things he’s done. He doesn’t regret what he did to me, but he will. He’s going to jail; he’s going to be punished. I want to help you, Philip, because I don’t want you to end up like him.”
“But why, why do you even care? After what I did to you…”
“Because, you’re a lot like me.”
“I’ve never had your mouth or your…desires, but I’ve seen you sitting there by yourself, no friends, no boyfriend and it reminds me of me. I didn’t have any friends, I had a boyfriend that treated me like stepped on dog shit and my life sucked. It got better when I started hanging out with the guys. I got away from Royce, I have a great new boyfriend who I love with all my heart, and I have friends who would walk through fire for me. I think you need that too.”
"I don’t even deserve a boyfriend.” Philip sighed.
“No, you don’t,” Griffin smirked. “But you will. It’s just going to take time.”
“You really mean that?”
“Sure, you’re a cute kid Philip. We just need to fix you up a bit.”
“Thanks.” Philip smiled, then took notice of Griffin’s necktie. “You weren’t at school today, I thought you were sick. What’s with the tie?”
“I had court today, Royce’s preliminary trail.”
“Nothing to be sorry about, had to be done.”
“Are you ok?”
“Yeah, I am and you know what? You’re going to be ok too, Philip,” said Griffin, giving him another hug. “Come on, I’ll drive you home.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Relax, Philip, it’s just a pool party,” said Griffin.
Saturday had finally arrived and Griffin and Devyn had stopped to pick up Philip on their way to Robin’s. Philip had been in good spirits when they picked him up but the closer they got to the Kirkwood home the more he fidgeted in his seat.
“Sorry, I’m just a little nervous.”
“Is that why you haven’t been at lunch the last two days?” asked Griffin.
“No, Kissick gave me a couple days lunchtime detention.”
“I ditched class after uh, well, it was the day Devyn and I…” Philip squirmed. He was somewhat unnerved by Devyn’s silence. He didn’t know how to read the mute boy, all he knew was he packed a mean punch and was fiercely protective of Griffin.
“Got it,” said Griffin. “Anyway, there’s nothing to be nervous about. I’m sure you know pretty much everyone that’s going to be there.”
“Yeah, and they’ll be there with their shirts off and…” Philip trailed off.
“Afraid you’ll pop a boner?”
Philip looked up and his eyes darted from Griffin to Devyn then back down at his hands folded in his lap. Griffin caught the nervous gesture in his rearview mirror.
“Philip, its ok to speak your mind in front of Dev,” said Griffin, taking his boyfriends hand and holding it. “I tell him everything anyway.”
“You do?” Philip asked in surprise.
“Sure, it’s important for you to remember this for later, when you have a boyfriend you should tell him everything, don’t keep secrets.”
“What if it hurts too much?” Philip sighed.
“Then it’s even more important to tell him. Things that have the power to hurt us have a tendency to fester. If I’d told someone about the first time Royce hit me I probably would have saved myself a lot of pain and humiliation.”
“Ok, I’ll keep that in mind,” said Philip.
“Can I give you a little advice?”
“If you’re nervous about being around the guys, about what you might be tempted to say, just keep in mind that no one there is attracted to you.”
“What I mean is,” Griffin giggled, “Everyone is already in a relationship or straight. No one is going to leave their boyfriend or miraculously change their sexuality for you so why risk their friendship and the progress you’re making by opening your trap?”
“I see your point,” Philip admitted.
“If worse comes to worse, if you feel tempted to say something…awful, take a minute to yourself and clear your mind.”
“That’s so hard to do though,” said Philip. “I get these urges and well, I don’t know how to explain it.”
“You don’t have to, I understand.”
“How can you understand, you don’t…”
“Philip, what, you think you invented being horny?” Griffin smirked in the mirror.
“No, but, I don’t know, I’m such a perv.” He blushed.
“No, Phil was a perv. Philip is trying very hard to be a good boy and so far he’s doing a pretty good job.” Griffin winked in the rearview mirror.
“Thanks. Ok, so, great Sherpa up the mountain of gayness, how do I clear my mind when my hormones get the worst of me?” asked Philip lightheartedly.
“Lie back and think of England.”
“What?” Philip laughed. Devyn turned and looked at Griffin with a raised eyebrow.
“You know, Paddington Bear, Harry Potter, the Queen, etc…”
“That really works?”
“No, but we’re laughing about it now,” Griffin chuckled, “Maybe you can think about that and let the memory take your mind out of your pants.”
“What the hell, I’ll give it a try,” said Philip.
“Good because we’re here,” said Griffin as he pulled into the Kirkwood’s driveway and parked behind Robin’s VW.
Griffin held Devyn’s hand as they walked up to the front door with Philip trailing behind them. He rang the bell and a moment later Robin answered the door in nothing but his board shorts. A lacrosse player, wrestler and swimmer, he had a great body, but Philip had already pissed Robin off once before and wasn’t in any hurry to repeat that mistake. He kept his eyes to himself.
“Hey guys,” said Robin cheerfully as he hugged his two friends, then he noticed Philip behind them. “Hi Phil.”
“Philip,” Griffin corrected. “He doesn’t like being called Phil; we’re calling him Philip now.”
“It’s ok,” said Philip, looking down at his flip flops.
“Philip’s cool, glad you could make it,” said Robin.
“Really?” asked Philip, raising his face to look into Robin’s eyes.
“Sure. Come on out back guys, everyone else is already here,” said Robin as he led his friends through his house and out the French doors that led to the pool.
When they stepped outside they found the Kirkwood’s backyard teaming with kids. Lucien, Austin and Derek were there of course, but Philip instantly recognized the Kirkwood twins and some of their friends from the freshman football team. Philip had a thing for athletic guys and he went to the freshman games to store images in his spank bank rather than because he had any interest in football.
The only person he didn’t recognize was a kid who appeared to be a friend of the twins, a nice looking boy with light brown or dirty blond hair. He stood out from his jock buddies; his body was softer than theirs. He didn’t have the muscle tone that came from the daily exercise his friends put in. Philip thought he was cute and turned away. He’d just gotten to the party and he didn’t want to ruin it before he had a chance to put his towel down.
“Hey guys, look who finally showed up,” Robin announced to the backyard.
There were shouts of greeting and then Devyn and Griffin were taking off their shirts. Philip took off his tank top and kicked off his flip flops just in time for Griffin to push him in the water. Griffin jumped in the pool after him and as soon as Philip surfaced, Griffin dunked him again. That seemed to set the tone for the afternoon as the boys engaged in horseplay until lunch.
Robin helped his dad with burgers on the grill and after lunch everyone went back to the pool. As the party went into the evening, Philip got out of the water and took a seat on a bench by himself. He’d had a really great day, the other kids seemed to like him when he was just being himself and not coming at them like a rabid horndog. He’d been worried about how he’d react to the sea of eye candy but to his great surprise he hadn’t had one impure thought since he’d arrived. He sat there taking stock of his life and vowed to continue down the right path so there would be more days like this to look forward to.
“Hey,” said a boy as he took a seat next to Philip on the bench.
“Hi,” said Philip, when he turned and found the twin's friend sitting next to him.
“Mind if I sit for a minute?” he asked. “They’re running me ragged.”
Jamie and his friends had started playing water polo and it was one of the reasons Philip had decided to get out of the pool when he did. It was a rough game.
“Thanks, I’m Asher by the way. I don’t think we’ve met.”
“Nice to meet you, Philip,” said Asher. “Are you a friend of Robin’s?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess so,” said Philip. “You?”
“Sean and Jamie invited me,” said Asher. It was at that moment Jamie noticed his friend’s absence from the pool.
“Hey, Romanski,” Jamie shouted. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Catching my breath,” Asher shouted back.
“Catching your breath? When did my grandma get here?” Jamie taunted.
“Hey, someone kicked me in the gut, I needed a break,” Asher defended.
“Game’s not over yet, we need you man.”
“Well, that’s my cue.” Asher sighed as he got up to return to his friends. “Nice meeting you, Philip.”
“Yeah, you too.”
No sooner had Asher left, Robin took his place.
“I see you met Asher,” said Robin.
“I didn’t do anything. He sat down and we were just talking…”
“Easy dude,” said Robin, patting him on the back. “I wasn’t accusing you of anything. I was just making a comment.”
“Oh, sorry,” said Philip. “Anyway, his name sounds familiar but I don’t remember where I’ve heard it.”
“Yeah, uh, you might have seen a certain video posted online with him a while back,” said Robin.
“Oh shit, that’s the kid that Edward Mullins…” Philip started. In a strange twist, Philip hadn’t seen the video of Edward Mullins raping Asher Romanski but everyone at Columbia High knew about it.
“Yeah,” Robin cut him off.
“Man, that sucks,” Philip shook his head. “I wasn’t giving him any shit. I didn’t say anything…”
“It’s ok, Philip,” said Robin. “Like I said, I didn’t come over here to bust your balls. I just wanted to see how you were doing.”
“Yeah?” Philip asked suspiciously. The last private chat he’d had with Robin hadn’t gone so well.
“I sort of wanted to apologize to you, too,” said Robin.
“To me? What for?”
“That time I shoved you against the wall and…” Robin began.
“No,” said Philip, stopping him cold.
“Don’t say you’re sorry for that. You should have kicked my ass. I deserved it.”
“Maybe so but I’m still sorry I lost my temper. I could have handled it better,” said Robin.
“You were just protecting your friend. I’m starting to understand things like that now. Griffin’s a good person and I feel like shit for what I said about him that day.”
“Yeah, Griffin’s one of the best people I know,” said Robin. “You know he’s asked all of us to kind of help you out, be a friend to you?”
“I didn’t.” Philip sighed and looked away.
“I didn’t tell you to embarrass you, I just wanted you to know that we’re all here if you need anything,” said Robin.
“Because Griffin talked you guys into it?”
“At first yeah,” Robin admitted. “But you’ve earned some of it yourself. Griffin says you’re trying really hard and you’ve been great today. It’s actually been nice having you around for once.”
“Thanks.” Philip rolled his eyes. Robin smiled and patted him on the back.
“I just wanted to say keep up the good work. You’re pretty cool when you want to be.”
Griffin sat at the picnic table alone with his sketchbook. He’d always been something of an artist and his sketchbook had been his only friend in the dark days he’d spent with Royce. Sometimes he just felt the need to draw and after an afternoon spent in the pool his friends were content to let him be while he did his thing. When he saw Robin sit down with Philip he’d immediately begun to sketch them, well, a version of them, and he was happy to see them smiling as they spoke.
“Hey Griff, whatcha drawing?” asked Lucian as he stepped up with a towel around his neck.
“Robin and Philip,” said Griffin.
“Ha, that’s how I picture Robin. He looks like a superhero,” Lucien chuckled as he looked over Griffin’s shoulder.
“Yeah, in a certain light I guess he does,” said Griffin as an interesting idea began swimming around in his head.