My breath caught in my throat. I could feel my heart pushing into the back of my mouth as it tried to leave me and be broken somewhere else. I could feel the room spinning and my stomach began to clench and unclench. I tried to stand, but my legs betrayed me and I tumbled to the floor. I started to get up a again, battling my traiterous legs and nerves. My mind yammered helplessly, screaming that everything was over now, there was no sense continuing here. My choices were to go to Boston with my mother or just lay down and die now, it said. Soon I would be a pariah, people would cross the street to avoid me, no one would talk to me. It would be like I was a leper. Except for those people who would want to touch me, to rend my face from my skull and to cleave my arms from my body. Those people so like the ones that murdered Matthew Shepard.
I saw the bed rising in front of me and seemed to float to it. Then I felt hands under my arms, supporting me and the gentle sound of my fathers voice as blackness claimed the waking world.
Shades of grey began to take shape in front of my eyes and I slowly lifted my self to a sitting position. My room was dark save for the moonlight cautiously flowing over the room. The glowing clock numbers declared that it was 7:32. I moved as if I were drugged out the door and to the bathroom to relieve my self. As I emptied my bladder my mind started to clear and my course of action began to form, fueled by the desperation that was quickly taking hold, and the sinking depression of reality. There was no money for me to go to Boston. I was stuck. But maybe Mom and Dad would cooperate this once and work together to get me out of here. But what would they think of my reason for wanting to go?
I smelled dinner going downstairs and padded down to the kitchen.
Dad turned and smiled at me, "Hi. How are you feeling?"
"Kinda groggy," I said sitting down at the table, "Dad I have to talk to you."
My heart was fluttering now, like a trapped animal somehow hoping not to hear the words I had to say, trying not to be broken by the stress of telling my father. This was not at all like being found out by Julius, that was scary enough. But this was telling someone that had hoped for grandkids someday that it wasn't gonna happen. What if he turned away from me? My heart was now moving as if it were a tennis ball from one side of my chest to the other, blackness threatened the edges of my vision again.
I breathed deep and slow for a moment, steeling myself.
"It's ok, Justin. I know and I still love you," My dad said.
The words hit me like a tidal wave, almost toppling me from my chair.
"I saw the screen on the computer, I saw the way Kyle left. So I put two and two together. It's ok though, I suspected for a while now. I hope Kyle will get past that, for your sake." As he spoke he sat down across the table from me, smiling in a warm way that was meant to put me at ease.
I looked down at my hands as I spoke, "Dad, how did you know?" I said, barely a whisper.
"I used your computer not long before the divorce when mine was in the shop for a new motherboard. When I tried to enter the address on the destination bar for "Nifty Facts", which is a site that operates as a portal for information sites, I got the command line for the Nifty archive, and I saw what you read. I knew then the way you felt and that is one of the biggest reasons I wanted you here with me. Your mother couldn't accept it, and so I passed it off as a joke for her sake. Maybe later she will mellow on the idea, but for now, when you need so much love and support, I wanted to be here for you."
My eyes misted and then overflowed. I cried in silence for a moment, and then my fathers arms encircled me, and that was when the first big sob wracked my chest.
"Go ahead, let it all out, son. Cry your tears," my father soothed.
The morning sun streamed mercilessly through the flimsy curtains of my room. I was woken by the need to pee, and so I got up reluctantly and headed in to the bathroom.
As I went I reflected on the night before. To say I was shocked at my fathers acceptance, indeed how long he had had the knowledge, was an understatement. To find that my mother rejected the idea out of hand was a blow I had not been prepared for. For better or worse, I was stuck here.
I made my way back to my room and lay down again. This was going to be hard, and I wasn't at all sure if I was strong enough to handle it. I tried to rest some more, but sleep refused to claim me, so I got up and headed for the shower.
The hot water and steam acted like a tonic on me and I found that I did feel better when I got out, although I still needed a ladder just to be on the same level as worms.
I wrapped the towel around myself and padded back to my room. As I pulled on jeans and a t-shirt I felt my stomach rumble. Well, at least certain parts of me were interested in survival.
I went down to the kitchen and found a note on the fridge:
Had to go to Reno, possible big client. Cross your fingers!
I filled a bowl with cereal and took the box and the milk out to the living room and turned on the tube. Cartoons marched by without touching my concious mind. To say I was preoccupied was a huge understatement. I decided I would see if Julius was around, at least he was someone I would not feel uncomfortable around.
I washed up my bowl and put stuff away, then went up and put on my battered nikes. With a comb of my hair I was out the door.
I wandered the park for twenty minutes until I spotted Julius sitting on a bench, birds on him like ants walking over an anthill. He nodded in greeting and birds took flight as I took the seat next to him.
"Well, doan you look long in the face. Your 'date' didn't go well?" he asked smiling.
"Not really," I said, and then began to tell my story to him.
"Well, at least yo daddy support'n you. My daddy tried to beat it outta me. Ole Jake's daddy tried to exorcise the demon he said was in me. I pretended they had done it till it was time for me to get out the house. I hit the road when I was fifteen and didn't come back till my daddy was dead."
"What about your mom?" I asked, almost reveling is the company of someone worse off than myself.
"My father beat her to death in 1954. It was still legal to 'whip some sense into your woman' in those days. He forces her to have a miscarraige and whupped her kidneys beyond repair that day."
I sat in numbed silence. Had I just been happy that someone was worse off? I now felt worse than before I sat down.
"I'm sorry to hear that. Didn't mean to bring up bad memories," I mumbled by way of apology.
"I live with it everyday, whether or not I speak bout it," he drawled.
We sat in silence for a moment, and then I tried to change the subject.
"You said when I met you that you were waiting for the person who died in that house to give you peace. What did you mean?" I asked, feeling clever.
"Well, I'll tell you. Way back in 1958 was a boy named Jake Palmer lived in your house. I lived 'cross the street, and we used to play most everyday. His daddy was the Pentecostal minister and my daddy was a deacon. Well, Jake was...
July 16, 1958
Everything was right as rain, yes indeed Julius smiled. He was finally showing some muscle definition and he thought maybe Jake had noticed. He had certainly noticed Jake. Jake was two years older than Julius, but that had never been a barrier to their friendship, and they spent almost everyday together, just like today at the town pool just cooling off. All except for Julius who was heating up watching Jake in the pool. Jake was sixteen and it seemed everyone loved him. He was kinda short, only 5 foot eight, and Julius gave him plenty of static about it, being as he was now 5 foot eleven and growing. Jake had dirty blond hair and blue eyes. Dark blue though, not like ice chips, no, more like deep sea. Yes, Julius decided, that fit. A fine clear brow, and a smile that just made his heart jump. Jake was developed in all the right places it seemed, his shoulders already well proportioned, his chest defined with the telltale marks of a six pack showing. His legs were smooth and well muscled, and he had the most delicate hands.
Julius was sitting down 'cause he had a hard on and his line of thinking was why. Julius was practical if nothing else, and when he realized he had a thing for guys he accepted it just as quickly as he had accepted that he would be able to confide in no one else.
Lately he had been having odd feelings that Jake was watching him too, and that was both exciting and scary at the same time. The life guard blew his whistle and informed them all that the pool was now closed. Julius pulled on his shirt and wrapped his towel around his middle to conceal his obvious interest.
As he and Jake walked home they talked about the new football league that was rumored to be starting next year.
They went to Jake's house and then up to his room. As they talked, Jake had unknowingly sealed his fate. His feeling for Julius had grown over the last few years till it felt as if he could hide it from his friend no longer. He asked his best friend in the world, the person he would trust before all others if he could kiss him. Julius felt awkward and excited, and Jake leaned in, his mind trying to capture the whole moment forever of his first kiss.
At that moment his father burst into the room, swinging his fists wildly and knocked Jake to the ground, and whirled to cuff the stunned Julius on the brow.
"There will be no work of the devil in my house, get out you cursed bastard!" he screamed at Julius.
Julius looked at his friend and Jake mouthed for him to go, and Julius ran. He ran as tears streamed down his face. He never saw Jake again.
"An that is why I seek peace, my friend. I murdered my friend. If I had just said no, If I had let my common sense tell me that his father was always sneakin around, that nothing happened in this house without him knowing, Jake would still be alive. I am hopin his spirit is at peace, but I keep hopin' I can set it free too, so that I can somehow give him release. He never even kissed anyone." Julius hitched, chest rattling and wheezing with emotion.
He stood and said goodbye to Justin, saying he believed he would go to his house now, he needed rest badly, and bid him good day.
Justin walked home dejectedly, feeling even worse if that was possible. He wandered aimlessly and finally ended up on his street. Watching his feet put one sneaker out and then the other he finally came to his porch. He stopped and looked at the park and noted that Julius was gone. He turned and entered the house.
The glowing numbers read 8:25 and boredom was the reigning king now. Dad had called about six thirty and told him to get some mac&cheese as the negotiations were taking longer than he expected. Justin had read everything that interested him on the net and was drifting toward a boredom induced slumber. He felt a gentle touch on his neck, a caress that almost felt human but was surely the wind. He lay still and allowed the breeze to run across his bare shoulders. It traveled as if it were alive, from the base of his neck down his spine, from shoulder to shoulder. He imagined he felt pressure on his shoulders, almost as if someone were kneading away on the stressed muscles of his back and neck. He felt the breeze separate and dig into his ribs and rolled over and sat up quickly, being very ticklish. He glanced around feeling foolish, then rolled his neck from side to side, As he walked over to the dresser to get a shirt, it occurred to him that the window was closed.
The sun streamed through the windows, but Justin was oblivious. He Slowly began to stir, and as the pressure increased on his bladder he opened His eyes. He looked at he ceiling, and then sat up.
"You look funny in the morning. Kinda like a treasure troll," came a familiar voice.
Justin quickly looked around the room for the speaker, who was sitting on the window sill looking at him.
"Kyle?" Justin tried to say, although it was more of a croak than a question.
"Whoa, you even sound like one!" he said and grinned at him.
What was going on here? What was Kyle doing in here?
"Ok," Kyle said, his face turning serious, "I know you are wondering why I'm here, and it's cause I'm cheap."
"Huh?" was all Justin could say. Great, reduced to grunting. He was going to have to cut back on the Home Improvement.
"The movie tickets? Well they are going to expire, and not only that, but today is the last day the movie is playing. So unless you were gonna camp in your rat's nest all day, are you going to get up?" he asked.
I looked down at my sheets. Thank god for the blanket that was hiding my morning wood. Now that I thought about it, it was kinda messy. My mind focused again on my bladder.
"Yeah, I was getting up. I gotta piss bad," I mumbled as I rolled away from him and of the bed, trying not to let my boner show. As I relieved my self I wondered what was going on? And with a cold certainty I knew. He was going to get a few guys together and "smear the queer". I started to shake a bit then reasserted my self control. I just wouldn't go, but I knew that I would get caught sooner or later. And then I would get my ass beat on. But not today.
As I walked back into my room Kyle had his back to me, outlined in the morning sun.
"I don't think I can go, my dad has a few chores for me to do," I lied.
Kyle turned to look at me and shrugged, "So I'll help you do them."
My mind raced, and finally snapped.
"Look, Kyle, " I stammered, "I am not going to go anywhere with you. I know your just gonna get my ass kicked for me, so you can drop the act."
The words had tumbled out of me with such force that I would swear Kyle almost stumbled away. I stood looking at him, again on the verge of losing complete control of my emotions, I felt myself quivering with fear and anger.
Kyle just looked at me for a few minutes, his mouth opening to speak and then closing. He looked pained and walked over to the window and sat again, facing me.
"Look, I admit I freaked the other day. I know there are all kinds of people in the world, and I guess I could have handled it better. I thought about this a lot, and it all comes down to one thing," he said quietly, his gaze never wavering from my face. "Only someone with real balls would have stepped into that fight with me, and I realise that. There were three other supposed friends out there with me and none of them tried to help me. I don't know what your motivation was, but I take my friends seriously. My father says that when you die you will be able to count your true friends on one hand, and being gay or bisexual or screwing cows is not grounds for destroying a friendship. I don't know if you stepped into that fight to help me or yourself, but the bottom line is you earned my friendship, so it is yours to keep.
"Can we go to the movies now?" he askedPrevious Chapter Next Chapter